Five Fascinating Facts about… Richmal Crompton

Written by Simon

220px-Richmal_CromptonThe 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).

Just_William_cover4.) 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.

6 thoughts on “Five Fascinating Facts about… Richmal Crompton

  1. Tony Koorlander says:

    Wonderful William! The model for Inspector Clouseau I reckon!. Reading those childhood favourites some 60 years later still provokes imagery that leaves me with tears flowing down my face and short of breath from sustained laughter. Wonderful medicine that re awakens the spirit of youth and days of irresponsible stupidity. Sheer magic!

    • Malcolm Norton says:

      Tony, you are so right! Were I to turn from my favourite literary addiction, the incomparable inimitable Dickens to, say, JK Rowling, the – incomprehensibly, to me – most successful author in history, I would be seized with a sense of abhorrence and something like contempt. Yet a few days ago I took one of my Richmal treasures surviving from childhood {William – in Trouble} and actually found each of the stories more brilliantly hilarious than I did many decades ago when certain of the author’s subtleties eluded me. A comic genius. If Ms Rowling has a discernible sense of humour – to say nothing of Miss Crompton’s scintillating wordplay, my patient reading of her first six wearisome Pottery artifacts failed to detect any trace of it.

  2. Bruce Masters says:

    Tony Koorlander has expressed it pefectly !!! As a youngster seventy tears ago I would be breathless with excitement at the prospect of a new WILLIAM book. Wonderful memories.

  3. John Sheldon says:

    In my youth I too devoured every William book I could find in the branch library on my route to school. However I have searched in vain for that one in which he summarises in a few pithy words the objectives of the major political parties. Any assistance in locating this gem would be appreciated.

  4. Hassan Al Soufi says:

    Was it- Conservatives want to make things better by keeping things the same and Labour want to make things better by changing everything, plus something else that eludes me. I could be wrong.

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