OBITUARY : Sir John Waller Bt

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The Independent Online
Several of the best-known of today's poets owe their success and confidence to the encouragement given them in youth by Sir John Waller, writers Tony Van den Bergh [further to the obituary by Victor Selwyn, 21 February]. A talented poet/ publisher in his own right, John, though capable of sardonic comment on other matters, would never intentionally wound a young creative writer, however fragile his verse.

He had a dual personality. On the one hand, the sensitive man of literature, on the other, the hard-drinking, unashamed homosexual who believed all publicity was good publicity.

When he learnt that if he fathered a son he would inherit a quarter of a million, he informed the press he was going to seek a suitable French girl to bear his child. He made front-page headlines. True to his word, he toured the Continent in a caravan accompanied by his male lover of the moment. Unfortunately the girl he chose turned out to have had a sex change. He made the headlines again.

John Waller relished his contacts with the underworld. He boasted publicly of having rented out his flat to card-sharpers who intended using tinted contact lenses with marked cards to exploit Nureyev's and Fonteyn's obsession with gambling.

Charles Richardson, the south London gangster, explains in his autobiography how he appointed Sir John to his board to give the impression of respectability to his activities.