Part Four, covering the period 1810-1815, was a crucial one for Southey’s career and reputation. It has, however, never before been fully documented or fully understood. By 1810 he was established in Keswick...
25. Nathan Drake to Capel Lofft, 9 March 1800*
I have read The Farmer's Boy with a mixture of astonishment and delight. There is a pathetic simplicity in his sentiments and descriptions that does honour to his head and heart.
His copies from Nature are truly original and faithful, and are touched with the hand of a Master.... His versification occasionally displays an energy and harmony which might decorate even the pages of a Darwin.
The general characteristics of his Style, however, are sweetness and ease. In short, I have no hesitation in declaring, that I think it, as a Rural and descriptive Poem, superior to any production since the days of Thomson.
It wants no reference to its Author's uneducated poverty to render its excellence the more striking; they are such as would confer durable Fame on the first and most polish'd Poet in the Kingdom.