Friday, August 29, 2008

As Any Fule Kno

This year I will be writing my Masters thesis on Nigel Molesworth, who falls between Ramona Quimby and Elizabeth Bennet as one of my top literary heroes of all time. That's saying a lot, because I have a degree in English.

Anyway, a couple of readers (yay, readers!) expressed interest in this particular personage. I am more than happy to oblige.

Nigel Molesworth is the creation Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, and he appears in four books, all published in Great Britain in the 1950s.

Down With Skool! is the first of the series. It's followed by How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms and Back in the Jug Agane. Sadly these masterpieces have not been reprinted since 1999, which is really inexcusable. If you happen across one in a used bookstore, snatch it up! (And send it to me, maybe?)

Molesworth attends the rather dreary St. Custard's, along with Molesworth 2, his little brother, his grate friend Peason and Fotherington-Tomas, who sa hullo clouds hullo sky and skips around like a gurl. The books aren't so much stories - the plot lines are loose, to say the least, and they jump around from straight narrative to scripts and leap back and forth in time - as musings on school, life, and everything. Oh, and Molesworth can't spell.

Here is an excerpt, to whet your appetites. From Down With Skool! Chapter 6, "How to Torture Parents":

Country Dancing

Another form of torture for parents is the displa of country dancing on ye sham vilage green. The skool gardener is awakened from another sleep in the onion bed and skool piano wheeled from big skool revealing wizard patch of dust marbles dead beetles conkers and skeletons of boys who hav crept away to die...

Boys then all dress up in weedy costumes with all sorts of bells everywhere and parents take their seats. miss pringle take seat at skool piano and strike huge opning chord.


(dancers enter)

ALL: Dilly dilly dilly dilly o

With a rilly dilly, strawberry, o.

(pointing toes)

EBENEZER: Rilly-dilly jingle. Rilly-dilly jingle.

EPHRAIM: With a raspberry-o.

ALL: Rilly-dilly raspberry, rilly-dilly raspberry o.

I'm looking forward to my thesis...


Daisy Moses said...

Hey Nonny Nonny! Love it!

Jean said...

As a child of the 50s, born in England, of parents who were avid readers and taught their children to love books too, I can't believe I've never been introduced to these books!!!!! Possibly my dad overlooked them as he was a stickler for spelling words correctly.
I will definitely be looking for them in the used bookstores and thrift shops around here!
My favourite British children's books, once I had outgrown Rupert Bear, Winnie the Pooh, and the Beatrice Potter books, were the Adventures of the Famous Five by Enid Blyton.
My all time favourite book as an adult is Archie and Mehitable, a story written by a cockroach. I have my ninth grade English teacher to thank for introducing me to that book - she read it to the class in the last ten minutes of each day, just for the joy of reading.

L-Dawg said...

Sadly, these books are totally underappreciated. They've even been - gasp - dismissed as overly nostalgic! It's tragic, really.

Enid Blyton also wrote two series of boarding school stories - Mallory Towers and the Naughtiest Girl.

jeninslo said...

I am going to have to ask my grandparents about Nigel Molesworth; I would find it shocking if they didn't know about him. Maybe there's a book hidden somewhere on the shelves.

Jean, I love Archy and Mehitabel. We reference them all the time in my family. All kinds of situations might require a reference to Archy and Mehitabel, believe it or not. :)