J M Barrie (1860-1937)

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James Matthew Barrie was born in the Lowland village of Kirriemuir, in Forfashire. His father, David Barrie was a handloom weaver, and mother, Margaret Ogilvy, the daughter of a stonemason. Barrie was the ninth of ten children. Jamie, as he was called, heard tales of pirates from his mother, who read her children R.L. Stevenson's adventure stories in the evenings. When Barrie was seven, his brother David died in a skating accident. David had been the mother's favourite child, and she fell into depression. Barrie tried to gain her affection by dressing up in the dead boy's clothes. After her death Barrie published in 1896 an adoring biography of his mother. At the age of 13, Barrie left his home village. At school he became interested in theatre and devoured works by such authors as Jules Verne, Mayne Reid, and James Fenimore Cooper. Barrie studied at Dumfries Academy at the University of Edinburgh, receiving his M.A. in 1882. After working as a journalist for the Nottingham Journal, he moved in 1885 with empty pockets to London as a freelance writer. He sold his writings, mostly humorous, to fashionable magazine, such as The Pall Mall Gazette. In 1894 he married Mary Ansell. In 1902, Peter Pan appeared by name in Barrie's adult novel The Little White Bird. It was a first-person narrative about a wealthy bachelor clubman's attachment to a little boy, David. Taking this boy for walks in Kensington Gardens, the narrator tells him of Peter Pan, who can be found in the Gardens at night. Peter Pan was produced for the stage in 1904 but the play had to wait several years for a definitive printed version and it did not appear as a narrative story until 1911. The book was titled Peter and Wendy. In the novel's epilogue Peter visits a grown-up Wendy. Peter Pan evolved gradually from the stories that Barrie told to the five young sons of a woman, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, with whom Barrie formed a long friendship. In 1909 Barrie's marriage ended. In 1913 Barrie became a baronet and in 1922 he received the Order of Merit. Even at his old age, Barrie would still, with much enthusiasm, play Captain Hook and Peter Pan with the son of his secretary. Barrie was elected lord rector of St. Andrew's University and in 1930 chancellor of Edinburgh University. Barrie died on June 3, 1937.

Bibliography

Peter and Wendy
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
Quality Street
The Admirable Crichton
Dear Brutus
The Little White Bird
The Little Minister
What Every Woman Knows
Alice Sit by the Fire
When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought
The Plays of J.M. Barrie