• John Morrow
Part of the Coleridge’s Writings book series (COLWRIT)


Samuel Taylor Coleridge is, of course, remembered chiefly as a poet. But his poetic achievements were only part of a literary enterprise that began in 1793 (when his first poem was published) and ended with his death in 1834.1 Writings on social and political matters form an important part of Coleridge’s corpus, reflecting his enduring interest in day-to-day politics, and in the more fundamental issues raised by them. The present volume is intended to furnish modern readers with materials for the study of Coleridge’s contributions to social and political theory. It does not collect all his writings in this area, but does include his major statements on questions about the goals and requirements of social and political life — particularly those questions that distinguish theory from commentary. In Coleridge’s case, as in that of many other writers, the intellectual division of labour is not always very clearly demarcated, but it is possible to identify works which deal principally with the ends of politics, the nature of the state, and the bearing of these on institutions and behaviour.


Political Theory Moral Personality Christian Church Moral Feeling Terminological Distinction 
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  1. 1.
    Kathleen Cobum’s succinct summary of Coleridge’s achievements runs thus: ’Author of The Ancient Mariner and other unforgettable poems. Great literary critic, psychologist, philosopher, theologian, lecturer, journalist, constructive critic of church and state …’ — Kathleen Coburn (ed.), Coleridge: A Collection of Critical Essays (Engle-wood Cliffs, NJ, 1967) p. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    C. V. Le Grice, ‘College Reminiscences of Mr. Coleridge’, Gentleman’s Magazine, n.s., n (1834) 605–7Google Scholar
  3. J. C. D. Clark, English Society, 1688–1832 (Cambridge, 1985) pp. 313–14Google Scholar
  4. Frida Knight, University Rebel: The Life of William Trend 1751–1841 (1971) chs 1–2.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Religious Musings is particularly marked by millenarian themes; see Clarke Garrett, Respectable Folly (Baltimore, 1975) p. 143. On the pantisocracy scheme see Sister Eugenia, ‘Coleridge’s Scheme of Panti-socracy and American Travel Accounts’, PMLA, 1930, pp. 1069–84; and J. R. MacGillivray, ‘The Pantisocracy Scheme and its Immediate Background’, in M. W. Wallace (ed.), Studies in English (Toronto, 1931) pp. 131–69.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, ed. C. C. Southey, 6 vols (1849–51) l, 221.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    See Frank E. and Fritzie P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, Mass., 1979) p. 736.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    For Coleridge’s Unitarianism see J. Robert Barth, Coleridge and Christian Doctrine (Cambridge, Mass., 1969) ch. 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 7.
    Basil Willey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1972) chs 2 and 3.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See the Introduction to Lectures 1795, pp. lviii-lxxx; and Leonard W. Deen, ‘Coleridge and the Sources of Pantisocracy: Godwin, the Bible and Hartley’, Boston University Studies in English, 5 (1961) 232–45.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries (Oxford, 1981) pp. 77–8Google Scholar
  12. David V. Erdman, ‘Coleridge as Editorial Writer’, in Conor Cruise O’Brien and William Dean Vanech (eds), Power and Consciousness (New York, 1969) pp. 183–5Google Scholar
  13. Nicholas Roe, Coleridge and Wordsworth: The Radical Years (Oxford, 1988); E. P. Thompson, ‘Disenchantment or Default?’, ibid., pp. 149–81. The discussion below seeks to establish a sense in which Coleridge’s early writings were radical in terms of the context in which they were produced.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Joseph Priestley, An Essay on the First Principles of Government, and on the Nature of Political, Civil and Religious Liberty (1768)Google Scholar
  15. cited by Clark in English Society, p. 334; Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Penguin edn (Harmondsworth, 1968) p. 96ff.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    On the importance of hierarchy in English thought at this time see Clark, English Society, ch. 4. Horsley’s remark is quoted by Coleridge in Lectures 1795, p. 285; it was made in the House of Lords on 11 Nov 1795. Samuel Horsley (1733–1806) was Bishop of St David’s at the time, but was later translated to the sees of Rochester and St. Asaphs.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    On the anti-war movement see John Cookson, The Friends of Peace (Cambridge, 1982) passim; on Frend see Knight, University Rebel, ch. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 30.
    J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton, NJ, 1974) chs 11–12Google Scholar
  19. On this tradition see; and for Coleridge’s place in it see John Morrow, ‘The National Church in Coleridge’s Church and State: A Response to Allen’, JHI, 47 (1986) 640–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 39.
    Coleridge claimed that the ends of government were of ’two kinds, negative and positive. The negative ends … are the protection of Life, of personal Freedom, of Property, of Reputation and of Religion, from foreign and from domestic attacks. The positive ends are, 1st. to make the means of subsistence more easy to each individual: 2d. that in addition to the necessaries of life he should derive from the union and division of labour a share of the comforts and conveniences, which humanize and ennoble his nature; and at the same time the power of perfecting himself in his own branch of industry by having those things which he needs, provided for him by others among his fellow-citizens; including the tools and raw or manufactured materials, necessary for his own Employment. … 3rdly. The hope of bettering his own condition and that of his children. … [Lastly] the development of those faculties which are essential to his human nature by the knowledge of his moral and religious duties, and the increase of his intellectual powers in as great a degree as is compatible with the other ends of the social union, and does not involve a contradiction’ (Friend, II 201–2). See also A Lay Sermon, below, p. 143. in R. L. Brett (ed.), S. T. Coleridge (1972) pp. 258–9.Google Scholar
  21. 43.
    See R. J. White’s Introduction to LS, pp. xli-xlii; and Arthur S. Link, ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Economic and Political Crisis in Great Britain’, JHI, 9 (1948) 323–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 51.
    David P. Calleo, Coleridge and the Idea of the Modern State (New Haven, Conn., 1966)Google Scholar
  23. See John Colmer’s Introduction to C & S, pp. xxxv-xxxvii; this essay, and Colmer’s earlier discussion in Coleridge: Critic of Society, p. 153ff., are the best treatments of Coleridge’s arguments. See also; and Nigel Leask, The Politics of Imagination in Coleridge’s Critical Thought (1988).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 68.
    John Stuart Mill, ‘Coleridge’, in Mill on Bentham and Coleridge, ed. F. R. Leavis (1967) pp. 99–100.Google Scholar
  25. 69.
    For a fuller statement of this interpretation see the concluding chapter of John Morrow, Coleridge’s Political Thought: Property, Morality and the Limits of Traditional Discourse (1990).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Morrow
    • 1
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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