[with:] a single leaf torn from a magazine including a photograph of Robinson, MacKerrell, and housemates, outside their Camden Town house, late 1960s
THE EARLIEST VERSION OF THE CULT CLASSIC. This short novel, which Robinson has described as "70%" autobiographical, was written in 1969-70, when its author was still living in the Camden Town house in which much of the debauched action takes place. Robinson had lived in the house since the mid-60s, when he and his housemates, including Vivian MacKerrell, who was famously the basis for Withnail, and David Dundas, who wrote the film's music, were still drama students at the nearby Central School of Speech and Drama. Withnail took from MacKerrell his outrageous self-confidence and alcoholism; MacKerrell is said to have downed a bottle of lighter fluid (a tipple Withnail recommends as "a far superior drink to meths") and Robinson's diaries record other sources of booze for the desperate ("...Sotheby's was one of the best shows in town to drink brilliant wine and arsehole yourself absolutely free...", K. Jackson, Withnail and I (2004), p.28). The predatory Uncle Monty is said to have been based in part on Robinson's encounter with Franco Zeffirelli and Robinson even endured a "holiday" similar to the grim days at Crow Crag.
In the mid-1970s Robinson lent this copy of his unpublished novel to another friend, also connected to the Central School and who had lived, briefly, at the Camden Town house in 1969. He wanted her comments on his depiction of the period and later gave her the typescript. In 1980 another copy of the unpublished novel reached executive producer Mody Schreiber, who commissioned Robinson to adapt it for the screen. It took several more years to get the funds in place and the film was made by George Harrison's company Handmade Films (formed to fund Monty Python's Life of Brian), after Harrison read the script on a transatlantic crossing. The film reached cinemas in 1987 and has, of course, since become a much-loved and much-quoted comic classic.
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