Part of the Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters book series (19CMLL)


Samuel Taylor Coleridge was absent for the birth of his first and only daughter on December 23, 1802.1 He first learned of his wife’s safe delivery of the child from the Wordsworths (CN 1:1310n). His presence in body, some nine months earlier, masks the complete absence of his heart and mind from the event that produced the single-most important individual in the preservation of his legacy as one of the great intellectuals in English history. STC’s letter to Sara Hutchinson (the extramarital obsession who received far more of his affection than Sara’s mother ever knew), dated “April 4, 1802—Sunday Evening,” reveals the utterly broken state of his marriage at the time. Whether the letter was ever sent or not, the lines of “A Letter to ——,” the earliest draft of “Dejection: An Ode,” cast a dark shadow on the conception and birth of Sara Coleridge:

But thou, dear Sara! (dear indeed thou art,

My Comforter! A Heart within my Heart!) …

My little Children are a Joy, a Love, A good Gift from above! …

There have been hours, when feeling how they bind

And pluck out the Wing-feathers of my Mind,

Turning my Error to Necessity,

I have half-wish’d, they never had been born!2


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© Jeffrey W. Barbeau 2014

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