1878 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, in Recollections of Writers (1878) 34.



In a lecture upon Shakespeare's Tempest Coleridge kept his audience in a roar of laughter by drawing a ludicrous comparison between the monster Caliban and a modern Radical. It was infinitely droll and clever; but like a true sophist, there was one point of the argument which he failed to illustrate — and, indeed, never alluded to — viz. that Caliban, the Radical, was inheritor of the soil by birth-right; and Prospero, the aristocrat, was the aggressor and self-constituted legislator. The tables thus easily turned upon Mr. Coleridge, would have involved him in an edifying dilemma. The fact is, that Coleridge had been a Jacobin, and was one of the marked men in the early period of the French Revolution.