Imagine being one of the most well-loved children’s authors of all time, yet your readers don’t know if you’re a man or a woman. Or even your real name. E. Nesbit is really Edith Nesbit, who wrote more than 100 novels, plays and poetry collections for children and adults between 1885 and 1923. This year marks the 160th anniversary of her birth and this new biography reveals how Nesbit’s colourful private life influenced her writing, from a love affair with George Bernard Shaw to the bohemian parties with H.G. Wells to the death of her son aged just fifteen.
A new biography by Elisabeth Galvin, The Extraordinary Life of E. Nesbit with a foreword by best-selling author Dame Jacqueline Wilson, shows how J.K Rowling was influenced by Nesbit and includes interviews with Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins, who appeared in the beloved 1970 film of The Railway Children. A groundbreaker in every sense, the Edwardian author Edith Nesbit (1858 – 1924) changed children’s books forever with her much-loved novels The Railway Children and Five Children and It. Her stories of female heroines, magic, adventure and time travel continue to influence children’s literature more than a century later. As a cigar smoking socialist she was a founder of the Fabian Society, in which the Labour Party has its roots. Her personal life was every bit as colourful as her fiction. George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells frequented her wild bohemian parties, where she would throw away her corset, flash her knickers and bicycle around London. Discover the secrets she kept so carefully hidden from the public and find out what happened when her husband had two children with her best friend. “She is unspeakably underrated” – Sir Noël Coward. “A very pure and perfect artist” – Oscar Wilde.
Elisabeth says, “It has been a dream come true to write a biography of a children’s author. The Railway Children is one of the first books I remember being read as a child and I still have the copy – red bound with gold letters from Marks & Spencer! As a writer E Nesbit was prolific; as a person she is truly fascinating. I think I struck gold choosing her as my first subject because there is so much to write about her, and her influence continues to spread – there is a chapter in the book on JK Rowling and parallels with Harry Potter, and Jacqueline Wilson very kindly wrote the foreword and appears in a chapter about how Nesbit influenced her writing. I hope my biography appeals to modern readers, just as Nesbit’s fiction still thrills children today.”
The Extraordinary Life of E. Nesbit is available from Pen & Sword at £19.99