Captivated: J M Barrie, the du Mauriers & the Dark Side of Never Never Land by Piers Dudgeon - review by Catherine Peters

Catherine Peters

‘The Spark I Got From You’

Captivated: J M Barrie, the du Mauriers & the Dark Side of Never Never Land


Chatto & Windus xxpp £18.99

J M Barrie’s relationship with the Llewellyn Davies family has been much discussed since Andrew Birkin dramatised the story in his television trilogy The Lost Boys in 1978. It is now generally accepted that the feted author of Peter Pan had a distinctly creepy side to him. The way in which he deliberately stalked the beautiful Llewellyn Davies children in Kensington Gardens, the ‘accident’ of his meeting with their mother, which Piers Dudgeon plausibly suggests was deliberately engineered, and anecdotes of his friendships with other small children arouse the suspicions of our abuse-conscious times. He charmed the Davies boys and their mother (though not their father), wormed his way ever more securely into the household, and, after the untimely deaths first of their father and then their mother, took summary charge of the boys, deviously appointing himself their guardian over the heads of their relatives. It is an uncomfortable story of a sad man, stunted both physically and emotionally by the effects of his own distressing early years, who made use of children as a gateway to the magic world of childhood which he had never really experienced in his own life, persuading himself that he was giving as much as he was taking.

Even the most hostile witnesses agree that no physical sexual abuse took place: Barrie probably never had any sexual experience of any sort. Emotional abuse, however, was another matter. Barrie’s intense focus on ‘The One’, first George and then Michael, the eldest and the fourth of the five Llewellyn Davies

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