Papers of Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937)

Scope and Content

The collection consists of correspondence, including: letter to Iwym, the illustrator of Martha Spreull at Gen. 1730/1; letters to Sir W. Turner, 1909, and to Dr. A. Logan Turner, 1930-1933, at Dc.4.101; letter to W. Fraser Mitchell about Morte d'Arthur, 1922, at Gen. 1948/12/1; and to Lord Blackburn, 1930, at Dc.4.101.

Administrative / Biographical History

The playwright and novelist James Matthew Barrie, son of a weaver, was born in Kirriemuir, Angus, on 9 May 1860. He was educated at the academies in Glasgow, Forfar and Dumfries and then studied at Edinburgh University where he was awarded the degree of M.A. in 1882. Barrie served as a journalist on the staff of the Nottingham Journal for a year and a half before returning to Kirriemuir to write sketches of Scottish life for the St James's Gazette and the Cornhill Magazine. The semi-fictional tales were set in Thrums (Kirriemuir to all intents and purposes). In 1885, he moved to London where he wrote for numerous magazines and journals, and his first novel Better dead was written in 1886, followed by When a man's single in 1888. Other work at this time included Auld licht idylls, A window in Thrums (1889), The little minister (1891), and the biographical Margaret Ogilvy (1896). By the turn of the century, Barrie had begun concentrating on writing plays, and he was very successful in this with a stage production of The little minister and with The wedding seat (1897), Quality Street (1901), and The admirable Crichton (1902). Barrie is most renowned however as the creator of Peter Pan, or, the Boy who wouldn't grow up (1904) which had been written for the children of the Llewelyn Davies family. Later work included A kiss for Cinderella (1916), Mary Rose (1920), and The boy David (1936). Barrie became a Baronet in 1913 and received the Order of Merit in 1922. He was Chancellor of Edinburgh University from 1930 to 1937. Sir James Matthew Barrie died on 19 June 1937.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Letter to Iwym purchased 1974, Accession no. E74.26. Letter to Mitchell received January 1973, Accession No. E73.52. Letter to Blackburn received October 1967, Accession No. E67.15.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Who was who 1929-1940. A companion to Who's who.... London: Adam and Charles Black, 1941. (2) Keay, John. And Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to J. M. Barrie related material (check the Indexes for more details): for example, mention in letters, 1936, at Gen. 1948/11/9-10.