Coleridge and History

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Coleridge insisted that his 'Church and State' (1830) was not ‘an historical account’ of the law and the legislature. The assertion of historical right was rather ‘in truth ... no more than a *practical* way of saying: this or that is contained in the *idea* of our government ... which, in the very first law of state ever promulgated in the land, was pre-supposed as the ground of that first law’. For the historian's orientation back in time, Coleridge proposed an orientation down in understanding, towards the ‘balance’ in the present. Picking up Coleridge’s disclaimer about writing history, this chapter sets out to explore the ways in which Coleridge, while not exactly an historian, was nevertheless a man of history, and a peculiarly historical way of thinking was the ground of his most influential later works. I first sketch Coleridge’s relationship to key historical writers with whom he compared himself. I then explore history in Coleridge’s early lectures and journalism, as well as in 'The Friend' (both 1809–10 and 1818), 'Biographia Literaria' (1817), the 'Lay Sermons' of 1816–17, and 'Church and State'. I argue that history as a mode of thinking and of writing interacts in important ways with Coleridge’s political and religious positions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe New Cambridge Companion to Coleridge
EditorsTim Fulford
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108935555
ISBN (Print)9781108940795
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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