Literary Lives: The Infants Grammar

Literary Lives: The Infants' Grammar by Alan Chedzoy at the Dorset County Museum

Thursday 14th September 2017

William Barnes Collection

William Barnes Collection and Archive at the Dorset County Museum

William Barnes Collection and Archive
at the Dorset County Museum 

Apart from a very small archive at St John’s College, Cambridge, the Dorset County Museum’s extensive collection of Barnes material is the only one in existence.  Particularly important is the series of Barnes notebooks, which are invaluable for biographical material concerning this most important of English dialect poets.  Interestingly, a Barnes book was included in the display of a hundred British writers, at the Festival of Britain in 1951.  Barnes was one of the very few modern poets to write in the language of the common people, and the fact in so doing, he attained a very high level of artistic achievement, is amply witnessed by many distinguished literary admirers including Gerard Manley Hopkins, E M Forster and Philip Larkin.

William Barnes encapsulates the social history of an entire English social class over three centuries.  He is probably the only writer to re-create in his work the way in which the rural working class spoke, as well as recording their customs, traditions and daily life.  It covers the social history of agricultural life from the days of Shakespeare until the late 19th Century.

The William Barnes Collection includes correspondence between William Barnes and Julia Miles, during their nine year courtship, relatives and friends; handwritten Italian diary and original sermons, poetry manuscripts, reviews and clippings, paintings and other realia; photographs of the author, friends and families.

William Barnes Collection and Archive at the Dorset County Museum
Selection of Books written by William Barnes

Documents include different editions of published works as well as books from Barnes personal library, and collections bequeathed by Giles Dugdale, Dr Bernard Jones, Trevor Hearl and Clement Denis.

At this stage there is no web-based catalogue of the collection available. However, the William Barnes Archive is available to researchers strictly by appointment.  Researchers wishing to visit the William Barnes collection should complete and submit the Research Inquiry Form.  A minimum of 28 day’s notice of a planned visit is required to ensure your visit can be managed smoothly.

In order to provide the best possible research facility for you, the downloadable form available here should be completed as fully as possible and returned to The Curator, William Barnes Collection, Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, DT1 1XA at least four weeks before your planned visit.  You may e-mail to:

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Forthcoming events

Literary Lives: The Infants Grammar Literary Lives: The Infants' Grammar by Alan Chedzoy at the Dorset County Museum Thursday 14th September 2017
Celebrating William Barnes with Tim Laycock and Friends Music and Poetry reading in the garden of Thomas Hardy's Max Gate Saturday 16th September 2017
Morning Service of Remembrance Morning church service to commemorate William Barnes death. Sunday 8th October 2017
Willam Barnes Society Annual General Meeting Followed by performances by John Blackmore entitled West Country Sound and Song Tuesday 10th October 2017

Latest news

Tea, Scones and Poetry William Barnes Society Poetry Readings and Cream Tea at Pine Lodge Farm Tea Rooms, Bockhampton, Dorchester. Sunday 16th July 2017
William Barnes Society 2017 Annual Summer Lunch The society annual Summer lunch took place on Saturday 24th June at Cerne Abbas Village Hall, Dorset. Tuesday 27th June 2017
An evening to celebrate the Life and Works of William Barnes As part of Sherborne Literary Festival, a celebration of William Barnes by members of the William Barnes Society at Raleigh Hall, Sherborne, Dorset. Friday 9th June 2017
Annual Service of Remembrance of Dorset Poet A service in honour of the Dorset dialect poet William Barnes was held at St Peter’s Church at Winterborne Came near Dorchester. Sunday 23rd April 2017

William Barnes by Llewelyn Powys

William Barnes by Llewelyn PowysWilliam Barnes by Llewelyn Powys Extract taken from Thirteen Worthies by Llewelyn Powys published in 1923


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