Sign In

Access advanced features by signing in to your user account.

Arthur Llewelyn Davies to Mary Llewelyn Davies - 1

This entry contains 11 image(s).



Letter from Arthur Llewelyn Davies to his mother Mary, October 1891

[No original available]


3, Harcourt Buildings,
Temple, E.C.
Oct. [1891]

Dearest Mother,
I am very sorry to have failed so completely to get to Kirkby this vacation. We must hope that solicitors may next year be less overwhelming in their attentions. My absence seems to have been more than compensated by visits from many sons and friends. I am going today for my last holiday outing, to Rustington again, this time with Sylvia. We were to go yesterday, but Sylvia has had a swelling of the neck which caused great alarm in the nervous household at New Grove House. It has disappeared now, but as she is enfeebled by staying in bed and I have got a cold, we are not in great form for a visit.
My application for the Assistant Readership goes in on Tuesday week, and the appointment is made some time in November. I am having my testimonials printed at the cost, which I rather grudge, of £2, and you shall have a copy presently. If as I suppose the Macnaghten with you is M.M. of that ilk, he ought to secure me his father's vote.
Mr. du Maurier is soon going to begin his lectures and is getting very nervous about them. The book will also appear early in November. I feel much more confident about the success of the latter: the lecture is well written and interesting, but not done in the comic style which will probably be expected.
When are you coming to London?
Your affect. son,

The visit to Rustington, I take it, implied staying with the Parrys at their house there, which was the big house of the place. And I suppose it was through the Parrys that A.Ll.D first became acquainted with that (in those days) delightful seaside village where we spent so many summer holidays: three that I can remember (and I think one when I was too young) including A.Ll.D's last summer holiday of all, 1906. Rustington, Berkhamsted and Ramsgate are the three places to which I chiefly return in the nostalgic mood of childhood-memory.

A's application for an Assistant Readership under the Council of Legal Education was successful. I have the printed copy of the formal application and testimonials which he sent to his mother. The testimonials were from the Rev. G. C. Bell, Master of Marlborough College, A. W. Verrall, Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Cambridge, the Rev. Edmond Warre, Head Master of Eton, W. Donaldson Rawlins (in whose chambers A. had read for a year) T. Willes (later Mr. Justice) Chitty, and Joseph (later Mr. Justice) Walton, in both of whose chambers he had also been a pupil, D. French, Q.C., and Alfred Cock, Q.C. All are sufficiently glowing: the lawyers testify to his legal qualifications, the others to his scholarship, character and teaching ability. Warre said:
"My Lords and Gentlemen, — I have been asked by my friend Mr. Arthur Llewelyn Davies to support his application for an Assistant Readership at the Inns of Court.
"I had the good fortune to obtain the assistance of Mr. Llewelyn Davies as an Assistant Master at Eton for a year, and was so well satisfied with his success as a teacher that I was anxious to retain his services on my staff. But his desire to devote himself to the legal profession was unalterable. If any testimony of mine as to his ability as a teacher can commend his application for an Assistant Readership in the eyes of the Electors, it will be a pleasure to me to find that his temporary employment at Eton has not stood in the way of his advancement in the profession of his choice." Bell's testimonial included the sentence: "Few of my many pupils have more impressed me with a sense of intellectual vigour, practical ability, and force of character, combined with gifts and qualities which make him everywhere acceptable."
The list of scholarships which A. was able to include in his application was:

Marlborough: Foundation, Junior and Senior Scholarships, and a School Exhibition.
Cambridge: Minor and Foundation Trinity Scholarships.
First Class, Classical Tripos, 1884 Lebas Essay Prize, 1884.
First Whewell International Law Scholarship, 1887
Law: Inner Temple Pupil Scholarship in Common Law, 1889.

- and he states that he was called to the Bar in July 1889 and was a member of the Northern Circuit.

Malcolm Macnaghten, a cousin of Hugh, was the son of Lord Macnaghten, one of the most eminent judges of his time, and is now himself Mr. Justice Macnaghten. He married Antonia Booth in 1899, and their son Antony was one of our Eton contemporaries. Lord Macnaghten's testimonial, as the next letter shows, was not included by A. in his application.
Mr. du Maurier's book was "Peter Ibbetson", which did not in fact appear until the following year. It brought no very great financial reward, but at once established his position as a novelist of originality and distinction, and paved the way for the resounding success of "Trilby".
The lecture, or lectures, were delivered, in various towns in England, I believe with considerable success, and were published in 1898 in book form with the title of "Social Pictorial Satire". They consist chiefly of appreciations of the art and personality of John Leech and Charles Keene, with a few reflections on his own life and work.
A.Ll.D. had stayed at Rustington with the Parrys in August ("We are all overcome with admiration for him.") The October visit with S. du M. is referred to in Dolly Parry's diary for that year, as follows:

'"Arthur spent the morning cutting down trees. We have never seen such a pair of undemonstrative lovers as Sylvia and Arthur. They hardly ever speak to each other even when in a room by themselves. Sylvia is a delightful thing. I can't imagine her with Margaret D. at all, with her love of pretty dresses and the stage, she is always dancing about the room...
Sylvia is great friends with Father. Arthur says he can't bear women to like men better than their own sex — it always means there is something horrid in their characters. Love was always blind! ...
"Arthur and Sylvia left. Discussed Sylvia fully, of course, after she had left. Without being strictly speaking pretty, she has got one of the most delightful, brilliantly sparkling faces I have ever seen. Her nose turns round the corner — also turns right up. Her mouth is quite crooked. She is much too fat. Her eyes are very pretty — hazel and very mischievous. She has pretty black fluffy hair: but her expression is what gives her that wonderful charm, and her
low voice."

These are of course the views of a clever fifteen-year-old girl, who no doubt absorbed much of her parents' opinions into her own. That S's features were too irregular to fit into any ordinary classification of beauty or prettiness seems to be generally agreed. I seem to have heard somewhere that as a child she was rather an ugly duckling — like Mimsey Seraskier in "Peter Ibbetson" — who only became beautiful in later life; and the few early photographs I have of her seem rather to bear this out. None of the youthful photographs give an impression of fatness; but she was not slender in the modern sense of the word — it was not the type in those days.
"From now onwards," writes Lady Ponsonby, "Sylvia du Maurier became a friend as great as, or even greater than, the Llewelyn Davieses themselves, and my admiration for her became even greater than for Arthur."


Add Comment

There aren't any comments on this entry, click add comment to be the first!

J M Barrie Logo Sign In