How Enid Blyton was rumoured to have lesbian lovers
Tangled love life of Enid Blyton: How children’s author risked scandal by cavorting with young Army officers, threw glamorous parties in which she was rumoured to play naked tennis, was claimed to have lesbian lovers and ditched her husband for surgeon
- Blyton was the author of book series including the Famous Five and Noddy
- She had daughters Imogen and Gillian with first husband Hugh Pollock
Through her wholesome tales of adventure and joy, Enid Blyton was the queen of children’s literature.
Having penned series including Noddy, the Famous Five and Malory Towers, the English author was outwardly an unimpeachable national treasure.
But, as highlighted in a new book, there was enough excitement, intrigue and scandal in her private life to fill the pages of the raciest novel.
It has long been rumoured that Blyton may have had a lesbian affair with her children’s nanny, Dorothy Richards, as well as other women.
Now, English professor Nicholas Royle has revealed in his book David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the Sun Machine that his grandmother – illustrator Lola Onslow – also had a relationship with the author.
He writes: ‘One day my mother said to me: ‘Your grandmother had an affair with Enid Blyton’. Those were her words.’
Blyton also held glamorous parties where regular guests included young Army officers and a bachelor neighbour – and on one occasion was rumoured to have been playing tennis naked when visitors arrived.
But it was her relationship with her first husband Hugh Pollock that provoked the most intrigue. The pair were both unfaithful to each other and divorced in 1942, by which time Blyton had moved in surgeon Kenneth Darrell Waters.
Through her wholesome tales of adventure and joy, Enid Blyton was the queen of children’s literature
Blyton later set out to try to destroy her former spouse’s reputation and stopped him from ever seeing their two daughters, Gillian and Imogen.
It is not clear when the author’s alleged affair with Onslow – who she most notably worked with on her Book of Fairies – began.
But possible dates range from 1920 to 1924, the year she married Pollock.
Professor Royle revealed in his book that he was told about the alleged affair when he was in his 20s, but at the time was not interested.
He said the memory came back to him during the coronavirus pandemic.
Professor Royle said he was left ‘beguiled’ at the number of references he encountered to Blyton’s rumoured bisexuality or her alleged relationships with women.’
Pollock was a former soldier who was ten years her senior and was an editor at the firm which became her regular publisher.
The couple initially struggled to have children but were able to do so six years into their marriage after Blyton had pioneering fertility treatment.
Their first daughter, Gillian, arrived in 1931, whilst Imogen was born in 1935.
Blyton married former soldier Hugh Pollock at in 1924. Pollock was an editor at the firm that would go on to publish her books. Above: The couple on their wedding day
Blyton is seen with her second husband Kennth Darrell Waters and her daughters Gillian (left) and Imogen
Blyton married Kennth, a former surgeon, in 1943. The author then set about trying to destroy her first husband
Shortly Imogen’s arrival, Blyton hired Dorothy Richards as a nanny. The trained nurse often wore a formal shirt and tie, rather than traditional feminine clothes.
READ MORE: Enid Blyton’s lesbian lover was my GRANDMOTHER: Academic’s book claims Famous Five author struck up secret romance with female artist who illustrated her books following years of speculation
Author Nadia Cohen revealed in her 2018 biography of Blyton that Dorothy very quickly became more than an employee.
The pair had an intense friendship that left Pollock feeling left out.
They went out for walks and shared private jokes and Dorothy even replaced Pollock in proofreading early drafts of Blyton’s work.
The closeness of their relationship led to claims that they were lovers.
Blyton’s daughter Imogen later wrote: ‘There may have been some homosexual attraction between these two women.’
The letters that they exchanged also hinted at something more than a friendship.
‘I want to hear all you have to say even if I argue at first,’ Blyton wrote in one. ‘You can say anything to me. I want you to.’
She and Pollock were living largely separate lives in 1938, and that helped encourage Blyton as she threw glamorous parties at their palatial home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
According to Ms Cohen, the guest lists frequently included single young men, including the young Army officers and Blyton’s neighbour.
These intense bouts of socialising led to repeated rumours in the community and even in newspapers.
Pollock was said to have been furious when he came home to hear of Blyton’s unsuitable entertaining of young men.
But he too was by then engaged in an affair with novelist Ida Crowe. Blyton was told about this in an anonymous phone call in which a voice said: ‘Don’t let Ida crow over you.’
In early 1941, Blyton was persuaded to join Dorothy on a trip to visit her sister Betty Marsh in Devon.
Also on Betty’s guest list was Kenneth Waters. According to Ms Cohen, from the moment the pair first met over a game of bridge, they were smitten with each other.
They quickly embarked on an affair, with Blyton even renting a flat in Knightsbridge to provide a base for their liaisons.
But she callously used Dorothy’s name to cover her tracks, and this decision came back to bight her when Kenneth’s wife discovered her husband’s betrayal.
Blyton denied any impropriety and instead insisted that Dorothy was the true culprit.
Imogen later wrote: ‘For a whole year she carried on her lives with two different men, deceiving, or appearing to deceive, everyone.’
Pollock then left the family home for good after a final bitter argument.
Blyton filed for divorce and then insisted that Pollock could not see either of their daughters.
She married Kenneth in October 1943, whilst Pollock went on to tie the knot with Ida.
Blyton is said to have been furious at Kenneth’s second union and so wrote a scathing letter to Ida, laying out his alleged misdeeds during their marriage.
Ida later wrote in her own book that Blyton portrayed Pollock as a ‘drunken, lying villain’.
Pollock never saw either of his daughters again, whilst Blyton also insisted that she didn’t want him to work anymore at George Newnes, the firm that then published her books.
In 1945, Blyton unexpectedly fell pregnant again at the age of 48. But, five months in to the pregnancy, she fell from a ladder while collecting apples and lost the baby.
Imogen later wrote that her mother may have deliberately risked the pregnancy to ensure she could continue writing.
Enid Blyton with daughters Imogen (left) and Gillian. She was later described by Imogen as having ‘no maternal instinct’
Blyton and her two daughters are seen laughing together in 1949 as she sits with her typewriter
Blyton with second husband Kenneth and daughters Gillian and Imogen
Blyton sitting in the garden of her palatial home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
Blyton tends to her garden at her palatial home in 1949. By then she was with her second husband
‘She would have been aware of the high risk of giving birth to a child with a defect at her age; and her books were still the most important part of her life.’
Blyton was said to have been unkind to her two daughters and did not show any of them much love.
Imogen called her ‘arrogant, insecure and without a trace of maternal instinct’.
This was despite the fact that Blyton presented herself as a devoted mother in interviews.
She rarely read to her children and was prone to beating them with a hairbrush when they did something wrong.
Blyton’s 40-year career saw her write more than 800 books and make millions of pounds.
She ended up suffering from dementia after a period of failing health that began in the mid 1950s.
The author died in her sleep at the age of 71 in 1968.
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