J M Barrie

Born in Kirriemuir, Angus, J.M. Barrie was the ninth of ten children. His father was David Barrie, a handloom weaver, and his mother was Margaret Ogilvy Barrie.

His older brother David died in an ice-skating accident just before 14th birthday, when Barrie was just 6 years old.

Though he had wanted to become a writer for some time, he was still persuaded by family to study at the University of Edinburgh. However, he kept up his love of writing by reviewing dramas for a local newspaper, which later helped him gain a job as a staff journalist for the Nottingham Journal.

Barrie’s first taste of recognition came with the publication of Auld Licht Idylls (1888), followed by A Window in Thrums (1890) and The Little Minister (1891), books that were based on his mothers’ stories about his home town. Though critics were less than favourable, the books were popular enough to establish Barrie as a very successful writer.

Though he had success with other novels, his attention soon turned towards the theatre. His first play was a biography of the poet Richard Savage, which was only performed once, to poor reviews. His next play, Ibsen’s Ghost (1891), was far more successful, and several other plays following this also enjoyed rave reviews. 1891 was also the year he met his future wife, actress Mary Ansell. The two married in 1894, but later divorced in 1909 after she had an affair.

In 1902 the novel The Little White Bird was published, and saw the first appearance of Barrie’s most beloved character, Peter Pan. Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, was first performed on stage in December 1904, and Barrie later developed this into the novel Peter and Wendy (1911). This has remained his most enduring piece of work, and as been adapted into feature films, musicals and more.

An important influence in Barrie’s work also came from befriending the Arthur Llewellyn Davies family in 1897, particularly the young sons. Peter Pan evolved from the stories he told them. After Arthur’s death in 1907, the boys’ mother Sylvia encouraged them to remain close to “Uncle Jim”, and when she died in 1910 he was named as a trustee and guardian to them.

In 1913, Barrie became a Baronet, later receiving the Order of Merit in 1922. He was chancellor of the University of Edinburgh from 1930 until his death, from pneumonia, on June 3 1937. He is buried in Kirriemuir, next to his parents and two of his siblings.

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