Biography of Robert Southey
The "Lake Poet" Robert Southey was born on August 12, 1774 in Bristol to Thomas Southey and Margaret Hill. He was educated at Westminster School, but later expelled for writing magazine articles condeming flogging (which helped spark his poem Joan of Arc). He later attended Balliol College, Oxford, but did not receive a degree, which he stated "All I learnt was a little swimming... and a little boating."
After meeting Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Southey published his first collection of poems in 1794. The same year, Coleridge, Southey and others began discussing the idea of Panticrosy. The idea was stated as:
"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 the plan called for the commune to move to Wales, however Southey was disgusted by the idea and rejected it.
By this time, Southey had already decided as to make his living as a writer. In 1797, he was already printing his second edition of Poems.
Southey later married his friend Coleridge's wife's sister, Edith. The Southey's moved to Greta Hall, Keswick, in the Lake District and began earning a small income in 1803. The two moved in with the Coleridge's and also came to know William Wordsworth, who lived nearby.
In 1809, Southey began working for the Quarterly Review and by 1813, he was appointed the Poet Laureate.
In 1819, Southey met leading civil engineer, Thomas Telford through a mutual friend, John Rickman. They struck a strong friendship and from mid-August to October 1, 1819, Southey accompanied Telford, for work on his engineering projects, on an extensive tour in the Scottish Highlands keeping a diary of observations.
Southey's wife Edith died in 1838. Soon after, he married his second wife, Caroline Anne Bowles, who was also a poet.
Only a few years later, in 1843, Robert Southey passed away due to deteriorating mental and physical health. He is now most remembered from his works The Inchcape Rock and After Blenheim which was the first anti-war poem.
Poems by Robert Southey
- My Days Among the Dead are Past
- The Old Man's Complaints. And How He Gained Them
- The Well of St. Keyne
Next: Phillis Wheatley