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I’ve taken a break from writing about Malory Towers, partly because I’ve really got into the Mystery books in the last couple of months and it’s painful to turn my attention away from them. Since writing about Third Year at Malory Towers, I’ve popped over to Bourne End/Peterswood to take a look at the mysteries of Tally-Ho Cottage, Secret Room and Invisible Thief. However, both series are important to me, so here I am again.

“Hello, Darrell Rivers!” I shout along the cliff-top. She is looking cool (perhaps a bit too cool) in Stanley Lloyd’s cover painting, above.

Actually, by the time Enid got round to writing her fourth book on Malory Towers, she’d written a total of six Mysteries, which was all she intended to write about Fatty
et al. The sequence of Find-Outer books covers the holidays as follows: Easter, Summer, Christmas; Easter, Summer Christmas. She’d also published three Malory Towers books set in the summer term, the autumn term and the easter term, respectively. In other words, Enid had been going through the seasons, systematically, via the terms and long holidays that dominate British school life. Anyone who has put their children through school, or gone through school themselves as a kid, will be able to relate to these units of time. Which means just about all of us, I expect.

For
Upper Fourth, Enid takes us back to summer term. The book’s theme can be summed up in one word: sisterhood. This was no doubt because, in the autumn of 1948, Imogen joined Gillian at Benenden for what would be Gillian’s final year at boarding school. The book was published in May, 1949, so I imagine it would have been written the autumn that the sisters went to Benenden together, as leaving it any later would have been pushing it for spring ’49 publication. Alas, Gillian did not make entries in her diary between April 1948 and October 1949, only resuming it when she went up to St Andrew’s university. So the diary, which provides much food for thought re Third Year, is not much use when it comes to Upper Fourth. Nevertheless I’ll be coming back to it below.

Imogen gives us some background information in
A Childhood at Green Hedges. She left Godstowe at the end of the summer term in 1948. In her own view, only two good things came out of those four years: learning to ride horses and to play cricket. She goes on: ‘When in the autumn, I went on to Benenden, I found myself in a world of completely different standards. One of my first memories is of two older girls offering to take me down to the village. I agreed with some apprehension. But to my surprise they not only took me all the way there and showed me the shops, but brought me back - and asked me kindly questions as I walked along. I had fully expected to be taken beyond the park gates and left somewhere unfamiliar while they ran away.’

Upper Fourth at Malory Towers opens with Darrell’s younger sister, Felicity, being taken in hand by June, a fellow first-former, the precocious young cousin of Darrell’s friend and rival, Alicia. Darrell experiences much sisterly frustration at not being able to show Felicity the ropes. The experience of Darrell and Felicity is counterpointed by that of a pair of sisters who have joined Darrell’s form. Although Connie and Ruth are twins, Connie is much the more dominant individual and insists on looking after Ruth to the extent of making her sister’s bed in the morning. Any question addressed to Ruth is likely to be answered by Connie. How Ruth manages to gain some independence from her twin sister, and how Darrell manages to regain some influence over Felicity, will be two of the interwoven threads of the book.

Another new girl, Clarissa, arrives after the start of term. Gwendoline makes a bee-line for her, partly because of snobbery - she’s seen a letter addressed to The
Honourable Clarissa Carter - and partly because she’s the only member of Darrell’s form who hasn’t got a close friend. (One can’t count ‘Bill’ who has a close friend in her horse, Thunder.)

As the book gets underway, brazen June is playing big sister to Felicity, domineering Connie is big sister to Ruth and selfish Gwen is a big sister of sorts to Clarissa. In each case, the child in charge is a dangerous influence on the other. However, Darrell has been made Head Girl of the upper fourth, so it is up to her to use her influence to sort all the other sisters out! In other words, a game of good big-sister, bad big-sister is set in motion.

The climactic scene in the book, though it comes around the half-way mark, involves a midnight feast. Thanks to the good fortune of Clarissa and Gwen, a lot of food is made available to the North Tower fourth form, bags of the stuff. The eating of it can’t quite be slotted into an afternoon picnic so a midnight feast has to be planned. Betty, Alicia’s pal from West Tower, succeeds in tagging along, very much against the rules of the school. In addition, June and Felicity use the excuse that the feast is taking place in the first-year common room to join in. The curfew-breakers are not discovered on the night, but the next day June pretends that her conscience is pricking her and that she must confess all to Miss Potts, knowing that Alicia and Darrell will get into deep trouble. Darrell, on being told June’s hypocritical plan, is furious with her. She loses her temper as badly as she did in the first year when she pushed Sally over. This time she pulls June off a piano stool and shakes her violently. Miss Potts witnesses the act and Darrell loses her position as Head-Girl. Stanley Lloyd’s drawings for the original edition of the book are an uninspired bunch. He didn’t seem to twig the sisters’ theme and earnestly draws scene after scene empty of emotional depth. However, the one below is a strong image, close to the heart of the book:

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When Charles Stewart was commissioned to produce a new set of illustrations for the paperback edition that Armada published in 1963, he may not even have read the book, so slavishly does he copy Stanley Lloyd’s illustrations. Below we have Darrell, given a Sixties makeover, giving June a jolly good shaking, just as she did when the book was first published in 1949.

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After the midnight feast fall-out comes exams. Gwen tries to avoid them by faking heart trouble which upsets Clarissa who has had such a health problem in the past. As usual, Gwen gets herself into difficulties with her parents, the school authorities and her fellow pupils. One almost feels sorry for her. But in the end she’s too selfish to elicit sympathy. Until she feels empathy for her fellow girls, she’ll always be the character that the reader knows will not be having a happy ending.

After the exams, someone has it in for Connie, stealing and destroying her stuff. In a moment of insight, Darrell realises that the person responsible must be Ruth, Connie’s twin sister. When Darrell confronts Ruth, she learns that the twins have a love-hate relationship, which for Ruth has tipped into something truly negative since Connie persuaded her to do badly in an exam that Connie knew she herself would fail. (That’s how desperate Connie was for the pair to remain in the same form class the following year.)

Darrell manages the situation well. In the end, Ruth understands her position and grows out of it, grateful to Darrell for not telling the other girls about her troubles. Miss Potts is so pleased with Darrell that she reinstates her as Head-Girl. The book ends with a post-exam, carefree Upper Fourth playing a prank on their French mistress. ‘Ping!’ the chapter is called. Perhaps that’s where Samuel Beckett got the name for the short text he wrote in 1966. Dear reader, ignore that whimsical reference. Below left is the way that Stanley Lloyd recorded the scene for the Methuen hardback. Years later, for an Armada paperback, Charles Stewart chose not to copy his predecessor (steady, Charles) but instead recorded the scene in the classroom when the trick is being set up (steady, Betty).

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Is that it for
Upper Fourth at Malory Towers? Not quite. I’m conscious that in autumn 1947 something happened between Enid, Gillian and Imogen that wasn’t directly reflected in either Third Year or Upper Fourth. It’s a story that can now be told in greater detail thanks to Gillian’s diary coming to light. Here are some entries from the diary in the autumn of the year before Imogen went to Benenden. Let’s call it Left Out of Malory Towers:

Tuesday, October 21
I got another fountain pen from Mummy. But the tip of the nib broke after a para. I also got a letter from Mummy.

Wednesday, October 22
I got a box of oranges today. And with them a letter telling me that Immo was in hospital with mild Infantile Paralysis. I was very worried and rang up Mummy that evening but Immo is quite all right and won’t be paralysed. She is enjoying herself.

In
A Childhood at Green Hedges, Imogen tells us that at the end of September, after returning to Godstowe, she became unwell. (I suspect she got the date wrong and didn’t actually become ill until October. You can’t beat a diary when it comes to accurately dating the past.) The school doctor diagnosed a urinary infection and Imogen’s parents were routinely informed. Enid did not trust the diagnosis and seemed to know that something was seriously wrong. She persuaded Kenneth to drive to the school and he came to the conclusion that his stepdaughter had polio. Imogen was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London the very next day.

That made the second mercy mission of Enid’s to Godstowe, the first being in autumn of the previous year to confront the housemistress over Imogen’s expulsion, which Enid successfully revoked. But let’s get back to autumn of 1947 and Gillian’s diary:

Thursday, October 23
Riding and jumping. Wrote to Immo. I got two parcels containing a letter, some apples and a vest and some super condensed milk.

Friday, October 24
I got a pen, a letter and some chocolate from Mummy.

So from Tuesday to Friday, of that week in October, with Enid obviously very concerned about Imogen, she found time to make sure that Gillian got letters and parcels from home four days in a row. Exemplary mothering! What about the next week?

Monday, October 27
Today Immo had her birthday in hospital. She had all her presents in bed.

Tuesday, October 28
I got my sale parcel. It had some super things in it. I wrote a pc to Mummy asking her to send some more books for the sale. I also got a letter from Mummy.

Wednesday, October 29
Today I got another sale parcel. It had more lovely things in it. I had another letter from Mummy saying Immo is out of danger of being paralysed, which is a great relief.

Thursday, October 30
I had a letter from Mummy, and a parcel of sweets, lovely ones. Also some paints. I had a lax practise in the morning. Also a super ride on Moonlight.

Again, Enid, while visiting Imogen in hospital, manages to keep very good contact with Gillian. In A Childhood at Green Hedges, Imogen tells us: ‘My mother came regularly to Great Ormond Street, but in spite of the fact that her intuition had saved me, there was no improvement in our relationship. I sensed that these visits were dutiful rather than loving and I did not welcome them.

That’s interesting. In the last chapter of
The Story of My Life, which is called ‘My Little family’, Enid tells us about Imogen’s bedroom at Green Hedges. She describes it as just about the horsiest bedroom you could ever see. Models of horses made of wood, brass, china, copper and glass; a book-case full of books on horses; hunting prints on the wall and a collection of horse brasses, some of which Enid had found for her daughter in antique shops. The detail speaks of love, not duty, and ends: ‘You would certainly like her bedroom, those of you who are horse-minded. You would probably recognise the rather horsey-smell in it too, that comes from riding jackets and jodhpurs. Still, as Imogen always says: “Horses have a lovely smell!”’

Enid goes on to write: ‘
I expect most of you who have read Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm will know that Imogen chose, named and described all the horses in that farm-life story of mine. She had infantile paralysis at the time, and couldn’t ride. She was very pleased to read my book and choose the horses for me.

The book wasn’t published until November 1948, so in the autumn of 1947, Enid must have been sharing the typescript with her daughter. I guess she was interrupting her writing of this particular book in order to visit her daughter in hospital, the journey from Green Hedges to Great Ormond Street would have taken about an hour (plus an hour to come back and an hour to sit with Imogen). The preface to the printed book confirms that Imogen named and described all the horses. That’s Merrylegs, Darkie, Boodi, Lordly-One and Moonlight. Gillian had not been left out, because Moonlight crops up a couple of times in Gillian’s diary of autumn 1947, being the horse she rode at Benenden when she got the chance.

So let’s get back to Gillian’s version of events:

Wednesday, November 5
I got a letter from Mummy. She says Immo has made a spectacular recovery.

Thursday, November 6
I got a letter and parcel from Mummy.

Thursday, November 13
I got a letter from Mummy today. Imo has moved to St Stephen’s Hospital and has cut off her eyelashes.


Cut off her eyelashes?! Imogen writes of the incident in her book after describing the time when she alarmed the medical staff at Great Ormond Street by secretly shaking a thermometer so that it gave an unusually high reading when a nurse removed it from her mouth. ‘
Another day, shortly before I left when the paralysis in my left leg had almost gone, again from boredom, I carefully cut my eyelashes, checking my progress in a mirror. My mother, visiting that afternoon, was horrified.

I can imagine Enid’s horror. What was this troubled child of hers going to do next? Well, Enid was determined that she was going to get well. And what happened? She got well, of course. As these pictures that Enid included in
The Story of My Life testify:

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Imogen’s plait reminds me of the Stanley Lloyd illustration where Darrell gives June a good shaking, partly because June is given a plait in that drawing. So let’s investigate whether June, as well as Felicity, can be seen as representing Imogen joining Gillian at Benenden.

Let’s remember the diary entry that Gillian made on August 7, 1947:
‘Imo annoyed me and I got in one of my tempers and knocked her down. She might have hurt herself. Really, I just don’t know what I do when in a temper. I might easily kill her one day.’

When analysing
First Term at Malory Towers, the quote came to mind in connection with Darrell (Gillian) inflicting an injury on her fellow pupil. But the same quote considered in connection with Upper Fourth brings to mind June (Imogen), the victim of the older girl’s violence.

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Perhaps, with Enid unquestionably having mixed feelings about Imogen, it felt right for the author to have both June and Felicity joining the school four years behind Darrell. Ostensibly, Felicity is the sister, pleasant and loyal. But Imogen had a dark side and so there is room for - even a need for - perverse June!

Talking of Imogen’s dark side, it’s now clear from Gillian’s diary that Enid’s miscarriage didn’t take place in spring 1946, as Imogen suggests in
A Childhood at Green Hedges, as no such calamity is mentioned in Gillian’s diary, and she was making an entry every day throughout that spring and summer. So it can be assumed Barbara Stoney was correct in stating that it was in the autumn of 1945 when the event took place. That is before the start of Gillian’s five-year diary. The event is described as follows by Imogen in her book:

One day my mother, taking a wooden basket, asked me to come with her to fetch some apples. As we walked round to the garage she told me that my stepfather had forbidden her to climb the ladder any more. I was both surprised and gratified to be asked to go with her and walked with her happily. When we reached the garage, my mother carefully put up the ladder and began to climb it. Halfway up she suddenly cried out and fell, landing in a crumpled heap on the concrete floor. I left her there and ran into the garden and stood crying behind the last of the hazel trees that grew in a row in the long bed to the left of the croquet lawn. How long I stood there I do not know, but eventually I found my way back to the house.

Enid was 47 when she suffered a miscarriage due to the fall. The child, a boy, was lost. The girl, Imogen, was not lost. A year later, Enid made sure she wasn’t expelled from Godstowe. A year after that, she made sure Imogen was properly looked after when she contracted polio. A year after that, she decided the time was right for her to join her sister at Benenden. Actually, perhaps the Malory Towers character most closely associated with Imogen is Bill. Bill who loved horses but found people difficult to understand and get close to.

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Enid: “
What do you call a pony with no eyelashes?

Imogen: “I
don’t know, mother.”

Enid: “
Merrylegs, Boodi, Darkie, Lordly-One, Moonlight, Stepladder, Stepfather, Ping. Whatever you like, darling. All I want you to do is put one foot in front of the other and run with it.







Acknowledgements: The scans of the dust-wrappers from the Malory Towers series, and internal illustrations from the original series, are taken from the Cave of Books on the Enid Blyton Society website, which is the work of Tony Summerfield. The illustrations from the Armada paperbacks are taken from www.seriesbookart.co.uk which is the work of Ian Regan. Thanks to Seven Stories for allowing access to Gillian’s diary.

Note: If any copyright holder wishes an image to be removed from this page then they should contact me and I will do as they ask.