Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
by J.M. Barrie.
I’m lucky enough to have my mother’s 1925 copy of this book, which has the lovely Arthur Rackham illustrations. Obviously this book comes under the category of a book from childhood but I’ve read it a few times since then and I always enjoy it. It is the very beginning of the Peter Pan story and is actually the middle section of The Little White Bird which was published before Peter Pan and Wendy.
The book starts with The Grand Tour of the Gardens, in which the gardens and some of the characters to be found there are described. Sexism is rife as you would expect from something written so long ago and by a Scottish man, but it is all quite tongue in cheek.
J.M. Barrie had a wonderful, fantastical imagination and a beautiful way with words.
Babies were birds before they were human and have to think hard to remember the time when they could fly.
Peter Pan escapes from being human by flying from the nursery window ledge when he is only 7 days old and flies to Kensington Gardens.
He knows that it must be past lock-out time as the place is full of fairies who are too busy to notice him. When he meets with Solomon Caw after flying to the island in the middle of The Serpentine he realises that he has lost faith in his ability to fly and so is stuck on the island. Solomon declares him to be a Betwixt-and-Between.
Although he is happy on the island for a while, he misses being able to play the way children do and begins to plan how he can escape from the island. Eventually he pays the thrushes to build him a nest big enough for him to fit into and he sails over to the gardens again, but he can only leave the island at night after the park is closed.
The girl in this book is called Maimie and when she is locked in the gardens overnight, the fairies build a little house around her so that she doesn’t die of the cold.
If you have read Peter Pan you might find it interesting to read the book which it developed from.
When Barrie was just 7 years old his 14 year old brother died in an ice skating accident and it is thought that this tragedy was what prompted Barrie to write about a boy who didn’t grow up.
J.M. Barrie is one of the few authors who made up a name for a character which became popular with parents. He came up with it because a wee girl of his acquaintance who couldn’t pronounce the letter ‘r’, described herself as his little ‘fwendy’.
You can visit the Barrie family home in Kirriemuir and the original Wendy house, which is the old wash house in the back garden. Kirriemuir is about 40 miles from where I live. It is quite a pretty small town which differs from most Scottish towns in that it was built from red sandstone instead of the usual grey.
When J.M. Barrie died in 1937, he chose to be buried in Kirriemuir with his family instead of in Poets Corner in London.
I reviewed this book as part of the Flashback Challenge.
Here is a video from 1937 showing some places of interest around Kirriemuir.