J. M. Barrie inscription found in the Children’s Book Collection

Front cover of the Flying Carpet (1925) and the inscription from J.M. Barrie on the front fly-leaf (St Andrews copy at Chi PZ7.A843F6)

Front cover of The Flying Carpet (1925) and the inscription from J.M. Barrie on the front fly-leaf (St Andrews copy at Chi PZ7.A843F6)

UPDATED 13 March 2013

Barrie (right), seen here with St Andrews Principal Sir James Colquhoun Irvine outside St. Salvator’s chapel in 1919. (St Andrews Photographic Collection GMC-19-67)

Barrie (right), seen here with St Andrews Principal Sir James Colquhoun Irvine outside St. Salvator’s chapel in 1919. (St Andrews Photographic Collection GMC-19-67)

One of the rare book team’s long-standing projects has been the creation of a rare Children’s Book Collection, assembled from a combination of new purchases and transfers from other collections already owned by the library. While updating the catalogue records for some of these transfers, an inscription on the fly-leaf of one of the volumes caught my attention. The inscription reads, “To Veronica, Nigel and Felicity (and the greatest of these is Felicity) from this humble servant, J. M. Barrie,” and is dated Christmas 1925. This “Veronica, Nigel, and Felicity” are the children of Principal Sir James Irvine (pictured left with Barrie) whose family hosted regular visits by Barrie to the Principal’s house on The Scores. Barrie, best known as the creator of Peter Pan, had strong ties to the University of St Andrews: he served as rector of the university from 1919 to 1922 delivering his rectorial address on the subject of “Courage.”

Title page of

Title page of The Flying Carpet (1925) and the inscription from J.M. Barrie on the front fly-leaf (St Andrews copy at Chi PZ7.A843F6)

The inscription appears on a copy of The Flying Carpet (London: Partridge & Co., 1925), an anthology of stories and poems for children.  This beautifully illustrated volume includes contributions by Thomas Hardy, G. K. Chesterton, A. A. Milne, and others. Barrie’s contribution is a short story entitled, “Neil and Tintinnabulum.”  The April 1926 issue of The Elementary English Review (via JSTOR) had this to say about the anthology: “The outstanding story is Barrie’s ‘Neil and Tintinnabulum.’  Boys who enjoy ‘Stalky and Co.’ will like it, but it is really for grown-ups.  In fact, the author calls it ‘An Interlude for Parents. In his inimitable, charming manner, Barrie describes the relation between a man and a boy.  It is a story of the understanding heart that enables an adult to keep his hands off the developing mind and spirit of a child.  It will bear reading and re-reading just now when we parents are too prone to give our children so much direction and guidance in school, clubs, camps, and special lessons that they have no time to ‘just grow.'”

Although the book has been in the library’s collection since it was donated by Mr. John di Folco in the 1990s, there was no record of it in the online catalogue prior to its rediscovery last week.

Christine Megowan

Rare Books Cataloguer

6 responses to “J. M. Barrie inscription found in the Children’s Book Collection

  1. Veronica was my mother, and Nigel and Felicity her younger siblings. My recently published biography of Principal Irvine describes in some detail why Barrie could describe Felicity as ‘the greatest of these’. JM Barrie’s installation as Rector in May 1922 brought this sensitive man into the Irvine family circle. Although my 1925 (the date of this gift) he was no longer Rector, he often returned to University House. For their summer holidays, the Irvines frequently rented houses in parts of England near to where Barrie himself was holidaying. Even more, Sir James Irvine and JM Barrie became very close friends; they shared a birthday (9 May) and this they often celebrated together.

    Lady Cynthia Asquith, who illustrated the book, was Barrie’s secretary.

    How this book came into the possession of the di Folco family by 1941, I do not know. A guess would be that the Irvines were asked to give something to raise money for a war charity.

    Julia Melvin

    • Thanks Julia, for the extra information – especially the detail about Lady Cynthia Asquith. Since you were too modest to plug your book I will do it for you! Julia Melvin, ‘James Colquhoun Irvine, St Andrews’ Second Founder’, (Birlinn, 2011).
      -RH

  2. Pingback: J. M. Barrie inscription found in the Children’s Book Collection | Special Collections Librarianship | Scoop.it·

  3. A further comment: I am not convinced by the caption attaching to the photograph of Irvine and Barrie. It certainly is not 1919, because at that date Barrie had never been to St Andrews; Barrie and Irvine themselves had not yet met; Irvine was plain Professor Irvine in 1919, not becoming Principal Irvine until December 1920; and furthermore Irvine would seldom have dressed like that in St Andrews. My hunch is that it was taken outside the Adelphi where Barrie lived. The Adelphi (which was later considerably bombed) was a distinguished building designed by Adam, and lying between the Strand and the Thames in London. Barrie had a flat there where Principle Irvine often stayed on his frequent visits to London on university business. The date is much more likely to be sometime in the late 1920’s

    However, the image is small and I may just be wrong about the Adelphi. It nevertheless doesn’t look quite right for St Andrews.
    Julia Melvin

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