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Arthur Llewelyn Davies to John Llewelyn Davies - 1


Letter from Arthur to his father, the Rev John Llewelyn Davies, 1902. "Sylvia is at present on a trip to Paris with her friends the Barries" ...

[No original available]


2, Garden Court, Temple, E.C.
Nov. 28, 1902.

Dearest Father,
I don't know what your arrangements are for Christmas, nor if you are likely to have the Vicarage very full. I should like to come, if possible, bringing one boy or perhaps two. It is just possible that Sylvia may be induced to come too, but that is not likely. I should aim at paying visits also to Annan and Birkenhead if it can be managed.
Sylvia is at present on a trip to Paris with her friends the Barries, by way of celebration of the huge success of Barrie’s new plays and new book. The party is completed by another novelist, [A.E.W.] Mason, and they seem to be living in great splendour and enjoying themselves very much. They left on Monday and return tomorrow. Barrie’s new book, The Little White Bird, is largely taken up with Kensington Gardens and our and similar children. There is a whole chapter devoted to Peter.
I was at the large Encyclopaedia Britannica dinner last week. Sir John Scott and others spoke to me of you. Bell of Marlborough was there, and professed indignation at my reminiscence that the Bishop of London was superannuated in the Lower Fifth.
My work is moderately prosperous but no more. I have a son of Mrs. Humphrey Ward as a pupil.
Your affect. son,

Peter's comments:

Three days before the date of this letter, A. had given S., on her birthday, a little “Canterbury Poets” volume of Blake, which I have. Did A. and G. and J. go to Kirkby, Annan (where Harry worked and lived with his wife, Agnes) and Birkenhead (Maurice, Roland, Mary and Theodora) that Christmas? I believe so; Jack will probably remember. I don't think Kirkby drew S. At all strongly after the death of her mother-in-law.

“Her friends the Barries” is a suggestive phrase; the Davieses and Barries had known one another now for some five years. Was A. a little put out by S’s visit to Paris? (By the way, this visit is not recorded by Denis, and I am paying him a compliment when I say it is almost a pleasure to have caught him napping for once. And perhaps I may say here, as well as anywhere else, that none of the letters in this compilation were placed at his disposal.) I think it pretty clear that A. was a shade vexed and thought it all rather a bore. On the other hand, how S. must have enjoyed it, and why not? Paris meant something to her, and nothing, I think, to A. And Jimmy was, in his own odd way, an excellent Parisian and the most delightful of hosts, and it would have been hard to imagine a more satisfactory addition than Alfred Mason, a new and devoted admirer and one of the romantically minded men of that day who put all beautiful women on a pedestal, and a most attractive, amusing and romantic figure himself.

The hugely successful plays of which the Paris trip was a celebration were “The Admirable Crichton”, produced on November 4th, and “Quality Street”, which had preceded it by only a little more than a month. They ran for ten and fourteen months respectively. And a few days before the party left for Paris, “The Little White Bird” had been published. What a year for Mr. Barrie!

Among the effects sent back to the flat in Adelphi Terrace after George’s death was a copy of “The Little White Bird”. I still have it, with its inscription, "George Llewelyn Davies, 1914, Blaringhem."** I have always, by the way, rightly or wrongly, regarded the book as being much more about him than about me. I can't say I like it, any more more than, it would seem, A. did.

In this year the Barries moved to Leinster Corner, Lancaster Gate.

[AB: **Blaringhem is a town near Dunkirk in northern France. Did George buy this copy from some enterprising local bookseller who stocked English language books as well as French to cater for the huge numbers of British soldiers arriving daily from the UK on their way up to the Western Front? Why else would George have written "Blaringhem" inside, along with the date? Whatever, I've always thought it both touching and revealing that George should have taken this souvenir of his early childhood into the trenches...]


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