Foyle, Christina (d. 1999)

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Foyle, Christina (d. 1999)

British businesswoman who was managing director of the famous Foyle's Bookshop in London. Born Christina Agnes Lillian Foyle; died in London, England, age 88, in June 1999; daughter of William (a bookseller) and Christina (Tulloch) Foyle; attended the Aux Villas Unspunnen, Wilderswil, Switzerland; married Ronald Batty, in 1938 (died 1994).

As managing director of Foyle's Bookshop (W. & G. Foyle, Ltd.), in London, Christina Foyle represented the second generation to run one of that city's oldest and most revered businesses. The bookshop, co-founded by her father William Foyle and his brother Gilbert in 1904, became known as the largest in the world and by 1954 boasted an art gallery, a literary agency, a record shop, a publishing house, and a lecture bureau. In 1928, at age 17, Christina had the idea for the famous Foyle Literary Luncheons, which were inaugurated in 1930, under her management. Occurring monthly and honoring distinguished personalities from every walk of life, the luncheons were originally held at Holborn Restaurant, with 350 to 400 guests. By the late 1930s, attendance had climbed to nearly 1,800, and the event was moved to the classy Dorchester Hotel. Through the years, guests of honor have included such diverse personalities as John Drinkwater, Sophie Tucker , Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jimmy Durante, Anthony Eden, T.S. Eliot, Randolph Churchill, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Chico Marx. Since 1949, one luncheon each year has been devoted to poets and poetry. Recipients, who receive a cash prize, have included Edwin Muir, Christopher Fry, the late Dylan Thomas, Roy Campbell, and Walter de la Mare.

At the end of the 20th century, Foyle's remained unchallenged as the largest bookstore anywhere, occupying several connecting buildings on Charing Cross Road. It houses five floors of books, 50 specialized departments, and 13 miles of ramshackle shelves from which customers are welcome to browse. The saying went, "If Foyle's doesn't have it; nobody will." Christina Foyle, married in 1938 to the Ronald Batty, wrote So Much Wisdom (1984) and contributed articles to various books and journals. She died in London, age 88, in June 1999, having run Foyle's for almost 70 years. Bookseller Tim Waterstone described her as "a most proud and determined woman."

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts