Richard Barnfield



Richard Barnfield, Poems. 1594-1598, ed. Edward Arber (Birmingham, 1882).


The Phonetic Writings of Robert Robinson, ed. E. J. Dobson, EETS 238 (London, 1957).


The Complete Poems of Richard Barnfield, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, Roxburghe Club (London, 1876).


Richard Barnfield, The Complete Poems, ed. George Klawitter (Selinsgrove, London & Toronto, 1990)


Harry Morris, Richard Barnfield, Colin's Child (Florida State University, [Tallahassee], 1963).


Apart from a group of phonetic transcripts by Robert Robinson (BaR 1-2, BaR 4-5, BaR 7), which have a special linguistic interest, the only known manuscript texts of poems by Richard Barnfield are four that appear in miscellanies chiefly of the 1630s (BaR 3, BaR 3.5, BaR 6, BaR 8). The last of these, the Isham MS now in the Folger, has received particular attention. The whole manuscript was edited in Grosart (pp. 199-200) and all attributed to Barnfield on the basis of the subscription to one poem (BaR 8) ‘Richard Barnfield’ which Grosart believed was an autograph signature. He reached this decision by comparing the ‘signature’ with the monogram ‘RB’ on the will of a Richard Barnfield, dated 26 February 1626/7, now in the Lichfield Joint Record Office (B/C/11, proved 7 April 1627): see Grosart, p. xxi, and his facsimile, p. 198. Another facsimile appears in Klawitter, pp. 15-17, where also six of the anonymous poems in the Folger manuscript are edited as ‘dubia’ (pp. 189-93). Grosart's conclusions were, however, dismissed in Morris (pp. 132-47). Indeed not only is there no reason to identify the subscription as a ‘signature’, but the will at Lichfield is now established as that of Barnfield's father, who died seven years after the poet: see Andrew Worrall, ‘Richard Barnfield: A New Biography’, N&Q, 237 (September 1992), 370-1.

Further relevant palaeographical evidence has come to light with the discovery of perhaps the only surviving example of Barnfield's signature, found by Andrew Doyle in Oxford University Archives (see BaR 9).

One other document bearing the name of Richard Barnfield, hitherto unrecorded, has tentatively been given an entry below (BaR 10). The inscriptions here — if indeed they are ‘signatures’ — are in largely italic hands that differ from the secretary script of the Oxford signature. They are probably written later than the signature of a fifteen-year-old undergraduate, and may, in any case, denote a connection between the manuscript and the poet. For these reasons the identification remains open to debate.

One final consideration with respect to the canon of Barnfield's works is Morris's discussion (pp. 147-56) of Barnfield's possible share in The Passionate Pilgrim (London, 1599). He concludes that poems 7 (‘Faire is my loue, but not so faire as fickle’), 10 (‘Sweet Rose, faire flower, vntimely pluckt, soon vaded’), and 13 (‘Beauty is but a vaine and doubtfull good’) may perhaps have been written by him. Though not given entries below, seventeenth-century copies of poem 7 are to be found in the Folger (MS V.a.339, f. 197v) and in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Dyce MS 44: Pressmark 25. F. 39, f. 107r).

Peter Beal