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

So, continuing with comparing an early edition (1948) to a more recent paperback (2000). You can see my comments on the first two chapters here.


The first change in chapter three is that the girls’ eiderdowns become quilts, possibly a more modern term, but eiderdown is probably not so antiquated that it can’t be used now.

Alicia’s threat of spanking Gwendoline becomes shall I throw away her brush? And shortly after that it’s said she had no intention of doing any such thing, instead of the original line of spanking Gwendoline. Perhaps they thought repeating throw(ing) away her brush was unnecessary? In both versions Gwendoline squeals and practically leaps into bed, a slight over-reaction if Alicia’s just threatening to bin a hairbrush really.

Talking of leaping, Darrell originally leapt into bed, now it reads that she leaped into bed. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with leapt, in fact if I’m talking I would say leapt (lep-t) not leaped (lee-pd). Nightie also becomes nighty again.

One change I like is they’ve made her brown orange belt into her brown-orange belt. With a hyphen it implies a browny/orangy, somewhere-in-between colour. Without it sounds like a contradiction.

I also prefer the word prayers without a capital p. For some reason Blyton has the girls do things like attend Prayers in the mornings, (not actual wording), which to me is unnecessary capitalisation. She also capitalises a lot of nicknames given to the girls like Old Thing etc, something I’m not sure about really, but those are also capitalised in the paperback anyway.

The last changes are minor, and in-keeping with previous chapters, some full stops are removed after abbreviations such as san (sanitorium) and exams (examinations.)


One thing I would have almost liked to be changed is the S at the end of Potts’s. Potts’ would be so much neater! Anyway.

Very little is altered here. Mam’zelle Dupont wears pince-nez glasses, and the wording isn’t changed, though in the paperback it is italicized for some reason.

A couple of phrases are de-hyphenated, easy-going and hymn-book, and the capital from prayers continues to be removed, and the full stop after exams also. (Though at the very start of the chapter Blyton doesn’t capitalise one instance of prayers anyway.)


Blyton capitalises break (as in at Break the girls went outside – not actual wording), which I think is unnecessary and that’s missed out in the paperback. As is the full stop after maths (mathematics) which is in-keeping with the other chapters, along with lab and gym. Prayers also continues to lose its capital.

More hyphens are lost, in singing-lesson and boot-cupboard.

Queer (a word which seems to be used a lot less than in the Famous Five books so far) is altered to odd.

I should want to slap her becomes shake her, which is a little surprising to me. Shaking still suggested a level of violence, I thought it would become something like snap at her.

The other difference is that in the original, the characters’ internal thoughts are put in single quotation marks (the same as speech is). This is slightly confusing as sometimes you read something and are surprised a character would say such a thing, then you read thought Darrell at the end and it makes sense. In the paperback, thoughts have no speech marks at all, making them a part of the narrative which is potentially worse in my opinion.

That’s all the textual changes, adding eighteen to the thirteen already noted. I’m going to try hard to only count the first time a change is made – ie if nighty becomes nightie every time I won’t count it with each change, though I may make comment on whether an alteration like that is consistent though the book.

I know this series is meant to the about the text but I can’t help but pass comment on the other big change – the illustrations.

Often paperback titles have less illustrations than their original hardbacks did, but so far this isn’t really the case. There is only one illustration in the first five chapters in both of these copies, though unusually they are of different scenes (when comparing, say Betty Maxey and Eileen Soper [Famous Five) or Rene Cloke and Sylvia I Venus (Amelia Jane), often it is the same scene illustrated.

Anyway. Stanley Lloyd drew the scene in Miss Grayling’s study, when she gives her little speech. Jenny Chapple instead illustrated Darrell and Sally by the tree outside as Darrell is trying to make conversation.

I like both just fine, they’re both good illustrations. I probably prefer Chapple’s though as I had mostly hers growing up. She doesn’t attempt to modernise the illustrations, the uniforms and hair are still in-keeping with the time they come from. Lloyd’s are perhaps a little more period-looking with their details but I think Chapple captures Sally’s closed face brilliantly.

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

  1. Francis says:

    As usual, a fascinating study of the changes and some of the non-changes between original and updated version. I think the capitalisation of Prayers (which is the name of a particular part of the day) does differentiate from the usual use of prayers which can be said at anytime of day or night.
    Many thanks, Fiona.


  2. Michael says:

         How pathetic! Instead of threatening to spank Gwendoline, one simply threatens to throw away her brush. That is so limp-wristed, and has about as much zing as a plate of wet, luke-warm lettuce. Perhaps it can be compared to the former Dame Slap in another book, who has been mutated into Dame Snap, who merely “snaps” at naughty children. Maybe someone who slaps children who are naughty is a truly daunting figure; but I imagine that many of today’s worldly-wise children would just laugh and sneer at someone who “snaps” at them, but is impotent to do anything more than that.
         “Shake her”! Not “slap her”! Again, P.C. slithers in and poisons the story. For goodness’ sake, don’t editors realize that, just because an author portrays a character doing something, it doesn’t signify that the *author* approves or endorses the action? Just silly, silly, silly. It illustrates why I won’t touch an Enid Blyton book more recent than about 1970 with a ten-foot barge pole, unless it is truly the only edition I can find of a title – and, even then, I would regard it as a mere stopgap, until I can find a more authentic copy. (The illustrations are likely to be better in the older copy, too, which is a further bonus.)
         Goodness me – if these editors think children are never violent at school, they are living on a different planet to myself, since I certainly received the rough end of violence myself at schools which are actually on this planet.
         The merest whiff of political correctness can just put a sterile chill over any work of fiction, and make it quite impotent to say anything much at all. Many of the “how to write” types of books I’ve read urge writers to utterly reject politically correct language, and just describe things bluntly how they really are – the merest whiff of P.C. is the stench of death to any quality fiction writing. But obviously Enid Blyton’s latter-day editors have not read those writing guides.

         If you’re interested in my views about various spelling and grammar type things…
         I agree that “brown-orange belt” is preferable to “brown orange belt” – if it’s meaning to suggest that it’s a single colour that is midway between brown and orange. (If it was meant to say that the belt includes two colours, then the two must be separated by “and”.)
         I think I agree that “Prayers” doesn’t need a capital “P” – although it would depend on what is meant to be conveyed. If the prayers were an actual small ceremony of their own at a set time or in a particular place, it might be an event actually named (or at least referred to as) “Prayers”, and in that case the capital “P” would be preferable. But if it is just simply prayers, as an ordinary part of the routine, then the capital “P” would be superfluous, just like you don’t need a capital “B” breakfast. It can be a subtle distinction whether something is regarded as a proper noun or not. Either can be correct, but it subtly changes the shade of meaning put on it.
         Again, full-stops. Yes, I agree that “exams” and “san” don’t need full-stops. Still, if this is now a period work (as it undeniably is), maybe old usage of such things should be preserved, too. I think a good case could be made to that effect.
         “Potts’s” vs. “Potts'” (possessive case of a proper noun ending in “s”). You can argue either way, but I think the standard rule is to double the “s”, especially if you would *pronounce” it that way. Maybe people would differ in how they say it, but I think I would say “Pottses” (pronouncing both “s”s), so I would write both “s”s, and put the apostrophe between them. Most grammar books I’ve read recommend this. But there are one or two exceptions, like “Jesus'” (without a extra “s”), and one or two others (often classical or antique names). After all, you *say* “Jesus” in the possessive case, not “Jesuses” (sounding like a hive of buzzing bees with all those “s”s), so you write it like that – that is, “Jesus'”.
         So (for me), a minor preference for “Potts’s”, but it’s not to me as big an issue as some other things.
         “pince-nez” is italicized because it is deemed a foreign word not fully Anglicized. Once a foreign word is fully Anglicized, it loses the italics: it is just another word in the English language. Maybe because pince-nez glasses are so rare now, the word never did become fully Anglicized – I guess that could be why it still has the italics. Did it in the earlier edition? – I didn’t find that quite clear in the article. (I don’t have the book handy to go and look myself now.)
         (For that matter, if I capitalize “Anglicize” (because it derives from a proper noun), should I do so for “Italicize”, too? Logically, I should; but, as far as I can tell, established usage was to capitalize one, but not the other: I have at various times seen “Anglicize”; but I don’t believe I have ever seen “Italicize” in any publication. So I bow to tradition there, even if it’s a bit inconsistent. Similarly, I tend to refer to “Roman” type (considering “roman” a new-fangled degradation), but also refer to “italics”, which have always been lower-case as far as I’ve ever noticed. You’d go insane if you tried to be totally consistent about English orthography! So I am content to abide by what I consider the best reasonably recent, but not necessarily *most* recent usage.)

         I think “Break” needs a capital “B”, if it is the actual name the break is referred to by. It really is a proper noun in that context. Without that, it just becomes an unidentified break, and may (momentarily at least) puzzle some readers.
         I’d be careful about dropping hyphens from compound words. I think there’s a tendency to do that now, but I personally think it’s often overdone – often with grammatically absurd results, like “thankyou”, “alright”, “goodnight”, and many others. I would find “bootcupboard” ridiculous, and would probably write “boot cupboard” (without the hyphen, but as two separate words); similarly with “singing lesson” – two words, no hyphen needed. Were you meaning to say that, in the newer edition, when the hyphen was dropped, the two words merged into one, or became two separate words?
         Your point about quotation marks around thoughts (as against words) is a valid point. I always used to put quotation marks around thoughts in my early school-year stories, but I’m not sure if I would now. I wouldn’t leave them as just ordinary text though – I would probably italicize them. But still, putting them in quotation marks was the way it was done in Enid Blyton’s day, and there is a strong case for respecting that, in my opinion.


    • fiona says:

      I’m always interested in what you have to say about the grammatical and spelling issues, you so often pick up on details I miss, Michael.

      I disagree about ‘break’ though. Lunch is the name of a meal but I wouldn’t write ‘the girls went to Lunch at noon’, so I wouldn’t write ‘at Break the girls went into the courtyard.’

      I *would* probably pronounce it ‘Mrs Potts room’ rather than ‘Mrs Pottses room,’ which is another reason I would prefer there not to be an S after the apostrophe.

      Pince-nez was not italicized in the original edition, which is why I thought it odd they suddenly were.

      And yes, the unhyphenated words were left as two words, ie ‘boot cupboard’.

      Likewise I see no harm in leaving the full stops in abbreviated words, though there’s a small change children would be confused why there were stops in mid-sentence as they are so rarely used for abbreviations these days.

      And lastly, if I’m writing thoughts in fan-fiction I italicize them so they are differentiated from the narration.


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