University of Otago

"£100 & a butt of sack yearly"

The Office of the Poet Laureate
Eusden & Cibber
Austin & Bridges
Lewis & Betjeman
Hughes & Motion
Refusals & Rejects

Robert Southey

Robert Southey, Poems. 2nd ed.

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'Pye's death was announced a day or two before my departure from Keswick, and at the time I thought it so probable that the not-very-desirable succession might be offered to me, as to bestow a little serious thought upon the subject, as well as a jest or two…'. So wrote Robert Southey to his friend Charles Wynn. At this time, in 1813, Southey was 39, an established man of letters with poetry, translations, and prose works published. He was a friend of Coleridge and Wordsworth; rising stars in the field of English literature. He was also struggling economically, and the income (less the wine) was no doubt seen as useful. Of Mary Wollstonecraft Southey said: 'she is a first-rate woman, sensible of her own worth, but without arrogance or affectation.' Here is an early poem dedicated to her.

Robert Southey, Poems. 2nd ed., Bristol: Printed by N. Biggs, for Joseph Cottle, and sold in London by Messrs. Robinsons, 1797.
DeB. Eb 1797 S


Robert Southey, Madoc

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Southey's poem Madoc (1805) confronts head on the problem of home and exile. Written over a ten-year period, the poem reflected his early pantisocratic preoccupations of moving to America (with Coleridge; Wales was the second option) and establishing a utopian community there. Although the publisher John Taylor claimed Madoc was the best English poem since Paradise Lost, its first year sales realized only £3 17s 1d. This is the first edition.

'Robert Southey, Madoc. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, and A. Constable and Co. Edinburgh, 1805.
DeB. Ec 1805 S

The Poetical Works of Robert Southey, vol 3.

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No sooner had Southey taken office, John Wilson Croker, Secretary to the Admiralty, wrote to him: 'Go you and write your Ode for the New Year. You can never have a better subject that the present state of war affords you.' The first draft of Carmen Triumphale had five stanzas denouncing Napoleon, 'the perfidious Corsican'. On submission, these stanzas and 'all condemnatory references' to the Emperor were omitted because it was thought that he might become 'a friendly power' in the future. In deference to his betters, Southey stated: 'I spoilt my poem.' Like Whitehead before him, Southey was a conscientious poet laureate and he did much to raise the stature of the post. This later version contains the omitted stanzas.

The Poetical Works of Robert Southey, v.3. London: Longman, 1847-51.
Leith Street, Bliss YH Sou YpL

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