The following is an orginal piece by Nico Llewelyn Davies
(Sharon Goode worked with Andrew Birkin on the ATV production of Peter Pan with Danny Kaye and Mia Farrow, and also on the research for the BBC drama The Lost Boys. During that time, she corresponded and met with Nico Llewelyn Davies. With her kind permission, I have now transcribed and edited (taking out salutations and anything that wasn't relevant) the correspondence between them. It does show some remarkable insights in Nico's life as a boy, the tragedy of his parents' untimely death, his relationship with his brothers and his nephews, and growing up with JM Barrie as his guardian. Brutus, January 2021.)
Please note the correspondence is copyright protected so no part can be used or quoted in other works without the authors' or their estate's explicit permission. Any enquiries should be directed in the first instance to this website.
Sharon Goode (SG) to Nico Ll. Davies (NLD)
Dear Mr Ll. Davies
(…) Andrew and I became interested in Barrie when we were both working on the ATV production of “Peter Pan” which was made last summer. We read Janet Dunbar’s book and then started reading around the subject – his letters, Cynthia Asquith’s diaries etc. and then, of course started reading through the plays, novels and speeches. Andrew has a copy of Denis Mackail’s biography, which he had strongly recommended me to read and I have ordered a copy which should be arriving any day now. Obviously, from my point of view, I would like time to study this before meeting you. I, myself, am helping Andrew with the research for his trilogy but also hope, at the same time, to write a book on Barrie – probably something on the lines of my “impressions of the man and his literature”. I feel that after so much reading I must have something to say, although at the moment I am still looking very hard for an “angle”!
We would be very interested to see any photographs, letters etc and there will of course be small detail questions that spring to mind… I shall give these some thought and try and compile sort of list before visit, but as I said before, the impression Barrie made on you is far more valuable to us than anything else.
NLD to SG – 19/11/1975
Dear Miss Goode
Many thanks for your letter. (…)
I’m sure I’ll be able to answer some questions, tho’ I don’t know the answers to others. (…)
At this – very early to me – stage, I shall guess the three things in which you should perhaps concentrate: and I say because it seems to me they’re missing for most current views on J.M.B: (a) his humour, his fun-to-be-with etc; (b) the large number of his men friends from Capt Scott, Thomas Hardy, A.G.W. Mas, old Scotch friends and vice versa; (c) his wizardry with children… He (and I) only knew one small child who didn’t fall completely to his wiles, whether wriggling his ears, moving his eyebrows or throwing stamps up to the ceiling. (…)
A creature of moods, yes indeed: maybe to be expected of a man of genius: times of silence, but many many more hours of humour.
Denis Mackail will tell you a great deal. It’s too long – and we had to cut a great lot even then – but chock full of the very Barrie. Another essential book in its way – which I’d be sure you know – is Roger Lancelyn Green’s 50 Years of Peter Pan.
SG to NLD 24/11/1975
Dear Mr Davies
Many thanks for your letter of the 19th November. I have indeed taken all your points to heart and thank you very much for them. Barrie’s humour, I think, is so obviously an important of the man, yet it is the one that it is most difficult to find examples of. It’s all so easy to get such pleasure from the deeper level of his writing that perhaps the humour’s too often overlooked. I do agree that it should not be. I suppose that it’s in the speeches that one can most easily find examples of the wit (I’ve just finished the McConnachie & JMB selection) though, obviously, it’s there throughout his writing and, as you know so well, his conversation.
I also took to heart Mackail’s warning at the beginning of his book … (“If any biographer should swallow more than a fraction of speeches and writings which are professedly autobiographical – he may still find himself quite a remarkable distance from the truth”! Truth – I doubt whether anyone will ever, with any certainty, claim to know it (for who can tell when reality ends & fantasy begins?!) All one can hope for, I think is to gain a total impression of Barrie which embraces all aspects of his character and does him no discredit by oversimplification or harping too much on one facet. But enough of this. You said this was an early stage for me. The more I read, the more I know I have to read! (Although, at the same time, I find it hard to remember that time when there wasn’t at least one Barrie book on the bedside table!).
We have made contact with Mr Lancelyn Green who, also, has been very encouraging and has invited us to visit him on our way back from Scotland next week.
NLD to SG – 28/11/1975
I’m sure I should call you thus: whether or not you’ll find it as simple to ‘Nico’ a 72 year old… whichever you find easier, either writing or when we meet. And the same of course will go with Andrew Birkin tho’ I didn’t mention this in the long letter I wrote him the other day.
You’ll get this on your return from Kirriemuir which I’m bound to say I expect you’ll find a pretty depressing spot! I haven’t been there since the funeral and much as I love, and frequently as I have visited, Scotland. I’m more drawn to Thrums!
When you both come here there’s one thing (or things) I’m sure I should let you take away: the typescripts of my brother Peter’s SOME DAVIES PAPERS AND LETTERS (or some such title): for the last few years of his life Peter worked on this and, as I shall tell you it contributed greatly to his own growing melancholia, and eventual death. He called it The Morgue! And delving into the tragically early deaths of Father & Mother – each in their early 40’s – each so beautiful, such a perfect pair etc. is full of deep sad names (??) as one reads. Peter did it absolutely privately… it was just for my brother Jack and me and any of our children i.e. ONLY FAMILY. It consists of many letters with marvellous comments… And of course when J.M.B. appears on the scene there are many many revealing glimpses of him and what we all thought of him etc. After a good deal of deliberation I let Janet Dunbar take them away and – in my biased view – Peter’s part is much the best of Janet’s book! Peter’s major plan was to start with Father & Mother’s meeting (perhaps with an earlier volume or two as Llewelyn Davies and du Maurier parents) ending with my brother Michael’s death by drowning in 1921 which – as Denis Mackail says – was J.M.B’s Mortal Blow. But Peter never got so far… in fact he’d only begun to get the bit about George (killed in March 1915) into shape; still there is a considerable amount of stuff in what Peter did complete which I would say is vital for any study of J.M.B. even tho’ Janet may have lifted the cream.
I’ll sort out a few old photographs tho’ I doubt if there’s very much of interest here. (…) You will, I expect, be thrilled to see the Wm Nicholson designs for the Peter Pan characters to appear in the 1904 original production of the Play which are at present decorating our hall.
You will doubtless have seen my long letter to Andrew in which I told him to ask me a few particular questions when you both came here… I think I must have included ‘you cad’; here we are or two for you; ‘Mr Mears’, Billiards and other games and the Billiard Table; Fishing; Snobbery; Neville Cardus.
The only person I can at the moment of think you ought to try and see: she could be particularly ‘useful’ to Andrew’s thoughts on the Uncle Jim-Michael relationship is EILUNED LEWIS. She has written a few books – the best known DEW ON THE GRASS and has been a contributor to Country Life: I can’t remember her married name – it’s written HENDY, HENDRY (I think) or HENTY – been married for years... details & address and so on can be got from an ex-secretary at Peter Davies Ltd (Miss Joan Waldegrave). She was one of the family ‘Mr & Mrs Hugh Lewis’ referred to in Denis Mackail’s work: was Michael’s age and devoted to J.M.B. as they all were and he to them. I know she’d love to help – at least, I’ve not seen her for 10 years but ‘if she’s alive she’d love to help’. (...)
By now you and Andrew will be aware that I let any pen take me across a good deal of page (…) when the subject interests me. I’ll take it that you’ll show each other what I write to the one. (…)
SG to NLD 4/12/1975
Yes, it is very easy to write that – the problem was remembering to write “Dear Mr Davies”! I was very pleased to get your letter which was waiting for me when I got back from Scotland. (…)
We were, as you so rightly expected, disappointed with Kirriemuir itself – very grim, especially the Den (complete with vividly painted children’s swings etc.). The Barrie museum at his birthplace was very interesting though … they have a photocopy of the Boy Castaways, which we were very pleased to be able to see, and also corrected proofs, photographs, press cuttings etc. (…) We also visited Balnaboth House and St. Andrews where we talked to two women who were at the St. Andrews Speech. While we are on the subject of visiting places there is a point that I have been meaning to ask you – I visited Brendon and found “Ashton House”, although no one there remembers Barrie or the summer of your mother’s death. I enclose a photograph of the house and wondered if you would be able to identify it – it’s not, by any means, a major issue, but it’s an end I might as well get tidied up now! Would I be right in assuming that you and Michael went back to Brendon again with Barrie and that his letters referring to you asking Nicholas Snowe for fishing rights were talking about another summer?
I think I explained in a previous letter than Andrew and I met while we were both working on the ATV Peter Pan. I was one of the secretaries to Gary Smith, the producer and worked with the “writers”. It was at that stage I read the Lurie article and then Janet Dunbar’s book, and started on Barrie’s plays and novels. Andrew offered the idea of his trilogy to ATV who were very interested but said they couldn’t think about making it until 1977. The B.B.C. were keen to do it straight away. By that stage Andrew and I had had many long discussion son Barrie and I had already started doing research, for my own personal satisfaction, in my spare time. I began to think that I’d like to try my hand at writing something on Barrie myself. …I was incidentally, very interested in your comment that your brother Peter would be a book in himself. I do agree with you that Peter’s comments are the best of Janet Dunbar’s book, and look forward very much to seeing the rest – I may yet find a little more “cream”; … Barrie is such an interesting subject and I am becoming labelled as a “Barrie Fan”, which I don’t object to!
NLD to SG 6 /12/1975
Many thanks for your letter: yesterday evening I wrote at vast length to Andrew – mostly giving him my Cynthia Asquith angle, in order to save time when we meet – and as I know each of you shows the other my letters this won’t (I trust!) be too long.
I was particularly glad to get your two pictures of Ashton Farm as I think we used to call it: alas I can’t properly claim to identify it… I was 6 ½ when I stayed there: A somewhat coincidental fact my wife (Mary) and I went for a week or so to Exmoor in 1974 and one wet and windy day went in search of Ashton… something of a success in the church at Dare but by the time we tried to approach Ashton House itself, the steepness, our careering small dog, the weather etc. ‘shyness’ in motoring down the rickety ‘drive’, meant we never saw the house; in 1923 friend and I motored by and I remember climbing through some outlying fence and looking at the house but what little memory I have left from then is useless. Nicholas Snowe at first stirred no memory, but vague thoughts have returned. But my first step was to look into Peter’s typescript concerning Mother’s death and – through my tears (it’s fearfully sad, the compilation practically killed Peter as I think I told you) – it became clear that when Mother died in mid August 1910, Michael and I stayed behind at Ashton till the end of the school holiday, and George & Peter & J.M.B. returned after the funeral so this end August/early September would be the period I talked to Nicholas Snowe about fishing rights. We never went back: from then on it was Scotland ‘always’: 1911 Sutherland, 1912 Outer Hebrides 1913 Killiecrankie 1914 Argyll and the war – thereafter short hops here & there for Michael and me until lastly 1920 Eilean Shona. All wonderful in their very different ways … all considerably more attractive than your first visit to Kirriemuir!
(…) May I keep the Ashton photographs? I’d like to have them in Peter’s typescript.
SG to NLD 16/12/1975
Many thanks for your letter. I am pleased you liked the photographs of Ashton Farm – please do keep them, I am enclosing copies of the others that I took there in case you are interested in having these too. (…) “Ashton” has now been divided into two properties – the buildings at the back are referred to as “Ashton Farm” and the house itself as “Ashton House”.
My trip to Ashton was somewhat ‘off-the-cuff’ in that I was visiting friends in Somerset and thought it would be a good idea to see if I could find anything. All I had to go on were the extracts from Peter’s notes which Janet Dunbar quotes and also two small references in letters to Cynthia Asquith (Meynell’s collected letters): Dec.20 – “I trust you will all have a very good Christmas at Dulverton. The nearest I ever was when we were on Exmoor, and had the rectory where Blackmore wrote Lorna Doone. The great man who owned all the fishing was Nicholas Snowe, and the boys used to make Nicholas, aged six, intercede with him for fishing facilities on the grounds they were of the same name – successfully too.” Feb. 1927 – “I hope you got safely to Pixton and were not eaten up by the dogs. There is a part of Exmoor not very far from you which I once knew so well that I daresay I could go about it still, blindfold, without striking against many trees. Where Blackmore lived when he wrote Lorna Doone. Michael was ten then and I remember we had a grand scheme of reaching Dulverton and fishing some water there.”
For the sake of simplicity I am at the moment assuming that either Barrie’s reference to ‘the rectory where Blackmore wrote Lorna Doone’ is a touch of fantasy or, alternatively, that when Peter says that they (you) returned not to Ashton but ‘to Oare, a mile or so higher up the little river’ that it was to Parsonage Farm, which claims to have been where Blackmore stayed. It is but a small detail though! Ashton House itself was so much the picture I had conjured up from Peter’s notes that instinct, if nothing else, convinced me I was at the right place – I’ll never make a proper researcher!
I’ve numbered the backs of the photographs and shall try to explain what I was trying to show (…):
Enough on Ashton! May I ask you for a few comments on Mary Ansell? Her sad story is one part of the complex picture which I find very interesting. Did Barrie ever discuss her and his marriage with you? Did you, in fact, ever meet her? I find the contrast between the 1917 letter to her, with the thoughtful “But just one thing I should like to say, because no one else can know it so well as I, that never would a young literary man have started with better chances than Mr Cannan when he had you at the helm.” And Cynthia Asquith’s reference in her ‘Portrait’ to the 1923 Stanway gathering somewhat unbelievable. Perhaps I am too kind on Mary, and too damning on Cynthia, but my immediate reaction was to write ‘bitch’ in heavy letters in the margin of the Asquith book. Perhaps I shouldn’t have written that either! Were you aware of a change in Barrie’s attitude to the ‘elderly woman’ once he was, presumably, helping her financially once more? Presumably he must have seen her occasionally after 1917. Someone remarked to Andrew and I in passing that they had heard a story that Mary returned from France every year and Barrie stipulated that she could only be spared one hour of his time! Any comments? Were you yourself aware of the reason for Broadway being ‘put strictly out of bounds’ in 1923? (...)
NLD to SG 19/12/1975
Many thanks for your letter – and for kindly sending me more photographs! I value having each of them but ‘recognition’ is something, alas, of an overstatement. I wish the weather had been more clement that day last year when Mary and I were there – when I might have met the present owners… almost the only sharp-ish memory I have is of a pretty steep curving bit of drive down to the front door with, on the left, a grass sort of verge of about a yard wide down which I used to hurtle with a kite soaring in the draught behind me! I doubt if it exists today. (Just looked again at your first sent picture and think I can detect where I ran with my kite!).
I’m afraid your guess will be better than mine so far as Blackmore is concerned. I’ve no recollection at all of moving from Ashton after Mother’s death. It may be in Peter’s ‘book’ which you’ll be seeing before long. But I would certainly ‘assume’ that J.M.B. was putting in a bit of fantasy unless he meant simple that Blackmore was living in the district some of the time he was writing Lorna Doone which he probably was!
And how I wish that I could tell you more about Mary Ansell. And I can’t remember how much I have written about her to Andrew. I rather think I told him the true story of the 1923 ‘terrible narrow escape’ on p.158 of Cynthia Asquith’s book. While you were writing ‘BITCH’ possibly on p 157, I wrote on p 158 ‘QUITE UNTRUE – see after index’ and I wrote about 16 lines. Fully dramatic in its way, but no ‘hairbreadth escape’… I was the driver! Ask Andrew: if I haven’t told him I’ll give you the dope. We all loved ‘Mrs Barrie’ while she was around and – almost unbelievably were/are certain she loved us. But I never spoke to her between 1909 and 1937. Uncle Jim NEVER spoke a word about her to me. I have one grisly memory which I place at Dhivach Lodge in Scotland, summer of 1907, when I went one morning into Uncle Jim’s bedroom and said something like ‘Is Mrs Barrie coming back?’ or ‘When’s Mrs Barrie coming?’ and getting a very awful expression from him ½ in his face ½ in a sort of grunt! This sort of thing occurred two or three times to me…VERY rare, and pretty ghastly! ‘You CAD!’ (which I asked Andrew to remind me of when we meet!) was the worst.
How difficult if not impossible it is trying to work out why this? And why that? rom an author’s point of view. So often one is ‘certain’ than X happened and then one hears No, it was Y. Any vague ‘knowledges’ I have of Mary Barrie trying to see Uncle Jim will have stemmed from Cynthia, so I can’t fully trust it. From somewhere or other I have always ‘understood’ that Uncle Jim was always generous to her. To me, now, looking in to Denis Mackail’s book I became pretty sure there was nothing in your ‘rumoured’ ‘she could only be spared one hour of his time’. (…)
And I’m not really much of a help on your ‘angle’: I would have been against the admittedly attractive idea of comparing Peter with Alice & Christopher Robin, simply because Peter was NOT the original of Peter Pan! He got tagged with it on account of the genius of the title. As you know from the Dedication ‘To the Five’ Uncle Jim says he got PP from rubbing the five of us violently together: more correctly it should have been Four: more correctly still Three as it was George, jack and Peter who really lit the spark from and before ‘The Boy Castaways’. I’ll be very happy to talk about all this… I think I’ve said that Peter truly detested his link with it, as – one gathers – Christopher Robin has. You’d be astonished how many people I’ve heard sure that they were the origin of Peter Pan. My favourite I think is the Ranee Muda of Sarawat – or Sylvia Brooke whose daughter married Harry Roy!
SG to NLD 27/12/1975
(…) I am very glad you found the photographs of Ashton interesting. Thanks for all the trouble you have taken in trying to identify them – from your ‘kite’ memories I’d say that, even if it proves at a later stage not to be the place, ‘Ashton House’ is a very good understudy and the right sort of picture to have in mind!
Mary Ansell – I think part of her fascination for me is going to be the fact that I can find so little, but thank you anyway. I’ve been trying to fit your “When’s Mrs Barrie coming” against a holiday background and am finding it difficult, unless Ashton (?). Mary was still around in 1907 and was at Dhivach Lodge with you. That was the holiday when Sylvia saved Luath from drowning. Looking at my Mackail notes the situation looks like this: 1908, Christmas – that very interesting Swiss holiday: Barrie, Mary, Gilbert Cannan, Sylvia & boys. (I realise you would have been only 5 but did any of your brothers, in retrospect, pass comment on it, other than Peter’s ‘It must have been a queer quartet of adults that conversed together after the boys had gone to bed’?) 1909 – Sylvia and boys to Dartmoor while Barrie rehearsing. He went to Black Lake, spoke to gardener and divorce blew up. The next holiday, as far as I can find in Mackail, is 1910 – Ashton and your mother’s death.
I couldn’t remember your comments on the ‘hairbreadth escape’ and checked with Andrew – in fact you hadn’t included them in your ‘Cynthia’ letter and we’d both be very interested. So if you could you give the dope I’d be very grateful. Apart from Mary, another two names have sprung to mind this morning – Charles Frohman and Captain Scott. Frohman – I very much liked the story on page 456 of Mackail about the perpetual pass scribbled on the fly-leaf of a Rider-Haggard book. Any more recollections like that, or comments Barrie may have made to you about Frohman? Scott – did Barrie ever talk to you about Scott or hint as to what the misunderstanding between them had been. You were probably too young to remember meeting him but did any of your brothers tell you any stories about him. How did the news of his death affect you all? Yes, it affected the whole country but I would imagine it would have been different for those connected, in however small a way, with the man himself. How did Barrie appear to take the news when with you?
Wizardry with children (…). A very important point I think – the amount of happiness Barrie gave to children and got from them. Going back to the Alison Lurie article, I think the main point in that that I disagree with is the ‘lonely and distressed’ idea. Yes, he could be full of self-pity, especially when he wanted sympathy, but who can’t? ‘And the little boys he loved have turned into strange and hateful young men’ – never. If you told me that Barrie ever tried to stop you growing up, I don’t think I’d believe you! As early as the Little White Bird stage he knew and accepted that you would all grow up.
The following excerpt shows this so well I think:
“David,’ said I, with a sinking, ‘are you going to Pilkington’s?’
‘When I am eight,’ he replied.
‘And shan’t I call you David then, and won’t you play with me in the Gardens any more?’
He looked at Bailey, and Bailey signalled him to be firm.
‘Oh no,’ said David cheerily.
(…) But Timothy would have remembered.”
He ‘had him laughing and happy again’ for that was what ‘he’ was so good at. I think always Barrie accepted that the children he played with would grow up but that this increased the happiness he experienced while they were still children – how. Much more we all value something we know we shall soon lose! Those Stanway summers – what was it like for you, as an adult, looking back at Barrie playing with the next Timothy/Simon Asquith etc. generation of children. Were you aware of the ‘Barrie playing with children’ hadn’t changed but that the ‘Barrie the writer’ had and therefore the difference with all the other children he brought under his spell was that there was no ‘Peter Pan’ evolving and although he magic as far as each child was concerned was the same, some of the magic for Barrie had gone. (…)
Was it purely coincidence that Jack called Timothy, Timothy. (“The Last of Timothy” chapter in The Little White Bird is, in my opinion, one of the best bits of Barrie and a very important step in the development of ‘Peter Pan’ – Timothy and the Peter in the Little White Bird merging to become the Peter Pan of the play.) Is Jack’s Timothy contactable or are there any other names in the Asquith boys/Timothy age range who you think it me be worth me trying to trace, not so much for the trilogy story but just for more childhood impressions of JMB. By the way, Simon Asquith, if I haven’t already mentioned it, is dead.
Yes, of course I agree that Peter was not Peter Pan (if he has to be anyone I would plump for Barrie himself, although ’Peter’ is obviously more than that … far more) Yet Peter was one of the family that inspired ‘Peter Pan’, he was the one who had part of the name and was therefore more easily associated with the story, and the one, from what you say, who was most affected by the association. Therefore, on these counts, he was very much an example of a child affected by literature. But yes, to over-simplify, or rather over-stress, however appealing would be a mistake. It is but an idea.
NLD to SG 1/1/1976
(…) And many thanks for your excellent letter of 27 Dec. It’s funny, isn’t it, the way this extra lengthy correspondence has sprung up between you, me and Andrew… very unusual I’d think – and of course I fully realise I’m not only retired but actually like writing letters!
Let me start this ‘reply’ with the true story of the ‘hairbreadth escape’ (see p 158 of Cynthia Asquith’s Portrait of Barrie): I had a very great friend in Roy Kennerley-Rumford – Clara Butt’s son: one of Uncle Jim’s most wonderful ‘gifts’ to me was having me run a cricket week for 3 consecutive summers in delicious Stanway – 6 or 7 of us in the Eton Eleven the rest and all of us close friends etc. Roy had been in the first year and had to put off the second, got meningitis and died, funeral at Stoke in Oxfordshire while we were at Stanway. I said I was going to drive over – would Uncle Jim like to come with me? He would and then said words to the effect ‘Let’s try and go some different way or ways so that we can avoid Broadway… I’m rather bored at always going through Broadway..’ There didn’t seem much problem about this and I successfully skirted it on the way to the funeral: but on the way back I lost the track and we found ourselves going through Broadway. Suddenly I saw a lady walking along the pavement in our direction… “Oh, look at that woman, Uncle Jim – I’m sure I’ve seen her somewhere before, do you know her?” Without a quiver of any emotion [he was a consummate actor!] he said ‘No, I don’t think I’ve seen her before’ and we drove on. She never looked towards us, I hadn’t seen her for at least 16 years, didn’t think much more about it. Till that evening Cynthia said to me ‘Do you know who that lady was you saw in Broadway? She used to be Mrs Barrie, but don’t tell Uncle Jim that I’ve told you.’ I truly was astounded! But there was nothing resembling a word of truth in the missing a hairbreadth running down an elderly woman or what a fantastic might-have-been. Rather frightening were one starts wondering how much one can ever believe as one reads an autobiography sketch!
My ‘when’s Mrs Barrie coming’ remark: may not be my actual words. I’m pretty certain it was Dhivach and my guess is that she will either have been with us and left for a day or two, or not yet have arrived. This (Dhivach) was certainly the last place she came on holiday with us boys. All Denis’ dates, and your reading of them are correct. So far as Caux is concerned, tho’ I do have funny little isolated memories (aged 5) they are of such things as being pronged up the backside as I sat at my toboggan and a faster chap collided with me with spikes on his books… a lot of fuss was made of me which I enjoyed, but can’t remember who was the culprit! I used, from time to time to say a few words about Caux and the ‘queer quartet’ with my brothers, particularly with Peter, but cannot think of anything worth repeating which will not find (if it’s there!) in Peter’s typescript – which Janet Dunbar may not have included in her book. Coincidentally I have very recently, and for the first time, read a novel by Gilbert Cannan called Round the Corner which I thought extremely good. I once asked Martin Secker, who had about the prime of all publishers’ lists – including such as D H Lawrence, Compton Mackenzie etc – which of his author she personally considered the best and was astounded when he said ‘Gilbert Cannan’. Peter always told me how much we all liked him!
Charles Frohman. I have here the copy of Red Eve by Rider Hagggard and you’ll be tickled to see the ‘perpetual pass’, Alas I can hardly remember him, tho’ Uncle Jim often talked of him ALWAYS with deep affection. As for Capt. Scott – again the very faintest memory, probably at Dhivach Lodge when I was rising 4! But here again of course I had much talk later with Uncle Jim and often had in my hands the fabulous last letter he wrote Uncle Jim from the South Pole. ‘This will be yours, one day’ said Uncle Jim.. which did not turn out accurate! But I cannot at all remember the actual effect of the tragedy personally on Uncle Jim.
As for Alison Lurie article! I think just as well I’ve never seen it. ‘The little boys he loved have turned into strange and hateful men’!! Could there not be money in this for me?! Of course I think Michael and Simon Asquith did turn into strange and hateful men so it’s difficult to know which square one is on. I hadn’t realised Simon was dead … I get a bit confused remembering which of the two went to prison, each I think was a Conscientious Objector (tho’ I’ve nothing against that if genuine)… in my eyes there’s bad blood, Charteris rather than Asquith. I don’t think this is a case of envy or bad blood because they’ve snitched all our money, but most people would think so.
Of course he never tried to stop a soul growing up however much he regretted that such had to happen. I must and will tackle next The Little White Bird I have a rather sickening belief that I’ve never read it!
In the Stanway years I truly enjoyed a good deal of Uncle Jim’s ‘wizardry’ with the various Charteris/Asquith children tho’ I wasn’t present at any of the children’s plays, being away and married by then. You could possibly get a slant and much of this from Ian Fleming’s widow Anne (who was Anne Charteris the eldest of her four – three girls and a boy, children of Guy). She had little affection for the set-up, and has something of an ironic tongue! Very good company & very intelligent, but fancy a bit sickened by the whimsicalities. She could interest you – rather than Andrew, at any rate from his trilogy point of view. I think your impressions are right: he could still play wonderfully with children, who loved him, but his own magic-for-Barrie evaporated with Michael’s death.
I can’t be certain but I’d say nothing stemming from J.M.B. caused Jack & Gerrie to call their son Timothy (I’ve always understood that was quite a toss-up whether I should be called Nicholas or Timothy.) Both of Jack’s two children are dead – each a tragic story which I’ll tell you one day if you’re interested tho’ they don’t affect Barrie all that much. Gerrie is alive, and contactable in Cornwall. But I’m not sure how much I should recommend you to contact her … we could talk about this. For one reason or another she didn’t find too much to say in Uncle Jim’s favour, was naturally primarily influenced by Jack. But Gerrie is and always was a chronic complainer… e.g. the world, and if you like God, is set against Gerrie. And in truth things never worked too well for her, and very badly on occasion. You’d also get a word or two of interest from my much loved cousins – also by chance in Cornwall – Angela & Daphne du Maurier. Moving upwards, I’m pretty sure Cynthia’s sister Lady Mary Lyn (I think that’s her present surname) still lives and is well at Apperley Court near Tewksbury in Glos. Used to be a great friend – never the reverse, but gone out of my life. She would have many of the later memories, but I don’t think ever appreciated how much and deep Cynthia had her claws with the sporran!
I was particularly thrilled to get a telephone call the day before yesterday from Eiluned Lewis letting me know that you’d been talking to her on the telephone: and that you’ll be seeing her before you’ll be seeing me! I’m sure you’ll like her, but don’t know how much she can ‘help’ either you or Andrew. What ‘thrilled me most was talking to her elder sister Medina (whom I think you will meet) with whom I don’t think I’ve talked for more than 50 years! The fun we all used to have so many years ago. Again I’ll show you – maybe boring you to hell – old snaps of our days with the Lewis in Wales during World War 1. All of us, every Lewis, every Davies, the one Barrie loved pretty much every minute.
SG to NLD 5/1/1976
(…) Yes, this lengthy correspondence is, I suppose, unusual, but a very good thing., I think. It’s all too easy to rush to the telephone with half-formed ideas to discuss and then a few weeks later find that my ideas may have changed and I’m by then, not too certain about those original debates. (…)
May I begin with a couple of things I should have thought to put in the last letter, where they obviously belong! Firstly – you said previously that you wish you had known Mary Ansell better and I just wondered whether you have ever read any of her books. So far, the only one I’ve managed to get hold of is ‘Happy Houses’, (I’m still hoping to find ‘The Happy Garden’ and ‘Men & Dogs’). I started reading it but have had to leave it and get my priorities right – e.g. Mackail, the Collected Letters etc. If you haven’t read it, would like to, and can’t get hold of a copy, you are, of course, very welcome to borrow mine. I’m going through Mackail for a second time, sorting out my notes, and balancing it with Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Gerald’ for light relief – as well as all those other things that one has been meaning to read for so long!
That was the first. The second is the name (I don’t know how) left out of the ‘any memories of..’ list – Charlie Chaplin! How serious do you think Barrie was in those two suggestions for Chaplin to play Peter Pan? It’s a very interesting thought – and what an interesting dinner that must have been…
I have been dipping into the Letters once more. Do you know anything about Mrs Josephine Maitland Edwards (Miss Mitchell Innes), p.114 of the 1942 edition of Meynell, obviously a friend of George’s? I love Barrie’s letters to Elizabeth Lucas, especially the one on p.90 – ‘I had an odd thought today about the war that might come to something, but it seems to call for a poet…’ Wonderful – I remember reading that for the first time and then, by chance meeting ‘A Well Remembered Voice’ like an old friend. Any stories connected with the move of flats in Adelphi Terrace – it must have been a pretty marathon move? What has happened to Audrey Lucas? Yes, I got Eiluned Hendry’s address from your secretary and wrote to her. She telephoned to say that, as she is still writing for Country Life and is also in the process of writing another book (one chapter of which, apparently is on Barrie), she didn’t feel that she could enter into a lengthy correspondence (!) and suggested that we visit her before her sister returns to Wales, and she goes to visit her daughter.
Another thought – how did Barrie get on with your school/college friends. I like the letter to Audrey Lucas about your ‘great friend who is much concerned because his father’ (who is a member of the Government(?)) ‘is not bright enough’. ‘The boy stayed with us in summer, and I told him on his departure that I expected a very fine letter of thanks for my hospitality. He took it solemnly, and I had a grand letter from him, and Nico had one at the same time asking him to wire how the letter had been received.’ A nice story, but what was that visit, during the holiday that followed Michael’s death, really like – pretty gruelling for everyone I would have thought? What did Barrie think of Rupert Buxton (‘a Harrow lad but otherwise commendable’)?
I am very intrigued by my copy of the Collected Letters. It has been underlined and written in by someone whose writing I can only describe as considerably worse than Barrie’s – and that took me a fair while to master! The ‘someone’ whose name in the front looks like ‘Roger Something’, appears to have been present at the Shona holiday – at the top of p.184 I can make out “He was wrong. The very next day we went for a walk”. Beside the “puppy that a friend of Michael’s has brought here”, ‘he’ has written RB (Rupert Buxton?), yet at the front of the book there is a note ‘p. 184 Supposed conversation with self’ and he’s obviously notRupert Buxton. ‘He’s’ also written ‘Rupert B’ against ‘Michael will be back soon, but contemplates a reading-party with another undergrad in Dorset’. Was he right to associate Rupert Buxton with those references? Any thought as to whom my book might have belonged to? – I must admit it’s a fascinating sensation, going to read something and being aware of someone else’s underlinings and trying to see what they thought was important about that bit… (…)
I must say that I entirely agree with the sentiment behind your thoughts on Michael’s death. It would be so much nicer to believe that Michael had committed suicide rather than that he was another victim of the ‘darlings of the gods die young’ theme. Something none of us will ever know, unfortunately. Did you ever discuss this with Jack and Peter – did they have any views on the subjects?
Do read The Little White Bird, I thoroughly recommend it, and after all, it really is your book! Which reminds me, the ATV “Peter Pan”- something that you’ll find Andrew and I will disagree on, so I might as well have my say now! Yes, it has plenty of faults – Danny Kaye, however much one likes or dislikes him, will never ben ‘Captain Hook’. The trouble with it was that it was too closely linked to ‘Light Entertainment’! Newley & Bricusse read the play, went away and wrote the songs, and only then was a ‘writer’, almost in the variety sense of a ‘link-man’ sought, to, as it were, fit the play around the songs. Bear with me, don’t turn away in horror. Andrew quietly ‘wrote’ it with his American co-writer (who is basically a light entertainment/comedy writer), waited for the American to return whence he came… and then gradually re-wrote, re-organised or whatever, the whole thing – by this time he’d taken up the sort of ‘defender of the faith’ position. It was all great fun, and what better compliment to Barrie than for the first screening room to empty with practically the whole crew coming out saying ‘Great – when can we do another version… if only we could start at the beginning again.’ Very much a Barrie ‘amend, amend, amend’ attitude. I’m not saying watch it, but I am saying don’t automatically not watch it. Gary and Dwight, the Producer and Director, did, in my view, a good job of keeping as much pure Barrie as possible, given the American buyer of the show… and one must always remember the money man! The musical wasn’t great, but it was adequate, and so much better than the previous American, annual T.V. Peter Pan! I personally rate it for three main things – 1. The Narration (I could quite easily watch it to hear Gielgud alone, and Andrew put a lot of work into just the narration – you have no idea how hard we had to fight to keep ‘ever a dark and solitary enigma’ in “Gee, but what does it Mean to the mid-west.” A victory for us though!) 2. I think the relationship between Peter and Wendy works very well & 3. It is, after all, Peter Pan… I just can’t help enjoying it! This is all getting, dare I use the word, whimsical. I’ve had my say. It will be on television on Sunday, 19th February, at 7.30 pm. (…)
NLD to SG 8/1/1976
I fancy there are one or two questions I can answer this time: let’s see…
Mary Ansell books. The only one that I think I have here – which you’re very welcome to borrow – is Dogs & Men; I wouldn’t swear that I’d heard of the other two you mention and would be happy to swap-borrow Happy Houses if you’d like to bring it here on 24th.
Charlie Chaplin. I doubt if you’ll be able to read my enclosed letter to The Times of a few years ago which I’ve just found in my wallet! The occasion was of course a fantastic one for 17 year old me: who had come back at the flat unexpectedly a night early so as to be with Uncle Jim an extra night before going back to Eton… much pleased Uncle Jim who was fixed for this Chaplin dinner at The Garrick, rang up E.V. Lucas who was arranging it, who found room for me! I sat between Lutyens and Frampton (who sculpted the Peter Pan statue) and personally had the time of my life tho’ the highest spots didn’t come till we had walked back later - J.M.B., C.C., Edward Knoblock and self – to the flat to be joined by G. du M: and in the next hour or two C.C. and G. du M. vied with each other in imitating this and that, acting this and that etc. Wholly entrancing. Uncle Jim was quite serious and would have loved to work somehow on how to get C.C. to be P.P.: Chaplin wrote about it in two books: bur the first (a rotten book) was the one I liked best because of the chapter he wrote called ‘I DINE WITH THE IMMORTALS’ and among the names (which of course he got from his menu!) was Mr Nicholas L Davies!
Josephine Mitchell Innes was George’s ‘love’ – don’t forget he was only just out of his teens: the Mitchell Innes girls (I think a cousin among them rather than sisters) were obviously captivating to my family as not only George & Jack fell for them but also Gerald Millar (sp?) our much loved cousin. Many times we ragged them about the girls but I was too young for today’s memory. I’ve always ‘understood’ that at the time of George’s death in March 1915 he and Josephine had a sort of agreement between them to get married. Some years later I met – and talked of this with a sister of hers Elizabeth but I’ve lost all touch and doubt if any are alive. Certainly not Josephine. [I think there’ll be things about this family in Peter’s typescript of DAVIES LETTERS which you & Andrew will be taking from here]
Tho’ I remember the 3rd floor flat very well, and our first sight of the much larger one upstairs, I have no recollection at all of any ‘marathon move’: doubtless all took place when I was either at Eton or in Campden Hill Square… pretty sure I wasn’t involved with any movement of furniture or book!
Audrey Lucas. As I think I told Andrew in my last letter – a propos of something Eiluned Lewis has said on the telephone – I had recently been having a little correspondence with Audrey, probably starting from writing to each other about Janet Dunbar’s book – which Audrey didn’t like, chiefly because it showed so little sign of Uncle Jim’s humour. Audrey died last year, up in the North of Scotland. She had something of a strange life …a big success with at least one novel … lived for some time with an actor … I think never married … I think one child… a pretty difficult upbringing with an enchanting mother and a wonderful company, ultra selfish father in E.V. We saw a lot of her ‘way back when’.
Yes – as I’ve told Andrew – Uncle Jim did get on with all his friends. Maurice Bridgeman (now Sir, and ex-head of B.P. and I would guess ultra pompous – never see him.) was the friend alluded to; his father being the late W.C. (?) Bridgeman M.P. who was later raised to the peerage. No, that Summer holiday at Stanway – some four months after Michael’s death – while certainly heave of heart for J.M.B. was wonderfully ‘run’ by Cynthia Asquith and for the rapidly recuperating younger generation there was a good deal of fun. I think I probably have a picture of Maurice Bridgeman and few of us at that time and place – I'll show if you.
What little Uncle Jim saw of Rupert Buxton I’m sure he would have liked however strongly he let his thoughts rest on the growing up and away of Michael – on which ‘vital’ subject he naturally enough never spoke a word to me. (Or to anyone?)
Your copy of the Letters is without doubt the copy that use to belong to Michael’s very great friend (of whom I’ve also written to Andrew) Roger Senhouse. Again, I have some Eilean Shona photographs including Roger, and his puppy who we called Rhona, maybe that R.B. is to do with the puppy’s name. Bring it with you. You’ll also see Audrey Lucas and the seven feet high perfect Etonian alluded to on p 183 of the Letters. One of the comic things about this book is that there are NO letters to Peter or me (or any of our family) tho’ we published the book! Sort of the opposite of having our cake and eating it! Peter & I each shrunk from having our letters published, knowing how much Uncle Jim would have shuddered – and yet we published the book. I suppose better than letting someone else do it.
I will have talked with Peter about the possibilities of Michael’s suicide – I doubt with Jack. Whatever reaction there was I cannot remember, but I’m sure enough that they’d be along the lines of ‘one can never know… I’m apt to doubt it’ – Certainly no convictions either way.
I’ve read The Little White Bird. I don’t think I’d read before any bit except for the P.P. in K.G. bit. I found many bits of typically wonderful stuff, a moderate amount of indigestible treacle, and I did get a bit less interested towards the end. But I’m indeed glad I read it and it does throw many a gleam on the birth and growing pains of Peter Pan. I had more than one surprise at finding obviously the first mention of this phrase and that which got into the play.
Yesterday I spent a long time listening to a 24 year old bearded American idealist – who, did I tell you?, is aiming to produce 75 years of Peter Pan book etc. He gave me a horrifying account of the current Lulu-Ron Moody affair … Danny Kaye I’m sure enough will ham Hook to Hell. And I gather he’s a blonde rather than black-avized Hook. He could have been made first class, but only under J.M.B.’s (or any!) iron rules. Which I doubt Moody could. I shall certainly look at 7.30 pm on Sunday 29 Feb and only pray ‘the Brothers’ haven’t returned to BBC1!
SG to NLD 13/1/1976
Many thanks for it, & the clipping which I certainly was able to read. Will return clipping to you on 24th if that’s alright. Where to being with this letter?...
Barrie got on well with all your friends – how did you get on with all his? The impression I get is that Barrie put his friends very much in compartments, quite naturally. (Lewises, Olivers i.e. ‘family’ friends; his aristocratic associates; Kirriemuir people; literary & newspaper men; people of the theatre; etc. etc.). Did you & Michael find it easy to mix with, and adapt to, these different groups or did you find there was any set of his associates with whom you regarded a dinner of whatever as ‘duty’? Or did Barrie tend not to socialise so much when his two special people were home for the holidays?
A small ‘continuity’ detail which occurred to me this morning (…) – did any or all of you boys smoke – or had Barrie’s cough put you off the idea?!
The famous notebooks – did Barrie always carry his notebook with him & take it out to jot down speech or incidents that arrested him, or did he set aside a writing time when the notebooks were the first step in collecting his thoughts. Was that amusing ‘keep talking & I’ll stop you when I’ve got an article’ attitude you were aware was always there? Did he discuss the ‘the art of writing’ with you and Michael? How much did he influence Michael’s writing? Eilured Hendry had some letters Michael had written to her & Andrew & I were struck by the similarity to Barrie’s letters. Months ago I was looking through some of the old Eton College Chronicles of the time when Michael was joint editor & one bit leapt out & hit me, I was so sure it must been Michael. It’s an imaginary thing about an old boy leaving the school to his juniors –
“We think we see a curious sort of place, the same & yet hardly the same, a curious emptiness & unreality about it. There doesn’t seem to be much going on in the way of work or games really, as a matter of fact we think we see a kind of wizened creature, once boyish enough no doubt, emerging from the same places we know nowadays, probably in search of some sort of food; but, mind you, we don’t know at all – we only think.” What do you think?
Did Barrie ever hint to you that he would have like to write something about Michael? How seriously do you think he toyed with the idea of writing his autobiography – and what a fascinating document that would have been!
When I read your last letter to Andrew I got to the Roger Senhouse bit &, with great excitement, realised it was the end of my detective game! I also realised that Andrew & I had been asking you very much the same things at the same time. Sorry if I bored you – it was coincidence, we hadn’t specifically been discussing friends, Audrey Lucas or whatever.
NLD to SG 17/1/1976
Barrie and ‘his’ friends. (…) as best as I can answer I would say he would be apt to entertain his Kirriemuir friends (if and when he did!) when we were away: used to talk about same often – particularly Robb and his canary – but I never met him or ‘them’: if Principal Irvine was coming from St Andrews I could well be there … probably for lunch: theatrical friends I would nearly always be there and I have wonderful ‘lunch’ memories of such as Karsavina, Gloria Swanson, Julia James etc: Gilmour, always there – and as and when J.M.B wanted to talk ‘business’ they would go to the study and I elsewhere… all (this I want to stress) wholly normal. As Cynthia began to move in, and the occasional dinner party came round, I’d as likely as not opt out… just meet, say, Churchill or Haig and then take myself to a movie. I can’t remember sitting down to any such meal at the flat. (God be praised?!) I think it fair to say that 9 1/2 times out of 10 Uncle Jim would know who Michael & I would get on with and who would bore us (and vice versa) and no one ever found a suggestion of a problem here. Less, rather than more, I would say I found Uncle Jim’s ‘friends’ a bore, than most sons would find their father’s friends a bore! Occasionally when his sister came along one of us brothers might pull a lugubrious face at the other but we (really) liked her and certainly got more of a giggle than a grunt. If you remind me I’ll give you an imitation of her! There was NEVER a ‘duty’ to anyone. Uncle Jim really didn’t ‘socialise’ as I understand the word: every now and then, off to dinner, a club, possibly a week end, but very rarely and sometimes I’d be asked, sometimes he’d know I wouldn’t be interested, but always I again assure you NO PROBLEM!
Smoking! Again no problem! His ‘terrifying’ cough had no effect on us. I used to enjoy it. We all of us smoked: not like chimneys – till later on, maybe! And always, in the Halcyon days, Turkish! The sort we nearly always had – certainly 1922-1926 days – was ORCILLA … a sort of off-shoot of BALKAN SOBRANIE. (I didn’t touch gaspers till marriage …rapidly smoked on & on, became a 40 a day, stopped [with ease] overnight and haven’t smoked for 5 years). (…) In other words “Not put off the idea, by his cough’.
Notebooks. Were wholly unaware of their existence till Mackail’s book. We never
discussed his writing, or indeed seldom if we thought of it, till years later… after his death, I suppose. It’s perhaps important for you and Andrew to realise that my whole genuine attitude to Uncle Jim is as a beloved very close ‘relative’ NOT an author.
He never – with me, anyway – discussed ‘writing’! I think he had much effect on Michael’s writing and to lesser extent (because I’m a lesser person) on my own. Yes, Michael’s editorials to the E.C.C. were obviously affected by J.M.B.: so were his letters; so, to a lesser extent are/were my own: my everyday letters to Uncle Jim, or rather his to me, could contain a half or less than a line, but occasionally quite a few lines, which would strike some dim chord in my mind, and I ‘KNOW’ that much of what I think, say, or write, stems from Uncle Jim. But he never – so far as I can remember … and I would bet ‘never’ – talked to me of writing either his own autobiography or something about Michael. He used, on several occasions I think, to discuss his ideas for stories or plays with Michael: particularly he was anxious to write a thriller either in book or show: and Michael always told him he was any good at that sort of thing – hence the ‘death’ of a play about a Mr Lapraik to which I can find no reference in Mackail! but which I remember Uncle Jim accepting Michael’s thumbs down. I was never to reach such terms – literary wise – with J.M.B. (or with anyone else!).
Getting back for a moment to the ‘socialising’: a bit difficult to be precise or certain. Undoubtedly JMB became more snobbish in his later days: probably – as Lady Astor used to say – due more to Lady Cynthia Asquith than to anyone else, but maybe stemming from star days and his aiming at helping either Michael and me, or later just me, mix more easily with the upper set! On a few occasions a titled beauty or two would come for supper, or I’d go and stay a week end with him at some stately home… I fitted in there better than anyone else! But I think I was always more extroverted than the others: a bit less shy, shall we say. Particularly after poor Michael died and my bright light was less dimmed: no one could compete with him!
SG to NLD 26/1/1976
Many many thanks for a wonderful day last Saturday. Please pass on my thanks to Mary for everything. (…)
Perhaps I should do this thing ‘properly’ and give you an ‘inventory’ of the treasures we took away with us! So here goes:
Peter’s ‘Davies Letters’; 1 brown leatherbound JMB Sylvia photographs book; 1 ‘sunny memories’ photo album; 1 canvas bound photo album with loose enclosures; 1 Kodak photo album; P. P stills; photograph of Adelphi flat; photograph of Barrie & Michael on lawn; Greedy Dwarf programme; Red Eve; 2 ‘confession’ books; Complete Billiard Player with scores in back; 1 wooden box containing letters. (…)
I also forgot to ask you if you could give me the addresses for Gerrie and Daphne & Angela du Maurier, in the hope that we get a chance to get down to Cornwall at some stage – a much more appealing spot than Kirriemuir! Also, do you by any chance have an address for Anne Fleming?
There are obviously lots of things better left until we talk again next time, and of course there are bound to be plenty of questions arising from all the marvellous new things we have to read, but, if you don’t mind, I’ll mention of or two things now which I think might be easier to have a think about and drop me a note. For example, things Barrie liked to read. I have got the impression that Emily Bronte would rank as probably his favourite author. Am I correct? Did he ever, in your hearing, say anything about why he liked ‘Wuthering Heights’. I know why I like it, just wondered if he ever made any comments. You told Andrew, I think, that of Hardy’s novels, Jude was his favourite. Just how important a figure was Hardy in the story? I love the very “Barrie’ line in a letter to Cynthia “Hardy took me yesterday to the place where he is to be buried, and to-day he took me to see the place where he would like best next to be buried.” Did you meet Hardy, I’m sure you must have? What did you think of him? How did Cynthia get on with him? I know Barrie and Cynthia visited Max Gate shortly after Michael died. Somehow my picture of Hardy is not that of a man who I see fitting into the ‘Cynthia’ scene. Meredith obviously was a good friend – have you any comments on him? I’m trying to think of other contemporary names who I don’t remember cropping up – Swinburne, did he ever meet/read/comment on him? Kipling he obviously knew, but how well? I rather get the impression, not close at all.
Another thought. Mackail stresses heavily the parallel between the Tommy/Elspeth set up and Barrie and Maggie. Were you aware of a special sister/brother relationship, or was this all ‘novelist’s licence’ as it were? Did he ever talk about the death of the first Winter brother? Presumably there was a time when the Winters apparent annual visits to the flat coincided with your holidays, or was this all after you were married and away? What did you think of them?
Barrie’s attraction towards beautiful women – did his ‘flirtations’ ever seem ‘over the top’ or embarrass you? Did he turn his charm on women with the same confidence that he turned it on children, and do you think it is fair to say the compliments etc. were all part of a studied act, an act which he of course enjoyed. I would tend to assume that he kept good control of such conversations, friendships etc., would I be right? – or was there ever an element of the silly little man making a fool of himself type of reaction from his associates.
How close were you to Elizabeth Lucas? What sort of woman was she?
NLD to SG 30/1/1976
I gave Andrew address and telephone numbers of the three in Cornwall and await word from all of you when you’d like me to write more fully to Angela & Daphne (…). Wait till our next letter (…) about Anne Fleming: she’s in constant touch with our brother-in-law Hilary Bray, who lives with us here: he returns from Switzerland tomorrow and will give me Annie’s address: Hilary and Ian were close friends. I’ve personally never liked Anne: very good company, very clever, very like her aunt Cynthia in many ways tho’ I personally think has been more nymphomaniacal in her time! Don’t let Hilary see this! I fancy she won’t have too nice things to say about the Barrie invasion of Stanway, and am inclined to think her as not worth a visit, from Andrew’s point of view, anyway! Cynthia’s sister, Lady May Lyon, tho’ must be 80 plus now, I think still lives at Apperley Court nr Tewkesbury: she, post Michael’s death, would have good memories – particularly of Stanway times. I gave Andrew a few other names, more may occur tho’ I think you’ll have had most of the possibly worth while ones by now.
Barrie’s reading. True enough we talked a lot of Wuthering Heights and I would think Catherine could be his favourite heroine; yet I would plump for Scott as his No 1 author for reading and re-reading. I can’t remember his favourite tho’ I would guess either Redgauntlet or The Heart of Midlothian; Meredith, particularly Evan Harrington & Richard Feverel (but I may be wrong there). In all this sort of things it should be Michael supplying the answers… he was a prolific and thoroughly intelligent reader from a very early age whereas I started late and have always known how ill-read I am compared with what I should be and should been… I used to be their despair as I continued with either Comic Cuts or Dr Fu Manchu longer than I should. Yet, as I have said; Uncle Jim’s intense pleasure as I was set Stevenson’s The Black Arrow as a holiday task at Wilkinson’s was such that he spent hours making out a terrific exam paper for me of 100’s of questions and went round & round the Round Pond with me, so that I won the prize! Fearfully keen on Stevenson of course. He did read a great deal, mostly the classics. Very occasionally a modern novel. No: it was Hardy himself who liked Jude the best: J.M.B.’s two favourites were The Woodlanders and The Return of the Native, with a particular soft place I his heart for the first chapter in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Vanity Fair he loved, strangely I can’t remember about Dickens tho’ feel sure he’d have loved Pickwick and more particularly David Copperfield – and – so different – Tale of Two Cities i.e. NOT a complete Dickens-lover such as Bernard Darwin but certainly with great admiration for him. But – how awful is memory – I can’t remember talking to him about Shakespeare! Somehow I feel his taste must have been like mine i.e. worshipping the Tragedies, not so drawn to the comedies except for Midsummer Night Dream … (…)
I personally can’t see Cynthia with Hardy… I doubt if the three were ever in a room together. Hardy I met once or twice and of course trembled at the times with worship most of the time! (I often play the game with myself ‘who is the greatest person you’ve ever met’ – knowing how fantastically above average my meeting with so-called greats have been – and Hardy always leads, if only by a short lead over Churchill and Chaplin!) I told Andrew some time ago, I think, of my worst priggish story which was then Uncle Jim offered me as a 17th or 18th birthday present the choice between a motor-bike and a complete set of Thomas Hardy: I chose, promptly enough, the latter! And have never repented – till at age 37 I was made to ‘learn’ the motorbike in the Army as the Grenadier Guards became mechanised! I’ve NEVER been so frightened. One day when Hardy was having a meal at the flat I asked him which was his own favourite novel and when he said he thought Jude, I got hold of my copy and there is his signature… meant to show it to you! My other vivid memory of him – as I also told Andrew, I’m sure – was taking him to a rehearsal at the Haymarket of Mary Rose: we were sitting in the stall side box and T.H. was wearing rather a wide, sombrero-like homburg hat: for some reason he was suspected of being an Australian newspaper reporter and they tried to sling him out of the theatre until I remonstrated that he was Mr Thomas Hardy! He was delighted and wrote a nice little poem about it – not about the theatrical eviction so much as a night of ‘Mary Rose’. He was a dear ‘little man’… unlike Shaw or Wells … Galsworthy I liked. As for JMB himself? I’d say his likes were ‘as mine’. He was very fond of T.H. but I would hazard the guess that (JMB was younger, of course) Meredith and Stevenson mean more in his life. Incidentally he much like Conan Doyle and Quiller Couch, neither of whom I met. Meredith was dead before I came on the scene, but I was ‘brought up’ on a photograph of G.M. and J.M.B. and Uncle Jim clearly worshipped him. [A.E.W. Mason was a very close friend at one time].
Swinburne rings no bell at all. Kipling we met once, at the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton. I would say not a friend, an acquaintance – with certainly literary respect form J.M.B.’s side. I wasn't drawn to him at all – but I was pretty young. Wells came to Stanway, during my school years: I remember being most unattracted! And would swear that Uncle Jim did not like him personally tho’ one has read differently. H.G.W. got a bit shirty when J.M.B. trashed him at croquet! The only thing I can remember of my conversation with him was, as we walked through one of the gardens and passed some ‘Mullein’, he said ‘my father always told me Mullein was the best cure for piles’!
The Writers. I’m sure Mackail is right in stressing the similarity or parallel between Tommy/Elspeth and himself and Maggie. I saw a great deal of ‘Maggie’ and her husband had have quite a few stories. I was going to give you an imitation of her…! I heard a great deal – presumably only from Uncle Jim – about the most tragic death of her bridegroom to be, and the ‘acceptance’ of the latter’s brother, William: whose eventual funeral was attended by Peter and me and Gen. Freyberg (of whom we haven’t yet talked, but who became a biggish figure in J.M.B.’s life.) And these two Winters had one son, Willie, who (a) was a chess champion (2) went to gaol for a bit (can’t remember why!) (c) came much into our lives during the Scottish years at Scourie and Killiecrankie in particular... can’t remember him in the Outer Hebrides. Dead now, an extraordinary chap… the best story of whom is coarse, or un-writeable, and connected closely with the sublime Harry Brown (J.M.B.s’ first butler) … or did I tell you the other day? I could talk about the Winters as well as imitating Maggie! Remind me of Rat catching, Come-for-the Worms, Galsworthy says I’ve the most beautiful voice, Nicholas of the lovely eyes, Gold near Stanway.
What’s so difficult/impossible: you say sister/brother relationship: suggests reasonable ‘sentence’, yet my relationship with J.M.B. would be – shall we say?! – unusual. I’ve known – as we all have – a lot of brothers and sisters: yet I shall never know as strange a couple as James Matthew and Margaret (whatever) Barrie. I was fond of her, even tho’ I spent too many unattractive youthful moments pulling her leg in different directions. But in fact I liked them all.
Barrie’s ‘flirtatiousness’ never embarrassed me: I thought, on occasions, it was ridiculous: a bit different, particularly as 9 times out of 10 the recipient of the flirtatious enjoyed it all. Some – my Mary, maybe? – thought it absurd: others – Peter’s wife, maybe? – thought, however ridiculous, I’ll play up to it! But I certainly never got near the stage of thinking ‘Silly little man making a fool of himself’. I think he thought he could make himself more or less irresistible… Well, he could from all points of view except sexual.
Elizabeth Lucas. A particularly enchanting person. ‘Charm’ is a tricky word… she had a basinful. Also, of course, exceptionally with it, or on the spot, or intelligent. If only she had felt it worthwhile, or had the energy, or simply the real interest (much as she truly loved J.M.B.) to look after him, and thus kept Cynthia out of the way, how better in many ways things could have been. She didn’t have too easy a life: E.V., chock full of brain and humour but utterly selfish, was the wrong husband to anyone… I – we – used to like her enormously… the games we used to play etc... but he didn’t make Elizabeth’s life all that easy. It went to pieces. We used to see a lot of their daughter, Audrey, and even up to last year (when Audrey died) she & I exchanged letters. J.M.B. loved Elizabeth, as we all did: but she left the door open to Cynthia. (…)
SG to NLD 5 February 1976
(…) Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think one of the things which have not covered so far is the ‘you cad’ story. Peter’s note on the reference in a letter to George of ‘Personally I think boys are often better judges of man and motives than the man of boys and their motives. Something of the child remains in them to make them see very clearly – children sometimes bore down to the soul. Nico for instance.’ Reminded me that it was something I’d meant to ask last time. Is this possible of a written answer or is it too long, and better to wait until next time?
Peter’s notes on the letters are marvellous. Wonderful book – wonderful man. When did he start writing this collection, do you know? I take it that I’m right in assuming that you had volume four typed up after his death – did you edit it at all, it reads very well to have been taken from random notes? I’ve just finished reading it – well late last night actually, and I was very deeply moved by it all. The picture of George emerges so clearly. You mentioned before about the time when Peter was with an older woman and estranged from Barrie. Was this before Michael died? I hope the estrangement wasn’t for long. I wouldn’t have thought that Peter was the sort of man to harbour grudges, but perhaps I’m wrong.
Thank you for all the suggested people to contact. I’ll start writing around. I’ll write to Gerrie and give her the opportunity to put her views on Jack and Barrie, for reasons both of courtesy and interest. She may feel that she has nothing to say but then again…. I also thought that it might be a nice idea to drop a line to Peter’s children, really just to inform them that we are doing something that will include their father as a character. Would it be possible for you to let me have their addresses. (…)
A small point I reminded myself to ask you – am I right that Jack’s Timothy was born in the same month that Michael was killed? Would you happen to remember his birthday?
If I may throw another Mackail quote at you: ‘Barrie could always hide his sorrows from children, and it was still very difficult for him not to play with any little boys whom he met’. But his sorrows were very great indeed. How did he appear to manage to hide them? I would have that it would have taken more than ears, eyebrows and funny expressions. Was there any ‘routine-type dialogue’ when Barrie met a child for the first time. Were there any running gags etc. you remember from your childhood, jokes he played over and over again, or anything like that. Can you remember any special phrases he would use when talking to a child as opposed to an adult. Did he put on an act, a different face or whatever, or did he treat children like adults. (…)
As I think we all agreed when we met, unrelieved tragedy is not as moving as tragedy/humour. Can you think of any amusing stories, perhaps ‘lighter’, is a better word, from the times just after the deaths of Arthur, Sylvia, George, and Michael? How would Barrie have attempted to lift you boys out of your sorrow (…)? People with problems tended to confide in him – did he have any set ways of trying to make them laugh. Can you think of any incidents at any of these times which might have suddenly happened and for some reason appealed to his sense of humour, thereby lightening the gloom? Any examples of that wonderful wit; affective when most needed? What sort of sense of humour did Brown have – would it be a natural thing for him and Barrie to share the odd joke? Were there any people that Barrie liked seeing not necessarily because he liked them, but because he could laugh at them… anyone you all laughed at together, or any one who would be guaranteed to bring light relief.
I love the continued references in George’s letters to his mother about his different coloured socks and his caterpillars – anything to add?
NLD to SG 9/2/1976
(…) Before I try to answer this and fail over that, and in case I forget to mention this to Andrew (…), two points about Trilby as shown on TV a couple of weeks ago – did you see it? First, and less ‘Important’ have you by chance seen Daphne du Maurier’s letter in the current ‘Radio Times’, p 51; second: in my view the Trilby, Sinead Cusack, was so du Maurier that she would be ideal for Sylvia in Andrew’s trilogy… tho’ I know he’s at present (maybe quite correctly) sold on Mia Farrow. Just worth bearing in mind, perhaps.
‘You Cad’. In its way this is an awful story, tho’ in later years it used to give Peter a lot of devilish delight! The scene was the dining room at 23 Compton Hill Squ. I think breakfast-ish: company J.M.B., all the brothers, possibly excepting Jack: date I don’t know, but if Peter’s ‘almost a certainty’ in the reference to which you refer is correct, it would be autumn of 1911: Uncle Jim had just returned from America and we were all peppering him with questions as he ate his breakfast. I, and about 7 or 8, suddenly hurled at him ‘How was Maudie?’ meaning Maude Adams, to whom Uncle Jim always referred to as ‘Miss Adams’. Uncle Jim’s almost incomprehensible reaction was immediate: looking at me with the very depth of contempt he just said ‘you cad’ which plunged me into a paroxysm of tears and I buried my head in Peter’s lap on a sofa. I can’t recall at all if there were any apologies, but I know all sympathy (even from Michael!) were for me this time. The point, I suppose, is my telling you and Andrew this story is to show that with all the humour and intense and sympathetic kindness, he could be cruel for brief moments on rare occasions and when he was, he was all the more withering to sensitive souls! But, as perhaps Peter hints in his use of the words ‘immortal episode’ Peter during the time we worked together and saw so much of each other was constantly saying ‘You Cad!’ to annoy me.
I’m so glad – tho’ not remotely surprised – you think so much of Peter’s ‘notes’… I think they are marvellous. I’m not sure whether you’ve tackled the lot, or only the slimmed vol. on George; which last book I had typed from his pencilled written ‘first draft’ and added no editing of my own except I think adding either one or two letters from myself to George at the front.
Peter’s ‘other woman’. May he forgive me for talking about it/her! It had the greater effect on his existence. I don’t know when they met, but it would either be towards the end of the war, 1918, or possibly 1917. She was a very talented artist, a good bit older than Peter, married and with a daughter, I don’t know if her husband was alive. Let’s call her Vera, which was her name! I first knew about her – shocking but not untypical ‘schoolboy’ story – through cribbing a letter or two left lying about by Michael when we share a room at Eton … large handwriting, in a sort of purple ink, I would guess scented! (I’ve never told anyone about this.) Peter entirely loved her, and I would say it was entirely mutual. When he was demobilised they set up house together and they lived together for a number of years. Certainly in Epping, maybe London before that. I think his first business was to do with old furniture etc. For one reason or another this was extremely upsetting to J.M.B. well, it would be to any guardian with a couple of younger brothers to think of etc. I remember Uncle Him taking me to lunch with them in Epping but I can recall no details, which seem rather scarce. I saw Vera from time to time and much liked her. The so-called break came after Michael was drowned: but it was really Vera insisting that Peter should not throw his whole life away etc. Heaven knows (I never really spoke about it) how painful the parting will have been: but Peter greatly helped save J.M.B.’s reason and from the moment he entered the book trade they obviously had an extra bit in common. Vera did not cut herself right out, in fact she illustrated many of the books that made Peter’s name as a publisher of exquisite taste if poor sales! Then of course Mary got married in 1926 and Peter was best man and six years later Peter utterly astounded me with the news that he’d got himself engaged to one of the Ruthven twins! Peter, of all people … utterly unsocial unlike me, in those days, and a Ruthven twin! Most social of all. I gave it a couple of months if they ever reached the altar. Could I have been more wrong. It was a marvellous marriage from every point of view: only spoilt by her leaning towards the melancholic side whereas he should have had someone to tell him to snap out of it.
There was, I’m pretty sure, NEVER any grudge from Peter’s side: a perpetual (?) grudge – against Vera, or God, or life i.e. NOT against Peter – from Uncle Jim’s.
Did I quote you or Andrew from Gerrie’s letter to me? I think not. “I would welcome a visit from Andrew Birkin – particularly as Janet Dunbar’s book about J.M.B. rankled in small ways, and I couldn’t bear anything to out on T.V. that didn’t do justice to you all.” I don’t know what rankled! But she will be eager to see you both. And may well throw open a hidden door somewhere. She’ll give you Timmy’s birthday: Looking at Mackail (p. 563) it looks very like synchronising with Michael’s drowning. Don’t ask Gerrie too much about Mary Hodgson!
The du Mauriers will also welcome you. Perhaps I should write first to Angela: I said a word or two to Daphne on the telephone and I know they’ll each do their best to help. I don’t think Jeanne is ‘necessary’ a bit young for useful dope, but of course she’d love to come along if Angela or Daphne think it useful.
Anne Fleming I would say NO interest before 19??.
I would say Barrie was such a consummate actor that he could hide his ‘very great’ sorrows from children – and grown-ups – 19 times out of 20. He really loved children, I think, and it was as if a sort of switch was turned on and the light came forth, irrespective of ears and eyebrows. There was no routine. Different apparently each time, tho’ the same jokes would reappear like the single false tooth cracking against the wall, or by throwing a stamp up to the ceiling. On the whole I would say he treated children if not like adults, as adolescents, as – anyway – a bit older than they really were which would go to the heads of most children.
I don’t think he would ever come out with a funny story to lift either boy or man out of sorrow. He would be a little short of a ‘master’ at getting on to a subject of interest to his listener… if an amusing incident connected with this subject occurred to him he would know if/how/ when to bring it out. But even by being sad with you, he made you that little bit less sad. (…) He had a glorious, but very different, humour.
(PS) Leave Peter’s sons until we meet. I think only the eldest, Rivvy, could be ‘desirable’… don’t know where the others are just as now. Maybe best if I write.
SG to NLD 12/2/1976
(…) I got a lovely letter from Gerrie this morning offering us her help. (…) As you very kindly suggest writing an introduction to Angela before I contact her and Daphne I thought I would aim to drop them a letter towards the next week. (…)
Also, I got very nice letters this morning from Lord Boothby and Sir Roger Chance – I’ll give them both a ring tomorrow, they both live in Eaton Square so we can really call round and see them any time. My fourth letter was from Sir John Masterman: “Michael Llewelyn Davies made a wonderful impression as an undergraduate of what a lively young man could be but more than that I cannot say. … I knew both him and his unlucky companion and of course Edward Marjoribanks who was devastated by that tragedy… I doubt if I can dredge up anything from my memory which would really help you, except the belief that it is quite uncertain which of the two was attacked by cramp and which tried to save the other.” Who was Edward Marjoribanks – the name rings rather a large bell but I can’t seem to find where I’ve heard it before? Do you the might be worth trying to contact, if he’s still alive? And then, of course, your letter. What a wonderful post!
I would be most grateful if you could drop a note to Rivvy and/or Peter’s other children. I do feel that it is important that they are in the picture, even if they feel they have nothing more to contribute.
I do know what you mean about the Sinead Cusack look. I rather thought that myself at the time, but I do agree with Andrew that Mia does so have that ‘happy’ yet ‘haunted’ look – ‘the most heart-rending and heart-piercing expression that you had ever seen’ (p.271 Mackail). It’s certainly a very good thought to keep in mind. Yes, I saw Trilby and enjoyed it very much, I also enjoyed Daphne’s very good letter.
So, having given you our news to date, may I now ask you one or two things (…). Firstly, would it be possible to give us some sort of description of a typical afternoon’s cricket with Barrie and any amusing incidents related to this that you might be able to think of. We’re very anxious to get this ‘cricket background’ accurate.
Andrew has been to Campden Hill Square (…) and when we spoke today there were one or two things that he mentioned that I said I would include in this letter as I was sitting down to write to you. No. 23 is being redecorated at the moment but he did manage to have a look round and there was a settle there, practically identical to the one from the Adelphi which is now in the Kirriemuir museum. The owner of 23 said that it came with the house – is it possible that this had been Barrie’s at one time (I had rather got the impression that all the furniture from 23 had been put into storage until it was sold)? They are reconditioning one of the beams and on it was found to be written something about ‘beauty is truth, truth is (something), (something) is love’ – I don’t think I’ve quoted that properly, but does it happen to ring any bells? From Peter’s notes we understand that you and Mary lived at 22 for many years. How badly bombed were those houses – i.e. they look as if they are still very much as they were in 1910, could this be possible. The local vicar who happened to be wandering around at the time, told Andrew that there was an “ancient custom” in Campden Hill Square connected with Barrie – on Christmas eve, or thereabouts, all the houses put lighted candles in their windows and it is something to do with Wendy. Does this mean anything to you? His final observation was – how did you manage to play cricket in the Gardens there, with the terrific slope? (That ‘his’ being A. not the vicar!)
I thought the ‘you cad’ story was marvellous – but it does seem an incomprehensible reaction’ on the part of Barrie. Could there have been any sort of ‘emotional attachment’ on the part of Barrie, towards ‘Miss Adams’? We rather had the impression that she was very much “Frohman’s” actress.
How common was it for actresses to call in and see Barrie socially at the flat (e.g. the story of Pauline Chase calling in to show him her wedding dress) and were you boys often witnesses to these visits? If so, was the talk ‘business’, or if not, what sorts of other subjects would tend to come up. I realise this would depend on the individual, but perhaps there might be some people you could associate with certain subjects of conversations, and I suppose I’m not only thinking of actresses now.
NLD to SG 17/2/1976
I’ve just written to Angela, so she should be ready to ‘answer’ you: saying you were vaguely thinking of around the weekend of 6 March. I’ll write later to Rivvy and suggest he tells his brothers: and that if he’d like & see you that you’d be very pleased to see him, but I doubt if he’d make a move in that direction. (I could be wrong!)
I was particularly glad you had a nice letter from Gerrie. It should be well worth asking Gerrie which of her (attractive) furniture came from 23 C.H. Square. I’m pretty sure they got most of it. I don’t think I got any! I think Gerrie has at least one of the sofas out of the drawing room tho’ whether or not the one I flung myself into after ‘you cad’ I can’t remember!
And also delighted that Boothby & Chance are playing up. Boothby I’ve only met the once and he wouldn’t remember; but Roger you must certainly give my love to … (…) I vividly remember walking some 5 or 6 miles from Amhuinnsuidh Castle, with George, to meet Roger as he arrived for a short fishing holiday in 1912. And I published a book by him shortly before I retired… we lunched quite frequently. And I was of course very interests in Sir J. Masterman’s comments and quite understand his not being able further to help.
Edward Marjoribanks. Very clever. Q.C. or K.C. I fancy. Became celebrated as an author particularly his brilliant Life of Marshall Hall: followed by Carson which he didn’t finish editing or ‘correcting’ as he – Marjoribanks committed suicide. Shame how many of that age – the clever ones – did. I think there may have been a girl in the story, but he was of the stuff that suicides are made of. ‘Clarence” he was known as. Captain of the School at Eton, best friend of Michael’s, half-brother of the present Hailsham – also brilliantly clever ‘Capt of the School’ as Hogg. (…)
Campden Hill Square. I’m sure NO furniture remained in the house from our day. I can’t remember if you know that Mary and I returned to 22 – next door – Oh yes, I see this is ‘mentioned in Peter’s notes’. No bells ring with ‘Beauty is truth’ etc. They may have been installed by the artist who lived there when Mary & I ‘returned’: Sir Harold Speed. [I think he was ‘Sir’]. We knew them quite well, and several times went in 23. He had made our drawing room, his studio. We were very friendly. The bomb was terrible: 21 August 1944. I saw it as I was emerging from the Dorchester after lunch. I was stationed at Leconfield House in London District at the time and part of my job was locating all the VI’s: I was on duty that night, and living at home, and my journey back for bath and supper became a nightmare you may imagine. I won’t go on with this part of it now. I don’t know how badly 23 was damaged – about the same as us maybe tho’ 23 was a tidge nearer the bomb. Our top storey had to go, & be replaced. I don’t think 23 was quite as smashed as this and suppose something ‘protected’ I think our top storey was well put back: and I don’t think there were any awful replacements anywhere along the top – all that ruins it today is of course the endless cars. All empty then in our happy days – both 1907 and 1937. The Christmas Eve candles have nothing whatsoever to do with Peter and Wendy! So do stories grow!! The idea came from a dear American lady called Mrs Fletcher who lived at No 52, the house where Fraser lives and opposite which the bomb went off the other day. I think it’s an American custom – tho it could originate from Germany. This never happened up to 1918 but when Mary & I came back in 1937 and thence on, every Christmas Eve we had these candles. Really rather attractive and wonderful on a nice night – helped with a cocktail or sherry or two! Still, let’s let the local vicar continue to wander.
Cricket in the square. The hill is say North to South (or rather South to North, looking down): our wooden charts were East (bat) facing West (bowler)! As often as not the ball (probably tennis) went into the bushes or beds and the bat rushed between the chairs while the fielder (probably the bowler himself) hunted into the bushes! Always played toward the bottom of the square. If anything could be called vital about the J.M.B. cricket I suppose it’s that he was left-handed! Where his keenness really I can’t tell you … presumably in Scotland yet this is hardly the place. Perhaps when he came up (or down) as far as Nottingham. He was always fascinated by it, and by cricketers, I can’t tell you why. But great cricketers and knowledgeable ones came to love him from Macartney & Carus to you-name-him. This love of cricket seemed to grow, and I’m sure I had a closer view of this than George who was the most successful of us at Lords with a very fine 59. But his letters, particularly to Turley Smith and his reaction to my knowledge of how to lift him from the depths never waned in cricket interest. Have I told you of his final hat trick with the last three balls he bowled in 1924? Or of his own verdict on the very slowness of his own bowling?
Back to ‘You Cad’. No – I’m sure no emotional attachment to Maude Adams, but a great admiration. The best way I can attempt to ‘explain’ it would be his ‘over-proper’ (non-existent!) knowledge of ‘how to behave’ i.e. ‘Miss Adams’ with a little bow, and maybe, one hand behind the back … only the street-cads would say Maudie or Glad or Share! He was sort of out Etonianing the believed Etonian Gentleman! You don’t blow your nose, without a handkerchief, over the ? skirt – you don’t say How’s Maudie! Something like that, I fancy.
Most actresses would only come in reply to a suggestion they might discuss some future part etc. I doubt if any came in without an introduction unless they by chance heard of a possibility of a revival of, say, Quality Street: but even then I would bet they would get an introduction rather than invite themselves. I’ve met several there, but then of course always after an invitation to lunch or something. The ‘subject’ would most largely depend on Uncle Jim’s mind at the moment – unless it was mine! Which 9 times out of 10 he would follow up with enthusiasm.
SG to NLD 21/2/1976
Andrew and I made a quick trip to Hampstead Church Yard this afternoon. It looks a very likely spot for a quick bit of location filming. If I may ask a morbid question, whose decision was it that Michael was buried while your parents had been cremated? Any idea where Trixie was buried, we couldn’t find her with the du Mauriers? (…)
I think it might be an idea for me to put on paper (…) a few thoughts on the Boothby theme! All evidence would point towards Oxford not being a happy time in Michael’s life. I read, very quickly, the chapter in Hugh Macnaughten’s book on ‘Michael Davies” – I might be getting a bit confused but is it true that Michael actually resigned, as it were, from Oxford and then was kindly let back? If this is the case, were you aware of the turmoil, or what triggered it off? Andrew, I believe, is going to send you a copy of my Boothby Notes. There is, I’m sure, a great deal of ‘possessiveness’ in what Boothby says. He is an extreme of opinion which I’m very glad that we have registered nevertheless. I must say I admired his honesty – I did feel that he was trying to be ‘honest’, i.e. he believed very much in what he was saying. To me, the simplest breakdown of what he said is: a) he sensed that Michael’s death was not accidental b) he had hated, later called it ‘feared’, Buxton c) he therefore blamed B. for M’s death. On ‘a’, I think we would all agree that it is an open question. When we said to Boothby, “would you think it could possibly have been a mutual suicide pact” he thought it was very likely. (…)
I must try and follow the Buxton thing up, though, even if I traced ‘family’ they are hardly likely to throw any light. From what you knew of Buxton, would you have described him as ‘daredevil’? It’s a word that has just come to mind. Knowing nothing, the picture I have is of a dark-haired (from Boothby’s ‘sinister’ theory), attractive, intelligent, dominating sort of person who, I would think, would attract the intellectual fragility of Michael. This is, I hasten to say, only a passing thought, one more idea for the pile, but perhaps Michael, frightened of water, was trying too hard for Buxton’s sake – a sort of ‘of course you’re not afraid, Michael, you can do it”. Enough of that.
How I wish Senhouse was still alive. The few notes I have of his on the ‘Letters’ merely tease.’ Jealous’ crops up – seems to be about J.M.B. towards Michael’s friends (on p. 184 ‘supposed conversation with self’). From Boothby’s inglenook story, and Senhouse’s odd notes, there seems to have been a sense of strain between Barrie and Michael’s friends. (…)
I am right, am I not, in thinking that there had been some sort of rift between Barrie and Michael at, or just after, Shona:
Letter to Elizabeth Lucas, p. 96: ‘It was nice of you to have that talk with Michael and I have no doubt that for the time at least it had a steadying effect. All sorts of things do set him “furiously to think” and they seem to burn out like a piece of paper. He is at present I think really working well at Oxford and has at any rate spasms of happiness out of it, but one never knows of the morrow. I think few have suffered from the loss of a mother as he has done.’
And then, the following Feb., ‘(Michael) is working hard and really enjoying his life at Oxford for the present at least. He has the oddest way of alternating between extraordinary reserve and surprising intimacy. No medium. In his room at Oxford lately he suddenly unbosomed himself marvellously. One has to wait for those times, but they are worth while when they come.’
This may well have been something that you were not aware of. I rather get the impression that both Barrie and Michael were the sort of person who tends to try and keep such problems to themselves.
I begin to wonder whether Senhouse ever wrote anything on Michael and Barrie – his copy of the Letters was certainly re-indexed at the front re; Michael in a seemingly ‘professional’ way! Who would have inherited the job of clearing up Senhouse’s papers etc? I’m sure, though, that everything’s been destroyed.
On a similar vein – what ever happened to Bernard Freyberg, I wonder.
NLD to SG 24/2/1976
I’ve had an excellent, and surprising time – to me – answer from Rivvy, Peter’s son. ‘Surprising’ because he’d like to help all he can…! “Of course I should very much like to meet Andrew Birkin and Sharon Goode, and may even be able to contribute something of the overall story. Papa talked a lot about that period – indeed I think it was always on his mind - & I can remember quite a bit, helped no doubt by recently published books of the letters [he presumably refers to Janet Dunbar]. Please put them in touch.” (He continues with his conviction that Peter’s Letters should now be published… Anyway do get in touch with him – you’ll like very much; his brothers are in America and Australia and momentarily out of touch. Rivvy [Ruthven Llewelyn Davies] writes from 11-15 Arlington Street, London S.W.1 – which I think you should ring and introduce yourself; his home address is 4 Crescent Grove, London SW4, but as his poor dear wife suffers from – of all things – multiple sclerosis I think the office address is the one to aim at.
Angela du M. A splendid long letter from her, much looking forward to seeing – even if she doubts how much she & Daphne can really help – you and Andrew. She writes “we hope that they will be able to manage the 8th (a Monday) to lunch at Daphne’s and I’ll be there as neither Sat 6th or Sunday is any good to either of us.” [Jeanne, correctly in my view, thinks she couldn’t help, so you can ‘forget’ her much as we all love her!] Your letter says that Gerrie also is no good for that week-end. Anyway as soon as you hear from Gerrie give Angela a ring at POLRVAN 365 or write to her at Frayside, Bodinnick by Fowey, Cornwall. You’ll love both her & Daphne. There’ll be much laughter, and I’d recommend Andrew to be wearing his To Die “T” shirt! Which, in cyclamen (?), our granddaughter was thrilled with this last week-end. (…)
Now. The Hampstead Churchyard. However much deceitful a bitch memory undoubtedly is, I would swear that Father & Mother were buried in the large grave rather than cremated. Their bones (in my belief) have been joined certainly by Peter’s ashes, probably Jack’s daughter Jane’s… I had a lot to do with changed, or additional, wordings after Peter’s death and know I have left room for the youngest son to be ‘remembered’ but NOT to have his ashes interred. I could talk better about this, but I feel sure there was no 1907 or 1910 cremation in so far as Ll.D’s were concerned. Trixie – no knowledge -but I would guess near Boxmoor or Felden in Herts: I could find out if you like from her grandson (my godson) Oliver Millar but I doubt if it is more than a passing interest: equalling what of Aunt May? Is she there? (What I ought to know, and what I don’t!)
Boothby. I’m greatly interested in both your and Andrew’s obvious ‘sympathy’ with Boothby’s sincerity or character or whatever. I don’t know him at all… met him once… have always been fascinated by his T.V. personality but more or less always thought him too large for life, so to speak. Funny in many ways that I (a) never heard of him at Eton (b) never knew of his friendship with Michael (c) never met him… This does not mean I disbelieve him, I promise you. But until I find another person who admits to having regarded Rupert as sinister etc. I shall think that Bob Boothby is/was distorted (?) in some way. I mentioned the name of Clive Burt to Andrew in my last letter: I don’t know if you’re trying to see Sebastian Earl: (…) but I’ve thought of another possibility in Sir Geoffrey (or Mr Justice) WRANGHAM who is/was an exact twin of Michael’s = 16 June 1900 for birthday: Eton and Oxford an exact contemporary, had a terrific opinion of Michael (they ALL did!): my interest, now, is did he know [must have] and what did he think of Rupert? Would you like me to write and ask him? Or would you like to tackle him yourselves. I agree with Mary you must be more than replete!
My own, extremely limited, memories of Rupert I have written off to Andrew. Certainly no suggestion of daredevil. Nor of sinister. Darkhaired and attractive yes. But I cannot see him as any more dominating than Michael. The word ‘fragility’ is way-off to any thinking of Michael, but what is a three-year younger brother in his teens to know about such things. Michael was always so strong, athletic, active, whatever as well as so quick of mind and brilliant of intellect. He was NOT a person to bow under anyone’s influence in my very sure opinion. (None of us were!)
I think you may be interested in a letter I have just unearthed from Roger Senhouse to me after Peter’s death (on 5 April 1960): there will be bits you won’t quite understand to do with tuggery & gowns (collegers at Eton!) but in general it has its interests. To me it is inconceivable that Roger should never have spoken to me pejoratively of Rupert & there were anything in Boothby’s comments. I also enclose a line from Michael to me – presumably emanating from some(?) I had had expecting to be elected to Pop! But there’s a nice line here of these and a bit of proof (not that you need it) that we were a close-knit family.
And I would swear there was NO rift between J.M.B. & Michael. Arguments were there of course: and I’m very sure much of Michael’s 19-20 year old worries would be difficult = impossible to JMB fully to comprehend. Can only be guesswork for as what Michael’s worries were. He like myself, and – it must be admitted – many who have been successful at Eton, found Oxford a place of infinitely less attractive than Eton. I was lucky enough to fall in love (with Mary!) which brought me, non-working, through Oxford. He, for a time, couldn’t settle. ‘I’d better go to Paris or Germany, some continental university etc.’ Of course I’ve no idea about what the ‘unbosoming’ was: if I had to guess it would be more his brilliant mind searching for the best means of expansion – function rather than any physical i.e. body-work. Certainly, so far as I am concerned, neither Michael nor Uncle Jim ever put such a problem in my lap, or in my ear.
Bernard Freyberg was the strangest figure in Uncle Jim’s, in our life, I could talk at some length about him. I can’t remember when he died but it was a ‘straightforward’ death: he really loved Uncle Jim and vice versa – yet they were poles apart in pretty well every way. The ‘death watch’ of PD, Bernard & myself was unforgettable: So was a day of ?? we three had to Maggie Winter’s funeral. Many’s the time I used to go swimming with him in the R.A.C. or some club: he – and other greater swimmers (but failed by a few yards the Channel) all covered in 12 or 13 war-wounds. But he, as Capt. Scott, is one of the most difficult-to-understand man who truly worshipped J.M.B.
What I would like to stress and stress again to you and Andrew is that surely I would have been aware (however dimly) of an antagonism between Uncle Jim & Michael at some time? I never was. Oh yes, a disagreement, a burst out of the room or whatever, but never for an hour. I wasn’t all that ‘distant’ from either of them: particularly of course Michael… I very frequently was with Michael and one of the other brothers… never a second's talk of what a strain, what a silly little man, *[except from Jack!], nothing except what fun… I realise how much less interesting this makes any story but it’s the truth.
I feel I should sign off as Pontius Pilate!
SG to NLD 27/2/1976
I was very interested in both the Michael letter and the Senhouse one. When I used ‘fragility’ about Michael, I wasn’t thinking of physical fragility, rather mental. (Is Marjoribanks right in stating at inquest that Michael suffered from poor health?). I would say that genius is always a rather brittle quality. I was thinking more of the mental state where he might be talked into doing something against his natural instinct. After reading all the reports of inquest etc. I am becoming more and more convinced that it was suicide. At the time, rightly, not considered/covered up for the sake of everyone else; but it looks, to me a pretty strong possibility and every instinct tells me that is what happened. The notes, I hope, are self-explanatory. Given, for a moment, that it was suicide I do not believe that it was instigated by Michael at Sandford lock – his very fear of water would surely make him choose any other way. I’m not saying he didn’t want to do it. That, to me, again is part of the ‘fragility’ of intellect – that the greater it is, the more likely it is to seek its own destruction. None of this is condemnation – far from it!
Who told you that Michael and Rupert had knocked on someone’s door and asked them to go swimming? I can’t find it in any of the reports. I’d be very interested to hear your comments on all the reports – I do hope this isn’t all becoming very gruelling for you, but I think you, like Andrew and I, want to get it all sorted out in our own minds!
On a happier vein, did you see the Neville Cardus thing on BBC2 last night?
(…)Another small point; Mackail p. 413 “And an English schoolboy, who escaped somehow from a Friday to Sunday, and recalls a lunch at Versailles” and p.425 “At the Gaiety, with Frohman, and that same singularly fortunate boy”???
On the Clive Burt/Sir Geoffrey Wrangham question the immediate answer is ‘Yes please’! I think Andrew and would both like to see them, if possible, at some stage but we’d be very grateful if you would like to try them first. They may well you much more than they’d tell us. We do want to see as many people as we can but any help your end would of course invaluable. I’m very interested in finding out what Rupert was like.
I’ll certainly give Rivvy a ring after the weekend and look forward very much to meeting him. Sebastian Earl we see on 16th March, hopefully followed by Cornwall on 18th/19th.
)NLD to SG 3/3/1976
I am most grateful for your two letters particularly (a) your time and trouble typing all those old press reports concerning Michael’s death – which I can remember having seen before and which were full of greater interest to me and (b) you’re relieving me of my worries what to say to you & Andrew about the PP musical…!
Before I get on to either there have been a couple of thoughts to pass on to Andrew & you: in an effort to help, my brother in law had written to an old Etonian contemporary of mine, ex-Colleger, thinking he had been on to Oxford etc.: name of George Wansbrough: George didn’t know either Rupert or Michael, but remembered well enough the stir at Eton at the time of Michael’s drowning and recalled a conversation with a. fellow Colleger – couldn’t remember whether it was Cyril Connolly or David Blair (=George ?) when one of the latter had wondered whether it was suicide brought about by the two having discovered they were homo rather than hetero inclined. This (of George W.’s) was quite uninspired by any remark of ours and has seemed to me an extraordinary sort of coincidence… I had thought only I had been on this trail. The other thought has been concerned with my own, younger brother’s, memories of Michael’s strength and power of leadership etc. – and how I seem to have forgotten the knowledge that Michael was so miserable during his first two years at Eton… spent a great amount of his time in tears. Very unlike me. Maybe a glimpse of a clue here as to his lack of strength so to speak. But I’m somehow still of opinion that so far as I was ever aware Michael never really ‘suffered from poor health.’ i.e. I have no recollection at all of his being in bed, while I was rushing about… and climbing about in Scotland etc he was always ‘well ahead’ and I would say with ceaseless energy. And bowling first for Eton. Harrow, first choice at Eton Football, all round athlete doesn’t smack of poor health does it?
Clarence Marjoribanks I would have said was of delicate health! I’ve got a splendid picture of a lot of young bloods having a leaving breakfast at their last half [=term!) at Eton. Don’t let me forget this when you come.
You know the strangest thing is how I read things in these old reports of the inquest etc. find me believing LESS in suicide! How contrary one can get… I hadn’t realised (a) they had bathed before in this dangerous pool (b) that the water was so low there was little danger (c) Rupert had swam out and was sitting on one of the stairs etc. A different picture came into my mind.
Oh, by the way, I’d meant to include this ‘thought’ above: probably silly, but nevertheless: to do with Boothby: could he possibly be – or at any rate have been – gifted with some form of psychic second-sight? Probably, more likely, it’s a case of hindsight rather than second-sight. But that word ‘doom’ that he used to you & Andrew, and that 6 months silence between Boothby & Michael… There is a smell of knowledge of death here…
I can’t recall at all who told me of the ‘knocking on someone’s door’ but I think it finds confirmation in the first paragraph of your Notes from Oxford Weekly News i.e. the asking of Mrs Pearsall for the towel etc. will have synchronised entirely with Michael having suggested to his fellow-lodger (whoever he was) that he, too, come & bathe. I would bet, suicide wasn’t in their minds as they asked for a towel.
Robert Street. Very confusing to those who don’t/didn’t know it: it’s a short street running roughly N to S with three adjoining four-or-five buildings on the right, 1, 2 & 3. We were in fact on the top floor of 3 Robert Street. But 3 Robert Street was also known, stamped on glass at the top of front door, I think, as Adelphi Terrace House. (…) From the wonderful windows at the Southern end we could see 7 bridges across the Thames, Charing Cross Bridge being a bit to the right below us. Adelphi Terrace itself to our left or East. Tho’ I can remember shooting cherry stones at Bernard Shaw’s windows I can’t remember if his address would be Adelphi Terrace or Robert Street! In fact it was immediately opposite i.e. in Robert Street but I can’t remember where his front door was! It’s so long since I was there. I know Adelphi Terrace has gone, but it’s conceivable – almost probable – that 3 Robert St. stands … in which case the top floor will be offices I imagine. Might be worth a visit.
Reading pp 423 and 425 of Mackail, I’m sure enough that the ‘fortunate boy’ was Denis Mackail himself!
I wrote yesterday to Clive Burt and Geoffrey Wrangham asking them if I can put them in touch with you etc. I’ll keep you posted immediately. Wrangham may be more difficult as he seems (retired) to live in Northumberland while Burt is either Suffolk or London. Burt in particular should be able to help: I was particularly struck by Boothby mentioning him by name. But at any rate must have known Rupert: Wrangham (..) may have seem much less of him at Oxford than did at Eton.
Looking for a moment at the Inquest. I don’t know if we’ve mentioned heights. It would be Rupert who was 6’2” (p 3 of your notes – Mr Carter), Michael was about 5’10” just the smallest of us until he reached 5’11” which is mine and I think was George’s: Peter 6’4” Jack 6’3” I think.
P.P. T.V. Musical. I really quite liked the first bit. Mrs Darling in particular the only character wholly remaining as J.M.B. pictured her: and Danny Kaye good enough as Mr Darling… but already too many things missing, like the medicine (pre-Nana) “a little less noise” etc etc: all of which of course had to be cut to make way for the wholly feeble music. The complete loss of magic of the Never Never Land – MADE for filmdom, I’d have thought – music began to intrude more and more – Danny Kaye I surprisingly thought could have been excellent as Hook, and didn’t play for laughs, tho’ Heaven knows why he was allowed to be blond and with such a changed costume… looking at Wm Nicholson’s pictures here and seeing “wig to be of chenille as black as possible” etc! Smee appalling. But too much ghastly music. And where was Slightly’s superb ‘doctor’ scene: “Tut! Tut! I will put a glass thing in her mouth.. Tut! Tut! This has cured her… Give her beef tea out of a cup with a spout to it, tut tut.” The second half of the Mermaids’ Lagoon was perhaps my nadir with the quite ridiculous scene/song/dance by Hook & Peter going in and out of holes and sitting back to back: Wendy going off with Tiger Lily instead of flying away on a kite: no gradual rising of the tide round the rock thereby losing the whole point of ‘To die will be an awfully big adventure’, which in any case I could hardly hear. Andrew is of course dead right to force this line back but he should have been allowed to build the scene up. Saying the Croc and never the Crocodile… In any case I would be incapable of satisfying without Crook’s music, but I think the Times chap was right throughout, and I can’t conceive ITV making money at any rate this side of the Atlantic! It could be so terrific!
Enough for the moment – I’m sure Andrew will forgive the above outburst. I got a long letter this morning from Daphne who found a good deal more than I to enjoy on the telly. “On the whole, I truly enjoyed it, probably because I knew it so well and it hasn’t really been changed but I am still aghast at the music.”
My worst PP moment was in the Pirate Ship scene, at the start: that superlative soliloquy ‘…lest when dying there is not time for it’ … and where were those two wonderful oaths ‘Split my infinitives!’ and ‘Bi-carbonate of Soda!’, the latter being invented by my mother!
SG to NLD 7/3/1976
I think Andrew and I pretty well agree with everything you say about P. Pan, though Andrew would have said that Virginia was OK, not much more. Danny, he thought was beginning to ham it as Mr. Darling. I think in everything I go on to say the main explanation is a very simple – there was no real director, everything was decided by committee decisions which is a very friendly way to do things but must inevitably lead to every decision being some sort of compromise. And with no director as such (…) Danny was allowed to do very much as he wanted. Danny wanted to say Croc … Danny didn’t understand nor like the soliloquy… nor some of the oaths etc. And, as we know, Danny, who had never read P. Pan before, was not the best judge of what should and should be included but unfortunately there was no one to stop getting his way. (…) The Pirate ship scene had in fact been done by Jack, the American writer, who amended some lines on the grounds that the Americans wouldn’t understand. (…) But Mr Kaye had other ideas about the soliloquy! Smee – had apparently been hamming it on stage for 14 or something odd years and continued to do it on the set, despite Gary having a talk with him after Andrew had objected.
The Casting – the Lost Boys were, on the whole, bad actors. Therefore when there was a question of more dialogue having to be cut (as you so rightly say, to make way for the music) Andrew tended to cut the boys lines because, after all, a line is only as good as it is delivered and most of that lot had never heard of delivering lines, and keep as much as Peter’s dialogue in. Hence Slightly, the medicine etc. (Andrew’s story on the awfulness of the Lost Boys is that Mia, exasperated by the 23 year old or whatever age he (Curly) was, cast a spell to get him off the production. It didn’t quite work. He had a car crash the next day but was back on set by the end of the week! No comment.)
‘To die…’ problem. Originally, because Gary didn’t want Peter wounded, we had the mermaids stealing Peter’s pouch of moondust thus explaining why can’t fly away. They snatch it, he does a lot of ‘I don’t need my moondust type dialogue’, climbs to top of rock as they swim off waving the moondust as the water rises around the rock… slowly into ‘why should I be frightened… to die etc.’ Which could have worked OK except for one problem – the mermaids – horrendous. Last minute extras from Casting Department, mad panic etc., etc. And they didn’t really co-operate much (especially after Andrew went up to one on the et and asked her what time she was expected back on the switchboard!) It just looked like a polystyrene skull, surrounded by special effects mist with 3 over-painted scrubbers in ill fitting fancy dress costumes and tatty green wigs lying on planks with little wheels being dragged across the studio floor by the Floor manager, That was why it had to be cut, and hence the problems in editing because they hadn’t shot enough on Mia to cover it…
Of the advertised half a million pounds, very little was evident on the set. As Andrew asked bitterly – how much went on the music? The kite bit went because Gary couldn’t get the special effects to work, but that was one point that didn’t worry Andrew that much.
For myself, it wasn’t quite so much a question of what was cut out – after all Barrie’s scenario for the American film is complete with ‘stars and stripes’ references and everything – I was just so disappointed in the lack of magic of what was there. I had never liked the Underground set – the fact that it was so stagey, and you could see the Indians above with the underground all open. To me television would have been the ideal opportunity for using a sort of split screen thing with action happening on top and seeing the boys safely hidden below – a sort of cross-section, as it were. And then there was the music.
I had like it so much when I first heard it – CORRECTION, I had enjoyed hearing it for the first time so much. I was captivated by the humour of Tony Newley, adored Leslie Bricusse and what fun it all was sitting round the piano with Danny etc., all terribly keen, all so sure what we were hearing was good. I’m sure that if Andrew had been there (…) he would still have disliked the music – it was in fact his immediate reaction when he heard it – but the fact that he wasn’t there possibly meant that we would all remain that one step ahead in the big ‘self-con’. I’m not saying we were conned. Everyone believed in the music – to my shame I can remember us all sitting around arguing about which would be the hit tune!!! Oh boy!
I’m afraid I’m having to be just a little bit careful about just what I say at ATV at the moment. It was hinted to me that my criticisms were going a little too far – after all, the children liked it didn’t they and that’s what counts when you’re making a ‘Pantomime’!!! All I can say is, thank you very much Sir Lew Grade for spending ½ million pounds giving me a wonderful and – more important – starting the Barrie thing happening. Thank God, that’s B.B.C. which may sound terribly disloyal but it hasn’t been a very pleasant week – for a start no one would admit that there had been a technical fault on the tape, no one in management that is, until Wednesday. (When it looked as if people were not miming properly it wasn’t their fault – in places the tape had been ‘laid-back’ out of synch.) Well, it’s over and maybe someone was right when they told me to “forget it”. One day…
This letter is getting very long. Thank for the Robert Street/Adelphi information. It certainly sounds as if the flat might still be the building standing – we’ll have to investigate further. Very interested in the George Wansbrough comment. It’s interesting that suicide was obviously considered at Eton, while the ‘official’ Masterman comment was that it wasn’t thought of at Oxford. I don’t know, Andrew thinks, rightly probably , that I read too much into it all… there’s still something that isn’t quite right for me though. I take your points but would say that the story of Rupert swimming across, sitting on rocks etc. was something that apparently only appeared in Coroners opening address – no witnesses were questioned about it, which to me seem odd.
May I just ask you a couple of small things. 1. Were you ever told “if you had been a girl you would have been called..’? 2. How would you sum up the relationship between Barrie and Gerald du Maurier. Yes, each was aware of what they owed the other but I rather suspect a sort of coldness. E.g. ‘Everyone’s famous for something and you’re famous for living opposite Shaw’ type of thing (which, incidentally, I think is a lovely line.) The ‘Ward of J.M. Barrie’ was never put on Michael’s stone – does that mean that, despite Jack, Gerald won, or did Barrie withdraw.
A quick point – when Barrie had actors &/or actresses to dinner or whatever did he tend to talk shop or did he steer conversations onto general subjects … especially with people like Pauline Chase, who I imagine to be a friend as well as an actress. Were you ever aware of one of the five of you being jealous as you grew older or another, younger, child claiming the attention – were you ever aware of Barrie being particularly fond of children, or was this something you just accepted. Did it ever strike you as unusual – did he ever talk about childhood to you? Did he ever tell you stories of his childhood in Scotland (I know you said he never mentioned his mother)… James Robb etc. That developed into more than a quick point! I think the time has come…(…)
NLD to SG 8/3/1976
(…) I suppose my main ‘reason’ in toying with suicide as Michael & Rupert’s way-out was wrapped up in my confused thoughts as to what genius is or makes one: I used to think, perhaps still do = I don’t know! – that the really clever people are the ones more apt to choose to go… most of ‘my’ suicides, take Edward Marjoribanks – another of Michael’s great friends – really something of a genius and tho’ the ‘accepted’ reason was a girl I’m apt to think if he’d been nearer my standard of intellect he’d have lived on! Except that at bottom I’m a complete fatalist so far as dates of birth & death are concerned. i.e. I ‘know’ that Michael was doomed (or BLESSED) with the date of 19 May 1921. I cannot seriously consider the fact of even actual homosexuality played any part in a suicide.
I so frequently have to say to you ‘I can’t remember’ … I don’t know whether I’m more prone to this than most people! Certainly I must be the despair of any conscientious researcher. I would be pretty sure that over the years (not that I met him all that number of times, tho’ always affectionately). Roger Senhouse would have talked of Michael’s possible suicide. My guess, fairly solid, would be he’d react along the lines of “Ah, one will never know… I doubt it but…’ etc; all I’m certain of is that he NEVER criticised Rupert to me: and when one realises how devoted Roger was to Michael he of all people would have had reason to comment adversely on Rupert had such adverse comment been deserved. Rupert, to me, is shining armour NOT the Boothby sinister.
Pauline Chase, alas, I was too young to (so to speak) sit at the table with, with Uncle Jim: our meetings were always back stage (or going up the little house on stage… a lovely person – as was Hilda Trevelyan): but many time times later, whether Julia James, Karsavina, Gloria Swanson [never met Bergner!] I would say the talk was entirely ‘naturally’ balanced. Probably both would leave it to me & start one or other off: but those were seldom any difficulties. Uncle Jim would be apt, I think it fair to say., to talk to some purpose on other people’s plays or works rather than his own: for instance he’d want to draw Charlie Chaplin out on to Charlies’ ideas rather than the reverse. I’d say JMB would love talking about ‘work’ but not at all necessarily – in fact unlikely - his own.. except, doubtless, on certain occasions.
NLD to SG 9/3/1976
A short line this time! Chiefly to enclose Clive Burt’s p.c. reply to my request that he see you and Andrew. I’m very sure you’ll like him, he has much charm. My very considerable interest will be to hear how he reacts to what you tell him of Boothby. I’ll be pretty surprised if he echoes the ‘sinister’ epithet for Rupert, and expect rather than he will share my belief that most of Boothby’s reactions were caused by jealousy. I fancy Clive liked Roger Senhouse a lot, and I’m sure enough he was never in danger of leaving the hetero ranks! I doubt if Clive will have many Michael-interview Chronicles or photographs that I haven’t got … and I don’t know how much more you want.
NLD to SG 10/3/1976
Many thanks for your long and most entertaining letter which crossed my 8 ½p one of yesterday with Burt and Wrangham news. And to say you’ll be having lunch with Rivvy: and you will I think have already seen Seb Earl: with Gerrie & the du M’s to follow plus Clive Burt. How much I look forward to hearing all your reactions. I await either a ring or letter suggesting your next lunch here. Pretty much any day I expect will be good.
Your P.P.T.V. comments were full of interest – if chiefly concerning the (obvious) lack of direction and the lack of D. Kaye perception! I’ve had a lot of funny correspondence with Angela & Daphne du M on the subject. Angela (Wendy herself in 1924 and 1925) agrees with practically all I say tho’ she missed Act I: Daphne having been made happy by Act I was much more tolerant (tho’ always all of us hated ALL the music!). (…)
I find it almost impossible to picture you all thinking the music so good: until I realise that of course I am so steeped in Crook’s haunting styles that ALL other music must be wrong. Like imagining a new version of Iolanthe with music by Hogwash. I suppose time as well as USA has moved on so much that Danny Kaye couldn’t imagine ‘Children in their homes are abed; their lips bright-browned with the good-night chocolate, and their tongues drowsily searching for belated crumbs housed insecurely on their shining cheeks.’ There are things of Danny Kaye I really admire, but in truth I’m the only I know who, at the time of Danny’s first appearance at the Palladium – carrying ALL before him – actually preferred Ted Ray who was in the first half of the bill. Much funnier, I thought!
‘Floreat Etonia’ was quite rightly deleted, as ‘Hook & Eton & Balliol will fire the Powder magazine.’ As you say later additions but also totally nothing to Americans. But I can’t begin to understand how they failed to get the Kite to work. It always used to work on the stage and was a terrific moment, as was Peter being rescued by the bird etc etc.
I shall love to hear – if you can even discover – how children liked the T.V. version: and whether A.T.V. are or will have been heart-broken or gratified & the success or reverse both here and in America. And, in fact, what Mia herself thought of it. She could have been wonderful.
Your later question: I certainly cannot remember – and doubt if Father or Mother ever let themselves seriously commit themselves – any girls’ name I might been given if their dear wish for a girl had been granted. I know – as I think I’ve told you – that ‘Timothy’ was somewhere on the cards but I don’t think I’ve ever found confirmation of this in correspondence and Father is calling me Nicholas in a very early (2 days old, I think) letter to Aunt Margaret.
J.M.B. and Uncle Gerald. I think you’re nearly right tho’ I’m sure enough each found a very great deal to admire in the other. Of course each would stress this to me or Michael but it was very genuine. But the trace of animosity, a bit of envy at the other’s Charm or Brain, Sex Appeal or Money [no marks for spotting which is which!] but each also perhaps worried (wounded?) by the love that Sylvia felt for the other one... tho Sylvia felt this same love for her other brother and I’ve never thought Uncle Jim had anything but admiration and affection for beloved Uncle Guy.
Barrie ‘withdrew’ would be the correct answer to Michael’s headstone.
It’s not too easy to ‘answer’ your paragraph on Barrie having his actors or actresses to dinner etc. Of course I only became aware of this by the time Michael and I moved to the Adelphi – in other words well after Pauline Chase days: there’s a sort of vagueness about my memories of lunches with such as Karsavina, Gloria Swanson, Julia James: being taken (earlier days now to have tea with Gaby Deslys on a drive in Mrs Patrick Campbell’s car (when I was sick!). Pauline Chase I can’t remember coming to either Campden Hill Square or the Adelphi tho’ we always saw a lot of her at rehearsals or behind the scenes of the Duke of York Theatre and she would certainly have called herself a friend. We all loved her. But I could be pretty confident that in general the talks would start general and then one of us would get on the stage talk. I remember the following ridiculous talk between me & Gloria Swanson:
N.D. Who do they regard as the best actress in Hollywood just now?
G.S. Well, some say Pola Negri but I think most would pick my name. And who is your favourite actor
N.D. I think Wallace Beery. [NOT realising she’d just been divorced from him!!]
And another thing I’m sure of is that there was no jealousy among us: can’t say about Gerrie & Jack, the nearest in all and each devastatingly attractive in his different way! And I would doubt anything resembling real jealousy. And no, we never minded – nor were surprised – at Uncle Jim’s attraction to and from other children. Even when I saw things slipping to Simon Asquith, I felt no ‘jealousy’: perhaps a tinge of sickness! Try to remember to ? Mary of J.M.B.’s ‘wizardry’ with our very young daughter, Laura: left alone with Uncle Jim at the flat one afternoon and a shy little girl etc and found actually romping with Uncle Jim on our return... I don’t think he ever talked about his childhood, but there used to be stories of his teenage days, how bad he was at football etc!
I think it was James Robb who gave Uncle Jim the canary in latter days: and he came to lunch once or twice: but I can’t recall any talks about them as young friends. I would say Uncle Jim never pushed out his memories: they had to be drawn out of him, and could then overflow. Ah for the days of tapes!
SG to NLD 12/3/1976
We had a very interesting and enjoyable day at Eton on Tuesday. Rivvy, we saw Wednesday, liked very much and he’s asked us to go and have a drink with him sometime next week. Sebastian earl is next week and then Cornwall. (…)
A tatty bit of paper I have just seen in front of me says ‘remember to ask Nico if he has/knows who might have a copy of the programme for the P. Pan performed in Michael’s nursery’?
SG to NLD 15/3/1976
I had a very nice helpful letter from Olga Bennell, the curator of the Barrie Museum at Kirriemuir (she isn’t the world’s greatest Barrie expert but she is very keen!). I just wondered what your feelings were on letter her have photocopies of some of your letters from Barrie, to display in the museum. (…)
I haven’t got in touch with Clive Burt yet (…). Looking forward to the weekend very much indeed – we were going to be very flash and stay at Jamaica Inn on the way from Daphne to Gerry but they were unfortunately booked up!!!
I can’t remember if we’ve ever asked this I’m afraid – on the subject of the Barrie speeches. Did you go and watch when he delivered any of his speeches? Were you aware of him working himself up for them, his nerves etc.? I know that you couldn’t attend the St. Andrews one because of having to return to Eton but can you remember what sort of mood he was in beforehand? Did he ever discuss speeches? Do you know whether he ever dictated them to Cynthia or did he always prefer to write in longhand? You may gather from that I have once more turned attention to the speeches!
Did Barrie find it easy to discipline you boys or was it something he really had to force himself to do – did he tend to work himself into a temper before he could tell you off about something or did he favour ‘rational discussion’? Any amusing stories of Barrie giving you fatherly talks?
By the way, my out of field left question about can you remember what you might have been called if you had been a girl was prompted by a re-read of The Little White Bird – I rather hoped you might have said ‘Barbra’ but thought that was probably too much to hope for!!
NLD to SG 17/3/1976
(…) I have much to write as a result of Andrew’s leaving me with ‘Boy Castaways’ [I like this temporary title, and doubt if it can be improved upon] material. These notes will take me a longish time: I enjoy and shall enjoy, hope time isn’t too vital at this stage.
Alas I can throw no light on a programme (if there was one) for the special P.P. performance at Egerton House: it may be lying around, but I much doubt it tho’ I have various Egerton House material. Sad that the house etc have been pulled down …. No point in a visit to Berkhamsted now, I’m sure. Have you seen/or got (did I give it you in one of my books) the Greedy Dwarf programme?
It was bad luck Andrew getting held up at Heathrow: we missed a valuable couple of hours… we each go shooting off in different directions as ideas hit us! Exhausting, sometimes, and seldom is anything neatly tucked away! I was greatly interested in the tapes – particularly Boothby. I can’t wait till I hear how saturnine etc Clive Burt found Rupert. I would say you couldn’t have two such more different characters than Boothby & Burt!
As for Olga Bennell. I think it’s a v. nice idea of yours if she’d like photostats of this or that letter of J.M.B’s to me, I’d be entirely happy. Might I leave you to select etc. wholly free hand from this end.
The only speech I can remember hearing Uncle Jim deliver was The Freedom of Jedburgh - Oct 15 1928 (p 146 McConnachie and JMB); Mary and I were staying at her home in Redesdale just across the border, with Uncle Jim at the Olivers at Edgerton. [My first ever sight of Mary was 1918 when Michael and JMB were at the Olivers and we walked over for tea to the Redesdale house…. Long time ago!(..)] I have no recollection at all of his getting worked up etc – I doubt it in fact! I would say he would work away for weeks and more writing away at his desk and altering this and that. What and how much he read out, ‘rehearsed etc’ to Cynthia Asquith I don’t at all know, but I would say NEVER to me. (It has always nearly killed me that he waited till I’d left Eton before he gave his superb speech of Hook at Eton (p115 McCo & JMB). I know he suffered agonies over Courage, particularly at St. Andrews, but I never saw anything of his disquietudes. But – at any rate so far as I was concerned there was never a word of speech or play, until shared ? The Boy David when did read at least one act of the play to Mary and me.
I would also say he NEVER tried anything disciplinarian. I think maybe brothers would help, to say nothing of very dear Mary Hodgson. Michael gave me quite a bit of ticking off, one way and another; I can only remember ‘You cad!’ from Uncle Jim. Not a harsh word from Peter, Jack or George can I recall, and I doubt if there was one. Mary Hodgson used to put Gregory Powder on my tongue! I’m sure JMB never ‘worked himself up with a temper’! there could have been a ‘rational discussion’ now and then. It would be ‘of the briefest’ sort of. I don’t think there’s much to be gained by doing this or saying that sort of things, do you? There’s no memory at all – in fact I’d swear it never happened! – of such an occasion as ‘Oh lor’ Uncle Jim wants to see me… I wonder what I’ve done? I’m sure I NEVER expected criticism; I don’t mean I never did anything ‘wrong’ – frequently! And either I’d be quick enough to tell him myself first or be clever enough to keep it out of his sight. (…)
SG to NLD 21/3/1976
Where do I begin? We had a wonderful weekend – Daphne & Angela were delightful, we both loved them and had a very enjoyable lunch with them, on Friday. When we arrived we telephoned Gerrie and she came across and joined us for a quick drink – that seemed to break the ice very well. She invited us to lunch the following day and we spent the whole day there. She was very kind and charming – we liked her. She seemed almost pleased to be talking to us, even though she had earlier reservations about dragging up the past or whatever. By the end of the day Andrew and I couldn’t quite work out what had prompted her ‘do you want to paint a pretty picture or do you want the truth’ comment on the telephone. If anything, she seemed to be playing things down somewhat – not startling us with new revelations. It all went very well. Looking back at Dunbar references to her and Barrie not getting on – which, in fairness to Janet were based on what Cynthia herself had written, and Gerrie made no bones about the fact that she ‘hated’ Cynthia.
Gerrie let us borrow a whole series of letters to herself and Jack from Barrie from 1922 until his death – marvellous, yet more material. I think Gerrie was probably quite right in saying that she and Barrie did get on – just from the number of letters, even without reading them properly yet, I would think it unlikely that Barrie would write like that to someone he had time for. She didn’t think much of Peter’s wife but, you will be pleased to know, is very fond of you and Mary! There were quite a few interesting details that came of our conversations e.g. Michael telling her that he could get rid of Cynthia whenever he wanted and not to worry; Barrie suddenly shocking her by telling her that Guy had died running round with his stomach hanging out crying ‘Kill me, kill me!.’ Andrew’s trying to work out where he can use that!
It was very gratifying that when we left Gerrie said that she had been worried at the thought of what we were going to do with the television thing but that now she wasn’t - almost told us to do what we wanted! (…)
A couple of interesting points from Daphne & Angela. Gerald told them of visiting Sylvia just before she died. Michael was in the room doing his homework and Gerald saw that his tears were falling on the page – he obviously realised what was going on. They mentioned that Arthur had been irritated by dogs. Also, Michael’s terrible nightmares when he thought he was seeing things through the window. Anything you would deny?
We are becoming more and more aware of the lack of material written by Michael. I almost dare not ask, but any more ideas of who might have written to by Michael?! I’d be grateful if you could give me the name and address of Audrey Lucas’s daughter who might just know whether there are any letters to her mother still in existence. Who should I try and contact about Senhouse letters?
NLD to SG 24/3/1976
Not that I could fill in many of the details as I would like – particularly your asking for Michael’s letters. Michael saying he could get rid of Cynthia and ‘not to worry’ strikes a large bell in my mind. I’m sure he said (I think I was there!) and I am equally sure it was true. Grisly and far from serious thought, I wonder if Boothby has tried to check whether Cynthia knew (and seduced) Buxton to encourage the latter to murder… What a different life I could have had at several turnings: even more than most people, I’m apt to think! Parents’ early deaths: Barrie: George’s death; Michael’s death: Cynthia… How different I should have been if – no Eaton (Marlborough and hardworking scholar): no Mary – ‘nuff said!
I’d never heard of Father’s irritation with dogs. Most unlike his family particularly his youngest son who is apt to prefer them to human beings. Michael’s nightmares I seem to remember now. I’ve told Andrew I hope he doesn’t cut anything about Uncle Guy’s ghastly death into the TV. First I’d ever heard of it and I would bet Peter never heard of it or could he have kept it always from me? (…)
SG to NLD 28/3/1976
(…) When I last spoke to him [Andrew] he asked me to dig up what information I could about the character of A.E.W. Mason. Mackail doesn’t give much, except about his ha-ha laugh. Have picked out the Barrie line in one of his letters about ‘Mason leads a light-hearted happy life’ and noted the fact that he was a keen climber but then begin to draw a blank. Cynthia doesn’t seem to count him as an important friend but I would have thought that he was. I’m right, am I not, that it was Mason with whom he went on holiday and in whose flat he stayed while the divorce was going on. Therefore, I would have thought that they were pretty close. Did Mason fade from the scene in later years, or did Cynthia just not like him? (…)
I wrote to Clive Burt and haven’t heard yet, but expect a letter any day and we are both looking forward to meeting him very much and will of course report back to you straight away. I had a good letter form Michael Asquith saying that he regretted to say that his mother’s diaries were not ‘at present available for inspection’, whatever that means, but that all the bits relevant to our subject had already been incorporated in the Dunbar book. The bit in his letter which interested us the most was “I have of course many vivid memories of JMB, dating from early childhood until the time of his death. To a child he could often be an enchanting companion; but owing to the changing weather of his moods, and particularly his fairly frequent fits of blackest depression, of which I remember being acutely aware, never an entirely reliable friend.” We had always had the impression that his moods were always something he could hide when in the company of children. I rather suspect that this was something that he found harder to do in later years and therefore that would explain Michael Asquith being so aware of them. I have written to him saying that we would like very much to talk about this, and we would obviously like to meet him if he’s willing.
NLD to SG 31/3/1976
Meanwhile, Alf Mason! Most certainly an important friend. I don’t think you’re fair to Mackail! Who has many allusions to him. If many are just one liners concerned with such things as Allahakbarrie cricket matches, there’s much about his standing for parliament etc and above all about him coming to the rescue at the time of the divorce. He was a wholly lovable man. I got to know him a tiny bit better in the 1930s at the Garrick Club when he was much in evidence in the Card Room where he was universally known as the King and permanently puffing at a cigar, with a monocle wedged into his eye, and a vast amount of laughter. Everybody loved him. And don’t forget his pirate Alf Mason in Peter & Wendy tho’ he doesn’t make the play itself. True he was little in evidence at the time I lived in Robert Street…. Doubt if I saw him there. But he was devoted to ‘Jimmie’ as Uncle Jim was devoted to him tho’ I can’t remember at all what he called him! (…) I shouldn’t think he’d fall at all for Cynthia, which would explain why she didn’t rate him all that high.
I was a good deal interested in your words about Michael Asquith who I had thought (hoped?!) dead; not all, in fact not all, jealousy or envy that he and her have all the Barrie rights: nor that he was a conscientious objector as everyone has a right to that point of view and I have definite respect for the genuine one, but he used not to be a nice chap – and I’d be amazed if he’s changed unless his wife has worked the sort of wonders that Mary has worked with me! Can’t remember if he’s had more than one wife. His ‘not at present available for inspection’ is very clear to me! Judging from Janet Dunbar’s description of the later diaries to me! A mass of libels, indiscretions etc including her getting the hypodermic shoved in to Uncle Jim so that he could come out of his death sleep and cut us out of his will. Getting me worked up, aren’t you? I would myself say that Uncle Jim’s ‘blackest depressions’ (which I can well believe) took place after Michael’s death and, as I’ve told you, were more often than not handed on by Cynthia herself working on him.
(…) And remind me if I’ve mentioned or not mentioned Cecil Day Lewis’ autobiography The Buried Day: there’s a whole chapter on Wilkies (?) which could give Andrew a bit of a picture, with a great deal about the young Nico Ll.D. who was his hero! (…)
SG to NLD 5/4/1976
Yes, I probably was a bit unkind to Mackail! what I really meant was that apart from the ‘what he was doing’ information, there was little ‘what he was like’ descriptions of character; “good-looking A.E.W. Mason, with the loud laugh that was variously characterised as intoxicating and insane” didn’t really leave me with much of a picture. But I agree, not entirely fair! Did Barrie ever reminisce about the early Allahakbarries days? Any stories? I found a nice, though short, piece about that time in Hesket Pearson’s ‘Conan Doyle’: “A.E.W. Mason told me that on one occasion they all spent the night at the Lygon Arms, Broadway, except Doyle, who remarked as he parted form them, ‘ wonder what all the swells who live hereabouts think of the way you literary fellows take up the place.’ It almost seemed as if he did not regard himself as a ‘literary fellow’.” Am I right in believing that Mason’s writing alternated between historical adventure and detective fiction and (…) do you think I ought to read one, would it give me any idea of Mason, or wouldn’t you think it necessary, please!? Mackail, p. 475, refers to ‘mysterious and gallant adventures’ in 1914 – do you know any more about these?
I saw Black Lake for the first time on Sunday – very beautiful, very unspoilt. Col. & Mrs Methias, who own the lake itself, are delightful but I didn’t think much of the gold Rolls Royce owner of what was, Black Lake Cottage. (…) The rain stopped long enough for us to have a good long walk round the lake, well as, as near to ‘round’ as one can go because it’s very wild and overgrown. (…) We also found the farm where Sylvia, Arthur & Family stayed just down the road in Tilford, as per the photograph in the album.
I promise not to get you worked up this week – anyway, I have heard no more from Michael Asquith Esq.! Nor have I heard from Clive Burt and rather suspect that may have gone away on a Spring holiday. Many moons ago you mentioned Joan Waldegrave to me and it had slipped my memory until Rivvy suggested that I get in touch with her about any records of which documents were auctioned when and where and to whom etc. that she may still have. I wrote her a long letter of explanation and she rang today to say that was most interested in it all, didn’t know how much help she could, but would to talk about it, so I’m meeting her tomorrow evening.
From Sebastian Earl: the fact that Rupert was teaching Michael to improve his swimming. ‘My theory is that Rupert got into difficulties and Michael, not being able to swim at al well, went to his rescue.’ Michael had ‘such charm and lightness of touch, lightness of imagination – he really was gifted by God.’ ‘I never saw any drift towards homosexuality… no one would have dreamt of mentioning it in connection with Michael when he was at Eton and I wouldn’t have said so at Oxford.’ Said that Macnaghten’s was considered the best house at Eton , and had no reputation as being the sort of house known to be ‘homosexual’, though others were. On Buxton – ‘Buxton was the most easy-going, charming person… Buxton hadn’t got the charm of Michael, I admit, but he was a very nice and decent chap… the idea of him being sinister never struck me.’ On Boothby – when we mentioned Boothby’s theories: “Absolute poppycock. I think he’s one of the bloodiest humbugs who ever made a ‘disreputable reputation’ in Parliament… we thought very poorly of Boothby in those days, he was just a figure of fun.” He hadn’t been aware of Boothby being a friend of Michael’s and when we mentioned about him doing a big bit about Michael in his speech to St. Andrews his reaction was: “You don’t say they made Boothby a Rector … Good God!” In fairness to Earl, this is all between us as it were. Having got it all off his chest he looked across at the tape recorder and said, ‘Oh, I should have said that’!
Daphne & Angela: Daphne seems to remember going to the zoo with you and Uncle Jim the weekend after George was killed, but wasn’t completely sure. Do you by any chance remember? (…) They didn’t remember seeing you boys much at rehearsals – can you remember what age you started to go to rehearsals regularly? We are right in assuming that it was perfectly normal for any of the five boys to call into rehearsals If you were in London at the time?
Gerrie: the transcript goes on for pages – we were there for a long time! (…) One bit I liked very much was Barrie telling a story about how poor they were when they were young that they couldn’t afford sugar and had a lump of sugar attached to a piece of string which they dunked in their cups in turn – and Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland lapped the whole story up.
NLD to SG 8/4/1976
Many thanks for your excellent letter – with its high spot for me (as you will have guessed) the splendid remarks of Seb. Earl! Pretty well entirely my sentiment after all the recent rethinking: and particularly interested that he hadn’t been aware of Boothby’s so close friendship as I hadn’t either. Wholly correct about Macnaghten’s house and the (at any rate almost) complete absence of homosexuality therein. Now we await Clive Burt: I with the greatest anticipation. You will find him much ‘easier’ than the others, much lighter… certainly the most charming. I rather expect him to stick up a bit for Boothby (against Earl, that is) and say much to the effect we never took him all that seriously but he was fun etc etc. But what I want to know is (a) whether Clive would admit Boothby into the most intimate circle at Eton and (b) Did Clive share Earl’s rather than Boothby’s view of Buxton to which I expect answers of (a) for a time only (b) agree with Earl!
As far as dear A.E.W. Mason is concerned, I can’t give a sensibly helpful answer. He was a superb story teller whether its (his most famous) The Four Feathers or one of his top-class detective stories starring Inspector Hanaud. We have a quite a few here and you’d be welcome to borrow any, but I can’t really believe they’d help you to get into his character. Don’t think I ever knew any detail of his ‘mysterious and gallant adventures’ but would be typical of him to be in some sort of secret service, probably connected with the Navy… but the latter thought is wholly non-official and is caused by his somewhat jaunty ‘eye-glass’ bearing.
Black Lake of course I don’t remember at all and tho’ I probably went to Tilford I’d be under 3 years old … oh dear! (…)
As for dear Joan Waldegrave. A very faithful friend to Peter and me and I expect you’ll have had a smile or two – tho’ I don’t know how much unknown material she’’ be able to produce.
I’ve no recollection at all of zooing after George’s death, but it could well be true. As for rehearsals.. isn’t it awful how little I can swear actually to remember! My impression that tho’ Michael and I had our moments, I doubt if the elder three went often; and my own frequent rehearsals were all at a much later date, nearer Mary Rose than Peter Pan. Always at first performance of PP (matinees I think) in the Royal Box which had a wonderful sitting room where we always had tea, followed by a long visit backstage, A very vivid memory is of going one year with Michael to a rehearsal: probably aged say 9 and 12 or just younger: this year only there was a special experiment with Tinker Bell (perhaps the idea was discarded?) when a special minimising glass was used, situated more or less the far side of the big bed in the Underground scene: the audience could see Tinker Bell going to bed etc., Tink being played by a normal-sized person who through the minimising glass looked minute. Michael and I were encouraged to get behind the glass and have a fight etc which was watched with much glee by J.M.B. and many others through the glass. Come to think of it, the idea was probably scrapped because only a few of the audience could see through the glass! But this is pretty well my only memory of a Peter Pan rehearsal: tho’ for many years I, or Michael & I, used to ride up in the final scene in the Little house with Peter, Wendy & Lisa: and one year I spent a long time on stage under a squaw’s blanket! I expect Angela and her sisters went at different times to ourselves: tho’ possibly not till 1929 when Uncle Gerald returned to Hook! They’d have been too small or unborn in 1904 & 5 & 6. Tho’ of course would doubtless always ‘ask’ … and be welcome.
SG to NLD 12/4/1976
I Met Joan Waldegrave last week – very nice, obviously very fond of your family, and very interested. She let me bring away some lists of what was put for auction at Sotheby’s the first time, press cuttings of that time and future auctions, which be interesting if we need to trace particular items later on. Nothing about letters though. The series of Yale letters from Barrie to George end in the February before George died i.e. they do not include that last beautiful one. Have you any idea what Peter did with it. Gerrie told me how Peter had given Jack the notes written by Arthur just before he died and how Jack had told her to read them and then burn them. (…)
I don’t know whether I’ve asked this before, but are you still in touch with, know an address for, or think we ought to try and trace, the Olivers. I just thought they might possibly, by chance, have some letters still hanging about, perhaps even Michael ones. They’d been friends of your parents hadn’t they? How good friends were they of you boys and of Barrie. Gerrie told us about, Michael & Uncle Jim staying with them after meeting Gerrie and how Barrie, worried, asked Katy Oliver’s advice when Jack wanted to get married earlier than agreed.
SG to NLD 19/4/1976
I realised yesterday that I had got the idea of the Olivers being friends of Arthur’s from the Morgue (…) where Peter says he was a ‘pretty close friend’ of Arthur’s, though he doesn’t know whether it was Cambridge or JMB who brought them together. ‘The Olivers went on being friends of the family after A’s death…F red and his wife, were among the very few people who understood perfectly what “the five” had lost, as well as what they gained, when they were “adopted” by JMB. Mark Oliver is, I assume now dead? Obviously you would remember Arthur’s friendship with Fred and, equally obvious, in later years it would have been his friendship with JMB that kept you all in touch but did you ever get the impression from them that they ‘understood perfectly’, can you ever remember either of them talking to you about your parents?
The matter of Barrie kissing you – 29 Dec. you were writing about the homosexuality question: “I’m 200% certain there was never a desire to kiss (other than the cheek!) “– from which we got the idea that he would have kissed you on the cheek. Thinking it over I would think that a hand on the shoulder would have been more usual, would I be correct? What comes to mind is the bit in the Dedication about Michael reading his unfortunate little tragedy: “He read it, and the, patting me on the back, as only he and No. 1 could touch me, said ‘You know you can’t do this sort of thing.’ End of tragedian.” Also a bit in the New Word. Father & son have never told each other they are fond of each other. Son off to the tranches, last talk before he leaves, both trying to please the mother – (…)
Which reminds me, the ‘New Word’ was indeed 2nd Lieutenant, strangely enough. “Till the other day we were so little of a military nation that most of us didn’t know there were 2nd Lieutenants. And now, in thousands of homes we feel that there is nothing else. 2nd Lieutenant! It is like a new word to us – one I dare say, of many that the war will add to our language.”
NLD to SG 21/4/1976
(…) Just been packing up the Morgue – which I’m sending to Rupert Hart-Davis, NOT to publish but to advise whether I should give publication serious consideration…. i.e. he is just as retired as I am and, if published, it won’t be either P.D. or R.H.D. I( looked up p 209 and found that about the Olivers. I had quite forgotten.) And of course confusion becomes even more confounded with the Olivers being such friends of, and living so close to, Mary’s family… I would think F.S.O. the chief friend of Mary’s family and mine, Katie of JMB’s. I can’t remember talk of my parents with them. I’m pretty sure Mark is alive. I haven’t noticed his death: he’d be in the London telephone book I’m pretty sure: he used to live in a flat, I think, in one of those streets that go from Green Park to Curzon St – Bolton Street, is it? The Easternmost one. He’s not very exciting but perfectly nice!
Yes, greetings with JMB used to be a wave, possibly a slight clinch between shoulder and funny bone, we were never much of touchers! Possibly shake hands, he usually with something of a small bow. His hands were suitable small.
And yes, I’d found Second Lieutenant … with never a mention of Subaltern. Sorry, and much surprised at my mistake!
I know nothing – I think never knew anything – of any Quiller Couch photograph.
Latest on Mark Oliver! An old Etonian (November 1972) list gives his address as 8 Cottesmore Gardens W8: look him up in the telephone book. I would doubt you getting much from him: his contemporary would be Peter, but I don’t think they each other at all well. He’d had been at Macnaghten’s with George: his younger brother Jack a good friend of Michael’s.
SG to NLD 24/4/1976
You’ll be very pleased to hear that I’ve heard from Clive Burt. (…) Sounds a very nice man and we hope to see him either this week or next and will you know the results as soon as we do.
My thoughts at the moment are on, of all subjects, the phenomenon of the gutta-percha tooth! Was Barrie really the proud owner of this wonderful conversation piece, or was it merely a story he liked telling? The conflicting sources I’ve found are:
The story of the tooth that belonged to the nurse in the Little W. Bird.
P.78 of the Greenwood Hat. ‘Old Hyphen’ article for St. James’s presumably written before 1891 because according to Mackail by then he had dropped the St. James’s: “A remarkable phenomenon has been found out about Old Hyphen, and this is that he has a gutta-percha tooth. He makes it himself by softening it near the fire and then he puts in the place and shapes it and it hardens it would deceive any people except my form. Once when he sneezed it flew out and hit Cotton in the face and so Cotton preserves it as a relic, and we think Old Hyphen keeps another one in his waistcoat pocket for emergencies, and gutta-percha is now the centre of interest in our community. Some persons say Old Hyphen does not put a thermometer in his mouth to see how bad his cold is but knows how bad it is by the distance the tooth flies out when sneezes and a shilling has been offered to any person who will ask him if he can lend them a piece of gutta-percha to rub out pencil marks with, but on one has been such an ass as to take it on.” (It’s supposed to be form a school-boy’s diary)
1899. Letter to Q. “We are all well, except in the morning when we tremble so over the newspapers and what they may contain that there is no keeping my tooth in. By the way another came out in Edinburgh, a real one, but I cut with a penknife into the most fashionable shape, replaced it, knocked it in with a hairbrush, puttied it round, and it is doing well though a bit sulky, the pride of the ingenious mechanic and the scorn of his domestic circle.”
Letters p. 274. To Mrs Raymond Asquith. 1926. “I once made a tooth for myself, with the thrilling career of which I won’t detain you, but remark in passing that no one who doesn’t know about that tooth really knows me. Of course no one really knows any one, which makes biographies such mockeries.”
Hence my confusion. (…)
NLD to SG 28/4/1976
(…) I can’t help as much as I wish I could over the gutta-percha tooth: I my simple way of memory I had always thought it was his way of amusing me! Sitting on my bed when I had a cold etc. He always made out to me that it was his own tooth, and his own way of knowing how bas his cold was going to be… if, when he sneezed, the tooth hit the rail at the end of his bed it would be a slight cold, if it reached the wall beyond he was in for a bad time. I am amazed to find it in the Little White Bird, had entirely forgotten The Greenwood hat which I published (!) and the two letters! No one can now ‘prove’ whether it was JMB’s own invention – probably NOT, tho’ I shall always think YES!
SG to NLD 3/5/1976
(…) Tomorrow we see Clive Burt – in fact when I spoke to him on the phone he asked me who else we’d contacted and when I said Boothby he said that he had thought of suggesting hi, I told him that Boothby has said Michael had been like a brother to him and that this had surprised as you hadn’t been aware at the time that they were friends, and Clive Burt laughed and advised us to take what Boothby said with a large pinch of salt – we shall of course speak more on this tomorrow evening! Will report back.
The ‘uncertainty’ about the gutta percha tooth is no problem – in fact I think it probably helps. I’d just thought that it was quite a nice way of illustrating the fact that it is very difficult to judge how much truth there is in Barrie’s professed ‘autobiographical’ writings! From that you may deduce that I’ve begun playing around at stringing a few words together (…)
I spent a civilised afternoon on Saturday in Somerset curled up on the rug in front of the Arga with a glass of sherry and the Letters of JMB! On p. 69 he’s writing to Turley-Smith about going to Killiecrankie in 1913:
“We shall be in the wild Hebrides. It’s a place Lindsey found for me and I should be immensely glad if you could come. I think the E.V. Lucases will be there, and I’ll try hard for Lindsey who captivated the boys.”
Should I know who Lindsey was, and can you remember being captivated? Also, ought I, do you think, to read “Dear Turley” – I don’t seem to remember much about him. (…)
NLD to SG 10/5/1976
(…) Your question(s) about Turley started off the usual trail of thoughts etc.: tho’ the most annoying etc thing is that the name ‘Lindsey’ rings no bell at all. To show how poor my editing was, the letter on p69 is wrongly dated – should have been 1912 NOT 1913 and Lindsey must have introduced Amhuinnsuidh so much more important to me than Killiecrankie: the Hebrides led me towards Amhuinnsuidh but the ‘killer’ is the Titanic which sank in June 1912. As a matter of fact I think you ‘ought’ to read ‘Dear Turley”: he would be among the first three of JMB’s real friends, I fancy, and it wouldn’t hurt you to know Turley a bit better. A very lovable man. I’ll send you my copy if you like… it has a splendid reproduction of the group of cricketers including the v. young Michael which you already know; also – and I didn’t think we’ve mentioned this – you might like to read Audrey Lucas’s portrait of her father E.V. Lucas which is pretty attractive and has a few bits about us and a v good picture of another cricket group with splendid picture of Uncle Jim in centre wearing a cricket cap, a v. nice one of George just up at Cambridge and – good for Andrew’s casting – an excellent one of Gilmour! Would you like me to send you these two?
I much look forward to hearing of your Clive Burt meeting. I wonder if he’ll suggest your seeing anyone else – large pinch of salt or no! He’d have approved of Seb Earl I expect tho’ could well have mentioned something of his being a bit of a bore… When Seb was down here about six months we thought he bored for England – but am very nice!
SG to NLD 18/5/1976
(…) Clive Burt – liked him very much. He was a friend of Boothby’s and therefore backed off a little on commenting on what Boothby said, for the moment. He had thought he might in touch with Boothby & try & fix up dinner or something to talk over old times. We said we thought that was a good idea and that we would be most interested to hear his impressions, & whether Boothby modified what he had said to us I think there was a touch of the “judge wanting to hear all the evidence first” which is very natural. I do hope we hear again thought whether, in the end, he decides to get in touch with Boothby is debatable. I haven’t had a chance to do a transcript of the tape but will probably come back to you soon with interesting bits.
NLD to SG 20/5/1976
(…) Another letter came from Andrew, and one from Rupert Hart Davis, and I had a talk with Polly yesterday to learn that young 6’6” Peter is coming in form U.S.A. I expect Rivvy, Polly & Peter to be here for lunch one day next week. (…)
So glad you liked Clive… well, I knew you would: he has that charm in great abundance and always had. I look forward one day to learning more of what he said from your tapes but oh, how I understand & sympathise with his fading memories.
SG to NLD 24/5/1976
Expect no clarity from this letter for it is 5am & I have just returned from an evening “en famille” - yours, not mine. Oh God, I wish they’d make up their bloody minds. This isn’t a bitter observation, far from it, but I feel like someone who has given the very best present they can afford, only to receive the memorable words “Mmm, very nice – what is it?”. This is, I hasten to say, & as I’m sure you appreciate, confidential! It’s funny but I seem to regard you & Mary as a closer “uncle” & “aunt” than possibly they do. I feel I need to get this off my chest & I’m afraid you are the obvious choice!!
Peter, who we met for the 1st time this evening, I liked very much. He was pissed, but not as pissed as Rivvy, who I just wanted to shake!!
NLD to SG 26/5/1976
(…) Less than five minutes ago the three Peter sons and Polly left us and, believe it or not, it has been a happy and clarifying day throughout! (…)
I found myself delighted with all the three boys. Of course you are right that Peter is the interesting one in that he is the only ‘clever’ or ‘intelligent’ one; George is the ‘stupid’, maybe the nicest; Rivvy the one with head screwed on (unless pissed as he seems to have been on your 5 a.m. night). Years ago I said to my brother that we should think about letting new blood in the firm of Peter Davies Ltd and presumed we should concentrate on young Peter; oh No, said Peter, Rivvy’s the one… Maybe we were both right in our different ways: I always regretted uprooting Rivvy from where he was doing very well into Peter Davies which (correctly!) didn’t suit him. Peter’s final remark to me was Thank God that no son of mine has any connection with P.D. Ltd, I only wish to Heaven I’d never let you come in to it!
A surprise of today to me, from the point of view expressed in your letter, was how highly Rivvy (and every one else, Polly, Peter) thought of you. I had expected Rivvy to sing Andrew’s praises but not yours! Quite wrong…you both got the full paeans of praise.
I was vastly interested in McGaskell and the Sandford drawing: I only wish I could have asked him – and helped him with a description here and there – who got into trouble and also tried to save whom… I shall now put suicide right out of my mind.
SG to NLD 30/5/1976
(…) So very glad the family meeting went well. Peter saw Ben G. on Friday and that seems to be all OK. The Brothers are getting in touch with an agent for themselves and with any luck it’ll all be sorted out this week. Andrew, Peter and I had a very good day yesterday – sorting out our ideas and working out a book description for Ben. We all had lunch with Polly, Rivvy and George. First time I’d met G. – liked him very much. Peter, Andrew and I seem to be very much on the same wave-length as far as the Morgue is concerned and I think we’ll be able to work well together. (…)
Did I tell you that I had a very nice letter from Mark Oliver – had to go into hospital but telephoned as soon as he was home. (…)
It was a very strange sensation sitting down to lunch with the three brothers – I’m sure you must have felt it – looking for an image of Peter and all that. Naturally what you said about young Peter’s birth will be very definitely kept “private” – I just found myself looking at him and thinking what a risky thing fate is.
Back to the more important things – the research for example. We got a contact for someone who had known one of the men who was working on the weir the day of the Sandford tragedy. I got a little note from him yesterday: “I worked with Mr Gaskell over thirty years, during that time he told of the drowning several times, not once did he, or any other local people who can remember the incident ever suggest it may have been suicide.”
NLD to SG 2/6/1976
The brothers. I can’t see much of a resemblance to anyone, but – especially when they were here the other day Mary found much of his father in Peter’s expressions and facial moments: he certainly is much closer to him mentally than his brothers are. You may be right about Rivvy being the most after the main chance: I certainly think him the only one even interested in money! (…)
SG to NLD 5/6/1976
Mark Oliver rang me to postpone our meeting as he’s got to go away for a couple of weeks. Will certainly give him your love when do see him. I had a very nice letter on Friday from – wait for it – Sir Thomas Buxton! Very interested, would be very willing to see us when he returned from holiday and suggested that we contact Rupert’s sister, his aunt, who may have known Michael or know if there are any letters in existence – that I shall certainly do so. He also asked if we have been in touch with Harold Peake, late of Lloyds Bank. Never heard of him – have you?
Did I imagine it, or did you once say that someone is doing a biography on Cannan; I rather think the subject came up at Easter? Do you happen to know who it is? Also, did Janet Dunbar ever mention to you where go the letters from Barrie to Mary Barrie and from Mary Barrie to Wells from? I’ve been in touch with Well’s son but he doesn’t know, even though he acknowledged in her book – presumably just permission quote what she had found.
NLD to SG 10/6/1976
(…) First, Harald Peake (two ‘a’s! i.e. HARALD). A nice chap, not that I KNOW him… same house at Eton, six months older than Michael, was head of Lloyds Bank, married to Dame Felicity etc. quite a nob, but very natural & nice. I would doubt he’s worth a follow up tho’ he certainly will have known Michael pretty well at Eton tho’ never I would say a close friend…
But in the course of a tele-talk yesterday with Peter, he mentioned my cousins Mary & Theodora. Have I never talked of them? (What a memory!) A truly splendid couple, but no chickens. Daughters of Uncle Maurice Ll.d. Very clever. Mary the elder, I would guess about 1892 (can’t remember if she was older than George or younger)… a first class Doctor, never married, very radical, as all the Llewelyn Davieses were – thought and thinks Winston Churchill the biggest rogue unhung! I adore her, so does my Mary! Sister Theodora, on the legal side, married a chap called Calvert who used to run the Harvard Penal Reform… anti-capital punishment. He’s been dead some time: and the two sisters have long lived together. I saw them once or twice when we were in Bedfordshire but now not for 10 years tho’ I think they’re alive! They certainly would have something to say about all of us tho’ I know not how much of vital interest. Possibly about George & Jack… tho’ they will know more of the much younger me, not only because they’ve seen me ‘lately’, but because I and G got to play cards with them in Campden Hill Square Days. If I haven’t mentioned them and you’d like to see them, they live in Cheltenham and I’ll drop them a line of introduction.
The chief think I’m waiting to talk now to Peter about is that he told me yesterday he was pretty certain his father had tipped out a lot of very Ll.D. stuff … dammit, I’ve discovered a good deal of such stuff upstairs! Maybe Peter’ll come down here tomorrow to pick it up: in any case I’ll ensure that you and Andrew see what you want to see. I doubt they’ll be much of Michael that’s of interest, but there are certainly things which should go into The Morgue if only as part of the Prologue as there are one or two cogent thoughts as Peter began to plan the Letters including draft of a letter to Jack and me. What you’ve started since your letter to Peter Davies Ltd!
I’m naturally much interested – and previously wholly ignorant – in Sir Thomas Buxton! Didn’t know there was a baronetcy and so on. Would be marvellous to get a line on Michael from that quarter. One of the things Peter will be taking away tomorrow is a most nice and interesting remark or two from his father about Rupert Buxton…
I’m sorry, I can’t remember who the lady was who wrote about the forthcoming book about Gilbert Cannan: nor can I remember what Janet Dunbar said.
I came upon some wonderful things in today’s rummaging… a splendid letter from Uncle Gerald du M at Harrow congratulating Mother on her engagement… JMB’s writing of Mother’s will – lots of Grandpapa G. du M’s writing etc. All goes off with Peter tomorrow.
SG to NLD 13/6/1976
We’d love to meet Theodora and Mary at some stage but at the moment I’m holding back arranging anything until I know just how much time Andrew is going to have to complete the scripts in. May I come back to you on that one when we have got ourselves organised and then I would be very grateful for a letter of introduction.
NLD to SG 17/6/1976
(…)I can’t get over my not having rammed Mary and Theodora down your throat from the start! And how it’s so long since I was in touch – 9 or 10 years ago! – that I can only hope they’re well and active. According to P’s (Peter’s wife) remarkable book of photos etc. Mary was born 1890, Theodora 1893 but her dates are largely inaccurate! I can’t think Theo is/was at an age with George. Anyway I’ll wait till you give me the green light… I shall envy you your visit to them considerably more than y our visit to Michael Asquith from whom I’d run miles! Still, it takes all sorts...
One thing recently has much fascinated me, tho’ I don’t think it will much interest either of you: one of Andrew’s kindly photographed and sent to me letters from JMB to George was July 1912 from Amhuinnsuidh in the Outer Hebrides to Eton, giving George (aged 19 for Heaven’s sake i.e. NOT a child) fullest instructions how to travel up. As I’m sure I’ve told you lots of times I returned to Amhuinnsuidh in 1962 – 50 years later – to find almost nothing changed and went up every year 1962-1974. And have naturally made considerable friends with factor, ghillies etc. So I wrote to the factor knowing he’d be much interested in the JMB plus so different 1912 travelling. In his reply he sent me a splendid copy of the 1912 lease when Uncle Jim took the place for as little as £500 from July 1 to Sept 15. Witnesses to Uncle Jim’s signature were Harley Granville Barker (playwriter and producer of outstanding distinction) and JMB’s beloved butler H.E. Brown (who used to call me Tuppence and who was with us at Amhuinnsuidh in 1912.) You can guess how delighted I am to have this old document!
SG to NLD 22/6/1976
(…)Apparently Peter is expecting to return to the States at the end of this week and Andrew and I hope to have a meeting with him before goes to finally sort out who’s attaching what first. (…)
I’ll let you know the state of play with the Morgue after our goodbye meeting with Peter and I’m sure we’ll talk it over in detail when I, hopefully, see you next. I’d also love to see the Amhuinnsuidh lease – I would have thought that £50 a week was quite a lot of money in 1912? (…)
NLD to SG 26/6/1976
(…)A quite different line from Jeanne du Maurier – did you meet her? The youngest of the three: “I have some fascinating drawings, either dry point or etchings, of Peter Pan characters i.e. Capt Hook, Starkie, Smee, Panther but I can’t make out who they are by. I found them in what was Daddy’s dressing table & is now mine. I found them ages ago of course but forgot about them. They say Trial Proof (but look finished) & initial looks like PGM in odd writing.”!! Looks like another photographic journey to Cornwall! Unless I can get her to send them up: I’d certainly love to see them, and have never heard of them. The chap who’d be really thrilled would be the mysterious Karl Emyrs!
SG to NLD 10/7/1976
(…) I had a very easy drive back and called in at Andrew’s with the box of treasures – we had a grand time sorting through it all. Especially pleased to find the original of the “George always” scrap of paper. There were no George letters in the box but the letter from you to George and the one from Michael to George were there. How’s the search for further material going – I wait with baited breath?! (…)
Yes please – could you be so kind as to write to Mary and Theodora and introduce us and ask if they would be kind enough to see us. Then, if the answer is in the affirmative, I’ll get in touch with them and arrange when we can visit.
NLD to SG 13/7/1976
(…) I’ve just written to Mary and Theodora and will let you know at once if , as and how I hear from them. It’s 8 years, I think, since I saw them and only trust they are alive and well enough… must be quite an age! With luck they’ll be thriving and will retain some of the very fine brains each had … if so, you’ll much like them both.(…)
As I said in my last line to Andrew I am hoping Peter took away those letters to George (tho’ I can’t understand why my own, and Michael’s, letters were among the things you took away.) Maybe I’m dreaming and I’ve only been reading the photographic copies … you will gather I’ve found nothing more and can’t think where to look! (…)
I’m sure enough, alas, that I won’t be accompanying you to Scotland much as I appreciate your suggestion and would have loved it. But it’s a 20-50 year old rush rather than a 70 year old crawl! But as and when you get nearer the trip let me know and I’d love to help map the journey if Barrie/Davies points of each are the major interest. The trouble with Amhuinnsuidh of course is the time & distance. You could/should include Dhivach, Scourie (alas the house is a wreck, even if that now!), Killiecrankie, Auch, Edgerston. What! In a week!!
SG to NLD 18/7/1976
(…) On the George letters – when we came down to see you at Easter you lent us the last letter from George at the front and couple from Barrie to George. Would these be the ones you thinking of or do you think you have more, other than the ones at Yale? Those originals of letters in the Morgue, the ones all so neatly and efficiently field in envelopes, are the ones dealing with Arthur’s illness and some from the engagement time. Do you think George’s original letters to Sylvia are still in existence?
Andrew has hired a viewer to look at the microfilm of the notebooks that Yale has sent us. They are full of gems. Janet Dunbar obviously had great trouble with his writing. (…)
NLD to SG 20/7/1976
Two things: one sad, one good: I’m afraid you’re going to be too late with Mary & Theodora; this morning I have a letter from Theodora’s daughter which says… “Your letter has been forwarded & in fact has arrived at time when Mary Ll.D. is not expected to live more than a few days. She has had a series of falls, sustained various broken bones & in addition to a bad heart is in hospital with pneumonia. A very distressing time I’m afraid. However Mother is being wonderful… our present plan is to take Mother back home with us to… Eastbourne. She is most interested in what you say and is wondering if – in a week or so – you might come over and spend the day with us to talk things over … she is so sad that this has come too late for Mary…
So. I’ll try to fix things some time – probably Sept. rather than Aug: go to Eastbourne to see Theodora. Can you & Andrew give me half-a-dozen or so specific questions to ask to see if (provided she’s willing) it could be worth a trip for your interview i.e. I would expect
SG TO NLD 24/7/1976
(…)I will certainly give thoughts to specific questions for Theodora but you know well the sort of things we are asking.
NLD to SG 28/7/1976
Today I have a letter from Theodora’s daughter which says “Mary still hangs on by a thread and has said she would like to be at home so Mother has gone back to make arrangements. The general feeling is that Mary will probably have a final heart attack in a matter of weeks – and this is she herself is hoping. All very sad.”
SG to NLD 3/8/1976
(…) Does the name Phyllis mean anything to you in connection with Barrie’s pre-Mary Ansell days? From the notebooks:
“Phyllis born afresh every morning – comes fresh from egg every morning. – Taking hold of me by button holes.”
“Love scene – man chaffing girl abt her books &c. (I Phyllis on sofa.)”
Perhaps the actress of Mackail’s pages 89, 111 & 119. Any mention ever made? If not, I think I might try tracing newspapers of that time to see who the leading ladies of possible play she might have seen at those times were. I’m fascinated. Also love playing detectives. There’s some very interesting material in the notebooks – as expected.
NLD to SG 10/8/1976
(…) Also said a little bit about Mary Ll.D. (Did you see that she had died? I’m sure a ‘release’ but poor devoted Theodora will be very lonely. I don’t know how long they’ve lived together … years & years: ever since Calvert’s death whenever that was.)
Meanwhile I’ve suddenly thought of another conceivable contact. Chiefly this would be from the angle of JMB’s charm of children. Name Lady Hermione Cobbold: age I think about a year less than my own: her brother Lord Knebworth was a very close friend of mine, I think he would have said I was his best friend at Eton and we lived together at Oxford. At which time his father Earl of Lytton was Governor of Bengal and Hermione was with her Father & Mother in India. Antony (Knebworth) and I used regularly to see First Performance of Peter Pan every year: JMB wrote the Introduction to best selling Antony which we published after Antony was killed flying. We were all close friends and knew him pretty well. Hermione couldn’t be nicer nor could her husband Kim Cobbold who was Governor of the Bank of England and either is or was Lord Chamberlain! (..)
Phyllis means, alas, nothing to me. (…)
NLD to SG 20/8/1976
It was so nice seeing you again yesterday …. I got a bit exhausted by the end – really because of all the ‘interlopers’ and their ceaseless gassing which tired out my emphysematic lungs! I’ve written separately to Andrew but to you I enclose these letters for you possibly to deliver – to Johnny McKay in Scourie (who may still be alive, with his brother Alec next door. Johnny used to be a ghillie, Alec used to drive the bus from Lairg and has for many years run a tiny shop there. I’m sure anyone such as the innkeeper will know of them)(…)
NLD to SG 25/8/1976
I’m naturally thrilled that, all being well, you’ll actually be at Amhuinnsuidh tomorrow week: (…)
At the hotel in Tarbert, ask to see the old Visitors’ Book, date 1912: July to Sept (I would guess July: you should see not only JMB’s signature, but those of Anthony Hope (probably adding Hawkins – which was his name!) and E.V. Lucas. I can’t remember why Uncle Jim spent the night there, perhaps to welcome the Hawkinses who I remember reached Amhuinnsuidh by yacht or some boat.
Just before you reach the Castle: or just after you leave it after lunch: you’ll see two little lochs – the Ladies Loch – on the right as you arrive, on the left as you leave: this where I caught my first salmon in Sep 1912! What happened was that, as usual, I was worm-fishing in the loch (or river as they now call it) with my old ghillie Donald, when the head keeper came up and said it was time Master Nico caught a salmon (it was about our last day): so up we three went to the loch, got into the boat, the head keeper cast, hooked a salmon very quickly, gave me the rod and after 8 jumps it was eventually netted to my supreme delight. Back I rushed to the castle and with my usual ‘What the Hell!’ I arranged – with Harry Brown and Mary Hodgson’s help no doubt – to have flags run up all masts and draping all windows so that the others then they got back from fishing that night they knew something sensational had happened. It weighed 5 ¾ pounds and Uncle Jim had a model made of it…
The castle is very large, with a number of unused rooms in certain quarters. Although I’m pretty certain that my old 1912 room(s) shared with Mary H & Michael are still in use called the Nursery Bedrooms, I can’t remember at all which was Uncle Jim’s room. I’ll tell you much more when we next meet.
The grass at present in front of the Castle… between castle & sea, has a tennis court and I can see George playing. I used to play a sort of cricket game further along the grass just short of the archway.
I wish I could remember how everyone went off fishing: I think it was all done on ponies but, as you will tell when you motor off to Mary Rose Island, it’s a pretty long pony ride! The day JMB, Mary H and I went to lunch (and discovered Mary Rose), we went up by pony traps.
As per my second Meccas – Scourie & Loch Stack! And all the other places, not forgetting Edgerston. When you leave Scotland and head South over Carter Bar, some ten miles over the border you come to Rochester: just before you come to the First Pub in England look right across the Rede and you’ll see a little house called EVISTONES. This was Mary’s home and for years was my No 1 Mecca, really.
NLD to SG 7/9/1976
I can hardly believe that you should be about reaching Nottingham i.e. on your last lap of this fantastic rush-around. As far as I can judge your successes have far outweighed any disappointments… needless to say I really LONG to hear every sort of detail and to try and guess your feelings for this place compared to that place. I’ve just completed a letter to Andrew and don’t want to repeat myself too much: doubtless he will show you my letter. (…)
I can’t get over your getting the Mearaig gate key! I wonder how wide your car was! The one thing I always refused to do was to drive a car up there except on the main road! I was put too often in the ditch by this chauffeur or that – chiefly my great friend Stan Talbot, I must admit – who always seemed to lean too much to the left! Alfred Hitchcock or his wife, I think, was another. I wonder how you crossed the top & bottom ends of Voshimid… probably the water was on the low tide. But that view from the Castle? Picture it more in early July, alive with leaping salmon and sea trout, waiting for the spates to take them up to spawn-land. And Scourie Lodge. And Shona. Tennis Court still there? Maybe I’ll have a photograph or two which will mean more to you now. Wonderful to have a whole month’s honeymoon on the island... Given us by Lady Howard de Walden, bless her. Then we had a fortnight in Scourie Lodge & then a fortnight (two months in all, as I left one job and entered another, each in the City) in Northumberland – at Evistones which you will have passed.
As for the MIDGES! I could kill myself for not thinking about them; I have here some American stuff which in the only thing I’ve ever seen work against them. You must have had windless days. But at least the clegs will have gone! I remember Peter and I fishing the North Lochs at Scourie all day: each one side of a loch: each consumed by midges: each, without signal, hurling rod to ground and rushing some 250 yards and 800 feet down into the sea!
SG to NLD 8/9/1976
The Return of the Wanderers: (…)
I think you are pretty well up to date with news as per the Postcard Progress Report System! Kirriemuir was (itself) as grim as ever, but Olga and Doreen at the Birthplace were very sweet, and we were taken out to dinner on the National Trust! They are both terribly interested in all the new information and had obviously been brushing-up their “Barrie” – they kept saying how this was all giving new life to the Birthplace etc. There was I having a marvellous and being labelled as some sort of Thrums Messiah to boot! Not sure if it’s a label I like – eventual crucifixions and all that!!
Poor old Kirriemuir couldn’t in any way compete with all those wonderful places that had gone before. I really can’t say which place I preferred – out of Eilean Shona, Amhuinnsuidh, Auch. Didn’t think much of Scourie itself (probably half-asleep!) but loved that area. I don’t know: the views from Shona; the “natural beauties” of Amhuinnsuidh; the shadow which still seems to hang over Auch… She waxeth lyrical, and it doesn’t suit.
NLD to SG 14/9/1976
(…) I’ll give you a couple of addresses etc which I shall shortly also be telling Andrew about... First Theodora: who I met with delight one day when you were in the Highlands: here I think and hope may be a bit of gold dust: she recalls her father (Maurice LL.D.) who married the year before my father saying ‘I knew something was up with Arthur, as he kept on singing (entirely out of tune, of course) “Who is Sylvia? What is she?”’ I love that. Also she has memories of George & Jack staying with them at Birkenhead as small boys. Theodora’s lot: brother Roland 1892 – killed 1915; Mary 1894; Theodora 1898. She’s very bright, was in the Law… Very happy to see you both, is at present trying to sort out certain things … lived for so long alone with her sister Mary and pretty lonely just now. But is going abroad with daughter. It will be OK to ring or write any time but don’t expect a visit until October… whatever she says of course, but I don’t she’ll be ‘ready’ till then.
Second Hermione Cobbold. Née Lytton. She writes, how glad she is that something is being done about presenting JMB to the public in a more real and sympathetic guise than he appeared in Janet Dunbar. She is doubtful how much she can help… “I remember JMB coming to Knebworth very often and contributing to after dinner games and I remember thrilling visits to his Box at the theatre – I’ve loved him because of his magic and because he had invented Peter Pan but my own personal contacts were shrouded in shyness… I have a quantity of letters from JMB to mother which I have not read or sorted… I will leave it to Andrew Birkin to get in touch with me. We shall be in America from middle of October to middle of November.”
(Her husband – Lord Cobbold – was the recent Lord Chamberlain: but, I faithfully promise you, neither Hermione or Kim have the faintest pomposity of ‘difficulty’: wholly delightful pair whom you will at once love.)
SG to NLD 20/9/1976
Firstly, is Hermione Cobbold the daughter of the Lady Lytton referred to in the 2nd Michael letter Andrew has just typed up? “I ran into Lady Lytton on Thursday – what a nasty shock. She was observed again today – but I was fortunate enough to evade her.” If so – why??!
Another idea which has struck us is trying to find out whether any of Roger Senhouse’s papers are still in existence – i.e. letters from Michael. I was going to write a general type letter to Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd. To see if anyone had a contact, but thought I’d check with you in case you could suggest a) anyone who you can think of who we ought to get in touch with as a direct Senhouse “next of kin”, or b) whether you have a name of anyone at MS&W who may be able to put us in touch.
I have started “revising for the finals” as it were – making notes on and rereading Lady C’s “Portrait of Barrie” was this weekend’s chore… yes, I know we’re back to the Dogsbody bit again, but I’m ignoring that!... One or two things struck me as points you might like to expand:
“He doesn’t gesticulate with is hands, but every now and again, as he talks, one black eyebrow shoots far up above the other”. Didn’t he ever use his hands when talking?
I like the idea of Barrie sometimes needing help to read his own writing – very heartening!
(p28) Raleigh: “We talked among many other things about murders”; then much later Cynthia mentions how Walter de la Mare loved talking about the latest murder. Do you, perchance, remember any discussion in particular, or any murder that Barrie was especially interested in?
Did Barrie or Michael ever talk to you about the reasons Michael had dissuaded Barrie from carrying on with “The Fight for Mr Lapraik” – I find the notebook notes on this, and Cynthia’s account, quite haunting.
(p 47) Any further stories of Mrs Stanley’s determination to tidy the flat?
Do you think “Mrs Grum” (pages 153, 159, 160) is Cynthia having a go at Barrie’s sister Maggie? Reminds very much of Cardus’s description of Maggie, and p. 160 would fit in with Janet Dunbar getting the idea from C’s notebooks that Maggie and Gerrie didn’t get on. What thinkest thou?
(p. 167). Barrie’s “rampant rat-complex” – any stories?
Who was Maurice Bridgeman please? Ought I to know?
When Barrie went out for dinner was there any special thing he liked to order? Was he fond of sweet dishes, did he like wine with a meal, had he a big appetite, did he eat only at mealtimes or did he like to eat between meals? You won’t believe it, but that started out as a very simple question!
NLD to SG 22/9/1976
Yes, Hermione is Pamela’s daughter: the latter almost as famous for her infidelities as she was for her quite exquisite beauty. All the family adored her. I too for that matter was devoted to her: and well remember that when Michael was drowned she was the first person to come round to the flat to sympathise not only with Uncle Jim, but with me. As for Michael’s ‘What a nasty shock’ this would be a mixture of a joke, a sequel to some form of cross-talk between him & Mary Hodgson about the hoity-toityness of the Peerage and a sort of irreversible cock-snook: not to be taken seriously at all. I think we first came in touch with the Lyttons when we went to Murren in the 1913/4 winter when I used to stumble around in the snow with Hermione while her older brother (who was to become my very great friend) was starting to become the expert skier he was soon to be.
For Roger Senhouse letters etc. tho’ I much doubt anything turning up now: I should write to David Farrer who, I think, is still at Secker & Warburg and say words to the effect ‘My friend Nico Davies suggests I write to you etc etc’… used to be a friend in my publishing days – in fact I asked him to join me! He will certainly help in anyway he can if you mention my name (and send him my love).
Portrait of Barrie. I agree with Cynthia: no hand gesticulation (or the minimum) and frequent cases of one black eyebrow shooting far above the other!
Alas, I can’t remember, about the returning of letters: I’m apt to presume we (Michael & I) kept all and brought them back at the end of each term * - which must be why I have the few which I handed to Andrew, having sold a few to Phyllis Calvert for Beineke and I expect destroyed the majority. But why JMB had them or wanted them I can’t guess … this was/would be much before Michael’s death… I don’t suppose there is anything of this in the later notebooks.
*to give to JMB!
Nor can I remember anything specific about murder talks. Always interested, yes, which has always stuck with me… got a vast collection of trials etc... and had forgotten that JMB planted this seed. But he always loved reading thrillers from E Phillips Oppenheim downwards and after tried to write a play or plays around the subject. Hence “The Fight for Mr Lapraick’ which Michael always condemned: several attempts were ‘read & rejected’ by Michael whose verdict was law. I never read one, I fancy. But Michael used to tell Uncle Jim he was no good on criminal subjects! Little realising the success he was later to have with ‘Shall We Join The Ladies’ – tho’ myself don’t believe that he would ever have finished it as he at one time intended.
I can’t add anything to dear old scruffy Mrs Stanley! Cynthia is very good on her. (And you know how tidy other parts of the flat could be from Neville Cardus! Scares me often realising how revoltingly untidy I should always have been till my Mary got hold of me and shook me about a bit!)
I’m floored about ‘Mrs Grum’! It could indeed be Maggie Winters from various angles, but I don’t see why Maggie should be so ‘disguised’ as (a) she’d died 18 years before the book was published, and no one was left to ‘object’ and (b) she appears two or three times elsewhere in the book. Nor can I see her trying to nail someone down early at breakfast! Conceivably Michael Asquith could help here. [Just seen p 158 allusions to Pamela & Hermione Lytton and Ant(h)ony – wrongly spelled & wrongly entered in index! Should be Viscount Knebworth … cock-snook!]
No recollection at all about Rat Complex!
Maurice Bridgeman. Close friend of mine at Eton. In all the Stanway cricket parties given for me. In one of the Barrie books – can’t remember which* - there is rather a nice little story about Maurice writing a bread and butter letter to JMB and asking me to report on JMB’s reactions. He has pretty well faded from my life now: a bit pompous, I fancy! Very distinguished SIR MAURICE, up till recently the boss of BP. I could tell you quite a bit about him but rather doubt that he’s worth a special visitation.** I think he’d have pretty nice things to say about Uncle Jim but his acquaintance was entirely in the 1921-1925 days, either Adelphi, Stanway or Eton. They were a clever family. All – father & three sons – Captains of the Oppidans at Eton: Maurice also Capt of Eleven at Cricket: but he stayed on a year too long … ought to have left when I did!
*Letters, p100. The long para.
** Don’t’ have his address but certain to be in Who’s Who.
I would say Uncle Jim was a small-appetite man and apt to prefer the simplest dishes tho’ always apt to see that I got what I wanted when we dined out and would usually join me… says Eggs Washington, Minute Steak and Pot au Crème Chocolat! He’d like a glass of claret at home: can’t remember, but pretty certain he’d have half a bottle of (generally St Julien) at restaurant. His cocktail – if he had one – would always be a BRONX. Maybe because he liked rolling the ‘R’ about. I regard him as strictly only a meal time eater, tho’ he wouldn’t say No to a sweetie.
SG to NLD 27/9/1976
In all our Highlands talk there was no chance to tell you the one piece of news I’ve had this week: that was a telephone call on Saturday morning from Sir Thomas Buxton who had just returned from holiday. (…) He seemed a very nice man. He suggested I wrote to his aunt who was Rupert’s sister and sent a copy of the letter to him so that he could visit her and have a chat about it before we visit her, as he says her memory of the present is very prone to wandering though he thinks she should be pretty lucid about the past. I took the plunge and gently mentioned that it had been mentioned, though going through the reports of the inquest it now seems unlikely, that Michael’s death may have been suicide and the thought had crossed the minds of some of the Llewelyn Davies family. He said that he thought talk of suicide rang a vague bell and thought that his aunt had mentioned it in connection with Rupert’s drowning not to him, but to his own sister. He said he would be most interested to see my notes on the inquest reports and I’m going to send him a copy of the “notes” themselves, not my thoughts on them! Logic tells me that it was all an accident but emotion is not convinced. There’s just something in the reports that doesn’t quite seem right and I can’t for the life work out what it is. So I’m following the Buxton trail! Andrew thinks that it’s a wish to romanticise rather than instinct that draws me towards other conclusions but, in all honesty, I don’t think I agree with that. But we’ll never know… it will be interesting to hear the Buxton views though, if we do that is.
NLD to SG 2/10/1976
(…) Your Buxton move is greatly interesting. So far as I am certainly ‘aware’ I have all the time thought of the suicide possibility: I have no recollection of any of the rest of us really thinking anything but an accident. In my funny beliefs etc I’m apt to say, and think, I hope it was suicide as I’d rather it was his own fault so to speak than cruel FATE. People feel very differently, probably the majority shy far away from suicide. I had a solid disagreement with Jacques (Peter’s brother in law) at the Coroner’s Inquest: when I went into the box Jacques had begged me to say words to the effect that I thought it was an accident that Peter fell in front of the train: I had no such intention and come entirely on the side of suicide etc. Gloomy as the subject is, it’s apt to be absorbing; I’ve known a considerable number of ‘certainties’ and (my make-up, perhaps) always sympathised and don’t personally believe (as I think Mary does) that at the moment the person must be somewhat deranged or ‘off his head’… there will usually I think be ‘reasons’. One, only during the last two weeks: husband of Georgette Heyer: I disliked him! I’ve no idea whether his ‘reason’ was financial, health, or loneliness, but I’d be convinced that it was after (long?) thought and reasoned thought. Right or wrong, I’m not competent to judge. Have you read, or even seen Outward Bound by Sutton Vane? A marvellous play. Uncle Jim said to me more than once how he wished he’d thought of the idea. JMB’s play would have been very different but I wouldn’t guarantee it would have been any better. It’s one of my favourite plays … seen and read many times.
SG to NLD 6/10/1976
(…) I shall definitely read “Outward Bound”. Agree wholeheartedly with your view on suicide. I know it’s a case of supposition on supposition but what ‘reasons’ do you think Michael could have had? I wouldn’t have thought that a homosexual phase would have been reason enough, not really reason at all. I personally would have put more emphasis on the time aspect – that he had spent so long at Eton expecting to be called up, expecting to very likely die. Reprieve at the eleventh hour and the awful question of ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ suddenly there, without warning because it had been pointless to think of it before. Uncertain about Oxford … what is the point etc... not as easy to shine as it had been at Eton … Buxton perhaps feeling the same dissatisfaction with everything. But somehow it still doesn’t seem enough. Not that I believe the ‘reason’ has to be black and white. I would think a grey sort of instinct was as potent as any logic. It will be interesting to hear any new light from the Buxton side – haven’t heard a word yet.
(…) You said that it was inconceivable to you that Roger Senhouse should never have spoken to you about Rupert if there had been anything in Boothby’s comments. Did you ever mention to Senhouse that you thought that Michael’s death might have been suicide? If he had considered that possibility do you think he would have mentioned it to you?
Pauline Chase – I got the impression that Barrie saw quite a lot of her (for him) socially as well as to do with the play of the moment. When Barrie was with her, or other actresses who were also friends, was there a tendency to immediately talk about the stage, was there a conscious effort on either side not to, or was the talk ‘naturally’ balanced. Did Barrie enjoy talking about work when he was supposedly relaxing or did he prefer not to?
SG to NLD 11/10/1976
Very much agree with your suicide thoughts. You might be interested, if I haven’t already mentioned it, in Seb Earl’s views on Marjoribanks suicide – he said that he had committed suicide partly because of an unhappy love life but also, in Earl’s view, because he had been overworking his brain, because of his fear of the madness that ran in his family (his father was “as mad as a kipper” and had bought a £11,000 suit of solid gold armour to go to a fancy dress party in Paris), and because of the effects of the sylph that he had been taking to reduce his weight. Much the same thoughts as your own. (…)
How did Barrie address Cynthia Asquith? Presumably he himself called her Cynthia but when he was talking to you about her would it be: Cynthia. Lady Asquith, Lady Cynthia, ?
I’ve had a very helpful note from David Farrer giving me the address of Roger Senhouse’s nephew, but saying: “Roger Senhouse never appointed a literary executor, and before his friends, including myself, were aware of it his two nephews, who were his executors, had destroyed a large amount of correspondence which should most certainly have been preserved. I did read I think all the letters that they did not destroy, and I cannot recall there were any between roger and Michael Davies.”
On Audrey Lucas – the last address I had for her from, I think, Joan Waldegrave was one in Cambridge. I wrote to the Occupier some time ago to see if they had an address for her next of kin but have heard nothing. I believe that Audrey died in Scotland – have you perchance a later, or even a different, address I could try? I’ve also got the Executors reference number for the Mackail Estate (Barclays Bank) so I’ll try that also… and so it will go on.
NLD to SG 16/10/1976
(…) I was much entertained by ‘mad as a kipper’ from Seb: and the fantastic idea of the 11 thousand cost of the solid gold armour. (Of course a kipper can never be ‘mad’ – it’s always cured – apart from never being alive!) I used to know about ‘Clarence’s’ girl… I fancy her name was Pamela Beckett, didn’t like her too much myself. I never forget sitting next to Clarence [Marjoribanks], who could be pretty pompous on occasion, when he said “I wonder if you’ve met a friend of mine, a Miss June?” she being a very well-known and very attractive musical actress, and known to everyone as simply JUNE! Married Lord Inverclyde.
I guess Uncle Jim ALWAYS called her Lady Cynthia to me: as I always did to herself. I don’t at all mind talking about her: used to be very fond of her and grateful to her: I think she was a bitch but I think she had as much charm as anyone I’ve ever met. I couldn’t bring myself to continue smiling in her direction as she removed all my future loot but I never really disliked her as I came to dislike her two so-called normal sons. I’d cross the street to avoid either of them, I believed I’d cross the street tomorrow to say Hello to Lady C! Likewise I think Uncle Jim would always say Lady Mary (Strickland) while I did call her Mary in due course.
Audrey Lucas moved up to - and in fact died at – Ness House, Fortrose, Rossshire tho’ I don’t expect you’ll find too much trail to follow there. I’m pretty sure she did have a daughter (illegit, I think, the father being an actor called Harold Scott … but I could be wrong on many accounts!) There again you could try Collins who used to publish her, but that was years ago. I fancy they sold a good many copies of a novel of hers called Old Motley.
Bad luck, via nice David Farrer: I have little doubt Roger would have torn up Michael’s letters, not that they’d have been all that number. Well, who knows!
Believe it or not when my daughter Laura comes down next to say for a night or two – next week, I’m pretty sure – she’s bringing a great friend who wants to write a life of George du Maurier!! When will they ever leave me alone?! At this stage, of course, I don’t know what her wishes/intentions are, but I should have thought the glorious G du M had been pretty thoroughly written off at this moment in time!
SG to NLD 21/10/1976
(…) I’ll certainly try and get an Andrey lead, you never know, though I agree a “find” is unlikely.
(…) I’ve been talking to one of the Eton masters we met when we visited Eton – asking him things that came from Andrews thoughts on the George sitting the scholarship scenes. He was most helpful & then said, “of course there is someone you ought to talk to who was in the very same election as George in 1906 and is always very willing to talk about Eton – Harold Macmillan! “Did you know? It would be fun to meet him – though I should think he’s got too many thoughts on his mind just at this moment?! Andrew was very interested when I told him & I pointed out that we weren’t visiting new people until he’d met, or was obviously going to meet, deadlines. He thought he might make an exception!!
A very small and trivial point but were you ever aware of Barrie ever having shown a passing interest in Pitmans shorthand? It’s just that in the notebooks he frequently uses a couple of signs for things [which are similar to Pitmans signs].
I think it’s probably something he picked up from journalist writers, taking the short form, as well as he remembered it! (…)
NLD to SG 17/10/1976
(…) As I’ve just said in a letter to the General, I’m all confused about George sitting for a scholarship at Eton! And particularly now, with Harold Macmillan – a year young than George, but obviously much better at his books as he whizzed into College: whizzing out again after about three years so that I’d lay pretty long odds against him knowing anything at all of George who blossomed at Eton surely after Harold had left.
I can’t at all vouch that JMB was interested in Pitman’s shorthand: yet it does ring a very faint bell, and – provided some friend started talking about it and showed him this and that – it’s just the sort of think he’d have a dab or two at! More, perhaps, making a game of it than working on it to help his speed.
SG to NLD 31/10/1976
(…) I took a day off ATV on Friday and went to the newspaper library at Colindale to read up the 1908 censorship business. I also tried to get a lead on Mary Ansell, as to who would have inherited her papers. No luck I’m afraid. In the death column of the times was “Cannan – on June 30 1950, at her villa in Biarritz, France, Mary Cannan, widow of Gilbert Cannan.”
In the Stage she wasn’t in the deaths column but, a rather nasty summing up I think!, in the “Chit Chat” column: “Mrs Gilbert Cannan, former wife of J M Barrie, has died in Biarritz. She married Barrie in 1894, but he obtained a divorce 15 years later, when she married Gilbert Cannan, dramatic critic and novelist.” So much for Mary Ansell, former actress and novelist … or even Mary!
So I draw a blank there. Secker & Warburg published Cannan, didn’t they? Do you think the nice David Farrer might possibly be able to put me in touch with any Cannan relatives? I suppose it’s worth a try.
On the George du Maurier aspect – I think I’m right in saying that Peter has great interest in him. Andrew can tell you better than I, but I have it at the back of my mind that Peter was interested in following that line at some stage. My immediate reaction to anyone being interested in “the story” is join the club, the more the merrier – I hope I don’t live to regret my standard open-house policy, I doubt it. We’ll have to start Olga Bennell on Friends of Barrie & Co club at Kirriemuir!!! (…)
I too am confused about the George scholarship thing but have found a nice man at Eton who’s gone away to look up all the lists etc. And promises faithfully to sort it all out – I hope.
NLD to SG 4/11/1976
I’m enclosing a letter from great friend Peter Bull … actor, author, very funny man: I had quite forgotten – if I ever knew! – that he was an old Norlander. I’ve answered him that I personally haven’t a clue, but that you and Andrew head been at the Centenary and had taken pictures etc and that it was just conceivable you had (a) photographed pictures out of the album to which he refers (b) recorded the name of the sender; I’ve told him I’m forwarding his letter on to you and that he will be hearing from you tho I must expect the answer to be negative. Will you kindly either write or ring him. Strangely enough I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of Peter at Norland Place – or Michael! I expect they’re thinking of George & Jack!
And many thanks for your letter. Haven’t written yet this week to Andrew! He’s more or less next on the agenda. All such epistolary concern is much easier for retired me than for you hard-working two: tho’ the mainspring, I suppose, is concerned with who likes writing letters or who hates it: sharp division (for once!) between Mary & me. Nor can I really believe my one addiction springs from the every day job to JMB.
It looks as if poor Mary Cannan is slipping away, unless you know how to trace who has been writing a book about Gilbert: who wrote to me about a year or more ago and whose name I can’t remotely recall. No: Secker & Warburg had nothing to do with Gilbert: this was the splendid publisher Martin Secker whose name the revolting Fred Warburg bought and ‘took over’ when Fred & Roger Senhouse started S&W. I think Secker died recently: my latest Who’s Who (1963) says he was born in 1882… includes “published early work of Compton Mackenzie, Hugh Walpole, Norman Douglas, Frank Swinnerton, Gilbert Cannan, Francis Brett Young, Ivor Brown, Arthur Ransome, Viola Meynell and others and the later works of D H Lawrence from 1921 until his death in 1930; business reconstructed under style of Martin Secker & Warburg 1935; severed his connection therewith 1937”. He used, later, to run a bookshop and when I called there and introduced myself and asked who he thought was the best of all his great authors, he said ‘Gilbert Cannan’. [I much doubt that David Farrer would have a clue.]
As I said to Andrew in some letter the other day I’m coming to the realisation that George must have had a shot at an Eton Scholarship if there is evidence that he sat at Eton rather than at his preparatory school. It now seems clear to me he must have sat at the same time as the year young Harold Macmillan who got through the paper and went to Eton in 1906 at 12 ½, while George followed in 1907 aged 14 as an Oppidan to Hugh Macnaghten’s house having presumably done a Common Entrance Examination at Berkhamsted.
George du Maurier! I quake a good deal at the prospect of Andrew and/or you having a talk with Rosalind Denison … Andrew has told her of Peter’s interest (of which I hadn’t heard). Rosalind is truly nice and kind but she is/has been going through difficulties of some sort and her flow of the gab puts Niagara and Victoria into a child’s bucket. Maybe she could ‘join the club’ and might indeed be a help but unless and until she finds something of a tranquilising effect from here or there she may be exhausting!
SG to NLD 9/11/1976
(…) Peter has arrived safely, haven’t seen him yet but when Andrew just rang they had spoken and Peter was expected at Andrew’s any moment. So we shall be having a few good Morgue sessions this week. Peter returns to the States next Monday and Andrew is due to go to Los Angeles. (...)
In fact I didn’t get to visit Norland Place, Andrew went alone, so I have passed the Petr Bull letter on to him and he’s going to give him a ring. Peter B. is a friend of Andrew’s mother, by the way. It’s a small world.
I had a very interesting letter from one of Roger Senhouse’s nephews:
‘The only thing I’ve found is a sheet of typed journal which my uncle Roger Senhouse used to write spasmodically. This one, written in 1967 goes back to his Eton days when he was 17 and obviously deeply impressed by Michael. I quote, “This led to my taking Extra Books in Trials as a matter of loyalty to him (Hugh Macnaghten his tutor). I suppose, now, in an attempt to keep some sort of pace with Michael Ll.D. The one profound influence in my life from the moment of our first meeting in his room 2 doors down from the baize swing-door through to m’Tutors study and private part of the house.”
‘Later – “H.M. (Hugh Macnaghten) has been quick to observe the fantastic influence that genius (Michael) had over me, because he was slightly jealous, almost worshiping him & always encouraging me to prevail upon him when depressed “because I know how very close you are to him”. He even told JMB who came so regularly to visit Michael, bringing him the most delicious chocolate cakes, homemade, so of course I was delighted to mess with M--- that’s enough for the moment; I’m merely seeking early influences & what I must have derived from them. Emotionally I became so wrapped up in M, that I faltered, soon I began to fail in concentration on my work, believing things would come as easily to me as to M, concentrating my energies in trying to please him, my mentor, tho’ 1 year younger.
NLD to SG 13/11/1976
(…) I had no idea Peter was on any Atlantic move: I wonder if he’ll give us a telephone blow… probably not, and there’s nobody I know who is as antiphone as I am! But – clearing through letters after lunch today - I was re-reading my last from Peter in New Jersey which is so good as to make whole SCRIBOSEMA (!) worthwhile. I hope so much things will thrive for him.
Meantime and so on, I’ve twice read Andrew’s Part 2 and think very highly: you’ll probably have heard… I started by being worried chiefly about the censorship thing (second reading ‘satisfying’ me and now no worries) and secondly about the Caux billiards/slosh(?) (still not quite ‘happy’) but in all that truly matters I think he’s doing a wonderful job. It looks as if his definitely working now on a 3 part showing – 80 minutes each? – but doubtless this is one of the things which can/will only be settled after the BAC bosses have read and digested. I await, with naturally increasing interest, the moment that serious discussions start as to who should play Sylvia. I agree that I come out best of the 5! Andrew has kindly put quite a few things into my mouth… the least ‘kindly’ treated seems to be Peter who’s only allowed to catch a roach on a pin and to snaffle some of mother’s Egyptian cigarettes! Perhaps he’ll get a better break in Part 3, not that there’s anything remotely serious in these last comments.
I was, as you guessed I would be, particularly interested in your Roger Senhouse para. (How much I remember that Green Baize Door! Through which I went, as I have told Andrew, on my first Eton Sunday – summoned by m’tutor to be told something of the facts of life, and delighting him by telling him how mistaken he was about the whole thing! “Of course boys don’t behave like that, sir!”)
It’s very sad that Roger isn’t still alive: most attractive chap, anyway, but he’d have been such a good Michael Source. I think I still await from you any Buxton, Cobbold, Theodora news? Even Michael Asquith if you think so!
I gather from Peter Bull that he had been silly writing to me … he was trying for Andrew to find the Norland Place picture-lender! However, it pleased me just to get in touch with PB again. A strangely endearing ‘monster’! And fancy his being a friend of Andrew’s mother… as you say, a small world. We used to publish Peter’s books – and most had some splendid & funny moments. We broke apart (publishing-wise) when I failed to agree with his enthusiasm for a book all about Teddy bears. Apparently a big success in America (would be?) but whoever the English publisher was who took it on, I think he probably regretted it. Now, so far as I can make out, most of Peter’s activities are centred round his shop. Have you seen it? I don’t really know what strange things are therein.
SG to NLD 17/11/1976
(…) Have just had a phone call from Roger Senhouse’s nephew! Not sure quite why he rang, oh yes a book he thinks his aunt has with an article by Hugh Macnaghten in, but a very nice man and we’ve had a long talk. He’ll see if he can find anything else about Michael in any of Roger’s notebooks. He’s obviously interested, which is very nice. Does the name Barbara Bagenal mean anything to you? Lives in Rye, Bloomsbury group, and was a bit of a raver by all accounts!!! I don’t how we got on to that either!
Theodora we hope to see soon after the Return of the General. Cobbold is something I’m glad you reminded me about – I’ll have to check through my complex filing system (i.e. look under the carpet) to see what the state of play is. I rather suspect A. might have been writing, or perhaps we were waiting to see how the land looked with the script writing before planning further expeditions – I’ll certainly have to check that one. Buxton I seem to have lost touch with after my very interesting conversation on suicide thoughts – I’m not quite sure what that means. I sent the notes Sir. T. wanted to the address he had written from before, got them sent back as he’d moved, and the present owners have just replied to my letter to them to say they have no forwarding address. I shall resort to Who’s Who again and send a note to his club or something like that. His aunt hasn’t answered my letter either. Michael Asquith – last wrote to me from Spain, where his wife was convalescing. Should be back in England soon and I expect him to write when he’s settled in. Andrew has spoken to the agent for the estate and seems to be on good terms there so far. She’s trying to get in touch with Michael Asquith as well. (…)
NLD to SG 24/11/1976
(…) This year between the three of us – which (a) seems so much longer and (b) has gone rushing by: it must be given to few to have such entirely welcome inroads late on in their life as the incursion of General A. Birkin and Aide-de-Camp (better than Dogsbody?) S. Goode: if I wish that I was as fit as I was in Spring 1974 I still have as many brain (?!) tickers over as before and I can truly appreciate how lucky I am to have met – and obviously clicked with – you and Andrew. Between you, you have brought so very many happy memories swimming back. I’m not, as a rule ‘good’ with younger generations – tho’ all children seem to get on with me… if not I with them! – but you and Andrew tho’ a good deal younger than Laura (whom I so much wish you had both met … you will!) seemed to fit in, from the moment you first drop in (T.shirt “To die will be an awfully big adventure”), to a sort of click-sentence without colon or even semi-colon! Thank you.
As for Andrew and the States … if he ever got there malgré, or in spite of, such as Bardot, Birdot and Boredot, I have yet to learn.. he keeps on submerging me in wonderful presents. To me much of him is mystery! Obviously wonderful ‘gifts’ i.e. brain, personality, niceness, but strangely ‘backward’ e.g. spelling, knowledge of certain words which are natural to me as ‘chaff’, ‘spoon’ etc. etc. Maybe he’s just like Winston Churchill e.g. the greatest, but an Old Harrovian! How long he is to be in America I don’t know… I shall be owing him a long letter, including – the Lord help me! – a stab at re-writing billiards scene at Caux. What – as I must have said to you both many times – continues to surprise if not baffle me, is why you or anybody should be as interested as you are in my family. I imagine it must be at least 75% Peter Pan. Of course I am ? of the 5 brothers – none of whom was destined to make a name in the world but what so hooked Andrew and you is hard to fathom.
Nice to hear of the niceness of Roger’s nephew. Name? Barbara Bagenal, I’m pretty sure, has never been a name to me. (You’ll probably be able to prove I used to date her in 1909!) I can’t guess who could and who couldn’t ‘help’ you, in which script or book… I would guess any meeting with Michael Asquith will be more for squaring permissions/royalties etc than for writing copy – as even Cynthia didn’t play a worthwhile part till she became Leading Lady after the drowning. Hermione Cobbold/Pamela Lytton could produce a line. Theodora more so. And I suppose Buxtons more so. Tho’ I expect Andrew has 95% of what he could get, when old letters of Michael surface.
SG to NLD 28/11/1976
What hooked me about the Barrie/LL. Davies story is hard to define. P. Pan was the starting point, but I wouldn’t say it was the reason. Andrew’s initial enthusiasm certainly had a good deal to do with my initial enthusiasm but then my first notes for him were to make him read more and go into it deeply. It began to appeal rather like a large jig-saw puzzle – the first pieces, especially the Dedication to P. Pan, were beautiful, or showed promise of great beauty so that I wanted to go on finding more pieces, fitting together a wider and wider perspective of the picture. The fact that people are still alive who have first hand knowledge of the story, undiscovered letters etc., means that there is no fixed boundary of knowledge, no end in sight, which I rather like. We can take it just as far as we want because there always seems to be another contact, another angle. Yet from the beginning we had a pretty good outline of the story from Dunbar/Dedication so were never working in the dark – everything related to something else. I don’t think I’ve explained it at all … but maybe I just can’t!
I appeal for help! I have been typing up the JMB to George letters so that we can see the additional possible Morgue material. Andrew gave you a copy of all of these, didn’t he? Can I bother you to go through them looking at the words we are unsure of/can’t read? Also, in the letter of June 3 1912, which is included in the Morgue, Peter has transcribed a phrase on the 3rd page as “Roosevelt’s mother” – I would have read it as “Roosevelt’s motto” – what thinkest thou? (…)
P.S. Roger’s nephew is called Jeremy Clutterbuck.
NLD to SG 3/12/1976
(…) On a couple of separate pages I’ve tried to answer your deciphering queries: one or two definite helps, one or two guesses, one or two mysteries. As you will find my own chief ‘mystery’ is concerned with the letter of 19 may 1913 (something strange about that date, what with Michael’s death, Hilary’s birth, and now Vera Rook’s disappearance!) Andrew may know an immediate answer, but I’ve ‘lent’ so many things of such a variety of sorts to both Andrew and young Peter that I don’t know where anything is! I’m not remotely worried about either seeing or not seeing the bulk of them tho’ there is a photograph of myself aged about 4 or 5 – studio job – which I’d quite like back on your next trip! But ‘not to worry at all’.
I’m particularly ‘intrigued’ by the name of Roger’s nephew. Because Clutterbuck was the name of another exact contemporary of Michael’s and Roger’s at Macnaghten’s house… I must guess that he married Roger’s sister, and it’s strange if I never heard of it… maybe I did and forgot. Ask Jeremy if his dad was a Macnaghten’s.
QUERIES ON JMB LETTERS TO G.Ll.D
SG TO NLD 7/12/1976
(…) I can solve the Vera Rook puzzle – Andrew forgot to photocopy it with the others when he originally photocopied the Yale letters. I remember now that I got a photocopy at a later stage and we’d forgotten that your set wouldn’t have had it in. I’ll get a photocopy of my copy done tomorrow and hopefully enclose it in this letter. (…)
I’ll certainly ask Jeremy Clutterbuck about Macnaghten’s – I think he said his uncle was, which could well be the connection.
I had a letter from Mary Ryde – Denis Mackail’s daughter, who remembers Barrie well she says. She thinks she has the original manuscript of Denis’s uncut book (where we were asking about) in a trunk of papers in a bank but she and her sister feel they can’t face any decision about letting people read it at the moment/sorting through papers etc. She’d be pleased to help in any other way and I think she may well be worth a visit when sir finishes gallivanting around the States! I’ll add her to the list. Do you know her?
NLD to SG 9/12/1976
Thanks to the specially photocopied Vera Rook letter which from some ways deepens my own mystery: in other words I can’t remember having seen it before… anyway she’s not Vera Rook at all!
Your earlier numbering:
19 May 1913 ‘You should go to see MISS IRENE ROOKE at Cambridge Theatre. “NAN” if she does it.’ [My Who’s Who in the Theatre – Vol 8 – is the clue. Irene Rooke had a long and distinguished career, including Quality Street and Nan (by Masefield)
Alas, I’m stumped over the P.S. I’m sure enough it’s NOT Guardian. I’m inclined to think it’s some ephemeral newspaper of the period and I’m inclined to invest about 6d on GENTLEMEN (except that I can’t find an ‘L”… it looks like Gentlemen, it could be the name of a shortlived periodical, and would certainly merit JMB closing exclamation mark!!) I realise the G in the possible Gentlemen is quite different from the G in George but Uncle Jim is/was never regular in his calligraphy.
I now see that your 12/13 (undated) are NOT in above letter which I had taken for granted, but are in 6 June 1913. Pretty sure it is “I am very interested to hear the result of the MAYS” – these would be MAY examinations… sentence immediately following is about George’s work, and it is 6thJune as he writes: yes – MAYS. As far as I can tell, you’re right about the next part i.e. your 13. The first two lines are clear: then with only a full stop he switches from George at the A.D.C. to his own baronetcy! And, as the date of the letter is 6 June, and as his baronetcy (see Mackail p 453) doesn’t appear in the press till 14 June, Uncle Jim has been sinning against the Holy Ghost! (At least nowadays à la John Mills who lost his knighthood years ago by letting the news out ahead…) It would appear that Peter & Michael had been saying such things as what do you think is going to happen to Uncle Jim very soon? Brown guessed the King will be making him a Baronet or something… George apparently already knows. (All I was told, at 23, and I fancy Brown was there, was “See what in the papers tomorrow” and I well remember Mary Hodgson’s and my own thrill!)
(…)I was greatly interested in Mary Ryde’s belief that, stacked away in some trunk, is Denis’ original typescript if not manuscript: my memory is a 50% cut, probably more like 20%, but I’d love to see what we said had to go. Poor Denis! He really did think the Hand of God was poised over his head – not to bless but to pound down.. and really did think JMB’s curse on any biography fell on him. I can’t remember meeting (probably did, more than once) daughter Mary. It would be wonderful if somehow, some time the old original resurfaces.
NLD to SG 18/12/1976
(…) The only non-sense part of your letter concerns the ridiculous ‘project’… the answer to the (you say) ‘eternal’ question Was Barrie a homosexual. There is something rotten in the state of the world at this moment… very likely at recurring moments … everyone who anyone has heard of – from Jesus Christ downwards is suspected of being either a homosexual or a compulsive copulatory: entirely dispenses with the obvious fact that there are a vast number who are neither the one nor the other: call them neutrals or nulli-sexuals whatever you like. If there’s one person in the world who could tell you whether or no JMB was a homosexual his name is N. Davies. Why? Because I’m a homo (which means ‘same’!), I lived alone with JMB between the ages of 17 and 22, knew quite a lot about homosexuals and these are maybe the most perceptive years. I’ve told you before that one of my favourite stories is of a girl-friend of Peter’s telling the latter show she was at a literary party where the conversation (as always, God help me!) turned to how many homosexuals there were in the literary world. “Who, for instance?” “Well, look at Barrie!”. “Good Lord, not him?” “Heavens yes, haven’t you heard about him and his five wards?” Poor, dear Uncle Jim. He didn’t know such a thing existed… no one would write Peter Pan except a neuter-genius! When he and I were discussing who should play King Saul in The Boy David I begged him to choose John Gielgud. “They tell me he’s too effeminate” was his answer, which was the nearest he ever came to thinking along these lines. So the part went to Godfrey Tearle who I loved dearly, and who was for long a great Barrie actor.
Did I tell you two of my favourite anecdotes – forgive me if I have ... To show something of my knowledge of the subject: each concerned Godfrey Winn. I went to dinner with him once, alone in his Ebury Street flat. His manservant showed me into a room, very comfortable, and said Mr Winn would not be long: I was sitting, drinking a sherry or something when a door burst open and out of the bathroom emerged Godfrey who threw back his dressing gown revealing his beautiful body and breathed, ‘NICO!’ and his eyes filled with tears as he realised I wasn’t remotely interested. The better story is when he asked me to second him for the Garrick Club… “Seymour (Hicks) will put me up. Will you second me, Nico?” “Well, yes if you like of course I will, Godfrey; but you haven’t a chance of getting in.” “Why not? Because I’m a pansy?” “Well, yes!” “Oh (eyes welling with tears) it’s so unfair! Beverly’s a member.
In fact I’m apt to prefer homos to heteros! Of course there are homos & homos – foul and charming. I loved Ivor Novello’s: pretty well everyone did. I was devoted to my secretary who was a queen Lesbian – had her silver wedding to her girlfriend. I do know about ‘them’. Please put that eternal question into your ‘solved’ tray.
I’m much interested in your remarks about Mary Ryde, and indeed of the possibility of getting hold of an uncut ts. of The Story of JMB. Yes indeed, Denis’s wife, Diana, was nuts about Jack & I think had quite something with him before her married days i.e. when she was Miss Diana Granet.
SG to NLD 28/12/1976
Apologies if my remarks about any “project” were confusing! I would stress again that Andrew and I are sure that Barrie was not homosexual. The ‘eternal’ question is not one in our minds, but one in the minds of many people when we talk about the “story” (rotten world!). (…)
I would agree with you that Peter Pan was written by a neuter-genius… I have also heard an, I’m sure homosexual, view that Peter Pan is a homosexual’s dream. There was evidence of a sort in Storr’s book [Anthony Storr’s “Sexual Deviation”] to back this up: “The essential feature of male homosexuality is the persistent adoration of the masculine rather than the feminine. It is the emotional attitude of the boy who looks up to men but cannot feel himself yet to be one of them”. Against this I would argue that the fact that “The Boy who Wouldn’t/Couldn’t Grow Up” theme is a trait of homosexuality does not mean that homosexuality is a theme of “Peter Pan”!
NLD to SG 4/1/1977
(…) How much of my ‘angle’ on all this is to do with my age, how much idleness i.e. we’re never to ponder much on the hows & whys, I don’t know: I’m not criticising you – as a researcher & with your youth, it’s ‘right’ that you should explore every avenue. But as I said in my last letter, I think, it does seem to me that nowadays infinitely more people spend a lot of time and thought etc working out whether St Paul or Rupert Brooke or Duse or Guy Fawkes was sexually inclined in one or other direction than used to be the case. Of course one can argue from any standpoint and I suppose it must be admitted – if only because without some stirring of sex none of this would start off! – there must be an interest in the subject. It’s just that, to me, there’s far too much. (…) Any future writer of the Life of Nico Davies could spend happy months working out how much of a caninosexual I used to be from roughly 1909 to 1977 as I would certainly say I’m fonder of dogs than I am of people!
My own view – I’m sure as correct as it is uninteresting is that the majority of people are ‘normal’: in other words not strongly interested in sex… not meaning ‘neuter’ who I’d put in a special class but, shall we say ?!, more interested in football or knitting than they are in jumping into bed or on to floor! So that, cutting back to Sir Jazz Band Barrie, much as he loved all of us five so-called males, what gave his ‘release’ from the cares of the world was his seeing our gaiety and engagement either playing games, seeing theatres, reading books etc; not for one split minute did sex rear its (epithet) head! We all ‘now’ – through media and general gossip – that the Burtons/Casanovas, Wildes/Maughams of this world exist or have existed but for every Burton etc there are 999 ‘normals’ so whatever your outrageously homosexual friend my think – and I’m sure that if you are fond of him that I should much like him – Barrie was as homosexual as a bun without currants! Anyone, from Storr sideways can work out theories that, shall we say, to be or not to be is particularly concerned with homosexuality, but to me the whole gamut is a pile of stollocks – which is my word in stereo – bollocks. Nuff said!
P.S. I’ve never heard Homo Gossip about Kipling – yet I’d have thought the Kenneth Tynans of this world (ugh!0 would have insisted Puck of Pooh’s Hill was all obviously to do with perversion. Or Rewards & Fairies… What’s in a title!
NLD to SG 7/1/977
I so much appreciate your sending me the Bellow Lowndes things: I found them particularly interesting, especially every reference to Mary Cannan – much of which was new to me. Some things she says are not all that ‘correct’ i.e. Walker, London was only a success – and a big success – because of J L Toole who practically rewrote it! I’d no idea that Gilbert & Mary lived ‘in a tiny house off Campden Hill’ (where were living) and I’m enchanted to know that they seemed ‘radiantly happy’ even if only for a short time. I’d always been under the impression that she found him in bed with a hotel maid during their honeymoon. As you know, I – all of us 5, I’d fancy – were always Pro Mary i.e. thought she was monstrously treated – by Fate rather than Barrie who ‘couldn’t help it’.
Perhaps I find it strange in a way (yet of course there may well be other passages about JMB in the Diaries & Letters) that there’s no mention of the Ll.D’s or du M’s. There would seem so many obvious things to bracket Cynthia & Co with Sylvia & Co. I’m pretty I never met Mrs B.L. nor have I read her: met Hilaire B once and thought him revolting!
By the same mail as your letter came a long one from Sir H. Wake giving me – in a heartbreaking letter – details, to an extent, of the sale of Amhuinnsuidh. I’d always feared this, then things seemed to look more hopeful (from my point of view) but he has at last broken his own hear and those of all his family by selling to same Swiss: the only ‘good’ piece i.e. ray of sunshine that, to his surprise, he found himself liking said Swiss. But, after 12 years, as you probably saw, they all adored the place and it was obviously terrible for him to tell the factor & co. Next mail brought me a letter from the factor. So I am very Amhuinnsuidh minded today. (…)
SG to NLD 9/1/1977
(…) 1977 --- I approached it with hesitation and a deliberately slow set watch! I too very much hope that’s filled with good and successful things including Barrieana. I was also very aware that it’s the year of the end product. There was something comfortably safe in 1976 writing that “the trilogy will be shown on television at Christmas 1977, Andrew’s book published at the same time and the Morgue shortly afterwards”… all nicely far away. To face now is the “handing over” to BBC director, actors etc. – not a hand over and walk away by any means, it’ll be exciting I know … but not necessarily easy! And then there’s the reaction to it and hello ’78. I still have every faith in the project – it’s the world I’m a trifle cynical about!!! We shall see. (…)
NLD to SG 11/1/1977
Yes indeed I ‘understand’ about the reluctant feeling that the real – or at any rate ‘original’ – Barrie Bonanza is relentlessly coming to an end – whatever the result etc. It has been, surely very long and thorough: and ‘tho’ I say it that shouldn’t raised above run-of-the-mill research by the click between you and Andrew and the surviving Boy Castaway. From the moment P.D. Ltd passed on your original letter, P.D. saying “Do you want to answer or shall we scrub her off?” sort of thing, we so to speak entered each other’s lives: all of us lucky to find ceaseless interest – and affection.
I find myself much intrigued by your envelope P.S.: “please elucidate the common ‘tapis’ saying”. If not torn up, can you give me my entire sentence? My guess is that, not for the 12th time, I wrote some sort of malapropism! My guess that I used the word ‘tapis’ meaning ‘the things (or thoughts) usually (or felt) instead of – correctly – ‘under consideration’ i.e. ‘on the tapis’ means ‘under consideration’ and I fancy I said something like ‘the usual tapis saying is that JMB must have a homosexual because he didn’t push Mary Ansell down on the what-come-ever!’ In some way, maybe, I was using the word as tapestry, but – if you can quote me – I can probably solve the problem.
SG to NLD 18/1/1977
(…) Tapis – came up in my queries on the JMB-George letters (29 Aug 1914) and you explained, “We had a common saying ‘What’s on (?) the tapis’ whether for action or speech.” I wasn’t sure whether you had written “on”, which I now see you did from your last letter, and I didn’t know what it meant, which I now understand! Was it purely private family saying? I rather like it and will probably try and persuade Andrew to drop it in somewhere – it won’t mean a thing to anyone watching, which I think makes it ever nicer! If you can think of a few examples of where it might have been used, in what sort of phrases etc. I’d love to have a note of them.
While vaguely on the subject of the JMB- George letters can I ask you a couple more questions that, when reading through them again, I realised I’d missed:
30.11.14 (the middle part is not in the Morgue and near the end of this bit isJ “They wouldn’t have sent me (?) ‘cos I had this bad leg.”
8.2.15 (In the paragraph about Wrest there’s a bit that looks likeJ “while the “stalls” were (cramped?) of the bed wheeled into it – read blankets &c” (Any ideas?!)
Sorry to lumber you with that again! And I’ve just noticed another one!:
21.12.14 1st para – “The (Arab?) cigarettes will be sent weekly”
NLD to SG 22/1/1977
I’m very surprised ‘On the Tapis’ is unknown to you: I must ask Laura about this: and then her children! My impression is that I’d be just as likely to say (at breakfast, maybe) ‘What’s on the tapis for today?’ Tho’ as I seldom speak at breakfast, perhaps the whole thing is a dream. I imagine your dictionary will have ‘under consideration’.
JMB to George 30.11.14, Pretty confident your missing word is HERE. I read it as such with no difficult, then as I looked at it I’ll admit it doesn’t look like HERE: yet I think he had a sort of ? and I’d put a fiver on here which seems of course the hospital.
8.2.15. About of couple of quid, I think, on IMAGINED! Clearly two dotted i’s disposes of your CRAMPED, I think. I think, however queer the sentence (of a v. moving passage) it reads ‘while the “stalls” were imagined by the beds wheeled into it [the hall] – red blankets etc.
21.12.14, For your ‘ARAB’ read ‘OREA’ a make that George apparently smoked and I took to in my early (too early!) smoking days… along with PERA. I’m certain OREA is correct.
I think highly of Part Two. And am sure I will of the whole thing. Andrew has just told me the planned date of shooting, production etc. All very exciting. But I only hope (and shall never know!) that he – and you – will make money out of it all. Heaven knows how with all that dear Andrew dishes out from xeroxes to cassettes, from blow-ups to Hebridean journeys!
I’ll be much interested if one day you can solve the mystery of the non-PP 1977 London stage: I can’t seriously guess. No theatre? No obvious Peter? I find it hard to believe the thing is at last dying? Tho’ – so far as I’m concerned – ever since Crook’s music was discarded the whole thing has disintegrated.
SG to NLD 27/1/1977
I think the person who’d know about the P Pan Christmas thing would be Joan Ling who handles the Barrie Estate. When that area of things has been settled BBC/book-wise I’ll try and remember to drop her a line. Perhaps it had something to do with it being on the television at Christmas – God forgive us!
NLD to SG 1/2/1977
(…) I don’t know why Joan Ling would know anything at PP not appearing this Christmas: as you know the one thing that wholly delights me about the Great Ormond Street Davies Robbery is that the Asquiths have never had a penny from it. I would guess that – if you’re strong enough – the chap to ask is the Secretary or whether of the Hospital… plus a question Are you hoping to have it back in 1977? Or – how ignorant I am! – when does copyright expire? I think it’s 50 years after death; but if 40, then I suppose PP ends this year…
I hinted to Andrew he might like to get in touch with Lord Llewelyn Davies (Uncle Crompton’s son). It seems Crompton will have a bit of a part in Part 3… I’m not all sure how much Richard (my cousin) could really help as he would remember none of us too well. I haven’t seen him in 50 years! I believe him to be exceptionally nice!
SG to NLD 9/2/1977
(…) Any ideas where one might get hold of a photo of Harry Brown??? Did George ever have his photograph taken in Rifle Brigade in uniform? I believe you once said there was an obit. after George died with a photograph: I couldn’t find anything in the Times; am I going blind, was it another paper, or have we dreamt the whole thing up?! We have never seen an original of the Michael photo Janet Dunbar uses (?), at least we don’t think we have. Was it form you? I’ve exhausted my photo thoughts for the moment.
Christmas 1020 you and Michael spent with Elizabeth Lucas in Paris – any particular reason for going? Did Barrie mind your not being with him at Christmas ever – were Christmases “family” occasions usually? How did you spend an ordinary Christmas with Barrie? Memories? (…)
Yes – I was having a mental block when I mentioned Joan Ling in my last letter, I didn’t mean her at all! And yes, I shall write to Great Ormond Street. Copyright is 50 years after death so we still have another 10 years to go!
On Lord Ll. Davies: I did in fact write to him once upon a time at the beginning of the Barrie saga asking for any memories of your family. “I am sorry to say that I have no material at all connected with my Llewelyn-Davies cousins. I do not think I ever met any of them except Peter and Perhaps Nicholas, and I have no correspondence or other written material concerning them. Sorry not to be able to give you any more help.” I think it’s a good idea for Andrew write to him about Crompton though.
I have some lovely time off ATV coming up – to which I am looking forward with glee – to get some Barrie work done. Trips to photographic libraries, the newspaper library at Colindale again and again, British Museum, and I hope the Adelphi flat! The bloke in charge of the offices at the Dept. of Health & Soc. Sec. has agreed that we can the top floor “flat”, the senior office whose office the large room now is has agreed, all we now have to wait for is permission from Property Services Agency of the Dept. of the Environment, would you believe? God, I detest red tape – and to think Peter struck lucky with a cleaning lady and waltzed straight up!
NLD to SG 13/2/1977
(…) Photographs. Alas, and I can’t quite understand it, except I suppose that in those days I didn’t take any pix, I can’t see a photograph of the very dear Harry Brown – or of his wife… I would have thought he’d be in a snapshot here or there, but it seems none have survived. How I wish I could help, but I can’t believe a photo of him will suddenly fall out of a drawer…
Nor can I ‘see’ one of George in wartime and I can only presume that Peter in uniform was taken a bit later on, say in 1915 – George having come off to the Front in late 14 I think, probably in studio – photographed. The ‘obit’ to which you refer probably was not an obit, but a press photograph of George’s face in cloth cap published at the time of his death … a little picture not much larger than a stamp which is in one of my books that you & Andrew have. (…) But it’s pretty small, tho’ nice… where it came from I don’t know. The J. Dunbar photo of Michael was (lent?) her by Roger Senhouse: personally I’m never much liked it and would myself prefer the large ‘Pop’ photograph of his ?, again in my large brown book, I think. There are certainly one or two of him in books of mine which would bear reproduction.
I can think of no ‘reason’ why Michael and I went to Paris that Christmas: probably Michael was keen to expand a little in French, and of course we all loved Elizabeth Lucas … charm? A million. Christmas I can’t associate at all with JMB apart from his getter an annual hamper full of books from Hodder & Stoughton – which naturally Michael and I dove into! These came to C.H. Square. But I can’t somehow see Uncle Jim at Christmas time. Doubtless there were a good many times when he came to 23: my memories are chiefly of lying in the night nursery, having failed to keep awake to see Father Christmas coming down the chimney, and seeing Mary Hodgson come in with a tray laden with presents deposited on a bed: also Michael’s next but one (M.H. between) up to a certain date. But I can’t see Uncle Jim!
Great Ormond Street. I’ve had a very nice exchange of letters. The Peter Pan 1976/1977 is explained thus: “Last year unfortunately Tom Arnold, who has the professional licence for Christmas productions in England, was unable to obtain a suitable theatre for the play in London, and the provincial tour which follows had also to be cancelled…but I am assured by Tom Arnold that there will be no difficulties this year and we should see the play return”. (…)
SG to NLD 15/2/1977
I was very interested in the account of your correspondence with Great Ormond Street. If you have the Acting House Governor’s name handy I’d love to have it as I’d planned to write to them just in case they had anywhere a photograph of Barrie perchance visiting the hospital! Well, you never know… and it’s worth a try. It would be nice to have a friendly name to write to – may I mention your name as you obviously impressed him greatly?!
Can you remember Margaret Ogilvy Barrie (now Margaret Sweeten). I can’t remember if I’ve ever asked you. Barrie became her guardian after her father was killed in the war. She remembers JMB and you Davies boys – “Michael was a darling” – at her “grandmothers”, Now I can’t quite place her in the family line of things and I’m going to see her next week! Any clues? Of course, I can ask her when I see her, but it would of course be quite to know already!!
NLD to SG 17/2/1977
(…) I’m a bit clearer about the ‘books’! I’m surprised in a way that I’ve never had an answer from Peter to my reasonably long letter to him saying more or less that I was at his service as and when and if he wanted any further editorial help: more particularly when! And rather hoping it would work out that he’d be able to send me a script before galley stage from Constable – not that I want or expect to do more than possible dot an i. However tho’ he writes “extra good letter, he’s not all that ready to start! I’ll hear more when you and Andrew are here of Book B i.e. size and how much letter press: to say nothing of title! And I imagine nothing definite has yet been decided for the TV title! A very difficult title to choose, I think: I would imagine Peter Pan must get in somewhere even if only as a subtitle: e.g. BARRIE AND THE BOY CASTAWAYS or the Birth/Creation of Peter sort of thing. Yet the shorter the better!
The Great Ormond Street correspondence is at present with Andrew: I sent it to him the other day (two letters): I can’t remember the Assistant Governor’s name who wrote me the two letters. Yes, of course and by all means, mention my name and say how much I regretted not being to go there myself. I would expect them to have quite a few Barrie mementos knocking about … tho’ whether of interest to you I can’t guess.
I can’t remember ever hearing of Margaret Sweeten née Barrie – and can’t place her in the family (not that I knew any of them, except Lilian who frequently turn up, tho’ I’m ashamed to say I never paid much attention to which Barrie had what child!) Glad ‘Michael was a darling’ anyway! V. suitable.
SG to NLD 22/2/1977
(…) I found a few more bits and pieces at the Newspaper library – including a (not terribly interesting) interview with Mary Ansell in 1893 with a few good pictures which was a n ice “find”. I’ve also received official permission to visit the Adelphi flat, but I think I’ll have to make that for another week as I can’t get in touch with Andrew.
Tomorrow I’m going to spend the day at “The Theatre Museum” who have a “Pauline Chase Collection” and on Thursday I/we? are visiting Mrs Sweeten, whoever she is! (…)
Another quite interesting thing I picked up at Colindale Newspaper Library was a 1914 interview in the New York Herald with Barrie:
‘He declared that “The Admirable Crichton” was the play he liked the most, with the exception of “Peter Pan”.
“It’s funny,” he said, “that the real Petr Pan – I called him that – is off to the war now. He grew tired of the stories I told him, and his younger brother became interested. It was such fun telling those two about themselves. I would say, “Then you came along and killed the pirate,” and they would accept every word as the truth. That’s how ‘Peter Pan’ came to be written. It is made up of only a few of the stories I told.”
I found it interesting in that the idea of the “Dedication” was obviously forming in 1914, and also because I assume Barrie is talking about George and Jack, with George being “the real Peter Pan”. Of course he could have been misquoted, but it’s a nice quote!
NLD to SG 27/2/1977
(…) I long to hear what you’ll find in “the Adelphi Flat’ tho’ I can’t expect your eyes to focus as mine would. An office cannot have an inglenook etc: but I shall wonder if there’s still a tiny window-exit so that we can walk out and look up and beyond Charing X bridge etc. And what sort of rooms – e.g. dining room, bedrooms etc as used to be – there are now.
What is the Theatre Museum? And Pauline Chase Collection? Connected or not presumably, with Manders & Mitchenson?
I’m particularly interested in the 1914 New York Herald quote. Clearly George was – if any are – the ‘original Peter Pan’: from The Little White Bird onwards. Each, except myself!, has a light claim – with Michael the only so to get photographed, and now on my bedroom wall!
I can’t help being a little worried, disturbed, what have you?, by young Peter’s continued silence. We all know there are few people who answer by turn, so to speak, such as you and I… but young Peter’s not all that bad as a rule. I’d have expected an answer to one of us some time ago. However, one can – I certainly think – be certain enough that if anything were ‘wrong’ we’d, one of us, have heard either from Fran or George. His father NEVER answered! At least his in-tray in the army (2nd War) was always overflowing! (…)
SG to NLD 3/3/1977
(…) While I remember… those photographs of Barrie with Michael in fishing gear - would we be right in thinking they were taken before going to Amhuinnsuidh? Do you happen to know when Barrie had the paining done from the one of Michael in fishing gear?
Adelphi Flat - I spoke to the people today and have arranged for Andrew and I to go and take a look on the morning of 4 April, and hope that A. is free. We’ll of course take plenty of photographs to show you – unless you’d like to come up to town and come with us to take a look that is? It goes without saying that we’d love to have you with us.
The Theatre Museum is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum now; as far as I know nothing to do with Manders & Mitch. They have a ‘collection’ of letters from Barrie to Pauline Chase – by “collection” they mean a manilla folder containing ….! But they were very helpful and left me to rummage through them all and they also have a few nice photos – especially some good ones from ”Mary Rose”. (…)
NLD to SG 8/3/1977
(…) I’m relieved to hear that Peter has been traced: sounds as if he’s trying to flog the Morgue to an American publisher: there was a time when I could have helped him here… for some obscure reason New York & Boston were the only places where I seemed to ‘thrive’ i.e. most of the publishers and literary agents like me and I liked them – neither of which was the case in London. But, not that I can really see whey American should go for the Morgue, Peter will be much better & more knowledgeable in 1977 than his Uncle Nico. I would think Scribners to be the most likely, with Harpers (George du Maurier) the second best bet: meanwhile there’s that comic little Karl Michael Emyrs who, in his last letter to me, said he had three potential publishers in his 75 years of PP on the hook… but I don’t think I’ll mention him to Peter (His ‘three’ were Harper, London (?) and Nelson… but I don’t candidly expect any of them to swallow the bait). I wonder, by the way, if here’s any news of Peter in a New York job?
As for Barrie & Michael in Fishing Gear: although I was in the studio (and I think I had a picture or taken, but not in fishing gear!) I can’t remember whether it was just post Scourie (1911) or pre or post Amhuinnsuidh (say June or Sept 1912) … Lizzie Caswall Smith I think* (*Yes; see charming frontispiece to W A Darlington’s JM Barrie. I see in the Darlington Book, p112, another L Caswall Smith of JMB dated 1913. In fact if you examine the two pictures clothes are exactly similar apart from hat. So 1921 …). But I’m sure, in fact, that the ‘painting” to which you refer is not a painting but a somewhat titivated and maybe sketched in enlargement from one of these Lizzie Caswall Smith photographs and will presumably have been done at the same time.
Adelphi Flat. Much as I would love – or would have loved, nay insisted!, to come with you I’m afraid it’s no good ‘these days’, the thought of London without being able to walk to my hearth’s content is intolerable: would tale Heaven knows how long to get there from Charing Cross! We won’t go into all the reasons but put it down to internal old age. But I shall long to hear all about… what sort of lift take you up to the top now? Is the little outside balcony, in JMB’s study, from which you look up the Thames to the Houses of Parliament still there? JMB’s own bedroom immediately opposite the front door in the old days: from front door turn right into immediately the study, but in the study immediately on the right was door entering JMB’s bathroom. Back to front door, now turn left into dining room, with windows to both East and West: straight through to wing door leading to A. on the right of passage my room; B. A few yards later turn left for 1. Michael’s room 2; Lavatory 3 Bathroom (Shades of Neville Cardus autobiography!). Opposite lavatory door was Back door. Enter this back door turn right was billiard room, became spare room after Michael’s or after his departure. On the left of this room was the ‘Servants’ quarter = pantry & kitchen. All the above I would guess, can now only confuse! Sorry…
SG to NLD 2/4/1977
(…) I look forward to hearing all further news from Andrew on Tuesday, when we are going to see the Adelphi flat. I can’t remember whether I told you, but I’ve been in touch with a woman who is the daughter of Ottoline Morrell and who has photographs of Michael taken at Garsington with Lytton Strachey and Carrrington (the catch is she charges ten quid for anything reproduced from her mother’s photograph album!). She wrote:
“I remember Michael Llewelyn Davies well, coming out to Garsington manor to see us when he was up at Oxford. I would not have described him as ‘on the fringes of the Bloomsbury group’. He seemed to know fellow undergraduates and young men in his college. I remember we went to the “Eights” with him and other friends of his at Christ Church (I think it was).
I even wrote a post-card inviting him out to Garsington on the day he was drowned, because of course I didn’t know about it, and my father came in some distress and said ‘I’m afraid Michael will never be coming here again, I’ve just’ heard he’s been drowned yesterday in the river.’
Michael seemed a rather shy, but charming boy, smiling a lot with a soft voice. I can’t really say I knew him well, and after 50 years one is a bit hazy about what one does remember. I think he possibly knew Ralph Partridge, then called Rex, who was a rowing man, but I can’t be sure of this.”
Have you any ideas about who wrote that lovely (I think) tribute to Michael in The Times?
“THE TIMES” 21 May 1921
MICHAEL LLEWELYN DAVIES
A LIFE OF RARE BEAUTY AND PROMISE
We have received the following tribute to Michael Llewelyn Davies, whose drowning at Sandford, Near Oxford, with his friend, R.E.V. Buxton, was recorded in The Times yesterday:
The tragic death, by drowning at Oxford, of Michael Llewelyn Davies (writes one who has known him all his too short life) closes a career that promised to be unusually brilliant, and removes from the world a lovable personality of peculiar fascination and beauty. Although not yet quite 21, he was already distinguished in whatever he attempted, in work or play, doing everything with grace and skill so easily that he almost seemed to disdain effort. Indeed one thought of him as a darling of the gods, and never perhaps more so than when watching him as a boy of only 13 or 14 smilingly and confidently drawing salmon after salmon from Scotch waters.
When they were still children, Michael Llewelyn Davies and his four brothers lost their parents, their father, Arthur Llewelyn Davies, a son of the famous scholar of Trinity, dying in 1907, and Sylvia, their mother, a daughter of George du Maurier, the artist and novelist, in 1910, when Michael was 10. It was then that Sir James Barrie, an old friend of the family, made himself responsible for the five boys’ well-being. They are now only three, for George, the eldest, was killed in the war.
While St James was devoted to all his foster-sons, it was Michael in whom he most delighted, and who was nearest to his heart; and the bereavement is a terrible blow. He and Michael were more than elder and younger: they were intimates and allies. During the five years that Michael was at Eton he received from Sir James a letter every day, and he wrote one home every day; and afterwards, while he was at Christ Church, they corresponded four times a week. Sir James had such faith in the boy’s judgment that he asked his opinion of whatever he was working upon, and at his suggestion would abandon a task, even although it was completed.
Michael Llewelyn Davies’s easy conquest of the difficulties of learning or sport did not turn his head. He remained natural and unspoiled, and those who saw much of him noticed that latterly a minute thoughtfulness for others had crept in, giving to his ordinary fascinating manners an additional charm. He seemed to have everything at his feet, and one used to look at him and wonder what walk in life he would choose: but he gave few signs being, for all his vivid interest, in the moment, more in the world than of it, an elvish spectator rather than a participant. A year or so ago he had thought of trying his hand in the art schools in Paris, as his grandfather had so illustriously done before; and then he suddenly redeveloped a passion for the classics and for the last months of his life “read” almost feverishly for Greats.
Towards the end of the war, being then just old enough, he was about to join the Scots Guards, but the Armistice came just before he was due to leave Eton. When the labour trouble set in, the other day, he was one of the first to volunteer and go under canvas. At school he was an editor of the “Eton Chronicles”, and an Oppidan Scholar. His house-master wrote of him when he left: - “He is the most admirable boy that has ever passed through my hands.”
NLD to SG 6/4/1977
(…) As I told Andrew, regarding The Times obituary on Michael, I’d plump heavily for E.V. Lucas particularly on account of his talking of Michael’s skill at pulling out salmon, and E.V.L. part from being a really close friend of all of us was up at both Scourie and Amhuinnsuidh.
No you hadn’t I think, told me of Ottie’s daughter and I was much interested in her letter to you. If my memory is right I was asked up to Garsington when I was at Oxford a couple of years later, but I shied away. Not being nearly as ‘high brow’ as Michael, and anyway already falling in love with Mary, I wasn’t attracted to the set of Bloomsbury Gang! Give me Dixieland. Or even just The Moonlight.
SG to NLD 7/4/1977
Thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the 4th floor Adelphi. Andrew (who is very good at such things) was making sketches of the lay-out of the rooms etc and I know will send you a plan with any queries we have. Structurally it doesn’t seem to have changed at all – but you’ll see that when you get A.’s sketch. Your descriptions seemed to fit in very well with what we found. The inglenook is there (although they have altered it slightly!), there is still a door out to the small balcony overlooking the Thames. JMB’s bathroom (enlarged) is now the Ladies and your (Neville Cardus’s) bathroom the Gents. The seven bridges are not visible because the New Adelphi Terrace building is higher and obscures that part of the Thames but the view is still splendid. The dining room has (we assume) been split up with partitions but most of the offices are still recognisable as “that was Nico’s room”, “That must have been Michael’s room”, “was this the kitchen”, etc. (…)
Before I get off the Adelphi subject – can you remember what colour the carpets were?! Also, when Barrie had the smaller flat on the 3rd floor can you remember the lay-out of it; was it the end overlooking the Thames, or the other end i.e. looking out on Adelphi Terrace?
I have only just found out (!) that Nan Herbert married and had a daughter – have just written off in case any photographs of Barrie at Wrest Hospital. I am also trying to reach through publishers the estates of Anthony Hope, Quiller-Couch, Maurice Hewlett and A.E.W. Mason in case there are better photographs (ideally with Barrie!) in family albums. Well, you never know. And Barrie’s friendships with “Q”’s children and Hewlett’s are an introduction to the Davies saga if you see what I mean (in the same way that his friendship with the Asquith’s is the echo).
NLD to SG 15/4/1977
(…) As to the colour of the carpets I certainly can’t remember. Matting, as we all know, in the study covered by a number of old rugs, none of which I ever imagined to be pricey things; the Dining Room carpet was a sort of blue-ish, greyish, greenish job, plain & nice to the corners… but I understand this room won’t be featured anyway (tho’ it’s where I remember most of celebrity meetings! Such as Churchill, Haig, Hardy, Cardus, Swanson et al!)
As I’ve told Andrew my early strict recall of 3rd floor flat is (a) Thames end of Robert St (b) only two rooms I can remember, more or less under 4th floor study being to the East, overlooking Adelphi Terrace the study: to the West i.e. towards Charing Cross the Dining Room – the two rooms being connected by a door.
SG to NLD 23/4/1977
(…) As Andrew has probably already told you, we met Michael Asquith on Wednesday evening for a talk. He didn’t really stay all that long and although very pleasant didn’t really say much. Not sure whether he knew more and just wasn’t saying. We of course kept off the whole ‘will’ area as we didn’t want to offend him and therefore not be allowed to quote from Barrie! His reminiscences did tend to come straight out of his mother’s book! He thought, by the way, that the “Mrs Grum” in Cynthia’s Portrait was Maggie Barrie. One useful thing he pointed out – the Asquith boys didn’t call Barrie “Uncle Jim”, they called him “James”. He’s going to try to get his mother’s diary for the time of Michael’s death to see if there’s anything in there that would help us. He seemed pleasant enough.
I spoke to Theodora on the telephone last week – I took a shine to her immediately, very sweet and charming. We are going up to Birmingham to see her on Friday. Looking forward to it very much as I’m sure she’ll have a lot of interesting (though I would hope not vital!) things to say. Will tell all when we’ve seen her – will send her your love as I’m sure you’d want that!
I’m eager to read Script 3 and will probably drive up to town tomorrow to pick up a copy from Andrew. I’ve been in touch with Foy Quiller-Couch. Would you believe she still has the little book Barrie made of his photographs of her brother with Porthos (the forerunner of “The Boy Castaways…”)? (…) I do hope it doesn’t prove to be a disappointment as I’m getting quite excited about it! Do you remember Foy Q-C from the Stanway days? She’s a friend of Daphne’s.
Later Have collected the little book and there was no disappointment – it’s delightful. Captions to photographs of Porthos and Pippa written by JMB; “The Pippa & Porthos” Jan. 1895
Dedicated to Mrs Quiller-Couch (without her permission)
The Literary matter by JM Barrie
(Then in her writing) The drudgery by Mary Barrie.
My favourite (at the moment!) photograph is one of Porthos sitting on the verge of the road with Bevil standing beside him, legs astride, with a half-smile to the camera. Caption:
“Why have you stopped?” asked the Pippa
“Because you look so dashed cocky” replied Porthos.
The storyline is the two of them going for a walk and playing hide-and-seek etc around Fowey. 24 photographs in all – although not all of them of the 2 of them, some of Fowey and other people, majority either Porthos by himself or with Bevil.
NLD to SG 29/4/1977
I’ve enjoyed thinking of you today with Theodora and trust that you’ll click as much as I think you will have. I think the odd piece of worth-while jig-saw may turn up. And, as I’ve just written to Andrew, in my search for a George Lewis photograph I’ve unearthed a strong possibility in Sir G’s daughter Elizabeth Wansborough who seems to remember a good deal including bits of Mary Cannan etc. at the time of JMB’s divorce. Andrew will give you the dope but I expect you’ll both wish to see her. I haven’t seen her for 50 years, but had such a nice letter from her in reply to my ‘Have you got any old photographs?
I’m glad – if slightly surprised! – that you can report Michael Asquith ‘pleasant enough’! So very long ago since I saw him; and I really had nothing particular against that long time ago. Most of my distaste for him comes from a late date – NOT because of the will, for which he is obviously blameless, so much as his behaviour during the war, when I cannot believe his conscientious objection was genuine. I wonder if my name crossed any of your lips when you had your meeting?
(…) The Quiller Couches I don’t think I’ve ever met! I know Daphne has for long been quite a friend. Angela, maybe, too. I would think Foy should be FOWEY: certainly why she was called that (the place in Cornwall where they lived). Their Stanway visits never coincided with mine: probably all after Mary’s and my marriage in 1926. I’d never heard of the ‘Porthos’ book – which indeed sounds a treasure. (…)
SG to NLD 3/5/1977
We had a lovely day last Friday with Theodora – liked her very much, and her daughter Jane and her family. We all ‘clicked’! My other excitement last week was a touch of royal correspondence! Had written to Princess Margaret c/o Kensington Palace, as it were, about any. Memories/existence of the “Agreement” about her lines in “The Boy David”, Got a reply by return of post from her Private Secretary saying the agreement still existed, she couldn’t really remember the event but very interested to hear about the plays. The next day a photocopy of the said ‘Contract’ arrived from Sir Robin Someone, the Librarian of the Royal Library at Windsor. (…)
The thing that I most like din Script 3 was the portrayal of Peter – the “silent” one in the first two scripts (aptly) but now, though still enigmatic (no, that’s not the right word but I can’t think of it), to me very sympathetic. I liked very much a) the scene at George’s grave – I started to cry as I was reading it, very unlike me – and b) Andrew’s handling of the Vera W. situation. Here, from your notes, I think we are about to disagree. I personally feel great sympathy for Peter at this stage. For the sake of any of Vera’s relatives the name should probably go. From Peter’s relatives point of view – well, his sons knew already and Rivvy virtually volunteered the information with no prodding from us whatsoever. (…) I would honestly feel very sad if this element was lost from the story because, rather than being detrimental to Peter, I think it shows he had the strength of character to break away and live a way of life he felt at that time was right for him. (…)
Delighted to hear about the Elizabeth Wansborough contact – thank you. I wonder whether you’ve perchance had any luck with Donnie Morrison about the possibility of the new owner having any suitable photos of Amhuinnsuidh, as it was then, in any of those old albums. (…)
NLD to SG 8/5/1977
I’m so glad, tho’ not at all surprised, that you clicked with Theo: as you’ll have clicked with her older sister, Mary. The Ll.D.’s and du M’s couldn’t really be much more different, yet I’m devoted to nearly all of them in actuality or memory.
Yes, I suppose tragedy is apt to ‘appeal’: I certainly have always preferred a play, movie or book which has made me weep as much as smile… Charlie Chaplin the Ace, I suppose, but JMB himself with in particular Mary Rose not far behind. And I think Andrew has blended remarkably well in his script: let us pray Director and Actors give him as much help as you (and I!) have.
You will probably have seen my second letter to Andrew about Part 3: it’s difficult if impossible to describe/define my own – more Mary’s – reactions to the Peter graveside episode of which you and Andrew and in particularly Judy thought more highly than we did. I would think largely because of our having known Peter so well, and being so completely devoted to him that we couldn’t somehow ‘believe’ he would speak like that… Qua authorship, qua TV hoped-for audience, I think it’s very good (tho’ could possibly be better for a tone-down here and there); qua what was actually said I can’t believe in it… but we all know how wrong I’ve been! To take a point I’d have laid 100 to 1 Jack never called Gerrie a bird! I think we’re squared off, so to speak, concerning Vera Willoughby. My chief ‘doubt’ was how much Rivvy, George & Peter knew, would mind etc. and Andrew has entirely set my mind at rest there. My other instinctive feeling (right or wrong) is that Peter himself would hate her name to be mentioned – devoted as he always was to her. Peter was very non-outspoken! I think we have it now as ‘this married woman’ rather than ‘Vera what’s-her-name (or whatever it was). I’m pretty sure ‘this married woman’ is best. And I indeed see that the perceptive viewer should get this (all too true) clue as to why Peter ‘left us’, why he wasn’t also living at the flat and so on. I’ve often wished I was a fly on the wall when Vera more or less insisted, after Michael’s death, that Peter break away from her, start doing a real job etc, get close back to JMB and me etc etc. I would be pretty sure Peter needed a good deal of pushing away: he was very fond of Vera. I’m you’d feel quite the same over this.
You will have heard that I got four rather comic old snapshots from Donnie Morrison; to my surprise Andrew seems to think the one of the castle (from the ‘far’ side) will do – but then I’m not all that certain what he wants it for. (…)
SG to NLD 13/5/1977
I enclose a tatty carbon copy of some notes I made from the 1st part of the Ottoline memoirs. Thought you might be interested in the Crompton & Cannan angles. I loved the Bedford Square story.
FROM “THE EARLY MEMOIRS OF LADY OTTOLINE MORRELL” Ed. By Robert Gathorne-Hardy
When I was staying with my brother Henry and his wife at Underly, I often walked across the park to see Mr Llewelyn Davies who was rector of Kirkby Lonsdale. He had been a friend of F D Maurine and Robert Browning and even Thomas Carlyle. He was a shy, sensitive, reserved man, and had rather a stiff, dry, unsympathetic manner, but after a time I had broken the outer ice. I found this old man, sitting in his little study, a great solace and very interesting. He had a large family of sons, all remarkably clever; one married the daughter of du Maurier, and their children, were, at their father’s death, adopted by J M Barrie. (One of these, Michael, many years later we were to know and love, alas for too short a time, for he was drowned bathing at Oxford). Another son, Theodore, was drowned in a river in Wesmorland, not very far from home. It was hot day and he was walking to the station – took off his clothes to have a bathe on the way, and was found drowned. He was one of the very rate people whom one seldom meets with in life, combining brilliant intellectual powers, a warm and tender hear and great charm. He could never be forgotten by anyone who knew him. Another son, Crompton, had his brother’s intellect but was more reserved and more intensely passionate. What he did say was almost always something so sincere and so witty and true that it impressed one.
For many years he threw himself into the cause of Taxation of Land Values. It was always said that he thought it would cure all evils, even measles. He married a very charming Irish lady and he became an ardent Sinn Feiner. Since I have lived in the country I have seen but little of him, except indeed when we joined our energies in the attempt to save the life of that fine and remarkable man, Casement, who was condemned, to the disgrace of England, to be hanged. I had once met Casement at the house of Mrs J R Green, and had always admired his magnificent work in the Congo.
Crompton always stands out as one of those little known but very remarkable Englishmen. It was indeed through him that we met most of our intellectual friends in London. When we were living in Grosvenor Road, he was in Barton Street, Westminster, and would often come and dine with us. I heard some years later than when others who knew us were slightly critical or suspicious, it was he would always stand up for us and say that we were worth knowing. His sister Margaret I also first met at Kirkby Lonsdale. How well I remember asking her about a photograph of Tolstoy that hung in her room there, and saying shyly that I had never read any of his books. She told me about him and mentioned “Anna Karenin” as one I should read; I don’t think I had ever heard it correctly pronounced before, but went away determined to read “Anna Karenin” as soon as possible.
I continued to see a great deal of my very dear old friend, her father, up to his death, for they moved to Hampstead. His mind remained vigorous and alert, and interested in modern things until the last.
I think it was at this time that I first knew the Sangers, who were then living in the Strand. It was, I believe, Crompton Llewelyn Davies who introduced them to us…
I cannot trace in the dark tunnels of my memory how I first know Gilbert Cannan and his wife. That rather charming and gifted, but conceited novelist of whom we saw a great deal, and who was the forerunner and introducer of other people who played important parts in our life. [Mark Gerler & D H Lawrence]
I believe I must have written to him about of his first books, “Round the Corner”, which I thought original and interesting. He had recently run off with Sir James Barrie’s wife, and perhaps I felt that people would be prejudiced against him on this account, and certainly on the outside it did not appear very honourable, as he had been one of Barrie’s protégés. I believe Mary Cannan, however, had not found Barrie very satisfactory as a husband and she became entranced with this young man, who had indeed the appearance of a rather vacant Sir Galahad, and whose mind was prolific, poetic and romantic. I never understood how he could have been tempted to run away with this lady, for she was double his age, and devoid of any atmosphere of romance, and certainly unable to run very far or fast. But how can on divine the reasons for such foolish acts? It was probably prompted by quixotic pity on Gilbert’s part, but it was doomed to be a failure, and this doom ahead already cast its shadow backwards. She was, poor woman, so determined to keep herself young and sprightly when they came together to see us – she so solid with thin lips and a carefully preserved complexion, like a very competent lady house-decorator and upholsteress (this was, in fact, her chief interest). He, thin and tall, towering above her always looking with his pale, romantic yes into space, and shaking his fair hair and tilting his large tin nose in the air, while she vigorously chatted in a loud, harsh voice about what she and Gillie had done. It made one raise one’s hands like Henry James, in horror.
But still one admired anyone who could cast off luxury and a comfortable home and devote herself in poverty to a young and as yet unknown novelist. I suppose on her side it was the maternal instinct. She always said that she would retire from his life if he fell in love with anyone his own age. But this is easy to say. It was often pathetic, and I fear rather comical, to see this gallant little woman, determinedly marshalling all her powers to keep herself erect, brisk and youthful. At times she would almost convince one that she was what she desired to appear, until suddenly, while hurrying along, she would fall down, exclaiming, ‘Oh, Gillie,’ and then one realised that the effort to walk by the side of her Gillie, who always strode ahead of her and took no notice of her or even of her fall, had been too much even for resolute limbs, and she had collapsed.
They both came fairly often to tea and to our Thursday evenings, obviously enjoying being ‘received’. Sometimes he would come and stay a night or two in our spare room, and I would immensely enjoy his talk, which was a mixture of the ideas of Blake and Plato and Goethe. Indeed, I still believe it was good – he was quite impersonal and seemed as if he were talking his thought aloud, but as the thoughts were sympathetic and stimulating to me I enjoyed it. He consumed a vast number of cigarettes while he mused and held forth. He also amused us all very much by sending me a sonnet which he addressed to me, on the ‘pleasure and delight and beauty of a lady in Bedford Square’, but I soon found that he had also sent one to Mrs Raymond Asquith to whom I had introduced him, and who lived a few doors from us in Bedford Square. On comparing them, we found we had shared the same sonnet.
NLD to SG 21/5/1977
Many thanks for your letter and for the copies of the pages from Ottoline Morrell’s memoirs of which I very much appreciate both the contents and your labour in typing them out. I never met her, tho’ I was asked to go & seek her when I was up at Oxford. Somehow – at least I thought so then (and I think so now!) – not my cup of tea. I was never as high in the brow as Michael or Peter: thought more of poker parties and the latest jazzy music as the ready came out each month… to say nothing of Mary who surfaced into my life about that time. I find myself particularly interested in the comments about my very dear and remarkable grandfather – just as eminent in his way as grandpapa was in his Trilby way! Not only Chaplain of Queen Victoria, but the first man to climb the highest mountain in Switzerland! I used to go & see him quite a lot in his Hampstead home where he lived with Aunt Margaret. He was, alas, blind by then and just reached 90. Uncle Theodore I never met – at least I don’t think so… maybe as a baby… - which I greatly regret as (so often with those who die young) everyone paints him out as the star of that galaxy of brains and kindness. Crompton we all loved. Well, truly enough, all of them. And then, of course, greatly interested in all comments about Gilbert & Mary Cannan. Poor Mary! She doesn’t come out of it too well, falling down in her attempt to keep pace with the towering Gillie! Strangely enough I’d never thought of this angle – not even the obvious differences in age (…) What Ottoline seems to have failed to appreciate was Mary’s looks! “So solid, with thin lips etc” doesn’t quite tally with other things I’ve read of her.
(...) I’m yet again in Andrew’s debt as he recommended the Charles Frohman book which I finished last week and which gave ma great deal of interest. I must have met Frohman, I suppose, but can’t remember him at all. Good as the Frohman book is, even that gets the inevitable thing wrong, claiming Peter to be the ‘original’ PP and saying that Frohman took the play to Berkhamsted for Peter (not Michael, but who cares, anyway!
I haven’t heard from Andrew for a couple of weeks I think: good job too, in some ways, as I’ve nothing to answer in that direction! I expect before long to hear odd details about casting etc. I suppose my only ‘serious’ interests at this stage i.e. where I might have heard of the actor/actresses (the majority being bitty parts) are (1) JMB (2) Sylvia (for whom for some obscure reason I still incline towards the Cusack girl whose Christian name I neither spell nor properly remember… (3) Possibly George – who just could be Christopher Cazenove I suppose tho’ this part may not be big enough for him. (…)
SG to NLD 30/5/1977
(…) Casting – I await decisions with equal interest. Nothing seems to have been decided yet, nor a director finally appointed. I expect it’ll all suddenly fall into place – that’s what usually happens. (…)
I’m rereading Mackail to make sure we haven’t missed any small details or parts where, knowing the story better than when I read it before, I can see where Mackail is hinting at things he doesn’t feel he can quite go into. Well, I think that’s the idea – but I seem to have come to a grinding halt somewhere around the Greenwood era. (…)
By the way, Maurice Hewlett’s daughter is alive and well and living in New Zealand! I must write to her.
NLD to SG 6/6/1977
(…) I’m rather surprised you’re going to tackle Lord Ll.D. again: I had the idea he’d been a shade brusque with you… I’m sure he’s actually v. nice tho’ I doubt that he’ll help all that much (help? In what?) I’m a bit more ‘interested’ in any forthcoming news there may be from Elizabeth Wansborough. She may have quite a lot of Lewis-cum-Cannan dope, plus an old picture or two. (I remember dancing with her & being so overcome by her Gold-Flake-infested breath that I had to leave her and stand out in the rain at Stanway in 1922!)
SG to NLD 13/6/1977
(…) Lord Ll.D. – when I wrote before he said that he didn’t really know your family and didn’t think he could any help to us. When we saw Theodora were talking about he Ll.D. family reaction to Barrie and she asked if we’d seen Lord Ll.D. It occurred to us that things had advance somewhat since we first made contact with him – e.g. the fact that his father is going to be portrayed, so I wrote asking if, having progressed so far, we could talk to him about his father. We are also interested because we seem to have managed to meet most of the rest of the family…. We’d very much like to meet up with Laura soon, and fully intend to do so. Indeed we’d very much like to meet up with Laura soon, and fully intend to do so. (…)
We are hoping to go and see Diana Farr at the beginning of July – she’s the woman who’s writing the biography of Gilbert Cannan. Her book has been postponed – now being published about the same as Andrew’s and she obviously hopes to cash in on the television publicity. We really want to see her to a) get an idea of Gilbert Cannan’s character and b) make sure there’s no info on the divorce angle she’s dug up that makes anything we think/are saying obsolete. Would somehow (hopefully) doubt it. I rather feel that Barrie’s marriage is something that no one will ever really understand. Did you ever meet Diana Farr – I seem to remember that she had been in touch with you? (…)
NLD to SG 22/6/1977
(…) And by the same mail as yours came my first for a long time from Andrew, giving me the great news about Ian Holm and bringing Vanessa Redgrave into the possible picture for the first time. The excitement grows. And even got me as far as considering I might travel up to London for the first time for three years to meet Messrs Marks, Bennett & Holm: never thought I’d see the place again.
(…) Yes -Theodora (and her sister Mary) has always been devoted to Richard Ll.D. and indeed to all the family I think. And it’s only idleness that stops me being the same. As for Laura – of course I’m biased (!) but you can take it from me she’s the best of the bunch: after all the only with whom my Mary has had anything to do!
Sorry, but not surprised, that the Elizabeth Wansborough avenue proved an unsuccessful exploration.
No, I never met Diana Farr tho’ I’m pretty sure we exchanged a couple of letters – which I remember liking.
SG to NLD 26/6/1977
(…) A week tomorrow we are going to meet Foy Quiller-Couch who is going to be staying with a friend of hers at South Mimms or somewhere near, and then on the Tuesday we are going up to Birmingham or thereabouts to meet Diana Farr.
(…) An excellent letter from Andrew advises that Vanessa has vanished and odds as present are Cusackwards which delights me: also that any recent suggestions to him for Susan (When the Boat Comes in) Jameson to be Mary Hodgson is much approved by L Marks so I greatly hope she’ll be available. He further has a splendid suggestion that I should put in a sort of incognito Alfred Hitchcock appearance but we’ll have to see about this as and when I can report on my first London expedition! (…)
SG to NLD 10/7/1977
(…) [After a trip Solihull to meet Diana Farr]
What I didn’t tell you was what Diana Farr said! Mainly that it was Mary who had issued the first invitation, chased Cannan etc., not the way round Andrew has it in script at moment. Can you remember the story about Mary’s yellow gaiters at Caux that you told her? (…)
NLD to SG 13/7/1977
(…) I haven’t a shred of yellow gaiter memory! Which seems odd to me. I would have sworn that I’d never forget a yellow gaiter! I hope you’ll get the gen from D F and will let me know in due course what occurred in or outside of the Yellow Gaiters and whether it was truly I who told her any story about them. I can’t help thinking she’ll find someone else wrote her that Y.G. letter.
Meantime I’ve been writing several letters etc to Andrew about the latest great revise. O the whole I think v. highly: I’ve begged for a small change and a half, and hope for perhaps three and a half: I imagine you’ll see what I’ve written: my latest hopes are A. That Jack can be made a little nicer: he was nearly always such fun and he comes out a bit too bitter if you know what I mean; B. (and this may be ‘harder’ or disagreed with by Messrs Marks and Bennet quite apart from Andrew) I would much prefer the coffin-in-flat AND actual funeral to be scrapped. I am personally certain the most dramatic ending of Michael is the reporter leaving the hall while JMB is take up in the lift to desolation. Then end, as now with the little Arsequiths!
I suppose my only ‘fear’ is that the viewers will find it too sad. But obviously Marks & Co don’t think so. I greatly look forward to hearing whether my suggestions of Susan Jameson for Mary Hodgson and Jessica Benton for Mary Barrie will (a) be approved (b) came off! One of the things I find most difficult to understand is how Andrew can write so much for the telly if he never looks at it!
Much interested, not all that surprised – if it’s true – that Mary Barrie rather than Gilbert was the pursuer. Poor Mary. One of the unluckiest people I’ve ever ‘known’.
NLD to SG 22/7/1977
(…) My best news – for years! – is that I’ve just been rung up by Laura’s old Nanny (lives nearby in Dover, we’ve always much liked her, and keep in touch so to speak) to tell us that her great-nephew has got the part of Jack in Script II! And what makes it doubly entertaining to Mary and me is that Nanny always loved Jack, especially ever since a particularly remark of his: Nanny and Laura had gone down by train to stay with jack & Gerrie whey they lived in Surrey; Jack met them at the station; on the way to the house he said, ‘You won’t find anyone staying, except my mother-in law, damn her!’ Nany has never stopped laughing since. He’s a very good looking boy, this great nephew: I’m glad I suggested his exit at end of Part II, having seen Sylvia’s engagement ring, is with tears streaming down his face.
NLD to SG 20/8/1977
(…) As for the continued Barrie research, my jaw drops even further [must remember to tell Ian Holm that one of our favourite moments was when Uncle Jim went off to sleep – in armchair or railway carriage etc – and his mouth fell hop his snappers always dropped]. I can’t think at the moment of anyone you really ought to see; I’d still recommend Hermione [Lady] Cobbold as her so beautiful mother Pamela Lytton played quite a big little part in JMB’s ½ snob ½ Davies-work days; did I mention Mary Strickland (Cynthia Asquith’s ravishing sister), the nicest of the bunch? Now, if alive as I think she is lady Mary Lyon and living in Gloucestershire. Maybe still at Apperley. Michael or Mrs Simon would give you address & telephone number: plus news as to whether she’s bright enough to be interviewed. Talking of which we had a splendid lunch here on Wednesday when 79 year old Theodora, recently recovered from arthritic hip operation, came from Sussex to lunch with daughter and family and – believe it or not – had a splendid swim in our pool and it was a warm sunny day! She was in splendid form. I wish I could think of a way you could trace up Alphonse *[*no idea as to his surname, tho’ Andrew probably knows it!] – JMB’s delightful chauffeur. He became a pub-keeper in the Isle of Wight – brother Peter used to see quite a lot of him when he, P & his boys went to Bembridge; and when Mary & I went there I had a splendid reunion. He still called me Nicolas (à la French). All this in the 1930’s. I know he died some time ago. Just conceivable, but highly unlikely, that Rivvy could place the pub. Dad, all dead… but thank you for reminding me of Alphonse. (…)
SG to NLD 5/11/1977
(…) I enclose the photocopy of Pamela Maude’s Barrie chapter and hope you enjoy it. Any news yet from Marjorie W. and Yale?
NLD to SG 10/11/1977
Many thanks for your letter and the enc, Pam Fraser chapter in which of course I found much of interest – even tho’ I didn’t think it too well written! Alas, tho’ I was particularly interested in Pam’s comments on Mary Barrie, my own memories of her (until the death-bed time in 1937) are a good deal vaguer than vague. And at Little Minister=Maude time I wasn’t yet born. I don’t at all remember hearing of the Barrie’s rented home at Strathtay: it may be in Denis’ book but more likely it was cut out of the version that we were eventually to publish… I’m sure I’ve told you that Denis’ fine book, already or as published too long, was drastically cut down before publication. I see a line at bottom of p 265 “Though again it may well be that it wasn’t such very conspicuous from the one character who must look on” which would seem to tally and give reason for child Pam to be aware of Mary B’s non-smile as she was forced to witness JMB’s eerie flirting with Winifred Emery. Plenty of evidence of JMB’s charm for children the playing with matchboxes seems to bring back ghostly memories. Many thanks for sending: I much appreciated my read.
NLD to SG 20/11/1977
You’ll be glad to hear that I’ve reopened communication with Rivvy: an extremely nice letter in answer to a line or two from me asking what was going on etc. I was allowing myself to get a shade apprehensive that there might be a tidge of ill-feeling along the Constable-Birkin-Barrie-TV-Morgue Circle Line, but am very reassured. At present Rivvy is feeling rather than he hopes the Morgue will never be published – which is my own feeling. He’s capable of being very nice: anyway I’m v fond of all three brothers – R, G & P – and my heart was much warmed by his letter.
NLD to SG 19/1/1978
(…) It was v nice seeing you yesterday and I felt bad that we never said a word except Hello and Goodbye. But I thought the lunch party etc went very well and I much liked everyone I talked to: Ian Holm no surprise, I knew I’d like him and apart from knocking me sideways by his double eyebrow action he seemed to me absolutely ideal for the part. Perhaps my biggest ‘surprise’ was Ann Bell of whom I can’t remember hearing: I took to her very much, at once, and – faithless that I am! - I find myself glad that the Cusack, poor girl, had to drop out. Mary Barrie too I liked a lot. Only regret is/was not meeting Mary Hodgson – but I expect will arrange she comes here one day. I’ve always thought, each time I’ve seen Anna Cropper on the telly, that she was quite excellent. (…)
NLD to SG 17/11/1978
(…) Among the considerable number of absorbing things that have come my way in the post since Barrieana bloomed … I think this particular ‘plum’ came through Eiluned Lewis’ article in Country Life …was a bunch of letters/articles emanating from DUNDAS who was Michael’s tutor at Christ Church and included two long extracts from Oxford Papers reporting the inquest of Michael’s & Rupert’s drowning: I sent them a couple of days ago to Andrew. I don’t know whether you discovered these: nor indeed whether I’d seen them in 1921… Now, as I wrote to Andrew, they entirely convince me as to what happened: in other words NO suicide, ENTIRELY accidental; the key sentence – in Edward Marjoribanks’ words being that tho’ Michael was a very bad swimmer he had recently expressed his pride in being able to swim 20 yards. A. Rupert swims to lock and sits on stair (in the hot sun); B. Michael, some 10 minutes later, sets off to join him C. Fails.
I cannot imagine why I ever thought otherwise. Tho’ wholly different, letter after letter came from all quarters, known & unknown and all giving me much pleasure. Form the daughter of Robb (of the famous Canary – see Mackail) to a chap who went to my private school a year or two after I’d left; from a girl with whom I was in love in 1919 (and haven’t seen since) to Sir Roger Chance; from the Padre in 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guard (whom I haven’t seen since Warminster in 1941) to Joyce Grenfell!
© Nicholas Llewelyn Davies's estate
© Sharon Goode