Henry James Pye (1745-1813) was Poet Laureate for the last 23 years of his life. He was born in London and lived at his inherited Farringdon estate in Berkshire. No published account of his life mentions a connection with Southampton, but local records contain a number of references to him. In 1768 he took out a lease on a cellar and warehouse in St John’s parish and in 1766 he was made an honorary burgess of the town at a ceremony at the Audit House. This possibly suggests involvement in the wine trade. His third local reference is in 1789, by which time he had been forced to sell Farringdon and move to Little Testwood House, near Totton. The Southampton Guide of 1793 lists him as a member of the Royal Southampton Archers.
Despite becoming Poet Laureate his work was universally disparaged and even ridiculed. Southampton featured in a number of his poems, including Naucratia and Naval Dominion, in which he mentions the ill-fated Southampton – Salisbury canal.

Pye, Henry James

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Portrait, oil on canvas, of Henry James Pye (1745–1813) by Samuel James Arnold (fl. 1800-1808)


Further reading:
‘A Forgotten Poet Laureate Recalled. Southampton Connections of Henry James Pye’, by A.G. K. Leonard in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, No. 6, Spring 1997, p12-17. (HS/h); available online at the Southampton Local History Centre Website as Shorter Articles No. 2


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