Christabel was supposed to be one of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s contributions to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, a joint project with William Wordsworth first published anonymously in 1798 that included The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge’s long ballad. He wrote the first part of Christabel in 1797, but by 1800, when an expanded, two-volume edition of Lyrical Ballads was published, he had completed only the second part of the poem. When the poem, still a fragment, finally was published 1816, Coleridge stated in a preface: “But as, in my very first conception of the tale, I had the whole present to my mind, with the wholeness, no less than the liveliness of a vision, I trust that I shall be able to embody in verse three parts yet to come, in the course of the present year.” He never did, and this sentence subsequently was deleted from the preface.
Coleridge’s reputation as a giant of English literature rests upon his literary criticism and just three poems—The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, and Kubla Khan (1816)—only the first of which he completed. All epitomize the Romantic period’s attraction to the remote (in time and place) and the mysterious (with supernatural and Gothic elements). Though The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (particularly in its early version) seems closer in poetic style than Christabel to the traditional...
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