The New Student's Reference Work/Coleridge, Samuel Taylor

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, an English poet, was born at Ottery St. Mary, England, Oct. 21, 1772. At the age of four he had read the Arabian Nights. Schooled at Christ’s Hospital, where he was poorly fed and badly taught, he afterward became a wide reader, reading Homer for the mere fun of it; and here he had as a school-comrade Charles Lamb. Here he planted the seeds of his after ill-health by bathing in the river with his clothes on, and then joining in a game or reading without changing his garments. Entering Cambridge, he was known as a great talker, a gift in which he excelled throughout life. Careless and extravagant, he was so exercised over his money troubles, that he fled and enlisted in a dragoon-regiment under a false name. Later he was discovered by his friends and sent to Oxford, where he met Southey. In 1795 he lectured and even preached in the Unitarian chapels around Bristol, and founded a short-lived journal. Coleridge and Wordsworth early became fast friends, spending much time together. Their talks on poetry led to their jointly bringing out the Lyrical Ballads (1798), containing Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, and the little book marked a new departure in poetry. A year later appeared his translation of Wallenstein, one of his best bits of work. During these years, troubled with rheumatism and neuralgia, he began to use opium, and the habit grew and enslaved him. It ruined his health, was fatal to his imagination, and weakened his will. Very sad is his lament over his own decay in his beautiful ode on Dejection. He had before contributed to the London journals, and now began to issue a weekly paper, The Friend, which, however, lived but a few months. As a poet and philosopher Coleridge ranks high; while as a critic he is unsurpassed. Besides his poems, his finest works are, perhaps, Biographia Literaria and Aids to Reflection. He wrote but little poetry, but that little deserves to be printed on purple vellum and bound in covers of gold. He died at London, July 23, 1834.