Two John Fothergill letters

IMG_1595Found – two signed handwritten letters from John Fothergill author of An Innkeeper’s Diary.  He was the proprietor of The Spreadeagle in Thame, the ‘inn’ he managed to make a cult destination during the 1920s and 30s. To quote travel blogger Ian Weightman:

‘In its heyday, The Spreadeagle near Oxford became a mecca for holiday makers, and the great and the good of the country. Many people booked to stay or dine there, purely because of Fothergill’s notoriety. But many others – including a “glitterati” of writers, actors, artists and heads of state – arrived as a result of the hotel’s widespread reputation as one of the best in the land… Fothergill was not only an illustrious innkeeper, but also an outstanding chef, connoisseur of wine, and an early campaigner for “Real Food”’.

The letters are to the writer Guy Chapman (author of the WW1 account A Passionate Prodigality and husband of Margaret Storm Jameson, English journalist and author.) They were associated with the writer’s organisation PEN – hence Fothergill asking for advice about republishing a gardening book he had written in 1927 (The Gardener’s Colour Book -now quite collectable.) The first letter is from the Spreadeagle and the second from his inn in Market Harborough which he ran from 1934 to 1952. Anybody writing a biography of Fothergill in the future would appreciate these letters, but when they are sold they tend to disappear – so following the original Jot mission we are recording them here.

The Spreadeagle, Thame 26.9.27.
Kate tells me you wanted wine -you didn’t tell me. …If anything would mollify your hardships at present please tell me. I have a Château Celau (?) ’22 which I bottled here in ’24 at 40 shillings, which I like very much and the Dupin at 31 shillings and all the other and better things. I’m very glad to hear poor Storm is getting on and so let’s look forward to a less loathesome time in our lives, O Lord.

Stick to it yourself and be tired and sick for a bit more. London’s a beastly place to start with – better come and live here at a less costly rate. Which would be so jolly… Yours John

(followed by a doodle and the words ‘JF’s signatura found under the Thames’)

3 Swans. Market Harboro’ 12.4.52
My dear Guy.
It seems like calling down into to the tomb to write to you after all these years–but so is–

If you get this and have time to answer I would like your opinion. I’m wondering whether a small 2/6 paper edition or so of that ill-fated Knopf Gardener’s Colour Book which you so nobly did for me and so beautifully, would appeal to some publisher. It’s very doubtful of course, but perhaps an agent could find a job for it. Author’s Society tell me they can’t advise without seeing the contract – which of course I’ve lost years ago. Would you know?
We are selling this place by auction at the end of the month and I’m living in anguish as to its results…they say it will be OK. Going to live in Rugby* with a son Anthony who is now a BSC London apprentice and doing very well with lots of promise.

It’s horrid to be so out of it all, and not to know how you to got along in US. I’m sure you must have made a huge experience of it all, for which I couldn’t think of a better couple. Will meet in heaven no doubt, meantime love to you & Storm yrs ever John.

*A Christmas card in the same year (1952) signed J,K, and A Fothergill shows he had arrived in Rugby and was living at at 32 Lancaster Road.

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