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Robert Southey letters

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-0226

Scope and Contents

The holographic letters which form this collection were written by the English poet, Robert Southey. The letter of August 22, 1825 was written to "Dear Sir." It is likely the person addressed is the London publisher, John Murray, since Southey writes that he is sending copy of the "Vindici‘" and will presently send copy of the "Peninsular War." The letter was written during the period when Southey was responding to Catholic criticism of "Book of the Church." In the letter, Southey writes that Charles J. Blomfield, (1786-1857) who was Bishop of Chester and later Bishop of London, told of published responses to John Milner's Strictures on the Poet Laureates' "Book of the Church." Southey writes that he is enclosing a notebook loaned by Joseph Blanco White (1775-1841), a theological writer, who shared Southey's opposition towards the Roman Catholic Church. Apparently, the notebook contained references relating to Martin Luther which Southey used to defend his work against Charles Butler's "Book of the Roman Catholic Church."

The letter of September 5, 1835 is addressed to "Dear Sir" and discusses the education of Samuel Wesley, father of John Wesley, founder of Methodism.

The letter of March 6, 1836 was written to the Bishop of Carlisle during the period when a new church was proposed for the village of Keswick. In the letter, Southey congratulated the Bishop for overcoming difficulties and concluding the arrangements for the building. Southey accepted an appointment as Trustee of the new church, and wrote of his approval of John Marshall, the church's benefactor.

Southey wrote the letter of May 24, 1837 to his old friend, the publisher and bookseller, Joseph Cottle (1770-1853). At this time, Southey was 63 years old, and he described to Cottle some of the distress often caused by reminiscing about the past. He discussed the portraits of Wordsworth and Coleridge and advised Cottle not to incur great expenses in the preparation of a second edition of his [Cottle's] "Early Recollections" (1837).


  • Creation: 1825-1837


Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Robert Southey, English poet, was born in Bristol in 1774. Southey was fifteen when the French Revolution began, and he became a supporter of the revolutionary cause. While an undergraduate at Oxford, he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1771-1834), and they formed a friendship that included a shared residence at Greta Hall, Keswick in the Lake District. By 1808, his political viewpoint changed, and he became an outspoken Tory.

For thirty years, beginning in 1809, Southey contributed to the Quarterly Review published in London by John Murray (1778-1843). Southey argued for public order and social reform. He published epic poems and small poems as well as classic prose works including "Life of Nelson" (1820) and two editions of "History of the Peninsular War" (1823-32), (1828-37). In 1813, Southey was appointed poet laureate.

Charles Butler (1750-1832), a learned Roman Catholic and lawyer, answered Southey by publishing "The Book of the Roman Catholic Church" in 1825. The Bishop of London wrote to Southey asking if he intended to respond to Butler's attack on "Book of the Church." In a published letter to his friend, John May (1775- 1856), dated March 16, 1825, Southey wrote that his response to Butler will bear the title "Vindici‘ Ecclesi‘ Anglican‘."

In 1824, John Milner (1752-1826), Vicar Apostolic, of the Roman Catholic Church in England published Strictures on the Poet Laureate's "Book of the Church." In a published letter to Rev. Robert Philips, August 15, 1825, Southey states that Milner's strictures are filled with "direct and impudent falsehoods".

Southey's "Vindici‘ Ecclesi‘ Anglican‘" was published in London by John Murray in 1826.

Although Southey was often away from Greta Hall, he remained faithful to his home in Keswick. His devotion to the Church of England was known, and consequently, he was well-regarded by the Bishops in his district. In 1836, the foundation for a new church to be known as St. John's was begun in the village of Keswick. Two proposals for its establishment and funding had been presented to the Bishop of Carlisle. One was submitted by John Marshall, a former Member of Parliament from Leeds, and one by Mr. Stranger. The selection became a source of acrimony in the parish only to be resolved when the Bishop allowed the proposal of John Marshall.

Robert Southey died at Greta Hall, Keswick in 1843.


0.19 Cubic Feet (1 letter half-size document box)

Language of Materials



Provenance: The letters and the album were purchased by Special Collections.

Related Materials

Letters of Robert Southey and other Southey material are included in the Raymond Dexter Havens Papers MS.0024, Special Collections.


A collection of the Works of Robert Southey is owned by the University. Titles related to the Robert Southey letter of August 22, 1825 which forms part of Ms. 226 can be found in Special Collections:

Milner, John. Strictures on the Poet Laureate's "Book of the Church." London: Keating and Brown, 1824. (Cage PO5464 .B72 M6 1824).

Southey, Robert. The Book of the Church. London: J. Murray, 1824. (Cage PO5464 .B72 1824)

Southey, Robert. Vindici‘ Ecclesi‘ Anglican‘. London: J. Murray, 1826. (Cage PO5464 .V78 1826)

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in September 1989.

Liz Beckman revised the Biographical note in this finding aid in January 2024 to bring it into compliance with Johns Hopkins guidelines for inclusive and conscientious description (2023). The previous version of the finding aid is available upon request.

Robert Southey letters
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA