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Robert Southey, Poet Laureate

Queen Victoria appointed three poets laureate during her reign: William Wordsworth in 1843, Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1850, and Alfred Austin in 1896. But the first poet laureate of Victoria’s reign, Robert Southey, was appointed by her grandfather, George III. Southey received the laureateship 200 years ago this month, in September of 1813. He held the post for 30 years until his death in March 1843.

Southey was a close friend, collaborator and brother-in-law of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (their wives were sisters). He followed Coleridge and Wordsworth to settle in the Lake District and is considered a member of the Wordsworth circle. Southey was a prolific writer, producing articles for the periodical The Quarterly Review, epic poetry, histories, and even translations of Portuguese and Spanish literature.

Special Collections owns a unique copy of Southey’s collected poems, printed in two volumes in 1800-1801. It features fore-edge paintings depicting scenes of London’s Woolwich district (shown here) and Billingsgate Wharf.


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