Early life and education
Enid Blyton was born on 11 August 1897 in East Dulwich, South London, the oldest of the three children, to Thomas Carey Blyton (1870–1920), a cutlery salesman, and his wife Theresa Mary (née Harrison; 1874–1950). Enid's younger brothers, Hanly (1899–1983) and Carey (1902–1976), were born after the family had moved to a semi-detached villa in Beckenham, then a village in Kent. A few months after her birth Enid almost died from whooping cough, but was nursed back to health by her father, whom she adored. Thomas Blyton ignited Enid's interest in nature; in her autobiography she wrote that he "loved flowers and birds and wild animals, and knew more about them than anyone I had ever met". He also passed on his interest in gardening, art, music, literature and the theatre, and the pair often went on nature walks, much to the disapproval of Enid's mother, who showed little interest in her daughter's pursuits. Enid was devastated when he left the family shortly after her thirteenth birthday to live with another woman. Enid and her mother did not have a good relationship, and she did not attend either of her parents' funerals.
From 1907 to 1915 Blyton attended St Christopher's School in Beckenham, where she enjoyed physical activities and became school tennis champion and captain of lacrosse. She was not so keen on all the academic subjects but excelled in writing, and in 1911 she entered Arthur Mee's children's poetry competition. Mee offered to print her verses, encouraging her to produce more. Blyton's mother considered her efforts at writing to be a "waste of time and money", but she was encouraged to persevere by Mabel Attenborough, the aunt of school friend Mary Potter.
, Suffolk, was an inspiration to Blyton with its haunted room, secret passageway and sprawling gardens.
Blyton's father taught her to play the piano, which she mastered well enough for him to believe that she might follow in his sister's footsteps and become a professional musician. Blyton considered enrolling at the Guildhall School of Music, but decided she was better suited to becoming a writer. After finishing school in 1915 as head girl, she moved out of the family home to live with her friend Mary Attenborough, before going to stay with George and Emily Hunt at Seckford Hall near Woodbridge in Suffolk. Seckford Hall, with its allegedly haunted room and secret passageway provided inspiration for her later writing. At Woodbridge Congregational Church Blyton met Ida Hunt, who taught at Ipswich High School, and suggested that she train as a teacher. Blyton was introduced to the children at the nursery school, and recognising her natural affinity with them she enrolled in a National Froebel Union teacher training course at the school in September 1916. By this time she had almost ceased contact with her family.
Blyton's manuscripts had been rejected by publishers on many occasions, which only made her more determined to succeed: "it is partly the struggle that helps you so much, that gives you determination, character, self-reliance – all things that help in any profession or trade, and most certainly in writing". In March 1916 her first poems were published in Nash's Magazine. She completed her teacher training course in December 1918, and the following month obtained a teaching appointment at Bickley Park School, a small independent establishment for boys in Bickley, Kent. Two months later Blyton received a teaching certificate with distinctions in zoology and principles of education, 1st class in botany, geography, practice and history of education, child hygiene and class teaching and 2nd class in literature and elementary mathematics. In 1920 she moved to Southernhay in Hook Road Surbiton as nursery governess to the four sons of architect Horace Thompson and his wife Gertrude, with whom Blyton spent four happy years. Owing to a shortage of schools in the area her charges were soon joined by the children of neighbours, and a small school developed at the house.