1797 - Jane Austen completes Pride and Prejudice; Coleridge writes The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.

Pride and Prejudice, initially conceived as a novel entitled ‘First Impressions’, is widely considered by modern critics to be a work that transcended the ‘novel of the day’ to become a literary classic. Austen wrote in the guise of a pre-revolutionary novelist of manners, setting her stories against the backdrop of genteel domestic life, and exploiting the simple plot of a courtship story to expose the rigidity of the English class system. Her work can be considered as revolutionary feminist protest in the light of her portrayal of women, not as mere ‘angels of the hearth’ but as strong characters who want to be able to exercise free will in their personal lives.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest of Samuel Taylor-Coleridge’s major poems, and tells of a mariner relating to a passer-by the events of a lengthy and testing sea voyage. Coleridge’s depiction of nature as a force stronger than man, and his exploration of man pushed to the psychological limits of endurance has served to make it a classic in the Romantic canon.

According to the tale circulated by Coleridge himself, Kubla Kahn appeared to the poet in its entirety during an opium induced vision, experienced while Coleridge was sleeping. Interrupted by ‘A Person from Porlock’ whilst transcribing the poem, Coleridge claimed that he then lost the rest of the lines from memory, and consequentially the poem is only 54 lines long. Whilst the validity of this story is uncertain, the potent visionary images and complex syntax found in the poem suggest the frenzy of the poet who had ‘drunk the milk of Paradise’.

Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, 1810