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This new collection enables students and general readers to appreciate Coleridge's renewed relevance 250 years after his birth. An indispensable guide to his writing for twenty-first-century readers, it contains new perspectives that reframe his work in relation to slavery, race, war, post-traumatic stress disorder and ecological crisis. Through detailed engagement with Coleridge's pioneering poetry, the reader is invited to explore fundamental questions on themes ranging from nature and trauma to gender and sexuality. Essays by leading Coleridge scholars analyse and render accessible his extraordinarily innovative thinking about dreams, psychoanalysis, genius and symbolism. Coleridge is often a direct and gripping writer, yet he is also elusive and diverse. This Companion's great achievement is to offer a one-volume entry point into his incomparably rich and varied world.
By 1802, Coleridge had begun to suspect what the next thirty years would confirm – that there was a ‘radical Difference’ between Wordsworth’s conception of poetry and his own (CL STC II. 830). Lyrical Ballads was the outcome of a period of initial excitement when, at the start of a relationship, each man was able to suspend his difference and, for a while, be a version of himself that met the other’s hopes and ideals. As such, it was a typical project for Coleridge, who had an intense need to be part of a literary circle in which friendship gave rise to, and was in turn intensified by, communal writing, reading and publishing. He had been co-writing or co-publishing poems with Southey since 1794; in 1797 his first verse collection included poems by his friends Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb. Wordsworth, on the other hand, had never published collaboratively before and never would again. In a sense, then, Lyrical Ballads (1798) was a Coleridgean volume, one of many co-authored outlets for a practice of versifying that he shared with friends – a practice that was often self-reflexive: the poems were often about the shared experiences of the friends with whom they were written and/or to whom they were recited. A case in point was ‘This Lime Tree Bower My Prison’, the poem in which Coleridge first invoked William and Dorothy in the conversational voice that he and Wordsworth would develop during the next five years. The poem features Charles Lamb as well as the Wordsworths and was recited to them on the spot where it was composed. It was not, however, published in Lyrical Ballads but in Southey’s Annual Anthology alongside contributions by other members of the circle – including Joseph Cottle, the Bristol bookseller who published both it and Lyrical Ballads. This pattern suggests that Lyrical Ballads was just one of many joint publications by which Coleridge sought to promote the innovatory poetic style of the West Country circle, and in so doing endorse their group language. Other poems went into the columns of The Morning Post, where verse by Southey and by Mary Robinson (a satellite member of the group) also appeared.
The long-established association of Romanticism with youth has resulted in the early poems of the Lake Poets being considered the most significant. Tim Fulford challenges the tendency to overlook the later poetry of no longer youthful poets, which has had the result of neglecting the Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey of the 1820s and leaving unexamined the three poets' rise to popularity in the 1830s and 1840s. He offers a fresh perspective on the Lake Poets as professional writers shaping long careers through new work, as well as the republication of their early successes. The theme of lateness, incorporating revision, recollection, age and loss, is examined within contexts including gender, visual art, and the commercial book market. Fulford investigates the Lake Poets' later poems for their impact now, while also exploring their historical effects in their own time and counting the costs of their omission from Romanticism.