Rare hand-written Roald Dahl letters to Dartmoor librarian go up for auction

The letter, dated August 2 1989, showcases the writer's opinion of his own work and his determination to get children reading. Credit: Hansons Auctioneers/PA

A librarian on Dartmoor is selling her rare handwritten letter from renowned children's author Roald Dahl.

Christine Wotton from Chagford said she wrote to Mr Dahl "speculatively" as a 20-year-old student as she was studying for a degree in literature and linguistics in the late 1980s.

"Nowadays I don't think I would have tried writing at all, but when you're in your 20s you're eternally optimistic about what can happen in life.

"I wrote the letter but I didn't really expect a reply, and certainly not a reply with such a long letter, handwritten and so much detail as well - completely blown away."

The double sided A4 response showcases the writer's opinion of his own work and his determination to get children reading.

The letter reads:

Never shelter children from the world... the 'content' of any children's book is of no importance other than that it enthrals the child - and thus it teaches or seduces him or her to 'like' books and to become a fit reader - which is vital if that child is going to amount to anything in later life.

The book-reading child will always outstrip the non-book-reading child in later life. There are very few messages in these books of mine. They are there simply to turn the child into a reader of books. Damn it all, they are mostly pure fantasy. Have you read the latest one, Matilda? It seems to have broken every sales record in the history of hardback publishing.

Ms Wotton said she "treasured" the letter for more than 30 years Credit: ITV West Country

Explaining the history of the letter, Miss Wotton said: "I stumbled across Dahl's address listed in the back of an old library book.

"On a whim I asked him questions which intrigued me regarding his style and attitude towards children's literature, never really dreaming of a response."

Reflecting now as a parent working as a librarian in Chagford Miss Wotton said she sees how children treasure books and devour their stories.

"I agree with Dahl whole heartedly. That it doesn't matter what children read, they can read comics they can read anything but as long as they are loving reading thats the important thing."

The letter is set to go on sale on June 15 in Hansons' specialist library auction in Staffordshire with a guide price of £500-800.

The letter had an original guide price of £500-£800. Credit: Hanson Auctioneers

Commenting on the item, Jim Spencer, head of books and works on paper at Hansons, said: "This is important. It's unusual to see such conversational correspondence from a big name like this.

"Most autograph letters that come up for sale are typed, brief, almost generic responses.

"This is quite different, it gives us an insight into Dahl's creativity and craft, his passion for making reading fun, encouraging children to pick up books and take a love of literature with them throughout the rest of their lives."

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