Shrewsbury church

Shrewsbury Coleridge Celebration

‘The Shaping Spirit of the Imagination’: An Afternoon with Samuel Taylor Coleridge at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church

Sunday 13th January 2019
Report by Justin Shepherd
Speakers: Graham Davidson and Ian Enters of the Friends of Coleridge, with Kate Innes, poet and novelist and winner of the ‘In Xanadu…’ international poetry competition.

This afternoon’s event, arranged by Ian Enters of the Friends and Fiona Checkley of the Unitarian Church, took place exactly 221 years to the day after Coleridge preached the sermon which so impressed the teenaged Hazlitt and which is memorialised so brilliantly in his ‘On My First Acquaintance with Poets’. So, when Graham Davidson climbed the steps of the pulpit set in the centre of the east end wall of this jewel of a chapel, he must have been all too aware of his predecessor’s impact on the congregation. Alas, there were no impressionable teenagers to be seen in the audience. However, the assembled Salopians and others who had travelled to be there heard a rich and deeply thoughtful talk.

The talk tackled head-on the question of what exactly Coleridge meant by the word ‘imagination’, linking the celebrated passage in ‘Biographia’ with the ‘Dejection Ode’ and making a fruitful comparison with Wordsworth’s ‘Immortality Ode’. It is far too complex an argument to summarise here, but perhaps the most suggestive point made was that the ‘loss’ to which both poets refer was not, as is often assumed, the loss of their power as poets, but of the sense of ‘Joy’ in life itself, a characteristic, according to Coleridge, of what he called the ‘Primary Imagination’.

During the break for coffee, one could examine more closely this beautiful building, where the young Charles Darwin was taken every week by his mother, a Wedgwood, and which contains among other things, a brass plaque commemorating Coleridge’s association with the building. The Church is in excellent condition and exudes a warm, intimate, almost cosy atmosphere, well suited to such meetings.

In the second half Ian Enters and Kate Innes were in dialogue, talking about their approach to writing and supplying a contemporary perspective on the imagination as active practitioners. A genuine rapport was conveyed and, unusually for these kind of events, the readings of their own work seemed to arise spontaneously from their conversation rather than being crowbarred in. Ian Enters is a highly effective reader of both his own and others’ verse; he combines the actor’s ability to project to an audience with a writer’s grasp of what is important in a poem.  Kate Innes, whose poem ‘The Flock of Words’ was, by miles, the best poem in our 2016 competition, proved a sensitive and illuminating interviewee. Their conversation was always interesting to listen to, and threw a sideways, incidental glance at Coleridge’s own magisterial account of the creative mind, the ‘esemplastic power’.

Having only seen the outside of this church before, it was a great privilege to be so warmly welcomed inside. The quality of the speakers’ contributions made for a most memorable afternoon in the company of the resident Unitarians and a faithful few from the Friends. I would like to thank Fiona Checkley and Ian Enters for making it happen, and hope and believe that this will be the start of a mutually fruitful association between The Friends of Coleridge and the Shrewsbury Unitarian Church.

JPW Shepherd, Chairman, Friends of Coleridge

Highgate engraving

Highgate Coleridge Lecture

Dr Philip Aherne will be giving a lecture about Coleridge and his life and work in Highgate on Monday 25th Feb. The venue is the Mills Centre at Highgate School.

Tickets are available at:

Dr Aherne currently teaches at Highgate School. He read English at Merton College, Oxford and completed his graduate work at King's College London.

His book, 'The Coleridge Legacy', was published in 2018 (Visit

Mary Hays

The life and works of Mary Hays (1759–1843)

Mary Hays (1759–1843) was an intellectual who published essays, poetry, novels, and several works on famous women. She is remembered for her early feminism, and her close relations to dissenting and radical thinkers of her time including Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and William Frend.

Click below to view the most complete account to date of her life and writings, including:

* A fully searchable text of all her surviving correspondence (several not previous known) presented in chronological order 

* The complete texts of all her periodical writings between 1784 and 1801, including the entirety of her memoir of Mary Wollstonecraft

* A complete text of Cursory Remarks (1792) and portions of Letters and Essays 1793) and some prefaces to her later works

* The complete texts of all known reviews and notices (approximately 45) of Hays's writings between 1792 and 1821

* The first complete and accurate transcriptions of some 90 letters from Eliza Fenwick to Mary Hays between 1798 and 1828 (these are included in the Correspondence)

And much more.


Coleridge in Calne booklet by Ian Enters

Coleridge in Calne
Ian Enters
Booklet, 32 pages, black and white printing, card covers
£5.00 plus £1.00 p&p.

The booklet describes Coleridge’s significant achievements during his stay in Calne, Wiltshire. Coleridge lived there for a comparatively short time, but this was a period of intense creativity, just as his less than three years in Nether Stowey had been.

Between 1814 and 1816 his efforts coalesced into an amazing tour de force: Biographia Literaria and Sybilline Leaves, the publication of Kubla Khan, Christabel, and The Pains of Sleep, the annotation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and the first draft of his second play, Zapolya.

Coleridge in Calne describes the almost miraculous recovery of Coleridge from a period of deep depression and drug dependency, and is an encomium to John Morgan, Mary Morgan and, her sister, Charlotte Brent, who were instrumental in his support.

To order a copy, email Ian Enters at

WW portrait

Invitation to the Annual Wordsworth Lecture - Thurs 22 Nov, 6-7pm, Senate House London

The Annual Wordsworth Lecture 2018

The Wordsworth Trust and the Institute of English Studies, University of London, invite you to ‘A Daedalus for the Romantic Era? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’

A talk by Professor Fiona Sampson

The lecture will take place on Thursday 22 November 2018,6.00-7.00pm in the Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.

wordsworth trust lecture

Both Frankenstein and the Daedalus myth address our fear of the exceptional individual who abuses his talents by overreaching: the maker who doesn’t know when to stop. Both create capacious archetypes, with plenty of space to explore ambivalence and even admiration alongside that fear. But Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein takes us considerably further than the composite Daedalus story: in a number of directions. Political, ethical, existential and scientific, all seem particularly pertinent to British Romantic experience of society and the self. But is it a paradox that this apparently universalisable myth could only have been written in its own time and place?

If you would like to attend, please RSVP with your name and number of places to:
Hannah Stratton, Development Office, the Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9SH.

Alternatively, telephone 015394 63520 or email

Please RSVP by Friday 16 November