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Pantisocracy

"Pantisocracy" was an ideal utopia conceived by Romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. Coleridge and Southey married two sisters, and developed the idea that they could establish a perfect society on the Eastern shores of America. Although their project never came to fruition, it stands as one of the most intriguing and ambitious undertakings of the Romantic years between the first and second Romantic generations. It also represents the changing ideology of the British Empire during the era.

For Coleridge and Southey to envision a perfect community of British intellectuals may have been justified, given the political upheavals that were part of the climate in the Britain of their time. However, their ease in appropriating American territory to do so suggests they considered their English sensibilities to be superior to other modes of thought. It also reveals a British willingness to subjugate lands that were property of other peoples' nations. The Pantisocracy was subject to ridicule among their contemporaries, but the ideology behind it is indicative of a telling sense of moral and ethical superiority.

It is possible that the establishment of a Pantisocracy could have created an environment in which Coleridge and Southey may have been an environment in which they could have produced more significant and valuable works. However, the Orientalist reflections of Byron, and the aesthetic historical ponderings of Keats, while arguably imperialist in themselves, proved to be greater troves of literary treasure than the conception of a perfected Britain on foreign shores.

Jody Dunville






Select Bibliography

McKusick, James. "'Wisely forgetful': Coleridge and the Politics of Pantisocracy." in Romanticism and Colonialism:
     Writing and Empire 1780-1830.
Tim Fulford and Peter J. Kitson, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press,
      1998. Print.