Talk:Francis Barber

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Date of birth[edit]

The ODNB's entry on Barber gives his birth date as circa 1745 whereas other sources give circa 1742/3. I've opted to include the latter as it sounds as if it might be a little more precise. Ham II (talk) 16:06, 2 August 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Press coverage 2015‎:
@Ham II I am just passing by via the press coverage page, I think it is time to revisit you decision on the DOB. The original version of this page (2007) contained the current DOB but no references are given instead there are external links that in include "Barber's entry on the Great Black Britons website" which means that this article probably got its DOB from that website.
At the very least I think you need to footnote that reliable sources disagree and give the ONDB DOB. But the lead is meant to summarise the facts in the body of the article, so why not mention in the body of the article the DOB and DOD? If you do that you do not have to place footnotes in the lead but can include then in the body of the article or better still explain upfront the disagreements among the sources.
The danger of using the source that you have (the Times Literary Supplement, 29 July 2015) is--I presume--that they have not cited their source for DOB so they may be using 100greatblackbritons or even Wikipeida. You need a source untainted by these web pages either a more resent detailed academic biography, or another biographical source published before this article included the current DOB information, preferably with a footnote to the original primary source(s). -- PBS (talk) 12:24, 6 August 2015 (UTC)
Presumably one of the endnotes contains the DOB used by the ODNB:
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/59398.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help) (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) Endnotes:
    • A. L. Reade, Johnsonian gleanings, 2: Francis Barber: the doctor's negro servant (privately printed, London, 1912)
    • A. L. Reade, ‘Francis Barber: some more material for his biography’, Johnsonian gleanings, 8 (privately printed, London, 1937), 73–82
    • J. Ingledew, ‘Some new light on Francis Barber, Samuel Johnson's servant’, N&Q, 229 (1984), 8–9
    • Boswell, Life
    • Johnsonian miscellanies, ed. G. B. Hill, 2 vols. (1897)
    • J. Hawkins, The life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1787)
    • GM, 1st ser., 71 (1801), 190
    • GM, 1st ser., 63 (1793), 619–20
    • The letters of Samuel Johnson, ed. B. Redford, 1 (1992)
--PBS (talk) 12:24, 6 August 2015 (UTC)
@PBS: Thanks for your post. I must stress that I was also only passing by this article, via the LRB article; I haven't done research on Barber and had not contributed to this article until I made the change.
It does seem that Wikipedia got the date from 100 Great Black Britons rather than vice versa; the date has been on the 100GBB site since at least 2004, whereas this article was created in 2007. I will add this in a note on the press coverage page.
More accessible than the works cited in the ODNB is the book under review in both the TLS and the LRB: The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir (2015) by Michael Bundock. Fortunately, the relevant page (p. 10) is in the book's Amazon preview. Apparently, 1742/3 is based on Barber having told Boswell that he came to England in 1750, when he was seven or eight years old. Another possible date is also mentioned, "around 1747", because Barber's age was given as "about 52 years old" in a Poor Law examination in 1799.
Is the ODNB's "circa 1745" an attempt to strike a happy medium between these or based on something else altogether? Also strange that the TLS's review of this book doesn't mention the dating problem. (I think it unlikely that it has used Wikipedia as a source, though‍—‌its author is "Professor of Bibliography and Textual Criticism at the University of Oxford"!)
I propose that the lede give his dates as c. 1742/3 or c. 1747 – 13 January 1801. The dates based on primary sources should carry the most weight; we don't know what c. 1735 or c. 1745 are based on. Ham II (talk) 16:42, 6 August 2015 (UTC)
"I think it...." LOL. I suggest that we go with the ONDB date c. 1745 and footnote that it could have been as early as c. 1742/43 (based on Barber's statement recorded by Boswell (p.10)) or as late as c. 1747 based on the poor law examination. -- PBS (talk) 17:30, 6 August 2015 (UTC)