WILLIAM BARNES (1801-1886) was born near Sturminster Newton, the son of a small farmer. He has been called ‘the greatest poet ever to have written in English dialect’, and the publication of Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect in 1844 brought him national recognition. The publication of further volumes of poetry added to a list of admirers that included Hardy, Tennyson, Browning and Matthew Arnold. After leaving school he became a solicitor’s clerk. He later became a schoolmaster, establishing a successful school in Dorchester which he ran with his wife Julia. He was ordained in 1848, becoming rector of Winterborne Came in 1862 and remaining there until his death. As well as a poet, he was an expert linguist familiar with 60 languages, a skilful engraver and composer.