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Edith Bland (nee Nesbit)

Edith Bland nee Nesbit (1858 - 1924) was a well-known British writer. She married Hubert Bland in 1880, and went on to become a supporter of the Fellowship of the New Life and the Social Democratic Federation. She was friends with many in Olive Schreiner’s ‘New Woman’ circle, including Clementina Black, Charlotte Wilson, Annie Besant and Eleanor Marx. She had previously written poetry, and in the 1880s began writing novels, publishing The Prophet’s Mantle in 1885 and Something Wrong in 1886. In 1899 and as E. Nesbit she published The Story of the Treasure-Seekers in which she first created the characters of Oswald Bastable and his siblings, and her career as a children’s writer took off from this point. Nesbit is said to have “invented the children’s adventure story” (Briggs 2004) and she published a large number of children’s fantasy and adventure stories, some of which first appeared in the Strand Magazine. She is often now remembered for The Railway Children, which was published in 1906, and for the character of the psammead (sand fairy) in Five Children and It.

From her letters written in 1888 to Havelock Ellis and Edward Carpenter, it is clear that Schreiner knew ‘Mrs Bland’, as she refers to her, and in one letter to Ellis of 22 October 1888 she describes ‘Mrs Bland’s’ kindness in helping her to pack and see her off when she left Britain for Europe. Nesbit/Bland was noted for being reserved about issues in her personal life, while Schreiner’s letters indicate that on one occasion at least she showed how upset she was and Schreiner comforted her. It is likely that some letters were exchanged between Schreiner and Edith Bland, although none have been traced.

For further information see:
Anthea Bell (1960) E. Nesbit London: Bodley Head
Julia Briggs (2004) ‘Nesbit, Edith (1858-1924)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31919
Julia Briggs (2007) Edith Nesbit: A Woman of Passion Stroud: Tempus
Doris Moore (1967) E. Nesbit: A Biography London: Ernest Benn 
Noel Streatfield (1958) Magic and the Magician: E. Nesbit and her Children’s Books London: Ernest Benn
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