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JAMES BARRIE (1860-1937)
Creator of Peter Pan
Barrie and his beloved Micheal Davies, then 12, while fishing in Scotland.
James Barrie was born in Scotland in 1860. Although he married, the marriage was not a happy one, and many commentators believe that it was never consummated. The theme of many of his works, including his autobiographical novel, Little Tommy, suggest that Barrie viewed women as mothers rather than lovers.

Barrie always remained youthful, and between his willingness to play games, his imagination, and even his appearance, he often had child friends. In 1897, he met the five sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the park and became instant friends with them. He spent many years playing games with them and renting summer cottages next to their family's.

His ideas for Peter Pan came from many of the games he played with the boys, and he read some of his original Peter Pan stories to the children. Barrie became like an Uncle to the Davies boys, loving them dearly. In 1908, the boys' father died of cancer, and Barrie's own wife divorced him. Two years later, the boys' mother also died of cancer. All five boys--Peter, John, Micheal, Nicholas, and Arthur--were left in Barrie's care.

Barrie's attraction to boys has been documented in several biographies and books: Andrew Birkin's J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys, Fraser Morris's The Death Of Narcissus, and Humphrey Carpenter's Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children's Literature. Barrie took photographs of nude boys, and some of them appear in Birkin's biography. In fact, Carpenter's biography describes erotic desire as the driving force behind the flowering of English children's literature during the time of Barrie.

One biographer (at the WGBH-TV (PBS) website) notes that "Barrie's boy-love disturbs the modern reader in ways that the vast majority of Edwardians would not have even had the language to articulate...he did enjoy the perpetual success of his creation, which granted him an eternal connection of sorts to the youth he so idealized."

Barrie was awarded honorary degrees from Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Oxford, and Cambridge universities. In 1930, he was named the chancellor of the University of Edinburgh. He died in 1937.

Sources:

  • Short Bio: James Barrie at the PBS WGBH-TV Boston website.
  • Feature: Sir James Matthew Barrie at the "World's Greatest Classic Books" website.
  • Andrew Birkin, J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys, London: Constable, 1979.
  • Humphrey Carpenter, Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children's Literature, London: George, Allen and Unwin, 1985.
  • Fraser Morris, The Death Of Narcissus, London: Secker and Warburg, 1976.
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