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Book Reviews Luke Savin Herrick Wright. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Anglican Church. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. Pp. viii+296. $35. Writing in the summer of 1818, Byron expresses his exasperation with Coleridge’s turn from writing poetry to the abstruser musings of philoso­ phy and theology: “And Coleridge too has lately taken wing / ... / Ex­ plaining metaphysics to the nation. / I wish he would explain his explana­ tion.” For Byron, this shift in genre coincides with Coleridge’s betrayal of the older poet’s earlier political sympathies. Coleridge insisted that the ap­ parent reversal of his allegiances obscured an underlying consistency in principle, a principle that demanded adjustments in perspective as it con­ tinued to unfold. In Coleridge and the Anglican Church, Luke Savin Herrick Wright argues that Coleridge’s self-justification has some basis. The pro­ fessed consistency arises not, as has sometimes been proposed, from his in­ terest in continental idealist philosophy, but rather from his ongoing en­ gagement with an Anglican tradition. Wright charts this engagement carefully, suggesting that it spans a broader stretch of Coleridge’s life and thought than is often assumed, exploring both its initial motivations and its extended consequences for Victorian theorists of the relationship between church and state. No single thread, no matter how lengthy and sturdy, could tie together the sheer range of Coleridge’s ambitions and commit­ ments. Yet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Anglican Church helpfully illumi­ nates the extensive—if not comprehensive—significance of Coleridge’s commitment to High Church Anglicanism. At its best, Wright’s study grants Byron’s jocularly jaundiced wish: it explains the explanations that Coleridge offered repeatedly and at length over the last decade ofhis life. Wright begins with the assertion that Coleridge’s religious views led him to articulate a sustained opposition to the dominant vision of church-state relations throughout his career, even if the terms of this opposition changed, sometimes profoundly, over time. Wright identifies William Warburton’s The Alliance between Church and State (1736) as providing the primary theological justification for the status quo Coleridge sought to contest. This prevailing consensus sees the relationship between church and state in terms of contract theory: “at its most basic, Warburtonian theory can be summarized as a belief that church and state cooperate because each SiR, S3 (Fall 2014) 467 468 BOOK REVIEWS recognizes a mutual benefit in such a relationship—Warburton was, broadly speaking, a utilitarian” (17). For Coleridge, among others, con­ ceiving the intersection of theology and politics in this way sacrifices spiri­ tual integrity to expediency. The alternative vision that he eventually de­ velops conforms to a traditionally Anglican model of “organic union” in which church and state are virtually identical; to be a member of one of these corporate bodies is inevitably to be a member of the other (26). Coleridge’s theological views led him by the culmination of his career to a traditionally Tory politics as well, serving as a “bridge figure between the old-fashioned High Churchmen and the Tractarians . . . [and as] a part of the gathering forces of Toryism that would emerge as the Conservative party a generation later” (30). It would have been difficult to predict Coleridge playing this transitional role on the basis ofhis stated positions in the 1790s, a point Wright partially concedes. While Coleridge’s earlier politics were conspicuously radical, however, Wright contends that his religious convictions were more con­ ventional than is often assumed. His avowed Unitarianism, for example, can be seen as a relatively conservative form of dissent that “did not fix it­ self on ontological conceits but was rather a strictly biblically based inter­ pretation ofChristianity that saw the true emphasis ofreligion as the teach­ ing and ethics ofJesus” (44—4$). Similarly, Coleridge’s Lectures on Revealed Religion of 1795 “preached a ‘social gospel’ based on the Old Testament law ofJubilee” rather than “embarkfing] upon an elaborate discussion of the Trinity” (60). Coleridge’s critique targets the abolition of property more pointedly than it does the divinity of Christ. Wright supports these claims by invoking the orthodox Anglican views of Coleridge’s father, and by reading Coleridge’s letters written around the time of...


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