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!
Nothing about JMB’s life seems to me to be simple or easily categorized. Yet, this man of depth, of many layers, seems to have been plagued by a series of biographers (and I do not mean you, Mr. Birkin) and critics eager to boil down the essence of the man into easily digestible, one-dimensional, simplistic and convenient (depending on the author’s particular predisposition or agenda) truisms. For instance, several of the biographies of JMB that I have read characterize JMB’s relationships with the Llewelyn-Davies boys and others (Cynthia Asquith, for instance) as obsessive, oppressive and vitality sapping. What are your thoughts?
AB: All depends on your POV, and at what stage in the boys’ lives we’re talking about. Clearly Barrie’s love/need for Michael came close to obsession in 1920, and – in Boothby’s opinion – was damaging. On the other hand Sebastian Earl (Michael’s great friend @ Eton, who didn’t like Barrie) thought Michael perfectly normal and undamaged. Nico also disagreed with Boothby (all of these opinions can be heard as audio clips on the Barrie website), whereas Peter’s attitude is ambivalent to say the least. Since he destroyed all Barrie’s letters to Michael and visa-versa, one cannot really judge this most complex of all the Barrie/Llewelyn Davies boys relationships ... but I’m sure enough the benefits of having Barrie as Uncle Jim greatly outweighed the negative, certainly for George and Nico. As for C Asquith, she was quite capable of looking after herself, as she did - handsomely!
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!