Barker, Jane (Vol. 42)
Jane Barker 1652-1732
British novelist and poet.
Barker's chief contribution to literature is her "Galesia Trilogy," consisting of Love Intrigues; or, The History of the Amours of Bosvil and Galesia (1713); A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies; or, Love and Virtue Recommended (1723); and The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen: Design'd for the Farther Entertainment of the Ladies (1726). Although Love Intrigues was originally credited as being authored only by "A Young Lady," by the time of A Patch-Work Screen, Barker had decided to take credit for the work using her own name; historians of women's literature take interest in Barker's unabashed authorship. Barker wrote during a period of transition spanning the time when literature was written for the elite few and circulated privately to the time when novels were written expressly with the buying public's taste in mind. During this time of change, histories, romances, and novels overlapped and commingled, with no clear lines separating and defining the genres. Literature historians give credit to Barker for her influence on making the novel more socially acceptable by making it morally instructive, particularly on sexual matters. Additionally, Barker is praised for her realism, subtlety, irony, experimentation in form, and modernistic conclusions in which not all problems are neatly resolved.
Barker was born in Northamptonshire in 1652 to Thomas Barker, a Royalist who served in the court of Charles I, and to Anne Connock, whose prestigious family supported the Stuart monarchs. Sometime in the 1660s Barker attended a girls school near London and also learned farm management—unusual for a female—firsthand at her family's extensive agricultural property in Lincolnshire. This rural life and activity became the subject of many of Barker's poems. Barker shared her poetry with family and educated friends, many of whom were male. It is also believed that at this time—under the working title "Scipiana"—she began her first novel, Exilius, or, The Banish'd Roman: A New Romance: In Two Parts, Written after the Manner ofTelemachus, which would not be published until 1715. Barker's association with students of Cambridge eventually yielded a two-volume collection entitled Poetical Recreations: Consisting of Original Poems, Songs, Odes &c. With Several New Translations. In Two Parts, Part I. Occasionally Written by Mrs. Jane Barker. Part II. By Several Gentlemen of the Universities, and Others, published in 1688. In approximately 1685 Barker moved to London. James II succeeded Charles II to the throne upon the latter's death, and granted Catholics rights previously denied to them; Barker is believed to have converted to Roman Catholicism during this time. Many powerful Protestants opposed James and in 1688 he fled to France, yielding to William of Orange. Tens of thousands of James's supporters left England for France, and their number included Barker. As a Connock and royalist, Barker enjoyed respect in her new setting, and continued to write poetry, much of it in praise of James. In 1704 Barker returned to England. It was here that Love Intrigues was published by the notorious bookseller Edmund Curll. Curll, who advertised heavily his publications, found that the public was fond of Barker's writings, encouraged Barker to satisfy her readers, and continued to publish her books. Critics note that Barker first saw her writing in print at a relatively late age and that she continued working into her seventies. She persevered even after becoming blind in her last years by hiring someone to take down her dictated words. Barker died in France in 1732.
Poetical Recreations saw the first appearance of Barker's Galesia, a poet character considered by critics to be the alter-ego of the author. The poetry that constitutes this volume reflects Barker's rural upbringing, explores female-female relationships, and stresses the importance of keeping control of one's emotions and maintaining faith. In certain poems Barker, never married, celebrates life as a spinster. Love Intrigues was originally released with the author credit of "A Young Lady," although in reality Barker was already over sixty years old. Love Intrigues was very successful and went through four editions by the middle of the century. The two-volume set The Entertaining Novels of Mrs. Jane Barker (1719) includes revised versions of Love Intrigues and Exilius several previously unpublished short stories. Exilius mixes various romances in an ambiguous moral fable centering on the heroine Scipiana. In Exilius, Scipiana extolls the value of learning for women. Love Intrigues was Barker's first semi-autobiographical novel. In it, Galesia recalls her younger days when she was romantically pursued by Bosvil, her cousin. This tale of an on-and-off, on-and-off, unrequired-love relationship has a deliberately inconclusive ending. The sequel, A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies, finds Galesia embittered toward the idea of marriage after having suffered from Bosvil's baseness. The title refers both to the experimental nature of having the story seen through various characters, with their narratives of differing tones, and the nature of the stories themselves, which range from love stories to murder tales. Murders are even more prominent in the last work of the Galesia trilogy: The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen. Galesia, now older, reflects on the follies she has witnessed in the world. The tone is grim as Galesia details the difficulties women face in society.
Feminist critics find Barker's work an excellent source for the history of women's roles in society and personal relationships. Kathryn R. King (1994) finds note-worthy the fact that Barker freely associated with educated men, a practice that runs counter to some commonly-held conceptions about early women writers. Critics agree that Barker did not simply cater to the public's demand and write whatever she thought they would buy; on the contrary, critics find her work to be of considerable depth, with psychological insights that would not be out of place in twentieth-century novels. Margaret Anne Doody writers: "In her mingling of tones and impressions, in her representation of fancy, memory, and desire, Barker was an influence upon the Richardsonian novel. She also announces themes and techniques found in twentieth-century novelists, particularly women writers such as Dorothy Richardson, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and Barbara Pym. Like these writers, she draws upon and fictionalizes her own experience, often with considerable humor."
Poetical Recreations: Consisting of Original Poems, Songs, Odes &c. With Several New Translations. In Two Parts, Part I. Occasionally Written by Mrs. Jane Barker. Part II. By Several Gentlemen of the Universities, and Others, [editor and contributor] (poetry) 1688
Love Intrigues; or, The History of the Amours of Bosvil and Galesia, As Related to Lucasia, in St. Germains Garden [as A Young Lady] (novel) 1713
Exilius, or, The Banish'd Roman: A New Romance: In Two Parts, Written after the Manner of Telemachus (novel) 1715
*The Entertaining Novels of Mrs. Jane Barker. 2 vols, (novels) 1719
A Patch-Work Screen for the...
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SOURCE: "General Learning and Literary Work," in The Learned Lady in England, 1650-1760, Peter Smith, 1964, pp. 137-257.
[In the following excerpt, first published in 1920 and reprinted in 1964, Reynolds contends that Barker's novels explore the same material covered earlier in her verse. Reynolds also considers some of the circumstances of Barker's life that are revealed through her character Galesia.]
… Miss Jane Barker is a literary lady whose productions belong in two epochs. Her collected poems appeared in 1688 under the title Poetical Recreations: Consisting of Original Poems, Songs, Odes, etc. With Several New Translations. In Two Parts, Part I....
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SOURCE: "Edmund Curll, Mrs. Jane Barker, and the English Novel," in Philological Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 4, October, 1958, pp. 385-99.
[Below, McBurney discusses the effect the infamous publisher Edmund Curll had upon the popularity of Barker's romance novels.]
In his Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, published in 1711, the Earl of Shaftesbury declared that "our modern authors … are turned and modelled (as themselves confess) by the publick relish and current humour of the times…. In our day the audience makes the poet, and the bookseller the author."1 Of no literary or sub-literary field was this statement more true than of the...
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SOURCE: Introduction to Exilius, or the Banish'd Roman, by Jane Barker, Garland Publishing, 1973, p. 142.
[In the following essay, Grieder divides early-eighteenth-century women's writings into two categories: one type salacious and gossipy, the other moralistic and didactic. The critic contends that Exilius, which fits into the latter group, stresses that conforming to societal expectations must supersede one's personal passion.]
Female writers of fiction during the early eighteenth century may generally be divided into two groups, according to their conception of the novel's intent and function. On one hand are Mrs. Manley and Mrs. Haywood, whose scandal...
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SOURCE: Introduction to The Prude: A Novel by a Young Lady, by Ma A., and A Patch-Work Screen for Ladies, by Jane Barker, Garland Publishing, 1973, p. 143.
[In the excerpt below, Grieder praises A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies for the historical importance of its authentic descriptions of ordinary life; its atypical heroine, Galesia; and its modernistic conclusion, which leaves some narrative conflicts unresolved.]
… [A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies] hangs together by that most fragile of threads, a central narrator who discusses her observations and recounts her own and others' adventures. The numerous poetic epistles, though composed by...
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SOURCE: "Deserts, Ruins, and Troubled Waters: Female Dreams in Fiction and the Development of the Gothic Novel," in Genre, Vol. X, No. 4, Winter, 1977, pp. 529-72.
[In the following excerpt, Doody elaborates on ways that Barker's descriptions of the dreams of her female characters emphasize the women's unheroic and subjective lives.]
My Harriet has been telling me how much she suffered lately from a dream, which she permitted to give strength and terror to her apprehensions from Mr. Greville. Guard, my dear Ladies, against these imbecillities of tender minds. In these instances, if no other, will you give a superiority to our Sex….1...
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SOURCE: "Jane Barker (1652-1727)," in Raising Their Voices: British Women Writers, 1650-1750, Wayne State University Press, 1990, pp. 102-6.
[In the following excerpt, Williamson examines some of the ironies of Barker's poetry, as well as the patterns found in Barker's novels which give advice for women regarding courting.]
Jane Barker was one of the most self-conscious daughters of Orinda, and her career began in a way that would have made the identification logical. Early in her career, Barker enjoyed the encouragement of men: Poetical Recreations: Consisting of Original Poems, Songs, Odes (1688) was jointly created by Barker with "several gentlemen of the...
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SOURCE: "Galesia, Jane Barker, and a Coming to Authorship," in Anxious Power: Reading, Writing, and Ambivalence in Narrative by Women, edited by Carol J. Singley and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, State University of New York Press, 1993, pp. 91-106.
[In the following essay, King examines what A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies reveals concerning Barker's anxieties about the public's reception of her writing.]
The story told by the poet and novelist Jane Barker, in three autobiographical narratives about her struggle to fashion an identity as a writing woman, is inevitably a study in ambivalence. It is impossible that a woman coming to...
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SOURCE: "The Unaccountable Wife and Other Tales of Female Desire in Jane Barker's A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies" in The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, Vol. 35, No. 2, Summer, 1994, pp. 155–72.
[In the following essay, King discusses female-female relationships depicted in A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies. She notes that what may have been intended by Barker as a warning to women who experience same-sex desires can instead be interpreted as criticism of a patriarchal society.]
—and she said, We all join'd with her Husband to make her miserable, by removing from her, the only Friend she had in the World; and...
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SOURCE: "Jane Barker, Political Recreations, and the Sociable Text," in ELH, Vol. 61, No. 3, Fall, 1994, pp. 551-70.
[In the essay that follows, King explores Barker's participation in a complex literary community that also included men.]
In Writing Women's Literary History (1993), Margaret Ezell argues forcefully for a rethinking of the assumptions that govern feminist literary history.1 Feminist historiography, she contends, derives its models of female authorship from nineteenth-century practices; these models distort our understanding of the circumstances and modes of production of women writers of earlier eras. In the narratives generated...
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Barker, Jane (Vol. 80)
Jane Barker 1652-1732
English novelist and poet.
The following entry provides an overview of Barker's life and works. For additional information on her career, see LC, Volume 42.
Barker is an important figure in the emergence of the novel in the early decades of the eighteenth century. She is best remembered for the “Galesia Trilogy” of novels she published between 1713 and 1726, but she also composed occasional verse and constructed a devotional manual from materials she translated from the works of French cleric François Fénelon. Barker was little known during her lifetime, although her novels did enjoy a modest success upon initial publication, marking her as one of the first women to enter the expanding literary marketplace. Feminist scholars in the late twentieth century began to show interest in Barker's life and work because of the insights they provide into women's literary history and self-portrayal. Barker was an unmarried woman who dabbled in commercial medicine and was a staunch supporter of the exiled Stuart court, and her writing draws heavily on these and other autobiographical elements of her life.
The particulars of Barker's life are the subject of some controversy. Because her fictional works have elements of autobiography, earlier scholars reconstructed her biography based on events described in her novels and verse. Later critics have contended that the earlier reconstructions were inaccurate and have sketched a new biography based on historical records; but the details of her life remain murky. Barker was born in May, 1652 in Northamptonshire, England, the only daughter of Thomas and Anne Barker. Barker's parents, while not landed gentry or aristocracy, enjoyed modest prosperity, and were staunch supporters of the royal House of Stuart. Barker received almost all of her education from her elder brother, Edward, who attended Oxford and Leyden Universities. He taught her Latin, philosophy, and medicine. When her brother died around 1675, it came to a blow as Barker, and she continued to mourn his early death in her prose and verse as late as 1723. In 1681 Barker's father died, and shortly thereafter she and her mother moved to London. In 1685 her mother died, and Barker continued to live on the inheritance she had received from her father. Sometime during the reign of the Roman Catholic monarch James II (1685-1688), Barker converted to Catholicism. In 1688 her collection of poems, Poetical Recreations, appeared. She likely fled to France early the next year, following James's flight at the time of the Glorious Revolution. Although she was not in the upper ranks of exile society, she moved in distinguished circles, and her verse probably circulated among James's followers. While in France, Barker developed cataracts, and although she had an operation to help the problem, she became functionally blind.
Barker returned to England around 1704 (some accounts say as late as 1713), where she took up the management of her family farm in Wilsthorpe. It is likely that she had financial difficulties during this time. In 1713 the novels she worked on in the 1680s and in France began to be published. Little more is known of her life. She apparently suffered a serious illness in 1726, and may have gone back to France in 1727. After this nothing is recorded about her. She died either in France or in England in 1732.
Barker's first published work was Poetical Recreations, a collection of about 55 pieces of occasional verse written by Barker in the 1670s and 1680s, along with a number of works by others. Many of Barker's poems are familiar epistles to friends and acquaintances, including a number of learned men at Cambridge, and there are others on medical themes. What emerges from these poems is a portrait of a woman concerned with her self-image as a person of education and intellectual attainment. Barker's later verse, written during her exile in France, was circulated in manuscript but not published. The poems, written to support the Jacobite cause, are preserved in the first two parts of a manuscript in the library of Magdalen College, Oxford (a third part consists of “corrected” versions of her earlier poems).
Love Intrigues, the first novel in Barker's so-called Galesia Trilogy was published in 1713. It is a romance in which a mature Galesia looks back on her days as a young lady, when she was pursued by her cousin, Bosvil. The work departs from the conventional romantic fiction of its day, as it offers a cynical view of love and considers the difficulties of choosing to be an unmarried, educated woman with literary aspirations. The second and third novels in the trilogy, A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies (1723) and The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen (1726) reiterate some of the themes of the earlier novel. These works are an interesting mix of fiction, philosophy, poetry, recipes, and hymns woven together by a number of narrators (including Galesia), much like a patchwork quilt, that tell interrelated stories of political and domestic life.
The heroic romance Exilius: or, The Banish'd Roman, published in 1715, was written as an imitation of Archbishop François Fénelon's Telemaque. The long, episodic narrative has an intense moral purpose: to show the proper behavior of young ladies in various real-life situations. Each of the several simultaneous plots is designed to place its heroine in a situation that tests her resilience, trains her into the proper way of conformity to social expectations, or punishes her for transgressions against accepted norms. Some critics have suggested that the titular “Banish'd Roman,” a man of impeccable virtue, courage, and wisdom, is a reference to the exiled Stuart monarch James. Barker also translated works by Fénelon in the collection of meditations, The Christian Pilgrimage (1718), which, according to some scholars, was an attempt by Barker to make Catholicism more accessible to those schooled in the Protestant faith.
Although she was not well known in her lifetime, Barker was paid for her writing, making her one of the first professional female writers in Britain. Although she claimed that Poetical Recreations was published without her consent, and she professed a disdain for commercial publication, she sought to have her fiction published, in part because she had financial difficulties. Two of her novels were published by the infamous Edmund Curll (who, during his career was sued for literary piracy and was tried and convicted for publishing obscene books); he actively marketed her works to an expanding reading public, labeling them “novels” rather than “romances,” a term increasingly unfashionable.
Very little mention was made of Barker after her death, but feminist scholars began to show interest in her work in the 1980s, seeing her as a central figure in the rise of the woman novelist. The autobiographical nature of her fictions, and what they said about female authorship in the eighteenth century, was also of interest. As research into Barker's life and work has expanded, critics have examined more closely the connection between autobiography and fiction in her work, the self-image she projects in her novels and verse, her relationships with literary and learned men, her attitude toward her own education and literary achievement, her entry into the literary marketplace, and her political ideology as revealed in her writing.
Poetical Recreations: Consisting of Original Poems, Songs, Odes, &c. with Several New Translations. In Two Parts, Part I. Occasionally Written by Mrs. Jane Barker. Part II. By Several Gentlemen of the Universities, and Others [editor and contributor] (poetry) 1688
†Love Intrigues; or, the History of the Amours of Bosvil and Galesia, As Related to Lucasia, in St. Germains Garden (novel) 1713
Exilius: or, The Banish'd Roman. A New Romance in Two Parts: Written After the Manner of Telemachus, For the Instruction of Some Young Ladies of Quality (novel) 1715
The Christian Pilgrimage: or a Companion for the Holy Season of Lent: being meditations upon the Passion. Death, Resurrection and Ascension of … Jesus Christ [translator; from works by François Fénelon] (meditations) 1718
*The Entertaining Novels of Mrs. Jane Barker. 2 vols. (novels) 1719
†A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies, or Love & Virtue Recommended in a Collection of Instructive Novels. Related After a Manner intirely New, and Interspersed with Rural Poems, describing the Innocence of a Country-Life (novel) 1723
†The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen: Design'd for the Father Entertainment of the Ladies (novel) 1726
*This work contains revised versions of Exilius and Love Intrigues.
†These three works comprise the “Galesia Trilogy.”
SOURCE: Spencer, Jane. “Creating the Women Writer: The Autobiographical Works of Jane Barker.” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 2, no. 2 (fall 1983): 165-81.
[In the following essay, Spencer claims that Barker's main concerns were to define herself as a woman and as a writer and to create for herself and her audience an acceptable self-image. Spencer also states that Barker's works are especially important to those interested in the history of women's writing and women's self-definition because they seem to be largely autobiographical.]
To some extent, the autobiographer's problem with the meaning of the self is shared by all writers. “For all literary...
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SOURCE: Spencer, Jane. “Jane Barker.” In The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen, pp. 62-70. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
[In the following excerpt, Spencer claims that, throughout her work, Barker is concerned with the creation of her self-portrait as a woman and a writer.]
Like Delariviere Manley, Jane Barker presented herself as her own heroine, but a very different kind of heroine. Virginity, instead of eroticism, was the keynote of her self-portrait. Autobiographical elements take a central place in Barker's work, none of her writings being free of them, and in fact much of what is known about her life comes from her own account. Born...
(The entire section is 3988 words.)
SOURCE: King, Kathryn R. and Medoff, Jeslyn. “Jane Barker and Her Life (1652-1732): The Documentary Record.” Eighteenth-Century Life 21, no. 3 (November 1997): 16-38.
[In the following essay, King and Medoff offer an account of the life of Barker that contrasts with the biography that has been erroneously reconstructed from her fictional works.]
Jane Barker's time has come. That this poet, novelist, lay physician, Catholic convert, exile, and Jacobite is an immensely intriguing figure has been an open secret among specialists for the past fifteen years. Now that much of her best work is finally available in modern editions, Barker's stock as a writer in the larger...
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SOURCE: Bowers, Toni. “Jacobite Difference and the Poetry of Jane Barker.” ELH 64, no. 4 (winter 1997): 857-69.
[In the following essay, Bowers examines the poetry of Barker, a staunch Jacobite, to argue against the myth of Jacobite certainty, as the poet shows disappointment, uncertainty, and dark regret in her political choices despite her loyalty to the royalist cause.]
The more I learn about the partisan politics of Augustan England, the more difficult it becomes to trust what once seemed stable points of demarcation among the categories of players, and especially between Jacobites and Tories. “Tory” and “Jacobite” once seemed clearly distinct...
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SOURCE: King, Kathryn R. Introduction to The Poems of Jane Barker: The Magdalen Manuscript, pp. 1-23. Oxford: Magdalen College, 1998.
[In the following essay, King claims that the Magdalen manuscript of Barker's poems is particularly important for the glimpse it affords into Barker's writing life and her evolution as a artist; for the light it sheds on seventeenth-century English Catholicism, early Jacobitism, spiritual autobiography, and women's writing; and for the oppositions it discloses between public/private and political/domestic in writings about politics and affairs of state.]
THE MAGDALEN MANUSCRIPT AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE
One of the...
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SOURCE: Fitzmaurice, James. “Barker and the Tree of Knowledge at Cambridge University.” Renaissance Forum 3, no. 1 (spring 1998): 1-15.
[In the following essay, Fitzmaurice examines the 1723 version of Barker's poem “An Invitation to my friends at Cambridge” to show that later in life the author was not as enamored of the opinions of academic men as she had been as a younger woman, because she saw the limitations of worldly knowledge and no longer felt she needed to justify her lack of formal education.]
Jane Barker is perhaps most widely known these days as a writer of novellas who was active during the early eighteenth century. The 1997 Oxford University...
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SOURCE: King, Kathryn R. “A Jacobite Novelist.” In Jane Barker, Exile: A Literary Career 1675-1725, pp. 147-79. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, King tells the story of Barker as a Jacobite novelist, showing the connections between the plots of her novels and the political activities and ideologies of the Stuart court.]
Barker is in fact a supremely self-regarding writer, mindful of her gendered singularity and fascinated with the many ways to tell her own story; and it seems undeniable, if hard to prove, that her heroine, Galesia—poet, healer, virgin, femme savante, and odd woman—is in many ways a self-portrait. However, when the...
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King, Kathryn R. Jane Barker, Exile: A Literary Career 1675-1725. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000, 263 p.
The only full-fledged biography of Barker, emphasizing her writing life—her literary friendships, readers and readerships, relations with men in the book trade, and dialogue with literary conventions.
Gibbons, G. S. “Mrs Jane Barker.” Notes and Queries 12th Series, no. 33 (30 September 1922): 278.
Brief biography and description of the Magdalen manuscript of Barker's poems.
King, Kathryn R. “Of Needles and Pens and Women's Work.” Tulsa...
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