[Walter Starkie, Irish author, Hispanic and Romany scholar.] Three Autograph Letters Signed to Christopher Fry regarding Spanish translation, W. B. Yeats and Abbey Theatre; with five letters from Geoffrey Cumberlege of OUP, two from G. W. S. Hopkins.

Walter Starkie (1894-1976), Irish author, Hispanic and Romany scholar; Geoffrey Cumberlege (1891–1979); Gerard Walter Sturgis Hopkins (1892-1961) [Christopher Fry (1907-2005); Oxford University Press]
Publication details: 
All items dating from 1955. Two of Starkie's three letters from Madrid, the other on letterhead of the Athenaeum, London. Seven letters on letterheads of the Oxford University Press, London.
SKU: 22005

Fourteen items, including three letters from Starkie and seven letters from the Oxford University Press – five of them from Geoffrey Cumberlege and two from G. W. S. Hopkins – and copies of two letters from Cumberlege to Fry's agent Emanuel Wax, and a copy of a letter from the OUP to Starkie. All dating from 1955. The collection is in fair condition, lightly aged and worn. The three Starkie letters are all in autograph, and total 7pp. The first two are written from Madrid, and the last from the Athenaeum in Pall Mall. All three are signed 'Walter Starkie' and the first (19 April) also has a long postscript signed 'W. S.' It begins: 'Dear Mr Christopher Fry. | I have been advised to write to you on behalf of the Teatro de Camara in Madrid, a Vanguard Theatrical Group to ask whether you would be willing to allow them to translate and produce your play “The Lady's not for Burning”. They particularly wish to produce it next season.' He can 'thoroughly recommend' them: 'they have a good company of professional actors and have I think a subsidy from the government. […] Sean O'Casey gave them leave to produce “Juno and the Paycock”.' Starkie is 'so glad they are so keen' on Fry's plays: 'We have in the past years devoted a lot of attention at the British Institute and in lectures to Verse plays, especially yours and those of T. S. Eliot. I was at the first night of “Venus Observed” a few years ago and loved it. I think we met in the [Mercury?] Theatre some years ago with my friend Ashley Dukes.' The letter concludes: 'I was for 17 years a director of the Abbey and a lifelong friend of W. B. Yeats'. In the postscript he states that 'the translation is being made by Nicolas Gonzalez Ruiz, the well-known translator of Shakespeare. The translations done in South America cannot be produced here as the Spanish is so barbarous!' The second letter (21 September) begins: 'For quite a long time some of us who are interested in the theatre have been trying to stimulate interest in Verse plays and I used to lecture on your plays and those of Elliot [sic] and W. B. Yeats, with whom I was so many years associated in the Abbey Theatre.' He gives more information regarding the Teatro Nacional de Camara, including names of authors whose plays have been among its 'very good work'. 'They, however, have had a disappointing response from your agents ACTAC, who do not seem to be aware of the conditions obtaining in the Spanish Theatre today.' He describes three 'conditions they impose [...] which make it impossible for the play to be produced', adding 'They have asked me to write to you to see whether anything can be done to surmount these obstacles. […] I have always tried to help these devotees of the theatre who really wish to put on modern works'. He notes that in many cases the plays have been 'taken up by the commercial touring companies in Spain'. He ends by suggesting a meeting when he comes to London, and in the final letter (21 October), written on an Atheneum letterhead, he again puts the proposal from a company 'who are so anxious to produce your play […] They asked me to write you a personal letter about it, which I did, but I have not received a reply so far. I wrote to you because there was such interest in your plays in Madrid and I thought it a pity if one or two of them could not be produced.' Of the seven Typed Letters Signed from the Oxford University Press: five are from Printer to the University Geoffrey Cumberlege, and two from Charles Williams's friend the novelist and translator G. W. S. Hopkins. The first of the Cumberlege letters (12 August), all of which are signed 'Jock', begins with references to Moelwyn Merchant and a play which Fry has 'on the stocks', before turning to the 'Spanish (Sudamericana) arrangements' (these relating to publication in Buenos Aires of a Spanish translation of three of Fry's plays), on the subject of which he has received a letter from 'EW' – i.e. Fry's agent Emanuel Wax of Actac (Theatrical & Cinematic) Ltd – which gave him 'a considerable shock. He said that […] the action that you both proposed was virtually to reject everything that has been done in the last three years. I am to a great extent the curator of the Press's “face”, and I can't see how I am possibly going to convey Wax's harsh decisions at this point. […] Sudamericana must have spent quite a lot of mondey. They have made their deposit here to cover the first 2000 copies, […] I don't like giving grounds to foreigners for talking about perfidious Albion, and I particularly dislike the perfidious Press! I am sorry to bother you with these matters but I don't feel happy that you really know the story because if you did I am sure you would act more generously.' In his second letter (1 September), Cumberlege continues on the same subject before expressing delight at the news that Fry has 'gone broody'. He adds, 'That is a state that lasts for only two or three weeks and then you ought to begin serious laying. The nice Mr. Merchant, to whom I took very much, says that he thinks this is going to be the best play of all. What good news.' On 2 November Cumberlege is keen to learn 'the subject of your next play', and apologises for 'this stupid business of L'Avant-Scène. I don't quite know what they are up to but the French are not the easiest to deal with over matters of this kind.' On 8 December he writes about one matter he wants 'to put right': 'We had a long discussion about the quality of the translation of the three plays and we were both thinking that Starkie's criticism was aimed at the Sudamericanese, but I am reminded that these books were translated into Castilian Spanish and they have all had your approval. That being so, I cannot make out what it is that Starkie complains of, Can you enlighten me?' Accompanying this letter of 8 December is a carbon copy of a letter of the same date from Cumberlege to Wax, in which he states that he cannot see 'that Spain will produce a better translation that will be more acceptable to the Spanish theatre'. Another enclosure is a copy of a letter from Julian Urgoiti of Sudamericana. On 15 December 1955 Cumberlege discusses the matter further on returning Starkie's letters to Fry, stating that Starkie 'has never seen the translations and only assumes that Sudamericana's Spanish is going to be unacceptable in Spain. As I have said it is alleged to be Castilian Spanish and it has been approved by you.' Accompanying the letter is a copy of a letter of the same day to Wax, ending: 'I have a feeling that this is really all a storm in a tea-cup.' The Two Typed Letters Signed to Fry from G. W. S. Hopkins are both signed 'Gerry'. In the first (3 October) he describes the 'quandary' the OUP finds itself in over Fry's translation rights, now that 'Robert' has informed Hopkins – 'though I am not at all sure whether I am supposed to know about the business' – that Fry has received a proposal that his 'new Henry II play should be performed in a German translation next year at Salzburg'. In the second (7 October), after stating that he feels 'less lost' following Fry's reply to his last, he suggests that they 'see more of one another', adding: 'One of my troubles is that I always feel slightly shy about proposing a visit to you, knowing as I do how deeply involved you are in work and how very unwelcome at times even dear friends can be.' Also present is a 'Copy for Mr. Fry' of a long letter from an unidentified individual at OUP to Starkie, 19 May 1955, regarding Spanish translations, including the following: 'We have long hoped that there would be a production in Spain of “The Lady's Not for Burning” as well as other Fry plays but have frequently been told that it would not pass the Spanish Censorship. It would be interesting to know if your friends at the Teatr de Camara have made any progress in this direction.' Elsewhere the author writes: 'We note what you say regarding the barbarism of South American translations b[u]t it is nevertheless true that a translation is to be published there and it would be very helpful if there were only one official Spanish version of any play.