HOW ENID WROTE HER BOOKS
(new facts emerge?)





Something that I noticed in Enid's 1963 diary has been niggling away at the back of my mind for a few days. And it's this. In 1963 Enid made a lot of entries concerning the writing of her last book, Fun For the Secret Seven. It got me wondering about her early novels.

It's long been thought that Enid wrote her books by sitting down with her typewriter and a sheaf of blank paper, composing herself, then going at it for several days in a row until the book was finished. We know she wrote
The River of Adventure in less than a week because she said so in a letter to Peter McKellar in 1955. If I remember rightly, Five Go To Billycock Hill was polished off inside a week so that Enid and Kenneth could go golfing together on Friday afternoon. And she reported that intense - indeed, unique - way of working in The Story of My Life, which came out in 1952. But it's quite possible that by then she had been writing this way for so long that she'd forgotten that her way of working hadn't always been so. Anyway, that's what I'm going to investigate. Right now.

Enid started writing poems and short stories in the early 1920s. Through Hugh Pollock, editor at Newnes and future husband, she was given many publishing opportunities with that company. Including,
The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies, The Zoo Book, The Enid Blyton Book of Bunnies, The Teacher's Treasury and Sunny Stories for Little Folks, of which she became editor. In 1930 she published Tales from the Arabian Nights, Tales of Ancient Greece and Tales of Robin Hood as well. Great stuff, but she aspired to more.

Her 1932 diary contains the following entries:

Wednesday, January 6:
'Worked all day. Started my first novel.'

Barbara Stoney also had access to this diary, in order to write Enid Blyton, The Biography, and, over and above the notable and sample entries that Seven Stories has provided me with, Barbara tells us about January 1932: 'By the 15th she had completed a third and on the 25th she recorded that she had written 7000 words during the day, only stopping for a midday meal.'

Friday, 29 January.
'Worked at Children's Paper, did book for Birns and 4000 words of my novel.'

Friday, 5 February:
'Finished my novel! About 90,000 words. It's called The Caravan Goes On.'

Thirty days at 3000 words per day gives 90,000 total. Though if she took weekends off, which I expect she did as Hugh would be home from work and they had a baby in the house, it was probably between 4000 and 5000 words per working day. And the result of all that hard work?

Thursday, 25 February
'Worked. Watt sent my novel back.'


Watt being a well-known literary agency. The novel, which Barbara Stoney tells us was for adults, isn't mentioned again.

Back to what Enid knew she was good at. Short stories and words of adult wisdom for children. For a while. Then, by the time she was writing
Sunny Stories each week in the late 1930s, she was including an instalment from a serial in each week's issue.

  • In 1937, Enid's only published book was Adventures of the Wishing Chair, which was first serialised in Sunny Stories.
  • In 1938, The Adventures of Binkle and Flip, Heyo, Brer Rabbit, Mr Galiano's Circus and The Secret Island were published. All of these first appeared in Sunny Stories.
  • In 1939 The Enchanted Wood, Hurrah for the Circus and Naughty Amelia Jane were published. Again, all first appeared in Sunny Stories.

Some of these books consist entirely of separate but related stories (Amelia Jane, Brer Rabbit and Binkle and Flip). Some are loosely connected stories or episodes (
Wishing Chair and Enchanted Wood) and some are episodic novels (the two Circus books and The Secret Island). But whose to say they weren't all written the same way? That is, as part of her weekly work for Sunny Stories. That's what Enid would have been 'under pressure' to produce - the copy for each week's issue. There might have been some disadvantage to getting ahead of herself - too much typed paper flying around; too many piles of paper waiting to be devoured by pets. In any case, no complete manuscripts exist for any of these books.

Seven Stories has a five-year diary of Enid's. This contains diary entries for 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, while 1941 is left blank. (I know the theory is that Enid's diaries for 1941 to 1961 were destroyed by Kenneth, but is it possible that Enid didn't keep a diary during that time? After all, 1941, running along the bottom of the pages of the five-year diary, shown below, was left blank.)

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Just to focus on the 1937 entries, we have:

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'Thursday. Worked till lunch. Rested and sewed till tea with Dorothy. A lovely afternoon, but thunderstorm in p.m.'

When Enid says pm, she seems to mean evening, at least in this case.

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'Friday. Worked till lunch. Mrs Day could not come for children so we had them in garden till tea. Imogen was sweet. Dorothy put her to bed and I put G. to bed. Played croquet till 10.'


Seven Stories has produced a summary of 'sample and notable entries' for years 1937 to 1940. There are hardly any mentions of books as such, which is what Tony Summerfieldhas repeatedly said he found when he had the five-year diary in his possession. But there are a fair few entries relating to one book in particular, and that's
The Children of Cherry Tree Farm.

That book was
not serialised. It's progress is marked in Enid's diary as follows:

Wed 17 Jan 1940:
'Saw Calkin of Country Life and fixed up book.'

Mon 1 April.
'Began my new book for Country Life. Did 6,000 words.'

Tues 23 April
'Saw Calkin and delivered my mss. of The Children of Cherry Tree Farm.'

Sat 23 June
'Harry Rountree came to tea. He is to do pictures for my Country Life book.'

Yes, well, Harry managed that all right, and in fine style:

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The equally evocative internal illustrations can be found in the Cave of Books on the Enid Blyton Society website, courtesy of Tony Summerfield, here.

It's obvious from the above diary entries of Enid that The Children of Cherry Tree Farm was written in the way we associate with her. Perhaps it's significant that when Enid played host to cameras making news features for a cinema audience in 1946, it was this book she chose to be filmed reading to her second husband, Kenneth Darrell Waters, and her daughters, Gillian and Imogen.

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Note that Kenneth is more interested in his newspaper and his fag than anything to do with his wife's writing! How do I know the book that Enid is reading is
The Children at Cherry Tree Farm? Because as Enid closes the book, Kenneth can be heard to mutter: "Cherry Tree - Not For Me; childs' play and blethers".

I'm oknly joking, of course. But why joke, Enid's second husband is probably being co-operative rather than patronising. I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Enid certainly did.

How do I really know the book is the Cherry Tree Farm one? Because as Enid closes the book the back of the wraparound dustcover is clearly identifiable. As is Imogen's not-particularly-happy-to-be going-through-this-charade-of-being-read-to face.

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In the 1937-1941 five-year diary (again, I mean Seven Stories summary of it) there is another specific reference to a book.

Friday 24 November, 1939:
'Worked hard all day, chaptering The Treasure-Hunters.'

What does that mean? Well, I know from looking at typescripts of Enid Blyton books at Seven Stories, that Enid would write out a book just using numbers as she came to start each new chapter. When she had the whole book written, she would go through the typescript again - the ribbon now being fainter, or darker if she'd changed it - correcting her script and giving chapter titles. And so the contents page to The Treasure Hunters looks like this:

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Again,
The Treasure Hunters is not a book that was serialised in Sunny Stories. So by the end of 1939, Enid was certainly writing books in what became her trademark style. But those previous books I mentioned, first published in serial form by Newnes in Sunny Stories, may have ben written episodically. After all, that's how Charles Dickens wrote his novels that were serialised, he wrote and published each monthly episode rather than the whole thing at once.

Now, I can't help feeling that if Enid had written any of these marvellous books - I'm thinking in particular of
Adventures of the Wishing Chair, Enchanted Wood, The Secret Island - in an intensive burst of activity, she would have taken the trouble to say so. Indeed, she would have been unable to keep quiet about it.

Let's say she did write these books serially. She'd be calling on her photographic memory again so as not to lose track of characters' names or the threads of her story. Remarkable that she could have done that. Though not any more remarkable than writing it all down with no time for planning and no need for revising.

2


Let's take a closer look at the most novelistic of these serialised works:
The Secret Island. It took over from Adventures of the Wishing Chair as the serial in Sunny Stories, issue 37, published September 24, 1937. Tony Summerfield has uploaded some sample pages from the relevant issues into The Cave of Books and for the convenience of the reader I'm going to reproduce a few here, suitably cropped.

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Unfortunately, there is nothing in the above letter to suggest whether the story is being written week by week or already exists in total and is being farmed out, chapter at a time.

By the third episode, which came out on October 8, 1937, Enid is writing from her house in Bourne End, which a few years later would be the stamping ground of the Find-Outers under the guise of the word 'Peterswood':

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I wonder if that's true about Gillian's imagined lake. It might be, because as we'll see in a minute there is concordance from Enid's actual diary to her Old Thatch letters at the front of
Sunny Stories.

By the eighth episode, Enid is writing:

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That came out on November 12. Enid's diary entry for 27 October reads:

'Imogen is 2 today! Worked till 3.30. Gladys, Mr Stallan and little John Rye came to tea. Imogen was thrilled. She had a cake with 2 candles. She undid her pram after tea and loved it. The other 2 played trains in the study. I wrote letters and read till bed.'

Ninth episode:

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Are the ninth and tenth episodes any more exciting than all the others? I suspect not, but here is the way the episodes start in the pages of
Sunny Stories, again courtesy of Tony's endless Cave of Books:

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The little summaries as to where the stories have got to are useful for the reader who has been separated from the serial for a week. Useful for the author as well for the same reason?

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After this the Old Thatch letters start to refer to Christmas, 1937. By December 17, which features the thirteenth chapter of The Secret Island, Enid is writing:

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Is that true? Or is Enid putting words into her 6-year-old daughter's mouth?

On December 24, Enid wrote in her actual diary:
'Worked till lunch. Did birds Xmas tree. Did childrens Xmas tree. Had children. Filled their stockings and pillowcases and did other presents.'

One aspect of this is followed up in her Old Thatch letter of December 31:

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That gets us as far as chapter 15 in the serial:

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The fact is that overworked Tony Summerfield hasn't yet got round to uploading images from subsequent issues of
Sunny Stories, taking the serial all the way to its 21st episode. I'll be tuning in when he does.

For me the jury remains out as to whether this book was written in a single free-flowing week or whether it was written chapter by chapter, week by week, over several months, Enid successfully putting the threads of the story on hold in between times. What do others think? Hopefully I'll find out in the Forums of the Enid Blyton Society.


3

Actually, I can continue this investigation straight away because one of the serials precedes Secret Island, and that's The Adventures of the Wishing Chair. The editorial for Issue 1 of Enid Blyton's Sunny Stories (before this renumbering and relaunching it was called Sunny Stories for Little Folks}, published on January 5, 1937, states:

Dear Boys and Girls, I hope you will be pleased when you know that these "Sunny Story" books are going to come out every week now! There will be a new one for you each Friday.

And the serial kicks off in fine style, illustrated by talented Hilda McGavin:

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The first adventure is at the antiques shop. The second adventure takes Peter and Molly to the giant's castle from where they rescue Chinky. In the third, Chinky looks after Peter and Mollie in the land of the Grabbit Gnomes.

Here is the editorial to issue 4, introducing Gillian and Imogen to the readers:

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Now issue 4 of
SS came out on Friday, February 5. On Monday, February 1, Enid noted in her diary: 'Worked till lunch. Henry came - it seems that Imogen has definitely got whooping cough so we put her with G.' [Gillian came down with it first, and the two had been separated to try and protect Imogen from also getting it] 'They are much happier together. I wrote letters, then went out to pay books before tea. Went up to children. Wrote letters and read till bed.'

I'm not going to make too much of the connection between Gillian and Imogen in reality and Mollie, Peter and Chinky in Adventures of the Wishing Chair. I can't really because I've only got a total of sixteen of Enid's personal diary entries for 1937 in the document in front of me. But what seems certain is that having the children about the house triggered Enid's imagination. It's surely no coincidence that books concerning the Faraway Tree and the Wishing Chair were replaced by adventures concerning the Find-Outers, Malory Towers and the Famous Five as the children got older.

The following is neat though. Monday, 19 April [on holiday in Dorset]
'Went on beach with Dorothy and Gillian all a.m. Lovely day. We got sunburnt. I typed up stories on the beach On beach again till tea then walked over Duriston Head and back with D and G. Put G. to bed.' [Imogen appears to have been left at home, presumably considered too young to be travelling]. 'Sat in lounge with D till bed.'

The issue of
Sunny Stories that appeared a few days later had the following as the Wishing Chair story. It may have been coloured in by Tony Summerfield himself, though I doubt if he would have had time given all his other responsibilities as head of the Enid Blyton Society. What I mean is, the scan comes from Tony's Cave of Books:

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The Chair heads towards an island but the island disappears and the chair - plus Mollie, Peter and Chinky - ends up in the water.

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The intrepid three are in a bit of difficulty until a merman, riding on a big fish, tows them to shore using seaweed.

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Mollie, Peter and Chinky wait in the sun until the chair's wings have dried off, and then they fly home.

Inspired by Enid's day on a Dorset beach and typed up on the spot? I don't know. But an excuse for me to show some of Hilda McGavin's best work, illustrations from the actual book published by Newnes once the serial had come to an end.

'The Last Adventure of All' was published on September 17, 1937:

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It goes on:

"No," said Peter. "But Mother has just told us some bad news."

"What?" cried Chinky.

"She has told us that Mollie and I are to go away to school," said Peter.

Peter is referring to boarding school. Nevertheless, I think the following may be significant. Enid's diary entry for a few days later is as follows:

Wednesday 22 September
'Gillian began school for first time today. Worked till lunch. Took G.up to top of lane where Mr Stallan picked her up in car to go to school. Wrote letters till 3. Went up to post. Had children after tea. Did flowers etc and wrote letters. Talked till bed.'

Gillian going off to school seems to have brought an end to
The Adventures of the Wishing Chair (just as Gillian going off to Benenden a few years later would most certainly give rise to the Malory Towers series.). Emphasising the impact of Gillian's presence on Enid's imagination.

But I've missed out an important announcement that Enid made on her letter page in
Sunny Stories in the middle of writing Adventures of the Wishing Chair. It goes like this.

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That tells us that
The Adventures of the Wishing Chair was not all written at once, as a book, but story by story. (As one might have expected, to be honest.) However, this does not imply that The Secret Island - and those other Adventure serials - were written in the same way. (But I suspect they were.)

Once Enid's Old Thatch letters that were printed during the serialisation of
Secret Island, Galiano's Circus, Hurrah For the Circus, and so on, appear, we may well have a clearer idea of how they were written. Bit by bit, or all of a blitzkrieg?

I think that's enough for one day. Or has this piece been written in sections over several weeks?


4

I've just realised I can't leave it there for today! Let's jump from the serials of 1937 to late 1939 when Enid was 'chaptering The Treasure Hunters'. The only books published in the meantime had been previously serialised. In 1939, that meant The Enchanted Wood, Naughty Amelia Jane and Hurrah for the Circus!

I think (for now, anyway) Enid makes the break-through to writing very quickly whole books for children with
The Treasure Hunters. That was published in April 1940 and then three more were published in November, 1940. These were The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, as discussed above. But also two books under the name of Mary Pollock.

It has been said that 'Mary Pollock' was used because of paper shortages in the war, so doubling the paper available for the woman (full name Enid Mary Pollock né Blyton)now living in a house called Green Hedges in Beaconsfield. It's also been said that the Mary Pollock name was an experiment to see if Enid could succeed without using her 'own' name. But as the name 'Enid Blyton' was as yet not a household name, I'm not sure that's right. Anyway, another reason for the use of the name is surely this: suddenly Enid is surrounded by books, written in a new way, that are looking for publishers and an audience.

One of the two Mary Pollock books published by Newnes in November, 1940, was
Three Boys and a Circus. The other was The Children of Kidillin. The latter is concerned with a boy and girl who have been evacuated from London due to the war, Diary entries relating to the situation in Britain, as Enid experienced it, are as follows:

Sunday 3 September 1939
'We made blackout blinds and painted windows black all day.'

Monday 16 October 1939
'Air-raid on Rosyth today.'

Sunday 23 June 1940
'There was an air-raid warning last night from one till 4, everyone down in the lounge.'

Friday 16 August, 1940
'Up to town by 10 train. Shopped all day. Had 2 air-raid warnings and went down in a.m. to D & Jones air-raid shelter and in afternoon to B & Hollingsworth's!'

Sat 31 August, 1940
'Terrific air-raid battles during day and nights now.'

Thurs 19 September, 1940
'London is getting bombed day and night - has been for some weeks now.'

Wed 16 October, 1940
'Worked till lunch. Had bridge here. Knitted till bed. A very noisy evening with planes, guns and bombs.'

Fri 15 November, 1940
'Had to spend night in shelter with kids and Nanny as bombs fell near.'

As I say, the story about two children evacuated from London to spend an autumn in Scotland (with two MacLaren children!), was published in November, 1940. I can readily imagine it being written earlier that year, perhaps shortly after
The Children at Cherry Tree Farm.

1939/40. All of Europe going mad. While in a house called Green Hedges, Enid really begins to get her act together.

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That's the original cover produced by Newnes, the firm that Hugh Pollock, Enid's first husband, had long worked for. Though working for the Local Defense Volunteers was beginning to take up much of his time in 1940.

But I prefer the reprint of 1946 which boasts a different cover. The proud MacLaren lad showing the way to those saucy Sassenachs and their soft southern dog!

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Imogen, by this time a five-year-old, recalls Enid reading this particular book aloud to her. In
A Childhood at Green Hedges, she writes:

'There is a well-established myth that my mother read frequently to my sister and myself, trying out her stories on us, her own small critics. This is quite untrue. I can only remember her reading one book to me and that was The Children of Kidillin... She read it to us when it was in page proof, [not as typed sheets then, but as a book that would have had Mary Pollock printed on the plain cover] and I am sure that she wanted to see if we could guess that she had really written it herself. She read the book beautifully, sitting on a chair with her back to the bow window, while I sat on the floor. She lost herself in the story just as she had when she was writing it. I was captivated by the book and by her reading of it and I persuaded Sarah [Imogen's nanny at the time] to read it to me again and again until I could read it myself... As for so many children, fluent reading for me began with Enid Blyton.'

Tentative conclusion. Fluent writing to the length of a childrens' novel began for Enid in late 1939 and throughout 1940. Soon it would explode into the Famous Five, the Find-Outers, the Adventure series, and so on. But let's pause and give due respect to the process. To what was happening in a single human being's developing mind.


5

A week later. The first four sections of this piece have been discussed on the forums of the Enid Blyton Society, here. As I write, there have been 25 responses to it, containing much of interest.

My latest perspective is this.
Galliano's Circus and Enchanted Wood were published as books in the same month that they finished as serials in Sunny Stories, that's September 1938 and May 1939, respectively. Here's the ad in Sunny Stories for The Enchanted Wood. This comes courtesy of EBS member Sue Berry. The resolution is not quite what it could be, but then it has come all the way from Australia! If Sue finds a way to make a better quality scan in due course, I'll substitute it.

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The immediate availability of
Mr Galliano's Circus and The Enchanted Wood as books weakens the argument that Enid wrote these works as serials as the copy would have had to be in the hands of the book publisher several months before the story finished in the weekly mag. Perhaps Enid even wrote these works as quickly as she would write her books a few years later. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

During the discussion, Rob Houghton, another long-standing EBS member, brought up the fact that Enid had written non-episodic works of some length, long before
Wishing Chair and Secret Island. A suggestion I've taken on board and which motivates the writing of this new section. I'm still very much looking for the point where Enid's career, or rather her practice as a writer, took off.

So, lets come at this whole thing from another angle. From 1922, when Enid Blyton was first published, to 1937, when
Sunny Stories was revamped to include a serial each week, was a long time in such a productive writer’s life. Fifteen years! Let's take a closer look at that period, with the help of Enid's diaries.

In January 1924, a meeting with a book editor at George Newnes Limited, Hugh Pollock, was extremely important to Enid’s career. (Not to mention that she married him a few months later.) The three non-episodic books that Rob Houghton has mentioned were all published by Newnes, which was obviously a place of security for Enid. A place where she could take risks. Surprising, in a way, that she didn’t take more risks in the late 1920s.

What I mean is, in 1924,
The Zoo Book was published, Hugh’s first commission for Enid. That’s Newnes ‘Gift Book 1’, as shown below.

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The 96-page book consists of individual chapters about zoo animals. It's not an imaginative work, it's journalism; freshly written but not particularly authoritative, as the anthropomorphic cover image might suggest.

Enid began to write the book on April 14, 1924 (shortly after she'd given up her teaching job and become a full-time writer) and finished it on July 3. So it wasn't written all that quickly. It was published in October of 1924. Also published the same month, to catch the Xmas market no doubt, was ‘Gift Book 2’:
The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies. That consists of short stories and poems, some from Teachers World, others specially written.

On to 1925 and ‘Gift Book 3’.
The Enid Blyton Book of Bunnies. That’s the book that came to be called The Adventures of Binkle and Flip in subsequent editions. It consists of separate episodes involving the same characters, Binkle and Flip, who sparkle throughout. Chapters, 'Binkle Has the Doctor', 'Binkle tries to be Funny' and 'Binkle's Wonderful Picture' are both charming and, in my opinion, hilarious. For all that the book displays a glittering brilliance, it's not really a novel.

On to1926 and 'Gift Book 4'.
The Bird Book. I'd put this in the same category as The Zoo Book. However, also published in October was 'Gift Book 5' The Enid Blyton Book of Brownies. Her first attempt at a novel? Maybe it was. In the first chapter, three brownies cause a princess to disappear, and by the last chapter they rescue her. The book itself is a string of episodes involving the brownies search for the princess. About as connected up (or as loose an arrangement) as The Enchanted Tree or Adventures of the Wishing Chair.

There is a diary entry relating to the book. Monday, 1 March, 1926: '
Began my Book of Brownies in a.m. and tore it up in the afternoon because I didn’t like it. Began it again at 4. Hugh and I read all evening.’

I don’t have access to immediately subsequent diary entries to know if Enid referred to this book again. How frustrating! Another visit to Seven Stories may have to be arranged.

In 1927, the year that Enid swopped her pencil for Hugh's typewriter, the ‘Gift Book’ that came out for the Xmas market was
The Animal Book, a reprise of The Zoo Book and The Bird Book. But no new attempt at a novel was made this year. Why not? Had Enid lost her nerve, albeit temporarily? Was she not that pleased with The Book of Brownies? Or perhaps the sales of Zoo/Bird Book were better than Book of Fairies/Bunnies/Brownies and so Hugh encouraged her to write another straightforward (from a literary point of view) 'nature' book.

Interestingly, these six books were all in the same format, though they were two completely different kinds of book. At least that's what it says inside the copy I have of
The Animal Book. Here's the ad for them on the back of my copy. (Newnes wasn't dating its books back then, but the first owner made his mark at the front of my copy in 1932.)

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In a way, you've got to hand it to Hugh/Newnes. They were saying that Enid Blyton knew a lot about the world's creatures - it's animals and birds. They were also suggesting that this same Enid Blyton enjoyed a rich inner life. Full of brownies and bunnies - bloomin' bonkers the lot of 'em!

Oddly, Kathleen Nixon was illustrating for both the nature books (end pages in
The Zoo Book and line drawings in The Animal Book) and for Enid Blyton's Book of Bunnies. So compare and contrast the three rabbits in the following illustration...

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...with the three shown below:

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Things went quiet, long story-wise, for a few years. In 1930, Newnes publishedTales of Long Ago, Tales of Robin Hood, Tales of Arabian Nights and Tales of Ancient Greece. Enid was still writing shorts for Sunny Stories and her Teachers World column. But nothing that was more structurally ambitious.

Then at the start of 1932 - inside a month, as her diary tells us - she wrote a full-length adult novel,
The Caravan Goes On. This was rejected by a literary agent and her diary doesn’t mention it again, according to Barbara Stoney so I'm sure that will be so.

Once more, things go quiet long story-wise. In 1934, Newnes published ‘Colour Gift Book 1’
The Red Pixie Book. But that’s entirely made up of poems from Teachers World and stories from Sunny Stories.

In 1935, Newnes published ‘Colour Gift Book 2’. That’s
The Green Goblin Book. Another attempt at a novel? The first chapter sets things up with three goblins meeting for the first time and deciding to set up a business selling anything to anyone. The next three chapters have some connectivity but the book settles down to be independent episodes, until the last chapter when the three goblins get married at the end of a successful bit of business.

Does this all not suggest a writer still rather tentatively developing her craft? Sure, she can do short stories at the drop of a hat. And come up with fresh scenarios and superb characters. But it would seem that plot is not Enid’s
forté at this stage in her career.

On to 1936. Newnes published ‘Colour Gift 3’.
The Yellow Fairy Book.. A young boy and a girl are witness to a princess’s disappearance in chapter one. The majority of the book is made up of unconnected episodes (a little like Wishing Chair and Enchanted Wood) but there is some interconnectedness in the last four chapters as the search for the princess climaxes.

Newnes - presumably at the behest of either Enid or Hugh - re-launched
Sunny Stories at the start of 1937, which from then on included a serial. This, I'd like to suggest, was a vital step forward. It means Enid was committing herself to producing at least two full-length books a year at a time when she was still to write a single fully integrated novel.

Assuming for the moment that
Wishing Chair was largely or totally written around when it began to be serialised in January 1937, by the time it was concluding in September 1937, Enid was advertising its availability in book form (in her Old Thatch letter as well as through whole page ads in Sunny Stories like the one below) and telling her readers that the new serial was called The Secret Island which would be beginning in the next weekly issue.

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As
Secret Island in turn approached its conclusion, Enid began to consult her child-readers:

January 14, 1938:
'The Secret Island is not yet at an end, but I would like you to be thinking about something for me. When the Secret Island is finished, what sort of a long story would you like next? I know rather an exciting one about a boy who goes round the countryside with a circus - do you think you would like that? Or would you rather have one about the pixies and fairies - or one about children? You might let me know. I want to begin another one for you about the end of March, so you have plenty of time to let me know.'

Enid is probably serious about this question. But did she have a pile of typescripts in front of her as she asked the question? Or did she intend to write one to order, as it were? I suspect the latter, but I don't know. In a diary entry for October 1927 she reports getting 50 letters in a week, And that Xmas getting 500 letters, 200 Christmas cards and 100 presents. I think it's reasonable to speculate that the majority of the children asked for a Circus book and that's what Enid sat down to write at the end of March: Mr Galliano's Circus. Though a thorough scrutiny of every entry in her diary is in order, not just the 'notable and sample' diary entries that Seven Stories have compiled. But let's take this slowly, taking on board the teasing Old Thatch letter at the front of issues of Sunny Stories.

January 21, 1938
'Isn't the Secret Island exciting this week? I am so glad you like it so much. So many of you are begging me to put the whole tale into a big book for you, so that you can read it all through again that I am thinking about this. I will let you know if I do make the Secret Island into a book.'

I think it's really odd that Newnes didn't publish
The Secret Island. Did Hugh Pollock and Newnes - who had been supporting and nurturing her career - still have doubts? Maybe they wanted her to stick to animals and fairies/brownies. To add stories focussing on children alone may have been seen as an unnecessary risk or complication.

Skipping forward three weeks:

February 11, 1938
'I'm afraid that you will be sad to read the last story of "The Secret Island" But it had a lovely ending, hadn't it! I am sure you did not guess that the children's father and mother would turn up again - and isn't it lovely that Jack is going to live with Mike, Nora and Peggy? I know you want all "The Secret Island" in a big book to itself, just as you had "The Adventures of the Wishing-Chair" - and I will tell you when the book is ready, so that you may get it if you badly want it.'

It was left to Blackwell's to publish it in October 1938. As I say above, Basil Blackwell and his wife met Enid at Old Thatch in June, but I suspect the deal would have been done by then via an editor at Blackwell.

There is a gap of seven issues before
Mr Galliano's Circus began to appear from April 8, 1938. I wonder why it didn't begin in February, as soon as Secret Island finished, just as Secret Island immediately took over from Wishing Chair? Well, because Enid had told the children that she didn't intend to write the new book until the end of March. She was very specific about that for some unknown reason. Maybe there were still doubts in Enid's mind about where she should be going. Animals, children, fairies? What is it that children really want to read about?

However, this time Newnes did take on the new serial as a book, and when
Mr Galliano's Circus concluded in issue 90, September 30, 1938, Enid was again testing the water:

'Dear Children, I expect you will be sorry to know that the tale of Mr Galliano's Circus is ended - but there is good news for you! You have begged me to make the stories into a book for you, so that you can buy them together and read them properly. Well, I have done so - and if you want the book you can get it at any bookshop, price 3s 6d.

That was just in case the children had missed the full-page ad in the previous week's issue!

'Better still, you will be able to get a great big book of Brer Rabbit too, with all your favourite tales in, that I have written for you. What laughs you will have!'

She was writing Brer Rabbit stories for Sunny Stories through much of 1937, so this was just an opportunity to bundle more bunnies into a sack, sorry, a book. Illustrated by Kathleen Nixon, of course.

'Write and tell me what sort of story you would like next. So far it seems to me that you want a tale about magic and fairies. You are always begging me to write you another tale of the The Wishing Chair. So I have written one for you that will last two weeks. I hope you will like it.'


In the next two issues there was indeed a
Wishing Chair story. The next serial began in issue 93, which came out in October 21 1938. It was - as foretold by Enid - another story about fairies, but she would seem to have been Wishing Chaired out by this time. The new serial was The Enchanted Wood. As I say above, this was published as a book as soon as it finished its serialisation. I'm supposing it was written before the middle of October, because by then Enid was not in a position to write anything much at all, never mind anything as imaginative and thrilling as The Enchanted Wood. I say this because of her diary entries of this period.

Monday 17 October:
'Imogen in bed with cold and temp. G. in bed with temp. Had to put Hugh to bed also with temp at 9a.m.! I did odd jobs till 12 and then worked till tea. With children till 6. Hugh had temperature of 104 then so I phoned for Henry. He came and said he did not think it was going to be serious. Temp fell to 100.2.'

Tuesday 18 October:
'Did Hugh and housekeeping and struggled to do some work. Henry came. Hugh's temp 104 again. Children rotten. Awful throat myself. Up and down all day to Hugh.'

What was the caption to that wonderful Kathleen Nixon illustration of Binkle and Flip again? Something like this:

Enid: "What's the matter with him?"
Doctor Henry: "Fiddle-faddle-itis."

Wednesday 19 October:
'Hugh still the same and children still bad. Dorothy came this a.m. thank goodness. She really is a brick. Couldn't do any work today. Henry came twice. We shall have awful bills again.'

Thursday 20 October:
'Nanny now has it, so I had to have the children for her most of day and help D. too. Did a little writing but it is very difficult. I don't have any luck lately. It is pneumonia again.'

Strictly speaking, the pneumonia is Hugh's bad luck rather than Enid's, and he was off work for six weeks. But strangely enough it's Enid I feel sorry for. Just as her writing career takes off, domestic duties and family ties threaten to pull her back down to earth.

Friday 21 October:
'Nanny still rotten and I can't get rid of the cough either. D. also has it. We feel rotten but we don't say anything to one another [or] Hugh. D. is very sweet to me and is doing the work of 3 nurses. Hugh very unappreciative on the whole. Children still unwell.'

Tuesday 25 October:
'Hugh's temp down at last but he looks very miserable. Children still in bed. Got a little work done today but it is hateful working in these circumstances. I feel as if it would be nice to run away and leave everybody!'

Yes, run into the enchanted wood and up the faraway tree, Enid! Run for your life as an independent human being and an imaginative writer!
The Enchanted Wood first appeared in the October 21 issue of Sunny Stories. No doubt it cheered her up a bit. Hopefully, she didn't think that the cover of Sunny Stories didn't look too much like Jo, Bessie and Fanny had stumbled into a butcher's walk-in cold room.

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Blood curdling or what? Only joking - Dorothy Richards was a master of illustration. Most of the time.

Funnily enough, when Enid describes her writing process in
The Story of My Life, it's The Enchanted Wood she harks back to. She tells us that she sat down with her mind empty until she saw the characters of Jo, Bessie and Fanny. Then she followed them through a winding path through a wood in her imagination, and suddenly saw "the strange Faraway Tree, a tree that touches the sky, and is the home of little folk. I had never heard of it, or seen it till that moment— but there it was, complete in every detail."

The author goes on to describe climbing the tree in her imagination and seeing a door at the top: "... before I can knock, it is opened, and there stands a round, red-faced, twinkling-eyed little fellow, beaming at me. I know who it is, though I have never in my life seen him before. It is Moon Face, of course."

Enid then writes: "I can hear a strange noise—a jingling-jangling, clinking-clanking noise. What is it? Ah, yes, you know, because you have read the book. But at that moment the story hasn't even been written yet, so I don't know. I have to look and see what makes the noise." It is the Saucepan Man, hung with clanking pots and pans.

She describes following Moon Face and the Saucepan Man up the topmost branch of the Faraway Tree to discover that "A little yellow ladder stretches surprisingly from the last branch, up through a purple hole in the cloud that lies on the top of the tree."

And so on. It's clear that by 1937/1938 she was writing whole books quickly. Consider the following books that were published during the time of the 1937/1940 diary:

  • 1937: Wishing Chair and Secret Island, both serialised.

  • 1938: Mr Galliano's Circus and The Enchanted Wood, both serialised.

  • 1939 Hurrah For the Circus and The Secret of Spiggy Holes, both serialised. Also The Treasure Hunters published by Newnes.

  • 1940: Naughtiest Girl in the School and The Adventurous Four, both serialised. Plus Children of Cherry Tree Farm for another publisher (Country Life) and Children of KIdillin and Three Boys and a Circus under another name (Mary Pollock).


See how things took off in 1939/40? At the start of 1937, Enid may well have been wondering if she could do the two serials a year. By 1939 she was certain of that and looking for other outlets for her burgeoning output. Step forward, Country Life and other publishers. Step forward 'Mary Pollock'. The only thing she wasn't certain of by then was her husband. Hugh was drinking far too much in phases, and prone to pneumonia when his immunity system was down, and depressed by the prospect of a new war with Germany.

But let's go back to
The Enchanted Wood in 1938. As it came to the end of its run in Sunny Stories, Enid wrote in her Old Thatch page in April:

'Dear Children, Although you will be sad to say good-bye to "The Enchanted Wood", you will be glad to meet your old friends Jimmy and Lotta again! Hundreds of you begged me for another tale of "Mr. Galliano's Circus", with Sammy the chimpanzee, Jemima the monkey, Jumbo the elephant, and little dog, Lucky - so next week the new tale will begin. It is called "Hurrah for the Circus".

Six months later, she's writing:

September 1, 1939:
'Dear Children, I am really very pleased that you are all enjoying the circus story so much. I am afraid you will be very sad when it comes to an end - but it will have to in a few weeks' time! Then it will be put into one big book for you, just as Mr Galliano's Circus was before. Al the serial stories that have been in our Sunny Stories have been put in big books for you, you know. The first one was "The Wishing Chair", wasn't it? Then there was "Secret Island" which you loved so much. Then "Mr Galliano's Circus". Then "The Enchanted Wood," which was made into a big book last May. Dear me, what a lot! Please will you think what serial story you would like next, and let me know? Thank you.'

September 15, 1939:
'I expect you will all be pleased to see that Lotta gets her chance to go in the ring, and will long to know how she gets on? Have you ever seen a circus? One came to our nearest big town not so long ago and Gillian did hope it would be Galliano's . But it wasn't! It was Bertram Mills', which I expect many of you have seen, and it was wonderful.

'You are sending in all sorts of ideas for our next serial story. Some of you want "the Wishing Chair" back again. Some want tales of the children who live on The Secret Island. Some want "the Enchanted Wood" and a great many want the circus story to go on and on! Well - I must think what to do. I don't quite know what story will unravel itself in my head yet!'

September 22, 1939
'I know you will be sorry to hear that "Hurrah for the Circus!" is coming to an end next week! I am glad you have all loved it so much. You can now buy it as a big book called
Hurrah for the Circus! - full of pictures. You can get it at any book-shop, and it cost 3s 6p. I hope you are lucky enough to have a birthday coming, for then you can put it down on your birthday list! Gillian is longing to have her copy. I expectsshe will read it all about six times!

Screen shot 2017-12-07 at 10.09.57

September 29, 1939
Well, my dears, I've counted up your letters, and I find that most of you would like another tale about the Secret Island children - so next week, look out for more about Jack, Mike , Peggy, and Nora. They are going to have even more exciting adventures than they had before! The story is called "The Secret of Spiggy Holes." I do hope you will like it.

I expect Enid did write the book in September, and when I next have access to Enid's diaries I'll check to see if it gets a mention. What I do know is that Enid wrote her next full length book in November because it's towards the end of that month that she 'chapters' the typescript of The Treasure Hunters.

The Treasure Hunters
is marvellously fluent - continually developing rather than stopping and starting. Enid’s vision in Wishing Chair/Enchanted Wood is thoroughly inspired, but her plots keep coming back to base for breathers. Wishing Chair and Enchanted Wood are perhaps the pinnacle of a hill that first began to be climbed in Enid Blyton's Book of Brownies and again in The Green Goblin book and The Yellow Fairy Book. But it turned out that Enid was about to set off on a much more ambitious climb.

This time the climb would go on and on. The decision to re-structure
Sunny Stories around a serial forced her to try and write longer books. The decision to write books about older children resulted in Enid soon finding a new fluidity and mastery of plot. An equation even suggests itself:

The Secret Island (1938) +
+
The Treasure Hunters (1940)
=
Five on a Treasure Island (1942)

Sadly for Newnes, having supported her all the way via 'Gift Books',
Sunny Stories and Teachers World, and having published The Treasure Hunters, they didn’t get the Famous Five series, presumably because of Enid's then imminent break-up with Hugh.

The Treasure Hunters features three children who visit Greylings Manor where their grandparents live with Rags the dog. Very similar to the set up in the Fives where the three children visit KIrrin Cottage to stay with their Aunt and Uncle, Timmy and George. Yes, George is the vital difference. I think of her as the elephant in the room of the frontispiece to The Treasure Hunters, shown below, courtesy of the EBS's Cave of Books.

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"What does it say?" asks Susan in the above pic.

It says: "But the Famous Five, introduced in 1942, Fatty and the Find-Outers, from 1943, and the Adventure team, introduced in 1944, when Enid was writing like an express train, are beyond the remit of this essay."

As a writer, Enid developed slowly from 1924 to the end of 1936. Then very quickly from 1937 to 1940. Which maybe isn't saying anything we didn't suspect already. But it feels good to have set it out clearly (I hope; all further clarifications welcome) and in some detail.

I think I'll leave it at that for now.




Notes

Many of the scans on this page are taken from the Cave of Books on the Enid Blyton Society website, which is the hard work and single-minded achievement of Tony Summerfield.

Thanks to Seven Stories for allowing access to Enid Blyton's diaries and for providing a transcript of certain diary entries.

Thanks to Sue Berry for providing information on what appears in the Old Thatch letters in
Sunny Stories issues of 1938 and 1939, as well as for providing scans of pages.

In addition to Enid's personal diaries and her letters in
Sunny Stories, her letters in Teacher's World may help further build up a picture of life at Old Thatch while Enid was beavering away at books between 1937 and 1940. I haven't yet found a way of accessing these.