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Description: banner with Victorian era patterning background,
in beige color, containing a black and white photo of Sarah Smith
(white woman and possibly blonde) who used the pseudonym
 of Hesba Stretton. There’s also a picture of a London’s
 Victorian era slum, and, on the left, a Find Sapiens logo.



Some of Hesba Stretton's books are freely available on the internet. Just, in some search site, type:

the word   ‘book’ + blank space + some of the titles below + Hesba Stretton

Clicking on the images in this column, you can access these works:

Book 'Jessica's First Prayer'
Book 'Jessica's Mother'
Book 'Little Meg's Children'
Book 'Fern's Hollow'
Book 'Alone in London'

Click HERE to freely access more Hesba Stretton's books
Few in the world know Sarah Smith's vast work. But, being such a singular writer, an effort should be made to awaken young and adult readers of such stories that deal with pure and dedicated Christianity.

Sarah Smith was a novelist and storyteller who was born on July 27, 1832 in New Street, Wellington, Shropshire. She was the third of eight sons (three sons died young; four daughters and one son lived to maturity) by Benjamin Smith (1793-1878), printer, bookseller and Wellington's first postman, and Anne Bakewell Smith (1798-1842) , a practicing Methodist and remarkably intelligent. Sarah and her older sister, Elizabeth, attended Old Hall, a girls' school in Wellington, but learned most of their studies from books in their father's store. Both qualified as housekeepers.

At the age of 26, Sarah Smith began her career as a journalist, using the pseudonym Hesba Stretton (derived from the initials of the brothers' names - Hannah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Benjamin, Anna - and the village of Shropshire All Stretton, where her younger sister obtained donated property). Without her knowledge, Elizabeth sent Sarah's first published story to Charles Dickens, editor of Household Words. 'The lucky leg', a bizarre story of a widower who asks women with wooden legs to marry, appeared in nº. 469 (March 19, 1859). Stretton contributed the invitation 'The Ghost in the Clock Room' to the first Christmas number of the Year in 1859 and was successful again in 1864, 1865 and 1866. Although he did not accept all of his contributions, Dickens was unfailingly helpful and encouraging. 'The Daughter of the Postman' (all year, November 5, 1859), 'A Provincial Post' (all year, February 28, 1863) and 'The Traveling Mail' (all year, Mugby Junction, December 1866) reflect many personal and family experiences. Smith has published stories, from the authentic and factual to the sensational and romantic, in Chambers's Journal, Welcome Guest, Temple Bar, Tinsley's Magazine and The Argosy.

In September 1863, Sarah and Elizabeth Smith left home for Manchester, where Elizabeth worked as a governess (until 1870) and Sarah continued to publish a steady stream of children's books: Fern's Hollow (1864), Enoch Roden's Training (1865) e The Children of Cloverley (1865). The huge success that virtually launched his long career with the Religious Tract Society was A Primeira Oração de Jessica (Sunday at Home, July 1866), a novel for children and newly literate, about a child abandoned in London by his mother, a drunk actress. With simplicity and emotion, characteristics that Lord Shaftesbury praised in the story, Jessica exposes the prejudice of the Methodist congregation that initially avoids it and the avarice of the owner of the coffee shop that eventually adopts it. Sold over two million copies during Stretton's lifetime, spawned the sequel Jessica's Mother (1867), it was translated into fifteen European and Asian languages and published in Braille, depicted on colored slides for segments of magic lanterns from Bands of Hope programs and placed in all Russian schools by order of Tsar Alexander II, a decree revoked by his successor. As reported by Wikipedia, sales of "Jessica's First Prayer" were almost ten times greater than Alice in Wonderland.

Sara Smith observed firsthand the poverty in London's slums, which is why her descriptions are accurate and convincing. Little Meg's Children (1868) it features a ten-year-old child dealing with abandonment, misery, the death of his mother and a little brother and adolescent prostitution; thanks to Meg's biblical faith and some narrative twists, the story also features reconciliation and reform. From the beginning, Smith highlighted the sincere and often tragic truth of the child, usually an abandoned child, like the boy Tony in Alone in London (1869), trying to put Dolly in an overcrowded hospital, the heroic Tom Haslam in Pilgrim Street (1867), who dies rescuing his abusive convicted father, trapped in the fire that the reprobate himself had provoked, and the boy Peter in The Fishers of Derby Haven (1866), it just deserves to be flogged for its honesty. In addition to illustrating New Testament principles, Smith's stories revolve around coincidences, often involving money, such as Meg finding treasure in a dirty attic, the delayed letter that results in the surprise present of a country house in Dois Segredos (1882), and the discovery of money accumulated through an act of charity in the Sam Franklin's Savings Bank (1888).

In his three-story adult novels, Smith continued the detailed precision of the location and dialect and added, as in The Doctor's Dilemma (1872), the sentimental elements of the conflicts between love and duty, undeclared and prolonged romances, women's vulnerability under greedy husbands and guardians, and convenient deaths. His fiction for young people was more succinct and focused, always hitting social issues: (Fern's Hollow, 1864), young criminals (In Prison and Out, 1878), prostitutes and rescue missions (The King's Servants, 1873), alcoholism and parents' neglect (Nellie's Dark Days, 1870, Lost Gip, 1873, Brought Home, 1875), o abuse of domestic workers (Cassy, ​​1874) and hunger for children to make them effective beggars (The Lord's Purse-Bearers, 1883) . Smith applauded Dr. Barnardo's work with street children; with Reverend Benjamin Waugh, editor of Sunday Magazine, she lobbied for the establishment of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1884, and served on its executive for a decade, before resigning because of the society's poor financial management. Smith collected money (more than £ 900) and wrote books to support the cause of Russian evangelicals (estundistas) and victims of famine in the early 1890s.

At the age of sixty in 1892, Sarah Smith settled with her sister Elizabeth in her first permanent residence, Ivycroft in Ham Common, Richmond, Surrey, where they founded a branch of the Popular Book Club to circulate good books among the working classes. Here the inseparable pair spent their last nineteen years. Elizabeth passed away before her sister for eight months. Sarah Smith died at home on October 8, 1911. Sunday at Home's obituary praised her "long, happy, useful and noble life".

Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [link] and Wikipedia [link]

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