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Letter from Barrie to "Petermikle", 11 May 1903. In his comments, Peter bemoans the miseries that his name has brought him. "What’s in a name? My God, what isn’t? If that perennially juvenile, if that boy so fatally committed to an arrestation of his development, had only been dubbed George, or Jack, or Michael, or Nicholas, what miseries would have been spared me."
Lancaster Gate, W.
11 May 1903
I thank u 2 very much 4 your birth day presents and i hav putt your portraitgrafs on mi wall and yourselves in my hart and your honey lower down.
I am so sorry Sil Volatile is not well and feel sure you dont bang about in the Big Room in case you disturb her.
Worth putting in for its own inimitable sake, as well as because it is the earliest surviving letter from its author to the writer of these lines (half of it, anyhow), to whom the association has ever been fraught with complexities from which all others escaped. What’s in a name? My God, what isn’t? If that perennially juvenile, if that boy so fatally committed to an arrestation of his development, had only been dubbed George, or Jack, or Michael, or Nicholas, what miseries would have been spared me.
Sil Volatile: ex-Sal Volatile, a nostrum of the day known also as "drops" of which S. made considerable use. So for as I remember, it was administered to us as a kind of mild tonic.
[From Lady Ponsonby, writing to me in l945: “In the summer of 1903 the Davies’s took instead of the Sea Mill House, what was known as Rustington Mill, about a mile inland at the extreme Northern limit of the village. There was the mill and the miller's house, and 2 rather charming flint cottages by the roadside in which they stayed. I can see and feel so vividly one evening we spent there. I write:
'A. and I dined with Sylvia and Arthur. Sylvia looking divine, but really the picture of them from the road through the open lamp-lit cottage window was the loveliest I ever saw. Arthur reading, with his Greek-coin profile, and Sylvia with her beautifully poised head and Empire hair, sewing in a gown of white and silver.'
They were always on the beach with the children, and I write of Sylvia's boys, "her beautiful sons more glorious than ever,” and “The Davies boys, George and Jack, and the two Arthurs and Louis Mallet out in the ‘Humber’ (my father’s yacht), the boys splendidly full of courage and hope, swarming up the rigging like monkeys, and George, with the assistance of ropes, bathing off the boat though unable to swim. There was no wind and the ship lolloped about a good deal and they were suddenly flat and quiet on their backs ... Home in time for tea – a large party – the rest of the Davies family and Sylvia."
I think it will be agreed that, if only for this one glimpse of our parents in the splendid prime of their lives – 40 and 36 – we are deeply indebted to Lady Ponsonby.
While not claiming any personal share in the beauty or glory of the four sons (contemporary photographs are my guide) I remain convinced that I, too, was on board the ‘Humber’ that day, as l fancy I mentioned a good many pages back, before I had received the above from Lady P. But it was forty-four years ago and I was only six, and memory is undoubtedly a deceitful bitch. Nevertheless, I remember a lot about Rustington:
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens,
Et je pleure.*
Louis Mallet (Sir in 1912) was in the Foreign Office, and Ambassador to Turkey 1913-14. The other Arthur was, of course, Arthur (Lord in 1930) Ponsonby, whom Dolly Parry had married in 1899.
[* From Verlaine’s “Chanson d’automne”: “I remember / the old days / and I cry.”]
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