The Life and Loves of Edith Nesbit: Victorian Iconoclast, Children's Author, and Creator of The Railway Children
Eleanor Fitzsimons

The Life and Loves of Edith Nesbit: Victorian Iconoclast, Children's Author, and Creator of The Railway Children

Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) is considered the first modern writer for children and a key influence for writers from C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling. Inventor of the children’s adventure story, her books remain hugely popular and are regularly adapted for stage and screen. A founder member of the Fabian Society and ‘a committed if distinctly eccentric socialist’, she railed against inequity, social injustice and state-sponsored oppression, incorporating her views into her books and influencing generations of children.


Described by George Bernard Shaw, one of a string of lovers, as ‘audaciously unconventional’, Nesbit’s unsettled childhood and vivid imagination conjured up fears and phobias that lasted into adulthood; she confronted them in the stories she populated with family, friends, lovers, and events from her life, often writing herself as twins – one brave, one retiring. A progressive woman, she cut her hair short and smoked incessantly. Yet, she never supported women’s suffrage and she remained loyal to her serially unfaithful husband, raising his live-in-lover’s children as her own.


This new biography, the first in more than two decades, will explore one of our most important writers in all her guises. Friends agreed ‘she could be morose as a gathering thundercloud...when she emerged - a sunburst!’ One described her as ‘wise – and frivolous; kind...and so intolerant’. She was intensely attractive to men and formed deep friendships with women too. Temperamental at times, she was also huge fun, always creative and often playful. Her parties were legendary, her ghost stories, terrifying, and her tales of adventure changed the world.


Book Details:

  • Author: Eleanor Fitzsimons
  • Published Year: 2018
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Duckworth
    • USA: Overlook
Eleanor Fitzsimons

Eleanor Fitzsimons

 Eleanor Fitzsimons is a researcher, writer, journalist and occasional broadcaster. Her work has been published in a range of newspapers and journals including the Sunday Times, the Guardian and the Irish Times and she is a regular radio and television contributor. She has worked as the sole researcher on several primetime television programmes for the Irish national broadcaster, RTE including an examination of the historic relationship between Britain and Ireland commissioned to coincide with the landmark visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland. In 2011 she returned to Univer...
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Book Reviews

  • "Eleanor Fitzsimons' painstaking research gives us a new insight into the bizarre Bohemian life of the ground-breaking children's author E. Nesbit. It's a fantastic read."
    Jacqueline Wilson
  • "Absolutely superb!"
    Hilary McKay,children’s author of The Skylarks War (shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards
  • "What a stirring and unexpected story Eleanor Fitzsimons tells and what a subject she has found. I can’t think of a single writer who doesn’t owe something to Edith Nesbit's glorious books for children. The extraordinary woman who wrote them proves to be every bit as brave, funny and imaginative as her own intrepid characters."
    Miranda Seymour
  • "In this long-overdue new biography, Eleanor Fitzsimons gives us a nuanced yet compelling portrait of E. Nesbit's many-faceted personality, life and works, as well as of the politically and culturally vibrant milieu in which she lived."
    Fiona Sampson
  • "I’ve always loved the work of E. Nesbit—The Railway Children and Five Children and It are my favorites—but I knew nothing about the extraordinary, surprising life of this great figure in children’s literature. Eleanor Fitzsimons’s account is so gripping that I read this biography in two days. "
    Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author
  • "  a charming, lively, and old-fashioned biography of Victorian and Edwardian-era author Edith Nesbit (1858–1924)… Fitzsimons delivers a sprightly and highly readable life of a writer who deserves even wider recognition."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "A fascinating, thoughtfully organized, thoroughly researched, often surprising biography of the enigmatic author of The Railway Children."
  • "  Eleanor Fitzsimons paints a detailed picture of the radical politics and unconventional personal life of the author of The Railway Children, and makes a strong case for how these elements informed E. Nesbit’s most famous works – a fascinating biography."
    Emily Midorika, author of A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf
  • "E Nesbit was one of the greatest writers from the golden age of children’s literature. She was also a brilliant, complicated woman, who lived a life filled with emotional entanglements and intellectual dispute. It is a life told with panache and elegance by Eleanor Fitzsimons. A must-read not just for those interested in the early years of feminism, or in children’s literature, but for anyone who cares about the complexities of the human soul. "
    Anthony McGowan, winner of the Booktrust Teenage Prize
  • "A fascinating insight into late 19th century/ early 20th century bohemian literary life, and a rare glimpse into the world of an unconventional, enigmatic and staunchly socialist children’s author. I loved it."
    Cathy Cassidy, winner of the Queen of Teen Award
  • "a compelling case for her [Nesbit’s] stature as an important writer...This biography is long overdue."
  • "fine new biography,.. informative and entertaining biography. "
    Washington Post
  • "...meticulous and invaluable ...brings to light many previously hidden biographical watermarks...she excels in providing exceptionally illuminating and detailed portraits of the extraordinary group of practical and utopian socialists, mutual-aid anarchists, theosophists, feminists, radical freethinkers, and trailblazing writers who were part of the Bland-Nesbit milieu.  "
    Wall Street Journal
  • "Fitzsimons handily reassembles the hundreds of intricate, idiosyncratic parts of the miraculous E. Nesbit machine."
    New York Times
  • "In her readable and thorough biography Eleanor Fitzsimons presents a real life of high drama and storytelling."
    The Guardian
  • "affectionate and detailed."
  • "Makes an excellent case for her being one of the most influential children’s writers of the 20th century….thorough, very readable book shows rich evidence of work in the archives."
    Literary Review
  • "a very readable and thoroughly documented narrative of Nesbit’s life, social circle and literary afterlife..."
    Times Literary Supplement
  • "...memorable portraits of fellow Fabians Shaw and Wells...Fitzsimons is good, too, at portraying the world of literary hacks..."
    The Oldie
  • " ...elegant and admirable prose...the biographer keeps an admirable command of her material...she is adept at linkages within a colourful and changing world and is almost intuitively alert to the lived experience of her subject where it is reflected in Nesbit’s work. This is enhanced by her wide-ranging use of many letters and commentaries, and by her skill in balancing her own sympathy for Nesbit with an awareness of the less attractive aspects of her character and her ambience...Fitzsimons’s achievement of coherence is considerable, given the astonishingly dramatic, intricate and contradictory nature of Edith Nesbit’s personality and experiences."
    Irish Examiner