The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

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9780143112969: The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

The extraordinary story of the legendary friendship – and quarrel – between Wordsworth and Coleridge, two giants of English Romanticism.

Wordsworth and Coleridge’s passionate intimacy, shared ambition and subsequent estrangement contribute to a tragic tale. Sisman’s wonderful biography of this most remarkable friendship seeks to re-examine the orthodox assumption that these two poets flourished as a result of their relationship. He argues that it was a meeting that may well have been disastrous for both: that it was Wordsworth’s rejection of him, and not primarily his opium addiction that destroyed Coleridge as a poet, and that Coleridge’s impossible ambitions for Wordsworth pushed the latter towards failure and disappointment.

Underlying the poignancy of the tale is the intriguing subject of the influence one writer can have on another. Sisman seeks to answer fundamental questions about this relationship: why was Wordsworth so reliant on Coleridge, and why was he so easily swayed in the most critical decision of his career? Was it in Coleridge’s nature to play second fiddle? Would it, in fact, have been better for both men if they had never met?

Sisman writes the story of their frienship in all its aspects in order to provide a clearer picture of the effect they had on each other, thereby illuminating the very process of creation. He examines too, the neglected subject of male friendship itself, and draws out the shared ambition of these two charismatic figures: to write poems that would change the world.

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Review:

‘Remarkable…compelling…excellent…this is a story with everything…Sisman persuasively outlines the reasons why these two great writers were attracted to each other, and why they fell out. Read it. Not just because it's a colourful tale, but because of what it reveals about the neuroses underpinning the creative impulse.’ Daily Telegraph

‘…an elegant tour d'horizon, a scholarly and charming summary of an often explored partnership…Adam Sisman is good at recording the complicated relationships between all concerned…Sisman has done his research thoroughly.’ The Times

‘Refreshingly direct, thoughtful and objective…Adam Sisman's insightful portrait of the lifelong friendship between two proud and complex men justifies his publisher's faith in the capacity of literary biography to thrive and endure. Sisman, like Holmes before him, has a gift for registering his subjects both in their time and our own. Their agonies, hopes and humiliations make for painful but absorbing reading.’ Sunday Times

‘Unputdownable…this is a very good book…Adam Sisman unfolds the whole of this complex and fascinating story so well that when one reaches its sad end one is moved as though learning it for the first time.’ Literary Review

‘A study of this brilliant, tricky friendship has been long overdue and “The Friendship” does the job marvellously well…the revolutionary background of their writing is described more vividly and with more clarity than in any study before…Wordsworth and Coleridge's momentous friendship and its pitiful conclusion has always had the dramatic intensity of a love story, but in Adam Sisman's hands it becomes more than this, and takes on the fatal inevitability of great tragedy.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘perceptive and affectionate…excellent…Sisman has done his research…his book is solid, trustworthy, grounded…in the very best sense.’ The Observer

‘Accumulating the evidence bit by bit, he makes the reader vividly aware of the events unfolding at the time. But in the end, argues Mr. Sisman, the friendship was central.’The Economist

‘This is a fine example of the new genre of professional biography written with great skill by someone who is not an academic specialist…Sisman weaves his double narrative with great skill…acute in its assessment of sources. It's strength is to keep multiple considerations in play concerning the personalities involved.’ Irish Times

About the Author:

Adam Sisman worked in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. His last book, 'Boswell's Presumptuous Task', was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and (like his first book, a biography of A.J.P. Taylor) was shortlisted for several other prizes on both sides of the Atlantic. He has acted as a judge for various prizes, including the Whitbread Awards, and is an occasional broadcaster on radio and television and a reviewer, most recently for the Sunday Telegraph and the Literary Review. He is married to the novelist Robyn Sisman and lives near Bath.

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