Thursday, August 15, 2013

This Day in History: Aug 15, 1858: English author and poet, E. Nesbit, is born


Edith Nesbit (married name Edith Bland; 15 August 1858 – 4 May 1924) was an English author and poet; she published her books for children under the name of E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on over 60 books of fiction for children, several of which have been adapted for film and television. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organisation later connected to the Labour Party.

Nesbit was born in 1858 at 38 Lower Kennington Lane in Kennington, Surrey (now part of Greater London), the daughter of an agricultural chemist, John Collis Nesbit, who died in March 1862, before her fourth birthday. Her sister Mary's ill health meant that the family travelled around for some years, living variously in Brighton, Buckinghamshire, France (Dieppe, Rouen, Paris, Tours, Poitiers, Angoulême, Bordeaux, Arcachon, Pau, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, and Dinan in Brittany), Spain and Germany, before settling for three years at Halstead Hall in Halstead in north-west Kent, a location which later inspired The Railway Children (this distinction has also been claimed by the Derbyshire town of New Mills).[1]



When Nesbit was seventeen, the family moved back to London, living in South East London at Eltham, Elswick Road in Lewisham, Grove Park and Lee.

 File:Hubert Bland - Project Gutenberg eText 13715.png

At eighteen, Nesbit met the bank clerk Hubert Bland in 1877. Seven months pregnant, she married Bland on 22 April 1880, though she did not immediately live with him, as Bland initially continued to live with his mother. Their marriage was a stormy one. Early on Nesbit discovered another woman believed she was Hubert's fiancee and had also borne him a child. A more serious blow came later when she discovered that her good friend, Alice Hoatson, was pregnant with Hubert's child. She had previously agreed to adopt Hoatson's child and allow Hoatson to live with her as their housekeeper. After she discovered the truth, they quarreled violently and suggested that Hoatson and the baby should leave; her husband threatened to leave Edith if she disowned the baby and its mother. Hoatson remained with them as a housekeeper and secretary and became pregnant by Bland again 13 years later. Edith again adopted Hoatson's child.[2]

 Edith Nesbit
 Nesbit's children were Paul Bland (1880–1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Iris Bland (1881-1950s); Fabian Bland (1885–1900); Rosamund Bland (1886-1950), to whom The Book of Dragons was dedicated; and John Bland (1898-1971) to whom The House of Arden was dedicated. Her son Fabian died aged 15 after a tonsil operation; Nesbit dedicated a number of books to him: Five Children And It and its sequels, as well as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels. Nesbit's adopted daughter Rosamund collaborated with her on the book Cat Tales.

 File:Five Children and It (novel) 1st ed.jpg
 File:William Morris age 53.jpg

Nesbit was a follower of the utopian socialist William Morris and she and her husband Hubert Bland were among the founders of the Fabian Society in 1884. Their son Fabian was named after the society. They also jointly edited the Society's journal Today; Hoatson was the Society's assistant secretary. Nesbit and Bland also dallied briefly with the Social Democratic Federation, but rejected it as too radical. Nesbit was an active lecturer and prolific writer on socialism during the 1880s. Nesbit also wrote with her husband under the name "Fabian Bland",[3] though this activity dwindled as her success as a children's author grew.

E Nesbit and her adopted son, John, in 1904

Nesbit lived from 1899 to 1920 in Well Hall, Eltham, Kent (now in south-east Greater London), which appears in fictional guise in several of her books, especially The Red House. She and her husband entertained a large circle of friends, colleagues and admirers at their grand Well Hall.[4] On 20 February 1917, some three years after Bland died, Nesbit married Thomas "the Skipper" Tucker. They were married in Woolwich, where he was a ship's engineer on the Woolwich Ferry.

She was a guest speaker at the London School of Economics, which had been founded by other Fabian Society members.

File:London School of Economics Coat of Arms.svg

Towards the end of her life she moved to a house called "Crowlink" in Friston, East Sussex, and later to "The Long Boat" at Jesson, St Mary's Bay, New Romney, East Kent where, probably suffering from lung cancer, she died in 1924 and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh. Her husband Thomas died at the same address on 17 May 1935. Edith's son, Paul Bland, was one of the executors of Thomas Tucker's will.

 File:E Nesbit's Grave - St Mary In The Marsh Churchyard.jpg


Nesbit published approximately 40 books for children, including novels, collections of stories and picture books.[5] Collaborating with others, she published almost as many more.

File:Five Children and It.jpg

According to her biographer Julia Briggs, Nesbit was "the first modern writer for children": "(Nesbit) helped to reverse the great tradition of children's literature inaugurated by Lewis Carroll, George Macdonald and Kenneth Grahame, in turning away from their secondary worlds to the tough truths to be won from encounters with things-as-they-are, previously the province of adult novels." Briggs also credits Nesbit with having invented the children's adventure story. Noël Coward was a great admirer of hers and, in a letter to an early biographer Noel Streatfeild, wrote "she had an economy of phrase, and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside." [6]

Among Nesbit's best-known books are The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1898) and The Wouldbegoods (1899), which both recount stories about the Bastables, a middle class family that has fallen on (relatively) hard times. The Railway Children is also known from its adaptation into a 1970 film version. Her children's writing also included numerous plays and collections of verse.

File:The Railway Children (book).jpg

She created an innovative body of work that combined realistic, contemporary children in real-world settings with magical objects - what would now be classed as contemporary fantasy - and adventures and sometimes travel to fantastic worlds. In doing so, she was a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins), Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones and J. K. Rowling. C. S. Lewis wrote of her influence on his Narnia[7] series and mentions the Bastable children in The Magician's Nephew. Michael Moorcock would go on to write a series of steampunk novels with an adult Oswald Bastable (of The Treasure Seekers) as the lead character. Most recently, Jacqueline Wilson has written a sequel to the Psammead trilogy, entitled Four Children and It.

Nesbit also wrote for adults, including eleven novels, short stories and four collections of horror stories.



Novels for children

Bastable series

(Some more stories about the Bastables are included in the 1905 story collection Oswald Bastable and Others. The Bastables also appear in the 1902 adult novel The Red House.)
  • 1899 The Story of the Treasure Seekers
  • 1901 The Wouldbegoods
  • 1904 The New Treasure Seekers
  • 1928 Complete History of the Bastable Family (posthumous omnibus of the three Bastable novels)

Psammead series



House of Arden series

Other children's novels$(KGrHqV,!lME6B2nKCCwBOpRGzr!bQ~~60_35.JPG

Novels for adults

  • 1885 The Prophet's Mantle
  • 1896 The Marden Mystery (very rare; few if any copies survive)
  • 1899 The Secret of the Kyriels
  • 1902 The Red House
  • 1906 The Incomplete Amorist
  • 1909 The House With No Address aka Salome and the Head
  • 1909 Daphne in Fitzroy Street
  • 1911 Dormant aka Rose Royal
  • 1921 The Incredible Honeymoon
  • 1922 The Lark

Stories and story collections for children

  • 1894 Miss Mischief
  • 1895 Tick Tock, Tales of the Clock
  • 1895 Pussy Tales
  • 1895 Doggy Tales
  • 1897 The Children's Shakespeare
  • 1897 Royal Children of English History
  • 1898 The Book of Dogs
  • 1899 Pussy and Doggy Tales
  • 1900 The Book of Dragons
  • 1901 Nine Unlikely Tales
  • 1902 The Revolt of the Toys
  • 1903 The Rainbow Queen and Other Stories
  • 1903 Playtime Stories
  • 1904 The Story of Five Rebellious Dolls
  • 1904 Cat Tales
  • 1905 Oswald Bastable And Others
  • 1905 Pug Peter, King of Mouseland
  • 1907 Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare (reprint of The Children's Shakespeare)
  • 1908 The Old Nursery Stories
  • 1912 The Magic World
  • 1982 Melisande (story reprinted from Strand Magazine (1900))
  • 1987 The Cockatoucan (story reprinted from Strand Magazine (1900))
  • 2012 Classic Princesses (Three stories from The Old Nursery Stories), in three versions illustrated by Edmund Dulac, Warwick Goble, or W.H. Margetson.
  • 2012 Fairy Tale Heroes (Three stories from The Old Nursery Stories), illustrated by W.H. Margetson.
  • 2013 Cinderella (From The Old Nursery Stories), illustrated by Arthur Rackham.
  • 2013 The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (From The Old Nursery Stories), illustrated by Arthur Rackham.
  • 2013 Four Ways to Irritate a Fairy, edited by Kristen Bancroft.
  • 2013 The Caves and the Cockatrice: Stories of Heroic Geeks, edited by Kristen Bancroft. (Also includes a novella by Andrew Lang.)

Stories and story collections for adults

  • 1893 Something Wrong (horror stories)
  • 1893 Grim Tales (horror stories)
  • 1893 The Pilot
  • 1894 The Butler in Bohemia
  • 1896 In Homespun
  • 1897 Tales Told in Twilight (horror stories)
  • 1901 Thirteen Ways Home
  • 1903 The Literary Sense
  • 1906 Man and Maid
  • 1908 "The Third Drug", Strand Magazine, February 1908 — reprinted in anthologies under that title and "The Three Drugs"[8]
  • 1909 These Little Ones
  • 1910 Fear (horror stories)
  • 1923 To the Adventurous
  • 1983 E. Nesbit's Tales of Terror (reprint of selected horror stories)
  • 1989 In the Dark: Tales of Terror (expansion of E. Nesbit's Tales of Terror)
  • 2005 The Three Mothers (reprint; story originally in Strand Magazine (1908) and These Little Ones)
  • 2006 The Power of Darkness: Tales of Terror (expansion of In the Dark: Tales of Terror)
  • Man-Size in Marble (although not a short story collection, it is a singular short horror story)


  • 1913 Wings and the Child, or, The Building of Magic Cities


  • 1886 "Lays and Legends"
  • 1887 "The Lily and the Cross" :
  • 1887 "The Star of Bethlehem"
  • 1888 "The Better Part, and other poems"
  • 1888 "Landscape and Song"
  • 1888 "The Message of the Dove"
  • 1888 "All Round the Year"
  • 1888 "Leaves of Life"
  • 1889 "Corals and Sea Songs"
  • 1890 "Songs of Two Seasons"
  • 1892 "Sweet Lavender"
  • 1892 "Lays and Legends: Second Edition"
  • 1895 "Rose Leaves"
  • 1895 "A Pomander of Verse"
  • 1898 "Songs of Love and Empire"
  • 1901 "To Wish You Every Joy"
  • 1905 "The Rainbow and the Rose"
  • 1908 "Jesus in London"
  • 1883-1908 "Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism"
  • 1911 "Ballads and Verses of the Spiritual Life"
  • 1912 "Garden Poems"
  • 1922 "Many Voices"


1.        ^ "Railway Children battle lines are drawn". Telegraph & Argus,. 22 April 2000.
2.        ^ Langley Moore, Doris (1966). E. Nesbit: a biography. Philadelphia and New York: Chilton Books. pp. 70–71; 102–103.
3.        ^ The Prophet's Mantle (1885), a fictional story inspired by the life of Peter Kropotkin in London.
4.        ^ Silvia Iannello (18 August 2008). "tvcinemateatro―i protagonisti: Edith Nesbit, la precorritrice della Rowling". Retrieved 2012-08-09.
5.        ^ Lisle, Nicola. "E Nesbit: Queen of Children's Literature".
6.        ^ Barry Day, "The Letters of Noël Coward", (New York: Vintage Books, March 2009) 74.
7.        ^ Nicholson, Mervyn (1998). "C.S. Lewis and the scholarship of imagination in E. Nesbit and Rider Haggard". Renascence.
8.        ^ The Third Drug title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2013-02-06.

 Taken from: [15.08.2013]

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