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COLERIDGE, SIR J. T.—COLERIDGE, S. T.


(1904); and for the history of the Coleridge family see Lord Coleridge, The Story of a Devonshire House (1907).  (M. G. D.) 


COLERIDGE, SIR JOHN TAYLOR (1790–1876), English judge, the second son of Captain James Coleridge and nephew of the poet S. T. Coleridge, was born at Tiverton, Devon, and was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he had a brilliant career. He graduated in 1812 and was soon after made a fellow of Exeter; in 1819 he was called to the bar at the Middle Temple and practised for some years on the western circuit. In 1824, on Gifford’s retirement, he assumed the editorship of the Quarterly Review, resigning it a year afterwards in favour of Lockhart. In 1825 he published his excellent edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, and in 1832 he was made a serjeant-at-law and recorder of Exeter. In 1835 he was appointed one of the judges of the king’s bench. In 1852 his university created him a D.C.L., and in 1858 he resigned his judgeship, and was made a member of the privy council. In 1869, although in extreme old age, he produced his pleasant Memoir of the Rev. John Keble, whose friend he had been since their college days, a third edition of which was issued within a year. He died on the 11th of February 1876 at Ottery St Mary, Devon, leaving two sons and a daughter; the eldest son, John Duke, 1st Baron Coleridge (q.v.), became lord chief justice of England; the second son, Henry James (1822–1893), left the Anglican for the Roman Catholic church in 1852, and became well-known as a Jesuit divine, editor of The Month, and author of numerous theological works. Sir John Taylor Coleridge’s brothers, James Duke and Henry Nelson (husband of Sara Coleridge), are referred to in other articles; his brother Francis George was the father of Arthur Duke Coleridge (b. 1830), clerk of assizes on the midland circuit and author of Eton in the Forties, whose daughter Mary E. Coleridge (1861–1907) became a well-known writer of fiction.


COLERIDGE, SAMUEL TAYLOR (1772–1834), English poet and philosopher, was born on the 21st of October 1772, at his father’s vicarage of Ottery St Mary’s, Devonshire. His father, the Rev. John Coleridge (1719–1781), was a man of some mark. He was known for his great scholarship, simplicity of character, and affectionate interest in the pupils of the grammar school, of which he was appointed master a few months before becoming vicar of the parish (1760), reigning in both capacities till his death. He had married twice. The poet was the youngest child of his second wife, Anne Bowdon (d. 1809), a woman of great good sense, and anxiously ambitious for the success of her sons. On the death of his father, a presentation to Christ’s Hospital was procured for Coleridge by the judge, Sir Francis Buller, an old pupil of his father’s. He had already begun to give evidence of a powerful imagination, and he has described in a letter to his valued friend, Tom Poole, the pernicious effect which the admiration of an uncle and his circle of friends had upon him at this period. For eight years he continued at Christ’s Hospital. Of these school-days Charles Lamb has given delightful glimpses in the Essays of Elia. The headmaster, Bowyer (as he was called, though his name was Boyer), was a severe disciplinarian, but respected by his pupils. Middleton, afterwards known as a Greek scholar, and bishop of Calcutta, reported Coleridge to Bowyer as a boy who read Virgil for amusement, and from that time Bowyer began to notice him and encouraged his reading. Some compositions in English poetry, written at sixteen, and not without a touch of genius, give evidence of the influence which Bowles, whose poems were then in vogue, had over his mind at this time. Before he left school his constitutional delicacy of frame, increased by swimming the New River in his clothes, began to give him serious discomfort.

In February 1791 he was entered at Jesus College, Cambridge. A school-fellow who followed him to the university has described in glowing terms evenings in his rooms, “when Aeschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons and the like, to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before us;—Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim.” William Frend, a fellow of Jesus, accused of sedition and Unitarianism, was at this time tried and expelled from Cambridge. Coleridge had imbibed his sentiments, and joined the ranks of his partisans. He grew discontented with university life, and in 1793, pressed by debt, went to London. Perhaps he was also influenced by his passion for Mary Evans, the sister of one of his school-fellows. A poem in the Morning Chronicle brought him a guinea, and when that was spent he enlisted in the 15th Dragoons under the name of Silas Tomkyn Comberbache. One of the officers of the dragoon regiment, finding a Latin sentence inscribed on a wall, discovered the condition of the very awkward recruit. Shortly afterwards an old school-fellow (G. L. Tuckett) heard of his whereabouts, and by the intervention of his brother, Captain James Coleridge, his discharge was procured. He returned for a short time to Cambridge, but quitted the university without a degree in 1794. In the same year he visited Oxford, and after a short tour in Wales went to Bristol, where he met Southey. The French Revolution had stirred the mind of Southey to its depths. Coleridge received with rapture his new friend’s scheme of Pantisocracy. On the banks of the Susquehanna was to be founded a brotherly community, where selfishness was to be extinguished, and the virtues were to reign supreme. No funds were forthcoming, and in 1795, to the chagrin of Coleridge, the scheme was dropped. In 1794 The Fall of Robespierre, of which Coleridge wrote the first act and Southey the other two, appeared. At Bristol Coleridge formed the acquaintance of Joseph Cottle, the bookseller, who offered him thirty guineas for a volume of poems. In October of 1795 Coleridge married Sarah Fricker, and took up his residence at Clevedon on the Bristol Channel. A few weeks afterwards Southey married a sister of Mrs Coleridge, and on the same day quitted England for Portugal.

Coleridge began to lecture in Bristol on politics and religion. He embodied the first two lectures in his first prose publication, Conciones ad Populum (1795). The book contained much invective against Pitt, and in after life Coleridge declared that, with this exception, and a few pages involving philosophical tenets which he afterwards rejected, there was little or nothing he desired to retract. The first volume of Poems was published by Cottle early in 1796. Coleridge projected a periodical called The Watchman, and in 1796 undertook a journey, well described in the Biographia Literaria, to enlist subscribers. The Watchman had a brief life of two months, but at this time Coleridge began to think of becoming a Unitarian preacher, and abandoning literature for ever. Hazlitt has recorded his very favourable impression of a remarkable sermon delivered at Shrewsbury; but there are other accounts of Coleridge’s preaching not so enthusiastic. In the summer of 1795 he met for the first time the brother poet with whose name his own will be for ever associated. Wordsworth and his sister had established themselves at Racedown in the Dorsetshire hills, and here Coleridge visited them in 1797. There are few things in literary history more remarkable than this friendship. The gifted Dorothy Wordsworth described Coleridge as “thin and pale, the lower part of the face not good, wide mouth, thick lips, not very good teeth, longish, loose, half-curling, rough, black hair,”—but all was forgotten in the magic charm of his utterance. Wordsworth, who declared, “The only wonderful man I ever knew was Coleridge,” seems at once to have desired to see more of his new friend. He and his sister removed in July 1797 to Alfoxden, near Nether Stowey, to be in Coleridge’s neighbourhood, and in the most delightful and unrestrained intercourse the friends spent many happy days. It was the delight of each one to communicate to the other the productions of his mind, and the creative faculty of both poets was now at its best. One evening, at Watchett on the British Channel, The Ancient Mariner first took shape. Coleridge was anxious to embody a dream of a friend, and the suggestion of the shooting of the albatross came from Wordsworth, who gained the idea from Shelvocke’s Voyage (1726). A joint volume was planned. Wordsworth was to show the real poetry that lies hidden in commonplace subjects, while Coleridge was to treat supernatural subjects to illustrate