Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Was Tolkien more of a Southey or a Coleridge?


A perception I have developed during the past couple of years working on this blog is that in the past JRR Tolkien was regarded as a Robert Southey character, but we need to start regarding him as more of a Samuel Taylor Coleridge character.

These were among the leading Lake Poets of the Romantic era (late 18th into the 19th century). Southey bought a house in Keswick - Greta Hall - where I have spent some delightful summer holidays, during which our family stayed in the portion inhabited (temporarily) by ST Coleridge.

Southey was (aside from a brief period as a student revolutionary) a solid and dependable, indeed a thoroughly decent and delightful, man - and became poet laureate. However, his talent was moderate and he is now remembered only as the originator of the Three Bears nursery story!

ST Coleridge, on the other hand, was semi-crazed, a drug addict, a delirious dreamer, extremely chaotic - a thoroughly selfish character; but one of the great and enduring geniuses of English literature and philosophy (broadly defined).

JRR Tolkien was as delightful a man as Southey and superficially a solid citizen; but in terms of his inner life, his psychology, he was much more of a Coleridge.

So we would be better thinking of Tolkien the writer as a decent version of Coleridge, rather than (as tends to be the case) a more talented version of Southey.


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