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The Wit of P. L. Travers


Pamela Lyndon Travers, OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff, 1899 – 1996) spent most of her career as a writer in England, though she was born in Queensland, Australia. Best known for the Mary Poppins series of children's books, featuring the magical nanny Mary Poppins, Goff was born in Maryborough, Queensland, and grew up in the Australian bush. First published as a teenager, she also worked briefly as a professional Shakespearean actress before emigrating to England in 1924. Taking the name Pamela Lyndon Travers she wrote eight Mary Poppins books.

While in New York City during World War II, working for the British Ministry of Information, Trvers was contacted by Walt Disney about selling him the rights for a film adaptation of Mary Poppins, which he eventually obtained. The film Mary Poppins premiered in 1964 and a film based on Disney's efforts to persuade Travers to sell him the Mary Poppins film rights, Saving Mr. Banks, was released in 2013.

Here are some quotes from her work:

'And all the time he was enjoying his badness, hugging it to him as though it were a friend, and not caring a bit.’

'Don't you know that everybody's got a Fairyland of their own?'

'He could smell her crackling white apron and the faint flavour of toast that always hung about her so deliciously.’

'Once we have accepted the story we cannot escape the story's fate.'

'She sounds like you, Mary Poppins,' said Michael. 'So terribly pleased with herself!’

'Who are you?' she inquired, as the cat passed by.

I'm the cat that looked at a king,' he replied.

And I,' she remarked with a toss of her head, 'am the cow that jumped over the moon.'

Is that so?' said the cat. 'Whatever for?'

The cow stared. She had never been asked that question before. And suddenly it occurred to her that there might something else to do than jumping over moons.'

'Good-bye,' said Michael to the Bird Woman. 'Feed the Birds,' she replied, smiling. 'Good-bye,' said Jane. 'Tuppence a Bag!' said the Bird Woman and waved her hand.'

'A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.'

'I hate being good.

-Mary Poppins'

'She paused, as though she were remembering events that happened hundreds of years before that time.'

'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.'

'Mary Poppins is not a fairy-tale.'

'She's even better!' said Alfred loyally. 'She's a fairy-tale come true.'

'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.'

'There was something strange and extraordinary about her – something that was frightening and at the same time most exciting.'

'What is real and what is not? Can you tell me or I you? Perhaps we shall never know more than this—that to think a thing is to make it true.'

'Next time you must stay for tea and we'll all sit together on a rock and sing a song to the moon.’

'I shouldn't wonder if you didn't wonder much too much!'

'You can't expect two stars to drop in the same field in one lifetime.’

'Michael knew now what was happening to him. He knew he was going to be naughty.'

'That's coral!' she cried in astonishment. 'We must be down in the deeps of the sea!'

‘Well, wasn't that what you wanted?' said the trout. 'I thought you wished you could see the sea!'

‘I did,' said Jane, looking very surprised. 'But I never expected the wish to come true.'

‘Great oceans! Why bother to wish it then? I call that simply a waste of time. But come on! Mustn't be late for the party!'

'Mary Poppins never told anybody anything. . . .'

'And when, at last, .... I stood in London with ten pounds in my hand - five of which I promptly lost - the ancestors dwelling in my blood who, all my life, had summoned me with insistent eldritch voices, murmured together, like contented cats.'

'Mary Poppins,' he cried, 'you’ll never leave us, will you?'

'Mary Poppins was very vain and liked to look her best. Indeed, she was quite sure that she never looked anything else.'

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