Gore Vidal on E. Nesbit (1858-1924):
“I do not think it is putting the case too strongly to say that much of the poverty of our society’s intellectual life is directly due to the sort of books children are encouraged to read. Practical books with facts in them may be necessary, but they are not everything. They do not serve the imagination in the same way that high invention does when it allows the mind to investigate every possibility, to free itself from the ordinary, to enter a world where paradox reigns and nothing is what it seems to be; properly engaged, the intelligent child begins to question all presuppositions, and thinks on his own. In fact, the moment he says, wouldn’t it be interesting if…? he is on his way and his own imagination has begun to work at a level considerably more interesting than the usual speculation on what it will be like to own a car and make money. As it is, the absence of imagination is cruelly noticeable at every level of the American society, and though a reading of E. Nesbit is hardly going to change the pattern of a nation, there is some evidence that the child who reads her will never be quite the same again, and that is probably a good thing.”
—GV in The New York Review Of Books, 1965—yes, that’s right: 1965)
A mother (her son Fabian died when he was 15 years old—terrible!), beloved fiction author (children and adults), poet, political activist, certainly unconventional (perhaps an unwitting feminist—never, it seems, a proclaimed feminist), a woman “built on a grand scale”, able to write furiously in the midst of crowds (while smoking as furiously—her own private chimney), aka Fabian Bland, founding member of the Fabian Society, she died in 1924, 65 years of age (of lung cancer—darn it!). She produced over 100 books. One of my favorites was Five Children And It. Got Psammead?
“…that the child who reads her will never be quite the same again, and that is probably a good thing.” We should all aspire to that!