Grace Livingston Hill couldn't help becoming a writer. She was surrounded by a family of wordsmiths who had been putting pen to paper long before she was born. Grace's "Auntie Belle", Isabella Macdonald Alden, was known worldwide as "Pansy". She was a Christian author and her first book for children, Helen Lester, was published in 1865, the year Grace was born. Isabella saw something special in young Grace that would change hearts and lives.
As a young girl, Grace received a birthday surprise from Auntie Belle that would set her feet on the path to her future. It was a printed book of Grace's 1877 story, The Esselstynes, or Alphonse and Marguerite. It tells the story of two orphaned children who find a loving home. See & Read the story online beginning on page 272 of Pansy's Boys and Girls Story Book.
Once thought to be a single copy printed only for Grace, it's now known that this little book was one of many similar Pansy Books for children.
This charming children's tale is credited to "Pansy" on its title page, but on the first page of the story its true author is revealed. "A Story written on purpose for "Mother's Boys and Girls," by one of the Girls, who is just 12 years old, and whose name is Grace L—.."
The Pansy book mentioned, Mothers' Boys and Girls, was published by D. Lothrop Co. in 1877 and was a compilation of children's stories. It was reviewed as a Holiday book filled with unexceptionable reading in "The Library Table" December 8, 1877 issue. Many of these same stories were reprinted 22 years later in Pansy's Boys and Girls Story Book, including Grace's The Esselstynes.
The cover on the left is Grace's own copy, still treasured by her family. Other copies exist and so far, no two are alike. This book is believed to be part of the "Mother's Boys and Girls Library," which was a set of 12 books that sold for $3.00 to Sunday School libraries. As with most early children's books, few survive today.
The Esselstynes has been reprinted many times over the years and can be found in short story collections from modern publishers like Tyndale House and Barbour Books. However, there was a special edition published in 1978 by Grace's grandson's publishing house, R. L. Munce Books. Only 5,000 numbered copies were printed. Even this limited edition is hard to come by!
Another decade would go by before her name "graced" another book in print, but the seed had been planted. Grace was on her way to becoming one of the most beloved Christian authors of all time.
You can find "The Esselstynes" in these reprints:
- "Mothers' Boys and Girls" by Pansy (1877 and some later editions)
- "The Esselstynes" by Pansy (Mothers' Boys and Girls Library edition, pictured above)
- "Getting Ahead" by Pansy (1877 and later editions, D. Lothrop and Co.)
- "Pansy's Boys and Girls Story Book" by Pansy (1896, Lothrop Publishing Co.)
- "Miss Lavinia's Call" by Grace Livingston Hill (1949, J.B. Lippincott)
- "The Esselstynes" by Grace Livingston Hill (1978, Limited Collector's Edition)
- Paperback #64 "Miss Lavinia's Call" by Grace Livingston Hill (Bantam or Tyndale House)
- Paperback #99 - "Lone Point and The Esselstynes" (Tyndale House)
- Grace Livingston Hill Collection #6 (1990, Barbour)
- Grace Livingston Hill Collection #1 (1995, Barbour)