First Term at Malory Towers – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

I thought my series on Five on a Treasure Island was quite a success, at least it generated a fair few comments and a bit of discussion so I was keen to do another comparison of original and modern editions. I thought we’d take a break from the Famous Five, and Stef has been kind enough to send me a copy of the first Malory Towers book, so that was the obvious choice!


I will be comparing the third impression from 1948 (first published 1946), published by Methuen and illustrated by Stanley Lloyd with a 2000 paperback by Egmont.Oddly this exact edition doesn’t appear in the cave, there is a 2000 Mammoth edition with the same cover in a different colour and I know Mammoth and Egmont are somehow connected (one is the imprint of the other?) so I believe the illustrator should be the same, and that is Jenny Chapple.

It would have been much easier if the poor illustrator had been credited somewhere in the book of course. I’m quite fond of Jenny Chapple’s work as her illustrations appeared in the Dragon editions I had as a child – in fact, I may prefer them to Stanley Lloyd’s but I’m starting to ramble. Let’s get on!

Before I get into a chapter by chapter comparison of the text I wanted to point out the paperback lacks the lovely end paper illustrations of the school and the map which is a shame, though of course paperbacks don’t tend to have endpapers. Also missing is the illustration of the girls arriving at the school which appears before the title page.

One final alteration is the change from Roman numerals for each chapter to plain old numbers.


I had been discussing various editions with Stef and she’d warned me this one, being fourteen years old already, might not have as many alterations as a more recent one. I was faintly worried, I admit. Then I noticed the very first line was altered and, well, let’s just say there’s enough for me to be getting on with.

Darrell Rivers looked at herself in the glass, is how the first line used to read. Now it reads that she looked at herself in the mirror. I look forward to reading Through the Mirror by Lewis Carroll next.

Originally she packs her nighty, this is changed to nightie. To be fair I spell it with an ie as well, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the y spelling, it’s certainly not going to bamboozle the reader (even if my spell checker doesn’t like it.)

In 1946 Darrell was given a ten shilling note which her mother warns her is to last the whole term as nobody is allowed more pocket money than that. In 2000 she gets a five pound note.

I was thirteen in 2000, while Darrell is twelve at the time she starts school. I got about £5 a week in pocket money then. £5 to last a term just seems silly. That’s about 50p a week, assuming there’s only ten weeks to the term. That’s roughly enough for one chocolate bar a week and not much else.

A shilling in modern money is worth about 50p, so on the surface that seems logical. Only, it’s not. Because ten shillings would have bought you a lot more in the forties and even in the fifties and sixties than five pounds would get you in the noughties.

According to, ten shillings in 1946 would be worth between £12.32 and £48.87 depending on which variables you are calculating it on. I think £20 would probably have been a more sensible amount to update it to.

Unsurprisingly the word gay has been removed and the girls’ gay voices become happy ones instead.

The last couple of changes in this chapter are pretty minor. Platform 7 is changed to platform seven, full stop after hols (denoting it is short for holidays) has been removed. The stop after Mrs remains though, something you don’t see so often now, but I noticed it is missing in at least one mention of Mrs Rivers’ name.


In chapter two motor coaches have been modernised to plain old coaches, presumably as there are no other sort of coaches these day the word motor becomes redundant.

The girls are no longer gay and chattery, they are just chattery (which isn’t even a word according to my spell checker.)

Something I’m sure is simply an error is the line except poor Darrell, regarding how everyone but her seems to know where to go when arriving at the school, becomes expect poor Darrell.

Some more full stops have been removed, after the gyms, and the labs in Alicia’s speech, and an apostrophe has been added to make five minutes time into five minutes’ time. I’ve already discussed this in the Famous Five series, my humble opinion being that I prefer it without the apostrophe but apparently I’m just wrong on that so I shan’t say any more!

And finally, Matron gets a fashion update. Instead of her hair being neatly tucked under a pretty cap, tied in a bow under her chin, her cap is now tied in a bow at the back. 

Surely the idea of a matron wearing a cap at all is quite out-dated and old fashioned, regardless of where she ties her bow?

So that’s the first two chapters, and round thirteen changes in all.

There are 22 chapters in the book, so I’m hoping to get through more than two chapters a post so I’m not doing this for the next twenty weeks! But by the time I introduced and went on about monetary changes I’ve not the space for a third chapter this time around.

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8 Responses to First Term at Malory Towers – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

  1. Francis says:

    Great idea to do the Malory book, Fiona! 10/= was an awful lot of money in about 1950 – I never saw one as a child and would equate it to about £40 now. 2/6d was about as far as I got to riches and that on very rare occasions from a favourite uncle.


    • fiona says:

      Thanks Francis.

      I imagine Darrell’s family were reasonably wealthy, her father was a surgeon and of course she has been sent to a boarding school which must have cost a fortune. Ten shillings probably wouldn’t be extravagant for them, but it would allow her to buy sweets and bits and pieces during the term – hair ribbons, a comb, a hanky etc. A lot more than £5 would have gotten her in 2000 certainly.


  2. Laura McConnell says:

    I was reading this while looking at my 1997 Mammoth copy, and the text in there seems to be exactly the same as in the first edition. 2000 seems very late for some changes to be creeping in!


  3. Michael says:

         A lot of these changes seem to have been introduced to update things that are now old-fashioned. But if they are going to use that as a reason to change things, they’d better makes lots of other changes, too – so many, in fact, that one would hardly know where to begin!
         For example, perhaps television ought to be introduced to Malory Towers, not to mention computers; and perhaps the girls all ought to have mobile phones, which they constantly have their face stuck into all the time. And perhaps there had better be random locker searches on a weekly basis, or (better) at random, unannounced intervals, for knives or pornography or drugs like marijuana or ice or ecstasy – and … gosh, I don’t know where to stop!
         In other words, just ridiculous, ludicrous, and silly!

         I’m a bit old-fashioned, too, about things of the full-stop or apostrophe type. I grant we can drop the ones in “gym”, “lab”, etc., and I don’t use those myself; but I still think the ones in “Mrs.” and similar abbreviations would be better kept.
         I don’t quite understand changing “Platform 7” to “Platform seven” – especially as I feel the actual sign at a railway station would be far more likely to use the numeral than to spell out the whole word.
         I can understand about “gay”, but think it is regrettable this word has become almost unusable today in its older meaning. Actually, I have read that, if you look into it, the link between “gay” and “homosexual” is actually over a century old – so it would seem that “gay” with this meaning is not nearly so new as many people think. In the old days, though, it didn’t seem to spoil or taint the “innocent” meaning of “gay”, and the two meanings apparently happily co-existed then (probably in totally different sectors of society); so it’s a bit of a mystery why those two meanings of the word can’t happily co-exist today – but it seems they can’t, which is a little sad.

         As for chapter numerals, I personally prefer Arabic numerals to Roman ones, but would probably not (if I were an editor) change the Roman ones if they were already there.
         The main reason for my preference actually stems from a style of book organization that does not exist in any of Enid Blyton’s works: and that is for a (usually long) novel to be divided into several parts, and then each of those would contain several chapters; and even chapters can be divided into yet smaller sections if they tend to be long. In such a system (which I have adopted for an adventure novel I am writing which will be closer to a Harry Potter novel in length than an Enid Blyton one), I am keeping Roman numerals for the parts, Arabic numerals for the chapters, and parenthesized lower-case letters for the sections within chapters (that is, “(a)”, “(b)” and so on). I feel using different number systems for the different *tiers* of structure aids clarity and avoids confusion.
         Simply because of that system, I prefer chapters to have ordinary Arabic numerals. Of course that more structured approach to the design of a novel doesn’t apply to anything by Enid Blyton that I am aware of, so I guess it’s not really a very compelling reason.


    • fiona says:

      That’s something I wonder about a lot. So many old-fashioned things are left in yet others are changed. How do they work out what is understandable and what isn’t to modern children?


  4. Rupert says:

    My daughter is just getting in to Blyton — any advice on where to find the closest thing available to the originals? I see Hachette do a “Classic Edition” of Famous Five, but they don’t advertise anything similar for Malory Towers.


    • fiona says:

      The best way to get unedited text is to buy the earliest copies you can find. The ‘classic’ Famous Five editions are still edited, just somewhat less than some of the other versions!

      Generally anything pre 1970 is safe (the only changes then were usually corrections and changing king to queen), the 70s saw some minor updates like children wearing jeans instead of shorts etc, but the bulk of the changes began in the 90s.


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