As an infant, Peter Llewelyn Davies’ nanny would take him for walks in Kensington Gardens with his older brothers, George and Jack. During one of these walks the boys befriended J. M. Barrie who entertained them with stories, including one in which Peter could fly. Barrie later wrote a novel, The Little White Bird, in which a one-week old infant named Peter Pan flies away to Kensington Gardens. The character became famous after featuring in Barrie’s stage play, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
Peter Llewelyn Davies fought in World War I, married and had three sons, but grew resentful of his association with his fictional namesake (he had another association with a fictional character – he was named after his grandfather George du Maurier’s novel, Peter Ibbetson). When Barrie died leaving the majority of his estate to his secretary, Peter began drinking heavily. At the age of 63, he committed suicide by throwing himself under an oncoming train. (In 1932, Peter attended a celebration of the centenary of Lewis Carroll’s birth where he met 80-year-old Alice Hargreaves, the woman whose name Carroll had used for the character in his story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.)
Mr Toad, the eccentric, car-loving amphibian from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, was based partly on Grahame’s son, Alastair (Oscar Wilde was also an inspiration). Alastair was born blind in one eye, suffered from other health problems and struggled at school. While an undergraduate at Oxford, he committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train.
The original illustrator for The Wind in the Willows, E. H. Shepherd, also illustrated another classic children’s book, Winnie-the-Pooh. The character of Christopher Robin was based on A. A. Milne’s son. For much of his childhood, Christopher Robin Milne was taunted about his fictional counterpart. The association followed him into adulthood and he became resentful of what he perceived as his father’s exploitation of him. Christopher Milne died at the age of 75 of natural causes.