‘An After Thought’

This is the title of a one-act play by J.M. Barrie (1860-1937), an epilogue to the stage play Peter Pan.

img478This fascinating script is contained in the archive of the world’s oldest literary agency AP Watt, which is held at UEA. The typescript is produced by ‘Mrs Olive Blows, Typewriting Agency’. It’s not clear whether Barrie approached her himself with his manuscript or whether the agency took the manuscript to her in order to produce a more professional looking document. How faithful and accurate was Mrs Blows’ typing? There are two page 15s, so not too accurate then. It would be interesting to compare it with the handwritten script but alas this is all we have

img476The typescript is dated March 1908 yet the epilogue is said to have been performed on the closing night of the play’s performance, 22 Feb 1908. It was written by Barrie to explain what became of Peter and Wendy. The scene shows a youthful Peter dropping in to see Wendy (who is now grown up with a daughter, Jane). While Wendy and Nana (the dog) have aged, Peter is unchanged. He has a sort of amnesia, forgetting he killed Captain Hook and thinking he saw Wendy only the day before. He describes his exact feelings for her as “those of a devoted son”.

img477As only the ‘young and innocent’ can fly, Peter recruits Jane and asks her to be his mother. She agrees despite having only a child’s conception of motherhood. Together they fly off to do their ‘Spring cleaning’ in Never Never Land. Wendy’s lasting wish is that her daughter will one day have a daughter who may also be visited by Peter, and fly away with him in turn – “and in this way may I go on for ever and ever dear Nana, so long as children are young and innocent”.

img475The dedication is to Hilda Trevelyan (1877-1959), the actress who created the role of Wendy in Peter Pan.

The script may be examined in the Archives.

World War I letters from ‘Sapper’

Letter, 'Sapper' (H.C. McNeile) to his agent, 1917.

Letter, ‘Sapper’ (H.C. McNeile) to his agent, 1917.

Archives across the UK and beyond have been examining their collections of records and personal accounts relating to the start of WWI just over 100 years ago.

Recently available in our archive is a collection of 93 letters from Sapper (H.C. McNeile, 1888-1937) to his literary agent, AP Watt. Sappers’ stories of the War were serialised in The Daily Mail, The Times and Strand Magazine and published as books by Hodder Williams (Hodder & Stoughton). His pen name was assigned by the owner of The Daily Mail, as serving officers were not allowed to publish under their own names.

The letters, from 1914-1918, form part of the UEA’s recent acquisition of a collection from the world’s oldest literary agency, AP Watt.

1st edition cover, published 1920.

1st edition cover, published 1920.

Sapper went on to write 10 ‘Bulldog Drummond’ novels but it is his earlier manuscript submissions of yarns, plays and sketches which are covered in these letters. All manuscripts were submitted to the Censor for approval but not all were passed, such as ‘The Man who ended the War’. McNeile writes of the vagaries of the Censor but that sometimes “the Censor is coming to his senses”.

McNeile writes in 1918 of the Censor’s refusal to consider publishing his book until he has the consent of Sapper’s Commanding Officer. The irony was that McNeile himself was the Commanding Officer (being the Lt. Col. in command of a battalion).

Of himself McNeile writes: “Regular officer of some seven years standing when the war broke out. Made a Captain in 1914. Have been thro[ugh] first and second battles of Ypres – been gassed at latter and awarded M.C. : Loos and the Somme. In all, two years in France.”

McNeile writes about play adaptations, his meetings with H.A. Saintsbury (actor and playwright) and Gerald Du Maurier (actor), and his wish to publish in The English Review – as he liked their politics. The letters originate from Folkestone; Aldershot; Farnborough; Woking; the 18th Middlesex Regiment, B.E.F. (British Expeditionary Force); King Edward VII’s Hospital for Officers; and Forres, Morayshire. In between times McNeile is serving in France and commanding a battalion.

1st edition cover, 1917.

1st edition cover, 1917.

In his letter from hospital in October 1918 McNeile writes of fracturing his leg in France after falling into a shell hole “thro extreme fright!”

The AP Watt Archive forms part of the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW)

Contact: archives@uea.ac.uk

Archive of children’s author Dick King-Smith (1922-2011)

Dick King-Smith is probably best known for The Sheep-Pig which was adapted as the film Babe. He wrote countless stories for children featuring a wide range of animal characters including Saddlebottom, Hodgeheg, and Magnus Powermouse. Together with his dog, Dodo, Dick presented an animal television feature on TV-AM’s programme Rub-a-Dub-Tub (1983).

Letter from Dick King-Smith to his agent. Quotes and image reproduced with permission of AP Watt at United Agents on behalf of Dick King-Smith.

Letter from Dick King-Smith to his agent. Quotes and image reproduced with permission of AP Watt at United Agents on behalf of Dick King-Smith.

A substantial series of letters reflecting an especially personal and warm relationship between author and literary agent is now available for consultation in the Archives. These papers form part of the archive of the world’s oldest literary agency, AP Watt.

The correspondence is chatty and sometimes amusing while at the same time full of important business detail. An in depth, behind-the-scenes view is provided on the working and private life of the author, and the dealings of agencies, publishers, illustrators, and film and television producers.

Pig photo (2)

© I. Gillies

The letters reveal how American publishers turned down Babe, thinking he had too strong an ego; how A Windy Knight had to be changed to Tumbleweed, as all children “vulgarly misconstrued the adjective”; and how the author finds himself solemnly recording: how many pounds of earth a mole can shift in an hour.

AP Watt Archive
British Archive for Contemporary Writing
Dick King-Smith