A tendentious and challenging revaluation of Coleridge, poet, critic, aesthetician, and protean figure of English...


COLERIDGE: The Damaged Archangel

A tendentious and challenging revaluation of Coleridge, poet, critic, aesthetician, and protean figure of English Romanticism. Fruman has done an exhaustive investigation of the charges of plagiarism which have dogged Coleridge's reputation since his death and irrefutably demonstrates the pathological split-personality origins of his innumerable literary misrepresentations, concealments, dissimulations and unacknowledged borrowings from Schiller, Schlegel, Lessing, Kant, et al. So microscopic is the textual scrutiny of the oracular pronouncements of the Biographia Literaria on Imagination, Symbol, Poetry and Organic Unity, that the cowed admiration of generations of literary critics (cf. I. A. Richards) before the mumbojumbo of Coleridge's hieroglyphic manifestoes begins to look like a particularly embarrassing pedagogical instance of the Emperor's missing wardrobe. Far from being a seminal mind, Coleridge is here shown to be a derivative and casually eclectic thinker who compulsively covered his tracks in a desperate, self-serving attempt to fabricate his own Wunderkind image. Not content to rest on these debunking laurels, Fruman in the last section of this massive, scholarly work tackles the frightful nightmares which plagued the poet's sleeping hours and drove him to an ever greater dependency on opium. From the phantasmagoria of fiendish images (fortunately preserved by Coleridge in his notebooks), Fruman is able to draw all the central themes and demonic impulses of The Ancient Mariner, Christabel and Kubla Khan (""skirmishings on the frontiers of incipient insanity"") and relate them back to the poet's hungry, emotionally deprived childhood in a London charity school, his sexual repugnance, and pitiful, lifelong fear of madness. A quest for the emotional rather than the literary sources of Coleridge's great poems, this is a major synthesis on the urgent, riven muse of Xanadu, ""very much darker emotionally and morally than has hitherto been drawn.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1971


Page Count: -

Publisher: Brazilier

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1971