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Topics - andrew

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Davies Family / Michael's grave
« on: November 27, 2009, 05:40:32 PM »
Christine de Poortere has kindly shared photos of Michael's grave that she recently took in Hampstead old cemetery (aka Hampstead old churchyard).
JMBarrie / Barrie's Will
« on: November 22, 2009, 09:33:59 AM »
Thanks to Christine de Poortere and GOSH, you can now read Barrie's 14 June 1937 Will in its entirety: just search for "final will" in the database.
General topic / Superpositional states
« on: November 16, 2009, 08:56:10 PM »
What I meant by not agreeing that everyone comes into one's life for a purpose is the suggestion of 100% predeterminism - that there's some sort of grand scheme being played out by the gods, in which we are mere puppets acting out their (at times rather cheesy) script. As I used to say to my son Anno when he was 3, "there is no Fat Controller!" (being the big boss in Thomas the Tank Engine). That's not to say that there might not be some higher form of reflective consciousness - after all, why should it start and end with us? Our brains (including our sense of self) is a network of 100 billion neurons working in concert. Since our galaxy contains 100 billion stars, perhaps the Milky Way also experiences a sense of self... and since the measurable universe contains 100 billion galaxies, perhaps it too experiences the ultimate sense of self??  "And God created man in his own image and likeness..."  But getting back to the concept of purpose, do you mean this in the sense of some ultimate plan? Or simply (and unarguably) that every encounter we make has a knock-on effect in our lives?
For what it's worth, I agree with Peter that everything is simultaneously true and false, but with the qualification that each view is incomplete without the other: "The difference between [Peter] and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make believe, while to him make believe and true were exactly the same thing"  aka in quantum theory "superpositional states"...
Peter Pan / Peter Pan and Great Ormond Street Hospital
« on: November 06, 2009, 05:22:06 PM »
Christine Pootere of GOSH sent me the various letters to and from Barrie re his gift of Peter Pan to the hospital.  A search for "Ormond" in the database should bring them up...
General topic / Where the Wild Things Are
« on: October 09, 2009, 05:39:32 PM »
Based on the preview clips I've seen, I think WTWTA is about to become one of my favourite movies of all time - can't wait! If only one of the many dismal attempts to film Peter Pan had even come close to the promise of this one....
JMBarrie / Piers Dudgeon and "Captivated"
« on: October 03, 2009, 02:10:47 PM »
I have sent the following letter to Chatto & Windus, publishers of Piers Dudgeon's ridiculous book:

Dear Sirs,

Captivated, by Piers Dudgeon

I have only just caught up with this book, which you published last year. Back in 2005, Piers Dudgeon contacted me, asking for my help in a book he was writing about J M Barrie and the du Mauriers. I told him that everything I had to offer in the way of research was on my website,, and that he was free to use the extensive database, providing he gave due credit. This he did in his acknowledgements, although I had little idea that he would quote (not to mention misquote) from my material quite so extensively.

On page 23, Dudgeon writes that I offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that Barrie was a paedophile, in response to having read an article by Alison Lurie in the New York Times Review of Books on 6 February 1975. He goes on to say that this was “possibly an over- reaction, as Lurie had suggested not sexual abuse but that, as the boys grew older, they had become ‘embarrassed’ by ‘this odd little man who looked like an aged child.’” This is typical of Dudgeon’s sloppy research. My offer (to donate $10K to GOSH, not to the prover) was in response to an article in the New York Post in 2004, claiming that Barrie was a paedophile. It was Nico, not me, who was so incensed by Alison Lurie’s “bollox” – which Dudgeon must have read for himself since it comes from one of Nico’s letters to me on my website, from which he quotes so freely. I would ask him/you to kindly correct this in future editions of the book.

I would also ask you to correct the source of several of the illustrations. The photograph of Michael dressed as Peter Pan is not to be found in the “du Maurier Archive, Special Collections, University of Exeter” (as credited on page viii), nor the photo of “his eldest brother George” next to it (the photo is in fact of Michael, not George at all); nor indeed is the photo of “Jim Barrie with his St Bernard” from Exeter – all three have either been ripped from my book or taken from the database on my website. Having bought the originals from Nico in 1979, I donated them to GOSH in 2004, to whom a reproduction fee should have been paid.

Piers Dudgeon is of course entitled to his own opinion, but his book is so full of errors, distortions, half-truths, and his own opinion passed off as fact, that I personally regard it as worthless.


Andrew Birkin
Peter Pan / Michael Jackson RIP
« on: June 26, 2009, 05:39:34 PM »
I've read several times that Michael Jackson gave Peter Pan "a bad name". I disagree. When in 1982 I was asked by The Observer to give my opinion on the rumoured casting of M J as P P in Spielberg's proposed film, I said I thought Barrie would be "turning in his grave... with exhiliration". Of course this was not what the reporter wanted to hear - at the time most P P purists considered such an idea to be sacrilege - but I meant it, although I doubt Spielberg would have had the vision to pull it off (not if the execrable Hook was anything to go by). It seemed to me that M J, in those days, possessed that elusive quality Tyrone Guthrie felt essential in any actor playing Peter: to be at once "as delicate as a moth, as deadly as a bomb". And boy, did he know how to fly! Whether he could have pulled it off we'll never know, but it would have been a brave try; and I sure hope he's now having more fun in the real Neverland than he ever had in that ersatz pile he built to house himself in this life.  RIP
Database / Donations
« on: June 24, 2009, 06:19:34 PM »
It costs about £1,000 a year to run this website - around £250 to the server for the space required by the database, and £750 for website maintenance.

Last year we added a "donations" button, in the hope that we might break even, with any excess being gladly donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Thus far we have received zilch.

That's OK, I can just about afford to keep the site going as it stands, but with no spare cash to add new material from the mass of original research that awaits scanning, cataloguing and uploading. This includes not only Peter's Morgue (which still needs transcribing), but the hundreds (actually thousands) of letters I and Sharon Goode received between 1975 and 1980 from the various witnesses to Barrie and the Davies family's amazing story.

We don't expect casual browsers or penniless students to donate, but it would be nice if the various commercial outfits that utilise our database were to contribute something towards our running costs. I'd hate to impose some sort of inforced payment scheme for accessing the database, and in fact have no plans to do so as it would necessarily filter out the aforementioned penniless students.

Naive as it may sound, I put my trust in capitalism and hope that some benefactor might help us out, always in the knowledge that any surplus cash will be donated to GOSH - as indeed has all the cash raised from the sale of the original document and photos now in the database...
Database / restored database
« on: June 24, 2009, 06:04:16 PM »
For many months, only the first page of letters, documents etc have been available, but Dafydd has now finally managed to restore all subsequent pages to their former glory -  for which many thanks, Dafydd!
Davies Family / Rupert Buxton: a short life, by Nicholas McAulay
« on: January 05, 2009, 11:35:03 PM »
Nicholas McAulay's excellent biographical article about Rupert Buxton is finally on the site: go to the Davies Family page and click the tab at the top. Many thanks, Nicholas, and apologies for taking so long to upload it!
Database / New additions to the database
« on: October 04, 2007, 11:53:49 PM »
Various new bits and pieces have been added to the database, including a 10 page article by Pauline Chase on playing Peter Pan (Strand Magazine, 1913), a rather remarkable 2-page spread about Barrie (with a wonderful photo) from the New York Times Magazine in May 1931 -- and Nico's inimitable comments and corrections to the proofs of my JMB book....

Over the next few weeks I hope to add more goodies as and when I have time. Rather than trawl through all 2,500+ entries looking for new additions, I have taken to adding the date (year) at the foot of each new addition's description between squiggly brackets, thus a search for {2007} will bring up everything added so far this year.

If anyone has access to material they would like to share and feel should be included the database, I'd be most grateful if they'd email it to me as a JEPG attachment, with an accompanying caption, and I will hoist it - with due acknowledgement - asap.
JMBarrie / Barrie's father
« on: October 02, 2007, 02:30:36 AM »
For those like me who always assumed that Barrie's father played only a minor role in his son's life, read the Rev. William Souper's recollections of him in Cassell's Weekly. I only just found the article by chance, written some time in 1922: it's overtly sentimental in parts, but nevertheless something of an eye-opener. A search for "Barrie's father" in the database will bring it up.
Davies Family / There never was a happier, simpler family...
« on: December 03, 2006, 09:06:01 PM »
I know that most visitors to this site are rooted in JMB, but I must confess that one of the reasons I became so drawn to the Barrie/Llewelyn Davies story was because of the extraordinary world evoked by the correspondence between Arthur's mother Mary and Sylvia, long before JMB entered the picture.
This was preserved by Peter in his "Morgue" which I am finally, finally getting to grips with in terms of transcription etc. "There never could have been a happier, simpler family [than the Darling aka Davies family] before the coming of Peter Pan....."  wrote Barrie in the noverl of PP, and here - as a little Sunday night treat - is a glimpse of that family, preserved by Peter in his "Morgue", which I'm much hoping to finally upload to this site this side of Easter 2007...
Picking up on p602 of the Morgue, with Arthur's mother Mary writing to Sylvia du Maurier in Octoiber 1890, shortly after the announcement of Arthur's engagement to Sylvia:
[Mary Ll.D. to S. du M.]
K[irkby] L[onsdale vicarage]. 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.
Your loving
[Peter's comment:] 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 S.Ll.D., and that almost if not quite the last time S.Ll.D. 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:
Undershaw Hotel, Hindhead.
Dec. 21st, 1945.
Dear Peter,
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.
Yours ever,
Dolly Ponsonby.
[Peter's comment:] 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 Ll.D. 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.

If any of you agree and would like to hear more, let me know and I'll add stuff as and when.............
JMBarrie / Lisa Chaney's new biography
« on: June 23, 2005, 04:56:41 PM »



From the review in The Spectator:

“The central episode in Barrie’s life is his relationship with the Llewellyn Davies family. This, of course, has been the subject of a terrific book by Andrew Birkin, and Lisa Chaney’s own account so conspicuously comes to life only when she is covering the same ground that she needs to justify herself by criticising what she calls Birkin’s inaccuracy.”

Chaney criticises my book in her Sources by saying that "one must be wary of the accuracy of [Birkin's] quotes from sources such as Barrie's notebooks" – then proceeds to quote my own selections from his notebooks, word for word, inaccuracies and all! I might add that these amount to no more than omitting Barrie's numbering system before each note, occasionally omitting elipses or altering punctuation, and once or twice transposing the order of notes for the sake of clarity. Yet having taken me to task for inaccuracy, Chaney blithely copy/pastes many of her Barrie notebook quotes from my book verbatim! An early example:

On p29 of my book, I ended my chapter on Barrie's marriage to Mary Ansell with the following notes from his notebook:

- Our love has brought me nothing but misery.
- Boy all nerves. 'You are very ignorant.'
- How? Must we instruct you in the mysteries of love-making?

On p119, Chaney quotes precisely the same three notes, with the same punctuation and in the same order. Had she bothered to look at Barrie's notebooks herself (or checked them on my website), she would have found:

Our love has brought me nothing but misery.
Your love has put me into this clock.
He: We see someone coming.
Girl: Hm! If it is Tom I can tell by looking at him whether he is in love.
He: Fudge.
[Crossed out:] Boy all nerves ... You are very ignorant.
P.W.L: How? Must we instruct you in the mysteries of love-making?

In other words, I was inaccurate as follows:

I condensed 5 notes into 3 without ellipses. On the whole I avoided using elipses (...) in quoting from Barrie's notebooks at the urging of my editor at Constables – he felt too many dot-dot-dots distracting - and confusing, since Barrie uses them himself, as in the 4th note. I enclosed "you are very ignorant" within quotes as without the ellipsis the two sentences would have run together, and removed Barrie's strike-out. I also omitted the "P.L.W" in the last as I wasn't sure who Barrie had in mind (probably the Painted Lady in "Sentimental Tommy"). Finally, I added a little dash at the beginning of each note – as I did throughout my book.

I have spelled this all out at such tedious length simply to prove my point: that Chaney simply copy/pasted my own selections - not just on this occasion but on dozens of others.

What I find particularly irritating is that Chaney gives the appearance of scholarship by adding source notes - but on a totally ad hoc basis. She cites my book when she has no other choice - for instance when quoting from Nico's letters to me - but in dozens of other instances she blithely lifts my quotes without any acknowledgement whatsoever. For example, on p342 she quotes a letter from Barrie to Michael's Oxford tutor, Robin Dundas - precisely the same extract as I used on p295 of my book:

"It may seem strange to you that I did not write to you long ago, but what happened was in a way the end of me, and practically anything may be forgiven me now. He had been the one great thing in my life for many years, and though there are little things to do, they are very trivial."

Until last Christmas, I was the only person in possession of that particular letter - I'd had to pay £400 for it (along with a few other letters) from Dundas' nephew back in 1978. But instead of noting in her sources, "as quoted by AB in his book" or whatever, she sails churlishly on without any reference to it at all. This is not only bad manners but bad scholarship. On the subject of which, her book ends with the startling statement that Nico lived on for a further 26 years after Peter, dying in 1986. For her information, Nico died 20 years later, in October 1980 ....

As if all this wasn't galling enough, Chaney has lifted half a dozen photographs and reprinted them without any credit to me, or the Great Ormond Street Hospital who have owned them ever since I gave them the library rights back in 1992. In her "list of illustrations" she sources these photos as "Courtesy of Laura Duguid". Well I just spoke with Laura (Nico's daughter), who tells me Chaney persuaded her to lend some of the B&W copy prints I had enlarged for Nico back in 1978. But does not account for ones of Mary Ansell and Mary Hodgson - also credited to Laura - as Laura never had them! A close look at the latter reveals that it's been lifted my Barrie website - you can virtually count the pixels....

Lisa Chaney mentions my book twice - once in the "Select Bibliography" at the end (where she fails to mention Roger Lancelyn Green's superb 1955 study, "Fifty Years of Peter Pan" - despite nicking three photos from his book), and once at the beginning under "Acknow-ledgements", where my name is bundled with five other "earlier biographers" in her acknowledgements - two of whom (Leonee Ormond and R S D Jack) wrote critical assessments, not biographies at all.

Of course there's no legal obligation to mention me favourably - but there IS a legal requirement under the Copyright Act to obtain an author's written permission before ransacking their book left right and centre. In my day the law required written permission from the publisher as well, yet Chaney never bothered to get in touch with either Constables or Yale University Press. I do remember getting some message back in 2002 that a new biographer wanted to talk to me, but as my son Anno had just been killed, I cried off. Instead I sent word that all my additional research material would be on line, free of charge, by the end of 2003 and that they were welcome to use it, subject to acknowledgement.

All this may seem very trivial on my part, but I do feel somewhat aggrieved. If my book were out of print, there'd be no financial loss to GOSH, but as I see it, Lisa Chaney's book now stands in direct competition with mine - or rather, theirs. Since she has pillaged it so blatantly, I think the least she - and her publishers - can do is donate part of their royalties to the hospital, and properly acknowledge those passages that have been lifted from my book in any future edition of hers.

My gripe against Chaney's book has nothing to do with its merit as a biography – I'm only half way through, and skimming it at that, but Barrie's early life prior to the meeting the Davies family seems well researched in the mai, though occasionally sloppy on specifics.

Thus far I haven't come across anything new of great interest that can't be found in one of the earlier biographies, but for those who have only read my book and Janet Dunbar's - and are still curious to discover more - I would say Chaney's is worth a read. To be candid, I dislike her judgemental style and (presumably amateur) psychiatric speculations, but that's just my taste. Anyone who's read my book will know that I shy away from both, not because I don't have an opinion, but because it seems out of place in a book about a man that I never personally knew. Here's a random example of what I mean. On p159 of her book, Chaney quotes Barrie's first surviving letter to Sylvia, which I also quote (on p56 of mine), in which Barrie whimsically pre-dates it by ten years:

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 reaches you somewhat late, but that is owing to circumstances too painful to go into.
With warmest wishes to you and Mr Davies
Believe me dear Miss du Maurier
       Yours sincerely
                 J. M. Barrie

But before quoting it, Chaney has already biased the reader's opinion by stating that "a bewilderingly eccentric yet clear indication of Barrie's urge to bind himself to the Llewelyn Davieses is revealed in a letter of dubious taste..." Having quoted the letter (inaccurately, as it so happens), she then informs us that "by constructing this complex fantasy [Barrie] implies not only that he knew Sylvia before her wedding, but also perhaps that he knew her better than Arthur did and that there existed between them a greater intimacy, both then and at the time of the Llewelyn Davieses' marriage, one of the most important events in their lives." Why is this letter so "bewilderingly eccentric"? It's the sort of thing I might well have written myself in his place! What Chaney has missed in her clunky manner is the subtle sting in the letter – the fact that Barrie actually wrote "With warmest wishes to you and Mr Davis".

My own comment on the letter was as follows:

This “characteristic whimsicality” (as Peter Llewelyn Davies later described it) is dated one day prior to Sylvia and Arthur’s wedding date, the address being Barrie’s at that time. It was, in fact, written some time in 1898, on the back of a piece of 133 Gloucester Road writing paper, and delivered to Sylvia by hand. The mis-spelling of “Davies” was probably unintentional, but both the slip and the letter itself — not to mention the gift — must have proved mildly irritating to Arthur.

Of course even "mildly irritating" is speculation on my part, but it seems a reasonable guess. Now that I think about it, this letter has me puzzled. Chaney sources the letter as "Beinecke Library, Barrie Mss, A3", giving the impression that she went back to the original to check it – but in which case, how come she missed the mis-spelling of "Davies"? And how come we both chose to omit the same sentence (indicated by the ellipsis)? Coincidence? In fact the omitted sentence is rather revealing: "It is not a hinge, but if you wear it, it will be part of one." Hmmm...

I've now skimmed Chaney's book as far as page 250, and it isn't just the summer heat that's making my blood boil! I would say that at least 70% of her quotes - whether from letters, notebooks or Peter Pan itself - are virtually identical with mine. Yet with so much material to choose from, why didn't she cast her net wider? One of my great regrets was that I only discovered Barrie's 700 notes to Peter Pan six years after writing my book. I quoted extensively from them in a long introduction I wrote for the Hospital to the Folio Society's special edition of Peter Pan in 1992, and (as visitors to the will know) posted them up on the web early last year.... yet Chaney never even mentions their existence! She merely regurgitates my version of events relating to Barrie's commencement of "Anon: A Play" on the eve of Nico's birth - Nov 23rd 1903. But of the 700 notes that preceeded it she makes no mention at all!

I'm almost beginning to think Ms Chaney must bear some personal grudge against me. I've only just seen that she publicly criticised me for giving my Barrie/Davies collection to Great Ormond Street Hospital and allowing it to be bought by Yale:
"Although the sale is expected to raise more than £80,000 for the hospital, there is concern among experts that the auction will split up the archive and that much of it may go to America. "I think it will be a great shame if much of it leaves England," said Lisa Chaney, whose biography of Barrie will be published next April. "It should have been given to a library or institution in his native Scotland."

And this from an author who expresses grovelling gratitude to Beinecke at the beginning of her book - though why she bothered to visit the library is far from clear as she quotes virtually no new notes from Barrie's notebooks at all - 90% are copy/pasted from my book! As to giving my collection to an institution in Scotland, I actually offered it to the National Trust of Scotland years ago, but they said they had no room at the birthplace.

So keen is Chaney to keep me under wraps that in her Select Bibliography she cites my book as being published by Constables in 1979 (= out of print), but fails to mention that it was republished by Yale University Press in 2003 on behalf of GOSH (= very much in print!). This she knows perfectly well as she quotes Nico's comment about Barrie never experiencing a "stirring in the undergrowth" from my new Yale introduction... yet sources it simply as "Nico Llewelyn Davies quoted by Birkin". In every other instance when she bothers to source my book (less than 50% of the time) at least she supplies a page number. Here there is none, and of course no nention that it comes from the new edition.

But at least my book does get mentioned - poor Roger Lancelyn Green's magnificent "50 Years of Peter Pan" gets none at all, despite being sourced half a dozen times (not to mention lifted photos). These quotes are simply noted as "Green, p. 13" "Green, p.115" etc, with no other clue as to who "Green" is. The title of his book is never mentioned (nor his full name) either in the acknowledgements, the text, the source notes, or the "Select Bibliography" ... talk about sloppy ingratitude to perhaps the greatest Peter Pan expert of them all - and an incredibly generous man to boot.

One final moan: not only has Chaney pillaged my book (and others) largely without credit, but she's also raided my website as well! On p292 she writes that "a contemporary later recalled that George had 'absolutely no vanity' - 'no conceit whatsoever. It was quite extraordinary ... for someone quite so successfu ... He wasn't a great talker, but he had great charm. He was rather shy, rather reserved, but his sense of humour was exquisite.'" For once this quote does not come from my book - it's been taken from an interview I did with the sister of George's fiancee, Norma Douglas Henry, in 1978, which can be heard on the audio section of (= this webiste).

I find this particularly hurtful as in sharing all my unpublished research material free of charge, the very least I expected was a credit to the site, if only to spread the word of its existence. But in her typical mean-spirited manner, Ms Chaney never mentions it. This is completely contrary to the spirit of the internet, as well as a blatant breach of copyright, and is precisely the kind of selfishness that will deter others from sharing their material on the web. This is not a matter of money. Every penny generated from the royalties of my book - and the BBC TV trilogy - and reproduction fees from the website - go to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, so that Ms Chaney is not only ripping off my work without credit - she's also cheating the Hospital.

The 2003 Yale edition of my book clearly states: Copyright (c) 2003: The Special Trustees of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. My website carries a similar statement. Chaney has quoted from both, yet in her Acknowledgements she merely thanks the Hospital for giving her permission to quote from Peter Pan, Peter & Wendy and The Little White Bird. I would ask both Lisa Chaney and her publishers, Hutchinson (Random House Group) to make amends as soon as possible.

Relevant reviews:
General topic / An unpublished JMB gem
« on: April 16, 2005, 11:15:58 PM »
While checking Barrie’s letters to George for the Morgue (Peter left a number of them out), I found one written out in someone else’s handwriting, and suddenly remembered being sent it some 20 years ago by someone who’d read my book. I’m ashamed to say that I can’t as yet find the accompanying letter, nor can I remember the circumstances by which they’d come across the letter. It is undated, but written from Black Lake Cottage:

My dear George,

I am
Your loving
J M Barrie

or, if preferred,

I am
Yours obediently
J M Barrie

I am also
Yours affectionately
J M Barrie

and I shall come on Tuesday unless
I have to sit on a jury for which I am


Pure Barrie. Date? My guess would be around 1902. Nico recounts a funny story about JMB and jury duty on one of the audio clips, but without any clue as to the date.
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