Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coleridge, Sara

COLERIDGE, SARA (1802–1852), daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge [q. v.], was born 22 Dec. 1802 at Greta Hall, near Keswick, where her girlhood was spent under the care of Southey, and in the frequent society of Wordsworth. So distinguished were her abilities and so considerable her acquirements, that in 1822 she published in three volumes a translation of Martin Dobrizhoffer's Latin 'Account of the Abipones,' a performance in Coleridge's judgment 'unsurpassed for pure mother English by anything I have read for a long time.' It was undertaken as a contribution to her brother Derwent's college expenses, but these having been defrayed by his own exertions, the profits were invested for the translator's benefit. In 1825 she translated the ' Loyal Servant's' memoirs of the Chevalier Bayard. In 1829 'she married her cousin, Henry Nelson Coleridge [q. v.], whose acquaintance she had made on a visit to her father in 1822. They lived at Hampstead, and afterwards in Chester Place, Regent's Park. Her ' Pretty Lessons for Good Children' appeared in 1834, and 'Phantasmion' in 1837. In 1843 Henry Coleridge died, and his widow continued his task of editing and annotating her father's writings, 'expending in this desultory form,' says Professor Reed, 'an amount of original thought and an affluence of learning which, differently and more prominently presented, would have made her famous.' In 1850 her always delicate constitution broke down, and she died on 3 May 1852. The unanimous testimony of her friends represents her as an almost perfect woman, uniting masculine strength of intellect to feminine grace and charm. This favourable judgment is confirmed in both its branches by the correspondence published by her daughter in 1873, though a considerable part of it is occupied with references to contemporary theological controversies. 'She was most at home and at ease,' says Sir Henry Taylor, 'in the region of psychology and abstract thought.' Many of her remarks and criticisms nevertheless evince the soundest common sense. Her only original work of importance, the fairy tale ' Phantasmion,' though full of charming fancy, fails as a whole from the characteristic pointed out by Lord Coleridge, its recent editor, 'the extent and completeness of its narrative.' It is planned on too large a scale, and fatigues with the maze and bustle of its intangible personages. The diction, however, is a model of vigour and purity, and the lyrics interspersed entitle the writer to a highly respectable rank among English poetesses. Along with Dora Wordsworth and Edith Southey, she is one of the three maidens celebrated in Wordsworth's 'Trias,' 1828.

[Memoirs and Letters of Sara Coleridge, edited by her daughter, 1873; Edinburgh Review, vol. cxxxix.]

R. G.