Offer a Close Comparative Reading of the Treatment of the Imagination in Barbauld's, 'to Mr Coleridge' and Coleridge's 'This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison.'

Topics: Romanticism, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge Pages: 7 (2429 words) Published: May 13, 2013
Offer a close comparative reading of the treatment of the imagination in Barbauld's, 'To Mr Coleridge' and Coleridge's 'This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison.'

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in 1772, in Ottery St Mary in Devonshire. During the Romantic era at a time of revolution from 1770-1830. At this time Britain’s economy was experiencing the industrial revolution, consequently creating radical class divisions and an extremely large scale of dissatisfaction between the lower classes and the wealthy classes. In addition The Enlightenment era led the dramatic change in the way in which the Western World viewed Science, Politics, and Philosophy. Particularly English scientists John Locke and Issac Newton shone light upon mans former ignorance regarding physics, biology, nature and human beings. 'Locke's 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding' (1690) was hugely influential[1], due to his philosophical thinking and his mechanical theories on nature. The profound ways of thinking in the 18th Century sculpted the world in which we live in today.

The romantic literature of this age was a 'product of the economic and social period[2] in which they lived in. It is said that 'the deconstructive reading of Romanticism emphasised its ironies, its self-consciousness and the complexities of the ways in which it brought together philosophy, literature and history.'[3] The majority of romantic poets, especially William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were discontented in this age of science and reason due to the mechanical way of thinking,and the 'emphasis on orderliness, reason and improvement[4] that it displayed. Coleridge and Wordsworth thought this limited the capacity of the mind. They believed that there was a 'deeper reality inside the the material world[5] and that our spiritual nature can be realized through the use of our imaginations.

Anna Barbauld (1743-1825) was another extremely influential English poet of the 18th Century, born in Kibworth, Leicestershire. And along with likes of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey they defined Romantic poetry. Barbauld was a famous female writer, and during this era of patriarchy this was quite uncommon, as women in this period were put in a gender role in society fitted into the role of the domestic world and not in the public world. She led a charmed life, and studied at Warrington Academy, and learned Greek and latin, 'Barbauld was raised as and remained an advocate of the liberal implications of Enlightenment thought. Rationality, compassion, and democratic human rights were the mainstays of her political positions.'[6] She was known for her contribution to romantic era, and during her lifetime was admired for her talent by the young Samuel T.Coleridge. Barbauld had a brief connection with Coleridge. 'Anna Barbauld had a more complex relationship with the young romantic poets, not least because she lived well into the nineteenth century and she was increasingly treated as a remnant from another age.'[7] Her poem, 'To Mr Coleridge' in 1797 is in regard to her meeting with him when he was 25 years of age, he had walked to Bristol to meet with her and to wished to show her a range of his poetry at the time. The poem reflects Barbauld's initial impression of Coleridge, and her initial judgment of his character, 'counseling him to pay more attention to his duty and activity, and to watch out for indolence.'[8]
It is clear that the poem, 'To Mr Coleridge' has a retrospective, and negative tone of voice as she shows her disregard for Coleridge's humanistic view on the world and his frivolous writing style, as she begins the 43-lined poem in light of his work, and an obvious natural setting, 'Midway the hill of science'(Line 1). I think Barbauld purposely chose 'midway' to represent a place in his career. The poem uses an allegorical take on Coleridge's visit as Barbauld describes the grove in line 3, ''A Grove extends, in tangled mazes...
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