Tell Me More About: J. M. Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet; or J.M. Barrie as he is commonly referred to as, was a novelist and a playwright, born in Scotland on 9th May 1860 and later moved to London in 1885, where his career as a writer flourished. Remembered best as the creator of Peter Pan, Barrie passed away on 19th June 1937 at the age of 77 and has truly left his mark on children’s, as well as adult’s lives, all around the world.

Barrie’s first novel was published in 1887, titled “Better Dead”, which is about the challenges of finding one’s place in the world, with the main character leaving Scotland to live in London, as did Barrie himself later in his life. Following his first novel, Barrie had a popular string of novels that were set in Scotland: Auld Licht Idylls (1888), A Window in Thrums (1890) and The Little Minister (1891). Following these successes, Barrie began writing plays in the 1890’s, which later led to Peter Pan having it’s premiere on the London stage in 1904. 

Although “Peter Pan” the play, did not premiere until 1904, the character of Peter Pan first appeared in a book, 2 years earlier, named “The Little White Bird”; as well as within a book published in 1911 called, “Peter and Wendy” which was based upon the play and was very successful too. Following the success of Peter Pan, Barrie wrote more and focussed upon plays which were aimed at adults with a much darker tone. These plays were upon such topics as: an unhappy marriage, a woman who plans on leaving her husband, but stays following him being injured in a bus accident, and eventually, “Mary Rose” a play focussing on a son who was visited by his mother’s ghost, which was produced in 1920 - Barrie’s last major play.

When J. M. Barrie passed away on June 19th 1937 in London, he gave the copyright of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital, who still receive royalties for the play to this day. Since then, Disney transformed Barrie’s characters in to the animated characters that we know today; starring in Peter Pan, the many films following this, including Hook (1991) and the live action story of Peter Pan (2003).

Did you Know?

J. M. Barrie posted a spoof tale in which Sherlock Holmes was killed off; therefore, he was the first writer to kill off Sherlock Holmes! Most believe it was Conan Doyle in “The Final Problem” (1893), who was a friend of Barrie’s and also from Scotland!

Barrie was the person to coin the term, “Wendy House”! Although, as many suggest he was not the first person to use the name “Wendy”, he did certainly popularise it as a female name. A Wendy house is a small house that Peter Pan builds around Wendy when she is shot by one of the Lost Boys during the play.

He is the reason that “Quality Street” chocolates are named so. In 1901, J. M. Barrie released a comedy play named “Quality Street”, which was set during the Napoleonic Wars – it turns out that this wasn’t as successful as his other plays, but Mackintosh’s used the name for their new chocolates in 1936!

Captain Hook was not the original villain of the Peter Pan play. In the first version of the play, Peter Pan was the villain of the play; described by Barrie was a “demon boy”, which depicted him kidnapping children from their beds in the dead of night. Although since Hook was added to the play – purely for set practicality reasons, Peter Pan has a softened image, he is still not a true hero. Peter Pan is selfish, incapable of taking care of himself outside of battle and does not think about the effect that his love has upon others.

What is your favourite J. M. Barrie quote? We love this one!

Want to know more about your favourite authors? learn more about Dr Seuss in this Kent-Teach blog. Did you know that Dr Seuss was a trend setter? We were surprised too!

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