Saturday 18 August 2018

Coleridge Cottage

I think it was in May 1994 when a monumental realisation dawned on me; "Sarah, you are poor as a church mouse. You are clueless as to what you're going to do with your life. But look on the bright side; after this term at university, you will never, ever have to think about the Romantic Poets EVER AGAIN."

I love literature, I love reading, but I could never get my head around the Romantic Poets. Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats...I just didn't get any of it. I'm sorry.

But the National Trust has a habit of making you face your educational demons and so I found myself at Coleridge Cottage in Somerset today.

I failed to take a picture of the outside of the cottage
so here's one from inside.
Here are some facts:

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in 1772, the youngest of nine brothers
  • He was precociously talented and a bit of a show-off but it sounds like he lacked self-confidence
  • He met Robert Southey and together they formed a plan of emigrating to America and setting up a utopian scheme called Pantisocracy 
  • In their planning for Pantisocracy, Coleridge ended up marrying Southey's sister-in-law, Sara Fricker. Pantisocracy never happened. Coleridge may have regretted the marriage.
  • In 1796, Coleridge moved his wife and young son to the cottage in Nether Stowey, where they could live among nature
  • He befriended William and Dorothy Wordsworth, who joined him in Somerset, and together they wrote their Lyrical Ballads - these included some of Coleridge's most famous works, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Frost at Midnight, and Kubla Khan
  • After only two and a bit years, the Coleridges left the cottage - but it remains the place where he wrote his masterpieces
  • Best fact of all: Coleridge ended up in debt while he was studying at Cambridge and ran away to join the army under the pseudonym of 'Silas Tomkyn Comberbacke'.
  • Even better fact: there's a sign on the wall of the cottage explaining that Kubla Khan has inspired many artists, including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, whose song Welcome to the Pleasuredome references Coleridge's work
The cottage itself is lovely enough but the garden was the highlight. One of the guides apologised for it, explaining that it had suffered in the hot weather, but I absolutely loved it. Somehow I ended up being the only person out there for about 20 minutes - it has several listening posts that play snippets of Coleridge's poetry and it was truly lovely.

The Coleridge Cottage scone
But let us move on to the Rime of the Microwaved Scone. It all started so well - the tea room is actually part of the cottage building, which is always great. I ordered my scone and sat down and then 'PING!'. Unfortunately, I was the only person in there so that PING was definitely connected to my scone. It was nice enough - a bit salty maybe - but why microwave it? 

This isn't the first time that the National Trust has made me face my fears of the Romantic Poets; in April 2016 I went to Wordsworth House near the Lake District and I loved it there as well. Maybe I've been wrong all this time.

Coleridge Cottage: 4.5 out of 5
Scones: 4 out of 5 - nice but microwaved :(
Poems in the garden: 5 out of 5

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