P. L. Travers

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P. L. Travers
PL Travers.jpg
Pamela Lyndon Travers, appearing in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream
BornHelen Lyndon Goff
(1899-08-09)9 August 1899
Maryborough, Colony of Queensland
Died23 April 1996(1996-04-23) (aged 96)
London, England
Resting placeSt Mary the Virgin's Church, Twickenham, England
OccupationWriter, actress, journalist
NationalityBritish
CitizenshipBritish
GenresChildren's literature
ChildrenCamillus Travers Hone
(adopted son)
 
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P. L. Travers
PL Travers.jpg
Pamela Lyndon Travers, appearing in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream
BornHelen Lyndon Goff
(1899-08-09)9 August 1899
Maryborough, Colony of Queensland
Died23 April 1996(1996-04-23) (aged 96)
London, England
Resting placeSt Mary the Virgin's Church, Twickenham, England
OccupationWriter, actress, journalist
NationalityBritish
CitizenshipBritish
GenresChildren's literature
ChildrenCamillus Travers Hone
(adopted son)

Pamela Lyndon Travers, OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff; 9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996), was an Australian-born British 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[edit]

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.[1] Her mother was Margaret Agnes née Morehead, the niece 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.[2] She boarded at Normanhurst Girls School in Ashfield, Sydney during World War I.

Career[edit]

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.[3] 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.[1] It was here, in the winter of 1933, that she began to write Mary Poppins.[1]

Travers greatly admired and emulated J. M. Barrie, the author of the 1911 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.[1]

While in Ireland in 1925, 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 (widow of Alfred Richard Orage), she met the mystic George Gurdjieff, who would have a great effect on her, as well as on several other literary figures.[4]

At the invitation of her friend, Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier, Travers spent two summers living among the Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo peoples studying their mythology and folklore.[5][6] After the war, she became Writer-in-Residence at Radcliffe College and Smith College. [7] She returned to England, making only one brief visit to Sydney in 1960 while on her way to Japan to study Zen mysticism.

Travers' literary output other than "Mary Poppins" and its sequels included other novels, poetry collections and works of non-fiction.

Mary Poppins[edit]

Published in London in 1934, Mary Poppins was Travers' first literary success. Sequels followed (the last in 1988). [8]

During World War II, Travers 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.

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.[9]

Disney version[edit]

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' 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.[10] 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 felt she had been treated during the production, that when producer Cameron Mackintosh approached her about the stage musical when she was into her 90s, she acquiesced on the condition that only English-born writers 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.

The 2013 movie Saving Mr. Banks is a dramatized story about Travers' and Disney's relationship and working process during the planning of Mary Poppins. The movie stars Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks as Travers and Disney.

Personal life[edit]

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 the grandchild of Joseph Hone, who was W. B. Yeats' first biographer. Hone and his wife were raising their seven grandchildren. 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. Camillus was unaware of his true parentage until the age of 17, when Anthony appeared unannounced at Travers' London home.[11][12][13]

Honours and death[edit]

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 toward the end of her life. She died in London in 1996 aged 96.

Her adopted son Camillus Travers Hone died in London in November 2011.[14]

Works[edit]

Books[edit]

Collections[edit]

Non-fiction[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography
Notes
  1. ^ a b c d Picardie, Justine (28 October 2008). "Was P L Travers the real Mary Poppins?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Lawson 1999.
  3. ^ P. L. Travers Biography – life, family, childhood, children, name, story, death, history, school, mother, young, son, book, old, information, born, college, house, time, year
  4. ^ Lawson 2005, p. 185.
  5. ^ Edwina Burness, Jerry Griswold (Winter 1982). "P. L. Travers, The Art of Fiction No. 63". The Paris Review. 
  6. ^ Witchell, Alex (22 September 1994). "At Home With: P. L. Travers; Where Starlings Greet the Stars". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Lawson, Valerie. Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers. Simon & Schuster:2006. p. 290. 0743298160.
  8. ^ Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature (2005) Bernice E. Cullinan, Diane Goetz Person. Continuum International Publishing Group. p.784 ISBN 9780826417787 Retrieved: Nov 2012
  9. ^ Roy Plomley (21 May 1977). "Desert Island Discs - P L Travers". http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4. 
  10. ^ Newman, Melinda (7 November 2013). "‘Poppins’ Author a Pill No Spoonful of Sugar Could Sweeten". Variety. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Jodie Minus, "There's something about Mary", The Weekend Australian, 10–11 April 2004. p.R6
  12. ^ Jones, David. "How the sexual adventuress who created Mary Poppins wrecked the lives of two innocent boys". Daily Mail Online. Daily Mail. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Kelleher, Lynne. "Mary Poppins writer took baby because she 'loved Ireland' SUGAR AND SPICE NOT SO NICE FOR TWIN SEPARATED FROM BROTHER BY AUTHOR.". The Sunday Mirror: January 19, 2003. The Daily Mirror (London) on thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  14. ^ "In a most delightful way". The Argus. 14 July 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 

External links[edit]