Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834) MP

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Birthplace: Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England
Death: Died in Highgate, London, England
Occupation: Poet, Critic, Philosopher
Managed by: Jeff Hoard
Last Updated:

About Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (October 21, 1772 – July 25, 1834) (pronounced [ˈkəʊlərɪdʒ]) was an English poet, critic, and philosopher who was, along with his friend William Wordsworth, one of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England and one of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as his major prose work Biographia Literaria.

Early life and education

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on October 21, 1772 in the rural town of Ottery St Mary, Devonshire. He was the youngest of ten children, and his father, the Reverend John Coleridge, was a well respected vicar. Coleridge suffered from constant ridicule by his older brother Frank, partially due to jealousy, as Samuel was often praised and favoured by his parents. To escape this abuse, he frequently sought refuge at a local library, which led him to discover his passion for poetry.

Pantisocracy and marriage

At the university he was introduced to political and theological ideas then considered radical, including those of the poet Robert Southey. Coleridge joined Southey in a plan, soon abandoned, to found a utopian commune-like society, called pantisocracy, in the wilderness of Pennsylvania. In 1795 the two friends married sisters Sarah and Edith Fricker, but Coleridge's marriage proved unhappy. He grew to detest his wife, whom he only married because of social constraints, and eventually divorced her. During and after his failed marriage, he came to love a woman named Sara Hutchinson, who did not share this passion and consequentially caused him much distress. Sara departed for Portugal, but Coleridge remained in Britain. In 1796 he published Poems on Various Subjects.

In 1795 Coleridge met poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. They became immediate friends.

Around 1795, Coleridge started taking opium as a pain-reliever. His suffering, caused by many ailments, including toothache and facial neuralgia, is mentioned in his own notebook as well as that of Dorothy Wordsworth. There was no stigma associated with taking opium at the time, but also little understanding of the harm being done to his body through his addiction.

The years 1797 and 1798, during which he lived in Nether Stowey, Somerset, and Wordsworth, having visited him and being enchanted by the surroundings, rented Alfoxton Park, a little over three miles away, were among the most fruitful of Coleridge's life. Besides the Rime of The Ancient Mariner, he composed the symbolic poem Kubla Khan, written—Coleridge himself claimed—as a result of an opium dream, in "a kind of a reverie"; and the first part of the narrative poem Christabel. During this period he also produced his much-praised "conversation" poems This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison, Frost at Midnight, and The Nightingale.

A statue of the Ancient Mariner at Watchet Harbour, Somerset, England, unveiled in September 2003 as a tribute to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looksHad I from old and young !Instead of the cross, the AlbatrossAbout my neck was hung.

In 1798 Coleridge and Wordsworth published a joint volume of poetry, Lyrical Ballads, which proved to be the starting point for the English romantic movement. Though the productive Wordsworth contributed more poems to the volume, Coleridge's first version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was the longest poem and drew more immediate attention than anything else.

In the spring of 1798, Coleridge temporarily took over for Rev. Joshua Toulmin at Taunton's Mary Street Unitarian Chapel [1] while Rev. Toulmin grieved over the drowning death of his daughter Jane. Poetically commenting on the strength of Rev. Toulmin, Coleridge wrote in a 1798 letter to John Prior Estlin,[2]

Poetry

Coleridge is probably best known for his long poems, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel. Even those who have never read the Rime have come under its influence: its words have given the English language the metaphor of an albatross around one's neck, the quotation of "water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink (almost always rendered as "but not a drop to drink")", and the phrase "a sadder and a wiser man (again, usually rendered as "sadder but wiser man")". Christabel is known for its musical rhythm, language, and its Gothic tale.

Kubla Khan, or, A Vision in a Dream, A Fragment, although shorter, is also widely known and loved. It has strange, dreamy imagery and can be read on many levels. Both Kubla Khan and Christabel have an additional "romantic" aura because they were never finished. Stopford Brooke characterised both poems as having no rival due to their "exquisite metrical movement" and "imaginative phrasing." It is one of history's tragedies that Coleridge was interrupted while writing Kubla Khan by a visitor and could not recall any more of the poem afterwards.

Coleridge's shorter, meditative "conversation poems," however, proved to be the most influential of his work. These include both quiet poems like This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison and Frost at Midnight and also strongly emotional poems like Dejection and The Pains of Sleep. Wordsworth immediately adopted the model of these poems, and used it to compose several of his major poems. Via Wordsworth, the conversation poem became a standard vehicle for English poetic expression, and perhaps the most common approach among modern poets.

Coleridge's poetry so impressed the parents of black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) that they named him after the poet.

Bibliography

[edit] By Coleridge

   * The Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Introduction) Oxford University Press 1912
   * The Collected Works in 16 volumes (some are double volumes), many editors, Routledge & Kegan Paul and also Bollingen Series LXXV, Princeton University Press (1971-2001)
   * The Notebooks in 5 (or 6) double volumes, eds. Kathleen Coburn and others, Routledge and also Bollingen Series L, Princeton University Press (1957-1990)
   * Collected Letters in 6 volumes, ed. E. L. Griggs, Clarendon Press: Oxford (1956-1971)

[edit] About Coleridge

   * Essay by John Stuart Mill: On Coleridge
   * Biography by Richard Holmes: Coleridge: Early Visions, Viking Penguin: New York, 1990 (republished later by HarperCollins) ISBN 0-375-70540-6; Coleridge: Darker Reflections, HarperCollins: London, 1997 ISBN 0-375-70838-3
   * Memoir by Thomas de Quincey: Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets ISBN 0-14-043973-0

Other References

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Timeline

1772
October 21, 1772
Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England
1795
1795
Age 22
1800
September 19, 1800
Age 27
1802
December 23, 1802
Age 30
1803
1803
Age 30
1834
July 25, 1834
Age 61
Highgate, London, England
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