LETTER TO GEORGE COLERIDGE
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
6 November 1794
You ask me what the friend of universal equality should do. I answer—“Talk not politics—Preach the Gospel!”
Yea, my brother! I have at all times in all places exerted my power in defense of the Holy One of Nazareth against the learning of the historian, the libertinism of the wit, and (his worst enemy) the mystery of the bigot.
In Chapter Three of Malcolm Guite’s Mariner, Coleridge and Robert Southey sought to create a “Pantisocratic scheme for a new life.” In many ways, this was a grassroots answer to the failure of the French Revolution to achieve higher living conditions for the common man. In Coleridge’s mind, these aspiration could still be achieved in a small, fraternal society. They searched for twelve men and twelve women to form the community and realized some success. Ultimately this society was impossible to operationalize.
As Malcolm Guite wrote:
We will shortly relate how the bubble of “ebullient schematism” burst and with what consequences, but it is worth reﬂecting with Coleridge himself at this point, not so much on the youthful naivety of the Pantisocratic scheme as on the deeper motivations and nobler moments of vision which were bound up with it, for those deeper motivations remained throughout Coleridge’s life, and the nobler vision eventually clariﬁed into great poetry and visionary prose.
…In the end it was a combination of things which deﬂated the Pantisocratic balloon: primarily it was deep disagreement between Southey and Coleridge about how to put their principles into practice, and then massive pressure from both their families, but particularly Southey’s, which ﬁnally undid things.
Are isolated, idealistic communities possible?
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