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HomePoems > Kubla Khan > Sources > Samuel Purchas                           

 

 

1. Kubla Khan building a house of pleasure

2. Ancestral voices

3. Garden in a valley

4. Damsels in Paradise

5. Hill of Amara

Samuel Purchas

Samuel Purchas is the author of the book Coleridge was reading before he fell into the twilight state, in which he envisioned Xanadu. In 1816, Coleridge published this description of the genesis of his poem:

In the summer of 1797, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farm-house beween Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Someset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in 'Purchas's Pilgrimage."

Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall.'

Of course, scholarship has thrown doubt on the date, the quotation, and the anodyne.

But before all that negative quibbling, Lowes argued that images suggested by Purchas rose up before Coleridge as things, which showed up as Coleridge says, "with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort."

Lowes explicitly says that he does not consider the Purchas passage a "source" in the conventional sense, but rather a fountain of associations and visions.

"Their very words, undoubtedly, were now and then remembered. But that is incidental. What they did for Coleridge was to people the twilight realms of consciousness with images." 357

And when you compare Purchas's words with the ones loosely recalled by Coleridge, you see that the poem seems to have retroactively affected his recollection of the text, turning sixteen miles into ten.

But the passage itself, particularly in the editions of 1614, 1617, and 1626, suggests Xanadu, Kubla Khan, a stately pleasure dome, and more. Our selection comes from the 1617 edition, the one that Lowes believes Coleridge lent to Wordsworth.

Purchas, Samuel. Purchas his Pilgrimage, or Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all Ages and Places discovered, from the Creation unto the Present. London, 1617.

Purchas wrote another book, published posthumously, and Coleridge may have read some or all of this very long book (20 volumes in an edition of 1905-07). The original was called:

Purchas, Samuel. Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes. London, 1625. Reprinted in 20 volumes, Glasgow, 1905-7.

Other sources

William Bartram
William Beckford
F. Bernier
James Bruce
Thomas Burnet
William Collins
Herodotus
Athanasius Kircher
Jerome Lobo
Thomas Maurice
John Milton
Pausanias
Major James Rennell
Seneca
Strabo
Virgil

Mary Wollstonecraft

 

 

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