Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Curse of St. Custards

"Pythagoras puzzled by one of my theorems"
--Ronald Searle's Nigel Molesworth

I've learned a lot from Nigel Molesworth, a.k.a. The Curse of St. Custards, a.k.a. The Goriller of 3B. While sometimes it is tempting to write like Nigel, those attempts are best confined to the presence of other fans gathered within a small, secluded picnic spot out in the country. However, there are some notable exceptions.* As a review of the reissued compilation of the Molesworth notebooks points out:

"As far as I can see, what takes Molesworth beyond the merely funny for his fans - the kind of people who, according to Hensher, 'ruin' dinner parties for the 'non-Molesworthphile' guests by saying things to each other like 'nearer and nearer crept the ghastly THING' or 'the prunes are revolting'; the same sort of people, I imagine, as those who describe Gary Larson cartoons or perform one of Eddie Izzard's routines when they want to be funny - is nostalgia. And the books are not just a sunny reminder of blissful childhood days spent climbing trees to smoke clandestine cigarettes during Miss Pringle's botany walks: more pungently, reading Molesworth now is evocative of reading it as a child."

Too true. I don't remember when I discovered Molesworth, but I've always thought him hilarious. (By the way, my parents had a cat named after Nigel Molesworth, and the namesake fully lived up to his precessor in cheekiness and mischief.) My brother, Ulric, fails to see what I find so funny. Perhaps if he had read a copy of Down With Skool! early on, he would have discovered some of these pithy observations from Nigel's schoolbook:

Geometry: "To do geom you hav to make a lot of things equal to each other when you can see perfectly well that they don't."

Literature: "Peotry is sissy stuff that rhymes. Weedy people say la and fie and swoon when they see a bunch of daffodils."

Botany:"Boo to birds beasts crows trees grass flowers also cristopfer robin and wind in the wilows. Charge at the tinies and mow them down."

History: "History started badly and hav been getting steadily worse."

Update: You can download the BBC radio program "Down With Skool." Rupert Grint is Nigel Molesworth.

*Notable Exceptions to the rule that one should not inflict Molesworth tributes upon the general populace:

An essay on Science Fickshun and Fantasy January 6, 2011: This is why I resent the internet sometimes. A book may be hard to find, but these days it often doesn't just disappear (unless we're talking about my bookshelves).

Ho for Hoggwarts!
("Google's #2 hit for poo gosh since 2002." )


Melangell said...

O Ho! Thank you for these wonderful links. I shall try not to write like Nigel, though it is truly seductive. I have loved these books also since childhood. I love it that your parents had a cat named after Nigel. Now, at least for the day,I am Melangell the Gleeful.

Kaptain Kobold said...

Hoorah! Another Molesworth fan.

I have to re-read them from time to time. I have done so for the las 30-odd years and find a new bit I didn't understand before each time.

london-eating said...

All these years later I still find myself unable to read Molesworth on public transport from fear of embarrassing myself. It's the timing, the sheer comic genius of it.

Saints and Spinners said...

london-eating: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, especially since this is the "deep archives." Now that my daughter is in grade school, St. Custards comes to mind often.

Bere Farno said...

the link can be retrieved using the wayback machine

it is readable at