|Born||Enid Mary Blyton
11 August 1897
East Dulwich, England
|Died||28 November 1968
|Resting place||Golders Green Crematorium|
|Pen name||Mary Pollock|
|Occupation||Novelist, poet, teacher|
|Alma mater||Ipswich High School|
|Genres||Children's literature: adventure, mystery, fantasy|
|Notable work(s)||The Famous Five, Secret Seven, Noddy|
|Notable award(s)||Boys' Club of America for The Island of Adventure|
|Spouse(s)||Hugh Alexander Pollock (1924–42)
Kenneth Fraser Darrell Waters (1943–67)
Imogen Mary Smallwood
|Relative(s)||Carey Blyton, Hanly Blyton|
Enid Mary Blyton (11 August 1897 – 28 November 1968) was an English children's writer whose books have been among the world's bestsellers for children since the 1930s, selling more than 600 million copies. Blyton's books, which cover a broad range of genres from fantasy and mystery stories to nature books, are still enormously popular throughout the Commonwealth and across most of the globe, and have been translated into almost 90 languages. She is estimated to have written about 800 books over 40 years, but is best known for her Noddy, The Famous Five, and The Secret Seven series. Blyton's first book, Child Whispers, a 24-page collection of poems, was published in 1922, and she occasionally used the pseudonym Mary Pollock after marrying Major Hugh Alexander Pollock in 1924.
Following the high sales of Blyton's early novels such as Adventures of the Wishing Chair (1937) and The Enchanted Wood (1939) she became a phenomenal success in the 1940s and 1950s, and skilfully built a literary empire. She often produced as many as forty books a year, and started many new series in addition to her prolific magazine and newspaper contributions. Blyton capitalised on her success by venturing into board games, puzzles, card games and other merchandise; Bestime released the first four jigsaw puzzles featuring her characters in 1948. In 1950 she established Darrell Waters Ltd. to look after her business affairs, named after her second husband Kenneth Darrell Waters, a surgeon she had married in 1943.
Blyton's work became increasingly controversial among literary critics, teachers and parents from the 1950s onwards, because of the alleged unchallenging nature of her writing and the themes of her books, particularly Noddy. A number of libraries and schools consequently banned her works, which had already been banned by the BBC since the 1930s for their perceived lack of literary merit. Her books have been criticised as being elitist, sexist, racist, xenophobic and at odds with the more liberal environment emerging in contemporary post-war Britain, but they have nevertheless continued to be bestsellers since her death in 1968. In a 1982 survey Blyton was voted the most popular writer by 10,000 children in the 11 age group, and from 2000 to 2010, she was still listed as a Top Ten author, selling almost eight million copies (worth £31.2 million) in the UK alone. In the 2008 Costa Book Awards, Blyton was voted Britain's best-loved author.
Chorion Limited owned and handled the intellectual properties and character brands of Blyton's estate after her death, but sold its assets following financial difficulties in 2012. Hachette UK acquired the world rights to much of her work in March 2013, including The Famous Five series. The story of Blyton's life was dramatised in a BBC film entitled Enid with Helena Bonham Carter in the title role, which first aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Four on 16 November 2009, and several adaptations of her books for stage, screen and television have been made.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Writing technique
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Charitable work
- 5 Death and legacy
- 6 Critical backlash
- 7 Selected works
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Early life and education
Blyton was born on 11 August 1897 at 354 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London, England, the eldest of three children born to Thomas Carey Blyton (1870–1920), a cutlery salesman, and his wife Theresa Mary Harrison Blyton (1874–1950). Her younger brothers, Hanly (1899–1983) and Carey (1902–76), were born after the family had moved to a semi-detached villa at 95 Chaffinch Road in Beckenham. In November 1897 Blyton almost died from whooping cough, but was nursed back to health by her father, whom she adored. Thomas Blyton was instrumental in teaching Enid about nature; she wrote in her autobiography that her father "loved flowers and birds and wild animals, and knew more about them than anyone I had ever met". He also passed on his interest in gardening, art, music, literature and the theatre to his daughter, and the two would often go on nature walks much to the disapproval of Enid's mother, who showed little interest in her pursuits. She was devastated when her father left the family to live with another woman. Blyton and her mother did not have a good relationship; later in life Blyton claimed to others that her mother was dead, and ultimately did not attend either of her parents' funerals.
Blyton was baptised at Elm Road Baptist Church in 1910. From 1907 to 1915, she was educated at St Christopher's School in Beckenham where she enjoyed physical activities and became school tennis champion and captain of lacrosse. She was not so keen on all the academic work, in particular maths but excelled in writing, and in 1911 entered Arthur Mee's children's poetry competition; Mee offered to print her verses, encouraging her to produce more. In 1912 the family moved to 14 Elm Road in Beckenham.
Blyton's father taught her to play the piano, which she mastered well enough for him to believe that she might follow in his sister's footsteps and become a professional musician. Blyton considered enrolling at the Guildhall School of Music, but decided that she was best suited to being a writer. After finishing her last year in school in 1915, as head girl, Blyton moved out of the family home in 13 Westfield Road, to live with her friend Mary Attenborough at 34 Oakwood Avenue. She then left Beckenham and stayed with George and Emily Hart at Seckford Hall in Woodbridge in Suffolk, a house whose haunted room and secret passageway reportedly inspired her. At Woodbridge Congregational Church Blyton met teacher Ida Hunt, who taught full-time at Ipswich High School. Hunt invited her to move in with her on a farm near Woodbridge, and suggested that she train as a teacher. Blyton was introduced to the children at the kindergarten, and recognising her natural affinity with children enrolled in a National Froebel Union teacher-training course at the Ipswich school in September 1916. Blyton later professed that "my love of children is the whole foundation of all my work".
By late 1916 Blyton had virtually ceased contact with her family. In March that year her first poems were published in Nash's Magazine. Despite the success, Blyton had been rejected by publishers on many occasions which made her more determined to succeed, remarking that "it is partly the struggle that helps you so much, that gives you determination, character, self-reliance – all things that help in any profession or trade, and most certainly in writing". She completed her teacher training course in December 1918, and the following month obtained a teaching appointment at Bickley Park School, a small independent school for boys in Bickley, Kent. Two months later, Blyton received a Teaching Certificate with Distinctions in Zoology and Principals of Education, 1st Class in Botany, Geography, Practice of Education, History of Education, Child Hygiene and Class Teaching and 2nd class in Literature and Elementary Mathematics. In 1920 she moved to Southernhay on Hook Road in Surbiton, as nursery governess to the four boys of architect Horace Thompson and his wife Gertrude.
Early writing career
In 1920 Blyton moved to Chessington, where she lived in Hook Road for four years and began writing in her spare time. She met old school friend Phyllis Chase, an illustrator, at a garden party that year, and they decided to collaborate, with much success. On 19 February 1921 Blyton won the Saturday Westminster Review writing competition after submitting her On the Popular Fallacy that to the Pure All Things are Pure. Reputable publications such as The Londoner, Home Weekly and The Bystander showed an interest in her works and published her short stories and poems.
Blyton's first book, Child Whispers, a 24-page collection of poems, was published in 1922. That year she began writing in annuals for both Cassell and George Newnes, and her first piece of writing was published in Teachers' World, "Peronei and his Pot of Glue". Her success was boosted in 1923 when her poems were published alongside those of Rudyard Kipling, Walter de la Mare and G. K. Chesterton in a special issue of Teachers' World. As a result, Blyton was given her own column, "From My Window", and was a regular contributor to the publication for 23 years; her contributions ranged from ancient history and religious studies to nature and drama. Her educational texts were quite influential on teaching in the 1920s and 1930s. Her most sizable contributions include the 3-volume The Teacher's Treasury (1926), the 6-volume Modern Teaching (1928), the 10-volume Pictorial Knowledge, and the 4-volume Modern Teaching in the Infant School (1932).
In 1923 Blyton published Real Fairies: Poems and Responsive Singing Games. They were followed by The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies, Songs of Gladness and Sports and Games in 1924, and the Book of Brownies in 1926. Blyton established a reputation as a children's writer when she began writing for the magazine Sunny Stories, which typically included the re-telling of legends, myths and stories and useful articles for children, and became very popular. She used the pseudonym Mary Pollock for a few titles (middle name plus first married name). On 21 July 1925, Blyton made her first contribution to The Morning Post and earned £1095.10s.2d for her work in that year.
Blyton's Sunny Stories for Little Folks was published in July 1926. In October of that year she was given a full-page interview in Teachers World, and interviewed A. A. Milne, who had submitted an advance copy of Winnie the Pooh to her. In 1927 Blyton bought a typewriter, and published several books of plays including A Book of Little Plays and The Play's the Thing with illustrator Alfred Bestall, which at 25 shillings was the most expensive book of her career. She wrote Silver and Gold and The Animal Book, and between December 1927 and August 1928 contributed to The Outline. In 1929 she published The Book Around Europe and Enid Blyton's Nature Lessons, described as a "floral fantasy in an Old English Garden". On 4 September Blyton was given her own children's page in Teachers World, in which she published a letter from her fox terrier dog Bobs.
In the 1930s Blyton developed an interest in writing tales related to ancient Greece, ancient Rome and other myths. In 1930 she published The Knights of the Round Table, Tales of Ancient Greece and Tales of Robin Hood. In Tales of Ancient Greece Blyton retold 16 well-known ancient Greek myths, but used the Latin rather than the Greek names of deities and invented conversations between the characters. On 5 February 1932 she completed her first full-length adult novel, The Caravan Goes On, but initially was unable to find a publisher. In October the following year, Letters from Bobs was published and sold ten thousand copies in the first week.
In 1934 Blyton released The Adventures of Odysseus, Tales of the Ancient Greeks and Persians, Tales of the Romans, The Enid Blyton Poetry Book, The Strange Tale of Mr. Wumble and her "Round the Year" nature series. In 1935 she wrote The Children's Garden, reprinted in 1948 as Let's Garden and The Green Goblin Book, and the following year worked with illustrator Benjamin Rabier to publish The Famous Jimmy with more than 70 of Rabier's illustrations.
Blyton's first serial story and first full-length book, Adventures of the Wishing Chair, was published in 1937. Blyton's magazine was renamed Enid Blyton's Sunny Stories and reformatted in January 1937, when it served as a vehicle for Blyton's books, appearing as serials. It returned to its original title in 1942, and became a fortnightly publication. Blyton's first Naughty Amelia Jane story, about an anti-heroine based on a doll owned by her daughter Gillian, was published in the magazine on 29 January.
In September 1938 Blyton released the first novels of two new book series, The Secret Island (five books) and The Circus Series (three books), the first of which was Mr Galliano's Circus. That same year she also published her first Brer Rabbit books, Brer Rabbit and Heyo, Brer Rabbit!, the latter illustrated by Kathleen Nixon, who illustrated Blyton's The Animal Book and others.
In May 1939 Blyton published The Enchanted Wood, the first book in the The Faraway Tree series centred on a magic tree and influenced by the Norse mythology that had fascinated her as a child. Like her The Wishing Chair series, these fantasy books typically involve children being transported into a magical world in which they meet fairies, goblins, elves, pixies, and other mythological creatures. In November Blyton released her first full-length unserialised book, the Boys' and Girls' Circus Book.
In the 1940s Blyton not only proved how prolific she could be as an author, but demonstrated a "marketing, publicity and branding that was far ahead of its time", contributing to her major success during this period. Helena Bonham Carter, who played Blyton in the 2009 BBC film Enid, described her as "a complete workaholic, an achievement junkie and an extremely canny businesswomen" who "knew how to brand herself, right down to the famous signature". Blyton produced stories in a wide range of fictional genres, from fairy and tales and animal and nature stories to detective and mystery stories and circus stories, but she often "blurred the boundaries" in her own stories, and encompassed a range of genres even in her short stories.
In November 1940 Blyton published two books under the pseudonym, Mary Pollock. That year she published The Children of Cherry Tree Farm and the first novel in the The Naughtiest Girl series, The Naughtiest Girl in the School, about the exploits of a mischievous schoolgirl Elizabeth Allen at the fictional Whyteleafe School. It was the first in her boarding school story genre of books, and was followed by The Naughtiest Girl Again (1942) and the first of her six novels of the St. Clare's series in 1941, The Twins at St. Clare's, about twins Patricia and Isabel O'Sullivan. In 1941, Blyton was asked to provide the text for the English version of Jean de Brunhoff's Babar. Blyton showed an interest in writing biblical stories and produced retellings of Old Testament and New Testament stories. The Land of Far-Beyond (1942) is a Christian parable along the lines of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1698), with modern children as the central characters.
In September 1942 Hodder & Stoughton published Blyton's first Famous Five novel, Five on a Treasure Island, with illustrations by Eileen Soper. The success of the series resulted in 21 books between then and 1963. The characters of Julian, Dick, and Anne, George (Georgina), and Timothy the dog became household names in Britain. The Enid Blyton Society writes of the way The Famous Five, "armed with maps, torches, packets of sandwiches and a plentiful supply of ginger-beer", would "spend their holidays hiking and biking, camping and exploring by themselves, invariably falling into adventure" in the novels. Matthew Grenby, author of Children's Literature, states that the five were involved with "unmasking hardened villains and solving serious crimes", although the novels were "hardly 'hard-boiled' thrillers". Blyton based the character of Georgina, a tomboy she described as "short-haired, freckled, sturdy, and snub-nosed" and "bold and daring, hot-tempered and loyal", on herself.
In 1943 Blyton published her first book in the "The Five Find-Outers" series, The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. Capitalizing on her success, with a loyal, ever-growing readership, she managed to produce a new edition to many of her series such as The Famous Five, The Five Find-Outers and St. Clares each year in addition to many other novels, short stories and books. As ambitious as ever, Blyton continued to create new series of books, including Mary Mouse from 1942 onwards, The Adventure Series of eight novels from 1944 onwards, and the Malory Towers series of six books based around schoolgirl Darrell Rivers, the first of which was First Term at Malory Towers, published in 1946. The name of the school girl in Malory Towers is evidently derived from her second husband. In September 1945 Blyton began contributing to Good Housekeeping, writing for the magazine until August 1948.
In March 1949 Blyton published The Rockingdown Mystery, the first of six in The Barney Mysteries series. On 21 May Blyton began contributing to the Evening Standard, which she continued to do until December 1953. Enid Blyton's Noddy, about a little wooden boy from Toyland, first appeared in the Sunday Graphic on 5 June 1949, and in November that year, the first of at least two dozen books, Noddy Goes to Toyland, was published. The Noddy books became hugely popular in the 1950s, and became one of her most successful and best-known series. Blyton wrote 18 of the 24 known books of the series during the decade as the demand for the books increased. They were illustrated by Harmsen van der Beek; after his death in 1953 Peter Wienk became its chief illustrator. Also in November 1949, Brockhampton Press published Blyton's first novel of the The Secret Seven to cater for younger readers with an easy reading alternative to the Famous Five. Fifteen books and several short stories were produced about a fictional group of child detectives who form the "Secret Seven Society" to fight crime; the last novel, Fun for the Secret Seven, was published in 1963.
By the end of the 1940s Blyton's works had become so popular that she was approached by numerous companies to expand her growing empire with games and jigsaws. In 1948 Bestime released four jigsaw puzzles featuring her characters, and the first Enid Blyton board game appeared, Journey Through Fairyland, created by BGL. In 1950 she established the company Darrell Waters Ltd to manage her affairs, and the first Enid Blyton card game appeared from Pepys, "Faraway Tree". By that time she had become a frequent collaborator with illustrator Eileen Sloper, who that year released books together such as The Astonishing Ladder and Other Stories, Five Fall into Adventure (the ninth book of The Famous Five), Jolly Little Jumbo, The Three Naughty Children and Other Stories, Tricky the Goblin and Other Stories, The Yellow Story Book, and others. Blyton was associated with many other illustrators, including Olive Openshaw of the Mary Mouse series, George Brook of The Secret Seven, Treyer Evans of The Five Find-Outers, and Dorothy Wheeler, who illustrated The Faraway Tree books and many of her nursery rhyme books.
Sunny Stories ceased production in February 1953, succeeded by Enid Blyton's Magazine. The first edition appeared on 18 March 1953, and the magazine ran until September 1959. In 1954 Blyton was appointed chairman of the committee for the Shaftesbury Society Babies' Home in Beaconsfield. The Enid Blyton's Magazine Club was formed on 21 July.
In the 1960s many of her series such as Noddy and The Famous Five continued to be successful, and by 1962, 26 million copies of Noddy had been sold.[a] Blyton concluded several of her long-running series in 1963, publishing the last books of The Famous Five (Five Are Together Again) and The Secret Seven (Fun for the Secret Seven); she also produced three Brer Rabbit books with illustrator Grace Lodge: Brer Rabbit Again, Brer Rabbit Book, and Brer Rabbit's a Rascal. In October 1961, Blyton broke one of her strict rules by accepting a publisher's advance from Hamlyn for publishing The Big Enid Blyton Book. In 1962 many of her books were among the first to be published by Armada Books in paperback, to make them more affordable to children. After 1963 Blyton's books were generally short stories and easy reading books intended for very young readers, including Learn to Count with Noddy and Learn to Tell Time with Noddy in 1965, and Stories for Bedtime and the Sunshine Picture Story Book collection in 1966. Her declining health and a declining readership among older children have been put forward as the principal reasons for this change in trend. Blyton published her last book in the Noddy Library series, Noddy and the Aeroplane, in February 1964. In May 1965 Blyton published May – Mixed Bag, a song book with the music written by her nephew Carey, and in August she released her last full-length books, The Man Who Stopped to Help and The Boy Who Came Back.
By the early 1960s there was widespread criticism of her books on a number of grounds, and concerns continued in the following decades; in 1973 top children's literary critic Margery Fisher likened Blyton's books to "slow poison". Nevertheless, in an age marked by the invasion of American culture, Blyton's works continued to be considered by many as a "savoury" alternative to the likes of Disney and comics, which Blyton was able to exploit as criticism mounted.
In a letter to psychologist Peter McKellar,[b] Blyton describes her writing technique:
I shut my eyes for a few minutes, with my portable typewriter on my knee – I make my mind a blank and wait – and then, as clearly as I would see real children, my characters stand before me in my mind's eye ... The first sentence comes straight into my mind, I don't have to think of it – I don't have to think of anything.
In another letter to McKellar she describes how in just five days she wrote the 60,000-word book The River of Adventure, the eighth in her Adventure Series, simply by listening to what she referred to as her "under-mind", which she contrasted with her "upper conscious mind". Blyton was very unwilling to conduct any research or planning before beginning work on a new book, which coupled with the lack of variety in her life[c] according to Druce almost inevitably presented the danger that she might unconsciously, and clearly did, plagiarise the books she had read, including her own.
From the mid-1950s rumours began to circulate that Blyton had not written all the books attributed to her, a charge she found very distressing. She published an appeal in her magazine asking children to let her know if they heard such stories, and after one mother informed her that she had attended a parents' meeting at her daughter's school during which a young librarian had repeated the allegation, Blyton decided in 1955 to begin legal proceedings. The librarian was eventually forced to make a public apology in open court early the following year, but the rumours that Blyton operated "a 'company' of ghost writers" persisted, as some found it difficult to believe that one woman working alone could produce such a volume of work.
On 28 August 1924 Blyton married Major Hugh Alexander Pollock, DSO (1888–1971) at Bromley Register Office, without inviting her family. Pollock was editor of the book department in the publishing firm of George Newnes, which published two of her books that year, and it was he who requested Blyton write a book about animals, The Zoo Book, which was completed in the month before they married. They initially lived at the 32 Beaufort Mansions flat in Chelsea, then in Elfin Cottage in Beckenham from February 1926, before moving to Old Thatch in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire (Peterswood in her books) in August 1929.
Blyton had two daughters, Gillian born on 15 July 1931 and Imogen Mary (Smallwood) born on 27 October 1935). In 1934 Blyton and Pollock took a holiday at Seaview House on the Isle of Wight but she suffered a miscarriage before becoming pregnant with Imogen and giving birth in October the following year.
In 1938 Blyton and her family moved to a house in Beaconsfield. It was named Green Hedges by Blyton's readers following a competition in her magazine. By 1939 Blyton's marriage to Pollock was troubled, and she began a series of affairs. In 1941 she met Kenneth Fraser Darrell Waters, a London surgeon with whom she began a relationship. The state of her marriage worsened after Pollock rejoined The Royal Scots Fusiliers and narrowly escaped death in an air raid, after which the couple argued until Pollock demanded a divorce. Pollock accused Blyton of adultery, and having a lesbian affair with one of her children's nannies after finding them locked in the bathroom. During the divorce, Blyton blackmailed Pollock into taking blame for the failure of the marriage, knowing that exposure of her adultery would ruin her public image. She promised that if he admitted to infidelity, she would allow him unlimited access to their daughters, but after the divorce Pollock was forbidden to contact them, and Blyton ensured he was unable to find work in publishing. He began drinking heavily and was forced to petition for bankruptcy in 1950.
Blyton and Darrell Waters married at the City of Westminster Register Office on 20 October 1943, and she changed the surname of her daughters to Darrell Waters. Her second marriage was very happy, and as far as her public image was concerned she moved smoothly into her role as a devoted doctor's wife, living with him and her daughters at Green Hedges. Blyton suffered another miscarriage in 1945 after a fall.
Blyton's health began to deteriorate in 1957, when during a round of golf she started to complain of feeling faint and breathless, and by 1960 she was displaying signs of dementia. Her agent George Greenfield recalled that it was "unthinkable" for the "most famous and successful of children's authors with her enormous energy and computer-like memory" to be losing her mind and suffering from what is now known as Alzheimer's disease in her mid-sixties. Blyton's situation was worsened by her husband's declining health throughout the 1960s; he suffered from severe arthritis in his neck and hips, deafness, and became increasingly ill-tempered and erratic until his death on 15 September 1967.
Blyton felt a responsibility to provide her readers with a positive moral framework, and she encouraged them to support worthy causes. She and the members of the children's clubs she set up via her magazines raised a great deal of money for various charities; according to Blyton, membership of her clubs meant "working for others, for no reward". The first and largest of her four clubs was the Busy Bees, the junior section of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, which Blyton had actively supported since 1933. The club had its own magazine, The Busy Bees News, and after Blyton publicised its existence in the Enid Blyton Magazine it attracted 100,000 members in three years.
The Famous Five series gathered such a following that readers asked Blyton if they might form some kind of fan club. Blyton agreed, on condition that the club also performed some useful purpose, and suggested that it might raise funds for the Shaftesbury Society Babies' Home at Beaconsfield, on whose committee she had served since 1948. The club was duly set up in 1952, and provided funds for equipping a Famous Five Ward at the home, a paddling pool, sun room, summer house, playground, and visits to the pantomime.
Death and legacy
During the months following her husband's death Blyton became increasingly ill. Afflicted by Alzheimer's, she was moved into a nursing home three months before her death. She died at the Greenways Nursing Home, London, on 28 November 1968, aged 71. A memorial service was held at St James's Church in Piccadilly, and she was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, where her ashes remain. Blyton's home, Green Hedges, was sold in an auction on 26 May 1971 and demolished in 1973  and its site is occupied by houses and a street named Blyton Close. An English Heritage blue plaque commemorates Blyton at Hook Road in Chessington, where she lived from 1920 to 1924.
Since her death and the publication of her daughter Imogen's 1989 autobiography, A Childhood at Green Hedges, Blyton has emerged as an emotionally immature, unstable and often malicious figure. Imogen considered her mother to be "arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct. As a child, I viewed her as a rather strict authority. As an adult I pitied her." Her eldest daughter, Gillian, did not have the same view; Imogen's biography of Blyton contains a foreword by Gillian to the effect that her memories of childhood with her mother were mainly happy.
The Enid Blyton Trust for Children was established in 1982 by Imogen, and in 1985 the trust established the National Library for the Handicapped Child. Enid Blyton's Adventure Magazine began publication in September 1985, and on 14 October 1992, the BBC began publishing Noddy Magazine and released the Noddy CD-Rom in October 1996. In January 1992, Michael Rouse began publishing Green Hedges Magazine, and two months later, Richard Walker established the Blyton Book Collectors' Society.
The first Enid Blyton Day was held at Rickmansworth on 6 March 1993, and in October 1996, the Enid Blyton award, The Enid, was given to those who have made outstanding contributions towards children. The Enid Blyton Society was formed in early 1995, to provide "a focal point for collectors and enthusiasts of Enid Blyton" through its thrice-annual The Enid Blyton Society Journal, its annual Enid Blyton Day, and its website. On 16 December 1996, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary about Blyton, Secret Lives. To celebrate her centenary in 1997, exhibitions were put on at the London Toy & Model Museum (now closed), Hereford and Worcester County Museum and Bromley Library, and on 9 September the Royal Mail issued centenary stamps.
The London-based entertainment and retail company Trocadero plc purchased Blyton's Darrell Waters Ltd in 1995 for £14.6 million and established a subsidiary, Enid Blyton Ltd, to handle all intellectual properties, character brands and media in Blyton's works. The group changed its name to Chorion in 1998, but after financial difficulties in 2012 sold its assets. Hachette UK acquired from Chorion world rights in the Blyton estate in March 2013, including The Famous Five series but excluding the rights to Noddy, which had been sold to DreamWorks Classics (formerly Classic Media, now a subsidiary of DreamWorks Animation) in 2012.
Enid Blyton's granddaughter, Sophie Smallwood, wrote a new Noddy book to celebrate the character's 60th birthday, 46 years after the last book was published. Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle (2009) was illustrated by Robert Tyndall. In February 2011, the manuscript of a previously unknown Blyton novel, Mr Tumpy's Caravan, was discovered in a collection of her papers that had been auctioned in 2010 following the death of her eldest child in 2007.
Blyton's books have sold more than 600 million copies. In a 1982 government survey, Enid Blyton was voted the most popular writer by 10,000 children in the 11 age group. She is the world's fourth most translated author, behind Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare. From 2000 to 2010, she was listed as a Top Ten author, selling 7,910,758 copies (worth £31.2 million) in the UK alone. In 2003, The Magic Faraway Tree was voted 66 in the BBC's Big Read. In the 2008 Costa Book Awards, Blyton was voted Britain's best-loved author.
Blyton's books are very much of their time, reflecting attitudes about the UK's class system, particularly those published in the 1950s, by which time her books were becoming increasingly controversial. Responding to claims that her moral views were "dependably predictable", Blyton commented that "most of you could write down perfectly correctly all the things that I believe in and stand for – you have found them in my books, and a writer's books are always a faithful reflection of himself". Many of her books were critically assessed by teachers and librarians, deemed unfit for children to read, and removed from syllabuses and public libraries. Some librarians felt that Blyton's restricted use of language, a conscious product of her teaching background, was prejudicial to an appreciation of more literary qualities. In a 1958 article in Encounter, Colin Welch mordaciously remarked that it was "hard to see how a diet of Miss Blyton could help with the 11-plus or even with the Cambridge English Tripos". Welch reserved his harshest criticism for Blyton's Noddy series, describing Noddy as an "unnaturally priggish ... sanctimonious ... witless, spiritless, snivelling, sneaking doll." But although Blyton's works have been banned from more public libraries than those of any other author, there is no evidence that the popularity of her books ever suffered, and she remains very widely read.
From the 1930s to the 1950s the BBC operated a de facto ban on dramatising Blyton's books for radio, considering her to be a "second-rater" whose work was without literary merit; Jean E. Sutcliffe of the BBC's schools broadcast department wrote of Blyton's ability to churn out "mediocre material", and that "Her capacity to do so, amounts to genius ... anyone else would have died of boredom long ago." It was not until 1954 that the BBC broadcast the first of Blyton's stories. Michael Rosen, the former Children's Laureate, said of the BBC's attitude towards her "the quality of the writing itself was poor ... it was felt that there was a lot of snobbery and racism in the writing ... There is all sorts of stuff about oiks and lower orders." The children's author Anne Fine presented an overview of the concerns about Blyton's work and responses to them on BBC Radio 4 in November 2008, in which she noted the "drip, drip, drip of disapproval" associated with the books. Blyton's response to her critics was that she was uninterested in the views of anyone over the age of 12, and claimed that half the attacks on her work were motivated by jealousy and the rest came from "stupid people who don't know what they're talking about because they've never read any of my books".
Racism and xenophobia
Jamaica Kincaid considers the Noddy books to be "deeply racist" because of the blond children and the black doll golliwogg. In her 1944 novel The Island of Adventure, a black servant named Jo-Jo is depicted as an enemy of the British. Although he is portrayed as very intelligent, Jo-Jo is a spy for the Nazis and is particularly cruel to the children. Another example of alleged racism is "black as a nigger with soot", which appeared in Five Go off to Camp.
Accusations of xenophobia were also made. As George Greenfield observed, "Enid was very much part of that between-the-wars middle class which believed that foreigners were untrustworthy or funny or sometimes both". The publisher Macmillan conducted an internal assessment of Blyton's The Mystery That Never Was, submitted to them at the height of her fame in 1960. The review was carried out by author and books editor Phyllis Hartnoll, in whose view "There is a faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia in the author's attitude to the thieves; they are 'foreign' ... and this seems to be regarded as sufficient to explain their criminality." Macmillan rejected the manuscript, but it was published by HarperCollins in 1961, and again in 1965 and 1983.
There have been suggestions that Blyton's depictions of boys and girls are sexist. In a Guardian article published in 2005 Lucy Mangan proposed that The Famous Five series depicts a power struggle between Julian, Dick and George (Georgina), in which the female characters either act like boys or are heavily put upon, as when Dick lectures George: "it's really time you gave up thinking you're as good as a boy". Similar gender issues surface in Five Have a Wonderful Time, in which Anne says "I don't expect boys to tidy up and cook and do things like that but George ought to because she's a girl".
Revisions to later editions
In an effort to address criticisms levelled at Blyton's work some later editions were altered to reflect more modern attitudes towards issues such as race, gender, animal rights and the treatment of children. Modern reprints of the Noddy series substitute teddy bears or goblins for golliwoggs. References to George's short hair making her look like a boy were removed in revisions to Five on a Hike Together, reflecting the idea that girls need not have long hair to be considered feminine or normal. Similarly, Arabella Buckley in The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor originally wore slippers with swansdown trimmings, changed to "blue silk slippers" in editions published since the 1970s, out of deference to modern views on animal rights and animal welfare. The Faraway Tree's Dame Slap, who practised severe corporal punishment, was changed to Dame Snap who no longer did so, and references to characters in the Malory Towers and St. Clare's series being spanked, or being threatened with a spanking, were changed to being scolded or threatened with a scolding. In the Five Find-Outers novel The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat, the gardener Tupping no longer behaves in a fierce and threatening manner towards eight-year-old Bets, no longer has a red and angry face and does not jerk Bets to her feet, or threaten to have her put in prison.
Blyton wrote hundreds of books for young and older children: novels, story collections and some non-fiction. Notable book series include Noddy, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Malory Towers, the St. Clare's series, The Wishing-Chair series, The Magic Faraway Tree series, The Five Find-Outers (also known as Enid Blyton's Mystery series), The Adventure Series, the Barney Mystery series, the Circus series, the Mistletoe Farm series, the Naughtiest Girl series, The Young Adventurers Series, The Adventurous Four Series, and The Secret Series.
Stage, film and TV adaptations
In 1954 Blyton adapted Noddy for the stage, and produced the Noddy in Toyland pantomime in just two or three weeks. The production was staged at the 2660-seat Stoll Theatre in Kingsway, London at Christmas, under producer Bertie Meyer and stage director André van Gyseghem. Because of its popularity, the pantomime was performed for five or six years. and because it appealed primarily to very young children, two performances were put on in the afternoon rather than the evening; Blyton was delighted with its reception by children in the audience, and attended the theatre three or four times a week.
A number of her other works have been adapted for stage, film and television. In 1955 a stage play was produced based on The Famous Five, and in January 1997 the King's Head Theatre produced The Famous Five Musical which toured the UK for six months to commemorate her centenary. On 21 November 1998, The Secret Seven Save the World was first performed at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff.
The Famous Five has been adapted for film and television several times: by the Children's Film Foundation in 1957 and 1964, Southern Television in 1978–79, and Zenith Productions in 1995–97. There have been several TV adaptations of Noddy since 1954, including one in the 1970s narrated by Richard Briers.
In 2012 The Famous Five was adapted for the German film Fünf Freunde, directed by Mike Marzuk.
The story of Blyton's life was dramatised in a BBC film entitled Enid which aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Four on 16 November 2009. Helena Bonham Carter played the title role, Matthew Macfadyen played her first husband, Hugh Pollock and Denis Lawson, her second, Kenneth Darrell Waters. It was followed by a documentary about Blyton.
- In 1960 alone, eleven Noddy books were published, including the strip books Noddy and the Runaway Wheel, Noddy's Bag of Money, and Noddy's Car Gets into Trouble.
- McKellar had written to Blyton in February 1953 asking for the imagery techniques she employed in her writing, for a research project had undertaken. The results of his investigation were published in Imagination and Thinking (1957).
- In her leisure time Blyton led the life of a typical suburban housewife, gardening, and playing golf or bridge. She rarely left England, preferring to holiday by the English coast, almost invariably in Dorset, where she and her husband took over the lease of an 18-hole golf course at Studland Bay in 1951.
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