Lot 17: A typed letter signed by Roald Dahl to a South Australian bookseller (1989)
August 28, 2016
Adelaide, AustraliaLive Auction
DAHL, Roald (1916-1990): A short but revealing typed letter signed by the author to a South Australian bookseller (one page oblong small quarto on 'Gipsy House' letterhead; 25 May 1989).
The letter reads in full: 'Dear Mrs. van der Schaaf, Many thanks for your letter. I am awfully glad my wife dropped in to see you when we were in Australia. I myself simply did not have the time. The whole programme exhausted me no end but it was still worthwhile. Australian children are pretty marvellous and so are their teachers. I wish you very great success with your shop. Yours sincerely [signed] Roald Dahl'. The recipient was the founding proprietor of Matilda Bookshop, an ongoing institution in the Adelaide Hills. A quantity of related ephemera give context to the content; not least of these is a three-page article by Richard Yallop from a March 1989 issue of 'The Age' Good Weekend Magazine. When Dahl wrote the letter, 'Matilda' was his most recent book, and he had just returned from his first (and only) visit to Australia 'at the age of 72. It transpires that Australia supplies some of his best fans.... the enthusiasm of the Australian response [to his 70th birthday] made him think there was something especially "sparky" about Australian children, parents and teachers. And he once had an angel of a housekeeper who came from Adelaide, which is why he accepted the invitation from South Australia to attend next month's children's festival'. These insights into Dahl's personal feelings about Australia (and Australians), and in particular about Adelaide (and assuredly by association, about a special Adelaide Hills bookshop coincidentally called Matilda!) suggest that this charming letter is not only far from routine, but also a genuine rarity of its type. Also present are a newspaper article relating to Dahl's appearance at the festival, four relevant Matilda Bookshop publicity leaflets, and a large illustrated poster advertising 'Matilda' ('The New Roald Dahl is here!', 250 x 760 mm).