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25 February 1976

Extracts from a letter from Nico Llewelyn Davies to Andrew Birkin, 25 February 1976

25 Feb - Peter would have been entering his 80th year today!

Your long and fascinating letter demands an immediate attempt at an answer. One of the funny-peculiar things about all these letters is that they, too, are trilogical so to speak because I have only just read and replied to you when one comes along from Sharon (or vice versa): of course I greatly enjoy receiving and answering as you can surely surmise from the length of my contributions. I am increasingly interested in the Boothby element, which finds me inclining towards greater sympathy with Boothby! I wish Boothby hadn't, so to speak, grown larger-than-life: too splendid a character on TV etc, not the real success he looked like being at one stage, and it's a complete mystery to me why I never heard of him at Eton or Oxford! But I entirely agree with your belief that Boothby's comments to you will have been what he sincerely feels now - and likely felt then - ie not said for effect. Funny, too, that I started this suicide thought in an earlier letter to you - so why do I find myself backing down when someone else says "extremely likely"?!

I'll be greatly interested to hear Clive Burt's comments on Rupert. Same, if to a lesser degree, with Sebastian Earl. All exact contemporaries at Eton and Oxford, all friends of mine today (from a distance) though I would expect Clive to be the closest friend. I find myself believing he could have made more of a success in life had Michael lived. I can't wait till I hear Gerrie's comments. It may tickle you to hear that neither Angela nor Daphne could face the thought of ringing Gerrie up to compare notes on when to see you! She's not everyone's cup of tea - she's sure to say some pretty unattractive things about Uncle Jim, but in all honesty I don't think she stood much of a chance. Though Mary Hodgson really sank her deeper than JMB.

Now for what answers I can give to your points from the Morgue: Yes, certainly, Jack was a womaniser. He was fearfully attractive. He used to take me to such places as The Palace Theatre and thrill me to the quick at his getting glorious smiles from the chorus girls. Denis Mackail's wife Diana was keen on him - so were they all!

George and Betty Hope/Hawkins at Amhuinnsuidh: Yes indeed! I'm sure she also took Jack to bed with her, though not at Amhuinnsuidh as he wasn't there. But she was clearly captivated by these two virile and very attractive young men who doubtless could produce a thing or two that "Oh for an hour of Herod!" Anthony Hope had allowed to decrease in Ruritania.

Ah! Hugh Macnaghten. How we all loved him. I could talk for hours about him. Another, if much older, suicide.

I can't wait till I hear of Gerrie's comments. It may tickle you to hear that neither Angela nor Daphne could face the thought of ringing Gerrie up to compare notes on when to see you! She's not everyone's cup of tea - she's sure to say some pretty unattractive things about Uncle Jim, and in all honesty I don't think she stood much of a chance - though Mary Hodgson really sank her deeper than JMB.

Peter worshipped George, but I'm sure George and Jack were entirely devoted too. You're right - the one brother in the navy changed many things. This is surely the key to Jack (plus Gerrie) versus JMB. Had we all five stuck together things would have been very different. Jack and Gerrie had their own firm friends who never (or very rarely) crossed our paths.

[In answer to specific questions:]

Milky is/was Mr Wilkinson (or Pilkington in very early Peter Pan days) i.e. the Head of our remarkable preparatory school in 10 Orme Square. A superb school, if only for day boys. During my last two years we had top scholarship boys into Eton and two or three other leading public schools (I did very badly but was never a scholar!) Michael didn't take his scholarship exam till he'd been at Eton for a year, when he was 4th.

I can't really guess about the date of Mother's "engagement ring": I would guess - with Jack! - that Mother would only have "said yes" when she knew she was going to die. I don't know if she ever wore the ring, though I'm apt to expect that she did for a month or so. But alas no knowledge beyond Uncle Jim saying to me "This was my engagement ring to your mother" - or words to that effect: which words I'm pretty sure only came to him shortly before I was to marry Mary.

Peter was always, slightly, the "weakest", least athletic of the family. I had a letter some years ago from Mary Hodgson in which she said that Peter was always the delicate one. He does give that "loner" impression and yet he had many very devoted friends. At Eton he (a Colleger, unlike us other three Oppidans, though still what is called a "pupil" of Macnaghten) went a somewhat different way - liked shocking people every now and then by such things as showing a taste for liqueurs. Rather "naughtier" I would say than the rest of us, rather more agin the Government etc. And of course I entirely sympathise and understand regarding Uncle Jim's "it almost hurts" remark to Mrs Lewis while watching us play. I can hear him saying it. And - momentarily - I would not differ. We were selfish little creatures.