Coleridge: Darker Reflections

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9780002555777: Coleridge: Darker Reflections

Winner of the 1989 Whitbread Prize for Book of the Year, this is the first volume of Holmes’s seminal two-part examination of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of Britain’s greatest poets.

Richard Holmes’s biography of Coleridge transforms our view of the poet of ‘Kubla Khan’ and his place in the Romantic Movement. Dismissed by many as an opium addict, plagiarist, political apostate and mystic charlatan, Holmes’s Coleridge leaps out of these pages as the brilliant, animated and endlessly provoking poet of genius that he was.

This second volume covers the last 30 years of Coleridge’s career (1804-1834) during which he travelled restlessly through the Mediterranean, returned to his old haunts in the Lake District and the West Country, and finally settled in Highgate.

It was a period of domestic and professional turmoil. His marriage broke up, his opium addiction increased, he quarrelled with Wordsworth, his own son Hartley Coleridge (a gifted poet himself) became an alcoholic. And after a desperate time of transition, Coleridge re-emerged on the literary scene as a new kind of philosophical and meditative author.

Holmes traces the development of Coleridge into a legend amongst the younger generation of Romantic writers and the influence he had on Hazlitt, de Quincey, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Walter Scott, Carlyle, Sterling, F.D. Maurice and others. Coleridge’s later life was not happy, either domestically or professionally. But it is continually fascinating and its darker tone is also a measure of its challenge and spiritual impact.

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Coleridge: Darker Reflections

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This is the concluding volume of Holmes's definitive and thrilling biography of ST Coleridge. The book reads as a brilliant evocation of the Romantic age when a rigorous literary discourse was alive in England. Coleridge sat at the helm, a mad, loveable genius whose only life-long love affair was with opium. Holmes charts STC's oscillation between narcotic oblivion and the nightmare visions of withdrawal with the skill of a novelist. STC's inability to deal with the responsibilities of parenthood and his own finances left him in a state of constant poverty and guilt. Despite these afflictions, he managed to produce some of the finest poetry and philosophical prose in history. Financially and emotionally sustained by the love and loyalty of friends, every person he met fell under the spell, as de Quincey puts it, of "the greatest man that has ever appeared." At the heart of the story lies the volatile relationship with Wordsworth who plays McCartney to Coleridge's Lennon. Wordsworth comes across as an anally retentive, vain, ambitious operator who finally betrays Coleridge's love and friendship. The book is packed with quotes, which keeps the reader constantly close to the subject, and Holmes digs out detail that animates our hero at every turn. You'll find sex, drugs and poetry and a cast of stars (Byron, Shelley, Keats, Hazlitt, de Quincey, Southey, Carlyle, JS Mill) who revolve around Coleridge and his unfathomable mind. -- Hannah Griffiths

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Holmes, Richard
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (1998)
ISBN 10: 0002555778 ISBN 13: 9780002555777
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Holmes, Richard
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (1998)
ISBN 10: 0002555778 ISBN 13: 9780002555777
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