Fitful Gleams from Fancy-Land, Edith Milner

Edith Milner (1845–1921) lived in York, Nun Appleton, England. An 1880 interview for the Women’s Penny Paper reported that her youth was spent in the country “amongst the farmers and peasants, teaching in the schools, training the village choir, [and] visiting the poor and the sick in their homes.” She taught botany at the York Industrial School for Boys, and she worked for the York Charity Organisation Society, which she helped found, and the York Association for the Care of Young Girls. She loved her work at the school and was said to have “immense influence over boys and [could] manage even the most unruly.”[1] She was a Ruling Councillor in the Primrose Society, a conservative political organization, and hosted evening events to display the work of musicians and artists.[2] Milner wrote three fiction titles, The Lily of Lumley, Fitful Gleams from Fancy-Land, and A Sunshine in the Shady Place,[3] and a nonfiction piece, Oberammergau and Its Passion Play.[4]

Fitful Gleams from Fancy-Land is a Victorian children’s book, published in 1874, illustrated with sixteen woodcuts by Mrs. E. Stanhope. The book is a collection of short stories with moral messages to teach children values such as selfless behavior, compassion, and imagination. Milner dedicated the book to Selina Beresford, “child of my early sister-friend,” and “to all my children friends,” whom she invites in the dedicatory poem to “Find in these tales of fairy lore / Truth twined in fancy’s threads of light.”[5]

Of Fitful Gleams from Fancy-Land, a London newspaper wrote, in 1873, “The tales are new and fantastic, full of strange conceits and original devices. The idea is a curious one. Every good and bad instinct holds a certain rank among a bevy of flowers, and the opportunity for instilling serious truths, which this fanciful principle suggests, is by no means lost… The reader may see this style of writing is not calculated to please children—certainly it is not for the romps of the nursery, but we believe there are many thoughtful, grave young ones whom the volume will delight.”[6]

A copy of Fitful Gleams from Fancy-Land can be found in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections with the call number 823 M636f 1874. Patrons interested in more information about the book can contact the curator of rare books, Maggie Kopp, whose email address is maggie_gallup@byu.edu.

[1] Helena B. Temple, editor, “Interview.,” Women’s Penny Paper, June 7, 1890, no. 85, vol. 2. https://access.newspaperarchive.com/uk/middlesex/london/london-women-penny-paper/1890/06-07/.

[2] Fiona Richards, “William Baines and His Circle,” The Musical Times 130, no. 1758 (August 1989): 460–63, https://doi.org/10.2307/1193600.

[3] Troy J Bassett, “Author: Edith Milner,” At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837—1901, September 5, 2023, http://www.victorianresearch.org/atcl/show_author.php?aid=3829.

[4] “New Books,” London Standard, December 1, 1909. https://access.newspaperarchive.com/uk/middlesex/london/london-standard/1909/12-01/page-5/.

[5] Edith Milner, Fitful Gleams from Fancy-Land (London: Houlston and Sons, 1874).

[6] “Christmas Literature: No. III,” Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, December 21, 1873. https://access.newspaperarchive.com/uk/middlesex/london/lloyds-weekly-newspaper/1873/12-21/page-5/.

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