So, usually, Mr C today is remembered for one particular friendship, that with William Wordsworth, his verses be damned. For the Lyrical Ballads, of course.
Now, while Wordsworth surely made his stamp on literary history, for understanding Coleridge, at least, young Coleridge, his friendship with Robert Southey, is way more important.
Southey, who is remembered for… What exactly? For me personally, it’s Rodrick, but that’s another story entirely. 😉
So, in 1794, the flattering version of the story is that Southey and Coleridge came together to try a literary exercise, “to imitate the impassioned and highly figurative language of the French Orators”, as Mr C himself would put it.
The less flattering version is that, like many young writers, they were short on money, and wanted to capitalize on a topic that was among the most discussed news of the year – Robespierre’s rise and fall in particular, and the French Revolution in general.
What became of it, after the usual young writers’ woes of unwilling publishers, nagging editors, and the usual rookie refinement of their style, is actually quite the gem for somebody looking for juicy quotes about the English and their view on the French Revolution.
I was most surprised to find that not only does the play sport a pretty good wiki article, but also does a good e-text version of the text exist:
Allow me to refer you to this page in particular:
The ANNOTATED version of the text, praise be the fine folks at the University of Maryland! Oh, if this was only available in print! 🙂