P. L. Travers
|P. L. Travers|
Pamela Lyndon Travers, appearing in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream
|Born||Helen Lyndon Goff
9 August 1899
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia
|Died||23 April 1996
|Resting place||St Mary the Virgin's Church, Twickenham, England|
|Occupation||Writer, actress, journalist|
|Children||1 adopted son|
Pamela Lyndon Travers OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff; 9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996) was an Australian-born novelist, actress and journalist. In 1924 she emigrated to England where she wrote under the pen name P. L. Travers. In 1933 she began writing her series of children's novels about the mystical and magical English nanny Mary Poppins. Her popular books have been adapted many times, including the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and the Broadway musical originally produced in London's West End.
Early life 
Helen Lyndon Goff (she was known within her family as Lyndon) was born in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, the daughter of an unsuccessful bank manager (later demoted to bank clerk) named Travers Robert Goff, who was of Irish background but born in Deptford, south London, England. Her mother was Margaret Agnes née Morehead, the sister of Boyd Dunlop Morehead, who was Premier of Queensland 1888-1890. Travers Goff's job took the family to Allora in 1905, where he died of influenza two years later, aged only 43. Following this, Lyndon Goff and her mother and sisters moved to Bowral, New South Wales in 1907, and lived there until 1917. She boarded at Normanhurst Girls School in Sydney during World War I.
Lyndon Goff began publishing her poems while still a teenager and wrote for The Bulletin and Triad while also gaining a reputation as an actress; she soon adopted the stage name "Pamela Lyndon Travers". She toured Australia and New Zealand with a Shakespearean touring company before leaving for England in 1924. There she dedicated herself to writing under the pen name P. L. Travers. In 1931, she moved out of a rented flat in London that she shared with her friend Madge Burnand, and the two set up home together in a thatched Sussex cottage. It was here, in the winter of 1933, that she began to write Mary Poppins.
Travers greatly admired and emulated J. M. Barrie, the author of the novel Peter Pan, which bears many structural resemblances to the Mary Poppins series. Indeed, Travers' first publisher was Peter Llewelyn Davies, Barrie's adopted son and widely regarded as the model for Peter Pan.
In 1925 while in Ireland, Travers met the poet George William Russell (who wrote under the name "Æ") who, as editor of The Irish Statesman, accepted some of her poems for publication. Through Russell, Travers met W. B. Yeats, Oliver St. John Gogarty, and other Irish poets who fostered her interest in and knowledge of world mythology. She had studied the Gurdjieff System under Jane Heap and in March 1936, with the help of Jessie Orage, she met the mystic George Gurdjieff, who would have a great effect on her, as well as on several other literary figures.
Mary Poppins 
While appearing as a guest on BBC Radio 4's radio program Desert Island Discs in May 1977, Travers revealed that the name ‘M Poppins’ originates from childhood stories that she contrived for her sisters, and that she was still in possession of a book from that age with this name inscribed within. 
Published in London in 1934, Mary Poppins was Travers' first literary success. Sequels followed (the last in 1988), as well as a collection of other novels, poetry collections and works of non-fiction.
During World War II, she lived in Manhattan where she worked for the British Ministry of Information; and that was where Roy Disney first contacted her about selling the Mary Poppins character to the Disney studio for film use. After the war, she became Writer-in-Residence at Radcliffe Hall, Harvard University and Smith Hall. She returned to England, making only one brief visit to Sydney in 1960 while on her way to Japan to study Zen mysticism. However, in the early 1970s, flush with more royalties from the Mary Poppins film, Travers spent about two years with the native American Hopi Indian reservations on some personal research.
Disney version 
The Disney musical adaptation was released in 1964. Primarily based on the first novel in what was then a sequence of four books, it also lifted elements from the sequel Mary Poppins Comes Back. Although Travers was an adviser to the production, she disapproved of the dilution of the harsher aspects of Mary Poppins's character, felt ambivalent about the music, and so hated the use of animation that she ruled out any further adaptations of the later Mary Poppins novels. At the film's star-studded premiere (to which she was not invited, but had to ask Walt Disney for permission to attend), she reportedly approached Disney and told him that the animated sequence had to go. Disney responded by walking away, saying as he did, "Pamela, the ship has sailed". Enraged at what she considered shabby treatment at Disney's hands, Travers would never again agree to another Poppins/Disney adaptation, though Disney made several attempts to persuade her to change her mind.
So fervent was Travers' dislike of the Disney adaptation, and of the way she had been treated during the production, that well into her 90s, when she was approached by producer Cameron Mackintosh to do the stage musical, she acquiesced upon the condition that only English-born writers (and specifically NO Americans) and no one from the film production were to be directly involved with the creative process of the stage musical. This specifically excluded the Sherman Brothers from writing additional songs for the production, even though they were still very prolific. However, original songs and other aspects from the 1964 film were allowed to be incorporated into the production. These points were stipulated in her last will and testament.
Personal life 
Although she never married, she had romantic relationships with both men and women. Her biographer Valerie Lawson writes that she probably had a sexual relationship with Madge Burnand, and certainly one with Jessie Orage.
At the age of 40 Travers adopted a baby boy from Ireland named Camillus Hone. He was one of seven grandchildren of Joseph and Vera Hone, Joseph being W. B. Yeats' first biographer. Camillus was one of twins, but Travers refused to take his twin brother Anthony or any of their other siblings. She selected Camillus based on advice from her astrologer. Anthony remained with his grandparents. Neither boy was aware of the other twin's existence until the age of 17, when Anthony appeared unannounced at Travers' London home.
Honours and death 
Travers was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1977. She lived into advanced old age but her health was declining towards the end of her life. She died in London in 1996 aged 96, reportedly caused by epileptic seizure delirium.
Her adopted son Camillus Travers Hone died in London in November 2011.
- Mary Poppins, London: Gerald Howe, 1934
- Mary Poppins Comes Back, London: L. Dickson & Thompson Ltd., 1935
- I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, London: Peter Davies, 1941
- Aunt Sass, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941
- Ah Wong, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943
- Mary Poppins Opens the Door, London: Peter Davies, 1944
- Johnny Delaney, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1944
- Mary Poppins in the Park, London: Peter Davies, 1952
- Gingerbread Shop (1952)
- Mr. Wigg's Birthday Party (1952)
- The Magic Compass (1953)
- Mary Poppins From A-Z, London: Collins, 1963
- The Fox at the Manger, London: Collins, 1963
- Friend Monkey, London: Collins, 1972
- Mary Poppins in the Kitchen, New York & London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975
- Two Pairs of Shoes, New York: Viking Press, 1980
- Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane, London: Collins, 1982
- Mary Poppins and the House Next Door, New York: Delacorte Press, 1989
- Stories from Mary Poppins (1952)
- Moscow Excursion, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1934
- About the Sleeping Beauty, London: Collins, 1975
- What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story (1989)
Books on P. L. Travers 
- P.L. Travers. Patricia Demers, Twayne Publishers, 1991, 141 p.
- Out of the Sky She Came: The Life of P.L. Travers, Creator of Mary Poppins Valerie Lawson 1999 ISBN 0-7336-1072-2
- A Lively Oracle: a Centennial Celebration of P. L. Travers, Creator of Mary Poppins. Ellen Dooling Draper and Jenny Koralek, editors. (New York: Larson Publications, 1999).
- Mary Poppins She Wrote. Lawson,V., Aurum Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84513-126-6
- Picardie, Justine (28 October 2008). "Was P L Travers the real Mary Poppins?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- Lawson, Valerie (1999). Out of the Sky She Came. Hatchette Australia.
- Lawson, Valerie (2006). Mary Poppins, she wrote. Simon & Schuster. p. 185. ISBN 0-7432-9816-0.
- Roy Plomley (May 21, 1977). "Desert Island Discs - P L Travers". http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4.
- Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature (2005) Bernice E. Cullinan, Diane Goetz Person. Continuum International Publishing Group. p.784 ISBN 9780826417787 Retrieved: Nov 2012
- Jodie Minus, "There's something about Mary", The Weekend Australian, 10-11 April 2004. p.R6
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- P. L. Travers at Find a Grave
- Edwina Burness, Jerry Griswold (Winter 1982). "P. L. Travers, The Art of Fiction No. 63". The Paris Review.
- Gurdjieff by P.L. Travers, from Man, Myth and Magic: Encyclopedia of the Supernatural 12 vol., (London: Purnell, 1970–1971) reprinted on the International Gurdjieff Review web site.
- Finding aid to Papers of P. L. Travers in State Library of New South Wales (pdf file).
- Becoming Mary Poppins: P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the making of a myth. (Caitlin Flanagan, The New Yorker, 12 December 2005)
- Secret Life of a Letter to the Editor, (Valerie Lawson, Columbia Journalism Review, February 2006)[dead link]
-  Mark Bostridge on P.L. Travers and Mary Poppins