Nigel molesworth

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The JC’s fictional heroes
Preaching righteous truth with the power of metaphor.
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An old lag, back in the jug agane for another term or lat, algy, geom, hist, bulles cads oiks, skool dog, skool sossages and MASTERS everywhere chiz chiz chiz. Self portrait to the right.

The JC’s spiritual forebear, influence and guiding light when all else fails, as invariably it does. Also, the progenitor of the Molesworth self-adjusting thank-you letter, which the young JC encountered at a highly impressionable age, and on hindsight is probably more responsible than anything else for the direction his career has taken.

Asked to chose his favourite literary character as an inspiration for law, the JC — after a wistful look at A. P. Herbert’s curmudgeonly litigant Albert Haddock — chose of course Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle’s immortal, heroic schoolboy nigel molesworth, self-styled “curse of st custards”, made real through the winsome prose real-life schoolmaster Geoffrey Willans and real-world illustrating genius, Ronald Searle, in a series of books published in the 1950s and now available through compendiums like The Complete Molesworth.

Molesworth — a ner’er do well 12 year old at a Boarding School that may well have inspired Hogwarts[1] — stands on neither form nor ceremony in how he expresses himself. For our age of obsessive modern formalism, nigel is the embodiment of unapologetic, old-fashioned substance. He cares no fig for spelling or grammar — “uterly wet and weedy” he would sa, no doubt — but, through a savant genius for subversion of the vernacular, has still generated his own idiom which — as any fule kno — survives to this day in publications as august as Private Eye, Test Match Special and (cough) the jole contrian.

Molesworth cuts through where the insipid bromides we have become accustomed to do not: his language and his clarity of vision have survived the ages:

Second to swots headmasters like boys who are good at foopball and shoot goals then they can shout ‘Pile in caruthers strate for goal’ or other weedy things from the touchline.
Personally i am not good at foopball i just concentrate on hacking everbode. Headmaster yell at me he sa MARK YOUR MAN MOLESWORTH ONE what does he think i am the arsenal chiz. Acktually fotherington-tomas is worse than me he is goalie and spend his time skipping about he sa Hullo clouds hullo sky hullo sun ect when huge centre forward bearing down on him and SHOT whistles past his nose. When all the team sa you shuuld have hav stoped it fothertingon-tomas he repli ‘I simply don’t care a row of buttons whether it was a goal or not nature alone is beattful’.

It would be lovely if more lawyers —in-house and out — would look at their world the same way.

Molesworth is also the quintessential legal operations man. He understands the importance automating and operationalising tiresome and unnecessary tasks — take, for example, the patented “molesworth self-adjusting thank-you letter

Document assembly, st custards style

which at a stroke solves the problem of feigning unctuous gratitude to matron aunts for birthday presents you didn’t really want, and making time to whizz for atomms. If there is a better description of commercial law than that, I can’t think of it.

Molesworth has a unique way of looking at the world, instinctively understanding the natural order of things, why it is perverse, and what thereby, is its potential for subversion for better effect. Hence, his handy, countercultural guides to the alien landscape of SKOOL and all its manifold institutions and demagogueries.

Thus, nigel molesworth is for ever one of the troops, a rank and filer, but for his wit and his wry observation, at the mercy of masters, matron, the skool dog, sossages and GURLS chiz chiz. But he believes in himself, what he stands for, and realises it takes grit and determination not to mention knowledge of How To Be Topp.

I mentioned regretfully overlooking Mr Haddock, though I am not sure I have: I fancy that, when young Molesworth grew into an adult — he would be in his eighties now — he would be just the sort of fellow who would present payment for his tax arrears to Her Majesty’s Revenue made out, crossed non-negotiable, on the side of a cow.

See also


  1. Seriously: moleworth’s latin pla was called Hogwarts, and there are those who have burst forth in print on this thesis.