James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937), the playwright who wrote Peter Pan, was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland. When he was six years old, his older brother, David,a young teenager, died in a skating accident. Their mother was devastated by this loss. James believed that David had been his mother's favorite. Perhaps as an attempt to console her, he tried to replace his dead brother and become like him, even wearing his clothes. In later writings, Barrie notes that, to his mother,the boy David remained a boy of thirteen forever. Later, this idea would blossom into the inspiration for Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.
Educated at Edinburgh University, Barrie moved to England to work as a journalist, and lived in London for the rest of his life. He was successful as a playwright, and numbered among his friends Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) and George Bernard Shaw. He married, but the marriage ended in divorce and he had no children of his own. However, when his friends, Arthur and Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, died, he became the legal guardian of their five sons. The boys' names were Peter, John, Michael, Nicholas, and Arthur. Their escapades probably inspired the events in Neverland.
In Barrie's later years, he developed such painful writer's cramp that he switched hands to write, which he could do because he was ambidextrous. He was troubled by manic depression, and one wonders whether the loss of his brother, and subsequent change in personality impacted his mental health. A statue of Peter Pan stands in the town square in Barrie's home town, where he was buried.
Copyright © 2000-2009 P.G.White, Ph.D.