A Little Word Lost

In The Pansy magazine Isabella used stories, illustrations, and poems to teach young people what it meant to follow Jesus. The following poem was published in an 1893 issue of the magazine, and although it was written for children, it has meaning for adults, too!

I lost a very little word
    Only the other day;
A very naughty little word
    I had not meant to say.
If only it were really lost,
    I should not mind a bit;
I think I should deserve a prize
    For really losing it.
For if no one could ever find
    Again that little word,
So that no more from any lips
    Could it be ever heard,
I'm sure we all of us would say
    That it was something fine
With such completeness to have lost
    That naughty word of mine.
But then it wasn't really lost
    When from my lips it flew;
My little brother picked it up,
    And now he says it, too.
Mamma said that the worst would be
    I could not get it back;
But the worst of it now seems to me,
    I'm always on its track.
If it were only really lost!
    Oh, then I should be glad!
I let it fall so carelessly
    The day that I got mad.
Lose other things, you never seem
    To come upon their track;
But lose a naughty little word,
    It's always coming back.

While no author name was given when the poem was published, Isabella’s husband Ross and son Raymond were both talented poets, as was Isabella.

When she wrote stories about children losing their tempers, she wrote from experience. Isabella shared stories from her own life about how often her anger got her into trouble when she was young.

You can read about some of those instances in these previous posts:

Joy Go with You

BFFs at Oneida Seminary

Locust Shade … and a New Free Read

Pansy Reads a Mystery Story

In 1895 Isabella and her family were living in May’s Landing, New Jersey, where her husband, Reverend Gustavus Alden, had charge of the Presbyterian Church.

While her husband was busy with his responsibilities, Isabella paid an early September visit to her hometown of Gloversville, New York.

Her son Raymond (age 22 at the time) and adopted daughter Frances (age 3) accompanied her.

The residents of Gloversville welcomed Isabella back with open arms, and—as they often did—they invited her to speak at one of their assemblies. The evening of Tuesday, September 17 was decided upon, and the local newspaper promoted the event:

Newspaper Clipping: "A Popular Author in Town."
Mrs. G. R. Alden, better known to most readers by her nom de plume "Pansy," is, with her son and daughter, visiting her cousin, Mrs. E. A. Spencer, at 38 First avenue. Mrs. Alden is the author of a large number of books, chiefly for the Sunday school, which have commanded a large sale and are very popular with both old and young. It is quite natural for the people of Gloversville to take a just pride in her success, as this was her former home and it was while she was a resident here that her first stories were written. At the request of the officers of the Presbyterian Home Mission society of this city, Mrs. Alden has written a new story suitable for a public reading and will read the same for the benefit of that society in the Presbyterian church next Tuesday evening the seventeenth. It is hoped Mrs. Alden will receive a heart reception from her old friends.

The evening began with musical selections, then Isabella took the stage to “an outburst of applause.” She read one her stories, which the newspaper reported was titled “Miss Hunter.”

You may already be familiar with “Miss Hunter.” The character of Miss Priscilla Hunter was one of Isabella’s favorites, and she appeared in four of Isabella’s stories:

Miss Priscilla Hunter

People Who Haven’t Time and Can’t Afford It

The Man of the House

One Commonplace Day

But each of these stories and novels were published well before 1895, and the newspaper reported that Isabella read a brand new story, written specifically for the occasion, that featured a character named Miss Hunter. The newspaper account of the evening noted that the story was “interesting and kept the close attention of the audience,” but gave no additional details about the story.

Newspaper clipping: "Pansy's" Reading
The Presbyterian church was filled last evening by an audience who had gathered to listen to the reading of an original missionary story by Mrs. G. R. Alden, who writes under the nom de plume of "Pansy." The exercises opened with an organ voluntary by Mrs. Whitney, after which Miss Clara Gardner rendered a solo. Mrs. Alden's appearance followed shortly and she was greeted with an outburst of applause. The story, which was entitled "Miss Hunter," was very interesting and kept the close attention of the audience throughout. The reading was given for the benefit of the Young Ladies' Missionary Society of the Presbyterian church, and the proceeds netted were very satisfactory.

On Thursday morning, September 19, Isabella left Gloversville and headed back to her home in New Jersey.

Newspaper clipping: Mrs. G. R. Alden, "Pansy," who has been visiting Mr. and Mrs. Edgar A. Spencer, returned to her home at May's Landing, N. J., this morning. She was accompanied by her son and daughter.

She also left us with questions: What was the story she read aloud to the audience at the Presbyterian church? Is there another Pansy story about “Miss Hunter” that has yet to be found?

Until the mystery can be solved, you can read more about the fictional character of Miss Priscilla Hunter—and the stories we she appeared in—by clicking here.

You can also click here to read about Isabella’s charming hometown of Gloversville, New York, and the business her father had there.

Read Along with the C.L.S.C.

Much like the on-line college degree courses we have now, The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (C.L.S.C.) was a method of self-education people could obtain in the privacy of their own homes. Isabella was a graduate of the C.L.S.C. program and actively promoted in articles and stories.

Every three months C.L.S.C. students received “The Chautauquan,” a 400-plus page “magazine of system in reading” with articles and lessons that covered various topics such as:

The Rehabilitation of the Democratic Party

Food, the Farmer, and the City

Polar Exploration and Moral Standards

Women in the Progress of Civilization

A Reading Journey through Egypt.

History and classic literature were also major components of the curriculum. Bishop John H. Vincent, Chancellor of the C.L.S.C. believed:

The study of classical literature, art, and philosophy supplies a training of the mind based upon models which have stood the test of time [and are] considered universal.”

Aside from obtaining the books for reading, the only other tools required to complete the course were a pencil, some paper, and a good dictionary. 

But while the tools were basic, the coursework was not always easy. In 1909 students were required to read Homer’s Iliad. If you’ve ever tried to read this epic poem about the Trojan War, you know what a challenge it can be!

Illustration of two Trojan soldiers fighting. Both wear casques and capes,, and carry shields. Behind them is a portrait of Helen of Troy.

Not to worry; the C.L.S.C. published the following tips to help students successfully complete the required reading:

  • Think of this volume as a story book and read it for the sake of the stories.
  • Keep in mind the tales woven about Achilles and Odysseus are typical of the passionate rivalry of war and the steadfast love of country and family we identify with today.
  • Don’t make reading these stories hard. Relax yourself to the swing of them. Let them carry you along as if you were hearing them recited by a story teller.
  • These are tales of valiant deeds and daring adventure from beginning to end— “action stories”; and there is no easier reading in the world.
Illustration of Achilles and Paris in battle. Paris has a long spear and shield. Achilles holds a long knife while an arrow protrudes from his right heel. Behind them is the outline of a stone fortress over the top of which is the head of the Trojan horse.

Bishop Vincent knew the value of reading Homer’s Iliad, because he recognized the influence Greek history—and Homer’s epic poem, in particular—had on the formation of the United States and the development of our constitution.

Those influences are still visible today. A mural in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. depicts one of the stories in the Iliad after Achilles’ mother disguised him as a school girl and sent him to a distant court so he would not be enlisted in the Trojan War. Wily Ulysses set out to find Achilles; dressed as a peddler, he displayed his wares. The girls chose feminine trinkets, but Achilles was attracted to a man’s shield and casque, thereby revealing his identity.

Mural depicting Achilles disguised as a girl admiring a man's shield and casque. Behind him, Ulysses, watches as other girls sit and examine the trinkets displayed on the floor.

Greek history and mythology influence many murals, statues, and architectural design throughout the U.S. capital.

Have you read Homer’s Iliad? Did you find it difficult reading?

If you haven’t read Homer’s Iliad, you can get a taste for what this reading assignment was like. Click here to read an 1891 version of the epic poem, which would have been similar to the version Isabella and other C.L.S.C. students read.

Free Read: An Hour with Miss Streator

Isabella she was an acknowledged expert in developing Sunday-school lesson plans for young children.

At Chautauqua Institution she taught classes for Sunday-school teachers; and because she was “an advanced thinker,” she encouraged teachers to employ modern devices—such as slates and blackboards—to keep their youngest students engaged and eager to learn.

Some of her teaching methods are revealed in this month’s free read, “An Hour with Miss Streator,” an 1884 short story about a young Sunday-school teacher who has more influence over the hearts and souls of her young students than she will ever know.

Book cover showing a classroom of young children. A young woman bends down to speak to a little boy and little girl who stand at the head of the class.

In Miss Streator’s Sunday-school class every child is welcome, even the trouble-makers that have been ejected from other classrooms! Although she’s not a trained Sunday-school teacher, Miss Streator is earnest and determined to teach her young students about salvation. Will her innovative methods help her succeed?

You can read “An Hour with Miss Streator” 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.

You can read more about Isabella’s efforts to educate Sunday-school teachers by clicking here.

Quotable

Isabella was a wise woman who had a talent for stating Christian truths in simple, meaningful ways. Here’s one example:

"Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes trial of extraordinary graces."

You can find more of Isabella’s words of wisdom to read, print, and share. Just enter “quotables” in the search box on the right to see more.

Fantastic Cures for What Ails You

Isabella Alden was no stranger to illness. In her personal life she suffered from chronic health issues. In her novels, her characters fought a variety of ailments, from head colds and sore throats, to broken bones and crippling back injuries.

In her novel Jessie Wells Isabella wrote about a “molasses and ginger cure” to ward off cough and fever. It was suggested to Jessie by her father, a physician. (You can read more about it here.)

Vintage cartoon of a woman about 1910 carrying a baby in one arm and a large suitcase in her other hand. The suitcase is labeled "Medicine Chest. Soothing Syrup. Peppermint. Jamaica Ginger. Paregoric."

Although the molasses cure was based on an old folk medicine recipe, it was actually beneficial; the ginger helped suppress a cough and the molasses soothed the throat.

Like Dr. Wells, many physicians in those days treated patients with folk medicine cures for ailments ranging from the common cold to the universal finger wart.

Vintage illustration of a doctor visiting a little girl sick in bed. He holds her hand and speaks kindly to her.

Isabella availed herself of some of those folk remedies in her personal life. To cure her chronic headaches she underwent a “water cure.” Physicians wrapped her body in wet blankets and allowed them to dry in place. They believed the process would draw harmful toxins from her body, thereby curing her headaches. (You can read more about it here.)

Vintage illustration of man in bed. a woman in nursing cap and apron stands beside him, combing his hair from his forehead while holding a mirror out for him to see.

There were folk remedies for every possible ailment, including dry lips, rattlesnake bites, poison ivy, measles, diphtheria and sties.  Here are a few:

The lining of a chicken gizzard is good for stomach trouble.

A drop of skunk’s oil will cure a cold.

To treat a wart, squeeze the red juice from a freshly picked beet leaf on it every day.

A drop of turpentine on the tongue every day will keep all disease away.

Vintage illustration of a doctor wrapping a bandage around a woman's arm as she rests in a chair with a pillow behind her.

The remedies were handed down from mother to daughter, from doctor to patient. Some old-time cures persisted until the Twentieth Century; generations of American children wore a piece of flannel (usually red) around their throats after drinking home-made cough syrups. In some areas of the U.S. it was a common practice well into the 1950s.  

Some folk remedies had no legitimacy, yet they worked because the patients believed they would work.

Victorian era illustration of a sick man in bed. A woman wearing nursing cap and apron stands at the foot of the bed hear a table on which is a bowl and a medicine bottle.

Other cures sounded strange, but had a scientific basis, like this one:

To cure an abscess or infected cut, apply a poultice of moldy bread and water twice each day.

In this instance, the poultice probably worked because the moldy bread essentially served as a home-grown form of penicillin.

Victorian era illustration of a seated woman holding a little girl in her lap. Before them kneels a doctor who holds a cup to the child's lips. In the background stand worried family members.

In our twenty-first century America, many of the old home-grown medicines have gone by the wayside. Luckily, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. has a large collection of stories, letters, research essays, photos, and voice recordings about American folk medicine that helps us understand how Isabella, her family, neighbors and friends dealt with illness and injuries. You can visit the LOC’s website by clicking here.

Does your family have a story about folk medicine cures that did (or didn’t) work?

Do you have a favorite home remedy that has been handed down from generation to generation in your family?

A Hard Text about Swearing

Isabella’s brother-in-law Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained Bible verses that might seem confusing at first. Here’s one he wrote in 1889:


Matthew 5: 33-37:

33. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said of them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

35. Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Image of open Bible

With these words in mind, how, then, do good men swear on the witness stand in the court-room?

That is intended to be a solemn, religious thing, for the sake of truth and law and justice. It sets the fear of God before the witness to deter him from falsehood, and the love of God to lead him to tell the truth.

The spirit of prayer is in it.

Our Hard Text refers to profane, wicked, idle swearing. It is taking the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain. It is very common in ordinary conversation among many people. They curse and swear “by” this and “by” that, just for fun, or to make folks believe them, usually when they are telling a lie. At last it becomes a vile, dreadful habit, and in almost every sentence they swear. Many little children do this. It is an awful sin. It leads to destruction.

Shun the first step in that direction. Have a character for truth. Consecrate your tongue to Christ as He died on the cross to redeem your entire body and soul from all sin.

Have you ever wondered if swearing a solemn oath was the same as swearing in ordinary conversation?

What do you think of Rev. Livingston’s explanation?


Click on the links below to read more of Reverend Livingston’s “Hard Text” articles:

A Hard Text

A Hard Text in Matthew

A Hard Text: Matthew, Mark and Luke

Advice to Readers about Marriage Proposals

For many years Isabella edited a Christian magazine for which she wrote a very popular advice column. In 1896 she responded to a letter from an unmarried woman who had just received a proposal of marriage.

Despite his profession of love to her, the woman confessed she did not feel the same way about him. Yet she was tempted to accept his offer because she thought he’d make a fine husband; but her biggest concern was that because she was getting older, she was afraid his proposal may be her last chance for marriage.  

In closing, she asked Isabella: How could she tell if the Lord meant for her to marry such a man?

Image of man and woman about 1910 in an embrace, holding hands.

Here is Isabella’s advice:

My Dear Friend, I can understand the state of bewilderment into which you are thrown, but at my age the light is plainer. As I read your letter, I find myself wishing that all questions were as easily answered as yours.

In the first place, let me beg you never to allow any chain of circumstances or specious reasoning to persuade you that it is right to marry one that you are not sure beyond the shadow of a doubt is the man above all others that you believe your heart would have chosen under any conceivable circumstances. Any other marriage than this I believe to be a mockery in the sight of God. I can conceive of one loving another in this way, and yet not marrying from motives of duty; but I cannot conceive of any duty that would make it right for one not so loving to marry. Do you not see how simple a matter such conviction of right and wrong as this makes your query?

Image of bride and groom holding hands as they kneel in church about 1905. Behind them are three bridesmaids dressed in pink gowns and holding bouquets of pink flowers.

Be sure, dear friend, that what “the Lord means” for you is that you should do right, even if in doing so you are compelled to grieve someone that has given you the best his heart has to offer. It would be but a sorry return to give back to such a man mere dregs of feeling.  

I know it is the fashion in certain circles to talk a great deal about “Platonic affection.” I have often been tempted to think that many people use the term without having a clear idea of what it means; but the fact remains that with honest, earnest, well-trained young men and women exclusive and long-continued companionship means, other things being equal, companionship for life; and when two persons arrange to set aside this rule of nature, it generally means sorrow for one of them.

Image of bride and groom about 1910 in tender embrace.

Let me still further say that it seems to me you are perhaps making the very common mistake of thinking of marriage almost as a necessity to a woman’s life. Does it not occur to you that possibly God may not mean you to marry at all?

In saying this I do not want to be understood to speak lightly of marriage; on the contrary, I believe a true marriage to be the crown of a woman’s life. But there are many honorable exceptions; there is blessed work in the world being done by women with warm affections and motherly hearts, who have no home ties, and so are able to do that which—but for them—would be left undone. Who can estimate how many homeless and motherless ones rise up to call such women blessed? Possibly your work lies in this direction. Whether it does or not, let me repeat the admonition with which I began:

Never mistake friendship for love; never stand before the marriage altar with one of whom you could not say, “My heart chose him alone from all the world.”

Image of a bride and groom outside a church about 1918. Bride is dressed in white gown and veil and carrying a bouquet of white flowers. Groom is dressed in formal black tux with white shirt, tie and waistcoat.

My dear girl, I want to emphasize this as much as possible because I believe in it so thoroughly. The world is full of wrecked homes and ruined hearts that need not have been so if friendship had not been so often mistaken for love, and marriage relations entered into so carelessly.

I wonder whether I have fully answered your thought. I have no doubt that you consider your circumstances peculiar—we all do—but the letters that I have received lead me to believe that a large number of your sisters are thinking along much the same lines.

What do you think of Isabella’s advice?

Do you agree with her that marriage is not always “a necessity to a woman’s life”?

You can read more of Isabella’s advice columns by clicking on the links below:

Advice to Anxious Mothers of Daughters

Advice to Readers on Learning to Cook

Advice to Readers about Keeping Confidences

Isabella’s Advice about Christmas Possibilities

Advice about Righting the Wrong Marriage Proposal

Advice to Readers about Shortcomings

Advice to Readers on Managing the World

Advice to Readers on Memorizing Bible Verses

Advice to Readers on Praying Aloud in Public

Advice to Readers Living Humdrum Lives

Advice to Readers on Bashfulness

Advice to Readers about Boys and Books

Advice to Readers about Forgiveness

Advice to Readers about Ornaments

Free Read: Philip Kendall’s Fire

This month’s free read is a short story Isabella wrote in 1916 about the power of faith.

Philip Kendall dreams of going to college, but he has no way to pay for it. His only hope is to convince his long-estranged—and extremely parsimonious—aunt and uncle to lend him the money.

You can read “Philip Kendall’s Fire” 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 rad, print, and share with friends.

Love’s Garden

Isabella was an avid reader, and often read aloud to her family. She enjoyed biographies, histories, and fiction; but she particularly enjoyed reading poetry. In fact, her husband Ross and her son Raymond were both published poets.

Isabella often shared poems she enjoyed with readers of The Pansy magazine. In an 1893 issue she printed this lovely poem:

Love’s Garden

There is a quiet garden
From the rude world set apart,
Where seeds for Christ are growing;
This is the loving heart.
The tiny roots are loving thoughts,
Sweet words, the fragrant flowers
Which blossom into loving deeds—
Ripe fruit for harvest hours.
Thus in our hearts the seeds of love
Are growing, year by year;
And we show our love for the Saviour,
By loving his children here.

Author Unknown