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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

J.M. Barrie

James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) was born on May 9, 1860 in Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland to a conservative Calvinist family. He was a small child and only grew to just over 5 ft 3 inches as an adult. He didn't shave until he was 24.

When he was 6-years-old, James Barrie's older brother David (his mother's favorite) died two days before his 14th birthday in an ice-skating accident. This left his mother devastated, and Barrie tried to fill David's place in his mother's attentions, even dressing as him and whistling in the manner that he did. Gradually his mother drew comfort in the thought of a boy who would never grow up.

Barrie was friends with Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies and entertained their sons George and Jack regularly with his ability to wiggle his ears and eyebrows. The character of Peter Pan was invented to entertain George and Jack. Barrie would say, to amuse them, that their little brother Peter could fly. He claimed that babies were birds before they were born; parents put bars on nursery windows to keep the little ones from flying away. This grew into a tale of a baby boy who did fly away.

J. M. Barrie by George Charles Beresford, 1902

The first appearance of Peter Pan came in Barrie's novel The Little White Bird, which was serialized in the United States, then published in a single volume in the UK in 1902.

Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up had its first stage performance on 27 December 1904.

Peter Pan introduced audiences to the name 'Wendy,' which was inspired by a young girl, Margaret Henley, who called Barrie 'Friendy', but could not pronounce her Rs very well and so it came out as 'Fwendy'.

After the death of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies, he adopted their five sons: Peter, Jack, George, Michael and Nicholas. Barrie was very close to all the boys, and was heartbroken when Michael drowned in 1921 and George was killed in action in 1915.

George Bernard Shaw was for several years his neighbour, and once participated in a Western that Barrie scripted and filmed.

H.G. Wells was a friend of many years, and tried to intervene when Barrie's marriage fell apart.

Barrie was godfather to Robert Falcon Scott's son Peter, and was one of the seven people to whom Scott wrote letters in the final hours of his life following his successful – but doomed – expedition to the South Pole, asking Barrie to take care of his wife Kathleen and Peter. Barrie was so proud of the letter that he carried it around for the rest of his life.

Barrie founded an amateur cricket team for his friends in 1890. The team was called the Allahakbarries, under the mistaken belief that "Allah akbar" meant "Heaven help us" in Arabic (rather than "God is great"). Amongst the luminaries who played for the Allahakbarries throughout the years were Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Jerome K. Jerome, G.K. Chesterton and A.A. Milne.

In 1929, James Barrie signed over the rights of Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London. Since that time, Great Ormond has received a royalty from every production of Peter Pan that hits the stage, in addition to sales of the book and all related products.


Barrie died of pneumonia on June 19, 1937 and is buried at Kirriemuir next to his parents and two of his siblings.

He once quipped “nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”

Source Wikipedia

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