Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965

Eleanor Farjeon was born in London in 1881, the daughter of a novelist. She came from a talented family; her elder brother was a composer and two of her younger brothers writers. She was educated at home and took her inspiration from her childhood and family holidays in France, captured in an autobiography she wrote in 1935, A Nursery in the Nineties, and used for the children’s story she wrote in 1921, Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard. She published her first volume of poems, Pan Worship, in 1908. The family moved to rural Sussex during World War I, where Eleanor was much taken by the landscape and charming villages.

She published Nursery Rhymes of London Town in 1916 and after the war continued to write poetry, plays, and books for children, both stories which often mock the behaviour of adults and educational books such as Kings and Queens. She also wrote a number of war poems, including Easter Monday, a libretto for an opera set to music by her brother, and the well-known hymn Morning Has Broken. She also worked as a journalist and broadcaster. She had a wide range of literary friends including Robert Frost, Walter de la Mare, D H Lawrence, and Edward Thomas and his wife, writing a definitive account of their relationship after Thomas’s death in WWI in Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years.

Eleanor Farjeon never married but had a close 30-year friendship with George Earle, an English teacher, and after his death with the actor Denys Blakelock. She converted to Catholicism in 1951. She was awarded the Carnegie Medal for British children’s books in 1955, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for The Little Bookroom, a collection of her children’s stories, and in 1959 the Regina Medal from the US-based Catholic Library Association. She died in Hampstead in 1965.

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