Anna Laetitia Barbauld (June 20, 1743—March 9, 1825) was an English poet and miscellaneous writer.
She was born Anna Laetitia Aikin at Kibworth-Harcourt, in Leicestershire. Her father, the Reverend John Aikin, a Presbyterian minister and schoolmaster, kept an academy for boys, whose education she shared, and thus became acquainted with French, Italian, Latin, and Greek. In 1758 Mr Aikin removed his family to Warrington, to act as a theological tutor in a dissenting academy there. In 1773 Anna published a volume of Poems, which was very successful, and collaborated with her brother, Dr John Aikin, in a volume of Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose.
In 1774 she married Rochemont Barbauld, a member of a French Protestant family settled in England. He had been educated at Warrington Academy, and was a dissenting minister at Palgrave, in Suffolk, where, with his wife's help, he established a boarding school. Into this enterprise Barbauld threw herself with great energy, and, mainly owing to her talents and reputation, it proved a success. In 1785 they left for the continent, for the benefit of Mr Barbauld's health. On their return about two years later, he was appointed to a church at Hampstead. In 1802 they moved to Stoke Newington.
Through her book of poems, Barbauld became well known in London literary circles. She collaborated with Dr Aikin in his Evenings at Home; in 1795 she published an edition of Mark Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination, with a critical essay; two years later she edited William Collins's Odes; in 1804 she published a selection of papers from the English Essayists, and a selection from Samuel Richardson's correspondence, with a biographical essay; in 1810 a collection of the British Novelists (50 vols.) with biographical and critical essays; and in 1811 her longest and most significant poem, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, giving a gloomy view of the existing state and future prospects of Britain. This poem anticipated Macaulay in contemplating the prospect of a visitor from the antipodes regarding at a future day the ruins of St Paul's Cathedral from a broken arch of Blackfriars Bridge.
In her lifetime Barbauld was most famous for her children's books — a series of four age-adapted reading primers entitled Lessons for Children (1778-9) and her Hymns in Prose for Children (1781). These works became international bestsellers and were reprinted for over a century in Britain and America as well as translated into multiple languages.
After mental instability drove the couple to sell their school, Mr Barbauld became increasingly violent towards Barbauld, and eventually drowned himself in 1808. There is a memoir of Barbauld written by her niece Lucy Aikin.