Barker, Mary (c. 1780–1853)
Author, painter and close friend of Robert Southey. Born in Congreve, Staffordshire, daughter of Thomas Barker, an ironmaster, and Mary Homfray. Author of A Welsh Story (1798), she moved in literary circles. She met Southey in Portugal in 1800 and subsequently visited the Southeys frequently in Bristol, London and Keswick. She was godmother to Southey’s first child, Margaret (d. 1803). Southey had a high opinion of Mary Barker’s talents and proposed that she should illustrate Madoc (1805). She appears as the ‘Bhow Begum’ in The Doctor (1834–1847). Mary Barker lived at Greta Lodge in Keswick, next to Greta Hall, between 1812 and 1817, becoming a close friend of the Coleridges and Wordsworths, as well as the Southeys, and teaching music to the girls of the families. Financial difficulties forced her to move to Boulogne in 1819 and she never returned to England. Southey met her for the last time on his trip to France in 1825. In 1830 she married a Mr Slade, who was much younger than her and thought to be a ‘mere adventurer’ by her Keswick friends.