THE letters in these volumes provide an invaluable record of the personal life and intellectual preoccupations of Coleridge from the year 1820 until his death in July 1834 and complete the self- portraiture begun in the correspondence of his early and middle years. The present letters, over half of which are now published for the first time, show especially his concern with the questions of moral and religious philosophy, reveal the nature of the friendships which he found so necessary and rewarding, and disclose the hopes and aspirations which sustained him, as well as the frustrations and sorrows which beset him. Although old age came upon him prematurely and ill health often incapacitated him, still these closing years brought him a measure of peace such as he had never known. Except for holiday excursions to the seaside, usually to Ramsgate, a tour of Belgium, the Rhineland, and Holland in 1828, a heartbreaking journey to Oxford in 1820, a pleasant one to Cambridge in the year before he died, and occasional visits to London or near by, Coleridge 'sat on the brow of Highgate Hill' reading, writing, and talking. Befriended by his neighbours, cheered by the visitors who called to pay him homage, and dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, he became the sage of Highgate. If only a fraction of what he wrote during the last fourteen and a half years of his life reached publication, his major works, Aids to Reflection, 1825, On the Constitution of The Church and State, 1830, Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit published posthumously in 1840, and three editions of his Poetical Works, 1828, 1829, and 1834, as well as occasional contributions to Blackwood's Magazine and various Literary Annuals, indicate that he was far from being 'the sole unbusy thing' described in one of his poems.
By 4 January 1820, the date of the first letter in these volumes, Coleridge had been for several years an established and beloved member of the Gillman household at Highgate -- indeed, his arrival there in April 1816 marked a turning-point in his life. The years of wandering from place to place were over. He had found at last what was to be his permanent home for the rest of his life. There was now much to be thankful for. Although he was troubled by his indebtedness to the Gillmans, he no longer had to fret over the annual premium for his Assurance Policy, his friend Green having arranged to pay it each year. It is unlikely, too, that he was able