The reissue of Our Island Story, first published in 1905, has brought a dreamy look to many a seasoned face. The book is affectionately remembered for its bracing stories, its sturdy simplicities, its fearless assessments of the mighty as wise or wicked. On the jacket Antonia Fraser and Andrew Roberts testify to the inspiration it gave them as historians and the pleasure it afforded their own offspring. The Daily Telegraph’s Education Editor, John Clare, says the book chimes with the Prince of Wales’s campaign to restore narrative and chronology to school history lessons, instead of ‘fractured incoherence’. If the authors of 1066 and All That, Sellar and Yeatman, had been available for a jacket quote, they would surely have blushingly acknowledged their debt to H E Marshall’s best-loved bestseller.
All that seems to be known about Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall is that she used initials to conceal her gender and that she lived in Melbourne, Australia. There is a rumour that she was a homesick governess. Whatever she was, she hit on a good idea, and when Our Island Story