Let's get some dates right. It was 2012 when I wrote my analyses of the previous Malory Towers' books, now its 2017. What accounts for the delay in finishing off this enjoyable exercise? The relatively urgent call of other projects, I suppose. Though I knew that the call to get back to Malory Towers would someday become urgent.

Let's get some more dates right. I
n the Fifth at Malory Towers was published in September 1950. So when was it written? Not later than March 1950, because we know from Gillian's diary that she read the final Malory Towers typescript then, but it could have been written much earlier. Let's say September 1949, just to give a rough idea.

The reason we need to keep in mind an idea of when it was written is that the whole impetus behind the Malory Towers' series had been the Benenden boarding school experience of Enid's daughters - Gillian, in particular, and Imogen. Gillian attended Benenden from Autumn 1945 to summer 1949. So it's quite likely that Gillian had actually left Benenden when Enid sat down to write
In the Fifth. I think that turns out to be significant.

Imogen spent four years at Godstowe, a more local school to the Blyton home in Beaconsfield, and was at Benenden for five years from Autumn 1948 to summer 1953. Which means that Gillian and Imogen overlapped at Benenden for only one year, autumn 1948 to summer 1949.

The next point to note is that in none of that overlap year was Gillian keeping her diary. That broke off in April 1948 and didn't start again until she was at university.

Now the Darrell Rivers/Felicity Rivers relationship lasts for three years (
Upper Fourth, In the Fifth and Last Term) but it only dominates the first of these volumes. Which suggests to me that Upper Fourth was written in that overlap year. Was it? Well, the book was published in May 1949, so the book being written in autumn of 1948 makes sense, when the experience of Enid's two girls going to Benenden together for the first time would have been fresh in her mind.

While I'm at it. Here are some dates of publication. All the information is taken from the preliminary pages of Methuen books:

First Term at Malory Towers
First published, July 11, 1946
Primary inspiration: Gillian going to Benenden School for first time in September 1945.

Second Form at Malory Towers
First published July 17, 1947
Primary inspiration: Cornwall clifftop location of Benenden for one significant term (the school then returned to its regular home in Kent).

Third Year at Malory Towers
First published, October 21, 1948 (second edition August 1949, third edition August 1950)
Primary inspiration: Gillian and Imogen's time spent with - and love of - horses, both at school and around home in Beaconsfield.

Upper Fourth at Malory Towers
First published, May 1949.
Primary inspiration: Gillian and Imogen going to Benenden School together, September 1948.

In the Fifth at Malory Towers
First published, September 1950.
Primary inspiration: To be revealed on this page!

Another thing about dates to bear in mind. Though Gillian and Imogen both first went to Benenden School in the autumn, as is conventional, both Darrell and Felicity first go to Malory Towers in the summer term. I suppose that's because, in both cases, the plots (outdoor swimming and end of year exams) called for a summer backdrop.

Let's start again with the cover that Lilian Buchanan created for the 1957 reprint. The book that tells me that
In the Fifth was first published in September 1950, as opposed to simply 1950, which is all the first edition discloses.


OK so what happens in MT5?

Darrell and Felicity are travelling in their parents car to Malory Towers. They spot Alicia and June in another car. At school, they bump into fifth-formers, Irene, Belinda and Sally, all of whom have been in the series since the first book. (Correction, Belinda is from book two.) Gwen from MT1 also gets a mention in the first chapter, so all five of the main characters from the first book are present and correct. (Is that right? I'm losing track of the names already!)

In the second chapter, new characters are introduced. Two unpopular girls, the domineering Moira and the hard-working and anonymous Catherine Gray have been held back from going up into the sixth form. Bill (introduced in book 3) is back, accompanied for the day by all her brothers on horseback. On horseback too is Clarissa (from MT4) a happy character these days, with her green eyes shining.

In chapter three a completely new girl, Maureen Little, is introduced. So, as usual, there are three 'new' characters.

It's not until chapter four that Darrell has time to look out for her own sister, Felicity. Darrell is pleased to see she's taken up with Susan, her friend of the term before, rather than June, Alicia's difficult cousin. As the school is bedding down that first night, Connie (held back in the Fourth year) comes into the fifth form dorm in search of her twin sister, Ruth. Ruth tells her to clear off, aware that now she's been given some breathing space from her overbearing twin, the last thing she needs is for the space to be closed down.


As in previous books, the line drawings are by Stanley Lloyd.

Darrell is lying in bed between her friend since their travails in MT1, Sally, and the new girl, Maureen. She realises Maureen is sniffling and warns her about being 'over sensitive'. Rather cruelly, Darrell hopes that this Maureen will get together with Gwen, the girl who has taken herself too seriously right since the start of the series and who is due back at the school the next day. Even though she'd failed her exams in the fourth year she was rejoining her peer group in the fifth. Why? Oh, I expect because the plot demands Gwendoline's presence!

Selfish Gwen is introduced in book one when she plots against mousey Mary-Lou. In MT2 she makes friends with the spoiled and snobbish Daphne, who steals the girls purses. In MT3 it is glamorous new girl Zerelda who Gwen latches onto, misleading her into thinking she is a great actor. In MT4 Gwen takes an interest in the 'Honourable' Clarissa, but its when she fakes illness to avoid end of year exams that her character is developed. So far in the series she stands out as The Girl Who Will Not Know Herself. Let's see what happens this time around, though I expect Enid is saving any self-knowledge until the final book in the series.

In chapter five, the fifth form learn that they are to take responsibility for putting on a show for the school and for parents. They must, produce, write, direct and present it themselves. All are excited. But how are they going to go about the challenge of organising themselves?


There's a meeting a couple of chapters later, which Moira takes charge of. Other committee members are voted in and then it's decided that the fifth form will present their own version of
Cinderella. Moira asks Darrell to come up with a draft of the play. Darrell is a bit overwhelmed by the idea but will give it a go.

By this time Gwen has met Maureen and the two have been set up as friends by the rest of the girls. Already the relationship begins to fray when each realises that the other fancies playing the part of Cinderella. Moira walks in on first Gwen and then Maureen posing as Cinderella in front of a mirror.


As development of the play gets underway, some of the girls are seen in a positive light. Darrell getting the hang of writing scenes and songs; Irene setting Darrell's work to music; Belinda with imaginative and detailed designs for scenery and costumes; and Alicia developing her part of the demon-king with the help of conjuring and juggling. Enid is always telling us that Alicia has good quick brains, but on this occasion that's not enough and she has to apply herself in order to do the business.

Two individuals who get more and more annoying are Maureen and the ever-apologetic and saint-like Catherine. Belinda mocks Catherine with drawings of 'Our Blessed Martyr, Saint Catherine' where she is shown standing in a stained glass window, a gleaming halo round her head. And Maureen, desperate to please, is given fake creative jobs to do, the idea being that once she's written the words and sung the songs, all her efforts will be politely dismissed and turned down.

So at this stage the book is filled with creative work and those - Catherine, Gwen and Maureen - whose egos together with their poor position in the group prevent them from adding to the communal effort.

For plot reasons a scene is inserted where Moira takes to task her little sister, Bridget. But Bridget is a resourceful creature and tells her sister that she will
pay for reporting her misdemeanour.


Shortly after that, Gwen, Maureen, Catherine and June are all given good reason to have it in for Moira. Which sets things up nicely for a poison pen letter campaign, with Moira as the target.

But let's stick to the development of the pantomime. At a grand meeting it is decided that Mary-Lou be Cinderella, much to her surprise and Gwedoline and Maureen's dismay. The meeting is a very constructive one and by the end of it, Darrell says to her closest friend:
'This is the most exciting thing I've ever done in my life, Sally. You know - I shouldn't be surprised if I don't turn out to be a writer, one of these days!'

Now as there was never any chance of Gillian becoming a writer (at one stage in her diary she writes that she got an 'A' for English and comments: 'A miracle has happened.') I suspect that Enid is taking advantage of GIllian's having left Benenden (and gone to university) to take her place at Malory Towers! Enid's Malory Towers books can no longer be of any use to her elder daughter in her day-to-day life. So why not indulge herself for a change?

So let's drop in some information about Enid's own school days. She went to St Christopher's in Beckenham. This was a private school of about 50 pupils in all and only two teachers. Some of the girls were boarders but Enid wasn't. In the picture below, that's her circled third from the right in the third row from the back.

Screen shot 2017-10-19 at 15.29

Clearly the picture was taken before Enid cut her plait off and was called 'the hairless day-girl'.

Screen shot 2017-10-19 at 15.29.58

Enid's tie looks cool. Has she tied it around her neck, bypassing the collar of her blouse? Anyway, a style-conscious - even rebellious - look.

One of her classmates was Phyllis Chase. An elderly Phyllis told Barbara Stoney, Enid Blyton's official biographer, that the headmistress once commented that there was a girl at the school who would 'set the Thames on fire one day', and everyone knew that she meant Enid. Oddly enough, that telling anecdote does not feature in Barbara Stoney's biography itself, but in 'Putting the Jigsaw Together', a piece that Stoney contributed to an early number of The Enid Blyton Society Journal.

Phyllis Chase had to leave school when she was 16. But a few years later, Phyllis and Enid met up again and Phyllis illustrated some of Enid's first published stories. Below is an image of Enid's very first book, a slim volume of poems, published in 1922, when Enid was 25. Phyllis was responsible for the delicate and charming cover art.


But while still at school, it was Mirabel Davis, Mary Attenborough and Enid Blyton herself who set up a small magazine called
Dab, its title obtained from the first letter of each surname. Even more relevantly, as Barbra Stoney tells readers in her biography:

'Enid set up her own concert party and, dressed in mauve with white ruffles and black pom-poms, the subsequent 'Mauve Merriments' troupe of eight senior girls eventually became a popular end of term entertainment for the whole school. Her friend Mary Attenborough usually took the lead in these small shows, which comprised several short sketches, dancing and the singing of popular songs, accompanied by Enid on the piano.'

Actually, when I look again at the big school photo above (or
here where it can be seen in greater detail), there are four girls who have their tie simply folded at the neck of their blouse or shirt. Others have their ties knotted conventionally. I suppose it's just possible that Enid and her creative friends marked themselves out in this way. But I doubt it. In Enid's world, the creative types work with everyone else for the benefit of all. They don't set themselves apart as an elite.

At this stage in
In the Fifth at Malory Towers, Felicity is in action playing lacrosse. The internally vivid scenes, similar to the ones involving Darren in Third Year at Malory Towers, no doubt draw on Enid's own experience on the lacrosse field (though both Imogen and Gillian played the game, which Gillian repeatedly refers to as 'lax' in her diary). Enid was captain of the St Christopher's team and is second from the right of the back row in the photo below.


But I said I would focus on the development of the panto in MT5, so back to that. Rehearsals are going well. Mary-Lou has learned all her lines. One snag is that Moira is becoming something of a dictator, striving for perfection, being counterproductively bossy with strong characters like Betty and Alicia. Meanwhile Darrell is off and running:

''I know just what's wrong and what's right now,' she thought, as she scribbled new lines. 'I adore doing this pantomime - feeling its mine because I wrote it all. I want to do a play next. Could I write one - perhaps just a short one for next term? Shall I ever, ever, be a well-known playwright?'

Moira receives the poison pen letters. Alicia resigns from the show in protest at Moira's domineering ways. Darrell tries to persuade Alicia to carry on. But she won't.
Impasse! Suddenly it's revealed that Alicia's young cousin June sent the letters. The head expels her. But Moira intervenes and gets June's punishment reduced. As a result, Alicia offers to retract her resignation. Mayhem ensues:

'Everyone went suddenly mad. Darrell gave a squeal of delight and rushed to Alicia. Sally thumped her on the back. Mavis sang loudly. Irene went to the piano and played a triumphant march from the pantomime. Bill and Clarissa galloped round the room as if they were on horseback, and little Mary-Lou thumped on the top of the table. Moira laughed suddenly.'

The next para is especially quote-worthy:

'What had happened to all the spite and malice and beastliness? What had happened to the squabbles and quarrels and worries? They were gone in an instant, blown to smithereens by Moira's instinctive, generous-hearted action in going to save June.'

The last chapter is a called 'A Grand Show'. And we all know it will be. Will it be as spectacular as the following image that Phyllis Chase made in the year she bumped into Enid again, post-school? Doesn't it bring back the awesome line that Phyllis remembered about Enid for the rest of her life, at least a close version of it: 'There is a girl presently at this school who will one day set the world alight.'


Parents arrive at four o'clock for tea. The pantomime is due to start at 5.30pm and last for two hours. (Two hours? I'm glad I wasn't a post-war Malory Towers' parent! On the other hand, what else was there to do in the evenings back then, pre-TV?)

Belinda had made a great job of the set with a magnificent coach adorned with gilt paint, and an evocative fire-place for Mary-Lou's Cinderella to sit by in the first scene. Irene was all set to conduct the music, nervous but knowing that she would
become the music as soon as it started. 'Alicia looked simply magnificent in her tight-fitting glowing red costume that showed off her slim figure perfectly... Alicia wasn't nervous - she was cock-sure and confident and brilliant-eyed, and leapt about as if she had springs in her heels.' (That also puts me in mind of Phyllis Chase's painting.)

The pantomime starts. Mary-Lou's Cinderella gets the audience's attention. Bill is on as the roaring Baron. Mavis is there as the sweet-singing Prince. The first song is applauded with gusto and everything is going well...

'Darrell was trembling with excitement and joy. It was a success. It WAS a success. In fact, it looked like being a SUPER success. She could hardly keep still.'

Indeed, with Alicia's demon-king introduction, the show goes from strength to strength.

'And then at last the end came. The final chorus was sung, the last bow made. The curtain swung back once - twice - three - four times. The audience rose to its feet, cheering and shouting and stamping. It was the biggest success Malory Towers had ever had.'

What happens next?

'Author! Author! AUTHOR!'

'Someone gave Darrell a push. 'Go on, silly. They're calling for you. You're the author. You wrote it all!'


So Darrell steps out on stage, takes the applause and, one by one, calls up the others who have contributed back-stage to the play. Step forward, Irene, Belinda, Sally, Moira, Betty, Janet and Mavis. Darrell nearly forgets Pop, the handyman, but he gets his moment in the spotlight as well.

The last few lines of the book are moving and heartfelt:

'And then it really was all over. One last long clap, one last long shout - it was over.

"I wish I could hold this moment for ever and ever," thought Darrell, peeping through the curtains once again. 'My first play - my first success! I don't want this moment to go!'

Hold it then, Darrell, while we slip away. It's your own great moment. There'll never be another quite like it!'

Powerful stuff. MT5 as a whole gets across that a writer's first joy is in the actual writing of the material, the pattern-making, if you like. But equally important is the second joy, which comes when the material - the pattern, the jokes, the humanity - is greeted enthusiastically by an audience.

And surely the book's climax tells of the time at school when Enid knew she'd found her own calling. Possibly the first time when 'Mauve Merriments' was presented to parents at St Christopher's. The soaring joy stirred in Enid's breast was enough to... but I fancy Phyllis Chase put it better without words but instead in colour and line...


It's Darrell behind the curtain, isn't it? Eat your heart out, Stanley Lloyd!!! And let's hear it (reverting to words again, which can sometimes rise to the occasion just as well as pictures) for the vivacious, intelligent, tennis champ and lacrosse team captain. Let's hear it for the stunningly gifted writer-to-be who played practical jokes on the mistresses at every opportunity (actually, in this post I've missed out reporting on two practical joke chapters that slowed up the plot). Let's hear it for the girl who, while at school, put her all into both a literary magazine and a theatrical troupe.

Who put the head in 'head girl' back in 1913? - which is when I calculate Enid would have been 'in the fifth'. Well, we all know the answer to that question. Not so much the 'hairless day girl' as the peerless one.

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.

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.