Friday, 6 November 2015

If you think your writing space is shit...

... you haven't been to Coleridge Cottage in Somerset:

You remember Coleridge of course - he wrote such classic poems as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan...
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

whilst out of his tree on a pharmaceutical mixture of alcohol and opium.

Well he did it, over three years, here:

This is actually the Victorian extended improved version
And I can tell you in no uncertain terms that this place was a fucking hovel.

This was the first parlour. When they had house-guests like William and Dorothy Wordsworth (who stayed for months at a time), those lucky guests slept in here:

This photo slightly exaggerates the size of the room

This was the main parlour where the family lived (Coleridge, wife, children, guests) hung out in the daytime and Coleridge wrote at night:

This was where Sara Coleridge cooked, in the lean-to. There was no oven of course - she had to go down the street to use the bakers' oven like everyone else.

And upstairs the family and their servant girl all slept in one room.

The whole place was overrun with mice, btw. It must have been disgusting. And mind you, this was a respectable middle-class household, quite comfortable by the standards of most people. It wasn't like any of the men were doing manual labour for a living - they wrote poetry and newspaper articles and indulged in long walks on the hills, and generally left any hard work to wives and 12-year-old servant girls.

The cottage had its OWN WELL! Luxury!
Coleridge quite frankly seems to have been a total dick. He left his wife Sara to watch their child Berkeley die at 9 months, and eventually abandoned her; latched on to then fell out with poetic friends with excessive and predictable fervour; sponged off patrons for a living; and left his children "to chance and charity".

He was a piss-poor gardener as well.
But he was a great poet ...

It's a reminder that writing talent, virtue and - apparently - hygiene are in no way connected to one another.

No comments: