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George Llewelyn Davies to Margaret Llewelyn Davies

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Letter/poem from George to his Aunt Margaret, 18 April 1906.

[No original available]



Transcription

16 Royal Crescent
Ramsgate
18th April 1906

Dear Aunt Margaret,
The fatal word is spoke, and mother says
I may not see the walls of Kirkby town,
I may not see Miss Davenport, and Joan,
And Mrs. Tatham, and young Eddie too.
No bike rides with Miss Harris shall I go,
No walks with Peter and his mistress fair;
I shall not look for birds’ nests in the woods,
Nor walk upon the moors with thee, fair aunt.
Alas! ’tis finished, and at Ramsgate I
Must pine away, and pipe my little eye.

(Here is drawn, in the original letter, a self-portrait of the author, in profile, holding a spade, with tears gushing from his eyes, and “Ah me!” emerging in a balloon from the mouth, entitled “George by the sad sea waves.”)

But yet I try to bear against despair
And bravely battle ’gainst all-powerful fate,
Castles I dig before the sad sea waves,
Squash rackets play I at the Weigalls’ house.
And so goodbye, Aunt Margo, fare ye well,
For lo! at last, I hear the dinner bell!
George Llewellyn Davies

*

The full signature suggests that George was proud of his poem, and thought it pretty good. And so do I: a devilish good effort for twelve and a half.

Miss Harris (Lillian) was Margaret’s faithful companion and help in all her Women’s Co-Operative and Suffrage activities. She moved with Margaret to Hampsted when John LD gave up the Vicarage, and eventually followed her to the cottage in the grounds of Maurice Ll.D’s house at Dorking where I saw her three years ago, stone blind, but still mentally alert. To the best of my belief she still survives.

Who can my mistress fair have been, I wonder, in the Easter of 1906?

And what more curious provenance could there be than Kirkby Lonsdale for a semi-professional night-club bottle-party bright young person organiser like Eddie Tatham, whom I used occasionally to come across in the less squalid nocturnal haunts of London in the late 20s and early 30s – and rather liked him, too. The recognition was mutual, and we talked of early days at Kirkby, where the Tathams were on very friendly terms with the Vicarage. They occupied one of the better houses on the outskirts of the little town, and I remember going round to serenade them with carols one Christmas evening, disguised with the help of burnt cork, etc.
[AB: Eddie Tatham was a “hugely charismatic” character who became a director of Justerini & Brooks. In 1929 he was arrested at Grand Central Station for carrying whisky samples in his briefcase for wealthy clients in Prohibition-era America. After his release he went on to create J&B Rare …]

If this was a proper book, as opposed to a more desultory compilation, there ought to be a division here: the end of a section or “part”. For with the next letter begins the truly morgue-like matter which, besides providing a chief reason why I undertook this job, makes me wonder more than any other element in it whether the job is one that was worth undertaking at all. However, I may as well go through with it now.

Most of the very full series of letters which follows, dealing with Arthur’s illness and death, came to me from Margaret Ll.D. a year or two before her own death [in 1944]. I may as well quote here her covering letter to me at the time, which sums things up pretty adequately.

“I have lately been going through (and destroying) a large quantity of letters and papers, and among them are records of your father at different times of his life. I feel it would not be right to destroy these without giving you the opportunity of saying whether you would like to have them. To me, the knowledge of what Arthur was is one of my most precious possessions, showing one the rare beauty that happiness and suffering may bring out in a life… Dear Peter, you may feel you would rather not revive such sadness, and that your life is too full and the world’s state too difficult, not to occupy all your time and thought with immediate doings and happenings. If so, do not hesitate to say so. Maurice finds he cannot bear to dwell on what is painful in the old days – but he agrees most strongly with me that you should be asked if you would like me to send you what I have. You may feel you already know the man your father was, and what people thought of him… I am sorry not to have put Arthur’s letters in better order, but you will understand that the task I have had, and still have, with the accumulations of years, has been a little difficult, especially for a 77-yearer! ...”

For better or worse, I said I would like to have the letters. I still feel doubtful about the propriety of making copies of them, particularly Sylvia’s which have for me a greater poignancy and privacy even than Arthur’s. But of their deep family interest there is no question, and it seems a pity they should perish utterly after being kept all these years.

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