Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772 and died on 25 July 1834. Every mood, every thought, everything he ever did, perhaps, is mirrored in his correspondence. Indeed, the almost 2,000 letters in the Collected Edition are so varied in subject-matter, so revealing of this ‘man of vast Intellect & almost portentous Variety & Depth of Learning’,* that their full richness cannot be conveyed in a single lecture. Yet after editing this voluminous correspondence, I can say that a self-drawn portrait emerges from the letters. In them we find, in the words of Henry James, a ‘rare, anomalous, magnificent, interesting, curious, tremendously suggestive character, vices and all, with all its imperfections on its head’.1 Were there no other sources available for the study of Coleridge as a man and as a thinker, the letters would provide an insight into his mind and the main biographical facts of his life. The five autobiographical letters to Poole written in 1797 and 1798, for example, furnish an invaluable account of his family background and earliest childhood.
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- 1.Henry James, Notebooks (New York, 1947) p. 152.Google Scholar
- 5.E. H. Coleridge (ed.) Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1895) I vii–viii.Google Scholar
- 8.E. K. Chambers, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Oxford, 1938), p. 230.Google Scholar
- 11.Virginia Woolf, Collected Essays (1967) iii 219.Google Scholar
- 12.Ibid.Google Scholar
- 42.Helen Darbishire, The Poet Wordsworth (1950) p. 90.Google Scholar
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- 51.Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. R. E. Prothero (1901) vi 113.Google Scholar