Caroline Anne Bowles (Southey), Buckland, Lymington - 19th-century painting

An original early 19th-century watercolour painting, Caroline Anne Bowles (Southey) Buckland, Lymington.

This enchanting watercolour is by the poet Caroline Anne Bowles (1786–1854), depicting her family home at Buckland, Lymington. Whilst Bowles is often overshadowed by her celebrated husband, Poet Laureate Robert Southey, she was a poet of great merit in her own right and among the more influential women writers who produced their best work at the threshold of the Victorian era.

This idyllic view, with flowers in bloom and white birds feeding on the lawn, communicates the great affection Bowles held for her childhood home, and the comfort it represented in a life marred by tragedy. Born at Buckland Manor, Caroline was the only child of Captain Charles Bowles and Anne Burrard, member of the important Burrard family of Lymington, Hampshire. Her melancholic father moved the family to the much smaller Buckland cottage when she was a child, and Caroline spent summers by the sea at Calshot Castle, home of her uncle, Sir Harry Burrard, 1st Baronet, of Walhampton. She showed artistic talent young, and was taught by artist William Gilpin (the local parson) – who is best known as one of the originators of the idea of the picturesque.

Her mother’s death in 1816 left the family destitute, leaving Caroline alone and only able to continue living in the family home due to an annuity from her father's adopted son, Colonel Bruce. Financial need drove her to contact the Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, who had a reputation for helping working-class and women poets. Southey encouraged her poetic talent and the two corresponded prolifically by letter. Following the death of Southey’s first wife, in 1838, they were married in 1840, and Caroline went to live at Greta Hall in Keswick (where Southey lived along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family). Sadly, soon after, Southey became senile, unable to read, write, or talk, and died in 1843, upon which Caroline returned to Buckland Cottage, where she ceased to write.

This drawing comes from a collection of works relating to the Burrard family and is inscribed on the backing paper ‘Buckland. Lymington’ and ‘Caroline Bowles. Sent me by Mrs Levett. L.B’. This is Laura Burrard, (either Caroline’s cousin, d.1880, or cousin’s daughter b.1831/3). It is likely that this Mrs Levett is the wife of Reverend Edward Levett of Hampstead, who was a Westminster school friend of Robert Southey. 

Some of Caroline Anne Bowles's other surviving paintings are owned by Keswick School and held by the Wordsworth Trust.

The painting is on heavy watercolour paper and is in fine condition. The backing paper is somewhat fragile, with some age toning, nicks to the lower edge and a repair across the lower left corner.
16.5cm x 24.7cm.

This picture forms part of a fascinating collection of largely early 19th-century works we have for sale connected with the important Burrard family of Lymington. Taken as a whole, the collection tells of the family’s artistic talents, including that of artist and seaman Admiral Sir Charles Burrard; Laura Burrard, whose drawings are in the National History Museum; and poet Caroline Anne Bowles, future wife of Poet Laureate Robert Southey. They picture the places in Hampshire where the family grew up and which remained significant to the Burrards through the 19th century, along with Naval subjects, evidencing the importance of Naval achievement in the family’s history. In addition, there are some unusual subjects relating to New World exploration, forming a fascinating record of contemporary interest in this amongst the English ruling classes at this time.

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Product code: JK-306

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