These sketches taken from letters hastily written in the leisure moments of a very busy life make no pretension to literary merit, but are simply a brief record of one person's hospital experience. As such they are republished, with their many faults but partially amended lest in retouching they should lose whatever force or freshness the inspiration of the time may have given them.
To those who have objected to a tone of levity in some portions of the sketches, I desire to say that the wish to make the best of every thing, and send home cheerful reports even from that saddest of scenes, an army hospital, probably produced the impression of levity upon those who have never known the sharp contrasts of the tragic and comic in such a life.
That Nurse Periwinkle gave no account of her religious services, thereby showing a "sad want of Christian experience," can only be explained by the fact that it would have as soon occurred to her to print the letters written for the men, their penitent confidences or their dying messages, as to mention the prayers she prayed, the hymns she sang, the sacred words she rend; while the "Christian experience she was receiving then and there was far too deep and earnest to be recorded in a newspaper.
The unexpected favor with which the little book was greeted, and the desire for a new edition, increase the author's regret that it be not more worthy of such a kind reception,
Concord, March 1863
We feature Alcott's book in our Transcendentalism Study Guide. You may also enjoy Walt Whitman's essay, The Real War Will Never Get in the Books.
Chapter II. A Forward Movement
Return to the Louisa May Alcott library.