English Children's Literature: Authors

Figure 1.--Some English authors of children's books like Enid Blyton are very well known. Others are virtually unknown today. "'The Mystery That Never Was" was published in 1967. The illustration seems to suggest fashion from the 40s or 50s. I'm not sure who the illustrator was.

A very large number of authors have written English children's literature. Some of the authors are household names. Others have long been forgotten, especially those that wrote about historical periods on which HBC is focusing. Many figures in English literature have indeed emerged as some of the most famous boy characters in English literature (William Brown, Peter Pan, Christopher Robin, Jennings, and others). The authors (including Richmal Crompton, J.M. Barie, Enid Blyton, A.A. Milne, J.R. Rollings, and others) and illustrators of some of these books are often known around. We will list here many of the best known authors as well as avariety of lesser know authors that have written stories providing interesting insights into contemporary clothing and fashions. One interesting observation is the number of women who have written books for boys, including school stories. Curiously, men writing books for girls are much less common.

Signed Works

There are many signed works, some by authors through multiple translation known around the world. Others authors are vurtually unknown even in England.

Barie, J.M.

Perhaps the most beloved literary characters of all time is Peter Pan. The story was written by J.M. Barie and first resented to the public in 1904. Stage productions appeared in 1904. The petic fairy-take play enchanted both children and adults when it was first presented and continues to do so today. Peter is a imaginary boy, leading the nursery-bound Darling children through exciting adventures. Peter is remembered for the Peter Pan collar. This was an existing fashion, but acquired the name because of illustrations for the book and theatrical costuming used in for Peter.

Bawden, Nina

Nina Bawden is a well known English author. She has written for both children and adults. Sge has authored 17 books for children and 21 for novels for adults. Many are still in print. Queen Elizabeth in 1995 awarded her the CBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. One HBC reader tells us that h finds Bawden's books intriguing. On of hr best known children's books is Squib. ThePuffin edition was published in 1971. It was illustratd by Amy Burch.

Blyton, Enid

Another famous Enhlish literary character was really a group consisying of five children. This was a children's series created by Enis Blyton. It was one of the most popular series of children's books in England and America. The books were translated into many languages. The boys were commonly costumed in inter-War era, jumpers, short trousers, and sandals.

Buckeridge, Anthony

Anthony Buckeridge was often asked where his ideas came from. In fact, he had a lot of material to work from, considering that he went to boarding school himself (as did Jennings) and then became a master at one. Anthony Buckeridge was born on June 20, 1912 in London. His father was a bank clerk who, like too many of his generation, was tragically killed during World War I when Anthony was very young. Anthony like many boys from affluent families was sent to a preparatory boarding school at age 8. It was a virtual rite of passage for boys of his class. His prep school was in Sussex near London. He then went on to a Public school where he also boarded until finish school at 18. So like Jenning's, Buckeridge was educated at private boarding schools.

Coombe, Florence

Florence Coombe is one of the many authors who wrote boys' stories in the late 19th and early 20th centiry. They were often set at boarding schools. One such book was The Boys of Priory School (undated). A reader tells us that he has a copy give as a prize in 1911. [Waldock] So we know it was probably published about 1911. It was illustrated by Harold Copping. He was an excellent artist who did many illustrations for children's books of the era. Coombe also wrote girls' books like Her Friend and Mine (Blackie and Son, 1899). There were also adventure stories such as "Savagery Among the Black Islands" (ex Islands of Enchantment) published in 1912.

Crompton, Richmal

Richmal Crompton Lamburn was born in 1890 at Bury in Lancashire. She died in 1969. She is more commonly known as just Richmal Crompton. Crompton taught school and was a keen observer of the foibles of small children. She was able to cleverly and sympathetically intepret the antics of mischevious boys and the motives behind their seemingly irrational behavior. She published over 80 titles, but they were not all in the Just William series. She wrote many romantic novels which she considered more importanat than the Just William books which she considered to be a bit of a daliance at the time. Her romantic novels of course are long fotgotten and it is William that has imortalized her memory. It is interesting that a lady has crafted these ever so telling glimpses of boyhood. I supose that men sometimes forget how they felt as boys. We are not sure where Crompton learned so much about boys. She was clearly an observent school mistress, but she worked at a girls' school. Incidentally Crompton also wrote what William would regard as "dreadfully mushy" romantic novels which are now generally forgotten. It is Crompton's comedic genius that is now remembered.

Fletcher, Meredith

A HBC reader tells us, "I have been searching the internet for information on the above author. I have a book by her The Pretenders - A School Story published by Henry Frowde & Hodder & Stoughton in 1908. There are six wonderful colour illustrations in the book by Harold Earnshaw with the cover depicting two schoolboys in typical Etonian school wear and inside the book has the words "by Meredith Fletcher author of Every Inch a Briton and Jefferson Junior.

Le Feuvre, Amy

A HBC reader has provided us information on an English children's book entitled The Sunday at Home published in 1908 for 1909. It's a big thick hardcover book that looks like an old styled big Bible (a bit smaller than A4 size). It's an omnibus type book and has a whole range of 'leisure' type articles featuring issues and topics of the day, travel, devotional studies, stories for children and adults, book reviews and such like. It was perfect for the many early 20th century English families that expected their children to use Sunday after school to quitrly busy themselves around the home with a book or other worthwhile activity. It's packed with many photographs and illustrations. A wonderful and fascinating book indeed. The book included a series of children's stories. We noted one story by Amy Le Feuvre (note the French name) entitled "Us and our Donkey". The story centers around a large well to do English family in a rural village, of whom the father is clergyman of the town. The mother has passed away and the children are looked after by a fussy aunt.

Mayne, William

William Mayne is one of the last authors to work in the school story genre. One of his books, A Warm in May was especially touching. Mayne published it in 1955, one of the first he wrote. The boy's school story at the time was declining in popularity, despite this remarkable work. A 1982 edition was Illustrated by CW Hodges. The book is about about a young boy at a choir school. The boy loves the music, but his father who is divorcing his mother thinks that singing is sissy making the boy very unhappy. The boy has to sing a special solo which he objects to at first, but guided by a very sensitive teacher, he eventually comes to covet the part. It was made into a very effective film in 1983.

Milne, A.A.

A.A. Milne writes in his autibiography that "It seemed to me almost that my father had got to where he was by climbing on my infant shoulders." In fact, A.A. Milne was already a successful playwright and humorist in 1924 when, during a rainy holiday in Wales, he wrote a whimsical collection of verses about his then 4-year-old son. The book, When We Were Very Young, and three later volumes--featuring the adventures of a wide-eyed child named Christopher Robin and his guileless teddy bear companion Winnie-the-Pooh--would sell thousands of copies, be translated into more than 30 languages and also shadow the real Christopher Robin until his death, at 75, on April 20 in Devon, England. Young Milne was raised in London, and as a child he once admitted that he "quite liked being Christopher Robin and being famous." The novelty began wearing thin at boarding school, where classmates taunted him, and he became shy and started to stammer. Eventually the strains of establishing his own identity soured relations with his father. In 1948, he risked the senior Milne's disapproval and that of his mother, Daphne, to marry his first cousin Lesley de Sélincourt, now 70. The two had one daughter, Clare, 40, who suffers from cerebral palsy. After moving to Dartmouth, in Devon, in 1951, Milne opened a bookstore, wrote a two-volume memoir and seemed to make a posthumous peace with his father, who had died in 1956. He sold his claim to any future royalties from the Pooh books to the Royal Literary Fund for a lump sum in order to provide for his disabled daughter. Distancing himself altogether from his famous alter ego was impossible, however, and even in his later years fans of the books "would throw their arms around him and kiss him, whether he wanted it or not,'' says Mike Ridley, a longtime Milne acquaintance who runs a Pooh souvenir shop in Hartfield, England. "The Christopher Robin he tried to get away from is the Christopher Robin that's going to be remembered."

Morris, Stanley

We know of at least two school books written by Stanley Morris: The Penalty Area (1928.) and The Senior Prefect (1932).

Figure 2.--Naughton was an acclaimed author and playwright, with much his work reflecting on his Bolton boyhood. In The Goalkeeper’s Revenge (1961), Naughton again takes us back to his boyhood as he offers a collection of stories about the lives of working-class English boys during the 1930s of a childhood, filled with football in the streets, fishing, fighting and school,

Naughton, Bill (1910-92)

Bill Naughton was of Irish descent having been born in Ballyhunis, Ireland. When he was 4 years old, he and his family left there and took up residence in Bolton, England. Naughton was an acclaimed author and playwright, with much his work reflecting on his Bolton boyhood of the 1920s--One Small Boy (1957). His book A Dog Called Nelson (1976) tells of a family who lived at the bottom end of his street when he was a boy. The breadwinner is a rag-and-bone-man who likes his pigeons, while the mother has to cope with raising a family of six. If this wasn’t enough there’s a donkey, a cat and dog with one eye called Nelson. In The Goalkeeper’s Revenge (1961), Naughton again takes us back to his boyhood as he offers a collection of stories about the lives of working-class English boys during the 1930s of a childhood, filled with football in the streets, fishing, fighting and school, of growing up and looking for work, and of characters such as Spit Nolan the champion trolley-rider, and Sam Dalt the goalkeeper. One mustn’t forget Naughton’s other works such as Alfie (which mafe Michel Cane a star) and The Family Way which were both adapted from the stage to screen.

Nesbit, E. (1858-1924)

Edith Nesbit was the the daughter of John Collis Nesbit, a school teacher. She was born into a very conservative family in 1858. Her father ran schools in Bradford, Manchester and London as well as agricultural schools. He died when Edith was very youngm only six years old. This cause financial problems for the family as their father was the principal bread earner. Edith was unhappy at an English boarding school. Edith's mother took her to the Continent where she was eduicated in Fraench and German schools--an expensive proposition. Edith began publishing poems when they returnd to England. It was at this time when she was about 19 years of age that she met Hubert Bland, a radical young writers, who radicalized Edith's more convential social values. Edith In 1879 became pregnant with Bland's baby which was born only 2 months after they were married on April, 22, 1880. This was quite a scandal in Victorian England. Edith and Hubert were devoted socilaists and in 1883 with a Quaker friend, Edward Pease, formed a debating group that they named the Fabian Society. Bland was elected treasurer and Nesbit and Bland jointly edited the society's journal, Today. Edith in 1885 named her second child Fabian. Alice Hoatson, the assistant secretary of the Fabian Society, moved into Nesbit and Bland's home and soon gave birth to Bland's baby, Rosamund. Many Socialists in the 19h century also rejected conventional morality. Edith appears to have acquised in the situation and, at any rate, raised Rosamund as her own child. They moved in bohemian circles. Edith herself was quite a striking woman. One contemprary writes, "She was a very tall woman, built on the grand scale, and on festive occasions wore a trailing gown of peacock blue satin with strings of beads and Indian bangles from wrist to elbow." She also smoked at a time that it was not considered proper for a woman. Nesbit was a an active lecturer and prolific writer on socialism during the 1880s. Her political activities, however ebbed as she achieved success as a children's writer. Her socilaist books were often signed Fabian Bland. Her children's books we signed "E. Nesbit" as women writers were still not fully acceopted. Julia Briggs, Nesbit's biographer claims that she was "the first modern writer for children". Her most famous books include The Story of the Treasure-Seekers (1899), The Wouldbegoods (1901), Five Children and It (1902), The Pheonix and the Carpet (1904), The New Treasurer-Seekers (1904), The Railway Children (1906) and The Enchanted Castle (1907). It is The Railway Children that she is best remembered for today. In it the family has to fend for themselves without their father, certainly in part autobiographical. Her radical politics is not obvious in her books which depict very conventional morality. She does, however, deal with the problems encountered by real children and not the fantasy stories of writers like Lewis Catol. The best example oif this is the difficult lives faced by The Railway Children. Bland died in in 1914. Edith then married Thomas Tucker, an engineer. Nesbit continued to write children's books. She published 44 books in all. She also wuote poetry. She died in 1924.

Richards, Frank

One of the most famous British public (private) school boy is Billy Bunter written by Frank Richards. Richards wrote the Bunter stories for YThe Magnent. He wrote books as well as stories for the boys' magazines and annuals. The Magnent was a casulaty of World War II. The last issues were published in 1940. Bunter was, however, reserected agter the War for a popular rin ion television. At one time it was so popular that it was broadcasted twice on the same day, once at 5.25pm for children before their bed time and again 2 hours later for their parents so that dad could see it when he came home from weork. Bunter's teacher was Mr. Quelch. His school chums at Greyfriars School included Harry Wharton, Bob Cherry, Inky, Ram Singh, Frank Nugent, Mauly, and the bully Coker. Billy was gloriously over weight and he loved jam tarts. His stories were little different in one regard from many comparable authors. In many of his stories, football (soccer or footer) featured quite a lot in Frank Richards' Magnet stories about Greyfriars School. Most games (sports) stories in boys' magazines and annual dealt with either cicket or rugby. These sports were much more common at public (private) schools. Many headmasters thought footer was only appropriate for working-class boys. Not all headmasters helad this view, but many did.
Bill Naughton (1910-1992)

Rollings, J.R.

The most popular litteary sensation of 1999 were the success of the Harry Potter books. Harry is an orphaned English boy training to be a wizzard. He has taken the literary world by storm. Harrey Potterisms have begun to enter the lanuage. One nice aspect of the Harry Potter books is how they have interested many boys who are not avid readers. Harry attends the Hogwarts School and is often pictured in English school uniforms.

Unsigned Books

We note that many children's books were published without the author's name. We assume that these books were printed by publishers who contracted writers to do a variety of formula pieces. The lack of attribution may also reflect the low regarded accorded to children's books in the early 20th century. The illustrators are also often not indicated.

British Children's Fiction

This web page is an extensive list of British Children's fiction from 1890-1960. This site contains lists of books written by many school story authors, dj scans and any other details I can find out about the authors. This site also includes general British children's authors like Arthur Ransome, and also a section on Australian authors. This website aims to provide information on the boys' and girls' authors of Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries. Girls' authors are divided into pages for surnames. All authors with a surname beginning with A are on the A page. Most of the authors wrote stories that had school-ages characters in, if not an actual school story. For each author a list of all books published is provided and the list of titles are arranged alphabetically.


Waldock, Sarah. E-mail message, August 29, 2008.


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Created: May 20, 2002
Last updated: 8:37 AM 8/29/2008