May 9, 2013 - Happy Birthday, J. M. Barrie

Wikipedia lists 54 works written by the Scottish author James Matthew Barrie (who was born on this date in 1860). But I have only ever heard of one of them: Peter Pan.

Now that I look at that list, I see several Peter Pan “extras”—perhaps sequels or maybe even prequels—that I didn't know existed. They include Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, When Wendy Grew Up, and Peter and Wendy.

Actually, many of Barrie's writings and plays were successful, although Peter Pan was SO successful that it overshadowed his other works to some extent even during Barrie's lifetime. However, Barrie earned so much fame during his life, he was made a baronet by George V—so that's Sir J. M. Barrie, thank you very much!

Before he died, Barrie gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to a London hospital. What a wonderful legacy—one that continues to help the hospital!

Another legacy of Barrie's most famous play is the name Wendy. Before Peter Pan burst onto the world stage in 1904, Wendy was a very unusual and almost entirely unknown name. It is quite likely that Barrie had never heard the name before; he said that he “thought up” the name because a young daughter of one of his friends, who couldn't pronounce her “R”s, playfully called Barrie her “fwiendy-wendy.” The name Wendy became more and more popular in the next few generations, and although it isn't all that common now—it is roughly the 600th most common girl's name—it is still familiar to all of us. I know one adult Wendy...and of course the character Wendy in Peter Pan!

You can find out how common names are and have been using The Baby Name Wizard, which creates graphs about the popularity of each name over time. Check out the chart for Wendy. Then check out your own name! 

For more on Peter Pan, check out this earlier post.

Plan Ahead...
Check out my Pinterest boards of May holidays, historical events in May, and May birthdays.

Also on this date:

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