Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Coleridge, Samuel Taylor,

1772–1834, English poet and man of letters, b. Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire; one of the most brilliant, versatile, and influential figures in the English romantic movement.

Early Life

The son of a clergyman, Coleridge was a precocious, dreamy child. He attended Christ's Hospital school in London and was already formidably erudite upon entering Cambridge in 1791. His erratic university career was interrupted by his impulsive enlistment in the dragoons, from which his brothers managed to extricate him. In 1794 he met the poet Robert SoutheySouthey, Robert
, 1774–1843, English author. Primarily a poet, he was numbered among the so-called Lake poets. While at Oxford he formed (1794) a friendship with Coleridge and joined with him in a plan for an American utopia along the Susquehanna River that was never
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, who shared his political and social idealism, and together they planned to establish a small utopian community, which they called a pantisocracy, on the banks of the Susquehanna River in the United States. The plan failed to materialize for practical reasons. In 1795 Coleridge married Sarah Fricker, the sister of Southey's fiancée, with whom he was never happy. They settled in Nether Stowey in 1797, and shortly thereafter William WordsworthWordsworth, William,
1770–1850, English poet, b. Cockermouth, Cumberland. One of the great English poets, he was a leader of the romantic movement in England. Life and Works

In 1791 he graduated from Cambridge and traveled abroad.
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 and his sister Dorothy moved into a house nearby.

Works

Although Coleridge had been busy and productive, publishing both poetry and much topical prose, it was not until his friendship with Wordsworth that he wrote his best poems. In 1798 Coleridge and Wordsworth jointly published the volume Lyrical Ballads, whose poems and preface made it a seminal work and manifesto of the romantic movement in English literature.

Coleridge's main contribution to the volume was the haunting, dreamlike ballad "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." This long poem, as well as "Kubla Khan" and "Christabel," written during the same period, are Coleridge's best-known works. All three make use of exotic images and supernatural themes. "Dejection: An Ode," published in 1802, was the last of Coleridge's great poems. It shows the influence of (or affinity to) some poetic ideas of Wordsworth, notably the meditation upon self, nature, and the relationships among emotion, sense experience, and understanding. His Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit (ed. by his nephew H. N. Coleridge) was published posthumously in 1840.

Later Life

While an undergraduate Coleridge had begun to take laudanum (an opium derivative then legal and widely used) for his ailments, and he was addicted by about 1800. That year, after having traveled with Wordsworth in Germany, Coleridge moved with his family to Keswick in the Lake District. He continued his studies and writings on philosophy, religion, contemporary affairs, and literature. In 1808 he separated from his wife permanently, and from 1816 until his death he lived in London at the home of Dr. James Gilman, who brought his opium habit under control.

Assessment

Coleridge worked for many years on his Biographia Literaria (1817), containing accounts of his literary life and critical essays on philosophical and literary subjects. It presents Coleridge's theories of the creative imagination, but its debt to other writers, notably the German idealist philosophers, is often so heavy that the line between legitimate borrowing and plagiarism becomes blurred. This borrowing tendency, evident also in some of his poetry, together with Coleridge's notorious inability to finish projects—and his proposal of impractical ones—made him a problematic figure.

Coleridge's lifelong friend Charles LambLamb, Charles,
1775–1834, English essayist, b. London. He went to school at Christ's Hospital, where his lifelong friendship with Coleridge began. Lamb was a clerk at the India House from 1792 to 1825.
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 called him a "damaged archangel." Indeed, 20th-century editorial scholarship has unearthed additional evidence of plagiarism; thus, Coleridge is still a controversial figure. However, the originality and beauty of his best poetry and his enormous influence on the intellectual and aesthetic life of his time is unquestioned. He was reputedly a brilliant conversationalist, and his lectures on Shakespeare remain among the most important statements in literary criticism.

Bibliography

See his collected letters, ed. by E. L. Griggs (6 vol., 1956–71); Notebooks: 1794–1808, ed. by K. Coburn (4 vol., 1957–61); collected works, ed. by K. Coburn (5 vol., 1969–72); biographies by E. K. Chambers (1938), L. Hanson (1938, repr. 1962), W. J. Bate (1968), and R. Holmes (2 vol., 1989, 1999); studies by J. D. Campbell (1894), C. Woodring (1961), M. Suther (1965), and N. Fruman (1972); J. L. Lowes, The Road to Xanadu (rev. ed. 1964); R. L. Brett, ed., Coleridge (1973); A. Sisman, The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge (2007).

Sara Coleridge

Coleridge's daughter, Sara Coleridge, 1802–52, has literary standing in her own right. Her translation of An Account of the Abipones (1822) shows a great facility in both Latin and English. Her best work is Phantasmion (1837), a fairy tale.

Bibliography

See her Memoir and Letters (1873, repr. 1974); biography by E. L. Griggs (1941, repr. 1973).

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772–1834)

(pop culture)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a romantic poet and the first to introduce the vampire theme to British poetry, was born in Ottery St. Mary, the son of a minister in the Church of England. His father died when Coleridge was nine, and he was sent to Christ’s Hospital, London, as a charity pupil. In 1790 he entered Jesus College, Cambridge. He left college briefly in 1793, but returned the following year. There he met fellow poet Robert Southey, who would become his lifelong friend. Through Southey he met Sara Fricker, his future wife, and got his first contract to prepare a book of poetry.

In 1797 Coleridge met William Wordsworth, who was credited with bringing Coleridge’s poetic genius to the public’s attention. The initial result of this friendship was “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” published in the celebrated Lyrical Ballads, which Wordsworth put together. Coleridge wrote almost all of his famous poems during the next five years of his close association with Wordsworth.

Among the poems Coleridge worked on during this creative period was “Christabel.” Though never mentioning vampires directly, it is now generally conceded that vampirism was the intended theme of “Christabel,” the substantive case having been made by Arthur H. Nethercot in the 1930s. Nethercot argued that the essential vampiric nature of the Lady Geraldine, who was “rescued” after being left in the woods by her kidnappers, was demonstrated by examining her characteristics. First, throughout the poem, Christabel was portrayed as a potential victim who needed to be shielded from the forces of evil. Geraldine, however, was pictured as a richly clad woman first seen bathing in the moonlight (the element that revived vampires in nineteenth-century vampire tales). Second, as Geraldine approached the door of the castle of Christabel’s father, she fainted. After Christabel assisted her across the threshold, she quickly revived. Vampires had to be formally invited into a home the first time they entered. Third, Geraldine then walked by the dog, who let out an uncharacteristically angry moan. It was commonly believed that vampires had negative effects upon animals. Coleridge dwelt upon the evening encounter of the two women. Christabel showed Geraldine to a place of rest. She opened a bottle of wine, which they shared. At Geraldine’s suggestion, Christabel undressed, after which Geraldine partially disrobed, revealing her breast and half her side. What did Christabel see? In lines later deleted from the published version, Coleridge noted that Geraldine’s appearance was “lean and old and foul of hue.” Christabel entered a trance-like state:

Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs; Ah! what a stricken look was hers! Deep from within she seems half-way To lift some weight with sick assay, And eyes the maid and seeks delay; Then suddenly, as one defied, Collects herself in scorn and pride, And lay down at the Maiden’s side!

In a scene with obvious lesbian overtones, the two women lay together for an hour and again the animals were affected:

O Geraldine! one hour was thine Thou’st had thy will! By tairn and rill,

The night-birds all that hour were still. But now they are jubilant anew,

From cliff and tower, tu-whoo! tu-whoo!

The next morning, Geraldine awoke refreshed and her lean, old, and foul body was rejuvenated, “That (so it seemed) her girded vests/Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.” Christabel, on the other hand, awoke with a sense of guilt and immediately went to prayer. She then led Geraldine to the audience with her father, the lord of the castle. Geraldine immediately attached herself to Lord Leoline while Christabel had a momentary flashback of Geraldine’s body when she first disrobed. She attempted to have her father send Geraldine away, but he was already enraptured, and in the end turned from his daughter and departed with Geraldine at his side.

“Christabel” was composed in two parts, the first being written and published in 1798. A second part was finished around 1800. “Christabel” thus preceded Southey’s “Thalaba,” the first English-language poem to actually mention the vampire in its text. Also, the imagery of “Christabel” is an obvious and important source of Sheridan Le Fanu‘s story “Carmilla.” After 1802, Coleridge wrote little and drew his income primarily from lecturing and writing critical articles. Most of his life he was addicted to drugs, having been hooked on opium in an attempt to deal with chronic pain and later consuming vast quantities of laudanum. He received some recognition of his literary work in 1824 when he was named a “Royal Associate” of the Royal Society of Literature. He died on July 25, 1834, at the age of 61.

Sources:

Nethercot, Arthur H. The Road to Tryermaine: A Study of the History, Background, and Purposes of Coleridge’s “Christabel.” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939. 230 pp. Rept. New York: Russell & Russell, 1962. 230 pp.
Keesey, Pam, ed. Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Stories. Pittsburgh/San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1993. 243 pp.

Collectibles, Paraphernalia, and Souvenirs see: Paraphernalia, Vampire

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor

 

Born Oct. 21, 1772, in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire; died July 25, 1834, in London. English poet, critic, and philosopher.

The son of a poor provincial clergyman, Coleridge studied for a time at Jesus College, Cambridge University. His early works show an interest in social questions. In 1789 he wrote his freedom-loving poem “Capture of the Bastille” (published in 1834), but his political outlook soon changed. He condemned revolutionary terror in The Fall of Robespierre (1794), a play he wrote with R. Southey. Repudiation of violence is also the theme of the tragedy Osario (1797), later revised and published as Remorse (1813). In 1798 he collaborated with W. Wordsworth in publishing Lyrical Ballads, the manifesto of English romanticism. Coleridge was attracted to the spirit and form of the folk ballad, which he imitated in his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” published in Lyrical Ballads (translated into Russian by N. S. Gumilev in 1919 and by V. V. Levik in 1967). After traveling to Germany with Wordsworth in 1798 and 1799, Coleridge became an exponent of German literature and idealist philosophy in England, translating F. von Schiller’s Wallenstein. As a leading representative of the Lake Poets, Coleridge was a profound theoretician of English romanticism, whose principles he expounded in Biographia Literaria (1817). His lectures on Shakespeare, published in 1856, are outstanding examples of romantic criticism. Coleridge’s publicistic writings are imbued with political conservatism.

WORKS

Select Poetry and Prose. Edited by S. Potter. London, 1933.
Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. London, 1938.

REFERENCES

Elistratova, A. A. “Kol’ridzh.” Nasledie angliiskogo romantizma i sovremennost’. Moscow, 1960.
Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, Vol. 2, books 1–2. Moscow, 1953–55.
Logan, E. Concordance to the Poetry of S. T. Coleridge. St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., 1940.
Read, H. Coleridge as Critic. London, 1949.
Fruman, N. Coleridge, the Damaged Archangel. New York [1971].
Wise, T. J. A Bibliography of the Writings in Prose and Verse of S. T. Coleridge. Folkestone-London, 1970.

A. N. NIKOLIUKIN