wrongful eating

The facts

William carefully committed to memory the voice and manner of his sister’s greeting to her friends. That would come in useful later on, probably. No weapon of offence against the world in general and his own family in particular, was to be despised. He held a rehearsal in his room when the guests were all safely assembled in the drawing-room.
“Oh, how are you, Mrs. Green?” he said in a high falsetto, meant to represent the feminine voice. “And how’s the darling baby? Such a duck! What a perfect darling of a dress, my dear. I know whose heart you’ll break in that! Oh, Mr. Thompson!”—here William languished, bridled and ogled in a fashion seen nowhere on earth except in his imitations of his sister when engaged in conversation with one of the male sex. If reproduced at the right moment, it was guaranteed to drive her to frenzy, “I’m so glad to see you. Yes, of course I really am! I wouldn’t say it if I wasn’t!”

  • Number: 2.2
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: In the first ever published William story, he tries to procure a tastier dessert for the little next girl next door.


It’s strange to think that William’s journey of affected masculinity began with the desperate eagerness to please the little girl next door which marks this story.

She is fed up with having “rice-mould” for pudding every evening. He promises her blacmange. Fortunately, his parents are hosting a party that evening so some is available in the larder…

This is a story with plenty of Williamesque monologues (“It’s a young folks’ party, I heard you tell Aunt Jane it was a young folks’ party. Well, I’m young, aren’t I? I’m eleven. Do you want me any younger? You aren’t ashamed of folks seeing me, are you! I’m not deformed or anything”) and behaviour: the scene in which he attacked an attractive pile of pears, eating the inside of each fruit and placing it back so as to look outwardly untouched, lingers in the memory!

Did Richmal Crompton have any idea quite what a phenomenon William would become, at this early stage? Who knows…

The facts

“I’ve arsked her regl’ar to marry me, every New Year’s Day for ten year.”
“Well,” said William with a judicial air, “I wun’t have asked the same one for ten years. I’d have tried someone else. I’d have gone on asking other people, if I wanted to get married. You’d be sure to find someone that wouldn’t mind you: with a sweet-shop, too. She must be a softie. Does she know you’ve got a sweet-shop?”

  • Number: 1.10
  • Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William, pursuant to a New Year’s Resolution to be “perlite” for a day, agrees to mind the village sweet shop.


This is a bit of a Lord of the Flies tale detailing the inevitable consequences of putting William – William – in charge of a sweet shop.

Because of his extensive snacking in the earlier part of his shift, he has to increase prices to make up for it. This leads to a clash with a slightly odd elderly lady who accuses William of “profiteering” and (very oddly) “blasphemy”; every barbed insult he throws back at her (“You ole thief!”) is, mindful of his determination to be polite, suffixed with the phrase, “If you’ll ’scuse me contradictin’ of you.”

He gives free wares to a nice young girl who takes his fancy, and ends up starting a free-for-all amongst all the boys of the village.

All somewhat unsurprising.

It is a great gift to be able to lie so as to convince other people. It is a still greater gift to be able to lie so as to convince oneself. William was possessed of the latter gift.

A rare breach of the fourth wall to close the story:

“Reader, if you had been left, at the age of eleven, in sole charge of a sweet shop for a whole morning, would it have been all right with you? I trow not. But we will not follow William through the humiliating hours of the afternoon. We will leave him as, pale and unsteady, but as yet master of the situation, he wends his homeward way.”