J M Barrie and the Lost Boys
The real story behind Peter Pan (3rd ed 2003)
by Andrew Birkin (1945-)
Birkin has been working on Barrie since the mid 1970s, when he wrote a three-part series for BBC-TV. He was able to interview Nico Llewelyn Davies, and was given access to the family’s archive of letters, photos, and notes by Peter Ll. D. This edition was developed in connection with the movie Finding Neverland.
There was an interesting item mentioned early in the book, illustrating Barrie’s affinity for children. A friend had a young daughter who referred to Barrie as her “Friendy”. However, she did not speak clearly, and it came out as “Wendy”. Birkin asserts that Wendy was not a name at this time. I’m sure Linda Coddens and her daughter Wendy will be interested to hear this.
The book is quite detailed, and describes the evolution of the Davies boys’ relationships with Barrie, over an age range of infancy to mid-20s. Following the deaths of George in 1915 and Michael at the age of 21 they drifted apart. Birkin has posted much material that is not included in the book on a website: www.jmbarrie.co.uk.
The most interesting part to me was from the young George through the staging of the play Peter Pan, and its first couple of annual revivals. I’m interested to see the movie Finding Neverland.
Perhaps naturally, these days, people wonder what kind of relationships Barrie had with the boys. Nico addressed this in an interview with Birkin: “Of all the men I have ever known, Barrie was the wittiest, and the best company. He was also the least interested in sex. He was a darling man. He was innocent; which is why he could write Peter Pan.”