Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet who was one the founders of the Romantic literary movement in England.
He was born in a small town in Dover, England, where his father served as a vicar and as headmaster of the local school. He was the youngest of ten children.
In 1791, Coleridge enrolled in Jesus College at Cambridge. Along with a fellow student, the poet Robert Southey, he planned to organize a utopian community called Pantisociety in Pennsylvania. Coleridge accordingly abandoned his studies, but was soon left disillusioned when their finances gave out and Southey left the project.
Coleridge had felt pressured to marry Sara Fricker, the sister of Southey's fiancée. Now he found himself married to an incompatible woman he had never wanted to marry. Nevertheless, they eventually had four children together.
After founding the liberal political journal The Watchman, which soon failed, Coleridge found himself in serious financial difficulties. It was only after receiving monetary aid from the brothers Josiah and Thomas Wedgwood that he was able to resume his writing.
In 1795 Coleridge met the poet William Wordsworth, who would become a friend to him and a major influence on his work. Coleridge began composing poetry in a new, experimental style that was conversational in rhythm and tone. He published the collection Lyrical Ballads (1798) together with Wordsworth, which contained some of his new conversational poems, such as Frost at Midnight and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Others of these experimental poems ,including Christabel and Kubla Khan, were published only in 1816.
Following the publication of Lyrical Ballads, Coleridge and Wordsworth had the means to set off together for Germany. Coleridge studied metaphysics and German at the University of Gōttingen. They returned to England in 1799 and Coleridge moved his family to Keswick in the Lake District to be near Wordsworth's home in Grasmere. This would allow the two men to continue to work together. Coleridge worked on his translation of Schiller's play Wallenstein.
During this time, Coleridge met and fell in love with Sara Hutchinson who was living nearby. This caused further tension in his already strained marriage, and he turned increasingly to opium. Coleridge separated from his wife in 1802, and he expressed his emotional state in his poem Dejection: An Ode (1802). He moved to Malta in 1804 in the hopes of reviving his poor health, but returned to England two years later without much improvement.
During the following ten years, Coleridge gave a number of public lectures on Shakespeare which were innovative and well received. A revised version of his earlier play Osario (1797) was successfully produced in 1813.
Coleridge suffered further setbacks when Hutchinson separated herself from him and moved to Wales in 1810. That same year, he also quarreled with Wordsworth, leaving him despondent for a period of time. Coleridge eventually found solace and emotional stability in his return to the Anglican church. He was finally able to cure himself of his opium addiction in 1816 after moving into the London home of his physician, James Gillman. This led to a greater output in his writing, and he published a collection of his poems, Sybilline Leaves (1817) and wrote Biographia Literaria (1817). He also produced a new play, Zapolya (1817).
Coleridge became a fellow at the Royal Society of Literature in 1824, which brought him an annual stipend and greater social standing.
After living with the Gillman family for nearly twenty years, Coleridge died of heart failure in 1834.