Coleridge and Byron
After it publishing in the 1800’s Samuel Coleridge’s gothic tale of a young woman and her night with a mysterious marked lady, became wildly popular. This poem contained imagery and language that some people had never heard before. Some say that Christabel even contains underlying tones of vampires and other mythical beings. This “new” genre and style of writing interested many people and impacted how they look at literature. Coleridge’s poem did not only impact common readers, but other writers as well, most importantly Lord Byron. Coleridge’s imagery, language and descriptions, although dark and mysterious, had an impact on those who read it. In June 1815, Byron was at the house of his publisher and Walter Scott read Byron Coleridge’s poem, Christabel. Byron was moved to say the least, “the wildest and finest I ever heard in that kind of composition”. He continues to say that the heroine, Geraldine, all the events that occur, the descriptions, and actions that the characters did, took over Byron’s mind and like Christabel, he could not shake from his mind what he had seen ” This impression of Christabel never left Byron’s mind, even in the midst of other writers. According to Byron’s letters and Journals, during the month of July in 1816, Byron, accompanied by John Polidori, Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin recited the bedroom scene in which Gerladine takes off her clothes. Byron recited this passage in the poem in such a “gothic” way, true to Coleridge, that Godwin runs out of the room screaming. Although to some, this recitation may just appear as recreational, but it inspired one of the greatest competitions in the literature world. Byron’s recitation of Coleridge’s Christabel inspired him along with Polidori and Godwin to enter a ghost story competition. This competition birthed The Vampyre, origins of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. If Coleridge had not written Christabel, then we would not have some of the most important literary masterpieces that we have today. Byron does more than recite passages from Christabel; he went as far as to incorporate a name based on the heroine of Coleridge’s poem, Christobal, into his poem The Siege of Corinth. Byron also uses some of the lines from Christabel to round out one of his works, a preface to “Fare Thee Well.” He selects the friends in youth passage, lines 396-414, to help communicate his last wishes to his wife. Byron was impacted by Samuel Coleridge’s poem to such an extent that he even writes to the Edinburgh Review and requests for a favorable review concerning Christabel. Even though Coleridge had his own demons to fight and wrote about the mysterious and the supernatural, even the most romantic poet can be impacted. Without the poem Christabel, some of Byron’s and other writer’s works would cease to exist.
Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar, eds. The Damrosch Anthology of British Literature. Fifth ed. Vol. 2A. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.
George Gordon Byron, Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, 9 vols. (Cambridge: Belknap at Harvard University Press, 1973-79), 4: 318-319