Earlier this week, we read about plans to turn Moat Brae, the Georgian townhouse in Scotland that inspired JM Barrie’s Peter Pan into a center for children’s literature, which we think sounds like a wonderful idea. It also doesn’t hurt that Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley is the primary advocate and fundraiser behind the project. But more importantly, the project got us thinking about all the real-life places that have inspired some of our favorite works of literature. We’re not talking big cities like New York and LA and their numerous pleasures, which figure in thousands of books, but houses and moors, caves and farmlands hidden away in authors’ hometowns or childhood vacation spots. Of course, some of the mythology of inspiration is always guesswork, but we can’t deny that we feel a little literary tingle when we look at these places. Click through to see our list of ten real life places that inspired literary classics, and let us know any we’ve missed in the comments!
JM Barrie’s Neverland (Moat Brae, in Dumfries, Scotland)
Almost 140 years ago, on his first day at Dumfries Academy in Dumfries, Scotland, J.M. Barrie was invited to join the ‘pirate crew’ of a classmate, Stuart Gordon, and proceeded to adventure with him and other boys in the verdant backyard of Gordon’s home, Moat Brae, a late Georgian town house. It was there that Barrie began to imagine the magical realm of Neverland and the boy who would never grow up. In his memoirs, he wrote, “When the shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians changed their skins, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates in a sort of Odyssey that was afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan. For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, were certainly the genesis of that nefarious work. We lived in the tree-tops, on coconuts attached thereto… we were buccaneers, and I kept the log-book of our depredations, an eerie journal without a triangle in it to mar the beauty of its pages.” You can learn more about the project to turn the original Neverland into a children’s literature center and support it here.