Cover Stories: Paul Hamlyn, Eudora Welty, PEN

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The Independent Culture

Paul Hamlyn, who died this week, was a shy man who seems to have made few enemies in a publishing career that spanned more than half a century. Sadly, in the last five years of his life as his health worsened, he was deeply disillusioned by what became of the former Octopus Group within Reed Consumer Books. Had he been younger, he said, he would have bought it back. A champagne socialist in the best sense, he believed champagne should not be just for a privileged few and much of his charitable work involved making the equivalent of champagne available to the masses: good books, tickets to the opera and ballet. Many of his staff were enriched via the shares he distributed ­ not least the chauffeur, who famously refused to drive the car bearing a VOTE LABOUR sticker in the '74 election. "OK," said Hamlyn, "you get in the back ­ I'll drive." Unusually for a tycoon, he will be missed by many.

¿ Eudora Welty's recent death surprised many who thought she was already dead ­ she hadn't produced any new fiction since 1973. Now it seems that manuscripts may be languishing in the loft: after all, she spent years typing away and reportedly spoke to friends about a story about the effects of rape on a community of schoolteachers. If anything is found, decisions as to whether or not to publish will be made by Richard Ford, Welty's literary executor and former neighbour in Mississippi.

¿ Those with a belief in the freedom of speech and the right of writers to write ­ and £200 to spare ­ might liked to pop along to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel on Monday, where the English branch of PEN is holding a champagne party sponsored by Burberry. Those who've organised the event include Stephen Fry, Victoria Glendinning, Lady Spender and literary agent Ed Victor, who represents the estate of the late Sir Philip Spender, who in life was a PEN activist. Between them they should attract an all-star line-up at an event that will raise funds for PEN's International Writers' Day, as well as helping its work for writers in prison and its placement of writers in schools amid deprived communities. Tickets available from belindaharley@compuserve.com.

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