E. Nesbit: Overview

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Author: Lisa Tuttle
Editor: David Pringle
Date: 1996
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,210 words

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Because they were written in the Edwardian era, the books of E. Nesbit have taken on the cosy, rosy glow of the period novel, yet beneath that it can be recognized that she was the first truly modern writer for children, and that she made an indelible impact on children's fantasy for decades to come. She was a professional writer, forced into the role of family breadwinner when her husband's business failed and he became ill, and she turned her hand to everything from greeting-card verse to mystery novels. Most of what she wrote was sentimental and not very good. Her novels and poetry are forgotten now, and with the exception of some short horror stories written for adults, only her children's books are still remembered and read.

Her first success came in 1897 when, after writing some childhood reminiscences for a girls' paper, she was moved to attempt a novel for children. The first instalment of what was to become The Treasure Seekers appeared in The Illustrated London News under a pseudonym, and was immediately recognized as something unique. Andrew Lang singled it out for special praise, and Nesbit was from then on much in demand. This first book, not a fantasy, was about the Bastable children—believable, individual and extremely well-drawn—who attempt to restore their family's fortunes and have a series of amusing and exciting adventures. Nesbit was not the only contemporary writer to write about "real" children with sufficient sympathy and wit to make them appealing to both young and older readers, but she was, with Rudyard Kipling and Kenneth Grahame, one of the first.

She went on to write more stories about the Bastable children, interspersed with some knowing and funny modern fairy tales collected as The Book of Dragons and Nine Unlikely Tales for Children. In 1902 her...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420005957