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Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for Richmal Crompton

Just William is the first book of children's short stories about the young school boy William Brown, written by Richmal Crompton and published in 1922. The book was the first in the series of William Brown books which was the basis for numerous television series, films and radio adaptations. Just William is also sometimes used as a title for the series of books as a whole, and is also the name of various television, film and radio adaptations of the books. I grew up reading the stories and made the mistake of thinking they were written by a man because of the author's name! 

William Brown is an eleven-year-old boy, eternally scruffy and frowning. William and his friends, Ginger, Henry and Douglas, call themselves the Outlaws, and meet at the old barn in Farmer Jenks' field, with William being the leader of the gang. The Outlaws are sworn enemies of the Hubert Lane-ites, with whom they frequently clash.
Ginger is William's faithful friend and almost as tousled, reckless and grimy as William himself. He has been known to take over in William's absence and is his best friend. Henry brings an air of wisdom to the otherwise non-academic Outlaws. Never liking to own up to being at a loss, he can always deliver the knowledge that the Outlaws need. In the first book, it is revealed that he is the oldest of the Outlaws. Douglas, perhaps the most pessimistic of the Outlaws (though it has never stopped him joining in with any lawless activity) is the best at of them at spelling. He spells knights "gnights" and knocks "gnocks". The Outlaws take pride in this because, unlike them, he knows the contrariness of the English language.
William's family, his elder red-gold haired sister Ethel and brother Robert, placid mother and stern father, and never-ending supply of elderly aunts, cannot understand William. Only his mother has any sympathy for him, though his father sometimes shows a side of himself that seems to admit he was once like William himself.
Other recurring characters include Violet Elizabeth Bott, spoiled daughter of the local millionaire (whose companionship William reluctantly endures, to prevent her carrying out her threat "I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick"), and Joan Clive, the dark haired girl for whom William has a soft spot. Joan is sometimes considered a member of the Outlaws (the only girl entitled to this high privilege) and sometimes an "Outlaw ally" because she took a special oath. At one point she went away to boarding school, but continued to appear in William's adventures during her holidays.
William writes stories (The Tale of The Bloody Hand), although most of these are written in terrible grammar, much to comic effect. He likes to perform drama, and is fond of white rats, football and cricket.
A notable feature of the stories is the subtle observance of the nature of Leadership. William often has to reconcile his own ambitions with the needs of the individuals within the "Outlaws". His strength of personality means that his leadership is never questioned. William rarely exercises his power over the Outlaws without conscience.

16 comments:

Paula Martin said...

Thanks for the memory - used to love the William books!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Wonder if you too thought is was a woman author! Loved the recent series on tv, pity they abandoned the idea so very soon after filming so few, Paula.

Bob Scotney said...

William was a favourite of mine too. We had similar gangs as boys, but no Violet Elizabeth.

Carole Anne Carr said...

No Violet Elizabeth? You were lucky!

Donna Martin said...

Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z Challenge...lovely blog...good luck with the rest of the challenge...

Donna L Martin
www.donasdays.blogspot

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thanks, Donna, we've nearly made it!

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never heard of these books before. They sound like fun. :)


The Golden Eagle
The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

Carole Anne Carr said...

G.E., you would love them. They were written a long time ago but they have been reprinted many times and were recently made into another tv series.

DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

I haven't heard of these. My education was obviously sadly neglected.

Denise

Carole Anne Carr said...

Denise, I'm in England and sadly I know very little about your popular children's writers. :0)

Pk Hrezo said...

Never heard of these. Thanks for introducing me!

Carole Anne Carr said...

They are still being printed PK, well worth a look.

Susan Kane said...

What a delightful series that must have been! It reminds me of the TV series, "Our Gang" which was filmed back in the 1930s.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Yes, Susan, the series you mention does sound the same. The William series is delightful, witty, clever and the books are often reprinted. The end of last year saw the books televised yet again.

Glynis said...

Just William is wonderful. I often wanted to be the female version. :)

Carole Anne Carr said...

Me too, Glynis, my heroes were Robin Hood and Dick Turpin!

 
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