For that is the title of the collection of short stories from which the illustration that graced our March box cometh! It was a delight to revisit such a strange and imaginative, if also rather E. Nesbit-y collection. It’s available to read and enjoy in full and for free here, for which we are immensely grateful.
I think of all the great and lasting novels in her impressive list of works, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, and The Wouldbegoods are the two books Edith Nesbit wrote that had the strongest impact upon me. As a small and only child, the ‘absent parents, large family of banded-together siblings’ trope appealed hugely to me, and, of course, the Bastables’ entrepreneurial spirit was something I found terribly exciting and engaging. I loved how the children were rounded, flawed, objectionable, and sometimes dangerously and anti-socially awful, but by and large, with their hearts in the right place. They weren’t afraid of hard work, and had their own version of London-past that was veritable catnip to my tiny mind. I still have an affection for Lewisham I can’t imagine having developed otherwise, for starters, and, come to think of it, Nesbit’s works are certainly why I have more respect for carpet than for most household objects.
There always seemed possibility, strategy, something to think about, something to do, some way out of even the most appalling situations that befell the children in Nesbit’s works. The Railway Children is many people’s favourite, certainly, it’s the one we see mentioned most often in your subscribers’ questionnaires here at Prudence and the Crow (which surprised me – if you’d asked me to guess, I would’ve thought Five Children and It which would take that place), but for my part, I’m in the ‘floods of hopeless tears’ bit every time I get to the end of it, and, accordingly, these days I simply don’t even start it. But I turn to the Bastables fairly often. My favourite venture of theirs is definitely the one where they start up a newspaper – I recently came across some old childhood papers of mine where I’d tried to imitate this repeatedly with my own fabled characters.
Nesbit herself had a full, if rather turbulent and tragic life, as did so many of our most beloved and prolific authors. I knew very little of her until doing some googling for this post, perhaps as much by choice, as anything – her worlds are so real to me that the more anonymous she seemed, so much the better. In this day and age, though, I’m so used to following my authors online, to knowing how they look, how they react, how they write, what they love, that I thought I might break through that imaginary wall. It was worth doing, and I shan’t attempt to summarise, but, as so often, Wikipedia will give you a good headstart if you’re curious.
Nesbit’s driven storytelling, firm grasp of magical worlds and great sense of practicality amidst adventure continues to inspire and delight me whenever I return to her works. I enjoy reading them now as much as I ever did, and find I have an appreciation of her directness of language (and of her present-narrator, my best-beloved of literary devices) that only increases, however much more I’ve read in between revisiting her tales.
I wonder sometimes how well-travelled her books are outside the UK. Certainly amongst people I knew who read (to my mind, reading amongst children was not nearly as common as it is now, not, at least, in my school), Nesbit’s stories were a staple, and the BBC TV series of Five Children and It was a marvel to us all, but I don’t know if I hear of them read as widely Stateside, or, indeed, in translation. We’ve had one or two American subscribers respond with extensive joy on receiving, say, The Treasure Seekers, and say they’ve not come across the stories before, but, of course, one or two are just that, and trends take a little more development! We’d love to know, here, or on Twitter, your favourite E. Nesbit tale, or, if you’re a current Prudence and the Crow subscriber and would like to receive one of her books some time, do drop us a line through our Contact Us page on the site, and we’ll see what we can do!
We hope you’re enjoying the first breaths of spring, and that you’ve got something lovely/horrible/mindblowing/amusing/whateverdoesitforyou to read for now. The April envelope design is my favourite to date, and I’m very excited for that blog already, but, until then, Happy Now! ~Prudence