Sign In

Access advanced features by signing in to your user account.

Some Davies Letters and Papers (aka the Morgue): 1897-1907

The following is an orginal piece by Peter Llewelyn Davies

Some Davies Letters and Papers

1897-1907

Compiled by

Peter Llewelyn Davies

1950

[AB: See “Some Davies Letters and Papers, 1889-1897” for an introduction to ‘The Morgue’. The layout is exactly as Peter had it typed up, except that all formatting has been removed, being inconsistent with the website technology, and first names substituted for Peter's initials, e.g. Arthur Ll.D instead of A.Ll.D. or Arthur instead of A., except where used in contemporary letters. A number of additional letters have come to light since Peter compiled the Morgue, and I have included them here where relevant. The originals of some of the letters can be found in the database, particularly ones that Peter didn’t have to hand while compiling the Morgue, and therefore evaded his systematic destruction. I have also added hyperlinks, both to Wikipedia entries about people mentioned by Peter, as well as to original documents and photographs in our database where relevant.]

===================================================

[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D.]

15, Old Cavendish Street, W.

14 Aug. 1892.

Dear Miss du Maurier,

And so you are to be married tomorrow! And I shall not be present. You know why.

Please allow me to wish you great happiness in your married life. And at the same time I hope you will kindly accept the little wedding gift I am sending you. It is not a hinge, but if you wear it, it will be part of one. It reaches you somewhat late, but that is owing to circumstances, too painful to go into.

With warmest wishes to you and Mr. Davis [sic],

Believe me, dear Miss du Maurier,

Yours sincerely,

J. M. Barrie.

P.S. To think that you don't know about Peterkin!

*

This characteristic whimsicality is written on the back of a piece of 133 Gloucester Road writing-paper; the envelope, unstamped, is addressed to Miss Sylvia du Maurier, 31 Kensington Park Gardens. No doubt it was delivered by hand on the 14th August, 1897; and is the earliest letter from J.M.B. in my possession. What gift it enclosed I know not.

By 1896 it had no doubt become apparent that the home in Craven Street was too small for a quiverful, and the family moved out to Notting Hill Gate, to 31, Kensington Park Gardens. The house, as we have seen, was familiar to Arthur and Sylvia, as the home of Carrie and George Croom-Robertson; and I think I am right in saying that either great-Aunt Carrie or great-Uncle George, or both, died about that time, and that the tail-end of their lease was left to Arthur and Sylvia

The entry on the scene of J.M.B. introduces a strange and unavoidably controversial element into this compilation. I shall try to treat it as objectively as possible. For obvious reasons, the number of letters from him from now on, is large. This part of the business has been most searchingly and efficiently dealt with by Denis Mackail in The Story of J.M.B., and I need only say (with Denis's help) that in August 1897 J.M.B. was 37 years old, and one of the most talked of figures in the literary world, with money already pouring in from books and plays, including the enormously successful Little Minister. He had married Mary Ansell three years earlier, in July 1894, and they were now living at 133 Gloucester Road, with Porthos, the St. Bernard, to complete the household.

According to Denis, who is nearly always right, indeed, almost devilishly so, Sylvia and J.M.B. had first met at a big dinner-party at the Lewises, some time in 1897. (Sir George Lewis was, I think, already his solicitor, and was also, as we have seen, an important source of briefs for Arthur.)

P(eggy) Ll.D. [Peter's wife] remembers J.M.B. telling her that he found himself sitting next to the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and was overwhelmed and also intrigued by the way she put aside some of the various sweets that were handed round, and secreted them. When he asked her why, she answered that she was keeping them for Peter. A suspect story, on the face of it. On the other hand, old H. Jack Ford, in the letter which I quoted earlier, relating, or professing to relate, the occasion of the first meeting between Arthur and Sylvia went on to say:

“There's another thing you owe me. It was at my studio in Edwardes Square that at a tea J. M. Barrie first met your mother, who was dressed in a corduroy jacket (made by herself). HE saw, fell a victim and was utterly conquered. Hence Peter Pan and all the rest of it.

Often have I seen you held over the coal box when I went to tea with your parents in Craven Terrace, 60 YEARS AGO!”

He was exaggerating the time-lag (writing in 1938), and it couldn't have been in Craven Terrace that he saw me held over the coal box (significance of this a mystery to me); but these are very minor inaccuracies, and his story is as likely to be true as Denis's. At any rate, within a very short time, by way of his adoration of Sylvia, and of his irresistible way with small boys, "Mr. Barrie" became a unique influence in the lives of all of us, one that was to affect our destinies in ways as yet unknown.

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

*

[J.M.B. to Arthur Ll.D.]

133, Gloucester Road, S.W.

24 May '98.

My dear Davies,

Mrs de Navarro has issued her challenge for the match at Broadway for Saturday, June 11, and wants us to go down on the previous day, for which she is arranging sports of an undignified character. She also invites us to supper and a ball. I hope you will contrive to make this suit you and that Mrs Davies will come too as she is particularly wanted and is said to be good at managing boys.

Let me know as rooms have to be booked.

Return on Sunday.

Yours ever,

J.M. Barrie.

*

For an account of J.M.B's "Allahakbarrie" cricketing activities, see Denis [Mackail’s Story of J.M.B] and also The Greenwood Hat. Mrs de Navarro, Mary Anderson, the famous and beautiful actress, regularly challenged the team at Broadway in Worcestershire, for some years.

Did Mr. and Mrs. Davies go to Broadway on this occasion? History ls silent on the point, but it is a fair comment that the occasion would not have been Arthur's cup of tea. (See also J.M.B's next letter to Sylvia.) Denis's masterly summing up of Arthur's attitude towards the impact of this strange new personality makes it quite unnecessary for me to enlarge on ‘all that here.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Dolly Ponsonby at the British Legation, Copenhagen]

Sea Mill,

Rustington

Monday, Aug 8th. [1898]

Darling Dolly,

Brute that I am, & I get no better & never shall. Your dear letters were a great joy, please write many more of them & sometimes in the midst of Kings and Queens, think a little of the poor barrister's wife at Sea Mill with all the winds of heaven blowing her about and a great many noisy but beloved sons jumping on her. Oh, it makes such a difference not to have you, & not to see you, coming along looking such a delightful object with a large hat and little shoes! But Rustington is looking very dear and I have a great fondness for it. Mrs. Bailey isn't here this time, & we have what there is of the cottage to ourselves, which makes things more comfortable.

Well, my Gerald is engaged again to a Miss Ethel Barrymore – a very charming American actress (a very little bit like you!) aged 18 — très chic with parted brown hair & a pretty figure & just about as tall as you are. We like her very much but as they are both so young, at any moment it might be broken off – Gerald is very much in love, & I wish they could be married at once. A long engagement is a very great mistake. When the beloved object has said yes, it ought to be a question only of days, think I; don't you think so? You did that didn't you!

Gerald is to be with Beerbohm Tree 3 years longer & to have 10, 12, & 15 guineas a week, & she is sure get something, so they could do quite well on that.

You will see dear Sir Hubert some time today & won’t you be glad – if possible he is nicer than ever & I am sorry he is gone. Your mother & Gwen are away for a few days I believe. Are any of Gwen’s friends coming down? I met dear Eustace Talbot at the Bob Cecils a little time ago & thought him quite charming – As the song goes “E's a man as you can trust,” & if I were Gwen I should take him for better or worse! Isn't Mrs Jack Talbot glad of the baby – you see she is older than you – but you must be glad when yours comes please. Of course it is nice to have a little time, just two & then you're such child! Think what a sweet it would be – How do you feel, I wonder, my Dolly, are you taking care of yourself & not overdoing it in your gay world with the British Legation at your feet!

Your friend George hurt his poor little finger badly yesterday – he got it pinched in a deck chair so hard that his dear little nail was wrenched off – He was very brave, but it was dreadful and I ached for him – I will send you a photograph of him quite soon – they are so good I think, but I haven't ordered any yet. They were not done in their fancy dress – perhaps I will take them once more – but it is quite an undertaking, as you can imagine.

Now dear Dolly I haven't any news – you know better than I how charming this little place is & how windy it is & how Sylvia goes in and out of the Mill cottage & looks after the 3 little boys with red caps, but when all is said and done Rustington can never be the same without you.

I began this letter a few days ago, so I think I might as well send it off to Copenhagen. Forgive it for being dull & send a line to me while I am here. Please remember me to Sir Hubert & Sir Arthur, and with very much love to you, dear thing,

I am, your loving

Sylvia.

*

In sending me this letter – the only one of Sylvia’s she seems to have kept [AB: actually not so, e.g. her letter to Dolly Ponsonby following Arthur's death] – Lady Ponsonby wrote:

“It conveys her so completely – at least to me. It recalls so visibly the Mill House, the sea, the wind and the little boys in red tam o’shanters. You were too young to remember it. It is too subtle to be conveyed in writing. But the calm and beauty of her, and her delicious whimsical sense of humour, sewing perhaps in a tiny cottage sitting-room with those rampageous boys tumbling about her – I shall never forget it.”

It is of course only too doubtful whether any of the letters, etc., which compose this record can ever convey any picture of the persons concerned to readers who never saw them. Still, I cling to the thought that occasional descendants in the future, blessed or cursed with a sense of the past, may find them to some extent evocative.

A trivial enough, gossipy letter, this particular one; Dolly Parry had just married Arthur Ponsonby who I suppose was an attaché at Copenhagen. Ethel Barrymore, whose engagement to Gerald du M. was brief, survives as an actress of some eminence in Hollywood. Nico saw her only the other day, giving a highly effective performance as an old lady in the latest American film.

Gwen Parry turned down Eustace (later Mr. Justice) Talbot – if he ever proposed to her – and in due course married Harry Plunket Green, the exquisite singer instead. Mrs Jack Talbot (Jack T. being Eustace’s brother) became the mother of Nico‘s closest friend, Evan Talbot; and of his younger brother Dick, who, (it may be said without indiscretion in a private document like this) made more than one proposal to her who for reasons best known to herself chose to marry me. I think I am right in saying that Mrs Jack T, whom I never met, often talked to Nico of Sylvia and Arthur. The baby Sylvia refers to in this letter was either Joan, now Mrs Eric Villiers, who was one of the closest friends of my Margaret and her twin sister Alison in their unmarried days – or perhaps more probably Anne, the oldest of that family and still unmarried.

The Bob Cecils: a fragment of a letter from Lord Robert Cecil, which will be found on one of the last pages of this volume, shows that he knew Arthur and Sylvia well enough to go down to Berkhamsted in the time of sadness, and to write to Sylvia in very moving terms after Arthur’s death. Otherwise I have no clue to the circumstances of their acquaintance; but this is another “link“: Bob Cecil being a cousin of my father-in-law’s, and uncle of David Cecil, who was very much a childhood companion of Margaret and Alison Hore-Ruthven, and who married Desmond McCarthy’s daughter, who is Crompton Ll.D’s godchild.

Dolly Ponsonby’s own baby, when it eventually came, was Elizabeth, who stayed the night at Egerton House with her parents in 1906, and to whose unfortunate end reference is made later.

I really can’t help it if this particular digression has a faintly snobbish ring.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

2, Garden Court, Temple E.C.

Jan. 16, 1899.

Dearest Margaret,

Archer M. White appears to be a real man. He was called to the Bar in 1892 and obtained a large number of scholarships. I know his name as that of a writer in the C.T.C. Gazette of articles on the Law relating to Bicycles, which seem to be very well done. I expect he is after advertisement rather than cash.

To our relief the holidays came to an end this morning, and George and Jack returned to school. They had many parties, as well as a pantomime at the new theatre in our neighbourhood [The Coronet, in the Bayswater Road]. George is very much excited over the Little Duke, and will soon be able to read to himself. Jack prefers dancing and turning head over heels. Peter by his virtue and placidity still reminds me of the infant Theodore. Perhaps Sylvia or I might bring them to see you in the East End one day when you are up in February?

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

"To our relief" – the phrase will ring a sympathetic bell in the ears of all parents of young boys: “plaguy little boys” as Arthur calls them in one of his last letters to me.

The school was the Norland Place School at the bottom of Holland Park Avenue, a biggish day school for girls and very young boys, to which it was easy for Arthur to accompany his brood in the mornings, catching his horse-bus to the Temple as soon as he had safely delivered them. Nico's Laura is the only one of her generation of Davieses to patronise this excellent institution, to which I, Michael and Nico all resorted in due course.

I am interested by "George will soon be able to read for himself" (aged 5½). Rivvy and my own George cannot be said to have read until they were 8. Peter, on the other hand, who has just had his sixth birthday, can read pretty well when he wants to.

*

[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D]

133 Gloucester Road, S.W.

22 June, ’99.

My dear Sylvia,

Do come to the cricket match at Broadway and help me to win by doing crooks in the pavilion. Friday week (30th) afternoon till Sunday is only two nights. You would be my guest of course, and Mary and I are longing to have you. Also there are twenty-two wickets for you to take, and you need not pretend (musketeers or no musketeers) that you don't like bowling at them.

You know how hugely delighted I shd. be if Arthur could come also but I suppose that is hopeless.

I thought you were to ask us to dine with you. Are you trying to get out of it?

Yours ever,

J.M.B.

*

So the Christian name stage has now been reached.

"Doing crooks in the pavilion" is as Barriesque a phrase as could be found. Vide Grizel’s crooked smile in Tommy and Grizel, on which he was now at work. (She had not had it in Sentimental Tommy).

I don’t know the significance of "musketeers or no musketeers.”

*

[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D.]

[Written on the back of a piece of card which has on the other side of it the remains of the name of a Bond Street shop, probably a jeweller.]

[November 1899]

To a Crooked Lady on her 33rd Birthday.

At thirty-three she's twice as sweet

As sweetest seventeen could be,

At sixty-six I'm sure she'll beat

The record made at thirty-three.

So sure am I her crooked ways

Will baffle Time and all his tricks,

Impatiently I count the days

Till Jocelyn shall be sixty-six.

*

As the present compilation will end for all practical purposes at 1921 or earlier, it is easy for me to refrain from any observations on the destination of birthday gifts, and the accompanying lines from the same hand, or rather its left counterpart, in 1933. Fortunately, on the whole, since any such observations, besides being unprofitable, would also probably be injudicious and silly.

*

[George and Jack Ll.D. to J.M.B.]

31, Kensington Park Gardens, W.

Friday, March 8 [?1900]

Dear Mr. Barrie,

Please will you come to the Lizard at Easter. We are going in the train to Helstone and the next day we drive to the Lizard. If you can come do bring Porthos. Please will you have some lovly storrys ready for us.

Yours Faithfuly,

George Llewelyn Davies

and

Jack Llewelyn Davies.

Mother left some of her precious purple jewels at your house, please gard them safely for her.

*

I can’t date this letter with any confidence within two or three years. Jack may possibly be able to. It probably belongs here. It is the earliest I have from George or Jack, and I suppose the "lovly storrys" may be called the first surviving hint of the germination of P.P. It was in the following summer that, during our first Tilford holiday, the photographs were taken in the woods round Black Lake Cottage which crystallized into “The Boy Castaways”, of which Jack has the only remaining copy*: the "storrys" being held back for further elaboration.

[AB: *Now in the Beinecke Library at Yale University]

And, in the interval (Jan. 7, 1901), another P.P. germ – “The Greedy Dwarf” – was produced at 133 Gloucester Road, with Sylvia as Prince Robin – "Enormous Engagement of Miss Sylvia du Maurier who has been Brought Back from the year 1892 in a Hansom to play the Principal Boy." According to Denis, who was there as a boy of 9, but who doubtless had it from an older member of the audience, Sylvia, "modestly draped, and hardly attempting to act, smiled exquisitely at the onlookers with an air of bewildered apology." Arthur was an onlooker, and I should think an uncomfortable one. I have a copy of the programme, with a photograph of myself, as author, on the cover.

*

[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D]

133 Gloucester Road, S.W.

21 June 1900.

My dear Jocelyn,

It is very sweet and kind of you to write me from the throne, which is what I take your present residence to be. He is a gorgeous boy, is Delight, which was your own original name for him in the far back days of last week or thereabouts when you used to hug Peter with such sudden vehemence that I am sure he wondered whether you were up to anything.

I don't see how we could have expected him to be a girl, you are so good at boys, and this you know is the age of specialists. And you were very very nearly being a boy yourself.

May he always be a dear delight to you and may all your dreams about all of them come true.

Ever yours,

J.M.B.

*

A pretty irresistible affair, when you come to think of it, and serving appropriately to record here the birth, on 16 June, of Michael, at 31 K.P.G.

Though I remember nothing, naturally, of the alleged vehement hugs, I seem to recall the birth of Michael and being taken in to see the new baby; but I am more likely confusing this recollection with that of Nico’s birth three years later. This is the earliest instance I have of J.M.B's use of Sylvia’s second name, by which no doubt he elected to call her, and did ever afterwards, because (so far as I know) no one else used it. I think I have referred elsewhere to my ignorance of where the name Jocelyn, which was Ellen Clarke’s second name, originally came from.

*

[NOT IN PETER'S MORGUE]

Queen Ann's Mansions

Wed'y. [26 September 1900]

My dear Jocelyn.

I am so glad you are coming tomorrow. The Box is Box 1 & is on the stalls floor on the audience's left hand. Stall is being sent to Arthur. I fully expect the men of the world to stamp on the thing, but never mind.

Yours

J.M.B.

[AB: A note attached in Cynthia Asquith's writing: “I believe this was written on Wednesday Sept 26th, 1900. Box for the Garrick Theatre. Play: The Wedding Guest. Barrie was staying some nights at Queen Anne's Mansions with A.E.W. Mason.”]

*

1901 was a blank in my documentary records, until Mary Hodgson sent me the letters which follow, and which are the only ones from Sylvia to her which survived the bombing of her London home in 1941.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Hazlehurst,

Freshwater Bay, [Isle of Wight]

Good Friday morning. [4 April 1901]

My dear Mary,

We are here safe and sound and, considering the long journey, none the worse. The start off was rather dreadful, and not a seat in the train for us and many others. The crowd was huge and it was almost impossible to move. A special train had to be run so we got a comfortable first class carriage and started pretty soon after the last. The boys were nice on the whole and enjoyed the boat very much. The weather was perfect but cold; today, alas, it is wet and very cold. We have very nice rooms and the landlady is very nice and kind. I am thinking of my little Michael all the time and longing to kiss him. I do so hope he will soon be quite well and free from cold and that he will be able to get away. When the time comes you must take his pram as it wd. be difficult to get one at C[horley] W[ood]. I ordered a thin piece of mackintosh for a cover for it in the rain.

I hope your sister is with you. Don't forget I should like Nelly (or Jenny, if she is with you) to go with you to the station the day you get off. I don't know what the posts will be doing, but I daresay the letters will be late everywhere. The boys are well and send love.

Kiss my Michael for me.

Sylvia Ll.D.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Hazlehurst,

Easter Sunday [7 April 1901]

My dear Mary,

I was so so glad to hear that my little boy was much better. I am always thinking of him and I can see him so well in his nursery. Mama wrote that she hadn't been very well, so I don't suppose she has been round. I hope she won't do too much.

Mrs. Coles [May] has a dear little bed which will do for Michael. You will take a piece of mackintosh for it, won’t you? Whiteley sent me patterns of mackintosh so I will tell them to send a piece to Chorley Wood for the pram. Tell Goodman I will write to Maunder by this post to tell him to take down the partition etc., and tell her to get in a woman if she wants one.

The boys are all well (George and P. coughing slightly) and very happy, and get out in spite of the rain – you can imagine their shoes and all the changing! Peter is more with me and Bessie. I do hope the weather will soon be better – I am longing for some sun. I still have a good deal of pain in my ear and head and I can't sleep well yet, but I must expect that for a bit, I suppose.

Mr. Davies is coming up tomorrow, but tell Nelly as long as he has a bed and some breakfast Tuesday morning they need do nothing more for him – don't put curtains because he doesn't mind in the least.

I am so glad Jenny is with you – you must enjoy having her. Will you ask what I wish, or are you quite sure it wd. be impossible?

Mind you take plenty of shawls with you and for the journey – it is so much colder in the country, and here it is dreadfully cold.

I hope his new bonnet is comfortable for him, bless him. I hope you are not very tired yourself and that you don’t dislike going away so very much.

Sincerely yours,

Sylvia Ll.D.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Hazlehurst,

Thursday. [11 April 1901]

(Blue ribbons!)

Please don't call me Madam.

My dear Mary,

I was so glad to get your letter and to know that my little boy was happy and well and safe at Apple Tree Farm. I daresay he will soon know them all quite well and be ready to hold out his arms.

We are having bad weather which is trying, and we have to get out as much as we can between the showers. Today it looks as if it meant to be better. I miss you very often, but we manage as well as we can and the boys are well. Mr. Davies comes back tomorrow I hope and I don't quite know when we can get back. Whiteley says the house will not be finished till the end of next week which is a bother because I didn't want to return till it was all over – I don't want the boys to be upset with the paint.

As you say nothing about Jenny coming to us I suppose it is no good my thinking any more about it but it would have been delightful and I don't know when I shall find anyone – I should so like to be settled and Mrs Hunt doesn't send me any letters.

Kiss my little boy for me and whisper in his ear that I want him so much.

Yrs. Sin’y

Sylvia Ll.D.

I hope he doesn't have his comforter much except at night.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Hazlehurst,

Friday. [12 April 1901]

Dear Mary,

Thank you for your letter. Jack was delighted to get one too and I think Peter wishes for one.

I have told Anna to get things ready in the nursery for Monday in case you return that day.

I daresay you will prefer Monday – do just as you like. We shall most likely get back about tea-time Tuesday. If you do, send Nelly a postcard at Brambridge, Craven Terrace, Lancaster Gate.

We have lovely weather at last and the boys are having a good time and are very well – I am afraid their shoes etc. are worn out but that cannot be helped and I must order in many new prs.

I am longing to see my Michael; it seems months since I had him in my arms. I hope you have been well and that the nights haven't been bad. Kiss my little boy for me.

Yours sincerely,

Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.

*

These four letters recall an Easter holiday in the Isle of Wight which Jack probably remembers quite well but which has almost entirely passed out of my own recollection. I can just remember rapturously watching a large piece of cork being tossed about in a rough sea in the cove, and coveting it for a "boat", and, less clearly, a drive to neighbouring Alum Bay where treasures were bestowed on us in the form of little bottles containing the multi-coloured sand from the cliffs arranged in neat and fascinating layers. All else, including "Hazlehurst" is a blank.

Hard to say whether one is glad or sorry that these which, with the ones immediately following, form so large a proportion of the few of Sylvia's letters which have survived, should be so very domestic.

Mary Hodgson had been nurse to [Maurice Ll.D's son] Roland and had come to us shortly before my own appearance on the scene: at first, I think, as understudy to Nurse Woodward, a (to me) mythical figure said to have been in the habit of beating George and Jack on the behind with a hairbrush – I never knew which side of it, the wooden or the bristly. About the time of my birth Mary became exclusive nurse to the family; though to call her nurse was to incur her instant wrath. ‘Mary’ was her sole designation, except when we wanted to annoy her, and then of course we called her Nurse. Of her goodness and devotion to us all for twenty years and more, and of the absolute trust placed in her by Sylvia, despite certain occasionally awkward idiosyncrasies in her character – perhaps inseparable from and traditional to her calling – there will be better opportunities to speak further on, as and when she is mentioned.

Michael, 10 months old, had been left behind with Mary at 31 K.P.G. when the rest of us went to Freshwater, and May [Coles, Sylvia’s sister] and Coley had evidently invited them down for a few nights to the house at Chorley Wood, in Buckinghamshire, where they were then living.

I confess to being bewildered by the enormous array of servants who figure in these letters. Jenny, who was not to be lured into joining the household, was a sister of Mary's. (In the “Will” which Sylvia wrote nine years later, on her deathbed, we shall find her reverting to the idea of Jenny coming to join Mary, in order to help her to run 23 C.H.S.) Bessie (Harper) who accompanied us to "Hazlehurst" I vaguely remember – I can just see her cleaning out fires and washing floors, in a white-spotted blue print dress, red-faced and cheerful. But Nelly, who was she? And Goodman – a cook? How they swarmed in those golden days, probably each getting about £10 a year, and one day off every other month. Anna, unless I am mistaken, was French, and had been engaged as nursemaid to help Mary after the advent of Michael. She it was who taught one to bellow "J'ai fi – ni!" as one squatted on the popo, big try successfully performed, waiting to be wiped. At first I thought Grumbridge must be still another minister to our modest middle class needs, but on consideration I think he may have been a dairyman to whom Mary was to write, telling him to resume milk deliveries at the end of the holidays. Mrs Hunt was the name, and still is, of a “domestic employment agency"; Maunder presumably a local builder or odd job man.

31 K.P.G. was evidently being given a new coat of paint during the holidays – dark green, as I remember.

Curious to reflect that our (P's and my) Mildred Smith has now (1950) been with us only three years less than Mary Hodgson stayed with the elder generation. But she is our only servant. Our three boys get through their shoes in the holidays just as quickly, no doubt, but as for "ordering in many new prs." – My God, they cost about £l to repair, and have to be worn till invisible soles and split uppers have parted company for good and all.

Who – except the class that then automatically provided servants – can doubt that those were the days?

The remaining two letters Mary gave me date from the following June, and were addressed to her at her parents' home, which Nico will well remember, at 9 Cross Street, Morecambe, where she must have been spending one of her brief holidays.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Friday, 31 Kensington Park Gardens, W.

[June 1901]

Dear Mary,

Little Michael is very well and has another tooth through at last – the other will be through soon I think. He has been wonderfully good. He had a few bad cries at first and clung to me and looked about for you which was pathetic, but considering everything he has been easy to soothe. He refuses to take any broth so I suppose I must cope with meat juice.

Mr. Davies and George came back on Wednesday and George thoroughly enjoyed himself. Jack was seedy for two days and afterwards Mr. Barrie took him to spend an afternoon at Earl's Court. Peter wished to go too but I thought it would be wiser to only let one, so Peter is to go alone one day later on.

I daresay you are enjoying yourself and I hope you will rest and take care of yourself and come back strong. Peter thinks you have been away a very long time.

The weather here is very warm and they all have their thin combinations on, and Michael has his little drawers on and no petticoat at present. I got him a little washing silk jacket which is cool and he looks a sweet in it. Maunder has put the door in the nursery but he hasn't painted it, and I am afraid we must wait till we are away.

I will take Michael to be photographed next week if I can and I hope they will be good – I will send you a proof. Please remember me to your mother and Nancy.

Sincerely yours,

Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Sunday,

31, Kensington Park Gardens, W.

Michael’s birthday. [16 June 1901]

Dear Mary,

It was so nice of you to send the socks — Michael has them on and has caught hold of them many times. His 4th tooth is not through yet I am sorry to say. He is very well, but in the last few days he has had a sort of cold in his eyes which is a bother. It may be something to do with his teeth. They don't seem to trouble him at all but they have to be bathed with a lotion. I hope it won't last long.

I hope you are having a good time and that you are well. I shall be glad to see you and I suppose you will come back either Friday or Saturday – just as you like. I have settled not to have Nelly back as she doesn’t understand how to do the work in the least. I suppose Nancy wouldn't come to us? Anna is going to start doing the new work, but she will go when we leave London as she wishes to be in the nursery near her aunt at Herne Bay. Anyhow of course I shouldn't take more than 4 maids away to a cottage.

We have taken a charming cottage at Tilford, near Mr. Barrie's, instead of Burpham. When you come back I will go down and settle about rooms.

Do you think you could make a sort of plan for the new work – Bessie thinks you would do it best, and when you get back you can talk it over with her. You will both understand it better than I should. I am sure Anna had better do the nurseries once a week and anything else upstairs you think best. What about Monday's washing? You see it would be very nice for the new girl to have some time for sewing. The dining room and hall are to be taken away from the cook. If Nancy will not come (that is of course what I should like best) then Bessie will take Nelly’s place till we go away, and Mrs. Vallander will stop on from then till we come back in September. Then I shall find a country housemaid for the time we are away.

If you can make plans and settle things comfortably between you all I shall be so much obliged. The new girl who seemed very nice is ready to come when we are ready.

Mama is giving Michael a lovely go-cart.

Yrs. sincerely,

Sylvia Ll. Davies.

(M. is having the meat juice once a day, but he doesn't like it much.)

*

“4 maids to Tilford”! It's uncanny. But the figure is clearly written and there is no doubt about it. Where did they sleep in that truly charming old cottagy farmhouse – or at 31, K.P.G. either, for that matter? All in one room, and two to a bed, I shouldn't wonder. Nancy was another sister of Mary's; and Sylvia's anxiety to recruit other members of the Hodgson family is the clearest possible indication of the value she placed on Mary herself, with whom, as all these letters show, she was by now on terms of great intimacy.

Mrs. Vallander is a new one to me, and may have been either a permanent member of the household or a sort of caretaker. Jack will probably know.

One has no notion of what Arthur's average income from the Bar may have been at this stage, but it certainly can’t have been large. What made this enormous gang of servants possible was, I think, not only the almost non-existent taxation and the cheapness of the servants themselves and of things in general, but also the simplicity of the way the family lived: hardly any drink (an occasional bottle of claret from Hedges & Butler in Regent Street and a glass of beer or so for Arthur), no car or carriage, practically no restaurants to eat and drink expensively in, of course no wirelesses or refrigerators or other gadgets, and no serious school bills. I think Arthur always had lunch at an A.B.C. for about 6d., and I take it Sylvia made most of her own lovely clothes.

This isn’t at all a clever or penetrating analysis, but what emerges is that they concentrated on essentials – and no doubt managed to save something every year – and evolved, on a small income, something as near perfection in the way of family life as could be wished.

Impossible, unfortunately, to escape for a moment from the consciousness that such happiness must have made the subsequent miseries infinitely harder to bear.

Earlier and later letters, if they had survived, would very likely have revealed similar devotion, on the part of Sylvia, to others of her children besides M. Disproportionate emphasis is in fact inevitable in an incomplete record. But somehow I have a feeling, to which one or two later hints contribute, that Michael was truly the most loved.

No record survives of the well-remembered holiday at Tilford that summer; none, that is, except one or two photographs, and Jack’s copy of “The Boy Castaways”.

*

[NOT IN PETER'S MORGUE]

[No address; black-edged paper]

12 Jan 1902

My dear Jocelyn,

I enclose you a cheque for the work you are taking up, but you shall have as much more as you may find you need. I am sure it is as good work as a woman can well turn to, and you will be very kind, which is probably the beginning of all good deeds.

Yours always,

J. M. B.

*

[Jack Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]

2, Garden Court, Temple, E.C.

Nov. 28, 1902.

Dearest Father,

I don't know what your arrangements are for Christmas, nor if you are likely to have the Vicarage very full. I should like to come, if possible, bringing one boy or perhaps two. It is just possible that Sylvia may be induced to come too, but that is not likely. I should aim at paying visits also to Annan and Birkenhead if it can be managed.

Sylvia is at present on a trip to Paris with her friends the Barries, by way of celebration of the huge success of Barrie’s new plays and new book. The party is completed by another novelist, [A.E.W.] Mason, and they seem to be living in great splendour and enjoying themselves very much. They left on Monday and return tomorrow. Barrie’s new book, “The Little White Bird”, is largely taken up with Kensington Gardens and our and similar children. There is a whole chapter devoted to Peter.

I was at the large Encyclopaedia Britannica dinner last week. Sir John Scott and others spoke to me of you. Bell of Marlborough was there, and professed indignation at my reminiscence that the Bishop of London was superannuated in the Lower Fifth.

My work is moderately prosperous but no more. I have a son of Mrs. Humphrey Ward as a pupil.

Your affect. son,

A.Ll.D.

*

Three days before the date of this letter Arthur had given Sylvia, on her birthday, a little “Canterbury Poets” volume of Blake, which I have.

Did Arthur and George and Jack go to Kirkby, Annan (where Harry worked and lived with his wife, Agnes) and Birkenhead (Maurice, Roland, Mary and Theodora) that Christmas? I believe so; Jack will probably remember. I don't think Kirkby drew Sylvia At all strongly after the death of her mother-in-law.

“Her friends the Barries” is a suggestive phrase; the Davieses and Barries had known one another now for some five years. Was Arthur a little put out by Sylvia's visit to Paris? (By the way, this visit is not recorded by Denis, and I am paying him a compliment when I say it is almost a pleasure to have caught him napping for once. And perhaps I may say here, as well as anywhere else, that none of the letters in this compilation were placed at his disposal.) I think it pretty clear that Arthur was a shade vexed and thought it all rather a bore. On the other hand, how Sylvia must have enjoyed it, and why not? Paris meant something to her, and nothing, I think, to Arthur And Jimmy was, in his own odd way, an excellent Parisian and the most delightful of hosts, and it would have been hard to imagine a more satisfactory addition than Alfred Mason, a new and devoted admirer and one of the romantically minded men of that day who put all beautiful women on a pedestal, and a most attractive, amusing and romantic figure himself.

The hugely successful plays of which the Paris trip was a celebration were “The Admirable Crichton”, produced on November 4th, and “Quality Street”, which had preceded it by only a little more than a month. They ran for ten and fourteen months respectively. And a few days before the party left for Paris, “The Little White Bird” had been published. What a year for Mr. Barrie!

Among the effects sent back to the flat in Adelphi Terrace after George’s death was a copy of “The Little White Bird”. I still have it, with its inscription, "George Llewelyn Davies, 1914, Blaringhem." I have always, by the way, rightly or wrongly, regarded the book as being much more about him than about me. I can't say I like it, any more more than, it would seem, Arthur did.

In this year the Barries moved to Leinster Corner, Lancaster Gate.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

2, Garden Court, Temple, E.C.

Feb. 12, 1903.

Dearest Margaret,

Ever since Christmas I have been intending to write and thank you for the beautiful instrument of ivory and steel which you sent me from Sunderland. It serves many purposes, from cutting Law Reports to removing bicycle tyres, and is still unbroken.

We were much interested to read the accounts of your successful experiment at Sunderland. [Women's Co-operative Guild, no doubt] Won't you try Notting Hill next, and under-sell Whiteley and promote the cheerfulness of our evenings? I believe Sylvia has ventured to ask Barrie for a copy of his works for the use of the Guild.

We are all extremely well, and attending school and Temple regularly, and enjoying our grand new house, except when the time comes to pay rent and rates. Our rose trees are in full leaf, and snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and primroses beginning to sprout up promiscuously. Sylvia is hunting for a sundial as a present from Gerald.

I am moderately busy, and have two pupils who pay me money and do my work for me.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

The grand new house which sounds so rural, was in fact 23, Kensington Park Gardens, just across the street from No. 3l, recently relinquished either because the lease had come to an end, or because it was too small for four boys, and the further addition who was doubtless now expected: Nicholas Ll.D., born in this house, 24 November 1903.

A typically dreary Bayswater thoroughfare, some might think it, Kensington Park Gardens, with its rows of stucco houses, and the "squares" at the back of them: yet hallowed, for me, by all the little memories it holds of the first seven years of my insignificant journey through this vale of tears. I can't walk along it even now without queer sensations about the heart. In point of fact, this particular street, when it was first built, in the eighteen fifties, was regarded, with its width and the exceptionally large open space at the back, as an outstanding example of tow planning. It was inhabited from the first by prosperous upper-middle-class families who could afford to pay their minute wages to numerous servants such large houses needed. And the houses themselves, architecturally speaking, have a certain grace and proportion for the discerning modern eye.

23, K.P.G. is the first of our homes I remember in any detail. "Grand" was a euphemism on Arthur's part, though it was certainly bigger than 31, and had the dignity of being semi-detached, at the end of the street, and of possessing a room which could be made into a "schoolroom" and of being approached through a gate to a door at the side, instead of by the usual flight up steps directly from the pavement. It and its semi-detached neighbour were pulled down a good many years ago and a block of flats built on the site. The rose-bushes and flowers adorned a tiny patch of garden at the back, which gave on to Ladbroke Square, across which George and Jack used to set off on their daily walk to Wilkinson's, and where I remember, among many other sensations, becoming conscious for the first time of the sweet smell of new-mown grass.

*

[Jack Ll.D. to J.M.B.]

16, Royal Crescent,

Ramsgate

April 23rd, 1903

Dear Mr. Barrie,

We are all comming back on Monday and we are longing to see you. We are having a very jolly time at Ramsgate. We wish you were here. We spend most of our time on donkeys and the sands, so when George and I are riding donkeys it makes four altogether. Uncle Gerald and Aunt Muriel are comming down on Sunday and Uncle Guy says they are always looking into each other’s eyes. I hope you enjoyed yourself at BLACK-LAKE COTTAGE. Is the new motor-car finished yet. I’ve put Black Lake Cottage in capital letters because where-ever you live must be a very celebrated place. Mother has got rumertism in her shoulders. I hope Clare Mackail is better. Did you think Aunt Muriel looked beautiful at the wedding. Mother said you were in the church. Father said you have got a topper! l didn't know it before.

Your story-listener Jack Ll. Davies.

P.S. I expect a letter.

*

Clear indications here of the letter-writing accomplishment 'which still distinguishes the author. It is the earliest Ramsgate letter I have and I take this to have been our first of so many Easter holidays there, in the house which had been left to Emma du M. the year before by her aunt Susan Caught.

Gerald du M. and Muriel Beaumont had been married a few days before this letter was written – on April 11th. Guy was recently home from the long drawn out South African War and would soon be going abroad again. Clare Mackail: younger sister of Angela (Thirkell) and Denis.

*

[J.M.B. to Peter and Michael Ll.D.]

Leinster Corner

Lancaster Gate, W.

11 May 1903

Dear Petermikle,

I thank u 2 very much 4 your birth day presents and i hav putt your portraitgrafs on mi wall and yourselves in my hart and your honey lower down.

I am so sorry Sil Volatile is not well and feel sure you dont bang about in the Big Room in case you disturb her.

I am

your frend, J.M.Barrie.

*

Worth putting in for its own inimitable sake, as well as because it is the earliest surviving letter from its author to the writer of these lines (half of it, anyhow), to whom the association has ever been fraught with complexities from which all others escaped. What’s in a name? My God, what isn’t? If that perennially juvenile, if that boy so fatally committed to an arrestation of his development, had only been dubbed George, or Jack, or Michael, or Nicholas, what miseries would have been spared me.

Sil Volatile: ex-Sal Volatile, a nostrum of the day known also as "drops" of which Sylvia made considerable use. So for as I remember, it was administered to us as a kind of mild tonic.

*

[From Lady Ponsonby, writing to me in l945: “In the summer of 1903 the Davies’s took instead of the Sea Mill House, what was known as Rustington Mill, about a mile inland at the extreme Northern limit of the village. There was the mill and the miller's house, and 2 rather charming flint cottages by the roadside in which they stayed. I can see and feel so vividly one evening we spent there. I write:

“Arthur and I dined with Sylvia and Arthur. Sylvia looking divine, but really the picture of them from the road through the open lamp-lit cottage window was the loveliest I ever saw. Arthur reading, with his Greek-coin profile, and Sylvia with her beautifully poised head and Empire hair, sewing in a gown of white and silver.”

They were always on the beach with the children, and I write of Sylvia's boys, "her beautiful sons more glorious than ever,” and “The Davies boys, George and Jack, and the two Arthurs and Louis Mallet out in the ‘Humber’ (my father’s yacht), the boys splendidly full of courage and hope, swarming up the rigging like monkeys, and George, with the assistance of ropes, bathing off the boat though unable to swim. There was no wind and the ship lolloped about a good deal and they were suddenly flat and quiet on their backs... Home in time for tea – a large party – the rest of the Davies family and Sylvia."

*

I think it will be agreed that, if only for this one glimpse of our parents in the splendid prime of their lives – 40 and 36 – we are deeply indebted to Lady Ponsonby.

While not claiming any personal share in the beauty or glory of the four sons (contemporary photographs are my guide) I remain convinced that I, too, was on board the ‘Humber’ that day, as l fancy I mentioned a good many pages back, before I had received the above from Lady P. But it was forty-four years ago and I was only six, and memory is undoubtedly a deceitful bitch. Nevertheless, I remember a lot about Rustington:

Je me souviens

Des jours anciens,

Et je pleure.*

Louis Mallet (Sir in 1912) was in the Foreign Office, and Ambassador to Turkey 1913-14. The other Arthur was, of course, Arthur (Lord in 1930) Ponsonby, whom Dolly Parry had married in 1899.

[* From Verlaine’s “Chanson d’automne”: “I remember / the old days / and I weep.”]

*

Leinster Corner,

Lancaster Gate, W.

23 Oct. 1903.

My dear Jocelyn,

I shall come round for the revellers tomorrow about two. I hope Arthur can turn up at the theatre. We have two boxes flung into one, so there is plenty of room for Mary and Michael.

Yours ever,

J.M.B.

*

Anyone might be forgiven for thinking this was Peter Pan, but in fact it antedates that terrible masterpiece by some fourteen months. In October 1905 “Crichton” had just come off and “Quality Street was still running – in its thirteenth month. Little Mary had begun its run the month before. It may have been either of these plays to which the revellers were bidden; perhaps the balance tips in favour of Little Mary, where Jack was to hear his own line spoken, arising out of which the agreement between him and the author was drawn up, entitling him to a royalty of a halfpenny a performance (and giving him thirty years' precedence over another kind of Royalty, owing to the author's ineradicable habit of repeating himself, in letters as in life.)

The first occasion, by the way, on which J.M.B. had taken the Davies family en masse to the theatre was in the winter of 1902, to Bluebell in Fairyland, the significance of which unusual pantomime in the genealogy of P.P. has been well pointed out by Denis. I can very faintly remember it; and its famous song The Honeysuckle and the Bee evokes those yearn for me as vividly as any other, with the possible exception of Goodbye, Dolly, I Must Leave You. There were plenty of other, equally satisfying tunes of the day, of course, but many of them have been so mercilessly plugged in recent yearn that they have lost their nostalgic, evocative quality.

And the mention of Dolly Grey reminds me that during these years Guy du Maurier had been away in South Africa commanding first a Mounted Infantry company of his regiment, and later an M.I. Regiment: the only link between the family and that last of the old-fashioned, professional, voluntary wars. He wrote home to his mother with unfailing regularity and at great length and I have two leather-bound volumes containing typed copies of all those letters. I suppose they really belong to Muriel du M., having merely come to me years ago from Gerald, who wondered at one time whether they might be worth publishing. They are interesting as war letters, but for that very reason of comparatively little value for my present purpose.

There are only one or two insignificant references to Sylvia Ll.D., and not a single mention anywhere of Arthur , between whom and Guy du M. I fancy there was little in common besides their Marlborough education; though curiously enough Mary Hodgson, in answer to a question about a later period, writes that "your Uncle Guy appeared to understand your father best.” In fact, these letters confirm the strong impression I have gathered from other sources that Sylvia's marriage, her devotion to Arthur and the very warm welcome she received into the Ll.D. family, took her further from her own family than was the case with either of her sisters. Mary H., in the same connection as the remark just quoted, says: "There were times when he defied the lot – and stood alone – and his wife stood by him!" Anyhow I think we were a decidedly self-contained household, besides being a numerous gang; and it is clearly observable in the letters that Trixie, May and Gerald figured much more in Guy's thoughts about the future than Sylvia. May and Coley were a devoted enough pair, one would say, but of course no children to absorb and constrict their social activities. xxx

Trixie: presumably dear old Gerald Arthur will never read these lines – it sounds to me, and squares with all one has gathered since, and G.A. himself wouldn’t, I'm sure, mind my saying so, as if she [Trixie] was pretty sick of Charlie [Millar] by this time. Guy evidently had no opinion of Charlie, the more so since he (Guy) was apparently being called on to contribute financially towards the launching of his nephew and namesake Guy Millar on a Naval career. To his mother he was clearly devoted, and with no thoughts then of getting married himself, he adverts more than once to the idea of a home with her in the country, to which his sisters and brother and their children, but not their husbands or wife (if Gerald should marry Miss Beaumont, who looks "most allurin'" in the photographs) could be invited from time to time.

The impression one gets of Guy du M. himself is of a regular soldier more or less reconciled to his lot, but with a shade too much temperament to be altogether contented ln a rather hide-bound profession. Temperament – what a sod it, unless the possessor of it is in a walk of life where it can be made capital of! It rears its head rather particularly in his caustic remarks about generals and peace-time army life, but such feelings are usual enough towards the end of a campaign. If his own account is to be trusted, he was not a man to suffer gladly those set in authority over him; a trait which recurred in more than one of his nephews [i.e. Jack] (including occasionally even a mere amateur soldier like the writer of these lines). Guy never became a general himself, but was to die twelve years later in Flanders in command of a battalion of his regiment. I fancy he was then due to get command of a brigade at any moment.

As we shall see, Sylvia in her last "will" expressed the wish that he should share in the guardianship and trusteeship of her five boys. He never actively did, partly through serving abroad again (Sylvia Africa, Crete and India) from 1910 to 1914. But I think it is clear that, if he had lived, his presence in the background of our lives would have benefited us not inconsiderably.

Attractive as are the suggestions he throws out in these letters of selling old Susan Caught's house and buying with the proceeds a Kentish farm where there would be horses and lessons in equitation tor all or us, the delights of Ramsgate linger so vividly in all my childish memories that I for one cannot regret Emma du M's decision to stick to dear old 16 Royal Crescent after all. I wonder if Sylvia Ll.D. had anything to do with that decision? More than likely, with all five of us still then in the sand-digging and donkey-riding stage.

And so back to the main thread of the record, if it has such a thing, with Guy du M. home on leave and Gerald married to the allurin' Miss Beaumont -- it would be some years yet before Guy himself belied his own prophecies by marrying Gwen Price, who still survives, a widow these thirty years and more.

*

[NOT IN PETER'S MORGUE]

2 Garden Court Temple,

Nov 26, 1903.

Dear Margaret,

Many thanks for your letter. Both Sylvia and the infant (Nicholas??) are doing very well, though Sylvia will require great care for some time. We are much gratified by the size, vigour, maturity & unbaldness of the infant. He weighed 11lb 3oz at birth, a very unusual weight, & in face reminds us of the early George. George says he is not exactly pretty but looks agreeable & sensible. Michael gazes at him with wide eyes & Peter makes inarticulate noises at him. Please give Aunt Harriet my love & thank her for her letter.

Come and see us any time.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

[AB: Nico found this letter, along with the one that follows, in a book that hadn't been opened in thirty years, so they are sadly bereft of Peter's comments. Which is a pity, as I'm sure enough Peter would have relished the chance to cast an elder brother's perspective on his youngest sibling.

I'm also sure that he would have availed himself of the opportunity to speak about their friendship as adults. Peter worked with Nico on an almost daily basis for over twenty years, and were devoted to one another, despite – or perhaps because of – their very different personalities, particularly as Peter had at best a cordial relationship, but rarely saw one another, not least because Jack was so often away at sea, and when he finally retired, chose to decamp to Cornwall ...]

*

[NOT IN PETER'S MORGUE]

23 Kensington Park Gdns,

Sunday [20 December 1903]

Beloved Dolly,

I was so delighted to hear from you & how splendid to think you a will have another baby to play with sweet Elizabeth – please a son with your eyes! It is dreadful to be so sick – you poor dear – it isn't all joy is it?

My Nicholas is a dear creature, so fat & well – & very like George was at first – however they seem to alter every day. I am stronger now and longing to get up – Five sons Dolly, think of it!

We are thinking of of living in the country now there are so many to bring up – perhaps at Berkhampstead [sic] which has a very good school & near my sister Trixie & not far from London. We have heard of a nice old house, but course we can settle nothing till I am well enough to look about.

We often talk about you, you dear pretty Dolly. Write soon as I so enjoy hearing from you.

Your Sylvia.

[AB: Sadly no comments from Peter as he'd apparently passed this letter on to Nico and then presumably forgot about it. The nice old house was of course Egerton House, a fine, large Elizabethan house about which Peter writes evocatively in his comments following Arthur's letter to Margaret, 5 July 1904.

Despite the protests of many, the house was torn down in the early 30s to make way for a cinema. Peter wrote to Mary Hodgson in 1953, "Oh dear oh dear, I passed through Berkhamsted the other day and it was almost more than I could bear to see that horrible cinema on the site of dear Egerton House, and the lovely garden turned into a loathsome concrete car park."]

*

[George Ll.D. to Sylvia Ll.D.]

Kirkby Lonsdale

December 24th, 1903

Dear Mother,

I hope you are getting better. Thank you very much for the pen and pencille. We are having some fine sport here. This morning Jack and I went down to the Lune. We were having fine fun, when we took it into our heads to go on the part below the brow. So thither we bent our steps. We were getting on all right, sliding, about but getting on towards the steps when Jack begins to slide! Suddenly it became a precipice about 12 feet high. Jack did this part with great alacrity. He stopped however and came down sitting about two yards from the Lune. He seemed a bit uncomfortable on his sit-upon.

Well, we climbed up and went in. Afterwards Aunt Margaret reported that Jack’s behind was rather rum. At about half past eleven we started for Job's Dub, missing, however, Jack’s company, he being rather uncomfortable still. So Father and I set out alone. We arrived at Job's Dub. Father undressed and had [rest of letter missing].

*

I’m sorry I can't find the second sheet on which this excellent ten years old performance was completed. The humorously pedantic style is most effective, and may have been a subconscious reflection of the precise diction of the vicar [i.e. John Ll.D.]; just as the popular spelling of “pensille“ probably resulted from the tireless but vain efforts of Margaret Ll.D. to make us pronounce as little inelegantly as possible. “Not pensle, George dear, pen-cil, “etc.

“I hope you are getting better” – i.e. no doubt after the birth of Nico a month earlier.

Only two years now before Theodore Ll.D. will take his fatal dive into Job’s Dub.

Note that Arthur bathed in that ice cold water on Christmas Eve.

*

[Peter Ll.D. to Sylvia Ll.D.]

Ramsgate

May 5, 1904

Dear Mother,

We had a donkey ride yesterday. Please will you send Michael’s new galoshes from your loving son Peter.

*

Merely inserted, with all an author’s insufferable vanity, as the earliest known example of its writer’s polished style.

*

[J.M.B. to Peter Ll.D.]

Hotel Meurice,

228, Rue de Rivoli,

Paris.

25 June, 1904.

My dear Peter,

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

Yours to command.

[Drawings of 3 knives] These are three of the knives. J.M.B.

We are now going out to look at hats.

*

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

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

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

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

2, Garden Court

Temple, EC

July 5, 1904.

Dearest Margaret,

We have been very sorry to hear of Father’s illness. Crompton and Theodore have told us how things have gone. It is very distressing to think of his pain and weakness. It must be a time of great trouble and anxiety for you but I hope from your last letters that the prospects are now favourable. I could of course come to Kirby at the weekend, or indeed at another time, but there does not seem to be any special object for doing so.

Sylvia would wish to help, but just at present it is very difficult for her. Mary etc. are at Ramsgate with the three youngest, and we have George and Jack at the Barries’ house (Leinster Corner, Lancaster Gate, W.) The Barries are away and in Sylvia’s absence there would be no one qualified to look after George and Jack Also there is a good deal to do in connection with our new house, where we hope to be established about the end of this month.

Please give Father my love. It is a great thing that the pain has gone but I am afraid he will find the burden of inactivity very heavy.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

Although John Ll.D. had still twelve more years to live, he was now seventy-eight, and I expect the illness here referred to was the first sign of failing powers, which led to his resignation of the K.L. living, and removal to Hampstead, six years later, by which time no doubt the tragedies of Theodore and Arthur had hastened the process of enfeeblement.

The "new house" this time was Egerton House, Berkhamsted, to which the family moved this year from 23 K.P.G., in blissful ignorance, so near to dissolution.

Presumably the country was felt to be better for the boys, though there is a hint in Arthur's next letter that Sylvia wasn’t so keen on abandoning London. And then, too, while doubtless Arthur was beginning to prosper in a moderate way, large enough houses in London would have been expensive; and, if things didn't go so well financially as was to be hoped, the boys could have the whole of their education very cheaply as day-boys at Berkhamsted School, en ex-grammar school of ancient foundation which had been worked up by its distinguished headmaster (the Rev. T. George Fry, later Dean of Lincoln) to the status of a pretty good public school, equivalent roughly to, say, Tonbridge. The station, five minutes walk from the house, was within easy “commuting” distance of London for Arthur, and only three or four miles away were the Millar family at their charming house at Felden, near Boxmoor.

"Sylvia’s friends, the Barries” evidently came in useful in connection with the move.

Everything I remember about Egerton House is so overcast with its having been Arthur's deathplace, that I don’t find it easy to say much about it. And, anyhow, what’s the good? Jack must remember it even more clearly than I do, but in his own way, which will often differ from mine.

Nico can hardly remember it at all, and nothing I can write could evoke it for hlm. 1904 to 1907 seems a very brief space; but the years are long for a boy between seven and ten. Had I the pen of my grandfather, what a picture I could paint of those years, which have a significance to me rather closely resembling that of his childish years in Passy to him, which he described so exquisitely in “Peter Ibbetson” . But George du M. only orphaned himself only for artistic effect; both his father and his mother survived the Passy time by many years.

[AB: Having returned from Paris, “the Barries” were down at Black Lake for the Allahakbarries’ cricket week, who this year included Owen Seaman, A.E.W. Mason and P.G. Wodehouse. How strange to think of Arthur and Sylvia staying on their own at Leinster Corner, where Barrie had been putting the finishing touches to “Peter Pan”, which was shortly to go into rehearsals at the Duke of York’s under Dion Boucicault’s direction and with his daughter Nina playing Peter.]

*

Black Lake Cottage,

Nr. Farnham, Surrey.

15 Sep. 1904.

My dear Jocelyn,

If K[illegible, maybe Konig] is right I think you should get her. She sounds promising. The thing to do is to have her sent you on trial, so do that. I think the fact of her being, a pony will comfort you. I'm writing our friend "Marty" that you are having a pony, also writing to Windover to hurry the cart. I suppose there's no reason agst. having the pony before the cart comes. If K [illegible] doesn't suit, you might try the roan. This is a very horsey letter. Yoicks gee whoa, there.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

I imagine the lavish gift of a pony and cart – a sort of governess cart, as I recall it – was bestowed as a tangible recognition of indebtedness to "Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies and their boys (my boys)” for their contribution to “The Little White Bird” and “Peter Pan”. It must have been rather difficult for Arthur But for all that side of things, see Denis Mackail. Note the signature.

[AB: This appears to have been the first time Barrie signed off as “loving”.]

The pony with the illegible name was either rechristened or, more probably, rejected in favour of the roan; at any rate the animal eventually selected was called Crichton.

At the end of the letter is a scribbled representation of a horse in full gallop bearing a female figure with an infant in her arms and four male figures of decreasing sizes astride behind her.

I wonder whether any sharp words passed between Arthur and Sylvia before this gift was accepted? [AB: Nico thought not.] One of the many things which conspire to lend a certain unreality to childish recollection is that it is almost impossible to me to conceive a quarrel between those two. But on the other hand it it is equally impossible to believe that relations weren't strained, and at pretty frequent intervals, too, by the infiltrations of this astounding little Scotch genius of a lover. The few letters I have dealing with this period tend to emphasize this side almost unduly, I regret to say. Had more letters to or from other people survived, a truer picture could have been presented, no doubt.

*

Leinster Corner,

Lancaster Gate, W

20 Oct. 1904.

My dear Jocelyn,

I know you would be made very sad by Charles Furse’s death. He was so splendidly alive, and a gallant sort of man I am sure, and most of the joys of life had been crowded into his short life. He had already had most of the best it has to give. What remained was chiefly his work, which might have risen to great things. But he had his fill, and the people I am sorriest for are those who die without having got the little glories which are something of a birthright. I em sorriest for his poor wife, but at least she has their children – I tear with some terror about them though he always held that consumption is not hereditary. I am very vexed to hear your headaches have come back. Perhaps this shock has something to do with them. I have been so much at open graves of late years that I feel death less as a shock. The great thing is to try to be good and kind to those who are, for their brief space, alive. I have written your mother and the Secy. of the Literary Fund about Mrs. Kingsley. If (as I fear) she has been helped before, the Fund has no power to help a widow twice. Of course in any case I shall do something myself. Do write soon and tell me if your headaches still trouble you. I am so very sorry they do. Always, dear incomparable girl,

Your

J.M.B.

*

It must have been shortly before his death [at the age of 36] that Charles Furse had painted (but not quite finished) the profile portrait of Sylvia which Jack has, and made the three-quarter face drawing which I have myself.

I have always thought both very good as likenesses, and am confirmed in this opinion by Dolly Ponsonby. But what is strange is that both Jack and I, and I think N. also, had always assumed that they dated from some years later; not only because they have seemed to us to be portraits of a woman of more than 36 or 37, but because of the profound sadness of the expression – particularly in the case of the drawing. However, there it is: they cannot be later than 1904. I have looked up the data of Furse's death, and there is no doubt about it. Denis Mackail, by the way, by whom informed I don't know, mentions and emphasises the sad or tragic look in Sylvia’s eyes which formed a striking part of her beauty when quite young, long before she can have known the meaning of sorrow.

[AB: Mackail’s remark was echoed by a former teacher at Norland Place School, Betty Macleod, who recalled seeing “a lady with two really beautiful little boys. She had one of the saddest expressions on her face we had ever seen, and we wondered who she was. We were told she was a friend of J. M. Barrie and one of her boys was his model for Peter in “The Little White Bird”.]

Another curious thing is that on the back of the painting is written, in J.M.B's hand, "Bought from and paid to Dame Furse, March 7th, 1918, by J. M. Barrie", whereas we think we can remember it long before that. Indeed, I could have sworn that it hung above the fireplace in the drawing-room at 23, Campden Hill Square. Photographs of it and the drawing certainly appeared ln the rather grisly leather-bound photographic morgue of which J.M.B. had copies made for each of us – surely long before 1918? Perhaps he got them photographed for this purpose while they were still in the possession or Furse's widow?

At any rate both hung in J.M.B's flat until a year or two before his death, when the painting went to J; he gave me the drawing at the time of my marriage. The probability is that Furse asked Sylvia to sit for her portrait, not as a commission but because he wanted to paint her. It obviously cannot have seen commissioned by J.M.B., despite the fact that Furse played at least once for the Allahakbarries. But it remains a mystery why he only bought it – and presumably the drawing too – in 1918; for £800 or £1,000, according to Jack.

Mrs. Kingsley I haven't traced. It would be interesting to have a list of all the impoverished authors and their families whom J.M.B. helped out of his own pocket at one time and another.

With regard to the termination of this letter (not one of its author's best, perhaps) if I confess that I can't help viewing this sort of thing with a certain distaste, I do so in the full awareness that I am being unfair to all concerned, and am allowing prejudice rather than knowledge or understanding to sway my thoughts.

*

[J.M.B to Peter Ll.D.]

Leinster Corner,

Lancaster Gate, W.

3 Nov. 1904

My dear Peter,

Sometimes when I am walking in the Gardens with Luath I see a vision and I cry, Hurray, there’s Peter, and then Luath barks joyously and we run to the vision and then it turns out to be not Peter but just another boy, and than I cry like a water cart and Luath hangs his sorrowful tail.

Oh dear, how I wish you were here, and then it would be London again.

Goodbye.

Write soon.

Your loving godfather

J.M.B.

*

Ah, me! as Uffa Fox (my George Ll.D's godfather) sometimes exclaims, and you don't always exactly know what he means by it, and no one need know exactly what I mean by it here.

Luath, the Newfoundland, had replaced the dead Porthos in 1902, and so reached immortality as Nana in Peter Pan, which was in rehearsal at the time of this letter.

J.M.B. was never technically my godfather, perhaps because I was never christened, and I dare say this is the only occasion on which he so signed himself.

*

[J.M.B to Sylvia Ll.D.]

Leinster Corner,

Lancaster Gate, W.

20 Nov. 1904.

My dear Jocelyn,

It seems almost profanation to turn your pretty ideas about babies to stage account, but I am giving the basketful of them to those people nevertheless, and the pictures too, and may they treat them with reverence. You know Michael so well that though you didn't dare trust yourself to drawing his head (you adore him so), the rest is so like him that he could be picked out as the king of the castle from among a million boys. He is so beautiful that the loveliest bit of him is almost as pretty as the plainest bit of his mother.

It’s very strange how that cabby’s whip could have had the heart to hit you that night. I know it hurt very much, and I fear the mark is still there.

The boys will be burning such a lot of candles on the 25th! I think if they were to invite me I should have to go.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

The reference in the first part of this letter must be to ideas for the costumes, etc., for Peter Pan, though it seems rather late in the day, only a month before production.

I have looked a lot lately at the very young photographs of George and Michael, and there is no denying that, quite apart from all sentimental considerations, they were two most spectacularly attractive children. In 1904, of course, George had acquired the comparatively unromantic schoolboy characteristics (Inky I, he had been called at Wilkinson’s, I think, to Jack’s Inky II), whereas Michael, at four, still with his long curls, was just about at his most beautiful.

The cabby’s whip allusion baffles me.

The 25th was Sylvia’s 37th birthday. I have the copy of the poems of that forgotten Edwardian genius, John Davidson (committed suicide 1909) which Arthur gave her on that day.

The absence of any correspondence relative to the first production of “Peter Pan” happily relieves me of the responsibility, which would have weighed on me, of referring to it here.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret L1.D.]

Egerton Home,

Berkhamsted.

June 12, 1905.

Dearest Margaret,

It is quite time for me to answer your long letter. I had some idea of proposing a visit to Kirkby this Whitsuntide for a day or two with Michael, but the scheme met with no approval. So I am spending the holidays at home. The boys at the school get no Whitsun holiday, and we are all very well contented to be here for our first country June.

We all labour incessantly in the garden which is now looking very pretty and quite orderly. Sylvia weeds from morning till night, and I roll, mow, shear and dig, and the boys give great assistance. They have beds of their own and help in all the work. Gardening is now George’s leading enthusiasm, coming before cricket, birds’ eggs and literary competitions in the “Captain” magazine.

We are all as well as possible and very flourishing. Sylvia is enjoying the summer here and recognises that there are advantages in the country. The boys are all doing well at school, except that Peter is regarded as a firebrand and a daredevil. His patience, reasonableness and virtue seem to me almost pathetic. George does well with his lessons, and both he and Jack distinguish themselves at cricket. Peter has no athletic capacity, and has only just earned the penny which I promised tor his first run. Nicholas is growing up quickly, walking everywhere, struggling to be articulate, and full of friendliness.

I am very glad to hear such good accounts of Father. Are he and you not coming here for a visit some time during the summer? We are trying to let our house for the summer holidays, perhaps to 2 generations of the Henry Lawrence family.

Work continues only moderate.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

I still write with your Fountain Pen.

*

A charming old walled garden it was, or seems so to me through the rose-and-melancholy tinted glasses through which I see it now; several photographs remain which shew bits and pieces of it, including the very good one of the infant Nico and Michael seated at the foot of the big fir-tree which grew on the bank at the back of the lawn. Certain smells (such as that of stocks) and certain tunes, like I've Seen Diamonds in Amsterdam or When There Isn’t a Girl About You do Feel Lonely, or Boccherini’s Minuet (fiddled by a young virtuoso named Gherson at a Berkhamsted School concert) transport me instantly into that garden, with its plum trees on the walls, and luscious mulberry tree, and lovely pale wisteria by the stable, and the little orchard at the far end, and a horrible old tin bath in which I was allowed to keep newts and frogspawn and stone roaches, etc. And the house was a mighty nice one, too, in its unassuming way; Elizabethan, standing a little back from the broad High Street, covered over, it's true, with rather unattractive roughcast, but not much altered or restored. Those were pleasant days, indeed, for the family, before the clouds gathered, with their wants ministered to by Mary Hodgson and Molly the nursemaid and Minnie the cook and Jane the pretty auburn-haired house parlourmaid, and good-natured toothless Mr. Keene the gardener, and curly-headed Henry, the handyman and "groom"; most of whom had also at intervals to share with us the care of innumerable rabbits, mice, rats and guinea-pigs, and the spaniel Togo and his successor Smee, the Airedale, and cats, both tabby and blue Persian.

A good deal had had to be done to the house in the way of interior decoration and furnishing, all no doubt a delight to Sylvia, who had a talent far in advance of her day for such things, hardly less conspicuous, indeed, than her talent which I think amounted to genius for clothes. And all done with very little money; simply by the exercise of flair. So that in one way and another, while the house, viewed from the outside, was a very pleasing example of English Tudor domestic architecture, it revealed itself, when you went in, not in the least as a museum or a “period” affair or a place to make you catch your breath at its exquisite beauty, but as a gracious, happy, pretty, comfortable home.

In the early 1930s (I think) Egerton House was bought by one of those progressive developers who are the glory of our time, and condemned to go the way of so many of the charming old buildings our forefathers took so much trouble to put up. At the last moment a vain effort was made to save it, prominent in the attempt being that great champion of lost causes, Jack Squire. One of the reasons publicly advanced for its preservation was that it had formerly been “the home of Sir James Barrie”. Jack Squire called on J.M.B. and tried to get him to sign a protest; but J.M.B. would have none of it, and I must say I agreed with him, and still do on the whole. What could have been the use? The house wasn't so staggeringly beautiful to the general eye as all that, and there was not the least hope of stemming the destructive or progressive tide; and all that was privately worth preserving had perished so many years before.

At any rate, down came Egerton House, and a fine new cinema rose in its stead, doubtless to the satisfaction of the good burghers of Berkhamsted.

I seem to have dwelled rather over this letter; perhaps because it is the last happy letter of Arthur's which I have in my possession.

The firebrand theory concerning myself was connected, I fancy, with an occasion when, to relieve the boredom of arithmetic, I threw a pellet of blotting-paper soaked in ink at Perry III. Aimed with a skill which seems to belie my ill repute as an athlete, the missile made a considerable mess of Perry’s collar; and his indignant protests and accusations landed me in a quandary from which I was only able to extricate myself uncaned by judicious lying and entirely groundless counter-accusations.

I have no note of the date of Theodore Ll. D's death [25 July 1905] and no reference to it in any of the letters, but think it must have been during the summer of this year, probably soon after the date of the present letter. As I have said near the beginning of this compilation, I have a more or less distinct recollection of hearing Arthur break the news to Sylvia in the Egerton House garden, on his return from London one evening.* Theodore was much loved by his family and by Sylvia, and was by common consent regarded as the most brilliant of the brothers. The blow must have been a heavy one, particularly to Jack Ll.D., now nearly eighty years old. Theodore had been for a few years at the Treasury, and very great things were expected of him. I can only remember him as a young and active uncle who did not disdain to play Red Indians with us at Tilford.

Later: The date of Theodore’s death was July 5th [it was actually July 25th]. Since writing the above I have received, from Mary and Theodora, a considerable number of Ll.D. letters, from and to Mary (grandmother) Ll.D., including a good many of Theodore’s. I may have some of these typed come day.

[* From an earlier volume of the Morgue: “I can just remember Theodore; and the first impact of mortality on my young mind was when I overheard Arthur, in the garden of Egerton House, into which he had just come through the greenhouse, on his return from London one evening in 1905, speaking to Sylvia with his arm round her shoulders, in an unusual tone of voice, “Bad news, beloved… Theodore… drowned.” I had an uncomfortable sensation in the pit of the stomach and made myself scarce. It was a sensation one was often to experience again.”]

[NOT IN PETER'S MORGUE]

[Arthur to Dolly Ponsonby]

Egerton House

Berkhamsted

July 31 1905

My dear Dolly

Thank you very much for your letter of sympathy. It was kind of you to wrote. The loss of Theodore is a terribly heavy blow to all of us. No one was ever a better son or brother.

I wish there was some prospect of seeing you again. We hope some time soon to have another summer of Rustington – even overgrown, overcrowded Rustington. Will not you come to see us at Berkhamsted? We could take you all in quite easily. From the middle of September we shall be settled at home.

Yours affectionately

A Ll Davies

[AB: This letter was one of several found by Nico, and clearly one that Peter never saw when compiling his Morgue otherwise he would surely have commented on it.

*

[J.M.B. to Michael Ll.D.]

Leinster Comer,

Lancaster Gate, W.

TCO 22 5091 [22 October 1905]

YLRAED DEVOLEB

LEAHCIM

EHT ESOR SI DER

EHT TELOIV EULB

YENOH SI TEEWS

DNA OS ERA UOY

EIRRAB .M .J

[AB: Peter made no comment on this letter.]

[Peter to Margaret Ll.D]

Egerton House,

Berkhamsted

December 31, 1905

Dear Aunt Margaret,

I heard that George was kicked off the pony, little boys ought not to be allowed to do such dangerous things. Michael had a bad cold, but is getting better. I wish I had gone up Ingleborough, I wish I had seen you, Grandfather, Uncle Edward, Kate, Mary and Annie, and Mr. Robinson. I have got two guinea pigs from Mother, one is black and the other black and brown. Michael got a bird like a canary and it flies about in the nursery, this morning it tried to get in the wrong side. Nicholas squeaks to it. Yesterday I went for a ripping walk with Father. Perhaps Mother is going to Paris this week, and then perhaps I am going to have dinner with Father, perhaps, for the first time. Mother and Father are going to a New Year’s Eve party. I have been writing an abstract on my holiday reading, which is called The Celtic Wonder World. It is about the ancient Celts, all fairy stories, I write two stories a day, except on Sundays. I hope you are quite well, from Peter.

*

I suppose George and perhaps Jack with him had gone to K.L. for Christmas.

Kate was Kate Jones, the Welsh cook at the vicarage, whose succulent toffee was received by the family with enthusiasm at regular intervals, and I imagine Mary and Annie were other servants. Mr. Robinson was perhaps a curate, but of him I remember no more than Pontius Pilate in Anatole France’s story remembered Jesus of Nazareth.

Another Paris trip? A few months earlier this year, at Easter, Sylvia with Jack and Michael had gone across to Normandy with J.M. and Mary B[arrie], while Arthur took George and me to Kirby. (Did Nico go to Morecambe with Mary Hodgson on this occasion?) It has always seemed to me, looking back, that the split holiday can hardly have been agreed to without a good deal of argument and protest; and Denis evidently gathered from contemporaries that the whole business was thought pretty odd by this time. But after all, what do we know? I have no letters referring to the Normandy visit, which Jack remembers well, but there is the charming Romeo and Juliety photograph of Sylvia and Michael in the courtyard of the hotel at Dives – into which, 30 years later, Jack was able to persuade the autocratic hotelier to receive him and Gerrie on the strength of his signature, still there in the 1905 visitors’ book.

*

J.M.B. to Sylvia

Leinster Corner

Lancaster Gate, W

3 January 1906

Dearest Jocelyn,

As if I could be angry with you for caring for your children! I don’t think it would have been the thing to leave them just now, and we can go to Paris any time.

I hope Nicholas is getting better and that Michael is obstreperous once again. How I love that boy.

We could not ring you up today, as your line is broken. I should be so glad to know that you are feeling well yourself again.

Whenever they are able for P. Pan, it awaits them.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

Evidently the Paris trip mentioned in the last letter had to be deferred owing to childish ailments; which were (I think in Michael’s case) sufficiently protracted to make the visit to P. Pan impracticable; with the astonishing and most completely Mr. Barrie-like consequence the P. Pan came to Egerton House instead (see the next letter but one).

The telephone at Egerton House was a recent installation, among the first of its kind in Berkhamsted. It figured prominently in the 1906 General Election, when I remember the news of the sweeping Liberal victories been telephoned down from London (by J.M.B.?) greatly to the jubilation of that Radical household, and being passed on to the Rev. T.C. Fry and other local Liberal stalwarts, while the streets rang to the chorus of “Vote, vote, vote for Mr. Micklem, Roll old Halsey in the mud” (Air: Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching.)

Both Arthur himself and, as the next letter but one shows, Crompton Ll.D. address meetings in the Town Hall in the cause of Liberalism during this Election; and the Liberal Micklem duly triumphed.

*

[J.M.B. to Michael Ll.D.]

Arthur's any Asses that don't love my Mick,

B's what I fling at them, namely a Brick.

C's Combinations, with Michael inside,

D's Normandy's Dives where he once did reside.

E's Evian water, his favourite drink.

F is his Friend – who is that, do you think?

G stands for George, his elderly brother.

H for 14 and 2, that alarmed his mother.

I stands for Imp, which applies to the lot of you.

J is for Jack, who is sometimes too hot for you.

K is for Kads who don't do as you wish,

L's the eel caught at Dives when we went out to fish.

M's your dear Mary, who's always awake,

N's Nick, who's your sweet mother's smallest mistake.

O's the Oil you are told for to take like a man,

P stands for Peter, and Peter for Pan.

Q are the Questions Mick asks for to pose me,

R my Replies, which are vain, for he knows me.

S stands for Sylvia, Michael's delight,

T is his Tu'penny when tucked in at night.

U is U silly who are reading this letter,

V is your Vanity, you couldn't do better.

W's old Wilk, who is still trouncing boys,

X is the X's sent Mick with his toys.

Y is the Yawns I give till we meet,

Z are the Zanies who are not at his feet.

J.M.B.

*

A harsh critic might find some weak lines in this rigmarole, but Matthew Arnold himself would have to admit that there are some wizard ones, too, such as C and N for example. H, which may well be one of the best – in point if not metrically – baffles me completely.

*

From Lady Dolly Ponsonby’s diary:

[12 February] 1906. Took E[Dolly’s baby daughter Elizabeth] to Berkhamsted with me to stay with Sylvia and Arthur. They have a beautiful Elizabethan house in the street: the outlook is dreary but nothing could be more perfect on the inside especially for so large a family. There are huge nurseries in a school room with mullioned windows which occupy the whole length of the rooms – odd-shaped bedrooms with beams and sloping floors – and all so charmingly done as only Sylvia can do things, with harmonious chintzes and lovely bits of Chippendale furniture. It seems very ideal – a cheap school where the older boys go and a kindergarten for Michael. Arthur came down in the evening looking handsome and severe.

13th February. Spent a happy day with Sylvia who is as dear as ever she was. I like to see her at lunch and at the head of her long table in the beautiful hall with its huge windows and great 16 century chimney-piece – serving food to 4 beautiful boys who all have perfect manners and are most agreeable companions, especially George. My Arthur came down with hers in the evening.

I remember a funny sort of conservatory through which you passed to go into the little garden – it was filled with plants and flowers by Sylvia. Mary would put the prams there – and Sylvia said, “I do wish they wouldn’t leave the prams here.” And Arthur said, “I think the prams are more beautiful than the flowers.”

Quite interesting to have this confirmation of the charms of Egerton House from someone a good deal “grander” than we were. She speaks of the “little” garden: to me – a 9-year-old Bayswater cockney – it seemed and still seems in retrospect, quite large. Well I remember the hall, used as the dining room, and how Arthur would come in after we had begun lunch on Saturdays, on his return from the Temple, and kiss the top of Sylvia’s head as she sat at her end of the table, before taking his place at the other end. But very surprising to me is Lady P’s impression that we had perfect manners! I should’ve thought we were an unruly and tiresome lot. Still, there it is, down in the diary.

The denizens of the prams – or the pram and the go-cart – then were Michael aged 6, and Nico aged 2½.

Severity is a word Lady P. uses more than once as an attribute of Arthur's good looks. One sees what she means, perhaps; though, in its usual sense, it is the last word that comes to my own mind if I try to focus my childish awareness of his demeanour and expression: humourous kindness would be nearer the mark. His beauty, one was, of course, too young to perceive. In a later passage which will be quoted fully in its place, Lady P. herself qualifies the severity, writing: “He was so tender and gentle with children that I never met one who feared him, in spite of his rather severe though wonderful looks.”

The E. whom Dolly brought with her on this occasion to Berkhamsted was her daughter Elizabeth, then not much more than a baby, who eventually, poor girl, after achieving some notoriety as a leader of the bright young people, came to a bad end in the late 20s or early 30s. [AB: After a failed marriage, she died of alcoholism in 1940, aged 39.]

*

[Peter Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

Egerton House,

Berkhamsted.

Feb. 25th [1906]

Dear Grandfather,

I hope you will have a nice birthday, it is my birthday today, and although I am not quite so old as you, I hope to be soon. I hope I shall come to Kirkby next summer or Christmas. I hope Aunt Margaret is quite well, and Kate, Mary, and Annie. I hope you liked your journeys in France. Uncle Crompton is coming next Saturday to make a speech at the Town Hall. Dr Fry is going to be the chairman at the meeting. I hope Uncle Crompton will come away safe from the meeting, and not get caned.

Some actors and actresses from Peter Pan came down on Father’s birthday in two large motor cars, to act the nursery. Peter Pan is about a boy who ran away from home the day he was born, and lived in the Never-never-never-Land. One day he came back to the house of some people call the Darlings, and in the night took away the three children away. The father was so sorry he had taken the dog, Nana, out of the room that he lived in the kennel. Then one day they came back, and Wendy, the girl, was allowed to go to Peter, every spring cleaning.

Wishing you many happy returns of the day, from Peter.

PS I am sending you a programme of Peter Pan in Michael’s nursery.

*

This was for John Ll.D.’s 80th birthday. The letter may perhaps be regarded as historic, if only on account of its being the earliest known example of its composer’s skill as a “blurb” writer.

At that age one saw nothing particularly remarkable in a play, or a piece of a play, being brought down from London to be performed in one’s home in the country; but when you come to think of it, it was a gesture in the grand style, even for J.M.B. That it should have happened on his birthday, February 20, I take to be purely fortuitous. I have a copy of the programme, most likely the one I sent to John Ll.D. with this letter. I remember very little of the affair, so little that I can’t be certain whether it was George or Jack or I, or all three of us, who fell heavily for Miss Winifred Geoghegan (the understudy for Cissie Loftus, that year’s principal boy-who-wouldn’t- grow-up) who played the name-part at the Egerton House production.

[AB: Winifred Geoghegan played Michael in the original 1904/05 production, and Curly from 1905/06 till 1907/08. In the appendix to his “Fifty Years of Peter Pan”, Roger Lancelyn Green lists (on p.239) three “Special private performances by Juvenile Members of the London Company, at the Duke of York’s Theatre.” According to Roger, “these performances, organised entirely by the children of the company, originated with Winifred Geoghegan who was a brilliant mimic. The very first performance was given on January 26th, 1906, and consisted only of the ‘Nursery Scenes’. Winifred Geoghegan played Peter Pan, Leslie Oswell was Mr Darling, Phyllis Beadon was Mrs Darling, Ela Q. May was Wendy, Arthur Ganker was John, Geraldine Wilson was Michael, Ernest Marini was Nana, and Alice Robinson was Liza. It is not certain whether there were any further performances.” It seems clear from this that Roger was unaware of the performance in Michael’s nursery, given only a few weeks later on February 20th 1906. Although Barrie himself is not listed as one of the performers, he does appear as the First Cabman in the children’s performance the following year on February 19th, 1907 – the same part he played in Michael’s Nursery.]

*

[J.M.B. to Peter Ll.D.]

Leinster Corner,

Lancaster Gate, W.

25 Feb. 1906

My dear Peter,

Hurrah for your birthday. Nine years ago the world was a dreary blank. It was like the round of tissue paper the clown holds up for the lady in the circus to leap through, and then you came banging through it with a Houp-la! and we have all been busy ever since.

I expect 20 years from now there will be a half holiday given at the Berkhamsted school on the 25 of Feb. because it is the birthday of the famous pupil, Mr (now Lieut-General) Peter Davies, V.C.

I am to get a knife tomorrow to send you. I expect it will draw blood before you lose it. If you are still on friendly terms with Primus &c., give them my comps.

Your loving friend

J.M.B.

*

Alas, Berkhamsted School never got the prophesied half hol. But in less than 20 years J.M.B. had his V.C. general alright in the person of Bernard (now Sir, K.C.B. etc.) Freyberg. Dear, dear; almost makes me sound bitter, like Peter Pan when he flew home and found the window shut. Which is far from being the case. Bernard F. was not only a good friend to J.M.B. in his latter years, one of the few who had the capacity of taking his idiosyncrasies in his stride: he has also always been most friendly to me. And what with unerring skill J.M.B. selected his hero: the most superb of all modern soldierly careers, surely. He was the recipient of the very last letter J.M.B. ever wrote, on his deathbed. What was in it, I wonder?

[AB: Bernard Freyberg - or to give his full honours, Lieutenant General Bernard Cyril Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg, V.C., G.C.M.George, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O. & Three Bars - was a New Zealander introduced to Barrie by Kathleen Scott in 1916 while Freyberg was recovering from battle wounds in hospital. Freyberg was mentioned in dispatches six times before the Great War ended, having already won a V.C. and a D.S.O. He later became the youngest brigadier-general in the British army and was lionised by London society, not least by Barrie, who was won by his charm and simplicity of character. Although 30 years Barrie's junior, the attraction was mutual and Freyberg was at Barrie's bedside when he died. In 1946, Freyberg was made Governor-General of New Zealand.]

*

George Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.

16 Royal Crescent

Ramsgate

18th April 1906

Dear Aunt Margaret,

The fatal word is spoke, and mother says

I may not see the walls of Kirkby town,

I may not see Miss Davenport, and Joan,

And Mrs. Tatham, and young Eddie too.

No bike rides with Miss Harris shall I go,

No walks with Peter and his mistress fair;

I shall not look for birds’ nests in the woods,

Nor walk upon the moors with thee, fair aunt.

Alas! ’tis finished, and at Ramsgate I

Must pine away, and pipe my little eye.

(Here is drawn, in the original letter, a self-portrait of the author, in profile, holding a spade, with tears gushing from his eyes, and “Ah me!” emerging in a balloon from the mouth, entitled “George by the sad sea waves.”)

But yet I try to bear against despair

And bravely battle ’gainst all-powerful fate,

Castles I dig before the sad sea waves,

Squash rackets play I at the Weigalls’ house.

And so goodbye, Aunt Margo, fare ye well,

For lo! at last, I hear the dinner bell!

George Llewellyn Davies

*

The full signature suggests that George was proud of his poem, and thought it pretty good. And so do I: a devilish good effort for twelve and a half.

Miss Harris (Lillian) was Margaret’s faithful companion and help in all her Women’s Co-Operative and Suffrage activities. She moved with Margaret to Hampstead when John Ll.D. gave up the Vicarage, and eventually followed her to the cottage in the grounds of Maurice Ll. D's house at Dorking where I saw her three years ago, stone blind, but still mentally alert. To the best of my belief she still survives.

Who can my mistress fair have been, I wonder, in the Easter of 1906?

And what more curious provenance could there be than Kirkby Lonsdale for a semi-professional night-club bottle-party bright young person organiser like Eddie Tatham, whom I used occasionally to come across in the less squalid nocturnal haunts of London in the late 20s and early 30s – and rather liked him, too. The recognition was mutual, and we talked of early days at Kirkby, where the Tathams were on very friendly terms with the Vicarage. They occupied one of the better houses on the outskirts of the little town, and I remember going round to serenade them with carols one Christmas evening, disguised with the help of burnt cork, etc.

[AB: Eddie Tatham was a “hugely charismatic” character who became a director of Justerini & Brooks. In 1929 he was arrested at Grand Central Station for carrying whisky samples in his briefcase for wealthy clients in Prohibition-era America. After his release he went on to create J&B Rare …]

If this was a proper book, as opposed to a more desultory compilation, there ought to be a division here: the end of a section or “part”. For with the next letter begins the truly morgue-like matter which, besides providing a chief reason why I undertook this job, makes me wonder more than any other element in it whether the job is one that was worth undertaking at all. However, I may as well go through with it now.

Most of the very full series of letters which follows, dealing with Arthur’s illness and death, came to me from Margaret Ll.D. a year or two before her own death [in 1944]. I may as well quote here her covering letter to me at the time, which sums things up pretty adequately.

“I have lately been going through (and destroying) a large quantity of letters and papers, and among them are records of your father at different times of his life. I feel it would not be right to destroy these without giving you the opportunity of saying whether you would like to have them. To me, the knowledge of what Arthur was is one of my most precious possessions, showing one the rare beauty that happiness and suffering may bring out in a life… Dear Peter, you may feel you would rather not revive such sadness, and that your life is too full and the world’s state too difficult, not to occupy all your time and thought with immediate doings and happenings. If so, do not hesitate to say so. Maurice finds he cannot bear to dwell on what is painful in the old days – but he agrees most strongly with me that you should be asked if you would like me to send you what I have. You may feel you already know the man your father was, and what people thought of him… I am sorry not to have put Arthur’s letters in better order, but you will understand that the task I have had, and still have, with the accumulations of years, has been a little difficult, especially for a 77-yearer! ...”

For better or worse, I said I would like to have the letters. I still feel doubtful about the propriety of making copies of them, particularly Sylvia’s which have for me a greater poignancy and privacy even than Arthur’s. But of their deep family interest there is no question, and it seems a pity they should perish utterly after being kept all these years.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

May 26 1906

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Dearest Margaret,

I have been hoping to manage a visit to Kirkby with Michael this Whitsuntide, and to fit in with Sylvia’s outing, but I am doomed to spend Whitsuntide less agreeably – in lying up for a small operation. I have a slight swelling in the side of the face, which is beyond the dentist’s skill, and on his advice I consulted an expert in cheek and jaw. He is going to perform on Friday, and I shall stay at a nursing place till the following Tuesday. Probably the cause of the trouble is the root of an old dead tooth, possibly a minute fragment of a tooth long ago pulled out. The surgeon cannot be sure without operating, and he says the swelling will certainly not go away of itself. The surgeon (E.W. Roughton) has very high qualifications, and was strongly recommended to me by Rendel, for his good sense as well as his skill. There is no ground for anxiety, but I can imagine pleasanter ways of spending money in June. My address will be 12, Beaumont Street, W. (c/o Miss Pretty). I expect to be more or less recovered after a week.

Sylvia will probably leave with her friends for Paris on Tuesday (June 5), if I am fit to be left.

[written above this line in pencil in the original are the words, “I’m sure she won’t it!” in another handwriting – probably Margaret’s.]

Crompton is kindly willing to come here on that day with me.

You may have seen that Lord Macnaghten kindly paid me a compliment the other day, in another case in which the Lords have lately given judgement – against me.

I have been distressed by the sudden death of my friend Carver, lately appointed a County Court Judge

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D,.D.

I have not been suffering pain.

*

I think it is pretty clear that, beneath the outwardly reassuring – and perhaps self-reassuring – tone of this letter, lay an apprehension of grim developments.

The placing of one or two of the succeeding letters and telegrams has been a little difficult, but I think I have got the sequence right, and that there was a small exploratory operation on the following Friday (June 1), which confirmed whatever fears the dentist, Roughton and Arthur himself may have had, and led automatically to the serious operation a week later. A further minor operation followed on the 18th.

The phrase immediately before the reference to Lord Macnaghten rather suggests that this letter, though on Egerton House notepaper, may have been written from the Nursing Home – perhaps when Arthur went round to fix up the room.

Rendel had been the family doctor for some years.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street,

Marylebone, W.

June 1st. [1906]

Dearest Margaret,

Arthur seems pretty well and he’s not suffering much I’m glad to say. He’s reading and I shall hope to get him home soon. They don’t quite know the cause of the lump as it was nothing to do with a tooth they think – it will be examined and they will perhaps know in a few days. If you write don’t mention this to Arthur, but I hope all will be well.

I hate to have him away from his own room, but he is so patient and only thinks of others.

Crompton was here today, and said he wd wire you, my M.

Your Sylvia

*

Premonitions in this letter, too. On this day both Sylvia and Crompton telegraphed to K.L. to say the operation had gone off satisfactorily, and Crompton sent a postcard: “He is going on alright. They will examine by microscope the part they have cut out and consider what more if anything should be done.”

The microscopic examination must have been very quick, and may even have been superfluous, as Arthur writes the very next day to Margaret, telling her the worst.

[AB: 12 Beaumont Street is now part of King Edward VII’s Hospital]

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

June 2, 1906.

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

[but written from 12, Beaumont Street]

Dearest Margaret,

I am sorry to say that I have bad news. The swelling in my face turns out on investigation not to be an abscess as was hoped but a growth. It is a very serious kind, called sarcoma, and requires a grave operation. The operation itself, though not free from risk, is not very dangerous. The percentage of deaths by statistics is about 6 or 7, and my surgeon, Roughton, has never lost a patient under it. I am afraid it means removing half the upper jaw and palate. They cannot tell yet whether there is a risk of recurrence elsewhere. Rendel says that Roughton is the best man in London for a job of this sort. We are going to have a consultation with an eminent expert on Tuesday morning, but Roughton says that he has no doubt of his diagnosis. The operation will follow on Thursday or Friday.

I have thought it best to tell you all these horrible details, dear Margaret. It is a familiar enough situation in books and in the case of other people, but in one’s own case it is unfamiliar and rather horrible. Poor Sylvia! I have told her everything except the name of the disease and the details of the operation. She is brave and infinitely kind and dear. After the operation I shall be incapacitated for about six weeks, and unable to speak properly for three or four months – and there will always be an impediment in my speech. I think of our future and the boys.

We shall be very glad if you will come up on Monday and help us through this trying time – to me “glad life’s arrears of pain, darkness and toil.” My 43 years, and especially the last 14, leaves me no ground of complaint as to my life. But this needs fortitude. We both try our best.

My love to Father.

Your affect. brother,

A.Ll.D.

*

Sarcoma is a technical term for one of the characteristic manifestations of cancer.

I don’t think it is either necessary or desirable for me to make any comment on this letter. The fullness and frequency of his subsequent letters is to me almost beyond comprehension, but I think it must have been a relief and a satisfaction to him to have a sister to whom he could write so freely of what was in his mind, and a father also in whom, though now 80 years old, he could still confide.

“Glad life’s arrears,” etc. is quoted from Browning’s “Prospice”.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Mrs Enfield]

June 3, 1906

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

Dear Aunt Harriet,

You may perhaps have heard of the trouble that has come on us. I have to undergo a very serious operation in the face on Thursday or Friday. There will be some immediate risk (but not much) and a long recovery, and at the end I shall be to some extent crippled in utterance. Here is a burden for us all to bear. Sylvia is very brave and infinitely kind. My own feeling is that I have had 43 years of very great happiness and whatever happens now I shall have no ground to complain of life. I am sure we shall have your sympathy. You shall have early news of the result.

Yours affectionately

A.Ll.D.

*

This letter was with those that eventually came to me from Margaret Ll.D. I don’t know enough about Aunt Harriet to be able to say whether she was particularly close to Arthur or whether he wrote as well to various other relatives.

Nor can I say whether it was written from the nursing home or whether he had been allowed to get up and go home. The next letter appears to have been written from home.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

June 4, 1906

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

Dearest Father,

You will be glad to have heard the result of the visit to Butlin. It is plain that the risk of an unfavourable ending to the operation itself is so small has to be negligible. With regard to the future, he could say little that was definite, but speaking with evident candour said that there was good reason to expect permanent success. They will be able to speak rather more definitely as to this after the operation, but there must remain some uncertainty.

This is as good as can be expected and much better than I feared. I gather that the operation involves considerable shock, and leaves exhaustion and some pain for 24 hours during which time morphia is given freely. After that there is little pain, and within four or five days I may be allowed to get up. Unfortunately there must be a second much smaller operation a week or so after the first, to remove glands in the neck with a view to preventing recurrence.

My speech will be very much affected until it is possible to insert an artificial jaw, etc. – afterwards there may be little or no difference. It is impossible to say beforehand how much bone will have to be removed, but I am told of very extreme cases where everything has been made good artificially.

It is curious how quickly one’s standpoint changes, and one ceases to look at things from the point of view of one who regards all such diseases as incredible and horrible. But still we need all our fortitude. The infinite kindness of all the family and of many friends is a great support. Sylvia, of course, is brave and utterly devoted. If I was not obliged to help her I could sometimes hardly endure the suspense. Barrie has been wonderful to us – we look look on him as a brother. He is here tonight as well as Crompton and Margaret.

The operation is to be on Friday morning at 12, Beaumont Street. I shall have to go up on Thursday afternoon.

I think often of your constant fatherly affection.

Arthur

*

Written in the margin of the first page of this letter are the words, “Crompton has told me of your great kindness as to money matters.”

I think it is quite clear that, saddled as he was with a family of five, Arthur had had no chance of saving money. He was now faced, not only with the immediate and complete cessation of earning power caused by the operation and slow recovery, and the permanent diminution of earning power which, at best, would result from the impediment to his speech, but with all the ghastly expense of surgeons and specialist fees as well. Both John Ll.D. and Emma du Maurier helped, and I think I have heard – but have no evidence of it – that contributions were made by various brothers.

But it is certain, both on the evidence and from one’s own instinctive knowledge of the situation, that from the moment the seriousness of things was revealed, J.M.B. stepped in to play the leading part, and played it in the grand manner. It’s not easy to weigh the whole of this matter up. I can sympathise in a way with the point of view that it was the last straw for Arthur that he should have had to except charity from the strange little genius who had become an increasing irritation to him in recent years. But on the whole I disagree. We don’t really know how deep the irritation went; and even if it went deep, I am convinced that the kindness and devotion of which J.M.B. gave such overwhelming proof from now on, far more than outweighed all that, and that the money and promise of future financial responsibility he was so ready with – and with what charm and tact he must have overcome any resistance! – were an incalculable comfort to the doomed Arthur as well as to Sylvia in her anguish. I have no precise documentary proof as to the financial side, but the circumstantial evidence is crystal clear, and I have little doubt that the resultant ease of mind as to the future of his wife and children did more to make Arthur’s last months bearable than anything else could have done.

The serious operation took place on Friday, 8th June, at the same nursing home to which Arthur had no doubt returned from Berkhamsted on the 6th or 7th.

There is a reference in a subsequent letter to a walk with Sylvia to the school playing fields one afternoon before he went to London and to the dark thoughts that were in their minds as they sat watching us at cricket.

Sylvia went up to London with Arthur and stayed with her mother in her flat, not far from the nursing home, at 2-L Portman mansions. J.M.B. and Crompton were in constant attendance at the nursing home. Margaret came south from K.L. and was at the nursing home on the day of the operation.

I ought to add here the Jack Ll.D, who read most of the pages dealing with this part of the record before they were typed, differs pretty strongly with my analysis of Arthur’s attitude towards J.M.B. in his last months. I have naturally the greatest respect for Jack’s views on this uncomfortable matter, and have inserted them in his own words later, together with a rather cryptic remark from Mary Hodgson on the same subject which, on the whole, corroborates Jack’s view rather than mine. Yet perhaps there isn’t really so much difference after all.

Jack also tells me that he remembers very clearly Arthur walking him up and down the path in a garden and Egerton House and telling him more or less what he was in for. “He drove me to tears – an easy matter! And he could talk perfectly clearly, so presumably it was at the latest before the bigger operation. So of course as he told me, he must have told George. Therefore some of the letters on that subject puzzled me a bit, but as I think you said, the chronology must have been difficult.”

There are no dates on many of the letters, so that the chronology is difficult in places, and I have not always got it right probably. But Jack may perhaps be confusing the telling about the operation, to which he refers here, and a much later reference to an attempted explanation to George of Arthur’s approaching death.

*

[Crompton Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

14, Barton Street, Westminster

Friday 12.30 pm [8 June, 1906]

Dearest Father,

We have telegraphed to you that the operation is well over but nothing further is known at present. They removed the cheekbone – apparently had intended to do so all along, and it does not mean that the case is worse than was expected. At present they cannot say what the possibilities of recurrence may be – nor whether his speech may be affected seriously.

Sylvia is staying on at present in the house but will not I think be able to see him much if at all today. After coming round he is likely to be in some pain, and they will give him morphia as soon as possible. After a day or two there will be only discomfort, and in four or five days he may be up and about.

His courage and serenity was so great that it gave others courage, I felt – and instead of requiring help he seemed able to give it.

Margaret has come back here with me, sorely shaken I fear. She will go this evening to Berkhamsted to look after the household there.

Your loving son,

Crompton

*

[J.M.B. to John Ll.D.]

Telegram handed in at Devonshire Street, 5.58 p.m., 8th June 1906

Llewelyn Davies – Kirkby Lonsdale.

Surgeon been in again – considers operation so far as can judge at present decidedly good – he is conscious now and Sylvia sat hour with him – not in great pain. Barrie.

*

J.M.B. and Crompton telegraphed daily, sometimes twice daily, to John Ll.D. at Kirkby Lonsdale and to Margaret at Egerton House, to report progress.

*

[J.M.B. to John Ll.D.]

2-L Portman Mansions, W

Sat. 12 a.m. [in pencil]

[9 June 1906]

Dear Mr Davies,

I add a line to my telegram as I understand you cannot have a telegram tomorrow. The surgeon's precise words just now were "He is getting on very well - very well indeed." I have been with him since eight & Sylvia is there now, & I expect Crompton will be seeing him today sometime. There is nothing agst any one's seeing him so long as they don't excite him. It is quite easy to follow what he says but it is best for today & tomorrow that he did not speak at all but write. He wrote today to say what things he was thinking of most and among them are "Kirkby view - across valley" & "Buttermere."

In appearance he looks lying there like a wounded soldier but this of course is temporary or at least mostly temporary & it may be that no one not familiar with his face & voice wd see any difference. All this is in the future as the plate in mouth can't be put in for three months or so. He may be able to walk or drive out in a week.

I don't think the experts can say at all at present whether there is any likelihood of its reoccurring. I gathered from Mr Butlin*, the great specialist on sarcoma, that they can't well say as to this for a year or two.

I need say nothing of how Arthur has borne this. He talked it all over beforehand & he is certainly a splendid man.

Yours sincerely

J.M. Barrie

*

A decidedly fact facing letter. Later the same day (5.22 pm) Crompton telegraphed to John Ll.D. to much the same affect, ending “face hardly changed.“

I have a good many of the little pieces of paper, with pencilled remarks on them in Arthur's handwriting, which record his thoughts and his part in conversations when he was unable to speak. Most of them belong to later times – some very near the end. It is sometimes difficult to assign dates to them, but the following obviously belongs here:

Among the things I think about:

Michael going to school.

Porthgwarra and Sylvia's blue dress.

Burpham from garden.

Kirkby view across valley.

Buttermere.

Jack bathing.

Peter answering chaff.

Nicholas in the garden.

George always.

*

Porthgwarra: in Cornwall, where Arthur and Sylvia went for their honeymoon.

Burpham: A village by the river near Arundel, where we had spent a summer holiday in 1900, in an enchanting little house with a walled garden. There is a photograph of the family taken there, with Arthur seated in the middle, holding Michael on his lap, and Sylvia behind looking out of the window.

Buttermere: in the Lake District. I don’t remember what the associations with it were.

[AB: *Butlin = Sir Henry Trentham Butlin, 1st Baronet F.R.C.Sylvia (1845-1912) a British surgeon considered to be the "father of British head and neck surgery". His nephew was Sir Billy Butlin, founder of Butlin’s Holiday Camps.]

*

[Crompton Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

14, Barton Street, Westminster

Sunday, 6.15. [10 June 1906]

Dearest Father,

Mr Roughton said again today that he was going on very well. What they set out to do has been done well and successfully. As to recurrence, they cannot make any positive statement. I saw Rendel who said that the more drastic method of operating which had been practised for only the last 2 or 3 years, is a new phase and in calculating chances of success, the old statistics and statements in medical books are out of date: so there is a further element of hope; also Rendel said that it was a more hopeful thing when the mischief was locked up in a bone so that there was less likelihood of it having spread.

I have not been able to telegraph to you today, or to Margaret. Barrie was going to try to telephone to her – I think she might come up tomorrow to see him.

I was with him till 9.30 last night, and again this morning till Sylvia came – then I went up to Hampstead to see Aunt H[arriet], and have also been to see Mr and Mrs Booth – and I’m now going back to Beaumont St.

Your loving Crompton.

*

[Margaret Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

Sunday [10 June 1906]

I am so glad of your letter, dearest Father. I have not yet seen Sylvia to talk about plans – not having gone to town yesterday. But I’m thinking of returning on Thursday as you will be away on Wed’y night.

Mr Barrie’s letter will have reached you this morning. Don’t you think it might be a good plan to take the night in London when you come up for the christening – and then you could see Arthur too? You will find London tiring in hot weather.

Here all is life and energy, as you may imagine, with the 5 children. They are very dear, and have been so good and amenable. It wd. be a hardish life for anyone not well. It wd. not be a very good plan to have no one here – but I am hoping Sylvia’s friend, Miss Gay, might come. I am quite well, and not at all knocked up.

I hope to sit a little with Arthur tomorrow. As far as I can gather, there has not been great pain, and I am hoping the disfigurement is less than I feared.

You have not had any pain with your ailment?

Dear love from your M.

5 p.m. I have just been talking with Mr Barrie on the telephone. All is going as well as we could hope. He is taking milk and soda through a tube – and asked for some himself today. He has had no great pain – there is just the discomfort – I am going up to sit with him tomorrow.

*

Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

2-L Portman Mansions, W.

Monday [11 June 1906]

Darling Margaret,

Here is a letter from Mr. Simpson, their form master. I think the prep. done with him might be good. Darling what do you and Mary think? Will you see Mr. S – he would come to you if you send a note by one of the boys. About meals – I think Mary would prefer them in the nursery because of their tummies.

Darling you can’t think how I love you.

My dear one is pretty well and the doctors are satisfied.

More than love to my boys.

Your Sylvia.

Will Jane send me a pr. of combinations.

*

Mr Simpson was the master of one of the Junior Houses, Overton, at Berkhamsted school, and also took the top junior class in which George and Jack were. His letter has not survived: I imagine there was an idea that he should coach them at home in the evenings in connection with George’s examination for a scholarship at Eton and Jack’s for Osborne, both due in the near future.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street, W

June 11, 1906.

Dearest Father,

You will have heard what very favourable progress I am making. The skill of surgeons and, in less but still high degree, of nurses, is very wonderful. They have somehow saved me from almost all actual pain, and though there is a good deal of discomfort, that will soon pass away. The minor operation is to be next Monday (June 18), and I hope to be in pretty good condition (except for speaking) by the end of that week. At present I am like St. Paul – my bodily presence is weak and my speech contemptible.

Sylvia is constantly with me, and Barrie is never wearied in kindness. I had letters this morning from all my sons except Nicholas.

I do not feel Seddon’s death to be a great public loss. But he was a striking figure.

Your affect. son

A.Ll.D.

*

This letter is as neatly and firmly written as any of Arthur's, showing that he had made a quick and good recovery, so far as that was possible.

[Richard “King Dick”] Seddon was premier of New Zealand, and one of the most prominent figures in the history of that dominion. He was one of the pillars of British imperialism.

*

[Margaret Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

Berkhamsted, Tuesday.

12 June [1906]

Dearest Father,

I am so glad of your letter. I am fixing to return on Thursday. Mr Barrie said he had a more than kind letter from you. He has been extraordinarily kind and thoughtful. I had a note from him this morning, saying he left Arthur last night reading the evening paper. He [Barrie] says he wires you at the same time as me. I was with him [Arthur] yesterday. He looks so very, very sad, but I think that is partly because he cannot move his face. I think you would be able to understand something of what he says. As regards alteration, it would depend on what you expected. He likes to get letters, and I said I would tell you this. The first thing he wrote after the operation was “Wire Kirby.”

I have sent him up today the two books he wanted – the book of photographs about the children which Mr Barrie made, and a little Wordsworth. He wants things to think about, and writes down what he is thinking about – one was a view across a valley in the lakes.

I am going up again tomorrow – and K.L. by the 5.16 [train] I expect on Thursday.

Dear, dear love,

M.

*

None of John Ll.D.’s letters to Margaret or J.M.B. or to Arthur himself at this period seem to have survived, I am sorry to say.

Poor Margaret! I fear she had the devil’s own time looking after us as she so nobly did during these difficult days. It cannot have been altogether strange to her, as she had had six brothers herself, but for them she had no responsibility and I have little doubt they were better behaved than we were, though one or two instances of their obstreperousness have been preserved earlier in this record. Jack will have plenty of memories about this time: how we ragged her mercilessly, horrified her with the amount of potatoes we put away, etc. Children are supposed to be sensitive to atmosphere and so on, but I have no recollection myself of being at all genuinely conscious of the dreadful things that were afoot. Jack, two and a half years older, and George, may have inklings about it; but I suspect that even they had carefree minds most of the time. And I don’t think anyone except Arthur had the least idea of how to keep us in order, although Mary Hodgson did her best.

Florrie Gay may have relieved Margaret on this occasion – I don’t remember. But she certainly stepped into the breach on several subsequent ones. And how strange it was to see her, hardly changed at all it seemed, at [Jack’s son] Timmy Ll. D's wedding in 1944. I wonder if she still lives in Elm Park Gardens. I suppose I ought to ask her if she has any letters from Sylvia still – probably she has – which would help to fill gaps in this compilation; but I don’t expect I shall somehow. She managed to keep up with J.M.B. for many years, coming occasionally to the flat for tea, but like all the rest found the effort too great, and the obstacles too obvious in the end.

Later: Nico and I saw her yet again, in 1947 I think it was, on her 80th birthday. I did ask her, but she had nothing of significance.

[AB: Florrie Gay must have given Peter Sylvia’s letter to her re her engagement to Arthur (26 March 1890); Mary Hodgson’s niece gave me, among many other letters, one from Florrie Gay following Michael’s drowning in 1921. Both are in the database.]

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

12, B[eaumont]. St. 6.10 [12 June 1906]

Darling,

Dr Roughton has just left – he says all is going on satisfactorily and I think he meant it. Arthur has been up in the chair for a little – he wished it – he is back in bed now and was glad to lie down again. He was very delighted (quite touchingly so) to see Hugh Macnaghten (the Eton master) who came up to see him. E.V. Lucas for a few moments and that was all I would allow. He is now writing to Jack! He does seem better today and with all my soul I am trying to look forward to all the good that may still come to him, and you help me so, dear, dear sister. I am more than longing to see the little boys – it is years.

Good night, darling,

Your Sylvia.

*

I had not realised that E.V. Lucas, that queer and, at least in those days, very attractive figure, was so close a friend as this seems to suggest. I had a last glimpse of him at the London Clinic in 1938. I was coming away from seeing (my) Margaret Ll.D. shortly after the birth of (my) George and E.V. entered the lift as I left it. I made some commonplace and I think more or less facetious remark, assuming he, too, had come to call on a patient. He looked at me in an absent sort of way and made no reply. He never left the Clinic again, but died there not long afterwards – of the same old scourge.

[AB: E.V. Lucas was one of Barrie’s closest friends, as was his wife Elizabeth. Their daughter Audrey became very close to Michael. A prolific humorist, essayist, playwright, biographer, publisher, poet, novelist, short story writer and editor, Lucas – or EV as he was known – was very much of his time and is barely remembered today.]

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Jack Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street, W.

June 12, 1906.

My dearest Jack,

I think my next letter must be to you, but you must tell Peter and Michael that I do not forget that I owe them letters in return for two each from them.

All the letters written to me by my boys have been very good ones, and very welcome to me as I lie here. It is fine to think that you are having such a good time, with first Aunt Margaret and then Miss May to look after you. I always remember how much Miss May helped you and how jolly she was when she came to Tilford long ago. Please give her my respectful compliments.

I have been imagining you playing cricket in the field this afternoon – not such a fine day as a week ago when I watched you make a big hit to the boundary. I hope you will play carefully and get lots of runs in the great Sibden match.

Perhaps next Saturday evening George will come to London with Mother, and pay me a visit on Sunday. I should like to see you, too, but you must stay for the old Choir and the new TROWSERS.

My love to all my boys, not forgetting Nick0,

Your affectionate father.

*

One can see the good influence of Margaret Ll.D., as well as Mary Hodgson, in the “two each” from Peter and Michael.

It is curious, but I have almost utterly forgotten Miss May. Jack will remember her no doubt.

Sibden was one of the two Junior boarding houses at Berkhamsted, against whom Jack would be playing for the Junior Day Bugs.

Jack was the only one of us (until Nico developed later) who has a voice and musical talent, hence the choir. The “trowsers” were presumably his first pair.

*

[Margaret Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

Thursday (14 June 1906)

Dearest Father,

I seem rather needed here – and Sylvia has been getting in rather a panic abt. my going – so I have decided to stay till Saturday – when Sylvia and Mr Barrie will both be coming down for Michael’s birthday. Crompton I think will come for Saturday – and on Monday a Miss May, a very nice governess they know, will come from 5 in the afternoon to 9 next morning. We must consider what can be done after Ipswich…

I saw our beloved Arthur again yesterday – and he looked and seemed to me decidedly better. The face was a little burning, but Roughton expressed himself satisfied in the evening. I fear Arthur seeing too many people, and trying to get on too fast.

It is so hateful to think of the other operation, tho’ so slight a one, next week…

George had a fight today at school, leaving the boy lying weeping in the field! He is to see Arthur on Sunday.

The children are all delightful. I think you wd. much enjoy Michael and Niko.

Your M.

Margaret had become inured in her girlhood to schoolboy fights, from the days when “the mighty Hippo“ used to challenge all comers at Barford’s. (See much earlier passages in this desultory record, dealing with the early days of that generation of Davieses in the 1870s.*)

[AB: *I will get round to transcribing these earlier volumes one day, but since they are entirely concerned with the Llewelyn Davies family – nothing about the du Mauriers let alone of course Barrie – I have thought it best to start in 1889 on the eve of Arthur’s engagement to Sylvia.]

*

Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.

Thursday [14 June 1906]

Darling,

They think dear Arthur a little better today. He has been up again for a little but his face is more uncomfortable when up – this, the nurse says, happens at first – will get right later.

Oh, my M. – it’s so difficult to be brave sometimes. I am so glad you are staying and I know you will settle things beautifully with Mary [Hodgson] and Miss May.

I am well, dear one, do not think of me – I am so strong.

Tell Jack and Michael I was so glad of the letters and Arthur was delighted with the photographs of beloved Nicholas. You will try and tell my George of the poor face – before he sees it, but he is a brave and loving son.

Arthur thinks it would be best if you and Fil came in the middle of July – he wrote this down – he gave no reasons – you will know what to do, and everything you do for us is dear – so dear.

Lovingly your Sylvia.

*

Fil = father-in-law [i.e. John Ll.D.].

In a letter to me the other day, Daphne du M. says she remembers hearing, when very young, of Sylvia, after the operation (and presumably after the removal of the bandages), crying on Gerald’s shoulder and saying “they’ve spoiled my darling’s face.“

*

From Lady Ponsonby’s diary:

Went to see Arthur Davies in a Nursing Home. It was very sad, but they are both so remarkable. He looked very altered but with his usual determination insisted upon speaking in spite of having no roof to his mouth, or teeth, both of which he will have later. In spite of this I understood nearly everything he said. He tried to smile & made a remark as I left about my being beautiful in his old, dry, chaffy way; it was so pathetic. But to see Sylvia tending this poor maimed creature was something I shall never forget. She seemed a living emblem of love & tenderness & sorrow. Stroking his hair & his hand, & looking unutterable love at him & so beautiful — it seemed to have completed her. She broke down a little outside, & we talked about it, but she is brave, so brave — it was wonderful to see her.

[Arthur Ll.D. to Peter Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street,

June 14. 1906.

My dearest Peter,

It is your turn for a letter today, and I am sure you deserve an answer after the very good letters which you have written to me.

I live here in great splendour with two doctors, several nurses, a wife, and many kind friends all looking after me. (I do not mean that the doctors and nurses and friends give all their time to me, but they will help me very much). I wish you could see the splendid flowers that people have sent here – finer even than our garden at Berkhamsted.

All the letters which I get seem to tell me very well what is going on while I am away. I do hope the cavies will not escape and get drowned in the canal without me to look after them. It will be very exciting for me to hear what happens in the great Sibdon match on Saturday, and also to hear what all your places are for this week at school. I am sure you are all trying to do your best, and you certainly have very good people to help you with your prep.

Mr Barrie is now sitting here with me reading the newspaper, and Mother has gone for a little drive in the motor with Mrs Barrie. Don’t you think Mr. Barrie is a very good friend to all of us?

Goodbye now, my dear Peter and all my dear boys. I don’t forget whose birthday it is on Saturday.

Your affectionate father.

[AB: cavies = a type of guinea-pig from the Andes]

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Michael Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street

June 15, 1906.

My very dear birthday boy Michael,

How I wish I could see you with my own eyes on your birthday, when you are really 6 years old. But I can only wish you many happy returns by a letter, and send you my dear love, and a pencil as a little birthday present for you.

I hope you will have a very jolly birthday, with so many friends – Aunt Margaret, and Mr Barrie, and even dear Mother coming for a little visit in the middle of the day. Perhaps you will have a tea party, with Derrick Webster or some other pals to tea, and a great cricket match in the afternoon.

Do you remember how we all watched the great Overton match last week, and you made 80 not out against Mr Taylor? Perhaps when I am well enough to come back you will take me to see some more cricket matches. I am going to have quite a long holiday, and shall be able to take you to school every morning.

It is very nice for me in the morning here when letters come to me from my dear boys. I have had three letters from you already, all very good kind letters.

Now goodbye my dearest 6 year old boy, and I hope you will have a very very very jolly birthday.

From your affectionate Father.

*

Sylvia Ll.D. to Michael Ll.D.

For June the 16th.

My Michael’s 6th birthday.

I am coming to see you and I will bring my present to you my dear darling. I want so to tell you about Father who is so brave and you will be so proud that you are his little son.

I don’t like being away from you on your dear birthday but I shall see you in a few hours. Oh, my little Michael, won’t it be nice when we are all together again. Father does so want to be back with his sons. He is sleeping now and I am being very still and writing this letter by his bed.

Mr Barrie is our fairy prince – much the best fairy prince that was ever born, because he is real.

Loving Mother.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street

June 16, 1906

Dearest Margaret,

Your long and admirable letters have been most welcome to me every morning, telling me just what I like to hear. You have indeed been an angel of help to us this week, and have done everything to make things possible for us.

I continue to progress favourably. All the dressing and stitches have been removed (without pain) from my face, but all the left side above the mouth is practically paralysed for the time, which is awkward for eating, speaking, etc. I have been sitting up a good deal today, and actually had a walk along the passage as far as the door of the operating room. Tomorrow if it is fine I am going out for a drive in a motor car.

Sylvia has gone to Berkhamsted this afternoon to help celebrate Michael’s birthday. Crompton has most kindly been sitting with me for a long time, but he fails almost altogether to understand my queer utterances. Various friends have kindly come to see me.

You probably know that the little gland operation has been put off till Thursday. Probably we shall get back home about a week later.

Yours affectly

A.Ll.D.

*

The next day, Sunday, George went to see Arthur, perhaps travelling up to London with Sylvia after Michael’s birthday tea party and staying with her at Grannie’s flat. He evidently put in a visit to the zoo while he was up.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Peter Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street, W.

June 19, 1906.

My dear Peter,

I was very glad indeed to get your letter this afternoon – just the sort of letter which I like getting. It was fine to get such a big score as 10, and to beat the other side by your own score alone. I think you must like cricket much better than last year, now that you can play so much better.

I am very sorry to hear of George’s spots. I think he must have caught them from the leopard at the zoo. Does he remember whether he went into the leopard’s cage? I hope we shall soon hear that the spots have all departed, and that the whole family is again in blooming health. Perhaps tomorrow morning there may be a long letter from Jack. I have not heard yet where he and George were in their week’s order, or what happened to them at cricket on Monday afternoon.

I am gradually getting better, and looking forward very much to the time when we can go back to our home and our dear boys. I cannot eat much food yet, but now I can feed myself slowly with a small spoon. At first I had to be fed by my nurse, and also washed by her as I lay in bed. Granny has kindly given me some fine peaches, which I eat in little bits with plenty of sugar.

Goodbye dear Peter and all of you,

Your affectionate Father.

*

There is a fragment of a pencilled note from Sylvia to Margaret which evidently refers to the spots… “Distressed that my George is not quite well – oh dear, and he was so so well the Sunday he was up. How unthinking the kindest people are sometimes. Perhaps a little stomach tonic…”

There is a gap of five days now, probably to be accounted for by the final (glandular) operation.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Jack Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street,

June 24, 1906.

My dear Jack,

I think I have never written to thank you for your last letter and the four very good photographs. But for the last few days I have been seedy and not able to write. I liked all the photographs very much, Michael in his motor car, and Nicko in his carriage, but especially the corner of the nursery.

I am really beginning to get better now at last, and Mother and I hope very much to be able to get back to our dear home and our boys this week. I shall be rather an invalid, and not able to talk at all well, and you will all have to be very kind and patient to me all through this summer.

Have you heard that Granny has very kindly offered to take a house for us at Rustington for the holidays? It will be fun if we are able to get one, and have lots of bathing and bicycling and walking.

I rather hope that tomorrow there may be lots of letters for me from my boys, giving me all the news of Egerton House and its inhabitants. It must have been disappointing for you not to go to Felden with the others, but I hope the solo partly made up for it.

Give my love to everybody including Aunt Margaret.

Your affectionate Father.

*

It came as news to me that the last Rustington holiday at Cudlow House was paid for by Emma du M. No doubt the financial position was already only too clear, what with surgeons’ and doctors’ and nursing-home fees; though J.M.B. was evidently shouldering a large part of it.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

12 B.Sylvia Monday

[25 June 1906]

Darling M.

Arthur seems much better and I hope for a Bath chair ride tomorrow if fine – I think it will be much better than a grand motor. Oh, to have him home again and to do everything myself for him. He was so delighted with all the letters this morning – yours are wonderful and he loves them. I am hoping you all had a good day yesterday – I’m so afraid you are tired – you are so altogether splendid my M.

We hope to get back at the end of the week if there are no drawbacks. You will talk to the little boys and tell them how they can help me and how they must listen well when he talks. My dear love to all. How I long to see them.

Loving Sylvia

J.M.B. will return with us, I think.

I wish you were going to be with us but you will come again to us soon?

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to George Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street, W.

June 25, 1906.

My dear George,

I am rather sorry to hear about you being turned out of the eleven. It was a pity to shirk a game without just speaking to Guy first. But it does not matter very much, and I suppose he will let you play if there are any more matches. After all, good as cricket is, there are other things which are good also. I wonder which Peter thinks better, to make 10 runs or to catch a stone roach. And would Jack rather make 20 or sing a solo in trousers?

I had a fine lot of Berkhamsted letters this morning by the early post, including a splendid long one from Aunt Margaret which told me everything about all of you – that is, everything except your crimes and wrong-doings.

I am getting on so well now that we quite expect to come home this week, probably on Thursday. If so, we shall have been away just three weeks altogether.

I think Mr Barrie will come back with us and perhaps take us all the way in his motor car if it is fine.

Now good night my dear boy. My love to all of you.

Your affectionate father.

*

Difficult to imagine a reproach being more delicately conveyed.

Guy was one of the Berkhamsted School masters and was responsible for Junior Day-boy cricket.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

12 B.Sylvia Tuesday.

[26 June 1906]

Darling M.

Mr Roughton says we can go home on Thursday afternoon so unless anything unforeseen happens we shall come, either by motor or by train. Will you tell the maids for me and that Jimmy will come too.

He seems wonderfully well tho’ so weak and so happy about Thursday.

At present he is being shaved. You have told Mary [Hodgson] about the poor face and voice I hope, so that she will understand.

I find it so difficult to talk or write about it, but I should of course like her to know what to expect as she is so tender-hearted and kind. Jane I think too.

We are going to see about specs before we get back.

Oh, how I will look after him and love him.

Your Sylvia

*

I am not quite sure about the “specs”, but later references show that the eye was seriously interfered with by the removal of so much of the jaw and inside of the cheek, and I suppose new spectacles were required because of that.

Jane: the house-parlourmaid at Egerton House.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Peter Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street, W.

June 26, 1906.

My dear Peter,

There is very good news today, at least good news for me – that we are coming home on Thursday. My kind doctor did his last job for me this morning, taking out some stitches, just as Dr McBride did for you after you fought the barges, and now I have only got to get home and grow well and strong again.

I think today must have been very hot at school, and I daresay Mr Guy was in rather a bad temper with all you plaguy little boys. It is a good thing tomorrow is a half holiday again, and I hope you will have a really good game of cricket, and make more runs than all the other side put together.

This morning I went out, and was taken in a Bath chair, like a feeble old man, into Regent’s park, with Mother and Mr Barrie walking by the side.

We shall probably come on Thursday afternoon in Mr Barrie‘s motor car, if it is fine. I suppose you know that I cannot talk properly just yet, and you will all have to try and guess what I am saying, as Mary does for Nico.

Give my love to everybody. My last letter tomorrow must be to Michael.

Your affectionate father.

*

The joke about the barges refers to a little accident in which I got involved at one of the canal locks, through standing in between the canal and a taut rope by which a horse was towing a barge, with the consequence that, as the horse advanced along the towing-path, my forehead was banged against an iron lock-stanchion, causing bloodshed and necessitating stitches.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

12 B. Wednesday.

[27 June 1906]

Darling M.

I think the big bed will do quite well – if we find it uncomfortable we will alter things, but Arthur does not want it at present. About food – he can eat soft fish and egg sauce, and milk puddings and junket and gooseberry fool and cream. I think fish will do tomorrow evening and some mashed vegetables in his meat course – he cannot of course bite anything yet. As J.M.B. is coming we must have some meat, too. We will have the meal at 7.30. but we hope to get in for tea. He will rest on the big sofa when he gets in – I know he won’t go to bed, and the sofa is very comfy.

I am sure he means to be very careful, but in his own dear way.

Darling till tomorrow.

Your Sylvia.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street, W.

June 27, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

Just a line before my dinner to say how immensely we value all you have done – your kindness to the boys and also your splendid long letters which have been the greatest pleasure to me.

We shall come tomorrow in the afternoon, motoring if it is fine, with Jimmy (who has become one of your warmest admirers). You may expect us about 4 or soon after. I am highly convalescent and in good general health and able to talk a little better. I am rather handicapped about eating, since my mouth will not open properly yet, and there are regrettable gaps in the remaining upper jaw. Still by slow perseverance I get through very large quantities of victuals.

We shall be very glad indeed to get home again. I think Sylvia needs it even more than I. She has not got over all the strain of the last three weeks.

We had a motor drive this afternoon, all about Regent’s Park, and have had plenty of visitors all day.

Yours affectly

A.Ll.D.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Michael Ll.D.]

12, Beaumont Street, W.

June 27, 1906.

My dear Michael,

Here is my last letter of all before coming home to Berkhamsted and my boys. We are coming all the way Mr Barrie's motor car, if it is fine, and we shall arrive in good time for tea. I want very much to see your motor car and Peter’s stone roach, as well as Nicko’s musical wheelbarrow. And I wonder whether there will be any good songs to be heard which I have never heard before. If there are it will be all together a fine homecoming for Mother and me. After tea tomorrow will you take me carefully for a walk all round the garden, and show me all the flowers which have come up since we went away?

I wonder whether I shall be able to read to you when we have come back. You know that I cannot speak very plainly just now, but if you can understand what I say well enough, I shall have plenty of time to go on reading Biblia to you right on to the end. Or perhaps you will now be able to read aloud to me as well as singing songs to me.

Goodbye now, my dear boy. My love to all my boys, not forgetting dear Nicko.

From your affectionate Father.

*

Mr Barrie’s motor car: I think his second or third, an open Lanchester (driven by an elegant chauffeur named Frederick) hence the need for fine weather.

Michael’s motor car was a peddling one. Of Nico’s wheelbarrow I remember that it played, among other tunes, as he wheeled it along, “At Trinity Church I Met my Doom.”

Biblia = “Biblia Innocentium”, a child’s version of the Bible edited by J.W. Mackail.

Arthur and Sylvia returned to Egerton House next day and this letter brings to a close the letters dealing with Arthur’s operations.

[AB: From Dolly Ponsonby’s diary, 27 June 1906: “It seems sadder than ever & I hate his not being able to use his eye. Sylvia looks better and is more cheerful. Mr [E.V.] Lucas was there & quite came up to my expectations. Little Barrie was of course there, lurking in the background.]

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

July 5, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

I had a very favourable interview with Farmer, the dental expert, this morning. He is going to set to work at once on the plate, and will combine with it something to support the eye. Apparently the whole thing will be completed and fitted in this month – much sooner than I expected. Farmer did not cause me the slightest inconvenience. He is very confident about the ultimate effects. I also saw Roughton, who is perfectly satisfied, and says that the dressing on my neck may now be left to come off of itself. Also Rendel, who contemplates my general health with approval. I can now walk a mile or more with ease. Yesterday Sylvia and I watched a cricket match in the same corner of the field where we sat a month ago – this time with more cheerful prospects.

All that you did for the boys during the last few weeks would have been splendid even if it had not come at a time of trouble and difficulty. As it is, it is impossible to express the value of your help to us all. We manage perfectly well now by our own unaided efforts. But at any time in the near or far future you will be most welcome to everybody here.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted,

Thursday [5 July 1906]

Darling Margaret,

Arthur has written to you about the visit today and we feel butter after it. He does seem a little stronger, my M. and has been more cheerful and he still keeps in bed for breakfast but alas you do not bring it up now. He also gets to bed sooner and the nights have been better.

He and I walked to the fields yesterday and watched George at cricket, and he was not too tired afterwards. How I miss you and what you are to us – we can never never make you know.

The little boys are really wonderfully good and so far I think all is well – you see they are so much away, and when fine (and it is always fine now) so full of things, as you know.

We have to go to Mr Farmer on Monday and Wednesday, so he must rest well before that, but he is so good. Dear, dear love,

Sylvia.

Charley came to dinner yesterday.

*

It is curious how little Charley Davies has come into the story of the last few weeks. Similarly odd is the lack of references to Gerald du M. (living in London), May (at Chorley Wood, I think), or Trixie, so near by at Felden, and with only Gerald Arthur at home. But it would be a mistake to draw any particular conclusions, as the correspondence is, after all, not complete. Guy du M. was serving abroad, Harry Ll.D. was at Annan, and Maurice at Birkenhead with his family. All the dirty work was nobly shouldered by Margaret, with Crompton in support, and J.M.B. powerfully in reserve. Of the two survivors of the older generation, Jack Ll.D. was by now rather frail, and cut off also by mere distance, at Kirkby Lonsdale; while as for Emma du M., she evidently helped with money, but she doesn't seem to have come to Berkhamsted much, and one’s guess is that she wasn't comfortable with the Davies family. It may be remarked that when the new outbreak of the disease was feared, in September, Margaret, Jack Ll.D. and J.M.B. were informed, but not, at first, Emma du M.

*

[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D.]

Black Lake Cottage,

Nr. Farnham, Surrey.

5 July 1905.

Dearest Jocelyn,

I am conceiving you both in London today and I fear Arthur is having a bad time. If they put something into his mouth what I am afraid of is that it may seem pretty right at the time, and gradually become unendurable after he is home. There is a great deal of human nature in Gerald’s standpoint which I think is this, that after surgeons and the like have been working their will, we should be allowed to butt at them with our heads.

I shall depend on one of you writing tomorrow to let me know what happened today. I seem so far away from you now, and feel that you are not so safe as when I am by. That is the feeling that makes you in your heart hate all of us who propose to take a few of the Five away for a "season" (as Jack puts it), and it is strange that I should feel so now about Arthur, but I do. When I was in the garden I had no fears, but now I see that gate pushed open softly and rows of operators trying to steal ln. I love Roughton, but there are six of us prepared to receive him with cries of Duck and a hard butt on the head. So do write a line often.

It has been a terrible month to yourself. I had so hoped that Jocelyn would always be spared such a time. "Sylvia in her blue dress."

My love to Arthur and his brown patch, and to dear Jocelyn.

Your

J.M.B.

*

The brown patch must refer to the patch Arthur now wore over his eye.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Monday [9 July 1906]

Darling M.

He seems really better and stronger and a little less thin – he eats so well and actually went to the common with some of the boys!

We went up again to the dentist for him to make more measurements and then I took dear George to Paddington. He seemed quite happy but took it all as rather a joke. I hope so much he will do pretty well for Arthur’s sake, but of course he has no special work for this kind of thing.

Then I joined Arthur and he does not seem too tired. We have to go again Wednesday and Friday, and I hope it won't be too much for him. The good Jack Hills (Stella Duckworth's husband) came on Friday and Mr Beesley (Marlborough) and on Saturday Frederick Oliver – yesterday Lady Blanche (I only gave her a few moments by his chair) and today kind and helpful Roland Vaughan Williams.

He enjoyed the dear letters you sent, my M. – how you think of him. I loved them too, dearest, and saw and heard my sweet beautiful Mil. Oh, my sister how full your heart is.

I will write again – soon. George was delighted with your letter.

*

I am not sure that the ghastly plate, or artificial jaw, isn’t the most dreadful element in the whole sad story. It must have been a nightmare: so much seemed to depend on it and it so soon became impossible to wear, as J.M.B. had foreseen.

George had been dispatched from Paddington to Eton, to sit for the scholarship examination. Berkhamsted was a good school, and I both enjoyed and I think profited by my short stay there – to celebrate which I bought myself an O.B. tie the other day – but its standard of learning was not particularly high and was in no sense designed to turn out Eton scholars.

Stella Duckworth: I suppose she was a sister of the Gerald Duckworth, the publisher, i.e. a daughter of Julia Stephen by her first husband.

Fred Oliver: attractive, rich, one of the heads of Debenham and Freebody, and no mean man of letters besides. I think she was a pretty close friend, though I don’t know what had brought him and Arthur together. Cambridge, or J.M.B? Before we left London for Berkhamsted, Arthur used to play fives a lot with him on Sundays at the Debenhams’ house in Addison Road, another “regular“ at those games being Gerard Lee Bevan, one of the more celebrated of old Etonian financial crooks.

The Olivers went on being friends of the family after Arthur’s death and after Sylvia’s too, and Michael and Nico, and possibly Jack also, used to go to stay at their house across the Scottish border, Edgerston, where for a good many years J.M.B. was a regular visitor. His widow, Katie Oliver, whom we used to know well, still survives. I think she, too, faded out of J.M.B.’s background, like the rest of the old friends, in his last two or three years. I keep up to some extent with Mark, their eldest son and my exact contemporary at Eton. I should say the Olivers, Fred 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 J.M.B.

Lady Blanche was Lady Blanche (ex Ogilvy) Hozier, who when we were at Berkhamsted lived in what must have been reduced circumstances, in a small house in the High Street, a few doors from Egerton House, with her two pretty daughters, just growing up, Clementine and Nelly. She and they used to come in to lunch with us occasionally on Sundays, and Lady B. had a way of indicating, with a determined finger, her partiality for titbits off the joint which used to tickle Arthur and Sylvia and cause much suppressed giggling on our parts. She also never stop talking, hence the very few moments Sylvia was willing to grant her. The handsome Clementine married (1909) Winston Churchill, and Nelly, the prettier of the two, a Colonel Romilly of the Scots Guards who, I think, had plenty of money, so Lady B. must be given credit where credit is due. Nellie’s son Guy Romilly created something of a stir in the 1930s by running away from Harrow (at least I think so) and joining the anti-Francoites in the Spanish Civil War. Sylvia had a soft spot for both girls, and in her last “will” expressed a wish that some of her clothes should be offered to Nellie.

Roland Vaughan Williams (K.C., 1913), son of Lord Justice Vaughan Williams, was in the same chambers as Arthur, and a close friend, though I don’t remember him. Not long ago I walked through the shattered precincts of the temple; Garden Court survived all the blitzes, and at No. 2, where Arthur’s name used to be, Roland V.W.’s may still be seen.

Later. In the summer of 1946 I approached old Roland V.W. with the idea of collecting some information about Arthur’s professional status etc. at the time he was struck down. But the meeting was not a success. The old boy’s memory was largely gone and his mind wanders. There was nothing to be got out of him. He is a very rich man, and seemed chiefly interested in trying to get me to rent one of the two lovely houses he owns in the woodlands round Leith Hill, where his wife breeds Arab bloodstock. There was nothing to be got out of me either, for obvious reasons. A flop, in fact, from all points of view.

I take the “dear letters” to have been a batch of old letters from Mary Llewelyn Davies – “my sweet beautiful Mil” – which Margaret had sent from the carefully preserved hoard at Kirkby, and the reading of which had brought a poignant pleasure to Arthur and Sylvia They are probably among the many which Dr Mary and Theodora gave me not long ago; too late for inclusion in this record. I intend, however, to have a selection of them typed in due course. I believe a number of Arthur’s old own letters home, from Marlborough, Cambridge etc., which have been reproduced earlier in the these pages, were also sent to him about this time by Margaret and that he enjoyed the memories they revived for him.

[AB: Re. the Olivers and Edgerston, Nico has added in handwriting, “On one of those visits, N met for the first time his Mary.” And re. Katie Oliver, “She was N’s self-chosen (he was christened at the age of 14) godmother.”]

*

[George Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

9 July [1906]

Dear Aunt Margaret,

This letter proves that I could send a line, after all. I am going up to Eton tomorrow. Father and mother are coming also, as far as London, as father has got to go to the dentist. We start at ten-thirty and have dinner at the flat. Then I am sent off to Eton at Paddington. I don’t feel so funky of the exam as I was before. I’m going to stay with Mr Macnaghten.

All the animals are getting on well. The Blue Buck [rabbit] is in the run at present. Mr’s nose is almost well now, and the guinea-pigs squeak more than ever. I have just been mowing grass to make hay of for the rabbits. Father is getting stronger every day. Last Wednesday he came down to watch a match, in which I made 9 not out.

Yesterday I went out a bike-ride with Ritchie. He found a lark’s nest with six eggs in it.

This afternoon we found two curious things. First an old black-cap’s nest newly lined with moss and with two eggs in it, either hedge-sparrow or redstart.

Then we found an old wren’s nest which we had known for nearly 3 months and which had always been empty every time we looked, lined with feathers and having three eggs.

That’s all,

From George

*

“This letter also proves,” as it seems to me, that George, at 13, was equally unaware of the seriousness of Arthur’s illness and of how much hung on his performance in the scholarship examination. I am sure everything had been done to keep all of us in happy ignorance of the true state of affairs, and with complete success. With an only child it might have been difficult; with a gang of five I expect it was easy enough. I am equally sure it was a matter of principle with both Arthur and Sylvia not to let the examination weigh heavily on George.

Ritchie was, so far as I remember, George’s closest friend, and was a grandson of Thackeray’s, or more probably great-grandson. There were one or two other links with Victorian literature at Berkhamsted School. A Trollope, grandson of Anthony, went into the Navy at the same time as Jack – and I believe failed. Among my own intimates were a Yonge, grand nephew, I think, of Charlotte, and two brothers Creasy, grandchildren of the author of “Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World”. These, (except Trollope, who was a boarder) were among the more socially elite of the day-bug side of the school, to which also resorted the sons of the local tradesmen, such as the Perrys, in the haberdashery line, and Cripps, the Northchurch chemist’s son, an amiable albino who always beat me at every branch of learning, and made up for it by giving me test tubes from his dad’s shop; and local farmers’ sons, among whom I recall Puddephatt – a very ancient Hertfordshire name, I fancy – and the aptly-named Dane, a great heavily-built, blue-eyed blonde, slow of speech and sublimely indifferent to the canings the Rev. Fry used to administer to him in Old Testament lessons, for not knowing the difference between Habakkuk and Haggai or whatever it was.

I think it was valuable to us to be mixed up with these boys, and to have found them just as pleasant to be among as the sons of rather classier – or richer – homes one met at Eton – to which school, by the way, the local tradesmen’s sons also went to be educated until early Victorian times.

“Mr” was one of George’s rabbits.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

July 17, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

You will see from the enclosed letter of the Provost of Eton that George is very far from getting a scholarship, and that there is no real hope for next year. I tell him that unless his masters here report great progress it will be useless to go in. He enjoyed his visit to Eton immensely, staying with Brinton since Hugh Macnaghten was ill, and became very eager indeed to go to school there. I am not at all sure that it will not be best for him in the long run to stay here.

Leonard Hobhouse’s comments on my indisposition, though kind, indicate a feeble disposition. No one else has talked such nonsense, to my knowledge, except one actor. I am afraid there is a similar want of backbone in the conduct of the “Tribune”.

The dentist has completed the plate for my mouth, and intends to put it in tomorrow. He says that I shall require practice in talking, and that at first some sounds will be better, others worse. I shall be unable to bite on the injured side – permanently. I think he’s going to set to work now on the apparatus for the eye, the result of which I imagine to be a little uncertain. At all events nothing can be done to check the tear-flow, since the tear-duct is gone, except perhaps the insertion of a tiny silver tube, which is a matter for the oculist. I am in very good health, and enjoying the beautiful summer weather. Crompton was here on Sunday, and Barrie last night. Perhaps Aunt Emily is coming one day this week, and we are looking forward to seeing Father on Monday. Friday week is the school breaking-up and prize-giving, and on Saturday we go to Cudlow House, Rustington.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

No doubt the Provost’s disclosure as to George’s inadequate standard of scholarship was a blow, lightly as Arthur seems to take it in this letter. I believe he would very likely have been successful if he had stayed on at Wilkinson’s. It is rather difficult to make out, in view of the last sentence of the first paragraph, whether Arthur was in fact abandoning the notion of sending George to Eton, or merely supposing that that was what it would come to unless George got a scholarship the following year, when I think he would in any case have been too old.

I expect we are all agreed that it would have done none of us any harm to stay on at Berkhamsted School – if Arthur and Sylvia had lived.

And I guess – it is no more than a guess – that within a very short time after the date of this letter, both Hugh Macnaghten and J.M.B. came forward with offers to help towards George’s expenses as an Oppidan.

The Hobhouse allusion must remain obscure. I suppose he edited “The Tribune”. Was the “one actor“Gerald du M., I wonder? Something had been said to irritate Arthur pretty strongly, and this, together with George’s failure and the horrors of the plate and the general blackness of the outlook combined, as I think, to make this a slightly disgruntled letter: or at least one that comes nearer to complaint than any others. He never complains.

Curious, by the way, that neither Arthur himself, nor Maurice, nor Crompton, seem to have contemplated sending their sons to Marlborough, where they could very likely have got reduced fees. Perhaps they had had too long a spell of it themselves; or the school may have been going through a bad phase.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to J.M.B. at Black Lake]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

July 21 [1906]

Darling Jack

It is such good news, and I know you will be glad – it seems almost the old voice. The thing of course is not comfortable yet, but it will be altered from time to time. It was fine to happen on George’s birthday. “George always” – I have that piece of paper for George when he is older.

By the bye, if you talk to Mr Mason you might mention the name of Mr Munro Ferguson, M.P., as perhaps he and Mr Mason know each other. Mr M.F. has a great opinion of Arthur as Arthur has often done bills for him – in his letter to Arthur a few days ago, in thanking him for some work just done, he says, “How I wish you were in the House.”

I like to tell you – but only you – as you understand so well! Arthur has been seeing Lord Justice Vaughan Williams, as V.W. had been talking to the Lord Ch[amberlain] about him, but it is all very difficult for Arthur to know what is best for the future. He will like talking to you at Rustington,

Your Jocelyn.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Cudlow House

Rustington

August 6, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

Sylvia and her mother managed their journeys successfully on Friday and we are all very prosperous and enjoying ourselves. It is a very good thing that Sylvia came away.

I look on this week as an interval between Mumpses. By the end of this week I expect some of these boys here to begin to swell, and then probably we shall arrange for Jack to join us and finish his convalescence here. Meanwhile he seems to be enjoying himself pretty well with “the Dragon, to wit Mary,” and is to exchange visits with Gerald Millar.

We have had plenty of bathing, and the boys play endless cricket and lawn tennis in the garden. Just now we have an invasion by some friends of Jimmy’s: Nicholson, an artist, and his family, one of them being a boy of an age for George, and a large game of cricket is going on in the garden. Yesterday we had a good walk with my friend Fraser, who left this morning. We actually had a little unfamiliar rain, but today it is set fair again as usual. The sea has become thoroughly warm, and we all enjoy the water very much, except Sylvia, who has not yet completed her bathing costume …

Mrs. du Maurier leaves us, I believe, at the end of the week. Our party has seemed rather large lately, but we have no more visitors in prospect.

Yours affectly

A.Ll.D.

(A note from Sylvia to Margaret, enclosed with the above:)

Arthur seems wonderfully better, darling M, and is less thin and is very cheerful considering everything. Everyone is full of admiration for him – those who see him and those who hear from him. As for his wife, her feelings cannot be written in ink.

Your Sylvia lovingly.

*

Jack had caught mumps just before the beginning of the holidays and stayed behind at Berkhamsted for the first few days with Mary Hodgson. Very independent, Mary H., and devoted more to Sylvia (as was natural) and to us than to Arthur. I once tried, not many years ago, to get her to tell me something about Arthur, but it was always difficult, her emotions were too strong and she could hardly speak. All she said was, “your father was a very just man.”

In the event only George caught mumps at Rustington, and the rest of us escaped.

Nicholson was the William Nicholson, and I suppose the son may have been Ben Nicholson, now an established painter too. Nico has most, if not all, of the designs done by W.N. for Peter Pan, and invited the old man – surely one of the most delightful old men in the world – to dinner a few years ago to authenticate them, which he duly did; adding that they were really his property, having been stolen from his painting room at the Duke of York’s Theatre. They still hang, however, in Nico’s dining room at 22 C[ampden] H[ill] S[quare].

The rent of Cudlow House, as has been noted, appears to have been paid by Emma du M. So far as I can make out, J.M.B. was there most of the time, though curiously enough, while I remember a lot about this last of the Rustington holidays, I cannot recall either him or Granny there.

“My friend, Fraser” exists far at the back of my memory, a dim and I think spectacled figure, probably legal.

A good many photographs of this time survive, mostly on the beach and bathing, and, I suppose, taken by J.M.B.; though some may be by old Mrs Wellesley, a great lover of Arthur and Sylvia who had a cottage there, and was also an expert photographer. An indoor photograph of Arthur in a Norfolk jacket, reading, taken by her at Rustington in 1899, was considered by Margaret Ll.D. the best likeness of him. There can certainly be no better. There is a strong look of Jack Ll.D. I went to tea with Mrs Wellesley in London not long before her death (in 1928 or so) when she spoke of Arthur and Sylvia in a way to ring your heart.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Cudlow House, Rustington

Aug. 13, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

We have no more outbreaks yet, but expect them now every day. George has had a rather light attack, no fever or loss of appetite, but a good deal of swelling, and for a few days some trouble in swallowing and chewing. He is still a good deal swollen in the face. We regard the cheerful chubbiness of his cheeks as rather an improvement, and wish it could be permanent.

Jack came across in a motor on Saturday and is in great spirits and apparently robust health and vigour. We are all very glad to be reunited. The doctor here errs on the side of caution, and says that Jack must not bathe, bicycle or play lawn tennis at present, for fear of a chill. He also insists on George staying in bed for at least a full week.

Lady Maud (who is expecting a visit from Dolly and her children) is in prodigious and continual excitement about the infectiousness of mumps, rather as a topic of conversation than as a matter of alarm. She sits for hours in the garden talking to Sylvia about it continuously. I hear her now below, as I sit with George – “You can carry it about with you everywhere…” “The most infectious disease in the world.”

We had a visit on Saturday from Dr. Rendel, who is staying 20 miles off across the downs, and bicycled over. Otherwise we are alone, except for Jimmy, and are shunned by most of the neighbours. But we manage to get along very well.

From time to time I urge George to write to you, and he will probably screw himself up to the effort presently.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

Dr Rendel, whom Jack will remember quite as well as I do, had ceased to be our family doctor when we left London and went to Berkhamsted, but remained a friend. I think he had been at Marlborough with Arthur. Our last sight of him was in the summer holidays of 1909, at Postbridge, where he had built a house; having, I think, married money.

I can’t say I really remember Lady Maud Parry, though I have a dim and misty recollection of her sitting in the Cudlow House garden that summer, with Dolly, talking to Sylvia. In the following extract from Dolly Ponsonby’s diary, the little dig at Margaret is no doubt fair enough, in a purely private document, and accurately observed; but as I smile at it I don’t forget her goodness and her love of Sylvia as well as Arthur, nor, for that matter, that Dolly P. was herself devoted to Margaret and used to see her regularly till the end of her life.

From Lady Ponsonby’s diary:

August, 1906. Went to see Sylvia in the evening. She is an amazing creature, certainly beauty and charm could not go further, and now she is more beautiful with a touch of sadness in her face, and her wonderful blue garments. She talked so naturally of all her hopes and fears regarding Arthur, and how Margaret’s luxury of woe attitude nearly killed her and her intenseness about everything.

When Margaret said she hates money or rails against it, Sylvia says, “I should love to have it. I should like to have gold stays and a scented bed and real lace pillows,” and Margaret is shocked and swallows it all.

Arthur is more pathetic than he was – it gives one a terrible twinge to see him with his poor maimed face, and always escaping from people…

[AB: Dolly’s diary continued: “Mr Barrie is always with them, a nurse to the children and an extraordinarily tactful and helpful companion to Sylvia and Arthur though his moods like those of most genius types sometimes appears to be a little trying.]

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Cudlow House, Rustington

August 23, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

We are surprised to have no further outbreaks of mumps. The time for infection from Jack at his most infectious stage is now well past, and George’s microbes are about due to operate on the younger ones. George was kept long in bed by a very careful doctor, but is now up and about, perfectly well, and doing everything except bathe and bicycle.

Jack is perfectly recovered. We have been having most wonderful weather ever since we came here, one or two rather cold and blowy days, but scarcely a drop of rain. Yesterday it was cloudless and windless from dawn to night and today it is almost as good. We all, except poor George, bathe with great enjoyment in the warm sea, Sylvia from a tent, and the rest of us from the adjacent beach. Peter is now quite fearless in the water, but Michael stands up to his knees clinging to the breakwater, but still enjoying himself. Sylvia seems very well and strong, bathing and walking and playing lawn tennis. It is funny to hear the games when she and George and Jack and Peter are playing: Peter absolutely silent whether he does well or ill, and the others talking without intermission.

Jimmy is still with us, very good in all the amusements. Mary Barrie is motoring in France with Molly Muir, and has been struck stuck by illness of their chauffeur at the hotel at Dives where they all stayed last year.

I am quite well and flourishing, except for some discomfort with my plate which is now passing away. It is unpleasant to be temporarily without it.

I am in communication with Mr. Justice Bigham about the possibility of an appointment, but do not intend to take any active steps at present.

Yours affectly

A.Ll.D.

If Harry and Agnes could come here we should be very glad to see them.

*

Although Arthur was able to bathe, I don’t think he could take much part in the lawn tennis and “cricket” games which went on in the garden.

Among the things I remember about this time are: a drive and walk to Burpham, scene of a previous (1900) carefree summer holiday, which must have had its poignancy for Arthur, who had thought of Burpham while he lay recovering from his operation – and having tea there at Mrs Hawes’ cottage by the Arun; and going by myself to Angmering station, a mile or so from Rustington, to fetch a crate of grapefruit, (at that time perhaps something of a novelty) and finding the return walk a Herculean labour. They were for Arthur, who could still eat nothing but soft substances, including, I remember, some unpleasant sloppy looking stuff called Plasmon. I recall, too, going with Arthur and George and Jack by train to Bramber, and thence for a walk up on to the open downs, the last of those walks with which more than anything else, I associate Arthur in my memories of him. Walking was, I think, at all times of his life, and certainly in his last years, his favourite pursuit.

Was it on this train journey, or perhaps on an earlier one from Ramsgate to Deal, for the walk across the Kentish downs to Dover, that Arthur taught us the game of tying a piece of paper on to the end of a long bit of string and letting it out of the window, so that it fluttered tantalisingly at the window of the next compartment, the occupant of which was bound eventually to seize it, whether in rage or for fun, when a tug-of-war ensued?

The presence of J.M.B. at Cudlow House throughout these holidays was a queerish business, when you come to think of it: as odd a variation of the ménage à trois as ever there was, one would say. I think by now Arthur had surrendered utterly and was reconciled, for all sorts of reasons. But how strange the mentality of J.M.B., whose devotion to Sylvia seems to have thrived on her utter devotion to Arthur, as well as on his own admiration for him. It would be misleading to call his devotion more dog-like than man-like: there was too much understanding and perception in it – not to mention the element of masterfulness. And how about Mary Barrie meanwhile? I suspect that on the whole the state of affairs suited her well enough, and I say so in no disparaging sense. For a final oddity, is it possible that the Molly Muir with whom she was motoring was the Molly Muir for whom, according to H. Jack Ford, Arthur had had a tendresse before he met Sylvia, 16 years earlier?

The sick chauffeur was, I fancy, Frederick, who followed Alfred – much admired by me for being able to balance on a stationary bicycle at Telford fair – and not Alphonse who, I think, succeeded Frederick a year or two later, and who is now mine host of the Pilot Boat Inn at Bembridge.

Mr Justice Bigham (later Lord Mersey) was one of Arthur’s best friends and supporters in the legal world. Years later (1914) he wrote to J.M.B., expressing his appreciation of what J.M.B. was doing for Arthur’s sons. Years later again, Crompton Ll.D. was going to take me round to see him and hear him talk of Arthur, but to my regret the visit never came off, owing either to Crompton’s death or Lord Mersey’s, I’m not sure which*. His grand-daughter married Dolly Ponsonby’s son, Matthew, and is now, I suppose, Lady Ponsonby. To the above little list of links with Lord Mersey should be added the fact that he was the presiding judge in J.M.B.’s divorce case. [He also headed the inquiries into the sinking of both the Titanic and Lusitania.]

[AB: *Probably Mersey, who died in 1929, whereas Crompton didn't die till 1935.]

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Cudlow House, Rustington.

Sept. 6 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

We are just at the end of our stay here, having failed to get an extra week for which we asked. We have succumbed to an invitation to go to Scotland with Jimmy for the close of the holidays. First the scheme was to take George and Jack only, then we were unwilling to abandon Peter, and lastly, Michael has, inevitably, been included. Nicholas so far remains out of the cast. We have to stay at a small village called Fortingall, in Glen Lyon, 2½ miles from Loch Tay among high mountains (especially Ben Lawers and Schiehallion), and surrounded by burns in which the boys will fish. They are all prodigiously excited at the prospect, and if the weather is fine we shall do very well. We leave King’s X at 7.55 p.m. tomorrow (Friday) evening, reach Crianlarich for a rather early breakfast, get to Killin (Loch Tay) by 10, and reach our destination by lunchtime. If it is fine, George and I think of doing an easy ride on bicycles to end up. Our address will be Fortingall Hotel – Glen Lyon – Perthshire – N.B.

We have had no further outbreak of mumps, and are now nearly safe. Our good fortune in weather has lasted well, but today is gloomy and threatening. We have had plenty of warm pleasant bathing, and are all very well. The holiday has altogether been entirely successful.

I don’t remember the exact day of your bazaar, but this must be near the time. I hope it will pass off prosperously, and bring you in as much money as can be expected and even more. We shall be at home by Sept. 17, glad to see Harry or any other member of the family who can look in.

I shall return to the Temple in October, ready for the new term. Farmer (the dentist) is planning various ingenuities for my comfort and convenience.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

PS I do not contemplate any extensive hill-climbing.

*

The week at Fortingall, crowning a summer holiday throughout which, apparently, J.M.B. had been with us, constituted a kind of bridge between the old regime, so to speak, and the new. A purely fishing venture, it was a momentous enough affair to the boys; not viewed, I believe, with any tremendous enthusiasm by Arthur who, apart from anything else, had absolutely no interest in field sports. I think that when he spoke of “succumbing” to Jimmy’s invitation, it was no mere figure of speech. The highland scenery, however, was a considerable compensation to him.

And so goodbye to Rustington, so long known and loved by Arthur and Sylvia, so well remembered by Jack and me.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Fortingall Hotel,

Glen Lyon, Perthshire.

Sept. 9 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

I am very glad both that the bazaar is over and that it was so very successful. I don’t know which will be the greater relief.

We are all together prosperous so far. We all travelled luxuriously in sleeping births, and though Sylvia and Michael were a little upset for the time they are perfectly recovered today. We came in the early morning up the beautiful West Highland Railway from Glasgow, along the shores of lochs and past Highland mountains, and turned out at Crianlarich in wild moor and mountain scenery. There we breakfasted at a funny little whitewashed Highland hotel and the rest of the party went on by train and steamer while George and I rode our bicycles down a long and splendid valley and along the shore of Loch Tay. The day began stormy and wet, but while the wind continued (right behind our backs) the weather gradually improved and showed us lakes and mountains at their very best. Today it is beautifully fine and clear, though blowy and rather cold.

We are most fortunate in our quarters – a very comfortable inn, not too grand and with friendly people, (Jack is already on most intimate terms with the waiter), and a pretty village surrounded with fine scenery. Glen Lyon is one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland, and we are at the foot of the glen in an open valley with high mountains close at hand. The boys all fished yesterday afternoon in a burn, and caught a number of small trout to their huge delight. We all enjoy ourselves immensely, and have various schemes of walks and drives and cycle rides to fill up the week. We will be home either Saturday night or Sunday early morning, and the boys return to Dr. Fry on Monday afternoon.

While passing through London I visited Roughton who was perfectly satisfied on all essential points. I am very well.

To find us on the map, look for the centre of Scotland between N. and Sylvia, and E. and W.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

The fishing was, of course, with worms for bait – on triple “Stuart” hooks – and I think by the end of the week we just knew the difference between a trout and a par: 1 oz. being about the limit for “keepable”. Photographs of these great exploits exist, showing us, I regret to say, all wearing Scotch “bonnets”.

I have a distinct recollection of being asked by Arthur to abandon the sport one morning or afternoon and go for a walk with him instead, and of dimly apprehending the pleasure my consenting to do so gave him. And I also remember an early morning bathe with Arthur and George and Jack in a pool in the burn: the last of the many ice-cold bathes he had loved all his life. I hated it like hell myself, but I’m glad to have it to look back on.

While passing through London on the way north we went to Gamages with J.M.B. to get fishing rods and tackle – a huge thrill: I suppose, with perhaps unreasonable distaste, that this was while Arthur was visiting Roughton with Sylvia, and receiving his deceptively satisfactory report – not that I believe Arthur was much deceived himself.

I don’t know where Nico was during this week. Morecambe with Mary [Hodgson]?

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to J.M.B.]

Sept 16, 1906.

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Dear Jimmy,

You have done wonderful things for us since the beginning of June – most, of course, during June and also in the last week – but at Rustington also you made all the difference to the success and pleasantness of the holiday.

We all hope to see you soon and often.

Yours

A.Ll.D.

*

It is easy enough to read all sorts of undertones into this laconic note. One can say that it expresses gratitude but little cordiality; or even feel that there is a hint of resentment against the fate which had brought about the position in which gratitude had to be incurred and acknowledged in that quarter. But I fancy one would be wrong, and that in so thinking one would be interpreting a brief note of thanks in the light of much later, more complex, and in the last analysis scarcely justifiable resentments of one’s own. However, to each his own prejudices.

I am strongly inclined to think, myself, that when he wrote this, Arthur already suspected the recurrence which was confirmed by Roughton only two days later, and was in no mood for much letter-writing to anyone less intimate than his sister.

This letter makes it quite clear that J.M.B. had begun to assume a major share of the financial responsibility at the time of the operation, besides devoting almost all of his own waking hours to Arthur and Sylvia. That he did so purely because he wanted to, and that (according to Denis Mackail) he made no less than £44,000 during 1907 alone [= £3,750,000 in 2020], constitutes no reason for modifying the view I have arrived at after going through all these documents, namely, that he played an incredibly generous part, and that, but for him, Arthur’s last months would have been far more unbearable even than they were; and that the gratitude felt by Arthur for the comfort so afforded him far outweighed the resentment which he must also at times have experienced.

But what do I know?

I gave a wad of these pages in the rough to Jack to read, not without a certain amount of trepidation, since there is so much that he must remember more clearly than I do. He more than generously “passed” most of my attempts at interpretations of things, but disagreed with the point of view expressed above, and possibly elsewhere, as regards Arthur’s feelings about J.M.B.. He writes to me as follows:

“I couldn’t at all agree that Father did anything but most cordially dislike the Bart. I felt again and again that his remarks and letters simply blazoned the fact that he was doing all he could, poor man, to put up a smoke-screen and leave Mother a little less sad and try and show her he didn’t grudge the Bart being hail and hearty and rich enough to take over the business. I realised, of course, that I might too easily be biased, so I asked Gerrie [his wife], and she agreed with me. I’ve no doubt at all he was thankful, but he was a proud man, and it must have been extraordinarily bitter for him. And altogether too soft and saintlike to like the little man as well.

It doesn’t really matter I suppose: it’s not going to be published. But it may be read by several generations of our families, and presumably, or rather, possibly, Mary and Theo, and I’d be grateful, as every now and then you mention me in it, if some small sign of my disagreement could go in.”

I am only too glad to include these words of Jack’s. For one thing I’m not at all sure he doesn’t get nearer to the true state of affairs than I have got myself: and let me add here that there are many bits of the record which I know he could have “edited” better than I have. With regard to this particular matter, which I confess I find almost impossible to contemplate impartially, even after so many years, I believe most disinterested readers would very likely agree with Jack rather than with me, and it is certainly a very good thing that his strongly but most aptly worded protest should be in the record. I don’t altogether surrender my judgement to his, but very nearly. The only serious difference is that I believe gratitude on the whole outweighed both distaste and grudge. But Jack’s phrase about the smoke-screen is terribly convincing.

I am uncertain whether it was before or after Jack’s comment that I wrote to Mary Hodgson, asking her the following question: “Would you say that, assuming father never really liked J.M.B., he nevertheless became much fonder of him towards the end, and was much comforted in his last months by the thought that J.M.B.’s money would be there to help Mother and all of us after his death?“

Her answer was: “I understood that your Aunt Margaret had been asked by your father – and could not see her way to accept the responsibility. That J.M.B. was put forward as being more than willing. Your father acquiesced to the inevitable, with astounding grace and fortitude. It would help your mother – and further than that he neither desired nor was able to go.”

Well, in my opinion Mary’s impression (not prompted by any of these papers, which she has not seen) tallies more nearly with Jack’s view than with my own. Somewhere between the three the truth must lie – a sad truth at best, I fear.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Sept. 18, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

I am sorry to say that there is fresh anxiety about me. There is a possibility of recurrence of the trouble elsewhere in the face. Roughton, whom I saw this morning, cannot speak definitely at present, but is not at all hopeless. If it is as he fears, no further operation will be possible. I asked how far off the end would be, but he could not say – perhaps six months or a year, and there might be little or no suffering, only increasing weakness. I have thought it best to tell poor Sylvia. I would not have told you while everything is uncertain, if you had not been coming here on Thursday. As it is I am telling you fully without concealment. Roughton’s last word was that there is a “quite good chance” that all may be well. In my own mind I am not very hopeful, though I do not despair.

I have, of course, foreseen and discounted this possibility from the start. My trouble is for Sylvia. She hardly realises what a support the boys will be to her as time goes on. It is all very terrible for her. My own thoughts go back continually to the past and all the blessings and happiness of my life.

However, as I say, I do not despair at present, and I quite hope that next Tuesday there will be a more cheerful account. I am sorry to think of Harry being greeted by bad news, and of the trouble which this anxiety will be to my dear Father. We shall be very glad to see you on Thursday. Don’t give up your trip to Belgium.

Yours always affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

The date of Margaret’s visit was deferred by an exchange of telegrams to Saturday, but meanwhile, on the morning of 19th Sept., Arthur sent her the following very characteristic extract from Bradshaw by postcard, giving instructions for the journey:

“If, as I assume, you are coming by the train which reaches Euston at 4.20 you can gain a little by getting out of Bletchley (3.11), coming on from there at 4.20 and reaching Berkhamsted 5.1. If you don’t do this, it might be worthwhile to have the train stopped at Watford (3.50). You would hardly catch the 3.51 down from Watford, but would make sure of the next. I am not at present telling anyone about the subject of my letter of yesterday. We are well and cheerful.”

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Sept. 19, 1906 (evening)

Dearest Margaret,

I hope it will suit you to come on Saturday. Sylvia was at first inclined to shrink from seeing anyone, but now she wishes to have you here, and I am sure you will be a great help to her and me and all of us.

Of course what I care about now is to give her all the support I can, and also, if the worst comes, to leave her with memories of the remaining time which will afterwards be a comfort rather than an unhappiness. I myself have consolations and even occasions of poignant happiness such as could not come to any man who had no wife and children. My burden is far less heavy than Sylvia’s.

Yours, Arthur

We are telling as few people as possible at present.

[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D.]

Leinster Corner, Lancaster Gate, W.

Wed’y. [19 September 1906]

Dearest Jocelyn,

I mean to come down tomorrow. I may not be before seven or thereabouts, as Mr Boucicault is pressing for a meeting in the afternoon. I shall bring a bag, and stay the night or not, just as you like. I am thinking of you and Arthur all this time. I am still full of hope.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

21 Sept. 1906

Dearest Father,

Whatever may be in store for me, I hope I shall bear it as befits the son of a brave and wise man. I am troubled for myself, but much more for Sylvia. She is brave to a degree that I should hardly have thought possible, busy all day with endless activities and kindnesses for me and for the boys, and all the time the burden is almost heavier than she can bear. Besides her sympathy for me, she shrinks terribly from the loneliness after I am gone. She will have many good friends, but scarcely anyone on whom she feels that she can really rely.

I can see the end to what I may have to endure, but she at present seems to face the prospect of endless misery, and only sees that she must go on for the sake of the boys. I can foresee a not unhappy life for her in the future, with the boys growing up round her, but she cannot now see this. She and all the boys were never so desirable to me is now, and it is hard if I have to leave them. But whatever comes after death, whether anything or nothing, to die and leave them is not like what it would be if I were away from them in life, conscious that I could not see them or talk to them or help them.

Barrie’s unfailing kindness and tact are a great support to us both. He spoke to Roughton yesterday, and Roughton said the same as to me – that it is “likely” to be serious, but that it is impossible to be certain at present. He also said that whatever happened he could guarantee that there would be no bad pain – which is to me a comfort.

I was a little doubtful about asking Margaret to come. Sylvia has broken and troubled nights, and I rather fear the effect of any breakdown caused by sympathy. We are not telling Mrs du Maurier at present. But I feel that Margaret’s help will be invaluable. We shall expect her at 7.26. I suppose they will stop the express at Bletchley for her. If not, she will have to go onto Euston, and come back from there.

Your affect. son

A.Ll.D.

*

Two or three of Arthur’s letters are evidently missing here: the next I have is dated October 11th. But on September 22nd, presumably after a further examination, he telegraphed to Kirkby Lonsdale: “Looks this morning more hopeful that nothing wrong.” There seems to have been a period of some weeks during which he allowed himself to be persuaded – or wished to let others think that he was persuaded – that the feared and expected recurrence had not materialised.

*

[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D.]

Leinster Corner, Lancaster Gate.

Wed’y [26 September 1906]

Dearest Jocelyn,

I feel myself with you and Arthur all the time just now; all day I am looking at you and speaking to you, so that I feel I couldn’t be closer where I actually in the house. But for all that I shall come down again this week. I do feel we have a right to be calmer now and to look forward with hope to the future, and I see your much loved house going on and in its old way. Of course I am always wondering how Arthur is feeling, and I hope there will be a letter tomorrow. I am to see Mr Mason tonight and hear if he has any news, but I daresay this is a little too soon. With my love to you both and all the five.

Your

J.M.B.

*

[J.M.B. to]

Leinster Corner, Lancaster Gate, W.

Oct. 2, 1906.

Dearest Jocelyn,

Dr. Rendel is to write you about the sleeping draught. I always feel you are one of those who can’t take them without bad effects afterwards, and if he gives you anything, do take it only as he tells you, and very, very seldom.

I think our interview with Mr. Roughton leaves everything much as it was, as indeed we expected. Arthur seemed to me a bit brightened by our visit to Mr. Mason. Of course he was making an effort but I do think the time passed pleasantly for him.

Maarten Maartens is in town for this week, and I must see him once, but I shall come down soon again. With my dear love,

J.M.B.

*

It has come as news to me, in going through these letters, that Alf [A.E.W.] Mason was so closely concerned with Arthur in his last months, and doing what he could to help. (He was present at Arthur’s funeral).

Maarten Maartens [AB: pen name of Jozua Marius Willem van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915)] was a Dutch novelist who wrote in English and in whom J.M.B. for some reason never clear to me closely interested himself.

Alfred Mason died November, 1948. [AB: Born in 1865, Mason was an actor turned novelist – “The Four Feathers” (1902) being his most famous. He was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Coventry in the 1906 Election, and was a keen cricketer, being a member of Barrie’s Allahakbarries. He declined a knighthood, declaring that “such honours meant nothing to a childless man.”]

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

Oct. 11, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

I visited Treves this morning, with very satisfactory results. He thinks that inflammation occurring naturally in the course of healing is sufficient to account for all the symptoms, and though it is impossible to say positively that there is not a new growth behind the swelling, he thinks that all the indications are in my favour. Besides the facts with which we are familiar – completeness and apparent effectiveness of operation, healthy condition of glands, my general good health, etc. – he said that recurrence after so short a time would be unusual and that he would not expect to find it so far from the place of the original trouble. He advised me to take a course of light and electricity treatment (in London – perhaps for an hour twice a week, but this is not settled) both to reduce the swelling and to meet the possibility of anything being in fact wrong. He said it was important to maintain good general health and not to do very hard work at present.

So our minds are now at rest, and already it seems a long time since we thought there was cause for serious anxiety. I feel compunction at having made a hullabaloo about nothing and having caused the family needless trouble. However, it is something to have provided the occasion for so much sympathy, kindness and effective help.

We shall be very glad to see you on Monday if you can come.

I have sent off the article for the Independent Review. I think it may be useful though it is not so clear as I could have wished.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

**

Of the article, or any others by Arthur, I am sorry to say I know nothing.

Treves, the most famous surgeon of those days, called in most likely by J.M.B. – can he really have meant what he appears to have said? It seems scarcely credible. And I think Arthur, in saying “our minds are now at rest”, can scarcely have expected Margaret to believe him.

[AB: Sir Frederick Treves (1853-1923) was an expert in anatomy. He was renowned for his surgical treatment of appendicitis and is was credited with saving the life of Edward VII in 1902. He was also widely known for his friendship with Joseph Merrick, aka the Elephant Man, and was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in David Lynch’s 1980 film.]

*

Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

October 15, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

I join with my offspring in salutations on the happy day – halfway to ninety. I have been trying to send you an umbrella to mark the occasion, but now it must wait till you come here. We should be very glad to see you on Thursday.

I am very well,

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

[Jack Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

[October 15, 1906]

Dear Aunt Margaret,

Many happy returns of the day. Here is one of my many water coloured sketches. It was in the Academy in 1896. Do you not admire it?

I hope you will have a good birthday and be here again soon.

Jack

P.S. Hurrah for Thursday.

*

[Peter Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

[October 15, 1906]

Dear Aunt Margaret,

I hope you are quite well and will have a nice birthday tomorrow. I have been doing “Phaedrus” tonight about “The Fox and the Crow.” I kicked a goal on Saturday, and so did Jack. I am so glad you are coming on Thursday, and here are some elastic bands for you, from Peter.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Oct 15 [1906]

Darling,

I am so glad you will come on Thursday. Arthur is much more cheerful and I blessed Treves for this great comfort. Of course we know he can’t be certain, but we know he hopes that many things may have caused the poor face to be as it is now, and that treatment will perhaps do wonders.

Considering all things Arthur seems wonderfully well, though a visit to the hairdresser had made him look extra thin, and his beautiful hair, for the time being, has vanished. I so love his hair.

I was out today when Mrs. Murray Smith and Mildred Davey called and he talked to them and showed them over the house!

Dear, dear love to you and we want you back again.

Your Sylvia lovingly.

*

Mrs Murray Smith and Mildred Davey ring no bell for me. I suppose Mrs. M.Sylvia was connected with Smith, the founder of the great publishing firm of Smith, Elder & Co, who was George Murray Smith [1824-1901]. Mildred Davey may have been of the family of Davey who were “tutored” by John Ll.D. and his erring brother Walter in the ’forties.

Jack will remember the hairdresser at Berkhamsted, de Freyne by name, rather a comic character to all of us. He succeeded in figuring in the foreground of one of the photographs of Egerton House which was published locally as a postcard.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Nov. 4, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

I would have written sooner if there had been any news or anything definite to say. My condition is very much as before. The swelling does not go away and is rather unpleasant, but as far as I can judge it does not grow larger. The X-ray treatment does not seem to produce any effect, and perhaps the ingenious Lewis Jones will try some fresh experiment soon. My general health is well enough, and under advice I am taking rather more food than usual. I go daily to the Temple, and have had a little work but not much, including some Scotch land law drafting for Munro Ferguson, and do not get tired. Sylvia and all the boys are very well. The oculist reported favourably on George and Jack, but he wishes to examine George’s eyes further under belladonna in the holidays. Belladonna has the troublesome effect of making the eyes unfit for reading or seeing near objects for more than a week.

It is a very wet Sunday afternoon, and we are all staying in. On the other hand we had a lovely day yesterday, and in the afternoon, Sylvia, Michael and I had a good six-mile walk over the Common while the larger boys played their football.

I think your letter to Asquith a very good one, and it will be hard work for him to answer it. But no doubt he will produce a very civil and euphonious letter in reply. I have not seen or heard any comment on my Independent article.

We have no one with us this weekend. Crompton came for Friday night, and we expect Mrs. du Maurier for a visit this week. We are beginning to speculate on the possibility of Kirkby at Christmas.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

I think myself that the beginnings of despair or resignation are discernible in this letter, despite the speculations on Kirkby for Christmas. The great authority of Treves must have carried some weight, but only for a short time as none of the treatment did any good. How desperate those daily journeys to the Temple must have been; but better than doing nothing, perhaps.

Rather surprising, to me, to find Sylvia walking over the common. I have no recollection of her going for long walks.

[AB: Ronald Munro Ferguson (1860-1934) was a Scottish Liberal politician who was, at this time, Provost of Kirkcaldy. In 1914 he became Governor-General of Australia. Asquith = H. H. Asquith, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Campbell-Bannerman’s 1906 Liberal government. According to Ruth Cohen’s excellent biography of Margaret Ll.D., she wrote to Asquith on behalf of the Women’s Co-operative Guild on October 27th “expounding, among other things, the specific needs of married working-class women who did not earn a wage.” Reading Ruth Cohen’s biography, one is all the more struck by Margaret’s sheer energy, “juggling the demands of the suffrage campaign with her need to be with her dying brother.”]

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Nov. 2. [1906]

Darling,

Crompton is in your chair tonight – I wonder if he thinks it is hard! He is staying here till tomorrow sometime – I am afraid not for longer. J.M.B. has a cold and is not to be here by his usual Sat. train.

Arthur seems to stand the daily train and work without being too tired in the evening. The eye looks about the same to me, but he thinks the swelling a little less.

Nov. 5.

You see I left off as usual, but now for another start and this time will post it. However you had two letters this morning so you are not so badly off. I feel I ought to write often and often to so dear person – you can’t think what a comfort it is to think of you and how I love to see in your handwriting – “what news of all my little boys?” And if I don’t answer I ought to be beheaded and behearted. They are all well and today J.M.B. comes with fireworks – I shall have a good look at them before they are lighted – Jimmy is sure to light them at the wrong end.

George may have to wear specs later on, but it is not certain – we will hope not. He is to be looked at again after Christmas.

Here is the food list Arthur’s doctor gave him – it is not anything new and the beer was impossible and has been given up.

Return it please, by M.

Mama comes on Wed. for a few days – Dodo and Malcolm for Monday night and Stanley Leathes for a night. Arthur likes to see people but he has been wonderfully cheerful. He is better inside.

We had a fine walk all over the common on Saturday and the sun was quite hot.

When will you come again? But we mustn’t be greedy.

Loving Sylvia

*

I don’t know whether to be glad or sorry that so few of Sylvia’s letters have survived. They would have been nearly unbearable, at any rate from now on. She seems to me to have had little real hope from the very beginning, and her ordeal was surely the worse of the two.

What a lot of people used to come down to Egerton House. Stanley Leathes was an old Cambridge and perhaps Marlborough friend. Dodo and Malcolm Macnaghten – strange how such old friends should have passed so utterly out of our lives.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to J.M.B.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Nov. 13, 1906.

Dear Jimmy,

I intended to show you the enclosed letter, which provides a reference which may possibly be useful. It is from Malcolm Macnaghten. His father is Lord Macnaghten, the best of our judges and a great friend of the Lord Chancellor. The Council of Legal Education is composed of judges and King’s Counsel. Other professional supporters would be Lord Justice Vaughan Williams, Mr. Justice Walton and Mr. Justice Bigham – none of them on the Council of L.E.

Yours,

A.Ll.D.

I don’t want the letter back.

*

Evidently J.M.B., who by now had a good many influential contacts, was helping in the matter of finding a salaried post for Arthur, whose ability to practice in the ordinary way must by now have been recognised as gone. He had held a lectureship under the Council of L.E. until 1903, when, in view of his then increasing practice, he resigned it.

The letter from Malcolm Macnaghten was:

12 Nov. 1906

My dear Arthur,

It was very good of you to write, for we were anxious – and it was indeed a very great relief to get your letter.

The weather must be very much against you at present – but I trust that if you give up coming to the Temple for the present, the trouble will soon abate.

Father is very ready to speak to the L[ord] C[hamberlain] and was going to do so – but of course the latter’s illness makes it impossible for the present. I understand from Father that at a meeting of the Council of Legal Education he said something about you and about his intention of speaking to the L.C. and everyone present– I don’t know who they were – joined in commending you, and Father was, I gather, authorised by them to back up what he may say with their support and concurrence. So I do not think there need be any doubt but that if, when the L.C. is well again, you are wanting a post in his gift, your claims will be so strongly supported as to make it reasonably certain that you will get what you want.

Goodbye, and many thanks for your letter and don’t answer this.

Yours aff.

M.M.M.

*

[Michael Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

[22 November 1906]

Dear Aunt Margaret, Uncle Maurice has been, and I have got an Acorn.

and I am going to plant it, and I am going to plant a tulip bulb, and Mr Barrie has got a cold, and Jack has had a Football match and he did not win.

and thank you for the postcards, and I can’t say the difficult word that Gandfather told me. from Michael with love from Nik-o.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Nov. 26, 1906.

Egerton House

Dearest Margaret,

We were very sorry to hear of Father being unwell. He seemed so particularly well and vigorous when he was with us that we hoped he was making a very good start to the winter. I hope it is now passing away, but it must be vexatious to be so dependent on minute and unintermittent precautions if he is to keep well.

I am in various ways rather uncomfortable. It is quite hopeless at present to attempt to use the plate since my jaw continues stiff and provides only a very small opening. Rendel has been down twice lately, coming of his own accord, and has prescribed me a sleeping draught containing a very small quantity of morphia. I rather kick against the use of such a drug, but Rendel declares that it is quite harmless and at all events much better than lying awake. The local doctor also comes in to minister to small troubles. Sylvia’s devotion is unwearying. This trouble has certainly given her a fine opportunity for showing her great qualities.

I remember Penmaenmawr rather well though it is 31 years since we spent a summer there and used to watch the trains coming out of the tunnel. Moel Llys in the background must have looked fine, though you would be too late for the bilberries.

We have been full of birthdays lately – Nicholas (aged 3) on Saturday, and Sylvia and also Smee, on Sunday. The boys get up a little acting of a humble sort. Michael much the best, though Jack also has some idea. Michael reads to me regularly now, reversing our previous parts, and his reading is very clear and full of spirit.

Did you see the sad death of Thoby Stephen – only 26?

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

*

I imagine Margaret must have realised the hopelessness of everything by the time she got this letter, in which there is no pretence of optimism left.

Smee: the Airedale, who followed Togo, the spaniel (died of distemper I think) and survived well into the Camden Hill Square days.

Thoby Stephen: son of Leslie and Julia Stephen, brother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.

*

(Note in Arthur’s handwriting: no date, but probably late November or early December 1906)

Wedy. Night.

One or two reasons I shall be glad to have a nurse – it’s impossible not to want to groan and lament sometimes, and it’s so beastly hard on Sylvia if I do. And at night I sometimes want help and I don’t like to disturb her.

It’s been a bad day – feeling seasickness all day, can’t keep very cheerful.

(After morphia). This is the most blessed time in the day.

Yes, it is jolly.

(Note in Margaret Ll.D.’s writing: no date, but probably late November or early December 1906.)

About the nurse, and how well she would do.

Thanked me for going to Peter Pan – and said it would be dreadful if the children lost their pleasures.

How my cold was. (He always asks about it, and thought it must be hard to “help” with it).

Had had a much more comfortable day – he felt there was hope – McBride said it was no bigger over the brow, which was all that mattered. Hoped I always talked to Sylvia as if there were hope – it is a great strain on all her nature. I’m sure you do.

Good night, my Margaret. Your help is invaluable. I don’t know what we should have done without you. Good night.

*

I don’t believe Sylvia had any more hope than Margaret: the talks together must have been excruciatingly difficult for each of them: Sylvia reticent, Margaret just the reverse – and what was there either of them could say?

[AB: Peter Pan’s 3rd revival opened on December 18th 1906, so I would think the above notes were written around the 19th or 20th, at any rate later than the ones that follow.]

*

(Notes in Margaret Ll.D.’s handwriting, of conversations with Arthur. I think they were written immediately after the conversations had taken place, sometimes from recollection, and sometimes perhaps from Arthur’s pencilling which may have been rather illegible. These notes are occasionally difficult to follow).

Dec. 2.

I don’t see much of you – but it isn’t any good – and you are giving inestimable help downstairs.

I think I’ve seen the last of the quacks today. I do it because if it is no good, Sylvia may not think afterwards I have not tried everything.

He wants me not to have morphia. I shd. have had it this afternoon if he had not been coming – I’m really so bad inside – (not so very bad).

I wrote to Hugh Macnaghten today (about George going to Eton) – I think Sylvia wished it. To me the balance is pretty equal.

I think it will be best for Sylvia to leave as soon as possible and with George and Jack away, she will like to be in London I’m pretty sure – a small house in London. I can’t talk about these things to her now – she doesn’t like it.

Her ways may not be quite understood by our family.

Father wd. not understand. I told Crompton and he agreed all must be left to her to manage.

*

There is no indication, in any letter or note I have, of any financial obligation expressly undertaken by J.M.B.. Yet it is difficult to see how either Eton for George or a house in London, or indeed any future arrangements at all, can have been contemplated without some such undertaking. This is a mystery I can’t solve, and about which one can speculate as much as one likes but always inconclusively.

I wish the difficulty the Davies family were thought by Arthur to have in understanding Sylvia’s ways had been more elaborated. Crompton, I fancy, understood them pretty well, and I shd. think Margaret, but perhaps none of the others.

*

(Margaret’s notes):

Dec. 4.

His face is sore and aching while being dressed. Macbride’s skilful fingers. Finds the dressing tiring at night.

Stomach a little easier. Will not take morphia in afternoon unless needs it – a choice of evils.

Asked what the boys had done at the Blounts.

Difficult to think of the appropriate things to say in reply to Henry James. This is the only time I can think, and I can’t right now. I must think tonight and try to remember tomorrow.

You say M. Macnaghten? – You knew him? (I said how Theodore liked him). I like him very much.

Asked if fixed about my going on Saturday – whether the boys an effort – felt it best for boys to go too – rather a strain on the household. Good night.

He seems now much weaker at night than a week ago – weaker and sadder.

Dec. 5.

About Peter going to Kirkby as well.

About morphia and the trypsin – the nightly morphia was something to look forward to.

Kindness of neighbours – Maclehoses and Dolly Thursfield.

It’s been very hard on you.

Did I think the boys had a horror of a sick room? He remembered he had. George understands pretty well how serious it is. He does not know what to say and does not like to say nothing, but I expect he knows I understand. He is very understandable.

I don’t know when I shall see you again.

That would be very nice.

*

Trypsin is defined in a dictionary as: a ferment in the gastric juice that converts proteins into peptones.

*

[No date (in Margaret Ll.D.’s handwriting)]:

Her own people being shut out. How he had seen Trixie and given her pieces of paper to keep. He didn’t see how Sylvia could go on here – how in London she could go out among friends, and have the bits of the days filled in.

About Jimmy – how in all the real things of life his judgement was so good, tho’ he was silly about himself.

Consulted Dr. Fry about George – who thought not to tell him.

Dr. Fry said Our Father, and Bell wrote referring him to two passages. He did not care to put own construction on what was in Bible. Death was the end of a glorious thing, life. Life would be nothing without death or the risk of it.

Had never thought death shd. be a gloomy thing. Peter had seen this. How Michael and he were discussing what gift they would like best. Michael said not to die – but Peter saw it in the way Arthur did.

*

The first sentence in this note is obscure; it may be a continuation of some other note which has disappeared. There is no mention in any of the notes of visits from Grannie du M. in the final stages of Arthur’s illness or from Gerald or May at any stage. Guy was serving abroad.

I imagine the pieces of paper giving to Trixie were suggestions about Sylvia’s future: suggestions which he thought she might be better able to deal with than Margaret. But what is meant by Sylvia’s family being “shut out” I don’t in the lease know.

There is no hint anywhere of any profane or blasphemous thoughts in connection with Christianity or the Bible; and equally no hint, that I can see, of any belief. I suppose it was natural enough in the circumstances for the Rev. Bell to refer to the Bible, and the Rev. Fry to say the Lord’s Prayer. I fancy I am right in saying that Arthur had a high opinion of both of them. A distressing note later on suggest that Dr. .F. was right in thinking George should not be told that his father was dying, and that his advice was disregarded with unfortunate results.

The story about myself (aged 10) and Michael (aged 6) discussing life and death leaves me unconvinced that young children have any comprehension of such things.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

Dec. 7, 1906.

Dearest Margaret,

We shall be very glad to see you on Monday if you can come and if you feel able to leave Father. I am afraid you will find me rather decrepit. My face continues troublesome, and my stomach has lately been out of order, making it difficult for me to eat anything, and making me tired and drowsy and good for nothing.

Our friends kindly come to see us, and I am especially glad of the change for Sylvia, who is beginning to find the burden very heavy. Dr. McBride comes in often to see me, and says there is nothing definitely wrong with my stomach, and he prescribes medicines and insists on me taking raw meat juice and other offensive foods. I shall probably be better from this little attack by the time you reach us.

Your reports of Father’s health are not very satisfactory. You must not leave him to come to us unless you feel that you can quite rightly do so. But if you can come we shall be very glad to see you.

Yours affectly

A.Ll.D.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

7 [December 1906]

Darling M.

I got the dear little book and I love it and you. Arthur has been rather seedy lately. Things seem to have gone wrong inside and I haven’t much faith in the doctor here – it is dreadful being so far away from good clever men. Dr. Rendel comes down now and then, but he really doesn’t help much. I do feel Arthur ought to see some first rate “inside” man – do write and say what you think, dear one, and you know it is rather difficult and I so hate to bother my poor one. It is all so cruel, my Margaret, and sad beyond words.

Dear love,

Your Sylvia.

I hope you will come but you mustn’t leave Fil if he is unwell.

*

Despair and resignation are plain enough in these two letters. I believe it is characteristic of sarcoma that, although it may reveal itself locally in some discernible growth, it almost invariably spreads meanwhile, however effective the local operation may be, to other parts of the body.

Letters are few and far between from this time on.

*

[Emma du Maurier to her daughter May Coles]

[AB: This letter – and many others from Emma to her daughter May – is not in the Morgue. As they wrote long, chatty letters to one another regularly, I am only extracting those bits that seem relevant. The originals can be found in the database.]

2L Portman Mansions, W.

Nov. 26, 1906

My darling May,

[…] Sylvia has written to say she would love to see us any day, & so would Arthur […] Of course I shall love to have you at Ramsgate if you care to go. It all goes on fairly well at Egerton House, there is no reason for not going – we will talk about it next week. […] I went to Leinster Galleries on Sat’y to a private view of Mr. Rackham’s drawings for J.M.B.’s book [i.e. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens] – I met Miss Coles and Colonel Coles there – the crowds were so great and the rooms were so small & hot that I had to leave soon but from the few drawings I saw I thought them charming. Mr Brown introduced me to the artist. […] I suppose you saw that Leslie Stephen’s eldest son had died aged 26 – he got typhoid at Athens & he did reckless things […] Much love darling,

Your loving mother

Emma du Maurier

*

[Emma du M. to her daughter May Coles]

2L Portman Mansions, W.

Wednesday [11 December 1906]

My darling May,

[…] Arthur has not been so well lately. He has suffered very much from indigestion, so today a specialist (a Mr ? Smith) recommended by Treves went to see him. I telephoned this morning to Sylvia to say I would like to see her if she wished me to go – & she answered she should like me to go, so Trixie drove me there [from Boxmoor] & left me. When I got there the doctors were there, the specialist & the local doctor – Arthur was in bed & I didn’t see him – the specialist attributes the indigestion to the morphia he has taken & has ordered Veronal & has also ordered him to take a great deal of nourishment – oysters, champagne etc. I saw Dr. Rendel on Sunday who takes a very grave view of Arthur’s condition. I wasn’t much alone with Sylvia as Margaret was there & the boys were in & out. She did not break down at all, as of course before them she does her best to be cheerful. I asked her to let me have one or two of them at Ramsgate, but she prefers to have them at home. […] Write soon my darling & Trixie says you never write to her –

Your loving mother

Emma du Maurier

[AB: Veronal was the brand name for barbital, the first commercially available barbituate. It was prescribed primarily as a sleeping aid from 1903 until the mid-1950s.]

*

[Emma du M. to her daughter May Coles]

2L Portman Mansions, W.

Wednesday [13 December 1906]

[…] No more news from Egerton House. Sylvia wrote asking me to get a jacket from Jaegars for him to wear when in bed – & I had to send off for them to choose – they have two beds now – Trixie drinks 7½ pints of milk a day! […]

*

[In Margaret Ll.D.’s writing – December 1906]

You ought to be in bed.

Good night, my Margaret – you are very kind to us. I was just explaining to Sylvia that why I sit so silent isn’t because I’m gloomy, but because it’s an effort to work my jaw.

… As H. Said. “Your giant hand of help.”

I’m quite happy. This last six months has been the happiest of my life. I’ve received so much kindness.

I’m afraid your cold must have made it difficult to help. You saw H.M. I hope we shall have a nurse tomorrow. I am sure it is best.

(You don’t know what you are doing for us).

Bless my bones.

Christmas Eve.

Arthur Good night… helping with everything.

M. Where is your dear hand? If anything you want to say, don’t refrain from the sake of sparing me –”

Arthur Always say if I’m in pain. What occurs to me are inappropriate jokes which would be brutal.

Christmas Night.

Arthur You have helped us this Christmas time – I’m sorry not to have contributed more to the festivities.

M. Can’t say half what I think.

Arthur No, we never can. (What it must be to him). I’d howl if it were any use. It is in all the little things that character is shown. Anyone can face the big things – they all have. (How he had helped us). It’s all been long familiar to me – it has come gradually – it has come in distinct shapes. The morphia makes me drowsy in the day.

- - was afraid I didn’t sleep well.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Monday, Jan. 14, 1907.

I have had a decidedly more comfortable day today, but at the price of a good deal of morphia, at 9 p.m. yesterday and 11 a.m. today. Now I am settled and comfortable for the night. Good night. We shall be very glad to see you whenever you can come.

Arthur

Give my thanks to my dear boys for all their good letters.

*

This postcard is the last communication written by Arthur in ink which I have; by now he was completely bedridden, and with a nurse in attendance. J.M.B. once told me that he was present in the drawing room at Egerton House when Arthur, after a last look round, went with Sylvia through into the dining room and so upstairs, knowing, and Sylvia knowing also, that he would never come down again alive.

The few of his letters which remain are in pencil, and written less clearly. There are also a number of little pieces of paper on which he wrote down his thoughts and his part in conversations, mostly with J.M.B. Some are dated, but most not; I will try to get them in at any rate approximately the right order.

Evidently some of us had gone to K.L. for a part of the Christmas holidays.

*

[Notes in Arthur’s handwriting]

[February 1907]

Last night (i.e. Feb. 15, a.m.) I woke about 4 and was awake for about an hour with nightmare and unpleasant fancies and a good deal of rather bad pain. Then I slept again till about 6.45 and woke again with a good deal of pain and was very unhappy till 7.45 when I had morphia. I think this was about the worst discomfort that I have had, and worse than anything that has happened to me by day.

1st discomfort and nightmare.

Thursday – mouth and teeth very dry. Very vague fancies that there was a trouble, that others (who were probably in the room) and perhaps I myself were concerned in this trouble. It seemed that I was going to have, or perhaps had had, an infant. All this was vaguely connected with the thirst and the pain in the face. I seemed to have no control over anything or over myself and was very unhappy. Nurse was very kind and gave me water to drink, and in the course of an hour I gradually became comfortable and went to sleep.

2nd discomfort.

At about 6.45 I woke, again in pain and discomfort, and very dry and thirsty, and with an illusion that I was a member of a club or association, which entitled me to a drink after lying awake in pain and discomfort for 3 hours. There were various technical rules of the club, but I thought my right to relief was exhausted for the night by my previous drinks until at least 7.45. Gradually I became more wakeful, and gradually woke up, or emerged from the fancies, soon after 7.30, when I woke up Nurse and obtained morphia.

Nurse and doctor now say I ought to have awakened Nurse earlier, and that in future I may have morphia any time not before 6. I propose also to try to talk less after my large dose and go to sleep quietly after it.

Feb. 16 a.m.

My dream last night (or this morning).

I was travelling all night in a train, and my chance of getting attention depended on being in a carriage at a halfway station with a proper notice over my seat. We all got out at the halfway stn., and there were many carriages and many notices. Anyhow it was very difficult to get a proper notice. We seemed to be all out on the platform for a long time. I was quite half conscious, and knew I could get morphia at any time if I asked. But I was not in much pain, and thought it better to wait if possible till 7.30. By the light I guessed it was past 6. I woke nurse who told me it was nearly 7, and offered morphia. She gave me 2½ oz. water and then prepared morphia and gave it me at about 7. Then I slept.

(Part of the conversation?)

Mon. Feb. 25, evening. (His 44th birthday) [AB: actually not. It was on Feb 20th]

Yesterday aftn. and evg. rather poorly. This morning my own genl. feeling decidedly better; for the first time I have in myself a definite feeling of a possibility of getting better.

Of course this rests on different grounds from Mackenzie’s views.

Don’t repeat this – esply. my statemt. that it is for the first time.

Better on waking this morning – will explain later.

Is ‘Can you Forgive’, vol. 2, here?

Billiard table fine.

Hurrah for Rustington and Fortingal.

[another]

Are they arranging for birth of baby* in same month as for removal?

Go out – soon.

Get in – ?

Baby born – end of April.

Does Gerald work at removals?

Hard?

[* I take this to refer to the forthcoming birth of Daphne du Maurier (born 13 May 1907).]

Thursday, Feb. 28 – Please keep.

I think I have less pain now.

(1) Evening. Only pain is on side of face opposite ear. This I mainly escape by lying on side. It used to be rather bad.

(2) Morning. Yesterday I had less. Today I woke first between 5 and 6, and slept sound again without morphia till 7. Probably I should have slept again of my own accord, but thought (from night light) that it was as late as 7. At first waking had little pain, and slept again, without morphia. On re-awaking (at 7) I was not in bad pain. Took morphia and Aplenta and slept again.

*

Friday, March 1. My statement to Charles Ll.D. on that day.

Very glad to see you again and sorry to have kept you waiting.

Did you see Crompton this morning?

Yesterday we thought things a good deal better.

As to pain, there has been a very decided improvement.

Yesterday evg. I made a note of the two preceding evenings, which I will presently show you.

First as to our London expert, McKenzie, who has been here for a good while at intervals.

His last report (I think about a week ago) was this –

My general health seemed rather better:

Condition of blood – improved and satisfactory.

Extent of injury, he thought reduced, and was sure not increased.

Altogether, my condition was encouraging, the general rule being that at an advanced stage the complaint progresses rapidly for the worse. Everything is uncertainty. The treatment is slow and experimental, but there is good reason for hope.

As to pain, my own note which you shall see, is a fair sample of recent progress.

[Another: possibly in continuation of above]:

Generally, I think the danger is from something uncertain. There may be a gradual growth of the thing. It may be growing all the time while the treatment keeps down the pain and haemorrhage. Also there may be sudden new haemorrhage or anything sudden and perhaps unforeseen.

But things certainly seem better and more hopeful.

I am still very weak and not less feeble mentally. My mouth is uncomfortable and stiff, and I cannot bite properly or open my mouth or talk comfortably. The inside of my mouth is very dry. I have dreams and nightmares. (I shd. like if possible to write out . . . . . which I had early this morning (March 1 a.m.) because you occur in it). If things go on as favourably as at present, I suppose I shall try to give up some of the morphia. Till I do this I can hardly expect to be . . . comfortable in body and mind from the morphia, and giving up the morphia, if and when it comes, will be troublesome.

[Another, on same day:]

You might at least look at my notes and reports for particular days.

We are now taking a rather more hopeful view, and these notes are the sort of thing that will go to make up the material for the doctor’s record.

[At the foot of the piece of paper, in another handwriting]:

Dear Arthur, I am delighted. I find your voice decidedly stronger. As to your being mentally feeble, that is moonshine. Everyone says just the opposite and so do I.

G.H.D.

1/iii/07

[Possibly George Duckworth]

[Some undated fragments, probably after the above]:

Arthur Feb. 1863.

Sylvia Nov. 1867.

Married Aug. 15, 1892.

George, July 1893.

Jack, Sept. 1894.

Peter, Feb. 1897.

Michael, June 1900.

Nicholas, Nov. 1903.

The best I can do for survivors is to leave as good memories behind as possible. Of course I know (like everybody else) that there may be a new existence aft[erwar]ds.

I wish you came in here oftener during the day. During the morning I shd. so often like to see you.

You would not mind being sent away if there was any reason.

I cd. let nurse understand that she cd. reject you at any time.

Fixed times for visitors are a bother.

I think I shall try to take to tobacco again.

Do you know where Peter was in his form?

Do you not know his place in the whole week’s order?

He has not told anyone.

∴ [therefore] he was probably top.

Jack was top – George 4th (having been left 6th).

McBride has varied my diet after all, with a view to diminishing bile, and made the diet simpler – more of mere milk and egg. So I hope for peace on waking.

Yes, but I took also cream and also capsules of purified ox-bile. In place of latter I am going to take a spoonful of salad oil at night.

At all events it makes a great diff[eren]ce to know that the beastly oil and the spasms it causes do no harm and do not provoke bloodshed. All that has happened is that I have had to wait a few minutes and drink Aplenta slowly. Then I have been all right.

It was alarming, but seems in fact to have had no ill effects.

Can you see from the other side? It is now rather painful to lean over the other way.

Well, Jack, I wish you all good for tomorrow.

I am going to ask you a few questions as if I was an ADMIRAL.

What direction is B[erkhmsted] from London?

How far is B. from L?

Jack has just been in here, looking quite nice, but gentle and free from bounce. I have crammed him with distances from milestone on our wall* and I told him to look at the milestone tomorrow, and to say, if asked . . . . .

[AB: * The milestone is clearly visible on several photographs of Egerton House taken from the High Street.]

*

Jack may be able to date this last fragment exactly, if he can remember the date of his viva voce [oral] examination for Osborne.

In a good many instances the foregoing notes, all in pencil, are, for Arthur, badly written and with occasional misspellings, and repetitions or omissions of small words, but I have not attempted to reproduce these exactly. It is clear that a serious relapse or deterioration had taken place in late January or early February, and that from that time Arthur was a dying man for whom nothing could be done except by way of alleviating the pain and discomfort as far as possible.

There are a few more of the little bits of paper with pencilled notes and remarks on them, undated, and difficult if not impossible to assign dates to. On the whole it seems likely to me that most, if not all, of them came after the next letter.

[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

[13 March 1907]

Dearest Margaret,

I am not quite sure when it is that you are to start off again on your work of help and kindness. Whenever it is you will be welcome. Sylvia could not remember exactly when you were coming – I thought tomorrow, Sylvia thought Saturday – and she wished me to write.

Anyhow I can carry on a report of the favourable progress which you saw going on while you were last here. I feel better and generally stronger, and I hope more amiable. It is now getting near dinner time, and I am lying waiting for dinner, comfortable and with a very respectable appetite. I have been having good nights, sleeping long and sound, mostly up to the end. There was a curious little variation last night, which I tell you (probably because each man’s dream is interesting to himself).

I slept and woke up well, and at 7.30 had Aplenta and some cold water and the usual morphia without a blotch on my skutch: then about 8.15 or so breakfast (of egg and milk beaten up) as usual quite right, and slept again. Then at about 10.30 I woke again quite in comfort physically but having suffered from a queer attack. I had sat in Trinity Chapel, where there had been a tremendous conflict as to order. I had been taken to be a leader of disorder, actual noise, shouting, uproar and disorder much against my will, because I had in fact, because I had been perfectly quiet and orderly. On the other side, the leaders were (mirabile dictu) the three brothers Lankester, (Ray, Forbes and Owen), and at the head of all the great man of peace, Sir Edward Fry. Forbes Lankester (about 18 stone) was being carried out over our heads, shouting and roaring at me, while I tried to keep still, and as he passed, got hold of me and began to drag me off with fearful threats. Then, fortunately, I awoke, lying quite quiet and still and comfortable. I put this down either to one of the curious vagaries of opium or to the bilious trouble which seems to have been nearly banished by the doctor. It will be satisfactory when I am able to eat rather more, but the progress towards eating without discomfort seems to be steady.

Now good night, dearest Margaret,

Your most affect. brother

Arthur

*

Someone has written in the top left-hand corner of the first page of this: “Please keep this letter. Its literary style has been so much admired.”

It is indeed admirable for its ease and purity of expression, though not more so than many others of Arthur's letters. The writing is still neat and well formed for a letter written in bed and presumably lying down rather than sitting up; but several words are scratched out or repeated and some omitted, and there are mis-spellings such as “sufferered” and “banashised”.

Morphia is compounded of opium.

*

(Note in Arthur’s handwriting – No date).

Arnold.

p. 150 etc. (a few very fine lines)

255 (“ “ “ “)

p. 226 whole poem

176 “

222 (separation

223 (Two lines marked)

*

I have not got the actual copy in which Arthur marked the two lines on p.223, but it was evidently the standard Macmillan edition of Matthew Arnold’s poems.

p.150, etc., is the beginning of part two of Tristram and Iseult, in which the death of Tristram takes place:

“Now to sail the seas of death I leave thee –

One last kiss upon the living shore.”

p.255 is Self Dependence.

p.226 is Dover Beach.

p.176 may possibly be the sonnet Austerity of Poetry, which in fact is on p.177 – p.176 being a blank in my copy. [AB: – and mine, see note below]

p.222, Separation is the poem beginning:

“Stop! – not to me, at this bitter departing,

Speak of the sure consolations of time!”

p.223 is On the Rhine. There are various lines which Arthur might well have marked, and I cannot guess which they were.

It has always been in my mind that Arnold was Arthur’s most loved poet; possibly on account of these notes made on his deathbed. And indeed I think Arnold did interpret, more than any other poet, the intellectual outlook of Arthur and his brothers. But he read many poets, and I have copies of Milton, Keats, Wordsworth, Blake, Herbert and others with his name or initials in them.

[AB: I have the same edition of Arnold’s poetry, presented to Michael Ll.D. at Eton in 1913 and given to me by Nico – one of the few treasures I didn’t give to GOSH. It was printed in 1910 so clearly not Arthur’s copy, but it has a number poems marked up, presumably by Michael. Taking Peter at his word that Arnold was one of Arthur’s favourite poets (as he is mine), I included a scene in The Lost Boys of Crompton reading the last verse of Sohrab and Rustum to the dying Arthur, wonderfully played by Tim Piggott-Smith.]

*

[NOT IN PETER’S MORGUE]

Shelbourne Hotel,

Dublin.

Monday [1 April 1907]

Dearest Jocelyn,

I was glad to have your telegram and to hear Arthur is getting on all right. I fear we won’t be back till Wednesday as Mr Frohman has business with the Irish theatre people that prevents his getting away tomorrow. I wish it could have been tomorrow for with the seas between I seem as far away in time as in distance. The sea behaved very well to us coming and was as smooth as the billiard board.

We have had two drives to Phoenix Park and Bray, and the play is doing excellently. Mary wired to Leinster Corner & I got it there. She has started off well. Madge seems to be pretty right for the present, but no doubt she is worrying in her mind over the operation in front of her.

I wish I could say to you that now I am going up to Arthur, it is the only thing I seem to want to do nowadays. He lies there like a wounded soldier and is the gallantest figure any of us is ever likely to see. I always had a passion for simplicity, and I feel sure now that there can be nothing very heroic or lovable without it. I hope you are taking your medicine and making faces at it, and I know your dear heart beats brave as ever.

On Wednesday evening sometime you will see me minus my waistcoat and probably not well brushed.

Ever your loving

J.M.B

*

[AB: This letter must have been in the haul Cynthia Asquith took away from Barrie’s flat after his death in 1937 since it doesn’t appear in the Morgue. The visit with Frohman was prompted by the opening of Peter Pan in Dublin, with Pauline Chase and Hilda Trevelyan as Peter and Wendy. Madge = Barrie’s niece, Madge Murray, who was understudying Irene Rooke as Mrs Darling and was to take over the role in the 1907/08 revival.]

*

[Peter Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

April 4, 1907.

Dearest Margaret,

A short note in answer to your very kind letters. We were very sorry you were so unlucky as to miss your train, especially as it was partly our fault that we did not make sure of the omnibus at our public. But if you were not in a great hurry, I do not altogether pity you the comfortable Midland journey and the afternoon cross-England journey, and above all the ex-Arkholme drive in the evening.

We were alone for Monday evening to yesterday (Wednesday) evening, when Crompton came down to dinner, and Jimmy rejoined us later, having enjoyed himself in Dublin with Frohman and enjoyed his journey. He not only had good weather on the sea crossing, but also he very much appreciated the railway journey yesterday afternoon along the coast of N. Wales, past Penmaenmawr and Colwyn Bay, where we stayed in 1875 and 1873. He is now staying with us for a week or so, while Mrs B. is in France with a lady friend.

The school holidays begin next Thursday (I think). There is some doubt whether Miss May can go with them to Ramsgate, and if so there is some doubt whether we shall not alter our plans. Mrs du M. and Mary [Hodgson] can hardly tackle them all. Mary has suddenly left us for Morecambe for a short holiday, but will be back on Sunday or Monday, but we never enquire into the reasons for such moves.

I have been much as usual since you left us, not perhaps much stronger, but better and more comfortable, rather than less so. The Nurse has been very kind and faithful, more so than you believe, and McBride has done all that is possible. His assistant, Dr. Harvey, did the dressing this afternoon in his absence, and he is very skilful, the better of the two. I am now waiting for morphia and sleep. Good night, and my love to you and my dear Father.

Yours

A.Ll.D.

*

(A page of notes in Margaret Ll.D.’s hand – no date, and difficult to place with any accuracy, but it must belong nearly here).

Prospice – had always known it.

Wrote down “I shd. hate”

– felt last lines melodramatic

Henley’s too mel: the only time it was a help was when he was uncomfortable after the operation. (“Cap[tain] of my fate)

The Unseen – must be B[rowning].

Tennyson’s From out of the deep, etc. – the soul – same idea in last of In Memoriam.

Emily Bronte

all too melodr.

said to him “With wide emb[racing love]

Theo’s Barburan poems on stream and Fit to survive.

“He was almost as fond of bathing as I was.” (Serpentine).

. . . . . .

Told George – said probably, tho’ always a chance. Asked him if he wd like to see Mr. B. or me.

Yes.

Sylvia distressed.

Arthur said all had gone wrong. – better talk to George of other things that night.

I told him not to alarm them downstairs.

His other hand patting my head and resting upon it.

*

(The foregoing note is rather a scrawl and difficult to follow precisely; it may seem obscurer still when typed.)

“Prospice” is the title of Browning’s (to me) rather unattractively death-defying poem beginning “Fear death? – to feel the fog in my throat,” etc. I can’t guess to which line in Arthur's words “I shd. hate” referred.

[AB: I imagine this line: “I would hate that death bandaged my eyes and forbore, / And bade me creep past.”]

The Henley poem is the well-known “Out of the night that covers me“ etc. [AB: Entitled Invictus and ending “I am the master of my fate, / I am the captain of my soul.”]

A copy of it, in Henley’s own writing, used to hang, framed, in J.M.B’s study. I remember once in talking about this poem, he expressed the opinion (with which I quite agree) that the celebrated line “my head is bloody but unbowed” was really rather an unconvincing piece of braggadocio, and that a bowed head is a more appropriate attitude. This may possibly have been a recollection of a conversation J.M.B. had had with the dying Arthur at this time.

It has come as a bit of a surprise to me to find what a reader of Henley Arthur was. There were several volumes of his works in the shelves at 23 C.H.S., but I had assumed they were originally J.M.B’s, he having, of course, been one of “Henley’s young men” when H. was editing the National Observer in the ’eighties. Many of H’s best poems were written while he was in hospital in great pain, and he was under sentence of death (locomotor ataxia) for years.

The Unseen: presumably a reference to the line “Greet the unseen with a cheer!” in Browning’s poem Epilogue.

The Emily Brontë allusion is doubtless to her Last Lines beginning “No coward soul is mine.”

I had not known of any verses by Theodore Ll.D. and have not been able to trace them.

The episode, so obscurely hinted that, of an attempt to explain to George that Arthur was dying, is grizzly enough without any attempt on my part to elucidate it any further.

*

[AB: Nico had a few further scraps of paper in Arthur’s handwriting, not included in Peter’s Morgue, as follows:]

Curious numbness over left forehead

Roughton said quite harmless.

Result of pressure

Seems hardly any feeling on surface.

Walker’s No 1 refill.

===

Are you very tired

It is rather hard to have to go. – Low Gill

– Crewe etc. – Bletchley – B’sted station.

– THE BOYS.

Jimmy just off – returning Sunday.

You are staying at least to Sunday.

Sylvia gets very much done up –

Last night she was very tired –

I wish she cd be made to go to bed earlier tonight.

---

That was so certainly y’day. But very often everything depends on her gen’l cond’n – if that is good she can stand the callers, if bad she cannot. She wants more sleep

===

Times

Morphia 8.45 to 9.15

Doctor any time after 9.

Pain worst on waking in mornings

Pain sometimes troublesome on waking.

I can get morphia then. We try to manage morphia acc. to pain.

Will you tell nurse now that I am ready for morphia (& come back here)

Evening morphia – largest dose

5 min – better

10 min – discomfort much diminished

15 “ – “ banished & vanished

===

Especially The Way of Peace

When you go, bring me Matthew Arnold & Henley’s first vol (beginning with Hospital verses)

But don’t bother this evening if difft to find

Bound in green rather prettily

Brown much smaller

It’s all so easy – as I’ve read. I feel selfish

Tu quoque who make it so.

Make it all as cheerful as you can afterwards

Send Jimmy

===

Is milk & soda good

Make the milk & water quite weak.

---

What have the boys been doing?

---

I leave it entirely to you & Jimmy – subject to Sylvia’s wishes.

---

He’s been a wonderful son – you can always tell him that.

You see I can only write.

===

I wd hate that death bandaged my eyes, & forbore,

And bade me creep past

(from “Prospice”)

[Underneath the quote from Prospice and in Margaret’s handwriting:]

I don’t know that those are to be taken as my sentiment. I’ve had enough fighting.

---

Through the tender mercy of our God:

whereby the dayspring from on high

hath visited us;

To give light to them that sit in darkness & in the shadow of death:

& to guide our feet into the way of peace.

(He thought this the finest thing in literature) M

[AB: This passage is from Luke 1:78-79. “The Way of Peace” almost certainly refers to this, but coincidentally The Way of Peace by James Allen was first published in this year, 1907. Although Allen is more widely known for his As a Man Thinketh (1903), The Way of Peace reflects more accurately his ‘New Thought’ movement, drawing on Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.]

[Another single sheet of notes, in Margaret’s handwriting, not in the Morgue:]

Stay a little

Your hair looks very pretty now.

(I don’t think anyone has ever done so much for me)

It’s about time I began to do something. (No one done so much)

He /Peter ought to see something (than Victory)

p.89 – Henley (Hospital) Read this now – about the Child, Nurse & Death.

[AB: Henley’s poem is entitled A Child, being the first in the collection In Hospital.]

===

[Arthur Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

April 6 1907.

Dearest Father,

Margaret is so very good at sending news across the space that I am ashamed at not doing a little more for you in return, especially as I have plenty of spare time, and writing a short note rather helps me to fill up a vacant afternoon. I was intending to write to you yesterday evening with the report of Shaw Mackenzie’s visit, but during supper there was a small disturbance, with small loss of blood, of a kind which causes my advisors some anxiety. It did no harm at all however, yesterday, and can be explained on the view that there is nothing wrong, but I think it shows that on any similar occasion there may be precariousness. They cd. do little by way of prevention or cure.

On the other hand, the fact that the little attack went off by mere stillness, and without much active effort at cure, shows that things may be getting better than on former occasions. Anyhow it is a blessing that my doctors and nurse are willing to speak frankly to me about things and prospects.

We had the school athletics sports this afternoon, and Peter won a prize, the second in the Hundred Yards under eleven, to our great satisfaction. Barrie said that he seemed very popular, and that his name kept sounding all over the field, much more than any other during that race. His long legs must have helped him. He is a modest boy.

Our holiday arrangements are quite uncertain still, and we do not know whether Miss May will be able to help us. Sylvia suggests now that we may keep either George or Jack at home for the first half, and exchange the other for him for the second. I think that somehow we shall manage it, but I am afraid there is no chance of Sylvia leaving me and going across.

Yours affectly,

A.Ll.D.

No further news of Jack

*

The news of Jack would be of his passing his entrance examination into Osborne, and must have come through shortly after this.

This letter, with its unequivocal warning note, is much more strongly written, besides being more clearly expressed than either of the two preceding ones. The sentence about doctors and nurse being willing to speak frankly raises the whole question of whether it is better to know or not to know the worst, in cases of incurable disease. But it is a more or less unanswerable question as a generalisation, circumstances being so variable. Arthur undoubtedly preferred to know, and insisted on knowing, all the arguments pro and con from the very beginning, and no doubt all serious hope had been abandoned by himself, Sylvia and all closely connected with his case, long before now. I take it that when he wrote this letter, he knew that the end was very near, and wished to prepare his father for the inevitable news.

If I may be forgiven for intruding a personal note (since this may some day be read by my children) I will remark that my popularity was not in fact excessive, and that what seemed to J.M.B. to drown the shouts of the supporters of other runners was doubtless the sound of his own voice cheering me on; though curiously enough I have no recollection of his having been present. But then, neither do I remember his constant presence at Egerton House during all these dark months, or Crompton’s for that matter; one more example of the blank spots which exist in one’s memory.

I remember the race very well indeed, in the beautiful sports ground surrounded by the ruined walls of the mediaeval castle. I had done well in the preliminary heats, and thought I was an absolute cert. for the final (so much for my modesty). Great was my indignation, and bitter the pill, when at about 75 yards. a short, stocky little wretch named Van Toller fairy shot past and broke the tape ahead of me.

What an odd creature is a small boy, engrossed in the excitement of a race, utterly ignorant of the tragedy being enacted in his own home. A blissful ignorance, indeed; but the tragedy had its delayed action.

The Easter holiday arrangements were as forecast in this last of Arthur’s letters to Kirkby Lonsdale. All of us were sent off with Mary [Hodgson] to Ramsgate except George, who stayed on at Egerton House with Sylvia. I wish that I could remember saying goodbye to Father before we left. Some very faint, dim, shadowy recollection of doing so lingers far down in my brain, but nothing to hold onto.

The few pencilled notes which follow are all undated, nor can I be certain of their proper order in sequence of time. But they all clearly belong to the last few weeks of Arthur’s life. Some, but not all, represent his part in conversations with J.M.B. I got them all from the inner recess of J.M.B.’s desk after his death; they had undoubtedly lain untouched for many years, but there were indications either that Michael had seen them, or that they had been looked through by J.M.B. after Michael’s death. They are written on small bits of paper, probably the pages of a writing pad, each little page being torn off when filled up or done with.

(Pencilled notes in Arthur’s handwriting. Undated, but presumably belonging to about this time):

Read it aloud.

See you again this aftn .or evg.

No – on the whole quite comftble – mind clear.

Only rather parched in mouth.

Morphia 20 min. ago.

(Written up the left-hand margin) Dear Jimmy.

I am quite (or almost quite) comfortable.

Very hard for Sylvia last night – not for me.

No pain or discomfort for me.

Magnificent.

I like just to see you.

I thought, perversely, of an epitaph for Sylvia in case our parts had been exchanged.

SYLVIA

WIFE OF ARTHUR LLEWELYN DAVIES

DAUGHTER OF GEORGE DU MAURIER

MOTHER OF FIVE SONS

“THE WAY OF PEACE”

Do you know this last quotn (“the way of peace”)? – I think from early chapter in St. Luke – certainly from Benedictus in Prayer Book (evening service).

The whole passage (from “through the tender mercy of our God” to “way of peace”) I think about the finest thing in literature.

Sylvia must go to bed quite early tonight.

Jimmy thinks George ought to be told everything.

?

Add to “Times” [Deaths] notice (if Sylvia wishes) “Friends are requested not to send flowers.”

McBride is coming in.

It has been raining.

But, on the other hand, a part of the person who goes remains behind in memories.

The Positivists always urge that this is part of the true Immortality.

Do you write more things other than plays.

Will you remember that Margt. wants and will want help and comfort?

I put all the burdens on you because you can help better than anyone.

Perhaps better that none of them should see me afterwards?

Impression so given never disappears – not the sort of impression one wishes to be permanent.

Of course I leave it entirely to all of you – subject to S’s own wishes.

*

The passage from St. Luke by which Arthur was so deeply impressed as he lay dying is Chap. 1, versus 78 and 79:

“Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us. / To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The Positivists: I have referred elsewhere to the close connection between the Cromptons of the preceding generation and this curious movement of what might be called religious atheism.

“Do write more things other than plays.” On the face of it a peculiar remark to be addressed to J.M.B., and one which the world would be unlikely to endorse. He was at that time in the process of writing What Every Woman Knows, produced 18 months later, and was, after all, the most praised as well as the most successful dramatist alive. But I think that, nevertheless, it was intended as a compliment, and may even have been accepted as one. I think that Arthur had heard so much that was wise and good and true said by that strange little Scotch genius, that he felt his plays, and indeed his writing in generally, did less than justice to the brain that conceived them. The whimsicality which so many people have found intolerable in J.M.B.’s work, and which was no doubt of the essence of his genius and primarily responsible for his achievements and success, with something almost beyond his control as soon as he had a pen or pencil in his hand. His conversation was often on a much higher plane, and doubtless rose to its highest in his talks with the dying Arthur.

*

The next letter (unposted) from Harry Ll.D., is in a stamped envelope, but with the stamp uncancelled, with “Miss Llewelyn Davies” but no address written on it. Where Margaret Ll.D. was at the time is not clear, nor how the letter eventually reached her.

[Harry Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]

14 Barton Street, Westminster.

11.30 p.m. Friday, 11th April 19 [1907]

Darling Meg,

I am trying to find you with this tonight but don’t know if I shall. Charles went down to B’sted at 8.15 and Scrum [Crompton] followed by the next train. I have just been speaking to Scrum on the phone. He says Arthur is unconscious and not expected to recover consciousness.

We must pray that there may be no pain. My heart is bleeding for you – but there is no time for more if I am to catch you with this.

Agnes and I are going there by midnight train.

How noble and beautiful he has been!

O, my Margaret!

Your own

Harry

*

I suppose that there had been increasing weakness, and periods of unconsciousness before this, and that by now the feebleness was such that any long period of coma must have looked like the end. But the end was not yet; a further last rally must have taken place within the next day or two.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Michael Ll.D.]

Telephone, 11 Berkhamsted

Egerton house, Berkhamsted

14 [April 1907]

My Michael,

Father was so glad to get your dear letter and he thought the writing very good and I liked the post card.

I saw your new tooth coming too. I daresay you are having a fine time at Ramsgate and I do so hope the weather will be fine and that will make it so much nicer for you all.

There is a dear little bird in the garden on her nest and she has four little babies now – I looked in very carefully and saw their funny little faces – I told her my babies had flown away and my nest was having a good clean and that when it was all in order they would fly home again.

Darling Michael write to me again soon and give my love to my Nico. Has Freda got that little dog?

From Mother

Frida: Frida O’Reilly, one of a family living a few doors away in Wall Crescent, with whom we were friendly.

*

[Arthur Ll.D. to Michael Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted

April 15, 1907.

My dearest Michael,

My letters from my boys are indeed a pleasure to me when they arrive in the morning. I hope my boys are getting lots of happiness out of other people’s kindness to them and their own kindness to other people every day. It would be fine to have a magic carpet and go first to London, across from Euston to Holborn Viaduct or Victoria, and on to Ramsgate, and see what is going on at Royal Viaduct and all the other jolly places at Ramsgate. I expect you are having plenty of fun and very fine weather, but that we are getting more flowers, especially primroses. My Nurse is very good at finding primroses and violets.

Your affectionate Father.

*

This is the last letter of all from Arthur which I have, though he still had four days to live. Probably there were others, including ones to Jack and myself at Ramsgate, written during these last periods of consciousness. The handwriting is clear, but not very firm; there are one or two erasures, and the mistake of Royal Viaduct for Royal Crescent is as I have copied it.

*

[Sylvia Ll.D. to Michael Ll.D.]

Egerton House, Berkhamsted.

18 [April 1907]

Darling son Michael,

I hope your cold is not bad – get it well quite quickly for my sake.

Here are some silkworm eggs from Papa Gibbs – I don’t know what you do with them, but I’ve no doubt Mary will know. I have just been for a drive with Aunt Trixie and it was cold.

George is just going to Mr. Timson to have his knickerbockers mended, but they look almost too bad to mend. What a pity it is that you all have to wear things – how much better if you could go about like Mowgli – then perhaps you would never have any colds.

Goodbye now darling – write to me soon.

Mother.

*

There is nothing more moving to me, or more admirable, in the whole of this melancholy record, than these two letters from Sylvia to Michael, the second written within a few hours of Arthur’s death, which took place on the following day. Both are written very strongly, in ink, without a single word altered or scratched out except Mowgli – a difficult word in any case. Nothing of the misery and despair she was racked with was allowed to reach her children. There is a stoicism in this which fully matches Arthur’s.

Papa Gibbs: the local chemist, so-called by Michael.

At what time on April 19th Arthur died, or in what exact circumstances – nearly lucid, or, as seems more probable, at the end of a long period of unconsciousness, and in whose presence – I don’t know. Morphia had evidently been given freely towards the end, both to induce sleep and to relieve pain.

It must have been very shortly after Michael received Sylvia’s letter at 16 Royal Crescent that first Jack, and then I, was summoned to Grannie’s bedroom on what is technically called the mezzanine floor at the top of the first flight of stairs, and by her told the news, which she had perhaps just had by telegram. She told us very simply, without circumlocution or excessive emotion, sitting up in bed with (I think) a lace nightcap on; and I believe the meaning of her words penetrated pretty clearly to one’s immature brain, though not of course their full and permanent significance.

It was, as I remember it, a dull and windy day, and I recollect wandering up to the night nursery and staring out of the window for long minutes in vague wretchedness and gloom, at the grey sea and the distant Gull lightship on the Goodwins.

“A boys will is the wind’s will,” and as likely as not I was digging on the sands as usual next morning. But for the moment I think it was born in on me that a disastrous thing had overcome us.

*

The funeral took place while the four youngest of us were still at Ramsgate.

From the published obituary notices preserved by Margaret Ll.D. I expect the following, for what they are worth:

The Times:

“A promising career has been cut short by the death, which occurred at Egerton House, Berkhamsted, on Friday, of Mr Arthur Llewelyn Davies, barrister-at-law. He was the son of the Rev. Jack Llewelyn Davies, vicar of Kirby Lonsdale, and brother of Mr. Theodore Davies, of the Treasury, whose sad death by drowning, in the course of last year, is well remembered. Mr Arthur Davies, after leaving Cambridge, studied for the Bar with the present Mr Justice Walton, quickly made for himself a reputation as a sound and learned lawyer, and was well thought of in the Court of Appeal, especially in connexion with the business of the late School Board for London. He was also for a time one of the local lecturers in the Inner Temple. About nine months ago it was discovered that he was suffering from a dangerous illness, and, though an apparently successful operation was performed, the malady returned, and has now had a fatal termination. Mr Davies, whose many friends loved and admired him for the strength and simplicity of his character and for the courage with which he bore his sufferings, married Miss Sylvia du Maurier, daughter of the distinguished artist, and leaves a family of five sons. The deepest sympathy is felt with Mrs Davies and her children, and with the other members of her husband’s family. The funeral service will be held at Golder’s Green Crematorium, Finchley Road, tomorrow afternoon at 2.30.”

The Layman and The British Weekly (edited then I think by Robertson Nicoll, J.M.B.’s literary impresario) printed slightly more personal, but not more informative notices, which I do not think worth preserving here. A longer notice in a local Berkhamsted paper, largely copied from those already mentioned, includes the following paragraphs:

“… A keen and thoughtful liberal in politics, he took a very practical interest in the general election at the beginning of last year. He was a telling though quiet speaker, and several of the speeches he made in support of Mr Micklam’s candidature will be remembered for some time as patterns of neatly-turned sentences and winning persuasiveness. His early death is a severe blow to the political life of the town and district. Mr J.M.Barrie, the well-known novelist, who had been on terms of the closest friendship with the deceased gentleman, has been indefatigable in his efforts and unremitting in his attention. During the past six months he has spent quite half his time in Berkhamsted, and he was with him to the last …

“Mr Arthur Davies was educated at Marlborough, and at his funeral on Tuesday at Golder’s Green Crematorium, Finchley Road, one of the mourners was Canon Bell, ex-headmaster of Marlborough. Another mourner was Professor Oliver Elton, Professor of English Literature at University College, Liverpool. Among the other mourners were the Rev. Jack Llewelyn Davies (father), Messrs. Crompton Llewelyn Davies and H. Llewelyn Davies (brothers), Miss Llewelyn Davies (sister), Mr Millar (brother-in-law of Boxmoor), Messrs. J.M. Barrie, Anthony Hope, A.E.W. Mason, M.P. for Coventry, Mr N. Micklem, J.C., M.P., Mr R. Lee Campbell, and Mr C.H. Boucher. About 50 barristers also attended the service in the chapel, which was conducted by the Rev. T.C. Fry, D.D., Head Master of Berkhamsted School, who had journeyed up from Devonshire that morning, Messrs. H. and Jack Matthews carrying out the local arrangements.”

Perhaps these notices are neither better nor worse than the usual run of things. The list of mourners makes no pretence of being complete. A full list would have been interesting. I suppose Sylvia was not there, but do not know. George may have been, but I don’t think that either.

Out of the many letters which must have been written, very few seem to have survived. I only have the following:

[To Sylvia Ll.D. from Anthony Hope:]

23rd April ’07.

41 Bedford Square, W.C.

Dear Mrs Davies,

I am just back from the service – where I saw so many old friends of Arthur’s and of my own, and was carried back in memory – so sadly and yet not unwillingly – to the very old days when he and I first met at Marlborough about 30 years ago. Ever since then we have been friends; sometimes it so chanced that we didn’t meet for a longish while – but when the meeting came again, I always received from him just the same warm and intimate greeting and friendship, so that the absences seemed nothing, and the old footing always held good. We were in the Sixth together, and in the XV together, and so many hours do I remember. A man hasn’t many long friendships like that, and the break in this one, all too soon, is a sore wrench. To you I can say nothing save – in my wife’s name as in my own – a word of deepest sympathy in your great sorrow brought about by a stroke of fate so cruel, so hard to accept. With many cares he leaves you, too, many sources of happiness – and even in this moment it must be much to you to have the knowledge that his home gave him so many years of such happiness as, I think, falls to the lot of very few men. He will live in all our memories not only as one of the ablest, but as one of the most true and loyal men we have known.

Very truly yours,

Anthony H. Hawkins.

*

[To Sylvia (or so Margaret Ll.D., who copied it out, thought) from Lord Robert Cecil:]

“… Ever since I went to Berkhamsted in the beginning of the year, I have wished to try to tell you something of the profound impression it made upon me. His courage and his patience, the serene gratitude for his life and indomitable cheerfulness made one have a new view of life and death. Surely it was true of him that he was being made perfect through suffering. … It will be a consolation to remember how pain and illness only brought into stronger relieve the grandeur of his character.”

(I don’t know what the association was with Lord R.C. The only other mention of him in this record is in a letter from Sylvia to Dolly Ponsonby in August 1906, which may be found in its proper place).

*

[To Margaret Ll.D. from Hugh Macnaghten:]

Eton College, Windsor.

Wednesday, April 24. [1907]

Dear Miss Davies,

I knew nothing till last night, when I returned here and found your letter – and Mr Barrie’s telegram. That is why I was not there. No further test could have made him nobler than he was – indeed he was tried to the uttermost, and triumphed over all. Only one wants something simpler than that to say of him – it was also simple, so natural to him, so much the best that I have known.

Thank you for writing.

Yrs. very sincerely,

Hugh Macnaghten

*

Arthur

Thanks be to God for all brave men

And women, and not least for you,

From show and seeming alien

To self inalienably true.

Boy-like you gloried in the strife,

Wresting from adverse chance, success,

And love triumphant crowned your life

And all the rest was nothingness.

Even in the shadows of the gloom

You found through all no cause for blame,

Nor faltered face to face with doom,

Self-vindicating, still the same.

And, dying, helpless as you lay,

Thanks be to God, you helped a friend,

And kept the single native way,

With her beside you, till the end.

Hugh Macnaghten

I believe these lines, written out by Margaret Ll.D., were included in one of Hugh Macnaghten’s published volumes of verse, but I have not a copy. Perhaps it is nice to preserve it here for the sake of its sincerity; the sincerity of a moderate poet but a good man and a true friend, who will reappear in these pages in connection with George and Michael.

*

[To Margaret Ll.D. from M.J. Rendall]

Florence, Sunday.

[28 April 1907]

Dear Miss Davies,

Your letter, for which I am truly grateful, only reaches me in Italy, after a week’s journey.

Every day of late I have been thinking and thinking of your heroic brother. I loved him dearly, and treasure infinitely a pencil letter he wrote me 5 or 6 weeks since. He was the most sincere, manly and vigorous of mankind, and, though I have not frequently met him of late, when I did see him, our friendship was the same as ever, without one cloud or shadow.

Into your trouble I must not enter; I know something of what this year has been to you. Arthur’s heroism (it was nothing less) must have been the greatest comfort and will remain a glorious memory. I will write to his poor wife.

It is well that he is at rest.

I hope, as you say, that we may meet some day.

With best thanks and much sympathy,

Yrs. sincerely,

M. Jack Rendall

*

I take this to be from Montague Rendall, at that time an assistant master and later headmaster (1911-1924) of Winchester and a distinguished figure in the educational world. He was a Trinity contemporary of A.Ll.D’s. He still survives.

*

[To Margaret Ll.D. from Eleanor Clough:]

Castletop, Burley, Ringwood.

[23 April 1907]

Dear Margaret,

I have been thinking of you all day.

So many recollections have been passing through my mind. Do you remember that charity ball at which Arthur and Sylvia danced and danced together? I can see your mother’s face watching them, and remember her voice saying: “Arthur is rather excited.” It was the second time they ever met. And then I remember going to see them at Abinger when little George was 5 or 6 weeks old. I remember Sylvia bringing him down for my mother and me to see, then handing him over to Arthur, and I can see him kissing the little thing’s fingers, as he carried him up the stairs.

The last time we saw him was here, a few years ago when he brought George for a night on a bicycling expedition. We sat on the lawn where I am writing now.

We used to think he was like a young warrior in an Italian picture. And now one knows that he was one.

The thought of him will be an inspiration to many.

You will not mind my writing, I know, but you will not think I look for you to write.

Ever your affectionate,

Eleanor Clough

*

I wish I could place the writer of this singularly beautiful letter – as perfect an example as I ever remember reading of how to do this sort of thing. Various Cloughs were family friends of the Davieses, and there has been more than one mention in Arthur’s letters of visits to Abinger. She was related to Arthur Hugh Clough, the poet, I think, as well as to the Anne Clough who was closely concerned with the beginnings of Newnham when Emily Davies was singularly engaged with Girton.

How difficult it is to describe masculine beauty. “Like a Greek god” is dreadful somehow, partly because it has become so trite. Dolly Ponsonby’s choice of “Greek coin profile”, to describe her impression of Arthur seen through the window at Rustington, reading by the soft lamp light, in 1903, is better, but loses a little by its resemblance to the “Greek god” cliche. And I don’t think his features corresponded at all closely to what is generally meant by the classical standard. I much prefer Eleanor Clough’s “young warrior“ etc. It had never struck me before I read this letter, but I seem to have seen heads painted by Uccello, Masaccio and others which, if they do not exactly resemble Arthur’s, suggest that he might well have been taken by them as a model in his youth without any idealisation.

As I believe I have mentioned earlier on, his looks seem to me to have come not at all from the Davies side of his parentage, though to what extent he was a representative Crompton in physique, I can’t say. But I think his beauty was not less striking than Sylvia’s, and, for my part, I confess that, much as I venerate all their other lovely qualities, it is the thought of their beauty which, more than anything else, brings the lump to my scrawny throat.

User
Comments

Add Comment
New User

Tom Owen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla.

Post Date - 10.10.2019 | Report
New User

Tom Owen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla.

Post Date - 10.10.2019 | Report
New User

Tom Owen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla.

Post Date - 10.10.2019 | Report
J M Barrie Logo Sign In