On February 17, The Telegraph ran a splashy exposé documenting the edits and redactions that went into a new edition of the late author Roald Dahl’s books for children. Their articles pointed out that descriptions of characters as “fat” were removed, for example, citing a rhyme in James and the Giant Peach where a character, at first called “terrifically fat,” was instead described as a “nasty old brute.” Though Dahl’s works are not universally beloved, they remain a nostalgic favorite for adults, and that sentiment, along with the implication that the new editions were a form of censorship, inspired an impassioned discourse. On Thursday, Queen Consort Camilla might have entered the fray when she made comments about censorship and the value of imagination during an event.
During a speech at a rescheduled reception celebrating the two-year anniversary of her book club, she implored her audience to value freedom of expression and seemingly referenced the end of Dahl’s The Witches, where the protagonist is transformed into a mouse. “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,” she said. “Enough said! Let there be no squeaking like mice about your achievements, but only roaring, like a pride of lions.”
According to the Independent, a source close to Camilla said she was “shocked and dismayed” to hear that Dahl’s books had been altered and thought that the freedom of writers needed to be preserved.
On Friday, Dahl’s British publisher announced that they would continue selling previous editions of the books alongside the newly edited ones. Puffin, a children’s imprint, will sell the new editions, while its parent company Penguin Random House will offer 17 of Dahl’s books in The Roald Dahl Classic Collection. “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,” said Francesca Dow, Penguin Random House Children’s managing director. “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.”
The Thursday event was the queen consort’s first public appearance after she tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. She mentioned her illness during her speech at the event. “Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen, it is a huge pleasure to welcome you all—writers, publishers and book lovers—to Clarence House. A week late, but COVID-free!” she said. “So thank you for rejigging your busy diaries and coming today.”
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