'Rime' is essential, as Lana says, especially as something of the touchstone and cornerstone of English fantasy fiction. It's short enough, too, that two of my children memorized it as teens.

For the depths of Coleridge, though, the places to start, I think, are 'Aids to Reflection' and 'Biographia Literaria,' both something like discursive, sustained argument, a real rarity in STC, alas. For those willing to wait on the Estecean genius patiently, there are his 'Table Talk' and 'The Friend,' collections of his conversations and journal pieces respectively. He spent his life working on the 'Opus Maximum,' and the fragments of greater and lesser length he wrote for it were only collated and published in 2002.

It is difficult, I believe, to overstate the importance of STC in the history of thought and as an antidote for individuals struggling to make sense of the world, especially in these upside-down times, which many believe to be in fact the End Times. It is at least as difficult, sadly, to read an author who had read and assimilated the Greats, especially among poets, philosophers, and theologians and who wrote about them with verve simultaneously in English, Greek, Latin, and German as he did in the 'Biographia.'

[In my youth at University, when I was studying Classical Languages and German, a friend and mentor pointed out to me, a child whose only encounter with the Bard of Ottery St Mary was in Kubla Khan and Rime, that the only good purpose to be had in that language cocktail was tackling Coleridge; I only understood the joke more than three decades later when I first opened Coleridge's meaty work, when of course all those language skills had atrophied to full dictionary dependence, alas.]

If you cannot devote a decade of full time reading to Coleridge, I recommend three books by those who have as points of entry, each unique and indispensable in its own way.

The first is James Cutsinger's 'The Form of the Transformed Vision,' the first published work of this brilliant American Perennialist scholar (it is the expansion and edited version of his Harvard PhD thesis). I quoted it at length in the notes to my Coleridge-inspired chapters of 'The Deathly Hallows Lectures' because it was Cutsinger's book -- and the man himself who became a dear friend -- who opened for me the traditional and counter-cultural insights to be had in STC.

The next is Mary Anne Perkins' 'Coleridge's Philosophy: The Logos as Unifying Principle.' Unlike Cutsinger's book, whose aim is less to get at an academic understanding of the evolution or synthesis of Estecean insight than it is to use his pursuit of the Truth to advance one's own seeking, Perkins' book, written well before the Princeton University Press team had done its decades long labor in assembling Coleridge's scattered materials, reveals the logos or 'inner essence' of Coleridge's work. This works, or at least it has in my case, to the same end; 'the Logos as Unifying Principle' has been the guide to my life since I read Huston Smith's introduction to a Perennialist book in a Chicago bookstore (and why I took the name 'John' at my adult baptism after St John of Patmos whose Gospel's prologue is the heart of Christian understanding).

The third, the most recent, and the most accessible, even fun, is Malcom Guite's 'Mariner: A voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.' Its approach is biographical -- his challenging thesis is that, though composed early in the poet's career, it is a description of the course of his whole life and the telos of his thinking -- and, as with everything Guite writes, it is a revelation of the depths, what we used to call the 'meaning of life,' in a wonderfully at-ease manner, as if these were ideas and subjects we already knew and have only needed his nudge and reminder to recollect and make our own. Much of what Cutsinger and Perkins explain and the reader only grasps at the peak of a high mountain, Guite brings to the attentive reader via a chair-lift rather than by a free-climbing ascent.

[I have neglected to mention the seminal work in Coleridge studies, Owen Barfield's 'What Coleridge Thought,' despite its importance in Inkling history -- without Coleridge via Barfield, I doubt very much that C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien become the writers or the people, frankly, that they did -- because he is the only Estecean exegete I have read at length whose exposition rivals Coleridge's own for opacity and demands upon the reader. De gustibus; I recommend Barfield's book, but only after the other three I have mentioned so the novice in these fields has some points of reference to guide him or her.]

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I hate to ask, but I am interested in "a prolonged explanation or apologia for these first principles and how I came to understand and embrace them via Eliade and Coleridge." Is this found in your dissertation?

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Will previous weblog content be available through substack?

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