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Andrew Birkin To Nico Llewelyn Davies - 1975


Letter from Andrew Birkin to Nico Llewelyn Davies, 27 November 1975


November 27th, 1975

Dear Mr. Davies,

Many, many thanks for your fascinating letter!

No, don't watch "Peter Pan" – except perhaps the epilogue, which is free of music! You're absolutely right about Hook – I felt he should come close to Olivier's interpretation of Richard III, but Danny Kaye thought otherwise. Still, Peter Pan's immortal, and doubtless in a few year's time one will be able to do it again – and again – and again. Just as there's no definitive Hamlet, so there can be no definitive Peter Pan.

I was wrong about Janet Dunbar: the "embarrassment" stems from an article I read some months ago in the New York Times Literary Supplement, entitled "The Boy Who Couldn't Grow Up" by one Alison Lurie:

"The Davies boys were effectively Barrie's now; but they would not remain boys. One by one, as they grew older, they began to find his games and jokes embarrassing, and to resent his presence in the household – an embarrassment and resentment complicated by the knowledge that this odd little man who looked like an aged child was paying the tradesmen's bills and their school-fees at Eton. Barrie was well aware of these feelings. He wrote during a later holiday with some of the boys and their school friends: 'We are a very Etonian household and there is endless shop talked, during which I am expected to be merely a ladler out of food. If I speak to one, he shudders politely then edges away.’”

The article was basically a study on the physical/psychological problems of what a Dr. James Purdom–Martin terms the "Peter Pan syndrome", i.e - impotence.

By Barrie "typifying the Kipling "Bulldog Breed" I meant the Breed, not Kipling: "Almost every Briton alive has felt prouder these last few weeks because a scrap of paper found in a tent has shown him that the Breed lives on" (re R. Scott, 1913). Barrie's own play, "Der Tag" leads one to feel that he, in common with most of Britain in 1914, was in favour of war, though of course by 1915 he was writing to George: "I have lost all sense I ever had of war being glorious: it is just unspeakably monstrous to me now." But, as you say, it's a subject easier to discuss than to write about here. Indeed your whole letter has set off a chain reaction of further questions – all of which I'll hold back on till we meet! It would seem that Cynthia Asquith – the dominating character in Part 3 of the trilogy – could be something of a problem; Dunbar hints at ill–feeling: your wording was somewhat blunter!

I'm off to Scotland at crack of dawn to visit Kirriemuir and St. Andrews – hopefully there'll be time to drive across to Eilean Shona, but Amhuinnsuidh will have to wait till the spring. By a curious coincidence, I stayed in Tarbert (about 10 miles away) for over a month in 1967: I was filming a 2nd unit sequence for "2001: A Space Odyssey", and shot the whole coastline from a helicopter, flying a few feet above sea level about 250 yards from the shore. So somewhere towards the end of "2001" is Mary Rose's island ... posing as Jupiter's frozen landscape!

Once again, many many thanks for your invaluable help.


Andrew Birkin


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