Mary Barber

(c. 1685 - 14 June 1755)

Works in ECPA

alphabetical listing / listing in source editions

Source editions

  • Barber, Mary, ca. 1690-1757. Poems on Several Occasions [poems only]. London: Printed for C. Rivington, at the Bible and Crown in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1734. xlviii,283,[7]p.; 8⁰. (ESTC T42622; DMI 519; Foxon p. 45)
  • Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764. A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. V. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758]. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163; OTA K104099.005)

Biographical note

Irish poet Mary Barber, who is of unknown parentage, was probably born in Dublin c. 1685. She married Rupert Barber (d. 1777?), a Dublin woollen draper, c. 1705. Four of her children survived infancy, among them her son Constantine (b. 1714), later MD and president of the Royal College of Physicians. In the 1720s, Barber began publishing poems in Dublin (anonymously), which brought her to the attention of the poet Thomas Tickell and the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Carteret. She eventually entered Swift's circle, coming to know Patrick Delany, Constantia Grierson, and Laetitia Pilkington among others. Swift and his friends actively supported Barber's poetic ambitions. With Swift's support, she travelled between Ireland and England several times in the early 1730s, visiting London, Tunbridge Wells, and Bath, to raise subscriptions for the publication of her poems. In 1734, her single volume of poetry, Poems on Several Occasions, was published, with a prefatory letter by Swift and a list of over 900 subscribers. It was reprinted in 1735 and 1736. The volume also included poems by Grierson, Elizabeth Rowe, Constantine Barber, and others. Many of Barber's poems are domestic in nature, concerned with the upbringing of her children, motherhood, friendship, and marriage, frequently with an ironic or satirical comment on wider social issues. Barber suffered from ill health and after her return to Ireland, she wrote and published very little. She died on 14 June 1755.


DMI 1269; ODNB 1332


  • Tucker, Bernard, ed. The poetry of Mary Barber ?1690-1757. Lewiston, NY; Queenston, Ont.; Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. Print.

Reference works

  • Baines, Paul, Julian Ferraro, Pat Rogers, eds. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Eighteenth-Century Writers and Writing, 1660-1789. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 15-16. Print.
  • Todd, Janet, ed. A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800. Paperback edition, revised. Lanham et al.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1987. 38. Print.


  • Backscheider, Paula. Inverting the image of Swift's 'Triumfeminate'. Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 4(1) (2004): 37-71. Print.
  • Budd, Adam. 'Merit in distress': the troubled success of Mary Barber. Review of English Studies 53(210) (2002): 204-27. Print.
  • Elias, A. C. Editing minor writers: the case of Laetitia Pilkington and Mary Barber. 1650-1850 3 (1997): 129-47. Print.
  • Fanning, Christopher. The Voices of the Dependent Poet: the case of Mary Barber. Women's Writing 8(1) (2001): 81-97. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
  • Janssen, Anke. Frühe Lyrikerinnen des 18. Jahrhunderts in ihrem Verhältnis zur Poetik und zur 'Poetic Diction'. Anglia: Zeitschrift für Englische Philologie 99(1-2) (1981): 111-113. Print.
  • O'Flaherty, Emily. Patrons, Peers and Subscribers: The Publication of Mary Barber's Poems on Several Occasions (1734). Univ. Diss. Galway: National University of Ireland, 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.
  • Tucker, Bernard. Swift's 'Female Senate': Three Forgotten Poets. Irish Studies Review 7 (1994): 7-10. Print.
  • Tucker, Bernard. 'Our chief poetess': Mary Barber and Swift's circle. Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 19(2) (1993): 31-44. Print.