- Category : Writer
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sphinx 3
Pamela Lyndon Travers OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff; 9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996) was an Australian-born novelist, actress and journalist. In 1924 she emigrated to England where she wrote under the pen name P. L. Travers. In 1933 she began writing her series of children's novels about the mystical and magical English nanny Mary Poppins. Her popular books have been adapted many times, including the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and the Broadway musical originally produced in London's West End.
Helen Lyndon Goff (she was known within her family as Lyndon) was born in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, the daughter of an unsuccessful bank manager (later demoted to bank clerk) named Travers Robert Goff, who was of Irish background but born in Deptford, south London, England. Her mother was Margaret Agnes née Morehead, the sister of Boyd Dunlop Morehead, who was Premier of Queensland 1888-1890. Travers Goff's job took the family to Allora in 1905, where he died of influenza two years later, aged only 43. Following this, Lyndon Goff and her mother and sisters moved to Bowral, New South Wales in 1907, and lived there until 1917. She boarded at Normanhurst Girls School in Sydney during World War I.
Lyndon Goff began publishing her poems while still a teenager and wrote for The Bulletin and Triad while also gaining a reputation as an actress; she soon adopted the stage name "Pamela Lyndon Travers". She toured Australia and New Zealand with a Shakespearean touring company before leaving for England in 1924. There she dedicated herself to writing under the pen name P. L. Travers. In 1931, she moved out of a rented flat in London that she shared with her friend Madge Burnand, and the two set up home together in a thatched Sussex cottage. It was here, in winter of 1933, that she began to write Mary Poppins.
Travers greatly admired and emulated J. M. Barrie, the author of the novel Peter Pan, which bears many structural resemblances to the Mary Poppins series. Indeed, Travers' first publisher was Peter Llewelyn Davies, Barrie's adopted son and widely regarded as the model for Peter Pan.
In 1925 while in Ireland, Travers met the poet George William Russell (AE) who, as editor of The Irish Statesman, accepted some of her poems for publication. Through Russell, Travers met W. B. Yeats, Oliver St. John Gogarty, and other Irish poets who fostered her interest in and knowledge of world mythology. She had studied the Gurdjieff System under Jane Heap and in March 1936, with the help of Jessie Orage, she met the mystic George Gurdjieff, who would have a great effect on her, as well as on several other literary figures.
Published in London in 1934, Mary Poppins was Travers' first literary success. Sequels followed (the last in 1988), as well as a collection of other novels, poetry collections and works of non-fiction.
During World War II, she lived in Manhattan where she worked for the British Ministry of Information; and that was where Roy Disney first contacted her about selling the Mary Poppins character to the Disney studio for film use. After the war, she became Writer-in-Residence at Radcliffe Hall, Harvard University and Smith Hall. She returned to England, making only one brief visit to Sydney in 1960 while on her way to Japan to study Zen mysticism. However, in the early 1970s, flush with more royalties from the Mary Poppins film, Travers spent about two years with the native American Hopi Indian reservations on some personal research.
The Disney musical adaptation was released in 1964. Primarily based on the first novel in what was then a sequence of four books, it also lifted elements from the sequel Mary Poppins Comes Back. Although Travers was an adviser to the production, she disapproved of the dilution of the harsher aspects of Mary Poppins's character, felt ambivalent about the music, and so hated the use of animation that she ruled out any further adaptations of the later Mary Poppins novels. At the film's star-studded premiere (to which she was not invited, but had to ask Walt Disney for permission to attend), she reportedly approached Disney and told him that the animated sequence had to go. Disney responded by walking away, saying as he did, "Pamela, the ship has sailed". Enraged at what she considered shabby treatment at Disney's hands, Travers would never again agree to another Poppins/Disney adaptation, though Disney made several attempts to persuade her to change her mind.
So fervent was Travers' dislike of the Disney adaptation, and of the way she had been treated during the production, that well into her 90s, when she was approached by producer Cameron Mackintosh to do the stage musical, she acquiesced upon the condition that only English-born writers (and specifically NO Americans) and no one from the film production were to be directly involved with the creative process of the stage musical. This specifically excluded the Sherman Brothers from writing additional songs for the production, even though they were still very prolific. However, original songs and other aspects from the 1964 film were allowed to be incorporated into the production. These points were stipulated in her last will and testament.
Although she never married, she had romantic relationships with both men and women. Her biographer Valerie Lawson writes that she probably had a sexual relationship with Madge Burnand, and certainly one with Jessie Orage.
At the age of 40 Travers adopted a baby boy from Ireland named Camillus Hone. He was the grandson of Joseph and Vera Hone, Joseph being W. B. Yeats' first biographer. Camillus was one of twins, but Travers refused to take his twin brother Anthony or any of their other siblings; the boys reunited years later. She selected the twin based on advice from her astrologer.
Honours and death
Travers was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1977. She lived into advanced old age but her health was declining towards the end of her life. She died in London in 1996 aged 96, reportedly caused by epileptic seizure delirium.
Her adopted son Camillus Travers Hone died in London in November 2011.