Travers, P.L.

P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins

P.L. (Pamela Lyndon) Travers (1899-1996) had an amazing imagination even as a child, inspired by her love of reading — fairy tales included. She dropped out of school, finding it a bore. Travers grew up in Europe, but moved to Australia to start an acting career. She managed to get some roles, but couldn’t make a career out of it. Fortunately, when she moved back to England, she successfully started selling articles and poems to publications in English, New Zealand, and Australia.

Travers’ best-known work, Mary Poppins, came from a little story she made up while babysitting two young children. It first became a book and then a movie in 1964, and has had many sequels; it was even made into a musical. Mary Poppins is still one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature. Travers wrote many other children’s books, as well as books for adults, many focused on mythology.

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P.L. Travers Quotes

“A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.” (As quoted in The New York Times, July 2, 1978)

“You can ask me anything you like about my work, but I’ll never talk about myself.” (As quoted by Valerie Lawson, in an interview: ”The Mystic Life of P.L. Travers”; May 7, 2003)

“Once we have accepted the story we cannot escape the story’s fate.”

“It may be that to eat and be eaten are the same thing in the end. My wisdom tells me that this is probably so. We are all made of the same stuff, remember, we of the Jungle, you of the City. The same substance composes us — the tree overhead, the stone beneath us, the bird, the beast, the star — we are all one, all moving to the same end. Remember that when you no longer remember me, my child.” (Mary Poppins, 1934)

“Perhaps we are born knowing the tales of our grandmothers and all their ancestral kin continually run in our blood repeating them endlessly, and the shock they give us when we first bear them is not of surprise but of recognition.” (About the Sleeping Beauty, 1975)

“Don’t you know that everybody’s got a Fairyland of their own?” (Mary Poppins, 1934)

“I shouldn’t wonder if you didn’t wonder much too much!” (Mary Poppins Comes Back, 1935)

“A great friend of mine at the beginning of our friendship (he was himself a poet) said to me very defiantly, “I have to tell you that I loathe children’s books.” And I said to him, “Well, won’t you just read this just for my sake?” And he said grumpily, “Oh, very well, send it to me.” I did, and I got a letter back saying: “Why didn’t you tell me? Mary Poppins with her cool green core of sex has me enthralled forever.” (Interview by Edwina Burness and Jerry Griswold, The Paris Review No. 86; Winter 1982)

“You do not chop off a section of your imaginative substance and make a book specifically for children, for — if you are honest — you have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is all endless and all one.” (As quoted in Sticks and Stones : The Troublesome Success of Children’s Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter by Jack Zipes, 2002)

“What I want to know is this: Are the stars gold paper or is the gold paper stars? (Mary Poppins, 1934)

“For me there are no answers, only questions, and I am grateful that the questions go on and on. I don’t look for an answer, because I don’t think there is one. I’m very glad to be the bearer of a question. (Quoted in ”Hail, Mary!” in The Independent by Mark Bostridge, September 19, 2004)

“Tonight the small are free from the great and the great protect the small.” (Mary Poppins, 1934)

“Bird and beast and stone and star — we are all one, all one.” (Mary Poppins, 1934)

“Mary Poppins herself had flown away, but the gifts she had brought would remain for always…” (Mary Poppins Opens the Door, 1943)

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