“Why can’t grown-ups just give me stuff, let me do what I like and then go away A LOT?”Richmal Crompton, William Again
Richmal Crompton was born on the 15th of November in 1890 in Bury, Lancashire, England. Her father, Rev. Edward John Sewell Lamburn, taught classics at the local boys’ school, and Richmal attended a boarding school, St. Elphin’s, for daughters of the clergy. She earned a scholarship to attend the Royal Holloway College, and in 1914 earned her B.A. in Classics, returning to St. Elphin’s to teach. After a few years, at age twenty-seven, she moved to London to teach at Bromley High School and pursue writing.
She was best known for her stories featuring the rebellious William and his friends, the ‘Outlaws.’ The first story featuring William was “Rice Mould Pudding,” published in Home Magazine in 1919, and a collection of tales, Just William, was published in 1922. She wrote nearly forty volumes in the William series, the last published in 1970 after her death.
She contracted polio, leaving her without the use of her right leg, in 1923. She quit teaching to write full time.
Her first novel for adults, The Innermost Room, was published in 1923. She considered her ‘William’ books’ potboilers,’ while feverishly pursuing writing for an older audience – she wrote forty-one novels for adults and published nine collections of short stories.
She also wrote similar children’s books to her William series, although they didn’t find the same success. Enter…Patricia (1929) was aimed at girls, and Jimmy (1949) at younger audiences. She never married or had children but was an aunt and great aunt; her nieces and nephews said to inspire many of her children’s book characters. It remains a mystery how she could so effectively write the character of an 11-year-old boy that reached so many readers.
In her forties, she contracted breast cancer and had a mastectomy.
She died on the 11th of January, 1969, from a heart attack.
Lesson from Crompton:
You don’t have to just write what you know. You can be a forty-year-old Victoria ‘spinster’ and your main character can be an 11-year-old kid that hates authority. It’s up to you.
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