Pamela Lyndon Travers was an Australian novelist, actress and journalist, popularly remembered for her series of children's novels about mystical nanny Mary Poppins.
She was born to bank manager Travers Robert Goff and Margaret Agnes. Her father died when she was seven, and although "epileptic seizure delirium" was given as the cause of death, Travers herself "always believed the underlying cause was sustained, heavy drinking".
Travers began to publish her poems while still a teenager and wrote for The Bulletin and Triad while also gaining a reputation as an actress. 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.
In 1925 while in Ireland, Travers met the poet George William Russell who, as editor of The Irish Statesman, accepted some of her poems for publication. Through Russell, Travers met William Butler Yeats and other Irish poets who fostered he
r interest in and knowledge of world mythology. Later, the mystic Gurdjieff would have a great effect on her, as would also have on several other literary figures.
The 1934 publication of Mary Poppins was Travers' first literary success.Five sequels followed, as well as a collection of other novels, poetry collections and works of non-fiction.
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 disliked the use of animation to such an extent that she ruled out any further adaptations of the later Mary Poppins novels. At the film's star-studded premiere, she reportedly approached Disney and told him that the animated sequence had to go. Disney responded by saying "Pamela, the ship has sailed." and walked away. 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 Walt Disney adaptation and the way she felt 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. Original songs and other aspects from the 1964 film were allowed to be incorporated into the production however. These points were stipulated in her last will and testament.
Travers was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1977. She died in London in 1996.
Although Travers never married, she adopted a boy when she was in her late 30s.