The dread broom and the swish of skirts: Jessie Allen Brooks, part of the H.G. Wells’ household, Floor Games and Little Wars

My FEMBruary last post to mark International Women’s Day March 8th and Women’s History Month in the UK and USA.

One of the background presences in Little Wars and Floor Games is the swish of skirts of women of the Wells’ household.

Part I – Boys and Girls, Floor Games and Little Wars

Women crop up somewhat comically in Floor Games and Little Wars as interrupters, destroyers or dismissive of these mostly boy’s games. The rare “more intelligent sort of girl who likes boy’s games and books” of the title, preface or dedication seems to have left little trace from the time.

Little Wars, Part I: “can be played by boys of every age from twelve to one hundred and fifty—and even later if the limbs remain sufficiently supple—by girls of the better sort, and by a few rare and gifted women.”

Little Wars, Part II : “Primitive attempts to realise the dream were interrupted by a great rustle and chattering of lady visitors. They regarded the objects upon the floor with the empty disdain of their sex for all imaginative things.”

Little Wars, Part II: “First there was the development of the Country. The soldiers did not stand well on an ordinary carpet, the Encyclopedia made clumsy cliff-like “cover”, and more particularly the room in which the game had its beginnings was subject to the invasion of callers, alien souls, trampling skirt-swishers, chatterers, creatures unfavourably impressed by the spectacle of two middle-aged men playing with “toy soldiers” on the floor, and very heated and excited about it.”

On a practical basis, any child or adult of us with no set-aside games room or table who has tried Garden or Floor Games knows the frustration of destructive feet, mealtimes or animals.

Wells recommends ideally playing “in no highway to other rooms” and maintains for some of the book an even and equal approach to male and female involvement.

Floor Games, Part I: “The jolliest indoor games for boys and girls demand a floor, and the home that has no floor upon which games may be played falls so far short of happiness.

“It must be a floor covered with linoleum or cork carpet, so that toy soldiers and such-like will stand up upon it, and of a color and surface that will take and show chalk marks; the common green-colored cork carpet without a pattern is the best of all. It must be no highway to other rooms, and well lit and airy. Occasionally, alas! it must be scrubbed—and then a truce to Floor Games.”

“Upon such a floor may be made an infinitude of imaginative games, not only keeping boys and girls happy for days together, but building up a framework of spacious and inspiring ideas in them for after life. The men of tomorrow will gain new strength from nursery floors. I am going to tell of some of these games and what is most needed to play them; I have tried them all and a score of others like them with my sons, and all of the games here illustrated have been set out by us. I am going to tell of them here because I think what we have done will interest other fathers and mothers, …

Lots of boys and girls seem to be quite without planks and boards at all, and there is no regular trade in them. ”

What of the women of tomorrow? I wonder what Wells’ acquaintance E. Nesbit, mother of sons, writer and creator of Wings and the Child or the Building of Magic Cities (1913) and children’s books would have made of all this “boyhood” stuff? https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/i-never-thought-of-building-magic-cities-till-the-indian-soldiers-came/

Floor Games, IV: “I will now glance rather more shortly at some other very good uses of the floor, the boards, the bricks, the soldiers, and the railway system—that pentagram for exorcising the evil spirit of dulness from the lives of little boys and girls.”

Little Wars seems a little less inclusive in its language:

Little Wars: “Every boy who has ever put together model villages knows how to do these things, and the attentive reader will find them edifyingly represented in our photographic illustrations.”

As Alan Gruber in his Duchy of Tradgardland blog proves, girls can happily create model villages as well as any boy! http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/2017/07/breakfast-biscuits-little-wars-house.html

Part 2 – The Women of the Wells’ Household

Centre of the household was Wells’ second wife ‘Jane’ (Amy Catherine) Wells, (1872-1927), the same age as Jessie Allen Brooks. She typed Wells’ work, ran the household and as A.C.W, the War Correspondent, took (some of?) the photographs for the original magazine articles and the book. She also would have been the one who typed up and proofread Wells’ manuscripts for Little Wars and Floor Games.

Windsor Magazine, Dec 1912 part II Battle of Hook’s Farm – the magazine photographs by ‘Jane’ or Amy Catherine Wells, his second wife are rougher than the summer 1913 book published ones.

.

The retouched photo of Fig. 4 of Hook’s Farm – every leaf and branch is the same, so these are not reshot specially for the book.

As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, listed in the Wells household in the 1911 Census for Hampstead there was also

Mathilde Meyer the Swiss Governess, 28

and two domestic servants –

Jessie Allen Brooks, 38, Cook – Domestic, b. Richmond, Surrey

Mary Ellen Shinnick, 27, Housemaid – Domest, b. Coppingerstown, Cork, Ireland

These are the ladies behind the dreaded broom shown or illustrated in Floor Games:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/the-invisible-men-and-women-behind-h-g-wells-little-wars-and-floor-games/

John Ramage Sinclair’s spirited line illustrations of the dread destructive sweeping up of play

https://archive.org/details/floorgames00well

Part 3 – More Boys, Less Girls?

Interesting how girls do still get occasional references in Floor Games at least and mostly omitted from Little Wars. Alongside the Battle of Hook’s Farm, the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ was hotting up in Edwardian Britain with the rise of Women’s Suffrage.

Within the towns in Floor Games, III: “You can make picture-galleries—great fun for small boys who can draw; you can make factories; you can plan out flower-gardens—which appeals very strongly to intelligent little girls.”

Mostly in Floor Games, Wells remembers to be inclusive of boys and girls, fathers and mothers. This is less so in Little Wars, I: “This priceless gift to boyhood appeared somewhen towards the end of the last century, a gun capable of hitting a toy soldier nine times out of ten at a distance of nine yards.”

Interesting to think that at this same time, enterprising girls in this Edwardian period were joining or rivalling their brothers by setting up their own Baden Powell Girl Scout groups in response to Scouting for Boys (1907/08), quickly officially channeled into BP Girl Guides. The Suffragette movement in Britain was moving into its most active and aggressive phase as well.

Boy Scouts were quickly produced by Britain’s in 1909 and many other hollow-cast manufacturers but did not produce Girl Scouts. USA Girl Guides were first produced by Britain’s in 1926 and British ones not until 1934! The Boy Scouts crop up from time to time in J.R. Sinclair’s charming line illustrations.

I have written in another post about Mathilde Meyer, the Swiss Governess who took over the care of the Wells’ two children Frank (b.1903) and Gip (b.1901) from Jessie Allen Brooks who had been partly their nurse.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/21/little-wars-some-more-from-the-memoir-of-mathilde-meyer-governess-to-h-g-wells-children/

Mathilde Meyer in her memoir H.G. Wells and his Family (1955):

“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 night 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.”

The fate of many Floor Games – blundering adults, all in this case male. No skirt swishers here!

So who were these washers and scrubbers of linoleum?

I find Jessie Allen Brooks an intriguing figure, as her age and working class background is similar to H.G. Wells but her life was so different. Wells’ mother Sarah remained in domestic service on and off before and after marriage, depending on the family income including time in service at Uppark, living in accompanied by Wells as an ailing child

The Epsom and Ewell History Society have a good potted history of Wells’ family life https://eehe.org.uk/?p=24117

I will deal with Mary Ellen Shinnick the family’s Irish domestic servant in 1911 in another post.

Jessie was Nurse to the Wells’ boys before Mathilde arrived in 1908. She continued to play an important role as Cook and Nurse in their lives during the time that Mathilde was their Governess until 1913, almost until the two boys departed for Oundle School in Autumn 1914.

In the final year or two, male tutors Mr. Classey and the Pomeranian / German Kurt or Karl Butow played more and more of a role in shaping the boys’ education in preparation for an all boy’s boarding school like Oundle. Mathilde Meyer kept in touch by letter with the boys over the years, well into the 1950s.

Jessie Allen Brooks is a large but largely hidden behind the scene presence in the lives of the two Wells boys and the Wells household. But for Meyer’s memoir and the 1911 Census, she would be another Invisible Woman in the Floor Games and Little Wars world of H.G. Wells.

Jessie was Nurse to the two boys in the absence of their mother, she is their Cook for nursery teas, with or without their mother, and she is the mistress of the dread bed and bath time as an end to the day’s imaginative games.

No doubt she would also, with the other Wells’ servant Mary Ellen Shinnick, have been a scrubber and washer of chalk outlines of “the country” on floors, burner of paper flags and wilting twig tress, sweepers up and accidental destroyer of toys and games left out beyond their time.

Jessie Allen Brooks – destroyer of worlds! – to misquote Robert Oppenheimer.

I have no photograph yet of Jessie Allen Brooks but we do have an affectionate pen portrait (looking back in her memoir H.G. Wells and his Family from 1955) of Jessie from Mathilde Meyer on her arrival at Spade House in 1908. Mrs Wells says they will all “have tea with the boys, and Jessie the nurse …”

“Jessie, the nurse, was introduced to me next. She was, as I found out later, a very efficient nurse, and devoted to her charges. Middle-aged, tall and gaunt, she seemed almost severe in looks, and naturally I wondered how I would get on with her.”

Compare this to her description of the first servant she meets at the door, quite anonymous, so probably not Jessie’s younger sister Mabel who worked with Jessie at Sandgate for the Wells’ household (1901 Census): “A maid in a white cap and apron appeared at the door … Presently the maid came back to tell me Mrs. Wells was busy in the garden …”

Mathilde’s bag is carried to her cleaned room, hot water is already there for washing – all the busy work of keeping a middle class Edwardian household goes on mostly unseen.

Mathilde Meyer notes in her memoir that: “I looked no doubt somewhat scared when [Mrs. Wells] told me that, because she tried to assure me by saying that Jessie would still be in the house, although no longer in her capacity as a nurse, but as a cook, and that I could therefore always rely on her to help me if either of the boys were ill and wanted extra attention and care. I felt reassured. “

A Governess, especially a foreign one, held a slightly odd, more elevated social position above stairs compared to a domestic servant like Jessie Brooks.

After a battle of the Floor Game or Little Wars by Wells and his two boys, Mathilde Meyer notes after the game and repair of broken figures that:

“Then suddenly the schoolroom door opened, and there stood Jessie, gaunt and serious. “Bath time for you, Frank,” she announced curtly and Frank, without a murmur, followed her out of the room…”

There is a transition period when Jessie fills the new younger arrival Mathilde in with quirky details on how the Sandgate seaside Wells household runs and the character of the Wells family and boys including the “prickly” H.G. Wells, the unconventional dining outside where possible, not always dressing for dinner and Wells’ bohemian habits of walking around the garden in bare feet.

Later that night, Jessie on her way to bed, came to my room to enquire …”

Further glimpses of Jessie occur throughout Mathilde Meyer’s memoir, but as the transition of roles continues, we read less and less of Jessie’s work.

It is not absolutely clear if Jessie transferred in Spring 1912 with Mathilde and the Wells household to Easton Glebe (Rectory) in Dunmow in Essex when they moved from Hampstead (London) to the country. A “lively dark haired Irish parlourid” is noted there, who could be Mary Ellen Shinnick.

Jessie Allen Brookes – Early life and family

1881 Census

The 9 year old Jessie Allen Brooks is at school. The family are living in 2 Elm Cottages, Princes Road, Richmond, Surrey.

Son of a labourer, Jessie’s father William Allen Brooks (b. Chelsfield, Kent 1842-1931) was working as a gardener, like H.G. Wells’ father Joseph.

In 1871 he was a gardener working in Plaistow, Bromley. (Born in 1866 in Bromley in Kent, H.G. Wells would have been about 5 at this time).

Her mother Mary Ann Sills (b. Maidstone, Kent 1845-1923) was from Maidstone, Kent. She married William Allen Brooks in 1867. Her father John was a quarryman (1851 Census).

Jessie’s family was made up of her mother, father and 3 brothers and 2 sisters:

William Stephen Sills Brooks, (b. Plaistow, Kent 1868 – d. 1931, Guildford, Surrey) – according to the 1911 Census, he became a Gardener like his father in Woking Surrey

Jessie Allen Brooks, (b. Richmond, Surrey 1872 – 1938, Surrey)

George John Brooks, (b. 1875 – 1955) who became a drapery manager, married and had a family.

Rose Elizabeth Brooks (b. Richmond, Surrey 1877, – 1955)

Mabel Offord Brooks, (b. 1880 – 1970)

Born after the 1881 Census:

Ada Mary Brooks (b. 1882 – 1888) Princes Road, Richmond

Albert (‘Bert’) Richard Brooks, (b. 1886, Gunnersbury, Middlesex, d. 1929 Cobham, Surrey) who became a Grocer in Cobham, married and had a family.

1891 Census

In 1891 the 18 year old Jessie Allen Brooks was working alongside her sister Rose Elizabeth Brooks (1877-1945) in 5 Shaa Road, Acton (London, now W3) for Susan Boddy, head of a family of Wells children born all over the Empire.

Her sister Rose E Brooks is on the next page of the 1891 Census

Presumably the Wells / Boddy family were a military, trade or civil service family, Susan has remarried a Mr. Boddy, who is absent from home on the 1891 Census day. Adelaide or Adalaide M Wells and siblings – one to follow up in another post.

5 Shaa Road, Acton, London as it is today on Streetview, the Boddy /Wells family house, an impressive Victorian semi-detached house to keep clean for the Brooks girls!

I can’t work out if this Shaa Road Boddy / Wells family connection is coincidence or how and whether these Wells might be related to H.G. Wells. He came from a big family of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.

Domestic servants and their siblings were often referred (on good character or reference) from one previous family employer to another branch of the employer’s family or friends. It is not uncommon to find sisters working together in domestic service.

1901 Census:

Going back to the 1901 census, 28 year old Jessie Allen Brooks (b. 1872-1938) is working as a Cook- Domestic for the Wells family at Spade House, Sandgate, Kent, along with her sister Mabel Offord Brooks (1880-1970), then aged 21 – Housemaid Domestic.

Ancestry UK family history source: Spade House Sandgate where Jessie and Mabel Brooks worked for the Wells family (1901 Census)

1911 Census – as above, in 17 Church Row / Road, Hampstead – Jessie is working for the Wells family.

https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/17-church-row-hampstead-hgwells.htm

An interesting house with interesting residents http://www.shadyoldlady.com/location.php?loc=540

So there is a mini history of the Wells household, the houses where Little Games and Floor Wars were created and played, and where Jessie Allen Brooks and her sisters worked hard behind the scenes.

What happened next to Jessie and her family?

After working with Jessie in 1901 for the Wells family at Spade House, Sandgate in Kent, sister Mabel Offord Brooks may have travelled 2nd Class as a domestic to New York in 1909 from Liverpool aboard the White Star liner Baltic. By 1911 she was back in Woking in domestic service for the family of bank clerk Bernard Blagden family.

Jessie’s mother Mary Ann died in 1923. Younger brother Albert died in 1929, aged 42. Her father William Allen Brooks died in 1931 aged 89, when she was 58; the same year her older brother William also died, aged 62.

In 1927, Wells’ second wife ‘Jane’ (Amy Catherine) Wells died at Easton Glebe, Dunmow, Essex.

Some women of property were given the vote in 1918, the rest in 1928. We start to pick up traces in the Electoral Register in the 1930s.

In 1934 Jessie Allen Brooks is living with her sister Rose in a shared house with the Collins family Woodfield, Goldsworth, Woking (Electoral Register). By 1937, Rose, Jessie and Mabel Brooks are living together again.

In 1938, Jessie Allen Brooks died, aged around 65.

In 1939, Mabel and Rose Brooks are living together now in 25 Kingsway, Woking (near Horsell Moor of War of the Worlds fame). Aged 59, Mabel is still working in paid domestic service!

Sister Rose Brooks died in 1945, aged 68. Her and Jessie’s former employer H.G. Wells died in 1946. Mabel is still living there through the 1950s into the mid Sixties.

Mabel Offord Brooks died in Northwest Surrey in 1970, the longest surviving of the Brooks siblings.

Until the 1921 census appears in 2022, it will be difficult to say how long the ageing Jessie Allen Brooks stayed in service with the family. Sadly there is no surviving 1931 or 1941 Census.

Jessie’s brother Albert, a grocer in Cobham, Surrey died in 1929. Jessie, now 56 and her unmarried sisters Rose and Mabel attended, along with her father and Brother William.

She died aged c.65 in 1938, appears never to have married and lived in her later years with her spinster sisters, who also had careers in domestic service.

Jessie Allen Brooks – a woman from a very similar background to Wells himself but whose life was very different. Importantly she kept the Wells family clean and well fed throughout many years!

I shall finish with Peter Dennis’ lovely 2019 image of Wells for his Little Wars book (Paperboys / Helion) featuring a skirt swisher in the background:

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, March 2021

The real Hook’s Farm on old maps

Following up my blog post about H.G. Wells’ childhood battles in his head in the late 1860s and early 1870s across the wild spaces of Bromley, recaptured in his Little Wars floor games and garden games of the Battle of Hook’s Farm,

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/27/the-battles-of-hooks-farm-and-st-martins-hill-h-g-wells-experiment-in-autobiography-and-little-wars/

“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).”

https://thehistoryofchattertonvillage.wordpress.com/bromley-common-in-the-early-1800s/

I have looked through more maps of the real Hook’s Farm in Bromley. Firely Church still eludes me.

Close up shows the Hook’s Farm terrain, ridges and higher ground more clearly – 1857.

This 1857 map is from the Longbourne Collection, Bromley Borough Local History Society

https://www.bblhs.org.uk/longbourne-2#&gid=1270181636&pid=1

There are other mapping programmes or websites that allow you get an idea of the lie of the land as H.G. Wells saw it as an imaginative child General H.G.W. and as you can see it now.

Although the Bromley Local History site maps are placed online, it is worth pointing out that I do not own the copyright of any of these maps – I am sharing screen shots for research purposes, not commercial gain.

Hook’s Farm is where the Norman Park car park can now be found – mid centre of the map.

Norman Park the site of Hook’s Farm has a Google Street View panorama

and scanning around such Street View images I spot a distant spire – Firely Church? I can’t pinpoint it on a modern map or know if it was there in late Victorian times but here is a church, visible just the same roughly from where Hook’s Farm was located.

Screen shot of a Google Street View panorama showing a spire – Firely Church?

Norman Park also has a Wikipedia entry

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Park,_Bromley

and a photograph by Mike Quinn of a modern wooden bridge over the Ravensbourne stream, surely a contested military objective?

see also https://www.geograph.org.uk/stuff/list.php?title=The+River+Ravensbourne+in+Norman+Park+&gridref=TQ4167

I have yet to find a photograph of the old Hook’s Farm. Here is what it really looks like inside H.G. Well’s head and house in Little Wars 1913 wooden block form, Firely Church to the left, Hook’s Farm on the right ridge. The Ravensbourne stream is not marked.

Hooks Farm is now ‘Norman Park‘ and the demolished Farm is now a parking area. The restaging of Hooks Farm or a Little Wars centenary game in 2013 that was fought on the lawns of Sandhurst might have been a very different affair on a commandeered Bromley car park.

You can see in the wider Google satellite map how the Martin’s Hill site of many imaginary battles is still part of a green slice or wedge off to the South of Bromley through to the Norman Park Hook’s Farm site and on to Bromley Common and off the map, Keston Fish Ponds or Pool, mentioned in Wells’ battle narrative.

Nice to know from the Google maps overlay of businesses that not only the old Hook’s Farm site is now a place of leisure and hopefully imaginative play and Wide Games but that on the corner of Hook’s Farm Road is a nursery, hopefully full of imaginative play with wooden blocks and small world figures.

One excellent site is the National Library of Scotland website https://maps.nls.uk/which allows you to look at the same place or grid reference on a range of maps over time – it works for your home, where you grew up and for looking up places like Hook’s Farm.

Thanks to Bromley Common and the other Bromley parks there is still a leafy edge that the young H.G. Wells might recognise, despite 150 years of building and suburban infill. The Ravensbourne Stream can be clearly seen.

https://maps.nls.uk/view/102343480#zoom=6&lat=8025&lon=1801&layers=BT

The Battle of Hook’s Farm – where geography meets ImagiNations?

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 28 February 2021

The Battles of Hook’s Farm and St Martins Hill – H. G. Wells’ Experiment in Autobiography and Little Wars

H G Wells (1866-1946) in his lengthy Experiment in Autobiography (1934) mentions Little Wars (1913) only once:

https://gutenberg.ca/ebooks/wellshg-autobiography/wellshg-autobiography-00-h-dir/wellshg-autobiography-00-h.html#Page_76

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.

https://bromleytownparks.wordpress.com

“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.”

St Martins Hill in Bromley – image source: Bromleytownparks.wordpress.com – Who walking there today could imagine the epic battles that once were waged there in HGW’s young head?

“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.

[76] ”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.

I am also sensing some thing a little bit similar to the Brontes’ warlike ImagiNations juvenile fiction in their Little Books – explored in my blog page / posts here https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/gaming-the-bronte-family-imaginations-of-glasstown-angria-gondal-and-gaaldine/

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 …

STS Little Britons & BP’s Cloak of Romance reading list for imaginative Scouting Wide Games

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.

https://archive.org/details/littlewarsgamefo00well/page/62/mode/2up.

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?)

Sadly Martin’s Hill now has its own war memorial, proving the point of Wells’ last chapter in Little Wars about the perils of the Great Wars that occurred merely one year later and a quarter of a century later https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1116976

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).”

https://thehistoryofchattertonvillage.wordpress.com/bromley-common-in-the-early-1800s/

The Wells family of Southborough Lodge – any relation I wonder to H.G. Wells? He came from a large family, as did his his father Joseph Wells.

Firely (Church) does not seem to exist but there is the exotically named Farwig!

Free historic maps can be found at the Bromley Local History Society https://www.bblhs.org.uk/maps

https://www.bblhs.org.uk/bromley-common#&gid=1189361799&pid=6

One to explore on the old maps for future gaming scenarios and wide games maps.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, February / March 2021

Two more players of Little Wars, November 9th 1912

Three more early players of the Floor Games at Easton Glebe, November 9th, 1912 identified by Mathilde Meyer, Swiss Governess to H.G. Wells’ two sons Frank and Gip:

“On our return home we found Mr Reginald Turner, Mr Byng and Mr Wells playing the ‘Floor Game’ in the schoolroom.”

[Image Source: Wikipedia. A table crying out for toy soldiers and a spring loaded gun?]

Reginald Turner

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Turner

Reginald “Reggie” Turner (1869 – 1938) was a friend of H.G. Wells, also an English author, aesthete and a member of the circle of Oscar Wilde.

He worked as a journalist, wrote twelve novels, and his correspondence has been published. However Reggie is best known as one of the few friends who remained loyal to Oscar Wilde when he was imprisoned, and who supported him after his release.

Interestingly R Thurston Hopkins, another accidental witness to Little Wars wrote literary studies about both Wells and Wilde. Wells also knew Robert Ross, another of Wilde’s circle.

Along with the Byng brothers, Reginald Turner is not amongst the more well known literary figures like Wells as signatories of the Authors Declaration supporting the war https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/05/three-more-players-of-h-g-wells-floor-game-little-wars-1913/

Mr Byng

Two possible candidates – both brothers, both friends of Wells mentioned by Mathilde Meyer in H. G. Wells and his Family

Hugh Edward Cranmer-Byng

Hugh Byng (centre) next to Gip Wells on the left

Or maybe the player that day was his brother Launcelot A. Cranmer Byng.

Both brothers were writers or playwrights, fellow Dunmow or Essex residents, so in Wells’ Easton Glebe neighbourhood and ‘scions of the “Torrington Baronetcy”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscount_Torrington

as well as part of Daisy Countess of Warwick’s circle at Easton.

Hugh Byng (1873-1949)

Hugh Edward Cranmer Cranmer-Byng was born on 12 December 1873. He was the son of Lt.-Col. Alfred Molyneux Cranmer-Byng and Caroline Mary Tufnell. He married Kathleen West, daughter of George Edward West of Dunmow on 24 October 1916. He gained the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery in WW1. He died on 20 September 1949 at age 75. Source: http://www.thepeerage.com/p59516.html

A selection of Hugh Byng’s books

A Pageant for Saffron Walden written by Hugh, Lyrics by brother Launcelot, 1910

A Romance of the Fair and other writings, Hugh and Launcelot Cranmer Byng 1897?

Yang Chu’s Garden of Plaesure (extensive introduction? to Alfred Forke’s translation, co-edited by Launcelot Cranmer Byng 1912)

https://archive.org/details/yangchusgardenof00yang/

Essex Speech and Humour (Benson, reprinted newspaper pieces, not dated)

Dialect and Songs of Essex (Benson, not dated )

He also wrote a number of comic plays, often in the Essex dialect. Along with Herbert Goldstein (musician/ composer) and his lyricist brother Launcelot, they were part of the Edwardian Vaughan Williams / Cecil Sharp generation of the English Folk Song Society collectors; Hugh and Herbert (according to The Sketch Sept 14, 1910) collected and so “rescued from threatened oblivion a delightful collection, not yet published, of old Essex folk songs.”

The Essex tales or topographical books again put him into the same 1910s 1920s genre as R. Thurston Hopkins who was writing about Sussex and elsewhere.

Whilst Wells was busy with his writing and government propaganda work during WW1, 41 to 42 year old Hugh Byng joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) Anti Aircraft unit in London in May 1915, then in July 1916 the Royal Garrison Artillery. He appears to have served on ‘home service only’.

If Hugh is the Mr Byng noted as a player of Little Wars, then his experience of artillery changes from Spring loaded cannons of Little Wars 1913 to the full size artillery of the Great War, including against Zeppelins or the “aerial menace” that Wells wrote about.

Hugh Byng’s service record, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve RNVR Anti Aircraft section London

The Gazette – 1916 Hugh Byng’s transfer and promotion to the RGA

Hugh survived the war and went in to serve in the ARP in WW2, according to the 1939 Register.

The West family were the relatives or parents of his wife, Kathleen West. Appropriately for the daughter of a comic playwright and amateur actor, Hugh Byng’s daughter Roselean is registered in the 1939 Register as an actress.

Essex Chronicle September 23rd 1949

Hugh Byng was also Lord of the Manor of Glencarn in Cumberland (now Cumbria / The Lake District). In August 1912 Mr and Mrs Wells motored up there by car with Hugh Byng and R.D. Blumenfeld (editor of the Daily Express). Hugh Byng had a motor accident on the way home.

De Vere Stacpoole’s obituary from the Penrith Observer 17 April 1951

Launcelot Cranmer Byng (1872-1945)

See above for parent information. Like Hugh, Launcelot was interested in China – sinology – and wrote or edited a number of books of translations of Chinese writing as editor of the Wisdom from the East series.

ed.: The Book of Odes (Shi-King) (London: John Murray

ed.: A Feast of Lanterns (London: John Murray, 1916)

ed.: A Lute of Jade: Selections from the Classical Poets of China

List of books available online: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Cranmer-Byng%2C%20L.%20(Launcelot)%2C%201872-1945

Many of these books can be read online at Archive.org

https://archive.org/search.php?query=Launcelot%20Cranmer%20Byng

Launcelot the lyricist was also a friend of the composer Granville Bantock and may even have been a Welsh bard? r For an artistic chap who edited Oriental verse and wrote poems in the 1890s including Poems of Paganism 1895 published under the pseudonym ‘Paganus’, Captain Launcelot A. Cranmer Byng also had quite a long military connection in the Territorial Force and Officer’s General Reserve.

By 1902 he was a Lieutenant in the 3rd (Cambridgeshire) Volunteer Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment and rose to Captain. It is not clear if he served with them in the South African War.

His first wife died in 1913, he remarried one Daisy Elaine Beach twenty years his junior in 1916 during his service in WW1. They had one son.

He became Captain, Adjutant and Quarter Master (London Gazette, 1917). When discharged at the end of the war in 1919, he retained the rank of Captain. His officer records at the National Archives are sadly not available online (not yet digitised) but his Cambridge Alumni listing gives an idea of what he did on the General List in WW1:

Capetian, General List (Territorial Force Reserve) Commandant Prisoner of War Camp, WW1

By 1939 he listed his past military experience on the 1939 Register

Another Byng Barontecy That Wells knew?

Mathilde Meyer, the Wells family Swiss Governess, was helped to find a new position at Capheaton Hall by Evelyn Lady Byng, of ice hockey trophy fame (1870-1949). She was wife of Julian, Lord Byng, General Byng or Viscount Byng of Vimy Ridge (1862-1935), WW1 General and from 1921 Governor General of Canada. In 1910 they lived at Newton Hall, Dunmow, Essex. General Byng was a cousin to Hugh and Launcelot Byng.

Evelyn Lady Byng and General / Viscount Byng of Vimy Ridge. Source: Wikipedia.

*********

What a distinguished group of gentry and soldiers, artists and aesthetes surrounded the Wells family and its Little Wars ‘Floor Game’, united by clever talk of literature and politics as well as indoor and outdoor games.

Not a bad social circle for the son of a gardener, which is what I will explore in my next post about Jessie Allen Brookes, the Wells’ long-serving Nurse / Cook Domestic throughout the Little Wars period, whose father was also a gardener. I think this is what they now call “social mobility”.

Easton Glebe, November 9th, 1912: Mathilde Meyer’s memoir –

“On our return home we found Mr Reginald Turner, Mr Byng and Mr Wells playing the ‘Floor Game’ in the schoolroom.”

Finally, an interesting article from the Essex Chronicle Friday 25 July 1941 looking back on the Wells family at Easton Glebe in the Little Wars period 27 years earlier, noting how many of this Wells and Warwick Circle had moved on and had begun to pass away.

It is suggested that Wells in Mr. Britling Sees It Through, his satirical or mildly wartime 1916 novel written during WW1, uses several of his Easton circle as thinly disguised characters in his book.

“Where are they now, the old figures in the book, whom Mr. Wells so vehemently denied as being copies of the originals?” asks the columnist “An Essex Man”

RDB is R.D. Blumenfeld, editor of the Daily Express, a neighbour of Wells

Karl Butow was the languages tutor for the growing Wells boys; he replaced Mathilde Meyer in 1913, before the boys went to school. A year or so later he would have returned to Germany on the outbreak of the WW1.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 February 2021

Little Wars – some more from the memoir of Mathilde Meyer, Governess to H G Wells’ children

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:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/05/three-more-players-of-h-g-wells-floor-game-little-wars-1913/

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:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/the-invisible-men-and-women-behind-h-g-wells-little-wars-and-floor-games/

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.

Part of the Warwick Circle with the Wells family from Mathilde’s memoir

This is the only photograph (below) that I have found of Mathilde Meyer, taken from her memoir H G Wells and his family.

Mathilde Meyer (left?) and the wife (right?) of the other tutor Mr Classey

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.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 20 February 2021.

“I never thought of building magic cities till the Indian soldiers came”

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.

The Magic City – probably the one built by Edith Nesbit at the Olympia exhibition (note the rope barrier holders) late 1912/ early 1913

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.”

Colonial Troops and Indian Cavalry Page from James Opie, Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893 – 1932

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.

Andrew Stevenson’s beautifully painted recasts from Replica

https://traditionoflondonshop.com/Toy_Soldiers_54mm_in_Gloss/Indian_Army_1890-1910&osCsid=t1inqlfkr0adbm3upqgmdabgm7

Not forgetting the rich castings and repair pieces at Dorset Toy Soldiers:

https://imperialminiatures.co.uk/product-category/dorset-model-soldiers/castings-dorset-model-soldiers/the-indian-army/

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).

The Square Tower – drawn by GB George Barraud for Wings and the Child

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)

A Chinese Temple

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 …”

The Tomb in the Desert

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”

The Silver Towers
The Hall of Pearl and Red

You can see E.Nesbit with part of her Magic City in this webpage photograph:

Nesbit and her Magic City http://www.transpositions.co.uk/e-nesbit-as-fantasy-god-mother/

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

Paul Cyril Bland (1880–1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated;

Mary Iris Bland (1881–1965)

Fabian Bland (1885–1900).

She also adopted Bland’s two children from an affair with her friend Alice Hoatson,

Rosamund Edith Nesbit Hamilton, later Bland (1886–1950) to whom The Book of Dragons was dedicated;

John Oliver Wentworth Bland (1899–1946) to whom The House of Arden and Five Children and It were dedicated.

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

http://www.edithnesbit.co.uk/biography.php

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 29 / 30 January 2021

The Poor Child’s City – E. Nesbit on teachers, schools and making Magic Cities in Wings and The Child 1913

“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.

Cotton Reels and pine cones or acorns for Magical City gardens

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 Exhibition Olympia 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.

This Edwardian period is one where I often base my games, from suffragette bill postering on wheels to Scouting Wide Games for Boy and Girl Scouts.

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.

Clothes pegs sawn into three parts for building.

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:

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38977/38977-h/38977-h.htm#Page_174

Cocoanut Cottage … tin can towers

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.

Bravo Board and Council School Teachers!

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 24 January 2021

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:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/how-to-feed-toy-soldiers/

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

https://scholarlyediting.org/2017/editions/littlewars/intro.html#page_info

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:

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38977/38977-h/38977-h.htm#Page_3

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

The Invisible Men and Women behind H G Wells’ Little Wars and Floor Games

Lovely illustration by Peter Dennis for his Little Wars PaperBoys volume (Helion)

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)

In his appendix to Little Wars, Wells writes that Little Wars:

“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?

Colonel Sir 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.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Sykes

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.

Image source: eBay press cutting

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.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/humber/7617968.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/humber/6402539.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/yorkslincs/series11/week8_flu.shtml

Robert Thurston Hopkins

Hopkins was the accidental witness of Wells’ meeting with publisher Frank Palmer and demonstration of Little Wars – I have written more about him here: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/r-thurston-hopkins-on-rls-h-g-wells-and-little-wars/

G K Chesterton we have already mentioned in another post

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/toy-soldiers-and-the-napoleon-of-notting-hill-by-g-k-chesterton-1904/

Jerome K. Jerome (JKJ)

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

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/house-of-hg-wells

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spade_House

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:

George Philip Wells (known as “Gip”; 1901–1985) G.P.W.

Frank Richard Wells (1903–1982) F.R.W.

They appear in the text of Floor Games as Captain F.R.W and Captain G.P.W.

These two sons are the two boys on the cover of the 1911 Floor Games.

By 1910 the Wells family had moved to 17 Church Row (now Church Way) in Hampstead, where Wells had another of his extramarital affairs:

https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/17-church-row-hampstead-hgwells.htm

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

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/mr-w-and-a-dear-friend-who-died-two-more-invisible-men-behind-little-wars-1913

2. A Very Dear Friend who died

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

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/mr-w-and-a-dear-friend-who-died-two-more-invisible-men-behind-little-wars-1913/

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

1881 Giles Street Edinburgh Census – J.R. Sinclair – Draughtsman Litho

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:’

James Ramage Sinclair’s probate for his death aged only 50. October 1916.

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)

http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Doris_M_Palmer/Doris_M_Palmer.htm

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.”

Her inscribed copy of Floor Games survives:

https://www.sothebys.com/fr/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/library-english-bibliophile-part-five-l15416/lot.126.html

https://historical.ha.com/itm/books/children-s-books/h-g-wells-floor-games-london-1911-two-copies-of-the-first-edition-one-inscribed-by-wells-to-his/a/6094-36457.s

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)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22777029

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.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 20 January 2021

H.G. Wells, The New Machiavelli (1911), Toy Soldiers, Floor Games And Little Wars

The second chapter from H.G. Wells’ book The New Machiavelli published in 1911 seems very familiar.

I understand that this chapter led to publisher Frank Palmer asking Wells to write more about this area of boys’ games and celebrated uncles. This eventually became an illustrated article in the Strand Magazine and eventually a whole book of Floor Games in 1911. This book was followed in late 1912 by two magazine articles in Windsor Magazine that became Little Wars in mid 1913.

My originals of the Little Wars ‘Hooks Farm’ second article from Windsor Magazine January 1913 and Floor Games in Strand magazine December 1911

You can read The New Machiavelli in full here:

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1047/1047-h/1047-h.htm

I have broken up the large blocks of text with my own paragraphs or sections.

Important to read the ‘I’ of the following as both a fictional character, the first person narrator Richard (‘ Master Dick’ or ‘Rich’) Remington but based on Wells’ own play with his two sons which led to Floor Games.

The childhood games room setting in the novel is not quite the comfortable cork tile carpet floored of the day nursery of Little Wars or Floor Games.

Floor Games (Dec 1911) can be read for free here with its illustrations:

https://archive.org/details/floorgames00well

Little Wars (1913) can be read for free here with its illustrations:

https://archive.org/details/littlewarsgamefo00well

Compare them with this chapter –

H.G. Wells, The New Machiavelli (1911)

CHAPTER THE SECOND ~~ BROMSTEAD AND MY FATHER

I dreamt first of states and cities and political things when I was a little boy in knickerbockers.

When I think of how such things began in my mind, there comes back to me the memory of an enormous bleak room with its ceiling going up to heaven and its floor covered irregularly with patched and defective oilcloth and a dingy mat or so and a “surround” as they call it, of dark stained wood.

Here and there against the wall are trunks and boxes. There are cupboards on either side of the fireplace and bookshelves with books above them, and on the wall and rather tattered is a large yellow-varnished geological map of the South of England.

Over the mantel is a huge lump of white coral rock and several big fossil bones, and above that hangs the portrait of a brainy gentleman, sliced in half and displaying an interior of intricate detail and much vigour of coloring. It is the floor I think of chiefly; over the oilcloth of which, assumed to be land, spread towns and villages and forts of wooden bricks; there are steep square hills (geologically, volumes of Orr’s CYCLOPAEDIA OF THE SCIENCES) and the cracks and spaces of the floor and the bare brown surround were the water channels and open sea of that continent of mine.

I still remember with infinite gratitude the great-uncle to whom I owe my bricks. He must have been one of those rare adults who have not forgotten the chagrins and dreams of childhood.

Note: Wooden bricks, Celebrated Great Uncles or Uncles and out of work carpenters make it variously into Floor Games (1911) and Little Wars (1913).

My copy of Strand Magazine with the Floor Games article showing Wells’ two sons.

He was a prosperous west of England builder; including my father he had three nephews, and for each of them he caused a box of bricks to be made by an out-of-work carpenter, not the insufficient supply of the toyshop, you understand, but a really adequate quantity of bricks made out of oak and shaped and smoothed, bricks about five inches by two and a half by one, and half-bricks and quarter-bricks to correspond.

There were hundreds of them, many hundreds. I could build six towers as high as myself with them, and there seemed quite enough for every engineering project I could undertake. I could build whole towns with streets and houses and churches and citadels; I could bridge every gap in the oilcloth and make causeways over crumpled spaces (which I feigned to be morasses), and on a keel of whole bricks it was possible to construct ships to push over the high seas to the remotest port in the room. And a disciplined population, that rose at last by sedulous begging on birthdays and all convenient occasions to well over two hundred, of lead sailors and soldiers, horse, foot and artillery, inhabited this world.

Justice has never been done to bricks and soldiers by those who write about toys. The praises of the toy theatre have been a common theme for essayists, the planning of the scenes, the painting and cutting out of the cast, penny plain twopence coloured, the stink and glory of the performance and the final conflagration.

See my blog post about RLS, his famous essay on Toy Theatre, Penny Plain and Tuppence Coloured, H.G. Wells and his circle …

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/12/12/penny-plain-and-tuppence-coloured-rls-the-toy-theatre-of-war-and-early-wargaming/

I had such a theatre once, but I never loved it nor hoped for much from it; my bricks and soldiers were my perpetual drama. I recall an incessant variety of interests. There was the mystery and charm of the complicated buildings one could make, with long passages and steps and windows through which one peeped into their intricacies, and by means of slips of card one could make slanting ways in them, and send marbles rolling from top to base and thence out into the hold of a waiting ship.

Then there were the fortresses and gun emplacements and covered ways in which one’s soldiers went. And there was commerce; the shops and markets and store-rooms full of nasturtium seed, thrift seed, lupin beans and suchlike provender from the garden; such stuff one stored in match-boxes and pill-boxes, or packed in sacks of old glove fingers tied up with thread and sent off by waggons along the great military road to the beleaguered fortress on the Indian frontier beyond the worn places that were dismal swamps. And there were battles on the way.

That great road is still clear in my memory. I was given, I forget by what benefactor, certain particularly fierce red Indians of lead—I have never seen such soldiers since—and for these my father helped me to make tepees of brown paper, and I settled them in a hitherto desolate country under the frowning nail-studded cliffs of an ancient trunk. Then I conquered them and garrisoned their land. (Alas! they died, no doubt through contact with civilisation—one my mother trod on—and their land became a wilderness again and was ravaged for a time by a clockwork crocodile of vast proportions.) And out towards the coal-scuttle was a region near the impassable thickets of the ragged hearthrug where lived certain china Zulus brandishing spears, and a mountain country of rudely piled bricks concealing the most devious and enchanting caves and several mines of gold and silver paper.

Among these rocks a number of survivors from a Noah’s Ark made a various, dangerous, albeit frequently invalid and crippled fauna, and I was wont to increase the uncultivated wildness of this region further by trees of privet-twigs from the garden hedge and box from the garden borders. By these territories went my Imperial Road carrying produce to and fro, bridging gaps in the oilcloth, tunnelling through Encyclopaedic hills—one tunnel was three volumes long—defended as occasion required by camps of paper tents or brick blockhouses, and ending at last in a magnificently engineered ascent to a fortress on the cliffs commanding the Indian reservation.

With such an enthusiastic and detailed description, it is easy to here to remember J.R. Sinclair’s marvellous marginal line drawings and also the photographs in Floor Games and Little Wars. Note Celebrated Uncles bridge!

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/on-railways-and-floor-wars-the-lwr-fwr-the-hgwr/

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My games upon the floor must have spread over several years and developed from small beginnings, incorporating now this suggestion and now that. They stretch, I suppose, from seven to eleven or twelve. I played them intermittently, and they bulk now in the retrospect far more significantly than they did at the time. I played them in bursts, and then forgot them for long periods; through the spring and summer I was mostly out of doors, and school and classes caught me early. And in the retrospect I see them all not only magnified and transfigured, but fore-shortened and confused together.

A clockwork railway, I seem to remember, came and went; one or two clockwork boats, toy sailing ships that, being keeled, would do nothing but lie on their beam ends on the floor; a detestable lot of cavalrymen, undersized and gilt all over, given me by a maiden aunt, and very much what one might expect from an aunt, that I used as Nero used his Christians to ornament my public buildings; and I finally melted some into fratricidal bullets, and therewith blew the rest to flat splashes of lead by means of a brass cannon in the garden.

I find this empire of the floor much more vivid and detailed in my memory now than many of the owners of the skirts and legs and boots that went gingerly across its territories. Occasionally, alas! they stooped to scrub, abolishing in one universal destruction the slow growth of whole days of civilised development. I still remember the hatred and disgust of these catastrophes. Like Noah I was given warnings. Did I disregard them, coarse red hands would descend, plucking garrisons from fortresses and sailors from ships, jumbling them up in their wrong boxes, clumsily so that their rifles and swords were broken, sweeping the splendid curves of the Imperial Road into heaps of ruins, casting the jungle growth of Zululand into the fire.

“Well, Master Dick,” the voice of this cosmic calamity would say, “you ought to have put them away last night. No! I can’t wait until you’ve sailed them all away in ships. I got my work to do, and do it I will.”

And in no time all my continents and lands were swirling water and swiping strokes of house-flannel.

That was the worst of my giant visitants, but my mother too, dear lady, was something of a terror to this microcosm. She wore spring-sided boots, a kind of boot now vanished, I believe, from the world, with dull bodies and shiny toes, and a silk dress with flounces that were very destructive to the more hazardous viaducts of the Imperial Road. She was always, I seem to remember, fetching me; fetching me for a meal, fetching me for a walk or, detestable absurdity! fetching me for a wash and brush up, and she never seemed to understand anything whatever of the political Systems across which she came to me.

Also she forbade all toys on Sundays except the bricks for church-building and the soldiers for church parade, or a Scriptural use of the remains of the Noah’s Ark mixed up with a wooden Swiss dairy farm. But she really did not know whether a thing was a church or not unless it positively bristled with cannon, and many a Sunday afternoon have I played Chicago (with the fear of God in my heart) under an infidel pretence that it was a new sort of ark rather elaborately done.

Chicago, I must explain, was based upon my father’s description of the pig slaughterings in that city and certain pictures I had seen. You made your beasts—which were all the ark lot really, provisionally conceived as pigs—go up elaborate approaches to a central pen, from which they went down a cardboard slide four at a time, and dropped most satisfyingly down a brick shaft, and pitter-litter over some steep steps to where a head slaughterman (Mr. Noah) strung a cotton loop round their legs and sent them by pin hooks along a wire to a second slaughterman with a chipped foot (formerly Mrs. Noah) who, if I remember rightly, converted them into Army sausage by means of a portion of the inside of an old alarum clock.

My mother did not understand my games, but my father did. He wore bright-coloured socks and carpet slippers when he was indoors—my mother disliked boots in the house—and he would sit down on my little chair and survey the microcosm on the floor with admirable understanding and sympathy.

It was he who gave me most of my toys and, I more than suspect, most of my ideas. “Here’s some corrugated iron,” he would say, “suitable for roofs and fencing,” and hand me a lump of that stiff crinkled paper that is used for packing medicine bottles. Or, “Dick, do you see the tiger loose near the Imperial Road?—won’t do for your cattle ranch.” And I would find a bright new lead tiger like a special creation at large in the world, and demanding a hunting expedition and much elaborate effort to get him safely housed in the city menagerie beside the captured dragon crocodile, tamed now, and his key lost and the heart and spring gone out of him.

And to the various irregular reading of my father I owe the inestimable blessing of never having a boy’s book in my boyhood except those of Jules Verne. But my father used to get books for himself and me from the Bromstead Institute, Fenimore Cooper and Mayne Reid and illustrated histories; one of the Russo-Turkish war and one of Napier’s expedition to Abyssinia I read from end to end; Stanley and Livingstone, lives of Wellington, Napoleon and Garibaldi, and back volumes of PUNCH, from which I derived conceptions of foreign and domestic politics it has taken years of adult reflection to correct.

And at home permanently we had Wood’s NATURAL HISTORY, a brand-new illustrated Green’s HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE, Irving’s COMPANIONS OF COLUMBUS, a great number of unbound parts of some geographical work, a VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD I think it was called, with pictures of foreign places, and Clarke’s NEW TESTAMENT with a map of Palestine, and a variety of other informing books bought at sales.

There was a Sowerby’s BOTANY also, with thousands of carefully tinted pictures of British plants, and one or two other important works in the sitting-room. I was allowed to turn these over and even lie on the floor with them on Sundays and other occasions of exceptional cleanliness.

And in the attic I found one day a very old forgotten map after the fashion of a bird’s-eye view, representing the Crimea, that fascinated me and kept me for hours navigating its waters with a pin.

End of chapter two of The New Machiavelli H.G. Wells (1911)

I have not read the whole 400+ pages but I think that is the end of the Toy Soldier (i.e. interesting) bit. I put a few interesting phrases in italics.

*

My Thoughts on this chapter of The New Machiavelli

I wonder how autobiographical this detailed chapter is? The rest of the book is heavily based on the events of his adult life at the time. According to Wikipedia:

The novel’s themes are politics and sex, both abiding preoccupations of the author. Biographer David Smith called The New Machiavelli “Wells’s most autobiographical novel”. (Wikipedia plot summary)

I wonder also whether the choice of named books means something for us to interpret about the character or the character’s father? The main character or first person Narrator, the ‘I’ of the book, Richard Remington is supposed to be an adult looking back accounting for his life and loves so far, a man:

“who has a lifelong passion for “statecraft” and who dreams of recasting the social and political form of the English nation.” (Wikipedia plot summary)

I find echoes of the diverse reading matter and intense Toy Soldier inspired games and juvenilia in the isolated but story and book rich household three Bronte sisters and brother Branwell.

The Wikipedia introduction / summary of the book mentions:

The New Machiavelli is a 1911 novel by Wells that was serialised in The English Review in 1910. Because its plot notoriously derived from Wells’s affair with Amber Reeves and satirised Beatrice and Sidney Webb, it was “the literary scandal of its day.”

The earliest first four editions of the Edwardian literary magazine The English Review in 1908-09 featured his novel Tono Bungay in four monthly parts before it was published as a book. Wells was obliviously used to serialising a book idea like Little Wars or Floor Games as articles in monthly journals before publishing them as a book.

I find a level of irony based on where it was probably written or completed, 1910/11 at Church Row, Hampstead not at his previous seaside home of Spade House in Sandgate, Folkestone in Kent. Wells is portraying an ideal of fathers and avuncular Celebrated Uncles in this chapter, as well as making public the games with his two young sons in Floor Games and Little Wars (either in magazine or book form).

However this guided walk around London entry outlines Wells’ “other family” and affairs that was developing at this time with young Fabian and feminist Amber Reeves (1887-1981), daughter of a New Zealand diplomat or politician , including the birth of an illegitimate daughter Anna Jane in late 1909.

https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/17-church-row-hampstead-hgwells.htm

The narrator of Wells’ The New Machiavelli also has echoes of the cheery and jocular tone of so many of the Edwardian satirical writers at the same time as Wells. Maybe with a hint of Dickens at his cheeriest too?

There is an echo of the cheeky sarcasm and patronising attitude especially to well-meaning uncomprehending women underlying Saki’s short story about toy figures, the Toys of Peace.

G. K. Chesterton the Edwardian writer apparently used to game with Wells. Bob Cordery wrote an interesting blog entry on GKC, Father Brown and ImagiNations http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.com/2013/02/father-brown-and-german-imagi-nation.html

Chesterton even wrote a scene in his satirical comic novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904) featuring an early Wargamer Mr Turnbull – one to come back to for another forthcoming blog post:

Wayne meets with predictable, and comic, incomprehension until he comes to the sweet and toy shop of Mr Turnbull, who stuns him by revealing that, in his spare time, he plays wargames with his lead soldiers and – has even built a model of Notting Hill which he uses to play wargames!

https://astrofella.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/the-napoleon-of-notting-hill-g-k-chesterton/

The Fabian Society Socialists Beatrice and Sidney Webb pair are also gently mocked in Wells’ Toy Theatre plays with his literary friend G.K. Chesterton – https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/12/12/penny-plain-and-tuppence-coloured-rls-the-toy-theatre-of-war-and-early-wargaming

A glimpse into the Edwardian literary origins of Little Wars with Mr. H. G. Wells and friends.

In future weeks I will be exploring a bit more about some of the interesting men and women around in Wells’ life during the development of Floor Games and Little Wars.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 15 January 2021