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Symposium:Romanticism at The Royal Institution

Romanticism at The Royal Institution

This half-day symposium with talks by leading scholars will restore the forgotten literary history of the Royal Institution and highlight its unique interdisciplinary contribution to British Romantic culture. The event will conclude with a wine reception to celebrate the launch of Sarah Zimmerman’s new book The Romantic Literary Lecture in Britain (Oxford University Press), based partly on research done at the Royal Institution. It is FREE and open to all.

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John Keats by William Hilton

Keats200: Keats and Coleridge events, Highgate

Keats and Coleridge

Thursday 11 April
Keats ‘In conversation with Coleridge’
11am – 12.30pm and 2 – 3.30pm (meet at Coleridge’s House, Highgate)

On 11 March 1819, John Keats took a walk across Hampstead Heath and on the way met Coleridge, who was living in Highgate at that time. According to Keats, they talked of ‘a thousand things’ including Nightingales, poetry and dreams. Coleridge recalled the meeting quite differently. As part of Keats200 we will recreate this historic meeting, led by our historic enactors and talk of many things as we enjoy a walk across the Heath. The event will begin at Coleridge’s House in Highgate, arriving at Keats House, Hampstead approximately 90 minutes later. We will be walking across the Heath, which may be muddy whatever the weather. Please wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the conditions expected on the day. 

Free, booking essential

Thursday 11 April
Nightingales on the Heath: John Keats meets Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Keats House, 6.30 – 8pm

The legendary meeting between Keats and Coleridge saw a wonderfully fortuitous convergence of personalities, poetry and circumstances, with momentous consequences for the course of English poetry. This talk by Professor Kelvin Everest examines the many strands which met in that meeting and considers the great poems which resulted from it.

£4.50, booking essential

Sunday 14 April
Afternoon Poems: Keats and Coleridge
Keats House, 2 – 3pm
Join us to celebrate two of the Romantic period’s most iconic figures. In April 1819, John Keats and Samuel Taylor Coleridge met on Hampstead Heath, where the older poet Coleridge, according to Keats’s account, ‘broached a thousand things’. This reading by the Keats House Poetry Ambassadors will certainly touch on some of them - nightingales, metaphysics, dreams, ghosts – as presented in the poetry and prose of both writers.
Free, booking recommended

All bookable via

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Coleridge young portrait

Friends of Coleridge AGM 2019

The Friends of Coleridge AGM will be held at 10.30am on Saturday 23 March at Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey. Everyone welcome.

Shrewsbury church

Shrewsbury Coleridge Celebration

‘The Shaping Spirit of the Imagination’: An Afternoon with Samuel Taylor Coleridge at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church

Sunday 13th January 2019
Report by Justin Shepherd
Speakers: Graham Davidson and Ian Enters of the Friends of Coleridge, with Kate Innes, poet and novelist and winner of the ‘In Xanadu…’ international poetry competition.

This afternoon’s event, arranged by Ian Enters of the Friends and Fiona Checkley of the Unitarian Church, took place exactly 221 years to the day after Coleridge preached the sermon which so impressed the teenaged Hazlitt and which is memorialised so brilliantly in his ‘On My First Acquaintance with Poets’. So, when Graham Davidson climbed the steps of the pulpit set in the centre of the east end wall of this jewel of a chapel, he must have been all too aware of his predecessor’s impact on the congregation. Alas, there were no impressionable teenagers to be seen in the audience. However, the assembled Salopians and others who had travelled to be there heard a rich and deeply thoughtful talk.

The talk tackled head-on the question of what exactly Coleridge meant by the word ‘imagination’, linking the celebrated passage in ‘Biographia’ with the ‘Dejection Ode’ and making a fruitful comparison with Wordsworth’s ‘Immortality Ode’. It is far too complex an argument to summarise here, but perhaps the most suggestive point made was that the ‘loss’ to which both poets refer was not, as is often assumed, the loss of their power as poets, but of the sense of ‘Joy’ in life itself, a characteristic, according to Coleridge, of what he called the ‘Primary Imagination’.

During the break for coffee, one could examine more closely this beautiful building, where the young Charles Darwin was taken every week by his mother, a Wedgwood, and which contains among other things, a brass plaque commemorating Coleridge’s association with the building. The Church is in excellent condition and exudes a warm, intimate, almost cosy atmosphere, well suited to such meetings.

In the second half Ian Enters and Kate Innes were in dialogue, talking about their approach to writing and supplying a contemporary perspective on the imagination as active practitioners. A genuine rapport was conveyed and, unusually for these kind of events, the readings of their own work seemed to arise spontaneously from their conversation rather than being crowbarred in. Ian Enters is a highly effective reader of both his own and others’ verse; he combines the actor’s ability to project to an audience with a writer’s grasp of what is important in a poem.  Kate Innes, whose poem ‘The Flock of Words’ was, by miles, the best poem in our 2016 competition, proved a sensitive and illuminating interviewee. Their conversation was always interesting to listen to, and threw a sideways, incidental glance at Coleridge’s own magisterial account of the creative mind, the ‘esemplastic power’.

Having only seen the outside of this church before, it was a great privilege to be so warmly welcomed inside. The quality of the speakers’ contributions made for a most memorable afternoon in the company of the resident Unitarians and a faithful few from the Friends. I would like to thank Fiona Checkley and Ian Enters for making it happen, and hope and believe that this will be the start of a mutually fruitful association between The Friends of Coleridge and the Shrewsbury Unitarian Church.

JPW Shepherd, Chairman, Friends of Coleridge

Highgate engraving

Report about Philip Aherne's Highgate Coleridge Lecture

On February 25th 2019 Dr Philip Aherne gave a talk about Coleridge's latter days in Highgate, and the spread of his influence in the United States throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Dr Aherne, who teaches English at Highgate School, began with a consideration of Coleridge's biography, outlining why he moved to Highgate and explaining that the initial impetus for moving in with the Gillmans was to seek relief from his opium dependency (which the Gillmans considered to have been successful).

He then moved on to lay out the programme of education apparent in Coleridge's later works before considering his fame as a talker. Dr Aherne also examined how aphorism played a vital role in shaping Coleridge’s philosophy – a philosophy centred on a process or method of thinking as much as any particular creed.

After a brief consideration of Coleridge's intellectual relationship to Locke and Kant – and the respect for him displayed by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill – the talk was brought to a close with an assessment of how young American thinkers were very receptive to his intellectual method.

Coleridge Legacy cover

The Coleridge Legacy: Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Intellectual Legacy in Britain and America, 1834–1934
Philip Aherne
Palgrave Macmillan

This book examines the development of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s intellectual legacy in Britain and America from 1834 to 1934 by focusing on his late role as the Sage of Highgate and his programme of educating young minds who were destined for the higher professions (particularly preaching and teaching). Chapters assess his pedagogy and his late publications, his posthumous reputation, and his influence on aesthetics, theology, philosophy, politics and social reform. The book discusses a wide range of British and American intellectuals, including Thomas and Matthew Arnold, F. D. Maurice, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, Shadworth Hodgson, T. H. Green, James Marsh, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Bushnell, William James and John Dewey. It demonstrates how Coleridgean ideas were developed and distorted into something he would never have recognized as his own and emphasizes his significance as a catalyst who played a vital role in shaping the intellectual vocation of the long nineteenth century.

To purchase this book visit Amazon: or visit the Palgrave Macmillan website

Report by Drew Clode