Tuesday 19 November 2019
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theguardian - 10 days ago

Mary Poppins, Madame Doubtfire and a murderer: the best books about nannies

‘Always keep a-hold of Nurse,’ wrote Hilaire Belloc. But some nannies are best avoided …“Nanny shall fetch her,” says the odious Mrs Norris, orchestrating the arrival of little Fanny Price at Mansfield Park. Unseen and unheard, Jane Austen’s Nanny enters literature for the first time. Like governesses and housekeepers, nannies are mother substitutes. Although they are most often to be found in children’s literature, the rise of the working mother means they have recently been gaining an important role in adult fiction too.Nannies, once called nurses, first appear in children’s literature in Peter Pan (1911). Too poor to afford a human helper, Mr Darling has a protective Newfoundland dog in a nurse’s cap called Nana (who remains behind when the children fly away with Peter). Then as now, the nurse/nanny status for adults and children alike was ambiguous: “Always keep a-hold of Nurse / For fear of finding something worse,” suggested Hilaire Belloc in his cautionary poem, after the disobedient Jim runs away from his and gets eaten by a lion at the zoo. Continue reading...


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