From the time of the publication of his Poems in 1888, Hartley Coleridge intended to issue additional volumes of verse, but he never succeeded in doing so. Though he occasionally contributed poems to magazines, on his death in 1849 he left behind him a large body of unpublished poetry. In 1851, Derwent Coleridge, who with his sister inherited his brother's literary remains, published two volumes of Hartley Coleridge's poetry, the first volume including a Memoir and the poems of 1833, the second and larger volume containing posthumous poems. In 1908, Ramsay Colles reprinted Derwent Coleridge's edition in the Muses Library, omitting the Memoir and adding four or five new poems. Since 1908 no edition of Hartley Coleridge has been published. Interest in the poet has not waned, however. Examples of his poetry nearly always appear in Nineteenth Century anthologies, and he has been the subject of several recent studies.
The present editor, delving among the Hartley Coleridge papers in the possession of the Rev. G. H. B. Coleridge, came across nearly three hundred unpublished poems, many of them in the poet's own handwriting. A further search revealed the existence of a number of manuscripts in private hands or public libraries, and these materials were generously made available. The present edition, therefore, is a selection from both the unpublished and published poetry of Hartley Coleridge, and every effort has been made to choose those poems most representative of the poet's genius.
The unpublished poems are richer in autobiographical materials than those previously published, and they contain innumerable examples of Hartley Coleridge's wit and humour. Derwent Coleridge held himself to a pretty strict editorial policy, and 'more than half of the poems found in manuscript' were laid aside. 'No piece,' he writes, 'has been admitted of pure drollery, or in which the occasional character appeared to predominate; although many of these jeux d'esprit--outpourings of a sportive fancy, and of a most affectionate heart--gave much pleasure in the author's immediate circle, and are such, perhaps, as none but himself could have produced.' The present editor believes that many of these pieces are worth rescuing from oblivion.
For convenience the present volume is divided into three sections. The first part contains a selection from the poems published by Hartley Coleridge himself in 1833; the second division contains poems selected from the posthumous volume of 1851; and the third section includes poems hitherto . . .