Now the year has turned and spring bulbs are bravely poking up in Clerkenwell window-boxes, we’re looking forward hopefully, as well as looking back thoughtfully over the events of the past year, which was quite an adventurous one for SF.
The highlight, perhaps, was our first Readers’ Day, held in November at the Art Workers’ Guild in Bloomsbury. It was a day that more than lived up to expectations. The setting – an elegant Georgian house which has been a home-from-home for craftsmen since the days of William Morris – felt perfect, spacious yet friendly. The day was packed in every sense and we were surprised and touched to learn of the distant places from which many people had travelled to be there, including the Isle of Wight and even the South of France. It was a great pleasure to see so many Slightly Foxed readers gathered together – a ‘fellowship of readers’, as Daisy Hay put it in the introduction to her talk on the early nineteenth-century circle who feature in her book The Young Romantics – and names were put to voices which had previously been heard only on the phone. The bookshop which Tony and Jane had set up was humming, and at teatime delicious cakes made by our versatile contributor Frances Donnelly were served. We enjoyed the whole thing hugely and are now planning another Readers’ Day this coming November.
In the autumn we also launched the first title in our new paperback series – Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School. We’d been thinking for some time of putting into paperback those Slightly Foxed Editions that have now sold out, and when the hardback of Mr Tibbits disappeared from the shelves in record time and orders were still pouring in, it seemed the moment to start. Now we have also added Diana Holman-Hunt’s My Grandmothers and I to the series. Though we say it ourselves, the new paperbacks are delightful – pocket-sized and elegantly produced on the same good cream paper as SF. So if you missed these two titles first time round, here’s your chance.
Which brings us to the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions – Suzanne St Albans’ magical Mango and Mimosa, a recommendation for which appeared in our very first issue, and which we’re now able to publish ourselves (see p.11). It’s the story of a childhood spent in a most eccentric pre-war household, moving restlessly between an old farmhouse in a remote part of Southern France and the plantation Suzanne’s intellectual and pathologically anti-social father had inherited in Malaya. Hers is an entirely individual voice and her story is filled with unforgettable characters, both human and animal. Truly one of the funniest and most atmospheric memoirs we’ve read.
Another individual voice is that of the novelist John Cowper Powys, and on p.33 the philosopher and critic John Gray shares his enthusiasm for the work of that largely forgotten writer. This will form the basis of a talk he’ll be giving at 4 p.m. in the Library at Christ Church on Saturday, 24 March, as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. For any of you who would like to attend, or indeed enjoy a longer visit to the Festival, there will be a discount for SF readers on tickets for the event and accommodation can be reserved in college. For details please call the Slightly Foxed office.
And finally, the winner of our Christmas crossword competition (the answers to which appear on p.94) is Sir John Sparrow, who receives a year’s free subscription to Slightly Foxed. We send him our congratulations, and wish you all happy reading this year.