Written on Gipsey House, Grest Missenden notepaper and dated August 2, 1989, it was the unexpected reply to a university student who was writing a dissertation focusing on controversial elements (particularly violence) of Dahl’s books for children.
Its central passage reads: “Never shelter children from the world. Basically ‘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. Now do send back to me the enclosed. Roald Dahl.”
It comes for sale from the recipient with a guide of £500-800.