This was the first children's book about "The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up." It was essentially a reprint of five chapters from JM Barrie's novel for adults, Little White Bird (1902).
Sir James Matthew ('JM') Barrie, Baronet, by George Charles Beresford (1902).
(Image Courtesy Of The National Portrait Gallery, London.)
Barrie spent his childhood obsessively attempting to replace his dead brother in his mother's affections, even going so far as to don David's clothes. But the enshrined memory of a favorite son was an impossible act for James to follow: "In those nine-and-twenty years she lived after his death he was not removed one day farther from her, for when I became a man... he was still a boy of 13." His competition with the sainted and forever young ghost was doomed. Barrie doted on his mother, and later wrote a fawningly adoring biography of her, to no avail. James became rich, famous, and a peer of the realm, but Mom always liked David best.
Barrie's Novel Tommy And Grizel (1900). It Predates Peter Pan, But It's Hero Is Also A Boy Who Won't Grow Up.
"Poor Tommy! He was still a boy, he was ever a boy, trying sometimes, as now, to be a man, [but] always when he looked round he ran back to his boyhood as if he saw it holding out its arms to him and inviting him to come back and play. He was so fond of being a boy that he could not grow up. What is genius? It is the power to be a boy again at will."
Barrie's boyhood misfortunes shaped a warped adult psyche, but did they also stunt his growth? There is speculation that the trauma induced in him a condition called "psychogenic dwarfism." This syndrome is brought on by severe childhood stress, and is marked by a low level of growth hormones. The result is a drastically reduced stature, and a lack of sexual maturity. Barrie's adult height is variously recorded as between 4 feet, 10 inches and 5 feet 3 1/2 inches. He fathered no children, began shaving only at age 24, and was reportedly completely asexual his entire life. His marriage, said to have been unconsummated, ended in divorce due to his wife's open infidelity. Barrie once confided in his private journal: "Long after writing P Pan its true meaning comes to me: desperate attempt to grow up, but can't."
The Llewelyn Davies Brothers In 1905, with their father, Arthur. Baby Nicholas is in his father's arms. Jack is to his father's right, Peter at center, George to his left, and Michael in the foreground.
Arthur, who never cared for Barrie, died of cancer in 1907. In his dedication to the brothers of the published script for Peter Pan (1928), Barrie wrote: "I clutch my brows in vain to remember whether the writing of the play was a last desperate throw to retain the five of you for a little longer, or merely a cold decision to turn you into bread and butter."
(Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.)
The darkest take on the Llewelyn Davies boys and their relationship with their adoptive father, and one that seems wholly without merit, is that Barrie was a pedophile. While Barrie's love for the boys did border on the morbid, and was certainly obsessive and smothering, it was not sexual. The youngest of the brothers, Nicholas, told Barrie's biographer, Andrew Birkin: "I don't believe that Uncle Jim ever experienced what one might call 'a stirring in the undergrowth' for anyone, man, woman, or child. He was an innocent, which is why he could write Peter Pan."
The caption mentions both Barrie and Peter Pan.
(Image Courtesy Of Wikipedia.)
Illustration by F.D. Bedford For the 1911 American Edition.
"I don't want to go to school and learn solemn things. No one is going to catch me...and make me a man! I want always to be a little boy and to have fun."
(Image Courtesy Of Wikipedia.)
JM Barrie's life in his own private twilight zone between boyhood and manhood made it impossible for him to form healthy adult relationships. But it also allowed him to create one of the most enduring characters in children's literature. Barrie himself always maintained that Peter Pan was a story for adults, and was all too aware of its genesis in his own mental and physical immaturity. In a rare admission of melancholy he noted in his diary: "Six foot three inches...if only I had really grown to this, I would not have bothered turning out reels of printed matter. Read that with a bitter cry!"