ENID'S LAST DIARIES


A trail of two daughters. Two years after Gillian Baverstock's 'Enid Blyton Archive' was put up for auction in 2010 - much of it being bought by Seven Stories - Imogen Smallwood donated material to the same organisation, including her mother's personal diaries.

EB2_2552690c

I've spent a single day of November 2017 in Seven Stories' Gateshead premises looking at Enid's precious diaries. The diaries for 1923, '24, '25, '27, '28, '30 '31, '32, '33, '34, '35, '36 and '37-'40 give information about Enid's movements, meetings and activities in her Hugh Pollock years and her Bourne End era, which broadly overlap. Seven Stories has a document (I'm not sure who produced it) that transcribes all the diary entries for 1924 (the year Enid met Hugh Pollock, who went on to be her first husband). It also has a document that records 'sample and notable' entries for all those years. Seven Stories kindly gave me copies of both documents and I'll be looking through these to see if any further insight can be gained into the writing of the Mysteries.

The second document mentioned in the above paragraph also gives 'sample and notable' diary entries from Enid's diaries kept from 1963 to her death in 1968. Alas, there is no diary entry for 1941, the year Enid met Kenneth Darrell Waters. Nor for 1942, the year in which Enid and Hugh divorced. Nor for 1943, the year Enid and Kenneth married. Why no diaries from 1943 to 1962 either? If I recall correctly, according to George Greenfield, Enid's literary agent, Kenneth destroyed them, but I'll check with Barbara Stoney's biography and expand on that if there's more to say.

It's the 1963 to 1968 period I've concentrated on for now. And this can be split into three phases. 1963 to 1965, covered by one diary each year. 1966 to 1967, when things simultaneously got complicated and fell apart. And 1968, when it all ended.


1963 to 1965

I think it can safely be said that, apart from a Noddy book and a Mary Mouse book and some bible stories,
Fun For the Secret Seven was the last book that Enid Blyton wrote. She mentions the process of writing it quite often, as if it was quite a big deal for her 65-year-old writing self. And nothing like it happens again in the diaries.

Jan 2, 1963
'Went through some SS books to see pace(?) for the next one.'

Apologies to readers, I was doing this work as quickly as possible in order to get through it. I'm sure that the question-marked word will be decipherable when considered at someone's leisure.

Jan 9

'Went through SS books ready for writing another.'

Jan 22
'Began SS book.'

Jan 22, 23, 24,
Each day says something like '
Went on with Secret Seven book. Coming quite nicely.'

Jan 26
'Finished SS book.'

Then on Feb 15 she reports
'Corrected my S. Seven copies for typist am and pm.' On Feb 17 'Finished correcting SS book'. And on March 1,'Did blurb for SS book and sent it off.'

So Enid wrote
Fun for the Secret Seven in less than a week but seems to have spent time planning it, or at least getting ready for the effort of writing it. The typescript hasn't survived, as far as I'm aware, but the typescript of the previous Secret Seven book has, and I took a look at Look Out, Secret Seven on a previous visit to Seven Stories, as discussed here. One thing I remarked on at the time is that Enid was summarising each chapter before going on to write the next, just as in 1963 she seems to have summoned up previous Secret Seven stories before embarking on this last one at all. Clearly these were coping strategies in the knowledge that her memory was failing her.

I had thought
The Hidey Hole was Enid's last book but now suspect that must have been written earlier. Why did it not appear until August 1964? I think the key to that is in a couple of diary entries from 1964:

Jan16:
'George (Greenfield, agent) came to lunch and it was very nice to have him. We discussed my work and he left after lunch. Went through my books to see what we could use again.'

Mar 17:
'George came in a.m. and stayed to lunch. We discussed my books and George took some away with him.'

In Greenfield's own book about Enid, he is dismissive of his author's efforts to come up with new material, saying that Enid would type up manuscripts that had already been published. Alas, he doesn't go into sufficient detail. As I say above, I suspect this is how The Hidey-Hole saw the light of day.

On 29 March, 1965, Enid mentions
'Did a new Mary Mouse book'. But that's it. No mention of anything longer. Ever again.

The Seven Stories document says of the 1965 diary: '
As the year progresses, diary entries become more and more similar - Enid appears to be doing very little work, is often sleeping in the afternoons or just watching T.V. for most of the day. Still writing letters, although even that tails off towards the end of the year. Evident that both she and Kenneth are struggling with their health.'

A few of the entries noted by the document include the following snippets:

11 Feb.
'Had a little heart attack in a.m. Gillian came to lunch and tea with Owain (Gillian's son), a dear little boy.'

28 April:
'Out shopping and Imogen came to lunch and stayed for the day. SO nice to have her. K, Imo and I played bridge in p.m. and we all enjoyed it.'

11 Aug:
'My birthday. K gave me a lovely brooch. Had a nice quiet day. Watched T.V. at night with Imo and K.'

Every time that Enid's daughters are mentioned in the diary it is with the warmth you would expect a mother to feel towards her grown-up daughters.



1966 and 1967


OK, stand by for a bumpy ride. Indeed, very moving it all is towards the end.

Enid kept four diaries in 1966, each an official Enid Blyton branded diary like the ones that were sold to the public at the time. All four are the same size but look slightly different. One has a green cover (see the image at the top of this page), one is blue, one has a picture of a horse on cover (see top image), one features two boys. Why four diaries? Because Enid was getting forgetful. And perhaps because she was in and out of nursing homes. Imogen told Tony Summerfield that in the last two years of her life, Enid was in and out of care homes, especially when Kenneth was unwell himself.

The summary document produced by Seven Stories takes the blue diary to be the basic one. Entries are from 1 to 31 January. After that, the green diary has entries for a month or so. The situation gets complex, with near-identical entries sometimes appearing in the blue and green diaries, as if Enid was copying them from one source to the other. But on other occasions contradictory entries appearing in the diaries. On Monday, July 4, she writes in the blue diary:
'I am continuing in the other diary. No I'm not.' There is no entry for that day in the green diary.

What would be useful would be a spreadsheet of the four diaries (though there are very few entries made in diaries three and four). However, it has to be borne in mind that there is at least one entry made in the blue diary that must have been made in 1967, which I'll be discussing soon.

In 1967, Enid kept a single diary, but it contains very few entries. According to the Seven Stories summary:
'Entries daily from 12th January to 1st February, then two entries in June, one entry in September to record the death of Kenneth, and two entries in November.'

The image below shows some of those January entries. Handwriting quite firm, I would say. Certainly I can read pretty much all of it. K. being Kenneth.

EB-02-01-01-23 15-21 Jan

I'll come to the entries made in June, September and November in a bit. However, there were also entries concerning 1967 made in the note pages at the back of one of the 1966 diaries. As the Seven Stories summary doesn't mention these, I've made a note of them.

Late January (I didn't note the exact date)
'Had a very curious dream. Dreamt there was someone in my bed.'

'28 Jan
A dull day with nothing doing.'


'Feb 7
Another quiet day. Bit too quiet really!!'


It adds to the sense of the entries to see them in Enid's handwriting, so I'm glad I ordered the occasional copy from Seven Stories. When one turns over from the last noted entry one is rewarded with:

EB-02-01-01-21 10 Feb-3 Mar

There can be little question about the dates here, Enid is most determinedly setting out that information. Ha! - what am I saying? Enid has to correct herself after having written in blue crayon FRIDAY MARCH 5 (if it was '5' that she deleted). First, she corrects in blue biro that the Friday was March 3. Then she has to admit that the day of the diary entry was a Thursday.

That is a fascinating entry though. The note expressing her enthusiasm about 50,000 copies being sold of the paperback
Five Go Adventuring Again shows that despite suffering from debilitating dementia, she still cared about her success and status as a writer.

The next entry at the back of the 1966 diary is for March 30, 1967. It reads:
'Another quiet day. NO VISITORS. In fact nothing ever happens.'

'April 1, Saturday 1967
Out in the town - looked around. A rather boring day. Kenneth not ...' The entry ends there because the remaining half of a left hand-page is torn off. Perhaps because Enid was critical of Kenneth and later decided to censor herself? But there could be any number of explanations for why the page has been torn off and by whose hand. The right hand-page then contains six entries as follows:

'Monday, June 12
Back in Beaconsfield with Kenneth.'


'Thursday June 15
Very nice to be at home again with Kenneth.'


'17th June, Saturday.' (That's all the entry says: the date written in biro.)

'Sunday 18th
A quiet day with K.'

'July 2
Out in the garden mostly. It is very lovely now. K seems still to be ailing and says he will have to go away for treatment.'


Another double page reads:

'Wednesday June 21
'K had another of his nasty turns, but recovered later. It is very...'

That entry breaks off there and on the facing page resumes:

'Send Dorothy a present as it is her birthday today Wednesday, June 21.'

At this point, the entries resume in the 1967 diary (as opposed to at the back of a 1966 diary):

June 26
'We are now at Knoll House, or rather near it - we are actually at Green Hedges. Very dull at the moment.'

June 27
'A quiet day with Kenneth. I did my flowers. I always enjoy messing about with those.'

Then comes the saddest entry of all. Enid writes 1957 when really she means 1967, in any case the actual date of the printed diary. And instead of putting the entry in the correct Friday 15th 1967 slot, she puts it in the Thursday slot, and so has to delete the word 'Thursday'. She's trying to keep things under control. But it's tough. Especially in the sad circumstances.

EB-02-01-01-23 10-16 Sept

Enid uses a biro for the bulk of the entry. But comes back to the entry with a a fountain pen to add the last line. Signs of dementia are there, it has to be said, but signs of an individual in touch with her feelings are there too.

EB-02-01-01-23 10-16 Sept - Version 2

Enid seems to return to the death of her husband a few days later. Not in the 1967 diary. Nor at the back of the 1966 diary she'd been using. But in the blue 1966 diary. In the space for Friday 16 September. Enid has written September 24. So I dare say September 24, 1967, was when she wrote this more composed entry concerning Kenneth's demise. She has deleted the 1966 entries, possibly realising that they didn't correspond to where she was now at.

EB-02-01-01-20 11-17 Sep

Once again signs of dementia, but once again, emotional honesty. This time from a fountain pen that was dipped in ink halfway through the entry

EB-02-01-01-20 11-17 Sep - Version 2


In the 1967 diary itself, the last entries are in November.

Nov 2
'George came to lunch. There may be a chance of putting Noddy on a London show again! I do hope it will. George seems pretty sure about it.'

Nov 4
'A very dull day. Nobody interesting came. I read most of the day.'


1968

The Seven Stories summary states re 1968: 'Official branded Enid Blyton Diary, but not used. Blank except for some hymn titles written across the early pages. Enid Blyton died in November 1968.' Is that it? That is nearly it for Enid.

A little more than the Seven Stories summary can be said, as it turns out.

Apart from the recording of a telephone number, only one double-page is written on, and it's not a diary entry as such and occurs in the preliminary pages to 1968 itself. As Seven Stories records, hymn titles are featured. But it's slightly more than that. Perhaps it is notes towards - or retrospective notes concerning - a funeral service, possibly Kenneth's.

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec

The writing in the space for Sunday 24 has been rubbed out, and the rubbings, possibly decades old, are still there in the fold of the little book. Adjusting the photocopy in iPhoto to get a bit more out of it, reveals this in the top left section.

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec - Version 5

I'd suggest this is referring to Luke chapter 4 verse 10. Which states: 'For it is written: "He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully." As I say, notes concerning Kenneth's funeral service would seem to fit the bill.

I can't quite transcribe the next bit (see below). If anyone reading this has any ideas, please let me know. Crucially, I can't make out the first word. After that, it may read: 'Parable Sower (or Seven?)', followed (possibly) by 'went forth to God'.

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec - Version 4

In the parable of the sower, according to Wikipedia, 'a sower sows seed; some seed falls on the path, on rocky ground and among thorns, and it is lost, but when it falls on good earth it grows, yielding thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold'.

I wonder if Enid saw herself as the sower. Or possibly as seed that had fallen on good ground, yielding masses of words!

The next bit I can identify for sure. It's a hymn.

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec

'All Creatures of our God and King', goes like this. Follow it on Youtube through the link, if you like:

"All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

It goes on for several more verses. Powerful stuff? Or something of a dirge? You decide. In any case, very much worshipping God. The double-page diary entry continues on the right side with a more familiar hymn:

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec - Version 8

Just to remind us all of the lyrics:

"
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.
The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well."


That seems to me truly Blyton. All her life she was admiring of everything in nature. Next:

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec - Version 7

At first I thought Enid was simply saying: 'God is in my head'. But there is a hymn called 'God be in My Head'. The lyrics are simple, moving, and as follows:

"God be in my head, and in my understanding.
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking.
God be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God be at mine end, and at my departing."

I'm not sure about the next bit.

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec - Version 6

Could the first word be 'Prayer'? Then: 'Lord I'm Lost'. (On balance, I don't think so.) Or 'Lovelier last'. (Again, I don't think so. Any ideas?)

The word 'Last' might refer to the final words, at the foot of the right-hand page.

EB-02-01-01-24 24-30 Dec - Version 9

But I don't think so. The hymn 'Praise the Lord ye Heavens adore Him' goes
like this:

Praise the Lord! Ye heavens, adore him;
praise him, angels, in the height;
sun and moon, rejoice before him,
praise him, all ye stars and light.
Praise the Lord! for he hath spoken;
worlds his mighty voice obeyed:
laws, which never shall be broken,
for their guidance he hath made.

Praise the Lord! for he is glorious;
never shall his promise fail:
God hath made his saints victorious;
sin and death shall not prevail.
Praise the God of our salvation;
hosts on high, his power proclaim;
heaven and earth and all creation,
laud and magnify his name!


Perhaps it's fitting that Enid didn't make any diary entries as such in her last year, recording who did and didn't come. Recording that she sat and watched telly or put flowers into vases. She was taking leave of all that. Her last three months were spent in a nursing home in Hampstead. Imogen Smallwood reports in
A Childhood at Green Hedges that her last words were purported to be: "I am going to meet my father. At least I think I am."

When Enid said that, I wonder if she meant her actual father, whom she adored but who wounded her severely when he left the family home in Enid's childhood, or God himself.

Enid grew up under the influence of
The Bible and Christianity And those were her main frames of reference in her last days and months, it would seem.

With all this in mind, I must have another bash at 'Enid's Last Interview', which took place in March 1968. My 2012 write-up is
here and could do with some updating. For a start, The Hidey-Hole emphasis will have to go. Unless new facts emerge.