Roald Dahl’s classic books will now be republished without ‘woke’ editing after a huge outcry that saw the King’s wife Camilla wade in at a reception where she was cheered by Britain’s best-selling authors.
Puffin has been under fire over changes to many of his most famous children’s classics as critics including the Queen Consort demanded they do not put curbs on ‘freedom of expression’.
Today the publisher has announced the release of the Roald Dahl Classic Collection ‘to keep the author’s classic texts in print’ claiming they had ‘listened to the debate’ following criticism of recent changing of his work to remove words such as ‘fat’.
But these unedited versions will still sit alongside the newly released Roald Dahl books, which have been controversially rewritten – sparking outrage in Britain. Some have said that Puffin must still go further, and cancel the new censored versions completely.
It came as new polling for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found almost two out of three Britons (60 per cent) disagree with changing language in classic children’s books and 63 per cent opposed recent changes to the books of Roald Dahl. Just 20 per cent supported the edits.
Dahl’s 17 books, read and loved by tens of millions, will be available later this year and will include archive material relevant to each of the stories by the much-loved children’s author.
Camilla’s comments at Clarence House yesterday were greeted by laughter and chants of ‘hear, hear!’ from Richard Osman, Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Ben Okri and Charlie Mackesy. Her intervention is being credited with forcing a partial U-turn. Sir Salman Rushdie and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have also condemned the changes.
Puffin has sparked a revisionism row after they decided that words such as ‘fat’ should be removed – Augustus Gloop can now be referred to only as ‘enormous’ – and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas being made gender neutral.
Mrs Twit’s ‘fearful ugliness’ has been cut to ‘ugliness’ and Mrs Hoppy in Esio Trot is not an ‘attractive middle-aged lady’ but a ‘kind middle-aged lady’.
Passages not written by Dahl, who died in 1990, have also been added by the publisher.
In The Witches, a paragraph describing them as bald under their wigs is followed shortly by a new line: ‘There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.’
Puffin said in a statement this afternoon that they will release two versions of each book – the original and the newer edited ones.
Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said: ‘At Puffin we have proudly published Roald Dahl’s stories for more than 40 years in partnership with the Roald Dahl Story Company. Their mischievous spirit and his unique storytelling genius have delighted the imaginations of readers across many generations.
‘We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation.
‘As a children’s publisher, our role is to share the magic of stories with children with the greatest thought and care. Roald Dahl’s fantastic books are often the first stories young children will read independently, and taking care for the imaginations and fast-developing minds of young readers is both a privilege and a responsibility.
‘We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print. By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.’
She added: ‘Roald Dahl once said: ‘If my books can help children become readers, then I feel I have accomplished something important.’ At Puffin, we’ll keep pursuing that ambition for as long as we make books.’
Yesterday Camilla spoke out at a reception with many of Britain’s top writers amid anger that publishers have hired ‘sensitivity gurus’ to remove ‘offensive’ language in Dahl’s books.
She told the authors: ‘Please remain true to your calling, unimpeded by those who may wish to curb the freedom of your expression or impose limits on your imagination.’ The 73-year-old royal looked up with a mischievous smile and added: ‘Enough said.’
Her comments were greeted by laughter and cheers of ‘hear, hear!’ from the best-selling authors, including Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd, Ben Okri, Philippa Gregory and Charlie Mackesy.
The Queen Consort told them: ‘Let there be no squeaking like mice about your achievements, but only roaring like a pride of lions.’
Puffin says it made the changes so that Dahl’s works ‘can continue to be enjoyed by all today’.
The Queen Consort – an avid reader and champion of improving literacy rates, particularly for children – was backed last night by a host of authors.
They argued that the works of writers such as Dahl should be preserved as products of their time.
William Boyd, the author of Any Human Heart, said: ‘If you ask children why they like Roald Dahl, it’s because he is naughty and transgressive, so you end up throwing the baby out with the bath water.’
Peter James, one of the world’s best-selling crime writers, added: ‘There is an old tradition in publishing, of publish and be damned. And I think Her Majesty was just endorsing that to some extent. She was just saying ‘be brave’.
‘The big question is how far back are we going to go? Are we going to censor Dickens? There is some pretty tough stuff in Dickens that is quite offensive. Are we going to look at Shakespeare?
‘I think what we have got to accept is that it was a moment in time and this is now. We are so blessed to have the Queen Consort championing us.’
Richard Osman, the author of the best-selling novel The Thursday Murder Club, agreed, adding: ‘My view is one only: the more we read, the better.
‘I try to write the most entertaining book I can. You always have to bear in mind your audience.
‘That’s why a book from the 19th Century is different to a book from the 20th Century, is different to a book from the 21st Century. That’s what literature is. It reflects what’s in the artist’s heart and what’s in the reader’s heart.’
Actor and writer Richard E Grant added: ‘I’ve always thought what’s amazing about Britain is that there’s no restriction on freedom of speech.
‘You go back just ten years in literature and there is something that wouldn’t be acceptable now.’
Ben Okri, the Booker Prize-winning author of The Famished Road, praised the Queen Consort’s decision to set up her Reading Room, describing it as a ‘wonderful idea’.