J. M. Barrie (1860-1937) was a Scottish novelist and playwright now remembered for writing 'Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up', which first appeared as a play in 1904, and eventually as a book in 1928, with the rights being gifted to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Sir James Matthew Barrie, Scottish novelist and dramatist, was born 9th May 1860 in Kirriemuir, Angus, the son of Scottish weavers. The ninth of ten children, James was a very small child, never growing much beyond five foot.
When he was six, his brother David died in a skating accident on the eve of his fourteenth birthday. David was his mother’s favourite and she was deeply traumatised by his death. She did, however, find comfort in that he would forever be a boy – he would never grow up and leave her. This had a profound effect on Barrie, and his childhood is thought to be the inspiration for Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
Barrie became a journalist in Nottingham, then London before starting to write novels and plays. He wrote a number of plays, Ibsen’s Ghost being his first to be stage, and performed in 1891. Other early plays of Barrie’s to be performed were Quality Street and The Admirable Crichton.
In 1894, Barrie married actress Mary Ansell. The couple honeymooned in Switzerland, where they got a St Bernard puppy which became the inspiration for the character of Nana inPeter Pan. The couple had no children, but Barrie became guardian to his friends the Llewelyn Davies boys after they were orphaned (they were also inspirational for Peter Pan characters).
Peter Pan was first performed on the stage on 27th December 1904, with the lead role of Peter played by a woman. Barrie was credited with the creation of the name Wendy, the heroine of the play, which was previously nonexistent in Britain and America. The play was published as a book in 1928 and in 1929, he specified that copyright of Peter Pan go to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, the nation’s leading children’s hospital.
J. M. Barrie had many famous friends, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Lewis Stevenson, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Hardy and H.G.Wells. Barrie also met and told stories to Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret when they were little girls.
He was knighted in 1913 and died on 19th June 1937. He is buried in Kirriemuir next to his parents, one sister and a brother.