Pamela Lyndon Travers (born Helen Lyndon Goff) (1899 – 1996)

Pictured: the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Twickenham, where the ashes of Helen Goff, creator of Mary Poppins, were scattered.

Joseph Hone (1937-2016) wrote in the Irish Examiner of Friday, December 06, 2013:

“…I would never have met Pamela but for the fact that she was a friend of my grandfather, old Joe Hone, friend and biographer of Yeats and George Moore. And from him she had adopted my younger brother Camillus in 1940. He was a twin with his brother Anthony who, with another four children, were all to be abandoned by our parents in London. She picked up Camillus in Dublin from my grandfather, where he had been landed with Anthony…

Like Carroll with Alice and Barrie with Peter Pan, Pamela found herself in possession of a universal figure, a magic nanny who has roused the wonder and delight of generations of children. The problem was that Pamela had not the nursery, nannying and mothering skills of her creation. Rather the opposite…

And Pamela taught me a good lesson the last time I saw her. “You should never use the words ‘With love’ in a dedication unless you mean it,” the witchy, 70-year-old, keen-eyed woman with a flounce of curly white hair and a jangle of silver bangles up each wrist had said to me once when I’d inscribed the words in a novel of mine I’d given to her after we’d taken part in a book festival together. And she was right. I didn’t love her, but I remember looking at her then, and I thought: “You’re a tough one all right.” And she was. She was a real artist. And she had the application. She lived to be 96 and left well over £2 million. Mary Poppins and Pamela Travers — the same little lady of Cherry Tree Lane…”.

(Joseph Hone himself was a British writer of the spy novel; his most famous novels featured a British spy called Peter Marlow. Hone was educated at Kilkenny College and St. Columba’s College, Dublin. The story of his own unusual start in life is recorded in an autobiography Wicked Little Joe.)

Emma Brockes wrote in 2015 of the original Mary Poppins book of 1934:

“The book occupies a darker moral universe, one in which an alternative, more definitive ending is alluded to. Poppins is always looking in mirrors because she feels only tenuously connected to the physical world. (One sees why Sylvia Plath liked these books; TS Eliot, too.)…”.

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