Daines Barrington

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Daines Barrington
Daines Barrington.jpg
Engraving from a 1770 painting
Born 1727
Died 14 March 1800 (1800-03-15)
Nationality English
Occupation Lawyer
Known for Correspondence with Gilbert White

Daines Barrington, FRS, FSA (1727/1728 – 14 March 1800) was an English lawyer, antiquary and naturalist.

Early life and legal career

Barrington was the fourth son of John Barrington, 1st Viscount Barrington.[1] He matriculated at The Queen's College, Oxford in 1745, but never graduated. In the same year he was admitted to the Inner Temple, and was called to the bar in 1750.

He subsequently held various legal offices, including marshal of the High Court of Admiralty, 1751-3; a judge of Great Sessions for North Wales (Anglesey, Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire) from 1757; Recorder of Bristol and King's Counsel from 1764; and second justice of Chester from 1778. Though considered by some (including Jeremy Bentham) to be an indifferent judge, his Observations on the Statutes, chiefly the more ancient, from Magna Charta to 21st James I (1766), had a high reputation among historians and constitutional antiquaries,[2] and ran through five editions down to 1796. He resigned all his legal offices in 1785, retaining only that of Commissary General of the stores at Gibraltar, which continued to provide him with a substantial income until his death.[1]

Antiquarian and scientific writings

In 1773 Barrington published an edition of Orosius, with King Alfred's Saxon version, and an English translation with original notes. His Tracts on the Probability of reaching the North Pole (1775) were written in consequence of the northern voyage of discovery undertaken by Captain Constantine John Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave (1744–1792).[2]

Barrington's other writings are chiefly to be found in the publications of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries: he was elected to both bodies in 1767, and afterwards became a vice-president of the latter. Many of these papers were collected by him in a quarto volume entitled Miscellanies on various Subjects (1781). He contributed to the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions for 1770,[3] an account of Mozart's visit at eight years of age to London. In his Miscellanies on varied subjects he included this with accounts of four other prodigies, namely, William Crotch, Charles and Samuel Wesley, and Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington. Among the more unusual of his papers are his Experiments and Observations on the Singing of Birds, and his Essay on the Language of Birds.[2]

Barrington met the Cornish speaker Dolly Pentreath and published a report of the encounter. This report is the main source for the claim that Dolly was the last monoglot speaker of the language. A year after Dolly Pentreath died in 1777, Barrington received a letter, written in Cornish and accompanied by an English translation, from a fisherman in Mousehole named William Bodinar stating that he knew of five people who could speak Cornish in that village alone. Barrington also speaks of a John Nancarrow from Marazion who was a native speaker and survived into the 1790s.[4]

Letters to Barrington from the parson-naturalist Gilbert White form a large part of White's 1789 book The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne; Barrington's half of the correspondence is not included.

Death and burial

Barrington never married, and lived for most of his life in chambers in King's Bench Walk in the Inner Temple, London. He died after a long illness in March 1800, and was buried in the Temple Church.

Notable works


  1. 1.0 1.1 Miller, David Philip (2008) [2004]. "Barrington, Daines (1727/8–1800)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1529.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2F1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica%2FBarrington%2C_Daines "Barrington, Daines" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Barrington, Daines. Account of a very remarkable young Musician [Mozart], Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Vol. 60, Dec 1770. Page 54
  4. Ellis, P. Berresford (ca. 1970) The Story of the Cornish Language. Penryn: Tor Mark Press

External links

  •  Macdonell, George Paul (1885). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FBarrington%2C_Daines_%28DNB00%29 "Barrington, Daines" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 3. London: Smith, Elder & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Court offices
Preceded by
William Robinson
Deputy Master of the Great Wardrobe
Succeeded by
Sir William Robinson, Bt