Biographia Literaria; or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions.

London: Rest Fenner, 1817.

Price: $1,000.00

About the item

First edition. [iv], 296; [iv], 309, [3, ads] pp., with half-titles. 8vo. Contemporary half calf and marbled boards. Rebacked, preserving most of original spine, some spotting to text. Ashley I, p. 205; Wise, Coleridge 40; Tinker 699. Provenance: contemporary marginalia in pencil throughout and ms index on rear blank; K.M. Chapman (pencil inscription, 1915, on flyleaf); John Davidson (bookplate).

Item #308407

First edition of perhaps Coleridge’s most influential work — a jumble of autobiography, philosophy, criticism, and satire. The Biographia Literaria grew from Coleridge’s increasing estrangement from the poetics of Wordsworth, and as early as 1800 Coleridge began planning the work. Coleridge saw his book as a response to Wordsworth’s Poems of 1815, and even instructed his printer to mimic the size and type of Wordsworth’s book. He wrote the entire work in only 3 and a half months during the summer of 1815, suffering from exhaustion and opium addiction, and scrambling to supply enough material to fill out a balanced two-volume set. The rushed pace and strain of composition has been suggested as a possible cause of the several examples of plagiarism from Schelling, Kant, Maass, and Jacobi — borrowings first discovered by De Quincey in 1834.