07 June 2010

Edith Nesbit: "My School Days"

It is a constant source of wonder to me that anyone can recount in detail - with names, no less - things which happened to them when they were three. Or five. Or ten.

Edith Nesbit appears to have been a child greatly loving nature, and tortured by her own vivid imagination. Night terrors haunted her. No less was her suffering at the hands of "Stuart plaid", and a teacher whose strictness may have been well-intentioned, but may well have been that of an habitual bully.

One of the charms of this short biography is how very much in the mind of the child Nesbit takes us. Dislike her teacher she might, but she does not wonder if she has been singled out for especially negative treatment, or do more than endure Stuart plaid's selfish whims. As a child Nesbit did not plan any solutions, or question why, but simply suffered mute.

Like that child, we do not have the power to know the fate of the many people who filled Nesbit's early life. Did Stuart plaid ever receive her just desserts, or did she perhaps grow up to be a better person? Why was the teacher so seemingly cruel? Did the kind French boy have a life anything like the one Nesbit imagined?

Although there is little resolution to many of these tales, this journey into Nesbit's formative years was well worth the trip.

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