Skip

"Ethel patted her hair and looked very sneery."
November 4, 2007 10:13 PM   Subscribe

The bearer of this letter is an old friend of mine not quite the right side of the blanket as they say in fact he is the son of a first rate butcher but his mother was a decent family called Hyssopps of the Glen so you see he is not so bad and is desireus of being the correct article.
The Young Visitors, or, Mister Salteena's Plan (written 1890, published 1919) is a remarkable little novel that offers an atypical perspective on the recreations of the late Victorian upper classes and boasts some of literature's most comprehensive descriptions of clothing. Its author was Daisy Ashford, a nine-year-old girl.
posted by Iridic (14 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The bearer of this letter is an old friend of mine not quite the right side of the blanket as they say in fact he is the son of a first rate ex-financial minister of Nigeria but his mother was a decent family called B'wake of Ougadougou so you see he is not so bad and is desireus of your bank account details so as to transfer eighty million dollars which were deposited in a swiss bank before the coup...
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:38 PM on November 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


Alas, Daisy Ashford never wrote anything as good again.
posted by Phanx at 12:01 AM on November 5, 2007


It’s Visiters, not Visitors. A TV adaptation of the tale was made in 2003, with Jim Broadbent tackling the rôle of Mr. Salteena.
posted by misteraitch at 12:28 AM on November 5, 2007


One can well see what was important to a precocious nine year old girl at the time - clothing, expensive things and many, many sweet cakes.
posted by ninazer0 at 2:15 AM on November 5, 2007


I see you have a lot of ancesters said Mr Salteena in a jelous tone, who are they.

Well said Bernard they are all quite correct. This is my aunt Caroline she was rarther exentrick and quite old.

So I see said Mr Salteena and he passed on to a lady with a very tight waist and quearly shaped. That is Mary Ann Fudge my grandmother I think said Bernard she was very well known in her day.

Why asked Ethel who was rarther curious by nature.

Well I dont quite know said Bernard but she was and he moved away to the next picture. It was of a man with a fat smiley face and a red ribbon round him and a lot of medals. My great uncle Ambrose Fudge said Bernard carelessly.

He looks a thourough ancester said Ethel kindly.

Well he was said Bernard in a proud tone he was really the Sinister son of Queen Victoria.

Not really cried Ethel in excited tones but what does that mean.

Well I dont quite know said Bernard Clark it puzzles me very much but ancesters do turn quear at times.

Peraps it means god son said Mr Salteena in an inteligent voice.

Well I dont think so said Bernard but I mean to find out.


The edition with illustrations by Posy Simmonds is worth seeking out.
posted by rory at 4:19 AM on November 5, 2007


Alas, Daisy Ashford never wrote anything as good again.

Which is not saying much. Daisy Ashford and her precocious pen was forever being touted when I was a child. I always thought the adult response to it was very patronising - keeping the spelling mistakes and finding her pomposity and misperceptions cute. I wanted more edge even when I was a kid.
posted by jennydiski at 4:19 AM on November 5, 2007


Scanned books by Daisy Ashford from Internet Archive
posted by stbalbach at 5:02 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I completely see what you mean, jennydiski, but it seems to me there is quite a lot of 'edge' in The Young Visiters. Take the passage quoted in rory's comment above, which can be read in two ways. Either Daisy Ashford doesn't know what illegitimacy means, and is projecting her uncertainty onto her characters, or else (and this is the reading I favour) she knows perfectly well what it means and is capable of joking about it in a very adult and sophisticated way. (Of course there is a third possible interpretation, which is that the passage has been 'improved' by an adult hand, but I know of no evidence that this is the case and Barrie's introduction assures us that the book is printed exactly as Daisy Ashford originally wrote it.)
posted by verstegan at 5:04 AM on November 5, 2007


The style reminds me a little of Queneau's Zazie in the Metro (the English translation at least).
posted by Falconetti at 5:48 AM on November 5, 2007


Damnation! You are quite correct, misteraitch; I apologize for the error. (I take a little comfort in the fact that a small typo is quite in keeping with the subject matter.)
posted by Iridic at 6:19 AM on November 5, 2007


(Of course there is a third possible interpretation, which is that the passage has been 'improved' by an adult hand, but I know of no evidence that this is the case and Barrie's introduction assures us that the book is printed exactly as Daisy Ashford originally wrote it.)

Actually, reading the 1919 NYT article rather leads me to believe that the book was written by Miss Ashford (perhaps with some help), but at a rather more advanced age than 9. According to the article, Ashford, in her adult years, found her old manuscripts and showed them to her "literary friends", who in turn brought them to James Barrie, who was so enthused that he prefaced "The Visiters" and had it published.

Maybe it is my cynical vein, but I suspect that Ashford and her "literary friends" played a beautiful hoax on Barrie. Something else points at this: according to the NYT article, she was a 30-year-old young lady in 1919. That would have made her 1 year old in 1890, not 9-year old. Female vanity or pretty obvious clue?
posted by Skeptic at 6:31 AM on November 5, 2007


Something else points at this: according to the NYT article, she was a 30-year-old young lady in 1919. That would have made her 1 year old in 1890, not 9-year old. Female vanity or pretty obvious clue?

Daisy Ashford was born in 1881. The 1919 NYT article saying she was "about 30" at that time presumably did so out of politeness.

Either Daisy Ashford doesn't know what illegitimacy means, and is projecting her uncertainty onto her characters, or else (and this is the reading I favour) she knows perfectly well what it means and is capable of joking about it in a very adult and sophisticated way.

A nine-year-old girl living at the height of Victorian prudishness is supposed to have known what illegitimacy means? Naturally, it's not the reading I favour... that passage was in fact the one that gave the book the ring of truth for me, because I couldn't imagine an adult writer capturing that perfect note of bafflement over mysterious adult goings-on.

I always thought the adult response to it was very patronising - keeping the spelling mistakes and finding her pomposity and misperceptions cute.

I only discovered the book last year, not having grown up in Britain myself. I enjoyed it because her misperceptions showed how artificial and arbitrary so much of social life is, then as now, and reminded me how many hoops we put ourselves through to fit in; and because some of the turns of phrase were unexpected and therefore funny. I don't remember thinking of Ashford as pompous or cute. Precocious, yes - but she was. Not many people write 12,000-word stories at age nine.
posted by rory at 7:24 AM on November 5, 2007


Lee Tandy Schwartzmann's "Crippled Detectives, or The War of the Red Romer" might be an American equivalent - there was a fantastic article about it by Ed Park a couple years ago in the Village Voice, and the whole text is online at Stone Soup.
posted by with hidden noise at 7:39 AM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Daisy Ashford was born in 1881. The 1919 NYT article saying she was "about 30" at that time presumably did so out of politeness.

A true gentleman would not have mentioned her age at all. Especially not of an unmarried woman.

But that's just a side matter. I have stronger reasons for suspecting a hoax. Like the "accidental" double-entendres of the novel, and the fact that ultimately we only have Ashford's word for it, and she's described as "joyful" in the article. Also, this was the golden age of the Great British Practical Joke (remember Piltdown Man), and what better victim of such a hoax than JM Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan"?
posted by Skeptic at 8:05 AM on November 5, 2007


« Older The right man in the wrong place can make all the...   |   Honking Duck - Listen to Old Time Music from 78s Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post