Still – William, by Richmal Crompton
Published by George Newnes, 1925
For all I know, this is a first edition – there’s no date on the copyright page. But it won’t be worth much, as it’s in a shocking condition. I believe my grandmother bought it for me at a jumble sale in about 1968, which would mean I’ve owned the book for half its life, and must carry some of the responsibility for its physical collapse. There’s no sign of the original cover:
– but the contents are all present and correct, complete with the sublime Thomas Henry illustrations. Still – William sees the arrival of Violet Elizabeth Bott, William’s Truthful Christmas, and a thoroughly unacceptable (to modern sensibilities) account of William’s restaging of the Wembley Empire Exhibition. (Though probably no less unacceptable than the original.) Crompton was an adult writer who happened to write children’s books, so they can still be re-read with pleasure – or you can let Martin Jarvis do the work for you.
Anyway, this was my first “Just – William” book. I was immediately hooked, and was swiftly buying new paperbacks of William stories for 3/- a time. I wish I’d stuck to jumble sales, as editions like this had been shorn of chapters, with the illustrations smudgy and the cover art reprehensible.
Original dustjacket art: childrensbookshop.com
Baldwin by Roy Jenkins
This came from Hay, in a curious C-format edition. Since Baldwin, I’ve read several of Roy Jenkins’ elegant and informed political biographies, but this was the first. At 166 pages, it’s really more of an extended essay, which is probbaly aboput right for an enigmatic man who took Prime Ministerial office three times, after emerging without trace in the early 1920s. Today, Baldwin is remembered for:
- Appeasement. Prudent or cowardly?
- “The bomber will always get through.”
- “Power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”
There was rather more to Baldwin than that, and to some extent he has been a victim of Churchill’s dictum about the history being written by the victors (precisely!).
Roy Jenkins had more hinterland than a modern cabinet. He was also a great liberalising Home Secretary, and was indirectly responsible for the eventual creation of the Liberal Democrat party. It is hard to imagine where he would have sat in today’s restricted political sphere, but I’d recommend any of his biographical works.
With Foyles poised to open in Stratford (of which, more tomorrow), I shall concentrate this week on London books – something I could easily do for a couple of months.
The London Perambulator by James Bone, with illustrations by Muirhead Bone
Jonathan Cape, 1925
A beautiful book – printed to a high standard on heavy cream paper, hand cut and wearing its 85 years lightly. In the pattern of so many books, before and since, each chapter reviews a different aspect of London – clubland, the river, the cockneys &c. The language can be a little florid (“In all these ancient fastnesses of the law, men of lay character and curious ways appear and live curious lives”), and the nostalgia a little suffocating, but the author reminds us that London has always been a changing city – the Georgians, Victorians and Long Weekenders had already knocked down most of ancient London, and much that was newer, interesting and irreplaceable, long before the Luftwaffe and Harry Hyams went to work. The last chapter is simply entitled “Gone!”.
What makes the Perambulator special is the work by Muirhead Bone, sketcher, engraver and war artist. My hand-held photo can’t do justice to pictures like this one, showing the demolition of the Egyptian Hall, which used to stand on Piccadilly.