the archivist June 8, 2024
mountain range covered with snow

A Moment

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

The clouds had made a crimson crown
    Above the mountains high.
The stormy sun was going down
    In a stormy sky.
Why did you let your eyes so rest on me,
    And hold your breath between?
In all the ages this can never be
    As if it had not been.

Poet Biography

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907) was a British writer known for her poetry, although she initially gained recognition as a novelist and essayist. A great-grandniece of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, she grew up in a literary and artistic household frequented by notable figures such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Robert Browning. Coleridge was well-educated, fluent in several languages by her late teens, and began publishing essays in her early twenties. Despite her social and literary engagement, she lived a private life with her parents and never married.

Throughout her career, Coleridge published five novels, numerous short stories, and critical essays. Her friends remembered her for her lively and whimsical personality, although her poetry often conveyed themes of loss and change. Her first collection of poems, Fancy’s Following (1896), was published under the pseudonym “Anodos” to avoid disgracing her family name. Despite modest initial sales, her posthumously published poems garnered significant popularity, with Henry Newbolt’s 1907 collection requiring multiple printings. Theresa Whistler later added to her body of work with a new edition in 1954.

Coleridge’s novels were commercially successful, particularly The King with Two Faces (1897) and The Lady on the Drawingroom Floor (1906). These works were noted for their dramatic episodes and atmospheric settings rather than intricate plots or character development. In addition to her writing, Coleridge dedicated herself to teaching grammar and literature to young women. Her death in 1907 deeply affected her students, who chose to disband rather than replace her, underscoring the profound impact she had on those she taught.

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