Multitalented poet and autodidact William Barnes was born in Rushay, Dorset, in southern England. He worked as a clerk and a schoolmaster before earning a bachelor of divinity from Cambridge and becoming an ordained minister in the Church of England. He was a strong supporter of the Dorset dialect. When he died in 1886, his Saturday Review obituary read, “There is no doubt that he is the best pastoral poet we possess, the most sincere, the most genuine, the most theocritan; and that the dialect is but a very thin veil hiding from us some of the most delicate and finished verse written in our time.”
Barnes was chiefly preoccupied with the pastoral life of Dorsetshire in his poetry and was well known for his poem “Linden Lea.” He published a number of collections, including Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect (1844) and Hwomely Rhymes: A Second Collection Of Poems In The Dorset Dialect (1859), both composed in the Dorset dialect, and Poems of Rural Life in Common English (1868).
A tutor to Thomas Hardy, Barnes was also a burgeoning mathematician, an amateur inventor, and an artist who published hundreds of engravings. He was fluent in several languages.