English Literature
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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The Life and Influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the Romantic Movement

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an acclaimed English poet and critic, played a pivotal role in the development of the Romantic Movement. He was a close companion of William Wordsworth and his works, spanning from poetry to essays on various topics such as philosophy, politics, society, and language, forged an innovative path in literature.

Early Years and Education

Coleridge was born on October 21, 1772, in Devonshire, England to Ann Bowdon and John Coleridge. After his father, a vicar and schoolteacher, passed away, he was sent to Christ's Hospital for further education. Under the guidance of Reverend James Bowyer, Coleridge's unique approach to poetry began to take shape.

Shift in Focus

In the beginning, Coleridge's father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and join the clergy. He entered the University of Cambridge in 1791 with this intention, but his interest shifted when he discovered the works of controversial Unitarian, William Frend. While he continued to write poetry, it was his blend of politics and literature that left a lasting impact on his writing. He even developed a personal philosophy called Pantisocracy, although he left Cambridge without a degree in 1794.

Early Career and Friendship with Wordsworth

After marrying Sara Fricker in 1795, Coleridge settled in Bristol and published his first volume of poetry, "Poems on Various Subjects" (1796). It was during this time that he became friends with William Wordsworth, and their literary collaboration began to shape Coleridge's writing style, evident in poems such as "The Eolian Harp" (1795). He also founded a liberal political publication, "The Watchmen" (1796), but it was not successful.

Lyrical Ballads and Influence on the Romantic Movement

In 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth jointly published "Lyrical Ballads," a work that marked the beginning of the Romantic Movement. Despite receiving moderate critical praise, the volume included Coleridge's most well-known piece, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798), which is now considered a literary classic. Their aim was to redefine poetry by utilizing everyday language, as stated in the renowned prologue.

"Readers accustomed to the pompous and shallow language of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its end, will likely confront feelings of unfamiliarity and awkwardness. They will search for poetry and question how these attempts can be called such." (Lyrical Ballads, 1798)

The Romantic Movement and Literary Influences

The Romantic Movement emerged as a response to the logical and structured era of the Enlightenment. It included other well-known writers such as William Blake (1757–1827) and Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), but did not encompass popular romance novels or the works of Dame Barbara Cartland.

Coleridge briefly resided in Hamburg with Wordsworth, where he learned German and studied the works of Immanuel Kant, Jakob Boehme, and G. E. Lessing. Upon returning to England, they collaborated on the second volume of "Lyrical Ballads," published in 1800. The preface stressed poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" and should be written in "the language truly used by people."

Later Life and Legacy

Having cemented his reputation as a poet, Coleridge spent the next two decades lecturing and writing on various subjects, including philosophy, religion, and political theory. Unfortunately, he faced financial struggles and health issues due to his opium addiction, but still managed to publish his most important work on literary criticism, "Biographia Literaria" (1817). Other notable works from this time include "Sibylline Leaves" (1817), "Aids to Reflection" (1825), and "Church and State" (1830).

Coleridge's contribution to literature and the Romantic Movement remains significant and continues to inspire writers today. His legacy lives on through his timeless poetry and thought-provoking writings.

The Inspiration Behind "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," was inspired by a conversation he had with William Wordsworth about George Shelvocke's book, "A Voyage Round the World by Way of the Great South Sea" (1726). This epic poem follows the journey of a mariner who shoots an albatross and faces supernatural punishment and enlightenment as a result.

One of the main themes in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is the supernatural, depicted through mysterious forces controlling the weather, the reanimated crew, and the mariner's survival against all odds. Lines like "But why drives on that ship so fast, / Without wave or wind?" and "They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose, / Nor spake, nor moved their eyes." illustrate this theme. Additionally, the poem explores the significance of nature, as seen through the mariner's punishment for harming the albatross and his realization that it is just as important as humans. Some have interpreted the poem as an allegory, a literary device often used to convey a moral or political message. Notable allegorical works include Aesop's Fables (4th century BC), George Orwell's "Animal Farm" (1945), and Oscar Wilde's "The Little Prince" (1908).

The Structure and Technique of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

This poem follows a structured format, with most of its 143 stanzas written in iambic pentameter. However, Coleridge also employs varying rhyme schemes and stanza lengths, such as nine-line stanzas. The poem's regular quatrains follow the rhyme scheme abcb, while other stanzas use internal rhymes. This use of varied rhyme schemes adds to the poem's aesthetic appeal and overall effect.

Coleridge's Influence and Contributions

Aside from his poetic works, Coleridge is also known for his literary criticism, which covers a wide range of topics including education, social structures, politics, philosophy, and religion. Some of his notable works include "Lectures on Politics and Religion" (1795), "Lay Sermons" (1816), and "Logic" (1981). His two-volume autobiography, "Biographia Literaria" (1817), explores the influence of Kant's theory of imagination, Wordsworth's ideas on poetry, and David Hartley's psychological theories on Coleridge's writing. It remains a significant and influential piece in poetic theory.

In Conclusion

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's literary contributions and critiques have solidified his place as a key figure in the Romantic poetry movement, inspiring and influencing modern poetry. Through his works, he explored themes of nature, the supernatural, and imagination, leaving a lasting impact on the literary world.


  1. "Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)", University of Pennsylvania, 2001.
  2. Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802), University of Pennsylvania, 2001.
  3. Cosulich, Gilbert. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: A Seminar Study." The English Journal, 1913.
  4. Engel, James. "Biographia Literaria." The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, 1913.

The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge: A Comprehensive Guide to the Renowned Poet

The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge is a comprehensive resource published in 2006 by Cambridge University Press. This guide offers a deep exploration of the life and works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of the most influential poets and thinkers of the Romantic era.

Through a collection of essays written by leading scholars in the field, this book delves into Coleridge's intriguing personal life, his literary contributions, and his lasting impact on the world of poetry and philosophy.

The first section of the book focuses on Coleridge's life, providing insightful analysis of his childhood, education, and relationships. This section also explores his struggles with addiction and his spiritual beliefs, shedding light on the complexities of the man behind the poetry.

The second section delves into Coleridge's literary works, including his most famous poems such as "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan." The essays in this section examine the themes, structures, and influences of his works, showcasing the depth and brilliance of his writing.

The final section of the book highlights Coleridge's impact and enduring legacy. From his contributions to the Romantic movement to his influence on modern literature and philosophy, this section explores how Coleridge's ideas continue to shape our world today.

This guide is an essential resource for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of Coleridge and his works. Whether you are a seasoned scholar or a curious reader, The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge offers a comprehensive and insightful exploration of one of the greatest poets in history.

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