The Genie and the Albatross: Coleridge and the Arabian Nights

  • Allan Grant


Any student who has read into Coleridge from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’,1 having been exercised by what the poem may be about, is bound to have come across this entry in Table Talk:

May 31, 1830

Mrs Barbauld once told me that she admired the Ancient Mariner very much, but that there were two faults in it, — it was improbable, and had no moral. As for the probability, I owned that that might admit some question; but as to the want of a moral, I told her that in my own judgment the poem had too much; and the only, or chief fault, if I might say so, was the obtrusion of the moral sentiment so openly on the reader as a principle or cause of action in a work of such pure imagination. It ought to have had no more moral than the Arabian Nights’ tale of the merchant’s sitting down to eat dates by the side of a well, and throwing the shells aside, and lo! a genie starts up, and says he must kill the aforesaid merchant, because one of the date shells had, it seems, put out the eye of the genie’s son.2


English Literature Fairy Tale Moral Sentiment Greek Tragedy Table Talk 
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Copyright information

© Peter L. Caracciolo 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allan Grant

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