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J M Barrie to Arthur Quiller-Couch - 1896


Letter from J M Barrie to Arthur Quiller-Couch (‘Q’),10 January 1896, written from 133 Gloucester Road, London, S.W.

{Taken from “The Letters of J M Barrie”, edited by Viola Meynell, Peter Davies Publishing, 1942}


My dear Couch,

Almost do you persuade us. What we feel is that to go for ten days or so into such a celestial climate and then return to the cold and darkness of Gloucester Road would be to our hurt rather than our benefit. We don’t want to be away longer than a fortnight, and two days each way would be spent on travelling. You are in different case as you will be away long enough to be set up. On the other hand it is immensely tempting, them there palms and roses and that banana.

As for the billiard table, I know that billiard table. I should think you would have a lovely time, and it is just possible we may fling discretion to the winds and come. We swither, as we say in the kailyard. It could not be for a fortnight or so, my play keeps me back, not my sister’s affair which has come off all right.* It is a boy. What is a boy? as the one good page in 300 of a Bulwer Lytton says. I am heartily glad you like "Tommy".** They begin with a very long instalment but must give much less hereafter. He goes to the kailyard presently and develops impishly, but you are supposed to like him against your better judgment. The Painted Lady’s girl appears there and is an important character.

The Westminster Gazette has been inquiring at the libraries about what boys read and you, sir, have 199 votes, coming very near to Henty the Great. But it is curious. It must mean the "Spur" and "Dead Man’s Rock" only,—so that these are the most popular boys’ books of ’95. Cassell’s should take account of it. (Henty with scores of books is under 300.) Messrs Trollope, some-other-body and Barrie have one vote each. I should like to give my boy a sovereign, poor lonely little chap.

Inform the Pippa that Glen has been behaving well and is at present lying in the hall in four positions. He would like werry much to be careering round the terrace of your hotel, with a stick in his mouth, Pippa hanging on. Well, there’s no hope of his getting so far, and as for us, it’s doubtful. But not impossible. Let us hear that the oranges have not gone bad on the under side and that the frost has not nipped the noses (roses). We might succumb. Mary has had a cold and so have I, and she sends you greetings from a long lie abed.

Yours ever

J M Barrie

* Barrie's sister Maggie had married William Winter, elder brother of the dead James.
** "Sentimental Tommy", appearing serially in "Scribner's Magazine".


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