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 – a Lake Poet by residence if not by inclination and one whose interests and connections engaged him in global networks and exchanges. The years 1810-1815 were exceptionally busy ones for Southey. His output was, even by his own standards, prodigious and diverse, encompassing history, reviews, biography, polemics and chronicles of contemporary events. A productive time for Southey the prose writer, the period also saw the revitalisation of his poetic career with the publication of two long poems (The Curse of Kehama in 1810 and Roderick, the Last of the Goths in 1814), new editions of earlier works and plans for new verses aplenty.
A distinctive feature of Southey’s shorter poems from this time is a move towards and investment in the contemporary. It was a move prompted by his controversial decision, in November 1813, to accept the Poet Laureateship. The letters we publish here make it possible for the first time to chart how and why that decision was made, how the resulting disputes were ignited, and how Southey responded to them. In so doing, they show how Southey’s high hopes for the Laureateship foundered on the rocks of reality and thus provide new insights into the vexatious relationship between Romantic poets and the public sphere.
Note: With the publication of Parts 3 and 4, Technical Editor Dr. Laura Mandell has added indexes that allow finding all letters by names of addresees, names of people mentioned in them, and names of places mentioned in them. Visit the Correspondents, Biographies, and Places files to see these indexes at work. A dynamic graphing tool called "Relate" indicates relationships among members of the Southey Circle, and an article by Mandell and Pratt describing how to use that tool will be available in the next few days at Digital Studies / Le Champ Numérique, a special issue concerning data visualization.