Monthly Archives: August 2019

Edith Nesbit’s Dogs

On #InternationalDogsDay here’s a short post about Edith Nesbit’s dogs and her unconditional love for them.

As a child, Edith was sent to boarding school in the picturesque town of Dinan in Brittany, northwest France. She missed her dog desperately and wrote to her mother to ask after “that queen of dogs that splendid lady that estimable that lovely loving lovable Trot”.

She always had dogs and often put them into her books. Prominent in several photographs she took at her home in Well Hall, Eltham is Martha, the bulldog immortalised in several Bastable stories. Martha also appears in ‘Fortunatus Rex & Co.’ from Nine Unlikely Tales. An old lady who wishes to protect her orchard demands that the king provide her with “a fierce bull-dog to fly at the throat of any one who should come over the wall”

So he got her a stout bull-dog whose name was Martha, and brought it himself in a jewelled leash. “Martha will fly at any one who is not of kingly blood,” said he. “Of course she wouldn’t dream of biting a royal person; but, then, on the other hand, royal people don’t rob orchards”.

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Rosamund Bland with Martha and another dog (Edith Nesbit Archive, University of Tulsa)

Edith also adore her dachshunds, Max and Brenda, who make an appearance in The Magic CityFor some reason, Gerald Spencer Pryse, who illustrated The Magic City when it was serialised in The Strand Magazine, drew them as Dalmatians even though Edith had described them as “dachshunds, very long and low”. H.R. Miller did the same in the book version.

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Max and Brenda were not universally loved. One friend described them as snappy, and Edith’s adopted daughter Rosamund admitted that they were terribly spoilt. At mealtimes they would rush around the table, then jump onto Edith’s lap. If she had attached their leashes to her chair, she would trip over them when she got up.

For more on Edith and her extraordinary life, look out for my new biography, THE LIFE AND LOVES OF E. NESBIT, which will be published in October 2019.

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The Reviews Are Coming In…

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  • “Eleanor Fitzsimons’ painstaking research gives us a new insight into the bizarre Bohemian life of the ground-breaking children’s author E. Nesbit. It’s a fantastic read.”
    Jacqueline Wilson
  • “Absolutely superb!”
    Hilary McKay (children’s author of The Skylarks War, shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards)
  • “What a stirring and unexpected story Eleanor Fitzsimons tells and what a subject she has found. I can’t think of a single writer who doesn’t owe something to Edith Nesbit’s glorious books for children. The extraordinary woman who wrote them proves to be every bit as brave, funny and imaginative as her own intrepid characters.”
    Miranda Seymour
  • “Nesbit was the mother of modern children’s fiction and this  intelligent, sensitive and minutely researched biography gives the truest picture yet of the woman herself, and the influences that shaped her brilliant imagination.”
    Kate Saunders, Costa Children’s Book Award winner for Five Children on the Western Front
  • “In this long-overdue new biography, Eleanor Fitzsimons gives us a nuanced yet compelling portrait of E. Nesbit’s many-faceted personality, life and works, as well as of the politically and culturally vibrant milieu in which she lived.”
    Fiona Sampson
  • “I’ve always loved the work of E. Nesbit—The Railway Children and Five Children and It are my favorites—but I knew nothing about the extraordinary, surprising life of this great figure in children’s literature. Eleanor Fitzsimons’s account is so gripping that I read this biography in two days. “
    Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author
  • “Eleanor Fitzsimons paints a detailed picture of the radical politics and unconventional personal life of the author of The Railway Children, and makes a strong case for how these elements informed E. Nesbit’s most famous works – a fascinating biography.”
    Emily Midorika, author of A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf
  • “E Nesbit was one of the greatest writers from the golden age of children’s literature. She was also a brilliant, complicated woman, who lived a life filled with emotional entanglements and intellectual dispute. It is a life told with panache and elegance by Eleanor Fitzsimons. A must-read not just for those interested in the early years of feminism, or in children’s literature, but for anyone who cares about the complexities of the human soul.” 
    Anthony McGowan, winner of the Booktrust Teenage Prize
  • “A fascinating insight into late 19th century/ early 20th century bohemian literary life, and a rare glimpse into the world of an unconventional, enigmatic and staunchly socialist children’s author. I loved it.” 
    Cathy Cassidy, winner of the Queen of Teen Award

Here’s the verdict from Publishers Weekly – “Fitzsimons delivers a sprightly and highly readable life of a writer who deserves even wider recognition.”

Kirkus Reviews in their review described it as: “A fascinating, thoughtfully organized, thoroughly researched, often surprising biography of the enigmatic author of The Railway Children.”

In a starred review, Booklist decides that I make “a compelling case for her [Nesbit’s] stature as an important writer,” adding: “This biography is long overdue.”

Finally, for now, the amazing Kate Atkinson told the Daily Mail that she is reading it at the moment and described it as “very well-researched,” while on Twitter the absolutely marvellous Marian Keyes (@MarianKeyes) included The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit in a photo of the books she is “REALLY DYING to read.”

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