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Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter

Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter: Her Life and Essays

Bradford Keyes Mudge
Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter
    Book Description:

    Sara Coleridge, daughter of the poet, was a woman of exceptional intellectual energy. Herself a talented writer, she devoted her life to editing her father's works and successfully promoting them to the Victorian public. This book by Bradford Keyes Mudge is at once a biography of this little-known woman, a selection of her most interesting and least available essays, and an exploration of the constraining codes of female propriety that worked to marginalize her as a nineteenth-century woman of letters.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16208-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Sara Coleridge and the Politics of Literary Revision
    (pp. 1-17)

    Writing on Sara Coleridge in September 1940, Virginia Woolf recognized the tragedy of a life lived only to a fragment of its potential.¹ Like her father’s “Christabel,” Sara Coleridge became for Woolf an “unfinished masterpiece” whose genius was much in evidence but whose circumstances conspired against completion, stifling talent and denying possibility. The intimidating shadow of a brilliant father, the early death of a beloved husband, and the unending demands of parenthood all served to thwart the intellectual energies of a woman who by the age of twenty-two had mastered six languages, published two books, and had proven herself in...

  7. CHAPTER TWO “Castles in the Air”: Education, Romance, and the Beauty of the Soul
    (pp. 18-51)

    On Christmas Day 1802, Coleridge wrote a short letter to Southey announcing the birth of his third child, a daughter: “I arrived at Keswick, with T. Wedgewood, on Friday Afternoon—that is to say, yesterday—& had the comfort to find that Sara was safely brought to bed, the morning before—i.e. Thursday ½ past six, of a healthy—GIRL! I had never thought of a Girl as a possible event—the word[s] child & man child were perfect Synonimies in my feelings—however I bore the sex with great Fortitude—& she shall be called Sara” (CL3:902). For Coleridge, as for...

  8. CHAPTER THREE “The House of Bondage”: Marriage, Motherhood, and the Death of Coleridge
    (pp. 52-81)

    Sara and Henry’s marriage began only after their arrival in London in mid-October 1829. For although they spent five happy weeks honeymooning in the Lake district—a week at Patterdale, a week at Rydal Mount, and three weeks back at Keswick—that idyllic period was a fictional interlude between expectation and fulfillment, between the fantasy of marital bliss and the actuality of domestic tribulation. It was for Henry an introduction to the beauties of northern scenery, his first and only extended visit to the homeland of the Lake poets. More interested in his uncle’s theology than his poetry, Henry was...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR “The Great Art”: From Madness to Matriarchy
    (pp. 82-109)

    January 1836 began inauspiciously for the residents of 21 Downshire Hill, Hampstead; for although the children remained healthy and Sara’s spirits continued to improve, Henry’s father, Colonel James Coleridge, died on the tenth after a long and trying illness. It was an event that marked both the end of a generation and the culmination of a year and a half of unexpected sorrow for the Coleridge family: the poet’s death, it seemed, had triggered a series of related misfortunes. Charles Lamb, family friend and indefatigable humorist, had died suddenly several months after Coleridge; and writing to Henry, Sara emphasized her...

    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER FIVE “The Business of Life”: Public Venerations, Private Redemptions
    (pp. 110-142)

    Henry was buried on February 2, 1843, and although Sara maintained at the time that all her “earthly happiness” was buried with him, she did not immediately succumb to debilitating illness or depression (Diary [Feb 2 1843]). A “violent cold” caught during the last days of her husband’s illness kept her quiet and at home, and for the sake of propriety she abandoned her correspondence until the period of mourning had officially passed (ML[1874] 192–93). But Sara was by no means idle. Since Henry’s collapse in May 1842, she had assumed an increasing responsibility for both the family finances...

  12. CHAPTER SIX “Putting in Order a Literary House”: Last Rites and First Memories
    (pp. 143-175)

    In the early weeks of 1849, Sara decided that she wanted Derwent to do for Hartley what she wished John Taylor Coleridge had done for her husband—a memoir. Only two days after learning of Hartley’s death, she wrote Derwent to explain her sorrow at not being able to attend the funeral, and then added, “About his poems. They ought to be collected, and in better days—if not immediately—we may be able to have them printed and published too…. The fragment of Prometheus I always admired much” (Letter [10 Jan 1849]).¹ Urging her brother to remember their cousin’s...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Postscript: “Child of Genius”
    (pp. 176-184)

    When Sara Coleridge died on May 3, 1852, after a long and horrific battle with cancer, the autobiography was only one of many original compositions that remained unfinished. Among the thousands of pages of manuscripts—among the poems and letters, the essays and journals—there was another literary effort still in draft, a single poem addressed specifically to her father:

    To my Father, on his lines called

    “Work without Hope”

    Father, no amaranths e’er shall wreathe my brow.—

    Enough that round they grave they flourish now:—

    But Love mid’ my young locks his roses braided,

    And what car’d I for...

  14. APPENDIX. The Essays of Sara Coleridge
    (pp. 185-266)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 267-280)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 281-287)