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FINDING NEVERLAND

The Llewelyn Davies Family
J.M Barrie first met the Llewelyn Davies children in London's Kensington Gardens with their nanny Nancy Hodgson, while he was taking his daily walk with his St. Bernard, Porthos. When Barrie met them, there were only three Llewelyn Davies boys: George (age 5), Jack (4) and Peter (1). The two youngest boys, Michael and Nico, were born later.

Though Barrie had many friends in the park, these boys were to become his favorite playmates by far, and he would become theirs. To keep them in a perpetual state of laughter and wonderment, Barrie performed magic tricks, wiggled his ears and eyebrows and dressed Porthos in costumes. He also began to spin elaborately fanciful stories involving magical islands, Indians, pirates and fairies that enraptured the boys and ultimately inspired Barrie to write something unlike anything he'd ever written before.

It was only after first befriending the Llewelyn Davies children that Barrie met their mother at a New Year's Eve party. He was immediately entranced. Said to be astonishingly lovely and charming, the glamorous Sylvia du Maurier was the daughter of renowned artist and novelist George du Maurier and the aristocratic heiress Emma du Maurier (played by Julie Christie in the film). Her extended family was one of the most socially connected and artistically accomplished in all of London. Barrie wrote of Sylvia shortly after meeting her at a dinner party: "She is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.”

At the time, Sylvia was married to the lawyer Arthur Llewelyn Davies. In a bold breach of protocol, however, Sylvia welcomed Barrie into their family home. He became a frequent visitor, and heedless of appearances, traveled on holidays with the family. Barrie was so involved in the boys' lives that he even paid their private school tuition. Best of all, when they summered together at his country house at Black Lake, he and the children played out elaborate pirate adventures that Barrie later recalled as the highlight of his life.

Throughout their early friendship, Barrie began to tell the boys stories about Peter Pan, an impish and mystical "eternal child” who was created out of all the qualities Barrie admired most about the boys: their spontaneous joy, their unending sense of play, and their mischievous freedom.

Meanwhile, feeling betrayed by Barrie's obvious and inconceivable love for another woman's children, Barrie's wife Mary began an affair with a writer friend Gilbert Cannan, eventually divorcing Barrie in 1909 so she could marry Cannan.

During this entire period, the Llewelyn Davies children were also cared for by their stern but devoted nurse, Nancy, who also would inspire Barrie: he turned her into the character of Nana, the dog/housekeeper who keeps a watchful eye over the Darling family in "Peter Pan.”

Although Barrie's play of "Peter Pan” was first performed in 1904 to the delight of the Llewelyn Davies boys, Barrie continued to revise and expand the story for a number of years, during which a number of tragedies befell the Llewelyn Davies family.

First, in 1907, the boys' father Arthur died following an agonizing bout with cancer that devastated the entire family. Although Arthur had been suspicious of Barrie at first, the two men became very close at the end, and Barrie spent every day at Arthur's bedside, comforting the children and Sylvia. He also began to provide much of the family's financial support.

There is some evidence that Barrie may have intended to marry Sylvia after Arthur's death – perhaps even going so far as to buy an engagement ring -- but then she too was afflicted with cancer, which she kept secret from the boys to spare them more pain. Sylvia died in 1910, six years after the premiere of "Peter Pan, but it is said that Barrie was working on the novel version of the play, Peter and<

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