Considered the first modern writer for children, Edith Nesbit wrote wonderfully imaginative tales about magical adventures in the everyday world. In Five Children and It (1902), a group of children are digging in a sandpit one day when they discover a small, bad-tempered sand-fairy known as the Psammead, who is allowed to grant one wish per day. The children wish for many ...
Considered the first modern writer for children, Edith Nesbit wrote wonderfully imaginative tales about magical adventures in the everyday world. In Five Children and It (1902), a group of children are digging in a sandpit one day when they discover a small, bad-tempered sand-fairy known as the Psammead, who is allowed to grant one wish per day. The children wish for many things—to be beautiful, to be rich, to grow wings—but none of the wishes turn out right. Luckily, the magic wears off at sunset, but will that be soon enough?
The Enchanted Castle (1907) begins when three children stumble upon a mysterious house and discover an invisible princess and a magic ring. At first it all appears to be a great adventure. When the children need an audience for a play they have mounted, they make their own out of old clothes, pillows, and umbrellas. Then things go inexplicably wrong. To the young dramatists' horror, as the curtain falls, there is a ghastly applause. The creatures have come alive—and they prove to be most disagreeable!
Edith Nesbit was born in 1858 at 38 Lower Kennington Lane in Kennington, Surrey (now part of Greater London), the daughter of an agricultural chemist, John Collis Nesbit, who died in March 1862, before her fourth birthday. Her sister Mary's ill health meant that the family moved around constantly for some years, living variously in Brighton, Buckinghamshire, France (Dieppe, Rouen, Paris, Tours, Poitiers, Angoulême, Bordeaux, Arcachon, Pau, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, and Dinan in Brittany), Spain and Germany, before settling for three years at Halstead Hall in Halstead in north-west Kent, a location which later inspired The Railway Children (this distinction has also been claimed by the Derbyshire town of New Mills).
When Nesbit was 17, the family moved again, this time back to London, living variously in South East London at Eltham, Lewisham, Grove Park and Lee.
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 she did not immediately live with him, as Bland initially continued to live with his mother. Their marriage was a stormy one. Early on Edith discovered another woman believed she was Hubert's fiancee and had also borne him a child. A more serious blow came later when Edith discovered that her good friend, Alice Hoatson, was pregnant with Hubert's child. Edith had already agreed to adopt Hoatson's child and allow Hoatson to live with her as their housekeeper. When she discovered the truth, Edith quarreled violently with her husband and suggested that Hoatson and the baby should leave; Hubert threatened to leave Edith if she disowned the baby and its mother. Hoatson remained with them as a housekeeper and secretary and became pregnant by Hubert again 13 years later. Edith again adopted Hoatson's child.
Nesbit's children were Paul Bland (1880–1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Iris Bland (1881-1950s); Fabian Bland (1885–1900); Rosamund Bland (1886-?) , to whom The Book of Dragons was dedicated; and John Bland (1899 -?) to whom The House of Arden was dedicated. Her son Fabian died aged 15 after a tonsil operation, and Nesbit dedicated a number of books to him: Five Children And It and its sequels, as well as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels. Nesbit's daughter Rosamund collaborated with her on the book Cat Tales.