Robert Southey (12 August 1774 – 21 March 1843) was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the so-called “Lake Poets”, and Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843. Although his fame has long been eclipsed by that of his contemporaries and friends William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Southey’s verse still enjoys some popularity.
Southey was also a prolific letter writer, literary scholar, essay writer, historian and biographer. His biographies include the life and works of John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Cowper, Oliver Cromwell and Horatio Nelson. Perhaps his most enduring contribution to literary history is the children’s classic The Story of the Three Bears, the original Goldilocks story, first published in Southey’s prose collection The Doctor.
In 1837, during his reign as poet laureate, Southey got a letter from a young lady named Charlotte Brontë asking advice on her poems.
Southey is credited with introducing, or popularizing, many words in English including “autobiography”.
Did you know?
Southey was expelled from school for publishing an essay in the school magazine condemning corporal punishment.
For this and other interesting facts on Southey – see this Man of la Book article.