Children’s author Enid Blyton was rejected from featuring on a commemorative 50p coin because the Royal Mint's advisory committee deemed her “racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer”, new documents have revealed.
The concept of a commemorative 50p coin for Blyton was discussed at a meeting of the Royal Mint's advisory committee in December 2016, according to the Daily Mail. The meeting's minutes, obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, say members dismissed the plan because “she [Blyton] is known to have been a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer”.
The documents also reveal the committee, which was considering producing the coin to mark the 50th anniversary of Blyton's death in 1968, was concerned about a potential backlash if the proposal went ahead.
A spokesperson for The Royal Mint told The Bookseller: “With a rich heritage to draw upon, there are countless British events, anniversaries and themes which could be commemorated each year. To create a fair shortlist each proposal is subject to a rigorous planning and design selection process governed by an independent panel known as The Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC). The purpose of the RMAC is to ensure that themes commemorated on UK coins are varied, and represent the most significant events in our history - and not every proposal will progress to a UK coin.”
Novelist Jilly Cooper told the Daily Mail: “Enid Blyton was a brilliant storyteller and her books have got millions of children hooked on reading. She definitely deserves a commemorative coin.”
Michael Rosen, the former Children's Laureate, added: “On the negative side, she was some of the things she is being accused of. But at the same time she enabled millions of children to enjoy stories.”
Picador’s Paul Martinovic tweeted that he agreed Blyton should not be celebrated with a commemorative coin. “For everyone using the ‘don’t judge by modern standards’ line - Enid Blyton had a manuscript rejected by Macmillan in 1960 on the grounds of xenophobic content,” the senior communications manager said. “An editorial decrying her racist book The Little Black Doll was published by the Guardian in 1966. Don’t do this.” (Martinovic later emphasised to The Bookseller that these tweets reflected his personal opinion and not affiliated with Picador.)
Blyton wrote more than 600 books, including series such as The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Naughtiest Girl, The Adventure Series, The Magic Faraway Tree, St Clare’s and Malory Towers. She has sold 12.6 million books for £55.9m in the Nielsen BookScan era.
The intellectual property of the whole of Blyton’s estate, Enid Blyton Entertainment, was acquired by Hachette in 2012. The Bookseller has contacted Hachette for comment.
Hachette Children’s Group announced a raft of plans last November plans to revamp Blyton's Malory Towers series by repackaging the backlist, selling the TV rights – recently unveiled as a forthcoming 13-part BBC drama - and publishing a new title with stories by Narinder Dhami, Patrice Lawrence, Lucy Mangan and Rebecca Westcott. In June 2019 the publisher released the six original books, as well as six sequels written by Pamela Cox in 2009, with new covers by Pippa Curnick. A stage adaptation of the Malory Towers stories has also recently opened at the York Theatre Royal in association with the Bristol Old Vic.