Peter Llewelyn Davies

Peter Llewelyn Davies

infobox person
name = Peter Llewelyn Davies


caption = Davies in 1917 at age 20
birth_date = 25 February 1897
birth_place = London
death_date = 5 April 1960
death_place = London
other_names =
known_for = foster son of J. M. Barrie
occupation = publisher

Peter Llewelyn Davies MC (25 February 1897 – 5 April, 1960) was the middle of five sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, one of the Llewelyn Davies boys befriended by J. M. Barrie. Barrie publicly identified him as the source of the name for the title character in his famous play "Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up", and his public identification as the "original Peter Pan" plagued him throughout his life, which ended in suicide.

Childhood

Davies was an infant when Barrie befriended his older brothers George and Jack during outings in Kensington Gardens, with their nurse Mary Hodgson and him in a pram. Barrie's original description of Peter Pan in "The Little White Bird" (1902) was as a new-born who had escaped to Kensington Gardens. However, according to family accounts, his brothers George and Michael served as the primary models for the character as he appeared in the famed stage play (1904) and later novel (1911), as a pre-adolescent boy.

Barrie became guardian of Davies and his brothers George, Jack, Michael, and Nico following the separate deaths of their father (1907) and mother (1910). Davies, like his brothers (apart from Jack), attended Eton College.

Adulthood

Davies volunteered along with his brother George to serve in World War I, and received a commission as an officer. He was a Signal Officer in France and spent time in the trenches; at one point he was hospitalized with impetigo. He ultimately won the Military Cross, but was scarred by his wartime experience. His brother George was killed at 21 in the trenches in 1915.

In 1917, while still in the military, Davies met and began to court Vera Willoughby, a married woman in her late 30s with a daughter. He stayed with her when on leave, which scandalized Barrie and caused a rift between the two. His former nurse and mother figure Mary Hodgson disapproved strongly as well. The relationship continued at least through the end of his military service in 1919.

His brother, Michael Llewelyn Davies, drowned at the age of 20 while at Oxford University in 1921. Michael's best friend, Rupert Buxton, drowned with him, and the circumstances have since led some to speculate that they may have been lovers in a suicide pact. [http://www.worldcollectorsnet.com/news/newstories/news551.html]

Davies married Margaret Ruthven in 1931, and had three sons with her: Ruthven (b. 1933), George (b. 1935) and Peter (b. 1940). He went on to be a publisher, most notably of his cousin Daphne du Maurier's work about their grandfather, illustrator and writer George du Maurier, "The Young George du Maurier, letters 1860–1867" (1951).

He grew to dislike having his name associated with what he called "that terrible masterpiece". He was also excluded from Barrie's will — instead of his fortune going to the surviving brothers upon his death in 1937, most of it went to his secretary Cynthia Asquith, and in 1929, Barrie had given the copyright to the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London. Some have speculated that this drove Davies to drink — he eventually became an alcoholic. Davies' son Ruthven later told an interviewer:

"My father had mixed feelings about the whole business of Peter Pan. He accepted that Barrie considered that he was the inspiration for Peter Pan and it was only reasonable that my father should inherit everything from Barrie. That was my father's expectation. It would have recompensed him for the notoriety he had experienced since being linked with Peter Pan — something he hated."

Death

On 5 April 1960, after lingering at the bar of the Royal Court Hotel, 63-year-old Davies walked to nearby Sloane Square and threw himself under a train as it was pulling into the station. A coroner's jury ruled he had killed himself "while the balance of his mind was disturbed". At the time of his suicide, he had been editing family papers and letters, assembling them into a collection he called the "Morgue". He had more or less reached the documents having to do with his brother Michael's possible suicide. Other possible contributing factors in his suicide were ill health (he was suffering from emphysema), as well as the knowledge that his wife and all three of their sons had inherited the usually fatal Huntington's disease. Newspaper reports of his death referred to him in their headlines as "Peter Pan".

Portrayals

In the 1978 BBC mini-series "The Lost Boys", he was portrayed at various ages by Jean-Benoit Louveaux, Matthew Blakstad, Dominic Heath, and Tom Kelly.

In the 2004 film "Finding Neverland" he was portrayed as a child by Freddie Highmore; Highmore won a Screen Actors Guild award nomination for his performance.

References

* Edwards, David (October 28, 2004). [http://www.youngstarnews.com/news/041028-001-ppan.htm The Tragic True Story Behind Peter Pan] . "Mirror"
* Birkin, Andrew: "J M Barrie & the Lost Boys" (Yale University Press, 2003)

External links

* [http://jmbarrie.co.uk/ Website with information on Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family]


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