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The Fearless Treasure

The Fearless Treasure (subtitled A Story of England from Then to Now) was first published in 1953. It is now out of print.


Story | Background | Thoughts | Editions and Availability

Story

At the end of the summer term, six children, in six different schools, are sent for by their headmasters or headmistresses. William Beaumont is the only boy in a family of three, lives in a vicarage in the Sussex Downs, and goes as a day boy to a school in a nearby town. Grace Thwaite lives in Yorkshire: her father is a miner and there are six children in the family. Robert Ackroyd is the only son of a Baron, has two homes - an expensive flat in London and a stately home in Lancashire - and boards at a public school. Elizabeth Hamblett and her two brothers live in Pimlico in London: their father has a clerical job, and the children are sent to small private schools. John Fish's father has a fruit and vegetable business in Norwich: John is the eldest in a family of six, and attends a secondary modern school. Selina Edgecombe comes from a well-off family in Yorkshire, and boards at Borthwick "the finest girls' school in the country" (The Fearless Treasure, 1953:21).

The six children are to spend their summer holidays with Mr Fosse, a well known, and rich, gentleman. Mr Fosse takes them on an exciting and magical journey through the history of England, in which the children find out where their own families came from. Thus, William discovers his Norman heritage, Grace is seen in the Saxon culture, Robert is descended from a mill owner, John has Flemish origins, Elizabeth has an ancestor who was a Lord, and Selina has an ancestor on a Devonshre manor.

Background

When publishers Michael Joseph first suggested writing a social history of England, Noel was initially taken-aback. She had never had a great deal of interest in history, and, although she was reluctant to refuse, the suggestion did not really appeal. Then she remembered a day when her father had found a flint arrowhead on the Sussex Downs, and told her about the civilisation in which it was made. "As he talked ... I saw the man's hut, I smelt his food cooking. Almost I saw him" (Streatfeild, 1953, quoted in Bull 1984:211). This gave her the idea of a story about children travelling back in time to experience the daily lives of their ancestors.

Thoughts

(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have not read the book.)

Angela Bull feels that the plot mechanics of The Fearless Treasure are clumsy, and "the conclusions about the greatness of England, though no doubt chiming with the mood of the Coronation year, now seem sententious" (1984:211). Similarly, Nancy Huse comments on the "optimistic vision in which the 'pattern' of English society means that everyone has a place and oppression can be overcome by remembering Saxon freedom and the courage of past peoples" (1994:130).

Nevertheless, the book has many good points, and received tremendous acclaim when it was first released. Bull suggests that its great strength is that the "feel of the past, which Noel conveys with apt details of sights, sounds and smells, is immediately convincing" (Bull, 1984:211). Huse does not appear to agree with Bull's assessment of the plot mechanics: in her view, the device of using "selected, representative scenes, but [giving] fictional child characters of her own time ... roles in the past, experiencing the moral and physical dimensions" is a successful drawing on "contemporary pedagogical and fictional methods" (1994:129). In Huse's view, the "cleverness of the story, and its detailed patterns, promised to keep Streatfeild in the public eye as a historian for children" (1994:130).

The Fearless Treasure was to lead Noel into writing a number of historically-oriented non-fiction works for children.

Editions and Availability

UK Editions

The Fearless Treasure was first published by Michael Joseph in 1953, with illustrations by Dorothy Braby. There were at least five impressions, with the most recent being 1970.

US Editions

The Fearless Treasure has never been released in the US.

Out of Print

The Fearless Treasure is out of print. In February 2004, second hand copies through online booksellers start in price at 4. (Source: Addall Used and Out of Print Book Search.)

 

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