Monday, 4 May 2015

Thomas Dalling Barleé in Dawlish and elsewhere

I just had a spot of déjà vu on seeing Thomas Dalling Barleé's 1837 Miscellaneous Poetry, where I found the address of Lady Watson for the previous post South Devon Railway: 1844 NIMBY list. The subscriber list is quite a nice window on the great and the good of 1837 Dawlish - James 'Sea Lawn Gap' Powell is there - as well as the author's family in Suffolk and social circuit in Bath. But the name Barleé definitely rang bells from somewhere else.

The baths on the beach, Dawlish, Devonshire
Devonshire & Cornwall Illustrated, 1832

Miscellaneous Poetry, compiled after Barleé had left Dawlish and moved to 30 Daniel Street, Bath, contains two rather conventional poems about Dawlish, which I won't quote in full. The first has the footnote "At the time these lines were written the Author was a Bachelor practising the Law". A sampler of a few stanzas of each:
Lines Descriptive of Scenery at Dawlish

Here, while I gaze on Luscombe's peaceful vale,
'Mid Nature's smiles, I feel a Poet's glow;
The birds are warbling in the stilly dale,
As if to teach these tuneful thoughts to flow.

The Daw, while gliding smoothly to the sea.
Like a land captive creeping through the plain,
Loathing its narrow confines, seems to me
Stealing for freedom to the boundless main.

The fleeting shades o'er Hauldon's heathy hill,
The skylark soaring with unearthly glee,
The church-bell tolling, when all else is still.
Speak each a language which has charms for me.

I love to gaze upon the moon's soft light.
O'er silv'ring Babbicombe's romantic bay;
To watch the ocean in the arms of night,
Or view it wid'ning with the op'ning day.
A Fragment by Moonlight on Dawlish Beach

Peaceful is all around! and the full moon,
Spreading God's glory as it lights the world,
Casts a pale, pensive look upon the earth.
As if in silent, deep, and holy grief
She raourn'd the sins of this vain, bustling world;
While from her throne of light soft ebbing beams
(Like sweetest smiles reflected in a glass,)
Fall with mild lustre on the slumb'ring sea.
Which, calmly bosom'd in the arms of night,
Rests like an infant in its mother's lap!

At such an hour, — when no unhallow'd sound
Nor ruffling thought disturbs the musing mind;
When the tumultuous world, its jarring cares,
And roaring passions all seem lull'd to rest;
And some invisible, almighty power.
With breathless joy, seems watching o'er the scene, —
Man feels uplifted from this earthly sphere,
"His spirit lofty, tho' his merit mean;"
And, as a pilgrim, when oppress'd with heat,
Pants for the refuge of a cooling shade,
The soul, far wand'ring, weary, faint, and sick,
In stilly gladness, seeks a sweet repose
In calm communion with its parent God.

- Miscellaneous Poetry (Barleé, Thomas Dalling, Bath: Collings, 1837, Internet Archive miscellaneouspoe00barl).
These are pretty dull, but the anthology is actually worth checking out, as amid a deal of rather conventional scenic, moral and aesthetic themes, Barleé tackles very varied topics that lead to interesting side-tracks:
  • Princess Victoria;
  • Cowper's poems;
  • Humorous poems about a man who wins a bet that he can keep his leg in boiling water for two hours (it's false, of course), the classical scholar Porson, the supposed fraught home life of Socrates and Mrs Socrates, and pitch battles at Oxford;
  • The young "American Poetess" Lucretia Davidson;
  • His thoughts on cannibalism after reading the pro-vegetarian tract "Ritson on Animal Food";
  • Prosthetic beauty;
  • A riposte to a young friend who called hiim "a selfish, morose, Misanthrope; Useless, a Turn-coat, and Coward";
  • Responses to "Sam Sly" (the journalist William Layton Sammons, who wrote the pseudonymous "Touching Things Theatrical" column in Keene's Bath Journal, and later went on to be an influential satirist in South Africa - see Sam Sly's African Journal and the role of satire in colonial British identity at the Cape of Good Hope, c. 1840-1850.
  • A Strange Case of Fanaticism (concerning a weird case where a Quaker called Nayler, in court for claims he could raise the dead, called a witness called Dorcas Earberry to depose that she had been dead, and had been raised to appear as a witness - see the Anti-Jacobin Review, 1801);
  • "Cacoethes Scribendi" - the insatiable itch to write;
  • A poem to a father who didn't marry the mother of his daughter until some years after the birth;
  • Lines on Ireland (patriotism punned as "Pat-riotism");
  • and more.
There's a short biography of Barleé in the 1953 Suffolk verse anthology Parnassian Molehill:
Thomas Dalling Barlee
Thomas, youngest son of the Rev. William Barlee (formerly Buckle) was baptised at Wrentham in Suffolk 21st December 1796. According to Davy he went first to sea, but retired on account of ill health and took to the law for a profession. He practised for a time in Dawlish, but on the death of his father [25th July 1830] gave up his profession, living an invalid life on his small patrimony. His only known work is Miscellaneous Poetry, 12mo, Bath, 1837, in which both his name and the names of a number of relations included in the list of subscribers have been gallicised by the addition of an acute accent on the last 'e'
- Parnassian molehill: an anthology of Suffolk verse written between 1327 and 1864, with some account of the authors, John David Gathorne-Hardy Cranbrook (Earl of), The Aldeburgh Bookshop, 1953
(The Diary of John Longe (1765-1834), Vicar of Coddenham, ed. Michael John Stone, 2008, explains that Barlee's father had changed his name from Buckle in 1811 as a condition of an inheritance).

As to what Barleé did in Dawlish, a few 1820s notices in regional newspapers concerning tolls for the East Devon and Dawlish Turnpike Road place him as "Mr. Barlee, Solicitor, Dawlish, Clerk to the Trustees (e.g. Advertisements & Notices, Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, Thursday, August 14, 1823). He was in Dawlish until at least 1830, when the Pigot & Co. Devon directory's Nobility, Gentry and Clergy section lists him as "Barlee Thomas Dalling, gent. (attorney) Strand".

According to the Bath Reform Poll Book, in 1841 he was at 36 Daniel Street, Bath; and Tony Copsey's 2000 Suffolk writers from the beginning until 1800 places him as living in Clifton [Bristol] in 1848 "on slender means left to him by his father".

By 1854 he was in the Home Counties, when the Post Office Directory of Berkshire  has him at 2 Campbell Villa, Oxford Road, Reading. Towards the end of his life, he and his wife are found in London proper, and he died at Ealing in September 1860 (ref: Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries, The Standard (London, England), Friday, September 28, 1860; pg. 7; Issue 11273). A 1908 edition of The East Anglian records his memorial inscription as:
In Kensington Cemetery, Hanwell, Middlesex
He is not here He is risen | The earthly remains of | Thomas Dalling | Barlee | son of the late Revd William Barlee | rector of Wrentham, Suffolk | who departed | into the spiritual world | September 21st 1860 | aged 63 years | also Mary | widow of the above | who died May 19th 1873 | aged 71.
- page 35, The East Anglian, Or, Notes and Queries on Subjects Connected with the Counties of Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk, 1908.
Returning, however, to the specific feeling of déjà vu, the Ealing detail finally jogged my memory as to where I'd encountered Barleé's name before. He appears in an account of Victorian spiritualism, describing how he, his wife, and a solicitor colleague called John Snaith Rymer, attended an Ealing seance run by the con artist and supposed physical medium Daniel Dunglas Home. Barlee published his account in a letter to the the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph dated 23rd October, 1855. It involved a piece of manifestation including a self-playing accordion and claimed contact with "little Watty", Rymer's deceased son. The event was at Rymer's house at Ealing Villa, where Home was on extended stay and evidently had plenty of opportunity to set up his conjuring kit.
Mr. Barlee's Account.
"At Mr. Rymer's, on the 8th May, Mrs. Barlee and I formed part of a circle of fourteen. Very soon after we had all been seated round a heavy mahogany dining-table, large enough for a party of twenty, many different kinds of raps were distinctly heard, and presently the brass fastenings which held the parts of the table together beginning to make a rattling noise, Mr. Hume exclaimed, 'The spirits are actually trying to take the brass fastenings out, and to move this heavy table,' which was really the case. For soon after, hearing the brass fastenings fall, we looked under the table, and there found two of them which had thus been taken out, and then the table began to move about.

"At the time all this was going on, the hands of Mr. Hume and all present were, as usual, laid upon the table, and I am convinced that if he or any of the party had attempted to deceive us or had tried to take out the brass fastenings, and throw them under the table, the attempt and deception must have been discovered. Soon after the brass fastenings had thus been taken out, and the table had been moved about, without any human handling, many more distinct raps were heard, and as they were known by Mr. Hume and those present to be little Watty (a son of Mr. Rymer's, who died when about thirteen years old), Mr. R. said, 'Dear little Watty knows papa is always delighted to hear his merry little raps, and does Watty think he could write something for papa, who would so like to have some of dear Watty's writing ?' — when the raps answered 'yes.'

"Mr. Rymer then put a sheet of notepaper and a pencil over the tablecloth, and presently I saw the paper and pencil begin to move without any visible handling, and soon after I saw the shadow of a finger on that part of the paper which was nearest to me, just about the time when an accordion which was on the table began to play. Some who were present saw a whole hand trying to take the pencil and paper up, but as my attention at that moment was turned to the music, I did not see the hand. Mr. Hume then said, 'As the spirits seem inclined to give us some music, let us hear that first, and in the meantime, if the paper and pencil are put under the cloth, I have no doubt little Watty will have written something before the music is finished.' Mr. Rymer then placed the pencil and paper under the tablecloth, and the accordion soon, without any visible handling, played 'Home, sweet Home.' (Here follows a description of the music).
Honestly ... to think people actually fell for this crap - especially as there were contemporary exposés of Home's fraud, as in one case where an attendee grabbed one of his supposed manifestations and found it was his bare foot.
After the accordion ceased, Mr. Rymer said, ' Now let us see whether little Watty has written anything for papa,' when instantly five raps came calling for the alphabet, and then there was spelt, ' Dear papa, I have done my very best,' and on Mr. Rymer's taking up the paper he found written on it, ' Dear papa, dear mama. Watt,' and on comparing the handwriting with that contained in one of his last letters before he died, it was found to be exactly resembling the writing there, particularly the capital letters."
- pages 234-235, Modern spiritualism: a history and a criticism (Frank Podmore, London: Methuen, 1902, Vol. 2, Internet Archive modernspirituali02podm). 
I wonder if the Barleés' interest in mediumship was motivated by hope to contact their only son Henry George Barleé, who had died at 20 of pulmonary consumption in April 1843 (see page 360, The Intellectual Repository and New Jerusalem Magazine, No. 45, September 1843, Vol. IV - a Christian magazine with strong Swedenborgian leanings). Henry was buried in the graveyard of the Cheltenham Chapel, St George's Place, Cheltenham (see the Friends of Jenner Gardens transcript, Gloucester Family History Society).

Barleé was also a minor artist, and the Victoria & Albert Museum has some of his lamp-black drawings in its collection, presented by his widow in 1873 (see catalogue entry for Barlee, Thomas Dalling). Described as "copied from engravings", they include: Joseph and his brethren, The Lord's Supper, Go and Sin No More, The Queen at the Opera, Windsor Castle, and Nature's Toilet. The last one rather makes me think of bears and woods, but seriously, works of this title tend to depict ladies washing/bathing in a pastoral setting.

- Ray

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