Historical Miscellany #24 Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s cheese catastrophe


A letter from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Thomas Poole, 16 October 1797

Dear Poole,

From October 1779 to Oct. 1781. – I had asked my mother one evening to cut my cheese entire, so that I might toast it: this was no easy matter, it being a crumbly cheese – My mother however did it – / I went into the garden for some thing or other, and in the mean time my Brother Frank minced my cheese, ‘to disappoint the favourite.’ I returned, saw the exploit, and in an agony of passion flew at Frank – he pretended to have been seriously hurt by my blow, flung himself on the ground, and lay there with outstretched limbs – I hung over him moaning and in a great fright – he leaped up , & with a horse laugh gave me a severe blow in the face. – I seized a knife, and was running at him, when my Mother came in & took me by the arm – I expected a flogging – & struggling from her I ran away, to a hill at the bottom of which the Otter flows – about one mile from Ottery. – There I stayed; my rage died away; but my obstinacy vanquished my fears – & taking out a little shilling book which had, at the end, morning & evening prayers, I very devoutly repeated them – thinking at the same time with inward & gloomy satisfaction, how miserable my Mother must be!


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