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Lovell, Robert (1770?-1796) (DNB01)

LOVELL, ROBERT (1770?–1796), poet and participator in the 'pantisocratic' project of Southey and Coleridge, was born apparently at Bristol about 1770. He was the son of a wealthy quaker, and probably followed some business; but the vehemence of his 'Bristoliad,' a satire in Churchill's style and not deficient in vigour, shows that he was ill at ease in the commercial atmosphere of Bristol. He still further estranged himself from his original circle by marrying, in 1794, Mary Fricker, a girl of much beauty and some talent, who had endeavoured to repair the fortunes of a bankrupt father by going on the stage. It does not precisely appear when he first made Southey's acquaintance, but early enough for Southey to have become engaged to his sister-in-law, Edith, before Coleridge's visit to Bristol in August 1794. Lovell introduced the two poets to their Mæcenas, Joseph Cottle [q. v.], and ere long Coleridge was betrothed to a third Miss Fricker, Sara, whom he married on 14 Nov. 1795. In the same month of August 1794 the three friends co-operated in the production of a wellnigh improvised three-act tragedy on the fall of Robespierre. Each wrote an act, but Lovell's was rejected as out of keeping with the others, and Southey filled the void. The tragedy was published as Coleridge's at Cambridge in September 1794. Southey and Lovell nevertheless combined to publish a joint volume of poetry (Bristol, 1794; Bath, 1795) under the title of 'Poems by Bion and Moschus,' which has occasioned it to be mistaken for a translation. The Bath edition bears the authors' names. Southey's mature opinion of his own pieces may be inferred from the fact that he reprinted none of them; and Lovell's teem with such felicities as 'Our village curate graved the elegiac stone,' 'Have we no duties of a social kind?' They were, notwithstanding, reprinted in Park's 'British Poets' (1808 sq. vol. xli.), with the addition of the 'Bristoliad,' which does not seem to have been published before. Next to their poetry, the young men were chiefly occupied with the project for their pantisocratic colony on the banks of the Susquehanna, to which Lovell was to have brought not only his wife but his brother and two sisters. The design had practically collapsed before Lovell's death in April 1796 from a fever contracted at Salisbury, and aggravated by his imprudence in travelling home without taking medical advice. Edith Southey, in Southey's absence, nursed him for three nights at the risk of her life. Lovell's father refused all aid to his daughter-in-law on the ground of her having been an actress, and she and her infant son were thrown upon the never-failing beneficence of Southey. She lived in his family during his life, and afterwards with his daughter Kate until her death at the age of ninety. The son, Robert Lovell the younger, settled in London as a printer in 1824. Some years afterwards he went to Italy and mysteriously disappeared. Henry Nelson Coleridge journeyed in quest of him, but no trace was ever discovered.

[Cottle's Early Recollections, 1837; Southey's and Coleridge's letters; private information.]

R. G.