Just William & the Outlaws

15th November 2018

“ Let's be detectives when we grow up," suggested Douglas. 
" No," said William. " It's more fun bein' the man that comes along an' finds out all about it when the detectives have stopped tryin'.

Richmal Crompton, creator of Just William and his bands of comrades, The Outlaws, was born in Bury Lancashire on 15th November, 1890. Her first William story was published in 1922, with no plan to make it into a further series.

“I wrote a story about children. Using as a plot an incident taken from my brother’s childhood. When asked to write another story about children I racked my brains to devise a fresh set of child characters, falling back again upon William and the Outlaws only from sheer lack of inventive powers.” (Richmal Crompton, Radio Times, 1945)

















Perhaps this explains why William is a character who never ages, in all the stories published between 1922 and 1970 he remains a carefree 11 year old. If William had been subject to the tyranny of time like the rest of us he would “have had to finally decide between his two favourite careers – that of engine-driver and owner of a sweet-shop,” said the Richmal. “ He would have had the opportunity of putting into practice his theories of adult life. He would have discovered by experience whether an unrelieved diet of ices, cream buns and doughnuts could bring the satisfaction he dreamed of.”


The delight of the Just William stories is their light hearted fun, featuring a slightly mischievous band of characters whose pranks are mostly harmless child’s play. Unlike other some children’s stories the language in the Just William does not feel dated, they are easy to read and packed with humorous observation of children’s interactions and thought processes.

As someone who has great difficulty maintaining a tidy appearance I’ve always identified with William.  He leaves home each morning neatly dressed and coiffured, but almost immediately his appearance begins to unravel, his socks slip down his shins, his tie becomes askew and his knees get a coating of mud.  To me he has always looked just as children should look, after a day of carefree play and adventure.
















Just William’s popularity with both boys and girls perhaps stems from the fact that despite the main protagonist being a boy his creator was a women and her humour appeals to little girls in a way that W.E. Johns Biggles stories and Buckeridge’s Jennings simple cannot. And, of course, the unusual name of Richmal masks the gender of the author, indeed, even though I grew up in the same Lancashire town as her for my first two decades of life I thought Richmal Crompton was a man.


Collecting Just William first editions is no mean feat, as the stories printed before the war are hard to come by in their original pictorial dustwrappers and the war-time titles, William and the A.R.P. and William and the Evacuees are among the black tulips of children’s fiction, but the satisfaction of seeing a row of jaunty Williams on the shelf waiting to be re-read is great. 























Our constantly changing stock of Just William first editions can be viewed here

If you have queries or first edition William books for sale do get in touch.

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