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Tony Grist

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More About E Nesbit [Mar. 9th, 2016|11:21 am]
Tony Grist
Edith Nesbit wrote fewer books for children than I thought she did. I remember getting them out the library when I was a kid and how the list of "other books by" on the flyleaf seemed enormous- and how some of them were- tantalisingly- unobtainable. In fact- though she wrote mountains of other stuff- there are only 14 novels for children- and all of them (except for a single posthumous work) were published between 1902 and 1913- which is to say in that golden age between the death of Queen Victoria and the outbreak of the Great War. They are very much of that era and no other- an age in which even impoverished middle-class families had cooks and housemaids living in-  but- because Nesbit was a socialist, an occultist and a feminist- only lightly attached to it. I've been re-reading them- at least all the ones with magic in them because they're the ones I like best- and enjoying the passages of mysticism and sly social satire which passed over my childish head- and wondering why they're not better known. Nesbit taught C.S. Lewis most of what he knew- but isn't hobbled by his God-awful, moralising, provincial  Christianity.  Also her children are far more real (meaning forgivably flawed) than his. The very best of her books (they're all good) is The Enchanted Castle- which I've just finished. It comes late in the series and is better constructed than the early ones- which- are basically episodic- and features the wonderful Ugly-Wuglies- which put the wind up me when I was a kid. It was, incidentally, the book Noel Coward had on his bedside table when he died.



Gerald and the Ugly-Wuglies- illustration to The Enchanted Castle by HR Millar (who also illustrated Kipling's Puck books)
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2016-03-09 06:27 pm (UTC)
The Enchanted Castle- which I've just finished.

I have very fond memories of that one, Ugly-Wuglies included.

Eliza's fat red palms followed heavily, and then someone else was clapping, six or seven people, and their clapping made a dull padded sound. Nine faces instead of two were turned towards the stage, and seven out of the nine were painted, pointed paper faces. And every hand and every face was alive.

I grew up on The Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet; I haven't tried to re-read The Story of the Amulet because although it's the one I should like best, with all its evocation of the ancient world, it's also the one where the anti-Semitism leapt out at me unignorably.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-03-09 08:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's a shame about that.

Have you tried the other time travel stories The House of Arden and Harding's Luck?
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2016-03-09 09:03 pm (UTC)
Have you tried the other time travel stories The House of Arden and Harding's Luck?

The House of Arden sounds familiar, but I have no particular memories associated with it. I don't think I've read Harding's Luck. What are they like?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-03-10 10:22 am (UTC)
In House of Arden a brother and sister meet a magical creature- the Mouldiwarp- a grumpy white mole- who allows them to "become" characters in the history of the Arden family. In Harding's Luck- which is a sort of a sequel- a boy lives a double life as a working class Edwardian and the son of a 17th century Lord Arden. The stories of the three children intersect and eventually run together and there's a time-travelling witch who keeps popping up in different roles- and lots of weird magic.
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