I’m working on a biography of E. Nesbit at the moment and deriving great enjoyment from researching her fascinating life! She was my favourite author in childhood and it is such a pleasure to revisit her stories. Although she’s best known for her children’s stories, her first literary love was poetry, and she sought the approval of Oscar Wilde.
In 1886, Nesbit sent Wilde a copy of her collection Lays and Legends and he responded with an encouraging letter, lauding her ambition to ‘give poetic form to humanitarian dreams, and socialist aspirations’.
In Wilde’s very first ‘Literary and Other Notes’ editorial for issue one of The Woman’s World, in November 1887, he reviewed Women’s Voices, an anthology of poetry edited by Elizabeth Sharp, and he described ‘Mrs. Nesbit’ as ‘a very pure and perfect artist’.
In ‘Poet’s Corner’ in the Pall Mall Gazette, Wilde reviewed Nesbit’s ‘remarkable’ collection Leaves of Life. Describing ‘many of her poems’ as ‘true works of art’, he praised her keen eye for nature, ‘exquisite sense of colour’, and ‘delicate ear for music’.
Wilde also published three of Nesbit’s poems in The Woman’s World: ‘Christmas Roses’ in December 1888, ‘The Soul to the Ideal’ in July 1889, and ‘Equal Love’ in June 1890. Here’s ‘Christmas Roses’ for the season that’s in it.
THE summer roses all are gone–
Dead, laid in shroud of rain-wet mould;
And passion’s lightning time is done,
And Love is laid out white and cold.
Summer and youth for us are dead,
What do old age and winter bring instead?
They bring us memories of old years,
And Christmas roses, cold and sweet,
Which, washed by not unhappy tears,
I bring and lay beside your feet,
With gifts that come with flowers like these–
Friendship, remembrance of our past, and peace!
More on E. Nesbit and Oscar Wilde can be found in Wilde’s Women.