Thomas Barnes (journalist)

For other people named Thomas Barnes, see Thomas Barnes (disambiguation).
Thomas Barnes
Born Thomas Barnes
(1785-09-11)11 September 1785
Southwark, London, England
Died 7 May 1841(1841-05-07) (aged 55)
London, England
Education Pembroke College, Cambridge
Occupation Journalist, editor
Spouse(s) None
Children None

Thomas Barnes (11 September 1785 – 7 May 1841) was an English journalist, essayist, and editor.[1] He is best known for his work with The Times which he edited from 1817 until his death in 1841.

Early life and education

Barnes was the eldest son of John Barnes, a solicitor, and his wife Mary, née Anderson. After his mother's death, Barnes was raised by his grandmother before beginning his education at Christ's Hospital. When the school moved to Horsham in 1902 he had a boarding house named after him. While he was there he was a contemporary of Leigh Hunt and Thomas Mitchell, later a prominent academic. From there Barnes went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge where he excelled both academically and athletically. While at Pembroke, Barnes studied classics, and he took his degree in 1808 as head of the senior optimes.[2]

After considering a career as an academic, Barnes acceded to his family's wishes and embarked on a career in the law, moving to London in 1809 and entering the Inner Temple. While working at his new profession, Barnes joined the famous literary circle of which Hunt, Charles Lamb and William Hazlitt were prominent members. Barnes enjoyed the entertainments of the West End, and he indulged his appetites frequently, much to the detriment of his physical appearance.[3]

Career in journalism

With his legal career characterized by drudgery, Barnes sought an outlet for his talents. He found this through his friendship with Barron Field, who was the theatre critic for The Times. Through Field, Barnes met John Walter, who soon employed Barnes as a journalist reporting on law cases, politics and the theatre. Upon Field's retirement Barnes succeeded him as theatre critic, and in 1811 he became a member of the parliamentary staff. As part of his duties he penned a number of parliamentary sketches, which were later collected and published in a book, Parliamentary Portraits, in 1815. During this period, he also wrote for Leigh Hunt's publications the Examiner and the Reflector.[4]

Editor of The Times

Walter's trust in Barnes was soon demonstrated when in 1815 Walter empowered him revise the controversial leading articles written by the intemperate John Stoddart, then the editor of the paper. Upon Stoddart's dismissal at the end of 1816 Barnes was named as his successor as editor, assuming a position which he held until his death. As editor, Barnes came to enjoy a greater degree of control over the paper than his predecessors, and received a share of ownership in the paper. He used it to reshape the paper, analyzing events rather than merely summarizing them, and making the leading article a central component of the paper.[5] With the Peterloo massacre in August 1819 he inaugurated a policy of support for the Whig opposition in Parliament that contrasted with his predecessor's staunchly pro-Tory stance. He became a close friend of Henry Brougham, who was an important source of information for Barnes's leading articles.[6]

During Barnes's editorship, the influence and the scope of The Times grew, and with it its prominence in public affairs. Moved by what he saw during a trip to Ireland, Barnes became a passionate supporter of Catholic Emancipation. By the early 1830s his paper had earned the nickname "The Thunderer", with Robert Peel declaring it to be "a powerful advocate of Reform"[7] and his colleague Lord Lyndhurst describing Barnes as "the most powerful man in the country."[8] It was during this period that Barnes shifted politically, opposing the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and falling out with Brougham.

Barnes feuded with Lord Palmerston, who manipulated public opinion to enhance his control of foreign affairs. Palmerston leaked secrets to the press, published selected documents, and released letters to give himself more control and more publicity, all the while stirring up British nationalism. Barnes refused to play along with his propaganda ploys.[9]

Personal life

Though Barnes never married, he enjoyed a relationship for over two decades with Dinah Mary Mondet. Together they lived at 49 Nelson Square Southwark, London from 1821 to 1836 and then at 25 Soho Square, London. After Barnes's death in 1841, Dinah Mondet continued to live in their home in Soho Square until her own death in 1852, after which she was buried next to Barnes in Kensal Green Cemetery.[10]


  1. Brake, Laurel; Demoor, Marysa, eds. (2009). "Barnes, Thomas". Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalists in Great Britain and Ireland. Academia Press. p. 39.
  2. Gordon Phillips, "Barnes, Thomas (1785-1841)", in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), vol. 3, p. 1013.
  3. History of The Times, vol. 1: "The Thunderer" in the Making (London: Printing House Square, 1935), p. 198.
  4. Phillips, op cit.
  5. History of The Times, op cit, pgs. 159, 175, 391.
  6. Phillips, History of The Times, p. 256.
  7. Hansard 22 March 1832
  8. Roy Jenkins, Portraits and Miniatures p. 176
  9. Laurence Fenton, "Origins of Animosity: Lord Palmerston and The Times, 1830–41." Media History 16.4 (2010): 365-378; Fenton, Palmerston and The Times: foreign policy, the press and public opinion in mid-Victorian Britain (2013).
  10. Phillips, op cit, p. 1014.

Further reading

Media offices
Preceded by
John Stoddart
Editor of The Times
1817 - 1841
Succeeded by
John Thadeus Delane
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