Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Biography #

21^(st) Oct 1772.        Born the 10^(th) and youngest child of a vicar and schoolmaster and his second wife – in Ottery Street Mary in Devonshire.


After a quarrel with brother, ran away from home and slept that night near a stream – he suffered from exposure and suffered ill-health the rest of his life.

1781            Father dies. 

1782            For the next nine years Coleridge is sent to Christ’s Hospital, a London Charity School where he met Charles Lamb. He studied the classics, medicine, metaphysics, and theology. He was often sick, spending months in bed with jaundice and rheumatic fever.

1791            Entered Jesus College,  Cambridge, spend a year studying but sick with rheumatism.


1793            Enlisted in the Light Dragoons in Reading for two years.


1794            Met Robert Southey, a poet and sturdy Republican.  They plan to establish an ideal community in remote America with 12 young men and their wives.  There would be no private ownership, no industrialism.  Called Pantisocracy, it was an experiment in a perfect society and foreshadowed later attempts at utopian socialism.

Southey was in love with Edith Fricker and suggested her sister Sara for Coleridge.  Though the plan fell through, Coleridge felt obliged to marry Sara.  It was happy for a short time only. 

1795            Met William Wordsworth and the two began a long collaboration to write poetry in the language of the people.  Wordsworth, a Francophile, searched for some sort of radical revolutionary reform as in the French Revolution.  Both poets hoped for some kind of change in the soul of England, beyond politics; an ascendency of the imagination over reason as a pathway to social improvement during a time of change, violence, pollution but also of possibility. 

                    Wordsworth with his sister Dorothy and Coleridge with his wife Sara spent the summer living in the heath and woodlands of Somerset, overlooking the shores of the Bristol Channel a few miles apart, walking and writing rustic poetry. 

                    Alarmed by their deemed social activism and subversive writings, the Pitt regime had them under close surveillance by a spy from the Home Office ordered to “narrowly watch their proceedings” for being perpetrators of potentially treasonous propaganda.

                    It was here that Coleridge wrote Kublai Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner while Wordsworth *Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey.  *Both were unconventional, experimental poets with little need for public acclaim or external validation. 

1796            First child,  Hartley born. 

1798            Traveled to  Germany to learn the language and study Philosophy and science.

1799            Returned from Germany, became infatuated with Sara Hutchinson, sister-in-law of Wordsworth.  This became a significant influence on his work.

1800-01       Sickly so began to take opium, ladanum and alcohol for relief.  The drugs made him interested in sense perception but to some deterioration of his body and mind.  He felt that the opium held his rational mind in check and set his imagination free.  (hallucinations?)

1803 – 04     Ill-health and separated from wife he sails to Malta as secretary to the Governor.

1806 – 16     Returns to England in poor health. Lectures and writes – addicted to Opium.

1816 -  34    Becomes patient in house of Dr. James Gillman, a physician of Highgate. Here he stayed until his death.  The house became a pilgrimage for writers and thinkers. He never recovered.

1834-25-07  Died and buried in Highgate Church.