Childhood & Early Years
Enid Blyton was born in East Dulwich, London, to Thomas Carey Blyton, who was a salesman of cutlery, and Theresa Mary Harrison Blyton. After her birth, Blyton family moved to Beckenham in Kent and Enid spent most of her childhood there.
It was in Beckenham that her younger brothers were born: Hanley Blyton and Carey Blyton. She was very close to her father and they both shared a loving relationship. They both had a zest for knowledge and enjoyed nature, art, theatre, music and literature.
Her father taught her many great lessons that she carried with herself throughout her life. She developed a special love for gardening because her father was an ardent lover of the nature. But she was not very fond of her mother, though. Her mother was homely and domesticated who did not approve very much of Blyton’s bold expeditions of knowledge along with her father.
The First school ever that Blyton attended was a small school in Kent run by a couple of sisters and it was called ‘Tresco’. It was situated opposite to the Blyton house. Later in life, she recalled her days at Tresco as happy and memorable. She was good at art and nature study but was not quite as clever at mathematics.
In 1907, she was sent to a senior school in Beckenham called the St. Christopher’s School for Girls. She was a very dedicated pupil, full of life and enthusiasm for learning. She used to organize concerts, was a tennis champion and the captain of the lacrosse team. She received many awards for excellence in various fields, especially English composition. She was also appointed as the Head Girl of the school.
These were the years when Blyton along with her two friends, Mary Attenborough and Mirabel Davis, started a magazine called ‘Dab’. The title of the magazine was formed out of the initials of their surnames. Blyton contributed stories to the magazine. In 1913 she took her first holiday to France to stay with her teacher Mlle. Louise Bertraine in Annecy.
When she was 13, her father declared that he is leaving for good to live with another woman called Florence Agnes Delattre. Around that time it was considered a disgrace for someone’s marriage to breakdown, therefore the Blyton family kept it as a secret and told everyone that her father. This affected Blyton a great deal.
After her father left the family, Blyton took to reading and writing profusely. It was like an escape from everything that was going around her, which her young mind could not really comprehend. She used to lock herself in the room for hours and write. She had already made up her mind that she will become a writer one day; her ambition drove her more and more towards writing.
Her writings upset her mother a great deal, who did not support her creative pursuits and considered this to be a waste of time. Blyton started sending her poems and writings to various publications but she only received rejection from everywhere. At this time her friend Mary’s Aunt Mabel Attenborough was her only support.
In 1916, Blyton got an offer to pursue music from Guildhall School of Music. She was a gifted pianist and everyone in her family was hoping very much for her to become a famous musician just like her father’s sister Mary Crossland. Although she liked to play piano when she was young but now all her dedication was towards writing and she did not want to pursue music.
Blyton took up a Froebel-based teacher-training course at Ipswich High School. She broke all ties with her mother at this time and did not even come back home for holidays. She visited her father once or twice around this time, who by now had three children with Florence, but she did not feel as close to him anymore.
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In 1916, Blyton’s first poem ‘Have you?’ was published in Nash’s Magazine. This was the first documented published work of hers. She finished her teacher-training course in 1918 and taught at a boy’s preparatory school called Bickley Park School in Kent.
After a year’s time, she became a governess to four boys at Southernhay house in Surbiton, Surrey. She started an experimental school in there and a lot of children from the neighborhood used to come to learn from her. She was there for 4 years.
In 1920s, her writings started to get noticed and published in various publications. Her stories and articles started getting published in ‘Teacher’s World’ and she did some work for greeting cards as well. In 1922, her first book was published called ‘Child Whispers’. It was a short volume of poetry and throughout the next year, her short stories, poems, plays, etc. were published.
In 1924, Blyton was signed up by the publishing company called George Newnes and her ‘London Zoo – The Zoo Book’ came out. This was the time when she met her first husband Hugh Alexander Pollock, who was the editor of the publishing company then.
In 1925, her first full-length novella was published called ‘The Enid Blyton Book of Bunnies’; it was later renamed as ‘The Adventure of Binkle and Flip’. This book was a collection of different stories.
In 1926, Blyton started editing and contributing to a fortnightly magazine called ‘Sunny Stories for Little Folks’. The same magazine became a weekly in 1937 and it was renamed as ‘Enid Blyton’s Sunny Stories’ and then finally renamed as ‘Sunny Stories’.
In 1926, ‘The Enid Blyton Book of Brownies’ came out and is generally considered her first proper novella.
In 1927, Blyton published ‘The Wonderful Adventure’ which was her first adventure novella but her full-length novel on adventure was published in 1938 by the title of ‘The Secret Island’.
In the 1930s, Blyton developed an interest in writing mythological stories including those of ancient Greece and Rome. She wrote: 'The Knights of the Round Table', 'Tales of Ancient Greece' and 'Tales of Robin Hood'.
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Blyton's first full-length adventure novel, 'The Secret Island', was published in 1938.
In 1940s, Enid Blyton wrote prolifically and apart from several other books, she came up with her 'Famous Five' series.
In 1950, her book ‘The Pole Star and The Ship of Adventure’ was published and it contained the experiences from the time when she went on a cruise to Madeira and the Canary Islands with her first husband.
In 1951, ‘The Queen Elizabeth Family’ was published, a book on the experiences when she went on a short holiday with her second husband Kenneth to New York, sailing out on the Queen Elizabeth and coming back on the Queen Mary.
In 1952, she wrote her autobiography called ‘The Story of My Life’ in which she portrayed her life and family in happiness and prosperity.
In 1960, she wrote ‘Five on Finniston Farm’, which got its inspiration from Blyton and Kenneth’s golf course and farm in Dorset. In 1962, ‘Five Have a Mystery to Solve’ was published.
Towards the end of her life, in 1965, Blyton got published ‘The Man Who Stopped to Help’ and ‘The Boy Who Came Back’. These two books were the retellings of the stories from the Bible.
Personal Life & Legacy
Blyton’s father died of heart attack in 1920. She was told that he died while fishing on the Thames but the truth was he died of a stroke while sitting in an armchair at his home in Sunbury, Florence. The truth about her father’s death was not revealed to the public as her mother had kept the breakdown of their marriage a secret otherwise it would have caused them great dishonor.
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In 1924, she got married to Hugh Alexander Pollock, who was the editor of the company that was publishing her books. He was honored the D.S.O for WWI. They got married quietly at the Bromley Register Office, where no one from Blyton or Hugh’s family was invited. They lived together first in Chelsea and then moved together to Elfin Cottage in Beckenham in 1926.
In 1929, the couple started living in Old Thatch, in a cottage near the river Thames in Bourne Ed, Buckinghamshire. Blyton had a trouble conceiving children in the beginning of their marriage but in 1931 she gave birth to their daughter Gilian and thereafter, after a miscarriage in 1934, their younger daughter Imogen was born in 1935.
In 1942, Hugh and Blyton got divorced. Hugh was having an affair with the famous novelist Ida Crowe and Blyton had also met a surgeon called Kenneth Fraser Darraell Waters by this time. They got married in 1943 at the City of Westminster Register Office. In 1945, she had another miscarriage after falling from a ladder, which shattered her and her new husband.
By the end of 1950s, Blyton’s health became a cause for major concern. She started to feel breathless and suffered from a mild heart attack during this time. In 1960s it was discovered that she was suffering from dementia.
In 1968, lonely and weak Blyton was admitted to the Hampstead nursing home and she died on 28 November 1968.
‘The Story of My Life’ is considered by the critics to be the fiction of her own life because not even once she mentioned her First husband Hugh in it and all the details are from her life with her second husband Kenneth and her children from the first marriage, Gillian and Imogen. Readers are given the impression that Kenneth is the father of the girls.
The topic of Blyton’s over 600 books revolved around the experiences of regular children in unusual circumstances. They were either portrayed having an adventure or solving a mystery or being brave in general. A lot of her books also revolved around school settings and some of the books were out an out fantastical.
Her books were disapproved by the literary authorities for a very long time. Libraries did not keep her books, for they felt that her writing was too unrealistic and misled the children into thinking that life is a bed of roses.
Her writing style was considered to be immature, with limited use of vocabulary; all in all a poor role model for the children. But her books were becoming very famous amongst the children and they used to write her lettesr to thank her for her books. Blyton used to say that any critic over the age of 12 is not really the best critic for her books.
In 2009, BBC film made a movie on Blyton’s life. The role of Enid was performed by the famous British actress Helena Bonham Carter.
Kenneth, her second husband, was deaf and he used to avoid going to social events with Blyton because everyone used to take his deafness for being rude or impolite.
Blyton’s famous home ‘Green Hedges’ was demolished in 1973. It is a street now, full of houses and is called Blyton Close.
Her younger daughter Imogen has publically made a statement saying that ‘The truth is Enid Blyton was 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.’