In When Marnie Was There the word gay was removed a bunch in later editions

She had been nearly drowned, but nobody should know. Nobody had ever known anything that was important to her.

2014 edition of Marnie. The cover subtly spoils the story!

I own two copies of Joan G. Robinson’s When Marnie Was There. A 1972 paperback by Collins, and a 2014 paperback by HarperCollins. I had first read Marnie from said 2014 edition I borrowed from the library, which I of course fell in love with. I think most people, coming from the Hiromasa Yonebayashi film at least, are best familiar with this edition. After all, this edition was to meet popular demand for the book at the time the film was released, reviving it from out-of-print. Indeed, there was a small period before the film came out where copies become algorithically listed for hundreds of dollars online, the last scarcely available copies being the 2002 edition or earlier.

So I really like the 2014 edition. The front cover illustration, as I’ve said before is very fresh cover art, and throughout it contains illustrations by Peggy Fortnum. Mind you though, it physically comes with a small circular sticker on the front cover that reads, Now a major motion picture by Studio Ghibli, and pictured in the center is Anna and Marnie from the film. A tad obnoxious, no. Ha ha, you’re only reading this cause you saw the movie.


When it come to buying my own copy, I chose a 1972 paperback edition I found on eBay. It’s delightfully compact, lightweight, I found the cover photography very pretty, and the typesetting to be excellent.

1972 is just the year of the edition. My copy is actually the sixth print; its physical print date was 1979. Six reprints in six years is really good! Perhaps it was on the verge of becoming an outright classic or good. Recommended retail prices printed on the back of my copy indicate that it was being sold internationally too. The UK price is 70 pence. It was probably sold in chemists, offered as something for children to spend their pocket money on.

I first noticed something was different about this edition when someone on /u/ quoted a passage from chapter 16,

Dear Anna. I love you more than any girl I’ve ever known. She wiped the tear away and said, suddenly merry again

In response to me quoting the original version of that passage, which had gay instead of merry.

Investigating changes

I eventually was motivated to comb through each edition. I evaluated chapter-by-chapter, starting from the last and working backwards. Yes, I can say I read this book front and back.

I began to note what I call global changes, changes that are made passim.

Gay to merry

Here comes the crux of the investigation. So chapter 3 retains the only gay in the 2014 edition, "gay life of Bournemouth". Of course to mean in the old-timey sense, happy, fabulous, etc. So particular use of that word is fine here, but the other contexts describing certain characters—Anna and Marnie no less—that’s where caution is taken? Who are of course gay in both senses of the word. I wonder if caution have been taken if Robinson said Brighton instead of Bournemouth…

I love you

Aside from removal of gay, I want to hone in on the one other change made that specifically applies to the Dear Anna, sentence, the removal of the repeated I love you. Was it just getting too fruity for the editors to handle, or is this just an innocent mistake in transcribing the source material. If it’s a mistake, it’s the only mistake of its kind. I doubt it.

Hold fast that which is Good

I’m kind of proud of noticing this one. So earlier this year, when the King here in the UK was coronated, during the ceremony when Welby was reciting bunch of bible stuff I heard that turn-of-phrase, Hold fast that which is Good. Comes from the Book of Common Prayer, I think, in the Anglican church.

This phrase is fairly important in the story. It is what the sampler on the Anna’s bedroom wall reads, with a picture of an anchor. It at first intimidates her, Anna didn’t feel good, then almost haunts her when it comes to the windmill chapter, like the words of a nursery rhyme learned long ago in her desperation to hold fast (tight) onto something. It didn’t occur to me the word fast was used like that until I considered words like fastening when referring to belts and screws and such.

So in the first instance this phrase is referenced, the G in Good is uppercase. I suspect this is because it is also meant to be a divine noun, rather than just an adjective, analagous to the divine pronoun Him when referring to God. Good as in God. Perhaps I’m overthinking such a tiny typographical detail, but it’s possible that is something that was lost. Remember that Robinson authored a some Christian literature in the past, but also Christian references appear in Charley as well.

Stolid and retired

Two words that were changed. Sandra was fair and stoild becomes Sandra was fair and solid. That has to be plain wrong, it’s not usual to describe someone as solid no matter how much of a fat pig they are. Mr. Lindsay retired behind a newspaper, there’s no real reason to have changed that to returned?

Heaviest catch I ever made

This brings me to quite a whole other thing, there are Peggy Fortnum drawings that do not appear in the 2014 edition, like the one I thus carefully scanned and cleaned up and using at the top of this html document: Anna, laid down on the sofa after being rescued by Wuntermenny/Toichi, just as if the poor little lass were a cod fish.

It’s very beautiful and haunting. I really liked this part of the story, how the mood changes with one sentence soon thereafter, Anna was ill for a long time. Several days just quietly summarised in a few words. There’s something strange and quiet about the illustration here too. Why was it removed. Maybe it was too scary looking.

ChapterCh. Original Change
2 white-washed white-washed to whitewashed
over-full over-full to overfull
Poor little-old thing Hyphed added to little-old thing
5 Sandra was fair and stolid stolid to solid
6 ’Yes, well - maybe—’ said Mrs. Pegg Emdash changed to elipses
Then from far across the marsh came the mad, scarey, scatter-brained cry of a peewit, scarey to scary; typo fix
11 She gave a little shudder, then in an instant became gay again gay changed to merry
14 But even as she sat there, dreaming about it, the music faded, the gay grown-ups in their gold-braided uniforms gay changed to merry
16 Dear Anna, I love you. I love you more than any girl I’ve ever known. She wiped the tear away and said, suddenly gay again I love you removed; gay changed to merry
17 Marnie told her, skipping about on the sand in an exaggerated way as if the show how gay and free she was gay change to happy
You’ve no idea how kind my parents are! Italics removed on idea
Sometimes she winds my hair round and round, so it makes tangles Italics removed on makes
Anna! Please, let’s make our garden Italics removed on Please
the quiet, secret side, that seemed to recognize her recognize to recognise
18 But she began to realize that she must not rely on Marnie too much. That if she was over sure of meeting her realize to realise; hyphen added in over sure, to over-sure
’I’ll tell you another secret,’ she said seriously. ’I don’t want to grow up. Not ever Italics removed on I don’t want to grow up
You don’t keep telling me what I ought to do Italics removed on ought
They’ll take you away and shut you up in the windmill with only the wind ’owling and then you’ll be sorry Italics removed on then
19 The water in the creek had been churned up into little choppy, grey-green waves, and Anna had realized that even if the tide were right realized changed to realised
If only there were something told hold onto, she thought, to hold fast - and the words ’hold fast that which is Good Good changed to good
23 She herself had imagined them in the beginning, before she had even met Marnie, and no one had ever seen them Hyphen added to no one
25 Anna was looking at a water-colour hanging on the wall at the foot of the stairs. Hyphen removed in water-colour
26 as if she was in a contented day-dream Hyphen removed in day-dream
28 While she was reading the book she had remembered something Italics removed on had
29 Mr. Lindsay retired behind the newspaper retired changed to returned
30 Mrs. Lindsay had finished the spare room curtains this morning, just before the letter came Hyphen added in spare room, to spare-room
32 the fact is, the council send us a cheque every fortnight to help with your expenses. It is only a contribution, you understand, and it’s quite a normal procedure. Italics removed on is
33 And Pluto. Yes, that was the name of that dreadful dog! Perhaps he wasn’t so fierce really... But Marnie was afraid of him, too - fancy that, she never told me—! fancy changed to Fancy, uppercase F
34 Marnie’s mother was away a lot. She was young, and gay, and pretty, and she entertained a great deal at their house in London. gay changed to merry
37 (Scilla, and even Andrew, felt outside sometimes; she knew that now) Parenthesis changed to emdash
In two days time she and the Lindays would be going home too Add apostrophe after days