violet elizabeth bott

The facts

“Ole Frenchie always gives dotty subjects for essays,” said Ginger.
“The last one was Wales,” said Douglas.
“I wrote a jolly good one on that,” said William. “I told about the man that got eaten by one in the Bible and about a dream I once had of one tryin’ to get on top of a bus an’ endin’ up havin’ a fight with an octopus. It was a smashin’ essay an’ he didn’t give me a single mark an’ he said some jolly nasty things about it.”
“He meant the country not the fish,” said Henry. “He’d just given a lesson all about it with maps an’ things.”
“Well, I hadn’t been listening,” said William in simple explanation.

  • Number: 37.3
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: Violet Elizabeth Bott seeks sanctuary with the Outlaws.

Verdict

Violet Elizabeth has been temporarily deposited in a local boarding school for girls while her parents are away, and, not enjoying the experience, has been dogging the Outlaws all the more.

Eventually she dons a wig and escapes altogether, attaching herself to the Outlaws, leading Henry to conclude, “It’s a sort of moral problem. She’s sort of taken sanctuary with us. She’s sort of a mixture of an orphan and a refugee.”

“You’re a story-teller,” said Douglas sternly.
“I know I am,” said Violet Elizabeth with an air of modest pride. “I’m a very good thtory-teller.”

She suggests that they “put a notith in the potht offith” to get her adopted: “Lovable young lady wanth to be adopted by nithe perthon.”

When they hear of a mysterious local woman who is looking for a girl to be a companion to her own daughter, their hearts leap… but when they set eyes on this local woman, everything goes wrong…

The facts

Ruthlessly Violet Elizabeth organised the Outlaws’ games. Where before she hadbeen rigorously excluded, she now lorded it as squaw,  exploress, and highwaywoman. She insisted on having the chief part in every game they played. She even forced them to play an outrageous game of her own invention featuring the Outlaws as courtiers and herself as queen. They endured it till the day before the garden party and then William decided that they could endure it no longer.
He summoned a meeting in the old barn. “We jolly well aren’t goin’ to have any more of it,” he pronounced. “The next time she tries to play with us we’ll chase. her off same as we used to an’-an’ she can scream her head off for all I care.”

  • Number: 34.5
  • Published: 1964
  • Book: William and the Witch
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws want to make sure Archie gets the chance to paint Mrs Bott.

Verdict

“We ought to have some ancestors, Botty,” said Mrs Bott.
“We’ve got ’em, dear,” said Mr Bott after a moment’s thought. “We must have. Come to think of it, we shouldn’t be here now if we’d not.”

Mrs Bott is adamant that her family should construct an aristocratic past – with paintings of fictitious ancestors, all modelled on her face.

In fact, this story is full of interesting insights into Mrs Bott’s mind:

“I hope she’ll take to gettin’ ’er picture done.”
“Yes, let’s hope she will,” said Mr Bott.
“If she won’t, I s’pose it’s off.”
“I s’pose so,” said Mr Bott. “She’s that obstinate.”
“It’s character, Botty,” said Mrs Bott reproachfully, “not obstinacy. It’s character the child’s got. An’ you can’t force it. I went to a talk about it at the Women’s Institute. A child’s got to ‘ave self-expression. Have. If you force a child to do what it doesn’t want to it gets exhibitions an’ it’s bad for it.”
“I think you’ve got the wrong word, love,” said Mr Bott. “I think it’s inhibitions, not exhibitions.”
“Well, in or ex, she’d get ’em,” said Mrs Bott, “so it’s no use tryin’ to force her.”
Violet Elizabeth gave another lick to her lolly and the remaining fragment detached itself from the stick and fell on to the parquet floor.
“Pick that up,” said Mr Bott.
“I don’t want to pick it up,” said Violet Elizabeth. “I’ll thquath it.”
She ground the piece · of ice into the parquet with a miniature sandal.
“Now don’t give ‘er exhibitions, Botty,” said Mrs Bott, seeing an expostulation quivering on her husband’s tongue.
“She’s givin’ ’em me,” said Mr Bott.

“We’ll advertise Archie the same way other people do it,” said William a little vaguely.
“How do they?” said Douglas.
“We can’t get posters printed about him,” said Ginger.
“We can’t put him on television,” said Henry.
“We can’t give free samples of him,” said Douglas.
“Oh, shut up,” said William. “It’s Mrs Bott we’ve got to advertise him to, so we’ve jus’ got to do the sort of advertisement she likes. An’ I know she likes Hoskyn’s advertisement on his van so we’ll put one on Archie’s car.”
“How?” said Douglas.
“Easy as easy,” said William. “Hoskyn’s has E HOSKYNS. BUTCHER. FAMILIES WAITED ON DAILY. So we’ll put A MANNISTER. ARTIST. FAMILIES PAINTED DAILY on Archie’s car.”

But in the meantime, a significant art commission is in the offing, and two artists are being considered: loveable but hapless Archie Mannister, and Hubert Lane’s cousin Tarquin.

William and Hubert both believe (quite correctly) that Violet Elizabeth’s influence over her mother is near-absolute, they both engage in a shameless campaign of flattery and bribery towards the girl.

Both backfire, but in the end Archie gets the upper hand with a commission that he really wants…

The facts

“What sort of games will you have?” said William.
“Gameth like Pothtman’th Knock,” replied Violet Elizabeth.
“Gosh! What’s that?” said William.
“It’th a nithe game,” said Violet Elizabeth. “Thomeone goeth out into the hall and then knockth at the door and thayth ‘A letter for thomeone’ and the perthon who’th name they thay hath got to go out into the hall and kith them. And if theythay ‘two letterth’ they’ve got to give them two kitheth, and if they thay ‘three letterth’ they’ve got to give them three kitheth and if they thay ‘ten letterth’…”
“Shut up!” said William. His face had blanched with horror. “Gosh! It you think we’re going to a party withsickenin’ games like that, we’d… we’d…”
“We’d rather die a thousand deaths,” supplied Henry, who had a large range of dramatic expressions.

  • Number: 34.2
  • Published: 1964
  • Book: William and the Witch
  • Synopsis: William is determined to evade Violet Elizabeth’s birthday party.

Verdict

Martin Jarvis masterfully turned this story into a five-part audio book: Violet Elizabeth Takes Control, William the Dear Little Boysie, William’s Brilliant Plan, The Outlaws and Aunt Jo, and Violet Elizabeth’s Party. But it’s still excellent in single-story form.

The Outlaws can’t think of anything worse than attending a special old-fashioned birthday party (featuring games such as kiss-in-the-ring, shudder shudder) being held jointly for Violet Elizabeth and for her mother’s godmother, Aunt Jo. And strangely enough, Aunt Jo can’t think of anything worse either.

Still, Mrs Bott is determined to make a success of it – a reporter from the Hadley Times is going to be observing the whole affair (“a mention in the ‘Hadley Times’ represented the height of her ambition”) and is equally determined that William and his friends will attend.

“Oh, there you are, William, love,” said Mrs Bott. “I’ve just been telling your mother about a nice little treat I’ve got for you.”
“I’d rather die a thous…” began William.
“Say ‘how d’you do’, dear,” said Mrs Brown hastily.

“I wonder what they’ll do when they find we’re not comin’ to it,” said William.
“They’ll ring the p’lice,” said Henry.
“Gosh!” said Douglas, with mingled apprehension and pride. “Real p’licemen lookin’ for us!”
“We might pretend we’d lost our memories,” said Henry.
“I’ve tried that,” said William. “It didn’t work.”
“We could pretend we’d met a hypnotiser an’ got hypnotised,” said Ginger after a moment’s silence. “We could act as if we’d been hypnotised. We could keep shuttin’ our eyes an then openin’ them an’ sayin’ ‘Where am I?’”

The Outlaws are outraged and astonished when their mothers all insist that they go. “More like hyenas than yuman parents” is Ginger’s bitter observation. So they decide simply to run away on the afternoon of the party and thereby evade it.

While they’re loose in the woods, they happen to come across Aunt Jo – also a fugitive from the party! Despite her advanced age, she is a woman of great energy and ingenuity, and leads the group to safety from Mrs Bott’s search party (and they just happen to take advantage of the situation and drop some rotten apples on the heads of their pursuers).

Mrs Bott is in paroxysms of horror when she realises that the Hadley Times has been monitoring the entire farce… at least, until she hears what the reporter has actually written.