UCL News


Press cutting: How Coleridge's daughter hid her poetic passions

26 January 2007

In life, the only daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge kept her light under a bushel, dying at 49 with her work largely unknown.

Now, 150 years on, she is emerging as a considerable poet in her own right.

A British academic has discovered 120 unknown poems by Sara Coleridge at a university in Texas which, he says, rank her as a significant poet.

Though Dr Peter Swaab [UCL English Language & Literature] does not make extravagant claims for the Lake Poet's daughter - he ranks her as "an important minor poet" - he says that the astonishing discovery casts remarkable light on the struggles of an intellectual woman constrained by Victorian mores. …

She published two collections of poetry in her lifetime, but anonymously. Dr Swaab believes that Sara did not want to trade on her family name.

His discovery, among Sara Coleridge's papers in the Harry Ransom Centre in Texas, almost doubles her known output. He said yesterday: "She's an exceptionally gifted writer and deserves a much wider readership. She needs to be nudged up the list of people we consider to be important in Romantic and Victorian culture." …

The new poems were published by Carcanet Press yesterday, under the title 'Sara Coleridge - Collected Poems'. Dr Swaab found them in a bound volume which Sara called The Red Book. He suspects that Sara wanted her children to read them after her death.

Dr Swaab said: "Since her death her work hasn't been well-represented even in the major collections of Victorian women poets, even though she has a lot to say to female readers today. This may be because she is still seen by many academics as a sacrificial offshoot of the family business, having devoted so much of her time to editing her father's work."

Nigel Reynolds, 'The Daily Telegraph'