"TO BE SOMEONE ELSE..."
Updated: Oct 14
On the occasion of his 17th birthday, J.M. Barrie was gifted, by his mother Margaret Ogilvy, a Querist's Album: a bound book containing a series of questions to be answered by the recipient and his or her family and friends.
Inside-page of The Querist's Album, dedicated to Barrie on his 17th birthday, May 9 1877. Below Margaret Ogilvy's dedication, in Barrie's hand: Transferred to Michael, July 13 1911 by JMB. Michael was the fourth of the five Llewelyn Davies children. Born on June 16 1900, he would die in Oxford, in May 1921, drowned in a bathing accident. The death profoundly affected Barrie's later years.
WERE YOU EVER IN LOVE?
Below the twenty-five questions asked in the Querist's Album were printed the words My confession, and next to these a space for a signature. The formative Barrie faithfully recorded his responses in his best copperplate handwriting (of which he later commented 'It went, I think, not gradually with over-writing, but suddenly, like my smile.') and duly signed his name.
Exhibiting a wicked sense of humour even at this young age, the writer's answers included:
Your most esteemed virtue Modesty.
What peculiarity can you most tolerate? That of giving presents
At what age should a man marry? Dot-age.
Were you ever in love? and if so, how often? Yes: every time I pass a sweety shop.
1877: the seventeen-year-old Barrie's entries in the Querist's Album, a gift from his mother
In 1914, one of the real-life inspirations for the Lost Boys, Nicholas 'Nico' Llewelyn Davies, would bring to Barrie a My Confessions Book: an entity similar to the Querist's Album. Barrie's handwriting had changed. But the maudlin humour of his youth had survived, Added to this, it seems, is a certain world-weariness and self-dissatisfaction, both demonstrated by this selection of the writer's responses, dated 20 January 1914:
The best place to hang a bunch of mistletoe? The gallows
Your favourite motto? I know a motto
Your greatest ambition? To be someone else
Your ideal man? The other one
Your opinion of motor cars in general? Horrible
1914: Barrie's responses recorded in the My Confessions book belonging to Nico Llewelyn Davies
This post acknowledges Andrew Birkin's celebrated biography J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys for both information and inspiration.