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CAROLINE ANNE SOUTHEY
1786-1854

Self-portrait

Philip Klitz wrote a book entitled "Tales of the New Forest". He inscribed the book to Mrs Southey and below is a small bit of information about her life.

BOLDRE CHURCH PARISH REGISTERS
The Registers of the New Forest give the following record of the marriage of: "Robert Southey. Full age. Widower. Poet Laureate. On 4th June l839 to Caroline Anne Bowles. Full age. Spinster of Lymington."

Shortly after the death of his first wife in 1837, Southey was engaged to Caroline Bowles; within weeks of their marriage in 1839, his mental powers failed and for his last three years he was less a husband than a dependant.

HAMPSHIRE TREASURES

Volume 5 ( New Forest) Page 207 - Lymington and Pennington
Chantry Mead and Chantry Close, Southampton Road. Caroline Bowles lived here until her marriage in 1839, and again after Southey's death in 1843, until her own death in 1854.

Caroline Bowles Southey, 1786-1854 The Making of a Woman Writer by Virginia Blain

Standing in an exhibition on women romantic writers held at the Wordsworth Museum, Dove Cottage in 1994, Virginia Blain recounts how she watched visitors hurry through the space devoted to 'so many new names'. She "felt she wanted to stop people, tell them that if any one of these women had careers half as well documented as that of the man upstairs, their exhibition would be equally fascinating". (p. xiv).

Her book, that she terms "a cross between an anthology and a critical biography" (p.10), attempts to rescue the reputation of one of these forgotten women.

Caroline Bowles Southey is known to very few readers today; most only remember her (if they remember her at all) for her brief time as wife and nurse to Robert Southey in the last four years of his life. She was 52 when she chose to convert her long-standing literary friendship with Southey into marriage, and neither could have known that his failing mind was totally to collapse some three months later and Caroline was to be thrown into an impossible position at Greta Hall, regarded as an usurper by two hostile step-children, Kate and Cuthbert Southey.

The marriage, Virginia Blain argues, was also to have a negative effect on her independent reputation as a published writer of both poetry and prose. She became yoked to Southey's name both literally and metaphorically. As the value of his literary stock has sunk, so too has Caroline's.

Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 1998. ISBN: 1-85928-197-4. Price: 49.50 (US$86.95).

More about Caroline

More about Robert Southey

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