Thursday, October 06, 2005

Molesworth for President

I had forgotten how very funny Nigel Molesworth was. Well, not forgotten exactly, but it's a long time since I opened any of the books. However, booktrade.info put me on to a long article in The Independent, by Nicholas Lezard, and that brought it all home to me.

Molesworth was a character invented some fifty years ago by Geoffrey Willans (the writer) and Ronald Searle (the illustrator). He was a schoolboy, aged perhaps 10 or 12, who attended an English prep school called St Custard's. Molesworth appeared first in Down with Skool! in 1953, and subsequently in three other books.

Each book was written, supposedly, by Molesworth himself, in a style which was at one and the same time illiterate and surprisingly erudite. And the books described mainly the horrors of school: the dreadful food, the incompetent teachers, the compulsory games, the snobbery, and the schoolboy violence.

At least one of Molesworth's illiterate and dismissive comments has passed into the language. You quite often come across writers saying that so and so is the case, 'as any fule kno'. (Google the phrase and see.) And that is pure Molesworth.

If you are English, male, and old enough to have been a schoolboy in the 1950s, in a school like St Custard's (and there were quite a lot of them), you will almost certainly remember Molesworth with affection. But if you are 25, American, female, and otherwise remote from those times and places, you can forget I ever mentioned the matter. The humour simply won't travel (I suspect). Though you could always dip into Nicholas Lezard's article and see.

3 comments:

Bernita said...

An idle question...What do you think of Kipling's "Stalky and Co."?
I ask because it helped me survive high school.

Marianne McA said...

Chiz.
I can't remember why, but I know I showed Molesworth's answers to his Geography paper [Are the Andes?] to my daughter, then aged thirteen, last year. Promise you she laughed.

Hodmandod said...

Daughter 17 at comp loves Molesworth very much. Hello clouds, hello sky, who's for tennis. I myself am female too.