Jackdaw from Rheims


The Jackdaw of Rheims was a humorous poem written by The Reverend Richard Harris Barham in the 1850s. He was a contemporary of Sir Walter Scott, whom he met many times and Charles Dickens. Like Dickens, he had his writings published in the magazines that were a popular feature of the times, such as Blackwood’s Magazine and Bentley’s Miscellany.

His father died while he was quite young and left him an inheritance. He had intended to go into law after university but decided instead to go into The Church. His first congregation was in the Romney Marsh area of Kent, the scene of much ‘Free Trade’ at that time, particularly in brandy and tobacco. It seems that the vicar and the smugglers soon reached an understanding.

An accidental meeting brought him the chance of a position on the staff of St Paul’s which he took with pleasure. Unfortunately the pay wasn’t so good and he was now married with children, so he started writing under the nom de plume of Thomas Ingoldsby to supplement his income.

His poems were colloquial and often parodied recent happenings so that his audience would easily make four from his rhymes and allegories. Today, much of this is lost to all except avid historians. His light and unaffected style made his writings very popular, but he never achieved the breadth and depth of Scott and Dickens.

As Jackie says – he would have made a good blogger.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.