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

Publisher's Note

“It is especially welcome to have Caroline Bowles’ Poetical Notebooks included here.  Although Southey rated her highly as a poet – ‘unquestionably a women of genius’ – her work has only recently been rediscovered.”

Professor Virginia Blain

Head, Department of English

Macquarie University

At the heart of this fifth part of Nineteenth Century Literary Manuscripts is a sequence of 12 poetical notebooks compiled by Caroline Bowles, the New Forest poet and essayist, from 1806 to 1836. These record the development of her graceful, conversational style throughout the twenty-year period in which she corresponded with Robert Southey as a friend. She married him in 1839, but his health was failing and her efforts to care for him put an end to her poetry.

These are the volumes used in compiling Solitary Hours (1826), Tales of the Factories (1833) and The Poetical Works of Caroline Bowles Southey (1867) and their value is enhanced by our coverage of the Bowles-Southey correspondence, 1818-1829, and her correspondence with Emma Burrard, 1838-1850.  Many letters discuss her poetry or enclose poems. A further 3 volumes contain poems by Bowles including satirical verses on Samuel Wilberforce and a variant text of The Evening Walk.

The remainder of the collection is devoted to Robert Southey, friend of Coleridge and Wordsworth and poet laureate, 1813-1843. The Curse of Kehama, based on Indian mythology, is a remarkable work with sumptuous descriptions of the Indian courts and echoes of Gothic literature. The original manuscript of this poem is here, together with the epic Madoc, which made his reputation, and Thalaba the Destroyer. Other poems include Carmen Funebre, A Tale of Paraguay and The Devil's Thoughts, written with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Many of these poems vary considerably from the printed editions and bear annotations. His prose works are also represented, including a review of Lewis & Clark's American peregrinations and the preface to Letters written during a short residence in Spain and Portugal.

Once again these are all contextualised by correspondence with his brother - Captain Thomas Southey; his first wife - Edith Fricker; his son-in-law - the Rev John Wood; Thomas Clarkson; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Charles Danvers; John Hardcastle; James Hogg; Walter Savage Landor; Colonel Peachy; Daniel Stuart - editor of the Morning Post;  Sharon Turner; and William Wordsworth.

This is an important collection for anyone interested in English Literature at the beginning of the nineteenth century. These sources help to illuminate the Lake Poets, literary journalism, the practice and profession of poetry and the writings of Caroline Bowles and Robert Southey.



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