English poet and critic; author of the Ancient Mariner.
Document Signed, two pages, legal folio, Malta, June 19, 1805. Headed Affidavit of the Pay Master and signed by Coleridge as Public Secretary to the Governor of Malta.
“I…do swear that on the twenty-fourth day of March, 1805 I mustered the Maltese Artillery under the command of Captain John Vivion, Superintendent of the Coasts, at which time I saw such commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers and private men as are borne on the foregoing muster roll and pay list…. I do further swear that all the sums set down in the said muster roll and pay list have been paid by me to the respective persons and for the respective services therein specified in strict conformity to the King’s regulations….”
Coleridge, considered singularly precocious and imaginative as a child, surprised no one when he began to turn his daydreams into poetry. Long walks with his great friend William Wordsworth helped him crystallize his thoughts. His masterpiece, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, was completed in 1798; Coleridge was twenty-five years old.
The times in which he lived suited Samuel Coleridge. He was fascinated by medicine (having a sickly constitution), by metaphysics, and by all the developments in science taking place all around him and which have been described to great effect by Richard Holmes in The Age of Wonder. Coleridge and his fellow poets, Wordsworth and Shelley, were drawn to other brilliant young men of their generation who were pushing the frontiers of experimental science.
In 1799, Coleridge met chemist Humphry Davy in Bristol, then experimenting with the effects of gases, namely nitrous oxide, dangerously (the effects being unknown at the time) inhaling the substance himself and inviting his friends to do the same while carefully recording their experiences. For Coleridge, who by then was overly familiar with opium (which he thought would alleviate his various aliments), these inhaling sessions took on a poetical cast.
In one of his most inspired perceptions he wrote that science, as a human activity, “being necessarily performed with the passion of Hope, it was poetical. Science, like poetry, was not merely ‘progressive’. It directed a particular kind of moral energy and imaginative longing into the future. It enshrined the implicit belief that mankind could achieve a better, happier world.” (Holmes, The Age of Wonder.)
In 1804, with concerns over his health mounting, doctors recommended Samuel Coleridge try an “even and dry” climate. He set off for Malta where, through friends of the Governor, he secured the position of Secretary. Though busy, it was not the sort of busyness he could tolerate. Coleridge’s world was one of poetry and conversation (He was said by all to be an astonishing conversationalist) and he gradually slid back into opium, bring his exotic stay on Malta to a close in 1805.
Rather than ideal climate, Coleridge needed an ideal intellectual atmosphere where his gifts could flourish. England at this time, with its astronomers, its chemists, its Royal Society, its supportive monarch, its scientists and its poets was just such a heady mixture.
This item is associated with the following category in our inventory:
- Literature – English/Irish