Samuel Taylor Coleridge Introductory Essay On The Man And His Life.

1921 words - 8 pages

Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Born on October the 21st, 1772, in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire; died on July the 25th, 1834, in Highgate, near London.Poet, philosopher and critic, Coleridge stands as an influential figure of his time. William Hazlitt wrote that 'his thoughts did not seem to come with labour and effort; but as if borne on the gusts of genius, and as if the wings of his imagination lifted him from off his feet', and William Wordsworth called him 'the only wonderful man I ever knew'. His 'Lyrical Ballads', written with Wordsworth, heralded the English Romantic Movement, and his 'Biographia Literaria' (1817) is the most significant work of general literary criticism produced in the English Romantic period. Although Coleridge's poetic achievement was small in quantity, his metaphysical anxiety, anticipating modern existentialism, has gained him reputation as an authentic visionary.Coleridge was really quite a prodigy as a child. A precocious reader and talker, he immersed himself to the point of morbid fascination in romances and Eastern tales. He is not modest about this:"At six years old I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarll - and then I found the Arabian Nights' entertainments - one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was mending stockings) that I was haunted by spectres whenever I was in the dark - and I distinctly remember the anxious and fearful eagerness with which I used to watch the window in which the books lay - and whenever the sun lay upon them, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask, and read."At both school and university he continued to read voraciously, particularly in works of imagination and visionary philosophy. He was remembered by his schoolmates for his eloquence and prodigious memory.Coleridge's father was vicar of Ottery St Mary, Devon, and headmaster of the local grammar school. However, he died suddenly in 1781, and in the following year Coleridge entered Christ's Hospital in London, a charity school for children of the clergy, where he completed his secondary education. Here he began his friendship with Charles Lamb and wrote his early sonnets. Coleridge was unhappy here, although perhaps not in comparison to his earlier home life. Being the youngest of 10 children, his mother was apparently a bit distant. He was bullied by the next youngest and ran away at the age of seven. He was found early the next morning by a neighbour, but the events of his night outdoors frequently showed up in the imagery of his poems and notebooks. His brother Luke died in 1790 and his only sister Ann the next year. Coleridge was very ill around this time and probably took laudanum for the illness, thus beginning his lifelong opium addiction.In 1791 he entered Jesus College, Cambridge. He was poor in spite of some scholarships, and rapidly worked himself into debt with opium,...

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