juvenilia

^ 1919

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(info after the jump..)

I carelessly nabbed this from a library discard rack because of the cover, but upon further inspection I see that the story behind it is a lot more interesting. A novella “concerning the upper class society of late 19th century England”, it was written around 1890 by a nine-year-old girl.

Ashford wrote The Young Visiters at the age of nine, in a red-covered exercise book. Full of spelling mistakes, each chapter was also written as a single paragraph. Many years later, in 1917 and aged 36, Ashford rediscovered her manuscript languishing in a drawer, and lent it to Margaret Mackenzie, a friend who was recovering from influenza. It passed through several other hands, before arriving with Frank Swinnerton, a novelist who was also a reader for the publishing house of Chatto and Windus. Largely due to Swinnerton’s enthusiasm, the book was published almost exactly as it had been written.

— Wikipedia

It features an adoring preface by J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan). He includes a lot of cute examples of her prose, so rather than type out excerpts from the book I am including the preface. (I keep forgetting to use black sheets between the pages when I scan text, and did again this time, so please excuse my amateurism. I’ll re-do it at some point. It’s all on Project Gutenberg anyway.)

preface_1_mini

the rest on flickr (each part is 2 pages):

part 2

part 3

part 4

part 5

part 6

The book was an incredible success (reprinted 18 times in its first year alone), presumably due to its inherent novelty and to Barrie’s preface. Still, its publicity was dogged by persistent rumors that it was all an elaborate hoax and that it was actually penned by Barrie himself.

Curiously, the story has been adapted a few times – twice for the stage, in 1920 and 1968, and as recently as 2003 there was a TV film starring Jim Broadbent (*squeal*) and Hugh Laurie. (Sounds like a winner to me. I haven’t seen it or indeed had time even to read the book yet. But, for anyone not aware, the Brits are really good at making films for television.)

According to Wikipedia, the book is still in print in the UK today.

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> full text at Project Gutenberg

> 1919 article on Ashford and the book from the NY Times Book Review (PDF)

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