Thinly fictionalised unconventionality

E Nesbit’s The Wouldbegoods
Puffin Books 1985 (1900)

Victorian kids
achieve ill when they meant good;
comes right in the end.

Edith Nesbit’s life was certainly unconventional by late Victorian and Edwardian standards, and it’s not surprising that her own childhood experiences and adult observations find themselves thinly fictionalised in her novels, particularly those written for children. Typical is her re-use of names of friends and acquaintances for the names of her characters in The Wouldbegoods. Continue reading “Thinly fictionalised unconventionality”

A classic feelgood story

E Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers:
Being the Adventures of the Bastable Children
in Search of A Fortune

Puffin 1995 (1899)

Bastable orphans
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.

Continue reading “A classic feelgood story”