Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Coleridge Samuel Taylor

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, poet, philosopher, theologian, critic, and journalist, was born on Oct. 21, 1772, at Ottery St. Mary, Devon, the youngest of ten children of the Rev. John Coleridge, vicar of the parish, and head master of King Henry the Eighth's free grammar school. Until his father's sudden death, in his ninth year, he was educated at home; in the following year, on July 18, 1782, he was entered at Christ's Hospital, where he remained eight years, entering Jesus College, Cambridge, early in 1791. Before going to Cambridge he had been smitten with the idea of becoming a surgeon, and read a vast number of books on surgery; then he had immersed himself in metaphysics, until in his eighteenth or nineteenth year he was won from philosophy to poetry by Bowles's sonnets. This "long and blessed" interval lasted for some ten or twelve years. His discursive mind, however, was even during this period much occupied by other subjects as well, particularly politics and theology, in both of which he was in those days an ardent Liberal. In 1793, under stress of pecuniary difficulties, he found his way to London, and enlisted as a private in the 15th Light Dragoons, under the name - which preserved his initials - of Silas Tomkyns Cumberbach. His scholarship, however, betrayed him, and within about four months he was bought out, and went back to Cambridge, where in the ensuing year he made himself known as a poet by publishing The Fall of Robespierre. Before this time he had gone with Southey to Bristol on a visit to the latter's aunt, and, being introduced to the family of a Bristol sugar-maker, named Fricker, had become engaged to one of the daughters, Sara, whom he married on Oct. 4, 1795. Another of the sisters became the wife of Southey, a third was already at the time of the Bristol visit married to their common friend Lovell (a Quaker), and a fourth refused Burnett, another of their friends. Between them the little band of enthusiasts formed the design of emigrating to the banks of the Susquehanna, in America, there to form a communistic society to be known among men as a "pantisocracy." The scheme never came to anything, and Coleridge took up his temporary abode in a cottage at Clevedon, Somerset, selling a volume of poems to Joseph Cottle, the Bristol bookseller, for thirty guineas, and delivering a course of political lectures. In 1796 he started a weekly miscellany under the title of The Watchman, himself canvassing for subscribers; but the paper had soon to be abandoned. He then (1797) lived for a time with his friend Thomas Poole at Nether Stowey, in a cottage placed at his service by another friend, Charles Lloyd, son of a Birmingham banker. While at Nether Stowey he wrote, under the title of Osorio, the drama long afterwards published as Remorse. Ultimately accepted at Drury Lane, on Byron's recommendation, it was produced there on Jan. 23, 1813, and was for those days a success, having a run of twenty nights. He also wrote another drama, Zapolya, which was published in 1818, but never acted. The Ancient Mariner, which appeared in the first volume of the Lyrical Poems (1798), was begun in collaboration with Wordsworth, who, however, contributed to it little beyond the idea of the albatross. Christabel was commenced about the same time, but did not see the light for eighteen years, and then only as a fragment. In January, 1798, Coleridge, who had from his early years been a singularly profuse and impressive talker, undertook a Unitarian pastorate at Shrewsbury, but speedily abandoned it at the instance of the Wedgwoods, sons of the potter, who gave him an annuity of £150 that he might devote himself to poetry and philosophy. His work as a poet, however, was nearly over, for he did little afterwards in this kind but lament his failing powers. After a visit to Germany in 1798-99 with the Wordsworths, one result of which was his translation of Schiller's Wallenstein, he stayed for a while in London, and did a good deal of excellent work for the Morning Post. In 1800 he made his home at Greta Hall, Keswick, and there, by taking the "Kendal black drop" as a remedy for rheumatic and neuralgic pains which were the consequence of reckless bathing in the New River in his Bluecoat School days, began to contract the habit of opium eating. In April, 1804, he went to Malta for the benefit of his health, and for rather more than a year was secretary to the Governor, Sir Alexander Ball. Returning to England, he migrated from place to place, delivered a series of lectures at the Royal Institution on Poetry and the Fine Arts in 1808, started a new weekly paper, The Friend, in August, 1809, and had to give it up in March, 1810; delivered another series of lectures in 1811 and 1812; and in 1816, his home being already broken up, entered the family of Mr. Gillman, a surgeon at Highgate, in order that he might be restrained from the indulgence which had long been the bane of his life. Here he remained until his death on July 25, 1834, never quite secure from his besetting temptation, though seldom succumbing to it. While at Highgate his fame as an unrivalled monologist drew to him most of the men of genius of the day, among them Carlyle, whose impressions of "the most surprising talker extant in this world," recorded in his Life of Sterling, are wrought into one of the most vivid and life-like of his portraits. After Coleridge's death, his friend, Mr. Joseph Henry Green, an eminent surgeon and Fellow of the Royal Society, who had had much intercourse with him at Highgate, set himself to systematise and develop his philosophy, giving to the task the remaining thirty years or so of his life, and leaving behind him in MS. the work published in 1865 as Spiritual Philosophy: founded on the Teaching of the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In addition to the works of Coleridge already named, he published The Statesman's Manual in 1816, Sybilline Leaves and Biographia Literaria in 1817, and Aids to Reflection in 1825. Four volumes of Literary Remains appeared posthumously in 1836-38, Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit in 1840, and an Essay on Method in 1845. As a poet, slender and fragmentary as was his work, Coleridge showed forth qualities of the highest order, which, had they been allied with stronger character, might have placed him in the same rank with Wordsworth. His inconsequence as a philosopher and theologian admits of the same explanation. As a journalist he has had the unstinted admiration of competent judges. But it was as a critic of poetry and the drama that he came nearest to doing himself justice. He was just in time to save his country from having to learn the supreme greatness of Shakspeare from a German; his separation of the great from the little in Wordsworth is final and conclusive; his formulation of the laws of poetry is the luminous and convincing work of one who was at once poet, philosopher, and critic. Altogether he was, without controversy, the most profusely gifted, if the least effectual, genius of a great generation.