Taylor "Estese" Coleridge
Coleridge was born in Ottery St. Mary on 21 October 1772, youngest of
the ten children of John Coleridge, a minister, and Ann Bowden Coleridge.
He was often bullied as a child by Frank, the next youngest, and his
mother was apparently a bit distant, so it was no surprise when Col1
ran away at age seven. He was found early the next morning by a neighbor,
but the events of his night outdoors frequently showed up in imagery
in his poems (and his nightmares) as well as the notebooks he kept for
most of his adult life. John Coleridge died in 1781, and Col was sent
away to a London charity school for children of the clergy. He stayed
with his maternal uncle2. Col was really quite a prodigy; he devoured
books and eventually earned first place in his class.
Luke died in 1790 and his only sister Ann in 1791, inspiring Col to
write "Monody," one of his first poems, in which he likens
himself to Thomas Chatterton3. Col was very ill around this time and
probably took laudanum for the illness, thus beginning his lifelong
opium addiction. He went to Cambridge in 1791, poor in spite of some
scholarships, and rapidly worked himself into debt with opium, alcohol,
and women. He had started to hope for poetic fame, but by 1793, he owed
about £150 and was desperate. So he joined the army.
was irate when they finally found out. He'd used the improbable name
of Silas Tomkyn Comberbache and had escaped being sent to fight in France
because he could only barely ride a horse. His brother George finally
arranged his discharge by reason of insanity and got him back to Cambridge.
It was there that he met Robert Southey, and they became instant friends.
Both political radicals4, they began planning Pantisocracy, their own
socio-political movement5. Robert was already engaged to a woman named
Edith Fricker, and introduced Col to her sister Sara. Within a few weeks,
Col was willing to marry Sara, which he did in October of 1795. Robert
and Col had started arguing over Pantisocracy, and finally Robert agreed
to his family's wish that he become a lawyer instead of emigrating.
Robert's best gift to posterity was the fact that he introduced Col
to William Wordsworth. It was Col's misfortune that he met Sara6 Hutchinson
through William, who would eventually marry Sara H.'s sister. Col fell
in love with this Sara almost immediately, putting an extra strain on
an already iffy marriage.
marriage, Col tried very hard to become responsible7. He scraped together
a fairly respectable income of £120 per year, through tutoring
and gifts from his admirers8. His Poems, published in 1797, was well-received
and it looked like he was on the fast track to fame. He already had
one son, David Hartley Coleridge, born September 1796, followed by Berkeley
Coleridge in May 17989. In 1798, the famous Lyrical Ballads was published,
the collaboration between Col and William which pretty much created
the Romantic movement. The authors didn't realize this at the time,
of course; they went to Germany with William's sister Dorothy. Col's
son Berkeley died while he was away; the baby had been given the brand-new
smallpox vaccination and died of a reaction to it. Col, as was typical
of him, returned home slowly so as not to have to deal openly with Berkeley's
death, and got little work done.
After a string
of illnesses brought on by the damp climate of the Lake Country, Col
turned to newspaper work in 1801 to try and recover financially. He
was convinced he would die soon, and insured his life shortly after
the birth of his daughter Sara10 in 1802. In 1804, he left for Malta
in hopes of a cure from the warm climate. Here, he spied a bit for his
majesty11, who wanted Malta as a British port, though officially Col
was the temporary Public Secretary. Col had also hoped for a release
from his addiction, but this was not to be. He returned to England in
1806, and, plucking up his courage, asked for a legal separation from
his wife. Though Sara was furious, the separation happened. Col's paranoia
and mood swings, brought on by the continual opium use, were getting
worse, and he was hardly capable of sustained work12. His friendship
with William was all but nonexistent, and Col was again writing newspaper
articles to earn a living, further supplemented by various lecture courses13.
Most of his remaining work was non-fiction, except for a play or two,
and included such works as Biographia Literaria(1817), a work on nearly
He was still
haunted by his failure to break free from opium, however, and to this
end he moved into the house of an apothecary named James Gillman, asking
Gillman to help cut back his opium dose. Like all addicts, though, Col
quickly had an alternate supply arranged. Col had apparently separated
from his children as well; his friends and relatives had to take up
a collection to send Hartley to school, and at one point, he went 8
years without seeing his children15. His London friends, though, loved
his conversational skills and continually sought him out. His nephew,
Henry Nelson Coleridge16, published a collection of Col's conversation
called Table Talk, and Col himself was not only publishing new works,
like Aids to Reflection(1825), but was reprinting the old in hopes of
finally making a real financial contribution to his family. By 1830,
the reviews of his work were becoming more and more positive, and he
was generally hailed as the finest critic of his day17. He still couldn't
reach financial security, however; a government reorganization lost
him his pension from the Royal Society of Literature, his one remaining
reliable source of income. He died, surprisingly peacefully, on 25 July
1834, leaving only books and manuscripts behind.
really only known today for his poetry, Col's contributions to the field
of criticism and our language were many. For instance, he not only coined
the word 'selfless,' he introduced the word 'aesthetic' to the English
language. Charles Lamb wrote one of my favorite descriptions of Col
in 1817: "his face when he repeats his verses hath its ancient
glory, an Arch angel a little damaged." Cole summed himself up
this way, in the epitaph he wrote for himself:
A Poet lies; or that which once was he.
O lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C.
That he, who many a year with toil of breath,
Found Death in Life, may here find Life in Death.
1. As near
as I can tell, no one but his wife ever called him Samuel; he was usually
Coleridge or Col, and definitely NEVER Sam. He often signed his works
S.T.C. or Estese.
2. Uncle John used to take his 10-year-old nephew to the taverns, where
Col would join in the barroom debates while his uncle got drunk. Col
loved it. Everyone called him a prodigy.
3. Thomas was the original Romantic poet, living in a garret and continually
on the verge of starvation as he struggled to write and make a name
for himself. He killed himself when he was only 17 years old.
4. They and other radical young men of the time (that is, most of the
young men of the time) often toasted the King: "May he be the last."
5. It was a utopia sort of thing, a group of young people living in
America, communal style. See also Wordsworth.
6. I know it's confusing having all these Saras around, but it'll get
7. It didn't quite work.
8. Yes, he already had admirers (he published his first book of poetry
in 1796). In 1798, the Wedgwoods, sons of the famous maker of fine china,
also gave him an annuity. For some reason, nearly everyone Col knew
was always more than willing to give him money.
9. Col named these two sons after his favorite philosophers; his third
son, born September 1800, was named Derwent, after the river near their
house. Robert wondered, "Why will he give his children such heathenish
names? Did he dip him in the river and baptize him in the name of the
11. William and Robert also were turning away from his radical ways,
leading future luminaries like Keats and Shelley to call them fickle,
12. The famous episode involving "Kublai Khan," which he probably
wrote around 1797, where Col was unable to finish the poem because he
was interrupted by a "person from Porlock" who wouldn't leave,
is probably not true. Most likely, Col just couldn't keep his concentration.
13. The lectures were apparently quite good, though they were mostly
lost. No one took good notes on the first set, and the man Robert hired
to record the next set, Payne Collier, was later famous as a literary
forger, so his notes were taken with a grain of salt.
14. I'm not kidding. He was very well-read, and this work included every
subject he'd ever thought about seriously. The literary criticism section
really made his name as a critic. He even dared to criticize William's
work, which William hated even though Col was both fair and perceptive.
15. Young Sara, of course, knew him least, but she was much like him
in intelligence and temperament, unfortunately. She also became an opium
16. Henry fell in love with Col's daughter and married her, even though
they were first cousins.
17. And he was also being hailed along with William as one of the two
finest poets of the day, in spite of the extreme popularity of Sir Walter
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
''This page is about the nineteenth century English poet. For the twentieth
century classical composer, see Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (October 21, 1772-July 25, 1834) was an English
poet, critic, and philosopher and, along with his friend William Wordsworth,
one of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England. He is probably
best known for his poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
was born in Ottery St. Mary, the son of a vicar. After the death of
his father, he was sent to Christ's Hospital, a boarding school in London.
In later life, Coleridge idealised his father as a pious innocent, but
his relationship with his mother was a difficult one. His childhood
was characterised by attention-seeking, which has been linked with his
dependent personality as an adult, and he was rarely allowed to return
home during his schooldays. From 1791 until 1794 he attended Jesus College
at the University of Cambridge, except for a short period when he enlisted
in the royal dragoons. At the university he met political and theological
ideas then considered radical. He left Cambridge without a degree and
joined the poet Robert Southey in a plan, soon abandoned, to found a
utopian communist-like society, called pantisocracy, in the wilderness
of Pennsylvania. In 1795 the two friends married Sarah and Elizabeth
Fricker (who were sisters), but Coleridge's marriage proved unhappy.
Southey departed for Portugal, but Coleridge remained in England. In
1796 he published Poems on Various Subjects.
In 1795 Coleridge
met poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. The two men published
a joint volume of poetry, Lyrical Ballads (1798), which proved to be
a manifesto for Romantic poetry. The first version of Coleridge's great
poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner appeared in this volume.
Coleridge started using opium as a pain reliever. His and Dorothy Wordsworth's
notebooks record that he suffered from a variety of medical complaints,
including toothache and facial neuralgia. There appears to have been
no stigma associated with merely taking opium then, but also little
understanding of the physiological or psychological aspects of addiction.
1797 and 1798, during which the friends lived in Nether Stowey, Somerset,
were among the most fruitful of Coleridge's life. Besides the Ancient
Mariner, he composed the symbolic poem Kubla Khan, written as a result
of an opium dream, in "a kind of a reverie", and began 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.
In the autumn
of 1798 Coleridge and Wordsworth left for a stay in Germany; Coleridge
soon went his own way and spent much of his time in university towns.
During this period he became interested in German philosophy, especially
the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, and in the literary criticism
of the 18th-century dramatist Gotthold Lessing. Coleridge studied German
and, after his return to England, translated the dramatic trilogy Wallenstein
by the romantic poet Friedrich Schiller into English.
In 1800 he
returned to England and shortly thereafter settled with his family and
friends at Keswick in the Lake District of Cumberland. Soon, however,
he fell into a vicious circle of lack of confidence in his poetic powers,
ill-health, and increased opium dependency.
to 1806, Coleridge lived in Malta and travelled in Sicily and Italy,
in the hope that leaving Britain's damp climate would improve his health
and thus enable him to reduce his consumption of opium. For a while
he had a civil-service job as the Public Secretary of the British administration
of Malta. Thomas de Quincey alleges in his Recollections of the Lakes
and the Lake Poets that it was during this period that Coleridge became
a full-blown opium addict, using the drug as a substitute for the lost
vigour and creativity of his youth. It has been suggested, however,
that this reflects de Quincey's own experiences more than Coleridge's.
and 1819 this "giant among dwarfs", as he was often considered
by his contemporaries, gave a series of lectures in London and Bristol
– those on Shakespeare renewed a cultural interest in the playwright.
In 1816 Coleridge,
his addiction worsening, his spirits depressed, and his family alienated,
took residence in the home of the physician James Gillman, in Highgate.
ln Gillman's home he finished his major prose work, the Biographia Literaria
(1817), a volume composed of 25 chapters of autobiographical notes and
dissertations on various subjects, including some incisive literary
theory and criticism. The sections in which Coleridge's definitions
of the nature of poetry and the imagination – his famous distinction
between primary and secondary imagination on the one hand and fancy
on the other – are especially interesting. He published other
writings while he was living at the Gillman home, notably Sibylline
Leaves (1817), Aids to Reflection (1825), and Church and State (1830).
He died in Highgate on July 25, 1834.
Coleridge is probably best known for his hypnotic 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 (mis)quote
of "water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink", and
the phrase "a sadder but wiser man". Christabel is known for
its musical rhythm and language and its Gothic tale.
or, A Vision in a Dream, A Fragment, although shorter, is also widely
known and loved. It has strange, dreamy imagery and (like most good
poems) can be read on many levels. The name of Ted Nelson's Project
Xanadu comes from the first line of Kubla Khan. Both Kubla Khan and
Christabel have additional "romantic" aura because they were
shorter, meditative "conversation poems" speak from the heart
of the man who wrote them. 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.
Although known today primarily for his poetry, Coleridge also published
essays and books on literary theory and criticism and on politics, philosophy,
and theology. He introduced Immanuel Kant to the British public in his
lectures and "Thursday-night seminars" at Highgate. Coleridge's
treatment of the German idealist philosophers in the Biographia Literaria
has been subject to the accusation of plagiarism. It is known that he
presents lengthy translations, particularly from Schelling, as his own
work. de Quincey compares this to kleptomania, although Coleridge's
defenders attribute it to his poor organisation of notes rather than
both political commentary and hack journalism for several newspapers,
especially during the Napoleonic wars. He translated two of Schiller's
plays from the German and himself wrote several dramas (Zapolya had
successful runs in London and Bristol). He also worked as a teacher
and tutor, gave public lectures and sermons, and almost single-handedly
wrote and published two periodicals, the Watchman and the Friend. During
his life, he was famous as a conversationalist.
Table Talk, and range of friends reflect the breadth of his interests.
In addition to literary people such as William Wordsworth and Charles
Lamb, his friends included Humphry Davy the chemist, industrialists
such as the tanner Thomas Poole and members of the Wedgwood family,
Alexander Ball the military governor of Malta, the American painter
Washington Allston, and the physician James Gillman.
It was in
all probability Charles Lamb who introduced Coleridge to the writings
of Sir Thomas Browne. Browne's learning, literary style and personality
impressed Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey and both were aware of Browne's
drowsy opiate imagery. Coleridge not only annotated Browne's major literary
works, but in his correspondence exclaimed, "O to write a character
of this man!"
Coleridge (1772-1834), English lyrical poet, critic, and philosopher,
whose Lyrical Ballads,(1798) written with William Wordsworth, started
the English Romantic movement.
Coleridge was born in Ottery St Mary, Devonshire, as the youngest son
of the vicar of Ottery St Mary. After his father's death Coleridge was
sent away to Christ's Hospital School in London. He also studied at
Jesus College. In Cambridge Coleridge met the radical, future poet laureate
Robert Southey. He moved with Southey to Bristol to establish a community,
but the plan failed. In 1795 he married the sister of Southey's fiancée
Sara Fricker, whom he did not really love.
collection Poems On Various Subjects was published in 1796, and in 1797
appeared Poems. In the same year he began the publication of a short-lived
liberal political periodical The Watchman. He started a close friendship
with Dorothy and William Wordsworth, one of the most fruitful creative
relationships in English literature. From it resulted Lyrical Ballads,
which opened with Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
and ended with Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey". These poems set
a new style by using everyday language and fresh ways of looking at
Josiah and Thomas Wedgewood granted Coleridge an annuity of 150 pounds,
thus enabling him to pursue his literary career. Disenchanted with political
developments in France, Coleridge visited Germany in 1798-99 with Dorothy
and William Wordsworth, and became interested in the works of Immanuel
Kant. He studied philosophy at Göttingen University and mastered
the German language. At the end of 1799 Coleridge fell in love with
Sara Hutchinson, the sister of Wordsworth's future wife, to whom he
devoted his work "Dejection: An Ode" (1802). During these
years Coleridge also began to compile his Notebooks, recording the daily
meditations of his life. In 1809-10 he wrote and edited with Sara Hutchinson
the literary and political magazine The Friend. From 1808 to 1818 he
gave several lectures, chiefly in London, and was considered the greatest
of Shakespearean critics. In 1810 Coleridge's friendship with Wordsworth
came to a crisis, and the two poets never fully returned to the relationship
they had earlier.
from neuralgic and rheumatic pains, Coleridge had become addicted to
opium. During the following years he lived in London, on the verge of
suicide. He found a permanent shelter in Highgate in the household of
Dr. James Gillman, and enjoyed an almost legendary reputation among
the younger Romantics. During this time he rarely left the house.
In 1816 the
unfinished poems "Christabel" and "Kubla Khan" were
published, and next year appeared "Sibylline Leaves". According
to the poet, "Kubla Khan" was inspired by a dream vision.
His most important production during this period was the Biographia
Literaria(1817). After 1817 Coleridge devoted himself to theological
and politico-sociological works. Coleridge was elected a fellow of the
Royal Society of Literature in 1824. He died in Highgate, near London
on July 25, 1834.
10/21/1772 Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Ottery St. Mary, youngest
of the ten children of John Coleridge, a minister, and Ann Bowden Coleridge
Approx 1780 He was often bullied as a child by Frank, the next youngest,
and his mother was apparently a bit distant, so it was no surprise when
Coleridge ran away at age seven. He was found early the next morning
by a neighbor, but the events of his night outdoors frequently showed
up in imagery in his poems as well as the notebooks he kept for most
of his adult life.
1781 John Coleridge died (His father), and young Coleridge was sent
away to a London charity school for children of the clergy
1790 His brother Luke died.
1791 His only sister Ann died, inspiring Col to write Monody, one of
his first poems. Coleridge was very ill around this time and probably
took laudanum for the illness, thus beginning his lifelong opium addiction.
1793 He had started to hope for poetic fame, but by now, he owed about
£150 (because of opium, alcohol, and women)and was desparate.
So he joined the army. His family was furious. He`d used the improbable
name of Silas Tomkyn Comberbache and had escaped being sent to fight
in France because he could only barely ride a horse.
Approx 1793 His brother George finally arranged his discharge by reason
of insanity and got him back to Cambridge.
1795 Marries Sara Fricker.
1796 David Hartley Coleridge was born. First son.
1797 Poems published
1798 Berkeley Coleridge born, second son
1798 The famous Lyrical Ballads was published, a collaboration between
Coleridge and William Wordsworth. The authors didn`t realize this at
the time,they went to Germany with William`s sister Dorothy.
1798 Col`s son Berkeley died while he was away; the baby had been given
the brand-new smallpox vaccination and died of a reaction to it. Col,
as was typical of him, returned home slowly so as not to have to deal
openly with Berkeley`s death, and got little work done.
1800 Col named his first two sons after his favorite philosophers; his
third son, was named Derwent, after the river near their house. Robert
wondered, "Why will he give his children such heathenish names?
Did he dip him in the river and baptize him in the name of the Stream
1802 Birth of his daughter Sara.
1804 Coleridge spied a bit for his majesty, who wanted Malta as a British
port, though officially Col was the temporary Public Secretary. Col
had also hoped for a release from his addiction, but this was not to
1806 He returned to England and plucking up his courage, asked for a
legal separation from his wife.
1834 Died. Coleridge summed himself up this way, in the epitaph he wrote
for himself: Beneath this sod A Poet lies; or that which once was he.
O lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C. That he, who many a year with
toil of breath, Found Death in Life, may here find Life in Death.