“David Foster Wallace and Samuel Taylor Coleridge Had a Lot in Common”

Helen Rittelmeyer:

The biggest difference between Samuel Taylor Coleridge and David Foster Wallace is that by the time cardiomyopathy took Coleridge’s life in 1834, at the age of sixty-one, the consensus was that he had died too late. It’s not that no one engaged in rueful speculation about the masterpieces that would go unwritten, it was just that they’d done it years before, when it became clear that addiction and lack of professional discipline had made further serious literary output from Coleridge unlikely. He lost his gift for poetry a full thirty years before his death, and eventually lost his grip on prose too. At the end, the only role he seemed capable of playing was champion table-talker, holding court at the home of his caretakers, the Gillmans, for the benefit of whatever admirers, friends-of-friends, or tourists turned up to hear the great man monologize. Coleridge wanted to be a writer, and he ended up a sage and a celebrity.


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