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Christina Foyle

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Category: General Interest
Reference No: 7821
Status: Available
Price: £10.00
  Christina Foyle  Christina Foyle

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London’s best known bookseller and the creator and hostess of Britain's most famous literary luncheon series

At age 17, after leaving a Swiss finishing school, Foyle started working at her father's bookshop, and never left. The store, Foyles, on Charing Cross Road in the West End of London, had been started in 1904 by her father, William Foyle. She fiercely resisted unionisation of bookshop staff, sacking most employees just before they had worked there six months, when they would gain limited job protection rights.

For 70 years she presided over Foyles Lunches. Her idea for bringing readers, writers and thinkers together came after she recommended The Forsyte Saga to an elderly customer who was looking for something to read on the train. The gentleman bought a copy. However he returned it to her a short time later with the words "For the young lady who liked my book — John Galsworthy."

Excited by this personal contact with a famous writer, she dreamed up the idea of the monthly lunch so that outsiders could mingle with the literary set. Held at the Dorchester and Grosvenor House hotels, the occasions were derided as events for suburban ladies in fur hats, but they attracted a notable list of speakers, ranging from Charlie Chapin to H.G.Wells

Foyle’s collection of personal correspondence included a letter from Adolf Hitler, responding to her complaint about Nazi book-burning.

Buttressed by absolute power and her considerable fortune, Foyle resisted all calls for modernization of the store's antiquated sales practices. Foyle's long refused to take orders by phone and until the 1990s banned cash registers and calculators, insisting that all reckoning be done by hand.

Finding a book in the dimly lit and chaotic shop was a trial - volumes were shelved by the names of their publishers rather than by their authors, and guidance was hard to get from the poorly paid staff. A customer who once asked for ''Ulysses'' was told he had gone to lunch.

The quirkiness of Foyles turned the bookshop into a tourist destination, and it attracted as many people as it infuriated. She turned aside all offers to buy the business or to take it public, disliking the thought of being accountable to shareholders as much as that of dealing with trade unions.

This is a fine signature on an 8" x 4" piece cut from the bottom of a letter. One central fold but in very good overall condition.