Sign In

Access advanced features by signing in to your user account.

Arthur's dying notes


The few pencilled notes which follow are all undated, nor can I be certain of their proper order in sequence of time. But they all clearly belong to the last few weeks of Arthur’s life. Some, but not all, represent his part in conversations with J.M.B. I got them all from the inner recess of J.M.B.’s desk after his death; they had undoubtedly lain untouched for many years, but there were indications either that Michael had seen them, or that they had been looked through by J.M.B. after Michael’s death. They are written on small bits of paper, probably the pages of a writing pad, each little page being torn off when filled up or done with.


(Pencilled notes in Arthur’s handwriting. Undated, but presumably belonging to about this time):

Read it aloud.

See you again this aftn .or evg.

No – on the whole quite comftble – mind clear.

Only rather parched in mouth.

Morphia 20 min. ago.

(Written up the left-hand margin) Dear Jimmy.

I am quite (or almost quite) comfortable.

Very hard for Sylvia last night – not for me.

No pain or discomfort for me.


I like just to see you.

I thought, perversely, of an epitaph for Sylvia in case our parts had been exchanged.






Do you know this last quotn (“the way of peace”)? – I think from early chapter in St. Luke – certainly from Benedictus in Prayer Book (evening service).

The whole passage (from “through the tender mercy of our God” to “way of peace”) I think about the finest thing in literature.

Sylvia must go to bed quite early tonight.

Jimmy thinks George ought to be told everything.


Add to “Times” [Deaths] notice (if Sylvia wishes) “Friends are requested not to send flowers.”

McBride is coming in.

It has been raining.

But, on the other hand, a part of the person who goes remains behind in memories.

The Positivists always urge that this is part of the true Immortality.

Do you write more things other than plays.

Will you remember that Margt. wants and will want help and comfort?

I put all the burdens on you because you can help better than anyone.

Perhaps better that none of them should see me afterwards?

Impression so given never disappears – not the sort of impression one wishes to be permanent.

Of course I leave it entirely to all of you – subject to S’s own wishes.

[Peter's comments:]

The passage from St. Luke by which Arthur was so deeply impressed as he lay dying is Chap. 1, versus 78 and 79:

“Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us. / To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The Positivists: I have referred elsewhere to the close connection between the Cromptons of the preceding generation and this curious movement of what might be called religious atheism.

“Do write more things other than plays.” On the face of it a peculiar remark to be addressed to J.M.B., and one which the world would be unlikely to endorse. He was at that time in the process of writing What Every Woman Knows, produced 18 months later, and was, after all, the most praised as well as the most successful dramatist alive. But I think that, nevertheless, it was intended as a compliment, and may even have been accepted as one. I think that Arthur had heard so much that was wise and good and true said by that strange little Scotch genius, that he felt his plays, and indeed his writing in generally, did less than justice to the brain that conceived them. The whimsicality which so many people have found intolerable in J.M.B.’s work, and which was no doubt of the essence of his genius and primarily responsible for his achievements and success, with something almost beyond his control as soon as he had a pen or pencil in his hand. His conversation was often on a much higher plane, and doubtless rose to its highest in his talks with the dying Arthur.


Add Comment

There aren't any comments on this entry, click add comment to be the first!

J M Barrie Logo Sign In