Blyton and Cartland

Yesterday I went into town to do some competition analysis at Foyles Charing Cross Rd and as it was so close, popped into the National Portrait Gallery to check out the Women Writers exhibition.

I peeled of the tracksuit-t-shirt outfit I have been wearing for the last few days and donned a checked shirt, smart trousers and silver shoes so I felt a bit more like a girl about town.
The exhibition was small, just one display case of black and white photos mainly from the ’30s and ’40s. I stared at buckteeth, wrinkles and large jaws and I wondered why I was obsessed with the way these talented, successful women looked. Possibly the only other photos I am familiar with from this period are of glamorous starlets with perfect rose bud lips and glamour outfits.

There are a couple of beauties. Barbara Cartland as a young woman caught my eye, about as far from the pink frocked make-up encrusted woman I am familiar with. She could have held her own with any starlet.

She is standing with her hands together in front of her lap, index fingers in a downward steeple, forming, what I can only describe as an opening. She is holding this opening directly in front of her other more private opening. It is an extraordinarily sexual pose, contradicting with the innocent faced girl.

There is a really funny picture of Enid Blyton looking like she would cheering strangle the two children posing with her. And then there was only the famous four.


  1. If you get the chance to go back and could get any postcards…I’d love to see this exhibition, partly to put faces to iconic figures, partly because I only ever half feel like I live in 2007 anyway.Ms C sounds like she fits her books, and I remember being quite shocked at how austere old Blyton looked; bit of a contrast to her incredible imagination (no matter how un PC I think she rocked).Ladies, apparently, were not considered to be very feminine if they wrote at that time – girt lezzer or dour spinster was the expectation – fo some silly reason beauty was not meant to go with either of those. How strange, it sounds like the women pictured had to hide some part of themselves. Good we can all write, and be gorgeous inside and out these days x

  2. I agree it’s odd that we sometimes get obsessed with appearances. Especially as we know that appearances shouldn’t matter.It’s interesting though that the appearances of people with wealth and the appearances of poorer people were so different.Also I would like to to say your last post about your sister was wonderfully written and brought tears to my eyes. I’m so pleased she’s doing well at the moment.

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