Diaries reveal dark side off revered children's author
A world renowned children’s author had a life tainted by tragedy, despised Enid Blyton and dabbled in the paranormal, according to her private diaries published for the first time in June.
Alison Uttley – known to millions across the world as the author of Tales Of Little Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig –kept a diary for more than 40 years which is now archived at The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library.
After her husband James’ suicide in 1930, Uttley launched her writing career to support her only child John, and went on to write more than 100 books.
Sam Pig, Brock the Badger, Tim Rabbit, Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel and Hare have mesmerised children ever since.
In the diaries Uttley wrote of her admiration for poet Walter de la Mare and other male figures, including her former Professor at The University of Manchester – known at the time as the Victoria University of Manchester.
The author- who in 1906 as a physics student became the second woman ever to graduate at the University - bequeathed a third of her literary income to support students at the University’s Ashburne Hall.
But she hated many women and was bitterly resentful of comparisons with Beatrix Potter
She and scornfully dismissive of her near neighbour Enid Blyton, who she called a ‘vulgar, curled woman’ and whose success provoked her envy and dislike. She also detested her main illustrator, Margaret Tempest.
The former suffragette and close friend of first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald wrote about her dreams and her psychic abilities as well as expressing a deep love for her son John.
John also tragically took his own life by driving his car off a cliff two years after his mother's death in 1978.
She also described in loving detail her fondly remembered childhood in rural Derbyshire. She lived out her old age in suburban Buckinghamshire and died in 1976, aged 91.
The book – The Private Diaries of Alison Uttley 1932 to 1971 – is edited by Professor Denis Judd, author of Uttley's biography. Professor Judd who along with the members of the Ashburne Association is a trustee of her literary estate.
The Ashburne Association, which turned 107 this year, is the organization of past and present students living at the University of Manchester’s Ashburne Hall.
He said: “These diaries chart Alison Uttley’s rise as a best-selling author and are a fascinating read.
“They describe some surprising attitudes to the people she knew as well as highlighting the tragedy of her husband’s death which blighted her life.
“She recorded her frustration with publishers, wrote beautiful descriptions of the countryside and described her early financial struggles.
“Her competitive and passionate nature often clouded her judgement and drastically affected her private and professional life.
“Though she ended her life as a grande dame of literature, she was acclaimed but never entirely content.”