|1911 edition of Peter and Wendy.|
Peter Pan, first published as Peter and Wendy in 1911, is one of the most famous children's stories of all time. It was written by Sir James Matthew Barrie and was one of several 'Peter Pan' stories: the first was in one of the stories in The Little White Bird (1902); the story was the published alone as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906); between these publications the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (1904); in 1908, When Wendy Grew Up – An Afterthought, and finally in 1911 - Peter and Wendy, or as it is now more commonly known, Peter Pan. The idea for the stories was largely inspired by the Davies boys, or the Llewelyn Davies boys who Barrie met in 1897: George, John, Peter, Michael, and Nicholas, the sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and first cousins of the writer Daphne du Maurier. Following their parents' death in 1907 and 1910 Barrie, along with Emma du Maurier, Guy du Maurier, and Compton Llewelyn Davies, became their trustee and guardian. Peter was the 'real' Peter Pan, and his brothers the Lost Boys.
Peter Pan is such a famous story one hardly needs to summarise it. It begins with one of the most famous beginnings, "All children, except one, grow up", and Barrie goes on to describe the Darling household: Mr. Darling, eminently practical, Mrs. Darling, who is very beautiful and (I found this odd), had a "sweet mocking mouth [with] one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the righthand corner", Wendy, Michael, and John. One night Peter Pan, accompanied by Tinkerbell, sneaks in in search of his lost shadow. Wendy sews it back on and reveals she knows lots of stories, so Peter Pan convinces her, Michael, and John to return to Neverland with him. There their adventures really begin: they see mermaids, rescue Tiger Lily, and do battle with the evil Captain Hook.
It is, in Peter's words, an "awfully big adventure" and one of the most magical in children's literature. It's one of my favourite reads for its perfect escapism: fairies, mermaids, pirates, and the nostalgia of it: the Edwardian setting and feel to it and also a tale from my own childhood: really, Peter Pan (appropriately) transcends time. I've read it many times and I know it won't be terribly long before I read it again.
And to finish this brief review, some illustrations for the 1911 edition by F. D. Bedford: