Coleridge and Women’s Psychology

  • Anya Taylor

Abstract

Coleridge is a philosopher, radical politician, theologian, and poet whose work and nature appear tragic. His philosophical struggles—linking subject and object, unifying the fragments of life, moving from skepticism to trinitarianism—appear to compensate for his loss of poetic power and to express his suffering with drug and alcohol addiction, anxiety, and despair. Overlooked has been a concurrent side of his personality: the man of joy, whose energy radiates outward to all his activities, the precocious and passionate lover, the devoted observer of women. To shift the balance from pitying Coleridge’s failure to admiring his resilience, I consider his sensuousness, his amorousness, his desires and yearnings in love, his miraculous discovery of it, his loss ten years later, and ultimately his redefinition of love so that he can endure its absence. Eros impels his excitement about the body, his glee and pleasure, his melancholy, and his developing ethics of reverence for persons. Love is the force behind human imagination, as his stanza from “Love” in the epigraph to this book reveals, and the influence of this stanza, famous in his own time, reverberates in William Butler Yeats’s lines, the other epigraph that affirms how love lives within, spreads outward, and generates human creativity.

Keywords

Europe Hunt Metaphor Verse Prose 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    J. C. C. Mays, “Editor’s Introduction,” Poetical Works 1, part 1, The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series LXXV, 2001), p. xc.Google Scholar
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    George Felton Mathew in “European Magazine” (1816), in Coleridge, The Critical Heritage, ed. J. R. de J. Jackson (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1970), p. 241.Google Scholar
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    Collected Notebooks, 4, 5428, quoted in Michael John Kooy, Coleridge, Schiller, and Aesthetic Education (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2002), p. 185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    George Whalley, Coleridge and Sara Hutchinson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1955), pp. 65–66, says that “he refused to consider divorce”; even the sympathetic and wiseGoogle Scholar
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    A curious example of the excision of Coleridge’s adult erotic life is Jean H. Hagstrum, Eros and Vision: The Restoration to Romanticism (Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press, 1989), p. 75: “To penetrate, for example, the full reasons why Coleridge denied the existence of Cupid as a separate being would take more space than we have, but it might help us understand the shuddering withdrawals that everywhere characterize his private utterances about love” (my italics).Google Scholar
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    In Anya Taylor “Coleridge, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and the Difficulties of Loving,” PQ 79, 4 (Fall, 2000), 501–522, I describe the real young women who surround him in his later years and play his interlocutors in the mini-drama “The Improvisatore.”Google Scholar
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    Leigh Hunt (in 1828), in Richard W. Armour and Raymond F. Howes, Coleridge the Talker: A Series of Contemporary Descriptions and Comments (rept. 1940; New York and London: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1969), p. 266.Google Scholar

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© Anya Taylor 2005

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  • Anya Taylor

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