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Robert Southey

5 of 18 portraits of Robert Southey

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Robert Southey

by Edward Nash
1820
5 3/8 in. x 4 in. (136 mm x 102 mm)
NPG 4028

This portraitback to top

Southey's letters make frequent mention of 'my good little fellow traveller Mr Nash' who had accompanied him on his journeys abroad and had illustrated The Poet's Pilgrimage to Waterloo, 1816. He painted several portraits of Southey and his family - 'One of his portraits of me is more like the Doctor' (letter to Grosvenor Bedford 29 January 1817, Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, ed. J. W. Warter, 1856, III, p 58). The NPG portrait is doubtless that to which he refers in a letter to Bedford 6 November 1830: 'Nash has made a tolerable miniature of my poetship' (Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, ed. J. W. Warter, 1856, III, pp 212-13). He died in January 1821 and Southey refers to nine portraits in which he was interested including 'my back portrait, designed as the frontispiece to Dr Dove' (letter to Dr Harry Southey, Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, ed. J. W. Warter, 1856, III, p 228-9).
Southey described the miniature in his Epistle to Allan Cunningham:

Sir Smug comes next;
Allan, I own Sir Smug! I recognise
The visage with its dull sobriety; …
But when he [Nash] Iook'd upon me,
Anxious to exercise his excellent art,
The countenance he knew so thoroughly
Was gone, and in its stead there sate Sir Smug.
Under the graver's hand, Sir Smug became
Sir Smouch … a son of Abraham …
That Messrs Percy of the Anecdote-firm
Presented me unto their customers.

Edward Nash was a good miniaturist and Southey may have been slightly unfair in christening the portrait 'Sir Smug', though we can sympathise when he calls Fry's engraving 'Sir Smouch' and still more with a later derivative he called 'Smouch the Coiner', published by Lombard in the Strand. Two earlier Nash drawings, including a good profile of 1816, are reproduced in Geoffrey Carnall, Robert Southey, 1960, frontispiece and p 144. His group of Southey's three daughters as children was engraved by Robinson for the Life and Correspondence, vol. V.

Physical descriptionback to top

Half-length to right holding a book bound in pink leather, black coat, grey trousers with seals at waist, white waistcoat, neckcloth, cravat and shirt-frill; short dark wavy hair, black eyebrows, brown eyes, clear pink complexion; gold and crimson upholstered chair, grey scumbled background.

Provenanceback to top

Family possession and bequeathed to the NPG by the sitter's great-granddaughter Mrs E. A. Boult 1957.

Reproductionsback to top

Stipple by W. T. Fry in decorated octagonal frame, 'from the original painting by NASH, Sept. 1820', published 2 April 1821 by T. Boys in Percy's Anecdotes, vol.XI, 1821.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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