As a child, I, like many others, was captivated by the tales of E Nesbit.
Her books are absolute children’s literature classics.
Considered the first modern children’s author and the inventor of the children’s adventure story, E Nesbit holds a place in the hearts the world over.
Her wonderfully imaginative and original books influenced many bestselling authors including JK Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson, CS Lewis, PL Travers, Francesca Simon, Neil Gaiman, Kate Saunders and Julia Donaldson.
I was astonished to discover that one of the most famous time-travelling portals in literature – C S Lewis’s wardrobe – was ‘borrowed’ from a short story by Edith Nesbit.
Says New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin: ‘I’ve always loved the work of E. Nesbit—The Railway Children and Five Children and It are my favourites—but I knew nothing about the extraordinary, surprising life of this great figure in children’s literature. ‘
Cue a new book by Eleanor Fitzsimons, The Lives and Loves of E. Nesbit (Duckworth £20), the first major biography of E Nesbit in 30 years and one which casts new light on her remarkable and unconventional life story.
Rubin was so gripped by the account that she read it in two days.
Eleanor Fitzsimons, the acclaimed author of Wilde’s Women, has used Nesbit’s letters and deep archival research to reveal an extraordinary life story in her eye-opening biography. She brings new light to the life and works of this famous literary icon.
As an adult Nesbit found herself in a desperately difficult situation at the centre of a love triangle between her husband and her close friend, Alice Hoatson. When Alice became pregnant she adopted both their children and raised them with her own. However, both children were left out of her will.
A staunch socialist, lecturer and writer on socialism she was a founding member of the Fabian Society. She incorporated her avant-garde ideas into her writing, influencing a generation of children.
A conflicted feminist, she threw away her corsets, cut her hair short and took up smoking, defying convention. Yet she once delivered an uncharacteristic speech so vehemently opposed to women’s rights that it was supressed by George Bernard Shaw, who was one of her many lovers.
She was close friends with HG Wells and taught him how to play badminton but they fell out after he seduced her adopted daughter. Wells justified his behaviour by insisting that he was saving the girl from her father’s incestuous intentions.