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Southey, Caroline Anne (1786–1854)

Southey, Caroline Anne (1786–1854)

British poet and prose writer. Name variations: Caroline Bowles. Born Caroline Anne Bowles on October 7, 1786, in Lymington, Hampshire, England; died on July 20, 1854, in Lymington; only child of Captain Charles Bowles and Anne (Burrard) Bowles; married Robert Southey (the poet), in 1839 (died 1843).

Selected writings:

Ellen Fitzarthur (anonymously, 1820); The Widow's Tale (1822); Solitary Hours (1826); Tales of the Moors (1828); Chapters on Churchyards (1829); Tales of the Factories (1833); Selwyn in Search of a Daughter (1835); The Birth-Day (1836); Robin Hood: A Fragment (with Robert Southey, 1847); The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles (1881).

Caroline Anne Bowles was born in 1786, the daughter of Captain Charles Bowles of the East India Company and Anne Burrard Bowles , on the family estate in Lymington, Hampshire, England. Her father retired shortly after her birth. Both of Caroline's parents died when she was a child, and she lost the majority of her inheritance through the improper dealings of one of her guardians. Her adoptive stepbrother, Colonel Bruce, provided her with an annual allowance of £150, but she soon found this to be inadequate and began writing to supplement her income.

Caroline submitted the metric tale Ellen Fitzarthur to poet Robert Southey in 1820, and he was sufficiently impressed to forward the work to publisher John Murray. It appeared anonymously later that year. She continued to correspond with Robert, and enjoyed further literary success with the publication of her poetry collections The Widow's Tale (1822) and Solitary Hours (1826). She also contributed a collection of stories in serial form to Blackwood's Magazine (1829), which was published as a book, Chapters on Churchyards, later the same year. Caroline exhibited an interest in the social issues of her day, publishing Tales of the Factories, a collection of poems on the lives of industrial workers, in 1833. She received critical praise from Henry Nelson Coleridge for her long poem, The Birth-Day, in 1836.

As Caroline's professional status rose, Robert took an increasing interest in her work and invited her to collaborate with him on an epic poem on the subject of Robin Hood. She proved unable to write in the meter required by the poem, however, and the project was soon abandoned. Despite the failure of their literary collaboration, the two were married soon after the death of his first wife Edith Fricker Southey in 1839, and they settled at Robert's home in Keswick, England. The marriage proved unhappy due to his deteriorating mental health and the rejection of Caroline by her new stepchildren, except for Robert's eldest daughter, Edith Southey . Caroline regarded her husband's death in 1843 with a sense of relief. He left her £2,000 in his will, a modest sum that barely covered the debts he had also left her.

Caroline Southey returned to Lymington and did not resume her writing career following her husband's death. She released what had been completed of her joint project with Robert Southey as Robin Hood: A Fragment in 1847. Her financial situation was eased when the crown awarded her an annual pension of £200 near the end of her life. She died at her family's home in Lymington on July 20, 1854. Her correspondence with Robert Southey was published in 1881 as The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles.

sources:

Blain, Virginia. Caroline Bowles Southey, 1786–1854: The Making of a Woman Writer. Ashgate, 1997.

Kunitz, Stanley J., ed. British Authors of the Nineteenth Century. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1936.

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Grant Eldridge , freelance writer, Pontiac, Michigan

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