11th August 1897. Children’s Favourite.
After countless rejections Enid Blyton’s first piece appeared in Arthur Mee’s, My Magazine and from 1921 her short stories were appearing in the Saturday Westminster Review, The Bystander, The Londoner and the Passing Show.
It was Today in 1897 that Enid Mary Blyton, daughter of cutlery salesman, was born in East Dulwich, London.
After her father left home Enid was forced into escapism and in 1926 she decided her future: ‘… and this is a secret- I’d love to write a novel about children and the jolly, happy things of life’.
And so she did with her books for young children on fairies and magical situations satisfying the need for the young to pass through this stage of make-believe.
The Author at an early age read Blyton’s Sunny Stories (2d), on the back cover of which were adverts for Cadbury’s Chocolate, or Bile Beans which gave one the energy to jump a tennis-net.
I later graduated to The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, with the delicious, evocative Eileen Soper illustrations, and The Mystery of… Books, where one could experience vicariously their adventures.
Never for a minute did I feel alienated from the more privileged background of the children, I just wished I could emulate them in their adventures, but the real world intervened.
Enid got much of her inspiration for the setting of Kirren Island, in the Famous Five Books, from the romantic ruins of Corfe Castle and the scenery around the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset with its beaches, islands and rocky bays.
Social issues are touched upon lightly in ‘Five go down to the Sea’ when drugs are hidden in the head of a stage donkey. Then when Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy-the dog-are not separating thick-headed rogues from their stolen treasure, whilst often moving down tunnels with the sea booming over-head, are consuming large amounts of ice-cream, ginger ale and cakes supplied by jolly farmers’ wives.
At the height of her powers Enid was writing 1500 words an hour, with a portable typewriter on her knee, a daily average of 10,000 words and a book in four and half days.
Over 300 illustrators were used in her works including my favourite, Eileen Soper who illustrated the Famous Five Books. She wrote over 700 books and touched on issues such as drugs smuggling and child abduction and is the 6th most borrowed author in British Libraries.
Ignored by some libraries on obsessive grounds of sexism, race and class, many modern editions reflect changed conditions, but how far the story lines and illustrations are altered is more difficult, as the books are of their time and putting children in jeans could be thought anachronistic. Has anyone asked the readers’ opinion?
The Author in a nostalgic trip was disappointed to find that ‘Green Hedges’, Beaconsfield, the address of her letter in ‘Sunny Stories’ had been demolished in 1973 and replaced Blyton Close, one house named Kirren House after the Famous Five Kirren Family.
enidblytonsociety.co.uk/blyton-periodicals/Pic of Passing Show illustration.