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Part 5: Papers of Caroline Bowles (1787-1854) and Robert Southey (1774-1843) from the British Library, London



Birth of William Wordsworth.


Birth of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.


12 Aug 1774. Birth of Robert Southey (henceforth RS), son of Robert Southey, a farmer in the Quantock Hills, and Margaret (née Hill), in Bristol. RS is raised in Bath by his aunt, Miss Elizabeth Tyler.


6 Dec 1786. Birth of Caroline Anne Bowles (henceforth CB), daughter of Captain Charles Bowles of the East India Company, and Anne (née Burrard), at Buckland Manor, near Lymington, Hampshire.

Publication of Vathek by Beckford.


RS sent to Westminster school.


The French Revolution. 14 July – Storming of the Bastille.


Wordsworth goes on a walking tour of Europe.


The Massacre of the Champs de Mars and rise of the Girondins in Paris.


RS expelled from Westminster for protesting against flogging. His maternal uncle, Rev Herbert Hill, gets RS a place at Balliol College, Oxford. He pursues swimming, boating, and reading. Writes epic poem on Joan of Arc. Monarchy is abolished in France.


Louis XVI executed. Execution of Girondins by Jacobins in Paris. Reign of Terror. RS becomes wary of the Revolution.


RS is introduced to Coleridge by Allen. Execution of Danton. Overthrow and execution of Robespierre. RS and Coleridge write The Fall of Robespierre. Coleridge converts RS to pantisocracy and they plan an ideal community on the banks of the Susquehanna. RS is disowned by his aunt, Elizabeth Tyler. Joseph Cottle, an inexperienced Bristol bookseller, gives RS £50 for Joan of Arc, which RS revises with additions by Coleridge. Publication of Poems by Bion and Moschus by RS and Coleridge (1794 & 1795). RS writes Wat Tyler.


RS clandestinely marries Edith Fricker, one of six daughters of Stephen Fricker, a manufacturer, from Westbury. Coleridge is married to her sister, Sara Fricker. Coleridge and RS argue. Coleridge meets Wordsworth and the two strike up a great friendship, living close to each other in Nether Stowey and Alfoxden in Somerset. RS visits his uncle, the Rev Herbert Hill, in Lisbon. Edith stays with her sisters and maintains her maiden name.


Publication of Joan of Arc by RS. Coleridge commences publication of The Watchman (see Eighteenth Century Journals, published by Adam Matthew Publications).


Publication of the Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge. Coleridge visits Germany. RS returns to England. RS writes Madoc. Publication of Letters written during a short residence in Spain and Portugal, by RS, based on his visit to the Peninsular, 1795-1796.

Charles Watkyns Williams Wynn, a former schoolfriend, gives RS an annuity of £160. RS briefly attempts to pursue a career in the legal profession. Publication of Minor Poems by RS. RS starts Thalaba.


RS moves to Westbury in Hampshire.


RS edits Annual Anthology. RS writes preface to Chatterton’s works.


Coleridge settles in Keswick. RS falls ill and goes to Portugal with his wife. RS finishes Thalaba and compiles his History of Portugal.


RS settles in Keswick with Edith, but leaves for Dublin for a brief spell as secretary to the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer. Publication of Thalaba. Death of Charles Bowles, father of CB.


RS and Edith move to Greta Hall, Keswick, a house shared with the Coleridges. Publication of RS’s translation of the Spanish prose romance, Amadis of Gaul.


Coleridge leaves Keswick for Malta and Italy.


Publication of Madoc by RS. Wordsworth completes The Prelude.


RS relinquishes Wynn’s annuity when his friend is married. This is replaced by an equivalent government pension.


Publication of RS’s translation of Palmerin of England. Publication of Specimens of the Later English Poets, Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella and Remains of Kirke White by RS.


Coleridge returns to Keswick in ill-health, addicted to opium. RS has to provide for both families. Publication of RS’s translation of the Spanish prose romance, The Cid. RS engaged as regular contributor to the Quarterly Review by Scott, a position he maintained until 1839.


RS purchases the whole of Greta Hall, Keswick, allowing Coleridge to remain. Coleridge publishes The Friend. RS edits (and writes much of) the Edinburgh Annual Register from 1809 to 1815.


Publication of the History of Brazil by RS commences (1810-1819.) Publication of The Curse of Kehama by RS.


Publication of Omniana, by RS.


Publication of the widely acclaimed Life of Nelson, by RS. RS made poet-laureate after Scott declined the honour.


Publication of Roderick, the last of the Goths, and Carmen Triumphale by RS.


Publication of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo by RS. Death of Herbert, RS’s eldest son.


Death of Anne Bowles, mother of CB. CB starts writing poetry under the signature “C” and “A”. Much is later published in the newly founded Blackwood’s Magazine. Publication of Wat Tyler by RS. Publication of Biographia Literaria by Coleridge.

CB sends RS a copy of Ellen Fitzarthur and RS becomes an admirer of her work and a friendly correspondent.

CB survives on an annuity of £150 paid by Colonel Bruce, her father’s adopted son.


Publication of Ellen Fitzarthur: a Metrical Tale, by CB. CB meets RS for the first time and he proposes that she should help him complete Robin Hood. RS made DCL by the University of Oxford. Publication of Life of Wesley by RS.


Publication of The Vision of Judgment, an apotheosis of George III, by RS.


Publication of The Widow’s Tale, and other poems, by CB and a second edition of Ellen Fitzarthur.


Publication of The History of the Peninsular War by RS commences (1823- 1832). CB visits RS and family for a second time at Greta Hall.


Publication of The Book of the Church by RS.


Publication of A tale of Paraguay, by RS.


Publication of Solitary Hours, by CB. RS elected MP for Downton in Wiltshire, but disqualified for not holding a large enough estate.


Publication of Chapters on Churchyards, by CB, in complete form. It appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine, 1827-1828. Publication of All for Love, Sir Thomas More, and The pilgrim of Compostella, by RS.


Publication of The Life of Bunyan, by RS.


Publication of Essays Moral and Political by RS, a collection of his articles for the Quarterly Review. Publication of The Cat’s Tail by CB.


Publication of Tales of the Factories, by CB, protesting against working conditions. Publication of a Life of Cowper by RS. Publication of The Lives of the Admirals by RS.


Death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Publication of The Doctor, by RS.


RS receives increased government pension of £300pa. RS declines baronetcy.


Publication of The Birthday, by CB. Henry Nelson Coleridge praises CB as “the Cowper of our modern poetesses.”


Death of Edith Southey. Publication of Poetical Works, by RS.


CB accepts RS’s proposal of marriage, even though his health is declining seriously. CB moves away from her beloved New Forest home. CB is opposed by most of her stepchildren.


Death of RS on 23 March 1843. He is buried in Crosthwaite churchyard. He leaves CB £2,000. CB returns to Lymington in the New Forest.


Publication of Robin Hood, with other fragments, by RS and CB.


Publication of The Life and Correspondence of RS by the Rev C C Southey, his son (6 vols, 1849-1850) and Southey’s Common-Place Book, edited by John Wood Warter (4 vols, 1849-1850).


Death of Wordsworth.


CB awarded a crown pension of £200pa.


Death of CB on 20 July 1854. She is buried in Lymington.


Publication of Selections from the Letters of RS by John Wood Warter (4 vols, 1856).


Publication of The Poetical Works of Caroline Bowles Southey.


Publication of The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles, edited by Edward Dowden.

Selected Biographies

Jack Simmons, Southey, 1945.
Geoffrey Cornall, Robert Southey and his Age, 1960.
Mark Storey, Robert Southey: A Life, 1997.
Virginia Blain, Caroline Bowles Southey, 1786-1854: The Making of a Woman writer, 1998.



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