Coleridge and Shelley Textual Engagement
Sally West's timely study is the first book-length exploration of Coleridge's influence on Shelley's poetic development. Beginning with a discussion of Shelley's views on Coleridge as a man and as a poet, West argues that there is a direct correlation between Shelley's desire for political and social transformation and the way in which he appropriates the language, imagery, and forms of Coleridge, often transforming their original meaning through subtle readjustments of context and emphasis. While she situates her work in relation to recent concepts of literary influence, West is focused less on the psychology of the poets than on the poetry itself. She explores how elements such as the development of imagery and the choice of poetic form, often learnt from earlier poets, are intimately related to poetic purpose. Thus on one level, her book explores how the second-generation Romantic poets reacted to the beliefs and ideals of the first, while on another it addresses the larger question of how poets become poets, by returning the work of one writer to the literary context from which it developed. Her book is essential reading for specialists in the Romantic period and for scholars interested in theories of poetic influence.
'Richly detailed in its scholarship and subtle in reading, West's study attests to the strong engagement Shelley had with Coleridge from his search for an intellectual father in 1810-11 through his own maturity as a master poet. This study is strongly persuasive that, after Godwin, Coleridge was the contemporary to whom Shelley most often turned for imaginative inspiration and intellectual debate.' Stuart Curran, The University of Pennsylvania, USA ’... an important account of the largely unexamined influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Shelley’s understanding of poetic form.’ Keats-Shelley Journal