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.

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