Monday, November 01, 2010

Margaret Kent

This is a revamp of a column originally published back on 25 October 2006, to which I've added some additional information and commentary and made some improvements to the bibliography. The original column was inspired by an interesting article on 'The Pseudonyms of Enid Blyton' by Mason Willey which asked whether Margaret Kent was a pseudonym of Blyton, the author noting, "I can find very little information about this lady other than that which appears on the dustwrapper sleeves, from which one can glean she was involved in education (E.B. was of course a trained teacher)."

She is credited in some library catalogue entries as Margaret Kent, L.R.A.M. which acronym stands for a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music (and to save you looking it up, the Royal Academy mentions here that "The Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM) diploma provides a comprehensive introduction to the principals of teaching through practical work"). As to who she was, the answer appeared to be tucked away at the Bodleian Library catalogue which lists the author of Stories for Language Training as Margaret Hatwell Kent (1884- ). However, this was also not entirely correct.

Margaret Kent was born Ellen Louisa Margaret Hatwell in Wells, Somerset, on 15 April 1894, the daughter of Fred Hatwell and his wife Margaret Hannah (nee Hall), who had married in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, in 1893. Fred Hatwell (1867-1946) worked as a railway porter and passenger guard on the railway. Ellen had at least one younger brother, Frederick Calvert Hatwell (1897-1967).

After studying to become a teacher at the University of Bristol and privately studying music, she married Charles Henry Kent, a schoolmaster, in Wells on 6 August 1916, and had four children: Margaret (b. 1917), Isabel Sylvia (b. 1925), Joan M. (b. 1926) and John H. C. (b. 1930).

In the 1920s, Margaret Kent assisted her husband at his school in Newtown, Wales. She became a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music in 1933 and subsequently became headmistress of Shipley School, Horsham, West Sussex, in 1945-54. She was then living at Shipley School House, Horsham, where her neighbours inspired the 1968 novel Scamp--A Dog's Story. And here I'll hand over to David Woodford, now a landscape painter who, for his tenth birthday present, was given Pongo, a wire haired terrier and Scamp's best friend...
My father was the Rev. Harry Woodford, alias 'Captain Dacres' in the book. We lived in the 'Old Vicarage', Shipley--'Fairlawn' in Margaret's story. My father respected Margaret very much as a disciplinarian and her musical abilities and integrity were admired. Prior to happening upon the details of her works, in the publication Shipley and Associations–A Millenium Ramble I had not made some of the above connections. I would dearly like to have a copy of the book ‘Scamp’ for my grandchildren if anyone could assist in identifying where I might purchase one.

The following details are those recalled by Judy my wife:
Although we girls of course very rarely misbehaved, the boys of our class were on occasions quite ‘trying’ for any teacher, even one as talented as Mrs Kent. When bad turned to worse I remember Mrs Kent sending a note to her husband to deal with the mischievous individuals. She was often dressed in black. I recollect with obvious amusement the many times on cold winter days that she would raise her dress quite subtly to make the most of the open fire that all day burned in the background of the schoolroom scene.

One April Fools day she was told the ‘school play’ scenery had collapsed and dashed away quite perplexed only to return smiling, taking the whole prank in good humour. We were often expected to learn poems with only short revision time and ‘The Lady of Shalot’, although by now possibly a variation of its former self, is one my memory still clings to in true Mrs Kent fashion. One day of higher than normal tension for Margaret Kent was the day a plane crashed somewhere abroad and she feared that one of her daughters may have been on the flight....she wasn’t thankfully.
Margaret Kent's writing career seems to have taken off during the war years. As well as music, plays and educational books for young children, she also wrote a series of 64-page books set on Cherry-Tree Farm illustrated by Eileen A. Soper, one of Enid Blyton's regular artists (Blyton also wrote the unrelated The Children of Cherry Tree Farm a couple of years earlier), and a number of novels aimed at young children featuring the the twins Sugar and Spice. She also wrote articles, stories, verse and plays for numerous adult and children's journals and was also a compiler of crosswords and word puzzles, producing crosswords for Television Weekly and lectured to women's groups and library associations. According to her granddaughter Ann Stubbins (see comments below), her writings were sufficiently profitable to send a daughter through a bi-ligual secretarial course and her son through medical school.

Margaret Kent later lived in Botley, Southampton. She died in 1978, her death registered in Waveney, Suffolk.

Spring at Cherry-Tree Farm, illus. Eileen A. Soper. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1942.
Summer at Cherry-Tree Farm. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1942.
Autumn at Cherry-Tree Farm, illus. Eileen A. Soper. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1942.
Winter at Cherry-Tree Farm, illus. Eileen A. Soper. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1943.
The Twins at Hillside Farm. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1943.
The Twins at the Seaside. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1943.
The Twins at Home, illus. Eileen A. Soper. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1947.
Stories for Language Training (series):
__Little Red Shoes. London, Macmillan & Co., 1949.
__Timothy Tibbetts. London, Macmillan & Co., 1949.
__The Tin Whistle. London, Macmillan & Co., 1949.
__Megab the Sky-Cleaner, and other stories. London, Macmillan & Co., 1950.
__The Fizzlewugs of Fettleby. London, Macmillan & Co., 1950.
__Lucky the Cat. London, Macmillan & Co., 1950.
Magic Charms at the Market, illus. Rosemary Brown. Dunstable, privately printed, 1956.

The Six Sherlocks series:
__The Six Sherlocks. Exeter, A. Wheaton & Co. (Golden Mean Library), 1957.
__The Six Sherlocks Again. Exeter, A. Wheaton & Co. (Golden Mean Library), 1957.
__The Six Sherlocks Carry On. Exeter, A. Wheaton & Co. (Golden Mean Library), 1957.
__The Six Sherlocks Win Through. Exeter, A. Wheaton & Co. (Golden Mean Library), 1957.
The Twins and Felicity, illus. Oveden-Edwards. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1959.
The Twins and the Move, illus. Clixby Watson. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1962.
Scamp. A dog's story. Gibson, 1968.

Ten-Minute Stories. With suggestions for rhythmic movement, illus. Honor C. Appleton. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1943.
Stories for the Nursery School. With suggestions for rhythmic movement, illus. Honor C. Appleton. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1947.
Nursery Rhyme Nature Stories, illus. Honor C. Appleton. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1948.
Pond Life. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1948.
Little Nature Stories. With suggestions for songs, games, etc. London, Charles & Son, 1951.
The Jack-a-nory Story-book. With suggestions for rhythmic movement. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1952.
Out-of-Doors Stories. London, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1954.
Seaside Stories. London, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1957.

The Lucky Thirteen: Stories from Around the World. Pantheon, 1960; as Kashi the Mongoose, and other stories, illus. Imre Hofbauer, London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1961.

Musical Reading Games for Infants and Junior Classes. London, W. Paxton & Co., 1942.
Animals. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1944; as Animals of Hedge, Pond and Moor, illus. Eileen A. Soper, London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1953.
Birds. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1944.
Flowers. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1945.
Trees. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1945.

Pond Life. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1948.
Insects. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1948.
At Tweedles' Farm. A book of farm life for juniors, illus. E. Wigglesworth. London, Macmillan & Co., 1949.
Melody Making in the Infant School. London, William Paxton & Co., 1949.

Melody Making in the Junio School. London, William Paxton & Co., 1949.
Melody Making in the Senior School. London, William Paxton & Co., 1949.
Animals of the Farm. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1949.
The Seashore. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1949.

Stories for Language Training. Teacher's Book. London, Macmillan & Co., 1953.
Nuts to Crack. A book of puzzles and quizzes. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1961.
The Jolly Clown's Picture Crosswords for Children, with Nancy Scott; illus. Baps. Exeter, A. Wheaton & Co., 1965.

Favourite Crosswords. London, Ernest Benn, 2 vols., 1968.

Playlets for the Classroom Book I. 1943.
Playlets for the Classroom Book II. 1943.
The Baby Moses. A scripture play for juniors. London, W. Paxton & Co., 1951.
Spring Cleaning, and A Song of Sixpence. London, London, Macmillan & Co., 1952.
When Queens Cook! or, A Question of Pages. Humorous play in rhyme with music for juniors. London, W. Paxton & Co., 1953.
Little Plays for Many Players. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1954.
The Tinker-Tailor Story-Book, illus. Chris Barden. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1955.
The Nativity. A scripture play. London, W. Paxton & Co., 1955.
The Loving Father. A dramatised version of 'The Prodigal Son' with optional incidental music for juniors. London, W. Paxton & Co., 1956.

Zoo Nonsense Songs. For infants and junior classes (musical score). 1952.
Toy Shop Songs. Songs with movement for infants, with suggestions for activities and percussion band scores (musical score), 1952.
Melody Making (musical score), 1954.
Little All-Purpose Songs for Infant and Junior Classes (musical score), 1955.
Two Dramatized Singing Games [Simple Simon and Red Riding Hood]. London, W. Paxton & Co., 1963.
Two-Way Songs for Infants. London, W. Paxton & Co., 1965.

(* My thanks to Ann Stubbings and to David and Judy Woodford for their great assistance with the above.)


  1. Margaret Kent - full name Ellen Louisa Margaret Kent, born 1894 died 1978. You're pretty accurate with everything else about my grandmother. However, her writing career also included the creation of crosswords and other word puzzles, one book being entitled Nuts to Crack. She wrote crosswords for The Golden Times, the forerunner of The Radio Times. I don't know what she wrote in her early writing career, but it was sufficiently profitable to pay for one daughter to go through a bi-lingual secretarial course and her son in his training as a doctor. Oh, and you're right - she certainly wasn't that other writer!

  2. Dear Ann,

    Thanks for the comment. I've made some adjustments to the main entry to avoid any confusion in the future, but if you have any further information on Margaret and her works it would be very welcome. For instance, some basic biographical information: when/where was she born/died; you mention a son and daughter so I'm guessing Kent was her married name... I'm sure you can see from some of the other notes I've compiled the kind of thing that I try to include. I always think that knowing something about the author adds greatly to the enjoyment of their work. Unfortunately, so many writers are long-forgotten and trying to locate accurate information on them is almost impossible. I use a lot of genealogical tools to dig out dates, with the hope that someone will come along with corrections (as you have here) and perhaps fill in some of the gaps... dates are all well and good but they don't tell you what a person was actually like.

    Many thanks for posting.

  3. I am the author of the article which you quote. "That other writer" which is mentioned by Ann Stubbings was the world's best-selling author of all time and in all genres - talk about understatement! I have been studying the life and work of Enid Blyton for many years, and in somewhat less detail, the work of Margaret Kent, and I can say that the similarities in style, content, characterization, illustrations and more, are truly remarkable. Coincidence really is a peculiar animal. I regret that my research didn't lead me to a different conclusion, but we all make mistakes, don't we?
    Incidentally, Ann Stubbings has pointed out to me that Margaret Kent has an entry in The World's Who's Who of Women and Enid Blyton doesn't. Now I don't have a figure for Margaret Kent's total worldwide sales, but Enid Blyton's is around a billion. Does anyone else find this omission noteworthy? Anyone care to speculate as to why this is?

  4. Dear Mason,

    Thanks for posting a comment. You raise a couple of interesting points.

    First, how difficult it is to locate solid information on many authors/illustrators who worked in the UK, especially in magazines -- authors of books at least gain a tiny measure of respectability. Given the difficulty in locating information, a little speculation almost inevitably comes into research... half the notes I've compiled over the past couple of months include a lot of "maybe", "possibly" and "my guess". It's these little speculative jumps that occasionally pay off.

    Even respectable resources like the Bodleian Library get it wrong -- as proved with Margaret Kent whom they identify as the wrong author.

    Second, no entry for Enid Blyton in The World's Who's Who of Women? Blyton is generously covered in many other reference works so I don't think this is snobbery at work. It could simply be that Blyton was already dead when the book began publishing and it only covered living writers. A very quick dig around the internet shows that the third edition was published in 1975 and it has had at least 14 editions (to 1994), so it's published every few years. Since Enid Blyton died in 1968, she may not have been eligible.

    Maybe... possibly... that's my guess anyway.


  5. Enid Blyton was indeed a most proliferate writer with worldwide sales estimated at over 600,000. No, my grandmother did not have sales that high or as worldwide by a long chalk. There were just 3 years different in their dates of birth so perhaps not so surprising that their outlook on life was similar and I can understand why you thought Gran was a pen name of EB, especially as she already used one pen name. By the way, Margaret once used her husband's name (Charles Kent) to write submit a story for a boys' story book. They would not accept stories by females and she wanted to send the book to the grandsons for Christmas! As a grandchild of MK I am naturally going to refer to EB as 'the other writer'! I am very proud of my grandmother. Having said that, I spent many years devouring EB's books, in fact my favourite book is The Six Bad Boys and I recently bought a hardback version to keep for posterity. Whilst there are many similarities between these two ladies there are also numerous differences. EB found a style that worked and kept churning out books - that is not a criticism by any means, it shows that she could successfully keep a story theme throughout a series books. MK chose to diversify far more - being a musician and a primary school teacher she chose to books to assist teachers and children in learning - nature studies, English language lessons/exercises, dance, music and movement. Both ladies had their strengths and wrote accordingly and that is the most important thing.



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