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A best-selling book from 1919 was written by a 9-year old

Domagoj Valjak

Margaret Mary Julia Ashford, popularly known as Daisy Ashford, was an English writer who published several critically acclaimed books throughout the 20th century.

Her most popular work is the novella named “The Young Visiters”, which depicts the life of a young girl in the upper-class society of the late 19th century England. The spelling throughout the novella is inconsistent, including in the title itself, where the word “visitors” is spelled as “visiters”.

Daisy Ashford in 1919.

Daisy Ashford in 1919.

Daisy Ashford was not a revolutionary writer who wished to employ an unorthodox literary mechanism to change literary conventions. The reasons for the incorrect spelling were quite different: she wrote the novella when she was just 9 years old.

In 1917, when Ashford was 36, she discovered the manuscript of The Young Visiters written in one of her old school textbooks. She found the story amusing, so she shared it with some of her friends in its original form. That same year the book accidentally ended up in the hands of Frank Swinnerton, a novelist who was working for the renowned London publishing house Chatto and Windus.

Daisy Ashford as a child.

Daisy Ashford as a child.

 

First page of the manuscript.

First page of the manuscript.

The publishers were amazed by the book and decided to publish it almost exactly as it had been written. The story impressed some very prominent writers and critics of the time, and the book was published with a preface was written by J.M. Barrie, author of the immensely popular “Peter Pan”.

The book was so popular that it was reprinted 18 times in its first year alone. After it was first published, the rumors spread that the book was an elaborate literary hoax designed by Barrie himself. People thought that the misspelling and wrong syntax were a part of Barrie’s literary experiment, but Daisy Ashford fiercely rejected these accusations.

Sir James Barrie, around 1895.

Sir James Barrie, around 1895.

The book was reprinted numerous times throughout the 20th century and translated into many languages worldwide.

Here is another story from us: French writer ate lunch every day at the base of The Eiffel Tower, because that was the only place in Paris from which he could not see it

The book’s popularity persists into the modern day–a feature-length film The Young Visiters made in 1984 starring Tracy Ullman and John Standing, and BBC made a TV film in 2003 starring Hugh Laurie and Lyndsey Marshall.