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'Coleridge and "the general taste for unconnected writing"'

Citation: Owens, Thomas (2018) 'Coleridge and "the general taste for unconnected writing"'. The Review of English Studies, 70 (293). pp. 111-134. ISSN 1471-6968

Coleridge and 'the general taste for unconnected writing' (1).pdf

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This article explores various literary, social and political implications of Coleridge’s admiration of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English prose style in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, at which time he detected ‘a passion for the unconnected’ in contemporary writing. In The Friend, Coleridge conceived syntactical connection as a hallmark of good method and rigorous thinking—qualities he believed to be in short supply in the political imagination around 1810. During the Napoleonic Wars, he hoped the structure as well as the content of his periodical would encourage unity and rejuvenate public taste by protecting it from the insidious effects of a fragmentary style which he perceived to be French in origin. He extended this aspiration to Wordsworth’s Cintra pamphlet. The emphasis which Edmund Burke placed on the relationship between syntax and the social contract in his denunciation of Richard Price provided a model for Coleridge’s interest in joined-up thinking as a sign of a healthy Constitution and also contributed to his misgivings about the style of Addison’s Spectator. For Coleridge, it was the syntactical order underlying long or complex sentences—as found in The Friend and Cintra in the former instance and Thomas Browne in the latter—which best announced a socio-political, religious or poetic vision capable of looking beyond itself. The same conviction informed Coleridge’s defence of exuberance in his Shakespeare criticism, which safeguarded his own digressive practice whilst consolidating his faith in a prose style loyal first to the rectitude of its own ambitions rather than to the universal requirement to be obvious.

Creators: Owens, Thomas and
Official URL:
Subjects: English
Divisions: Institute of English Studies
  • 13 July 2018 (accepted)
  • 17 August 2018 (published)


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