Poet. Born in Birmingham, the eldest son of a Quaker banker and philanthropist. Educated at home by a tutor he was destined to join his father's bank but instead turned to writing. His first volume of verse, Poems on various subjects, was published in 1795 when he was twenty. A meeting with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Birmingham the following year led to Lloyd becoming a student, tenant and friend of Coleridge, living at Kingsdown, Bristol and Nether Stowey until the summer of 1796. In January 1797 Lloyd met and became friends with Charles Lamb and later that year both had some of their poems included in a volume by Coleridge. A further collaboration between Lloyd and Lamb appeared the following year in a volume entitled Blank verse (1798). In 1799 Lloyd eloped with Sophia Pemberton, from Birmingham, but was able to marry her and live fairly comfortably by means of a generous allowance from his father. The couple lived first at Bardwell and then, from August 1800, in a mansion at Ambleside, in the Lake District. Here they raised a large family. Lloyd gave up being a Quaker, apparently because the traditional Quaker dress seemed out of place in this countryside setting. For six years, from 1805, he toiled on a translation of Ovid's Metamophoses. Thomas DeQuincy became a regular daily visitor for several years from 1809.
By 1811 earlier symptoms of mental instability, including epileptic fits became pronounced. At this time Lloyd wrote a novel in letter form, Edmund Oliver (1798), which includes a character based on Coleridge that is less than flattering. A further novel, Isabel, also dates from this time but was not published until 1820. He was admitted to an asylum near York, but in 1818 he escaped and DeQuincy took him under his protection. DeQuincy, once he was assured that Lloyd was no danger to himself, or others, allowed him to become re-united with his wife in London.
In 1819 Lloyd published a collection of poems entitled Nugae canorae which contained a dedicatory sonnet to Sophia, where the poet indicates their changing fortunes but rejoices that they are together again:-
Once we had joys in common: common woes
Have lately been our portion...
While blessed tears gush, like children's, without art,
"These had not flowed, wert thou again not mine.
At this period his publishing output was at its height. The
couple went to live in France but signs of mental illness
returned and Lloyd died in an asylum at Chaillot, near
Versailles, shortly before the death of his beloved Sophia.
Charles Lloyd was not a great poet, but he was certainly moved in fine literary circles. This obviously helped his work which has been described as possessing descriptive accuracy and subjective intensity, showing fine power of analysis. DeQuincy called him "Rousseauish" and recognised "a mournful merit" in his verse, with "true solitary sighs, wrung from his own meditative heart by excess of suffering". In the preface to Nugae canorae (1819) Lloyd stated that he "did not affect the excellence of the higher orders of poetry" but was keen to use the power of poetry as the language of the heart and imagination. He graciously accepted, however, that the language of the eye, the vivid representation of visible objects, had a place in poetry, with Erasmus Darwin having "a genius for the poetry comprised in that definition".
Poems on various subjects (1795)
Edmund Oliver (1798) [ Novel ]
Blank verse by Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb (1798)
Nugae canorae; poems by Charles Lloyd (1819)
Isabel (1820) [ Novel ]
Desultory thoughts in London (1821)
Titus and Gisippus and other poems (1821)
Poetical essays on the character of Pope (1821)
The Duke D'Ormond (1822) [ Play ]
A sample selection and the complete text of the following is available on this website.
Further selections of Charles Lloyd's poems are available by
following these links to external websites:
Charles Lloyd's sonnets can be found on the Sonnet Central website.
And The slave; an ode from Poems on various subjects (1795) can also be read online..
Charles Lloyd's literary connections with the region are picked up in the section of Birmingham on this website. There will be a page on Erasmus Darwin here at a later date. There is a good article on Charles Lloyd in the Dictionary of national biography.
Page created 20 June 2002 and last updated
11 September 2006
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