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A new biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, shaped and structured around the story he himself tells in his most famous poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.

Though the ‘Mariner’ was written in 1797 when Coleridge was only twenty-five, it was an astonishingly prescient poem. As Coleridge himself came to realise much later, this tale – of a journey that starts in high hopes and good spirits, but leads to a profound encounter with human fallibility, darkness, alienation, loneliness and dread, before coming home to a renewal of faith and vocation – was to be the shape of his own life. In this rich new biography, academic, priest and poet Malcolm Guite draws out how with an uncanny clarity, image after image and event after event in the poem became emblems of what Coleridge was later to suffer and discover.

Of course ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is more than just an individual’s story: it is also a profound exploration of the human condition and, as Coleridge says in his gloss, our ‘loneliness and fixedness’. But the poem also offers hope, release, and recovery; and Guite also draws out the continuing relevance of Coleridge’s life and writing to our own time.


Jeremy Begbie, Duke University
Malcolm Guite has established himself as one of the leading Christian poets of our time. This positions him to offer a distinctive reading of a poetic giant of the past, S. T. Coleridge. As expected, Mariner is exceptionally rich, penetrating and absorbing.
Susanna Clarke author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
It is difficult to suppose that there could be a more imaginative or incisive reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; this is a visionary interpretation of a visionary poem
The Heythrop Journal
This is a superior life of Coleridge ... Guite has complete mastery of the primary and secondary literature [and] masterfully interweaves sections from the Mariner with episodes from Coleridge's unfolding life to both enhance our appreciation of Coleridge's poetic powers and to bring us up to speed on all that is known of his later life.
The Irish Catholic
In this remarkable book, using a very close reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as an armature, Guite attempts to make good this lacuna and to use Coleridge's evolving religion - to build up a view of the poet's visionary life...excellent and richly compelling reading.
Frances Wilson, New Statesman
There is much to praise in Mariner - not least that it is a 470-page book unapologetically devoted to interpreting, and celebrating, a single poem. That Guite neither sexes up his manuscript nor curbs his religious enthusiasm gives his interpretation an impressive dose of integrity.
The Church Times
An illuminating close reading of the poem, relating it at every point to the subsequent course of Coleridge's life, he shows us why it remains so important for our culture.
The Times
This book - which is full of judiciously chosen quotations from Coleridge's mesmerising letters and notebooks - is a splendid celebration of the grizzled figure who 'stoppeth one of three' and the tragic artist who created him.
The Times
Malcolm Guite's new biography is ingeniously structured around the Mariner...Guite has an unerring eye for the memorable anecdote... He writes with passion about Coleridge's distinctive Christian theology. Coleridge was surely one of the inspirations for Sherlock Holmes. His life would make a great movie. I wonder who should be cast as Silas Tomkyn Comberbache?
The Telegraph
Forcefully and convincingly argued.
A profound exploration of the human condition...Guite also draws out the continuing relevance of Coleridge's life and writing to our own time.
Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times
The story of Coleridge's life does undoubtedly echo that of his poem. This is a book that provides rewarding rereadings of both.
The Catholic Herald
Alongside impressive close readings of the text... a fully rounded Coleridge emerges from these pages.
The Methodist Recorder
Mariner is not only beautifully (and evocatively) written, it is also deeply compassionate.
It's rare for me to say this about a book, but Mariner is astonishing...I came away with an awareness that most of Coleridge's modern biographers have downplayed the man's faith, and you can't understand his great poem without understanding the faith it springs from.
Kelly Grovier, Times Literary Supplement
Malcolm Guite has made an intriguing literary discovery... daring in its perspective and bold in its propositions... [a] fascinating investigation [that] haunts the mind long after the book is closed.
The Tablet
Guite is a serious and substantive critic, and there is more about Coleridge's greatest poem here than in any work published in the last quarter-century. I imagine that this book may become a classic of Christian spirituality, a text for retreats, and, if it does, it will help resurrect Coleridge's own reputation in that regard.
The Times
The 'biker priest' who revived a Christian reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner... found himself 'blown away' by Coleridge's account of God and creative genius.
Catholic Herald
Insightful and sympathetic commentary.
Crosslight Magazine
Malcolm Guite makes a case for the importance of faith to Coleridge, and his significance as a spiritual writer... The poem, according to Guite, has much to say about our own times.
Temenos Academy Review
Guite takes me to a depth I have not been before; I thank him for it, and I am exhilarated... Guite's masterful textual analysis is fascinating... Guite's own engagement with Coleridge is not only sympathetic and incisive, it is infectious.
Progressive Voices
an impressive piece of academic work: lengthy, scholarly, well-written and enjoyable