What is the difference between Coleridge and Wordsworth?
Wordsworth and Coleridge were born within three years of each other and had similar middle-class backgrounds and educations. As two of the founding fathers of Romanticism, they often had similar ideas about religion, politics, and poetry.
There were, however, significant differences between them as poets and personalities. Perhaps the most consequential of these was the principal source from which they derived their inspiration. Coleridge was a voracious and omnivorous reader throughout his life. He was interested in practically every subject, and his work often contains obscure references to ideas he had picked up from his reading in philosophy, theology, history, natural science, literary criticism and a dozen other disciplines. When Wordsworth wrote:
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect ...
Coleridge could well have been the bookish friend to whom he addressed these words. Wordsworth prided himself on drawing his inspiration directly from nature and his contemplation of nature. Coleridge, in sharp contrast, buried himself deep in the works of the sages in search of wisdom. This is reflected in the fact that, while both were prolific, Coleridge had a far more varied literary output, including a great deal of literary criticism, philosophy, and theology.