English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Introductory Note

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772–1834) was the tenth child of a Devonshire clergyman, and the most distinguished member of one of the most intellectual stocks in modern England. His life was devoted to literary and philosophical pursuits, but an inherent weakness of will and lack of practical sense made him depend upon friends and benefactors for a large part of the support of himself and his family. In poetry he achieved his greatest distinction, and the best of his work stands at the head of its class. But he was constantly planning great schemes which he usually abandoned before they were carried out, and in spite of the extraordinary nature of his endowments he never fulfilled his promise.

In prose his chief work was in philosophy and esthetics. He was one of the first to introduce into England the philosophy of Kant, and in literary criticism he stands in the front rank. Probably no interpreter of Shakespeare has said so many memorable and penetrating things in illumination of the characters of the great dramas; and in the present essay he shows his power of dealing with profound philosophic insight with the fundamental principles of art.