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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

George Burnett
1776–1811

George Burnett was the son of a farmer at Huntspill in Somerset, where he was born about 1776. After an introduction to classical literature by a clergyman in the neighbourhood, he was sent to Balliol College, Oxford, with a view to his taking orders in Church of England. After two or three years’ residence he became disillusioned with college life, and took part in the scheme of pantisocracy with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey.

After a period supported by his father, Burnett obtained admission as a student at Manchester New College. He was appointed pastor of a congregation at Great Yarmouth, but did not remain there long. He subsequently became, for a short time, a student of medicine in the University of Edinburgh. He was at one time appointed domestic tutor to two sons of Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope, but both his pupils very shortly left their father’s house. Burnett then became an assistant surgeon in a militia regiment.

He soon went to Poland with the family of Count Zamoyski, as English tutor, but in less than a year returned to England, without any employment. He left Huntspill, where he had been writing, and his relatives received no communication from him. From November 1809 till his death, which took place in the Marylebone Infirmary in February 1811, he relied on friends.

He contributed to the Monthly Magazine a series of letters which were reprinted under the title of ‘View of the Present State of Poland,’ Lond. 1807. He next published ‘Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the earliest times to the close of the seventeenth century; with sketches biographical and literary; including an account of books, as well as of their authors, with occasional criticisms,’ 3 vols. Lond. 1807; a compilation forming a companion to George Ellis’s ‘Specimens of the Early English Poets.’ He also wrote the introduction to the ‘Universal History,’ published under the name of Dr. William Fordyce Mavor. His last production, consisting of a selection from John Milton’s prose works, with new translations and an introduction (2 vols. Lond. 1809,), was compiled at Huntspill in 1808–9, and dedicated to Lord Erskine.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

The Morning Post
1772 – 1937

The Morning Post was founded by John Bell. Originally a Whig paper, it was purchased by Daniel Stuart in 1795, who made it into a moderate Tory organ. A number of well-known writers contributed, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb, James Mackintosh, Robert Southey, and William Wordsworth. In the seven years of Stuart’s proprietorship, the paper’s circulation rose from 350 to over 4,000.

From 1803 until his death in 1833, the owner and editor of the Post was Nicholas Byrne; his son William Pitt Byrne later held these roles.

Later the paper was acquired by a Lancashire papermaker named Crompton. In 1848 he hired Peter Borthwick, a Scot who had been a Conservative MP for Evesham 1835-1847, as editor.

The paper was noted for its attentions to the activities of the powerful and wealthy, its interest in foreign affairs, and in literary and artistic events.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Henry Francis Cary
6 December 1772 – 14 August 1844

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Henry Francis Cary

Henry Francis Cary was born in Gibraltar. He was the eldest son of William Cary, at the time a Captain of the First Regiment of Foot, by Henrietta daughter of Theophilus Brocas, Dean of Killala. His grandfather, Henry Cary was archdeacon, and his great grandfather, Mordecai Cary, bishop of that diocese.

He was educated at Rugby School and at the grammar schools of Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham, and at Christ Church, Oxford, which he entered in 1790 and studied French and Italian literature. While at school he regularly contributed to the Gentleman’s Magazine, and published a volume of Sonnets and Odes. He took holy orders and in 1797 became vicar of Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire. He held this benefice until his death. In 1800 he also became vicar of Kingsbury in Warwickshire.

At Christ Church he studied French and Italian literature which can be seen in his notes to his translation of Dante. The version of the Inferno was published in 1805 together with the original text.

Cary moved to London in 1808, where he became reader at the Berkeley Chapel and subsequently lecturer at Chiswick and curate of the Savoy Chapel. His version of the whole Divina Commedia in blank verse appeared in 1814. It was published at Cary’s own expense, as the publisher refused to undertake the risk, owing to the failure incurred over the Inferno. The translation was brought to the notice of Samuel Rogers by Thomas Moore. Rogers made some additions to an article on it by Ugo Foscolo in the Edinburgh Review. This article, and praise bestowed on the work by Coleridge in a lecture at the Royal Institution, led to a general acknowledgment of its merit. Cary’s Dante gradually took its place among standard works, passing through four editions in the translator’s lifetime.

In 1824 Cary published a translation of The Birds of Aristophanes, and, about 1834, of the Odes of Pindar. In 1826 he was appointed assistant-librarian in the British Museum, a post which he held for about eleven years. He resigned because the appointment of keeper of the printed books, which should have been his in the ordinary course of promotion, was refused to him when it fell vacant. In 1841 a crown pension of £200 a year, obtained through the efforts of Samuel Rogers, was conferred on him. Cary’s Lives of the early French Poets, and Lives of English Poets (from Samuel Johnson to Henry Kirke White), intended as a continuation of Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, were published in collected form in 1846. He died in Charlotte St, St George’s, Bloomsbury, London in 1844 and was buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.

A memoir was published by his son, Judge Henry Cary, in 1847. Another son, Francis Stephen Cary became a well-known art teacher, succeeding Henry Sass as the head of his art academy in London.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Mary Evans
1770–1843

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Mary Evans

Mary Evans is notable as the first love of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and although he failed to profess his feelings to Evans during their early relationship, he held her in affection until 1794 when Evans dissuaded his attentions.

After the death of his father in 1781, Coleridge attended Christ’s Hospital, a boarding school in London. While in London, Coleridge befriended several boys at the school, including Tom Evans. During 1788 he and other friends visited Tom Evans’ home in London, where he met Tom’s eldest sister, Mary Evans. Coleridge became infatuated with Evans.

Evans became Coleridge’s first love: “whom for five years I loved-almost to madness”. Although he felt passionately about her, he did not share his feelings with her, and when he happened to see her leaving a church in Wrexham in 1794 he ‘turned sick and all but fainted away’. The “relationship” lasted only a short while, and in October 1795, she married Fryer Todd.

When Coleridge made plans with friend and future brother-in-law, Robert Southey, to emigrate to the “banks of the Susquahanna,” Evans wrote Coleridge imploring him not to go. The letter reopened old feelings for Coleridge, inspiring the poem “Sonnet: To my Own Heart,” which he published in his “three earlier and three later collections, as well as in Sonnets from Various Authors and has also received the title On a Discovery Made to Late. The poem was also included in letters to Robert Southey and Francis Wrangham in October, 1794, and he inserts several of the lines into a response letter to Evans in early November, after hearing of her engagement plans. Coleridge and Evans met again for the last time in 1808.

Coleridge dedicated his poem The Sigh (1794) to Mary Evans, who is mentioned by name in the poem.
When Youth his faery reign began
Ere Sorrow had proclaim’d me man;
While Peace the present hour beguil’d,
And all the lovely Prospect smil’d;
Then Mary! ‘mid my lightsome glee
I heav’d the painless Sigh for thee.
And when, along the waves of woe,
My harass’d Heart was doom’d to know
The frantic burst of Outrage keen,
And the slow Pang that gnaws unseen;
Then shipwreck’d on Life’s stormy sea
I heaved an anguish’d Sigh for thee!
But soon Reflection’s power imprest
A stiller sadness on my breast;
And sickly Hope with waning eye
Was well content to droop and die:
I yielded to the stern decree,
Yet heav’d a languid Sigh for thee!
And though in distant climes to roam,
A wanderer from my native home,
I fain would soothe the sense of Care,
And lull to sleep the Joys that were!
Thy Image may not banish’d be–
Still, Mary! still I sigh for thee.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834)

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772 in the town of Ottery St Mary in Devon, England. Samuel’s father was the Reverend John Coleridge (1718–1781), the well-respected vicar of St Mary’s Church, Ottery St Mary and headmaster of the King’s School, a free grammar school established by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in the town. He had previously been Master of Hugh Squier’s School in South Molton, Devon, and Lecturer of nearby Molland. John Coleridge had three children by his first wife. Samuel was the youngest of ten by the Reverend Mr. Coleridge’s second wife, Anne Bowden (1726–1809), probably the daughter of John Bowden, Mayor of South Molton, Devon, in 1726. Coleridge suggests that he “took no pleasure in boyish sports” but instead read “incessantly” and played by himself.

After John Coleridge died in 1781, 8-year-old Samuel was sent to Christ’s Hospital, a charity school which was founded in the 16th century in Greyfriars, London, where he remained throughout his childhood, studying and writing poetry. At that school Coleridge became friends with Charles Lamb, a schoolmate, and studied the works of Virgil and William Lisle Bowles. In one of a series of autobiographical letters written to Thomas Poole, Coleridge wrote: “At six years old I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarll – and then I found the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments – one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was mending stockings) that I was haunted by spectres whenever I was in the dark – and I distinctly remember the anxious and fearful eagerness with which I used to watch the window in which the books lay – and whenever the sun lay upon them, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask, and read.”

Throughout his life, Coleridge idealised his father as pious and innocent, while his relationship with his mother was more problematic. His childhood was characterised by attention seeking, which has been linked to his dependent personality as an adult. He was rarely allowed to return home during the school term, and this distance from his family at such a turbulent time proved emotionally damaging. He later wrote of his loneliness at school in the poem “Frost at Midnight”: “With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt/Of my sweet birthplace.”

From 1791 until 1794, Coleridge attended Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1792, he won the Browne Gold Medal for an ode that he wrote on the slave trade. In December 1793, he left the college and enlisted in the Royal Dragoons using the false name “Silas Tomkyn Comberbache”, perhaps because of debt or because the girl that he loved, Mary Evans, had rejected him. Afterwards, he was rumoured to have had a bout of severe depression. His brothers arranged for his discharge a few months later under the reason of “insanity” and he was readmitted to Jesus College, though he would never receive a degree from the University.

At the university, he was introduced to political and theological ideas then considered radical, including those of the poet Robert Southey. Coleridge joined Southey in a plan, soon abandoned, to found a utopian commune-like society, called Pantisocracy, in the wilderness of Pennsylvania. In 1795, the two friends married sisters Sarah and Edith Fricker, in St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, but Coleridge’s marriage with Sarah proved unhappy. He grew to detest his wife, whom he only married because of social constraints. He eventually separated from her. Coleridge made plans to establish a journal, The Watchman, to be printed every eight days to avoid a weekly newspaper tax. The first issue of the short-lived journal was published in March 1796; it had ceased publication by May of that year.

The years 1797 and 1798, during which he lived in what is now known as Coleridge Cottage, in Nether Stowey, Somerset, were among the most fruitful of Coleridge’s life. In 1795, Coleridge met poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. (Wordsworth, having visited him and being enchanted by the surroundings., rented Alfoxton Park, a little over three miles [5 km] away.) Besides the Rime of The Ancient Mariner, he composed the symbolic poem Kubla Khan, written—Coleridge himself claimed—as a result of an opium dream, in “a kind of a reverie”; and the first part of the narrative poem Christabel. The writing of Kubla Khan, written about the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan and his legendary palace at Xanadu, was said to have been interrupted by the arrival of a “Person from Porlock” – an event that has been embellished upon in such varied contexts as science fiction and Nabokov’s Lolita. During this period, he also produced his much-praised “conversation” poems This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison, Frost at Midnight, and The Nightingale.

In 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth published a joint volume of poetry, Lyrical Ballads, which proved to be the starting point for the English romantic age. Wordsworth may have contributed more poems, but the real star of the collection was Coleridge’s first version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It was the longest work and drew more praise and attention than anything else in the volume. In the spring Coleridge temporarily took over for Rev. Joshua Toulmin at Taunton’s Mary Street Unitarian Chapel while Rev. Toulmin grieved over the drowning death of his daughter Jane. Poetically commenting on Toulmin’s strength, Coleridge wrote in a 1798 letter to John Prior Estlin, “I walked into Taunton (eleven miles) and back again, and performed the divine services for Dr. Toulmin. I suppose you must have heard that his daughter, (Jane, on 15 April 1798) in a melancholy derangement, suffered herself to be swallowed up by the tide on the sea-coast between Sidmouth and Bere [sic] (Beer). These events cut cruelly into the hearts of old men: but the good Dr. Toulmin bears it like the true practical Christian, – there is indeed a tear in his eye, but that eye is lifted up to the Heavenly Father.”

Coleridge also worked briefly in Shropshire, where he came in December 1797 as locum to its local Unitarian minister, Dr Rowe, in their church in the High Street at Shrewsbury. He is said to have read his Rime of the Ancient Mariner at a literary evening in Mardol. He was then contemplating a career in the ministry, and gave a probationary sermon in High Street church on Sunday, 14 January 1798. William Hazlitt, a Unitarian minister’s son, was in the congregation, having walked from Wem to hear him. Coleridge later visited Hazlitt and his father at Wem but within a day or two of preaching he received a letter from Josiah Wedgwood II, who had offered to help him out of financial difficulties with an annuity of £150 (approximately £13,000 in today’s money) per year on condition he give up his ministerial career. Coleridge accepted this, to the disappointment of Hazlitt who hoped to have him as a neighbour in Shropshire.

In the autumn of 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth left for a stay in Germany; Coleridge soon went his own way and spent much of his time in university towns. During this period, he became interested in German philosophy, especially the transcendental idealism and critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and in the literary criticism of the 18th century dramatist Gotthold Lessing. Coleridge studied German and, after his return to England, translated the dramatic trilogy Wallenstein by the German Classical poet Friedrich Schiller into English. He continued to pioneer these ideas through his own critical writings for the rest of his life (sometimes without attribution), although they were unfamiliar and difficult for a culture dominated by empiricism.

In 1799, Coleridge and Wordsworth stayed at Thomas Hutchinson’s farm on the River Tees at Sockburn, near Darlington.

It was at Sockburn that Coleridge wrote his ballad-poem Love, addressed to Sara Hutchinson. The knight mentioned is the mailed figure on the Conyers tomb in ruined Sockburn church. The figure has a wyvern at his feet, a reference to the Sockburn Worm slain by Sir John Conyers (and a possible source for Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky). The worm was supposedly buried under the rock in the nearby pasture; this was the ‘greystone’ of Coleridge’s first draft, later transformed into a ‘mount’. The poem was a direct inspiration for John Keats’ famous poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

Coleridge’s early intellectual debts, besides German idealists like Kant and critics like Lessing, were first to William Godwin’s Political Justice, especially during his Pantisocratic period, and to David Hartley’s Observations on Man, which is the source of the psychology which is found in Frost at Midnight. Hartley argued that one becomes aware of sensory events as impressions, and that “ideas” are derived by noticing similarities and differences between impressions and then by naming them. Connections resulting from the coincidence of impressions create linkages, so that the occurrence of one impression triggers those links and calls up the memory of those ideas with which it is associated (See Dorothy Emmet, “Coleridge and Philosophy”).

Coleridge was critical of the literary taste of his contemporaries, and a literary conservative insofar as he was afraid that the lack of taste in the ever growing masses of literate people would mean a continued desecration of literature itself.

In 1800, he returned to England and shortly thereafter settled with his family and friends at Keswick in the Lake District of Cumberland to be near Grasmere, where Wordsworth had moved. Soon, however, he was beset by marital problems, nightmares, illnesses, increased opium dependency, tensions with Wordsworth, and a lack of confidence in his poetic powers, all of which fuelled the composition of Dejection: An Ode and an intensification of his philosophical studies. He also sprinkled cayenne pepper over his eggs, which he ate from a teacup.

In 1802, Coleridge took a nine-day walking holiday in the fells of the Lake District. Coleridge is credited with the first recorded descent of Scafell to Mickledore via Broad Stand, although this was more due to his getting lost than a keenness for mountaineering.

In 1804, he travelled to Sicily and Malta, working for a time as Acting Public Secretary of Malta under the Commissioner, Alexander Ball, a task he performed quite successfully. He lived in St Antons’ Palace in the village of Attard. However, he gave this up and returned to England in 1806. Dorothy Wordsworth was shocked at his condition upon his return. From 1807 to 1808, Coleridge returned to Malta and then travelled in Sicily and Italy, in the hope that leaving Britain’s damp climate would improve his health and thus enable him to reduce his consumption of opium. Thomas de Quincey alleges in his Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets that it was during this period that Coleridge became a full-blown opium addict, using the drug as a substitute for the lost vigour and creativity of his youth. It has been suggested, however, that this reflects de Quincey’s own experiences more than Coleridge’s.

His opium addiction (he was using as much as two quarts of laudanum a week) now began to take over his life: he separated from his wife Sarah in 1808, quarrelled with Wordsworth in 1810, lost part of his annuity in 1811, and put himself under the care of Dr. Daniel in 1814. His addiction caused severe constipation, which required regular and humiliating enemas.

In 1809, Coleridge made his second attempt to become a newspaper publisher with the publication of the journal entitled The Friend. It was a weekly publication that, in Coleridge’s typically ambitious style, was written, edited, and published almost entirely single-handedly. Given that Coleridge tended to be highly disorganised and had no head for business, the publication was probably doomed from the start. Coleridge financed the journal by selling over five hundred subscriptions, over two dozen of which were sold to members of Parliament, but in late 1809, publication was crippled by a financial crisis and Coleridge was obliged to approach “Conversation Sharp”, Tom Poole and one or two other wealthy friends for an emergency loan to continue. The Friend was an eclectic publication that drew upon every corner of Coleridge’s remarkably diverse knowledge of law, philosophy, morals, politics, history, and literary criticism. Although it was often turgid, rambling, and inaccessible to most readers, it ran for 25 issues and was republished in book form a number of times. Years after its initial publication, The Friend became a highly influential work and its effect was felt on writers and philosophers from J.S. Mill to Emerson.

Between 1810 and 1820, Coleridge gave a series of lectures in London and Bristol – those on Shakespeare renewed interest in the playwright as a model for contemporary writers. Much of Coleridge’s reputation as a literary critic is founded on the lectures that he undertook in the winter of 1810–11, which were sponsored by the Philosophical Institution and given at Scot’s Corporation Hall off Fetter Lane, Fleet Street. These lectures were heralded in the prospectus as “A Course of Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, in Illustration of the Principles of Poetry.” Coleridge’s ill-health, opium-addiction problems, and somewhat unstable personality meant that all his lectures were plagued with problems of delays and a general irregularity of quality from one lecture to the next. As a result of these factors, Coleridge often failed to prepare anything but the loosest set of notes for his lectures and regularly entered into extremely long digressions which his audiences found difficult to follow. However, it was the lecture on Hamlet given on 2 January 1812 that was considered the best and has influenced Hamlet studies ever since. Before Coleridge, Hamlet was often denigrated and belittled by critics from Voltaire to Dr. Johnson. Coleridge rescued the play’s reputation, and his thoughts on it are often still published as supplements to the text.

In August 1814, Coleridge was approached by Lord Byron’s publisher, John Murray, about the possibility of translating Goethe’s classic Faust (1808). Coleridge was regarded by many as the greatest living writer on the demonic and he accepted the commission, only to abandon work on it after six weeks. Until recently, scholars were in agreement that Coleridge never returned to the project, despite Goethe’s own belief in the 1820s that he had in fact completed a long translation of the work. In September 2007, Oxford University Press sparked a heated scholarly controversy by publishing an English translation of Goethe’s work that purported to be Coleridge’s long-lost masterpiece (the text in question first appeared anonymously in 1821).

In April 1816, Coleridge, with his addiction worsening, his spirits depressed, and his family alienated, took residence in the Highgate homes, then just north of London, of the physician James Gillman, first at South Grove and later at the nearby 3 The Grove. It is unclear whether his growing use of opium (and the brandy in which it was dissolved) was a symptom or a cause of his growing depression. Gillman was partially successful in controlling the poet’s addiction. Coleridge remained in Highgate for the rest of his life, and the house became a place of literary pilgrimage for writers including Carlyle and Emerson.

In Gillman’s home, Coleridge finished his major prose work, the Biographia Literaria (mostly drafted in 1815, and finished in 1817), a volume composed of 23 chapters of autobiographical notes and dissertations on various subjects, including some incisive literary theory and criticism. He composed a considerable amount of poetry, of variable quality. He published other writings while he was living at the Gillman homes, notably the Lay Sermons of 1816 and 1817, Sibylline Leaves (1817), Hush (1820), Aids to Reflection (1825), and On the Constitution of the Church and State (1830). He also produced essays published shortly after his death, such as Essay on Faith (1838) and Confessions Of An Inquiring Spirit (1840). A number of his followers were central to the Oxford Movement, and his religious writings profoundly shaped Anglicanism in the mid nineteenth century.

Coleridge also worked extensively on the various manuscripts which form his “Opus Maximum”, a work which was in part intended as a post-Kantian work of philosophical synthesis. The work was never published in his lifetime, and has frequently been seen as evidence for his tendency to conceive grand projects which he then had difficulty in carrying through to completion. But while he frequently berated himself for his “indolence”, the long list of his published works calls this myth into some question. Critics are divided on whether the “Opus Maximum”, first published in 2002, successfully resolved the philosophical issues he had been exploring for most of his adult life.

Coleridge died in Highgate, London on 25 July 1834 as a result of heart failure compounded by an unknown lung disorder, possibly linked to his use of opium. Coleridge had spent 18 years under the roof of the Gillman family, who built an addition onto their home to accommodate the poet.

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