2007: 58. The Friendship

“One June afternoon, more than two hundred years ago, a young man halted by a field-gate overlooking an isolated Dorset valley.  His name was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and he was twenty-four years old.  He had walked forty miles since leaving his cottage in the Quantock Hills the previous morning.”

The Friendship - Wordsworth & Coleridge, Adam Sisman

This book tells the story of the famous friendship* between Wordsworth and Coleridge, and how for a period of time, they were perfect collaborators, working and often living together, influencing each other’s philosophy and poetry, and being the best of friends.  Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy was the third Musketeer in their group, joining them for long tramps through the lake district and nights of poetry reading, but not writing anything - except for acting as a secretary for her brother, and providing her own journals to be pilfered for the poetry.  For a time the men were inseparable, and then they broke with each other, and it was never the same again.

I grabbed this book because I read a review of it in The New York Review of Books.  It was ok - not captivating, but I did learn a lot about both men (specifically that Coleridge was a charming person who could not handle his own life, and that Wordsworth was the better poet, and the more practical man, but also more of a stick in the mud).  My disappointment is that for all the build up about their lives before they met, and all the details of the time they spent together (where they went, who they met, what they did), the eventual break is handled perfunctorily, and their lives afterwards in a few pages.  I felt like I read 400 pages building up to something, and the actual climax was skimpy if not completely ignored.  However, if you are interested in Romantic poetry, and how two greats influenced each other (rather than sordid literary gossip, which I guess is what I wanted to hear - or, to give me credit, a personal story about how two friends failed each other), The Friendship is a good book for that.  

Recommend for: Lovers of Romantic poetry; people who want to know about the way that England reacted to the events of the French Revolution; lovers of the Lake District.


Date/Place Completed: April 30, 2007; D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction; Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017