Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who along with William Wordsworth, was a proponent of the Romantic movement in English literature. Coleridge believed that poetry depended on human understanding, to the realm of ordinary human experience. Poetry should have an organic unity, it should be expressive, not artificial. Coleridge was also interested in politics and societal reform and over his lifetime gave lectures on politics. A devout man, he also lectured on religious subjects. His close friendship with Wordsworth was crucial to his development as a poet and critic.
Coleridge was born into a large family in 1772. His father was a school master and vicar. Not much is know about his mother, except that she bore ten children, Coleridge the youngest. His childhood left him feeling unworthy and dependent on others--traits he would have for the rest of his life. He was a voracious reader as a child and this trait served him well when he was sent to Christ's Hospital, a London grammar school in 1781 after the death of his father. He was an excellent student, studying, Hebrew, Latin, Greek and English composition. His teacher, Rev. James Bowyer, insisted on clear writing, natural in tone and feeling. Coleridge would strive to emulate his teacher's instruction thoughout his life. He attended Cambridge University but never graduated, It was at Cambridge that he became interested in politics. This interest can be seen in his poetry as well as in his lectures and essays. He married Sara Fricker in 1795. The union was not a happy one, but did produce children. He moved to several locations after 1795 and in 1797 he lived in Alfoxden. His close friendship with Wordsworth about that time would prove helpful. It was around that time that he wrote "Kubla Khan", one of his most famous poems. He did not publish it until 1816. Critics opine that this poem and its imagery can be seen as preparation for 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Wordsworth's aid in the writing of this famous poem was invaluable. In fact, critics write that this collaboration laid the foundations of modern poetry. This long poem enriched the English language with idioms still in use such as " an albatross around one's neck." Coleridge also wrote " Christabel", another well known poem.
Other important works followed: poems essays, letters and lectures. The years were not kind to him. As he grew older, his health began to fail. and after 1800 he grew increasingly addicted to opium, a drug given to him to ease the pain of rheumatism ( doctors of the time gave opium for many ailments). He died in 1834 of heart failure, having spent his last years under a doctor's care. Coleridge will be remembered not only for his poetry, but also for his works of literary criticism. His best know critical work, and as some believe a monument to great literary criticism is "Biographia Literaria" This work and his notebooks, lectures and essays cement his reputation as an important writer and critic.