Long Ago When I Was Young Critical Essays

Edith Nesbit


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although Nesbit was in her late thirties when she composed these sketches, she wrote with an innate perceptiveness about what matters most in the lives of children. In a brief foreword to Long Ago When I Was Young, she acknowledges, “When I was a little child I used to pray fervently, tearfully, that when I should be grown up I might never forget what I thought and felt and suffered then.” Largely because she recalls the joys and pains of her late nineteenth century childhood with such intensity, they seem relevant to modern young readers. Those readers who delight in her many works for children will have the added pleasure of recognizing elements in these memoirs that were later echoed in her fiction.

For example, one recognizes that Daisy and her brothers were happiest when their mother let them “run wild,” as she did during the summer that they spent in Dinan. There are many examples in Nesbit’s fiction, most notably in The Railway Children (1905) and her Bastable books, of children who are happy and resourceful because they are allowed a large degree of independence. Nesbit assigned the rather misleading title “My Schooldays” to these sketches when they were first published, when in fact it was the accounts of carefree summer days spent wandering the countryside that she cherished most, for herself and her fictional children. Not surprisingly, Nesbit never wrote any stories celebrating school life.

Like her Bastables and railway children, Nesbit had only...

(The entire section is 620 words.)