Q & A with Andrew Birkin: Question #4

Author of J.M. BARRIE AND THE LOST BOYS

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Q & A with Andrew Birkin: Question #4

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Sep 18, 2004 11:17 am

As you read Mr. Birkin’s responses to our questions, please keep in mind that his answers are intended solely for the purpose of our readers. Please do not use his replies or take any quotes from them for any other purpose or post them on any other boards or websites. That was his only caveat when he agreed to participate, that our answers be kept “in house”. I know you all will honor his request!

I know J.M. Barrie was a very private person but why do you suppose he was so against anyone writing a biography of him? “May God blast any one who writes a biography of me,” he warned. He was so talented and had such a remarkable life that anyone would be curious to read. Do you suppose he wanted to hide “deep” secrets of his life?

AB: Barrie wrote that curse in his notebook (#41) in October 1926, by which time several sychophantic pseudo-biographies had appeared (see my Sources @ the end of my book). But I also seem to remember reading a letter from him to (probably) Cynthia Asquith in which he bemoaned the “modern” tendency to trash the dead – biographers who gouge their fingers inside the eye-sockets of their subjects, etc etc. I don’t frankly think he was worried about anyone exhuming any skeletons – my guess is that he’d just read some current biography about one of his friends – Galsworthy, Stephenson, Hardy, whoever – that was in his opinion a travesty....
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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suec
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Unread postby suec » Sat Sep 18, 2004 5:01 pm

That's an interesting little snippet - nice to see a straightforward interpretation and it gives such a positive impression of JMB, I think.

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Re: Q & A with Andrew Birkin: Question #4

Unread postby savvysparrow » Sun Sep 19, 2004 6:06 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:AB: he bemoaned the “modern” tendency to trash the dead – biographers who gouge their fingers inside the eye-sockets of their subjects, etc etc. I don’t frankly think he was worried about anyone exhuming any skeletons – my guess is that he’d just read some current biography about one of his friends – Galsworthy, Stephenson, Hardy, whoever – that was in his opinion a travesty....


Wow, that puts it into perspective. I guess biographies were not like modern day reviews of history, more like trashing of character. I find it interesting how AB continues to voice opinion that JMB was completely innocent around the boys. He is changing my viewpoint daily about JMB.

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Sep 19, 2004 8:46 pm

It almost sounds like biographies back then were like the tabloids of today. No wonder he had the "fear".
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby ladyn » Mon Sep 20, 2004 2:29 pm

Lytton Strachey (who was the lover of Michael Davies' friend, Roger Senhouse - see the movie "Carrington") began a trend of debunking biographies with "Eminent Victorians"

Here is a summary from Bookrags.com

Strachey sought a new approach to biography. The typical, sprawling two-volume Victorian biography presented its subject in the best possible light, ignoring any aspects of the life that might tarnish the person's achievements. Strachey determined that these large and tedious volumes, full of what he called ‘‘ill-digested masses of material,’’ did a disservice to the art of biography. In contrast, he wrote short, pithy, artful biographies that told the truth about the subjects as Strachey understood it. The result, in Eminent Victorians, is a series of radical reinterpretations. Cardinal Manning is presented as a scheming, ambitious man rather than a pious representative of God. Florence Nightingale, although Strachey does not devalue her astonishing achievements, is presented as a woman maniacally obsessed with work, whose personality was acerbic rather than saintly. Strachey's Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby School, is little more than a pompous, pedantic fool. The portrait of Gordon is the most complex of the four, showing a man who was driven to his demise by the contradictions in his own personality and the vacillation of the British government.

Eminent Victorians is a landmark book not only because it punctured many of the pretensions and conceit of the Victorian Era, but because it signaled a new trend in the writing of biography, the influence of which is still discernible today.




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