Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rotten Borough: Grantham in the 1930s

Having argued the other day that we are in danger of overestimating the role of Margaret Thatcher in the changes of the 1980s, I am becoming increasingly irritated by the overblown plans to mark her death.

As a corrective, let me recall the book Rotten Borough by Oliver Anderson.

Anderson's Independent obituary tells the story:
Oliver Anderson was at the centre of a considerable furore when, in 1937, he wrote a satire on provincial life under the pen-name Julian Pine. 
The book, Rotten Borough, was withdrawn by the publisher after just three weeks under threat of a string of libel writs, instigated by, among others, the then Lord Brownlow, a close friend of the Duke of Windsor. 
The Rotten Borough affair, which achieved national status, with Anderson being pursued around the country by the pride of Fleet Street, would have passed into history, were it not for the fact that the town at the centre of the excitement was Grantham, birthplace of Margaret Thatcher, and that a leading character in the novel was a local grocer and town councillor, identified by many in the 1980s with the benefit of hindsight as the then Prime Minister's late father. 
As a result Rotten Borough was republished in 1989 under the author's true name and created considerable interest.
The obituary goes on to say that Anderson always denied that Alderman Roberts was one of the targets of his satire. And I bought Rotten Borough when it was reissued and was sad to find it was near unreadable.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?


asquith said...

Have you read Margaret Hilda Roberts' contribution to "The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole"? It has just occured to me after reading this post that this girl grew up in Grantham in the 1930s, and her story may hold some insights into what life was like then. I don't know what became of her :)

Phil Beesley said...

"And I bought Rotten Borough when it was reissued and was sad to find it was near unreadable."

I didn't think it was that good.