Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Edith Nesbit (August 15 1858 - May 4, 1924) was an English author and poet whose children's works were published under the asexual name of E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on over 60 books of fiction for children, several of which were later turned into film.
The daughter of a school teacher (John Collis Nesbit) who died in March 1862 before she was four, Edith Nesbit was born at 38 Lower Kennington Lane, Kennington, south London. Her sister Mary's ill health meant the family moved constantly for some years, living variously in Brighton, Buckinghamshire, France (locations included Dieppe, Rouen, Paris, Tours, Poitiers, Angouleme, Bordeaux, Arcachon, Pau, Bagneres de Bigorre and Dinan in Britanny), Spain and Germany, before the family settled for three years at Halstead Hall in Halstead in north-west Kent - a location which later inspired The Railway Children.
When Nesbit was 17, the family moved again, this time back to London. A follower of William Morris, 19-year-old Nesbit met bank clerk Hubert Bland in 1877. Seven months pregnant, she married Bland on 22 April 1880, though did not immediately live with him as Bland initially continued to live with his mother.
Bland also continued an affair with Alice Hoatson which produced two children (Rosamund in 1886 and John in 1899), both of whom Nesbit raised as her own. Her own children were Paul Bland (1880-1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Iris Bland (1881-19??); and Fabian Bland (1885-1900), who died aged 15 after a tonsils operation, and to whom she dedicated Five Children And It and its sequels, as well as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels.
She and Bland were among the founders of the Fabian Society (a precursor to the Labour Party) in 1884. Their child 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. However, Nesbit was an active lecturer and prolific writer on socialism during the 1880s (often signing her books 'Fabian Bland'), though this activity dwindled as her success as a children's author grew.
Nesbit lived from 1899 to 1920 in Well Hall House, Eltham in south-east London. Some three years after Bland died in 1914, on 20 February 1917, Nesbit married Thomas "the Skipper" Tucker, a kindly ship's engineer whose lower-class background discomforted Nesbit's family and friends.
Towards the end of her life she lived in a house, 'Crowlink', in Friston , East Sussex and at St Mary's Bay in Romney Marsh, west Kent. Suffering from lung cancer, she died in 1924 in New Romney, Kent, and was buried in the nearby churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh .
Nesbit's literary output was tremendous. Writing by herself, she published about forty books for children: either novels or collections of stories. Collaborating with others, Nesbit published about as many more. Her children's books are known for being entertaining without turning didactic, although some of her earlier works, notably Five Children and It veered in this direction.
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 Carroll, 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. 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 fictional family that Nesbit likely styled upon her own childhood family. Nesbit's children's writing also included numerous plays and collections of verse.
Nesbit also popularized a innovative style of children's fantasy that combined realistic, contemporary children in real-world settings with magical objects and adventures. 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 many others.
- The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1898)
- The Wouldbegoods (1899)
- Five Children and It (1902)
- The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)
- The New Treasure Seekers (1904)
- The Story of the Amulet (1905)
- The Railway Children (1906)
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