Barton Boucher (later Bouchier)

Barton Boucher was born on 19 November 1795 as the fifth child and second son of Reverend Jonathan Boucher, Vicar of Epsom, from a third marriage to the widowed Elizabeth James nee Hodgson. He was baptised at St Martin of Tours, 4 April 1796, with a Christian name in remembrance of his father's late benefactor, Miss Mary Barton.

A notice of his death, aged 70, appeared in Gentleman's Magazine for March 1866 followed by an obituary which credited him with an extra year of existence: -
"Dec. 20*, 1865. At Fonthill Bishop, Wilts., aged 71, the Rev. Barton Bouchier, Rector of that parish. The deceased, an eminent religious writer, was a younger son of that well known philological scholar, the Rev. Jonathan Bouchier, Vicar of Epsom, who died in 1804, and who was the author of Discourses on the Causes of the American Revolution, and a Glossary of Provincial and Archaic Words, intended as a supplement to Dr. Johnson's and Dr. Webster's Dictionaries, but which was only completed as far as the letter T. A friend of General Washington, the Rev. Jonathan Boucher, while a Vicar in Virginia, distinguished himself by his sturdy and bold loyalty. The subject of this memoir was educated at Balliol College, Oxford. He left the Bar early in life to enter the Church, in whose ministry he laboured earnestly for half a century. He was first curate of Monmouth; then of Wold, a village in Northamptonshire; lastly of Cheam, in Surrey, which third place he left to become the Rector of a Wiltshire living - the tardy reward of long and arduous service. Mr. Bouchier was well known as a writer. Innumerable sermons, tracts, and religious stories were published by him, each with its special object, each aimed as the corrector of some evil efforts as a zealous visiting parish priest. His more ambitious works were: The Ark in the House, a book of family prayers, a work full of the loving, simple-hearted piety of the author; Manna in the Heart, a commentary on the Psalms, not scholastic or critical, but lucid, spiritual, and fervid; and Manna in the House; commentaries on the four gospels, characterised by the most pure and unaffected piety. Mr. Bouchier's final work was The Life of Isaac, published only last year - a fitting end to the many long years spent in the Lord's vineyard. Mr. Bouchier, in 1816, married [at Henley upon Thames] Mary, daughter of the [late] Rev. Nathaniel Thornbury, [Rector] of Avening, in Gloucestershire, a friend of Dr. Jenner, Dr. Johnson, Garrick, and Reynolds, and who was present, with Boswell and others, at the celebrated production of the Ireland forgeries.
For fifty years Mr. Bouchier worked strenuously as a zealous parish priest, warning, exhorting, guiding, teaching - as Chaucer says exquisitely of a predecessor of his,
He taught the law of the Apostles Twelve;
He taught - but he followed it himselve.
The last entries in Mr. Bouchier's notebook were truly characteristic of the owner's earnest and simple piety.
'The pastor's duty is to break hard hearts and heal broken ones Live so as to be regretted'
Having matriculated aged 17, on 12 December 1812, he started out, in 1813 at Lincoln's Inn, to become a barrister, but was made a Deacon, 4 April 1819, and ordained priest by the Bishop of Hereford on 6 August 1820. A BA degree was awarded in 1822 followed by his MA, Oxon, 1827.

Barton's parents both claimed descent from Norman aristocracy and he seems to have adopted an alternative spelling of their surname after 1828.

Doubts have been cast on the identities of both the author and the editor of a lengthy poem The Vision, or Epsom, A Vision, addressed to J. Boucher possibly because of confusion with The Dream of Youth** discussed in The Portfolio for 1820. The latter was certainly written by Barton Boucher and refers to Vaga Cottage that he had built beside the river Wye. The former was the work of Sir Frederick Morton Eden as reviewed in the Literary Gazette, 1828, - in his Preface, on publication, Barton Boucher, remarked: - "...the Editor trusts that he is not unwisely or irreverently compromising a single feeling towards the writer and his family [the Edens] or his own father's memory..." and gave his address as Rectory House, Wold, near Northampton, dated March 20, 1828.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article about this man (accessible via the Surrey Libraries website) also mentions his pamphlet supporting objections by Sabbatarians to opening of the Crystal palace on Sundays. He alleged that the arrangement, coupled with the Company's failure to provide cut-price tickets on another day of the week, was intended to maximise profits. Expressing himself colourfully, he wrote: - "I think we may see something more than the fox's tail peeping out of this hole...I see a very suspicious slobbering of his chops as he casts a side glance at the poultry yard".

In the Clergy List for 1841 he was shown as Curate at Cheam whilst his mother in law, Mary Thornbury, died at his home there, The Cottage, High Street, 1 October 1844. Consequently, it is curious that Crockfords, 1865, suggested he had already become Rector of Fonthill Bishop by 1839. Other evidence (comprising Censuses in 1841 & 1851) shows that he remained in Cheam from about 1832 up to 1858; in particular, he wrote an introduction to Manna in the house from The Cottage, Cheam, Surrey, in March 1858. An explanation could lie with a typographical error and the date of his installation to the Wiltshire parish was nearer 1859 because his appointment, "in the gift of the Lord of the Manor" to a benefice worth £350 p.a., was the subject of a newspaper announcement on 12 May 1858. In the 1861 Census he appears with his wife, and brother in law George Thornbury, resident at Fonthill Bishop Rectory.

After the Rev. Barton Bouchier's demise, (*stated in other newspapers to have been on 28 December 1865 rather than the earlier date given above) his widow retuned to Surrey to be found in 1871, aged 74, with her younger brother George Thornbury, resident at Coldharbour. The latter died in 1873 but she appears to have survived until 1879. Like his father, Barton had built up an extensive library which was included in auctions by Messrs Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge over 17/18 May 1866.

** Gentleman's Magazine (December 1818): - "The Dream of Youth is a soothing, pensive, and beautiful effusion, which will not please the less for being dressed in Byronian form. Feeble writers gain by imitation, as do various subaltern actors and actresses; but Nature is never a mannerist. She never makes two faces alike. We are allowed to derive instruction, but only in aid of taste, not for copying. We need therefore only produced the following stanzas to prove the justice of our remark, that Mr. Boucher owes no obligation to the great standard of Poetical fashion, though he has chosen to adopt his manner occasionally. We quote at random.... We regret that our limits will not enable us to insert more of this exquisite description ["By Vaga's banks..."]; as indeed we equally regret that the author has been so much seduced from a subject of such extensive interest and beauty, to indulge a strain of private and personal melancholy, however recompensed by powers of skilful execution, which may well take a stand on the same shelf with Byron. We also reprobate the introduction of songs, which seem introduced like airs in a comic opera, and which only gain their pardon by their sweetness of melody"
Brian Bouchard © 2009
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society

Rev J Boucher
Rev J Boucher