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Documents by the 19th-Century British Poet Laureates


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Robert Southey

southeyRobert Southey, (1774 - 1843) was an English poet and prose writer who is often remembered primarily as an associate of many other, now-more-famous Romantic-Period poets, especially Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In fact, he is often principally remembered today because he served as Poet Laureate from 1813 until 1843, and as such he preceded Wordsworth in that position. Despite his renown as a poet and writer of a variety of prose works, Southey's reputation has not endured as well as the reputations of the other poet laureates who have works in the Frellsen Fletcher Smith collection. In fact, modern readers may be most familiar with his work The Three Bears, which was apparently the first written version of the folktale that has now come to be altered into Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


Like many of his contemporaries, Southey was a prolific letter writer, and the Fletcher Frellsen Smith Collection contains two letters and a handwritten copy of Southey’s poem “Imitation from the Persian.” An explanation of the letters will be added as they are transcribed.


An Explanation of the Poem let“Imitation from the Persian.”

In its original published version, “Imitation from the Persian” ends with a line denoting “Lowther Castle, 1828” as what are assumed to be the date and place of composition. According to Kenneth Curry, Southey visited Lowther Castle for the first time in August 1809, and since there are extant letters mentioning Southey’s visits to Lowther into the 1830s, it may be assumed that he was a close friend of the family’s.

Lord Lowther married Lady Lucy Eleanor Sherard, daughter of Philip Sherard, 5th Earl of Harborough, in 1817, and it is to Lady Eleanor that the signed poem in our collection is dedicated. The top reads

Lines composed for

Lady Eleanor Lowther’s Album

Imitation from the Persian

The back of the document exhibits four distinct adhesion points, and it is obvious that it was glued into an album or scrapbook at one time. Given the wording that indicates the lines were "composed for" Lady Lowther, and that in its published form the poem was said to have been written at Lowther Castle, this copy in the Frellsen Fletcher Smith Collection appears to be the original, handwritten draft of the poem as it would be published later.  

- Dr. Rick Simmons, Department of English, Louisiana Tech University