Robert Southey

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Robert Southey, English poet

Robert Southey (August 12, 1774March 21, 1843) was an English poet of the Romantic school, and one of the so-called "Lake Poets". Although his fame tends to be eclipsed by that of his contemporaries such as William Wordsworth, Southey's verse enjoys enduring popularity.

He was born in Bristol to Thomas Southey and Margaret Hill and educated at Westminster School (from which he was expelled for writing a magazine article condemning flogging) and Balliol College, Oxford (of his time at Oxford Southey was later to say "All I learnt was a little swimming ... and a little boating."). After experimenting with a writing partnership with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he published his first collection of poems in 1794. The same year, he, Coleridge and a few others discussed setting up an idealistic community 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.

Later iterations of the plan moved the commune to Wales, but later, Southey was the first of the group to reject the idea as unworkable.

Southey's wife, Edith, was the sister of Coleridge's wife. The Southeys set up home at Greta Hall, Keswick, in the Lake District, living on a tiny income. From 1809, he contributed to the Quarterly Review, and had become so well-known by 1813 that he was appointed Poet Laureate.

In 1819, through a mutual friend (John Rickman), Southey met leading civil engineer Thomas Telford and struck up a strong 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.

In 1838, Edith died and Southey married Caroline Anne Bowles, also a poet. Many of his poems are still read by schoolchildren, the best-known being The Inchcape Rock and After Blenheim (possibly one of the earliest anti-war poems).

Major works

  • Fall of Robespierre ( 1794 ).
  • Joan of Arc: An Epic Poem ( 1796 )
  • Poems ( 1797 - 99 )
  • Letters from Spain ( 1797 )
  • Devil's Thoughts ( 1799 )
  • Thalaba the Destroyer ( 1801 )
  • Amadis of Gaul ( 1803 ). Translation
  • Madoc ( 1805 )
  • Letters from England ( 1807 )
  • Palmerin of England ( 1807 ). Translation.
  • The Cid ( 1808 ). Translation
  • The Curse of Kehama ( 1810 )
  • The Life of Nelson ( 1813 )
  • Roderick, the Last of the Goths ( 1814 )
  • Wat Tyler: A Dramatic Poem ( 1817 )
  • Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819
  • A Vision of Judgment ( 1821 )
  • Life of Cromwell ( 1821 )
  • Thomas More ( 1829 )
  • Cowper ( 1833 )
  • The Inchcape Rock

External links


Preceded by:
Henry James Pye
British Poet Laureate
1813–1843
Succeeded by:
William Wordsworth

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