Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772 - 1834

portrait of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1795 oil portrait by Peter Vandyke
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Born: 21 October 1772, Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England, UK
Died: 25 July 1834, Highgate, England, UK

The youngest of thirteen children, Coleridge was hectored by older brothers, which led to his taking frequent sanctuary in the local library, reading the Arabian Nights at age six. In 1781 his father died and Coleridge was sent to Christ's Hospital, a charity school at Greyfriars, London. He went on to Jesus College, Cambridge in 1791, then entered the Royal Dragoons under an assumed name. After a failed attempt to setup a utopian commune called Pantisocracy, he married and briefly established a journal called The Watchman, featuring a publication schedule of every eight days because a tax on weekly newspapers was in effect. He soon met William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, the two poets published Lyrical Ballads in 1798 which included Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and is regarded as the starting point of the English romantic movement. From then until 1808 Coleridge spent most of his time on the Continent, studying in Germany and serving as Acting Public Secretary of Malta. He frequently suffered from depression, possibly bipolar syndrome, and took to laudanum, an infusion of opium in brandy, for relief. Kubla Khan was, by his own claim, inspired in an opium reverie. In 1817, alienated from his family, he moved into the home of a physician at Highgate and remained there for the rest of his life. He was often visited there by other writers including Carlyle and Emerson and finished Biographia Literaria, his major prose work there.

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