Peter Pan author’s images released 100 years after the death of original ‘lost boy’ George Llewelyn Davies
100 years after the death of the boy who inspired the character of George Darling in JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in association with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity has released images from the JM Barrie collection.
These include the last letter written to Barrie by George Llewelyn Davies from the First World War trenches the day before his death at the age of 21.
There will also be a performance of an adaptation of Peter Pan in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 15 May to 14 June. Remembering George and a generation of ‘lost boys’, the play will open on the Western Front during the First World War.
George was born on 20 July 1893 and first met JM Barrie when he was just four years old in Kensington Gardens. The author became primary guardian of the boys in 1910 when George was 17 years old following the death of his father (Arthur) on 19 April 1907 and his mother (Sylvia) on 27 August 1910.
George was educated at Eton College, and then Trinity College Cambridge where he joined the Amateur Dramatic Club. He enrolled for the First World War in 1914, along with his uncle Guy du Maurier, and received commission as a second lieutenant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps before serving in Flanders. Tragically on 15 March 1915, George died of a gunshot wound to the head. He was just 21 years old.
George’s connection to the works of JM Barrie goes back to 1901, when the author printed two copies of a photo essay book of his adventures with the Davies boys, The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island. The following year he published another novel called The Little White Bird. In a story-within-a-story, the narrator tells “David” (George Llewelyn Davies) about Peter Pan, a seven-day-old boy who flies away from his parents to live with fairies.
The story goes that all children start out as birds but soon forget how to fly. Peter eventually flies home and discovers that his mother is holding a new baby and has forgotten him. So popular was the story that readers begged Barrie to give them more of the new character, Peter Pan, and when Barrie begins writing the play in 1903, Peter Pan was given the same age as George: 10 years old.
J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, directed by Timothy Sheader, takes place at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 15 May to 14 June 2015. Performances are Tuesday to Sunday (7.45pm); matinees Thursday, Saturday; Sunday (2.15pm). Recommended for ages 9+. By arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. For more information contact the Box Office on: 0844 826 4242 or visit the website at www.openairtheatre.com.
Scroll down to see a transcript of the final letter sent from George Llewelyn Davies to JM Barrie on 14 March 1915, the day before he was killed in action.
Dear Uncle Jim,
I have just got your letter about Uncle Guy. You say it hasn’t made you think any more about the danger I am in. But I know it has. Do try not to let it. I take every care of myself that can decently be taken. And if I am going to stop a bullet, why should it be with a vital place? But arguments aren’t any good. Keep your head up Uncle Jim, and remember how good an experience like this is for a chap who’s been very idle before. Lord, I shall be proud when I am home again, & talking to you about all this. That old dinner at the Savoy will be pretty grand.
It is very bad about Uncle Guy. I wonder how he was killed. As he was a colonel, I imagine his battalion was doing an attack. Poor Aunt Gwen. This war is a dreadful show.
The ground is drying up now, & the weather far better. Soon the Spring will be on us, & the birds nesting right up in the firing line. Cats are the only other things left there. I wonder what Spring will bring to us in this part of the line. Something a little different from the forty-eight hours’ routine in the trenches, I daresay.
There have already been doings in various parts of the line. I would rather be George Davies than Sir John French just now. He must have got some hard decisions in front of him.
Well let’s hope for a good change in the next month.
Meanwhile, dear Uncle Jim, you must carry on with your job of keeping up your courage. I will write every time I come out of action. We go up to the trenches in a few days again.
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