Eleanor Farjeon was born on February 13th, 1881, in London.
She was the Her father was Benjamin Leopold Farjeon, journalist, popular novelist,
the author of numerous books described as being very high spirited and
enthusiastic with life. Her mother, Margaret, was the
daughter of Joseph Jefferson, a well-known American actor who came from the
same family as the third U.S. President.
Farjeons were a talented family. The eldest son, Harry, was a composer and a
teacher at the Royal Academy of Music; Joe and Herbert became writers.
Eleanor, known to the family as "Nellie", was a small timid child,
who had poor eyesight and suffered from ill-health throughout her childhood.
She was "home schooled" and she loved books. Perhaps her frequent
headaches and colds were contributed to by the dust of the "little
bookroom" - an attic space piled with books. She described growing up in a house filled
with reading material, where "it would have been more natural to live
without clothes than without books." Although there were books in every
room, the little bookroom was given over to them completely, crammed floor to
ceiling with haphazardly arranged titles, "much trash, and more
treasure." Every visit the young Eleanor made to the bookroom was an
expedition of discovery; every book examined had the potential to be a lifelong
library of 8,000 books provided a fertile field for learning. He encouraged her writing from the age of
five. She wrote lyrics and her brother Harry wrote the music for songs they
performed in London. She describes her
family and her childhood in the autobiographical, A Nursery in the Nineties
(1935). She published her first magazine story, "The Cardboard Angel," at the age of nineteen. When Benjamin Farjeon died in 1903, leaving no
inheritance, Eleanor began writing to earn a living. She was twenty-two at the
Although she lived
much of her life among the literary and theatrical circles of London, much of Eleanor's
inspiration came from her childhood and from family holidays. A holiday in France in 1907 was to
inspire her to create a story of a troubadour, later refashioned as the
wandering minstrel of her most famous book, Martin Pippin in the Apple
her earliest publications is a volume of poems called Pan Worship,
published in 1908, and Nursery Rhymes of London Town. During World War I,
the family moved to Sussex where the
landscape, villages and local traditions were to have a profound effect upon
her later writing. It was in Sussex that the Martin
Pippin stories were eventually to be located. Martin
Pippin in the Apple-Orchard (1921) and its sequel, Martin Pippin
in the Daisy Field (1937) established her
reputation as an author.
After World War I
Eleanor earned a living as a poet, journalist and broadcaster. Eleanor Farjeon was a regular
contributor to Punch from 1914-17, wrote verse as "Tomfool"
for the London Daily Herald
(1917-30), and was a staff member for the magazine Time and Tide
during the 1920s.
1930s and 1940s saw numerous collaborative efforts with her brother Herbert, Shakespearian
scholar and dramatic critic. Their productions include Kings and Queens
(1932), The Two Bouquets (1938), An Elephant in Arcady (1939),
and The Glass Slipper (1944).
Banquets¸ an operetta was written in 1936 and published as a
novelette in 1948. In 1944
the pair wrote a children’s play called The Glass Slipper, which was
published as a full-length book in 1955. Eleanor’s skill as an author truly
blossomed in the 1950s with such finely crafted books as Silver-Sand and
Snow (1951) and the collection of poems The Children’s Bells (1957).
Farjeon was a
prolific writer. Children’s verses, miscellanies, rhymed alphabets, songs and stories all poured forth from
her pen. Her most successful works, however, remain her children’s books. During the 1950s she was awarded
three major literary prizes: The
Carnegie Medal of the Library Association, (for her collection of stories, The Little Bookworm). Her body of
work was honoured in 1956 by the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal
and the Regina Medal
by the American Catholic Library Association, but she turned down
another honor—Dame of the British Empire—explaining that
she "did not wish to become different from the milkman."
Farjeon never married and had no children. Though very shy and
emotionally immature, she was well acquainted with a circle of talented
artists, writers and musicians. leanor had a
thirty-year friendship with George Earle, an English teacher. After his death
in 1949, she had a long friendship with the actor Denys Blakelock, who wrote of
it in the book, Eleanor, Portrait of a Farjeon (1966). She described her hobbies as "cooking and cats". She died on 5 June 1965 at Hampstead, London.
Farjeon donated her family collection of books to the Dunedin Public Library in
memory of her father in 1960. The collection numbers over 200 items written by
not only Eleanor Farjeon, but her father and brothers as well.
Cats Sleep Anywhere
Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Open draw, empty shoe, anybody's lap will do.
Fitted in a cardboard box, in the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don't care! Cats sleep anywhere.
The Sounds in the
The sounds in the evening
Go all through the house,
The click of the clock
And the pick of the mouse,
The footsteps of people
Upon the top floor,
The skirts of my mother
That brush by my door,
The crick in the boards,
And the creak of the chairs,
The fluttering murmurs
Outside on the stairs,
The ring at the bell,
The arrival of guest,
The laugh of my father
At one of his jests,
The clashing of dishes
As dinner goes in,
The babble of voices
That distance makes thin,
The mewings of cats
That seem just by my ear,
The hooting of owls
That can never seem near,
The queer little noises
That on one explains –
Till the moon through the
Of my window-blind rains,
And the world of my eyes
And my ears melts like steam
As I find in my pillow
The world of my dream.
There Are Big Wave
There are big waves
And little waves,
Green waves and blue.
Waves you can jump over,
Waves you dive through,
Waves that rise up
Like a great water wall,
Waves that swell softly
And don't break at all,
Waves that can whisper,
Waves that can roar,
And tiny waves that run at you
Running on the shore.
Nouns are the things I see and
My Cake, my Mother, and my
I like some Nouns very much,
Though some I do no like at
Verbs are the things I do, and
And feel, in one way or
Thanks to Verbs, I eat my
And throw my Ball, and hug my
Yet Verbs, which make me laugh
Can also make me cry and fall,
And tease my Mother every day,
And spoil my Cake, and lose my
There Isn't Time!
There isn't time, there isn't
To do the things I want to do,
With all the mountain-tops to
And all the woods to wander
And all the seas to sail upon,
And everywhere there is to go,
And all the people, every one
Who lives upon the earth, to
There's only time, there's
To know a few, and do a few,
And then sit down and make a
About the rest I want to do.
The Tide in the River
The tide in the river,
The tide in the river,
The tide in the river runs deep,
I saw a shiver
Pass over the river
As the tide turned in its sleep.
Теченье у речки,
Теченье у речки,
Теченье у речки бежит в
Я вижу, как в речке
Как будто теченье кружится во
The moon is made of silver,
The sun is made of gold,
And Jupiter is made of tin,
So the ancients told.
Venus is made of copper,
Saturn is made of lead,
And Mars is made of iron,
So the ancients said.
But what the Earth was made of
Very long ago
The ancients never told us
Because they didn't know.