Sara Coleridge (2014)

Barbeau_WFJeffrey W. Barbeau, Sara Coleridge: Her Life and Thought. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Sara Coleridge: Her Life and Thought explores the biographical and intellectual history of Sara Coleridge (1802–52), a writer whose greatest works never appeared in print. Known to the public as the daughter of S. T. Coleridge and author of a few modest publications – a small collection of children’s poems, translations of popular travel literature, and an innovative fairy tale – Sara’s many unpublished manuscripts, letters, and other writings reveal an original thinker in dialogue with leaders of the Oxford Movement as well as other major literary and cultural figures in nineteenth-century England. Sara’s writings on beauty, education, imagination, faith, the Bible, and suffering in life and death uncover new aspects of Romantic and Victorian literature, history, philosophy, and theology.

Sara Coleridge: Her life and thought rescues a neglected and misunderstood figure, positioning her at the centre of some key debates of the period, and drawing attention to obscure and unpublished papers. It gives insights into the life as well as the mind, and particularly excels at demonstrating the sheer range of Sara’s intellectual output . . . Sara Coleridge emerges from these pages as an intellectually formidable, powerfully compassionate and rigorously scholarly figure who bore the many difficulties of her life with profound nobility and made significant contributions to theology.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Barbeau provides the first sustained examination of Sara as an important nineteenth-century intellectual in her own right … outside of the shadow of her more famous father.”

—Joanna E. Taylor, Romantic Textualities

“Sara Coleridge has been consistently underrated in the past, and Jeffrey W. Barbeau’s fine study does much to redress the balance.”

—John Beer, Professor of English Literature, University of Cambridge, UK

“Sara Coleridge has been known as the daughter of her father, the poet-philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the defender of his reputation in the next generation. Jeffrey W. Barbeau does not diminish the importance of these roles, but he shows in this book how fully Sara acted as a participant in the theologico-metaphysical debates of her day. Taking issue with the Oxford Movement, she wrote penetratingly on the salient religious issues of the time such as the nature of regeneration. We can now clearly see Sara as an independent and creative intelligence.”

—David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling, UK

“Jeffrey W. Barbeau’s sparkling critical introduction to Sara Coleridge proclaims her significance as one of the foremost intellectuals of her time. Moving beyond her poetry for children and editorial work, Barbeau presents a philosophically energetic and lively woman whose hitherto neglected writings on theology, education, illness, aesthetics, and the Bible confirm her significance within late Romanticism and nineteenth-century culture. Whether critiquing Tractarianism and Roman Catholicism, or defending her father’s biblical hermeneutics, Coleridge’s writing is revealed as both captivating and discerning in a study that promises to inaugurate further scholarship on this much overlooked thinker and critic.”

—Emma Mason, Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick, UK