Isabella was born on November 3, 1841 in Rochester, New York.
When she celebrated her 87th birthday in 1928 she was living in Palo Alto, California. A few days later, on November 6, a San Francisco newspaper ran a short article, describing Isabella’s birthday celebrations.
Mrs. Alden is confined to her room, which was filled today with flowers, gifts and birthday messages.
It’s nice to know Isabella received so many expressions of love on her special day!
Amazingly, Isabella was still writing, and the article mentions the last three books she worked on: Memories of Yesterday, The Fortunate Calamity, and An Interrupted Night.
You can read the entire news article below. Just click on this headline to see a large version.
Much has been written about Isabella’s first book, Helen Lester, and how it came to be published.
Less has been written about her last novel, An Interrupted Night. Here’s an interesting fact about the book: in the same way her first novel Helen Lester was published with the help of her best friend, Theodosia Toll Foster, Isabella’s last novel was published with the help of her beloved niece, Grace Livingston Hill.
Here’s how it happened. In 1924 Isabella was 82 years old. During that year she suffered great loss: her dear sister Marcia, her husband Ross, and her son Raymond all died within months of each other. Isabella’s writing took a back seat as she made her way through that difficult time.
Two years later, in 1926, Isabella was seriously injured in an automobile accident in Palo Alto, California, where she was residing. She lived with the pain of her injuries for years afterward.
Then, in 1929, due in part to those old automobile accident injuries, Isabella fell and broke several bones including her hip. From that point on, Isabella was confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain.
Still, despite everything she had been through, at the age of eighty-seven she had one more story to tell.
Between intervals of constant pain and visits from friends and well-wishers, Isabella began writing her last novel. But even with her best efforts, she struggled to complete the story because, as she said, her body . . .
. . . was unfit for the work that needed to be accomplished.
Finally, determined to get her promised manuscript into the hands of the publisher, Isabella called upon her niece Grace Livingston Hill for help.
By that time, Grace was a successful novelist in her own right. Still, Grace said of her aunt’s request:
I approach the work with a kind of awe upon me that I should be working on her story! If, long ago in my childhood, it had been told to me that I should ever be counted worthy to do this, I would not have believed it. Before her I shall always feel like the little worshipful child I used to be.
But Grace took up the task, and helped her Aunt Isabella — by then confined to her bed — finish the book.
The novel was titled An Interrupted Night. Isabella said the story was based on actual facts, told to her by one of the people characterized in the story as “Mrs. Dunlap.”
The novel was published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1929 and received very favorable reviews.
One particular review, found in the Fort Lauderdale News on July 12, 1929, begins with this this sentence:
Old readers must have gaped with surprise and thought that their glasses were at fault when they read that a new book by Pansy, Mrs. G. R Alden, will be published soon by Lippincott’s. Shades of sainted grandmothers and all the dear old ladies of the Presbyterian fold, who reveled and doted upon Pansy when they were little girls!
That’s quite a beginning to a book review, isn’t it? Although the review begins with a rather sarcastic tone, it ends on a more respectful note. You can read the entire review by clicking here or on the image below.
Because it’s still protected by copyright, we can’t make An Interrupted Night available to you, but copies of the book do surface in libraries and book stores on a fairly regular basis.
If you find a copy of An Interrupted Night, you’ll be treated to a marvelous story about Mrs. Dunlap and her efforts to convince a young woman to abandon her plans to elope with a man who seems, on the surface, to be her ideal mate.
It’s a Pansy story in the truest sense, with a wonderfully sweet ending, engaging dialog throughout, and important life lessons for her characters —and readers! — to learn along the way.
This is the last post in our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner tomorrow.
Toward the end of Isabella’s life, her niece, Grace Livingston Hill, encouraged her to write “just one more book.” Grace suggested that it be about Ester Ried’s grand-daughter or great-grand-daughter, in order to bring the great message of the original Ester Ried novel to a whole new generation of readers.
Isabella’s fertile imagination still had plenty of stories waiting to be told. She recognized that there were some loose ends from the Ester Ried series that needed to be tied up, as Grace suggested.
She also knew, based on the letters she received, that fans of her books wanted to know more about some of the other characters she had created.
But Isabella chose not to write those sequels. In 1927 she told Grace:
I am not capable of writing a story suited to the tastes of present day young people. They would smoke a cigarette over the first chapter, and toss it aside as a back number. I haven’t faith in them, nor in my ability to help them.
It’s unfortunate that Isabella was so disillusioned with the “present day young people” of the 1920s. She didn’t understand the new generation of young people, and she strongly believed she had nothing in common with them.
While Isabella still dressed modestly in long gowns with high collars and full sleeves, young women of the 1920s wore short, sleeveless dresses.
They rouged their knees and polished their shoulders.
They plucked their eyebrows, painted their lips, and lacquered their fingernails.
Hollywood star Clara Bow set the trends. She was nicknamed the “It Girl” for playing the role of a plucky shop girl who made good. She was the first Hollywood sex symbol, and Americans couldn’t get enough of her.
Teenaged girls and grown women copied her make-up and clothes. If Clara Bow smoked cigarettes in a movie, they smoked, too.
Like Clara, they challenged social mores by drinking alcohol and driving fast cars, just like men did.
And like many of the characters Clara Bow played on screen, they were headstrong and modern and fond of nightlife.
Isabella couldn’t understand it. She wrote:
I saw the trend away from Christ long ago. I recognized the downward trend not only in girls and boys, but in their mothers and teachers and pastors. I came by degrees to understand that the class of young people to whom I had dedicated my life had made a distinct descent, and that for me to do the same in my writing would be to dishonor Jesus Christ.
So Isabella watched with sadness as a new generation of readers turned to the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Warner Fabian, and Virginia Woolf, while her own novels gradually fell out of favor.
Grace and others urged her not to give up her life work, but Isabella was adamant: she would not write except to try to win souls for Christ.
I think we all realize in these days that even Jesus Christ is not popular. Therefore we who want to follow Him closely must not try to be.
In 1929 Isabella published An Interrupted Night. Like her novel, Unto the End, An Interrupted Night was written for adults and dealt with issues of love, marriage, infidelity, and sacred vows. The book received good reviews, but it would be Isabella’s final novel.
Unfortunately, Isabella Alden passed away the following year, in 1930, never knowing that—almost one hundred years later—an entirely new generation of “present day young people” would love and cherish her books.