COLERIDGE was born at Ottery, St. Mary, Devonshire, England, October 21, 1772 (given 1773 by some of his biographers), and on July 25, 1834, he passed away, and was buried in the vault of Highgate Church on August 2.
His father was a clergyman, and was known for his scholarship, simplicity of character, and interest in the pupils of the grammar school where he taught before devoting his full time to the ministry. The poet's mother was Anne Bowden, a woman noted for the interest which she took in the training of her children.
Upon the death of his father young Coleridge was taken to Christ's Hospital, where he studied for eight years. While here he gave strong evidence of a powerful imagination. He was industrious, and possessing a rare memory, he retained everything he read. The youth attracted the special attention of one of the teachers, who reported him to the head master as a boy who read Virgil for amusement. Some verses written by him at sixteen show strong marks of genius.
In February, 1791, he was entered at Jesus College, Cambridge. It was the custom of the students to lay aside their school books occasionally to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon a pamphlet came from the pen of Burke, and one of Coleridge's fellow-students declared that there was no use of having the book before them, for Mr. C. had read it in the morning, and in the evening he could repeat it verbatim. But growing tired of university life, and being hard pressed by debts, he enlisted as a soldier.
His military record was thus described by the Rev. Mr. Bowles, who received the facts from Coleridge's own mouth:
"The regiment was the 15th, Elliot's light dragoons; the officer was Nathaniel Ogle, eldest son of Dr. Newton Ogle, and brother of the late Mrs. Sheridan; he was a scholar, and leaving Merton College, he entered this regiment a cornet. Some years afterward (I believe he was then captain of Coleridge's troop), going into the stable at Reading, he remarked, written on the white wall, under one of the saddles, in large pencil characters, the following sentence in Latin:
"'Eheu? quam infortunii miserrimum est fuisse felicem!'
"Being struck with the circumstance, and himself a scholar, Captain Ogle inquired of a soldier, whether he knew to whom the saddle belonged. 'Please your honor, to Comberback,' answered the dragoon. 'Comberback!' said the captain, 'send him to me.' Comberback presented himself, with the inside of his hand in front of his cap. His officer mildly said, 'Comberback, did you write that Latin sentence which I have just read under your saddle?' 'Please, your honor,' answered the solider, 'I wrote it,' 'Then, my lad, you are not what you appear to be. I shall speak to the commanding officer, and you may depend upon my speaking as a friend.' The commanding officer was, I think, General Churchill. Comberback (the name he gave when he enlisted) was examined, and it was found out, that having left Jesus College, Cambridge, and being in London without resources, he had enlisted in this regiment. He was soon discharged-not from his democratic feelings, for whatever those feelings might be, as a soldier he was remarkably orderly and obedient, though he could not rub down his own horse. He was discharged from respect to his friends and his station. His friends having been informed of his situation, a chaise was soon at the door of the Bear Inn, Reading, and the officers of the 15th cordially shaking his hands, particularly the officer who had been the means of his discharge, he drove off, not without a tear in his eye, whilst his old companions gave him three hearty cheers as the wheels rapidly rolled away along the Bath road to London and Cambridge."
While in the tap-room at Reading, he wrote one of his finest poems, "Religious Musings," which furnished a fine subject for a painting by Wilkie.
The youth returned to Cambridge for a short time, but left the university without a degree in 1794. In the same year he visited Oxford and formed the acquaintance of Southey. The two formed a friendship that continued through life. The two friends commenced to build up a plan for founding a brotherly community on the banks of the Susquehanna, where selfishness was to be extinguished, and the virtues were to reign supreme. Failing to get funds, the scheme was abandoned in 1795, much to Coleridge's chagrin. In the same year he married Sarah Frickes, and settled at Clevedon on the Bristol Channel. Within a few weeks Southey married a sister of Mrs. Coleridge and started for Portugal.
As a means of support the poet began to lecture. He selected politics and religion as subjects, but the Bristol public did not support him well, hence he published his lectures in book form. In the course of the summer excursions of this year Coleridge formed the acquaintance of Wordsworth and his gifted sister. As in the case of Southey, a life-long friendship followed. Wordsworth's sister describes Coleridge as "thin and pale, the lower part of his face not good, wide mouth, thick lips, not very good teeth, longish, loose, half-curling, rough, black hair," - but all was forgotten in the magic charm of his utterance. Wordsworth declared that Coleridge was the only wonderful man that he ever knew. Wordsworth soon settled near Coleridge, and Southey afterward joined them, thus making the trio known in literature as the Lake Poets. The Lake Poets was a term first used by critics in making light of the writings of the three friends, but it was soon made famous by the masterly spirits it included. Coleridge projected a periodical known as "The Watchman," but it lived only two months. In 1796 he published a volume of "Juvenile Poems," for which he received thirty guineas. The volume was successful, and at once made the author famous. In 1798 the Wedgwood brothers granted him an annuity, whereupon he, in company with Wordsworth and his sister, started for Hamburg with the intention of making a tour of the continent. In the same year the two friends published jointly the "Lyric Ballads."
The annuity granted him opened a new period in his life. Thus provided with means, he attended lectures at Gottingen, Germany, where he mastered the German language. Upon his return home he wrote some of the principal papers for the "Morning Post," and also translated some dramas of Schiller. Soon after, Coleridge accompanied Sir Alexander Ball to Malta, as his secretary. Returning from Malta, he wrote "Remorse," a tragedy in blank verse, equal in some respects to the masterly productions of Shakespeare. Its forcible thought and excellent expression greatly enhanced the author's reputation.
In 1801 Coleridge left London for the lakes, making his home for some time with Southey. As a result of what may be called his opium period, the next fifteen years of his life were far from pleasant. He accomplished but little. Occasionally, however, he appeared in London, and he was then always the delight of admiring circles. The "Ode to Dejection" and the poem of "Youth and Age," show the evidences of his sad prostration of spirit. In 1809 he published "The Friend," and for about three years lectured upon Shakespeare. In 1813 appeared the tragedy of "Remorse," which was very successful. "Three years after this the evil habit against which he had struggled bravely but ineffectually, determined him to enter the family of Mr. Gillem, who lived at Highgate. The letter in which he discloses his misery to this kind and thoughtful man gives a real insight into his character. Under kind and judicious treatment the hour of mastery at last arrived. The shore was reached, but the vessel had been miserably shattered in its passage through the rocks. He hardly, for the rest of his life, ever left his home at Highgate." It was there that "Christabel," written some time before, was first published. In 1816 appeared his "Lay Sermons" and the "Biographia Literaria," and a revised edition of "The Friend" soon followed.
Seven years later, his most mature and his best prose work, entitled "Aids to Reflection," was given to the world. In 1830 his last effort, being a work on "Church and State," appeared. He died in 1834. Four volumes of "Literary Remains" were published after his death. His prose works are the chief source of his fame, although the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Christabel" are among the best poems in the English language.
"He lacked continuity of thought," and that, perhaps, is his principal fault. His conversational powers were scarcely less than those of Samuel Johnson. So great was his fame that the most remarkable young men of the period resorted to Highgate as to the shrine of an oracle. As a poet, Coleridge's own place is safe. His niche in the great gallery of English poets is secure. The exquisite perfection of his meter and the subtle alliance of his thought and expression must always secure for him the warmest admiration of true lovers of poetic art.
Biography from: http://www.2020site.org/poetry/index.html