4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge

1. Biography

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devonshire in 1772. At the age of 10 he was sent first to Christs Hospital School in London and then to Cambridge, where he never graduated. He was influenced by French revolution ideals. 

In 1797 he met the poet William Wordsworth and settled in Somerset and they started a collaboration for the writing of Lyrical Ballads. 

Most of his best poetry belongs to these years:

The Rime of an Ancient Mariner, his masterpiece written in 1798 and the first poem of the collection ‘Lyrical Ballads’ became the Manifesto of English Romanticism movement;

Christabel was written in 1797 but published in 1816 and it’s unfinished;

Kubla Khan (unfinished) is a 54-line fragment written in 1798 and published in 1816. It was composed under the influence of opium. Coleridge described this dream-like poem as a psychological curiosity. 

In 1799 he joined Wordsworth in the Lake District and he spent a period of solitude in Malta between 1804 and 1806. 

Finally he returned to London and he produced Biographia Literaria (1817), a classic text of literary criticism and autobiography. 

His own task was to write about extraordinary events in a credible way. He died in 1834.

2. Imagination and fancy

Like Blake and Wordsworth, Coleridge stressed the role of imagination and his critical essays did much to assert the idea of creative power. 

He distinguished between ‘primary imagination’ and ‘secondary imagination’. 

The first is a fusion of perception and the human individual power to produce images; the second is something similar to a poetic faculty. Imagination is more important than fancy and it’s based on the power of association of material provided and subject to the rational law of judgment. 

A practical example is in ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. 

4. The idea in...

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