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Francis Barber (Quashey)

Also Known As: "Frank Barber", "Quashey"
Birthplace: Orange River Estate sugar plantation, Jamaica
Death: January 13, 1801 (54-63)
Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, Stafford, Staffordshire, England, United Kingdom (Died during an operation for an unknown illness)
Place of Burial: St Mary's, Stafford, Staffordshire, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Husband of Elizabeth Barber
Father of Samuel Barber; Elizabeth Ann Barber; Samuel Barber and Ann Barber

Occupation: Slave; Valet; Apothecary; Sailor in the Royal Navy; Draper; Schoolteacher
Managed by: Bill Barnes
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Francis Barber

Francis Barber (c. 1742/3 – 13 January 1801), born Quashey, was the Jamaican manservant of Samuel Johnson in London from 1752 until Johnson's death in 1784. Johnson made him his residual heir, with £70 (equivalent to £8,000 in 2018) a year to be given him by Trustees, expressing the wish that he move from London to Lichfield, Staffordshire, Johnson's native city. After Johnson's death, Barber did this, opening a draper's shop and marrying a local woman. Barber was also bequeathed Johnson's books and papers, and a gold watch. In later years he had acted as Johnson's assistant in revising his famous Dictionary of the English Language and other works. Barber was also an important source for Boswell concerning Johnson's life in the years before Boswell himself knew Johnson.

Francis Barber was born a slave in Jamaica and was originally known as Quashey.. At the age of 15 his owner, Colonel Richard Bathhurst, brought him to England and sent him to Barton village school near Darlington Yorkshire to be educate, albeit briefly.

When Samuel Johnson's wife, Elizabeth, died in 1752 Bathhurst, whose son Richard was a friend of Johnson's, sent Barber to work in Johnson's household as his valet. Johnson treated Barber like a son and, later, a friend, preferring to call him Frank. Two years later, the elder Bathhurst died and freed Barber in his will. The newly freed man left Johnson's employ to work as an apothecary in London before joining the Royal Navy where, onboard the HMS Stag, he protected English fishermen in the North Sea.

He returned to work for Johnson in 1760 and eight years later was sent to continue his studies in Bishop Stortford in Hertfordshire. Returning he resume work as Johnson's valet, but also became his secretary and personal assistant. When Johnson died in 1784 he made him his heir, leaving his friend £70 a year and requesting that Barber retire to Johnson's hometown - Lichfield in Staffordshire. Here he opened a drapers shop and later a school where he taught.

Barber died on 13th of January 1801 during an operation at Staffordshire Royal Infirmary. He was survive by his wife Elizabeth and their children Ann and Samuel (name after Johnson).


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Francis Barber's Timeline

February 5, 1774
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
December 29, 1783
London, City of London, England, United Kingdom
Staffordshire, England, United Kingdom
January 13, 1801
Age 59
Stafford, Staffordshire, England, United Kingdom
January 28, 1801
Age 59
Stafford, Staffordshire, England, United Kingdom