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J.M. Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson Were Flirty Pen Pals

By Lori Perkins

As we sit on our computers writing emails to each other, and maybe writers we admire, we learned from The Guardian that 19th century best-selling author J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame and Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island and Jekyll & Hyde repute were writing fan letters to each other. Biographers seem to have known about this, but told us that the letters from Barrie to Stevenson were lost. But behold, they were found in a drawer somewhere in Yale and the intense friendship between the two, who never met, are to be published this year in A Friendship in Letters: Robert Louis Stevenson & J.M. Barrie by Michael Shaw.


Barrie was just starting us writing career when he approached the much older and established author, who also hailed from Scotland, but was now living ion the island of Samoa with his wife. Barrie even wrote a 3,000 word letter about his fantasy of visiting Stevenson which he was unable to make it a reality because he was tied down to taking care of his elderly, frail mother. Stevenson even gave him directions to his estate on the island you take the boat at San Francisco, and then my place is second to the left”), which seems reminiscent of Peter Pan’s famous directions to the island of Neverland: “Second to the right and straight on till morning.”


According to The Guardian, Barrie was quite enamored of their friendship. A year into their correspondence, which was initiated by Stevenson, Barrie wrote: “To be blunt I have discovered (have suspected it for some time) that I love you, and if you had been a woman...” He leaves the sentence unfinished.


The book seems to suggest that Barrie was very heavily influenced by both Stevenson’s work and his correspondence and suggests a parallel between the pirates in Treasure Island and Captain Hook.


Is someone going to write this awesome M/M novel for us?