Biographia Literaria, Or, Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions, Part 1
Biographia Literaria has emerged over the last century as a supreme work of literary criticism and one of the classics of English literature. Into this volume poured 20 years of speculation about the criticism and uses of poetry and about the psychology of art. Following the text of the 1817 edition, the editors offer the first completely annotated edition of the highly allusive work.
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Like the ostrich, I cannot fly, yet I have wings that give me the feeling of flight. . .".3
It is perhaps sufficient to refer to Coleridge's letter of 9 April 1814 (to Thomas
Curnick): the difficulties of the modern poet, facing the problem of what was left to
... art, or philosophy, is symbolic in the widest sense of the word, for a symbol
embodies an objective externality, a definite shape or sign of recognition that
becomes identified with the internal processes of mind and feeling that it
This had already been suggested by Coleridge in a note for a lecture on
Shakespeare, in which he says that imagination at last will "produce that ultimate
end of human Thought, and human Feeling, Unity and thereby the reduction of
the Spirit ...
(2) The fact that poetic genius is at its greatest when it involves sympathetic
imagination — the capacity to enter into the feelings and experience of another,
and submerge one's own identity in the process (which is not Wordsworth's own
Hence even Goethe, to Coleridge, is — like Wordsworth — a "spectator ab extra",
at most feeling "for" but not "with". The "Protean" ideal is to "become that on which
it meditates". What is wanted (as in Keats's ideal of "negative capability") is the ...