The Crewe collection contains four items belonging to the British poet, Robert Southey, who was born in in Bristol in 1774 and died in London in 1843. He lived much of his life in Keswick where he supported, in addition to his own family, the wife of Coleridge and her three children after the poet abandoned them, as well as the widow of poet Robert Lovell and her son.
He published his first collection of poems in 1795 and in 1813 became Poet Laureate, a post he held until his death. Southey was a prolific poet, essayist, historian, travel-writer, biographer, translator and polemicist. Although he is little read today, Southey was an influential and controversial figure in British culture from the mid-1790s through to the mid-1830s.
Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797), made use of letters Southey had written to friends during his time in the Iberian Peninsula, blurring the boundaries between private and public correspondence. In 1807 he returned to the epistolary travel book genre, publishing Letters from England under the pseudonym of Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, an account of a tour supposedly from a foreigner’s viewpoint. This was one of Southey’s best-selling publications. He also published a History of the Peninsular War, in 3 volumes between 1823 and 1832.
Southey’s interest in Spain is reflected in his ownership of a rare copy of the book, Memoires Curieux Envoyez de Madrid (1690) [Crewe 31.17] which he inscribed on the title page and dated London 1820.
This book covers topics such a bull-fighting, maxims and proverbs of Spain and the custom of infant betrothal in the Spanish Royal family.
He also owned
Antoniana Margarita, opus nempè physicis, medicis, ac theologis, non minus utile, quàm necessarium by Gometium Pereyram, medicum Methynæ Duelli, quae Hispanorum lingua appellatur. (1749) [Crewe Collection]
This copy is interesting as it was annotated by Coleridge in 1812. Writing in Keswick, he used the front fly leaf to address Southey and disparage his interest in bullfights. He wrote:
P.22. Notice this, dearest Southey! as a curious specimen of the argumentum ad hominem from the Spanish Metaphysician to his Spanish Readers! If you do not admit the cogency of these & the following arguments, it is impossible for you without the most flagrant, as well as demonstrable inhumanity, or rather anti-christian atrocity, to continue to enjoy Bullfights!
The third book in the Crewe collection owned by Southey is Les imaginaires, ou, Lettres sur l’heresie imaginaire by Sr. de Damvilliers (1667) [Crewe 31.5 & 6]. This bears an ink inscription on the verso of the flyleaf preceding the title page: Robert Southey, Rouen 5 Sept. 1838. This work is a defence of the Jansenist schools of Port Royal against the Jesuits who brought about their closure in 1660.
The final book from Southey’s library is
Antient Christianity revived: being a description of the doctrine, discipline and practice, of the little city of Bethania. Collected out of her great charter, the Holy Scriptures, and confirmed by the same, for the satisfaction and benefit of the house of the poor by William Pardoe. (1688) [Crewe 74.17]
This book, written by a Baptist pastor who spent some weeks in prison for attending a Nonconformist meeting in 1683, contains the autograph of Robert Southey on the title page: Robert Southey. Keswick 16 Nov. 1829.
Southey was interested in religious topics. He wrote The Life of Wesley in 1820 [V.23.35 & V.23.36] and The book of the Church in 1824 [Grylls 25.247 & Grylls 25.248].
Footnote: The etching of Southey at the start of the post is by Mary Dawson Turner. Mary was the wife of the botanist, banker and antiquary Dawson Turner (1775-1858) whose extensive collection of letters is kept in Trinity College Library (catalogued here).