William Collins: In Praise of Richmal Crompton

An excellent piece by William Collins, inspired by two characters invented by the authoress Richmal Crompton – William Brown and Violet Elizabeth Bott. William writes:

The affection in which Richmal Crompton holds her little hero shines forth on every page. There is no trace of toxic masculinity here – though, heaven knows, William’s exploits might provide adequate ammunition for such a thesis. Moreover, the contrast between the former suffragist and a modern feminist could hardly be more stark when Crompton exposes some specifically female character flaws.

We need to pinch ourselves on occasion as a reminder that what we are reading was penned by the adult female Richmal Crompton, and must therefore reflect her own understanding – and, we suspect, her own opinion too. Crompton’s understanding of small boys is all the more remarkable in view of her having had no children of her own, remaining unmarried all her life. There’s no trace here of any desire to redefine masculinity: only to record its juvenile foibles.

The contrast between the warmth which Richmal Crompton displays towards William, an attitude towards boys which was once normal, and the vilification poured upon boys today makes my heart bleed.

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