John William Van Druten was born to a Dutch banker in London on June 1, 1901. Although Van Druten’s mother was English by nationality, she was Dutch by heritage. Van Druten, a sickly infant, had one brother, Harry, who was eight years older. Neither physically strong nor athletically gifted, Van Druten preferred to spend his time in the world of books and imagination, avoiding sports and games. This avoidance of sports caused others to tease and make fun of him. In return, he developed a vitriolic turn of phrase as self-protection.
Both of the Van Druten parents had received continental educations and saw the arts as a way of life as well as a cultural experience; consequently, the family regularly attended art exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical performances. In addition to his books, Van Druten’s favorite possession was a miniature theater, and early in life, he began writing plays to perform with his toy.
Van Druten would come to see 1914 as a turning point in the life of Europe, as well as a turning point in his own life. He felt World War I destroyed an era of gentleness and innocence, never again allowing the population of Europe to feel secure and in control of its destiny. Certainly, World War I changed Van Druten from a rather carefree child to a more mature thinker, even though he never was nor would ever become any kind of activist.
Van Druten always wanted to be a writer. He believed that his destiny was poetry,...
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