Write to me oftener, as your letters will always have a reply, let whose may go unanswered. God bless you, my dear old friend.
Yours most affectionately,
"Keswick, Feb. 26, 1826.
My dear Cottle,
I have sent you my Vindication of the 'Book of the Church,' in which though scarcely half of what was intended to be comprised, enough is done to prove the charge of superstition, impostures, and wickedness, upon the Romish Church. Whether I shall pursue the subject, in that form, depends on circumstances. I have employment enough in other ways, and would rather present my historical recollections in any form than that of controversy.... The revelations of sister Nativity are mentioned in my 'Vindiciae.' You will see an account of this impious Romish imposture in the next Quarterly. Such an exposure ought to open the eyes of those who are duped with the belief that the Roman Catholic religion is become innocent and harmless.
Have I written to you since I was bug-bitten in France, and laid up in consequence, under a surgeon's hands in Holland? This mishap brought with it much more immediate good than evil. Bilderdyk, whose wife translated 'Don Roderic' into Dutch, and who is himself confessedly the best poet, and the most learned man in that country, received me into his house, where I was nursed for three weeks by two of the very best people in the world. But the effects of the accident remain. On my way home, owing perhaps to the intense heat of the weather, erysipelas showed itself on the wounded part. The foot also has been in a slight degree swollen, and there is just enough sense of uneasiness to show that something is amiss. My last year's journey succeeded in cutting short the annual catarrh, which had for so many years laid me up during the summer months. I shall try the same course as soon as the next summer commences.
Will you never come and visit me, and see how that hair looks, which I doubt not keeps its colour so well in Vandyke's portrait? now it is three parts grey, but curling still as strong as in youth. I look at your portrait every day and see you to the life, as you were thirty years ago! What a change should we see in each other now, and yet how soon should we find that the better part remains unchanged.
The day before yesterday I received your two volumes of 'Malvern Hills, Poems, and Essays,' fourth edition, forwarded to me from Sheffield, by James Montgomery. You ask my opinion on your ninth essay (on the supposed alteration in the planes of the equator and the ecliptic suggested by an hypothesis in the Quarterly). I am too ignorant to form one. The reasoning seems conclusive, taking the scientific part for granted, but of that science, or any other, I know nothing. This I can truly say, that the essays in general please me very much. That I am very glad to see those concerning Chatterton introduced there;—and very much admire, the manner, and the feeling, with which you have treated Psalmanazar's story. You tell me things respecting Chatterton which were new to me, and of course interested me much. It may be worth while, when you prepare a copy for republication, to corroborate the proof of his insanity, by stating that there was a constitutional tendency to such a disease, which places the fact beyond all doubt....
Thank you, for the pains you have taken about 'Bunyan.' The first edition we cannot find, nor even ascertain its date. The first edition of the Second part we have found. An impudent assertion, I learn from 'Montgomery's Essay,' was published, that the 'Pilgrim's Progress' was a mere translation from the Dutch. I have had the Dutch book, and have read it, which he who made this assertion could not do. The charge of plagiarism is utterly false, not having the slightest foundation. When you and I meet in the next world, we will go and see John Bunyan, and tell him how I have tinkered the fellow, for tinker him I will, who has endeavoured to pick a hole in his reputation. God bless you, my dear old friend,
P. S. There are two dreams that may be said to haunt me, they recur so often. The one is, that of being at Westminster school again, and not having my books. The other is, that I am at Bristol, and have been there some indefinite time; and unaccountably, have never been to look for you in Brunswick Square, for which I am troubled in conscience. Come to us, and I will pledge myself to visit you in return when next I travel to the south."
In a letter to Mr. Southey, I mentioned that a relation of Wm. Gilbert had informed me that he was hurt with Mr. S. for having named him, in his 'Life of Wesley,' as being tinctured with insanity; a fact notorious. Mr. G. had often affirmed that there was a nation of the Gilbertians in the centre of Africa, and expressed a determination of one day visiting them. In the year 1796, he suddenly left Bristol, without speaking to any one of his friends; and the inference drawn, was that he was about to commence his African expedition. I had also mentioned that Sir James Mackintosh had expressed an opinion that Mr. Southey had formed his style on the model of Horace Walpole. These preliminary remarks are necessary to the understanding of the following letter.
"Keswick, Feb. 26.
My dear Cottle,
What you say about poor Gilbert has surprised me. You know we lost sight of him after he left Bristol, with, according to our apprehension, the design of going to Liverpool, and from thence to procure a passage to Africa. On that occasion, after consulting with Danvers, and I think with you, I wrote to Roscoe, apologizing, as a stranger, for the liberty, requesting him to caution any captain of a ship, bound to the African coast, from taking a person in his state of mind on board. Roscoe replied very courteously, and took the desired precaution, but Gilbert never appeared at Liverpool. Some time afterward it was told me that he was dead, and believing him so to be, I mentioned him in the life of Wesley, (Vol. 2. p. 467.) speaking of him as I had ever felt, with respect and kindness, but in a way which I should not have done if I had not been fully persuaded of his death.
Mackintosh's notice, as you inform me, that my style is founded on Horace Walpole, is ridiculous. It is founded on nobody's. I say what I have to say as plainly as I can, without thinking of the style, and this is the whole secret. I could tell by what poets my poetry has successively been leavened, but not what prose writers have ever in the same manner influenced me. In fact, I write as you may always have remarked, such as I always converse, without effort, and without aiming at display.
... Poor Morgan, you know, was latterly supported by a subscription, which Charles Lamb set on foot, and which was to have been annual, but he died within the year.
Just now I am pressed for time to finish the 'Life of Cowper.' This Life will interest you, not merely because you (I know) would read with partial interest anything of mine, but because many circumstances are there stated which have never before been made public.
You may have heard that a new edition of my 'Life of Wesley' is promised. Such an accumulation of materials has been poured upon me by a Mr. Marriott, well known among the Methodists, that I shall have to add a fourth, or perhaps, a third part of new matter, besides making many corrections and alterations. I have also got possession of the remaining papers of Mr. Powley, who married Miss Unwin. His widow died last year; and thus they became accessible. There were in the collection a good many letters of Mr. Newton, whose letters to Mr. Thornton, I have had before, and made great use of them in the 1st vol. of Cowper. From these papers I shall learn much concerning the first proceedings of the evangelical clergy, and expect to collect some materials for the 'Biographical Notes,' which must accompany 'Cowper's Letters'; and still more for the religious history of 'Wesley's Times,' as connected with the progress of Methodism. God bless you, my dear old friend,
"Keswick, Nov. 4, 1828.
My dear Cottle,
Shame on me that your last friendly letter should have remained so long unanswered, and that the direct motive for writing now should be a selfish one; one however, in which I know you will take some interest, on more accounts than one.
Major, in Fleet Street, is about to publish an edition of the Pilgrim's Progress, for which I have undertaken to write an introductory life of the author. You need not be told how dearly I love John Bunyan. Now he has made inquiries among public and private libraries for the first edition, and can nowhere discover a copy. It has occurred to me that it may be in the Bristol Baptist Library, and if you will make this inquiry for me, and in case it be there, ascertain whether it differs from the folio edition of Bunyan's works, you will do me a great kindness.... That I should be somewhat the worse for the wear was to be expected, but I am not more so than you would look to see me; still active, cheerful, with a good appetite for books, and not an ill one for work. Some things I shall have to send you both in prose and verse, before the winter passes away....
Remember me in the kindest manner to ——, and to ——, and to ——. When I think of you all, old times return with the freshness of a dream. In less time than has elapsed since we were all young together, we shall be together again, and have dropped the weight of years and mortality on the way.
If my old acquaintance, Isaac James be living, remember me to him with cordial good will. God bless you, my dear old friend.
"Keswick, March 22, 1831.
My dear Cottle,
Your package arrived safely yesterday afternoon. I shall get the books with which you presented me furbished up, and write in each that it was your gift;—a pleasant memorandum which is found in others on these shelves. I like to give books this incidental value, and write therefore, the date, and place, in every fresh acquisition. Many recollections do they call up, which otherwise would have passed away. You who have known me from the beginning of my authorial life, ought to see this library of mine. As I think no man ever made more use of his books, so I am sure that no man ever took more delight in them. They are the pride of my eyes, and the joy of my heart; an innocent pride, I trust, and a wholesome joy."
* * * * *
The reader's attention will now be directed to Mr. Coleridge, by introducing a letter from Mr. C. to Mr. Wade, who had written to him for advice respecting a meditated excursion to Germany.
"March 6, 1801.
My very dear friend,
I have even now received your letter. My habits of thinking and feeling, have not hitherto inclined me to personify commerce in any such shape, so as to tempt me to tarn pagan, and offer vows to the goddess of our isle. But when I read that sentence in your letter, 'The time will come I trust, when I shall be able to pitch my tent in your neighbourhood,' I was most potently commanded to a breach of the second commandment, and on my knees, to entreat the said goddess, to touch your bank notes and guineas with her magical multiplying wand. I could offer such a prayer for you, with a better conscience than for most men, because I know that you have never lost that healthy common sense, which regards money only as the means of independence, and that you would sooner than most men cry out, enough! enough! To see one's children secured against want, is doubtless a delightful thing; but to wish to see them begin the world as rich men, is unwise to ourselves, for it permits no close of our labours, and is pernicious to them; for it leaves no motive to their exertions, none of those sympathies with the industrious and the poor, which form at once the true relish and proper antidote of wealth.
... Is not March rather a perilous month for the voyage from Yarmouth to Hamburg? danger there is very little, in the packets, but I know what inconvenience rough weather brings with it; not from my own feelings, for I am never sea-sick, but always in exceeding high spirits on board ship, but from what I see in others. But you are an old sailor. At Hamburgh I have not a shadow of acquaintance. My letters of introduction produced for me, with one exception, viz., Klopstock, the brother of the poet, no real service, but merely distant and ostentatious civility. And Klopstock will by this time have forgotten my name, which indeed he never properly knew, for I could speak only English and Latin, and he only French and German. At Ratzeburgh, 35 English miles N. E. from Hamburgh, on the road to Lubec, I resided four months; and I should hope, was not unbeloved by more than one family, but this is out of your route. At Gottingen I stayed near five months, but here I knew only students, who will have left the place by this time, and the high learned professors, only one of whom could speak English; and they are so wholly engaged in their academical occupations, that they would be of no service to you. Other acquaintance in Germany I have none, and connexion I never had any. For though I was much entreated by some of the Literati to correspond with them, yet my natural laziness, with the little value I attach to literary men, as literary men, and with my aversion from those letters which are to be made up of studied sense, and unfelt compliments, combined to prevent me from availing myself of the offer. Herein, and in similar instances, with English authors of repute, I have ill consulted the growth of my reputation and fame. But I have cheerful and confident hopes of myself. If I can hereafter do good to my fellow-creatures as a poet, and as a metaphysician, they will know it; and any other fame than this, I consider as a serious evil, that would only take me from out the number and sympathy of ordinary men, to make a coxcomb of me. As to the inns or hotels at Hamburgh, I should recommend you to some German inn. Wordsworth and I were at the 'Der Wilde Man,' and dirty as it was, I could not find any inn in Germany very much cleaner, except at Lubec. But if you go to an English inn, for heaven's sake, avoid the 'Shakspeare,' at Altona, and the 'King of England,' at Hamburgh. They are houses of plunder rather than entertainment. 'The Duke of York' hotel, kept by Seaman, has a better reputation, and thither I would advise you to repair; and I advise you to pay your bill every morning at breakfast time: it is the only way to escape imposition. What the Hamburgh merchants may be I know not, but the tradesmen are knaves. Scoundrels, with yellow-white phizzes, that bring disgrace on the complexion of a bad tallow candle. Now as to carriage, I know scarcely what to advise; only make up your mind to the very worst vehicles, with the very worst horses, drawn by the very worst postillions, over the very worst roads, and halting two hours at each time they change horses, at the very worst inns; and you have a fair, unexaggerated picture of travelling in North Germany. The cheapest way is the best; go by the common post wagons, or stage coaches. What are called extraordinaries, or post-chaises, are little wicker carts, uncovered, with moveable benches or forms in them, execrable in every respect. And if you buy a vehicle at Hamburgh, you can get none decent under thirty or forty guineas, and very, probably it will break to pieces on the infernal roads. The canal boats are delightful, but the porters everywhere in the United Provinces, are an impudent, abominable, and dishonest race. You must carry as little luggage as you well can with you, in the canal boats, and when you land, get recommended to an inn beforehand, and bargain with the porters first of all, and never lose sight of them, or you may never see your portmanteau or baggage again.
My Sarah desires her love to you and yours. God bless your dear little ones! Make haste and get rich, dear friend! and bring up the little creatures to be playfellows and school-fellows with my little ones!
Again and again, sea serve you, wind speed you, all things turn out good to you! God bless you,
S. T. Coleridge."
As a curious literary fact, I might mention that the sale of the first edition of the "Lyrical Ballads," was so slow, and the severity of most of the reviews so great, that their progress to oblivion, notwithstanding the merit which I was quite sure they possessed, seemed ordained to be as rapid as it was certain. I had given thirty guineas for the copyright, as detailed in the preceding letters; but the heavy sale induced me at length, to part with, at a loss, the largest proportion of the impression of five hundred, to Mr. Arch, a London bookseller. After this transaction had occurred, I received a letter from Mr. Wordsworth, written the day before he set sail for the continent, requesting me to make over my interest in the "Lyrical Ballads" to Mr. Johnson, of St Paul's Churchyard. This I could not have done, had I been so disposed, as the engagement had been made with Mr. Arch.
On Mr. W.'s return to England, I addressed a letter to him, explaining the reasons why I could not comply with his request, to which he thus replied:
"My dear Cottle,
I perceive that it would have been impossible for you to comply with my request, respecting the 'Lyrical Ballads,' as you had entered into a treaty with Arch. How is the copyright to be disposed of when you quit the bookselling business? We were much amused with the 'Anthology,' Your poem of the 'Killcrop' we liked better than any; only we regretted that you did not save the poor little innocent's life, by some benevolent art or other. You might have managed a little pathetic incident, in which nature, appearing forcibly in the child, might have worked in some way or other, upon its superstitious destroyer.
We have spent our time pleasantly enough in Germany, but we are right glad to find ourselves in England, for we have learnt to know its value. We left Coleridge well at Gottingen, a month ago....
God bless you, my dear Cottle,
Your affectionate friend,
Soon after the receipt of the above, I received another letter from Mr. W. kindly urging me to pay him a visit in the north, in which, as an inducement, he says,
"... Write to me beforehand, and I will accompany you on a tour. You will come by Greta-bridge, which is about twenty miles from this place, (Stockburn); and after we have seen all the curiosities of that neighbourhood, I will accompany you into Cumberland and Westmoreland....
God bless you, dear Cottle,
A short time after the receipt of this invitation, Mr. Coleridge arrived in Bristol from Germany, and as he was about to pay Mr. Wordsworth a visit, he pressed me to accompany him. I had intended a journey to London, and now determined on proceeding with so agreeable a companion, and on so pleasant a journey and tour; taking the metropolis on my return. To notice the complicated incidents which occurred on this tour, would occupy a large space. I therefore pass it all over, with the remark, that in this interview with Mr. Wordsworth, the subject of the "Lyrical Ballads" was mentioned but once, and that casually, and only to account for its failure! which Mr. W. ascribed to two causes; first the "Ancient Mariner," which, he said, no one seemed to understand; and secondly, the unfavorable notice of most of the reviews.
On my reaching London, having an account to settle with Messrs. Longman and Rees, the booksellers of Paternoster Row, I sold them all my copyrights, which were valued as one lot, by a third party. On my next seeing Mr. Longman, he told me, that in estimating the value of the copyrights, Fox's "Achmed," and Wordsworth's "Lyrical Ballads," were "reckoned as nothing." "That being the case," I replied, "as both these authors are my personal friends, I should be obliged, if you would return me again these two copyrights, that I may have the pleasure of presenting them to the respective writers." Mr. Longman answered, with his accustomed liberality, "You are welcome to them." On my reaching Bristol, I gave Mr. Fox his receipt for twenty guineas; and on Mr. Coleridge's return from the north, I gave him Mr. Wordsworth's receipt for his thirty guineas; so that whatever advantage has arisen, subsequently, from the sale of this volume of the "Lyrical Ballads," I am happy to say, has pertained exclusively to Mr. W.
I have been the more particular in these statements, as it furnishes, perhaps, the most remarkable instance on record, of a volume of Poems remaining for so long a time, almost totally neglected, and afterwards acquiring, and that in a rapid degree, so much deserved popularity.
A month or two after Mr. Coleridge had left Bristol for Germany, Dr. Beddoes told me of a letter he had just received from his friend, Davies Giddy, (afterward with the altered name of Gilbert, President of the Royal Society) recommending a very ingenious young chemist, of Penzance, in Cornwall, to assist him in his Pneumatic Institution, at the Hotwells. "The character is so favourable," said the Dr. "I think I shall engage him;" handing me the letter. I read it, and replied, "You cannot err in receiving a young man thus recommended." Two or three weeks after, Dr. B. introduced me to no other than Mr. afterwards Sir. Humphrey Davy. (Mr. Giddy little thought that this "young chemist of Penzance," was destined to precede himself, in occupying the chair of Newton.)
This Pneumatic Institution, for ascertaining how far the different gases, received into the lungs, were favourable, or not, to certain diseases, has often been referred to; but its origin, that I am aware of, has never been stated. It has erroneously been supposed, to have depended for its establishment and support, exclusively on Dr. Beddoes. But being acquainted with the circumstances of the case, it is right to mention, that this Gaseous Institution resulted from the liberality of the late Mr. Lambton, (father of the late Earl of Durham). When Mr. L. heard from Dr. Beddoes an opinion expressed, that Medical science might be greatly assisted by a fair and full examination of the effects of factitious airs on the human constitution, particularly in reference to consumption; to obtain this "fair and full examination," Mr. Lambton immediately presented Dr. B. with the munificent sum of fifteen hundred pounds. One other individual also, contributed handsomely toward the same object,—the late Mr. Thomas Wedgewood, who presented Dr. B. with one thousand pounds, for the furtherance of this design.
It might be here mentioned, that a few months after this, two intelligent-looking boys were often seen with Dr. B. with whom they were domesticated. The Dr. was liberally remunerated for superintending their education, (with suitable masters;) and this he did at the dying request of their father, who had recently deceased in Italy. Dr. Beddoes took great pains with these boys, so that when they entered at Eton, they were found quite equal to other boys of their own age in classical attainments, and greatly their superiors in general knowledge. The father was the above Mr. Lambton, and one of the two boys, was the late Earl of Durham. One of the precepts strongly inculcated on these youths, was, "Never be idle, boys. Let energy be apparent in all you do. If you play, play heartily, and at your book, be determined to excel. Languor is the bane of intellect."
I remember to have seen Mr. Lambton at Dr. B.'s. He had a fine countenance, but it betrayed the hue of consumption. After having been for some time under the care of Dr. Beddoes, the Dr. recommended his patient to try a warmer climate, when Mr. L. departed for Italy. Mr. Lambton's health still declining, and considering that his only chance for life depended on the skill of his own experienced physician, he wrote to Dr. Beddoes, urging him, without delay to set off, I think, for Naples. This I received from Dr. B. himself, who said, at the same time, "On Monday morning I shall set off for Italy." But before Monday, the tidings arrived that Mr. Lambton was dead!
The two young Lambtons had the additional privilege of living under the same roof with Mr. Davy, and on various occasions through life, the Earl of Durham and his brother have testified a deep sense of respect and friendship for the illustrious chemist who so enlivened and edified their younger days.
When Dr. Beddoes introduced to me young Mr. Davy, (being under twenty) I was much struck with the intellectual character of his face. His eye was piercing, and when not engaged in converse, was remarkably introverted, amounting to absence, as though his mind had been pursuing some severe trains of thought, scarcely to be interrupted by external objects; and from the first interview also, his ingenuousness impressed me as much as his mental superiority. Mr. D. having no acquaintance in Bristol, I encouraged and often received his visits, and he conferred an obligation on me, by often passing his afternoons in my company. During these agreeable interviews, he occasionally amused me by relating anecdotes of himself; or detailing his numerous chemical experiments: or otherwise by repeating his poems, several of which he gave me (still retained); and it was impossible to doubt, that if he had not shone as a philosopher, he would have become conspicuous as a poet.
I must now refer again to the Pneumatic Institution, to which the medical world looked with some anxiety, and which excited much conversation in the circle where I happened to be placed. Dr. Beddoes early in the year 1798, had given an admirable course of Lectures in Bristol, on the principles and practice of Chemistry, and which were rendered popular by a great diversity of experiments; so that, with other branches of the science, the gases, had become generally familiar. The establishment of the Pneumatic Institution immediately following, the public mind was prepared, in some measure, to judge of its results; and a very considerable increase of confidence was entertained, from the acknowledged talents of the young superintendant; so that all which could be accomplished was fully calculated upon. The funds also which supported the Institution being ample, the apparatus corresponded, and a more persevering and enthusiastic experimentalist than Mr. Davy, the whole kingdom could not have produced; an admission which was made by all who knew him, before the profounder parts of his character had been developed. No personal danger restrained him from determining facts, as the data of his reasoning; and if Fluxions, or some other means, had not conveyed the information, such was his enthusiasm, he would almost have sprung from the perpendicular brow of St. Vincent to determine his precise time, in descending from the top to the bottom.
I soon learnt from Mr. D. himself the course of his experiments; many of which were in the highest degree hazardous, when, with friendly earnestness, I warned him against his imminent perils. He seemed to act, as if in case of sacrificing one life, he had two or three others in reserve on which he could fall back in case of necessity. He occasionally so excited my fears that I half despaired of seeing him alive the next morning. He has been known sometimes to breathe a deadly gas, with his finger on his pulse, to determine how much could be borne, before a serious declension occurred in the vital action. The great hazards to which he exposed himself may be estimated by the following slight detail.
Dr. Mitchell, as well as Dr. Priestley, had stated the fatal effects on animal life, of the gazeous oxide of azote; Mr. Davy, on the contrary, for reasons which satisfied himself, thought it respirable in its pure state; at least, that a single inspiration of this gas might neither destroy, nor materially injure the powers of life. He tried one inspiration. No particularly injurious effects followed. He now breathed, out of his green bag, three quarts of this nitrous oxide (gazeous oxide of azote,) when it was attended with a degree of giddiness, great fulness in the head, and with loss of distinct sensation and voluntary power, analogous to intoxication. Not being able fully to determine whether the gas was "stimulant" or "depressing," he now breathed four quarts of it from his green bag, when an irresistible propensity to action followed, with motions, various and violent. Still, not being satisfied, he proceeded in his experiments, and at length found that he could breathe nine quarts for three minutes, and twelve quarts for rather more than four, but never for five minutes, without the danger of fatal consequences, as before five minutes had expired, the mouth-piece generally dropped from his unclosed lips. By breathing from six to seven quarts only, muscular motions were produced, and he manifested the pleasure it excited, by stamping, laughing, dancing, shouting, &c.
At another time, having ascertained that his pure nitrous oxide, was eminently stimulant, he wanted to determine whether the system, in a high state of stimulation, would then be susceptible of a proportionate accession of stimulus from his new gas; like that which would be experienced by the man, who after taking one bottle of wine, drank a second; and to acquire demonstration on this nice subject, (although he was a confirmed water-drinker) to form the basis of his experiment, he drank off with all despatch a whole bottle of wine, the consequence of which was, that he first reeled, and then fell down insensibly drunk. After lying in this state for two or three hours, he awoke with a sense of nausea, head-ache, and the usual effects of intoxication. At the first return of recollection, however, undaunted by the past, the young enthusiastic philosopher called out for the green bag, when he breathed twelve quarts of nitrous oxide, for three or four minutes. The consequence of this was, he became a second time intoxicated, though in a less degree, when he strode across the room, and by stamping, laughing, dancing, and vociferation, found that the same effects followed, which attended his former experiment, without any increase of stimulus from the wine.
All the gases that had hitherto been the subject of investigation, sunk in importance before this nitrous oxide, which the perseverance of Mr. Davy had now obtained in its pure state, in any quantity and consequently divested of that foreign admixture which rendered it usually so destructive. He had also ascertained the quantity which might safely be admitted into the lungs. Dr. Beddoes was sanguine as to its medical qualities, and conceived that, if not a specific, it might prove highly advantageous in paralysis, and pulmonary affections; and, in conjunction with these benefits he well knew it would confer importance on his own Pneumatic Institution. As Dr. B. meditated a publication expressly on this subject, he was desirous of collecting the testimony of others, for which purpose, he persuaded several of his friends to breathe this innocent, but exhilarating nitrous oxide, while they described, and he recorded their sensations.
Mr. Southey, Mr. Clayfield, Mr. Tobin, and others inhaled the new air. One, it made dance, another laugh, while a third, in his state of excitement, being pugnaciously inclined, very uncourteously, struck Mr. Davy rather violently with his fist. It became now an object with Dr. B. to witness the effect this potent gas might produce on one of the softer sex, and he prevailed on a courageous young lady, (Miss ——) to breathe out of his pretty green bag, this delightful nitrous oxide. After a few inspirations, to the astonishment of every body, the young lady dashed out of the room and house, when, racing down Hope-square, she leaped over a great dog in her way, but being hotly pursued by the fleetest of her friends, the fair fugitive, or rather the temporary maniac, was at length overtaken and secured, without further damage.
Dr. Beddoes now expressed a wish to record my testimony also, and presented me his green bag; but being satisfied with the effects produced on others, I begged to decline the honour. The Pneumatic Institution, at this time, from the laughable and diversified effects produced by this new gas on different individuals, quite exorcised philosophical gravity, and converted the laboratory into the region of hilarity and relaxation. The young lady's feats, in particular, produced great merriment, and so intimidated the ladies, that not one, after this time, could be prevailed upon to look at the green bag, or hear of nitrous oxide, without horror!
But more perilous experiments must now be noticed. Mr. Davy having succeeded so well with the Nitrous Oxide, determined even to hazard a trial with the deadly Nitrous Gas. For this purpose he placed in a bag, "one hundred and fourteen cubic inches of nitrous gas," and knowing that unless he exhausted his lungs of the atmospheric air, its oxygen would unite with the nitrous gas, and produce in his lungs aqua-fortis, he wisely resolved to expel if possible, the whole of the atmospheric air from his lungs, by some contrivance of his own. For this purpose, in a second bag, he placed seven quarts of nitrous oxide, and made from it three inspirations, and three expirations, and then instantly transferred his mouth to the nitrous gas bag, and turning the stop-cock, took one inspiration. This gas, in passing through his mouth and fauces, burnt his throat, and produced such a spasm in the epiglottis, as to cause him instantly to desist, when, in breathing the common air, aqua-fortis was really formed in his mouth, which burnt his tongue, palate, and injured his teeth. Mr. D. says, "I never design again to repeat so rash an experiment."
But though this experiment might not be repeated, there was one other nearly as dangerous, to which Mr. Davy's love of science prompted him to resort; not by trying it on another but, generously, on himself.
Mr. Davy wished to determine whether the carburetted hydrogen gas, was so destructive to animal life as had been represented. In its pure state, one inspiration of this gas was understood to destroy life, but Mr. D. mixed three quarts of the gas, with two quarts of the atmospheric air, and then breathed the whole for nearly a minute. This produced only slight effects, (nothing to an experimental chemist;) merely "giddiness, pain in the head, loss of voluntary power," &c.
The spirit of inquiry not being to be repressed by these trifling inconveniences, Mr. Davy was now emboldened to introduce into his green bag, four quarts of carburetted hydrogen gas, nearly pure. After exhausting his lungs in the usual way, he made two inspirations of this gas. The first inspiration produced numbness and loss of feeling in the chest. After the second, he lost all power of perceiving external things, except a terrible oppression on his chest, and he seemed sinking fast to death! He had just consciousness enough to remove the mouth-piece from his unclosed lips, when he became wholly insensible. After breathing the common air for some time, consciousness was restored, and Mr. Davy faintly uttered, as a consolation to his then attendant, Mr. John Tobin, "I do not think I shall die."
Such are some of the appalling hazards encountered by M. Davy, in his intrepid investigation of the gases. These destructive experiments, during his residence at Bristol, probably, produced those affections of the chest, to which he was subject through life, and which, beyond all question, shortened his days. Nothing at this moment so excites my surprise, as that Mr. D.'s life should have been protracted, with all his unparalleled indifference concerning it, to the vast age, for him, of fifty years.
I cannot here withhold an ungracious piece of information. In the prospect of this establishment, great expectations had been raised, and the afflicted of all descriptions, were taught to expect a speedy cure; so that when the doors were opened, no less than seventy or eighty patients, progressively applied for the gratuitous alleviation of their maladies. But it is too great a tax on human patience, when cures are always promised, but never come. No one recovery, in an obstinate case, had occurred: in consequence of which, many patients became dissatisfied, and remitted their attendance. Independently of which, an idea had become prevalent amongst the crowd of afflicted, that they were merely made the subjects of experiment, which thinned the ranks of the old applicants, and intimidated new. It might be said, that patients after a certain period had so ominously declined, that the very fire was likely to become extinguished for want of fuel. In order that the trials might be deliberately proceeded in, a fortunate thought occurred to Dr. Beddoes; namely, not to bribe, but to reward all persevering patients; for Mr. Davy informed me, that, before the Pneumatic Institution was broken up, they allowed every patient sixpence per diem; so that when all hopes of cure had subsided, it became a mere pecuniary calculation with the sufferers, whether, for a parish allowance of three shillings a week, they should submit or not, to be drenched with these nauseous gases.
This Pneumatic Institution, though long in a declining state, protracted its existence for more than two years, till the departure from Bristol of Mr. D., and then by its failure, it established the useful negative fact, however mortifying, that medical science was not to be improved through the medium of factitious airs.
I happened to be present when Mr. W. Coates casually named to Mr. Davy, then just turned of twenty, that his boy the preceding evening, had accidentally struck one piece of cane against another, in the dark, and which produced light. It was quite impressive to notice the intense earnestness with which Mr. D. heard this fact which, by others, might have been immediately forgotten. Mr. D. on the contrary, without speaking, appeared lost in meditation. He subsequently commenced his experiments on these canes, and thus communicated the results to his friend Mr. Giddy, (now Gilbert).
"My dear friend,
... I have now just room to give you an account of the experiments I have lately been engaged in.
First. One of Mr. Coates's children accidentally discovered that two bonnet-canes rubbed together produced a faint light. The novelty of this experiment induced me to examine it, and I found that the canes, on collision, produced sparks of light, as brilliant as those from flint and steel.
Secondly. On examining the epidermis, I found, when it was taken off, that the canes no longer gave light on collision.
Thirdly. The epidermis, subjected to chemical analysis, had all the properties of silex.
Fourthly, The similar appearance of the epidermis of reeds, corn, and grasses, induced me to suppose that they also contained silex. By burning them carefully and analyzing their ashes, I found that they contained it in rather larger proportions than the canes.
Fifthly. The corn and grasses contain sufficient potash to form glass with their flint. A very pretty experiment may be made on these plants with the blowpipe. If you take a straw of wheat, barley, or hay, and burn it, beginning at the top, and heating the ashes with a blue flame, you will obtain a perfect globule of hard glass, fit for microscopic discovery."
The circumstance, that all canes, as well as straws and hollow grasses, have an epidermis of silex, is one of the most singular facts in nature. Mr. Davy, in another place, has stated the advantages arising to this class of vegetables, from their stony external concretion: namely, "the defence it offers from humidity; the shield which it presents to the assaults of insects; and the strength and stability that it administers to plants, which, from being hollow, without this support, would be less perfectly enabled to resist the effect of storms.
Those canes which are not hollow, are long and slender, and from wanting the power to sustain themselves, come usually in contact with the ground, when they would speedily decay, from moisture, but from the impenetrable coat of mail with which nature has furnished them. But questions still arise for future investigators. How came the matter of flint to invest those plants which most need it, and not others? Whence does this silex come? Is it derived from the air, or from water, or from the earth? That it emanates from the atmosphere is wholly inadmissible. If the silex proceed from water, where is the proof? and how is the superficial deposit effected? Also, as silex is not a constituent part of water, if incorporated at all, it can be held only in solution. By what law is this solution produced, so that the law of gravity should be suspended? If the silex be derived from the earth, by what vessels is it conveyed to the surface of the plants? and, in addition, if earth be its source, how is it that earth-seeking, and hollow plants, with their epidermis of silex, should arise in soils that are not silicious? being equally predominant, whether the soil be calcareous, argillaceous, or loamy. The decomposition of decayed animal and vegetable substances, doubtless composes the richegt superficial mould; but this soil, so favorable for vegetation, gives the reed as much silex, but no more, in proportion to the size of the stalk, than the same plants growing in mountainous districts, and primitive soils. It is to be regretted, that the solution of these questions, with others that might be enumerated, had not occupied the profoundly investigating spirit of Mr. Davy; but which subjects now offer an ample scope for other philosophical speculators.
It is a demonstrative confirmation of the accuracy of Mr. Davy's reasoning, that a few years ago, after the burning of a large mow, in the neighbourhood of Bristol, a stratum of pure, compact, vitrified silex appeared at the bottom, forming one continuous sheet, nearly an inch in thickness. I secured a portion, which, with a steel, produced an abundance of bright sparks.
Upon Mr. Coleridge's return from the north, to Bristol, where he meant to make some little stay, I felt peculiar pleasure in introducing him to young Mr. Davy. The interview was mutually agreeable, and that which does not often occur, notwithstanding their raised expectations, each, afterward, in referring to the other, expressed to me the opinion, that his anticipations had been surpassed. They frequently met each other under my roof, and their conversations were often brilliant; intermixed, occasionally, with references to the scenes of their past lives.
Mr. Davy told of a Cornish young man, of philosophical habits, who had adopted the opinion that a firm mind might endure in silence, any degree of pain: showing the supremacy of "mind over matter." His theory once met with an unexpected confutation. He had gone one morning to bathe in Mount's Bay, and as he bathed, a crab griped his toe, when the young philosopher roared loud enough to be heard at Penzance.
Mr. Coleridge related the following occurrence, which he received from his American friend, Mr. Alston, illustrating the effect produced on a young man, at Cambridge University, near Boston, from a fancied apparition. "A certain youth," he said, "took it into his head to convert a Tom-Painish companion of his, by appearing as a ghost before him. He accordingly dressed himself in the usual way, having previously extracted the ball from the pistol which always lay near the head of his friend's bed. Upon first awaking and seeing the apparition, A. the youth who was to be frightened, suspecting a trick, very coolly looked his companion, the ghost, in the face, and said, 'I know you. This is a good joke, but you see I am not frightened. Now you may vanish.' The ghost stood still. 'Come,' said A. 'that is enough. I shall get angry. Away!' Still the ghost moved not. Exclaimed A. 'If you do not in one minute go away, I will shoot you.' He waited the time, deliberately levelled his pistol, fired, and with a scream at the motionless immobility of the figure, was convinced it was a real ghost—became convulsed, and from the fright, afterwards died."
Mr. Coleridge told also of his reception at an Hessian village, after his visit to the Hartz mountains, and the Brocken. Their party consisted of himself, Mr. Carlyon, and the two Mr. Parrys. (sons of Dr. Parry, of Bath—one of them the Arctic explorer). The four pedestrians entered the village late of an evening, and repaired to the chief ale-house, wearied with a hard day's journey, in order to be refreshed and to rest for the night. The large room contained many of the neighbouring peasants. "What can we have to eat?" said Mr. Coleridge. "Nothing," was the reply. "Can we have beds?" "No," answered the master of the house. "Can we have some straw on which to lie?" "None, none," was the reply. On which Mr. Coleridge cried out, "Are the Hessians Christians?" To have their Christianity doubted, was an insufferable insult, and to prove their religion, one man in a rage, hurled a log of wood at Mr. C., which, if it had struck him, would have laid him prostrate! But more effectually to prove that they were Christians, "good and true," the men, in fierce array, now marched up, and roughly drove the saucy Englanders out of the house, to get lodgings where they could. From the extreme wrath of the insulted peasants, the travellers were apprehensive of some worse assault; and hurrying out of the village, weary, and hunger-smitten, bivouacked under a tree, determined never again to question a Hessian's Christianity, even under the gallows.
On one occasion, Mr. Coleridge entered into some of his college scenes, to one of which I may here refer. He said that, perhaps, it was culpable in him not to have paid more attention to his dress than he did when at the University, but the great excluded the little. He said that he was once walking through a street in Cambridge, leaning on the arms of two silk gowns, when his own habiliments formed rather a ludicrous contrast. His cap had the merit of having once been new; and some untoward rents in his gown, which he had a month before intended to get mended, left a strong tendency, in some of its posterior parts, to trail along the ground in the form, commonly called "tatters." The three friends were settling the exact site of Troy, or some other equally momentous subject, when they were passed by two spruce gownsmen, one of whom said to the other, which just caught the ear of Mr. C., "That sloven thinks he can hide his ribbons by the gowns of his companions." Mr. C. darted an appalling glance at him, and passed on. He now learned the name, and acquired some particulars respecting the young man who had offended him, and hastened home to exercise his Juvenallian talent.
The next day he gave his satire to a friend, to show it to the young man, who became quite alarmed at the mistake he had made, and also at the ominous words, "He who wrote this can write more." The cauldron might boil over with fresh "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble." There was no time to lose. He therefore immediately proceeded to Mr. C.'s chambers; apologized for his inconsiderate expressions; thought him to have been some "rough colt," from the country, again begged his pardon, and received the hand of reconciliation. This young, miscalculating Cantabrigian, now became one of Mr. C.'s warmest friends, and rose to eminence.
The satire was singularly cutting. I can recall but two unconnected lines:
"With eye that looks around with asking gaze, And tongue that traffics in the trade of praise."
Mr. Coleridge now told us of the most remarkable of his Cambridge eccentricities, that of his having enlisted as a soldier. He had previously stated to me many of the following particulars, yet not the whole; but (having taken a deep interest in this singular adventure,) in addition to that which I heard from Mr. C., who never told all the incidents of his military life to any one person, but on the contrary, detailed some few to one, and some few to another, I made a point of collecting from different friends, every scattered fact I could obtain, and shall now throw the whole into one narrative.
But before I proceed, I must take some notice of a statement on this subject, communicated to the public, by Mr. Bowles, wherein his account appears to clash with mine. Of this gentleman (with whose name and writings I have connected so many pleasant remembrances, from early life,) I wish to speak with the utmost respect; but the truth Mr. B. himself will be glad to learn.
Mr. Bowles states a circumstance relating to what he calls, "The most correct, sublime, chaste, and beautiful of Mr. Coleridge's poems; the 'Religious Musings;'" namely, that "it was written, non inter sylvas academi, but in the tap-room at Reading." This information could not have been received from Mr. C. but perhaps was derived from the imperfect recollection of Captain O.; but whoever the informant may have been, the assertion has not the merit of being founded on a shadow of accuracy. The poem of the "Religious Musings" was not written "in the tap-room at Reading," nor till long after Mr. C. had quitted his military life. It was written partly at Stowey; partly on Redcliff Hill; and partly in my parlour, where both Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey occasionally wrote their verses. This will have sufficiently appeared by Mr. C.'s own letters; to which I could add other decisive evidence, if the subject were of more consequence.
I now proceed with the narrative of Mr. Coleridge's military adventures, chiefly collected from himself, but not inconsiderably from the information of other of his more intimate friends; particularly R. Lovell; although I must apprise the reader that after a lapse of forty years, I cannot pledge myself for every individual word: a severity of construction which neither my memoranda nor memory would authorize. In order not to interrupt the reader, by stating that this was derived from one source, and that from another, (at this time hardly to be separated in my own mind) I shall narrate it as though Mr. Coleridge had related the whole at once, to Mr. Davy and myself.
* * * * *
Mr. Coleridge now told us of one of his Cambridge eccentricities which highly amused us. He said that he had paid his addresses to a Mary Evans, who, rejecting his offer, he took it so much in dudgeon, that he withdrew from the University to London, when, in a reckless state of mind, he enlisted in the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons. No objection having been taken to his height or age, he was asked his name. He had previously determined to give one that was thoroughly Kamschatkian, but having noticed that morning over a door in Lincoln's Inn Fields, (or the Temple) the name of "Cumberbatch," (not Comberback) he thought this word sufficiently outlandish, and replied "Silas Tomken Cumberbatch," and such was the entry in the regimental book.
Here, in his new capacity, laborious duties devolved on Mr. C. He endeavoured to think on Caesar, and Epaminondas, and Leonidas, with other ancient heroes, and composed himself to his fate; remembering, in every series, there must be a commencement: but still he found confronting him no imaginary inconveniences. Perhaps he who had most cause for dissatisfaction, was the drill sergeant, who thought his professional character endangered; for after using his utmost efforts to bring his raw recruit into something like training, he expressed the most serious fears, from his unconquerable awkwardness, that he never should be able to make a soldier of him!
Mr. C. it seemed, could not even rub down his own horse, which, however, it should be known, was rather a restive one, who, like Cowper's hare, "would bite if he could," and in addition, kick not a little. We could not suppose that these predispositions in the martial steed were at all aggravated by the unskilful jockeyship to which he was subjected, but the sensitive quadruped did rebel a little in the stable, and wince a little in the field! Perhaps the poor animal was something in the state of the horse that carried Mr. Wordsworth's "Idiot Boy," who, in his sage contemplations, "wondered"—"What he had got upon his back!" This rubbing down his horse was a constant source of annoyance to Mr. C., who thought that the most rational way was,—to let the horse rub himself down, shaking himself clean, and so to shine in all his native beauty; but on this subject there were two opinions, and his that was to decide carried most weight. If it had not been for the foolish and fastidious taste of the ultra precise sergeant, this whole mass of trouble might be avoided, but seeing the thing must be done, or punishment! he set about the herculean task with the firmness of a Wallenstein; but lo! the paroxysm was brief, in the necessity that called it forth. Mr. C. overcame this immense difficulty, by bribing a young man of the regiment to perform the achievement for him; and that on very easy terms; namely, by writing for him some "Love Stanzas," to send to his sweetheart!
Mr. Coleridge, in the midst of all his deficiencies, it appeared, was liked by the men, although he was the butt of the whole company; being esteemed by them as next of kin to a natural, though of a peculiar kind—a talking natural. This fancy of theirs was stoutly resisted by the love-sick swain, but the regimental logic prevailed; for, whatever they could do, with masterly dexterity, he could not do at all, ergo, must he not be a natural? There was no man in the regiment who met with so many falls from his horse, as Silas Tomken Cumberbatch! He often calculated with so little precision his due equilibrium, that, in mounting on one side, (perhaps the wrong stirrup) the probability was, especially if his horse moved a little, that he lost his balance, and, if he did not roll back on this side, came down ponderously on the other! when the laugh spread amongst the men, "Silas is off again!" Mr. C. had often heard of campaigns, but he never before had so correct an idea of hard service.
Some mitigation was now in store for Mr. C. arising out of a whimsical circumstance. He had been placed as a sentinel, at the door of a ball-room, or some public place of resort, when two of his officers, passing in, stopped for a moment, near Mr. C., talking about Euripides, two lines from whom, one of them repeated. At the sound of Greek, the sentinel instinctively turned his ear, when he said, with all deference, touching his lofty cap, "I hope your honour will excuse me, but the lines you have repeated are not quite accurately cited. These are the lines," when he gave them in their more correct form. "Besides," said Mr. C., "instead of being in Euripides, the lines will be found in the second antistrophe of the 'Aedipus of Sophocles.'" "Why, man, who are you?" said the officer, "old Faustus ground young again?" "I am your honour's humble sentinel," said Mr. C., again touching his cap.
The officers hastened into the room, and inquired of one and another, about that "odd fish," at the door; when one of the mess, (it is believed, the surgeon) told them, that he had his eye upon him, but he would neither tell where he came from, nor anything about his family of the Cumberbatches; "but," continued he, "instead of his being an 'odd fish,' I suspect he must be a 'stray bird' from the Oxford or Cambridge aviary." They learned also, the laughable fact, that he was bruised all over, by frequent falls from his horse. "Ah," said one of the officers, "we have had, at different times, two or three of these 'University birds' in our regiment." This suspicion was confirmed by one of the officers, Mr. Nathaniel Ogle, who observed that he had noticed a line of Latin, chalked under one of the men's saddles, and was told, on inquiring whose saddle it was, that it was "Cumberbatch's."
The officers now kindly took pity on the 'poor scholar' and had Mr. C. removed to the medical department, where he was appointed assistant in the regimental hospital. This change was a vast improvement in Mr. C.'s condition; and happy was the day, also, on which it took place, for the sake of the sick patients; for Silas Tomken Cumberbatch's amusing stories, they said, did them more good than all the doctor's physic! Many ludicrous dialogues sometimes occurred between Mr. C. and his new disciples; particularly with one who was "the geographer." The following are some of these dialogues.
If he began talking to one or two of his comrades; for they were all on a perfect equality, except that those who went through their exercise the best, stretched their necks a little above the "awkward squad;" in which ignoble class Mr. C. was placed, as the preeminent member, almost by acclamation; if he began to speak, notwithstanding, to one or two, others drew near, increasing momently, till by-and-bye the sick-beds were deserted, and Mr. C. formed the centre of a large circle.
On one occasion, he told them of the Peloponnesian war, which lasted twenty-seven years, "There must have been famous promotion there," said one poor fellow, haggard as a death's head. Another, tottering with disease, ejaculated, "Can you tell, Silas, how many rose from the ranks?"
He now still more excited their wonderment, by recapitulating the feats of Archimedes. As the narrative proceeded, one restrained his scepticism, till he was almost ready to burst, and then vociferated, "Silas, that's a lie!" "D'ye think so?" said Mr. C. smiling, and went on with his story. The idea, however, got amongst them, that Silas's fancy was on the stretch, when Mr. C. finding that this tact would not do, changed his subject, and told them of a famous general, called Alexander the Great. As by a magic spell, the flagging attention was revived, and several, at the same moment, to testify their eagerness, called out, "The general! The general!" "I'll tell you all about him," said Mr. C. when impatience marked every countenance. He then told them whose son this Alexander the Great was; no less than Philip of Macedon. "I never heard of him," said one. "I think I have," said the "geographer," ashamed of being thought ignorant, "Silas, was'nt he a Cornish man? I knew one of the Alexanders at Truro!"
Mr. C. now went on describing to them, in glowing colours, the valour, and the wars, and the conquests of this famous general. "Ah," said one man, whose open mouth had complimented the speaker, for the preceding half hour; "Ah," said he, "Silas, this Alexander must have been as great a man as our Colonel!"
Mr. C. now told them of the "Retreat of the Ten Thousand." "I don't like to hear of retreat," said one. "Nor I," said a second: "I'm for marching on." Mr. C. now told of the incessant conflicts of these brave warriors, and of the virtues of the "square." "They were a parcel of crack men," said one. "Yes," said another, "their bayonets fixed, and sleeping on their arms day and night." "I should like to know," said a fourth, "what rations were given with all that hard fighting;" on which an Irishman replied, "to be sure, every time the sun rose, two pounds of good ox beef, and plenty of whiskey."
At another time he told them of the invasion of Xerxes, and his crossing the wide Hellespont. "Ah," said a young recruit, a native of an obscure village in Kent, who had acquired a decent smattering of geography,—knowing well that the world was round, and that the earth was divided into land and water, and, furthermore, that there were more countries on the globe than England, and who now wished to raise his pretensions a little before his comrades; said this young man of Kent; "Silas, I know where that 'Helspont' is. I think it must be the mouth of the Thames, for 'tis very wide."
Mr. C. now told them of the herces of Thermopylae, when the geographer interrupted him, by saying, "Silas, I think I know, too, where that 'Thermopple' is; isn't it somewhere up in the north?" "You are quite right, Jack," said Mr. C. "it is to the north of the Line." A conscious elevation marked his countenance, and he rose at once, five degrees in the estimation of his friends.
In one of these interesting conversaziones, when Mr. C. was sitting at the foot of a bed, surrounded by his gaping comrades, who were always solicitous of, and never wearied with, his stories, the door suddenly burst open, and in came two or three gentlemen, (his friends) looking for some time, in vain, amid the uniform dresses, for their man. At length, they pitched on Mr. C. and taking him by the arm, led him, in silence, out of the room, (a picture indeed, for a Wilkie!) As the supposed deserter passed the threshold, one of the astonished auditors uttered, with a sigh, "poor Silas! I wish they may let him off with a cool five hundred!" Mr. C.'s ransom was soon joyfully adjusted by his friends, and now the wide world once more lay before him.
A very old friend of Mr. Coleridge has recently furnished me with the two following anecdotes of Mr. C. which were also new to me.
The inspecting officer of his regiment, on one occasion, was examining the guns of the men, and coming to one piece which was rusty, he called out in an authoritative tone, "Whose rusty gun is this?" when Mr. Coleridge said, "is it very rusty, Sir?" "Yes Cumberbatch, it is" said the officer, sternly. "Then, Sir," replied Mr. C. "it must be mine!" The oddity of the reply disarmed the officer, and the poor scholar escaped without punishment.
Mr. Coleridge was a remarkably awkward horseman, so much so, as generally to attract notice. Some years after this, he was riding along the turnpike road, in the county of Durham, when a wag, approaching him, noticed his peculiarity, and (quite mistaking his man) thought the rider a fine subject for a little sport; when, as he drew near, he thus accosted Mr. C. "I say, young man, did you meet a tailor on the road?" "Yes," replied Mr. C. (who was never at a loss for a rejoinder) "I did; and he told me, if I went a little further I should meet a goose!" The assailant was struck dumb, while the traveller jogged on.
Mr. C. gave me these, his translations from the German.
ON A BAD READER OF HIS OWN VERSES.
Hoarse Maevius reads his hobbling verse To all, and at all times, And deems them both divinely smooth, His voice, as well as rhymes.
But folks say Maevius is no ass! But Maevius makes it clear, That he's a monster of an ass, An ass without an ear.
* * * * *
If the guilt of all lying consists in deceit, Lie on—'tis your duty, sweet youth! For believe me, then only we find you a cheat, When you cunningly tell us the truth.
"As Dick and I at Charing Cross were walking, Whom should we see on t'other side pass by, But INFORMATOR with a stranger talking, So I exclaimed—"O, what a lie!" Quoth Dick, "What, can you hear him?" Stuff! I saw him open his mouth—an't that enough?"
* * * * *
ON OBSERVING A LADY LICKING HER LAP-DOG,
Thy Lap-dog Rufa, is a dainty beast; It don't surprise me in the least, To see thee lick so dainty clean a beast, But that so dainty clean a beast licks thee— Yes—that surprises me.
* * * * *
Jack writes his verses with more speed Than the printer's boy can set 'em; Quite as fast as we can read, But only—not so fast as we forget 'em.
Mr. Coleridge accompanied these epigrams with the translation of one of LESSING'S pieces, where the felicity of the expression, in its English form, will excite in most readers a suspicion, that no German original, could equal the poem in its new dress.
I ask'd my love, one happy day, What I should call her in my lay! By what sweet name from Rome or Greece; Iphigenia, Clelia, Chloris, Laura, Lesbia, or Doris, Dorimene, or Lucrece? Ah! replied my gentle fair, Beloved! what are names but air! Take whatever suits the line: Call me Clelia, call me Chloris, Laura, Lesbia, or Doris, Only, only, call me thine.
Mr. C. told me that he intended to translate the whole of Lessing. I smiled. Mr. C. understood the symbol, and smiled in return.
The above poem is thus printed in the last edition of 1835, by which the two may be compared, and the reader will perhaps think that the alterations are not improvements.
I asked my fair one happy day, What I should call her in my lay? By what sweet name from Rome or Greece: Lalage, Nesera, Chloris, Sappho, Lesbia, or Doris, Arethusa, or Lucrece.
Ah, replied my gentle fair, Beloved, what are names but air? Choose thou whatever suits the line; Call me Sappho, call me Chloris, Call me Lalage, or Doris, Only, only, call me thine.
Some time after this, Mr. Coleridge being in an ill state of health, recollected that a friend of his, Sir John Stoddart, was the Judge at Malta, and he determined to repair to that island. Here he was introduced to Sir Alexander Ball, the Governor, who happened at that time to be in want of a Secretary, and being greatly pleased with Mr. Coleridge, he immediately engaged him in that capacity.
* * * * *
I shall here for the present leave the narrative of Mr. C. in other and better hands, and proceed to remark, that Mr. Davy and Mr. Coleridge continued their friendly feeling toward each other, through life. Mr. Davy, in a letter to Mr. Poole, (1804.) thus expresses himself:
"I have received a letter from Coleridge within the last three weeks. He writes from Malta, in good spirits, and as usual, from the depth of his being. God bless him! He was intended for a great man. I hope and trust he will, at some period, appear such."
Mr. Davy, after a continuance in Bristol of more than two years, sent me the following letter, with a copy of "Burns's Life and Works," by Dr. Currie.
I have been for the last six weeks so much hurried by business, and the prospect of a change of situation, that I have not had time to call on you. I am now on the point of leaving the Hotwells, and had designed to see you this morning, but engagements have unluckily prevented me. I am going to the Royal Institution, where, if you come to London, it will give me much pleasure to see you.
Will you be pleased to accept the copy of 'Burns's Life and Poems,' sent with this, and when you are reading with delight the effusions of your brother bard, occasionally think of one who is, with sincere regard and affection, your friend,
March 9th, 1801."
In a letter of Sir H. Davy, addressed to his friend Mr. Poole, 1803, he thus writes of S. T. C.
"Coleridge has left London for Keswick. During his stay in town, I saw him seldomer than usual; when I did see him, it was generally in the midst of large companies, where he is the image of power and activity. His eloquence is unimpaired; perhaps it is softer and stronger. His will is less than ever commensurate with his ability. Brilliant images of greatness float upon his mind, like images of the morning clouds on the waters. Their forms are changed by the motion of the waves, they are agitated by every breeze, and modified by every sun-beam. He talked in the course of an hour, of beginning three works; and he recited the poem of Christabel unfinished, and as I had before heard it. What talent does he not waste in forming visions, sublime, but unconnected with the real world! I have looked to his efforts, as to the efforts of a creating being; but as yet he has not laid the foundation for the new world of intellectual forms."
In the following letter received by me from Sir H. Davy, so late as June, 1823, he refers to Mr. Coleridge.
"My dear Sir,
... I have often thought on the subject of the early history of our planet, and have some peculiar views, but I have some reserve in talking here about it, as all our knowledge on such matter is little more than ignorance.
What I stated to the Royal Society, in awarding the medal to Professor Buckland, has not been correctly given in the Journals. I merely said that the facts lately brought forward, proved the occurrence of that great catastrophe which had been recorded in sacred and profane history, and of which traditions were current, even amongst the most barbarous nations. I did not say they proved the truth of the Mosaic account of the deluge, that is to say, of the history of the Ark of Noah, and the preservation of animal life. This is revelation; and no facts, that I know of, have been discovered in science that bear upon this question, and the sacred history of the race of Shem. My idea was to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, &c. &c., and not to blend divine truths with the fancies of men.
I met Coleridge this morning, looking very well. I had not seen him for years. He has promised to dine with me on Monday....
Very sincerely yours,
June 11th, 1823."
Sir H. Davy was the chief agent in prevailing on Mr. Coleridge to give a course of lectures on Shakspeare, at the Royal Institution, which he did, eighteen in number, in the year 1808. Sir H. D. in writing to Mr. Poole, this year, thus refers to him.
"Coleridge, after disappointing his audience twice from illness, is announced to lecture again this week. He has suffered greatly from excessive sensibility, the disease of genius. His mind is a wilderness, in which the cedar and the oak, which might aspire to the skies, are stunted in their growth by underwood, thorns, briars, and parasitical plants. With the most exalted genius, enlarged views, sensitive heart, and enlightened mind, he will be the victim of want of order, precision, and regularity. I cannot think of him without experiencing the mingled feelings of admiration, regard, and pity."
To this testimony in confirmation of Mr. Coleridge's intellectual eminence, some high and additional authorities will be added; such as to entitle him to the name of the Great Conversationalist. Professor Wilson thus writes:
"If there be any man of great and original genius alive at this moment, in Europe, it is S. T. Coleridge. Nothing can surpass the melodious richness of words, which he heaps around his images; images that are not glaring in themselves, but which are always affecting to the very verge of tears, because they have all been formed and nourished in the recesses of one of the most deeply musing spirits, that ever breathed forth its inspirations, in the majestic language of England."
"Not less marvellously gifted, though in a far different manner, is Coleridge, who by a strange error has usually been regarded of the same (lake) school. Instead, like Wordsworth, of seeking the sources of sublimity and beauty in the simplest elements of humanity, he ranges through all history and science, investigating all that has really existed, and all that has had foundation only in the wildest, and strangest minds, combining, condensing, developing and multiplying the rich products of his research with marvellous facility and skill; now pondering fondly over some piece of exquisite loveliness, brought from an unknown recess, now tracing out the hidden germ of the eldest, and most barbaric theories, and now calling fantastic spirits from the vasty deep, where they have slept since the dawn of reason. The term 'myriad-minded' which he has happily applied to Shakspeare, is truly descriptive of himself. He is not one, but legion, 'rich with the spoils of time,' richer in his own glorious imagination and sportive fantasy. There is nothing more wonderful than the facile majesty of his images, or rather of his world of imagery, which, whether in his poetry or his prose, start up before us, self-raised, and all perfect, like the palace of Aladdin. He ascends to the sublimest truths by a winding track of sparkling glory, which can only be described in his own language.
'The spirit's ladder That from this gross and visible world of dust, Even to the starry world, with thousand rounds Builds itself up; on which the unseen powers Move up and down on heavenly ministries— The circles in the circles, that approach The central sun from ever narrowing orbit.'
In various beauty of versification he has never been exceeded. Shakspeare doubtless in liquid sweetness and exquisite continuity, and Milton in pure majesty and classic grace—but this, in one species of verse only; and taking all his trials of various metres, the swelling harmony of his blank verse, the sweet breathing of his gentle odes, and the sybil-like flutter, with the murmuring of his wizard spells, we doubt if even these great masters have so fully developed the sources of the English tongue. He has yet completed no adequate memorial of his Genius, yet it is most unjust to say he has done little or nothing.
To refute this assertion, there are his 'Wallenstein;' his love poems of intensest beauty; his 'Ancient Mariner,' with his touches of profoundest tenderness amidst the wildest and most bewildering terrors; his holy and sweet tale of 'Christabel,' with its enchantments, and richer humanities; the depths, the sublimities, and the pensive sweetness of his 'Tragedy;' the heart-dilating sentiments scattered through his 'Friend;' and the stately imagery which breaks upon us at every turn of the golden paths of his metaphysical labyrinth. And if he has a power within him mightier than that which even these glorious creations indicate, shall he be censured because he has deviated from the ordinary course of the age in its development, and instead of committing his imaginative wisdom to the press, has delivered it from his living lips? He has gone about in the true spirit of an old Greek bard, with a noble carelessness of self, giving fit utterance to the divine spirit within, him. Who that has ever heard can forget him? His mild benignity, the unbounded variety of his knowledge, the fast succeeding products of his imagination, the child-like simplicity with which he rises from the dryest and commonest theme into the wildest magnificence of thought, pouring on the soul a stream of beauty and wisdom to mellow and enrich it for ever? The seeds of poetry, the materials for thinking, which he has thus scattered will not perish. The records of his fame are not in books only, but on the fleshly tablets of young hearts, who will not suffer it to die even in the general ear, however base and unfeeling criticism may deride their gratitude."—Mr. Sergeant Talfourd.
Dr. Dibdin has given an animated description of Coleridge's lecturing and conversation, which concurs with the universal opinion.
"I once came from Kensington in a snow-storm to hear Mr. Coleridge lecture on Shakspeare, I might have sat as wisely, and more comfortably by my own fire-side—for no Coleridge appeared.——I shall never forget the effect his conversation made upon me at the first meeting, at a dinner party. It struck me as something not only quite out of the ordinary course of things, but 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 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 wrapt in wonder and delight, as one conversation, more profound or clothed in more forcible language than another, fell from his tongue. He spoke nearly for two hours with unhesitating and uninterrupted fluency. As I returned 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 that fell from the orator's lips.
The manner of Coleridge was emphatic rather 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 always 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 everything around and about him, and to be basking in the sunny warmth of his own radiant imagination."—Dr. Dibdin.
"Last Thursday, my Uncle, S. T. C. dined with us; and —— and —— came to meet him. I have heard him more brilliant, but he was very fine, and delighted both, —— and —— very much. It is impossible to carry off, or commit to paper, his long trains of argument; indeed it is not possible to understand them, he lays the foundation so deep, and views every question in so original a manner. Nothing can be finer than the principles which he lays down in morals and religion. His deep study of scripture is very astonishing; —— and —— were but as children in his hands, not merely in general views of theology, but in minute criticism.... Afterwards in the drawing-room, he sat down by Professor Rigaud, with whom he entered into a discussion of 'Kant's system of Metaphysics.' The little knots of the company were speedily silent. Mr. Coleridge's voice grew louder; and, abstruse as the subject was, yet his language was so ready, so energetic, and eloquent, and his illustrations so very apt and apposite, that the ladies even paid him the most solicitous, and respectful attention.... This is nearly all I recollect of our meeting with this most interesting, most wonderful man. Some of his topics and arguments I have enumerated, but the connexion and the words are lost. And nothing that I can say can give any notion of his eloquence and manner."—Mr. Justice Coleridge.—Table Talk.
"To the honoured memory of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Christian Philosopher, who through dark and winding paths of speculation was led to the light, in order that others by his guidance might reach that light, without passing through the darkness, these sermons on the work of the spirit are dedicated with deep thankfulness and reverence by one of the many pupils whom his writings have helped to discern the sacred concord and unity of human and Divine truth.
"Of recent English writers, the one with whose sanction I have chiefly desired whenever I could, to strengthen my opinions, is the great religious philosopher to whom the mind of our generation in England owes more than to any other man. My gratitude to him I have endeavoured to express by dedicating the following sermons to his memory; and the offering is so far at least appropriate, in that the main work of his life was to spiritualize, not only our philosophy, but our theology; to raise them both above the empiricism into which they had long been dwindling, and to set them free from the technical trammels of logical systems. Whether he is as much studied by the genial young men of the present day, as he was twenty or thirty years ago, I have no adequate means of judging: but our theological literature teems with errors, such as could hardly have been committed by persons whose minds had been disciplined by his philosophical method, and had rightly appropriated his principles. So far too as my observation has extended, the third and fourth volumes of his 'Remains,' though they were hailed with delight by Arnold on their first appearance, have not yet produced their proper effect on the intellect of the age. It may be that the rich store of profound and beautiful thought contained in them has been weighed down, from being mixed with a few opinions on points of Biblical criticism, likely to be very offensive to persons who know nothing about the history of the Canon. Some of these opinions, to which Coleridge himself ascribed a good deal of importance, seem to me of little worth; some to be decidedly erroneous. Philological criticism, indeed all matters requiring a laborious and accurate investigation of details were alien from the bent and habits of his mind; and his exegetical studies, such as they were, took place at a period when he had little better than the meagre Rationalism of Eichhorn and Bertholdt to help him. Of the opinions which he imbibed from them, some abode with him through life. These however, along with everything else that can justly be objected to in the 'Remains,' do not form a twentieth part of the whole, and may easily be separated from the remainder. Nor do they detract in any way from the sterling sense, the clear and far-sighted discernment, the power of tracing principles in their remotest operations, and of referring all things to their first principles, which are manifested in almost every page, and from which we might learn so much. There may be some indeed, who fancy that Coleridge's day is gone by, and that we have advanced beyond him. I have seen him numbered, along with other persons who would have been no less surprised at their position and company, among the pioneers who prepared the way for our new theological school. This fathering of Tractarianism, as it is termed, upon Coleridge, well deserves to rank beside the folly which would father Rationalism upon Luther. Coleridge's far-reaching vision did indeed discern the best part of the speculative truths which our new school has laid hold on, and exaggerated and perverted. But in Coleridge's field of view they were comprised along with the complimental truths which limit them, and in their conjunction and co-ordination with which alone they retain the beneficent power of truth. He saw what our modern theologians see, though it was latent from the vulgar eyes in his days; but he also saw what they do not see, what they have closed their eyes on; and he saw far beyond them, because he saw things in their universal principles and laws."—Rev. Archdeacon Charles Hare's "Mission of the Comforter."—Preface, pp. 13, 15. Two Vols. 8vo.
These various testimonies to the conversational eminence of Mr. Coleridge, and from men the best qualified to decide, must satisfy every mind, that in this one quality he scarcely ever had a superior, or perhaps an equal. In the 103rd No. of the "Quarterly Review," there is a description of his conversation, evidently written by one competent to judge, and who well knew the subject of his praise; but though the writer's language is highly encomiastic, corresponding with his eloquence, yet to all who knew Coleridge, it will not be considered as exceeding the soberest truth. When and where are such descriptions as the preceding and the following to be found?
"Perhaps our readers may have heard repeated a saying of Mr. Wordsworth, 'that many men of his age had done wonderful things, as Davy, Scott, Cuvier, &c.; but that Coleridge was the only wonderful man he ever knew.' Something of course must be allowed in this, as in all other such cases, for the antithesis; but we believe the fact really to be, that the greater part of those who have occasionally visited Mr. Coleridge, have left him with the feeling akin to the judgment indicated in the above remark. They admire the man more than his works, or they forget the works in the absorbing impression made by the living author; and no wonder. Those who remember him in his more vigorous days, can bear witness to the peculiarity and transcendant power of his conversational eloquence. It was unlike anything that could be heard elsewhere; the kind was different, the degree was different, the manner was different. The boundless range of scientific knowledge, the brilliancy and exquisite nicety of illustration, the deep and ready reasoning, the strangeness and immensity of bookish lore, were not all; the dramatic story, the joke, the pun, the festivity, must be added; and with these, the clerical looking dress, the thick waving silver hair, the youthful coloured cheek, the indefinable mouth and lips, the quick yet steady and penetrating greenish grey eye, the slow and continuous enunciation, and the everlasting music of his tones,—all went to make up the image, and to constitute the living presence of the man. Even now his conversation is characterized by all the essentials of its former excellence; there is the same individuality, the same unexpectedness, the same universal grasp; nothing is too high, nothing too low for it—it glances from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, with a speed and a splendour, an ease and a power, which almost seemed inspired."
* * * * *
As a conclusion to these honourable testimonies, it may be added, the wish has often been expressed, that more were known respecting Mr. Coleridge's school and college life, so briefly detailed in his "Biographia." There was one friend of whom he often used to talk, and always with a kind feeling, who sat next to him at Christ Church School, and who afterwards accompanied him to Cambridge, where their friendship was renewed, and their intercourse uninterrupted. This gentleman was the Rev. C. V. Le Grice, the respected and erudite incumbent of a living near Penzance. Mr. Le G. might contribute largely toward the elucidation of Mr. Coleridge's school and college life; but as the much has been denied, we must be thankful for the little. The following are Mr. Le Grice's brief, but interesting notices of his friend:
In the various and numerous memoirs, which have been published of the late Mr. Coleridge, I have been surprised at the accuracy in many respects, and at the same time their omission of a very remarkable, and a very honourable anecdote in his history. In the memoir of him in your last number, you do not merely omit, but you give an erroneous account of this very circumstance, to which I mean to allude. You assert that he did not obtain, and indeed did riot aim to obtain, the honours of the University. So far is this from the fact, that in his Freshman's year he won the gold medal for the Greek Ode; and in his second year he became a candidate for the Craven scholarship, a University scholarship, for which undergraduates 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 was made to contend for the prize, and these four were Dr. Butler, now the Head Master of Shrewsbury; Dr. Keate, the late Head Master of Eton; Mr. Bethell, the late Member for Yorkshire; and S. T. Coleridge. Dr. Butler was the successful candidate.
Pause a moment 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 his schoolfellow and dearest friend, Middleton, (late Bishop of Calcutta) quit Pembroke under similar circumstances. Not quite similar, because Middleton 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!'
'There is a Providence which shapes our ends, Rough hew them how you will.'
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. But to return to Coleridge. When he quitted College, which he did before he had taken a degree, in a moment of mad caprice—it was indeed an inauspicious hour! 'In an inauspicious hour I left the friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever honoured Jesus College, Cambridge.' Short, but deep and heart-felt 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 them; 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 sizing, as they were called, have I enjoyed; when Aeschylus, 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. Freud's trial was then in progress. Pamphlets swarmed from the press. Coleridge had read them all; and in the evening, with our negus, we had them viva voce gloriously. O Coleridge! it was indeed an inauspicious hour, when you quitted the friendly cloisters of Jesus. The epithet 'friendly' implied what you were thinking of, when you thought of college. To you, Coleridge, your contemporaries were indeed friendly, and I believe, that in your literary life you have passed over your college life so briefly, because you wished to banish from your view the 'visions of long-departed joys.' To enter into a description of your college days would have called up too sadly to your memory 'the hopes which once shone bright,' and would have made your heart sink.