Edith Nesbit was a trailblazer. Born on August 15, 1858, she wrote in the midst of the Victorian conventions of preaching to children through their books. Instead of preaching, E. Nesbit wrote to children as her equals because, “When I was a little child I used to pray fervently, tearfully, that when I should be grown up I might never forget what I thought, felt, and suffered then.” Her father ran a London agricultural college but he died when she was three, leaving her mother to raise five children. Edith was the youngest. The family moved a bit because her sister had tuberculosis. Edith was schooled in England, France, and Germany.
At age fifteen, she became a published poet. Her dreams were filled with writing for a living. When she was 22, she married Hubert Bland, a writer and political activist. His business venture soured when his partner absconded with the company’s funds. Thereafter, for 19 years, E. Nesbit was the breadwinner for her family of six, writing novels, essays, articles, poems, greeting cards, and short stories. In 1899, her first book for children was published, The Story of the Treasure Seekers. In this and succeeding books about the Bastable children, reality provides the roots for strong imagination. In 1902, Five Children and It was the first of her fantasy novels. The Railway Children is perhaps the best-known of her books.
Hubert and Edith Bland helped to found the Fabian Society, which attracted Annie Besant, George Bernard Shaw, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb. The couple had a bohemian lifestyle, filled with parties and many friends and admirers. Through it all, Mrs. Bland managed to write more than 40 books for children. An avid smoker all of her adult life, Edith Nesbit Bland died of lung cancer on May 4, 1924 in New Romney, Kent, England.