James Matthew Barrie was of humble origins, the seventh of the eight surviving children of David Barrie, a Scottish weaver. Barrie’s mother, Margaret Ogilvy, was a strict Puritan, reared in the fundamentalist beliefs of the Auld Lichts (Old Lights), a sect of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The unusual strength of the influence she exerted over Barrie throughout his life was detrimental to him in many ways. When he was six, his older brother David, aged nearly fourteen and his mother’s favorite, died after a skating accident. Margaret Ogilvy was desolate in her loss, and the young James made a conscious effort to become a substitute for David, to help her overcome her grief. This was the beginning of the sharp division for Barrie between home, where he was acting out a fantasy in his most intimate relationship, and the outside, real world.
Barrie entered Dumfries Academy in 1873, and while there he began to be interested in all aspects of the theater. He was a founding member of a school dramatic society and left school intent on becoming a writer. Family opposition was strong, however, and reluctantly he entered Edinburgh University, graduating in 1882. During his years as an undergraduate, he wrote as a freelance drama critic for the Edinburgh Courant. After an unsuccessful year spent in Edinburgh researching a book on the early satirical poetry of Great Britain, he answered an advertisement for a job as leader-writer for the Nottingham Journal. Editorial supervision was virtually nonexistent, and Barrie wrote extensively for the paper under a variety of names. He began sending articles to London, undaunted by frequent rejections.
In 1884, Barrie returned to Scotland, where he wrote up his mother’s childhood memories. “An Auld Licht Community” was published in the St. James’s Gazette, and the editor requested more in the same vein, which Barrie found easy to provide. The following year, he decided that to make a career of writing he would have to be in London, so he moved south. He managed to sell articles steadily and before long was making a respectable living. His first successful book, a collection of Scottish articles, Auld Licht Idylls, appeared in 1888; together with A Window in Thrums...
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