Hide-and-seek with Angels: The Life of J.M. Barrie

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9780091795399: Hide-and-seek with Angels: The Life of J.M. Barrie

What kind of man creates a boy who never grows up? More than 100 years after Peter Pan first appeared on the London stage, author J. M. Barrie remains one of the most complex and enigmatic figures in modern literature. A few facts, of course, are widely known: Peter Pan made Barrie the richest author of his time, and he bequeathed the royalties to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. He was married, but later divorced, and he was devoted to the orphaned sons of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, one of whom was named Peter. And then the rumors begin--about the nature of his marriage; about his precise relationship with the Davies boys, whose guardian he became; about the fantasies and demons that determined his achievements.

In this brilliant biography, Lisa Chaney goes beyond the myths to discover the fascinating, frequently misunderstood man behind the famous boy. James Matthew Barrie was born in a village in Scotland in 1860, the ninth of 10 children of a linen-weaver and his wife. When James was six years old, his older brother died in a skating accident, and his mother began her withdrawal into grief. It is not an exaggeration to say that Barrie's entire life--both his professional triumphs as a writer and his personal tragedies--led up to the creation of Peter Pan, the play where "all children except one grow up." As Lisa Chaney explores Barrie's own struggles to grow up, she deepens our understanding both of his most famous character and of the complex relationship between life and art.

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About the Author:

LISA CHANEY has lectured and tutored in the history of art and literature, and has written for journals and newspapers, including the Sunday Times, The Spectator and the Guardian.

From The Washington Post:

The nexus of relationships that inspired James Matthew Barrie's masterpiece, "Peter Pan," would be out of the question in England or the United States today: A responsible parent would not let a grown man play with her young sons for hours at a time, day after day, year after year. But as viewers of the movie "Finding Neverland" know, Barrie did just that with his neighbors the Llewelyn Davies boys, informally adopting them after the death of their father. As a grownup, one of the boys, Nico, insisted that Barrie's love for them was entirely chaste, adding, "I don't believe that Uncle Jim ever experienced what one might call a stirring in the undergrowth for anyone -- man, woman, or child." In Hide-and-Seek with Angels: A Life of J.M. Barrie (St. Martin's, $27.95), Lisa Chaney stresses that while Barrie was undoubtedly smitten with the boys in some way, he was also standing apart and studying them as an artist. He had previously struggled to capture what Chaney calls "the mystery of growing up" in such plays as "Sentimental Tommy," and now -- with the brothers serving as a kind of living laboratory -- he was ready to perfect his "anatomy of childhood." The result was the play "Peter Pan," which became not only a classic but a proving ground for some of the greatest actors of the 2oth century. Among those who have played Peter have been Mary Martin, Jean Arthur, Margaret Lockwood, Glynis Johns, Mia Farrow and Dorothy Tutin; Capt. Hook has been played by Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Alistair Sim, Cyril Ritchard and Dustin Hoffman. Barrie expressed the impulse that lay behind his children's plays and novels in a passage that shows what a self-conscious artist he was: "I wish that the universe were radically different, since the world as it is is not just tragic, it is for me an impossibility. To be completely human -- with its full range of both practical and imaginative potentialities -- and to grow up; these are in a sense contradictories. By growing up, by co-operating in social order, living, one

has to curtail the imagination; by doing this one is obliged to give up so much that one becomes an unacceptably diminished person."

The Life of J.M. Barrie
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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