Johnson's Household


Samuel Johnson. Letter to Frank Barber. September 25, 1770. Manuscript. MS Hyde 1 (5)


The man known as Frank Barber (d. 1801) was born a slave in Jamaica, brought to England as a child, and baptized under that name by his master, Richard Bathurst. He was given his freedom in Bathurst's will, and became a servant in Johnson's household shortly after Tetty's death. With a few exceptions, he would remain with Johnson until the latter's death. This letter dates from the period in which Johnson sent Barber to be educated at Bishop's Stortford Grammar School. Johnson admonishes Barber, "Do not imagine that I shall forget or forsake you, for if when I examine you, I find that you have not lost your time, you shall want no encouragement." Barber later married an English wife, with whom he had five children. He was the primary beneficiary of Johnson's estate, receiving an annuity of £70.