So at long last I have finished reading and comparing the two copies of the book! The last two chapters were actually quite light on alterations so it means I have time and words for a summary of sorts. First, the changes though.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: A PLAN – AND A NARROW ESCAPE
My more action = more changes theory pretty much crumbles here as there is one measly change in this entire chapter.
Julian originally suggests they should hide over yonder, which becomes just over there in the 1997 edition.
Just imagine Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet given the same treatment.
But, soft! what light through that window over there breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Not quite the same is it? (Not to mention they’d have changed the first words to But oh! or maybe hey there!)
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: THE END OF A GREAT ADVENTURE
Uncle Quentin’s nice little speech at the end is shorted for the modern edition. And I’m proud of you too George. You’re as good as a boy any day, is what he said first, something that would make George very happy. The last line has been edited out in the paperback, presumably to remove the idea that boys are in any way better than girls.
One last hyphen removal for you: note-book is altered to notebook, though there are countless hyphenated words left such as motor-boat.
A sensible change, possibly, is the addition of be to this line from George – I know I’ve never been lonely, but now I will. I keep reading and re-reading that and thinking it might just about be all right the way it was, but with ‘be’ on the end it’s just a little clearer.
To balance that out, a pointless addition. Oh, thank you, thank you! becomes Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Now George is quite grateful there, (I think it’s when her mother says Timmy can sleep in her room,) but two thank yous conveyed that well enough without adding a third I think.
And finally, the end. Or not the end, as those two classic words have been omitted from the paperback.
So, only six changes there. That makes a hundred and seventeen in total (very roughly!)
I marked every queer in the list in my excel file (yes, I made an excel file for this!), and there were thirty two queers over the sixteen chapters, making a neat average of two a chapter. Is that too many? Just out of interest I’ve tallied up their replacements. Strange was used thirteen times, odd six, peculiar five, funny four, weird two, and amazing and uneasy once each. (Sound like spoof mystery solving groups there – the Odd Six? The Funny Four?)
I would say for the most part the changes have, in my opinion, been unnecessary. A few I can approve of and understand, such as the odd correction or clarification, but for the most part I’m left baffled and a bit saddened that apparently modern children can’t understand the original text. Or is it that the publishers and parents just think that?
To be fair though, most of the alterations have been quite minor, very few lines have been cut or drastically changed. I think a good number of them wouldn’t even be noticed if you read it without really thinking about the precise wording.
A final thing, a last comparison if you like. My hardback is almost fifty years old and I have no idea how many times it has been read in that time. My paperback is six years old, and has only been read once. It looks like it’s the other way around though!
The paperback had honestly been sitting on my shelf untouched since I got it, so it was near enough new condition when I started these blogs. Now look at it! Whereas the hardback looks exactly as it did when I bought it, and not all that different to when it was new. I do have a facsimile dustjacket for it, but I usually take it off when I’m reading as I find dustjackets slip up and down and annoy me too much.
And there you have it. I suppose I should answer the question I’ve set in the title for the blogs. How well has the original text faired in this modern edition? I think I’d have to say “not too badly, considering.” Other books will have come off worse, I’m sure, like Island of Adventure perhaps with Jo-Jo playing such a large role, but on the whole Five on a Treasure Island hasn’t been truly butchered, at least, not in this edition.