NOW for the third time George III lacked a Laureate; but the appointment in 1813 was the concern of the Regent, for George was in no state of health to know or care about the promotion of poets. The appointment of Robert Southey is more fully documented than most, but before describing it a sketch of his life -- it can hardly be more -- may find a place. The reader who would know everything should consult the life by Professor Simmons,1 which is among the best biographies of recent years, and at last does credit to one of the most neglected of our great writers.
Robert Southey was a Bristol man by birth, the son of a struggling draper; in or around Bristol he spent his first fifteen years, living much of the time with his formidable Aunt Tyler. He was then ( 1788) sent to Westminster School and in due course ( 1792) expelled again owing to a difference of opinion with the Headmaster on the subject of flogging. Southey had taken part in founding a school magazine called The Flagellant, to the fifth number of which he contributed his famous paper on flogging; it is clever nonsense which a sensible master would have attended to by redoubled efforts on the other side. But William Vincent took a much more serious view of the offence, perhaps, ( Professor Simmons suggests) because it was a public rather than a domestic matter: the paper was produced by a well known printer and was on sale to all. Southey's nom-de-plume 'Gualbertus' was quickly penetrated and (after some angry exchanges) he was expelled; more than this, Vincent warned the Christ Church authorities at Oxford against him. In due course, Southey went to Balliol instead.
As he grew older Southey transferred his reforming zeal from flogging to graver matters; he watched the progress of the French Revolution with sympathy, even after England and France were at war. These harmless youthful enthusiasms were to get him into trouble____________________