Dusautoy, James (c. 1797–1815)

Son of a retired officer from Totnes, Devon. He cherished ambitions for a poetic career. As a schoolboy in 1811 he canvassed Walter Scott’s advice and was politely encouraged to improve his writing by gaining more knowledge. In 1813 Dusautoy sent some of his verses to Southey. The latter replied and a correspondence about Dusautoy’s career ensued. He took Southey’s advice and was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1813. In 1814 he entered an ode, in Spenserian stanzas, for a university prize in English poetry. He did not win, but did very well in examinations and seemed to have a promising future. However, in 1815 he fell victim to an epidemic sweeping Cambridge. Southey blamed himself, noting that without his encouragement Dusautoy would never have been at the university and would therefore have not contracted the fatal disease. As a tribute, he proposed publishing a selection of Dusautoy’s writing. However, when he obtained the manuscripts, Southey felt they would not suit public taste: ‘To me … the most obvious faults … are the most unequivocal proofs of genius in the author, as being efforts of a mind conscious of a strength which it had not yet learnt to use … But common readers read only to be amused, and to them these pieces would appear crude and extravagant, because they would only see what is, without any reference to what might have been’. The edition of Dusautoy was therefore abandoned.