Washington Allston, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1814, Oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery

“The story of Coleridge’s life,” observed I. A. Richards in 1950, “has been told many times, in outline and at length—too often to an accompaniment of wrung hands, wry faces, set frowns, and worse.” Such biographical opprobrium, tedious though it may be, is unsurprising given the rich occasions for reprimand that Coleridge provided. Plagiarism, drug abuse, deadbeat fatherhood: these are among the crimes of which he may easily be convicted, and at him an army of...

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