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Molesworth

Nigel Molesworth is a fictional character, the supposed author of a series of books about life in an English prep school named St Custard’s. The books were written by Geoffrey Willans, with cartoon illustrations by Ronald Searle.

Molesworth is a schoolboy at St Custard’s, a fictional (and dysfunctional) prep school located in an unspecified part of England. The school’s traditional local rivals are Porridge Court, who regularly beat St Custard’s convincingly in all sporting events.

The school is ruled with an iron fist by Headmaster Grimes (BA, Stoke-on-Trent), who is constantly in search of cash to supplement his income and has a part-time business running a whelk stall.

Other masters include Sigismund Arbuthnot, the mad maths master who frequently appears as Molesworth’s nemesis in his daydreams.

Molesworth’s fellow pupils include Grabber, the head boy and “captane of everything” whose wealthy father owns a publishing business; Peason, Molesworth’s “grate frend” and companion on his frequently imagined interplanetary adventures; Basil Fotherington-Tomas (“A goody-goody, a wet and a weed” who has curly blond locks and is prone to skip around the school girlishly saying “Hullo clouds, hullo sky”); and Molesworth 2, Nigel’s annoying younger brother.

Nigel’s spelling is consistently poor throughout all the books, with many words rendered phonetically, a feature found endearing by fans. The phrase “as any fule kno” – appended to many of Nigel’s pronouncements – has achieved fame beyond its author and can sometimes be seen in the mainstream British press.

The Molesworth books were created by author Geoffrey Willans and illustrator Ronald Searle. The character first appeared in Punch in 1939, and the books in the series are:

  • Down with Skool! A Guide to School Life for Tiny Pupils and their Parents (1953)
  • How to be Topp: A Guide to Sukcess for Tiny Pupils, Including All There is to Kno about Space (1954)
  • Whizz for Atomms: A Guide to Survival in the 20th Century for Fellow Pupils, their Doting Maters, Pompous Paters and Any Others who are Interested (1956)
  • The Compleet Molesworth (1958)
  • Back in the Jug Agane (1959)