The Young Visters by Daisy Ashford (1919)
Here is a 14th impression of the first edition, 1919, of Daisy Ashford’s magical story The Young Visiters. Written when the author was only nine years old and championed by J M Barrie it was an immediate best seller and deservedly so.
From the first line: “Mr Salteena was an elderly man of 42 and fond of asking people to stay with him…” to her round up of her characters at the end (always good to know what happens to everyone) the book is as pleasurable as a sunny day with a quirky and ridiculously clever child should be.
Her eye for the idiosyncrasies of the adult world is sharp and her use of Edwardian phrases and descriptions make my heart sing.
By the way Bernard Clark was the happiest of our friends as he loved Ethel to the bitter end and so did she him and they had a nice house too and The Earl who is tired of his sickly daughters and his wife with a savage temper but gives up the idear [sic] of divorce and decided to offer it up as a Mortification.
We have later editions for sale in our shop in Hay-on-Wye for a fiver and this one is £10 including postage.
Daisy Ashford was born in Petersham, Surrey, the daughter of Emma Georgina Walker and William Henry Roxburgh Ashford, and was largely educated at home with her sisters Maria Veronica ‘Vera’ (born 1882) and Angela Mary ‘Angie’ (born 1884). At the age of four Daisy dictated her first story, The Life of Father McSwiney, to her father; it was published in 1983. From 1889 to 1896 she and her family lived at 44 St Anne’s Crescent, Lewes, where she wrote The Young Visiters. She wrote several other stories; a play, A Woman’s Crime; and one other short novel, The Hangman’s Daughter, which she considered to be her best work.
She stopped writing during her teens. In 1896 the family moved to the Wallands area of Lewes, and in 1904 she moved with her family to Bexhill, and then to London where she worked as a secretary. She also ran a canteen in Dover during the First World War. When published in 1919, The Young Visiters was an immediate success, and several of her other stories were published in 1920. In the same year, she married James Devlin and settled in Norfolk, at one time running the King’s Arms Hotel in Reepham. She did not write in later years, although in old age she did begin an autobiography which she later destroyed. She died in 1972.
Ashford was sometimes invoked as a way to criticise adult authors of the 1920s if their style was deemed too childish or naïve: Edmund Wilson referred to the novel This Side of Paradise by his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald as “a classic in a class with The Young Visiters.”
A digitised version of the book can be read online here: https://archive.org/details/youngvisitersor02ashfgoog