Old Man at the Grave of Mary Fricker Lovell, Albumen Print, Circa 1900 by lisby1 on Flickr.
Flickr OP: The visible side inscription on the chest tomb reads: “Near this place rest the remains of Mary Lowell, Widow of Robert Lovell of Bristol, and sister in law of Robert Southey, who died August 10th, 1862, aged 91 years.” This photo was taken in the cemetery of St. Kentigern Churchyard, Crosthwaite, Cumbria, England. While the man in the photo appears to be visiting Mary Lovell, he is more likely posing at the tomb of the poet Laureate Robert Southey, with whom Mary Lovell lived for her entire life after her husband Robert Lovell’s death left her a penniless widow.
Here is the restored chest tomb today: www.flickr.com/photos/summonedbyfells/3338634834/. You can also see it here and match it against the surviving tombstones: www.britainunlimited.com/Biogs/Southey.htm. The monument commemorates Southey, his wife Edith, his sister in law Mary, and his daughter Katherine.
From “A Passionate Sisterhood: The Sisters, Wives and Daughters of the Lake Poets”
“At the close of the 18th century, the Fricker sisters wed three close friends, two of whom would indelibly shape Romantic literature. Sexy, impulsive Sarah found her match in Samuel Taylor Coleridge [“Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”] ; Mary, the intellectual one, married Robert Lovell, who left her a widow at 25; and self-effacing Edith, given to depression, won Robert Southey [poet laureate of England 1813-1843, and author of the children’s story “The Three Bears”] despite his family’s disapproval….
“Young Robert Lovell received an excellent education, first at the ‘Blue-Coat School’, or Christ’s Hospital School andlater at Balliol College, Oxford University. Mary Fricker, through her work in the theatre, had met Robert Lovell, the twenty-two-year-old son of a wealthy Bristol Quaker. He led the life of a wealthy gentleman’s son; like many young bucks of the day, he was interested in pugilism
and blood sports and, on the face of it, had little in common with Southey. But he had similar democratic sympathies and poetic ambitions and when the Fricker sisters introduced the two men, they were instantly attracted to each other and became great friends. Four years older than Southey, Lovell too had been to Balliol, where a brilliant career had been predicted. His relationship with Mary met with considerable disapproval. She had no money, she was an
actress, and she was not a Quaker: she was thus totally ineligible. Lovell, a `birthright’ Quaker who was expected to marry within the faith, was warned that his family would disinherit him if he married Mary Fricker.”
“Mary and Robert met when he was a young Quaker residing at Bath and the first volume of his poetry was published out of Bath. On 20 January Mary married Robert Lovell, whose family promptly threw him out and withdrew their financial support.”
“On 3 May, 1796, Robert Lovell died, from ‘fever’. He had been taken ill at Salisbury but had insisted on continuing his journey home despite bad weather. His death left Mary a widow at twenty-five with a baby son and no money. Coleridge helped to nurse his friend through his illness, being with him when he died… . Robert Lovell’s sufferings were so terrible Mary could not bear to stay in the same room with him. ‘All Monday night I sate up with her - she was removed to the kitchen, the furthest room in the House from her Husband’s Bed - chamber … It was, you know, a very windy night - but his loud, deep, unintermitted groans mingled audibley with the wind, whenever the wind dropped, they were very horrible to hear, and drove my poor young Sister-in-law frantic … At one o’clock the Clock in the Kitchen went down. “Ah! (said She) it is stopt …(A long pause) O God! O God!” (A Passionate Sisterhood, Kathleen Jones, p. 51)
“Mr. Lovell…fell ill of fever, died, and left his widow and child without the slightest provision.”
(The International Magazine of Literature, Art and Science, Volume 4, Issue 2, September 1851)
“The death of (Southey’s) brother-in-law and brother-poet, Lovell, occurred during his absence abroad, and Southey on his return set about raising something for his young friend’s widow. She afterward found a home with Southey—one of the many generous and affectionate acts of his busy life.”
According to Wikipedia: “Lovell’s father refused all help to his daughter-in-law Mary on the grounds of her having been an actress, and she and her infant son turned to Southey for support. 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 then disappeared. Henry Nelson Coleridge journeyed in quest of him, but no trace was ……………………