Robert Southey

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Robert Southey (12 August 1774 – 21 March 1843) was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the so-called "Lake Poets", and Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843. Although his fame tends to be eclipsed by that of his contemporaries and friends William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Southey's verse enjoys enduring popularity.

Moreover, Southey was 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 for the screen in the 1926 British film, Nelson. He was also a renowned Portuguese and Spanish scholar, translating a number of works of those two countries into English and writing both a History of Brazil (part of his planned History of Portugal which was never completed) and a History of the Peninsular War. Perhaps his most enduring contribution to literary history is the immortal children's classic, The Story of the Three Bears, the original Goldilocks story, which first saw print in 1834 in Southey's prose collection, The Doctor.

Contents

Life

Robert Southey was born in Wine Street, Bristol, England, to Robert Southey and Margaret Hill and educated at Westminster School, London, (from which he was expelled for writing a magazine article in The Flagellant condemning flogging) and Balliol College, Oxford (of his time at Oxford – before the era of Benjamin Jowett and the dramatic raising of standards that over the previous century had become somewhat lax – 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, most notably with the joint composition of The Fall of Robespierre, 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 ("pantisocracy"):

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

In 1799, both Southey and Coleridge were involved with early experiments with nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Experiments were performed by Cornish scientist Humphry Davy. [1]

Southey's wife, Edith Fricker, whom he married at St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, on 14 November 1795, was the sister of Coleridge's wife, Sara Fricker. The Southeys set up home at Greta Hall, Keswick (pronounced Kezick), in the Lake District, living on a tiny income. Also living at Greta Hall with Southey and supported by him were Sara Coleridge and her three children following their abandonment by Coleridge and the widow of fellow poet Robert Lovell and her son.

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