Sunday, January 3, 2010
Her tales of youthful adventure have made Enid Blyton one of the best-known and bestselling children's authors of all time. Stories featuring the likes of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and Noddy have shifted more than 600 million copies.
Since her death in 1968, however, Blyton's reputation has been eroded by accusations of racist attitudes in her books. That view won't be helped by revelations this week that she may have been a Nazi sympathiser.
Ida Pollock, who has written more than 100 novels herself, and who married Blyton's ex-husband Hugh, told The Independent on Sunday this week that Blyton had been present at a dinner in the late 1930s where the conversation turned to appeasing Hitler. While Hugh walked out in disgust, Blyton was happy to remain.
"On one occasion Hugh and Enid were invited to dinner at a well-known country house," she said. "It was the late 1930s, and at dinner that night there seems to have been a lot of talk about appeasing Hitler. I don't know what Enid Blyton actually thought about appeasement, but it's pretty certain she didn't want to walk out. Hugh couldn't take it, though. His blood boiled. They had a driver waiting to take them home and he knew Enid would be all right, but he wasn't going to go on hanging about in that house, so he left alone and walked home through the woods."
Ida, who now lives in a nursing home in Cornwall, published the most recent of her novels last year, aged 100. A Distant Drum, a historical romance centring on the Battle of Waterloo, appeared last year under the name Marguerite Bell. She has now just published her memoirs – Stardust – which she began writing "a long time ago". "Seeing your own novel come out, that's different altogether, wonderful. But your personal life is private, or it should be.
"Lately, though, I have been urged to finish this memoir and get it out, if only to set the record straight."
Much of that record concerns Enid Blyton because the author could never let go of her former husband, even though she divorced him.
Many of Ida's novels were written for Mills & Boon and it is through writing that she met Hugh Pollock, who at the time was married to Blyton, at another of her publishers, Newnes.
"I met Hugh. And, I suppose, I fell in love – just as Enid Blyton had done, years earlier but in rather similar circumstances. Quite soon I realised Hugh was married, and of course I didn't expect anything to develop between us."
In 1943 she married Hugh. He and Blyton had divorced after a rocky marriage. But the children's author would still loom large in the newlyweds' life.
"When Hugh and I had been married three or four years, I received a letter from Enid Blyton. It was a fairly spiteful letter, certainly about Hugh, and I remember thinking, 'how odd'. After all, she had also remarried and it seemed as if she was happy enough."