Arthur Llewelyn Davies
|Arthur Llewelyn Davies|
Davies in 1890
February 20, 1863|
|Died||19 April 1907
|Known for||father of "Peter Pan"|
Arthur Llewelyn Davies (20 February 1863–19 April 1907) was a respected barrister, but is best known as the father of the boys who served as the inspiration for Peter Pan and the other children of J. M. Barrie's stories of Neverland. Although he lived to see his sons immortalised by their dramatic namesakes on stage, his death in middle age left his family in the care of the playwright who had already challenged his place in their affections.
Davies was the second son of the Reverend John Llewelyn Davies, Vicar of Kirkby Lonsdale. He attended Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was briefly a Master at Eton College, but left that position to practice law. His sister was suffragist Margaret Llewelyn Davies.
He met the relatively "bohemian" Sylvia du Maurier (daughter of famed cartoonist George du Maurier and sister of future actor Gerald du Maurier) at a dinner party in 1889 and they became engaged shortly thereafter. He married her in 1892, and they had five children, all boys: George (1893–1915), Jack (1894–1959), Peter (1897–1960), Michael (1900–1921), and Nicholas (1903–1980).
In 1897, his pre-school sons George and Jack became friends with Barrie, whom they met during outings in Kensington Gardens with their nurse Mary Hodgson and their infant brother Peter. Davies and his wife Sylvia met Barrie and his wife Mary at a New Year's Eve dinner party that year, and she took up a close friendship with the writer as well. Although Davies did not encourage the ongoing friendship of his wife and sons with Barrie, and did not share their fondness for him, he did little to stand in the way of it. He permitted Barrie to spend considerable time at the Davies home, and for his family to visit with the Barries – who were childless – at their country cottage. During one of the holidays the families spent together, Barrie took a series of photographs of the boys' adventures, which he compiled into a photo book titled The Boy Castaways; Barrie gave one of the two copies printed to Davies, who misplaced his copy on a train.
Barrie's novel The Little White Bird, which featured episodes about a boy ranging up to his son George's age, whose mother resembled Sylvia, both befriended by a thinly disguised version of Barrie, was published in 1901. Barrie's play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, which the playwright repeatedly said was inspired by Davies' boys, debuted in December 1904. The chapters of The Little White Bird featuring Peter Pan were republished in 1906 as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with the dedication "To Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies and their boys (my boys)".
In 1904, the year when Barrie's play debuted, Davies moved with his family out of London when they purchased Egerton House, an Elizabethan mansion house in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. In 1906, several months after the publication of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Davies discovered a growth in his cheek which turned out to be a malignant sarcoma. He had two operations, which removed much of his upper jaw, palate, and cheekbone, and the tear duct on that side. This left him disfigured and unable to talk, even with an artificial jaw insert, but failed to remove all of the cancer and left him in considerable pain. Barrie, who had become rather wealthy from his books and plays, paid for Davies' medical care, and became a regular companion at his bedside, especially in his final months. During this time, Davies described Barrie in a letter to his son Peter as "a very good friend to all of us". Family accounts differ on just how close the two actually became. Davies died at Egerton on 19 April 1907, at the age of 44.
He did not appear in the 2004 film Finding Neverland about Sylvia and Barrie's relationship and the writing of Peter Pan. In the film, he was said to have already died when Barrie entered the family's life, but in fact was alive for most the events depicted. Removing him from the events of the movie simplified the plot, and avoided the subject of Barrie's impact on the Davies' marriage.
- "Davies, Arthur Llewelyn (DVS881AL)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Birkin, Andrew, J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys.
- Chaney, Lisa. Hide-and-Seek with Angels - A Life of J. M. Barrie, London: Arrow Books, 2005
- Hastie, Scott (1999). Berkhamsted: an Illustrated History. King's Langley: Alpine Press. p. 63. ISBN 0-9528631-1-1.