Correspondence

The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, Part Six

March, 2017
Based on extensive new archival research, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, Part Six: 1819 to 1821 brings together for the first time Southey’s surviving letters from a period of turbulence and transition in his own life and in wider society. The 546 letters published here are testimony to Southey’s formidable energy and commitment to letter writing as a vehicle for social networking and for the exchange of information and opinion. They show his active engagement in cultural and political debate locally, nationally and internationally. They reflect on a vast range of subjects, including domestic and familial relationships, medicine and science, economics, the law, the history, flora and fauna of the Lake District and of Brazil, attempts to improve the lot of distressed gentlewomen, the need to treat men who acted ‘unlawfully (especially in mobs)’ as wild ‘beasts’, European lotteries, and new inventions such as the ‘German Horse’ (a predecessor of the bicycle).

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, Part Five

June, 2016
Based on extensive new archival research, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Five: 1816-1818 publishes for the first time Southey’s surviving letters from a period of considerable upheaval in his own life and in wider society. These were years that saw Southey get to grips with the ambiguities inherent in his role as an ambitious, reforming Poet Laureate, face public controversy and the ghost of his younger, radical self with the illicit publication of Wat Tyler in 1817, and combat private despair over the death of his son. The 537 letters published here are proof that, despite the numerous demands on his time, Southey remained in mid life a vigorous and indefatigable correspondent. They cover a massive variety of subjects – literary and non-literary, public and private, local and global. They shed new light on Southey’s views on literature, politics, religion and society; his work as Poet Laureate and his engagement in public life and public controversy; his relationships with his contemporaries, including Coleridge, Caroline Bowles, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Samuel Rogers, William Wilberforce and Wordsworth; his domestic life in Keswick; his extended family and social networks; his extensive reading; his working practices; his prolific output of poetry and prose; and his interactions with publishers and negotiation of the literary marketplace. The letters show Southey’s career in progress, reveal that it was more complex than has previously been thought, and provide compelling evidence about how his works were shaped and reshaped by external pressures that he could not always control or defeat. They thus make it possible to refine our understanding both of Southey and of the ways in which Romantic writers came to terms with the complex and contentious culture of the mid-late 1810s.

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