Robert Southey: A Selective Chronology 1774–1821

The following chronology deals with significant dates in Southey’s life, from his birth in 1774 to the end of 1821, as well as listing his major publications.

1774 12 August: Born in Bristol, eldest surviving child of Robert and Margaret Hill Southey.
1776–1780 Lives with his aunt, Elizabeth Tyler, in Bath.
1780 Returns to the family home in Bristol.
1781–1787 Educated at various schools in and around Bristol and Bath. As a child, he develops the ambition to be a poet and produces a vast quantity of juvenile verse.
1788 Southey enrolled at Westminster School.
1789 As a 15 year-old schoolboy he writes an outline of Prince Madoc’s history and starts and abandons two prose versions of the story.
1792 April: Expelled from Westminster for publishing an essay describing flogging as the invention of the devil in The Flagellant, a magazine he founded with a group of school friends.
November: Matriculates at Balliol College, Oxford.
December: Southey’s father, Robert, dies.
1793 January: Southey enters Balliol College, Oxford.
August–October: Writes twelve book version of Joan of Arc whilst staying in Brixton with Grosvenor Charles Bedford and family.
December: Meets Robert Lovell in Bristol.
1794 April: Plans at least one jointly-authored volume of poetry with Robert Lovell.
May: Southey probably becomes engaged to Edith Fricker.
June: Meets Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Oxford. They begin to plan a ‘Pantisocratic’ community in America.
July: Southey leaves Oxford and decides not to return. Southey and Lovell visit Cruttwell, a Bath publisher, who agrees to publish Poems (1795) and Joan by subscription.
Summer/autumn: Southey begins work on a new, blank verse version of Madoc and writes a play, Wat Tyler.
August: Southey, Coleridge and Lovell write a three act play, The Fall of Robespierre (Lovell’s contribution is later rejected). Coleridge takes a copy to London and Cambridge.
September: Fall of Robespierre published under Coleridge’s name. Southey publishes two poems in the Morning Chronicle.
October: Southey’s aunt, Elizabeth Tyler, throws him out of her house when she learns of his relationship with Edith Fricker and plans for a Pantisocracy.
November: Joseph Cottle, who is introduced to Southey by Lovell, offers to publish Joan, negotiations continue until early 1795.
December: Poems (1795), a joint production with Lovell, published.
1795 January–August: Southey shares lodgings in Bristol with Coleridge and George Burnett.
March–April: Southey gives a series of ‘Historical Lectures’ at Bristol.
May: Southey begins to revise Joan for publication and works on Madoc.
June: Death of Edmund Seward, Southey’s closest friend from Oxford.
August: Southey decides to study law. Breach with Coleridge and final end of Pantisocracy scheme.
14 November: Marriage to Edith Fricker. Southey immediately leaves for Spain and Portugal with his uncle, Herbert Hill.
December: First edition of Joan published by Cottle.
1796 May: Returns to England (where he learns of the death of Lovell), lives in lodgings in Bristol with Edith.
July: Begins to contribute to the Monthly Magazine (until April 1800).
December: Poems (1797) published by Cottle.
1797 January: Publishes Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal.
February: Begins to study law at Grays Inn, London; meets Joseph Johnson’s circle, including Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Also begins work on a new version of Madoc (revising 1794–5 version).
May: Begins to revise Joan after Cottle calls for a second edition; also makes changes to Poems for a second edition which appears later in the year.
June: Southey is given an annuity of £160 by his old school friend, Charles Watkin Williams Wynn.
June–September: Rents a cottage in Burton, Hampshire.
November: Second edition of Joan at press. Southey returns to London.
November–December: Southey’s poetry parodied in the Anti-Jacobin.
1798 16 January: Southey’s first poem published in the Morning Post.
January: Southey plans Poems (1799).
February: Leaves London for Bristol.
May: Second edition of Joan of Arc published.
May-June: Visits George Burnett in Yarmouth and William Taylor in Norwich.
June: Rents cottage at Westbury-on-Trim, near Bristol, for a year.
July: Writes the first of his ‘English Eclogues’.
August-September: Southey’s visit to Herefordshire. Begins to plan Thalaba the Destroyer (1801).
October: Southey’s review of Lyrical Ballads published in the Critical Review. Walking tour of South Wales and the Borders with Charles Danvers.
December: takes up William Taylor’s suggestion to produce an Annual Anthology.
1799 January: Second edition of Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal published.
February: Poems (1799) published in 2 volumes (vol. 1 is a third edition of the collection published in 1797; vol. 2 is a new collection of poems, the majority of which are previously unpublished).
March: The Pneumatic Institution opens in Bristol.
May: Southey spends most of the month in London.
11 July: Southey finishes 15-book version of Madoc.
13 July: Southey begins writing Thalaba the Destroyer (1801).
Late July-early October: Southey and Edith visit Devon.
August: Reconciliation with Coleridge. Southey visits Nether Stowey and the two poets plan ‘Mohammed’ and ‘The Devil’s Thoughts’. First volume of Annual Anthology published.
September-October: Southey visits Exeter. Begins collecting material for second volume of Annual Anthology.
October-December: Southey and Edith live at Burton in Hampshire, where they had stayed in 1797.
November: Southey publishes a letter in the Monthly Magazine proposing a new edition of the works of Thomas Chatterton.
December: Southey and Edith return to Bristol, prompted by concerns for Southey’s health. He begins to think of travelling abroad. Southey ceases to write regularly for the Morning Post.
1800 January: Southey becomes involved in Rickman’s scheme for ‘beguinages’ to help poor single women.
February: Southey writes to his uncle, Herbert Hill, asking to visit him in Portugal. Begins to plan ‘History of Portugal’.
April: Second volume of Annual Anthology published.
Southey and Edith travel to Falmouth and leave for Portugal, arriving 30 April.
June-October: Southey and Edith spend the summer at Herbert Hill’s house in Sintra. In later years, Southey regards this as one of the happiest times in his life.
19 July: Southey finishes the first draft of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801); begins sketching out ideas for The Curse of Kehama (1810).
October: Southey sends the manuscript of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) to John Rickman, to arrange publication. He then concentrates on collecting material for the ‘History of Portugal’. Arranging and writing this unfinished magnum opus will occupy him intermittently until his final illness in 1839.
1801 March–April: Southey journeys around Portugal.
May: Southey begins work on The Curse of Kehama (1810) and continues intermittently until May 1803.
June: Southey and Edith leave Portugal and return to Bristol by early July.
July: Southey abandons his attempts to study law. He begins to review again for the Critical Review.
Thalaba the Destroyer published.
September: Visit to the Coleridges at Keswick, followed by walking tour in North Wales with Wynn.
Rickman arranges for Southey to be appointed secretary to Isaac Corry.
October: Visits Dublin and begins intermittently to revise Madoc – a process that lasts until October 1804.
November: Southey moves to London.
1802 5 January: Death of Southey’s mother, Margaret Southey.
March: Southey works in the British Museum on his Chatterton edition. He declines to edit the works of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams.
May: By this time Southey reaches an agreement with Longman to produce a translation of Amadis of Gaul.
Southey ceases to be employed by Isaac Corry; Southey and Edith move back to Bristol.
31 August: Birth of Margaret Southey, first child.
September: Southey visits South Wales with his brother, Tom, and plans to lease a house at Neath, near Swansea. This falls through, possibly due to Southey’s reputation as a radical, and he and Edith remain resident in Bristol.
October: Francis Jeffrey’s review of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) appears in the Edinburgh Review.
November: Southey agrees to review for Longman’s new Annual Review, to be published each year, beginning in 1803.
December: Southey declines William Taylor’s offer to edit the new Iris newspaper he is launching in Norwich; Southey, however, contributed a handful of poems between 1803-1804.
Publication of the three volumes of Chatterton’s Works, edited by Southey and Cottle.
1803 January-July: Southey and Edith remain in Bristol; he engages in writing poetry, reviewing and translating, but spends most of his time on the ‘History of Portugal’.
July: Amadis of Gaul published.
July-August: Southey engaged on Longman’s plan (soon abandoned) for a ‘Bibliotheca Britannica’.
August: Death of Margaret Southey.
late August-early September: Southey and Edith leave Bristol and travel to Keswick, where they intend to stay on a temporary basis. They move into Greta Hall, shared with Coleridge and his family, the house’s owner (Mr Jackson) and his housekeeper (Mrs Wilson).
12 November: ‘A Lamentation’, Southey’s poem on Robert Emmet, published by William Taylor in The Iris.
December: Coleridge leaves Greta Hall for London and Malta.
1804 January: Drafting of Madoc.
30 April: Southey’s daughter Edith May born.
May: Southey in London. He proposes to edit an anthology of English poets with Lamb (who declines) and Bedford. He returns to Keswick via Staffordshire, visiting Mary Barker.
Summer: Visits to Keswick are made by Wordsworth, Humphry Davy, Henry Southey, Richard Duppa, Charles Watkin Williams Wynn; Southey meets John Thelwall in Kendal.
Autumn: Southey reviewing for the Annual Review, drafting Madoc. He begins Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. He seeks preferment to a post in Portugal, should Britain send an expedition there. He plans his History of Portugal.
1805 January: Metrical Tales and Other Poems published.
February: Southey goes to Grasmere to condole with the Wordsworths over the death of their brother John in the wreck of the Abergavenny.
Spring: Southey drafting The Curse of Kehama; correcting Joan of Arc. Madoc published in quarto. Reviews are mixed and sales are poor.
Summer: Visits to Greta Hall are made by Danvers; George Koster, Mary Barker. Southey makes visits in the Lake District to Charles Lloyd, Thomas Clarkson, Wordsworth; fellwalking.
October: Southey visits Edinburgh and meets Francis Jeffrey and Walter Scott. He ponders moving to Lisbon with his family.
November: Jeffrey visits Southey in Keswick.
Winter: Southey hopes to emigrate to Lisbon.
1806 Spring: Third edition of Joan of Arc (1796) is published.
April: Southey visits William Taylor in Norwich; Rickman in London, and has his portrait painted there by John Opie. He visits his rich uncle Thomas Southey in Taunton in the hope of securing support for his brother Thomas. Returns to Keswick in May.
20 June: Southey’s wealthy uncle, John, dies at Taunton. He leaves nothing to Southey or his brothers.
Summer: Southey meets the Bishop of Llandaff at his house near Windermere. His brothers Henry Herbert Southey and Thomas Southey visit Keswick.
Fourth edition of Poems (1799) is published.
11 October: Southey’s son Herbert born.
30 October: Coleridge returns to Greta Hall, addicted to opium and alcohol; he announces his intention of separating from his wife.
Winter: Southey reviewing for the Annual Review, writing articles for the Athenaeum, editing the remains of Henry Kirke White, beginning his History of Brazil.
1807 February: Coleridge having left Greta Hall, Southey decides to reside permanently there and begins gathering his scattered books from storage with friends.
March: Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly-edited Specimens of the Later English Poets published.
Spring: The government’s aim of introducing a bill relaxing the restrictions placed upon Catholics alarms Southey and causes him to become an opponent of Catholic Emancipation.
March–April: Wynn, on leaving government, arranges that Southey should receive a pension of £200 per year from the state, replacing the annuity he had formerly paid Southey from his own funds. The pension is paid tardily; Southey, short of money, has to borrow from his friend John May.
May: A second, cheaper, edition of Madoc published.
July: Letters from England: by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella published.
Summer: Sir George and Lady Beaumont, and Mary Barker visit Keswick.
September: Southey’s translation of Palmerin of England published.
November: The Remains of Henry Kirke White published.
Walter Scott uses his influence to cause Southey to be invited to write for the Edinburgh Review. He refuses, being opposed to the journal’s advocacy of Catholic Emancipation and peace with Napoleon, and to Jeffrey’s reviewing style.
France invades Portugal. Southey’s uncle Herbert Hill, chaplain to the British factory in Lisbon, is forced to return to England. Southey’s friend and benefactor John May, a Lisbon merchant, loses his business and a substantial part of his fortune.
Winter: Southey, short of money, reviewing for the Annual Review.
1808 9 February:Southey’s daughter Emma is born.
February–April: Southey visits Liverpool, meeting William Roscoe, and Staffordshire, visiting Anna Seward at Lichfield in the company of Mary Barker. Then he goes to London, staying with his friend John Rickman and meeting Henry Crabb Robinson and Wynn. He sits for his portrait in miniature to Matilda Betham.
April: Southey goes to Taunton visiting his uncle Thomas Southey, who had inherited his uncle John Southey’s wealth. Then to Bristol, visiting Joseph Cottle and Charles Danvers and meeting Walter Savage Landor. The meeting and subsequent correspondence revives his interest in writing poetry; he resumes work on The Curse of Kehama (1810) and plans ‘Pelayo’ (Roderick, Last of the Goths (1814)).
May: Southey is encouraged by the uprising of the Spanish people against rule by France; he argues that Britain should commit its army to war against Napoleon in Iberia.
Summer: Southey receives a visit from Joanna Baillie.
August: Southey’s translation The Chronicle of the Cid is published.
August–September: Southey is appalled by the Convention of Cintra, the agreement wherein the victorious British allowed a defeated French army to evacuate Portugal intact. With Wordsworth, he campaigns for a county meeting so that local discontent might be expressed in a petition to the monarch.
Autumn: Southey drafting The Curse of Kehama and the History of Brazil. He accepts, with some misgivings about its political ties to government, an invitation arranged by Walter Scott to become a reviewer for a new journal, the Quarterly Review. It is edited by his former opponent, the anti-jacobin satirist William Gifford.
Revised third edition of Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal published.
October: Southey and family visit his new friend Sir Humphrey Senhouse at Netherhall, Cumbria.
November–December: Southey sends off his last reviews for the Annual Review. Drafting his History of Brazil and The Curse of Kehama.
1809 January–February: Illness at Greta Hall affects Southey, his wife and his children.
27 March: Southey’s daughter Bertha born.
April: Southey visits his brother Henry in Durham, where he meets the educationalist Andrew Bell. He visits James Losh in Newcastle.
Second edition of Thalaba the Destroyer published.
May: Illness at Greta Hall; Southey fears for his son’s life. Southey’s supporter Anna Seward dies.
21 May: Southey’s daughter Emma dies.
June : Southey visits his brother Henry in Durham.
Coleridge begins publishing his journal The Friend, Southey having helped seek subscribers.
July–August: Southey tries to obtain a sinecure – the Stewardship of the Derwentwater Estates – by seeking the interest of Sir George Beaumont and Lord Lowther. He visits Lowther Castle for the first time. Frustrated in this attempt, he then seeks the position of Historiographer Royal, only to find it already occupied.
Summer: Visits made to Keswick by Thomas Clarkson and Matilda Betham. Betham paints miniature pictures of Southey and his family.
August: Southey agrees to write the ‘History of Europe’ section for the Edinburgh Annual Register, he contributes to the Register until 1813.
September: Southey takes a 21-year lease on Greta Hall.
Autumn–winter: Reviewing for the Quarterly. Finishing The Curse of Kehama. Working on the ‘History of Europe’ for the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1808.
1810 February: Finishes a review of biographies of Nelson for the Quarterly Review. This was later expanded at Murray’s request into a full-length Life of Nelson (1813).
April: First volume of The History of Brazil, 3 vols (1810-19) published.
2 August: Birth of Katharine Southey.
December: The Curse of Kehama published.
1811 January: Plans Oliver Newman, which remains unfinished at Southey’s death.
August: Visit to Landor at Llanthony.
November 1811–February 1812: Percy Shelley visits Keswick and meets Southey.
December: Plans Book of the Church (1824) and sends the proposal to John Murray.
1812 April: Publishes The Origin, Nature and Object of the New System of Education, a defence of the Madras system of Andrew Bell.
May–June: Southey unsuccessfully campaigns to be appointed Historiographer Royal.
2 November: Birth of Isabel Southey.
November: Omniana, or Horae Otiosores, published, with some contributions by Coleridge.
Third edition of Madoc and fourth edition of Joan of Arc published.
1813 May: The Life of Nelson published. Begins to plan the History of the Peninsular War (1823-32).
August: Probably begins work on The Doctor (1834-1847) at about this time.
Finishes writing for the Edinburgh Annual Register after financial disputes with the Ballantynes.
September–November: Prolonged visit to London to stay with his uncle, Herbert Hill, and to write the anonymous pamphlet, An Exposure of the Misrepresentations and Calumnies in Mr Marsh’s Review of Sir George Barlow’s Administration at Madras.
4 September: Southey learns that Scott has declined the Laureateship and has recommended him for the post. However, Southey is not finally appointed as Poet Laureate until 4 November. He takes up the Laureateship with a determination to reform it.
26 September: Meets Byron at Holland House.
December: Writes first New Year’s Ode as Laureate, Carmen Triumphale. After objections from Rickman and Croker, some stanzas are cut out and published later in a second Ode (‘Who counsels peace at this momentous hour’).
1814 1 January: Carmen Triumphale published by Longman.
3 February: Ode (‘Who counsels peace at this momentous hour’) published in the Courier.
March: begins a poem to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of Princess Charlotte, but abandons this in June 1814, when her engagement is called off. The poem was eventually reworked and published in 1816 as The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale.
June: Congratulatory Odes published.
23 June: ‘March to Moscow’ published in the Courier.
14 July: finishes Roderick, the Last of the Goths.
July: Begins planning A Tale of Paraguay (1825).
November: Roderick, the Last of the Goths published.
Second editions of The Curse of Kehama and The Life of Nelson published.
Third edition of Thalaba the Destroyer published.
December: In fulfilment of his obligations as Poet Laureate, writes ‘Ode, Written in December 1814’; Bedford and Croker objected to some of its contents and it is not published until 1815, when it appears in Minor Poems. In order to fulfil his official duty Southey substituted an entirely different (and unpublished) New Year’s Ode, ‘The palm of peace is won’.
1815 February: Finishes first book of Oliver Newman.
June: Collects and reorganizes a selection of his shorter poems and publishes them in three volumes as Minor Poems.
September–October: Tour in the Low Countries, with Edith and Edith May Southey and Henry Koster. Meets the painter, Edward Nash, and visits the battlefield of Waterloo.
November: Dispute with Murray and Gifford over Southey’s review of books on the Battle of Waterloo for the Quarterly Review (July 1815).
Second and third editions of Roderick, the Last of the Goths published.
December: Begins work on The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo and writes his third New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate, ‘Glory to thee in thine omnipotence’’ (it was unpublished until the first stanza appeared in The Doctor in 1834).
1816 8 March: proposes to Longman an edition of the poems of James Dusautoy - this project was not proceeded with.
17 April: Southey’s son Herbert dies.
May: publication of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816).
June: publication of The Lay of the Laureate (1816).
11 August: publication of Southey’s essay, ‘On the Poor’, Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), embodying his ideas on tackling poverty.
24 August: Southey is visited by Robert Owen. They discuss the latter’s plans for social reform.
10 September: Southey declines an offer from the government to edit a new conservative journal.
December: writes ‘Ode on the Battle of Algiers’ his New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate. It was published in The Plain Englishman, 3 (1823).
1817 January: Southey publishes ‘On the Life of John Wesley’ in the Correspondent, 1 (1817), the starting point of his The Life of Wesley (1820).
11 February: publication of Southey’s essay ‘Parliamentary Reform’ in the Quarterly Review, provokes renewed radical hostility.
13 February: unauthorised publication of Wat Tyler (1817).
13 March: Southey declines editorship of The Times.
14 March: William Smith denounces Southey in the House of Commons for changing his views on political reform.
19 March: Southey writes to Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, urging action against the radical press. Southey loses his application for an injunction to prevent the publication of Wat Tyler.
25 April: publication of Southey’s A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817)
11 May-6 August: Southey embarks on a tour of France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the Low Countries, accompanied by Humphrey Senhouse and Edward Nash.
16-19 June: visit to Landor at Como, Italy.
26 June: Southey transcribes the message in Greek written by Shelley in the visitors’ book at Montanvert, Switzerland, in which Shelley described himself and his companions as atheists.
August: publication of The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur (1817), Southey’s edition of Le Morte d’Arthur (1485).
October: publication of second volume of the History of Brazil (1810-1819).
November: Southey writes ‘Lines Written Upon the Death of Princess Charlotte’, published in The Amulet (1829).
December: writes ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’, his New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate, published in Friendship’s Offering (1828). Begins to plan Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829).
1818 28 May: writes first letter to Caroline Bowles, who had sent him the manuscript of her poem, ‘Ellen Fitzarthur’.
June: declines the offer of the post of Librarian to the Faculty of Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh.
9 June: publication of ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), mainly written by Rickman.
30 June: Brougham criticises Southey and Wordsworth from the hustings during the general election campaign in Westmorland.
August: Southey decides not to publish his riposte to Brougham.
September: fourth editions of The Curse of Kehama (1810) and Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) go to press.
October: Southey recovers the £209 he had invested in the Edinburgh Annual Register.
December: writes ‘Ode on the Death of Queen Charlotte’, his New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate, published in Friendship’s Offering (1829).
1819 24 February: Charles Cuthbert Southey born.
July 1819: First two Cantos of Byron’s Don Juan published; Southey learns of Byron’s criticisms of him in the suppressed ‘Dedication’.
17 August–1 October: Tour of Scotland with John Rickman and Thomas Telford.
15 October: Southey writes and circulates a ‘Loyal Address’ praising the Government’s support of the local magistrates’ actions over the ‘Peterloo Massacre’.
October: Publication of the third and final volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819); the death of Southey’s third cousin, John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville, leads Southey to (fruitlessly) investigate whether he has any claim on the Fitzhead estates in Somerset.
December: Writes ‘The Warning Voice. Ode I’ as the New Year’s Ode for 1820.
1820 January: Southey is offered the opportunity to edit the writings of Elton Hamond, who had killed himself on 1 January, but ultimately declines.
April: Publication of The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820); Southey writes an (unpublished) ‘Ode’ for George IV’s official birthday.
April–June: Visit to Llangedwin, Ludlow and London and the south-east.
14 June: Southey awarded a Doctorate of Civil Laws by the University of Oxford.
June: Southey is offered the opportunity to write a biography of Warren Hastings (1732–1818; DNB), but ultimately declines.
July: Writes an Introduction for William Westall’s Views of the Lake and the Vale of Keswick (1820); begins to plan an (unrealised) biography of George Fox (1624–1691; DNB); responds to Shelley’s letter, accusing him of writing a critical review of Shelley’s poetry in the Quarterly Review.
26 July: Begins the first of seventeen autobiographical letters sent to John May 1820–1826.
October: Southey is paid for writing an account, for private circulation, of the philanthropist, David Pike Watts (1754–1816).
December: Writes ‘The Warning Voice. Ode II’ as the New Year’s Ode for 1821.
1821 January: Publication of a combined second edition of Carmen Triumphale (1814) and the Congratulatory Odes (1814).
March: Publication of A Vision of Judgement (1821); writes ‘Ode for St George’s Day’ as the birthday ode for George IV.
August: Publication of The Expedition of Orsua (1821).
November: Plans an (unrealised) biography of Oliver Cromwell.
December: Southey lends his life savings to his friend, John May; writes ‘Ireland’ as the New Year’s Ode for 1822.