Day 53: William Makes a Night of it

The facts

Mr Bennison believed that children should be led, not driven, that their little hearts should be won by kindness, that their innocent curiosity should always be promptly satisfied. He believed that children trailed clouds of glory. He knew very few. He certainly did not know William.

  • Number: 4.13
  • Published: 1924 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Fourth
  • Synopsis: Ethel bribes William to rid the house of an unendurable elderly suitor.


Something of Richmal Crompton’s message from this story must be, ‘Let boys be boys.’

Her distaste for Mr Bennison – an unmarried childless middle-aged man, besotted with Ethel, who has taken it upon himself to write books on good parenting – leaps off the page.

The bed was warm and comfortable and he was drifting blissfully into a dreamless sleep when the door opened and William, carrying the ‘Child’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge’, appeared.
“’Scuse me disturbin’ you,” said William politely, “but it says in this book what you kindly gave me somethin’ about Socrates” (William pronounced it in two syllables “So-crates”) “an’ I thought p’raps you wun’t mind explaining to me what they are. I dunno what So-crates are.”

However, his universal theory of childcare is left in tatters after a night spent in the same house as William.

William has clearly read Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, or at least rule four: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

Mr Bennison’s foremost principle was that “a child’s curiosity must be immediately satisfied when and where it appears, irrespective of inconvenience to the adult”.

But after a few nocturnal conversations about subjects as diverse as astronomy, radio technology and the execution of Charles I (“William was very clever at not understanding Compound Interest”) the houseguest suddenly remembered a pressing need to be elsewhere.