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British artist, potter and author.
Bell was the son of Clive Bell and Vanessa Stephen and and the nephew of the writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), with whom he enjoyed a trusted and affectionate relationship
Bell's highly praised two-volume Virginia Woolf: a biography (1972) won a number of important prizes. After the death of Virginia's widower, Leonard Woolf (1880-1969), Quentin Bell and his sister Angelica Garnett inherited Virginia Woolf's literary estate and he became its administrator.
This is a very interesting letter on a 10" x 8" sheet of headed notepaper (81 Heighton Street, Firle, Lewes, Sussex, 20 September 1996), handwritten in blue fountain pen ink.
It reads (in full):
Dear Grahame White*
I usually remember the names of students who gained a distinction, but for some reason I had forgot (sic) yours. I shall not do so again. Your story is deeply interesting, an excursion to Hell, but with a return ticket which is something unusual. I enjoyed your flattering remarks very much indeed. One of the few passions that remain unextinguished in the hearts of old men (I am 87 next year) is the vanity of authors, Talking of which, has it ever occurred to you that your history could make a remarkable book? It would need to be written with complete candour and without reserve but it could, if well done, be admirable.
I was touched and pleased by the presents. Thank you very much. I enclose a specimen signature.
Finally, don't allow that "nagging sense of shame" to get the better oif you. While one has a mind and a voice of ones own, even the worst disasters are curable and the worst disasters may be overcome.
Courage and good fortune
One horizontal correspondence fold. In excellent condition (cleaner and sharper than suggested by my scan). This comes with the original mailing envelope, hand-addressed by Bell.
* Grahame White was a recovered alcoholic and drug addict who lived by himself in a high-rise block of council flats in Brighton, surrounded by his collection of books. He was a friend of mine and his personal history was indeed hellish. He nearly died of his addictions and had been left in permanent leg pain because of vascular disease. Like Quentin Bell I had encouraged Grahame to commit his story to paper but he never did. Addicted to methadone, he died by himself in his flat, choking to death on a mouthful of food.
Quentin Bell died on December 16th, 1996, just a few short months after writing this letter.