Coleridge: Critic of Society

Coleridge: Critic of Society

Coleridge: Critic of Society

Coleridge: Critic of Society

Excerpt

I hope that this work will fill a gap in Coleridge studies and that it will reveal to the general reader an unexpected side of the poet's mind. It is based on the published political works; the original papers of Coleridge's journals, The Watchman and The Friend; the relevant files of the Morning Post and the Courier; and upon the manuscript Notebooks and other miscellaneous manuscript material in the British Museum and elsewhere.

I have dealt with the published works in strict chronological order so as to demonstrate the development of Coleridge's ideas-- though indeed I am not primarily concerned with the evolution of his political theory as such--and because I felt that what the student and general reader needed was a straightforward account of each of the political works, the circumstances of its publication, and a discussion of the social and political criticism contained therein. Much of the published material is unfortunately inaccessible and is likely to remain so until new editions of the prose works and journalism appear, but I hope that the following pages will direct attention to the original works and will lead readers to wonder why they have not been reprinted. Selections have been made, for example, in The Political Thought of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, by R. J. White, who has also republished, though with some revisions and omissions, the two Lay Sermon in Political Tracts of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley; but selections, particularly of Coleridge, are a poor substitute for the original.

This is the first study of Coleridge's political writings to make use of the vast amount of manuscript material that has recently been acquired by the British Museum. Frequently the Notebooks throw new light on the published works and they contain passages of penetrating social criticism that never found their way into print. The Notebooks demonstrate how much time Coleridge devoted to thoughts about society. He might have claimed, with far greater justice than Wordsworth, that 'he had given twelve hours thought to the condition and prospect of society for one to poetry'. And the Notebooks reveal a speculative daring, a spontaneity and forthrightness, which contrast strangely with the guarded, somewhat muffled pronouncements in many of his . . .

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