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APW/5 - Michael Holroyd

Reference code
Level of description
Michael Holroyd
Quantity & Format
2 boxes
Personal name
Holroyd, Michael, 1935-
Scope and content
Michael Holroyd is an English biographer.

These files chiefly arise from the files of AP Watt’s literary agents Hilary Rubinstein and Caradoc King.


In addition to the main run of correspondence is an envelope with 2 letters from 1979. One is from MH to Hilary Rubinstein concerning the publisher Rainbird, 30/4/79.

*Press-cuttings, 1987*

Contains press-cuttings relating to Holroyd’s biography on George Bernard Shaw. They cover his relationship with the Managing Director of Chatto & Windus, Carmen Callil; and criticisms on the record advance of £625,000 for Holroyd’s multi-volume book which was described in the press as fetching “a pound a word.” His publishers were criticised for thinking they would ever recover such a ludicrous sum. Chatto did not necessarily think they would.


Hilary Rubinstein writes to Penguin Books Ltd and tells them that MH doesn’t ever want to see reissued the novel he had published in America twenty years previous and doesn’t have any plans to write any more fiction, 10/7/87.

Penguin expresses a wish to publish A DOG’S LIFE, 10/3/87.
OUP revert their rights in THE SHORTER STRACHEY, 3/8/87.

Early correspondence centres on finding a UK publisher for the Shaw biography. Random House was the American publisher. Includes letters of interest from publishers.

The Canadian agents, Vardey & Brunton Associates, were interested in publishing Shaw’s biography if AP Watt could get out of the non-exclusive Canadian deal with Random House, 28/8/87. They mentioned the annual Shaw festival held at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

The draft letter to publishers mentions that “the biography is the fruit of 12 years hard labour without benefit of subsidy,” 11/8/87. Details are included from Richard Bates of the typesetting and disks he used in the word-processing of the first seven chapters.

A letter from MH outlines his itinerary for a holiday to Italy “with dates and telephone numbers to be used in the event of good news.”

Chatto is selected to buy the rights and a letter from Chatto, 29/9/87 outlines some points in the terms of the agreement.

Taxations and MH’s personal financial arrangements are discussed in a letter from chartered accountants Schofield Kernon Spring, 7/10/87. In the light of these remarks MH writes to Hilary Rubinstein and suggests certain clauses relating to permission and copyright fees, and re-publishing, which should be included in the contract, 9/10/87.

An unsent letter to Patrick Garland asks if he would be interested in dramatizing the biography for the stage.


Correspondence with the Sunday Times stretches back to 1976 in which they agree to pay MH a sum of money in instalments on demand, beginning in 1977. They also agree “we will limit ourselves to one third of the final biography.”

Hilary Rubinstein asks for the first payment to be made in 1980.

In 1986 Valerie Reuben of Rainbird closes the file on THE GENIUS OF SHAW, edited by MH, as the US rights in that book had reverted to Rainbird.

In 1987 MH asks if Hilary Rubinstein could act on his behalf and cancel the serial rights agreement that was made in 1976 with the Sunday Times for the Shaw biography. MH repays The Sunday Times and sends a cheque. He is nowhere near finishing the book and he cites the difficulties he’d experienced in the US and in connection with the Shaw estate which had caused delays. The 4th volume of Shaw’s letters was due to be published the following year which meant that the biography would only be published in the 1990s, 10/3/87. He asks for the deal to be cancelled.

In a letter to Brian MacArthur of the Sunday Times, 24/9/87, Hilary Rubinstein explains how the events of the week and the sensational deal with Chatto had come to pass. Rubinstein had suggested to MH that he allow the book to be written in stages rather than wait until the whole work was finished.

The Managing Editor of the Sunday Times replies, 26/9/87. The Sunday Times feels it was misled on the projected completion date for the book and that the 1976 deal was needlessly cancelled. They ask for confirmation that the Sunday Times owns the first British serial rights in the book.

Rubinstein replies, 29/9/87, and explains the situation and turn of events saying “there was no plot or misrepresentation.”

The Sunday Times’ solicitor writes to Rubinstein and demands an undertaking that AP Watt will not do anything with the first British serial rights without giving forty eight hours’ notice. Unless this is received, the solicitors would consider applying for an ex parte injunction.

Further correspondence deals with revised agreed arrangements.


This file contains the following:
- Correspondence on the promotion of vols. 2 and 3 of the Shaw biography in Canada.
- Correspondence on the sale of film and television rights in LYTTON STRACHEY.
- Correspondence granting to Penguin a fresh licence on their edition of AUGUSTUS JOHN (letters, 30/6/87-7/3/88). - Various letters calling for advances from The Sunday Times and from Chatto.
- Correspondence on the agreement with Chatto for THE SHORTER STRACHEY, selected and introduced by Michael Holroyd and Paul Strachey.
- A schedule of the international publicity planned for the Shaw biography.

Robert Lescher (authors representative in New York) negotiates with Random House (publishers of the biography in the US) and he writes in a letter to Hilary Rubinstein “the second volume is quite extraordinary … I hadn’t thought it possible to surpass what I felt he had achieved with Volume 1.” Lescher expected Random House to pay the instalment on delivery and the remainder on the delivery/acceptance of the third volume, 3/7/88.

Serial rights are negotiated for Canada and a list of the papers to which the rights would be sold is provided in a faxed letter, 13/6/88.

Ian Chapman of Pan, pitches to Carmen Callil for the publication of a Picador edition of the biography. Full details of their promotional plans are included (letter, 15/6/88).

Correspondence is included on Heinemann’s request to reissue UNRECEIVED OPINIONS. This was after Penguin reverted the paperback rights to them (letter 17/5/88). MH was of the opinion that it was too dated to merit a re-issue. An agreement was finally reached to revert the licence to MH. Hilary Rubinstein reassured Heinemann that there was no intention to have the book republished in its original form, 16/6/88.

Contracts and licences for THE BEST OF HUGH KINGSMILL are discussed. Chatto thought that it may be suitable for their Hogarth list, 8/3/88.

Chatto approaches MH and asks for his opinion on a proposal to launch a series of pamphlets which would focus on contemporary issues that relate to the condition of Britain. They wanted to revive the tradition of pamphleteering. They were presenting to 25 writers of major stature.

The Sunday Times’ promotion plans and serialisation of the Shaw biography are outlined in correspondence from August 1988.

Rights in the three volumes are discussed with Chatto and Random House (letters June – September 1988).

Robert Lescher confirms the acceptance of Vintage’s advance to publish the first 3 volumes of the US paperback.

Penguin renews the licence for AUGUSTUS JOHN for a further five years, 8/11/89.

Correspondence is included on the re-issue by Chatto of William Gerhardie’s GOD’S FIFTH COLUMN, and edited by MH and Robert Skidelsky, December 1988 – February 1989.

Terms are agreed with Euston Films Limited for the filming of CARRINGTON, 8/3/89.

Includes MH’s draft of the introduction he wrote for BERNARD SHAW AND PHOTOGRAPHY.

MH asks Hilary Rubinstein if AP Watt would contribute to the Location Register of manuscripts “to keep the team of researchers together at Reading University”, 29/3/89. A letter of thanks from the University of Reading follows.

Contains a schedule of visits across the UK for MH’s promotion of the Shaw biography from April 1989 – March 1990.

Timing of the serialisation of Shaw’s biography by the Sunday Times causes concern for Chatto as the serialisation was proposed to be published three weeks before the book, April 1989.

Includes a copy of a remittance advice for payments received by MH from Chatto, 8/5/89; and royalties from Heinemann for LYTTON STRACHEY HIMSELF.

Procedures for MH to order his copies of the Shaw biography from Chatto are discussed in July 1989. MH didn’t want these sales to show against his royalty statements.

Hilary Rubinstein explains to Robert Lescher the arrangements which were made between AP Watt and Peter Luke for the dramatisation of various works, 15/8/89.

The following are also included:
- A confirmation letter to Curtis Brown relating to an agreement with Chatto and the Hogarth Press for GOD’S FIFTH COLUMN, and a paid signature advance.
- A promotional itinerary from Chatto for September 1989 - March 1990.
- A list of 125 [George Bernard Shaw] quotes.
- A copy of volume 1 THE SEARCH FOR LOVE.
- A jacket for volume 3 THE LURE OF FANTASY.



- Various printed reviews including Vogue Australia, The Independent on Sunday, The Weekend Telegraph, The Dominion, and The National Trust Magazine.
- A list of Shaw production negotiations, eg. festivals, films, etc.
- A letter from Robert Lescher which confirms that Vintage would be publishing the first volume of Shaw’s biography in July 1990.
- MH’s publicity schedule from Chatto’s for March 1990 – November 1991. It includes Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland and England.
- A letter from a BBC producer asking for the date on which Shaw refused the Order of Merit (letter, 6/4/90).

In MH’s letter of 18/6/90 he writes of the two monstrous manuscripts he is writing on, a 1400 page thriller and Thomas Pakenham’s SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA, as a result he could only work on volume 3 of the Shaw biography for about an hour a day. His report would therefore be delayed. “The only problems I’ve come across in chapter 14 are that some peripheral characters will have to be identified again, since we’ve forgotten who they are; that occasionally your paragraphs run on a bit too long; and that I am seeing too many dots and dashes before my eyes ...”

Problems are cited in relation to Vintage having received defective copies of the 1st volume of the Shaw biography from the printers.

Contains a number of publicity schedules.

Correspondence is included on the serialisation by the Sunday Times of the Shaw biography.


Concerns a deal in the US which Chatto secured with Overlook for GOD’S FIFTH COLUMN. The receipt of royalty payment is queried later in September 1991.

Joseph Fox, Editor of Random House, suggests a one-man theatrical evening on George Bernard Shaw. This is a detailed description of how the play could be staged, 6/2/91.

MH shares with Chatto the cost of a libel reading by solicitors. This relates to the odd page in the Shaw biography with which Chatto had concerns, 3/5/91.

Further correspondence on commission payments for the sale of film and television rights in LYTTON STRACHEY. Discussions refer to the principal in the agreement with Euston Films as being William Heinemann, who held the contracts, and not MH, 13/5/91.

An update on the sales and royalties of UNRECEIVED OPINIONS.

Serial rights in THE LURE OF FANTASY.

A manuscript of an open letter to the Taoiseach by MH who was involved with the Shaw Birthplace Museum Trust.

Letter (28/10/91) from Carmen Callil to Bryan Appleyard of The Sunday Times re inaccuracies relating to Chatto, Callil and Holroyd. These inaccuracies were published in an article “Hype Springs Eternal”, in the Sunday Times magazine, 27/10/91.

Hilary Rubinstein introduces to Callil the text of MH’s book SHAW – FORTY YEARS ON which included a 75 page index and 10,000 notes, 5/11/91.

Correspondence on Random House’s contract for SHAW – THE LAST LAUGH; Chatto’s plans for publication of the Epilogue text (various titles included FORTY YEARS ON and BERNARD SHAW 4 – THE LAST LAUGH); royalties; and the publication of a slim volume as well as the big scholarly text.

Correspondence on sales figures for AUGUSTUS JOHN, 11/11/91.

MH seeks a reversion of rights in AUGUSTUS JOHN (letter from Lescher & Lescher to Penguin USA, 2/12/91) and other correspondence in Nov/Dec 1991.

Correspondence with the national Portrait Gallery and the decision for MH not to contribute to a small book to accompany an exhibition of Shavian pictures. Provisional title: THE WIT AND WISDOM OF GBS.

Fax from the Society of Authors to Hilary Rubinstein outlining in detail the position of a contract between MH, Penguin and Heinemann, 19/12/91.

Correspondence with William Heinemann Ltd re the reversion of rights in UNRECEIVED OPINIONS.


Letter from MH on protecting books from VAT and the democratisation of the arts.

Royalty payments for LYTTON STRACHEY from Heinemann.

Correspondence concerning a Hampstead Theatre production of the full version of Shaw’s THE PHILANDERER directed by Brian Cox. The production will be the first to include a missing act to the play by Shaw which was never performed or published before.

Hilary Rubinstein introduces to Robert Lescher the work of MH provisionally entitled SHAW – FORTY YEARS ON. Views are sought on the marketing of the work and whether it would stand up on its own or be better published with the notes and cumulative index (letter, 5/11/91).

Correspondence on the reverting of rights of Penguin’s publication AUGUSTUS JOHN.

The Society of Authors advise MH on going about terminating a contract with Heinemann, 15/5/91.

Correspondence with Chatto on the remaindering of 1,132 copies of THE SHORTER STRACHEY.

The SHORTER STRACHEY is to be reissued in paperback by Pimlico. Arrangements for royalty payments to the Strachey Trust are discussed by AP Watt and Dasha Shenkman Associates, 11/9/91. This reissue did not take place. Rights in THE SHORTER STRACHEY were reverted from Random Century, 16/1/92.

Correspondence on the contract with William Heinemann for LYTTON STRACHEY. Includes copies of 1973 correspondence and contracts. Additional advice on MH’s claim against Heinemann and Penguin is supplied by solicitors as well as the Society of Authors.

Agreement from Bantam Books for the Introduction to PYGMALION and HEARTBREAK HOUSE .

Itinerary for MH’s visit to the American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA, for an inquiry into Shaw’s HEARTBREAK HOUSE.

Correspondence introducing to newspapers SHAW – THE LAST LAUGH (MH’s extra volume on Shaw) published by Chatto (March 1992).

Penguin royalty statements from GBS biography Vols 1 & 2.

Letter from Tom Wallace (literary agent) to MH regarding the publishing options for the revised onevolume Strachey, 25/6/92.

AP Watt approach Will Sulkin (Pimlico, Random Century) to ask if he’d like to reissue THE SHORTER STRACHEY on the Plimlico list. Previous plans for this had been dropped.

Schedule of MH’s activities from August – November 1992. This included a South American trip.

Typed note on the Chatto and Penguin advance on the Shaw biography.

Correspondence on Heinemann and Penguin’s rights in AUGUSTUS JOHN, UNRECEIVED OPINIONS and LYTTON STRACHEY BY HIMSELF. Sales had dropped to virtually none and MH asks to buy back remaining copies which he could then take to lectures, etc., December 1992.

MH informs King that he is no longer with Heinemann, 20/12/92.

King approaches Heinemann to enquire about the non-delivery of the remaining copies of AUGUSTUS JOHN and LYTTON STRACHEY bought by MH from Heinemann. In addition MH had managed to purchase three of his own books from bookstores. Since all rights had reverted to the author and Heinemann had agreed to sell the remaining books to MH, there should have been no copies available from bookstores. MH seeks payment from Heinemann, March – May 1993.

Correspondence with Reed Consumer Books about the rights in AUGUSTUS JOHN, LYTTON STRACHEY, UNRECEIVED OPINIONS, A DOG’S LIFE and HUGH KINGSMILL, March 1993. A later letter on 25th October confirms that all rights in A DOG’S LIFE and HUGH KINGSMILL have reverted to MH.

Correspondence on the UK rights in THE LIFE OF OSCAR WILDE and in all other Hesketh Pearson titles as of May 1993.

Letter concerning German tax exemption, 28/6/93.

Letter from the American Repertory Theatre concerning MH’s visa type which does not allow for exemptions from tax withholdings, 7/9/93. King disputes this position in his letter to MH (7/10/93).

MH submits LYTTON STRACHEY BY HIMSELF to Vintage, September 1993. In December an offer is received from Vintage to re-issue this title in paperback. Copyright ownership is discussed by AP Watt and The Society of Authors is offered 50% of all earnings.


Correspondence on instalments from Chatto for the Shaw biography.

Royalty statement and tax invoice for 1994.

Correspondence (1995) with Steve Cox, the out-of-house editor which Chatto wished MH to employ to shorten the Shaw biography.

Letters concerning the handling of an offer for the writing of an article for Good Housekeeping, July 1995.

Correspondence between AP Watt and Chatto regarding the cancellation of publication of COMPANION TO THE PLAYS and the publication of THE LAST LAUGH.

Article by MH on the net book agreement.

A letter from MH concerning non-payment of his book review for the Guardian for Quentin Bell’s ELDERS AND BETTERS, January 1996.

Correspondence, manuscript and published article written by MH on his ageing aunt. The article appeared in The London Review of Books, 7/3/96.

Printed interview with MH, New Statesman, 18/10/96.

Correspondence with newspapers on the submission of an article “Home thoughts from abroad” by MH on the US election with a focus on the Clinton/Blair relationship. The manuscript is included.

Correspondence concerning AP Watt’s support of the Author’s Foundation Appeal.

MH suggests reminding Peter Mayer of GOD’S FIFTH COLUMN.

In his letter of 21/3/97, MH mentions that Renaissance Films is sending out a new script for the AUGUSTUS JOHN film. He suggests getting Flammarion and others interested in a translation of the [Shaw] biography or interesting foreign publishers in the one-volume Shaw.

Correspondence on royalty accounting for LYTTON STRACHEY and AUGUSTUS JOHN.

Contract with the BBC for MH to contribute to “Oldie TV.”

Correspondence with Random House and Overlook Press on the rights and licences in GOD’S FIFTH COLUMN.


This file contains correspondence concerning A COMPANION TO THE LIFE OF SHAW, the onevolume Shaw biography. This was the fifth of six books contracted by Chatto. The sixth book was initially to be A COMPANION TO THE PLAYS.

Jonathan Burnham of Chatto and Caradoc King of AP Watt discuss the detail of the contracts agreed, the advances paid, and delivery dates. They also discuss MH’s tax returns and payment dates.

Vintage is approached to publish the paperback version of the single-volume abridged biography. Penguin is asked to reprint the second volume but the request is denied.

In May 1996 MH writes that he had delivered to Chatto the new edition which would release the next instalment of the advance.

Correspondence between Jonathan Burnham of Chatto and Caradoc King discussing control of the US rights to ancillary volumes in the Shaw project, November 1995 – January 1996. Chatto thought they did but this was disputed.

Correspondence is included on the agreement signed by Random House for the American edition and its inclusion of a clause on Canadian book club distribution rights, March 1997.

*LYTTON STRACHEY & AUGUSTUS JOHN (1) (Chatto/Vintage reissues), 1992-1995, 1998*

Memorandum by MH on his intention to publish a new edition of AUGUSTUS JOHN. He describes the two-volume life of Augustus John which he wrote between 1968 and 1973 and published in 1974/5. A one-volume Penguin paperback followed in 1976. This was reprinted in 1987 and went out of print in 1992. MH also describes the archive papers of Augustus John, their illegal export to the USA and subsequent purchase by the national Library of Wales.

Memorandum by MH on the biography he wrote of Lytton Strachey and his intentions for a new edition. MH describes the new resources and information now available to him and how this could make this new edition “more entertaining and authentic.”

Offers for the two publications are made to MH, these are from Chatto/Vintage and Chatto/Penguin and outlined in King’s letter to MH, 29/1/93. The offer accepted was from Chatto, with Vintage publishing the paperback.

Film rights in LYTTON STRACHEY are discussed with Lemon Unna & Durbridge Ltd. The film, scripted by Christopher Hampton is to be called CARRINGTON with Emma Thompson as Carrington and Jonathan Pryce as Strachey (letter, MH to King, 23/11/93).

Correspondence concerning licences and agreements for LYTTON STRACHEY are included.

Lucinda Vardey Agency in Toronto is approached by King who asks if they would like to handle the book in Canada, 10/12/93.

King reports to MH on the progress in selling publication rights in LYTTON STRACHEY in the US. The book was on first offer to Random House, 19/1/94.

Letters refer to a copyright line which includes MH and the Strachey estate.

Publication and distribution rights in LYTTON STRACHEY in the US and Canada are discussed in letters of March 1994.

Jacket of the Chatto publication of LYTTON STRACHEY.

MH highlights some themes and page numbers from the proof of LYTTON STRACHEY which he thinks may be of use to journalists, 30/3/94. Serial rights are granted to The Daily Telegraph (letter from King to The Daily Telegraph, 26/7/94).

Correspondence between MH and Chatto on Alison Samuels’ (indexer) payment.

MH describes his forthcoming visit to the US, which would include promotion of LYTTON STRACHEY (letter, 1/1/95).
1998 correspondence concerns the remaindering of copies of AUGUSTUS JOHN.

*LYTTON STRACHEY & AUGUSTUS JOHN (2) (Chatto/Vintage reissues), 1996-1997*

The Sunday Times is sent bound proofs of AUGUSTUS JOHN for consideration in a serial.

Letters press for Chatto to pay the instalment of the Shaw biography advance to MH (June 1996). MH asks for accurate statements to be prepared for his accountant (letter, MH to Penelope of AP Watt, 1/7/96).

Vintage extends its territory to Canada for the purpose of allowing copies of LYTTON STRACHEY into the country which would coincide with MH’s visit (letter, 3/6/96).

Correspondence from Renaissance Films on the film of Augustus John, there were concerns that the character of Gus in the film was not sufficiently attractive, 23/7/96.

Sales figures for the French edition of LYTTON STRACHEY are included (fax, 3/9/96).

Copies of printed book reviews of AUGUSTUS JOHN published by Chatto, October 1996.

MH writes about the pricing of AUGUSTUS JOHN and includes a copy of his Waterstones’ receipt to show that the book is retailing for more than the review price, 18/8/96. Additional letters provide further explanation.

MH informs Penelope at AP Watt that Robert Lescher had negotiated an advance from Random House in the US for the abridged Shaw biography. They had written off everything not earned by the four-volume edition, 27/12/96.

Royalty statement and tax invoice from Penguin for the Shaw biography volumes, 1995.

Royalty statement and tax invoice from Random House for LYTTON STRACHEY and AUGUSTUS JOHN, 1996.
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