Arthur Barrett was born in 1836 to John and Martha Richardson and was baptised at St David’s in Pembrokeshire. Barrett had one brother, John, two years’ his senior, and the family lived in The Valley in St David’s. His father was an organist and music professor but he died when Barrett was in his still in his teens, leaving Martha a widow and an annuitant.

Barrett attended the local St David’s Grammar School before enrolling at St David’s College in February 1853, at the age of seventeen. A year later he was elected to the Martha More Scholarship, and was a promising student, but left Lampeter before completing his studies, moving to Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, where he took up the tutoring of four children in the household of a clerk named Francis Houston. 

Six years later Barrett had left this position and was living in Bombay where he worked at the University of Bombay and Elphinstone College, as a teacher and examiner.  

Elphinstone College was established in 1827 following the passing of a resolution that an institution for the promotion of education should be established under the Bombay Native Education Society. The citizens of Mumbai collected a sum of Rs.2,29,636.00, for teaching English Language, the Arts and the Literature of Europe. The college was a pre-cursor to the establishment of the University of Bombay, known today as the University of Mumbai, at which Barrett also taught. The university was established in 1857 and was one of the first three universities to be established in India, largely thanks to the work of Sir Charles Wood, then President of the Board of Control of the East India Company, whose despatch to India in 1854 was the catalyst for the setting up of many education and university centres in the country. 

Barrett was listed in The Bombay University Calendar for the year 1868-69 as an examiner in Latin and Greek. The next year he married Marianne Hinsley in Calaba, Bombay and the couple had two children, Arthur Leonard Barrett, born c. 1842 and Unwin Sankey Barrett, born in 1874 at the Presidency of Bombay. Arthur Leonard went on to become a soldier in the Hong Kong regiment and retired after valiant service in the Afghan campaign in 1921. Unwin attended Cambridge University before going on to become Master of the Supreme Court of South Africa. 

A year after the birth of Unwin, Barrett returned briefly to St David’s College to take his BA examinations, before returning to India and to his position at the University. By the time of the publication of the College Calendar for 1884-54, Barrett had been appointed a Fellow of the University of Bombay and was working as a lecturer in the faculty of Arts; he is listed as ‘Arthur Barrett, BA Lampeter, and Professor of English Literature’. A year later Barrett was still a Professor of English Literature but also an acting professor in the Deccan College, the third oldest educational institute in India, founded in 1821 by Governor Mountstuart Elphinstone as postgraduate and research institution. Barrett taught here as acting professor for the next few years but in 1887-88 he changed from teaching English to the position of acting professor of Logic and Philosophy. As well as his university duties, Barrett edited a version of The Traveller and the Deserted Village in 1888. 

Around 1896 Barrett retired and he and Marianne moved to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, where Unwin had been living since 1892. Barrett died in Queenstown on 26 July 1898, at the age of sixty-two. His obituary noted that he 

‘spent more than thirty years in India, holding various honourable and responsible positions in the Educational Department of the Bombay. He retired from the service about two years ago and has sincelived in Queenstown, where he secured the affection and respect of all who knew him.’


Written by Thomason, K. 'The 'Second Alumnus' Prof. Arthur Barrett (1836-1898), The Link (LXXIV), Summer 2019. Retrieved from