O Joy for Me!
What a delight! I loved the whole visionary feel of the book, including the Coleridgean exclamation mark in the title. Mr Davidson walk us so vividly into Coleridge’s Lake District, but also deep into the details of Coleridge’s unexplored Notebooks, offering strikingly fresh views of both. It’s wonderfully atmospheric, written with infectious enthusiasm, and beautifully illustrated throughout with both dreamy pictures and strictly practical maps.
Congratulations to Mr Davidson: I think he has genuinely added a new dimension to Coleridge scholarship. He has also inspired me to pull on my ancient walking boots once more!
Richard Holmes, author of Coleridge: Early Visions and of Coleridge: Darker Reflections
Books for Walking 2019: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s walks changed our view of landscape and his view of human company. Keir Davidson, the author of “O Joy for me!” (Wilmington Square/Bitter Lemon, 194 pages, $30), hides behind a light scholarly robe and lets Coleridge’s walks take the stage. It is an original and rewarding approach, far from dry.
Early chapters remind us that Coleridge’s walking career began at a time when the “picturesque” was in vogue, thanks to writers like William Gilpin. Landscapes had become framed in the traveler’s eye, static and distant. Coleridge lamented “ladies reading Gilpin passing by the places instead of looking at the places.”
Far from being just a “poor, mad poet,” Coleridge was a pioneer who shifted our view of nature from a lens that can be used to reflect on art and culture, to something worth our attention in its own right. Walking for walking’s sake, with a love of nature in all its sublime and subtler guises, was born.
Sadly for Coleridge, he abandoned many fascinating walking companions on the way to these insights, including William and Dorothy Wordsworth. Solitude didn’t help his poetry, but in prose scraps and scribbled maps we are lucky to witness up close how this new view of landscapes emerged. Wall Street Journal