An album is believed to have been compiled by J.M. Barrie in memory of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, his close friend and mother of the children who are said to have inspired Peter Pan and the Lost Boys of Neverland will be offered on 28 January 2015 (Lot 270, with an estimate of £2500-3500).
Sylvia Jocelyn Llewelyn Davies, 1866-1910, née Sylvia Du Maurier, was the daughter of George Du Maurier and the aunt of the novelist Daphne Du Maurier. She married Arthur Llewelyn Davies in 1892 and the couple had five sons: George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nicholas (Nico). Sylvia Llewelyn Davies is best known for being the 'mother of Peter Pan'. The entire family can be seen as character models for Peter Pan, the ‘Lost Boys’ and the Darling family.
In 1898, J.M. Barrie attended a dinner party, where he happened to be seated next to Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. During the course of the evening, Barrie learnt that Sylvia was the daughter of George Du Maurier and he confessed to her that his dog, Porthos, was named after the St Bernard in Du Maurier's play, Peter Ibbetson. In turn, Sylvia told Barrie that one of her sons, Peter, was named after the play's eponymous hero. Before long, Barrie realised that he had already encountered the Llewelyn Davies children whilst walking his dog in Kensington Gardens, and that Peter was a small boy he had noticed frequently, dressed in a red velvet tam o'shanter.
Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and Barrie formed a close friendship. Arthur Llewelyn Davies died in 1906 and Barrie supported Sylvia both emotionally and financially. Barrie even suggested later that he had been engaged to Sylvia, but this claim was doubted by the Llewelyn Davies children. Tragedy struck the family again in 1910, when Sylvia died of cancer. Before her death, Sylvia appointed guardians to care for the children, including her mother and J.M. Barrie.
Therefore, in 1910, Barrie began to provide care for five orphaned boys, whilst working on Peter and Wendy, his sequel to Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. As Andrew Birkin writes, Barrie was a well-established household name by now, and "...the bizarre story of 'Barrie and his Lost Boys', and their inevitable parallel with Peter Pan, made excellent fodder for society gossip and speculation." Although Barrie told the boys that, "I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together…", it was Peter Llewelyn Davies who carried the misfortune of the name. Peter was teased mercilessly during his schooldays at Eton for being 'the real Peter Pan', and later dubbed Barrie's work 'that terrible masterpiece'.
Barrie and others had taken various photographs of the family - a large collection of which was sold by Sotheby's in 2012. It also seems that Barrie made several copies of a memorial album for Sylvia Llewelyn Davies following her death, which were issued to members of the family. An album held by the National Portrait Gallery in London is almost identical to the copy for sale, apart from an inscription from Barrie to the recipient. The National Portrait Gallery's copy has an accompanying letter, in which Barrie mentions that he made several copies of the album for friends and family members. It is also known that the photographer Lizzie Caswall Smith made various sepi-toned platinotype copies of the Llewelyn Davies family photographs, and it is Smith's stamp which features on the final page of both this album, and in the copy belonging to the National Portrait Gallery.
Unlike the copy in the National Portrait Gallery, the album for sale does not carry an inscription from Barrie. However, provenance could possibly be attributed to Arthur Llewelyn Davies’s brother and sister-in-law, Crompton and Moya Llewelyn Davies. Accompanying the album are two documents (neither referencing the album): a letter from Bulmer's Cider Makers, dated 1911, thanking Crompton for help he has offered to 'the widow', whose identity is unknown, and a cheque from the National Bank Limited, dated 1911, signed by Moya Llewelyn Davies. Crompton and Moya Llewelyn Davies (née O'Connor) are notable in their own right. Whilst Crompton acted as an election agent for David Lloyd George, Moya was the daughter of an Irish member of parliament and had family links to the 1798 Irish Rebellion. The couple were friends with George Bernard Shaw and Sir John Lavery, amongst others. In 1921, Moya was gaoled for her involvement in Irish republican affairs and is rumoured to have had an illicit relationship with Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins.
Copies of photographs and drawings in the album include: The ‘memorial album’ title plate, depicting Grove House – the Du Maurier family home in Hamstead, with the photographed signatures ‘Sylvia Llewelyn Davies’ and Sylvia Du Maurier’; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies drawn by George Du Maurier, c.1885; Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies holding Peter as a baby, 1897; Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies seated, 1897; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies by a window, 1898; Close-up photograph of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, August 1898; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies with Peter on the beach, 1899; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies holding Peter, August 1899; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies by Charles Furse, c.1901; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies with George Llewelyn Davies, July 1901; Family dining outdoors, 1901; Various photographs taken at L’Hostellerie de Guillaume le Conquérant, Dives, France, April 1905; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies playing tennis at Cudlow House, Rustington, 1906; Sylvia Llewelyn Davies fishing in the River Dart near Postbridge, September 1909 (thought to be the last known photograph of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies; and others.
Birkin, Andrew. J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys… New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003