The Library of Spanking Fiction: Wellred Weekly
ArticlesItems of interest regarding all things spanking
If one is looking for vanilla works of fiction that feature no shortage of corporal punishment then one need look no further than the series of comics and books that feature the character of Billy Bunter, a fictional pupil at Greyfriars School. The character was created by Charles Hamilton, or Charles Harold St. John Hamilton to give him his full title, using the pen name Frank Richards. In the vast majority of Billy Bunter stories one is likely to find at least one caning, usually carried out by the pompous, gimlet-eyed form-master, Mr Quelch.
Charles Hamilton had originally created the character along with a series of sketches in 1899 but his work wasn't accepted and remained unpublished. Several years later, however, Bunter was resurrected when in 1908 the editor of The Magnet, a new weekly boys' story paper published by Amalgamated Press, invited 'Frank Richards' to write for them.
The very first issue was published on February 15th, 1908 and was to continue being produced until 18th May 1940 by which time no fewer than 1,683 issues had been published. Of those it was believed that Hamilton wrote around 1,380 of them with the remainder being completed by 'fill in' writers. It appears that the main reason for The Magnet ceasing publication was a shortage of paper that occurred during the Second World War.
In 1946 the publisher, Charles Skilton, read an article entitled 'Do you remember Billy Bunter?' which was featured in the Picture Post and he subsequently contacted Hamilton, who was then 70 years old, to propose that he continue the Bunter stories in hardback book format. He agreed and proposed his usual fee of 30 shillings per thousand words but Skilton suggested royalties instead which worked out very well for Hamilton who went on to receive £1,000 rather than the £90 he would have accrued. The first book, Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, was released in September 1947 and Skilton went on to publish a further nine before selling the rights to Cassell who published another 29.
What then of the actual character of Bunter himself and his surroundings? According to Hamilton, the inspiration for Bunter was derived from three actual people: a corpulent editor, a short-sighted relative and a second relative who was forever trying to secure a loan on the basis of the anticipated receipt of a cheque.
Initially, Bunter was not a major figure within the Greyfriars stories of The Magnet but it was not long before Hamilton realised the comic potential of the character and he soon became the focal point of many of the stories.
Weighing in at around 14 stones Bunter's main physical characteristic is one of obesity, brought about specifically by over-eating. He is also distinguished by short-sightedness and wears round glasses, his short-sighted squint and weight resulting in his frequent description as 'the fat owl of the Remove', the 'Remove' being the name given to the Lower Fourth form at Greyfriars. In terms of his personality, one would have to describe him as something of an anti-hero, having been referred to as "dishonest, greedy, pathologically self-centered, snobbish, conceited, lazy, cowardly, mean-spirited and stupid"! Despite his negative attributes he nevertheless manages to appeal to the reader by virtue of the humour he generates and due to the fact that his various schemes never succeed and inevitably result in punishment.
At school the majority of his time is taken up with devising means of pilfering food in order to support his insatiable appetite and he shows little, if any, interest in anything else, including classwork and sports. When not actively engaged in some scheme to acquire food he is more than likely to be trying to raise a loan on the basis of a postal order that he is perpetually expecting but which never turns up.
His speech is notable for a series of frequently repeated catchphrases. These include his invariable opening line, "I say you fellows"; his reply to criticism, "Oh really Wharton" (or whoever is speaking); his characteristic giggle, "He, he, he"; and his exclamation of pain, "Yarooh" (which is "hooray" spelled backwards).
In 1940, in an essay entitled Boys' Weeklies, George Orwell described him as...
...a real creation. His tight trousers against which boots and canes are constantly thudding, his astuteness in search of food, his postal order which never turns up, have made him famous wherever the Union Jack waves.
Going on to say...
Billy Bunter, for instance, must be one of the best-known figures in English fiction; for the mere number of people who know him he ranks with Sexton Blake, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and a handful of characters in Dickens.
The books were initially illustrated by R.J. Macdonald who had been one of the most prominent illustrators of the old Gem, a story paper for which Hamilton had also written stories. Following his death in 1954 the art work was carried out by C.H. Chapman, who had originally worked on 'Magnet' and had been the first to depict Bunter in his check trousers.
An example of a typical Bunter yarn can be found in the 28th book in the series of hard backs, Bunter Out Of Bounds. Here, a fellow pupil has knocked over the form master, Mr Quelch, but has managed to escape without being recognised in the fading light. Bunter foolishly boasts that he was responsible which then comes to the attention of Quelch. He is then sentenced to be flogged in front of the entire school:
Mr. Quelch opened the door with one hand, and propelled Bunter outside with the other. In the corridor, he released the fat Owl.
At this point Bunter makes his escape, remains out of bounds for a number of days, returning only when the real culprit has been forced to own up. Unfortunately, he is then overheard saying he would up end Quelch soon as look at him and the inevitable ensues...
"What did you say, Bunter?"
Another example featuring Bunter on the receiving end can be found in Billy Bunter the Bold:
"You have deliberately darkened your eye with soot, to give it the appearance of a black eye, and have ventured to play this insensate trick in the form-room - to play this trick on me! On ME! I shall cane you for this foolish prank. Hand me the cane from my desk, Bunter."
Bunter's creator, Charles Hamilton, died on Christmas Eve, 1961 by which time he appears to have penned at least 70 million words although there are higher estimates of 90 and 100 million words widely quoted. Based on word count he is commonly thought to be the world's most prolific author and as such has featured in the Guinness Book of Records.
There is, however, some doubt in regards to whether Hamilton wrote all the stories that are attributed to him. At the time of Hamilton's death, the initial publisher of his hard back series, Charles Skilton, wrote a letter which suggested that there were only two more books yet to be released but the publishers, Cassells, went on to publish another seven.
The 38th and final Bunter book in the Cassells series appeared in 1965, four years after the author's death. It was originally to have been entitled Bunter to the Rescue, but being the last of the series it was eventually re-titled Bunter's Last Fling with the agreement of Mrs. Una Wright, Hamilton's niece and literary executor. Those closely familiar with Hamilton's work appear adamant it was not written by him claiming that the whole appearance of the prose is different and some have further suggested that it is in fact the work of his niece.
Whoever the actual author of this last Bunter publication actually was, it is encouraging to see that it was very much business as usual:
"You may go, Vernon-Smith. Bunter!"
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