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.