Coleridge is such a celebrity that many who have never read "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" have a fair idea who he was, and yet the common impression of him is not flattering. He is typically seen as a youthful genius transformed by drugs and philosophy into a tedious sage. It is time for a change of image. A Book I Value offers a one-volume sampling of Coleridge's encyclopedic marginalia, revealing a figure more complex but also more humanly attractive--clever, curious, playful, intense--than the one we are used to.
This book makes a convenient introduction to Coleridge's life, the intellectual issues and contemporary concerns that held his attention, and the workings of his mind. The marginalia represent an unintimidating sort of writing that Coleridge famously excelled at (often in books borrowed from friends). "A book, I value," he wrote, "I reason & quarrel with as with myself when I am reasoning."
Unlike the complete Marginalia in six volumes arranged alphabetically by author, this representative selection is chronological and footnote-free, with a contextualizing introduction and brief headnotes that outline Coleridge's circumstances year by year and provide essential historical information. Our own cultural taboo against writing in books is slackening in light of new interest in the history of the book. It will be weakened further by the extraordinary and now accessible example of Coleridge, who was a remarkably shrewd but at the same time a remarkably charitable reader.
"You might be forgiven for wondering what wide appeal there is in a book which selects the marginal jottings of a long-dead poet. . . . I have found myself turning to it again and again, first in the manner of a commonplace book, and then--for this is how the book is arranged--as a chronological record of the development of Coleridge's thoughts. And these are almost always worth reading. . . . The book becomes, then, a kind of sideways intellectual autobiography, a dossier of immediate response, scrupulous honesty or honest bewilderment."--Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
"Jackson intends her selection to serve as an introduction to the great Coleridgean themes, and it succeeds very well. . . . [Her] selection is excellent; it is where readers new to the marginalia should start."--Seamus Perry, Times Literary Supplement
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by H. J. Jackson: