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Biographia Epistolaris, Volume 1.   By: (1772-1834)

Book cover

First Page:

Jonathan Ingram, Clytie Siddall and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's

BIBLIOGRAPHIA EPISTOLARIS

comprising 33 letters

and being

the Biographical Supplement of Coleridge's BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA

with additional letters etc., edited by

A. TURNBULL

Vol. 1.

"On the whole this was surely the mightiest genius since Milton. In poetry there is not his like, when he rose to his full power; he was a philosopher, the immensity of whose mind cannot be gauged by anything he has left behind; a critic, the subtlest and most profound of his time. Yet these vast and varied powers flowed away in the shifting sands of talk; and what remains is but what the few land locked pools are to the receding ocean which has left them casually behind without sensible diminution of its waters."

Academy, 3d October, 1903.

PREFACE

The work known as the Biographical Supplement of the Biographia Literaria of S. T. Coleridge, and published with the latter in 1847, was begun by Henry Nelson Coleridge, and finished after his death by his widow, Sara Coleridge. The first part, concluding with a letter dated 5th November 1796, is the more valuable portion of the Biographical Supplement. What follows, written by Sara Coleridge, is more controversial than biographical and does not continue, like the first part, to make Coleridge tell his own life by inserting letters in the narrative. Of 33 letters quoted in the whole work, 30 are contained in the section written by Henry Nelson Coleridge. Of these 11 were drawn from Cottle's Early Recollections, seven being letters to Josiah Wade, four to Joseph Cottle, and the remainder are sixteen letters to Poole, one to Benjamin Flower, one to Charles E Heath, and one to Henry Martin.

From this I think it is evident that Henry Nelson Coleridge intended what was published as a Supplement to the Biographia Literaria to be a Life of Coleridge, either supplementary to the Biographia Literaria or as an independent narrative, in which most of the letters published by Cottle in 1837 and unpublished letters to Poole and other correspondents were to form the chief material. Sara Coleridge, in finishing the fragment, did not attempt to carry out the original intention of her husband. A few letters in Cottle were perhaps not acceptable to her taste, and in rejecting them she perhaps resolved to reject all remaining letters in Cottle. She thus finished the fragmentary Life of Coleridge left by her husband in her own way.

But Henry Nelson Coleridge had begun to build on another plan. His intention was simply to string all Coleridge's letters available on a slim biographical thread and thus produce a work in which the poet would have been made to tell his own life. His beginning with the five Biographical Letters to Thomas Poole is a proof of this. He took these as his starting point; and, as far as he went, his "Life of Coleridge" thus constructed is the most reliable of all the early biographies of Coleridge.

This edition of the Biographical Supplement is meant to carry out as far as possible the original project of its author. The whole of his narrative has been retained, and also what Sara Coleridge added to his writing; and all the non copyright letters of Coleridge available from other sources have been inserted into the narrative, and additional biographical matter, explanatory of the letters, has been given. [1] By this retention of authentic sources I have produced as faithful a picture of the Poet Philosopher Coleridge as can be got anywhere, for Coleridge always paints his own character in his letters. Those desirous of a fuller picture may peruse, along with this work, the letters published in the Collection of 1895, the place of which in the narrative is indicated in footnotes.

[Footnote: What has been added is enclosed in square brackets... Continue reading book >>




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