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J M Barrie To Sylvia Llewelyn Davies - 1898

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Letter from Barrie to Sylvia, dated 14 August 1892 and pretending to be written on the eve of Sylvia's wedding to Arthur, though in all probability written on the eve of their 6th wedding anniversary in 1898. Peter wrote "presumably 1897" in pencil on the envelope, but if Barrie's first meeting with Sylvia was at Sir George Lewis's New Year's Eve dinner party at the end of 1897, the following year seems more likely, when Barrie was visiting Sylvia (but without Arthur) and her 3 boys at Rustington Mill. The address on the envelope is to the Llewelyn Davies home in Kensington Park Gardens, but note there is no stamp.

See the transcription for Peter's comments, and his remark that "entry on the scene of J.M.B. introduces a strange and unavoidably controversial element into this compilation" ...



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Transcription

15, Old Cavendish Street, W.
14 Aug. 1892.

Dear Miss du Maurier,
And so you are to be married tomorrow! And I shall not be present. You know why. Please allow me to wish you great happiness in your married life. And at the same time I hope you will kindly accept the little wedding gift I am sending you. It is not a hinge, but if you wear it, it will be part of one. It reaches you somewhat late, but that is owing to circumstances too painful to go into. With warmest wishes to you and Mr. Davis [sic].
Believe me, dear Miss du Maurier,
Yours sincerely,
J. M. Barrie.
P.S. To think that you don't know about Peterkin!

Peter's comments:

This characteristic whimsicality is written on the back of a piece of 133 Gloucester Road notepaper; the envelope, unstamped, is addressed to Miss Sylvia du Maurier, 31 Kensington Park Gardens. No doubt it was delivered by hand on 14th August, 1897 [AB: my guess is 1898] , and is the earliest letter from J.M.B. in my possession. What gift it enclosed I know not.
By 1896 it had no doubt become apparent that the home in Craven Street was too small for a quiverful, and the family moved out to Notting Hill Gate, to 31, Kensington Park Gardens. The house was familiar to A. and S., as the home of Carrie and George Croome-Robertson; and I think I am right in saying that either great-Aunt Carrie or great-Uncle George, or both, died about that time, and that the tail-end of their lease was left to A. and S.

The entry on the scene of J.M.B. introduces a strange and unavoidably controversial element into this compilation. I shall try to treat it as objectively as possible. For obvious reasons, the number of letters from him from now on, is large. This part of the business has been most searchingly and efficiently dealt with by Denis Mackail in "The Story of J.M.B" and I need only say (with Denis's help) that in August 1897 J.M.B, was 37 years old, and one of the most talked of figures in the literary world, with money already pouring in from books and plays, including the enormously successful "Little Minister". He had married Mary Ansell three years earlier, in July 1894, and they were now living at 133 Gloucester Road, with Porthos, the St. Bernard, to complete the household.
According to Denis, who is nearly always right, indeed, almost devilishly so, S. and J.M.B. had first met at a big dinner-party at the Lewises, some time in 1897. (Sir George Lewis was, I think, already his solicitor, and was also, as we have seen, an important source of briefs for A.Ll.D.)
P(eggy) LI.D.[Peter’s wife] remembers J.M.B. telling her that he found himself sitting next to the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and was overwhelmed and also intrigued by the way she put aside some of the various sweets that were handed round, and secreted them. When he asked her why, she answered that she was keeping them for Peter. A suspect story, on the face of it ...
On the other hand, old H. J. Ford, in the letter which I quoted earlier, relating, or professing to relate, the occasion of the first meeting between A. and S. went on to say:
"There's another thing you owe me.
"It was at my studio in Edwardes Square that at a tea J. M. Barrie first met your mother, who was a dressed in a corduroy jacket (made by herself). He saw, fell a victim and was utterly conquered. Hence Peter Pan and all the rest of it.
"Often have I seen you held over the coal box when I went to tea with your parents in Craven Terrace, 60 YEARS AGO!" He was exaggerating the time-lag (writing in 1938), and it couldn't have been in Craven Terrace that he saw me held over the coal box (significance of this a mystery to me); but these are very minor inaccuracies, and his story is as likely to be true as Denis's. At any rate, within a very short time, by way of his adoration of S., and of his irresistible way small boys, "Mr. Barrie" became a unique influence in the lives of all of us, one that was to affect our destinies in ways as yet unknown.

The solution of the hinge allusion in J.M.B's letter is to be found in the earlier part of H.J. Ford's letter to me, quoted earlier.

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