When Nesbit was seventeen, the family moved back to London, living in South East London in Lewisham. There is a Lewisham Council plaque at 28 Elswick Road to mark her time there.
At eighteen, Nesbit met the bank clerk Hubert Bland, who was her elder by three years, in 1877. Seven months pregnant, she married Bland on 22 April 1880, though she did not immediately live with him, as Bland initially continued to live with his mother. Their marriage was a tumultuous one. Early on Nesbit discovered that another woman believed she was Hubert's fiancée and had also borne him a child. A more serious blow came in 1886 when she discovered that her good friend, Alice Hoatson, was pregnant with Hubert's child. She had previously agreed to adopt Hoatson's child and allow Hoatson to live with her as their housekeeper. After she discovered the truth, they quarrelled violently and she suggested that Hoatson and the baby, Rosamund, should leave; her husband threatened to leave Edith if she disowned the baby and its mother. Hoatson remained with them as a housekeeper and secretary and became pregnant by Bland again 13 years later. Edith again adopted Hoatson's child, John.
Nesbit's children by Bland were Paul Cyril Bland (1880-1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Mary Iris Bland (1881-1965), who married John Austin D Phillips in 1907; and Fabian Bland (1885-1900). She also adopted Bland's two children by Alice Hoatson, Rosamund Edith Nesbit Hamilton, later Bland (1886-1950), who married Clifford Dyer Sharp on 16 October 1909, and to whom The Book of Dragons was dedicated; and John Oliver Wentworth Bland (1899-1946) to whom The House of Arden and Five Children and It were dedicated. Nesbit's son Fabian died 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. Nesbit's adopted daughter Rosamund collaborated with her on the book Cat Tales.
E. Nesbit's grave in St Mary in the Marsh's churchyard bears a wooden grave marker made by her second husband, Thomas Terry Tucker. There is also a memorial plaque to her inside the church.
Nesbit was a follower of the Marxist socialist William Morris and she and her husband Hubert Bland were among the founders of the Fabian Society in 1884. Their son Fabian was named after the society. They also jointly edited the Society's journal Today; Hoatson was the Society's assistant secretary. Nesbit and Bland also dallied briefly with the Social Democratic Federation, but rejected it as too radical. Nesbit was an active lecturer and prolific writer on socialism during the 1880s. Nesbit also wrote with her husband under the name "Fabian Bland", though this activity dwindled as her success as a children's author grew.
Nesbit lived from 1899 to 1920 in Well Hall, Eltham, in southeast London, which appears in fictional guise in several of her books, especially The Red House. From 1911 she also maintained a second home on the Sussex Downs, in the hamlet of Crowlink, Friston, East Sussex. She and her husband entertained a large circle of friends, colleagues and admirers at their Well Hall house.
On 20 February 1917, some three years after Bland died, Nesbit married Thomas "the Skipper" Tucker. They were married in Woolwich, where he was the captain of the Woolwich Ferry.
Towards the end of her life, she moved to "Crowlink" in Friston, and later to "The Long Boat" at Jesson, St Mary's Bay, New Romney, East Kent where, probably suffering from lung cancer (she "smoked incessantly"), she died in 1924 and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh. Her husband Thomas died at the same address on 17 May 1935. Edith's son Paul Bland was one of the executors of Thomas Tucker's will.
Nesbit's first published works were poems. In March 1878, when she was not yet twenty, the monthly magazine Good Words printed her poem "Under the Trees".
Nesbit published approximately 40 books for children, including novels, collections of stories and picture books. Collaborating with others, she published almost as many more.
According to her biographer, Julia Briggs, Nesbit was "the first modern writer for children":
Nesbit "helped to reverse the great tradition of children's literature inaugurated by Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald and Kenneth Grahame, in turning away from their secondary worlds to the tough truths to be won from encounters with things-as-they-are, previously the province of adult novels." Briggs also credits Nesbit with having invented the children's adventure story. Noël Coward was a great admirer of hers and, in a letter to an early biographer Noel Streatfeild, wrote: "she had an economy of phrase and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside."
Nesbit also wrote for adults, including eleven novels, short stories and four collections of horror stories.
Allegations of plagiarism
In 2011, Nesbit was accused of lifting the plot of The Railway Children from The House by the Railway by Ada J. Graves, a book first published in 1896 and serialised in a popular magazine in 1904, a year before The Railway Children first appeared. In both works the children's adventures bear similarities. In the story, Nesbit's characters use red petticoats to stop the train whilst Graves has them using a red jacket. The accusation of plagiarism is not universally accepted.
Edith Nesbit Walk, also a cycle way, runs along the south side of Well Hall Pleasaunce in Eltham.
Also in south east London, at Lee Green, is Edith Nesbit Gardens.
A 200-metre walking path in Grove Park (connecting Baring Road to Reigate Road), south-east London is named Railway Children Walk to commemorate Nesbit's novel of the same name. A similar path is located in Oxenhope (a location on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway used in filming the 1970 film).
There is a Nesbit Road in St Mary's Bay, Romney Marsh, on which Nesbit's former home of Long Boat & Jolly Boat is located.
A one-act, one-woman play titled Larks and Magic, based on Nesbit's life, was created by Alison Neil.
There is an Edith Nesbit Society (of which Dame Jacqueline Wilson is president), which was founded in 1996.
Aside from her auto-biographical Long Ago When I was Young (1966), Nesbit has been the subject of a number of biographies.
The Complete History of the Bastable Family (1928) is a posthumous omnibus of the three Bastable novels, but it is not the complete history. Four more stories about the Bastables are included in the 1905 collection Oswald Bastable and Others. The Bastables also appear in the 1902 adult novel The Red House.
^Lower Kennington Lane is now the northern half of Kennington Lane, which runs between Kennington Road and Newington Butts; the house has been demolished and there is no commemoration. Galvin, in her biography (page 2), asserts that Lower Kennington Lane no longer exists, and is now buried deep below a main road and supermarkets. This assertion is based on a confusion between the modern Kennington Lane and its two constituent former parts, Upper Kennington Lane and Lower Kennington Lane. Lower Kennington Lane still exists, albeit renamed and renumbered, but most of the houses that were there in the 1850s have gone. An earlier version of the King's Arms public house at what is now 98 Kennington Lane was formerly numbered 44 Lower Kennington Lane. The 1861 census records a young Edith Nesbit at her father's Agricultural College slightly further along the street."Find My Past 1861 Census". search.findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 2020. That location is now occupied by 20th Century public housing.
^The Book of Dragons (1901) comprised The Seven Dragons, a 7-part serial, and an eighth story, all published 1899 in The Strand Magazine. Augmented by a ninth story, "The Last of the Dragons" (posthumous, 1925), it was issued in 1972 as The Complete Book Of Dragons and in 1975 as The Last Of The Dragons and Some Others. The original title has been used since then, with the original contents augmented variously by "The Last of the Dragons" and material contemporary to the reissue. The title Seven Dragons and Other Stories has also been used for a latter-day Nesbit collection.
^According to John Clute, "Most of Nesbit's supernatural fiction" is short stories "assembled in four collections"; namely, Man and Maid and the three noted here as containing horror stories.
^ abcdE. Nesbit at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 29 December 2013. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.