Barnabe Barnes (1569?-1609), English poet, fourth son of Dr Richard Barnes, bishop of Durham, was born in Yorkshire, perhaps at Stonegrave, a living of his father's, in 1568 or 1569. In 1586 he was entered at Brasenose College, Oxford, where Giovanni Florio was his servitor, and in 1591 went to France with the earl of Essex, who was then serving against the prince of Parma. On his return he published Parthenophil and Parthenophe, Sonnettes, Madrigals, Elegies and Odes (ent. on Stationers' Register 1593), dedicated to his "dearest friend," William Percy, who contributed a sonnet to the eulogies prefixed to a later work, Offices. Parthenophil was possibly printed for private circulation, and the copy in the duke of Devonshire's library is believed to be unique. Barnes was well acquainted with the work of contemporary French sonneteers, to whom he is largely indebted, and he borrows his title, apparently, from a Neapolitan writer of Latin verse, Hieronymus Angerianus. It is possible to outline a story from this series of love lyrics, but the incidents are slight, and in this case, as in other Elizabethan sonnet-cycles, it is difficult to dogmatize as to what is the expression of a real personal experience, and what is intellectual exercise in imitation of Petrarch. Parthenophil abounds in passages of great freshness and beauty, although its elaborate conceits are sometimes over-ingenious and strained.
Barnes took the part of Gabriel Harvey and even experimented in classical metres. This partisanship is sufficient to account for the abuse of Thomas Nashe, who accused him, apparently on no proof at all, of stealing a nobleman's chain at Windsor, and of other things. Barnes's second work, A Divine Centurie of Spirituall Sonnetts, appeared in 1595. He also wrote two plays: - The Divil's Charter (1607), a tragedy dealing with the life of Pope Alexander VI., which was played before the king; and The Battle of Evesham (or Hexham), of which the MS., traced to the beginning of the 18th century, is lost. In 1606 he dedicated to King James Offices enabling privat Persons for the speciall service of all good Princes and Policies, a prose treatise containing, among other things, descriptions of Queen Elizabeth and of the earl of Essex. Barnes was buried at Durham in December 1609.
His Parthenophil and Spirituall Sonnetts were edited by Dr A. B. Grosart in a limited issue in 1875; Parthenophil was included by Prof. E. Arber in vol. v. of An English Garner; see also the new edition of An English Garner (Elizabethan Sonnets, ed. S. Lee, 1904, pp. lxxv. et seq.). Professor E. Dowden contributed a sympathetic criticism of Barnes to The Academy of Sept. 2, 1876.