Day 47: William’s Evening Out

The facts

William was supremely bored. He regarded the centre of the British Empire with contempt. “Streets!” he said, with devastating scorn. “Shops! Huh!”

  • Number: 4.7
  • Published: 1924 (1923 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Fourth
  • Synopsis: The Browns take a city-break in London, and William aspires to become an urchin.


Where would any British institution like the William stories be without at least one transporting the action to London?

William, though, is not a fan. He dislikes the history (“his only comment on being shown the Tower was that it seemed to be takin’ up the whole day”) and the culture and the sport.

But, accompanying his family on various short cuts in the back streets of London, William had glimpsed another world, a world of street urchins, who fought and wrestled, and gave vent to piercing whistles, and hung onto the backs of carts, and paddled int he gutter, and rang front door-bells and ran from policemen.

He intensely dislikes the Kensington-dwelling distant cousin of his own age who makes conversation: “He asked William if he could fox-trot, and if he didn’t adore Axel Haig’s etchings.”

So, one night, rather than go to Kensington for a painfully respectable party, William breaks free and takes up with a gang of urchins, shoplifts, fights another gang of urchins, and even helps man a grimy coffee-stall.

Full of slightly hackneyed stereotypes of London but tremendous fun nonetheless.