Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten facts about Captain Hook

As promised! More Captain Hook in the blog this year. (Such a burden.) Some of these details were previously chronicled by J.M. Barrie, while others have been revealed as I work on The Stowaway. (Sources at the end.)

1. Peter Pan has convinced himself that he cut off the hand of Captain Jas. Hook and threw it to the Neverland crocodile. [1] The truth, however, is more complicated and sadder, and took place long before the two met. [3]

2. Books from the Eton library, inscribed with the name "Jacobus Hook," can still occasionally be found in second-hand bookstores. [2]

3. James Hook does fear the crocodile, but no more than he would any large and deadly creature. [3]

4. His hatred of Peter Pan results from the boy killing his men without remorse, tormenting him ceaselessly, and being irrepressibly cocky. [1,3]

5. James Hook is an inveterate clothes horse. The red coats for which he has become known are his battle coats, and the time of The Stowaway, he has three. For regular seafaring, he wears blue or gray. [3]

6. He has patterned his appearance after King Charles II, most spectacularly in the long black ringlets in which he wears his hair. [1] While many artists--mostly post-Disney--depict him in stockings and knee-breeches, he learned early on that such dress was not practical for piracy. [3]

7. Hook's eyes are the blue of forget-me-nots. [1] Barrie describes him as "blackavized" [1], or swarthy. Perhaps this coloration can be traced to his Welsh ancestry. [3]

8. His black hair comes from his mother's side of the family, while the chin he near-despises is a legacy from his thoroughly-despised father [3].

9. James Hook was a (largely unwilling) boy soprano. [3] He also played flute [2] and harpsichord. [1]

10. The Captain detests fiction, feeling that he gets enough make-believe during the time he spends in Neverland. Rather, he prefers histories for the understand they give him of the larger world. [3]

Bonus: The ship the Captain sails at the time of Peter Pan and The Stowaway is the third incarnation of the Jolly Roger. [3]

[1] Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, 1911
[2] "Hook at Eton," speech given by J. M. Barrie in 1927
[3] The Stowaway, by your blogger, still in progress

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sports and letters

Not only did Mr. Barrie write his friends into Peter Pan as pirates who met terrible ends, he coerced them into playing on a cricket team whose ineptitude provided thirteen years of jokes.

A.E.W. Mason and Maurice Hewlitt (father of Cecco) were members of the Allahakbarries, a team formed in 1887 with a name born not only of a horrible pun but of a misapprehension ("Allah akbar" meaning "God is great," rather than "Heaven help us.") Among the players were A. A. Milne, Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G. Wodehouse, Alfred Lord Tennyson's son Charles, and George Llewelyn Davies, one of the group of boys whose make-believe games with Barrie inspired the creation of Peter. H.G. Wells and G.K. Chesterton were also invited, but declined to join.

Allahakbarries in 1913,
with J.M. Barrie, middle row, third from left

Barrie was not a skilled cricketeer, nor were most of his team members. Luckily, Conan Doyle had some notable sporting expertise, and from time to time players with greater ability were recruited

A slender volume entitled Allahakbarries C. C. was privately published by Barrie in 1890 and a revised edition in 1899. This latter was dedicated to "To Our Dear Enemy Mary de Navarro," a well-known American stage actress who formed a cricket team from Broadway artists and bowled out Barrie--evidently with great success--during a match in 1897.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Friends in unexpected places

It's common enough for authors to write their friends and enemies into their works--Edgar Allan Poe wrote horrible fates for his critics, in one notable case--but I find it difficult to do so myself. I feel as if I can't do justice to my friends, and the sight of an enemy's name in my manuscript turns my stomach. (Which is not to say they never appear, merely that I don't make it obvious.)

But James Matthew Barrie had no such qualms about writing his friends quite blatantly into the pirate crew in Peter Pan. 
Given that he shares his given name with the pirate captain, I suppose it should have come as less of a surprise.

The Voyages of Captain Scott by Charles Turley, foreward by J.M. Barrie

I made this discovery while I was writing at my office (aka Wayward Coffeehouse), when I chose to double-check the spelling of pirate Charles Turley's last name online rather than go back home for the book. And I cringed to discover that the aforementioned Mr.Turley, one of my least favorite members of the crew as I'm writing it, was a good friend of Barrie's. And now that I've gotten used to seeing him that way, I can't change it. 

In a copy of "St. Nicholas: A Monthly Magazine for Boys and Girls, Volume 34, Part 1," I found this:

James M. Barrie, author of a number of things besides "Peter Pan," recommends highly the work of Charles Turley, whom he calls "the Trollope of boyhood." The name of the most recent of Mr. Turley's books is "Maitland Major and Minor." "The boys described in the book," says Mr. Barrie, "are the real thing; they run daily into it and out of it, never sitting down to be photographed."

Scourie Lodge

Poor George Scourie, another of the Jolly Roger's crew, is, er, not in my book for long. His name is a composite drawn from Scourie Lodge in northwest Scotland, and the innkeeper's son, George Ross, who was a friend of Nicholas Llewellyn Davies--the youngest of the boys with whom Barrie created the games that were the inspiration for Peter Pan. 

At least in The Stowaway, Mr. Cecco (first name Raffaello, with a rolled "r'),  is an experienced, handsome, and clever crew member, exemplary to the point of irritating.This might seem odd to Maurice Hewlett, a novelist friend of Barrie and father of the original Cecco. There is also a reference to "Cecco Hewlett's tree" in The Little White Bird, the book in which Peter Pan first appears.

Alfred Edward Woodley Mason

The real Alf Mason was a  politician and a captain in the Manchester Regiment of the British army. He was also the author of about thirty novels, and will be best known to modern readers as author of "The Four Feathers," which was made into a 2002 film starring Heath Ledger and Kate Hudson. I saw it upon its release, little knowing it would turn out to be one of the Barrie coincidences that continually circle around me

 In The Stowaway, Mr. Mason is one of Vivian Drew's closest friends among the crew, and not only because they share a geographic background. For some reason, tellers of Peter Pan besides me have also settled on Mr. Mason as one of the less reprehensible of the crew--see Peter and the Starcatchers, where he's not even a pirate. Perhaps it's the name--he simply sounds decent.