Five Fascinating Facts about… Richmal Crompton

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Written by Simon

The author of the much loved William books, about a well-meaning but disastrous young boy, also wrote over thirty books for adults, some of which have now been republished by Bello. To celebrate her return to print, here are five fascinating facts about Richmal Crompton.

1.) Firstly: Richmal Crompton was a woman. Most of you probably knew that, but I’ve lost count of the number of times people have been surprised to hear it – and it’s doubtless because of her unusual name. Richmal is actually a melding of Richard and Mal (short for Mary, apparently), which were her grandparents’ names.

2.) Richmal had a disability, but it didn’t stop her joining the Fire Service. She contracted polio in her 30s and was left unable to use her right leg – but during WW2 she volunteered for the Fire Service.

3.) She’s in the Oxford English Dictionary. At the time of writing, she actually provides the earliest known use of an impressive 23 words or senses, including luncheon meat, salvage collector, and pedigree (when used to mean a pure-bred pet animal).

4.) William could be controversial. You’re unlikely to find the story ‘William and the Nasties’ in any recent edition of the collection William the Detective (1935). The ‘Nasties’ is William’s mispronunciation of ‘Nazis’, and the story sees William try to evict a Jewish shop owner. The story ends amicably, and was intended as a parody, but nonetheless is wisely omitted from current editions.

5.) William was her ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’, or so she once labelled him – for overshadowing her novels. The William series had originally been intended for adults, so she was a little reluctant to be considered solely a children’s writer: she’d be thrilled that her novels are coming back into print!

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Simon is one of the editors of Shiny New Books.

Read about the new reprints of Richmal Crompton’s novels here.