I suppose I should be doing his father really, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), who of course lit up the Quantocks for a while, but no, I’m going to take a look at Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849), or David Hartley Coleridge to give him his full name, the much-loved eldest son of the famed Lake Poet and laudanum addict. David Hartley Coleridge was named after the philosopher David Hartley (1705-57), a Yorkshireman who’d spent his last 15 years in Bath, dying there 40-odd years before young Hartley was born.

Unlike S.T. Coleridge, who was born in Devon, Hartley was a product of Somerset, born in Clevedon (some say Kingsdown), on September 19, 1796, and raised by one of the other Lake Poets, Robert Southey, at Greta Hall (Lake District) after his parents became estranged. He’d attend Merton College, Oxford (1815) where his scholarship was erratic, his missing out on the Newdigate Prize leaving him despondent, whilst an Oriel fellowship (1819) was lost due to intemperance (otherwise known as a year of heavy drinking and idleness). This makes him sound like a chip off the old block as his Dad sometimes wrote in a drug-induced fug. Hartley too could be melancholy but also shy which possibly made him ill-favoured for university’s hurly-burly.

Hartley’s not here because he had a famous father though. He began his literary work in London in 1820, writing for the London Magazine doubling up as a private tutor. He wrote occasionally for Blackwood’s Magazine then wrote biographies for a Yorkshire publisher, these being accumulated in the titles Biographia Borealis (1833) and Worthies of Yorkshire and Lancashire (1836). They were decent bios and critical too, so no whitewashing from Hartley. The same publisher, a Mr. Bingley, also printed a modest volume of Hartley’s poetry, again in 1833, which included reputation enhancing sonnets. Hartley returned to the Lakes and also did a bit of teaching in Sedbergh, betwixt Lakes and Dales. With the assistance of an annuity he continued writing his poetry and editing some dramatic works.

It seems Hartley inherited some of his dad’s troubled genes as he’s described as studying fitfully, daydreaming plentifully, wandering over the landscape lost in thought, and occasionally degenerating into intemperance. Yes, like father like son. Nevertheless, despite these maladies, he produced graceful poetry which was sincere and tender. His ‘Poems’ were published posthumously by his brother, Derwent, in two volumes with a memoir (1851).