Trying to find space to squeeze another book onto her shelves, Gert came across this blast from the past, from the glory days of Thatcher’s England. Henry Root, aka William Donaldson, peppered dignitaries and celebrities of the day with letters full of ridiculous and offensive ideas, and then published the letters together with the replies. The Prince of Wales’ private secretary wrote a very polite refusal to an invitation to conduct the ceremonies at the open day at Henry’s flat (I reckon to pull in the Japs and the more gullible of our American friends. The idea is to show them how an ordinary Englishman lives.) Said the secretary, Unfortunately the Prince has already made his plans for that day. The TV personality Esther Rantzen, in reply to a letter saying You’re a fat idiot and your show’s a disgrace, said Hearing from viewers like yourself is an enormous morale boost for us all – it really makes a great difference to me to know that you find our work enjoyable and worthwhile.
A very British form of humour, this cocking a snook at revered institutions, shattering the laws of political correctness in the name of the common man, and exposing the hypocrisy of accepted forms of politeness, a very literary and political form of humour that’s no longer in vogue. Perhaps the nearest thing is the political cartoon?
If you click on the somewhat blurred book covers above they’ll come up in full glorious detail.
The Henry Root Letters and The Further Letters of Henry Root (Macdonald Futura 1981).