A few weeks ago I delighted to be given a couple of letters which were written by L du Garde Peach to John Kenny. Now if you love the History series of Ladybird Books, (Series 561) those names will be familiar to to you. L du Garde Peach wrote every one of the History books from the first, ‘King Arthur the Great’ in 1956, to ‘Elizabeth Fry’ in 1973. Almost all of these were illustrated by Kenney.
These letters, written when du Garde Peach was in his early eighties, are a wonderful insight into the powerful personality of L du G (as he signed himself), his attitude to his work, the cordiality of relations with his long-time colleague Kenney and a caustic bewilderment at the world he was now living in. They are also particularly poignant as they were written only two years before his death in 1974 and in them discusses the books ‘Elizabeth Fry’ and ‘The Pilgrim Fathers’, which were to be among the last two books he was ever to write for Ladybird. At one point he mentions having just finished ‘Henry II and Thomas Becket’ but perhaps ill-health meant that his writing was not up to the usual standard – the 1st edition copy of the book on my shelves says it was written by John Roberts and illustrated by Roger Hall.
At the time of these letters – although neither of them can have known it – The Kenney/du Garde Peach collaboration had come to an end after 17 years and 27 books.