Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772–1834)

Poet, critic, philosopher and Southey’s brother-in-law. His complex — at times passionate — four-decade relationship with Coleridge had a major impact both on Southey’s life and on his critical posterity. It began in Oxford in summer 1794 when Robert Allen introduced Southey to a visitor from Cambridge — Coleridge. It was a fateful meeting, leading to the failed scheme of Pantisocracy, literary collaboration, and — eventually — mutual disenchantment. As Southey later recorded: ‘that meeting fixed the future fortunes of us both ... Coleridge had at that time thought little of politics, in morals he was as loose ... as men at a university usually are, but he was a Unitarian. my morals were of the sternest Stoicism ... that same feeling which made me a poet kept me pure ... Our meeting was mutually serviceable, — I reformed his life, & he disposed me toward Xtianity’. It was Coleridge who induced Southey to come north and live at Greta Hall in 1803. In 1804 he left Keswick for Malta and Italy for the sake of his health, returning in 1806, after which he separated from his wife, leaving her and his daughter Sara at Greta Hall and taking his sons Hartley and Derwent to be educated at Ambleside, near the Wordsworths, with whom he lived. During 1807 and 1808 he was in London, lecturing and writing for the Courier, which duly puffed Southey’s work. In 1808 he planned, with assistance from Southey, a new journal The Friend, editing this from Grasmere from 1809 to 1810, with Southey’s help as a proofreader. In 1810 he quarrelled with Wordsworth and moved south. His last visit to the Lake District was in 1812. His relationship with Southey, though distant, was never broken and Southey continued to provide for his wife and children.

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