And Girls Did Play Too? E. Nesbit’s version of H G Wells’ Floor Games – Wings and the Child 1913

One of Edith Nesbit’s elaborate play palaces and magical cities in Wings and the Child (1913)

I have previously mentioned E. Nesbit’s curious short story The City in the Library 1901 with her own children featured in this odd fever dream:

Wells and Nesbit knew of each other and had links to the socialist Fabian Society (after which she named her son Fabian).

Scholarly Editing indeed: Intriguing references to Britain’s Civilians and E. Nesbit’s Wings and the Child. As ever, the Brontes! Scholarly Editing 2017, Volume 38 Little Wars by H. G. Wells Edited by Nigel Lepianka and Deanna Stover

Thanks to Rahway flagging up a scholarly editing of the Little Wars text, Scholarly Editing 2017, Volume 38- Little Wars by H. G. Wells – edited by Nigel Lepianka and Deanna Stover

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:

Lots to enjoy and ponder here for the weekend.

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 …”

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 23 January 2021

10 thoughts on “And Girls Did Play Too? E. Nesbit’s version of H G Wells’ Floor Games – Wings and the Child 1913”

  1. The Nesbit book is an excellent find. Very inspirational!

    W.r.t. your last remark, about the rise of “parenting books”: I think indeed there’s a correlation with the growing middle class at the time (whose children were not recruited in the workforce from an early age), who did more things themselves in the household instead of outsourcing everything to servants.


    1. Thanks – I think these were part of a growing trend towards more hands-on parenthood – set against the ‘remote’ stereotype of Victorian families although people like Charles Darwin did challenge this stereotype.


  2. Wings and the child has some fascinating pictures within, thanks for pointing us in its direction. I will read properly later but am still taking in the illustrations. Lacks the charm of Floor Games but is splendid in its own visual delights. I wonder what else awaits discovery…


    1. It seems a much more earnest sort of plea for childhood toys and games, it namechecked Montessori and others, and would no doubt now be popular with the home educated community in its view that childhood should be free of oppressive Victorian Gradgrind schooling.
      It has sensible things to say about “single use” toys, compared to ones that have multiple uses with imagination.
      Where in her opening scale of adults who remember being and remain at heart an imaginative child
      through to proper grown ups do you think we should put ourselves? 🙂


  3. I enjoyed the links and, especially, Nesbit’s explanations of building a toy city. I skimmed through the slightly turgid philosophical discourse intended for instructing adults about children’s play but the buildings with domino steps and sections of broom stick etc fascinated me. Obviously, this was written in the pre plastic age, before Lego and before the endless assortment of plastic toys and buildings. Nevertheless I was inspired to build more toy buildings for my troops but with the added advantage of sections cut from plastic bottles and an assortment of plastic figures; now I know what to do with the oversized plastic cats – use them for a ‘House of cats’.


    1. The pictures and the practical examples are the joy of this. I agree that the opening sections of it are largely philosophy and rhetoric which obviously needed saying at the time. Maybe the book should have been back to front?
      It is of interest to scrap modellers.


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