Thursday, February 6, 2014

Friends in unexpected places

It's common enough for authors to write their friends and enemies into their works--Edgar Allan Poe wrote horrible fates for his critics, in one notable case--but I find it difficult to do so myself. I feel as if I can't do justice to my friends, and the sight of an enemy's name in my manuscript turns my stomach. (Which is not to say they never appear, merely that I don't make it obvious.)

But James Matthew Barrie had no such qualms about writing his friends quite blatantly into the pirate crew in Peter Pan. 
Given that he shares his given name with the pirate captain, I suppose it should have come as less of a surprise.

The Voyages of Captain Scott by Charles Turley, foreward by J.M. Barrie

I made this discovery while I was writing at my office (aka Wayward Coffeehouse), when I chose to double-check the spelling of pirate Charles Turley's last name online rather than go back home for the book. And I cringed to discover that the aforementioned Mr.Turley, one of my least favorite members of the crew as I'm writing it, was a good friend of Barrie's. And now that I've gotten used to seeing him that way, I can't change it. 

In a copy of "St. Nicholas: A Monthly Magazine for Boys and Girls, Volume 34, Part 1," I found this:

James M. Barrie, author of a number of things besides "Peter Pan," recommends highly the work of Charles Turley, whom he calls "the Trollope of boyhood." The name of the most recent of Mr. Turley's books is "Maitland Major and Minor." "The boys described in the book," says Mr. Barrie, "are the real thing; they run daily into it and out of it, never sitting down to be photographed."

Scourie Lodge

Poor George Scourie, another of the Jolly Roger's crew, is, er, not in my book for long. His name is a composite drawn from Scourie Lodge in northwest Scotland, and the innkeeper's son, George Ross, who was a friend of Nicholas Llewellyn Davies--the youngest of the boys with whom Barrie created the games that were the inspiration for Peter Pan. 

At least in The Stowaway, Mr. Cecco (first name Raffaello, with a rolled "r'),  is an experienced, handsome, and clever crew member, exemplary to the point of irritating.This might seem odd to Maurice Hewlett, a novelist friend of Barrie and father of the original Cecco. There is also a reference to "Cecco Hewlett's tree" in The Little White Bird, the book in which Peter Pan first appears.

Alfred Edward Woodley Mason

The real Alf Mason was a  politician and a captain in the Manchester Regiment of the British army. He was also the author of about thirty novels, and will be best known to modern readers as author of "The Four Feathers," which was made into a 2002 film starring Heath Ledger and Kate Hudson. I saw it upon its release, little knowing it would turn out to be one of the Barrie coincidences that continually circle around me

 In The Stowaway, Mr. Mason is one of Vivian Drew's closest friends among the crew, and not only because they share a geographic background. For some reason, tellers of Peter Pan besides me have also settled on Mr. Mason as one of the less reprehensible of the crew--see Peter and the Starcatchers, where he's not even a pirate. Perhaps it's the name--he simply sounds decent.


  1. Perhaps you could write horrible fates for your friends.