The Fearless Treasure by Noel Streatfeild



published 1953


Fearless Treasure


[The time-travelling children are in 18th century London]

There were smartly-dressed ladies, with great hooped skirts and very low-cut bodices, with their hair hidden by little lace or linen caps. With them were what by their aprons seemed to be their maids, who, though more plainly dressed, looked as much like their mistresses as possible…. Although they had been to the market and done their shopping they seemed in no hurry to get home, but walked up the road looking around in an eager way to see if any friends were about…

The gentlemen were, the children thought, very dressy. They had what they took for long hair, but Mr Fosse said were wigs. He said, if they could look through the walls of the houses, they would see gentlemen without a hair on their heads, sitting in very expensive dressing-gowns waiting for the wig man to finish curling their hair before they could go out. They wore lovely brocade coats with masses of button-holes, fine handsome turned-back cuffs, white lace at their wrists and necks, long waistcoats, with again rows of button-holes, breeches to the knee and, of all gorgeous things to wear, many of them had red heels on their shoes. On their heads they mostly had huge turned-up black hats, bound with gold braid.


 
observations: So this was interesting: at the end of last year when I did a post on E Nesbit’s House of Arden (time-travelling children, costumes), two fellow-Nesbit fans and blog-friends both mentioned this book for comparison purposes.

Daniel Milford-Cottam said:
There's a Noel Streatfeild book that is very similar in general concept to House of Arden called "The Fearless Treasure." which is... very hard to describe otherwise. Six children, three girls, three boys, from six very different schools and six very different backgrounds - from working class, to super-posh - are sent to visit a strange old man who takes them back through time to six different periods - where each of them discovers a different connection/link to the past. It's a pretty good book and an interesting story, but it is very odd - I wasn't expecting it from Streatfeild although it has a LOT of her trademark touches.
Lissa Evans then said:
I remember finding The Fearless Treasure extremely hard going - it had very peculiar illustrations and ends with two children 'winning' and having to come up with a good way of using a large old house. The solution is a sort of school where poor but distinguished children can learn to rise above their background. I agree with Daniel - very odd.
I was convinced I had never heard of it, let alone read it, despite being such an all-round Streatfeild fan, and ordered a copy for myself.

And when I started reading it, I got to the end of page 1, and it all came flooding back: I most certainly had read it, and remembered with absolute certainty various details that were going to pop up in the next few pages.

What most clearly came back to me was that I had borrowed it from the school library, and had been very disappointed that it didn’t resemble the wondrous Ballet Shoes of blessed memory. Where were the auditions, the frock panics, the lining material at one and six-three a yard? The opening chapter describes six children being plucked from everyday life to go on a great adventure: each has home, background, family and school sketched out. My great wish was to hear more about the children there, at home, not to follow them on a historical jaunt through the ages. (I particularly liked the headmistress who had designed the school uniform in her favourite colours of blue and mauve, and sent notes to the girls with the signature well spaced out ‘so that the girl could, if she wished, cut out the signature for her autograph album.’ It sounds nearly as good a school as the one in The Clue in the Castle)

I took more joy in the book this time around: there is a very complex magic by which the children can at first hear historical details, then see them, then live them. There are six sections, each from a different era – one for each child, fitting in with their long-term ancestry – Norman, Viking, rich, poor. It is very carefully done, there is nothing slapdash about it, and it seems it was well-researched and I’m guessing accurate. The big difference to modern eyes is that it is very English – although Romans, Vikings and Normans are seen as immigrants, there is no space to look at any other nationalities coming into the country: and everyone is very white. But Streatfeild is anxious to explore issues of human rights, the rule of law, democracy and equality; and some of the thinking is very modern. It is certainly not as simplistic or as jingoistic as you might expect.

It was a very interesting book, and I’m glad to have read it again. Still, I bet it was given out as a school prize to many a poor child who hoped for something more theatrical from the author’s name…

The picture is from one of my all-time favourite resources: the album of photos from the Builth Wells Historical Pageant of 1909.











Comments

  1. Did your copy have the weird line illustrations, touched with red? I also remember being irritated (bear in mind I came from a socialist household) that all but one of the children went to private schools. Can this be true?

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    1. Yes I have those strange illos! Just checked out the children: four went to out-and-out private. One is poor background, but has just won scholarship (11-plus-style?) to local High School. One is going to a Technical School. But par for the course in children's books of the time....

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  2. It's so interesting, ins't it, Moira, how memories come back like that? I can see how the premise could be really interesting, too, if it's done well. But I agree with you that there's something really appealing about including plot points where the young people are in their own home environment too. I remember liking that part of stories I read about other kids when I was one.

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    1. Yes - it was a good way to learn some history, and I suppose many people, like me, will have read it because of the author. But give me a home background every time...

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  3. You know, Moira, I miss borrowing books from my school library. It had a charm of its own, not to mention the excitement of rushing home and reading it right away. This book sounds "interesting" though a bit complex, perhaps.

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    1. Oh Prashant yes, me too, the tension of looking on the shelves to see what they had, and then the thrill of taking them off to read, totally agree with you. And yes, this book has a complex structure, which really seems unnecessary - it's a kind of magic anyway, so why not just keep it simple?

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  4. Oooh Noel Fielding..... what's he written now.......oops, my bad

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    1. You're definitely let off this one Col...

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  5. Very interesting, although I don't think I would read it. I wish I could remember more about what I read as a child. I do remember walking to the neighborhood library to get books, but that is about it.

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    1. I don't remember half of the books, but I fully recall the excitement and delight of getting books out...

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  6. Thank you for your review. I also remember borrowing this one from the town library around the age of 10 and being disppointed. No theater or ballet? No cozy family with all kinds of different talents? Not being British, the historical aspects were over my head. This was the only book by NS that I don't recall finishing. I thought the red bits in the illustrations (I remember Grace had red hair) were strange, too! But I'd like to reread it now.

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    1. You are so like me! Our experiences are exactly similar, down to looking at the strange illos. Worth re-reading though....

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