A Blupete Biography Page

State Pensioner & Champion Of Order, Part 8 to the Life & Works of
Robert Southey

By age 38, Southey had quite given up all of the revolutionary notions that he had possessed as a young man. By then, in 1812, he was "a state pensioner and a champion of the party of order in the Quarterly Review..."19 What Southey, and Wordsworth too, had turned into were supporters of British society, and, certainly it is plain, that British society had become supporters of Southey and Wordsworth. Others poets, Byron for one (and he could well afford to be independent in thought) was of the view that Southey and his ilk were but "dull hirelings," "venomous apostates" and "cold blooded assassins of freedom."20

Any conclusion about Southey's character, as was held by Byron, must be tempered by the fact that Robert Southey was a popular person and had many friends. He was to be admired because of his devotion to his work, his family (much extended) and his country; and, maybe just simply, as Hazlitt was to write, because Southey was an "industrious and calligraphic man."

"The variety and piquancy of his writings form a striking contrast to the mode in which they are produced. He rises early, and writes or reads till bedtime ... Study serves him for business, exercise, recreation. He passes from verse to prose, from history to poetry, from reading to writing, by a stop-watch. He writes a fair hand without blots, sitting upright in his chair, leaves off when he comes to the bottom of the page, and changes the subject for another, as opposite as the Antipodes. His mind is after all rather the recipient and transmitter of knowledge, than the originator of it. He has hardly grasp of thought enough to arrive at any great leading truth. His passions do not amount to more than irritability. With some gall in his pen and coldness in his manner, he has a great deal of kindness in his heart. Rash in his opinions, he is steady in his attachments, and is a man, in many particulars admirable, in all respectable -- his political inconsistency alone excepted!"21
It would not appear that Southey had too many disappointments in life. He was certainly deeply affected by the loss of his ten year old son in 1816. Another blow was when, after being married to her for 39 years, in 1837, Edith Southey was to die. Her loss, however, was to come on in stages, the major one being in 1830 when Edith started showing signs of insanity. In the fall of 1834, Southey committed her to an asylum at York. Edith did recover sufficiently so that she came back home by the spring of 1835, so to spend a little more time with her family before her death. Surprisingly -- though, maybe not -- his health having quickly deteriorated after the death of Edith, Southey was to remarry. This was to happen in 1839, when he exchanged vows with Caroline Bowles.22 Southey had but four years to live with Caroline before his death; and, it would appear, she became more of keeper of Southey than anything else. His mental state slipped just shortly after his marriage to Caroline and he became steadily worse; until, in 1843, he was to die. Robert Southey was to be buried in the Churchyard of Crossthwaite near Keswick.

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Peter Landry
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2011