Friday, September 17, 2021

My hero / Richmal Crompton by Louise Rennison


Richmal Crompton, 1946

My hero: 

Richmal Crompton

 by Louise Rennison

Saturday 27 November 2010


love Just William. Not because he is a reminder of my childhood – I only read about him three years ago. I love him as a new discovery. It is, of course, a love tinged with enormous relief that I don't actually know him – that he has not, say, rifled through my drawers to make my best underwear into hats for his mad plays. Which, incidentally, always star him.

The stories make me laugh – that kind of laughing you can't stop and everyone wants to kill you. Then – gadzooks! – William's creator, Richmal Compton, turns out to be a girl. A comedy-genius-type girl. And she was writing when girls were mostly fainting or covered in net. (That, by the way, is my thumbnail sketch of the 1920s.)

William stayed as an 11-year-old from 1922, when the first collection of stories came out, until 1970, when William the Lawless, the last book, was published posthumously – in it, he gets a Beatles LP as a birthday present (John Lennon was a fan).

I know that I am a "girl" and therefore William would not have had much use for me. But I do agree with him on so many things. On parents, for example: why aren't we given more of a say in who we get as parents? William would like his father to be a clown. There is a bit in the story "The Circus" when he is desperate to see the clowns. But when he asks his father if he can go by himself (at nighttime), his father merely says: "Don't speak with your mouth full." And William thinks: "A clown would not have said this."

I suspect a clown father would have better things on his mind than table manners. Big shoes, for instance. The books are full of this kind of thing: clowns, adventures, selling twins as slaves, and so on.

Funny writing (Crompton, Dahl, Wodehouse) is underestimated. People still say to me: "When are you going to write a proper book and stop messing about?" And I always think: "A funny person would not say that."


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