counter create hit The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit: Victorian Iconoclast, Children’s Author, and Creator of The Railway Children - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit: Victorian Iconoclast, Children’s Author, and Creator of The Railway Children

Availability: Ready to download

The first major biography of the trailblazing and controversial children’s author E. Nesbit  Edith Nesbit (1858–1924) is considered the first modern writer for children and the inventor of the children’s adventure story. In The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit, award-winning biographer Eleanor Fitzsimons uncovers the little-known details of her life, introducing readers to the The first major biography of the trailblazing and controversial children’s author E. Nesbit  Edith Nesbit (1858–1924) is considered the first modern writer for children and the inventor of the children’s adventure story. In The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit, award-winning biographer Eleanor Fitzsimons uncovers the little-known details of her life, introducing readers to the Fabian Society cofounder and fabulous socialite who hosted legendary parties and had admirers by the dozen, including George Bernard Shaw. Through Nesbit’s letters and archival research, Fitzsimons reveals “E.” to have been a prolific lecturer and writer on socialism and shows how Nesbit incorporated these ideas into her writing, thereby influencing a generation of children—an aspect of her literary legacy never before examined. Fitzsimons’s riveting biography brings new light to the life and works of this famed literary icon, a remarkable writer and woman. 


Compare
Ads Banner

The first major biography of the trailblazing and controversial children’s author E. Nesbit  Edith Nesbit (1858–1924) is considered the first modern writer for children and the inventor of the children’s adventure story. In The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit, award-winning biographer Eleanor Fitzsimons uncovers the little-known details of her life, introducing readers to the The first major biography of the trailblazing and controversial children’s author E. Nesbit  Edith Nesbit (1858–1924) is considered the first modern writer for children and the inventor of the children’s adventure story. In The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit, award-winning biographer Eleanor Fitzsimons uncovers the little-known details of her life, introducing readers to the Fabian Society cofounder and fabulous socialite who hosted legendary parties and had admirers by the dozen, including George Bernard Shaw. Through Nesbit’s letters and archival research, Fitzsimons reveals “E.” to have been a prolific lecturer and writer on socialism and shows how Nesbit incorporated these ideas into her writing, thereby influencing a generation of children—an aspect of her literary legacy never before examined. Fitzsimons’s riveting biography brings new light to the life and works of this famed literary icon, a remarkable writer and woman. 

30 review for The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit: Victorian Iconoclast, Children’s Author, and Creator of The Railway Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen Rubin

    I love the work of E. Nesbit and was very interested to learn more about her VERY colorful life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Opening on the young Edith having the wind put up her by the mummies of Bordeaux, it's clear from the off that this will be no misty celebration of a much-loved children's author. Yes, the rural idyll is here, manifest both in the ones she experienced as a child herself and those she'd try to create for her own brood. But most writers who create paradises are reacting against experiences as much as they're recreating others, so we see also the hatred of school, and of change; the never quite for Opening on the young Edith having the wind put up her by the mummies of Bordeaux, it's clear from the off that this will be no misty celebration of a much-loved children's author. Yes, the rural idyll is here, manifest both in the ones she experienced as a child herself and those she'd try to create for her own brood. But most writers who create paradises are reacting against experiences as much as they're recreating others, so we see also the hatred of school, and of change; the never quite forgotten loss of favourite friends and toys; the early bereavements. She lost her father early; he was a scientist whose own father had been a rather Gradgrindian-sounding educator, who disapproved of novels and Darwin both. Also a brother, who despite inventing the flower-dyeing process which enabled Wilde et al to wear their green carnations, spent a period in the workhouse before his premature demise; and a sister. The father and the sister, incidentally, both being buried very near me in the never quite fashionable catacombs of West Norwood (disappointingly, though Fitzsimons generally has an eye for the curious detail even where it's not strictly relevant, she does not mention the best feature of these, the hydraulic catafalque). This was one of several details that helped further invest me in the story – Devonshire Square, where I often sit at lunch, makes a brief appearance, and the Crystal Palace dinosaurs past which I commute turn out to have been a big influence on Nesbit. The biggest presence in her life, though – and in some ways just as prehistoric a figure – is her terrible husband, Hubert Bland, one of those socialists with suspiciously convenient principles when it came to things like gender essentialism. Up for doing away with all obstacles to his being able to get his end away with all and sundry, yet convinced that women were at some fundamental level more suited to home and hearth, he is the archetype of every dreadful boyfriend of a far smarter, better-looking and generally just preferable female friend that you've ever met. Still, particularly in light of that abysmal recent attempt at a War Of The Worlds adaptation, smothered in half-understood approximations of sexual morality from Ye Olden Days, it's fascinating to compare and contrast the real thing, where a woman getting married seven months pregnant might mean a small-scale ceremony but was certainly no obstacle to a woman becoming a beloved children's author. Not that she was only that, of course; she saw herself first and foremost as a poet, though even for the late Victorians that didn't pay the bills, and just as MR James wrote a charming magical story for children which is now mostly forgotten, so Nesbit wrote her chilling horror stories too. On which this account does not stint, or at least no more than on the work in general, which very much takes a back seat to the title's life and loves, and when it does pop up tends to be read as veiled or reworked autobiography - as indeed does the work of those who knew the Blands, for instance Wells' New Machiavelli. Wells is one of many literary figures to pop up in these pages, and plays a more central role than most – he would later describe the whole Bland menage as messy bitches who live for the drama (OK, I paraphrase, but barely), though his account may be coloured by their foiling his attempt to abscond with one of the daughters. On the other hand, he suggested that Hubert's lusts extended even to said daughter and he was rescuing her, so all one can safely conclude is: men! Certainly Hubert would later address a profoundly creepy book of his incredible thoughts to said daughter, advising her among other gems never to interrupt a man who was explaining something to her, even if she already knew it, because it would make her less attractive. Thanks, Hubert. Thubert. This is not the only time that sheer exasperation at Hubert Bland brings the story a curiously topical tone: when Edith, propelled largely by Hubert's predictably strong views on the matter, goes down like a lead balloon after doing a speech on why women shouldn't get the vote, one member of the audience explains that it was never going to go over well with a crowd of "waked-up" people. How little the terminology changes! And of course it's precisely Nesbit's own achievements, not to mention her own sizeable brood, that give the lie to the piffle she spouted in that speech, her notion that intellectual achievement in women led to 'sterility and race-death'. It was that stance which would lead her to fall out with her old friend Laurence Housman, brother of AE, the latter making a brief cameo as Eeyore when he turns down a commission: "I suppose she already knows that I am morose and unamiable, and will not experience any sudden or agonising shock." AC Benson is another 'brother of the more famous' who keeps popping up, and the Chestertons are here too. More niche figures – though exciting ones for me – include Lord and Lady Dunsany (great enthusiasts for charades, apparently) and the ludicrous (and appallingly verminous) Fr. Rolfe. Wallis Budge advised her on Egyptian magic for The Story of the Amulet, and maybe more than that (though here as elsewhere, Fitzsimons hesitates to make a definite judgment on how far Nesbit's own extramarital flirtations went), and even in the diminished circumstances of her later life, her company was sought by Noel Coward, a fan of her work from infancy to his deathbed. She was there for the foundation of the Fabians, and indeed before it; it's somehow at once depressing and heartening to know that the left was just as prone to splittism and purity tests 140 years ago as today, and that despite this it has occasionally managed to get things done. I loved the line from their early manifesto stating "That the established Government has no more right to call itself the State than the smoke of London has to call itself the Weather". It was in these circles that Nesbit met George Bernard Shaw, with whom she also had some manner of inconclusive dalliance; odd outfit aside, he comes across here much as he did in The Mary Whitehouse Experience. Though in his defence, he did have the sense to point out - by analogy with his own background - how ludicrous were the snobbish assumptions underlying Nesbit's Baconian phase (and it didn't help that she'd got into her head that it could all be proved by logarithms, despite being so mathematically inept that at one point her big theory was relying on 41 being 4 x 13). William Morris was also an associate, though one who seems to have seen through Hubert better than most, and would doubtless have sympathised with Edith's observation that "It is curious that nearly all fortunes are made by turning beautiful things into ugly ones. Making beauty out of ugliness is very ill-paid work." Nesbit's fortune wouldn't last, and in her lifetime at least her fame would also decline, but it's noticeable that even as her lot improved, her principles never faltered. I particularly liked the story of how the family would put on an entertainment for the poor children from a local school, but were outraged after the first one when they found out it had been used a prize for good behaviour, and thereafter insisted that all the children should come, not just those accounted virtuous by the staff, who tended to be the same sort of child Nesbit herself found a little wet. But against that, and her tendency to drop anti-capitalist propaganda into her stories, one must set her dislike for artists' renditions of her child characters which made them look like they might not be "children of gentle folk". As one friend summarised her: "She was a wonderful woman, large hearted, amazingly unconventional but with sudden strange reversions to ultra-respectable standards." But we have all our contradictions, and there are quotes from Nesbit's writing on the desperate shortages in poor schools, the joyless grind of their curriculum, which not so long ago one might have looked at and thought how far we'd come. Would that we could feel that way still, instead of looking longingly at her poem Two Voices: "This is our vengeance day. Our masters made fat with our fasting, Shall fall before us like corn When the sickle for harvest is strong." As tends to be the way with biographies, the final chapters are a sad read, though there are some very moving passages about her second marriage, which she described as "a consolation prize for all sorts of failures" but which reads as a far better deal than the first. Still, the book ends on a lovely passage about the people who remain children at heart, which is too long to quote in full, too beautiful to abbreviate, but perfectly sums up the charm of her greatest books. Would I have liked a little more on Psammeads and Bastables? Perhaps, but I can always revisit them anyway, in their own stories, and this way I definitely have more of a picture of the fascinating, vexing milieu from which they sprang. (Netgalley ARC)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    There is only one way [to understand children]: to remember what you thought and felt and liked and hated when you yourself were a child. [...] There is no other way. Daisy Nesbit, Edith Bland and Mrs Tommy Tucker: just three of the many sides to one extraordinary character. One a fearful yet imaginative child, deprived of a father at an early age, shifting from pillar to post, to and fro across the English Channel; the second a dedicated socialist married to a prodigious womaniser, soon to becom There is only one way [to understand children]: to remember what you thought and felt and liked and hated when you yourself were a child. [...] There is no other way. Daisy Nesbit, Edith Bland and Mrs Tommy Tucker: just three of the many sides to one extraordinary character. One a fearful yet imaginative child, deprived of a father at an early age, shifting from pillar to post, to and fro across the English Channel; the second a dedicated socialist married to a prodigious womaniser, soon to become a successful writer of children's fiction and friend to established and aspiring literati; the last a widow, remarrying for love but plagued by health issues, finally buried in a Kentish churchyard on Romney Marsh. Edith Nesbit's singular life -- spanning over six decades, encompassing the late Victorian and Edwardian periods and witnessing momentous movements and events -- is fully documented in this new Nesbit biography, the second in as many years, complete with references, a detailed index and a selection of some dozen images. Exceedingly well researched, The Life and Loves of E Nesbit largely lets contemporary documents speak for themselves so that the reader may hear authentic voices and individual opinions, both so important in gauging the impact this woman had on those who met her, knew her, and read her. Eleanor Fitzsimons has done Nesbit's personality and legacy proud. Twenty-two chapters, headed with suitable contemporary quotes, chart her life in roughly chronological order. Beginning with the trauma she suffered seeing the Vault of Mummies in Bordeaux (as recounted in Long Ago When I Was Young ), the text takes us through her family background and early years, times when she attended a variety of schools or relocated to France with her mother for the sake of her sister's health. We then hear of her marriage to Hubert Bland and of their shared interests in poetry, stories and socialism. That social concern lead to the couple being instrumental in the setting up of the Fabian Society, attracting a host of luminaries on the left of political life, notably George Bernard Shaw and H G Wells among others. At the moated Well Hall in Eltham, South London, and in the Kent marshes at Dymchurch she held court to friends, family, protégés and paying guests ('PGs'), organised fundraisers and devised entertainments for disadvantaged children and their families, was active in the proceedings of the Fabians, and put the grounds of Well Hall to good use for fun and recreation, for fêtes, and, around the time of the Great War, for dairy produce, flowers and fruit. Above all she wrote: reams of poetry, her first love; plays for charity as well as the theatre; tales of terror, inspired by her early trauma and lively imagination; adult novels, often in collaboration with Hubert or a young protégé; political tracts, articles and correspondence to the papers; and of course, increasingly, the children's fiction for which she is largely, and rightly, remembered. And, all around her, her extended family, from which came both happiness and tragedy. Her philandering husband who loved too much, even fathering two children by Alice Hoatson whom Edith brought up as her own; the death of their young son Fabian, from which she never quite recovered; her falling out with prominent Fabians over matters like women's suffrage (which, as a putative feminist, she uncharacteristically opposed); the dwindling popularity of her adult fiction which let her to greater financial straits; and finally the death of her first mainstay Hubert even as her own health and strength was failing. But there were fun times too, with parties and charades and seaside holidays. With her bohemian life and appearance -- a loose-flowing Liberty dress, jangling bangles up to her elbows, and an ever-present lit cigarette in a long holder -- her unconventional approach stemmed not from a desire to outrage but from a deep-seated concern for those less fortunate than herself, combined with a sense of a magical world just beyond one's grasp. She was forever badgering people for story plots, which she then wove into an imaginative narrative full of novel insights with not a little dash of what we might now call autobiografiction. What made her writing for young readers different from the stock moralistic fodder of the time? Edith herself declared that she was among those who "feel to the end that they are children in a grown-up world". In the biography's final pages Fitzsimons quotes extensively from Wings and the Child -- correctly, in my opinion -- with Edith writing that she was one of those who just mingle with the other people, looking as grown-up as any one -- but in their hearts they are only pretending to be grown-up: it is like acting in a charade. [...] And deep in their hearts is the faith and the hope that in the life to come it may not be necessary to pretend to be grown-up. In these final, beautifully expressed paragraphs I must confess I shed a little tear -- for Edith, for myself, and for all the children "disguised by grown-up bodies". For a few authors like her the ability to write for children in their language, about their concerns, allows these disguised children to let their façades slip so that they can be recognised for what they truly are. For such a detailed book I spotted relatively few typos -- 1889 for 1898 at one point, for example, or 'Pavlova' misspelled (though corrected in the US edition). The indexing was meticulous (even a brief reference in the endnotes usually merits an entry) though I was surprised the seemingly self-effacing Alice Hoatson wasn't given an entry in her own right, being included only under Edith's entry; also under this entry were listed 'major and significant works' in place of a separate select bibliography. What I missed though was a timeline of principal events in her life and, though I suppose the chapters provided a sufficient chronological outline, I'm probably being greedy in wanting it all. But these are all trifling quibbles: the author is to be hugely congratulated for such a meticulous and microscopic picture of a wonderfully contradictory yet admirable woman. Do I detect, under Fitzsimons' relatively dispassionate account, someone very much in sympathy with her subject? * * * * * Here are links to my reviews of some of Nesbit's children's books: Long Ago When I Was Young is a series of vignettes of her early childhood. The Story of the Treasure Seekers , The Wouldbegood s, and The New Treasure Seekers all concern the Bastable children and their friends. A collection of short stories entitled The Magic Wor ld along with The Enchanted Castle are a mix of fairytale and fantasy. Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet are the first two titles in the Psammead series, followed by The Story of the Amulet.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    read and loved her books as a kid, had no idea how unconventional her personal life was. despite that, she had a traditionalist view of what a woman's role should be, perhaps colored by her husband.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jean Bonilla

    Was it really only 19 days ago? It seems a century! While I was interested in knowing more about E. Nesbit, I wasn’t interested in having all my illusions shattered! I suppose that the best summary of Edith’s life is to say that she truly was a child and that was both her gift and her curse. Her ability to see always from a child’s perspective meant that children loved her stories. Friends and strangers flocked to her light-hearted, culture-rich (in the best way) gatherings. Her heart moved her Was it really only 19 days ago? It seems a century! While I was interested in knowing more about E. Nesbit, I wasn’t interested in having all my illusions shattered! I suppose that the best summary of Edith’s life is to say that she truly was a child and that was both her gift and her curse. Her ability to see always from a child’s perspective meant that children loved her stories. Friends and strangers flocked to her light-hearted, culture-rich (in the best way) gatherings. Her heart moved her to give to those around her who were in need. She reached out without counting the cost. But it had its cost in the precarious financial situation of her family and the unhappy lives of some of her children. This book’s author, Eleanor Fitzsimons, knows how to conjure up a scene. She vividly describes Edith’s face, hair, general appearance, clothes, and constant smoking (including an exaggeratedly long cigarette holder) - I really could see her! I also could see the chaos of their lifestyle at Well Hall. She quotes from Edith’s own writing to lament the blight of urbanization. (I feel the same way about the creep of Route 50 out towards the British Pantry at Gilbert’s Corner. It is an insidious caterpillar - better said, a slug - oozing over the landscape.) In fact, she chooses many apt excerpts from Edith’s writing and that of others, so perhaps her real gift is in spotting the best description on which to draw. She very much provided what was advertised, the citations of Edith’s socialist views in her stories. I would have liked a more organized presentation of that information, however, as opposed to having examples thrown casually into the middle of other parts of the text. Until I went back and looked at the Goodreads summary of the book, I’d forgotten that that was supposed to be the highlight of the biography. Just goes to show! Overall, Fitzsimons writes in a slightly confusing style. She frequently dives off on side roads to describe people who have barely touched some part of the story. She gives tiny life sketches of authors that have briefly inserted themselves into the action. She cites work by still other authors in a manner that makes the assumption that we’ve read whatever book or article is in question. Until I read this biography, I didn’t know that Edith had written so extensively for adults. Apparently those pieces didn’t have the staying power of her children’s literature. On several occasions Fitzsimons mentioned the weight that she felt in having to follow earlier lauded Nesbit biographers. I got the definite impression that she was working overtime to make her book different from those others. Some of the “local color” might have been part of that effort. Or perhaps it was intended to be the focus on the socialist lessons of Mrs. Tiggeywinkel? Anyone who looks at my list of reviews knows that I am quite happy to tackle a lengthy work. What I demand is a thesis. Sadly, I’m not sure Fitzsimons had one, even in this much shorter volume. I am glad to have read this book, but I also will be glad to drop it in the return slot at the library!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Abbey

    I love E. Nesbit’s magical books so damn much. Five Children and It is a delight, though I think The Enchanted Castle might be my favourite, partly because the Ugly-Wuglies are utterly horrifying even now. Admittedly I’m more lukewarm about the non-magical ones (yes, sorry, even The Railway Children), but still. When I spotted this new biography of her on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. I knew very little about Edith Nesbit before reading the book – the name of her husband and the fact tha I love E. Nesbit’s magical books so damn much. Five Children and It is a delight, though I think The Enchanted Castle might be my favourite, partly because the Ugly-Wuglies are utterly horrifying even now. Admittedly I’m more lukewarm about the non-magical ones (yes, sorry, even The Railway Children), but still. When I spotted this new biography of her on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. I knew very little about Edith Nesbit before reading the book – the name of her husband and the fact that she was a founding member of the socialist Fabian Society, but that’s about it. This biography doesn’t go into details about the Fabian Society itself, which ends up giving the odd impression that it was a bit woolly and ineffectual, which is in fact the opposite of the truth. It concentrates more on her relationships with other members than on any activism she participated in. Of course, she was raising a gaggle of children (including two who were her husband’s mistress’s) as well as often being the financial mainstay of the household, so she probably didn’t have as much time for political activism as her husband and other members of the Society. It was disappointing to discover that Edith opposed votes for women, despite the fact that many members of the Fabian Society were in favour. It seems that she trotted out the argument, still in vogue today, that fighting for the rights of a particular group will somehow harm everybody else, when in fact the opposite is usually true. I’m not angry… just disappointed! But that’s part of finding out about people; there’s always something upsetting. There’s a lot of focus, as you might expect from a book titled The Life and Loves of…, on Edith’s relationships, friendly, romantic, and other. I’ll confess right now that after reading this biography I detest her husband, Hubert Bland. He sounds incredibly obnoxious with his sleeping around and his snobbery and his arrogance. Many of their friends seemed to feel that Edith as well as her husband enjoyed all the drama, but there’s a lot of other evidence that the marriage wasn’t particularly happy, and I can’t help feeling that perhaps she was creating a façade so that outsiders (and even she herself) would think that she was happy. I find it very telling that after she married her second husband, she commented that she’d never before felt completely loved by a man. The majority of the aforementioned evidence comes from other people, especially family and friends. Edith herself wasn’t a journal keeper and although various letters are quoted, it seems that she either wasn’t such a prolific letter-writer as some folk, or few of her letters survived. She wrote about her childhood a few times, and a couple of those sources are extensively quoted, but otherwise she seems to have written relatively little that was directly biographical. Eleanor Fitzsimons frequently turns to Edith’s writing in an attempt to understand her feelings about people and events through the way she fictionalised them. It’s very interesting to see how many parallels there are between her life and her writings, though as an evidence-gathering exercise it is often inconclusive. Despite this, a lot of people who knew Edith seem to have written or spoken about her. Her membership of the Fabian Society, as well as her gregarious nature and growing fame as a writer, meant that she met and knew many important people, all of whom had something to say about her. Eleanor Fitzsimons has obviously done a ton of research. Reading The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit, you do feel as though she knows pretty much everything there is to be known about Edith. It was interesting to see in her acknowledgements that the two previous biographies were so good that she wasn’t sure she could bring anything new. I guess she decided she could, and I’d love to know exactly what those new things were! Anyway, her research was clearly exhaustive and she has made excellent use of it. It’s easy for a book that contains a lot of information to become dry and boring, but Eleanor Fitzsimons has a way of presenting Edith’s life story that is immensely readable. She goes into a fair amount of detail about certain people and events, but she’s always bringing up something new, or doing a little speculation, or breaking up mere facts with some parallel from Edith’s fiction. She has a way of painting people so that you feel you know them and of bringing events to life. By the end I was only eager to know more! The only strange thing about this book was the way that footnotes are used, because there are two different sets. Those expanding on information given were marked by asterisks and placed at the end of each chapter, whereas those giving references for quotes and information were marked by numbers, and all those notes were at the end of the book. Yet the lines were blurred by expanding on information in some of the reference notes, and I can’t help thinking it would be simpler and more readable to have a single set of notes. Although I’ve written an entire paragraph about it, that’s a very minor complaint. This was a very well-researched and well-written biography of E. Nesbit. It felt really comprehensive and was an excellent and easy read. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about this brilliant writer. Thanks to Netgalley for the free ARC. See all my reviews on my blog https://thewearybookcase.home.blog/

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Very mediocre - what's the point of writing a bio if all your sources are the previous bios? Better read Briggs!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Katy Wheatley

    I was given this book by Netgalley as a proof copy. I was a huge fan of E Nesbit as a child growing up in the Seventies. There simply weren't that many modern children's books around back then. The boom in children's publishing only really got going with the success of J.K. Rowling, so for a voracious reader, which I was, once you had exhausted the modern authors, you had to visit the past. I grew up loving The Treasure Seekers, The Phoenix and the Carpet etc. My least favourite, interestingly, I was given this book by Netgalley as a proof copy. I was a huge fan of E Nesbit as a child growing up in the Seventies. There simply weren't that many modern children's books around back then. The boom in children's publishing only really got going with the success of J.K. Rowling, so for a voracious reader, which I was, once you had exhausted the modern authors, you had to visit the past. I grew up loving The Treasure Seekers, The Phoenix and the Carpet etc. My least favourite, interestingly, because it was the most widely read of her books, was The Railway Children. As an adult I had to re-read some of her work for a course in children's literature. I was worried it wouldn't be as wonderful as I remembered. I need not have worried. Her prose is vivid, surprisingly modern in tone and very funny. It reawakened my interest in her as a person, particularly after having read A. S. Byatt's fictionalised version of her life. This book is fascinating an extremely readable if you are interested in the woman behind the books. Her life was unorthodox and remarkably hard, but you can't say she didn't live to the full. I loved this.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Pierce

    Oh, I just loved this. Biographies about writers are possibly my favourite type of read. I confess that I have never read Nesbitt but this wonderfully researched biography is sending me out to buy her books. What a woman, way ahead of her time. I was fascinated by her discipline and philosophy about life. And I was awed by her output and the financial independence she forged for herself and how she chose to spend that money. And she never stopped being curious about the world. As a children's wr Oh, I just loved this. Biographies about writers are possibly my favourite type of read. I confess that I have never read Nesbitt but this wonderfully researched biography is sending me out to buy her books. What a woman, way ahead of her time. I was fascinated by her discipline and philosophy about life. And I was awed by her output and the financial independence she forged for herself and how she chose to spend that money. And she never stopped being curious about the world. As a children's writer, I will reread again and again the last page of this book where Nesbitt accidentally provides a summary of how to understand children and what makes good writing for young readers. Honestly, I didn't want this book to end but I had to keep turning the pages!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Since I haven't read any other biographies of this most important children's fantasy writer, I was hoping to get a bit more depth from this one. Fitzsimons seems to take for granted that we know the dates and titles of each of Nesbit's books, and leaves out a bibliography which would have been useful. Also adding substance would have been more quotations from the letters which are hinted at. The author of the biography focuses on the loves of Nesbit, and how her fiction tied into the work, inter Since I haven't read any other biographies of this most important children's fantasy writer, I was hoping to get a bit more depth from this one. Fitzsimons seems to take for granted that we know the dates and titles of each of Nesbit's books, and leaves out a bibliography which would have been useful. Also adding substance would have been more quotations from the letters which are hinted at. The author of the biography focuses on the loves of Nesbit, and how her fiction tied into the work, interspersing quotes from her fiction with descriptions of the actual people it supposedly describes. Nesbit was married to a flamboyant philanderer, and raised several of his children by her close friend, all in their house. It is not clear how many affairs she had with men, but she did try for and fail at George Bernard Shaw, who remained a close friend. H.G. Wells was just one of the other luminaries she associated with during her stint as a founding member of the Fabian Society. Her politics -- to fight for the working class-- to advance the cause of socialism -- seemed as much intent on preserving the way of life she enjoyed-- living in a genteel countryside without too many modern conveniences -- as protecting the rights of the downtrodden. She did however put her money where her mouth was, and sponsored charity events for those poor children in the scantily funded school near one of her idyllic country retreats. Most surprising is how she did not take on the cause of feminism, deferring to her inferior husband's views of women, and her suspicion that feminism would threaten the cause of socialism, her main aim in life. She befriended Noel Coward toward the end of her life. She produced dozens of books, provided for her family the lion's share of income, and was very good at finding beautiful homes in which to entertain guests. She had a lively sensibility and a warm heart. Her genius was writing fantasies for children who recognized themselves as real people in her stories. The book left me hungry for more information, and eager to read her fiction (and reread the books I have read).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit is a detailed and fascinating biography of beloved children's author and poet E. Nesbit. Released 17th Oct 2019 by Duckworth Books, it's ~400 pages and available in ebook format (other editions may be available in other formats). I remember growing up on a steady diet of weekend trips to the public library where, wonder of wonders, I could pick out ANY books I wanted. (I still get a thrill going into a library, m Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit is a detailed and fascinating biography of beloved children's author and poet E. Nesbit. Released 17th Oct 2019 by Duckworth Books, it's ~400 pages and available in ebook format (other editions may be available in other formats). I remember growing up on a steady diet of weekend trips to the public library where, wonder of wonders, I could pick out ANY books I wanted. (I still get a thrill going into a library, more than half a century later). I discovered and devoured The Railway Children, The Psammead books, so many hours of delicious escapism and the ones she wrote, I revisited again and again. I felt then, and still feel, that she really understood how kids think and feel on some fundamental level. I think most readers of English have encountered her books at one point or another. I was previously unaware, however, except in the vaguest terms, anything whatever about her life. This biography is meticulously researched, exhaustively annotated, and so well written. The author has a lyrical voice and at the same time a spare and respectful manner writing about her subject. Though precisely and minutely researched, it's anything but dull, and Ms. Fitzsimons doesn't shy away from covering the tragic parts of Nesbit's life. I heartily recommend this one to anyone who enjoys biographies or has enjoyed Nesbit's oeuvre as a child (or grownup). This is a worthy biography of a worthy subject who isn't well represented in print currently. Five stars. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anais

    This is a somewhat tiring account of a disappointing person- the qualities illustrated are cycled as her life story meanders: her bird-like features, her ubiquitous long cigarette holder, her love of nature, her hospitable but undisciplined household, her socialist and progressive advocacies, and the capricious sexual morality that revolved around egoism and emotional drama. Somehow the portrait is mostly sympathetic, though thankfully the author does include some honest opinions from burned rel This is a somewhat tiring account of a disappointing person- the qualities illustrated are cycled as her life story meanders: her bird-like features, her ubiquitous long cigarette holder, her love of nature, her hospitable but undisciplined household, her socialist and progressive advocacies, and the capricious sexual morality that revolved around egoism and emotional drama. Somehow the portrait is mostly sympathetic, though thankfully the author does include some honest opinions from burned relationships, most notably from HG Wells (himself a philandering cradle robber.) Nesbit was a free thinker and, say some, a brilliant literary one, though her plots were borrowed and her characters drawn from the people with whom she surrounded herself. The books she wanted to write were not those for which she won acclaim. Her children’s books, written largely to support her somewhat extravagant lifestyle, apparently did not give her the reputation or “style” she longed for, though these are the books which were most successful. Fitzsimons spends more time on Nesbit’s adult novels than on the ones she wrote for children, unfortunately. Nesbit’s gift in writing for children was her ability to write with the voice of a child. Perhaps it was her own childlike nature, including her self indulgence, rebellious spirit, egoism, and penchant for tantrums that informed her characters easily. Even her charity and hospitality seemed conditioned on obeisance and humble adoration. Her social network included the likes of George Bernard Shaw, E.M. Forster, W. B. Yeats, G.K. Chesterton, as well as H.G. Wells, and so the author gives a vivid picture of the active literary scene of turn-of-the-century England. Fitzsimons makes an extra effort to keep fresh the many recurring characters and personalities of Nesbit’s full and busy social life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review. When I saw that a biography of E. Nesbit was available, I fondly remembered reading her books as a child, especially the books in the Five Children and It series. For the most part, children don't really care about the authors of books they like- and anything to do with the author of these books never entered my mind. If you had asked me to guess what the author was like, I probably would have Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review. When I saw that a biography of E. Nesbit was available, I fondly remembered reading her books as a child, especially the books in the Five Children and It series. For the most part, children don't really care about the authors of books they like- and anything to do with the author of these books never entered my mind. If you had asked me to guess what the author was like, I probably would have told you that she was a sweet, Beatrix Potter sort of lady, living in a little cottage in rural England, writing tales to amuse the grandchildren. Not so much! As I read this biography, I kept saying, "wait, WHEN was this?" She was not just a socialist, but also a woman with various relationships outside her marriage (although the nature and extent of these relationships is kept somewhat vague in the biography). It was clear, though, that her husband was certainly engaged in all sorts of relationships, including fathering children who were passed off as children of the marriage. And, various lovers of Hubert Bland (her husband) lived with them for periods of time, even if things were not always perfectly harmonious. And, throughout the book, we are constantly told about numerous people in their political and social circles, male and female, who are constantly having affairs, having children out of wedlock, etc. Not what we think of when we think of the Victorian era! It was somewhat disconcerting to read that she was basically against feminism and woman's suffrage, with quotes from talks she gave suggesting that women only existed to be with their men. Ironic, really, since she appears to have been the primary support of the family, including her husband's lovers and illegitimate children. The main problem with this book, for me, is that I never felt that I knew E. Nesbit as a human being. While this was a fascinating look at the political and social circles in which she lived, it frequently seemed more like a book about that group of people in that time, more than a book that gave me insight into her as a person. She served as the central pole around which the other characters revolved, but I came away feeling that I knew more about these other people than I did about her. Despite that, I did enjoy reading this, although more as a history of a group of people in that time than as an individual biography.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I loved The Railway Children and read it time and time again when I was young, so I was keen to read this biography. Edith Nesbit certainly had a fascinating life, but not an easy one, and I really enjoyed the book. Fitzsimons has researched Edith's life thoroughly and provides an account which is extremely detailed and quite long, but never dull. She was a rather formidable woman who not only wrote children's books which are still highly regarded today, but also managed to provide for a large fa I loved The Railway Children and read it time and time again when I was young, so I was keen to read this biography. Edith Nesbit certainly had a fascinating life, but not an easy one, and I really enjoyed the book. Fitzsimons has researched Edith's life thoroughly and provides an account which is extremely detailed and quite long, but never dull. She was a rather formidable woman who not only wrote children's books which are still highly regarded today, but also managed to provide for a large family, and actually do a lot to help poor children. She and her husband also belonged to a very intellectual and arty 'set,' which included such people as Shaw and Cyril Chesterton. Probably, some readers in the 'Me Too' era will wonder why she put up with her handsome, but philandering husband, who even had some children with her friend. They lived in a strange 'menage a' trois' for a time. However, she seemed to be happy with him to some extent, and they were both rather bohemian Fabians with modern philosophies, such as free love and a belief in vegetarianism. Fitzsimons analyses the background to Nesbit's books so this is a useful book to keep for those who want to read them again, or read them for the first time. I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit Victorian Iconoclast, Children’s Author, and Creator of The Railway Children by Eleanor Fitzsimons ABRAMS Abrams Press Biographies & Memoirs Pub Date 08 Oct 2019 I am reviewing a copy of The Life and Loves of E Nesbit through Abrams and Netgalley: Edith Nesbit was the fifth child of Sarah and John Nesbit was born on August.15.1858. When Edith was only eleven she began to write poetry. Edith Nesbit is considered to be the first modern writer for Children and the inventor of The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit Victorian Iconoclast, Children’s Author, and Creator of The Railway Children by Eleanor Fitzsimons ABRAMS Abrams Press Biographies & Memoirs Pub Date 08 Oct 2019 I am reviewing a copy of The Life and Loves of E Nesbit through Abrams and Netgalley: Edith Nesbit was the fifth child of Sarah and John Nesbit was born on August.15.1858. When Edith was only eleven she began to write poetry. Edith Nesbit is considered to be the first modern writer for Children and the inventor of the children’s adventure story. I’m this book we learn that she was a fabulous socialite that she was love and admired by a dozen men, including George Bernard Shaw. She through legendary parties and was a profiling lecturer and writer on Socialism and we learn how she incorporated those ideas into her writing and I’m doing so she influenced a generation of children an aspect of her literary legacy never before examined. Fitzsimons’s riveting biography brings new light to the life and works of this famed literary icon, a remarkable writer and woman. I give The Life and Loves of E.Nesbit five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Dagg

    As someone who loved having my imagination whisked away by E E Nesbit’s books as a child, I was fascinated to read this biography. This well-known author turns out to have led an eventful – not always happily so – life and been a very interesting person with many views well in advance of her time. I was riveted, not just by the discovery of these facts but by the very clear, readable style of biographer Eleanor Fitzsimons. You never feel bogged down by facts about, for example, Nesbit’s involvem As someone who loved having my imagination whisked away by E E Nesbit’s books as a child, I was fascinated to read this biography. This well-known author turns out to have led an eventful – not always happily so – life and been a very interesting person with many views well in advance of her time. I was riveted, not just by the discovery of these facts but by the very clear, readable style of biographer Eleanor Fitzsimons. You never feel bogged down by facts about, for example, Nesbit’s involvement with the Fabian Society, and you never lose the sense of E E Nesbit as a person. She’s more than just the subject-matter of this book: she really does seem to live within its pages. You understand the assorted complex facets of her life that shaped her and her writing. Fascinating and informative, this is a beautifully written biography. We mustn’t forget to praise the author of the book as well as the author who is its subject. Ms Fitzsimons has obviously done an enormous amount of research to put herself into Nesbit’s shoes and give us such a convincing portrayal of this literary giant’s life that is a pleasure to read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rubery Book Award

    2020 Rubery Book Award Non Fiction Winner This is a well-written biography, beautifully put together, and something of a revelation, both in terms of Nesbit’s astonishing creative energy, and pleasing eccentricity. The book offers nice portraits of her many interesting friends, lovers, and acquaintances, particularly G. B. Shaw, and it presents an informative, entertaining context for her work, quoting extensively from letters, newspapers and previous biographies. References to Nesbit’s books ar 2020 Rubery Book Award Non Fiction Winner This is a well-written biography, beautifully put together, and something of a revelation, both in terms of Nesbit’s astonishing creative energy, and pleasing eccentricity. The book offers nice portraits of her many interesting friends, lovers, and acquaintances, particularly G. B. Shaw, and it presents an informative, entertaining context for her work, quoting extensively from letters, newspapers and previous biographies. References to Nesbit’s books are woven into the biographical detail, how the name of a real-life acquaintance or friend was chosen for one of her characters, so since it's subtitled 'author of the Railway Children', it’s perhaps surprising that there isn’t more information about the genesis and development of her most famous book. But this isn't really a shortcoming. All in all, the depth and breadth of Fitzsimons’ research is very apparent and it's a well-researched, eminently readable biography of an impressive woman. www.ruberybookaward.com

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sull

    Good workmanlike biography of one of the seminal children's authors, whose adventurous stories (Five Children and It, The Pheonix and the Carpet, The Story of the Amulet) I thoroughly enjoyed as a child. Edith Nesbit was an eminent Victorian Socialist & intellectual, a talented eccentric married to a particularly horrible example of a Free-thinking, philandering egotist. She put up with a lot, but she could write brilliant, engaging child characters who were very real, with all their flaws and b Good workmanlike biography of one of the seminal children's authors, whose adventurous stories (Five Children and It, The Pheonix and the Carpet, The Story of the Amulet) I thoroughly enjoyed as a child. Edith Nesbit was an eminent Victorian Socialist & intellectual, a talented eccentric married to a particularly horrible example of a Free-thinking, philandering egotist. She put up with a lot, but she could write brilliant, engaging child characters who were very real, with all their flaws and blind spots, their loyalties and instincts, somewhat modelled on her own children (three of her own, plus an adopted 2 by way of a mistress of her rotten husband's). Not an altogether uplifting tale, but interesting nonetheless as a window into family mores in the last half of the 1800s in England, and the beginnings of a genuine literature specifically for children.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    I thoroughly enjoyed this somewhat academic biography of E. Nesbit. Her life was full of love, books, writing, and family. She was involved in so many things, including the Fabians, it’s hard to know where to start. While I listened to this biography, I remembered my delight at reading . I want to go back and reread her works. For a discussion of the performance by Marlain Angelides, see AudioFile Magazine http://www.audiofilemagazine.com NOTE: There’s no GR link to the audio performance. I thoroughly enjoyed this somewhat academic biography of E. Nesbit. Her life was full of love, books, writing, and family. She was involved in so many things, including the Fabians, it’s hard to know where to start. While I listened to this biography, I remembered my delight at reading . I want to go back and reread her works. For a discussion of the performance by Marlain Angelides, see AudioFile Magazine http://www.audiofilemagazine.com NOTE: There’s no GR link to the audio performance.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Van

    Credited with being the inventor of the children's adventure story Edith Nesbit (1858–1924) also helped found the Fabian Society, hosted a socialist salon attended by such people as George Bernard Shaw. and H.G. Wells. She was married to Hubert Bland, a noted ladies' man and raised two of his illegitimate children as her own. Often very generous, she struggled financially later in life when her books went out of fashion. Her children's books influenced a number of children's authors, including E Credited with being the inventor of the children's adventure story Edith Nesbit (1858–1924) also helped found the Fabian Society, hosted a socialist salon attended by such people as George Bernard Shaw. and H.G. Wells. She was married to Hubert Bland, a noted ladies' man and raised two of his illegitimate children as her own. Often very generous, she struggled financially later in life when her books went out of fashion. Her children's books influenced a number of children's authors, including Edgar Eager, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling for which the world owes her a huge debt of gratituide.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Margery Osborne

    interesting to hear about where the ideas for the children's books come from--the combination of childhood experience and the people she was intimate with through the Fabian society etc. for me it was the characterizations of the children in her books that was the draw and this seems to come directly from her life, both her childhood and her children's. i kind of wished the book, rather than being a comprehensive biography, had focused on that-her conceptualization of childhood and children-and h interesting to hear about where the ideas for the children's books come from--the combination of childhood experience and the people she was intimate with through the Fabian society etc. for me it was the characterizations of the children in her books that was the draw and this seems to come directly from her life, both her childhood and her children's. i kind of wished the book, rather than being a comprehensive biography, had focused on that-her conceptualization of childhood and children-and had pulled in elements of biography to support that.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kidlitter

    A great writer and fascinating woman, who shaped so much of our consciousness through her perception of how children in particular see the world, and her insistence on accurately reflecting that view. I kept thinking of A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book and her portrayal of a character inspired by Nesbit in all her self-conscious, well-meaning Edwardian Bohemianism. But there's so much to her real life story, and this reads like an amazing novel, even more impressive because of Fitzsimons' scrupu A great writer and fascinating woman, who shaped so much of our consciousness through her perception of how children in particular see the world, and her insistence on accurately reflecting that view. I kept thinking of A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book and her portrayal of a character inspired by Nesbit in all her self-conscious, well-meaning Edwardian Bohemianism. But there's so much to her real life story, and this reads like an amazing novel, even more impressive because of Fitzsimons' scrupulous research and love of her subject. Great stuff!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kend

    I enjoyed all of this book that I managed to get through, but life threw up some barriers to my completing it. I'm setting it aside for now in the hopes that I'll come back to it--and after I manage to lay hands on at least one of her books for context. I always find author biographies more compelling when I have a sense for that person's voice on the page, as with James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon).

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley

    As this was gifted to me, I otherwise would not have read. It was extraordinary. Nesbit influenced favorite authors . I also found it interesting that authors, playwrights, artists, poets of that time period gathered, vacationed, visited, shared , celebrated, cohabitated . They were a special group of people. The biography is a new and rich exploration of E. Nesbit and I look forward to discovering her writing myself.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary Judy

    Compelling, well-researched, deeply thought-provoking and incredibly surprising; you will not be let down by this biography of one of the most fascinating figures in childrens' literature. Not only does it lay bare her life for examination, it opens her mind and her heart and gives greater understanding of her writing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    This was a brilliantly written and well-researched biography about an author that I didn't realize had such an interesting life. I have been really into biographies lately or might have skipped over this one. I am so glad that I didn't, as Edith Nesbit lived quite the life and it would have been a shame to miss out on reading about it! Highly recommend!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Etta Madden

    I loved learning about Nesbit's life, since I read many of her books as a child, and as an adult, I've come to know about the Fabian Society, which she helped to found. Especially interesting, now that I'm a writer, are the insights Fitzimmon's provides about Nesbit's literary labors. I'll be writing a longer review of this book on my blog. Stay tuned!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    Normally I love biographies, but not this one - it was tedious and oh so dry with lots of repetition. Edith Nesbit was an interesting lady, sometimes childlike and sometimes complex who had a very colourful, racy life. I was given this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    A detailed account of Nesbit's life and her social circle. I realised about three quarters of the way in that I prefer literary biographies to say a lot more about the books and a lot less about the life.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    Edith Nesbit had a totally fascinating life and ran with an exciting group of luminaries. This biography is extremely well-researched and sometimes gets tedious, but it definitely made me want to read novels by Edith Nesbit, so that's something.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.