Friday, March 15, 2013

Peter Pan

A gold-stamped cover for "Peter and Wendy."
Peter Pan is remembered as the boy who would "never grow up." Made famous by the 1904 play, Peter Pan, and the 1911 novel, Peter and Wendy, Peter is a classic character in children’s literature. Often, however, people forget that there is more to Peter Pan's author J. M. Barrie than Neverland. A quick search through Rauner can show Barrie's path to Pan and much more about the author’s professional and personal life.

A page of printed text.
J. M. Barrie began his literary career in 1888, with the Auld Licht Idylls. While Auld Licht and other sentimental novels allowed Barrie to achieve moderate success, his fame stemmed from his character Peter Pan. Peter first appeared in 1902, as a minor character in Barrie's novel for adults, The Little White Bird. It was in the 1904 play, however, that Peter made it big. Revisiting Peter Pan and Peter and Wendy, you might be surprised – the books are a bit darker than the Disney cartoon images I have in my mind. If you want to expand your Barrie repertoire, Rauner has many of Barrie's other less well known works, including "Der Tag:" or The Tragic Man and What Every Woman Knows.

A full-page illustration of children flying in the air above an island.
Rauner also offers glimpses behind-the-scenes into Barrie's life. A letter in response to an invitation for a dinner honoring Stephen Crane at The Sing o' the Lanthorn gives us a taste of Barrie's connections. While Barrie was unable to make the dinner, he wrote of his enjoyment of The Red Badge of Courage. His correspondence with Gabriel Wells shows Barrie as an established author, with a well-regarded publisher and book-dealer pursuing his work. Or, you can flip through a scrapbook of material from 1888 to 1928 showing the transformation of Peter Pan from a fragment of Barrie's imagination to a film sensation.

To see the original The Little White Bird ask for Rare Book PZ 3.B277 Li2; the Peter Pan illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman is Illus H997ba; the Gabriel Wells Correspondence is in MS-585; and the Peter Pan Scrapbook is MS 118.

Posted for Kate Taylor '13

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