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Coleridge - Darker Reflections [Paperback]

Richard Holmes
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Oct 1999

The first volume of Richard Holmes’s biography of Coleridge, Coleridge: Early Visions, won the 1989 Whitbread Prize for book of the year. Coleridge: Darker Reflections is the long-awaited second volume.

Richard Holmes’s biography of Coleridge transforms our view of the poet of ‘Kubla Khan’ forever. Holmes’s Coleridge leaps out of these pages as the brilliant, animated and endlessly provoking poet of genius that he was.
This second volume covers the last 30 years of Coleridge’s career (1804-1834) during which he travelled restlessly through the Mediterranean, returned to his old haunts in the Lake District and the West Country, and finally settled in Highgate. It was a period of domestic and professional turmoil. His marriage broke up, his opium addiction increased, he quarrelled with Wordsworth, his own son Hartley Coleridge (a gifted poet himself) became an alcoholic. And after a desperate time of transition, Coleridge re-emerged on the literary scene as a new kind of philosophical and meditative author.

From the reviews:
’One of the greatest biographies of the century. Pure joy to read, it is a shimmering portrait of the mature artist veering between brilliance and despair.’ Financial Times

’This – and I can’t remember ever thinking this before so strongly – is a biography to grow old with.’ MIRANDA SEYMOUR, Independent

Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New edition edition (4 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006548423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006548423
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,123,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Holmes is Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, has honorary doctorates from UEA, Kingston University and the University of East London, and was awarded an OBE in 1992. His first book, 'Shelley: The Pursuit', won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974. 'Coleridge: Early Visions' won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year, and 'Dr Johnson & Mr Savage' won the James Tait Black Prize. 'Coleridge: Darker Reflections' won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award. He has published two studies of European biography, 'Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer' in 1985, and 'Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer' in 2000. 'The Age of Wonder' won the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2009 in the UK, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-Fiction 2010 in the USA.

Product Description

Amazon Review

This is the concluding volume of Holmes's definitive and thrilling biography of ST Coleridge. The book reads as a brilliant evocation of the Romantic age when a rigorous literary discourse was alive in England. Coleridge sat at the helm, a mad, loveable genius whose only life-long love affair was with opium. Holmes charts STC's oscillation between narcotic oblivion and the nightmare visions of withdrawal with the skill of a novelist. STC's inability to deal with the responsibilities of parenthood and his own finances left him in a state of constant poverty and guilt. Despite these afflictions, he managed to produce some of the finest poetry and philosophical prose in history. Financially and emotionally sustained by the love and loyalty of friends, every person he met fell under the spell, as de Quincey puts it, of "the greatest man that has ever appeared." At the heart of the story lies the volatile relationship with Wordsworth who plays McCartney to Coleridge's Lennon. Wordsworth comes across as an anally retentive, vain, ambitious operator who finally betrays Coleridge's love and friendship. The book is packed with quotes, which keeps the reader constantly close to the subject, and Holmes digs out detail that animates our hero at every turn. You'll find sex, drugs and poetry and a cast of stars (Byron, Shelley, Keats, Hazlitt, de Quincey, Southey, Carlyle, JS Mill) who revolve around Coleridge and his unfathomable mind. --Hannah Griffiths --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'One of the greatest biographies of the century. Pure joy to read, it is a shimmering portrait of the mature artist veering between brilliance and despair.' --Financial Times

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb biography 20 July 2001
Richard Holmes' marvellous book is the sequel to his Coleridge: Early Visions. For fifteen years, he has been constantly engaged with Coleridge's ideas, poems, plays and philosophical writings. He traces Coleridge's lifelong dialogues with the greatest of English poets, Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth, and also with the finest German writers, Goethe and Schiller.
Coleridge was that rare creature, a superb poet who could also grapple with the deepest of philosophers. He could brilliantly summarise the two basic possible lines in philosophy: "The difference between Aristotle and Plato is that which will remain as long as we are men and there is any difference between man and man in point of opinion. Plato, with Pythagoras before him, had conceived that the phenomenon or outside appearance, all that we call thing or matter, is but as it were a language by which the invisible (that which is not the object of our senses) communicates its existence to our finite beings ... Aristotle, on the contrary, affirmed that all our knowledge had begun in experience, had begun through the senses, and that from the senses only we could take our notions of reality ... It was the first way in which, plainly and distinctly, two opposite systems were placed before the mind of the world."
Although Coleridge adhered to Platonism, he honestly admitted, "All these poetico-philosophical Arguments strike and shatter themselves into froth against that stubborn rock, the fact of Consciousness, or rather its dependence on the body."
Like other notable literary biographies - one thinks of Holmes' earlier one of Shelley, Richard Ellman's of Oscar Wilde, Peter Ackroyd's of Charles Dickens, Tim Hilton's of John Ruskin, E. P. Thompson's of William Morris, and Leon Edel's of Henry James - this wonderful book arouses our enthusiasm for literature. It shows us again how a great writer's work can help us both to enjoy and to make sense of the world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Richard Holmes is a wonderful biographer. He writes as if he is talking to the reader. I read this book, before reading the earlier one. Nevertheless, this book reads well by itself and makes the reader want to find out more about the man. I knew very little about Coleridge before reading this book. Apart from struggling with the Ancient Mariner as a 15 year old! After reading Holmes, I bought his earlier book, an audio-tape of poems and a selected collection of poetry. Richard Holmes opened a door for me. He can do the same for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gracious pleasure-tome 3 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the second of Richard Holmes two volume life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It covers the poet's life from his sea voyage to the Mediterranean and subsequent sojourn in Malta in 1804 to his death in Highgate thirty years later. By 1804 when Holmes takes up the story, the white heat of Coleridge's creative ability was cooling. Kubla Khan, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel, those wild daring flashes of genius that would for ever set the poet among the stars had been composed in the late 1890s. Such visions were never to be repeated.

Holmes takes up the story as Coleridge struggled to regain that 'first fine careless rapture' in an immensely readable biography that combines brisk tempo and scholarly evaluation in this sympathetic but not entirely uncritical account of the poet's later life. Coleridge faced daunting odds; a failed marriage; chronic lack of money; opium addiction; unrequited love for his `Asra;' a lengthy quarrel with Wordsworth, and savage censure from some hostile critics. Holmes strikingly portrays the poet's charisma and the friends who helped keep him buoyant, notably the lawyer John Morgan and James and Ann Gillman, all of whom he tried severely. And Coleridge remained courageously afloat,using his superhuman talents to create further legendry works. This reviewer ended up loving the man for the legacy he left, and with deep regard for Holmes's skill as a biographer. It's a book that can't really be faulted.

Holmes is a consummate writer and when moved he can ascend into poetry himself; see the epilogue `Afterward' (p 561). Holmes--- ` But there is a particular silence which falls after a life like Coleridge' the silence in a concert hall when a symphony has just been played. But the music hasn't conceivably finished; like the music Coleridge's life continues in one's head and mixes with the sounds of one's own existence.......'

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