Singers and Musical Personalities ~ Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM 1860 – 1937

1. Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM 1860 – 1937

1.   Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (1860 – 1937, (1902) by George Charles Beresford 1864-1938. vintage print, 151 mm x 108 mm Original in The National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Miss G. Toplis, 1939). [Image in the Public Domain]

James M. Barrie (1860-1937) is best known for his character Peter Pan. The play Peter Pan or, The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up was first performed in 1904 and published in 1928.

Other titles in the Peter Pan series are; The Little White Bird: or, Adventures in Kensington Gardens (1902), Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought (1908), and Peter and Wendy (1911). The ever popular characters of Peter, Wendy, Tinker Bell, The Lost Boys, Captain Hook, and the other pirates, indians, and fairies have inspired numerous adaptations to the stage, television, and film. The 2004 film 'Finding Neverland' was based on Barrie’s life.

Born in Kirriemuir, James Matthew Barrie was the son of weaver David Barrie and his wife Margaret Ogilvy. They were a large family and James, short in stature at 5 feet 1 inch, had three brothers and six sisters. His brother David died at the age of fourteen in a skating accident, and the profound sadness of his mother deeply affected young James.

An active and theatrical boy, he loved to entertain and at a very early age was organizing plays and acting in them with his friends and siblings. He wanted to be a writer and loved to read including the works of Jules Verne and James Fenimore Cooper.

Barrie attracted the attention of such notable writers as George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Louis Stevenson, whose adventure stories his mother had read to Barrie as a child.  Jerome K. Jerome was one of the many friends

Barrie also collaborated with fellow Scot and cricket player Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the opera titled Jane Annie or, The Good Conduct Prize. Though it was not successful their friendship was lifelong.

Universally Mourned, his obituary was published in The Illustrated London News on 26 June, 1937. There are now many statues of Peter Pan including the one in Kensington Gardens.

[Text draws on biographical material prepared by C.D. Merriman and other published sources.]

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2. Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM 1860 – 1937

2.  Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (1860 – 1937, by George Charles Beresford (1902).  Original in The National Portrait Gallery, London.)

At the age of 8, Barrie was sent to the Glasgow Academy, in the care of his eldest siblings Alexander and Mary Ann, who taught at the school. When he was 10 he returned home and continued his education at the nearby Forfar Academy.  At 13, he left home for Dumfries Academy, again under the watch of Alexander and Mary Ann.

He became a voracious reader, and was fond of penny dreadfuls, and the works of Robert Michael Ballantyne and James Fenimore Cooper. At Dumfries he and his friends spent time in the garden of Moat Brae house, playing pirates, experience that was to become the play of Peter Pan. They formed a drama club, producing his first play Bandelero the Bandit, which provoked a minor controversy following a scathing moral denunciation from a clergyman on the school's governing board.

The first appearance of Peter Pan came in a long section of The Little White Bird, which was serialised in the United States, then published in a single volume in the UK in 1901. Barrie's most famous and enduring work, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, had its first stage performance on December 27, 1904. This play introduced audiences to the name Wendy, which was inspired by a young girl, Margaret Henley, who called Barrie 'friendy', but could not pronounce her Rs very well and so it came out as 'fwendy'.

The play has been performed innumerable times since then, was developed by Barrie into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy, and has been adapted by others into feature films, musicals, and more. The Bloomsbury scenes show the societal constraints of late Victorian middle-class domestic reality, contrasted with the Neverland, a world where morality is ambivalent. George Bernard Shaw's description of the play as 'ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children but really a play for grown-up people', suggests deeper social allegories at work in Peter Pan.

[Text draws on biographical material in the public domain.]

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Barrie Anecdotes

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