Q & A with Andrew Birkin #11


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Q & A with Andrew Birkin #11

Unread postby Liz » Sat Sep 25, 2004 11:38 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. I know you all will honor his request!

On pg. 192, Peter writes in reference to the idea that JMB and Sylvia had been engaged to be married prior to her death: “But I think that to Jack…the thought was intolerable and even monstrous…To me too, I confess, the idea of such a marriage is repugnant…a marriage between Sylvia…and the strange little creature who adored her…would have been an affront, really, to any reasonable person’s sense of the fitness of things…

“Let me not be thought unmindful…of the innumerable benefits and kindnesses I have received at one time and another, from the aforesaid strange little creature, to whom, in the end, his connection with our family brought so much more sorrow than happiness.”

Intolerable, monstrous, repugnant, strange little creature, an affront to the fitness of things. These strike me as words one would reserve for one’s bitterest enemy, not a person who gave of his financial resources, time and love to the person writing those words. In reading your book, it becomes apparent that George and Michael are the two of the five boys with whom Barrie is most closely connected. Do you think that Peter feels this way toward Barrie out of some jealousy that he was not one of the “favorites” as well as having to bear the brunt of being the namesake for the “real” Peter Pan? In your opinion, does he see Barrie as an intolerable, monstrous, repugnant and strange little creature due to his personal appearance or is he commenting on Barrie’s character? If the former, can he be so shallow as that? If the latter, what is he aiming at, as he otherwise disavows any knowledge of inappropriate behavior between Barrie and his brothers? To claim to not want to be thought unmindful of the “benefits and kindnesses of the aforesaid strange little creature” seems little in return for a lifetime of love and devotion on the part of Barrie.

Had Syliva lived, do you think they would have eventually married? Was Sylvia “in love” with J.M. Barrie?

AB: I understand your confusion, but you must remember that Peter was writing for family eyes only – primarily Jack’s and Nico’s – and most certainly would not have given such a public judgement about Barrie. I don’t think Peter was remotely jealous of either George or Michael, and although he hated the teasing he endured from his namesake, I don’t think he unduly resented Barrie. I can sort of see from Jack’s POV there was something repugnant out the idea of Barrie “replacing” his glorious father and marrying (= sharing the same bed as) his mother. However grateful Peter and Jack were to Uncle Jim, the idea of the impotent Barrie trying to make love to their mother must have made their flesh crawl......
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