May Byron

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May Byron
BornMary Clarissa Gillington
1861 (1861)
Audlem, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Died5 November 1936(1936-11-05) (aged 74–75)
Pen nameMay Byron, Mary Clarissa Gillington, Maurice Clare
OccupationPoet, biographer, cookbook author, children's author
Years active1892–1925
RelativesAlice E. Gillington (sister)

Mary Clarissa "May" Byron (née Gillington; 1861 – 5 November 1936) was a British writer and poet, best known for her abridgements of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan books. She published under the names May Byron, M.C. Gillington and Maurice Clare. Byron specialised in writing biographies of great artists, before going on to rewrite some of J. M. Barrie's works for younger readers and to write cookbooks.


Brookwood asylum, where John M. Gillington was chaplain
The Brookwood asylum, where Byron's father was chaplain

She was born Mary Clarissa Gillington in 1861 at Audlem, Cheshire, the first of four children of John Maurice Gillington and Sarah Dumville Gillington. She was soon joined by a younger sister, Alice Elizabeth, and two younger brothers, George William and John Louis. Her Dublin-born father was an aspiring clergyman,[1] then working as a clerk, whilst her mother born in Huyton, Lancashire. The family moved to Bisley, Surrey when her father found work as a chaplain at the Brookwood Hospital, the local asylum.[2]

In 1892, Mary ("May") and her sister published a book of poems, dedicated to their parents. It included some poems that they had published previously in other books.[3] On 27 August 1892, Gillington married George Frederick Byron, son of Henry James Byron and went on to have two children with him, James George Byron in 1894 and Charles Byron in 1897.[4]

She went on to write a series of biographies, describing the day-to-day lives of various artists. Her series Days with the Great Composers, Days with the Great Authors, Days with the Great Poets and Days with Victorian Poets were published under a number of different pen names: her birth name, M. C. Gillington; her married name, May Byron; and her pseudonym, Maurice Clare.[5]

May Byron is best known for her authorised abridgements of the Peter Pan novels.[6] Her original abridgement in 1915 was titled "Peter Pan and Wendy", the first to use that form. She also re-wrote the J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan novels "for little readers" or "for the nursery".[7]


May Byron's biographies were generally well-received, though some critics could not tell if they were first-hand or fiction based on research.[8] The books went on to inspire others, and her biography A Day with Shakespeare (written under the pseudonym "Maurice Clare") was particularly influential for James Joyce in writing Ulysses.[5]

Byron's poetry was published in a number of newspapers, with one critic suggesting that her poetry has a "wonderful power". He goes on to say that her poem At Bay is "a cry not from the heart of a woman, but from the heart of Woman".[9] The Ballad of London River For Massed School Singing was popular with schools in the London area and became the "official song" for a number of schools.[6]

Her retellings of the Peter Pan books were targeted at parents who wished to read to their young children or allow their children their own copies of books. They were written in simple English, with large type and many colourful illustrations.[7]

In total, May Byron wrote over 100 books, in many different areas.[6] She also had her poems published in newspapers.

Published books[edit]



  • The garden of love
  • The golden garden of the poets
  • Poems (with A.E. Gillington)
  • The Wind on the heath
  • Christmas bells

Cook books[edit]

  • May Byron's Pudding Book
  • May Byron's Rations Book
  • May Byron's Vegetable Book
  • May Byron's Jam Book
  • May Byron's Cake Book
  • May Byron's How-To-Save Cookery Book
  • Jams and Jellies
  • Pot-Luck
  • Simple Fare for Sick Folk
  • Puddings, pastries, and sweet dishes

Children's books[edit]

  • The Little wee Bear and goldenhair
  • The Little Brown Rooster
  • The Little Yellow Duckling
  • The Little Tan Terrier
  • The Little Small Red Hen
  • Cat's Cradle: A Picture-book for Little Folk; cats by Louis Wain; rhymes by May Byron
  • Jack-a-Dandy
  • J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy: Retold for little people (authorised abridgement)
  • J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens: Retold for little people (authorised abridgement)


  1. ^ Gillington, Alice E.; Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1895). "A Victorian Anthology, 1837 – 1895": 690.
  2. ^ Yates, Michael; Roud, Steve (1 January 2006). "Alice E. Gillington: Dweller on the Roughs". EFDSS Folk Music Journal. 9 (1): 72–94. ISSN 0531-9684. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  3. ^ Gillington, Mary Clarissa (1982). Poems. London: Elliot Stock.
  4. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. 1 (107 ed.). Wilmington, Delaware USA: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd. p. 631.
  5. ^ a b Martin, Timothy (2009). Joyce and Wagner : a study of influence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 230. ISBN 0521119715.
  6. ^ a b c Stewart, Mary (24 September 2009). "Keeper of the Lost Ark". Daily Mail. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Peter Pan". Evening Post. 11 July 1925. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  8. ^ Flynn, Timothy S. (2009). Charles François Gounod : a research and information guide. New York: Routledge. p. 97. ISBN 0415973511.
  9. ^ "At Bay". Poverty Bay Herald. 22 February 1913. Retrieved 30 October 2012.

External links[edit]