The Young Visiters
|The Young Visiters|
First page of The Young Visiters manuscript
Composition and publication
Ashford wrote the novel at the age of nine, in 1890, in an exercise book. Full of spelling mistakes, each chapter was also written as a single paragraph. Many years later, in 1917 and aged 36, Ashford rediscovered her manuscript languishing in a drawer, and lent it to Margaret Mackenzie, a friend who was recovering from influenza. It passed through several other hands, before arriving with Frank Swinnerton, a novelist who was also a reader for the publishing house of Chatto and Windus. Largely due to Swinnerton's enthusiasm for this piece of juvenilia, the book was published almost exactly as it had been written. J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, agreed to write a preface.
The book was so successful that it was reprinted 18 times in its first year alone. After its publication, rumours soon started that the book was in fact an elaborate literary hoax, and that it had been written by J. M. Barrie himself. These rumours persisted for years.
A stage play of The Young Visiters by Mrs George Norman and Margaret Mackenzie was first performed in London in 1920, transferring shortly thereafter to New York. The New York production, at the Thirty-ninth Street Theatre, received generally good reviews: one reviewer stated
"The Young Visiters" ... has been turned into a play by the simple use of a pair of shears and a pot of paste. Probably no novel was ever so reverently dramatized since the world began.
A musical based on the book by Michael Ashton and Ian Kellam was produced in 1968, a feature-length film of The Young Visiters was made in 1984 starring Tracey Ullman and John Standing, and a television film version of The Young Visiters was made by the BBC in 2003, starring Jim Broadbent as Alfred Salteena, Lyndsey Marshal as Ethel Monticue and Hugh Laurie as Lord Bernard Clark. The screenplay was written by Patrick Barlow and it was directed by David Yates.
- Woollcott, Alexander (30 November 1920). "THE PLAY; Miss Ashford's Play". The New York Times.
- The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English. Cambridge University Press. 1999. p. 22. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "A Note on the text" in a 1989 edition of the book, Chatto & Windus, London ISBN 0-7011-2725-2