John Chester

John Chester was a local Stowey man. Uneducated and shy, he regularly accompanied Coleridge and his literary friends on their walks (William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, the Wedgwood potter brothers, William and Dorothy Wordsworth of Alfoxden, Holford, Humphry Davy, Tom Poole the Stowey tanner etc), but was never allowed to enter their charmed circle. He was in awe of Coleridge but the two were devoted to each other.

John Chester
Dun-breeched, brown jacketed.
Apple-faced, shambling, stumbling to keep pace.
Hazlitt whispers he should carry a stick in his mouth,
Wordsworth that he sniffs each Quantock oak then lifts a leg.
John Chester
Obediently scuttling back to Stowey to retrieve a manuscript.

John Chester
A dull country sparrow, stalking gaudy cockatoos.
His workaday chirrup no match for their exotic chatter.
Failing to fathom lofty metaphysics,
Fearing to step on a stick lest he break the faery trance.
John Chester
Silent, jaw hanging loose, thinking Coleridge is a wonderful man.

John Chester
Steers Coleridge’s hand from a poisoned mushroom.
Shows the bank that gave stone for Poole’s new tan house.
Slips money to the Lime Street butcher for penniless Sara,
Snares coneys to fill Dorothy’s Alfoxden pie.
John Chester
Sips laudanum to delve the labyrinths of Coleridge’s skull.

I would be John Chester
Dig the poet’s patch, cradle his throbbing face, bark, carry a bone.
I would be John Chester
for one half-hour of Coleridge’s company.

About Terence Sackett

I am a writer and designer. I live in Nether Stowey, which is on the borders of the Quantock hills. I am a committee member of the Friends of Coleridge, and wrote and designed the booklet/visitor guide for the National Trust’s Coleridge Cottage. I look after the website for the Friends ( My novel about Siamese twins titled ‘Riven is now on Kindle. It can be read with a free downloaded Kindle app for an iPad, smartphone, tablet, or computer. The book is available from Amazon. What’s it about? Brief blurb below: It is the story of the Victorian painter Thomas Tait Genoa and his desperate flight through the West Country to save his conjoined twin daughters from the surgeon’s knife. This was before the era of anaesthetics. A 5-start bAmazon review: 'A masterpiece, truly deserving of the five star rating I have given it. The very human experience described so eloquently could not fail to tug at the heart of any parent who has ever gazed on a poorly child in the dark hours of the night and anguished over what to do for the best. This novel might be set in a very particular time and space but the heartfelt emotions of the protagonists are timeless, I have no hesitation in recommending this wonderful work to anyone who has a heart.
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