What, no Soviet women in these 54mm figures? Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo Games is producing a new range of 28mm Soviet women of WW2 on Kickstarter and then via her web shop. I don’t collect or play with 28mm figures at the moment but I have bought several vignette packs of her interesting female figures like her Land Girls. https://badsquiddogames.com
This interesting rusty old female figure (below) was amongst an unexpected gift of some spare battered metal band figures from Alan (Duchy of Tradgardland) Gruber. Thanks, Alan.
It gave me an idea, after watching the Morecambe and Wise comedy film The Magnificent Two, 1967. This is set in the fictional 1960s South American ImagiNation of Parazuellia (think Mexico with a dash of Castro’s Cuba).
The female figure was marked by its maker ‘G B’ on the base, wearing what looked like 1980s British Army female uniform, possibly a band figure based on the double arm stubs.
Here are the other battered band figures along with some spare and useful heads from Alan Gruber, which were of no immediate use to his small scale infantry skirmish games. A real mixed bag …
A useful selection of heads including two useful Gurkha ones and a mixture of band figures. Many are still queueing along on the painting table.
There were several royal marine type drummers and buglers but also some headless drummers and two with pillbox hats with a feminine look.
What emerged was a female Parazuellian Womens’ Revolutionary Army pipe and drum band, sporting their battle bowler British type Mark II helmets at a jaunty angle, as in the film screenshot below:
Isobel Black (L) and Margit Saad (R) wearing their steel helmets in he Magnificent Two
As you can see, the helmet roundels are a red star on a white circle with green surrounding line.
Green, white and red are of course the colours not only of the Parazuellian Revolutionary Army in the film but also Mexico in real life. The Revolutionary red is picked up in the scarves, the green in the khaki or olive drab costumes.
Here is that rusty female figure remade as a Parazuellian general:
This could be a General Carla type figure, leading the Women’s Revolutionary Army.
Three side drummers and a piper, all with the national colours of Revolutionary red, white and green
I tried the figures without helmets but they lacked the charm of the ‘battle bowler’.
Luckily I had four spare steel helmets from an old Airfix Multipose set of Eighth Army figures.
I used two suitable spare Gurkha heads from the head pile for the two headless drummers. After filing down these pillbox hats in order to fit the helmets, I added some bushy female hair with tissue paper and PVA.
In the same way a piper’s cape was added with tissue paper and PVA, to cover the join of these slightly outsize (man’s?) bagpiper arms.
The officer figure’s arm stubs (originally for playing a musical instrument?) were removed and after drilling through, wire and masking tape arms were added.
As I used dark earth skin tones on the new BMC Plastic Army Women to match or suggest the South American ImagiNation of Parazuellia, I used the same skin tones and shiny toy soldier face style including copper cheek dots. These work better on darker skin than the usual pink cheek dots.
A final coat of gloss acrylic spray varnish toned the mixture of matt and gloss acrylic together in a suitable shiny toy soldier style.
Music was absorbed into their layers of paint and varnish throughout their creation. Accompanying the painting was some jaunty untraditional pipe and drum music on YouTube, Indian pipe and drum bands – at one point I thought these figures had the look of Indian female troops.
A more South American / Mexican pipe and drum sound can be found with the San Patricios or St Patrick’s Battalion pipe and drums (Mexico City), apparently remembering the Scottish and Irish troops who defected from the USA to fight for Mexico in the US -Mexican War of 1847.
My final entry for the FEMBruary female figure painting challenge are these fine new plastic 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures. They reminded me of the Revolutionary female figures in a favourite Morecambe and Wise film from childhood, The Magnificent Two (1967).
Read more from these two posts from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog:
Here we get a glimpse of Little Wars and the Battle of Hooks Farm in his boyhood imagination forty years earlier, The Battles of Martin’s Hills, Bromley, Kent.
Page 74: “I had reveries—I indulged a great deal in reverie until I was fifteen or sixteen, because my active imagination was not sufficiently employed—and I liked especially to dream that I was a great military dictator like Cromwell, a great republican like George Washington or like Napoleon in his earlier phases.
I used to fight battles whenever I went for a walk alone. I used to walk about Bromley, a small rather undernourished boy, meanly clad and whistling detestably between his teeth, and no one suspected that a phantom staff pranced about me and phantom orderlies galloped at my commands, to shift the guns and concentrate fire on those houses below, to launch the final attack upon yonder distant ridge.
The citizens of Bromley town go out to take the air on Martin’s Hill and look towards Shortland across the fields where once meandered the now dried-up and vanished Ravensbourne, with never a suspicion of the orgies of bloodshed I once conducted there.
“Martin’s Hill indeed is one of the great battlegrounds of history. Scores of times the enemy skirmishers have come across those levels, followed by the successive waves of the infantry attack, while I, outnumbered five to one, manœuvred my guns round, the guns I had refrained so grimly from using too soon in spite of the threat to my centre, to enfilade them suddenly from the curving slopes towards Beckenham.”
“Crash,” came the first shell, and then crash and crash. They were mown [p. 75] down by the thousand. They straggled up the steep slopes wavering. And then came the shattering counter attack, and I and my cavalry swept the broken masses away towards Croydon, pressed them ruthlessly through a night of slaughter on to the pitiful surrender of the remnant at dawn by Keston Fish Ponds.
And I entered conquered, or rescued, towns riding at the head of my troops, with my cousins and my schoolfellows recognizing me with surprise from the windows. And kings and presidents, and the great of the earth, came to salute my saving wisdom. I was simple even in victory. I made wise and firm decisions, about morals and customs and particularly about those Civil Service Stores which had done so much to bankrupt my [shopkeeper] father. With inveterate enemies, monarchists, Roman Catholics, non-Aryans and the like I was grimly just. Stern work—but my duty….
In fact Adolf Hitler is nothing more than one of my thirteen year old reveries come real. A whole generation of Germans has failed to grow up.
My head teemed with such stuff in those days. But it is interesting to remark that while my mind was full of international conflicts, alliances, battleships and guns, I was blankly ignorant about money or any of the machinery of economic life. I never dreamed of making dams, opening ship canals, irrigating deserts or flying. I had no inkling of the problem of ways and means; I knew nothing and, therefore, I cared nothing of how houses were built, commodities got and the like.
I think that was because nothing existed to catch and turn my imagination in that direction. There was no literature to enhance all that. I think there is no natural bias towards bloodshed in imaginative youngsters, but the only vivid and inspiring things that history fed me with were campaigns and conquests. In Soviet Russia they tell me they have altered all that.
 ”For many years my adult life was haunted by the fading memories of those early war fantasies. Up to 1914, I found a lively interest in playing a war game, with toy soldiers and guns, that recalled the peculiar quality and pleasure of those early reveries.”
“It was quite an amusing model warfare and I have given its primary rules in a small book “for boys and girls of all ages” Little Wars.”
“I have met men in responsible positions, L. S. Amery for example, Winston Churchill, George Trevelyan, C. F. G. Masterman, whose imaginations were manifestly built upon a similar framework and who remained puerile in their political outlook because of its persistence.”
“I like to think I grew up out of that stage somewhen between 1916 and 1920 and began to think about war as a responsible adult should.”
H.G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography, 1934
A gathering of Generals and Staff Officers (Little Wars illustration by J.R. Sinclair)
It is easy to gain a sense of Wells the adult writer trying to recapture the world of Wells the imaginative child (in his hindsight autobiography) yet you can see elements in his recreation of childhood fantasies in his War of the Worlds and other such late Victorian and Edwardian Invasion Literature.
To be honest who amongst us, like H. G. Wells, has not as a child in their Wide Games over parks, woods and gardens had such imaginary battles as knights, cowboys, backwoodsman and troops, especially to relieve the monotony of repeated walks? It is what Baden Powell / Gilcraft in Scouting Wide Games (1933) called the Cloak of Romance.Puck of Pook’s Hill, Treasure Island …
I used, like Wells, on my several mile walks to school as a tweenager / teenager, especially if late, be marching uphill as head of a flying column or parade to get the pace up (music in your head, no Walkmans allowed in school then) before knocking on others doors to collect them and keep going. I had seen Star Wars but had not then seen the film Billy Liar. Thankfully I did not too often have to do the trumpet fanfare running March (of the Italian Bersaglieri) to avoid being late for school.
As a result I find it interesting to see the evolution of the boyhood imaginary heroic man “General H.G.W.” of the young child and early teenage days on St Martins Hill back into the equally imaginative adult “General H.G.W.” of Little Wars in 1913.
In his 1934 Experiment in Autobiography, his teenage ImagiNations now have to compete with the disillusion of WW1, his Shape of Things To Come (1933, later filmed) and the then topical modern world of the 1930s, of Hitler and Soviet Russia, the disillusion of their future crimes still then unknown.
Maybe our own modern War Games and Role Playing Games are a way to recapture these Wellsian “early reveries” and “fading memories of these early War fantasies” of our own ImagiNations, yard games and garden war games.
Not having sisters or daughters, I presume that, akin to or alongside my schoolboy heroic fantasies, that girls had their own versions.
The charm of Wells’ Little Wars were brought to an end by WW1. The Falklands and the Gulf Wars brought some more such gritty reality to our view of things for my generation.
Wells wrote more about his often quarrelsome relationship with Frank and his brothers
Later on I grew up to my brothers, so to speak, and had great talks with them. With Frank, the eldest, indeed, I developed a considerable companionship in my teens and we had some great holiday walks together. But at the time of which I am writing all that had still to come.
Our home was not one of those where general ideas are discussed at table. My mother’s ready orthodox formulæ were very effective in suppressing any such talk. So my mind developed almost as if I were an only child.
My childish relations with my brothers varied between vindictive resentment and clamorous aggression. I made a terrific fuss if my toys or games were touched and I displayed great vigour in acquiring their more attractive possessions.
I bit and scratched my brothers and I kicked their shins, because I was a sturdy little boy who had to defend himself; but they had to go very easily with me because I was a delicate little fellow who might easily be injured and was certain to yell. On one occasion, I quite forget now what the occasion was, I threw a fork across the dinner table at Frank, and I can still remember very vividly the missile sticking in his forehead where it left three little scars for a year or so and did no other harm; and I have an equally clear memory of a smashed window behind the head of my brother Freddy, the inrush of cold air and dismay, after I had flung a wooden horse at him.
Finally they hit upon an effectual method of at once silencing me and punishing me. They would capture me in our attic and suffocate me with pillows. I couldn’t cry out and I had to give in. I can still feel the stress of that suffocation. Why they did not suffocate me for good and all I do not know. They had no way of checking what was going on under the pillow until they took it off and looked.
A little later Wells mentions another of these Billy Liar-type fantasy moments to relieve boredom when a young teenage apprentice in a draper’s shop:
Part 4 First Start in Life—Windsor (Summer 1880)
…. The one bright moment during the day was when the Guards fifes and drums went past the shop and up to the Castle. These fifes and drums swirled me away campaigning again.
Dispatch riders came headlong from dreamland, brooking no denial from the shop-walker. “Is General Bert Wells here? The Prussians have landed!”
He refers back to his Hitleresque (based in the word Chaplinesque) fantasies once gain later (Part 5 p. 533?)
For a glimpse of Old Bromley in Wells’ childhood you can buy repro maps of 1861 from https://www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk/kent0716.htm in case you wish to recreate the Battles of St. Martin’s Hill for yourself as a Little Wars gaming scenario (a change from Hook’s Farm?)
Is Hook’s Farm a real place?
Intriguingly maps of Wells’ imaginative battle areas in 1860s 1870s Bromley feature an area called Hook and Hooks Farm Road (road name still there) . Just as wells wrote about people he knew under different names, maybe he recycled and wrote about real places under other names too?
“The land was still mainly used for farming, divided up principally between Hook Farm to the west of Bromley Common, situated in the location of what is today the car park of Norman Park, and Turpington Farm to the east, close to the junction of Crown Lane and Turpington Lane.
Hook Farm was owned by the Norman family of The Rookery, and Turpington Farm belonged to the Wells family of Southborough Lodge (both of these residences are now destroyed).”
There are tantalising glimpses of the Floor Game that became Little Wars in the memoir of Mathilde Meyer, H. G. Wells and his Family (1955).
She arrived for work at teatime at the Wells’ seaside house, Spade House, Sandgate, Kent on October 22, 1908 when she first meet Frank (b. 1901)and his younger brother Gip (b.1903):
At the far end of the room I saw two little boys squatting among numerous wooden bricks and boards of various sizes, with toy soldiers, and cannons in ambush ready to do battle.
Mrs. Wells asked her two sons to leave their game to come forward and greet me, which they did with the greatest reluctance.
Both Gip and Frank – my new pupils – were dressed alike. They wore navy-blue serge suits with white sailor collars and cuffs, brown shoes and white socks.
Gip, the elder boy, who had brown hair, a small snub nose and intelligent eyes, looked at me critically for a moment, while his brother, a very pretty fair-haired little fellow, showed plainly that he was not interested.
After tea, Gip (the future zoologist) shows his new governess his pet mouse.
“Please come and have a look at my soldiers,” said Frank, taking me by the hand and leading me to the battleground in miniature set out on the linoleum on the floor. Little did I realise then that I was gazing upon one of those early ‘floor games’ which before long became the favourite pastime of distinguished visitors to Spade House and elsewhere.
The battleground had been carefully chalk marked, and divided in two, by a river. On either side of the imaginary river were houses and huts made of wooden bricks, with brown ribbed paper as thatched roofs. There were woods made of twigs from trees and bushes, taken from the garden, and grotesque monuments of plasticine.
“The red-coated soldiers are mine,” explained Gip, who was squatting on his side of the river.
“Yes, and all the other coloured men are mine,” added Frank.
“Is that the town hall, or the post office, Frank?” I asked, pointing to an extra large building bearing a gay paper flag on a pin.
“Oh no,” he replied, “that is the British Museum, but what you can’t see what’s in it unless you come down here where I am.”
I squatted down beside the fair little fellow and looked through an opening in the museum.
“Oh!” I exclaimed amused, “your museum is full of soldiers with cannons and all! How terrifying!”
“Ssh! Ssh! You shouldn’t have said that,” whispered Frank, frowning. “Now Gip knows where most of my soldiers are hidden.”
Alas, yes, I had made a major gaffe. I had given away important military secrets, and the leader of the Red Coats was chuckling quietly to himself on the other side of the chalk lines.
I apologised for my stupid mistake and offered the leader of the Khaki soldiers my help in removing everything from the museum to another place before the next battle.
But Mrs. Wells , who had been looking on highly amused! Intervened at that moment , saying that there was no time now for battles, that it was the nipght when the floor had to be scrubbed, and soldiers and bricks to be put back into their boxes, before bedtime.
Both boys protested wildly:
“Oh, Mummy, Mummy!” They shouted, “not to-night, please, not to-night!” But Mummy was firm.
This was the worst about Floor games. The linoleum, on which they were set out, alas, had to be washed periodically. An armistice had to be declared. The battlefield had to disappear completely; the boards had to be out against the wall, and twigs that looked already looked a little wilted, burnt with the paper flags.
I wished my new pupils good-night, wondering what kind of inspiration I had made on them. It was not until weeks later that Jessie told me what their verdict had been. “Stupid – but quite nice.”
A few pages later, we get another glimpse from Mathilde Meyer of the Floor Game:
My little pupils and I slipped softly upstairs, and were soon ready for tea, which Jessie had prepared for us in the schoolroom.
The boys had brought in from the garden fresh bay twigs and other greenery, and after tea they set out a new battleground on the well scrubbed linoleum. Newly enrolled soldiers with movable arms * were to take part in the forthcoming battle, and new paper flags had to be made. The armistice was called off, and before long the two young generals were firing their toy cannons from opposite sides, and the peaceful life of the schoolroom was once more overshadowed.
Seeing how engrossed my pupils were in waging war, I left the schoolroom for a while. When I returned, the battle was raging fiercer than ever. Guns were now in action in three corners of the battleground, because a third war-lord – a mighty one – had suddenly appeared on them scene. Mr. Wells, relaxing from his work in the study, was lying fully outstretched on the linoleum and aiming a toy cannon with devastating accuracy at his son’s red and khaki clad soldiers. Ah, yes, to be sure, it was a very serious affair, this floor game.
After the battle the wounded were taken to hospital, for, alas, even in toyland, there are always some casualties. Hopelessly damaged soldiers were melted down in an iron spoon on the schoolroom fire, and others had a new head fixed to the body by means of a match and liquid lead.
Then suddenly the schoolroom door opened, and there stood Jessie, gaunt and serious. ‘Bath-time for you, Frank,” she announced curtly, and a Frank without a murmur, followed her out of the room …
Spade House Chapter 1 / Part 1, Mathilde Meyer, H.G. Wells and his Family (1955)
It is good to see that Jessie their former nurse maintained her relationship with the boys, even though Mathilde has arrived formally as governess.
Interesting that Mathilde mentions “soldiers with moveable arms” as prior to William Britain’s Ltd, this was not the norm. This makes them different from the Germanic flat toy soldier. Britain’s soon had competition from other British based firms also producing toy soldiers with moveable arms.
When Floor Games was published in 1911, Mathilde made a mistake in allowing The Daily Graphic to photograph the boys, thinking Wells had agreed and arranged it. Mr Wells was not pleased but allowed the photograph to be published in the Daily Graphic.
If her recollection is correct, this press photo is not the one on the cover of Floor Games. I have so far failed to find a copy of this Daily Graphic December 1911 photograph.
I have identified two more literary players of the Floor Games in November, 1912, both suitable for a future blog post. Finally for today, a link to a past blog post about three friends of the Wells family, well known Edwardians, that Mathilde Meyer mentioned who also played the ‘Floor Game’ at Easton Glebe c. 1912/13:
In another blog post I will feature more about Jessie Allen Brooks (b. 1873, Richmond, Surrey) the nurse to the Wells children until 1908 who then reverted to more general household duties (‘cook – domestic’) when Mathilde Mary Meyer arrived:
Mathilde Mary Meyer, Governess, 28, single, born Switzerland Lucerne
Jessie Allen Brooks, 38, single, cook (domestic) born Richmond, Surrey.
They were previously briefly mentioned on my blog post here:
The other household employee, most probably the wielder of the dread mop and scrubbing brush, interruptor of Floor Games and Little Wars, burner of wilted twigs and paper flags, was in Hampstead in 1911 one Mary Ellen Shinnick.
Mary Ellen Shinnick, 27, single, housemaid (domestic) , born in Ireland (Co. Cork, Coppingerstown)
Again another incidental character to research. Jessie Allen Brooks gets mentioned by name in Mathilde’s memoirs, the other domestic (Mary) doesn’t. This suggests that one is more permanent than the other or that Jessie has more of a working ‘handover’ relationship with Mathilde as their former nurse.
For Wells’ health, the Wells household also had before Church Row Hampstead a seaside home at Spade House, Sandgate, Kent. After time at the Hampstead (London) house, the Wells family moved their main residence from Spring 1912 to a new Wells country bolthole on the Countess of Warwick’s estate at Little Easton Rectory which Wells renamed Easton Glebe, Dunmow, Essex. Here Wells’ second wife ‘Jane’ (Amy Catherine) Wells died in 1927.
This is the only photograph (below) that I have found of Mathilde Meyer, taken from her memoir H G Wells and his family.
This lawn may be where the famous photographs of Wells’ outdoors playing Little Wars on the lawn were taken. It is also where the only photo I have found of Mathilde Meyer from her book seems to be taken.
I’m not yet sure if these same household servants travelled with the Wells family from place to place, house to house, as the cook and housemaids were often part of the emotional stability of a young middle class Edwardian child’s life (before boarding school).
A young tutor Mr Classey arrived and after five years as governess teaching the boys French and German, Mathilde Meyer moved to another post in late 1913, around the time that Little Wars was published July or August. A year later both boys went as boarders to Oundle School in Northamptonshire throughout WWI. Gip was about twelve, Frank ten years old.
Mathilde Meyer moved on to tutor another child, the only daughter of Lady Swinburne at Capheaton, Northumberland, the area where she stayed during WW1. This child may possibly have been Joan Mary Browne-Swinburne (1906 -2012).
It is nice to know that Mathilde Meyer kept in touch with the Wells children well in to the 1950s when, with their permission, she wrote her memoir in 1955 in her late sixties / early seventies. H. G. Wells had died in 1946. It is a highly complementary memoir towards the Wells family. Wells offered her the promise of support ‘like a distant brother’ throughout the rest of his life. Frank helpfully wrote the preface to the book.
Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog – a wash and brush up for the new 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures, prior to the FEMbruary believable female figure painting challenge (started by Alex at Lead Balloony)
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