'But for Bunter the result might have been serious,' says a character in the Magnet 'India' series of 1926, giving credit to the fat schoolboy blunderer whose tomfoolery - quite by accident - has saved the day. It's a custom of Bunter's to run headlong into things, with preposterously beneficial results for all concerned. David Hughes, in his latest novel, takes this trait and turns it on its head: the outcome of Bunter's intervention in certain notable episodes of the 20th century is very serious indeed. By this account, Bunter is personally responsible for the arrest of Crippen and the sinking of the Titanic, not to mention the Somme debacle and consequent prolonging of the First World War. The throne of England is rocked because of Bunter. A fiery act of Bunter's sparks off the General Strike. It's Bunter's tailor who runs up some subsequently notorious black shirts for Oswald Mosley and his followers. Churchill assumes power in 1940 at the behest of Bunter. Bunter is at the bottom of the Suez business. 'The Waste Land' is a patch of ground at the back of the Bunter residence. David Hughes even devises a comic genesis, involving Bunter, for Lady Chatterley's Lover.
LRB 19 September 1985 | PDF Download