Coleridges Notebooks: A Selection

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Coleridge's notebooks

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Paul Cheshire

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one of the Romantic Age's most enigmatic figures, a genius of astonishing diversity; author of some of the most famous poems in the English language, and co-author, with Wordsworth, of Lyrical Ballads; one of England's greatest critics and theorists of literatureand imagination; as well as autobiographer, nature-writer, philosopher, theologian, psychologist and distinguished speaker. Throughout his life, he confided his thoughts and emotions to his notebooks, where we can still see his speculations and observations taking shape.

This edition presents aselection from this unique work, newly presented, with notes and commentary, for the student as well as the general reader. Although it is nearly pages long, it remains slim enough to squeeze into a jacket pocket. It is not much more than half the width of H.

Coleridge's Notebooks: A Selection

Coleridge: The Major Works , a new edition of a selection which has served us well, and against which this one will undoubtedly be measured. The problem of selection is not so difficult for the poetry. There is reasonable consensus over the best and the most important poems. Deciding on which versions to take is more of a problem.

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Here Paul Magnuson has opted for a uniform policy; he has with certain exceptions selected the first published version of each poem and has taken the further step of locating each poem firmly within its original published context. Thus when we start with Poems on Various Subjects we have the text of its preface included.

The Author Notebook Review

This is an insurmountable problem, but the plusses certainly outweigh the minuses. In this edition, facts such as these are the first thing one sees.

The annotations throughout the volume are full, and Norton allow them to be where they surely belong: at the foot of the same page. This is where the Norton format really comes into its own, when set alongside the Oxford Major Works edition, which has a stated policy of keeping notes to a minimum.

Any editor, given the choice, would surely opt for this Nortonic space for expression.

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Any sensible reader certainly should. To be fair to Oxford however, they do include an index to the prose: a handy tool, which Norton omit. We have the astonishing experience here of Mr Coleridge getting straight to the points enumerated in his chapter heading, instead of talking round and round the subject.

Coleridge's Notebooks by Seamus Perry | Waterstones

If only he had dictated the work to Raimonda Modiano or Nicholas Halmi rather than Morgan in the first place, they might have kept him on track. Similarly, the extracts from The Friend printed here dispense with its opening marathon of Coleridgean throat clearing, for which I can only express my gratitude. Also, I am likely to read the 10 page version of On the Constitution of the Church and State offered here. I might feel drawn to read the whole thing, in which case Norton has fulfilled its brief to stretch the reader, beyond his or her limitations. The final section of the book consists of or so pages of criticism and bibliographical material. Criticism is too restrictive a term for the material that is offered.