Day 45: Aunt Jane’s Treat

The facts

William was blest with many relations, though “blest” is not quite the word he would have used himself. They seemed to appear and disappear and reappear spasmodically throughout the year. He never could keep count of them. Most of them he despised. They reciprocated his feelings fervently.

  • Number: 4.5
  • Published: 1924 (1922 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Fourth
  • Synopsis: William’s Great Aunt Jane takes him to the fair.


William’s Great Aunt Jane is, presumably, a totally different person to Great Great Aunt Jane, the twinkly Irishwoman from The Cure, 3.2.

This Great Aunt Jane is a puritan old woman who offers William a treat but then vetoes most of his suggestions: the zoo is too dangerous, a magic show too deceptive.

Aunt Jane gazed intently upon the Fat Woman, who sat upon a small platform.
“Has she ever tried any of those fat-reducing foods?” she said. “If you’ll give me her address I’ll talk to my doctor about her.”

Eventually he persuades her to take him to a fair. He presents it as a very tame pasttime, but in fact he gets the raucus, candyfloss-filled evening he had been hoping for, because Great Aunt Jane loves it. There is a touch of The Circus, 3.11, about the whole thing.

True, she behaves like a dignitary visiting from another solar system, but she has the time of her life. She goes on all the rides, she does the coconut-shy, she eats hideous quantities of sickly-coloured sugar…

Unlike many of William’s other fans amongst his older relatives, though, she can’t quite bring herself to confess to Mr and Mrs Brown how much she shares his tastes.

(There is a slightly unfortunate paragraph in which, on a merry-go-round, Aunt Jane “mounts a giant cock […] a smile of rapture at her lips”. But as Nicholas Tucker has pointed out, it was all very innocent.)