One of the most enjoyable things about being a regular Grace Livingston Hill reader is coming across a "familiar friend" you've meet in another book. It's not frequent, but it's special. The first time it happened was in 1909, when Phoebe Deane followed Marcia Schuyler.
The Marcia Schuyler Trilogy
Grace Livingston Hill's Marcia Schuyler was published in February 1908 by J. B. Lippincott Company and became her first big success as an author. In fact, the book was so popular that Lippincott printed quite a number of editions to satisfy demand.
It was followed by Phoebe Deane, a story set in the same town with many of the same townspeople, including "spunky" Miranda. We read her story in the third book in the series, Miranda.
Marcia Schuyler's story of a substitute bride comes from the pages of Livingston family history. A friend of Grace's suggested that she write a period novel and her family shared a bit of the bride's tale, which intrigued her. She made a visit to her 99-year-old aunt's home in New York to learn more about it.
Margaret Livingston Murray was an interesting lady in her own right. Born in 1810, she was one of the earliest women's rights leaders in America. Her home in New York City became the center of a group of people that included Dr. Henry Ward Beecher, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Chester A. Arthur, John D. Archbold, and Dr. Seward Webb.
When Grace visited New York to learn more about her family history, Margaret was more than willing to give all the help she could to her young niece. As a "thank you" for her part in the project, Grace offered to dedicate the book to her, but she refused. She suggested that it be dedicated to the memory of her brother (and Grace's father), Rev. Charles Montgomery Livingston, and so it is.
As Grace adapted the story, it's more than certain that the names and other details were changed, but the story's heart is still in evidence. While there are both Schuylers and Spaffords on different sides of Grace's family tree, the only David Spafford was born nearly a century too soon to be "Marcia's David".
Grace did a great deal of research on the time period and wove bits of 1830's current events into her tale.One of the most prominent is the first trip on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad on August 9, 1831. Her cousin-in-law, Edward Lamson Henry, was a well-known painter and he loaned several of his works to illustrate the book, including "The First Railway Train on the Mohawk and Hudson." Much of her description of the historical event is taken from this charming work. Click to see all of the Marcia Shuyler Trilogy Paintings at our E.L. Henry website.
The First Railway Train on the Mohawk & Hudson, 1892
The story of Marcia and David
When beautiful Kate Schuyler elopes with the dashing Captain Leavenworth on the eve of her wedding to David Spafford, no one is aware until the next morning when Kate is nowhere to be found. The family is devastated and are eager to save face. Young Marcia takes her errant sister's place as bride, sacrificing her young life which is just beginning to bud.
David is devastated that his beloved has forsaken him. He vows to treat Marcia as a dear little sister (and he does his best), but his grief is so deep that he doesn't see the daily love and devotion she gives to him. She works hard to fill her sister's role, wearing ill-fitting clothes from her sister's trousseau and hiding from the neighbors the fact that she was not his chosen bride.
Woven into this storyline are Marcia's experiences: cold criticisms, unwanted advances, jealousy and plans for revenge by others, and the return of Marcia's sister, plotting to regain the affections of her former fiancé following her unhappy elopement.
One of the most delightful parts of the trilogy is Marcia's relationship with quirky Miranda Griscomb. She is a matter-of-fact, red-hair-and-freckles neighbor girl who becomes devoted to Marcia, saving her from quite a bit of trouble throughout the book.Eventually, Miranda comes to live with and take care of the Spaffords.
Miranda's story continues in the next book, Phoebe Deane, where she again becomes champion and protector of its heroine, another member of this 19th century community. In the final book, Miranda, we learn more about her past as she tries to avoid an unpleasant future and stay with the Spaffords.
What will happen to David and Marcia? Will Phoebe Deane be able to slip from Hiram Green's grasp? Will Miranda escape that "slab-sided tombstun of a man" Nathan Whitney? Will true love conquer all? You'll have to read them to find out.