Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Southey, Robert

(1774-1843) UK poet and writer who was thought for a time the equal of his friends and colleagues Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth (1770-1850). He is of fantasy interest for some long narrative poems, disparagingly based on Arabian-Fantasy sources and now little read. They include Thalaba the Destroyer (1800), whose eponymous protagonist enters the Underworld and encounters various supernatural creatures and Wizards, whom he defeats roundly (he is an Allegory of Christian virtue), and The Curse of Kehama (1810), in which the Wandering Jew is discovered in India. Works of interest translated by RS include Amadis of Gaul (cut trans of Amadís de Gaula 1508 vols 1-4 by García Ordez de Montalvo; 1803) as by Vasco Lobeira., compiled by Rodríguez Montalvo in 1508 from earlier sources, and The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur (1817), an edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur. In Volume 4 (1837) of The Doctor (coll 1834-1847 7 vols), which is a compendium of linked essays and tales and occasional pieces, RS put into print for the first time the "Story of the Three Bears"; although he did not claim original authorship, no other source was known, and he was long credited with it. Eventually an 1831 manuscript by the otherwise unknown Eleanor Mure came to light, giving a somewhat different but earlier version. (Goldilocks herself only slowly came into the world: in an 1849 text, RS's original old woman was a girl, who went through several name changes until 1904, when she was first called Goldilocks.)

it should be noted that Southey's translation – which is an abridgement of the first four of over 20 canonical volumes – has led some modern scholars to underestimate the influence of Amadis de Gaule (the normal title, from the French) on Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), Edmund Spenser and others. This is perhaps understandable in that the full text is hard to come by today: it was widely available (and very widely read) in the 16th century, and writers like those cited were influenced by the whole rather than by Southey's later abridgement. [JC]

Robert Southey


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.