Last year, the BBC’s Inside Out West took a stroll along the Coleridge Way with Ian and Ozy to celebrate the bicentenary of Coleridge’s ‘dream’ poem Kubla Khan.

It was two hundred years since Coleridge published Kubla Khan and gave some indication of the history behind it.

The poem was written in the summer of 1797, the year Coleridge moved to Nether Stowey, and he had taken a short walking holiday to Lynton. On his way, Coleridge found himself unwell with ‘a dysentery’ and in need of a bed for the night. The exact location of this bed has been the subject of a great deal of speculation, but a scrap of paper found by Coleridge stated that the poem was written ‘at a farm house between Porlock and Lynton, a quarter of a mile from Culbone Church’.  How accurate this is is debatable and there are a number of contenders for the exact location with Ash and Parsonage Farms being in the forefront.

Because of his illness, Coleridge had been prescribed an ‘anodyne’ (painkiller) – two grains of opium, causing him to fall into three hours of a profound sleep. However, moments before nodding off he had been reading Samuel Purchas’ ‘Pilgrimage’, a series of religious travel stories, and the words ‘Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were enclosed with a wall.’

As soon as Coleridge woke up he grabbed paper, pen and ink and scribbled down the half-dreamed poem.

The plan was to write a two to three hundred line epic. However, Coleridge was interrupted by the now famous ‘person on business from Porlock’ and by the time he got back to writing he had forgotten the rest of the poem and Kubla Khan was to remain a fragment of some 54 lines only.

So who was this ‘person from Porlock’?

Some suggest that there was no such person and Coleridge made him (or her) up to excuse his lack of memory or inability to finish the poem. In fact the ‘person from Porlock’ has now become a metaphor for writer’s block. Others say that the PFP could have been Coleridge’s pharmaceutical supplier. Whoever interrupted Coleridge, it has spawned numerous theories, stories and plays and we will never know.