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P. L. Travers
PL Travers.jpg
Pamela Lyndon Travers, appearing in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Born Helen Lyndon Goff
(1899-08-09)9 August 1899
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia
Died 23 April 1996(1996-04-23) (aged 96)
London, England, United Kingdom
Resting place St Mary the Virgin's Church, Twickenham, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Writer, actress, journalist
Nationality Australian
Citizenship Australian, British
Genre Children's literature
Notable works Mary Poppins book series
Children Camillus Travers Hone

Pamela Lyndon Travers, OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff; 9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996), was an Australian born novelist, actress and journalist.[1] 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. During World War II, while working for the British Ministry of Information, Travers went to New York where Roy Disney first contacted her about selling Disney Studios rights to the Mary Poppins character for film use.

Her popular books have been adapted many times, most notably as Mary Poppins, the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and the film's musical theater adaptation originally produced in London in 2004 and premiering on Broadway in 2006.

For services to literature, Travers was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

Early life[edit]

Helen Lyndon Goff (known within her family as Lyndon) was born in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. Her father, Travers Robert Goff, was of Irish descent and born in Deptford, South London, England. A chronic alcoholic, Travers Goff was unsuccessful in his career as bank manager, eventually being demoted to the position of bank clerk.[2] Travers' mother was Margaret Agnes Morehead, the niece of Boyd Dunlop Morehead, Premier of Queensland from 1888 to 1890. Travers' father's occupation took the family to Allora, Queensland in 1905, where he died of influenza two years later at the age of 43. Following her father's death, Lyndon Goff, along with her mother and sisters, moved to Bowral, New South Wales in 1907, living there until 1917.[3] She boarded at Normanhurst Girls School in Ashfield, Sydney, during World War I.


Lyndon Goff began publishing her poems while still a teenager and wrote for The Bulletin and Triad. It was during this time period that she was also gaining a reputation as an actress and adopted the stage name "Pamela Lyndon Travers". She toured Australia and New Zealand with Allan Wilkie's Shakespearean Company before leaving for England in 1924. There she dedicated herself to writing under the pen name P. L. Travers.[4] 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.[2] It was here, in the winter of 1933, that she began to write Mary Poppins.[2]

Travers greatly admired and emulated J. M. Barrie, the author of the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy, 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.[2]

While in Ireland in 1925, Travers met the poet George William Russell (who wrote under the name "Æ") 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 (widow of Alfred Richard Orage), she met the mystic George Gurdjieff, who would have a great effect on her, as well as on several other literary figures.[5]

At the invitation of her friend, US Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier, Travers spent two summers living among the Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo peoples studying their mythology and folklore.[6][7] After the war, she became Writer-in-Residence at Radcliffe College and Smith College.[8] She returned to England, making only one brief visit to Sydney in 1960 while on her way to Japan to study Zen mysticism.

Travers' literary output other than Mary Poppins and its sequels included other novels, poetry collections and works of non-fiction.

Mary Poppins[edit]

Published in London in 1934, Mary Poppins was Travers' first literary success. Sequels followed (the last in 1988).[9]

While appearing as a guest on BBC Radio 4's radio programme Desert Island Discs in May 1977, Travers revealed that the name "M. Poppins" originated from childhood stories that she contrived for her sisters, and that she was still in possession of a book from that age with this name inscribed within.[10] Travers' great aunt, Helen Morehead, who lived in Woollahra, Sydney, and used to say, 'Spit spot, into bed' is a likely inspiration for the character.[11][12]

Disney version[edit]

Main article: Mary Poppins (film)

The Disney musical adaptation was released in 1964. Primarily based on the first novel in what expanded into a series of eight 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' 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.[13] At the film's star-studded première (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.[14] Disney responded by walking away, saying as he did, "Pamela, the ship has sailed."[14] 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 felt she had been treated during the production, that when producer Cameron Mackintosh approached her about the stage musical when she was into her 90s, she acquiesced on the condition that only English-born writers and no one from the film production were to be directly involved with creating the stage musical.[15] This specifically excluded the Sherman Brothers from writing additional songs for the production. However, original songs and other aspects from the 1964 film were allowed to be incorporated into the production. Contrary to popular belief these points were not stipulated in her last will and testament.[16] A section in her will (section 5-c) directs the trustees to follow her wishes regarding exploitation of her literary estate, but these wishes have not been made public.

The 2013 movie Saving Mr. Banks is a dramatised story about both the working process during the planning of Mary Poppins and also that of Travers' early life, drawing parallels with Mary Poppins and that of the author's childhood. The movie stars Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.

Personal life[edit]

Though Travers had numerous fleeting relationships with men throughout her life, she lived for more than a decade with Madge Burnand, daughter of Sir Francis Burnand, a playwright and the former editor of Punch. They shared a London flat from 1927 to 1934, then moved to a thatched cottage in Sussex, where Travers published the first of the Mary Poppins books. Their friendship, in the words of one biographer, was “intense,” but also equally ambiguous.[17]

At the age of 40, two years after moving out on her own, Travers adopted a baby boy from Ireland whom she named Camillus Travers Hone. He was the grandchild of Joseph Hone, W. B. Yeats' first biographer, who was raising his seven grandchildren with his wife. Camillus was unaware of his true parentage or the existence of any siblings until the age of 17, when Anthony Hone, his brother, came to London and knocked on the door of Travers' house. He had been drinking and demanded to see his brother. Travers refused to allow it and threatened to call the police. Anthony left, but soon after, Camillus, following an argument with Travers, went looking for his brother and found him in a pub on Kings Road.[17][18][19]

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 toward the end of her life. Travers died in London on 23 April 1996 at the age of 96. According to her grandchildren, Travers "died loving no one and with no one loving her."[20]

Her son Camillus died in London in November 2011.[21]



  • Mary Poppins, London: Gerald Howe, 1934
  • Mary Poppins Comes Back, London: L. Dickson & Thompson Ltd., 1935
  • I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, London: Peter Davies, 1941
  • Aunt Sass, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941
  • Ah Wong, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943
  • Mary Poppins Opens the Door, London: Peter Davies, 1943
  • Johnny Delaney, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1944
  • Mary Poppins in the Park, London: Peter Davies, 1952
  • Gingerbread Shop (1952)
  • Mr. Wigg's Birthday Party (1952)
  • The Magic Compass (1953)
  • Mary Poppins From A to Z, London: Collins, 1963
  • The Fox at the Manger, London: Collins, 1963
  • Friend Monkey, London: Collins, 1972
  • Mary Poppins in the Kitchen, New York & London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975
  • Two Pairs of Shoes, New York: Viking Press, 1980
  • Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane, London: Collins, 1982
  • Mary Poppins and the House Next Door, London: Collins. 1988.
  • Mary Poppins and the House Next Door, New York: Delacorte Press, 1989


  • Stories from Mary Poppins (1952)


  • Moscow Excursion, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1934
  • About the Sleeping Beauty, London: Collins, 1975
  • What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story (1989)
  • George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff


  1. ^ PL Travers (British author) who migrated to the United Kingdom and lived most of her adult life there. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ a b c d Picardie, Justine (28 October 2008). "Was P L Travers the real Mary Poppins?". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Lawson 1999.
  4. ^ "P. L. Travers", Notable biographies 
  5. ^ Lawson 2005, p. 185.
  6. ^ Burness & Griswold 1982.
  7. ^ Witchell, Alex (22 September 1994). "At Home With: P. L. Travers; Where Starlings Greet the Stars". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Lawson 2006, p. 290.
  9. ^ Cullinan, Bernice E; Person, Diane Goetz (2005), Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, Continuum, p. 784, ISBN 978-0-82641778-7, retrieved Nov 2012 
  10. ^ Plomley, Roy (21 May 1977). "P L Travers". Desert Island Discs. BBC. 
  11. ^ Shae McDonald (18 December 2013). "PL Travers biographer Valerie Lawson says the real Mary Poppins lived in Woollahra". Wentworth Courier (The Daily Telegraph). Event occurs at 12:30PM. 
  12. ^ Kevin Nance (2013-12-20). "'Mary Poppins, She Wrote' author discusses P.L Travers, 'Saving Mr. Banks'". Chicago Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved 2014-01-12. 
  13. ^ Newman, Melinda (7 November 2013). "‘Poppins’ Author a Pill No Spoonful of Sugar Could Sweeten". Variety. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  14. ^ a b http://www.vulture.com/2013/12/saving-mr-banks-pl-travers-fact-check-mary-poppins.html
  15. ^ Ouzounian, Richard (13 December 2013). "P.L. Travers might have liked Mary Poppins onstage". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Last will and testament
  17. ^ a b Jones, David (25 October 2013). "How the sexual adventuress who created Mary Poppins wrecked the lives of two innocent boys". The Daily Mail (online ed.) (London). Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  18. ^ Minus, Jodie (10–11 April 2004), "There's something about Mary", The Weekend Australian: R6 
  19. ^ Kelleher, Lynne (19 January 2003). "Mary Poppins writer took baby because she 'loved Ireland'; Sugar & spice not so nice for twin separated from brother by author". The Sunday Mirror. London: The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Rochlin, Margy (5 January 2014). "Not Quite All Spoonfuls of Sugar". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  21. ^ Rice, Katy (14 July 2012). "In a most delightful way". The Argus. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._L._Travers — Please support Wikipedia.
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4141 news items


Chico Enterprise-Record
Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:37:30 -0800

Mary Poppins is the lead character in a series of eight children's books written by P.L. Travers. The first four books were adapted into a film by Walk Disney Productions in 1964. The stage musical opened on Broadway in 2006. It features some elements ...


Mon, 26 Jan 2015 09:15:00 -0800

Mary Poppins 2 Join us for The Orange City Tulip Festival's Production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's “Mary Poppins.” A Musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film. Original Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 06:04:38 -0700

PL Travers wrote about the eccentric great aunt who inspired Mary Poppins in a story which she gave away as a Christmas gift in 1941, and which is being released to the general public for the first time this November. Travers called her great aunt ...

Fraser Coast Chronicle

Fraser Coast Chronicle
Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:26:15 -0800

... Mary Anne, the first steam train to be built in Queensland - a replica can often be seen running joy rides through Queen's Park - and is patron of the Proud Marys, a group which promotes Maryborough as the birthplace of Mary Poppins author P.L ...


Thu, 15 Jan 2015 21:26:15 -0800

After becoming constantly irritated of his own children, Walt Disney set out on an adventure to meet and greet the author of a very well-known and beloved children's book; P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins. Saving Mr. Banks told the true story of the stubborn ...


Fri, 23 Jan 2015 00:15:00 -0800

Ticket information is available at 425-257-8600 or online at www.villagetheatre.org/everett/Mary-Poppins. Based on the timeless books of P.L. Travers and with beloved songs from the Oscar-winning Disney film, including “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim ...
Mon, 12 Jan 2015 13:27:32 -0800

The musical is a fusion of the children's books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film. "Some elements from the books that had been omitted from the film were restored, such as the walking statue and the ladders rising to the stars. Others were ...
Mon, 07 Oct 2013 17:19:31 -0700

P.L. Travers was born on August 9, 1899, in Queensland, Australia. Her rich fantasy life propelled her to write stories and poems at an early age, and after a brief stint in the theater, she moved to London, England, to pursue a literary life ...

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