About J.M. Barrie
Sir James Mathew Barrie was born on May 9, 1860, at Kirriemuir in Scotland, the ninth of ten children of a weaver. When Barrie was six, his older brother David died in a skating accident. Barrie then became his mother’s chief comforter, while David remained in her memory a boy of thirteen who would never grow up. Barrie received his M.A. degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1882 and began working as a journalist. In 1885 he moved to London, and his writings were collected in Auld Licht Idlls (1888) and A Window in Thurns (1889), which, together with a sentimental novel, The Little Minister (1891), made him a best-selling author. In 1894 he married an actress, Mary Ansell, but the marriage was profoundly unhappy, produced no children, and was dissolved in 1910. However, a favorite Saint Bernard dog of Mary’s later became the famous Nana of Peter Pan. In 1897, with the adaptation of The Little Minister, Barrie became a successful playwright, writing the plays The Admirable Crichton (1902), What Every Woman Knows (1903), and Peter Pan (1904), which was produced in 1904 and revived in London every Christmas season thereafter. While the figure of Peter Pan first appeared in Barrie’s book The Little White Bird (1902), the story and the concept began in the tales Barrie told the sons of Mrs. Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, a woman Barrie loved. Barrie then published the story of Peter Pan in book form as Peter and Wendy (1911). The best of Barrie’s later works is Dear Brutus (1917), a haunting play that again brought the supernatural and fantasy to the London stage. Barrie died in 1937, bequeathing the copyright of Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, a hospital for children.
About Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens was born in a little house in Landport, Portsea, England, on February 7, 1812. The second of eight children, he grew up in a family frequently beset by financial insecurity. At age eleven, Dickens was taken out of school and sent to work in London backing warehouse, where his job was to paste labels on bottles for six shillings a week. His father John Dickens, was a warmhearted but improvident man. When he was condemned the Marshela Prison for unpaid debts, he unwisely agreed that Charles should stay in lodgings and continue working while the rest of the family joined him in jail. This three-month separation caused Charles much pain; his experiences as a child alone in a huge city–cold, isolated with barely enough to eat–haunted him for the rest of his life.
When the family fortunes improved, Charles went back to school, after which he became an office boy, a freelance reporter and finally an author. With Pickwick Papers (1836-7) he achieved immediate fame; in a few years he was easily the post popular and respected writer of his time. It has been estimated that one out of every ten persons in Victorian England was a Dickens reader. Oliver Twist (1837), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) were huge successes. Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-4) was less so, but Dickens followed it with his unforgettable, A Christmas Carol (1843), Bleak House (1852-3), Hard Times (1854) and Little Dorrit (1855-7) reveal his deepening concern for the injustices of British Society. A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-1) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-5) complete his major works.
Dickens's marriage to Catherine Hoggarth produced ten children but ended in separation in 1858. In that year he began a series of exhausting public readings; his health gradually declined. After putting in a full day's work at his home at Gads Hill, Kent on June 8, 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke, and he died the following day.
About Kenneth Grahame
Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he was not yet five, his mother died of scarlet fever, after which he was sent to his maternal grandmother's house at Cookham Dean near the Thames. His father virtually abandoned his children to relatives, and Kenneth was sent to boarding school in Oxford at the age of nine. Disappointed of his dream of going on to university, he was instead given a job as a clerk in the Bank of England, where ultimately he became Secretary. He achieved fame as a writer with his recollections of childhood, The Golden Age and Dream Days published in 1895 and 1898. The Wind in the Willows, turned down by several publishers as a poor sequel to the earlier books, began as a bedtime story told to his only child, Alistar, whose tragic death at twenty was so great a sorrow that he and his wife lived in eccentric seclusion thereafter. In a life of much sadness it seems that all he found pleasurable in this world he put into the best-loved children's book of all time.
About Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India to British parents on December 30, 1865. In 1871, Rudyard and his sister, Trix, aged three, were left to be cared for by a couple in Southsea, England. Five years passed before he saw his parents again. His sense of desertion and despair were later expressed in his story “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” (1888), in his novel The Light that failed (1890), and his autobiography, Something of Myself (1937). As late as 1935 Kipling still spoke bitterly of the “House of Desolation” at Southsea: “I should like to burn it down and plough the place with salt.”
At twelve he entered a minor public school, the United Services College at Westward Ho, North Devon. In Stalky and CO. (1899) the myopic Beetle is a self-caricature, and the days at Westward Ho are recalled with mixed feelings. At sixteen, eccentric and literary, Kipling sailed to India to become a journalist. His Indian experiences led to seven volumes of stories, including Soldiers Three (1888) and Wee Willie Winkie (1888).
At twenty-four he returned to England and quickly tuned into a literary celebrity. In London he became close friends with an American, (Charles) Wolcott Balestier, with whom he collaborated on what critics called a “dime store novel.” Wolcott died suddenly in 1891, and a few weeks later Kipling married Wolcott’s sister, Caroline. The newlyweds settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book (1895), and most of Captains Courageous (1897). By this time Kipling’s popularity and financial success were enormous.
In 1899 the Kiplings settled in Sussex, England, where he wrote some of his best books: Kim (1901), Just So Stories (1902), and Puck of Pooks Hill (1906). In 1907 he received the Nobel Prize for literature. By the time he died, on January 18 1936, critical opinion was deeply divided about his writings, but his books continued to be read by thousands, and such unforgettable poems and stories as ”Gunga Din,” “If,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” have lived on in the consciousness of succeeding generations.
About Johann David Wyss
Johann David Wyss (1743-1818) was, like the narrator of his famous story of survival on an uninhabited island, a Swiss pastor who had four sons. It was to entertain and instruct these children that he devised the idea of the island and its plethora of natural resources, but the writing of Der schweizerische Robinson is said to have been the responsibility of one of the sons, Johann Rudolf (1782-1830). First published in 1812, it was first translated into English two years later. Since then its translators have been many and they have freely adapted and expanded the original German text, making it one of the most popular novels of all time.