Collection consists of a single piece of paper (20 x 12.5 cm) with an autograph manuscript poem by Anna Letitia Barbauld on the front and a poem called "Follow Me" by William Allen on the back. Barbauld's poem reads as follows: Born to the weighty honours of a name/Whose deeds of mercy England's shores proclaim/Yet know, you may inherit lands or pelf/But must, for praise - for love, be good yourself. It's signed A.L. Barbauld and dated August 23rd 1823. The verso contains a two-stanza autograph manuscript devotional poem by William Allen titled "Follow Me." It is signed Stoke Newington 30 of 8th month 1823. Barbauld and Allen were both educators and abolitionists who lived in Stoke Newington at the time of this writing. These poems are evidence that they had at least an epistolary friendship.
Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825) was an English writer, teacher, and editor who published poetry, works for children, literary criticism, and essays. She was a successful writer at a time when women professional writers were an anomaly. Her first book of poems (1773) established her literary reputation in England, and her later essays were compared to Samuel Johnson. Along with her husband, Barbauld ran the boy's school Palgrave Academy for 11 years, during which time she established herself as a writer of children's pedagogical texts, as well as poetry for children. She is credited with establishing children's literature as a legitimate genre, and her editorial works, particularly The British Novelists series, helped establish the British literary canon. Barbauld was an abolitionist and was also against the Napoleonic Wars, two subjects she addressed in her political writing. Both her poetry and her political essays were occasionally subject to harsh contemporary criticism, which eventually caused her to retreat from the public eye. She lived in Stoke Newington from 1802 until her death in 1825. Barbauld's literary legacy was largely forgotten until the rise of feminist literary criticism in the late 20th century, which helped resurrect her place in history.
William Allen (1770-1843) was an English Quaker abolitionist, scientist, educator, and philanthropist who was active in various social reform movements of early 19th century England. He was trained as a chemist, and his pharmaceutical company, Allen & Hanburys, grew into one of the UK's largest drug companies. One year after this poem was written, he founded the Newington Academy for Girls, a progressive school in Stoke Newington. Although Barbauld was near the end of her life at the time of this writing, is it evidence that she and Allen maintained at least an epistolatory friendship based on their common interests.