England, 1890 – Barely 5 feet tall on his tiptoes, 30 year-old Jimmy was a pen pal of 40 year-old Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous author of Treasure Island, during the final years of Stevenson’s life when he lived on the island of Samoa. The two never met, but if they had, they would doubtless have played cricket together in the little village of Stanway in Gloucestershire.
In September, 1921, one of the most famous men in the world, 33 year-old Charlie Chaplin, traveled to London in the hope of meeting Jimmy, now 61 years old. According to historian Lisa Chaney, “Upon his arrival, central London came almost to a standstill, as traffic was blocked all the way from Waterloo station to the Ritz on Picadilly, where he was staying. Everywhere Chaplin went, he was mobbed by adoring crowds.”
Chaplin achieved his goal of meeting Jimmy by contacting Ed Lucas, one of the group of buddies with whom Jimmy played cricket. At the end of their evening together at the Garrick Club in London, Jimmy wrote to his friend, Cynthia Asquith, about his dinner with the great Charlie Chaplin.
“He has a rather charming speaking voice, and a brain withal. A very forceful creature, and likeable. The police who are put on to guard him all produce their autograph books for him to sign.”
When Jimmy visited Stanway to play cricket, he was the guest of Herbert and Cynthia Asquith. (Herbert was the son of the British Prime Minister and Cynthia would later become a famous author of ghost stories.) In return for their kindness to him and his cricketing buddies over the years, Jimmy built a pavilion on the cricket grounds of Stanway, where it has been in use for nearly 100 years.
Who, exactly, were these cricketing buddies of Jimmy?
They called themselves the Allah Akbar-ies under the mistaken belief that “Allah akbar” meant “Heaven help us” in Arabic.
This was an odd mistake to make, considering that these men were known for their words.
The Allah Akbar-ies included:
Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes
P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat
A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
G.K. Chesterton – Father Brown
And then of course there was
E. V. (Ed) Lucas, the author of more than 150 books, including one of Indiana Beagle’s favorites, If Dogs Could Write: A Second Canine Miscellany (1929)
The group also included 10 more writers of slightly lesser acclaim.
Spectators at these cricket matches included Jimmy’s neighbor and lifelong friend, George Bernard Shaw, along with the ancient Thomas Hardy, (Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles.)
And five-foot Jimmy? He was of course J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.
And now you know why New York publisher Charles Scribner traveled to England to sit on a bench and watch a cricket match in the tiny village of Stanway.
Scribner never forgot that day.
Wouldn’t it be fun to make a movie about all this? Can you imagine their conversations?
You’ll be pleased to know the tradition of Stanway village lives on at Wizard Academy.
We have Americanized it, of course, but I think Jimmy would approve.
The Lost Boys are a group of entrepreneurs who gather once a year to play bocce ball at Wizard Academy. It is a secret society. Their names are never published and group photos are never taken.
The House of the Lost Boys will be the third and final student mansion on the campus of Wizard Academy. Its six guest rooms will increase our on-site capacity to 24 students. And when we finally build Bilbo Baggins House in the hillside beneath the Spence Diamond Pavilion, we’ll have room for 25.
Wizard Academy is a special place where busy people come to charge their batteries.
Sometimes it feels a little like Neverland.
Thanks for being part of it.
Roy H. Williams
J.M. Barrie openly admitted that his Captain Hook was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Long John Silver. And Stevenson openly admitted that Long John Silver was inspired by his friend, William Henley. We’ll talk about Henley in the rabbit hole. See you there. – Indy
NOTE: Roving report Rotbart loaned his mellifluous microphone to Wizard Academy graduate Lem Lewis this week to guest-host this special TEXAS edition of MondayMorningRadio. Lem is host of the popular RANCHCAST podcast and a certified whiskey sommelier.
Dan Garrison is a swaggering Texan. So in 2006, when the “bourbon elite” told Dan it was impossible to distill world-class whiskey anywhere outside of Kentucky or Tennessee, Dan took it as a personal insult and a slur on the land of his birth. Those same bourbon elite now tell Dan that his Garrison Brothers Bourbon Whiskey stands shot-to-shot with the best barrel-aged spirits in the world. His Cowboy Bourbon has twice been awarded U.S. Micro Whisky of the Year. Whether you love fine whiskey or never touch the stuff, you’ll enjoy Dan Garrison’s big-as-Texas swagger and his philosophy of business. But be forewarned. Like his unfiltered and uncut Cowboy Bourbon, Dan Garrison’s language is occasionally 137 proof.
At MondayMorningRadio.com – Indy Beagle