P. L. Travers

P. L. Travers
P. L. Travers

P.L. Travers, while appearing in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Born Helen Lyndon Goff
9 August 1899(1899-08-09)
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia
Died 23 April 1996(1996-04-23) (aged 96)
London, England
Occupation Writer, actress, journalist
Nationality Australian
Genres Children's literature
Children 1 adopted son

Pamela Lyndon Travers OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff) (9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996) was an Australian novelist, actress and journalist, popularly remembered for her series of children's novels about the mystical and magical nanny Mary Poppins. Her popular books have been adapted many times, including the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and the Broadway musical originally produced in London's West End.



Helen Lyndon Goff was born in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, the daughter of an unsuccessful bank manager (later demoted to bank clerk) named Travers Robert Goff.[1] Following the death of their father, Helen Goff and mother and sisters moved to Bowral, New South Wales in 1907, and lived there until 1917.[2] It is likely that she lived in Bowral when she originally came up with the character that became Mary Poppins.[3] Helen Goff began publishing her poems while still a teenager and wrote for The Bulletin and Triad while also gaining a reputation as an actress; she soon adopted the stage name "Pamela Lyndon Travers". She toured Australia and New Zealand with a Shakespearean touring company before leaving for England in 1924. There she dedicated herself to writing under the pen name P. L. Travers.[4] Travers also greatly admired and emulated J. M. Barrie, the author of the novel Peter Pan, which bears many structural resemblances to Travers' own greatest works, 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.)[1]

In 1925 while in Ireland, Travers met the poet George William Russell (AE) who, as editor of The Irish Statesman, accepted some of her poems for publication. Through Russell, Travers met W. B. Yeats 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, she met the mystic George Gurdjieff, who would have a great effect on her, as well as on several other literary figures.[5]

The 1934 publication of Mary Poppins was Travers' first literary success. Seven sequels followed (the last in 1988), as well as a collection of other novels, poetry collections and works of non-fiction.

Although she never married, at the age of 40 Travers adopted a baby boy from Ireland named Camillus, separating him from his twin brother. (She refused to take both children; the boys reunited years later.)

Disney Mary Poppins

The Disney musical adaptation was released in 1964. Primarily based on the first novel in what was then a sequence of four 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's 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. At the film's star-studded premiere (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. Disney responded by walking away, saying as he did, "Pamela, the ship has sailed". 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 due to the way she had been treated during the production, that well into her 90s, when she was approached by producer Cameron Mackintosh to do the stage musical, she only acquiesced upon the condition that only English-born writers (and specifically NO Americans) and no one from the film production were to be directly involved with the creative process of the stage musical. This specifically excluded the Sherman Brothers from writing additional songs for the production even though they were still very prolific. However, original songs and other aspects from the 1964 film were allowed to be incorporated into the production. These points were stipulated in her last will and testament.[citation needed]

Travers was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1977. She died in London in 1996.



  • 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, 1944
  • 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-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, New York: Delacorte Press, 1989


  • Stories from Mary Poppins (1952)
  • Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane / Mary Poppins and the House Next Door (1999)
  • Mary Poppins books (1999)


  • 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)

Books on P. L. Travers

  • Out of the Sky She Came: The Life of P.L. Travers, Creator of Mary Poppins Valerie Lawson 1999 ISBN 0-7336-1072-2
  • A Lively Oracle: a Centennial Celebration of P. L. Travers, Creator of Mary Poppins. Ellen Dooling Draper and Jenny Koralek, editors. (New York: Larson Publications, 1999).
  • Mary Poppins She Wrote. Lawson,V., Aurum Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84513-126-6


External links

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  • travers — TRAVERS. s. m. L estenduë d un corps consideré selon sa largeur. Il s en faut deux travers de doigt, que ces deux planches ne joignent. Il sign. aussi, Le biais, l irregularité d une place, d un jardin, d un bastiment, d une chambre, &c. Il y a… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

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  • travers — travérs (direcţie care face un unghi de 90º cu axul navei, ţesătură în dungi) s. n., pl. travérse Trimis de siveco, 03.03.2007. Sursa: Dicţionar ortografic  TRAVÉRS s.n. 1. (mar.) Partea de jos şi de sus a coastei unei corăbii. ♦ Direcţie… …   Dicționar Român

  • Travers — Trav ers, adv. [F. travers, breadth, extent from side, [ a] travers, en travers, de travers, across, athwart. See {Traverse}, a.] Across; athwart. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] The earl . . . caused . . . high trees to be hewn down, and laid travers one… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English