Willis, Frederick Llewellyn Hovey (1830-1914)
Personal and Family Papers of Frederick Llewellyn Hovey Willis, Unitarian minister, Medical Doctor, Author and Lecturer, resident for many years in the home of the Alcotts, and model for the character “Laurie” in Little Women, friend of Louisa May Alcott and the Transcendentalists – Amos Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, et al, and his wife Love Whitcomb Willis, materials dated 1806-1959

Large archive, housed in six cartons, pertaining to Frederick L. H. Willis, his wife and family, including an extensive collection of Correspondence (256 letters, 889 pp); with 16 Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks, (over 1200 pp); including an 1854-1855 Journal recording a trip from Boston to Brazil, with a stop in Virginia, in which Willis records his impressions of Slavery and interactions with African American slaves; plus over 5,000 manuscript pages of lectures, sermons, and other writings; and over 300 Photographs (mostly in albums); manuscript and typescript accounts of Willis’ life with the Alcotts, and recollections of Louisa and Bronson Alcott, also included are 4 Scrapbooks; 30 Books and Pamphlets; plus other manuscript and printed Ephemera, all of which pertains to either Dr. Frederick Lewellyn Hovey Willis, his wife author Love Marie Whitcomb Willis, their daughter author and poet Edith L. Willis Linn, his in-laws Henry Whitcomb and Love Foster Whitcomb, other family and friends; including associates such as Harrison Gray Otis Blake and Theophilus Brown, both friends, correspondents, and promoters of Henry David Thoreau; as well as relatives and friends of Louisa May Alcott: Alcott’s nephew and adopted son John Sewell Pratt Alcott, and her girlhood friend and early biographer Clara Gowing; plus Clara Endicott Sears purchaser and preservationist of “Fruitlands” the Alcott’s failed Utopian community; and others, all dated from 1806 to 1959, with the bulk dating from the 1840s to the 1910s.

The archive comprises the surviving papers of Frederick Llewellyn Hovey Willis, Unitarian minister, medical doctor, lecturer and writer, who as a young man boarded and lived with the Alcott family, from 1844-1854, and who, according to none other than Bronson Alcott1, Louisa’s father, was the model for the character “Laurie” in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Willis was an orphan, and as he later discovered, was also a distant cousin of the Alcott’s. Willis wrote, in his posthumously published Alcott Memoirs, 1915, describing a tragic loss for American literary history: “From my matriculative year at Harvard, until shortly before my marriage, I maintained a correspondence with Louisa. It is a matter of deep regret to me that, together with many papers of value, her letters, which were among my most valued treasures were stolen…” Willis played an important role in Louisa May Alcott’s literary development, he was the one who secured publication for Alcott’s first poem, by privately submitting the manuscript of “Sunlight” written under the pseudonym Flora Fairfield, to Peterson’s Magazine. The magazine paid Louisa $ 5 and published the poem in September 1851. It was the first money Louisa May Alcott earned as a writer. The character Laurie in Little Women fills a similar role. The Alcotts likewise were an important influence upon Willis’ life as well.