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George Barker collection

Collection MS-1986-010: George Barker collection


  • Creation: approximately 1932-1970, undated

Scope and Contents

The George Barker collection contains letters by Barker, including two to editor John Middleton Murray, typescripts of poems, a signed typescript of the essay "Conspectus for the Converts," and two signed broadsides of the poem "What is Mercy and a Voice."


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

George Granville Barker was born in 1913 in Loughton, Essex in England. He was the fourth of five children of George Barker (1879–1965) and his wife, Marion Frances Taaffe (1881–1953). Barker attended Marlborough Road elementary school and the London Oratory, but he left school at fourteen to work towards a career as a professional writer.

In 1932 Barker submitted a typescript to the editor of The Adelphi, John Middleton Murray. Murray hired him as a book reviewer, allowing Barker to make connections with influential poets and writers of the time, including T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats. In 1935 Eliot helped Barker to publish his first book, Poems. His next two works, the fictional Janus (1935) and the long surrealistic poem Calamiterror (1937) were not as well received, although the 1940 publication of Lament and Terror cemented Barker's success as a writer.

In 1933 Barker married Jessie Winifred Theresa Woodward. He had a number of affairs, including one with Elizabeth Smart, who wrote about it in By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945). From 1944 to 1950 Barker published three more books: The Lyrics of Eros in Dogma (1944), News of the World (1950), and The Dead Seagull (1950).

In the early sixties, Barker traveled to Rome, Italy. The trip provided inspiration for The View from a Blind I (1962) and True Confession (1964). In 1963 Barker met the Scottish writer Elspeth Barker (1940-); the couple eventually married and had five children. For the remainder of his life, Barker spent time writing his own poetry and teaching at American universities in New York, Wisconsin, and Florida. Barker's work is best known for its vivid descriptions of rural and family life, lamentations of societal decline, and meditations on Catholicism. These elements are most skillfully brought together in his poetic masterpiece, Anno Domini (1983). Barker died on October 27, 1991.


Fraser, Robert. “Barker, George Granville (1913–1991).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 1 Nov. 2005


1 Linear Feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



The collection documents the career of twentieth-century English author George Barker through correspondence, typescripts of poems, a signed typescript of the essay "Conspectus for the Converts," and two signed broadsides of the poem "What is Mercy and a Voice."


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time. Signed copies of "What is Mercy and a Voice" were purchased from Bertram Rota, Ltd. in 1986.


George Barker Collection
approximately 1932-1970, undated
Dana Lawton, 2005; Edward Copenhagen, 2006; AnneMarie Anderson, 2010; Rachael Young
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States