Today we received two new letters written by Doris Lessing to an old wartime lover and friend, John Whitehorn. The two corresponded in the 1940s when Lessing was still in Southern Rhodesia and writing her first novel. Those fascinating letters – which number over one hundred – are already held at the University of East Anglia http://www.uea.ac.uk/bacw/lessing.
The two new additions date from 2000 and were discovered by John Whitehorn’s stepson, Francis FitzGibbon, who came across them in some old files. The letters are written when Lessing was awarded the Companion of Honour. She accepted this award, having declined an OBE on numerous occasions, saying to the media at the time that she liked the title because “You’re not called anything – and it’s not demanding. I like that.” She describes her visit to Buckingham Palace, including her interaction with the Queen and a lady in waiting, with characteristic wit and is unable to take the accompanying pomp and circumstance seriously. The letters will be added to our substantial collection of Lessing’s private correspondence, gifted to the University in 2008. A larger collection, received as a bequest in 2013, is embargoed during the writing of Lessing’s official biography.