Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1795

Samuel Taylor Coleridge [koʊlərɪdʒ or koʊlrɪdʒ] (* 21st October 1772 in Ottery St Mary , Devon , † 25. July 1834 in Highgate , London ) was an English poet of romance , critic and philosopher . Together with William Wordsworth and Robert Southey , he belonged to the so-called Lake Poets . His most famous work is the ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (dt. Rime of the Ancient Mariner or The old sailor ) - published in 1798 in the book, co with Wordsworth Collection Lyrical Ballads , which established English Romanticism in the traditional conception.

Coleridge coined the formula of the willful suspension of disbelief .



Illustration by Gustave Doré for
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge was born in Ottery St Mary, the son of a pastor. After the death of his father (1781) he was sent to London to the boarding school of Christ's Hospital . His classmates there included Leigh Hunt and Charles Lamb . Coleridge was a very good student. Around 1791, when he was struggling with rheumatism , he began to take the opium tincture laudanum, which would later lead to his addiction. Laudanum was a common medicine and pain reliever at the time.

In 1791 Coleridge went to Cambridge , where he studied at Jesus College . During his studies he accumulated debts, which is why he was de-registered in 1793 and volunteered for the army. However, his family had him taken back to Cambridge. In the following year he met Robert Southey know and they decided on the idealistic project of Pantisocracy , which provided for the establishment of a commune in Pennsylvania , but nothing came of it. In 1795 Southey and Edith Fricker and Coleridge and Sarah Fricker, sister of Edith, married. In 1796 his first book appeared, the volume of poems Poems on Various Subjects ; in September his son David Hartley was born.


In December 1796, the Coleridges moved to Nether Stowey in Somerset. William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy Wordsworth moved to nearby Alfoxden shortly afterwards. The fruitful literary partnership between Coleridge and Wordsworth, who met as early as 1795, is widely regarded as the spark for English Romanticism. 1798, the common book of poetry was published Lyrical Ballads , who with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (dt .: The old sailor ) Coleridge's probably includes most famous work. The ballad contains numerous formulations that have become proverbial in English. Coleridge wrote most of his other famous poems around the same time, including the horror ballad Christabel and the Kubla Khan fragment allegedly written under the influence of opium . The setting of this poem is the legendary, spatially and temporally distant place Xanadu , where the ruler Kubla Khan has an ornate palace built at the point where the sacred river Alph flows into the sea. The artistic beauty of plastic is contrasted with the natural beauty and source of the holy river in its wildness, unfathomable and also dangerousness. This source, however, is itself threatened and can be interpreted as a symbol for the power of poetic imagination, the drying up of which Coleridge repeatedly perceives as a threat within himself.

In 1798 Coleridge traveled to Germany with the Wordsworths, where he dealt intensively with German literature and philosophy - with August Wilhelm Schlegel , Friedrich Schelling , Immanuel Kant , Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Friedrich Schiller , among others . On his return, he translated part of Schiller's Wallenstein trilogy into English and also planned to write a Lessing biography. In 1800 the Coleridges moved to Keswick in the Lake District , near the Wordsworths. Health and marital problems led to Coleridge's addiction to opium developing during this time, while his literary production stalled. In 1804 Coleridge took a position with the British civil administration in Malta , then he toured Italy. After his return in August 1806, he separated from his wife, whereupon he lived with the Wordsworths for some time.


In 1808 Coleridge gave his first series of lectures under the title On Poetry and the Principles of Taste at the Royal Institute in London. Coleridge was not only an astute theorist but also an excellent speaker. His lectures drew a large audience; especially important are his lectures on Shakespeare . Coleridge turned now to the conservative and supported the political line of the government in newspaper articles. In 1810 there were conflicts with Wordsworth and in 1813 there was a physical and mental breakdown from which he was slow to recover.

In 1816 Coleridge moved to Highgate , near London, to the home of doctor James Gillman , where he lived until his death. In 1817 the Biographia Literaria was published, a mixture of autobiographical and literary-theoretical texts, which is today considered to be the most important theoretical evidence of English Romanticism. In the following years he mainly published socio-theoretical and philosophical texts. During the 1820s he was reconciled with Wordsworth; In 1828 the two traveled again to Germany, where Coleridge met Friedrich Schlegel . Coleridge died of heart failure in Highgate on July 25, 1834.


  • The Fall of Robespierre , 1794, with Robert Southey
  • Poems on Various Subjects , 1796
  • The Watchman (political journal), 1797
  • Lyrical Ballads (with William Wordsworth), 1798, including:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (German: Der alten Seefahrer , translation by Heinz Politzer, Insel 963)
  • Dejection: An Ode , 1802
  • The Friend , 1809-10
  • Remorse (tragedy), 1813
  • Christabel; Kubla Khan, a vision; The Pains of Sleep , 1816
  • Biographia Literaria , 1817
  • Sibylline Leaves (collected poems), 1817
  • Aids to Reflection , 1825
  • Poetical Works , 1828
  • On the Constitution of the Church and State , 1829
  • Table Talk , 1836 (posthumous)


Göttingen memorial plaque for Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Pantisocracy episode is the subject of the "historical novella" subtitled novel Die Weltverbesserer (Vienna 1896) by Josef Viktor Widmann .

In one scene of the movie Groundhog Day co-star says Bill Murray the set "Winter, slumbering in the open air, wears on its smiling face a dream of spring", which from the poem Hope without work originates.

The British heavy metal band Iron Maiden dedicated a song of the same name to Coleridge's longest poem, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (appeared on Powerslave in 1984 and on various live albums). The song tells the story of Coleridge's poem - shortened to the essentials - some text passages and the middle section spoken by a narrator contain original quotations from the poem. The song is considered to be one of the longest (13:41 minutes) in the metal genre.

In the 2011 film Sanctum , the first stanza of the poem Kubla Khan is quoted several times . Two of the names mentioned in the poem, the scene of Xanadu and the sacred river Alph, served as templates for naming the Xanadu Hills and the Alph River in Antarctica.

Lake Coleridge in New Zealand is named after a descendant .


  • Timothy Bahti: Coleridge's " Kublai Khan " and the fragment of romanticism. In: Lucien Dällenbach, Christiaan L. Hart Nibbrig (Ed.): Fragment and Totality. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1984, pp. 182-199, ISBN 3-518-11107-8 .
  • Hans Werner Breunig: Mind and imagination in the English romanticism. ST Coleridge as the culmination point of its time. Lit, Münster 2002, ISBN 3-8258-6244-5 .
  • Antonia S. Byatt : Unruly Times. Wordsworth and Coleridge in their Time. Hogarth, London 1989, ISBN 0-7012-0857-0 .
  • Norman Fruman: Coleridge, the Damaged Archangel . Allen and Unwin, London 1971.
  • David Haney: The Challenge of Coleridge: Ethics and Interpretation in Romanticism and Modern Philosophy. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park 2001, ISBN 978-0-271-02786-9 .
  • Richard Holmes: Coleridge (biography)
    • Vol. 1: Early Visions . Viking Penguin, New York 1990 (New edition by HarperCollins, London 1999, ISBN 0-375-70540-6 ).
    • Vol. 2: Darker Reflections . HarperCollins, London 1997, ISBN 0-375-70838-3 .
  • Molly Lefebure : Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A bondage of opium . Victor Gollancz, London 1974, ISBN 0-575-01731-7 .
  • Molly Lefebure: The Bondage of Love. A Life of Mrs. Samuel Taylor Coleridge . Victor Gollancz, London 1986, ISBN 0-575-03871-3 .
  • John Livingston Lowes: The Road to Xanadu. A Study in the Ways of the Imagination . Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1927.
  • Josefine Nettesheim : The Religious Reversal of ST Coleridge. Attempt to lay the foundations for understanding a romantic structure of being . Dissertation, University of Bonn 1923.
  • Josefine Nettesheim: Samuel Taylor Coleridge "Redivivus" . In: Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte , vol. 53 (1979), issue 2, pp. 210–232.
  • Josefine Nettesheim: Coleridge and Lessing . In: Archives for the study of modern languages ​​and literatures , Vol. 219 (1982), pp. 242-260.
  • Wilfried Steiner: The way to Xanadu . Novel. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-518-45709-8 .
  • Charles Ngiewih Teke: Towards a poetics of becoming. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's and John Keats's aesthetics between idealism and deconstruction . Dissertation, University of Regensburg 2004 ( full text ).
  • Stephen Weissman : His Brother's Keeper. A Psychobiography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. International University Press, Madison, CT 1989, ISBN 0-8236-2342-4 .

Web links

Commons : Samuel Taylor Coleridge  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Samuel Taylor Coleridge  - Sources and full texts
Wikisource: Samuel Taylor Coleridge  - Sources and full texts (English)


  1. See Viktor Link: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. In: Eberhard Kreutzer and Ansgar Nünning (eds.): Metzler Lexicon of English-speaking authors. 631 portraits - from the beginning to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, ISBN 3-476-01746-X , 666 p. (Special edition Stuttgart / Weimar 2006, ISBN 978-3-476-02125-0 ), p. 127 f.
  2. ^ Quote from The Internet Movie Database
  3. With the poem in English on p. 197 f.