I have read many, many collections of letters but Dear Lupin, Letters To A Wayward Son, is extraordinary. Roger Mortimer was a racing correspondent for years, and in retirement kept himself busy writing, going to the races, and having drinks and dinners and lunches with all and sundry, high and low. His son Charlie was a bit of a puzzle to him, but Roger loved his son full heartedly, and was always willing to lend a hand when Charlie found himself, again and again, up to his neck in manure (a dependable English country expression, apparently). Their story, successful father and wandering son, may not be so extraordinary, but their bond, cemented and celebrated through these letters, is.
Roger Mortimer manages to be funny, instructive, confiding, caring, diffident, and loving, while never losing the thread of what mattered: staying in touch with his son. His letters built the connection between them, a kind of arc of caring that, in the best of times would keep the son safe and the father informed. And in the worst of times? It seems to me that it was the connection between father and son that kept Charlie alive, and Roger living — Charlie would of course want to be around to hear the next round of news from Dad, and Dad needed to keep going to ensure having the great tidbits to write about!
Roger’s letters are a joy to read, veering from topic to topic, sometimes hilariously so, and mood to mood, and there is not a word I would miss, not a sentence I would not reread. I am sure these letters have been well-edited, and perhaps the originals were not quite so perfect but the gems were always there. And now, luckily for us, the gems have been polished up and presented for our reading pleasure. Roger Mortimer died in 1991, but his wit and wisdom survive, in these marvelous letters. I will soon be turning to another volume, entitle Dear Lumpy, which are a collection of letters written by Roger to his daughter Louise.
By the way, Dear Lupin refers to the son of poor Mr. Pooter, father to lumpen son Lupin, in The Diary of a Nobody series, written by brothers George and Weedon Grossmith, and published first in Punch magazine. Where does Lumpy come from? I have an idea…but let me read the letters first.