This book is about the sources Coleridge used to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Earlier scholars have believed that Coleridge’s inspiration came from the books he read. But a more plausible explanation comes from the fact that his mathematics teacher, William Wales, sailed to the Arctic to observe the transit of Venus and circumnavigated the Antarctic as the navigator on Captain Cook’s second voyage. On his return Wales related his experiences — and his pupil, Coleridge, parlayed many of them into the Ancient Mariner.
With painstaking research, Wellington author Bill Whelen has used hitherto unpublished writings by William Wales, recently published journals kept on the voyage, and other sources to support and extend the work of earlier scholars. His book is an engrossing read on its own account, with its vivid details of Cook & company’s encounters — and a fascinating insight into this much-loved poem. It will also interest readers who study the history of science and maritime history.