The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part three


It has only been two weeks since the last instalment but I would like to try to get through this book before the end of the year! The first parts can be seen here and here.

As before my personal copy is a Methuen from 1957 – a 12th reprint/impression of the original. The new version is the most modern of any paperbacks I have used so far, an Egmont copy from 2014.


CHAPTER SIX: MRS MINNS DOES A LOT OF TALKING

Mrs Minns is the subject of several changes in this chapter. First she is described as a a round fat woman. This has become a round tubby woman. Somehow tubby is better?

Her elbows are no longer described as podgy, and she and her cheeks are not fat now either  but no other descriptive word is added instead.

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Italics are removed every time they appear.

  • And I shouldn’t be surprised
  • Mr Peeks was far too much a gentleman
  • is that his real name?
  • no more back-chat from you
  • perhaps he fired the cottage

That last one is also changed to set fire to the cottage.

Mrs Minns’ also suffers some kitchen updates, her larder is now a st0re-cupboard (yes, hyphenated!) and her dripping has been replaced with butter though it is still in a basin.

Some of her speech has likewise been changed. She had said more than anyone else in the kingdom, this is now in the country, and when telling Lily off it was for talking like that to your elders and betters. This has been changed to like that to me. 

The rents in Mr Smellie’s clothes are now tears. 

Then Sweetie the cat is subjected to the editor’s pen. After being trod on by Mr Hick she had come into the kitchen with her tail swollen to twice its size. Now that is her tail in the air. 

How many more times am I to tell you to keep her under control? I shall have her drowned appears in both editions, spoken by Mr Hick, but the next two sentences are cut entirely.

Sir, the day you drown my cat I walk out! said Mrs. Minns, laying down the rolling-pin with a thump.
Mr Hick glared at the cook as if he would like to drown her as well as the cat.

If they felt the need to remove references to drowning, he could have threatened to have her taken to the pound or given away to a farm.

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CHAPTER SEVEN: THE TRAMP – CLEAR ORF! – AND FATTY!

The editors really hate hyphens. Again, every instance of them is removed and leaves the dialogue flatter without the emphasis they give.

Who?
Mr Smellie!
It isn’t really very funny, but it seems as if it is.
We are getting on
we can rule him out
That is going to be a problem
His feet!
What’s bitten you?

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Hyphens also come under attack, examples include hay-rick which becomes hayrick and in Mr Goon’s colloquial speak, this-ere becoming this ‘ere. Then again they leave his come-alonga-me with the hyphens in it.

And lastly, several changes have been made to the final scene in the field.

The policeman kicked out at him is removed when Buster is dancing around his ankles.

Then Mr Goon no longer has the desire to pull Fatty to his feet and shake him. 

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After Fatty falls from the hay-rick (or hayrick) it originally read that except for a good shaking, and some fine big bruises, Fatty was not hurt at all and that His fat had kept him from breaking any bones!

These have been changed to  except for a few bruises, Fatty was not hurt at all and He had not broken any bones!

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As usual most of this doesn’t make any sense. Mr Goon did not shake Fatty, his being shaken is from falling to the ground from a height! Then to say he wasn’t hurt, then he had not broken any bones… it doesn’t real well and it doesn’t flow. We know he can’t have broken bones because he wasn’t hurt!


So that is 32 changes in those two chapters, bringing us to 69 in total!

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3 Responses to The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part three

  1. Francis says:

    Excellent as usual!
    Regards
    Francis

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  2. Yusuf says:

    I’m very glad you’re doing this, Fiona. The Five Findouters series are my favourite of all of Blyton’s work, and I’ve consumed a lot from my school library in Northern Nigeria since I was ten in the late 90s/early noughties. Luckily, they were closer to your original editions than the new ones! But unluckily, I’d not been lucky to read four of the books in the series: Burnt Cottage, Disappearing Cat, Vanished Prince, and Strange Messages which was a shame.

    I’d caught on to the drop in quality that came with edits very early on when I borrowed Hidden House from a friend and noticed that the chapter in which Goon boxes Ern’s ears for writing rude ‘portry’ about him was edited to him just shouting at him. Because Ern completely brok down and the rest felt so sorry for him afterwards, it did make him look like a great coward. Being a boy in Nigeria, where smacking is still very commonplace, I was actually very irritated at the edit and the light in which it now portrayed Ern. This put me off trying to buy and read the volumes I hadn’t read in fear of such brutal edits.

    I attended university in Manchester and attempted to purchase the original copies online but I didn’t make a very strong effort and ultimately, I only reread the series very recently on my iPad. One thing that upset me greatly as a kid was that Vanished Prince was actually purchased at one point by my primary school library, but before I had the chance to borrow it (I’d been waiting a while) someone else beat me to it and lost the book. I’d always imagined it to be the best in the series and ruefully regretted never having the chance to read it as a child. Rereading the series now, I rank Strange Messages as easily my favourite and the true dark horse of the lot.

    In an earlier comment on a previous post, you referred to ‘the feel, the illustrations… the smell!’ It almost brought a tear to my eye. I’ve been very lucky to be deeply immersed in Enid Blyton’s books as a child, and I rue the ones I haven’t had a chance to read. If I could, I’d like to buy as many of the earlier editions as possible and preserve them for my future children/ nephews and nieces. Her mind is a magical place, and as a child allegations of racism irritated me greatly. Here I was, a black child in Nigeria, and she’d given me nothing but pure joy and delight! I was rather protective of Enid Blyton, and even in primary school I had a special bond with those that shared my love for the Find Outers, Famous Five and co., and would heavily reprimand those that borrowed later volumes we hadn’t read yet to be seen to be borrowing the books only to lose or tarnish it for the rest of us.

    Sigh…

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    • fiona says:

      Thank you very much for your comment, Yusuf. A few years ago I wrote about my childhood books, noting what editions I had owned and read. I noticed that for the most part, books I had in the old, unedited formats were more likely to be amongst my favourites. N0thing can compare to reading the books exactly as Blyton wrote them, in my opinion.

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