[Derek Stanford, biographer, essayist and poet, to playwright Christopher Fry.] 19 Autograph Letters Signed ('Derek S.' and 'Derek'), Autograph Card Signed, and carbons of three reviews. With 2 [copy?] letters to Stanford from Fry, and Stanford's CV.

Derek Stanford (1918-2008), biographer, essayist and poet, supporter of Muriel Spark and Dylan Thomas [Christopher Fry, playwright]
Publication details: 
Stanford's 19 letters between 17 February 1970 and 31 October 1978. Early letters from 1 St Catherine's Court, Bedford Park, W4 [London]; later letters from 5 Cricketfield Court, Cricketfield Road, Seaford, Sussex. Postcard from Worthing, 1997.
SKU: 22739

Stanford's study of Fry in the British Council's 'Writers and their Work' series was re-published several times, and the early letters in the present collection refer to the preparation of the fourth edition, published by Longmans in 1971 (the bibliography to which Stanford refers as 'CHRISTOPHER STATE PAPERS'). A total of twenty-six items. The material in good condition, lightly aged. Stanford's nineteen letters total 65pp, 12mo. In an undisciplined hand, in different-coloured ink, on different-coloured paper. Stanford's 19 letters between 17 February 1970 and 31 October 1978. Topics include: Fry's translation of Peer Gynt, performed at the Chichester Festival, 1970; the preparation of the fourth edition of Stanford's study of Fry; Stanford's reviews and other writing; his critical assessment of Fry's 'A Yard of Sun', with reports of the responses of others; other works by Fry; the death of Fry's wife; his teaching activities; a suggestion for a theme; advice on the handling of Fry's work; requests for assistance; sending of information such as contact details; grant application and Arts Council business; a talk on Fry; his own poetry; a 'bitchy review' of one of Fry's books; his new home in Sussex. There are a number of references to his wife Peggie, and to the poet and literary editor John Bayliss (1919-2008). In the first letter, 17 February 1970, Stanford discusses a selection of his poems he is attempting to have printed: 'I had one poem about you in my collection. It was published in the GLASGOW HERALD, but it wasn't good enough, so I cast it out. My fault, not yours.' He also reports 'Good news' about his bibliography: 'British Council were prepared to wait for your plays, so that I can say a word or two about them, before getting the 4th edition ready. Also, I've persuaded them to use the photograph which your wife prefers.' On 19 May 1970 he expresses pleasure at having seen Fry at Salsburg: 'I wonder did you slip out to Old Sarum - which is rather terrific!' He is sending a review, which is 'Really v. nasty to Mr. Coe who is no doubt much worthier than I have made him out to be.' On 25 June 1970 he sends, for Fry's 'amusement' ('well, certainly not "distress", I hope') his 'article which is an extended & slightly different account of the play PEER GYNT in The Statesman (Karachi) where I shoulder part of the white man's burden in return for money drafts which might, conceivably, be larger.' In the same letter he makes suggestions regarding the staging of Fry's 'A Yard of Sun', and on 12 July 1970, after its preview at the Nottingham Playhouse, he writes: 'We all enjoyed your sunny yard very much indeed, well Jack Bayliss thought it the best of your "comedies of reason." I myself was a little doubtful whether there was quite enough "summer" about. Of course in a literal sense you gave us generous portions of it: the title, the daylight in the courtyard of the palazzo, the Patio itself held in July, and images in the dialogue of the hot dirt-caked travellers [?] the burning streets. So in one sense, I am talking rubbish.' He proceeds to defend his assertion, and returns to the play in the following eight-page letter, 19 July 1970: 'We all recognised the importance of Cesare's speech, but reacted very differently to it. Clearly, it states the conclusion of the matter; and as such must receive the fullest attention of actor, audience & reader. Peggie liked it pretty-well as it stood - though she felt the penultimate line was a little "peachy" (though noting the medicinal connotation). Jack Bayliss thought the speech wanted shortening (because much is said, & the shorter it's kept, the more the audience is likely to take it all in), and I felt somewhat the same'. He asks him to forgive his 'impertinences'. On 24 September 1971 he reports the publication of 'The 4th. ed of my little monograph on you [...] with a scarlet pillar-box cover and - what is more to the point - your own handsome likeness immediately within'. He begins a letter of 18 October 1971: 'So glad the Lady [Fry's play 'The Lady's not for Burning'] has taken the road. It is splendid to think of her trailing her spring-time graces through this fast-grizzled & wintering land. The Lady has always been one of my favourites in the Christopherical canon. I always think of Shipton when I read it, and of the beauties of that early summer when I came with Muriel [i.e. the novelist Muriel Spark] to visit you there. I think, however, my heart belongs really to VENUS OBSERVED (I'm sure I must have told you how Roland Gant [publisher and writer (1919-1993)] used to refer to it as PENIS PRESERVED!) The Duke is very much my man, indeed; & the continual poet of [?] necessarily appeals to an October-born Libran like myself.' On 9 May 1974, in a five-page letter, he recommends the life of the English Civil War figure Viscount Falkland ('a culture-hero of mine for some twenty years') to Fry as 'a marvellous germ of a play', recommending books to read and other background material. He describes the elements of Falkland's life which he considers of interest, stating: 'It excites me tremendously to think of you possibly handling this theme.' On 27 February 1976 he announces that he is publishing a collection of short stories: 'Perhaps it's a bit late to make me's debut in fiction at the fine old hoary age of fifty-seven; but the idea for about 8 short stories with a novella was something I found hard to resist'. On 7 March 1976 he writes: 'I can see your worktable is piled high with scripts. The Best of Enemies - what a nice surprise title. I must ask you a little about the latter when I start an article on you in BOOKS & BOOKMEN. The Editor said take a general piece, but I have to write to O.U.P. first for a copy of CYRANO.' He reports that he is giving a talk on Fry 'at the IPS poets get together at Beatrice Webb House in July. Robin [Skelton] said he'd also like a talk on the 'Forties. So I'll be singing for my supper on that occasion. Accompanying the last letter, 31 October 1978, is a carbon copy of a review by Skelton of Fry's family memoir 'Can You Find Me?' 2pp, 4to. In the letter he states that he has 'found so much' in the book. An undated postcard dates from 1997, and responds to Fry's sending of a copy of his selection of his deceased wife's letters: 'Sprinkle of Nutmeg'. He writes of Fry's wife: 'What a way with words Phyl had and what a vivid gift of phrases. May God rest and bless her, and God bless you, too. | The cottage and Shipton retunrs to my mind in all the splendours of the summer I saw it in'. Carbon copies of two other items are present. First, a letter to the editor of the Times Literary Supplement, undated but defending Fry's 'A Yard of Sun' from a negative review of 21 August 1970. 2pp, 4to. Second, Stanford's review of 'Christopher Fry's Peer Gynt | at the Chichester Festival'. Two autograph notes by Stanford at the head of the first page: 'appeared - THE STATESMAN (Karachi) 6 June 1970 | in corrected carbon' and 'See pages - as marked 1, 3, 4 & 5.' 5pp, 4to. Also present is a duplicated copy of Stanford's CV, 1p, 8vo. Autograph note at head of page: 'In case you need this should the Arts Council people write. | Derek. There are two Autograph (Copy?) Letters Signed (both 'Christopher') from Fry to Stanford (both to 'Derek'), 24 June 1973 and 26 September 1974, both on grey-blue paper with embossed letterhead of The Toft. Each 2pp, 12mo. The first begins, regarding recent English drama: 'Dear Derek: | I'm not much of a help - going as we do so seldom to the theatre - but from all accounts there should certainly be Christopher Hampton's The Philanthropist in the list, and his recent play Savages. I'd also include Tom Stoppard's Jumpers (which we did see, and enjoyed)'. He continues with reference to 'a new Edward Bond play, quite well spoken of, recently at the Royal Court (have forgotten its name)' and 'David Storey's The Changing Room', which ' got a good reception though not much of a run (it has done well in New York)', also works by Peter Nicholls. Turning to his own writing he states that 'We've just finished work on the Four Bronte T.V. plays - altogether 4 1/2 hours duration - now only editing and music to be done'. In a postscript he adds to the plays: 'Oh, & Harold Pinter: Landscape - The Homecoming?' The second letter begins with a reference to 'Tony Rye's birthday celebrations' before continuing: 'I've had my head down to a clutter of work and when I do that the days skid past in the most alarming way.' Regarding 'Can You See Me?' he writes: 'I've finished, though there is still a lot of revision to do, a book about my family, c.1850-1919: am part way through a libretto for an opera, based on Paradise Lost - and if that sounds unlikely to you, as it did to me, I will add that Dryden once contemplated doing that very thing! - and working my way towards a television play.'