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Coleridge and Alcohol: Songs and Centrifuges

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Part of the Romanticism in Perspective: Texts, Cultures, Histories book series (ROPTCH)

Abstract

Coleridge’s position as an example of the double experience of drunkenness for medical commentators; as the veiled substitute figure behind Wordsworth’s examination of Burns; as a companion, witness and interlocutor of Lamb’s giddy instabilities; and as the formative father of a notably enfeebled drunkard puts him at the centre of a Romantic network of writings about drink. His own writings on the subject take jocular, confessional, philosophical, sociological and aesthetic forms.

Keywords

Port Wine Physical Pleasure Temperance Society Romantic Poet Opium Addiction 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Tom Moore, Irish Melodies, The Poetical Works (London: H. Frowde, 1910), pp. 210, 213, 218. The Poetical Works of Lord Byron (London: Oxford University Press, 1945), p. 56. For the ‘bladders of rhyme,’ ‘Fragment of an Epistle to Thomas Moore,’ p. 76.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Frederick W. Hackwood, Inns, Ales, and Drinking Customs of Old England (reprinted London: Bracken Books, 1985), is a rich compendium of names and legendsGoogle Scholar
  3. For the inn or public house as a retreat during the 1820s from cold, darkness or anger at home, see Brian Harrison, Drink and the Victorians: The Temperance Question in England 1815–1872 ( Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 1971 ), pp. 37–63Google Scholar
  4. For English inns in Shakespeare see Mark Taylor, ‘Falstaff and the Origins of Private Life’, Shakespeare Yearbook 3 (1992), 63–83.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    William Blake, ‘The Little Vagabond’, The Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David Erdman ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1965 ), p. 26.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    I have discussed the connection between seventeenth-century drinking-songs and drinking-songs by Coleridge and Keats in ‘Coleridge, Keats, Lamb, and seventeenth century drinking songs’, in Milton, the Metaphysicals, and Romanticism, ed. Lisa Low and Anthony John Harding (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994 ), pp. 221–40.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Max F. Schulz, The Poetic Voices of Coleridge: A Study of his Desire for Spontaneity and Passion for Order (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1964), p. 172, mentions ‘Coleridge’s drinking songs, jeux d’esprit and adaptations of German lyrics’ as missing ‘the creative energy which pulsates through Burns’s “The Jolly Beggars,” for instance.’ No further mention of the drinking-songs is made, either in the song chapter or the Farrago chapter.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    John Skelton, ‘The Tunning of Elinour Rumming’, in The Renaissance in England: Non-dramatic Prose and Verse of the Sixteenth Century, ed. Hyder E. Rollins and Herschel Baker (Boston: D. C. Heath and Co., 1954), pp. 77–81,11. 101 and 555Google Scholar
  9. John Gay, ‘A Ballad. On Ale’, Poetry and Prose, ed. Vinton A. Dearling (2 vols, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 2, 442–4.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Previously unpublished. Copied by Sara Coleridge in back fly-leaf of vol. 2 of 1834 Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: William Pickering, 1834) in Coleridge’s House in Nether StoweyGoogle Scholar
  11. Described by Derrick Woolf, ‘Sara Coleridge’s Marginalia’, Coleridge Bulletin, new series 2 (Autumn 1993), pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Marginalia, ed. George Whalley (3 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 1, 369.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions ( New York: Viking, 1989 ), p. 60.Google Scholar
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  15. cited in David Perkins, English Romantic Writers (New York: Harcourt, 1967), p. 388.Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    Coleridge the Talker: A Series of Contemporary Descriptions and Comments, ed. Richard Willard Armour (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1940).Google Scholar
  17. 26.
    Biographia Literaria, ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate (2 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 2, 66–7.Google Scholar
  18. 29.
    As she does, for instance, about the central role of gin in the 1810 quarrel with Wordsworth, Molly Lefebure, The Bondage of Love: A Life of Mrs. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1986), pp. 198–200. She does not quote the specific charges of the letters but generalizes to ‘bad habits,’ which then are interpreted as drug habits.Google Scholar
  19. 32.
    Thomas De Quincey, The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (London: Oxford University Press, 1949) p. 201— passim.Google Scholar
  20. 35.
    The Life and Correspondence of John Foster, ed. J. E. Ryland (2 vols, London: Jackson and Walford, 1846), I, 445. I am grateful to David Miall for showing me this reference.Google Scholar
  21. 41.
    Thomas De Quincey, Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets, ed. David Wright (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970), pp. 93–5. But in his later essay on his own estrangement from Wordsworth (p. 380) he blames this quarrel on Wordsworth’s desire to ridicule Montagu’s vain scheme of improving Coleridge by telling Montagu that Coleridge was a ‘poor opium-martyr’ suffering from ‘sensual effeminacy’, one example of Wordsworth’s many cold betrayals of friends.Google Scholar
  22. 42.
    John Frederick Logan, ‘The Age of Intoxication’, Intoxication and Literature, Yale French Studies 50 (1974), 81–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lectures 1795, ed. Lewis Patton and Peter Mann (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), pp. 74, 237, 236, 247.Google Scholar
  24. 45.
    Lectures 1795, p. 312 n.; Essays on His Times, ed. David V. Erdman (3 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 1, 219–25, and 225 n. 13.Google Scholar
  25. 47.
    The Watchman, ed. Lewis Patton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 346–50.Google Scholar
  26. 50.
    The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke (2 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 1, 103–6; 2, 70–1Google Scholar
  27. Arden Reed, ‘The Sot and the Prostitute’, in Romantic Weather: The Climates of Coleridge and Baudelaire (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1983), pp. 109–11, summarizes this essay in the following way: ‘If man is capable of bettering himself but fails to do so, the reason can only be that he is ignorant of the correct means. With instruction, which above all means proper rhetorical care, man will cease to be vicious, and hence miserable, because he will come to see that vice simply in not in his own interest.’ Reed believes that ‘certain misgivings creep into the Friend’s argument as it proceeds’ and undermine ‘the optimism one has come to expect’. ‘By the end it is no longer certain whether education can continue to comprehend vice, or whether vice might not impose its own teachings.’ But by reading Coleridge’s essay as an optimistic praise of education, Reed does not acknowledge that Coleridge is discussing exactly that splitness between surface and depth that Reed’s critical method claims to have discovered. I discuss what I believe to be his misrepresentation of Coleridge in ’Coleridge and Alcohol’, Texas Studies in Literature and Language 33, 3 (Fall 1991 ), 364–5.Google Scholar
  28. 51.
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘Temperance’ (6 June 1788), Shorter Works and Fragments, ed. H. J. Jackson and J. R. de J. Jackson, The Collected Coleridge (20 vols, Princeton: Princeton and Routledge,1995), II, 3–4. CCN, 1, 1706 note.Google Scholar
  29. 60.
    Stanley Jones, Hazlitt: A Life: From Winterslow to Frith Street ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991 ), pp. 178–81Google Scholar
  30. Ralph M. Wardle, Hazlitt (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971), p. 178, also mentions this courageous renunciationGoogle Scholar
  31. Donald Reiman, ‘Lamb and Hazlitt’, Intervals of Inspiration: The Skeptical Tradition and the Psychology of Romanticism (Greenwood, Fla.: The Penkeville Publishing Co., 1988), p. 101, is one of the few critics to speak of Hazlitt’s personal struggle with alcohol.Google Scholar
  32. 63.
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lectures 1808–1819, ed. R. A. Foakes, (2 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 1, 43–57. In a note (p. 43) Foakes states that no source has been found for these notes, and that the passage is much richer than Coleridge’s 1812 lectures on the Greek drama, which were indeed largely borrowed from Schlegel.Google Scholar
  33. 66.
    John B. Beer, Coleridge the Visionary (New York: Collier, 1962), pp. 63, 68, 73,103, 221, 274, 275, 282.Google Scholar
  34. 68.
    Plato, ‘Phaedrus’, The Collected Dialogues, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), pp. 491 and 511, 244 a and 265 a and b.Google Scholar
  35. 69.
    Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, trans. Charles Glenn Wallis (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1940 ), pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  36. 70.
    Thomas Taylor the Platonist: Selected Writings, ed. Kathleen Raine and George Mills Harper (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 204–63; 361–426.Google Scholar
  37. 74.
    Coleridge, 2 Sept. 1833, Table Talk, ed. Carl Woodring (2 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 2, 443, and Woodring’s note.Google Scholar
  38. 78.
    In writing of Coleridge’s images for partial being, Edward Kessler, Coleridge’s Metaphors of Being (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 39–82, depicts Phantoms as fragments of vain energy. Gnomes might belong in this grouping.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anya Taylor 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeThe City University of New YorkUSA

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