Day 1: William Goes to the Pictures

The facts

“You young ruffian,” Mr Brown roared, “what do you mean by charging into me like that?”
“I wasn’t chargin’, Father,” William said, meekly. “I was only jus’ comin’ in at the gate, same as other folks. I jus’ wasn’t looking jus’ the way you were coming, but I can’t look all ways at once cause—”
“Be quiet!” roared William’s father. Like the rest of the family, he dreaded William’s eloquence.

  • Number: 1.1
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William’s aunt gives him a shilling, which he spends on a visit to the cinema. The films he sees give him many ideas…


The first William story in the entire series of 38 books* combines many elements that recur throughout his reign of terror.

The being-carried-away-by-a-film theme. The trying-to-help-around-the-house theme. The pretending-to-be-ill-to-get-sympathy theme. The attempting-to-repair-sister’s-love-life theme. The relentless-pursuit-of-sweets theme. The zeal-to-reform-others theme. Even the affectedly-manly-flirting-with-the-girl-next-door theme.

William glanced cautiously around and slunk down the road. Then he doubled suddenly and ran down a back street to put his imaginary pursuers off his track. He took a pencil from his pocket and, levelling it at the empty air, fired twice. Two of his pursuers fell dead, the rest came on with redoubled vigour.

The story itself, indeed, mirrors the structure of William’s experience at ‘the pictures’. It is a series of short episodes which take place one after another with relatively little connection.

William’s cinema showed, as was then traditional, a number of short films including comedy, romance, tragedy etc., and his activities for the rest of the story follow that structure as he attempts to re-enact each piece of movie magic.

It’s a very silly tale, and probably too crammed to be considered one of the best in the series, but as the opening shot for the next five decades of William books, it did its job.

*although not the first to be published: you’ll have to wait until Day 14 for that one!