We've just had to cancel all our plans for the JMB 160th birthday on May 9th. Or at least in 'reality'. In the 'virtual' world however, things are different.
This is a call out for anyone with anything to share about J.M.Barrie be that video, audio, book review etc to share it with us for a VIRTUAL BIRTHDAY PARTY to be held RIGHT HERE at M'Connachies on Saturday, May 9th.
While the 'rules' of life have changed recently, encouraging us to stay home; rather than taking that as a restriction, why not appreciate the gift we've just been given. The gift of TIME. We all now have more time to get creative. So why not engage and explore your creative side by making a gift for J.M.Barrie's birthday.
It could be a video or audio recording - how about a reading or a book review online?
It could be a written response to Barrie's work, reflections on it, or a compilation slide show/art work.
Get creative. Go 'beyond Peter Pan' and explore more of Barrie's writing. Then share it with us.
If you know how to use a smartphone and are social media/internet savvy you can make your own contribution, upload it and send us the link and we'll feature it at the party. If that's all Japanese to you, but you have something you want to share, get in touch and we'll try and find a way to make it happen.
You have till April 16th to contribute. The party will happen on Saturday May 9th. All over the world and all over the internet. To be part of it email email@example.com with your ideas/suggestions/links/creative works.
We hope to see you (virtually) at the party of the year!
when dealing with ignorant people who should know better. Or - why Social Media (soma for short) seems to be determined to dumb us down!
Faced with this on my first visit to FB this year, I felt it incumbant on me to respond. But how? Here goes:
As people who have ‘taken the King’s shilling’ and are in bed (NOTE that’s a figurative phrase meaning a close partnership) with Moat Brae, which is tasked with positive promotion of children’s literature, having adopted ‘brand’ Peter Pan for their purposes. Behind which brand is J.M.Barrie (and a massive act of philanthropy which sees them able to use the character as a brand in the first place!)
the comments are childish (at best) and the plain response would be simply ‘grow up’. The question is, would the commenters see the depth in that statement with regard to Barrie’s quote : ‘All children, except one, grow up.
Are they totally ignorant of literary and classical allusion. Do I need to spell it out? Peter Pan. Pan. Classical allusion. Fairie. Classical allusion. Thus a classical word for a ‘party’ is perfectly consistent, no?
But even in a more modern context, less than fifty years ago I can confirm that the word ‘orgy’ was used quite frequently in a non-sexual context. The phrase ‘An orgy of colour’ - in the context it simply refers to a ‘riot’ (without the political connotation.) of colour. Here’s an example:
https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g294265-d2149128-r351906494-Gardens_by_the_Bay-Singapore.html of orgy used in this context, even today!
But if we go back to Barrie’s day…
The Red Ballet Skirts (c.1890) encapsulates Degas’ later style. He adopts a system of densely built layers and cross hatching, which he referred to as ‘orgies of colour’.
http://www.ourdailyread.com/2008/03/orgy-of-colour/ Yes, there is sensuality involved. Sensuality = the world of the senses. And as a fairy/fantasy world, which Barrie shows coming into tension with the ‘normal’ ‘real’ world (as we might put it) it would seem appropriate to vary one’s use of language appropriate to one’s intent/context. So, consider this folks: Barrie is in fact doing something clever not ‘weird’ in the story of Peter Pan – bringing the worlds and styles of realism and fantasy into scrutiny through the conflict of belief systems (and so much more!)
Might I suggest, perversion is in the eye of the beholder, or the user of language who fails to appreciate the classical allusions. Forgive me, but it is frankly irritating to have to deal with this level of ignorance among those who should know better, especially in the 160th anniversary year of Barrie’s birth. People. You are not Peter Pan. So grow up!
What is the intention and purpose behind the FB post? I'm sure it's an attempt at humour, but seriously folks - let's move on from trashing reputations. Barrie was, after all, primarily a writer for adults and this phrase is NOT in the Nursery Peter Pan, but in the later novel Peter and Wendy.
Beyond the review… and Beyond Peter Pan…
I reflect that the man who ‘cursed’ all his biographers, has been subject to more than half a century of critiques as thematically complex and commercially astute as the plays he wrote - while the plays themselves have largely remained under explored. From ill researched, sometimes even slanderous and perhaps simply crazy works (I name no names - P.D) to R.D.S.Jack’s two valuable tomes Myths and the Mythmaker(2010) and The Road to the Neverland (1991); both of which are works so horribly overpriced so that no ‘ordinary’ reader can engage with them; there is no shortage of writing ‘out there’ about Barrie and his creative and dramatic works. While many remain wedded to the Disneyfication of Peter Pan, I suspect that many more of us draw our ‘knowledge’ of Barrie from Birkin’s landmark TV series (and book) The Lost Boys. Certainly for me, Ian Holm 'is' Barrie, but for the next generation Johnny Depp may 'be' Barrie. Though it must be said that to mention Birkin's work in the same sentence as Finding Neverland is an exercise in the sublime being followed by the ridiculous! I am old-school enough to think that 'dramatic licence' does have limits, and that Finding Neverland far exceeds these.
I suppose every generation will have its own ‘version’ of Peter Pan and our interpretations of J.M.Barrie are always just that, but perhaps how we 'see' Barrie and his works gives more of an insight into our own motivations and interests than any comprehensive or 'real' picture of Barrie as writer. His prose and plays remain as enigmatic as his personality. There is much work still to be done to bring Barrie’s work back into critical and popular awareness in a nuanced yet respectful way. Our Society Editions at least try to open the doors to affordable copies for the general reader which neither pander to commercialism nor distance through an over scholarly positioning.
As we get ready to commemorate J.M.Barrie's 160th anniversary next year, it seemed fitting to post this article, a speech on 'Literature and the Press.' Note his apocraphyl tale of 'meeting Robert Louis Stevenson (who died 125 years ago this month.) This is a great example of 'Scots humour' which has rather too often been taken as 'fact' by earnest and over-eager researchers!
November 12, 1924
MAJOR ASTOR, your Royal Highness, gentlemen — especially Mr. Churchill (1) — what worries me is those two suspicious objects that have been put upon the table in front of me. (Two microphones had been placed on the table to broadcast the speeches.)
I do not know what they are, but I presume that one of them represents Literature, and the other the Press. I think we should all feel very beholden to an eminent politician for coming here and talking to us so delightfully about literature and the Press, especially at a moment when the country is on the eve of a General Election — I mean to vote this time. But, though Mr. Churchill has been very nice about it, I know the real reason why I have been asked to reply for this toast. It is because I am the oldest person present. Many years ago I saw, in an American ‘Whitaker,’ my name in a list, headed ‘Interesting Octogenarians,’ and I think therefore that the best thing I can do is to give you some literary recollections of far past days. I dare say I may sometimes get a little muddled between past and present, between father and son, but then I notice that you have done that also to-night. You have been congratulating Mr. Churchill on being Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course, it was his father who was that. I will tell you a secret — I know quite well what has been happening to Mr. Churchill, and I think that he is only wearing the laurels that he has so splendidly earned. But let us couple with him to-night the father, who must be proud of his boy.
Those of you who are at present writing your reminiscences, and that must mean the greater number of you, I warn you that there is not much use having reminiscences nowadays unless you can remember Robert Louis Stevenson. The only time I met Stevenson was in Edinburgh, and I had no idea who he was. It was in the winter of’79. I well remember the wind was ‘blawin’ snell’ when I set off that afternoon with my notebooks to the Humanities class of the University of Edinburgh. As I was crossing Princes Street — a blasty corner — I ran against another wayfarer. Looking up, I saw that he was a young man of an exceeding tenuity of body, his eyes, his hair, already beginning to go black, and that he was wearing a velvet jacket. He passed on, but he had bumped against me, and I stood in the middle of the street regardless of the traffic, and glared contemptuously after him.
He must have grown conscious of this, because he turned round and looked at me. I continued to glare. He went on a little bit, and turned round again. I was still glaring, and he came back and said to me, quite nicely: ‘After all, God made me.’ I said: ‘He is getting careless.’ He lifted his cane, and then, instead, he said: ‘Do I know you?’ He said it with such extraordinary charm that I replied, wistfully: ‘No, but I wish you did.’ He said: ‘Let’s pretend I do,’ and we went off to a tavern at the foot of Leith Street, where we drank what he said was his favourite wine of the Three Musketeers. Each of us wanted to pay, but it did not much matter, as neither of us had any money.
We had to leave that tavern without the velvet coat and without my class books. When we got out it was snowing hard, and we quarrelled — something about Mary Queen of Scots. I remember how he chased me for hours that snowy night through the streets of Edinburgh, calling for my blood. That is my only reminiscence of R. L. S., and I dare say that even that will get me into trouble.
It may interest Major Astor to know that I was the man who bought the first copy of The Times containing the news of the victory of Waterloo. [And the story becomes even less credible, this is humour not real memory!]I happened to be passing Printing House Square at the time, and I vividly remember the Editor leaning far out of his window to watch the sales, and I heard him exclaim exultantly, ‘There goes one copy, at any rate!’ Waterloo! I never knew Napoleon in his great days, but I chanced to be lodging in the same house that he came to, as you remember, as a stripling, just for a week, when he was trying to get a clerkship in the East India Company. The old connection between France and Scotland brought us together. I remember well taking him one evening to Cremorne Gardens, then at the height of its popularity, and introducing him to a stout friend of mine, whom some of you may remember, Jos Sedley. What fun we had in the fog driving Jos home in his coach to Russell Square! Napoleon was singing gaily, and Jos was bulging out of both windows of the coach at once. This is perhaps only interesting as being the first encounter between these two figures, who were afterwards to meet on the tented field. Napoleon, as is now generally known, did not take up that clerkship in the East India Company. I dissuaded him against it. Looking back, I consider that this was one of my mistakes.
Gentlemen, the unenviable shades of the great, who have to live on here after they have shed this mortal tenement! Not for them the dignity of dying and being forgotten, which is surely the right of proud man! Who knows that where they are fame is looked upon as a rather sordid achievement? The freer spirits may look upon those immortals with pity, because they have to go on dragging a chain here on earth. It may be that the Elysian Fields are not a place of honour, but of banishment!
‘Literature and the Press!’ It is a noble toast, and never can it be drunk more fittingly than in honour of the best friend that literature and the Press ever had — the printer. All seems well with the Press. We are gathered to-night round a chairman not unconnected with a journal of which we can perhaps say, without vainglory, that it is a possession which all the nations envy us. The Press nowadays, as Mr. Churchill has said, takes all the world in its span. I cannot look at Mr. Churchill, because I have been told to look at these two things (the microphones), but one who was very lately a Lord Chancellor, and now another, a Chancellor of the Exchequer, have both — I do not know whether Mr. Churchill is beginning to look a little nervous about what I am going to say next — all I am going to say is in glorification of the Press — when it is garbed in its Sunday best — they are the two brightest jewels on its proud bosom.
Literature, when it can be heard at all above the syrens — Mr. Churchill has had a good deal to say about literature and the Press, and has found that they are very much the same thing. He used an expression about there being no arbitrary dividing line between literature and the Press. I should like to give a definition of what I think is the arbitrary dividing line just in half a dozen words. It is this — Literature used to be a quiet bird. All, I think, is very well with literature, especially with the young authors. From its looms comes much brave literature, devised by cunning hands, women’s equally with men’s. There is no question whether a woman is worthy of a place in our Cabinet. Those young authors!
All hail to them! Happy they! Multitudinous seas incarnadine boil in their veins. They hear the thousand nightingales which we once thought we heard. They have a short way with the old hands, but in our pride in them we forgive them for that. Perhaps they sometimes go a little to excess, treating even God as if He were, shall we say, the greatest of the Victorians. I thank you for listening to me so patiently.
[1 Major J. J. Astor, M.P. presided, H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester (then Prince Henry) was present, and Mr. Winston Churchill had just proposed the toast ‘Literature and the Press, coupled with the name of Sir James Barrie]
125 years ago, S.R.Crockett published this review of J.M.Barrie's work in 'The Bookman' for November 1894.
Some books I am anxious to forget, and with reason: my lean bank-book, the butcher's too plump pass book, the tax-collector's curious little bent-backed , oblong note-book, which he keeps tossing over and over discontentedly at the front door, as if to say that he is quite well aware that in this particular house you would do him ill if you could. Further, I want to forget the book, which the editor wants reviewed, but which I have grown to Hate like poison for its way of looking at me from the shelf. Why is it let us ask the men of superfluous wisdom-that so soon as a book comes in which one has willy-nilly to read, a subtle resentment stirs swiftly, quickening into active dislike in the breast? I think we like the books best that we buy at the railway terminus and pay the full price for. We read them dourly in order to get our money's worth out of them . This is somehow an argument against discount booksellers. But there are other books I am also anxious to forget, and for other but equally good reasons. Among these are Sir Walter's, those of Mr. Stevenson , and above all, Mr. Barrie's-of which last I am now bidden discourse in my own way. I seem perpetually to be sending a plumbline down into the shallows of an imperfect memory to see how much of my favourite books the kindly tide has secured away. I even set examination papers to myself, as thus: "What did Counsellor Pleydell say to Dandie Dinmont when he met him at the stair-foot? Give a description of Tully-Veolan, with an excursus on the state of the gate posts crowned by the Bear of Bradwardine, (a) before, and (b) after, the occupation of the castle by the English troops.". Or the question which stirs me has reference to the physical temperature of the heroes of certain other books. "State whether in your opinion Messrs. Balfour and Breck, or Mr. Hawkins and the Captain, were hotter and more uncomfortable on the top of the rock in the glen or in the enclosurre of the stockade respectively? What was the exact composition and interpretation of the letter set in John B. Maccoll's window at the village of Koalisnacoan? Trace the various adventures of Mr. A. Breck's father’s silver button, and state of what in your opinion the threads were composed which Allan pulled out when the button was cut off." Or it may be (and this happens generally when I am very tired) that I examine myself hopefully upon the doings of yet other and more retiring folk. "State carefuJly (so from ancient habit put it to myself ), on what occasions (1) Sanders Elshioner and (2) Hendry went to the pig-stye, for what purposes, and why did one ‘scratch' and the other ‘poke’ the animal? Also which poked the pig, and how often?" Jf I am able to answer all these questions instantly and satisfactorily, a deep melancholy falls upon me, and I glance more kindly at the editor's shelf of new and uncut tales. Seldom do I read new books unless can remember the old altogether too well. But if I detect a hopeful hesitancy in recalling how many children were in T'nowehead's pew on the day when they sang, "Jerusalem like a city is Compactly built together," I am glad with an exceedingly satisfied joy; and if I forget who it was that accompanied Gavin when he went to "put it to Mag Lownie," I am as glad as if the morning's post had brought me two cheques-or at least, not to put the matter quite so strongly, the feeling of satisfaction is certainly similar in kind, though possibly somewhat less acute. There is a curious, ill-looking, squat-shaped little book somewhere on my top shelves bound up with other collecteana of its year of publication, which relates how a certain number of excellent people might be persuaded that they would be “Better Dead" for the sake of the race. I am satisfied that for me at least Mr. Barrie's books are “Better Forgotten"-because then-why, then, there they are all to be read over again. Or at least scarcely all-for mostly I read in two of them, with choosings here and there from the other three. The three I select from are 'When a Man's Single,' the divine pipe-reek book, 'My Lady Nicotine,' and (reluctant am I to say it), that fine true book, 'The Little Minister.' The first two (Thrums) chapters of 'When a Man's Single,' and the last-the performances of the immortal nephew in ‘My Lady Nicotine,' and the first half of 'The Little Minister,’ are my choice, and the selection reveals rather the limitations of the reader than those of the writer. For others whose judgments would trust before my own, manifest and uphold precisely opposite likings. But let me to the other two books which, like a little girl's best doll, have kept to the end. I would have a copy of either of them lying along with a box of cigarettes within reach of every armchair in the house. For I know how a house should be arranged if people would only leave things alone. But alas! they never will. The late Mr. Robert Wodrow, of Eastwood, was of opinion that the Scriptures would be part of the entertainment of heaven. "At least," he says, discriminatingly, "I am sure that the great things in them will!" So if we do not read Mr. Barrie where Wodrow hoped to read the Scriptures, of a verity his best things are fitted to make much of our best entertainment here below. The delightful 'Idylls' and the famous 'Window ' are victual for kings. Indeed, kings rarely get meat and drink half so good. Mr. Barrie keeps his cup lying beside the well of pathos. It is to him a drinking fount, not a bath . He does not wallow in it like Mr. Kipling's buffalo bull in the mud. But the feeling is there, that one may drink as one drinks caller water from a village spring. Nor is the vessel other than fitting-not like that dish (as it is related in an excellent tramping paper in last month's Macmillan), which a canny Scotswoman gave the writer to drink from, with the compliment, "I keep the tinnie for tramp bodies. It saves bowls "-or words to that effect. If Mr. Barrie does not give us butter in a lordly dish, exactly, he gives us at least homely scones and crisp farles of Angus cake on an ashet, clean as even Leeby's deft hands could make it. Mr. Barrie steals our hearts by means the simplest-indeed, just in the way our own bairns get round us, taking the strings of our feelings in their hands or as babes grasp at a finger, holding with a palpable feather-weight that we cannot break. So we love the singer of Thrums epics, with his Virgilian sense of the tears in mortal things, just because we cannot help it. Mr. Barrie is like that king of France who kept back the deluge by getting himself named the "Well Beloved," with this difference, that the writer of the 'Window 'deserves the title. Yet I read oftenest in the 'Idylls,' because there is no forlorn laying away of all the beloved-Jess, Hendry, Leeby, among the standing stones on the windy bill; and, above all, no Jamie going over the commonly, looking behind him like a hunted thing. For as I read the 'Window,' I am haunted by the thought of these two chapters at the end of the book, and they weigh on my heart like going into a house where in one of the white unentered rooms a babe lies dead. There is a book by the author of 'Typae' and 'Omoo,' wherein is (or rather was) a description of a punishment at sea with cat-o'-nine tails. I liked the book, and wished to continue to read in it; but that chapter daunted me. So I carefully tore it out-foolishly also, for the lacking leaves made a place for the volume to open at, and I remembered more clearly than ever. So I had to get rid of it. I gave it to a library. In a week the librarian wrote a polite note to say that he had been collating the "book of travel," and regretted that he had found it to be imperfect. (What business have librarians with the insides of books, anyway?) He was sure that I must have been unaware of this. Perhaps I would see my way to presenting them with a new copy. He was mistaken . I knew it perfectly. But I sent instead a set of the works of A.L.O.E., and I believe the librarian is at present usefully employed in collating these. However, he has had time to return me the imperfect work of Mr. Herman Melville. Happily there is a bridge of sorts near at hand, and a river. I, dropped Mr. Melville in, and thought, "There is an end of you!" On the next day but one a very raggetty little boy came to the front door. He had a bleached book in his hand, and the look in his eye meant sixpence. Alas! the 'White Jacket' had had my name on it. (Moral: Never write your name on your own books.) But I have the better of the thing at last. Duly at dead of night I buried it-deep, very deep-in a remote quarter of the shrubbery. But this is an excursua, and has nothing to do with Mr. Barrie, but it is just these unrelated things which make literature-and help to cover the paper. So, as I say, I like to read the 'Idylls' best. I love, for instance, the sound of the wire when the birds lighted on it in the frosty morning ; and I am not deeply concerned if, in the light of many other things in the book, the period was too early for the introduction of wire fences and Oxonian inspectors. The schoolmaster's hens, which he took into the lonely schoolhouse on the day after Wester Lunny’s lassie made the notable announcement that Glen Quharity school would no longer keep, "because she wasna comin' the morn," are dear to me as my wife's second cousins. I like them very well, but with a finely modified, once-removed joy. I am glad that I do not live in the kitchen whose floor they diversified at long range by dropping their feathers upon it from the baulks. Again, at the corner of the square I stand and watch the Quakerish maids go by to their Saturday night shopping, and I slap my knee as I think of a good thing I might have said to the one who passed last but three. So 'tis easy to see what a great thing it is to forget Mr. Barrie's books, in order that one may begin and go over the whole from the beginning. It even pleasures you to find that he says the same thing over and over again, as though he had forgotten it himself. There is time enough to forget anything in quiet·moving Thrums. But it has just struck me that I have quite forgotten the end of that greatest of all Mr. Barrie's chapters, the 'Tale of a Glove.' This is surely good reason enough for cutting short this ramble of appreciation. In which pious logic I hope the editor will agree with me. Any way I shall cease from troubling, and read it over again. S.R.Crockett
Members of the Shaw Society brought to our attention Barrie's 'Cowboy' Film, and wondered if it was filmed at Shaw's Corner in Hertfordshire. So if anyone knows, please email us or comment below and we'll pass on the information.
The film ‘How Men Love’ was directed by Barrie and Harley Granville-Barker, and Shaw appeared.
For more information about it check the following links:
J.M.Barrie was Rector of St Andrews from 1919 until 1922. He made his Rectorial speech on May 3rd 1922 on the theme of 'Courage'. It is a remarkable work and if you have not read it, you can do so HERE.
Over the next three years the J.M.Barrie Literary Society hopes to work with St Andrews University to develop a programme of events and connections with students,alumni and 'town and gown' and first out of the traps is our 'Rector's Challenge' essay writing 'competition.' (I use the word 'competition' lightly, as I find the whole nature of competitive writing somewhat distasteful!)
Basically, St Andrews students are being asked to respond to the following:
“I want you to take up this position: ‘Youth have for too long left exclusively in our hands the decisions in national matters that are more vital to them than us.’”
Discuss this statement from J.M.Barrie’s 1922 Rectorial Address ‘Courage’ and its relevance to the modern world.
The 'challenge' is to submit an essay (or creative response) of between 1000-3000 words. The deadline is January 6th 2020. Essays must be submitted to J.M.Barrie Lit Soc via email firstname.lastname@example.org in Word or PDF format.
Prize (if you must have a prize) is publication in the J.M.Barrie 160th anniversary Journal. (9th May 2020)
Anyone else who wishes to write a piece (on this or any other topic) in connection with J.M.Barrie 'Man and Boy' should submit their work - between 500 and 5000 words via email as soon as possible and before Feb 1st 2020 for consideration into Volume 3 of our Journal Anon.
JMB/St Andrews Timeline
2019 (November?) Centenary of J.M.Barrie elected Rector of St Andrews
2020 May 9th. J.M.Barrie’s 160th anniversary
2022 May 3rd Centenary of JMB’s Rectorial speech ‘Courage’ at the University.
To engage current students (alumni, town and gown) with Barrie and his connection to the University over the centenary period 2019-2022 through creativity and reflection.
Points of Connection
There are interesting links between current Rector and JMB:
The current Rector is doing what JMB suggested young people need to do!
‘Perhaps the seemly thing would be for us, their betters, to elect one of these young survivors of the carnage to be our Rector. He ought now to know a few things about war that are worth our hearing. If his theme were the Rector's favourite, diligence. I should be afraid of his advising a great many of us to be diligent in sitting still and doing no more harm.’
Deliver a series of WORKSHOPS over the next few years.
Develop Responses to the ‘Courage’ speech for a centenary publication in 2022
Cross discipline – creative responses literature, creative writing, drama, film, history, politics, psychology, philosophy.
Explore /perform Barrie’s dramas more extensively (Byre/Mermaids connection?)
Writing the ‘lost’ St Andrews play. The ‘real’ boy who never grew up.
Create a series of short films which deal with the aspects of the speech and its relevance to today for YouTube/Society website.
What does St Andrews mean to you?
If you could choose your hour from all the five hundred years of this seat of learning, wandering at your will from one age to another, how would you spend it?
The Courage Speech.
There are two famous quotes in this speech – but it’s rarely known they come from here:
God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December
A famous quote but few know where it comes from
it is not real work unless you would rather be doing something else
Another famous quote!
Responses to ‘Courage’
It’s a wide ranging speech.
Wars past and future
Exhorts youth to be active, challenge everything, beware of apathy and not to let those ordinary heroes who died, die in vain.
Honesty, humble beginnings and hard work are to be praised.
We are all failures in the end
Don’t live up to or get caught up in your own press.
What actually IS courage? How one faces the journey of one’s life. What one makes of it.
Other authors: Scott, Burns, Henley, Stevenson, and Captain Scott.
JMB’s philanthropy is why he’s best known for PP. JMB Lit Soc aims to go beyond PP.
JMB did indeed grow up -
In 1919 immediately post-war he was still grieving for George.
Echoes of the War plays published 1918.
In 2022 he was grieving for Michael.
It was a very bad time in his life.
Dr Andrew Nash, our President and leading academic Barrie expert, got his Doctorate from St Andrews. And I, more humble, got my degree here. I’m willing to bet that neither of us will ever be Rector, but that he is in the queue far ahead of me!
Lucie Sutherland’s pocket sized book on J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan explores the versatility of the play; offering insight into the historical, material and cultural contexts of the play. In 66 short pages it covers the period of the creation of the play as well as critiquing stage and screen adaptations which have come afterwards.
Sutherland notes that Peter Pan is ‘both thematically complex and commercially astute, with an enduring interest for audiences.’ In her work she addresses both of these aspects in as much detail as the short form allows.
Her work does not (often) seek to stray into the realms of meta-textual analysis, but rather to focus on the play’s construction, reconstruction and reception. As such it offers much information and food for thought.
The three main chapters consider the development of the play, the first performances and subsequent adaptations. All of these are interesting and engaging, covering new as well as familiar ground.
The Introduction suffers from one biographical inaccuracy, where Dumfries Academy is air-brushed out, to be replaced by Forfar Academy. It’s a small but significant slip (especially if you have either Forfar or Dumfries connections)because of the impact of Dumfries Theatre Royal on the schoolboy. To correct the factual error it should be noted that Barrie’s schooling is as follows: Glasgow Academy 1869-1871, Forfar Academy,1871-1873 and Dumfries Academy 1873-1878.
This aside, the book offers much to engage. It is particularly strong on the production process. For example, there is discussion of the pantomime aspect of the play. I had not considered this before, but it helped me draw a contextual connection with the short play Pantaloon which was performed for the first time in April 1905, shortly after the initial performances of Peter Pan.
Considerations of the origins and contextual significances of ‘Never Land’ might have been further developed had space allowed, though of course this is both a vast and mined field for appraisal.
The chapter on stage and screen adaptations offers review and overview, and the section ‘Appropriating Peter Pan’ tantalisingly moves towards meta-textual analysis through consideration of Finding Neverland and the 2003 film version of Peter Pan. Again, the deeper argument here is only constrained by space but is certainly interesting and thought provoking. And other works are given their relative due, providing breadth of comparision.
Peter Pan is a difficult play in so many ways. Consequently, it is a difficult play to write about and Lucie Sutherland is to be applauded for presenting this short work, which brings so much information into one place and which offers a good start point for deeper discussion and further scholarship.
J.M.Barrie's Peter Pan by Lucie Sutherland is published by Routledge in The Fourth Wall series.
In preparation for JMB 160 in 2020 we are building up a bank of reviews both about his works and about writing about him/his works.
If you have a contribution (or a suggestion for a review) please leave your comments below or email us at email@example.com
We are also in the process of 'reviewing' our Society editions... watch this space... again, if you have a commentary or review to submit, please email us with it.
It is great to see that Barrie merits three specific chapters in the new publication ‘The Land of Story-Books’.
It seems there has been a dearth of critical writing on Barrie published since the 2014 volume ‘Gateway to the Modern’, which perhaps reflects that Barrie is still something of a side-line in academic study both in Scotland and the UK. But a volume on Scottish children’s writing of the ‘Long’ Nineteenth Century could hardly miss him out, could it?
Notably, in this volume, the three chapters featuring Barrie all come from American institutions. Make of that what you will. It is perhaps less surprising that they all to a greater or lesser degree take colonialism as part of their argument. While this fits in with the overall theme of the volume, I find it affords a rather too simplistic perspective. Barrie is becoming acknowledged as a ‘writer of complexity and contradiction’ and at times I feel that this complexity and contradiction escapes all of the chapter authors. In the process of their struggle, perhaps it is inevitable that within what appear to be quite sophisticated academic arguments, they reduce Barrie to some of the old, well-worn myths(dare I say clichés)from which those of us who appreciate Barrie ‘beyond’ Peter Pan, strive to build a more nuanced approach.
That said, all three arguments have plenty to recommend them as positions for debate. In Chapter Nine Hayes avows his desire to ‘move the debate on’ from the Kailyard school, paying due credit to the work done by Nash in this regard, but his argument is limited, not least by non-inclusion of S.R.Crockett as central to his theme, and by a few rather dubious claims. While questioning whether Peter Pan was for children at all, Hayes notes that Barrie’s choices: ‘largely fit with our understanding of Barrie, especially in looking backward to earlier parts of his career - his creation of his ‘Tommy’ character and a series of highly sentimental tales around 1890 that were clearly built for a youthful audience’. That he mis-attributes the ‘Kailyard’ to 1880s I could overlook, but suggesting that the Thrums stories were ‘clearly built for a youthful audience’ potentially lays him bare to a form of intellectual colonialism of his own.
Fierce’s chapter offers a deliberately socio-political appraisal, drawing links between domesticity and colonialism, but again I find areas of surprise (and weakness) in his developing argument regarding the Scottish/English aspects of Barrie and his work. He seems to misunderstand Barrie’s use of ‘Scots humour’ and in the process his argument also becomes reductive. The warning is: If you take Barrie at face value you miss the point.
As Hugh Walpole noted in 1938,‘Barrie tricked nine-tenths of us, and knew well that he was tricking us.’
In Chapter Fourteen, Hansen affords Barrie the honour of being compared alongside Shakespeare. While in some respects more nuanced than the previous two chapters, it still seems to get caught up in a reductive guddle, debating dualities and ‘oppositions’ rather than developing the argument into more productive areas concerning complexity of method, purpose and textual outcome. Still, it is good to see Barrie is being taken seriously and her attempt to explore beyond the modern pejorative stance on ‘sentiment’ is appreciated.
There is much to disagree with in all three chapters, but at least there is the hope that such disagreement will lead to some healthy debate!
Taken in all, these chapters do at least begin to open not just a window for Peter Pan to fly back in, but a door through which we might step to begin to debate Barrie’s works more seriously ‘beyond Peter Pan’, taking him out of the critical prison he has been held in for too long.
In the introduction, Sarah Dunnigan is clear that ‘this book is seen as a beginning. Rather than being seen as a comprehensive or all-encompassing account of nineteenth-century Scottish literature for, and about children,’ but it will be of interest to those who are looking for a scholarly approach to the emerging academic thrust to have the study of Scottish children’s literature given due credence and attention.
 ‘Scottish Children’s Literature in the Long Nineteenth Century’ edited by Sarah Dunnigan and Shu-Fang Li, published by ASLS 2019 and available HERE
 To me at least, and I do spend a reasonable amount of time trawling academic databases for such writings.
 ‘Gateway to the Modern: Resituating J.M.Barrie,’ ed Valentina Bold and Andrew Nash, ASLS 2014
 Andrew Nash, 2015 (‘Better Dead…’ in Scottish Literary Review) and Sarah Dunnigan, 2017 (‘J.M.Barrie’s Gothic…’ in Scottish Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion) are the exceptions,… please feel free to email me with others!
 Sadly the same cannot be said for his contemporary S.R.Crockett, a man with an equal claim to significance in Scottish literature for adults and children, yet a man still shrouded in the cloak of invisibility as far as academia is concerned.
 Sarah Dunnigan, 2017 in ‘Scottish Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion, 2017.
 Referencing Hollindale is all well and good but all their arguments might be strengthened with more reference to Jack’s later work.
 Chapter 9, Timothy S.Hayes, The Darkening Island: Stevenson, Barrie, and the Perils of Childhood.’
 Nash, 2007 Kailyard and Scottish Literature.
 I presented a conference paper on a similar theme at ASLS in 2017 (you can find a version of it here)
 Chapter Ten, Rodney M.D. Fierce, ‘Colonising Neverland: British Motherhood as Imaginative Play in J.M.Barrie’s Peter and Wendy.’
 Hugh Walpole, 1938 preface to ‘McConnechie and J.M.Barrie.
 Chapter 14, Caitlin, R.Hansen, ‘Betwixt-and-Between: Barrie, Shakespeare, and Playing at Childhood.’
 Which it by no means is. I suppose should manage my expectations (and disappointment) about S.R.Crockett’s non-inclusion. A re-evaluation of his work is as long overdue in children’s literature as it is in the adult world, and his inclusion would have added some depth (and no little controversy) to many of the chapters in which he is overlooked.
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