William Donaldson

William Donaldson

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William Donaldson

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Charles William Donaldson (4 January 1935 - 22 June 2005) was an English satirist, writer, playboy and, under the pseudonym of Henry Root, author of The Henry Root Letters.

Life and career

Donaldson enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Sunningdale, Berkshire as the son of a shipping magnate. He was educated at Winchester College, where he met Julian Mitchell. While studying English at Magdalene College, Cambridge, he was orphaned and inherited a substantial fortune. He spent some of that inheritance supporting young writers such as his contemporaries Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

On graduation, Donaldson became associated with the set surrounding Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and worked as a theatrical producer. He established himself as a central player in the United Kingdom satire boom of the early 1960s as co-producer, with Donald Albery, of Beyond the Fringe (1960), and of dramatisations of J. P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man (1959) and Spike Milligan's The Bed-Sitting Room (1963). The pair earned a weekly £2,000 from Fringe when the principal performers, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, were earning only £75. However, Donaldson managed, not for the last time, to squander his fortune.

In 1971, Donaldson left for Ibiza where he imprudently spent his last £2,000 on a glass-bottomed boat. Before long he was scavenging for food on the beach. Returning to London, he found refuge with a former...
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