Book Description

An archive of 18 gossipy, poignant and waspish letters from Terence Rattigan to his close friend, the stage designer and director, William Chappell. Most date from the 1970's towards the end of his life from his home in the Bahamas. Much mention throughout of his troubled relationship with 'The Midget' i.e. Michael Franklin, his younger lover / companion for many years who often exhibits disturbing behaviour and threatens suicide regularly. The letters are usually on his personal headed paper unless he is writing from a hotel. The letters, 18 in total include one two-sided H/W postcard and a printed telegram and are all in very good condition. Eight have retained their original envelopes helping to date them, though the postmarks on one or two are obscured and difficult to read. To include : 1) A [6 page] letter from Florida, undated which might be the earliest of the sequence. 'Well here I am, ducky, lying on a chaise longue with a pair of sky blue shorts revealing intoxicating glimpse of bronzed thigh to passers by and with my love bottles bared to the public view....sipping a long cool, refreshing and intoxicating drink and wishing it, imagine it, I was back in England, frozen pipes or no frozen pipes....'. He writes of being invited to a dinner party, which he does not look forward to. 'I might get taken queer about eleven thirty and do a quick tour of the cottages not that there are any in Palm Beach – it's the sort of place where nobody does anything in public, not even pee....New York is gayer than it was last year and Mrs Rat [a nickname for himself] was the toast of the town, the prettiest young ladies nightly sipping champagne (domestic) from her galoshes....' 2) A [2 page] letter from Claridges 1969, is a litany of the faults and vices of an unnamed character 'we deal with a prodigy of deviousness, which is where the attraction lies for me....' I imagine this might refer, as the rest of the letter to his lover? [referred to as 'Her Majesty'.] 'I do think you sometimes believe that she's really just a playwright's fancy. She isn't. She's just a playwright's 'fancy'... 3) A [2 page] letter from the Beverly Hills Hotel. 'Good word of mouth about Chips [Goodbye, Mr. Chips, the 1969 film with a screenplay by Rattigan]. 'The new President of MGM has had an orgasm carefully recorded in an endless telegram.....' 4) A 14 page letter from Bermuda dated Jan. 1969 is largely about 'The Midget' and his exasperating moods, his comic attempts to refashion the house in Bermuda. ...' the Midget, low, is very pathetic, but he's still a fucking little liar, and a maker of bad blood when he can.... 5 ) One letter [4 pages] has his name 'Sir Terence Rattigan CBE' crossed out and the word 'Fuck!' written beside it. He was knighted in 1971 and looks to have been slightly embarrassed by the headed paper. In the letter he writes about having finished his 'Tosca play. It's called 'Vittoria! Because (a) that's the cry Tosca let's out on hearing the news of Marengo...and (b) it's the shout of triumph Scarpia roars on his last exit, having at last achieved you-know-what, on his way with Tosca to the bedroom.' The short play was later renamed 'Before Dawn'......Now for the serious one. That's also pro-England anti revolutionary – so the fuckers won't give me much chance there....' He asks Chappell to take a look at what 'multi-millionaire improvements he's [his lover Franklin] up to in one of his homes in England, perhaps the house in Brighton? In one letter from Feb. '72 [5 pages] he writes about his struggles with the producer, Hal Wallis over the casting for 'Bequest to the Nation'. Rattigan wanted Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch and got his way. In another letter from Bermuda [6 pages] '...I'm trying to work on 'The Case Against Alma” - better title than “Cause Celebre”?...Or too flashy?' He writes about his health and the unfortunate side effects of hormone treatment and of his troubles with the producers H M Tennent. A Jan.1975 letter [6 pages] from London outlines his dismal Christmas ..'wearing Clive Barnes notice as a paper hat [Clive Barnes was a New York Times theatre critic] and barely recovered from a Harrison [Rex Harrison, actor] induced nervous breakdown....' Rattigan's play “In Praise of Love” had opened on Broadway the previous month. More here on 'The Midget' and his plans. A [5 page] letter from Bermuda in 1975 is very funny about his time at a health farm and his troubles with the ownership of the house because his housekeeper won't sleep with the Prime Minister. Several more letters continue in the same amusing, gossipy spirit, mentioning several of his fiends and acquaintances. The last is the most poignant where he makes light of his increasing ill health. 'The Hon. Mrs Daisy De Pozzit (authoress of 'With Pick and Piton up the Rattispein' and more recently 'some interesting diggings on the Ratty pelvis' where she encountered some fascinating old Roman nerve-centres) looks as if she's decided to take up residence in Rattsliver Towers – that ancient crumbling Edwardian ruin so much added to since it was built in 1911...' [the year of Rattigan's birth]. ...'and brought her daughter 'Jaundice' to stay....' the letter continues over four pages...'I don't honestly know how long...maybe there's a wonder druggie, but I doubt it....sorry to be such a gloompot, but I had to tell someone....' At the top of the letter he has written in capitals 'NOT FOR THE MIDGET! (under any circs)'. After the light-heartedness and camp bitchiness of the other letters this last reveals something of the courage of the man as he faced the end. He died in Bermuda in 1977. William Chappell was a British dancer, ballet designer and director. He is most noted for his designs for more than 40 ballets or revues, including many of the early works of Sir Frederick Ashton and Dame Ninette de Valois. Housed in a custom solander box, with marbled inserts, silk tie and gilt titling. A marvellous archive of to date unpublished letters, much fascinating content besides these extracts, showing the many-sided personality of Rattigan, one of the great craftsmen of the English stage.
Author Rattigan, Terence
Date c1970's
Binding Loose
Condition Very Good+

Price: £3950.00

Offered by Ashton Rare Books

Friends of the PBFA

For £10 get free entry to our fairs, updates from the PBFA and more.

Please email for more information


Membership of the PBFA is open to anyone who has been trading in antiquarian and second-hand books for a minimum of two years subject to certain criteria.

Email to find out more, or complete the enquiry form.

complete the form