WEDGWOOD, Josiah. Part of an Autograph letter Signed by Josiah Wedgwood to Samuel Coleridge. [no place no date].
Section of an autograph letter signed 'Josiah Wedgwood' to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Josiah II (1769-1843) was left his father's factory on the death of the first Josiah in 1795. He was a partner from 1790-1841, and took over active management of the company in 1805. Josiah tried hard to carry on what his father had started and introduced a number of new lines, such as bone china and blue printed ware to the factory’s output. Although he owned land in Surrey, Josiah became the first Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent in 1832 and was a committed abolitionist. In 1792, he married the eldest daughter of the Squire of Cresselly - Elizabeth 'Bessie' Allen, and so moved even further away from the social class into which he had been born. They made their home at Maer Hall in Staffordshire where they raised 10 children, one of whom was Emma, the future wife of her cousin Charles Darwin. Indeed, Josiah II is usually credited with persuading his brother-in-law, Robert Waring Darwin to allow Charles to take part in the voyage of 'The Beagle'.
Wedgwood's friendship with Coleridge began when he wrote in December 1797 offering his a gift of £100. Coleridge was considering an incumbency at the Unitarian Chapel in Shrewsbury and Wedgwood and his brother Thomas wanted to prevent his poetry being harmed by having to accept employment. Coleridge was touched but decided he could not accept the money, the brothers accepted his argument and instead gave him an annuity of £150. This started a correspondence between Coleridge and the two Wedgwoods which continued for many years.
After Thomas' death in 1805 he put provision in his will for the £75 to continue, however in 1812 Josiah ceased his payment. This has led many to accuse him of unfaithfulness. It is said that Josiah became disgusted with what he saw as Coleridge wasting his talent and with Coleridge's opium use. However the original grant of money was hoped to be independent of 'everything but the wreck of our fortune' and based on documents at the Wedgwood Museum it is estimated that Wedgwood lost over £120,000 in 1811. Wedgwood wrote to Coleridge explaining his situation, Coleridge understood, and it was agreed on each side that the payment stop. ('Coleridge and the Wedgwood Annuity', Griggs, E.L., The Review of English Studies Vol. 6, No. 21, January 1930, pp. 63-72).
Although the letter is only a brief fragment it does express something of the original closeness of their friendship. Wedgwood expresses a hope to 'see & know more of you' and asks to be remembered to Mrs Coleridge.