Enid Blyton with a typewriter in a deckchair: at times more popular than Shakespeare
Photo: Hulton Archive/Corbis/Getty Images
It has been reported for some time that the children's book author Enid Blyton probably also had lesbian love affairs in addition to her heterosexual marriages. So far, there has been no evidence of this for certain reasons – as homosexuality has mostly flown under the radar in the past due to social ostracism or legal prohibitions.
Now a British literary scholar is even naming a name. Professor Nicholas Royle of the University of Sussex recounts a statement made by his mother in his new book, David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the Sun Machine. One day my mother said to me, 'Your grandmother had an affair with Enid Blyton,'" Royle writes in the book. Those were her words." It is Lola Onslow, one of the illustrators of Blyton's books.
Onslow collaborated with Blyton on her book on fairies, which dates from her early creative phase and was published in 1924. It is considered certain that the two knew each other. It's unclear when they might have had a possible affair. Possible dates range from 1920 to 1924, with Blyton beginning her unhappy marriage to Major Hugh Pollock in 1924.
Royle has researched the whereabouts of the two women and found that they were both apparently in London at the same time. Of course, this is not proof of an affair, but it is not the first time that Blyton has been linked to a lesbian relationship. "I was stunned by the regularity with which I came across references to Enid Blyton's bisexuality or possible relationships with women," Royle told The Times of London.
Royle is convinced that his mother did not make up the affair
Today, Royle is annoyed that he didn't ask his mother more about his grandmother at the time. "I was in my twenties, and I was an angry young man who had not the slightest interest in a dead grandmother whom I had never met, or in Enid Blyton. When I look back, I think, how could I just let it pass?" the now 66-year-old is quoted as saying by The Times. At this point, too, the possible affair was years ago, but Royle is convinced that his mother didn't make anything up at the time – and may even have known more than she revealed.
However, not all reports of Blyton's affairs are beyond doubt. Ida Crowe wrote about this in her memoirs, which Blyton married to her then-husband Pollock in 1942 and was married to him for 28 years. Crowe reports that Blyton had previously been repeatedly unfaithful to her husband, including with a woman. Crowe's autobiography »Starlight« was published in 2009 under the name Ida Pollock.
However, Blyton's daughters, Gillian Baverstock and Imogen Smallwood, denied these claims. Baverstock said in 2002 that her mother "didn't have a series of affairs, and it's possible that my father had an affair first." You can't ask anyone anymore, all those involved have passed away in the meantime.
In 1943, Blyton married surgeon Kenneth Waters, who is widely regarded as the love of Blyton's life. However, many readers, especially from the LGBTIQ communities, see evidence in Blyton's work that queer issues played a role in their lives. George from the »Five Friends« is actually called Georgina, but rejects the female identity and wants to be named and treated as a boy. At the same time, Enid Blyton received criticism from feminists for these and other roles: With her, only boys are allowed to be brave, and if a girl is brave, she must be a boy. Blyton was also repeatedly accused of racist clichés.
Books such as those about a clique of children in »Five Friends« and the boarding school twins »Hanni and Nanni« made Blyton world famous. She died on November 28, 1968 at the age of 71. Her second husband, Waters, burned almost all of her diaries, presumably to protect her memory. Blyton had marketed himself magnificently and was at times more popular than Shakespeare in England. And yet, to this day, it is still disputed who was the woman behind the 753 novels that sold about 650 million copies.