Caroline Anne Bowles (Southey), Self Portrait with Dogs - 19th-century drawing

An original early 19th-century graphite drawing, Caroline Anne Bowles (Southey) Self Portrait with Dogs.

This enchanting self-portrait in ink and graphite is by the poet Caroline Anne Bowles (1786–1854). 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.

Pictured affectionately with her two dogs, this sensitive image is particularly resonant due to the poet’s life being marred by tragedy - showing a young woman who was orphaned at an early age and who went on to care for her future husband, Poet Laureate Robert Southey, when he fell into ill health.

The drawing comes with a fine mezzotint engraving of Robert Southey by E. Finden pasted onto a separate sheet, which was originates from the same album as the Bowles portrait, as shown.

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, but 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.

Caroline’s correspondence with Southey was published in a large volume, edited by Edward Dowden, in 1881 titled ‘The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles’. The frontispiece for this volume is another portrait of Caroline with her dog, which strongly resembles the present drawing (see photograph). Caroline and Southey affectionately mention her two dogs in their correspondence. Caroline writes: ‘I am no longer solitary in my walks nor by my fireside. I have a beautiful small spaniel "the prettiest of his race and high in pedigree,"’, and Southey writes: ‘My respects to Mufti. The Townshends have brought a dog with them as ridiculously little as his Muftiship is formid-ably large, and this ridiculous dog walks out with them, as Mufti does with you.’

This drawing comes from a collection of works relating to the Burrard family and is inscribed on the backing paper ‘Caroline Bowles by herself. given 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.

There are some minor age marks to the paper, as shown. The drawing is on a thick drawing paper but the backing paper is somewhat fragile, with some repairs, which do not affect the drawing. There is some foxing to the mezzotint as shown.
21.6cm x 19.6cm.

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.

Text copyright © 2018 Somerset & Wood Fine Art Ltd. All rights reserved.

Product code: JK-307

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