Letter from Arthur Llewelyn Davies to his sister Margaret at Kirby Lonsdale, 19 April 1889. This is the first letter in Peter's "Morgue" (see the Transcription for more on this) but one must assume he destroyed the original.
Introduction to the Morgue
Peter Llewelyn Davies’s "Morgue" is an extraordinary document in every sense – part compilation, part autobiographical – written by a publisher who never wanted it published, yet made copies for family distribution before burning most of the originals.
Anyone who has read my book or seen “The Lost Boys" will appreciate the enormous debt I owe to it. My original intention back in 1978 had been to get The Morgue published in its own right, rather than write a biographical account of my own. I met with Peter’s three sons – Ruthven (Rivvy), George and Peter Jnr – but both Constables and Nico felt that it was too desultory and inconclusive, starting, as it does, with a long series of letters from Arthur while a schoolboy, and ending abruptly at George’s death in 1915. With great reluctance the Morgue was thus put aside.
It is therefore with a sense of a debt repaid that I am sharing it on this site. I only hope Peter’s soul will forgive me for effectively “publishing” what was compiled for family reading only. I feel he would want it all to be published, or none at all – and on this point all three of his sons agreed. And since it has already been raided by Janet Dunbar (in "J M Barrie: the Man Behind the Image") as well as by me, this is no more than setting the record straight.
When Barrie died in June 1937, the contents of his vast study were boxed up and put into storage. But not, it seems, before Peter had looked through the contents, and ear-marked the hoards of family letters that had wound up in the drawers of Barrie’s voluminous desk. In the Morgue Peter speaks of finding “a dusty packet which contained all [Arthur and Sylvia’s] engagement letters, and which I exhumed from some forgotten recess in JMB's flat, some nights after his death.” The boxes went into storage for the duration of the war, ultimately winding up in Peter’s garage.
In 1946, Peter decided 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 sort Davies and du Maurier people we are sprung from, from John Davies and L-M du M downwards; with particular emphasis on father and mother [Arthur and Sylvia], and to a lesser degree George and Michael.
To "lay a ghost" in my own case, and free myself to either destroying all documents, or dispersing them between Jack and Nico.
To give Jack and Nico a picture which they can't have because they have never seen most of the stuff.
To leave my own children, and Jack's and Nico's, a record of this part of their extraction in case any of them should one day take an interest in such things
Peter expanded on his intention in a joint letter to his surviving brothers:
Dear Jack and Nico,
As you know, I have a good many letters and documents relating to dead members of our family and to our "guardian", JMB. And I find, and believe you agree with me, that the best thing on whole to do with all such papers is to destroy them, particularly when their general effect is depressing rather than stimulating or merely entertaining. But on the other hand I have noticed in myself, as I get older, an increasing inclination 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's relatives of the older generation, who could have told one so much, become estranged or die. Something of the sort may develop in years to come in our own children; so I thought I would have a shot at piecing together a brief record, or perhaps that is too portentous a word; say rather a very sketchy memento, which might be of interest, someday, to some son or daughter of ours whose tastes may lie in that direction. After all we, and so they, are the product not only of two very gifted beings, but of two families of some distinction. And the darkest clouds, through which we ourselves inevitably record some of these relics, need not obscure the remoter viewpoint of the next generation.
If you think the whole 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 of which are here copied.
The first volume of Peter’s Morgue consists entirely of letters from Arthur Llewelyn Davies while at Cambridge to his father, the Rev. John Llewelyn Davies. Volume 2 begins with this letter, from Arthur to his sister Margaret. It is followed by Peter’s comment, as will be the pattern for all the letters he included in his Morgue. If viewed chronologically via the “MORGUE” tag, this will amount to reading the Morgue in its entirely, interspersed with additional letters that for whatever reason he did not include, but presumably would have done if he’d had them to hand. Some of these had already found their way into the Beinecke Collection at Yale University; others were found by Nico while I was writing my BBC-TV trilogy.
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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