Unpublished letters in which Kenneth Williams calls Alan Ayckbourn’s plays “rubbish” will go up for auction later this month.
The collection features eight handwritten and nine typed letters, and will be auctioned alongside a first edition of Williams’ autobiography.
In one of the letters, from 1984, Williams gives his opinion of Ayckbourn’s plays, writing: “I do not care for Ayckbourn at all, but I know that many people like his work. I think it is rubbish.”
The actor and diarist also records an anecdote about understudying Richard Burton on August 16, 1983.
He wrote: “One day I arrived at the theatre and they told me he was ill and that I would have to go on and play his part in The Seagull, but I rushed to his room and begged him to go on even if he did feel ill, and told him ‘I have never learned the lines’ so he kindly helped me out, and I didn’t have to go on.’”
In addition to his opinions of Ayckbourn plays, Williams writes that Harold Pinter’s “best work is a play called The Caretaker – a piece full of menace and quirky humour”.
The collection and first edition will be auctioned online by Dreweatts on November 14. They are expected to reach a price of between £600 and £800.
Senior specialist at Bloomsbury Auctions Timothy Bolton said: “What is so fascinating about these letters is that they contain both the acerbic wit that the public Kenneth Williams is so adored for, as well as the last echoes of a gentler more private man talking to his close friend.”