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Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit was born in London in 1858. The death of her father when she was four and the continuing ill health of her sister meant that Nesbit had a transitory childhood, her family moving across Europe in search of healthy climates only to return to England for financial reasons. At 17 her family finally settled in London and aged 19, Nesbit met Hubert Bland, a political activist and writer. Seven months pregnant, she married Bland, though she did not immediately live with him, as Bland initially continued to live with his mother. Their marriage was a stormy one. Early on Nesbit discovered that another woman believed she was Hubert’s fiancee and had also borne him a child. A more serious blow came later when she discovered that her good friend, Alice Hoatson, was pregnant with Hubert’s child. She had previously agreed to adopt Hoatson’s child and allow Hoatson to live with her as their housekeeper. After she discovered the truth, they quarrelled violently, but her husband threatened to leave Edith if she disowned the baby and its mother. Hoatson remained with them as a housekeeper and secretary and became pregnant by Bland again 13 years later. Edith again adopted Hoatson’s child. In 1899 she had published The Adventures of the Treasure Seekers to great acclaim. It would become hugely influential on children’s literature as it moved the genre away from fantastical other worlds and contrived problems to issues in the real world, showing children as they are, not as they ought to be. In 1900 her son Fabian died suddenly from tonsillitis – the loss would have a deep emotional impact and numerous subsequent Edith Nesbit books were dedicated to his memory. She is often thought to be the first modern writer of children stories, though she continued to write for adults. She also continued her political involvement, lecturing at the newly founded London School of Economics. In 1914, having been going blind for many years and being supported entirely by Edith, Bland died. Three years later she married Thomas “the Skipper” Tucker, the ship’s engineer on the Woolwich Ferry. They would be together for the remainder of her life. Suffering from lung cancer Nesbit moved to New Romney, Kent. She died in 1924. Her husband carved her headstone, which remains in the churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh, where she is buried. She had continued to write until her death, publishing over forty-four novels in her lifetime.

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