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NA232812 - NESBIT, E.: Treasure Seekers (The) (Abridged)
So begins The Story of the Treasure Seekers, in which six children—Dora, Oswald, Dicky, Alice and Noël (twins), and H.O. (Horace Octavius)—embark on the noble pursuit of restoring their family’s fallen fortunes. Once, the Bastables had lots of money; but now, the children see that they no longer have silver cutlery, that there are holes in the carpet, and that they don’t get pocket money anymore.
So, they set out on many adventures to try and find treasure: they dig for it in the garden (with the snivelling boy Albert from next door), they rescue a rich man from mortal peril in the hope of a generous reward, they write a newspaper, and, of course, they get into a lot of trouble without meaning to. But then, they meet the Indian uncle, who will change their lives completely…
Who is telling the story? It is one of the children—and you are left to work out which one. There are clues, as the narrator is inexperienced and sometimes lets things slip by mistake; but, just in case you don’t know, the identity is revealed later on.
The skill with which Nesbit writes from the perspective of a young child is striking. She identifies with the minds of children, with their imagination, their energy, and with the way in which their experience shapes them. Most importantly, she creates six utterly individual, and delightful, characters.
Born in 1858, Edith Nesbit was the youngest in her family. She had two brothers, a sister and a half-sister, and during her earliest years they all lived in an agricultural college in London which had been started by Edith’s grandfather. Edith described this time of her life as an ‘Eden’: she felt happy and secure.
When Edith was still a little girl, her father died. From then on, the stability of her life changed: the family moved around a lot. She went to various boarding schools, including one at which punishments came thick and fast for all kinds of tiny misdemeanours. It would be unimaginable today! Her mother told her she would get used to it, even though Edith cried herself to sleep.
But she hadn’t been at that school long when it was all change: they were off to the South of France where her mother had found a house. Edith was nearly to be left behind, but she begged to be taken with her mother and sisters. Her brothers, Alfred and Henry, remained at another school in England. To begin with, Edith was placed with a family so that she could learn French.
She and the daughter were the same age, and they got on immediately. She had a wonderful time. When her mother moved again to a different area of France, Edith was sorry to leave her French family. There were more schools and homes following this, before a happy three years spent at ‘Halstead Hall’ in Kent, a house rented by her mother for the family:
Here, the children could run through a field at the back of the house to a railway line—and there is the seed, planted in Nesbit’s memory, that later grew into her popular story The Railway Children.
From the age of fourteen to seventeen, Nesbit began to concentrate on writing poetry and even had some of it published in several magazines. She was to write a lot more poetry over the years, as well as her novels.
The young poet grew into a bright and striking woman, and married a charismatic bank clerk called Hubert Bland. The two moved in intellectual circles and were both socialists. They formed a debating group, which, as it gained more members, became the Fabian Society.
During the 1880s Nesbit was a lecturer and writer on socialism, but as she became a successful children’s writer these activities diminished. Her most famous novels include The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Wouldbegoods, Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Railway Children and The Enchanted Castle.
Notes by Genevieve Helsby
The music on this recording was taken from the NAXOS catalogue
Music programmed by Sarah Butcher
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