In a few days we shall be spending some serious time at SteynOnline with some remarkable political satire. As an hors d'oeuvre for all that, here's a rather lighter take on the political scene, as seen by the great English children's writer Richmal Crompton and her enduring creation William Brown and his gang of schoolboy "outlaws". Our forty-seventh Tale for Our Time begins with the young tykes wondering what's all this "election" they keep hearing about. Their know-it-all chum Henry provides a pithy distillation of the political scene:
'There's four sorts of people tryin' to get to be rulers. They all want to make things better, but they want to make 'em better in different ways. There's Conservatives an' they want to make things better by keepin' 'em jus' like what they are now. An' there's Lib'rals an' they want to make things better by alterin' them jus' a bit, but not so's anyone'd notice, an' there's Socialists, an' they want to make things better by takin' everyone's money off 'em, an' there's Communists an' they want to make things better by killin' everyone but themselves.'
'I'm goin' to be one of them,' said Ginger promptly, 'they sound more excitin' than the others.'
Much has changed since Richmal Crompton wrote that in 1930. But the last bit seems as good an explanation of the glamour of antifa as anything else: they're "more excitin' than the others".
In any event, it's impossible to imagine any such passage in the leaden sludge that passes for contemporary children's literature. William Brown and his chums didn't do much more than muck about their village, as kids are wont to do - or were, before the advent of "helicopter parenting". William survived into the age of television, rock'n'roll and moonshots, but at heart he is a character of the Twenties: whether or not she can be characterized as a "conservative writer", his creator believed in an eternal England and had a low regard for alternative visions. In an early story, William's older brother becomes a Bolshevik - and Miss Crompton's demolition of its inherent contradictions is very adroitly done. When I am sick, forced to bed and fogged in by potions, that's one I always read just to perk myself up.
To hear the first part of William, Prime Minister, Mark Steyn Club members should please click here and log-in.
By the way, the references the lads make to preferred political leaders such as "the duck" and "the dog" reflect their attentiveness to both Italian current affairs and history: The duck is Il Duce, and the dog is the Doge of Venice.
Despite her young male protagonist, Richmal Crompton is a woman - so I hope this partially satisfies those listeners who've asked for more female authors. I wasn't sure I was up to the full Jane Austen, so for the moment this, along with Baroness Orczy, Louisa May Alcott and L M Montgomery, will have to suffice.
I hope you'll enjoy this springtime divertissement, but, if you pine for something heavier, that we can do, with plagues old and new, the definitive anatomy of the totalitarian state, the dead end of humanity, and protean jihadists itching to get out their scimitars. On the other hand, if that's all too much of a downer, we have a certain other fellow's The Prisoner of Windsor. Tales for Our Time in all their variety are both highly relevant and a welcome detox from the madness of the hour: To access them all, please see our easy-to-navigate Netflix-style home page. We've introduced a similar tile format for my Sunday Poems and also for our audio and video music specials.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club four years ago, and I'm overwhelmed by all those members across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone.
That said, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including our monthly audio adventures by Dickens, Conrad, Kafka, Gogol, H G Wells, P G Wodehouse, Baroness Orczy, Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Louis Stevenson - plus a couple of pieces of non-classic fiction by yours truly. You can find them all here. We're very pleased by the response to our Tales - and we even do them live on our annual Mark Steyn Cruise, sailing this autumn, and sometimes with special guests.
I'm truly thrilled that one of the most popular of our Steyn Club extras these last four years has been our nightly radio serials. If you've enjoyed them and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
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To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to William, Prime Minister but to all the other yarns gathered together at the Tales for Our Time home page.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you think my rendering of an English classic is a bust and makes you, like Violet Elizabeth Bott, want to thwceam and thwceam and thwceam, feel free to have at it.
And do join us tomorrow for Part Two of William, Prime Minister.