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Southey Conference 2013

From 29-31 July 2013, in Keswick, Cumbria, participants from across the world gathered to attend the Third International Southey Conference - ‘Robert Southey and Romanticism: The Lake School in Context’.

The conference saw students, academics, and members of the public come together to share knowledge and research on Robert Southey and Romanticism more generally. It was held in Keswick School Conference Centre, next to Crosthwaite Church, a mere stone’s throw from Southey’s place of rest.    

Southey's monument in St Kentigern's Church, Crosthwaite, Keswick

Day One

The first day of the conference saw an opening talk from Professor Lynda Pratt (Nottingham), Professor Tim Fulford (De Montfort), Dr Ian Packer (Lincoln) and Dr Carol Bolton (Loughborough) on editing Southey’s Letters.  Other highlights from the first day of the event were a keynote speech from Professor Michael J Franklin (Swansea) and a visit to the Jerwood Centre and Dove Cottage Museum, Grasmere, (pictured). 

Conference 1

This featured a poetry reading by Polly Atkins and a talk by the local carpenter Frank Wood (pictured) who has conducted extensive research on a highly unusual cabinet once owned by Southey. As Frank explaned, the  elaborate and eclectic decorations on the cabinet relate directly to local North West and Cumbrian folklore and decorative traditions.  

Day Two

The second day of the event involved a visit to Greta Hall, Southey’s home from 1803-43, where we were given a tour of the rooms that he had lived and worked in. Our visit  included a reading by Pamela Woof, President of the Wordsworth Trust, of one of Southey’s most notable additions to English popular literature ‘The Story of the Three Bears’. This was followed by a discussion of the story’s enduring popularity and the differences between Southey’s original and the version better-known today. 


Other notable events from the second day included a talk by Professor Paul Betz (Georgetown) on his extensive collection of Southey manuscripts. Professor Betz was kind enough to pass many of these wonderful and unique items around the conference room so delegates could view them at close quarters.

Day Three

The last day of the conference included a number of well received papers, including Stuart Andrews (Independent),‘Before the Laureateship: Southey as Historian’; Bruce Graver (Providence), ‘Southey and Cottle’s Chatterton Subscribers’; and Paul Whickman (Nottingham) on the troubled publication history of Southey’s Wat Tyler. Closing remarks were given by Lynda Pratt and Tim Fulford.


The conference was successful in bringing together researchers into Southey and Romanticism from around the world. Over its three days, new ideas were discussed, new technology was applied to Southey’s work, and exciting new avenues of research were proposed. The Third International Southey Conference was testament to the vitality of current work on Southey and a fitting tribute to him in the year that marked the bicentenary of his appointment as Poet Laureate.

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