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An evening to celebrate the Life and Works of William Barnes

By Marion Tait

Members of the William Barnes Society at the Sherborne Literary Festival
Members of the William Barnes Society at the Sherborne Literary Society

On 9th June 2017, William Barnes Society members presented an evening entitled ‘The Life and Works of William Barnes’ to the Sherborne Literary Society.

The chairman, Brian Caddy opened the evening with a short talk outlining William Barnes life and achievements and there then followed a selection of Barnes poetry and eclogues which were much enjoyed by an appreciative and enthusiastic audience.

The highlight of the evening was a reading by our Secretary Marion Tait of a recently discovered and unpublished poem in National English by William Barnes ‘Solace of the Fields’.

It had been purchased at a sale in Dorchester in April by Julian Nangle a very well respected book dealer. The four verse poem was in Barnes handwriting and framed between two sheets of glass with a footnote W.B. Mrs Hodding with kind compliments.

It was not dated. Barnes handwriting was still relatively neat and the poem was obviously written prior to rheumatism causing Barnes handwriting to deteriorate quite dramatically. Rod Drew, Brian Caddy and Julian Nangle were able to produce a transcript before the item itself was sold to the Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, University of Texas.

Marion’s reading was almost certainly the first time ‘Solace of the Fields’ had been heard in public therefore making our evening at Sherborne both very special and of course historical.

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