1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:272-73.



Of the City of Bristol. A gentleman whose talent for Poetry has obtained him very distinguished applause in the literary world. His first publication was a small volume of Poems, in association with Mr. Robert Lovell, his fellow-student of Balliol College, Oxford, which appeared in 1795. In the year following, he published Joan of Arc, an epic Poem, in a quarto volume, about four hundred lines of which, at the beginning of the second book, were contributed by his friend Mr. Coleridge. This performance, as originally written in twelve books, was finished in six weeks; and on its improved plan in ten books, was almost entirely recomposed during the time of printing! The poetical powers displayed in this poem are of a very superior kind, and, notwithstanding a little occasional negligence, its merit is such as unquestionably to entitle its author to the name of POET: yet, Mr. Southey, at the same time, must be said to have done infinite injustice to his extraordinary talents, in allowing a fervour of youth to hurry him, in such a manner, through a work of genius so singularly arduous. In 1797, Mr. Southey published a duodecimo volume of Poems, which has been very generally admired, and abounds in pieces of exquisite beauty. In this year he also published an octavo volume of Letters, written during a short residence in Spain and Portugal, which abound in information, and are highly entertaining.