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Southey, Caroline Bowles

Southey, Caroline Bowles

Caroline Bowles Southey

1786 - 1854

Name Variant(s): Caroline Anne Bowles Southey

Caroline Anne Bowles grew up as a sheltered only child in idyllic Buckland, England. William Gilpin, the oft-cited father of the picturesque, was the local parson at the time who taught her elementary reading and writing skills, and encouraged her to draw. Her mother's death in 1816 left Caroline alone and financially destitute. Fortunately, her father's adopted son, Colonel Bruce, insisted that she accept an annuity, which allowed her to keep the family home. Bowles was an experimental and dexterous writer whose publications represent a range of forms: prose fiction (Chapters on Churchyards), verse satire (The Cat's Tail), dramatic monologue (Tales of the Factories), and blank verse autobiography (The Birth-day). In her lifetime she published five books of verse, two books of prose tales and one miscellany of mixed prose and verse.

Driven by financial need in 1818, she contacted the Poet Laureate, Robert Southey. Southey was well-known for his willingness to help women and working-class poets, so it was not unusual for young writers to ask for his literary advice. In response to her Ellen Fitzarthur: A Metrical Tale, Southey replied, "You have the eye, the ear, and the heart of a poetess . . ." (Dowden 10). And so began a twenty-two year friendship and correspondence.

When they first met in 1820, Southey suggested that they form a secret, intellectual union to collaborate on a lengthy Robin Hood poem. Southey describes this project in quasi-marital terms, oddly anticipating their actual marriage almost twenty years later: "The secret itself would be delightful while we thought proper to keep it; still more so the spiritual union which death would not part . . . As


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