A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Barbour, John

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Barbour, John (1316?-1395). -- Poet. Of B.'s youth nothing is certainly known, but it is believed that he was b. near Aberdeen, and studied at Oxford and Paris. He entered the Church, and rose to ecclesiastical preferment and Royal favour. He is known to have been Archdeacon of Aberdeen in 1357, when, and again in 1364, he went with some young scholars to Oxford, and he also held various civil offices in connection with the exchequer and the King's household. His principal poem, The Bruce, was in progress in 1376. It consists of 14,000 octosyllabic lines, and celebrates the praises of Robert the Bruce and James Douglas, the flowers of Scottish chivalry. This poem is almost the sole authority on the history it deals with, but is much more than a rhyming chronicle; it contains many fine descriptive passages, and sings the praises of freedom. Its style is somewhat bald and severe. Other poems ascribed to B. are The Legend of Troy, and Legends of the Saints, probably translations. B. devoted a perpetual annuity of 20 shillings, bestowed upon him by the King, to provide for a mass to be sung for himself and his parents, and this was duly done in the church of St. Machar until the Reformation.

The Bruce, edited by C. Innes for Spalding Club (1856), and for Early Engl. Text Soc. by W.W. Skeat, 1870-77; and for Scott. Text Soc. (1894); The Wallace and The Bruce re-studied, J.T.T. Brown, 1900; G. Neilson in Chambers' Cyc. Eng. Lit. (1903).