Margaret Tempest and Alison Uttley: talented literary figures of the 20th century

In 2009 I was privileged to assist Professor Denis Judd as an assistant editor of the Private Diaries of Alison Uttley. I was fascinated to read in the original manuscripts of the relationship Alison had with her publishers and illustrators. Although Alison and Margaret Tempest did not always get on, I found frequent passages in the Diaries praising MT’s work and saying how much Alison looked forward to receiving the new drawings. When Alison did get angry with MT, it was often followed in a few days by an admission that the sketches were charming after all. In squeezing forty years of diaries into one volume, such nuances could not always be included. However, we did note that as AU mainly lived alone, she used her diaries to vent her feelings. AU thought MT cold and unresponsive; MT probably thought AU full of her own importance.

It was over the thorny question of who created Little Grey Rabbit that they really did fall out. AU resented MT’s attempt to improve her contract and income, when MT claimed it was her drawings that created  the essence of LGR. Both ladies were evidently quite shrewd business women.

When we held the book launch of the Private Diaries , I invited a younger cousin of Margaret Tempest, hopefully intending that AU and MT would be re-united amicably.

Sheila Griffiths.

University of Manchester


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