The Author of Mary Poppins Wasn't So Great with Kids


Pegged to the new Disney movie Saving Mr. Banks starring Emma Thompson, the Daily Mail has decided to crush the imaginations of children and adults everywhere by publishing an exposé about the life of the woman who wrote Mary Poppins, Pamela Lyndon Travers’. Guess what? She was (wait for it) no Mary Poppins.

David Jones “investigated” Travers’s live for the Daily Mail, who the publication has chosen to describe as a “sexual adventuress” for their headline. The details of Jones’ story, if true, reveal Travers to be your usual self-involved writer-type. That personality type was advanced enough, however, for Jones to paint her “as a woman whose selfishness so profoundly damaged the course of two boys’ lives.”

Apparently, Travers (who was also “no great beauty”) might have had a few lesbian relationships, but also many affairs with men, most of which seem to have ended badly. Desperately seeking love she could never pin down, Travers decided to adopt a child, but she wanted it to be a “baby with Irish blood and a strong literary lineage.” Travers was put in touch with the Hone family, led by an elderly couple who was having a hard time taking care of their twin grandsons, whose parents had apparently died. But after talking to “her astrologer to ensure she has made the right selection,” (makes sense) Travers decided to only take one twin:

The chosen twin, Camillus Hone, is duly whisked away to a life of wealth and privilege amid London’s fashionable literary circle. But his rejected brother, Anthony, is left behind in Ireland, to be foisted onto neglectful relatives.

After Travers separated the two, things took a downward for both of them:

Split from his twin, Camillus was raised in luxury and told by his mother he was the son of a wealthy sugar baron.
However, when he was 17 his twin Anthony appeared at Travers’ home in Chelsea. Although Travers threw the boy out, she was unable to hide the truth from Camillus for long.
According to the boys’ oldest brother, Joseph Hone, Travers’ decision to separate the brothers ruined both their lives.
Unable to cope with the deception both brothers descended in to alcoholism and Travers, who became a millionaire after she sold the rights to “Mary Poppins” to Disney in 1961, was so concerned that Camillus would fritter away the family fortune she put all her money in trust for him and her grandchildren after she died.

“Pamela Travers saw herself as Mary Poppins and thought she could play Poppins with poor little Camillus,” Camillus and Anthony’s older brother Joseph says. Which adds her to the list of various children’s book authors and television employees who, to put it lightly, kind of sucked in real life. The way, unfortunately, many humans do.

How the sexual adventuress who created Mary Poppins wrecked the lives of two innocent boys: Exploits of P L Travers that you won’t see in new film Saving Mr Banks [Daily Mail]

Image via the New South Wales State Library

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