Skip to main content

Barrie, J. M.

J. M. Barrie: (Sir James Matthew Barrie) (bâr´ē), 1860–1937, Scottish playwright and novelist. He is best remembered for his play Peter Pan (1904), a supernatural fantasy about a boy who refuses to grow up. The son of a weaver, Barrie studied at the Univ. of Edinburgh. He took up journalism, worked for a Nottingham newspaper, and contributed to various London journals before moving to London in 1885. His early works, Auld Licht Idylls (1889) and A Window in Thrums (1889), contain fictional sketches of Scottish life. The publication of The Little Minister (1891) established his reputation as a novelist. During the next 10 years Barrie continued writing novels, such as Sentimental Tommy (1896) and Tommy and Grizel (1900), but gradually his interest turned toward the theater. His early plays were mostly unsuccessful, but the dramatization in 1897 of The Little Minister established him as a playwright.

Although he is famous for the play Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up and the novels Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) and Peter and Wendy (1911), many feel that Barrie's most accomplished work is the tragicomedy Dear Brutus (1917), in which he skillfully blends fantasy with realism and humor with pathos. His other notable plays include Quality Street (1901), The Admirable Crichton (1902), What Every Woman Knows (1908), and the one-act The Twelve-Pound Look (1911). Barrie's collected plays were published in 1928.

Barrie's life was dominated by his mother. This relationship left him emotionally immature and probably precipitated the failure of his marriage, and his lack of maturity is a discernible element in his works. Yet even though he has been criticized for whimsy and sentimentality, Barrie reveals in his best works a profound understanding of human nature and an unexpected capacity for irony and mordant wit. He was created a baronet in 1913 and was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1922. From 1930 until his death he was chancellor of the Univ. of Edinburgh.

See his letters (ed. by V. Meynell, 1947); biographies by J. Dunbar (1970), D. Mackail (1941, repr. 1972), C. Asquith (1955, repr. 1972), and A. Birkin (1979, repr. 2003); J. Wullschläger, Inventing Wonderland (1995).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Barrie, J. M.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 20 Jun. 2018 <>.

"Barrie, J. M.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (June 20, 2018).

"Barrie, J. M.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 20, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.