J. M. Barrie Biography

Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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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J. M. Barrie Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

James Matthew Barrie was born at Kirriemuir, Scotland, on May 9, 1860, into the family of a poor Scottish weaver. He would one day make his native village famous as the fictional village of Thrums. Despite their poverty, David Barrie and his wife, born Margaret Ogilvy, gave their children all the education they could. The father worked long hours at his loom, so the mother was much closer to their children, particularly in the case of James. It was largely through the influence of his mother that James Barrie became a man of culture and letters, but her influence also made him a sentimentalist and something of a snob.

Barrie’s schooling was acquired in many places, including several schools operated by his brother, A. O. Barrie, himself famous in the British educational world. By dint of hard work, James Barrie graduated from Edinburgh University and took his M.A. in 1882; his university record was undistinguished. Early in 1883, Barrie applied successfully by mail for a job as a writer on the staff of the Nottingham Journal. As a journalist, Barrie turned out thousands of words weekly on many subjects, although none of his writing for the newspapers was remotely of literary quality. His first literary effort to be published was an article entitled “An Auld Licht Community,” in the London St. James Gazette, in 1884. This article was written at his parents’ home, shortly after Barrie had lost his job in Nottingham. Several other “Auld Licht” sketches followed and were published, launching Barrie’s literary career. Filled with enthusiasm, Barrie moved to London, despite the fact that Frederick Greenwood, editor of the St. James Gazette, discouraged the change.

Once in London, Barrie began to write in earnest, and Better Dead, a book based on his experience as a journalist, was published. The following year saw three books which cemented the author’s popularity: Auld Licht Idylls, a sentimental collection about life in Kirriemuir; When a Man’s Single, a novel about life as a journalist; and An Edinburgh Eleven, sketches of famous men of that city. A Window in Thrums was highly popular, but its very success was a mixed blessing for Barrie: It identified him as the leader of the Kailyard School. The term, a derogatory one, was applied by critics to authors who wrote sentimental, humorous fiction about Scottish life, using dialect and ignoring anything which might...

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J. M. Barrie Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Sir James Matthew Barrie was born on May 9, 1860, in Kirriemuir, Forfarshire, Scotland. He was the ninth child and the youngest of the three...

(The entire section is 445 words.)

J. M. Barrie Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Sir James Matthew Barrie was born on May 9, 1860, at Kirriemuir, Forfarshire, Scotland. He was the ninth child and youngest of three sons of...

(The entire section is 552 words.)

J. M. Barrie Biography (Drama for Students)

J. M. Barrie Published by Gale Cengage

J. M. Barrie was born on May 9, 1860, in Kirriemuir, Scotland, a village located in the Lowlands. He was the son of a poor weaver, David, and his wife, Margaret Ogilvy Barrie. Barrie was the second youngest of ten children and one of only several to survive infancy. Barrie’s mother ensured that he received an education, and the playwright eventually received his M.A. from Edinburgh University in 1882. After Barrie’s elder brother and Margaret Barrie’s favorite son died when Barrie was six, he took it upon himself to take his brother’s place. The author’s relationship with his mother was unusually close and was often based in a fantasy world due to Margaret’s bedridden condition. Barrie’s complex relationship with his mother is thought by many to be the inspiration for the mother-worship that critics feel is central to Peter Pan.

Barrie began his writing career as a journalist soon after graduation from Edinburgh, first in Nottingham, then back in Scotland, and finally, London. In the late-1880s, Barrie published several novels and short stories. His first bestseller was 1891’s The Little Minister. In that same year Barrie began writing plays and playlets, beginning with a one-act burlesque entitled Ibsen’s Ghost, or, Toole up to Date. After successfully turning The Little Minister into a play in 1897, Barrie focused almost exclusively on the theatre. From 1901 until 1920, he wrote one play per year. One of Barrie’s most famous plays during this period was 1902’s The Admirable Crichton, a combination of fantasy and social commentary. These same elements were employed in Barrie’s best–known work—and his only play intended explicitly for a young audience— Peter Pan, first produced in 1904.

The play had its roots in a novel Barrie published in 1902, Little White Bird, written for some young friends of Barrie, the Davies. Barrie met the family in London’s Kensington Gardens in 1897 and was immediately enamored with the three young boys, George, Jack, and Peter, as well as their mother, Sylvia. Barrie befriended the family, spending considerable time with them over the years (the head of the Davies household, Arthur Davies, did not always like the situation but tolerated it nonethe- J. M. Barrie

After Peter Pan and several novelizations of the story, Barrie continued writing notable plays. Most were adult dramas and comedies that frequently played with fantasy, including Dear Brutus (1917). Barrie’s success as a playwright allowed him to be generous with funds, and he gave often to individuals as well as important causes. Barrie ceased to write plays until a year before his death when he suddenly produced two Biblical dramas. Barrie died on June 19, 1937, in London.