OBITUARY: Terence Barnes
Monday 29 May 1995
He contributed many reviews and articles to the literary journal Scrutiny (founded by F.R. Leavis, a friend from Barnes's Cambridge days) and later to the Use of English, founded by a former Scrutiny editor as a source of ideas for fellow schoolteachers. He wrote a lively critique of "Shaw and the London Theatre" for The New Pelican Guide to English Literature (1961). His principal work was English Verse, Voice and Movement from Wyatt to Yeats (1967). Coming out near the end of his career, it is a summary of much of his sixth-form teaching. Through clear, perceptive commentaries and representative texts, Barnes brings out the distinctive qualities of the leading poets from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
For the general reader, Poetry Appreciation: thirteen modern poems discussed (1968) provides a delightful tutorial on modern poetry. Like so much of what Barnes said and wrote, it seeks to convince that we must make a serious effort to understand the writer's craft if we are to get the pleasure that is intended for us.
Born in Happisburgh, Norfolk, son of the village schoolmaster, Barnes was educated at Paston Grammar School, North Walsham. From there he took an exhibition at King's College, Cambridge, where he read the English Tripos Part I and the French section of the Modern Languages Tripos Part II, an unusual combination at that time.
He thought briefly about a career as a theatre director. In his Cambridge vacations he had acted in productions at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich, under the direction of its founder Nugent Monk. Instead, he completed a postgraduate teaching diploma and in 1929 left East Anglia for the South- West, where he took up an appointment at Bishop Wordsworth's. Beginning as an assistant master, he later became head of English, and remained at the school, with a break for Second World War service, for more than 40 years.
Barnes's teaching style was somewhat old-fashioned, being mostly monologue, but his classes were lively affairs. An inspector of English, sitting in, was struck by the enthusiasm of the students. She asked whether they were studying the particular work for fun or for an examination. Barnes replied, "We try to do both here."
For relaxation Terence Barnes enjoyed the piano, taking lessons into his eighties. He was also no mean fly fisherman and made his own flies. For him, access to the Avon behind the cathedral was not the least of the benefits of living in Salisbury.
Terence Robert Barnes, schoolmaster: born Happisburgh, Norfolk 22 December 1906; English Master and later Senior English Master at Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury 1928-41, 1944-72; MBE 1945; married; died Salisbury, Wiltshire 15 March 1995.
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