Netherstocking

E.S. Turner

  • Just William, More William, William Again, William the Fourth by Richmal Crompton and Thomas Henry
    Macmillan, 215 pp, £5.95, October 1983, ISBN 0 333 35848 1

The William stories – of which the first four are now reissued – came out over a span of fifty years. When they started, in 1919, women were still sniffing sal volatile and when they ended boys had begun sniffing glue. William, of course, could fantasise without the aid of glue. He was not the sort to pull up saplings wantonly; he merely overturned caravans accidentally. His crimes were the venial ones of truancy, trespass, gaining money by false pretences, unlawful picketing, kidnapping (of babies, which enjoy being kidnapped) and petty theft, as from the missionary-box in his home. Theft from a missionary-box? Isn’t that a bit like stealing from blind men? Ah, but the missionary-box contains only three-halfpence, enabling William to inveigh powerfully, and with the reader’s full sympathy, against his family, who lavish large sums on their own pleasures but can spare only this paltry sum for the poor heathen. He does not, however, put the three-halfpence back.

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