Samuel Taylor Coleridge

English poet, literary critic and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge tragically died in Highgate, London on 25 July 1834 as a result of heart failure compounded by an unknown lung disorder. He was born on 21 October 1772 in the country town of Ottery St Mary, Devon, England. In 1781, 8-year-old Samuel was sent to Christ’s Hospital, a charity school founded in the 16th century in Greyfriars, London, where became friends with Charles Lamb, and studied the works of Virgil and William Lisle Bowles.From 1791 until 1794, Coleridge attended Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1792, he won the Browne Gold Medal for an ode that he wrote on the slave trade. In December 1793, he left the college and enlisted in the Royal Dragoons using the false name “Silas Tomkyn Comberbache”. Whilst 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.

Between 1797 and 1798, he lived at Coleridge Cottage, in Nether Stowey, Somerset, and In 1795, Coleridge met poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. (Wordsworth, having visited him and being enchanted by the surroundings, rented Alfoxton Park, a little over three miles [5 km] away.) 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. The writing of Kubla Khan, written about the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan and his legendary palace at Xanadu, was said to have been interrupted by the arrival of a “Person from Porlock” — an event that has been embellished upon in such varied contexts as science fiction and Nabokov’s Lolita. During this period, he also produced his much-praised “conversation” poems This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison, Frost at Midnight, and The Nightingale.

In 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth published a joint volume of poetry, Lyrical Ballads, which proved to be the starting point for the English romantic age, the star of the collection was Coleridge’s first version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Coleridge also worked briefly in Shropshire, where he came in December 1797 as locum to its local Unitarian minister, Dr Rowe, in their church in the High Street at Shrewsbury. He is said to have read his Rime of the Ancient Mariner at a literary evening in Mardol and was contemplating a career in the ministry. In 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth travelled to Germany, where they became interested in German philosophy, especially the transcendental idealism and critical philosophy 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 German Classical poet Friedrich Schiller into English. In 1799, Coleridge and Wordsworth stayed at Sockburn, near Darlington. It was here that Coleridge wrote his ballad-poem Love, addressed to Sara. The knight mentioned is the mailed figure on the Conyers tomb in ruined Sockburn church. The figure has a wyvern at his feet, a reference to the Sockburn Worm slain by Sir John Conyers (and a possible source for Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky). The poem was a direct inspiration for John Keats’ famous poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

Around 1800 he settled with his family and friends at Keswick in the Lake District of Cumberland to be near Grasmere, where Wordsworth had moved. In 1804, he travelled to Sicily and Malta, However he returned to England in 1806 but returned to Malta in 1897 and then 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. 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.In 1809, Coleridge made his second attempt to become a newspaper publisher and published a weekly journal entitled The Friend, which he wrote, edited, and published almost entirely single-handedly. Despite many financial difficulties The Friend became a highly influential work drawing upon every corner of Coleridge’s remarkably diverse knowledge of law, philosophy, morals, politics, history, and literary criticism, and it ran for 25 issues and was republished in book form a number of times. Between 1810 and 1820, Coleridge gave a series of lectures in London and Bristol – those on Shakespeare renewed interest in the playwright as a model for contemporary writers. Much of Coleridge’s reputation as a literary critic is founded on the lectures that he undertook in the winter of 1810–11. These lectures were heralded in the prospectus as “A Course of Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, in Illustration of the Principles of Poetry.” Coleridge’s ill-health, opium-addiction problems, and somewhat unstable personality meant that all his lectures were plagued with problems of delays and a general irregularity of quality from one lecture to the next.

However, His lecture on Hamlet in 1812 is considered the best and has influenced Hamlet studies ever since. In August 1814, Coleridge was approached by Lord Byron’s publisher, John Murray, about the possibility of translating Goethe’s classic Faust (1808). Coleridge was regarded by many as the greatest living writer on the demonic so he accepted the commission. In 1817,Coleridge, with his addiction worsening, his spirits depressed, and his family alienated, took residence in Highgate, where he finished the Biographia Literaria (1817), a volume composed of 23 chapters of autobiographical notes and dissertations on various subjects, including some incisive literary theory and criticism. He also composed much poetry here and had many inspirations — a few of them from opium overdose, Colerdige remained here for the rest of his life, and the house has since become a place of literary pilgrimage. He published other writings notably Sibylline Leaves (1817), Aids to Reflection (1825), and Church and State (1826).

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