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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb biography,
This review is from: Coleridge - Darker Reflections (Paperback)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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes excellent reading even for those who aren't into poets,
By A Customer
This review is from: Coleridge - Darker Reflections (Paperback)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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gracious pleasure-tome,
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This review is from: Coleridge: Darker Reflections (Paperback)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's...........like 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.......'
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant,
This review is from: Coleridge: Darker Reflections (Paperback)This second volume get's even better than the first. Whilst learning so much about Coleridge's poetry and the history of his time, one is so emotionally engaged that I experienced grief at the tragic end. Grief for the end of Coleridge's life and grief for having come to the end of such a monumental and marvellous read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the 18/19th Century's finest minds,
This review is from: Coleridge: Darker Reflections (Paperback)I would say that this volume along with 'Early Visions' are the finest biographies I've read. Too many books of this type simply chronical what the subject matter did rather than attempt the, admittedly very difficult, task of getting into the mind of the biographee. In my view a biography is not exercise of objectivity but one of imagination albeit based on thoroughly researched material, similar perhaps to a travel book. Holmes, in my view, succeeds in both volumes. We admire Coleridge's wide ranging talents but also dispair at his difficulties in coping with basic humdrum existence. It's quite plausible that Holmes may have misread some of his subject matter's emotions and thoughts at particular times but this doesn't matter because the author is so convincing in his proposal. It certainly helps that Coleridge himself was such a fascinating character but he can count himself lucky in having such a convincing advocate.
6 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Holmes' Book by a Fellow Coleridge Biographer,
By A Customer
This review is from: Coleridge: Darker Reflections (Hardcover)As a spectacularly brilliant but moody young man in his twenties, Coleridge already was a first-rate writer, an erudite thinker, a dedicated diarist, an impressive scholar, a spellbinding conversationalist, a charismatic public speaker, an inspiring religious preacher, a promising dramatist, an accomplished journalist and the author of at least two masterpieces which have stood the test of time (KUBLA KHAN and THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER). But unfortunately for Coleridge (and for posterity), he also was in the process of becoming an opium-addicted, alcohol dependent manic depressive with a "fatal attraction" to William Wordsworth. Richard Holmes accurately describes that fatal attraction and peculiar attachment to Wordsworth with narrative skill in his well-written, two volume biography. But he bends over backwards not to analyze the conscious and unconscious basis of Coleridge's self-destructiveness. While such conjectural restraint may be commendable as a general principle of biography, it comes at too high a price if the subject is someone like Coleridge (or other "confessional poets" like Sylvia Plath or Ann Sexton)--who actually happens to be actively suffering from one or more major mental illnesses. Although modern psychiatric diagnostic terminology did not exist in Coleridge's day, the conditions existed. From Holmes' account, there is no doubt that many of the physicians who treated Coleridge in his later years recognized the fact that he was suffering from substance abuse and a mood disorder. As a result of his decision to avoid pathologizing his subject by playing amateur psychiatrist, Holmes also avoids engaging in any in-depth discussion of the mercurial moods and mysterious motives which could help shed light on Coleridge's otherwise baffling attachment to Wordsworth. Not only does Holmes ignore Coleridge's manic depression and its downwardly spiralling reciprocal interaction with drugs and alcohol, he also avoids examining Coleridge's latent homosexuality: the compulsive brother hunger and neurotic guilt that drove him into his downwardly spiralling friendship with Wordsworth. Richard Holmes' two volume biography is an excellent study of Coleridge's mind as reflected through the prisms of his poetry, letters and diaries. But it fails to explore Coleridge's unconscious mind and leaves us still searching for answers. Stephen M. Weissman,M.D. Author of HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER: A PSYCHOBIOGRAPHY OF SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1985)
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Coleridge: Darker Reflections by Richard Holmes (Paperback - 5 Dec 2005)