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Edith Nesbit: Author, Writer and important figure in chldren’s literature

Introduction to Edith Nesbit’s life

Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit was a British children’s author, novelist, and poet. She spent most of  her childhood in France and Germany and later led an ordinary country life in Kent. Kent and its countryside provided scenes for her books. She was interested in socialism and was one of the founders of an association known as the Fellowship of New Life, out of which grew the Fabian Society, of which Annie Besant was a part of. 

Writing of Nesbit

Nesbit began writing fiction for children in the early 1890s. She produced more than 60 books for juveniles, as well as some less-successful novels and collections of poetry for adults. Her children’s books are marked by vivid characterizations, ingenious plots, and an easy, humorous narrative style. She wrote both tales of fanstasy or magic, in which children in everyday circumstances are confronted with an extraordinary character or event. Excluding her books for adults, Nesbit published approximately 40 books for children, which included novels, collections of stories and picture books. She also collaborated with others, and  she published more books that way. 

Nesbit was touted as “the first modern writer for children”. She helped to reverse the great tradition of children’s literature inaugurated by writers such as Lewis Carroll, where children have to escape to a fantasy world and undergo an adventure there. Instead, the characters in her books faced real life problems and encountered tough truths to be uncovered. Nesbit is also credited with having invented the children’s adventure story

Among her best-known books are The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899) and The Wouldbegoods (1901),  which both recount stories about the Bastables, a middle-class family that has fallen on difficult times. Her children’s writing also included numerous plays and collections of verse. Nesbit combined realistic, contemporary children in real world settings with a magical object, a genre that can be classified as contemporary fantasy and created an innovative body of work. She was a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including P L Travers, who was the author of Mary Poppins, and J K Rowling.