1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Anonymous, in Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors (1816) 324-25.



ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq. Poet Laureat. He was born August 12, 1774, at Bristol, where his father carried on an extensive business as a wholesale linen draper. The son was educated first under Mr. Foote a baptist minister of great ability, but at that time very aged. After a short time young Southey was removed to a school at Carston, where he remained about two years, and was then entered at Westminster School in 1787, where, in 1790, he fell under censure for his concern in the rebellion excited against the master, Dr. Vincent. In 1792 he became a student of Baliol College, Oxford, with a view to the church, but Unitarian principles and the revolutionary mania put an end to that design. So strongly did he imbibe the new opinions on politics which the explosion in France had produced, that he, with his friends Lovell and Coleridge, projected a plan of settling on the banks of the Susquehanna in North America, and of there founding a new republic. This Utopian scheme was soon dissolved for want of means, and in 1795 Mr. Southey married Miss Fricker, soon after which event he accompanied his maternal uncle the Rev. Mr. Hill to Portugal, that gentleman being appointed Chaplain to the Factory at Lisbon. In 1801 Mr. Southey obtained the appointment of Secretary to the Right Hon. Isaac Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland. On retiring from office with his patron, our author went to reside in a cottage near Keswick, where also dwelt under the same roof the widow of his friend Lovell and the wife of Mr. Coleridge, both which ladies are sisters to Mrs. Southey. In 1813 he succeeded Mr. Pye as Poet Laureate, and it must be confessed that, with some slight exceptions, his subsequent performances are such as do credit to the appointment.