Plans to celebrate the work of the children’s writer Enid Blighton have led to controvasy in the Buckinghamshire town of Beaconsfield (United Kingdom) where the author lived for a significant portion of her life. Some inhabitants are claiming that Blighton was a racist and a snob and, as such her life and works should not be celebrated. Others argue that Blighton and her work should be viewed in the context of the mid twentieth century when atitudes to race and social class where less enlightened than they are today.
I have happy childhood memories of my grandfather reading the Famous Five and other books written by Enid Blighton aloud to me. At that time it never occurred to me that Blighton might be a racist, a snob or any of the other unflattering labels which her detractors are now pinning on the long deceased author (she died in 1968).
Racism and snobbery are obnoxious traits and are rightly deplored by civilised individuals. It is right that we have laws to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race, however it is unfair to judge Enid Blighton by today’s standards. As pointed out above she grew up in an era when Britain still possessed an empire and this shaped her view of the world and, very possibly inbued the writer with attitudes which most people rightly condemn today. However Enid Blighton was far from unique in holding such views and if we follow the logic of her detractor’s then surely Kipling’s works should also be consigned to the dustbin as he was (undoubtedly) a racist and an imperialist.
The fact is that a writer may possess views which we disagree with very profoundly. We may, however still regard them as great writers. Are we to stop reading Kipling because his words “lesser breeds without the law” (see his poem Recessional) jar with our modern sensabilities? The answer has to be a resounding no!
We must so far as is possible separate the writer from their work. Some say that Enid Blighton was not a nice lady. This may or may not be true, however it is irrelevant as a writer’s niceness or lack of it does not (and should not) affect how we view the worth of their literary output. A man (or woman) may have treated their family terribly, however if they are a great writer then that is what they are.
In the case of Enid Blighton people of every race and religion continue to enjoy her work which does, surely say a great deal about the quality of her writing.
I don’t like witch hunts and the whole Blighton issue has the potential to turn into something rather nasty. Lets judge authors on their writing and leave aside so far as is humanly possible whether they are “nice” or any other label one cares to put on them.
For the Telegraph’s article on Enid Blighton please visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9870065/Town-torn-over-celebrations-of-Enid-Blytons-racist-work.html.