Robert Southey 

Portrait of Robert Southey

Robert Southey was an English Lake Poet and biographer. He was born on 12th August 1774 in Bristol, England and died on 21st March 1843 in Keswick, England aged 68.

Major Works

“The Fall of Robespierre” (1794) 
“Joan of Arc” (1796) 
“Poems” (1797) 
“Thalaba the Destroyer” (1801) 
“The Chronicle of Cid” (1808) 
“The History of Brazil” (1812) 
“The Life of Nelson” (1813)
“The Lay of the Laureate”. “A Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo” (1816) 
“The Life of John Wesley” (1820)
“The Life of Cromwell” (1821) 

Biography Timeline

Robert Southey was born on12th August 1774 at 9 Wine Street in Bristol, England. He was the son of a linen draper and his father worked in Wine Street with William Britton. His mother was Margaret Hill. He was educated at Westminster school where he was expelled for his radical ideas. He went up to Oxford University but left without taking a degree.

1794: He meets Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Bristol and the two become great friends. They develop their own politico-religious views which they call Pantiscocracy and decide to set up a settlement in Pennsylvania, USA with their girlfriends, the Fricker sisters. They eventually abandon the plans and stay in England.

1795: On 13th November he marries Edith Fricker at St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. Edith was the sister of Sarah Fricker who became the wife of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

1796: He begins writing ballads.

1798: He writes “The Battle of Blenheim” although his poetry does not make him much money and he has to rely on an allowance made to him by a friend.

1802: He goes to Greta Hall in Keswick to stay with Coleridge.

1803: On September 7th Southey decides to stay permanently at Greta Hall, where he will remain for the rest of his life.

1807: He gets an allowance from the Government.

1809: He joins the staff of the literary magazine “The Quarterly Review”. Death of the owner of Greta Hall, William Jackson, a retired wool trade carrier. The house is inherited by his brother Rev. J Jackson.

1813: He is appointed as the Poet Laureate and is heavily criticised by his former friends William Hazlitt and Lord Byron for betraying his radical ideas for money. He writes a biography of Lord Nelson.

1820: He writes a biography of John Wesley.

1821: He commemorates the Death of King George the Third in a Poem “A Vision of Judgment” which was heavily satirised by Lord Byron. He begins to turn his full attention to biographies and historical works.

1829: He writes “The Lives of the British Admirals.”

1830: He completes a biography of John Bunyan.

1834: He published “The Doctor” which contains the now famous fairy tale “The Three Bears”.

1835: The Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel increases his pension.

Robert Southey died on 21st March 1843 at Greta Hall, Keswick, Cumbria, England of a stroke and was buried at St. Kentigern’s Churchyard, Crosthwaite, Keswick, Cumbria. (The grave monument was restored in 1961 with a Grant from the Brazilian Government).

Further Information

For more information on Robert Southey see his Britain Unlimited page here.

Poems by Southey.