A collection of hilarious hoax letters sent to famous figures has emerged for auction
The late satirist William Donaldson adopted the character of retired wet-fish merchant Henry Root and wrote a series of cutting letters in the 1970s to '80s to the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Cliff Richard, Mary Whitehouse, Jeffrey Archer and a young Harriet Harman.
The Henry Root letters, with which he would enclose £1 for each recipient, caught their targets, often political figures, off guard.
Copies of the letters he sent and the original responses which belonged to Donaldson's third wife have emerged for auction.
Having stored the archive in several boxes for years, she has decided now is the time to dispose of the collection. In his letter to the Queen, dated April 9,1979, Root wrote: "I appreciate that under the constitution you cannot poke your nose into things too directly, but I do have a small suggestion to make.
You're always opening things: hospitals, schools, theatres, factories, fly-overs, playgrounds, etc
"You're always opening things: hospitals, schools, theatres, factories, fly-overs, playgrounds, etc.
"Why don't you close a few things?
"I have in mind such blemishes on the face of our society as The National Liberal Club, BBC Two, Soho's 'foreign' cinemas and so-called massage parlours, the National Council for Civil Liberties, subversive periodicals such as The New Statesman and Time Out, which are devoted to the understanding and our British institutions.
"And the new white tile universities, which see it as their function to stuff the impressionable young students with half-baked left-wing notions.”
In his letter to the Queen he wrote a few suggestions
Unsurprisingly, the Queen didn't reply. However, other famous figures did get back to him.
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He wrote several letters to Margaret Thatcher and would often get replies on her behalf from Downing Street.
On January 1, 1980, making light of the New Year's Honours' list, Root wrote: "So – it's honours for big business! Nothing wrong with that!
"You were voted into office to promote the interests of your own class – the lower-middles on their way up – and this is what you're doing. Well done!
On January 1, 1980 he wrote to Margaret Thatcher
"The wets and have-nots may bleat, but they have no one to blame but themselves. They were stupid enough to vote for you!
"How inspiringly your list compares to the last one, which could best have been described as honours for tap dancers and international criminals!"
Root received a reply a week later from Downing Street which read: "The Prime Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter of 1 January.
"She was grateful to you for writing as you did.
"The views which you expressed have been noted."
Root received a reply from Downing Street a week later
The Conservative Party, however, were not best pleased when Root wrote to them and bluntly asked “how much would a peerage cost?” The curt reply said a peerage “could not be bought”.
In one letter Root pokes fun at Jeffrey Archer, saying he's not a film star because he “hasn't got the looks” then giving him a backhanded compliment about his ruthlessness.
He added: "So you left a few people with their backsides exposed! So you handed a few folk the stick by the muddy end!
"So what? You can't get to the top in this life without making an omelette."
In another letter, to a young Harriet Harman, he dryly makes fun of the sexism prevalent in society at the time.
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He wrote: "Why should an attractive lass like you want to confuse her pretty little head with complicated matters of politics, jurisprudence, sociology and the so-called rights of citizens?
"Leave such weighty considerations to us men, that's my advice to you." In his letter to the then 38 year-old Cliff Richard, he wrote: "We must be about the same age, you and I.
"You're a credit to the over-forties Cliff. Twenty years at the top and still number one. Con-grat-u-laaaaations!"
One recipient who did see the funny side was prominent campaigner Mary Whitehouse.
In the letter, Root wrote: "So! According to your doctor you've lost your voice because you talk too much.
In a letter to Harriet Harman he dryly makes fun of sexism
"This blow comes at a time when we can ill afford your vocal absence from the 'media' scene.
"Who else is to speak out against the pornographers, left-wing subversives and gay Christians coming out of the toilet!"
Surprisingly, Mrs Whitehouse complied with his request for a photograph and signed it “To Henry Root, with very best wishes, Mary Whitehouse’”.
In addition to the letters, there is correspondence from William Donaldson and his publishers, friends and acquaintances, newspaper cuttings, signed presentation books and photographs.
The Cambridge graduate lived a very eventful life – he lost a couple of fortunes, lived in a brothel and was an early promoter of Bob Dylan. He was found dead in front of a computer showing lesbian porn.
Mary Whitehouse saw the funny side
Richard Bromell, the auctioneer at Charterhouse Auctions in Sherborne, Dorset, which is auctioning off the Henry Root Letters, said: "Donaldson certainly led an interesting wife – he went bankrupt, had several glamorous wives and so on.
"He wrote to anyone and everyone and most of the time they didn't understand that he was taking the mickey.
"I'm amazed anyone replied to any of the letters, especially the Conservative Party replying to a message were he bluntly asks how much for an MBE.
”The letters are hilarious.”
The auction takes place on April 20.