Early in his writing career Conan Doyle became involved with a
new magazine called "The Idler." Through this connection he
was able to meet other writers. Jerome K. Jerome of Three
Men in a Boat was one of the magazine's founders. Other
writers for the magazine included Isreal Zangwill, Eden Phillpotts
and Gilbert Parker. That's also where Conan Doyle first came
to know the man who would write Peter Pan, James Barrie.
Barrie and Conan Doyle both
Scottish, both had attended Edinburgh University and both were
avid cricket players. Conan Doyle played on Barrie's Allah-Akabarries
team. The team name was a combination of Barrie's last name
and an Arabic phrase meaning, "May the Lord help us."
When Conan Doyle wrote about his
five-foot-one friend he said he was a man, "about whom there is
nothing small except his body."
In1892 Conan Doyle went on a
lecture tour in Scotland. While he was there he visited
Barrie at Barrie's boyhood home in Kirriemuir. Conan Doyle
enjoyed himself immensely.
A few weeks after returning from
his Scottish tour Conan Doyle received a telegram from Barrie.
Conan Doyle was to come at once. Barrie was ill and needed
Doyle rushed to Barrie's side and
discovered the problem was twofold. Barrie had accepted a
commission to write a libretto or text for an operetta. The title of the operetta
was Jane Annie, or The Good Conduct Prize and it wasn't
going well. Additionally Barrie had bronchitis and the
stress of trying to finish the libretto on time was driving him to
a nervous breakdown.
Conan Doyle was eager to help his
friend. He threw himself into the work but was concerned.
Barrie had sketched out the plot and written the first act. Conan
Doyle later said, "Ideas and wit were there in abundance.
But the plot itself was not strong, although the dialogue and the
situations also were occasionally excellent. I did my best
and wrote the lyrics for the second act, and much of the dialogue,
but it had to take the predestined shape."
Conan Doyle was right to be
concerned. Despite the combined efforts of two great authors
the operetta was a failure. The critics hated it.
George Bernard Shaw reviewed it and said it was, "the most
unblushing outburst of tomfoolery that two responsible citizens
could conceivably indulge in publicly."
The two men were quick to recover
from the experience. Barrie even used it as the basis of a
spoof on a Sherlock Holmes novel entitled The Adventure of the
Two Collaborators. In the story two men visit Sherlock
Holmes and Watson. Their problem? They want to know
why people aren't flocking to their new operetta.
While the operetta wasn't a success
the friendship was. They were lifelong friends. One of
their few disagreements was over Conan Doyle's beliefs in
requested that Conan Doyle not speak of it in his presence.
Conan Doyle died in 1930. Barrie said this of him, "I have always thought him one of
the best men I have ever known, there can never have been a
straighter nor a more honourable."