Sir J.M. Barrie (1860-1937),
creator of Peter Pan.
Introduction:J. M. Barrie was the author of 'Peter Pan'. This classic of world literature grew from the stories he told for the five sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelwyn Davies.
After a strict upbringing in the Scottish village of Kirriemuir, Barrie attended Edinburgh University and then worked as a journalist in Nottingham. A piece extolling the delights of "Pretty Boys" was rewarded with the sack, and he moved to London as a freelance writer. His fierce work-ethic - probably born of trying to sublimate his paedophilia - and prodigious output carried him to the top of his profession within three years.
Barrie began "worshipping from afar" young actresses of the 1890s London stage, despite his being scarcely 5' tall and with a legendary shyness and reserve broken only in the presence of children. In 1894, "on his deathbed" while dangerously ill with pleurisy and pneumonia, he married actress Mary Ansell. It is uncertain if she married him out of pity or not. But he recovered and during the convalescent honeymoon it became apparent that Barrie had little real interest in women. The childless marriage was a sham and his wife increasingly bitter.
Barrie "went back to the silence of his study" and began his first great novel of boyhood, Sentimental Tommy, finding a life-model in his close friendship with Arthur Quiller-Couche's son, Bevil - the first of a lifelong string of intimate and often romantic friendships with young boys.
After success as a novelist, Barrie then made his name as a playwright, his dramatic reputation firmly established with the biting social satire on the English class-system, The Admirable Crichton (1902).
Peter Pan or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up was first performed on December 27th 1904, with huge success, making Barrie fabulously rich. The story of Pan grew from tales told for the five sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelwyn Davies. Barrie first met the boys on his daily walks out seeking children and their nannies to befriend in Kensington Gardens, and the Llewelwyn Davies boys soon became the loves of his life.
Like Lewis Carroll, Barrie was also an a photographer, taking numerous nudes of boys - the Llewelwyn Davies boys and many others - in various sylvian and beach settings. Poet Hakim Bey describes... "JM Barrie's sepia photos of longgone english boys playing pirates naked in the woods, paleskin washed-out blonds with ashgreygreen and faded turquoise eyes." About ten of the nudes have been published in Birkin (1979).
After the Llewelwyn Davies boys' father died, Barrie became a surrogate father, and after their mother died he effectively adopted the boys by faking their mother's will. Further tragedy followed - his beloved George was killed in action at Flanders in 1915, and his adored and brilliant Michael drowned with an Oxford friend - probably in a gay suicide pact - while swimming in the Thames.
Peter Pan or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up had its origin as a sub-story within the book The Little White Bird (see below), was published as the story Peter and Wendy in 1911 and as a play in 1928. A story of immense psychological depth, it has been translated into many languages, and its hero has taken his place in the English-speaking mythos. Its setting is the imaginative world of children, and its universal attraction is the love of youth, a theme that has tragic overtones for adults - and which most scholars believe is an expression of Barrie's sublimated paedophilia.
Barrie and his beloved Micheal Llewelwyn Davies, then 12, while fishing in Scotland
Barrie's paedophilia has been ably chronicled, in depth, in the following book:
Birkin, Andrew. J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys. London. Constable, 1979.
It is also treated, among others, in:
Morris, Fraser. The Death Of Narcissus. London. Secker and Warburg, 1976.
Carpenter, Humphrey. Secret Gardens; a study of the golden age of children's literature. London. George, Allen and Unwin, 1985. (Carpenter is frank and largely unjudgmental about dissident erotic desire as the driving force behind the flowering of English children's literature, and examines the 'life and works' of J.M. Barrie, Charles Kingsley, Carroll, George McDonald, Louisa Alcott, Kenneth Grahame, and A.A. Milne - and finds all of them labouring under some form of sexuality-based personal-problem)
James Kincaid makes a brilliant psychological analysis of the role of Captain Hook in 'Peter Pan', in his book Child-Loving; the Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. (London. Routledge, 1993).
from 'THE LITTLE WHITE BIRD' by J.M. Barrie. (a prototype of the Peter Pan stories, the account of a middle-aged bachelor's adoration of a small boy. It garnered rave reviews when it first appeared, which tells us something about how attitudes have changed during the last hundred years).
...I knew by intuition the he expected me to take off his boots. I took them off with all the coolness of an old hand, and then I placed him on my knee and removed his blouse. This was a delightful experience, but I think I remained wonderfully calm until I came somewhat too suddenly to his little braces, which agitated me profoundly. I cannot proceed in public with the disrobing of David...
"Why, David," said I, sitting up, "do you want to come into my bed ?" "Mother said I wasn't to want it unless you wanted it first," he squeaked. "It is what I have been wanting all the time," said I, and without more ado the little figure arose and flung himself at me. For the rest of the night he lay on me and across me, and sometimes his feet were at the bottom of the bed and sometimes on the pillow, but he always retained possession of my finger... I lay thinking of this little boy, who, in the midst of his play while I undressed him, had suddenly buried his head on my knees... Of David's dripping little form in the bath, and how I essayed to catch him as he slipped from my arms like a trout. Of how I had stood at the open door listening to his sweet breathing, had stood so long I forgot his name...
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