Au Revoir Now Darlint: The Letters of Edith Thompson

By Laura Thompson

The first book to publish in full the letters that led to Edith Thompson’s execution in 1923.

Biography | Crime
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Laura Thompson, author of the CWA Gold Dagger Shortlisted Rex vs Edith Thompson: A Tale of Two Murders, edits Edith's collected letters: the story of an ordinary life and an extraordinary imagination, which ultimately led to appalling tragedy.

A hundred years ago, on the night of 3 October 1922, a 32-year-old clerk named Percy Thompson was stabbed to death as he walked home to his suburban villa in Ilford. With him was his wife, 28-year-old Edith. His killer was Edith’s lover: Frederick Bywaters, a merchant seaman aged twenty. Bywaters was hanged for murder on 9 January 1923.

So too was Edith Thompson.

There was no evidence, of any kind, that she had anything to do with the killing. What condemned Edith were her letters that she had written to her lover, which were interpreted by the law as incitement to murder. These letters are remarkable documents. They are moving, perplexing, maddening, banal, spectacularly sensual, infused with a stream-of-consciousness immediacy. And they have never been published in full, until now.

Au Revoir Now Darlint: The Letters of Edith Thompson is a compilation of these letters, telling the story around them, while at the same time giving free rein to Edith’s voice, which palpates still with youth and vitality.

There is an irony to this story: if Bywaters had destroyed Edith’s letters, as she did his, she might have lived into old age. Yet she would now be forgotten; and her voice would be entirely silent. These letters are her vessel, her story, and above all, her testimony - entirely misread a century too late.

Image credits: Design by Mecob. Images © Mirrorpix / Alamy. Photographs on page taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Book designs, cover and other images are for illustrative purposes and may differ from final design.

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  • Laura Thompson, who is unrelated to Edith, has been fascinated for many years by the Thompson-Bywaters case. She re-examined it in Rex v Edith Thompson: A Tale of Two Murders, which was nominated for a CWA Dagger in 2018.


    Other books include The Last Landlady, a memoir of her publican grandmother, reissued by Unbound in 2020; an Edgar-nominated biography of Agatha Christie, also reissued in 2020; the New York Times bestseller The Six, about the lives of the Mitford sisters; and Heiresses, published in paperback and the US in 2021.

  • 'I've had a funny sort of week end darlint I want to tell you all about it and I don’t know how. I am staying in this lunch time, especially to write to you

    … at night in bed the subject - or the object the usual one came up and I resisted, because I didn’t want him to touch me for a month from Nov 3rd do you understand me darlint? He asked me why I wasn’t happy now - what caused the unhappiness and I said I didn’t feel unhappy - just indifferent, and he said I used to feel happy once.   Well, I suppose I did, I suppose even I would have called it happiness, because I was content to let things just jog along, and not think, but that was before I knew what real happiness could be like, before I loved you darlint    Of course I did not tell him that but I did tell him I didn’t love him and he seemed astounded. He wants me to forgive and forget anything he has said or done in the past and start fresh and try and be happy again and want just him. He wants me to try as well and so that when another year has passed meaning the year that ends on January 15/1922 [the Thompsons’ wedding anniversary was 15thJan], we shall be just as happy and contented as we were on that day 7 years ago.  These are his words I am quoting.  I told him I didn’t love him but that I would do my share to try and make him happy and contented. It was an easy way out of a lot of things to promise this darlint I hope you can understand.  I was feeling awful - I could have so easily died and I still feel awful today, how I wish you were here, - I think only you can make me hope on a little.

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