Just William is an enduring series of stories about an errant schoolboy from a solidly upper-middle class family in Edwardian England. Due to their subject and humorous nature they are typically perceived as children's literature.

However, it is quite common online to find claims that their author, Richmal Crompton, originally intended them for an adult audience. There is some circumstantial evidence for this: she also wrote a lot of adult literature and the density of language in the stories is beyond most children at William's 11-12 years of age.

On investigation, I cannot find any solid evidence to support this supposition. Did Crompton intend the stories for an adult audience?

  • I haven't read the books in question, but is there any adult/explicit content that wouldn't be considered "appropriate" for children in the early 20th century?
    – Shokhet
    Jul 3 '17 at 21:20
  • I don't think it's a question of content, but more about the tone of the books, whether they are aimed at children or adults. Might have to look at them again from an adult viewpoint!
    – NiceOrc
    Jul 5 '17 at 23:35
  • @Shokhet No, nothing as obvious as that. Jul 6 '17 at 8:05
  • There are a number of children's books with additional references in the text which most children will not understand and which many adults will find hilarious - possibly more so in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century than later on. (Edith Nesbit is a good example of this.) Children are still the primary audience, but an adult choosing to buy the book or to read it to their child may be more likely to do so if there is something extra for the adult to appreciate. Books with different layers in this way are revisited by their readers and passed on to other generations, so may achiev
    – Lizilu
    Jul 16 '17 at 23:14
  • Although this is interesting and relevant information, I wonder if it might be better suited as a comment since it doesn't say anything about Just William specifically. Could you edit to clarify how your point applies to the particular book series under consideration, and what you would conclude as an answer to the actual question being asked?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 16 '17 at 23:17

Well, Richmal Crompton did say in a radio interview that when she started writing these 'Just William' stories, her intention was to write those stories for adults about children.

Listen to the interview :


The relevant transcript:

Well I began to write them entirely for adults about children. And they were published in these magazine stories, adult magazines, for adults about children. But they've gradually drifted onto the shelves of junior libraries in libraries and shops. So now I find myself occasionally writing down a bit, but I try not to.


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