Eva Collet Reckitt

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Eva Collet Reckitt (1890 - 1976) was the founder of the left-wing bookshop Collet's on Charing Cross Road, London, in 1933.[1]

Biography[edit]

Reckitt was elected in 1927 to the executive of the Labour Research Department. One of the heirs to the Reckitt family business, formerly Reckitt & Colman and now part of Reckitt Benckiser, she supported the Communist Party of Great Britain from the 1920s to the 1950s. Her philanthropic efforts included being a shareholder for Plato Films Ltd, the body established in 1951 to provide the Left and in particular the Communist movement with films from the Socialist part of the world.[2] Her political affiliations put her at odds with her brother, the Anglo-Catholic writer and editor Maurice B. Reckitt.[3] Described by one MI5 officer as "the Communist Party's milch-cow," she was under surveillance from 1923 to 1953.[4] In her obituary in the journal History Workshop, to which she had lent her support, Raphael Samuel described her socialism as "a living thing, a matter of thought, criticism and conviction," and built upon "personal loyalties nourished by a lifetime's activity."[5]

Collet's[edit]

The bookshop was owned by the Eva Collet Trust, established by Eva Collet Reckitt in 1934 to import communist and radical publications. The bookshop at 66 Charing Cross Road already existed as a radical bookshop, Henderson's, nicknamed "the bomb shop"; on the death of the owner, F. R. Henderson, in 1934 it was bought by Eva Collet Reckitt, and Olive Parsons became a founder director. In 1936 Collet's acquired the stock of the London-Soviet trading agency Arcos. After World War II Collet's expanded by opening branches in Manchester, Glasgow, Moscow, Prague and New York. In 1965 the head office moved to a new building in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire; by this time it had two shops in Charing Cross Road and a Chinese shop near the British Museum.[6] In 1993 Collet's was acquired by Tybex Ltd (the holding company of Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd). Olive Parsons was then aged 101.[7]

According to the Radical Bookshop History Project, Eva Collet Reckitt "had a broad policy on stock but drew the line at “those mysterious world religions” and “phoney psychology”.[8] The entry for Collet's in Driff's Guide to All the Secondhand & Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain (1985–86) says "Colletts 52 Charing X Rd ...sml stk on s/h penguins ... there is also a small bsmt rm of political bks in the Collets [sic] two doors along but rumoured to be closing".[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stevenson, Graham. "John and Ella Larmour". Graham Stevenson. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  2. ^ "CPGB Bibliography". amielandmelburn.org.uk. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  3. ^ Peart-Binns, John. "Reckitt, Maurice Benington". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Eva Collet Reckitt". The National Archives. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  5. ^ Worley, Matthew. "Reckitt, Eva Collet". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Collet's Chinese Gallery and Bookshop; 40 Gt Russell Street ... specialist in books on and about China".--The Sunday Times; 21 Feb. 1982, p. 41, col. a
  7. ^ Lennon, Peter (1993) "Final chapter for the Left"; The Guardian; 27 August 1993, sect. 2, pp. 2-3
  8. ^ Cope, Dave; Bradshaw, Ross. "The Radical Bookshop History Project" (PDF). Left on the Shelf Books. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  9. ^ Driffield Driff's Guide to All the Secondhand & Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain; 1985-86. London: BCM Driffield; p. 34