The Twins at St Clare’s – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

I will be comparing an Egmont paperback from 2005 (another loan from Stef) to a Methuen 6th impression from 1945. The Methuen should be pretty close to the original text, if not identical so we shall see how many changes have been made sixty years down the line.

I’ll be doing it chapter by chapter as usual, but there are always a few things to note before I even get that far.

I really do hate the cartoony cover from Egmont. It looks like a horror story with those blank faced twins with their weirdly long skinny hands. I don’t know why there’s a pink splodge around the title either. Is it supposed to signify the bad attitude of the twins, somehow? Books about naughty children always seem to have splodges or stains on the covers these days (think Horrid Henry and The Naughtiest Girl).

On the title page the Methuen has The Twins at St Clare’s a school story for girls while the Egmont just has The Twins at St Clare’s. In the Methuen there are also the details that the book is by Enid Blyton and has eight illustrations by W. Lindsay Cable. 

The chapters numbers are now given in “normal” numbers and not Roman numerals, and at the start of each chapter they appear in splotchy shapes like the ones on the cover. Two chapters names are changed also. A bad beginning becomes just Bad beginning, and A broken window – and a punishment is now A broken window.


For the first few pages I was worried this would be a rare and almost unaltered edition. At first all I could spot were very minor updates. Hyphens (as always seems to be the case) have been removed, thus head-girl becomes head girl and so on, the Head or the Head Mistress loses her capitals, and various full stops are removed after Mrs. and prep. etc.

Only two larger alterations have been made to the first chapter. It originally read Mr O’Sullivan rapped with his pipe on the table, and then later, Mr O’Sullivan lighted his pipe. For some reason it has been changed to Their father lighted his pipe and then Their father relit his pipe. I’m actually surprised the pipe hasn’t been cut out altogether! Saying that there are a few things that have been left in like references to maids both at home and school, plus the odd phrasing of in the train, rather than on the train. 


Naturally we can’t have a queer-looking crowd, so it has become and odd-looking one instead. The tea-wagons have modernised into shops at the station, the common room wireless is a radio, and their gramophone is now a record player. That last one struck me as rather ridiculous. A record player makes it about as modern as the 1980s – maybe the mid nineties at a stretch if your parents were the type to still play the odd bit of Earth Wind and Fire or Fleetwood Mac. A child in 2005 is about as likely to know what a record player is as they are a gramophone. Surely it should be CD players? Well, that of course would have to be updated again for any 2005 editions as isn’t all music digital these days? Of course if there are CD players there would have to be iPod docks, and probably computers playing Spotify plus plenty of smart phones around… and therein lies the ridiculous, futile nature of updating anything that’s going to be out of date a few years later.

The drawing-room is now a sitting-room, and a dance-band (on the wireless) is just a band. The twins are no longer expected to say how-do-you-do to Miss Theobald, rather they are to say hallo instead. There’s no need for them to know how to sew a button on a shoe, just to sew a button on. And lastly the line and didn’t she just fancy herself has become didn’t she fancy herself. 


The eiderdowns on their beds have become quilts (so children who are most familiar with duvets are still left out), and in what I think may be an attempt to be less snobbish the girls say that someone talks like a rag-and-bone man instead of our parlourmaid at home. Rag and bone men were very common when the book came out though I can’t say I know of too many around today. I believe there are some – dealing mostly in scrap metal which is quite valuable now – but it’s a strange thing to add in to the book, and is it any better a comparison to the parlourmaid? It’s ok for a working-class rag-and-bone man to speak badly, but not a maid? It can’t be that maids are being written out as archaic as they’re mentioned several times in earlier chapters.

One of the twins complains she hates having to be the same as everyone else – a product of being at St Clare’s where everyone has matching bedding and wears the same uniform and so on. This has been changed to I hate being the same as everyone else. The point is lost here – the twins feel they are somewhat different to the other girls (and of course all the girls are different as no two people are the same) so they hate having to fit in.


I’m not in the least surprised that Pamela no longer calls the twins a pair of boobs. Instead they are a pair of idiots. Isabel wants to buy a new hair brush instead of a new set of hair-grips and she puts on a record instead of winding up the gramophone.

Emphasis is lost when Well, do GO! becomes Well, do go! And there are two occasions where it seems that the editor is trying to distance the top form girls from the chores they set. Pamela no longer says before you did our boots, instead it’s the boots, and Pat says she would even scrub the floor now instead of her floor. 

And so that is a total of 22 changes to start off with.

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2 Responses to The Twins at St Clare’s – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

  1. Francis says:

    I just love the original cover – and hate the modern one! The changes so far seem almost modest compared to some of the other book comparisons you have done, Fiona. Many thanks.


  2. RereadingBlyton says:

    Depressing as always to see these changes, especially to one of my favourite Blytons, and like Francis I loved the original cover and loathe the new one. Thanks, though, for keeping us updated on these abominations. Just one small thing – in the title of this piece ‘faired’ should be ‘fared’. Chris.


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