William does nothin’

One of the things I love about working in Richmal Crompton’s archive at the University of Roehampton is when I can piece together different fragments of paper and narrative that tell us something about her writing life. Here is an example of what I mean.

Here is part of the draft manuscript for a story called “William and the New Civilisation”:

RC manuscript.1
Archives and Special Collections, University of Roehampton

In the middle section of the page it reads as follows:

They walked on for a few yards then stopped again to listen. The words “William Brown” rose clearly above the tumult.

“There,” said William. “I knew they’d say it was my fault. Nothin’ ever happens anywhere without them sayin’ it was my fault.

“An’ it wasn’t any of our faults,” said Ginger.

“Course it wasn’t,” said William. He was silent for a few moments then continued, “But let’s try ‘n’ look as if it wasn’t. That sometimes helps. To start with anyway.”

Crompton used scraps of paper to make all sorts of notes about her writing like this royalty statement:

RC manuscript.1.amendment.a
Archives and Special Collections, University of Roehampton

On the back she made the following amendment:

RC manuscript.1.amendment.b
Archives and Special Collections, University of Roehampton

The tumult was dying down again, replaced with a babel of children’s voices. Above the babel the words “William Brown” could be clearly distinguished.

“There,” said William with a certain gloomy satisfaction. “I knew they’d say it was my fault. Nothin’ ever happens anywhere without them sayin’ it was my fault.

“It wasn’t any of our faults,” said Ginger.

“Course it wasn’t,” said William, “we did nothin’”

“Nothin,” said Ginger.

“Nothin,” said Henry

“Nothin,” said Douglas

“Well let’s try ‘n’ look as if we’d done nothing,” said W”

Needless to say this was a memorable moment in my research. I also checked the final version of this story and it is indeed this amendment that was published.

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