Highgate crypt

A Celebration of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Highgate

A Celebration of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Highgate

St Michael's Church in Highgate are arranging a very special day’s celebration of the life of Coleridge in Literature and the Church on 2nd June 2018 from 10am-4.00pm. It will commemorate his translation from his original resting place into the Church in 1961. The organisers at St Michael's very much hope that as many of the Friends of Coleridge as possible will be able to attend.

The day will comprise presentations in St Michael’s Church by Seamus Perry, professor of English at Oxford University and one of the Friends of Coleridge patrons, and Malcolm Guite, who recently published a fascinating book about Coleridge’s religious life and its parallels within 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. Malcolm spoke memorably at the Halsway weekend last year.

There will be readings and a short service with original music, ands a unique chance to visit the Coleridge family crypt, which is in urgent need of repair and refurbishment. St Michael's is planning to raise funds to achieve this work. Members of the Coleridge family will be in attendance.

Photo: The wine cellar behind which the Coleridge coffins rest

There will also be a tour of Highgate, taking in various key places including, of course, the Institute with its excellent library.

Lunch will be available at the Church.

With your help and support we will be able to help preserve Samuel Taylor Coleridge's extraordinary legacy, both to this church, Highgate village, and the world beyond.

Tickets for the event can be booked at

Schedule for the day

Saturday June 2, 2018

10.00-10.20 am
Arrival, coffee, registration

10.20-10.25 am
Welcome from the Rev Kunle Ayodeji, Vicar of St Michael's

Welcome from a member of the Coleridge family/Friends of Coleridge

Welcome from Justin Shepherd, Chairman of the Friends of Coleridge

Plenary 1, Introduced by a member of the Friends of Coleridge

Talk: A Life in the church, by Malcolm Guite, Chaplain, Girton College Cambridge
Author: 'Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge', Hodder 2017


Service, The Revd Kunle Ayodeji

Followed by Lance Pearson giving a performance of Coleridge's poetry, a performance of STC-related music, and a recital of Coleridge's works by Ian Enters of The Friends of Coleridge


Reflections of the Coleridge family by a Coleridge family member

Plenary 2, Introduced by Professor Leonee Ormondne

Ta;k: A Life in Highgate, by Seamus Perry, Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford, Fellow of Balliol College, Fellow Librarian, and Fellow for Charity Matters.

Tour of Highgate, to include a visit to the St Michael's Crypt, to the Coleridge Room; Highgate Scientific and Literary Society; 3, The Grove; Moreton House, South Grove; Highgate School Chapel crypt, where the Coleridges were first interred

Reassemble at St Michael's for coffee and departure


Friends of Coleridge Annual General Meeting

The Friends of Coleridge Annual General Meeting will be held at Nether Stowey Library on March 24th at 10.30am.

There may be a change of venue, so please check this website closer to the date.

Hartley Coleridge

New Hartley Coleridge portrait drawing

Remarkable Literary Portraits

In the past ten years, Sim Fine Art has established a reputation for making notable discoveries across a range of periods and styles. The past few years have been a particularly fertile period, with the discovery of important pictures resulting in sales to major international institutions such as the Tate, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Portrait Gallery among scores of other museums and private collections. The rich seam continues, with the recent revelation of a new and previously unknown portrait of Hartley Coleridge. The drawing will be exhibited for the first time in Shepherd Market, together with other notable literary discoveries spanning two centuries.

Andrew Keanie writes 'It is a mystery where John Harden’s drawing of Hartley has been all these years. But it is liberating to have it on view now. It shows neither a lost boy nor a lost man-child, but instead a rather handsome and distinguished young man who, crucially, has also something contemplative and captivating about him. Almost two centuries after the supposedly defining Oriel College disaster, we now have a new visual image of the breathing and blooming man in his prime, at ease in the company of a good friend, and setting himself up as a Poet. It is a likeness that could send readers back to his work re-sensitized.'

The drawing is on show from 6th - 17th February 2018 at Sims Fine Art, The Gallery, 54 Shepherd Market, London W1J 7QX


Alfoxden – no news is good news?

I wish I could give an authoritative update on the fate of Alfoxden (I insist on the old spelling).

You are probably aware that it was auctioned at the end of October. The guide price was £500,000 to £750,000. For this you would be getting the Grade II listed country house, a courtyard of traditional stone barns with potential for conversion, a walled garden, tennis court, modest cottage, deer park and woodland. In all 55 acres.

Someone told me that a prestigious hotel chain dropped out of the bidding at around £800,000. It was finally sold for just over £1.3 million.

But who bought it? No one seems to know, or if they do they're not saying (although a rumour suggests a tennis academy). What are the likely options: A country hotel? Apartments, most probably for workers at the Hinkley nuclear site? A Macdonalds with picturesque rural drive-thru? A Wordsworth and Coleridge study centre? (in our dreams).

When we do find out I will be approaching the new owners to suggest that I put together a couple of interpretation panels, maybe for the hall or a separate room, so that visitors, whoever they are and whatever they are there for,  are aware of the house's important literary heritage.

If anyone does hear any firm news, do please let me know. Terence Sackett, Friends of Coleridge (

Justin Shepherd on John Beer

John Bernard Beer, FBA (31 March 1926 – 10 December 2017); Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. Best known as a scholar and critic of Romanticism, especially Coleridge, Blake and Wordsworth, he also had a mastery of the intellectual currents of the Victorian period, and wrote extensively on EM Forster and twentieth-century writers including Sylvia Plath and Doris Lessing.

John served in the RAF from 1946 to 1948. He was a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge from 1955 to 1958. Between 1958 and 1964 he was Assistant Lecturer and then Lecturer at the University of Manchester, before taking up a post at Peterhouse, where he remained in his Emeritus years.

He was a great supporter of both the Lamb Society and the Friends of Coleridge, of which he was one of our four Scholars. He spoke at the very first Coleridge Summer Conference in 1988 and was a regular speaker at both our autumn study weekends and our summer conferences, where he last spoke only a few years ago on Coleridge’s albatross. He retained a remarkable ability to shape the arc of a complex argument from the lectern well into his eighties and everything he said or wrote about Coleridge bore the stamp of authority of one who had an unrivalled familiarity with the prose texts as well as the poetry, and a mastery of the intellectual context.

He was a kind, gentle and very modest man, somewhat shy in manner. Perhaps his was one of the few minds capacious enough to keep up with the further reaches of Coleridge’s own inquiring mind. He edited ‘Aids to Reflection’ for the Bollingen edition of the Collected Works, and his ‘Coleridge the Visionary’ and ‘Coleridge’s Poetic Intelligence’ remain landmark studies. His 1963 Everyman edition of the poems, regularly revised, was the standard student edition for more than forty years. He also wrote very well for less advanced students and his essays on Coleridge in the volume edited by RL Brett and in the bicentenary collection edited by Beer himself are masterly.

I first met him in the autumn of 1969 at my Cambridge interview. In the morning I had dropped into Heffers, which was still in Petty Cury before its move to Trinity Street, and had seen on display a copy of his new book, ‘Blake’s Visionary Universe’, just published. I was deeply impressed. The John Linnell portrait of ‘William Blake Wearing a Hat’ always hung behind his desk on his wall in his study on the ground floor of the William Stone building in Peterhouse. During my supervisions with him subsequently I began to see in it a distinct resemblance to John himself, for, indeed, there was an air of abstraction which hovered about him. When I got to know him much later, however, I found him generous, friendly and very happy to talk if he thought you were interested. Many young scholars and those who attended the Wordsworth and Coleridge conferences will have their own grateful memories of him. All will acknowledge him as a major scholar of Romantic Studies and perhaps the preeminent Coleridgean of his time.

The Friends of Coleridge offer our sincere condolences to his wife, Gillian, and to his family.

Justin Shepherd, Chair, the Friends of Coleridge

The Friends of Coleridge will print a much fuller tribute to John in the next Bulletin (Summer 2018) which will also be posted on our website.

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