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Some Davies Letters & Papers (aka the Morgue):

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Some Davies Letters and Papers

1911-1915

Compiled by

Peter Llewelyn Davies

[AB: See Some Davies Papers & Letters, 1889-1897 for an introduction to ‘The Morgue’. The layout is exactly as Peter wrote it and Nico 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. George Ll.D. instead of G.Ll.D. or George instead of George, except where used in contemporary letters. A number of additional letters have come to light since Peter compiled his Morgue, and I have included them here where relevant. The originals of some letters can be found in the database, mostly ones that Peter didn’t have while compiling the Morgue, and thus evaded his systematic destruction.

This volume ends with the following post-script, written by Nico and dated May 1967:

I have been so glad to find – in Peter’s beautiful (pencilled) longhand – the foregoing material about George. I had no idea he had compiled so much – and apparently as long ago as 1945, seven years before he gave Jack and me the first two volumes. Surely he would have added much and edited out this and that, but for the few remaining interested parties – chiefly myself! – there is an abundance of rare treasures.]

*

[AB: … as indeed there are, but for some reason or other, many letters seem to evade Peter’s attention – possibly Cynthia Asquith had grasped them when rifling through Barrie’s desk after his death in 1937. Why else would they have been a part of the large assortment of J.M.B.’s manuscripts she sold at Sotheby’s in the early 1950s, which were bought up by Walter Beinecke Jnr and now reside in his library on the campus of Yale University? Other letters wound up with Nico, including many that he wrote to Barrie. These he unearthed while I was researching/writing The Lost Boys for BBC-TV, and I have interpolated those that I think Peter would have included had he had them while compiling his Morgue:]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

3rd of Feb, Friday [1911]

Dear James i am going to tea with the macnaghtens to morrow. Granie came to tea yesterday. You are a big swank not to come SOONER – come hurry u the train is coming From

NICO
THE
End
Can we go to tea at Aunt Gwens on Tuseday

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

22nd of April [1911]
16 ROYAL CRESCANT

Dear Mr Barrie thanks for the letter you sent me yesterday

Buck up buck up what are you doing having your dinner.

then push it away and read my letter from NIC-O

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,
20 Nov 1911

My dear George,

Lots of them would tell you that civilization and war cannot go together. At all events one of the uses of civilization is to make war ugly and to show the masses what they lose by it and what they gain. However I would never give in to those who hold war so wrong that they would avoid it at whatever cost. It may certainly be glorious, and one can hope that as time goes on the other kinds will be avoided because civilization proves them never to be worthwhile.

Here endeth my essay, shorter than yours. I shall be curious to read yours if I ever get the chance. It would be great if you won the prize. I presume they will give no marks to verbosity.

When you wrote of your tutor complaining you did not talk enough to your neighbours I wanted to come and sit beside you. I suppose a man with a house of boys changing yearly gets into the way of thinking all is well when all seems smooth on the surface. He must aim at making all the bays as alike as possible superficially at all events. I think he is bound, however good a man he is, to lay too much stress on the superficial because it is not possible with so many to know anything deeper. And all getting on nicely and chatting together seems so satisfying. In after life you will many a time have to talk at meals to neighbours who would not be there if you had the choice, so it may be good for you to acquire the correct note for these ordeals. But it has nothing to do with character. At its best it may mean consideration for your neighbour. Which is a nice tract. By asking too much of it, a master might rather spoil a boy’s time. But it must be frightfully hard to a master to be just when he meddles with the relations that exist between his many boys. Yours I feel sure does his very best and sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails. Personally I think boys are often better judges of man and motives than the man of boys and their motives. Something of the child remains in them to make them see very clearly – children sometimes bore down to the soul. Nico for instance.

Your affec
J.M.B.
Nico’s birthday is on Friday remember.

*

The early part of this letter refers to George’s forthcoming entry for the Essay Prize at Eton, which he won. The subject was evidently the hackneyed – and in those incredible days more or less academic – one, of whether or not war can be justified as a solution of international differences. J.M.B. belonged politically, like all the Ll. Davieses, to the liberal or radical party, which had always numbered in its ranks a proportion of anti-war-at-any-cost enthusiasts. A dig at Margaret Ll. D., who was devoted to George, and who was a militant, in fact a die-hard pacifist to the end of her days. She would have loved us all to be conscientious objectors, I have no doubt, bless her. Where she got her pacifism from I don’t know. Her father was not at all of that persuasion, as several of his sermons show.

For a temporary modification of J.M.B.’s attitude towards the glory of war and military prowess, see his last letter to George. Temporary, having regard to his subsequent semi-proprietary adulation of “my general” (Bernard Freyberg), who ultimately became the recipient of the last letter J.M.B. ever wrote. This last rather tiresome remark of mine is really out of place here, but I haven’t the heart to put it in its proper place, i.e. after the last (very wonderful) letter to George.

By November 1911 George was in the full flush of his Eton career, in Pop and the Twenty-two, a regular young blood, a known figure throughout the school, very dressy, fully aware of his attractions and popularity. I seem to remember thinking, in my squalid and scuggishness, that he was a bit up-stage and affected about his time, but in fact his head was no more turned than such a young blood’s should be. He was far from being a “sap” but always (I think) managed to keep in select divisions, and that he should have won this particular prize, for which there was plenty of competition, is strong evidence of his intellectual capacity, and all-round quality. He spent part of his prize-money on a complete edition of Meredith, which Nico now has.

The letter as a whole shows how thoroughly J.M.B. was prepared to enter into the problems of those of “his boys” who gave him an opening. It sounds as if George must have had his share of the stand-offishness which is perhaps a family trait, though he may merely have happened to sit at meals between two exceptionally revolting boys.

For Nico’s private consideration I submit the probability, which is to me almost a certainty, in view of the last sentence in it, that this letter was written very soon after the immortal episode of “You cad!”

[AB: Nico wrote to Sharon Goode (9 February 1976):

‘You Cad’. In its way this is an awful story, tho’ in later years it used to give Peter a lot of devilish delight! The scene was the dining room at 23 Campden Hill Square. I think breakfast-ish: company: J.M.B., all the brothers, possibly excepting Jack: date I don’t know, but if Peter’s ‘almost a certainty’ in the reference to which you refer is correct, it would be autumn of 1911.

Uncle Jim had just returned from America and we were all peppering him with questions as he ate his breakfast. I, aged about 7 or 8, suddenly hurled at him ‘How was Maudie?’ meaning Maude Adams, to whom Uncle Jim always referred to as ‘Miss Adams’.

Uncle Jim’s almost incomprehensible reaction was immediate: looking at me with the very depth of contempt he just said ‘you cad’ which plunged me into a paroxysm of tears and I buried my head in Peter’s lap on a sofa. I can’t recall at all if there were any apologies, but I know all sympathy (even from Michael!) were for me this time.

The point, I suppose, in my telling you and Andrew this story is to show that with all the humour and intense and sympathetic kindness, he could be cruel for brief moments on rare occasions and when he was, he was all the more withering to sensitive souls! But, as perhaps Peter hints in his use of the words ‘immortal episode’ Peter - during the time we worked together and saw so much of each other - was constantly saying ‘You Cad!’ to annoy me.

*

[The following letters were not included in Peter’s Morgue, and are thus bereft of his comments. I can only assume that he did not have them in his possession in 1945 and thus did not know about them when he began compiling this section.]

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

23 C H Sq
Sunday [4 December 1911]

My dear George,

Am just starting with Jack for Mr Lucas’s at Lewes where we are to stay the night, so this is but a scratch of the pen. Pity about the match but you came off personally all right. Have sent off your golf clubs.

Jack is going strong in the way of making calls & going to dances. I took him to theatre last night – The War God. He will be down to see you very soon. He is to have a dance here under the auspices of his aunts while I fly the country.

Yours
J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 C H Sq
Dec 11, 1911

My dear George,

I shd think so much of your money might go on a set of Meredith. There are various editions. I advise the Library editions in 16 vols at 6/- net the vol which would dispose of 96/-. Note exact title of edition & no of vols. If you want any other edition of novels I advise Thackeray, who is sure to captivate you now or soon. I don’t know about prices here but the local bookseller cd get you lists. Then if you preferred, you can never do better than with the Golden Treasury series of which I enclose a list, with prices as you will see according to bindings.

Of course if you prefer the small leather vols, very charming (such as you have or have seen of Stevenson &c) you can get nearly all authors in them (including Meredith &c &c &c) They are mostly about 3/- each in leather.

I have twenty letters to write, so this is but a scrawl.

Jack has got thro’ his exam so will soon be a middy. He is busy with festivities, but has also boils.

Your affec
J.M.B.

[AB: 6/- = six shillings = 30p = £34 in 2021 (= $46).

96/- = £4-16-0d = £4 and 16 shillings = £556 in 2021 (=$762)]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

28th Dicembre [1911]

Darling Doodle Barrie,

Thanks very much for the Roman (I suppose) Calendar and the Dominoes. Have you read my present to you? If you have is it good? I hope so. How are you dearest? Are you coming down here? We went to what Peter gave me can you guess? No? Well I’ll tell you a CINEMATOGRAPH. The day before yesterday I wrote seven letters.

Yours

Nico

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Twenty Three,
Campden Hill Square,
15 Jan 1912

My dear George,

Herewith the thirty bob. Alas, that you should have been prostrated with chestnuts. Had I known while you were down I would have mourned with you, but as you are better again I take rather a cynical interest in the Syrup of Figs, which I never made acquaintance with, and the name suggests to me romantic groves, caiaques on the Bosphorus, languishing eyebrows, whispered nothings & so on. The reality is evidently far different. ’Tis ever so, or mostly.

Michael and Nicholas are none the worse of their adventures on the Granville Express, and tomorrow I am taking them to the Drury Lane pantomime. It begins at 1.30 and goes on to nearly 6. Pity the old man, for the love of Allah.

Jack has written twice, well pleased with his ship and its crew, so far as he has made their acquaintance. His letters mostly deal with the rules & regulations of his mess, which seem to be mainly of a ‘ragging’ character. When the sub-lieutenant in charge cries out “one” they must all rush to him like fags. When he cries “change sides” they have all to dive beneath the table into each others places (helped by boots). When he sticks a fork into the beam above him they must rush out of the room with a drabbing for the hind one,&c. I hope you and Peter will be excited to hear that you are now part-owners of a billiard table. We had our first game on it today.

I'm glad you are getting on at golf.

Your affec
J.M.B.

[AB: 30 bob = 30 shillings = £1-10-0d = £174 in 2021 ($238). Fags: A public school (= a private boarding school in the UK) tradition whereby younger boys – known as “fags” – are more or less slaves to the whims of their elders.

Nico gave me "The Complete Billiard Player" by one Charles Roberts, first published in 1911 and inscribed to "Michael Llewelyn Davies from his friend E.V.L." (= E. V. Lucas). On the blank pages at the end, Barrie has written a "Record of Breaks of 20 & upwards on the New Table. Table put in on Jan 13, 1912." There follows a long list, headed by "Jan 15, 1912 - J.M.B. - 26", followed by "Jan 16 1912 - Michael - 29". For those interested in such ephemera, search for "billiard" in the database to see the scans; there's also an audio clip of Nico talking about it ...]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 C H Sq

30 Jan 1912

My dear George,

I don’t like the idea of all these swamps around you. So long as the frost holds, it is all well from the point of view of health of course, but equally of course frost comes in this country only to raise hopes and retire. I shd think however that frozen fields would be nearing today so you may have a look in.

It sounds well about the fives court, and I hope you will come out thereof with flying colours.

Rather funny about Lawrence Ma[jor] if he now ceases to be as he was. Your suspicions show an awful cynicism for your age!

Tree has at the last moment of the eleventh hour turned tail over the Ladies Shakespeare and is not to do it. Afraid people would think it was making fun of Will apparently.

Of course it must but always be a touch and go affair, and I don’t blame him, except for going about talking of it when it shd have been kept a secret. I don’t quite know what may happen to it now. Various managers seem to want it, but I’ll probably shut it up in a drawer for a bit.

Have you been seeing Peter? I have not heard from him yet. Michael is making losing hazards and Nicholas has conceived the idea that I should set him an exam-written paper (for a prize). The first question that keeps popping up is ‘Who killed Cock Robin?’

Your affec

J.M.B.

[AB: “The Ladies’ Shakespeare” was a semi-comical extra last act to The Taming of the Shrew, revealing Katharina playing with Petruchio. Beerbohm Tree evidently passed, but it flitted in and out of Maude Adams’ US repertory, both as a curtain-raiser and an after-piece, see Barrie’s letter to Frohman, 3 November 1911. It was never performed in England.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

14th of April [1912]

Dear Uncle Jim how is Mr and Mrs Brown and how is Mr Barrie. We arrived here safely yesterday.

Will you ask Bessy how Max is getting on

Our next door neighbours are at this moment lying on the grass but it is a rainny day.

Mary is blowing her nose

I am going to draw now

NIC-O

[AB: See the original for drawings. This letter was probably written from Mary Hodgson’s home in Morecambe rather than Ramsgate. April 14th 1912 is the night the Titanic stuck the iceberg ...]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.: a picture letter]

18th of A P R – R – R – R – I [1912]

Dear Uncle Jim

I have some 40 ? chocolates and Michael has 30 ?.

A new ship came in yesterday called the Queenie.

From Nickelass

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3, Adelphi Terrace House,
Strand, W. C.
May 29 [1912]

My dear George,

This confounded excitement about the XI has rather caught me and I have begun to dream about it. Mix them, curve them, swerve them, break them, and if he still hits it, kick them. I can’t think of any better tip.

I wish I could tie [S.F.] Barnes to your wrist. I wish I was as good at bowling as at that idiotic thing, flinging rings on to watches. At this I am an extraordinary adept. At ‘Shakespeare’s England’ I won four watches (really good ladies watches) in this way. I had to leave the place because I became so famous at it. “The gentleman in the straw hat what has already won six – that’s ’im!” Crowds gazed at me. I never knew what fame was before.

Do you remember how we plugged at the baskets of oranges at Olympia one Christmas? Only a few years ago, but you were no older than Michael is now. He & I went to the Olivers for the week end. The pond has been stocked with rainbow trout & he caught at least 50, about 4 oz on average. They were too guileless however to make it much sport.

Fished with bread on end of hook. Also bird-nested, &c.

Your loving
J.M.B.

[AB: Sydney Barnes (1873-1967), English professional cricketer, considered to be one of the greatest ever bowlers.

The Frederick Scott Olivers, near Reading: old friends of the Llewelyn Davies family.]

*

[Peter’s Morgue continues:]

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,
Strand W. C.
June 3 1912

My dear George,

Floreat Etona. I hope the weather is to be propitious and that you will have a perfect day morally as well as physically without a cloud in the sky for your last 4th of June. It is four years since the day when your mother and I were there and you made us stay on for the fireworks and were really just a small boy, impaling yourself by the waterside on railings. I did not then know even that there was such a thing as pop. It has swum into my ken like some celestial young lady.

It is sad that your bowling arm has not been doing the rest of your justice CK lately, but I am still ready to believe that any day it may retrieve itself, and I have a blessed confidence in your taking the thing in a right spirit shd hopes in the end be disappointed. You remember Roosevelt’s mother, “she done her d––dest, angels could do no more.” Roosevelt by the way seems to CK have done a little more, with results not too pretty.

The great thing for me at all events is the feeling that if your father and mother were here on this 4th June they would be well pleased on the whole with their eldest born.

Your party ought to do you credit and it will be great having your uncle Guy also, not to speak of the fair Miss Margaret CK which I wish I had had something half as nice to smile on me when I was a boy. Just off to 23 to cricket in the square.

Yours affec.
J.M.B.

[AB: “Floreat Etona” = Eton school’s motto, “Let Eton flourish”. From about this time, Captain Hook cries out “Floreat Etona!” as he prostrates himself from the plank into the gaping jaws of the crocodile. Hook is said to have been old Harrovian, Eton’s rival school being Harrow.]

*

I retain a dim picture of George, batting for the XI on the Upper Club on the Fourth of June, playing forward when he should have played back because the band had just struck up his favourite tune of the moment, In the Shadows, and so getting ingloriously out.

Though played as a bowler, he never really found his form that summer, and at Lord’s took no wickets in the first innings and only 1 in the second. But he unexpectedly came off as a batsman and hit up a merry 59, the second highest Eton score of the innings. He also brought off a spectacular high left-handed catch, a photograph of which figured conspicuously in the press.

I don’t know what the Roosevelt allusion refers to.

“The fair Miss Margaret” was Margaret Sale, a Ramsgate neighbour: a fine strapping golfing Amazon, on whom George was decidedly sweet for a time.

I don’t remember who else besides Guy du M. and Margaret Sale were of the creditable party, but I fancy Gerald du M. was. Possibly the party as a whole was the reason for J.M.B.’s non-appearance?

*

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

23 C.H. Sq.
19 June 1912

My dear George,

Nicholas having got a superb bow and arrows has nearly done for all the inhabitants of the Campden Hill district. He is now prepared to use them against any batsman who is not tied in a knot by your bowling. I found Michael surrounded by his presents when I got back from Eton. He has a grand salmon net from your granny, which in low water would I shd say do for scooping the fish out of the pools. I have seen a picture of Amhuinnsnidh. The house is nearer the sea than Scourie Lodge – just separated from it by a terrace which I take to be the tennis lawn. Also a picture of (I think) the “burn” by the door which (perhaps being in flood) is so tumultuous that I am not certain the picture does not represent the Atlantic Ocean. Michael had not read your Study in Scarlet, wonderful to tell, and has devoured it greedily. No dreams, which is more than one had a right to expect.

I think the £12 look will likely be done at Eton on the 5th July under the auspices of your tutor.

I fear I shall have to sit on a Jury most of next week, which is a considerable bore.

Your affec.
J.M.B.

[AB: Amhuinnsuidh Castle on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, which Barrie was to rent for their summer holidays.

“The £12 look” = Barrie’s one-act play, The Twelve Pound Look”.]

*

No letters to or from George during the last weeks of his time at Eton seem to have survived. He had been a very great success there, and had paved the way for the later Etonian triumphs of two of his brothers. In the XI, Treasurer of Pop, Five choices, Essay Prize – a splendid performance indeed. Hugh Macnaghten wrote to J.M.B. at the end of the half:

[Hugh Macnaghten to J.M.B.]

Eton College
Windsor
[28 June 1912]

My Dear Barrie,

Five short years are gone, and the last report has come. Thank goodness the end which crowns the work has been a great success. There was one disappointment when George played for the second XI and seemed in danger of losing his place, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise, for it gave him an opportunity of showing that he could bear the dreaded disappointment well, and after all our “fears were liars.”

The effect upon his happiness has been very clear – the anxious expression has passed away. I think he ought to realize the great danger of worrying – and once for all determine not to do so. If one could make up one’s mind never to expect anything but to take things when they come, how much happier we would be. For George it is a duty not to worry. The whole of the first part of the half I found him silent and wrapped up in his thoughts: since Winchester it has been very different, and he has been at his very best.

I have not said anything about work, but it is a great satisfaction to be able to say that George has worked quite creditably, and indeed has taken more trouble with his verses than he has ever done before. He will do respectably, I believe, in this last examination, and with that I shall be quite satisfied.

I can only end by saying how thankful I am to have had him in my house – though five years is not long enough to get all the good out of Eton – and I am very thankful too for the happiness of these last few weeks. For the modest boy there is no tonic like success, and George has not forgotten to be modest though he is ceasing to be quite so shy.

*

Until I read this I had not, in memory, given shyness so prominent a place in George’s young character. It may well have been so, though possibly Hugh put down as mere shyness some reticence vis-a-vis himself on George’s part. Hugh was a queer one, as queer in his own way as was J.M.B. in his, and the two ways had something in common. Hugh was too good to be wise. In view of the simply terrific things he had later to say about Michael, he is a shade disappointing on George. To some minds, indeed, the preoccupation of a master with success or failure at cricket might seem a condemnation of the Public School attitude to games.

I must be allowed my little dig at Hugh. In his book “Fifty Years of Eton”, musing upon the room in the Warre Schools where he used to teach Upper Division, does he not make a fond and honourable mention of “George, Michael and Nico Davies” (among a dozen or so others, Collegers as well as Oppidans similarly signalised)? So, if I call him a poor judge of character, in seeing so much less in George than Michael, no one can accuse me of lack of prejudice. [i.e Macnaghten omitted to mention Peter.]

George was a Sergeant in the Dog-Potters (E.C.O.T.C.), and took his duties very lightly. At the end of “camp” in 1912, as he and I boarded the Scotch night express at King’s Cross, and as a proper old Etonian (would this be the year in which Captain Hook became an O.E.?) showed me how to get exclusive possession of a 3rd class carriage, viz. by undressing, putting on pyjamas and lying full length on either seat, before the train left the station, and pretending to be asleep. He also instructed me, much against my inclination, during the journey, in the art of inhaling cigarettes right down to the stomach.

To this period, or perhaps a year earlier, belongs the visit recalled by Moya Ll.D. in a letter written to me just after Crompton Ll.D’s death. Crompton concerned himself closely with our affairs both as friend and lawyer, from the death of Arthur to that of Sylvia, soon after which he became engaged to Moya. He was the most emotional of men and had no doubt been eloquent to his equally emotional betrothed on the tragic aspect of the family story. And indeed there must have been something about that house to wring the withers of any but the least sensitive.

*

[Moya Ll.D. to P.Ll.D.]

Furry Park,

Raheny

4th December 1935

My dear Peter,

….. your beautiful mother, of whom he (Crompton) never spoke without a break in his voice. His love and admiration for her were intense. He bought me into your house in Campden Hill Square as if it were a holy sanctuary. I felt completely awed. Then we went up to the nursery where Michael and Nicholas were at tea with Mary looking like two angels in little overalls their mother had designed for them. I was terrified. I thought, this is all too exquisite and these glorious people cannot possibly love such an ordinary thing as I am. But he did …..

…. (Crompton) mentioned your name, Peter, in his second or third last letter to me. I have it somewhere but at the moment I cant find it. He said you were always a very special person to him, that he felt a loving intimacy with you beyond what he felt for almost anyone else, and I remember him telling me in the early years of our marriage more than once “Peter is the one”. You were certainly his favourite of the five sons of your beautiful mother, of whom he [Crompton] never spoke without a break in his voice. His love and admiration for her were intense. He brought me into your house in Campden Hill Square as if it were a holy sanctuary. I felt completely awed. Then we went up to the nursery where Michael and Nicholas were at tea with Mary, looking like two angels in little overalls there mother had designed for them. I was terrified. I thought, this is all too exquisite and these glorious people cannot possibly love such an ordinary thing as I am. But he did .....

[AB: Peter, in his modesty, omitted the first part of Moya’s letter: “Crompton mentioned your name, Peter, in his second or third last letter to me. He said you were always a very special person to him, that he felt a loving intimacy with you beyond what he felt for almost anyone else, and I remember him telling me in the early years of our marriage more than once, “Peter is the One”. You were certainly his favourite of the five sons of your beautiful mother….”]

*

Another visitor of, I think, a year or two later, brought round by J.M.B., was John Masefield, then rising to fame on the wings of The Everlasting Mercy and Dauder. He gave Michael the model mast of a ship, about 4ft high, made fully rigged by himself to the last detail of sail, shroud, halliard and block. A wonderful gift which, I am sorry to have to say, has utterly disappeared, whither I know not. It was only when reading not long ago the latest of Masefield’s autobiographical volumes, The Mill, that I understood why he came to the house, and what it was that must have moved him to give such a notable gift to one of George du Maurier’s grandsons. No more perfect tribute can ever have been paid to a book than that which Masefield in The Mill pays to Peter Ibbetson. “I remember,” he says, writing of his very early youth, “with what fever I waited till I could buy Peter Ibbetson, and how I bore the volume home, opened it at the drawing of the little child wheeling a barrow from the past into the future, and at once drew measurably nearer to the garden of romance. I have read that book through many times since then. God forgive me, once or twice I have wondered whether there be not one or two faults in it; if there be, there were none to me then. It came to me just when I most needed an inner life. On the whole, no prose story, not even Don Quixote, has given me one fifth part of the pleasure and mental companionship...”

Peter Ibbetson is largely an idealization, rather than a true relation, of the author’s childhood. The drawing of the child with the barrow represents Geoffrey or Guy Millar rather than the childish George du M. And the likeness of the childish and bereft Davieses to the drawing, and the poignancy of their situation, must have been enough to make a considerable impression on the future Laureate. Michael’s dreams (or nightmares) were the almost invariable sequel, in his childhood, to the reading of an exciting book, whether it was Conan Doyle or Jekyll & Hyde or a serial in Chums. He had the true stuff of the poet in him from birth, and his two sonnets are quite good enough to be included in an anthology with poems from the pen of Masefield.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 C H Sq

July 5, 1912

My dear George,

I am hoping that your success at Winchester is to make it all right for Lords. I rather take for granted that you were not put on in the second innings tilt the end because Wigan wanted the others to get a chance. But one never knows, and I shall be glad to hear. Of course I was delighted to read of your batting: indeed I burst into a cheer when I saw your score.

Tomorrow Michael & I will probably go to Conan Doyle’s for a night.

Still uncertain about Amhuinnsuidh and it will probably be some days before we know. Hoping to hear from a second analysis that the other one was all wrong, as seems possible. If things can’t be got right we shall have to try for some other place, which will be no small job.

Jack is going to Broadwater for the week end as your Uncle Guy & Granny are there.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3, Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

8 July 1912

My dear George,

My wine would show you we took the great news in the proper spirit. I am greatly delighted and rayther [sic] proud. Your mother used to speak of the possibility with shining eyes. Good to get Foster’s wicket.

The Amhuinnsuidh water is all right when filtered so will probably go up next week. Looking forward to the match.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Amhuinnsuidh,

by Tarbert,

Island of Harris

N.B.

27/7/1912

My dear George,

I enclose £15 for both your fares. You had better travel third class, and get single tickets. You book to Portree and after that pay on boat. You leave Kings Cross at 7.55 p.m, arrive Fort William about 10 a.m where you change into train for Mallaig, which you reach about 11.30. Here you get boat for Portree which you reach about 6 p.m (You will probably have to change boats at Kyle about 2 p.m). You stay the night at Portree, & leave about 6 a.m by boat for Tarbert where you will be joyfully met! The hotel you stay at in Portree is the Royal, & a day or two before you set off you should send a wire thus, ‘Manager, Royal Hotel, Portree. Please reserve a double-bedded room for –– (date) & sign it ‘Davies’. Also some hours before you start send a wire to Kings Cross reserving 2 corner seats: “Superintendent of Line, King's Cross station, London. Please reserve two corner seats third class tonight to Mallaig – Davies.”

I think that is all. It sounds complicated but is really simple. Keep this letter to refer to.

Note: You must leave London on Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday. The other way of getting here on other days is not satisfactory.

The Lucases & Hawkins are here now, & all had perfect passages.

There is dire want of rain & now there’s no wind, so that fishing is for the time poor. But Michael has got 80 sea trout & the fact that Mr. Lucas who never had a rod in his hand except at Duartmore has caught three in Scourst & three in Halladale, all with fly & averaging over one pound each shows how good it is.

I hope all goes well at Eton. Be sure to send exact camp address.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

Amhuinnsuidh, a vast mansion in the island of Harris, built in what Osbert Lancaster might describe as Stockbrokers’ Scotch Baronial style, was taken by J.M.B. for the summer holidays of that year. The cost must have been fabulous. The fishing was to match. Among those who came to stay were Alf [A.E.W.] Mason, E.V. Lucas and his wife, Lord Lucas (no relation), Nurse Loosemore, and the Hawkinses: Anthony Hope and his wife and their two young children.

George (aged 19) was extremely intrigued by Lady Hawkins, and I think this was his first, and probably his last, experience of the delights of a flirtation with an attractive femme du monde. I also doubt whether Betty Hawkins ever had a more attractive adolescent to play with. They enjoyed themselves quite a lot, sheltering from the eternal rain in the fishing-huts by the side of those lonely romantic lochs. She was very easy on the eye, and American, which perhaps accounts for the circumstances, rare enough in those far off days, that occasional nips of whisky fed the flames of dalliance. I envied from afar on these occasions, and George forcibly taught me the elements of tact, i.e. the necessity of the making myself scarce, and I envied from afar, being just at the stage when poor J.M.B. had had to give me, by the banks of the burn, a small talking to for indulging at Eton in what my tutor euphemistically termed water-closet talk. He very nearly penetrated my juvenile defences by telling me it had always been his view that a man without some element of coarseness in his nature was not a whole man, which much disconcerted me, coming from him. But I don’t think he knew what was afoot between George and Betty: not that it probably amounted to anything.

I also remember vividly an occasion when some doubtless intolerable bickering and obstreperousness among “the boys” drove Anthony Hope into a fury, so that he cursed us roundly. There is no need to attribute this either to any knowledge on his part as to his wife’s little tendresse for George, when we bear in mind his celebrated cri de coeur, at the first night of “Peter Pan” – “Oh, for an hour of Herod!” How I have wished since that he had talked to us sometimes about Arthur whom he had known so well in years gone by. But he never did – to me at any rate. It is true we were in many ways an abominable gang, unruly, self-centred and by now pretty much cut off from family traditions of moderation and simplicity, though George retained a good deal of all that.

I am almost sure that at Amhuinnsuidh George and I put on boiled shirts for dinner.

The early part of the letter affords a passing glimpse of the strange household at 23 Campden Hill Square, between which and his flat in the Adelphi J.M.B. at this period divided his time. Michael and Nico, both now at Wilkinson’s, were the permanent residents; the other three of us returned to the queer fold from time to time on leave or holidays; the presiding genius of the place was Mary Hodgson, faithful to her trust, though inevitably disapproving of so much of the nouveau regime.

[AB: When I met George's old friend Sir Roger Chance in 1976, he confided, "Now, who told me this? It may have been OliverLyttleton. “Oh you went to Amhuinnsuidh?” said he. “Yes, Iwent there in 1912. Anthony Hope and his wife were there.” “Oh,were they? Did you know this, Roger? George got into bed with MrsAnthony Hope. She educated him.”

I wish I could add more information about the resourceful Betty Hawkins, but having scoured the internet, all I can find are the bald facts that she was born Elizabeth Somerville Sheldon in 1886 in New York and died in 1946. She and Anthony Hope (1863-1933) were married in 1903 and had three children: two sons and a daughter. In his autobiography, Hope mentions her only once: “I had to sail home [from New York] in the middle of April [1903]. … Besides all that I carried in my memory, there sailed in the same boat the American girl who a few months later became my wife.” So Betty was 22 years younger than Hope – and 7 years older than George, she being 28 in the summer of 1912. Their dalliance seems to have continued beyond the Hebridean holiday, for in January 1913, George’s grandmother Emma wrote to her daughter May, “George left this morning as Mrs Anthony Hope is taking him to a theatre tonight. I am not sure that I like George to see so much of her.” And in February 1914, Barrie was writing to George, “Jack was here the week-end but I barely saw him as he was so much taken up with–– mostly with the Hawkins’s I think. Ah, look out for your laurels!”]

*

[AB: In the absence of any other letters or reminiscences about the Amhuinnsuidh holiday, I’m sure Peter would not have objected to me here inserting a letter from Mary Hodgson to her sister Nancy since it gives a fine glimpse of Mary’s character as well as the upstairs-downstairs life at the castle. The letter was one of several that Mary's niece Mary Hill gave me when visiting her in 1976:]

Amhuinnsuidh Castle

Tarbert

North Harris

Scotland.

[Sunday] 1. 9. 12.

My dear Nancy,

Am glad you have both arrived home, & hope Jinnie won the bet about the dinner, to pay Mother out for her want of faith in her daughters.

I trust you served up the salmon with mayonnaise sauce. It was one of Michael's catches. Though getting on in years I have not yet learnt the art of running after the upper ten.

E. V. Lucas & family have departed after a month's stay.

A. E. W. Mason also, after 10 days.

Anthony Hope Hawkins, wife, son & daughter & governess have been here five weeks & are still hanging on.

Nurse Loosemore, who nursed Mrs Arthur, is also here for an indefinite period.

Lord Lucas & Miss Herbert his sister, also were here for 10 days.

We have had (to use slang) the pick of the literary geniuses of England, but alas — either my liver is out of order, or my ideals too high, for at close quarters they are but mortal & very ordinary at that.

The weather has been very good for Scotland, & the fishing has been splendid. They (the boys) generally go on ponies & are getting quite expert at riding.

Jack is not with us — his holidays do not come convenient.

J.M.B. is well, & much better than I have seen him for some years.

Did you realize how well George played at Lord's Cricket Ground? You would have thought someone had given Nico sixpence that day, his spirits were so high.

Minnie is busy, but more cheerful than of yore. Lilian (parlourmaid) kindly turned kitchen-maid just while we're here & she has been most helpful & happy about it. Bessie took to her bed for a few days after our arrival - I think she missed London - however she is quite recovered now. Minnie also sent a fish to her home, also Lilian, also Bessie also Mr Brown (J.M.B.'s butler), also Michael's ghillie - the man who accompanies him in his travels & whom I implore not to bring him back in pieces. This castle seems not to have any history, being quite modern. It belongs to a Sir Samuel Scott, who is M.P. for Paddington. But the country around is grand, really magnificent. There are two housemaids & an odd man kept here all the year round. They are Scotch - very. Then there's Sandy, a boatman, who also comes in to meals, & the postman who sleeps in a room outside & has to be paid separate for bringing our letters from Tarbert - 12 miles away.

I sent Lilian to fetch in the Blacksmith's daughters the other night, & with an old melodeon [a type of accordion] we saw a fine Scotch reel & a real [?Schollishe] done. They are fine dancers. The heel and toe were perfect. I was quite envious. I hear the coachman's son plays the bag-pipe, so I have hopes of getting him in. The billiard room is hung with tapestry illustrating Biblical stories - one of Joseph being sold by his brothers. The other rooms are not interesting - except the kitchen. 3 fireplaces, splendid tables & a full set of copper saucepans of all sizes which Minnie thinks we might take back to 23 [Campden Hill Square], or at any rate one or two, if only Marion (head housemaid) will say they have worn out. I have not seen a newspaper since I came so am lost as regards the outside world. There is a service in the Blacksmith's tonight, but as they are always in Gaelic, we none of us go. The school is 2 miles away - generally 14 scholars in summer. The mistress has a strap<\u> — Nicholas has seen it. We leave here about the 17th, if all goes well. Then P[eter] goes to Eton alone, & George to Cambridge. Michael is now top of his school, & Nico is top but one of his class.

Nico & two boys from the cottages here had a football match, they called it Castle .v. Village. They enjoyed the kicking immensely, but which side won I cannot discover.

I trust mother is keeping well. My love to you all & congratulations to Jinnie [???] the Alconbury prizes not forgetting her promise of the lace.

Dadge.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[May Coles to her mother Emma du Maurier]

23 Cheyne Walk,

Chelsea, S.W.

Tuesday.

[19 September 1912]

My darling Mummie,

... I think the boys enjoyed having us on Sunday. We played great games of hide and seek. Mr Barrie was there, no one else, & he paralysed me as much as ever, also Helen - he didn't play hide and seek with us. ...

Your loving May

[AB: This letter was one of several that Nico found between May and her mother Emma. May was now married to Edward Coles, known to the family as "Coley".]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

24th November [1912]

Dear Crock,

Are you out of bed yet? Can you come today? First present a stamp and a book called Vandrad the Viking from [? brother] Michael, second a box of things, how to make ships, from Dick and Milly, 3rd what I’m writing with now a fountain pen 4th golf club 5th golf balls – all from grannie 6th a game called ? Fantasies where you fan birds into a cage from Aunt Trixie 7th a skeleton tie pin that lit from Mary and Biddy Macnaghten 8th a chocolate cake with a clock on and with shillings round it nine the figures of the clock pointing to nine from Aunt May 9th a box of chocolates box from Mrs Mia Brown 10th a torch from F[lorrie] Gay and I have not got yours yet and I expect two to-day from Aunt Margaret and Kate I had nth I don’t know who it’s from its a History of France. Thanks awfully Uncle Jim

Good bye

old

crock

nine

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Emma du Maurier to her daughter May Coles]

16 Royal Crescent

Jan 6, 1913

My darling May,

[…] George left this morning as Mrs Anthony Hope is taking him to a theatre tonight. I am not sure that I like George to see much of her.

It is a perfect morning and I now quite look forward to my bath chair ride.

The boys and girls are great friends and I hope it will last. Michael and Nico were immensely tickled because Angela and Daphne kissed Peter and George when they arrived.

I miss my quiet time and siesta that I had when you were here. The children instead of being torpid after lunch are livelier than ever and the maids are so long over their dinner and don’t get out early enough. However it doesn’t matter for such a short time. [...]

Hicks has given me strychnine now and says the less I walk the better so I shall obey him here.

Your loving Mother.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to George Ll.D. at Cambridge]

3, Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

6 May 1913

My dear George,

Your motoring sounds to me very dangerous and really troubles me. This tearing breakneck, especially round corners is not only risky to those on board however expert the driver may be, but is something of a curse for the public, and some day a child or an old man may suddenly emerge& lose his head & not know whether to stop or go on or turn back. Horrible things happen then at times.

Michael so far is very lonely and unhappy at Eton, and I am depressed thereby. He is up to a man called Ramsay who insists on everyone talking to him in Latin – all well enough to boys who know the ropes but very trying to a small boy just arrived who wants to be told his way about.

I am negotiating for a house in Perthshire for summer. It is just trout fishing at our time of year, but very pretty country, & if we go I hope you’ll like it. It seems the best I can do this year.

Jack has had influenza.

Your affec.

J.M.B.

[AB: George was now up at Trinity College, Cambridge.]

*

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

New Buildings,

Eton College,

Windsor.

Sunday [1 June 1913]

Dearest Aunt Margaret,

As usual, I have been dreadfully slack about writing, without much excuse either, I’m afraid, except that it is the Summer Half at Eton. The fact of the matter is I have almost given up cricket of a really serious nature, and indulge in more frivolous sports of the type of Bumble Puppy and Archery – greatly to the scandal of masters and to a large extent boys. Nevertheless it’s much more amusing than the monotony of cricket every day – and Michael still remains to carry on the family traditions regarding cricket colours.

I get a good deal more time to myself, with the result that I have been reading much more than usual just lately. In particular I enjoyed that book of ‘Essays on Rebellion’ by [Henry] Nevinson, which you gave me last half. They put things extraordinarily clearly, and provide me, moreover, with a lot of useful stuff for my weekly French essay, at times.

The library of Trinity looks very attractive in the little print you sent. I hope I shall be able to resort there a good deal when I go up there next term. It is nice to be able to step into George’s last rooms; and he is moving into some of the best in the college, I gather, previously inhabited by Thackeray and Macaulay – and I shall get these at the beginning of my second year.

Give my love to grandfather who, I hope, is doing well.

Yours affectionately

Peter

[PS] I saw Aunt Agnes for a moment down here the other day on her way back from the Bursars. She has got a flat quite close to you now, hasn’t she?

[AB: Aunt Agnes = Harry Llewelyn Davies’ much-loved Scottish wife.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

19 May 1913

My dear George,

You should go to see Miss Irene Rooke at Cambridge Theatre. “Nan” if she does it. I have told her you may and that she is to be nice if you have the pluck to approach her. She used to be in Quality St.

Nicko & I went into the country to Masefield’s yesterday for the day.

In haste

Your loving,

J.M.B.

Heard your cricket doings had been in ‘Gentlemen’ & am taking it in!

[AB: Irene Rooke, 1878-1958, was a theatrical actress of some minor note. She had played Fanny Willoughby in the original 1902 production of Barrie’s Quality Street, as well as Mrs Darling in the 1906/07 touring production of Peter Pan. Given that she was 14 years older than George, it seems unlikely that Barrie was trying to set him up; more probably he – or George – hoped she’d impart a few thespian tips now that he was in the Cambridge Amateur Dramatic Society.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

6 June 1913

My dear George,

I enclose £3-10 for the Athenaeum. I am very interested to hear the results of the Mays. Of course I know when you say you have worked that you have worked, & the great thing is that I do know this. There was an essay prize your father got at Trinity that I am keen you should go in for. If you don't know what it is, find out.

I’m also avid to know how you felt as well as how others thought you felt at the first A.D.C. "Stage" fright! I have seen them at it.

Brown is great on the baronet question. Michael & Peter were on it with him on Wed[nesda]y so they have had first shot. It means an awful lot of letters to answer.

Your affec

J.M.B.

[AB: £3-10 = £3 and 10 shillings = £3.50 = £464 in 2021 ($636). Presumably this was the annual fee – or the joining fee? – for the Athaneum Club.

“The baronet question”: having declined a knighthood in 1909, Barrie had been offered a baronetcy, which was accepted and announced in the King’s Birthday Honours List on June 14th. Literary baronetcies were virtually unknown, and were awarded by the monarch, in this case George V. According to Mackail, the news was kept a secret until the eve of the announcement, but this letter to George implies otherwise.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Twenty Three,

Campden Hill Square,

Kensington.

July 19, 1913

My dear George,

Only the other day — and now you have come to twenty years. When I saw you first, I said you were a gorgeous boy, and long afterwards I discovered that your mother thought I had been singularly happy in my choice of adjectives. 20 years with nothing very heinous on your soul I think, and many hopeful traits. May all turn out as your father and mother would have wished. It rests mainly with you, but I like to try to help

I have a birthday gift for you in a drawer, awaiting your return. Jack is hopeful again of being with us. I earnestly hope we shall pull this off. My love to Crompton & Moya.

Affectionately,

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to Gwen du Maurier]

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

17 Nov [1913]

Dear Gwen,

Could you fix it for some day next week, not a Friday as on Fridays Nico has a double dose of “prep”, and his tutor comes at 5.30. That hour on another day would be best. Should like just to have him examined then, after which we could compare the rival dentist.

Many thanks, in great haste

Yours

J.M.B.

*

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

3, Adelphi Terrace House, W.C

18th Nov. 1913

My dear George,

Yes, it was all very sad, and I knew how you were feeling it. Many things besides this will remind you now of the last days at Ashton, and they will take on a new meaning to you. Your mother did not want your minds to dwell on sadness even for a moment when you were younger. She grudged every second of happiness you were deprived of. I don’t know if I told you that in the paper of directions she wrote at the end but was not found till long afterwards, she said she did not wish her funeral day to be made long and wearisome for you, and also that she did not wish any of you to go to the funeral. It can only be afterwards that a boy realises the unselfishness of a mother’s love. It is a pain as well as a glory to him. Of course there is much you can do for her still. And one thing is to work well at Cambridge, for the future so depends on it, and you can guess how she thought of your future.

I am trying to arrange about the luncheon with the great man.

Take care of your cold.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

I don’t know what circumstances gave rise to this letter. Possibly there had been some discussion about wills and things, as George was now in his twenty-first year.

It is an admirable letter, as indeed all J.M.B.’s to George are. Yet might it not be argued, without impropriety, that it requires no very great unselfishness to be anxious to spare one’s children the dreary and to them incomprehensible ordeal of one’s funeral? In any case I don’t think myself that it is the unselfishness of a mother’s love which is a pain or a glory to a boy: it is the fact that she is dead which is a pain to him, and the only glory in the business is the halo which surrounds her when she was the kind of person Sylvia was. And finally, since I am in rather a captious mood at the moment, does it seem rather like “hitting below the belt” to fasten an exhortation to work on to some circumstance which had lately moved George to melancholy?

But very likely I’m wrong, as Hugh Macnaghten used to say.

I know very little indeed or George’s time at Cambridge, which only lasted a couple of years. No scholarship or fellowships for him, but a great deal of enjoyment. There must have been plenty of letters from him to J.M.B. during this period, among the mass I collected from “the flat” after J.M.B.’s death, but I suppose I destroyed them. I regret having done so now; Jack and Nico may regret that I didn’t destroy the entire box of tricks.

George joined the Amateur Dramatic Society, and played Ernest in The Importance of Being Ernest. He turned from a boy into a young man, and must have spread his wings a little in the vacations. I don’t think he was precocious, and I am sure there were few dark or difficult places in his character. He was exceptionally attractive to both sexes, but not spoilt. He had a devoted and in many ways invaluable mentor in J.M.B., but the way cannot have been altogether easy for him, as the first of the family to grow up against so peculiar a background.

Of his Cambridge friends who have survived I recollect only Oliver Lyttelton, who played with him in “The Importance” and whose mother, becoming addicted to Spiritualism, was later to upset J.M.B. by professing to have got into communication with George “on the other side”.

*

[AB: Oliver Lyttelton, later Lord Chandos, wrote in his 1968 autobiography, From Peace to War: “My greatest friend [at Cambridge] was George Llewelyn Davies, adopted son of Sir James Barrie, and we were like brothers. Sometimes we talked with Barrie in his rooms at the Adelphi. He was a sad, little man and smoked a huge disproportionate pipe. He was not whimsy in conversation, and with us he was unexpected and affectionate.”]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to Gwen du Maurier]

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

27 November [1913]

My dear Gwen,

Dr Rendel came in and examined Nico today, but he says he is sure nothing should be done to his adenoids as he is quite all right, and that tho’ it were done it could not affect the teeth or jaw. These were Dr Tilly’s views also when he cut the [rest of letter missing]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to Gwen du Maurier]

23 Campden Hill Square, W.

27 Dec [1913]

My dear Gwen,

I was quite elated when I found you had remembered me for Christmas and you get off very easily if I send you only one of my books, for if it really was your own door I’d cart the lot of them to it. I like my note book immensely. May you have a good New Year. You have added to my pleasure in mine.

Yours

J.M. Barrie

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

3 Feb 1914

My dear George,

I am always very glad when you write – cheers me considerably, and that’s the truth. It didn't matter at all about the box as far as I was concerned, but I was sorry the chicken pox had laid the damsel low. The Stevenson letter was for Mr. Lucas to see as he was wondering whether he could print some of it in an article. I have given it him to read.

Jack was here the week-end but I barely saw him as he was so much taken up with––– mostly with the Hawkins’s I think. Ah, look out for your laurels!

Glad you liked [Quiller] Couch’s lecture. The scarlet geranium in one syllable is a good story. Two tries in the rugger match is good also. That is certainly a very sensible way of taking exercise. I hope you are working steadily also. Turley [Smith] is staying with me just now and instead of Bridge we play draughts on the little board bought at Mürren. Lunn [?] wrote me apologising for that photograph in the papers, which was not by his photographer. Barker has only been in once – probably because there was no chance of meeting you. I must fix up a nice evening with you for him – or rather with him for you. [A. A.] Milne is coming in to dinner on Thursday.

Your affectionate

J.M.B.

[AB: “Look out for your laurels” implies that Barrie was well aware of George’s little “dalliance” with Anthony Hope’s wife Betty.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Emma du M. To Michael Ll.D. at Eton]

2L Portman Mansions, W

Feb 3, 1914

Dearest Michael,

I congratulate you on the double remove & now you are in the Upper School I believe. Capital! I am delighted. Jack & Nico came to see me on Sunday. Jack is off to Cherbourg in a few days & then I believe to Spain. Mr Budger Preston is coming to see me this afternoon. I'm afraid he's going to advise me to have a few teeth out!

Your affectionate

Grannie.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Mary Hodgson to her sister Nancy]

23 Campden Hill Square, W.

15.3.14.

My dear Nancy,

My new costume is navy blue. Sherlock Holmes will soon have to take second if you progress much further with your thought reading.

I am so glad to hear of the progress in music – I only wish I could have done some thing similar.

Peter and Michael have been up for their half term week end and they and Nico went to tea with their Uncle Maurice and his daughters. The latter are very like their mother’s side of the family, but Miss Roberts (Nellie) said when you have looked sometime at Miss Mary – she has a most decided look of her great Aunt Emily.

Did you ever hear me speak of a Major Wace, Mrs Maurice’s uncle – the boys met him at their Uncle’s – he is now a general!! Mr & Mrs Harry have taken a flat or small house at Hampstead for 6 months or so, then I hear they are to go abroad again. I saw in the paper that Miss Margaret had been one of the prominent people in welcoming the wives of the 9 deported.

Lady Mary Murray’s daughter Rosalind is married to a Mr Toynbee. Did you see Mr C. Roberts had been appointed under secretary for India. Mollie Mitchell writes saying she hopes soon to have saved enough to buy a small piece of land.

Henry – who was with us at Berkhamsted – has left the Army and with his savings is starting some business in a small way.

Mabel hopes to marry this summer. Minnie has lately made 2 nice little frocks for baby girls, not to mention underwear for herself. Bessie expects to become a mother before June. The latest from K.L. is that Winnie Jackson is to be married to Percy Harrison and live in Bective Road & that John Smith – Working Men’s Club - is dead.

Mrs Pankhurst has been again arrested and again released – her methods are wrong, but she is an able speaker. Love to both. Dadge.

[AB: This is another letter from Mary Hodgson’s “treasury”, donated by her niece Mary Hill. It makes for a fascinating glimpse of the below-stairs staff who all seem to have kept in touch with one another. “Uncle Maurice”’s two daughters were Theodora and Mary, both ardent civil rights advocates. “Mr & Mrs Harry” were Harry Llewelyn Davies and his Scottish wife Agnes.]

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House

29th June 1914

My dear George,

It seems to be a little heaven below, and your first introduction to Italy something you won't forget. London is very close just now, and when evening comes I envy your roof garden and the fireflies. I have seen them but not in their glory as you are getting them. Italy I only know in the north where I walked for a bit a hundred years agone. I hope you got a fish that first night you went out to try for them. Nicholas talks of sending you a comic paper called “The Firefly”. I have ordered “The Times” to be sent you daily. I went to Winchester the first day of the match to be with Michael, as Peter had other fish to fry. Both sides battled well but on a good wicket very weak in bowling.

Peter sends me orders to take him to the opera at Long Leave.

Our Supper is on Friday and I have written half a dozen plays for it. I’ll send you a programme. My regards to Heaton, Lawrence & Adeline.

Work a good deal.

Your affec

J.M.B.

[AB: “Our supper” = Barrie’s “Cinema Supper”. It is easy to forget while reading Peter’s Morgue that Barrie – just like the boys – had a life of his own quite separate from the Five. The Cinema Supper is a good example, so let Mackail further explain: “Invitations issued to about a hundred and fifty guests, almost all on the stage or in society, to repair to the Savoy Theatre on Friday, July 3rd. Here a banquet would be served—described as Act I on the programme—and an entertainment would follow… a whole series of all-star sketches written by J.M.B.: Miss Marie Löhr and Dion Boucicault in Why? A Conundrum. Miss Lillah McCarthy and Henry Ainley in One Night. Miss Jean Aylwin, with Edmund Gwenn and Henry Vibart, in When the Kye Came Hame. Miss Irene Vanbrugh and Godfrey Tearle in Taming a Tiger. Interpolation at this point, in her own material, of the lovely and gifted Miss Ina Claire. Gerald du Maurier and Granville Barker in The Bulldog Breed. To conclude—and what can Frohman, who was also present, have thought of this joke?—with “still another version of The Adored One, in which the players were Miss Marie Tempest, with O. P. Heggie and Graham Browne. Even in that legendary, luxurious season this was a startling and outstanding affair. Look at those names. Consider the limited and exclusive company of guests, which was headed—and five days after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo—by the Prime Minister and Mrs. Asquith, and from which hundreds of jealous and baffled snobs and notabilities were shut out. What on earth was Barrie up to? Why on earth had he suddenly assumed the mantle of Lucullus and the Medicis, or of the wife of an American millionaire? You may well ask, just as you may well gasp at the six sketches which he threw off or threw out for this one, astonishing evening. Yet there was a reason of sorts. Self-expression, for one thing. The wish to surprise himself and everyone else by beating all rivals at yet another game. And the calculated, extraordinary scheme of stationing men with movie-cameras to film the guests as they arrived or ate and drank. For it was Barrie’s fantastic intention to employ shots from the Cinema Supper as an introduction to a scene in his revue. … The very day after the party he was down in Hertfordshire, with his technicians, with Barker as joint-director, and with a cast consisting of Lord Howard de Walden, G.B.S., G. K. Chesterton, and William Archer. H. G. Wells and Maurice Baring had also been invited, but one was too suspicious and the other too busy to attend. Cowboy suits had been provided, and were produced from a beer-barrel. The company put them on, and ran about, and leapt, as they were ordered. Chesterton was set to cross a stream in a boat, swamped it, and—still as a cowboy—waded ashore. The spell, it seems obvious, was working overtime on that crazy and remarkable day.” Mackail adds, tantalisingly, that “a copy of the film still exists.” If anyone knows of its whereabouts, please let us know.]

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House

13th July 1914

My dear George,

Peter and I set out on Saturday to wire you the result of the Eton & Harrow match and forgot about it in the stress of going to the opera. Both nights of Long Leave did he drag me to the opera. Neither he nor Michael patronised the match, and again, as on a former occasion you remember, we were at the White City thinking all was up with Eton, while the XI were gloriously turning defeat into victory. Another piece of news just arrived tonight is that Michael who went in for the College Scholarship exam came out seventh. He will stay on at Macnaghten’s but I am glad he went in and some other boy can be made happy with the scholarship.

Still another piece of news of a more troublesome kind that I have not been able to get along with Barker about the play and I am insisting on having it back from him at a heavy monetary cost to me. I have missed your support in the matter I can tell you.

Very near your birthday now!

My brother [Alexander] at Kirriemuir is very near his end now, and I may go north any day. He has not known any of us for years,

I hope all is still very happy in your romantic home. It is an experience you won’t forget. Write soon.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

These two letters are addressed to George at Fortezza, Aulla, Massa Carrara, Italy, where he spent a month or two of the 1914 Long Vacation, ostensibly “reading”, with two Eton-Cambridge friends, Micky Lawrence and David Heaton. There is a photograph of George with Micky Lawrence taken at this time; the last photograph of him that I know of. He is posing a little in it, in a humorous sort of way, and looks just about as handsome and attractive as a young man of 21 should be, and as in fact he was. I know nothing about his brief experience of youthful independence and freedom, which ended with the outbreak of the bloody old war.

No doubt it was naughty of me, as J.M.B.’s faintly caustic phrase implies, to steer clear of the Winchester match, to say nothing of Lord’s. All the same, his (only semi-) humorous references to my callow enthusiasm for the opera – to which, nevertheless, he gallantly accompanied me – are a reminder that, being himself totally unmusical, he not only did not encourage such leanings, but in one way and another could not help discouraging them. The operas were Khorantchina and (I think) Boris Godunov, with Chaliapin singing; and one had also at the time a calf-love for the Russian Ballet, then an exciting novelty, and that was still more emphatically frowned on or ridiculed. He may have been right; but I felt obscurely then, and feel strongly now, that a little more encouragement in the artistic way would have been very good for us all; would have filled a real need in our sprouting natures. The fact is that music and painting and poetry, and the part they may be supposed to play in making a civilised being, had a curiously small place in J.M.B.’s view of things. I think it was of far more interest to him that George and all of us should excel in games and fishing, as well as of course being thoroughly good mens sana in corpore sano specimens, than that we should acquire any real culture in Matthew Arnold’s sense of the word.

The lighter side of life was thoroughly catered for, and for that I am duly and deeply grateful. Hullo Ragtime and its successors, with which J.M.B. was so oddly and closely connected, was one of our major preoccupations, and delights, and what we didn’t know about revue was scarcely worth knowing. And if one had to discover the Sentimental Journey (in a little volume with Arthur on the fly leaf) and Shelley (ditto) for oneself, one was guided with much wise criticism down the paths of Kipling and Stevenson and Thackeray and Meredith, to say nothing of Phillips Oppenheim and O. Henry. And of course there was the intimate connection with J.M.B.’s own plays. The only play I ever went to with Arthur was The Merchant of Venice (in the pit).

I realise I have been a bit too autobiographical in these last few words; but what I am driving at is that not only I, but George, now in his twenties, and in so many ways a splendid example of young manhood, would have benefited by a wider educational background, and that this, which he would have had if Arthur and Sylvia had lived, was something J.M.B., with all his devotion and sympathy and generosity and wit, had it not within him to provide.

I don’t forget that Rupert Brooke went to Hullo Ragtime ten – or was it twenty? – times; or that Michael wrote two wonderful sonnets; or that George was good enough for anyone’s money as he was, and that anyway his story ends only a few months later, so why worry?

[AB: Nico thought that Peter was being a little harsh here: Barrie had urged him to read, among others, the novels – and poetry – of Thomas Hardy as well as the Brontes, particularly Emily’s Wuthering Heights and her poetry.]

*

[Late addition by Nico, having come across George’s little fishing diary of 1914]:

Thursday, July 30

Arrived in the morning. Everything very dry and in need of rain. Spent the day fishing down below the house. Fly was useless, & impossible in the good pools owing to trees. Worm accounted for three trout weighing nine ounces. I got too a salmon of 17 lbs...

Friday, July 31

Walked five & a half miles over the hills to Loch Lyon. It was a cold day & came on to rain hard about two o’clock. I got one trout ¾ lb, & was heartily glad to come away. It rained steadily all the afternoon & evening.

Saturday, Aug 1

The burn was in very fair spate & the weather still wet in the morning. I decided to use worm, & got 25 trout weighing 4¼ lbs, largest 6 oz. Next week I must give the fly its chance.

Monday, Aug 3

Gave the fly its chance in the morning below the house, & didn’t rise a parr. The weather is still nothing but wind & rain, & the Kinglass is still immense, & rising. Got seven trout with worm in the afternoon, weighing 22oz; – largest 5 oz.

Tuesday, Aug 4

A vilely wet & windy day. After lunch I went to the bottom of the Kinglass & fished up, but caught nothing. The burn was too big.

Wednesday, Aug 5

Still rather wet, but the burns have gone down. I fished the Kinglass, & the burn running with it above the house, getting 5 trout weighing 1 lb 14 oz, largest ¾ lb. This one was caught in a pot underneath a large waterfall, & I could only just reach the water, lying prone, to net him.

Aug 6

Peter arrived for breakfast, bringing with him a letter to me about joining the Special Reserve or Territorials. We took lunch out up the burn that turns into the Kinglass under the railway bridge & each got 10 trout weighing 30 oz. Pouring rain. We went to London in the evening.

(Diary continues Friday, Aug 21 … nothing of interest till Aug 25)

Tuesday, Aug 25

Leave arrived for us to fish the Orchy & Lochs Ba and Dochart. Peter & I set out to Loch Ba and got 81 trout between us. I got 42 weighing 10½ lbs – largest 7 oz. It was a splendid windy day, with plenty of sun. I have never fished such a Loch.

Wednesday, Aug 26

Peter and I went to Stirling by motor to get medically examined for the Special Reserve. I fished the Kinglass with fly in the evening & got nothing but parr.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

26 Aug [1914]

My dear George,

I hope all is going well at Auch. You will have seen that the opening of the first real battle [Mons] has not gone well for the allies tho’ of course it is only a rebuff. It all goes to show that the war will be a long one.

I am to see George Booth today and will let you know result of our talk.

I had my doctor in, and he pronounces my head trouble to be shingles. It shd run its course in a fortnight now.

Nothing in men’s minds & faces here but the seriousness of the war. I am to dine tonight with Lord Lucas & will hear some things.

Your affec

J.M.B.

Ask Mary to look in drawers of study table for my cheque book & send it me. Also note book.

*

[From George’s fishing diary:]

Thursday, Aug 27

I fished the Orchy. It was in fine condition, & I got two salmon, weighing 13 & 23 lbs. The first took an hour, & I gaffed him myself. Peter & Gerald arrived in time to see the second hooked, & Peter gaffed him. A third I lost soon after, & he took the fly & cast with him. A naked wade-in proved of no avail.

Friday, Aug 28

A drizzling morning. I went with Macpherson to Loch Dochart & got 40 trout weighing 11½ lbs, largest ½ lb. Gerald & Peter got 40 on Loch Ba, & Michael a salmon and grilse on the Orchy.

Saturday, Aug 29

Orchy with salmon rod. Two fish 11½ & 4½ lbs. Jock Scott & Dusty Miller. Same pool as Thursday. Nico came with mo & wielded the gaff with great effect.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

29th Aug [1914]

Dear George,

Glad to hear of the 60th, your sterling journey, &c. George Booth didn't come, had to go away will come soon. However neither business nor Cambridge can really be our Tapis (tapis!) just now – the situation is so grave, nothing but war exists. I think Germany will soon have French coast – Calais, Boulogne &c, & we grip on to Havre. Of course we’d retain the Channel. All will be well in the end if French army can keep on defensive. Our troops have fought even better than you know.

Orchy, Baa, &c splendid. Fish as much as you can just now.

Loving,

J.M.B.

Cheque book arrived. Note book must be here.

*

[From George’s fishing diary. Fishing each day except Sunday. Nothing of interest till Sept 8:]

Sept 8

A fine windy day, with sun till 3 o’clock. I went to Loch Ba and had rather a day out. 65 trout, weighing 15¾ lbs. Largest 7½ oz. It was a splendid day to wind up my trout fishing with. Michael got 35 on Loch Dochart.

Sept 9

In the morning I threw a farewell Jock Scott, Blue Doctor, & Silver Doctor over the Orchy. Not a rise. The fish were very lively, evidently owing to the rain that came after lunch.

Finis

* * *

I can find no letters dealing with the start of the war, so must put in a few more words of my own. At the time of the declaration, George, Michael and Nico, with J.M.B., were at Auch, in Argyllshire, beginning the usual summer holiday. Jack, I take it, was mobilising before any of us, as a Sub-Lieutenant, R.N. I had come to London from the O.T.C. Camp which broke up the day before. Circumventing the financial moratorium which was declared next day by borrowing a fiver from E.V. Lucas, whom I met at [the ragtime revue] “The Passing Show” (You’re Here & I’m Here), I went up that night to Scotland taking with me a letter addressed to George which I had picked up at 23 C.H.S.

The letter proved to be a circular from the Adjutant of the Cambridge O.T.C., pointing out that it was the obvious duty of all undergraduates to offer their services forthwith, and placing himself at the disposal of all for advice as to how to set about it. This slightly disconcerting document – for great wars were a novelty then – was taken to apply to me also, as I had left Eton and was due to go to Trinity the next term. Accordingly George and I travelled back to London the same night, in a carriage full of reservists rejoining the colours, who by their boozy geniality did a good deal to reconcile us to the dark fate which seemed to have descended on us so unexpectedly. Next day we went down to Cambridge, where the Corps Adjutant, a major in the Rifle Brigade, recommended the Rifle Depot at Winchester as a suitable gambit. The “Pack up your Troubles” philosophy caught from the reservists was by now beginning to recede from us, and I think George as well as I had odd sensations in the pit of the stomach as we emerged from Winchester Station and climbed the hill to the Depot. At any rate George had one of those queer turns, something between a fainting fit and a sick headache, to which he had been prone since childhood, and had to sit for a few minutes on a seat outside the barracks. I would willingly have turned tail and gone back to London, humiliated but free. George however, the moment he recovered, marched me in with him through those stark portals; and somehow or other, in our ignorance of all the ways of the army, and of the very names of the two distinguished regiments in whose depot we now were, we found ourselves inside the office of Lt Col the Hon. J.R. Brownlow, D.S.O., commanding the 6th (Special Reserve) Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles, then in the midst of mobilising, preparatory to proceeding to its war station at Sheerness.

“Roddy” Brownlow, a very handsome, fierce-looking (not only looking, either) man of middle age with grey hair and silky grey moustache was busy writing, and looked up to ask rather gruffly what we wanted.

“Well – er – Sir, we were advised by Major Thornton to come here to ask about getting a commission…Sir,” said George.

“Oh, Bulger Thornton at Cambridge, eh? What’s your name?”

“Davies, sir.”

“Where were you at school?”

“Eton, sir.”

“In the corps?”

“Yes, sir, sergeant.”

“Play any games? Cricket?”

“Well, sir, actually, I managed to get my eleven.”

“Oh, you did, did you?”

The colonel, who had played for Eton himself in his day, now became noticeably more genial, and by the time he had ascertained that George was the Davies who had knocked up a value of 59 at Lord’s (which knock he had himself witnessed with due appreciation) it was evident that little more need be said.

“And what about you, young man?” he asked, turning to me.

“Please, sir, I’m his brother,” was the best I could offer in the way of a reference.

“Oh, well, that’s all right, then. Just take these forms and fill them in and get them signed by your father and post them back to me. Then all you have to do is to get your uniforms – Pulford in Albemarle Street will do as well as anyone – and wait till you see your name in the London Gazette. I’m pretty busy just now, so good-bye.” And the colonel dismissed his smile, waved dismissal to two slightly bewildered second lieutenants designate, and went on with his writing.

So easy it was, in August 1914, to obtain the King’s commission in the Special Reserve of the 60th Rifles.

A day or two later came a cable from Guy du Maurier in India, recommending us to join his regiment, the Royal Fusiliers, and it was not without legitimate pride that George replied that we were already, for all practical purposes, officers in His Majesty’s army.

There followed two or three weeks of waiting, in Scotland and London, at the end of which – I think about the second week in September – George Ll.D. and Peter Ll.D. were gazetted to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and very self-conscious in the unfamiliar garb of their new calling, proceeded to the 6th Battalion of the Regiment, under canvas at Holm Place, a mile or two outside Sheerness.

The afternoon we arrived, eight young officers (children, I should call them now) who had only joined a week or two earlier, with little or no more previous training than ourselves, had just received their orders for France, to replace casualties in the Battalions on the Marne and the Aisne. This somewhat abrupt confrontation with the exigencies of the service had, temporarily, a depressing effect, and I remember George, as we undressed in our tent that night, breaking a rather long silence with the words, “Well, young Peter, for the first time in our lives we’re up against something really serious, ---- me if we aren’t.”

In a day or two his usual gaiety reasserted itself, and I believe our time “on the Square” was a regimental record for light-heartedness of a most unmilitary kind, entirely due to his unorthodox attitude. More than once the Regimental Sgt Major who drilled us, old Nobby Clarke, a veteran of very long service and the terror of junior NCOs and Riflemen, had to turn his back on us and stand for a few seconds with shaking shoulders before he could get control of his voice and resume his outward ferocity.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, this will never do,” he would say at last, with a choleric but expectant eye on George, who had quite made up his mind by now that life was going to be too short for much seriousness to enter into it, and had probably asked some entirely ludicrous question. And it never did do, after George had been passed off the square.

Then he was moved to a different detachment of the Battalion, and I saw comparatively little of him from that time onwards.

The “young officers” of that Reserve Battalion, in those very early days of the war, were mostly from Oxford and Cambridge, with some rather older youths just embarked on their careers in civil life, and a few younger, straight from school. They were of all types, from the muscular, almost inarticulate rowing blue to the bespectacled don, from budding artists to embryo bank-director. Hardly any had thought of the army as a career. Looking back, I can see that they were what would nowadays be called a “cross-section” of the élite and cream of the nation. Average age about twenty-one; on the whole a devoted, laughing, fatalistic, take-it-as-it-comes company, often coarse of tongue, too young to have been coarsened in body or soul by the asperities of adult life – the bloom of youth on them still. All had gone overseas to replace casualties in the regular army within four or five months of the outbreak of war. Among them George was unquestionably conspicuous; few that survive would recall anyone whose image serves better as the flower and type of that doomed generation. He had many friends and settled down to the lighter side of regimental life with zest. I was a bit young for it myself.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

c/o Messrs Scribner

Publishers

Fifth Avenue

New York.

24 Sep. 1914

My dear George,

A letter from M & N y’day tells me in a casual sort of way (as if it were not about the most important news in the world to me) that you have been summoned to Sheerness. Also that Gerald [Millar] won't be with you, which is a pity. I suppose it is his not having any connection with Cambridge that separates you. I am looking forward so much to getting some details.

The heat here is beyond words & I think the wickedest citizen of New York will never be hotter. As I write the pen sticks to my hand and my braces stick to my shirt which is glued ag[ain]st the table. They say they have not had such heat for many years.

Mason went off today to Canada to speak. Gilmour has been to Washington staying at the Legation, which Peter may know some day, & I am mostly in hiding. Great placards out – Barrie exonerates the Kaiser &c &c

Barrie says War will be Long

varied with more social ones, such as,

Barrie likes our Virginia ham

Last night I had a Gin whizz with a Long Tom in it. I slept well. Mason had two & slept better.

Gilmour was laid low by Father Ocean but is now sprightly & full of reminiscence of lengthy character. Brown also was prostrated. Mothersil saved me but very nearly turned my left flank.

Your loving

J.M.B.

I say I’m going to stay with Roosevelt.

*

[AB: Barrie had sailed for America on the Lusitania along with A.E.W. Mason and Gilmour to drum up support for Britain and urge the U.S. to join the Allies in their fight against Germany. But on arrival at New York, they were greeting by an urgent message from the British Ambassador that, given America’s declared neutrality, they must abandon any such ideas lest they provoke counter-demonstrations and publicly announce that their visit was to see old friends, hence the P.S. “I say I’m going to stay with [Theodore] Roosevelt. See Mackail p.474-476 for a much fuller account.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

c/o Messrs Scribner

Publishers,

Fifth Avenue

New York.

2nd Oct. [1914]

My dear George,

I am picturing you both as having very hard and laborious work with a tremendous lot of stiff marching. I don't know whether you have to carry things also. Yesterday I had to carry my bag thro’ a station half a mile long (so it seemed) and I thought several times of kicking if from me and bolting. I think the carrying weights must be worse than the marching.

It also explains why I am too old to fight.

I must get hold of an interview – “Barrie at Bay – which was Brown?” that appeared in the New York Times y’day & is being a good deal talked of. It is all about Brown’s views of the war, the President, the German Ambassador &c. including his “Sir James’s pipe”, & they are trying to find out who the interviewer was. I flatter myself you will be able to guess! Brown has no suspicions & says “tut tut” & “Did you ever!” to which I reply that I never.

I was at Princetown university y'day & may go to Yale & Harvard. Mason is on the ocean on his way home. Gilmour is once more with the diplomats at Washington. In a fortnight or so I expect to be returning.

Your loving

J.M.B.

[AB: The New York Times “interview” is in the database, obviously written by Barrie. More genuine-sounding interviews appeared in the New York Tribune and the New York Herald. Speaking of George he said, “It’s funny that the real Peter Pan – I call him that – is off to the war now.”

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

22 Oct [1914]

My dear George,

Here I am again and thirsting nightly to see you. But having been quite well all the time I was away, I caught a chill on the boat the day before landing and arrived here to stagger to bed, to which you may now conceive me nailed for a few days. It is exasperating. I am longing to see you & Peter & hear all your news. I thought of rushing out to Sheerness, and could do so soon in any case but I also wonder whether there is any possibility of you & Peter being able to run up to town. Reply, reply, reply.

Your

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

Oct. 28, 1914

My dear George,

How would it be if Nico & I came down on Sunday, arriving l0.15 from Victoria & leaving at 3.30? These seem the only good trains. Could we see a bit of you? And if you can’t meet train, how should we find you?

I was at Eton y’day, & saw Hugh as well as Michael. My cold is much better.

Peter writes me there is no getting up to London even for an hour.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 Campden Hill Square, W.

8 Nov. [1914]

My dear George,

I am wondering whether you foregathered with Jack all right. The two stations are a bit confusing and then you might have been on duty, even both of you. In any case as Sheerness is Jack’s base the idea is, if all’s well, that he would be there every few days for a short time, and it is nice to think of the three of you being together.

I was very interested in your story of the Sheerness excursions and alarums. It must have been pretty exciting for the moment. I’ll probably see Lord Lucas this week & will talk to him about the revolver question — also the comparative merits of the automatic pistol firing Government ammunitions. Is that right? I was at his house last night with Sir Edward Grey as the only other guest and we had a good talk about the war. I think all in authority are hopeful tho’ of course well aware that there is a very big job still in front. I hope no sort of conscription will be found necessary — volunteering is so much finer a way. At the same time recruits must be got, and if they can't be got in sufficient numbers (we can still hope they can) in this best way, the other might have to be adopted.

Michael is up for his long leave, and I took him to a rehearsal of the forthcoming new revue at Hippodrome. It was not pleasant to see 20 or 30 young men in the chorus, who should all be better employed. I believe they are to be dressed as soldiers too!

Saw your granny today. She is pretty well, but anxious about you all of course, and I am naturally so also. But I think the saddest of all people must be those whose boys are shrinking back. I am to see Lord Lytton this week about possible work for Mary, as he is head of the Belgian refugee relief organisation. Nicholas continues to kick goals to the glory of Milky’s and is proving himself sharp as a needle at his work. I took them to the Rider Haggard play “Maureens” and we saw Oscar Asche very grand in brown paint on his proud roley poley figure.

I do hope some excuse will be found for your getting away for a night soon. In the meantime I love to have your letters.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

Will get the field-glasses.

[AB: Sir Edward Grey was Britain’s Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916, and as such was the driving force behind British foreign policy in the era leading to the Great War, as well as leading the desperate diplomatic efforts to avert catastrophe. His great joy in life was not politics, which he detested, but bird-watching; he was the author of several books including The Charm of Birds. It was Sir Edward who remarked to a friend on the eve of war, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Lord Lucas, who preferred to be known as Bron Herbert, was, like Grey, a radical Liberal politician, formerly Under-Secretary of State for War, Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, and presently Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. He later joined the Royal Flying Corps, was shot down over the Somme and died from his wounds in 1916, aged 40.]

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand W.C.

15 Nov 1914

My dear George,

Very glad to get your letter and to hear there is some chance of your getting a couple of nights soon. I shall be your humble servant for the occasion. It is very strange to read of your being at your musketry practice, for it seems to me but the other day your mother was taking bows and arrows out of your hands and pressing on me the danger of giving you penny pistols. Last week or so darts to fling against a target were considered too risky. In some other ways it all seems longer than it is, however. It is noticeable how the war seems to antedate things. Every novel now seems to deal with trivial matters, the characters to let their minds dwell on things of no import. We seem farther away from July of this year than that July was from the days of crinolines. There is certainly some gain – a stirring of manhood, but at a terrible cost. I enclose you the Eton Chronicle, from which I see that 8 per cent of Etonians have been killed. In the army all over the percentage of killed is under 2 per cent – our army I mean – tho’ the total casualties (wounded, prisoners and killed) is 57,000. Belloc’s calculation of German casualties is over 2,000,000. I dined at [Prime Minister] Asquith’s the other day, and he was certainly hopeful, and K. of K. [Lord Kitchener of Khartoum] is also encouraging. Once they are back on German soil it mightn’t take so long, but to get them back!

Jack is coming up tomorrow for two days and I think of getting him to choose the field glasses with me. Peter writes that he thinks revolvers are going out in favour of rifles at the front. Is that so?

The revue at the Hippodrome of which [E.V.] Lucas is part author comes out tomorrow, and I may take Jack to it. Lucas has also written a number of songs with such stirring titles as “The Arms of the Army for Me”. This you will be astounded to hear is sung by a lady. I believe Tate fortifies his house against the enemy. It was grim to me to see at a rehearsal the male sup[port]ers, poor souls, not seeming to know that now at all events they could find a better calling. Still a good few even of that class have gone, and on the whole I think the recruiting response is unworthily sneered at by the Press. Asquith gave his guests interesting statistics, which show that Warwickshire has the highest figures of the counties – one can’t guess why. It has 22% of volunteers, while Cornwall & Essex (again why?) are lowest with 7.

Glasgow is highest of cities, closely followed by Edinburgh & London, and Scotland (where) is highest country. Heaps of others I’m sure will join spontaneously.

I also heard at A[squith]’s that the captain of the Emden’s mother was believed to be either English or Welsh. He will probably be bought here. I would like to give him his dinner with all the five of you around. Now for Nicholas of the sparkling eye.

Loving

J.M.B.

Michael tells me that Roger Chance has got some French decorations “of honour”.

*

Asquith and Kitchener seem to have been a shade optimistic in the third month of the war.

The true figure for the Army casualties up to the date of this letter was over 80,000, the vast majority being of course in the Infantry. Hilaire Belloc’s weekly estimates of German losses in the periodical “Land & Water” became one of the standing jokes of the war, and I fancy he had killed off the entire German army by the middle of 1915.

Poor Captain of the Emden! He had displayed something of the quality of a sportsman, and so naturally had to be credited with a British strain. But fortunately for the Herr Hauptmann he was spared the ordeal adumbrated for him by J.M.B.

This is the first instance known to me of the signature “loving” as opposed to “your affecte” J.M.B.

[AB: There’s an interview I made with George’s friend (later Sir) Roger Chance somewhere in the database.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

22 Nov. [1914]

My dear George,

Do we draw nearer your getting up to town? I am wearying to see you again and I find there are so many kinds of field glasses you had better chose yours when you come. I have written Peter to Ordinance Villa but I am not certain if he is still there as Jack tells me he is now shifted from the dockyards. Jack expected to go out in the [HMS] Brazen on Sat’y (y’day) as they get her ready quickly. He thought that possibly his base might be changed from Sheerness to Harwich.

I went to Savoy tonight for first time in ages, & the head waiter told me seven officers had been in from the front who had got three days leave. One had not had time to change, & rushed into the restaurant as he was in the trenches.

Nico’s birthday (11) is on Tuesday & your mother’s of course on Wed’y. I can’t tell you how I am longing to have you up.

Loving,

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

23 Nov 1914

My dear George,

Just a P.S. to mine of y’day, to say I am so glad to have your letter today, but how grim to have to be up in the dark looking for invaders. I’ve told Mary to send you both the thermos flasks. Coffee hot at night will be hot in it in the morning — or tea.

I went to some of the chief shops for automatic pistols today. Wilkinson in Pall Mall, the great shop, hasn’t got any, nor revolvers, both being in such demand tho’ revolvers can be got before you actually start. No automatic pistols fire Govt ammunition & Wilkinsons says if small they are not much good. (The best seem to be American.) Another shop could give me what they said were good, & if you like I'll get one you could practise with & decide about. Let me know & I’ll send it.

Whether or no, I’ll probably be able to get a better one or revolver by influence before long. But I’d like you to try the above in any case if you like. I'm horribly disappointed about your not getting leave. I've ordered Sinister Street, 2! Also I've written a short play with the Kaiser as chief figure which has its points I think but unfolds a tragic tale. When I have copies I'll want your opinion.

My love,

J.M.B.

*

[AB: The short play was Der Tag, being the German toast to victory, and took the form of a duologue between the Kaiser and the Spirit of Culture. It was first performed on December 22nd 1914]

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

Nov. 30 1914

My dear George,

I was very gratified by your writing me for your mother’s birthday. I would rather have you do so than any one alive; you can understand how I yearn to have you sitting with me now and at all times. What you don’t know in the least is the help you have been to me and have become more and far more as these few years have passed. There is nothing I would not confide in you or trust to you.

{I was amused by a letter from your tutor [Hugh Macnaghten] in which he bewailed my having the son in The Will sent to Eton. He would undoubtedly, he says, have been sent by such a father to Harrow! But it was a werry nice letter indeed. I was at Eton with Nico for St. Andrews Day, and had a talk with Roger Chance. He had been wounded in the hand just enough to get home for a short time, as he put it in the Eton manner which I have sometimes made fun of, tho’ I know well it has its points. He was not in Khaki (Eton again!) tho’ many of the old boys were. I thoroughly liked him. I was amused by a letter from your tutor in which he bewailed my having the son in “The Will” sent to Eton. He would undoubtedly, he says, have been sent by such a father to Harrow! But it was a werry nice letter indeed.

Lord Lucas advised me to write to America for Colts pistols that take our Gov’t ammunition, & I have done so some days ago.

I can’t learn whether they have grounds for expecting any attempt at landing on the east coast, but you have had a strenuous time I see. My heart both leapt & sunk when I read of the Bulwark. It was Capt. Scott’s ship before he went off on his last Antarctic voyage.

I was in Lord Lucas’s hospital “Wrest in Beds” the other day — 100 wounded. One of them told me (he had a broken leg) that he thought the French officers were better than the English. His explanation was thus — “They wouldn't have sent me here ’cos I had this bad leg. There was a Frenchy near me what had the top of his head blown off & his officer said to him “You run up to the tent & get you head bandaged & come back slippy.” He didn't come back slippy, so the officer went & fetched him. Yes, I think their officers are better than ours.” Amazing, isn't it?}

I’ve done “Der Tag”, my war play, and I will get you a copy. It’s also possible I’ll turn the Barker revue into a shorter thing for Gaby. Jack wires he may get up tomorrow tho’ whether only for the day he doesn’t say.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

A clear indication of the very deep and strong bonds which united J.M.B. and George. That George and Michael were, and would have gone on being, if they had lived, closer to him that any others of us is in my opinion beyond question.

It must have been within a day or two of the date of this letter that George and another officer of the 6th Bn K.R.R.C. (Laurence Dunne, an Eton contemporary and now a distinguished London magistrate) were posted to the 4th Bn of the Rifle Brigade. This meant the front very shortly. It also meant a few days’ leave for George, the first since joining, in the course of which he met the entrancing Gaby Deslys. The revue referred to must have eventually turned into Rosy Rapture, in which she appeared. That it had originally been planned as something for Granville Barker, most intellectual and uncompromisingly highbrow of producers, to do was unknown to me till I read these letters.

Did George, during those last few hours of freedom, have anything more than just a mild flirtation with Gaby? I like to think so. Both were charmers, and it would have been a good finale. It is my belief that J.M.B., though so insulated himself (in a sense) from the flesh and the Devil, had the perception and imagination and tolerance and sense of the fitness of things to smile on such a little piece of naughtiness, in the circumstances, and even to pave the way for it. But I have no evidence one way or the other.

My last sight of George was as his train steamed out of Sheerness station, and the last words I heard him speak were “To our next merry meeting!” as he leant out of the window. The phrase had been used by one of the characters (I rather think Vronsky) in a dramatised version of “Anna Karenina”, with Lydia Yavorska as Anna, which we had seen that summer in London with Charley Millar and Gerald Arthur; and somehow, perhaps because of the actor, it had tickled our fancies and become a sort of catchword between us.

The 4th Bn Rifle Brigade was one of the considerable number of Regular battalions which, through being on Foreign Service, had not been available to go to Belgium with the original Expeditionary Force. (Guy du Maurier’s battalion, the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, was another). It had returned to England from India a short time before, and when George joined, was under canvas in a camp outside Winchester, exchanging Indian for European equipment and generally getting onto a war footing. It must have been no small ordeal for George, after about two months training, to find his feet in a regular battalion in which most of the officers and men had served together for years and knew one another intimately; and which was also doubtless highly efficient. I have no letters either to or from George dealing with this phase, which ended in late-December, when the battalion crossed the channel.

By that date the First Seven Divisions, the “Old Contemptibles”, had been so thoroughly carved up on the Aisne and in the First Battle of Ypres that the highly trained long Service Regular element had virtually been eliminated. When it landed in France, George’s Brigade Regulars, consisting of the 2nd King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, the 3rd and 4th King’s Royal Rifles, the 4th Rifle Brigade, and with a fifth Battalion added to it, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (the first Canadians to go into action) was probably the finest Brigade in the Army.

[AB: The section between {squiggly brackets} omitted by Peter in the Morgue.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

7 Dec. [1914]

My dear George,

Your news is great and I trust nothing will come in the way of its fulfilment. Of course I’ll keep the time as clear as the deck of one of H.M. ships.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

21 Dec, 1914

My dear George,

When your things arrived at 23, I thought it meant you were on the eve of starting, but I admit I hoped I was wrong, and now your letter comes and I know. You are off. It is still a shock to me. I shall have many anxious days and nights too, but I only fall into line with so many others.

The Orea cigarettes will be sent weekly and anything else I can think of, to cheer you in a foreign land, tho’ France & Belgium can scarcely seem that to us any more. I shudder over the weight of your pack, and know that for my part I would be down under it. I trust you all get some time to become used to these conditions, and I think it is so. Peter writes despondently of his chances of getting to the front, having heard a rumour that no one under 19 will be sent out. These rumours of course are usually of no foundation.

Mr. Mason has got a commission as Capt, subject to his eyesight being passed by the doctors. Michael was with me at “Der Tag” today. It was received with much applause, but it struck me that in their hearts the Coliseum audience thought it heavy food. In the programme were performing pigs, and immediately in front of it a man sang a war-song about the Kaiser saying he was ‘in a funk’ and the Crown Prince advising him ‘to do a bunk’. Good company!

I'll write often and will be so glad of any line from you.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

[AB: Sadly no comments from Peter as this letter, like a number of others, apparently escaped his knowledge. It would appear that George crossed to France just before Christmas, and in the last days of 1914 seems to have had time to visit a local bookshop in Blaringhem on his way up to the front. There he bought a copy of The Little White Bird, in which, as a child, he had been thinly disguised as David, for according to Peter, “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.”]

*

[George Ll.D. to Peter Ll.D. at Sheerness]

[Flanders]

Monday [30 Dec. 1914]

Dear Peter,

How goes Sheerness? I expect it’s getting bloodier and bloodier. I invent little prayers of thanksgiving that I’m not there still. Are you still permanent fatigue officer? The aeroplane incident must have brightened you up a bit. Did you all stand to arms like mad? This is a regular Aunt Margaret letter, but do send me the latest Sheppey news.

We have been here for five days now, with no immediate prospect of moving. We can hear guns far away, and that’s all. Field-days and trench digging take up our time. I am billeted in a public-house, and am far more comfortable than you at Holm Place. At eight o’clock I stroll into the kitchen for my breakfast. The people of the town are lovely, and frightfully kind. I am becoming a most accomplished linguist. Next time we advance on Rue Pasquier I shall be irresistible!

I have two reasons for writing to you. (1) Will you send me a pair of those things you put inside gum-boots? Try them on, will you, and get a pair that fits tight to the foot. (2) In the event of my being killed, wounded or missing, you might communicate with Josephine. A loathsome job for you, but otherwise she won’t know till it’s in the papers.

I wonder if you got any leave at Christmas. I did very well in the interval between Sheerness and Winchester (oh! Winchester was loathsome). I told you about meeting G. Deslys, didn’t I? Of course, that was the great show, but I had a good time all round. I saw Gerald, who looked very military. Have you heard that Geoffrey is in the A.S.C? Rather a joke, I think.

Give my love to Bodley when you see him, and Bin, and people. Also to Marine Parade, if you get the chance. And write.

Your aff. brother

George Ll.D.

*

“Rue Pasquier” is a reference to an initiatory visit paid by George and Peter Ll.D. to a maison tolerie, one afternoon during a memorable stay in Paris, in the Easter of 1914, with J.M.B., Michael, Charles Frohman, and J.M.B.’s inimitable manservant Harry Brown, who called us all by our Christian names (except Nico whom he christened “Tuppence”). George had the address of this (very superior) establishment from Micky Lawrence, who with his equally charming brother Oliver, and their first cousins Chris and Hugh (?) Lawrence (like Oliver & Micky their parents’ only children) were all killed by 1916.

We stayed at the Meurice in the Rue de Rivoli, and believe it or not George and Peter Ll.D. automatically took, and wore in the evenings, tail coats and white ties. This was George’s first and only glimpse not only of Paris but of what might be called the cosmopolitan hotel and restaurant vie de luxe, as it existed before the First Great War. A morning wandering round the Louvre or the Latin Quarter – lunch at Armenouville – afternoon looking through the bookstalls by the river or sitting in a café watching the crowd go by or flinging rings over hooks with the rest of the party for matches or (once) placating the goddess in the Rue Pasquier – tea at Rumpelmayer’s while the band played Je sais que vous êtes jolie, possibly followed by a game of L’Attaque with Michael – dinner at Fouquet’s or Larue or somewhere of that sort, leaving Harry and Michael playing draughts – a revue (Chisiboubon and Sur les bords de la Riviera) or a French play which none of us understood, least of all Frohman who probably bought the English rights nevertheless – and finally supper at the Café de Paris with Irene Vernon Castle dancing. George took all this like a duck to water, and in a way I see him more clearly in that setting than in any other; at the top of his form.

I don’t think I am romancing or sentimentalising when I say that it was then that George and I first clearly saw what Jack had missed by being sent into the Navy instead of to Eton. I suppose he was at sea that Easter? I know I have often wished since that he had been on that delightful trip, and that Michael had been old enough to take a larger part, and Nico too, who I think spent that Easter with Grannie and Gerald du M.’s children at Bournemouth. Unprofitable enough; but among the countless remouldings of the scheme of things with which one’s fancy so often plays, this is, for me, a rather special one. The role of sole survivor is after all a bit of a bore.

One might add, perhaps, that this Paris experience was not to any noticeable extent calculated to instil into one’s character those principles of economy which are advocated in an earlier page of this morgue. But what the hell?

“Josephine”, later in George’s last letter to me, was Josephine or Dophine Mitchell-Innes, whose brother Gilbert (killed 1914) had been at Eton with George. Without anything at all definite in the way of an engagement, she was George’s best girl at the time of his death. I don’t think any of us – though he had to put up with a good deal of ragging from the younger members – expected it would lead to marriage.

[AB: Josephine’s sister – Norma Douglas Henry – was clearly under a different impression, according to what she told me. The interview can be heard in the database.]

“Gerald” is Gerald Millar, who had joined the Royal Marine Artillery, with which he served throughout the war. Geoffrey was his eldest brother, who survived till 1944; his entertainment value was such as to throw into the abyss of utter oblivion any hard feelings one might once have had about his choice of unit in those distant days.

“Bodley” is Josselin Bodley, the painter, who is still a friend. He was with another battalion of the 80th Brigade at the time of George’s death; and has a queer story about the finding of George’s body, the details of which I have forgotten, but will get from him again if I can.

“Bin” must I think be Lionel St Aubyn. He was the sort one laughed at and loved, a good deal older than the rest of us – in the middle thirties, probably – and had an eyeglass which kept falling out of his eye, with the result more often than not of a dropped rifle, during those first weeks while we were being drilled. I met him in London a year or two ago: ancient, bent. He fondly remembered George as the charming jester who turned Nobby Clarke’s wrath at his clumsiness into helpless mirth.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

23 Campden Hill Square, W

3 Jan 1914 [1915]

My dear George,

Your letter to Michael arrived y'day and was very welcome. There may be one to me at the flat as I haven't been there yet. The puzzle of where you are continues to be the engrossing topic and Peter added himself to the society for the discussion thereof by turning up this afternoon. He has to go back again tonight, but hopes to get a day or two very soon. He has temporarily left Sheerness for Chatham where he is to do flag-signalling for a week or two. He had not got his field glasses, and wonders whether they were sent to you with yours, and if so where are they now?

I expect those colt revolvers I ordered from America to arrive in a day or two. I suppose you won’t want yours now?

Your Granny had an operation, it was necessary, and quite succesful, but she is very weak.

Your Uncle Guy was in today. He wrote you about his own movements. In a week or a fortnight he expects to be not more than 6 miles away from you, wherever you are. He knows & likes your Colonel — Thesiger, is it? I am going off now with Peter to Victoria, so good night.

Your loving

J.M.B.

[AB: The letter that follows must have been written a few hours later:]

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand W.C.

Jan 3 1915.

My dear George,

I have just time to send you sad news. The operation your granny had, tho’ successful in itself, left her weak and she could not rally. She was in no pain and quite happy and she died to-day.

You will be very sad, and it is painful to me not to be with you just now, but you must not grieve over-much, for this has saved her the physical pain she would otherwise have had to face. She had a very full life, and despite its sorrows a very long happy life, and so, dear George, don’t be too sad. I have just time for post.

Yr loving

J.M.B.

*

One could wish there had been more than this hurried note on Grannie’s death but no other letter on the subject has survived, so far as I am aware. J.M.B. could have said some good things about Emma du Maurier, whom I remember as a heavenly old lady, but of whom I really know little or nothing. See Daphne’s “Gerald” and “The du Mauriers” and the early Diary of George du M. quoted earlier in this morgue.

Too well, by the way, one knows those operations which are “successful in themselves”.

*

[Peter Ll.D. to George Ll.D.]

23 Campden Hill Square,

Kensington

Sunday (10 Jan 1915)

Dear George,

Your letter reached me on Friday at Chatham, where I am doing a signalling course. I haven’t got those gum boot sock things yet but as soon as I can I will send them. The other duty I will try to perform if it becomes necessary, though it wouldn’t be a particularly easy letter to compose, would it?

This old signalling course will put the lid once and for all on any hopes I may have entertained about getting out, as I shall become permanent battalion signal officer as soon as Butcher goes. In any case I am becoming quite convinced that there isn’t a chance for anybody under nineteen. But curiously enough, I am not particularly keen to go out now. Possibly I shall be again when I get back to Holm Place. While I am at Chatham I managed to slip off unobserved from Saturday evening to Sunday night, which is something to thank God for.

Perhaps by the time this reaches you you will have been “in the trenches”, receiving your baptism of fire, and all that sort of thing. I wish you would write and tell me exactly what your sensations are, and whether you experience any more of that jolly old depression which descended upon us during the first week at Holm Place. I still get it sometimes, and if I thought the war was bound to last more than a year from now, I believe I should commit suicide. If you come back with a pretty severe wound I shall be green with envy. You probably know that Henry, Tryon, and Heyland, and Symington have been wounded, and Fletcher Killed.

Yrs

Peter

*

Not an outstandingly helpful or tactful letter, nor for that matter as representative as one might have liked it to be of the martial spirit. I have a dim recollection of writing to Josephine when the time came, and of meeting her, but not enough to be interesting.

The Heyland mentioned was one of four brothers, three of whom were in the 60th and one in the Indian Army, and two of whom were killed in 1915. One of them, Hector, became rather a friend of mine at Sheerness, whither he had returned after being wounded at the First Battle of Ypres. His elder brother was killed a week or two after George, and we drove up to London together at a huge pace in his car and got alcoholically merry and morose at the Café Royal by way of celebrating the double event. He survived the war, and became a Regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment. One of the first of the weary Dunkirk survivors with whom I got into conversation at Bulford in 1940 proved to have been in the Regiment of Tanks commanded by Lt Col Hector Heyland, and had seen the colonel’s tank as it led a counter-attack over the crest of a ridge somewhere in Flanders, well and truly pulverised by hidden German battery. I daresay the old cliché would be truer of him than of most men, that it was the death he would have wished.

*

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

Jan 13 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

I have got some spare time now that is not occupied with sleeping, & I’ll try & see how much news I can give you.

The fear of death doesn’t enter so much as I expected into this show. The hardships are the things that count, and one gets very soon into the way of taking them as they come. Everything is done by night. Our last daytime work was about a week ago, when we got up to a place some distance behind the trenches. That night we went up, & three companies went into the trenches, & mine spent the night getting supplies up. Occasional bullets went over our heads (very few). We got back into a billet at five o’clock & stayed there for the day. Next night we did some more of the same job, & then went into the back of a wood before dawn, some 200 yards behind the trenches, where there was a trench & some dugouts. Here we spent the day, & the Germans gave us a display of artillery fire. Everything went two or three hundred yards or so behind us. I don’t know what they were aiming at. Two shrapnel only burst over our heads, & I can promise you I got my nose into the mud. I was just behind my dug-out, right in its very mouth, & suddenly felt a shrewd blow on the left hand. With great excitement I lifted it & found a bit of shrapnel underneath it. It had cut through my overcoat’s double cuff and fetched up against my thick glove. It must have come nearly straight downwards, & not have been going its hardest. It couldn’t have done much damage except in my face. I have kept the shrapnel. I can hardly even feel the bruise it made now.

The next night the battalion was relieved & we spent two days in a farm. We were lucky not to be shelled, but weren’t at all. Then we came away back for a short rest, which I was glad of. I believe we go up tonight or tomorrow night (tonight not likely), this time for 24, not 48 hours.

Don’t you get worried about me. I take every precaution I can, & shall do very well. It is an amazing show, & I am unable to look forward more than two or three hours. Also don’t get anxious about letters. I’ll send them whenever there’s a chance but there are less chances than I expected.

Your affec.

George

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

13 Jan 1915

My dear George,

Hoping for another letter as soon as you have time. You should see how I plunge thro’ my letter-bag looking for one from you. It is all almost too exciting, and I have some bad nights, I can tell you. I have an idea your Uncle Guy goes out this week.

Jack is now on the Harpy, a destroyer as big as the Brazen, and I hope a bit more comfortable, but don’t know yet as he has just joined. So far as we know at present his base will be at Portsmouth. Peter is still signalling at Chatham, and I hope to have him up for Saturday night.

Today Mick, Nick and I were at “David Copperfield”, a big house of school girls largely, and every time Owen Nares came on as David there were loud gasps of “Oh how sweet!” Almost too sweet I should have thought. The make-up of the other characters was very good but the inside of them not so special.

{I went y’day to Lord Lucas’s hospital “Wrest in Beds”, and had some more grand billiard competitions for soldiers. They were all just beginning to be convalescent, peering thro’ bandages, playing with one hand, and one man (who won) used his crutch as a rest. One of them was among those who fraternized with the Germans on Christmas day.}

There is what I believe to be a well grounded idea that we shall be visited in this isle, and probably in this metropolis very soon, by Zeppelins & other air-craft. Have been making enquiries as to where the coal-cellar is at 23.

I hope you got the Burberry and your boots, and that they are all right. If anything else needed let me know at once.

Your loving

J.M.B

*

This may seem small beer to those who have read about or experienced the more violent doings of two wars. But it must be remembered that not many details were as yet known to the general public in January 1915, and that everything was still a complete novelty not only to George himself but to all his battalion except the small proportion of Boer War veterans.

The little action in which George was killed must, I think, have been his Battalion’s first real “show”.

[AB: Passage between {squiggly brackets} omitted by Peter.]

*

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

[Flanders]

Jan. 18 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

My last entry into the trenches was stopped by sickness, and I stayed in bed in my billet. It was temperature, chill and diarrhoea that did me in. However, I am on the way to recovery now, and hope to be in fettle again in a day or two. Health is of enormous importance here. We’re resting again now, so I shall be all right.

The burberry and boots have come and are fine. As for the ski boots, I don’t know what I should do without them. I put little slippers inside them and keep as warm as possible.

I’ve had no experiences since I last wrote, as I’ve been in bed. I don’t think I told you what I found my most trying show before. We had got back from the trenches and were in a barn, in support. At night I was told to take a fatigue party up to some headquarters nearby just behind the trenches, carrying food and ammunition. It was probably a very safe job, but one could hear occasional stray bullets sing past, and I had to walk at a snail’s pace, so that the men could keep up with their load. We were told too that the Germans had a rifle trained on a barrier we had to pass – probably quite untrue. Anyway we didn’t linger by it. I was glad when everything was finished. One man says he got a bullet through the bag of charcoal he was carrying, but I think he lied. I think I’m going to prefer shells by day to bullets by night. Night and imagination are great exaggerators.

Will you send me a pocket flask? and some bromo paper.

George

[AB: Bromo paper = old-fashioned crinkly toilet paper.]

*

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

Jan 22 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

The malady that laid me low has been successfully vanquished, & I am now a young bull once again, & ready for our next show. We shall be in the trenches again either tomorrow night or the night after, I think, & do twelve days off and on. I will write when I can, but don’t know what chances we shall get. I shall be in great form with the fleece-lined burberry which is the very thing one wants. I don’t think there’s very much danger to expect, except from sickness, which is always ready in this weather to show its face. One or two of our officers are ill just now. But I take every care that can be taken, I can promise you.

I’m glad I’m not an aeroplane man. We see a lot of aeroplanes, & the German ones are shelled like anything. There was one this morning simply surrounded with little white clouds of smoke, which I gather to be shrapnel. I don’t know if he got away, but there were rumours about that one was bought down.

Princess Patricia’s battalion are with us, & upon my soul I weary of the things put about them in the papers. They’ve been having just the same time as us, but to judge by what is told you about them they spend their time going along the line capturing German positions. Whenever you see mention of their exploits, you can be sure I’ve been having an extra quiet time. It is pretty annoying. I shall be glad when the Colonials are back in their homes again.

I suppose Uncle Guy is somewhere about by now. I should like to come across him, but there isn’t much chance. Do you know his active service address? If you do, you might tell me, & I’ll write him a letter of welcome. I dare bet he won’t have much to say for this game. Picturesqueness is distinctly lacking.

The next thing you get from me will probably be one of those field service post cards.

Your affec.

George

P.S. Will you send a small electric torch and refills?

*

George’s irritation with the P.P.C.L.I., on account of the publicity given to them, as Canadians, is only natural; but I believe they were a good lot, a worthy addition to an outstanding Brigade.

Whether George & Guy du M. met in Flanders I don’t remember. A number of Guy’s letters home were privately printed, and any such meeting would probably be mentioned in them, but I have no copy. They can never have been very many miles apart; but ten miles is a long way when it has to be walked.

All George’s brief experience of war was in the Ypres Saient, during the comparative lull between the First and Second Battles of Ypres.

[AB: Guy du Maurier, now a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Fusiliers, was fighting four miles farther down the line from George. He too was sending home regular accounts of life in the trenches to his wife Gwen. Unlike George, who clearly took great pains to shield Barrie from the reality of the trenches, Guy – a professional soldier and a veteran of the Boer War – gave his wife as accurate a picture as the Army Censor would allow him to paint:

‘The trenches are full of dead Frenchmen. When one is killed they let him lie in the squelching mud and water at the bottom; and when you try and drain or dig you unearth them in an advanced state of decomposition. … All the filth of an Army lies around rotting. … The stink is awful. There are many dead Highlanders just in front – killed in December I think – and they aren't pleasant. One gets used to smells. … Two hundred of my men went to hospital today – mostly frost-bitten feet; bad cases are called gangrene and very bad cases the toes drop off. … When we've done our four days I'll try and go over and see George who I think is only two miles off. I haven't seen anyone I know lately. I fancy most of the Army I know are killed or wounded.”

I shall be uploading all of Guy’s letters to his wife in due course.]

*

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

Royal Albion Hotel,

Brighton.

Jan 25 1915

My dear George,

I am so taken up about your chill, but I am indeed thankful that you did not have a long time of it in the trenches, i.e. I am supposing you did not but got soon into a real bed. Chills are all fever of a kind, and I so earnestly hope time is given you to shake it off properly. Such weather conditions must be the grimmest of combatants. That experience of passing the barrier with fatigue party called for some nerve, and will remain in your memory.

I came down here for two days to the [E.V.] Lucas’s. Mrs Lucas is getting all right now, but slowly, and it will be months, I expect, before she has much strength. The pocket flask has been sent on. I am not sure what bromo paper you mean, but have told Brown to enquire thereanent.

Johnstone said he thought you were near Ypres. Wherever you are, I hope you see near your bed the flowers I want to place there in a nice vase, and the illustrated papers, and a new work by Compton Mackenzie which I read aloud to you! I shall be so anxious till I get another line from you.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

I think this letter well illustrates – taken in conjunction with others that have gone before – the peculiar and characteristic form which J.M.B.’s affection for George & Michael took: a dash of paternal, a lot of maternal, and much, too, of the lover – at this stage Sylvia’s lover still imperfectly merged into the lover of her son. To criticise would be easy; yet I don’t think it did, or would have done, George any harm.

*

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

Jan 27 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

That little old bit of shrapnel needn’t have worried you. The only place open to it that could have damaged was the side of my face, or a little bit of the back of my head. And even there it couldn’t by any possibility have killed me. It wasn’t coming hard enough.

I have recovered entirely from my late sickness, and have never been better in my life. I have just come back from 24 hours in the firing-line and 24 hours in a dugout about a hundred yards back. The dug-out was all right except for the cold feet, and the fact that the one officer in this battalion whom I abhor was in it with me. He is in my company, alas! & considers me a sort of infantile idiot. I writhe beneath him. But as the war goes on, chances of a counter-snub will be cropping up, & I shall fix every bayonet I have with me. I give you an example. In the dug-out, I took out my unloaded (of course) revolver, broke it open to make certain it was empty, & then cocked it to see if it was stiff. “Is it loaded?” asked the damned fool. What more offensive remark could be made.

That evening we crawled out of our dug-out into the firing-line. I got rather a ridiculous trench with my platoon. We came up to it 37 strong, & found no trench, just a parapet about 4 or 4½ feet high, stretching about 40 yards, with four places in it with adequate cover, each to hold five men. I sent seventeen back, & the rest of us set to work to improve the place with mud & sandbags. We did this for about an hour, & then the sandbags gave out & we took up our position. I got in on the extreme left of our company with a sergeant & four men who, thank God, had a brazier & a bag of coke. You can’t conceive what a difference it made. It kept me warm, & we cooked on it. I really managed to enjoy myself very much. The men were splendid, & great wags. As soon as day came we couldn’t move at all, & had to keep down pretty low, as one or two bullets came through the top of the parapet. We were absolutely safe from anything but shells, & luckily got none of them. Although the Germans sent a lot of shrapnel over our heads to our left. It makes a beastly noise – a whistling scream & then a bang – which I’m not hardened to yet. The sing of a bullet passing near doesn’t move me very much now. It just warns me, if it is possible, to crouch as low as I can. (That’s by night, of course, as we don’t show ourselves at all by day).

On the whole then, my dear Uncle Jim, there’s nothing for you to be anxious about. Of course, there’s always a chance of stopping an unaimed bullet, but you can see it’s a very small one. And I am far too timorous a man (I am a man now, I think) to run any more risk than I must. The only time I stand about at all is when my platoon feels a bit nervous. And that is always quite safe, & puts any amount of heart into me.

Well, I must run for the post. We go up again tomorrow night for the same sort of 48 hours. I will send something as soon as we’re out. I am in better health than I have been since I left England, & that’s saying a great deal.

Are you rehearsing with Gaby yet?

Your affec.

George.

*

It was an “unaimed bullet” which George stopped, when his time came; though not quite in the circumstances described by him in this letter.

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

30 Jan 1915

My dear George,

I am not so sure of what the difference is between a dug-out and a trench tho’ I prefer you to be in the dug-out as it is evidently a little further from the foe. I conceive something in the nature of a pit, less actively engaged in or prepared for fighting than the trench. Nico and I were lamenting today at lunch that we could not gather together the dining-room fire and plump it down by your side. The brazier seems to be such a godsend that one wishes it were less of a rarity than appears to be the case. I am sending you the thermos flask in case it might be possible to take it into the trenches. If that be not so, no matter – only it would give you hot water (and other heat too) for many hours. Even for your feet. I do wish you weren’t so cold-footed. That got you your first spats, you remember, in a shop in the Haymarket. As for the officer you don’t like, I wish I could give him cold feet!

We haven’t done any rehearsing of the burlesque yet, as Gaby’s recovery from an operation on her vocal cords has been slower than was expected. She has gone to the south of France to recuperate and probably we’ll rehearse in a week or two. Mr Lucas is busy with the songs. There’s one the husband sings in English & she in French. He is a Tommy.

He. Of all the girls that I do love

There’s one who lives near Calais,

She is the darling of my heart

She. And she is now his Ally!

A man, Jack Norworth, a very good singer whom you may have heard is probably to be husband – I fear a poor actor tho’. Eric Lewis & Leon Quatermaine in the other two parts.

Jack is at present on leave in Glasgow. I hoped Peter might get up for tonight but fear he has had to go back to Sheerness.

My chief game at present with Nico is “Attack”, which has broken out with all its violence. I am like a woolly lamb in his hands at it, and I always rise from my withering defeats feeling that his proper place is at the head of the British Expeditionary Force. How far away we are from the days when you used to play it at Mürren.

Loving

J.M.B

*

The family (but not, I think, Jack?) had spent a fortnight or three weeks winter-sporting at Mürren in January 1914.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

8 Feb, 1915.

My dear George,

I have not heard from you since the postcard sent Jan 31, which of course is not very long, and you warned me there might necessarily be these pauses. So I grin and bear it. Not much grinning. As far as I can judge from one thing and another, there seems more reason to hope that the war won’t go beyond this summer than there was. This notion is just founded on the German actions political as well as military, which do seem to me suggest desperate men. The threat of blockading Britain with submarines for instance, and sinking neutral ships is wild as well as foolish because (1) They are not able to carry it out with any success and (2) To destroy neutrals would necessarily bring these to the active help of the Allies. The frontal attacks in Poland suggest desperation also. These are merely notions that strike me as having some reason in them.

I went for a night again to Wrest, Lord Lucas’s hospital. They had a cynematograph and the wounded were so frightened they mightn’t be thought well enough to be brought into the hall to see it that they lay motionless for long time with their mouths shut to keep their temperatures down. It was a picturesque & grim sight. It was in the hall which has stairs on each side & on these the convalescents squatted with nurses &c, while the “stalls” were imagined by the beds wheeled into it – red blankets, &c. Great hilarity from those who could laugh while the more hurt lay gazing with solemn faces. I shall never forget it, I think.

Jack has had a great spell of leave. He had nearly a week, as I told you at Glasgow – rejoined for a day, got another six days, and went back to Glasgow.

I sent on your last letters to Peter, as he wanted to see them. I also showed them to Michael. Still communicating with War Office about the Colt Revolvers – I find I said they had more of the Celtic when it should have been the Baltic so I may be untrained or something. How I wish I knew what you are doing at this moment. I wish I was your ghillie.

Loving

J.M.B.

[AB: Ghillie = a man who attends someone on a hunting or fishing expedition.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

[George Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Feb. 11 [1915]

Dear Mary,

The veteran is off to the trenches again soon, after a fine rest, & finds himself with terrible holes in his pants. Do send me out two pairs of long ones, new, you know the kind. Also some soap, or I must go unwashen.

By Jove, Mary, when I get home I shall never get up in the mornings at all. I shall be frightfully idle. That is one advantage of the firing-line trenches. As an officer I don't sleep at all in the night, so there is no getting up in the morning. But sheets! And a proper bed! Oh, I hope the war isn't going on for ten years.

Meanwhile life is very bearable here. And when I get back I shall be more conceited than ever. You'll all shudder.

Yours affec.

George

[AB: This letter had been lovingly preserved by Mary Hodgson]

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House

(but evidently written at 23 C.H.S.)

14 Feb. 1915

My dear George,

Practical affairs first. The eatables were sent off instanter from Fortnum & Mason, and should arrive to-day or tomorrow according to their calculation, but I can see that you are probably already back in the trenches. Besides the usual things in their hampers there is tongue, ham & turkey, and if you find that those keep we shall repeat. Mary is also sending you some new underwear.

I liked that last letter very much, with various things in it that strike so true, I think. That dog Peter hasn’t returned the last ones I sent to him and I’ll punish him by keeping back this, so you see you are in demand. I can understand that getting ready to go back is uncommonly like “putting on your pads”, but what I should feel worst – worse even than the sniper – is that cutting across in the moonlight. Certainly it must be a bit creepy, and I don’t feel as friendly to the moon as once I did. My own feeling about the moon is that it is at its best at Rustington, because we had many lovely moons there in the days when we were all so happy together. However I trust your best moons are still to come.

I was at Eton yesterday, a regular Eton soaker. The river has subsided a lot now, but they say it has not flooded Eton so much since the big go of 20 years ago. Those who are there can fancy for themselves what the trenches have been like.

Gerald has just turned up to tea. He is stationed at Coventry for the present and is rather glum because he is not going out with his battery of new 15 in. howitzers which are crossing this week. However he fully expects to be out with the next lot some time this month. He and Nico are at this moment searching for gramophone records, so you may be sure that the remainder of this letter has a musical accompaniment. I am always at Nico about writing to you, and he is always deciding to do it tomorrow, with results known to you. He seems to have got to a stage when letter-writing assumes the appearance of a Frankenstein to him. (“When Irish eyes are smiling” is now on).

I think vast numbers of troops have gone across lately – 100s of 1,000s as I understand besides vast and terrific guns. It is not expected that the German “blockade” of these shores will mean much trouble, but of course occasional merchant ships will be sunk. I am curious to know what America will do if it is as good as its threats. It has some ships of course, and an army so small that I came to the conclusion after my talk with Roosevelt that it consisted of him and his four sons. It would stop their sending supplies to Germany at all events. Italy would be of more practical help. (“Rip Van Winkle’s Wife” now on).

Loving

J.M.B

*

I have not traced the letter from George in which he seems to have written about the moonlight etc. “Gerald” is Gerald Millar [Trixie’s son], who went out not long afterwards and saw the war through, ending up as a major with the M.C.

J.M.B.’s views as to the blockade, which in due course so nearly won the war for the Germans, were probably those which prevailed in well-informed quarters in January 1915. The joke about Roosevelt harks back to the visit paid to America by J.M.B. at the beginning of the war, which had the blessing of the British Government and was designed to bring America in on our side, but which for various reasons fell rather flat.

*

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

Feb 16 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

A stirring three days & wet, since I last wrote to you. We went up to the trenches after our six days rest, & found ourselves in the best trenches I’ve seen yet. I was in a slightly detached part on the right, with a sergeant and nine men. We got in about nine or ten, & worked till four building up traverses & putting wire out in front. A traverse is a useful thing to have. In a long line of trenches you are more likely than not to get a certain amount of enfilade fire, i.e. fire from right away on the wings that comes nearly straight down the length of your trench.

[space for drawings, six lines or so]

A … B is my parapet. C … D the parados that keeps you safe from the back burst of a shell that hits just behind. Our traverse at A … C was a lordly pile when we’d done with it.

We had an awful walk up to that trench, through a sea of mud, & it was a pitch dark night. You feel nice & safe when it is properly dark, but it’s a dreadful business getting along.

Next night we went into a support trench, a hundred yards behind the firing-line, consisting of dugouts. And Oh Lord, it was muddy. I did badly that night. I had to go along behind, & by mistake I got into the communication-trench behind, which is full of liquid mud above the knees. Here, being a bit unsteady on my pins, I elected to fall over backwards. Behold me sitting with exceedingly cold water trickling into me everywhere, unable to move, & shouting for help. I was in a very clammy condition when a man arrived & pulled me out. I then went on (in high dudgeon) to see about a trench we were digging on the left. I was glad when the Germans turned a searchlight on us, & my captain, after we had spent some minutes prone among turnips & mud, decided to give the job up.

Next day my captain and I spent in a dugout together. I wrapped newspapers & sandbags round my legs & managed to get up some wet and steaming heat. At night we were ready to be relieved, when we heard we had lost a trench about a mile away, & all reliefs were postponed. I’m afraid one wet subaltern thought more about his lost billet than the lost trench. It was a longish night. We got the trench back by morning all right (not my battalion) & the relief really did come the next night. So away I marched with two platoons to dry clothes & my sleeping-bag. A glorious moment. We had a wonderful march back. There was a bit of gunfire by our artillery going on, & we for half the march were going straight towards it. There was a deafening noise, & we could see the fuses sailing through the air like great shooting stars over our heads – scores of them. They looked as if they would knock our heads off if we went on, though really of course we were as safe as could be. It was the most remarkable half hour I have had. I wished you were with me to see & hear it (when, when are you going to pay me your promised visit?)

And now I am back in a very comfortable billet, feeling splendid again. I was at the funeral of one of our officers (the second killed) this morning. I hardly knew him, but it was a sad show. There was a Union Jack over his body. He was killed by shrapnel, when he had gone a little behind his parapet to help a wounded man. They had four killed & nine wounded, I think – & that’s a great deal the most casualties my battalion has had yet at one time. Up till now we have had very few.

We go back to the trenches tomorrow night. Till then there is this fine slack billet-life. And when we are up among the bullets & mud again, I shall take care not to sit about again in communication trenches!

Is Gaby still ill? How I long to see the revue. I hope I shall get back on leave when it’s going on.

I’ll write again after our next 48 (D.V.) hours.

George.

*

J.M.B. did not in fact go over until the summer of 1917, when I saw him at the chateau near Agincourt at which “distinguished visitors” put up. He went to see George’s grave, about a mile behind the then front line and so well within range of the Germans artillery, being guided to the spot by Josselin Bodley who, after being wounded in 1915, had returned to France as an Intelligence staff officer.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[18 Feb 1915]

…. I hope George hasn’t been seriously wounded. I wish I could go and see him. But although he is fairly close, I daren’t risk going away for more than an hour in case we are turned out again.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

19 Feb 1915

My dear George,

You have had your six days in the trenches again, and I am hoping you are back safe and lolling in comparative comfort in a real bed, and to hear very soon. Tomorrow is your father's birthday, and I feel he would be pleased with you all, which was always the best birthday to him. Jack has had some more leave, owing to repairs, but is not going off again, and I suppose this “blockade” threat increases the dangers of the sea, tho' it can have no real concern with the issue of the war. Obviously it is against all agreed international law, and the argument that Germany being in need of food can no longer be bound thereby would apply equally to the dropping of cholera germs, poisons, &c. The only reply with any force in it that I can see is that Germany might say “When those international laws were made the submarine was in its infancy, and the growth thereof creates conditions not then conceived.” I haven't seen this argument made use of so there is probably nothing in it.

Gaby is back so I expect the burlesque should be on in about three weeks. I'm writing a little one act thing to go with it, and as all my thoughts are with 2nd Lieutenants it has to be about one. It is just a family talk between one & his people, chiefly his father, on his first appearance in uniform. I fancy “2nd Lieut” is the most popular word in the language today, tho’ a short time ago it didn’t exist to most of us.

At last as the reward of mighty efforts the colt revolvers have been delivered & are in the dining room cupboard. Mrs. Lucas can draw the trigger when she holds on with both hands. I have a mild cold just sufficient to keep me in doors while Dr. Harry Brown plies me with pills about the size of marbles. I think I shall lock my bedroom door.

Loving

J.M.B.

[AB: The “little one-act thing” was The New Word, about the embarrassment which afflicts a father and son who want to communicate their fondness for one another, but cannot.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[20 Feb 1915]

…. George Davies is not far off unless he has gone to hospital with a slight wound – as you told me he has got. Has Gerald Arthur started yet I wonder? And what of Peter?

*

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

Feb. 20. [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

You would like to be in a firing-line trench at dawn. It is amazing to see the people in it as soon as the light comes. For pure grime I have never seen anything like it. I got the giggles yesterday morning at one of my acting-corporals. He is very small, wonderfully cheerful & talkative, & one of the best in my platoon. But it was glorious to see him in one of the ridiculous but invaluable fur coats we have been given, walking along the trench, simply caked in mud. I laughed.

The last two days in were a good show. The first 24 hours saw me in support, in a dug-out. Then I was sent up to a trench holding 50 men and myself. It was the best I’ve had yet – one could get right along it under cover. The officer’s dug-out too was palatial. I sent two men back for straw, & they filled it up. I didn’t dare to arrange it at night though, or the temptation to sleep might have been too much for me. Instead I sat out in the trench proper on an ammunition box, & saw that the men were getting on with improving the trench, & the sentries all awake. I also got a blessed brazier alight – or rather my above-mentioned acting-corporal did, & we had some coffee. But with all these luxuries 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. are a slow pair of hours, & I saluted Aurora when she put in her appearance.

I then fried two slices of bacon, & made a rare breakfast of them & bread & potted meat. At 9 o’clock the foe made no signs of attacking, so I spread the straw out in my dug-out, & went fast asleep till nearly three. It was simply grand, & far the best sleep I have had in the trenches.

We had a very quiet time – no shells & very few bullets. I dare say the Germans are massing their best troops at some point in the line now. Except for the honour and glory, I have a sneaking hope they may not try to burst through too near here.

Fortnum & Mason’s goods have just arrived – boxes & boxes of them. We are a grateful party of officers, & shall be in clover for the six days rest that is coming. It is good of you. I shall probably ask for more in a fortnight or three weeks. This time I ask you for a new novel. I ask for the devil of a lot, but everything I get here is worth thirty times what it was in the piping times of peace.

Does Mr Lucas ever publish letters from the front? I had a horrible fear just now, remembering something he said about Johnstone, & that I had written to Audrey & Mrs L. A letter written by one of our officers has got into the papers, & all the traditions of this regiment are utterly against it (you will admire). So if Mr Lucas did find anything of interest in my views on the great war, for heaven’s sake, in the interests of the Rifle Brigade & G.Ll.D., keep your hand on his neck.

Meanwhile, roll on peace, or at least 5 day’s leave.

Your affec.

George.

P.S. Cash is running short. Could you get me 100 francs from the bureau de change at Charing Cross in notes?

*

The “dug-outs” referred to by George in this and other letters were not the deep, comfortable, shell-proof affairs of the later stages of the war, but simply a rough shelter hollowed out of the forward side of the trench, giving cover from rain or snow and with room for one or two people only.

It is interesting to note that, whereas George seems to have made a point of writing to J.M.B. in connection with the previous anniversary of Sylvia’s birthday, he now, on February 20th, made no mention of its being the date of Arthur’s birthday. It may have been reticence; more probably he never noticed the date. It is true that he rarely, if ever, in his letters to J.M.B., or in those which I have seen, makes any allusion to the “old days”. It is also true that in youth, and particularly in war, thoughts dwell on the recent past (and immediate present and future) rather than on things more remote. Probably George, in his weeks in Flanders, ruminated on the previous Easter in Paris, on his girl, on batting at Lords, on a salmon landed at Auch after an hour’s hectic playing, and so on, and little, or not at all, on earlier joys and sorrows. Such musings, and the regrets they engender for largely if not wholly imaginary might-have-beens, belong perhaps more to a later stage in one’s life. On the other hand I remember being moved to melancholy while still at Eton by the retrospective nostalgia of “Peter Ibbetson” (and keeping thoughts of the kind to myself).

I used in those days, if one is to be quite frank, to luxuriate almost deliberately in a kind of self-pitying melancholy haze. I remember that when I was given a motor-bicycle by J.M.B., in the summer of 1913, one of the first excursions I made was to Burpham, à la recherche du temps passé; and I didn’t mention to anyone where I had been. But I believe all this was a natural symptom of adolescence, and little more than a false dawn, so to speak, in relation to the later, adult longing for the touch of vanished hands etc. which was to take more or less permanent root in one’s mentality.

It is perfectly possible that similar moods were a part of George’s youthful being. I am sure I shouldn’t myself have alluded to Arthur’s birthday myself, in a letter to J.M.B. or anyone else. George was closer to J.M.B. than ever I was, but one would not describe his letters to him as really intimate; like anyone else, he had plenty of thoughts which he kept to himself, and this may have been one of them. (This is mostly very poorly and imperfectly expressed and may not be worth putting in anyway)

*

[Late additions by Nico Ll.D. having come across a couple of letters to George at the front from the two youngest brothers. A day or week out of correct chronological order, but the ‘spur’ comes from J.M.B.’s “I am always at Nico about writing to you!” It seems I managed, just, to get one off, and I remember a perfect and treasured answer which I cannot at present trace. Alas we cannot have any of Peter’s ineffable comments:]

[Nico Ll.D. to George Ll.D.]

23 Campden Hill Square,

Kensington.

21st February

Dear George,

Excusez-vous moi s’il vous plait for not writing before. I went to Potash & Perlmutter last Saturday not yesterday and it is frightfully funny. In parts it is quite sad. I went with Aunt Gwen. I am going to tea with Aunt Gwen to day and I shall see Angela and Daphne. Uncle Jim is at present laid up with a cold. Uncle Guy is having an awful time I believe. He went out with 900 men. He has only 200 left. The other 700 are laid up with their toes nearly of.

Peter’s birthday on the 25th, Grandfather is going to be 89 on the 26th. How are you getting on? Are you speaking French to the French soldiers if you have any with you? I saw Mrs Dorothy Millar at Aunt May’s yesterday. She is very pretty I think. Aunt Gwen is now living in 73 Cheyne Walk. Jack wears a ring now. Have you fallen in love with any French girls yet? I guess so Eh! What!!?

Daubery and his brother came to the zoo and lunch to-day. You should see me now. I salute all the officers. I have got 2 replies from Belgians. One said “Bonjour” and the other said “Goocht Day”. When is your first chance of leave? I went to Peter Pan a few weeks ago and the new Peter is quite good. I went to a fancy dress ball at the Booth’s & Miss Gay came here the other day. Have you got her socks yet? Mary hopes you’ve got the underclothing. Miss Gay played a new game, which Uncle Jim gave me called AUTO PONG.

Love from your affectionate

Nico

*

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[Feb 22nd, 1915]

…. When we’ve done our four days I’ll try and go over and see George, who I think is only two miles off. I haven’t seen anyone I know lately. I fancy most of the Army I knew are killed or wounded.

[Feb 28th, 1915]

…. I rode over to see George Davies but found that his Battalion was in the trenches. They will probably always be in when we are out and visa versa.

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand W.C.

Feb 28 1915

My dear George,

Your letter dated 20th Feb arrived yesterday and made me happy for the moment at all events. I had hardly finished reading and re-reading it (quite as if I was a young lady) when there arrives, unexpected, a gent of the name of Peter. He had managed at last to get two days by bearding his colonel, and in he walked, larger than ever and between you and me a d-v-l-shly handsome fellow in my opinion and I guess in that of any candid person. Peter whom a few years ago we chuckled over as rather a comic is a werry fine youth indeed.

By good luck it has also been Eton long leave so Michael was back also, and we have made something of a show at meals. I have just seen Peter off again, and one of my quaint memories will be of his sitting on the Duke of York’s stage chatting to Mdlle Gaby. Heavens, what a worker she is! I have never known man or woman on the stage with such a capacity for work and always so gracious to everybody that they are all at her feet. Life, sir, is odd, as you have been seeing this last two months, but it is even odder than that. Such a queer comedy of tears and grimness and the inexplicable – as your du Maurier blood will make you understand sooner than most. It will teach you that the nice people are the nastiest and the nastiest the nicest, and on the whole leave you smiling.

A few things to note from your last. For one thing I enclose four pounds in French money, and for the another it is always a blessed thing for me when you want something. So if you don’t want, go on inventing. I’ll send you a book or two tomorrow (this is Sunday). Then I’ll also send tomorrow a hamper similar to the last from Fortnum & Mason, as it, thank goodness, seems to have been a success.

Not the slightest fear of Lucas publishing a word out of your letters; he hates that sort of thing. Milne of Punch has become a second lieut. and has rather put it to me to help his wife thro’ companionably. General feeling that I am rather a buffer to lean upon.

Tomorrow I am lunching with Sir David Henderson, the head of the flying corps, and I contemplate taking Michael who will growl but he is the best type of man & we shall be alone. Dined with Asquith this week – always serene. Evidently there are to be great doings in the Dardanelles. The one great doing for me is when we are all together again.

Loving

J.M.B.

*

Some truly wonderful stuff in this letter, which only J.M.B. could have written. I fear however that the somewhat backhanded compliment to Gaby Deslys lends no colour to my theory that George and she may have flung a few roses together, with J.M.B.’s blessing. But I will leave the theory in, because I think it a charming one, which George would have appreciated. And you never know. J.M.B. had his moments of profound insight and wisdom as well as his practically limitless generosity. And he loved George with an exceeding great love.

I don’t believe Milne’s second lieutenantry proved to be of the sort that involved his wife in any great need of comforting.

As for Asquith’s serenity …

The reference to my own meeting with Gaby is a shocking reminder of gaps which exist in one’s memory. I have forgotten it utterly; and there are few incidents in my life I should less have expected to forget. Such a laps does not necessarily invalidate the memories one does retain, but I realise they may often be inaccurate as well as incomplete.

*

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

March 2 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

Once again the six days’ rest of the first 48 hours in the trenches are over.

On the whole I have had a soft – certainly a safe – job. We had the first 24 hours in the firing line, and I was given not a trench, but a kind of fortified place between, and rather behind, the trenches. In the day an artillery officer came up & observed the effect of our guns, & that was all. If we had been attached I could have given the Boches hell. It was a fine bit of the line, & I hope I shall see some more of it.

That night we went back to a ruined château – not a bad way of spending one’s 24 hours in support! It was a bright moonlight night, & the château looked wonderful. It is all white with four great pillars in front, one of them broken. I walked up to it feeling, in spite of mud & dirt, like a Roman Emperor. It is the best sight I’ve seen yet. And then of course romance was a bit spoiled by an N.C.O. just behind me making some low remark about spotted fever (alluding to the shrapnel marks that covered the walls).

I was warned for a fatigue last night, to dig a new trench from 12.30 till 2.30. So out I went from a nice warm cellar at midnight, feeling rather inclined to curse all warfare. Imagine my feelings when I had marched half a mile, & was told fatigue had been cancelled. I danced back to the château, & slept like a log.

Next day I prowled round the château. It was really nothing but a shell, with whole rooms battered to bits. There was a little shrine out in the garden, practically untouched by gunfire. On the altar, just in front of the figure of Christ there was a charger of four cartridges. To a sentimental civilian like me, not yet hardened into a proper mercenary, this had rather a striking effect. Perhaps it sounds a bit cheap, but the château, which was rather beautiful, had made me feel romantic.

Next night there were alarms and excursions. Our part in them (a hopeless one) was to line a half made trench about a mile behind. The Germans hardly sent any shells off at all. One burst in the ground about 25 yards behind, splashing mud over us, & putting terror into me. It was hard to believe that it could have come considerably nearer, & even then done no damage. We got back to billets about half-past four, & it is now the next morning, & a perfectly lovely day. Trenches again tomorrow night.

Has anything happened to my supply of cigarettes? They haven’t got out for some time. I hope they haven’t been blockaded or something.

Could you send out some Cambridge sausages from Fortnum & Mason? Also some Bironac Cocoa?

I’ll write as soon as we’re in billets again.

George

*

No word could be more aptly applied to George than “romantic”. He was romantically minded – much more so than most of these letters show – and romantic in appearance. He had nice “dirty” mind, too, and that makes a delightful combination, particularly when it is seasoned with a gay and at times extravagant sense of humour.

[AB: George was not the only one touched with a romantic response to the chateau. Guy du M. had written to Gwen on February 5th, “… we got to a lone and much-shelled chateau, looking picturesque in the rising moonlight.”]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[2 March 1915] ... I can’t hear anything of George Davies. His Division made a big attack yesterday – successful – and this morning the ambulances are coming back pretty full from that direction. I hope he hasn’t got hurt.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Michael Ll.D to George Ll.D.]

Eton College Bucks.

3rd March 1915.

Dear George,

As I am at the present moment afflicted with a belly-ache, and therefore staying out, I seize the chance to write this news letter. Leave is passed, last week-end I found Peter at 23, having got leave from Friday to Sunday evening. And Uncle Jim rehearsing plays with a bad cold. I went to the Coliseum, which was not at its best. However that was made up for by the fact that we had the Royal Box, which I had not been in before. There was a man attired so as to represent Nero (the Roman card) with huge legs and arms attached, and Nico has been copying him ever since. Also an amusing lion who munched the aforesaid N. You can imagine the puns made on Nero. Also there was a very good singer, Jack Norworth. He sings ‘Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers’, and also a new song which begins ‘Mothers making mittens for the Navy, Bertha’s bathing baby Belgian refugees’. He is in Uncle Jim’s new burlesque.

On Saturday Peter had a large dinner at the Savoy with Old Etonians, i.e. Pemberton & Co. On Monday besides going to Uncle Jim’s rehearsals we (Sir J & I) lunched at the Automobile Club with Lieut-Gen Sir (?) David Henderson, the head of the flying corps, and his wife. He was very nice. I had no idea he was so important until Nico told me that crossed swords and a star means Lieutenant-General. The Automobile Club is an enormous place. I went and saw the baths and gymnasia (I feel that Aunt Margo would approve of ‘gymnasia’).

The evening passed in the usual way: – Tea: then wait, wait, wait, with futile attempts to play Rat-tat etc: books for Mary to pack: taxi comes early: wait: bag in taxi: hurried farewells, and station: crowds of boys: greetings which freeze on sight of Sir James: shouts of ‘Good lord here’s Davies’ on finding a carriage: walk up to tutors on arriving, to feel that you haven’t been to leave at all, except for the atmosphere of purses replenished and changed suits: supper & prayers after which tutor comes & asks all about George & Peter & leave in general, while doing his best to obliterate the foot of the bed. Then lights suddenly go out at ten when a new book by Wells or Bierce becomes very interesting. Wake in morning to the refrain of ‘Nearly a quarter to seven, Mr Davies. Are you awake, sir?’ to which the only possible reply is a grunt. A superhuman effort drags you to the shower-bath. etc.

Yesterday I managed to aid my partner in vanquishing the first-round opponents in school-fives, and as the second-round people have scratched we are in the third which is not bad. I am in the third round of Junior Fives too. As for house-fives (school) I forget if I told you this, but as Cheney & Neville stayed out, O Peake ma. and myself had to represent the 1st pair as well as the second. Playing for the 1st pair v. Brintons IV (1st courts Tuesday) we won. For me the 2nd pair v R.S. de H’s II (2nd courts ditto) we lost. It was a very strenuous day. I hope to win my tutor’s junior house fives as I have not a bad partner and as good as anybody else’s I think. I would have won last year, only I got mumps in the final.

Tom and Jack Bevan were down yesterday. I believe Tom was a pal of yours. I had a letter from Jack this morning, in which he says he has done over 3,000 miles in the last twelve days, which seems rather a lot. There is only a month to the end of the half now, which seems an awful little when you say four weeks or four seven days. The other day I among others was made a temporary platoon commander in G coy, and I was even more astounded than anyone else at my voice. It is awful in G coy now because Chaffey, of all people, has been taking us lately. ‘Sap it up, you chaps! Dash it all you boys!’ ‘Pon my word’ss, you know, you are bad’ss’ Disgusting little bounder! And the Adjutant, McNeile, is not much better. You should hear the songs they sing about him, such as ‘What shall we do with the Acting Adjer’ etc etc --!

My dame has just come in, and on my suggestion asks me to give you her best regards, & she is very interested to hear about you. Coupled with this is the teaching injunction to go up to the night only when I feel inclined thereto. And no lunch!

----

Again enters Mrs d’A with castor-oil in Brandy, which now reposes in my belly. She has gone for a punch. The doctor (Ansler) used to live near grandfather du Maurier in Hampstead – enter my dame with punch – and was interested in my pictures, besides pummelling my brisket and laughing at the fact that I had crumpets and fried eggs for tea yesterday.

My source of information is now beginning to diminish rapidly and I feel that you will have to be satisfied with nine pages or thereabouts. I think it is about time you got leave home. It seems ages since you were home. You will be an awful dog when you get back, and must certainly come down to play against the school, and in your uniform. You could play in pop shorts & khaki stockings.

I cudgel my brains, but I can find nothing more to say, so I fear I must finish. J’ai fini. Now for a letter to Jack and then the night only –

Michael.

*

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

Sunday, March 7 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

Two more days up have passed, & tonight we go into the trenches for the last time before our 6 days’ rest. And I shall be glad of them. I have been in a place where nothing happened, but it is on a road, & something might always happen there. So there is a certain amount of strain about. Tonight I shall increase my look-out, & feel a lot more comfortable. Nothing will happen, I am certain, but the chance of it through 24 hours stirs me a bit. With extra look-outs I shall sit and hope the Germans do come along in column of fours. I don’t think they’d ever get back.

There is nothing to chronicle, except the gruesome fact that I’ve seen violent death within a yard of me. I was quite safe myself, Uncle Jim, as I was right down underneath the parapet. The poor chap wasn’t one of my fellows, & put his head up in a place where at that time he could scarcely fail to stop a bullet. The top of his head was shot off, so he didn’t feel it. But it was a dreadful sight. I oughtn’t to write about these things, but it made an impression.

Good luck with the burlesque. I am longing to see it. The war seems to be going well just now, I hear a lot of talk about captured submarines.

Fortnum & Mason has again rolled up in abundance. It is good of you. Also books & magazines. One remarkable tale of a French girl in the trenches. I am a sentimental fellow myself, but if she’d been the prettiest damosel in France, I’d have sent her to the rear pretty smartly.

Your affec

George

*

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

Dear Uncle Jim,

Out of the trenches again, & now for a weeks rest. Glorious! I spent 48 hours in the same place as before. The second night wasn’t a very good one, as it got most awfully cold. Froze hard, & such a wind as I don’t want again. A brazier at half past three was pretty nice. The chief excitement was a steady bombardment of the German lines yesterday. Shells came whistling over our heads, & burst with enormous force in the German trenches. I was sorry for the poor devils that got in their way. These big shells are horrible things. And we’ve got some enormous ones about now. I should like to see the effect of one of the real big ones.

I heard from Uncle Charlie Millar the other day. He enclosed a great list of securities that left me with a sinking fear about what I shall be like as a business man. Perhaps I’d better go into the Army. At any rate I’d have a medal to wear.

Is there any chance of old Peter getting out soon? I do hope so – he’s had enough of Sheerness to last him all his life. Two battalions of our own regiment are with me, & he might be sent to one of them. I should like to meet him going up to the trenches when I’m coming out. I should chuckle a bit. But if that happened I should also meet him coming out as I came in.

Well, here comes my dinner. I will close with the demand for some tins of Spiritine, a very fine thing for cooking on. Boots Chemists are the people who have it, or Lewis & Burrows.

George.

*

The bombardments, watchfulness etc. referred to by George in the last two or three letters signified the approaching cessation of the long lull which followed the end of the First Battle of Ypres (October 31st 1914). Neuve Chapelle, the first offensive battle undertaken by the British in the war, began on the day George wrote this letter, some twenty miles to the southward. But on his part of the front our troops were still on the defensive, and were to face in a few weeks time heavy German attacks known as the Second Battle of Ypres.

Charlie Millar, as a trustee of the du Maurier Estate, had presumably sent George a list of the securities which came to him under George du M.’s will on the death of Emma du M. (The list may have seemed to him a long one but the sum total was small enough – I don’t remember what.) He had presumably had what came to him through Sylvia soon after his 21st birthday (July 20th 1914); and I believe I am right in saying that Emma du M. left none of her own money to George or any of us, on J.M.B.’s having undertaken to see to all that in a satisfactory way… George made no will, and what he possessed was accordingly divided between his brothers – Michael’s quarter being again divided between the three survivors.

Most likely he was right in thinking he had a poor head for figures; his qualms about becoming a business man refer to the understanding which had existed for some time that he was to be given a cousinly job in the Booth Line. But J.M.B. told me more than once that he had come to the conclusion well before George’s death that he was unsuited for, and too good for, such a job.

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

11 March 1915

My dear George,

I don’t know when news from quite near you may reach you – perhaps later than we get it – but we have just heard that your uncle Guy has been killed. He was a soldier by profession, and had reached a time of life when the best things have come to one if they are to come at all, and he had no children, which is the best reason for caring to live on after the sun has set; and these are things to remember now. He certainly had the du Maurier charm at its best – the light heart with the sad smile, & it might be the sad heart with the bright smile. There was always something pathetic about him to me. He had lots of stern stuff in him, and yet always the mournful smile of one who could pretend that life was gay but knew it wasn’t. One of the most attractive personalities I have ever known.

Of course I don’t need this to bring home to me the danger you are always in more or less, but I do seem to be sadder today than ever, and more and more wishing you were a girl of 21 instead of a boy, so that I could say the things to you that are now always in my heart. For four years I have always been waiting for you to become 21 & a little more, so that that we could get closer & closer to each other without any words needed. I don’t have any little iota of desire for you to get military glory. I do not care a farthing for anything of the kind, but I have the one passionate desire that we may all be together again once at least. You would not mean a feather-weight more to me tho’ you came back a General. I just want yourself. There may be some moments when a knowledge of all you are to me will make you a little more careful, and so I can’t help going on saying these things.

It was terrible that man being killed next to you, but don’t be afraid to tell me of such things. You see it at night I fear with painful vividness. I have lost all sense I ever had of war being glorious, it is just unspeakably monstrous to me now.

Loving

J.M.B.

*

Surely no soldier in France or Flanders ever had more moving words from home than those in this tragic, desperately apprehensive letter – the last of J.M.B.’s ever to reach George. Plenty of other people, no doubt, were thinking and writing much the same sort of thing, but not in such perfection. Indeed, taking all the circumstances into consideration, I think it must be one of the great letters of the world.

Its poignancy is so dreadfully enhanced, too, by the realisation that, whatever of pathetic there may have been in Guy du M. – and I don’t doubt there was a good deal (I think, by the way, he was almost as closely bound to his mother as J.M.B. to Margaret Ogilvy) – far, far the most pathetic figure in all the world was the poor little genius who wrote these words, and afterwards, no doubt, walked up and down, up and down his lonely room, smoking pipe after pipe, thinking his dire thoughts.

*

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

(In J.M.B.’s handwriting, at the foot of this pencilled letter, are the words: “This is the last letter, and was written a few hours before his death. I knew he was killed before I got it.”)

March 14 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

I have just got your letter about Uncle Guy. You say it hasn’t made you think any more about the danger I am in. but I know it has. Do try not to let it. I take every care of myself that can decently be taken. And if I am going to stop a bullet, why should it be with a vital place? But arguments aren’t any good. Keep your heart up, Uncle Jim, & remember how good an experience like this is for a chap who’s been very idle before. Lord, I shall be proud when I’m home again, & talking to you about all this. That old dinner at the Savoy will be pretty grand.

It is very bad about Uncle Guy. I wonder how he was killed. As he was a colonel, I imagine his battalion was doing an attack. Poor Aunt Gwen. This war is a dreadful show.

The ground is drying up fast now, and the weather far better. Soon the spring will be on us, & and the birds nesting right up in the firing line. Something a little different from the forty-eight hours’ routine in the trenches, I daresay. There have already been doings in various parts of the line, & I would rather be George Davies than Sir John French just now. He must have got some hard decisions in front of him. Well let’s hope for a good change in the next month.

Meanwhile, dear Uncle Jim, you must carry on with your job of keeping up your courage. I will write every time I come out of action. We go up to the trenches in a few days again.

Your affec.

George

*

George’s death took place in the very early morning of March 15th; and the fatal telegram from the War Office must have reached J.M.B. only a few hours later, as a telegram conveying to him the sympathy of the King and Queen was “handed in” at 3.50 p.m. on that same day.

[AB: Nico wrote to me in 1976: “I and Mary Hodgson … were sleeping in the night-nursery at 23 Campden Hill Square. I, 11 years old; Michael at Eton 14½; Peter in the K.R.R.C. at Sheerness 18; Jack in the Navy 20½; Uncle Jim in his third floor flat at Robert Street, Adelphi. Suddenly there came a banging on the front door, and the front door-bell ringing and ringing. Mary got out of bed and went downstairs, while I sat half up with ears pricked etc. Voices soon came up the stairs and seemed to stop just short of our floor, though they may have gone into the day-nursery next door. Uncle Jim's voice was of the eerie, Scots, Banshee wail sort of thing of which the only words I sort of remember are: "Ah-h-h-h – they'll all go, Mary – Jack, Peter, Michael, and even little Nico – this awful war will get them all!" A little later, realising I was awake, he came and sat on my bed for a bit, but I can remember nothing of this. I have an idea that this time I didn't blub – can't think why not! He stayed the night, I fancy, in a room downstairs – used to be Mother’s, then George’s”]

*

On the day following arrived the Commanding Officer’s conventional letter:

[G.H. Thesiger to J.M.B.]

15. 3.15

Dear Sir James Barrie,

I deeply regret to tell you that Davies was killed early this morning during a night attack we were making. He was killed practically instantaneously close to my side as I was giving instructions. He was a most excellent and promising officer and is a very great loss to us all.

Yrs sincerely

G.H. Thesiger

*

Even allowing for the circumstances in which this very prompt notification must obviously have been written, it is clearly not the letter of a man who knew George well.

Lt Col Thesiger was, I believe, regarded as one of the outstanding officers of the army, and was himself in due course killed at the Battle of Loos the following September, being then a Major-General.

The action in which George was killed was one of the minor operations which preceded the Second Battle of Ypres. It is thus described in the Official History of the War:

“On the 14th March the Germans made a surprise attack at 5 p.m. on a larger scale at St Eloi, firing two times. They captured the village, the trenches near it, and the “Mound” (an artificial heap of earth about thirty feet high, and perhaps half an acre in extent, on the western side of the knoll south of the village) from the 80th Brigade of the 27th Division. There was severe hand to hand fighting, in which the 2/King’s Shropshire L.I. and 4/Rifle Brigade particularly distinguished themselves. An immediate counterattack could not be made, as owing to the heavy shelling no reserves were kept near at hand. ... The village of trenches were recovered, although part of the latter had to be evacuated at daylight. ... The “Mound”, which gave good observation, was not recaptured, the Germans having at once consolidated their position on it.”

One of George’s closer friends at Eton and more particularly Cambridge had been Aubrey Tennyson, younger (and very different and far nicer) brother of the present comical Lord (Lionel) Tennyson, the cricketer. Aubrey Tennyson was still at Sheerness with one of the reserve battalions of the Rifle Brigade at the time of George’s death, but was posted not long afterwards to the 4th Bn, when he wrote me the following letter:

[Aubrey Tennyson to Peter Ll.D]

30. 5.15

My dear Davies,

After I saw you I wrote off immediately to find out about poor old George’s death, but had not received an answer when I came out here.

I have collected as many details now as I can.

The battalion was advancing to drive the Germans out of St Eloi, & C Company (George’s Coy) were leading. They had been chosen to lead the attack, as they knew the trenches that were to be counter-attacked, having been in them before. Stopford Sackville was marching alongside of George part of the way up, & he says he fancied George had a sort of premonition he was going to be killed as he talked about being killed & he said he hoped that they would not take him back into one of the villages behind but would bury him outside his own trench, & that he considered it was the finest death one could die & he wished to be buried where he fell.

He was the first officer to be shot that night. The Colonel was talking to all C Company officers before the attack was made, & George was sitting on a bank with the others, when he was shot through the head, & died almost immediately, so that he can have felt nothing.

It was impossible to comply with his wishes & bury him there, as when day came, the Germans had the whole place covered with machine-gun and rifle fire. They took him back and buried him in a field on the left of the road going from Dickebus [Dikkebus] to Voormezeile, only just outside Voormezeile. One of our companies were in reserve there afterwards & they say that they took a lot of trouble making the grave look nice, & planting it with violets etc. In the same field Colonel Farquhar commanding Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was buried & some officers & men of the 60th & about 40 of our men. He was buried in the same grave as another of our officers, Stobart, who fell the same night, & a wooden cross was put up over them, with their names on it.

If there is anything else you would like to hear please write & ask me, because you know what an affection & respect I had for George, & I would do anything to find out what I can. It is too an easy thing, because I do not stand alone in this battalion in my affection for him. When I first asked about him when I got here, I was told by an officer who has been in the battalion for some years, that he had never known any officer come into the battalion, who after so short a time had won the love of everyone, so much so that all his brother officers felt when he was killed that even though they had only known him such a short time, they had lost one of their best friends. As regards myself I don’t think anyone can ever take his place, as there is no one whom I have ever loved more.

I asked Capt. W.H. Alston, 4th Bn R.B. if he was in London to go & see Sir James Barrie, & so if you were to write to him c/o Messrs Cox & Co, I know he would go round & tell you anything else.

Yours ever

Aubrey Tennyson.

*

Nothing could be more obviously genuine and truthful than this spontaneous letter to a mere acquaintance, two or three years younger than the writer.

I don’t remember seeing anything of Capt. Alston. Aubrey Tennyson I did not see again till March or April, 1918 – I am not sure which – when I had a few words with him during the St Quentin battle (he was by then either Captain or Major), at the end of which he disappeared into the thick mist that was everywhere at the time, and I heard later the same day that he had been killed.

Well, there’s the end of the story so far as George is concerned. I remember getting a telegram at Sheerness from J.M.B. – “George is killed. Hope you can come to me.” And I remember arriving at the flat in Adelphi Terrace, and that Gwen du M. was in the room with J.M.B., and that it was very painful. There may have been others present. I can recall nothing else but a feeling of acute misery and discomfort. Such scenes are exquisitely horrible and in this particular instance time has with unusual tact blurred my recollections.

The effect on J.M.B. was dire indeed, poor little devil. Oh, miserable Jimmie. Famous, rich, loved by a vast public, but at what a frightful private cost. Shaken to the core – whatever dark fancies may have lurked at the back of his queer fond mind – by the death of Arthur; tortured a year or two later by the ordeal of his own divorce; then so soon afterwards prostrated, ravaged and utterly undone when Sylvia pursued Arthur to the grave; and after only four and a half years, George; George whom he had loved with such a deep, strange, complicated, increasing love, and who as he knew well would have been such a pillar for him to lean on in the difficult job of guiding the destinies of “Sylvia & Arthur Llewelyn Davies’s boys – my boys.” And in another couple of months the Lusitania would go down, taking with her Charles Frohman, possibly the only non-Davies whom he then knew how to love, and his one perfect shield against the intolerable nuisance of business arrangements in the theatre. Fortunate, too, he certainly was, in being unaware of what was in store for him in 1921, when Providence would pick him up off the floor again and give him perhaps the most brutal wallop of the lot. But all this is better done than I can do it by Denis Mackail who, in his Story of J.M.B., states, I have no doubt with truth, that till George’s death he had each year composed a letter to Sylvia, on her birthday, rendering an account of his stewardship, and telling her of each boy’s progress and development; but that now he abandoned the habit.

{“I feel this is getting to be quite a sad story.” as the author of Trilby remarks somewhere in that sentimental masterpiece, “and that it is high time to cut this part of it short” – at any rate for the moment.}

For his brothers, George’s death was, with no exaggeration, a bad business. Each of the three who are left has his own idea of what George was, and it is unlikely to correspond at all points with the others remember. I have little that is worth adding to the very incomplete jottings which I have already put down. The fortunes of war brought me pretty close to him for a short time within a few months of his death, and I had in the preceding five or six years been with him a great deal, fishing latterly and bug-hunting in the more childish days before that; but it would be untrue to say that there existed tremendous intimacy between us, or that we were bound together by that ineffable love of brother for brother which one has occasionally read of. On the other hand it is not in the least untrue to say that I have gone on missing him possibly ever since I last saw him, leaning out of the window as his train steamed away from Sheerness station. He had so much that was really good without being in the least goody-goody, and was such fun, and so tolerant, and would have been such value always; and blood and background and memories are a mighty strong bond; and how few, after all, are those in all one’s life with whom one can be completely at ease. That he had his fair share of the celebrated du Maurier charm or temperament is certain; there was a good leavening of sound, kind, sterling Davies in him too. I think he had that simplicity which J.M.B. and Mr Justice Macnaghten saw in Arthur, and which, though I only partly understand it, I dimly perceive to be perhaps the best of all characteristics. In fact I think he had in him a very great deal of the best & finest qualities of both Arthur & Sylvia. But it was all thirty years ago, and he was only twenty-one, and what do I know about him really?

This much is certain, that when he died, some essential virtue went out of us as a family. The combination of George, who as eldest brother exercised a sort of constitutional, tacitly accepted authority over us, who was of our blood, and on whom still lingered more than a little of our own good family tradition, with the infinitely generous, fanciful solicitous, hopelessly unauthoritative J.M.B., was a good one and would have kept us together as a unit of some worth; as it was, circumstances were too much for J.M.B. left solitary, as well as for us, and we became gradually, but much sooner than would or should have been the case, individuals with little of the invaluable, cohesive strength of the united family. A bad thing for all of us; and the truth of this is emphasised for me by the enormous amount of satisfaction I have had out of the much later development which has bought two of us into close association [AB: i.e. Peter and Nico, who worked together in Peter’s publishing firm.]

I have visited George’s grave several times, the first in the autumn of 1917, during my own introduction to that depressing Salient with which George had been familiar two and a half years earlier. By then two wooden crosses and two graves had already replaced the single cross and common grave mentioned by Aubrey Tennyson; so I suppose the bodies had been separated in the interval and one of them reinterred.

In the June of last year (1945), being stationed at Bruges for a few weeks, I took the opportunity of going down there again, with the primary object of finding out whether any damage had been done during the war just ended. There proved to have been none; though in a small rearguard action which was fought close by in the 1940 (Dunkirk) campaign, the cemetery next to George’s had been a good deal knocked about, and in the third of the Voormezeele graveyards I saw a number of new wooden crosses among the 1914-18 headstones – a sufficiently sardonic commentary on the whole fantastic business.

The cemetery in which George is buried is one of the smallest in that countryside of death, where you can hardly walk a mile without coming across a stone-walled enclosure of scores, or hundreds, or even thousands of British headstones. All are scrupulously neat and tidy, looked after as perfectly as any cathedral close. Whether you regard them as monuments to the fertility or the splendour of mankind, the general effect of all those graveyards, with their utter simplicity of design, and the complete uniformity of the headstones, only distinguished from one another by the names and regimental badges carved on them, is, surprisingly enough, not monotonous, but beautiful. It was a stroke of genius on the part of the Imperial War Graves Commission to make each grave a flowerbed, so that, in June at least, they resemble gardens more than cemeteries.

On George’s grave there were roses and pansies growing. It stands, next to Stobart’s, rather apart from the rest, and nearly in the centre, giving the impression, which is probably correct, that those two were the first, and that the cemetery as a whole grew up around them. The caretaker was not there, or it would have been pleasant to thank him for his devoted care. There was no sign of life in the adjoining village, the new Voormezeele – an ugly, raw, characterless place like all the towns and villages which rose again from the muck of twenty-seven years ago; the inhabitants were probably sleeping off their midday meal. I had the place to myself, and never remember feeling more alone. It was a grey, lowering, dismal sort of day, shivery too, in spite of the month. All sort of vague thoughts came and went in my head, of dust and skeletons and the conqueror worm, and old, unhappy, far-off things, and older days that were happier: a mixture with which everyone who has stood beside a grave is only too familiar. What with one thing and another I am not ashamed to admit that I piped an eye.

Then I walked away through St Eloi, about a mile off, as likely as not past the exact spot where George was sitting when he “stopped a bullet with a vital place” and so back to Ypres along the Messines road, feeling bloody miserable.

Oh well, bugger it. To make an end of this penultimate chapter of the family morgue, the epitaph which a poet [A E Housman] wrote for George and his kind seems as appropriate as anything I know of:

Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung;
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.

* * *

Some Davies Letters and Papers

1911-1915

Compiled by

Peter Llewelyn Davies

[AB: See Some Davies Papers & Letters, 1889-1897 for an introduction to ‘The Morgue’. The layout is exactly as Peter wrote it and Nico 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. George Ll.D. instead of G.Ll.D. or George instead of George, except where used in contemporary letters. A number of additional letters have come to light since Peter compiled his Morgue, and I have included them here where relevant. The originals of some letters can be found in the database, mostly ones that Peter didn’t have while compiling the Morgue, and thus evaded his systematic destruction.

This volume ends with the following post-script, written by Nico and dated May 1967:

I have been so glad to find – in Peter’s beautiful (pencilled) longhand – the foregoing material about George. I had no idea he had compiled so much – and apparently as long ago as 1945, seven years before he gave Jack and me the first two volumes. Surely he would have added much and edited out this and that, but for the few remaining interested parties – chiefly myself! – there is an abundance of rare treasures.]

*

[AB: … as indeed there are, but for some reason or other, many letters seem to evade Peter’s attention – possibly Cynthia Asquith had grasped them when rifling through Barrie’s desk after his death in 1937. Why else would they have been a part of the large assortment of J.M.B.’s manuscripts she sold at Sotheby’s in the early 1950s, which were bought up by Walter Beinecke Jnr and now reside in his library on the campus of Yale University? Other letters wound up with Nico, including many that he wrote to Barrie. These he unearthed while I was researching/writing The Lost Boys for BBC-TV, and I have interpolated those that I think Peter would have included had he had them while compiling his Morgue:]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

3rd of Feb, Friday [1911]

Dear James i am going to tea with the macnaghtens to morrow. Granie came to tea yesterday. You are a big swank not to come SOONER – come hurry u the train is coming From

NICO
THE
End
Can we go to tea at Aunt Gwens on Tuseday

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

22nd of April [1911]
16 ROYAL CRESCANT

Dear Mr Barrie thanks for the letter you sent me yesterday

Buck up buck up what are you doing having your dinner.

then push it away and read my letter from NIC-O

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,
20 Nov 1911

My dear George,

Lots of them would tell you that civilization and war cannot go together. At all events one of the uses of civilization is to make war ugly and to show the masses what they lose by it and what they gain. However I would never give in to those who hold war so wrong that they would avoid it at whatever cost. It may certainly be glorious, and one can hope that as time goes on the other kinds will be avoided because civilization proves them never to be worthwhile.

Here endeth my essay, shorter than yours. I shall be curious to read yours if I ever get the chance. It would be great if you won the prize. I presume they will give no marks to verbosity.

When you wrote of your tutor complaining you did not talk enough to your neighbours I wanted to come and sit beside you. I suppose a man with a house of boys changing yearly gets into the way of thinking all is well when all seems smooth on the surface. He must aim at making all the bays as alike as possible superficially at all events. I think he is bound, however good a man he is, to lay too much stress on the superficial because it is not possible with so many to know anything deeper. And all getting on nicely and chatting together seems so satisfying. In after life you will many a time have to talk at meals to neighbours who would not be there if you had the choice, so it may be good for you to acquire the correct note for these ordeals. But it has nothing to do with character. At its best it may mean consideration for your neighbour. Which is a nice tract. By asking too much of it, a master might rather spoil a boy’s time. But it must be frightfully hard to a master to be just when he meddles with the relations that exist between his many boys. Yours I feel sure does his very best and sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails. Personally I think boys are often better judges of man and motives than the man of boys and their motives. Something of the child remains in them to make them see very clearly – children sometimes bore down to the soul. Nico for instance.

Your affec
J.M.B.
Nico’s birthday is on Friday remember.

*

The early part of this letter refers to George’s forthcoming entry for the Essay Prize at Eton, which he won. The subject was evidently the hackneyed – and in those incredible days more or less academic – one, of whether or not war can be justified as a solution of international differences. J.M.B. belonged politically, like all the Ll. Davieses, to the liberal or radical party, which had always numbered in its ranks a proportion of anti-war-at-any-cost enthusiasts. A dig at Margaret Ll. D., who was devoted to George, and who was a militant, in fact a die-hard pacifist to the end of her days. She would have loved us all to be conscientious objectors, I have no doubt, bless her. Where she got her pacifism from I don’t know. Her father was not at all of that persuasion, as several of his sermons show.

For a temporary modification of J.M.B.’s attitude towards the glory of war and military prowess, see his last letter to George. Temporary, having regard to his subsequent semi-proprietary adulation of “my general” (Bernard Freyberg), who ultimately became the recipient of the last letter J.M.B. ever wrote. This last rather tiresome remark of mine is really out of place here, but I haven’t the heart to put it in its proper place, i.e. after the last (very wonderful) letter to George.

By November 1911 George was in the full flush of his Eton career, in Pop and the Twenty-two, a regular young blood, a known figure throughout the school, very dressy, fully aware of his attractions and popularity. I seem to remember thinking, in my squalid and scuggishness, that he was a bit up-stage and affected about his time, but in fact his head was no more turned than such a young blood’s should be. He was far from being a “sap” but always (I think) managed to keep in select divisions, and that he should have won this particular prize, for which there was plenty of competition, is strong evidence of his intellectual capacity, and all-round quality. He spent part of his prize-money on a complete edition of Meredith, which Nico now has.

The letter as a whole shows how thoroughly J.M.B. was prepared to enter into the problems of those of “his boys” who gave him an opening. It sounds as if George must have had his share of the stand-offishness which is perhaps a family trait, though he may merely have happened to sit at meals between two exceptionally revolting boys.

For Nico’s private consideration I submit the probability, which is to me almost a certainty, in view of the last sentence in it, that this letter was written very soon after the immortal episode of “You cad!”

[AB: Nico wrote to Sharon Goode (9 February 1976):

‘You Cad’. In its way this is an awful story, tho’ in later years it used to give Peter a lot of devilish delight! The scene was the dining room at 23 Campden Hill Square. I think breakfast-ish: company: J.M.B., all the brothers, possibly excepting Jack: date I don’t know, but if Peter’s ‘almost a certainty’ in the reference to which you refer is correct, it would be autumn of 1911.

Uncle Jim had just returned from America and we were all peppering him with questions as he ate his breakfast. I, aged about 7 or 8, suddenly hurled at him ‘How was Maudie?’ meaning Maude Adams, to whom Uncle Jim always referred to as ‘Miss Adams’.

Uncle Jim’s almost incomprehensible reaction was immediate: looking at me with the very depth of contempt he just said ‘you cad’ which plunged me into a paroxysm of tears and I buried my head in Peter’s lap on a sofa. I can’t recall at all if there were any apologies, but I know all sympathy (even from Michael!) were for me this time.

The point, I suppose, in my telling you and Andrew this story is to show that with all the humour and intense and sympathetic kindness, he could be cruel for brief moments on rare occasions and when he was, he was all the more withering to sensitive souls! But, as perhaps Peter hints in his use of the words ‘immortal episode’ Peter - during the time we worked together and saw so much of each other - was constantly saying ‘You Cad!’ to annoy me.

*

[The following letters were not included in Peter’s Morgue, and are thus bereft of his comments. I can only assume that he did not have them in his possession in 1945 and thus did not know about them when he began compiling this section.]

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

23 C H Sq
Sunday [4 December 1911]

My dear George,

Am just starting with Jack for Mr Lucas’s at Lewes where we are to stay the night, so this is but a scratch of the pen. Pity about the match but you came off personally all right. Have sent off your golf clubs.

Jack is going strong in the way of making calls & going to dances. I took him to theatre last night – The War God. He will be down to see you very soon. He is to have a dance here under the auspices of his aunts while I fly the country.

Yours
J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 C H Sq
Dec 11, 1911

My dear George,

I shd think so much of your money might go on a set of Meredith. There are various editions. I advise the Library editions in 16 vols at 6/- net the vol which would dispose of 96/-. Note exact title of edition & no of vols. If you want any other edition of novels I advise Thackeray, who is sure to captivate you now or soon. I don’t know about prices here but the local bookseller cd get you lists. Then if you preferred, you can never do better than with the Golden Treasury series of which I enclose a list, with prices as you will see according to bindings.

Of course if you prefer the small leather vols, very charming (such as you have or have seen of Stevenson &c) you can get nearly all authors in them (including Meredith &c &c &c) They are mostly about 3/- each in leather.

I have twenty letters to write, so this is but a scrawl.

Jack has got thro’ his exam so will soon be a middy. He is busy with festivities, but has also boils.

Your affec
J.M.B.

[AB: 6/- = six shillings = 30p = £34 in 2021 (= $46).

96/- = £4-16-0d = £4 and 16 shillings = £556 in 2021 (=$762)]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

28th Dicembre [1911]

Darling Doodle Barrie,

Thanks very much for the Roman (I suppose) Calendar and the Dominoes. Have you read my present to you? If you have is it good? I hope so. How are you dearest? Are you coming down here? We went to what Peter gave me can you guess? No? Well I’ll tell you a CINEMATOGRAPH. The day before yesterday I wrote seven letters.

Yours

Nico

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Twenty Three,
Campden Hill Square,
15 Jan 1912

My dear George,

Herewith the thirty bob. Alas, that you should have been prostrated with chestnuts. Had I known while you were down I would have mourned with you, but as you are better again I take rather a cynical interest in the Syrup of Figs, which I never made acquaintance with, and the name suggests to me romantic groves, caiaques on the Bosphorus, languishing eyebrows, whispered nothings & so on. The reality is evidently far different. ’Tis ever so, or mostly.

Michael and Nicholas are none the worse of their adventures on the Granville Express, and tomorrow I am taking them to the Drury Lane pantomime. It begins at 1.30 and goes on to nearly 6. Pity the old man, for the love of Allah.

Jack has written twice, well pleased with his ship and its crew, so far as he has made their acquaintance. His letters mostly deal with the rules & regulations of his mess, which seem to be mainly of a ‘ragging’ character. When the sub-lieutenant in charge cries out “one” they must all rush to him like fags. When he cries “change sides” they have all to dive beneath the table into each others places (helped by boots). When he sticks a fork into the beam above him they must rush out of the room with a drabbing for the hind one,&c. I hope you and Peter will be excited to hear that you are now part-owners of a billiard table. We had our first game on it today.

I'm glad you are getting on at golf.

Your affec
J.M.B.

[AB: 30 bob = 30 shillings = £1-10-0d = £174 in 2021 ($238). Fags: A public school (= a private boarding school in the UK) tradition whereby younger boys – known as “fags” – are more or less slaves to the whims of their elders.

Nico gave me "The Complete Billiard Player" by one Charles Roberts, first published in 1911 and inscribed to "Michael Llewelyn Davies from his friend E.V.L." (= E. V. Lucas). On the blank pages at the end, Barrie has written a "Record of Breaks of 20 & upwards on the New Table. Table put in on Jan 13, 1912." There follows a long list, headed by "Jan 15, 1912 - J.M.B. - 26", followed by "Jan 16 1912 - Michael - 29". For those interested in such ephemera, search for "billiard" in the database to see the scans; there's also an audio clip of Nico talking about it ...]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 C H Sq

30 Jan 1912

My dear George,

I don’t like the idea of all these swamps around you. So long as the frost holds, it is all well from the point of view of health of course, but equally of course frost comes in this country only to raise hopes and retire. I shd think however that frozen fields would be nearing today so you may have a look in.

It sounds well about the fives court, and I hope you will come out thereof with flying colours.

Rather funny about Lawrence Ma[jor] if he now ceases to be as he was. Your suspicions show an awful cynicism for your age!

Tree has at the last moment of the eleventh hour turned tail over the Ladies Shakespeare and is not to do it. Afraid people would think it was making fun of Will apparently.

Of course it must but always be a touch and go affair, and I don’t blame him, except for going about talking of it when it shd have been kept a secret. I don’t quite know what may happen to it now. Various managers seem to want it, but I’ll probably shut it up in a drawer for a bit.

Have you been seeing Peter? I have not heard from him yet. Michael is making losing hazards and Nicholas has conceived the idea that I should set him an exam-written paper (for a prize). The first question that keeps popping up is ‘Who killed Cock Robin?’

Your affec

J.M.B.

[AB: “The Ladies’ Shakespeare” was a semi-comical extra last act to The Taming of the Shrew, revealing Katharina playing with Petruchio. Beerbohm Tree evidently passed, but it flitted in and out of Maude Adams’ US repertory, both as a curtain-raiser and an after-piece, see Barrie’s letter to Frohman, 3 November 1911. It was never performed in England.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.:]

14th of April [1912]

Dear Uncle Jim how is Mr and Mrs Brown and how is Mr Barrie. We arrived here safely yesterday.

Will you ask Bessy how Max is getting on

Our next door neighbours are at this moment lying on the grass but it is a rainny day.

Mary is blowing her nose

I am going to draw now

NIC-O

[AB: See the original for drawings. This letter was probably written from Mary Hodgson’s home in Morecambe rather than Ramsgate. April 14th 1912 is the night the Titanic stuck the iceberg ...]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Nico Ll.D. to J.M.B.: a picture letter]

18th of A P R – R – R – R – I [1912]

Dear Uncle Jim

I have some 40 ? chocolates and Michael has 30 ?.

A new ship came in yesterday called the Queenie.

From Nickelass

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3, Adelphi Terrace House,
Strand, W. C.
May 29 [1912]

My dear George,

This confounded excitement about the XI has rather caught me and I have begun to dream about it. Mix them, curve them, swerve them, break them, and if he still hits it, kick them. I can’t think of any better tip.

I wish I could tie [S.F.] Barnes to your wrist. I wish I was as good at bowling as at that idiotic thing, flinging rings on to watches. At this I am an extraordinary adept. At ‘Shakespeare’s England’ I won four watches (really good ladies watches) in this way. I had to leave the place because I became so famous at it. “The gentleman in the straw hat what has already won six – that’s ’im!” Crowds gazed at me. I never knew what fame was before.

Do you remember how we plugged at the baskets of oranges at Olympia one Christmas? Only a few years ago, but you were no older than Michael is now. He & I went to the Olivers for the week end. The pond has been stocked with rainbow trout & he caught at least 50, about 4 oz on average. They were too guileless however to make it much sport.

Fished with bread on end of hook. Also bird-nested, &c.

Your loving
J.M.B.

[AB: Sydney Barnes (1873-1967), English professional cricketer, considered to be one of the greatest ever bowlers.

The Frederick Scott Olivers, near Reading: old friends of the Llewelyn Davies family.]

*

[Peter’s Morgue continues:]

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,
Strand W. C.
June 3 1912

My dear George,

Floreat Etona. I hope the weather is to be propitious and that you will have a perfect day morally as well as physically without a cloud in the sky for your last 4th of June. It is four years since the day when your mother and I were there and you made us stay on for the fireworks and were really just a small boy, impaling yourself by the waterside on railings. I did not then know even that there was such a thing as pop. It has swum into my ken like some celestial young lady.

It is sad that your bowling arm has not been doing the rest of your justice CK lately, but I am still ready to believe that any day it may retrieve itself, and I have a blessed confidence in your taking the thing in a right spirit shd hopes in the end be disappointed. You remember Roosevelt’s mother, “she done her d––dest, angels could do no more.” Roosevelt by the way seems to CK have done a little more, with results not too pretty.

The great thing for me at all events is the feeling that if your father and mother were here on this 4th June they would be well pleased on the whole with their eldest born.

Your party ought to do you credit and it will be great having your uncle Guy also, not to speak of the fair Miss Margaret CK which I wish I had had something half as nice to smile on me when I was a boy. Just off to 23 to cricket in the square.

Yours affec.
J.M.B.

[AB: “Floreat Etona” = Eton school’s motto, “Let Eton flourish”. From about this time, Captain Hook cries out “Floreat Etona!” as he prostrates himself from the plank into the gaping jaws of the crocodile. Hook is said to have been old Harrovian, Eton’s rival school being Harrow.]

*

I retain a dim picture of George, batting for the XI on the Upper Club on the Fourth of June, playing forward when he should have played back because the band had just struck up his favourite tune of the moment, In the Shadows, and so getting ingloriously out.

Though played as a bowler, he never really found his form that summer, and at Lord’s took no wickets in the first innings and only 1 in the second. But he unexpectedly came off as a batsman and hit up a merry 59, the second highest Eton score of the innings. He also brought off a spectacular high left-handed catch, a photograph of which figured conspicuously in the press.

I don’t know what the Roosevelt allusion refers to.

“The fair Miss Margaret” was Margaret Sale, a Ramsgate neighbour: a fine strapping golfing Amazon, on whom George was decidedly sweet for a time.

I don’t remember who else besides Guy du M. and Margaret Sale were of the creditable party, but I fancy Gerald du M. was. Possibly the party as a whole was the reason for J.M.B.’s non-appearance?

*

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

23 C.H. Sq.
19 June 1912

My dear George,

Nicholas having got a superb bow and arrows has nearly done for all the inhabitants of the Campden Hill district. He is now prepared to use them against any batsman who is not tied in a knot by your bowling. I found Michael surrounded by his presents when I got back from Eton. He has a grand salmon net from your granny, which in low water would I shd say do for scooping the fish out of the pools. I have seen a picture of Amhuinnsnidh. The house is nearer the sea than Scourie Lodge – just separated from it by a terrace which I take to be the tennis lawn. Also a picture of (I think) the “burn” by the door which (perhaps being in flood) is so tumultuous that I am not certain the picture does not represent the Atlantic Ocean. Michael had not read your Study in Scarlet, wonderful to tell, and has devoured it greedily. No dreams, which is more than one had a right to expect.

I think the £12 look will likely be done at Eton on the 5th July under the auspices of your tutor.

I fear I shall have to sit on a Jury most of next week, which is a considerable bore.

Your affec.
J.M.B.

[AB: Amhuinnsuidh Castle on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, which Barrie was to rent for their summer holidays.

“The £12 look” = Barrie’s one-act play, The Twelve Pound Look”.]

*

No letters to or from George during the last weeks of his time at Eton seem to have survived. He had been a very great success there, and had paved the way for the later Etonian triumphs of two of his brothers. In the XI, Treasurer of Pop, Five choices, Essay Prize – a splendid performance indeed. Hugh Macnaghten wrote to J.M.B. at the end of the half:

[Hugh Macnaghten to J.M.B.]

Eton College
Windsor
[28 June 1912]

My Dear Barrie,

Five short years are gone, and the last report has come. Thank goodness the end which crowns the work has been a great success. There was one disappointment when George played for the second XI and seemed in danger of losing his place, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise, for it gave him an opportunity of showing that he could bear the dreaded disappointment well, and after all our “fears were liars.”

The effect upon his happiness has been very clear – the anxious expression has passed away. I think he ought to realize the great danger of worrying – and once for all determine not to do so. If one could make up one’s mind never to expect anything but to take things when they come, how much happier we would be. For George it is a duty not to worry. The whole of the first part of the half I found him silent and wrapped up in his thoughts: since Winchester it has been very different, and he has been at his very best.

I have not said anything about work, but it is a great satisfaction to be able to say that George has worked quite creditably, and indeed has taken more trouble with his verses than he has ever done before. He will do respectably, I believe, in this last examination, and with that I shall be quite satisfied.

I can only end by saying how thankful I am to have had him in my house – though five years is not long enough to get all the good out of Eton – and I am very thankful too for the happiness of these last few weeks. For the modest boy there is no tonic like success, and George has not forgotten to be modest though he is ceasing to be quite so shy.

*

Until I read this I had not, in memory, given shyness so prominent a place in George’s young character. It may well have been so, though possibly Hugh put down as mere shyness some reticence vis-a-vis himself on George’s part. Hugh was a queer one, as queer in his own way as was J.M.B. in his, and the two ways had something in common. Hugh was too good to be wise. In view of the simply terrific things he had later to say about Michael, he is a shade disappointing on George. To some minds, indeed, the preoccupation of a master with success or failure at cricket might seem a condemnation of the Public School attitude to games.

I must be allowed my little dig at Hugh. In his book “Fifty Years of Eton”, musing upon the room in the Warre Schools where he used to teach Upper Division, does he not make a fond and honourable mention of “George, Michael and Nico Davies” (among a dozen or so others, Collegers as well as Oppidans similarly signalised)? So, if I call him a poor judge of character, in seeing so much less in George than Michael, no one can accuse me of lack of prejudice. [i.e Macnaghten omitted to mention Peter.]

George was a Sergeant in the Dog-Potters (E.C.O.T.C.), and took his duties very lightly. At the end of “camp” in 1912, as he and I boarded the Scotch night express at King’s Cross, and as a proper old Etonian (would this be the year in which Captain Hook became an O.E.?) showed me how to get exclusive possession of a 3rd class carriage, viz. by undressing, putting on pyjamas and lying full length on either seat, before the train left the station, and pretending to be asleep. He also instructed me, much against my inclination, during the journey, in the art of inhaling cigarettes right down to the stomach.

To this period, or perhaps a year earlier, belongs the visit recalled by Moya Ll.D. in a letter written to me just after Crompton Ll.D’s death. Crompton concerned himself closely with our affairs both as friend and lawyer, from the death of Arthur to that of Sylvia, soon after which he became engaged to Moya. He was the most emotional of men and had no doubt been eloquent to his equally emotional betrothed on the tragic aspect of the family story. And indeed there must have been something about that house to wring the withers of any but the least sensitive.

*

[Moya Ll.D. to P.Ll.D.]

Furry Park,

Raheny

4th December 1935

My dear Peter,

….. your beautiful mother, of whom he (Crompton) never spoke without a break in his voice. His love and admiration for her were intense. He bought me into your house in Campden Hill Square as if it were a holy sanctuary. I felt completely awed. Then we went up to the nursery where Michael and Nicholas were at tea with Mary looking like two angels in little overalls their mother had designed for them. I was terrified. I thought, this is all too exquisite and these glorious people cannot possibly love such an ordinary thing as I am. But he did …..

…. (Crompton) mentioned your name, Peter, in his second or third last letter to me. I have it somewhere but at the moment I cant find it. He said you were always a very special person to him, that he felt a loving intimacy with you beyond what he felt for almost anyone else, and I remember him telling me in the early years of our marriage more than once “Peter is the one”. You were certainly his favourite of the five sons of your beautiful mother, of whom he [Crompton] never spoke without a break in his voice. His love and admiration for her were intense. He brought me into your house in Campden Hill Square as if it were a holy sanctuary. I felt completely awed. Then we went up to the nursery where Michael and Nicholas were at tea with Mary, looking like two angels in little overalls there mother had designed for them. I was terrified. I thought, this is all too exquisite and these glorious people cannot possibly love such an ordinary thing as I am. But he did .....

[AB: Peter, in his modesty, omitted the first part of Moya’s letter: “Crompton mentioned your name, Peter, in his second or third last letter to me. He said you were always a very special person to him, that he felt a loving intimacy with you beyond what he felt for almost anyone else, and I remember him telling me in the early years of our marriage more than once, “Peter is the One”. You were certainly his favourite of the five sons of your beautiful mother….”]

*

Another visitor of, I think, a year or two later, brought round by J.M.B., was John Masefield, then rising to fame on the wings of The Everlasting Mercy and Dauder. He gave Michael the model mast of a ship, about 4ft high, made fully rigged by himself to the last detail of sail, shroud, halliard and block. A wonderful gift which, I am sorry to have to say, has utterly disappeared, whither I know not. It was only when reading not long ago the latest of Masefield’s autobiographical volumes, The Mill, that I understood why he came to the house, and what it was that must have moved him to give such a notable gift to one of George du Maurier’s grandsons. No more perfect tribute can ever have been paid to a book than that which Masefield in The Mill pays to Peter Ibbetson. “I remember,” he says, writing of his very early youth, “with what fever I waited till I could buy Peter Ibbetson, and how I bore the volume home, opened it at the drawing of the little child wheeling a barrow from the past into the future, and at once drew measurably nearer to the garden of romance. I have read that book through many times since then. God forgive me, once or twice I have wondered whether there be not one or two faults in it; if there be, there were none to me then. It came to me just when I most needed an inner life. On the whole, no prose story, not even Don Quixote, has given me one fifth part of the pleasure and mental companionship...”

Peter Ibbetson is largely an idealization, rather than a true relation, of the author’s childhood. The drawing of the child with the barrow represents Geoffrey or Guy Millar rather than the childish George du M. And the likeness of the childish and bereft Davieses to the drawing, and the poignancy of their situation, must have been enough to make a considerable impression on the future Laureate. Michael’s dreams (or nightmares) were the almost invariable sequel, in his childhood, to the reading of an exciting book, whether it was Conan Doyle or Jekyll & Hyde or a serial in Chums. He had the true stuff of the poet in him from birth, and his two sonnets are quite good enough to be included in an anthology with poems from the pen of Masefield.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 C H Sq

July 5, 1912

My dear George,

I am hoping that your success at Winchester is to make it all right for Lords. I rather take for granted that you were not put on in the second innings tilt the end because Wigan wanted the others to get a chance. But one never knows, and I shall be glad to hear. Of course I was delighted to read of your batting: indeed I burst into a cheer when I saw your score.

Tomorrow Michael & I will probably go to Conan Doyle’s for a night.

Still uncertain about Amhuinnsuidh and it will probably be some days before we know. Hoping to hear from a second analysis that the other one was all wrong, as seems possible. If things can’t be got right we shall have to try for some other place, which will be no small job.

Jack is going to Broadwater for the week end as your Uncle Guy & Granny are there.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3, Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

8 July 1912

My dear George,

My wine would show you we took the great news in the proper spirit. I am greatly delighted and rayther [sic] proud. Your mother used to speak of the possibility with shining eyes. Good to get Foster’s wicket.

The Amhuinnsuidh water is all right when filtered so will probably go up next week. Looking forward to the match.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Amhuinnsuidh,

by Tarbert,

Island of Harris

N.B.

27/7/1912

My dear George,

I enclose £15 for both your fares. You had better travel third class, and get single tickets. You book to Portree and after that pay on boat. You leave Kings Cross at 7.55 p.m, arrive Fort William about 10 a.m where you change into train for Mallaig, which you reach about 11.30. Here you get boat for Portree which you reach about 6 p.m (You will probably have to change boats at Kyle about 2 p.m). You stay the night at Portree, & leave about 6 a.m by boat for Tarbert where you will be joyfully met! The hotel you stay at in Portree is the Royal, & a day or two before you set off you should send a wire thus, ‘Manager, Royal Hotel, Portree. Please reserve a double-bedded room for –– (date) & sign it ‘Davies’. Also some hours before you start send a wire to Kings Cross reserving 2 corner seats: “Superintendent of Line, King's Cross station, London. Please reserve two corner seats third class tonight to Mallaig – Davies.”

I think that is all. It sounds complicated but is really simple. Keep this letter to refer to.

Note: You must leave London on Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday. The other way of getting here on other days is not satisfactory.

The Lucases & Hawkins are here now, & all had perfect passages.

There is dire want of rain & now there’s no wind, so that fishing is for the time poor. But Michael has got 80 sea trout & the fact that Mr. Lucas who never had a rod in his hand except at Duartmore has caught three in Scourst & three in Halladale, all with fly & averaging over one pound each shows how good it is.

I hope all goes well at Eton. Be sure to send exact camp address.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

Amhuinnsuidh, a vast mansion in the island of Harris, built in what Osbert Lancaster might describe as Stockbrokers’ Scotch Baronial style, was taken by J.M.B. for the summer holidays of that year. The cost must have been fabulous. The fishing was to match. Among those who came to stay were Alf [A.E.W.] Mason, E.V. Lucas and his wife, Lord Lucas (no relation), Nurse Loosemore, and the Hawkinses: Anthony Hope and his wife and their two young children.

George (aged 19) was extremely intrigued by Lady Hawkins, and I think this was his first, and probably his last, experience of the delights of a flirtation with an attractive femme du monde. I also doubt whether Betty Hawkins ever had a more attractive adolescent to play with. They enjoyed themselves quite a lot, sheltering from the eternal rain in the fishing-huts by the side of those lonely romantic lochs. She was very easy on the eye, and American, which perhaps accounts for the circumstances, rare enough in those far off days, that occasional nips of whisky fed the flames of dalliance. I envied from afar on these occasions, and George forcibly taught me the elements of tact, i.e. the necessity of the making myself scarce, and I envied from afar, being just at the stage when poor J.M.B. had had to give me, by the banks of the burn, a small talking to for indulging at Eton in what my tutor euphemistically termed water-closet talk. He very nearly penetrated my juvenile defences by telling me it had always been his view that a man without some element of coarseness in his nature was not a whole man, which much disconcerted me, coming from him. But I don’t think he knew what was afoot between George and Betty: not that it probably amounted to anything.

I also remember vividly an occasion when some doubtless intolerable bickering and obstreperousness among “the boys” drove Anthony Hope into a fury, so that he cursed us roundly. There is no need to attribute this either to any knowledge on his part as to his wife’s little tendresse for George, when we bear in mind his celebrated cri de coeur, at the first night of “Peter Pan” – “Oh, for an hour of Herod!” How I have wished since that he had talked to us sometimes about Arthur whom he had known so well in years gone by. But he never did – to me at any rate. It is true we were in many ways an abominable gang, unruly, self-centred and by now pretty much cut off from family traditions of moderation and simplicity, though George retained a good deal of all that.

I am almost sure that at Amhuinnsuidh George and I put on boiled shirts for dinner.

The early part of the letter affords a passing glimpse of the strange household at 23 Campden Hill Square, between which and his flat in the Adelphi J.M.B. at this period divided his time. Michael and Nico, both now at Wilkinson’s, were the permanent residents; the other three of us returned to the queer fold from time to time on leave or holidays; the presiding genius of the place was Mary Hodgson, faithful to her trust, though inevitably disapproving of so much of the nouveau regime.

[AB: When I met George's old friend Sir Roger Chance in 1976, he confided, "Now, who told me this? It may have been OliverLyttleton. “Oh you went to Amhuinnsuidh?” said he. “Yes, Iwent there in 1912. Anthony Hope and his wife were there.” “Oh,were they? Did you know this, Roger? George got into bed with MrsAnthony Hope. She educated him.”

I wish I could add more information about the resourceful Betty Hawkins, but having scoured the internet, all I can find are the bald facts that she was born Elizabeth Somerville Sheldon in 1886 in New York and died in 1946. She and Anthony Hope (1863-1933) were married in 1903 and had three children: two sons and a daughter. In his autobiography, Hope mentions her only once: “I had to sail home [from New York] in the middle of April [1903]. … Besides all that I carried in my memory, there sailed in the same boat the American girl who a few months later became my wife.” So Betty was 22 years younger than Hope – and 7 years older than George, she being 28 in the summer of 1912. Their dalliance seems to have continued beyond the Hebridean holiday, for in January 1913, George’s grandmother Emma wrote to her daughter May, “George left this morning as Mrs Anthony Hope is taking him to a theatre tonight. I am not sure that I like George to see so much of her.” And in February 1914, Barrie was writing to George, “Jack was here the week-end but I barely saw him as he was so much taken up with–– mostly with the Hawkins’s I think. Ah, look out for your laurels!”]

*

[AB: In the absence of any other letters or reminiscences about the Amhuinnsuidh holiday, I’m sure Peter would not have objected to me here inserting a letter from Mary Hodgson to her sister Nancy since it gives a fine glimpse of Mary’s character as well as the upstairs-downstairs life at the castle. The letter was one of several that Mary's niece Mary Hill gave me when visiting her in 1976:]

Amhuinnsuidh Castle

Tarbert

North Harris

Scotland.

[Sunday] 1. 9. 12.

My dear Nancy,

Am glad you have both arrived home, & hope Jinnie won the bet about the dinner, to pay Mother out for her want of faith in her daughters.

I trust you served up the salmon with mayonnaise sauce. It was one of Michael's catches. Though getting on in years I have not yet learnt the art of running after the upper ten.

E. V. Lucas & family have departed after a month's stay.

A. E. W. Mason also, after 10 days.

Anthony Hope Hawkins, wife, son & daughter & governess have been here five weeks & are still hanging on.

Nurse Loosemore, who nursed Mrs Arthur, is also here for an indefinite period.

Lord Lucas & Miss Herbert his sister, also were here for 10 days.

We have had (to use slang) the pick of the literary geniuses of England, but alas — either my liver is out of order, or my ideals too high, for at close quarters they are but mortal & very ordinary at that.

The weather has been very good for Scotland, & the fishing has been splendid. They (the boys) generally go on ponies & are getting quite expert at riding.

Jack is not with us — his holidays do not come convenient.

J.M.B. is well, & much better than I have seen him for some years.

Did you realize how well George played at Lord's Cricket Ground? You would have thought someone had given Nico sixpence that day, his spirits were so high.

Minnie is busy, but more cheerful than of yore. Lilian (parlourmaid) kindly turned kitchen-maid just while we're here & she has been most helpful & happy about it. Bessie took to her bed for a few days after our arrival - I think she missed London - however she is quite recovered now. Minnie also sent a fish to her home, also Lilian, also Bessie also Mr Brown (J.M.B.'s butler), also Michael's ghillie - the man who accompanies him in his travels & whom I implore not to bring him back in pieces. This castle seems not to have any history, being quite modern. It belongs to a Sir Samuel Scott, who is M.P. for Paddington. But the country around is grand, really magnificent. There are two housemaids & an odd man kept here all the year round. They are Scotch - very. Then there's Sandy, a boatman, who also comes in to meals, & the postman who sleeps in a room outside & has to be paid separate for bringing our letters from Tarbert - 12 miles away.

I sent Lilian to fetch in the Blacksmith's daughters the other night, & with an old melodeon [a type of accordion] we saw a fine Scotch reel & a real [?Schollishe] done. They are fine dancers. The heel and toe were perfect. I was quite envious. I hear the coachman's son plays the bag-pipe, so I have hopes of getting him in. The billiard room is hung with tapestry illustrating Biblical stories - one of Joseph being sold by his brothers. The other rooms are not interesting - except the kitchen. 3 fireplaces, splendid tables & a full set of copper saucepans of all sizes which Minnie thinks we might take back to 23 [Campden Hill Square], or at any rate one or two, if only Marion (head housemaid) will say they have worn out. I have not seen a newspaper since I came so am lost as regards the outside world. There is a service in the Blacksmith's tonight, but as they are always in Gaelic, we none of us go. The school is 2 miles away - generally 14 scholars in summer. The mistress has a strap<\u> — Nicholas has seen it. We leave here about the 17th, if all goes well. Then P[eter] goes to Eton alone, & George to Cambridge. Michael is now top of his school, & Nico is top but one of his class.

Nico & two boys from the cottages here had a football match, they called it Castle .v. Village. They enjoyed the kicking immensely, but which side won I cannot discover.

I trust mother is keeping well. My love to you all & congratulations to Jinnie [???] the Alconbury prizes not forgetting her promise of the lace.

Dadge.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[May Coles to her mother Emma du Maurier]

23 Cheyne Walk,

Chelsea, S.W.

Tuesday.

[19 September 1912]

My darling Mummie,

... I think the boys enjoyed having us on Sunday. We played great games of hide and seek. Mr Barrie was there, no one else, & he paralysed me as much as ever, also Helen - he didn't play hide and seek with us. ...

Your loving May

[AB: This letter was one of several that Nico found between May and her mother Emma. May was now married to Edward Coles, known to the family as "Coley".]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

24th November [1912]

Dear Crock,

Are you out of bed yet? Can you come today? First present a stamp and a book called Vandrad the Viking from [? brother] Michael, second a box of things, how to make ships, from Dick and Milly, 3rd what I’m writing with now a fountain pen 4th golf club 5th golf balls – all from grannie 6th a game called ? Fantasies where you fan birds into a cage from Aunt Trixie 7th a skeleton tie pin that lit from Mary and Biddy Macnaghten 8th a chocolate cake with a clock on and with shillings round it nine the figures of the clock pointing to nine from Aunt May 9th a box of chocolates box from Mrs Mia Brown 10th a torch from F[lorrie] Gay and I have not got yours yet and I expect two to-day from Aunt Margaret and Kate I had nth I don’t know who it’s from its a History of France. Thanks awfully Uncle Jim

Good bye

old

crock

nine

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Emma du Maurier to her daughter May Coles]

16 Royal Crescent

Jan 6, 1913

My darling May,

[…] George left this morning as Mrs Anthony Hope is taking him to a theatre tonight. I am not sure that I like George to see much of her.

It is a perfect morning and I now quite look forward to my bath chair ride.

The boys and girls are great friends and I hope it will last. Michael and Nico were immensely tickled because Angela and Daphne kissed Peter and George when they arrived.

I miss my quiet time and siesta that I had when you were here. The children instead of being torpid after lunch are livelier than ever and the maids are so long over their dinner and don’t get out early enough. However it doesn’t matter for such a short time. [...]

Hicks has given me strychnine now and says the less I walk the better so I shall obey him here.

Your loving Mother.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to George Ll.D. at Cambridge]

3, Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

6 May 1913

My dear George,

Your motoring sounds to me very dangerous and really troubles me. This tearing breakneck, especially round corners is not only risky to those on board however expert the driver may be, but is something of a curse for the public, and some day a child or an old man may suddenly emerge& lose his head & not know whether to stop or go on or turn back. Horrible things happen then at times.

Michael so far is very lonely and unhappy at Eton, and I am depressed thereby. He is up to a man called Ramsay who insists on everyone talking to him in Latin – all well enough to boys who know the ropes but very trying to a small boy just arrived who wants to be told his way about.

I am negotiating for a house in Perthshire for summer. It is just trout fishing at our time of year, but very pretty country, & if we go I hope you’ll like it. It seems the best I can do this year.

Jack has had influenza.

Your affec.

J.M.B.

[AB: George was now up at Trinity College, Cambridge.]

*

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

New Buildings,

Eton College,

Windsor.

Sunday [1 June 1913]

Dearest Aunt Margaret,

As usual, I have been dreadfully slack about writing, without much excuse either, I’m afraid, except that it is the Summer Half at Eton. The fact of the matter is I have almost given up cricket of a really serious nature, and indulge in more frivolous sports of the type of Bumble Puppy and Archery – greatly to the scandal of masters and to a large extent boys. Nevertheless it’s much more amusing than the monotony of cricket every day – and Michael still remains to carry on the family traditions regarding cricket colours.

I get a good deal more time to myself, with the result that I have been reading much more than usual just lately. In particular I enjoyed that book of ‘Essays on Rebellion’ by [Henry] Nevinson, which you gave me last half. They put things extraordinarily clearly, and provide me, moreover, with a lot of useful stuff for my weekly French essay, at times.

The library of Trinity looks very attractive in the little print you sent. I hope I shall be able to resort there a good deal when I go up there next term. It is nice to be able to step into George’s last rooms; and he is moving into some of the best in the college, I gather, previously inhabited by Thackeray and Macaulay – and I shall get these at the beginning of my second year.

Give my love to grandfather who, I hope, is doing well.

Yours affectionately

Peter

[PS] I saw Aunt Agnes for a moment down here the other day on her way back from the Bursars. She has got a flat quite close to you now, hasn’t she?

[AB: Aunt Agnes = Harry Llewelyn Davies’ much-loved Scottish wife.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

19 May 1913

My dear George,

You should go to see Miss Irene Rooke at Cambridge Theatre. “Nan” if she does it. I have told her you may and that she is to be nice if you have the pluck to approach her. She used to be in Quality St.

Nicko & I went into the country to Masefield’s yesterday for the day.

In haste

Your loving,

J.M.B.

Heard your cricket doings had been in ‘Gentlemen’ & am taking it in!

[AB: Irene Rooke, 1878-1958, was a theatrical actress of some minor note. She had played Fanny Willoughby in the original 1902 production of Barrie’s Quality Street, as well as Mrs Darling in the 1906/07 touring production of Peter Pan. Given that she was 14 years older than George, it seems unlikely that Barrie was trying to set him up; more probably he – or George – hoped she’d impart a few thespian tips now that he was in the Cambridge Amateur Dramatic Society.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

6 June 1913

My dear George,

I enclose £3-10 for the Athenaeum. I am very interested to hear the results of the Mays. Of course I know when you say you have worked that you have worked, & the great thing is that I do know this. There was an essay prize your father got at Trinity that I am keen you should go in for. If you don't know what it is, find out.

I’m also avid to know how you felt as well as how others thought you felt at the first A.D.C. "Stage" fright! I have seen them at it.

Brown is great on the baronet question. Michael & Peter were on it with him on Wed[nesda]y so they have had first shot. It means an awful lot of letters to answer.

Your affec

J.M.B.

[AB: £3-10 = £3 and 10 shillings = £3.50 = £464 in 2021 ($636). Presumably this was the annual fee – or the joining fee? – for the Athaneum Club.

“The baronet question”: having declined a knighthood in 1909, Barrie had been offered a baronetcy, which was accepted and announced in the King’s Birthday Honours List on June 14th. Literary baronetcies were virtually unknown, and were awarded by the monarch, in this case George V. According to Mackail, the news was kept a secret until the eve of the announcement, but this letter to George implies otherwise.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Twenty Three,

Campden Hill Square,

Kensington.

July 19, 1913

My dear George,

Only the other day — and now you have come to twenty years. When I saw you first, I said you were a gorgeous boy, and long afterwards I discovered that your mother thought I had been singularly happy in my choice of adjectives. 20 years with nothing very heinous on your soul I think, and many hopeful traits. May all turn out as your father and mother would have wished. It rests mainly with you, but I like to try to help

I have a birthday gift for you in a drawer, awaiting your return. Jack is hopeful again of being with us. I earnestly hope we shall pull this off. My love to Crompton & Moya.

Affectionately,

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to Gwen du Maurier]

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

17 Nov [1913]

Dear Gwen,

Could you fix it for some day next week, not a Friday as on Fridays Nico has a double dose of “prep”, and his tutor comes at 5.30. That hour on another day would be best. Should like just to have him examined then, after which we could compare the rival dentist.

Many thanks, in great haste

Yours

J.M.B.

*

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

3, Adelphi Terrace House, W.C

18th Nov. 1913

My dear George,

Yes, it was all very sad, and I knew how you were feeling it. Many things besides this will remind you now of the last days at Ashton, and they will take on a new meaning to you. Your mother did not want your minds to dwell on sadness even for a moment when you were younger. She grudged every second of happiness you were deprived of. I don’t know if I told you that in the paper of directions she wrote at the end but was not found till long afterwards, she said she did not wish her funeral day to be made long and wearisome for you, and also that she did not wish any of you to go to the funeral. It can only be afterwards that a boy realises the unselfishness of a mother’s love. It is a pain as well as a glory to him. Of course there is much you can do for her still. And one thing is to work well at Cambridge, for the future so depends on it, and you can guess how she thought of your future.

I am trying to arrange about the luncheon with the great man.

Take care of your cold.

Your affec

J.M.B.

*

I don’t know what circumstances gave rise to this letter. Possibly there had been some discussion about wills and things, as George was now in his twenty-first year.

It is an admirable letter, as indeed all J.M.B.’s to George are. Yet might it not be argued, without impropriety, that it requires no very great unselfishness to be anxious to spare one’s children the dreary and to them incomprehensible ordeal of one’s funeral? In any case I don’t think myself that it is the unselfishness of a mother’s love which is a pain or a glory to a boy: it is the fact that she is dead which is a pain to him, and the only glory in the business is the halo which surrounds her when she was the kind of person Sylvia was. And finally, since I am in rather a captious mood at the moment, does it seem rather like “hitting below the belt” to fasten an exhortation to work on to some circumstance which had lately moved George to melancholy?

But very likely I’m wrong, as Hugh Macnaghten used to say.

I know very little indeed or George’s time at Cambridge, which only lasted a couple of years. No scholarship or fellowships for him, but a great deal of enjoyment. There must have been plenty of letters from him to J.M.B. during this period, among the mass I collected from “the flat” after J.M.B.’s death, but I suppose I destroyed them. I regret having done so now; Jack and Nico may regret that I didn’t destroy the entire box of tricks.

George joined the Amateur Dramatic Society, and played Ernest in The Importance of Being Ernest. He turned from a boy into a young man, and must have spread his wings a little in the vacations. I don’t think he was precocious, and I am sure there were few dark or difficult places in his character. He was exceptionally attractive to both sexes, but not spoilt. He had a devoted and in many ways invaluable mentor in J.M.B., but the way cannot have been altogether easy for him, as the first of the family to grow up against so peculiar a background.

Of his Cambridge friends who have survived I recollect only Oliver Lyttelton, who played with him in “The Importance” and whose mother, becoming addicted to Spiritualism, was later to upset J.M.B. by professing to have got into communication with George “on the other side”.

*

[AB: Oliver Lyttelton, later Lord Chandos, wrote in his 1968 autobiography, From Peace to War: “My greatest friend [at Cambridge] was George Llewelyn Davies, adopted son of Sir James Barrie, and we were like brothers. Sometimes we talked with Barrie in his rooms at the Adelphi. He was a sad, little man and smoked a huge disproportionate pipe. He was not whimsy in conversation, and with us he was unexpected and affectionate.”]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to Gwen du Maurier]

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

27 November [1913]

My dear Gwen,

Dr Rendel came in and examined Nico today, but he says he is sure nothing should be done to his adenoids as he is quite all right, and that tho’ it were done it could not affect the teeth or jaw. These were Dr Tilly’s views also when he cut the [rest of letter missing]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[J.M.B. to Gwen du Maurier]

23 Campden Hill Square, W.

27 Dec [1913]

My dear Gwen,

I was quite elated when I found you had remembered me for Christmas and you get off very easily if I send you only one of my books, for if it really was your own door I’d cart the lot of them to it. I like my note book immensely. May you have a good New Year. You have added to my pleasure in mine.

Yours

J.M. Barrie

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

3 Feb 1914

My dear George,

I am always very glad when you write – cheers me considerably, and that’s the truth. It didn't matter at all about the box as far as I was concerned, but I was sorry the chicken pox had laid the damsel low. The Stevenson letter was for Mr. Lucas to see as he was wondering whether he could print some of it in an article. I have given it him to read.

Jack was here the week-end but I barely saw him as he was so much taken up with––– mostly with the Hawkins’s I think. Ah, look out for your laurels!

Glad you liked [Quiller] Couch’s lecture. The scarlet geranium in one syllable is a good story. Two tries in the rugger match is good also. That is certainly a very sensible way of taking exercise. I hope you are working steadily also. Turley [Smith] is staying with me just now and instead of Bridge we play draughts on the little board bought at Mürren. Lunn [?] wrote me apologising for that photograph in the papers, which was not by his photographer. Barker has only been in once – probably because there was no chance of meeting you. I must fix up a nice evening with you for him – or rather with him for you. [A. A.] Milne is coming in to dinner on Thursday.

Your affectionate

J.M.B.

[AB: “Look out for your laurels” implies that Barrie was well aware of George’s little “dalliance” with Anthony Hope’s wife Betty.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Emma du M. To Michael Ll.D. at Eton]

2L Portman Mansions, W

Feb 3, 1914

Dearest Michael,

I congratulate you on the double remove & now you are in the Upper School I believe. Capital! I am delighted. Jack & Nico came to see me on Sunday. Jack is off to Cherbourg in a few days & then I believe to Spain. Mr Budger Preston is coming to see me this afternoon. I'm afraid he's going to advise me to have a few teeth out!

Your affectionate

Grannie.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Mary Hodgson to her sister Nancy]

23 Campden Hill Square, W.

15.3.14.

My dear Nancy,

My new costume is navy blue. Sherlock Holmes will soon have to take second if you progress much further with your thought reading.

I am so glad to hear of the progress in music – I only wish I could have done some thing similar.

Peter and Michael have been up for their half term week end and they and Nico went to tea with their Uncle Maurice and his daughters. The latter are very like their mother’s side of the family, but Miss Roberts (Nellie) said when you have looked sometime at Miss Mary – she has a most decided look of her great Aunt Emily.

Did you ever hear me speak of a Major Wace, Mrs Maurice’s uncle – the boys met him at their Uncle’s – he is now a general!! Mr & Mrs Harry have taken a flat or small house at Hampstead for 6 months or so, then I hear they are to go abroad again. I saw in the paper that Miss Margaret had been one of the prominent people in welcoming the wives of the 9 deported.

Lady Mary Murray’s daughter Rosalind is married to a Mr Toynbee. Did you see Mr C. Roberts had been appointed under secretary for India. Mollie Mitchell writes saying she hopes soon to have saved enough to buy a small piece of land.

Henry – who was with us at Berkhamsted – has left the Army and with his savings is starting some business in a small way.

Mabel hopes to marry this summer. Minnie has lately made 2 nice little frocks for baby girls, not to mention underwear for herself. Bessie expects to become a mother before June. The latest from K.L. is that Winnie Jackson is to be married to Percy Harrison and live in Bective Road & that John Smith – Working Men’s Club - is dead.

Mrs Pankhurst has been again arrested and again released – her methods are wrong, but she is an able speaker. Love to both. Dadge.

[AB: This is another letter from Mary Hodgson’s “treasury”, donated by her niece Mary Hill. It makes for a fascinating glimpse of the below-stairs staff who all seem to have kept in touch with one another. “Uncle Maurice”’s two daughters were Theodora and Mary, both ardent civil rights advocates. “Mr & Mrs Harry” were Harry Llewelyn Davies and his Scottish wife Agnes.]

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House

29th June 1914

My dear George,

It seems to be a little heaven below, and your first introduction to Italy something you won't forget. London is very close just now, and when evening comes I envy your roof garden and the fireflies. I have seen them but not in their glory as you are getting them. Italy I only know in the north where I walked for a bit a hundred years agone. I hope you got a fish that first night you went out to try for them. Nicholas talks of sending you a comic paper called “The Firefly”. I have ordered “The Times” to be sent you daily. I went to Winchester the first day of the match to be with Michael, as Peter had other fish to fry. Both sides battled well but on a good wicket very weak in bowling.

Peter sends me orders to take him to the opera at Long Leave.

Our Supper is on Friday and I have written half a dozen plays for it. I’ll send you a programme. My regards to Heaton, Lawrence & Adeline.

Work a good deal.

Your affec

J.M.B.

[AB: “Our supper” = Barrie’s “Cinema Supper”. It is easy to forget while reading Peter’s Morgue that Barrie – just like the boys – had a life of his own quite separate from the Five. The Cinema Supper is a good example, so let Mackail further explain: “Invitations issued to about a hundred and fifty guests, almost all on the stage or in society, to repair to the Savoy Theatre on Friday, July 3rd. Here a banquet would be served—described as Act I on the programme—and an entertainment would follow… a whole series of all-star sketches written by J.M.B.: Miss Marie Löhr and Dion Boucicault in Why? A Conundrum. Miss Lillah McCarthy and Henry Ainley in One Night. Miss Jean Aylwin, with Edmund Gwenn and Henry Vibart, in When the Kye Came Hame. Miss Irene Vanbrugh and Godfrey Tearle in Taming a Tiger. Interpolation at this point, in her own material, of the lovely and gifted Miss Ina Claire. Gerald du Maurier and Granville Barker in The Bulldog Breed. To conclude—and what can Frohman, who was also present, have thought of this joke?—with “still another version of The Adored One, in which the players were Miss Marie Tempest, with O. P. Heggie and Graham Browne. Even in that legendary, luxurious season this was a startling and outstanding affair. Look at those names. Consider the limited and exclusive company of guests, which was headed—and five days after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo—by the Prime Minister and Mrs. Asquith, and from which hundreds of jealous and baffled snobs and notabilities were shut out. What on earth was Barrie up to? Why on earth had he suddenly assumed the mantle of Lucullus and the Medicis, or of the wife of an American millionaire? You may well ask, just as you may well gasp at the six sketches which he threw off or threw out for this one, astonishing evening. Yet there was a reason of sorts. Self-expression, for one thing. The wish to surprise himself and everyone else by beating all rivals at yet another game. And the calculated, extraordinary scheme of stationing men with movie-cameras to film the guests as they arrived or ate and drank. For it was Barrie’s fantastic intention to employ shots from the Cinema Supper as an introduction to a scene in his revue. … The very day after the party he was down in Hertfordshire, with his technicians, with Barker as joint-director, and with a cast consisting of Lord Howard de Walden, G.B.S., G. K. Chesterton, and William Archer. H. G. Wells and Maurice Baring had also been invited, but one was too suspicious and the other too busy to attend. Cowboy suits had been provided, and were produced from a beer-barrel. The company put them on, and ran about, and leapt, as they were ordered. Chesterton was set to cross a stream in a boat, swamped it, and—still as a cowboy—waded ashore. The spell, it seems obvious, was working overtime on that crazy and remarkable day.” Mackail adds, tantalisingly, that “a copy of the film still exists.” If anyone knows of its whereabouts, please let us know.]

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House

13th July 1914

My dear George,

Peter and I set out on Saturday to wire you the result of the Eton & Harrow match and forgot about it in the stress of going to the opera. Both nights of Long Leave did he drag me to the opera. Neither he nor Michael patronised the match, and again, as on a former occasion you remember, we were at the White City thinking all was up with Eton, while the XI were gloriously turning defeat into victory. Another piece of news just arrived tonight is that Michael who went in for the College Scholarship exam came out seventh. He will stay on at Macnaghten’s but I am glad he went in and some other boy can be made happy with the scholarship.

Still another piece of news of a more troublesome kind that I have not been able to get along with Barker about the play and I am insisting on having it back from him at a heavy monetary cost to me. I have missed your support in the matter I can tell you.

Very near your birthday now!

My brother [Alexander] at Kirriemuir is very near his end now, and I may go north any day. He has not known any of us for years,

I hope all is still very happy in your romantic home. It is an experience you won’t forget. Write soon.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

These two letters are addressed to George at Fortezza, Aulla, Massa Carrara, Italy, where he spent a month or two of the 1914 Long Vacation, ostensibly “reading”, with two Eton-Cambridge friends, Micky Lawrence and David Heaton. There is a photograph of George with Micky Lawrence taken at this time; the last photograph of him that I know of. He is posing a little in it, in a humorous sort of way, and looks just about as handsome and attractive as a young man of 21 should be, and as in fact he was. I know nothing about his brief experience of youthful independence and freedom, which ended with the outbreak of the bloody old war.

No doubt it was naughty of me, as J.M.B.’s faintly caustic phrase implies, to steer clear of the Winchester match, to say nothing of Lord’s. All the same, his (only semi-) humorous references to my callow enthusiasm for the opera – to which, nevertheless, he gallantly accompanied me – are a reminder that, being himself totally unmusical, he not only did not encourage such leanings, but in one way and another could not help discouraging them. The operas were Khorantchina and (I think) Boris Godunov, with Chaliapin singing; and one had also at the time a calf-love for the Russian Ballet, then an exciting novelty, and that was still more emphatically frowned on or ridiculed. He may have been right; but I felt obscurely then, and feel strongly now, that a little more encouragement in the artistic way would have been very good for us all; would have filled a real need in our sprouting natures. The fact is that music and painting and poetry, and the part they may be supposed to play in making a civilised being, had a curiously small place in J.M.B.’s view of things. I think it was of far more interest to him that George and all of us should excel in games and fishing, as well as of course being thoroughly good mens sana in corpore sano specimens, than that we should acquire any real culture in Matthew Arnold’s sense of the word.

The lighter side of life was thoroughly catered for, and for that I am duly and deeply grateful. Hullo Ragtime and its successors, with which J.M.B. was so oddly and closely connected, was one of our major preoccupations, and delights, and what we didn’t know about revue was scarcely worth knowing. And if one had to discover the Sentimental Journey (in a little volume with Arthur on the fly leaf) and Shelley (ditto) for oneself, one was guided with much wise criticism down the paths of Kipling and Stevenson and Thackeray and Meredith, to say nothing of Phillips Oppenheim and O. Henry. And of course there was the intimate connection with J.M.B.’s own plays. The only play I ever went to with Arthur was The Merchant of Venice (in the pit).

I realise I have been a bit too autobiographical in these last few words; but what I am driving at is that not only I, but George, now in his twenties, and in so many ways a splendid example of young manhood, would have benefited by a wider educational background, and that this, which he would have had if Arthur and Sylvia had lived, was something J.M.B., with all his devotion and sympathy and generosity and wit, had it not within him to provide.

I don’t forget that Rupert Brooke went to Hullo Ragtime ten – or was it twenty? – times; or that Michael wrote two wonderful sonnets; or that George was good enough for anyone’s money as he was, and that anyway his story ends only a few months later, so why worry?

[AB: Nico thought that Peter was being a little harsh here: Barrie had urged him to read, among others, the novels – and poetry – of Thomas Hardy as well as the Brontes, particularly Emily’s Wuthering Heights and her poetry.]

*

[Late addition by Nico, having come across George’s little fishing diary of 1914]:

Thursday, July 30

Arrived in the morning. Everything very dry and in need of rain. Spent the day fishing down below the house. Fly was useless, & impossible in the good pools owing to trees. Worm accounted for three trout weighing nine ounces. I got too a salmon of 17 lbs...

Friday, July 31

Walked five & a half miles over the hills to Loch Lyon. It was a cold day & came on to rain hard about two o’clock. I got one trout ¾ lb, & was heartily glad to come away. It rained steadily all the afternoon & evening.

Saturday, Aug 1

The burn was in very fair spate & the weather still wet in the morning. I decided to use worm, & got 25 trout weighing 4¼ lbs, largest 6 oz. Next week I must give the fly its chance.

Monday, Aug 3

Gave the fly its chance in the morning below the house, & didn’t rise a parr. The weather is still nothing but wind & rain, & the Kinglass is still immense, & rising. Got seven trout with worm in the afternoon, weighing 22oz; – largest 5 oz.

Tuesday, Aug 4

A vilely wet & windy day. After lunch I went to the bottom of the Kinglass & fished up, but caught nothing. The burn was too big.

Wednesday, Aug 5

Still rather wet, but the burns have gone down. I fished the Kinglass, & the burn running with it above the house, getting 5 trout weighing 1 lb 14 oz, largest ¾ lb. This one was caught in a pot underneath a large waterfall, & I could only just reach the water, lying prone, to net him.

Aug 6

Peter arrived for breakfast, bringing with him a letter to me about joining the Special Reserve or Territorials. We took lunch out up the burn that turns into the Kinglass under the railway bridge & each got 10 trout weighing 30 oz. Pouring rain. We went to London in the evening.

(Diary continues Friday, Aug 21 … nothing of interest till Aug 25)

Tuesday, Aug 25

Leave arrived for us to fish the Orchy & Lochs Ba and Dochart. Peter & I set out to Loch Ba and got 81 trout between us. I got 42 weighing 10½ lbs – largest 7 oz. It was a splendid windy day, with plenty of sun. I have never fished such a Loch.

Wednesday, Aug 26

Peter and I went to Stirling by motor to get medically examined for the Special Reserve. I fished the Kinglass with fly in the evening & got nothing but parr.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

26 Aug [1914]

My dear George,

I hope all is going well at Auch. You will have seen that the opening of the first real battle [Mons] has not gone well for the allies tho’ of course it is only a rebuff. It all goes to show that the war will be a long one.

I am to see George Booth today and will let you know result of our talk.

I had my doctor in, and he pronounces my head trouble to be shingles. It shd run its course in a fortnight now.

Nothing in men’s minds & faces here but the seriousness of the war. I am to dine tonight with Lord Lucas & will hear some things.

Your affec

J.M.B.

Ask Mary to look in drawers of study table for my cheque book & send it me. Also note book.

*

[From George’s fishing diary:]

Thursday, Aug 27

I fished the Orchy. It was in fine condition, & I got two salmon, weighing 13 & 23 lbs. The first took an hour, & I gaffed him myself. Peter & Gerald arrived in time to see the second hooked, & Peter gaffed him. A third I lost soon after, & he took the fly & cast with him. A naked wade-in proved of no avail.

Friday, Aug 28

A drizzling morning. I went with Macpherson to Loch Dochart & got 40 trout weighing 11½ lbs, largest ½ lb. Gerald & Peter got 40 on Loch Ba, & Michael a salmon and grilse on the Orchy.

Saturday, Aug 29

Orchy with salmon rod. Two fish 11½ & 4½ lbs. Jock Scott & Dusty Miller. Same pool as Thursday. Nico came with mo & wielded the gaff with great effect.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

29th Aug [1914]

Dear George,

Glad to hear of the 60th, your sterling journey, &c. George Booth didn't come, had to go away will come soon. However neither business nor Cambridge can really be our Tapis (tapis!) just now – the situation is so grave, nothing but war exists. I think Germany will soon have French coast – Calais, Boulogne &c, & we grip on to Havre. Of course we’d retain the Channel. All will be well in the end if French army can keep on defensive. Our troops have fought even better than you know.

Orchy, Baa, &c splendid. Fish as much as you can just now.

Loving,

J.M.B.

Cheque book arrived. Note book must be here.

*

[From George’s fishing diary. Fishing each day except Sunday. Nothing of interest till Sept 8:]

Sept 8

A fine windy day, with sun till 3 o’clock. I went to Loch Ba and had rather a day out. 65 trout, weighing 15¾ lbs. Largest 7½ oz. It was a splendid day to wind up my trout fishing with. Michael got 35 on Loch Dochart.

Sept 9

In the morning I threw a farewell Jock Scott, Blue Doctor, & Silver Doctor over the Orchy. Not a rise. The fish were very lively, evidently owing to the rain that came after lunch.

Finis

* * *

I can find no letters dealing with the start of the war, so must put in a few more words of my own. At the time of the declaration, George, Michael and Nico, with J.M.B., were at Auch, in Argyllshire, beginning the usual summer holiday. Jack, I take it, was mobilising before any of us, as a Sub-Lieutenant, R.N. I had come to London from the O.T.C. Camp which broke up the day before. Circumventing the financial moratorium which was declared next day by borrowing a fiver from E.V. Lucas, whom I met at [the ragtime revue] “The Passing Show” (You’re Here & I’m Here), I went up that night to Scotland taking with me a letter addressed to George which I had picked up at 23 C.H.S.

The letter proved to be a circular from the Adjutant of the Cambridge O.T.C., pointing out that it was the obvious duty of all undergraduates to offer their services forthwith, and placing himself at the disposal of all for advice as to how to set about it. This slightly disconcerting document – for great wars were a novelty then – was taken to apply to me also, as I had left Eton and was due to go to Trinity the next term. Accordingly George and I travelled back to London the same night, in a carriage full of reservists rejoining the colours, who by their boozy geniality did a good deal to reconcile us to the dark fate which seemed to have descended on us so unexpectedly. Next day we went down to Cambridge, where the Corps Adjutant, a major in the Rifle Brigade, recommended the Rifle Depot at Winchester as a suitable gambit. The “Pack up your Troubles” philosophy caught from the reservists was by now beginning to recede from us, and I think George as well as I had odd sensations in the pit of the stomach as we emerged from Winchester Station and climbed the hill to the Depot. At any rate George had one of those queer turns, something between a fainting fit and a sick headache, to which he had been prone since childhood, and had to sit for a few minutes on a seat outside the barracks. I would willingly have turned tail and gone back to London, humiliated but free. George however, the moment he recovered, marched me in with him through those stark portals; and somehow or other, in our ignorance of all the ways of the army, and of the very names of the two distinguished regiments in whose depot we now were, we found ourselves inside the office of Lt Col the Hon. J.R. Brownlow, D.S.O., commanding the 6th (Special Reserve) Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles, then in the midst of mobilising, preparatory to proceeding to its war station at Sheerness.

“Roddy” Brownlow, a very handsome, fierce-looking (not only looking, either) man of middle age with grey hair and silky grey moustache was busy writing, and looked up to ask rather gruffly what we wanted.

“Well – er – Sir, we were advised by Major Thornton to come here to ask about getting a commission…Sir,” said George.

“Oh, Bulger Thornton at Cambridge, eh? What’s your name?”

“Davies, sir.”

“Where were you at school?”

“Eton, sir.”

“In the corps?”

“Yes, sir, sergeant.”

“Play any games? Cricket?”

“Well, sir, actually, I managed to get my eleven.”

“Oh, you did, did you?”

The colonel, who had played for Eton himself in his day, now became noticeably more genial, and by the time he had ascertained that George was the Davies who had knocked up a value of 59 at Lord’s (which knock he had himself witnessed with due appreciation) it was evident that little more need be said.

“And what about you, young man?” he asked, turning to me.

“Please, sir, I’m his brother,” was the best I could offer in the way of a reference.

“Oh, well, that’s all right, then. Just take these forms and fill them in and get them signed by your father and post them back to me. Then all you have to do is to get your uniforms – Pulford in Albemarle Street will do as well as anyone – and wait till you see your name in the London Gazette. I’m pretty busy just now, so good-bye.” And the colonel dismissed his smile, waved dismissal to two slightly bewildered second lieutenants designate, and went on with his writing.

So easy it was, in August 1914, to obtain the King’s commission in the Special Reserve of the 60th Rifles.

A day or two later came a cable from Guy du Maurier in India, recommending us to join his regiment, the Royal Fusiliers, and it was not without legitimate pride that George replied that we were already, for all practical purposes, officers in His Majesty’s army.

There followed two or three weeks of waiting, in Scotland and London, at the end of which – I think about the second week in September – George Ll.D. and Peter Ll.D. were gazetted to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and very self-conscious in the unfamiliar garb of their new calling, proceeded to the 6th Battalion of the Regiment, under canvas at Holm Place, a mile or two outside Sheerness.

The afternoon we arrived, eight young officers (children, I should call them now) who had only joined a week or two earlier, with little or no more previous training than ourselves, had just received their orders for France, to replace casualties in the Battalions on the Marne and the Aisne. This somewhat abrupt confrontation with the exigencies of the service had, temporarily, a depressing effect, and I remember George, as we undressed in our tent that night, breaking a rather long silence with the words, “Well, young Peter, for the first time in our lives we’re up against something really serious, ---- me if we aren’t.”

In a day or two his usual gaiety reasserted itself, and I believe our time “on the Square” was a regimental record for light-heartedness of a most unmilitary kind, entirely due to his unorthodox attitude. More than once the Regimental Sgt Major who drilled us, old Nobby Clarke, a veteran of very long service and the terror of junior NCOs and Riflemen, had to turn his back on us and stand for a few seconds with shaking shoulders before he could get control of his voice and resume his outward ferocity.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, this will never do,” he would say at last, with a choleric but expectant eye on George, who had quite made up his mind by now that life was going to be too short for much seriousness to enter into it, and had probably asked some entirely ludicrous question. And it never did do, after George had been passed off the square.

Then he was moved to a different detachment of the Battalion, and I saw comparatively little of him from that time onwards.

The “young officers” of that Reserve Battalion, in those very early days of the war, were mostly from Oxford and Cambridge, with some rather older youths just embarked on their careers in civil life, and a few younger, straight from school. They were of all types, from the muscular, almost inarticulate rowing blue to the bespectacled don, from budding artists to embryo bank-director. Hardly any had thought of the army as a career. Looking back, I can see that they were what would nowadays be called a “cross-section” of the élite and cream of the nation. Average age about twenty-one; on the whole a devoted, laughing, fatalistic, take-it-as-it-comes company, often coarse of tongue, too young to have been coarsened in body or soul by the asperities of adult life – the bloom of youth on them still. All had gone overseas to replace casualties in the regular army within four or five months of the outbreak of war. Among them George was unquestionably conspicuous; few that survive would recall anyone whose image serves better as the flower and type of that doomed generation. He had many friends and settled down to the lighter side of regimental life with zest. I was a bit young for it myself.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

c/o Messrs Scribner

Publishers

Fifth Avenue

New York.

24 Sep. 1914

My dear George,

A letter from M & N y’day tells me in a casual sort of way (as if it were not about the most important news in the world to me) that you have been summoned to Sheerness. Also that Gerald [Millar] won't be with you, which is a pity. I suppose it is his not having any connection with Cambridge that separates you. I am looking forward so much to getting some details.

The heat here is beyond words & I think the wickedest citizen of New York will never be hotter. As I write the pen sticks to my hand and my braces stick to my shirt which is glued ag[ain]st the table. They say they have not had such heat for many years.

Mason went off today to Canada to speak. Gilmour has been to Washington staying at the Legation, which Peter may know some day, & I am mostly in hiding. Great placards out – Barrie exonerates the Kaiser &c &c

Barrie says War will be Long

varied with more social ones, such as,

Barrie likes our Virginia ham

Last night I had a Gin whizz with a Long Tom in it. I slept well. Mason had two & slept better.

Gilmour was laid low by Father Ocean but is now sprightly & full of reminiscence of lengthy character. Brown also was prostrated. Mothersil saved me but very nearly turned my left flank.

Your loving

J.M.B.

I say I’m going to stay with Roosevelt.

*

[AB: Barrie had sailed for America on the Lusitania along with A.E.W. Mason and Gilmour to drum up support for Britain and urge the U.S. to join the Allies in their fight against Germany. But on arrival at New York, they were greeting by an urgent message from the British Ambassador that, given America’s declared neutrality, they must abandon any such ideas lest they provoke counter-demonstrations and publicly announce that their visit was to see old friends, hence the P.S. “I say I’m going to stay with [Theodore] Roosevelt. See Mackail p.474-476 for a much fuller account.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

c/o Messrs Scribner

Publishers,

Fifth Avenue

New York.

2nd Oct. [1914]

My dear George,

I am picturing you both as having very hard and laborious work with a tremendous lot of stiff marching. I don't know whether you have to carry things also. Yesterday I had to carry my bag thro’ a station half a mile long (so it seemed) and I thought several times of kicking if from me and bolting. I think the carrying weights must be worse than the marching.

It also explains why I am too old to fight.

I must get hold of an interview – “Barrie at Bay – which was Brown?” that appeared in the New York Times y’day & is being a good deal talked of. It is all about Brown’s views of the war, the President, the German Ambassador &c. including his “Sir James’s pipe”, & they are trying to find out who the interviewer was. I flatter myself you will be able to guess! Brown has no suspicions & says “tut tut” & “Did you ever!” to which I reply that I never.

I was at Princetown university y'day & may go to Yale & Harvard. Mason is on the ocean on his way home. Gilmour is once more with the diplomats at Washington. In a fortnight or so I expect to be returning.

Your loving

J.M.B.

[AB: The New York Times “interview” is in the database, obviously written by Barrie. More genuine-sounding interviews appeared in the New York Tribune and the New York Herald. Speaking of George he said, “It’s funny that the real Peter Pan – I call him that – is off to the war now.”

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

22 Oct [1914]

My dear George,

Here I am again and thirsting nightly to see you. But having been quite well all the time I was away, I caught a chill on the boat the day before landing and arrived here to stagger to bed, to which you may now conceive me nailed for a few days. It is exasperating. I am longing to see you & Peter & hear all your news. I thought of rushing out to Sheerness, and could do so soon in any case but I also wonder whether there is any possibility of you & Peter being able to run up to town. Reply, reply, reply.

Your

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

Oct. 28, 1914

My dear George,

How would it be if Nico & I came down on Sunday, arriving l0.15 from Victoria & leaving at 3.30? These seem the only good trains. Could we see a bit of you? And if you can’t meet train, how should we find you?

I was at Eton y’day, & saw Hugh as well as Michael. My cold is much better.

Peter writes me there is no getting up to London even for an hour.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

23 Campden Hill Square, W.

8 Nov. [1914]

My dear George,

I am wondering whether you foregathered with Jack all right. The two stations are a bit confusing and then you might have been on duty, even both of you. In any case as Sheerness is Jack’s base the idea is, if all’s well, that he would be there every few days for a short time, and it is nice to think of the three of you being together.

I was very interested in your story of the Sheerness excursions and alarums. It must have been pretty exciting for the moment. I’ll probably see Lord Lucas this week & will talk to him about the revolver question — also the comparative merits of the automatic pistol firing Government ammunitions. Is that right? I was at his house last night with Sir Edward Grey as the only other guest and we had a good talk about the war. I think all in authority are hopeful tho’ of course well aware that there is a very big job still in front. I hope no sort of conscription will be found necessary — volunteering is so much finer a way. At the same time recruits must be got, and if they can't be got in sufficient numbers (we can still hope they can) in this best way, the other might have to be adopted.

Michael is up for his long leave, and I took him to a rehearsal of the forthcoming new revue at Hippodrome. It was not pleasant to see 20 or 30 young men in the chorus, who should all be better employed. I believe they are to be dressed as soldiers too!

Saw your granny today. She is pretty well, but anxious about you all of course, and I am naturally so also. But I think the saddest of all people must be those whose boys are shrinking back. I am to see Lord Lytton this week about possible work for Mary, as he is head of the Belgian refugee relief organisation. Nicholas continues to kick goals to the glory of Milky’s and is proving himself sharp as a needle at his work. I took them to the Rider Haggard play “Maureens” and we saw Oscar Asche very grand in brown paint on his proud roley poley figure.

I do hope some excuse will be found for your getting away for a night soon. In the meantime I love to have your letters.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

Will get the field-glasses.

[AB: Sir Edward Grey was Britain’s Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916, and as such was the driving force behind British foreign policy in the era leading to the Great War, as well as leading the desperate diplomatic efforts to avert catastrophe. His great joy in life was not politics, which he detested, but bird-watching; he was the author of several books including The Charm of Birds. It was Sir Edward who remarked to a friend on the eve of war, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Lord Lucas, who preferred to be known as Bron Herbert, was, like Grey, a radical Liberal politician, formerly Under-Secretary of State for War, Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, and presently Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. He later joined the Royal Flying Corps, was shot down over the Somme and died from his wounds in 1916, aged 40.]

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand W.C.

15 Nov 1914

My dear George,

Very glad to get your letter and to hear there is some chance of your getting a couple of nights soon. I shall be your humble servant for the occasion. It is very strange to read of your being at your musketry practice, for it seems to me but the other day your mother was taking bows and arrows out of your hands and pressing on me the danger of giving you penny pistols. Last week or so darts to fling against a target were considered too risky. In some other ways it all seems longer than it is, however. It is noticeable how the war seems to antedate things. Every novel now seems to deal with trivial matters, the characters to let their minds dwell on things of no import. We seem farther away from July of this year than that July was from the days of crinolines. There is certainly some gain – a stirring of manhood, but at a terrible cost. I enclose you the Eton Chronicle, from which I see that 8 per cent of Etonians have been killed. In the army all over the percentage of killed is under 2 per cent – our army I mean – tho’ the total casualties (wounded, prisoners and killed) is 57,000. Belloc’s calculation of German casualties is over 2,000,000. I dined at [Prime Minister] Asquith’s the other day, and he was certainly hopeful, and K. of K. [Lord Kitchener of Khartoum] is also encouraging. Once they are back on German soil it mightn’t take so long, but to get them back!

Jack is coming up tomorrow for two days and I think of getting him to choose the field glasses with me. Peter writes that he thinks revolvers are going out in favour of rifles at the front. Is that so?

The revue at the Hippodrome of which [E.V.] Lucas is part author comes out tomorrow, and I may take Jack to it. Lucas has also written a number of songs with such stirring titles as “The Arms of the Army for Me”. This you will be astounded to hear is sung by a lady. I believe Tate fortifies his house against the enemy. It was grim to me to see at a rehearsal the male sup[port]ers, poor souls, not seeming to know that now at all events they could find a better calling. Still a good few even of that class have gone, and on the whole I think the recruiting response is unworthily sneered at by the Press. Asquith gave his guests interesting statistics, which show that Warwickshire has the highest figures of the counties – one can’t guess why. It has 22% of volunteers, while Cornwall & Essex (again why?) are lowest with 7.

Glasgow is highest of cities, closely followed by Edinburgh & London, and Scotland (where) is highest country. Heaps of others I’m sure will join spontaneously.

I also heard at A[squith]’s that the captain of the Emden’s mother was believed to be either English or Welsh. He will probably be bought here. I would like to give him his dinner with all the five of you around. Now for Nicholas of the sparkling eye.

Loving

J.M.B.

Michael tells me that Roger Chance has got some French decorations “of honour”.

*

Asquith and Kitchener seem to have been a shade optimistic in the third month of the war.

The true figure for the Army casualties up to the date of this letter was over 80,000, the vast majority being of course in the Infantry. Hilaire Belloc’s weekly estimates of German losses in the periodical “Land & Water” became one of the standing jokes of the war, and I fancy he had killed off the entire German army by the middle of 1915.

Poor Captain of the Emden! He had displayed something of the quality of a sportsman, and so naturally had to be credited with a British strain. But fortunately for the Herr Hauptmann he was spared the ordeal adumbrated for him by J.M.B.

This is the first instance known to me of the signature “loving” as opposed to “your affecte” J.M.B.

[AB: There’s an interview I made with George’s friend (later Sir) Roger Chance somewhere in the database.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

22 Nov. [1914]

My dear George,

Do we draw nearer your getting up to town? I am wearying to see you again and I find there are so many kinds of field glasses you had better chose yours when you come. I have written Peter to Ordinance Villa but I am not certain if he is still there as Jack tells me he is now shifted from the dockyards. Jack expected to go out in the [HMS] Brazen on Sat’y (y’day) as they get her ready quickly. He thought that possibly his base might be changed from Sheerness to Harwich.

I went to Savoy tonight for first time in ages, & the head waiter told me seven officers had been in from the front who had got three days leave. One had not had time to change, & rushed into the restaurant as he was in the trenches.

Nico’s birthday (11) is on Tuesday & your mother’s of course on Wed’y. I can’t tell you how I am longing to have you up.

Loving,

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

23 Nov 1914

My dear George,

Just a P.S. to mine of y’day, to say I am so glad to have your letter today, but how grim to have to be up in the dark looking for invaders. I’ve told Mary to send you both the thermos flasks. Coffee hot at night will be hot in it in the morning — or tea.

I went to some of the chief shops for automatic pistols today. Wilkinson in Pall Mall, the great shop, hasn’t got any, nor revolvers, both being in such demand tho’ revolvers can be got before you actually start. No automatic pistols fire Govt ammunition & Wilkinsons says if small they are not much good. (The best seem to be American.) Another shop could give me what they said were good, & if you like I'll get one you could practise with & decide about. Let me know & I’ll send it.

Whether or no, I’ll probably be able to get a better one or revolver by influence before long. But I’d like you to try the above in any case if you like. I'm horribly disappointed about your not getting leave. I've ordered Sinister Street, 2! Also I've written a short play with the Kaiser as chief figure which has its points I think but unfolds a tragic tale. When I have copies I'll want your opinion.

My love,

J.M.B.

*

[AB: The short play was Der Tag, being the German toast to victory, and took the form of a duologue between the Kaiser and the Spirit of Culture. It was first performed on December 22nd 1914]

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

Nov. 30 1914

My dear George,

I was very gratified by your writing me for your mother’s birthday. I would rather have you do so than any one alive; you can understand how I yearn to have you sitting with me now and at all times. What you don’t know in the least is the help you have been to me and have become more and far more as these few years have passed. There is nothing I would not confide in you or trust to you.

{I was amused by a letter from your tutor [Hugh Macnaghten] in which he bewailed my having the son in The Will sent to Eton. He would undoubtedly, he says, have been sent by such a father to Harrow! But it was a werry nice letter indeed. I was at Eton with Nico for St. Andrews Day, and had a talk with Roger Chance. He had been wounded in the hand just enough to get home for a short time, as he put it in the Eton manner which I have sometimes made fun of, tho’ I know well it has its points. He was not in Khaki (Eton again!) tho’ many of the old boys were. I thoroughly liked him. I was amused by a letter from your tutor in which he bewailed my having the son in “The Will” sent to Eton. He would undoubtedly, he says, have been sent by such a father to Harrow! But it was a werry nice letter indeed.

Lord Lucas advised me to write to America for Colts pistols that take our Gov’t ammunition, & I have done so some days ago.

I can’t learn whether they have grounds for expecting any attempt at landing on the east coast, but you have had a strenuous time I see. My heart both leapt & sunk when I read of the Bulwark. It was Capt. Scott’s ship before he went off on his last Antarctic voyage.

I was in Lord Lucas’s hospital “Wrest in Beds” the other day — 100 wounded. One of them told me (he had a broken leg) that he thought the French officers were better than the English. His explanation was thus — “They wouldn't have sent me here ’cos I had this bad leg. There was a Frenchy near me what had the top of his head blown off & his officer said to him “You run up to the tent & get you head bandaged & come back slippy.” He didn't come back slippy, so the officer went & fetched him. Yes, I think their officers are better than ours.” Amazing, isn't it?}

I’ve done “Der Tag”, my war play, and I will get you a copy. It’s also possible I’ll turn the Barker revue into a shorter thing for Gaby. Jack wires he may get up tomorrow tho’ whether only for the day he doesn’t say.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

A clear indication of the very deep and strong bonds which united J.M.B. and George. That George and Michael were, and would have gone on being, if they had lived, closer to him that any others of us is in my opinion beyond question.

It must have been within a day or two of the date of this letter that George and another officer of the 6th Bn K.R.R.C. (Laurence Dunne, an Eton contemporary and now a distinguished London magistrate) were posted to the 4th Bn of the Rifle Brigade. This meant the front very shortly. It also meant a few days’ leave for George, the first since joining, in the course of which he met the entrancing Gaby Deslys. The revue referred to must have eventually turned into Rosy Rapture, in which she appeared. That it had originally been planned as something for Granville Barker, most intellectual and uncompromisingly highbrow of producers, to do was unknown to me till I read these letters.

Did George, during those last few hours of freedom, have anything more than just a mild flirtation with Gaby? I like to think so. Both were charmers, and it would have been a good finale. It is my belief that J.M.B., though so insulated himself (in a sense) from the flesh and the Devil, had the perception and imagination and tolerance and sense of the fitness of things to smile on such a little piece of naughtiness, in the circumstances, and even to pave the way for it. But I have no evidence one way or the other.

My last sight of George was as his train steamed out of Sheerness station, and the last words I heard him speak were “To our next merry meeting!” as he leant out of the window. The phrase had been used by one of the characters (I rather think Vronsky) in a dramatised version of “Anna Karenina”, with Lydia Yavorska as Anna, which we had seen that summer in London with Charley Millar and Gerald Arthur; and somehow, perhaps because of the actor, it had tickled our fancies and become a sort of catchword between us.

The 4th Bn Rifle Brigade was one of the considerable number of Regular battalions which, through being on Foreign Service, had not been available to go to Belgium with the original Expeditionary Force. (Guy du Maurier’s battalion, the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, was another). It had returned to England from India a short time before, and when George joined, was under canvas in a camp outside Winchester, exchanging Indian for European equipment and generally getting onto a war footing. It must have been no small ordeal for George, after about two months training, to find his feet in a regular battalion in which most of the officers and men had served together for years and knew one another intimately; and which was also doubtless highly efficient. I have no letters either to or from George dealing with this phase, which ended in late-December, when the battalion crossed the channel.

By that date the First Seven Divisions, the “Old Contemptibles”, had been so thoroughly carved up on the Aisne and in the First Battle of Ypres that the highly trained long Service Regular element had virtually been eliminated. When it landed in France, George’s Brigade Regulars, consisting of the 2nd King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, the 3rd and 4th King’s Royal Rifles, the 4th Rifle Brigade, and with a fifth Battalion added to it, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (the first Canadians to go into action) was probably the finest Brigade in the Army.

[AB: The section between {squiggly brackets} omitted by Peter in the Morgue.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

7 Dec. [1914]

My dear George,

Your news is great and I trust nothing will come in the way of its fulfilment. Of course I’ll keep the time as clear as the deck of one of H.M. ships.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

21 Dec, 1914

My dear George,

When your things arrived at 23, I thought it meant you were on the eve of starting, but I admit I hoped I was wrong, and now your letter comes and I know. You are off. It is still a shock to me. I shall have many anxious days and nights too, but I only fall into line with so many others.

The Orea cigarettes will be sent weekly and anything else I can think of, to cheer you in a foreign land, tho’ France & Belgium can scarcely seem that to us any more. I shudder over the weight of your pack, and know that for my part I would be down under it. I trust you all get some time to become used to these conditions, and I think it is so. Peter writes despondently of his chances of getting to the front, having heard a rumour that no one under 19 will be sent out. These rumours of course are usually of no foundation.

Mr. Mason has got a commission as Capt, subject to his eyesight being passed by the doctors. Michael was with me at “Der Tag” today. It was received with much applause, but it struck me that in their hearts the Coliseum audience thought it heavy food. In the programme were performing pigs, and immediately in front of it a man sang a war-song about the Kaiser saying he was ‘in a funk’ and the Crown Prince advising him ‘to do a bunk’. Good company!

I'll write often and will be so glad of any line from you.

Your loving,

J.M.B.

*

[AB: Sadly no comments from Peter as this letter, like a number of others, apparently escaped his knowledge. It would appear that George crossed to France just before Christmas, and in the last days of 1914 seems to have had time to visit a local bookshop in Blaringhem on his way up to the front. There he bought a copy of The Little White Bird, in which, as a child, he had been thinly disguised as David, for according to Peter, “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.”]

*

[George Ll.D. to Peter Ll.D. at Sheerness]

[Flanders]

Monday [30 Dec. 1914]

Dear Peter,

How goes Sheerness? I expect it’s getting bloodier and bloodier. I invent little prayers of thanksgiving that I’m not there still. Are you still permanent fatigue officer? The aeroplane incident must have brightened you up a bit. Did you all stand to arms like mad? This is a regular Aunt Margaret letter, but do send me the latest Sheppey news.

We have been here for five days now, with no immediate prospect of moving. We can hear guns far away, and that’s all. Field-days and trench digging take up our time. I am billeted in a public-house, and am far more comfortable than you at Holm Place. At eight o’clock I stroll into the kitchen for my breakfast. The people of the town are lovely, and frightfully kind. I am becoming a most accomplished linguist. Next time we advance on Rue Pasquier I shall be irresistible!

I have two reasons for writing to you. (1) Will you send me a pair of those things you put inside gum-boots? Try them on, will you, and get a pair that fits tight to the foot. (2) In the event of my being killed, wounded or missing, you might communicate with Josephine. A loathsome job for you, but otherwise she won’t know till it’s in the papers.

I wonder if you got any leave at Christmas. I did very well in the interval between Sheerness and Winchester (oh! Winchester was loathsome). I told you about meeting G. Deslys, didn’t I? Of course, that was the great show, but I had a good time all round. I saw Gerald, who looked very military. Have you heard that Geoffrey is in the A.S.C? Rather a joke, I think.

Give my love to Bodley when you see him, and Bin, and people. Also to Marine Parade, if you get the chance. And write.

Your aff. brother

George Ll.D.

*

“Rue Pasquier” is a reference to an initiatory visit paid by George and Peter Ll.D. to a maison tolerie, one afternoon during a memorable stay in Paris, in the Easter of 1914, with J.M.B., Michael, Charles Frohman, and J.M.B.’s inimitable manservant Harry Brown, who called us all by our Christian names (except Nico whom he christened “Tuppence”). George had the address of this (very superior) establishment from Micky Lawrence, who with his equally charming brother Oliver, and their first cousins Chris and Hugh (?) Lawrence (like Oliver & Micky their parents’ only children) were all killed by 1916.

We stayed at the Meurice in the Rue de Rivoli, and believe it or not George and Peter Ll.D. automatically took, and wore in the evenings, tail coats and white ties. This was George’s first and only glimpse not only of Paris but of what might be called the cosmopolitan hotel and restaurant vie de luxe, as it existed before the First Great War. A morning wandering round the Louvre or the Latin Quarter – lunch at Armenouville – afternoon looking through the bookstalls by the river or sitting in a café watching the crowd go by or flinging rings over hooks with the rest of the party for matches or (once) placating the goddess in the Rue Pasquier – tea at Rumpelmayer’s while the band played Je sais que vous êtes jolie, possibly followed by a game of L’Attaque with Michael – dinner at Fouquet’s or Larue or somewhere of that sort, leaving Harry and Michael playing draughts – a revue (Chisiboubon and Sur les bords de la Riviera) or a French play which none of us understood, least of all Frohman who probably bought the English rights nevertheless – and finally supper at the Café de Paris with Irene Vernon Castle dancing. George took all this like a duck to water, and in a way I see him more clearly in that setting than in any other; at the top of his form.

I don’t think I am romancing or sentimentalising when I say that it was then that George and I first clearly saw what Jack had missed by being sent into the Navy instead of to Eton. I suppose he was at sea that Easter? I know I have often wished since that he had been on that delightful trip, and that Michael had been old enough to take a larger part, and Nico too, who I think spent that Easter with Grannie and Gerald du M.’s children at Bournemouth. Unprofitable enough; but among the countless remouldings of the scheme of things with which one’s fancy so often plays, this is, for me, a rather special one. The role of sole survivor is after all a bit of a bore.

One might add, perhaps, that this Paris experience was not to any noticeable extent calculated to instil into one’s character those principles of economy which are advocated in an earlier page of this morgue. But what the hell?

“Josephine”, later in George’s last letter to me, was Josephine or Dophine Mitchell-Innes, whose brother Gilbert (killed 1914) had been at Eton with George. Without anything at all definite in the way of an engagement, she was George’s best girl at the time of his death. I don’t think any of us – though he had to put up with a good deal of ragging from the younger members – expected it would lead to marriage.

[AB: Josephine’s sister – Norma Douglas Henry – was clearly under a different impression, according to what she told me. The interview can be heard in the database.]

“Gerald” is Gerald Millar, who had joined the Royal Marine Artillery, with which he served throughout the war. Geoffrey was his eldest brother, who survived till 1944; his entertainment value was such as to throw into the abyss of utter oblivion any hard feelings one might once have had about his choice of unit in those distant days.

“Bodley” is Josselin Bodley, the painter, who is still a friend. He was with another battalion of the 80th Brigade at the time of George’s death; and has a queer story about the finding of George’s body, the details of which I have forgotten, but will get from him again if I can.

“Bin” must I think be Lionel St Aubyn. He was the sort one laughed at and loved, a good deal older than the rest of us – in the middle thirties, probably – and had an eyeglass which kept falling out of his eye, with the result more often than not of a dropped rifle, during those first weeks while we were being drilled. I met him in London a year or two ago: ancient, bent. He fondly remembered George as the charming jester who turned Nobby Clarke’s wrath at his clumsiness into helpless mirth.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

23 Campden Hill Square, W

3 Jan 1914 [1915]

My dear George,

Your letter to Michael arrived y'day and was very welcome. There may be one to me at the flat as I haven't been there yet. The puzzle of where you are continues to be the engrossing topic and Peter added himself to the society for the discussion thereof by turning up this afternoon. He has to go back again tonight, but hopes to get a day or two very soon. He has temporarily left Sheerness for Chatham where he is to do flag-signalling for a week or two. He had not got his field glasses, and wonders whether they were sent to you with yours, and if so where are they now?

I expect those colt revolvers I ordered from America to arrive in a day or two. I suppose you won’t want yours now?

Your Granny had an operation, it was necessary, and quite succesful, but she is very weak.

Your Uncle Guy was in today. He wrote you about his own movements. In a week or a fortnight he expects to be not more than 6 miles away from you, wherever you are. He knows & likes your Colonel — Thesiger, is it? I am going off now with Peter to Victoria, so good night.

Your loving

J.M.B.

[AB: The letter that follows must have been written a few hours later:]

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand W.C.

Jan 3 1915.

My dear George,

I have just time to send you sad news. The operation your granny had, tho’ successful in itself, left her weak and she could not rally. She was in no pain and quite happy and she died to-day.

You will be very sad, and it is painful to me not to be with you just now, but you must not grieve over-much, for this has saved her the physical pain she would otherwise have had to face. She had a very full life, and despite its sorrows a very long happy life, and so, dear George, don’t be too sad. I have just time for post.

Yr loving

J.M.B.

*

One could wish there had been more than this hurried note on Grannie’s death but no other letter on the subject has survived, so far as I am aware. J.M.B. could have said some good things about Emma du Maurier, whom I remember as a heavenly old lady, but of whom I really know little or nothing. See Daphne’s “Gerald” and “The du Mauriers” and the early Diary of George du M. quoted earlier in this morgue.

Too well, by the way, one knows those operations which are “successful in themselves”.

*

[Peter Ll.D. to George Ll.D.]

23 Campden Hill Square,

Kensington

Sunday (10 Jan 1915)

Dear George,

Your letter reached me on Friday at Chatham, where I am doing a signalling course. I haven’t got those gum boot sock things yet but as soon as I can I will send them. The other duty I will try to perform if it becomes necessary, though it wouldn’t be a particularly easy letter to compose, would it?

This old signalling course will put the lid once and for all on any hopes I may have entertained about getting out, as I shall become permanent battalion signal officer as soon as Butcher goes. In any case I am becoming quite convinced that there isn’t a chance for anybody under nineteen. But curiously enough, I am not particularly keen to go out now. Possibly I shall be again when I get back to Holm Place. While I am at Chatham I managed to slip off unobserved from Saturday evening to Sunday night, which is something to thank God for.

Perhaps by the time this reaches you you will have been “in the trenches”, receiving your baptism of fire, and all that sort of thing. I wish you would write and tell me exactly what your sensations are, and whether you experience any more of that jolly old depression which descended upon us during the first week at Holm Place. I still get it sometimes, and if I thought the war was bound to last more than a year from now, I believe I should commit suicide. If you come back with a pretty severe wound I shall be green with envy. You probably know that Henry, Tryon, and Heyland, and Symington have been wounded, and Fletcher Killed.

Yrs

Peter

*

Not an outstandingly helpful or tactful letter, nor for that matter as representative as one might have liked it to be of the martial spirit. I have a dim recollection of writing to Josephine when the time came, and of meeting her, but not enough to be interesting.

The Heyland mentioned was one of four brothers, three of whom were in the 60th and one in the Indian Army, and two of whom were killed in 1915. One of them, Hector, became rather a friend of mine at Sheerness, whither he had returned after being wounded at the First Battle of Ypres. His elder brother was killed a week or two after George, and we drove up to London together at a huge pace in his car and got alcoholically merry and morose at the Café Royal by way of celebrating the double event. He survived the war, and became a Regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment. One of the first of the weary Dunkirk survivors with whom I got into conversation at Bulford in 1940 proved to have been in the Regiment of Tanks commanded by Lt Col Hector Heyland, and had seen the colonel’s tank as it led a counter-attack over the crest of a ridge somewhere in Flanders, well and truly pulverised by hidden German battery. I daresay the old cliché would be truer of him than of most men, that it was the death he would have wished.

*

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

Jan 13 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

I have got some spare time now that is not occupied with sleeping, & I’ll try & see how much news I can give you.

The fear of death doesn’t enter so much as I expected into this show. The hardships are the things that count, and one gets very soon into the way of taking them as they come. Everything is done by night. Our last daytime work was about a week ago, when we got up to a place some distance behind the trenches. That night we went up, & three companies went into the trenches, & mine spent the night getting supplies up. Occasional bullets went over our heads (very few). We got back into a billet at five o’clock & stayed there for the day. Next night we did some more of the same job, & then went into the back of a wood before dawn, some 200 yards behind the trenches, where there was a trench & some dugouts. Here we spent the day, & the Germans gave us a display of artillery fire. Everything went two or three hundred yards or so behind us. I don’t know what they were aiming at. Two shrapnel only burst over our heads, & I can promise you I got my nose into the mud. I was just behind my dug-out, right in its very mouth, & suddenly felt a shrewd blow on the left hand. With great excitement I lifted it & found a bit of shrapnel underneath it. It had cut through my overcoat’s double cuff and fetched up against my thick glove. It must have come nearly straight downwards, & not have been going its hardest. It couldn’t have done much damage except in my face. I have kept the shrapnel. I can hardly even feel the bruise it made now.

The next night the battalion was relieved & we spent two days in a farm. We were lucky not to be shelled, but weren’t at all. Then we came away back for a short rest, which I was glad of. I believe we go up tonight or tomorrow night (tonight not likely), this time for 24, not 48 hours.

Don’t you get worried about me. I take every precaution I can, & shall do very well. It is an amazing show, & I am unable to look forward more than two or three hours. Also don’t get anxious about letters. I’ll send them whenever there’s a chance but there are less chances than I expected.

Your affec.

George

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

13 Jan 1915

My dear George,

Hoping for another letter as soon as you have time. You should see how I plunge thro’ my letter-bag looking for one from you. It is all almost too exciting, and I have some bad nights, I can tell you. I have an idea your Uncle Guy goes out this week.

Jack is now on the Harpy, a destroyer as big as the Brazen, and I hope a bit more comfortable, but don’t know yet as he has just joined. So far as we know at present his base will be at Portsmouth. Peter is still signalling at Chatham, and I hope to have him up for Saturday night.

Today Mick, Nick and I were at “David Copperfield”, a big house of school girls largely, and every time Owen Nares came on as David there were loud gasps of “Oh how sweet!” Almost too sweet I should have thought. The make-up of the other characters was very good but the inside of them not so special.

{I went y’day to Lord Lucas’s hospital “Wrest in Beds”, and had some more grand billiard competitions for soldiers. They were all just beginning to be convalescent, peering thro’ bandages, playing with one hand, and one man (who won) used his crutch as a rest. One of them was among those who fraternized with the Germans on Christmas day.}

There is what I believe to be a well grounded idea that we shall be visited in this isle, and probably in this metropolis very soon, by Zeppelins & other air-craft. Have been making enquiries as to where the coal-cellar is at 23.

I hope you got the Burberry and your boots, and that they are all right. If anything else needed let me know at once.

Your loving

J.M.B

*

This may seem small beer to those who have read about or experienced the more violent doings of two wars. But it must be remembered that not many details were as yet known to the general public in January 1915, and that everything was still a complete novelty not only to George himself but to all his battalion except the small proportion of Boer War veterans.

The little action in which George was killed must, I think, have been his Battalion’s first real “show”.

[AB: Passage between {squiggly brackets} omitted by Peter.]

*

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

[Flanders]

Jan. 18 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

My last entry into the trenches was stopped by sickness, and I stayed in bed in my billet. It was temperature, chill and diarrhoea that did me in. However, I am on the way to recovery now, and hope to be in fettle again in a day or two. Health is of enormous importance here. We’re resting again now, so I shall be all right.

The burberry and boots have come and are fine. As for the ski boots, I don’t know what I should do without them. I put little slippers inside them and keep as warm as possible.

I’ve had no experiences since I last wrote, as I’ve been in bed. I don’t think I told you what I found my most trying show before. We had got back from the trenches and were in a barn, in support. At night I was told to take a fatigue party up to some headquarters nearby just behind the trenches, carrying food and ammunition. It was probably a very safe job, but one could hear occasional stray bullets sing past, and I had to walk at a snail’s pace, so that the men could keep up with their load. We were told too that the Germans had a rifle trained on a barrier we had to pass – probably quite untrue. Anyway we didn’t linger by it. I was glad when everything was finished. One man says he got a bullet through the bag of charcoal he was carrying, but I think he lied. I think I’m going to prefer shells by day to bullets by night. Night and imagination are great exaggerators.

Will you send me a pocket flask? and some bromo paper.

George

[AB: Bromo paper = old-fashioned crinkly toilet paper.]

*

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

Jan 22 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

The malady that laid me low has been successfully vanquished, & I am now a young bull once again, & ready for our next show. We shall be in the trenches again either tomorrow night or the night after, I think, & do twelve days off and on. I will write when I can, but don’t know what chances we shall get. I shall be in great form with the fleece-lined burberry which is the very thing one wants. I don’t think there’s very much danger to expect, except from sickness, which is always ready in this weather to show its face. One or two of our officers are ill just now. But I take every care that can be taken, I can promise you.

I’m glad I’m not an aeroplane man. We see a lot of aeroplanes, & the German ones are shelled like anything. There was one this morning simply surrounded with little white clouds of smoke, which I gather to be shrapnel. I don’t know if he got away, but there were rumours about that one was bought down.

Princess Patricia’s battalion are with us, & upon my soul I weary of the things put about them in the papers. They’ve been having just the same time as us, but to judge by what is told you about them they spend their time going along the line capturing German positions. Whenever you see mention of their exploits, you can be sure I’ve been having an extra quiet time. It is pretty annoying. I shall be glad when the Colonials are back in their homes again.

I suppose Uncle Guy is somewhere about by now. I should like to come across him, but there isn’t much chance. Do you know his active service address? If you do, you might tell me, & I’ll write him a letter of welcome. I dare bet he won’t have much to say for this game. Picturesqueness is distinctly lacking.

The next thing you get from me will probably be one of those field service post cards.

Your affec.

George

P.S. Will you send a small electric torch and refills?

*

George’s irritation with the P.P.C.L.I., on account of the publicity given to them, as Canadians, is only natural; but I believe they were a good lot, a worthy addition to an outstanding Brigade.

Whether George & Guy du M. met in Flanders I don’t remember. A number of Guy’s letters home were privately printed, and any such meeting would probably be mentioned in them, but I have no copy. They can never have been very many miles apart; but ten miles is a long way when it has to be walked.

All George’s brief experience of war was in the Ypres Saient, during the comparative lull between the First and Second Battles of Ypres.

[AB: Guy du Maurier, now a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Fusiliers, was fighting four miles farther down the line from George. He too was sending home regular accounts of life in the trenches to his wife Gwen. Unlike George, who clearly took great pains to shield Barrie from the reality of the trenches, Guy – a professional soldier and a veteran of the Boer War – gave his wife as accurate a picture as the Army Censor would allow him to paint:

‘The trenches are full of dead Frenchmen. When one is killed they let him lie in the squelching mud and water at the bottom; and when you try and drain or dig you unearth them in an advanced state of decomposition. … All the filth of an Army lies around rotting. … The stink is awful. There are many dead Highlanders just in front – killed in December I think – and they aren't pleasant. One gets used to smells. … Two hundred of my men went to hospital today – mostly frost-bitten feet; bad cases are called gangrene and very bad cases the toes drop off. … When we've done our four days I'll try and go over and see George who I think is only two miles off. I haven't seen anyone I know lately. I fancy most of the Army I know are killed or wounded.”

I shall be uploading all of Guy’s letters to his wife in due course.]

*

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

Royal Albion Hotel,

Brighton.

Jan 25 1915

My dear George,

I am so taken up about your chill, but I am indeed thankful that you did not have a long time of it in the trenches, i.e. I am supposing you did not but got soon into a real bed. Chills are all fever of a kind, and I so earnestly hope time is given you to shake it off properly. Such weather conditions must be the grimmest of combatants. That experience of passing the barrier with fatigue party called for some nerve, and will remain in your memory.

I came down here for two days to the [E.V.] Lucas’s. Mrs Lucas is getting all right now, but slowly, and it will be months, I expect, before she has much strength. The pocket flask has been sent on. I am not sure what bromo paper you mean, but have told Brown to enquire thereanent.

Johnstone said he thought you were near Ypres. Wherever you are, I hope you see near your bed the flowers I want to place there in a nice vase, and the illustrated papers, and a new work by Compton Mackenzie which I read aloud to you! I shall be so anxious till I get another line from you.

Your loving

J.M.B.

*

I think this letter well illustrates – taken in conjunction with others that have gone before – the peculiar and characteristic form which J.M.B.’s affection for George & Michael took: a dash of paternal, a lot of maternal, and much, too, of the lover – at this stage Sylvia’s lover still imperfectly merged into the lover of her son. To criticise would be easy; yet I don’t think it did, or would have done, George any harm.

*

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

Jan 27 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

That little old bit of shrapnel needn’t have worried you. The only place open to it that could have damaged was the side of my face, or a little bit of the back of my head. And even there it couldn’t by any possibility have killed me. It wasn’t coming hard enough.

I have recovered entirely from my late sickness, and have never been better in my life. I have just come back from 24 hours in the firing-line and 24 hours in a dugout about a hundred yards back. The dug-out was all right except for the cold feet, and the fact that the one officer in this battalion whom I abhor was in it with me. He is in my company, alas! & considers me a sort of infantile idiot. I writhe beneath him. But as the war goes on, chances of a counter-snub will be cropping up, & I shall fix every bayonet I have with me. I give you an example. In the dug-out, I took out my unloaded (of course) revolver, broke it open to make certain it was empty, & then cocked it to see if it was stiff. “Is it loaded?” asked the damned fool. What more offensive remark could be made.

That evening we crawled out of our dug-out into the firing-line. I got rather a ridiculous trench with my platoon. We came up to it 37 strong, & found no trench, just a parapet about 4 or 4½ feet high, stretching about 40 yards, with four places in it with adequate cover, each to hold five men. I sent seventeen back, & the rest of us set to work to improve the place with mud & sandbags. We did this for about an hour, & then the sandbags gave out & we took up our position. I got in on the extreme left of our company with a sergeant & four men who, thank God, had a brazier & a bag of coke. You can’t conceive what a difference it made. It kept me warm, & we cooked on it. I really managed to enjoy myself very much. The men were splendid, & great wags. As soon as day came we couldn’t move at all, & had to keep down pretty low, as one or two bullets came through the top of the parapet. We were absolutely safe from anything but shells, & luckily got none of them. Although the Germans sent a lot of shrapnel over our heads to our left. It makes a beastly noise – a whistling scream & then a bang – which I’m not hardened to yet. The sing of a bullet passing near doesn’t move me very much now. It just warns me, if it is possible, to crouch as low as I can. (That’s by night, of course, as we don’t show ourselves at all by day).

On the whole then, my dear Uncle Jim, there’s nothing for you to be anxious about. Of course, there’s always a chance of stopping an unaimed bullet, but you can see it’s a very small one. And I am far too timorous a man (I am a man now, I think) to run any more risk than I must. The only time I stand about at all is when my platoon feels a bit nervous. And that is always quite safe, & puts any amount of heart into me.

Well, I must run for the post. We go up again tomorrow night for the same sort of 48 hours. I will send something as soon as we’re out. I am in better health than I have been since I left England, & that’s saying a great deal.

Are you rehearsing with Gaby yet?

Your affec.

George.

*

It was an “unaimed bullet” which George stopped, when his time came; though not quite in the circumstances described by him in this letter.

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

30 Jan 1915

My dear George,

I am not so sure of what the difference is between a dug-out and a trench tho’ I prefer you to be in the dug-out as it is evidently a little further from the foe. I conceive something in the nature of a pit, less actively engaged in or prepared for fighting than the trench. Nico and I were lamenting today at lunch that we could not gather together the dining-room fire and plump it down by your side. The brazier seems to be such a godsend that one wishes it were less of a rarity than appears to be the case. I am sending you the thermos flask in case it might be possible to take it into the trenches. If that be not so, no matter – only it would give you hot water (and other heat too) for many hours. Even for your feet. I do wish you weren’t so cold-footed. That got you your first spats, you remember, in a shop in the Haymarket. As for the officer you don’t like, I wish I could give him cold feet!

We haven’t done any rehearsing of the burlesque yet, as Gaby’s recovery from an operation on her vocal cords has been slower than was expected. She has gone to the south of France to recuperate and probably we’ll rehearse in a week or two. Mr Lucas is busy with the songs. There’s one the husband sings in English & she in French. He is a Tommy.

He. Of all the girls that I do love

There’s one who lives near Calais,

She is the darling of my heart

She. And she is now his Ally!

A man, Jack Norworth, a very good singer whom you may have heard is probably to be husband – I fear a poor actor tho’. Eric Lewis & Leon Quatermaine in the other two parts.

Jack is at present on leave in Glasgow. I hoped Peter might get up for tonight but fear he has had to go back to Sheerness.

My chief game at present with Nico is “Attack”, which has broken out with all its violence. I am like a woolly lamb in his hands at it, and I always rise from my withering defeats feeling that his proper place is at the head of the British Expeditionary Force. How far away we are from the days when you used to play it at Mürren.

Loving

J.M.B

*

The family (but not, I think, Jack?) had spent a fortnight or three weeks winter-sporting at Mürren in January 1914.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

8 Feb, 1915.

My dear George,

I have not heard from you since the postcard sent Jan 31, which of course is not very long, and you warned me there might necessarily be these pauses. So I grin and bear it. Not much grinning. As far as I can judge from one thing and another, there seems more reason to hope that the war won’t go beyond this summer than there was. This notion is just founded on the German actions political as well as military, which do seem to me suggest desperate men. The threat of blockading Britain with submarines for instance, and sinking neutral ships is wild as well as foolish because (1) They are not able to carry it out with any success and (2) To destroy neutrals would necessarily bring these to the active help of the Allies. The frontal attacks in Poland suggest desperation also. These are merely notions that strike me as having some reason in them.

I went for a night again to Wrest, Lord Lucas’s hospital. They had a cynematograph and the wounded were so frightened they mightn’t be thought well enough to be brought into the hall to see it that they lay motionless for long time with their mouths shut to keep their temperatures down. It was a picturesque & grim sight. It was in the hall which has stairs on each side & on these the convalescents squatted with nurses &c, while the “stalls” were imagined by the beds wheeled into it – red blankets, &c. Great hilarity from those who could laugh while the more hurt lay gazing with solemn faces. I shall never forget it, I think.

Jack has had a great spell of leave. He had nearly a week, as I told you at Glasgow – rejoined for a day, got another six days, and went back to Glasgow.

I sent on your last letters to Peter, as he wanted to see them. I also showed them to Michael. Still communicating with War Office about the Colt Revolvers – I find I said they had more of the Celtic when it should have been the Baltic so I may be untrained or something. How I wish I knew what you are doing at this moment. I wish I was your ghillie.

Loving

J.M.B.

[AB: Ghillie = a man who attends someone on a hunting or fishing expedition.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

[George Ll.D. to Mary Hodgson]

Feb. 11 [1915]

Dear Mary,

The veteran is off to the trenches again soon, after a fine rest, & finds himself with terrible holes in his pants. Do send me out two pairs of long ones, new, you know the kind. Also some soap, or I must go unwashen.

By Jove, Mary, when I get home I shall never get up in the mornings at all. I shall be frightfully idle. That is one advantage of the firing-line trenches. As an officer I don't sleep at all in the night, so there is no getting up in the morning. But sheets! And a proper bed! Oh, I hope the war isn't going on for ten years.

Meanwhile life is very bearable here. And when I get back I shall be more conceited than ever. You'll all shudder.

Yours affec.

George

[AB: This letter had been lovingly preserved by Mary Hodgson]

*

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

3 Adelphi Terrace House

(but evidently written at 23 C.H.S.)

14 Feb. 1915

My dear George,

Practical affairs first. The eatables were sent off instanter from Fortnum & Mason, and should arrive to-day or tomorrow according to their calculation, but I can see that you are probably already back in the trenches. Besides the usual things in their hampers there is tongue, ham & turkey, and if you find that those keep we shall repeat. Mary is also sending you some new underwear.

I liked that last letter very much, with various things in it that strike so true, I think. That dog Peter hasn’t returned the last ones I sent to him and I’ll punish him by keeping back this, so you see you are in demand. I can understand that getting ready to go back is uncommonly like “putting on your pads”, but what I should feel worst – worse even than the sniper – is that cutting across in the moonlight. Certainly it must be a bit creepy, and I don’t feel as friendly to the moon as once I did. My own feeling about the moon is that it is at its best at Rustington, because we had many lovely moons there in the days when we were all so happy together. However I trust your best moons are still to come.

I was at Eton yesterday, a regular Eton soaker. The river has subsided a lot now, but they say it has not flooded Eton so much since the big go of 20 years ago. Those who are there can fancy for themselves what the trenches have been like.

Gerald has just turned up to tea. He is stationed at Coventry for the present and is rather glum because he is not going out with his battery of new 15 in. howitzers which are crossing this week. However he fully expects to be out with the next lot some time this month. He and Nico are at this moment searching for gramophone records, so you may be sure that the remainder of this letter has a musical accompaniment. I am always at Nico about writing to you, and he is always deciding to do it tomorrow, with results known to you. He seems to have got to a stage when letter-writing assumes the appearance of a Frankenstein to him. (“When Irish eyes are smiling” is now on).

I think vast numbers of troops have gone across lately – 100s of 1,000s as I understand besides vast and terrific guns. It is not expected that the German “blockade” of these shores will mean much trouble, but of course occasional merchant ships will be sunk. I am curious to know what America will do if it is as good as its threats. It has some ships of course, and an army so small that I came to the conclusion after my talk with Roosevelt that it consisted of him and his four sons. It would stop their sending supplies to Germany at all events. Italy would be of more practical help. (“Rip Van Winkle’s Wife” now on).

Loving

J.M.B

*

I have not traced the letter from George in which he seems to have written about the moonlight etc. “Gerald” is Gerald Millar [Trixie’s son], who went out not long afterwards and saw the war through, ending up as a major with the M.C.

J.M.B.’s views as to the blockade, which in due course so nearly won the war for the Germans, were probably those which prevailed in well-informed quarters in January 1915. The joke about Roosevelt harks back to the visit paid to America by J.M.B. at the beginning of the war, which had the blessing of the British Government and was designed to bring America in on our side, but which for various reasons fell rather flat.

*

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

Feb 16 (1915)

Dear Uncle Jim,

A stirring three days & wet, since I last wrote to you. We went up to the trenches after our six days rest, & found ourselves in the best trenches I’ve seen yet. I was in a slightly detached part on the right, with a sergeant and nine men. We got in about nine or ten, & worked till four building up traverses & putting wire out in front. A traverse is a useful thing to have. In a long line of trenches you are more likely than not to get a certain amount of enfilade fire, i.e. fire from right away on the wings that comes nearly straight down the length of your trench.

[space for drawings, six lines or so]

A … B is my parapet. C … D the parados that keeps you safe from the back burst of a shell that hits just behind. Our traverse at A … C was a lordly pile when we’d done with it.

We had an awful walk up to that trench, through a sea of mud, & it was a pitch dark night. You feel nice & safe when it is properly dark, but it’s a dreadful business getting along.

Next night we went into a support trench, a hundred yards behind the firing-line, consisting of dugouts. And Oh Lord, it was muddy. I did badly that night. I had to go along behind, & by mistake I got into the communication-trench behind, which is full of liquid mud above the knees. Here, being a bit unsteady on my pins, I elected to fall over backwards. Behold me sitting with exceedingly cold water trickling into me everywhere, unable to move, & shouting for help. I was in a very clammy condition when a man arrived & pulled me out. I then went on (in high dudgeon) to see about a trench we were digging on the left. I was glad when the Germans turned a searchlight on us, & my captain, after we had spent some minutes prone among turnips & mud, decided to give the job up.

Next day my captain and I spent in a dugout together. I wrapped newspapers & sandbags round my legs & managed to get up some wet and steaming heat. At night we were ready to be relieved, when we heard we had lost a trench about a mile away, & all reliefs were postponed. I’m afraid one wet subaltern thought more about his lost billet than the lost trench. It was a longish night. We got the trench back by morning all right (not my battalion) & the relief really did come the next night. So away I marched with two platoons to dry clothes & my sleeping-bag. A glorious moment. We had a wonderful march back. There was a bit of gunfire by our artillery going on, & we for half the march were going straight towards it. There was a deafening noise, & we could see the fuses sailing through the air like great shooting stars over our heads – scores of them. They looked as if they would knock our heads off if we went on, though really of course we were as safe as could be. It was the most remarkable half hour I have had. I wished you were with me to see & hear it (when, when are you going to pay me your promised visit?)

And now I am back in a very comfortable billet, feeling splendid again. I was at the funeral of one of our officers (the second killed) this morning. I hardly knew him, but it was a sad show. There was a Union Jack over his body. He was killed by shrapnel, when he had gone a little behind his parapet to help a wounded man. They had four killed & nine wounded, I think – & that’s a great deal the most casualties my battalion has had yet at one time. Up till now we have had very few.

We go back to the trenches tomorrow night. Till then there is this fine slack billet-life. And when we are up among the bullets & mud again, I shall take care not to sit about again in communication trenches!

Is Gaby still ill? How I long to see the revue. I hope I shall get back on leave when it’s going on.

I’ll write again after our next 48 (D.V.) hours.

George.

*

J.M.B. did not in fact go over until the summer of 1917, when I saw him at the chateau near Agincourt at which “distinguished visitors” put up. He went to see George’s grave, about a mile behind the then front line and so well within range of the Germans artillery, being guided to the spot by Josselin Bodley who, after being wounded in 1915, had returned to France as an Intelligence staff officer.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[18 Feb 1915]

…. I hope George hasn’t been seriously wounded. I wish I could go and see him. But although he is fairly close, I daren’t risk going away for more than an hour in case we are turned out again.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

19 Feb 1915

My dear George,

You have had your six days in the trenches again, and I am hoping you are back safe and lolling in comparative comfort in a real bed, and to hear very soon. Tomorrow is your father's birthday, and I feel he would be pleased with you all, which was always the best birthday to him. Jack has had some more leave, owing to repairs, but is not going off again, and I suppose this “blockade” threat increases the dangers of the sea, tho' it can have no real concern with the issue of the war. Obviously it is against all agreed international law, and the argument that Germany being in need of food can no longer be bound thereby would apply equally to the dropping of cholera germs, poisons, &c. The only reply with any force in it that I can see is that Germany might say “When those international laws were made the submarine was in its infancy, and the growth thereof creates conditions not then conceived.” I haven't seen this argument made use of so there is probably nothing in it.

Gaby is back so I expect the burlesque should be on in about three weeks. I'm writing a little one act thing to go with it, and as all my thoughts are with 2nd Lieutenants it has to be about one. It is just a family talk between one & his people, chiefly his father, on his first appearance in uniform. I fancy “2nd Lieut” is the most popular word in the language today, tho’ a short time ago it didn’t exist to most of us.

At last as the reward of mighty efforts the colt revolvers have been delivered & are in the dining room cupboard. Mrs. Lucas can draw the trigger when she holds on with both hands. I have a mild cold just sufficient to keep me in doors while Dr. Harry Brown plies me with pills about the size of marbles. I think I shall lock my bedroom door.

Loving

J.M.B.

[AB: The “little one-act thing” was The New Word, about the embarrassment which afflicts a father and son who want to communicate their fondness for one another, but cannot.]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE]

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[20 Feb 1915]

…. George Davies is not far off unless he has gone to hospital with a slight wound – as you told me he has got. Has Gerald Arthur started yet I wonder? And what of Peter?

*

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

Feb. 20. [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

You would like to be in a firing-line trench at dawn. It is amazing to see the people in it as soon as the light comes. For pure grime I have never seen anything like it. I got the giggles yesterday morning at one of my acting-corporals. He is very small, wonderfully cheerful & talkative, & one of the best in my platoon. But it was glorious to see him in one of the ridiculous but invaluable fur coats we have been given, walking along the trench, simply caked in mud. I laughed.

The last two days in were a good show. The first 24 hours saw me in support, in a dug-out. Then I was sent up to a trench holding 50 men and myself. It was the best I’ve had yet – one could get right along it under cover. The officer’s dug-out too was palatial. I sent two men back for straw, & they filled it up. I didn’t dare to arrange it at night though, or the temptation to sleep might have been too much for me. Instead I sat out in the trench proper on an ammunition box, & saw that the men were getting on with improving the trench, & the sentries all awake. I also got a blessed brazier alight – or rather my above-mentioned acting-corporal did, & we had some coffee. But with all these luxuries 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. are a slow pair of hours, & I saluted Aurora when she put in her appearance.

I then fried two slices of bacon, & made a rare breakfast of them & bread & potted meat. At 9 o’clock the foe made no signs of attacking, so I spread the straw out in my dug-out, & went fast asleep till nearly three. It was simply grand, & far the best sleep I have had in the trenches.

We had a very quiet time – no shells & very few bullets. I dare say the Germans are massing their best troops at some point in the line now. Except for the honour and glory, I have a sneaking hope they may not try to burst through too near here.

Fortnum & Mason’s goods have just arrived – boxes & boxes of them. We are a grateful party of officers, & shall be in clover for the six days rest that is coming. It is good of you. I shall probably ask for more in a fortnight or three weeks. This time I ask you for a new novel. I ask for the devil of a lot, but everything I get here is worth thirty times what it was in the piping times of peace.

Does Mr Lucas ever publish letters from the front? I had a horrible fear just now, remembering something he said about Johnstone, & that I had written to Audrey & Mrs L. A letter written by one of our officers has got into the papers, & all the traditions of this regiment are utterly against it (you will admire). So if Mr Lucas did find anything of interest in my views on the great war, for heaven’s sake, in the interests of the Rifle Brigade & G.Ll.D., keep your hand on his neck.

Meanwhile, roll on peace, or at least 5 day’s leave.

Your affec.

George.

P.S. Cash is running short. Could you get me 100 francs from the bureau de change at Charing Cross in notes?

*

The “dug-outs” referred to by George in this and other letters were not the deep, comfortable, shell-proof affairs of the later stages of the war, but simply a rough shelter hollowed out of the forward side of the trench, giving cover from rain or snow and with room for one or two people only.

It is interesting to note that, whereas George seems to have made a point of writing to J.M.B. in connection with the previous anniversary of Sylvia’s birthday, he now, on February 20th, made no mention of its being the date of Arthur’s birthday. It may have been reticence; more probably he never noticed the date. It is true that he rarely, if ever, in his letters to J.M.B., or in those which I have seen, makes any allusion to the “old days”. It is also true that in youth, and particularly in war, thoughts dwell on the recent past (and immediate present and future) rather than on things more remote. Probably George, in his weeks in Flanders, ruminated on the previous Easter in Paris, on his girl, on batting at Lords, on a salmon landed at Auch after an hour’s hectic playing, and so on, and little, or not at all, on earlier joys and sorrows. Such musings, and the regrets they engender for largely if not wholly imaginary might-have-beens, belong perhaps more to a later stage in one’s life. On the other hand I remember being moved to melancholy while still at Eton by the retrospective nostalgia of “Peter Ibbetson” (and keeping thoughts of the kind to myself).

I used in those days, if one is to be quite frank, to luxuriate almost deliberately in a kind of self-pitying melancholy haze. I remember that when I was given a motor-bicycle by J.M.B., in the summer of 1913, one of the first excursions I made was to Burpham, à la recherche du temps passé; and I didn’t mention to anyone where I had been. But I believe all this was a natural symptom of adolescence, and little more than a false dawn, so to speak, in relation to the later, adult longing for the touch of vanished hands etc. which was to take more or less permanent root in one’s mentality.

It is perfectly possible that similar moods were a part of George’s youthful being. I am sure I shouldn’t myself have alluded to Arthur’s birthday myself, in a letter to J.M.B. or anyone else. George was closer to J.M.B. than ever I was, but one would not describe his letters to him as really intimate; like anyone else, he had plenty of thoughts which he kept to himself, and this may have been one of them. (This is mostly very poorly and imperfectly expressed and may not be worth putting in anyway)

*

[Late additions by Nico Ll.D. having come across a couple of letters to George at the front from the two youngest brothers. A day or week out of correct chronological order, but the ‘spur’ comes from J.M.B.’s “I am always at Nico about writing to you!” It seems I managed, just, to get one off, and I remember a perfect and treasured answer which I cannot at present trace. Alas we cannot have any of Peter’s ineffable comments:]

[Nico Ll.D. to George Ll.D.]

23 Campden Hill Square,

Kensington.

21st February

Dear George,

Excusez-vous moi s’il vous plait for not writing before. I went to Potash & Perlmutter last Saturday not yesterday and it is frightfully funny. In parts it is quite sad. I went with Aunt Gwen. I am going to tea with Aunt Gwen to day and I shall see Angela and Daphne. Uncle Jim is at present laid up with a cold. Uncle Guy is having an awful time I believe. He went out with 900 men. He has only 200 left. The other 700 are laid up with their toes nearly of.

Peter’s birthday on the 25th, Grandfather is going to be 89 on the 26th. How are you getting on? Are you speaking French to the French soldiers if you have any with you? I saw Mrs Dorothy Millar at Aunt May’s yesterday. She is very pretty I think. Aunt Gwen is now living in 73 Cheyne Walk. Jack wears a ring now. Have you fallen in love with any French girls yet? I guess so Eh! What!!?

Daubery and his brother came to the zoo and lunch to-day. You should see me now. I salute all the officers. I have got 2 replies from Belgians. One said “Bonjour” and the other said “Goocht Day”. When is your first chance of leave? I went to Peter Pan a few weeks ago and the new Peter is quite good. I went to a fancy dress ball at the Booth’s & Miss Gay came here the other day. Have you got her socks yet? Mary hopes you’ve got the underclothing. Miss Gay played a new game, which Uncle Jim gave me called AUTO PONG.

Love from your affectionate

Nico

*

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[Feb 22nd, 1915]

…. When we’ve done our four days I’ll try and go over and see George, who I think is only two miles off. I haven’t seen anyone I know lately. I fancy most of the Army I knew are killed or wounded.

[Feb 28th, 1915]

…. I rode over to see George Davies but found that his Battalion was in the trenches. They will probably always be in when we are out and visa versa.

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand W.C.

Feb 28 1915

My dear George,

Your letter dated 20th Feb arrived yesterday and made me happy for the moment at all events. I had hardly finished reading and re-reading it (quite as if I was a young lady) when there arrives, unexpected, a gent of the name of Peter. He had managed at last to get two days by bearding his colonel, and in he walked, larger than ever and between you and me a d-v-l-shly handsome fellow in my opinion and I guess in that of any candid person. Peter whom a few years ago we chuckled over as rather a comic is a werry fine youth indeed.

By good luck it has also been Eton long leave so Michael was back also, and we have made something of a show at meals. I have just seen Peter off again, and one of my quaint memories will be of his sitting on the Duke of York’s stage chatting to Mdlle Gaby. Heavens, what a worker she is! I have never known man or woman on the stage with such a capacity for work and always so gracious to everybody that they are all at her feet. Life, sir, is odd, as you have been seeing this last two months, but it is even odder than that. Such a queer comedy of tears and grimness and the inexplicable – as your du Maurier blood will make you understand sooner than most. It will teach you that the nice people are the nastiest and the nastiest the nicest, and on the whole leave you smiling.

A few things to note from your last. For one thing I enclose four pounds in French money, and for the another it is always a blessed thing for me when you want something. So if you don’t want, go on inventing. I’ll send you a book or two tomorrow (this is Sunday). Then I’ll also send tomorrow a hamper similar to the last from Fortnum & Mason, as it, thank goodness, seems to have been a success.

Not the slightest fear of Lucas publishing a word out of your letters; he hates that sort of thing. Milne of Punch has become a second lieut. and has rather put it to me to help his wife thro’ companionably. General feeling that I am rather a buffer to lean upon.

Tomorrow I am lunching with Sir David Henderson, the head of the flying corps, and I contemplate taking Michael who will growl but he is the best type of man & we shall be alone. Dined with Asquith this week – always serene. Evidently there are to be great doings in the Dardanelles. The one great doing for me is when we are all together again.

Loving

J.M.B.

*

Some truly wonderful stuff in this letter, which only J.M.B. could have written. I fear however that the somewhat backhanded compliment to Gaby Deslys lends no colour to my theory that George and she may have flung a few roses together, with J.M.B.’s blessing. But I will leave the theory in, because I think it a charming one, which George would have appreciated. And you never know. J.M.B. had his moments of profound insight and wisdom as well as his practically limitless generosity. And he loved George with an exceeding great love.

I don’t believe Milne’s second lieutenantry proved to be of the sort that involved his wife in any great need of comforting.

As for Asquith’s serenity …

The reference to my own meeting with Gaby is a shocking reminder of gaps which exist in one’s memory. I have forgotten it utterly; and there are few incidents in my life I should less have expected to forget. Such a laps does not necessarily invalidate the memories one does retain, but I realise they may often be inaccurate as well as incomplete.

*

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

March 2 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

Once again the six days’ rest of the first 48 hours in the trenches are over.

On the whole I have had a soft – certainly a safe – job. We had the first 24 hours in the firing line, and I was given not a trench, but a kind of fortified place between, and rather behind, the trenches. In the day an artillery officer came up & observed the effect of our guns, & that was all. If we had been attached I could have given the Boches hell. It was a fine bit of the line, & I hope I shall see some more of it.

That night we went back to a ruined château – not a bad way of spending one’s 24 hours in support! It was a bright moonlight night, & the château looked wonderful. It is all white with four great pillars in front, one of them broken. I walked up to it feeling, in spite of mud & dirt, like a Roman Emperor. It is the best sight I’ve seen yet. And then of course romance was a bit spoiled by an N.C.O. just behind me making some low remark about spotted fever (alluding to the shrapnel marks that covered the walls).

I was warned for a fatigue last night, to dig a new trench from 12.30 till 2.30. So out I went from a nice warm cellar at midnight, feeling rather inclined to curse all warfare. Imagine my feelings when I had marched half a mile, & was told fatigue had been cancelled. I danced back to the château, & slept like a log.

Next day I prowled round the château. It was really nothing but a shell, with whole rooms battered to bits. There was a little shrine out in the garden, practically untouched by gunfire. On the altar, just in front of the figure of Christ there was a charger of four cartridges. To a sentimental civilian like me, not yet hardened into a proper mercenary, this had rather a striking effect. Perhaps it sounds a bit cheap, but the château, which was rather beautiful, had made me feel romantic.

Next night there were alarms and excursions. Our part in them (a hopeless one) was to line a half made trench about a mile behind. The Germans hardly sent any shells off at all. One burst in the ground about 25 yards behind, splashing mud over us, & putting terror into me. It was hard to believe that it could have come considerably nearer, & even then done no damage. We got back to billets about half-past four, & it is now the next morning, & a perfectly lovely day. Trenches again tomorrow night.

Has anything happened to my supply of cigarettes? They haven’t got out for some time. I hope they haven’t been blockaded or something.

Could you send out some Cambridge sausages from Fortnum & Mason? Also some Bironac Cocoa?

I’ll write as soon as we’re in billets again.

George

*

No word could be more aptly applied to George than “romantic”. He was romantically minded – much more so than most of these letters show – and romantic in appearance. He had nice “dirty” mind, too, and that makes a delightful combination, particularly when it is seasoned with a gay and at times extravagant sense of humour.

[AB: George was not the only one touched with a romantic response to the chateau. Guy du M. had written to Gwen on February 5th, “… we got to a lone and much-shelled chateau, looking picturesque in the rising moonlight.”]

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Guy du Maurier to his wife Gwen]

[2 March 1915] ... I can’t hear anything of George Davies. His Division made a big attack yesterday – successful – and this morning the ambulances are coming back pretty full from that direction. I hope he hasn’t got hurt.

*

[NOT IN THE MORGUE:]

[Michael Ll.D to George Ll.D.]

Eton College Bucks.

3rd March 1915.

Dear George,

As I am at the present moment afflicted with a belly-ache, and therefore staying out, I seize the chance to write this news letter. Leave is passed, last week-end I found Peter at 23, having got leave from Friday to Sunday evening. And Uncle Jim rehearsing plays with a bad cold. I went to the Coliseum, which was not at its best. However that was made up for by the fact that we had the Royal Box, which I had not been in before. There was a man attired so as to represent Nero (the Roman card) with huge legs and arms attached, and Nico has been copying him ever since. Also an amusing lion who munched the aforesaid N. You can imagine the puns made on Nero. Also there was a very good singer, Jack Norworth. He sings ‘Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers’, and also a new song which begins ‘Mothers making mittens for the Navy, Bertha’s bathing baby Belgian refugees’. He is in Uncle Jim’s new burlesque.

On Saturday Peter had a large dinner at the Savoy with Old Etonians, i.e. Pemberton & Co. On Monday besides going to Uncle Jim’s rehearsals we (Sir J & I) lunched at the Automobile Club with Lieut-Gen Sir (?) David Henderson, the head of the flying corps, and his wife. He was very nice. I had no idea he was so important until Nico told me that crossed swords and a star means Lieutenant-General. The Automobile Club is an enormous place. I went and saw the baths and gymnasia (I feel that Aunt Margo would approve of ‘gymnasia’).

The evening passed in the usual way: – Tea: then wait, wait, wait, with futile attempts to play Rat-tat etc: books for Mary to pack: taxi comes early: wait: bag in taxi: hurried farewells, and station: crowds of boys: greetings which freeze on sight of Sir James: shouts of ‘Good lord here’s Davies’ on finding a carriage: walk up to tutors on arriving, to feel that you haven’t been to leave at all, except for the atmosphere of purses replenished and changed suits: supper & prayers after which tutor comes & asks all about George & Peter & leave in general, while doing his best to obliterate the foot of the bed. Then lights suddenly go out at ten when a new book by Wells or Bierce becomes very interesting. Wake in morning to the refrain of ‘Nearly a quarter to seven, Mr Davies. Are you awake, sir?’ to which the only possible reply is a grunt. A superhuman effort drags you to the shower-bath. etc.

Yesterday I managed to aid my partner in vanquishing the first-round opponents in school-fives, and as the second-round people have scratched we are in the third which is not bad. I am in the third round of Junior Fives too. As for house-fives (school) I forget if I told you this, but as Cheney & Neville stayed out, O Peake ma. and myself had to represent the 1st pair as well as the second. Playing for the 1st pair v. Brintons IV (1st courts Tuesday) we won. For me the 2nd pair v R.S. de H’s II (2nd courts ditto) we lost. It was a very strenuous day. I hope to win my tutor’s junior house fives as I have not a bad partner and as good as anybody else’s I think. I would have won last year, only I got mumps in the final.

Tom and Jack Bevan were down yesterday. I believe Tom was a pal of yours. I had a letter from Jack this morning, in which he says he has done over 3,000 miles in the last twelve days, which seems rather a lot. There is only a month to the end of the half now, which seems an awful little when you say four weeks or four seven days. The other day I among others was made a temporary platoon commander in G coy, and I was even more astounded than anyone else at my voice. It is awful in G coy now because Chaffey, of all people, has been taking us lately. ‘Sap it up, you chaps! Dash it all you boys!’ ‘Pon my word’ss, you know, you are bad’ss’ Disgusting little bounder! And the Adjutant, McNeile, is not much better. You should hear the songs they sing about him, such as ‘What shall we do with the Acting Adjer’ etc etc --!

My dame has just come in, and on my suggestion asks me to give you her best regards, & she is very interested to hear about you. Coupled with this is the teaching injunction to go up to the night only when I feel inclined thereto. And no lunch!

----

Again enters Mrs d’A with castor-oil in Brandy, which now reposes in my belly. She has gone for a punch. The doctor (Ansler) used to live near grandfather du Maurier in Hampstead – enter my dame with punch – and was interested in my pictures, besides pummelling my brisket and laughing at the fact that I had crumpets and fried eggs for tea yesterday.

My source of information is now beginning to diminish rapidly and I feel that you will have to be satisfied with nine pages or thereabouts. I think it is about time you got leave home. It seems ages since you were home. You will be an awful dog when you get back, and must certainly come down to play against the school, and in your uniform. You could play in pop shorts & khaki stockings.

I cudgel my brains, but I can find nothing more to say, so I fear I must finish. J’ai fini. Now for a letter to Jack and then the night only –

Michael.

*

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

Sunday, March 7 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

Two more days up have passed, & tonight we go into the trenches for the last time before our 6 days’ rest. And I shall be glad of them. I have been in a place where nothing happened, but it is on a road, & something might always happen there. So there is a certain amount of strain about. Tonight I shall increase my look-out, & feel a lot more comfortable. Nothing will happen, I am certain, but the chance of it through 24 hours stirs me a bit. With extra look-outs I shall sit and hope the Germans do come along in column of fours. I don’t think they’d ever get back.

There is nothing to chronicle, except the gruesome fact that I’ve seen violent death within a yard of me. I was quite safe myself, Uncle Jim, as I was right down underneath the parapet. The poor chap wasn’t one of my fellows, & put his head up in a place where at that time he could scarcely fail to stop a bullet. The top of his head was shot off, so he didn’t feel it. But it was a dreadful sight. I oughtn’t to write about these things, but it made an impression.

Good luck with the burlesque. I am longing to see it. The war seems to be going well just now, I hear a lot of talk about captured submarines.

Fortnum & Mason has again rolled up in abundance. It is good of you. Also books & magazines. One remarkable tale of a French girl in the trenches. I am a sentimental fellow myself, but if she’d been the prettiest damosel in France, I’d have sent her to the rear pretty smartly.

Your affec

George

*

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

Dear Uncle Jim,

Out of the trenches again, & now for a weeks rest. Glorious! I spent 48 hours in the same place as before. The second night wasn’t a very good one, as it got most awfully cold. Froze hard, & such a wind as I don’t want again. A brazier at half past three was pretty nice. The chief excitement was a steady bombardment of the German lines yesterday. Shells came whistling over our heads, & burst with enormous force in the German trenches. I was sorry for the poor devils that got in their way. These big shells are horrible things. And we’ve got some enormous ones about now. I should like to see the effect of one of the real big ones.

I heard from Uncle Charlie Millar the other day. He enclosed a great list of securities that left me with a sinking fear about what I shall be like as a business man. Perhaps I’d better go into the Army. At any rate I’d have a medal to wear.

Is there any chance of old Peter getting out soon? I do hope so – he’s had enough of Sheerness to last him all his life. Two battalions of our own regiment are with me, & he might be sent to one of them. I should like to meet him going up to the trenches when I’m coming out. I should chuckle a bit. But if that happened I should also meet him coming out as I came in.

Well, here comes my dinner. I will close with the demand for some tins of Spiritine, a very fine thing for cooking on. Boots Chemists are the people who have it, or Lewis & Burrows.

George.

*

The bombardments, watchfulness etc. referred to by George in the last two or three letters signified the approaching cessation of the long lull which followed the end of the First Battle of Ypres (October 31st 1914). Neuve Chapelle, the first offensive battle undertaken by the British in the war, began on the day George wrote this letter, some twenty miles to the southward. But on his part of the front our troops were still on the defensive, and were to face in a few weeks time heavy German attacks known as the Second Battle of Ypres.

Charlie Millar, as a trustee of the du Maurier Estate, had presumably sent George a list of the securities which came to him under George du M.’s will on the death of Emma du M. (The list may have seemed to him a long one but the sum total was small enough – I don’t remember what.) He had presumably had what came to him through Sylvia soon after his 21st birthday (July 20th 1914); and I believe I am right in saying that Emma du M. left none of her own money to George or any of us, on J.M.B.’s having undertaken to see to all that in a satisfactory way… George made no will, and what he possessed was accordingly divided between his brothers – Michael’s quarter being again divided between the three survivors.

Most likely he was right in thinking he had a poor head for figures; his qualms about becoming a business man refer to the understanding which had existed for some time that he was to be given a cousinly job in the Booth Line. But J.M.B. told me more than once that he had come to the conclusion well before George’s death that he was unsuited for, and too good for, such a job.

*

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

Adelphi Terrace House,

Strand, W.C.

11 March 1915

My dear George,

I don’t know when news from quite near you may reach you – perhaps later than we get it – but we have just heard that your uncle Guy has been killed. He was a soldier by profession, and had reached a time of life when the best things have come to one if they are to come at all, and he had no children, which is the best reason for caring to live on after the sun has set; and these are things to remember now. He certainly had the du Maurier charm at its best – the light heart with the sad smile, & it might be the sad heart with the bright smile. There was always something pathetic about him to me. He had lots of stern stuff in him, and yet always the mournful smile of one who could pretend that life was gay but knew it wasn’t. One of the most attractive personalities I have ever known.

Of course I don’t need this to bring home to me the danger you are always in more or less, but I do seem to be sadder today than ever, and more and more wishing you were a girl of 21 instead of a boy, so that I could say the things to you that are now always in my heart. For four years I have always been waiting for you to become 21 & a little more, so that that we could get closer & closer to each other without any words needed. I don’t have any little iota of desire for you to get military glory. I do not care a farthing for anything of the kind, but I have the one passionate desire that we may all be together again once at least. You would not mean a feather-weight more to me tho’ you came back a General. I just want yourself. There may be some moments when a knowledge of all you are to me will make you a little more careful, and so I can’t help going on saying these things.

It was terrible that man being killed next to you, but don’t be afraid to tell me of such things. You see it at night I fear with painful vividness. I have lost all sense I ever had of war being glorious, it is just unspeakably monstrous to me now.

Loving

J.M.B.

*

Surely no soldier in France or Flanders ever had more moving words from home than those in this tragic, desperately apprehensive letter – the last of J.M.B.’s ever to reach George. Plenty of other people, no doubt, were thinking and writing much the same sort of thing, but not in such perfection. Indeed, taking all the circumstances into consideration, I think it must be one of the great letters of the world.

Its poignancy is so dreadfully enhanced, too, by the realisation that, whatever of pathetic there may have been in Guy du M. – and I don’t doubt there was a good deal (I think, by the way, he was almost as closely bound to his mother as J.M.B. to Margaret Ogilvy) – far, far the most pathetic figure in all the world was the poor little genius who wrote these words, and afterwards, no doubt, walked up and down, up and down his lonely room, smoking pipe after pipe, thinking his dire thoughts.

*

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

(In J.M.B.’s handwriting, at the foot of this pencilled letter, are the words: “This is the last letter, and was written a few hours before his death. I knew he was killed before I got it.”)

March 14 [1915]

Dear Uncle Jim,

I have just got your letter about Uncle Guy. You say it hasn’t made you think any more about the danger I am in. but I know it has. Do try not to let it. I take every care of myself that can decently be taken. And if I am going to stop a bullet, why should it be with a vital place? But arguments aren’t any good. Keep your heart up, Uncle Jim, & remember how good an experience like this is for a chap who’s been very idle before. Lord, I shall be proud when I’m home again, & talking to you about all this. That old dinner at the Savoy will be pretty grand.

It is very bad about Uncle Guy. I wonder how he was killed. As he was a colonel, I imagine his battalion was doing an attack. Poor Aunt Gwen. This war is a dreadful show.

The ground is drying up fast now, and the weather far better. Soon the spring will be on us, & and the birds nesting right up in the firing line. Something a little different from the forty-eight hours’ routine in the trenches, I daresay. There have already been doings in various parts of the line, & I would rather be George Davies than Sir John French just now. He must have got some hard decisions in front of him. Well let’s hope for a good change in the next month.

Meanwhile, dear Uncle Jim, you must carry on with your job of keeping up your courage. I will write every time I come out of action. We go up to the trenches in a few days again.

Your affec.

George

*

George’s death took place in the very early morning of March 15th; and the fatal telegram from the War Office must have reached J.M.B. only a few hours later, as a telegram conveying to him the sympathy of the King and Queen was “handed in” at 3.50 p.m. on that same day.

[AB: Nico wrote to me in 1976: “I and Mary Hodgson … were sleeping in the night-nursery at 23 Campden Hill Square. I, 11 years old; Michael at Eton 14½; Peter in the K.R.R.C. at Sheerness 18; Jack in the Navy 20½; Uncle Jim in his third floor flat at Robert Street, Adelphi. Suddenly there came a banging on the front door, and the front door-bell ringing and ringing. Mary got out of bed and went downstairs, while I sat half up with ears pricked etc. Voices soon came up the stairs and seemed to stop just short of our floor, though they may have gone into the day-nursery next door. Uncle Jim's voice was of the eerie, Scots, Banshee wail sort of thing of which the only words I sort of remember are: "Ah-h-h-h – they'll all go, Mary – Jack, Peter, Michael, and even little Nico – this awful war will get them all!" A little later, realising I was awake, he came and sat on my bed for a bit, but I can remember nothing of this. I have an idea that this time I didn't blub – can't think why not! He stayed the night, I fancy, in a room downstairs – used to be Mother’s, then George’s”]

*

On the day following arrived the Commanding Officer’s conventional letter:

[G.H. Thesiger to J.M.B.]

15. 3.15

Dear Sir James Barrie,

I deeply regret to tell you that Davies was killed early this morning during a night attack we were making. He was killed practically instantaneously close to my side as I was giving instructions. He was a most excellent and promising officer and is a very great loss to us all.

Yrs sincerely

G.H. Thesiger

*

Even allowing for the circumstances in which this very prompt notification must obviously have been written, it is clearly not the letter of a man who knew George well.

Lt Col Thesiger was, I believe, regarded as one of the outstanding officers of the army, and was himself in due course killed at the Battle of Loos the following September, being then a Major-General.

The action in which George was killed was one of the minor operations which preceded the Second Battle of Ypres. It is thus described in the Official History of the War:

“On the 14th March the Germans made a surprise attack at 5 p.m. on a larger scale at St Eloi, firing two times. They captured the village, the trenches near it, and the “Mound” (an artificial heap of earth about thirty feet high, and perhaps half an acre in extent, on the western side of the knoll south of the village) from the 80th Brigade of the 27th Division. There was severe hand to hand fighting, in which the 2/King’s Shropshire L.I. and 4/Rifle Brigade particularly distinguished themselves. An immediate counterattack could not be made, as owing to the heavy shelling no reserves were kept near at hand. ... The village of trenches were recovered, although part of the latter had to be evacuated at daylight. ... The “Mound”, which gave good observation, was not recaptured, the Germans having at once consolidated their position on it.”

One of George’s closer friends at Eton and more particularly Cambridge had been Aubrey Tennyson, younger (and very different and far nicer) brother of the present comical Lord (Lionel) Tennyson, the cricketer. Aubrey Tennyson was still at Sheerness with one of the reserve battalions of the Rifle Brigade at the time of George’s death, but was posted not long afterwards to the 4th Bn, when he wrote me the following letter:

[Aubrey Tennyson to Peter Ll.D]

30. 5.15

My dear Davies,

After I saw you I wrote off immediately to find out about poor old George’s death, but had not received an answer when I came out here.

I have collected as many details now as I can.

The battalion was advancing to drive the Germans out of St Eloi, & C Company (George’s Coy) were leading. They had been chosen to lead the attack, as they knew the trenches that were to be counter-attacked, having been in them before. Stopford Sackville was marching alongside of George part of the way up, & he says he fancied George had a sort of premonition he was going to be killed as he talked about being killed & he said he hoped that they would not take him back into one of the villages behind but would bury him outside his own trench, & that he considered it was the finest death one could die & he wished to be buried where he fell.

He was the first officer to be shot that night. The Colonel was talking to all C Company officers before the attack was made, & George was sitting on a bank with the others, when he was shot through the head, & died almost immediately, so that he can have felt nothing.

It was impossible to comply with his wishes & bury him there, as when day came, the Germans had the whole place covered with machine-gun and rifle fire. They took him back and buried him in a field on the left of the road going from Dickebus [Dikkebus] to Voormezeile, only just outside Voormezeile. One of our companies were in reserve there afterwards & they say that they took a lot of trouble making the grave look nice, & planting it with violets etc. In the same field Colonel Farquhar commanding Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was buried & some officers & men of the 60th & about 40 of our men. He was buried in the same grave as another of our officers, Stobart, who fell the same night, & a wooden cross was put up over them, with their names on it.

If there is anything else you would like to hear please write & ask me, because you know what an affection & respect I had for George, & I would do anything to find out what I can. It is too an easy thing, because I do not stand alone in this battalion in my affection for him. When I first asked about him when I got here, I was told by an officer who has been in the battalion for some years, that he had never known any officer come into the battalion, who after so short a time had won the love of everyone, so much so that all his brother officers felt when he was killed that even though they had only known him such a short time, they had lost one of their best friends. As regards myself I don’t think anyone can ever take his place, as there is no one whom I have ever loved more.

I asked Capt. W.H. Alston, 4th Bn R.B. if he was in London to go & see Sir James Barrie, & so if you were to write to him c/o Messrs Cox & Co, I know he would go round & tell you anything else.

Yours ever

Aubrey Tennyson.

*

Nothing could be more obviously genuine and truthful than this spontaneous letter to a mere acquaintance, two or three years younger than the writer.

I don’t remember seeing anything of Capt. Alston. Aubrey Tennyson I did not see again till March or April, 1918 – I am not sure which – when I had a few words with him during the St Quentin battle (he was by then either Captain or Major), at the end of which he disappeared into the thick mist that was everywhere at the time, and I heard later the same day that he had been killed.

Well, there’s the end of the story so far as George is concerned. I remember getting a telegram at Sheerness from J.M.B. – “George is killed. Hope you can come to me.” And I remember arriving at the flat in Adelphi Terrace, and that Gwen du M. was in the room with J.M.B., and that it was very painful. There may have been others present. I can recall nothing else but a feeling of acute misery and discomfort. Such scenes are exquisitely horrible and in this particular instance time has with unusual tact blurred my recollections.

The effect on J.M.B. was dire indeed, poor little devil. Oh, miserable Jimmie. Famous, rich, loved by a vast public, but at what a frightful private cost. Shaken to the core – whatever dark fancies may have lurked at the back of his queer fond mind – by the death of Arthur; tortured a year or two later by the ordeal of his own divorce; then so soon afterwards prostrated, ravaged and utterly undone when Sylvia pursued Arthur to the grave; and after only four and a half years, George; George whom he had loved with such a deep, strange, complicated, increasing love, and who as he knew well would have been such a pillar for him to lean on in the difficult job of guiding the destinies of “Sylvia & Arthur Llewelyn Davies’s boys – my boys.” And in another couple of months the Lusitania would go down, taking with her Charles Frohman, possibly the only non-Davies whom he then knew how to love, and his one perfect shield against the intolerable nuisance of business arrangements in the theatre. Fortunate, too, he certainly was, in being unaware of what was in store for him in 1921, when Providence would pick him up off the floor again and give him perhaps the most brutal wallop of the lot. But all this is better done than I can do it by Denis Mackail who, in his Story of J.M.B., states, I have no doubt with truth, that till George’s death he had each year composed a letter to Sylvia, on her birthday, rendering an account of his stewardship, and telling her of each boy’s progress and development; but that now he abandoned the habit.

{“I feel this is getting to be quite a sad story.” as the author of Trilby remarks somewhere in that sentimental masterpiece, “and that it is high time to cut this part of it short” – at any rate for the moment.}

For his brothers, George’s death was, with no exaggeration, a bad business. Each of the three who are left has his own idea of what George was, and it is unlikely to correspond at all points with the others remember. I have little that is worth adding to the very incomplete jottings which I have already put down. The fortunes of war brought me pretty close to him for a short time within a few months of his death, and I had in the preceding five or six years been with him a great deal, fishing latterly and bug-hunting in the more childish days before that; but it would be untrue to say that there existed tremendous intimacy between us, or that we were bound together by that ineffable love of brother for brother which one has occasionally read of. On the other hand it is not in the least untrue to say that I have gone on missing him possibly ever since I last saw him, leaning out of the window as his train steamed away from Sheerness station. He had so much that was really good without being in the least goody-goody, and was such fun, and so tolerant, and would have been such value always; and blood and background and memories are a mighty strong bond; and how few, after all, are those in all one’s life with whom one can be completely at ease. That he had his fair share of the celebrated du Maurier charm or temperament is certain; there was a good leavening of sound, kind, sterling Davies in him too. I think he had that simplicity which J.M.B. and Mr Justice Macnaghten saw in Arthur, and which, though I only partly understand it, I dimly perceive to be perhaps the best of all characteristics. In fact I think he had in him a very great deal of the best & finest qualities of both Arthur & Sylvia. But it was all thirty years ago, and he was only twenty-one, and what do I know about him really?

This much is certain, that when he died, some essential virtue went out of us as a family. The combination of George, who as eldest brother exercised a sort of constitutional, tacitly accepted authority over us, who was of our blood, and on whom still lingered more than a little of our own good family tradition, with the infinitely generous, fanciful solicitous, hopelessly unauthoritative J.M.B., was a good one and would have kept us together as a unit of some worth; as it was, circumstances were too much for J.M.B. left solitary, as well as for us, and we became gradually, but much sooner than would or should have been the case, individuals with little of the invaluable, cohesive strength of the united family. A bad thing for all of us; and the truth of this is emphasised for me by the enormous amount of satisfaction I have had out of the much later development which has bought two of us into close association [AB: i.e. Peter and Nico, who worked together in Peter’s publishing firm.]

I have visited George’s grave several times, the first in the autumn of 1917, during my own introduction to that depressing Salient with which George had been familiar two and a half years earlier. By then two wooden crosses and two graves had already replaced the single cross and common grave mentioned by Aubrey Tennyson; so I suppose the bodies had been separated in the interval and one of them reinterred.

In the June of last year (1945), being stationed at Bruges for a few weeks, I took the opportunity of going down there again, with the primary object of finding out whether any damage had been done during the war just ended. There proved to have been none; though in a small rearguard action which was fought close by in the 1940 (Dunkirk) campaign, the cemetery next to George’s had been a good deal knocked about, and in the third of the Voormezeele graveyards I saw a number of new wooden crosses among the 1914-18 headstones – a sufficiently sardonic commentary on the whole fantastic business.

The cemetery in which George is buried is one of the smallest in that countryside of death, where you can hardly walk a mile without coming across a stone-walled enclosure of scores, or hundreds, or even thousands of British headstones. All are scrupulously neat and tidy, looked after as perfectly as any cathedral close. Whether you regard them as monuments to the fertility or the splendour of mankind, the general effect of all those graveyards, with their utter simplicity of design, and the complete uniformity of the headstones, only distinguished from one another by the names and regimental badges carved on them, is, surprisingly enough, not monotonous, but beautiful. It was a stroke of genius on the part of the Imperial War Graves Commission to make each grave a flowerbed, so that, in June at least, they resemble gardens more than cemeteries.

On George’s grave there were roses and pansies growing. It stands, next to Stobart’s, rather apart from the rest, and nearly in the centre, giving the impression, which is probably correct, that those two were the first, and that the cemetery as a whole grew up around them. The caretaker was not there, or it would have been pleasant to thank him for his devoted care. There was no sign of life in the adjoining village, the new Voormezeele – an ugly, raw, characterless place like all the towns and villages which rose again from the muck of twenty-seven years ago; the inhabitants were probably sleeping off their midday meal. I had the place to myself, and never remember feeling more alone. It was a grey, lowering, dismal sort of day, shivery too, in spite of the month. All sort of vague thoughts came and went in my head, of dust and skeletons and the conqueror worm, and old, unhappy, far-off things, and older days that were happier: a mixture with which everyone who has stood beside a grave is only too familiar. What with one thing and another I am not ashamed to admit that I piped an eye.

Then I walked away through St Eloi, about a mile off, as likely as not past the exact spot where George was sitting when he “stopped a bullet with a vital place” and so back to Ypres along the Messines road, feeling bloody miserable.

Oh well, bugger it. To make an end of this penultimate chapter of the family morgue, the epitaph which a poet [A E Housman] wrote for George and his kind seems as appropriate as anything I know of:

Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung;
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.

* * *

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