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.

A Broken Man: Jerome K. Jerome, The War Game, Little Wars and his service in the Great War

https://www.jeromekjerome.com

One of the literary figures supporting H. G. Wells and his development of the Floor Game and Little Wars was the author Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) or J.K.J. as he is known in Little Wars. I mentioned him in a recent blog post:

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

Jerome K. Jerome (JKJ) and Little Wars

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 his seaside home at Sandgate in Kent, England. Wells had two young sons, Gip and Frank Wells, born 1901 and 1903, to whom the “irrepressible debris of a small boy’s pleasures” probably belonged. Wells wrote:

“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. …” (H G Wells, Little Wars, 1913)

Here Wells’ war game with toy soldiers moved from skittles or a shooting game more to one of strategy.

Like Chesterton, Wells and Nesbit, Jerome K. Jerome has a Literary Society devoted to his work: https://www.jeromekjerome.com

Reading his biography page on the website, Jerome can be seen as a hidden casualty of the Great War that Wells warned about in his Pacific last chapter of Little Wars in 1913.

Jerome wrote in his memoirs that in August 1914: “I heard of our declaration of war against Germany with cheerful satisfaction. The animal in me rejoiced. It was going to be the biggest war in history. I thanked whatever gods there be that they had given it in my time. If I had been anywhere near the age limit I should have enlisted. I can say this with confidence because later, and long after my enthusiasm had worn off, I did manage to get work in quite a dangerous part of the front line.”

“Men all around me were throwing up their jobs, sacrificing their careers. I felt ashamed of myself, sitting in safety at my desk, writing articles encouraging them, at so much a thousand words. Of course, not a soul dreamt the war was going to last more than a few months. Had we known, it might have been another story. But the experts had assured us on that point. Mr. Wells was most emphatic. It was Mr. Wells who proclaimed it a Holy War. I have just been reading again those early letters of his. A Miss Cooper Willis has, a little unkindly, reprinted them. I am glad she did not do the same with contributions of my own.”

The newspapers had roped in most of us literary gents to write them special articles upon the war. The appalling nonsense we poured out, during those hysterical first weeks, must have made the angels weep, and all the little devils hold their sides with laughter. In justice to myself, I like to remember that I did gently ridicule the “War to end war” stuff and nonsense. I had heard that talk in my babyhood: since when I had lived through one of the bloodiest half centuries in history. War will go down before the gradual growth of reason. The movement has not yet begun.” (P.281, Jerome’s My Life and Times)

At first Jerome was keen as any other volunteer or writer to do his bit, preferably near the front line (or “got out”). However by his age his options were limited including the ‘Home Guard’ of the Volunteer Training Corps VTC, nicknamed the “Gorgeous Wrecks” or Rejects from their red GR arm bands:

Jerome K. Jerome’s 1925/6 memoir “My Life and Times” was written a year or so before he died:

“It was in the autumn of 1916 that I “got out,” as the saying was. I had been trying to get there for some time. Of course my age, fifty-five, shut all the usual doors against me. I could have joined a company of “veterans” for home defence, and have guarded the Crystal Palace, or helped to man the Thames Embankment; but I wanted to see the real thing. I had offered myself as an entertainer to the Y.M.C.A. I was a capable raconteur and had manufactured, or appropriated, a number of good stories.”

“The Y.M.C.A. had tried me on home hospitals and camps and had approved me. But the War Office would not give its permission. The military gentleman I saw was brief. So far as his information went, half the British Army were making notes for future books. If I merely wanted to be useful, he undertook to find me a job in the Army Clothing Department, close by in Pimlico. I suppose my motives for wanting to go out were of the usual mixed order. I honestly thought I would be doing sound work, helping the Tommies to forget their troubles […]”

A few years younger, Jerome could have joined the Cavalry or Yeomanry. In an earlier chapter ‘The Author at Play’, Jerome mentions his dislike of game shooting, his dislike of fox hunting (because of the fox) and his love of riding and driving carriage horses:

“I learnt riding with the Life Guards at Knightsbridge barracks. It was a rough school, but thorough. You were not considered finished until you could ride all your paces bareback, with the reins loose; and when the Sergeant-Major got hold of a horse with new tricks, he would put it aside for his favourite pupil.”

There is a whole chapter in his memoir (published in 1925/26) about his war experience, starting with his news of how foreign wars were reported, supported or opposed in Britain throughout his childhood, almost taking the Queen’s shilling out of poverty:

“I was down on my luck when the Russo-Turkish War broke out. There were hopes at first that we might be drawn into it. I came near to taking the Queen’s shilling. I had slept at a doss-house the night before, and had had no breakfast. A sergeant of Lancers stopped me in Trafalgar Square. He put his hands on my shoulders and punched my chest.

“You’re not the first of your family that’s been a soldier,” he said. “You’ll like it.”

It was a taking uniform: blue and silver with high Hessian boots. The advantages of making soldiers look like mud had not then been discovered.” (Chapter 12, The War)

… right through to the shifting colonial and international tensions in the build up to WW1 and how he served with the French Ambulance units. You can read this for free in this Project Gutenberg ebook free download:

https://gutenberg.ca/ebooks/jeromejk-mylife/jeromejk-mylife-00-h-dir/jeromejk-mylife-00-h.html

Jerome with his French Ambulance Unit – Image source: https://www.jeromekjerome.com

Over service age in 1914, he volunteered to serve in the Ambulance units in France and the experience of what he must have seen had a lasting effect on the comic novelist.

When he returned to England, his secretary observed “The old Jerome had gone… in his place was a stranger … a broken man”.

JKJ – player of Little Wars, sportsman, comic novelist – “Those who talk about war as a game … ought to be made to go out and play it.”

This quote came from his 1925/26 memoir, remembering his experiences in the Verdun French sector where a field hospital was shelled by the Germans but also thinking about his trip to America (1915) shortly before.

Now writing as Ambulance Driver Nine, he notes:

“The town was strangely peaceful, though all around the fighting still continued. Our Unit, Section 10, had been there the winter before, during the battle, and had had a strenuous time. During the actual fighting, Hague Conventions and Geneva regulations get themselves mislaid. The guns were eating up ammunition faster than the little tramways could supply them, and the ambulances did not always go up empty.

“Doubtless the German Red Cross drivers had likewise their blind eye. It is not the soldiers who shout about these things. I was on the “Lusitania,” the last voyage she made from New York to Liverpool, before she was torpedoed. We were loaded to the Plimsol line with war material. The Germans were accused of dropping shells on to the hospital. So they did. How could they help it? The ammunition park was one side of the railway head and the hospital the other. It was the most convenient place for both. Those who talk about war being a game ought to be made to go out and play it. They’d find their little book of rules of not much use.”

Presumably his quote about playing at war was not too much of a dig at his friend Wells’ Little Wars Chapter IV and its warning about the blunder of Great Wars?

“How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing,” Wells writes in Little Wars. “You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be. Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion …”

Wells’ wartime path diverged from that of Jerome. Wells was very active in Government Propaganda throughout WW1 through the Wartime Propganda Bureau run by his friend and Little Wars opponent Charles Masterman (see the related blog post on the Declaration of Authors).

Maybe Jerome’s remark is aimed at fellow jingo writers and poets like Sir Henry Newbolt with their sporting analogies to war (echoed in the sportsmen’s battalions)?

“Play Up, Play up, and Play the Game!”

(Vitai Lampada! or “They Pass On The Torch of Life”)

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —

Ten to make and the match to win —

A bumping pitch and a blinding light,

An hour to play and the last man in.

And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,

Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,

But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —

‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

*

The sand of the desert is sodden red, —

Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —

The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,

And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

The river of death has brimmed his banks,

And England’s far, and Honour a name,

But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:

‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

*

This is the word that year by year,

While in her place the School is set,

Every one of her sons must hear,

And none that hears it dare forget.

This they all with a joyful mind

Bear through life like a torch in flame,

And falling fling to the host behind —

‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

Sir Henry Newbolt, 1892

*

Like Wells and Jerome, Newbolt signed the 1914 Authors’ Declaration and was part of inspiring a generation of ‘heroic’ war poetry in the style of Rupert Brooke and minor, often public school wartime poets.

It is worth noting that even some of the later antiwar poets like Wilfred Owen started out with a flowery Rupert Brooke style heroic poetic view of the war at its beginning.

Brooke through the Neo Pagans group on the edge of the Bloomsbury group knew Harold Hobson, who played at Little Wars with Wells. We could play this ‘six degrees of separation’ connections and influences game back to Wells and Little Wars with a number of people. You know the sort of thing – Hobson knew Brooke who died en route to Gallipoli, a Churchill inspired disaster of a campaign; Wells can be doubly connected to Churchill through toy soldiers and through Liberal politician Charles Masterman. And so on and so on …

Reading Gissing’s letters to and from Wells and his family, there is a lovely informal group snapshot in Italy c. 1890s of Gissing, Wells, Conan Doyle and his brother in law Hornung. As the ‘Declaration of Authors’ signatures also show, the literary world was well connected at a professional and social, even friendly level.

“[Israel] Zangwill used to be keen on croquet, but never had the makings of a great player. Wells wasn’t bad. Of course, he wanted to alter all the laws and make a new game of his own. I had to abandon my lawn, in the end.” From the ‘Author at Play’ chapter in Jerome’s memoir.

Reading Jerome’s 1925/6 memoir I found that he was not the only one of the Author’s Declaration to suffer during WW1. In his chapter the ‘Author at Play’ about the “internationalism” of winter sports at Davos in Switzerland and such like in the years prior to the outbreak of WW1, p.233 –

“Engelberg is too low to be a good sports centre. We had some muggy weather, and to kill time I got up some private theatricals. Kipling’s boy and girl were there. They were jolly children. Young Kipling was a suffragette and little Miss Kipling played a costermonger’s Donah. Kipling himself combined the parts of scene-shifter and call boy. It was the first time I had met Mrs. Kipling since her marriage. She was still a beautiful woman, but her hair was white. There had always been sadness in her eyes, even when a girl. The Hornungs were there also, with their only child, Oscar. Mrs. Hornung, née Connie Doyle, was as cheery and vigorous as ever, but a shade stouter. Both boys were killed in the war.” (P.233)

Oscar Hornung, Conan Doyle’s nephew, was killed in 1915 – CWGC entry. Like the Hornung family, the Kiplings suffered the added grief of a son missing and an unknown grave until a recent (and disputed) identification – CWGC entry. The tragic story of John Kipling, Kipling’s only son, is well told in the Holt book, play and BBC TV drama My Boy Jack.

As Wells writes it at the end of Little Wars “And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing!”

Bloog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 2 / 3 February 2021

*

Blog Post Appendix – the ‘pacific’ challenge by Wells at the end of Little Wars, 1913: source – e: text from Project Gutenberg

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3691/3691-h/3691-h.htm#chap06

Little Wars Part VI

ENDING WITH A SORT OF CHALLENGE

I COULD go on now and tell of battles, copiously. In the memory of the one skirmish I have given I do but taste blood. I would like to go on, to a large, thick book. It would be an agreeable task. Since I am the chief inventor and practiser (so far) of Little Wars, there has fallen to me a disproportionate share of victories. But let me not boast. For the present, I have done all that I meant to do in this matter. It is for you, dear reader, now to get a floor, a friend, some soldiers and some guns, and show by a grovelling devotion your appreciation of this noble and beautiful gift of a limitless game that I have given you.

And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing!

Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster—and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence.

This world is for ample living; we want security and freedom; all of us in every country, except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We want fine things made for mankind—splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more—and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable “patriots,” and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers—tons, cellars-full—and let them lead their own lives there away from us.

My game is just as good as their game, and saner by reason of its size. Here is War, done down to rational proportions, and yet out of the way of mankind, even as our fathers turned human sacrifices into the eating of little images and symbolic mouthfuls. For my own part, I am prepared. I have nearly five hundred men, more than a score of guns, and I twirl my moustache and hurl defiance eastward from my home in Essex across the narrow seas. Not only eastward. I would conclude this little discourse with one other disconcerting and exasperating sentence for the admirers and practitioners of Big War. I have never yet met in little battle any military gentleman, any captain, major, colonel, general, or eminent commander, who did not presently get into difficulties and confusions among even the elementary rules of the Battle. You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be.

Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but—the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realisation conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do.”

H.G. Wells, Little Wars 1913

“Mr M. And his brother Captain, hot from The Great War in South Africa” identified? H.G. Wells and Little Wars 1913

In the early chapter of Little Wars, H.G. Wells identifies by initials some of the men who had helped in the development of his ‘Floor Game’ that became Little Wars. This material was published first in magazine article form in late 1912 and in book form by Frank Palmer in Summer 1913.

A number of famous men are identified – J.K.J. – Jerome K. Jerome the writer, another writer and invalid friend of Wells was probably George Gissing, Mr. W as the socialist and writer Mr Graham Wallas.

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

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

One of the unnamed men involved in developing the Little Wars game was “here a certain Mr. M and his brother, Captain M., hot from the Great War in South Africa came in helpfully to quicken it …”

https://archive.org/details/littlewarsgamefo00well/page/22/mode/2up

The Scholarly Editing team edited by Nigel Lepianka and Deanna Stover working on Little Wars identified Gissing and Mr. W – Graham Wallas – but had no idea who Mr M and Captain M were.

Scholarly Editing – Editor’s note 15. “This refers to the 1906–1907 Bambatha Rebellion where the Zulu revolted against the British. We have been unable to identify Captain M. or Mr. M.”

https://scholarlyediting.org/2017/editions/littlewars/fulltext.html#inlinenote15

I’m not sure if the Great War in South Africa meant the Boer War which Captain M. served in, the Great War not having yet acquired its WW1 connotation or this 1906 Bambatha Zulu Rebellion.

Having read H.G. Wells and his Family, the 1955 memoir by Mathilde Meyer, Swiss Governess to Wells’ two young sons Frank and Gip, I noticed that she described how on wet afternoons at Wells House, one of the favourite indoor pastimes was “The Floor Game” as it was called in the house. Three more of the named players were Liberal politician Charles F.G. Masterman, engineer Mr. Harold Hobson of the Bloomsbury literary set and Mr. E.S.P. Haynes.

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

This gave me a clue to who might be “a certain Mr. M” – could this be Mr Charles Masterman, important enough a political figure not be obviously named by Wells in association with Floor Games and Little Wars?

Did he have a “brother, Captain M. hot from the Great War in South Africa”?

I started tracing the Masterman family tree and a Boer War connection.

http://www.kentfallen.com/PDF%20REPORTS/TONBRIDGE%20BOER%20WAR.pdf

At first sight, the Tonbridge Boer War Memorial lists only a dead brother Captain Henry [Thomas] Masterman (1875-1900) who died on service in South Africa, a casualty like so many in that war of disease.

Listed as H.W. Masterman on the Tonbridge Boer War Memorial

MASTERMAN, HENRY (Harry) [Thomas]. Captain. 3rd Battalion, Welsh Regiment.
Died 28 November 1900. Aged 25.
Born Wimbledon, Surrey 17 July 1875.

Fifth son of Mrs. Margaret Hanson Masterman, (1841-1932) (née Gurney) of “Lonsdale,” Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and of the late Thomas William (Willie) Masterman, F.R.G.S. (1839-1894) of “The Hall,” Rotherfield, Sussex.
Buried Prieska, Northern Cape, South Africa.

“At the time of the 1881 census, the Masterman family resided at “South Villa,” Main Road, Bexley, Kent. Head of the house was 41 year old Wanstead, Essex native Thomas William Masterman, who was of Independent Means.

Henry was a Day Boy at Tonbridge School, Kent in 1889, and after leaving Tonbridge School he went to Weymouth College. At the latter establishment he was in the cricket and football teams. On leaving Weymouth College, Henry went up to St. John’s College, Cambridge, and afterwards to Christ’s College.”

“Whilst at Cambridge he was a Captain in the University Royal Volunteer Corps. In January 1899, he entered St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, but his battalion was embodied in December 1899, which he joined and accompanied to South Africa in February 1900. Whilst at Prieska he was appointed the Garrison Adjutant, a post which he held until he was taken ill. Henry died of Malaria and Meningitis at Prieska, which is situated on the south bank of the Orange River, Northern Cape, South Africa.”

This was not looking promising – Captain Henry Masterman died in 1900, so he could not be Captain M., until the same useful Kent Fallen Boer War Memorial Tunbridge publication mentioned another brother who became a Captain after service in the Boer War in South Africa:

“Henry’s brother; Walter Sydney Masterman was a Day Boy at Tonbridge School from 1889 to 1893, and he too served in the 3rd Battalion, Welsh Regiment which had included serving in the Second Boer War in 1900 and 1901.

Whilst at Tonbridge School, Walter won the Swimming Points Cup in 1893. From Tonbridge he went up to Christ’s College, Cambridgeshire.

In 1901 following the Second Boer War he was promoted to the rank of Captain, and attached to the 1st Cadet Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

In 1910 he became an Inspector of Musketry, and resided at 25, Woodbury Park Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent.”

Surely this must be our Captain M hot from the Great War in South Africa?

Amazingly a group photo of the six brothers by photographers Thomas Stearns exists at the National Portrait Gallery from 1899, the year before Henry was killed. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw147474/The-Masterman-family?LinkID=mp93958&role=sit&rNo=0

The six Masterman brothers 1899
Howard (the future bishop) front left. middle front Ernest, front right Arthur
Captain Henry who died back left, centre back Charles ‘Mr. M’ and back right ‘Captain M’ Walter Masterman, an 1899 photograph taken prior to Henry’s death in the Boer War (NPG collection)

The six Masterman brothers were:

Arthur Thomas Masterman (1869-1941), Zoologist.

Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman (1874-1927), Politician and author.

Ernest William Gurney Masterman (1867-1943), Medical missionary and scholar.

Henry Wright (‘Harry’) Masterman (1875-1900), Army officer.

John Howard Bertram Masterman (1867-1933), Bishop of Plymouth and writer

Walter Sidney Masterman (1876-1946), Writer, civil servant and army officer

The back row – Captain Henry Masterman who died in 1900, Charles or Wells’ “certain Mr. M” and Wells’ “Captain M”., Walter Masterman – photographed in 1899. (NPG Collection Source)

What did Mr M and Captain M add to Little Wars?

Chapter 1: “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.

“We cut down the number of shots per move to four, and we required that four men should be within six inches of a gun for it to be in action at all. Without four men it could neither fire nor move—it was out of action; and if it moved, the four men had to go with it. Moreover, to put an end to that little resistant body of men behind a house, we required that after a gun had been fired it should remain, without alteration of the elevation, pointing in the direction of its last shot, and have two men placed one on either side of the end of its trail. This secured a certain exposure on the part of concealed and sheltered gunners. It was no longer possible to go on shooting out of a perfect security for ever. All this favoured the attack and led to a livelier game.”

[It is difficult to know how much of Little Wars was developed with Mr M (Charles Masterman) and Captain M (Walter Sidney Masterman) but I assume here that ‘We’ and ‘Our’ refers to his collaboration with Mr M and Captain M, quickening the game.]

“Our next step was to abolish the tedium due to the elaborate aiming of the guns, by fixing a time limit for every move. We made this an outside limit at first, ten minutes, but afterwards we discovered that it made the game much more warlike to cut the time down to a length that would barely permit a slow-moving player to fire all his guns and move all his men. This led to small bodies of men lagging and “getting left,” to careless exposures, to rapid, less accurate shooting, and just that eventfulness one would expect in the hurry and passion of real fighting. It also made the game brisker. We have since also made a limit, sometimes of four minutes, sometimes of five minutes, to the interval for adjustment and deliberation after one move is finished and before the next move begins. This further removes the game from the chess category, and approximates it to the likeness of active service. Most of a general’s decisions, once a fight has begun, must be made in such brief intervals of time. (But we leave unlimited time at the outset for the planning.)”

“As to our time-keeping, we catch a visitor with a stop-watch if we can, and if we cannot, we use a fair-sized clock with a second-hand: the player not moving says “Go,” and warns at the last two minutes, last minute, and last thirty seconds. But I think it would not be difficult to procure a cheap clock—because, of course, no one wants a very accurate agreement with Greenwich as to the length of a second—that would have minutes instead of hours and seconds instead of minutes, and that would ping at the end of every minute and discharge an alarm note at the end of the move. That would abolish the rather boring strain of time-keeping. One could just watch the fighting.”

“Moreover, in our desire to bring the game to a climax, we decided that instead of a fight to a finish we would fight to some determined point, and we found very good sport in supposing that the arrival of three men of one force upon the back line of the opponent’s side of the country was of such strategic importance as to determine the battle. But this form of battle we have since largely abandoned in favour of the old fight to a finish again. We found it led to one type of battle only, a massed rush at the antagonist’s line, and that our arrangements of time-limits and capture and so forth had eliminated most of the concluding drag upon the game.”

“Our game was now very much in its present form. We considered at various times the possibility of introducing some complication due to the bringing up of ammunition or supplies generally, and we decided that it would add little to the interest or reality of the game. Our battles are little brisk fights in which one may suppose that all the ammunition and food needed are carried by the men themselves.”

Little Wars, H.G. Wells, 1913

After Little And Great Wars

If we are correct about Captain M being Walter Sidney Masterman, then he had a strange career path after the War, not unlike H.G.Wells’ early career.

Colin Salter’s family blog has some interesting information about Harry and Walter at this stage of the Boer War and the years up to WW1 including the brothers’ sporting achievements. http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2013/10/harry-masterman-1875-1900-and-second.html

I wonder if their semi-professional football career and games had an effect on the shaping and briskness of Little Wars, as much as their military careers:

fight to some determined point, and we found very good sport in supposing that the arrival of three men of one force upon the back line of the opponent’s side of the country …We found it led to one type of battle only, a massed rush at the antagonist’s line.” (Little Wars, 1913)

Walter became an Assistant Headteacher (1903-5) in a private school after the Boer War in the period when Little Wars was being developed. He was also active as a Football player with Tunbridge Wells FC.

For a brief while Walter Masterman was part of the British Boy Scouts, the BBS, a more ‘pacifist’ Peace Scouts rival to the more ‘militaristic’ Baden Powell’s Scouting Movement –

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2012/05/walter-sydney-masterman-1876-1946-and.html

Being an Inspector of Musketry attached to the 1st Cadet Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles, at the same time as being part of the BBS or Peace Scouts, whilst also being involved as Captain M. in the shaping of Little Wars shows what a complex character Walter Masterman was and what odd times that he was living in.

He served as a Major with the Welsh Regiment during the Great War / WW1. After Demob in 1919, Walter became again a Fisheries Inspector (civil servant) in Grimsby in his zoologist brother Arthur’s area of fisheries.

According to Colin Salter, Walter married in 1920 one Olive Doreen Lowrie, 24 years his junior, the youngest of eight children of a Northumbrian commercial traveller. She was born in Cardiff. Walter appointed to the Fisheries Inspectorate about 1911 spent time in Wales. http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2013/03/olive-doreen-lowrie-1900-1973-and-death.htm. They had one daughter together.

According to his relative Colin Salter in his family history blog, this career ended in court and jail for three to four years in 1922 over allegations of embezzlement.

Walter Sidney Masterman, fishery inspector at Grimsby, a brother of a former Liberal Minister, is being charged with embezzling £862 belonging to the Board of Fisheries. The prosecution alleges that the defendant paid into his own account sums received, for the sale of coal and gear handed over from German trawlers.

February 1922 the Sunday Times of Perth in Western Australia

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2011/10/walter-sydney-masterman-1876-1946-and.html

His ‘Former Liberal Minister’ Brother Charles’ position (Mr. M) was the only thing that made this newsworthy around the world.

His next career move in the mid 1920s was to become a writer of science fiction, detective and mystery novels as Walter S. Masterman.

His first book The Wrong Letter in 1926 had a Foreword or Preface by Charles and Wells’ mutual friend G.K. Chesterton which can be read here on these sample pages

I wonder if his author brothers Howard Masterman the bishop and Charles the Liberal Politician (Mr. M.) or H.G. Wells were in any way able to help or involved in aiding Walter’s postwar literary career?

Chesterton was also friends with Charles Masterman and dedicated a book What’s Wrong with the World to him – see

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2012/04/charles-frederick-gurney-masterman-1873.html

This closeness with other authors helped Masterman set up the War Propaganda Bureau WPB and recruit authors like Wells or Chesterton for the Allied cause when War was declared in August 1914:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_S._Masterman

Most of his books are still in print via Ramble House Press. You can also sample the books on his Amazon author’s page. The originals with luridly coloured dust jackets still fetch good prices.

From Colin Salter’s blog

He published his last book in 1942 and died in Brighton in 1946.

Who could resist a biography and bibliography with titles like this?

• The Wrong Letter (1926) Foreword by G.K. Chesterton

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2012/04/charles-frederick-gurney-masterman-1873.html

• The Curse of the Reckaviles (1927)

• 2 LO (1928)

• The Green Toad (1929)

• The Bloodhounds Bay (1930)

• The Yellow Mistletoe (1930)

• The Mystery of 52 (aka The Mystery of Fifty-Two) (1931)

• The Flying Beast (1932)

• Murder Beacon (1932), written with L. Patrick Greene

• The Nameless Crime (1932)

• The Crime of the Reckaviles (1934)

• The Baddington Horror (1934)

• The Perjured Alibi (1935)

• Death Turns Traitor (1936)

• The Rose of Death (1936)

• The Avenger Strikes (1937)

• The Border Line (1937)

• The Hunted Man (1938)

• The Wrong Verdict (1938)

• The Secret of the Downs (1939)

• The Hooded Monster (1939)

• The Curse of Cantire (1940)

• The Death Coins (1940)

• Back From the Grave (1940)

• The Silver Leopard (1941)

• The Man without a Head (1942)

The outline of plots sounds as outrageously odd as Wells’ early science fiction – underground races etc. Wells is also featured on the same sci-fi databases with an aptly very long entry:

http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/wells_h_g

http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/wellss_law

The list of titles and supernatural topics is not so far from fellow Little Wars witness and fellow Sussex resident, the author and ‘ghost hunter’ Robert Thurston Hopkins, also on such a sci-fi database.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/r-thurston-hopkins-on-rls-h-g-wells-and-little-wars/

The Rest of the Masterman Family

The Masterman family were quite amazingly accomplished – writers, bishops, politicians, army officers, medical missionaries and naturalists.

The two Captains Henry and Walter we have already mentioned.

They had one sister called ‘Daisy’ or Margaret Masterman, who had an academic career.

1. One older brother, easy to tell by his dog collar in the photo is the second son John Howard Bertram Masterman (1867-1933), Suffragan Bishop of Plymouth, author and Historian. Howard the bishop married Theresa Boroder (b. Saxony, Germany) and became father of Cyril Masterman (1896-1973) OBE (1956 for services as Technical Director, Underground Gasification Trials, Monistry of Fuel and Power). https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Masterman

2. His younger brother was the natural historian Dr Arthur Thomas Masterman FRS FRSE (1869 – 1941) was an English zoologist and author. He was an expert on the British fishing industry. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Masterman

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2015/05/arthur-thomas-masterman-1869-1941-and.html

3. Ernest William Gurney Masterman, (1867-1943), Medical missionary, RCS surgeon, author and scholar

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2013/02/ernest-william-gurney-masterman-1867.html

4. The youngest brother was the writer and Liberal MP Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman, H.G. Wells’ friend. He must be Wells’ Mr M.

There is an interesting 1914 Punch cartoon of Charles in this Colin Salter blog:

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2014/11/charles-frederick-gurney-masterman-1873.html

http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2012/09/charles-frederick-gurney-masterman-1873.html

These were the six sons of Mrs. Margaret Hanson Masterman, (1841-1932) (née Gurney) of “Lonsdale,” Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and of the late Thomas William (Willie) Masterman, F.R.G.S. (1839-1894) of “The Hall,” Rotherfield Hall , Sussex. Rotherfield Hall in Sussex.

The Masterman brothers were the grandsons of William Brodie Gurney (and so a distant relation to prison reformer Elizabeth Fry through him). The Gurney and Masterman families were variously involved with Banking, shorthand, court stenography and with the Fox family of Quakers.

Thanks to Colin Salter for his interesting Tall Tales from The Trees family history blog – http://talltalesfromthetrees.blogspot.com/search/label/Masterman

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 4 February 2021.

Three More Players of H.G. Wells’ Floor Game (Little Wars) 1913

Reading Mathilde Meyer’s memoir H.G. Wells and his Family (1955), about her time as Governess to Well’s two sons Frank and Gip, she makes occasional references to the ‘Floor Game’, which I take to mean Little Wars (1913).

Mathilde Meyer mentions the names of three visitors to Wells country home at Easton Glebe, Dunmow, Essex who took part in the “Floor Game”:

“On wet days, however, The Floor Game, was till the most popular amusement of all. Not only Gip and Frank, but also such friends of their father as the Politician the Rt Hon C.F.G. Masterman, Mr Harold Hobson and Mr. E.S.P. Haynes could be seen stretched out upon the schoolroom floor at weekends.”

Who are these people?

1. Politician, the Rt Hon C.F.G. Masterman

Charles Masterman (Wikipedia Image Source)

1. Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman MP, Privy Council, (1873 – 1927) was a British radical Liberal Party politician, intellectual and man of letters. He worked closely with such Liberal leaders as Lloyd George and Churchill in designing social welfare projects, including the National Insurance Act 1911. Masterman wrote ‘State of The Nation’ books such as “The Condition of England” 1909

From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble (2000)

His postwar political career as a Liberal was a difficult and disappointing one and he died relatively young at 54 years old. In a similar way, the former Liberal Churchill had a long period in the political wilderness in the 1920s and 30s.

Wells, Masterman and Wartime Propaganda Bureau WW1

In Masterman we have another link between early Wargamers H.G. Wells and Winston Churchill.

“During the First World War Masterman played a central role in the main British government propaganda agency, designed to counter the German Propaganda Agency and promote British interests in neutral countries like America. Masterman served as head of the British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB), known as “Wellington House.” (Wikipedia entry WPB)

Masterman’s War Propaganda Bureau enlisted eminent writers such as John Buchan, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle as well as painters such as Francis Dodd and Paul Nash.

Until its abolition in 1917 to become the Ministry of Information headed by John Buchan, the WPB department published 300 books and pamphlets in 21 languages. It distributed over 4,000 propaganda photographs every week and circulated maps, cartoons and lantern slides to the media.

Masterman also commissioned films about the war such as The Battle of the Somme, which appeared in August 1916. (Adapted from Wikipedia source: Charles Masterman)

Wellington House was home of the War Propaganda Bureau on Buckingham Gate (the building has now been demolished).

The War Propaganda Bureau began its secret propaganda campaign on 2 September 1914 when Masterman invited 25 leading British authors to Wellington House to discuss ways of best promoting Britain’s interests during the war.

Those who attended included (then) well known authors such as William Archer, Hall Caine, Arthur Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, John Masefield, G.K. Chesterton, Henry Newbolt, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy … G.M. Trevelyan, H.G. Wells [and in the subsequent ‘Author’s Declaration’ several popular women authors].

Rudyard Kipling had been invited to the meeting but was unable to attend.

In view of its propaganda role, all the writers who attended on 2 September 1914 agreed to maintain the utmost secrecy. It was not until 1935 that the activities of the War Propaganda Bureau became public knowledge.

Some of these writers and their author friends agreed to write pamphlets and books that would promote the government’s point of view.

The War Propaganda Bureau went on to publish over 1,160 such pamphlets during the war. (Wikipedia entry WPB)

In 1917 the Department of Information partly took over this role under John Buchan before Lord Beaverbrook took charge of propaganda in 1918.

For a good book on British Naval intelligence and propaganda at home, America and in the more forgotten theatres of WW1 – see Codebreakers by James Willie and Michael McKinley (Ebury, 2015). Author A.E.W. Mason from the Authors Declaration (below) crops up in the book as an ‘interesting’ figure:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/my-world-book-day-choice-2018-worldbookday/

https://spartacus-educational.com/FWWwpb.htm

Two of those involved in the development of Little Wars signed the ‘Author’s Declaration of Support’ for Britain’s entry into the Great War – G.K. Chesterton and Jerome K. Jerome. It makes the final ‘pacific’ chapter ‘warning’ by Wells in Little Wars about the danger or blunder of Great Wars all the more poignant.

Propaganda or publicity to the Americans – “The Authors Declaration”, New York Times, October 18th, 1914

The Slate.com blog post authors state that “H.G. Wells satirized his own wartime career in Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916), and by 1918 had withdrawn from propaganda work altogether.

Another one for the Wells book list for this year … available in Project Gutenberg or Librivox.

This New York Times image came from the blog post about the WW1 Authors Declaration at Slate.com https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/10/british-authors-and-wwi-propaganda-manifesto-signed-by-h-g-wells-arthur-conan-doyle-rudyard-kipling.html

Another unusual and even more direct or active link to the development of Little Wars occurred to me this week – read about this in my next blog post.

2. Mr Harold Hobson

At first a mystery – this is not the theatre critic Sir Harold Hobson (1904 – 1992).

Harold Hobson (1891–1974), David ‘Bunny’ Garnett’s friend, and a temporary lover of D.H. Lawrence ‘s wife Frieda, lived at 3 Gayton Crescent, at the end of Gayton Road [in what literary tour guide Catherine Brown calls Hampstead the “Montmartre” of London, where many famous artists and writers including H.G. Wells lived in Edwardian times https://catherinebrown.org/lawrences-hampstead-a-walking-tour/

Before WW1, “Bunny roamed the countryside with his ‘Neo-Pagan’ friends: Rupert Brooke, the Olivier sisters, Harold Hobson, Godwin Baynes and Dudley Ward, all of them swimming naked in lakes and rivers, worshipping nature and sleeping out under the stars.” (Source: Amazon review of Garnett biography).

Harold Hobson later married Coralie Jeyes von Werner or “Coralie von Werner Hobson” (1891 – 1946). Largely forgotten today, Coralie wrote novels, short stories and plays; from 1928 she published under the pseudonym “Sarah Salt”. She wrote her first novel ‘The Revolt of Youth’ in 1909.

They had two children: Sarah Elizabeth Hobson and Timothy John Hobson (Source: “Who’s who in Commerce and Industry”, Volume 6, 1948, p.705).

Harold Hobson was the son of New York-born writer Florence Edgar Hobson and noted journalist and social economist John Atkinson Hobson; Harold, an engineering graduate from King’s College, was tall, male, articulate, extroverted.

As a youth he belonged to a group that advocated freedom and spontaneity, was anti-intellectual and was called the Neo-Pagans by Virginia Woolf; the often changing members included Godwin Baynes, Rupert Brooke, Ka Cox, Gwen Darwin (later Raverat), Frances Darwin (later Cornford), David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, the Olivier sisters Margery, Bryn, Daphne and Noel, Jacques Raverat and Gerald Shove.

Hobson and David Garnett, his best friend went on a hike in the Alps in August 1912 with D. H. Lawrence and his companion Frieda Richthofen.

According to Helga Kaschl “Lawrence valued him – at least initially – for his uncompromising honesty; however, they soon parted ways after Harold and Frieda indulged in their passion in a haystack.”

D. H. Lawrence processed this “episode” in “Mr. Noon” and described Stanley (= Harold) as handsome, with big, dark eyes, an attractive, gaunt face, of casual elegance, who looked at Johanna (= Frieda) languidly. (Mr. Noon, p. 376)

Harold Hobson became a Consulting engineer at Merz & McLellan from 1919 to 1925, was involved in setting up the electricity grid in Great Britain and was then successfully employed in leading positions within the electricity industry.

Harold Hobson, Supply Engineer; Commercial Manager 1932–35; General Manager from 1935; Central Electricity Board Chairman 1944–46..

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

Harold Hobson’s father John Atkinson Hobson was close to the Fabians and influenced Margaret Cole with his ideas. Hobson senior was one of the liberal intellectuals who switched to the Labour Party after the First World War. Hobson senior worked for The Nation newspaper and became a friend of Leonard Woolf, who also started working for the newspaper in 1922. Hobson’ father published the essay “Notes on Law and Order” in 1926 and “From Capitalism to Socialism” in 1932 in the Hogarth Press. Leonard Woolf valued him as Britain’s leading theoretician of anti-colonialism.

Edward Taylor Scott, married to Harold Hobson’s sister Mabel, was the editor of the Manchester Guardian.

(Source: rough translation from Helga Kaschl’s German article https://www.schreibfrauen.at/coralie-hobson/

Here we have clear links to The Fabian Society, Liberal thinkers – all overlap with H.G. Wells, who knew D.H. Lawrence, putting Wells on the edge of the Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists, who later settled at Charleston House. Frank Palmer the publisher of Wells Little Wars and Floor Games also had his office in ‘Bloomsbury’.

Mr. E.S.P. Haynes (Wikipedia image source)

3. Edmund Sidney Pollock Haynes (26 September 1877 – 5 January 1949), best known as Mr. E. S. P. Haynes was a British lawyer and writer, mostly on legal subjects. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._S._P._Haynes

So there you have it – three more players of The Floor Game or Little Wars and proof of the well connected man that H.G. Wells was.

More to come about Charles Masterman, H.G. Wells and Little Wars in our next post.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 4 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