SOUTHEY, ROBERT (1774-1843). An English poet and miscellaneous writer, horn August 12, 1774, at Bristol, where his father was a linen draper. Southey passed much of his boyhood with an aunt at Bath, read through her library, containing Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, and many other writers, and tried his own hand at the drama. In 1788 he was sent to Westminster School, from which he was expelled four years later, on account of an essay against flogging. Aided by an uncle living at Lisbon, he entered Balliol College, Oxford (1792), where lie re mained for only two years. He met Coleridge in 1794.; and in conjunction with another friend, Robert Lovell, they formed a socialistic scheme, which they called •pantisocracy.' They were to take wives and emigrate to the hanks of the Susquehanna. They all married sisters, but the scheme went no further. After secretly marrying Edith Frisker, at Bristol (November 14, 1795), Southey immediately left to visit his uncle at Lisbon. On returning (1797) he studied law at Gray's Inn, but soon abandoned the pursuit. He settled with his wife first at Westbury, between Bath and Salisbury, and then at Burton, in Hampshire; and after another trip to Portugal and a short period at Bristol, he joined Coleridge at Keswick in the Lake district (1S03). Here at Greta Hall he passed the rest of his life amid his books. Besides the income from his pen, which eventually became large, he received, be tween 179 and 1806, an annuity of £100 from a school friend named Wynn. Its place was soon filled by a Government pension of the same amount, to which was added, in 1835, another pension of £300. In 1813, then as strongly con servative as he had once been republican, he was appointed poet laureate. In this capacity he wrote The Vision of Judgment (1821). an apotheosis of George III. in hexameter verse. The incident is made memorable by Byron's brilliant parody under the same title. Southey's wife died in 1837, and two years later he mar ried Caroline Anne Bowles. His mind was al ready giving way and soon became a blank. He died at Keswick, March 21, 1843, and was buried in the Crosthwaite churchyard. A recumbent
statue was placed in the church. When a school boy Southey formed the plan of a series of nar rative poems on the mythologies of the world. Under the inspiration of this idea, subsequently modified, lie wrote a number of epics, comprising Joan of Are (1796) ; Thalaba, the Destroyer (1801), an Oriental tale; )fadoc (1805) ; The Curse of lichama (1810), founded on Hindu legend; and Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Though they contain many noble passages and interesting experiments in versification. they are in the main only rhetorical. His prose is best represented by Letters from England by Don Manuel Alcare Espriella (1807). a view of England from the assumed standpoint of a Spanish gentleman; The Doctor (1834-37), containing the nursery classic, "The Three Bears," the lives of Wesley (1820) and of Nelson (1813); and his delightful letters. Of his other miscellaneous work may be cited History of Brazil (1810-19), part of a contem plated history of Portugal; History of the Penin sular• ll'ar• (1823-32) ; Colloquies on Society (1829), unnecessarily ridiculed by Macaulay; History (1833-40) : and a revolutionary drama, Wat Tyler (written in 1794, and surrep titiously published in 1817). As a conservative in religion and politics Southey sustained many bitter attacks from the leaders of rising liberal ism. In unflagging literary industry he was one of the most notable figures of his time. his prose, far more than his poetry, is a contribution of permanent value to English letters.
Consult: The Life and Correspondence, by his son, Rev. C. C. Southey (London, 1849 50), containing the fragment of an autobiog raphy; Selections from Southey's Letters, ed. by Waiter (ib., 1856) ; Correspondence with Caroline Bowles, ed. by Dowden (Dublin, 1881) ;• Dennis, Southey: Story of His Life, an excellent selection from letters (Boston, 1887) ; Southey, a memoir and estimate by Dow-den, "English Men of Letters" series, new ed. (New York, 1895) ; and poems with memoir by S. R. Thompson, in the "Canterbury I'oets" series (London, 1888).