The Abbey Girls At Home, 1946 and 1971

The Collins reprint used in this comparison has a black cover with silver printing on it. My copy is missing its dust jacket, but has a coloured frontispiece – “The brakes screamed wildly”, with the car approaching Maidlin and her twisted bike. Rosamund is mostly out of the picture – which may well be the same as the dust jacket should be.

The dustwrapper for this, actually the ‘Fat Orange’ edition despite its colour(!), is the same as the frontis, and most of Ros is shown on the spine. The first edition frontis is a picture of two girls in a chauffeur-driven car, one, with a pink beret and scarf, waving, the other in green with a bronze plait beside her just smiling. Both are looking out of the back of the open car. It is captioned ‘Rosamund gave one look at the school building as they turned the comer.’ It looks to me as if Collins picked a ‘stock’ illustration that they could tie (rather loosely!) to an event in the book. There are no other ills. I reproduce the front and spine of my early reprint, which is not the same as described in Sue Sims’’ guide to 1st ed. EJOs. This edition has 276 pages. I don’t have a copy of the CP edition but assume it has 124 pages as standard’.

In this comparison, the Chapter numbers refer to the Children’s Press edition while the page numbers refer to the Collins edition. A few general comments:

The Children’s Press edition has modernised words which would have appeared outdated in the 1960s/70s. For example “topping” is replaced by ” lovely”; “old chap” is usually replaced by a name or removed altogether; “swooned” becomes “fainted”; “ripping” becomes “super”; “Rose-of-the-World” becomes “Ros” or “Rosamund”, etc. On the whole, I have concentrated on cuts in the text, rather than on noting every single example of word changes. The cuts in the text range in length from a single sentence to several pages. Many are to the more reflective sections of the earlier edition; in my view, this may not detract from the story itself, but certainly removes a deeper layer from the book.

Chapter IIn Quest of Jenny-Wren

An early paragraph about the seriousness of Betty’s expression, arising from home circumstances, (p 1) is omitted. Over the next few pages, there are small cuts about Chris’s engagements as a new bride and Betty’s lack of self-confidence after losing her twin (pp 2-6). Two pages describing Betty’s relapse into dreams of a future which could not happen, to banish her dread of the journey, are cut (pp 7-8). As they approach Abinger Hall, short phrases are once again omitted, including her reaction when she first sees the Abbey and the confusion over Joy’s name (pp 8-9). We lose another three sentences describing her increased shyness, a long paragraph of recollections about her earlier relationship with Jen (pp 9-10) and part of her  reaction when she reaches the Hall (p 10). Part of the dialogue about Jen’s name (pp 11-12) is also cut.

Chapter IIBetty and Meg

Jen’s concern about Betty is cut by a sentence (p 13). Two paragraphs expanding on the comic value of Jen’s and Joy’s name changes, a comment  about  what Jen’s name is to the neighbours, on the comfort the twins are to Joy and her initial reaction to her husband’s death (pp 14-16) are all cut. A paragraph about Jen’s marriage and care-taking role is omitted (p 17). The CP edition doesn’t explain why the Abinger Hall household is temporarily cook-less, Betty’s apologies for coming at this time, more about Jen’s wedding presents, or Mary-Dorothy’ s role (pp 17-20 in the Collins Edition). Cuts are also made in Betty’s startled reaction to the new twins’ names, Jen’s comforting words on hearing the account of Meg’s death, and Jen’s conversation with Joy (pp 20-23). Joy’s message of sympathy to Betty is completely cut (p 24), as is the explanation for the twins’ names (pp 24-5).

Chapter III – What Happened to Betty

The description of tea in the garden, Betty’s reflections on Jen’s courage, and her own acknowledgment of her need to look ahead (pp 26-7) are omitted. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Maidlin’ s reaction, Rosamund’s reassurances and Jen’s immediate responses on first seeing Betty in the Abbey (pp 28 – 31) are all cut, as  are Jen’s request to Ann to make  up  the  bed in the small room (p 32), Rosamund’s reflections on the responsibility of telling Joy, and on how everyone tries to protect Maidlin (pp 32-4). Rosamund’s instant reassurance when Maidlin blurts out a question about Betty within earshot of Joy (p 35), her alertness to the need to watch Joy’s reactions to Maidlin (p 35), her impassioned outburst when Joy hints that Maidlin wouldn’t be any help (pp 36-7), and Joy’s wonder that she, Rosamund, can see things so clearly and Rosamund’s response (p 37-8), are all cut.

Chapter IV Breaking the News

Jen’ s comment that Dr Cairns wants Betty nursed in the little room in the Abbey for the next few days, her dread of ringing Betty’s sister with the news of the accident, and her apology for scaring Joy (pp 39-40) are all cut. Practically half a page about the need for day and night nurses, Ann Watson’s help, and the fact that there is no need to close the Abbey to visitors is lost, too (p 40). An entire section  about why Jen wants to sit with Betty if she is in pain (pp 41-2) has gone, along with a couple of sentences reiterating her dread of phoning Betty’s family. Rosamund’s explanation of why Joy wants to talk to Jen so urgently (pp 43-4) is completely removed and substantial sections of Jen’s conversation with Betty’s family are also cut. Parts of Jen’s subsequent conversation with Mary explaining why it will help to have her with her in the Abbey, her thought that the Manor car could be useful, together with some comments from both Jen and Mary making it clear how much the former misses Kenneth, are lost.

Chapter V – The Problem of Joy

Chapters 5 and 6 of the Collins edition, especially Chapter 5, are heavily pruned for  the Children’s  Press  edition,  and  are combined  under  the single title The Problem of Joy (Chapter 6 in the Collins edition). The numbering of the subsequent chapters in the CP edition reflects this change. Parts of Jen’s conversation  with Joy (pp  49-50) are cut out, as is the conversation between Mary and Jen about what has happened  in the last three weeks,  that Rosamund  is growing  up  and  why,  and  Mary’s  reflections on her earlier life and its lacks (pp 50-2). A major cut removes the entire section dealing with Mary’s response to Jen’s questions about chance and accidents and her analysis of the changes in her own personal belief system (pp 54-9).

A short section (pp 60-1) emphasising just why it was important for Jen to be there when Betty first roused is also cut. Jen’s explanation of why Betty’s sister should come straight to the Abbey, her awareness that her mother-in-law might not care for her to meet strangers looking as if she had slept in her clothes, and how she balances her own dislike of wearing mourning with others’ needs are all omitted (pp 62-4). The conversation between nurse and Joy about Joy going downstairs, (pp 64-5) and several sections of Jen’s reassurances to Chris Carmyle about leaving Betty at the Hall if she goes to nurse their mother (pp 65-8 ), and Chris’s need to talk to the doctor (pp 68-9) but not to alarm Jen are all cut. Joy’s continued need to talk to Jen (p 70), Jen’s distress and her explanation to Nurse of why Joy is so reluctant to go downstairs (pp 70-2) are gone, as are a number of short sections where Jen, with Mary, reflects on the problem of Joy’s attitude, her own need to do what is best for Betty and her ultimate realisation that Joy wants to be first (pp 72-4).

Chapter VI – Betty’s Second Night

Most of the first paragraph explaining why Maidlin and Rosamund had to come home by train (p 75) is cut. Some of the conversation about the proposed visit of the Princess to the school, and Maidlin’s reaction to the idea of having to greet her, as well as comments about her abilities with the twins and her dread of doing things alone (pp 76-8) are gone. Some of Maidlin’s feeling about Joy having changed, her dread of growing up and Rosamund’s response (pp 78-9) are gone, as is Rosamund’s subsequent discussion with Jen about Maidlin’s nightmares during that night, what she did to comfort them and Jen’s response (pp 79-82). Joy’s reaction to the fact that Jen once again, can’t  stay  with  her,  Rosamund’s  concern for Jen and desire to help are also cut (pp 82-4).

Chapter VII – A Crisis

A paragraph (p 85) about  Joy’s  drawn  out  convalescence and reluctance to go  downstairs, and others on Joy’s irrational fear that Jen had no time for her (pp 86-7) are omitted, as are Jen’s excuses to herself  for Joy’s  behaviour  and  realisation that this is the “real” Joy (pp 87-8). Several paragraphs in the section where Jen breaks down on learning that Betty needs a critical operation, Joy realises just how much her lack of understanding has hurt, and Jen’ s asking her to consider coming downstairs are omitted (pp 89-93), as is Joy’s reaction, while the section where Jen shows her the black dresses she had bought and tells her she will have Mary ring up Chris Carmyle (pp 94-5) is cut out completely. A  shorter section on  Joy’ s reflections on herself (pp 95-6) is also cut.

Chapter VIII – Burying the Skeleton

A brief description of the hour of Betty’s operation, Chris’s reflections on Joy, and her introduction to the twins (pp 98-100) are omitted, as are one of the paragraphs expressing Chris’s appreciation of Betty’s surroundings and the care  she  will receive, her unspoken thought “how could I say I hoped she’d be happy again ….” and Nurse’s urging that Joy should go back upstairs (pp 101-2). The entire section where Joy and Jen “bury  the skeleton” of Joy’s  behaviour,  its effect on Jen,  and Joy’s own acknowledgment of her fault (pp 102-7) is cut.

Chapter IX – Joy’s Lullaby

In contrast with Chapter 8, this chapter does not include any really large cuts, but there are still cuts, nonetheless. A section noting Betty’s room was too far from Joy’s for the twins’ crying to disturb her, and describing Joy’s behaviour on the first day after the operation (pp 108-9) is cut. Parts of the next section, where Jen attempts to reassure Betty, especially when she tells her how much everyone wants to help in her recovery, because if she had not been hurt, then it would have been Rosamund and Maidlin , as well as part of the conversation between Jen and Joy (pp 110-12) are also omitted. Parts of Joy’s reassurance to Betty, her explanation of Maidlin’s Italian inheritance.   Jen’s comments about the twins and music (pp 113-4), her comment on how well Joy is pulling herself together, part of her thanks to Joy for playing the piano for Betty, and Joy’s sudden show of affection for Jen and the latter’s response (pp 116-8) are all cut.

Chapter X – Betty Gets Better

Some of Mary’ s thoughts on hearing the piano and question as to what has worked the miracle, (p 119) are cut. Joy’s regret over hurting Jen a second time, and Mary’s description of how she too, had failed Jen (pp 120-2) is cut, as are part of  Joy’s comments about Betty’s love of music, the conversation  between  Jen  and  Mary  on Joy’s response to Betty’s and Jen’ s needs  (p 123),  Rosamund  and Maidlin’s  reaction to seeing Joy at the piano, and Maidlin’s knowledge that the music was “something sleepy” (pp 123-4). Much of Joy’s and Jen’s reaction to Miss Macey’s granting permission for Rosamund to keep Maidlin company  on  the  platform  when  the Princess visits the school are also omitted  (pp  124-5).  Part  of  Betty’ s  first impressions of Rosamund and Maidlin,  and,  once her bed was moved  to  the window, her opportunities to see  their  favoured  places  for  doing  homework,  her sight of Lady Marchwood and her  immediate  affection  for Mrs Shirley  are all  cut  out (pp 126-7), as are parts of Mary Dorothy’s first visit to her, her enjoyment of the latter’ s book, and her comments about how much she, Betty, is enjoying being at the Hall (pp 127-9).

Chapter XI – A Break in the Family

A few sentences concerning Rosamund and Maidlin’s reluctance to meet Betty, (pp 130-1) and  a discussion  between  Jen and Joy about how long nurse is staying and Joy’s intention of writing to Kenneth (pp 131-3) are omitted. When news of her mother’s illness reaches Rosamund, short passages describing Maidlin’s need  to help, Betty’s willingness to do so, and some of the detail about  Rosamund’s  mother’s travel plans and some of Rosamund’sbewilderment in face of the news (pp 134-6) are cut. As she begins to come to grips with the situation, some of her reactions, and some of her comforting words to Maidlin are cut (pp 137-9), as are her plea to Betty to help by telling Joy and Jen for her, her comment that the Abbey is “sort of comforting”, and Betty’s reaction to this new situation (pp 139-40). Jen’s showing Joy where Rosamund  and Maidlin slept the night the twins were born, Maidlin’s explanation to Joy of why she and Ros had been in the pulpit when they saw them coming and her quick aside to Ros explaining why she had run out to the garth, (pp140-2) are all cut, as is Jen’s exhortation “buck up, kid” (p143).  Jen’s comforting statement to Ros, and Joy’s description of where Sir Rennie Brown’s sanatorium is, and her comment that they will miss Ros (pp144-5) are gone. At the bottom of page 145, “more ripping” is changed to “better” and “jollier” to “nicer” – typical of the small changes on vocabulary noted in my introductory comments.

Chapter XII – Rosamund Grows Up

At the school,  Jen’s  conversation  with  Miss Macey  about  the  need  for someone to accompany Rosamund to Switzerland, Joy and the twins, and her own situation together with the account of Pat Mercer’s good wishes to Rosamund are cut (pp 149-50), and so are Maidlin’s reaction  to the thought  of school  without  Rosamund and Rosamund’s realisation  that  she  herself is done with school  (p  151).  Several paragraphs are cut from the discussion that someone must accompany Rosamund to Switzerland,  that Mary should go, and Joy’s understanding of the need  to make things as easy as possible for the two of them (pp 152-5). The reactions when Rosamund appears for lunch with her hair up are omitted entirely (pp  157-8). 

Much of Jen’s reaction to Rosamund’s concern about Maidlin’s nightmares, and  both Jen’s and Joy’s appreciation of all she has done to help with these in the past is also cut (pp 158-9). The last few paragraphs, reiterating just how much Rosamund really cares for Joy and has loved her time at the Hall (p 161) are gone, too.

Chapter XIII – Minus One

A paragraph describing Betty’s reaction (p 163) is gone, together with some of Joy and Jen’s reactions to Rosamund’s departure, Joy’s apprehension about her ability to understand her own twins and  Jen’ s  reassurance  (pp 164-5).  Parts of Betty  and Maidlin’ s conversation, too, (pp 156-7 ) are cut. Some of Rosamund ‘s description of buying a new hat and meeting Miss Rawlings (p 168) has been cut, and  part  of Maidlin’ s comments about why she couldn’t possibly have Jen up on  the  platform with her for the Princess’ visit (p 171), have also been cut.

Chapter XIV – Good-bye to “Poor Little Maidie”

Two sentences are cut from Jen’s paragraph in the middle of p 173, the last part of the next paragraph (p 174) as well as a couple of sentences regarding the closeness between Jen and Mary (p 174).  Several paragraphs are cut from the discussion between Jen and Maidlin about the way Maidlin needs to change her attitudes in order to become a real companion to Joy and Maidlin’s response to the idea (pp 174-9). The entire conversation between them about Maidlin’s nightmares, apart from the fact that Maidlin doesn’t want anyone to sleep in Rosamund’s room, is also cut (pp 180-2).  “Funk” and “funker” become “shirk” and “shirker” (p 183).  Part of Joy’s comment about Maidlin and the ‘flashback’ to the end of her Coronation day, and a comment from Maidlin to Jen about not having time to dream are cut (p184-5).

Chapter XV – Joy’s New Idea

Some of Maidlin’s conversation with Jen about her dream and her wish to go to school and tell people about Rosamund is cut (pp 188– 9). Jen’s comment as she goes to visit her mother in law, and some of the conversation between Joy and Maidlin about Joy’s plan to start a Music School for girls who, like both of them in the past, had been frustrated by being unable to get the much they craved how Maidlin can help and the choice of betty to run the school (pp 190 -4) are cut, as is Joy’s reflection about Rosamund’s behaviour in the preparations for Joy’s wedding (p 194).  A short section explaining how Frost is now in Joy’s service (p 196), part of the description of Mary’s visit to her former office (p 197) and the concluding paragraph of the chapter, reflecting Mary’s present situation and how much more she appreciated it for having come to it comparatively lately (p 198) is cut completely.

Chapter XVI – Mary Comes Home

A couple of sentences about Betty’s nurses (p 199) are cut, as are Joy’s comments about the improvement in Betty’s health, and in Maidlin’s French, together with Betty’s disclaimer (p 200). Part of Mary’s description of the night on the train en route to Switzerland (p 200-01), and of how the Swiss scenery thrilled Rosamund (p 202-3) are omitted. Betty’s regret that Karen had not been at the Platz when she and her family were there with Meg, Maidlin’s questions about Karen and Tazy, Mary’ s explanation of why Rosamund will like Karen, and the latter’ s surprise about how grown up Rosamund was, are all cut (pp 204-6). “Tophole” is replaced by “super” (p 207). Some of Rosamund’s feelings when Mary left, and the bundle of notes she sent home with her are omitted (p 207), as is the interchange between Joy, Maidlin and Betty about the new Music School and the people it will help (pp 209-10).  Much of Mary’s initial reaction to the news that Maidlin has decided she “wants to grow up” and Jen’s relief that Mary is pleased, is cut, too (pp 211-2).

Chapter XVII – The Twins Meet the Hamlet Club

Close to half of the conversation between Jen and Mary when the latter describes her conversation with Rosamund on the train to Switzerland in more detail is omitted (pp 214-5), as are some of the comments about the ‘new friends’ out there (p 216)  Several sentences are also cut from Rosamund’s letter to Mary (p217). Most of the discussion between Jen and Mary about the change in Maidlin and some analysis of her previous nightmares is left out (pp 219-21).  At the Hamlet Club party, some of Maidlin’s description of Nancy’s Fancy, Jen’s introduction of Margaret Joan to the Hamlet Club, Miss Macey’s comment and Margaret’s ‘Headington Circles’ (pp 226-9) are omitted, together with Jen’s comments to nurse and the banter between Jen, Joy and Maidlin which end the chapter (pp 229-30).

Chapter XVIII – Maidie and the Princess

Maidlin’s comments about the current subject of her dreams, and Joy’s and Jen’s teasing are omitted  (pp  231-2).  The earnest conversation between Jen and Mary about the changing role of folk dancing  in  their  lives,  and the need to accept the change (pp 232-9) is completely cut – yet another example  of  the  Children’s Press editors’ evident need to remove this type of reflective interchange.  When the Princess  visits  the  school,  the short  passage  explaining  Joy’s presence in the gallery is omitted (p 239). The paragraphs describing Joy and  Jen’s apologies for making Maidlin more nervous than she already was, and her own courage in face of others’ need (p 240) are cut, as are the description of her ceremonial gown, and part of the conversation with the Princess  (p  241). Part  of Joy’s report  to Betty  and the  latter’s express with to see Maidlin in her robes (p  242) is cut,  also part of Jen’s praise and Mrs Shirley and Mary coming out to see the effect of the yellow crown (p 243).

Chapter XIX – The Testing of Maidlin

A couple of sentences are cut from Jen’s sharing of the news about Joan with Mary and Betty (p 245),  together with her explanation about the relationship between Joan and Joy (p 246). Part of the section about Joy’s wish to show the  twins to other people, and Jen’s comments about future tea parties for the various infants (p 245 -6), as well as a few parts of the conversation about plans for the summer (pp 249-51) are cut.  Some paragraphs from the last part of the chapter, when Jen tells Maidlin about Joan’s visit, Maidlin’s reaction and Jen’s reassurance that Joy will still need her (pp 252-4) are also cut.

Chapter XX – Plus Two

The  entire  first  section,  a  conversation  about  where  Jen  will  sleep  (pp  255-6)  is omitted. Part of Joy’s reaction to hearing Jen’s pipe again (p 258), her need to check that no visitors have been trying to carve their names on the Abbey walls (p 259) and some of her conversation with Maidlin in the Abbey  (p 260)  are also cut,  together with a few scattered sentences from the section following Joan’s arrival  (pp 259-61). Part of Joan’s teasing of Jen over her marriage, Jen’s response and Joy’s comment (p 262-3) are cut, too. Some sections of the conversation between Joan and Maidlin (pp 264-5) of Jen’s explanation to Joy  and  Joan  about  why  Maidlin  has  matured  so much in the last little while (p 266) and Joy’s subsequent exchange with Maidlin herself (pp 266-8) are also cut out.

Chapter XXI – Jen’s Valentine

The final chapter covers a period of over six months in a comparatively few pages, and while the Children’s Press edition contains comparatively few cuts, there still are some. Two very small sections – a comment from Maidlin  about Jen not feeling  like dancing, and her own hard work from the beginning of the new term (p 270) are cut. Joy’s reflection that Rosamund contacted her as soon as her mother died (p  271), some of Maidlin’s report on what Betty is doing and that Joy has started composing again, and part of Joy’ s reassurance to Rosamund about how delighted everyone was to see her back again (pp 272-4) are also cut out. Rosamund’s need to thank Jen for what she said about her father’s death and how it had helped her to accept her mother’s passing (p 274) is omitted, together with a few phrases of the conversation as she, Maidlin and Joy hurry to the Manor to see Jen and  her new baby (p 274-5).

Susan Merskey