Friday, 28 May 2010

Great unidexters of history.

Maybe you knew this already, but I've just discovered that Robert Louis Stevenson based the character of Long John Silver on his friend, the physically imposing, charming, and one-legged William Ernest Henley. Henley was also a friend of J.M.Barrie, and it was his daughter Margaret Henley's description of Barrie as her 'friendy-wendy' that inspired at least the name of Wendy in Peter Pan.

So, Wendy Darling's father was Long John Silver. No wonder she took Captain Hook in her stride.

Bonus facts: William Earnest Henley wrote the poem Invictus, which Nelson Mandela found so inspiring, and which gave its name to the film last year.

Captain Hook is described in Peter Pan as 'the only man Long John Silver ever feared' Also, he went to Eton; as did Bertie Wooster, Peter Wimsey, and James Bond.

Throughout 'Treasure Island', Long John Silver is referred to by his fellow mutineers by his nickname... 'Barbecue'. Which, for me, slightly detracted from his menace.

2 comments:

Lydia said...

This is all very pleasing - thank you

Tony aka Pismotality said...

... and did you know that Jeeves was based in part on Barrie's manservant or butler? A person of such erudition, apparently, that when his master absentmindedly put his pipe into his jacket pocket and it began to smoulder this man observed: "I fear you are inimical to your apparel, sir."

You have also reminded me that in the famous Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch Cook refers to the hopping Dud as "a unidexter" when he surely means "uniped". Don't these satirical pioneers realise that words decay with imprecision?

I read an early draft of The Straight Man, which I enjoyed a lot, and gave some notes to Adam Barnard - glad things seem to have worked out for you. By sheer coincidence I am rereading Ernie Wise's autobiography just now and would recommend comparing and contrasting Eddie Large and Syd Little's autobiographies if you ever want to revisit that territory.