Hartley Coleridge, the eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born at Clevedon, near Bristol, Sept. 19, 1796, died at Rydal Water, Jan. 6, 1849. His birth was commemorated by his father in two sonnets, and his early peculiarities were described and his wayward career almost prophesied in an exquisite poem addressed to him when six years old by Wordsworth. He was reared in the lake district in the north of England, and after a visit to London in 1807 he and his brother Derwent became day scholars of a clergyman at Ambleside. Yet the best part of his education was by intercourse with the friends of his father; and he speaks of himself as having been formed by the living voice of Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Lloyd, Wilson, and De Quincey. In his school days he showed both imaginative and conversational powers by weaving long and wild stories, the recital of which would occupy him and his listeners night after night for months. In 1815, having become a student at Merton college, Oxford, his accomplishments and brilliant conversation gained him numerous invitations to social gatherings, and he acquired habits of wine-drinking over which he afterward had little control.
He passed a highly honorable examination for his degree in 1818, and obtained a fellowship at Oriel college; but before the close of his probationary year his intemperance caused the forfeiture of this position. The punishment fell heavily upon his sensitive temperament, and in his despondency and morbid consciousness of shame he resisted less and less the weakness which had caused the overthrow of his fortunes. He left Oxford and resided for two years in London, contributing his first sonnets to the "London Magazine." A scheme to receive pupils at Ambleside failed, and proved that he was unfit for any future exertion of the kind; yet he remained till his death in the lake district, excepting a short residence at Leeds, beloved by all his neighbors and watched over by the family in whose house he lived. His father expressed in his will great solicitude to secure to him the tranquillity necessary to the exercise of his literary talents, and by a bequest provided him with "the continued means of a home." Wordsworth was his near neighbor, and was most attentive to the child-like man whose life he had traced from the cradle. Hartley was a diligent reader, a deep thinker, and an easy writer. His verse and his prose are alike exquisite.
His sonnets are among the finest in the English language, and his volume of biography, the "Lives of Northern Worthies," is written in a pleasant, vivacious style, with a vein of fine philosophy. During his latter years he wrote a "Life of Massinger," and many short poems. His grave is in the Grasmere churchyard, by the side of that of Wordsworth.