"To Burke" is a sonnet by Samuel Taylor Coleridge first published in the 9 December 1794 Morning Chronicle . Unlike most of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters , "To Burke" describes a person whom Coleridge disagreed with; he felt Edmund Burke abused the idea of freedom within various speeches and turned his back on liberty.
After Coleridge's sonnet "To Erksine" appeared in the 1 December 1794 Morning Chronicle, Coleridge submitted another sonnet "To Burke" and gave it the title "Sonnets on Eminent Characters NO II". The poem was first published in the 9 December 1794 Morning Chronicle and was included in Coleridge's 1796 collection of poems with a note that criticized Burke for taking a government pension. The poem was later included in Coleridge's later collections of poems, but lacked the note added in the 1796 collection.The note, to line 9 in the 1796 version, read:
When I composed this line, I had not read the following paragraph in the Cambridge Intelligencer (of Saturday, November 21, 1795.) When Mr. Burke first crossed over the House of Commons from the Opposition to the Ministry, he received a pension of 1200£ a-year charged on the King's Privy Purse! When he had completed his labors, it was then a question of supply of money, it was thought that a pension of 1200£ per annum for forty years certain, would sell for eighteen years purchase, and bring him of course 36,000£. But this pension must, by the very unfortunate act, of which Mr. Burke was himself the author, have come before Parliament. Instead of this Mr. Pitt suggested the idea of a pension of 2000£ a-year for three lives, to be charged on the King's Revenue of the West India 4 1/8 per cents [...] We feel not for the Public in the present instance: we feel for the honor of genius; and mourn to find one of her most richly-gifted children associated with the Youngs, Wynhams, and Reeveses of the day [...] It is consoling to the lovers of human nature, to reflect that Edmund Burke, the only writer of that fact 'whose name would not sully the page of an opponent,' learnt the discipline of genius in a different corps. Peace be to his spirit, when it departs from us: this is the severest punishment I wish him—that he may be appointed under-porter to St. Peter, and be obliged to open the gate of Heaven to Brissot, Roland, Concordet, Fayette, and Priestley!
Coleridge, in his childhood, memorized Burke's speeches and Burke was an individual that was mentioned by Coleridge throughout his life.Although Burke approved of the American Revolution, he did not support the French Revolution which placed Burke as having a view opposite to Coleridge when Coleridge wrote "To Burke". Coleridge was to later claim that he was never a Jacobin or held Jacobin beliefs in Biographia Literaria. However, "To Burke" was written in response to Burke's anti-Jacobin views. Coleridge may be correct that he was not a Jacobin, as he still respected Burke as a genius but felt that Burke was mistaken when it came to the French Revolution
As late I lay in Slumber's shadowy vale,
With wetted cheek and in a mourner's guise,
I saw the sainted form of Freedom rise:
She spake! not sadder moans the autumnal gale—
"Great Son of Genius! sweet to me thy name,
Ere in an evil hour with alter'd voice
Thou bad'st Oppression's hireling crew rejoice
Blasting with wizard spell my laurell'd fame.
Yet never, Burke! thou drank'st Corruption's bowl!
Thee stormy Pity and the cherish'd lure
Of Pomp, and proud Preciptance of soul
Wilder'd with meteor fires. Ah Spirit pure!
That Error's mist had left thy purgéd eye:
So might I clasp thee with a Mother's joy!"
Between the editions, there was only one change and that is in line 12, which read in the 9 December 1794 version: "Urg'd on with wild'rin fires".
Of all the Sonnets on Eminent Characters, only "To Burke" and "To Pitt" are addressed to people that Coleridge disagreed with.Like "To Erskine", "To Burke" is connected to Milton's poetry with the beginning lines following Milton's "Methought I saw my late espoused for Saint". However, Coleridge's view contradicts Milton's as he describes Burke as getting in the way of freedom.
Coleridge was supportive of the French Revolution, and, when he attacked Burke as supporting oppression, he adopted "Freedom" as his narrator. In the description, Burke is seen as a masculine force that harms the feminine "Freedom". This gender relationship is carried through the poem until the end with "Freedom" asking for Burke to be restored by returning to the role as a son. Freedom, in the poem, must be obeyed as a son obeys a parent. The descriptions of magic describe Burke's fall from innocence and his inability to love his mother figure.
When Coleridge published his third sonnet in the series, "To Priestley", the imagery used is similar with Priestley holding the characteristics that Burke lacked. Coleridge's negative view of Burke continued through his life, and, when Coleridge later criticized Burke for taking a pension in the 1796 note, he is reusing ideas previously expressed in his 1 March 1796 The Watchman review of Burke's Letter to a Noble Lord.The emphasis on Burke's genius was echoed by William Wordsworth, Coleridge's friend, years later in the Prelude Book 7.
Mary Evans (1770–1843), later Mary Todd, is notable as the first love of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and although he failed to profess his feelings to Evans during their early relationship, he held her in affection until 1794 when Evans dissuaded his attentions.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772. The youngest of 14 children, he was educated after his father's death and excelled in classics. He attended Christ's Hospital and Jesus College. While attending college, he befriended two other Romanticists, Charles Lamb and Robert Southey, the latter causing him to eventually drop out of college and pursue both poetic and political ambitions.
The Destruction of the Bastile was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1789. The poem describes Coleridge's feelings of hopes for the French Revolution as a catalyst for political change.
On Receiving an Account that his only Sister's Death was Inevitable was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1794. It was written for Coleridge's friend Charles Lamb and seeks to comfort him after his loss.
Songs of the Pixies was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge during 1793. The poem describes Coleridge's summer vacation and his childhood home. It also incorporates Coleridge's own view of himself as a young poet.
Religious Musings was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1794 and finished by 1796. It is one of his first poems of critical merit and contains many of his early feelings about religion and politics.
"To the River Otter" is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Though its date of creation is uncertain, it was possibly composed in 1793. The poem deals with the image of the River Otter, near Coleridge's childhood home in Devon.
To a Young Ass was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1794. The poem describes Coleridge's sympathies for animals and the connection to nature he felt as part of his idea of Pantisocracy. It was later used as a means to mock him.
Sonnets on Eminent Characters or Sonnets on Eminent Contemporaries is an 11-part sonnet series created by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and printed in the Morning Chronicle between 1 December 1794 and 31 January 1795. Although Coleridge promised to have at least 16 poems within the series, only one addition poem, "To Lord Stanhope", was published.
"To Erskine" or "To the Hon Mr Erskine" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in November 1794. The subject of the poem is Thomas Erskine, a lawyer and member of the Whig party that successfully served in the defense of three political radicals during the 1794 Treason Trials. Coleridge admired Erskine's defense and praised Erskine's refusal to accept money for his service. The poem was published in the 1 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. It was later included in various collections of Coleridge's poetry published later.
"To Priestley" is a sonnet by Samuel Taylor Coleridge first published in the 11 December 1794 Morning Chronicle. Like most of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters, "To Priestley" addresses an individual Coleridge particularly admired; Joseph Priestley held many political and theological beliefs that Coleridge adopted during this time.
"To Fayette" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 26 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Coleridge, like other Romantic poets, viewed Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette as a hero of liberty for his part in the American and French revolutions. The poem coincides with Fayette's imprisonment in Austria, and he is treated as a martyr for liberty. The language Coleridge uses within the poem to describe Fayette and revolutions appears in many of his later works.
"To Kosciusko" is the name shared by three sonnets written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, and John Keats. Coleridge's, the original, was written in December 1794 and published in the 16 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as the fifth of his Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Hunt and Keats were inspired to follow his poem with their own versions in November 1815 and December 1816, respectively. The sonnets were dedicated to heroism of Tadeusz Kościuszko, leader of the 1794 Polish rebellion against Prussian and Russian control.
"To Pitt" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 26 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Describing William Pitt the Younger and his role as Prime Minister of Great Britain, the poem is one of the few in the series that is not about a hero of Coleridge. Instead, Pitt is described as Judas, the betrayer of Christ, because of, among other issues, his treatment of political dissidents.
"To Bowles" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 26 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. William Lisle Bowles's poetry was introduced to Coleridge in 1789 and Bowles had an immediate impact on Coleridge's views of poetry. The sonnet celebrates Bowles's status as a poet. The poem also discusses Bowles's political beliefs, as these views also help shaped Coleridge's ideas on government and politics.
"To Mrs Siddons" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 29 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. It describes Sarah Siddons, an actress that Coleridge became fond of during his visits to London during college. The poem celebrates watching Siddons perform her various roles on stage. It is uncertain as to the actual authorship of the poem, since it was attributed to Charles Lamb in various works. It is possible that Lamb and Coleridge worked on the poem together, and it would represent one of Lamb's earliest works.
"To Godwin" or "To William Godwin" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 10 January 1795 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. William Godwin was admired by Coleridge for his political beliefs. However, Coleridge did not support Godwin's atheistic views, which caused tension between the two. Although the poem praises Godwin, it invokes an argument that the two shared over theological matters. After the poem was written, the relationship between Coleridge and Godwin cooled and the poem was not reprinted.
"To Southey" or "To Robert Southey" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 14 January 1795 Morning Chronicle as part of his Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Robert Southey became a close friend of Coleridge during the summer of 1794 and the two originally formed a plan to start an ideal community together. Although the plan fell apart, Coleridge dedicated the poem to his friend and emphasized Southey's poetic abilities. Following the poem, Coleridge further drifted from Southey and the poem was not republished.
"To Sheridan" or "To Richard Brinsley Sheridan" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 29 January 1795 Morning Chronicle. As the last poem running as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series, it describes Coleridge's appreciation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and his theatre talents. Coleridge, unlike most, preferred Sheridan's somber works over his comedies and emphasizes them within the poem. Coleridge also respects Sheridan's political actions.
"To Lord Stanhope" is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was published in his 1796 collection of poems. The subject, Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope, had originally shared political views with Coleridge, but as time passed, Coleridge's views gradually shifted. By 1803, Coleridge was claiming that he did not want the poem published anymore and that it was originally intended to mock those who held the beliefs which Coleridge had held years earlier. It is part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series, although it was not published in the Morning Chronicle unlike the others in the series. There is, however, a possible predecessor sonnet to the 1796 version that some editors have attributed to Coleridge.