Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Ottery St Mary, Devon, the youngest son of
some thirteen children of John Coleridge, a minister.
Dame Key’s Reading
School from 1775 (3), and the Henry VIII Free Grammar School from 1778 (6).
His father died in 1781 (9), and Coleridge was then enrolled at
Hospital, London, where he studied the classic authors and also Milton and
Shakespeare under the able guidance of The Rev. James Bowyer.
College and the army
In 1791 (19) he entered
Cambridge, but ran up large debts, and in 1793 (21) he enlisted in the 15th
Light Dragoons as Silus Tomkyn Comberbache. His brother got him discharged by
reason of insanity, and he returned to Cambridge, but left his studies again in
1794 (22) without a degree to tour Wales.
He had begun planning the establishment of a ‘pantisocracy’, a type of
communist Utopia on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennysylvania, with
and others, but the project came to nothing.
Through Southey, however, he had been introduced to the Fricker family, and he
married Sarah Fricker in October 1795 (23). They moved to Cleveden near Bristol,
where he produced The Watchman, a political periodical.
He then devoted himself to poetry and the study of ethics, becoming so impressed
Observations on Man that he named his first child after him. In 1796 (24) he
published his first volume of poetry,
Poems on Various Subjects.
Nether Stowey and William Wordsworth
In 1797 (25) he moved to Nether Stowey at the suggestion of
Tom Poole, a
successful businessman and literary enthusiast, and it was here that he was
visited by the poet
and his sister,
who shortly after both moved to Alfoxden House close by. In November of that
year he was engaged by the
but later regretted his involvement with journalism as being a waste of his ‘prime
Unitarian sermons and the Wedgewoods
In 1798 (26) he was busy giving
sermons in Shrewsbury, but the receipt of a life annuity of £150 from
Tom and Josiah
Wedgewood, who had met him whilst visiting Wordsworth at Alfoxden house,
gave him a certain amount of financial security for the first time, and he began
planning a visit to Germany.
It was during this period that he wrote some of what were to become his most
popular works, including the
Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan and Frost at Midnight. In
1798 (26) he published
Lyrical Ballads anonymously with William Wordsworth, which volume
Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Tour of Germany and meeting with Sara Hutchinson
He toured Germany to study the language and philosophy, and, on his return to
England in 1799 (27), made a visit to the Wordsworths, who were at the time
staying at a farm in Sockburn, Yorkshire, with the Hutchinson family. Here he
began a relationship with Sara Hutchinson, the sister of Wordsworth’s future
The Lake District
The Wordsworths moved to Dove Cottage, Grasmere, and were followed to the Lake
District by Coleridge and his family in 1800 (28). In 1802 (30) he toured Wales
with Tom and Sally Wedgewood, and in 1803 (31) Scotland with the
Addiction, Malta and Italy
By this time he was ill, and addicted to laudanum (opium dissolved in alcohol),
and, in an attempt to regain his health, he sailed for the Mediterranean,
becoming undersecretary to the British High Commissioner in
Malta. In 1807
(35) he left Malta to tour Italy.
He was back in Keswick in December 1807 (35), and shortly after arranged a
separation from his wife, though he continued to maintain her.
The Friend and problems with Wordsworth
Between 1808 (36) and 1809 (37) he wrote and edited The Friend, a literary,
moral and political weekly, with the help of his lover, Sara Hutchinson. But his
addiction continued, and he was finally rejected by both Sara and the
Wordsworths in 1810 (38).
family helped him to move to London, and he accepted accommodation first with
them, and then with the Morgans in Hammersmith. In 1812 (40) his Wedgewood
annuity was reduced to £75. He worked as a journalist for The Courier, and gave
a series of notable lectures on literary subjects, which were well received. In
1816 (44) he moved in for a month with Dr James Gillman, an apothecary, and
stayed for the next eighteen years. He continued to write and lecture on a
variety of literary and political subjects, and published the
Sibylline Leaves in 1817 (45), which contained some new work. He also
had a successful play,
Remorse (formerly Osario), staged at Drury
Lane, and his table talk was much in demand.
He died in Highgate, London on July 25, 1834 (62), providing his own epitaph:
Beneath this sod
A Poet lies; or that which once was he.
O lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C.
That he, who many a year with toil of breath,
Found Death in Life, may here find Life in Death.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Biography : Links
Frost at Midnight
The Pains of Sleep
Percy Bysshe Shelley
George Gordon, Lord Byron