In his new selection from the poems of William Barnes (1801-1886), the neglected Dorset poet, critic Robert Nye gives the dialect poems their full due, and persuasively describes the contemporary relevance of Barnes 'rural language and vision.
Barnes was born in 1801 in Bagber in the parish of Sturminster Newton in the Vale of Blackmore. His father, John Barnes, was a small farmer. His mother, Grace, died when he was five. Barnes was brought up largely by his aunts. He was educated at the church school at Sturminster, before leaving to work as a clerk in a solicitor's office. He moved to Dorchester aged seventeen, where he found employment with another solicitor and continued his education with another clergyman. In 1823 Barnes went to Mere, in Wiltshire, to run a school. Four years later he married Julia Miles, with whom he had six children. Barnes worked as a schoolmaster for several decades until 1848, when he took holy orders. Four years later, Julia died. In 1862, Barnes was given the parish of Winterborne Came in Dorchester, where he remained an excellent priest for the last 24 years of his life.