1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coleridge, Hartley

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COLERIDGE, HARTLEY (1796-1849), English man of letters, eldest son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was born on the 19th of September 1796, near Bristol. His early years were passed under Southey's care at Greta Hall, Keswick, and he was educated by the Rev. John Dawes at Ambleside. In 1815 he went to Oxford, as scholar of Merton College. His university career, however, was very unfortunate. He had inherited the weakness of purpose, as well as the splendid conversational powers, of his father, and lapsed into habits of intemperance. He was successful in gaining an Oriel fellowship, but at the close of the probationary year (1820) was judged to have forfeited it. The authorities could not be prevailed upon to reverse their decision; but they awarded to him a free gift of £300. Hartley Coleridge then spent two years in London, where he wrote short poems for the London Magazine. His next step was to become a partner in a school at Ambleside, but this scheme failed. In 1830 a Leeds publisher, Mr. F. E. Bingley, made a contract with him to write biographies of Yorkshire and Lancashire worthies. These were afterwards republished under the title of Biographia Borealis (1833) and Worthies of Yorkshire and Lancashire (1836). Bingley also printed a volume of his poems in 1833, and Coleridge lived in his house until the contract came to an end through the bankruptcy of the publisher. From this time, except for two short periods in 1837 and 1838 when he acted as master at Sedbergh grammar 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 his gentleness and simplicity of manner won for him the friendship of the country-people. In 1839 appeared his edition of Massinger and Ford, with biographies of both dramatists. The closing decade of Coleridge's life was wasted in what he himself calls “the woeful impotence of weak resolve.” He died on the 6th of January 1849. The prose style of Hartley Coleridge is marked by much finish and vivacity; but his literary reputation must chiefly rest on the sanity of his criticisms, and above all on his Prometheus, an unfinished lyric drama, and on his sonnets. As a sonneteer he achieved real excellence, the form being exactly suited to his sensitive genius. Essays and Marginalia, and Poems, with a memoir by his brother Derwent, appeared in 1851.