Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

Excerpt

Every writer about Coleridge must be conscious of his debt to the Narrative of James Dykes Campbell, which took its final form in 1894, and must regret that the full biography, so long contemplated by the poet's grandson, Ernest Hartley Coleridge, was destined to remain a fragment. Some intrepid scholar will, no doubt, one day take up that task. My own survey, like Campbell's, is a comparatively brief one, but it is able to draw upon a good deal of material which has accumulated during the last half-century, and some which, although probably known to him, he did not, in 1894, think it discreet to use. And, like Campbell, I have confined myself, in the main, to the limits of a narrative. One does not, indeed, get the full picture of Coleridge from a bare chronicle of his questing and self-tortured pilgrimage through life. But I do not think that it would have been wise to break the continuity of the book by any attempt at a detailed appreciation of his poetry, or of his Shakespearean criticism, or of his contribution to aesthetic theory, or of his political development, or of his final endeavour to provide a metaphysical basis for Trinitarian Christianity. These are tempting themes, but, although their student must take account of chronology, they can hardly be presented under its limitations.

Much of the purely biographical interest lies, I think, in the rise and fall of Coleridge's many friendships. Into these he was apt to enter lightly. He was not unaware of the tendency; there was little, indeed, in his own psychology, or in the whole sphere of things, which he was unable, by flashes, to illumine. He had the gift of good companionship, could both feel and inspire strong affections, and was ready, at times, to take considerable trouble for others. But in friendship, as in all else, he lacked staying-power. His 'Estese' was the most pathetic of his dreams. The . . .

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