I’ve been looking up Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories, for a small collateral project I’m working on.
Now the bad side of this is, alot of my books are still boxed away. The bright side on the other hand is, you can find most Victorian and Edwardian fiction online on the Project Gutenberg pages, or in the Internet Archive.
So I started checking, and of course I ended up with Edith Nesbit.
I admit I have a sort of literary crush for Edit Nesbit.
Deservedly famous as an author of children’s books – including the classic The Railway Children from 1906 – Nesbit was also responsible for adult fiction, often of the ghostly and horrific kind.
And if her children’s books are based on her expanded family and show a good understanding of a child’s imagination, her horrors show a good grasp of human psychology and the dynamics of fear.
In her stories – both for grown ups and for little ones – the impression is the universe does have rules, but not rules we can completely make sense of.
This can be funny, or horrific, depending on the circumstances.
I was always
impressed moved by Edith Nesbit’s sad expression in her more famous portrait – and how could we blame her: first she lost her father when she was four and then led a vagabond life following her mother; then she married what has been mercifully called “a philanderer”, a man that betrayed her repeatedly, and forced her into a strange menage-a-troix with one of the man’s lovers.
A few years back I was in a school, supposedly to talk fantasy with two classrooms of uninterested children, led by openly hostile teachers1, and Edith Nesbit’s picture popped up through my slideshow, and I called her “this beautiful, terribly sad lady.”
A few kids laughed, the rest were minding their own business.
Nesbit was a follower of William Morris and a member of the Fabian Society with the likes of George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. She was smart, tough, an excellent writer and poet.
She’s been an inspiration to many – including J.K. Rowling.
The small, cheap collection by Wordsworth Classics, The Power of Darkness is also highly recommended to those that prefer to pay for paper books.
- when a bunch of students turn their back to the blackboard and their teacher joins them to chat and smoke during a lecture, I read that as a sign of lack of interest and hostility. ↩