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Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge - Adam Sisman During the early, idyllic stage of their friendship Wordsworth and Coleridge spent long days wandering around in the natural beauty of the English countryside deep in discussion. Talking for miles and miles they covered philosophy and the nature and purpose of poetry, then interrupted those thoughts to make note of some particular aspect of their surroundings—images of flowers, leaves, light or clouds that they used to turn their philosophical insights into poetry. Accompanying them was Dorothy, Wordsworth’s lively, devoted sister who was something of a writer herself. The three of them spent days and weeks almost continually in each other’s company. Wordsworth and his sister moved across the country just so they could live within walking distance of Coleridge, and even then they often slept over in each other’s homes talking deep into the night. There was no rivalry or reserve. As Coleridge explained it they were “three people but one soul.”Later things went out of balance. Coleridge’s abundant praise of Wordsworth’s brilliance seemed to sap his own ability to write. Compounding this was his growing addiction to opium, which was considered a medicinal not a dangerous drug. The dazzling energy, intelligence and perception of Coleridge’s conversation amazed people, but he went years without composing much of anything. Wordsworth continued to write, but his life became weighted down with family responsibilities. Coleridge, who had a spectacularly unhappy marriage, felt that the adoration of Wordsworth’s wife, his wife’s sister and Dorothy put blinders on Wordsworth’s eyes and kept him from achieving his full measure of greatness. The Recluse, the lengthy philosophical poem Coleridge imagined for Wordsworth, was never finished. Wordsworth attempted parts of it and sought Coleridge’s guidance for the rest, but a falling out kept them apart and by the time Coleridge did write down his thoughts for Wordsworth it was long past the time when Wordsworth could take up such an all-consuming project. Neither man completed the poems they felt were their life works and they never were as close again.The sadness of this was mitigated for me by the fact that late in their lives they took one more long ramble together. They toured Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands with Wordsworth’s daughter Dorothy, who was named after her aunt but called Dora to avoid confusion. They no longer were “one soul” and they irritated each other sometimes, but still Dora was able to report that the three of them got along “delightfully.” This book begins with the early lives of Coleridge and Wordsworth, before they meet, including the time of the French Revolution whose ideals influenced both men, and it continues until Coleridge’s death in 1834 at the age of sixty one. The portraits of the poets seem balanced, each is presented as both talented and flawed, and I found the book fascinating and moving.