1 minute read

Sir J. M. Barrie (Sir James Matthew Barrie) Biography

(1860–1937), (Sir James Matthew Barrie), Nottinghamshire Journal, When a Man's Single, Auld Licht Idylls

British writer, born in Kirriemuir, Scotland, the son of a weaver, educated at Edinburgh University. He turned first to journalism with the Nottinghamshire Journal, a period reflected in When a Man's Single (1888). After producing several sentimental Kailyard sketches and stories about Thrums (a fictional version of Kirriemuir), such as Auld Licht Idylls (1888), A Window in Thrums (1889), and The Little Minister (1891), Barrie made the stage his career. His principal plays were The Admirable Crichton (1902); the perennial children's favourite, Peter Pan (1904); Alice Sit-By-the-Fire (1905), an amusing parody of the society plays made fashionable by Pinero and others; What Every Woman Knows (1908); the interesting Dear Brutus (1917), in which a magician gives his guests a glimpse of the alternative lives they might have led, showing that their disappointments come more from inner inadequacy than external chance; Mary Rose (1920), about a young wife and mother stolen by fairies; and the Biblical drama The Boy David (1936). From the first Barrie faced accusations of sentimentality, partly because of his whimsical imagination, his fondness for magic islands and enchanted forests, and partly because of the number of amiable and charming characters he introduced into his work. In particular, he tended to idealize childhood and maternal devotion. But, as Max Beerbohm wrote, his ‘excesses in the sweetly sad’ must be measured against ‘his humour, his curious inventiveness, his sure sense for dramatic effect’. As a Scot, he took a special delight in gently mocking what he saw as the frivolity of the English, especially the upper-class English: The Admirable Crichton and Little Mary (1903) both have such satiric edge. And if he refused seriously to confront pain or evil, his work is often marked by a distinctive melancholy, usually associated with an unwilling or unacknowledged awareness that innocence cannot indefinitely survive contact with reality.

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Houston A. Baker (Houston Alfred to Sally Beauman Biography