Samuel Taylor Coleridge's greatest intellectual debts were first to William Godwin's Political Justice, especially during his Pantisocratic period, and to David Hartley's Observations on Man, which is the source of the psychology which we find in "Frost at Midnight." Hartley argued that we become aware of sensory events as impressions, and that "ideas" are derived by noticing similarities and differences between impressions and then by naming them. Connections resulting from the coincidence of impressions create linkages, so that the occurrence of one impression triggers those links and calls up the memory of those ideas with which it is associated (See Dorothy Emmet, "Coleridge and Philosophy," in Writers and Their Background: S.T. Coleridge, ed. R.L. Brett [1972], p. 199).

But far more important than native British influences was his trip to Germany in 1798-99, where he encountered the work of Kant, Schiller, Lessing, Schelling, and A.W. Schlegel. Many of the points made in his Lectures on Shakespeare first appeared in the works of Lessing and Schlegel, and the important Chapter 13 of the Biographia Literaria is substantially indebted to Kant, Fichte, and especially Schelling, whom he has been accused of plagiarizing. In any case, Coleridge is the point of contact between the English and continental Romantic movements.


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