Letter revealing Roald Dahl’s secrets to a good storytelling to go under the hammer


A handwritten letter from children’s author Roald Dahl, which reveals his secrets to good storytelling, is expected to be up for auction.

The letter, dated August 2, 1989, presents the writer’s opinion on his own work and his determination to have children read.

Librarian Christine Wotton said she wrote to Mr Dahl “speculatively” while studying at age 20 while working on a literature and linguistics degree in the late 1980s.

The item was priced at £ 500-800 by Hansons Auctioneers, based in Derbyshire.

The letter, from August 1989, reveals the author’s opinion on his own work (Hansons Auctioneers / PA)

The letter reads: “Never shield children from the world … the ‘content’ of any children’s book is of no importance other than whether it fascinates the child – and so he teaches or seduces him to ‘love’ books and become an apt reader – which is vital if this child is going to be anything later in life.

“The child who reads a book will always be ahead of the child who does not read a book later in life. There are very few messages in my books.

“They are there just to make the child a reader of books.

“Hell, most of these are pure fantasy. Did you read the last one, Matilda?

“He seems to have broken all sales records in the history of the hardcover edition.”

Explaining the history of the letter, Miss Wotton said: “I came across Dahl’s address on the back of an old book in the library.

Miss Wotton wrote to Mr. Dahl in the late 1980s as a 20-year-old literature and linguistics student (Hansons Auctioneers / PA)
Miss Wotton wrote to Mr. Dahl in the late 1980s as a 20-year-old literature and linguistics student (Hansons Auctioneers / PA)

“On a whim, I asked him questions that intrigued me about his style and attitude towards children’s literature, without ever dreaming of an answer.

“So I was amazed to receive a chatty double-sided handwritten A4 response, as well as another essay he lent me, presumably written in his famous garden shed, discussing the importance of reading to children and referencing her newly published book Matilda, now a West End movie and musical.

She added, “As he pointed out, it was unusual for him to respond to letters like mine, so I was really lucky.

“With the cheerful optimism of youth, I don’t think I fully appreciated my luck.”

The letter is expected to go under a hammer on June 15 at the Hansons Specialized Library auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire.

Addressing her reasons for selling the letter, Miss Wotton said: “I have enjoyed and cherished the letter for over 30 years and now is the time to share it, for others to read and appreciate its wise words rushing forward. wonderfully in its inimitable and flamboyant style.

Miss Wootton did not expect a double answer (Hansons Auctioneers / PA)
Miss Wootton did not expect a double answer (Hansons Auctioneers / PA)

“As the youngest of six, I’ve always fought with naughty, decrepit hairy ponies, so the proceeds will go to a horse to compete while I’m still brave enough and young enough to bounce back a bit.

“I like to think that Dahl, with his flawless demeanor, would approve of me getting up and going.

Commenting on the article, Jim Spencer, responsible for books and print works at Hansons, said: “This is important. It’s unusual to see such conversational correspondence from a big name like this.

“Most of the autograph letters offered for sale are typed, brief, almost generic responses.

“It’s quite different, it gives us a glimpse into Dahl’s creativity and craftsmanship, his passion for making reading fun, encouraging kids to buy books and love literature with them throughout. of their life.

“I guide the letter between £ 500 and £ 800, but that could easily spark a fierce bidding battle and run away for a lot, a lot more.

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