Roberts, Barré Charles

, an ingenious young writer and medallist, the third child and second son of Edward Roberts, esq. deputy-clerk of the pells of the exchequer, was born March 13, 1789, in St. Stephen’s court, Westminster. His frame and constitution were delicate, which probably created an aversion to the usual exercises of youth, and his early pursuits evinced vivacity without levity. They were of a nature to exercise, but not to weary the faculties; and, springing from a desire for knowledge, afforded to him a perpetual variety of objects. The first radiments of education, as far as it related to habits, he acquired himself, or perhaps he imbibed them from the situation in which he was placed. In his father’s house at Ealing, the well-ordered ceconomy of time which prevails in a regular family, taught him to appreciate and to profit by the means of tranquillity thus placed within his reach. The salubrity of the air, and the extent of the grounds, which allowed him as much exercise as he wished for, contributed to the health of his body; and he had the advantage of a well-chosen collection of books, which | afforded him the opportunity of indulging his taste for reading.

In the earliest periods of his life he seemed to be fully impressed with the importance and value of time, no moment of which he suffered to be unemployed. Whatever was cnrious in literature attracted his attention, but subjects of antiquity were those which he most delighted to investigate. In these his patience and perseverance were very remarkable; and though he read with eagerness and rapidity, he never neglected to note down particular circumstances, or to mark for subsequent reference such things as he could not at once completely embrace. To a natural quickness of observation was added a retentive memory, and the exercise of these was matured into an habit of attention and arrangement.^ Fortunately for Barre these endowments did not escape the eye of him who was most interested by affection and consanguinity in his welfare. His father early discovered and cultivated them. Barre, when at home, was his constant companion, and, soon after the years of infancy were passed, became his most intimate friend. Indeed it is not possible to imagine a greater degree of confidence between two persons, even of similar ages, than that which existed between this youth and his parent; and so well was it supported and understood, that Barre never for a moment lost sight of his relative situation, nor transgressed the limits of respect which filial love, even had there been no other motive, would have taught him to observe. The clearness of his perceptions, and the correctness of his understanding, secured him from anv overrated idea of his own talents, and rather added than detracted from the docility of his disposition: a docility not in him the result of feebleness, or indolence, nor tending to the obliteration of his natural character, but derived from a comparison of his own inexperience with the matured judgment of advanced life, and a just estimate and conviction of his father’s love. Barre, in this free and confidential intercourse, imbibed all the advantages which a system of perfect intimacy with one so much his superior in age and worldly experience could produce, divested as it was, by the discriminating hand of a parent, of all the evils which attend on the formation of an artificial character. It would have been of the highest gratification to his father to have retained constantly under his own eye a son so much fhe object of his care and affection, and who seemed to | court all the instruction which could be bestowed on him,; but as this would have demanded leisure, and qualifications which fall to the lot of but few persons, Barre was sent in May 1797, to Dr. Home’s school at Chiswick, and in June 1799, was placed under the care of the Rev. William Goodenough, at Ealing, between whose family and that of his pupil a long intimacy and friendship had subsisted. Here he remained six years, and acquired a competent knowledge of the classics, and some share of mathematics, history, and antiquities, the study of which last had been previously familiar to him while enjoying his father’s library at home.

It was during the same time that he formed his fine collection of coins, which is now in the British museum, having been purchased by the trustees with consent of parliament. This collection was begun to be formed when Barre was very young. He accidentally saw a few Roman coins in his father’s possession, which he presently got transferred to his own. They were hoarded by him with infantine care, and esteemed by him as invaluable property. The occasional presents of friends, and such specimens as a child’s pocket-money could procure, soon increased the store, which he would display and comment upon with the air and importance of a connoisseur. As he advanced in age, however, he perceived that to form a complete and universal collection of coins was an object only in the power of individuals possessed of larger means than he could ever expect to enjoy. He therefore relinquished it in this character, and confined his attention only to those connected with his own country. His father encouraged the pursuit, as he followed it in the light of a science, which illustrated and confirmed him in his historical studies; and his name as a collector soon became known among the dealers, who did not fail to bring him whatever could be discovered most rare and curious in their line of search.

On the 11th of October, 1805, he was entered as a commoner of Christ Church at Oxford, in which house he became a student at the Christmas following, by the presentation of Dr. Hay, obtained at the request of lord Viscount Sidmouth. As he never had been separated from his fa^­mily till this period, for a week together, the distance between Ealing and Oxford appeared to him a very considerable one, and a plan of correspondence was immediately established. His earliest letters contain a picture of his | mind under the influence of new impressions, and new habits, while they display his conduct as uniformly correct and praise-worthy; and he took his first degree in Nov. 1808, with great approbation. Before this time he had been a frequent correspondent in the Gentleman’s Magazine on the subject of coins, and that not superficially, but with a degree of knowledge which would have been creditable to a veteran collector. He was also invited to contribute to one of those literary journals in which personal attack is more an object than sound criticism; but we are not sorry to find that he made little progress in an employment so unsuitable to an ingenuous mind.

The career, however, of this amiable young man was destined to be short. During his residence in the last two years at Oxford, he experienced attacks which indicated that all was not right about him; but their short duration, and the extreme repugnance that he felt towards drawing attention to himself on such accounts, which made him perhaps conceal their extent, prevented the alarm which otherwise his friends and family would have entertained. In the autumn of 1807 he was seized with a haemorrhage at the nose, and not long afterwards with frequent fits of giddiness. The excitement which he underwent in 1808, while qualifying himself to take his degree, rendered him still more obnoxious to these baneful influences. Under the constant agitation of his mind, the deterioration in his health became visible by caprice of appetite, and increased nervous irritability. In the summer of that year he was seized with a cough, which, though neither violent nor frequent, never left him afterwards. His illness, however, made no rapid advances; and when he returned home after his examination, he continued to mix in the society of his friends as usual. In a visit to London in the cold and unhealthy spring of 1809, his disposition to malady was increased by accidental causes, too minute to arrest his attention; and unfortunately also at this period he was summoned to Oxford by intelligence of the fire at Christ Church, by which his rooms were damaged, and his books endangered. The season, and the business he went upon, were peculiarly unfavourable to an invalid; he was necessarily involved in a good deal of bodily agitation, in order to; ascertain and secure his property, and exposed to the air at a time when repose and seclusion were of the utmost importance to him. As the summer advanced, his disorder did not abate, though | the symptoms of it were too equivocal to enable his medical attendants to give it a decided name.

He was prevailed upon, with some entreaty, to make a journey early in July to Southampton, in the company of a near relation, with whom he had ever lired on terms of affectionate intimacy, and who rejoiced in offering him such attentions as he would accept. On his return to Eaiing at the end of September, the symptoms of his disorder had not increased in violence; but the effect of its secret ravages upon him were but too visible. During the whole progress of his ailment, his mind remained unaltered in its inclinations and desires. The thirst for knowledge continued, but the exhausted state of his corporeal system opposed physical obstacles to its gratification he bore up with cheerfulness and courage against evidences of that which certainly he himself could not be ignorant of, and lamented only the languor of nervous debility which rendered him unable to pursue his favourite and wonted occupations. He died Jan. I, 1810, and was buried on the 8th in Eaiing church, where, on a tablet of white marble, is an elegant Latin inscription from the pen of his early tutor and friend, the rev Mr. Goodenough. In 1814, a volume, in 4to, of his “Letters and Miscellaneous Papers,” was published with an elegant and affectionate memoir of his life, written by his cousin Grosvenor Charles Bedford, esq, 1

1 Memoir as above.