A Person From Pullach
Since I mentioned Coleridge, I thought I would bring up my personal headcanon about one of the little mysteries of his life: the “Person from Porlock” The poem Kubla Khan came to Coleridge as a vision in a dream, the result of a book he had been reading on Mongol history, combined with the effects of the opium he had taken the night before. The poet woke up and began to compose a poem based on his dream. But after he had written the lines we now have, he was interrupted by a visitor. This “Person on business from Porlock” so distracted Coleridge that he forgot the rest of his dream, and the poem remained incomplete.
The identity of this visitor is a perfect miniature mystery, intriguing and yet totally inconsequential. The mundane answer is that there quite possibly was no visitor, and Coleridge just wanted an excuse for publishing a poem with an unusual structure. Or it was Wordsworth or another friend popping in.
Wild speculation is much more entertaining, though. So there’s one theory that “a person on business” was Coleridge’s way to hint that it was his dealer, stopping by to top up his supplies of poetry-inducing opium. And for anybody writing historical or time-travel fiction, this is the perfect opportunity to get their character some face-time with a poet. So Ada Lovelace has been the Person from Porlock. Doctor Who has been the Person from Porlock. Douglas Adams even wrote a book where his protagonist becomes the Person from Porlock – in order to save Coleridge and the world from an extraterrestrial ghost.
My personal headcanon is that Coleridge’s visitor was, in fact, a Person from Pullach. Pullach is a suburb of Munich which, until recently, housed the headquarters of the German intelligence services. In my fantasy Germany has developed time travel. Prevented by paradox from killing Hitler, the spooks are instead zipping through history tinkering around the edges. One of them is a fan of Coleridge – why not, he was a Germanophile who translated Schiller and allegedly even understood Kant. So he shows up at the poet’s door, and inadvertently robs us of the remainder of Kubla Khan.
Bonus alternate history: I’ve been idly imagining a timeline in which Israel is not created, but the Zionists do instead succeed in colonizing Mars.