Sir James Matthew Barrie : Literary Contribution

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      Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937), the Scottish novelist and playwright, was born in Kirriemuir and educated at Dumfries Academy and Edinburgh University. After some experience as a journalist in Nottingham, he came to London and wrote for the St James's Gazeite and several periodicals. He was famous as a novelist before he was known as a dramatist, and, apart from his early experiments, and My Lady Nicotine and later Peter Pan fairy books, wrote mainly about the Scottish country people, whom he studied with great sympathy and understanding.

Barrie was the chief member of the Kailyard Schoof of novelists. His first novels Better Dead (1887), When a Man's Single (1888), and My Lady Nicotine (1890), all suffer from that excess of sentimentality which is his chief weakness. The short dialect stories, collected in Auld Licht Idylls (1888) and A Window in Thrums (1889), are kindly sketches of the simple village life of his Auvergne district, and contain several good portraits.
Sir James Matthew Barrie

      Barrie was the chief member of the Kailyard Schoof of novelists. His first novels Better Dead (1887), When a Man's Single (1888), and My Lady Nicotine (1890), all suffer from that excess of sentimentality which is his chief weakness. The short dialect stories, collected in Auld Licht Idylls (1888) and A Window in Thrums (1889), are kindly sketches of the simple village life of his Auvergne district, and contain several good portraits. Of his other Ovels we should mention the over-romantic, sentimental, but immensely popular The Little Minister (1891) and his two studies of sentimentalism, Sentimental Tommy (1896) and Tommy and Grizel (1900).

      From 1900 onward the, stage claimed most of his attention. Among the dramatists of the period Barrie is unique in that his work belongs to no school, nor did it establish a school of its own. In many plays he turns his back on the realities of life and seeks refuge a world of make-believe and charming fantasy, created by his own peculiar mixture of whimsicality, quaintness, sentimentality, pathos, and humour. The best of his fantasies and romarices had a delicacy of touch which delighted audiences who were very ready to be moved by his simple grace and charm. The worst of them were mawkish and exaggerated and are best forgotten. Sentimental romances like The Professor's Love Story (1894), the dramatized version of The Little Minister (1897), Quality Street (1902), and Mary Rose (1920) usually capture a certain public, while, of his fantasies, Peter Pan (1904) and A Kiss for Cinderella (1916) have always been popular.

      In other plays Barrie shows an ability to blend fantasy and reality, and beneath the surface of fantastic humour is a core of serious thought and a satirical, often cynical, view of the society of his day. Often the serious aspect is almost hidden by the surface fantasy, and many charmed audiences failed to realize the depth of the play. The Admirable Crichton (1902), What Every Woman Knows (1908), The Twelve-pound Look (1910), The Will (1913), and Dear Brutus (1917) are probably the best known of these.

      Barrie's drama as a whole shows him to be a fine technician with a strong sense of the demands of the theatre. His characters are usually slight but charming, and he shows a tender affection for the day-dreamers and failures of the world. His dialogue is good and is handled with the sensitivity of one who had a real feeling for words.

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