In Biographia Literaria, Coleridge's essay written in 1815, he offers a critique of Wordsworth's poetry and Lyrical Ballads. While the "Preface to Lyrical Ballads," written by Wordsworth in 1800, explained the philosophy Wordsworth and Coleridge used in writing their poems, Wordsworth's preface to the second edition of Lyrical...
In Biographia Literaria, Coleridge's essay written in 1815, he offers a critique of Wordsworth's poetry and Lyrical Ballads. While the "Preface to Lyrical Ballads," written by Wordsworth in 1800, explained the philosophy Wordsworth and Coleridge used in writing their poems, Wordsworth's preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads did not really address the two distinct types of poetry the volume was meant to contain. Coleridge explains that as the two friends, neighbors, and collaborators were planning their joint volume of poetry, they agreed that Coleridge would focus on writing poems containing "incidents and agents [that] were to be, in part at least, supernatural." Wordsworth, on the other hand, would write the "second class" of poetry, and in his poems, the "subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life."
Thus the plan of Lyrical Ballads was for two-part volume. Coleridge's poems would entertain and capture the readers' imagination by dealing with subjects that did not exist in the real world, but that everyone is capable of believing could exist. In this discussion, Coleridge introduces the concept of "that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith." This explanation by Coleridge of how a reader is able to get caught up in something that he or she knows is not real is just as important to our understanding of literature as are Wordsworth's comments about "emotion recollected in tranquility" and poetry as the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Coleridge followed through with this part of the plan with poems such as "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Christabel." However, because Wordsworth was so much more prolific in writing, his type of poetry, the poetry based on ordinary life, outweighed the supernatural poetry, making it seem like the supernatural poems were out of place in the volume, especially when the "Preface" failed to outline the vision of the two distinct types of poetry originally planned.
The second type of poetry, Wordsworth's contributions to Lyrical Ballads, became the better known type. Wordsworth's poems caused a controversy in their time, with some critics decrying them as silly, vulgar, and inane. Coleridge notes that despite that criticism, or perhaps because of it, Wordsworth's poems became more and more popular each year. Indeed, Wordsworth gained much fame and notoriety, eventually becoming England's poet laureate. Poems that celebrate the simple lifestyle in the language of ordinary men include "We Are Seven" and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."