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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in the country town of Ottery St Mary, Devonshire, England on October 21, 1772. His father, the Reverend John Coleridge (1718–1781), was a well-respected vicar of the parish and headmaster of Henry VIII's Free Grammar School at Ottery.

During the end of the eighteenth century, Samuel Coleridge lived in a miserable, mice infested cottage at Nether Stowey, rented for £7 a year and described as " a miserable hovel" by Coleridge's wife, Sara. He wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner there between 1797-98.

The Nether Stowey locals suspected the Coleridges of being French spies because of their radical political and theological ideas.

Coleridge was a Unitarian, who had considered entering the Unitarian ministry and a pantheist. He had preached throughout the West Country and on one occasion after hearing Coleridge preach, the writer William Hazlett commented “Poetry and philosophy met together. Truth and genius had embraced…under the eyes of religion.”

Coleridge edited for a short time in 1796 a radical Christian journal, The Watchman, which ran for ten issues.

For twenty years Coleridge took half a gallon of laudanum a week for his rheumatism and toothache and he became totally addicted to it.

Coleridge had a bodily revulsion due to his drug addiction, which induced obsessive washing. He couldn't endure the least bit of dirt on his person.

In 1813 after a physical and spiritual crisis at the Greyhound Inn, Bath, Coleridge reached a turning point recommitting himself to the Christian faith , and openly confessing to his opium addiction.

20 years after Samuel Coleridge composed the poem Kublai Khan after an opium influenced sleep it  was finally published in 1816.

Coleridge wrote about 750 poems in total including an elegy to his broken shaving pot.

Coleridge in 1795

A voracious reader, he said the three best-plotted works in literature were Oedipus Rex, Tom Jones and The Alchemist as all the loose ends were tied up at the end.

Coleridge had the habit of scribbling notes and comments in books as he read them. His collected scribbles ran to five volumes.

Among the many words that Coleridge coined were soulmate, bisexual, boastfulness, dream world, dynamic, factual, pessimism and psychosomatic.

Coleridge was out riding with a friend wearing his usual shabby clothes. Seeing some people approaching, Coleridge suggested he pass himself off as his friend's servant. "No" said the companion, "I am proud of you as a friend but would be ashamed of you as a servant."

In April 1816, Coleridge, with his addiction worsening, took residence in the Highgate homes, then just north of London, of an admirer Dr James Gillman, a young surgeon, first at South Grove and later at the nearby 3 The Grove.

Coleridge at age 42, portrait by Washington Allston

Coleridge grew plants on his windowsill at his The Grove, Highgate home, including the symbolic herb myrtle, emblem of lost love.

The model Kate Moss bought Coleridge's former The Grove Highgate home in 2011.

Coleridge died in Highgate, London on July 25, 1834 as a result of heart failure compounded by an unknown lung disorder, possibly linked to his use of opium.

Source Faber Book of Anecdotes 

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