The Enid Blyton Society
Six Cousins Again
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Book Details...

First edition: 1950
Publisher: Evans Brothers
Illustrator: Maurice Tulloch
Category: Six Cousins
Genre: Farm
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Anita Bensoussane
Further Illustrations

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Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Maurice Tulloch



Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by Maurice Tulloch
In Six Cousins Again the town cousins, Cyril, Melisande and Roderick, move to Holly Farm with their parents, David and Rose Longfield. Unlike Mistletoe Farm, it is small and modern, leading Cyril to say optimistically, "This will be play to run properly." However, before they move in Melisande expresses doubts about whether their mother will take to farm life: "... when Mother's really here, running this dear little place, she'll surely love to learn everything ... Oh dear — I do hope Mother won't hate things."

On moving-in day, Rose looks beautiful and the house is immaculate. Rose compares herself to Aunt Linnie, saying, "I'm the kind of mother you want, aren't I?" and Melisande remarks that "this is something like a home!" But do good looks make a mother, and does fine furniture make a home?

At Mistletoe Farm, the happy, loving atmosphere stems from Linnie's hard work and devotion to her family. Rose, by contrast, is selfish and lazy and, although she takes on a few tasks on the farm, she does so with "a very bad grace" rather than doing them willingly. She also alienates Roderick by treating him like a baby and underestimating his longing for a dog of his own.

When Twigg helps out with some ewes and their lambs which have been chased by a dog, David tells Rose to make him welcome on the farm but Rose purposely fails to pass on the message to Ellen, the maid, so she continues to turn him away. Rose tries to get the children on her side, saying to Melisande, "Daddy can have his way in some things — but we must have our way sometimes, too, Melisande, mustn't we?" She also allows Cyril and Melisande to slip back into their idle, pampered ways, thereby undermining all that Linnie did for them when they lived with her.

Gradually, the family ceases to function as a united whole. Rose is disloyal to her husband, Melisande and Cyril no longer help with the work of the house and the farm, Roderick resents the way his mother treats him and there is tension between Ellen and Sally, the maids.

It is not long before the farm is in trouble. Animals fall ill, the tractor breaks down and livestock is stolen. Oblivious of all this, Rose plans an extravagant party for her birthday, ordering food from London against her husband's wishes.

It is on the day of the proposed party that everything comes to a head. Ellen accuses Sally (wrongly) of thieving and she leaves, upset, while Rose accuses Twigg (also wrongly) to his face. Then a van arrives from London, full of expensive party food, and Mr. Longfield sends it back, yelling at the delivery man. Ellen leaves too, and the party has to be cancelled. When Linnie hears what has happened, she realises that "The house had been divided against itself — and as always happens, it couldn't stand." This is similar to the passage in The Six Bad Boys when the Berkeleys are quarrelling and Mr. Berkeley remarks, "It says in the Bible that a house divided against itself cannot stand. It must fall." Like Six Cousins Again, The Six Bad Boys also deals with family breakdown, contrasting the MacKenzies, a model family, with the dysfunctional Berkeleys, just as Linnie's family contrasts with Rose's.

Rose's family need her to be strong but even now she thinks only of herself, retiring to her bed during the day and doing the bare minimum around the house so that her children have to do most of the work. Tired of her mother's complaining, even Melisande says, "But mother — couldn't you be a bit more like — well, like Aunt Linnie? She sort of holds the family together — and when bad things happen, they don't seem as bad as they are, because we all know Aunt Linnie's there to lean on." Rose looks down on Linnie, calling her "a cabbage" (like Mrs. Berkeley in The Six Bad Boys, who calls the contented MacKenzies "cabbages.") Rose assumes that Linnie has no interests outside the farmhouse and she can hardly believe it when Cyril tells her of Aunt Linnie's love of poetry and classical music. He adds, "But none of these things show because she puts her family and the farm first — that's all."

We see Rose at her most spiteful when Roderick brings home a spaniel puppy which Twigg's friend, Tommy Lane, has given to him, but the pup has to be returned because Rose, angry at having her views ignored, vows to treat it cruelly while Roderick is at school. Unlike his mother, Roderick understands self-sacrifice. He loves his pet enough to give it up rather than risk leaving it with Rose.

Eventually, Rose proposes selling the farm and returning to the town but David refuses to run away from trouble and declares his intention of staying on the farm and making it work. Rose's next suggestion is heartbreaking — that she should leave David and go to live in the town with the children. There is a shock in store for her, though, when the children show their true fighting spirit and choose to remain on the farm.

That night some of the animals are critically ill and it is Twigg and Tommy Lane who cure them, except for one cow which dies. It becomes clear that it was gypsies, and not Twigg, who stole from Holly Farm and poisoned the animals.

After he has finished seeing to the cows, Rose tells David that she has decided to stay on at the farm. The fine example set by her husband and children, who have agreed to stick together, has enabled her to find the strength to carry on. She is determined to work hard from now on, swallow her pride and learn from Linnie. And she asks David to bring back the puppy, assuring Roderick that she will look after it well while he is at school. She has discovered that there is a great deal of happiness to be gained from doing things to please others.

Rose's change of heart may seem sudden, but the ending is satisfying. Rose admits that she will never be like Linnie, but then Holly Farm is not old-fashioned and rambling like Mistletoe Farm. It is small and modern and Rose should soon be able to learn to run the farmhouse efficiently. She has at least made up her mind to try. About a year after Six Cousins Again, Enid Blyton published The Six Bad Boys, an even darker novel in which not all the boys and their families manage to resolve their problems.

Some General Comments on the Six Cousins books:

The Six Cousins books are full of contrasts-the country versus the town; rambling, antiquated Mistletoe Farm versus neat, modern Holly Farm; hard work versus laziness; devotion to others versus selfishness; Linnie's united family versus Rose's divided family. Yet things cannot be labelled in a simplistic way as either "good" or "bad." The country cousins have faults, as do the town cousins, and they all learn from one another. Mr. Longfield remarks about Twigg, "Twigg was a puzzle. He was a bad character — and he was a good character too." (Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm.) In fact, this applies to everyone to some degree. People have to learn to strengthen their positive characteristics and conquer their negative ones. Even the names of the farms — Mistletoe and Holly — are associated with both paganism and Christianity, intermingling darkness and light. Mistletoe has come to symbolise love, while, for Christians, the blood-red berries and prickly leaves of the holly are seen as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice. Love and self-sacrifice are essential ingredients of a happy family. Although good and bad are interwoven to some extent, there is (in true Blyton fashion) absolutely no blurring of the boundary between right and wrong. Blyton's world is one of moral absolutes. As Mr Longfield tells Jack, Twigg may be likeable but it is still wrong of him to break the law by poaching.

It is not only the farms which have names resonant with meaning. Jack, Jane and Susan have plain names, whereas those of Cyril, Melisande and Roderick are fancy. The name "Rose" suggests a delicate, frail, perfumed creature — which is exactly how Rose presents herself. Roses have thorns, however, and her viciousness is revealed when she vows to stop loving her children if they change too much in Linnie's care, or threatens to be cruel to Roderick's dog. Dorcas, the cook at Mistletoe Farm, has a plain, homely name while "Linnie" makes me think of a bright-eyed, chirpy linnet. Peter, of course, means "rock", while Linnie is described as a "staff." They are a couple who can be leaned on in a crisis. Twigg is an apt name for a man of the countryside, as is the surname of his friend Tommy Lane, while the Longfields' own surname is perfect for a family who have been in farming for generations. Twigg naming his dog "Mr. Potts," so that he can yell out to him when PC Potts is around and embarrass the policeman, is comic. Crackers suits the Longfields' lively spaniel, who is rather like Loony of the "R" Mysteries, and Mr. Potts is "Potty" for short. Even the horses' names (chosen by Enid's daughter, Imogen) are significant. Boodi is ideal for Susan's squat, stubborn Icelandic pony, while Lordly-One suits Richard's magnificent horse.

Enid Blyton is sometimes criticised for suggesting that a mother's place is in the home. However, I like to think that she simply saw the importance of motherhood. In these books we witness a veneration of Linnie. She is lauded for her organisational skills, her hard work, her reliability and her caring, selfless nature. Yet it is made clear that she is no country bumpkin or "clod." She loves classical music and poetry but she doesn't indulge these pleasures at the expense of the family unit. She comes across as an intelligent woman and Cyril says of her, "I bet she could be far cleverer than anyone in our family, if she had more time." (Six Cousins Again.)

Jane is taught to take some pride in her appearance but there is a fine line between this and vanity. It is inner beauty that really matters. Dorcas tells Linnie in Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm: "There's more beauty in your face, seems to me, than there ever was in Mrs David's — and I'm not talking about skin and eyes and nose now, Mam. I'm talking about character. Your nature's writ plain in your face and makes it beautiful to all your family-yes, and to me too. But you'll look in vain for that kind of beauty in Mrs David's face!" Dorcas has her own beauty too: "Dorcas was plain, sharp-tongued and fat, but beauty came unexpectedly into her face too at moments: when she looked at Susan and teased her, when she fussed over a motherless lamb by the kitchen fire on a bitter cold night, or when she stood close beside her mistress, working hard with her at some urgent task." (Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm.) True beauty comes from character, which is why building character is seen as so important in these books. Posing and pretending are shallow, and being taken in by what is on the surface, as Cyril is in his adoration of Benedict, can lead one astray. To live a lie, like Benedict, is to lose oneself. Integrity is essential in order to live life to the full. Mrs. Longfield says that, of the six children, Susan is the only one who hasn't had to change because "She's so very much herself, isn't she?" (Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm). Susan even comments that she likes Boodi and Crackers because they think for themselves. Animals and people who are full of character appeal to her.

The Six Cousins stories are as enjoyable today as ever, though just a few things date them. When I first read them, in the late 1970s, what Blyton calls "high tea" was simply the norm and was called "tea." I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to have an early tea at four o' clock in the afternoon. Also, it's amusing that Rose dislikes her husband getting dressed in "her" bedroom at Holly Farm, instead of in a separate dressing-room as he did at their old house, Three Towers! Most curious of all is Blyton's apparent aversion to sandals! Jack is aghast to see Cyril in them, and the fact that Benedict wears them too is enough to make him a suspicious character! Yet Jane and Melisande are able to wear them without attracting any comment. Were sandals considered effeminate in the 1950s, then?!

These books could quite easily be adapted for children's television, maybe as a teatime drama serial. There is surely enough material in the two books to fill about four half-hour slots. The stories are full of drama, suspense and humour, with many interesting characters. Even minor characters, like Dorcas and Twigg, are real personalities who would "come to life" on the screen. A few things would need to be changed. For instance, the idea of thieving gypsies would now be considered a damaging stereotype. This could easily be altered without affecting the storyline too much. The robberies and poisonings could perhaps be carried out by a neighbour who hoped to buy Holly Farm for him/herself but was beaten to it by the Longfields. In most cases, the original storylines could be adhered to quite closely. Disturbingly, the number of young people choosing to work in agriculture after leaving school is declining. Perhaps a Six Cousins television series would help revive people's interest not only in farming, but in the works of Enid Blyton! These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.