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Barron Field (1786 – 1846)

Barron Field was born on 23 October 1786 in London, the son of Henry Field, a pharmacist, and his wife Esther (née Barron). While studying law, Field also cultivated literary and journalistic interests; in his early twenties he was a reporter and theatrical critic for The Times, and was associated with literary figures like Charles Lamb and William Wordsworth. Field qualified as a barrister in 1814, and in 1816 he accepted a position as judge in the colony of New South Wales.

Field, along with his wife Jane (née Cairncross), arrived in Sydney in February 1817, and quickly settled into his part in administering the legal affairs of the colony. Field maintained his interest in literature, however, and in 1819 he published the first literary book produced in Australia, a collection of poems entitled First Fruits of Australian Poetry, issued by the government printer George Howe. Many of the poems in Field's collection dealt with the ‘antipodean’ curiosities of Australian flora and fauna, while his poetic style was influenced by the English Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth. In 1823, Field published a second edition of First Fruits, which added three new poems; he was also contributing his poetry to the Sydney press around this time.

Field left New South Wales in 1824, returning to England to practice as a circuit judge. In 1825 he published Geographical Memoirs on New South Wales, which continued, from a more scientific perspective, the interest in Australian natural history that Field had shown in his poetry. From 1829, Field served as a judge in the British colony of Gibraltar, resigning in 1841 and retiring to Torquay, Devonshire. In his later years, Field edited a series of plays, and published highly regarded biographical works on Lamb and Wordsworth. He died at Torquay on 11 April 1846.

Selected Poetry Collections
  • First Fruits of Australian Poetry (Sydney: George Howe, 1819)
  • First Fruits of Australian Poetry, rev. ed. (Sydney: George Howe, 1823)
Suggested Further Reading
  • Peter Balmford, 'Barron Field',Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford Oxford University Press January 2008 online edition
  • A. D. Cousins, 'Barron Field and the Translation of Romanticism to Colonial Australia', Southerly 1999 vol. 58, no. 4. pp. 157-74.