Friend of the Blog Phillip A. Ellis sent me this gem of Coleridgianism, from the Cairns Post newspaper archive – from 1934, a report on the centenial celebrations that took place on the anniversary of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s death in Westminster Abbey and Nether Stowey.
A most interesting read for me, given that I suspect John Livingston Lowes to have been here, who so far has been the focus of my research.
Anonymous, “Samuel Taylor Coleridge”, Cairns Post, September 15, 1934, page 4.
On Wednesday, July 25, was celebrated, by a special service in Westminster Abbey, and a pilgrimage to Nether Stowey, once his home, the centenary of the death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, not only one or the greatest of English poets, (and joint founder of the so-called “Lake School,” but a philosopher and critic of no mean order.
The poetry of the Age of Reason, redolent as it is with artificalities and superficial satire, and over-ornate expression sometimes termed vulgarly “poetry with knobs on,” was succeeded towards the end of the eighteenth century by a different school of poets—-the romanticists. The bond which bound poetry to politics and society was severed, to be replaced by the natural descriptions and simple imagery of such poets as Cowper and Blake. The love of Nature, which for a while had burnt very low in English poetry revives in the Elergy of Gray amd The Task of Cowper, and flames into fiercer energy in the songs of Burns and certain of the Odes of Collins, writes M.H.C.B. in “The Age.” The spell of the supernatural, soon to in spire the greatest poem of Coleridge had already swayed the whole life and outlook of Blake. Whether simple description or uncanny tale, the new school represented a revolt against the tyranny of finite reason, and the Augustan standard of ‘correctness.’ Wordsworth and Coleridge were two of the main figures in the break from tradition and Coleridge set the fashion for poetry with supernatural machinery. Walter Pater has said:—-“It is in a highly sensitive apprehension of the aspects of external nature that Coleridge identifies himself most closely with one of the main tendencies of the school of romanticism, a tendency instinctive, and no mere matter of theory, in him as in Wordsworth.”
Coleridge was born at Ottery St Marry, in Devonshire, in 1772, the son of an eccentric clergyman, and was educated at Christ’s Hospital where he cultivated a taste for omnivorous reading in such precocious subjects as metaphysics, theology and Neo-Platonism. Later, the discovery of a liking for the sonnets of Bowles did much to turn his thoughts towards poetry. In 1791 Coleridge the captain of his school, was awarded an exhibition at Jesus College, Cambridge, and won, in his first year the Browne Medal for a Greek Ode. He left the university under a cloud, because of his revolutionary tendencies, and enlisted in the 15th Dragoons under the ridiculous name of Silas Tomkyn Comberbach; but a penchant for the scribbling of Latin
tags led to curiosity as to his antecedents,and his subsequent discovery and discharge.
On a visit to Oxford he met Southey, and a friendship sprang up based on common tastes, the first fruit of which was the projection of a scheme entitled Pantisocracy,entailing the settlement on the banks of the Susquehanna–chosen for its euphonious name!–of a number of kindred souls who were to lead an idyllic life of intellectual enjoyment. Financial difficulties were never surmounted, and the scheme was dropped.
After his marriage in 1795, Coleridge eked out a living by a series of political and literary addresses in the West of England, on the advice of a Bristol bookseller named Cottle who gave him £30 for the copyright of his first book of poems. Then started the “Watchman,” a political periodical in prose and verse. He watched in vain, for the magazine only ran for ten numbers. Want of order and punctuality, and Coleridge’s philosophical theories disgusted the readers. An amusing illustration of the unsalable nature of the “Watchman” is an anecdote to the effect that one day, on coming downstairs, Coleridge found the maid using an extravagant amount of paper to light the fire. When he proached her the saucy miss replied:–“La, sir, it’s only the ‘Watchman’!” In 1797 Coleridge moved Nether Stowey, in Somerset, not far from the Wordsworths, and so began that intimate relationship which to have such a wide and profound effect on English verse.
Part Two forthcoming.