Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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Coleridge spent years working on a gargantuan book of philosophy that he believed would be his masterpiece. He died before it was finished, but his Biographia Literaria is a fine substitute for a magnum opus. The book is a series of first person essays on philosophy and literary criticism. Here Coleridge introduced the concept of a "willing suspension of disbelief," which is, essentially, the thing that makes imagination possible. Not an easy read, but an important one.
Coleridge was almost too smart to function properly. Friends and fans who came to see him were often overwhelmed by the speaking style that his nephew described as an "exhaustive, cyclical mode of discoursing."_CITATION41_ So when it comes to reading Coleridge, one needs all the help one can get. This edition of his important poetry and prose has helpful notes and insights that might smooth the process along.
Coleridge and Wordsworth spent a year in Nether Stowey working on the poems for this famous collection. In the end, Wordsworth demanded sole authorship credit (even though five poems, including the famed Rime of the Ancient Mariner, belonged to Coleridge) and booted Coleridge's beloved poem "Christabel" out of the book. We're not sure who died and crowned Wordsworth the poetry king, but this book remains one of the most important works in English literature and definitely the defining piece of English Romantic literature.
Holmes won the Whitbread Award for Biography for his staggering achievement in this two-volume look at Coleridge's life. Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one of the most fascinating and tragic characters in literature—a genius beset by numerous personal flaws. This painstakingly researched biography is a fascinating look at this complex character.
Coleridge and his friend William Wordsworth were so closely intertwined in work and life that it makes sense to look at them together. This is a biography of one of the most productive friendships in literary history. Wordsworth was a controlled, disciplined poet; Coleridge was a genius with serious personal problems that hampered his achievements. Both believed fervently that Wordsworth was the more important of the two.
Along with Coleridge and Wordsworth, Robert Southey is known as one of the "Lake poets." Though his work is largely overshadowed by the reputations of his better known contemporaries, he was still an important figure in Romanticism and Coleridge's life. Southey and Coleridge first met as idealistic, poetically inclined students at Cambridge. Together they planned the Pantisocracy, a utopian community they hoped to run in Pennsylvania. They fell out over differences on how to run the project.