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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gracious pleasure-tome, 3 Dec. 2012
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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 1790s. 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.......'

Bravo!
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