Bernard Barton, one of the minor English poets, was born in Carlisle, England, on January 31, 1784. His parents, John and Mary Barton, were both Quakers. His mother died just days after his birth and his father was later remarried to a woman by the name of Elizabeth Horne. However, his father John died in 1789. Barton attended a Quaker school in Ipswich and at the age of fourteen was apprenticed to a shopkeeper named Samuel Jesup. Having served as Jesup’s apprentice for eight years, Barton married his daughter Lucy Jesup and moved to Woodbridge. Barton also partnered with Lucy’s brother Benjamin as a merchant but gave up the business after the death of his wife, who died while giving birth to their first daughter, also named Lucy.
Following the death of his wife, Barton became a tutor for the family of a merchant in Liverpool for a year but eventually moved back to Woodbridge where he worked as a bank clerk for the remaining forty years of his life. Over the course of these forty years, Barton wrote eight volumes of poetry along with many smaller pieces. Some of these smaller pieces were the Convict’s Appeal, in which he protested capital punishment, and Household Verses, which was dedicated to Queen Victoria and caught the attention of the prime minister Robert Peel. This gained Barton an invitation to dinner at Whitehall and, after Peel left office, a pension of £100 a year. Barton’s poetry never gained much popularity, partially because he never took the time to correct mistakes (which no one has revised since), and partially because his poetry was never held in high regard. According to Barton’s biographer, even he himself believed that his poetry was by no means great and was best approached only as household poetry. Today Barton is remembered more for his correspondence, through a collection of more than 800 surviving letters, with other great literary figures of the time such as Southey, Lamb, Hogg, Wordsworth, Colman, and Blake, and for his commentary on their works.
“Bernard Barton: Letters and Related Papers.” Archives Hub, Jisc. archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/8d63768b-4c43-3881-a6a0- 204311833dd3?terms=%22Barton%2BBernard%2B1784-1849%22. Accessed 2 Mar. 2019.
Bullen, A. H. "Barton, Bernard (1784–1849), poet." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. September 23, 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614129.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-1595. Accessed 3 March 2019.
Back to "Not Ours the Vows" Main Page
Formal Description of "Not Ours the Vows"
Explication of "Not Ours the Vows"