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.
One of our members (Cliff Coles) is working on preparing a new Society edition of 'Jane Annie' libretto and score.
If anyone has any insight or interest in this play, please give us your comments below:
Member Elena Silvestri Cecinelli (who edited and wrote the introduction to our Society Volume 'My Lady Nicotine and other short works') is working on a Society edition of Ibsen's Ghost and other plays.
If anyone has comments or contributions to make to this, please do so below:
Members are entitled to a free copy of our annual Society Journal Anon. International members receive a downloadable version, and this is also available online to UK members at no cost. To get purchasing links click HERE
Our inaugural Journal was titled: Perspectives on Barrie (2017) while Volume 2 (2018) is titled Making Connections. The journals have an eclectic mix of commentary and review, as well as re-publishing of some of Barrie's own lesser known works.
We are currently working on the Third Volume which will be published on May 9th 2020 to mark Barrie's 160th birthday and is titled: Man and Boy. If you would like to contribute a piece please look at the Journal page for more information. Note that all contributors are eligible for free annual membership!
In 1892 Robert Louis Stevenson invited Barrie to Samoa.
He invited him again in 1893.
J.M.Barrie and his friend, fellow Scots writer S.R.Crockett considered going in the spring of 1894. But Barrie got sick and Crockett got famous. And Barrie got married and Crockett got more famous... and then Stevenson died.
To find out more about this 'almost unco adventure' you might like to discover S.R.Crockett via The Galloway Raiders www.gallowayraiders.co.uk
The place for people to find out more and exchange their thoughts about Barrie's work