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Book Details...

First edition: 1942
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: Hilda McGavin
Category: Mr. Twiddle
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Short Story Books

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Reprint Covers
List of Contents
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

  1. Mr. Twiddle and the Cow
    Story: Sunny Stories No.98 Nov 25, 1938
  2. Mr. Twiddle Gets a Shock
    Story: Sunny Stories No.99 Dec 2, 1938
  3. Mr. Twiddle Fetches the Fish
    Story: Sunny Stories No.105 Jan 13, 1939
  4. Mr. Twiddle and the Snowman
    Story: Sunny Stories No.108 Feb 3, 1939
  5. Mr. Twiddle Makes a Muddle
    Story: Sunny Stories No.112 Mar 3, 1939
  6. Mr. Twiddle in the Rain
    Story: Sunny Stories No.143 Oct 6, 1939
  7. Mr. Twiddle's Bonfires
    Story: Sunny Stories No.146 Oct 27, 1939
  8. Mr. Twiddle's Mistake
    Story: Sunny Stories No.171 Apr 19, 1940
  9. Mr. Twiddle and the Cat
    Story: Sunny Stories No.177 May 31, 1940
  10. Mr. Twiddle and His Wife's Hat
    Story: Sunny Stories No.194 Sep 27, 1940
  11. Mr. Twiddle and the Dog
    Story: Sunny Stories No.217 Mar 7, 1941
  12. Mr. Twiddle's Spectacles
    Story: Sunny Stories No.219 Mar 21, 1941
  13. Mr. Twiddle Goes Out at Night
    Story: Sunny Stories No.165 Mar 8, 1940
  14. Mr. Twiddle is a Funny Fellow
    Story: Sunny Stories No.223 Apr 18, 1941
  15. Mr. Twiddle Tries to Help
    Story: Sunny Stories No.250 Oct 24, 1941

Cover of the 1st edition illustrated by Hilda McGavin

Frontispiece from the 1st edition illustrated by Hilda McGavin

Title Page from the 1st edition
Enid Blyton has created some endearing and enduring characters for her series, and one-off stories. People such as Frederick Trotteville, Mr. Goon, Bill (the Smugs version), Mam'zelle Dupont, George (not of the Secret Seven), Lotta, Jo, Susie, Barney, Mr. Pink-Whistle, Moon-Face, Saucepan, Buster, Kiki and perhaps Miranda. Other "oncers" could be Alicia Johns, Elizabeth Allen, Tassie, Snubby, Timmy, and maybe even Roddy Longfield could show his face.

Yet, although the Cave has been in operation since about 2007, no review has emerged before today (2015) that deals with another of Enid Blyton's extremely well-known personalities, and that is of course Mr. Twiddle - a man endowed with characteristics pertaining to a pleasant, absent-minded, elderly gentleman who inhabits suburbia together with his no-nonsense wife. He personifies the bumbling character whose highlight of the day might be a walk round the block and perhaps, if he's feeling adventuresome, a visit could be made to the corner shop for the purchase of a newspaper (if the delivery boy has failed to do his duty); and that's about it because I can't quite see Mr. Twiddle calling into the 'local.' His is an idyllic existence although admittedly Mrs. Twiddle's cat, an animal with which he's constantly at war, sometimes interrupts the peaceful atmosphere. The only other disruption, apart from that supplied by the children next door, can be attributed to his atrocious absent-mindedness and penchant for not seeing things quite as they really are.

The first story in this initial book of the series tells us about the time Twiddle made himself look rather foolish over a cow. The content is quite hilarious and is definitely a good tale with which to start; it stems from the time Mr. Twiddle's wife asked him to fetch her brother's cow ... we're often asked to fetch a relative's cow, are we not? Mr. Twiddle sets off to carry out his task and the ensuing pantomime illustrates Twiddle's character to a "T." After he has fetched the bovine, a handful of people he meets on his way home are treated to a jolly good laugh at Mr. Twiddle's expense and this gives us a very good insight into just what Twiddle is all about, and it might even cause the reader to take in his or her stride the following action: "Mr. Twiddle beamed all over his face, gave his wife a good slap, and kissed the cow on its nose."

In the next tale, Mr. Twiddle throws his handkerchief into the fire by mistake. The word 'mistake' in Twiddle's case seems a little extraneous, but anyway that's what happens. Unfortunately, when Mrs. Twiddle sends him out for a walk he relates the hanky incident to Mrs. Gabble and a quick look at your thesaurus might define 'gabble' as chat or gossip or drivel or twaddle or natter or blab. When Mrs. Gabble repeats her version of Twiddle's calamity to someone called Sally Simple, one can imagine how the incident will be reported to Dame Shoo, and theorize as to how things will end up.

Five herrings wrapped in newspaper. That's what Mr. Twiddle collects from the fish shop one morning and this leads to a kind of mix-up, helped quite a lot of course, by the one and only Mr. T. After buying a morning paper he returns home putting one of his purchases on the table for Mrs. Twiddle, and the other on his chair ready to be attended to. Things aren't quite what they seem and consternation arises with the result that Mr. Twiddle's rosy picture of 'A nice lazy morning reading the newspaper and puffing away at his pipe' disappears down the drain. Oh yes, he does end up reading the news, but not quite as he had planned!

In Chapter #4 we find that it's winter and the children next door have built a snowman in the Twiddles' garden because it contains more space than their own. The kids ask Mrs. Twiddle for some clothes to dress up their creation and she obliges with an old hat and scarf and even a pair of gloves to keep the snowman's hands warm. Even now, I'm beginning to see where this story is going. They also borrow Mr. Twiddle's walking stick and one of his old pipes to add that little touch. Next door, Mother rings the tea-bell so it's time for the children to run back home and that's the end of it all. Not quite, because Mr. Twiddle who's been visiting his brother in the next village returns home in the dimness of the dusk and what happens doesn't have to be described because we can all visualize a very funny drama being enacted. Even the police are involved!

The chapter entitled 'Mr. Twiddle Makes a Muddle' is rather odd because it implies that making a muddle is something Mr. Twiddle doesn't often take part in and therefore has to be commented upon. In actuality, 'making a muddle' is what Mr. Twiddle is all about and this story tells us about the time Twiddle confused daffodil bulbs with onions, resulting in one whole morning being completely wasted.

A book about pirates has excited Mr. Twiddle and as his friend Mr. Twisty has a copy he's off to borrow it, but such an everyday action, undertaken by one Mr. Twiddle, turns out to be a fruitless exercise, naturally. A very funny story, and it illustrates how Twiddles absent-mindedness can really work overtime. It's raining, so an umbrella and mackintosh will be needed and Twiddle thinks of both because he's not completely stupid, but unfortunately, bringing his project to completion is a different matter altogether.

It's Guy Fawkes, and Mr. Twiddle loves fireworks. His wife doesn't because " ... they're noisy, bangy things that leave a lot of rubbish behind in the garden." With the cunningness of a fox, Mr. Twiddle decides he'll buy some fireworks for the children next door and then he can simply look out of his window and enjoy the evening display. What an excellent idea, so off he goes to the shop for a fine collection which includes Rockets, Roman Candles, Squibs, and Catherine wheels amongst others. He carts them home and as Mrs. Twiddle is just about to do a spot of clearing up he takes the fireworks to the garden shed and places them in a wheelbarrow until such time as he can hand them over to the children. There's lots of rubbish that needs burning so a big fire is built and all kinds of discarded stuff is thrown on it - sticks, old poles, stems of cut-down plants, rotten potatoes, bad apples, and so on. The juxtaposition of a garden-fire and fireworks in the Twiddle household is a plot giveaway! Don't fret - there's a happy ending to this story.

'Mr. Twiddle's Mistake!' Goodness, old Twiddle has made a mistake so we'll have to learn all about it because how often is it that he actually makes a mistake? The episode in question happens one evening when he forgets to take the dog out to its kennel and bring the cat indoors. Mrs. Twiddle had reminded him at 10pm when he was having a sleep in his chair and, as the bedding arrangement of the animals appears to be a task allotted to Twiddle himself, he's left to take care of it in his own way. It's dark in the hall and dark outside so I suppose some confusion could well be the cause of Mr. Twiddle's mistake.

The bane of Mr. Twiddle's life is, of course the cat, and one evening when he's toasting his knees by the fire the last thing Twiddle wants is a moggie jumping up on to his lap. Unfortunately that's exactly what happens and Mr. Twiddle becomes very angry, especially when the cat scratches his leg. After falling over the creature and experiencing further interference, he gets rid of the infernal nuisance when his wife shuts it in the scullery. Twiddle decides to go upstairs because he's had enough for one night but there's more fun and games to come because when he pulls back the covers of his bed he perceives what appears to be the cat curled up on the sheet. This is rather eerie seeing the creature never goes upstairs and anyway it's outside, or in the scullery or somewhere but Twiddle can't be bothered to solve the mystery; he just goes back downstairs and falls asleep in his chair by the fire until Mrs. Twiddle sees him and applies a bit of common sense to the situation.

In the Twiddles' era, women were rather fond of hats decorated with flowers. Mrs. Twiddle has bought one with red roses on it but she's not happy with the colour. She thinks violets would look nicer than roses so she puts the hat carefully into a box containing plenty of tissue paper and recruits her husband to tie it up for her. I couldn't guarantee it, but I think tying a box up with string wouldn't tax Mr. Twiddle's capabilities too much so there he goes, hunting around for a bit of twine. There's none in the string-box but then there never is, so he goes out to the woodshed to look for some. Mrs. Twiddle's cat loves playing with tissue paper and now this troublesome feline comes into the story because it's just walked into the kitchen where the boxed hat also happens to be. Soon Mrs. Twiddle bustles in all ready for their journey back to the hat shop and Mr. Twiddle's almost ready - he's found some string and manages to tie the box up before they set off together. Mr. Twiddle has a thought while they make their way to the village - 'How brave women are to wear such heavy hats on their heads.' He ponders on this as he puffs his way along with the heavy package and when they stop at the bus-stop seat for a short rest, things begin to happen. The fish shop is nearby and it smell's naturally of fish, so scary things begin to take place.

Mrs. Gubbins has a very obedient dog called Scamp who's been staying with the Twiddles for a week, but now the holiday is over and the dog is due back home. Mrs. Twiddle seems to have a lot of faith in her husband because she asks him if he could take Scamp back to Mrs. Gubbins, so Twiddle goes off to fetch his hat whilst his wife gives Scamp a biscuit, brushes him and even loosens his collar one notch because it seems just a little too tight. Yes, I'm also getting the picture. I think the plot might be helped by Twiddle leaving his glasses behind and that's exactly what he does but never mind, they're not really needed - he thinks to himself. As he strides along holding the leash, a little Pekinese appears and takes an interest in Scamp so they wag their tails at each other and as Mr. Twiddle takes part in some hilarious situations every so often, the scenario exists for yet another to occur. Mr. Jinks is extremely puzzled when he passes Mr. Twiddle who raises his hat and continues walking along dragging the leash. He then boards a bus and the astonished conductor hands him two tickets. Arriving at his destination, Mr. Twiddle alights and after a couple of children have yelled out strange remarks to him, he arrives at Mrs. Gubbins' house. Not very long afterwards when Twiddle arrives home, an irate wife threatens to 'box his ears.' One could probably make up several reasons as to why this would happen.

Like most people of his age, Mr. Twiddle wears glasses and when you think about it, most of the pictures show him as bespectacled. The question is - How Come? A man as forgetful as Mr. Twiddle would surely keep losing his specs all over the place so one can only theorize that his wife keeps a check on their whereabouts, and perhaps there're a few spare pairs kept away somewhere as well. Otherwise Mr. Twiddle's life would be even more full of ups and downs than it is now - incidentally, it was only yesterday that Mrs. Twiddle found her husband's glasses inside the teapot! This particular chapter deals with the time Mrs. Twiddle told her husband he'd have to find a safe place for his glasses whenever he takes them off. Mr. Twiddle thinks his wife has thought of an excellent idea and after first thinking of a spot that Mrs. Twiddle frowns upon, he thinks of another place and when he takes his glasses off, into it they go. Mrs. Twiddle goes out to fetch the fish and Mr. Twiddle makes himself useful by making up the kitchen fire, shooing the cat away from the larder, cleaning his shoes beautifully, and then settling down to read the paper. In order to read he will need his glasses so here we go again - a big hunt in the bedroom and the kitchen and everywhere, except of course, in the new hiding place. I'm fairly sure Mr. Twiddle's never seen a volcano erupting but he might well experience what it's like if ever Mrs. Twiddle discovered he's lost his glasses yet again so damage control is well to the fore. Thinking he must have lost them in the street somewhere, Twiddle sets off to put an advertisement in the local newspaper and what happens could hardly be imagined - except in the case of Mr. Twiddle.

The next chapter could be ranked as one of the classics and it starts off when the Twiddles are due to attend a birthday party at the Fankles' place. Mrs. Twiddle sets off when it's still light in order to help with the preparations and Twiddle is left to dress himself and set off round 8pm. It's 1940 so a blackout is in place due to the war that had commenced a year or so previously and it's dark when Mr. Twiddle wants to get ready for the party. He walks into the kitchen instead of the bedroom where his wife has laid out all his things including a present for Mr. Fankle. He goes to the kitchen because he'd thought Mrs. Twiddle had meant that his stuff was in the kitchen. In Great Britain the streets could be very dark due to the blackout and as the house lights are out, Mr. Twiddle has to feel his way around. The curtains haven't been drawn seeing Mrs. Twiddle had left in the afternoon so Twiddle daren't turn a light on although why he doesn't just draw the curtains himself is something about which we can only speculate. I wonder if any of us, feeling about in the dark for some clothes and a birthday gift in a room where they don't exist, would end up like Mr. Twiddle does. I very strongly doubt it.

Mrs. Twiddle is short of a few ingredients needed for the baking of some buns and as Mr. Twiddle seems to be the person to call on when one is short of something, the elderly chap is pulled from sun-bathing in his deck-chair and sent off to the grocer's. Flour, currants, and eggs are needed and the first two are available easily enough, but not the eggs. Egg powder is sometimes used in their place so the grocer pours some of that product into a piece of paper and twists the ends up. Good! That's everything and it appears Mr. Twiddle has been able to conduct a successful errand. Careful though, because he's about to go into another shop; but no, this too is a successful operation so things are really looking up. He purchases a paper and some tobacco and now he'd about to set off home again. However (the word 'however' is the first hint that a typical Mr. Twiddle situation may develop) a field of beautiful buttercups is nearby and Twiddle reckons, as one would, that it would be nice to make his way home through the lovely yellow flowers, and so it happens - a typical Twiddle situation develops and those who have read Enid Blyton's nature books, especially those about plants, might be able to figure out what happens. Twiddle ends up returning to the grocer's shop again, not once but twice!

One day, Mrs. Twiddle finds she can't get around to completing her enormous list of tasks because of a twisted ankle. Mr. Twiddle makes an astonishing (astonishing to us) statement to her, "Just sit down ... I can do everything as well as you!" Even Mrs. Twiddle expresses doubts about this but she's too far gone to do anything about it, so Mr. Twiddle is "In Charge." As is usually the case, the first few tasks he performs seem to turn out all right - making out the washing list, feeding his enemy, and dusting the drawing-room. All this work takes its toll of course so he settles down for a snooze, but there's no rest for the wicked because a knock sounds at the door just as his wife is calling out to him asking if he's put the pudding into the oven. Half asleep, Twiddle answers the caller and accepts a repaired clock from the delivery boy whereupon he makes one of his multifarious blunders. It can be all summed up by his wife's final remark in the story, " Oh, it's much quicker to do things myself! What a stupid, foolish man you are, to be sure!" The only 'good' that comes out of this for Mr. Twiddle, is that he misses out on the rice pudding, which he doesn't like anyway. Enough said.

#3: When Mr. Twiddle calls into the fishmonger he asks for Mrs. Twiddle's fish, not "My wife's or "Our" fish. Come to think of it, what's a
'monger?' According to the Cambridge dictionary, a 'monger' is a person who encourages a particular activity, especially one that causes trouble (warmonger). A fishmonger turns out to be someone who sells fish, especially from a shop.
The newspaper's bulk plays a part in this tale so maybe it was a weekend copy. The picking up and carrying about of a weekend newspaper with all its extra articles, puzzles, ads and stuff could exercise one's biceps very adequately.

#6: Enid Blyton was a re-user of names. Mr. Twisty was also a small man who appeared in "The Adventures of the Wishing Chair."

#7: Guy Fawkes is a British celebration held on November 5th each year that nowadays, might be considered a nuisance. Some people feel that public displays put on by the local councils supply the villagers with a more spectacular performance that won't keep the children awake for the next week or so when hoarders get rid of their excess rockets and bangers during riotous parties.
Mr. Twiddle bought Rockets, Roman Candles, Squibs, and Catherine wheels whereas the Secret Seven in their sixth book purchased, not only Rockets and Squibs, but also Blue-Flashes, Whirligigs, and even a Humdinger.

#10: I think the ultimate example of a woman who fancied decorated hats might be the one who called herself Carmen Miranda.

#11: Scamp seems quite a reasonable name for a dog and maybe it's derived from the word "Scamper." Enid Blyton wrote a book called "The Adventures of Scamp"

#12: Many older people might identify strongly with Mr. Twiddle's dilemma in this chapter.
The finder of Mr. Twiddle's spectacles was offered half a crown reward. That would be worth more than 5 or US$7 these days.

#13: Some of Enid Blyton's character names could be looked upon as unusually contrived ... 'Mr. Fankle' being a good example. Others are Mr. Smick, Mr. Candle, Mr. Quite-Sure, Mr. Grumble-Grumps, Mr. Hoo-Ha, Mr. Hoity-Toity, and Mr. Quink amongst others.
'Blackouts' meant that all streetlights were turned off and you weren't allowed show a light anywhere from your house. This was often helped by using lengths of black plastic or equivalent material to block the windows. The Twiddles don't appear to be organized in this respect or else Mr. Twiddle had no idea where the blackout shades were stored or how to put them up. I think both explanations would apply.
Why Mr. Twiddle didn't draw the curtains himself is actually explained in the story and seems perfectly understandable: he simply didn't think of it ... although, perhaps it wouldn't have mattered; the accompanying picture show a full moon radiating its light all over the village and, theoretically, lighting up the Twiddles' kitchen.

#14: Like many household foods, eggs were rather a scarce commodity during the war.

#15. Mr. Twiddle's enemy is, of course, the cat.
Drawing-room seems to be a fairly old-fashioned term for the sitting room, or perhaps a lounge. Enid Blyton or her publisher puts a hyphen in this word, and in a few others.

Mr. Twiddle tales appeared in Sunny Stories Magazine before coming out in book form and many of the illustrations are the same, often with one of them being used for the mag's cover.
Some of the Hilda McGavin illustrations don't seem to quite capture the character of old Twiddlekins. Possibly we develop our idea of what he looks like from the pictures, and then refine them to suit. Cover illustrations by McGavin on the three 'Mr. Twiddle' books look, to me, a good sample to retain, and the small picture (cat included) on Page #5 of "Don't Be Silly Mr. Twiddle" is also a fairly suitable 'true to life' example but other black and white illustrations tend to deviate, just a little, from the ideal image; but that's only an opinion. Can't see Hilda McGavin's touch in the Sunny Stories version of 'Mrs. Twiddle Gets Cross' (not in this book). Incidentally, the 'Sunny Stories' magazines had some very attractive cover pictures.

I've never seen Mr. & Mrs. Twiddles' first names in print so what would be appropriate? Frank & Mildred? Horace and Emily? Thomas and Barbara?

Mr. Twiddle is the subject of an excellent article that starts in the Enid Blyton Society Journal No. #47. The three installments can be looked up for more information about one of the Fans' favourites, and it's not going too far back in the archives for enthusiasts to hunt down in their own collections. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.