Hill-Lutz, Grace Livingston
HILL-LUTZ, Grace Livingston
Born 15 April 1865, Wellsville, New York; died 23 February 1947, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Also wrote under: Grace Livingston Hill, Grace Livingston, Marcia Macdonald
Daughter of Charles M. and Marcia Macdonald Livingston; married Frank Hill, 1892 (died); Flavius J. Lutz, 1916 (separated); children: two daughters
Grace Livingston Hill-Lutz's mother published four romances under the name of Mrs. C. M. Livingston, but devoted herself primarily to being a preacher's wife. Apparently in order to honor her mother as an individual, Hill-Lutz published three novels under her mother's given name, Marcia Macdonald. Hill-Lutz's father, a Presbyterian minister, also did some writing, exclusively on theological topics. His influence is reflected in Hill-Lutz's establishment and direction of a mission Sunday school in Swarthmore. Perhaps the strongest of all family influences was that of her aunt, Isabella Macdonald ("Pansy") Alden, an author who not only encouraged Hill-Lutz to write but persuaded her own publisher to print the youngster's first effort, The Esseltynes; or, Alpsonso and Marguerite.
Hill-Lutz's first husband, also a Presbyterian minister, died after seven years of marriage. Hill-Lutz was forced to publish enough to support herself and her two daughters. She began with Sunday school lessons in a column syndicated by 10 local newspapers, but soon turned to fiction. By 1904 she was successful enough to build herself a comfortable home in Swarthmore. Hill-Lutz's second marriage was unhappy and soon led to separation, although she remained adamant in her opposition to divorce. She was active as a writer until the end of her life, her final novel being completed by her daughter Ruth for posthumous publication.
Hill-Lutz worked in a wide range of genres, specializing in the adventure story and contemporary romance but also including fantasy (her first novel, A Chautauqua Idyll, 1887), nonfiction (The War Romance of the Salvation Army, 1919), historical romance (Marcia Schuyler, 1908), and mystery (The Mystery of Mary, 1912). She wrote 107 books, which sold over three million copies during her lifetime.
Hill-Lutz was especially successful at writing fast-paced adventures featuring intelligent and resourceful heroines. A good example is The Red Signal (1919), set during World War I. When the German truck farm where young Hilda Lessing works turns out to be swarming with German spy activity, Hilda shows herself to be both brave and lucky as she saves the U.S. from a major disaster and wins a presidential medal. She also wins the reward reserved for all of Hill-Lutz's finest heroines—marriage with a handsome and affluent young man. Although the historical perspective is simplistic—World War I is explained as the result of Germany's "forgetting God"—and although the plot turns on some very unlikely coincidences, the narrative is compelling enough to have thrilled many a reader.
Hill-Lutz's most popular books were contemporary romances, such as Matched Pearls (1933), Beauty for Ashes (1935), and April Gold (1936). The most widely read of all, The Witness (1917), brought her thousands of letters of gratitude. In it as in most of her books, she utilizes one-dimensional characterization in which Christian believers are sincere, brave, and atruistic while unbelievers are selfish and corrupt. Paul Courtland is the typical Hill-Lutz hero: rich, handsome, popular, athletic, a Phi Beta Kappa man. A rich girl, who parallels the biblical "scarlet woman" by attempting to seduce Paul away from his faith, possesses a "nasty little chin" with "a Satanic point." She is contrasted with a poor orphan girl who, because of her modesty and integrity, wins the prize of marriage to the hero. Hill-Lutz manifests a lively sense of social justice by having Paul refuse a lucrative management position in a company that exploits its factory workers in unsafe conditions. The novel's theme is the actual presence of Christ in any life devoted to human concern and justice. As one character puts it, "It's heaven or hell, both now and hereafter."
Hill-Lutz knew how to wring human emotion and enlist current events to enliven her novels while she was making fairly overt attempts to convert her readers to Christ. For instance, a 1944 novel, Time of the Singing of Birds, features an attractive officer who returns wounded from World War II. When he eventually marries the most deserving of his Christian girlfriends, an observer comments, "Heavens! If I thought I could have a marriage like that it would be worth-while trying to be a Christian."
Improbable coincidence, avoidance of moral ambiguity, unconscious sexism, and almost exclusive use of stock characters work together to keep Hill-Lutz's fiction lightweight. But her fast-paced upbeat style has refreshed and relaxed many people. And there can be little doubt Hill-Lutz provided a shining ideal for younger readers by featuring so many heroines of unshakable standards and determined, triumphant integrity.
A Little Servant (1890). The Parkers-town Delegate (1892). Katharine's Yesterday, and Other Christian Endeavor Stories (1895). In the Way (1897). Lone Point; a Summer Outing (1898). A Daily Rate (1900). The Angel of His Presence (1902). An Unwilling Guest (1902). According to the Pattern (1903). The Story of a Whim (1903). Because of Stephen (1904). The Girl from Montana (1908). Phoebe Deane (1909). Dawn of the Morning (1910). Aunt Crete's Emancipation (1911). The Best Man (1914). The Man of the Desert (1914). Miranda (1915). The Finding of Jasper Holt (1916). A Voice in the Wilderness (1916). The Enchanted Barn (1918). The Search (1919). Cloudy Jewel (1920). Exit Betty (1920). The Tryst (1921). The City of Fire (1922). The Big Blue Soldier (1923). Tomorrow About This Time (1923). Re-Creations (1924). Ariel Custer (1925). Not Under the Law (1925). Coming Through the Rye (1926). A New Name (1926). The Honor Girl (1927). Job's Niece (1927). The White Flower (1927). Blue Ruin (1928). Crimson Roses (1928). Found Treasure (1928). Duskin (1929). Out of the Storm (1929). The Prodigal Girl (1929). The Gold Shoe (1930). Ladybird (1930). The White Lady (1930). The Chance of a Lifetime (1931). Kerry (1931). Silver Wings (1931). Beggarman (1932). The Challengers (1932). Happiness Hill (1932). Her Wedding Garment (1932). The House Across the Hedge (1932). The Story of the Lost Star (1932). The Beloved Stranger (1933). The Ransom (1933). Amorelle (1934). The Christmas Bride (1934). Rainbow Cottage (1934). The Strange Proposal (1935). White Orchids (1935). Mystery Flowers (1936). The Substitute Guest (1936). Brentwood (1937). Daphne Deane (1937). Sunrise (1937). The Best Birthday (1938). The Divided Battle (1938). Dwelling (1938). Homing (1938). The Lost Message (1938). Maria (1938). Marigold (1938). The Minister's Son (1938). Patricia (1939). The Seventh Hour (1939). Stranger Within the Gates (1939). Head of the House (1940). Partners (1940). Rose Galbraith (1940). Astra (1941). By Way of the Silverthorns (1941). In Tune with Wedding Bells (1941).Crimson Mountain (1942). The Girl of the Woods (1942). The Street of the City (1942). The Sound of the Trumpet (1943). The Spice Box (1943). Through These Fires (1943). More Than Conquerer (1944). All Through the Night (1945). A Girl to Come Home To (1945). Bright Arrows (1946). Where Two Ways Met (1947). Mary Arden (completed by R. L. Hill, 1948).
Karr, J., Grace Livingston Hill: Her Story and Her Writings (1948).
DAB. NAW (1971). Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature (1962). TCA, TCAS.
Book News Monthly (Oct. 1915).
—VIRGINIA RAMEY MOLLENKOTT