COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834). Autograph manuscript signed ('S.T. Coleridge') of his poem, 'Fancy in the Clouds: A Marine Sonnet', Little Hampton [i.e. Littlehampton], October 1818 , including one emendation and one insertion, ON A PIECE OF SEAWEED, approximately 305 x 75mm (split into four sections, a few other splits, one affecting signature); laid onto paper and vellum; in a 20th-century calf slip case. Provenance: sent by Coleridge to Charles Lamb; Duncan Macbean, 18 July 1846 (seal and inscription to lower margin); John Gribbel, lot 99 in his sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, 17 April 1945.
THE MATERIAL ON WHICH THE POEM IS WRITTEN IS A DIRECT AND DELIGHTFUL EXPRESSION OF ITS SUBJECT. It was composed on 29 October 1817 after Coleridge had spent a month by the sea at Littlehampton in Sussex, and sent back to James Gillman in Highgate. Coleridge called it 'the first Resumption of the rhyming idleness'. His first sonnet for more than a decade, it marked a sense of renewal and reviving confidence. He also made a transcript for H.F. Cary, the translator of Dante, whose acquaintance he had made on the beach after hearing him and his son read Homer, the 'blind bard' of line 11. The following year (1818) Coleridge made a transcript for Charles Lamb on this dried seaweed. Lamb acknowledged it in a letter undated but probably early 1818: 'Dear C., Your sonnet is capital, the Paper ingenious only that it split into 4 parts (besides a side splinter) in the carriage. I have transferred it to the common English paper, manufactured of rags, for better preservation' (The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. E.V. Lucas, 1935, II, p. 223). The sonnet was first published in Farley's Bristol Journal as 'Fancy in Nubibus, a sonnet composed by the seaside, October 1817'; it seems certain that Coleridge's dating of it to October 1818 here is a slip. Poetical Works, ed. J.C.C. Mays, I, part 2, 540.