Wednesday, 3 May 2017

MAY'S AUTHOR by Sharon Tregenza


James Matthew Barrie was born on 9th May 1860 in the Lowland village of Kirriemuir.

J.M. Barrie (1860-1937)

His father, David was a handloom weaver, and his mother, Margaret Ogilvy, assumed her dead mother's household responsibilities from the early age of eight. Jamie, as he was known in the family, was the ninth of their ten children. 

Barrie heard stories of swashbuckling pirates from his mother, who read her children R.L. Stevenson's adventures in the evening.

When Barrie was only seven, his brother David died in a skating accident. This son had been his mother's favourite child and she fell into a deep depression after his death. Barrie tried to get her attention by dressing up in the dead boy's clothes. The obsessive relationship that grew between him and his mother marked his whole life.  When she died he published an adoring biography of her.

Barrie knew he wished to follow a career as an author but his family tried to persuade him into the ministry. He worked out a compromise. He would attend University but study literature. He enrolled at the University of Edinburgh where he wrote drama reviews. He graduated with an M.A. in 1882.

Peter Pan for stage

Peter Pan, his most famous work, was produced for the stage in 1904. It's said to have evolved gradually from the stories that Barrie told to Sylvia Llewelyn Davis's five young sons. She was the daughter of novelist George du Maurier, and a mother figure to Barrie. 

The Llewelyn Davis boys.

It wasn't until 1911 that a definitive printed version was printed. The book was first titled "Peter and Wendy".

Peter Pan originally published as Peter Pan and Wendy

Fun Facts on J.M. Barrie:

1. He once said to H.G. Wells: "It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you waggle your ears?"

2. His play introduced the world to the name "Wendy".  It was inspired by a young girl who called Barrie "Friendy" but couldn't pronounce her Rs.

3. He explained why he ordered Brussel sprouts every day by saying: "I cannot resist ordering them. The words are so lovely to say."

4. He was godfather to Robert Falcon Scott's son, Peter. Barrie was one of the few people that the Antarctica explorer wrote to during his expedition to the South Pole.

5. The Peter Pan statue by the sculptor Sir George Frampton was erected secretly, overnight, for May morning in Kensington Gardens in 1912.

Statue of Peter Pan by Sir George Frampton.

And, I couldn't finish this post without mentioning one of the most famous Barrie quotes. One close to the heart of all Sassies. :)


Catherine Butler said...

Ah, one of my favourites! Also, I wish to record here that I can wiggle my ears.

Ann Turnbull said...

Oh, how I loved this book! I read it when I was eight, got to the end (in which Wendy grows up and is succeeded with Peter by a daughter and then a granddaughter), and was so distraught that I went straight back to the beginning. I did this three times before realising I had to move on. We had one of the early "Peter Pan and Wendy" editions with illustrations by Mabel Lucie Attwell covered with tissue paper. I had it until the 1980s and then at some point it disappeared. Later I saw some of those illustrations framed and for sale in a local antique shop. I did hope they were not from my copy - imagine vandalising such a beautiful book in that way!

Catherine Butler said...

"I did this three times before realising I had to move on."

And thus you proved yourself a true child of Wendy, Ann!

Sue Purkiss said...

I didn't know about his brother and mother - that explains a lot!

Sharon Tregenza said...

It does, Sue. I didn't go into everything the research hinted at but he sounded like a mixed up fellow.

Sharon Tregenza said...

Ooh, nice, Catherine Butler. I wish I could wiggle my ears. :)