Letter from Arthur Llewelyn Davies to his sister Margaret at Kirby Lonsdale, 19 April 1889. This is the first letter in Peter's "Morgue", Volume 4, the first three volumes being exclusively family letters between 1812 and 1882.
Peter's Morgue, or Mausoleum, is the name he and his family gave what he officially called "Some Davies Papers and Letters." It is an extraordinary document in everysense – part compilation, part autobiographical – written by apublisher who never wanted it published, yet made copies for familydistribution before burning most of the originals.
Anyone who has readmy book or seen “The Lost Boys" will appreciate the enormousdebt I owe to it. My original intention back in 1978 had been to getThe Morgue published in its own right, rather than write abiographical account of my own. I met with Peter’s three sons –Ruthven (Rivvy), George and Peter Jnr – but both Constables andNico felt that it was too desultory and inconclusive, starting, as itdoes, with a long series of letters from Arthur while a schoolboy,and ending abruptly at George’s death in 1915. With greatreluctance the Morgue was thus put aside.
When Barrie died inJune 1937, the contents of his vast study were boxed up and put intostorage. But not, it seems, before Peter had looked through thecontents, and ear-marked the hoards of family letters that had woundup in the drawers of Barrie’s voluminous desk. In the Morgue Peterspeaks of finding “a dusty packet which contained all [Arthur andSylvia’s] engagement letters, and which I exhumed from someforgotten recess in JMB's flat, some nights after his death.” Theboxes went into storage for the duration of the war, ultimatelywinding up in Peter’s garage.
In 1946, Peterdecided to compile the letters into some sort of family record,interspersed with his own comments. He made a note of his plan:
Intention. To show,by extracts from letters and diaries, with short notes, the sortDavies and du Maurier people we are sprung from, from John Davies andL-M du M downwards; with particular emphasis on father and mother[Arthur and Sylvia], and to a lesser degree George and Michael.
To "lay aghost" in my own case, and free myself to either destroying alldocuments, or dispersing them between Jack and Nico.
To give Jack andNico a picture which they can't have because they have never seenmost of the stuff.
To leave my ownchildren, and Jack's and Nico's, a record of this part of theirextraction in case any of them should one day take an interest insuch things
Peter expanded onhis intention in a joint letter to his surviving brothers:
Dear Jack and Nico,
As you know, I havea good many letters and documents relating to dead members of ourfamily and to our "guardian", JMB. And I find, and believeyou agree with me, that the best thing on whole to do with all suchpapers is to destroy them, particularly when their general effect isdepressing rather than stimulating or merely entertaining. But on theother hand I have noticed in myself, as I get older, an increasinginclination to take an interest in "the day before yesterday",and the day before that. I believe this is quite a common phenomenon.Such an interest has a way of becoming the stronger, as one'srelatives of the older generation, who could have told one so much,become estranged or die. Something of the sort may develop in yearsto come in our own children; so I thought I would have a shot atpiecing together a brief record, or perhaps that is too portentous aword; say rather a very sketchy memento, which might be of interest,someday, to some son or daughter of ours whose tastes may lie in thatdirection. After all we, and so they, are the product not only of twovery gifted beings, but of two families of some distinction. And thedarkest clouds, through which we ourselves inevitably record some ofthese relics, need not obscure the remoter viewpoint of the nextgeneration.
If you think thewhole thing a mistake, you can always tear it up and throw it away,as I shall now proceed to tear up and throw away the letters, some ofwhich are here copied.
34 Craven Terrace, W [London]
[10th April 1889]
I am glad to hear of the Red Dog and the other elements of your prosperity, which no doubt will all have become familiar and controllable by the time of my arrival. That happy event may be looked for at the end of this month or the beginning of the next. I go to Gracedieu on April 26th for a few days. Till then from Easter (when my time with Chitty is up) I shall be working here.
How about Dighton Pollock? I hope you are prepared to face a visit from him in May. He is ready to come at the beginning, but no doubt could do equally well in the middle if you're going to be overcrowded in the earlier part. He and I shall be doing a good deal of work, but he will be a great accession to the village cricket club and also prepared for plenty of walking.
I will do the commission about the Ordnance maps, but till I have seen the sheets am a little doubtful as to the extent - e.g. whether to include Shap Fells which is a walk that I have planned. My Jenkinson sufficiently includes all the Lake District proper. I propose to take you to Ullswater and Helvellyn someday in May. It is sad that L. M. has actually not been up Ingleborough.
Your affectionate brother,
Peter's comments in the "Morgue":
This must be one of the first letters written by Arthur to the Vicarage, Kirkby Lonsdale, to which the Rev. John and Mary Llewelyn Davies and Margaret had recently moved from Blandford Square, Marylebone, and which was to become the home of John Llewelyn Davies (now 63) for the next 20 years.
Arthur was sharing rooms with [his brother] Charles Ll.D, now employed at the Treasury [i.e. in 1950, when Peter was compiling his "Morgue"].
Gracedieu, in Leicestershire: the home of the Booths. I fancy Jack went there once or twice as a child.
Chitty: T W Chitty, QC, later Mr Justice Chitty, in whose chambers Arthur was qualifying for the Bar, to which he was to be called three months later.
Dighton Pollock was, I think, also in Chitty's Chambers; I don't know whether Arthur and he had made friends before that at Cambridge. Younger brother of Adrian Pollock, and thus uncle of Anne, who married Cyril (now Mr Justice) Asquith and of the emaciated 'diseuse', Betty, who acted occasionally in JMB's plays. The Pollocks were among the most distinguished legal families in the country, and were doubtless useful as well as attractive to know. Dighton, very handsome and gifted, became a prominent member of the Parliamentary Bar before his death in the early 1930s. These notes are already too long for me to enter here into the rather unusual relationship which existed between him and Gerald Arthur Millar, and which, after all, had little or no bearing on our own family affairs.
Maps, of a scale suitable for walking and bicycling, were always a great preoccupation of Arthur's. I suppose he had been asked to get the sections of the Ordnance survey map covering the beautiful Westmorland countryside to which the family had migrated, and to which they were to become so devoted.
"Jenkinson" is an unfamiliar name to me - presumably a guide and map book.
L. M. I can't solve.
Ingleborough is a local "mountain", the climbing of which, in 1905 or 6, with Arthur and George, is one of my a vividest early memories.
One could wish there had been some details about the vicarage and its domestic arrangements, but there are none, except the occasional references later to "red rooms" and "blue rooms" in Mary Ll.D's to Sylvia, which will follow in their places. It was a nice, comfortable old house. There is some description of it in the notes from Lady Ponsonby which will be found later on; and also in a large number of Llewelyn Davies letters which came to me from cousins Mary and Theo after I had more or less completed this part of the record. I hope to include some interesting extracts from these in a subsequent volume.
I suppose the "Red Dog" was in fact a real dog. They were not what one would call a doggy family, but I have a charming little photograph of Mary Llewelyn Davies with Crompton, taken obviously in the early 1890's, with a dog called Bob which looks as though it was a (red) Irish terrier sort of animal.
[AB: Arthur’s beloved sister Margaret became a leading light in the Women’s co-operative movement, and the struggle for women’s rights. Since she is to feature strongly in the pages to come, I did a Google search and found the following on www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk (to whom many thanks):
Margaret Llewelyn Davies was the daughter of the Rev. John Llewelyn Davies, and was born at Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland in 1861. Her father was a Christian Socialist and a strong supporter of women's rights. After attending Girton College, Cambridge, Margaret Llewelyn Davies became involved in several progressive causes.
She joined the Women's Co-operative Guild (WCG) and for thirty-two years was the organisation's General Secretary. Under her leadership the WCG became a campaigning organisation. After carrying out an investigation into the working conditions of the 2,000 women employed in co-operative stores, the WCG advocated the introduction of a minimum wage. By 1912 the Co-operative Wholesale Society and 200 other retail societies had complied with the WCG's policy on wages.
A member of the National Union of Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), Margaret Llewelyn Davies took part in several peaceful demonstrations, including a sandwich-board picket of the House of Commons in 1912. She also gave evidence to the Royal Commission on divorce reform and the WCG created great controversy by urging that “divorce by mutual consent after two years of separation” should be legalized. Other campaigns she instigated included an attempt to reduce the high infant-mortality rates by the introduction of improved ante-natal, natal, and post-natal care. These views were expressed in her book, "Maternity" (1915). Other books included her autobiography, "Life as We Have Known It" (1931). Margaret Llewelyn Davies died in 1943.
A new biography on Margaret Llewelyn Davies - "With Women for a New World" by Ruth Cohen - was published in 2020.
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