Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devonshire in 1772. A very intelligent and imaginative child, he soon lost his father, and attended a charity school in London. Then he went to Cambridge University, but he left without taking his degree, and made friends with young radical poet Robert Southey. Like many other young intellectuals of the time, the two young men were enthusastic supporters of the French Revolution and were influenced by radical ideas, and for a periof they dreamt of founding a “Pantisocracy” – an ideal community based on egalitarian principles.
When Coleridge met William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy in 1797, they became close friends because they shared many ideas and supported one another. The friendship of the two greatest poets of their time started a revolution in English poetry: their talks and arguments on poetry, philosophy and life stimulated both to extraordinary creativeness, and together they planned the Lyrical Ballads, which came out in 1798. It was between 1797 and 1798 that Coleridge wrote his best works, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubia Khan and Christable. After the publication of the Lyrical Ballads, Coleridge and the Wordsworths travelled to Germany to learn the language and something of the literature and philosophy, which particularly appealed to Coleridge. When they returned to England, he moved to Lake District to be near the Wordsworth.
In 1800 his health worsened, and he gradually increased the opium dosage with which he alleviated the pains of neuralgia, untill he became an addict. A period of depression ensued, during which he was haunted by the idea that his poetic inspiration and his powers of concentration were waning. All these circumstances led to a quarrel with Wordsworth who did not approve of his friend’s opium addiction, and the momentous friendship between the two poets came to an end.
In 1811 Coleridge returned to London, where he spent the rest of his life, regained strenght and managed to control his drug addiction. But his period poetic creativity was over, and he devoted himself to prose works; he gave lectures – particularly famous his lectures on Shakespeare, and charmed people with his brilliant conversation. 1816 saw the publication of Christabel and Kubla Khan, and a year later his Biographia Literaria came out. He died in 1834.