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Of the Mule Breed

David Bromwich: Robert Southey, 21 May 1998

Robert SoutheyA Life 
by Mark Storey.
Oxford, 405 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 811246 7
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... Southey was never a ‘marvellous boy’, but he lived a boyish life in books for half a century, and Mark Storey’s Life promises to solve a puzzle about his reputation: how someone so earnest and full of ideals could draw the loyalty of one generation, the livid contempt of another, and the nostalgic indulgence of a third, without any noticeable change of character ...


Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression, 26 January 2006

Robert SoutheyPoetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... Coleridge’s old schoolmates, who took the visitors to see a notorious democrat at Balliol called Robert Southey. It was an encounter that, Southey would recall, ‘fixed the future fortunes of us both’. The tourists had planned to stop in Oxford for three or four days but ended up staying three weeks. When they ...

Wives, Queens, Distant Princesses

John Bayley, 23 October 1986

The Bondage of Love: A Life of Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
by Molly Lefebure.
Gollancz, 287 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 575 03871 3
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Jane Welsh Carlyle 
by Virginia Surtees.
Michael Russell, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 85955 134 2
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... with a never-failing air of disinterested benevolence, and in the sacred name of friendship. Robert Southey, Sam’s great friend, Sara’s brother-in-law, another promising young man in the media, had already rumbled the Wordsworths. ‘Wordsworth and his sister,’ he was later to observe ‘who pride themselves on having no selfishness, are of ...

Superior Persons

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1986

Travels with a Superior Person 
by Lord Curzon, edited by Peter King.
Sidgwick, 191 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 283 99294 8
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The Ladies of Castlebrae 
by A. Whigham Price.
Alan Sutton, 242 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 228 1
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Lizzie: A Victorian Lady’s Amazon Adventure 
by Tony Morrison, Anne Brown and Ann Rose.
BBC, 160 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 563 20424 9
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Miss Fane in India 
by [author], edited by John Pemble.
Alan Sutton, 246 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 240 0
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Explorers Extraordinary 
by John Keay.
Murray/BBC Publications, 195 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 7195 4249 9
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A Visit to Germany, Italy and Malta 1840-41 
by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Grace Thornton.
Peter Owen, 182 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 7206 0636 5
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The Irish Sketch-Book 1842 
by William Makepeace Thackeray.
Blackstaff, 368 pp., £9.95, December 1985, 0 85640 340 7
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Mr Rowlandson’s England 
by Robert Southey, edited by John Steel.
Antique Collectors’ Club, 202 pp., £14.95, November 1985, 0 907462 77 4
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... by Thomas Rowlandson at his liveliest, ranging from the satirical to the rustic. The text is by Robert Southey, condensed from his 1807 report on England purporting to be by a Spanish nobleman, and the joke consists of finding Southey phrases to fit Rowlandson pictures, or vice versa. One objection to this forced ...

Her pen made the first move

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 July 1994

Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 418 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 9780701161378
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Vintage, 285 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 09 942461 4
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The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill 
by Miriam Bailin.
Cambridge, 169 pp., £30, April 1994, 0 521 44526 4
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... Brontë was not yet 21, she submitted a sample of her work to the reigning poet laureate, Robert Southey, together with a letter in which she apparently confided her ambition ‘to be for ever known’ as a poet. Three months later, Southey replied. Though he acknowledged her gift and encouraged her to continue ...


Thomas Keymer: The Girondin Wordsworth, 18 June 2020

Radical Wordsworth: The Poet who Changed the World 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 608 pp., £25, April, 978 0 00 816742 4
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William Wordsworth: A Life 
by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, new edition, 688 pp., £25, April, 978 0 19 881711 6
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... called them in 1814) all made the same move, whether from conviction, pragmatism, or both. Robert Southey, whose incendiary drama Wat Tyler (1794) had been too hot for even the most reckless publisher to touch at the height of the revolution panic, was now cheerfully knocking out loyal odes in his role as poet laureate. ...

The Strange Case of John Bampfylde

Roger Lonsdale, 3 March 1988

... author, William Jackson, a prominent figure in Exeter musical life. In a letter of 3 October 1799 Robert Southey sent Coleridge the unusual story he had recently heard from Jackson. At the age of 16 Bampfylde had gone to see the composer in Exeter, and had astonished him with his remarkable powers of improvisation on the harpsichord. Even after taking ...

Necrophiliac Striptease

Thomas Jones: Mummies, 6 February 2014

The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 321 pp., £18.99, October 2012, 978 0 19 969871 4
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... and interior design erupted across the country. ‘Everything must now be Egyptian,’ Robert Southey grumbled. ‘The ladies wear crocodile ornaments, and you sit upon a sphinx in a room hung around with mummies, and with the long black lean-armed long-nosed hieroglyphical men, who are enough to make the children afraid to go to bed.’ But ...

The big drops start

John Bayley, 7 December 1989

Coleridge: Early Visions 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 409 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 340 28335 1
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Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics 
by John Williams.
Manchester, 203 pp., £29.95, November 1989, 0 7190 3168 0
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Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter: Her Life and Essays 
by Bradford Keyes Mudge.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.95, September 1989, 0 300 04443 7
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... a desperate situation to work his best, or indeed to work at all. Wordsworth made the comment that Robert Southey, Coleridge’s brother-in-law, ‘writes too much at his ease’, but the criticism could equally have applied to Wordsworth himself, not because Wordsworth found composition easy – it gave him the psychosomatic pains which only afflicted ...

A Vast Masquerade

Deborah Cohen: Dr James Barry, 2 March 2017

Dr James Barry: A Woman ahead of Her Time 
by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield.
Oneworld, 479 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 78074 831 3
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... Barry was an eccentric, seen ‘in his worst (that is to say, his maddest) days’, according to Robert Southey, in a dirt and paint-encrusted green baize coat with a tired old wig. But a bequest was the best hope for the two women, whose other male relatives had proven unreliable. Margaret’s brother, John, apprenticed to a Dublin lawyer, had already ...

Burying Scott

Marilyn Butler, 7 September 1995

The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Blackwell, 386 pp., £19.99, January 1995, 1 55786 231 1
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... layer of non-historical added value: this time a proto-Byronic plot of sex and violence, or as Robert Southey put it, ‘rust and tinsel’. As the author of two long metrical romances and editor-translator of another, Southey was the contemporary poet most sympathetic to Scott. But he agreed with Wordsworth and ...


John Barrell: Dr Beddoes, 19 November 2009

The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr Beddoes and His Sons of Genius 
by Mike Jay.
Yale, 294 pp., £20, April 2009, 978 0 300 12439 2
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... In 1794 Robert Watt, an Edinburgh wine merchant, together with a few associates, was arrested for allegedly framing a plot to seize the Edinburgh post office, the banks and the castle, and to issue a demand that George III dismiss the government of William Pitt and make peace with the French Republic. Just before the arrests, an English medical student studying in Edinburgh, John Edmonds Stock, had been sent down to London by Watt with a letter to the London Corresponding Society inviting them to mount a similar insurrection ...

Riot, Revolt, Revolution

Mike Jay: The Despards, 18 July 2019

Red Round Globe Hot Burning: A Tale at the Crossroads of Commons and Culture, of Love and Terror, of Race and Class and of Kate and Ned Despard 
by Peter Linebaugh.
California, 408 pp., £27, March 2019, 978 0 520 29946 7
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... race.’ ‘This calm declaration of a dying man was so well calculated to do mischief,’ wrote Robert Southey, who was among the crowd that morning. It convinced Southey that ‘revolution must inevitably come, and in its most fearful shape.’ Many had arrived at the same conclusion. Through the 1790s, war with ...

There’s a porpoise close behind us

Michael Dobson, 13 November 1997

The Origins of English Nonsense 
by Noel Malcolm.
HarperCollins, 329 pp., £18, May 1997, 0 00 255827 0
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... and concerns of the near-nonsensical Cave of Spleen episode in The Rape of the Lock. The fact that Robert Southey wrote enthusiastically about Taylor in his Lives and Works of the Uneducated Poets (1831) doesn’t do much to establish the Water-Poet as an unacknowledged influence either; although he does briefly quote from Sir Gregory Nonsence, ...

A Gloomy Duet

Geoffrey Wall, 3 April 1997

Louis Bouilhet: Lettres à Gustave Flaubert 
edited by Maria Cappello.
CNRS, 780 pp., frs 490, April 1996, 2 271 05288 2
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... Was there nobody more interesting? More talented? It’s as though Coleridge had stuck with Robert Southey and never met Wordsworth. Why should a writer such as Flaubert, always so fiercely self-assured in his literary judgments, submit to being guided and corrected by the lesser man? Part of the answer may lie in the fact that their friendship was ...

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