Get Your Premium Membership

Robert Southey Biography | Poet

Photo of Robert Southey

Robert Southey, a famous English poet, was born on August 12, 1774 in Bristol, England and died on March 21, 1843 in London. The literary movement for Southey was Romanticism. He was married to his wife, Edith, from 1795 until her death in 1838. Southey was a phenomenal poet, biographer, historian, essay writer and literary scholar. His works may have been eclipsed by some of the other "Lake Poets" over the years, but that doesn't take away from the stellar works that he created. One of his most famous pieces was The Curse of Kehama (1810). That poem goes into his time as a young boy when he battled insomnia and recalled a mysterious schoolmate, who was a villain in the poem. This poem may not have become famous if it weren't for fellow poet Walter Savage Landor, who persuaded Southey to finish it when he decided to give up writing it. The work eventually included over 5000 brilliant lines.


Southey received his education from the University of Westminster in London and Balliol College in Oxford. Despite the high level of education, Southey was a smart person even as a kid. By age 15, he had written several great works of poetry, which was enhanced even further by his education. His education did not come without controversy, however. Southey didn't want to go to college, but his parents wanted him to pursue a medical career. He constantly challenged authority while in college as a way to show his displeasure of being there. Although he did not receive the type of education that his parents had hoped for, he met one of his best friends there. That person was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who struck a friendship and partnership with Southey and made himself one of the other "Lake Poets."


Southey's wife, Edith, just happened to be Coleridge's sister. So not only did they have a strong working partnership, but their friendship grew over the years as well. Southey published his first collection of poems due to the partnership with Coleridge in 1794. Robert and Edith lived in the town of Keswick in the Lake District in Great Britain for 40 years. After Edith died in 1838, Robert married Caroline Anne Bowles in 1839. By that time, Southey's mind was beginning to give way and he didn't have many works left in him after that.

Major Achievements

Southey wrote a variety of poetry, including some lighter pieces such as The Story of the Three Bears. This is a piece that is still known today as the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. That piece may not have been his most famous, but it is one that most people can identify with. He also coined the term "autobiography." His prediction that there would be a rage for autobiography came true, as it is still happening today.

Southey had the great honor of being the Poet Laureate for about the last 30 years of his life. This was a huge honor for him that helped his family survive, however, it did not free him completely from his writing career. His famous pieces were assets to him and his family, but they weren't enough to relieve from the financial burden that he had. Eventually, he had to take some odd jobs and do some editing work in order to provide for his family.

Robert Southey is a significant poet because of the substantial contributions that he made throughout his career. He sometimes overworked himself to the point where he just could not create many more significant pieces later in his life. A good chunk of his pieces have lost significance over the years, but the fact that some of the works are still around shows how much of an impact he made during his lifetime. British schoolchildren still read some of his works today, so his fingerprint is still active in the school systems where he resided.

Southey had plenty of enemies, but he was also obviously well respected. There is a memorial of him in the church where he worshiped for 40 years. He was buried in that churchyard and made significant impacts to the church community during his time. A collection of Southey's poems were published in a book titled Poetical Works and have been reprinted numerous times since then. 

Robert Southey: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes