1 March 2020 Susannah

The Young Visiters

Daisy Ashford, The Young Visiters

Have you ever read The Young Visiters? It was written by Daisy Ashford in 1919 and its author was all of 9 years old (hence the spelling mistake in the title). There were 18 reprints in just its first year of publication and Sir J.M. Barrie wrote a preface to the first edition. The tale is about 17 year old Ethel Monticue who is invited to stay by “an elderly man of 42”, Mr Salteena, who is “parshial to ladies”. They then go off to visit his friend Bernard Clark who is “inclined to be rich”, and Ethel and Bernard fall in love. They meet the Prince of Wales and at the end of the story get married, while poor Mr Salteena has to be content with marrying a Buckingham Palace maid.

The charm of this story comes from its eccentric grammar, its hilarious spelling and the naivety of its author. The Young Visiters is very funny! The narrative voice is distinctive, the story a wonderful commentary on Victorian High Society, and it is truly original. The New York Times called it “one of the most humorous books in literature”. How’s this for a literary hero?: “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.”

Daisy Ashford wrote her story in an exercise book and then left it for years in a drawer. Only in her 30s did she take it out, lend it to a friend and, in time, it came to the attention of an editor who was keen to publish it. It has been adapted into a play, a musical and a TV film.

You can read the whole text (it won’t take you long) free on Project Gutenberg.

I think this misspelled and graceful story is a true gem. What about you? Share your thoughts below.

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Header image credit- Daisy Ashford, author of The Young Visiters, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/21415
Body image credit- The Young Visiters book cover, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/21415

Comments (6)

  1. Diana Paulin

    I love it. I read it a long time ago in Book of Beauty. I will look it up again.

  2. Patty Bruiges

    I have my mother’s copy, a re-print from 1962. I hadn’t read it for some years and enjoyed reading it again after your notes prompted me. It is so funny and quite delightful!

  3. Melvyn Dickson

    The young Visiters is so delighfully funny I have long suspected it was a spoof written by an adult. But you have shown me the evidence and I recognise the errors of my ways. ]-[

    • Susannah Fullerton

      For a while people were convinced that J.M. Barrie wrote it, but I don’t think there’s any doubt it was genuinely by Daisy Ashford. It is hilarious! There’s a lovely line about Mr Salteena changing his underwear once a week, whether it needs to be changed or not.

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