Behind a Mask

Which is not only the name of one of her novels, but also where Louisa May Alcott’s alter-ego has been hiding. Or been hidden? And something I’m looking forward to reading…along with possibly The Abbot’s Ghost, or Maurice Treherne’s Temptation, or A Long Fatal Love Chase. Who knew that the rather tiresomely wholesome author of Little Women and etc also wrote thrillers involving mind control, diabolic geniuses, or hashish? It’s a whole new and exciting world…

Although Alcott is often considered as a juvenile writer (her first biographer, Ednah Dow Chaney, labelled her as “The Children’s Friend”), she published also thrillers and melodramatic stories that appeared in weekly magazines. For her thrillers published in the mid-1860s she used the ambiguous pseudonym “A.N. Barnard”. A MODERN MEPHISTOPHELES (1877) was published anonymously. The Faustian story of a young woman and a diabolic genius was republished posthumously with A WHISPER IN THE DARK (1889). ‘Behind a Mask’, which originally appeared anonymously in The Flag of Our Union (1866) portrays a deceitful governess, who uses her skills as a former actress to find a rich husband. Alcott’s revengeful heroines and themes from mind control and madness, hashish experimentation and opium addiction, differ radically from the domestic atmosphere of her best-known works.

[by Petri Liukkonen:]

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