Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804-1834
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Richard Holmes's Coleridge: Early Visions won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year Prize. Coleridge: Darker Reflections, the long-awaited second volume, chronicles the last thirty years of his career (1804-1834), a period of domestic and professional turmoil. His marriage foundered, his opium addiction increased, he quarreled bitterly with Wordsworth, and his son, Hartley (a gifted poet himself), became an alcoholic. But after a desperate time of transition, Coleridge reemerged as a new kind of philosophical and meditative author, a great and daring poet, and a lecturer of genius.
Holmes traces the development of Coleridge into a legend among the younger generation of Romantic writers--the "hooded eagle amongst blinking owls"--and the influence he had on Hazlitt, De Quincey, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Walter Scott, Carlyle, and J. S. Mill, among others. And he rediscovers Coleridge's power as a conversationalist and a ceaseless generator of ideas. As Charles Lamb noted, "his face when he repeats his verses hath its ancient glory, an Archangel a little damaged."
Although Coleridge's later life was not a happy one, it is continually fascinating. As Holmes brings it vividly to life in these pages, we feel his hopeless heartaches, his moments of elation, his electrifying creativity and boundless energy, his unfailing ability to rescue himself from the darkest abyss. The result is a brilliantly animated, superbly detailed, wondrously provocative portrait of an extraordinary artist and an even more extraordinary human being.