COLERIDGE (HERBERT) Portrait of Herbert Coleridge by George Richmond, [c.1848]
Lot 297
£600 - 800
US$ 1,000 - 1,300
Lot Details
Property of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's direct descendant
Portrait of Herbert Coleridge, son of Henry Nelson and Sara Coleridge, and grandson of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, by George Richmond, showing him half-length, elegantly attired in a brown frock-coat, holding a letter in his right hand, his left resting on the arm of a chair, looking slightly upwards to his left, with a blue sky and outline of a tree beyond, watercolour over pencil with highlights in white body colour, on original mount and in original gilt wood-and-gesso frame, glazed, unexamined out of frame, some light discoloration where pasted down, wooden backing, note by E.H. Coleridge on reverse (see note below), size of image 372 x 285 mm., overall 768 x 675 mm., [c. 1848]


  • A FINE PORTRAIT BY GEORGE RICHMOND OF HERBERT COLERIDGE, ONE OF THE PRICIPAL FOUNDERS OF THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY. Herbert Coleridge was Henry Nelson and Sara Coleridge's only son. After distinguishing himself at Eton (under his uncle, Edward Coleridge) and Oxford (where he gained a double first in classics and mathematics), he followed in his father's footsteps and became a chancery barrister: 'As his private means were adequate to his needs he was free to devote his leisure hours to philology—Sanskrit, the northern tongues, and particularly the language and literature of Iceland. In February 1857 he was elected a member of the Philological Society... The society was then engaged, following a paper by Chenevix Trench, 'On the deficiencies in our English dictionaries', on a proposal for supplementing the two standard dictionaries of Johnson and Richardson, but in late 1857 Trench made proposals for a complete new English dictionary. Coleridge threw himself into this project with his characteristic enthusiasm, became its chief workman, and was appointed honorary secretary of a special committee 'formed for the purpose of collecting words and idioms hitherto unregistered', a post for which he was well fitted by his learning, literary facility, and methodical habits. His new duties, amounting to a general editorship of the work, involved a large correspondence with the numerous volunteer helpers. The results of his researches are embodied in his Glossarial Index to the Printed English Literature of the Thirteenth Century (1859), which he describes as 'the foundation-stone' of the proposed English dictionary. The scheme developed into the momentous New English Dictionary (later the Oxford English Dictionary)' (memoir by his sister, Edith Coleridge, revised by John D. Haigh, ODNB). According to the note on the reverse by his first cousin Ernest Hartley Coleridge, this portrait was drawn in about 1848, the year he went up to Oxford. He was to die in 1861, still only thirty, of consumption and is buried in the same grave in Highgate Cemetery as his father and mother, and his maternal grandparents, Sara and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This portrait was presumably inherited by Ernest on the death of the Herbert's widow, there being no children of the marriage.

    A variant of this portrait, among Herbert's mother Sara's papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Texas, is illustrated by Bradford Keyes Mudge, Sara Coleridge, a Victorian Daughter: Her Life and Essays, 1989 (medium unspecified – it appears to be an engraving); the same image is reproduced by Eleanor A. Towle, A Poet's Children: Hartley and Sara Coleridge, 1912, facing p. 208; the Harry Ransom Center also holds a letter by Richmond to his mother of 15 April 1848. See illustration overleaf.
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