The Real Lost Boys
The Llewelyn Davies boys, George, John, Peter, Michael and Nicholas, were the inspiration behind J M Barrie’s Peter Pan and various other of his Neverland characters. Barrie first met the children in Kensington Gardens in 1897 and, after entertaining them by dancing with his dog, pulling funny faces, and telling fantastical stories, he became increasingly endeared to them over the following years.
During summers at Barrie’s retreat, Black Lake Cottage in Surrey, the children would dress up in costumes and play in the surrounding woodlands, sometimes with Barrie orchestrating scenes for a photobook such as ‘The Boy Castaways’, which sees the boys acting out a pirate adventure. There were only ever two copies of this book and of them only one remains after the other was lost on a train journey in 1901.
Following the premature death of their parents in 1907 and 1910, Barrie became the boys’ trustee and unofficial guardian, as well as providing financial support until they became independent. George was killed during World War One and Michael drowned at Oxford University in 1921 (possibly committing suicide). Peter, plagued by a lifelong identification as ‘the real Peter Pan’, committed suicide in 1960.