LETTER TO GEORGE COLERIDGE
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
23 February 1794
I became a proverb to the University for Idleness—the time, which I should have bestowed on the academic studies, I employed in dreaming out wild schemes of impossible extrication. It had been better for me, if my Imagination had been less vivid—I could not with such facility have shoved aside Reﬂection! How many and how many hours have I stolen from the bitterness of Truth in these soul-enervating Reveries—in building magniﬁcent ediﬁces of Happiness on some ﬂeeting shadow of Reality!
This week we read Chapter Two of Malcolm Guite’s Mariner. The chapter chronicles Coleridge’s life through difficult and bitter stages which were usually the consequence of his own poor choices. Of the criticism that followed, the harshest came from Coleridge himself as he believed the root to be idleness.
Malcolm Guite wrote:
So this so-called “idleness” was not blank enervation, and Coleridge was certainly no couch potato. Note how active this idleness is: dreaming wild schemes, pursuing a vivid imagination, and building magniﬁcent ediﬁces. Although these, as Coleridge called them, “soul-enervating Reveries” were unproductive at the time in academic terms, they were also an exercise of just those faculties of his shaping spirit of imagination, from which the immortal poems of his annus mirabilis would arise. It is also interesting to note that he is indulging these long reveries well before the time of his serious indulgence in, or addiction to, opium. Opium may have exaggerated these and made them genuinely more enervating, but at this stage they were a playful and fruitful preparation of the rich soil of Coleridge’s imagination. Indeed, in the combination here of the ﬂeeting shadow and the magniﬁcent ediﬁce built through the imagination, we have already a faint foreshadowing of Kubla Khan.
Were you ever accused of being lazy?
Does society encourage the dreamer?
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