by Frank RichardsTo grow up in Britain any time in the last 50 years is to find yourself pitched into the middle of class warfare. The propagandists howl or curse or moo seductively at you from all sides, morning, noon and night. If it's not Billy Bragg it's David Cameron. If it's not The Clash it's the British National Party. For me it started in the library.
My father worked at the local coalmine and my mother didn't. We had ...just...enough money. We didn't have any books in the house at all, it wasn't that kind of house, except for the ones I got from the library, which, when I was young, turned out to be Richmal Crompton's William Brown books and Frank Richards' Billy Bunter books, and there are a lot of those, so they kept me going for a year or two. The library had them all.
In these books I read of houses which employed a maid, a gardener, and a cook. So for me this was a form of science fiction. For me, I was reading about life on Mars. What was a maid? It was a lot of fun, trying to figure out this weird alien landscape where no one ate on Monday what was left over from Sunday and every house had a cat and a dog and children attended each other's parties in their best clothes.
William Brown's world is upper middle class, but Billy Bunter's world is upper class, which is a another world away. William lives in a nice Home Counties village and Billy is at prep school, which is to say he's a boarder at a public school.
Note : In America public schools are public. But in Britain, public schools are private, and extremely expensive. This is apt to confuse people.
Billy Bunter's dad is politely sneered at by Billy's school chums such as Lord Mauleverer (old Mauly) for having to toil away at some horrible office grind in the City. When you get to that level, it becomes just vulgar to even refer to where money comes from. It's just there, and if it isn't, well, just don't mention it.
In Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, one minister sneered at another minister because he had to buy his own furniture.
So there was I, an oik, scarfing up jolly tales of my social superiors and only understanding a quarter of what was going on. Especially as Frank Richards was inclined to be munificent with his vocabulary, which was as capacious as the Fat Owl of the Remove himself. I learned a lot. For instance, I learned casual racism - one of the Famous Five was Hurree Jamset Ram Singh, Nabob of Bhanipur, who seemed to enjoy being the butt of all the jolly japes that Bunter's butt wasn't already the butt of. I learned to laugh at fat people. And I learned that poor people were funny too, all those gardeners and maids and caretakers and skivvys who got entangled in the amusing doings of these mirthful lads. But no harm done, all good fun and in bed by ten o'clock, no hard feelings young master, says Joe the delivery boy as he plucks the dead budgerigar from his now destroyed left eye. Cor, it's nothing, I'll be right as rain tomorrow, young sir!
But whereas I knew I wasn't fat or black, I did wonder if ... I ... was what these books regarded as... unacceptably poor. Beneath notice.
Well, all this stuff was written before the PC puritans got on everyone's case and informed us that innocent fun and high spirits were now abolished. And I'm glad about that, because now I've changed. Now I laugh at thin people, such as celebrities, rich people, such as bankers, and white people, as for instance on the funny web site Stuff White People Like.
So, Billy Bunter was pure undiluted class propaganda from the rich. It was part of the vast tapestry of civic machinery designed to make British society appear to be as inevitably laid out as a garden by Capability Brown.
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
(from a hymn which I sang regularly called All Things Bright and Beautiful. You may know it.)
We probably don't believe much of that kind of thing any more. Although when I survey the wondrous bauble that was the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton ("our Kate") and notice the giant public slavering over Pippa Middleton's arse I think - well, I don't know.
|Title||Billy Bunter's Benefit|
|eBook format||Hardcover, (torrent)|
|Publisher||Quiller Press Ltd|
|File size||6.3 Mb|
|Book rating||4.51 (31 votes)