Thursday, November 7, 2013

"The Young Visiters or, Mr. Salteena's Plan"

Imagine that instead of inventing Wonderlands for a preteen Alice Liddell, Charles Dodsworth had received the gift of a novel from her instead.
Sprung from the brow of nine-year-old English girl named Daisy Ashford in 1890, The Young Visiters, like Alice in Wonderland, has never been out of print since its first publication in 1919. Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie wrote the preface to this comedy of manners (replete with idiosyncratic spelling), and it went through eight printings in its first year.  Interestingly a New York Times writer queried at the time, “Is it possible that in The Young Visiters the publishers have stumbled upon a posthumous work by Lewis Carroll?”
We're carrying the 2003  BBC television version of this inspired piece of juvenilia, starring Jim Broadbent as Alfred Salteena, Hugh Laurie as Lord Bernard Clark, and Lyndsey Marshal as Ethel Monticue (who plays both gentlemen to achieve her goal of 'mingling with Lords and Ladies'). They're all superb, but to my mind it is Bill Nighy who steals the show with his inspired silliness as the Earl of Clincham, engaged to prep Mr Salteena in the ways of the Court.
So many adaptations aim at effervescence and end up being leaden: this one succeeds in spades. The San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman called it "surreal and sweet, a strange concoction almost no one can dream up…. It's not every day that a 9-year-old pens a tale of love, hope and sorrow (not to mention class warfare) and makes it enchanting for both adults and children."
Above, Jim Broadbent as Alfred Salteena, he of the black and "twisty" hair. Here's his inamorata's first view of him in the book:
"Bernard heaved a sigh and his eyes flashed as he beheld her and Ethel thorght to herself what a fine type of manhood he reprisented with his nice thin legs in pale broun trousers and well fitting spats and a red rose in his button hole and rarther a sporting cap which gave him a great air with its quaint check and little flaps to pull down if necesarry."
Below: a snippet from the film.


  1. Jeez I was just reading about Daisy Ashford recently and I had no idea she wrote the novella "The Young Visiters when she was just 9 years old.

  2. Why did I work so hard to perfect my spelling and grammar, when a 9-year-old could scrawl a story and get it published? I looked at the story online. Who published for her?