Octavius Moulton-Barrett

Octavius Butler Barrett Moulton-Barrett (1824–1910)

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 1, 295–296.

He was born at Hope End on 11 April 1824, the twelfth (and last) child and eighth son of Edward and Mary Moulton-Barrett. Octavius’ nicknames included variations such as “Occy” and “Occyta.” EBB, in some of her letters, called him “Joc.” As oldest and youngest of the Moulton-Barrett children, EBB and Occy were 18 years apart in age. Octavius was only four years old at the time of his mother’s death. EBB tutored him in Greek and made many endearing references to him in her writings. On 15 November 1831, for instance, she wrote: “Dearest little thing! … he sate on my knee, & I told him stories.” (Diary, p. 180). Despite all this, Octavius stood with his brothers in opposing the marriage between EBB and RB, but indications are that by 1856 he had become friendly toward both. In the mid-1840’s Octavius studied architecture, and he was recalled by a niece—Mary Altham—as “a clever artist” (Reconstruction, p. xviii). He is frequently mentioned in the diaries of Henrietta’s husband, Surtees Cook ( Reconstruction, L4). An entry for 9 February 1858 tells of his sailing for Jamaica with Charles John and Septimus. Unlike these other two, however, he did not spend a substantial part of his life there. On 19 March 1859 Octavius married Charlotte Mackintosh. She died on 6 October 1861 and was buried in Thurlbear Churchyard, near the grave of Henrietta. An infant son was buried at the same time. Octavius and Charlotte had one other son, born in 1860. Octavius’ second wife was Maria Elizabeth Morris and they were married 17 April 1865. They had three daughters and two sons, born between 1866 and 1874. From the estate of his father, who died in 1857, Octavius received a payment of nearly £11,000. In 1872 his wife’s grandmother died and they received a much larger inheritance. Octavius lived in various homes after the break-up of the Wimpole Street household. Entries in Surtees’ diary for 1863 mention “his place Trefnanny Hall, near Welshpool, Montgomeryshire” as a “quiet country gentleman’s seat.” By 31 October 1864 his residence was cited as Combe House, near Dulverton, Somersetshire. In 1868 his home was The Holt, near Winchester in Hampshire. Eventually he went to Westover, near Calbourne, Isle of Wight. He died there on 11 November 1910, and was buried at Calbourne. To the Isle of Wight residence he had taken books and furniture acquired as his share from the Wimpole Street household, and most of the items remain in the hands of his descendants. The family has given to the British nation a portfolio of his drawings of the Houses of Parliament, made while they were under construction, and while he was studying architecture under Sir Charles Barry.


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