E. Nesbit: “They were very fine soldiers with turbans and swords and eyes that gleamed in quite a lifelike way, riding on horses of a violently active appearance: they came to my little son when he was getting well after measles or some such sorrow, and he wanted a fort built for them.” (Chapter IV: The Magic City, Wings and the Child )
Edith Nesbit in Wings and the Child or the Building of Magic Cities, 1913 wrote about her childhood in France and England. The family moved around for the sake of her older sister’s ailing health.
Chapter IV The Magic City in Wings and the Child, 1913
During her childhood, E. Nesbit ended up living in France with her family:
“In the courtyard of our house in France there was an out-house with a sloping roof and a flat parapet about four feet high. We used to build little clay huts along this, and roof them with slates, leaving a hole for a chimney. The huts had holes for windows and doors, and we used to collect bits of candle and put them in our huts after dark and enjoy the lovely spectacle of our illuminated buildings till some one remembered us and caught us, and sent us to bed.
That was the curse of our hut-building—the very splendour of the result attracted the attention one most wished to avoid. But clay was our only building material, and after the big bricks were lost I never had any more bricks till I had children of my own who had bricks of their own. And then I played with them and theirs.
And even then I never thought of building magic cities till the Indian soldiers came.”
Britain’s appear to have introduced their Indian troops and Cavalry from 1895/6 onwards, according to James Opie.
E. Nesbit and H. G. Wells and their respective sons would no doubt be delighted that such shiny toy soldiers are still available, painted or unpainted metal, or more recently plastic.
Looking at these beautifully painted shiny Indian Army figures, old and new, you can see why Edith’s son was so taken with these “very fine soldiers”:
E. Nesbit: “They were very fine soldiers with turbans and swords and eyes that gleamed in quite a lifelike way, riding on horses of a violently active appearance: they came to my little son when he was getting well after measles or some such sorrow, and he wanted a fort built for them.” (Chapter IV: The Magic City)
“So we rattled all the bricks out of their boxes on to the long cutting-out table in the work-room and began to build.
But do what we would our fort would not look like a fort—at any rate not like an Eastern fort. We pulled it down and tried again, and then again, but no: regardless of our patient energy our fort quietly but persistently refused to look like anything but a factory—a building wholly unworthy of those military heroes with the prancing steeds and the coloured turbans, and the eyes with so much white in them.” (Chapter IV The Magic City, in Wings and the Child)
Edith Nesbit’s 1913 book Wings and the Child with its concern for wooden blocks and creative toys proves an interesting comparison with H.G. Wells’ Floor Games (1911) and Little Wars (1913).
E. Nesbit: “So then I wondered what was needed to give a hint of the gorgeous East to the fort, and I perceived that what was wanted was a dome — domes.
So I fetched some brass finger-bowls and lustre basins off the dresser in the dining-room and inverted one on the chief tower of our fort, and behold! the East began to sparkle and beckon. Domes called for minarets, and chessmen on pillars supplied the need.
One thing led to another, and before the day was over the Indian horsemen were in full charge across a sanded plain where palm trees grew—a sanded plain bounded only by the edges of the table, along three sides of which were buildings that never rose beside the banks of Thames, but seemed quite suitable piles to reflect their fair proportions in the Ganges or the Sutlej, especially when viewed by eyes which had not had the privilege of gazing on those fair and distant streams.” (Chapter IV: The Magic City, in Wings and the Child)
E. Nesbit: “I learned a great deal in that my first day of what I may term romantic building, but what I learned was the merest shadow-sketch of the possibilities of my discovery. My little son, for his part, learned that a bowl one way up is a bowl, a thing for a little boy to eat bread and milk out of; the other way up it is a dome for a king’s palace …”
E. Nesbit: “You will be amazed at the results you can achieve with quite dull-looking materials, and still more will you be surprised at the increasing interest and skill of the grown-ups.
When it is time to dress for dinner you will feel a pang of positive despair at the thought that your beautiful city, the child of your dreams and skill, must be taken down. It is like the end of the magic of Cinderella when her coach became a pumpkin, her horses mice and her coachman a fat rat.
Now your domes are once more mere basins, your fountain basins are ash-trays, your fountains are but silver pen-cases and their gleaming waters only strips of the tin-foil that comes off chocolate or cigarettes.
The walls of your palaces go back into the book-cases, and their façades return to the dull obscurity of the brick-boxes. The door and the animals who stood on guard at the door-ways and terraces, on plinths or pillars, share in the dark rattling seclusion where many a wooden tail has been broken, many a painted ear lost for ever, but the tidying up has to be done: unless your hostess is one of those rare and delightful people who see what their guests like and lets them do it.
In that case she may say “Oh! what a pity to disturb the pretty thing! Why not let your city stay for a day or two, so that the children can build some more to it to-morrow. No, of course it won’t be in the way—and wouldn’t it be pretty if we lighted it up with fairy lights after dark?” (Chapter IV: The Magic City, Wings and The Child)
Here are some of the beautiful exotic palaces and houses that E. Nesbit made, pictured in “Wings and The Child”
You can see E.Nesbit with part of her Magic City in this webpage photograph:
Who was this young son delighted by the arrival of the Indian cavalry?
Many of Nesbit’s books were dedicated to her and husband Hubert Bland’s children. By the time Wings and the Child or The Building of Magic Cities was published in 1913, which has no such dedication, her children and those of her husband were mostly grown up teenagers or twenty somethings. She is harking back to time spent with them years before and most recently with John her youngest adopted son building Magic Cities.
Edith Nesbit’s children by her husband Hubert Bland were
At present I cannot work out if she built Magic Cities with all of her three sons or who was the son entranced by the Indian Cavalry.
As we mentioned in our blog post about The City in The Library short story about toy soldiers, the two characters are called Rosamund and Fabian in this story from Nesbit’s 1901 book Nine Unlikely Tales. Sadly Nesbit’s son Fabian died in 1900 aged 15 after a tonsil operation; Nesbit dedicated several books to him such as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels as well as many others.
Like Chesterton and Wells, for those interested in her life and works, there is an Edith Nesbit Society
“And one of the greatest helps to a small, inexperienced traveller in this sometimes dusty way is the likeness of things to each other. Your piece of thick bread and butter is a little stale, perhaps, and bores you; but, when you see that your first three bites have shaped it to the likeness of a bear or a beaver, dull teatime becomes interesting at once. A cloud that is like a face, a tree that is like an old man, a hill that is like an elephant’s back, if you have things like these to look at, and look out for, how short the long walk becomes.” E. Nesbit, Wings and The Child, 1913.
Was Tolkein influenced by the work of E. Nesbit and her “Accidental Magic” stories?
Annie Norman at her Bad Squiddo official Facebook Group Baggy’s Cave is running an interesting poll about which historical female figures that gamers, mini painters and collectors would like to pledge towards or see produced in future by Bad Squiddo.
I thought of the Bronte Sisters (and brother Branwell) who were pioneering Role Playing Gamers in the 1830s through their juvenile fictions or ImagiNations of Glass Town, Gondal and Angria, inspired by a gift of some wooden toy soldiers.
These have been a great stimulus for my gaming to continuing or exploring these sketched out but sketchy Bronte ImagiNations
The fragments that have survived of these ImagiNations as we have mentioned before in Bronte posts are somewhat confusing but I found that Isabel Greenberg’s charming graphic novel version Glass Town straightens or smoothed many of these story and character fragments out.
I loved Isabel Greenberg’s drawings of these four Brontes in the same Regency / early Victorian costumes as their ImagiNations characters. You can see an example of such pages of Isabel’s work here on the interesting US based Solrad comics website:
Annie Norman’s Bad Squiddo figures are usually 28mm. I think that Bronte figures would be excellent figures – and even better if there was a set in ImagiNations uniforms and a shadow set as they were in real life portraits, always useful as Early Victorian Civilians.
Dual Use figures – saves costs, extends their play value and their potential market of buyers, as well as the Haworth Yorkshire tourism, the Bronte Fan and literary market worldwide.
Adding Bronte ImagiNations command or character personality figures means that with some simple dual flagging, a Napoleonic or Colonial 19th Century unit instantly becomes an ImagiNations one.
The Bronte sisters and Branwell grew up in an age of conflict in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, during a young Queen Victoria’s expanding Empire and Charlotte living up to the Crimean War. Their tragic deaths at a relatively young age meant they were all dead ten years before the American Civil War.
The same dual flagging works at 15mm with the addition of an Angrian flag bearer to my Peter Laing mixed ACW and ECW unit figures seen here seeing off Ashantee Warriors and rogue Highlanders in the ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ forest of the Brontes’ fevered Imaginations:
After a mad few minutes “Bronte Fan Bombing” the comments section of Baggy’s Cave on Facebook a little, I wondered what if Annie Norman and the Bad Squiddo Facebook folk don’t choose the Brontes as special figures?
I might have to scratch around in 20mm Airfix for Waggon Train women, both bare headed or in bonnets, and the Robin Hood / Sherwood Forest sets (Maid Marian on horseback!) to find suitable Bronte Sisters figures in uniform. I would have to do the same for my few Peter Laing 15mm civilian females.
“There are no words to express half what I feel about the teachers in our Council Schools, their enthusiasm, their patience, their energy, their devotion. When we think of what the lives of poor children are …” E. Nesbit
It has been a tough time for many children and teachers during Lockdown, with schools mostly shut, rapidly adapting to home schooling and being taught online, the inequalities of the nation shown up by concerns over free school meal vouchers and lack of data or laptops.
I started reading Wings and The Child or the Building of Magic Cities (1913) by E. Nesbit (of Railway Children fame) with some scepticism about this middle class pastime of borrowed silver candlesticks and marbled bound volumes set up by servants in the library or the nursery.
The first half of the book is about her thoughts on childhood, education and the state of England, the second half is how she makes her Magic Cities with the help of her children.
Reading this book, I get echoes of Baden Powell’s Scouting for Boys and E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End, a concern for the rapidly urbanising State of the Nation, shown up in BP’s case by the poor standard of recruits for the Boer War.
What I didn’t realise is that Edith Nesbit, in response to many letters from children about her children’s book The Magic City (1910), exhibited and manned her Magic City at during the Child Welfare ExhibitionOlympia of late 1912 and early 1913, the year her book was published.
Here at the Exhibition, she had a wide range of visitors from foreign royalty to teachers. Fellow exhibitors included the suffragette or suffrage societies.
Regular blog readers will have read my recent posts on H.G. Wells’ Floor Games (1911) and Little Wars (1913).
Edith Nesbit (or Mrs Hubert Bland) and her husband Hubert would have known Wells and his Little Wars friends like Mr W. (Graham Wallas) through the socialist Fabian Society. Arguably Wells’ science fiction books have their own criticisms of the state of the Nation or colonialism and Empire such as The War of the Worlds or The Time Machine.
Reproaching my initial modern prejudice about this book and her Edwardian Middle Class background, Nesbit shows that she is aware or able to adapt her thoughts to the situation of children in rural or urban board schools (primary schools) established in the 1870s.
The Poor Child’s City – CHAPTER VII, Wings and the Child, E. Nesbit, 1913
“When my city was built at Olympia a great many school-teachers who came to see it told me that they would like to help the children in their schools to build such cities, but that it would not be possible because the children came from poor homes, where there were none of the pretty things—candlesticks, brass bowls, silver ash-trays, chessmen, draughts, well-bound books, and all the rest of it—which I had used to build my city.
So then I said I would build a city out of the sort of things that poor children could collect and bring to school. And I did. My friends Mr. Annis and Mr. Taylor, who were helping me to explain the city and show it to visitors, helped me with the building. We did it in a day, and it was very pretty—so pretty that the school-teachers who came to see it asked me to write a book to say how that was done. And so I did.
There are no words to express half what feel about the teachers in our Council Schools, their enthusiasm, their patience, their energy, their devotion.
When we think of what the lives of poor children are, of the little they have of the good things of this world, the little chance they have of growing up to any better fate than that of their fathers and mothers, who do the hardest work of all and get the least pay of all those who work for money—when we think how rich people have money to throw away, how their dogs have velvet coats and silver collars, and eat chicken off china, while the little children of the poor live on bread and tea, and wear what they can get—often enough, too little—when we think of all these things, if we can bear to think of them at all, there is not one of us, I suppose, who would not willingly die if by our death we could secure for these children a fairer share of the wealth of England, the richest country in the world.
For wealth, by which I mean money, can buy all those things which children ought to have, and which these children do not have—good food, warm clothes, fresh country air, playthings and books, and pictures.
Remembering that by far the greater number of children of England have none of these things, you would, I know, gladly die if dying would help. To die for a cause is easy—you leap into the gulf like Curtius, or fall on the spears like Winkelried, or go down with your ship for the honour of your country.
To lead a forlorn hope, to try to save one child from fire or water, and die in the attempt—that is easy and glorious. The hard thing to do is to live for your country—to live for its children.
And it is this that the teachers in the Council Schools do, year in and year out, with the most unselfish nobility and perseverance.
And nobody applauds or makes as much fuss as is made over a boy who saves a drowning kitten. In the face of enormous difficulties and obstacles, exposed to the constant pin-pricks of little worries, kept short of space, short of materials and short of money, yet these teachers go on bravely, not just doing what they are paid to do, but a thousand times more, devoting heart, mind, and soul to their splendid ambition and counting themselves well paid if they can make the world a better and a brighter place for the children they serve.
If these children when they grow up shall prove better citizens, kinder fathers, and better, wiser, and nobler than their fathers were, we shall owe all the change and progress to the teachers who are spending their lives to this end.
And this I had to say before I could begin to write about how cities may be built of such materials as poor children can collect and bring to school …” (E. Nesbit, Wings and The Child, 1913)
You can read the rest of this section and the whole of Wings and the Child here:
Wings and The Child – A very interesting book , along with Little Wars and Floor Games that captures the spirit of our childhood games and our modern gamers’ scrap modelling.
Many of her other comments in Wings and The Child on the ‘institution’ of Education from the content of curriculums, class sizes and the lack of time for concern for the individual personality of children might be heard in school staff rooms and home education groups today.
The communal or collective efforts (collective in many senses of the word) to make these Magic Cities in urban or rural Board Schools must have been splendid sights to see, the shiny tin can city version of the glories of the Victorian and Edwardian “Nature Table” in primary schools and Sunday Schools.
Thanks to Rahway’s comments about the Scholarly Editing text edition of Little Wars, the two editors have suggestions on who two more of the unattributed names are: Mr W and a dear friend who died, suggested as Graham Wallas and George Gissing.
George Robert Gissing (22 November 1857 – 28 December 1903) was an English novelist, who published 23 novels between 1880 and 1903. His best-known novels, which have reappeared in modern editions, include The Nether World (1889), New Grub Street (1891) and The Odd Women (1893).
The dates of Gissing’s death fits Wells’ pen portrait of his dear ailing friend, who died six or seven years ago if Little Wars was published in 1913 but probably written in stages over several years including the two published Windsor Magazine articles 1912 and Floor Games in 1911.
Gissing died aged 46 on 28 December 1903 having caught a chill on an ill-advised winter walk. He is buried in the English cemetery at Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Veranilda was published incomplete in 1904.
H. G. Wells, after a Christmas Eve telegram, came to Gissing at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in his final days and helped to nurse him. Wells characterized him as a “flimsy inordinate stir of grey matter”, adding: “He was a pessimistic writer. He spent his big fine brain depreciating life, because he would not and perhaps could not look life squarely in the eyes — neither his circumstances nor the conventions about him nor the adverse things about him nor the limitations of his personal character. But whether it was nature or education that made this tragedy I cannot tell.” Will Warburton was published in 1905, as was his final volume, the short-story collection The House of Cobwebs.. (Wikipedia source George Gissing)
Thanks Wikipedia – and happy 20th Birthday!
New Grub Street is a version of Fleet Street, the newspaper and journalists’ haunt of old, close to Red Lion Court (Bloomsbury?) where Wells’ publisher Frank Palmer worked.
I have ordered a second hand copy of Gissing’s letters to H G Wells, as I enjoy Gissing’s books.
I discovered that E.Nesbit, in parallel to Wells writing Floor Games (1911), wrote her own book on how to make miniature worlds and magical cities, published in 1913, the year Little Wars was published.
Wings and the Child can be read here in text form with illustrations:
The book reminds me of Edwardian “gardening with children” manuals. The relatively new idea of “Childhood” for some, especially middle class Edwardian childhood, suddenly needed its Parenting manuals. Arguably these are an improvement on the stereotypical Victorian parenting of “Children should be seen and not heard” – especially in Sunday’s – and preferably not seen either.
“Now send them off to the Nursery with the Nurse or Governess or Boarding School …”
We present Mr H G Wells (General HGW of the Battle of Hooks Farm)
Supported by a cast behind the scenes, acknowledged and unacknowledged: which makes this a bit of a long post.
A C W – Amy Catherine Wells, or Robbins (1895-1927) his second wife (known as Jane) who took the photographs for the original magazine articles and the book of Little Wars. The photographs in the companion “uniform with this volume” Floor Games (1912) were ‘taken by the author’.
Colonel Mark Sykes and the Kriegspiel Appendix to Little Wars (1913)
“is not a book upon Kriegspiel. It gives merely a game that may be played by two or four or six amateurish persons in an afternoon and evening with toy soldiers. But it has a very distinct relation to Kriegspiel; and since the main portion of it was written and published in a magazine, I have had quite a considerable correspondence with military people who have been interested by it, and who have shown a very friendly spirit towards it–in spite of the pacific outbreak in its concluding section.
They tell me–what I already a little suspected– that Kriegspiel, as it is played by the British Army, is a very dull and unsatisfactory exercise, lacking in realism, in stir and the unexpected, obsessed by the umpire at every turn, and of very doubtful value in waking up the imagination, which should be its chief function.
I am particularly indebted to Colonel Mark Sykes for advice and information in this matter. He has pointed out to me the possibility of developing Little Wars into a vivid and inspiring Kriegspiel, in which the element of the umpire would be reduced to a minimum …”
“Of course, while in Little Wars there are only three or four players, in any proper Kriegspiel the game will go on over a larger area–in a drill-hall or some such place–and each arm and service will be entrusted to a particular player. This permits all sorts of complicated imitations of reality that are impossible to our parlour and playroom Little Wars. We can consider transport, supply, ammunition, and the moral effect of cavalry impact, and of uphill and downhill movements. We can also bring in the spade and entrenchment, and give scope to the Royal Engineers. But before I write anything of Colonel Sykes’ suggestions about these, let me say a word or two about Kriegspiel “country…”
“the following sketch rules, which are the result of a discussion between Colonel Sykes and myself, and in which most of the new ideas are to be ascribed to Colonel Sykes.
We proffer them, not as a finished set of rules, but as material for anyone who chooses to work over them, in the elaboration of what we believe will be a far more exciting and edifying Kriegspiel than any that exists at the present time.
The game may be played by any number of players, according to the forces engaged and the size of the country available. Each side will be under the supreme command of a General, who will be represented by a cavalry soldier. The player who is General must stand at or behind his representative image and within six feet of it. His signalling will be supposed to be perfect, and he will communicate with his subordinates by shout, whisper, or note, as he thinks fit. I suggest he should be considered invulnerable, but Colonel Sykes has proposed arrangements for his disablement …”
“The toy soldiers used in this Kriegspiel should not be the large soldiers used in Little Wars. The British manufacturers who turn out these also make a smaller, cheaper type of man–the infantry about an inch high--which is better adapted to Kriegspiel purposes.”
Who was this Colonel Sykes?
ColonelSir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet (16 March 1879 – 16 February 1919) was an English traveller, Conservative politician, and diplomatic advisor, particularly with regard to the Middle East during WW1.
His name is associated with the Sykes–Picot Agreement, drawn up while WW1 was in progress regarding the partitioning the Ottoman Empire by Britain, France and Russia. He was a key negotiator of the Balfour Declaration. (Wikipedia link)
Mark Sykes – The man who discussed Kreigspiel and Little Wars with H. G. Wells for pleasure was associated with the partition of the Middle East in a way that would rumble on into Great Wars decades later into the next century.
Sykes never got to see any of this as he died suddenly during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919 – and nearly 100 years later, helped in the ongoing research into the Spanish Flu.
Mark Sykes, Lt Col Mark Sykes, MP or Our Mark, caricature by Wallace Hester ‘WH’ for Vanity Fair 1912 “Men of the Day” series No. 2278 – image source: Wikipedia
I like this Vanity Fair caricature from the Little Wars period, it has a cheerful Wellsian look to it. Look closely, you can see Hull (his constituency as an MP) mentioned and a tiny picture of a Redcoat Soldier (Marlburian? colonial?), maps of Turkey noting his travels, and a paper with Politics written on it.
Sad to realise that only 7 years later after the sort of Great War that Wells talked about in his final “pacific” chapter of Little Wars, Sykes would die aged only 40 of Spanish flu in 1919, leaving a widow and 5 young children. Sykes was in Paris in connection with the peace negotiations in 1919.
With the permission of his family descendants, Sykes’ remains in a lead coffin were recently exhumed in 2007/8 as part of the ongoing scientific investigation into the 1918/19 Spanish Flu pandemic, preparing for pandemics of the 21st century.
As H G Wells says of the origin of Little Wars being the spring loaded cannon:
“It was with one of these guns that the beginning of our war game was made. It was at Sandgate–in England.
“The present writer had been lunching with a friend–let me veil his identity under the initials J. K. J.–in a room littered with the irrepressible debris of a small boy’s pleasures.”
On a table near our own stood four or five soldiers and one of these guns.
Mr J. K. J., his more urgent needs satisfied and the coffee imminent, drew a chair to this little table, sat down, examined the gun discreetly, loaded it warily, aimed, and hit his man. Thereupon he boasted of the deed, and issued challenges that were accepted with avidity. . . .
He fired that day a shot that still echoes round the world. An affair– let us parallel the Cannonade of Valmy and call it the Cannonade of Sandgate–occurred, a shooting between opposed ranks of soldiers, a shooting not very different in spirit–but how different in results!– from the prehistoric warfare of catapult and garter. “But suppose,” said his antagonists; “suppose somehow one could move the men!” and therewith opened a new world of belligerence. The matter went no further with Mr J. K. J. …”
So that seems to have been the limit of Jerome’s input into Little Wars.
The Cannonade of Sandgate?
On several Websites it mentions that “It was at Spade House that Wells wrote ‘Mankind in the making’, ‘A Modern Utopia’, ‘In the Days of the Comet’, ‘The New Machiavelli’, ‘The War in the Air’, ‘Tono Bungay’, ‘Anticipations’, ‘The Food of the Gods’, ‘Ann Veronica’, ‘Kipps’, ‘The History of Mr Polly’, ‘New Worlds for Old’,
But no mention of Floor Games or Little Wars, the writing of this appears to have happened when the family returned to London.
Sandgate in Kent was the seaside town where Wells lived from 1896 until 1909. A small plaque marks the writer’s first Sandgate house, where he lived from 1896 until 1901, when he built a larger family home known as the Spade House (now a nursing home). Here his two sons were born in 1901 and 1903. This gives us an idea of his family life and what play was happening in the nursery in the decade before Little Wars 1913
Wells with his first wife, his cousin Isobel lived in Woking where he based War of the Worlds. His poor health took him and his new second wife Amy Catherine Robbins (known as Jane) to Sandgate in 1896, near Folkestone in Kent where he constructed a large family home, Spade House, in 1901. It was here he and Jane had two sons:
There are several others who were involved in the origins of Little Wars that I have not yet identified.
1. The mysterious Mr W?
Wells then wrote in his introduction to Little Wars: “The seed lay for a time gathering strength, and then began to germinate with another friend, Mr W. To Mr W. was broached the idea: “I believe that if one set up a few obstacles on the floor, volumes of the British Encyclopedia and so forth, to make a Country, and moved these soldiers and guns about, one could have rather a good game, a kind of kriegspiel.”
I am not yet sure who the mysterious Mr W. is?
Update: suggested that this is Wells’ friend Graham Wallas
Another of these invisible men behind the origin of Little Wars is his unnamed ill friend (who died c. 1906/7, if Little Wars was written 1912/1913)
“But the writer had in those days a very dear friend, a man too ill for long excursions or vigorous sports (he has been dead now these six years), of a very sweet companionable disposition, a hearty jester and full of the spirit of play. To him the idea was broached more fruitfully. We got two forces of toy soldiers, set out a lumpish Encyclopaedic land upon the carpet, and began to play …”
Update: Suggested that this is the writer George Gissing
3. Mr M and his brother Captain M, hot from the Great War in South Africa
“But as there was nevertheless much that seemed to us extremely pretty and picturesque about the game, we set to work — and here a certain Mr M. with his brother, Captain M., hot from the Great War in South Africa, came in most helpfully — to quicken it. Manifestly the guns had to be reduced to manageable terms.”
Hot from the Great War in South Africa? That sets the origins again in the decade before it was published, the Boer War having finished eleven years before Little Wars was published.
There are others of whom little biographical information can be easily found.
4. J. R. Sinclair, the illustrator of Floor Games and Little Wars, worked as an illustrator of many children’s books in the Edwardian period – worthy of more research and a future blog post himself.
I think that J.R. Sinclair is possibly James Ramage Sinclair, a Scottish artist or illustrator born in 1866 in Edinburgh. His father Lauchlan and brother were both Lithographers (Engraver) in Giles St Edinburgh
As well as Little Wars and Floor Games, he is also known for an illustrated c.1910 edition of Alice in Wonderland.
By 1901 he had moved to Islington and was a boarder at 71 Mildmay Road , his trade listed as Artist (Painter). In 1909 he married Lila Smith and in the 1911 Census the forty-something newly-weds were living at 78 Gleneagle Road Streatham, S.W. London. His career is listed as ‘Artist’.
1911 Census entry for James R Sinclair and wife Lila
If my identification of J.R. Sinclair as James Ramage Sinclair, this marriage was a short one:’
5. Frank Palmer the publisher of Floor Games and Little Wars
Palmer was based at Red Lion Court (“Bloomsbury”?) and seems to have gone into partnership with (Harry) Cecil Palmer (1889 -1952) – any relation? – around the time Little Wars and Floor Games were published. There is not much information about Frank Palmer online:
Incidentally, Cecil Palmer & Hayward seem to have been in business from about 1910 to 1919. Overlapping with that period, Frank Palmer published a number of books between about 1909 and 1914, at which point Cecil Palmer joined him to form Frank & Cecil Palmer. Together they published several books between about 1914 and 1915, including H.G. Wells’ book The War that will End War, in 1914, and an H.G. Wells Calendar in 1915, this latter having previously been published by Frank Palmer alone in 1911.
(In fact, the calendar idea came from Frank Palmer originally – amongst others he published a George Bernard Shaw Calendar in 1909, an Oscar Wilde Calendar in 1910, and even a Napoleon Calendar in 1911.
Cecil Palmer seems to have gone solo between about 1920 and 1935, during which period he published a large number of books in a wide range of fields, from novels, poetry and plays, via books about music & musicians, people & places, literature & history, to ghosts, palmistry, astrology, reincarnation, and what we would now call self–help health books for both men and women … Many of Palmer’s other titles will get a mention in what follows. A list of the various calendars published by him up to 1920 is shown in Fig.6a, for example, and another list of his “National Proverb Series”, again dating from 1920, is shown in Fig.6b. Again, though, the National Proverbs series originated with Frank Palmer – he had certainly published a dozen such by 1913, beginning with England in 1912. (1c)
What happened to Frank Palmer? According to Bob Forrest, he appears not to obviously appear in the 1911 Census.
In the 1911 census H.G. Wells is living at 17 Church Row Hampstead
6. Mathilde Meyer
The author’s sons’ nurse Mathilde Meyer once wrote:
“Hopelessly damaged soldiers were melted down in an iron spoon on the schoolroom floor, and others had a new head fixed on by means of a match and liquid lead.”
Excerpt from H.G. Wells and His Family by M. M. Meyer (1955) memoir quoted from the BBC article link below.
According to Sotheby’s catalogue for a Wells book inscribed “To Mathilde Meyer | from | H.G. Wells | grateful as ever | for two well taught | sons | Xmas 1918”
“Fraulein Mathilda M. Meyer was a Swiss governess hired by the author’s wife Jane in October 1908 to give their two sons Gip and Frank lessons in English, French and German. She was employed for five years and later wrote an enthusiastic and perhaps over-flattering account of Wells and his household, but one which nonetheless is a valuable record of Wells’ home-life in the years leading up to the First World War. It was during this period that Wells developed the ‘Floor Games’ which he played with his sons and sometimes even visitors, leading to a book of the same name published in 1911. These games, and Wells’ account of them, have enjoyed a new vogue recently among child psychologists as an authentic form of non-verbal psychotherapy.”
Then there are the really invisible people who made Little Wars and a hardworking prolific writer’s life possible. Those “swishing skirts” of lady visitors, those of the other domestic staff apart from nurse Mathilde Meyer, the the servants who swept the cork floors and those who trimmed the lawns for Wells’ Little Wars played in the Dunmow Essex garden as seen in the photographs.
Mathilde Mary Meyer, Governess, 28, single, born Switzerland Lucerne
Jessie Allen Brooks, 38, single, cook (domestic) born Richmond, Surrey.
Mary Ellen Shinnick, 27, single, housemaid (domestic) , born in Ireland (Co. Cork, Coppingerstown)
Nice to see that Peter Dennis acknowledges these other people in his Little Wars illustration, the child with alarm clock and whistle to call time, the butler bearing drinks, the aloof young lady with the tea cup …
and on the left in a 2019 tribute, wargames magazine editor the late Stuart Asquith in that straw boater.
The “Don’t Tell Him Pikes” – The first of the Bluecoats or Trained Band reinforcements for the Elizabethan Muster (Militia or Arma-Dad’s Army Home Guard) to see off the Spanish Armadas land invasion threat.
“They don’t like it up ’em!” “Show em the cold steel!” Says Mister Jones ye Butcher.
Also available for the English Civil War 50 years later … and for The Napoleon of Notting Hill 1904/ 1984.
Crossposted by Mark Man of TIN from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog:
In this book, set in the future date of 1984, Britain is run “through a figurehead king, randomly chosen. The dreary succession of randomly selected Kings of England is broken up when Auberon Quin, who cares for nothing but a good joke, is chosen. To amuse himself, he institutes elaborate costumes for the provosts of the districts of London.”
Thanks to a comment from Bob Cordery, author of the Wargaming Miscellany blog and The Portable Wargame series, I tracked down this Hayao Miyazaki front cover for a Japanese translation of G K Chesterton’s 1984 or The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904) as it is more commonly known:
The book link comes through a gift from Father Peter Milward of the Japan Chesterton Society – who knew this existed? – passing a copy to Mary MacArthur, a member of the Catholic Illustrators Guild – who knew, ditto?
This is what I enjoy about toy soldier and wargames hobby blogging, the tangential learning and random ferment of ideas from others, such as the comments by Bob Cordery and Alan (Tradgardland) Gruber on my previous Chesterton Toy Soldier post:
I didn’t want to start another Wargames project this early in 2021 but it made me realise there is an odd link between my Arma-Dad’s Army project and Chesterton’s book.
I am always looking for (what Peter Laing christened) ‘dual use figures’ to cut down on costs, storage and painting time.
Bunging some beefeaters into a more modern ImagiNations conflict seems suitably like Wells’ Floor Games or Little Wars, who often filled in forces and Floor Games with what figures he had to hand.
Those are very Tudor / Yeoman Warder /Lanschknect type uniforms featured in The Napoleon of Notting Hill and Miyazuki’s cover illustration.
At last a modern 1904/84 use for all those halberd wielding ceremonial yeoman warder types of plastic, Britain’s Deetail new metal and old hollowcast figures that you slowly acquire from childhood onwards.
They remind me of the yeoman warder chess pawn pieces from Prince August Spanish Armada and Henry VIII Cloth of Gold homecast moulds. These have now both arrived and are awaiting a good casting day.
The Catholic / Chesterton angle is interesting in view Of my Christmas mix of Armada, Tudor and Elizabethan books, along with A.L. Rowses’s Tudor Cornwall (1941, recent paperback reprint). Even now with the distance of history, it takes some doing to keep up with the changing shifts of Catholic / Protestant regime changes in Britain and especially in its Celtic extremities like Cornwall with its culturally disastrous Prayerbook Rebellions, along with the splits, feuds and intermarriage between the landed gentry.
Backing the wrong side during the reign of Henry VIII or Elizabeth The First could see you lose you head or merely your whole landed estates.
This clash rumbled on through the English Civil War and Interregnum. Pity the poor estate staff, tenant farmers or peasants and fieldworkers who got caught up in all this at the behest of their local landed gentry family. It is too important a topic to call it the whim of the landed gentry as people were prepared to die or be disinherited for their faith,but it must have been quite a random thing for the workers which side their landlords backed or broke with as kings and queens changed. These ordinary people would form the often unwilling backbone of the local Arma-Dad’s Army of Muster or Militia as it was later known.
The idea behind this project is seeing the Armadas and Spanish raids of Invasion fears as a version of the Home Guard facing the German WWII invasion plans ofOperation Sealion, in Tudor Spanish terms Operacion Leon Marino?
A.L. Rowse occasionally noted some of these occasional parallels into his Tudor Cornwall, finished in the early years of WWII.
Some might object to a comparison of Catholic Spanish of Philip II and the Conquistadors or Armadas as an invasive and fearsome foreign regime parallel to the Nazi hordes with their “typical Shabby Nazi tricks” (to quote Captain Mainwaring). There was a hope on the Spanish side and fear on either British side, fuelled by concerns about espionage, that loyal Catholic families would rise up as a “fifth column” when the Spaniards invaded.
Even the painting or colour scheme of my ‘Spanish Fury‘ troops is intended to reveal the Tudor fears of the possibly satanic black and red, to reflect their popular image after years of Tudor English propaganda. I shall continue this colour scheme with the new Chintoys figures reinforcements from Christmas.
I have to say I have no personal bias, having grown up with both Catholic and Protestant friends.
However much I am enjoying the Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England book by Ian Mortimer and fascinated as I am by my family history of Cornish ancestors in these sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, I am very thankful not to be living in Tudor times, whether it is from the confusing switching religious regime angle or the medical and dental one.
Having read Winston “Poldark” Graham’s The Grove of Eagles: A Novel of Elizabethan England, there is more of a sympathetic portrayal of the Spanish and Catholic characters than I expected, along with an understanding of the divided family loyalties of the intermarried Protestant and Catholic Cornish or West Country families. These were the same old families that sometimes hung on in larger or smaller means to run the estates and houses that shaped Cornwall and the West Country into the last century. In fact, a small number of hese same Cornish county family names of old still exist in some of these houses and estates today.
This week in my forthcoming blog posts, I shall feature some pikemen, the first completed shiny figures of my dual use Trained Bands and English Civil War figures as reinforcements for the poorly armed and barley trained ‘Muster’ or Arma-Dad’s Army.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is a novel written by Gilbert or G. K. Chesterton in 1904, set in a nearly unchanged London in 1984.
Wikipedia plot summary: Although the novel is set in the future, it is, in effect, set in an alternative reality of Chesterton’s own period, with no advances in technology nor changes in the class system nor attitudes. It postulates an impersonal government, not described in any detail, but apparently content to operate through a figurehead king, randomly chosen.
The dreary succession of randomly selected Kings of England is broken up when Auberon Quin, who cares for nothing but a good joke, is chosen. To amuse himself, he institutes elaborate costumes for the provosts of the districts of London. All are bored by the King’s antics except for one earnest young man who takes the cry for regional pride seriously – Adam Wayne, the eponymous Napoleon of Notting Hill. (Wikipedia plot summary)
From Chapter 2: The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)
“Sir,” said Wayne, “I am going from house to house in this street of ours, seeking to stir up some sense of the danger which now threatens our city. Nowhere have I felt my duty so difficult as here.
For the toy-shop keeper has to do with all that remains to us of Eden before the first wars began.
You sit here meditating continually upon the wants of that wonderful time when every staircase leads to the stars, and every garden-path to the other end of nowhere.
Is it thoughtlessly, do you think, that I strike the dark old drum of peril in the paradise of children? But consider a moment; do not condemn me hastily. Even that paradise itself contains the rumour or beginning of that danger, just as the Eden that was made for perfection contained the terrible tree.
For judge childhood, even by your own arsenal of its pleasures.
You keep bricks; you make yourself thus, doubtless, the witness of the constructive instinct older than the destructive.
You keep dolls; you make yourself the priest of that divine idolatry.
You keep Noah’s Arks; you perpetuate the memory of the salvation of all life as a precious, an irreplaceable thing. But do you keep only, sir, the symbols of this prehistoric sanity, this childish rationality of the earth?
Do you not keep more terrible things? What are those boxes, seemingly of lead soldiers, that I see in that glass case? Are they not witnesses to that terror and beauty, that desire for a lovely death, which could not be excluded even from the immortality of Eden? Do not despise the lead soldiers, Mr. Turnbull.”
“I don’t,” said Mr. Turnbull, of the toy-shop, shortly, but with great emphasis.
“I am glad to hear it,” replied Wayne. “I confess that I feared for my military schemes the awful innocence of your profession. How, I thought to myself, will this man, used only to the wooden swords that give pleasure, think of the steel swords that give pain? But I am at least partly reassured. Your tone suggests to me that I have at least the entry of a gate of your fairyland—the gate through which the
soldiers enter, for it cannot be denied—I ought, sir, no longer to deny, that it is of soldiers that I come to speak. Let your gentle employment make you merciful towards the troubles of the world. Let your own silvery experience tone down our sanguine sorrows. For there is war in Notting Hill.”
The little toy-shop keeper sprang up suddenly, slapping his fat hands like two fans on the counter.
“War?” he cried. “Not really, sir? Is it true? Oh, what a joke! Oh, what a sight for sore eyes!”
Wayne was almost taken aback by this outburst.
“I am delighted,” he stammered. “I had no notion—”
He sprang out of the way just in time to avoid Mr. Turnbull, who took a flying leap over the counter and dashed to the front of the shop.
“You look here, sir,” he said; “you just look here.”
He came back with two of the torn posters in his hand which were flapping outside his shop.
“Look at those, sir,” he said, and flung them down on the counter.
Wayne bent over them, and read on one—
REDUCTION OF THE CENTRAL DERVISH CITY.
On the other he read—
“LAST SMALL REPUBLIC ANNEXED.
NICARAGUAN CAPITAL SURRENDERS AFTER A MONTH’S FIGHTING.
Wayne bent over them again, evidently puzzled; then he looked at the dates. They were both dated in August fifteen years before.
“Why do you keep these old things?” he said, startled entirely out of his absurd tact of mysticism. “Why do you hang them outside your shop?”
“Because,” said the other, simply, “they are the records of the last war. You mentioned war just now. It happens to be my hobby.”
Wayne lifted his large blue eyes with an infantile wonder.
“Come with me,” said Turnbull, shortly, and led him into a parlour at the back of the shop.
In the centre of the parlour stood a large deal table. On it were set rows and rows of the tin and lead soldiers which were part of the shopkeeper’s stock. The visitor would have thought nothing of it if it had not been for a certain odd grouping of them, which did not seem either entirely commercial or entirely haphazard.
“You are acquainted, no doubt,” said Turnbull, turning his big eyes upon Wayne—”you are acquainted, no doubt, with the arrangement of the American and Nicaraguan troops in the last battle;” and he waved his hand towards the table.
“I am afraid not,” said Wayne. “I—”
“Ah! you were at that time occupied too much, perhaps, with the Dervish affair. You will find it in this corner.” And he pointed to a part of the floor where there was another arrangement of children’s soldiers grouped here and there.
“You seem,” said Wayne, “to be interested in military matters.”
“I am interested in nothing else,” answered the toy-shop keeper, simply.
Wayne appeared convulsed with a singular, suppressed excitement.
“In that case,” he said, “I may approach you
with an unusual degree of confidence. Touching the matter of the defence of Notting Hill, I—”
“Defence of Notting Hill? Yes, sir. This way, sir,” said Turnbull, with great perturbation. “Just step into this side room;” and he led Wayne into another apartment, in which the table was entirely covered with an arrangement of children’s bricks.
A second glance at it told Wayne that the bricks were arranged in the form of a precise and perfect plan of Notting Hill.
“Sir,” said Turnbull, impressively, “you have, by a kind of accident, hit upon the whole secret of my life. As a boy, I grew up among the last wars of the world, when Nicaragua was taken and the dervishes wiped out. And I adopted it as a hobby, sir, as you might adopt astronomy or bird-stuffing. I had no ill-will to any one, but I was interested in war as a science, as a game.
And suddenly I was bowled out. The big Powers of the world, having swallowed up all the small ones, came to that confounded agreement, and there was no more war. There was nothing more for me to do but to do what I do now—to read the old campaigns in dirty old newspapers, and to work them out with tin soldiers. One other thing had occurred to me. I thought it an amusing
fancy to make a plan of how this district or ours ought to be defended if it were ever attacked. It seems to interest you too.”
“If it were ever attacked,” repeated Wayne, awed into an almost mechanical enunciation. “Mr. Turnbull, it is attacked. Thank Heaven, I am bringing to at least one human being the news that is at bottom the only good news to any son of Adam. Your life has not been useless. Your work has not been play. Now, when the hair is already grey on your head, Turnbull, you shall have your youth. God has not destroyed, He has only deferred it. Let us sit down here, and you shall explain to me this military map of Notting Hill. For you and I have to defend Notting Hill together.”
Mr. Turnbull looked at the other for a moment, then hesitated, and then sat down beside the bricks and the stranger. He did not rise again for seven hours, when the dawn broke.
The headquarters of Provost Adam Wayne and his Commander-in-Chief consisted of a small and somewhat unsuccessful milk-shop at the corner of Pump Street …”
“With H. G. Wells as with Shaw, Gilbert’s relations were exceedingly cordial, but with a cordiality occasionally threatened by explosions from Wells. Gilbert’s soft answer however invariably turned away wrath and all was well again. “No one,” Wells said to me, “ever had enmity for him except some literary men who did not know him.” They met first, Wells thinks, at the Hubert Blands, and then Gilbert stayed with Wells at Easton. There they played at the non-existent game of Gype and invented elaborate rules for it. Cecil came too and they played the War game Wells had invented.
“Cecil,” says Wells, comparing him with Gilbert, “seemed condensed: not quite big enough for a real Chesterton.”
“They built too a toy theatre at Easton and among other things dramatized the minority report of the Poor Law Commission. The play began by the Commissioners taking to pieces Bumble the Beadle, putting him into a huge cauldron and stewing him. Then out from the cauldron leaped a renewed rejuvenated Bumble several sizes larger than when he went in.”
Cecil was Cecil Chesterton (1879-1918), younger brother of G.K. Chesterton and friend of Hilaire Belloc, was an English journalist and political commentator, known particularly for his role as editor of The New Witness from 1912 to 1916. He was injured fighting in WW1 and died on 6 December 1918.
Gilbert and Cecil appear to have played Wells’ Little Wars with Wells at Easton.
Easton Glebe is Wells’ one time house in Dunmow in Essex, alongside his Hampstead house nearer London. It was here in Essex that Wells’ second wife Jane died in 1927.
Besides his home in London, Wells rented Easton Glebe, on the Easton Lodge estate, between 1910 and 1928.
It was during this time that Wells had a 10 year affair with Rebecca West. They met in 1912 when Wells was 46 and West only 19. West was also a prolific writer, later being appointed a Dame for her service to English literature. Their son, Anthony West, born in 1914, grew up to became a well-known novelist.