Coleridge by Richard Holmes
Early Visions, 1772-1804

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Winner of the 1989 Whitbread Prize for Book of the Year, this is the first volume of Holmes’s seminal two-part examination of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of Britain’s greatest poets.

‘Coleridge: Early Visions’ is the first part of Holmes’s classic biography of Coleridge that forever transformed our view of the poet of ‘Kubla Khan’ and his place in the Romantic Movement. Dismissed by much recent scholarship as an opium addict, plagiarist, political apostate and mystic charlatan, Richard Holmes’s Coleridge leaps out of the page as a brilliant, animated and endlessly provoking figure who invades the imagination.

This is an act of biographical recreation which brings back to life Coleridge’s poetry and encyclopaedic thought, his creative energy and physical presence. He is vivid and unexpected. Holmes draws the reader into the labyrinthine complications of his subject’s personality and literary power, and faces us with profound questions about the nature of creativity, the relations between sexuality and friendship, and the shifting grounds of political and religious belief.

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About Richard Holmes

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Richard Holmes is Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia, and editor of the Harper Perennial series Classic Biographies launched in 2004. His is a Fellow of the British Academy, has honorary doctorates from UEA and the Tavistock Institute, and was awarded an OBE in 1992.His first book, 'Shelley: The Pursuit', won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974. 'Coleridge: Early Visions' won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year, and 'Dr Johnson & Mr Savage' won the James Tait Black Prize. 'Coleridge: Darker Reflections', won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award. He has published two studies of European biography, 'Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer' in 1985, and 'Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer' in 2000. His most recent book 'The Romantic Poets and their Circle' was published by the National Portrait Gallery in 2005. He lives in London and Norwich with the novelist Rose Tremain.
Published January 26, 2011 by Pantheon. 448 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction, Travel. Non-fiction

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The New York Times

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But no biographer, since James Dykes Campbell in 1894, has tried to examine his entire life in a broad and sympathetic manner, and to ask the one vital question: what made Coleridge - for all his extravagant panoply of faults - such an extraordinary man, such an extraordinary mind?'' Mr. Holmes s...

May 24 1990 | Read Full Review of Coleridge: Early Visions, 177...

Publishers Weekly

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Opening as Coleridge sets out for Malta in 1804 to join the wartime Civil Service and closing as the poet ""slips into the dark"" in the Highgate estate of his final caretaker, the physician James Gillman, the book carefully traces the peregrinations, small triumphs and major tragedies that defin...

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London Review of Books

There are comic possibilities in these meetings – Coleridge, in Holmes’s account, is aware that exalted seriousness can be absurd (thus the offering of ‘soap & blood’) – but the poetic painter and visually acute poet, in the early to mid-19th century, when colour postcards and photographic pictur...

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The New York Review of Books

Holmes displays no trace of the peevish moral compulsion to slap Coleridge’s wrists that spoils such … Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on

Dec 06 1990 | Read Full Review of Coleridge: Early Visions, 177...

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