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Years of Bondage (1808-1816), Part 9 to the Life & Works of
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

We may mark the time just after Coleridge came back from Germany as the time when Coleridge was to permanently separate from his wife and children. After that time he was to go back to Grasmere, but only for visits with his family, or, more likely, long stay-overs with the Wordsworths. In June of 1808, the Wordsworths had moved into their new home, Allan Bank, a much larger place than their previous abodes. One of the reasons that the Wordsworths had made the move is that they anticipated that Coleridge might come to live with them; and, apparently, he did. During the weekends, Allan Bank was to become a very busy abode, indeed. At times there was as many as seven children: three Coleridges (down on a visit with their father) and four Wordsworths. Sara Hutchinson, to whom Coleridge was particularly attracted, it would appear was at this time part of the Wordsworth household, her sister, Mary having married Wordsworth the previous year. Sara Hutchinson was to remark that when Coleridge played with the children, S.T.C. made "enough racket for twenty."48

It was during this period that Coleridge brought out a weekly paper, The Friend, the first of its number was dated June 1st, 1809; and the last, after 27, on March 15th, 1810. He apparently continued to work out of the Wordsworth residence and likely went up to Greta Hall, nine miles away or so, in order to pick up or deliver his three children. In February, Sara Hutchinson took her leave of the Wordsworth household at Allan Bank. That June, fond of his comforts (the Wordsworth household, apparently, was usually in a bit of a rough state, though it never bothered them), especially now since Sara Hutchinson had left, Coleridge took his leave of Allan Bank. He moved back in with his wife at Greta Hall, but this particular period of cohabitation lasted but five months.49 In October Coleridge was to take advantage of an offer coming from Basil Montagu and his wife who were just then visiting the Lake District. Seeing how unhappy Coleridge was, the Montagues offered to him a seat in their carriage and thus to come to London with them and once there to reside with them. Given the domestic habits of these two very different people (Montagu would not even countenance the use of wine at his table) the arrangement of Coleridge living with the Montagues in London did not last long; the Montagues and Coleridge parted company almost immediately. We know that on April 15, 1816, Coleridge was to move in with Dr. Gillman and to live in the Gillman household for the balance of his life. Prior to moving in with the Gillmans, between the years 1812-16, Coleridge, this eccentric man of genius, mostly resided with the Morgans, first near Bath then later at Calne, Wiltshire. He got on better with the Morgans, mainly because the Morgans were so patient with Coleridge; "it would probably be no exaggeration to say that without their devoted friendship and support he could not have survived."50

There is another thing to be said about the carriage trip that Coleridge took with Basil Montagu in the fall of 1810 en route to London. Though we will never know exactly what transpired, Coleridge in his conversations with Montagu determined that Wordsworth was bad-mouthing him (Coleridge) behind his back. Problems, as we have seen, started back in 1803 when the pair of them with Dorothy had made a trip to Scotland; now, in 1810, this rent turned into an open breach. Over the next two years, the quarrel between the two poets became a cause célèbre.51

All through these times Coleridge supported himself both by lecturing and writing. On April 15th, 1816, as already mentioned, Coleridge was to take up residence in Highgate, London, at the home of Dr. James Gillman. It was intended that Coleridge should receive extended medical help in respect to his long-standing opium addiction; it was to be a last ditch effort. Gillman, in exchange for the pleasure of his company -- Coleridge could be most charming and intellectually engaging -- was to somehow wean Coleridge off of his opium habit, well, if not off the drug altogether then, more likely, down to timed and manageable doses. The plan was that Coleridge was to stay with Gillman for a month; he stayed with Gillman until his death in 1834.52

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2011