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J M Barrie to Peter Llewelyn Davies - 1904

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Letter from Barrie to Peter from Paris, while visiting with Sylvia, Michael and Frohman, 25 June 1904

[NOT IN MORGUE]



Transcription

Hotel Meurice,
228, Rue de Rivoli,
Paris.

25 June, 1904.

My dear Peter,
This is where we are holding out. One day we went to the fair, and played at flinging rings on to pocket knives. If you get them on you get the knife. We have won eleven knives and if we go back we shall win some more. We have a lovely hotel with a beautiful bath all to our selves, but no water comes into it, and we have four splendid clocks, but none of them are going. I saw your mother at the corner of the Madeleine and in the Cafe de Paris and coming out of Paillard carrying a sardine in one hand and a handkerchief in the other. And in the Bois whom did I see but Michael Ll.D. strutting along with his girl. This was a few years afterwards. I felt funny y'day, so perhaps it is the German Measles. With my love to you all, l am
Yours to command
J.M.B.
[Drawings of 3 knives] These are three of the knives.
We are now going out to look at hats.


[AB: I found this letter, along with several others I have added to the Morgue, in the Beinecke collection at Yale. They had been bought from Cynthia Asquith, via Sothebys, who sold large tranches of Barrieana in the early 1950s. Why these letters should have wound up with her is anyone’s guess, but it meant that Peter didn’t have them when compiling his Morgue, thus none of his comments.

Barrie had gone to Paris with Charles Frohman, who was on his annual talent-scouting trip to Europe, as well as, apparently, Sylvia and Michael. In the absence of Peter’s comments, here’s what Denis Mackail had to say about the trip:

“At the end of [June 1904] there was another of the trips, with Frohman, to Paris. Staying at the Meurice, seeing plays and sights, watching his manager at work and hearing all his plans. No secrets from Barrie. He knew now what was going to happen to the stars and to other playwrights before they knew it themselves. And then there was the evening when Frohman had arranged for a dinner and a theatre, and Barrie dragged him off to a fair at Auteuil instead. The triumphant evening when he threw rings over knives stuck in a board, and came back with forty-eight of them. Sensation in French fair-ground circles, and Barrie, with that wonderful wrist and eye of his, feeling as if he had broken the bank. He did the same thing, some years afterwards, when Lucas took him to the Derby. Backed every horse except the three that were placed—probably his first and last connection with the Turf—and then went down among the gypsies and practically cleaned out a Hoop-la stall. A terror, always, at anything like this.”

Mackail clearly based his account on the same (albeit exaggerated?) incident related in Marcossin & Frohman's 1916 biography, "Charles Frohman: Manager and Man":

"One of the great Frohman-Barrie adventures was in Paris. It illustrates so completely the relation between these men that it is worth giving in detail.
Frohman was in Paris, and after much telegraphic insistence persuaded his friend to come over on his first visit to the French capital. Frohman was aglow with anticipation. He wanted to give Barrie the time of his life.
"What would a literary man like to do in Paris?" was the question he asked himself.
In his usual generous way he planned the first night, for Barrie was to arrive in the afternoon. He was then living at the Hotel Meurice, in the Rue Royale, so he engaged a magnificent suite for his guest. He ordered a sumptuous dinner at the Café de Paris, bought a box at the Theatre Francais, and engaged a smart victoria [carriage] for the evening.
Barrie was dazed at the splendor of the Meurice suite, but he survived it. When Frohman spoke of the Café de Paris dinner, he said he would rather dine quietly at the hotel, so the elaborate meal was given up.
"Now what would you like to do this evening?" asked his host.
"Are there any of those country fairs around here, where they have side shows and you can threw balls at things?" asked Barrie.
Frohman, who had box seats for the must classic of all Continental theaters in his pocket, said: "Yes, there is one in Neuilly."
"All right," said Barrie, "let’s go there."
"We’ll drive out in a victoria," meekly suggested Frohman.
"No," said Barrie, "I think it would be more fun to go on a ’bus."
With the unused tickets for the Theatre Francais in his waistcoat, and the smart little victoria still waiting in front of the Meurice (for Frohman forgot to order the man home), the two friends started for the country fair, where they spent the whole evening throwing balls at what the French call "Aunt Sally." It is much like the old-fashioned side-show at an American county fair. A man pokes his head through a hole in the canvas, and every time the thrower hits the head he gets a knife.
When Frohman and Barrie returned to the Meurice that night they had fifty knives between them. The next night they repeated this performance until they had knives enough to start a hardware store.
This was the simple and childlike way that these two men, each a genius in his own way, disported themselves on a holiday."]

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