Born on 15th of November 1890
Died in Farnborough, Hampshire
Died on 11th of January 1969
Richmal Crompton is one of that exclusive band of British authors – Kenneth Grahame, Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne among them – whose works for children have become classics admired and enjoyed by generations of adults too. Though in fact Crompton’s initial William stories were supposedly for adults.
Richmal (a family name from her mother’s side) Crompton Lamburn was born in a house on Manchester Road, Bury, on November 15 1890. Her father was a cleric and a classics teacher at Bury Grammar School, and his occupation in part determined her early career, teaching classics after obtaining a scholarship and studying at Royal Holloway College, University of London. In spite of being rather a cliché of an establishment figure – staunch Anglican, member of the rowing club etc, she was also active in the women’s suffrage movement at this time.
She enjoyed writing stories, though at first hid the fact from her employers at Bromley High School, and published several as a sideline. In 1923 she suffered a severe attack of polio, losing the use of her right leg as a result, and was thus pushed towards writing as a career, leaving teaching. She lived the remainder of her life in Bromley and nearby Chislehurst.
Crompton wrote some 41 novels for adults, with some commercial success, but this was eclipsed by her William books: William Brown, the scruffy, amoral, resourceful and energetic middle class child who with his Outlaw friends Ginger, Henry and Douglas observes the strange adult world of parents and older siblings; William who horrifies and delights at the same time, happy to use blackmail to get his way, but always with his heart in the right place. The stories have gentle wit, especially the earlier ones, and the power to move – anyone with a heart will find their eyes moisten at A New School for William, or the tale of how William met his dog Jumble.
The William books went out of fashion for a time, but have enjoyed a considerable revival since the 1980s, not least because of the readings of talking-book genius Martin Jarvis.
Richmal Crompton died in Farnborough Hospital, on January 11 1969. Her William books have to date sold more than 10 million copies.
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