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Sources returnpage

Coleridge, David Hartley

Category: Poet

David Hartley Coleridge (19 September 1796 – 6 January 1849) was an English poet, biographer and essayist. He was the eldest son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  His father mentions Hartley in several poems, including the well-known Frost at Midnight, where he addresses him as his "babe so beautiful".[Inherited genes]

Hartley spent his early years in the care of Robert Southey at Greta Hall, which possessed the best library in the neighbourhood.  Hartley also received his early education from his father. In effect he benefited from Home schooling.  As his brother said
"The unlimited indulgence with which he was treated at Greta Hall, tended, without doubt, to strengthen the many and strong peculiarities of his nature, and may perhaps have contributed to that waywardness and want of control, from which in later-life he suffered so deeply."

Beginning in the summer of 1808 [aged 12] Hartley and his brother attended school as day-scholars at Ambleside, under the tutelage of the Rev. John Dawes. Hartley, however,  enjoyed total freedom in his after-school hours. Hartley, who had no aptitude for sports, spent much of his time reading and taking walks by himself, or telling stories. He had one close friend at the time, a boy named Robert Jameson, not a fellow student, to whom he afterwards addressed a series of sonnets.

In his time at the school, Hartley was in constant contact with William Wordsworth and his family. He pursued his studies of English in Wordsworth's library at Allan Bank in Grasmere. His privilege of studying in the Wordsworth library was continued after the Wordsworth family moved to Rydal Mount.

In 1815, he went to Oxford, as a scholar of Merton College.  Derwent Coleridge made this comment about his brother's time at Oxford [Questioning beliefs]:
"Though far from a destructive in politics, he was always keenly alive to what he supposed to be the evils and abuses of the existing state of things both in Church and State, while he remained constant in his allegiance to what he believed to be the essentials of both... On all subjects he spoke his mind, often, through whim or impatience, more than his mind, freely, without regard to consequences."

On a vacation in 1818 Hartley met the poet Chauncy Hare Townshend, who said the following of him:
"I cannot easily convey to you the impression of interest which he made on my mind at that time. There was something so wonderfully original in his method of expressing himself, that on me, then a young man, and only cognisant externally of the prose of life, his sayings, all stamped with the impress of poetry, produced an effect analogous to that which the mountains of Cumberland, and the scenery of the North, were working on my southern-born eye and imagination."

Coleridge's cottage, Nab End in Rydal water today

Wikipedia then says "He had inherited much of his father's character, and his lifestyle was such that, although he was successful in gaining an Oriel fellowship, at the close of the probationary year (1820) he was judged to have forfeited it, mainly on the grounds of intemperance.” Hartley suffered from a dependence on alcohol for the rest of his life.

He then spent two years in London, where he wrote short poems for the London Magazine, became a partner in a school at Ambleside, moved to Grasmere, wrote occasional essays for Blackwood's Magazine, wrote some biographies of Yorkshire and Lancashire ‘worthies’, and wrote poems which were printed as a volume in 1833.

From this time, except for two short periods in 1837 and 1838 when he acted as master at Sedbergh School, he lived quietly at Grasmere and (1840–1849) Rydal, spending his time in study and wanderings about the countryside. His figure was as familiar as Wordsworth's, and he made many friends among the locals [Reducing threats].

In 1839, he brought out his edition of Massinger and Ford, with biographies of both dramatists. The closing decade of Coleridge's life was ‘wasted’ in what he himself called "the woeful impotence of weak resolve." On the death of his mother in 1845, he was placed, by means of an annuity on his life, on a footing of complete independence, but he lived for only 3 more years.  His poems are lovely.


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