Project Gutenberg's The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, by James Gillman This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1838 Author: James Gillman Posting Date: April 8, 2014 [EBook #8957] Release Date: September, 2005 First Posted: August 20, 2003 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LIFE OF SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE *** Produced by Clytie Siddall, Stan Goodman, and Distributed Proofreaders
'... But some to higher hopes
Were destined; some within a finer mould
Were wrought, and temper'd with a purer flame:
To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds
The world's harmonious volume, there to read
The transcript of himself ....'
Table of Contents
"And if he shall now be demanded, as once Pompey's poor bondman was, who art thou that alone hast the honour to bury the body of Pompey the great?"so who is he who would thus erect a funeral pile to the memory of the honoured dead? ...
"I was," says he, "the last child, the youngest child of ten by the same mother, that is to say, John, William (who died in infancy), James, William, Edward, George, Luke, Ann, Francis, and myself, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, beneficially abridged Esteese i. e. S. T. C., and the thirteenth, taking in three sisters by my dear father's first wife, — Mary, afterwards Mrs. Bradley, — Sarah, who married a seaman and is lately dead, and Elizabeth, afterwards Mrs. Phillips — who alone was bred up with us after my birth, and whom alone of the three I was wont to think of as a sister, though not exactly, yet I did not know why, the same sort of sister, as my sister Nancy.Judge Buller who had been educated by his father, had always promised to adopt the son, at least to educate him, foreseeing that Samuel, the youngest, was likely to be left an orphan early in life.
Being the youngest child, I possibly inherited the weakly state of health of my father, who died at the age of 62, before I had reached my seventh year; and from certain jealousies of old Molly, my brother Frank's dotingly fond nurse, (and if ever child by beauty and loveliness deserved to be doted on, my brother Francis was that child,) and by the infusions of her jealousy into my brother's mind, I was in earliest childhood huffed away from the enjoyments of muscular activity from play, to take refuge at my mother's side, on my little stool, to read my little book, and to listen to the talk of my elders. I was driven from life in motion, to life in thought and sensation. I never played except by myself, and then only acting over what I had been reading or fancying, or half one, half the other, with a stick cutting down weeds and nettles, as one of the seven champions of Christendom5.
Alas! I had all the simplicity, all the docility of the little child, but none of the child's habits. I never thought as a child, never had the language of a child. I forget whether it was in my fifth or sixth year, but I believe the latter, in consequence of some quarrel between me and my brother, in the first week in October, I ran away from fear of being whipped, and passed the whole night, a night of rain and storm, on the bleak side of a hill on the Otter, and was there found at daybreak, without the power of using my limbs, about six yards from the naked bank of the river."
"In my seventh year, about the same time, if not the very same time, i.e. Oct. 4th, my most dear, most revered father, died suddenly. O that I might so pass away, if like him I were an Israelite without guile. The image of my father, my revered, kind, learned, simple-hearted father is a religion to me!"
"Depressed, moping, friendless, poor orphan, half starved; (at that time the portion of food to the Bluecoats was cruelly insufficient for those who had no friends to supply them)."In the late Mr. Charles Lamb's Works published in 1818, there is an account of the school, entitled Recollections of Christ's Hospital. In 1823 there is a second essay on the same subject by Lamb, under the assumed title of "Elia," — Elia supposed to be intimate with Lamb and Coleridge. This second account, entitled Christ's Hospital five-and-thirty years ago, gave umbrage to some of the "Blues," as they termed themselves, as differing so much from the first in full praise of this valuable foundation, and particularly as a school from which he had benefited so much.
"What he (Elia) tells of himself is often true only (historically) of another; when under the first person he shadows forth the forlorn state of a country boy placed at a London school far from his friends and connexions,"which is in direct opposition to Lamb's own early history. The second account, under the personification of Elia, is drawn from the painful recollections and sufferings of Coleridge while at school, which I have often heard him relate.
"I remember," says Elia, "Lamb at school, and can well recollect that he had some peculiar advantages, which I and others of his schoolfellows had not. His friends lived in town and were at hand, and he had the privilege of going to see them almost as often as he wished, through some invidious distinction which was denied to us. The present treasurer of the Inner Temple can explain how it happened. He had his tea and hot rolls in the morning, while we were battening upon our quarter of penny loaf — our crug moistened with attenuated small beer in wooden piggins, smacking of the pitched leathern jack it was poured from. On Monday's milk porritch, blue and tasteless, and the pease-soup of Saturday, coarse and choking, were enriched for him with a slice of 'extraordinary bread and butter,' from the hot-loaf of the Temple. The Wednesday's mess of millet, somewhat less repugnant — (we had three banyan to four meat-days in the week) — was endeared to his palate with a lump of double-refined, and a smack of ginger, (to make it go down the more glibly) or the fragrant cinnamon. In lieu of our half-pickled Sundays, or quite fresh boiled beef on Thursdays, (strong as caro equina), with detestable marigolds floating in the pail to poison the broth — our scanty mutton crags on Fridays — and rather more savoury, but grudging, portions of the same flesh, rotten-roasted or rare, on the Tuesdays (the only dish which excited our appetites, and disappointed our stomachs, in almost equal proportion) he had his hot plate of roast veal, or the more tempting griskin (exotics unknown to our palates), cooked in the paternal kitchen.In short, nearly the whole of this essay of Elia's is a transcript of Coleridge's account of the school. 'Never was a friend or schoolfellow more fondly attached to another than Lamb to Coleridge. The latter from his own account, as well as from Lamb and others who knew him when at school, must have been a delicate and suffering boy. His principal ailments he owed much to the state of his stomach, which was at that time so delicate, that when compelled to go to a large closet (shoe-bin, its school name,) containing shoes, to pick out a pair easy to his feet, which were always tender, and he required shoes so large that he could walk in them, rather than with them, and the smell, from the number in this place, used to make him so sick, that I have often seen him shudder, even in late life, when he gave an account of it. In this note, continuing an account of himself at school, he says,
"I (Coleridge) was a poor friendless boy, my parents, and those who should have cared for me, were far away. Those few acquaintances of their's, which they could reckon upon being kind to me in the great city, after a little forced notice, which they had the grace to take of me on my first arrival in town, soon grew tired of my holiday visits. They seemed to them to recur too often, though I thought them few enough; one after another, they all failed me, and I felt myself alone among six hundred playmates — O the cruelty of separating a poor lad from his early homestead! The yearnings which I used to have towards it in those unfledged years! How in my dreams would my native town come back (far in the west) with its churches and trees and faces! To this late hour of my life, and even to the end of it did Coleridge trace impressions left by the painful recollection of these friendless holidays. The long warm days of summer never return but they bring with them a gloom from the haunting memory of those whole day's leave, when by some strange arrangement, we were turned out for the live-long day, upon our own hands whether we had friends to go to or none. I remember those bathing excursions to the New River, which Lamb recalls with such relish, better, I think, than he can — for he was a home-seeking lad, and did not care for such water-parties. How we would sally forth into the fields; and strip under the first warmth of the sun; and wanton like young dace in the streams; getting appetites for the noon; which those of us that were penny less (our scanty morning crust long since exhausted) had not the means of allaying — while the cattle, and the birds, and the fishes were at feed about us, and we had nothing to satisfy our cravings; the very beauty of the day, and the exercise of the pastime, and the sense of liberty setting a keener edge upon them! How faint and languid, finally, we would return toward nightfall to our desired morsel, half-rejoicing, half-reluctant, that the hours of uneasy liberty had expired.
"It was worse in the days of winter, to go prowling about the streets objectless; shivering at cold windows of print-shops, to extract a little amusement; or haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a little novelty, to pay a fifty times repeated visit (where our individual faces would be as well known to the warden as those of his own charges) to the lions in the Tower, to whose levee, by courtesy immemorial, we had a prescriptive right of admission."
"From eight to fourteen I was a playless day-dreamer, a helluo librorum, my appetite for which was indulged by a singular incident: a stranger, who was struck by my conversation, made me free of a circulating library in King Street, Cheapside."The incident, indeed, was singular: going down the Strand, in one of his day-dreams, fancying himself swimming across the Hellespont, thrusting his hands before him as in the act of swimming, his hand came in contact with a gentleman's pocket; the gentleman seized his hand, turning round and looking at him with some anger, "What! so young, and so wicked?" at the same time accused him of an attempt to pick his pocket; the frightened boy sobbed out his denial of the intention, and explained to him how he thought himself Leander, swimming across the Hellespont. The gentleman was so struck and delighted with the novelty of the thing, and with the simplicity and intelligence of the boy, that he subscribed, as before stated, to the library, in consequence of which Coleridge was further enabled to indulge his love of reading.
"O Lord, have mercy on me!the school name for ringworm. He was to be found during play-hours often with the knees of his breeches unbuttoned, and his shoes down at the heel7, walking to and fro, or sitting on a step, or in a corner, deeply engaged in some book. This had attracted the notice of Middleton, at that time a deputy grecian, and going up to him one day, asked what he was reading; the answer was "Virgil." "Are you then," said M. "studying your lesson?" "No," said C., "I am reading it for pleasure;" for he had not yet arrived at Virgil in his class studies. This struck Middleton as something so peculiar, that he mentioned it to the head master, as Coleridge was then in the grammar school (which is the lower part of the classical school), and doing the work of the lower boys. The Rev. James Bowyer, who was at that time head master, a quick discerning man, but hasty and severe, sent for the master of the grammar school, and inquired about Coleridge; from him he learnt that he was a dull and inapt scholar, and that he could not be made to repeat a single rule of syntax, although he would give a rule in his own way.
For I am very sad!
For why, good Lord? I've got the itch,
And eke I've got the tad,"
"I read," says he, "through the catalogue, folios and all, whether I understood them, or did not understand them, running all risks in skulking out to get the two volumes which I was entitled to have daily. Conceive what I must have been at fourteen; I was in a continual low fever. My whole being was, with eyes closed to every object of present sense, to crumple myself up in a sunny corner, and read, read, read; fancy myself on Robinson Crusoe's island, finding a mountain of plumb-cake, and eating a room for myself, and then eating it into the shapes of tables and chairs — hunger and fancy!"In his lad-hood he says,
"My talents and superiority made me for ever at the head in my routine of study, though utterly without the desire to be so; without a spark of ambition; and, as to emulation, it had no meaning for me; but the difference between me and my form-fellows, in our lessons and exercises, bore no proportion to the measureless difference between me and them in the wide, wild, wilderness of useless, unarranged book-knowledge and book-thoughts. Thank Heaven! it was not the age nor the fashion of getting up prodigies; but at twelve or fourteen I should have made as pretty a juvenile prodigy as was ever emasculated and ruined by fond and idle wonderment. Thank Heaven! I was flogged instead of flattered. However, as I climbed up the school, my lot was somewhat alleviated."When Coleridge arrived at the age of fifteen, he was, from the little comfort he experienced, very desirous of quitting the school, and, as he truly said, he had not a spark of ambition. Near the school there resided a worthy, and, in their rank of life, a respectable middle-aged couple. The husband kept a little shop, and was a shoemaker, with whom Coleridge had become intimate. The wife, also, had been kind and attentive to him, and this was sufficient to captivate his affectionate nature, which had existed from earliest childhood, and strongly endeared him to all around him. Coleridge became exceedingly desirous of being apprenticed to this man, to learn the art of shoemaking; and in due time, when some of the boys were old enough to leave the school, and be put to trade, Coleridge, being of the number, tutored his friend Crispin how to apply to the head master, and not to heed his anger should he become irate. Accordingly, Crispin applied at the hour proposed to see Bowyer; who, having heard the proposal to take Coleridge as an apprentice, and Coleridge's answer and assent to become a shoemaker, broke forth with his favourite adjuration, "'Ods my life, man, what d'ye mean?" At the sound of his angry voice, Crispin stood motionless, till the angry pedagogue becoming infuriate, pushed the intruder out of the room with such force, that Crispin might have sustained an action at law against him for an assault. Thus, to Coleridge's mortification and regret, as he afterwards in joke would say,
"Against my will," says he, "I was chosen by my master as one of those destined for the university; and about this time my brother Luke, or 'the Doctor,' so called from his infancy, because being the seventh son, he had, from his infancy, been dedicated to the medical profession, came to town to walk the London Hospital, under the care of Sir William Blizard. Mr. Saumarez, brother of the Admiral Lord Saumarez, was his intimate friend. Every Saturday I could make or obtain leave, to the London Hospital trudged I. O the bliss if I was permitted to hold the plasters, or to attend the dressings. Thirty years afterwards, Mr. Saumarez retained the liveliest recollections of the extraordinary, enthusiastic blue-coat boy, and was exceedingly affected in identifying me with that boy. I became wild to be apprenticed to a surgeon. English, Latin, yea, Greek books of medicine read I incessantly. Blanchard's Latin Medical Dictionary I had nearly by heart. Briefly, it was a wild dream, which gradually blending with, gradually gave way to a rage for metaphysics, occasioned by the essays on Liberty and Necessity in Cato's Letters, and more by theology. After I had read Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, I sported infidel! but my infidel vanity never touched my heart:"nor ever with his lips did he for a few months only support the new light given him by Voltaire.
"With my heart," says he, "I never did abandon the name of Christ."This reached Bowyer's ears, and he sent for him: not to reason with him, as teachers and parents do too often, and by this means as often increase the vanity of these tyro-would-be-philosophers; but he took the surest mode, if not of curing, at least of checking the disease. His argument was short and forcible.
"So, sirrah, you are an infidel, are you? then I'll flog your infidelity out of you;"and gave him the severest flogging he had ever received at his hands. This, as I have often heard Coleridge say, was the only just flogging he had ever given him: certainly, from all I ever heard of him, Bowyer was strictly a flogging master. Trollope, in his History of Christ's Hospital, page 137, says of him,
"His discipline was exact in the extreme, and tinctured, perhaps, with more than due severity."8Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria, after paying a just compliment to Bowyer as a teacher, says,
"The reader will, I trust, excuse this tribute of recollection to a man, whose severities, even now, not seldom furnish the dreams by which the blind fancy would fain interpret to the mind the painful sensation of distempered sleep, but neither lessen nor diminish the deep sense of my moral and intellectual obligations."He had his passionate days, which the boys described as the days he wore his Passy wig (passy abbreviated from passionate). "Sirrah! I'll flog you," were words so familiar to him, that on one occasion, some female relation or friend of one of the boys entered his room, when a class stood before him and inquired for Master — ; master was no school title with Bowyer. The errand of this lady being to ask a short leave of absence for some boy, on the sudden appearance in town of his country cousin, still lingering at the door, after having been abruptly told to go, Bowyer suddenly exclaimed, "Bring that woman here, and I'll flog her!"
"This theme was written at the age of fifteen: it does not contain a line that any schoolboy might not have written, and like most school-poetry, there is a putting of thoughts into verse. Yet such verses as a striving of mind and struggles after the intense and vivid, are a fair promise of better things."The same observation might be made in the intense application of his intellectual powers in search of truth, at the time he called himself an infidel; in this struggle of mind was the "fair promise of better things." It was the preparation necessary for such a mind; the breaking up and tilling of the soil for the successful germination of the seeds of truth.
"On the wide level of a mountain's head,in which may be traced the first dawnings of his genius. He pictures to himself a boy returning to school after the holidays; in his day-dreams making plans for the future, and anticipating the pleasure he is to enjoy on his return home; his vivid thoughts, and sanguine expectations "far outstripping" the reality of time as marked by the watch or almanack. Real time is personified as a blind boy steadily pursuing his path; whilst imaginary time is represented as a fleeting girl, looking back and listening for her brother whom she has outrun. Perhaps to Mr. Bowyer's excellent method of instruction may be attributed this early developement of his genius. Coleridge remarks of him,
(I knew not where, but 'twas some fairy place)
Their pinions, ostrich-like, for sails outspread,
Two lovely children run an endless race,
A sister and a brother!
That far outstripped the other;
Yet ever runs she with reverted face,
And looks and listens for the boy behind;
For he, alas! is blind!
O'er rough and smooth with even step he passed,
And knows not whether he be first or last."11
"He was an admirable educer, no less than educator of intellect; he taught me to leave out as many epithets as would make eight syllable lines, and then ask if the exercise would not be greatly improved."Although in this year he began to indulge in metaphysical speculations, he was wedded to verse, and many of his early poems were planned; some of which he finished, and they were published in the "Juvenile Poems," on his entry into life; but as many more were scattered among his friends, who had greatly increased in number. About this time he became acquainted with a widow lady,
"whose son," says he, "I, as upper boy, had protected, and who therefore looked up to me, and taught me what it was to have a mother. I loved her as such. She had three daughters, and of course I fell in love with the eldest. From this time to my nineteenth year, when I quitted school for Jesus, Cambridge, was the era of poetry and love."It has been observed, that about this sixteenth year, he first developed genius, and that during this early period of his life, his mind was incessantly toiling in the pursuit of knowledge. His love of reading seemed to have increased in proportion to his acquirements, which were equally great: his representing himself as an infidel was better perhaps understood by his master, who believed it to be only puerile vanity; and therefore Coleridge considered the flogging he received on this occasion, a just and appropriate punishment; and it was so, for as a boy he had not thought deep enough on an equally important point, viz., what is Fidelity, and how easily, he particularly might mistake the genuineness of sincere fidelity for mere outward forms, and the simple observance of customs. Perhaps I might have been disposed to pass over this era with a slighter notice, which he in his simplicity of character thought it right to record. He was always honest in every thing concerning himself, and never spared self-accusation, often, when not understood, to his own injury. He never from his boyhood to his latest life, received kindness without grateful feelings, and, when he believed it coupled with love, without the deepest sense of its value; and if the person possessed sensibility and taste, he repaid it tenfold. This was the experience of nearly twenty years intimate knowledge of his character.
"All thoughts, all passions, all delights,First love, so seldom the mature love of future days, is a flower of premature growth and developement, on which fancy exercises itself in castle-building, and is in unison with that age when youth flings his limbs about in the air, as an exercise to rid himself of the superfluous volition, the accumulation of which gives him a sensation of uneasiness; and these simple and unreserved accounts of Coleridge's infidelity, and also of his first love-fit, should be put down merely as mental exercises. The lines above quoted, belong, I have said, to the maturer mind; they are thoughts which, unlike the sportive dace on the surface of some calm lake, may rather be compared to the inhabitants of the deep waters beneath.
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of love,
And feed his sacred flame."
"How often will the loving heart and imaginative spirit of a young man mistake the projected creature of his own moral yearning, seen in the reflecting surface of the first not repulsive or vulgar female who treats him affectionately, for the realization of his idea. Reversing the order of the Genesis, he believes the female the original, and the outward reality and impressment of the self-constructed image, of the ideal! He most sincerely supposes himself in love — even in cases where the mistake might have been suspected by one curious fact — that his strongest emotions on love, were when absent from the imagined object. But the time comes, or may come, when the same feeling exists equally in presence and absence, in health and in sickness; when he verily is in love. And now he knows himself to be so, by the so being — he can even prove it to his own mind by his certainty, his intuition of the essential difference, as actually as it is uncommunicable, between it and its previous subjective counterfeits, and anticipations. Even so it is with friends. — O it is melancholy to think how the very forms and geniality of my affections, my belief of obligation, consequent gratitude and anxious sense of duty were wasted on the shadows of friendship. With few exceptions, I can almost say, that till I came to H — — , I never found what friends were — and doubtless, in more than one instance, I sacrificed substances who loved me, for semblances who were well pleased that I should love them, but who never loved nor inwardly respected ought but themselves. The distinction between the friends and the love is, that the latter we discover by itself to be, alone itself — for it is in its nature unique and exclusive. (See Improvvisatore in the Amulet of 1826 or 7).Had Coleridge in early or even in later life paid an insincere, because undeserved, deference to outward show, and to the surface opinions counterfeiting depth, so attractive to the superficial observer — added to which, had he possessed a portion of that self-regarding policy which frequently aids success — he might have been idolized where he was neglected, and rewarded, if I might so profane this word, with high worldly honours in other quarters. But it was otherwise; and could a crown of gold have been offered him for the crown of glory of which he was in earnest search, he would have refused the exchange. The difference between time and eternity had already taken root, and he felt the mighty import of these words too strongly to have lost sight of their practical use; all that his health and powers would allow him to acquire he did acquire, and freely gave all he had for the benefit of others.
"But of the former we discover the genuineness by comparison and experience — the reason is obvious — in the instances in which the person imagined himself to be in love with another (I use this phrase 'be in love with' for the want of any other; for, in fact, from the absence in our language of any appropriate exponent of the thing meant), it is a delusion in toto. But, in the other instance, the one half (i.e. the person's own feelings and sense of duty with acts accordant) remains the same (ex. gr. S.T.C. could not feel more deeply, nor from abatement of nervous life by age and sickness so ardently) he could not feel, think, and act with a more entire devotion, to I.G. or to H.G. than he did to W.W. and to R.S., yet the latter were and remain most honourable to his judgment. Their characters, as moral and intellectual beings, give a dignity to his devotion; and the imperishable consciousness of his devout and almost enthusiastic attachment to them, still sanctifies their names, and makes the men holy and revered to him."12
"From the exuberance of my animal spirits, when I had burst forth from my misery and moping and the indiscretions resulting from those spirits — ex. gr. swimming over the New River in my clothes, and remaining in them; — full half the time from seventeen to eighteen was passed in the sick-ward of Christ's Hospital, afflicted with jaundice and rheumatic fever."From these indiscretions and their consequences may be dated all his bodily sufferings in future life: in short, rheumatism sadly afflicting him, while the remedies only slightly alleviated his sufferings, without hope of a permanent cure; though confined to his bed, his mind, ever active, still allowed him time to continue the exercise of his intellectual powers, and afforded him leisure for contemplation. Medical men are too often called upon to witness the effects of acute rheumatism in the young subject: in some, the attack is on the heart, and its consequences are immediate; in others, it leaves behind bodily sufferings, which may indeed be palliated, but terminate only in a lingering dissolution.
"He early moulded my taste to the preference of Demosthenes to Cicero, of Homer and Theocritus to Virgil, and again of Virgil to Ovid. He habituated me to compare Lucretius, (in such extracts as I then read,) Terence, and, above all, the chaster poems of Catullus, not only with the Roman poets of the, so called, silver and brazen ages; but with even those of the Augustan æra: and, on grounds of plain sense and universal logic, to see and assert the superiority of the former in the truth and nativeness, both of their thoughts and diction. At the same time that we were studying the Greek tragic poets, he made us read Shakespeare and Milton as lessons; and they were lessons too, which required most time and trouble to bring up so as to escape his censure. I learnt from him that Poetry, even that of the loftiest, and, seemingly wildest odes, had a logic of its own, as severe as that of science; and more difficult, because more subtle, more complex, and dependent on more, and more fugitive causes."In early life he was remarkably joyous; nature had blessed him with a buoyancy of spirits, and even when suffering, he deceived the partial observer. He delighted many of the strangers he met in his saunterings through the cloisters, arrested and riveted the attention of the passer by, whom, like his "Ancient Mariner," he held by a spell. His schoolfellow, Lamb, has mentioned him, when under the influence of this power, as the delight of his auditors. In the Elia, he says,
"Come back into memory like as thou wert in the dayspring of thy fancies, with hope, like a fiery column before thee, the dark pillar not yet turned ... How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand still, entranced with admiration, (while he weighed the disproportion between the speech and the garb of the mirandula,) to hear thee unfold, in deep and sweet intonations, the mysteries of Iamblichus14 or Plotinus, (for even in those years thou waxedst not pale at such philosophic draughts); or reciting Homer in his Greek, or Pindar, while the walls of the old Grey-Friars re-echoed to the accents."Middleton was not prepared to sympathise in these flights, considering them subversive of the dignity of a Grecian.15 Middleton was then on the threshold of the College, and lads in this situation seemed called upon, to preserve with dignity their honours, and with more outward forms than suited their age. This at the time rendered them stiff and unfamiliar, so much so, that within the walls, and in the neighbourhood, it was mistaken for pride, and the words "Proud as a Grecian," were proverbial. These boys had the dignity of their rising prospects therefore to support — they were the aristocracy of the school. This was a task ill suited to Coleridge; and his flights of fancy, as Lamb termed them, would only produce a shrug of Middleton's shoulders, and a dread at the prospect of the falling dignity of the school. Middleton's Poem, in Mr. Trollope's16 History of Christ's Hospital, and its companion that of Coleridge, characterize the two youths, and plainly point out that the selection of these poems was influenced more by a merit belonging purely to talent than from any display of genius in either. The verses of Middleton are more indicative of strength than of power; they are the verses of a well-tutored youth, of commanding talents. Those of Coleridge show more of fancy, but do not exhibit the power he possessed at that age, which will be seen by comparing this poem with many written by him at an earlier period, and now published among his Juvenile Poems. Middleton being older than Coleridge was elected first, viz. 26th September, 1788, to Pembroke College, Cambridge. Coleridge left Christ's Hospital for Jesus' College, Cambridge, 7th September, 1790,17 taking leave of his school-fellows in the following sonnet: —
Farewell, parental scenes! a sad farewell!Poetical Works, vol. i. p. 31.
To you my grateful heart still fondly clings,
Tho' fluttering round on Fancy's burnish'd wings,
Her tales of future joy Hope loves to tell.
Adieu, adieu! ye much loved cloisters pale!
Ah! would those happy days return again,
When 'neath your arches, free from every stain,
I heard of guilt, and wonder'd at the tale!
Dear haunts! where oft my simple lays I sang,
Listening meanwhile the echoings of my feet,
Lingering I quit you, with as great a pang,
As when ere while, my weeping childhood, torn
By early sorrow from my native seat,
Mingled its tears with hers — my widow'd parent lorn.
"When I was first plucked up and transplanted from my birth place and family, at the death of my dear father, whose revered image has ever survived in my mind, to make me know what the emotions and affections of a son are, and how ill a father's place is likely to be supplied by any other relation. Providence (it has often occurred to me) gave the first intimation, that it was my lot, and that it was best for me, to make or find my way of life a detached individual, a Terræ Filius, who was to ask love or service of no one on any more specific relation than that of being a man, and as such to take my chance for the free charities of humanity."return
... the childhood shews the man, As morning shews the day ...Paradise Regained, book iv. v. 220.
"Thought and attention very different things. — I never expected the German (viz. selbst-mühige Erzeugung dessen, wovon meine Rede war) from the readers of the Friend. — I did expect the latter, and was disappointed."MS. Note.
"This is a most important distinction, and in the new light afforded by it to my mind, I see more plainly why mathematics cannot be a substitute for Logic, much less for Metaphysics — i.e. transcendental Logic, and why therefore Cambridge has produced so few men of genius and original power since the time of Newton. — Not only it does not call forth the balancing and discriminating powers (that I saw long ago), but it requires only attention, not thought or self-production.
"In a long-brief Dream-life of regretted regrets, I still find a noticeable space marked out by the Regret of having neglected the Mathematical Sciences. No week, few days pass unhaunted by a fresh conviction of the truth involved in the Platonic Superstition over the Portal of Philosophy,
But surely Philosophy hath scarcely sustained more detriment by its alienation from mathematics."
"In my friendless wanderings on our leave-days, i.e. the Christ Hospital phrase, not for holidays altogether, but for those on which the boys are permitted to go beyond the precincts of the school (for I was an orphan, and had scarce any connexions in London), highly was I delighted, if any passenger, especially if he drest in black, would enter into conversation with me; for soon I found the means of directing it to my favourite subjects —returnOf Providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate, Fix'd fate, free will, fore-knowledge absolute, And found no end, in wandering mazes lost."
"From this book" (a book in which the boys were allowed to copy their verses when considered good) "the verses referred to in the text were inscribed."They will be found in the Literary Remains, vol. i, p.33. Trollope says,
"These verses are copied not as one of the best, but of the earliest productions of the writer."return
"I have been in the habit," says Coleridge, "of considering the qualities of intellect, the comparative eminence in which characterizes individuals and even countries, under four kinds, — genius, talent, sense, and cleverness. The first I use in the sense of most general acceptance, as the faculty which adds to the existing stock of power and knowledge by new views, new combinations, by discoveries not accidental, but anticipated, or resulting from anticipation."Friend, vol. iii. p. 85, edit. 18181.
"There's no philosopher but seesCombustibles composed of such ardent and evil spirits soon blaze out; yet the evil does not stop when the blaze has ceased; it leaves an excitement which is constantly disclosing itself in a restless morbid vanity, a craving for distinction, and a love of applause, in its way as dangerous as the thirst of gain, and the worship of the mammon of unrighteousness.
That rage and fear are one disease;
Tho' that may burn, and this may freeze,
They're both alike tho ague."
"The opposition mistook the moral character of the revolution; the ministers mistook its force: and both parties, from pique, resentment, pride, habit, and obstinacy, persisted in acting on these mistakes after they were disabused by experience. Mr. Burke alone avoided both these fatal mistakes. He saw both the malignity and the strength of the revolution. But where there was wisdom to discover the truth, there was not power, and perhaps there was not practical skill, to make that wisdom available for the salvation of Europe. — Diis aliter visum! My fortune has been in some respects very singular. I have lately read the lives and private correspondence of some of the most memorable men in different countries of Europe, who are lately dead.4 Klopstock, Kant, Lavater, Alfieri, they were all filled with joy and hope by the French revolution — they clung to it for a longer or a shorter time — they were compelled to relinquish their illusions. The disappointment of all was bitter, but it showed itself in various modes, according to the variety of their characters. The series of passions growing out of that disappointment, was the not very remote cause of the death of Lavater. In the midst of society, Alfieri buried himself in misanthropic solitude; and the shock, which awakened him from the dreams of enthusiasm, darkened and shortened his days. In the mean time the multitude, comprehending not only those who have neither ardour of sensibility, nor compass of understanding to give weight to their suffrage, but those also whom accident had not brought into close and perpetual contact with the events, were insensibly detached from the revolution; and, before they were well aware that they had quitted their old position, they found themselves at the antipodes."The excitement which this state of things produced might have been highly advantageous to some, and even quickened their intellectual powers, particularly those destined either for the bar or the senate, but certainly not those intended for the church.
"In his second year he stood for the Craven scholarship — a university scholarship, for which under-graduates of any standing are entitled to become candidates. This was in the winter of 1792. Out of sixteen or eighteen competitors, a selection of four were to contend for the prize, and these four were Dr. Butler, late head-master of Shrewsbury, Dr. Keate, the late head-master of Eton6, Dr. Bethell, the present Bishop of Bangor, and Coleridge. Dr. Butler was the successful candidate."Coleridge always spoke of this decision as having been in every way just, and due to Butler's merit as a clever and industrious scholar.
"But pause a moment," says this writer, "in Coleridge's History, and think of him at this period! Butler! Keate Bethell! and Coleridge! How different the career of each in future life! O Coleridge, through what strange paths did the meteor of genius lead thee! Pause a moment, ye distinguished men! and deem it not the least bright spot in your happier career, that you and Coleridge were once rivals, and for a moment running abreast in the pursuit of honour. I believe that his disappointment at this crisis damped his ardour. Unfortunately, at that period, there was no classical tripos; so that, if a person did not obtain the classical medal, he was thrown back among the totally undistinguished; and it was not allowable to become a candidate for the classical medal, unless you had taken a respectable degree in mathematics. Coleridge had not the least taste for these, and here his case was hopeless; so that he despaired of a Fellowship, and gave up what in his heart he coveted — college honours and a college life. He had seen Middleton (late Bishop of Calcutta) quit Pembroke under similar circumstances. Not quite similar, because Middleton had studied mathematics so as to take a respectable degree, and to enable him to try for the medal; but he failed, and therefore all hopes failed of a Fellowship — most fortunately, as it proved in after-life, for Middleton, though he mourned at the time most deeply, and exclaimed — 'I am Middleton, which is another name for misfortune!'If, as Shakespeare observes, "there be a providence which shapes our ends," such words as "fortunate" or "unfortunate," in their customary use, will be found, on closer attention, and deeper thought, worthless and full of error. We have each our part allotted to us in the great drama of life.'There is a Providence which shapes our ends,That which Middleton deemed a misfortune drew him from the cobwebs of a college library to the active energies of a useful and honoured life."
Rough-hew them how we will.'
"When he quitted college, which he did before he had taken a degree, in a moment of mad-cap caprice, and in an inauspicious hour!Then came another disturbing cause, which altered the course of his path in life, and this was Frend's trial8.'When,' as Coleridge says, 'I left the friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever-honoured Jesus' College, Cambridge.'Short, but deep and heartfelt reminiscence! In a Literary Life of himself, this short memorial is all that Coleridge gives of his happy days at college. Say not that he did not obtain, and did not wish to obtain, classical honours! He did obtain them, and was eagerly ambitious of them7; but he did not bend to that discipline which was to qualify him for the whole course. He was very studious, but his reading was desultory and capricious. He took little exercise merely for the sake of exercise; but he was ready at any time to unbend his mind in conversation; and, for the sake of this, his room (the ground-floor room on the right hand of the staircase facing the great gate,) was a constant rendezvous of conversation-loving friends; I will not call them loungers, for they did not call to kill time, but to enjoy it. What evenings have I spent in those rooms! What little suppers, or sizings, as they were called, have I enjoyed; when Æschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons, &c. to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon, a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before us. Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim."
"During it," to resume the quotation, "pamphlets swarmed from the press. Coleridge had read them all; and in the evening, with our negus, we had them vivâ voce gloriously."Coleridge has recorded that he was a Socinian till twenty-five. Be not startled, courteous reader! nor ye who knew him only in his later life, if the impetuous zeal and ardour of his mind in early youth led him somewhat wide of those fixed principles which he adopted in riper years.
"If aught of error or intemperate truthThere is one incident very characteristic of him, which took place during this trial. The trial was observed by Coleridge, to be going against Frend, when some observation or speech was made in his favour; a dying hope thrown out as it appeared to Coleridge who, in the midst of the Senate, whilst sitting on one of the benches, extended his hands and clapped them. The Proctor in a loud voice demanded who had committed this indecorum. Silence ensued. The Proctor in an elevated tone, said to a young man sitting near Coleridge, "'Twas you, sir!" The reply was as prompt as the accusation; for, immediately holding out the stump of his right arm, it appeared that he had lost his hand, — "I would, sir," said he, "that I had the power." — That no innocent person should incur blame, Coleridge went directly afterwards to the Proctor, who told him that he saw him clap his hands, but fixed on this person who he knew had not the power. "You have had," said he, "a narrow escape."
Should meet thine ear, think thou that riper age
Will calm it down, and let thy love forgive it!"
"A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,Such "viper thoughts" did at this time coil around his mind, and were for him "Reality's dark Dream." In this state of mind he suddenly left Cambridge for London, and strolled about the streets till night came on, and then rested himself on the steps of a house in Chancery Lane, in a reverie of tumultuous feelings, speculating on the future. In this situation, overwhelmed with his own painful thoughts, and in misery himself, he had now to contend with the misery of others — for he was accosted by various kinds of beggars importuning him for money, and forcing on him their real or pretended sorrows. To these applicants he emptied his pockets of his remaining cash. Walking along Chancery Lane in the morning, he noticed a bill posted on the wall, "Wanted a few smart lads for the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons;" — he paused a moment, and said to himself,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear."
"Well, I have had all my life a violent antipathy to soldiers and horses, the sooner I can cure myself of these absurd prejudices the better, and I will enlist in this regiment."Forthwith he went as directed to the place of enlistment. On his arrival, he was accosted by an old sergeant, with a remarkably benevolent countenance, to whom he stated his wish. The old man looking at him attentively, asked him if he had been in bed? On being answered in the negative, he desired him to take his, made him breakfast, and bade him rest himself awhile, which he did. This feeling sergeant finding him refreshed in his body, but still suffering apparently from melancholy, in kind words begged him to be of good cheer, and consider well the step he was about to take; gave him half a guinea, which he was to repay at his convenience, with a desire at the same time that he would go to the play, and shake off his melancholy, and not return to him. The first part of the advice Coleridge attended to, but returned after the play to the quarters he had left. At the sight of him, this kind-hearted man burst into tears — "Then it must be so," said he. This sudden and unexpected sympathy from an entire stranger deeply affected Coleridge, and nearly shook his resolution; still considering the die was cast, and that he could not in honour even to the sergeant, without implicating him, retreat, he preserved his secret, and after a short chat, they retired to rest.
"No, Coleridge, this will not do, we have been seeking you these six months; I must and will converse with you, and have no hesitation in declaring that I shall immediately inform your friends that I have found you."This led to Coleridge's return to Cambridge. The same story is also related and made the ground work of some scene in a novel, without the names, by his early friend, Charles Lloyd — he who was included by Canning in the Anti-jacobin with Coleridge, Mr. Southey, and Lamb. He returned to Cambridge, but did not long remain there; and quitted it without taking a degree.
"My academic adventures and indiscretions must have seemed unpardonable sins," that is, as they were related by the tale-bearers and gossips of the day. "I mention these," adds he, "because the only immoralities that can without the grossest slander be laid to my charge, were all comprised within the space of the last two years of my College life. As I went to Cambridge innocent, so I dare affirm, from the first week of my acquaintance with Robert Southey to this hour, Southey himself cannot stand more clear of all intention at violations of the moral law: but, in fact, even during my career at Jesus, the heaviest of my offences consisted in the folly of assuming the show of vices, from which I was all but free, and which in the comparatively few exceptions left loathing and self-disgust on my mind. Were I, indeed, to fix on that week of my existence, in which my moral being would have presented to a pitying guardian angel the most interesting spectacle, it would be that very week13 in London, in which I was believed by my family to have abandoned myself to debauchery of all kinds, and thus to have involved myself in disreputable pecuniary embarrassments. God knows, so intense was my mental anguish, that during the whole time I was physically incapable even of a desire. My whole body seemed stunned and insensate, from excess of inward suffering — my debts were the cause, not the effect; but that I know there can be no substitute for a father, I should say, — surely, surely, the innocence of my whole pre and post academic life, my early distinction, and even the fact, that my Cambridge extravagations did not lose me, nor cool for me, the esteem and regard of a single fellow collegiate, might have obtained an amnesty from worse transgressions."Coleridge, who had desponded at the fate of Middleton, after the unsuccessful attempts he made to obtain a fellowship, lost all hope of procuring an income from the college, and as, through the instrumentality of Frend, with whom an intimacy had now taken place, he had been converted to what in these days is called Unitarianism, he was too conscientious to take orders and enter the Established Church. These circumstances opened to him new views, and effected a complete change in his course of life, and thus his former objects and plans were set aside. The friendship between Coleridge and Southey having greatly increased, and still continuing to increase, and Coleridge being easily led by the affection of those he loved, for which he had a constant yearning, determined to follow literature in future life as a profession, that appearing to him the only source of obtaining an honourable livelihood.
"Truth I pursued, as Fancy sketch'd the way,Men of the greatest sense and judgment possessing good hearts are, on the review of the past, more disposed to think well of the young men of that day, who, from not exercising their reason, were carried into the vortex of the revolution. Much has been written on the proposed scheme of settling in the wilds of America; — the spot chosen was Susquehannah, — this spot Coleridge has often said was selected, on account of the name being pretty and metrical, indeed he could never forbear a smile when relating the story. This day-dream, as he termed it, (for such it really was) the detail of which as related by him always gave it rather a sportive than a serious character, was a subject on which it is doubtful whether he or Mr. Southey were really in earnest at the time it was planned. The dream was, as is stated in the "Friend," that the little society to be formed was, in its second generation, to have combined the innocence of the patriarchal age with the knowledge and general refinements of European culture, and
And wiser men than I went worse astray."
"I dreamt," says he, "that in the sober evening of my life I should behold colonies of independence in the undivided dale of industry."Strange fancies! and as vain as strange! This scheme, sportive, however, as it might be, had its admirers; and there are persons now to be found, who are desirous of realizing these visions, the past-time in thought and fancy of these young poets — then about 23 years of age. During this dream, and about this time, Southey and Coleridge married two sisters of the name of Fricker, and a third sister was married to an Utopian poet as he has been called, of the name of Lovel, whose poems were published with Mr. Southey's. They were, however, too wise to leave Bristol for America, for the purpose of establishing a genuine system of property — a Pantisocracy, which was to be their form of government — and under which they were to realize all their new dreams of happiness. Marriage, at all events, seems to have sobered them down, and the vision vanished.
"The two following addresses were delivered in the month of February, 1795, and were followed by six others in defence of natural and revealed religion. 'There is a time to keep silence,' saith King Solomon; — but when I proceeded to the first verse of the fourth chapter of the Ecclesiastes, 'and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power,' I concluded this was not the 'time to keep silence;' for truth should be spoken at all times, but more especially at those times when to speak truth is dangerous."In these addresses he showed that the example of France was a warning to Great Britain; but, because he did not hold opinions equally violent with the Jacobin party of that day, he was put down as an anti-Jacobin; for, he says, "the annals of the French revolution have been recorded in letters of blood, that the knowledge of the few cannot counteract the ignorance of the many; that the light of philosophy, when it is confined to a small minority, points out its possessors as the victims, rather than the illuminators of the multitude. The patriots of France either hastened into the dangerous and gigantic error of making certain evils the means of contingent good, or were sacrificed by the mob, with whose prejudices and ferocity their unbending virtue forbade them to assimilate. Like Samson, the people were strong, like Samson, they were also blind:" and he admonishes them at the end of the third lecture to do all things in the spirit of love.
"It is worthy of remark," says he, in a MS. note, "that we may possess a thing in such fulness as to prevent its possession from being an object of distinct consciousness. Only as it lessens or dims, we reflect on it, and learn to value it. This is one main cause why young men of high and ardent minds find nothing repulsive in the doctrines of necessity, which, in after years, they (as I have) recoil from. Thus, too, the faces of friends dearly beloved become distinct in memory or dream only after long absence." Of the work itself he says, "Except the two or three pages involving the doctrine of philosophical necessity and Unitarianism, I see little or nothing in these 'outbursts' of my 'youthful' zeal to 'retract', and with the exception of some flame-coloured epithets applied to persons, as to Mr. Pitt and others, or rather to personifications (for such they really were to 'me') as little to regret. Qualis ab initio S.T.C.15 When a rifacimento of the Friend took place,  at vol. ii. p. 240, he states his reasons for reprinting the lecture referred to, one of the series delivered at Bristol in the year 1794-95, because, says he, "This very lecture, vide p. 10, has been referred to in an infamous libel in proof of the author's Jacobinism."When the mind of Coleridge was more matured he did not omit this truth, which has never been refuted, that the aristocratic system "had its golden side, for the noblest minds; but I
"should," continues he, "act the part of a coward if I disguised my conviction that the errors of the aristocratic party were as gross, and far less excusable than those of the Jacobin. Instead of contenting themselves with opposing the real blessing of English law to the splendid promises of untried theory, too large a part of those who called themselves anti-Jacobins, did all in their power to suspend those blessings; and they furnished new arguments to the advocates of innovation, when they should have been answering the old ones!"But, whatever were his opinions, they were founded on principle, and with the exception of the two above alluded to, he ought never to be accused of changing. Some years since, the late Charles Matthews, the comedian, (or rather, as Coleridge used to observe, "the comic poet acting his own poems,") showed me an autograph letter from Mr. Wordsworth to Matthews' brother, (who was at that time educating for the bar) and with whom he corresponded. In this letter he made the following observation, "To-morrow I am going to Bristol to see those two extraordinary young men, Southey and Coleridge," Mr. Wordsworth then residing at Allfoxden. They soon afterwards formed an intimacy, which continued (though not without some little interruption) during his life, as his Biographia Literaria and his will attest.
"This is the last number of the Watchman. Henceforward I shall cease to cry the state of the political atmosphere. While I express my gratitude to those friends who exerted themselves so liberally in the establishment of this miscellany, I may reasonably be expected to assign some reason for relinquishing it thus abruptly. The reason is short and satisfactory. The work does not pay its expences. Part of my subscribers have relinquished it because it did not contain sufficient original composition, and a still larger because it contained too much. I have endeavoured to do well; and it must be attributed to defect of ability, not of inclination or effort, if the words of the prophet be altogether applicable to me, 'O watchman! thou hast watched in vain!'"Mr. Coleridge has given us in the Biographia Literaria a very lively account of his opinions, adventures, and state of feeling during this canvass in quest of subscribers. "Towards the close of the first year, that inauspicious hour," (it was, indeed, and for several reasons an "inauspicious hour" for him,) "when I left the friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever-honoured Jesus' College, Cambridge, to set on foot a periodical, entitled the 'Watchman,' that (according to the motto of the work) all might know the truth, and that truth might make us free!
"With a flaming prospectus 'Knowledge is power,' &c. and to cry the state of the political atmosphere and so forth, I set off on a tour to the north, from Bristol to Sheffield, for the purpose of procuring customers, preaching by the way in most great towns, as a hireless volunteer, in a blue coat and white waistcoat, that not a rag of the woman of Babylon might be seen on me; for I was at that time, though a Trinitarian (i.e. ad normam Platonis) in philosophy, yet a zealous Unitarian in religion; more accurately, I was a psilanthropist, one of those who believe our Lord to have been the real son of Joseph, and who lay the main stress on the resurrection rather than on the crucifixion. Oh! never can I remember those days with either shame or regret, for I was most sincere! most disinterested! My opinions were, indeed, in many and most important points erroneous, but my heart was single! Wealth, rank, life itself then seemed cheap to me, compared with the interests of (what I believe to be) the truth and the will of my Maker. I cannot even accuse myself of having been actuated by vanity; for, in the expansion of my enthusiasm, I did not think of myself at all.Coleridge's reputation from boyhood quietly increased, not through the favor, but the censure of reviewers. It was this which, contrary to their wishes, diffused his name as poet and philosopher. So long as there are readers to be gratified by calumny, there will always be found writers eager to furnish a supply; and he had other enemies, unacquainted with the critical profession, yet morbidly vain, and because disappointed in their literary hopes, no less malignant.
My campaign commenced at Birmingham, and my first attack was on a rigid Calvinist, a tallow-chandler by trade. He was a tall dingy man, in whom length was so predominant over breadth, that he might almost have been borrowed for a foundry poker. O that face! a face, I have it before me at this moment. The lank, black twine-like hair, pingui-nitescent, cut in a straight line, along the black stubble of his thin gunpowder eyebrows, that looked like a scorched aftermath from a last week's shaving. His coat collar behind in perfect unison, both of colour and lustre, with the coarse, yet glib cordage that I suppose he called his hair, and which with a bend inward at the nape of the neck, (the only approach to flexure in his whole figure) slunk in behind his waistcoat; while the countenance lank, dark, very hard, and with strong perpendicular furrows, gave me a dim notion of some one looking at me through a used gridiron, all soot, grease, and iron! A person to whom one of my letters of recommendation had been addressed, was my introducer.
It was a new event in my life, my first stroke in the new business I had undertaken of an author; yes, and of an author on his own account. I would address," says Coleridge, "an affectionate exhortation to the youthful literati on my own experience. It will be but short; for the beginning, middle, and end converge to one charge. Never Pursue Literature as a Trade.16 My companion," says he, "after some imperfect sentences, and a multitude of hums and hahs, abandoned the cause to his client; and I commenced an harangue of half an hour to Phileleutheros, the tallow-chandler, varying my notes through the whole gamut of eloquence, from the ratiocinative to the declamatory, and, in the latter, from the pathetic to the indignant. My taper man of lights listened with perseverant and praiseworthy patience, though (as I was afterwards told, in complaining of certain gales that were not altogether ambrosial,) it was a melting day with him. And what, sir! (he said, after a short pause,) might the cost be? only Fourpence, (O! how I felt the anti-climax, the abysmal bathos of that Fourpence!) only fourpence, sir, each number, to be published on every eighth day. That comes to a deal of money at the end of a year; and how much did you say there was to be for the money? Thirty-two pages, sir! large octavo, closely printed. Thirty and two pages? Bless me, why except what I does in a family way on the sabbath, that's more than I ever reads, sir! all the year round. I am as great a one as any man in Brummagem, sir! for liberty and truth, and all them sort of things, but as to this, (no offence, I hope, sir!) I must beg to be excused. So ended my first canvass."
Much the same indifference was shewn him at Manchester, &c., but he adds: — "From this rememberable tour, I returned nearly a thousand names on the subscription list of the 'Watchman;' yet more than half convinced that prudence dictated the abandonment of the scheme; but for this very reason I persevered in it; for I was at that period of my life so completely hagridden by the fear of being influenced by selfish motives, that to know a mode of conduct to be the dictate of prudence, was a sort of presumptive proof to my feelings, that the contrary was the dictate of duty. Accordingly, I commenced the work, which was announced in London by long bills in letters larger than had ever been seen before, and which (I have been informed, for I did not see them myself) eclipsed the glories even of the lottery puffs; but, alas! the publication of the very first number was delayed beyond the day announced for its appearance. In the second number, an essay against fast days, with a most censurable application of a text from Isaiah, for its motto, lost me near five hundred of my subscribers at one blow.
In the two following numbers, I made enemies of all my Jacobin and democratic patrons; for, disgusted by their infidelity and their adoption of French morals, and French philosophy, and, perhaps, thinking that charity ought to begin nearest home, instead of abusing the government and the aristocrats chiefly or entirely, as had been expected of me, I levelled my attacks at 'modern patriotism,' and even ventured to declare my belief, that whatever the motives of ministers might have been for the sedition (or as it was then the fashion to call them) the gagging bills, yet the bills themselves would produce an effect to be desired by all the true friends of freedom, as far they should contribute to deter men from openly declaiming on subjects, the principles of which they had never bottomed, and from 'pleading to the poor and ignorant, instead of pleading for them.'
At the same time I avowed my conviction, that national education, and a concurring spread of the gospel were the indispensable condition of any true political amelioration. Thus, by the time the seventh number was published, I had the mortification (but why should I say this, when, in truth, I cared too little for any thing that concerned my worldly interests, to be at all mortified about it?) of seeing the preceding numbers exposed in sundry old iron shops for a penny a piece. At the ninth number I dropped the work." He never recovered the money of his London publisher, and but little from his subscribers, and as he goes on to say: — "Must have been thrown into jail by my printer, for a sum between eighty and ninety pounds, if the money had not been paid for me by a man, by no means affluent, a dear friend who attached himself to me from my first arrival at Bristol, who continued my friend with a fidelity unconquered by time, or even by my own apparent neglect; a friend from whom I never received an advice that was not gentle and affectionate." (p. 177.)
"to act as an individual by making himself a member of any society not sanctioned by his government, forfeited the rights of a citizen."He was at that time "a vehement anti-ministerialist," but, after the invasion of Switzerland, a more vehement anti-Gallican, and still more intensely an anti-Jacobin:
"I retired," said he, "to a cottage at Stowey, and provided for my scanty maintenance by writing verses for a London Morning Paper. I saw plainly, that literature was not a profession by which I could expect to live; for I could not disguise from myself, that whatever my talents might or might not be in other respects, yet they were not of that sort that could enable me to become a popular writer; and that whatever my opinions might be in themselves, they were almost equi-distant from all the three opposite parties, the Pittites, the Foxites, and the democrats. Of the unsaleable nature of my writings I had an amusing memento one morning from our servant girl. For happening to rise at an earlier hour than usual, I observed her putting an extravagant quantity of paper into the grate in order to light the fire, and mildly checked her for her wastefulness; La, Sir! (replied poor Nanny) why, it is only Watchmen."In short, the exhaustion which had followed the great stimulus, disposed individuals to reconciliation. Both parties found themselves in the wrong, the one had mistaken the moral character of the revolution, and the other had miscalculated its physical resources. The experiment was made at the price of great, we may say, of almost humiliating sacrifices; and wise men foresaw that it would fail, at least, in its direct and ostensible object. Yet it was purchased cheaply, and realized an object of equal value, and, if possible, of more vital importance; for it brought about a national unanimity, unexampled in our history since the reign of Elizabeth; and Providence, never failing to do his part when men have done theirs, soon provided a common focus in the cause of Spain, which made us all once more Englishmen, by gratifying and correcting the predilections of each party. The sincere reverers of the throne felt the cause of loyalty ennobled by its alliance with that of freedom while the honest zealots of the people could not but admit that freedom itself assumed a more winning form, humanized by loyalty, and consecrated by religious principle.
There was at last a pause, as each party seemed worn out; for, "the hand of Providence had disciplined all Europe into sobriety, as men tame wild elephants by alternate blows and caresses: now, that Englishmen of all classes are restored to their old English notions and feelings, it will with difficulty be credited, how great an influence was at that time possessed and exerted by the spirit of secret defamation (the too constant attendant on party zeal!) during the restless interim, from 1793 to the commencement of the Addington administration, or the year before the truce of Amiens."
"During my residence here," he says, "I found myself all afloat; doubts rushed in; broke upon me from the fountains of the great deep,' and 'fell from the windows of Heaven.' The fontal truths of natural religion and the books of Revelation alike contributed to the flood; and it was long ere my ark touched on an Ararat, and rested. The idea (viz. the law evolved in the mind) of the Supreme Being appeared to me to be as necessarily implied in all particular modes of being, as the idea, of infinite space in all the geometrical figures by which space is limited." He goes on to state at this period, about the latter end of the year 1796, "For a very long time I could not reconcile personality with infinity; and my head was with Spinosa, though my whole heart remained with Paul and John. Yet there had dawned upon me, even before I had met with the Critique of Pure Reason, a certain guiding light. If the mere intellect could make no certain discovery of a holy and intelligent first cause, it might yet supply a demonstration that no legitimate argument could be drawn from the mere intellect against its truth. And what is this more than St. Paul's assertion, that by wisdom (more properly translated by the powers of reasoning) no man ever arrived at the knowledge of God? Man asks what is wisdom? and whence comes it? In Job, chap. 28th, it is stated, 'But to man he said, the fear of the Lord is wisdom for thee! And to avoid evil, that is thy understanding.'"Such were his philosophical opinions before his final conversion to the whole truth in Christ. He was contending for principles, and diligently in search of truth for its own sake; — the one thing only permanent, and which carries with it its "own exceeding great reward." Such was the state of his religious feelings and political opinions before his visit to Germany.
"All my experience, from my first entrance into life to the present hour, is in favour of the warning maxim, that the man who opposes in toto the political or religious zealots of his age, is safer from their obloquy than he who differs from them but in one or two points only in degree."This is a truth too important to pass lightly over, as in this consisted much of that feeling which prevented his being popular, (for unless an individual goes the whole length of the party who may choose to adopt him, he is discarded, and it is well for him if he is not persecuted and held up to public ridicule).17
"I became convinced, that religion, as both the corner-stone and the key-stone of morality, must have a 'moral' origin; so far, at least, that the evidence of its doctrines could not, like the truths of abstract science, be 'wholly' independent of the will.Perhaps it is right also to state, that no small share of his final reconversion was attributable to that zeal and powerful genius, and to his great desire that others should become sharers in his own acquirements, which he was so desirous to communicate. During his residence at the foot of Quantock, his thoughts and studies were not only directed to an enquiry into the great truths of religion, but, while he stayed at Stowey, he was in the habit of preaching often at the Unitarian Chapel at Taunton, and was greatly respected by all the better and educated classes in the neighbourhood.
It was therefore to be expected, that its fundamental truth would be such as might be denied, though only by the fool, and even by the fool from madness of heart alone!
The question then concerning our faith in the existence of a God, not only as the ground of the universe by his essence, but by his wisdom and holy will as its maker and judge, appeared to stand thus: the sciential reason, the objects of wit are purely theoretical, remains neutral, as long as its name and semblance are not usurped by the opponents of the doctrine; but it then becomes an effective ally by exposing the false show of demonstration, or by evincing the equal demonstrability of the contrary from premises equally logical. The understanding, meantime suggests, the analogy of experience facilitates, the belief. Nature excites and recalls it, as by a perpetual revelation. Our feelings almost necessitate it; and the law of conscience peremptorily commands it. The arguments that all apply to, are in its favor; and there is nothing against it, but its own sublimity.
It could not be intellectually more evident without becoming morally less effective; without counteracting its own end by sacrificing the life of faith to the cold mechanism of a worthless, because compulsory assent. The belief of a God and a future state (if a passive acquiescence may be flattered with the name of belief) does not, indeed, always beget a good heart; but a good heart so naturally begets the belief, that the very few exceptions must be regarded as strange anomalies from strange and unfortunate circumstances.
From these premises I proceeded to draw the following conclusions, — first, that having once fully admitted the existence of an infinite yet self-conscious Creator, we are not allowed to ground the irrationality of any other article of faith on arguments which would equally prove that to be irrational, which we had allowed to be real. Secondly, that whatever is deducible from the admission of a self-comprehending and creative spirit, may be legitimately used in proof of the possibility of any further mystery concerning the Divine Nature.
"Possibilitatem mysteriorum (Trinitatis, &c.) contra insultus infidelium et hereticorum a contradictionibus vindico; haud quidem veritatem, quæ revelatione sola stabiliri possit;" says Leibnitz, in a letter to his duke. He then adds the following just and important remark. "In vain will tradition or texts of Scripture be adduced in support of a doctrine, 'donec clava impossibilitatis et contradictionis e manibus horum Herculum extorta fuerit.' For the heretic will still reply, that texts, the literal sense of which is not so much above as directly against all reason, must be understood figuratively, as Herod is a Fox, &c.
These principles," says he, "I held philosophically, while in respect of revealed religion, I remained a zealous Unitarian. I considered the idea of a Trinity a fair scholastic inference from the being of God, as a creative intelligence; and that it was therefore entitled to the rank of an esoteric doctrine of natural religion: but seeing in the same no practical or moral bearing, I confined it to the schools of philosophy. The admission of the Logos, as hypostasized (i.e. neither a mere attribute nor a personification), in no respect removed my doubts concerning the incarnation and the redemption by the cross; which I could neither reconcile in reason with the impassiveness of the Divine Being, nor in my moral feelings with the sacred distinction between things and persons, the vicarious payment of a debt and the vicarious expiation of guilt.
A more thorough revolution in my philosophic principles, and a deeper insight into my own heart were yet wanting. Nevertheless, I cannot doubt, that the difference of my metaphysical notions from those of Unitarians in general contributed to my final re-conversion to the whole truth in Christ; even as according to his own confession the books of certain Platonic philosophers (Libri quorundam Platonicorum) commenced the rescue of St. Augustine's faith from the same error, aggravated by the far darker accompaniment of the Manichean heresy."
"To me the Eternal Wisdom hath dispensedThese beautiful and affecting lines to his brother are dated May 26th, 1797, Nether Stowey, Somerset. In his will, dated Highgate, July 2nd, 1830, he again refers to this friend, and directs his executor to present a plain gold mourning ring to Thomas Poole, Esq., of Nether Stowey.
A different fortune and more different mind —
Me from the spot where first I sprang to light
Too soon transplanted, ere my soul had fix'd
Its first domestic loves; and hence through life
Chasing chance-started friendships. A brief while
Some have preserved me from life's pelting ills;
But, like a tree with leaves of feeble stem,
If the clouds lasted, and a sudden breeze
Ruffled the boughs, they on my head at once
Dropp'd the collected shower; and some most false,
False and fair foliaged as the Manchineel,
Have tempted me to slumber in their shade
E'en mid the storm; then breathing subtlest damps,
Mix'd their own venom with the rain from Heaven,
That I woke poison'd! But, all praise to Him
Who gives us all things, more have yielded me
Permanent shelter; and beside one friend,19
Beneath the impervious covert of one oak,
I've raised a lowly shed, and know the names
Of husband and of father; not unhearing
Of that divine and nightly-whispering voice,
Which from my childhood to maturer years
Spake to me of predestinated wreaths,
Bright with no fading colours!"
"The Dedicatory Poem to my Juvenile Poems, and my Fears in Solitude,20 render it unnecessary to say more than what I then, in my early manhood, thought and felt, I now, a gray-headed man, still think and feel."In this volume, dedicated to his brother, are to be found several poems in early youth and upwards, none of later date than 1796.
The Ode, he says, on the Departing Year, was written on the 24th, 25th, and 26th of December, 1796, and published separately on the last day of that year. The Religious Musings were written as early as Christmas 1794."He then was about to enter his 23rd year. The preface to this volume is a key to his opinions and feelings at that time, and which the foregoing part of this memoir is also intended to illustrate.
"Compositions resembling those of the present volume are not unfrequently condemned for their querulous egotism. But egotism is to be condemned only when it offends against time and place, as in a history or epic poem. To censure it in a monody or sonnet is almost as absurd as to dislike a circle for being round. Why then write sonnets or monodies? Because they give me pleasure when, perhaps, nothing else could. After the more violent emotions of sorrow, the mind demands amusement, and can find it in employment alone; but full of its late sufferings, it can endure no employment not in some measure connected with them. Forcibly to turn away our attention to general subjects is a painful and most often an unavailing effort."In the second edition (the second edition was published in conjunction with his friends Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb) is added the following:'But O! how grateful to a wounded heartThe communicativeness of our nature leads us to describe our own sorrows; in the endeavour to describe them, intellectual activity is exerted; and from intellectual activity there results a pleasure, which is gradually associated, and mingles as a corrective, with the painful subject of the description. 'True,' (it may be answered) 'but how are the public interested in your sorrows or your description'?' We are for ever attributing personal unities to imaginary aggregates. — What is the public, but a term for a number of scattered individuals? Of whom as many will be interested in these sorrows, as have experienced the same or similar.
The tale of misery to impart
From others' eyes bid artless sorrows flow,
And raise esteem upon the base of woe.'
Shaw.'Holy be the layIf I could judge of others by myself, I should not hesitate to affirm, that the most interesting passages in our most interesting poems are those in which the author developes his own feelings. The sweet voice of Cona21 never sounds so sweetly, as when it speaks of itself; and I should almost suspect that man of an unkindly heart, who could read the opening of the third book of Paradise Lost without peculiar emotion. By a law of nature, he, who labours under a strong feeling, is impelled to seek for sympathy; but a poet's feelings are all strong. — Quicquid amat valde amat. — Akenside therefore speaks with philosophical accuracy when he classes love and poetry as producing the same effects:
Which mourning soothes the mourner on his way.''Love and the wish of poets when their tongueThere is one species of egotism which is truly disgusting; not that which leads to communicate our feelings to others, but that which would reduce the feelings of others; to an identity with our own.
Would teach to others' bosoms, what so charms
Pleasures of Imagination.
The atheist who exclaims 'pshaw,' when he glances his eye on the praises of Deity, is an egotist; an old man, when he speaks contemptuously of love verses is an egotist; and the sleek favourites of fortune are egotists when they condemn all 'melancholy discontented' verses. Surely it would be candid not merely to ask whether the poem pleases ourselves, but to consider whether or no there may not be others, to whom it is well calculated to give an innocent pleasure.
I shall only add, that each of my readers will, I hope, remember, that these poems on various subjects, which, he reads at one time and under the influence of one set of feelings, were written at different times and prompted by very different feelings; and, therefore, that, the supposed inferiority of one poem to another may sometimes be owing to the temper of mind in which he happens to peruse it."
"My poems have been rightly charged with a profusion of double-epithets, and a general turgidness. I have pruned the double-epithets with no sparing hand; and used my best efforts to tame the swell and glitter both of thought and diction. This latter fault, however, had insinuated itself into my Religious Musings with such intricacy of union, that sometimes I have omitted to disentangle the weed from the fear of snapping the flower. A third and heavier accusation has been brought against me, that of obscurity; but not, I think, with equal justice. An author is obscure, when his conceptions are dim and imperfect, and his language incorrect, or inappropriate, or involved. A poem that abounds in allusions, like the Bard of Gray, or one that impersonates high and abstract truths, like Collins's Ode on the Poetical Character, claims not to be popular, but should be acquitted of obscurity. The deficiency is in the reader; but this is a charge which every poet, whose imagination is warm and rapid, must expect from his contemporaries. Milton did not escape it; and it was adduced with virulence against Gray and Collins. We now hear no more of it, not that their poems are better understood at present, than they were at their first publication; but their fame is established; and a critic would accuse him self of frigidity or, inattention, who should profess not to understand them: but a living writer is yet sub judice; and if we cannot follow his conceptions or enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride to consider him as lost beneath, than as soaring above, us. If any man expect from my poems the same easiness of style which he admires in a drinking-song for him, I have not written. Intelligibilia, non intellectum adfero.We seem now to have arrived at that period of Coleridge's life which a profound student of his poetry, and himself a pleasing and elegant poet, has considered the period of the "Annus Mirabilis." "The Manhood," he observes, "of Coleridge's true poetical life was in the year 1797." This is perfectly true, and at that period he was only twenty-five, as before stated. He was, as is proved in his earlier poems, highly susceptible and sensitive, requiring kindness and sympathy, and the support of something like intellectual friendship. He tells us that he chose his residence at Stowey, on account of his friend Mr. Poole, who assisted and enabled him to brave the storm of "Life's pelting ills." Near him, at Allfoxden, resided Mr. Wordsworth, with whom, he says,
I expect neither profit nor general fame by my writings; and I consider myself as having been amply repaid without either. Poetry has been to me its own 'exceeding great reward;' it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude; and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me."
"Shortly after my settlement there, I became acquainted, and whose society I found an invaluable blessing, and to whom I looked up with equal reverence as a poet, a philosopher, or a man. His conversation extended to almost all subjects except physics and politics; with the latter he never troubled himself."Although Coleridge lived a most retired life, it was not enough to exempt him from the watchfulness of the spies of government whose employment required some apparent activity before they could receive the reward they expected. Nor did he escape the suspicion of being a dangerous person to the government; which arose partly from his connexion with Wordsworth, and from the great seclusion of his life. Coleridge was ever with book, paper, and pencil in hand, making, in the language of, artists, "Sketches and studies from nature." This suspicion, accompanied with the usual quantity of obloquy, was not merely attached to Coleridge, but extended to his friend, "whose perfect innocence was even adduced as a suspicion of his guilt," by one of these sapients, who observed that
"as to Coleridge, there is not much harm in him; for he is a whirl-brain, that talks whatever comes uppermost; but that Wordsworth! he is a dark traitor. You never hear him say a syllable on the subject."During this time the brother poets must have been composing or arranging the Lyrical Ballads, which were published the following year, i. e. 1798. Coleridge also in 1797 wrote the Remorse, or rather the play he first called Osorio, the name of the principal character in it, but finding afterwards that there was a respectable family of that name residing in London, it was changed for the title of the Remorse, and the principal character, Osorio, to Ordonio. This play was sent to Sheridan.
"During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, — the power of exciting the sympathy of a reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm which accidents of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real; and real in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency. For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life: the characters and incidents were to be such as will be found in every village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after them, or to notice them when they present themselves.There are few incidents in the life of the literary man to make any narrations of sufficient importance or sufficiently amusing for the readers, and the readers only of works of amusement. The biography of such men is supposed to contain the faithful history and growth of their minds, and the circumstances under which it is developed, and to this it must be confined.
In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads, in which it was agreed that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself, as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us, — an inexhaustible treasure; but for which, in consequence of the feeling of familiarity and selfish solicitude, we have eyes yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand.
With this view I wrote the Ancient Mariner, and was preparing, among other poems, the Dark Ladie and the Christabel, in which I should have more nearly realized my ideal than I had done in my first attempt: but Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an interpolation of heterogeneous matter.
Mr. Wordsworth added two or three poems written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction, which is characteristic of his genius. In this form the Lyrical Ballads were published, and were presented by him as an experiment, whether subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ornaments and extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might not be so managed, in the language of ordinary life, as to produce the pleasurable interest which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart.
To the second edition he added a preface of considerable length, in which, notwithstanding some passages of apparently a contrary import, he was understood to contend for the extension of the style to poetry of all kinds, and to reject as vicious and indefensible all phrases and forms of style that were not included in what he (unfortunately, I think, adopting an equivocal expression) called the language of real life. From this preface, prefixed to poems in which it was impossible to deny the presence of original genius, however mistaken its direction might be deemed, arose the whole long-continued controversy. For, from the conjunction of perceived power with supposed heresy, I explain the inveteracy, and in some instances, I grieve to say, the acrimonious passions, with which the controversy has been conducted by the assailants." (Vol. ii. p. 1.)
"Yes! they wander onDuring his residence here, Mr. William Hazlitt became acquainted with him, which is thus vividly recorded in the Liberal:
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
And hunger'd after nature, many a year;
In the great city pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil, and pain,
And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
Spirits perceive his presence."
"My father was a dissenting minister at Wem, in Shropshire; and in the year 1798, Mr. Coleridge came to Shrewsbury, to succeed Mr. Rowe in the spiritual charge of a Unitarian congregation there. He did not come till late on the Saturday afternoon before he was to preach, and Mr. Rowe, who himself went down to the coach in a state of anxiety and expectation, to look for the arrival of his successor, could find no one at all answering the description, but a round-faced man, in a short black coat (like a shooting jacket), which hardly seemed to have been made for him, but who appeared to be talking at a great rate to his fellow-passengers. Mr. Rowe had scarcely returned to give an account of his disappointment, when the round-faced man in black entered, and dissipated all doubts on the subject, by beginning to talk. He did not cease while he stayed, nor has he since that I know of.22He used, in his hours of relaxation, to relate the state of his feelings, and his adventures during the short time he was a preacher. His congregations were large, and if he had the power of attracting one man of such talents from a distance, it may well be understood how the many near the chapel flocked to listen to him; in short, if one is to give credence to current report, he emptied churches and chapels to hear him. If he had needed any stimulus, this would have been sufficient, but such a mind so intensely occupied in the search after truth needed no external excitement.
He held the good town of Shrewsbury in delightful suspense for three weeks that he remained there, 'fluttering the proud Salopians like an eagle in a dove-cot;' and the Welsh mountains, that skirt the horizon with their tempestuous confusion, agree to have heard no such mystic sounds since the days of'High-born Hoel's harp or soft Llewellyn's lyre!'My father lived ten miles from Shrewsbury, and was in the habit of exchanging visits with Mr. Rowe, and Mr. Jenkins of Whitchurch (nine miles further on), according to the custom of dissenting ministers in each other's neighbourhood. A line of communication is thus established, by which the flame of civil and religious liberty is kept alive, and nourishes its mouldering fire unquenchable, like the fires in the Agamemnon of Æschylus, placed at different stations, that waited for ten long years to announce, with their blazing pyramids, the destruction of Troy.
Coleridge had agreed to come once to see my father, according to the courtesy of the country, as Mr. Rowe's probable successor; but in the meantime I had gone to hear him preach the Sunday after his arrival. A poet and a philosopher getting up into a Unitarian pulpit to preach the gospel was a romance in these degenerate days, — which was not to be resisted.
It was in January, 1798, that I rose one morning before daylight, to walk ten miles in the mud, to hear this celebrated person preach. Never, the longest day I have to live, shall I have such another walk as this cold, raw, comfortless one, in the winter of the year 1798. 'Il y a des impressions que ni le tems, ni les circonstances peuvent effacer. Dussé-je vivre des siècles entiers, le doux tems de ma jeunesse ne peut renaître pour moi, ni s'effacer jamais dans ma mémoire.' When I got there, the organ was playing the 100th psalm; and, when it was done, Mr. Coleridge rose and gave out his text, — 'He departed again into a mountain himself alone.' As he gave out this text, his voice 'rose like a stream of rich distilled perfumes;' and when he came to the two last words, which he pronounced loud, deep, and distinct, it seemed to me, who was then young, as if the sounds had echoed from the bottom of the human heart, and as if that prayer might have floated in solemn silence through the universe. The idea of St. John came into my mind, 'of one crying in the wilderness, who had his loins girt about, and whose food was locusts and wild honey.' The preacher then launched into his subject, like an eagle dallying with the wind. The sermon was upon peace and war — upon church and state — not their alliance, but their separation — on the spirit of the world, and the spirit of Christianity, not as the same, but as opposed to one another. He talked of those who had 'inscribed the cross of Christ on banners dripping with human gore.' He made a poetical and pastoral excursion, — and to show the fatal effects of war, drew a striking contrast between the simple shepherd-boy, driving his team afield, or sitting under the hawthorn, piping to his flock, as though he should never be old,' and the same poor country lad, crimped, kidnapped, brought into town, made drunk at an alehouse, turned into a wretched drummer-boy, with his hair sticking on end with powder and pomatum, a long cue at his back, and tricked out in the finery of the profession of blood:'Such were the notes our once loved poet sung;'and, for myself, I could not have been more delighted if I had heard the music of the spheres. Poetry and Philosophy had met together. Truth and Genius had embraced under the eye and with the sanction of Religion. This was even beyond my hopes. I returned home well satisfied. The sun that was still labouring pale and wan through the sky, obscured by thick mists, seemed an emblem of the good cause; and the cold dank drops of dew, that hung half melted on the beard of the thistle, had something genial and refreshing in them —
"On the Tuesday following, the half-inspired speaker came. I was called down into the room where he was, and went half-hoping, half-afraid. He received me very graciously, and I listened for a long time without uttering a word, and did not suffer in his opinion by my silence. 'For those two hours (he was afterwards pleased to say) he was conversing with W. H.'s forehead.' His appearance was different from what I had anticipated from seeing him before. At a distance, and in the dim light of the chapel, there was to me a strange wildness in his aspect, a dusky obscurity, and I thought him pitted with the small-pox. His complexion was at that time clear, and even bright,'As are the children of yon azure sheen.'His forehead was broad and high, as if built of ivory, with large projecting eyebrows, and his eyes rolling beneath them like a sea with darkened lustre.'A certain tender bloom his face o'erspread;'a purple tinge, as we see it in the pale, thoughtful complexions of the Spanish portrait painters, Murillo and Velasquez. His mouth was rather open, his chin good-humoured and round, and his nose small.
Coleridge in his person was rather above the common size, inclining to the corpulent. His hair (now, alas! grey, and during the latter years of his life perfectly white) was then black, and glossy as the raven's wing, and fell in smooth masses over his forehead. This long liberal hair is peculiar to enthusiasts."23
(The Liberal, vol. ii. pp. 23-27.)
"While my mind was thus perplexed, by a gracious providence," says he, "for which I can never be sufficiently grateful, the generous and munificent patronage of Mr. Josiah and Mr. Thomas Wedgewood enabled me to finish my education in Germany. Instead of troubling others with my own crude notions, and juvenile compositions, I was thenceforward better employed in attempting to store my own head with the wisdom of others. I made the best use of my time and means; and there is therefore no period of my life on which I can look back with such unmingled satisfaction."He quitted Clevedon and his cottage in the following farewell lines:—
"Ah! quiet dell! dear cot, and mount sublime!He drew his own character when he described that of Satyrane, the idolocast or breaker of idols, the name he went by among his friends and familiars.
I was constrain'd to quit you. Was it right,
While my unnumber'd brethren toil'd and bled,
That I should dream away the entrusted hours
On rose-leaf beds, pampering the coward heart
With feelings all too delicate for use?
Sweet is the tear that from some Howard's eye
Drops on the cheeks of one he lifts from earth:
And he that works me good with unmoved face,
Does it but half: he chills me while he aids, —
My benefactor, not my brother man!
Yet even this, this cold beneficence
Praise, praise it, O my Soul! oft as thou scann'st
The Sluggard Pity's vision-weaving tribe!
Who sigh for wretchedness, yet shun the wretched,
Nursing in some delicious solitude
Their slothful loves and dainty sympathies!
I therefore go, and join head, heart, and hand,
Active and firm, to fight the bloodless fight
Of Science, freedom, and the truth in Christ.
Yet oft when after honourable toil
Rests the tired mind, and waking loves to dream,
My spirit shall revisit thee, dear cot!
Thy jasmin and thy window-peeping rose,
And myrtles fearless of the mild sea-air.
And I shall sigh fond wishes — sweet abode!
Ah! had none greater! And that all had such!
It might be so, but, oh! it is not yet.
Speed it, O Father! Let thy Kingdom come."
"From his earliest youth," says he, "Satyrane had derived his highest pleasures from the admiration of moral grandeur and intellectual energy; and during the whole of his life he had a greater and more heartfelt delight in the superiority of other men to himself than men in general derive from their belief of their own. His readiness to imagine a superiority where it did not exist, was for many years his predominant foible; his pain from the perception of inferiority in others whom he had heard spoken of with any respect, was unfeigned and involuntary, and perplexed him as a something which he did not comprehend. In the child-like simplicity of his nature he talked to all men as if they were his equals in knowledge and talents, and many whimsical anecdotes could be related connected with this habit; he was constantly scattering good seed on unreceiving soils. When he was at length compelled to see and acknowledge the true state of the morals and intellect of his contemporaries, his disappointment was severe, and his mind, always thoughtful, became pensive and sad: — for to love and sympathize with mankind was a necessity of his nature."He sought refuge from his own sensitive nature in abstruse meditations, and delighted most in those subjects requiring the full exercise of his intellectual powers, which never seemed fatigued — and in his early life never did sun shine on a more joyous being!
"There was a time when, though my path was rough,It was indeed an inauspicious hour "when he changed his abode from the happy groves of Jesus' College to Bristol." But it was so ordained! He sought literature as a trade, — and became an author —
This joy within me dallied with distress,
And all misfortunes were but as the stuff
Whence fancy made me dreams of happiness:
For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,
And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seem'd mine.
But now afflictions bow me down to earth
Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth,
But oh! each visitation
Suspends what nature gave me at my birth,
My shaping spirit of imagination.
For not to think of what I needs must feel,
But to be still and patient, all I can;
And haply by abstruse research to steal
From my own nature all the natural man —
This was my sole resource, my only plan:
Till that which suits a part infects the whole,
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul."24
"whatever," he would say, "I write, that alone which contains the truth will live, for truth only is permanent. The rest will deservedly perish."He wrote to supply the fountain which was to feed the fertilizing rills, — to develope the truth was that at which he aimed, and in which he hoped to find his reward.
"That Momus might have discovered an easier way to see a man's inside than by placing a window in his breast. He needed only to have taken a salt-water trip in a pacquet-boat."Coleridge thinks that a
"pacquet is far superior to a stage-coach, as a means of making men open out to each other. In the latter the uniformity of posture disposes to dozing, and the definiteness of the period at which the company will separate, makes each individual think of those to whom he is going, rather than of those with whom he is going. But at sea more curiosity is excited, if only on this account, that the pleasant or unpleasant qualities of your companions are of greater importance to you, from the uncertainty how long you may be obliged to house with them."On board was a party of Danes, who, from his appearance in a suit of black, insisted he was a "Docteur Teology." To relieve himself of any further questioning on this head, he bowed assent "rather than be nothing."
Certes," he says, "We were not of the Stoic school; for we drank, and talked, and sung altogether; and then we rose and danced on the deck a set of dances, which, in one sense of the word at least, were very intelligibly and appropriately entitled reels. The passengers who lay in the cabin below in all the agonies of sea-sickness, must have found our bacchanalian merrimentThe Dane soon convinced him of the justice of an old remark, that many a faithful portrait in our novels and farces, has been rashly censured for an outrageous caricature, or perhaps nonentity.a tuneI thought so at the time; and how closely the greater number of our virtues are connected with the fear of death, and how little sympathy we bestow on pain, when there is no danger."
Harsh and of dissonant mood for their complaint.
"I had retired to my station in the boat when he came and seated himself by my side, and appeared not a little tipsy. He commenced the conversation in the most magnific style, and a sort of pioneering to his own vanity, he flattered me with such grossness! The parasites of the old comedy were modest in comparison."After a ludicrous conversation which took place, he passes on to the description of another passenger, an Englishman, who spoke German fluently and interpreted many of the jokes of a Prussian who formed one of the party.
"The Prussian was a travelling merchant, turned of threescore, a hale, tall, strong man, and full of stories, gesticulations, and buffoonery, with the soul as well as the look of a mountebank, who, while he is making you laugh, picks your pocket. Amid all his droll looks and droll gestures, there remained one look untouched by laughter; and that one look was the true face, the others were but its mask. The Hanoverian (another of the party) was a pale, bloated, young man, whose father had made a large fortune in London as an army contractor. He seemed to emulate the manners of young Englishmen of fortune. He was a good-natured fellow, not without information or literature, but a most egregious coxcomb. He had been in the habit of attending the House of Commons; and had once spoken, as he informed me, with great applause in a debating society. For this he appeared to have qualified himself with laudable industry; for he was perfect in Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary, and with an accent that forcibly reminded me of the Scotchman in Roderick Random, who professed to teach the English pronunciation; he was constantly deferring to my superior judgment, whether or no I had pronounced this or that word with propriety or 'the true delicacy'. When he spoke, though it were only half a dozen sentences, he always rose; for which I could detect no other motive, than his partiality to that elegant phrase, so liberally introduced in the orations of our British legislators, 'While I am on my legs.'"Coleridge continues his description of the party, and relates a quarrel that ensued between a little German tailor and his wife, by which he was the gainer of a bed, it being too cold to continue much longer on deck:—
"In the evening the sea rolling higher, the Dane became worse, and in consequence increased his remedy, viz. brandy, sugar, and nutmeg, in proportion to the room left in his stomach. The conversation or oration 'rather than dialogue, became extravagant beyond all that I ever heard.' After giving an account of his fortune acquired in the island of Santa Cruz, 'he expatiated on the style in which he intended to live in Denmark, and the great undertakings he proposed to himself to commence, till the brandy aiding his vanity, and his vanity and garrulity aiding the brandy, he talked like a madman."The cry of 'land' was heard soon afterwards, and in a short time they dropped anchor at Cuxhaven, and proceeded from thence in a boat to Hamburg. After this he travelled on to Ratzeburg25, and then took up his residence with a pastor for the purpose of acquiring the German language, but with what success will be presently shown. He soon after proceeded through Hanover to Göttingen. — Here he informs us he regularly
After this drunken apostrophe he changed the conversation, and commenced an harangue on religion, (mistaking Coleridge for "un Philosophe" in the continental sense of the word) he talked of the Deity in a declamatory style very much resembling the devotional rants of that rude blunderer Mr. Thomas Paine, in his Age of Reason. I dare aver, that few men have less reason to charge themselves with indulging in persiflage than myself; I should hate it, if it were only that it is a Frenchman's vice, and feel a pride in avoiding it, because our own language is too honest to have a word to express it by.
At four o'clock I observed a wild duck swimming on the waves, a single solitary wild duck. It is not easy to conceive, how interesting a thing it looked in that round objectless desert of waters."
"attended lectures in the morning in physiology, in the evening an natural history under Blumenbach, a name as dear to every Englishman who has studied at the university, as it is venerable to men of science throughout Europe! Eichorn's Lectures on the New Testament were repeated to me from notes by a student from Ratzeburg, a young man of sound learning and indefatigable industry, who is now I believe a professor of the oriental languages at Heidelberg."Few persons visit Gottingen without ascending the Brocken.
"Through roads no way rememberable, we came to Gieloldshausen, over a bridge, on which was a mitred statue with a great crucifix in its arms. The village, long and ugly; but the church, like most Catholic churches, interesting; and this being Whitsun Eve, all were crowding to it, with their mass-books and rosaries, the little babies commonly with coral crosses hanging on the breast. Here we took a guide, left the village, ascended a hill, and now the woods rose up before us in a verdure which surprised us like a sorcery. The spring had burst forth with the suddenness of a Russian summer. As we left Göttingen there were buds, and here and there a tree half green; but here were woods in full foliage, distinguished from summer only by the exquisite freshness of their tender green. We entered the wood through a beautiful mossy path; the moon above us blending with the evening light, and every now and then a nightingale would invite the others to sing, and some or other commonly answered, and said, as we suppose, 'It is yet somewhat too early!' for the song was not continued. We came to a square piece of greenery, completely walled on all four sides by the beeches; again entered the wood, and having travelled about a mile, emerged from it into a grand plain — mountains in the distance, but ever by our road the skirts of the green woods. A very rapid river ran by our side; and now the nightingales were all singing, and the tender verdure grew paler in the moonlight, only the smooth parts of the river were still deeply purpled with the reflections from the fiery light in the west. So surrounded and so impressed, we arrived at Prele, a dear little cluster of houses in the middle of a semicircle of woody hills; the area of the semicircle scarcely broader than the breadth of the village.Coleridge and his companions in their tour passed through a district belonging to the elector of Metz, and he often repeated the following story, which one of the party has since related in print; that, going through this district, chiefly inhabited by boors, who were Romanists, of the lowest form of this persuasion of Christians, the party fatigued and much exhausted, with the exception of Blumenbach, arrived somewhat late, though being a summer evening, it was still light, at a Hessian village, where they had hoped, as in England, to find quarters for the night. Most of the inhabitants had retired to rest, a few only loitering about, perhaps surprized at the sight of strangers. They shewed no inclination to be courteous, but rather eyed them with suspicion and curiosity. The party, notwithstanding this, entered the village ale-house, still open, asked for refreshments and a night's lodging, but no one noticed them. Though hungry, they could not procure any thing for supper, not even a cup of coffee, nor could they find beds; after some time, however, they asked for a few bundles of straw, which would probably have been granted, had not Coleridge, out of patience at seeing his friends' forlorn situation, imprudently asked one of them, if there lived any Christians in Hesse Cassel? At this speech, which was soon echoed by those within the house to the bystanders without, the boors became instantly so infuriated, that rushing in, the travellers were immediately driven out, and were glad to save themselves from the lighted fire-wood on the hearth, which was hurled at them. On this they went to seek a spot to bivouac for the night. Coleridge lay under the shelter of a furze-bush, annoyed by the thorns, which, if they did not disturb his rest, must have rendered it comfortless. Youth and fatigue, inducing sleep, soon rose above these difficulties. In the ascent of the Brocken, they despaired of seeing the famous spectre, in search of which they toiled, it being visible only when the sun is a few degrees above the horizon. Haué says, he ascended thirty times without seeing it, till at length he was enabled to witness the effect of this optical delusion. For the best account of it, see the Natural Magic of Sir D. Brewster,26 who explains the origin of these spectres, and shews how the mind is deluded among an ignorant and easily deceived people, and thus traces the birth of various ghost stories in the neighbourhood, extending as far in Europe, as such stories find credence.
"We afterwards ascended another hill, from the top of which a large plain opened before us with villages. A little village, Neuhoff, lay at the foot of it: we reached it, and then turned up through a valley on the left hand. The hills on both sides the valley were prettily wooded, and a rapid lively river ran through it.
So we went for about two miles, and almost at the end of the valley, or rather of its first turning, we found the village of Lauterberg. Just at the entrance of the village, two streams come out from two deep and woody coombs, close by each other, meet, and run into a third deep woody coomb opposite; before you a wild hill, which seems the end and barrier of the valley; on the right hand, low hills, now green with corn, and now wooded; and on the left a most majestic hill indeed — the effect of whose simple outline painting could not give, and how poor a thing are words! We pass through this neat little town — the majestic hill on the left hand soaring over the houses, and at every interspace you see the whole of it — its beeches, its firs, its rocks, its scattered cottages, and the one neat little pastor's house at the foot, embosomed in fruit-trees all in blossom, the noisy coomb-brook dashing close by it. We leave the valley, or rather, the first turning on the left, following a stream; and so the vale winds on, the river still at the foot of the woody hills, with every now and then other smaller valleys on right and left crossing our vale, and ever before you the woody hills running like groves one into another. We turned and turned, and entering the fourth curve of the vale, we found all at once that we had been ascending. The verdure vanished! All the beech trees were leafless, and so were the silver birches, whose boughs always, winter and summer, hang so elegantly. But low down in the valley, and in little companies on each bank of the river, a multitude of green conical fir trees, with herds of cattle wandering about, almost every one with a cylindrical bell around its neck, of no inconsiderable size, and as they moved — scattered over the narrow vale, and up among the trees on the hill — the noise was like that of a great city in the stillness of a sabbath morning, when the bells all at once are ringing for church. The whole was a melancholy and romantic scene, that was quite new to me. Again we turned, passed three smelting houses, which we visited; — a scene of terrible beauty is a furnace of boiling metal, darting, every moment blue, green, and scarlet lightning, like serpents' tongues! — and now we ascended a steep hill, on the top of which was St. Andrias Berg, a town built wholly of wood.
"We descended again, to ascend far higher; and now we came to a most beautiful road, which winded on the breast of the hill, from whence we looked down into a deep valley, or huge basin, full of pines and firs; the opposite hills full of pines and firs; and the hill above us, on whose breast we were winding, likewise full of pines and firs. The valley, or basin, on our right hand, into which we looked down, is called the Wald Rauschenbach, that is, the Valley of the Roaring Brook; and roar it did, indeed, most solemnly! The road on which we walked was weedy with infant fir-trees, an inch or two high; and now, on our left hand, came before us a most tremendous precipice of yellow and black rock, called the Rehberg, that is, the Mountain of the Roe. Now again is nothing but firs and pines, above, below, around us! How awful is the deep unison of their undividable murmur; what a one thing it is — it is a sound that impresses the dim notion of the Omnipresent! In various parts of the deep vale below us, we beheld little dancing waterfalls gleaming through the branches, and now, on our left hand, from the very summit of the hill above us, a powerful stream flung itself down, leaping and foaming, and now concealed, and now not concealed, and now half concealed by the fir-trees, till, towards the road, it became a visible sheet of water, within whose immediate neighbourhood no pine could have permanent abiding place. The snow lay every where on the sides of the roads, and glimmered in company with the waterfall foam, snow patches and waterbreaks glimmering through the branches in the hill above, the deep basin below, and the hill opposite. Over the high opposite hills, so dark in their pine forests, a far higher round barren stony mountain looked in upon the prospect from a distant country. Through this scenery we passed on, till our road was crossed by a second waterfall; or rather, aggregation of little dancing waterfalls, one by the side of the other for a considerable breadth, and all came at once out of the dark wood above, and rolled over the mossy rock fragments, little firs, growing in islets, scattered among them. The same scenery continued till we came to the Oder Seich, a lake, half made by man, and half by nature. It is two miles in length, and but a few hundred yards in breadth, and winds between banks, or rather through walls, of pine trees. It has the appearance of a most calm and majestic river. It crosses the road, goes into a wood, and there at once plunges itself down into a most magnificent cascade, and runs into the vale, to which it gives the name of the 'Vale of the Roaring Brook.' We descended into the vale, and stood at the bottom of the cascade, and climbed up again by its side. The rocks over which it plunged were unusually wild in their shape, giving fantastic resemblances of men and animals, and the fir-boughs by the side were kept almost in a swing, which unruly motion contrasted well with the stern quietness of the huge forest-sea every where else.
"In nature all things are individual, but a word is but an arbitrary character for a whole class of things; so that the same description may in almost all cases be applied to twenty different appearances; and in addition to the difficulty of the thing itself, I neither am, nor ever was, a good hand at description. I see what I write, but, alas! I cannot write what I see. From the Oder Seich we entered a second wood; and now the snow met us in large masses, and we walked for two miles knee-deep in it, with an inexpressible fatigue, till we came to the mount called Little Brocken; here even the firs deserted us, or only now and then a patch of them, wind shorn, no higher than one's knee, matted and cowering to the ground, like our thorn bushes on the highest sea-hills. The soil was plashy and boggy; we descended and came to the foot of the Great Brocken without a river — the highest mountain in all the north of Germany, and the seat of innumerable superstitions. On the first of May all the witches dance here at midnight; and those who go may see their own ghosts walking up and down, with a little billet on the back, giving the names of those who had wished them there; for 'I wish you on the top of the Brocken,' is a common curse throughout the whole empire. Well, we ascended — the soil boggy — and at last reached the height, which is 573 toises above the level of the sea. We visited the Blocksberg, a sort of bowling-green, inclosed by huge stones, something like those at Stonehenge, and this is the witches' ball-room; thence proceeded to the house on the hill, where we dined; and now we descended. In the evening about seven we arrived at Elbingerode. At the inn they brought us an album, or stamm-buch, requesting that we would write our names, and something or other as a remembrance that we had been there. I wrote the following lines, which contain a true account of my journey from the Brocken to ElbingerodeI stood on Brocken's sovran height, and sawWe left Elbingerode, May 14th, and travelled for half a mile through a wild country, of bleak stony hills by our side, with several caverns, or rather mouths of caverns, visible in their breasts; and now we came to Rubilland, — Oh, it was a lovely scene! Our road was at the foot of low hills, and here were a few neat cottages; behind us were high hills, with a few scattered firs, and flocks of goats visible on the topmost crags. On our right hand a fine shallow river about thirty yards broad, and beyond the river a crescent hill clothed with firs, that rise one above another, like spectators in an amphitheatre. We advanced a little farther, — the crags behind us ceased to be visible, and now the whole was one and complete. All that could be seen was the cottages at the foot of the low green hill, (cottages embosomed in fruit trees in blossom,) the stream, and the little crescent of firs. I lingered here, and unwillingly lost sight of it for a little while. The firs were so beautiful, and the masses of rocks, walls, and obelisks started up among them in the very places where, if they had not been, a painter with a poet's feeling would have imagined them. Crossed the river (its name Bodi), entered the sweet wood, and came to the mouth of the cavern, with the man who shews it. It was a huge place, eight hundred feet in length, and more in depth, of many different apartments; and the only thing that distinguished it from other caverns was, that the guide, who was really a character, had the talent of finding out and seeing uncommon likenesses in the different forms of the stalactite. Here was a nun; — this was Solomon's temple; — that was a Roman Catholic Chapel; — here was a lion's claw, nothing but flesh and blood wanting to make it completely a claw! This was an organ, and had all the notes of an organ, &c. &c. &c.; but, alas! with all possible straining of my eyes, ears, and imagination, I could see nothing but common stalactite, and heard nothing but the dull ding of common cavern stones. One thing was really striking; — a huge cone of stalactite hung from the roof of the largest apartment, and, on being struck, gave perfectly the sound of a death-bell. I was behind, and heard it repeatedly at some distance, and the effect was very much in the fairy kind, — gnomes, and things unseen, that toll mock death-bells for mock funerals. After this, a little clear well and a black stream pleased me the most; and multiplied by fifty, and coloured ad libitum, might be well enough to read of in a novel or poem. We returned, and now before the inn, on the green plat around the Maypole, the villagers were celebrating Whit-Tuesday. This Maypole is hung as usual with garlands on the top, and, in these garlands, spoons, and other little valuables, are placed. The high smooth round pole is then well greased; and now he who can climb up to the top may have what he can get, — a very laughable scene as you may suppose, of awkwardness and agility, and failures on the very brink of success. Now began a dance. The women danced very well, and, in general, I have observed throughout Germany that the women in the lower ranks degenerate far less from the ideal of a woman, than the men from that of man. The dances were reels and waltzes; but chiefly the latter. This dance is, in the higher circles, sufficiently voluptuous; but here the emotions of it were far more faithful interpreters of the passion, which, doubtless, the dance was intended to shadow; yet, ever after the giddy round and round is over, they walked to music, the woman laying her arm, with confident affection, on the man's shoulders, or around his neck. The first couple at the waltzing was a very fine tall girl, of two or three and twenty, in the full bloom and growth of limb and feature, and a fellow with huge whiskers, a long tail, and woollen night-cap; he was a soldier, and from the more than usual glances of the girl, I presumed was her lover. He was, beyond compare, the gallant and the dancer of the party. Next came two boors: one of whom, in the whole contour of his face and person, and, above all, in the laughably would-be frolicksome kick out of his heel, irresistibly reminded me of Shakespeare's Slender, and the other of his Dogberry. Oh! two such faces, and two such postures! O that I were an Hogarth! What an enviable gift it is to have a genius in painting! Their partners were pretty lasses, not so tall as the former, and danced uncommonly light and airy. The fourth couple was a sweet girl of about seventeen, delicately slender, and very prettily dressed, with a full-blown rose in the white ribbon that went round her head, and confined her reddish-brown hair; and her partner waltzed with a pipe in his mouth, smoking all the while; and during the whole of this voluptuous dance, his countenance was a fair personification of true German phlegm. After these, but, I suppose, not actually belonging to the party, a little ragged girl and ragged boy, with his stockings about his heels, waltzed and danced; — waltzing and dancing in the rear most entertainingly. But what most pleased me, was a little girl of about three or four years old, certainly not more than four, who had been put to watch a little babe, of not more than a year old (for one of our party had asked), and who was just beginning to run away, the girl teaching him to walk, and who was so animated by the music, that she began to waltz with him, and the two babes whirled round and round, hugging and kissing each other, as if the music had made them mad. There were two fiddles and a bass viol. The fiddlers, — above all, the bass violer, — most Hogarthian phizzes! God love them! I felt far more affection for them than towards any other set of human beings I have met with since I have been in Germany, I suppose because they looked so happy!"
Woods crowding upon woods, hills over hills;
A surging scene, and only limited
By the blue distance. Wearily my way
Downward I dragged, through fir groves evermore,
Where bright green moss moved in sepulchral forms,
Speckled with sunshine; and, but seldom heard,
The sweet bird's song become a hollow sound;
And the gale murmuring indivisibly,
Reserved its solemn murmur, more distinct
From many a note of many a waterbreak,
And the brook's chatter; on whose islet stones
The dingy kidling, with its tinkling bell,
Leapt frolicksome, or old romantic goat
Sat, his white beard slow waving. I moved on
With low and languid thought, for I had found
That grandest scenes have but imperfect charms
Where the eye vainly wanders, nor beholds
One spot with which the heart associates
Holy remembrances of child or friend,
Or gentle maid, our first and early love,
Or father, or the venerable name
Of our adored country. O thou Queen,
Thou delegated Deity of Earth,
O 'dear, dear' England! how my longing eyes
Turned westward, shaping in the steady clouds
Thy sands and high white cliffs! Sweet native isle,
This heart was proud, yea, mine eyes swam with tears
To think of thee; and all the goodly view
From sovran Brocken, woods and woody hills
Floated away, like a departing dream,
Feeble and dim. Stranger, these impulses
Blame thou not lightly; nor will I profane,
With hasty judgment or injurious doubt,
That man's sublimer spirit, who can feel
That God is every where, the God who framed
Mankind to be one mighty brotherhood,
Himself our Father, and the world our home.
"In the course of my repeated tours through the Hartz," Mr. Jordan says, "I ascended the Brocken twelve different times, but I had the good fortune only twice (both times about Whitsuntide), to see that atmospheric phenomenon called the Spectre of the Brocken, which appears to me worthy of particular attention, as it must, no doubt, be observed on other high mountains, which have a situation favourable for producing it. The first time I was deceived by this extraordinary phenomenon, I had clambered up to the summit of the Brocken, very early in the morning, in order to wait there for the inexpressibly beautiful view of the sun rising in the east. The heavens were already streaked with red: the sun was just appearing above the horizon in full majesty, and the most perfect serenity prevailed throughout the surrounding country. When the other Hartz mountains in the south-west, towards the Worm mountains, lying under the Brocken, began to be covered by thick clouds; ascending at this moment the granite rocks called the Teufelskauzel, there appeared before me, though at a great distance towards the Worm mountains, the gigantic figure of a man, as if standing on a large pedestal. But scarcely had I discovered it when it began to disappear; the clouds sank down speedily and expanded, and I saw the phenomenon no more. The second time, however, I saw the spectre somewhat more distinctly, a little below the summit of the Brocken, and near the Heinrichs-höhe, as I was looking at the sun rising about four o'clock in the morning. The weather was rather tempestuous, the sky towards the level country was pretty clear, but the Harz mountains had attracted several thick clouds which had been hovering around them, and which, beginning to settle on the Brocken, confined the prospect. In these clouds, soon after the rising of the sun, I saw my own shadow of a monstrous size, move itself for a couple of seconds exactly as I moved, but I was soon involved in clouds, and the phenomenon disappeared."It is impossible to see this phenomenon, except when the sun is at such an altitude as to throw his rays upon the body in a horizontal direction; for, if he is higher, the shadow is thrown rather under the body than before it. After visiting the Hartz, Coleridge returned to Göttingen, and in his note-book in a leave-taking memorial as well as autograph, the following lines were written by Blumenbach, the son:—
"Wenn Sie, bester Freund, auch in Jhrer Heimath dieColeridge returned to England after an absence of fourteen mouths, and arrived in London the 27th November, 1799.
Natur bewundern werden, wie wir beide es auf dem Harze
gethan haben, so erinnern Sie sich des Harzes, und ich darf
dann hoffen, das Sie auch mich nicht vergessen werden.
"Leben Sie wohl, und reisen glücklich,
If you perchance, my dearest friend, should still continue
to admire the works of nature at your home, as we have done
together on the Hartz; recall to your recollection the Hartz,
and then I dare hope that you will also think of me.
Farewell, may you have a prosperous voyage.
(Signed) yours, Blumenbach.
"To those," says he, "who design to acquire the language of a country in the country itself, it may be useful, if I mention the incalculable advantages which I derived from learning all the words that could possibly be so learnt, with the objects before me, and without the intermediation of the English terms. It was a regular part of my morning studies for the first six weeks of my residence at Ratzeburg, to accompany the good and kind old pastor, with whom I lived, from the cellar to the roof, through gardens, farm-yards, &c., and to call every the minutest thing by its German name. Advertisements, farces, jest-books, and conversation of children while I was at play with them, contributed their share to a more homelike acquaintance with the language, than I could have procured from books of polite literature alone, or even from polite society."In support of this plan, he makes a quotation from the massive folios of Luther — a passage as he calls it of "hearty sound sense," and gives the "simple, sinewy, idiomatic words of the "original," with a translation of his own:
"For one must not ask the letters in the Latin tongue, how one ought to speak German; but one must ask the mother in the house, the children in the lanes and alleys, the common man in the market, concerning this; yea, and look at the moves of their mouths while they are talking, and thereafter interpret. They understand then, and mark that one talks German with them."Whether he owed his successful acquirement of the language to these plans adopted by him, or whether to his extraordinary powers of mind, it must be left to others to judge. To form any thing like an accurate opinion, it may be necessary to re-state, that during this fourteen months' residence, he acquired such a knowledge of the German, as enabled him to make that extraordinary translation of the Wallenstein, (which will be presently noticed), reading at the same time several German authors, and storing up for himself the means of becoming familiar with others, on subjects in which the English language was deficient. In addition to what in this short period he effected, I may say that some part of this time was employed in receiving many lessons from professor Tychsen, in the Gothic of Ulphilas, which, says he,
"sufficed to make me acquainted with its grammar, and the radical words of most frequent occurrence; and with the occasional assistance of the same philosophical linguist, I read through Ottfried's Metrical Paraphrase of the Gospel, and the most important remains of the Theotiscan."Coleridge's Biographia contains the history and developement of his mind till 1816, when it was published; he called it his Literary Life, but of necessity it is intermixed with his biography, as he must have found it impossible to separate them. He had even half promised himself to write his own biography, but the want of success in his literary labours, and the state of his health, caused him to think seriously that his life was diminishing too fast, to permit him to finish those great works, of which he had long planned the execution. The conception of these works was on such a scale, that even his giant intellect, with his great and continuous powers of application, could not have executed them. But to continue. — On his return to London, his first literary occupation was the translation of the Wallenstein, which he effected in six weeks, in a lodging in Buckingham-street, in the Strand; it was printed and published in 1800.
"it dragged, like "a fly through a glue-pot." "It was my intention," he writes, "to have prefixed a life of Wallenstein to this translation; but I found that it must either have occupied a space wholly disproportionate to the nature of the publication, or have been merely a meagre catalogue of events narrated, not more fully than they already are in the play itself. The recent translation, likewise, of Schiller's History of the Thirty Years' War, diminished the motives thereto. In the translation, I have endeavoured to render my author literally, wherever I was not prevented by absolute differences of idiom; but I am conscious, that in two or three short passages, I have been guilty of dilating the original; and, from anxiety to give the full meaning, have weakened the force. In the metre I have availed myself of no other liberties, than those which Schiller had permitted to himself, except the occasional breaking up of the line, by the substitution of a trochee for an iambus; of which liberty, so frequent in our tragedies, I find no instance in these dramas.About this time, or soon after his return from Germany, the proprietor of the Morning Post, who was also the editor, engaged Coleridge to undertake the literary department. In this he promised to assist, provided the paper was conducted on fixed and announced principles, and that he should neither be requested nor obliged to deviate from them in favour of any party or any event. In consequence, that journal became, and for many years continued, anti-ministerial, yet with a very qualified approbation of the opposition, and with far greater earnestness and zeal, both anti-jacobin and anti-gallican. As contributors to this paper, the editor had the assistance of Mr. Wordsworth, Mr. Southey, and Mr. Lamb. Mr. Southey, from his extreme activity and industry, with powers best suited for such employment, with a rapidity and punctuality which made him invaluable to the proprietor, was the largest contributor. The others not possessing the same qualifications, although extremely powerful in their way, were not of the same value to the proprietor.
The two Dramas, Piccolomini, or the first part of Wallenstein, and Wallenstein, are introduced in the original manuscript by a prelude in one act, entitled Wallenstein's camp. This is written in rhyme, and in nine syllable verse, in the same lilting metre (if that expression may be permitted) with the second eclogue of Spencer's Shepherd's Calendar. This prelude possesses a sort of broad humour, and is not deficient in character, but to have translated it into prose, or into any other metre than that of the original, would have given a false idea, both of its style and purport; to have translated it into the same metre, would have been incompatible with a faithful adherence to the sense of the German, from the comparative poverty of our language in rhymes; and it would have been unadvisable, from the incongruity of those lax verses with the present state of the English public. Schiller's intention seems to have been merely to have prepared his reader for the tragedies, by a lively picture of the laxity of discipline, and the mutinous disposition of Wallenstein's soldiery. It is not necessary as a preliminary explanation. For these reasons it has been thought expedient not to translate it.
The admirers of Schiller, who have abstracted their idea of that author from the Robbers, and the Cabal and Love plays, in which the main interest is produced by the excitement of curiosity, and in which the curiosity is excited by terrible and extraordinary incident, will not have perused, without some portion of disappointment, the dramas which it has been my employment to translate. They should, however, reflect, that these are historical dramas, taken from a popular German history; that we must therefore judge of them in some measure with the feelings of Germans, or by analogy with the interest excited in us by similar dramas in our own language. Few, I trust, would be rash or ignorant enough, to compare Schiller with Shakspeare, yet, merely as illustration, I would say, that we should proceed to the perusal of Wallenstein, not from Lear or Othello, but from Richard the Second, or the three parts of Henry the Sixth. We scarcely expect rapidity in an historical drama; and many prolix speeches are pardoned from characters, whose names and actions have formed the most amusing tales of our early life. On the other hand, there exist in these plays more individual beauties, more passages the excellence of which will bear reflection than in the former productions of Schiller.
The description of the Astrological Tower, and the reflections of the young lover, which follow it, form in the original a fine poem, and my translation must have been wretched indeed, if it can have wholly overclouded the beauties of the scene in the first act of the first play, between Questenberg, Max. and Octavio Piccolomini.
If we except the scene of the setting sun in the Robbers, I know of no part in Schiller's plays, which equals the whole of the first scene of the fifth act of the concluding play. It would be unbecoming in me to be more diffuse on this subject. A translator stands connected with the original author by a certain law of subordination, which makes it more decorous to point out excellencies than defects; indeed, he is not likely to be a fair judge of either. The pleasure or disgust from his own labour, will mingle with the feelings that arise from an after view of the original poem; and in the first perusal of a work in any foreign language, which we understand, we are apt to attribute to it more excellence than it really possesses, from our own pleasurable sense of difficulty overcome without effort. Translation of poetry into poetry is difficult, because the translator must give a brilliancy to his language without that warmth of original conception, from which such brilliancy would follow of its own accord. But the translator of a living author is encumbered with additional inconveniences. If he render his original faithfully, as to the sense of each passage, he must necessarily destroy a considerable portion of the spirit; if he endeavour to give a work executed according to laws of compensation, he subjects himself to imputations of vanity, or misrepresentation. I thought it my duty to remain by the sense of my original, with as few exceptions as the nature of the language rendered possible."
"I do derive," says Coleridge, "a gratification from the knowledge, that my essays have contributed to introduce the practice of placing the questions and events of the day in a moral point of view. In Burke's writings, indeed, the germs of all political truths may be found. But I dare assume to myself the merit of having first explicitly defined and analysed the nature of Jacobinism; and in distinguishing the Jacobin from the Republican, the Democrat, and the mere Demagogue," (vide Friend.)Whilst Coleridge retained the opinions of the Unitarians, or rather preached among them, they hailed him as the rising star of their society, but when he seceded from them on his change of opinions, many of them bruited his name in execration. Not so was it with Mr. Estlin and other amiable and intelligent men, they understood him, and felt he had acted on the full conviction of his mind, and that he was acting conscientiously when he declined the opportunity of possessing a fixed income, of which he stood so much in need. Those who knew him, knew how much he suffered, and how painful it was for him to have differed with such a friend as Mr. Estlin, one to whom he had been indebted for many kind offices: But Coleridge was too sincere a man to dissemble. — There were however others, who, from motives and feelings not honourable to them, dissemblers even in Unitarianism, who sought every opportunity of defaming him, and attempted to strip him of his virtues, and of his genius, by calumny and detraction. In this, however, they were foiled. On the other hand, the party more inclined to favour fanaticism, were so indiscreet in their praise as to become in their turn equally injurious to his character, and verified the old adage, that indiscreet friends are too often the worst of enemies; for this party considered his conversion as nothing less than a special miracle. It was impossible for a mind so philosophical and so constituted, to remain long in the trammels of a philosophy like Hartley's, or to continue to adhere to such a substitute for Christianity as Unitarianism; like the incarcerated chicken, he would on increase of growth and power, liberate himself from his imprisonment and breathe unencumbered the vital air, the pabulum of animal life, which by parallel reasoning, Coleridge was aiming at in a spiritual life. From such a substitute for Christianity, that imitation so unvitalizing in its effects, the studiously industrious and sincere man will recoil; but the vain and superficial man will find much in it for the display of his egotism, and superficial knowledge. Often did he remark when conversing on these subjects, there was a time, when
"I disbelieved down to Unitarianism, it would have been more honest to have gone farther, to have denied the existence of a God! but that my heart would not allow me to do."But to this subject we shall have occasion to return. The mind which grows with its culture, seeks deeper research, and so was it with his. Certainly, one of the effects of his visits to Germany, was to root up whatever remained of the Mechanical Philosophy of Hartley, after whom he had named his eldest son, and to open to his mind in philosophy new and higher views, and in religion more established views. But change with the many, though the result of conviction and the growth of truth, is still a change; and with the unthinking, it deteriorates from the character of a man, rather than as it should do elevate him,
... unless above himself he canIn the years 1783, 1784, and 1786, Bishop Horsley wrote some of the tracts in controversy with Priestley, upon the historical question of the belief of the first ages in Our Lord's Divinity, which are collected in one volume, with large additional notes, dated 1789.
Erect himself, how mean a thing is man!
"February 12, 1805. — Thinking during my perusal of Horsley's letters in reply to Dr. Priestley's objections to the Trinity on the part of Jews, Mahometans, and Infidels, it burst upon me at once as an awful truth, what seven or eight years ago I thought of proving with a hollow faith, and for an ambiguous purpose,29 my mind then wavering in its necessary passage from Unitarianism (which, as I have often said, is the religion of a man, whose reason would make him an atheist, but whose heart and common sense will not permit him to be so) through Spinosism into Plato and St. John. No Christ, no God! This I now feel with all its needful evidence of the understanding: would to God my spirit were made conform thereto — that no Trinity, no God! That Unitarianism in all its forms is idolatry, and that the remark of Horsley is most accurate; that Dr. Priestley's mode of converting the Jews and Turks is, in the great essential of religious faith, to give the name of Christianity to their present idolatry — truly the trick of Mahomet, who, finding that the mountain would not come to him, went to the mountain. O! that this conviction may work upon me and in me, and that my mind may be made up as to the character of Jesus, and of historical Christianity, as clearly as it is of the logos, and intellectual or spiritual Christianity — that I may be made to know either their especial and peculiar union, or their absolute disunion in any peculiar sense.30
With regard to the Unitarians, it has been shamelessly asserted, that I have denied them to be Christians. God forbid! For how should I know what the piety of the heart may be, or what quantum of error in the understanding may consist, with a saving faith in the intentions and actual dispositions of the whole moral being, in any one individual? Never will God reject a soul that sincerely loves him, be his speculative opinions what they may: and whether in any given instance certain opinions, be they unbelief, or misbelief, are compatible with a sincere love of God, God only can know. But this I have said, and shall continue to say, that if the doctrines, the sum of which I believe to constitute the truth in Christ, be Christianity, then Unitarianism is not, and vice versâ: and that in speaking theologically and impersonally, i. e. of Psilanthropism and Theanthropism, as schemes of belief — and without reference to individuals who profess either the one or the other — it will be absurd to use a different language, as long as it is the dictate of common sense, that two opposites cannot properly be called by the same name.
I should feel no offence if a Unitarian applied the same to me, any more than if he were to say, that 2 and 2 being 4, 4 and 4 must be 8."
Biog. Lit. vol. ii. p. 307.
"For the conceptions of the mind may be so vivid and adequate, as to preclude that impulse to the realising of them, which is strongest and most restless in those who possess more than mere talent (or the faculty of appropriating and applying the knowledge of others,) yet still want something of the creative and self-sufficing power of absolute Genius. For this reason, therefore, they are men of commanding genius. While the former rest content between thought and reality, as it were in an intermundium of which their own living spirit supplies the substance, and their imagination the ever-varying form; the latter must impress their preconceptions on the world without, in order to present them back to their own view with the satisfying degree of clearness, distinctness, and individuality."Vol. i. p. 31.
"The Slaves in the West Indies consider Death as a passport to their native country. This sentiment is expressed in the introduction to the Greek Ode on the Slave Trade, of which the Ideas are better than the language in which they are conveyed."Certainly this is taking no merit to himself, although the Ode obtained the Prize.
"At the beginning of the French Revolution, Klopstock wrote odes of congratulation. He received some honorary presents from the French Republic (a golden crown, I believe), and, like our Priestley, was invited to a seat in the legislature, which he declined: but, when French liberty metamorphosed herself into a fury, he sent back these presents with a palinodia, declaring his abhorrence of their proceedings; and since then he has been more perhaps than enough an Anti-Gallican. I mean, that in his just contempt and detestation of the crimes and follies of the revolutionists, he suffers himself to forget that the revolution itself is a process of the Divine Providence; and that as the folly of men is the wisdom of God, so are their iniquities instruments of his goodness."Biographia Literaria, vol. ii. p. 243.
"My feelings, however, and imagination did not remain unkindled in this general conflagration (the French Revolution); and I confess I should be more inclined to be ashamed than proud of myself if they had. I was a sharer in the general vortex, though my little world described the path of its revolution in an orbit of its own. What I dared not expect from constitutions of government and whole nations, I hoped from Religion."return
"I sometimes compare my own life with that of Steele (yet oh! how unlike), led to this from having myself also for a brief time borne arms, and written 'private' after my name, or rather another name; for being at a loss when suddenly asked my name, I answered Comberbach, and verily my habits were so little equestrian, that my horse, I doubt not, was of that opinion."return
"In all Mr. Coleridge's lectures he was a steady opposer of Mr. Pitt and the then existing war; and also an enthusiastic admirer of Fox, Sheridan, Grey, &c. &c., but his opposition to the reigning politics discovered little asperity; it chiefly appeared by wit and sarcasm, and commonly ended in that which was the speaker's chief object, a laugh. Few attended Mr. C.'s lectures but those whose political views were similar to his own; but on one occasion, some gentlemen of the opposite party came into the lecture-room, and at one sentiment they heard, testified their disapprobation by the only easy and safe way in their power; namely, by a hiss. The auditors were startled at so unusual a sound, not knowing to what it might conduct; but their noble leader soon quieted their fears, by instantly remarking, with great coolness, 'I am not at all surprised, when the red hot prejudices of aristocrats are suddenly plunged into the cool waters of reason, that they should go off with a hiss!' The words were electric. The assailants felt, as well as testified their confusion, and the whole company confirmed it by immense applause! There was no more hissing."return
"With the exception of one extraordinary man, I have never known an individual, least of all an individual of genius, healthy or happy without a profession, i.e., some regular employment, which does not depend on the will of the moment, and which can be carried on so far mechanically, that an average quantum only of health, spirits, and intellectual exertion are requisite to its faithful discharge. Three hours of leisure, unannoyed by any alien anxiety, and looked forward to with delight as a change and recreation, will suffice to realize in literature a larger product of what is truly genial, than weeks of compulsion. Money, and immediate reputation form only an arbitrary and accidental end of literary labour. The hope of increasing them by any given exertion will often prove a stimulant to industry; but the necessity of acquiring them will, in all works of genius, convert the stimulant into a narcotic. Motives by excess reverse their very nature, and instead of exciting, stun and stupify the mind; for it is one contra-distinction of genius from talent, that its predominant end is always comprised in the means; and this is one of the many points, which establish an analogy between genius and virtue. Now, though talents may exist without genius, yet, as genius cannot exist, certainly not manifest itself, without talents, I would advise every scholar, who feels the genial power working within him, so far to make a division between the two, as that he should devote his talents to the acquirement of competence in some known trade or profession, and his genius to objects of his tranquil and unbiassed choice; while the consciousness of being actuated in both alike by the sincere desire to perform his duty, will alike ennoble both. "My dear young friend," (I would say), "suppose yourself established in any honourable occupation. From the manufactory or counting-house, from the law-court, or from having visited your last patient, you return at evening,Biog. Lit.'Dear tranquil time, when the sweet sense of hometo your family, prepared for its social enjoyments, with the very countenances of your wife and children brightened, and their voice of welcome made doubly welcome by the knowledge that, as far as they are concerned, you have satisfied the demands of the day, by the labour of the day. Then, when you retire into your study, in the books on your shelves, you revisit so many venerable friends with whom you can converse. Your own spirit scarcely less free from personal anxieties than the great minds, that in those books are still living for you! Even your writing-desk, with its blank paper and all its other implements, will appear as a chain of flowers, capable of linking your feelings, as well as thoughts to events, and characters, past or to come: not a chain of iron which binds you down to think of the future and the remote, by recalling the claims and feelings of the peremptory present: but why should I say retire? The habits of active life and daily intercourse with the stir of the world, will tend to give you such self command, that the presence of your family will be no interruption. Nay, the social silence, or undisturbing voices of a wife or sister will be like a restorative atmosphere, or soft music which moulds a dream without becoming its object. If facts are required to prove the possibility of combining weighty performances in literature with full and independent employment, the works of Cicero and Xenophon among the ancients; of Sir Thomas Moore, Bacon, Baxter, or, to refer at once to later and contemporary instances, Darwin and Roscoe, are at once decisive of the question."
"And now, beloved Stowey! I beholdreturn
Thy Church-tower, and, methinks, the four huge elms
Clustering, which mark the mansion of my friend;
And close behind them, hidden from my view,
Is my own lowly cottage, where my babe
And my babe's mother dwell in peace. With light
And quicken'd footsteps thitherward I tend,
Remembering thee, O green and silent dell!
And grateful, that by nature's quietness
And solitary musings, all my heart
Is soften'd, and made worthy to indulge
Love, and the thoughts that yearn for human kind.
April 28th, 1798."
"No little fish thrown back into the water, no fly unimprisoned from a child's hand, could more buoyantly enjoy its element than I this clear and peaceful home, with the lovely view of the town, groves, and lake of Ratzeburg."return
"So, Mr. Coleridge, I understand you do not consider Unitarians Christians."This want of knowledge of the difference, is common to many very clever and very amiable persons of this creed. It is hoped that we are not always to be tried by our speculative opinions, for man is frequently constituted higher and better than the principles he sometimes adopts.
"I hope, Madam," said he, "that all persons born in a Christian country are Christians, and trust they are under the condition of being saved; but I do contend that Unitarianism is not Christianity;"
to which she replied,
"I do not understand the distinction."
"I do not so much care for men's religious opinions, — they vary, and are dependant on that which usually surrounds them-but I regard with more attention what men are."He extended his kindness to all he believed to be good, whatever their creed, and when in his power, his aid. When injured, he immediately forgave, as he hoped to be forgiven,1 and when reviled and persecuted, he never became persecutor. Of him it may be said, what he himself observed of the pious Baxter, that "he came a century before his time." The Western world however seems to have better appreciated the works of Coleridge, than most of his countrymen: in some parts of America, his writings are understood and highly valued.
"Friday afternoon, four o'clock, April 18,1804. The Speedwell dropped anchor in the harbour of Malta: one of the finest in the world, the buildings surrounding it on all sides, of a neat ever-new-looking sand-free-stone. Some unfinished, and in all, the windows placed backward, looked like Carthage when Æneas visited it-or a burnt out place.The simplicity of Coleridge's manners, and entire absence of all show of business-like habits, amongst men chiefly mercantile, made him an object of curiosity, and gave rise to the relation of many whimsical stories about him. But his kindness and benevolence lent a charm to his behaviour and manners, in whatever he was engaged. From the state of his own lungs, invalid-like, he was in the habit of attending much to those about him, and particularly those who had been sent to Malta for pulmonary disease. He frequently observed how much the invalid, at first landing, was relieved by the climate and the stimulus of change; but when the novelty, arising from that change, had ceased, the monotonous sameness of the blue sky, accompanied by the summer heat of the climate, acted powerfully as a sedative, ending in speedy dissolution, — even more speedy than in a colder climate. The effects on Coleridge seemed to run parallel to this. At first he remarked that he was relieved, but afterwards speaks of his limbs "as lifeless tools," and of the violent pains in his bowels, which neither opium, ether, nor peppermint, separately or combined, could relieve. These several states he minuted down, from time to time, for after-consideration or comparison. He most frequently sought relief from bodily suffering in religious meditations, or in some augmented exercise of his mind:
Saturday, April 19. — In the after-dinner hour walked out with Mr. and Mrs. Stoddart, towards the Quarantine harbour. One's first feeling is, that it is all strange, very strange; and when you begin to understand a little of the meaning and uses of the massy endless walls and defiles, then you feel and perceive that it is very wonderful. A city all of freestone, all the houses looking new like Bath; all with flat roofs, the streets all strait, and at right angles to each other; but many of them exceedingly steep, none quite level; of the steep streets, some, all stepped with a smooth artificial stone, some having the footpath on each side in stone steps, the middle left for carriages; lines of fortification, fosses, bastions, curtains, &c. &c. endless: — with gardens or bowling-grounds below; for it is all height and depth — you can walk nowhere without having whispers of suicide, toys of desperation. Expletive cries of Maltese venders shot up, sudden and violent. The inhabitants very dark, almost black; but straight, cleanlimbed, lively, active, — cannot speak in praise of their cleanliness — children very fair — women from the use of the faldetto, or cloak-hooding their heads, as women in England in a shower throw over their aprons, and from the use of always holding it down to one side of the face, all have a continued languishing manner of holding their heads one way — picturesque enough as expressive of a transient emotion, but shocking and inelegant in all and always. The language Arabic, corrupted with Italian, and perhaps with others. Sunday, April 20, 1804. — Went to church, plain chapel with a picture behind the pulpit, which I was not close enough to see, and at the other end in a nitch, a cross painted! Was it there before? or was it in complaisance to Maltese superstitions? — Called on Sir A. Ball — there I met General Valette, and delivered my letter to him, — a striking room, very high; 3/4ths of its height from the ground hung with rich crimson silk or velvet; and the 1/4th above, a mass of colours, pictures in compartments rudely done and without perspective or art, but yet very impressively and imagination-stirringly — representing all the events and exploits of the Order. — Some fine pictures, one by Correggio, one of a Cain killing Abel, I do not know by whom.
Monday, April 21, 1804, Hardkain. — Sir A. Ball called on me, and introduced me to Mr. Lane, who was formerly his tutor, but now his chaplain. He invited me to dine with him on Thursday, and made a plan for me to ride to St. Antonio on Tuesday morning with Mr. Lane, offering me a horse. Soon after came on thunder and storm, and my breathing was affected a good deal, but still I was in no discomfort.
April 22, Tuesday morning, six o'clock, was on horseback, and rode to St. Antonio. — Fields with walls, to keep the fort from the rain — mere desolation seemingly, and yet it is fertile. St. Antonio, a pleasant country-house, with a fine but unheeded garden, save among the low orange and lemon trees, still thick with fruit on many of the trees, fruit ripe, blossoms, and the next year's fruit. Pepper-trees very beautiful, and the locust-tree not amiss. Visited St. John's — O magnificence!
Wednesday, April 23. — General Valette I called on at his country-house, just out of the gates, near the end of the Botanic Garden, and it is the pleasantest place I have seen here. The multitude of small gardens and orangeries, among the huge masses of fortifications, many of them seeming almost as thick as the gardens inclosed by them are broad. Pomegranate in (beautiful secicle) flower. Under a bridge over a dry ditch saw the largest prickly pear. Elkhorns for trunk, and then its leaves — but go and look and look. — (Hard rain.) We sheltered in the Botanic Garden; yet reached home not unwetted."
"Sickness, 'tis true,The citadel did, indeed, remain unconquered even to his last hour — he found in religious meditation and prayer that solace and support which, during a life of misery and pain, gave him his extraordinary patience and resignation. If an ejaculation escaped him, it was usually followed by some moral or religious reflection, as thus runs one of his notes:—
Whole years of weary days, besieged him close,
Even to the gates and inlets of his life!
But it is true, no less, that strenuous, firm,
And with a natural gladness, he maintained
The citadel unconquered, and in joy
Was strong to follow the delightful muse."
"O me mi serum! Assuredly the doctrine of grace, atonement, and the spirit of God interceding by groans to the spirit of God, (Rev. viii. 26.), is founded on constant experience, and even if it can be ever explained away, it must still remain as the rising and setting of the sun itself, as the darkness and as the light — it must needs have the most efficient character of reality, — quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus! Deeply do I both know and feel my weakness — God in his wisdom grant, that my day of visitation may not have been past."Lest some will-worshiping individuals, inflated by vanity, and self-righteousness, should misunderstand or misconstrue him, the following lines are copied from his poems:—
Humility, The Mother Of CharityThere is not, perhaps, to be found on record a more perfect example of humility and charity, than that which he exhibited and sustained for so long a period of suffering and trial. Surely he could not be compared to the generality of his fellows — to men who, though possessing great worldly reputation, never gave him their support; but, on the contrary, were sometimes even ready to whisper down his fair name!
"Frail creatures are we all! To be the best,
Is but the fewest faults to have: —
Look thou then to thyself, and leave the rest
To God, thy conscience and the grave."
"For whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above."
"It is no uncommon thing," says an affectionate and kind-hearted friend, whose genius is rarely equalled, "to see well intentioned men please themselves with the feeling that they are not as others; that they are the favorites of Heaven, and washed clean by special dispensation from the spots of frail mortality; who more-over assume that they possess the most delicate feelings; but then those feelings are under such admirable discipline, that they can, with the most exquisite suffering, cry over their own sentences, shed tears of pity and blood for their duty, make a merit of the hardness which is contrary to their nature, and live in perpetual apprehension of being too tender-hearted. It is wonderful with what ingenuity these people can reconcile their flexible consciences to acts at which their inferiors might blush or shudder, and no less fearful to reflect how many poor wretches, not wholly past hope or reformation, may have been sent to their last account, with all their imperfections on their heads, to satisfy the religious or political fears of these pharisees. The patrons and employers of spies, we may expect to make the greatest sacrifice to expediency, — a word which every man will explain after his own way."To have written during his life any thing like an eulogy on Coleridge would have been most painful to him, yet he must have felt, that he deserved well of his fellow beings; for fame, and fame only, he observes, is the aim and object of every good and great man, though it is too often confounded with mere reputation. When a youth, he had learnt how to value that bubble reputation, its fleeting character, but the love of which, in some men, is so injurious both to head and heart. Reputation, "the morrow's meal," the "breakfast only," the furnisher of the tinsel ornaments, or at most of some of the worldly agreeables, sown perhaps for future worldly enjoyment. He laboured for riches of another kind, and stored them, in the hope of receiving a more permanent reward:
"By fame of course," says Coleridge, "I mean any thing rather than reputation,6 the desire of working in the good and great permanently, through indefinite ages, the struggle to be promoted into the rank of God's fellow-labourers. For bold as this expression is, it is a quotation from Scripture, and therefore justified by God himself, for which we ought to be grateful, that he has deigned to hold out such a glory to us! This is however only one consistent part of the incomprehensible goodness of Deity in taking upon himself man."His note-books abound with "his hints and first thoughts; "as he says, his "Cogitabilia rather than actual cogitata à me," — not always to be understood as his fixed opinions, but often merely suggestions of the disquisition, and acts of obedience to the apostolic command of "Try all things, hold fast that which is good." Among them is the following characteristic of the man and his feelings, noted down for some future disquisition.
"Würde, Worthiness, Virtue, consist in the mastery over the sensuous and sensual impulses; but Love requires Innocence. Let the lover ask his heart whether he could endure that his mistress should have struggled with a sensual impulse for another, though she overcame it from a sense of duty to him? Women are Less offended with men, from the vicious habits of men in part, and in part from the difference of bodily constitution; yet still to a pure and truly loving woman it must be a painful thought. That he should struggle with and overcome ambition, desire of fortune, superior beauty, &c. or with desire objectless, is pleasing; but not that he has struggled with positive appropriated desire, i.e. desire with an object. Love in short requires an absolute peace and harmony between all parts of human nature, such as it is, and it is offended by any war, though the battle should be decided in favour of the worthier.On the arrival of the new secretary at Malta, Mr. Coleridge left it, September 27, 1805, and after a day's voyage, arrived at Syracuse. He remained in Sicily a short time only, for he was eager to visit the "eternal city" (Rome,) in which he staid some months. The next date marking his progress, is the 15th December, 1806, Naples, — the usual place of the residence of travellers during summer.7 This gap in his minutes is partly filled up by his own verbal account, repeated at various times to the writer of this memoir. While in Rome, he was actively employed in visiting the great works of art, statues, pictures, buildings, palaces, &c. &c. observations on which he minuted down for publication. Here he became acquainted with the eminent literary men at that time collected there, and here he first saw the great American painter Alston, for whom he always cherished an unfeigned regard. The German poet Tieck, he then for the first time also saw, and many others of celebrity. To one of them he was mainly indebted for his safety, otherwise he might have terminated his career in the Temple at Paris: for to Buonaparte, through one of his industrious emissaries, Coleridge had become obnoxious, in consequence of an article written by him in the Morning Post. This salutary warning he obtained from the brother of the celebrated traveller, Humboldt, of whom he had enquired, whether he could pass through Switzerland and Germany, and return by that route to England. Humboldt then informed Coleridge, that having passed through Paris on his journey to Rome, he had learnt that he, Coleridge, was a marked man, and unsafe: when within the reach of Buonaparte he advised him to be more than usually circumspect, and do, all in his power to remain unknown.8 Rather unexpectedly, he had a visit early one morning from a noble Benedictine, with a passport signed by the Pope, in order to facilitate his departure. He left him a carriage, and an admonition for instant flight, which was promptly obeyed by Coleridge. Hastening to Leghorn, he discovered an American vessel ready to sail for England, on board of which he embarked. On the voyage she was chased by a French vessel, which so alarmed the American, that he compelled Coleridge to throw his papers overboard, and thus to his great regret, were lost the fruits of his literary labours in Rome.9
This is perhaps the final cause of the rarity of true love, and the efficient and immediate cause of its difficulty. Ours is a life of probation, we are to contemplate and obey duty for its own sake, and in order to this we, in our present imperfect state of being, must see it not merely abstracted from, but in direct opposition to the wish, the inclination. Having perfected this, the highest possibility of human nature, he may then with safety harmonize all his being with it; he may Love! — To perform duties absolutely from the sense of duty, is the ideal, which perhaps no human being ever can arrive at, but which every human being ought to try to draw near unto. This is in the only wise, and verily, in a most sublime sense to see God face to face; which, alas! it seems too true, that no man can do and live, i. e. a human life. It would become incompatible with his organization, or rather it would transmute it, and the process of that transmutation to the senses of other men would be called death. — Even as to caterpillars; in all probability the caterpillar dies, and he either does not see, which is most probable, or at all events he does not see the connection between the caterpillar and the butterfly, the beautiful Psyche of the Greeks.
Those who in this life love in perfection — if such there be — in proportion as their love has no struggles, see God darkly and through a veil: — for when duty and pleasure are absolutely coincident, the very nature of our organization necessitates that duty, will be contemplated as the symbol of pleasure, instead of pleasure being (as in a future life we have faith it will be) the symbol of duty. This then is the distinction between human and angelic happiness. Human happiness — humanly happy I call him, who in enjoyment finds his duty; angelically happy he, who seeks and finds his duty in enjoyment. Happiness in general may be defined — not the aggregate of pleasurable sensations, for this is either a dangerous error and the creed of sensualists, or else a mere translation or wordy paraphrase — but the state of that person who, in order to enjoy his nature in its highest manifestations of conscious feeling, has no need of doing wrong, and who in order to do right is under no necessity of abstaining from enjoyment."
"It is not unknown to you, that I have employed almost the whole of my life in acquiring, or endeavouring to acquire, useful knowledge by study, reflection, observation, and by cultivating the society of my superiors in intellect, both at home and in foreign countries. You know too, that at different periods of my life, I have not only planned, but collected the materials for many works on various and important subjects: so many indeed, that the number of my unrealized schemes, and the mass of my miscellaneous fragments, have often furnished my friends with a subject of raillery, and sometimes of regret and reproof. Waiving the mention of all private and accidental hinderances, I am inclined to believe, that this want of perseverance has been produced in the main by an over-activity of thought, modified by a constitutional indolence, which made it more pleasant to me to continue acquiring, than to reduce what I had acquired to a regular form. Add too, that almost daily throwing off my notices or reflections in desultory fragments, I was still tempted onward by an increasing sense of the imperfection of my knowledge, and by the conviction, that in order fully to comprehend and develope any one subject, it was necessary that I should make myself master of some other, which again as regularly involved a third, and so on, with an ever-widening horizon. Yet one habit, formed during long absences from those with whom I could converse with full sympathy, has been of advantage to me — that of daily noting down, in my memorandum or common place books, both incidents and observations, whatever had occurred to me from without, and all the flux and reflux of my mind within itself. The number of these notices and their tendency, miscellaneous as they were, to one common end ('quid sumus et quid futuri gignimur,' what we are and what we are born to become; and thus from the end of our being to deduce its proper objects), first encouraged me to undertake the weekly essay, of which you will consider this letter as the prospectus.The first number, printed on stamped paper, was dated June 8th, 1809. He commences this work with the following motto:—
Not only did the plan seem to accord better than any other with the nature of my own mind, both in its strength and in its weakness; but conscious that, in upholding some principles both of taste and philosophy, adopted by the great men of Europe, from the middle of the fifteenth till toward the close of the seventeenth century. I must run counter to many prejudices of many of my readers (for old faith is often modern heresy). I perceived too in a periodical essay, the most likely means of winning instead of forcing my way. Supposing truth on my side, the shock of the first day might be so far lessened by reflections of the succeeding days, as to procure for my next week's essay a less hostile reception, than it would have met with, had it been only the next chapter of a present volume. I hoped to disarm the mind of those feelings, which preclude conviction by contempt, and as it were, fling the door in the face of reasoning, by a presumption of its absurdity. A motion too for honourable ambition was supplied by the fact, that every periodical paper of the kind now attempted, which had been conducted with zeal and ability, was not only well received at the time, but has become permanently, and in the best sense of the word, popular. By honourable ambition, I mean the strong desire to be useful, aided by the wish to be generally acknowledged to have been so. As I feel myself actuated in no ordinary degree by this desire, so the hope of realizing it appears less and less presumptuous to me, since I have received from men of highest rank and established character in the republic of letters, not only strong encouragements as to my own fitness for the undertaking, but likewise promises of support from their own stores.
The object of The Friend briefly and generally expressed is — to uphold those truths and those merits against the caprices of fashion, and such pleasures, as either depend on transitory and accidental causes, or are pursued from less worthy impulses. The chief subjects of my own essays will be: —
- The true and sole ground of morality, or virtue, as distinguished from prudence.
- The origin and growth of moral impulses, as distinguished from external and immediate motives.
- The necessary dependence of taste on moral impulses and habits; and the nature of taste (relatively to judgment in general and to genius) defined, illustrated and applied. Under this head I comprise the substance of the Lectures given, and intended to have been given, at the Royal Institution, on the distinguished English Poets, in illustration of the general principles of Poetry, together with suggestions concerning the affinity of the Fine Arts to each other, and the principles common to them all: Architecture; Gardening; Dress; Music; Painting; Poetry.
- The opening out of new objects of just admiration in our own language, and information of the present state and past history of Swedish, Danish, German and Italian literature, (to which, but as supplied by a friend, I may add the Spanish, Portuguese and French,) as far as the same has not been already given to English readers, or is not to be found in common French authors.
- Characters met with in real life; anecdotes and results of my life and travels, &c. &c. as far as they are illustrative of general moral laws, and have no immediate leaning on personal or immediate politics.
- Education in its widest sense, private and national sources of consolation to the afflicted in misfortune or disease, or dejection of mind from the exertion and right application of the reason, the imagination, and the moral sense; and new sources of enjoyment opened out, or an attempt (as an illustrious friend once expressed the thought to me) to add sunshine to daylight, by making the happy more happy. In the words 'dejection of mind,' I refer particularly to doubt or disbelief of the moral government of the world, and the grounds and arguments for the religious hopes of human nature."
"Whenever we improve, it is right to leave room for a further improvement. It is right to consider, to look about us, to examine the effect of what we have done. Then we can proceed with confidence, because we can proceed with intelligence. Whereas, in hot reformations, is what men more zealous than considerate, call making clear work, the whole is generally so crude, so harsh, so indigested; mixed with so much imprudence and so much injustice; so contrary to the whole course of human nature and human institutions, that the very people who are most eager for it, are among the first to grow disgusted at what they have done. Then some part of the abdicated grievance is recalled from its exile in order to become a corrective of the correction.The work ceased at the 27th number, March 15th, 1810. As is usually the case when authors become their own publishers, there was a pecuniary loss; but as long as printing lasts, it must remain a record of his powers.
Then the abuse assumes all the credit and popularity of a reform. The very idea of purity and disinterestedness in politics falls into disrepute, and is considered as a vision of hot and inexperienced men; and thus disorders become incurable, not by the virulence of their own quality, but by the unapt and violent nature of the remedies."
(Burke's speech on the 11th of February, 1780.)
To My Readers.
"Conscious that I am about to deliver my sentiments on a subject of the utmost delicacy, I have selected the general motto to all my political lucubrations, from an authority equally respected by both parties. I have taken it from an orator, whose eloquence enables Englishmen to repeat the name of Demosthenes and Cicero, without humiliation; from a statesman, who has left to our language a bequest of glory unrivalled and all our own, in the keen-eyed, yet far-sighted genius, with which he has made the profoundest general principles of political wisdom, and even the recondite laws of human passions, bear upon particular measures and passing events. While of the harangues of Pitt, Fox, and their compeers on the most important occurrences, we retain a few unsatisfactory fragments alone, the very flies and weeds of Burke shine to us through the purest amber, imperishably enshrined, and valuable from the precious material of their embalment. I have extracted the passage not from that Burke, whose latter exertions have rendered his works venerable as oracular voices from the sepulchre of a patriarch, to the upholders of the government and society in their existing state and order; but from a speech delivered by him while he was the most beloved, the proudest name with the more anxious friends of liberty; while he was the darling of those who, believing mankind to have been improved, are desirous to give to forms of government a similar progression. From the same anxiety, I have been led to introduce my opinions on this most hazardous subject, by a preface of a somewhat personal character. And though the title of my address is general, yet, I own, I direct myself more particularly to those among my readers, who, from various printed and unprinted calumnies, have judged most unfavourably of my political tenets; aid to those whose favour I have chanced to win in consequence of a similar, though not equal mistake. To both, I affirm, that the opinions and arguments, I am about to detail, have been the settled convictions of my mind for the last ten or twelve years, with some brief intervals of fluctuation, and those only in lesser points, and known only to the companions of my fire-side. From both and from all my readers, I solicit a gracious attention to the following explanations: first, on the congruity of the following numbers, with the general plan and object of The Friend; and secondly, on the charge of arrogance or presumption, which may be adduced against the author for the freedom, with which in these numbers, and in others that will follow on other subjects, he presumes to dissent from men of established reputation, or even to doubt of the justice, with which the public laurel-crown, as symbolical of the first class of genius and intellect, has been awarded to sundry writers since the revolution, and permitted to wither around the brows of our elder benefactors, from Hooker to Sir P. Sidney, and from Sir P. Sidney, to Jeremy Taylor and Stillingfleet."
"until you understand a writer's ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding."This was for him a golden rule, and which, when he read the philosophical works of others, he applied most carefully to himself. If an unlearned individual takes up a book, and, on opening it, finds by certain characters that it is a book on Algebra, he modestly puts, it down with perhaps an equally modest observation. "I never learned the Mathematics, and am ignorant of them: they are not suited to my taste, and I do not require them." But if perchance, he should take up a philosophical work, this modesty is not exercised: though he does not comprehend it, he will not acknowledge the fact; he is piqued however, and not satisfied with a mere slighting observation, but often ends, as disappointed vanity usually does, in shallow abuse. The political, the critical, the philosophical views of Coleridge, were all grand, and from his philosophical views he never deviated; all fluctuating opinions rolled by him, not indeed unheeded, but observed with sympathy and with regret, when not founded on those permanent principles which were to benefit and give good government to man.
"But I do derive a gratification from the knowledge, that my essays have contributed to introduce the practice of placing the questions and events of the day in a moral point of view, in giving dignity to particular measures by tracing their policy or impolicy to permanent principles, and an interest to principles by the application of them to individual measures. In Mr. Burke's writings, indeed, the germs of almost all political truths may be found. But I dare assume to myself the merit of having first explicitly defined and analysed the nature of Jacobinism; and that in distinguishing the jacobin from the republican, the democrat and the mere demagogue, I both rescued the word from remaining a mere term of abuse, and put on their guard many honest minds, who even in their heat of zeal against jacobinism, admitted or supported principles from which the worst part of that system may be legitimately deduced."With this view the following Essays and Observations have been republished here, — as illustrative of his early opinions to be compared with those of his more advanced life, — to shew the injustice of his political opponents, who never seemed to have troubled themselves about principle, — and the necessary growth of intellectual power giving deeper insight, with the additional value of experience and its consequences.
On the day following the editor promised the character of Buonaparte, but the surmise of a visit from the French minister, then at our court, was sufficient to put a stop to its publication; accordingly it never appeared. Coleridge was requested by the proprietor and editor to report a speech of Pitt's, which at this time was expected to be one of great éclat.
From the Morning Post, March 19, 1800. "Plutarch, in his comparative biography of Rome and Greece, has generally chosen for each pair of lives the two contemporaries who most nearly resembled each other. His work would perhaps have been more interesting, if he had adopted the contrary arrangement, and selected those rather who had attained to the possession of similar influence, or similar fame, by means, actions, and talents the most dissimilar. For power is the sole object of philosophical attention in man, as in inanimate nature; and in the one equally as in the other, we understand it more intimately, the more diverse the circumstances are with which we have observed it co-exist. In our days, the two persons who appear to have influenced the interests and actions of men the most deeply, and the most diffusively, are beyond doubt the Chief Consul of France and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and in these two are prerented to us similar situations, with the greatest dissimilitude of characters.
William Pitt was the younger son of Lord Chatham; a fact of no ordinary importance in the solution of his character, of no mean significance in the heraldry of morals and intellect. His father's rank, fame, political connections, and parental ambition, were his mould; he was cast, rather than grew.
A palpable election, a conscious predestination controlled the free agency, and transfigured the individuality of his mind; and that, which he might have been, was compered into that, which he was to be. From his early childhood it was his father's custom to make him stand up on a chair, and declaim before a large company; by which exercise, practised so frequently, and continued for so many years, he acquired a premature and unnatural dexterity in the combination of words, which must of necessity have diverted his attention from present objects, obscured his impressions, and deadened his genuine feelings. Not the thing on which he was speaking, but the praises to be gained, were present to his intuition; hence he associated all the operations of his faculties with words, and his pleasures with the surprise excited by them.
But an inconceivably large portion of human knowledge and human power is involved in the science and management of words; and an education of words, though it destroys genius, will often create, and always foster, talent. The young Pitt was conspicuous far beyond his fellows, both at school and at college. He was always full grown: he had neither the promise nor the awkwardness of a growing intellect. Vanity, early satiated, formed and elevated itself into a love of power; and in losing this colloquial vanity, he lost one of the prime links that connect the individual with the species, too early for the affections, though not too early for the understanding. At college he was a severe student; his mind was founded and elemented in words and generalities, and these two formed all the superstructure. That revelry and that debauchery, which are so often fatal to the powers of intellect, would probably have been serviceable to him; they would have given him a closer communion with realities, they would have induced a greater presentness to present objects. But Mr. Pitt's conduct was correct, unimpressibly correct. His after-discipline in the special pleader's office, and at the bar, carried on the scheme of his education with unbroken uniformity. His first political connections were with the reformers; but those who accuse him of sympathising or coalescing with their intemperate or visionary plans, misunderstand his character, and are ignorant of the historical facts.
Imaginary situations in an imaginary state of things rise up in minds that possess a power and facility in combining images. Mr. Pitt's ambition was conversant with old situations in the old state of things, which furnish nothing to the imagination, though much to the wishes. In his endeavours to realise his father's plan of reform, he was probably as sincere as a being, who had derived so little knowledge from actual impressions, could be. But his sincerity had no living root of affection; while it was propped up by his love of praise and immediate power, so long it stood erect and no longer. He became a member of the Parliament, supported the popular opinions, and in a few years, by the influence of the popular party, was placed in the high and awful rank in which he now is. The fortunes of his country, we had almost said the fates of the world, were placed in his wardship — we sink in prostration before the inscrutable dispensations of Providence, when we reflect in whose wardship the fates of the world were placed!
The influencer of his country and of his species was a young man, the creature of another's predetermination, sheltered and weather-fended from all the elements of experience; a young man, whose feet had never wandered; whose very eye had never turned to the right or to the left; whose whole track had been as curveless as the motion of a fascinated reptile! It was a young man, whose heart was solitary, because he had existed always amid objects of futurity, and whose imagination too was unpopulous, because those objects of hope to which his habitual wishes had transferred, and as it were projected, his existence, were all familiar and long-established objects! A plant sown and reared in a hot-house, for whom the very air, that surrounded him, had been regulated by the thermometer of previous purpose; to whom the light of nature had penetrated only through glasses and covers; who had had the sun without the breeze; whom no storm had shaken; on whom no rain had pattered; on whom the dews of Heaven had not fallen! A being who had had no feelings connected with man or nature, no spontaneous impulses, no unbiassed and desultory studies, no genuine science, nothing that constitutes individuality in intellect, nothing that teaches brotherhood in affection! Such was the man — such, and so denaturalized the spirit, on whose wisdom and philanthropy the lives and living enjoyments of so many millions of human beings were made unavoidably dependent.
From this time a real enlargement of mind became almost impossible. Pre-occupations, intrigue, the undue passion and anxiety, with which all facts must be surveyed; the crowd and confusion of those facts, none of them seen, but all communicated, and by that very circumstance, and by the necessity of perpetually classifying them, transmuted into words and generalities; pride; flattery; irritation; artificial power; these, and circumstances resembling these, necessarily render the heights of office barren heights; which command indeed a vast and extensive prospect, but attract so many clouds and vapours, that most often all prospect is precluded. Still, however, Mr. Pitt's situation, however inauspicious for his real being, was favourable to his fame. He heaped period on period; persuaded himself and the nation, that extemporaneous arrangement of sentences was eloquence; and that eloquence implied wisdom.
His father's struggles for freedom, and his own attempts, gave him an almost unexampled popularity; and his office necessarily associated with his name all the great events that happened during his administration. There were not however wanting men who saw through this delusion: and refusing to attribute the industry, integrity, and enterprising spirit of our merchants, the agricultural improvements of our landholders, the great inventions of our manufacturers, or the valour and skilfulness of our sailors, to the merits of a minister, they have continued to decide on his character from those acts and those merits, which belong to him, and to him alone. Judging him by this standard, they have been able to discover in him no one proof or symptom of a commanding genius. They have discovered him never controlling, never creating, events, but always yielding to them with rapid change, and sheltering himself from inconsistency by perpetual indefiniteness. In the Russian war, they saw him abandoning meanly what he had planned weakly, and threatened insolently. In the debates on the Regency, they detected the laxity of his constitutional principles, and received proofs that his eloquence consisted not in the ready application of a general system to particular questions, but in the facility of arguing for or against any question by specious generalities, without reference to any system. In these debates he combined what is most dangerous in democracy with all that is most degrading in the old superstitions of monarchy; and taught an inherency of the office in the person, in order to make the office itself a nullity, and the premiership, with its accompanying majority, the sole and permanent power of the state. And now came the French Revolution. This was a new event: the old routine of reasoning, the common trade of politics, were to become obsolete. He appeared wholly unprepared for it: half favouring, half condemning, ignorant of what he favoured, and why he condemned, he neither displayed the honest enthusiasm and fixed principle of Mr. Fox, nor the intimate acquaintance with the general nature of man, and the consequent prescience of Mr. Burke.
After the declaration of war, long did he continue in the common cant of office, in declamation about the Scheld and Holland, and all the vulgar causes of common contests! and when at least the immense genius of his new supporter had beat him out of these words (words signifying places and dead objects, and signifying nothing more), he adopted other words in their places, other generalities — Atheism and Jacobinism — phrases, which he learnt from Mr. Burke, but without learning the philosophical definitions and involved consequences, with which that great man accompanied those words: Since the death of Mr. Burke the forms, and the sentiments, and the tone of the French have undergone many and important changes: how, indeed, is it possible that it should be otherwise, while man is the creature of experience! But still Mr. Pitt proceeds in an endless repetition of the same general phrases. This is his element: deprive him of general and abstract phrases, and you reduce him to silence; but you cannot deprive him of them. Press him to specify an individual fact of advantage to be derived from a war, and he answers, Security! Call upon him to particularize a crime, and he exclaims — Jacobinism! Abstractions defined by abstractions; generalities defined by generalities! As a minister of finance he is still, as ever, the words of abstractions. Figures, custom-house reports, imports and exports, commerce and revenue — all flourishing, all splendid! Never was such a prosperous country as England under his administration! Let it be objected, that the agriculture of the country is, by the overbalance of commerce, and by various and complex causes, in such a state, that the country hangs as a pensioner for bread on its neighbours, and a bad season uniformly threatens us with famine. This (it is replied) is owing to our Prosperity, — all prosperous nations are in great distress for food! — Still Prosperity, still General Phrases, unenforced by one single image, one single fact of real national amelioration; of any one comfort enjoyed, where it was not before enjoyed; of any one class of society becoming healthier, or wiser, or happier. These are things, these are realities, and these Mr. Pitt has neither the imagination to body forth, or the sensibility to feel for. Once, indeed, in an evil hour, intriguing for popularity, he suffered himself to be persuaded to evince a talent for the real, the individual; and he brought in his Poor Bill!! When we hear the minister's talents for finance so loudly trumpeted, we turn involuntarily to his Poor Bill — to that acknowledged abortion — that unanswerable evidence of his ignorance respecting all the fundamental relations and actions of property, and of the social union!
As his reasonings, even so is his eloquence. One character pervades his whole being: words on words, finely arranged, and so dexterously consequent, that the whole bears the semblance of argument, and still keeps awake a sense of surprise; but when all is done, nothing rememberable has been said, no one philosophical remark, no one image, not even a pointed aphorism. Not a sentence of Mr. Pitt's has ever been quoted, or formed the favourite phrase of the day, a thing unexampled in any man of equal reputation; but while he speaks, the effect varies according to the character of his auditor. The man of no talent is swallowed up in surprise; and when the speech is ended, he remembers his feelings, but nothing distinct of that which produced them: (how opposite an effect to that of nature and genius, from whose works the idea still remains, when the feeling is passed away, remains to connect itself with the other feelings, and combine with new impressions!) The mere man of talent hears him with admiration; the mere man of genius with contempt; the philosopher neither admires nor contemns, but listens to him with a deep and solemn interest, tracing in the effects of his eloquence the power of words and phrases, and that peculiar constitution of human affairs in their present state, which so eminently favours this power.
Such appears to us to be the prime minister of Great Britain, whether we consider him as a statesman or an orator. The same character betrays itself in his private life; the same coldness to realities, to images of realities, and to all whose excellence relates to reality: he has patronized no science, he has raised no man of genius from obscurity, he counts no one prime work of God among his friends. From the same source, he has no attachment to female society, no fondness for children, no perceptions of beauty in natural scenery; but he is fond of convivial indulgences, of that stimulation, which, keeping up the glow of self-importance, and the sense of internal power, gives feelings without the mediation of ideas.
These are the elements of his mind; the accidents of his fortune, the circumstances that enabled such a mind to acquire and retain such a power, would form the subject of a philosophical history, and that too of no scanty size. We can scarcely furnish the chapter of contents to a work, which would comprise subjects so important and delicate as the causes of the diffusion and intensity of secret influence; the machinery and state intrigue of marriages; the overbalance of the commercial interest; the panic of property struck by the late revolution; the short-sightedness of the careful; the carelessness of the far-sighted; and all those many and various events which have given to a decorous profession of religion, and a seemliness of private morals, such an unwonted weight in the attainment and preservation of public power. We are unable to determine whether it be more consolatory or humiliating to human nature, that so many complexities of event, situation, character, age, and country, should be necessary in order to the production of a Mr. Pitt."
14 The honourable gentleman calls upon ministers to state the object of the war in one sentence. I can state it in one word: it is Security. I can state it in one word, though it is not to be explained but in many. The object of the war is security: security against a danger, the greatest that ever threatened this country; the greatest that ever threatened mankind; a danger the more terrible, because it is unexampled and novel. It is a danger which has more than menaced the safety and independence of all nations; it is a danger which has attacked the property and peace of all individuals; a danger which Europe has strained all its sinews to repel; and which no nation has repelled so successfully as the British; because no nation has acted so energetically, so sincerely, so uniformly on the broad basis of principle; because no other nation has perceived with equal clearness and decision the necessity, not only of combating the evil abroad, but of stifling it at home; because no nation has breasted with so firm a constancy the tide of jacobinical power; because no nation has pierced with so steadfast an eye, through the disguises of jacobinical hypocrisy; but now, it seems, we are at once to remit our zeal and our suspicion; that Jacobinism, which alarmed us under the stumbling and drunken tyranny of Robespierre; that Jacobinism, which insulted and roused us under the short-sighted ambition of the five Directors; that Jacobinism, to which we have sworn enmity through every shifting of every bloody scene, through all those abhorred mockeries which have profaned the name of liberty to all the varieties of usurpation; to this Jacobinism we are now to reconcile ourselves, because all its arts and all its energies are united under one person, the child and the champion of Jacobinism, who has been reared in its principles, who has fought its battles, who has systematised its ambition, at once the fiercest instrument of its fanaticism, and the gaudiest puppet of its folly!The following paragraph is extracted from private memoranda, and was intended for publication ten years afterwards, in the Courier Newspaper, in which he wrote a series of Essays to Judge Fletcher, which were at that time acknowledged by the most able judges to be prophetic. But it must be remembered he never wrote for party purposes. His views were grounded on Platonic principles keeping the balance of the powers, and throwing his weight into the scale that needed assistance.
The honourable gentleman has discovered, that the danger of French power and French principles is at an end, because they are concentred, and because to uniformity of design is added an unity of direction; he has discovered that all the objects of French ambition are relinquished, because France has sacrificed even the appearances of freedom to the best means of realising them; in short that now, for the first time, Jacobinism is not to be dreaded, because now, for the first time, it has superadded to itself the compactness of despotism. But the honourable gentleman presses hard, and requires me to be definite and explicit. What, says he, do you mean by destroying the power of Jacobinism? Will, you persevere in the war, until you have received evidence that it is extinct in this country, extinct in France, extinct in the mind of every man? No! I am not so shamefully ignorant of the laws that regulate the soul of man. The mind once tainted with Jacobinism can never be wholly free from the taint; I know no means of purification; when it does not break out on the surface, it still lurks in the vitals; no antidote can approach the subtlety of the venom, no length of quarantine secure us against the obstinacy of the pestilence.
Those who are now telling us, that all danger from revolutionary principles is now passed by, are yet endeavouring to call up again the very arguments which they used at the commencement of the war, in the youth and rampancy of Jacobinism; and repeat the same language, with which they then attempted to lull the nation into security, combined with the same acts of popular irritation. They are telling us, that ministers disregard peace; that they are prodigal of blood; insensible to the miseries, and enemies to the liberties of mankind; that the extinction of Jacobinism is their pretext, but that personal ambition is their motive; and that we have squandered two hundred millions on an object, unattainable were it desirable, and were it not unattainable, yet still to be deprecated. Sir, will men be governed by mere words without application? This country, Sir, will not. It knows that to this war it owes its prosperity, its constitution, whatever is fair or useful in public or domestic life, the majesty of her laws, the freedom of her worship, and the sacredness of our firesides. For these it has spent two hundred millions, for these it would spend two hundred millions more; and, should it be necessary, Sir, I doubt not that I could find those two hundred millions, and still preserve her resources unimpaired. The only way to make it not necessary is to avail ourselves of the hearty co-operation of our allies, and to secure and invigorate that co-operation by the firmness and vigour of our own conduct. The honourable gentleman then comes back upon me, and presses me upon the supposed dissonance between our views and those of our allies. But surely there may allowably exist in the minds of different men different means of arriving at the same security. This difference may, without breaking the ties of effective union, exist even in this house; how much more then in different kingdoms? The Emperor of Russia may have announced the restoration of monarchy, as exclusively his object. This is not considered as the ultimate object by this country, but as the best means and most reliable pledge of a higher object, viz. our own security, and that of Europe; but we do not confine ourselves to this, as the only possible means.
From this shade of difference we are required to infer the impossibility of cordial co-operation! But here the honourable gentleman falls into a strange contradiction. He affirms the restoration of monarchy an unjust object of the war, and refuses expressly and repeatedly to vote a single farthing on such a ground; and yet the supposed secession of Russia from the allied powers, the secession of that government, whose exclusive object is the restoration of monarchy, is adduced by him as another and equal ground for his refusal. Had the Emperor of Russia persevered in directing his utmost forces to the attainment of that object, to which Austria will not pledge herself, and which the honourable gentleman considers as an unjust object, then the honourable gentleman would have been satisfied. But I will not press too hard on the honourable gentleman, or lay an undue weight on an inadvertence. I will deal most fairly with him if I did believe, which I do not, that Austria saw no advantages in the restoration of monarchy, yet still I would avail myself of her efforts, without changing my own object. Should the security of Britain and Europe result from the exertions of Austria, or be aided by her influence, I should think it my duty to advise his Majesty to lend the Emperor every financial assistance, however those exertions and that influence might spring from principles not in unison with our own.
If the honourable gentleman will tell me, that the object of Austria is to regain the Netherlands, and to reconquer all she may leave lost in Germany and Italy, so far from feeling this as a cause of distress, I feel it a ground of consolation, as giving us the strongest assurance of his sincerity, added to that right which we possess of believing Austria sincere, from our experience that Austria, above all, must know the insecurity of peace with Jacobins. This, Sir, would be a ground of consolation and confident hope; and though we should go farther than the Emperor of Germany, and stop short of Russia, still, however, we should all travel in the same road. Yet even were less justifiable objects to animate our ally, were ambition her inspiring motive, yet even on that ground I contend that her arms and victories would conduce to our security. If it tend to strip France of territory and influence, the aggrandisement of Austria is elevated by comparison into a blessing devoutly to be wished! The aggrandisement of Austria, founded on the ruins of Jacobinism, I contend, Sir, to be a truly British object. But, Sir, the honourable gentleman says, he thinks the war neither just nor necessary, and calls upon me, without the qualifying reservations and circuitous distinctions of a special pleader; in short, without buts or ifs, to state the real object; and affirms that in spite of these buts and ifs, the restoration of monarchy in France is the real and sole object of ministers, and that all else contained in the official notes are unmeaning words and distinctions fallacious, and perhaps meant to deceive. Is it, Sir, to be treated as a fallacious distinction, that the restoration of monarchy is not my sole or ultimate object; that my ultimate object is security, that I think no pledge for that security so unequivocal as the restoration of monarchy, and no means so natural and so effectual? but if you can present any other mode, that mode I will adopt. I am unwilling to accept an inadequate security; but the nature of the security which it may be our interest to demand, must depend on the relative and comparative dangers of continuing the war, or concluding a peace. And if the danger of the war should be greater than that of a peace, and if you can shew to me that there is no chance of diminishing Jacobinism by the war, and if you can evince that we are exhausting our means more than our enemies are exhausting theirs, then I am ready to conclude a peace without the restoration of monarchy.
These are the ifs and the buts, which I shall continue to introduce, not the insidious and confounding subtleties of special pleading, but the just and necessary distinctions of intelligible prudence; I am conscious of sincere and honest intentions in the use of them, and I desire to be tried by no other than God and my country. But are we not weakening ourselves? Let any man calmly, and with the mind of an Englishman, look round on the state of our manufactures, our commerce, on all that forms and feeds the sources of national wealth, and to that man I can confidently leave the following questions to be answered. From the negotiations at Lisle to the present moment has England or France weakened itself in the greater degree? Whether, at the end of this campaign, France is not more likely to suffer the feebleness ensuing on exhausted finance than England?
If Jacobinism, enthroned in Buonaparte, should resist both the pressure of foreign attack, and its own inherent tendencies to self-destruction, whether it must not derive such power of resistance from the use of such revolutionary and convulsive efforts, as involve, and almost imply a consequent state of feebleness? And whether therefore, if any unexpected reverse of fortune should make it expedient or necessary for us to compromise with Jacobinism, it would not be better for us to compromise with it at the end of the campaign, than at present? And by parity of reasoning, whether it be not true (even on the supposition that Jacobinism is not to be routed, disarmed, and fettered); yet, that even on this supposition, the longer we defer a peace, the safer that peace will be!
Sir, we have been told that Jacobinism is extinct, or at least dying. We have been asked too, what we mean by Jacobinism? Sir, to employ arguments solely to the purposes of popular irritation is a branch of Jacobinism? It is with pain, Sir, that I have heard arguments manifestly of this tendency, and having heard them, I hear with redoubled suspicion of the assertions, that Jacobinism is extinct. By what softer name shall we characterise the attempts to connect the war by false facts and false reasoning with accidental scarcity? By what softer name shall we characterise appeals to the people on a subject which touches their feelings, and precludes their reasoning? It is this, Sir, which makes me say, that those whose eyes are now open to the horrors and absurdities of Jacobinism are nevertheless still influenced by their early partiality to it. A somewhat of the feeling lurks behind, even when all the principle has been sincerely abjured. If this be the case with mere spectators, who have but sympathised in the distance, and have caught disease only by looking on, how much more must this hold good of the actors? And with what increased caution and jealousy ought we not to listen to the affirmation, that Jacobinism is obsolete even in France? The honourable gentleman next charges me with an unbeseeming haughtiness of tone, in deeming that the House had pledged itself to the present measure by their late vote for the continuance of the war. This is not accurate. I did not deem the House pledged: I only assigned reasons of probability, that having voted for the continuance of war, they would deem themselves inconsistent if they refused assent to those measures by which the objects of the war were most likely to be realised. My argument was, not that the House had pledged itself to this measure directly, but only as far as they must perceive it to be a means of bringing the war to that conclusion to which they have pledged themselves: for unless gendemen will tell me, that though they cannot prevent votes in favour of the war, they will yet endeavour to palsy the arm of the country in the conduct of it; and though they cannot stifle the vast majority of suffrages to the plan, they will yet endeavour to way-lay it in its execution; unless the gentlemen will tell me so themselves, I will not impute it to them. (Here Mr. Pitt made a short reply to some observations of Mr. Bouverie in the early part of the debate, and then proceeded.) It was said of himself and friends (and often said) by a gentleman who does not now commonly honour us with his presence here, 'We are the minority who represent the opinions of the country.' In my opinion a state of universal suffrage, formal or virtual, in which, nevertheless, the few represent the many, is a true picture of Jacobinism. But, however this may be, if smallness of number is to become a mark and pledge of genuine representation, that gentleman's friends must acquire the representative character in a continual progression; for the party has been constantly decreasing in number, and both here and out of this House, they are at present fewer than they ever were before. But they vote for peace, and the people wish for peace; and therefore they represent the opinions of the people. The people wish for peace — so do I! But for what peace? Not for a peace that is made to-day and will be broken to-morrow! Not for a peace that is more insecure and hazardous than war. Why did I wish for peace at Lisle? Because war was then more hazardous than peace; because it was necessary to give to the people a palpable proof of the necessity of the war, in order to their cordial concurrence with that system of finance, without which the war could not be successfully carried on; because our allies were then but imperfectly lessoned by experience; and finally, because the state of parties then in France was less Jacobinical than at any time since that era. But will it follow that I was then insincere in negotiating for peace, when peace was less insecure, and war more hazardous; because now with decreased advantages of peace, and increased means of war, I advise against a peace? As to the other arguments, it is of less consequence to insist upon them, because the opposition implied in them holds not against this measure in particular, but against the general principle of carrying on the war with vigour. Much has been said of the defection of Russia, and every attempt made to deduce from this circumstance so misnamed causes of despair or diminished hope. It is true that Russia has withdrawn herself from confident co-operation with Austria, but she has not withdrawn herself from concert with this country. Has it never occurred, that France, compelled to make head against armies pressing on the whole of her frontiers, will be weakened and distracted in her efforts, by a moveable maritime force? What may be the ultimate extent of the Russian forces engaged in this diversion, we cannot be expected to know, cut off as we are from the continent, by the season and the weather. If the Russians, acting in maritime diversion on the coast of France, and increased by our own forces, should draw the French forces from Switzerland and Italy, it does not follow that the Russians may be greatly, and perhaps equally useful to the objects of the campaign, although they will cease to act on the eastern side of France. I do not pretend to know precisely the number and state of the French armies, but reason only on probabilities; and chiefly with the view of solving the honourable gentleman's difficulty, how the Russians can be useful, if not on the continent. It is unnecessary to occupy the time and attention of the House with a serious answer to objections, which it is indeed difficult to repeat with the same gravity with which they were originally stated.
It was affirmed, gravely affirmed, that £12,000,000 would be wanted for corn! I should be happy, if, in the present scarcity, corn could be procured from any, and all parts of the world, to one-third of that amount. It will not be by such arguments as these, that the country will be induced to cease a war for security, in order to procure corn for subsistence. I do object, that there is unfairness both in these arguments in themselves, and in the spirit which produces them. The war is now reviled as unjust and unnecessary; and in order to prove it so, appeals are made to circumstances of accidental scarcity from the visitation of the seasons. The fallacy of these reasonings is equal to their mischief. It is not true that you could procure corn more easily if peace were to be made to-morrow. If this war be unjust, it ought to be stopped on its own account; but if it be indeed a war of principle and of necessity, it were useless and abject to relinquish it from terrors like these. As well might a fortress, sure of being put to the sword, surrender for want of provision. But that man, Sir, does not act wisely, if, feeling like a good citizen, he use these arguments which favour the enemy. God forbid, that an opposition in opinion among ourselves should make us forget the high and absolute duty of opposition to the enemies of our country. Sir, in the present times, it is more than ever the bounden duty of every wise and good man to use more than ordinary caution in abstaining from all arguments that appeal to passions, not facts; above all, from arguments that tend to excite popular irritation on a subject and on an occasion, on which the people can with difficulty be reasoned with, but are irritated most easily. To speak incautiously on such subjects, is an offence of no venial order; but deliberately and wilfully to connect the words, war and scarcity, were infamous, a treachery to our country, and in a peculiar degree cruel to those whom alone it can delude, the lower uneducated classes. I will not enlarge upon that subject, but retire with a firm conviction that no new facts have occurred which can have altered the opinion of this House on the necessity of the war, or the suitableness of similar measures to the present to the effectual carrying of it on, and that the opinion of the House will not be altered but by experience and the evidence of facts."
"Every brutal mob, assembled on some drunken St. Monday of faction, is 'the People' forsooth, and now each leprous ragamuffin, like a circle in geometry, is at once one and all, and calls his own brutal self 'us the People.' And who are the friends of the People? Not those who would wish to elevate each of them, or at least, the child who is to take his place in the flux of life and death, into something worthy of esteem, and capable of freedom, but those who flatter and infuriate them as they do. A contradiction in the very thought. For if really they are good and wise, virtuous and well-informed, how weak must be the motives of discontent to a truly moral being! — but if the contrary, and the motives for discontent proportionally strong, how without guilt and absurdity appeal to them as judges and arbiters! He alone is entitled to a share in the government of all, who has learnt to govern himself — there is but one possible ground of a right to freedom, viz. to understand and revere its duties."
To pursue our last conversation. Christians expect no outward or sensible miracles from prayer. Its effects, and its fruitions are spiritual, and accompanied, says that true Divine, Archbishop Leighton, 'not by reasons and arguments but by an inexpressible kind of evidence, which they only know who have it.'
To this I would add, that even those who, like me I fear, have not attained it, may yet presume it. First, because reason itself, or rather mere human nature, in any dispassionate moment, feels the necessity of religion, but if this be not true there is no religion, no religation, or binding over again; nothing added to reason, and therefore Socinianism (misnamed Unitarianism) is not only not Christianity, it is not even religion, it does not religate; does not bind anew. The first outward and sensible result of prayer, is, a penitent resolution, joined with a consciousness of weakness in effecting it, yea even a dread, too well grounded, lest by breaking and falsifying it, the soul should add guilt to guilt; by the very means it has taken to escape from guilt; so pitiable is the state of unregenerate man.
Are you familiar with Leighton's Works? He resigned his archbishoprick, and retired to voluntary poverty on account of the persecution of the Presbyterians, saying, 'I should not dare to introduce Christianity itself with such cruelties, how much less for a surplice, and the name of a bishop.' If there could be an intermediate space between inspired, and uninspired writings, that space would be occupied by Leighton. No show of learning, no appearance, or ostentatious display of eloquence; and yet both may be shown in him, conspicuously and holily. There is in him something that must be felt, even as the scriptures must be felt.15
You ask me my views of the Trinity. I accept the doctrine, not as deduced from human reason, in its grovelling capacity for comprehending spiritual things, but as the clear revelation of Scripture. But perhaps it may be said, the Socinians do not admit this doctrine as being taught in the Bible. I know enough of their shifts and quibbles, with their dexterity at explaining away all they dislike, (and that is not a little) but though beguiled once by them, I happily, for my own peace of mind, escaped from their sophistries, and now, hesitate not to affirm, that Socinians would lose all character for honesty, if they were to explain their neighbour's will with the same latitude of interpretation, which they do the Scriptures.
I have in my head some floating ideas on the Logos, which I hope, hereafter, to mould into a consistent form; but it is a gross perversion of the truth, in Socinians, to declare that we believe in Three Gods, and they know it to be false. They might, with equal justice, affirm that we believe in three suns. The meanest peasant, who has acquired the first rudiments of Christianity, would shrink back from a thought so monstrous. Still the Trinity has its difficulties. It would be strange if otherwise. A Revelation that revealed nothing, not within the grasp of human reason! — no religation, no binding over again, as before said: but these difficulties are shadows, contrasted with the substantive, and insurmountable obstacles with which they contend who admit the Divine authority of Scripture, with the superlative excellence of Christ, and yet undertake to prove that these Scriptures teach, and that Christ taught, his own pure humanity!
If Jesus Christ was merely a Man, — if he was not God as well as Man, be it considered, he could not have been even a good man. There is no medium. The Saviour in that case was absolutely a deceiver! one, transcendently unrighteous! in advancing pretensions to miracles, by the 'Finger of God,' which he never performed; and by asserting claims, (as a man) in the most aggravated sense, blasphemous!
These consequences, Socinians, to be consistent, must allow, and which impious arrogation of Divinity in Christ, (according to their faith,) as well as his false assumption of a community of 'glory' with the Father, 'before the world was,' even they will be necessitated to admit, completely exonerated the Jews, according to their law, in crucifying one, who 'being a man,' 'made himself God!' But, in the Christian, rather than in the Socinian, or Pharisaic view, all these objections vanish, and harmony succeeds to inexplicable confusion. If Socinians hesitate in ascribing unrighteousness to Christ, the inevitable result of their principles, they tremble, as well they might, at their avowed creed, and virtually renounce what they profess to uphold.
The Trinity, as Bishop Leighton has well remarked, is, 'a doctrine of faith, not of demonstration,' except in a moral sense. If the New Testament declare it, not in an insulated passage, but through the whole breadth of its pages, rendering, with any other admission, the Book, which is the Christian's anchor-hold of hope, dark and contradictory, then it is not to be rejected, but on a penalty that reduces to an atom, all the sufferings this earth can inflict.
Let the grand question be determined; Is, or is not the Bible inspired? No one Book has ever been subjected to so rigid an investigation as the Bible, by minds the most capacious, and, in the result, which has so triumphantly repelled all the assaults of Infidels. In the extensive intercourse which I have had with this class of men, I have seen their prejudices surpassed only by their ignorance. This I found conspicuously the case in Dr. D. (Vol. i. p. 167) the prince of their fraternity. Without, therefore, stopping to contend on what all dispassionate men must deem, undebatable ground, I may assume inspiration as admitted; and, equally so, that it would be an insult to man's understanding to suppose any other Revelation from God than the Christian Scriptures. If these Scriptures, impregnable in their strength; sustained in their pretensions by undeniable prophecies and miracles; and by the experience of the inner man, in all ages, as well as by a concatenation of arguments, all bearing upon one point, and extending, with miraculous consistency, through a series of fifteen hundred years; if all this combined proof does not establish their validity, nothing can be proved under the sun; but the world and man must be abandoned, with all its consequences to one universal scepticism! Under such sanctions, therefore, if these Scriptures, as a fundamental truth, do inculcate the doctrine of the Trinity; however surpassing human comprehension; then I say, we are bound to admit it on the strength of moral demonstration.
The supreme Governor of the world, and the Father of our spirits, has seen fit to disclose to us, much of his will, and the whole of his natural and moral perfections. In some instances he has given his word only, and demanded our faith; while, on other momentous subjects, instead of bestowing a full revelation; like the Via Lactea, he has furnished a glimpse only, through either the medium of inspiration, or by the exercise of those rational faculties with which he has endowed us. I consider the Trinity as substantially resting on the first proposition, yet deriving support from the last.
I recollect when I stood on the summit of Etna, and darted my gaze down the crater; the immediate vicinity was discernible, till, lower down, obscurity gradually terminated in total darkness. Such figures exemplify many truths revealed in the Bible. We pursue them, until, from the imperfection of our faculties, we are lost in impenetrable night. All truths, however, that are essential to faith, honestly interpreted; all that are important to human conduct, under every diversity of circumstance, are manifest as a blazing star. The promises also of felicity to the righteous, in the future world, though the precise nature of that felicity may not be defined, are illustrated by every image that can swell the imagination: while the misery of the lost, in its unutterable intensity, though the language that describes it is all necessarily figurative, is there exhibited as resulting chiefly, if not wholly, from the withdrawment of the light of God's countenance, and a banishment from his presence! — best comprehended in this world, by reflecting on the desolations which would instantly follow the loss of the sun's vivifying and universally diffused warmth.
You, or rather all, should remember, that some truths, from their nature, surpass the scope of man's limited powers, and stand as the criteria of faith, determining, by their rejection, or admission, who among the sons of men can confide in the veracity of heaven. Those more ethereal truths, of which the Trinity is conspicuously the chief, without being circumstantially explained, may be faintly illustrated by material objects. — The eye of man cannot discern the satellites of Jupiter, nor become sensible of the multitudinous stars, the rays of which have never reached our planet, and, consequently, garnish not the canopy of night; yet, are they the less real, because their existence lies beyond man's unassisted gaze? The tube of the philosopher, and the celestial telescope, — the unclouded visions of heaven, will confirm the one class of truths, and irradiate the other.
The Trinity is a subject on which analogical reasoning may advantageously be admitted, as furnishing, at least, a glimpse of light, and with this, for the present, we must be satisfied. Infinite Wisdom deemed clearer manifestations inexpedient; and is man to dictate to his Maker? I may further remark, that where we cannot behold a desirable object distinctly, we must take the best view we can; and I think you, and every candid and inquiring mind, may derive assistance from such reflections as the following.
Notwithstanding the arguments of Spinosa, and Descartes, and other advocates of the Material system, (or, in more appropriate language, the Atheistical system!) it is admitted by all men not prejudiced, not biassed by sceptical prepossessions, that mind is distinct from matter. The mind of man, however, is involved in inscrutable darkness, (as the profoundest metaphysicians well know) and is to be estimated, (if at all) alone, by an inductive process; that is, by its effects. Without entering on the question, whether an extremely circumscribed portion of the mental process, surpassing instinct, may, or may not, be extended to quadrupeds, it is universally acknowledged, that the mind of man, alone, regulates all the voluntary actions of his corporeal frame. Mind, therefore, may be regarded as a distinct genus, in the scale ascending above brutes, and including the whole of intellectual existences; advancing from thought, (that mysterious thing!) in its lowest form, through all the gradations of sentient and rational beings, till it arrives at a Bacon, a Newton, and then, when unincumbered by matter, extending its illimitable sway through Seraph and Archangel, till we are lost in the Great Infinite!
Is it not deserving of notice, as an especial subject of meditation, that our limbs, in all they do, or can accomplish, implicitly obey the dictation of the mind? that this operating power, whatever its name, under certain limitations, exercises a sovereign dominion, not only over our limbs, but over all our intellectual pursuits? The mind of every man is evidently the moving force, which alike regulates all his limbs and actions; and in which example, we find a strong illustration of the subordinate nature of mere matter. That alone which gives direction to the organic parts of our nature, is wholly mind; and one mind, if placed over a thousand limbs, could, with undiminished ease, control and regulate the whole.
This idea is advanced on the supposition, that one mind could command an unlimited direction over any given number of limbs, provided they were all connected by joint and sinew. But suppose, through some occult and inconceivable means, these limbs were dis-associated, as to all material connexion; suppose, for instance, one mind, with unlimited authority, governed the operations of two separate persons, would not this, substantially, be only one person, seeing the directing principle was one? If the truth, here contended for, be admitted, that two persons, governed by one mind, is incontestably one person; the same conclusion would be arrived at, and the proposition equally be justified, which affirmed that, three, or, otherwise, four persons, owning also necessary and essential subjection to one mind, would only be so many diversities, or modifications of that one mind, and therefore the component parts, virtually collapsing into one whole, the person would be one. Let any man ask himself, whose understanding can both reason, and become the depository of truth, whether, if one mind thus regulated, with absolute authority, three, or, otherwise, four persons, with all their congeries of material parts, would not these parts, inert in themselves, when subjected to one predominant mind, be, in the most logical sense, one person? Are ligament and exterior combination indispensable pre-requisites to the sovereign influence of mind over mind? or mind over matter?16
But perhaps it may be said, we have no instance of one mind governing more than one body. This may be, but the argument remains the same. With a proud spirit, that forgets its own contracted range of thought, and circumscribed knowledge, who is to limit the sway of Omnipotence? or, presumptuously to deny the possibility of that Being, who called light out of darkness, so to exalt the dominion of one mind, as to give it absolute sway over other dependent minds, or (indifferently) over detached, or combined portions of organized matter? But if this superinduced quality be conferable on any order of created beings, it is blasphemy to limit the power of God, and to deny his capacity to transfuse his own Spirit, when, and to whom he will.
This reasoning may now be applied in illustration of the Trinity. We are too much in the habit of viewing our Saviour Jesus Christ, through the medium of his body. 'A body was prepared for him,' but this body was mere matter; as insensible in itself, as every human frame when deserted by the soul. If therefore the Spirit that was in Christ, was the Spirit of the Father: if no thought, no vibration, no spiritual communication, or miraculous display, existed in, or proceeded from Christ, not immediately and consubstantially identified with Jehovah, the Great First cause; if all these operating principles were thus derived, in consistency alone with the conjoint divine attributes; of this Spirit of the Father ruled and reigned in Christ as his own manifestation, then, in the strictest sense, Christ exhibited 'the God-head bodily,' and was undeniably 'one with the Father;' confirmatory of the Saviour's words; 'Of myself,' (my body) 'I can do nothing, the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.'
But though I speak of the body, as inert in itself, and necessarily allied to matter, yet this declaration must not be understood as militating against the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body. In its grosser form, the thought is not to be admitted, for, 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,' but, that the body, without losing its consciousness, and individuality, may be subjected, by the illimitable power of Omnipotence, to a sublimating process, so as to be rendered compatible with spiritual association, is not opposed to reason, in its severe abstract exercises, while in attestation of this exhilarating belief, there are many remote analogies in nature exemplifying the same truth, while it is in the strictest accordance with that final dispensation, which must, as Christians, regulate all our speculations. I proceed now to say, that:
If the postulate be thus admitted, that one mind influencing two bodies, would only involve a diversity of operations, but in reality be one in essence; or otherwise, (as an hypothetical argument, illustrative of truth) if one preeminent mind, or spiritual subsistence, unconnected with matter, possessed an undivided and sovereign dominion over two or more disembodied minds, so as to become the exclusive source of all their subtlest volitions and exercises, the unity, however complex the modus of its manifestation, would be fully established; and this principle extends to Deity itself, and shows the true sense, as I conceive, in which Christ and the Father are one.
In continuation of this reasoning, if God who is light, the Sun of the Moral World, should in his union of Infinite Wisdom, Power, and Goodness, and from all Eternity, have ordained that an emanation from himself (for aught we know, an essential emanation, as light is inseparable from the luminary of day) should not only have existed in his Son, in the fulness of time to be united to a mortal body, but that a like emanation from himself (also perhaps essential) should have constituted the Holy Spirit, who, without losing his ubiquity, was more especially sent to this lower earth, by the Son, at the impulse of the Father, then, in the most comprehensive sense, God, and his Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are One. 'Three Persons in one God,' and thus form the true Trinity in Unity.
To suppose that more than One Independent Power, or Governing mind exists in the whole universe, is absolute Polytheism, against which the denunciations of all the Jewish, and Christian Canonical books were directed. And if there be but One directing Mind, that Mind is God! — operating, however, in Three Persons, according to the direct and uniform declarations of that inspiration which 'brought life and immortality to light.' Yet this divine doctrine of the Trinity is to be received, not because it is, or can be clear to finite apprehension, but, (in reiteration of the argument) because the Scriptures, in their unsophisticated interpretation expressly state it. The Trinity, therefore, from its important aspects, and Biblical prominence, is the grand article of faith, and the foundation of the whole Christian system.
Who can say, as Christ17 and the Holy Ghost proceeded from, and are still one with the Father, and as all the disciples of Christ derive their fulness from him, and, in spirit, are inviolately united to him as a branch is to the vine, who can say, but that, in one view, what was once mysteriously separated, may, as mysteriously, be recombined, and, (without interfering with the everlasting Trinity, and the individuality of the spiritual and seraphic orders) the Son, at the consummation of all things, deliver up his mediatorial kingdom to the Father, and God, in some peculiar, and infinitely sublime sense, become All in All!
God love you,
S. T. Coleridge."18
"In the summer season of 1807 I first saw this illustrious man, the largest and most spacious intellect in my judgment that has ever yet existed amongst men. My knowledge of his works as a most original genius began about the year 1799."A little before that time, Wordsworth published the Lyrical Ballads, in which was the Ancient Mariner of Coleridge, and to which Mr. De Quincey attributes the unfolding of his own mind; this confession is by no means humiliating, for many persons of the highest reputation have made similar acknowledgments, and some there are still living who have the courage and integrity to do so now.
"I found (says this gentleman) that Professor Wilson, as well as myself, saw in these poems 'the ray of a new morning;' — and to these names may be added that of the celebrated Sir Walter Scott."The admiration of Mr. De Quincey was so great that inquiring where Coleridge was to be found, and learning that he was in Malta, he contemplated an immediate visit to that island, but the fear of a French prison reconciled him to remaining in England. When on a visit in 1807 (to a relation), at the Hot Wells, he learnt that Coleridge was staying with a friend not far from Bristol. This friend was Mr. Poole of Nether Stowey, and thither he bent his steps. In this house Mr. De Quincey spent two days, and gives, from his own knowledge, a sketch of Mr. Poole's person and character very descriptive of the original. Coleridge often remarked that he was the best "ideal for a useful member of parliament he ever knew;"
"a plain dressed man leading a bachelor life," as Mr. De Quincey observes, "in a rustic old fashioned house, amply furnished with modern luxuries, and a good library. Mr. Poole had travelled extensively, and had so entirely dedicated himself to his humble fellow countrymen, who resided in his neighbourhood, that for many miles round he was the general arbiter of their disputes, the guide and counsellor of their daily life; besides being appointed executor and guardian to his children by every third man who died in or about the town of Nether Stowey."Such in few words was the individual whom Coleridge, in his social hours and in the full warmth of friendship, would most eloquently and feelingly describe.19
"In Bridgewater I noticed a gateway, standing under which was a man corresponding to the description given me of Coleridge whom I shall presently describe. In height he seemed to be five feet eight inches, (he was in reality about an inch and a half taller,) though in the latter part of life, from a lateral curvature in the spine, he shortened gradually from two to three inches. His person was broad and full, and tended even to corpulence; his complexion was fair, though not what painters technically style fair, because it was associated with black hair; his eyes were large and soft in their expression, and it was by the peculiar appearance of haze or dreaminess which mixed with their light that I recognized my object. This was Coleridge; I examined him steadily for a moment or more, and it struck me he neither saw myself, nor any other object in the street. He was in a deep reverie; for I had dismounted, made two or three trifling arrangements at the inn door, and advanced close to him, before he seemed apparently conscious of my presence. The sound of my voice announcing my name first awoke him; he started, and for a moment seemed at a loss to understand my purpose, or his own situation, for he repeated rapidly a number of words which had no relation to either of us; very likely trying a metre, or making verse, a frequent practice of his, and of Mr. Wordsworth's. There was no mauvaise haute in his manner, but simple perplexity, and an apparent difficulty in recovering his position amongst daylight realities. This little scene over, he received me with a kindness of manner so marked, that it might be called gracious. The hospitable family, with whom he was domesticated, were distinguished for their amiable manners, and enlightened understandings; they were descendants from Chubb, the philosophic writer, and bore the same name. For Coleridge they all testified deep affection and esteem, sentiments which the whole town of Bridgewater seemed to share, for in the evening, when the heat of the day had declined, I walked out with him; and rarely, perhaps never, have I seen a person so much interrupted in one hour's space as Coleridge on this occasion, by the courteous attentions of young and old."20This appears so faithful a portraiture of Coleridge that it is impossible to read it without once more beholding him as in a mirror. Continuing his description, he speaks again of his extreme courtesy, and of his easy and gentlemanly manner of receiving strangers. A friend of mine seldom speaks of the past in connexion with Coleridge's name, but he reminds me of a visit he once made to me during my absence at the sea shore, and of the courteous grace he displayed in doing the honours of the house.
His own fair countenance, his kingly forehead,These were characteristic beauties, that shone forth in Coleridge, and were deeply felt by all who were attached to him.
His tender smiles, love's day-dawn on his lips —
The sense, the spirit, and the light divine,
At the same moment in his steadfast eye
Were virtue's native crest, the innocent soul's
Unconscious meek self-heraldry — to man
Genial, and pleasant to his guardian angel!
He suffered, nor complained; though oft with tears
He mourned the oppression of his helpless brethren;
Yea with a deeper and yet holier grief
Mourned for th' oppressor; but this
In sabbath hours — a solemn grief,
Most like a cloud at sunset,
Was but the veil of purest meditation,
Pierced through and saturate with the intellectual rays
Literary Remains, vol. i. 277.
"I have never loved evil for its own sake: no! nor ever sought pleasure for its own sake, but only as the means of escaping from pains that coiled around my mental powers, as a serpent around the body and wings of an eagle! My sole sensuality was not to be in pain." Note from Pocket Book, "The History of my own mind for my own improvement," Dec. 23, 1804.Having referred to the accusations of plagiarism brought against Coleridge, it will not, I trust, be deemed inappropriate, to introduce from the British Magazine, No. 37, the concluding part of a critique ably written by the Rev. Julius Hare, who has selected with great discrimination several passages from the Friend, which must come home to the heart of every good man, and this I feel the more impelled to do, as it is a moral lesson to biographers — perhaps to us all:
"I wrote a few stanzas21 three and twenty years ago, soon after my eyes had been opened to the true nature of the habit into which I had been ignorantly deluded by the seeming magic effects of opium, in the sudden removal of a supposed rheumatic affection, attended with swellings in my knees, and palpitations of the heart, and pains all over me, by which I had been bed-ridden for nearly six months. Unhappily, among my neighbour's and landlord's books were a large parcel of medical reviews and magazines. I had always a fondness (a common case, but most mischievous turn with reading men who are at all dyspeptic) for dabbling in medical writings; and in one of these reviews I met a case, which I fancied very like my own, in which a cure had been effected by the Kendal Black Drop. In an evil hour I procured it: — it worked miracles — the swellings disappeared, the pains vanished; I was all alive, and all around me being as ignorant as myself, nothing could exceed my triumph. I talked of nothing else, prescribed the newly-discovered panacea for all complaints, and carried a bottle about with me, not to lose any opportunity of administering 'instant relief and speedy cure' to all complainers, stranger or friend, gentle or simple. Need I say that my own apparent convalescence was of no long continuance; but what then? — the remedy was at hand and infallible. Alas! it is with a bitter smile, a laugh of gall and bitterness, that I recall this period of unsuspecting delusion, and how I first became aware of the Maelstrom, the fatal whirlpool, to which I was drawing just when the current was already beyond my strength to stem. The state of my mind is truly portrayed in the following effusion, for God knows! that from that moment I was the victim of pain and terror, nor had I at any time taken the flattering poison as a stimulus, or for any craving after pleasurable sensations. I needed none; and oh! with what unutterable sorrow did I read the Confessions of an Opium-eater, in which the writer with morbid vanity, makes a boast of what was my misfortune, for he had been faithfully and with an agony of zeal warned of the gulf, and yet wilfully struck into the current! — Heaven be merciful to him!"
"Oh! (will a vain imagination whisper) that in the outset of life I could have felt as well as known the consequences of sin and error before their tyranny had commenced! Though, compared with the average of my fellow men, not a sinful man, yet I feel enough to be assured that few indeed are there who might not from their sins or sinful infirmities gain a tongue of flame, wherewith to warn men of the deadly poison of all, even the least offence. Of all divines, Luther felt most deeply the terrors of the Law; and for that reason, the unutterable goodness and love of the dispensation of grace! — To be one with God the Father — an awful thought beyond all utterance of the awe which it inspires, but by no means wild or mystical. On the contrary, all our experience moves in this direction. In reason, in science, who shall set bounds to the possible progress of man, as long as he is no longer in himself, but in the truth and power of truth. The moment that disease reduces himself to himself, the sage who was able to weigh the planets, and foresee their movements centuries and millenniums to come, trembles in his ignorance of the next five minutes, whether it shall be pain and terror, or relief and respite, and in spirit falls on his knees and prays. Prayer is the mediation, or rather the effort to connect the misery of self with the blessedness of God; and its voice is — Mercy! mercy! for Christ's sake, in whom thou hast opened out the fountain of mercy to sinful man. It is a sore evil to be, and not in God; but it is a still more dreadful evil and misery to will to be other than in God; and yet in every act, in which the gratification of the sensual life is the ultimate end, is the manifestation of such a will. Imagine a — — , first in his noblest hours, in the laboratory or the observatory — an unfolder and discoverer — and then on a sick bed, from the consequences of his own indiscretions. Place both states of the same man, that of the spirit and that of the self-seeking self, clearly and in detail before your mind: — if you can do this, you need no more."
January 7, 1830.
"There is a passage in the Samson Agonistes, in which Milton is supposed on sufficient grounds to have referred to himself, that in which the chorus speaks of strictly temperate man 'causelessly suffering' the pains and penances of inordinate days. O! what would I not give to be able to utter with truth this complaint! O! if he had or rather if he could have presented to himself truly and vividly the aggravation of those pains, which the conscience of their having originated in errors and weaknesses of his own. I do not say that he would not have complained of his sufferings, for who can be in those most trying sufferances of miserable sensations and not complain of them, but his groans for the pain would have been blended with thanksgivings to the sanctifying Spirit. Even under the direful yoke of the necessity of daily poisoning by narcotics it is somewhat less horrible, through the knowledge that it was not from any craving for pleasurable animal excitement, but from pain, delusion, error, of the worst ignorance, medical sciolism, and when (alas! too late the plea of error was removed from my eyes,) from terror and utter perplexity and infirmity; — sinful infirmity, indeed, but yet not a wilful sinfulness that I brought my neck under it. Oh, may the God to whom I look for mercy through Christ, show mercy on the author of the Confessions of an Opium Eater, if, as I have too strong reason to believe, his book has been the occasion of seducing others into this withering vice through wantonness. From this aggravation I have, I humbly trust, been free, as far as acts of my free will and intention are concerned; even to the author of that work I pleaded with flowing tears, and with an agony of forewarning. He utterly denied it, but I fear that I had even then to deter perhaps not to forewarn. My own contrasted feelings soon after I saw the Maelstrom to which the current was absorbing me, are written in one of my paper books."22
Jan. 7, 1830.
An inquisitiveness into the minutest circumstances and casual sayings of eminent contemporaries is indeed quite natural: but so are all our follies: and the more natural they are the more caution should we exert in guarding against them. To scribble trifles, even on the perishable glass of an inn window, is the mark of an idler: but to engrave them on the marble monument sacred to the memory of the departed great, is something worse than idleness. The spirit of genuine biography is in nothing more conspicuous than in the firmness with which it withstands the cravings of worthless curiosity, as distinguished from the thirst after useful knowledge. For in the first place, such anecdotes as derive their whole and sole interest from the great name of the person concerning whom they are related, and neither illustrate his general character nor his particular actions, would scarcely have been noticed or remembered, except by men of weak minds. It is not unlikely, therefore, that they were misapprehended at the time; and it is most probable that they have been related as incorrectly, as they were noticed injudiciously. Nor are the consequences of such garrulous biography merely negative. For as insignificant stories can derive no real respectability from the eminence of the person who happens to be the subject of them, but rather an additional deformity of disproportion, they are apt to have their insipidity seasoned by the same bad passions that accompany the habit of gossiping in general: and the misapprehensions of weak men, meeting with the misinterpretations of malignant men, have not seldom formed the ground work of the most grievous calamities. In the second place, those trifles are subversive of the great end of biography, which is to fix the attention and to interest the feelings of men on those qualities and actions which have made a particular life worthy of being recorded. It is no doubt the duty of an honest biographer to portray the prominent imperfections as well as excellencies of his hero. But I am at a loss to conceive how this can be deemed an excuse for heaping together a multitude of particulars, which can prove nothing of any man, that might not be safely taken for granted of all men. In the present age — emphatically the age of personality — there are more than ordinary motives for withholding all encouragement from the mania of busying ourselves with the names of others, which is still more alarming as a symptom, than it is troublesome as a disease. The reader must be still less acquainted with contemporary literature than myself, if he needs me to inform him that there are men who, trading in the silliest anecdotes, in unprovoked abuse and senseless eulogy, think themselves nevertheless employed both worthily and honourably if only all this be done in good set terms, and from the press, and of public characters, — a class which has increased so rapidly of late, that it becomes difficult to discover what characters are to be considered as private. Alas! if these wretched misusers of language and the means of giving wings to thought, and of multiplying the presence of an individual mind, had ever known how great a thing the possession of any one simple truth is, and how mean a thing a mere fact is, except as seen in the light of some comprehensive truth — if they had but once experienced the unborrowed complacency, the inward independence, the homebred strength, with which every clear conception of the reason is accompanied, — they would shrink from their own pages as at the remembrance of a crime. — For a crime it is (and the man who hesitates in pronouncing it such, must be ignorant of what mankind owe to books, what he himself owes to them in spite of his ignorance) thus to introduce the spirit of vulgar scandal, and personal inquietude into the closet and the library, environing with evil passions the very sanctuaries to which we should flee for refuge from them. For to what do these publications appeal, whether they present themselves as biography or as anonymous criticism, but to the same feelings which the scandal bearers, and time-killers of ordinary life seem to gratify in themselves and their listeners; and both the authors and admirers of such publications, in what respect are they less truants and deserters from their own hearts, and from their appointed task of understanding and amending them, than the most garrulous female chronicler of the goings-on of yesterday in the families of her neighbours and townsfolk?There is one part of Coleridge's character not to be passed by, although so overlaid by his genius as rarely to be noticed, namely, his love of humour and of wit, of which he possessed so large a share. As punsters, his dear friend Lamb and himself were inimitable. Lamb's puns had oftener more effect, from the impediment in his speech their force seemed to be increased by the pause of stuttering, and to shoot forth like an arrow from a strong bow — but being never poisoned nor envenomed, they left no pain behind. Coleridge was more humorous than witty in making puns — and in repartee, he was, according to modern phraseology, "smart and clever." Staying a few days with two friends at a farm-house, they agreed to visit a race-course in the neighbourhood. The farmer brought from his stud a horse low in stature, and still lower in flesh — a bridle corresponding in respectability of appearance, with a saddle equally suitable — stirrups once bright, but now deeply discoloured by rust. All this was the contrivance of the farmer, and prudently intended for his safety. He had heard previously of Coleridge's want of skill in riding, and had therefore provided him with a beast not likely to throw him. On this Rosinante the poet mounted, in his accustomed dress, namely, a black coat, black breeches, with black silk stockings and shoes. His friends being trusted with more active steeds, soon outstripped him. Jogging on leisurely he was met by a long-nosed knowing-looking man, attired in a sporting dress, and an excellent equestrian. Seeing this whimsical horseman in shoes, he writhed, as Coleridge observed, his lithe proboscis, and thus accosted him:
'As to my own attempt to record the life and character of the late Sir Alexander Ball, I consider myself deterred from all circumstances not pertaining to his conduct or character as a public functionary, that involve the names of the living for good or for evil. Whatever facts and incidents I relate of a private nature must, for the most part, concern Sir Alexander Ball exclusively, and as an insulated individual. But I needed not this restraint. It will be enough for me, as I write, to recollect the form and character of Sir Alexander Ball himself, to represent to my own feelings the inward contempt with which he would have abstracted his mind from worthless anecdotes and petty personalities; a contempt rising into indignation if ever an illustrious name were used as a thread to string them upon. If this recollection be my Socratic Demon, to warn and to check me, I shall, on the other hand, derive encouragement from the remembrance of the tender patience, the sweet gentleness, with which he was wont to tolerate the tediousness of well meaning men; and the inexhaustible attention, the unfeigned interest, with which he would listen for hours, when the conversation appealed to reason, and like the bee, made honey, while it murmured.' I have transcribed this passage from the original edition of the Friend, No. 21, and not from the reprint, where it stands in vol. ii. pp. 303-307; because in the latter, the last paragraph, in itself a beautiful one, and to our present purpose particularly appropriate, is left out. For if Coleridge could imagine 'the inward contempt with which Sir Alexander Ball would have abstracted his mind from worthless anecdotes and petty personalities, — a contempt rising into indignation, if ever an illustrious name was used as a thread to string them on,' well may those who knew Coleridge conceive the grief, the grief and pity, he would have felt, at seeing eminent powers and knowledge employed in ministering to the wretched love of gossip — retailing paltry anecdotes in dispraise of others, intermingled with outflowings of self-praise — and creeping into the secret chambers of great men's houses to filch out materials for tattle — at seeing great powers wasting and debasing themselves in such an ignoble task — above all, at seeing that the person who thus wasted and debased them was a scholar, and a philosopher whose talents he admired, with whom he had lived familiarly, and whom he had honoured with his friendship."23
"Dissuading spake the mild physician,In the year 1810, he left the Lakes, in company with Mr. Basil Montagu, whose affectionate regard for Mr. Coleridge, though manifested upon every occasion, was more particularly shown in seasons of difficulty and affliction. By Coleridge, Mr. Montagu's friendship was deeply felt, — and his gentle manners and unremitted kindness had the most soothing effect upon the sensitive and grateful mind of Coleridge. He remained for some time at Mr. Montagu's house. He afterwards resided at Hammersmith, with an amiable and common friend of his and Mr. Southey's, — Mr. Morgan, with whom they had formed an intimacy in Bristol. Whilst here he delivered a course of lectures at the London Philosophical Society. The prospectus was as follows:—
Those briny waves for thee are death,
But my soul fulfilled her mission,
And lo! I breathe untroubled breath."24
"Mr. Coleridge will commence, on Monday, November 18, 1811, a Course of Lectures on Shakspeare and Milton, in illustration of the principles of poetry, and their application, as grounds of criticism, to the most popular works of later English Poets, those of the living included. After an introductory lecture on False Criticism (especially in poetry), and on its causes; two thirds of the remaining course will be assigned,Mr. Coleridge afterwards delivered another course of lectures at the Royal Institution. Dr. Dibdin, one of his auditors, gives the following account of the lecturer:25
1st, to a philosophical analysis, and explanation of all the principal characters of our great dramatist, as Othello, Falstaff, Richard the Third, Iago, Hamlet, &c.; and
2nd, to a critical comparison of Shakspeare, in respect of diction, imagery, management of the passions, judgment in the construction of his dramas, in short, of all that belongs to him as a poet, and as a dramatic poet, with his contemporaries or immediate successors, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ford, Massinger, &c. in the endeavour to determine what of Shakspeare's merits and defects are common to him, with other writers of the same age, and what remain peculiar to his own genius.
The course will extend to fifteen lectures, which will be given on Monday and Thursday evenings successively."
"It was during my constant and familiar intercourse with Sir T. Bernard, while 'The Director' was going on, that I met the celebrated Mr. Coleridge — himself a lecturer. He was not a constant lecturer — not in constant harness like others for the business of the day. Indisposition was generally preying upon him,26 and habitual indolence would now and then frustrate the performance of his own better wishes. I once came from Kensington in a snow-storm, to hear him lecture upon Shakspeare. I might have sat as wisely and more comfortably by my own fire-side — for no Coleridge appeared. And this I think occurred more than once at the Royal Institution. I shall never forget the effect his conversation made upon me at the first meeting. It struck me as something not only quite out of the ordinary course of things, but as an intellectual exhibition altogether matchless. The viands were unusually costly, and the banquet was at once rich and varied; but there seemed to be no dish like Coleridge's conversation to feed upon — and no information so varied and so instructive as his own. The orator rolled himself up, as it were, in his chair, and gave the most unrestrained indulgence to his speech, and how fraught with acuteness and originality was that speech, and in what copious and eloquent periods did it flow! The auditors seemed to be rapt in wonder and delight, as one conversation, more profound or clothed in more forcible language than another, fell from his tongue. A great part of the subject discussed at the first time of my meeting Mr. Coleridge, was the connexion between Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. The speaker had been secretary to Sir Alexander Ball, governor of Malta — and a copious field was here afforded for the exercise of his colloquial eloquence. For nearly two hours he spoke with unhesitating and uninterrupted fluency. As I retired homewards (to Kensington), I thought a second Johnson had visited the earth, to make wise the sons of men; and regretted that I could not exercise the powers of a second Boswell, to record the wisdom and the eloquence which had that evening flowed from the orator's lips. It haunted me as I retired to rest. It drove away slumber: or if I lapsed into sleep, there was Coleridge — his snuffbox, and his 'kerchief before my eyes! — his mildly beaming looks — his occasionally deep tone of voice — and the excited features of his physiognomy. — The manner of Coleridge was rather emphatic than dogmatic, and thus he was generally and satisfactorily listened to. It might be said of Coleridge, as Cowper has so happily said of Sir Philip Sidney, that he was 'the warbler of poetic prose.' There was always this characteristic feature in his multifarious conversation — it was delicate, reverend, and courteous. The chastest ear could drink in no startling sound; the most serious believer never had his bosom ruffled by one sceptical or reckless assertion. Coleridge was eminently simple in his manner. Thinking and speaking were his delight; and he would sometimes seem, during the more fervid movements of discourse, to be abstracted from all and every thing around and about him, and to be basking in the sunny warmth of his own radiant imagination."The manuscript of The Remorse was sent to Mr. Sheridan, who did not even acknowledge the receipt of the letter which accompanied the drama; he however observed to a friend, that he had received a play from Coleridge, but that there was one extraordinary line in the Cave Scene, drip, drip — which he could not understand: "in short," said he, "it is all dripping." This was the only notice he took of the play; but the comment was at length repeated to the author, through the medium of a third party. The theatre falling afterwards into the hands of Lord Byron and Mr. Whitbread, his Lordship sent for Coleridge, was very kind to his brother poet, and requested that the play might be represented: this desire was complied with, and it received his support. Although Mr. Whitbread27 did not give it the advantage of a single new scene, yet the popularity of the play was such, that the principal actor, who had performed in it with great success, made choice of it for his benefit-night, and it brought an overflowing house.28
"If you had seen Lord Byron, you could scarcely disbelieve him — so beautiful a countenance I scarcely ever saw — his teeth so many stationary smiles — his eyes the open portals of the sun — things of light, and for light — and his forehead so ample, and yet so flexible, passing from marble smoothness into a hundred wreathes and lines and dimples correspondent to the feelings and sentiments he is uttering."Coleridge, in the preface to The Remorse, states that the
"tragedy was written in the summer and autumn of the year 1797, at Nether Stowey, in the county of Somerset. By whose recommendation, and of the manner in which both the play and the author were treated by the recommender, let me be permitted to relate: that I knew of its having been received only from a third person; that I could procure neither answer nor the manuscript; and that but for an accident, I should have had no copy of the work itself. That such treatment would damp a young man's exertions may be easily conceived: there was no need of after-misrepresentation and calumny, as an additional sedative."Coleridge contributed many pieces to Southey's Omniana, (all marked with an asterisk,) and was engaged in other literary pursuits; he had notwithstanding much bodily suffering. The cause of this was the organic change slowly and gradually taking place in the structure of the heart itself. But it was so masked by other sufferings, though at times creating despondency, and was so generally overpowered by the excitement of animated conversation, as to leave its real cause undiscovered.29 Notwithstanding this sad state, he rolled forth volumes from a mind ever active — at times intensely so, — still he required the support of those sympathies which "free the hollow heart from paining."
O we are querulous creatures! Little less
Than all things can suffice to make us happy:
And little more than nothing is enough
To make us wretched.
Alas! for myself at least I know and feel, that wherever there is a wrong not to be forgiven, there is a grief that admits neither of cure nor comforting.Private Record, 1806.
"For months past so incessantly employed in official tasks, subscribing, examining, administering oaths, auditing," &c.return
"I was reading when I was taken ill, and felt an oppression of my breathing, and convulsive snatching in my stomach and limbs. Mrs. Ireland noticed this laborious breathing."return
Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,Lycidas.
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies:
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes,
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;
As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
Of so much fame in Heaven expect thy meed.
"Sunday, December 15th, 1805.return
"Naples, view of Vesuvius, the Hail-mist — Torre del Greco — bright amid darkness — the mountains above it flashing here and there from their snows; but Vesuvius, it had not thinned as I have seen at Keswick, but the air so consolidated with the massy cloud curtain, that it appeared like a mountain in basso relievo, in an interminable wall of some pantheon."
"Next to the inspired Scriptures, yea, and as the vibration of that once struck hour remaining on the air, stands Archbishop Leighton's commentary on the first epistle of Peter."return
The Son which is the word of the Father, begotten from Everlasting of the Father, &c.Art. v:
The Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son, &c.return
"I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."Vide St. John, xvii. 2.
"Dregs half way up and froth half way down, form Whitbread's Entire."return
"My heart, or some part about it, seems breaking, as if a weight were suspended from it that stretches it, such is the bodily feeling, as far as I can express it by words."Letter addressed to Mr. Morgan.
Hatton Garden, 9th April, 1816.I had seen the writer of this letter but twice in my life, and had no intention of receiving an inmate into my house. I however determined on seeing Dr. Adams, for whether the person referred to had taken opium from choice or necessity, to me he was equally an object of commiseration and interest. Dr. Adams informed me that the patient had been warned of the danger of discontinuing opium by several eminent medical men, who, at the same time, represented the frightful consequences that would most probably ensue. I had heard of the failure of Mr. Wilberforce's case, under an eminent physician at Bath, in addition to which, the doctor gave me an account of several others within his own knowledge. After some further conversation it was agreed that Dr. Adams should drive Coleridge to Highgate the following evening. On the following evening came Coleridge himself and alone. An old gentleman, of more than ordinary acquirements, was sitting by the fireside when he entered. — We met, indeed, for the first time, but as friends long since parted, and who had now the happiness to see each other again. Coleridge took his seat — his manner, his appearance, and above all, his conversation were captivating. We listened with delight, and upon the first pause, when courtesy permitted, my visitor withdrew, saying in a low voice, "I see by your manners, an old friend has arrived, and I shall therefore retire." Coleridge proposed to come the following evening, but he first informed me of the painful opinion which he had received concerning his case, especially from one medical man of celebrity. The tale was sad, and the opinion given unprofessional and cruel — sufficient to have deterred most men so afflicted from making the attempt Coleridge was contemplating, and in which his whole soul was so deeply and so earnestly engaged. In the course of our conversation, he repeated some exquisite but desponding lines of his own. It was an evening of painful and pleasurable feeling, which I can never forget. We parted with each other, understanding in a few minutes what perhaps under different circumstances, would have cost many hours to arrange; and I looked with impatience for the morrow, still wondering at the apparent chance that had brought him under my roof. I felt indeed almost spell-bound, without the desire of release. My situation was new, and there was something affecting in the thought, that one of such amiable manners, and at the same time so highly gifted, should seek comfort and medical aid in our quiet home. Deeply interested, I began to reflect seriously on the duties imposed upon me, and with anxiety to expect the approaching day. It brought me the following letter:
Dear Sir, A very learned, but in one respect an unfortunate gentleman, has applied to me on a singular occasion. He has for several years been in the habit of taking large quantities of opium. For some time past, he has been in vain endeavouring to break himself off it. It is apprehended his friends are not firm enough, from a dread, lest he should suffer by suddenly leaving it off, though he is conscious of the contrary; and has proposed to me to submit himself to any regimen, however severe. With this view, he wishes to fix himself in the house of some medical gentleman, who will have courage to refuse him any laudanum, and under whose assistance, should he be the worse for it, he may be relieved. As he is desirous of retirement, and a garden, I could think of no one so readily as yourself. Be so good as to inform me, whether such a proposal is absolutely inconsistent with your family arrangements. I should not have proposed it, but on account of the great importance of the character, as a literary man. His communicative temper will make his society very interesting, as well as useful. Have the goodness to favour me with an immediate answer; and believe me, dear sir, your faithful humble servant,
42, Norfolk Street, Strand, Saturday Noon.On the evening appointed, Coleridge came, bringing in his hand the proof sheets of Christabel, which was now for the first time printed. The fragment in manuscript was already known to many, for to many had Coleridge read it, who had listened to it with delight — a delight so marked that its success seemed certain. But the approbation of those whom, in the worldly acceptation of the term, we call friends, is not always to be relied upon. Among the most plausible connexions, there is often a rivalship, both political and literary, which constrains the sacrifice of sincerity, and substitutes secret for open censure. Of this melancholy fact Coleridge had seen proof. The Fragment had not long been published before he was informed, that an individual had been selected (who was in truth a great admirer of his writings; and whose very life had been saved through the exertions of Coleridge and Mr. Southey,) to "cut up" Christabel in the Edinburgh Review. The subject being afterwards mentioned in conversation, the reviewer confessed that he was the writer of the article, but observed, that as he wrote for the Edinburgh Review, he was compelled to write in accordance with the character and tone of that periodical. This confession took place after he had been extolling the Christabel as the finest poem of its kind in the language, and ridiculing the public for their want of taste and discrimination in not admiring it. — Truly has it been said,
[April 13, 1816.]
"My Dear Sir,
The first half hour I was with you convinced me that I should owe my reception into your family exclusively to motives not less flattering to me than honourable to yourself. I trust we shall ever in matters of intellect be reciprocally serviceable to each other. Men of sense generally come to the same conclusions; but they are likely to contribute to each other's enlargement of view, in proportion to the distance or even opposition of the points from which they set out. Travel and the strange variety of situations and employments on which chance has thrown me, in the course of my life, might have made me a mere man of observation, if pain and sorrow and self-miscomplacence had not forced my mind in on itself, and so formed habits of meditation. It is now as much my nature to evolve the fact from the law, as that of a practical man to deduce the law from the fact.
With respect to pecuniary remuneration, allow me to say, I must not at least be suffered to make any addition to your family expences — though I cannot offer any thing that would be in any way adequate to my sense of the service; for that indeed there could not be a compensation, as it must be returned in kind, by esteem and grateful affection.
And now of myself. My ever wakeful reason, and the keenness of my moral feelings, will secure you from all unpleasant circumstances connected with me save only one, viz. the evasion of a specific madness. You will never hear any thing but truth from me: — prior habits render it out of my power to tell an untruth, but unless carefully observed, I dare not promise that I should not, with regard to this detested poison, be capable of acting one. No sixty hours have yet passed without my having taken laudanum, though for the last week comparatively trifling doses. I have full belief that your anxiety need not be extended beyond the first week, and for the first week, I shall not, I must not be permitted to leave your house, unless with you. Delicately or indelicately, this must be done, and both the servants and the assistant must receive absolute commands from you. The stimulus of conversation suspends the terror that haunts my mind; but when I am alone, the horrors I have suffered from laudanum, the degradation, the blighted utility, almost overwhelm me. If (as I feel for the first time a soothing confidence it will prove) I should leave you restored to my moral and bodily health, it is not myself only that will love and honour you; every friend I have, (and thank God! in spite of this wretched vice2 I have many and warm ones, who were friends of my youth, and have never deserted me,) will thank you with reverence. I have taken no notice of your kind apologies. If I could not be comfortable in your house, and with your family, I should deserve to be miserable. If you could make it convenient, I should wish to be with you by Monday evening, as it would prevent the necessity of taking fresh lodgings in town.
With respectful compliments to Mrs. Gillman and her sister, I remain, dear sir,
Your much obliged,
S. T. Coleridge."
"Critics upon all writers there are many,Sir Walter Scott always spoke in high praise of the Christabel, and more than once of his obligations to Coleridge; of this we have proof in his Ivanhoe, in which the lines by Coleridge, entitled The Knight's Tomb, were quoted by Scott before they were published, from which circumstance, Coleridge was convinced that Sir Walter was the author of the Waverly Novels. The lines were composed as an experiment for a metre, and repeated by him to a mutual friend — this gentleman the following day dined in company with Sir Walter Scott, and spoke of his visit to Highgate, repeating Coleridge's lines to Scott, and observing at the same time, that they might be acceptable to the author of Waverley.
Planters of truth or knowledge scarcely any."
Where is the grave of Sir Arthur O'Kellyn?The late Mr. Sotheby informed me, that, at his house in a large party, Sir Walter made the following remark:
Where may the grave of that good man be? —
By the side of a spring, on the breast of Helvellyn,
Under the twigs of a young birch tree!
The Oak that in summer was sweet to hear,
And rustled its leaves in the fall of the year;
And whistled and roar'd in the winter alone,
Is gone, — and the birch in its stead is grown. —
The Knight's bones are dust,
And his good sword rust; —
His soul is with the saints, I trust.
Poetical Works, Vol. ii. p. 64.
"I am indebted to Coleridge for the mode of telling a tale by question and answer. This was a new light to me, and I was greatly struck by it."Yet when Sir Walter said this, he must surely have forgotten many of our ancient and most beautiful ballads, in which the questions are so significant, and are made to develope the progress of the fable more clearly than could be affected by the ordinary course of narration. In fact every lover of our old poetry will recollect a hundred pieces in which the same form of evolution is observed. Thus in Johnie of Breadis Lee:
"What news, what news, ye grey-headed carle,And in Halbert the Grim:
What news bring ye to me?"
"There is pity in many, —Scott particularly admired Coleridge's management of the supernatural. The "flesh and blood reality," given to Geraldine, the life, the power of appearing and disappearing equally by day as by night, constitutes the peculiar merit of the Christabel: and those poets who admire, and have reflected much on the supernatural, have ever considered it one of the greatest efforts of genius. But the effect has ever been degraded by unnatural combinations. Thus on the stage, where such creations are the most frequent, it has been the custom for stage-managers to choose male actors for the female parts. In Macbeth, men are called on to stir the caldron and other witcheries requiring muscular power. Again, when Macbeth listens to those extraordinary beings, who, with muttering spells, with charms, foreknowledge and incantations imperfectly announced to him his fate; he, with an air of command, says, "Speak!" &c. They shew their power, and give their best answer by disappearing. The manner of representing this is unnatural, as exhibited by our managers. Coleridge observed, that it would be better to withdraw the light from the stage, than to exhibit these miserable attempts at vanishing3, though could the thought have been well executed, he considered it a master-stroke of Shakspeare's. Yet it should be noticed, that Coleridge's opinion was, that some of the plays of our "myriad-minded" bard ought never to be acted, but looked on as poems to be read, and contemplated; and so fully was he impressed with this feeling, that in his gayer moments he would often say, "There should be an Act of Parliament to prohibit their representation."4 Here he excelled: he has no incongruities, no gross illusions. In the management of the supernatural, the only successful poets among our own countrymen have been Shakspeare and Coleridge. Scott has treated it well in the Bride of Lammermoor, and in one or two other works.
Is there any in him?
No! ruth is a strange guest
To Halbert the Grim."
"It is probable," he says, "that if the poem had been finished at either of the former periods, i.e. 1797 and 1800, or if even the first and second part of this fragment had been published in the year 1800, the impression of its originality would have been much greater than I dare at present expect. But for this, I have only my own indolence to blame. The dates are mentioned for the exclusive purpose of precluding charges of plagiarism or servile imitation from myself. For there is among us a set of critics who seem to hold, that every possible thought and image is traditional; who have no notion that there are such things as fountains in the world, small as well as great; and who would therefore charitably derive every rill, they behold flowing, from a perforation made in some other man's tank. I am confident, however, that as far as the present poem is concerned, the celebrated poets whose writings I might be suspected of having imitated, either in particular passages, or in the tone and the spirit of the whole, would be among the first to vindicate me from the charge, and who, on any striking coincidence, would permit me to address them in this dogged version of two monkish Latin hexameters:In conversation many of his brother poets would, like the reviewer, echo his praises, while in secret, they were trying to deprive him of his fair fame. It has been said, that "Coleridge never explained the story of Christabel." To his friends he did explain it; and in the Biographia Literaria, he has given an account of its origin5.'Tis mine and it is likewise your's,I have only to add, that the metre of the Christabel is not, properly speaking, irregular, though it may seem so from its being founded on a new principle; namely, that of counting in each line the accents, not the syllables. Though the latter may vary from seven to twelve, yet in each line the accents will be found to be only four. Nevertheless, this occasional variation in the number of syllables is not introduced wantonly, or for the mere ends of convenience, but in correspondence with some transition in the nature of the imagery or passion."
But an if this will not do;
Let it be mine, good friend! for I
Am the poorer of the two."
"The weal of her lover that is far away,"exposed to various temptations in a foreign land; and she thus defeats the power of evil represented in the person of Geraldine. This is one main object of the tale.
'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,The spell is laid by an evil being, not of this world, with whom Christabel, the heroine, is about to become connected; and who in the darkness of the forest is meditating the wreck of all her hopes
And the owls have awak'ned the crowing cock;
Tu-whit! — Tu-whoo!
And hark, again! The crowing cock,
How drowsily it crew —
Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff-bitch,
From her kennel beneath the rock
Maketh answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
Ever and aye, by shine and shower,
Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
Some say, she sees my lady's shroud.
Is the night chilly and dark?
The night is chilly, but not dark.
The thin gray cloud is spread on high,
It covers but not hides the sky.
The moon is behind, and at the full;
And yet she looks both small and dull.
The night is chill, the cloud is gray:
'Tis a month before the month of May,
And the Spring comes slowly up this way.
The lovely lady, Christabel,There are persons who have considered the description of Christabel in the act of praying, so far from the baron's castle, too great a poetical license. He was fully aware that all baronial castles had their chapels and oratories attached to them, — and that in these lawless times, for such were the middle ages, the young lady who ventured unattended beyond the precincts of the castle, would have endangered her reputation. But to such an imaginative mind, it would have been scarcely possible to pass by the interesting image of Christabel, presenting itself before him, praying by moonlight at the old oak tree. But to proceed:
Whom her father loves so well,
What makes her in the wood so late,
A furlong from the castle gate?
She had dreams all yesternight
Of her own betrothed knight;
And she in the midnight wood will pray
For the weal of her lover that's far away.
She stole along, she nothing spoke,
The sighs she heaved were soft and low,
And naught was green upon the oak,
But moss and rarest misletoe:
She kneels beneath the huge oak tree,
And in silence prayeth she.
The lady sprang up suddenly,This description is exquisite. Now for the mystic demon's tale of art:
The lovely lady Christabel!
It moaned as near, as near can be,
But what it is, she cannot tell. —
On the other side it seems to be,
Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak tree.
The night is chill; the forest bare;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady's cheek —
There is not wind enough to twirl
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
Hush, beating heart of Christabel!
Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.
What sees she there?
There she sees a damsel bright,
Drest in a silken robe of white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone:
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck and arms were bare;
Her blue-veined feet unsandal'd were.
And wildly glittered here and there
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess, 'twas frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she —
Mary mother, save me now!Following the popular superstition that dogs are supposed to see ghosts, and therefore see the supernatural, the mastiff yells, when Geraldine appears:—
(Said Christabel,) And who art thou?
The lady strange made answer meet,
And her voice was faint and sweet: —
Have pity on my sore distress,
I scarce can speak for weariness:
Stretch forth thy hand, and have no fear!
Said Christabel, How camest thou here?
And the lady, whose voice was faint and sweet,
Did thus pursue her answer meet: —
My sire is of a noble line,
And my name is Geraldine:
Five warriors seized me yestermorn,
Me, even me, a maid forlorn:
They chok'd my cries with force and fright,
And tied me on a palfrey white.
The palfrey was as fleet as wind,
And they rode furiously behind.
They spurred amain, their steeds were white:
And once we crossed the shade of night.
As sure as Heaven shall rescue me,
I have no thought what men they be;
Nor do I know how long it is
(For I have lain entranced I wis)
Since one, the tallest of the five,
Took me from the palfrey's back,
A weary woman, scarce alive.
Some muttered words his comrades spoke
He placed me underneath this oak,
He swore they would return with haste;
Whither they went I cannot tell —
I thought I heard, some minutes past,
Sounds as of a castle bell.
Stretch forth thy hand (thus ended she)
And help a wretched maid to flee.
Then Christabel stretched forth her hand
And comforted fair Geraldine:
O well, bright dame! may you command
The service of Sir Leoline;
And gladly our stout chivalry
Will he send forth and friends withal,
To guide and guard you safe and free
Home to your noble father's hall.
She rose: and forth with steps they passed
That strove to be, and were not, fast.
Her gracious stars the lady blest
And thus spake on sweet Christabel:
All our household are at rest,
The hall as silent as the cell;
Sir Leoline is weak in health,
And may not well awakened be,
But we will move as if in stealth,
And I beseech your courtesy,
This night, to share your couch with me.
They crossed the moat, and Christabel
Took the key that fitted well;
A little door she opened straight,
All in the middle of the gate;
The gate that was ironed within and without,
Where an army in battle array had marched out.
The lady sank, belike through pain,
And Christabel with might and main
Lifted her up, a weary weight,
Over the threshold of the gate:
Then the lady rose again,
And moved, as she were not in pain.
So free from danger, free from fear,
They crossed the court: right glad they were.
Outside her kennell, the mastiff oldGeraldine had already worked upon the kindness of Christabel, so that she had lifted her over the threshold of the gate, which Geraldine's fallen power had prevented her passing of herself, the place being holy and under the influence of the Virgin.
Lay fast asleep, in moonshine cold.
The mastiff old did not awake,
Yet she an angry moan did make!
And what can ail the mastiff bitch?
Never till now she uttered yell,
Beneath the eye of Christabel.
"Praise we the Virgin all divine,Geraldine, who affects to be weary, arrives at the chamber of Christabel — this room is beautifully ornamented,
Who hath rescued thee from thy distress,
Alas! Alas! said Geraldine,
I cannot speak for weariness.
They pass the hall that echoes still,
Pass as lightly as you will!
The brands were flat, the brands were dying,
Amid their own white ashes lying;
But when the lady passed there came
A tongue of light, a fit of flame;
And Christabel saw the lady's eye,
And nothing else saw she thereby
Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,
Which hung in a murky old nitch in the wall.
O! softly tread, said Christabel,
My father seldom sleepeth well."
"Carved with figures strange and sweet,Such is the mysterious movement of this supernatural lady, that all this is visible, and when she passed the dying brands, there came a fit of flame, and Christabel saw the lady's eye.
All made out of the carver's brain,
For a lady's chamber meet
The lamp with twofold silver chain
Is fasten'd to an angel's feet."
The silver lamp burns dead and dim;The poet now introduces the real object of the supernatural transformation: the spirit of evil struggles with the deceased and sainted mother of Christabel for the possession of the lady. To render the scene more impressive, the mother instantly appears, though she is invisible to her daughter. Geraldine exclaims in a commanding voice
But Christabel the lamp will trim.
She trimm'd the lamp and made it bright,
And left it swinging to and fro,
While Geraldine, in wretched plight,
Sank down upon the floor below.
O weary lady Geraldine,
I pray you drink this cordial wine,
It is a wine of virtuous powers;
My mother made it of wild flowers.
And will your mother pity me,
Who am a maiden most forlorn?
Christabel answer'd — Woe is me!
She died the hour that I was born,
I have heard the grey-hair'd friar tell,
How on her death-bed she did say,
That she should hear the castle bell
Strike twelve upon my wedding-day.
O mother dear! that thou wert here!
I would, said Geraldine, she were!
"Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine!Here, Geraldine seems to be struggling with the spirit of Christabel's mother, over which for a time she obtains the mastery.
I have power to bid thee flee?"
Alas! what ails poor Geraldine?
Why stares she with unsettled eye
Can she the bodiless dead espy?
And why with hollow voice cries she,
"Off, woman, off! this hour is mine —
Though thou her guardian spirit be,
"Off, woman, off! 'tis given to me."
Then Christabel knelt by the lady's side,But all this had given rise to so many different thoughts and feelings, that she could not compose herself for sleep, so she sits up in her bed to look at Geraldine who drew in her breath aloud, and unbound her cincture. Her silken robe and inner vest then drop to her feet, and she discovers her hideous form:
And rais'd to heaven her eyes so blue —
Alas! said she, this ghastly ride —
Dear lady! it hath wilder'd you!
The lady wiped her moist cold brow,
And faintly said, "'Tis over now!"
Again the wild-flower wine she drank,
Her fair large eyes 'gan glitter bright,
And from the floor whereon she sank,
The lofty lady stood upright
She was most beautiful to see,
Like a lady of a far countrée.
And thus the lofty lady spake —
All they who live in the upper sky,
Do love you, holy Christabel!
And you love them, and for their sake
And for the good which me befell,
Even I in my degree will try,
Fair maiden to requite you well.
But now unrobe yourself: for I
Must pray, ere yet in bed I lie.
Quoth Christabel, so let it be!
And as the lady bade, did she.
Her gentle limbs did she undress,
And lay down in her loveliness.
A sight to dream of, not to tell!She then lies down by the side of Christabel, and takes her to her arms, saying in a low voice these words:—
O shield her, shield sweet Christabel!
Yet Geraldine nor speaks — nor stirs;
Ah! what a stricken look was hers!
In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell,The conclusion to part the first is a beautiful and well drawn picture, slightly recapitulating some of the circumstances of the opening of the poem.
Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!
Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow,
This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow;
But vainly thou warrest,
For this is alone in
Thy power to declare,
That in the dim forest
Thou heardst a low moaning,
And found'st a bright lady, surpassingly fair
And didst bring her home with thee in love and in charity,
To shield her and shelter her from the damp air.
It was a lovely sight to see,At the ceasing of the spell, the joyousness of the birds is described, and also the awakening of Christabel as from a trance. — During this rest (her mother) the guardian angel is supposed to have been watching over her. But these passages could not escape coarse minded critics, who put a construction on them which never entered the mind of the author of Christabel, whose poems are marked by delicacy.
The lady Christabel, when she
Was praying at the old oak tree.
Amid the jagged shadows
Of mossy leafless boughs,
Kneeling in the moonlight,
To make her gentle vows;
Her slender palms together prest,
Heaving sometimes on her breast;
Her face resigned to bliss or bale —
Her face, oh call it fair, not pale,
And both blue eyes more bright than clear,
Each about to have a tear.
With open eyes (ah woe is me!)
Asleep and dreaming fearfully,
Fearfully dreaming, yet I wis,
Dreaming that alone which is —
O sorrow and shame! Can this be she,
The lady who knelt at the old oak tree?
And lo! the worker of these harms,
That holds the maiden in her arms,
Seems to slumber still and mild
As a mother with her child.
A star hath set, a star hath risen,
O Geraldine! since arms of thine
Have been the lovely lady's prison.
O Geraldine! one hour was thine —
Thou'st had thy will! By tairn and rill,
The night-birds all that hour were still.
What if her guardian spirit 'twere,Here terminates the first canto.
What if she knew her mother near?
But this she knows, in joys and woes,
That saints will aid if men will call:
For the blue sky bends over all!
Each matin bell, the Baron saith!After a popular custom of the country, the old bard Bracy is introduced. Geraldine rises, puts on her silken vestments — tricks her hair, and not doubting her spell, she awakens Christabel,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said
When he rose and found his lady dead.
These words Sir Leoline will say
Many a morn to his dying day.
"Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel?Christabel then leaves her couch, and having offered up her prayers, she leads fair Geraldine to meet the Baron. — They enter his presence room, when her father rises, and while pressing his daughter to his breast, he espies the lady Geraldine, to whom he gives such welcome as
I trust that you have rested well."
And Christabel awoke and spied
The same who lay down by her side —
O rather say, the same whom she
Rais'd up beneath the old oak tree!
Nay fairer yet, and yet more fair!
For she belike hath drunken deep
Of all the blessedness of sleep!
And while she spake, her looks, her air
Such gentle thankfulness declare;
That (so it seem'd) her girded vests
Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.
"Sure I have sinn'd!" said Christabel,
"Now heaven be prais'd if all be well!"
And in low faultering tones, yet sweet,
Did she the lofty lady greet;
With such perplexity of mind
As dreams too lively leave behind.
"Might beseem so bright a dame!"But when the Baron hears her tale, and her father's name, the poet enquires feelingly:—
Why wax'd Sir Leoline so pale,Sir Leoline gazed for a moment on the face of Geraldine, and the youthful Lord of Tryermaine again came back upon his heart. He is then described as forgetting his age, and his noble heart swells with indignation.
Murmuring o'er the name again,
Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine?
Alas! they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above;
And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
And to be wroth with one we love,
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it chanc'd, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother:
They parted — never to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining —
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
A dreary sea now flows between; —
But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away, I ween,
The marks of that which once hath been.
"Prolonging it with joyous look,Geraldine then appears to her in her real character, (half human only,) the sight of which alarms Christabel. The Baron mistakes for jealousy this alarm in his daughter, which was induced by fear of Geraldine, and had been the sole cause of her unconsciously imitating the "hissing sound:"
Which when she viewed, a vision fell
Upon the soul of Christabel,
The vision of fear, the touch and pain!
She shrunk and shudder'd and saw again
(Ah woe is me! Was it for thee,
Thou gentle maid! such sights to see?)
Whereat the Knight turn'd wildly round,This touch, this sight passed away, and left in its stead the vision of her guardian angel (her mother) which had comforted her after rest, and having sought consolation in prayer, her countenance resumes its natural serenity and sweetness. The Baron surprised at these sudden transitions, exclaims,
And nothing saw, but his own sweet maid
With eyes uprais'd, as one that pray'd.
"What ails then my beloved child?"Christabel makes answer:—
"All will yet be well!"Yet the Baron seemed so captivated by Geraldine, as to "deem her a thing divine." She pretended much sorrow, and feared she might have offended Christabel, praying with humility to be sent home immediately.
I ween, she had no power to tell
Aught else: so mighty was the spell.
"Nay!He is desired to continue his way to the castle of Tryermaine. Bracy is thus made to act in a double capacity, as bard and herald: in the first, he is to announce to Lord Roland the safety of his daughter in Langdale Hall; in the second as herald to the Baron, he is to convey an apology according to the custom of that day,
Nay — by my soul!" said Leoline.
"Ho! — Bracy, the bard, the charge be thine!
Go thou with music sweet and loud
And take two steeds with trappings proud;
And take the youth whom thou lov'st best
To bear thy harp and learn thy song,
And clothe you both in solemn vest
And over the mountains haste along.
"He bids thee come without delay,The dream is then related by Bracy; it is an outline of the past, and a prophecy of the future. — The Baron listens with a smile, turns round, and looks at Geraldine,
With all thy numerous array;
And take thy lovely daughter home,
And he will meet thee on the way,
With all his numerous array;
White with their panting palfrey's foam,
And by mine honour! I will say,
That I repent me of the day;
When I spake words of fierce disdain,
To Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine! —
For since that evil hour hath flown,
Many a summer's sun hath shone;
Yet ne'er found I a friend again
Like Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine."
The lady fell, and clasped his knees,
Her face upraised, her eyes o'erflowing,
And Bracy replied, with faltering voice,
His gracious hail on all bestowing: —
Thy words, thou sire of Christabel,
Are sweeter than my harp can tell.
Yet might I gain a boon of thee,
This day my journey should not be,
So strange a dream hath come to me:
That I had vow'd with music loud
To clear yon wood from thing unblest,
Warn'd by a vision in my rest!
"His eyes made up of wonder and love;Then takes place that extraordinary change which, being read in a party at Lord Byron's, is said to have caused Shelley to faint:—
And said in courtly accents fine,
Sweet maid, Lord Roland's beauteous dove,
With arms more strong than harp or song,
Thy sire and I will crush the snake!"
He kissed her forehead as he spake,
And Geraldine in maiden wise,
Casting down her large bright eyes;
With blushing cheek and courtesy fine,
She turn'd her from Sir Leoline;
Softly gathering up her train,
That o'er her right arm fell again;
And folded her arms across her chest,
And couch'd her head upon her breast.
And look'd askance at Christabel —
Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy,The look, those shrunken serpent eyes, had made such a deep impression on Christabel,
And the lady's eyes, they shrunk in her head,
Each shrunk up to a serpent's eye,
And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread
At Christabel she looked askance! —
One moment, — and the sight was fled!
But Christabel in dizzy trance,
Stumbling on the unsteady ground —
Shudder'd aloud, with a hissing sound;
And Geraldine again turn'd round,
And like a thing, that sought relief,
Full of wonder and full of grief;
She roll'd her large bright eyes divine,
Wildly on Sir Leoline.
The maid, alas! her thoughts are gone,
She nothing sees — no sight but one!
That all her features were resign'dThe poet now describes the Baron as suffering under the confused emotions of love for Christabel, and anger at her apparent jealousy, and the insult offered to the daughter of his friend, which so wrought upon him that,
To the sole image in her mind:
And passively did imitate
That look of dull and treacherous hate.
And thus she stood in dizzy trance,
Still picturing that look askance.
But when the trance was o'er, the maid
Paus'd awhile and inly pray'd,
"By my mother's soul do I entreat
That thou this woman send away!"
She said, and more she could not say,
For what she knew she could not tell
O'er master'd by the mighty spell.
He roll'd his eye with stern regardHere ends the second canto.
Upon the gentle minstrel bard,
And said in tones abrupt, austere —
"Why, Bracy? dost thou loiter here?
"I bade thee hence!" The bard obey'd,
And turning from his own sweet maid,
The aged knight, Sir Leoline
Led forth the lady Geraldine!
A little child, a limber elf,The following relation was to have occupied a third and fourth canto, and to have closed the tale.
Singing, dancing to itself;
A fairy thing with red round cheeks,
That always finds and never seeks;
Makes such a vision to the sight,
As fills a father's eyes with light;
And pleasures flow in so thick and fast
Upon his heart, that he at last
Must needs express his love's excess,
With words of unmeant bitterness.
"Were I ever to take the unbecoming freedom of censuring a man of Mr. Coleridge's extraordinary talents, it would be on account of the caprice and indolence with which he has thrown from him, as in mere wantonness, those unfinished scraps of poetry, which, like the Tasso of antiquity, defied the skill of his poetical brethren to complete them. The charming fragments which the author abandons to their fate, are surely too valuable to be treated like the proofs of careless engravers, the sweepings of whose studies often make the fortune of some pains-taking collector. And in a note to the Abbot, alluding to Coleridge's beautiful and tantalizing fragment of Christabel, he adds, Has not our own imaginative poet cause to fear that future ages will desire to summon him from his place of rest, as Milton longedSince writing the preceding pages, I have met with a critique on the Christabel, written immediately after it was published, from which I select a few passages, in the hope that they may further interest the admirers of this poem:'To call up him who left half told
The story of Cambuscam bold.'"
"The publication of Christabel cannot be an indifferent circumstance to any true lover of poetry — it is a singular monument of genius, and we doubt whether the fragmental beauty that it now possesses can be advantageously exchanged for the wholeness of a finished narrative. In its present form it lays irresistible hold of the imagination. It interests even by what it leaves untold. — The story is like a dream of lovely forms, mixed with strange and indescribable terrors. The scene, the personages, are those of old romantic superstition; but we feel intimate with them, as if they were of our own day, and of our own neighbourhood. It is impossible not to suppose that we have known "sweet Christabel," from the time when she was "a fairy thing, with red round cheeks," till she had grown up, through all the engaging prettinesses of childhood, and the increasing charms of youth, to be the pure and dignified creature, which we find her at the opening of the poem. The scene is laid at midnight, in the yet leafless wood, a furlong from the castle-gate of the rich Baron Sir Leoline, whose daughter, "the lovely Lady Christabel," has come, in consequence of a vow, to pray at the old oak tree, "for the weal of her lover that's far away." In the midst of her orisons she is suddenly alarmed by a moaning near her, which turns out to be the complaint of the Lady Geraldine, who relates, that she had been carried off by warriors, and brought to this wild wood, where they had left her with intent quickly to return. This story of Geraldine's easily obtains credence from the unsuspecting Christabel, who conducts her secretly to a chamber in the castle. There the mild and beautiful Geraldine seems transformed in language and appearance to a sorceress, contending with the spirit of Christabel's deceased mother for the mastery over her daughter; but Christabel's lips are sealed by a spell. What she knows she cannot utter; and scarcely can she herself believe that she knows it.Whilst in the full enjoyment of his creative powers, Coleridge wrote in a letter to a friend the following critique on the Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni, which is supposed to have been composed about the time of the Christabel, though not published till 1816, in the Sibylline Leaves. It will serve to shew how freely he assented to the opinions of his friends, and with what candour he criticised his own poems, recording his opinions whether of censure or of praise:—
On the return of morning, Geraldine, in all her pristine beauty, accompanies the innocent but perplexed Christabel to the presence of the Baron, who is delighted when he learns that she is the daughter of his once loved friend, Sir Roland de Vaux, of Tryermaine. — We shall not pursue the distress of Christabel, the mysterious warnings of Bracy the Bard, the assumed sorrow of Geraldine, or the indignation of Sir Leoline, at his daughter's seemingly causeless jealousy — what we have principally to remark with respect to the tale is, that, wild and romantic and visionary as it is, it has a truth of its own, which seizes on and masters the imagination from the beginning to the end. The poet unveils with exquisite skill the finer ties of imagination and feeling by which they are linked to the human heart.
The elements of our sensibility, to all that concerns fair Christabel, are of the purest texture; they are not formally announced in a set description, but they accompany and mark her every movement throughout the piece — Incessu patuit Dea. — She is the support of her noble father's declining age — sanctified by the blessing of her departed mother — the beloved of a valorous and absent knight — the delight and admiration of an inspired bard — she is a being made up of tenderness, affection, sweetness, piety! There is a fine discrimination in the descriptions of Christabel and Geraldine, between the lovely and the merely beautiful. There is a moral sensitiveness about Christabel, which none but a true poet could seize. It would be difficult to find a more delicate touch of this kind in any writer, than her anxious exclamation when, in passing the hall with Geraldine, a gleam bursts from the dying embers.
Next in point of merit to the power which Mr. Coleridge has displayed, in interesting us by the moral beauty of his heroine, comes the skill with which he has wrought the feelings and fictions of superstition into shape. The witchlike Geraldine lying down by the side of Christabel, and uttering the spell over her, makes the reader thrill with indefinable horror.
We find another striking excellence of this poem, and which powerfully affects every reader, by placing, as it were before his eyes, a distinct picture of the events narrated, with all their appendages of sight and sound — the dim forest — the massive castle-gate — the angry moan of the sleeping mastiff — the sudden flash of the dying embers — the echoing hall — the carved chamber, with its curious lamp — in short, all that enriches and adorns this tale, with a luxuriance of imagination seldom equalled."7
"In a copy of verses, entitled a Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni, I describe myself under the influence of strong devotional feelings, gazing on the mountain, till as if it had been a shape emanating from and sensibly representing her own essence, my soul had become diffused through the mighty vision and there,This poem has excited much discussion, and many individuals have expressed different opinions as to its origin. Some assert that it is borrowed from our own great poets; whilst German readers say, that it is little more than a free translation from a poem of Frederica Brun. That it is founded on Frederica Brun's poem cannot be doubted; but those who compare the two poems must at once feel, that to call Coleridge's a translation, containing as it does new thoughts, exciting different feelings, and being in fact a new birth, a glorification of the original, would be a misuse of words. I insert the following note of Coleridge's, which appears applicable to the subject:—'As in her natural form, swell'd vast to Heaven.'Mr. Wordsworth, I remember, censured the passage as strained and unnatural, and condemned the hymn in toto, (which, nevertheless, I ventured to publish in my Sibylline Leaves,' as a specimen of the mock sublime. It may be so for others, but it is impossible that I should myself find it unnatural, being conscious that it was the image and utterance of thoughts and emotions in which there was no mockery. Yet, on the other hand, I could readily believe that the mood and habit of mind out of which the hymn rose, that differs from Milton's and Thomson's and from the psalms, the source of all three, in the author's addressing himself to individual objects actually present to his senses, while his great predecessors apostrophize classes of things presented by the memory, and generalized by the understanding; — I can readily believe, I say, that in this there may be too much of what our learned med'ciners call the idiosyncratic for true poetry. — For, from my very childhood, I have been accustomed to abstract, and as it were, unrealize whatever of more than common interest my eyes dwelt on, and then by a sort of transfusion and transmission of my consciousness to identify myself with the object; and I have often thought within the last five or six years, that if ever I should feel once again the genial warmth and stir of the poetic impulse, and refer to my own experiences, I should venture on a yet stranger and wilder allegory than of yore — that I would allegorize myself as a rock, with its summit just raised above the surface of some bay or strait in the Arctic Sea, 'while yet the stern and solitary night brooked no alternate sway' — all around me fixed and firm, methought, as my own substance, and near me lofty masses, that might have seemed to 'hold the moon and stars in fee,' and often in such wild play with meteoric lights, or with the quiet shine from above, which they made rebound in sparkles, or dispand in off-shoot, and splinters, and iridiscent needle shafts of keenest glitter, that it was a pride and a place of healing to lie, as in an apostle's shadow, within the eclipse and deep substance-seeming gloom of 'these dread ambassadors from earth to heaven, great hierarchs!' And though obscured, yet to think myself obscured by consubstantial forms, based in the same foundation as my own. I grieved not to serve them — yea, lovingly and with gladsomeness I abased myself in their presence: for they are my brothers, I said, and the mastery is theirs by right of older birth, and by right of the mightier strivings of the hidden fire that uplifted them above me."
In looking at objects of nature, while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim-glimmering through the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking, a symbolical language for something within me that already and for ever exists, than observing any thing new. Even when that latter is the case, yet still I have always an obscure feeling, as if that new phoenomenon were the dim awaking of a forgotten or hidden truth of my inner nature. — It is still interesting as a word, a symbol! It is the the Creator! and the Evolver! What is the right, the virtuous feeling and consequent action, when a man having long meditated and perceived a certain truth finds another, a foreign writer, who has handled the same with an approximation to the truth, as he had previously conceived it? Joy! Let truth make her voice audible! While I was preparing the pen to write this remark I lost the train of thought which had led me to it. I meant to have asked something else, now forgotten for the above answers itself — it needed no new answer, I trust, in my heart."Coleridge, who was an honest man, was equally honest in literature; and had he thought himself indebted to any other author, he would have acknowledged the same.
15th April, 1805.
"A man of letters, friendless, because of no faction: repeatedly, and in strong language inculpated of hiding his light under a bushel, yet destined to see publication after publication abused by the Edinburgh Review, as the representative of one party, and not even noticed by the Quarterly Review, as the representative of the other — and to receive as the meed of his labours for the cause of freedom against despotism and jacobinism, of the church against infidelity and schism; and of principle against fashion and sciolism, slander, loss, and embarrassment."If, however, we were to collect the epithets applied to Milton in his time, they would now appear incredible; — so when the misconceptions arising from slander shall have ceased, the name of Coleridge will be enrolled among those of our most illustrious men. The poet has said of Gay, "in wit, a man; simplicity, a child."
"Observe," said he, "this shell, and the beauty of its exterior here pourtrayed. Reverse it and place it to your ear, you will find it empty, and a hollow murmuring sound issuing from the cavity in which the animal once resided. This shell, with all its beautiful spots, was secreted by the creature when living within it, but being plucked out, nothing remains save the hollow sound for the ear. Such is Unitarianism; it owes any beauty it may have left to the Christianity from which it separated itself. The teachers of Unitarianism have severed from their Christianity its Life8, by removing the doctrine of St. John; and thus mutilated, they call the residue the religion of Christ, implying the whole of the system, but omitting in their teaching the doctrine of redemption."This illustration reminds me of what took place between two men well known in the literary world, who were at a dinner party together, both dissenters, — one a Unitarian. In the evening, tea was brought on a large silver waiter. They were popular writers of the day. One of them observing the salver facetiously cried out, "See how we authors swim." "Read the inscription on it," said the kindhearted Unitarian: his friend did so, and seeing that it had been presented in token of satisfaction for his friend's labours in the "Improved Version of the New Testament," emphatically exclaimed, "Take it away! I am a Unitarian, because I am a Trinitarian; you have hitherto at least adopted a misnomer." Twenty-five years since the Unitarians were of two creeds; one class materialists, the other immaterialists, but both agreeing that Christ was only an inspired man. If I am rightly informed, they are not more orthodox at the present day.
"I began," says he, "to ask myself, Is a system of philosophy, as differing from mere history and classification, possible? If possible, what are its necessary conditions? I was for a while disposed to answer the first question in the negative, and to admit that the sole practicable employment for the human mind was to observe, to recollect, and to classify. Christianity however is not a theory, or a speculation, but a life — not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process."10Spinoza being one of the writers which Coleridge, in his passage from Socinianism to Christianity, had studied, the reader will probably be interested with the following note, written by himself on the subject:
"Paradoxical, as it assuredly is, I am convinced that Spinoza's innocence and virtue, guarded and matured into invincible habit of being, by a life of constant meditation and of intellectual pursuit, were the conditions or temptations, sine quibus non of his forming and maintaining a system subversive of all virtue. He saw so clearly the folly and absurdity of wickedness, and felt so weakly and languidly the passions tempting to it, that he concluded, that nothing was wanting to a course of well-doing, but clear conceptions and the fortitudo intellectualis; while his very modesty, a prominent feature in his character, rendered him, as it did Hartley, less averse to the system of necessity. Add to these causes his profound admiration of pure mathematics, and the vast progress made in it so unspeakably beneficial to mankind, their bodies as well as souls, and souls as well as bodies; the reflection that the essence of mathematical science consists in discovering the absolute properties of forms and proportions, and how pernicious a bewilderment was produced in this sublime science by the wild attempt of the Platonists, especially the later (though Plato himself is far from blameless in this respect,) to explain the final cause of mathematical figures and of numbers, so as to subordinate them to a principle of origination out of themselves; and the further comparison of the progress of this Science, (pura Mathesis) which excludes all consideration of final cause, with the unequal and equivocal progress of those branches of literature which rest on, or refer to final causes; and that the uncertainty and mixture with error, appeared in proportion to such reference — and if I mistake not, we shall have the most important parts of the history of Spinoza's mind. It is a duty which we owe to truth, to distinguish Spinoza from the Voltaires, Humes, and the whole nest of popular infidels, to make manifest how precious a thing is the sincere thirst of truth for the sake of truth undebased by vanity, appetite, and the ambition of forming a sect of arguescents and trumpeters — and that it is capable, to a wonderful degree, of rendering innoxious the poisonous pangs of the worst errors — nay, heaven educing good out of the very evil — the important advantages that have been derived from such men. Wise and good men would never have seen the true basis and bulwark of the right cause, if they had not been made to know and understand the whole weight and possible force of the wrong cause; nor would have even purified their own system from these admissions, on which the whole of Spinozism is built, and which admissions were common to all parties, and therefore fairly belonging to Spinoza. — Now I affirm that none but an eminently pure and benevolent mind could have constructed and perfected such a system as that of the ethics of Spinoza. Bad hearted men always hate the religion and morality which they attack — but hatred dims and inturbidates the logical faculties. There is likewise a sort of lurking terror in such a heart, which renders it far too painful to keep a steady gaze on the being of God and the existence of immortality — they dare only attack it as Tartars, a hot valiant inroad, and then they scour off again. Equally painful is self-examination, for if the wretch be callous, the facts of psychology will not present themselves — if not, who could go on year after year in a perpetual process of deliberate self-torture and shame. The very torment of the process would furnish facts subversive of the system, for which the process was instituted. The mind would at length be unable to disguise from itself the unequivocal fact of its own shame and remorse, and this once felt and distinctly acknowledged, Spinozism is blown up as by a mine."Coleridge had a great abhorrence of vice, and Spinoza having, in his writings, strongly marked its debasing effects, he was from sympathy on these points led to study his philosophy: but when on further research, he discovered that his ethics led to Pantheism and ended in the denial of the Deity — he abandoned these views, and gave up the study of Spinoza. Perhaps the contemplation of such writers led him to compose the following lines:—
But some there are who deem themselves most free,The errors of this writer, however, as before observed, produced this great advantage; he recommenced his studies with greater care and increased ardour, and in the Gospel of St. John, discovered the truth — the truth, as Wordsworth powerfully sings,
When they within this gross and visible sphere
Chain down the winged thought, scoffing ascent,
Proud in their meanness: and themselves they cheat
With noisy emptiness of learned phrase,
Their subtle fluids, impacts, essences,
Self-working tools, uncaused effects, and all
Those blind Omniscients, those Almighty slaves,
Untenanting creation of its God.
Sibylline Leaves — (Destiny of Nations.)
"That flashed upon that inward eye,Having now discovered in the Scriptures this truth, to him at that time new and important, he pursued his philosophical researches — continually finding what he sought for in the one, borne out and elucidated by the other.
Which is the bliss of solitude."
"I published a work a large portion of which was professedly metaphysical. (First Lay Sermon.)12His next publication was the Zapolya, which had a rapid sale, and he then began a second edition of the Friend — if, indeed, as he observes,
A delay," said he, "occurred between its first annunciation and its appearance; and it was reviewed by anticipation with a malignity, so avowedly and so exclusively personal, as is, I believe, unprecedented even in the present contempt of all common humanity that disgraces and endangers the liberty of the press. After its appearance the author of this lampoon was chosen to review it in the Edinburgh Review: and under the single condition, that he should have written what he himself really thought, and have criticised the work as he would have done had its author been indifferent to him, I should have chosen that man myself, both from the vigour and the originality of his mind, and from his particular acuteness in speculative reasoning, before all others. But I can truly say, that the grief with which I read this rhapsody of predetermined insult, had the rhapsodist himself for its whole and sole object: and that the indignant contempt which it excited in me was as exclusively confined to his employer and suborner. I refer to this Review at present, in consequence of information having been given me, that the innuendo of my 'potential infidelity,' grounded on one passage of my first Lay Sermon, has been received and propagated with a degree of credence, of which I can safely acquit the originator of the calumny. I give the sentences as they stand in the Sermon, premising only that I was speaking exclusively of miracles worked for the outward senses of men. It was only to overthrow the usurpation exercised in and through the senses, that the senses were miraculously appealed to. Reason and Religion are Their Own Evidence. The natural sun is in this respect a symbol of the spiritual: Ere he is fully arisen, and while his glories are still under veil, he calls up the breeze to chase away the usurping vapours of the night season, and thus converts the air itself into the minister of its own purification: not surely in proof or elucidation of the light from heaven, but to prevent its interception. Wherever, therefore, similar circumstances coexist with the same moral causes, the principles revealed, and the examples recorded, in the inspired writings, render miracles superfluous: and if we neglect to apply truths in the expectation of wonders, or under pretext of the cessation of the latter, we tempt God and merit the same reply which our Lord gave to the Pharisees on a like occasion.'
In the sermon and the notes both the historical truth and the necessity of the miracles are strongly and frequently asserted. 'The testimony of books of history (namely, relatively to the signs and wonders with which Christ came,) is one of the strong and stately pillars of the church; but it is not the foundation.' Instead, therefore, of defending myself, which I could easily effect by a series of passages, expressing the same opinion, from the fathers and the most eminent protestant divines, from the Reformation to the Revolution, I shall merely state what my belief is, concerning the true evidences of Christianity.
These four evidences I believe to have been, and still to be, for the world, for the whole church, all necessary, all equally necessary; but that at present, and for the majority of Christians born in Christian countries, I believe the third and the fourth evidences to be the most operative, not as superseding, but as involving a glad undoubting faith in the two former. Credidi, ideóque intellexi, appears to me the dictate equally of philosophy and religion, even as I believe redemption to be the antecedent of sanctification, and not its consequent. All spiritual predicates may be construed indifferently as modes of action, or as states of being. Thus holiness and blessedness are the same idea, now seen in relation to act, and now to existence."
- Its consistency with right reason, I consider as the outer court of the temple, the common area within which it stands.
- The miracles, with and through which the religion was first revealed and attested, I regard as the steps, the vestibule, the portal of the temple.
- The sense, the inward feeling, in the soul of each believer, of its exceeding desirableness — the experience, that he needs something, joined with the strong foretokening, that the redemption and the graces propounded to us in Christ are what he needs — this I hold to be the true foundation of the spiritual edifice.
With the strong a priori probability that flows in from 1 and 3, on the correspondent historical evidence of 2, no man can refuse or neglect to make the experiment without guilt. But,
- it is the experience derived from a practical conformity to the conditions of the gospel — it is the opening eye; the dawning light; the terrors and the promises of spiritual growth; the blessedness of loving God as God, the nascent sense of sin hated as sin, and of the incapability of attaining to either without Christ; it is the sorrow that still rises up from beneath, and the consolation that meets it from above; the bosom treacheries of the principal in the warfare, and the exceeding faithfulness and long-suffering of the uninterested ally; — in a word, it is the actual trial of the faith in Christ, with its accompaniments and results, that must form the arched roof, and the faith itself is the completing keystone. In order to an efficient belief in Christianity, a man must have been a Christian, and this is the seeming argumentum in circulo, incident to all spiritual truths, to every subject not presentable under the forms of time and space, as long as we attempt to master by the reflex acts of the understanding, what we can only know by the act of becoming. 'Do the will of my Father, and ye shall know whether I am of God.'
Biog. Liter. Vol. ii. p. 303.
"a work, the greatest part of which is new in substance, and the whole in form and arrangement, can be described as an edition of the former."At the end of the autumn of 1817, Coleridge issued the following prospectus, and hoped by delivering the proposed lectures to increase his utility; they required efforts indeed which he considered it a duty to make, notwithstanding his great bodily infirmities, and the heartfelt sorrow by which he had, from early life, been more or less oppressed:—
"There are few families, at present, in the higher and middle classes of English society, in which literary topics and the productions of the Fine Arts, in some one or other of their various forms, do not occasionally take their turn in contributing to the entertainment of the social board, and the amusement of the circle at the fire-side. The acquisitions and attainments of the intellect ought, indeed, to hold a very inferior rank in our estimation, opposed to moral worth, or even to professional and specific skill, prudence, and industry. But why should they be opposed, when they may be made subservient merely by being subordinated? It can rarely happen that a man of social disposition; altogether a stranger to subjects of taste (almost the only ones on which persons of both sexes can converse with a common interest), should pass through the world without at times feeling dissatisfied with himself. The best proof of this is to be found in the marked anxiety which men, who have succeeded in life without the aid of these accomplishments, shew in securing them to their children. A young man of ingenuous mind will not wilfully deprive himself of any species of respect. He will wish to feel himself on a level with the average of the society in which he lives, though he may be ambitious of distinguishing himself only in his own immediate pursuit or occupation.
Under this conviction, the following Course of Lectures was planned. The several titles will best explain the particular subjects and purposes of each; but the main objects proposed, as the result of all, are the two following:—
The subjects of the Lectures are indeed very different, but not (in the strict sense of the term) diverse: they are various, rather than miscellaneous. There is this bond of connexion common to them all, — that the mental pleasure which they are calculated to excite is not dependant on accidents of fashion, place or age, or the events or the customs of the day; but commensurate with the good sense, taste, and feeling, to the cultivation of which they themselves so largely contribute, as being all in kind, though not all in the same degree, productions of Genius.These lectures, from his own account, were the most profitable of any he had before given, though delivered in an unfavorable situation; but being near the Temple, many of the students were his auditors. It was the first time I had ever heard him in public. He lectured from notes, which he had carefully made; yet it was obvious, that his audience was more delighted when, putting his notes aside, he spoke extempore; — many of these notes were preserved, and have lately been printed in the Literary Remains. In his lectures he was brilliant, fluent, and rapid; his words seemed to flow as from a person repeating with grace and energy some delightful poem. If, however, he sometimes paused, it was not for the want of words, but that he was seeking the most appropriate, or their most logical arrangement.
What it would be arrogant to promise, I may yet be permitted to hope, — that the execution will prove correspondent and adequate to the plan. Assuredly my best efforts have not been wanting so to select and prepare the materials, that, at the conclusion of the Lectures, an attentive auditor, who should consent to aid his future recollection by a few notes taken either during each Lecture or soon after, would rarely feel himself, for the time to come, excluded from taking an intelligent interest in any general conversation likely to occur in mixed society.
Syllabus Of The Course.
Lecture I. Tuesday Evening, January 27, 1818. — On the manners, morals, literature, philosophy, religion, and the state of society in general, in European Christendom, from the eighth to the fifteenth century (that is, from A.D. 700 to A.D. 1400), more particularly in reference to England, France, Italy, and Germany: in other words, a portrait of the (so called) dark ages of Europe.
II. On the tales and metrical romances common, for the most part, to England, Germany, and the North of France; and on the English songs and ballads; continued to the reign of Charles the First. — A few selections will be made from the Swedish, Danish, and German languages, translated for the purpose by the Lecturer.
III. Chaucer and Spenser; of Petrarch; of Ariosto, Pulci, and Boiardo.
IV. V. and VI. On the Dramatic Works of Shakspeare. In these Lectures will be comprised the substance of Mr. Coleridge's former Courses on the same subject, enlarged and varied by subsequent study and reflection.
VII. On Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger; with the probable causes of the cessation of Dramatic 'Poetry' in England with Shirley and Otway, soon after the Restoration of Charles the Second.
VIII. Of the Life and all the Works of Cervantes, but chiefly of his Don Quixote. The Ridicule of Knight-Errantry shewn to have been but a secondary object in the mind of the Author, and not the principal Cause of the Delight which the Work continues to give in all Nations, and under all the Revolutions of Manners and Opinions.
IX. On Rabelais, Swift, and Sterne: on the Nature and Constituents of genuine Humour, and on the Distinctions of the Humorous from the Witty, the Fanciful, the Droll, the Odd, &c.
X. Of Donne, Dante, and Milton.
XI. On the Arabian Nights Entertainments, and on the romantic use of the supernatural in Poetry, and in works of fiction not poetical. On the conditions and regulations under which such Books may be employed advantageously in the earlier Periods of Education.
XII. On tales of witches, apparitions, &c. as distinguished from the magic and magicians of asiatic origin. The probable sources of the former, and of the belief in them in certain ages and classes of men. Criteria by which mistaken and exaggerated facts may be distinguished from absolute falsehood and imposture. Lastly, the causes of the terror and interest which stories of ghosts and witches inspire, in early life at least, whether believed or not.
XIII. On colour, sound, and form, in nature, as connected with Poesy: the word, 'Poesy' used as the 'generic' or class term, including poetry, music, painting, statuary, and ideal architecture, as its species. The reciprocal relations of poetry and philosophy to each other; and of both to religion, and the moral sense.
XIV. On the corruptions of the English language since the reign of Queen Anne, in our style of writing prose. A few easy rules for the attainment of a manly, unaffected, and pure language, in our genuine mother-tongue, whether for the purposes of writing, oratory, or conversation. Concluding Address."
"The memory is of two kinds," (a division I have ever found useful), "the one kind I designate the passive memory, the other the creative, with the first I retain the names of things, figures, and numbers, &c. and this in myself I believe to be very defective. With the other I recall facts, and theories, &c. by means of their law or their principle, and in tracing these, the images or facts present themselves to me."Coleridge, as a motto to the first essay in The Friend, quotes the following observation from the life of Petrarch:
"Believe me," says this writer, "it requires no little confidence to promise help to the struggling, counsel to the doubtful, light to the blind, hope to the desponding, refreshment to the weary; these are great things if they are accomplished, trifles if they exist but in promise. I, however, aim not so much to prescribe a law for others, as to set forth the law of my own mind." At this Coleridge always aimed, and continuing the quotation from Petrarch, "Let the man who shall approve of it, abide, and let him to whom it shall appear not reasonable, reject it. 'Tis my earnest wish, I confess, to employ my understanding and acquirements in that mode and direction in which I may be able to benefit the largest number possible of my fellow-creatures."Such was Coleridge's wish, and with this view, and with this end, he constantly employed his time.
"Your letter, my friend, struck me with a mighty horror. It rushed upon me and stupified my feelings. You bid me write you a religious letter; I am not a man who would attempt to insult the greatness of your anguish by any other consolation. Heaven knows that in the easiest fortunes there is much dissatisfaction and weariness of spirit; much that calls for the exercise of patience and resignation; but in storms, like these, that shake the dwelling and make the heart tremble, there is no middle way between despair and the yielding up of the whole spirit unto the guidance of faith. And surely it is a matter of joy, that your faith in Jesus has been preserved; the Comforter that should relieve you is not far from you. But as you are a Christian, in the name of that Saviour, who was filled with bitterness and made drunken with wormwood, I conjure you to have recourse in frequent prayer to 'his God and your God,'13 the God of mercies, and father of all comfort. Your poor father is, I hope, almost senseless of the calamity; the unconscious instrument of Divine Providence knows it not, and your mother is in heaven. It is sweet to be roused from a frightful dream by the song of birds, and the gladsome rays of the morning. Ah, how infinitely more sweet to be awakened from the blackness and amazement of a sudden horror, by the glories of God manifest, and the hallelujahs of angels.During the first lecture of the course in 1817, a young man of modest demeanor sent him a letter, and afterwards introduced himself, stating ti that he was a student in literature, and from his conversation, he struck Coleridge as one much more attached to the better part of our nature than to the love of gain. An intimacy consequently took place, and Coleridge addressed many letters to him, from which will be selected such as are critical or autobiographical. Fortunately they have been preserved, and are too valuable not to form a part of this volume.
As to what regards yourself, I approve altogether of your abandoning what you justly call vanities. I look upon you as a man, called by sorrow and anguish and a strange desolation of hopes into quietness, and a soul set apart and made peculiar to God; we cannot arrive at any portion of heavenly bliss without in some measure imitating Christ. And they arrive at the largest inheritance who imitate the most difficult parts of his character, and bowed down and crushed under foot, cry in fulness of faith, 'Father, thy will be done.'
I wish above measure to have you for a little while here — no visitants shall blow on the nakedness of your feelings — you shall be quiet, and your spirit may be healed. I see no possible objection, unless your father's helplessness prevent you, and unless you are necessary to him. If this be not the case, I charge you write me that you will come.
I charge you, my dearest friend, not to dare to encourage gloom or despair — you are a temporary sharer in human miseries, that you may be an eternal partaker of the Divine nature. I charge you, if by any means it be possible, come to me. I remain, your affectionate,
S. T. Coleridge."
"My Dear Sir,
Accept my thanks for your kind remembrance of me, and for the proof of it in the present of your tribute of friendship, I have read it with uninterrupted interest, and with satisfaction scarcely less continuous. In adding the three last words, I am taking the word satisfaction in its strictest sense: for had I written pleasure, there would have been no ground for the limitation. Indeed as it was, it is a being scrupulous over much. For at the two only passages at which I made a moment's halt (viz. p. 3,14 and p. 53, last line but five,) she had seldom — oppressive awe, my not objection but stoppage at the latter amounted only to a doubt, a quære, whether the trait of character here given should not have been followed by some little comment, as for instance, that such a state of feeling, though not desirable in a regenerate person, in whom belief had wrought love, and love obedience, must yet be ranked amongst those constitutional differences that may exist between the best and wisest Christians, without any corresponding difference in their spiritual progress. One saint fixes his eyes on the palm, another saint thinks of the previous conflict, and closes them in prayer. Both are waters of the same fountain — this the basin, that the salient column, both equally dear to God, and both may be used as examples for men, the one to invite the thoughtless sceptic, the other to alarm the reckless believer. You will see, therefore, that I do not object to the sentence itself; but as a matter of feeling, it met me too singly and suddenly. I had not anticipated such a trait, and the surprise counterfeited the sensation of perplexity for a moment or two. On as little objection to any thing you have said, did the desiderium the sense of not being quite satisfied, proceed in regard to the 44. p. 3. In the particular instance in the application of the sentiment, I found nothing to question or qualify. It was the rule or principle which a certain class of your readers might be inclined to deduce from it, it was the possible generalization of the particular instance that made me pause. I am jealous of the disposition to turn Christianity or Religion into a particular business or line.'Well, Miss, how does your pencil go on, I was delighted with your last landscape.'Now, my dear sir, the rule which I have deduced from the writings of St. Paul and St. John, and (permit me also to add) of Luther, would be this. Form and endeavour to strengthen into an habitual and instinct-like feeling, the sense of the utter incompatibility of Christianity with every thing wrong or unseemly, with whatever betrays or fosters the mind of flesh, the predominence of the animal within us, by having habitually present to the mind, the full and lively conviction of its perfect compatibility with whatever is innocent of its harmony, with whatever contra-distinguishes the Human from the animal; of its sympathy and coalescence with the cultivation of the faculties, affections, and fruitions, which God hath made peculiar to man, either wholly or in their ordained combination with what is peculiar to humanity, the blurred, but not obliterated signatures of our original title deed, (and God said, man will we make in our own image.) What? — shall Christianity exclude or alienate us from those powers, acquisitions, and attainments, which Christianity is so pre-eminently calculated to elevate and enliven and sanctify?
'Oh, sir, I have quite given up that, I have got into the religious line.'
Far, very far, am I from suspecting in you, my dear sir, any participation in these prejudices of a shrivelled proselyting and censorious religionist. But a numerous and stirring faction there is, in the so called Religious Public, whose actual and actuating principles, with whatever vehemence they may disclaim it in words, is, that redemption is a something not yet effected — that there is neither sense nor force in our baptism — and that instead of the Apostolic command, Rejoice, and again I say unto you, rejoice; baptized Christians are to be put on sackcloth and ashes, and try, by torturing themselves and others, to procure a rescue from the devil. Again, let me thank you for your remembrance of me, and believe me from the hour we first met at Bristol, with esteem and regard,
Your sincere friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
Ramsgate, 28th Oct. 1822.
Words I know are not wanted between you and me. But there are occasions so awful, there may be instances and manifestations of friendship so affecting, and drawing up with them so long a train from behind, so many folds of recollection as they come onward on one's mind, that it seems but a mere act of justice to oneself, a debt we owe to the dignity of our moral nature to give them some record; a relief which the spirit of man asks and demands to contemplate in some outward symbol, what it is inwardly solemnizing. I am still too much under the cloud of past misgivings, too much of the stun and stupor from the recent peals and thunder-crush still remains, to permit me to anticipate others than by wishes and prayers. What the effect of your unwearied kindness may be on poor M.'s mind and conduct, I pray fervently, and I feel a cheerful trust that I do not pray in vain, that on my own mind and spring of action, it will be proved not to have been wasted. I do inwardly believe, that I shall yet do something to thank you, my dear — in the way in which you would wish to be thanked — by doing myself honour. — Dear friend and brother of my soul, God only knows how truly, and in the depth, you are loved and prized by your affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
"Wednesday Morning, Jan. 28th, 1818.Following the chronological order I proposed, I am led to speak again of Lamb, who having at this time collected many little poems and essays, scattered in different publications, he reprinted and published them in two small volumes, which he dedicated to Coleridge; and those of my readers who have not seen this work will, doubtless, find it interesting. The simplicity of this dedication, and above all the biographical portion of it, seem to render it appropriate to this work, and it is therefore subjoined.
Your friendly letter was first delivered to me at the lecture-room door on yesterday evening, ten minutes before the lecture, and my spirits were so sadly depressed by the circumstance of my hoarseness, that I was literally incapable of reading it. I now express my acknowledgments, and with them the regret that I had not received the letter in time to have availed myself of it.
When I was young I used to laugh at flattery, as, on account of its absurdity, I now abhor it, from my repeated observations of its mischievous effects. Amongst these, not the least is, that it renders honourable natures more slow and reluctant in expressing their real feelings in praise of the deserving, than, for the interests of truth and virtue, might be desired. For the weakness of our moral and intellectual being, of which the comparatively strongest are often the most, and the most painfully, conscious, needs the confirmation derived from the coincidence and sympathy of the friend, as much as the voice of honour within us denounces the pretences of the flatterer. Be assured, then, that I write as I think, when I tell you that, from the style and thoughts of your letter, I should have drawn a very different conclusion from that which you appear to have done, concerning both your talents and the cultivation which they have received. Both the matter and manner are manly, simple, and correct.
Had I the time in my own power, compatibly with the performance of duties of immediate urgency, I would endeavour to give you, by letter, the most satisfactory answer to your questions that my reflections and the experience of my own fortunes could supply. But, at all events, I will not omit to avail myself of your judicious suggestion in my last lecture, in which it will form a consistent part of the subject and purpose of the discourse. Meantime, believe me, with great respect,
Your obliged fellow-student of the true and the beseeming
S. T. Coleridge."
Sept. 20th, 1818.
Those who have hitherto chosen to take notice of me, as known to them only by my public character, have for the greater part taken out, not, indeed, a poetical, but a critical, license to make game of me, instead of sending game to me. Thank heaven! I am in this respect more tough than tender. But, to be serious, I heartily thank you for your polite remembrance; and, though my feeble health and valetudinarian stomach force me to attach no little value to the present itself, I feel still more obliged by the kindness that prompted it.
I trust that you will not come within the purlieus of Highgate without giving me the opportunity of assuring you personally that I am, with sincere respect,
S. T. Coleridge."
To S. T. Coleridge, Esq.In Feb. 1819, application was made to Mr. Coleridge to give a course of lectures at the Russell Institution, to which he sent the following reply, addressed to Mr. Britton:—
My Dear Coleridge,
You will smile to see the slender labors of your friend designated by the title of Works; but such was the wish of the gentlemen who have kindly undertaken the trouble of collecting them, and from their judgment could be no appeal.
It would be a kind of disloyalty to offer to any one but yourself, a volume containing the early pieces which were first published among your poems, and were fairly derivatives from you and them. My friend Lloyd and myself came into our first battle (authorship is a sort of warfare) under cover of the greater Ajax. How this association, which shall always be a dear and proud recollection to me, came to be broken; — who snapped the three-fold cord, — whether yourself (but I know that was not the case,) grew ashamed of your former companions, — or whether (which is by much the more probable) some ungracious bookseller was author of the separation, I cannot tell; — but wanting the support of your friendly elm, (I speak for myself,) my vine has, since that time, put forth few or no fruits; the sap (if ever it had any) has become in a manner dried up and extinct: and you will find your old associate in his second volume, dwindled into prose and criticism. Am I right in assuming this as the cause? or is it that, as years come upon us, (except with some more healthy-happy spirits,) life itself loses much of its poetry for us? we transcribe but what we read in the great volume of Nature: and, as the characters grow dim, we turn of and look another way. You, yourself, write no Christabels, nor Ancient Marriners, now. Some of the Sonnets, which shall be carelessly turned over by the general reader, may happily awaken in you remembrances, which I should be sorry should be ever totally extinct — the memoryOf summer days and of delightful years.Even so far back as to those old suppers at our old —— Inn, when life was fresh, and topics exhaustless, — and you first kindled in me, if not the power, yet the love of poetry, and beauty and kindliness,What words have I heard Spoke at the Mermaid?The world has given you many a shrewd nip and gird since that time, but either my eyes are grown dimmer, or my old friend is the same, who stood before me three-and-twenty years ago — his hair a little confessing the hand of time, but still shrouding the same capacious brain, — his heart not altered, scarcely where it "alteration finds."
One piece, Coleridge, I have ventured to publish in its original form, though I have heard you complain of a certain over-imitation of the antique in the style. If I could see any way of getting rid of the objection, without re-writing it entirely, I would make some sacrifices. But when I wrote John Woodville, I never proposed to myself any distinct deviation from common English. I had been newly initiated in the writings of our elder dramatists; Beaumont, and Fletcher, and Massinger, were then a first love; and from what I was so freshly conversant in, what wonder if my language imperceptibly took a tinge? The very time, which I had chosen for my story, that which immediately followed the Restoration, seemed to require in an English play, that the English should be of rather an older cast, than that of the precise year in which it happened to be written. I wish it had not some faults which I can less vindicate than the language.
I remain, my dear Coleridge, Yours, with unabated esteem,
Highgate, 28th Feb., 1819.The following anecdote will convey to my readers a more accurate notion of Coleridge's powers, when called upon to lecture, even without previous notice. Early one morning he received two letters, which he sent me to read; one to inform him that he was expected that same evening to deliver a lecture at the rooms of the London Philosophical Society, where it was supposed that four or five hundred persons would be present: the other contained a list of the gentlemen who had already given a lecture in the course; to which was added, the subject on which each had addressed the audience. I well knew that Coleridge, not expecting this sudden appeal, would be agitated, as he was always excited before delivering a lecture, and that this would probably bring on a return of his inward suffering. After consulting together, we determined to go to town at seven o'clock in the evening, to make some enquiries respecting this unexpected application, and arrived at the house of the gentleman who had written the letter. His servant informed us that he was not at home, but would return at eight o'clock, the hour fixed for the commencement of the lecture. We then proceeded to the society's room, which we found empty. It was a long one, partitioned off by a pole, the ends of which were fastened to the side-walls, and from this pole was nailed a length of baize which reached the floor, and in the centre was fixed a square piece of board to form a desk. We passed under this baize curtain to observe the other arrangements, from whence we could easily discern the audience as they entered. When we looked over the pole which formed the partition, we saw rows of benches across the room, prepared for about four or five hundred persons — on the side were some short ones, one above the other, intended for the committee. The preparations looked formidable — and Coleridge was anxiously waiting to be informed of the subject on which he was to lecture. At length the committee entered, taking their seats — from the centre of this party Mr. President arose, and put on a president's hat, which so disfigured him that we could scarcely refrain from laughter. He thus addressed the company: — "This evening, Mr. Coleridge will deliver a lecture on the 'Growth of the Individual Mind.'" Coleridge at first seemed startled, and turning round to me whispered, "a pretty stiff subject they have chosen for me." He instantly mounted his standing-place, and began without hesitation; previously requesting me to observe the effect of his lecture on the audience. It was agreed, that, should he appear to fail, I was to clasp his ancle, but that he was to continue for an hour if the countenances of his auditors indicated satisfaction. If I rightly remember his words, he thus began his address:
First permit me to remove a very natural, indeed almost inevitable, mistake, relative to my lectures; namely, that I have them, or that the lectures of one place or season are in any way repeated in another. So far from it, that on any point that I had ever studied (and on no other should I dare discourse — I mean, that I would not lecture on any subject for which I had to acquire the main knowledge, even though a month's or three months' previous time were allowed me; on no subject that had not employed my thoughts for a large portion of my life since earliest manhood, free of all outward and particular purpose) — on any point within my habit of thought, I should greatly prefer a subject I had never lectured on, to one which I had repeatedly given; and those who have attended me for any two seasons successively will bear witness, that the lecture given at the London Philosophical Society, on the Romeo and Juliet, for instance, was as different from that given at the Crown and Anchor, as if they had been by two individuals who, without any communication with each other, had only mastered the same principles of philosophical criticism. This was most strikingly evidenced in the coincidence between my lectures and those of Schlegel; such, and so close, that it was fortunate for my moral reputation that I had not only from five to seven hundred ear witnesses that the passages had been given by me at the Royal Institution two years before Schlegel commenced his lectures at Vienna, but that notes had been taken of these by several men and ladies of high rank. The fact is this; during a course of lectures, I faithfully employ all the intervening days in collecting and digesting the materials, whether I have or have not lectured on the same subject before, making no difference.
The day of the lecture, till the hour of commencement, I devote to the consideration, what of the mass before me is best fitted to answer the purposes of a lecture, that is, to keep the audience awake and interested during the delivery, and to leave a sting behind, that is, a disposition to study the subject anew, under the light of a new principle. Several times, however, partly from apprehension respecting my health and animal spirits, partly from the wish to possess copies that might afterwards be marketable among the publishers, I have previously written the lecture; but before I had proceeded twenty minutes, I have been obliged to push the MS. away, and give the subject a new turn. Nay, this was so notorious, that many of my auditors used to threaten me, when they saw any number of written papers on my desk, to steal them away; declaring they never felt so secure of a good lecture as when they perceived that I had not a single scrap of writing before me. I take far, far more pains than would go to the set composition of a lecture, both by varied reading and by meditation; but for the words, illustrations, &c., I know almost as little as any one of the audience (that is, those of anything like the same education with myself) what they will be five minutes before the lecture begins. Such is my way, for such is my nature; and in attempting any other, I should only torment myself in order to disappoint my auditors — torment myself during the delivery, I mean; for in all other respects it would be a much shorter and easier task to deliver them from writing. I am anxious to preclude any semblance of affectation; and have therefore troubled you with this lengthy preface before I have the hardihood to assure you, that you might as well ask me what my dreams were in the year 1814, as what my course of lectures was at the Surrey Institution. Fuimus Troes."
"The lecture I am about to give this evening is purely extempore. Should you find a nominative case looking out for a verb — or a fatherless verb for a nominative case, you must excuse it. It is purely extempore, though I have thought and read much on this subject."I could see the company begin to smile, and this at once seemed to inspire him with confidence. This beginning appeared to me a sort of mental curvetting, while preparing his thoughts for one of his eagle flights, as if with an eagle's eye he could steadily look at the mid-day sun. He was most brilliant, eloquent, and logically consecutive. The time moved on so swiftly, that on looking at my watch, I found an hour and a half had passed away, and therefore waiting only a desirable moment (to use his own playful words;) I prepared myself to punctuate his oration. As previously agreed, I pressed his ancle, and thus gave hire the hint he had requested-when bowing graciously, and with a benevolent and smiling countenance he presently descended.
S. T. Coleridge's confession of belief; with respect to the true grounds of Christian morality, 1817.
It would be a fine national custom to act such a series of dramatic histories in orderly succession, in the yearly Christmas holidays, and could not but tend to counteract that mock cosmopolitism, which, under a positive term, really implies nothing but a negation of, or indifference to, the particular love of our country."Literary Remains, Vol. ii. p. 161.