Thursday, 13 December 2018

Edith Nesbit (1858 - 1924) – British writer and poet

Edith is on my list of Female Poets of the First World War because she is listed in Catherine Reilly’s work but I had not yet researched her.  My thanks to Connie Ruzich for her post about one of Edith’s poems (see below) on her weblog which reminded me that I had not yet researched Edith.

Edith Nesbit, who is perhaps best remembered for writing “The Railway Children”, was born in 1858 in Lower Kennington Lane, Kennington, Surrey. This area is now considered to be Inner London.  Edith’s parents were John Collis Nesbit, a chemist, and his wife, Sara Nesbit, nee Green.

Edith’s father died in March 1862. As her sister, Mary, was not in good health, the family travelled for several years and lived in Brighton, in Buckinghamshire, in France, in Spain and in Germany, before settling for three years at Halstead Hall in Halstead in Kent.  When Edith was in her teens, the family moved to Eltham which was in Kent but is now in South London.  They then lived in nearby Lewisham, Grove Park and Lee.

Edith married Hubert Bland, a bank clerk, in April 1880.  The marriage was not a happy one as Hubert had an affair which resulted in the birth of children which Edith adopted.

Edith had the following children: Paul Bland (1880–1940), to whom “The Railway Children was dedicated”; Iris Bland (1881-1950s); Fabian Bland (1885–1900); Rosamund Bland (1886–1950), to whom “The Book of Dragons” was dedicated, and John Bland (1898–1971), to whom “The House of Arden” and “Five Children and It” were dedicated.

After the death of Hubert, Edith married married Thomas "the Skipper" Tucker, whose nick-name referred to the fact that he was the Captain of the Woolwich Ferry.

Edith died in 1924 and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh.

“In Hospital”

Under the shadow of a hawthorn brake,
Where bluebells draw the sky down to the wood,
Where, 'mid brown leaves, the primroses awake
And hidden violets smell of solitude;
Beneath green leaves bright-fluttered by the wing
Of fleeting, beautiful, immortal Spring,
I should have said, 'I love you,' and your eyes
Have said, 'I, too . . . ' The gods saw otherwise.

For this is winter, and the London streets
Are full of soldiers from that far, fierce fray
Where life knows death, and where poor glory meets
Full-face with shame, and weeps and turns away.
And in the broken, trampled foreign wood
Is horror, and the terrible scent of blood,
And love shines tremulous, like a drowning star,
Under the shadow of the wings of war.

First published in “The Westminster Gazette” on 11th December 1915.

Edith’s WW1 collection was entitled “Many Voices – Poems” (Hutchinson, London, 1922).  Her poems were published in four WW1 anthologies.
“English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) – page 234

Photograph of Edith, photographer unknown, from