Lost letters between JM Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson found

When Peter Pan loved Long John Silver! Lost letters reveal famed authors JM Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson were big admirers of each other

  • Letters from Scottish authors JM Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson published  
  • Dated between 1892 and 94, they show they shared an affectionate relationship
  • Despite bonding over their love of writing, the Scottish pair never met in person 

Their tales of awfully big adventures delighted readers around the world.

But authors JM Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson found their greatest admirers… in each other.

In letters believed to have been lost for more than 70 years, the Scottish pair’s affectionate relationship is revealed.

Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, even declared his love for Stevenson – author of Treasure Island – in one letter, writing: ‘To be blunt I have discovered (have suspected it for some time) that I love you, and if you had been a woman…’ He left the sentence unfinished. 

However, the Scots, who bonded over their love of writing and their heritage, never actually met in person.

JM Barrie, whose work included 1904’s Peter Pan,  fantasised about meeting Robert Louis Stevenson

Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson and JM Barrie never met, despite their affection for each other

The letters, from 1892-94, have now been published for the first time. In them, Barrie fantasises about meeting Stevenson, who left Scotland in 1879 and was living on the islands of Samoa to improve his health.

Despite being an established author, 42-year-old Stevenson is clearly nervous about writing to 32-year-old Barrie, saying: ‘But the deuce of it is, my dear fellow, that you write such a very good letter and I am ashamed to exhibit myself before my junior (which you are after all) in the light of the dreary idiot I feel.’

In one letter, Stevenson writes: ‘I am quite sure that I know you and quite sure that you know me.’

In another, he tells Barrie to keep the letter ‘strictly private’, warning: ‘What a nice extract this would make for the daily papers!’ Dr Michael Shaw, who found the letters at Beinecke Library in the US, said: ‘I was struck by how affectionate, open and playful they were.’

The lecturer, from Scotland’s University of Stirling, has now published the documents in the book A Friendship In Letters.

He added: ‘I was initially surprised by how fun and jesting the letters were: Both Stevenson and Barrie feel very comfortable with each other…

‘They can also be incredibly affectionate in their letters, all the while issuing some frank criticism of each other’s literary work.’

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