Dickens, Monica

Monica Enid Dickens (1915–92) was the great-grand daughter of Charles Dickens. After being expelled from St Paul’s School for Girls for throwing her school uniform over Hammersmith Bridge, she did not take the conventional route of her class: debbery followed by marriage. Instead, she became a cook-general, giving many of her employers the rather uncomfortable experience of employing someone who was further up the social scale than they were. Out of this came the autobiographical One Pair of Hands, followed by One Pair of Feet and My Turn to Make the Tea: all taking an equally wry look at her experiences respectively as a nurse and journalist. In 1951 she married Roy Stratton, a former US Marines Officer, and moved to the United States, where she continued to write.  Many of her works were based on her own strong desire to right wrong: she worked with the NSPCC and the Samaritans (her novel The Listeners was based on her work with them) and in 1974 founded the first American branch of the Samaritans in Boston. She was also passionate about the work of the RSPCA, and drew on her experiences with them to write Cobbler’s Dream, in which a pony abused by its owner is rescued and taken to Follyfoot Farm, a home of rest for horses. Cobbler’s Dream was the basis for the Yorkshire Television 1970s series Follyfoot, on which the rest of the Follyfoot series was based. The series was required viewing for any horsey child of that era. Her World’s End series also dealt with rescuing animals and to some extent children: although the premise of the series – a family of children whose parents are sailing round the world live in an old inn on their own save for an ever-increasing cast of animals, seems like the classic children’s adventure where parents are neatly removed, the series still managed to keep a foot in reality. The children’s life in World’s End Inn is precarious and they are frequently under threat from concerned adults and lack of money. You felt it could, it just could, have happened.

Monica Dickens returned to England after the death of her husband, and died in 1992, one of the best-selling novelists of her generation.

'If a car passes me when I'm on a horse, I always think: if I were in that car and saw me, I would wish I was me. Wistful children's faces, staring out of the back window, agree.'  Monica Dickens, writing in Talking of Horses

Finding the books
Tthe World’s End series has become expensive now in hardback, and Follyfoot first editions can be tricky to find.  All her other books are easy to find, particularly in paperback. The Follyfoot series has been republished by Andersen, and the World’s End series is available in e-book format.

Links and sources
National Dictionary of Biography
Books and Writers and Wikipedia
Many thanks to Dawn Harrison, Cherie Goninon and Hannah Fleetwood for all their help with the pictures.
The Follyfoot Annuals
Follyfoot Fan Site

Bibliography: pony books only
Cobbler’s Dream, Michael Joseph, 1963
Reprinted Children’s Book Club
Reprinted Penguin, 1967, pb
Peacock 1971, pb
Heinemann 1976, hb
Chivers large print 1978
as New Arrival at Follyfoot, Mammoth, 1993
The House at World’s End, Heinemann 1970, illus Peter Charles
Doubleday, New York, 1971, 186 pp.
Pan, pb 1972
Reprinted in one vol with Summer at World’s End as World’s End
by the Children’s Book Club, 1976
Mammoth, pb 1993
Summer at World’s End, Heinemann, 1971, illus Peter Charles
Pan, pb, 1972
Doubleday, New York, 1972, 187 pp.
Reprinted in one vol with Summer as World’s End by the Children’s Book Club, 1976
Mammoth, pb, 1993
Follyfoot, Heinemann 1971 hb (simultaneously in hb and pb)
Pan books pb 1971
Heinemann, pb, 1988
Mammoth pb 1992
Fabbri Publishing Ltd, 1992
Andersen, London, 2010, 192 pp.
Dora at Follyfoot, Heinemann 1972 hb (simultaneously in hb) Pan Books pb 1972
Heinemann, pb, 1988
Mammoth pb 1992
Andersen, London, 2011, 192 pp.
World’s End in Winter, Heinemann, hb, 1972
Children’s Book Club
Pan, 1973, pb illus Peter Charles
Doubleday, New York, 1973, 163 pp.
Mammoth 1992
Follyfoot Farm Heinemann 1973: contains Follyfoot and Dora
Spring Comes to World’s End, Heinemann, 1973
Doubleday, New York, 1973, 162 pp.
Pan, pb 1975 (cover Peter Charles, text illus Gareth Floyd)
Mammoth, pb, 1993
The Horses of Follyfoot, Heinemann 1975
Pan, pb 1977
Heinemann pb, 1988
Mammoth 1992
Stranger at Follyfoot, Heinemann 1976
Children’s Book Club
Pan, pb, 1978
Heinemann, pb, 1988
Mammoth, pb, 1992
The Messenger, Collins, 1985, illus Glynnis Overton
Armada pb 1985
Chivers large print 1986
Ballad of Favour, Collins, 1985, illus Glynis Overton
reprinted Armada pb 1985
The Haunting of Bellamy 4, Collins 1986,  illus Glynnis Overton
Armada pb 1986
Cry of a Seagull, Collins 1986,
Armada pb 1986

Non Fiction
Talking of Horses, Heinemann  hb 1973
Little Brown, New York, 1973, illus Margery Gill, 154 pp.
Piccolo, 1977, illus Margery Gill

The Follyfoot Collection, Dean 1991

Follyfoot spin offs and connections
Follyfoot Annuals
A short series of five annualswas produced in the mid to late 1970s.
Jane Royston - Follyfoot Remembered
Follyfoot Quiz Book, Pan, London, 1974, 156 pp.