Prolific children’s writer Enid Blyton’s work has been linked to ‘racism and xenophobia’ by English Heritage after a review of its blue plaques following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.
The celebrated English children’s author has enchanted millions of young readers for a century with tales of adventure, ginger beer and buns, selling 600milllion books in 90 languages.
But Ms Blyton, whose novels have been among the world’s best-sellers since the 1920s, has been linked to racism in updated English Heritage information about the blue plaque on the Chessington home where she wrote her first stories while working as a nursery governess between 1920 and 1924.
The updated description on the EH website and app says: ‘Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit. In 2016, Blyton was rejected by the Royal Mint for commemoration on a 50p coin because, the advisory committee minutes record, she was ‘a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer’.
But it adds: ‘Others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read’.
She had critics before she died in 1968. A 1966 Guardian article accused her of racism over her book Little Black Doll – where a toy named ‘Sambo’ is only loved by his owner once his ‘ugly black face’ is washed ‘clean’ by rain. In 1960 the publisher Macmillan refused to publish her story The Mystery That Never Was, claiming it had an ‘unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia’.
But critics have slammed the website update, saying important historical figures are under attack from ‘rabble-rousers’ who want ‘to denigrate British history and its figures’. It came after weeks of warnings about the the future of some of Britain’s top cultural institutions, including the National Trust, under threat from a ‘woke cult’.