News

Ancient Mariner dore pic

Daily online reading of 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'

Jeremy Irons, Tilda Swinton and Hilary Mantel are collaborating to read Coleridge’s most famous poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. It has been divided into 40 readings.

The readers, who also include Alan Bennett and Lemn Sissay, each recorded a sequence of three to four verses to be broadcast online, day by day. Once complete, it will be available to listen to as ‘one symphonic piece’.

Author Philip Hoare, who curated the project, said: ‘It is no coincidence, perhaps, that this poem is the first great work of English literature to speak to isolation and loneliness. For those facing restricted access to culture in these difficult times, the Ancient Mariner Big Read offers a new digital work of art to be experienced at home – in a wild voyage into the unknown and watery world.’

The readings are accompanied by works from artists including Cornelia Parker, Marina Abramovic, and Gavin Turk.

You can listen to each of the daily reads at www.ancientmarinerbigread.com

coleridge cottage 01

Cancelled! Friends of Coleridge AGM, 28 March

It was intended that the Friends of Coleridge AGM be held at 10.30am on 28 March in the Garden Room, Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey. All welcome.

But ... owing to the dreaded Coronavirus it has been cancelled.

Coleridge by C R Leslie

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Family Tree

Sarah Platt, Rosemary Coleridge Middleton's daughter, has sent me a Coleridge family tree. I have reconstructed it as an A3-size PDF. If you reduce the size in your print settings to A4, it is perfectly legible.

Click here for the PDF.

Terence Sackett

Alfoxton

A new buyer for Alfoxden House

Article courtesy of 'The Observer' 16 February 2020

The dilapidated Grade II West Country home where William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge created their joint masterpiece, Lyrical Ballads, has been saved at the 11th hour.

Alfoxton Park, a building judged by some scholars to be as important to English literature as Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, is set to be sold to a new owner this spring, in Wordsworth’s 250th anniversary year, according to the property agent handling the deal.

The substantial white house had previously operated as a hotel, but has been empty for several years. It is now expected to be run as a business, said Richard Thomas, of Christie & Co. “The owner had hoped it could become a single dwelling again, but the new buyer, a high net-worth individual, has plans to run it as a business: either a hotel or as separate lodges.”

The house was sold at auction in 2017 and was put up for sale again in November 2018 with a guide price of £2m.

Wordsworth was based in Alfoxton in the village of Holford, near Bridgwater, Somerset, for 12 months from 1797, along with his sister, Dorothy, the diarist.

There, with his admiring friend Coleridge a constant visitor, they spent one of the most productive periods in poetic history.

Among the greatest works to have sprung from their days watching the seasons pass by on the slopes of the Quantock Hills are Coleridge’s 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan', while Wordsworth’s equally famous poem, 'Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey', inspired by his walk in the neighbouring Wye Valley, was added to the first edition of their 'Lyrical Ballads' in 1798 at the last minute.

Dorothy began her journal here in January 1798, and continued it when the siblings moved back to their native Lake District later that year.

Champions of Alfoxton include Liz Fuller of the campaign group Save, who has welcomed the “great news” about the property.

“This is a remarkable house with a rich history and clearly needs urgent help to prevent it from standing empty any longer,” she said. “It has been on the market for a while now, so this new development is encouraging.”

The house stands in 50 acres of land and looks out across the Bristol Channel to Wales. Much of it dates from 1710, when it was rebuilt after a fire. During the second world war it became home to evacuated pupils of a preparatory school in Kent and then began a new existence as a hotel in the

The academic Jonathan Bate, presenter of a radio series about Wordsworth, has also lamented Alfoxton’s fate.

“The local council have helped smooth the path to a sale, which had a lot of legal conditions, because they are aware how much the house means to the community,” said Thomas.

Fuller said that the house was added to Save’s buildings at risk register in 2016 after the organisation received a nomination from a member of the public with a personal connection. “His school was evacuated to the house during the war and this is how he could tell us that the rooms were named after poems – he remembers the 'Ancient Mariner' being one.”

Fuller believe the house has “deteriorated quite a lot and is in quite a poor condition”. “We very much hope that the prospective purchasers will bring the house back to its former beauty and find a viable use for it whether as a hotel or otherwise,” she said.

Rosemary Coleridge Middleton

Rosemary Coleridge Middleton (1940–2020)



We were very sorry to learn that Rosemary Coleridge Middleton, a Patron of the Friends of Coleridge, died unexpectedly in Taunton on 5 January aged 79. Rosemary, who was known to many of us through her attendance at Friends events, was the great-great-great-granddaughter of the poet, descending from him through Coleridge's youngest son Derwent and grandson Ernest Hartley. She was also, like her elder brother Gerard, a redoubtable defender of her famous ancestor's legacy and reputation.

Rosemary was born on 30 July 1940 and lived her early life in Esher and Thames Ditton.  She qualified as a librarian and worked at libraries in the London area, also becoming in these years part of the circle that helped and supported Professor Earl Leslie Griggs (1899-1975) in his great scholarly endeavour to edit Coleridge's collected letters. She would often speak of Griggs with great affection and respect.

Rosemary married Peter Middleton in 1974 and together they had two children, Robert and Sarah. They made their home in Axminster, Devon, where Rosemary took a full part in the life of the church and community. Anyone who visited Rosemary in Axminster will remember a house filled with vivid reminders of Coleridge  – his mahogany writing table in one corner of the room, his snuff box on the shelf, Sara's brass kettle standing by the fire and an array of china from Greta Hall displayed in a glass-fronted cabinet. There was as well the gold mourning brooch woven with Coleridge's hair, his silver spoons and a fine oil sketch of his son Hartley. Visits were made memorable not least by Rosemary's fund of Coleridge family stories, told with unstoppable enthusiasm, and by her own striking resemblance to STC.

Rosemary gave important support during the first phase of restoration work at Coleridge Cottage, led by the Friends and completed in 1998, and was a guest of honour when the completed phase two was opened by Simon Jenkins for the National Trust in 2011. She was also a lively presence at Coleridge events of many other kinds.

At her funeral in the medieval parish church at Axminster on 24 January there were many members of the wider Coleridge family, as well as representatives of the Friends and the National Trust. Readings from Coleridge, including his own epitaph, and reflections on Rosemary's life, were followed at the last by 'Thine be the glory'. It was an appropriately rousing finale for a person who seemed determined never to be sombre.

To her children, Rob and Sarah, who supported Rosemary so much in her last years, we offer our sympathy in their loss.

Tom Mayberry

Photograph: Rosemary at the opening of the Coleridge Way extension

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