Docia’s First Book

Isabella tried for years to persuade her friend, Theodosia Toll (who everyone called Docia) to become a writer. In 1865 Isabella sold her first book, Helen Lester, thereby launching her own writing career; and she had the same dream for her friend.

Undated photo of Theodosia Toll
Undated photo of Theodosia Toll

From experience she knew Docia was a gifted writer, and she often encouraged her to write stories for young people “which would help to develop their lives in the right directions and also to be a pecuniary help to herself.”

But Docia disagreed. She was convinced she had no special talent for writing, and despite Isabella’s encouragement, Docia wouldn’t even try to write for commercial reasons, a fact which frustrated Isabella. One day, when Isabella became upset with Docia’s lack of interest in becoming an author, Docia surprised her.

She laughed heartily … and told me not to despair, that the day might come when I would actually possess a book written by her.

Several weeks after Docia spoke those words, Isabella received a package and letter from Docia. Docia’s letter read, in part:

The package which will accompany this contains a book, every word of which was written by myself! Moreover, it was written especially for you. I have spent much thought and care upon it, and know to a certainty that every page of it in every particular is strictly correct. Also, I have great pleasure in adding that I believe you will derive great benefit from giving it daily reading, and obeying its teachings in every particular.

Kitchen Recipe cards 02Intrigued by the promises in Docia’s letter, Isabella opened the package.

It was a book certainly, beautifully bound, and Docia had certainly written (not printed) every word of it in her own small clear style.

But the book Docia sent was not a novel. Instead, every page of the book told exactly how to prepare, or bake, or boil or fry, or stew, or freeze some dish. It was a cookbook that explained every little detail, and it was clearly designed for the novice.

None knew better than Docia that, so far at least as cooking was concerned, the name applied to me. That blessed little book! I loved it at first glance.

Oh, I could easily fill a small volume with stories in detail about the times when the wisdom found in that book saved me in the early months of my life as a chief cook and general manager of a minister’s home.

A cook book dated 1883
A cook book dated 1883

Not long after sending Isabella the cook book, Docia embarked on the writing career Isabella always wanted her to have, publishing under the pen name, Faye Huntington. In her memoirs Isabella recalled:

She wrote many books after that, which were read and appreciated by hundreds, that without doubt helped in much more important matters than furnishing food for the body, but personally, I never ceased to feel a peculiar sense of gratitude for that first one.

An 1896 cook book

You can read more about the friendship between Isabella and Docia in these previous posts:

BFFs at Oneida Seminary

Free Read: The Book that Started it All

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