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The Papers of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) from the British Library, London

Publisher's Note

Coleridge and Literary Society, 1790-1834 covers all  81 Coleridge manuscripts held in the British Library, featuring items from the Additional Charters, Additional Manuscripts, Ashley Manuscripts and Egerton Manuscripts collections.  This is the largest and most significant gathering of Coleridge material held anywhere.   The project includes:

  • The Gutch memorandum book (Add Ms 27901)
  • The Ottery collection, including a sequence of 55 manuscript notebooks (Add Ms 47496-47558)
  • 'Liber Aureus’, from Christ’s Hospital (Ashley Ms 3506)
  • Letters to Fox and Wilberforce (Add Ms 35344)
  • Philosophical lectures (Egerton Ms 3057)

Coleridge’s notebooks have fascinated scholars for over seventy years.  He used them for a multitude of purposes, as journals, commonplace books, and places to experiment with drafts of material, from letters and poems to lectures.  The arrangement of the material is haphazard, with notebooks being started, abandoned, restarted (often from the other end) and generally used, over years if not decades.  The notebooks show the range of Coleridge’s observations and musings over many topics, some of which were worked up into private correspondence or developed into material for public consumption.

Writing in the British Museum Quarterly of 1952 (Vol XVI, no 4) T C Skeat described the Ottery Collection of notebooks as “the written counterpart of the celebrated Table Talk, and hold for the reader the same fascination as Coleridge's brilliant conversation exercised over his hearers.”

This project will allow scholars to investigate how Coleridge used notebooks, as a store of information, a record of impressions, a diary and journal, and as a testing ground for his literary and intellectual ideas.  This juxtaposition of different modes of writing, rather than a systematic division of his different activities and interests, shows the development of Coleridge’s thought and of Coleridge as an individual. 

The collection also includes a significant number of poetic manuscripts.  These include ‘My Lesbia, let us love’ and other works (Add Ms 27902), ‘Dura Navis’ and other works (Add Ms 34425) ‘Lewti or the Circassian’s love chant’ and other works (Add Ms 35343), Poetical Attempts (Add Ms 47551), verses to Mary Morgan and Charlotte Brent (Add Ms 50824), and the famous Kubla Khan manuscript (Add Ms 50847). 

Didactic material includes fragments of lectures on Shakespeare, Poetry and Drama (Egerton Ms 2800) and philosophical and religious issues (Egerton Ms 2801, 2825, 2826, 3057). This includes material for a treatise on Logic and a series of philosophical lectures, both of which reveal the influence of David Hartley (1705-1757), author of Observations on Man.

There is correspondence with Daniel Stuart, Thomas Poole, Fox and Wilberforce, as well as with members of his family. 

We also include some annotated published works: Robert Southey’s Joan of Arc (Add Ms 28096), August Wilhelm Rehberg’s Uber Das Verhältniss der Metaphysik zu der Religion (Add Ms 43826), and his own Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character…(Add Ms 34047).

Adam Matthew Publications offers other material on the literary, political and social debates of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Three of the most relevant projects are:

Eighteenth Century Journals from the Hope Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.  This assembles some seventy short run periodicals covering literature, politics, society, religion, theatre and satire.  It includes two periodicals with direct Coleridge interest:  Reel 16  The Watchman nos 1-10, March May 1796.  Coleridge was editor and writer of this.   Reel 19  The Tribune nos 1-50, 1795-6.  This publication was by John Thelwall, a leading radical in the 1790s who was convicted of sedition soon after meeting Coleridge (and Wordsworth) in Bristol in 1797.

Nineteenth Century Literary Manuscripts.  Part 4 covers the correspondence and papers of John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854), Editor of The Quarterly Review, from the National Library of Scotland and includes many letters by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey and their cotemporaries.   Nineteenth Century Literary Manuscripts.  Part 5 contains material for Caroline Bowles and Robert Southey.  The Southey material includes manuscript versions of ‘The Curse of Kehama’, ‘Madoc’ and ‘Thalaba the Destroyer.’   

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