Although I am not much of a poetry reader, and the only poem of Wordsworth I really know is the one about the daffodils, I am a lover of history and I enjoyed this dual biography of the two men and their inspiring to each friendship a friendship that came at great cost one of them.Adam Sisman is a very good writer and brings to life this nineteenth century friendship, and the emotions and relationships and letter writing of the times. A biography of the friendship between William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the less well known Robert Southey.The book opens with the French Revolution and its influence on the youthful Coleridge and Southey, who dreamt up a political vision they called Pantisocracy rule by all as equals that involved a communist property system, no slavery, and the equal participation of women The two men developed romantic interests in two sisters, a pursuit which fed their sense of themselves as brothers After a few years, however, Southey s interests began to drift toward the practicalities of marriage and away from the communist idealism, to Coleridge s great dismay When Southey suggested that only a few acres in Wales should be owned communally and everything else should be owned privately, Coleridge wrote, I locked up my heart from you Between ourselves, the Enthusiasm of Friendship is not with S outhey me We quarrelled the quarrel lasted for a twelvemonth We are now reconciled but the cause of the Difference was solemn the blasted oak puts not forth its buds anew we are acquaintances feel kindliness towards each other but I do not esteem, or LOVE Southey, as I must esteem love the man whom I dared call by the holy name of FRIEND p 150, citing Samuel Taylor Coleridge to J Thelwall, 31 December 1796 Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed E L Griggs, Oxford, 1956 71 , 6 vols, 1, 294 In 1801 Coleridge and Southey were excited to reunite Coleridge wrote that their old dreams may be auguries of something really noble which we may yet perform together, and Southey wrote Time absence make strange work with our affections but mine are ever returning to rest upon you I have other dear friends, but none with whom the whole of my being is intimate with whom every thought feeling can amalgamate After they spent time together, however, Coleridge admitted in a subsequent letter to Southey that he did not so much enjoy your society after all p 336 Entering his thirties, Coleridge was an opium addict and alcoholic, fat and prematurely aging Southey reported that he does nothing which he ought to do, and every thing which he ought not p 383 Coleridge also felt himself to be in creative and literary decline he lionized the truth and beauty of the poetry of his friend Wordsworth and ended up trying to mimic his writing Once again, Coleridge found himself and a male friend interested in a pair of sisters And Coleridge and Wordsworth, too, had their interpersonal difficulties Years later, Coleridge scribbled on a printed version of the poem that this had been written before he had ever seen Wordsworth, and then added bitterly in Latin, and would that I had known only his works p 114 Citing Robert Woof, Wordsworth and Coleridge Some Early Matters in Jonathan Wordsworth ed Bicentenary Wordsworth Studies1970 , 83 7.In his forties and fifties, Coleridge did not see much of Wordsworth, either, and Coleridge died at 61, fondly remembered by Wordsworth.Wordsworth wrote poems about Coleridge including the Two Book Prelude For thou hast sought The truth in solitude, and thou art one The most intense of Nature s worshippers, In many things my brother, chiefly here In this my deep devotion and A Complaint Now, for that consecrated fount Of murmuring, sparkling, living love, What have I shall I dare to tell A comfortless and hidden well. The Story Of The Legendary Friendship Between Wordsworth And Coleridge The Friendship Between William Wordsworth And Samuel Taylor Coleridge Produced Dazzling Results From It Came Lyrical Ballads, The Volume That Kick Started The Romantic Movement In England Rarely Have Two Such Gifted Writers Cooperated So Closely They Met InWhen Both Were In Their Early Twenties, And In The Euphoria Of Mutual Discovery These Brilliant And Idealistic Young Men Planned A Poem That Would Succeed Where The French Revolution Failed A Poem That Would, Quite Literally, Change The World In This Wonderfully Lively And Readable Account, Acclaimed Author Adam Sisman Explores Their Passionate And Tempestuous Bond And The Way In Which Rivalry Bred Tension Between Them Though Much Has Been Written About This Extraordinary Duo, No Previous Biographer Has Considered Them Together The Result Offers Insights Into The Rich Yet Neglected Topic Of Friendship And Tantalizing Glimpses Of The Creative Process Itself Sisman balances both scholarship and story and Wordsworth and Coleridge s lives in a way that allows for an intricate and readable portrait As someone who knows quite a bit about the lake poets and has read several biographies recently I probably enjoyed this book less than it deserves Overall, its focus on friendship grounds the work and confirmed my feelings that Wordsworth was not a great friend. Full disclosure I pretty much skimmed this book But then, coming in at well over 400 pages, it s clearly written for true W and C fans, a group which doesn t include me I just picked it up on a whim because it was marked down and I have little or no impulse control where books are concerned In the general scheme of things, my level of interest in Coleridge and Wordsworth is doomed to remain at a fairly modest threshold But this is certainly not Adam Sisman s fault this is a decently written, reasonably engaging account of the relationship between C and W The level of detail certainly suggests Sisman has done his homework it s to his credit that he writes like a human being and not an academic.Well, OK I ll admit that I did have one ulterior motive when I bought this book I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I got the basics of Wordsworth s biographical details down, it might just possibly help me overcome my complete aversion to his poetry It didn t I still think he s a whiny, tree hugging, milquetoast whose work manages to be both uninspired and uninspiring Finding out that he was also apparently an insufferable, pompous jerk doesn t rehabilitate him I mthan willing to be educated otherwise, but for now I d have to say that Coleridge was the giant in this particular relationship, both in terms of talent and generosity of spirit I d choose a session in the opium den with Coleridge and DeQuincey over tea with the Wordsworths any day. During the early, idyllic stage of their friendship Wordsworth and Coleridge spent long days wandering around in the natural beauty of the English countryside deep in discussion Talking for miles and miles they covered philosophy and the nature and purpose of poetry, then interrupted those thoughts to make note of some particular aspect of their surroundings images of flowers, leaves, light or clouds that they used to turn their philosophical insights into poetry Accompanying them was Dorothy, Wordsworth s lively, devoted sister who was something of a writer herself The three of them spent days and weeks almost continually in each other s company Wordsworth and his sister moved across the country just so they could live within walking distance of Coleridge, and even then they often slept over in each other s homes talking deep into the night There was no rivalry or reserve As Coleridge explained it they were three people but one soul Later things went out of balance Coleridge s abundant praise of Wordsworth s brilliance seemed to sap his own ability to write Compounding this was his growing addiction to opium, which was considered a medicinal not a dangerous drug The dazzling energy, intelligence and perception of Coleridge s conversation amazed people, but he went years without composing much of anything Wordsworth continued to write, but his life became weighted down with family responsibilities Coleridge, who had a spectacularly unhappy marriage, felt that the adoration of Wordsworth s wife, his wife s sister and Dorothy put blinders on Wordsworth s eyes and kept him from achieving his full measure of greatness The Recluse, the lengthy philosophical poem Coleridge imagined for Wordsworth, was never finished Wordsworth attempted parts of it and sought Coleridge s guidance for the rest, but a falling out kept them apart and by the time Coleridge did write down his thoughts for Wordsworth it was long past the time when Wordsworth could take up such an all consuming project Neither man completed the poems they felt were their life works and they never were as close again.The sadness of this was mitigated for me by the fact that late in their lives they took onelong ramble together They toured Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands with Wordsworth s daughter Dorothy, who was named after her aunt but called Dora to avoid confusion They no longer were one soul and they irritated each other sometimes, but still Dora was able to report that the three of them got along delightfully This book begins with the early lives of Coleridge and Wordsworth, before they meet, including the time of the French Revolution whose ideals influenced both men, and it continues until Coleridge s death in 1834 at the age of sixty one The portraits of the poets seem balanced, each is presented as both talented and flawed, and I found the book fascinating and moving. This book was my companion for the better part of six months, perhaps longer It became clear early on that Sisman s prose was thoroughgoing, providing plenty of context for Wordsworth s and Coleridge s relationship I was going to have to take it in small doses, as one might one might, though not Coleridge unfortunately a tincture of opium A fitting style, the thoroughgoingness, given the staggering amount of source material and anecdotal baggage that accompanies these gentle giants of Romantic poetry who thought nothing of walking 40 miles in a day.My envy of those who knew Coleridge while he was still bright eyed only increased as I neared the end all firsthand accounts, even from those who didn t like the man, did not disparage his genius, especially as a conversationalist And of course there is never enough Dorothy, William s sister, without whom it s likely none of this would have happened. It feels like this book took me forever to get through I am glad I made myself finish it, as I was unaware of the circumstances leading up to Coleridge and Wordsworth s split I knew they had been close friends and collaborators on much of their planning and some works, and then they weren t It is so sad that they ended the way that they did how muchbrilliance would have been bestowed on this world had they remained close Most scholars of the Lake Poets read about Wordsworth and his perspective of the events in his celebrated literary friendship with Coleridge Unfortunately, Wordsworth biographers usually glorify WW at the expense of STC, especially as his opium addiction makes it very easy to criticize SRC s failures at the expense of the sage of Dove Cottage However, Richard Holmes s two volume biography, while the best we ll ever have on STC, perhaps errs in the other direction Holmes covers it in all its complications, including all of STC s faults, without much of excusing them though Holmes acutely describes the psychology that led to that.This volume, then, is probably ideal for readers who want a good biography of both poets and the events that led to Lyrical Ballads and their greatest work It is truly a dual biography the first 100 pages roughly is their lives before their partnership It goes into wrap mode around 1808, when the friendship ruptured and healed with significant scars Therefore, if you want a balanced depiction of both poets and their significant work, this will do It s admirably comprehensive for 425 pps of text and gets a pretty clear and well drawn portrait of both I m not sure if it would be 5 stars if I had never read other books on WW and STC, but it s possible it might. There isto this book than a consideration of one famous friendship It succeeds in giving us a look at the idea of friendship as well as how it has been transformed over the last two centuries There is also much about Wordsworth s relationship with his sister Dorothy, also a friendship of great intensity We are reminded that one thing that hasn t changed in friendship is how easily it can be shattered by the play of egos Perhaps Coleridge summed up his with Wordsworth in Christabel Never either found another to free the hollow heart from paining.