Enid Blyton was a wildly successful English children’s books author. According to Hachette, her books have sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, and sell 3.5 million copies a year in English alone. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages. They were certainly a prominent part of my childhood: probably the first books I read on my own.The Bookseller tells us that English Heritage, in its website backing up its blue plaques program, has added a note: “Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit.” Ouch!.

Literary merit was not a major concern to this child, and I don’t remember xenophobia and racism, but we were all conditioned to accept large doses of “Brits are best” and worse back then. That we as children were exposed to much worse isn’t of course a defense, but it’s a fact. Of recent years Helen Bannerman’s reputation has been subject to severe revision, and her The Story of Little Black Sambo has been consigned to oblivion. There’s a version of Epaminondas and his Auntie online which presents Epaminondas as a little white boy — he still ain’t got the sense he was born with. Obviously parents like to share with their children books which they enjoyed in their childhood, but times change, and as a society we mature (we hope, anyway) so that things which we once enjoyed are now things we now should keep quiet about.

Enid Blyton’s first husband, Major H. F. Pollock was her editor at George Newnes. After an acrimonious divorce she was said to have ensured that he never worked in publishing again. In 1943 she married Kenneth Fraser Darrell Waters, a London surgeon. “Her health began to deteriorate in 1957 and by 1960 she was displaying signs of dementia. Her agent George Greenfield recalled that it was ‘unthinkable’ for the ‘most famous and successful of children’s authors with her enormous energy and computer-like memory’ to be losing her mind and suffering from what is now known as Alzheimer’s disease in her mid-sixties.”

In 1926 she became editor of Sunny Stories, a magazine for children. She stopped contributing in 1952, and in 1953 the first issue of the fortnightly Enid Blyton Magazine appeared. This she wrote entirely by herself, until its closure 1959. From the late 1940s on she capitalized on her writing success by making deals with jigsaw puzzle and games manufacturers. Wikipedia informs us that “by the early 1960s some 146 different companies were involved in merchandising Noddy alone.” Unsurprisingly In 1950 she established a company Darrell Waters Ltd to manage her affairs. This management company was sold in 1995 for £14.6 million. In 2013 Hachette UK acquired world rights to the Blyton estate, with the exception of the Noddy rights, which had previously been disposed of elsewhere. It seems a wonder Enid Blyton is not included on these (rather unreliable) lists of the world’s wealthiest authors.

It’s not every author that has a personal society, but there is an Edith Blyton Society. They publish their journal three times a year. My childhood familiarity with her work was, as far as I can remember, largely restricted to “The Famous Five” series which started out in 1942. These books came from Hodder & Stoughton. “The Secret Seven” books were published by Brockhampton Press. Her policy seems to have been to favor various publishers with a different series each. The “Adventures” series was published by Macmillan, “Five and Outers” and “Mallory Tower” series by Methuen, “The Barney Mysteries” by William Collins, “The Secret” series by Basil Blackwell, “The Adventurous Four” by George Newnes, and the Noddy books came from Sampson Lowe. She was a bit of a writing machine, turning out 6,000-10,000 words every day. She’s credited with 762 books according to Wikipedia. Just look at the productivity in the forties and fifties. In 1951: 46; 1952: 58. One book a week for two years running!

Given the raising of critical voices, maybe Enid Blyton’s about to move into antiquarian status, though three and a half million a year does represent a pretty large fan base.