Robert Southey and Romantic Apostasy

Robert Southey and Romantic Apostasy

Political Argument in Britain, 1780-1840

David M. Craig


Royal Historical Society



A fresh and sympathetic interpretation of Robert Southey's changing social and political ideas, shedding new light on contemporary thought.
Like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey has been remembered not just as a romantic poet but also as a political apostate. In the 1790s he was fired by enthusiasm for the French Revolution, and was known as a radical and a republican. By the 1820s, however, he was not only the poet laureate, but a fierce conservative who opposed the reform of Church and State. Yet at the same time his reactionary politics were mixed with anxiety about the effects of industrialisation and the growth of poverty, leading some commentators to view him as a precursor of socialism and collectivism.
This book charts the development of Southey's social and political ideas in order to throw light on the problems generated by the concept of 'romantic apostasy'. It draws on his poetry, histories, journalism and letters to show that his intellectual evolution was more complex than has previously been thought. In so doing it touches on numerous themes: theological politics, national character, the 'social question', providence and history, questions of race, empire and civilisation as well as the nature of republicanism and the evolution of conservatism. As such it is an important contribution towards the wider understanding of the intellectual aftermath of the French Revolution in Britain.
DAVID M. CRAIG is a lecturer in History at the University of Durham.


July 2007
1 black and white illustrations
250 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
ISBN: 9780861932917
Format: Hardback
Royal Historical Society
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Table of Contents

Revolutionary Progress
The Imperatives of War
Riches and Poverty
The Uses and Abuses of an Established Church
Nations, States and the People
The Future of Peace
Civilising Peoples
A Perilous Political Economy
In Defence of Church and State


The thoroughgoing and complexly rendered analysis that Craig offers will be of interest to all Southeyans. [...] This is a significant work of scholarship, using material from right across Southey's vast corpus of reviews at the Edinburgh Annual Register, the Quarterly Review and in innumerable other sources that ought to change the way Romanticists see not just Southey, but the political map of the early nineteenth century. YEAR'S WORK IN ENGLISH STUDIES
[This] thorough and searching book is the first major treatment of Southey's politics. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

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