E Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers:
Being the Adventures of the Bastable Children
in Search of A Fortune
Puffin 1995 (1899)
hope to reverse ill fortune
but land in pickles.
This was the first of Nesbit’s successful children’s books which began life as a serial and which was published in book form in 1899. Dedicated to the scholar and journalist Oswald Barron, its dedicatee furnished the name of the narrator who recounts the ‘adventures of the Bastable children in search of a fortune’ to revive the failing career of their widower father. The children (Dora, Oswald, Dicky, Alice, Noel and Horace Octavius) use the time when their father cannot afford to send them to school to seek for ways to make money in order to return the family to its former comfortable estate.
This is a charming story which reflects the middle-class gentility prevalent in England more than a century ago (observed in detail in A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book) before the horrors of the First World War changed things forever. The children’s approach to fortune-seeking, influenced by their reading and popular culture, gets them into scrapes from which their honesty and honorableness generally rescue them.