Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 19 July 2008

Your problems solved

Q. I have edited a selection of letters which is to be published later this summer. It is more than likely that, as part of the promotion process, I shall be asked to sign a copy here and there. However, it is not really my book, but that of the distinguished and, alas, departed correspondent. What is the protocol, Mary?
Name and address withheld

A. There is no need for you to feel so modest. You have had all the work of deciphering the letters, putting them into context, writing the footnotes. The book is your creation in that you are its midwife. It would be correct for you to sign it even if the person writing the letters was still alive — in which case you might jointly sign it. Imagine if Charlotte Mosley refused to sign the collection of Mitford letters she compiled. It would be pedantry of the first order. Wield your pen with pride. Readers just want a bit of added value — not in a commercial sense, but in the sense that a copy with your signature will give an extra ‘personalised’ dimension to their ownership of the book.

Q. When making boring administrative
telephone calls in non-private situations one is often asked for a couple of letters from a password. That is fine because the people overhearing one cannot know the rest of the password. What I do mind is being asked to give my full date of birth in a non-private situation. It is not the breach of security I am worried about but the breach of vanity. I don’t want people I work with to know this embarrassing fact. How can one get around this, Mary?
Name and address withheld

A. Let’s say you were born on 9 January 1947.

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