1 September 2022 Susannah

Just William

Just William books by Richmal Crompton

Did you know that Just William turns 100 this year? It’s hard to think of that naughty schoolboy ever growing old (he remains exactly 11 years of age throughout the entire series). The series consists of 38 books (which came out between 1922 and 1970) and the first book was Just William. Each book is a collection of short stories, depicting the misadventures of William Brown and his friends, the Outlaws. They are set somewhere in the south of England, but no specific details of location are ever given.

Richmal Crompton (1890 – 1969), whose full name was Richmal Crompton Lamburn, did write other books, but none enjoyed the success of the books about William. She became a classics teacher, never married or had children, but she was an aunt and it his thought that her nephew Tommy was the model for her child hero. She saw the first book as a potboiler and intended it for adults – she even grew frustrated that her other books never gained the same recognition. However, the books kept her in comfort for much of her life.

I love the stories and think there are lessons to be learned from them today. William is an eternal optimist, a born leader, he has original world views, is confident and brave, and is willing to tackle any project.

Perhaps we could all take something from his motto of “Doin’ good, rightin’ wrongs, spreadin’ happiness and walking down the narrow path of virtue”.

There is a Just William Society and the books have huge numbers of fans, including me. The stories have been adapted for stage, radio, film and TV, and illustrations by Thomas Henry contributed to their success. There are fabulous audio versions of the stories, read by Martin Jarvis.

Was your childhood enriched by the Just William books? I’d love to know in a comment.

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Featured image- Just William books by Richmal Crompton, http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk/bookshelf/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/richmalcrompton.jpg, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34031576, book cover art, from www.just-william.net, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29925217 and https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10170974-just-william
Body image- William departed with an air of scowling mystery, leaving his parents speechless with amazement. from ‘More William’ illustrated by Thomas Henry, 1924.

Comments (10)

  1. Christine Bradfield

    One of my most vivid memories of ‘William’ is a scene where he and the Outlaws are sitting in a circle talking and passing around an apple, each one taking a bite then passing it on, even to the dog! I do love William.

  2. Carolien

    Thank you, Susannah, for the excellent timing of your comments on the Just William book. My husband is a ‘William’ and when he came out from England as a 6 year-old on the ‘Dominion Monarch’ he won the prize for the best dressed up boy: Just William! I’ll buy him the book for Father’s Day.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      The very best way to experience the Just William stories is on audio. See if they have audio versions at your library – your husband will love them!

  3. Heather Grant

    I loved the William books as a child. Must read the free download . Have checked our Public Library and yes, they are on the shelves.

  4. Toni Pollard

    As a kid I remember being both repelled and attracted by this extraordinary little boy, from a world very different from my own on the semi rural outskirts of Sydney. I loved his attempts to deal with the ” Nasties “ in WW11. But somehow I never introduced my own son to the William books a generation later.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I never encountered Just William as a child, only as an adult. My son adored the audio versions of the stories and we used to listen to them in the car.

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