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Portrait, c. 1795
|Born||12 August 1774|
|Died||21 March 1843 68) (aged|
|Occupation||Poet, historian, biographer, essayist|
Robert Southey ( // or // ; 12 August 1774 – 21 March 1843) was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the Lake Poets along with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and England's Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 until his death in 1843. Although his fame has been eclipsed by that of Wordsworth and Coleridge, his verse still enjoys some popularity. The English word "zombie", from the Haitian French "zombi", is purported to have first been recorded by Southey in his 1819 essay History of Brazil.
Southey was also a prolific letter writer, literary scholar, essay writer, historian and biographer. His biographies include the life and works of John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Cowper, Oliver Cromwell and Horatio Nelson. The last has rarely been out of print since its publication in 1813 and was adapted as the 1926 British film Nelson .
He was also a renowned scholar of Portuguese and Spanish literature and history, translating a number of works from those two languages into English and writing a History of Brazil (part of his planned History of Portugal, which he never completed) and a History of the Peninsular War.
Perhaps his most enduring contribution to literary history is the children's classic The Story of the Three Bears, the original Goldilocks story, first published in Southey's prose collection The Doctor. He also wrote on political issues, which led to a brief, non-sitting, spell as a Tory Member of Parliament.
Robert Southey was born in Wine Street, Bristol, to Robert Southey and Margaret Hill. He was educated at Westminster School, London (where he was expelled for writing an article in The Flagellant attributing the invention of flogging to the Devil),and at Balliol College, Oxford. Southey later said of Oxford, "All I learnt was a little swimming... and a little boating."
Experimenting with a writing partnership with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, most notably in their joint composition of The Fall of Robespierre , Southey published his first collection of poems in 1794. The same year, Southey, Coleridge, Robert Lovell and several others discussed creating an idealistic community ("pantisocracy") on the banks of the Susquehanna River in America:
Their wants would be simple and natural; their toil need not be such as the slaves of luxury endure; where possessions were held in common, each would work for all; in their cottages the best books would have a place; literature and science, bathed anew in the invigorating stream of life and nature, could not but rise reanimated and purified. Each young man should take to himself a mild and lovely woman for his wife; it would be her part to prepare their innocent food, and tend their hardy and beautiful race.
Southey was the first to reject the idea as unworkable, suggesting that they move the intended location to Wales, but when they failed to agree, the plan was abandoned.
In 1799 Southey and Coleridge were involved with early experiments with nitrous oxide (laughing gas), conducted by the Cornish scientist Humphry Davy.
Southey married Edith Fricker, Coleridge's sister-in-law, at St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, on 14 November 1795. The Southeys made their home at Greta Hall, Keswick, in the Lake District, living on his tiny income. Also living at Greta Hall and supported by him were Sara Coleridge and her three children (after Coleridge abandoned them) and the widow of poet Robert Lovell and her son.
In 1808 Southey met Walter Savage Landor, whose work he admired, and they became close friends. That same year he wrote Letters from England under the pseudonym Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, an account of a tour supposedly from a foreigner's viewpoint. Through the mouth of his pseudonym Southey is critical of the disparity between the haves and have-nots in English society, arguing that a change in taxation policy would be needed to foster a greater degree of equity.
From 1809 Southey contributed to the Quarterly Review . He had become so well known by 1813 that he was appointed Poet Laureate after Walter Scott refused the post.
In 1819, through a mutual friend (John Rickman), Southey met the leading civil engineer Thomas Telford and struck up a friendship. From mid-August to 1 October 1819, Southey accompanied Telford on an extensive tour of his engineering projects in the Scottish Highlands, keeping a diary of his observations. This was published in 1929 as Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819. He was also a friend of the Dutch poet Willem Bilderdijk, whom he met twice, in 1824 and 1826, at Bilderdijk's home in Leiden. He expressed appreciation of the work of the English novelist Ann Doherty.
In 1837 Southey received a letter from Charlotte Brontë, seeking his advice on some of her poems. He wrote back praising her talents, but discouraging her from writing professionally: "Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life," he argued. Years later, Brontë remarked to a friend that the letter was "kind and admirable; a little stringent, but it did me good."
In 1838 Edith died and Southey remarried, to Caroline Anne Bowles, also a poet, on 4 June 1839.Southey's mind was giving way when he wrote a last letter to his friend Landor in 1839, but he continued to mention Landor's name when generally incapable of mentioning any one. He died on 21 March 1843 and was buried in the churchyard of Crosthwaite Church, Keswick, where he had worshipped for forty years. There is a memorial to him inside the church, with an epitaph written by his friend, William Wordsworth.
A few of Southey's ballads are still read by British schoolchildren, the best-known being The Inchcape Rock , God's Judgement on a Wicked Bishop, After Blenheim (possibly one of the earliest anti-war poems) and Cataract of Lodore .
As a prolific writer and commentator, Southey introduced or popularised a number of words into the English language. The term autobiography, for example, was used by Southey in 1809 in the Quarterly Review, in which he predicted an "epidemical rage for autobiography", which indeed has continued to the present day.
Although originally a radical supporter of the French Revolution, Southey followed the trajectory of his fellow Romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge towards conservatism. Embraced by the Tory establishment as Poet Laureate, and from 1807 in receipt of a yearly stipend from them, he vigorously supported the Liverpool government. He argued against parliamentary reform ("the railroad to ruin with the Devil for driver"), blamed the Peterloo Massacre on an allegedly revolutionary "rabble" killed and injured by government troops, and spurned Catholic emancipation.In 1817 he privately proposed penal transportation for those guilty of "libel" or "sedition". He had in mind figures like Thomas Jonathan Wooler and William Hone, whose prosecution he urged. Such writers were guilty, he wrote in the Quarterly Review, of "inflaming the turbulent temper of the manufacturer and disturbing the quiet attachment of the peasant to those institutions under which he and his fathers have dwelt in peace." Wooler and Hone were acquitted, but the threats caused another target, William Cobbett, to emigrate temporarily to the United States.
In some respects, Southey was ahead of his time in his views on social reform. For example, he was an early critic of the evils the new factory system brought to early 19th-century Britain. He was appalled by the living conditions in towns like Birmingham and Manchester and especially by employment of children in factories and outspoken about them. He sympathised with the pioneering socialist plans of Robert Owen, advocated that the state promote public works to maintain high employment, and called for universal education.
Given his departure from radicalism, and his attempts to have former fellow travellers prosecuted, it is unsurprising that less successful contemporaries who kept the faith attacked Southey. They saw him as selling out for money and respectability.
In 1817 Southey was confronted with the surreptitious publication of a radical play, Wat Tyler, which he had written in 1794 at the height of his radical period. This was instigated by his enemies in an attempt to embarrass the Poet Laureate and highlight his apostasy from radical poet to supporter of the Tory establishment. One of his most savage critics was William Hazlitt. In his portrait of Southey, in The Spirit of the Age , he wrote: "He wooed Liberty as a youthful lover, but it was perhaps more as a mistress than a bride; and he has since wedded with an elderly and not very reputable lady, called Legitimacy." Southey largely ignored his critics but was forced to defend himself when William Smith, a member of Parliament, rose in the House of Commons on 14 March to attack him. In a spirited response Southey wrote an open letter to the MP, in which he explained that he had always aimed at lessening human misery and bettering the condition of all the lower classes and that he had only changed in respect of "the means by which that amelioration was to be effected."As he put it, "that as he learnt to understand the institutions of his country, he learnt to appreciate them rightly, to love, and to revere, and to defend them."
Another critic of Southey in his later period was Thomas Love Peacock, who scorned him in the character of Mr. Feathernest in his 1817 satirical novel Melincourt .
He was often mocked for what were seen as sycophantic odes to the king, notably in Byron's long ironic dedication of Don Juan to Southey. In the poem Southey is dismissed as insolent, narrow and shabby. This was based both on Byron's disrespect for Southey's literary talent, and his disdain for what he perceived as Southey's hypocritical turn to conservatism later in life. Much of the animosity between the two men can be traced back to Byron's belief that Southey had spread rumours about him and Percy Bysshe Shelley being in a "League of Incest" during their time on Lake Geneva in 1816, an accusation that Southey strenuously denied.
In response, Southey attacked what he called the Satanic School among modern poets in the preface to his poem, A Vision of Judgement, written after the death of George III. While not naming Byron, it was clearly directed at him. Byron retaliated with The Vision of Judgment , a parody of Southey's poem.
Without his prior knowledge, the Earl of Radnor, an admirer of his work, had Southey returned as MP for the latter's pocket borough seat of Downton in Wiltshire at the 1826 general election, as an opponent of Catholic emancipation, but Southey refused to sit, causing a by-election in December that year, pleading that he did not have a large enough estate to support him through political life,or want to take on the hours full attendance required. He wished to continue living in the Lake District and preferred to defend the Church of England in writing rather than speech. He declared that "for me to change my scheme of life and go into Parliament, would be to commit a moral and intellectual suicide." His friend John Rickman, a Commons clerk, noted that "prudential reasons would forbid his appearing in London" as a Member.
In 1835 Southey declined the offer of a baronetcy, but accepted a life pension of £300 a year from Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel.He is buried in the churchyard of Crosthwaite Parish Church in Cumbria.
Southey was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1822.He was also a member of the Royal Spanish Academy.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He also shared volumes and collaborated with Charles Lamb, Robert Southey, and Charles Lloyd. He wrote the poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as the major prose work Biographia Literaria. His critical work, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking culture. Coleridge coined many familiar words and phrases, including suspension of disbelief. He had a major influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson and on American transcendentalism.
William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798).
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1843.
Hartley Coleridge, possibly David Hartley Coleridge, was an English poet, biographer, essayist, and teacher. He was the eldest son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His sister Sara Coleridge was a poet and translator, and his brother Derwent Coleridge was a scholar and author. Hartley was named after the philosopher David Hartley.
Sara Coleridge was an English author and translator. She was the third child, out of four, and only daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his wife Sara Fricker.
Sir Henry Taylor was an English dramatist and poet, Colonial Office official, and man of letters.
The Lake Poets were a group of English poets who all lived in the Lake District of England, United Kingdom, in the first half of the nineteenth century. As a group, they followed no single "school" of thought or literary practice then known. They were named, only to be uniformly disparaged, by the Edinburgh Review. They are considered part of the Romantic Movement.
Joseph Cottle (1770–1853) was an English publisher and author.
Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.
Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.
Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.
Charles Lloyd II, poet, was a friend of Charles Lamb, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth and Thomas de Quincey. His best-known poem is "Desultory Thoughts in London".
Dorothy "Dora" Wordsworth was the daughter of William Wordsworth (1770–1850). Her infancy inspired Wordsworth to write "Address to My Infant Daughter" in her honour. As an adult, she is further immortalised by him in the 1828 poem "The Triad", along with Edith Southey and Sara Coleridge, daughters of her father's fellow Lake Poets. In 1843, at the age of 39, Dora Wordsworth married Edward Quillinan against her father's wishes. Throughout her life, she formed intense romantic attachments to both genders, the most significant being her friendship with Maria Jane Jewsbury. Another close friend was Maria Kinnaird, adoptive daughter of Richard "Conversation" Sharp and the future wife of Thomas Drummond. Dora and Maria were friends from their teenage years and some of their correspondence has survived
Lines Written at Shurton Bars was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795. The poem incorporates a reflection on Coleridge's engagement and his understanding of marriage. It also compares nature to an ideal understanding of reality and discusses isolation from others.
Sonnets on Eminent Characters or Sonnets on Eminent Contemporaries is an 11-part sonnet series created by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and printed in the Morning Chronicle between 1 December 1794 and 31 January 1795. Although Coleridge promised to have at least 16 poems within the series, only one addition poem, "To Lord Stanhope", was published.
"To Southey" or "To Robert Southey" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 14 January 1795 Morning Chronicle as part of his Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Robert Southey became a close friend of Coleridge during the summer of 1794 and the two originally formed a plan to start an ideal community together. Although the plan fell apart, Coleridge dedicated the poem to his friend and emphasized Southey's poetic abilities. Following the poem, Coleridge further drifted from Southey and the poem was not republished.
The Task: A Poem, in Six Books is a poem in blank verse by William Cowper published in 1785, usually seen as his supreme achievement. Its six books are called "The Sofa", "The Timepiece", "The Garden", "The Winter Evening", "The Winter Morning Walk" and "The Winter Walk at Noon". Beginning with a mock-Miltonic passage on the origins of the sofa, it develops into a discursive meditation on the blessings of nature, the retired life and religious faith, with attacks on slavery, blood sports, fashionable frivolity, lukewarm clergy and French despotism among other things. Cowper's subjects are those that occur to him naturally in the course of his reflections rather than being suggested by poetic convention, and the diction throughout is, for an 18th-century poem, unusually conversational and unartificial. As the poet himself writes,
The Vision of Judgment (1822) is a satirical poem in ottava rima by Lord Byron, which depicts a dispute in Heaven over the fate of George III's soul. It was written in response to the Poet Laureate Robert Southey's A Vision of Judgement (1821), which had imagined the soul of king George triumphantly entering Heaven to receive his due. Byron was provoked by the High Tory point of view from which the poem was written, and he took personally Southey's preface which had attacked those "Men of diseased hearts and depraved imaginations" who had set up a "Satanic school" of poetry, "characterized by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety". He responded in the preface to his own Vision of Judgment with an attack on "The gross flattery, the dull impudence, the renegado intolerance, and impious cant, of the poem", and mischievously referred to Southey as "the author of Wat Tyler", an anti-royalist work from Southey's firebrand revolutionary youth. His parody of A Vision of Judgement was so lastingly successful that, as the critic Geoffrey Carnall wrote, "Southey's reputation has never recovered from Byron's ridicule."
Peter Bell: A Tale in Verse is a long narrative poem by William Wordsworth, written in 1798, but not published until 1819.
Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Scholars regard the publishing of William Wordsworth's and Samuel Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads in 1798 as probably the beginning of the movement, and the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837 as its end. Romanticism arrived in other parts of the English-speaking world later; in America, it arrived around 1820.
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Henry James Pye
| British Poet Laureate |