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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge[1†]

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher, and theologian[1†][2†]. He was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets[1†]. His most notable works include “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan”, as well as the major prose work "Biographia Literaria"[1†]. His critical work, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking cultures[1†]. Coleridge coined many familiar words and phrases, including "suspension of disbelief"[1†]. He had a major influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson and American transcendentalism[1†].

Throughout his adult life, Coleridge had crippling bouts of anxiety and depression; it has been speculated that he had bipolar disorder, which had not been defined during his lifetime[1†]. He was physically unhealthy, which may have stemmed from a bout of rheumatic fever and other childhood illnesses[1†]. He was treated for these conditions with laudanum, which fostered a lifelong opium addiction[1†].

Despite experiencing a turbulent career and personal life with a variety of highs and lows, Coleridge’s esteem grew after his death, and he became considered one of the most influential figures in English literature[1†]. For instance, a 2018 report by The Guardian labelled him “a genius” who had progressed into "one of the most renowned English poets"[1†].

Early Years and Education

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on October 21, 1772, in the rural town of Ottery St Mary, Devon, England[3†]. He was the youngest of 14 children[3†][4†]. His father, John Coleridge, was a well-respected vicar of the parish and had advanced to the position of Head Master of The King’s Free Grammar School at Ottery[3†]. His father’s positions brought the family only a small income, but they did earn the friendship of local baronet, Stafford Northcote[3†].

Coleridge’s grandfather, the elder John Coleridge, was a weaver by trade, and, as Coleridge claimed to William Godwin, he was also "half–poet and half–madman"[3†]. His father, the younger John Coleridge, was sent to the Crediton Grammar School until the age of 15, when the bankruptcy of the elder prompted the younger to seek employment[3†]. In 1747, he was accepted into Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, at the age of 28, and studied classics and Hebrew[3†]. After finishing college, the younger John Coleridge became a teacher in Devon[3†].

Coleridge received his early education at Christ’s Hospital School[3†][5†]. He was an avid reader from a young age, immersing himself to the point of morbid fascination in romances and Eastern tales such as The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments[3†][2†]. In 1781, his father died suddenly, and in the following year, Coleridge entered Christ’s Hospital in London, where he completed his secondary education[3†][2†]. In 1791, he entered Jesus College, Cambridge[3†][2†]. At both school and university, he continued to read voraciously, particularly in works of imagination and visionary philosophy, and he was remembered by his schoolmates for his eloquence and prodigious memory[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, along with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets[1†]. He also shared volumes and collaborated with Charles Lamb, Robert Southey, and Charles Lloyd[1†]. His most notable works include the poems “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan”, as well as the major prose work "Biographia Literaria"[1†]. His critical work, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking cultures[1†].

Coleridge’s career was marked by a constant struggle with personal issues, including crippling bouts of anxiety and depression, speculated to be bipolar disorder[1†]. He also suffered from physical health problems, possibly stemming from a bout of rheumatic fever and other childhood illnesses[1†]. These conditions were treated with laudanum, fostering a lifelong opium addiction[1†].

Despite these challenges, Coleridge’s esteem grew after his death, and he became considered one of the most influential figures in English literature[1†]. For instance, a 2018 report by The Guardian labelled him “a genius” who had progressed into "one of the most renowned English poets"[1†].

Throughout his adult life, Coleridge lectured on literature and philosophy, wrote about religious and political theory[1†][4†]. He spent two years on the island of Malta as a secretary to the governor in an effort to overcome his poor health and his opium addiction[1†][4†]. He lived off of financial donations and grants[4†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s literary contributions are vast and varied. His works have had a profound influence on English literature and continue to be studied and celebrated today[1†][2†].

Coleridge’s works are characterized by their innovative use of language, deep exploration of human emotion, and incorporation of supernatural and romantic elements[1†][2†]. His writings have had a lasting impact on English literature and continue to be celebrated for their depth and complexity[1†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s career as a literary critic is as noteworthy as his contributions to English poetry[7†]. His critical work, particularly on William Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking cultures[7†]. His major prose includes the contents of two periodicals, The Watchman (1796) and The Friend (1809-1810, 1818), two lay Sermons, “The Statesman’s Manual” (1816) and “A Lay Sermon” (1817), the Biographia Literaria (1817), “Treatise on Method”, originally published in The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana (1818), and a series of metaphysical aphorisms, Aids to Reflection (1825)[7†].

Coleridge’s literary criticism is particularly relevant to his poetry[7†]. His introspective works pushed the boundaries of Romantic poetry[7†][5†]. His verse was renowned for its use of imagery, symbolism, and emphasis on the natural world[7†][5†]. His writings have had a lasting impact on English literature and continue to be celebrated for their depth and complexity[7†][5†].

Despite his love for learning and literary improvement, he struggled to align with the culture at the college and did not enjoy the rigorous nature[7†][5†]. Nevertheless, it was the vibrant intellectual community at Cambridge that influenced him and allowed him to thrive[7†][5†].

Coleridge’s place in the canon of English poetry rests on a comparatively small body of achievement: a few poems from the late 1790s and early 1800s and his participation in the revolutionary publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1797[7†][8†]. His major poems, in contrast, speak with singular emotional and intellectual intensity in a surprising range of forms—from the symbolic fantasy of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which first appeared in Lyrical Ballads) to the autobiographical sincerity of the conversation poems—exerting an influence on subsequent poets far beyond what Coleridge himself anticipated[7†].

Personal Life

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on October 21, 1772, in Ottery St Mary, Devon, England[2†][1†]. He was the youngest of ten children by his father Reverend John Coleridge’s second wife, Anne Bowden[2†][1†].

In 1795, under pressure from Robert Southey, Coleridge hesitantly married Sara Fricker[2†][9†]. They had their first son, Hartley, the following year[2†][9†]. However, Coleridge and Southey abandoned their pantisocracy experiment shortly after, succumbing to the pressure of conventional family obligations[2†][9†].

After spending a year in Germany with the Wordsworths, Coleridge returned to England and settled in the Lake District[2†][10†]. The next twelve years of his life were marked by misery. The climate exacerbated his many ailments, and for pain relief, he took laudanum, a type of opium drug, and soon became an addict[2†][10†].

Throughout his adult life, Coleridge had crippling bouts of anxiety and depression[2†][1†]. It has been speculated that he had bipolar disorder, which had not been defined during his lifetime[2†][1†]. He was physically unhealthy, which may have stemmed from a bout of rheumatic fever and other childhood illnesses[2†][1†].

Despite experiencing a turbulent career and personal life with a variety of highs and lows, Coleridge’s esteem grew after his death[2†][1†]. He became considered one of the most influential figures in English literature[1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s intellectual legacy is vast and enduring[11†][1†]. As a poet, literary critic, philosopher, and theologian, he left an indelible mark on the Romantic Movement in England[11†][1†]. His innovative verse, critical work, and philosophical ideas have had a profound influence on literature and thought, both in his time and in the centuries that followed[11†][1†].

Coleridge’s work, particularly his critical analysis of William Shakespeare and his introduction of German idealist philosophy to English-speaking cultures, has been highly influential[11†][1†]. His concept of the “suspension of disbelief” is still widely used in literary criticism today[11†][1†].

Despite his personal struggles with anxiety and mental health issues, Coleridge’s esteem grew after his death[11†][1†]. Today, he is considered one of the most influential figures in English literature[11†][1†]. His work continues to be celebrated and studied, and his ideas continue to inspire and provoke thought[11†][1†].

In conclusion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s life and work have left a lasting legacy. His contributions to literature, philosophy, and theology continue to resonate, making him a pivotal figure in the Romantic Movement and beyond[11†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Samuel Taylor Coleridge [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Samuel Taylor Coleridge: British poet and critic [website] - link
  3. Wikipedia (English) - Early life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge [website] - link
  4. Academy of American Poets - About Samuel Taylor Coleridge [website] - link
  5. Poem Analysis - Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Poet of Imagination [website] - link
  6. Internet Archive - The complete works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge : with an introductory essay upon his philosophical and theological opinions : Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834 [website] - link
  7. eNotes - Samuel Taylor Coleridge Analysis [website] - link
  8. SparkNotes - Coleridge’s Poetry: Full Book Analysis [website] - link
  9. University of Pennsylvania - KNARF Project - Samuel Taylor Coleridge -- Biography [website] - link
  10. Encyclopedia of World Biography - Samuel Taylor Coleridge Biography [website] - link
  11. Poetry Foundation - Samuel Taylor Coleridge [website] - link
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