Southey, Thomas (‘Tom’) [brother] (1777–1838)

Sailor and farmer. Southey’s younger brother and the one to whom he was in the 1790s closest. Tom entered the navy as a midshipman at the age of 12, saw action in several major battles of the French revolutionary wars (including Cape St Vincent and Copenhagen), was captured on one occasion, wounded on several others, and was made a lieutenant as reward for his bravery in the fight between Mars and L’Hercule on 21 April 1798. He was sent to the West Indies station in early 1804, court martialled for insubordination there, but was given a post under a different captain. He was made captain himself in 1811, but never commanded a ship. After he retired from the navy, he tried his hand at farming and as a customs officer. His last posting was at Demerara, British Guiana, and he died on shipboard on the return voyage to England. He married Sarah Castle in 1810 and produced a large family. Tom’s lack of financial stability meant that some of the burden of supporting him fell on his brothers Robert and Henry Herbert Southey. Tom’s knowledge of the navy and seafaring, and his observations of foreign climes, provided important information for many of Southey’s writings, including his poetry and The Life of Nelson (1813). Tom’s only publication was A Chronological History of the West Indies (1827), written with his brother Robert’s encouragement.

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