|An outstandingly precocious child, Coleridge was born in rural Devonshire, but after his father died, in 1781, he was sent to London to be educated. After secondary school, he went to Cambridge. In his third year he dropped out to enlist in the army (under the name Silas Tompkin Comberbacke); he eventually returned to the university but never took a degree. Disillusioned by the outcome of the French Revolution, Coleridge--with a group of friends including the poet Robert Southey--planned to emigrate to America and found a Utopian community (a pantisocracy, with equal rule by all) on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. This project fell through, but by then Coleridge had already impulsively married Southey's sister, knowing it would be practical to have a wife in Utopia. The marriage, not surprisingly, was a disastrous failure almost from the outset. In 1795, Coleridge became friends with Wordsworth and collaborated with him on the volume LYRICAL BALLADS and its still-influential preface. He also fell hopelessly in love with Wordsworth's sister-in-law, Sara Hutchinson--an unrequited passion that colored the rest of his life. Eventually, Wordsworth and Coleridge quarreled and became estranged; this was a great blow to Coleridge, who idolized Wordsworth and considered him the finest poet of the age. Coleridge's life was further complicated by his addiction to opium, in the form of laudanum, which he took to relieve the rheumatic pains he suffered from a very young age. At the age of 32, Coleridge left England, his wife, and his children to serve as a foreign service officer in Malta and then, despite his bad health, to travel in Italy. On his return two years later, he became a popular lecturer on Shakespeare and other literary subjects; he also was the sole writer and publisher of a periodical called The Friend, which lasted 18 months. Coleridge was only intermittently ambitious or even energetic, and much of his brilliance never got beyond his letters and jottings in his notebooks, but when he did get to work he proved himself to be a formidable intellect and a gifted writer, as well as a man of great charm and generosity. Living outside London toward the end of his life, with his addiction (which he called "the poison..., the guilt, debasement, and misery of my existence") under control, reconciled both with his wife and with Wordsworth, and finding new solace in Christianity, Coleridge became known as the Sage of Highgate, visited by an admiring collection of friends who came to hear him talk.