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A Celebration of Coleridge in Highgate - a short account by Justin Shepherd

Reclaim the Crypt
Saturday 2 June 2018, St Michael’s Church, Highgate

This day was an unusual mixture of Coleridge family reunion, memorial service and celebration. The idea evolved considerably over time and the Friends of Coleridge were delighted to be able to help in this process. Drew Clode, the organiser, deserves warm congratulations for his energy and commitment in bringing this day to successful fruition It is hoped that the event will provide the impetus to help raise the money to preserve the five coffins and enhance the entombment of ST Coleridge, his wife, his daughter, his nephew, who was also his son-in–law, and Herbert Coleridge, his grandson.

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The Rev Kunle Ayodeji, Vicar of St Michael’s,welcomed the many people present. Most of the three front pews on either side of the aisle were filled with Coleridge family members. This was a highly impressive turn out and is clear evidence of great pride in the family name. Richard Coleridge, the poet’s great-great-great-great grandson spoke about the honour and the responsibility of carrying the name. Later in the day Rosemary Coleridge-Middleton, the poet’s great-great-great granddaughter also spoke listing the many connections to the family tree with entertaining enthusiasm, anecdotes, and sense of responsibility for upholding the name. Sir Paul Coleridge, formerly a High Court Judge and distinguished family lawyer, gave an urbane and fluent televised greeting, congratulating the initiative and hoping “Reclaim the Crypt” would be successful.

I encouraged those present to support the Friends of Coleridge and then introduced Rev Dr Malcolm Guite, poet and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge. He gave the first of the two plenary lectures and chose Coleridge: A Life in the Church as his topic. He focused on Coleridge’s lifelong devotion to prayer, and gave a powerful Christian reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He quoted memorably from the Marginalia and Biographia Literaria and read his own poem about visiting the Church and being transfixed by the tombstone’s invocation to “Stop, Christian”.

The short service which followed enhanced the Christian context of Coleridge’s work and featured the impressive choir and organist of St Michael’s, who later performed music specially written for the re-interment as well as other pieces performed at the 1961 ceremony.

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Coleridge’s verse was not omitted. Lance Person gave a dramatic reading of Frost at Midnight and Kubla Khan, while the Friends’ own Ian Enters read from some of the late, less familiar works and briefly related them to those of Keats, Shelley and Hopkins. The Friends’ newly appointed Patron, Prof Seamus Perry once more generously gave of his time and talent. His deft and entertaining plenary on Coleridge in Highgate conveyed a portrait of the poet as talker, drawing upon his own research into contemporary accounts of meetings with Coleridge, including a memorable anecdote about Coleridge exchanging metaphysical pleasantries with local boys, amongst whom he was, apparently, something of a favourite.

The tour of Highgate in the afternoon included a guided visit to both the crypt under St Michael’s, where Coleridge now lies, and the site of his original tomb, which was in ground now occupied by Highgate School buildings. Both were interesting and made concrete the need to improve the current arrangements. The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution put on a special display of Coleridge related material. And in St Michael’s itself there was a temporary small exhibition, including fascinating original letters, and portraits. Boards, beautifully designed by Terence Sackett and written by Ian Enters, described Coleridge’s life in Highgate, the Church, and in Literature.

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The day was constantly interesting and engaging and it was very well organised, including an excellent buffet lunch. All enjoyed the event and the walking through Highgate itself in a magnificently, bright, warm summer’s dayenhanced the experience. There was plenty of warmth left in the sun when several of the Friends met up to discuss the day in The Flask, one of Highgate’s great institutions.

Click here to see the three A1 display boards

Photographs kindly supplied by courtesy of Kim Gray (

Tom Poole

New Tom Poole 12-page booklet

I have written and designed a 12-page booklet on Tom Poole for Nether Stowey residents and visitors. I’ve tried to make the information easy to read and not too detailed.

It is a travesty that you can walk through Nether Stowey and not know that Poole ever existed. Yet if you ask Stowey-born residents to name the most important character in the history of the village, many will say Tom Poole, not Coleridge.

Poole was Coleridge’s most faithful and supportive friend. His legacy to the village of Nether Stowey is profound. His commitment to the poor, his energy and vision, the many monuments to his efforts, including the Women’s Friendly Society, the village school, the Savings Bank, and his work for Rickman on the Poor Laws, are testament to his achievements.

It will be available in A5 size in July as a FREE companion to my ‘A Walk round Nether Stowey in 1797 with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’ booklet.

Click here to view a PDF

Terence Sackett, Friends of Coleridge

Charles Darwin

New book: Darwin's Debt to the Romantics

Darwin's Debt to the Romantics: How Alexander von Humboldt, Goethe and Wordsworth Helped Shape Charles Darwin's View of Nature

by Dr Charles Morris Lansley, Research Fellow, University of Winchester

Published by Peter Lang (ISBN 978-1-78707-138-4).

The author traces the influences that contributed to the development of Charles Darwin’s imagination leading to his theory of natural selection. This asks the question of whether they could be regarded as Romantic and square with Darwin being a Victorian naturalist and gentleman. 

Darwin took Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative with him on the Beagle and this is analysed alongside Darwin’s works to identify any influences. Darwin refers to the concept of ‘archetype’ a number of times in his 'Origin' and this is examined to see if he might have been influenced by Goethe’s use of the concept. If so, could Darwin have been influenced by the German Romantics? Darwin also refers to the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth in his notebooks, yet in his Autobiography he describes all poetry as creating a feeling of nausea. The author looks into this contradiction to see if Romantic poetry had an effect on Darwin’s imagination. Darwin also denied that his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had had any influence on him. The author analyses his poetry to trace any influences and whether any of these could be regarded as strengthening the view that Charles Darwin was Romantic.

One chapter in particular deals with an analysis of The Ancient Mariner in relation to Charles Darwin.

The book cleverly follows Darwin’s form of the narrative in searching for traces of history both in science and poetry, and this is achieved with the same inspired imagination as Darwin’s.

Details of the publication can be found on the Peter Lang web page at

Purchases can be made from Amazon, a selection of which can be found at

Darwin cover

A walk in the Quantocks in the time of Coleridge and Wordsworth

Saturday 30 June, 10.30–14.30. Start Bowling Green car park, Holford, Somerset (around 6 miles, about 4 hours)

Led by Terence Sackett and Ian Enters of the Friends of Coleridge (part of the Quantock Hills Walking Festival)

The Quantocks in the time of Wordsworth and Coleridge - Literary insights into the two poets' time here, history, landscape, crafts and industries.

A strenuous walk starting at the Bowling Green car-park in Holford, taking in Hodder's Combe, Higher Hare Knap, Dowsborough Hill Fort and Woodlands Hill.

To register, visit Stowey Walking Festival walk

A new Friends of Coleridge flyer

I have put together a new flyer for the Friends. Click here for a PDF.

Please print it out and post it on relevant notice boards, or email and I will send you a quantity.

Terence Sackett

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