What is Love?

Isabella Alden’s son Raymond was fifteen years old when he wrote this sweet poem. It was published in The Pansy magazine in 1888.

(Written in answer to a child who asked what love was.)

Love is—well, what can anyone say?
Love is—Why, darling, think all day
Of all the words that we can say;
And think, and think, and tell me
What love is. Ah! I knew you could not.

Well, love is Jesus; and He is love.
Love is a message, so sweet, from above.
God is love, so the good Book says,
And true love is great and high, always.

What is the best definition given?
Love is a message, a breath from Heaven.
God’s message to lost ones—our Light, our Life.
Love makes all peace where once was strife.
Oh! Let me show you what love can do.

For God so loved the world that he gave
His only begotten Son to save—
Whom do you think? Why, sinners, whom
Justice for justice’s sake would doom!

But then, you look very wise, and say,
Why, God is love, you know, anyway!
Aye, my darling, that is true.
Now let me ask you—What cannot love do?

Lanterns to Light the Summer Night

Many of the characters in Isabella’s books looked forward to spring, when days got longer and temperatures warmed. They planned their days around being outdoors as much as possible, taking their meals outside and even taking long “tramps” through fields and parks.

When the sun went down, they remained outdoors, and lit their lawns and gardens with “oriental lanterns.”

Asian goods began to make their way into American homes as far back as the Civil War, but only in relatively exclusive areas, such as Boston and New York.

But in the 1880s, more common Japanese goods, such as paper parasols, fans, and lanterns became readily available in American markets.

Two young girls stand in a field of grasses, roses, and tall lillies. Each girl holds a paper lantern they are lighting. Around them hang lanterns that are already lit.
John Singer Sargent’s famous 1886 painting, “Carnation Lily, Lily Rose.”

One import firm, Vantine’s, offered a fairyland of Japanese items in their New York showroom.

A corner of the store displaying wicker chairs and tables, ceramic vases, framed Japanese prints, pagodas and colorful lanterns.
A partial display of summer home furnishings at Vantine’s New York showroom.

You could see paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling on every floor of  A.A. Vantine’s multi-story establishment. It wasn’t long before Vantine’s was shipping paper lanterns to stores all over the eastern states.

Postcard showing a variety of lanterns, lamps, and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Beneath are display cases with smaller items for sale.
Vantine’s of New York. A View of the main floor showroom from the balcony.

That’s about the time that Isabella began mentioning paper lanterns in her books.

In Making Fate (published in 1895) Marjorie Edmonds visited the Schuyler Farm and spent a lovely evening with friends:

She was out with many others on the lawn, which was brilliantly and fantastically lighted with many Chinese lanterns. It formed a place of special attraction on this lovely May evening, which was almost as warm as an evening in midsummer.

Illustration from about 1900 showing a young woman outside near several rose bushes, hanging red paper lanters on a tree. Behind is a field with a house on the horizon.

In The Browns at Mount Hermon (1908), several characters where concerned about a group of boys who planned to sneak off into the countryside to light a bonfire and spend the night gambling and smoking. Then, John Brown offered this suggestion:  

What if we could give up this evening to pure fun? Have a gathering on the Zayante lawn, which is far more attractive than the redwood grove across the way; decorate the trees and the porches and all other available places with Chinese lanterns, plan for the finest bonfire that our splendid brush heaps suggest, and serve unlimited sandwiches, cake, coffee, and anything else that could be gathered in haste, and is calculated to tempt the appetite of the average boy. Then we could send a deputation to meet the train and kidnap the crowd as our honored guests, meeting their spirit of frolic and good time at least half-way.

Old photograph of a woman about 1910 on a balcony. Overhead she has strung some string and is hanging lanterns of different shapes and colors. On the balcony railing are a bunch of roses and more lanterns to be hung.

One of Isabella’s most charming descriptions of paper lanterns was in The Hall in the Grove (1882), when Mr. Masters escorted Caroline Raynor and the Fentons to the opening assembly at Chautauqua:

On they hurried, striking at last into Simpson Avenue. Caroline came to a sudden halt, and gave an exclamation of delight. Away down the avenue as far as her eye could reach, on either side was one blaze of light; illuminated mottoes, flags, Chinese lanterns, flowers, ribbons—anything that could lend a glow of color to the bright scene had been displayed, and the whole effect was such as she will remember all her life.

Painting of three young women laying on the grass of a sloping hill. One woman holds a paper fan. Behind them two lighted paper lanters hang from the branches of a tree. Beyond, the night sky is filled with stars.
Daydreaming Under the Stars by Jacques Wagrez.

Paper lanterns became so popular, they were regularly incorporated into greeting card design like this one:

Greeting card with illustration of woman gathering pink roses from a bush while a pink paper lantern hangs from a branch of the tree behind her.

And in illustrated calendars:

Portion of an 1899 calendar showing January through March; each month is printed against a backdrop of a paper lantern. "Hours of Brightness" is printed across the top.

When you read Isabella’s books, you can tell she enjoyed the beauty of a light-filled summer night, and her descriptions of paper lanterns still have the power to warm our imaginations.

What do you think of Isabella’s descriptions?

Have you ever been to an outdoor event that was lit with candles or paper lanterns?

New Free Read: The Spool-Cotton Girl

Isabella was very involved in the Christian Endeavor movement and often mentioned the organization in her stores. She strongly believed Christians were called to serve others—even in small ways—as Christ would.

She illustrated the point in “The Spool-Cotton Girl,” a short story she wrote in 1892 about a young girl who labors long and thankless hours in a department store selling the store’s cheapest cotton threads.

Young Marion Wilkes takes her Christian Endeavor pledge very seriously. She always looks for ways to witness for Christ through service to others, even though her job selling cotton threads at the local department store can sometimes test her commitment and her patience.

You can read “The Spool-Cotton Girl” for free!

Choose the reading option you like best:

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The Wayside Game

It’s the time of year when families begin planning their summer vacations. If you’ve ever taken a driving trip with children, you know the first rule is to keep children occupied.

Isabella most certainly had experience in taking children on long trips, by automobile and by train. Her son Raymond and daughter Frances frequently accompanied her when she traveled to speaking engagements all over the country.

In 1883 Isabella published a brief article in The Pansy magazine about a new game for traveling with children.

The next time any of you Pansies go travelling, try the new funny little “Wayside Game” that has just been invented for children on a journey. They are to look out for four-footed animals, each of which counts 1. A white quadruped counts 5, a squirrel 25, and a cat sitting in the window of a house, 50.
Two little girls were thus relieving the tedium of a long trip the other day, and the elder was getting ahead, when the younger happened to spy fifteen little pigs, as white as snow, which gave her 75 at once. And soon after, she was lucky enough to see a cat in the window, which gave her 50, so that the little one made a score of 365 against 189 for her sister. Try it, all who want a gay little travelling time.

Does this game sound familiar to you?

When you take driving trips, do you play a similar game?

Advice to Readers on Learning to Cook

For many years Isabella had an advice column in a popular Christian magazine. In the column she answered readers’ questions—from a Christian perspective—on a variety of topics.

In 1910 she received this letter from a young woman:

Can you tell some of us girls—who never had a chance to learn much about real, practical, beautiful housekeeping—some way of learning? Are there not schools in cities for this purpose? Or are there not books from which we can learn what we need to know?

We want to understand all kinds or planning and arranging and beautifying and economizing.

We want to be excellent cooks, and to learn much that people whose time is largely spent in school or shop know very little about.

Can you help us with this practical need of ours?”

Illustration of different desserts: A sundae in a tall glass, cupcakes, a merangue, and a cake.

Here is Isabella’s reply:

It shall be my delight to do so.

Let me first express what a pleasure it is to find that one who can write so charming a letter as accompanied these questions is able to turn her thoughts to this practical subject, and to feel the “need” of knowledge.

Also, I rejoice in the thought that a large number of the letters awaiting attention deal with the same subject. Our lovely, cultured girls, who have had “advantages,” are beginning to feel the importance of understanding the art of home-making.

Newspaper clipping:
HOUSEKEEPERS HAVE TROUBLES.
Have Miss Peet help you in them at cooking school.
The school opens next Monday.
Ask her any questions any time - Wants Fort Scott women to feel it is their school.
From The Fort Scott Daily Tribune, October 31, 1913

Schools? Certainly there are. Every city of rea­sonable size now sends out its circulars announcing a “cooking-school” in regular session through the school year, or in extra session during vacation, or for the winter months.

Photo of about a dozen young women gathered around a table where they are preparing peaches to make into peach rolls.
A cooking school at the Indiana State Fair, about 1917

Better than these opportunities, especially for school­girls and those employed in regular work of any kind during the winter, are the cooking-schools that have sprung up in connection with the larger summer “as­semblies.”

I am told that every well-established summer resort organized under the peculiar rules that belong to the word “assembly” now has its own fairly well-appointed cooking class or classes. I am, however, most familiar with the one at Chautauqua, N. Y., which is, of course, the mother of all the Chautauquas, and is and must always be the first in all ways.

Photo from the early 1900s of a large classroom full of cooking students and teachers. The students are wearing caps and full aprons. The teachers wear caps and are dressed in white. Some students are preparing vegetables, others are setting a table, while others are at different stages of the cooking process.
A cooking school at the Battle Creek, Michigan resort and sanitarium.

Mrs. Emma P. Ewing, who, as everyone knows, has no superior in her department, conducts regularly at Chau­tauqua, N. Y., during the eight weeks’ season, a thor­oughly equipped cooking-school, with its normal depart­ment, its “practice class,” its lecture course, and its final examination.

Black and white head-and-shoulders photograph of Emma P. Ewing. She is wearing spectacles. She is wearing a bodice with a high neck and sleeves that puff at the shoulder.
Emma P. Ewing, from Wikipedia.org

Nothing more fascinating than the way in which Mrs. Ewing manages the entire matter can well be imagined. It has been my pleasure to be often in her classroom, to admire the white table set out with all the belongings for the day, sometimes arranged for the pur­pose of making delicious soups and white sauces and delicate desserts, sometimes planned for the purpose of showing what a study in refinement and beauty and excellence a breakfast of lamb chop and creamed pota­toes and corn puffs may become.

Newspaper article:
FREE LESSON
Mrs. Emma P. Ewing, dean of Chautauqua cooking school, will give a free lesson on breadmaking in the Woman's club class room, 306 south High street, Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock. All interested in preparing wholesome bread will be welcome.
The Muncie Daily Times, October 5, 1896.

Every conceivable branch of the culinary art is taught here. Pies, pud­dings, cakes, sauces, gravies, roasts, fries, stews, each come in for a full share of careful consideration.

Illustration from about 1912. A woman is in her kitchen looking down on a turkey in a roasting pas she has just taken from the oven.

Let me confess just here that a very fascinating part of the daily class exercise is the careful “tasting” of whatever article of food has been prepared before our eyes. For this purpose scholars go to the class armed each with a silver spoon, or fork, as occasion may require, and a napkin.

Illustration of a young woman about 1918. She is holding a bowl on a saucer just below her nose as if she is enjoying the smell of the contents.

Delicious beyond description are the spoonfuls of broth or “white soup” or bouillon that one thus enjoys, to say nothing of the marvellous concoctions made with a spoonful or two of cream, a cup of fruit-juice, a dash of sugar, and a little gelatine; to say nothing, moreover, of the delicious creams and ices and “foams” and innumerable other forms to delight the palate.

Illustration of different desserts, including a cake, a plum pudding, a molded gelatine, a cake decorated with gelatine, and a mousse.

Not only can the making and cooking of all these dishes be thoroughly learned at this summer school, but there are classes formed for the special purpose of train­ing the pupils in the art of setting the table neatly and gracefully, of clearing away skillfully, of selecting dishes that harmonize with others, of explaining the difference between a refined abundance and a sinful waste.

Illustration of a dining room with a table for 12. The table is covered with a white tablecloth. Each place is set with plate, silverware, glasses and napkins. In the center are large bowls of fruits, a cruet, and a coffee service.
A proper Victorian-era table set for dinner.

There are bills of fare arranged for summer, for winter, for the trying springs and falls. There is careful attention paid to the novice who does not know whether to buy steak “by the yard” or piece, or whether to try to have strawberries and green peas in February, or to wait until they are less flavored with money.

Illustration of a woman reading a cookbook in her kitchen about 1920. On the table before her is a colander full of berries, a large empty bowl, a can of Crisco and a rolling pin.

In short, anything that one needs to learn about housekeeping, as connected with the kitchen and storeroom, may be acquired at this summer cooking-school. Moreover, the teacher is so gentle voiced and sympathetic, and so thoroughly ladylike, that it is simply a pleasure to watch her and listen to her. It would be difficult to imagine anyone farther removed from the “fussy” or the hurried and nervous stage of housekeeping than Mrs. Ewing.

Illustration from about 1918. A mother and daughter are in the kitchen standing side-by-side at the stove. The mother is reading from a cookbook while the daughter adds ingredients to a pot on the stove.

No matter how much it may sound like it, my dear girls, this is not an advertisement of the Chautauqua cooking-school. The truth is, that favored spot needs no advertising; its classes are always full, and application has to be made some time in advance. It is simply an honest effort to answer an honest and often repeated question about learning how.

Illustration of a woman from about 1910. She is in a kitchen, wearing an apron, stirring the contents of a large bowl. On the table before her are a variety of pans and cooking utensils.

Meantime, do you know, dear girls, what delightful institutions home cooking-clubs are? Why not organize one in your own circle?

Black and white photo of five ladies standing arm-in-arm in a row. Each is wearing an apron.
Members of a cooking club in their aprons.

Select one evening or afternoon a week out of your busy lives. Meet around at one another’s homes; find out the specialty of each mother or grandma or auntie; and petition for a lesson in her line—a “normal” lesson, where you can have the privilege of furnishing your own materials, and doing exactly what the teacher does, and carry home the result in triumph. Some of the most fascinating evenings I have ever known were spent in this way.

Newspaper article:
AFTERNOON TEA
The Muffin Cooking Club Entertains the Young Ladies' Cooking Club.
Yesterday afternoon the members of Muffin Cooking Club entertained the members of the Young Ladies' Cooking Club with an afternoon tea at the beautiful home of Miss Mayne Sprankle, South Liberty street. The spacious rooms of the house were beautifully decorated and presented a unique appearance, especially the dining room and table, over which flowers and candles were artistically arranged. Dainty refreshments were served and all were delightfully entertained.
From The Muncie Morning News, September 22, 1892.

Try it, and see how much, at the end of a year, you will have added to your stock of practical knowledge.

What do you think of Isabella’s advice?

Where and when did you learn to cook? Have you ever taken a cooking class or joined a cooking club?

You can read some of Emma P. Ewing’s cookbooks for free! Just click on any of the titles below to view them on Archive.org.

The Art of Cookery; a Manual for Homes and Schools

A Textbook of Cookery for Use in Schools

Cooking and Castle-building

Soup and Soup Making

Vegetables and Vegetable Cooking

Dell Bronson’s Decorating Style

Many of Isabella Alden’s stories were about resourceful women who, seeing a problem, immediately set their minds to finding ways to solve it. For these ladies, no obstacle was too big or too small.

One such heroine was Dell Bronson in The King’s Daughter. After living most of her life in the lap of luxury with a loving aunt and uncle, Dell was suddenly called home to live with her father, who ran a run-down saloon and kept an equally run-down home.

Beauty-loving Dell was dismayed when she first saw the bedroom her father had set aside for her:

In one corner stood a single bedstead, on which was mounted a feather bed, suggestive of a sweltering night, and the finishing touch was a blue and green patchwork quilt put on crooked.

There was … a queer, old-fashioned, twisted-legged table, a square wooden washstand with the paint worn off, and with one leg shorter than the others, so that it tottled whenever it was touched, making a racket over the nicked washbowl and dingy pitcher; three chairs, one a dingy rocker, with a pitiful green and purple cushion on the seat. These completed the furnishing of the room, except, indeed, a faded red and green and yellow carpet, which in its best and brightest days could not have been pretty.

But Dell didn’t spend time dwelling on the shabbiness of her surroundings. Instead, she reminded herself:

“Oh, Dell Bronson, you must not forget that your Father’s house is a palace, and that you are a King’s daughter; never mind the place in which you may have to stay for a little while, just to make your preparations, you know.”

So Dell immediately began making changes in the house that would benefit (and hopefully influence) her father. But at the same time, she began to make a few changes in her own bedroom.

When The King’s Daughter was first published, ladies’ magazines regularly published do-it-yourself articles about decorating on a budget.

One magazine provided a sample layout for a bedroom, including the best position for a washbowl and pitcher, like the one in Dell’s room:

Dell might have had a fireplace in her room to provide warmth in the winter months. One magazine published this design for “an artistic fireplace,” with screen made of cardboard and covered in an embroidered fabric, which could be made for about five cents.

Another magazine suggested making a “writing cabinet” from two small bookcases:


The shaped insert on the bookcases is cut from sturdy cardboard and covered with paper. The magazine also suggests using short pieces of muslin left over from making the curtains to cover the bottom shelves where less-than-dainty items may be stored.

Another magazine reminded young ladies they should not ignore the corners of their rooms, and gave simple instructions for making of a corner closet for storing clothes and shoes:

Resourceful Dell Bronson set about making changes to her plain and somewhat shabby bedroom. Within two weeks:

The blue paper curtains had given place to full white muslin ones, the bed was spread in white, as also was the little toilet table, and many little feminine graceful touches had softened its hard corners, and given it a look of home.

By the end of the story, Dell’s decorating efforts resulted in more than just a pleasant place to live; the lovely rooms she created helped influence her father and several townspeople to make positive changes in their lives.

Have you read The King’s Daughter? You can learn more about the book here.

Do you like do-it-yourself decorating projects? Where do you get your ideas?

What’s the best DIY project you ever completed?

New Free Read for Easter

This month’s Free Read is “Celia’s Easter Offering,” a short story Isabella wrote in 1892.

For months Celia Foster has been planning the decorations that will grace her church on Easter morning. It’s important work, but as Easter Sunday approaches, Celia begins to wonder what’s more important: embellishing the church or helping someone in need?

You can read “Celia’s Easter Offering” for free!

Choose the reading option you like best:

You can read the story on your computer, phone, tablet, Kindle, or other electronic device. Just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

Or you can select BookFunnel’s “My Computer” option to receive an email with a version you can read, print, and share with friends.

Hello, April!

Few people know that Isabella’s husband, the Reverend G. R. Alden, was an accomplished poet. He wrote several poems for The Pansy magazine, including this one that celebrates the coming of spring:

April

O, Spring is coming now, don’t you see?

The birds will be followed by the humble bee.

The frogs are singing their evening song,

The lambs are skipping with their dams along,

The buds are out on the pussy-willow tree,

On the bough of the birch sings the chickadee.

Drawing of a little girl and boy barefoot, standing on the bank of a pond. He is fishing while she watches.

The cows come lowing along the lane,

With suppers all ready for us again;

Old Speckle scratches for her chickens ten,

New piggies are squealing in their pen.

Drawing of a birth feeding her chicks in their nest.

From the top of the tree the robin calls,

From the top of the dam the water falls,

And everything to the eye or ear,

Tells to old and young that April is here.

G. R. Alden

A Hard Text: Matthew, Mark and Luke

Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand.

Rev. Livingston wrote the following article for an April 1891 issue of the magazine:


A Hard Text

Matthew 8:28: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
Mark 5:1-2: And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit;
Luke 8:26-27: And they arrived at the country of the Gadarrenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
Photo of open Bible.

They don’t seem to agree. How to account for that?

But don’t you see that if the writers wanted to cheat the readers they wouldn’t contradict each other?

The truth in this case is that they mention different cities but in the same region or neighborhood. Christ went into the same neighborhood.

“There met him two … ” says Matthew.

But Mark and Luke mention one, so then here’s another seeming contradiction. Two cannot be one. How to account for this?

Easily enough.

Mark and Luke do not deny that there were two; they simply call special attention to the very furious one. He was a man of some standing before this and so his cure from such dreadful violence by the power of Christ would be so much the more noticeable.

This may be a key to many other “hard texts.” The writers only seem to contradict each other, whereas they may be telling different things about the very same person or thing, or calling special attention to one of several persons. When writers try to deceive, they do not give names and dates, [but] you will find them in the Bible.

It may not always be possible to harmonize all things as you read along in the Bible; but do not therefore conclude that those things cannot be harmonized.

Remember:

When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.


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Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.

Click here to read another “A Hard Text” article by Rev. Livingston.