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Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804-1834 by…
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Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804-1834

by Richard Holmes

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270364,764 (4.25)1
A biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the 19th century British poet who wrote The Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. The book examines his neuralgia, which turned him into an opium addict, and the influence this had on his writing. It follows his career in the civil service, his failed marriages and a trip to Germany where he came under the influence of German idealism, becoming its principal conduit in England.… (more)
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This second volume in Holmes' masterly biography of Coleridge continues to bring to life the poet in all his genius, unstoppable talk and unbearable unreliability. Holmes animates for us the scudding play of light and shade across Coleridge's life, richly filling out his triumphs and sorrows, and opening the door to those of us who may have been less familiar with it, to Coleridge's critical and political writings.

Holmes never lets the action stand still. Even Coleridge's most desperate times and laconic lapses form part of the continuous tumult of his life. One is swept along emotionally by Holmes' handling, which is never sentimental, but which always turns a solicitous critical eye upon his subject. At the end, surrounded by the shapes of what he might have achieved, Coleridge can turn and look down on the vista of what he actually did: more than enough. That Holmes can take us on the rollercoaster journey of Coleridge's dreams and schemes and failures, and bring us to the end with a sense of Coleridge's legacy despite all this, marks another triumph for Holmes as one of our foremost biographers.

A fantastic book, filled with insight and asides, and generative of thought and reflection in the reader on many levels. More than the story of Coleridge's life, it captures our interest in Coleridge's thought, feeling and philosophy with a vivid dance of detail that recalls Coleridge's own captivating speech. ( )
  aesop | Jul 6, 2010 |
Second volume of Holmes' two volume biography of Coleridge. This is a meticulous and scholarly work (this volume alone has sixty pages of references and indexes as well as numerous footnotes). Despite this it is an interesting and readable book. Holmes draws on Coleridge's unpublished works and notebooks, as well as unpublished correspondence between his friends and contemporaries. Most people think of Coleridge as a poet and opium addict, to his contemporaries he was an opium addict and genius - a brilliant speaker, an original philosopher, a campaigning journalist, a linguist and translator - in all, a remarkable man. Recommended to any one interested in the early 19th century or the lakes poets. ( )
  Greatrakes | May 1, 2007 |
This is the concluding volume of Holmes's definitive biography of 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. 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

Richard Holmes's biography of Coleridge aims to transform the 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 is shown 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.
  antimuzak | Nov 10, 2006 |
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