Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Born 1772 in Devon, England. The youngest son of a large family, he studied at Cambridge, but caroused his way through school, and though very companionable, often fell into deep bouts of depression and was haunted by violent dreams from which he would awaken screaming. At 21, he left Cambridge and joined the British Army's Dragoon Guards. An utter failure as a soldier, his older brother had to buy his way out; he was certified as insane and then released. Coleridge returned to Cambridge but struggled with what he called, “a religious twilight." Convinced that nature was the best teacher, he quit Cambridge and began a series of walking tours around the country and developed an idea for a utopian society, Pantisocracy, with hopes of starting his "commune" in America. Coleridge was a dynamic lecturer, giving political speeches against the slave trade and in support of the rebellious Americans. Celebrated for his “strange power of speech”, he often lectured in on the Unitarian faith. He married, had a child, and suffered from bouts of illness which he ministered with opium. He increasingly turned to opium as inspiration rather than cure, and wrote his famed poem Kubla Khan directly from an opium delirium. Coleridge became friends with William Wordsworth, and together they spent many hours walking in nature. Together, Wordsworth and Coleridge launched the Romantic Era of English literature with the 1798 collection, Lyrical Ballads, which included Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He was just 26.
Illustrations by Gustav Doré