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Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit Edith Nesbit[1†]

Edith Nesbit, known by her pen name E. Nesbit, was an influential English writer and poet who made significant contributions to children’s literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries[1†][2†]. Born on August 15, 1858, in London, England, she published her books under the name E. Nesbit and wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books for children[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Edith Nesbit was born on August 15, 1858, in Kennington, Surrey, now classified as Inner London[1†]. She was the daughter of an agricultural chemist, John Collis Nesbit[1†]. Her father, who ran a London agricultural college, passed away when she was just three years old[1†][3†]. After his death, Edith moved extensively with her widowed mother and family, seeking suitable places to live due to her sister’s ill health[1†][4†].

The family’s travels took them to various locations, including Brighton, London, France, and Spain[1†][4†]. They attended many schools, some of which Edith disliked[1†][4†]. These early experiences exposed her to diverse cultures and environments, which would later influence her writing.

Tragedy struck the family when Edith’s sister Mary, who had been engaged to the poet Philip Bourke Marston, passed away from tuberculosis in Normandy in 1871[1†]. After Mary’s death, Edith and her mother settled for three years at Halstead Hall, Halstead, north-west Kent[1†]. This location is believed to have inspired one of her most famous works, "The Railway Children"[1†].

When Nesbit was 17, the family moved back to Lewisham in south-east London[1†]. There, at the age of 18, she met the bank clerk Hubert Bland[1†]. Despite the tumultuous nature of their relationship, they married when she was seven months pregnant[1†].

Edith’s early life was marked by personal challenges and constant movement. However, these experiences enriched her imagination, providing a wealth of material for her future works.

Career Development and Achievements

Edith Nesbit’s career was marked by prolific writing and significant contributions to children’s literature. She wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books for children[1†][2†]. Her works are celebrated for their vivid characterizations, ingenious plots, and an easy, humorous narrative style[1†][2†]. She wrote both tales of fantasy or magic, in which children in everyday circumstances are confronted with an extraordinary character or event, and naturalistic comedies of juvenile behavior or childish misadventure[1†][2†].

Nesbit began writing fiction for children in the early 1890s[1†][2†]. Among her best-known books are “The Story of the Treasure Seekers” (1899), “The Wouldbegoods” (1901), “The Revolt of the Toys, and What Comes of Quarreling” (1902), “Five Children and It” (1902), and “The Story of the Amulet” (1906)[1†][2†]. These works have left a lasting impact on children’s literature, with their unique blend of real-life situations and magical elements[1†][2†].

In addition to her literary work, Nesbit was also a committed social activist. She was a co-founder of the Fabian Society, a socialist organization that later affiliated with the Labour Party[1†][2†]. She was a prolific lecturer and writer on socialism in the 1880s[1†][5†]. She and her husband co-wrote under the pseudonym “Fabian Bland”, and she was a guest speaker at the London School of Economics[1†][5†].

Nesbit’s career was not limited to writing and activism. She also researched extensively the idea that Shakespeare’s plays were written by Francis Bacon[1†][4†]. This shows her wide-ranging interests and intellectual curiosity.

Throughout her career, Nesbit demonstrated a remarkable ability to balance her writing with her commitments to social activism. Her works continue to be celebrated for their creativity, imagination, and social consciousness.

First Publication of Her Main Works

Edith Nesbit, under her pen name E. Nesbit, authored or collaborated on more than 60 books[1†]. Here are some of her most notable works:

Each of these works showcases Nesbit’s imaginative storytelling and her ability to create relatable child characters. Her works have had a lasting impact on children’s literature and continue to be celebrated today[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Edith Nesbit’s work has been widely recognized for its significant contributions to children’s literature[7†][8†]. Her stories are known for their imaginative narrative structures and recurrent elements characteristic of the fantasy genre[7†]. Nesbit was one of the first authors to postulate the necessity of rules in fantasy, creating a balance between the real world and the magical[7†].

Her stories often feature clever princesses, naive princes, and modern appliances that seem out of place in a fairy-tale environment[7†]. The dragons in Nesbit’s tales are often portrayed as being open to taming, a concept she borrowed from Kenneth Grahame’s "The Reluctant Dragon"[7†].

Nesbit’s ability to ground her fiction firmly in the real world made the fantasy elements in her stories seem tantalizingly possible[7†][8†]. This blend of the recognizable and the magical is a distinctive feature of her work[7†][8†].

Critics have noted that Nesbit’s stories read as if they were written for equals, reflecting her belief that she was one of those people who felt "that they are children in a grown-up world"[7†][8†]. This perspective likely contributed to the relatability of her child characters and the enduring popularity of her works[7†][8†].

Nesbit’s influence extended beyond literature. Her stories provide insight into the opinions, outlooks, experiences, and thoughts of children of her era, as well as those of the authors who wrote for them[7†][9†]. Her works demonstrate societal and cultural influences, making them valuable resources for understanding the context in which they were written[7†][9†].

In conclusion, Edith Nesbit’s work has left a lasting impact on children’s literature, particularly in the development of fantasy literature[7†][10†]. Her innovative storytelling, memorable characters, and the seamless blending of the real and magical worlds in her stories have earned her a place in literary history[7†][8†][10†].

Personal Life

Edith Nesbit’s personal life was as eventful as her professional one. At the age of 18, she met Hubert Bland, a bank clerk who was three years her senior[1†]. Despite being seven months pregnant, she married Bland on 22 April 1880[1†][11†]. However, their marriage was not without its challenges. Early in their marriage, Nesbit discovered that another woman believed she was Hubert’s fiancée and had also borne him a child[1†].

A more significant blow came in 1886 when she discovered that her friend, Alice Hoatson, was pregnant by Bland[1†]. Despite the initial shock and violent quarrels, Nesbit agreed to adopt Hoatson’s child, Rosamund, and allowed Hoatson to live with them as their housekeeper[1†]. Hoatson became pregnant by Bland again 13 years later, and Nesbit again adopted the child, John[1†].

Nesbit and Bland had three children together: Paul Cyril Bland (1880–1940), Mary Iris Bland (1881–1965), and Fabian Bland (1885–1900)[1†]. Bland’s two children by Alice Hoatson, whom Edith adopted, were Rosamund Edith Nesbit Hamilton, later Bland (1886–1950), and John Oliver Wentworth Bland (1899–1946)[1†].

In 1914, Bland passed away[1†][12†]. Three years later, Nesbit married Thomas “the Skipper” Tucker, the ship’s engineer on the Woolwich Ferry[1†][12†]. They remained together for the rest of her life[1†][12†]. Suffering from lung cancer, Nesbit moved to New Romney, Kent, where she died in May 1924[12†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Edith Nesbit’s legacy is twofold. As a children’s author, she is remembered for her vivid characterizations, ingenious plots, and an easy, humorous narrative style[2†]. She wrote both tales of fantasy or magic, in which children in everyday circumstances are confronted with an extraordinary character or event, and naturalistic comedies of juvenile behavior or childish misadventure[2†]. Her best-known books, such as The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Railway Children, and Five Children and It, continue to be read and loved by children around the world[2†][1†][2†].

In addition to her contributions to children’s literature, Nesbit also has a darker reputation as the writer of some of the English language’s most powerful supernatural horror[2†][13†][14†]. Her writing in this genre is described as crisp, evocative, and touching[2†][14†].

Nesbit’s influence extends beyond her own works. She has been cited as an influence on authors such as J. K. Rowling, C. S. Lewis, and P. L. Travers[2†][13†]. Her legacy as both a children’s writer and a master of horror is well-deserved[14†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - E. Nesbit [website] - link
  2. Britannica - E. Nesbit: English author [website] - link
  3. nocloo.com - Golden Age Illustrations Gallery - Edith Nesbit Biography [website] - link
  4. Women of Eastbourne - Edith Nesbit [website] - link
  5. Poemist - Biography of Edith Nesbit [website] - link
  6. eNotes - Works by Edith Nesbit [website] - link
  7. JSTOR - Edith Nesbit - The Maker of Modern Fairy Tales [website] - link
  8. The Guardian - The Life and Loves of E Nesbit review – melodrama and menage a trois [website] - link
  9. California State University - ScholarWorks - Edith Nesbit's stories of the Bastables: construction of a new genre of literature for children [website] - link
  10. Encyclopedia.com - E(dith) Nesbit [website] - link
  11. The Edith Nesbit Society - The Biography of Edith Nesbit, 1858 - 1924 [website] - link
  12. The Short Story Project - Edith Nesbit [website] - link
  13. Goodreads - Book: Edith Nesbit: The Complete Supernatural Stories [website] - link
  14. Oldstyle Tales Press - E. Nesbit's Best Horror and Ghost Stories [website] - link
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