More farcical adventures at Greyfriar's School

Billy Bunter And The Blue Mauritius - Frank Richards

Well, I have just come back from watching a performance of The Importance of Being Ernest and while I would love to write about the play I don't feel that I am able to because while I have seen it performed, I have not actually read it (and I wonder why I would read it since performance that I saw was so awesome that by reading the play may spoil the enjoyment of the performance - but then again it is a play so I doubt it would take all that long), so unfortunately I won't be writing a commentary on it at this stage. However, I have also just finished reading this book, and I can certainly write a commentary on this book, which is what I am doing now.

Now, I am sure many of us (me included) probably do not know what a Blue Mauritius is, though if you are a philologist, you probably do, and probably also know how much it is worth, but for those of us who do not engage in that worthwhile hobby (like me), this is a Blue Mauritius:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Modry_mauritius.jpg

 

This little piece of paper, according to Wikipedia is worth a tiny sum of four million dollars, which was the price at last recorded sale in 1993 (if you believe everything Wikipedia says that is). So, if you are a stamp collector, and have one of them in your collection, well, I would consider taking out insurance on it because you really do not want to lose it. Anyway, I suspect the reason that it is so valuable is not just because it was the first colonial British stamp ever printed, but because it has the words 'post office' as opposed to 'postage paid' on it, and there were only a few of these stamps ever printed. It is like those stamps you get that are printed upside down and released before the error is discovered.

As for the story: a local land owner, Sir Popper, has come into a bit of strife with the tax department (and we discover that this is a regular occurrence) so he is forced to sell his stamp. However, for some unknown reason, he wonders around the woods carrying the stamp in his hand crying over how he must part with it (oh the troubles of owning a valuable stamp). However, there are some crooks about who, surprisingly, also want to get their hands on the stamp, so they concoct a number of plans to steal it (which pretty much involves running up to Sir Popper while he is holding the stamp, grabbing it, and bolting). The problem is that the occupants of Greyfriar's school are also wondering about and seem to get in the way of these thieves and every attempt they make in attempting to grab the stamp ultimately ends in failure.

While I would like to go on, I have realised that what I will end up doing is telling you what happens in the book, and that would not be fair (not that these books are widely read these days), but personally, I enjoyed it. Billy Bunter, at least as far as I am concerned, can really only be taken in small doses, but it is good mindless fun with a bit of humour as well. In fact the story is somewhat farcical (such as Sir Popper not learning from his mistakes and continuing to wonder through the woods looking at this stamp) and there is also quite a lot of slapstick, which generally involved Billy Bunter being slapped, hit, and kicked, usually by his peers (though I believe he also receives the cane at least once in this book). Mind you, Bunter is quite a character, and while he is incredibly annoying, I now realise that he only ever solves the problems through sheer luck. In fact, Bunter is far more interested in food, getting money for food, and dodging class, and then when he gets lines for dodging class (or turning up with a face that has been painted blue because he happened to fall asleep in one of the lounges during break), he does his best to try and get out of them, usually unsuccessfully. He just happens to be the bumbling fool that through his own sheer stupidity makes everything right.

The other thing that I love about these books is all of the classical allusions that are thrown about, and in places Richards will actually use a Homeric analogy to describe how lazy and greedy Billy Bunter is, all the while reminding us that the one thing that Mr Quech, the Form Master, is passionate about, is Publius Virgilius Maro (otherwise known as Virgil), and his version of lines inevitably involves copying out large chunks of Virgil (though that was never the case when I went to school; normally when we got lines it would be something like 'I must learn not to misbehave and be disruptive in class' which we would always truncate it to 'I must be good' - that is if we would actually do them). Actually, as I come to think about it, I don't think doing lines ever made us better students, even though it was based on the false premise that if we write something enough then it would sink into our subconsciousness forcing us 'to be good' however it never seemed to work that way because even though we were given lines we would still play up, and by playing up we would get lines, and when we got lines we wouldn't do them and continue to play up. Maybe our High School teacher should have just sent the entire class to the principal's office.

Oh, we also get to meet Ms Elizabeth (Bessie) Bunter in this book as well, and as it turns out, she is the female version of Billy.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1021351983