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The Astrologer's Newsletter - July/August 2007

David Fisher's Data Corner

Enid Blyton

When I was a boy I thought Enid Blyton was "the bee’s knees", particularly with regard to the Famous Five books, a series of adventures about two brothers, their sister, a female cousin and her dog. Her literary talent was evident from a very early age. Her father nurtured in her a love of books, but in 1913 left his wife for another woman and Enid never forgave him. After spells as a teacher and a governess her first book, a collection of poems called Child Whispers, was published in 1922. On 28th August 1924 she married Major Hugh Pollock, nine years her senior; they had two daughters, Gillian born in 1931 and Imogen in 1935. By the late 1930s their marriage was in trouble; Pollock had become a heavy drinker, and they were divorced. In October 1943 Enid married a surgeon, Kenneth Darrell Waters, and it was around this time that the first Famous Five book appeared.

During her career, Enid Blyton wrote nearly 800 books, producing 10,000 words a day; in addition to the Famous Five series, her creation Noddy, the Secret Seven books and the Malory Towers boarding school stories were also hugely popular. Enid’s second husband died in September 1967, after which she showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. She died in a nursing home on 28th November 1968. It is estimated that sales of her books topped 400 million, although in the 1950s her work was attacked by academics, and several local authorities withdrew her books from their libraries. I am told her books are still widely read.

ENID MARY BLYTON: 11th August 1897; East Dulwich (51N27 0W05); time not known. Article by Caroline Parish in the Sunday Express supplement 15th April 2007.

Cover of Roughead's book 12 Scots Trials
William Roughead, a modest lawyer, held the distinction of having attended every murder trial of any significance in Edinburgh between 1889 and 1949. He once said of himself, “Fate allotted me the role of an historian of homicide.” These murder cases were the subject of many essays and articles, written in an erudite, and sometimes pedantic, style, but at the same time shot through with an impish sense of humour. Roughead’s name is closely linked to the famous series of volumes Notable British Trials, although his writings on murder were not just confined to Scotland or even those in his own lifetime. Franklin D Roosevelt was a great admirer and was said to have read all of Roughead’s work. Indeed, in the USA, he was regarded as a notable criminologist, but Roughead preferred to regard himself simply as a teller of tales. A few years before his death on 11 May 1952 he wrote, "I believe that the study of criminology is tantamount to a study of mankind. The majority of mankind are wrong ‘uns! The study of criminology has by no means made me a cynic; it has encouraged my admiration for the ingenuity of the race."

WILLIAM ROUGHEAD: 13th February 1870; Edinburgh, Scotland (44N57 3W12); 7:00 am GMT. William Roughead’s Chronicles of Murder by Richard Whittington-Egan (Lochar Publishing 1991) p.10.

The text of Roughead's 12 Scots Trials can be read online here


Finally, and still on a literary theme, there’s the story about a man, his wife and his sister-in-law, all of whom are notable writers.

Micheal Holroyd has written some excellent biographies, particularly his two-volume life of Lytton Strachey and his three-volume life of Bernard Shaw. In fact, they were so good as to revive an interest in the genre of biography. Holroyd studied science at Eton but later took up literature at Maidenhead Public Library.

Michael Holroyd and Margaret Drabble
AS Byatt
In 1982 he married novelist Margaret Drabble. Her work has largely mirrored her own life, concentrating on the experiences of intelligent, but often frustrated, middle-class women. She also edited the 5th and 6th editions of the Oxford Companion to English Literature, and she has written biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson.

Her elder sister is the novelist AS Byatt. After some years as a teacher and academic she wrote a study of Iris Murdoch's novels, which influenced much of her own work. Her 1990 novel Possession won her the Booker Prize and she was made a Dame in 1999. Both sisters were educated at Mount School, York, a Quaker boarding school where their mother taught, and at Newnham College, Cambridge.

MICHAEL DE COURCY FRASER HOLROYD: 27 August 1935; London Clinic, nr Regent’s Park (51N31 0W09); 4:20 pm BST (15:20 GMT). His autobiography Basil Street Blues: A Family Story (1999; Abacus reprint 2004). p91

MARGARET DRABBLE: 5th June 1939; Sheffield, Yorkshire (53N23 1W30); time not known.

ANTONIA SUSAN BYATT (nee DRABBLE): 24 August 1936; Sheffield; time not known.

The sisters’ birthdates appear in a number of reference books.