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The Young Visiters


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Fiction by nine-year-olds is rare, but the precocious Ashford redeems her unremarkable story in ways she could never have imagined. Written in 1890 but not published until 1919 (and kept in print in Britain since that time), this novel proves to be a completely innocent yet inadvertently amusing spoof of Victorian society. The guileless author (whose photo nonetheless shows a deep self-satisfaction) writes of 42-year-old Alfred Salteena, who, born on the wrong side of the blanket, wishes to become a gentleman. The suave and well-connected earl of Clincham imparts to his apt pupil (without irony and with telling accuracy) the essence of becoming one of the upper class: have plenty of money, keep your unsavory past hidden, wear the right clothing and, above all, know how to hunt, shoot and ride. Armed with this knowledge, Salteena is instantly transformed into Lory Hyssops and gets a job with the royal family. His story is a perfect vehicle for the author's parade of pious, hard-drinking, tight-fisted, socially stratified and hypocritical Victorians. Ashford's fractured syntax, phonetic spelling and imaginative grammar eventually become wearing, but fortunately the book is brief. According to Kendrick's prefatory note, Ashford gave up literary ambitions after she wrote a second novel at age 14; she died in England in 1972. (Dec.)

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