[Today is] the birthday of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born in Ottery St. Mary in Devonshire, England (1772). He was a very ambitious young man, who lectured on religion, wrote journalism, and single-handedly tried to launch his own magazine. But he was exhausting himself and falling into a depression when he was introduced to the poet William Wordsworth. They met only briefly in 1795 …
Within a few years of writing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” [in 1798] Coleridge’s life began to fall apart. He became addicted to opium, which ruined his friendship with Wordsworth. He had a habit of starting enormous projects that he could not then finish, including a 1,400-page work of geography, a two-volume history of English prose, a translation of Faust, a musical about Adam and Eve, a history of logic, a history of German metaphysics, a study of witchcraft, and an encyclopedia.
His friends hated the fact that he had wasted so much of his talent. They’d all considered him the most brilliant writer and thinker they’d ever known, but he accomplished so little.
from The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor newsletter