Last week I lunched with a legend. Without this man’s guile, temerity and good grace we, the people of the world, would not have had the pleasure of reading Arthur Hayman’s Hayseed Chronicles.
Graham Carter, Arthur’s onetime editor and publisher, now divides his time between his role as a literary agent and family life. During the leisurely lunch Graham, a natural raconteur, regaled me with his recollections of Arthur, Martha (pictured below in the Darkwood), Luke and Rachel as well as his experience of the Hayseed phenomenon in the 1980s.
While he turned down Charles Elton’s request for an interview (out of respect for the Hayman family) he is, like myself, curious to see if Penguin’s publication of Mr Toppit will spark a revival of his ‘old books’ as he calls them. As shrewd as ever, he has suggested to his successor at The Carter Press to rush through some re-editions of all five books of The Hayseed Chronicles.
After lunch, Graham took me back to his rather palatial office on the Strand to show me some of his own ephemera, which he kindly allowed me to photograph and reproduce here. My particular favourites are these samples of his correspondance. In a letter from Arthur to Graham, Arthur notes his humbling pleasure at receiving finished copies of Garden Grown.
Martha’s caustic wit is on full show here, as she argues with the direction the dutch publisher’s design department are taking with their edition.
His collection also included this wonderful Poloroid of Luke Hayman standing uncomfortably next to the actor Toby Luttrell, on set at the BBC. As a slight aside, I have just read about this very moment in Mr Toppit, and Charles Elton does have a knack for conjuring the excruciating awkwardness this incident produced in Luke.
As lunch drifted into late afternoon, and the sun began its decent over the Thames, I thanked Graham for his time and kindness. He had given me so much in those brief hours I was in awe and indebted. As I made my way from his office I left this remarkable man, blue in the lip from wine and wet in the eye from memories of a dear old friend, long gone, but not forgotten.