Coleridge and J. H. Green: the Anatomy of Beauty

  • Tim Fulford


Joseph Henry Green, 1791–1863, Professor of Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Royal Academy Schools, was concerned to ensure the dignity of his rapidly advancing branch of medicine by establishing a methodology based on philosophic principles. He is respected as one of the founders of the surgical profession and his eminence in operations upon diseases of the eye was praised in the early issues of The Lancet.1 He is best known to non-medical posterity, often with a certain condescension, as Coleridge’s disciple and literary executor. In the literary world of his day even those who were personally and intellectually sympathetic to Green tended to treat his philosophical work as an exposition by a disciple of his master’s thought. Robinson wrote congratulating Green on his Hunterian Oration and on the progress of public opinion in favour of the Master’s notions’.2 Green himself often took the attitude of a disciple, and his own words may have encouraged judgements such as Robinson’s. He wrote in 1832 that the truths of Coleridge’s system ‘appear to me rather as revelations than as human thoughts’.3 His Spiritual Philosophy; founded on the teaching of S. T. Coleridge, published in 1865, was treated as a disciple’s labour of love, but its arguments were attacked by Coleridge’s biographer, Traill.4


Genial Criticism British Library Primary Imagination Universal Truth Creative Power 
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  1. 1.
    J. H. Green, ‘On the Diseases of the Eye’, The Lancet, 2 no. 8 (16 February 1824 ), 244–57 (p. 257 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Henry Crabb Robinson on Books And Their Writers ed. Edith J. Morley (London: Dent, 1938), it, 664.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    H. J. Jackson, ‘Coleridge’s Collaborator, Joseph Henry Green’, SIR, 21 (1982), 161–79.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Adapted from F. W. J. Schelling, Über das Verhaltniss der bildenden Kunste zu der Natur (Munich, 1807) and included in BLS, II, 253–63.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Translated as ‘Concerning The Relation Of The Plastic Arts to Nature. 1807’, trans. Michael Bullock, in The True Voice of Feeling by Herbert Read (London: Faber & Faber, 1947) pp. 323–64.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    The details are given in Simon, pp. vi-viii and in Tieck and Solger: The Complete Correspondence ed. Percy Matenko (New York and Berlin: Westermann, 1933), pp. 369–76 (276).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

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  • Tim Fulford

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