Monday, August 25, 2003

The Potemkin Museum of Antique Humour

Willans, R & Searle, G (England, Young Elizabethan/Early Television Era): Excerpt

Description: First published in 1956, Molesworth's Guide to the Atommic Age by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle is ostensibly a parody of English boy's fiction, in particular the public school "wizard wheezes" and "jolly japes" genre pioneered by Frank Richards in his Billy Bunter stories for The Magnet. Although not as pointed as the sports chapter of Willans & Searle's later How to Be Topp, the following excerpt illustrates how Willans manages to sneak in a few sly digs at his own generation, in the guise of a naive schoolboy affecting a rather charmless precocious cynicism. He also pokes a little fun at the literary canon along the way.

The text includes references to illustrations by Geoffrey Searle which could not be reproduced here. To preserve the flow of the text, no annotations have been provided however the curatorial staff will be answer any enquiries. Assuming that he knows the answers.


No one kno wot to do about anything at the moment so they sa the future is in the hands of YOUTH i.e. some of the weeds you have just seen. As if they kno wot to do about it at their age. All the same we are young elizabethans and it can't be altered - i expect drake felt the same way. Supose we had lived then, eh? i wave my ickle pritty fairy wand, slosh peason with it and the SCENE changes into something wondrous fair hem-hem i don't think.

Look at me coo er gosh posh eh? You wouldn't hav thort a pair of bloomers would make all that diference. fie fie - the grown ups canot kno what a privilege it is to be YOUTH in this splendid age of Queen Bess - when all are brave proud fearless etc and looking with clear eyes at the future. (Not so clear after some of those evenings at court, i trow, when all drink BEER.) All the same it is up to us boys becos the grownups hav made such a MESS of it all. So here i am looking like a hem-hem fule but fearing absolutely O. no one could be so brave. Hist! Hist tho! - i hear the headmaster advancing clump-clump with his huge feet encased in gooloshes. I had better begone like a scalded cat. The headmaster is not a young elizabethan he is an old conduct mark (swearing rude words general uncouth behaviour and letting down the tone of st. custard's .)


Drake, you know Drake who singed the king of spane's beard, he was the kind we ought to model ourselves on. With him he had a gay band of cut-throats who would make molesworth 2, peason, grabber gillibrand ect look like the weeds and wets they are. These cut-throats were very fond of Drake and when he was dead they kept calling to him.

CUTTHROATS: Captain art tha sleeping there below?
DRAKE: How can i when you are making such an infernal din?
CUTTHROATS: Drake is in his hamock -
DRAKE: i am not in my hamock curse you. All there is down here is sea-weed and shells it is worse down here than a bed in the skool dorm.
DRAKE: Wot is it? if you're going to sa 'art tha sleeping' i shall hav insomnia.
CUTTHROATS: Then you are not dreaming all the time of plymoth ho -
DRAKE: if i could dream at all it would be of marilyn mun-ro oh-ho that is a good one twig?

(the cutthroats go home in disgust to fill in their foopball pools)


next exhibit

Afterword: if anyone knows where to get hold of the Foopball section of How to Be Topp, the curator would be grateful for a copy.

No comments: