Where Dreams Are Born, and Time Is Never Planned

James Matthew Barrie? Peter Pan? Betty Comden? Adolph Green? Mary Martin? Apocryphal

Dear Quote Investigator: James Matthew Barrie created the famous fictional character Peter Pan. Barrie has received credit for the following statement:

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.

This sentiment fits the world of Peter Pan, but I have been unable to find it in Barrie’s oeuvre. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: QI conjectures that these words were derived from the lyrics of the song “Never Never Land” written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the 1954 Broadway musical version of “Peter Pan”. The first two lines of the song were: 1

I know a place where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.

Comden and Green were inspired by Barrie’s work, but they crafted the song lyrics. Barrie has received credit for other modified lines. For example, the line “Just think of happy things” has been attributed to Barrie, but the song contains:

Just think of lovely things,
And your heart will fly on wings,

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1963 an article about children’s camps in “Parents’ Magazine” reprinted a line from the song. The line was enclosed within quotation marks, but a precise attribution was not given. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2

Like Peter Pan’s Never-Never Land, camp should be a magic place “where dreams are born and time is never planned.”

In 1973 actress Mary Martin who starred in “Peter Pan” on Broadway wrote a letter to impresario and “Daily News” columnist Ed Sullivan after the death of his wife. She expressed condolences and quoted the song she had sung many times: 3

Dearest Ed. It is impossible to write of our mutual grief, yours for Sylvia and mine for Richard. As I sang in ‘Peter Pan,’ “I know a place where dreams are born and time is never planned, it’s not on any chart . . . ”

In 1987 “The New York Times” published a piece about Jule Styne who composed the music for the Broadway song “Never Never Land”. The article reprinted nine lines from the song. These were the first three: 4

I know a place where dreams are born
And time is never planned
It’s not on any chart

In 2010 an instance of the quotation was posted to the Goodreads website, and the words were attributed to J. M. Barrie: 5

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned . . .
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Fairy Tales

In conclusion, Betty Comden and Adolph Green deserve credit for the lyrics they penned for the 1954 musical “Peter Pan”. Some lines from the lyrics have incorrectly been reassigned to James Matthew Barrie who created the Peter Pan character in a 1902 novel, a 1904 play, and later works.

Copyright note: This article contains a small number of lines from a song. These lines have been included in this article for research and educational purposes. This usage complies with the fair use doctrine of copyright law.

Image Notes: Illustration by Francis Donkin Bedford depicting Peter Pan playing the pipes from the public domain 1911 book “Peter and Wendy” by James Matthew Barrie. Image has been resized and cropped.

(Great thanks to Marshall Moseley whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 2002, Broadway Volume II: Complete Lyrics for 200 Songs From 116 Musicals, Series: The Lyric Library, Song: Never Never Land, Quote Page 144, Published by Hal Leonard. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1963 March, Parents’ Magazine & Better Homemaking, Volume 38, Issue 3, Camp Season’s Coming by Frances Fielding-Jones (Associate Editor), Start Page 68, Quote Page 102, The Parents’ Institute: A Division of Parents’ Magazine Enterprises, New York. (ProQuest)
  3. 1973 March 30, Daily News, Little Old New York by Ed Sullivan, Quote Page 17C, Column 3, New York, New York. (ProQuest)
  4. 1987 June 10, New York Times, Jule Styne, at 81, Just Won’t Stay Put by Leslie Bennetts, Quote Page C21, Column 1, New York. (ProQuest)
  5. Website: Goodreads, Article title: J.M. Barrie > Quotes > Quotable Quote, Timestamp on website of first person who like the quotation: Jan 05, 2010 03:23PM, Website description: Goodreads is a website for readers and book recommendations. Goodreads was launched in 2007. (Accessed goodreads.com on January 23, 2021) link