Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Real Identities Behind the Books we Love

By Karen V. Wasylowski

Not surprisingly, we all conjure up images of the characters in the books we love.  Did you ever consider that there were actual living people used as inspirations by the authors; and, if so, how close is our imagination to the reality?  I found an interesting article the other day that showed just that - the reality behind many of our most beloved books...

Alice - Alice Liddell

Author Lewis Carroll knew many families whose children he loved to play with but he had a special friendship with his neighbors the Liddells, and a great affinity for their daughter, Alice, the little girl pictured above.  This snapshot was taken of her by him sometime in 1860 when she was seven years old. She was the inspiration for the wonderful "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and he even used her real name for the character.

The One - The Only - Peter Pan!  - Michael Davies

It is well known that J. M. Barrie based the children in his books on the Davies family, friends of his in 1897, but it was Michael Davies who was the basis for Peter Pan.  Michael was an infant when Barrie began to write about Peter and as the child grew Barrie incorporated many of Michael's characteristics into the story, such as Michael's nightmares.  It was later that Michael's brother Nico said of his brother, "he was the cleverest, the most original, the potential genius."  That's our Peter.

Sherlock Holmes - Dr. Joseph Bell

Dr. Joseph Bell was a teacher in medical school where a young Arthur Conan Doyle studied.  When creating his iconic character Conan Doyle said he thought of Dr. Bell - of his eagle face, of his curious ways, of his odd ability to spot details that others missed.  In a letter to Dr. Bell, Conan Doyle wrote, "I do not think that [Holmes’s] analytical work is in the least an exaggeration of some effects which I have seen you produce in the out-patient ward. Round the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate, I have tried to build up a man who pushed the thing as far as it would go—further occasionally.”  The astute Dr. Bell shot back a note to his friend -  ”you are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.”

Anne Shirley???? - Evelyn Nesbit

It is hard to believe now, but Gibson Girl Evelyn Nesbit, above, played a very important role in the creation of Anne of Green Gables.  When Lucy Maud Montgomery was trying to envision her Anne she cut out a picture of the model from Metropolitan magazine and pasted it on the wall of her bedroom, not knowing who the girl was.  I myself imagined Anne as a bit more demure.

Antonia Shimerdas — Annie Sadilek Pavelka

“Every story I have ever written,” said Willa Cather “… has been the recollection of some childhood experience, of something that touched me as a youngster.” Cather once called the real Antonia (My Antonia) “one of the truest artists I ever knew in the keenness and sensitiveness of her enjoyment, in her love of people and in her willingness to take pains.”

Daisy Buchanan – Ginevra King

F. Scott Fitzgerald dated the socially important Ginerva King between 1915 to 1917 and, sure enough, their romance faltered because of the unequal social standing between them.  A heartbroken Fitzgerald wrote, "Poor boys shouldn’t think of marrying rich girls.”  She figured in other books of his as well.  And I always thought it was Zelda!

( http://www.flavorwire.com/333197/fascinating-photographs-of-famous-literary-characters-in-real-life?all=1)

Now to the important news - my new book, SONS AND DAUGHTERS, is on sale at Amazon.com and Amazon UK.com.  It is a continuation of my first book, DARCY AND FITZWILLIAM, a sequel to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (yes, I know - it gets confusing)

This is shaping up to be a Family Saga of sorts with SONS AND DAUGHTERS taking the iconic Mr. Darcy and his best friend and cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, farther into the future with their growing families and all the problems that naturally come with parenthood.

Visit my blog, THE LEAGUE OF BRITISH ARTISTS, to read an excerpt of the new book and for a chance to win a Kindle or a copy of either 'Sons and Daughters' or 'Darcy and Fitzwilliam'


  1. Great Post. I used Fitzgerald's Daisy Buchanan as the inspiration for my Anne de Bourgh in 'Goodly Creatures.' She is so delightfully oblivious to the pain she causes.

  2. Really fascinating--thank you!

  3. I love the picture of Michael Barrie! I had a crush on Peter Pan when I was little - now I know why

  4. This is fabulous & I love looking at old photographs.


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