Q & A With Andrew Birkin ~ Printable Version

Author of J.M. BARRIE AND THE LOST BOYS

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Q & A With Andrew Birkin ~ Printable Version

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Oct 05, 2004 6:50 pm

Here is the transcript of our Q & A with Andrew Birkin without our discussion. You can use the print feature to print out your copy. Thanks for the great idea!

In response to our request to answer questions from our ONBC readers we sent the following questions to Andrew Birkin. He has very generously taken the time to answer! From Mr. Birkin, “I do hope some of the above answers a few questions. Most of Nico’s long letters to me are slowly going up on the website, as and when I get the time to continue transcribing them, as well as a long Q&A session Nico had with the cast back in 1976.” Liz and I would encourage you to visit this beautiful website to learn more about J.M. Barrie. http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/index.html

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!



1. What drew him to this subject and did his feelings about Barrie change as he did the research?

AB: Back in 1975, when I was working on Peter Pan with Mia, I had no children of my own, but had regularly adopted other people's - hers included - i.e. all the fun without any of the responsibility. My close friend David (now Lord) Puttnam and I had worked on several film projects, and I had become close friends with his 4 year-old son Sacha (Alexander) - as indeed we still are. At the front of my book you'll find a quote from Sacha, then aged 11: "You're old, but you're not grown-up. You're one of us" - which pretty much sums me up. When I read the dedication to Peter Pan, I felt a strong empathy with Barrie, who clearly had a similar relationship with children. In 1977 I had my first son, David, followed by Anno in 1980 and Ned in 1985, and the happiest days of my life were spent having adventures with them.

Before meeting Nico, I was uncertain as to whether Barrie's relationship with the Davies Boys was entirely platonic - I imagined that it was, since my own relationship with Sacha was (happily) unaccompanied by any "stirrings in the undertgrowth" - to use Nico's immortal phrase - but the more I read about him - and the more people I met who had known him - the more I became convinced of his own essential innocence. Reading his notebooks (which I'm gradually positing on the Barrie site) vastly expanded my intimacy with his mind, and of course my opinion of him complexified the more I read, particularly with regard to his humour.


2. Was there material he wishes he could have included in the book but was prevented because of the length restriction?

AB: I had to cut about 10 per cent from my original manuscript, which still exists in galley form somewhere. When Yale proposed republishing the book, they offered me the chance of reinstating some of this material. But sicne one of my favourite maxims (I forget who said it, someone like James Joyce) has always been "if I'd had longer, I would have written it shorter", I decided to leave the book more or less as it was, and to post all the additional material on the Barrie website. Perhaps one day I will dig out those old galleys and reinstate some of the cut sequences in an online version of the book, but a second volume is really beyond my sphere, since it would necessarily involve Cynthia Asquith and her relationship with Barrie. Janet Dunbar covered this with some success in her 1970 biography "J M Barrie: The Man Behind the Image", but I have always felt that the Barrie/Asquith story was somewhat of an anti-climax - a tarnished rerun of his entangelment with the Llewelyn Davieses.


3. Let me begin not with a question so much as a “thank you” for your approach to the book, Mr. Birkin: “a love story”/ “a documentary” letting contemporary words speak for themselves. Biographers often take a world view/ a point of view from their own times and impose it back upon the subject of their writings. Had Mr. Birkin imposed a view of Barrie as some sort of sexual cripple that would have been a book I would have not wanted to read let alone enjoy! How refreshing to discover JMB from those who knew and loved him best with their own words from that time! The reader is allowed to discover who Barrie was and not who an author thought he should be. Andrew P. age 11 wrote: “you’re old but you’re not grown up. You’re on of us!” and Nico L. Davies wrote, “He was an innocent; which is why he could write Peter Pan.” Thank you, Mr. Birkin, for your daring and honest approach to such a brilliant complex creative individual whom I only knew through his own words, through Peter Pan!

Could Mr. Birkin tell us HOW he came to present J.M. Barrie’s life in this way rather than in a more conventional way? Thank you so much for contributing to our discussion of your book in this way.



AB: As you will know from my various introductions to the book, I wrote the tele-vision scripts first, without any conscious thought of writing a biography. Although the TV scripts (readable on the Barrie website) stuck fairly close to the facts as I then knew them, I still took a certain amount of dramatic licence, and felt I owed it to Nico (and Barrie) to give the “true” documentary account as well. Having spent two years researching the story for the TV, I more or less constructed the biography from memory, and had to write the whole thing in 12 weeks... the reason being that I’d signed a contract with the publishers giving me 9 months, but 6 of those months had been spent on the set/cutting rooms of the TV production as I didn’t trust the director not to c**k things up! I actually find time-pressure a great help – it prevents dithering, and you simply have no alternative but to write off the cuff, i.e. from the heart. I never stopped to think how a biography OUGHT to be written – I just wrote it for me!
4. 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....

5. 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!

6. I was struck by the passage from one of JMB’s notebooks which you quote on page 26 of the paperback version of your book, which relates Barrie’s truer feelings about the death of his future brother-in-law; it is, to my mind a clear eyed (if not profoundly cynical) view of God’s love, totally devoid of any of JMB’s famed sentimentality. When all is said and done, what were JMB’s religious beliefs? How did they change in the course of his life?

AB: I asked Nico this very question, and he said he didn’t think Barrie had any orthodox religious beliefs whatsoever (whereas he – Nico – was a regular church-goer, albeit a doubting one). On the other hand I don’t think Barrie was an atheist in the strict sense... probably an agnostic like so many of us. On his deathbed, Napoleon came close to articulating my own beliefs, and perhaps Barrie’s too:

“As a child I felt the need to believe in God, and I believed. But as soon as I began to know, to reason, my faith became jarred and uncertain. Perhaps one day I shall regain blind faith - please God I may! I certainly don't resist faith, I demand nothing better. I imagine that it must give a great and true happiness. The absence of religious faith has never influenced me in any way whatever – and yet I have never doubted God. For if my reason does not suffice to understand Him, yet my inner feeling accepts him. And my nerves are in sympathy with that feeling. Wanting to be an atheist does not necessarily make us one.”


7. Jackie Wullschlager, in her 1995 book, Inventing Wonderland, goes to great lengths to document what she describes as an undercurrent of homosexuality and latent pedophilia, which run throughout JMB’s life and writings. She describes scenes in his books which ooze sexual fantasies and discusses in detail what she sees as sexually symbolic figures, such as Hook, (who is) characterized by phallic symbolism from the start. Her attitude toward JMB is, I think, superior and condescending, yet I daresay that in another hundred years we will still be reading JMB, but will have no idea who Jackie Wullschlager is. At any rate, what are your thoughts on the supposed undercurrent of homosexuality or latent pedophilia in JMB’s works and/or in his personal life?

AB: When I first mentioned "paedophilia" to Nico back in 1975, he barely knew what the word meant, and – in its sexual sense – wholly denied that it applied to Barrie (other than in the literal Greek sense of platonic child-lover, as distinct from pederasty). Nico told a story about how his brother Peter had been at some cocktail party in the 1920s when the subject got onto pederastic authors. Like who? "Well, Sir James Barrie for one ... haven't you heard about him and his boys?" The drunken woman who cited the semi-humourous allegation had no idea who Peter was, but Peter himself found it very amusing – precisely because it was such a ridiculous idea. As Nico put it so succinctly, "I don't believe Uncle Jim ever felt any stirrings in the undergrowth for anyone, man woman or child." Barrie's problem was that he was physically impotent (Mary Ansell told Hilda Trevelyan and several others). Even Boothby – who thought Barrie’s relationship with Michael was “unhealthy” – believed Barrie was impotent, and had no sexual lust for any of the boys (you can hear him on the audio site).

But Barrie also longed to be a father, and often expressed those feelings in words that to a modern ear sound ambiguous. The most notorious example is a chapter in "The Little White Bird", often cited as evidence of Barrie's paedophilic fantasies. The chapter describes an episode in which the Narrator (aka Barrie), who yearns for a child of his own whom he fondly calls Timothy, gains Mary's (Sylvia's) permission to let her five-year-old son David (George) spend the night with him, as a treat for them both. David sleeps on a spare bed in the narrator's bedroom. I actually dramatised this sequence in The Lost Boys ...

I think he had nigh fallen asleep again when he stirred and said,
"Is it going on now?"
"What?"
"The adventure."
"Yes, David."
Perhaps this disturbed him, for by-and-by I had to inquire, "You
are not frightened, are you?"
"Am I not?" he answered politely, and I knew his hand was groping
in the darkness, so I put out mine and he held on tightly to one
finger.
"I am not frightened now," he whispered.
"And there is nothing else you want?"
"Is there not?" he again asked politely. "Are you sure there's
not?" he added.
"What can it be, David?"
"I don't take up very much room," the far-away voice said.
"Why, David," said I, sitting up, "do you want to come into my
bed?"
"Mother said I wasn't to want it unless you wanted it first," he
squeaked.
"It is what I have been wanting all the time," said I......

Taken out of context, this episode could indeed be put forward as evidence of Barrie's fantasies, repressed or otherwise – a precursor to one of Michael Jackson’s sleep-overs at Neverland ... But the narrator goes on –

... and then without more ado the little white figure rose and flung itself at
me. For the rest of the night he lay on me and across me, and
sometimes his feet were at the bottom of the bed and sometimes on
the pillow, but he always retained possession of my finger, and
occasionally he woke me to say that he was sleeping with me. I
had not a good night. I lay thinking.
Of this little boy, who, in the midst of his play while I
undressed him, had suddenly buried his head on my knees.
Of the woman who had been for him who could be sufficiently
daring.
Of David's dripping little form in the bath, and how when I
essayed to catch him he had slipped from my arms like a trout.
Of how I had stood by the open door listening to his sweet
breathing, had stood so long that I forgot his name and called
him Timothy.

If you've had children yourself, you will know the pleasures that Barrie is describing – indeed it’s one of the great joys of fatherhood, being able to kiss and cuddle and stroke your children in bed. Of course if you start feeling stirrings in the undergrowth, then you have a problem... thank God I never did!

I don’t believe that any reading The Little White Bird in full can sensibly conclude that this amounts to the Confessions of a Paedophile. Unless perhaps he’s a paedophile himself. Such was the case with Dr Morris Fraser, who first went into print with accusations of paedophila back in 1976 in a book called "The Death of Narcissus" (published by the reputable Secker & Warburg). The dust-jacket blurb states the following:

"Dr Morris Fraser, psychiatrist, sets out to study those adults who are attracted to young children, who suffer the sexual disorder known as paedophilia of which so little is known, so little understood. Dr Fraser sees the creative artist as the uniquely qualified spokesman for any psychiatric abnormality of which he may be victim. By quoting from stories such as “Alice in Wonderland”, “Peter Pan” and “Turn of the Screw”, Dr Fraser pinpoints the paedophilic symptoms, sadly confirmed by the childhoods of his subjects, who include not only Lewis Carroll, J M Barrie and Henry James, but also Hugh Walpole, George MacDonald, Thomas Mann and Charles Kingsley.”

I read the chapter on Barrie, and found it littered with factual errors, not merely clumsy (Frohman going down on the Titanic instead of the Lusitania) but also charged with the sense that many of these errors have arisen for a blatant disregard for the truth. Fraser’s thesis states that paedophiles typically fall in love with themselves at the age at which they felt abandoned in childhood – in Barrie’s case with the death of his brother and the resulting abandonment by his mother. Crippled by these early parental rejections, the “sad victims” spend the rest of their lives looking for themselves at that age in the body of another child of the same age. Thus all the objects of Barrie’s affections were six-year-old boys.... or so stated Dr Fraser. But as we know, Barrie’s relationship with the boys only intensified with age, particularly George and Michael. His last letter to George – written a few hours before George’s death on the Western Front in 1915 – also contains ambivalent lines to a modern ear: “ I do seem to be sadder to-day than ever”, wrote Barrie from his lonely eerie, “...and more and more wishing you were a girl of 21 instead of a boy, so that I could say the things to you that are now always in my heart.” Hardly paedophilic, given that George was by now a strapping soldier.
The letter continues: “For four years I have been waiting for you to become 21 & a little more, so that we could get closer & closer to each other, without any words needed. I don't have any little iota of desire for you to get military glory. I do not care a farthing for anything of the kind, but I have the one passionate desire that we may all be together again once at least. You would not mean a feather-weight more to me though' you came back a General. I just want yourself. There may be some moments when a knowledge of all you are to me will make you a little more careful, and so I can't help going on saying these things. ... I have lost all sense I ever had of war being glorious, it is just unspeakably monstrous to me now. Loving, J M B”

As his brother Peter wrote: “Surely no soldier in France or Flanders ever had more moving words from home than those in this tragic, desperately apprehensive letter. I think it well illustrates the peculiar and characteristic form which J.M.B.'s affection for George and Michael took: a dash of the paternal, a lot of the maternal, and much, too, of the lover — at this stage Sylvia's lover still imperfectly merged into the lover of her son. To criticise would be easy; yet I don't think it did, or would have done, George any harm.”

Perhaps George himself left the best evidence that his relationship with Barrie was wholly non-sexual. Shortly before leaving for the trenches in 1914, George bought two copies of The Little White Bird. One he gave to his fiancee; the other he took with him in his kit-bag. Had “inappropriate” events taken place in his childhood, is it probable that George would have chosen the book containing the infamous sleep-over chapter to give to his girl – or keep him company by candlelight in some foreign field? I asked Dr Fraser this over lunch. We’d agreed to meet after I’d written to him with my criticisms. We’d barely finished our prawn cocktails when it slowly began to dawn on me. He’d dedicated the book “For Nasreen”. Who’s Nasreen? His analyst. “Is this book by any chance all about you?” It transpired that Dr Fraser had been deported from the United States a few years earlier. Drugs? Dr Fraser shook his head and stared at his prawns. Yes, you’ve guessed.... Having sex with an underaged boy in Griffith Park!

One of the purposes of putting so many audio clips on the jmbarrie website is to let people hear the “witnesses” I interviewed back in 1976 speak for themselves. Many of them found Barrie’s intense relationship with Michael “unhealthy”, but no one believed for a minute that he’d been a paedophile in any physical, sexual sense. I would suggest skeptics listen to their evidence rather than mine and form their own conclusions.

Timothy was described as being the narrator’s dream-child in The Little White Bird. Barrie used the same words to describe Peter Pan – “a sort of dream-child of mine” – Barrie’s own idealised son. He said as much himself. “Perhaps Peter is a boy who was never born at all. A boy whom some people longed for, but who never came.” A cry from Barrie’s heart if ever there was one. But not from his balls.


8. In reading about JMB’s Last Will and Testament in the appendix to Janet Dunbar’s 1970 book, J.M. Barrie: The Man Behind the Image, I was surprised that Jack, Peter, and Nico Llewelyn-Davies received a relatively small inheritance while the bulk of his estate was left to his secretary, Cynthia Asquith. Do you know what the reason was for this? Did JMB have much contact with the three surviving boys in later years? What was the nature of his relationship with them in the later years?

AB: Cynthia Asquith fell outside my remit, but Dunbar gives a fairly detailed account of Cynthia’s insinuation into Barrie’s life. Nico wrote to me in 1976:

“I think I'll tell you now the "truth about" Cynthia Asquith, though I realise it may be unwise to write it all down.
A. Michael and I didn't take her very seriously when she first came on the scene [in 1917]. Rather fun, but "let's go out" sort of thing.
B. When Michael was drowned, she was wonderful and I vividly remember writing her a long letter of gratitude and deep affection saying that if there were EVER a moment when I could help her in ANY way etc she had only to let me know.
C. In 1922 or 3 or 4 I was at some large weekend party (life and soul of the younger batch, of course!) and was sitting next to Lady Astor (whom I liked very much) and she started slanging Cynthia, saying how she was ruining JMB, turning him into a snob etc, and that she would get all his money, taking it from my brothers and me. Which I violently pooh-poohed and said some pretty offensive things — which she enjoyed ... she always liked being answered back. (She was dead right!)
D. After I left the flat to marry Mary in June 1926, I moved naturally to another world, but used to look in quite frequently. As often as not I'd ring the bell: Frank would open the door: "How's Uncle Jim?" "Well... Lady Cynthia's been in." I knew what this meant. I'd open the door to his wonderful study — overlooking 7 bridges across the Thames — and find Uncle Jim lying prostrate on the settee. I was the only person who could get him out of these states of despair. Silence for half an hour, while I sat at his desk either reading a paper or writing, then I'd say "I see Woolley made a marvellous 75 yesterday." There would be a stir on the settee ... and soon we'd be talking cricket, and soon again all would be well. What Cynthia had been doing was crying her woes: talking of her oldest (dotty) son and her affect poverty etc etc etc, sucking all his sympathy from him — and JMB was a fantastic mass of sympathy, people came from miles away for his comfort. He reached the point of drafting a new will, but never signed it — wouldn't, in my belief, as in the cold light of remorseless reason he thought it would be wrong.
E. When Uncle Jim got really ill, and was not expected to last the night, Peter made the Greatest Mistake of his Life and telephoned her down in Devon or Cornwall. She hired a car and motored through the night. Meanwhile Peter, I and General Freyberg went on watch — 8 to 12, 12 to 4, 4 to 8 am — each of us expecting to see JMB die. Cynthia arrived towards the end of Bernard Freyberg's watch ... still alive ... got hold of surgeon Horder and solicitor Poole with the will ... Horder gave an injection, and sufficient energy was pumped into Uncle Jim so that he could put his name to the will that Poole laid before him.
F. When Peter and I heard what had happened, and that we were cut out from the will, we talked and thought and eventually went to consult a leading solicitor, Theodore Goddard. What did he advise? If, he said, we would get 1. Freyberg to state in court how unconscious JMB was etc etc, and 2. Frank Thurston to agree with the repeated manoeuvres of Cynthia (which I mentioned in D above) then we couldn't fail — in his opinion — to win the case.
G. We did get Bernard and Frank to say they would back us up; but then we each thought how horrid the whole thing was going to be, and we decided not to sue.
H. I told the above one day to Janet Dunbar (when she was writing J M Barrie: The Man Behind the Image), who listened politely but told me later she hadn't believed me. Later she called on Simon Asquith and his wife. Simon apparently fairly sozzled and sprawling, his wife extra charming and delightful. Suddenly Simon lurched to his feet, went out of the room and returned with wads of written material which he more or less flung on Janet's lap — "Here you are, take it away." This was Cynthia's diary or diaries (her first such book was published after her death — a great mistake so far as any admirer of hers (myself included!) is concerned as Cynthia would have edited 75% out) — which could never be published as they were so full of libel etc. Janet took it away and THERE was all my story word for word EXCEPT that Cynthia added that I was in the room when Horder injected JMB — presumably thereby implying that I approved. I made/asked Janet to remove this line from her book (that I was there) and she did. The unattractive Simon had apparently turned against his mother: but he doesn't turn away from all the royalties!
Believe it or not, much as I would have relished the money, the two things that broke my heart were firstly that I had no say in the reproduction of his plays — how I would have loved to be consulted in the casting and management of this play and that, all of which I knew so well and had watched so closely as JMB told the various actors what was in his mind etc etc: secondly that the relatively small amounts that were going to my daughter and others of her generation were removed. All very sad.
I've told you all this at such appalling length to save time when we meet. You had to know, and will have plenty of other things to talk about or look at. Of course one can understand Cynthia's motives and more or less sympathise with them: a mother and her children, etc. But it was a sad end to "Arthur & Sylvia Llewellyn Davies and their boys — My Boys". Never mind: I've recently been reading Cynthia's Haply I Remember and found it very delightful. Enough! Too much! But keep on asking if something occurs to you and your eyesight hasn't gone ...”

There’s a good deal more about Cynthia in Nico’s letters on the website – also listen to Elisabeth Bergner on Cynthia in the audio section.


9. I grew up watching the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan. Were any such musical productions of Peter Pan mounted during JMB’s lifetime? Can you speculate as to what JMB would have thought of such versions of his play?

AB: According to Nico, Barrie was totally unmusical, and couldn’t tell good songs from bad. As far as I know, there were no musical versions of Peter Pan in Barrie’s lifetime, apart from John Crook’s original 1904 music, which included a couple of songs (eg Wendy’s house). Being English, I’ve never seen the Mary Martin musical – or any other, come to that, apart from the ghastly Newley/Bricusse version for Mia in 1975..........


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

AB: I’m absolutely certain Sylvia was never in love with Barrie – “the best friend in the whole world” is how she described him in her Will. And what is friendship but love without its wings? It’s true that Barrie gave her an engagement ring, and maybe she would have married him precisely because he was impotent – i.e. she so loved Arthur that she could never have made physical love with another man, and therefore Barrie was a “safe” option – and a marriage would have guaranteed legal security for her boys..... But this is all supposition on my part....

11. 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......
12. When Peter wrote in “the Morgue” why did he say he destroyed so many letters because they were “too much”. I think these are the ones Barrie wrote to the boys. What did he mean by “too much”?

AB: A question to which I have never found an answer. Nico had absolutely no idea why he’d destroyed them. One can only presume that Peter, in a fit of melancholy, found the whole duet too painful for words, and simply burned the lot. One letter escaped the flames – quite by chance I found it among Barrie’s letters to Nico (which had always been in Nico’s possession) and quote on p278 – I take it to be entirely typical.

13. Who is buried in the Llewelyn-Davies grave in Hampstead? I know Arthur, Sylvia and Michael and that George’s name is on the headstone (although he is buried in Flanders), but what of Jack, Peter and Nico? Are they also buried there?

AB: Jack, Peter and Nico were all cremated, to the best of my knowledge.

14. The Yale University Press, and other sources, indicate that you are writing a screenplay for Peter Suskind’s (change u in Suskind to ü) book, Perfume, a book previously discussed by our book club. Is this true? Can you share with us any thoughts on the screenplay versus the novel or any indication on when filming might begin or who will star in the major roles?

AB: I’m afraid too big a subject to get into right now – and to some extent I’m sworn to secrecy – but it follows the book as faithfully as possible, starts shooting next Spring, and is as yet still uncast....

15. With the movie “Finding Neverland” set to open this fall, do you have any thoughts on how JMB will be portrayed? Given the obvious physical differences between the lead actor Johnny Depp and the real JMB, how do feel about the choice of actor to portray Barrie?

AB: I read the script which I thought pretty ghastly, but then I would, wouldn’t I?! Haven’t seen the film, and have no real desire to, but I wish them luck.

You might like to know that The Lost Boys will be out on VHS/DVD (American version as well as UK) at the end of this month – all profits to GOSH – so you can judge for yourselves which comes closest to the truth. More details on the Barrie website..... http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/


I do hope some of the above answers a few questions. Most of Nico’s long letters to me are slowly going up on the website, as and when I get the time to continue transcribing them, as well as a long Q&A session Nico had with the cast back in 1976.



(DITHOT Note: The following is from the website.) The rest of the notebooks will slowly follow, as and when I get a chance to edit them - along with 101 other things I'm meant to be doing, including putting on my take on Peter Pan this Christmas, hopefully at the Royal Court. "My take" amounts to Barrie's own first instinct - to have Hook played by Mrs Darling, in a play called "Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Hated Mothers" ... if you'd like to be kept updated, please join our mailing list. In answer to several inquiries, the 1978 BBC-TV The Lost Boys will be released on 27 September (VHS in PAL/NTSC; DVD in areas 1 & 2) - "However, this can be subject to change," cautions DD video. Heigh ho, t'was ever thus. Finally, Sotheby's are holding a Peter Pan auction on December 16th, which will include my entire Barrie collection. The sale will raise money for an indoor playground in the new wing of the Great Ormond Street Hospital, and my own contrribution is in memory of my son Anno. They're coming to take it away at the end of September, and the wrench will be painful. This treasure-trove has been a part of my life for the past quarter of a century, when I "bought" it off Nico (he effectively gave it to me). I've been its guardian ever since, but the time's rapidly approaching when I must finally let go of what was never really mine in the first place. But worry not - everything's been scanned, so nothing's going to disappear from view, and that's the important thing, particularly when it concerns a man who is so in danger of being misunderstood...
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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