The following is an orginal piece by Peter Llewelyn Davies (compiler)
Some Davies Letters and Papers
Peter Llewelyn Davies
[AB: "The Family Mausoleum", or "Morgue" as Peter called this work, is, by any reckoning, an extraordinary document – part compilation, part autobiography – written by a publisher who never wanted it published, yet made copies for family distribution before burning most of the originals.
My original intention back in 1978 had been to get the Morgue published in its own right, rather than write my own book. I met with Peter’s three sons – Ruthven (Rivvy), George and Peter Jnr – but both the publishers and Nico felt that it, remarkable as it was, with much brilliant writing by Peter, it was altogether too desultory and rambling for the general reader - though not the family, being Peter's sole intended audience. Besides which, the compilation ends abruptly at George’s death in 1915, without Peter's stated intention to continue through to Michael's death in 1921.
Anyone reading this Morgue will, I believe, well empathise with Peter and understand why he gave up when he did. Referring to the thousands of letters between Barrie and Michael, he wrote with deceptive simplicity, "They were too much."
In the Morgue, Peter speaks of finding “a dusty packet which contained all [Arthur and Sylvia’s] engagement letters, and which I exhumed from some forgotten recess in JMB's flat, some nights after his death.” These, and dozens of other bundles, were, it would seem, shared out between Cynthia Asquith, Peter and Nico, Jack being away at sea. Peter's haul went into storage for the duration of the war, but as soon as it was over, he exhumed them and determined on writing them up before destroying them. He made a note of his plan:
"Intention. To show, by extracts from letters and diaries, with short notes, the sort Davies and du Maurier people we are sprung from, from John Davies and L-M du M downwards; with particular emphasis on father and mother [Arthur and Sylvia], and to a lesser degree George and Michael.
- To "lay a ghost" in my own case, and free myself to either destroying all documents, or dispersing them between Jack and Nico.
- To give Jack and Nico a picture which they can't have because they have never seen most of the stuff.
- To leave my own children, and Jack's and Nico's, a record of this part of their extraction in case any of them should one day take an interest in such things."
Peter expanded on his plan in a joint letter to his surviving brothers:
Dear Jack and Nico,
As you know, I have a good many letters and documents relating to dead members of our family and to our "guardian", JMB. And I find, and believe you agree with me, that the best thing on the whole to do with all such papers is to destroy them, particularly when their general effect is depressing rather than stimulating or merely entertaining. But on the other hand I have noticed in myself, as I get older, an increasing inclination to take an interest in "the day before yesterday", and the day before that. I believe this is quite a common phenomenon. Such an interest has a way of becoming the stronger, as one's relatives of the older generation, who could have told one so much, become estranged or die.
Something of the sort may develop in years to come in our own children; so I thought I would have a shot at piecing together a brief record, or perhaps that is too portentous a word; say rather a very sketchy memento, which might be of interest, someday, to some son or daughter of ours whose tastes may lie in that direction. After all we, and so they, are the product not only of two very gifted beings, but of two families of some distinction. And the darkest clouds, through which we ourselves inevitably record some of these relics, need not obscure the remoter viewpoint of the next generation.
If you think the whole thing a mistake, you can always tear it up and throw it away, as I shall now proceed to tear up and throw away the letters, some of which are here copied. P.Ll.D.
The Morgue begins back in the mists of 1812, being primarily a history of the Llewelyn Davies and Crompton families. It isn't until 1889 that Peter's father, Arthur Llewelyn Davies, first meets Sylvia du Maurier, and the two family narratives combine. I have therefore begun this transcription at that point.
The layout is exactly as Peter had it typed up, except that all formatting has been removed, being inconsistent with the website technology, and first names substituted for Peter's initials, e.g. Arthur Ll.D instead of A.Ll.D. or Arthur instead of A., except where used in contemporary letters. A number of additional letters have come to light since Peter compiled the Morgue, and I have included them here where relevant. The originals of some of the letters can be found in the database, particularly ones that Peter didn’t have to hand while compiling the Morgue, and therefore evaded his systematic destruction.]
[Arthur Llewelyn Davies to his sister Margaret Ll.D. at Kirkby Lonsdale]
34 Craven Terrace, W [London]
[10th April 1889]
I am glad to hear of the Red Dog and the other elements of your prosperity, which no doubt will all have become familiar and controllable by the time of my arrival. That happy event may be looked for at the end of this month or the beginning of the next. I go to Gracedieu on April 26th for a few days. Till then from Easter (when my time with Chitty is up) I shall be working here.
How about Dighton Pollock? I hope you are prepared to face a visit from him in May. He is ready to come at the beginning, but no doubt could do equally well in the middle if you're going to be overcrowded in the earlier part. He and I shall be doing a good deal of work, but he will be a great accession to the village cricket club and also prepared for plenty of walking.
I will do the commission about the Ordnance maps, but till I have seen the sheets am a little doubtful as to the extent - e.g. whether to include Shap Fells which is a walk that I have planned. My Jenkinson sufficiently includes all the Lake District proper. I propose to take you to Ullswater and Helvellyn someday in May. It is sad that L. M. has actually not been up Ingleborough.
Your affectionate brother,
This must be one of the first letters written by Arthur to the Vicarage, Kirkby Lonsdale, to which the Rev. John and Mary Ll.D. and Margaret had recently moved from Blandford Square, Marylebone, and which was to become the home of John Llewelyn Davies (now 63) for the next 20 years.
Arthur was sharing rooms with [his brother] Charles Ll.D, now employed at the Treasury [i.e. in 1950, when Peter was compiling the Morgue].
Gracedieu, in Leicestershire: the home of the Booths. I fancy Jack went there once or twice as a child.
Chitty: T W Chitty, QC, later Mr Justice Chitty, in whose chambers Arthur was qualifying for the Bar, to which he was to be called three months later.
Dighton Pollock was, I think, also in Chitty's Chambers; I don't know whether Arthur and he had made friends before that at Cambridge. Younger brother of Adrian Pollock, and thus uncle of Anne, who married Cyril (now Mr Justice) Asquith and of the emaciated diseuse, Betty, who acted occasionally in JMB's plays. The Pollocks were among the most distinguished legal families in the country, and were doubtless useful as well as attractive to know. Dighton, very handsome and gifted, became a prominent member of the Parliamentary Bar before his death in the early 1930s. These notes are already too long for me to enter here into the rather unusual relationship which existed between him and Gerald Arthur Millar, and which, after all, had little or no bearing on our own family affairs.
Maps, of a scale suitable for walking and bicycling, were always a great preoccupation of Arthur's. I suppose he had been asked to get the sections of the Ordnance survey map covering the beautiful Westmorland countryside to which the family had migrated, and to which they were to become so devoted.
"Jenkinson" is an unfamiliar name to me – presumably a guide and map book.
L. M. I can't solve.
Ingleborough is a local "mountain", the climbing of which, in 1905 or 6, with Arthur and George, is one of my a vividest early memories.
One could wish there had been some details about the vicarage and its domestic arrangements, but there are none, except the occasional references later to "red rooms" and "blue rooms" in Mary Ll.D's to Sylvia, which will follow in their places. It was a nice, comfortable old house. There is some description of it in the notes from Lady Ponsonby which will be found later on; and also in a large number of Llewelyn Davies letters which came to me from cousins Mary and Theo after I had more or less completed this part of the record. I hope to include some interesting extracts from these in a subsequent volume.
I suppose the "Red Dog" was in fact a real dog. They were not what one would call a doggy family, but I have a charming little photograph of Mary Ll.D. with Crompton, taken obviously in the early 1890's, with a dog called Bob which looks as though it was a (red) Irish terrier sort of animal.
[AB: Arthur’s sister Margaret became a leading light in the Women’s co-operative movement, and the struggle for women’s rights. Since she is to feature strongly in the pages to come, the following short bio might be of interest. For anyone wanting to know more, Ruth Cohen’s monumental 2020 biography – Margaret Llewelyn Davies: With Women for a New World – is unlikely to be surpassed.
Margaret Llewelyn Davies was the daughter of the Rev. John Llewelyn Davies, and was born at Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland in 1861. Her father was a Christian Socialist, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, an outspoken foe of poverty and inequality, and a strong supporter of women’s rights. After attending Girton College, Cambridge, Margaret Llewelyn Davies became involved in several progressive causes.
She joined the Women's Co-operative Guild (WCG) in 1886, and from 1899 until 1921 she was the organisation's General Secretary and driving force. Under her leadership the WCG became a campaigning organisation, far more politically active than it previously had been. After carrying out an investigation into the working conditions of the 2,000 women employed in Co-operative stores, the WCG advocated the introduction of a minimum wage. By 1912 the Co-operative Wholesale Society and 200 other retail societies had complied with the WCG's policy on wages.
A member of the National Union of Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), Margaret Llewelyn Davies took part in several peaceful demonstrations, including a sandwich-board picket of the House of Commons in 1912. She also gave evidence to the Royal Commission on divorce reform and the WCG created great controversy by urging that “divorce by mutual consent after two years of separation” should be legalized. Other campaigns she instigated included an attempt to reduce the high infant-mortality rates by the introduction of improved ante-natal, natal, and post-natal care. These views were expressed in her book, Maternity (1915). Other books included her autobiography, Life as We Have Known It (1931). Margaret Llewelyn Davies died in 1943.]
[Arthur Ll.D. his mother Mary Llewelyn Davies]
34 Craven Terrace, W
[29th October, 1889]
I was very glad to find your letter this evening on my return from a visit to Cambridge. It is rather sad, though natural, that you should find so much it luxury in solitude and surcease from your family. The experience must have made your present small party seem quite a festive gathering.
I spend the Sunday with Leathes at Cambridge and saw Crompton and Theodore in their new quarters. They have got capital rooms in a good situation, though it is sad to have left the Old Court, and have arranged them very ingeniously. They were both cheerful, but Theodore is not up to much, and does not seem to get better. I suggested to him to degrade a year and go to the most healthily situated of the German universities. It is unsatisfactory that he should be making no improvement, and the Cambridge climate evidently doesn't suit him. He is to speak at the Union next Tuesday on the subject of the strikes.
Charley spent most of Saturday with Dr Bridges at Wimbledon, taking lunch, lawn tennis and dinner with them. He also called on the Lawrences. He also dined with his dear Sibilla on Friday, so that he is full of dissipation. I am gradually working on him, with some success, to join at the Saville Club. Perhaps when I go he will take rooms somewhere near Piccadilly and dine regularly at his Club. But it must be suggested when he is in a receptive mood.
In Chambers we have relaxed our grip for the time on Madame Blavatsky and Jimmy Lowther, and are now engaged in persecuting Dr Barnardo, Walton being a leading Catholic advocate. There are five pupils, three of them quite beginners and two of those a trial. Coghlan and I are reducing them to order by a treatment verging on ferocity. The fifth is a young Matthew, with whose people I am to dine on Wednesday. I expect I owe the invitation to Margaret's patriotic hooting at the judge. I am afraid she wasn't there when old McFadden was in the witness-box. I haven't yet seen Uncle Charley or heard his account.
Your affectionate son,
Crompton and Theodore were both at Trinity with scholarships which were in due course to be converted into fellowships. I have not the least doubt that when Theodore spoke at the Union he warmly espoused the striker's cause.
Dr Bridges is probably Robert Bridges, the future poet Laureate, who lived, I believe, at Wimbledon for some years.
Charlie's “dear Sibilla” I can't identify, nor do I know whether he joined the Saville Club, but I doubt it, my recollection of him being of a singularly "unclubbable" man. I don't think Arthur was ever a member himself, or of any other club.
The legal references are, apart from that to the notorious case of Madam Blavatsky, obscure to me. But Arthur had been called to the Bar in the July of this year, and was in the chambers of Joseph Walton, KC, later Mr Justice Walton.
The phrase "when I go" no doubt refers to Arthur's forthcoming move to Liverpool, where Maurice was now established in the Booth Shipping Company, and where, on the advice of Charles Crompton, QC, it was thought Arthur would stand a better chance in the way of briefs and legal business generally, for a start, than in London.
It is a reasonable assumption, in view of the engagement five months later, that by now Arthur had met Sylvia du Maurier. The following alleged account of their first meeting was given to me a few years ago by old H J Ford, the illustrator for all those Blue, Green, Red etc Fairy books edited by Andrew Lang. He had approached me in connection with some books he wanted to illustrate, and me to publish (I didn't). Jack will no doubt remember him in our early days, as I do: he did some pencil illustrations in a copybook in which either George or Jack was writing a romance, I should think while we were at Tilford [in 1901]. I say "alleged account" because it can hardly be regarded as reliable over the lapse of so many years. H J Ford in his old age was, I believe, generally regarded as rather a bad hat, and struck me in that light when I saw him about the time he wrote the letter which follows, dated 15th February 1938. Not that bad hats necessarily have bad memories! And not that some bad hats haven't been among the pleasantest people I've known. And anyway, perhaps he wasn't a bad hat at all.
“Dear Peter, (he wrote)
I hope I may call you this as I have always considered that I am - indirectly - responsible for your existence on this globe. This is how it was: 63 years ago (or thereabouts) Mrs Rawlinson (still with us) gave a dinner party at which not only I, but a handsome young man called Arthur Llewelyn Davies, and Andrew Lang and Anthony Hawkins and a very beautiful lady called Sylvia du Maurier were present. My good fortune was to take Miss Sylvia in to dinner; on my left was posted Andrew the Great. On Miss du Maurier's right sat Arthur Ll.D.
Greatly trembling at all the beauty (for Miss du M displayed liberally the most beautiful neck, shoulders and bosom to the admiring world) and the talent, H J F ventured to break the ice and open the conversation with a riddle. He in fact asked Miss Sylvia why she was like a hinge (nothing to do with the late Dean of St Paul's). Some pretty deep thinking led to no solution of the problem. So I had to give the answer (not without a burning blush) (of course you know it!) "because you are a thing to a door."
Miss S shouted out this wantonness to the assembly, especially addressing Andrew, who admitted himself still puzzled, but by the time soup was finished proclaimed that "the operation is accomplished, and if you cut open my head you will find that my brain sees it, but with pain." Arthur Davies roared, but the ice was fairly broken, and on the way home as we walked to our respective lodgings he remarked that the beautiful Molly Muir - with whom he had been associating a good deal lately - was only an ''Andsome 'Arriet', and I perceived dimly that his fate was sealed. A few weeks later, the engagement of Arthur Ll.D. was announced to Sylvia du Maurier.
(Incidentally I got the job of my life from Lang, i.e. the job of illustrating 24 fairy books.)
So don't you think you ought to call on dear old Mrs Rawlinson, Cadogan Mansions, aged 92, and still alive and well, for surely she is in some sort your grandmother?”
Old Henry F was exaggerating the antiquity of his little anecdote which went back 48 years, and not 63; but 48 years is quite a long time and he was 78 years old and it maybe full of inaccuracies. I remember JMB once telling me that Sylvia and Arthur first met at a dance, and that she decided then and there that he was the man she would marry. But that may well be inaccurate too. On the other hand, it is quite possible both stories are true. It doesn't signify, in any case; but I thought it worth putting Henry Ford's letter in.
Eleanor Clough, writing to Margaret Ll.D after Arthur's death, speaks of a charity ball at which he "danced and danced" with Sylvia, and adds that it was the second time they had met.
H J Ford was a very handsome man himself, one of the famous cricketing Ford brothers (another being Lionel, the headmaster of Harrow) and sometimes turned out for the Allahakbarries [Barrie's occasional cricket team]. He was not a good artist. I say 'was not', but he may still be alive for all I konw. I wish I had taken his advice and called on old Mrs Rawlinson, who might have been able to tell me many things. Am I not right in thinking that at the time of the dinner party recalled by H J F, and for a good many years later, she lived in a nice early Victorian house adjoining the south east corner of Campden Hill Square? Going to tea there (I think) with the Rawlinsons, and seeing Jack fall out of a swing in the large garden of the house then possessed, is one of my earliest memories - 1902 or so. The patch of blood on Jack's cracked skull, like a dollop of wet red sealing-wax, impressed itself even more indelibly on my mind than on his head.
Andrew Lang - poet, wit, scholar, Homeric translator, unpedantically learned man of letters, another of the almost forgotten great figures of those days - never so far as I'm aware formed part of our family circle.
Of the beautiful Molly Muir I know no more than her name; but curiously enough the name recurs in a letter of Arthur's many years later as that of a friend of Mary Barrie's, motoring with her in France.
[Arthur Ll.D. to his sister Margaret Ll.D.]
34, Craven Terrace. Saturday.
[9th February 1890]
... Maurice has left us this morning to go to Cambridge. I hope he has enjoyed his holiday, though it has not been very exciting or eventful, except for his aristocratic wedding. Mother came to dinner last night and seemed very well, and we spent a pleasant evening, but failed to make any arrangement to fix Charley in more comfortable quarters after my departure.
I hope you'll get successfully through your Glasgow visit, but it must be a serious thing to have to deliver three harangues, especially if (as no doubt will be the case) any of the first audience go on to the other meetings. I had to harangue a county court judge the other day in defence of a fellow of the Gynaecological Society, who had paid no subscription for five years. I saved the defaulter from the fate he deserved, but unluckily made nothing by it, as I was holding the brief for another man.
Charley is very flourishing and talks of getting a new hat when the present stormy weather has subsided.
Your affectionate brother
Morris's "aristocratic wedding" was most likely, as I have suggested before, that of his Marlborough and Balliol contemporary, Charles Roberts, to Lady Cecilia Howard.
Charley and his new hat: it seems from this and many other of the references to Charely Ll.D that Arthur, and perhaps the family as a whole, got a good deal of affectionate fun out of the eldest brother and his little eccentricities. I think Uncle Charley must have been a born old bachelor. I have often wondered whether he was happy or gloomy in the seclusion of his lonely house in Lupus Street, Pimlico, where he spent the last 10 years or so of his life, dying there after a stroke in 1928. He had a most sensitive, gentle, kindly expression, which was enhanced rather than otherwise during his last few months, after the stroke, when his face was framed in fine silvery hair owing to his being unable to shave. I am sure it was typical of him - a sort of rational eccentricity - to refrain from making a will, leaving it to the authorities to distribute his small estate to his nearest kin according to the law.
I suppose Margaret's "Glasgow harangues" were in connection with the Women's Co-operative Guild, to which she dedicated her life.
[George du Maurier to Arthur Ll.D.]
15, Bayswater Terrace, W.
March 23rd, 1890
My Dear Davies,
My daughter has just told me of your letter to her, and I have asked her to let me see you and speak to you. Could you come tomorrow, at any time that would be convenient you? - letting me know when you will come?
I remain, yours very truly,
George du Maurier
[George du Maurier to Arthur Ll.D.]
15, Bayswater Terrace, W.
Tuesday [March 1890]
My Dear Davies,
Will 9.30 do tomorrow morning?
I remain yours
G du Maurier
George du Maurier was at this time 56 years old, and though his name was a household word through his Punch drawings and jokes, he had given little or no sign to the world of the late and literary gift which was to blossom shortly in Peter Ibbetson (on which he was already at work), and then to bring him resounding fame on both sides of the Atlantic and considerable wealth as well, with Trilby. But he was already comfortably off, with his eldest son [Guy] in the Royal Fusiliers, and his eldest daughter, Trixie, married a few years earlier to Charles Hoyer Millar; his youngest son [Gerald] had been sent to Harrow (a step up, I suppose, from Guy's Marlborough) and only the two younger daughters, Sylvia and May, were still at home.
I think I am right in saying that New Grove House had been let furnished, and that the family had moved quite recently to a furnished house in Bayswater Terrace, either in order to give the girls a better time, or because the old Hampstead home seemed half empty with three of the birds flown. Bayswater Terrace has ceased to exist as an address. It lay immediately east of the junction of Queen's Road (now Queensway) and the Bayswater Road, facing Kensington Gardens.
Sylvia was in her 23rd* year when she received the letter from Arthur (now 27), presumably containing a formal proposal of marriage, to which George du M refers. [Added later: *24th apparently. I had always been under the impression Sylvia was born in 1867, as indicated in the list of birth-years written down by Arthur on his deathbed. But only the other day (May 1950) Daphne du M pointed out to me that in George du M’s diary for 1867, which she has, mention is made of Sylvia's christening in February of that year. So she must have been born in 1866. How pretty she was may be seen from the profile portrait of her by her father which Jack has, and which must have been painted about this time. Dolly Ponsonby in a recent letter to me (to which I shall refer later) writes of "the extraordinary charm, and beauty, and grace, and wit, and sense of humour, which she possessed as a girl and in early married life." Of course a great many other people have spoken similarly; but Lady Ponsonby's is the only contemporary evidence I have in writing. I have only a very few of Sylvia's letters, and none at all, I am sorry to say, belonging to her childhood or before she met Arthur.
Arthur had little enough to offer in the way of "prospects", having scarcely begun to earn a penny yet at the Bar; and George du M. was, both by nature, and through his own early experience of the bitterness of poverty, very much alive to that side of things. On the other hand he had himself married on prospects and almost nothing more, and made a huge success of married life, and any inquiries he made must have shown him that few young barristers held out clearer promise of hard work and accomplishment and eventual prosperity than Arthur. And then, too, the love of beauty in human form which was so deep a part of his character, must have been well satisfied. His pencil drawing of Arthur, which is admirable if perhaps a shade "prettified", shows that. And finally, no doubt, he and his fond, sensible, practical wife [Emma] had to do pretty much what their daughter told them in the matter. At any rate a formal engagement was agreed to, and next day George du M wrote as follows to his close friend, Tom Armstrong, the "original" (partly) of Taffy in Trilby.
[George du Maurier to Tom Armstrong]
15 Bayswater Terrace, W
March 25 
I write a line to tell you (as Trixie's godfather!) that Sylvia has engaged herself to Arthur Llewelyn Davies, the son of a well-known clergyman.
He is all (so as far as we can see for ourselves, or have heard from all who know him) that the most difficult-to-please parents could wish for a very much beloved daughter. But he has his own way to make entirely - as a barrister.
His father and mother have written the kindest letters (from Westmorland) to us.
I will add - from my own aesthetic point of view - qu'il est joli garçon, comme l'autre - j'ai toujours l'oeil sur ma postérité! Il n'a que vingt-sept ans de Bordeaux. Et bien qu'il soit fils pasteur anglicain, c'est l'ami intime de Leslie Stephen - qui pense comme nous.
I have written a line to Tammy also, the kind godfather of the chick in question...
G. du Maurier
This delightful affair was given to me by Daphne du M, who had it from Tom Armstrong's widow, at the time she was writing Gerald: A Portrait.
“joli garçon, comme l'autre” – ‘l'autre’ was doubtless the exceedingly decorative Charlie Millar, who had married Trixie du Maurier a few years before.
The amusing reference to 'les fils de pasteur' and 'Leslie Stephen – qui pense comme nous' is written so small as to be almost illegible, a device George du M. regularly employed in his letters when he wished to say anything a shade indiscreet or equivocal.
I think I have "placed" Leslie Stephen and his father Fitzjames Stephen, earlier in this record, in their relation to the Llewelyn Davies family. He was one of the most eminent men of letters of the day, as well as a leading Alpinist: editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, essayist and biographer. He had originally intended to take orders, but thought better of it, and his powerful Apology of an Agnostic is still read. He was acquainted with George du M, whose own agnosticism was of course very much a feature of Peter Ibbetson, and I have a touching letter of his to George du M, written shortly after the death of his wife, expressing gratitude for the comfort he had derived from reading passages in Trilby.
Tammy, Sylvia's godfather, was T R Lamont, original of The Laird. Nothing more surprising has happened to me in the course of my desultory researches in connection with this record, than that I should find myself corresponding with the Laird's widow, who is still (Jan 1950) alive, through an amanuensis. She had no letters to give me, but sent me a charming honeymoon photograph of George and Emma du M, and included the following charming little recollection in one of her letters to me: "I am going to quote a remark Mr Armstrong made to us once, which was to the effect that your mother's wit and individual attraction owed something to her heritage from Mary Ann Clark, the memory of which survived. Whether that was true or not there was not the least doubt about the immense charm, that indefinable quality, of your dear mother."
I have been brought up to believe, on what evidence I scarcely know, that Arthur never hit it off very well with his family-in-law. It is true that, whereas there was little to choose in the ordinary social or financial sense between the Llewelyn Davies and the du Mauriers, they were very different in their outlook and upbringing. But on the few occasions when Gerald du M spoke to me about Arthur, it was always with admiration and, I should have said, affection; though obviously as individuals they had little enough in common.
But of the warmth with which Sylvia was welcomed into the Davies family, there is ample evidence in the letters which follow. Between her and her mother-in-law there unquestionably grew up a very deep affection indeed. This may possibly have some bearing on Denis Mackail's statement [in The Story of J.M.B.], which he must have some foundation for, that Emma du M. didn't much like Arthur.
I have found no trace of the letter in which Arthur broke the news to his parents, and in reply to which the letters which follow were written.
[Margaret Ll.D. to Sylvia du Maurier]
24th March, 1890
Dear Miss du Maurier,
I cannot write to Arthur without sending my warm sympathy and gratitude to you, who have brought this great joy into his life. We care for you aready for his sake, and shall soon, I know, for your own.
You will be the first sister I ever had, and I shall be so grateful for your friendship if you will give it to me.
How glad we shall all be, if you will come here with Arthur next week. You need not be afraid, for you will be more than welcome.
Margaret Llewelyn Davies
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
25th March, 1890
My Dear Miss du Maurier,
The good news which dear Arthur sent us today makes me wish very much to send you a word of affectionate greeting. You will find a place ready for you in all our hearts; and if you can come, as he and we hope you will, to stay with us, we shall soon learn to know and love one another.
We are very happy in the happiness of our beloved son, and in the hopes of gaining so dear a daughter.
My husband sends his kindest love with mine.
[Mary Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
25th March, 1890
My very dear Arthur,
Your news awakes my warmest sympathy, and I am thankful indeed that so great a happiness has come to you. I need not tell you how near to my heart anyone will be to whom you have given yours. We all long to know your Sylvia. I can't half tell you how glad I am for you - I have the greatest confidence in your choice and I am very sure we shall all love her dearly.
I have felt pretty sure, dearest, for some time, from various little things you have said, that there was someone, but who it was I could not tell. I am so glad I know now and that I can share in your joy.
I kept your letter to myself as R.S.Sylvia was here all breakfast-time, and made tea in a sort of dream! And then I went into the study and told your father. He will write himself to you if he has time when he and Tony come in from a long walk. He rejoices for you, and is full of interest. We both feel that you will have need of patience in the waiting there must be before you, and also in the separation which you will find trying. But I can quite believe that to you all looks very different now, and the thought of Liverpool far less depressing now that you have such an object to work for. How happy I am for you, darling!
Do tell us more about her – and when may we look for you both?
With tender love, your ever loving,
What does Charley say? I have not written to Maurice and Harry, thinking you may like to tell them yourself.
[Theodore Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
[25th March 1890]
My dear Arthur,
I must just send you a line to tell you what a pleasant surprise the news from you this morning was, and how very sincerely I wish you joy. I need not say how uncommonly glad we shall be to see you both here: though I am afraid we shall be a rather overwhelmingly large party at first. We shall all be here for Easter, except Charley, I think: which will be extremely pleasant for us at all events.
I can partly understand what a difference it will make in all your prospects.
Father and Tony started for an all-day fell walk this morning, in spite of dismal weather.
Rosie Sylvia Smith is here now for a week. We left Cambridgeshire under floods: canoeing one-day over hedges and fields to Granchester: here it is only rainy.
Farewell till we see you both.
Of course one is prejudiced: but it does seem to me that these letters, and the immediately subsequent ones from Davieses and Cromptons, are particularly delightful, and I think Sylvia must have been entirely sincere in expressing to Arthur, as we find she did from his next letter, the pleasure they gave her. It may have been a bit overwhelming, but it's a moment when one probably wants to be a bit overwhelmed; and to be so welcomed into a family is far from being the experience of every young woman at the very first hint of her engagement.
I put Margaret's letter first because of the date; but it looks very much to me as if in her excitement she got the date wrong, and really wrote on the same day as her mother and Theodore.
Of the letter which John Ll.D may be presumed to have written when he came in from his long fell walk with Tony (Crompton Ll.D) I have no trace. I am sure it would have been a good and kind letter, but not so spontaneous or effusively affectionate as those of his wife and sons and daughter. He had not that natural warmth of expression which they all possessed. I think the Crompton strain predominated over the Davies strain in them all, and, for example, that if the vicar had been a Crompton, or only half a Crompton, he would have put off his start for the fells in the pouring rain for a few minutes in order to write a note at least to the first of his children to become engaged. Of such are first ascenders of Alps, perhaps. The country round Kirkby Lonsdale was still, of course, new and exciting to the 64 year-old climber.
Theodore's letter is in curiously uniform handwriting for 20 - in that family, at any rate - and perhaps in expression too. Arthur himself, Charley, Maurice and Crompton all wrote more adult hands, and expressed themselves more freely, as it seems to me, while still at Marlborough.
I don't know who Rosie Sylvia Smith was, whose presence at breakfast prevented Mary Ll.D from revealing the contents of the Arthur's letter.
One might conclude from these letters that Arthur was the favourite son and brother, but in fact they were all equally affectionate to each other; a most united family.
I take it, from the reference to patience in Mary Ll.D's letter, that Arthur had faced the inevitability of a long engagement, and this had probably been accepted as an essential feature of the situation in his talk with George du M.
[Mary Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
K. L. 26th March 1890
We were very glad to have your letter this morning - I hope ours to you were also quite satisfactory. To those who for 27 years have been close and dear friends as well as parents and child, there could be no difficulty in such a case. We can fully trust you and you know you have true sympathy from us. We will write to Mr and Mrs du Maurier shortly, who have treated you with so much trust and kindness. Thank God we can say to them that they may give their dear one safely into your loving keeping, when the time comes, without any misgivings. I dare say you are already feeling that you have new and delightful responsibilities.
I long more and more to see her and love her. How often I have wished for this - tho' perhaps you were not the son I first expected to give me a new daughter! I don't doubt you have thought of poor old Maurice as I have. He has never had a glimmer of this flood of sunshine that is around you. I, as you know, have never given it up for him, and still I can't. There seems no reason why it should not be, except that it never has. You'll say that's reason enough.
I have been writing to Charley in answer to a nice letter he sent me today. He seems lost in admiration of your pluck and skill! He will be the first to see Sylvia. I am writing a line to Maurice and Harry as I expect you will have told them your news today. How sympathetic Harry will be.
There is much I could say but time is short. We expect Mrs Soames at 5 1/2.
Daffodils coming on apace! All will be lovely when you bring her!
So much love from
Charley hints at another Case & victory in Court. Is it so?
The reference to "poor old Maurice" is obscure to me. I can only surmise that he was already at this time acquainted with his future wife, and that there were difficulties in the way of acknowledged engagement and plans for marriage, which were causing distress to him and his family. He was already established at Liverpool with the Booth Line, and by that fact alone perhaps rather cut off from the others; though Arthur was to go to Liverpool soon for what turned out to be only a short time. In point of fact Maurice was married in 1891, before Arthur; but I have no correspondence referring to this.
[Crompton Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
[26th March 1890]
I thought I would not write by the same post as Mother's first letter, - but not because I haven't been thinking of you and wishing you all joy. It is indeed altogether joyful, and the thought of you makes everything seem right in the world, everything joyful and delightful.
Of course it is only in a dim way that I can sympathise with your happiness, but anyone who has ever had feelings of worship called out in any degree, can guess vaguely, at the meaning of perfect mutual love. And we know that our gain and joy will not be only that of sympathising with you. We shall owe you the enriching of our own lives with a treasure which I think you may trust we shall know how to value. We shall try hard to be worthy of the privilege, knowing well that it is to such as her whom you are bringing among us that we must look for our greatest joy and the strongest influences for all good. Oh, we must try to be nice for her sake.
There is no need to tell you how much you and she are in Mother's thoughts, and how Mother longs to see her and make a daughter of her. And there is little need to tell you how the rest of us are entering into your happiness.
The enclosed lines by Rossetti run rather in my head.
Goodbye then till we meet, soon. Your happiness makes us all happy.
In all love
This, to me, infinitely touching letter from the 22 year-old Crompton Ll.D to his older brother, reveals him clearly as the most demonstratively emotional of all the brothers. It goes just about as close to the borderline of mawkishness as it would be possible to go without overstepping it. When he spoke of the "feelings of worship" he meant it, and the adoration of Sylvia which he very soon came to feel, lasted all his life. How such as he could become, as he undoubtedly did become, an exceedingly capable and successful solicitor, and yet retain to the end the same essential tenderness and susceptibility and soft-heartedness, is just one of the many things which go to show that human nature is an inscrutable mystery.
At the time of his own engagement and marriage, so many years later – in 1911 or 1912, I think – to Moya O'Connor, his open and unashamed display of his feelings was truly comical to behold; or so it seemed to us as boys. Holding hands across the table and that sort of thing; I remember going down to their house at Three Bridges with George one Sunday, shortly after their marriage, and how, during a country walk, George and I felt constrained to drop well behind the pair, so embarrassed were we by their amorousness. And this is a reminder of what differences, despite the similarities, there were between the Llewelyn Davies brothers of a generation; as indeed there doubtless are between those of the present generation. For we find Arthur writing, in his next letter (to Margaret) that "we (i.e. Sylvia and himself) take the situation cheerfully as a rule, and are at one about outward demonstrations in public."
Let it not be thought that I am now being in the slightest degree critical about Crompton, for whom, on the contrary, I had and retain a deep affection, both for himself, and as the only link between my adult years, before and after my marriage, and the old familiar faces. Moreover in many practical ways he was a good friend to us all, and when the sad times came; and, later, to me in my business troubles.
"The enclosed lines by Rossetti" have not survived, and I have no idea what they were.
[Harriet Enfield to Arthur Ll.D.]
2, Redington Road,
26th March 
My dear Arthur,
I had to read your note over two or three times before I seemed able to take in its delightfully happy news, which came upon me as a complete surprise. Thank you very much for writing to tell me yourself.
You know how I rejoice at any good thing that comes to any of you seven, and I'm sure you think that this is the best thing that could possibly come to you. Of that I cannot judge but I'm sure that whoever has won your heart is a fortunate girl.
I shall be very much pleased if you are able to bring Miss du Maurier to see me before you go, but in any case, if you are too busy to do that, I shall hope to make her acquaintance before long. I little thought that Hampstead had any such attraction for you - or that I had a neighbour who would be so interesting to me.
I think so much of your mother in this first happy event of the kind and of the rejoicing there will be at the Vicarage. After the home party I'm sure there is no one who can more heartily wish you every happiness than your
affectionate aunt, H. E.
You did not answer my other note but I am not surprised and I forgive you.
[AB: There is a space here in Peter's manuscript – he clearly meant to research some background information about her, but never got around to doing so.]
[Mrs Leslie Stephen to Arthur Ll.D.]
22, Hyde Park Gate, S.W.
26 March 
My dear Arthur,
You must let me call you so – I am so glad. I don't know when I have heard a thing which gave me so much pleasure.
I only know her enough to wish to know her more, and I hope I shall - but I know you well enough to feel that she will be the happiest of women. You have looked so sad lately and I have so often thought of you going away alone. Now perhaps you won't go, but if you do you won't be sad.
I know we mustn't hope to see you on Sunday unless you could persuade her to come too. Somehow somewhere I must see you. My husband sends you his affectionate congratulations. Brer Rabbit is a little scornful but says, "When is he going to be married?"
Always your affectionate
The writer of this letter was a second wife of Lesley Stephen (later Sir L. Sylvia, KCB). She seems to have had a very soft corner in her heart for Arthur. She died in 1895, and Leslie Stephen himself in 1904, which no doubt explains why they were neither of them even names to us in our childhood. She was aunt by marriage of the Lady Stephen (Barbara) who wrote Emily Davies and Girton College; and was the widow (when she married Leslie Stephen) of Herbert Duckworth. I take her to have been the mother of the George Duckworth who was a friend of Arthur's and used to come to Egerton House, and of Gerald Duckworth, the publisher. Brer Rabbit may have been her young son, Thoby Stephen, to whose early death there is a reference in one of Arthur's last letters. Her daughter Virginia, at this time only 8 years old, was later to become famous as Virginia Woolf.
Julia Stephen herself was a beautiful and accomplished woman. Among the relics which I collected from Taff Coles in 1949, after Coley's [May du Maurier's husband] death, were two immense and hauntingly beautiful camera portraits of her in youth, taken at Freshwater [Isle of Wight] in 1874 by her aunt Julia Cameron, the celebrated photographer, after whom, I suppose, she was named. I gave them to Elizabeth Taylor, the novelist, because of her love of Virginia Woolf.
[Sylvia du Maurier to Florrie Gay]
March 26th 
My dearest girl,
What will be your feelings when I tell you that I am engaged to Arthur Llewelyn Davies! Will you write and say sweet things to me? - at the present moment I don't know what I feel like but I know I should like to see you and talk to you. The only thing is I don't know if I shall have time. I go to Westmorland on Monday I think to stay with Arthur's people - don't look forward to [???], we shall have 2nd and no more - you must have the £s. But still it is better to have 2nd with someone you love than a lot with someone else, isn't it Florrie?
It will be a long engagement I think but don't say anything about this to anyone because I barely know myself yet, but I always like you to know as much as I know.
You have seen him haven't you at Trixie's.
[AB: This letter is not in Peter's Morgue. I can only assume that he came by it later, as with one or two other letters. It provides a perfect miniature of Sylvia, still dazed by the speed of events, and betraying a few nerves on the eve of her journey to Westmoreland to meet Arthur's somewhat foreboding family. "I go to Westmorland on Monday I think to stay with Arthur's people - don't look forward to [???], we shall have 2nd and no more - you must have the £s." What was it she didn't look forward to? Any suggestions? It looks like Baronchis, but makes no sense. Then it occurred to me that there might have been a second folded sheet - that there's a jump between page 2 and what would then be page 7. There seems to be a jump in thoughts, from nerves at the approaching visit, to something about "you must have the £s" - money she'd promised her friend Florrie? And then this idea that she'd sooner settle for a 2nd class life-style on Arthur's meagre salary "than a lot with someone else, isn't it Florrie?" Here is surely the key to Barrie's great attraction for Sylvia - he could indulge her frivolous appetites without threatening her marriage. Incidentally, it was to Florrie Gay that Sylvia turned in her Will, "to make a home for them till they are out in the world." I know no more about her than that.]
[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]
34, Craven Terrace. Wednesday.
27 March, 1890
My Dear Margaret,
I must send you a line to thank you for your most kind and delightful letter.
Sylvia was very much moved by all the letters that came this morning. I don't know what her answers were, but she says they were very stupid and did not at all express what she feels. She reads Mother's through again and again, and speaks of her in a way that would satisfy Mother's children - even Crompton could hardly beat it. It is her greatest wish to please all of you.
As time goes on I feel more and more that my proposal was a leap in the dark, only justified accidentally by the qualities I have since discovered in her. Sylvia shows always a tenderness and fearlessness and obstinacy that delight me, especially as they are so full of cheerful, self-deprecatory humour. I have not yet persuaded her to do anything she does not wish either by persuasion or by vehemence or by any kind of artifice that I can command. She absolutely refuses - for some reason which I don't understand - to come with me to Kirkby, but undertakes to follow on the next day. So I think it will be Monday or Tuesday.
I seem to have fallen in love with her since we got engaged.
I don't think she would care for a vote.
We take the situation cheerfully as a rule, and are at one about outward demonstrations in public.
Your affect. brother,
I met Haldane at dinner tonight, and we compared notes.
The delightful little vignette of Sylvia which this letter contains makes one regret all more that there is so little that is at all detailed about her in any of his letters which survive.
I believe I am right in saying that one of the things Sylvia would not be persuaded by any artifice to do, was to accompany Arthur to Liverpool, or to contemplate for a second setting up married life there.
[Maurice Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
27 March 
My dear Arthur,
I must just send you a line to say how immensely interested and pleased I am to hear of this news. I got a letter from mother also this morning; she seems exceedingly happy. I have not the slightest doubt, even before making Miss du Maurier's acquaintance, that we shall all like her immensely, as I put great faith in your discrimination!
I am (selfishly) very glad that your plans for coming to Liverpool are not upset, but I fear you will feel it more an exile than ever.
I hope to be at K.L. for Good Friday and Easter Day, and to make Miss du Maurier's acquaintance then.
I hope your present happiness will continue and grow (if possible) and lead "to an age so blest that by its side / Youth seems the waste instead."
Always your affect. brother,
[Harry Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
104, W. Princes Street [?Edinburgh?]
Thursday [27th March 1890]
My dear Arthur,
I cannot tell you how glad I was to hear the news this evening (for which a letter from Mother had somewhat prepared me), and how truly and deeply if I feel with you in your new great happiness.
The news came so suddenly and unexpectedly but I was very glad to get your note this evening, which helped me to realise things better. Many thanks for writing.
You will, I'm sure, know how warmly we shall welcome her into our midst, and I believe that she will soon win and fill a much cherished place in our home circle.
I have been thinking of you much today, and rejoicing most heartily for you - but of course I am most anxious for further news. I am very glad now that I can get a day or two at K.L. at Easter.
It will indeed be a pleasure to see you both, and I'm sure it will be a very delightful time for us all. I will not write any more now - and know you will take all this for granted, and I shall greatly look forward to soon bringing you my warm congratulations in the flesh.
Of course, don't trouble to write unless you feel inclined, but news of you would be very acceptable.
Ever, dear Arthur, your must affec. brother,
[Charles Crompton to Arthur Ll.D.]
27th March, 1890. Thursday.
I am writing in great haste, but I must send you a line to give you every possible congratulations on your engagement. I heard the news from Maurice today, and I think it the best news I've heard for many a long day. I am sure you deserve every possible happiness, and I hope that every such happiness may be yours.
How you will enjoy taking Miss D (I use the initial as I'm not quite certain of the spelling) to Kirkby Lonsdale! I have heard what a charming person the young lady is, and I hope before long to make her acquaintance.
Will this make any difference in your plan of settling down in Liverpool? I hope not, as I'm sure you will do well here, and you will have a much better chance of getting on quickly here than in London. I have been making inquiries about rooms, but the chambers of everyone in good practice seen to be full. I think the best thing you can do is to come down and make acquaintance with the men and then get a room somewhere in the midst of them all. They will soon be glad to make use of you, and I think you will find something to do for yourself at once.
I return to London tomorrow, but go down to Sylvia Wales on Monday.
Ever your affte. uncle,
Was it as Mawdle or Postlethwaite that you won such a treasure?
For the benefit of future generations who may not be readers of the old Punch’s, Mawdle and Postlethwaite were two of the grotesquely comical characters in this series of drawings and jokes in which George du Maurier satirised the greenery-yellery Oscar Wilde, blue-China-collecting, Pre-Raphaelite, arty-crafty movement. Mawdle, I think, was the poet, and Postlethwaite the painter, and they were part of the circle of Mr and Mrs Cimabue Brown, all very willowy and intense and about as unlike C.C.'s nephew as possible.
C.C. was Charles Crompton, QC, Mary Ll.D.' eldest brother. For some notes about him, see earlier part of record. He was, at this time, a widower without children.
[Henry James to Sylvia du M.]
34, de Vere Gardens, W.
27th March, 1890
Dear Miss Sylvia,
Do let me, as a very old friend, offer you my heartiest and hastiest congratulations on the great question - or rather on the great answer - of the hour. That answer makes your individual friends almost as happy as if they themselves had put the question. May it make you happy for ever and always, without failure or flaw. I have a shrewd idea of what it has made Mr Davies; certainly good-humoured enough to suffer me to tell him that the best I can wish for him is to keep his endeavour always and in all things at the high pitch with which he has led off.
I am delighted your father and mother "like it", though I honestly believe I should myself even if they didn't. I am glad you haven't divided us, and I shall do what I can to replace you at home. Is yours to be Liverpool? I think I shall go more to America now. Don't answer this. Wait till Sunday, and accept the perfect blessing of yours most faithfully,
The great American writer was at this time 47, and in the year 1890 published The Tragic Muse. I suppose he was already an old friend of the du Maurier family. He became a naturalised British subject in 1915, activated, I believe, chiefly by indignation against the reluctance of the country of his birth to enter the war; and died in England the following year.
I have a not very distinct recollection of being taken to see him at his house in Chelsea, I think in 1914 just after I had joined the Army, most likely by Aunt May; and of being slightly disconcerted in my young manliness when the distinguished old boy proceeded to kiss me. I don't know whether it was the young soldier about to defend the two countries he loved, England and France, that he was saluting, or the son of Sylvia du Maurier, whose beauty he had admired in days gone by.
[Sir John Millais to George du Maurier]
2, Palace Gate, Kensington.
28th March 1890
Dear Miss du Maurier,
We all of us congratulate you heartily on Sylvia's engagement. Lucky young man. I sometimes almost wish Mr Mephistopheles would touch me with his wand and turn me into a beautiful young gentlewoman, to the sound of a chorus outside of the R.A. students and let me [???] such bliss's rhyming to missis.
I am ever,
J E Millais
This hasty scrawl would no doubt read better if I had been able to decipher the word which has baffled me [and if you can do better than Peter, please let us know].
The Millais and du Maurier families had been on close and friendly terms for many years. There was an amusing little postscript to this in 1944, when I was stationed at Marlborough and was saddled, as an obscure and antiquated army captain, with the organisation of the local "Warships Week". The guest of honour, who came to declare the dreary festivities open and take the salute at the ludicrous parade in the town, was Millais' grandson, Admiral Sir William James, then commander-in-chief, Portsmouth. There was a sort of little reception afterwards, with drinks and so on, and brass hats of all Services cluttering the place up; and the cherubic pink-faced, blue-eyed admiral, with his delightful once golden but now silvery curls, somehow recognised me, perhaps from my name having occurred in the correspondence about the beano or from its being on the programme, and insisted on talking to P [Peter's wife] and myself practically the whole time, rather to our embarrassment, and much to the disgust of the Generals and Air-Marshals and their wives who were also present. I don't suppose, though, that any of them realised they were witnessing an historic event: a meeting between the original of "Bubbles" and the original of "Peter Pan". He made himself extraordinarily pleasant for us; and I felt, with a certain amount of chagrin, that he had always been able to take in his stride, and even to profit by, his own childish notoriety, unlike myself, to whom an equivalent distinction has been a source of something like misery all my life. I have an idea that the original of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" would know what I mean; I believe he used to live somewhere; gloomily mumbling his toothless gums and in absent-minded moments fondling the ghosts of his sausage curls and wishing he or Frances Hodgson Burnett had never been born.
Millais died in 1895, being then president of the Royal Academy and all that. In his day, he was able to inform the Prince of Wales that he had made £90,000 in one year (income tax at sixpence or so in the £). All the same he was a damned good painter at his best. He painted a very bad portrait of George du Maurier which is reproduced in the Life of him by his son; and a much better portrait, which used to hang in Granny's flat and possibly in May's house; and which turned up after Coley's death, is by some attributed to him. It has been presented to the National Portrait Gallery.
[Julia Stephen to Arthur Ll.D.]
22 Hyde Park Gate, S W
28 March 
My Dear Mr Davies,
It is very good at you both to say you will come on Sunday evening. I have an unreasonable desire to thank you both for being so happy. George comes home tomorrow, and it will be a delightful surprise to him to see you both.
Of course you are fortunate, no one can look in her face and not feel that, but I don't think there is anyone whose happiness seems to me quite as secure as hers.
Always yours affectionately,
Curious that the writer of so nice a letter should have changed from the " My dear Arthur" of two days before to the "My dear Mr Davies" of this. George is her son, George Duckworth.
Perhaps it is worth mentioning, as a sort of link, that Leslie Stephen's first wife, who died in 1875, was the daughter of Thackeray.
[Carrie and George Croome Robertson to Arthur Ll.D.]
28th March, 1890.
My dear Arthur,
Your letter has indeed rejoiced me greatly. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to think that this great happiness is yours, or how earnestly I hope that it is only the beginning of a long life of happiness that you will spend together.
I wish that I could have been at home that I might have heard your story from your own lips. There is much I want to know about it as it all comes to me as a great surprise, except that, from something you once said, I thought that something was in your mind.
I need not say what great pleasure and interest it will be to me to see your future wife. Pray give her my love and best wishes and say that I hope to call on her as soon as she returns to London and to persuade her to come and see us. I know how safe her happiness will be in your keeping, dear Arthur, and what a tender and loving husband she will have, and I long to know for myself that she is all that we hope for, though that I feel sure we shall soon find her.
I am thinking with what joy your father and mother will welcome their new daughter and Margaret her first sister. I hope you will all have a very happy time at K.L. No wonder that going to Liverpool seemed banishment to you under the circumstances, but now there will always be a reason for coming up to London.
Once more, may everything good be yours!
Your loving aunt,
(The letter goes on in George C.R.'s handwriting):
Once upon a time – in fact, very nearly 18 years ago - there was a little boy who felt moved to say to another engaged (masc.) that he was fortunate indeed be going to marry "such a good and beautiful person" as the little boy's aunt. And now that same long- married man has to say the like to the boy – that was. I know I can't be wrong in transferring the description. I am sure I must often have seen your future wife portrayed from infancy upwards in the pages of my weekly favourite [i.e. via George du Maurier's cartoons in Punch]. With your aunt, I look forward to seeing herself at the earliest opportunity after we get back to town; and my wishes for the brightest of futures to you both, as you know, could not be warmer or more heartfelt than they are.
Arthur's Aunt Caroline (ex-Crompton) and Uncle George lived at 31 Kensington Park Gardens, where we shall shortly find Sylvia calling on them. They sound as if they must have been a delightful couple. They had no children, and both died before 1900.
[Hugh Macnaghten to Arthur Ll.D.]
Eton College, Windsor.
My dear Arthur,
- for I think it is time that you had your Christian name - I trust you will be as happy as both of you together can wish, and the happiness won't be longer postponed than you deserve - in which case it will come very soon. I wish you every kind of good with all my heart, and please believe it.
Love from Brinton.
I take it to have been through his Cambridge friendship with Hugh Macnaghten that Arthur went for a short time to Eton as an assistant master, while he was reading for the Bar. I very much wish I could have found some of his letters from Eton, but there seems no hope of it.
Hugh Macnaghten remained devoted to Arthur and later to Sylvia as well, and was a good friend to the four of us who were his pupils: one of whom proved a sad disappointment to him. He wrote a poem in memory of Arthur which I will quote if I can lay my hands on a copy. He will recur later on various occasions.
Hubert Brinton, I suppose, had also become a friend while Arthur was an assistant master at Eton. Both George and I stayed at his house when we went up for the Scholarship Examination there. He came to dislike me later, doubtless with every justification.
[Charles Crompton to Arthur Ll.D.]
St George's Hall, Liverpool.
28th March , Friday.
Our letters crossed, but I was delighted to get yours this morning confirming what I have heard from Maurice, who used the words "I understand" in speaking of its all been settled.
Did I tell you that I return to London today, and shall only be in London until Monday; but if possible I should like to make the acquaintance of the young lady on Saturday or Sunday. Sunday would suit me best, as I am deeply engaged all Saturday, beginning with an appointment to see Lord Kimberley about a seat in Norfolk, and then a visit to Theo Barnett's exhibition, an afternoon at Lady [???]'s and an expedition to dine at Wimbledon. However, all or any of these shall be given up if Sunday will not suit you and yours. Send me a line to say whether you will be at the Temple at half past 11 or so, and then we can arrange matters and times.
Already I hear from everybody what a charming young lady Sylvia is. W. Robinson writes, "we know the young lady slightly - she is a charming person and very pretty, as probably you already know." Alan Steele is full of what he has heard of her, and if you bring her down here, you and she will be most warmly received.
Ever your affte. uncle,
[Frederick Pollock to Arthur Ll.D.]
[No date or address, but doubtless about March 1890.]
Imprudentissimum ac felicissimum te saluto.
I forget now how I identified this note as being from Frederick (later the Right Hon. Sir F.) Pollock, the celebrated jurist, who survived to a great age, dying in the 1920s. He was an uncle of Adrian and Dighton.
[Alma Strettell to Sylvia du M.]
19, Blandford Square. Saturday.
[29 March 1890]
When I saw you at the New Gallery, I had not - so out of the world do I live! - heard of your engagement; how stupid you must have thought me talking as I did!
Alice told me of it only yesterday, when I came up again; and I can't help writing a few lines to offer you my sincere congratulations, and to say I do hope you will be as happy as you deserve, you nice, pretty thing! But I'm sure you will! Fate does behave sensibly now and then, and whispers to me she has in your case. But I think there is one very lucky man!
Please don't bother to answer this, and receive my apologies for not having said it all on Wednesday!
Alma G.C. Strettell
I don't know at all who the writer of this may have been. I have put it in partly because I rather liked it, and partly for the sake of the ironic effect, in the light of later circumstances, of the reference to fate; and partly because there were comparatively few letters to Sylvia in the dusty packet which contained all these engagement letters, and which I exhumed from some forgotten recess in J.M.B.’s flat, some nights after his death.
[Henry Crompton to Arthur Ll.D.]
42, Mecklenburg Square, W C
Saturday, 29th March 1890
Many-tongued rumour yesterday brought to our ears the agreeable intelligence that you are engaged to be married, but I hardly felt sufficient certitude to write congratulations. This morning, however, a letter from your dear mother gives the certitude and I most heartily congratulate you. May your marriage and your wife be all to you that mine have been to me. I cannot wish you more. You will deserve all the happiness you get. We shall be delighted to see her whenever you like to bring her to us.
I always think that without marriage and the love implied by a real marriage, life is at best but narrow and shrunken, let spinsters and bachelors say what they will.
Wishing both of you all happiness, believe me always,
Your affectionate uncle,
We are at Churt for the next fortnight, i.e. till this day fortnight.
For some notes on Arthur's uncle, Henry Crompton, a younger brother of Charles Crompton, see the earlier part of this record. He was married to Lucy, daughter of 1st Lord Romilly, and had several children. They had a country home at Churt, near Tilford, to which Arthur and his brother often went. He was a barrister.
[Gerald du Maurier to his sister Sylvia du M.]
Sunday [30th March 1890]
My darling Sylvia,
I am so sorry I haven't written to congratulate you, but I was "struck up all of a 'eap!" But I do congratulate you, fearfully, though I have never seen the charmer, I'm sorry to say.
I thought there was some sort of emotion tearing your heart by the way in which you wrote, so 'boulverse'.
Thanks very much your letter, riddle, and promise of a tie-pin, which I should like to be a plain Scotch pearl. I dare say you know the sort:
I hope I get home in time to wish you goodbye to the heather of Bonnie Westmorland. I am glad he is a "barrister", because then he won't "bar-sister," - O Lord.
I must now leave off, as I go to school Wednesday, Friday, cock-a-doodle-do, Ra 'phe.
I remain, your loving brother,
Gerald du Maurier
Gerald was just 17 when he wrote this inimitable affair - the promised tie-pin, of which he made a sketch, being no doubt for his birthday on March 26th - and nearing the end of his time at Harrow. I am baffled by "Ra'phe". Was it a du Maurier catch word, or a Harrow slogan, or what?
Regrettably, no other du Maurier letters exist, except the one which follows shortly from Emma du Maurier. May, of course, was at home. I don't know where Trixie was living; perhaps too near for writing. No doubt Guy wrote and probably Gyggy and Isabel, but their letters have not survived.
[Mary Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
K. L. Sunday, 30 March 90
My dearest Arthur,
We shall be glad indeed to see you tomorrow! But I can't help wishing Sylvia was coming with you. I do so feel for her, and what you said in your letter yesterday woke all my sympathy and did so recall all my own feelings at a similar time - the shrinking from being taken hold off by the new people, the clinging to one's own, now doubly and trebly dear as one felt a sense of having brought the new love in between oneself and them! I can assure you and her that I know the agony that is mixed with the great happiness. Sometimes it seemed just impossible. And for her, poor dear, it comes so soon, this visit. Before she has had time to the least settle herself into the new state of things. For her sake I wish it were not to be just yet. But that is a most unselfish wish, for we are all so impatient for her, as you can guess.
But she must not be more afraid than she can help. In our eyes there will be no criticism - nothing but affection. I am going to send her a line tonight to try and say a little of this. I think after the first evening she will soon get at home with us, and the party won't be so very large, only we 3, and the 2 little boys.
You won't like coming away tomorrow, and will feel as if she would perhaps give you the slip and not follow on Tuesday! Will she manage the journey by herself? It is not after all very difficult.
Your F[ather] had such an exceedingly nice letter from Mr du Maurier yesterday. I like to hear of all your letters and the happiness they bring you. Your head must be pretty nearly turned too, I think. How glad I shall be to have a good talk to you, my darling.
Au revoir. Shall I drive you down – or shall the brothers meet you?
Poor Margaret is quite ill with her cold, and has not been out for more than a week.
Much love from yr
One wonders which had the worst ordeal to face, Miss Crompton on her first visit to the Davieses at Gateshead Rectory in the 'fifties, or Miss du Maurier confronted with the Davieses at Kirkby Lonsdale Vicarage in 1890. In the next generation a queer enough situation awaited the Misses Gibb, James and Ruthven*, each in her turn, and they must have had their agonising moments, poor girls.
I should say Mary Ll.D. was perfectly truthful in saying, "in our eyes there will be no criticism - nothing but affection." Indeed, the warmth with which mother, brothers and sister - to say nothing of uncles and aunts - were evidently prepared to welcome Miss du Maurier, whom they none of them knew, into their midst, is quite surprising. The du Mauriers, as a family, were of a much more critical temperament, and I think we of this generation inherited some of that from them.
The "2 little boys'", Crompton and Theodore, were 22 and 20.
[Ray Lankester to Sylvia du M.]
42, Half Moon Street,
March 30th 
Will you let me say that you have my warmest wishes for happiness in your engagement?
You have perhaps heard that I thought yesterday that your sister and the Priestleys had been hoaxing me on the subject on Friday night, as once they did Owen [his brother]. The uncertainty as to whether this had really happened or not ended in my sending a telegram, which was - I am afraid - not at all what I ought to have done. Will you forgive my clumsiness in view of the fact that I was naturally not a little confused when instead of meeting you as I had expected, I was suddenly informed that you had taken a flight almost as long as that to the other world. I suppose I ought to have believed it, and at any rate to have restrained my curiosity. In fact, there is no sufficient excuse for me, and I can only ask you, for old friendship's sake, to overlook my mental aberration.
Fay [his sister] only returned from Felixstowe last night, and today showed me your letter to her. Had she not been away I should have been able to write you an appropriate letter of congratulation instead have one of apology.
Believe me, sincerely yours,
E. Ray Lankester
Ray Lankester, then 43, hardly a name today, I imagine, was one of the most brilliant scientists of the early 1900's; a sort of combination of, say, Julian Huxley and Sir Arthur Keith. An impression remains with me that he was supposed to have been rather a bow of Sylvia's before her engagement: it is hard to say whether this rather odd letter confirms that impression or not. There seems to have been quite friendship between the du Mauriers and Lankester families. His orphaned nephew, Felix Lankester, lived for several years as a boy with the Millars at their house near Boxmoor, being more or less a contemporary of Gerald Arthur's, but I think drifted out of the circle after the 1914-18 war.
We used to see a certain amount of Ray Lankester as children, and liked him. He became tremendously fat in later life, and his enormous bulk rather appealed to our juvenile fancies, as well as - in my own case at any rate - the kindly interest he showed in any curious stone or alleged flint arrowhead one fished out of one's pocket. He never married, and died, a justly respected figure in the world of biology, K.C.B., and honoured by most of the universities of Europe and America, in 1929.
There is a strange little double association, for me, between Ray Lankester and Jermyn Street. As a small boy he was kind enough to show me over the fossils and things - then for a brief space the passion of my life - in the Geological Museum which in those days stood in that street. And in the same street, late one night many years later when I had long lost touch with him, I saw his massive figure engaged in earnest conversation with an unmistakably professional-looking person whose interests, unless I sadly misjudged her, seemed most unlikely to embrace geology.
[AB: Edwin Ray Lankester (1847-1929) was a prominent Darwinian, a worshipful disciple of Huxley, a hotheaded selectionist, and a staunch opponent of Lamarckism. Invertebrate zoologist; along with Balfour, one of the few Anglophone phylogenetic morphologists. Coined the term "homoplasy" and opposed the theistic overtones of the term "homology." Heavily involved in founding of Marine Biological Association (1884). Mentioned in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912). Lankester's father Edwin, a medical doctor, was a friend of Huxley's. "A little reflection suffices to show that any given living form, such as the gorilla, cannot possibly be the ancestral form from which man was derived, since ex hypothesis that ancestral form underwent modification and development, and in so doing ceased to exist." (1891)]
[Charles Crompton to Arthur Ll.D.]
13, C.P. [Cromwell Place]
31 March 1890 – Monday.
I must send you one line to accompany you on your way to Kirkby Lonsdale and to welcome you when you get there. I did not get an opportunity of telling you how much I like your Sylvia, and how glad I am to think you will have such a woman to your life. I wish I was going to be Kirkby Lonsdale to see the welcome she will receive from all there. A daughter-in-law for Mary and a sister-in-law for Margaret is the Roc's Egg that was wanted in that happiest of families.
I had a nice talk with Mr du Maurier at the street door about you, and I liked what he said about you, and the happiness he felt in giving his daughter to a man like you.
All kinds of messages and best wishes to Sylvia,
Ever your affte. uncle, C.C.
"Halcyon days" as your mother used to say.
[Edward Crompton to Arthur Ll.D.]
13, Lorne Road, Birkenhead.
I have just returned home or should have written to you sooner offering my congratulations on your engagement.
I saw Maurice today and he told me you were coming to L'pool and I sent a message by him, but as the memories of these young men are apt to be flighty, he will probably have forgotten all about it.
So I write now to give you from your Aunt and myself our very best wishes to you and your future wife in every respect - prosperity, happiness and long life to enjoy them in.
Will you please convey to Miss du Maurier our great appreciation of the relationship soon to be established, and tell her how much we look forward to making her acquaintance and, I hope, friendship.
I thought of asking Maurice to try and persuade you to come with him and dine here tonight, but I thought perhaps you would sooner be with him alone, as no doubt you will have plenty to discuss.
We hope to see you soon very much.
Your affectionate uncle,
Edward Crompton, as I have mentioned elsewhere, was the only Crompton of that generation I never met. Why he lived in Birkenhead, I don't know: perhaps he was in the Booth Line.
Evidently Arthur, Sylvia having refused to accompany him to K.L., had gone to stay a night with Maurice on his way there.
[Mary Millais to Sylvia du M.]
2, Palace Gate, Kensington.
April 2 
My dear Sylvia,
I must send you my very best wishes your happiness. Papa and Mrs Millar [presumably Trixie, or perhaps her mother-in-law] told me about your engagement. I think you are away being introduced to Mr Davies' family (rather formidable at first when you don't know them) and this is just to give you all good wishes.
Yours very sincerely,
The writer of this was Millais' second daughter, and was at this time 30. She apparently knew the Llewelyn Davieses as well as the du Mauriers. I daresay others may have shared her view that the Llewelyn Davieses were rather formidable until you got to know them: formidable, I imagine, for their all-round ability, and intellect, and perhaps - this is little but a guess - for a sort of extreme goodness and even piety (in a thoroughly underogatory sense of the word) which seems to me to have been characteristic of them and which might have been a shade overwhelming at first acquaintance. They are a very difficult family to "place": I can think of no equivalent to them in any other family I have known in my later years, and from whom one might have got a better idea of what they were.
The visit of Sylvia and Arthur to Kirkby lasted a fortnight, at the end of which Sylvia returned to her parents, and wrote the letter which follows, while Arthur went back to Liverpool, having accompanied her on her journey as far as Preston.
[Sylvia du M. to Mary Ll.D.]
15, Bayswater Terrace.
April 15th 
Dearest Mrs Davies,
I feel I must just write a few lines to you, to thank you with all my heart for being so very kind and sweet to me.
The journey to Kirkby was rather painful, but the sweetness at the end of it, and the dear ones waiting to meet me, was worth going through much, much more for.
The recollection of my first visit to Kirkby will be very dear to me, and I shall never be able to thank you enough. I am very, very fond of you. I was, I think, the moment I saw you.
I had a letter from Arthur this morning, and I'm going to write to him now.
It was dreadful saying goodbye to him at Preston.
Good bye, with fond love to you all, and hoping Margaret is better.
Always affectionately yours,
Sylvia du Maurier
PS I shall send you our Pall Mall - we have always done it by 8 o'c.
This simple and perfect little letter, the earliest of the few of Sylvia's which I have, requires no annotating.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
K L, 16th April, 90
My dear Sylvia,
Thank you very much for your dear note and for all your loving words. It is delightful to think that your visit to us has established an intimacy and affection which will, I hope, go on always increasing.
I have missed you so since you went away! It quite surprised me how you have got into my heart in so short a time! The little red room looks sadly desolate - no dear couple there when I look-in - not even the two chairs standing before the fire - and in the evening that corner of the sofa is empty and I don't know how the little white shawl is getting on.
You say nothing about your own dear people; I hope you found them all well, and that you were not very tired after your journey and that parting! We have a letter today from the shapely one, but it is all about his arrangements as to his Chambers. I dare say you will know more about his daily life now than we shall. We shall anxiously await news of briefs and clients. You will have to learn (among other things!) all the legal talk and phraseology which was so familiar to me before I was married.
My poor Margaret is still in her room, but I really think she is better. She's going today to try and tackle her Congress paper, which wants, she thinks, so much revision. She's trying to put off the Committee which was to have been on Saturday next to the following Saturday, and that would give her more time for recovery.
She and I are left tête-à-tete today, for our two gentlemen are gone up Whernside via Ingleton. Cold and very blowy still. Margt sends you her dear love. My little photo is better than nothing, but make haste and send us something more really like you - and eschew a head rest.
Good bye, darling. Write as often as you feel inclined. Kindest regards to yr father and mother and Mary.
These two first letters, after their first meeting, show very clearly the strong affection which at once developed between Sylvia and her future mother-in-law. As the subsequent letters from Mary Ll.D. (I have no more of Sylvia's to her) also show, the affection continued until Mary's death five years later.
Whatever truth there may have been in Mary Millais' little note of warning, it would seem that Sylvia got well past the formidableness in the course of her first visit to the Vicarage. I think she truly loved them all, and they her; though, naturally enough, things were never quite the same after Mary Ll.D's death.
[AB: Mary Hodgson alludes to this in her notes: "K.L. was not congenial to your mother after Mrs Davies' death."]
[Arthur Ll.D. to his mother Mary Ll.D.]
43 Bentley Road, Liverpool
April, 16 
You will be glad of a line to hear that we are gradually settling down in our comfortable lodgings. Everything is quite satisfactory and far better than in Craven Terrace, and there is plenty of light though the outlook is gloomy. The bookcases fit in well, and when our pictures are all up I think the room will look very well.
Sylvia tells me she has written to you. You will find as you get to know her that she feels far more than she says, and the better you know her the more good there is to discover. I had a delightful letter from her this morning. We shall write constantly to each other, and no doubt in a long engagement it is better to be generally at a distance.
Maurice and I dined yesterday with the Booths and met the Brodricks and one or two others. They were very kind and friendly, and Mrs Brodrick sang very well.
I shall hope to hear tomorrow from Father about my plans - I wrote yesterday to Walton for his opinion, and have little doubt he will say it is a great opportunity to go to Taylor - but the cost is a great nuisance. However, I think we shall live cheaply here - Mrs Howie proposes to give us dinner for a fixed sum of one shilling or 1/3d, so that the boarders (of whom we see nothing and here little) will be a convenience to us.
Goodbye with much love. You were all most kind and considerate in every way.
Your affect. son,
I hope Margaret is better.
This brings to a close the correspondence dealing with the announcement of the engagement, and with Sylvia's first introduction to the Llewelyn Davies family; though she had still to face plenty of other prospective connections-in-law, over all of whom, naturally, her beauty and charm and goodness easily prevailed.
The engagement was to be a long one – two full years – entirely, I take it, in order to give Arthur time to find his feet at the Bar. There are occasional hints, not very easy to follow, as to the steps taken to make the young couple as nearly as possible self-supporting, in subsequent letters. But I have little doubt that, though he had felt bound to follow his Uncle Charles Crompton's advice to settle in Liverpool, Arthur left no stone unturned which might bring him back to London. At any rate, we find in there, at the Temple, at the end of twelve months. The "going to Taylor" referred to in this letter evidently refers to entering the Chambers of some eminent Liverpool barrister, presumably as a pupil.
Charley and Maurice, at the Treasury and the Booth Line, no doubt both earned salaries from the time they left their respective universities; but the first few years at the Bar are are, I believe, almost invariably non-productive, so that Arthur's engagement undoubtedly raised a bit of a problem.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
[April or May, 1890]
After all I believe I shall not come to London just yet. They seem to think at Cromwell Place that it would be better for me to come later, when my brother is further advanced in his recovery, and perhaps go with him to the sea. So I shall give up the plan. I am not sure that my chief disappointment (if there is any) is not seeing your dear face again! I want so to know you more, and to be with you ever so much!
But there are some reasons why I am glad to stay on at home, in spite of my four days of solitude while his Reverence is having a fine gay time in town!
By the way, he has asked me to say to you that he hopes you will still go with him to the Bazaar, and, if you will, he would like to call for you soon after 2 on Tuesday; and he hopes to have the pleasure of seeing Mr. and Mrs. du Maurier at the same time. Possibly, if she is in great vigour by then, Margaret will appear, too, either chez vous or at the hospital; but this is quite uncertain. She is very busy at work on her Report for the Committee tomorrow, wh. she has had to put off so long because her eyes suffered so in her cold. That is also why she has not yet written to you wh. she was intending to do.
I have a letter from Alice Gleadoff today, giving a better account of herself, but I fear she is still far from strong, poor dear.
Here is a handkerchief of yours. Farewell.
Your very affte.
[Crompton Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
Trinity College, Cambridge.
May 16. 
It was a great pleasure to get your letter. You must enjoy being back in your house at Hampstead. I don’t know your exact address, so I will try what effect “Frognal” has on the postman; tho’ for the ordinary traveller it is simply bewildering to see endless “Frognals” stuck up in all directions for miles round the heath. Whatever is Frognal? A road, or a village, or a county, or what?
If we could have arranged for you to be here this week, you might have heard a performance of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, got up in the theatre by Stanford, with a chorus of 80 Cambridge men and women. It was prettily got up, and the music is very pretty, not too severe.
We are having grand weather and make the most of it with tennis and such. I keep up the habit of early bathing in the river, tho’ it doesn't come up to Lune bathing. I am afraid Arthur doesn’t manage to get a dip in the Mersey!
The vicarage at Kirkby is almost deserted now. Mother is having a terribly anxious time at Cromwell Place. It is rather horrible for us to be going on here just as usual with our occupations quite away from her while she is in such anxiety and trouble. You do not know what Uncle Charley has been to us all.
When are you going to Liverpool? And how much of the summer are you going to give us at K.L.? Meanwhile, it is delightful to think of seeing you here. What do you think of Sat. May 31 and days following? You must let us know how many of you to expect, and we will make arrangements for lodgings. It was nice of you to agree to come.
Ever yr. aff.
I have no record of any visit by Sylvia either to Arthur and Maurice at Liverpool or to Crompton and Theodore at Cambridge. This is natural enough: all his letters to Sylvia and hers to him were destroyed, and the visit to Cambridge need not have resulted in any letter from Crompton or Theodore. There seems to be no clear reason why this particular letter of Crompton's should have been preserved by Sylvia, and I have only thought it worth copying for the sake of the evidence it contains of the significance of Charles Crompton to the Ll.D. family. It is rather surprising, by the way, in view of the high regard in which Theodore was held by Sylvia (as shown in her “last words”) that no letters to her from him should have survived; but it may be that I destroyed some myself before I thought of constructing this mausoleum.
[Isabelle Thomas to Sylvia du M.]
47, Great Cumberland Place,
27 May 1890.
My dear Sylvia,
We have only just heard from Bunch of your engagement, and I write now to tell you how delighted I am to hear of your happiness. We all think your young man is very lucky, and as I don’t know him, I should find it easier to congratulate him than to write the same to you. But I hear from all sides how charming he is, and I wish you joy with my whole heart. Anyhow it is a consolation you won’t have that horrid India hanging over your head. You don't know what a horrid place it is so you can’t feel as sorry as I do for the poor people exiled there. I hated it so.
I should like so much to see you if there is a chance of your having any time to spare, if only to remind you of that day at the F. Mill. Have you a slight recollection of it?
With my love, I am
I don't know who Isabelle Thomas was, or Bunch, or anything about "F. Mill." I have really only inserted this letter on account of the reference to India, which seems to suggest some previous engagement, or near-engagement, of Sylvia to someone – a soldier, or perhaps an Indian Civil Servant – which might have led to her having to live in that country. This is the only indication I have of any other affair of the heart involving Sylvia, who, at 23, so pretty as she was, must have had many suitors.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
K.L., 12th June. 1890
Thank you for your note and enclosure — only I wish you wouldn't!
You see I am back again at this dear place, which looks so sweet and green and peaceful after horrid bustling old London!
It was very trying to me to leave my dearest patient, and not to know every minute how he is and what he is doing. But I daresay he gets on very well without me; he will have plenty looking after him, and I have comfortable bulletins from my brother Harry....
Yesterday afternoon was so delicious; the vicar and I went to a drive to see some people at Casterton, and then we drove through Underlay Park and called on "The Willies". W found Mrs. W. in bed with a new baby by her side! And they both, she and W., looked so beaming and happy. "We're just intoxicated," he said. It is nice to see them there. He showed me the great Henry George picture with pride. They think it is the most beautiful house, and so it is, as nice as possible.
I have not heard anything from Arthur — but we hope to have Maurice here for Sunday. Oh dear, I wish you were here to help us to entertain about 20 gentlemen at tea today! Margt. got home last night, and is very busy settling herself and all her innumerable affairs in the red room wh. perhaps you may remember! When are you coming again?
Kindest remembrances to Mr. and Mrs. du Maurier and May.
I have no idea who "the Willies" were. Perhaps Jack may know. The "dearest patient" was Charles Crompton, who lay dying at his house in Cromwell Place.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
73, Cromwell Place,
25th June, 1890.
I know you will grieve to hear that my darling brother died this morning. He became worse a day or 2 ago, and they telegraphed for me to come up yesterday. He did not, I think, know me, and was quite unconscious through the night. We are thankful he did not suffer, and the end came very peacefully and gently. It is a most bitter disappointment after all our hopes, and I feel terribly crushed. He has been the dearest and closest friend of all my life. I wish you had known him. I don't know if Arthur will come for the funeral wh. is to be at Willesden Ch. Yard on Saturday at 11. My Husband and Margt. are coming.
Farewell. I know yr. kind heart will feel for us all.
The death of the eldest of the Cromptons was doubtless a heavy blow to all the family. Without anything more to go on than his few but charming letters to Arthur, and his gift of £50 to him when he got his Trinity scholarship, I guess that he was not only beloved by them all, but helped them financially in a small way from time to time. As we shall see, he left some of them at least invaluable legacies; in A's case the legacy probably helped to make his marriage possible. I also surmise that his death made it easier for Arthur to cut short the Liverpool experiment, which his uncle had so strongly advocated, and return to London, which was obviously what his heart desired, whatever the promptings of his head may have been.
Why was Charles Crompton buried at Willesden? Mystery! Is there any connection between this and the Willesden affair of 187?, when curious things happened in the canal and the Rev. J. Ll.D. was observed playing football? I know not.
[Henry Crompton to Sylvia du M.]
42, Mecklenburgh Square, W.C.
3 July 1890.
My dear Miss du Maurier,
You will understand how impossible it has been for me to come and see you or indeed ask you here. I have literally done nothing and seen nobody for the last three months.
I leave town for Circuit on Tuesday. Will you come and see us either Monday or Sunday afternoon? If you cannot either of those days, please come and see my wife. I should be sorry to miss you, but she will be glad to see you whenever you come, and she is always in now, as of late she has been very far from well.
I think Arthur has told you that my brother has left you a legacy of £100 in his will.
I was so glad to be able to send my sister Mary home on Tuesday. She was quite broken-hearted. The strain of this prolonged anxiety, and then the unexpected end, frustrating all our hopes, has been almost more than she could bear.
Believe me, always
Yours most sincerely,
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
K. L, July 23rd. [1890?]
This seems to be your elegant little property. I was going to send it to you, and now I have your dear note to thank you for. It is good to hear you are all right again. I fear your mother will be afraid to trust you away again! but perhaps not to me! We shall look forward to having you and Arthur with us in September, when you have finished your Whitby time ....
"The 3 little boys"* are very happy. They have played a good deal of tennis, and Arthur's net is much appreciated. They have also been improving my steps down into the field, and they have gathered a lot of fruit for Elizabeth's jam, as well as for private consumption! Do you think that much of Arthur's picking wd. go for jam? The strawberries have been splendid, and the roses too. Harry is often at the Willies', and the boys have started reading some Shakespeare with him at the Cottage! Here comes tea — I wish you were coming in too to share it. How glad I shall be to have the photographs.
[AB: * presumably Harry, Crompton and Theodore.]
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M]
K.L. August 19th, ’90.
It is really beautiful, my dearest Sylvia; and thank you ever so much for your kindness in making it for me. I shall like to use it always, and if you had seen the shock work (nightshirt) wh. was lying on the sofa in the drawing room and wh. is now in the beautiful shelter of your bag, you wd. feel you had made a most needful and acceptable present.
I am hoping to hear soon that Arthur is with you, and that you are having a very happy time. Do one or both of you write....
Lady Hobart leaves us today. I think she has enjoyed herself and has appreciated the place. Tell Arthur that her fine maid thinks "Gehenna" charming! Mrs Gleadowe went yesterday. We thought her looking sadly delicate, but she was very sweet and so pretty. She rather reminded me of a certain person who I hope will soon be here.
Margt. is very busy with various local doings. She is singing the part of a page (not in costume, I trust) at the Casterton School in a Cantata; and on Thursday she has a concert for the Navvies at Hutton roof....
Theo and I are, if it's fine, going for a driving tour with Jessie to Dent and Ingleton, over the hills, sleeping at Dent. It is a scheme he has long been anxious to carry out.
I wonder if you have ever come across Gwynneth Tudor Davies who is at Whitby. Are you having some good swimming? Don't go and get drowned dear one.
My love to you both,
I am expecting a van load of furniture from Crom[well] Place today, and don't know where to put it.
"Gehenna" may have been a somewhat unattractive servant's bedroom at the vicarage?
Mrs. Gleadowe, whose resemblance to Sylvia is noted by Mary Ll.D., was possibly the mother of Dick Gleadowe, Winchester master and lecturer at the Royal Academy, whose name I dimly associate with the past, though I don't recall ever meeting him.
A social household, the vicarage. Blessed Victorian age, with its almost negligible income and other taxes! I think they had 3 or 4 servants, and presumably someone to drive Theodore and his mother over the hills to Dent and Ingleton, though they may have hired a conveyance. As for entertaining "navvies" with a concert — I don't quite know what I feel about that, but I should have liked to know with what songs Margaret ravished their rugged souls.
This letter was evidently addressed to Sylvia at Whitby, where the du Maurier family, or at any rate Grandpapa, Grannie, Sylvia, May and Gerald, were, as they so often did, spending their summer holiday, and where Arthur had joined them.
Guy may have been away soldiering, and the Millars may have been elsewhere.
[Emma du M. to Sylvia du M. at Kirkby Lonsdale]
New Grove House,
Hampstead Heath. Tuesday [? September 1890]
My darling Sylvia,
We were delighted to get Arthur's telegram saying you had arrived all right at Kirkby Lonsdale, but as he said nothing about getting his handbag at Grosmont we feel rather anxious. He will get Papa's post card tomorrow morning, but I write to explain the matter more thoroughly. We found the handbag a few minutes after we had started, and when we got to Grosmont and saw by the time table that your train would stop there ½ an hour after, we thought it was a brilliant idea to write Arthur's name on the back of one of our cards and to give it to a guard who promised to ask for Mr. Davies in a 3rd class carriage and to give him the bag. However, as Arthur doesn't mention having got it I'm afraid the porter didn't find him. I have therefore written to the Station Master at Grosmont. We sent off the Gladstone bag from London. I am so sorry we were all thoughtless about it. I thought you had explained to the man who took our luggage which boxes were to be kept back for the 10.20 train.
Tell Arthur we have come to the conclusion that although we will thoroughly trust him with our daughter we will not trust him with our luggage. I was so sorry not to get a last look at you, darling, but Papa was taking up all the room and I couldn't see out.*
New Grove House seems very palatial after St. Hilda’s Terrace [at Whitby] but we all feel rather depressed. A packet of Guy's photographs having been sent from the Howards has rather depressed me now I am back again in Hampstead: all the sadness of the whole affair comes back to me.
Do wrote soon darling, and with much love from us all, I am always your loving mother,
Emma du Maurier.
* Presumably of the window of the cab which took them to the station, leaving Arthur and Sylvia behind to catch a later train to Kirkby.
I can't be quite certain of the date of this, the only contemporary letter of any consequence from Grannie which I have; but I think I have put it on the right month and year. I imagine
Sylvia preserved it partly because she liked to keep a good many letters belonging to the period of her engagement, and partly because the episode of the handbag and the Gladstone bag probably became a standing joke.
Grosmont is a junction a few miles from Whitby.
I don't know who the Howards were, and can only assume an engagement between Guy du M. and a Miss Howard had been broken off.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
K.L. Oct. 1, 1890.
Ever so many thanks, dear one, for yr. pleasant letter. I like to hear all you are doing so much. I am often thinking of my Sylvia, and I want to tell you things and to see your dear face. When shall we meet next, I wonder? I heard of you at Putney Park, where yr. visit gave much pleasure. Yes, I do think it was brave and good of you to go but you are really most excellent with all these endless relations. However I can't claim Mrs Maurice as a relation; she has been a very dear friend for many years, and I feel so sorry for her lonely life. It is formidable for you I feel going there with Miss D. who is still a stranger to you. But what would be much better would be to go afterwards by yourself. You would find you could talk to her much better tête-à-tete, and always give pleasure by going. I should like you to get on well with her. What do you say to your little green room being turned into a hospital! Lady Maud and her two girls came on Saty. and the eldest, Dolly, has been so ill ever since, and we had to get Dr. Wyllie to attend her, and ice from Underlay. It is a sort of jaundice from a chill, and her temperature has been up. She is a delicate girl and I don't know how long she may be set fast here. They are such a remarkable pair of girls, so very clever and full of character. Dolly is 14 and Gwen 12. Gwen is so tall she makes our Margt. look quite a dwarf! She plays on the fiddle in a quite wonderful way for a child. And Dolly has even more musical gift — and she loves acting, and writes plays, and wishes to go on the stage. She dances, too — wonderful dances wh. she invents and Gwen fiddles! But all this I have not seen, for the poor thing is in bed. They are both so handsome and so is Ly. Maud....
Ll. goes to Oxford to preach next Sunday, and will spend Monday in town doing heaps of things, and lunching with Charley.
That life of Macaulay is a capital book to read. I fear my list is not getting on well at all. You'll beat me hollow. How about the singing? Have you thought of the lessons? Mrs. Enfield much admired May's singing.
Fare you well dear child. I hope Arthur sounds all right. I don't hear much from him.
For notes on Putney Park and the relationship between the Miss Huttons, who lived there, and the Cromptons, see earlier passages in the record.
Mrs. Maurice I take to be the widow of John Ll.D's “master” F. D. Maurice, who had died in 1872. Is there a faint suggestion here, by the way, that Mary Ll.D was not altogether devoted
to Emily D. (Miss D.)? In any case, poor Sylvia!
Lady Maude was Lady Maude Parry, wife of the great composer, Hubert Parry. Jack will no doubt remember them, and their house at Rustington, even better than I do. Sir H.P. was an extraordinary and I shd. think most attractive personality: robust, red-faced, hearty, white-moustached, as unlike the conventional idea of a musician as could be imagined. I believe he was Keeper of the Field at Eton, and had an Oratorio or some equivalent piece published while he was still at school there. I remember chiefly going for a sail in his yacht from Littlehampton (in 1904) and feeling a bit sick and pusillanimously staying on board and eating Nestle's milk neat with a teaspoon while G[eorge] or J[ack], or perhaps both, stripped and jumped over the side with a rope round them for a bathe.
Gwen Parry married Plunket Greens, the exquisite singer, whom I remember giving a recital in the Cloisters at Eton in the summer of 1914. I believe she is still alive. Dolly married Arthur (later Lord) Ponsonby. A year or two ago, with this and the two following letters in mind, and remembering the friendship which existed between her and Sylvia, and that almost if not quite the last time Sylvia went away for a week-end before her fatal illness (in 1909) was to stay with the Ponsonbys at Shulbrede Priory (taking Michael with her), I wrote to Lady Ponsonby and met with the warmest possible response, Although in a way it doesn't all fit in very aptly, I think I may as well insert her reply here:
Dec. 21st, 1945.
I can't tell you what a pleasure your letter was to me. I have often thought how much I should like to get into touch with you. I have no one now with whom I can talk of your mother — Sylvia. She was the dearest friend I ever had. Nobody has remotely taken her place. Nobody could. I can see her now so vividly that she might be standing before me — and hear her voice, and her laugh. I hope you were not too young to remember her like this, and that you are able to recall her and picture her as I can. When she was a girl and in early married life everyone, of course, realized her extraordinary charm and beauty and grace — and her wit and sense of humour — but as we know she developed the most courageous and remarkable character; she suffered intensely, because her power of feeling and her love was so strong, and in connection with your dear splendid Father's illness I had some agonizing, unforgettable moments with her. But she was very controlled and reticent — and minded so much poor Margaret's outpourings and desire to help her. She felt much too much to talk about it in that way.
Now I want to tell you that I cannot write much at this moment, because for 2 years my Arthur has been so ill that I cannot leave him — and about a fortnight ago I left Shulbrede, having had no help for 3 years, and came to an hotel up at Hindhead in order to be near my husband in a nursing home. Curiously enough, about a month ago I went through a number of letters with the object of destroying them, and one was from your grandmother from Kirkby Lonsdale. Whether I did or not, I can't remember. But our papers and letters have got beyond bounds, and I felt I was not justified in leaving them for Matthew (her son, now Lord Ponsonby) to deal with. But I have a lot to say about Kirkby and your grandmother and Sylvia and their love of one another. You have really helped me by writing as you do — I cannot think of the future — and the present is very hard to bear. But thinking of Sylvia these last 2 nights and recalling all sorts of incidents and occurrences I felt only that happy past and for the moment forgot the present.
I will write down perhaps in rather a desultory way things I like to remember and that you would perhaps like to hear. I should very much like to see you one day.
Some months after this letter — on 12th December 1946, to be exact — I did meet her at her house in Kensington Square. It was interesting to find how familiar her face seemed to me as soon as I saw her, and on what easy terms we were from the first word; and quite astounding to hear her exact and intimate memories of all our family. She gave me a number of invaluable little extracts from her diaries, and wrote out for me a few pages of more general reminiscence, which began as follows:
“Our close association with the Llewelyn Davieses started with my mother's great liking and admiration for Margaret. [N.B. Lady Ponsonby's mother was a daughter of Lord Herbert, Florence Nightingale's Sidney Herbert, later Earl of Pembroke, notable for his advanced humanitarian and feminist views.] I was 8 perhaps when I first went to Blandford Square. I have just found the number of their house — 5 — on an old envelope addressed by me to Margaret in a very childish hand. Before Margaret died she sent me my mother's letters to her and some childish ones of my own.... In 1889, when her father was appointed Rector of Kirkby Lonsdale, there was some outcry among his admirers. It was regarded as a sort of banishment. He was a Broad Churchman, and on a very high moral and intellectual plane. Mr. Gladstone was quite rightly criticised for this appointment. I heard so much of it from my father and mother, though only 13 — that I had my own reasons for disliking Mr. Gladstone in my youth. He didn't approve of Mr. Llewelyn Davies and he cut down trees.
Mr. Davies himself was never in the least bitter, and grew to love Kirkby and his walks over the Fells....
My first mention of Arthur LLD was in 1889, staying with some old, rich, plutocratic friends — an odd setting for him.
From my diary: “Arthur Davies arrived — he is very handsome and nice, with a great deal of sense of humour. In the morning at breakfast, Mother said that if anyone was starving it would be quite right to steal, and I'm sure I agree with her. We then said that if one person had several bracelets and another none, it would be quite right for the poor person without the bracelets to steal some. Then we all stole each other's things — Arthur Davies stealing my beads and Mother Mrs. Rate's blue china.”
In 1890 when I was 14 we stayed with the Llewelyn Davieses at Kirkby. I still have the most vivid recollection of it — partly because I was rather badly ill, and Mrs. Davies' kindness was unforgettable. I can remember exactly where my bed was in the little room and the window looking on to a rushing river below and the Fells beyond. Mrs Davies would bring me up grapes and ice sent by Lady Bective, the feudal Lady of the place. The house seemed perfectly run with a real feeling of home — fires and nice servants in caps, and particularly good food — and I remember my mother taking away some receipts of old-fashioned puddings and we went on with these till quite the other day. One was called 'Long Tom.'
But Mrs. Llewelyn Davies was not only a perfect housewife, but a woman with a remarkable brain, and great knowledge and love of literature and poetry. She was remarkably independent in thought and I expect you know that she never went to her husband's church, and he never asked her to. As a friend rightly said, 'Creditable to both.' To me she transmuted what had hitherto appeared rather dry and difficult poems into things of interest and excitement and beauty — reading aloud so well and naturally, explaining any difficult parts or words so simply. I especially remember being thrilled by her reading after tea in the drawing-room, Matthew Arnold's Sohrab and Rustum.
I have often thought of her splendid life with her 6 sons and one daughter. At that period it was accepted as a matter of course that a daughter would help her mother. But so advanced and so unselfish was Margaret's mother, that I am sure she hardly breathed it to herself that she would have liked the feminine companionship of a daughter and her help. Margaret would attend meetings and Co-op. parties nearly every evening — and her sitting-room downstairs was swamped with pamphlets on various progressive questions of the day.
When Arthur was engaged to Sylvia I realized what it meant to Mrs. Davies. I remember her telling us about it, and taking out of a cupboard in the drawing-room 2 photographs, saying 'That is my sweet Sylvia.' She was engaged to Arthur and you felt her happiness and absolute approval. I was so fascinated by those photographs that I was always thinking whether I couldn't go to the cupboard and have another look.
How romantic it is to think of Sylvia coming to Kirkby, to the outwardly severe-looking Georgian Rectory adjoining the graveyard on one side, and looking over the lovely Fells, where Mr. Davies walked nearly every day. I like to think of Sylvia feeling the warmth within, and the love and sympathy she found in Arthur's mother. And Arthur's brothers, austere outwardly, felt, I feel sure, very soon the charm of this lovely sweet feminine creature. All the same, I feel it must have been a strange contrast to her easy-going, happy, more or less Bohemian home .... "
Further passages from Lady Ponsonby's recollections, and the various extracts from her diaries, I will insert later in their appropriate places. I think it will be agreed that it was a happy thought on my part to re-establish contact with her.
[Margaret Ll.D to Sylvia du M.]
Your dear thoughtfulness was even more welcome than the delicious little picture. Those three lovely figures will be a constant joy — and will live over my piano, always listening with sympathy. It is a real pleasure to have something you and Arthur have given me, in my "office". Thank you, dearest Sylvia, ever so much.
It is delightful to be at home again after all my wanderings. Next time I shall not allow you to come while I am away. That sight of you in London was very pleasing, but it was not enough.
We have just had our Sunday concert, of which I enclose a programme. Miss Wakefield sang quite beautifully. There was an immense assemblage of people, about 700 I believe — and we had a great crowd to tea afterwards, including Lady B. and the beauteous Olivia. I wish you could have been here to tackle them.
Maude Parry and the two children are with us. Poor Dolly is ill in bed with a chill, or something of the kind, which is most annoying.
Much love to you, Sylvia dear. Mother did so enjoy having you with her — and my aunt said she was quite in love with you.
Yr. affectionate sister-in-future, Margt.
The affection between Sylvia and Margaret was real and lasting, and later letters will recall the devoted kindness and help given by M. to the household at Berkhamsted during A's last illness, and Sylvia's profound gratitude for it, This is not in the least incompatible with Dolly Ponsonby's remark about S's "minding so much poor Margaret's outpourings," etc, of which indeed there is some confirmation in one of A's last letters. It is always likely to be so between an effusive nature and a reticent one, with a common sorrow.
Lady B. was Lady Bective, the local grande dame, being the wife of the Earl of Bective (eldest son of the Marquess of Headfort) whose seat was at Lunefield, near K.L. Their daughter, "the beauteous Olivia", shortly after this married the other local nob — Lord Henry Cavendish Bentinck, of Underley Park, one of whose sisters, Ottoline, later married Philip Morrell and became a semi-fabulous figure in the upper regions of the highbrow world. They (the Morrells) had a house outside Oxford and were great entertainers of undergraduates, including Michael and perhaps Nico, also? I remember going to see Lady O. once at her house in London, I forget why, and hearing very nice things said about the family in general and particularly Crompton LLD, who, I think, kept up the acquaintanceship to the end of his life.
[Arthur Ll.D. to Mary LLD]
8, Harrington St. [Liverpool]
Oct. 24 
Every now and then reproaches arrive for my neglect of writing, and you seem quite without suspicion that I have written you a long letter and received in return something less than a scrappy half-sheet!
It is seldom that anything happens here worthy of being recorded with pen and ink — a Sunday supper at Lydia's and an afternoon's walk to Lorne Road are the chief variations on the monotony. Maurice seems to be in great health and vigour, to judge by the length and effect of his walks. He now makes nothing of soup, but expresses terror of raspberry jam.
I went one Saturday to Chester, discovered the abode of Tom Hughes, lunched with him and his wife, and rowed on the Dee with him in the afternoon. He showed astonishing vigour in rowing, and was very pleasant and friendly. He broke out at once into the Ten Commandments, and seemed to think the youth of England in a fair way to insanity. It seems that 'Pip' [or 'Plump'?] writes a Herbertian newspaper akin to the Whirlwind, so that one may perceive the foundation of his father's despondency.
I am sorry to hear of your sick child, and hope when next you write to Maurice to hear better accounts. Also I regret to hear of Cree's approaching departure.
Your affect. son,
The standard of letter-writing expected, and generally maintained, in that family is something to marvel at in these degenerate days, but Mary Ll.D's complaint certainly turned into a boomerang on this occasion. Doubtless Arthur was reserving most of his epistolary energies for Sylvia at this time, and it was still a novel experience to his mother not to be chief recipient of his news.
Tom ("Tom Brown's Schooldays") Hughes, one of John Ll.D's oldest friends, was, as has been recorded earlier, a county court judge in the Chester district. At this time he was 68.
Evidently in the Hughes family, as in others of the period, the Christian enthusiasm of one generation had not survived into the next. This is not the place in which to argue whether it
was a case of cause and effect, but there can be little doubt that Hughes's masterpiece has survived, and will survive, in spite of its Christian moralisings rather than because of them.
A's letter is one more instance of the frankness and independence which enabled such matters to be touched on in the Davies family without awkwardness or insincerity.
The "sick child" was no doubt Dolly Parry. Cree was a curate.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
K.L. 3d. Nov. 90.
I must send you a few lines to report upon your A. who came to us, as no doubt you know, for Sat. and Sunday.
I wish he did not look so thin; but he says he is quite well, and he was very cheery. He had a fine walk here from Settle, over Ingleboro. You can fancy what sport he made with the 2 Parry girls who — with Lady Maude — are still here. Indeed I think it's lucky our house does not stand in a row, for the noise that goes on is something too awful. Margt. is like a crazy thing with them; and I am sure any neighbours would be scandalized. It is to be hoped Vicarage Lane is a little too far off to hear much.
They are a most remarkable pair of girls and I often wonder what their future will be. They have such musical genius — Dolly (14) on the piano, and Gwen (12) on the violin. Then Dolly dances in the most charming way, perfectly unconscious how lovely she looks. She also acts very well. She and her mother acted a small French play for us one night most capitally; and just now she gave us — acting alone — a bit of Tragedy and Comedy. But I must not run on. I wish you were here to see them yourself ....
The weather (except of course Arthur's two days) is atrocious. I am just about tired of this wind, rain and moist. Ll. has been up to meet Miss Toynbee just now all through the above, and she never appeared! I think she must have missed her train. I have been making A's room nice for her with curtains and a fire, etc. Eva Muir had it, too, and liked it. Here's Elizth. mad to lay the cloth for dinner and so I must stop, my darling.
Yours as ever, M.
Mind you write soon.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia du M.]
25th November, 1890.
You have been often in my thoughts, dearest Sylvia, today [S's birthday — her 24th] and all sorts of good wishes and much love come to you in this note. I hope you are having a happy birthday, though you have the drawback of being away from your Arthur. I should be glad to think that this time next year you may be together — for good and all! It is a long time of waiting — for him particularly. I am sure you had a delightful letter today — and a present?
Oh dear! How tiresome of the bookseller to be so slow about the little offering wh. Margaret and I quite intended to have sent you for this morning! It is one of the drawbacks of K.L. that to get anything worthy of such a one as you! is an impossibility. But I console myself with the thought that that bag wh. is my daily comfort and joy was a little behind date in coming. I expect you will like the look of the picture you sent to Margt.
This day month we hope to be all together once more. I am very glad you are coming too — and you won't be a bit shy this time, will you? — and you will sing all sorts of songs, not forgetting the little fox — and read aloud, and do all sorts of nice things! You don't know how glad I am to hear of the drawing lessons. I shall be quite proud if you give me a picture of your own doing.
Margt. and I are working at some lovely Brahms songs, but they are hard. A Girton friend of hers, by name Sargant, is here, and she is going to give a lecture on Botany at the Working Men's Club. Think of that!
Theo[dore] is standing for the Presidentship of the Union at Camb[ridge], and the election is today. His father was President about 40 years ago!
Yours ever lovingly,
From now on the letters which have been preserved become much fewer, and I have no record of Christmas 1890 at Kirkby, or of whether Sylvia was there, and did sing her songs, including "The Little Fox", of which I know nothing. Indeed, I am sorry to say I have no recollection of Mother singing. All I can remember, musically, is of her playing two waltzes — "La Faute des Roses" and "Caressante" on the pretty piano which had been her father's and which Jack still has. I can remember an old drawing-book which may have gone back to the time of the lessons referred to in this letter: it contained pencil or charcoal studies of still life subjects, such as vases, very carefully and exactly done.
That Sylvia had a talent for drawing is shown in the little sketch of himself [= Nico] as a child, in a letter from her which Nico has. But I don't think she ever "went in for" either singing or drawing at all seriously.
I haven't traced whether Theodore Ll.D. was elected President of the Cambridge Union or not.
Some time about now Arthur must have made up his mind to give up the Liverpool scheme and to concentrate on London, as the next letter shews him established in the Temple. It was probably a big decision, running contrary to the advice given him by his uncle, Charles Crompton, Q.C. But apart from the immediate prospect of annihilating the distance between him and Sylvia, I am almost sure, as I have said somewhere already, that Sylvia had all along declared that she had no intention of starting married life in a place like Liverpool.
Some time this year he gave her the copy which I possess of Edward Parry's charming edition of Dorothy Osborne's Letters to Sir William Temple.
[Arthur Ll.D. to Mary LI.D.]
3, Harcourt Buildings, Temple.
April 9th 
I think your kind scheme is a most excellent one — I have no doubt Sylvia wd. be delighted at the prospect of going and wd. enjoy the time thoroughly. It is just possible, but not likely, that Mr. du Maurier might raise difficulties about your payment of the expenses. But I think you might very well write and make the offer before Father's approaching visit to London.
I am still, or rather again, in flux. I went to Upper Gl. Pl. on Tuesday, but immediately gave up the lodgings, having undertaken to go off to Exeter for 3 weeks. Next day I gave up the Exeter scheme, and on returning found the lodgings just re-let, and some others I had thought of also gone. So I am stranded, and am again staying at Porchester Gardens. I have nearly decided to take rooms in Barnard's Inn which will be vacant in June. Meanwhile I think of taking Lionel Cust’s rooms in Park Lane (!) during his absence of 6 weeks at the low rent of 25/- a week.
My reason for giving up the Exeter scheme (wch. wd. have been remunerative and perhaps useful) was a sudden ebullition [= outburst] of good feeling and good sense on the part of George Lewis. He has sent me two things — a Statement of Claim to draw in a libel action by Baron de Worms, and a brief for defendant in a breach of promise case — "with you the Attorney General." The latter is only marked ten guineas, but if it comes into court (which is very doubtful) will be well reported. As a son-in-law (barrister) of George Lewis has lately absconded or disappeared, it is quite possible he may do some more for me. You will be relieved to hear that in both cases I am on the respectable (and I think the winning) side.
I am not going to buy the Law Reports at present, as Herbert Chitty has them, but only some less expensive volumes.
I am sending Chitty to Devonshire in my place.
Please address: 3, Harcourt Bldgs.
Your affect. son,
The "kind scheme" was an invitation to Sylvia to go with John and Mary Ll.D. and Margaret and Theodore to Switzerland. As the next letter shows, the plan came off, Arthur himself meanwhile keeping his nose to the grindstone in London.
It is amusing, in a way, to think of George Lewis giving Arthur his first real chance at the Bar, and of a subsequent head of the same eminent firm of solicitors, Sir R. Poole, playing the part he did, as J.M.B.'s lawyer, in putting the lid on the last chances of Jack, P., and Nico forty years later. But that, boys, is another story, which fortunately comes outside the scope of the present opus; though I have sometimes wondered whether there may not have been some quarrel between Arthur and R.P. to account for the virulence with which the latter showed — extreme and coldly hostile virulence — towards us at the time of J.M.B.'s will-makings and death.
[AB: Re. the latter reference to Sir Reginald Poole, see Janet Dunbar, 298-300]
[John LLD to Arthur Ll.D.]
Zermatt, 12th July 1891.
My dearest Arthur,
It is no small satisfaction to find that Sylvia is proving herself so strong and sound and courageous and capable of enjoyment; but it is more delightful to us that a closer acquaintance with her is making us like her better and better, and is strengthening her claims on our affection. No one could be a pleasanter companion; to your mother she makes herself a perpetually charming and helpful daughter. I rejoice that she has come with us on this tour. It has certainly been so far a most prosperous one.
I am astonished at what Margaret and Sylvia can do. After a very severe ascent yesterday, Theodore and Sylvia danced down steep places as if they were just starting. And Margaret has accomplished considerable excursions without being at all the worse. Indeed we all, including your mother, seem to be at our best. But I have made up my mind, without grudging, that I must content myself with efforts suited to my years. The guide who took me up the mountains thirty years ago is a disabled, but cheerful, veteran with a bad leg. We have both been pleased to see each other.
We are continually hoping that the time of your engagement may not be much prolonged. I have so much confidence in your prospects that I should not be on the side of urging delay. I think we may be able to give you some help for your first year or two.
Your most Affects father.
The reunion between John LLD and his old guide, Joseph Taugwald, must have been a great occasion for both. They were already famous figures in the annals of the Alpine Club thirty-three years after their pioneer ascent of the Dom, and to describe Taugwald simply as "the guide who took me up the mountains" is a characteristically unassuming way of referring to their exploits.
Characteristic also, I suppose, is the somewhat pedantic phraseology of the letter as a whole — very different from the more modern, free and easy style of the Cromptons in their letters. Whether this particular letter, despite the appreciation it showed of Sylvia's qualities, gave much real satisfaction to Arthur, may perhaps be doubted. There is a non-committal vagueness about the last sentence which seems to leave things rather in the air. A later letter from Arthur to his father, however, shows that in the end John Ll.D. was as good as his word, though to what extent is not revealed. But the long engagement, two and a half years, must have been a severe strain.
Sylvia became particularly fond of Theodore LLD, and named him as an example for us in some notes which she wrote down shortly after A's death, the year following Theodore's. I have a copy of Bullen's "Lyrics from the Elizabethan Song Books" which Theodore gave to her at Christmas 1891.
Writing sixteen years later, from Postbridge, to J.M.B., who was at Zermatt recovering from his divorce, Sylvia recalled her mountaineering exploits on this occasion and wondered how she had been able to do such things — "perhaps because I was twenty and very happy."
[John Ll.D. to Sylvia du M]
12th August, 1891.
My dear Sylvia,
What a fine photograph of the Matterhorn this is wh. you have so kindly given me, and how admirably it is framed! It will be a cherished memorial of a visit to Switzerland which was a specially happy one, and wh. owed much of its delightfulness to your company.
With heartiest thanks, and begging to be very kindly remembered to your home party, I am, dear Sylvia,
J. Llewelyn Davies.
[Arthur Ll.D. to Mary LI.D.]
3 Harcourt Buildings,
Sept. 10 
If you are in communication with Sylvia you may have heard that there is a chance of a visit by us to K.L. next wk. But it depends partly on work, partly on a conditional proposal by Bell that I should fill a gap at Marlborough for a wk. or two. That would suit me in various ways, inter alia pecuniarily. Having given even September a chance, I think it is very unlikely that any vacation will come to me, and I shd. reserve the right to go up for the day to London. But Bell may not want me.
Sylvia is going to Gracedieu today and I must meet her there tomorrow. Her people are staying another week at Whitby. Since writing to you I have spent a Sunday at Abinger, and another with the Richard Pollocks. While at the former place I saw Mrs Rate and Ida, but did not go to a Margieless Milton. Last Monday I walked from Haslemere to Churt and saw Aunt Lucy and Rosy, the males being in London. Nothing happens here to tell you — I am quite well, but weary of solicitors' blindness, and of the garments of respectability in this superb weather....
Your affect. son,
[Arthur Ll.D. to Mary Ll.D]
Gracedieu Manor, Leicester.
Monday. [Sept. 1891]
I feel grieved and penitent at not having written for yesterday to send good wishes for the anniversary. The more so as I shall not after all see you this week or at present. I am fixed to go to Marlborough on Friday. It will be a good enough holiday. I am proposing to put up with Augustus (Beesly). Taking the money into account I don't mind going.
We are enjoying our visit here and have had beautiful weather till today. A few other visitors — Miss Macdonald and a philanthropist called Llewellyn Smith, and Susan Lushington comes today.
It will be a relief to you not to have the Christmas hustle repeated this week, but I am sorry to have to postpone again my long-deferred visit to Kirkby. It seems as if I shall never again roll the lawn or plunge in Job's dub or rise reluctant for the early Arcum. Perhaps you will be in London some time in the autumn.
Your affect. son,
Gracedieu: see earlier comment.
Susan Lushington was connected with the Fitzjames Stephens.
Job's dub: a favourite pool for bathing in the River Lune. It was here that Theodore LLD was drowned in 1905, having, I believe, struck a submerged rock with his head when diving.
Early Arcum: Arkholme, some miles from K.L., where an early connection could be got with the London expresses.
[Arthur Ll.D. to Mary Ll.D]
3, Harcourt Buildings,
I am very sorry to have failed so completely to get to Kirkby this vacation. We must hope that solicitors may next year be less overwhelming in their attentions. My absence seems to have been more than compensated by visits from many sons and friends. I am going today for my last holiday outing, to Rustington again, this time with Sylvia. We were to go yesterday, but Sylvia has had a swelling of the neck which caused great alarm in the nervous household at New Grove House [her parents’ home]. It has disappeared now, but as she is enfeebled by staying in bed and I have got a cold, we are not in great form for a visit.
My application for the Assistant Readership goes in on Tuesday week, and the appointment is made some time in November. I am having my testimonials printed at the cost, which I rather grudge, of £2, and you shall have a copy presently. If as I suppose the Macnaghten with you is M.M. of that ilk, he ought to secure me his father's vote.
Mr. du Maurier is soon going to begin his lectures and is getting very nervous about them. The book will also appear early in November. I feel much more confident about the success of the latter: the lecture is well written and interesting, but not done in the comic style which will probably be expected.
When are you coming to London?
Your affect. son,
The visit to Rustington, I take it, implied staying with the Parrys at their house there, which was the big house of the place. And I suppose it was through the Parrys that Arthur first became acquainted with that (in those days) delightful seaside village where we spent so many summer holidays: three that I can remember (and I think one when I was too young) including Arthur's last summer holiday of all, 1906. Rustington, Berkhamsted and Ramsgate are the three places to which I chiefly return in the nostalgic mood of childhood-memory.
A's application for an Assistant Readership under the Council of Legal Education was successful. I have the printed copy of the formal application and testimonials which he sent to his mother. The testimonials were from the Rev. G. C. Bell, Master of Marlborough College, A. W. Verrall, Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Cambridge, the Rev. Edmond Warre, Head Master of Eton, W. Donaldson Rawlins (in whose chambers Arthur had read for a year) T. Willes (later Mr. Justice) Chitty, and Joseph (later Mr. Justice) Walton, in both of whose chambers he had also been a pupil, D. French, Q.C., and Alfred Cock, Q.C. All are sufficiently glowing: the lawyers testify to his legal qualifications, the others to his scholarship, character and teaching ability. Warre said:
"My Lords and Gentlemen, — I have been asked by my friend Mr. Arthur Llewelyn Davies to support his application for an Assistant Readership at the Inns of Court.
"I had the good fortune to obtain the assistance of Mr. Llewelyn Davies as an Assistant Master at Eton for a year, and was so well satisfied with his success as a teacher that I was anxious to retain his services on my staff. But his desire to devote himself to the legal profession was unalterable. If any testimony of mine as to his ability as a teacher can commend his application for an Assistant Readership in the eyes of the Electors, it will be a pleasure to me to find that his temporary employment at Eton has not stood in the way of his advancement in the profession of his choice." Bell's testimonial included the sentence: "Few of my many pupils have more impressed me with a sense of intellectual vigour, practical ability, and force of character, combined with gifts and qualities which make him everywhere acceptable."
The list of scholarships which Arthur was able to include in his application was:
Marlborough: Foundation, Junior and Senior Scholarships, and a School Exhibition.
Cambridge: Minor and Foundation Trinity Scholarships.
First Class, Classical Tripos, 1884 Lebas Essay Prize, 1884.
First Whewell International Law Scholarship, 1887
Law: Inner Temple Pupil Scholarship in Common Law, 1889.
- and he states that he was called to the Bar in July 1889 and was a member of the Northern Circuit.
Malcolm Macnaghten, a cousin of Hugh, was the son of Lord Macnaghten, one of the most eminent judges of his time, and is now himself Mr. Justice Macnaghten. He married Antonia Booth in 1899, and their son Antony was one of our Eton contemporaries. Lord Macnaghten's testimonial, as the next letter shows, was not included by Arthur in his application.
Mr. du Maurier's book was Peter Ibbetson, which did not in fact appear until the following year. It brought no very great financial reward, but at once established his position as a novelist of originality and distinction, and paved the way for the resounding success of Trilby.
The lecture, or lectures, were delivered, in various towns in England, I believe with considerable success, and were published in 1898 in book form with the title of “Social Pictorial Satire”. They consist chiefly of appreciations of the art and personality of John Leech and Charles Keene, with a few reflections on his own life and work.
Arthur had stayed at Rustington with the Parrys in August ("We are all overcome with admiration for him.") The October visit with Sylvia is referred to in Dolly Parry's diary for that year, as follows:
'"Arthur spent the morning cutting down trees. We have never seen such a pair of undemonstrative lovers as Sylvia and Arthur. They hardly ever speak to each other even when in a room by themselves. Sylvia is a delightful thing. I can't imagine her with Margaret D. at all, with her love of pretty dresses and the stage, she is always dancing about the room...
Sylvia is great friends with Father. Arthur says he can't bear women to like men better than their own sex — it always means there is something horrid in their characters. Love was always blind! ...
"Arthur and Sylvia left. Discussed Sylvia fully, of course, after she had left. Without being strictly speaking pretty, she has got one of the most delightful, brilliantly sparkling faces I have ever seen. Her nose turns round the corner — also turns right up. Her mouth is quite crooked. She is much too fat. Her eyes are very pretty — hazel and very mischievous. She has pretty black fluffy hair: but her expression is what gives her that wonderful charm, and her low voice."
These are of course the views of a clever fifteen-year-old girl, who no doubt absorbed much of her parents' opinions into her own. That S's features were too irregular to fit into any ordinary classification of beauty or prettiness seems to be generally agreed. I seem to have heard somewhere that as a child she was rather an ugly duckling — like Mimsey Seraskier in Peter Ibbetson — who only became beautiful in later life; and the few early photographs I have of her seem rather to bear this out. None of the youthful photographs give an impression of fatness; but she was not slender in the modern sense of the word — it was not the type in those days.
"From now onwards," writes Lady Ponsonby, "Sylvia du Maurier became a friend as great as, or even greater than, the Llewelyn Davieses themselves, and my admiration for her became even greater than for Arthur."
[Arthur Ll.D. to Mary Ll.D]
3, Harcourt Buildings,
Oct. 20 
I send you a copy of the testimonials. There was another from Macnaghten, but rather ludicrous, and so I cut it out at the last minute. I have sent in the application today, and the appointment will be in November, probably late. I have set old Foth to work on the members of the Council, and it is just possible he may be elected on it himself — one of 20. And perhaps Lady Mathew may secure me her husband's vote. But I am afraid the other 18 will turn out to be a corrupt lot. It is a comfort to think that old Foth will support me without regard to the merits of the other candidates.
There are various agitating matters in progress — Peter Ibbetson to appear shortly, the lectures to begin, and Gerald du M. (as well as Alfred) on the verge of the Solicitors' Preliminary Examn. That last takes place tomorrow and Thursday and I have been cramming Gerald with Kings and Queens and Habeas Corpus and Magna Charta.
There doesn't seem to be any further news — the solicitors are still curiously blind — I have seen no relations or friends' lately, except the Lawrences on Sunday, him with a chill.
I hope you are all well and enjoying the rain quietly by yourselves. Sylvia and I went to Harrow on Saturday to see George Booth, and saw Crompton's bear in the distance — not much to look at — bigger than Crompton (though not so big as Charley).
Your affect. son,
"Old Foth" defeats me, I'm sorry to say.
I don't think Gerald du M's flirtation with the law was either a serious one or of long duration. He was under 19 at the time of the examination and I imagine he failed, and thanked God for it ever afterwards. Daphne says nothing about it in her book [Gerald: A Portrait].
"Crompton's bear" puzzled me a good deal, till it dawned on me that the term "bear-leader" was slang for a travelling tutor, and that the bear in question was some pupil, still at Harrow, whom Crompton either had been coaching, or was about to coach for the University in accordance with the family tradition. Arthur and Harry were the only tall ones of the family — each about six feet, I think — the others ranging from the medium of Maurice to the small Crompton, who developed a crouch in his latter years which reduced him almost to the stature of J.M.B.
"Alfred" was, I think, Alfred Booth, cousin of George Booth and head of the firm in due course.
[Arthur Ll.D. to John Ll.D.]
March 12. 
I have been thinking over what you said the other day, but have had no opportunity to discuss it with Sylvia till last night. We are agreed that we are prepared to take the risk as far as it concerns us. I shd. cherish a faint hope of being able in some way to earn enough to meet expenses. As to the deficit, it seems to me to make no practical difference whether we have an allowance from you, to be considered as in the nature of an advance, or begin to use up my legacy from Uncle Charley. In either case we shd. be ultimately dependent on your kindness. But the latter plan wd. be simpler. Then it would be a question when to take the step. Whitsuntide, September or December wd. be equally suitable to me. I don't know whether there is sufficient reason for delaying longer than is necessary. Unless you think it wd. be more prudent to wait till the end of the year, Sylvia and I are ready to be married at the beginning of June.
The dressmaking business introduces some complication. Sylvia is reluctant to give it up definitely on marriage. I think her help wd. be of great service to her aunt, and so to the family interests generally. If we were to live near the scene of operations I think it wd. be possible to try going on with the work, to some extent at all events, and then see how things shaped themselves. Sylvia's domestic training wd. make her unwilling to do anything dangerous to health. I don't think Mr. du Maurier cd. be expected to do anything to help us while he has the double uncertainty as to his own eyesight and as to the possible dependence of his sister-in-law upon him. Mrs. du M. (the aunt) has agreed to take a house which seemed suitable, in Upper Montague Street (I think), near Montague Square, at £90 rent for 7 years. Sylvia and I both feel very much the great kindness of you and Mother in undertaking this burden. I hope it will turn out in the end not be a serious one ...
Your affect. son,
My cold is gone.
Although so temperately worded, I fancy this and the next are the letters of a young man beginning to feel pretty desperate after two years of waiting for the necessary wherewithal on which to get married. It isn't at all easy to follow the financial details, and it is impossible to know on what they did in fact marry. Arthur had been less than three years at the Bar, and could not have been making more than a very small income from regular legal work, and that uncertain; I don't know what the Readership was worth; and all he had besides, I suppose, was the legacy from Charles Crompton which, if it was the same as Margaret's, was £3,000. It is astonishing to me that he appears to contemplate using up the capital of this, a step I shd. have thought out of the question in that family and that date.
What dot [= dowry], if any, Sylvia was to bring with her, I don't know either. (Trilby was still two years off, and George du M. did not yet know that the partial failure of his eyesight was to prove a blessing in disguise.) She may have been getting, or expecting to get, something from the dressmaking business, of which I had never heard before I read this letter; nor do I know whether in the end it ever came to anything. I can't quite satisfy myself as to whether J. and M. Ll. D. were actually agreeing to pay the rent of the business, though it sounds rather as if that is implied.
Mrs. du Maurier (the aunt) was clearly the wife of Eugene (Gyggy), or rather his widow, as it seems indicated that he had died shortly before the date of the letter. She was a French-woman, Marie Espinasse by name. Not long ago Nico end I met at lunch, with Angela du M., a grand-daughter (daughter of a daughter) of hers, named Marcelle, married to an English soldier whose name I forget — they have a son due to go to Eton shortly. I was surprised to learn from Marcelle that her grandmother lived till 1917, having been buried in that year in Cornwall (I think). I never remember hearing of her, and can only assume that she didn't hit it off with the rest of the family. Anyway, it is an interesting thought to me that Sylvia may have got some at least of her exquisite and original flair for clothes from her French aunt, Marie du Maurier.
By the way, Marcelle told us that an uncle of hers, Eugene's and Marie's son, Ralph du Maurier, who emigrated across the Atlantic many years ago when a young man, was still supposed to be living, so there may easily be swarms of du Mauriers in America. Nico and I once came across an advertisement of a patent medicine of sorts, manufactured in New Zealand, of which the name of the maker was stated to be du Maurier. But I believe investigations proved that he had merely assumed the name for trade purposes because he liked it and thought it would help to sell his concoctions.
According to Dolly Ponsonby, Arthur and Sylvia aimed at £400 a year as the minimum on which to marry. (It seems quite a fair income, when comparative values are taken into consideration.) "Sylvia was determined to earn money, and went to work with Mrs. Nettleship, the great theatrical dressmaker, and made clothes for Ellen Terry. She became wonderfully adept, and with her skill and taste evolved lovely clothes for herself and for her children when the time came."
[Arthur Ll.D. to Mary Ll.D.]
3, Harcourt Buildings,
March 14 
Many thanks for your kind letter. I incline to think it wd. be better to wait till September, but will see what Sylvia says. At present she is rather in favour of June. Perhaps it wd. be advisable to get the thing done and not have it hanging on any longer. It wd. be better for my work, and perhaps for hers also. Perhaps not.
I am sure she wd. be prepared to drop the dressmaking gradually or entirely if necessary. Perhaps the distraction of work wd. be good for pre-matrimonial nerves. Afterwards it wd. be something not to have the daily journey to and from Hampstead. I am rather discouraging the early date, but without definite conviction. May 14 is time enough to decide, so far as banns go, but unless I give notice before March 25 (for June) I am saddled with my rooms till September.
Your affect. son,
This rather prosaic note, with its (to me at least) undertone of exasperation, as if he felt the whole world was conspiring to make the longed-for marriage impossible, is the last letter of his which I have dating from before the wedding, which eventually took place in none of the months suggested, but on August 15 .
[Mrs. Perugini to Sylvia du M.]
38a Victoria Road, Kensington, W.
3 August 
I am sending off to you today a small box containing a very tiny wedding gift from my husband and myself, with our kindest love and best wishes for your happiness.
I was so vexed not to see you when you called. I had not been out of the house in the daytime for weeks — and had been looking forward to seeing you and having a chat — but I had a little given you up — I thought you were perhaps too busy to come. So when at last I did go into town I left no message for you in case you called! I felt so angry with myself when I returned home and found you had been here in my absence.
When are you to be married, I wonder? Very soon, I hear. I do so hope you will be — well, as happy as I wish you! Now write me a line when you are a little settled down after the great event, and tell me where you are going to live — and all about yourself — whether you are going to write books, paint pictures, or make bonnets (I know which I think would be the most remunerative!) ...
Please dear say many nice things to your fiancé for me. He doesn't know me, but I think he will like me because I like you so well.
Ever, my dear Sylvia, your affectionate old friend,
Mrs. Perugini was the youngest daughter of Charles Dickens. She survived well into the nineteen-twenties, and I remember going to see her a few years before her death: a delicious old lady, who smoked a cigarette and chatted away — but alas, I quite forget what about!
I don't know what other members of the Dickens family were on familiar terms with the du Mauriers. Jack may know, as a grandson of Dickens (now, I think, an Admiral) was in command of a Destroyer [the HMS Harpy] in which he served during the 1914-18 war. It is nice to preserve this link with "The Inimitable." Kate Dickens was born (1839) at the house in Devonshire Terrace which Louis-Mathurin and Ellen du Maurier had occupied for a few months, or had lodgings in, in the preceding year, and in which Isabel du M. was born.
Of the wedding I know no details — as, for example, who was best man and so forth. If I can collect any information about it I will add it later.
The material I have dealing with the married life of Arthur and Sylvia is very meagre indeed, until the beginning of A's fatal illness, from when until the end it is only too complete. They spent their honeymoon at Porthgwarra, in Cornwall, and set up house at 18, Craven Terrace, in Paddington a few doors away from where Arthur had shared rooms for a time with his brother Charley. I can only guess that the next letter, which is entirely undated, was addressed to Sylvia at her new home, and that it belongs to late 1892 or early 1893.
[Gerald du M. to Sylvia Ll.D]
New Grove House,
My sweetest Sylvia,
I am writing in no good mood, having slept last night with Punch. As May is away I took charge of him. First I blew out my candle and yelled for him until I was hoarse, and I was just getting out of bed to fetch him when something fell on my face with ghastly force. Good Heavens! Was it a sirloin of underdone beef? No! 'Twas Punch.
To seize him by one ear and the tail and hurl him from the bed was but the work of a moment. A yelp, a crash, and I knew no more. I woke up this morning feverish, and with a weight on my chest. Punch again!
We are now having him stuffed!
I hope you are getting on alright.
How's the man? As fond of pears as ever?
I have to feed May's squirrel now. So he's naturally having a h-ll of a time.
The new slavey has come. She walks like Sir Richard Temple and is an ugly likeness of Walker with the mumps.
I must now leave off.
Believe me, Your loving Brother
(with a flourish) Albert Victor.
I have no other knowledge of Punch, presumably a dog belonging chiefly to May du M.
A brilliant letter-writer, Gerald, and I don't think this side of him is clearly enough brought out by Daphne [in Gerald: A Portrait]. At this time he was, I fancy, just kicking his heels, and had not yet decided on the stage as his profession.
A's fondness for eating fresh fruit has been remarked on in one or two previous letters, and was evidently a standing joke. I don't know who Walker was.
Lady Ponsonby writes: "They had a dear little house (or Sylvia made it so), a sort of maisonette in Craven Terrace, off the Bayswater Road. I write that year in October: 'To tea with Sylvia in her dear little house, which was very delightful.' I remember Arthur telling me that she gave away his trousers for plants which a man brought round on a barrow. Sylvia took me to my first dance, at the George Lewis's, that year."
[Arthur Ll.D. to Margaret Ll.D.]
18, Craven Terrace, W.
Oct. 26 [1892?]
Charley gave me Uncle Harry's letter with your note. I suppose you understand that, by taking your £3,000 in 5% stock at 165, you will get £1,818 stock, and just over £90 income. If you care to look at the list of authorised investments, you will find them in Whitaker under the head of "Trust Investment Act 1889." We might do better than what is practically 3%, but it is to be observed that an investment on mortgage of land involves considerable preliminary expenses in valuation, etc.
Sylvia and I feel to blame in not having in some way recognised yr. birthday, but we thought of you on the auspicious date, when we were visiting the Parrys at Rustington. Lady M. practises her peculiar gift of invention on her friends' reputations with great assiduity, and we feel that a visit there exposes us to some risk.
In the competition for the Laureateship, has not Miss May Kendall, the gifted authoress, the following lines on Women's Rights been forgotten?
"We scorn the base insult, the vile innuendo,
The Laws of the Universe, these are our friends;
Our talents shall rise in a mighty crescendo,
We trust Evolution to make us amends."
I hear rumours of a signed article in the Pall Mall by Mother on the great question, but since the change from Cooke to Cook I have had to change my luncheon literature to the blushing "Globe".
Please note change of chambers to 2 Garden Court, Temple.
We shall be delighted to see Mother next week.
Your affect. brother,
The £3,000 to be so carefully husbanded (probably worth three or four times as much now) was clearly a legacy to Margaret from Charles Crompton. It is merely a surmise on my part that A had a legacy of the same amount. What a lot of pain and anguish might have been saved me if similar advice had been given to me when I began to get legacies myself! But that was in 1918 when I came of age, and received, in a dugout near Lens, a quantity of stock and share certificates, mostly for small and complex amounts, representing what had been left to me by Sylvia and Emma du M., augmented by the quarter-share which came to each of the four surviving brothers from George's similar little estate. I couldn't make head or tail of any of them, and thought the whole thing a rather grisly joke and called for drinks all round while I got my brother officers to witness my signature to the things. Not that I imagine I should have paid much heed to good advice at the time and in the circumstances. The war still looked like going on for ever to me. At any rate, the thought of saving never entered my head, then or afterwards, and I just spent it all in the next few years, not at all in the grand manner, but as improvidently as could be. If any progeny of mine should chance to read these lines, I hereby apologise to him, and beg and conjure him never to do likewise in the improbable event of his ever receiving any legacies in his turn. Experto crede.
The Laureateship, vacant in 1892 through the death of Alfred Austin, went to Robert Bridges, an acquaintance of the Ll.D family, as we have seen.
I hadn't realised that Mary Ll.D. ever wrote for the press. The Women's Suffrage movement was beginning to make itself really vocal at this period, and Margaret Ll.D., of course, became one of its most prominent advocates. But the whole family, J.Ll.D and E.D. and all the Cromptons, were active pioneers in its behalf. The "blushing" Globe is simply a reference to the pink paper on which that admirable evening paper was printed.
I believe I am right in saying that Arthur retained 2 Garden Court till his death; and that it was to those chambers that I can just recall accompanying him once, on what occasion I forget, but I think it was prior to lunching with him in an A.H.C. in the Strand (pea-soup, much appreciated by me) and proceeding to the pit of the Vaudeville (?) Theatre to see "The Merchant of Venice." I never read or hear Lorenzo's lines to Jessica — "On such a night as this," etc. — without a dim vision of that afternoon shaping itself in the camera obscura of my mind.
[Henry Crompton to Arthur Ll.D.]
22 July, 1893.
I am so glad of your news just come, and sympathise most warmly with you both. My love to the dear Mother. All best wishes to her, to you and to him. I suppose you will have your mother with you. My love to her.
Always your affectionate uncle,
George the first in our family.
G[eorge] Ll.D. had been born at 18, Craven Terrace on July 20th. George, after George du M., who in turn was called after his uncle, George Clarke, Mary Anne's only known son.
I have no idea why this nice letter from great-uncle Henry and the two which follow should happen to be the only ones which have been preserved in connection with the birth of George, but so it is.
I forget if I have explained that, whereas all Arthur's own early letters, and all later letters from him, Sylvia, or any of us to Margaret Ll.D. or Mary Ll.D., came to me from Margaret not long before her death in 1943, the others were retrieved by me from the back of J.M.B.'s desk after his death when I was clearing up the debris there, in a frame of mind which, as I don't wish to introduce any discordant note here, I will simply describe as not exactly philosophical. Some were neatly tied up with tape or put away in big envelopes; others were lurking dustily in nooks and crannies. The reason for the survival of some was obvious: the "engagement" letters, for example, had evidently been kept in the first place by Sylvia, in the way such things are, for sentiment's sake, and had been retained, in their little bundle, by J.M.B. when, as I suppose, he went through her effects twenty years later, no doubt with the concurrence and most likely with the help of members of the family, such as Crompton Ll.D., May, etc.
Letters and other papers relating to the deaths of Arthur and Sylvia were tied up separately, in some instances with notes in J.M.B's handwriting, done I don't know when, but not recently. On the other hand some letters seemed to be there for no particular reason, and it is impossible to say on what principle, if any, or when, retention or destruction had been decided on. The present letter is a case in point; there must certainly have been other and more significant letters on the occasion, e.g. from the grandparents. Once more I must admit that I may have destroyed some, inadvertently; but I rather doubt it. I don't believe I destroyed much of any consequence. There were masses of old bills, receipts, cheque-counterfoils, and so on, which I remember burning, and that was only a few years ago. I think I should remember if I had let anything that mattered go: and the fact that so much survived seems to suggest that I sifted pretty thoroughly. Be that as it may, the letters which follow, from now until April 1906, are mostly rather a scratch lot, with some exceptions such as the next but two, recording the birth of Jack Ll.D.
I will just add, by way of apology in case I did destroy things that could better have been kept, that I have had some pretty melancholy hours over all this. The real things have a power to move which distinguishes them very sharply from typewritten copies.
[Mrs. Leslie Stephen to Arthur Ll.D.]
22, Hyde Park Gate, S.W.
[July 21?, 1893]
My dear Arthur,
I am glad. I was thinking of Sylvia yest. and hoping Baby wd. come soon. Mind you kiss him for me. I don't come as I shd. like, as Stella has mumps and tho' I don't believe I can give it, still being with her night and day, if one can take the infection in clothes, I might.
I saw Mrs. McGraw, she is a good steady creature, my sister-in-law's cook. She will not, she says, look after the house, but I think she might when she sees that it is not a lonely one, if you thought her worth it, but for cooking she charges 16/- a week and all found w. is a good deal. So' I don't like to take her straight off tho' I suppose you must have some one to cook at once? It wd. be much easier to get the caretaker than the cook; I hope she may suit you and if she doesn't do so, I think I possibly know of someone else — and at all events cd. easily find out people.
Yr. very aff.
Don't scruple to make use of me. I have plenty of time.
This very domestic affair, hastily scrawled and rather illegible in places, ought by rights to have come before the preceding letter, as it appears to have been written on July 2lst; though I suppose it may conceivably belong to September 2lst of the following year (but I doubt it).
The care-taking part I suppose implies that the young family were going away for a recuperative holiday. Had their previous cook given notice, or are we to suppose that hitherto Sylvia had done the cooking herself? Hardly, right up to the last moment.
[Maurice Ll.D. to Arthur Ll.D.]
12, Village Rd.,
24 July 1893.
I presume telegram received today emanated from you: "When Charing Cross?" — I replied "May Roland leave Charing 3.55 next Wednesday I follow Thursday week."
I trust Sylvia continues to do well. We had a very interesting letter from Mother as well as Harry's oral account of the new acquisition. He seems to have been received with universal approbation. The name is good, and new in the family.
Please give our love and congratulations to Sylvia, if she is well enough to receive messages.
This letter, besides providing a fine and suitably mystifying example of the economical family telegraphese, serves as a reminder that Maurice Ll.D. had beaten ALl.D. in the race for the avuncular saltspoons (see earlier), having been married in 1891 to May Roberts.
Their first child and only son, Roland Arthur Ll.D., had been born in April 1892, and was thus the eldest of the new generation. Whither he was being despatched, aged 15 months, from Charing Cross, I cannot say. I can just remember Roland as a boy, from a short visit I paid to their home at Birkenhead, in 1906 or so, I think, when he operated before my admiring and envious eyes a daylight film-developer, great improvement, as it seemed to me, on the dark-room in which at that date G[eorge] and J[ack] Ll.D. used to spend so many hours in developing plates. For one reason and another we saw little of him in later years, and had, I think, more or less lost sight of him when the news came, late in 1918, that he had been killed in France. Maurice Ll.D. wrote and had privately printed a short account of him, a copy of which I have, given to me by his sister, Dr. Mary.
Roland was at Trinity, Cambridge, (with a scholarship) when the war broke out, having had his previous education as a day boy at Birkenhead School, of which he became head, playing also in the XV. He was too short-sighted for most branches of the service by the severe standards prescribed in the early days of the war, and became an officer in the A.S.C. in October 1915. He was sent to Serbia, where he played his part in the retreat and evacuation of the Serbian army to Corfu, and was awarded the Serbian Distinguished Service Medal. He then had eleven delightful months in Corfu, enough, one might think, to sap the patriotism of any man. But in the spring of 1917, having meanwhile been moved to Salonica, he "became increasingly desirous to play a more active and less sheltered part," and, well understanding what he was about, applied to be transferred to the Infantry, where bad eyesight was by now no longer regarded as a bar. The application was granted. In June his battalion of the Royal Fusiliers was ordered to France, and, on the 4th October, only 7 weeks from the armistice, he was shot through the head by a machine-gun bullet, leading his platoon in the attack on the Hindenburg Line at Le Catelet: as good an example as any of the grandeur and futility of our day and generation.
'In August 1894,' writes Lady Ponsonby, 'Sylvia and Arthur came to the Mill House by the sea for the holidays — and this became almost a regular occurrence every summer, I think. From my diary: "Arthur and Sylvia came down to the Mill House for the summer which much delighted my heart: she is as sweet and dear as ever. They are very flourishing and content on £400 a year — but it is a miracle ... I would rather marry her than anyone I know, she is wonderfully fascinating and good ... Mother's birthday which we spent quietly with Sylvia to tea. Discussed cancer, and whether marriage was happy, and whether one would rather be born or not.”’ This is tragic in the face of after events — but I will enlarge later on this curiously serious note in Sylvia, and what I call her apprehensive imagination.
[Mary Ll.D. to Sylvia Ll.D.]
[Sept. or early Oct. 1894]
No Mil [= mother-in-law] ever got a dearer or sweeter letter than I did the other day! And it was a joyful surprise, too, for I never thought it was from you! [I guess it was a pencil note enclosed in an envelope addressed by Arthur Ll.D.]
You tell me all so nicely, and I can so well fancy you lying in yr. blue bed, looking so delicious, and yr. two sons with you. Jack seems to make good progress — and never mind if you can't be all in all to him. It is better it should be so for your picking up your strength. May [Margaret] is so much interested and so keen to hear all M[auri]ce can tell her. I am delighted that Mrs Sylvia is such a success. It does make all the difference if you like your M.N. [= Monthly Nurse]
Should you be surprised if I were to pop my head in one day next week? I have screwed up at last to come and put my poor old self in the hands of the Dentist — one Dowsett whom A. knows. I have asked for a consultation on Thursday at ten — and shall see what he advises and act according. I fear he will most likely recommend fearful steps — but I shall see. I am going to Mrs. Enfield's on either Tuesday or Wed. — most likely Wed. And I shall perhaps lie perdue there — only going out in a thick veil. So I shall came to you before — I wouldn't give you such a shock for the world!
The 2 boys go to Camb. tomorrow by early Ark, and I think the Booth girls will travel with them as far as Leicester. Margt. also leaves us for another little tour. So the Vicar and I shall be left to receive the Dean of Ely for Sat. and Sunday.
There was a dance last night at the Concert Hall given by Mrs. Gregg and Mr. Roper — Antonia and Crompton and I (in new brown Robe wh. Margt. thinks looks very well) honoured it. Angela looked "sweet". Tonight harvest festival. I shall be sleepy.
Goodbye. I must not tire you, darling. I hope A's cold is better? I shall love to hug you and the 2 sons.
Bless you all!
Jack Ll.D. had been born Sept. 11th, at 18, Craven Terrace: now the oldest survivor of all these happy and unhappy far off days. I think of the burden of melancholy the various sadnesses have placed on me through life, and reflect with sympathy that Jack's memories of the early times are longer and more vivid by nearly three years than mine. The photograph taken not many months after this, of Sylvia with her two infants, G. and J., is the most beautiful and touching photograph known to me.
Antonia Booth married Malcolm (now Mr. Justice) Macnaghten.
This is the last letter of Mary Ll.D's that I have. Whether the tooth trouble had any bearing on it, I don't know, but she died the following year, 1895, her death being the first real sorrow to cloud the so far singularly happy lives of Arthur and of Sylvia, who had come to be so fond of her husband's mother. I have no letters at all referring in any way to her death, and no idea what was the immediate cause of it. The letters from and to her which I have included in this compilation show her to have been a most delightful person: a mighty good wife and mother, and a marvellous mother-in-law. I have no satisfactory photograph of her, but will try to get one from Dr. Mary Ll.D. and Theodore, who certainly have the pretty portrait of her when young, by Richmond, of which I will get a photograph taken if I can. John Ll.D., with Margaret devotedly keeping house for him, stayed on at Kirkby Lonsdale for many years — till 1910 in fact, when at the age of 84 he resigned from all active participation in Church matters and went to live at 11, Hampstead Square. But from Mary Ll.D's death onwards, the Vicarage can have retained little of its former happy, busy, sociable, warm atmosphere. It is clear that Sylvia visited Kirkby only at rare intervals after the death of her mother-in-law.
A very curious passage in one of Dolly Ponsonby's letters to me runs: “I expect you know that your grandmother was herself terribly ascetic, but never inflicted it on other people. She always had a cold bath in her room every morning, and sometimes broke the ice. I think this probably killed her in 1895 when she had a heart attack as a result of cold. When she died I realized the depth of Sylvia's feeling for her — in fact, I don't think I ever came across a mother and daughter-in-law so deeply attached. Sylvia could not talk about it.”
Lady P's two tales about Mary Ll.D — of her cold baths and her never going inside her husband's church — are so extraordinary that I should hesitate to believe them but for the remarkable and demonstrable accuracy of Lady P's recollections as a whole. Incidentally they combine, with one or two other little hints, to suggest that Arthur was more of a Crompton than a Davies in habit and character as well as in looks.
Later: A mass of other, earlier letters from and to Mary Ll.D. which have come into my possession since I wrote the above afford ample proof, I am half sorry to say, that she did often attend services both at Christ Church, Marylebone, and at K.L. The impression left on me, however, is that her attendance was a matter of duty, cheerfully enough done, rather than of devotion. No evidence occurs as to the cold baths. She was often ill and weak, over a long period of years, and it is more likely that her sudden death from heart failure was, at any rate partly, a consequence of having borne seven children in eleven years.
[Sylvia Ll.D.. to Margaret Ll.D.]
18, Craven Terrace, W.
[16 July 1895]
I enjoyed Essex Hall so much, and your part of it was splendid — I heard every word and you looked such a sweet!
I wish I had been there in the morning, and I did not stay late this afternoon because I had to get back. I liked the old woman who got up on the chair near me, and threw her arms about! I do hope you are not too awfully tired. If there is a chance of my seeing you at Barton Street any afternoon, do let me know and I would go in a moment!
Dear love to you.
Written, I suppose, before Mary Ll.D's death, and the only letter I have for 1895 or 1896. It was addressed to Margaret at 14, Barton Street, where Charles Ll.D. had no doubt then recently established himself, and to which I have referred previously. I fancy it and most of its surroundings in Westminster were at that date more or less slummy, and that the house, a charming late 18th century one, was pretty cheap. I think it only became a sought-after neighbourhood (and kind of house) between the two wars, or at any rate shortly before 1914.
Just as I have no letters bearing on Mary Ll.D's death, so there are absolutely none which in any way refer to the death, in the following year (1896) of George du Maurier. It is rather outside the scope of my present purpose (whatever that may be, and I'm never quite sure, as must be clear enough to any reader) to attempt to say anything about G. du M. in the absence of letters to which I might have been able to add a few words by the way. Sources of information about him exist, though I personally wish that a proper Life had been undertaken by a competent hand. Thanks to the enormous success of Trilby (1894) he had right at the end of his life become famous to an extent which, according to all accounts, bewildered and almost distressed him: for he seems to have been a modest man of simple, frugal and essentially domestic habit. I take him to have been a man of very great charm, as well as a very good man, and I wish I could have known him; but in fact I know nothing even about him which has not been published. His death, at the comparatively early age of sixty, must have been a heavy blow to Sylvia, who was deeply devoted to him.
Trilby made a lot of money, which was passed on to his family in what I have heard called a typically French will (I used to have a copy of it at one time); i.e. it provided for the interests of his family down to our own generation. How much came to Sylvia immediately I know not, but it must have been a help. The amount that came to each of us, since G. du M. had five children and there were three of our own generation of Davieses (allowing for the intestacy of G[eorge] and M[ichael] Ll.D.) was nothing large. (It would, I think, have been more, had not Emma du M. diverted some of what should have come to us, in view of J.M.B.'s undertaking to provide for us.) But the odd windfalls of ten or twenty pounds from the du Maurier estate (administered till a few years ago in some mysterious way by Charlie Millar) which used to come to us from time to time after Emma du M's death — I fancy it is all pretty well dried up now — have always been welcome.
I have loved very few books in my life as much as I loved Peter Ibbetson when I was young, and though I don't read it with half so much pleasure now, I like to think that I got my name from it, and I cherish the copy which Grandpapa gave to Sylvia, with its charming inscription: ‘To Sylvia du Maurier, from the author of her being (and of this book), George du Maurier, 1892'.
He painted two charming self-portraits of himself in youth, one of which Muriel [Beaumont, Gerald du M’s wife] had, but which appears to have been lost. The other I collected from Taff Coles, after Coley's death, and still have. Many old letters of his turned up at the same time, which are at present (February 1950) being sifted by Daphne.
He was buried in the pretty Hampstead churchyard which has since become a sort of family burying-place to us. I hope a book of his letters may eventually emerge from Daphne's investigations.
[Extract from a diary of Lady Ponsonby's, believed by her to belong to 1896:]
"Rustington, Aug. 9th. Arthur and Sylvia came down to the Mill House, which much delighted my heart ... (Then, after some critical remarks about other people:) Sylvia is a joy, however, she is the dearest, sweetest, prettiest person in the world — lucky, lucky Arthur ... "
The first Mill House holiday seems to have been in 1895, when Arthur and Sylvia were there "with two babies." They returned there again in 1897 with three, and how often thereafter I am not quite sure. This Mill House, really no more than a cottage, was right on the shore, and I fancy my very earliest memory is of looking over the wall at the foot of the little garden (perhaps being held up for the purpose) at the sea which, at high tide, came right up to it.
An enchanted place, with the windmill in working order and lofts and sacks of flour to play about among…...
Thus far I had written when a further communication from Lady P. brought me up short by revealing that the second of the three Rustington houses, at which we stayed at various times subsequently, and which I remember only as a thatched flint cottage, was in fact also a Mill House, complete with windmill; so that may be the mill and lofts and sacks of flour I was thinking of. Be that as it may, the whole of Rustington as it was or seemed to be then, is to me an enchanted place. We must have gone there for our summer holidays much more often than to any other place up to the death of Arthur, and never afterwards.
Even in those days, of course, vile and vulgar encroachments had begun. But they passed unnoticed by the childish eye, and were for the most part away from the heart of the village, which still preserved much of its ancient dignity and seclusion, and from the sea shore. With unerring discrimination, Arthur and Sylvia chose the pleasantest, least tampered with spots in it. Today Rustington is utterly bevilla'd and bungaloid; is, in fact, little more than a loathsome suburban excrescence on the dismal fringe of Littlehampton. Cudlow House, meaning 1906 to us, holds out almost a sole survivor, fenced in from the surrounding crudities, still retaining a passé sort of late Georgian graciousness, an all too obvious air of having seen better days. On the site of the Mill House by the sea, and its weather-boarded outbuildings and rural surroundings, stands a large, unlovely, staring red-brick loony-bin. Not that I bear the loonies any grudge, poor critters. But the whole thing is a good instance of the shocks that surely await those who revisit the glamourized haunts of their childhood in this progressive age.
From Lady Ponsonby: "In 1897 Arthur and Sylvia were at the Mill House again. I write: 'Had tea with Sylvia and Arthur and Mrs. du Maurier — how exceptionally delightful they are.' Sylvia I describe as much occupied with the last baby, Peter Ibbetson. You were not nearly so strong as George and Jack, and it was thought to be due to vaccination as you were quite normal until you were vaccinated. You were pale and different, and the fact that you were not hearty for some years appealed to me."
[J.M.B. to Sylvia Ll.D.]
15, Old Cavendish Street, W.
14 Aug. 1892.
Dear Miss du Maurier,
And so you are to be married tomorrow! And I shall not be present. You know why.
Please allow me to wish you great happiness in your married life. And at the same time I hope you will kindly accept the little wedding gift I am sending you. It is not a hinge, but if you wear it, it will be part of one. It reaches you somewhat late, but that is owing to circumstances, too painful to go into.
With warmest wishes to you and Mr. Davis [sic],
Believe me, dear Miss du Maurier,
J. M. Barrie.
P.S. To think that you don't know about Peterkin!
This characteristic whimsicality is written on the back of a piece of 155 Gloucester Road notepaper; the envelope, unstamped, is addressed to Miss Sylvia du Maurier, 31 Kensington Park Gardens. No doubt it was delivered by hand on the 14th August, 1897; and is the earliest letter from J.M.B. in my possession. What gift it enclosed I know not.