Thursday, October 21, 2010

Remembering... Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Both the youngest and the favourite of 14 children, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (born on this day in 1772) took refuge in the place many bullied children do - the library; when not ensconced in a book he could be found rambling the Devonshire countryside, communing with Nature around Ottery St Mary where he was born.

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At the age of 23 Coleridge hatched a plan with his fellow poet Robert Southey to move to America and start a commune in the wilds of Pennsylvania; although the plan failed before it could be brought to fruition, the friends did end up marrying a pair of sisters out of it. In this endeavour Southey seems to have made the better match, whereas Coleridge merely added a failed marriage and divorce to the list of his woes.

Alongside his friend William Wordsworth*, Coleridge founded the Romantic movement of poetry, which rooted itself in the classics, and concerned itself with experiencing the joys of Nature amidst a booming industrial expansion already blackening much of Britain by the time he was a young man.

Due to a well-documented battle with toothache and facial neuralgia, Coleridge sought relief in opium as early as age 26, blissfully unaware as everyone around him was of the addictive qualities of the poppy. Although credited with giving his work its ethereal imagery, opium was to be the death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who died in the home of his physician, James Gillman, in the Highgate section of London in July 1834. He was 61.

*About which camaraderie Adam Sisman has written The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge - available at all fine links immediately preceding this statement and in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute, natch...
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