The article is written by a man well known to those at the Enid Blyton Society, David Cook is a well known and liked member by all, but we all know his terrible secret (well, its not that terrible!)…
He also likes Malcolm Saville!
Now, we’re over the shock, and now aware that most of us do like other authors as well, I should explain to you how I’ve come across this article in particular. You won’t find it in the Enid Blyton Society Journal (of which you can subscribe here) but in the Malcolm Saville Society’s journal, Acksherley! (Issue 12, Dated November 1999).
In this article Cook begins by writing about his surprise at being asked by the editor of Acksherley, Jonathan Calder, to write an article comparing Blyton and Saville as Cook notes “whilst he [Calder] is a gread admirer of Malcolm Saville, he is equally vehement in his dislike for Enid Blyton” (pg 23).
So, surprises out of the way, on we go! It’s interesting to read of the similarities between the two authors especially their love of nature. Cook does point out however that they did go about sharing their knowledge in different ways. “While Malcolm was renowned for his ‘sense of place’ in his stories… Enid gave greater botanical emphasis to her stories, mentioning many common plants by name…” (pg 23). This is something I’ve noticed between the two authors as well: I have immersed myself in Saville’s locations and enjoyed Blyton’s factual nature stories.
Cook briefly compares the religious childhoods of Saville and Blyton, perhaps to show that they had fairly similar backgrounds when they were children. However there is one element of Blyton’s early life that does not match with Saville’s at all, and that would be her father walking out of the family home when she was young, and I believe that Saville certainly had no such drama in his early life.
Blyton eventually trained as a teacher, where as Saville worked for the Oxford University Press, and its around this time that they seem to drift apart in the comparison. Cook goes on to point out that in 1936 Saville was part of the publishing company Newnes, who had started to publish Blyton ten years previously with a book called The Bunnies*. Newnes also asked Blyton to edit the magazine Sunny Stories, which she did, and continued until 1952 when she was succeeded by Saville.
Cook brings attention to the fact that Saville helped Blyton’s first full length novel The Adventures of the Wishing Chair into print, and to quote Cook, “So you see, Malcolm Saville actually kick-started Enid Blyton’s career…”(pg. 24) something I believe we are all thankful for indeed! So you may not actually know who Saville is but you now know that he helped make sure Enid Blyton was such a big household name! Who’d have thought it?
From this astonishing fact we follow Cook as he explored the two authors publishing habits and similar story lines. In fact it is noted quite clearly that Saville was believed to have become friendly with Blyton and showed her some pictures or described Rye in Sussex, where he based his third Lone Pine Book, The Gay Dolphin, and she may have taken influence from that to write her fourth Famous Five, Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.
A difference noted in Cook’s article is the difference between the writers at their peak in popularity. Blyton was always a full time writer, unable to take criticism, with six publishers demanding stories for publishing, whereas Saville was very much a part-time writer at the beginning of his career and became a full time one later on.
To conclude, Cook takes us on a summary of the authors’ later lives, remarking on Blyton’s literary inconsistencies and tentatively linking them to the early onset of dementia that finally claimed her when she was 71 on 28th November 1968. Whereas Saville was regarded as being old-fashioned because of the publishers demands to shorten and compress his work, left it without much of the character development and descriptive passages of his earlier work. Saville died aged 81, on the 30th June 1982.
Cook provides us with a comprehensive overview of the two authors that are close to many hearts. I think he does a good job at summing up the careers of Saville and Blyton and picking out similarities, but I feel he didn’t really answer the question in his title – were Blyton and Saville, rivals or allies?
Well, from what I’ve read and a recent discovery when flicking through my works copy of Blyton’s biography by Barbara Stoney, I spotted a picture of Blyton and Saville, with Richmal Crompton at a showing of the stage show Noddy in Toyland at the Stoll theatre in 1957, and I would like to believe that they were more friends than rivals. Its possible that Saville was one of the few adults who knew a bit about Blyton.
However I do have my doubts a little as Saville worked for the same publishing company Newnes as Blyton’s first husband, Hugh Pollock, so it is completely possible that Blyton didn’t see or speak to Saville much after her divorce from Pollock if the two men were quite companionable.
In many ways its a hard question to answer without speaking to either of them, but at the same time, I would most definitely like to believe they were allies. What do you think?
*The article doesn’t furnish any other details about this book. There is no Blyton book with that name, but there is The Enid Blyton Book of Bunnies published by Newnes in 1925. It may be that there is a compendium of different authors’ work titled The Bunnies though.