Creative process in poetry: Wordsworth and Coleridge; the origin of the Lyrical Ballads

In his book Biographia Literaria (1), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) (2) explains that at one point, he and poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) were neighbors and had discussions about writing and publishing a collection of their poems, which ultimately became The Lyrical Ballads.

Coleridge says, “…our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry; the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colors of imagination.”

“The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural, and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of their affections by the dynamic truth of such emotions as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real.”

“For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life; the characters and incidents were to be such, as will be found in every village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after them or to notice them when they present themselves.”

___ Curated by Dennis Mellersh


(1) “The Biographia Literaria is a critical autobiography by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published in 1817 in two volumes. Its working title was ‘Autobiographia Literaria'”

“The work was originally intended as a preface to a collected volume of his poems, explaining and justifying his own style and practice in poetry. The work grew to a literary autobiography, covering his education and studies, and his early literary adventures, an extended criticism of William Wordsworth‘s theory of poetry as given in the ‘Preface’ to the Lyrical Ballads (a work on which Coleridge collaborated), and a statement of his philosophical views.” __ excerpts from an article in Wikipedia

(2) Quotations by Coleridge are from Chapter XIV of his book, Biographia Literaria, which has been reprinted in Poets On Poetry, edited by Charles Norman, published by Collier Books, New York, First Edition, 1962

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