Eaton Stannard Barrett (1786 – March 20, 1820) was an Irish poet and author of political satires and the comic novel The Heroine, or: Adventures of a fair romance reader (1813).
Born in County Cork, Barrett attended Trinity College in Dublin and studied law at Middle Temple, London but was never called to the bar. His poems, satirising Whig politics in general and Lord Grenville’s special ministry in particular, went through numerous editions.
His comic gothic novel The Heroine (published in 1813) was an instant success and was quickly followed by further editions in 1814 and 1815. Contemporary praise for the novel came, among others, from Jane Austen who declared herself „very much amused by it“ and thought it „a delightful burlesque“. The Critical Review described it as „a very spirited and laughable satire upon the various productions und the name of the novel (…) which have appeared for the last 18 or 19 years.“ Another critic praised it as „not inferior in wit and humour to Tristram Shandy, and in point of plot and interest infinitely beyond Don Quixote.“
Edgar Allan Poe wrote in 1835: „There are few books written with more tact, spirit, naiveté, or grace (…) and none more fairly entitled to rank among the classics of English literature than the Heroine of Eaton Stannard Barrett.“ It was regularly read and reprinted until the early 20th century. After being neglected and out of print for almost a century, it has recently been revived by a new edition in 2011.
Despite this literary success, little is known about Barrett’s life and he appears to have died of tuberculosis in 1820. Nevertheless, he is mentioned as an author in a publication called The American Farmer, printed in Baltimore and dated 1823. Given his reported financial difficulties, it is possible (though it remains to be proved) that he fled to America to escape his debtors.