Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on October 21st, 1772 in Ottery St Mary, Devon, England.
As a young child he was an early and devoted reader, having no time for play or sports. After his father died in 1781, 8-year-old Samuel was sent to Christ's Hospital, a charity school founded in the 16th century in Greyfriars, London, where he remained throughout childhood, studying and writing poetry.
From 1791 Coleridge attended Jesus College, Cambridge and in 1792, he won the Browne Gold Medal for an ode on the slave trade.
In December 1793, he left the college to enlist in the Royal Dragoons using the name "Silas Tomkyn Comberbache". His brothers arranged for his discharge a few months later under the reason of "insanity" and he was readmitted to Jesus College, though never to receive a degree.
At the university, he was introduced to political and theological ideas including those of the poet Robert Southey. In 1795, the two friends married sisters Sarah and Edith Fricker, Bristol, but Coleridge's marriage with Sarah proved unhappy. He grew to detest his wife.
The years 1797 and 1798, during which he lived in what is now known as Coleridge Cottage, in Nether Stowey, Somerset, were among the most fruitful of Coleridge's life. Besides the 'Rime of The Ancient Mariner', he composed the symbolic poem 'Kubla Khan', written-Coleridge himself claimed-as a result of an opium dream, in "a kind of a reverie"; and the first part of the narrative poem 'Christabel' well as his much-praised "conversation" poems 'This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison', 'Frost at Midnight', and 'The Nightingale'.
In 1798, Coleridge and his friend William Wordsworth published a joint volume of poetry, 'Lyrical Ballads', which proved to be the starting point for the English romantic age.
In the autumn of 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth left for a stay in Germany; Coleridge soon went his own way and spent much of his time in university towns developing an interest in German philosophy, especially that of Immanuel Kant, and the literary criticism of the 18th century dramatist Gotthold Lessing.
Between 1810 and 1820, this "giant among dwarfs", as he was often considered by his contemporaries, gave a series of lectures in London and Bristol. Coleridge's ill-health, opium-addiction problems, and somewhat unstable personality meant that all his lectures were plagued with problems of delays and a general irregularity of quality from one lecture to the next. Furthermore, Coleridge's mind was extremely dynamic and his personality was spasmodic. Coleridge often failed to prepare anything but the loosest set of notes for his lectures and regularly entered into extremely long digressions which his audiences found difficult to follow. However, the lecture on Hamlet given on 2nd January 1812 was considered the best and has influenced Hamlet studies ever since.
In August 1814, Coleridge was approached by Lord Byron's publisher about the possibility of translating Goethe's classic Faust (1808). Coleridge was regarded by many as the greatest living writer on the demonic and he accepted the commission, only to abandon work on it after six weeks. Some say it was published anonymously in 1821.
In 1817, Coleridge, with his addiction worsening, his spirits depressed, and his family alienated, took residence in the Highgate home of the physician James Gillman. Gillman was partially successful in controlling the poet's addiction. Coleridge remained there for the rest of his life, and the house became a place of literary pilgrimage. He composed much poetry here and had many inspirations - a few of them from opium overdose. It is unclear whether his growing use of opium (and the brandy in which it was dissolved) was a symptom or a cause of his growing depression.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge died in Highgate, London on 25th July 1834 as a result of heart failure compounded by an unknown lung disorder, possibly linked to his use of opium.