Samuel Taylor Coleridge is best known for the poems Christabel†, Kubla Khan, and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. His recital of the latter during a visit to his friend Godwin so impressed the young Mary Godwin (who listened in rapture from behind a sofa) that she never forgot it. It is referred to at least twice in her Frankenstein which (along with Polidori's The Vampyre) may owe something to Byron's reading of these lines from Christabel: Her silken robe, and inner vest,/Dropt to her feet, and full in view/Behold ! her bosom, and half her side-- --/hideous, deformed, and pale of hue. Much of this was edited out of the published version of the poem. Percy Shelley experienced such vivid hallucinations at the reading that he ran from the room in horror. Christabel also appears to have been an influence on Le Fanu's Carmilla.

† Christabel is probably one of the few poems to have been parodied in print before the original was published (Christobell, a Gothic Tale by Anna Vardill in 1815, and Isabelle by James Hogg, 1816). It also is among the inspirations for Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel and Byron's Siege of Corinth.

Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey has Coleridge appearing as Mr. Flosky.

Coleridge ran away to join the army, lying about his age and calling himself Silas Tomken Cumberbatch. His family had to arrange him a discharge for reasons of insanity and bring him back to Cambridge. As he was marched off like a common deserter, a friend grasping each arm, another recruit in dismay said, Poor Silas, I wish they may let him off with a cool five hundred! Back at Cambridge he met Robert Southey, and the pair made plans to found a utopian community in America. Southey influenced Coleridge to marry the sister of his fianceé, something Coleridge later resented.

Southey introduced him to William Wordsworth, with whom he wrote Lyrical Ballads. Thomas De Quincey visited them in the Lake District. Coleridge and Southey were also friends with Dr. Thomas Beddoes (brother-in-law to Maria Edgeworth, and father of Thomas Lovell Beddoes), who provided them with nitrous oxide.

Coleridge's baby son Berkeley died from the new smallpox vaccine, introduced to Britain by Mary Wortley Montagu.

Coleridge appears to have enjoyed reading gothics and used the form himself, although he frequently disparaged them in his critical writings. Of Walpole's The Mysterious Mother (the plot of which revolves around mother-son incest) he wrote, The Mysterious Mother is the most disgusting, detestable, vile composition that ever came from the hand of a man. No one with one spark of true manliness, of which Horace Walpole had none, could have written it.

Coleridge had mixed feelings about Matthew Lewis. He found The Monk an offspring of no common genius but, when Mary Robinson proposed including Coleridge's The Mad Monk in a volume to include The Monk, he begged her not to, writing, I have a wife, I have sons, I have an infant Daughter--what excuse could I offer to my own conscience if by suffering my name to be connected with ... Mr. Lewis. My head turns giddy, my heart sickens at the very thought of seeing such books in the hands of a child of mine.

Gothic Labyrinth
Gothic Labyrinth