The life and times of Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
If you have ever wondered about the person who wrote over a hundred books, including the 58 Chalet titles, wonder no more!
Helen McClelland, Elinor's official biographer, wrote in 1994:
- Elinor M Brent-Dyer (1894 - 1969) published over 100 books, but there is no doubt that she is remembered today mainly for her Chalet School series. This numbers 59 books, with numerous
related titles, and it is not only the longest but the longest-surviving series of girls' school-stories ever known, having now been continuously in print for more than 70 years.
- The first story, The School at the Chalet, was originally published in 1925; and Elinor's idea of writing about an imaginary school in the beautiful Tirolean lakeside village of
Pertisau-am-Achensee grew from a memorable holiday she had spent there, probably in the summer of 1924.
- Today, this visit is commemorated by a plaque in Pertisau, outside the parish church (nowadays the plaque is found in the library within the Tourist Information Office); and undoubtedly the
author's love of the Achensee district always remained important in the creation of her Chalet School books.
Elinor Brent-Dyer's own background differed greatly from those of her fictional characters, many of whom came from gracious homes and large, happily united families. She was originally from the
industrial north-east of England, and grew up there in a modest house, without garden or inside sanitation.
- As a child, she attended a local private school; and on her eighteenth birthday began a teaching career that eventually spanned 36 years. Her career as a teacher took her all over and included a
wide variety of state and private schools, as well as spending two years acquiring a teaching qualification.
- Many of the schools were situated in the north-east, but Elinor's teaching also took her to Middlesex, Bedfordshire and Hampshire and finally to Hereford, where she lived from 1933 to 1964.
- Elinor was not really suited to being a headmistress, being far too erratic and flamboyant in temperament. After her school closed, she was able to devote more time to writing, which was always
her greatest life-time interest. Nevertheless, she has left affectionate memories with many people, including a number of former pupils.
From an early age, Elinor had shown ability as a writer, and among her 101 published books are stories of schools other than the Chalet School. There are also family, historical, adventure and
animal stories; a cookery book, and four educational geography-readers. Elinor was even known to write plays on occasion, some of which were performed at local theatres, and numerous unpublished
- See the next section for more about her published works
- See the Library section for what is available to be borrowed
Elinor was renowned for untidiness, and was considered eccentric in dress, appearance and manner. One old friend described her as 'not at all pretty, but (with) a very mobile and expressive
countenance'. Another as 'dottily humorous', 'a very kind and generous woman', 'a fount of good common sense'.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When was Elinor Brent-Dyer born?
- 6 April 1894 in South Shields, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Did Elinor Brent-Dyer go to a school like the Chalet School?
- Far from it - she was a day girl at private schools in South Shields. However, she became a teacher and set up the Margaret Roper School in Hereford between 1938 and 1948. Elinor tried to run it
along the same lines as the Chalet School with a brown and flame uniform, Christmas plays and religious tolerance with emphasis on Catholic and Church of England
- She was better at writing than at being a headmistress, though, and in 1948 closed the school to concentrate on her writing. Between 1938 and 1948 she had 14 books published while between 1948
and 1958 there were 38 published
Was Elinor Brent-Dyer's family like the Maynards?
- She only had one younger brother, Henzell, and he died when he was 17. Her father had left the family home when she was a toddler. Her mother, Nelly, did remarry in 1925. Elinor Brent-Dyer moved
in with them in 1926 and moved with them to Hereford. After her step-father's death in 1937, EBD continued to live with her mother and various lodgers, until her mother died in 1957
- In 1964 Elinor Brent-Dyer bought a house with Phyllis Matthewman, who she had known since childhood, and Phyllis' husband Sydney in Redhill, Surrey where she lived until her death
When did she die?
- 20 September 1969 in Redhill, Surrey - where her final years were spent. A headstone on her grave in Redstone Cemetery was specially commissioned by fans and erected in 1994, the year of the
centenary of her birth