Thursday's Child was first published in 1970, with a US
edition the same year. It is now out of print, although the recent
(1999) Collins paperback may still be available in shops.
Story | Background
| Thoughts | Editions
and Availability | Other Media
Thursday's Child is set at the beginning of the 20th
century. As a baby, Margaret Thursday was found on the church
steps one Thursday morning, with a note "This is Margaret
whom I entrust to your care. Each year fifty-two pounds will be
sent for her keep and schooling. She has not yet been christened"
(Thurdsay's Child, 1970:11). Margaret is looked after
by two old ladies and their servant, Hannah, and every year fifty-two
golden sovereigns are left in the church some time between Christmas
and New Year.
The year Margaret is ten, no money is left: instead there is
a note saying "NO MORE MONEY FOR MARGARET". On the recommendation
of the archdeacon, Margaret is sent to St Luke's Orphanage. Travelling
to the orphanage, Margaret meets Lavinia, Peter and Horatio Beresford.
Peter and Horatio are also going to the orphanage; Lavinia, aged
14, is going into service as a scullery maid.
The orphanage is poor, and the children are underfed, and treated
badly by the sadistic Matron who is in charge. Margaret wants
to run away, but Lavinia asks her to look after Peter and Horatio
so she agrees to stay. From the beginning, Matron dislikes Margaret
and feels that "she must be humbled" (p 30), but Margaret's
spirit cannot be crushed.
Connections to Other
Thursday's Child has a direct sequel - Far
In the late 1940s, Noel met a woman called Margot Grey, who was
to become one of her closest friends. Margot did not know her
own parents: she had been brought up in a large country house,
by two godmothers and a nanny, using a trust fund that had been
arranged for her. Margot ran away from five different schools
before finding one she was happy at. Unfortunately, when she was
fourteen she learned that the godmothers had not managed her money
well, and there was no longer enough to pay for school fees. Margot
was given the opportunity to stay at the school as a pupil-teacher,
but refused. Instead, she went to France, learned the hotel trade,
and was ultimately very successful.
Margot died in the late 1960s, either just before or during the
writing of Thursday's Child. In her article "How
I Met Margaret Thursday", Noel tells the story of Margot's
life (giving her the pseudonym "Margaret"), and finishes
'What an interesting child she must have been,'
I thought, 'to be so proudly independent almost from the day
she was born.' ... Then one day, when I was thinking about a
new book, I decided to use Margaret. Not, of course, with the
real Margaret's story, but using as the central figure the sort
of child I was sure the real Margaret had been. I called my
Margaret, Margaret Thursday and the book Thursday's Child
because, following the old rhyme, she had far to go (in The
Noel Streatfeild Easter Holiday Book, 1974:142)
(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have
not read the book.)
Thursday's Child is the first of Noel's children's books
to have an historical setting. In contrast to the consciously
contemporary references of its immediate predecessors, the Gemma
books, Thursday's Child is full of "numerous small
memories from Noel's own childhood" (Bull,
Angela Bull feels that
Thursday's Child is "not so much a work of imagination
as of fertile invention", and as a result the "leisurely
control of the earlier books has given way to an anxious sense
that on no account must the action be allowed to slow down"
(1984:237). Certainly, the book is eventful - even melodramatic
- with its wicked Matron, the escape from the orphanage, the canal
boat and finally the theatre, not to mention the Beresfords turning
out to be grandchildren of an Earl.
In spite of its rather hectic pace, Thursday's Child
manages to provide fascinating pictures of a variety of different
settings - not only the rather stereotypical orphanage, but also
the village school, the great house, the canal, the theatre. However,
these may be of more interest to the adult reader than to the
child. By being consciously placed in a historical setting, Thursday's
Child lacks the timelessness of some of Noel's contemporary
works, such as Ballet Shoes.
For all the interesting aspects of the setting, the book is ultimately
carried by the indomitable character of Margaret herself. With
echoes of Nicky Heath, Miss Virginia Bell, and others, as well
as the real-life Margot Grey, Margaret is not always likeable,
but she is certainly a strong personality. Unlike Noel's earlier
characters, Margaret is not part of a secure family unit. Although
the book is full of people who love her, and would look after
her, Margaret ultimately chooses to stand on her own.
Editions and Availability
Thursday's Child was first published in
1970 by Collins, with Peggy Fortnum illustrations. It was reprinted
several times between 1971 and 1975, and was also included in
their 1995 Noel Streatfeild Omnibus (together with Ballet
Shoes for Anna and White
An Armada Lion paperback edition was released
in 1972, and reprinted multiple times throughout the 1970's and
early 1980s (later editions being Fontana Lions). The Peggy Fortnum
illustrations were retained, but at least some post-1973 editions
had a photograph from the television serial
on the cover.
In 1995, F A Thorpe Publishers released a large
print hardcover edition (Ulverscroft Large Print Series).
The most recent release seems to have been a Collins
Paperback edition, in 1999.
It was released in the United States in 1970,
by Random House. This edition was reprinted at least once, and
a Random House Children's Books paperback was released in 1985.
A Dell paperback edition was released in 1970,
and reprinted in 1986.
As I have not read the US editions, I do not know
if the text was in any way amended.
Out of Print
The 1999 Collins Paperback edition of Thursday's Child
may still be available in shops. However, it is no longer listed
on the HarperCollins
website, and can therefore be assumed to be out of print.
In February 2004, second hand copies through online booksellers
start in price at £1.50. (Source: Addall
Used and Out of Print Book Search.)
In 1973, the BBC produced a six-episode serial of Thursday's
Child, dramatised by John Tully and produced and directed
by Dorothea Brooking.
In 1995, a cassette audiobook, narrated by Geraldine James, was
released by HarperCollins. However, this no longer appears to