The Enchanted Castle Critical Context - Essay

Edith Nesbit

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Perhaps the preeminent Edwardian fantasist and also an important domestic novelist for children, Edith Nesbit was influenced by authors such as F. Anstey and became a major influence on such contemporary figures as Edward Eager; all three achieve comedy through juxtaposing the prosaic and the fantastic, and Nesbit’s placement of ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances contributes substantially to her continuing appeal.

The Enchanted Castle appeared toward the end of Nesbit’s career, as she served an apprenticeship in hack work before producing The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899) and after 1913 wrote, if at all, primarily for adults. Like its immediate predecessors, The Story of the Amulet and The Railway Children, both published in 1906, and like the fantasies that would follow, The Enchanted Castle hints at more serious issues than do certain other of Nesbit’s works. Hence, it has elicited differing responses from her fans, some deeming it inferior to the more purely comic works, and others considering it as marking a maturity in her vision. Among those preferring Nesbit in her graver mode was C. S. Lewis, who favored The Story of the Amulet. The Enchanted Castle shares that work’s concern with the seriousness of achieving one’s heart’s desire and the pleasure of mingling myth (here, the Greek gods) with modernity—tropes that resurface in Lewis’ Narnia. That Nesbit continues to delight discerning readers testifies to the importance of her achievement.