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Arthur Llewelyn Davies to John Llewelyn Davies - 1


Letter from Arthur Llewelyn Davies to his father, the Rev. John Ll. D, 12 March 1992.

[No original available]


March 12. [1892]

Dearest Father,
I have been thinking over what you said the other day, but have had no opportunity to discuss it with Sylvia till last night. We are agreed that we are prepared to take the risk as far as it concerns us. I shd. cherish a faint hope of being able in some way to earn enough to meet expenses. As to the deficit, it seems to me to make no practical difference whether we have an allowance from you, to be considered as in the nature of an advance, or begin to use up my legacy from Uncle Charley. In either case we shd. be ultimately dependent on your kindness. But the latter plan wd. be simpler. Then it would be a question when to take the step. Whitsuntide, September or December wd. be equally suitable to me. I don't know whether there is sufficient reason for delaying longer than is necessary. Unless you think it wd. be more prudent to wait till the end of the year, Sylvia and I are ready to be married at the beginning of June.
The dress-making business introduces some complication. Sylvia is reluctant to give it up definitely on marriage. I think her help wd. be of great service to her aunt, and so to the family interests generally. If we were to live near the scene of operations I think it wd. be possible to try going on with the work, to some extent at all events, and then see how
things shaped themselves. Sylvia's domestic training wd. make her unwilling to do anything dangerous to health. I don't think Mr. du Maurier cd. be expected to do anything to help us while he has the double uncertainty as to his own eyesight and as to the possible dependence of his sister-in-law upon him. Mrs. du M. (the aunt) has agreed to take a house which seemed suitable, in Upper Montague Street (I think), near Montague Square, at £90 rent for 7 years. Sylvia and I both feel very much the great kindness of you and Mother in undertaking this burden. I hope it will turn out in the end not be a serious one ...
Your affect. son,
My cold is gone.

Although so temperately worded, I fancy this and the next are the letters of a young man beginning to feel pretty desperate after two years of waiting for the necessary wherewithal on which to get married. It isn't at all easy to follow the financial details, and it is impossible to know on what they did in fact marry. A. had been less than three years at the Bar, and could not have been making more than a very small income from regular legal work, and that uncertain; I don't know what the Readership was worth; and all he had besides, I suppose, was the legacy from Charles Crompton which, if it was the same as Margaret's, was £3,000. It is astonishing to me that he appears to contemplate using up the capital of this, a step I shd. have thought out of the question in that family and that date.
What dot [= dowry], if any, S. was to bring with her, I don't know either. ("Trilby" was still two years off, and George du M. did not yet know that the partial failure of his eyesight was to prove a blessing in disguise.) She may have been getting, or expecting to get, something from the dress-making business, of which I had never heard before I read this letter; nor do I know whether in the end it ever came to anything. I can't quite satisfy myself as to whether J. and M. Ll. D. were actually agreeing to pay the rent of the business, though it sounds rather as if that is implied.

Mrs. du Maurier (the aunt) was clearly the wife of Eugene (Gyggy), or rather his widow, as it seems indicated that he had died shortly before the date of the letter. She was a French-woman, Marie Espinasse by name. Not long ago Nico and I met at lunch, with Angela du M., a grand-daughter (daughter of a daughter) of hers, named Marcelle, married to an English soldier whose name I forget — they have a son due to go to Eton shortly. I was surprised to learn from Marcelle that her grandmother lived till 1917, having been buried in that year in Cornwall (I think). I never remember hearing of her, and can only assume that she didn't hit it off with the rest of the family. Anyway, it is an interesting thought to me that S. may have got some at least of her exquisite and original flair for clothes from her French aunt, Marie du Maurier.
By the way, Marcelle told us that an uncle of hers, Eugene's and Marie's son, Ralph du Maurier, who emigrated across the Atlantic many years ago when a young man, was still supposed to be living, so there may easily be swarms of du Mauriers in America. Nico and I once came across an advertisement of a patent medicine of sorts, manufactured in New Zealand, of which the name of the maker was stated to be du Maurier. But I believe investigations proved that he had merely assumed the name for trade purposes because he liked it and thought it would help to sell his concoctions.

According to Dolly Ponsonby, A. and S. aimed at £400 a year as the minimum on which to marry. (It seems quite a fair income, when comparative values are taken into consideration.) "Sylvia was determined to earn money, and went to work with Mrs. Nettleship, the great theatrical dressmaker, and made clothes for Ellen Terry. She became wonderfully adept, and with her skill and taste evolved lovely clothes for herself and for her children when the time came."


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