The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott, born in 1832 and author of the classic Little Women, wrote a short romantic novel when she was seventeen without, apparently, trying to get it published. Enter a pair of researchers digging around in the Alcott papers at the Houghton Library at Harvard University in 1988 who excitedly stumble upon the handwritten pages of Alcott’s first and at-that-time unpublished manuscript titled The Inheritance.
Because of the importance of the author, it is not surprising that this short, Alcott-sweet story from 1849 was finally published about a hundred and fifty years later (1997).
The book is pure English romance, a bit dull at the start, and filled with characters who orbit around “Lord Hamilton’s stately home, half castle and half mansion” with little to do. Lord Hamilton is dead, but some years earlier on a trip to Italy he was touched by the “beauty, gentleness, and lovely voice “ of Edith Adelon -- a homeless, impoverished orphan and daughter of an opera singer-- whom he brings to England to be a companion and (later) governess to his younger daughter Amy.
Edith is the fully “good” and “pure” and beautiful love interest of the visiting “noble” Lord Percy. Naturally, there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles blocking any romance between them, so each suffers in silence. Meanwhile, cold-hearted Lady Ida, visiting niece of Lady Hamilton, is not as lucky in love and schemes jealously to ruin the reputation of her perceived "unworthy" rival Edith.
In The Inheritance, there is no sophisticated ambiguity as to who is “good” and worthy of admiration, and who is not good. Likewise, only a few twists and turns in the plot delay the inevitable conclusion.
Still, for those who admire Alcott and wish to spend a night or two reading to satisfy their curiosity about Alcott’s early literary leanings, THE INHERITANCE is worth a quick look since it hints at the talent that later produced such vintage Alcott as Little Women, Little Men, and An Old-Fashioned Girl.