Tag Archives: Missent; The Story of a Letter

Isabella’s Christmas Tradition

22 Dec

When Isabella wrote Missent; the Story of a Letter, she created a heroine named Sarah Stafford. Sarah was strong, yet sympathetic; wealthy, but lonely, too. Alone in the world, Sarah yearned for a family, which is one of the reasons she decided to rent rooms as a boarder in the home of the Dennison family.

LadiesHomeJournal1898 edThere Sarah spent Christmas day with the family and took part in their Christmas celebration and fun. In the book, the family made a game of distributing gifts by making up rhymes and riddles, and having the recipient guess what the gift was before it could be opened.

That game was actually part of Isabella’s real family tradition. The entire family gathered together at Christmas—Isabella, with her husband and son; Isabella’s mother and sister Julia; her sister Marcia, with her husband Charles and daughter Grace.

On Christmas morning, there were many gifts to be opened, “nearly all of them quite inexpensive, most of them home-made, occupying spare time for weeks beforehand; occasionally a luxury, but more often a necessity, a little nicer perhaps than would have been bought at an ordinary time because it was Christmas.”

Gifts 01

Isabella’s niece, Grace Livingston Hill, remembered those family Christmas mornings with love. “Our Christmases together were happy, thrilling times.”

Grace also described the process they used for handing out the gifts:

The ceremony of distribution was a long delight, because it was a rule that each present, no matter how small, should be accompanied by an original poem or saying that was appropriate to the gift, the giver or the receiver. The rite lasted usually far into Christmas morning, with shouts of laughter over each reading, and Aunt Julia, or Grandma, or one of the others would frequently have to be excused and the ceremonies held up for a few minutes while the turkey was basted, or the mince pies taken out of the oven, filling the house with delicious Christmas odors.

Food fruit cake 1922 ed

It was on one of those Christmas mornings that Isabella gave her niece a gift that would influence her life: one thousand sheets of typewriter paper. With the paper was a note, wishing Grace success with her writing and encouraging her to “turn those thousand sheets of paper into as many dollars.”

An early, undated photo of Grace Livingston Hill

An early, undated photo of Grace Livingston Hill

At the time, Grace was just beginning to write bits of stories with no thought of ever trying to publish them. But Isabella’s gift changed that.

It was the first hint, Grace later wrote, that anyone thought she could write professionally.

Cover_Missent v2 resizedIt’s no wonder that Isabella used her own experience to write about Sarah’s Christmas with the Dennisons in Missent; the chapter was completely based on her happy and love-filled Christmas mornings with her own family. You can click on the book cover to learn more about Missent; the Story of a Letter.

Do you have a Christmas tradition that brings your family together? Please share it in the reply section below.

Furnishing a Dream Home

27 Oct

Some of Isabella Alden’s most memorable heroines were single, strong-willed, and determined to make their own way in the world. Miss Sarah Stafford was one such heroine. In Missent; the Story of a Letter, Miss Stafford decided to buy and furnish her own home, a remarkable and unusual plan for a young woman at a time when women couldn’t vote, and were legally barred in many states from owning property.

A 1906 Jordan Marsh advertisement for library furnishings

A 1906 Jordan Marsh advertisement for library furnishings

But Miss Sarah Stafford was looking for her dream home. She was alone in the world and though she’d found some happiness boarding in the homes of others, what she really wanted was a place to belong. And so she decided to buy her own house.

A 1907 Jordan Marsh ad for furnishing a reception hall

A 1907 Jordan Marsh ad for furnishing a reception hall

Once she made her decision, Miss Stafford turned to her friend David Durand for help. With his expertise, she was able to find a house to buy and negotiate a fair price with the seller. But Mr. Durand’s help didn’t stop there. Isabella wrote:

Then began the delightful task of furnishing. In this, as in the matter of selecting and buying, Mr. Durand was an invaluable assistant.

Parlor illustration from a 1911 furniture store trade card

Parlor illustration from a 1911 furniture store trade card

Day after day, Miss Stafford met Mr. Durand at furniture stores, or carpet warehouses or any of a number of establishments as he helped her select the furnishings for her new house. Together they chose items for every room, even for a little section of the house she had named her very own “cozy corner.”

Dining room illustration from a 1912 furniture store advertisement

Dining room illustration from a 1912 furniture store advertisement

We know from Isabella’s story that both Miss Stafford and Mr. Durand had exquisite taste and chose lovely items for the house. But what did the furnishings look like? The illustrations in this post give some clues. They illustrate what the fashions in home furnishings were like around the time Missent was published in 1900.

Illustration from a 1912 furniture store advertisement

Illustration from a 1912 furniture store advertisement

After several weeks of shopping together, Miss Stafford realized something rather important:

It was nearing completion, and was as nearly perfect as taste and skill and care could make it; but it was growing daily more lonely to her. … She had done her utmost for it, and Mr. Durand had been most kind and patient, and had hunted through many shops in search of certain old-fashioned things for which she had expressed a wish; yet, as often as she thought of herself there, a sense of loneliness and dreariness stole over her.

1912 advertisement from Flagg and Willis House Furnisher

1912 advertisement from Flagg and Willis House Furnisher

Sarah Stafford came to realize that “rooms and furniture did not make a home.” Suddenly, the prospect of being alone again—even in a house she owned—was not at all what she wanted. Little did she suspect that Mr. Durand understood exactly what she was feeling.

1912 advertisement for bedroom furniture from Flagg and Willis House Furnisher

1912 advertisement for bedroom furniture from Flagg and Willis House Furnisher

Very soon, Mr. Durand had a plan of his own that would both help and surprise Sarah Stafford … and ensure that she would never know a lonely day again.

Cover_Missent v2 resizedYou can find out more about Missent; the Story of a Letter by clicking on the book cover.

 

Now Available: Missent

16 Jun

Cover_Missent v2 resizedMissent is now available!

It was just an old letter she found stuck between the pages of a book. Though curious about how it got there, the only thing Miss Sarah Stafford intended to do with the letter was throw it away; but when an over-zealous servant mails the letter instead, Miss Stafford must do her best to get it back. Or should she? Before long, Sarah Stafford finds herself immersed in the lives of the young woman who wrote the letter years before and the confused young man who ultimately received it. But instead of changing their lives, that missent letter may alter the course of Miss Stafford’s future in ways she never expected.

This edition of the 1900 classic Christian novel includes a biography of the author and additional bonus content.

Follow this link to download Missent for your Kindle, PC, Mac or mobile device.

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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