1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 95 (March 1825) 281-82.



March 9. At Stoke Newington, in the 82nd year of her age, Mrs. Anna Letitia Barbauld, daughter of the late Rev. John Aikin, D.D., and widow of the Rev. Rochemont Barbauld.

This distinguished lady, whose fame was second to none among the female writers of her country, was born at Kibworth, in the co. of Leicester, on June 20th, 1743. She was indebted to her learned and exemplary father for the solid foundation of a literary and classical education; a boon at that period, rarely bestowed upon a daughter. In the year 1756, she accompanied her family to Warrington, in Lancashire, where her father was appointed one of the Tutors of a Dissenting Academy. She published in 1772, a volume of poems, which immediately gave her a place in the first rank of living poets. The next year, in conjunction with her brother the late John Aikin, M.D. she gave to the world a small but choice collection of Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose.

On her marriage in 1774, she went to reside at Palgrave in Suffolk, where her Early Lessons and Hymns in Prose for children, were composed — master pieces in the art of early instruction — monuments at once of her genius, and of the condescending benevolence which presided over its exercise. In 1785, Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld quitted Palgrave, and after a Tour on the Continent, and some months passed in London, they settled at Hampstead.

Some pamphlets on public topics, printed anonymously, but marked for hers, by a style of almost unrivalled brilliancy and animation, and a Poetic Epistle to Mr. Wilberforce on his exertions for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, were the principal efforts of her pen during many succeeding years. In 1802, she and Mr. Barbauld fixed their abode at Stoke Newington, whither they were attracted by her affection for her brother, and desire of enjoying his daily society.

A selection from the Guardian, Spectator, and Tatler, introduced by an elegant Essay; another from the Manuscript Correspondence of Richardson, with a Life of the Author and a View of his Writings prefixed; and a Collection of the best English Novels, with biographical and critical prefaces, served in succession to amuse her leisure; a higher effort of her powers was, the splendid poem entitled Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, which appeared in the ensuing year. This was the last of her separate publications, but she continue occasionally to exercise her poetical powers, which she retained in undiminished vigour, nearly to the latest period of her life.

She sunk by a gradual decay, without any severe bodily suffering; and with perfect resignation and composure of mind.

The moral qualities of this admirable woman reflected back a double lustre on her intellectual endowments. Her principles were pure and exalted, her sentiments on all occasions mild, candid, and generous. No one could bear her faculties more meekly: neither pride nor envy had the smallest share in her composition: her benevolence was proved by many acts of kindness, and indulgence to others, were unbounded. Her society was equally a benefit and a delight to all within her sphere. She passed through a long life without an enemy.

Mrs. Barbauld has left behind her many unpublished pieces, both in verse and prose, and a complete edition of her works, with a selection from her correspondence, may be expected to appear under the superintendence of her family.