Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.
Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles
Anna Lætitia Barbauld (17431825)
ANNA LÆTITIA BARBAULD was born at Kibworth-Harcourt, Leicestershire, on the 20th of June, 1743. Her father, Dr. Aiken, kept a private school for boys, and under his instruction she acquired a knowledge of both Greek and Latin. At her fathers house, too, she met Dr. Priestley, Dr. Taylor, Roscoe, Pennant the naturalist, and other men of culture, who influenced her thought and stimulated the development of her mind. In 1773 she published a volume of poems, and, encouraged by its success, in conjunction with her brother, a volume of Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose. In the following year she married the Rev. R. Barbauld, a Nonconformist minister, who shortly after opened a school for boys at Palgrave, Suffolk. While here Mrs. Barbauld published Hymns in Prose for Children (1781), a work that had a large sale both in England and America, and which was translated into several languages. In 1787 the Barbaulds gave up their school and removed to Hampstead, where Mr. Barbauld became minister of a Nonconformist Church. Here they formed the acquaintance of Agnes and Joanna Baillie, and Mrs. Barbauld wrote a number of pieces for her brothers Evenings at Home. In 1802 Mr. Barbauld accepted the charge of a Church at Newington Green, where his wife had the great advantage of living near to her brother, who had become a physician. Here Mr. Barbauld developed symptoms of mental derangement, and, after attempting the life of his wifewho escaped him by leaping from a windowwas placed under restraint, from which, however, he managed to escape in November 1808, when he committed suicide by throwing himself into the New River. Mrs. Barbauld, engaged frequently in literary work, edited a selection for the British Essayists; an edition of Richardsons Letters; a collection of the British Novelists, with biographical notices, which latter work was published in 1810. In 1811 she edited The Female Speaker, and wrote a long poem on the current year. For some years she enjoyed the friendship of Wordsworth, Lamb, Rogers, Crabb, Robinson, and others, who visited her and felt the charm of her manners and conversation. She died at the age of eighty-two, on the 9th of March, 1825. Her poems were published in two volumes in 1826.
Much of Mrs. Barbaulds poetry is commonplace to our eyes, but some of it justifies the judgment of her contemporaries, and seems likely to hold its place in hymn-books and anthologies for many years to come.
Wordsworth committed the following lines, from a poem entitled Life, to memory, and said of them, I am not in the habit of grudging other people their good things, but I wish I had written these lines.
Life! weve been long together,
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather
Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
Perhaps twill cost a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not Good-Night, but in some brighter clime
Bid me Good-Morning.
As Mr. Eric Robinson says, Few will deny the lyric charm of the concluding lines.