I will not again refer to the mournful effects produced on your own health from this indulgence in opium, by which you have undermined your strong constitution; but I must notice the injurious consequences which this passion for the narcotic drug has on your literary efforts. What you have already done, excellent as it is, is considered by your friends and the world, as the bloom, the mere promise of the harvest. Will you suffer the fatal draught, which is ever accompanied by sloth, to rob you of your fame, and, what to you is a higher motive, of your power of doing good; of giving fragrance to your memory, amongst the worthies of future years, when you are numbered with the dead?
[And now I would wish in the most delicate manner, to remind you of the injurious effects which these habits of yours produce on your family. From the estimation in which, you are held by the public, I am clear in stating, that a small daily exertion on your part, would be sufficient to obtain for you and them, honour, happiness, and independence. You are still comparatively, a young man, and in such a cause, labour is sweet. Can you withhold so small a sacrifice? Let me sincerely advise you to return home, and live in the circle once more, of your wife and family. There may have been faults on one, possibly on both sides; but calumny itself has never charged criminality. Let all be forgotten, a small effort for the Christian. If I can become a mediator, command me. If you could be prevailed on to adopt this plan, I will gladly defray your expenses to Keswick, and I am sure, with better habits, you would be hailed by your family, I was almost going to say, as an angel from heaven. It will also look better in the eyes of the world, who are always prompt with their own constructions, and these constructions are rarely the most charitable. It would also powerfully promote your own peace of mind.
There is this additional view, which ought to influence you, as it would every generous mind. Your wife and children are domesticated with Southey. He has a family of his own, which by his literary labour, he supports, to his great honour; and to the extra provision required of him on your account, he cheerfully submits; still, will you not divide with him the honour? You have not extinguished in your heart the Father's feelings. Your daughter is a sweet girl. Your two boys are promising; and Hartley, concerning whom you once so affectionately wrote, is eminently clever. These want only a father's assistance to give them credit and honourable stations in life. Will you withhold so equitable and small a boon. Your eldest son will soon be qualified for the university, where your name would inevitably secure him patronage, but without your aid, how is he to arrive there; and afterward, how is he to be supported? Revolve on these things, I entreat you, calmly, on your pillow.]
And now let me conjure you, alike by the voice of friendship, and the duty you owe yourself and family: above all, by the reverence you feel for the cause of Christianity; by the fear of God, and the awfulness of eternity, to renounce from this moment opium and spirits, as your bane! Frustrate not the great end of your existence. Exert the ample abilities which God has given you, as a faithful steward; so will you secure your rightful pre-eminence amongst the sons of genius; recover your cheerfulness; your health; I trust it is not too late! become reconciled to yourself; and through the merits of that Saviour, in whom you profess to trust, obtain, at last, the approbation of your Maker! My dear Coleridge, be wise before it be too late! I do hope to see you a renovated man! and that you will still burst your inglorious fetters, and justify the best hopes of your friends.
Excuse the freedom with which I write. If at the first moment it should offend, on reflection, you will approve at least of the motive, and, perhaps, in a better state of mind, thank and bless me. If all the good which I have prayed for, should not be effected by this letter, I have at least discharged an imperious sense of duty. I wish my manner were less exceptionable, as I do that the advice through the blessing of the Almighty, might prove effectual. The tear which bedims my eye, is an evidence of the sincerity with which I subscribe myself
Your affectionate friend,
The following is Mr. Coleridge's reply.
"April 26th, 1814.
You have poured oil in the raw and festering wound of an old friend's conscience, Cottle! but it is oil of vitriol! I but barely glanced at the middle of the first page of your letter, and have seen no more of it—not from resentment, God forbid! but from the state of my bodily and mental sufferings, that scarcely permitted human fortitude to let in a new visitor of affliction.
The object of my present reply, is, to state the case just as it is—first, that for ten years the anguish of my spirit has been indescribable, the sense of my danger staring, but the consciousness of my GUILT worse—far worse than all! I have prayed, with drops of agony on my brow; trembling, not only before the justice of my Maker, but even before the mercy of my Redeemer. 'I gave thee so many talents, what hast thou done with them?' Secondly overwhelmed as I am with a sense of my direful infirmity, I have never attempted to disguise or conceal the cause. On the contrary, not only to friends, have I stated the whole case with tears, and the very bitterness of shame; but in two instances, I have warned young men, mere acquaintances, who had spoken of having taken laudanum, of the direful consequences, by an awful exposition of its tremendous effects on myself.
Thirdly, though before God I cannot lift up my eyelids, and only do not despair of his mercy, because to despair would be adding crime to crime, yet to my fellow-men, I may say, that I was seduced into the ACCURSED habit ignorantly. I had been almost bed-ridden for many months, with swellings in my knees. In a medical Journal, I unhappily met with an account of a cure performed in a similar case, or what appeared to me so, by rubbing in of Laudanum, at the same time taking a given dose internally. It acted like a charm, like a miracle! I recovered the use of my limbs, of my appetite, of my spirits, and this continued for near a fortnight. At length the unusual stimulus subsided, the complaint returned,—the supposed remedy was recurred to—but I cannot go through the dreary history.
Suffice it to say, that effects were produced which acted on me by terror and cowardice, of pain and sudden death, not (so help me God!) by any temptation of pleasure, or expectation, or desire of exciting pleasurable sensations. On the very contrary, Mrs. Morgan and her sister will bear witness so far, as to say, that the longer I abstained, the higher my spirits were, the keener my enjoyments—till the moment, the direful moment arrived, when my pulse began to fluctuate, my heart to palpitate, and such falling abroad, as it were, of my whole frame, such intolerable restlessness, and incipient bewilderment, that in the last of my several attempts to abandon the dire poison, I exclaimed in agony, which I now repeat in seriousness and solemnity, 'I am too poor to hazard this.' Had I but a few hundred pounds, but L200,—half to send to Mrs. Coleridge, and half to place myself in a private mad house, where I could procure nothing but what a physician thought proper, and where a medical attendant could be constantly with me for two or three months, (in less than that time, life or death would be determined) then there might be hope. Now there is none!! O God! how willingly would I place myself under Dr. Fox, in his establishment; for my case is a species of madness, only that it is a derangement, an utter impotence of the volition, and not of the intellectual faculties. You bid me rouse myself: go bid a man paralytic in both arms, to rub them briskly together, and that will cure him. 'Alas!' he would reply, 'that I cannot move my arms, is my complaint and my misery.' May God bless you, and
Your affectionate, but most afflicted,
S. T. Coleridge."
On receiving this full and mournful disclosure, I felt the deepest compassion for Mr. C.'s state, and sent him the following letter. (Necessary to be given, to understand Mr. Coleridge's reply.)
I am afflicted to perceive that Satan is so busy with you, but God is greater than Satan. Did you ever hear of Jesus Christ? That he came into the world to save sinners? He does not demand, as a condition, any merit of your own, he only says, 'Come and be healed!' Leave your idle speculations: forget your vain philosophy. Come as you are. Come and be healed. He only requires you to be sensible of your need of him, to give him your heart, to abandon with penitence, every evil practice, and he has promised that whosoever thus comes, he will in no wise cast out. To such as you Christ ought to be precious, for you see the hopelessness of every other refuge. He will add strength to your own ineffectual efforts.
For your encouragement, I express the conviction, that such exercises as yours, are a conflict that must ultimately prove successful. You do not cloak your sins. You confess and deplore them. I believe that you will still be as 'a brand plucked from the burning,' and that you (with all your wanderings) will be restored, and raised up, as a chosen instrument, to spread a Saviour's name. Many a 'chief of sinners,' has been brought, since the days of 'Saul of Tarsus,' to sit as a little child, at the Redeemer's feet. To this state you, I am assured, will come. Pray! Pray earnestly, and you will be heard by your Father, which is in Heaven. I could say many things of duty and virtue, but I wish to direct your views at once to Christ, in whom is the alone balm for afflicted souls.
May God ever bless you,
P. S. If my former letter appeared unkind, pardon me! It was not intended. Shall I breathe in your ear?—I know one, who is a stranger to these throes and conflicts, and who finds 'Wisdom's ways to be ways of pleasantness, and her paths, paths of peace."
To this letter I received the following reply.
"O dear friend! I have too much to be forgiven, to feel any difficulty in forgiving the cruellest enemy that ever trampled on me: and you I have only to thank! You have no conception of the dreadful hell of my mind, and conscience, and body. You bid me pray. O, I do pray inwardly to be able to pray; but indeed to pray, to pray with a faith to which a blessing is promised, this is the reward of faith, this is the gift of God to the elect. Oh! if to feel how infinitely worthless I am, how poor a wretch, with just free-will enough to be deserving of wrath, and of my own contempt, and of none to merit a moment's peace, can make a part of a Christian's creed; so far I am a Christian.
April 26, 1814."
S. T. C.
At this time Mr. Coleridge was indeed in a pitiable condition. His passion for opium had so completely subdued his will, that he seemed carried away, without resistance, by an overwhelming flood. The impression was fixed on his mind, that he should inevitably die, unless he were placed under constraint, and that constraint he thought could be alone effected in an asylum! Dr. Fox, who presided over an establishment of this description in the neighbourhood of Bristol, appeared to Mr. C. the individual, to whose subjection he would most like to submit. This idea still impressing his imagination, he addressed to me the following letter.
I have resolved to place myself in any situation, in which I can remain for a month or two, as a child, wholly in the power of others. But, alas! I have no money! Will you invite Mr. Hood, a most dear and affectionate friend to worthless me; and Mr. Le Breton, my old school-fellow, and, likewise, a most affectionate friend: and Mr. Wade, who will return in a few days: desire them to call on you, any evening after seven o'clock, that they can make convenient, and consult with them whether any thing of this kind can be done. Do you know Dr. Fox?
S. T. C.
I have to prepare my lecture. Oh! with how blank a spirit!"
I did know the late Dr. Fox, who was an opulent and liberal-minded man; and if I had applied to him, or any friend had so done, I cannot doubt but that he would instantly have received Mr. Coleridge gratuitously; but nothing could have induced me to make the application, but that extreme case, which did not then appear fully to exist. My sympathy for Mr. C. at this time, was so excited, that I should have withheld no effort, within my power, to reclaim, or to cheer him; but this recurrence to an asylum, I strenuously opposed.
Mr. Coleridge knew Dr. Fox himself, eighteen years before, and to the honour of Dr. E. I think it right to name, that, to my knowledge, in the year 1796, Dr. Fox, in admiration of Mr. C.'s talents, presented him with FIFTY POUNDS!
It must here be, noticed, that, fearing I might have exceeded the point of discretion, in my letter to Mr. C. and becoming alarmed, lest I had raised a spirit that I could not lay, as well as to avoid an unnecessary weight of responsibility, I thought it best to consult Mr. Southey, and ask him, in these harassing circumstances, what I was to do; especially as he knew more of Mr. C.'s latter habits than myself, and had proved his friendship by evidences the most substantial.
The years 1814 and 1815, were the darkest periods in Mr. Coleridge's life. However painful the detail, it is presumed that the reader would desire a knowledge of the undisguised truth. This cannot be obtained without introducing the following letters of Mr. Southey, received from him, after having sent him copies of the letters which passed between Mr. Coleridge and myself.
"Keswick, April, 1814.
My dear Cottle,
You may imagine with what feelings I have read your correspondence with Coleridge. Shocking as his letters are, perhaps the most mournful thing they discover is, that while acknowledging the guilt of the habit, he imputes it still to morbid bodily causes, whereas after every possible allowance is made for these, every person who has witnessed his habits, knows that for the greater, infinitely the greater part, inclination and indulgence are its motives.
It seems dreadful to say this, with his expressions before me, but it is so, and I know it to be so, from my own observation, and that of all with whom he has lived. The Morgans, with great difficulty and perseverance, did break him of the habit, at a time when his ordinary consumption of laudanum was, from two quarts a week, to a pint a day! He suffered dreadfully during the first abstinence, so much so, as to say it was better for him to die than to endure his present feelings. Mrs. Morgan resolutely replied, it was indeed better that he should die, than that he should continue to live as he had been living. It angered him at the time, but the effort was persevered in.
To what then was the relapse owing? I believe to this cause—that no use was made of renewed health and spirits; that time passed on in idleness, till the lapse of time brought with it a sense of neglected duties, and then relief was again sought for a self-accusing mind;—in bodily feelings, which when the stimulus ceased to act, added only to the load of self-accusation. This Cottle, is an insanity which none but the soul's physician can cure. Unquestionably, restraint would do as much for him as it did when the Morgans tried it, but I do not see the slightest reason for believing it would be more permanent. This too I ought to say, that all the medical men to whom Coleridge has made his confession, have uniformly ascribed the evil, not to bodily disease, but indulgence. The restraint which alone could effectually cure, is that which no person can impose upon him. Could he be compelled to a certain quantity of labour every day, for his family, the pleasure of having done it would make his heart glad, and the sane mind would make the body whole.
I see nothing so advisable for him, as that he should come here to Greta Hall. My advice is, that he should visit T. Poole for two or three weeks, to freshen himself and recover spirits, which new scenes never fail to give him. When there, he may consult his friends at Birmingham and Liverpool, on the fitness of lecturing at those two places, at each of which he has friends, and would, I should think beyond all doubt be successful. He must be very unfortunate if he did not raise from fifty to one hundred pounds at the two places. But whether he can do this or not, here it is that he ought to be. He knows in what manner he would be received;—by his children with joy; by his wife, not with tears, if she can control them—certainly not with reproaches;—by myself only with encouragement.
He has sources of direct emolument open to him in the 'Courier,' and in the 'Eclectic Review.'—These for his immediate wants, and for everything else, his pen is more rapid than mine, and would be paid as well. If you agree with me, you had better write to Poole, that he may press him to make a visit, which I know he has promised. His great object should be, to get out a play, and appropriate the whole produce to the support of his son Hartley, at College. Three months' pleasurable exertion would effect this. Of some such fit of industry I by no means despair; of any thing more than fits, I am afraid I do. But this of course I shall never say to him. From me he shall never hear ought but cheerful encouragement, and the language of hope.
You ask me if you did wrong in writing to him. A man with your feelings and principles never does wrong. There are parts which would have been expunged had I been at your elbow, but in all, and in every part it is strictly applicable.
I hope your next will tell me that he is going to T. Poole's—I have communicated none of your letters to Mrs. Coleridge, who you know resides with us. Her spirits and health are beginning to sink under it. God bless you.
After anxious consideration, I thought the only effectual way of benefitting Mr. Coleridge, would be, to renew the object of an annuity, by raising for him, amongst his friends, one hundred, or, if possible, one hundred and fifty pounds a year; purposing through a committee of three, to pay for his comfortable board, and all necessaries, but not of giving him the disposition of any part, till it was hoped, the correction of his bad habits, and the establishment of his better principles, might qualify him for receiving it for his own distribution. It was difficult to believe that his subjection to opium could much longer resist the stings of his own conscience, and the solicitations of his friends, as well as the pecuniary destitution to which his opium habits had reduced him. The proposed object was named to Mr. C. who reluctantly gave his consent.
I now drew up a letter, intending to send a copy to all Mr. Coleridge's old and steady friends, (several of whom approved of the design) but before any commencement was made, I transmitted a copy of my proposed letter to Mr. Southey, to obtain his sanction. The following is his reply.
"April 17, 1814.
I have seldom in the course of my life felt it so difficult to answer a letter, as on the present occasion. There is however no alternative. I must sincerely express what I think, and be thankful that I am writing to one who knows me thoroughly.
Of sorrow and humiliation I will say nothing. Let me come at once to the point. On what grounds can such a subscription as you propose raising for Coleridge be solicited? The annuity to which your intended letter refers, (L150) was given him by the Wedgewoods. Thomas, by his will, settled his portion on Coleridge, for his life. Josiah withdrew his about three years ago. The half still remaining amounts, when the Income Tax is deducted, to L67 10s. That sum Mrs. C. receives at present, and it is all which she receives for supporting herself, her daughter, and the two boys at school:—the boys' expenses amounting to the whole. No part of Coleridge's embarrassment arises from his wife and children,—except that he has insured his life for a thousand pounds, and pays the annual premium. He never writes to them, and never opens a letter from them!
In truth, Cottle, his embarrassments, and his miseries, of body and mind, all arise from one accursed cause—excess in opium, of which he habitually takes more than was ever known to be taken by any person before him. The Morgans, with great effort, succeeded in making him leave it off for a time, and he recovered in consequence health and spirits. He has now taken to it again. Of this indeed I was too sure before I heard from you—that his looks bore testimony to it. Perhaps you are not aware of the costliness of this drug. In the quantity which C. takes, it would consume more than the whole which you propose to raise. A frightful consumption of spirits is added. In this way bodily ailments are produced; and the wonder is that he is still alive.
There are but two grounds on which a subscription of this nature can proceed: either when the, object is disabled from exerting himself; or when his exertions are unproductive. Coleridge is in neither of these predicaments. Proposals after proposals have been made to him by the booksellers, and he repeatedly closed with them. He is at this moment as capable of exertion as I am, and would be paid as well for whatever he might be pleased to do. There are two Reviews,—the 'Quarterly,' and the 'Eclectic,' in both of which he might have employment at ten guineas a sheet. As to the former I could obtain it for him; in the latter, they are urgently desirous of his assistance. He promises, and does nothing.
I need not pursue this subject. What more can I say? He may have new friends who would subscribe to this plan, but they cannot be many; but among all those who know him, his habits are known also.
Do you as you think best. My own opinion is, that Coleridge ought to come here, and employ himself, collecting money by the way by lecturing at Birmingham and Liverpool. Should you proceed in your intention, my name must not be mentioned. I subscribe enough. Here he may employ himself without any disquietude about immediate subsistence. Nothing is wanting to make him easy in circumstances, and happy in himself, but to leave off opium, and to direct a certain portion of his time to the discharge of his duties. Four hours a day would suffice. Believe me, my dear Cottle, very affectionately
Your old friend,
The succeeding post brought me the following letter.
"Keswick, April 18, 1814.
My dear Cottle,
I ought to have slept upon your letter before I answered it. In thinking over the subject (for you may be assured it was not in my power to get rid of the thought) the exceeding probability occurred to me....
When you talked, in the proposed letter you sent me, of Coleridge producing valuable works if his mind were relieved by the certainty of a present income, you suffered your feelings to overpower your memory. Coleridge had that income for many years. It was given him expressly that he might have leisure for literary productions; and to hold out the expectation that he would perform the same conditions, if a like contract were renewed, is what experience will not warrant.
You will probably write to Poole on this subject. In that case, state to him distinctly what my opinion is: that Coleridge should return home to Keswick, raising a supply for his present exigencies, by lecturing at Birmingham, and Liverpool, and then, if there be a necessity, as I fear there will be (arising solely and wholly from his own most culpable habits of sloth and self-indulgence) of calling on his friends to do that which he can and ought to do,—for that time the humiliating solicitation should be reserved....
God bless you,
No advantage would arise from recording dialogues with Mr. Coleridge, it is sufficient to state that Mr. C.'s repugnance to visit Greta Hall, and to apply his talents in the way suggested by Mr. Southey, was invincible; neither would he visit T. Poole, nor lecture at Birmingham nor Liverpool.
Just at this time I was afflicted with the bursting of a blood vessel, occasioned, probably, by present agitations of mind, which reduced me to the point of death; when the intercourse of friends, and even speaking, were wholly prohibited.
During my illness, Mr. Coleridge sent my sister the following letter; and the succeeding one to myself.
"13th May, 1814.
I am uneasy to know how my friend, J. Cottle, goes on. The walk I took last Monday to enquire, in person, proved too much for my strength, and shortly after my return, I was in such a swooning way, that I was directed to go to bed, and orders were given that no one should interrupt me. Indeed I cannot be sufficiently grateful for the skill with which the surgeon treats me. But it must be a slow, and occasionally, an interrupted progress, after a sad retrogress of nearly twelve years. To God all things are possible. I intreat your prayers, your brother has a share in mine.
What an astonishing privilege, that a sinner should be permitted to cry, 'Our Father!' Oh, still more stupendous mercy, that this poor ungrateful sinner should be exhorted, invited, nay, commanded, to pray—to pray importunately. That which great men most detest, namely, importunacy; to this the GIVER and the FORGIVER ENCOURAGES his sick petitioners!
I will not trouble you except for one verbal answer to this note. How is your brother?
With affectionate respects to yourself and your sister,
S. T. Coleridge.
To Miss Cottle, Brunswick Square."
"Friday, 27th May, 1814.
My dear Cottle,
Gladness be with you, for your convalescence, and equally so, at the hope which has sustained and tranquillized you through your imminent peril. Far otherwise is, and hath been, my state; yet I too am grateful; yet I cannot rejoice. I feel, with an intensity, unfathomable by words, my utter nothingness, impotence, and worthlessness, in and for myself. I have learned what a sin is, against an infinite imperishable being, such as is the soul of man.
I have had more than a glimpse of what is meant by death and outer darkness, and the worm that dieth not—and that all the hell of the reprobate, is no more inconsistent with the love of God, than the blindness of one who has occasioned loathsome and guilty diseases to eat out his eyes, is inconsistent with the light of the sun. But the consolations, at least, the sensible sweetness of hope, I do not possess. On the contrary, the temptation which I have constantly to fight up against, is a fear, that if annihilation and the possibility of heaven, were offered to my choice, I should choose the former.
This is, perhaps, in part, a constitutional idiosyncracy, for when a mere boy, I wrote these lines:
Oh, what a wonder seems the fear of death, Seeing how gladly we all sink to sleep; Babes, children, youths and men, Night following night, for three-score years and ten.
And in my early manhood, in lines descriptive of a gloomy solitude, I disguised my own sensations in the following words:
Here wisdom might abide, and here remorse! Here too, the woe-worn man, who weak in soul, And of this busy human heart aweary, Worships the spirit of unconscious life, In tree, or wild-flower. Gentle lunatic! If so he might not wholly cease to BE, He would far rather not be that he is; But would be something that he knows not of, In woods, or waters, or among the rocks.'
My main comfort, therefore, consists in what the divines call the faith of adherence, and no spiritual effort appears to benefit me so much as the one earnest, importunate, and often, for hours, momently repeated prayer: 'I believe, Lord help my unbelief! Give me faith, but as a mustard seed, and I shall remove this mountain! Faith, faith, faith! I believe, O give me faith! O, for my Redeemer's sake, give me faith in my Redeemer.'
In all this I justify God, for I was accustomed to oppose the preaching of the terrors of the gospel, and to represent it as debasing virtue, by the admixture of slaving selfishness.
I now see that what is spiritual, can only be spiritually apprehended. Comprehended it cannot.
Mr. Eden gave you a too flattering account of me. It is true, I am restored, as much beyond my expectations almost, as my deserts; but I am exceedingly weak. I need for myself, solace and refocillation of animal spirits, instead of being in a condition of offering it to others. Yet, as soon as I may see you, I will call on you.
S. T. Coleridge.
P. S. It is no small gratification to me, that I have seen and conversed with Mrs. Hannah More. She is, indisputably, the first literary female I ever met with. In part, no doubt, because she is a Christian. Make my best respects when you write."
The serious expenditure of money, resulting from Mr. C.'s consumption of opium, was the least evil, though very great, and which must have absorbed all the produce of Mr. C.'s lectures, and all the liberalities of his friends. It is painful to record such circumstances as the following, but the picture would be incomplete without it.
Mr. Coleridge, in a late letter, with something it is feared, if not of duplicity, of self-deception, extols the skill of his surgeon, in having gradually lessened his consumption of laudanum, it was understood, to twenty drops a day. With this diminution, the habit was considered as subdued, and at which result, no one appeared to rejoice more than Mr. Coleridge himself. The reader will be surprised to learn, that, notwithstanding this flattering exterior, Mr. C. while apparently submitting to the directions of his medical adviser, was secretly indulging in his usual overwhelming quantities of opium! Heedless of his health, and every honourable consideration, he contrived to obtain surreptitiously, the fatal drug, and, thus to baffle the hopes of his warmest friends.
Mr. Coleridge had resided, at this time, for several months, with his kind friend, Mr. Josiah Wade, of Bristol, who, in his solicitude for his benefit, had procured for him, so long as it was deemed necessary, the professional assistance, stated above. The surgeon on taking leave, after the cure had been effected, well knowing the expedients to which opium patients would often recur, to obtain their proscribed draughts; at least, till the habit of temperance was fully established, cautioned Mr. W. to prevent Mr. Coleridge, by all possible means, from obtaining that by stealth, from which he was openly debarred. It reflects great credit on Mr. Wade's humanity, that to prevent all access to opium, and thus, if possible, to rescue his friend from destruction, he engaged a respectable old decayed tradesman, constantly to attend Mr. C. and, to make that which was sure, doubly certain, placed him even in his bed-room; and this man always accompanied him whenever he went out. To such surveillance Mr. Coleridge cheerfully acceded, in order to show the promptitude with which he seconded the efforts of his friends. It has been stated that every precaution was unavailing. By some unknown means and dexterous contrivances, Mr. C. afterward confessed that he still obtained his usual lulling potions.
As an example, amongst others of a similar nature, one ingenious expedient, to which he resorted, to cheat the doctor, he thus disclosed to Mr. Wade, from whom I received it. He said, in passing along the quay, where the ships were moored, he noticed, by a side glance, a druggist's shop, probably an old resort, and standing near the door, he looked toward the ships, and pointing to one at some distance, he said to his attendant, "I think that's an American." "Oh, no, that I am sure it is not," said the man. "I think it is," replied Mr. C. "I wish you would step over and ask, and bring me the particulars." The man accordingly went; when as soon as his back was turned, Mr. C. stepped into the shop, had his portly bottle filled with laudanum, which he always carried in his pocket, and then expeditiously placed himself in the spot where he was left. The man now returned with the particulars, beginning, "I told you, sir, it was not an American, but I have learned all about her." "As I am mistaken, never mind the rest," said Mr. C. and walked on.
Every bad course of conduct (happily for the good of social order) leads to perplexing, and generally, to disastrous results. The reader will soon have a practical illustration, that Mr. Coleridge was not exempt from the general law.
A common impression prevailed on the minds of his friends, that it was a desperate case, that paralyzed all their efforts: that to assist Mr. C. with money, which, under favourable circumstances, would have been most promptly advanced, would now only enlarge his capacity to obtain the opium which was consuming him. We at length learnt that Mr. Coleridge was gone to reside with his friend Mr. John Morgan, in a small house, at Calne, in Wiltshire. So gloomy were our apprehensions, that even the death of Mr. C. was mournfully expected at no distant period! for his actions at this time, were, we feared, all indirectly of a suicidal description.
In a letter from Mr. Southey, dated Oct. 27, 1814, he thus writes:—
"My dear Cottle,
It is not long since I heard of you from Mr. De Quincey: but I wish you would sometimes let me hear from you. There was a time when scarcely a day passed without my seeing you, and in all that time, I do not remember that there was a passing cloud of coolness between us. The feeling I am sure continues: do not then let us be so entirely separated by distance, which in cases of correspondence may almost be considered as a mere abstraction....
Can you tell me anything of Coleridge? We know that he is with the Morgans at Calne. What is to become of him? He may find men who will give him board and lodging for the sake of his conversation, but who will pay his other expenses? He leaves his family to chance, and charity. With good feelings, good principles, as far as the understanding is concerned, and an intellect as clear, and as powerful, as was ever vouchsafed to man, he is the slave of degrading sensuality, and sacrifices everything to it. The case is equally deplorable and monstrous....
Believe me, my dear Cottle,
Ever your affectionate old friend,
Of Mr. Coleridge, I now heard nothing, but, in common with all his friends, felt deep solicitude concerning his future course; when, in March, 1815, I received from him the following letter:—
"Calne, March 7, 1815.
Dear Cottle, You will wish to know something of myself. In health, I am not worse than when at Bristol I was best; yet fluctuating, yet unhappy! in circumstances 'poor indeed!' I have collected my scattered, and my manuscript poems, sufficient to make one volume. Enough I have to make another. But till the latter is finished, I cannot without great loss of character, publish the former on account of the arrangement, besides the necessity of correction. For instance, I earnestly wish to begin the volumes, with what has never been seen by any, however few, such as a series of Odes on the different sentences of the Lord's Prayer, and more than all this, to finish my greater work on 'Christianity, considered as Philosophy, and as the only Philosophy.' All the materials I have in no small part, reduced to form, and written, but, oh me! what can I do, when I am so poor, that in having to turn off every week, from these to some mean subject for the newspapers, I distress myself, and at last neglect the greater, wholly to do little of the less. If it were in your power to receive my manuscripts, (for instance what I have ready for the press of my poems) and by setting me forward with thirty or forty pounds, taking care that what I send, and would make over to you, would more than secure you from loss, I am sure you would do it. And I would die (after my recent experience of the cruel and insolent spirit of calumny,) rather than subject myself, as a slave, to a club of subscribers to my poverty.
If I were to say I am easy in my conscience, I should add to its pains by a lie; but this I can truly say, that my embarrassments have not been occasioned by the bad parts, or selfish indulgences of my nature. I am at present five and twenty pounds in arrear, my expenses being at L2 10s. per week. You will say I ought to live for less, and doubtless I might, if I were to alienate myself from all social affections, and from all conversation with persons of the same education. Those who severely blame me, never ask, whether at any time in my life, I had for myself and my family's wants, L50 beforehand.
Heaven knows of the L300 received, through you, what went to myself. No! bowed down under manifold infirmities, I yet dare to appeal to God for the truth of what I say; I have remained poor by always having been poor, and incapable of pursuing any one great work, for want of a competence beforehand.
S. T. Coleridge."
This was precisely the termination I was prepared to expect. I had never before, through my whole life refused Mr. C. an application for money; yet I now hesitated: assured that the sum required, was not meant for the discharge of board, (for which he paid nothing) but for the purchase of opium, the expense of which, for years, had amounted nearly to the two pounds ten shillings per week. Under this conviction, and after a painful conflict, I sent Mr. C. on the next day, a friendly letter, declining his request in the kindest manner I could, but enclosing a five pound note. It happened that my letter to Mr. Coleridge passed on the road, another letter from him to myself, far more harrowing than the first. This was the last letter ever received from Mr. C.
The following is Mr. Coleridge's second letter.
"Calne, Wiltshire, March 10, 1815.
My dear Cottle,
I have been waiting with the greatest uneasiness for a letter from you. My distresses are impatient rather than myself: inasmuch as for the last five weeks, I know myself to be a burden on those to whom I am under great obligations: who would gladly do all for me; but who have done all they can! Incapable of any exertion in this state of mind, I have now written to Mr. Hood, and have at length bowed my heart down, to beg that four or five of those, who I had reason to believe, were interested in my welfare, would raise the sum I mentioned, between them, should you not find it convenient to do it. Manuscript poems, equal to one volume of 230 to 300 pages, being sent to them immediately. If not, I must instantly dispose of all my poems, fragments and all, for whatever I can get from the first rapacious bookseller, that will give anything—and then try to get my livelihood where I am, by receiving, or waiting on day-pupils, children, or adults, but even this I am unable to wait for without some assistance: for I cannot but with consummate baseness, throw the expenses of my lodging and boarding for the last five or six weeks on those, who must injure and embarrass themselves in order to pay them. The 'Friend' has been long out of print, and its re-publication has been called for by numbers.
Indeed from the manner in which it was first circulated, it is little less than a new work. To make it a complete and circular work, it needs but about eight or ten papers. This I could, and would make over to you at once in full copy-right, and finish it outright, with no other delay than that of finishing a short and temperate Treatise on the Corn Laws, and their national and moral effects; which had I even twenty pounds only to procure myself a week's ease of mind, I could have printed before the bill had passed the Lords. At all events let me hear by return of post. I am confident that whether you take the property of my Poems, or of my Prose Essays, in pledge, you cannot eventually lose the money.
As soon as I can, I shall leave Calne for Bristol, and if I can procure any day pupils, shall immediately take cheap lodgings near you. My plan is to have twenty pupils, ten youths or adults, and ten boys. To give the latter three hours daily, from eleven o'clock to two, with exception of the usual school vacations, in the Elements of English, Greek, and Latin, presenting them exercises for their employment during the rest of the day, and two hours every evening to the adults (that is from sixteen and older) on a systematic plan of general knowledge; and I should hope that L15 a year, would not be too much to ask from each, which excluding Sundays and two vacations, would be little more than a shilling a day, or six shillings a week, for forty-two weeks.
To this I am certain I could attend with strictest regularity, or indeed to any thing mechanical.
But composition is no voluntary business. The very necessity of doing it robs me of the power of doing it. Had I been possessed of a tolerable competency, I should have been a voluminous writer. But I cannot, as is feigned of the Nightingale, sing with my breast against a thorn. God bless you,
S. T. Coleridge."
The receipt of this letter filled me with the most poignant grief; much for the difficulties to which Mr. C. was reduced, but still more for the cause. In one letter, indignantly spurning the contributions of his "club of subscribers to his poverty;" and in his next, (three days afterwards) earnestly soliciting this assistance! The victorious bearer away of University prizes, now bent down to the humiliating desire of keeping a day school, for a morsel of bread! The man, whose genius has scarcely been surpassed, proposing to "attend" scholars, "children or adults," and to bolster up his head, at night, in "cheap lodgings!" Oppressed with debt, contracted by expending that money on opium, which should have been paid to his impoverished friend; and this, at a moment, when, for the preceding dozen years, if he had called his mighty intellect into exercise, the "world" would have been "all before him, where to choose his place of rest." But at this time he preferred, to all things else, the Circean chalice!
These remarks have reluctantly been forced from me; and never would they have passed the sanctuary of my own breast, but to call on every consumer of the narcotic poison, who fancies, perchance, that in the taking of opium there is pleasure only and no pain, to behold in this memorable example, the inevitable consequences, which follow that "accursed practice!" Property consumed! health destroyed! independence bartered; respectability undermined; family concord subverted! that peace sacrificed, which forms so primary an ingredient in man's cup of happiness!—a deadly war with conscience! and the very mind of the unhappy votary, (whilst the ethereal spirit of natural affection generally escapes! despoiled of its best energies).
I venture the more readily on these reflections, from the hope of impressing some young delinquents, who are beginning to sip the "deadly poison;" little aware that no habit is so progressive, and that he who begins with the little, will rapidly pass on to the much! I am also additionally urged to these mournful disclosures, from their forming one portion only, of Mr. Coleridge's life. It has been my unenviable lot, to exhibit my friend in his lowest points of depression; conflicting with unhallowed practices, and, as the certain consequence, with an accusing conscience.
Most rejoiced should I have been, had my opportunities and acquaintance with Mr. Coleridge continued, to have traced the gradual development into action, of those better principles which were inherent in his mind. This privilege is reserved for a more favoured biographer; and it now remains only for me, in a closing remark, to state, that, had I been satisfied that the money Mr. C. required, would have been expended in lawful purposes, I would have supplied him, (without being an affluent man) to the utmost of his requirements, and not by dividing the honour with others, or receiving his writings in pledge! But, knowing that whatever monies he received would, assuredly, be expended in opium, COMPASSION STAYED MY HAND.
In my reply to his second letter, by "return of post," I enclosed Mr. C. another five pounds: urged him in a kind letter, to come immediately to Bristol, where myself and others, would do all that could be done, to advise and assist him. I told him at the same time, that, when I declined the business of a bookseller, I for ever quitted publishing, so that I could not receive his MSS. valuable as they doubtless were; but I reminded him, that as his merits were now appreciated by the public, the London booksellers would readily enter into a treaty, and remunerate him liberally. Mr. Coleridge returned no answer to my letter; came not to Bristol, but went in the next spring to London, as I learned indirectly: and I now await a narrative of the latter periods of Mr. C.'s life, and particularly the perusal of his "posthumous works," with a solicitude surpassed by none.
I mentioned before that from my intimate knowledge of Mr. Coleridge's sentiments and character, no doubt could be entertained by me, of its being Mr. C.'s earnest wish, in order to exhibit to his successors the pernicious consequences of opium, that, when called from this world, the fullest publicity should be given to its disastrous effects on himself. But whatever confidence existed in my own mind, it might be, I well knew, no easy task, to inspire, with the same assurance, some of his surviving friends; so that I have been compelled to argue the point, and to show, to those who shrunk from such disclosures, that Mr. Coleridge's example was intimately combined with general utility, and that none ought to regret a faithful narration of, (unquestionably) the great bane of his life, since it presented a conspicuous example, which might arrest the attention, and operate as a warning to many others.
From a conviction of the tender ground on which I stood, and entertaining a latent suspicion that some, whom I could wish to have pleased, would still censure, as unjustifiable exposure, what with me was the result of conscience; I repeat, with all these searching apprehensions, the reader will judge what my complicated feelings must have been, of joy and sorrow; a momentary satisfaction, succeeded by the deepest pungency of affliction, when, (after all the preceding was written) Mr. Josiah Wade, presented to me the following mournful and touching letter, addressed to him by Mr. Coleridge, in the year 1814, which, whilst it relieved my mind from so onerous a burden, fully corroborated all that I had presumed, and all that I had affirmed. Mr. W. handed this letter to me, that it might be made public, in conformity with his departed friend's injunction.
"Bristol, June 26th, 1814.
For I am unworthy to call any good man friend—much less you, whose hospitality and love I have abused; accept, however, my intreaties for your forgiveness, and for your prayers.
Conceive a poor miserable wretch, who for many years has been attempting to beat off pain, by a constant recurrence to the vice that reproduces it. Conceive a spirit in bell, employed in tracing out for others the road to that heaven, from which his crimes exclude him! In short, conceive whatever is most wretched, helpless, and hopeless, and you will form as tolerable a notion of my state, as it is possible for a good man to have.
I used to think the text in St. James that 'he who offended in one point, offends in all,' very harsh: but I now feel the awful, the tremendous truth of it. In the one crime of OPIUM, what crime have I not made myself guilty of!—Ingratitude to my Maker! and to my benefactors—injustice! and unnatural cruelty to my poor children!—self-contempt for my repeated promise—breach, nay, too often, actual falsehood!
After my death, I earnestly entreat, that a full and unqualified narration of my wretchedness, and of its guilty cause, may be made public, that at least, some little good may be effected by the direful example.
May God Almighty bless you, and have mercy on your still affectionate, and in his heart, grateful—
S. T. Coleridge."
This is indeed a redeeming letter. We here behold Mr. Coleridge in the lowest state of human depression, but his condition is not hopeless. It is not the insensibility of final impenitence; it is not the slumber of the grave. A gleam of sunshine bursts through the almost impenetrable gloom; and the virtue of that prayer "May God Almighty have mercy!" in a penitent heart, like his, combined as we know it was, with the recognition of Him, who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," authorizes the belief, that a spirit thus exercised, had joys in reserve, and was to become the recipient of the best influences that can illumine regenerate man.
No individual ever effected great good in the moral world, who had not been subjected to a long preliminary discipline; and he who knows what is in man; who often educes good from evil, can best apportion the exact kind and degree, indispensable to each separate heart. Mr. Coleridge, after this time, lived twenty years. A merciful providence, though with many mementos of decay, preserved his body, and in all its vigor sustained his mind. Power was given him, it is presumed, and fervently hoped, to subdue his former pernicious practices. The season of solemn reflection it is hoped arrived, that his ten talents were no longer partially buried, but that the lengthened space extended to him, was consecrated by deep reflection, and consequent qualification, to elucidate and establish the everlasting principles of Christian truth.
Under such advantages, we are authorized in forming the highest expectations from his Great Posthumous Work. Nothing which I have narrated of Mr. Coleridge, will in the least subtract from the merit, or the impression of that production, effected in his mature manhood, when his renovated faculties sent forth new corruscations, and concentrated the results of all his profound meditations. The very process to which he had been exposed, so unpropitious as it appeared, may have been the most favourable for giving consistency to his intellectual researches. He may have thought in channels the more refined, varied, and luminous, from the ample experience he had acquired, that the only real evil in this world, was the frown of the Almighty, and His favor the only real good; so that the grand work, about to appear, may add strength to the strong, and give endurance to the finished pediment of his usefulness and his fame.
But although all these cheering anticipations should be fully realized, regrets will still exist. It will ever be deplored, that Mr. Coleridge's system of Christian Ethics, had not yet been deliberately recorded by himself. This feeling, however natural, is still considerably moderated, by reflecting on the ample competence of the individual on whom the distinction of preparing this system has devolved; a security that it will be both well and faithfully executed, and which, in the same proportion that it reflects credit on the editor, will embalm with additional honours, the memory of SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE; a genius, who in the opulence of his imagination, and his rich and inexhaustible capabilities, as a poet, a logician, and a metaphysician, has not perhaps been surpassed since the days of Milton.
The following letter of Mr. Coleridge, was written a short time before his death, to a young friend. This deliberate exposition of his faith, and at such a season, cancels every random word or sentence, Mr. C. may ever have expressed or written, of an opposing tendency. In thoughtless moments Mr. C. may sometimes have expressed himself unguardedly, attended, on reflection, no doubt with self-accusation, but here in the full prospect of dissolution, he pours forth the genuine and ulterior feelings of his soul.
"To Adam Steinmetz Kinnaird,
My dear godchild,—I offer up the same fervent prayer for you now, as I did kneeling before the altar, when you were baptized into Christ, and solemnly received as a living member of his spiritual body, the church. Years must, pass before you will be able to read with an understanding heart what I now write. But I trust that the all-gracious God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, who, by his only-begotten Son, (all mercies in one sovereign mercy!) has redeemed you from evil ground, and willed you to be born out of darkness, but into light; out of death, but into life; out of sin, but into righteousness; even into 'the Lord our righteousness;' I trust that he will graciously hear the prayers of your dear parents, and be with you as the spirit of health and growth, in body and in mind. My dear godchild, you received from Christ's minister, at the baptismal font, as your Christian name, the name of a most dear friend of your father's, and who was to me even as a son, the late Adam Steinmetz, whose fervent aspirations, and paramount aim, even from early youth, was to be a Christian in thought, word, and deed; in will, mind, and affections. I too, your godfather, have known what the enjoyment and advantages of this life are, and what the more refined pleasures which learning and intellectual power can give; I now, on the eve of my departure, declare to you, and earnestly pray that you may hereafter live and act on the conviction, that health is a great blessing; competence, obtained by honourable industry, a great blessing; and a great blessing it is, to have kind, faithful, and loving friends and relatives; but that the greatest of all blessings, as it is the most ennobling of all privileges, is to be indeed a Christian. But I have been likewise, through a large portion of my later life, a sufferer, sorely affected with bodily pains, languor, and manifold infirmities, and for the last three or four years have, with few and brief intervals, been confined to a sick room, and at this moment, in great weakness and heaviness, write from a sick bed, hopeless of recovery, yet without prospect of a speedy removal. And I thus, on the brink of the grave, solemnly bear witness to you, that the Almighty Redeemer, most gracious in his promises to them that truly seek him, is faithful to perform what he has promised; and has reserved, under all pains and infirmities, the peace that passeth all understanding, with the supporting assurance of a reconciled God, who will not withdraw his spirit from me in the conflict, and in his own time will deliver me from the evil one. O my dear godchild! eminently blessed are they who begin early to seek, fear, and love, their God, trusting wholly in the righteousness and mediation of their Lord, Redeemer, Saviour, and everlasting High Priest, Jesus Christ. Oh, preserve this as a legacy and bequest from your unseen godfather and friend,
S. T. Coleridge.
July 13th, 1834, Grove, Highgate."
Is the writer of this epistle the man, who twenty years before, even coveted annihilation! Is this the man, who so long preferred, to all things else, the "Circean chalice!" Is this he, who at one time, learned to his unutterable dismay, what a sin was, "against an imperishable being, such as is the soul of man." Is this he, whose will was once extinguished by an unhallowed passion, and he himself borne along toward perdition by a flood of intemperance! Is this the man who resisted the light, till darkness entered his mind, and with it a "glimpse of outer darkness!" Is this he, who feared that his own inveterate and aggravated crimes would exclude him, from that heaven, the road to which he was tracing out for others! Is this he, that through successive years, contended with the severest mental and bodily afflictions; who knew the cause, but rejected the remedy?—who, in 1807, declared himself "rolling rudderless," "the wreck of what he once was," "with an unceasing overwhelming sensation of wretchedness?" and in 1814, who still pronounced himself the endurer of all that was "wretched, helpless, and hopeless?" Samuel Taylor Coleridge is the man on whom all these charges and fearful anticipations once rested: but he it is fervently hoped, was changed; that he was renovated; that, when refuge failed, an unseen power subdued the rebellious, and softened the hard; and that he approached the verge of life in the serenity of faith and hope.
Before the effect of this letter, the eccentricities of S. T. Coleridge—his indiscretions, his frailties, vanish away. There is in it a mellowed character, accordant with a proximity to the eternal state, when alone the objects of time assume their true dimensions; when, earth receding; eternity opening; the spirit, called to launch its untried bark on the dark and stormy waters that separate both worlds, descries light afar, and leans, as its only solace, on the hope of the christian.
Checkered indeed was the life of this great but imperfect man. His dawn was not without promise. Hopes and blessings attended him in his course, but mists obscured his noon, and tempests long followed him; yet he set, it is hoped, serene and in splendor, looking on, through faith in his Redeemer, to that cloudless morning, where his sun shall no more go down.
* * * * *
The attention of the reader will now be directed to letters of Mr. Southey, briefly relating to Mr. Coleridge, and to circumstances connected with the publication of the "Early Recollections of S. T. Coleridge," 1837;—with a reference to the distressing malady with which Mrs. Southey was afflicted.
"Keswick, Feb. 26, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
... I never go out but for regular exercise. Constant occupation; a daily walk whatever the weather may be; constitutional buoyancy of spirits; the comfort I have in my daughters and son; the satisfaction of knowing that nothing is neglected for my dear Edith, which can be done by human care and dutiful attention; above all, a constant trust in God's mercy, and the certainty that whatever he appoints for us is best; these are my supports, and I have as much cause to be thankful for present consolation, as for past happiness.
... If this domestic affliction had not fallen upon us, it was my intention to have seen you in October 1834, and have brought my son Cuthbert with me; and if it please God that I should ever be able to leave home for a distant journey, this I still hope to do, and if you are not then in a better place than Bedminster, I am selfish enough to wish you may stay there till we meet; and indeed for the sake of others, that it may be to the utmost limits which may be assigned us. I would give a great deal to pass a week with you in this world. When I called on your brother Robert, in London, four years ago, he did not recollect me, and yet I was the least changed of the two.
I should very much like to show you the correspondence which once passed between Shelley and myself. Perhaps you are not acquainted with half of his execrable history. I know the whole, and as he gave me a fit opportunity, I read him such a lecture upon it as he deserved.
God bless you, my dear old friend,
I shall now refer to some incidental subjects relating to Mr. Southey, which could not be well introduced in an earlier stage.
In drawing up my "Early Recollections of S. T. Coleridge," so many references had been made to Mr. Southey, that, notwithstanding his general permission, I deemed it proper to transmit him the MS., with a request that he would, without hesitation, draw his pen across any portions to which he either objected, or thought it might be better to omit. A further benefit also was anticipated by such inspection, as any error which might inadvertently have crept in, as to facts and dates, would infallibly be detected by Mr. Southey's more retentive memory. Mr. S. thus replied:
"Keswick, March 6, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
You will see that I have drawn my pen across several passages in your MS. of "Early Recollections." The easiest way of showing you those small inaccuracies, will be by giving you a slight summary of the facts, most of them antecedent to my introduction to you.
Since your manuscript has arrived, I have received from London, two volumes of 'Letters and Conversations of S. T. Coleridge,' published anonymously by one of his later friends, Mr. Alsop, by name, a person of whom I never heard before. Mr. Moxon, the publisher, writes to me thus concerning it: 'In many respects I regret that I undertook the publication of the work, for though at my earnest solicitation, many objectionable passages respecting both yourself and Mr. Wordsworth were left out, yet much I fear still remains that ought not to have been published; and yet if I had refused the work, it would most likely have been published by some other bookseller, with more in it to offend than there is at present.'
Now there is nothing in this work relating to myself of the slightest consequence, but the worst enemy of S. T. C. could not have done so much injury to his character as this injudicious friend has done; who, be it observed, was also a friend of Cobbet's. He calls on Mr. Green, his presumed editor, not to conceal Coleridge's real opinions from the public, and certainly represents those opinions as being upon most, if not all subjects, as lax as his own. Coleridge's nephews,—the Bishop and Judge—are wantonly insulted by this person, and contemptuous speeches of his are reported concerning dead and living individuals, for whom he professed friendship, and from whom he had received substantial proofs of kindness. Heaven preserve me from such a friend as Mr. Alsop! But I never could have admitted such a person to my friendship, nor, if I had, would he have any such traits of character to record....
Now then to your narrative, or rather to mine; referring to incidents which took place before Coleridge's and my own acquaintance with yourself; by which you will perceive on what small points you were misinformed, and in what your memory has deceived you.
In the summer of 1794, S. T. Coleridge and Hucks came to Oxford, on their way into Wales on a pedestrian tour. Allen introduced them to me, and the scheme of Pantisocracy was introduced by them; talked of, by no means determined on. It was subsequently talked into shape by Burnet and myself, at the commencement of the long vacation. We separated from Coleridge and Hucks: they making for Gloucester; Burnet and I proceeding on foot to Bath.
After some weeks, Coleridge returning from his tour, came to Bristol on his way, and stopped there. (I being there.) Then it was that we resolved on going to America, and S. T. C., and I walked into Somersetshire to see Burnet, and on that journey it was that we first saw Poole. Coleridge made his engagement with Miss Fricker, on our return from this journey, at my mother's house in Bath;—not a little to my astonishment, for he had talked of being deeply in love with a certain Mary Evans. I had been previously engaged to her sister, my poor Edith!—whom it would make your heart ache to see at this time!
We remained at Bristol till the close of the vacation; several weeks. During that time we again talked of America. The funds were to be what each could raise. Coleridge, by his projected work, 'Specimens of Modern Latin Poems,' for which he had printed proposals, and obtained a respectable list of Cambridge subscribers, before I knew him: I by 'Joan of Arc,' and what else I might publish. I had no rich relations, except one, my uncle, John Southey, of Taunton, who took no notice of his brother's family; nor any other expectation. He hoped to find companions with money.
Coleridge returned to Cambridge, and then published 'The Fall of Robespierre;' while Lovell (who had married one of the Miss Frickers) and I, published a thin volume of poems at Bath. My first transaction with you was for 'Joan of Arc,' and this was before Coleridge's arrival at Bristol, and soon after Lovell had introduced me to you. Coleridge did not come back again to Bristol till January 1795, nor would he I believe have come back at all, if I had not gone to London to look for him, for having got there from Cambridge at the beginning of winter, there he remained without writing either to Miss Fricker or myself.
At last I wrote to Favell (a Christ's Hospital boy, whose name I knew as one of his friends, and whom he had set down as one of our companions) to inquire concerning him, and learnt in reply, that S. T. Coleridge was at 'The Cat and Salutation,' in Newgate Street.  Thither I wrote. He answered my letter, and said, that on such a day he should set off for Bath by the waggon. Lovell and I walked from Bath to meet him. Near Marlborough we met with the appointed waggon; but no S. T. Coleridge was therein! A little while afterward, I went to London, and not finding him at 'The Cat and Salutation,' called at Christ's Hospital, and was conducted by Favell to 'The Angel Inn, Butcher Hall street,' whither Coleridge had shifted his quarters. I brought him then to Bath, and in a few days to Bristol.
In the intermediate time between his leaving Bristol, and returning to it, the difficulties of getting to America became more and more apparent. Wynne wrote to press upon me the expedience of trying our scheme of Pantisocracy in Wales, knowing how impracticable it would be any where; knowing also, that there was no hope of convincing me of its impracticability, at that time. In our former plan we were all agreed, and expected that what the earth failed to produce for us, the pen would supply. Such were our views in January 1795; when S. T. Coleridge gave his first and second lectures in the Corn Market, and his third in a vacant house in Castle Green. These were followed by my lectures, and you know the course of our lives till the October following, when we parted.
By that time I had seen that no dependence could be placed on Coleridge. No difference took place between us when I communicated to him my intention of going with my uncle to Lisbon, nor even a remonstrance on his part; nor had I the slightest suspicion that he intended to quarrel with me, till ——'s insolence made it apparent; and I then learnt from Mrs. Morgan (poor John Morgan's mother) in what manner he was speaking of me. This was in October. From that time to my departure for Lisbon you know my history. Lovell did not die till six months afterward. The 'Watchman' was not projected till I was on my way to Lisbon.
Poor Burnet's history would require a letter of itself. He became deranged on one point, which was that of hatred to me, whom he accused of having jealously endeavoured to suppress his talents! This lasted about six months, in the year 1802, and it returned again in the last year of his life. The scheme of Pantisocracy proved his ruin; but he was twice placed in situations where he was well provided for. I had the greatest regard for him, and would have done, and indeed, as far as was in my power, did my utmost to serve him God bless you, my dear old friend,
Yours most affectionately,
"Keswick, 14 April, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
If you are drawing up your 'Recollections of Coleridge,' for separate publication, you are most welcome to insert anything of mine which you might think proper; but it is my wish that nothing of mine may go into the hands of any person concerned in bringing forward Coleridge's MSS.
I know that Coleridge at different times of his life never let pass an opportunity of speaking ill of me. Both Wordsworth and myself have often lamented the exposure of duplicity which must result from the publication of his letters, and by what he has delivered by word of mouth to the worshippers by whom he was always surrounded. To Wordsworth and to me, it matters little. Coleridge received from us such substantial services as few men have received from those whose friendship they had forfeited. This indeed was not the case with Wordsworth, as it was with me, for he knew not in what manner Coleridge had latterly spoken of him. But I continued all possible offices of kindness to his children, long after I regarded his own conduct with that utter disapprobation which alone it can call forth from all who had any sense of duty and moral obligation.
Poole from whom I had a letter by the same post with yours, thinks, from what you have said concerning Coleridge's habit of taking opium, that it would operate less to deter others from the practice, than it would lead them to flatter themselves in indulging in it, by the example of so great a man. That there is some probability in this I happen to know from the effect of Mr. De Quincey's book; one who had never taken a drop of opium before, but took so large a dose, for the sake of experiencing the sensations which had been described, that a very little addition to the dose might have proved fatal. There, however, the mischief ended, for he never repeated the experiment. But I apprehend if you send what you have written, about Coleridge and opium, it will not be made use of, and that Coleridge's biographer will seek to find excuses for his abuse of that drug. Indeed in Mr. Alsop's book, it is affirmed that the state of his heart, and other appearances in his chest, showed the habit to have been brought on by the pressure of disease in those parts:—the more likely inference is, that the excess brought on the disease.
I am much pleased with your "Predictions." Those who will not be convinced by such scriptural proofs, if they pretend to admit any authority in the Scriptures, would not, though one rose from the dead.
God bless you, my dear old friend. Whenever I can take a journey, I will, if you are living, come to Bedminster. There is no other place in the world which I remember with such feelings as that village.
Believe me always yours most affectionately,
In answer to an invitation, Mr. Southey thus replied.
"Keswick, August 16, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
... Be assured, whenever it may seem fitting for me to take so long a journey, I shall come to you with as cordial a feeling of unchanged and unabated friendship as that with which you I know will receive me. It is very much my wish to do so, to show Cuthbert my son (who will accompany me) the scenes of my boyhood and youth, and the few friends who are left to me in the West of England. There is an urgent reason why I should go to London before the last volume of Cowper is brought forth, if domestic circumstances can be so arranged as to admit of this, and I would fain hope it may be; I shall then certainly proceed to the West.
Longman has determined to print my poetical works in ten monthly parts, and I have to prepare accordingly for the press. No one will take more interest than yourself in this arrangement. I have much to correct, much to alter, and not a little to add: among other things, a general preface, tracing the circumstances which contributed to determine my course as a poet.
I can say nothing which would give you pleasure to hear on a subject which concerns me so nearly. We have continued variations of better and worse, with no tendency to amendment; and according to all human foresight, no hope of recovery. We entertain no guests, and admit no company whom it is possible to exclude. God bless you, my dear old friend, and believe me always
Yours most affectionately,
I now refer to an occurrence that gave me some uneasiness. It appears, from the following letter that the family of Mr. Coleridge felt uneasy at learning that I intended to disclose to the public, the full extent of Mr. C.'s subjection to opium.
"September 30, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
... Coleridge's relations are uneasy at what they hear of your intention to publish an account of him. Yesterday I learnt personally, from an influential member of the family, what their objections particularly were. He specified as points on which they were uncomfortable, Coleridge's own letter, or letters, respecting opium, and the circumstances of a gift of three hundred pounds from Mr. De Quincey.
The truth is, that Coleridge's relations are placed in a most uncomfortable position. They cannot say that any one of themselves will bring out a full and authentic account of C. because they know how much there is, which all who have any regard for Coleridge's memory, would wish to be buried with him. But we will talk over the subject when we meet. Meantime I have assured —— that your feelings toward Coleridge are, what they have ever been, friendly in the highest degree.
How like a dream does the past appear! through the last years of my life more than any other part. All hope of recovery, or even of amendment, is over! In all reason I am convinced of this; and yet at times when Edith speaks and looks like herself, I am almost ready to look for what, if it occurred, would be a miracle. It is quite necessary that I should be weaned from this constant object of solicitude; so far at least as to refresh myself, and recruit for another period of confinement. Like all other duties, it brings with it its reward: and when I consider with how many mercies this affliction has been tempered, I have cause indeed to be thankful. Believe me always, my dear Cottle,
Yours most affectionately,
A few days after I received the following letter from Mr. Southey:—
"Keswick, Oct. 10, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
I have long foreseen that poor S. T. Coleridge would leave a large inheritance of uneasiness to his surviving friends, and those who were the most nearly connected with him.
The Head of the Family being in these parts, I have heard more concerning the affair of your Memoir, as it respects the feelings of that family than I should otherwise. He is a thoroughly good man; mild, unassuming, amiable, and judicious beyond most men. This matter interests him greatly, on account of his brother having married Mr. S. T. Coleridge's daughter. Indeed it is in consequence of a letter from the —— that I am now writing. He cared nothing when a gross and wanton insult was offered to him in that ... book, but on this occasion he is much concerned.
A few omissions (one letter in particular, respecting the habit of taking opium,) would spare them great pain, and leave your book little the poorer, rich as your materials are. Wilfully I am sure you never gave pain to any human being, nor any living creature.... You are not like a witness who is required to tell all which he knows. In those cases the moral law requires us to tell nothing but the truth, but does not demand the whole truth, unless the suppression of any part of it should be tantamount to falsehood.
Of this indeed you are fully aware. You have enough to tell that is harmless as well as interesting, and not only harmless, but valuable and instructive, and that ought to be told, and which no one but yourself can tell. Strike out only.... I will read over the Memoir when we meet. You have abundance of materials; and many things may come to mind which may supply the place of what should be withdrawn. You will understand my motive in pressing this upon you. God bless you, my dear old friend.
Your's most affectionately,
As I determined to publish nothing relating to Mr. Coleridge, without Mr. Southey's sanction, my first impression, on the receipt of this letter, was, wholly to withdraw the work;—but as I expected soon to see Mr. S., I resolved to suspend my determination till he had an opportunity of inspecting the MS. once more, when his specific objections might be better understood.
Two or three weeks after receiving the former letter, Mr. S. addressed to me the following hasty line:—
"Friday, Nov. 1, 1836, Pipe Hayes.
My dear Cottle,
Here we are, six miles from Birmingham. Our places are taken for Thursday morning, in the coach which starts from the Hen and Chickens, Birmingham. To what Inn it comes in Bristol, I forgot to ask. So, if on our arrival, we do not find your vehicle, we shall pack ourselves, and our luggage, in a hackney-coach, without delay, and drive to Carlton Villa. So on Thursday evening I hope to see you.
God bless you, my dear old friend,
P.S. "I saw Wordsworth on my way, and mentioned your wish about engraving his portrait. He referred it entirely to my opinion of its likeness."
On his arrival, Mr. Southey deliberately re-read the whole of my MS., and objected alone to a few trifles, which were expunged. He read the series of opium letters with a mind evidently affected, but no part did he interdict. He now arrived at, and read the solemn Testamentary Letter,(p. 394 [Letter dating "Bristol, June 26th, 1814. Transcriber.]). I said to him, "Southey shall I, or shall I not, omit this letter." He paused for a few moments, and then distinctly said. "You must print it. It is your authority for what you have done." He then continued, "You must print it also, for the sake of faithful biography, and for the beneficial effect this, and the other opium letters must inevitably produce." This unqualified approval determined me to publish the whole of the opium letters.
I here give the next letter I received from Mr. Southey, when he had returned home, after his long excursion to Bristol, and the West of England, by which it will be perceived that no after inclination existed in Mr. S.'s mind to alter the opinion he had given.
"Keswick, May 9, 1837.
My dear Cottle,
It is scarcely possible that a day should pass, in which some circumstance, some object, or train of recollection, does not bring you to my mind. You may suppose then how much I thought of you during the employment I recently got through of correcting "Joan of Arc" for the last time....
Our journey, after we left your comfortable house, was as prosperous as it could be at that time of the year. We have reason, indeed, to be thankful, that travelling so many hundred miles, in all sorts of ways, and over all kinds of roads, we met with no mischief of any kind; nor any difficulties greater than what served for matter of amusement. During the great hurricane, we were at Dawlish, in a house on the beach, from which we saw the full effect of its force on the sea.
The great snow-storm caught us at Tavistock, and rendered it impossible for us to make our intended excursion on Dartmoor. Cuthbert and I parted company at my friend, Miss Caroline Bowles's, near Lymington, he going to his brother-in-law, (at Terring, where he is preparing for the University,) I, the next day, to London. I joined him again at Terring, three weeks afterward; and, after a week, made the best of my way home.
The objects of my journey were fully accomplished. Cuthbert has seen most of the spots which I desired to show him, and has been introduced to the few old friends whom I have left in the West of England. I had much pleasure, but not unmingled with pain, in visiting many places which brought back vividly the remembrance of former days; but to Cuthbert, all was pure pleasure.
God bless you, my dear old friend,
In a previous letter Mr. Southey had said in a contemplative mood,
"... Little progress is made in my 'Life of George Fox' but considerable preparation. This, and some sketches of Monastic history, will probably complete the ecclesiastical portion of my labours. Alas! I have undertaken more than there is any reasonable likelihood of completing. My head will soon be white, and I feel a disposition to take more thought for the morrow than I was wont to do; not as if distrusting providence, which has hitherto supported me, but my own powers of exertion!"
I pass over the intervening period between this, and my old friend's mental affliction, as more properly belonging to Mr. Southey's regular biographer, but this much I may observe.
Having heard, with the deepest concern, that Mr. Southey's mind was affected, I addressed a kind letter to him, to inquire after his health, and requested only one line from him, to relieve my anxiety, if only the signing of his name. I received a letter in reply, from his kindest friend, of which the following is an extract.
"... With deep and affectionate interest he read and re-read your letter, and many times in the course of the evening he received it I observed tears in his eyes. 'I will write to Cottle,' he has often repeated since, but alas! the purpose remains unfulfilled, and from me, dear sir, you must receive the explanation of his silence...."
On communicating this melancholy intelligence to my old and valued friend, Mr. Foster, he thus replied.
"My dear sir,
I am obliged for your kind note, and the letter, which I here return. I can well believe that you must feel it a mournful communication. A friend in early life: a friend ever since; a man highly, and in considerable part, meritoriously conspicuous in the literature of the age; and now at length prostrated, and on the borders of the grave; for there can be no doubt the bodily catastrophe will soon follow the mental one. It is a most wonderful career that he has run in literary achievement, and it is striking to see such a man disabled at last, even to write a letter to an old friend! It is interesting to myself, as it must be to every one accustomed to contemplate the labours and productions of mind, to see such a spirit finally resigning its favourite occupations, and retiring from its fame!..."
Mr. Foster, referring to the death of his friends, thus afterwards wrote.
"Stapleton, June 22, 1842.
My dear sir,
... How our old circle is narrowing around us. Going back just three years and a-half, I was recounting yesterday eleven persons departed within that space of time; three-fourths of those who had formed, till then, the list of my old friends and acquaintance, leaving just a few, how few, of those who are my coevals, or approaching to that standard. You are within one, and he at a great distance, whom I may never see again, the oldest in both senses, of the almost solitary remainder. Our day is not far off. Oh, may we be prepared to welcome its arrival...."
The following is an extract from another letter of Mr. Foster's containing the same train of thought.
"My dear sir,
... My thoughts are often pensively turning on the enumeration of those I may call my coevals; and many of them of long acquaintance who have been called away within these few years. An old, and much valued friend at Worcester, Mr. Stokes, from whose funeral I returned little more than in time to attend that of our estimable friend, your brother-in-law, Mr. Hare; since then, your excellent sister Mary. Mr. Coles, of Bourton, known and esteemed almost forty years. Mr. Addington. Lately in Scotland, the worthy Mr. Dove; and now last of all, so unexpectedly, Mr. Roberts. I dined with him at Mr. Wade's, perhaps not more than ten days before his death....
With friendly regards, I remain, my dear sir,
Most truly yours,
A letter of mine to Mr. Foster, referring chiefly to Mr. Southey, may not inappropriately be here introduced.
"July 6, 1842.
To the Rev. John Foster,
My dear Sir,—I sympathize with you on the comparatively recent loss of so large a proportion of your early friends and acquaintance. I can, to a great extent, participate in similar feelings. Yourself and Mr. Wordsworth are the only two survivors, of all with whom in early life I joined in familiar intercourse, for poor dear Southey since I last wrote to you concerning him, is worse than dead. Mr. W., who dined with me last summer, told me that he does not now know his own children. He said, he had a short time previously called upon him, and he fancied that a slight glimpse of remembrance crossed his mind, when, in a moment, he silently passed to his library, and taking down a book, (from mechanical habit) turned over the pages, without reading, or the power of reading. Pardon prolixity, where the heart is so full. Surely the world does not present a more melancholy, or a more humiliating sight, than the prostration of so noble a mind as that of my old and highly-prized friend, Robert Southey. When I first knew him, he had all that Westminster and Oxford could give him. He was, as the Mores said, to whom I had introduced him, 'brimfull of literature:' decisive and enthusiastic in all his sentiments, and impetuous in all his feelings, whether of approval or dislike. I never knew one more uncompromising in what he believed either to be right, or wrong; thereby marking the integrity of his mind, which ever shrunk from the most distant approximation to duplicity or meanness.
This disposition manifested itself almost in infancy, for his mother, an acute and very worthy woman, told me, in the year 1798, that whenever any mischief or accident occurred amongst the children, which some might wish to conceal, she always applied to Robert, who never hesitated, or deviated from the truth, though he himself might have been implicated. And in after life, whatever sentiments he avowed, none who knew the confirmed fidelity of his mind, could possibly doubt that they were the genuine dictates of his heart.
There was in Southey, alas! his sun is set!—I must, write in the third person!—one other quality which commands admiration; an habitual delicacy in his conversation, evidencing that cheerfulness and wit might exist without ribaldry, grossness, or profanation. He neither violated decorum himself, nor tolerated it in others. I have been present when a trespasser of the looser class, has received, a rebuke, I might say a castigation, well deserved, and not readily forgotten. His abhorrence also of injustice, or unworthy conduct, in its diversified shapes, had all the decision of a Roman censor; while this apparent austerity was associated, when in the society he liked, with so bland and playful a spirit, that it abolished all constraint, and rendered him one of the most agreeable, as well as the most intelligent of companions.
It must occasionally have been exemplified in your experience, that some writers who have acquired a transient popularity, perchance, more from adventitious causes, than sterling merit, appear at once to occupy an increased space, and fancy that he who fills his own field of vision, occupies the same space in the view of others. This disposition will almost invariably be found in those who most readily depreciate those whom they cannot excel; as if every concession to the merits of another subtracted from their own claims. Southey was eminently exempt from this little feeling. He heartily encouraged genius, wherever it was discoverable; whether, 'with all appliances,' the jewel shone forth from academic bowers, or whether the gem was incrusted with extraneous matter, and required the toil of polishing; indifferent to him, it met with the encouraging smile, and the fostering care.
It may be truly said, Mr. Southey exacted nothing, and consequently his excellencies were the more readily allowed; and this merit was the greater, since, as Mr. Coleridge remarked, "he had written on so many subjects, and so well on all." Although his company was sought by men of the first rank and talent, from whom he always received that acknowledgment, if not deference, which is due to great attainments and indisputable genius, yet such honours excited no plebeian pride. It produced none of that morbid inflation, which, wherever found, instinctively excites a repulsive feeling. It was this unassuming air, this suavity of deportment, which so attached Southey to his friends, and gave such permanence to their regard.
It seems almost invidious to single out one distinguishing quality in his mind, when so many deserve notice, but I have often been struck with the quickness of his perception; the promptitude with which he discovered whatever was good or bad in composition, either in prose or verse. When reading the production of another, the tones of his voice became a merit-thermometer, a sort of Aeolian-harp-test; in the flat parts his voice was unimpassioned, but if the gust of genius swept over the wires, his tones rose in intensity, till his own energy of feeling and expression kindled in others a sympathetic impulse, which the dull were forced to feel, whilst his animated recitations threw fresh meaning into the minds of the more discerning.
What an emblem of human instability! The idea of Robert Southey's altered state can hardly force itself on my imagination. The image of one lately in full vigour, who appeared, but as yesterday, all thought and animation, whose mind exhibited a sort of rocky firmness, and seemed made almost for perpetuity; I say it is hard to conceive of faculties so strong and richly matured, reduced now even to imbecility! The image of death I could withstand, for it is the lot of mortals, but the spectacle of such a mind associated with living extinction, appears incongruous, and to exceed the power of possible combination. Those who witnessed the progressive advances of this mournful condition were prepared for the event by successive changes, but with my anterior impressions, if in his present state I were to be abruptly presented to Robert Southey, and met the vacant and cold glance of indifference, the concussion to my feelings would so overwhelm, that—merciful indeed would be the power which shielded me from a like calamity.
Southey spent a week with me, four or five years ago, when he manifested the same kind and cordial behaviour, which he had uniformly displayed for nearly half a century, and which had never during that long period been interrupted for a moment. Nor was steadfastness in friendship one of his least excellencies. From the kindliness of his spirit, he excited an affectionate esteem in his friends, which they well knew no capriciousness on his part would interrupt: to which, it might be added, his mind was well balanced, presenting no unfavourable eccentricities, and but few demands for the exercise of charity. Justly also, may it be affirmed, that he was distinguished for the exemplary discharge of all the social and relative virtues; disinterestedly generous, and scrupulously conscientious, presenting in his general deportment, courteousness without servility, and dignity without pride. There was in him so much kindliness and sincerity, so much of upright purpose, and generous feeling, that the belief is forced on the mind, that, through the whole range of biographical annals, few men, endowed with the higher order of intellect, have possessed more qualities commanding esteem than Robert Southey; who so happily blended the great with the amiable, or whose memory will become more permanently fragrant to the lovers of genius, or the friends of virtue. Nor would Southey receive a fair measure of justice by any display of personal worth, without noticing the application of his talents. His multifarious writings, whilst they embody such varied excellence, display wherever the exhibition was demanded, or admissible, a moral grandeur, and reverence of religion, which indirectly reflects on some, less prodigally endowed, who do, and have, corrupted by their prose, or disseminated their pollutions through the sacred, but desecrated medium of song.
It was always a luxury with Southey to talk of old times, places, and persons; and Bristol, with its vicinities, he thought the most beautiful city he had ever seen. When a boy he was almost a resident among St. Vincent's rocks, and Leigh Woods. The view, from the Coronation Road, of the Hotwells, with Clifton, and its triple crescents, he thought surpassed any view of the kind in Europe. He loved also to extol his own mountain scenery, and, at his last visit, upbraided me for not paying him a visit at Greta Hall, where, he said, he would have shown me the glories of the district, and also have given me a sail on the lake, in his own boat, 'The Royal Noah.' After dwelling on his entrancing water-scenes, and misty eminences, he wanted much, he said to show me his library, which at that time consisted of fourteen thousand volumes, which he had been accumulating all his life, from the rare catalogues of all nations: but still, he remarked, he had a list of five hundred other volumes to obtain, and after possessing these, he said, he should be satisfied. Alas! he little knew, how soon the whole would appear to him—less than the herbage of the desert!
At this time, Mr. S. mentioned a trifling occurrence, arising out of what happened to be the nature of our conversation, although it is hardly worth naming to you, who so lightly esteem human honours. He said, some years before, when he chanced to be in London, he accepted an invitation to dine with the Archbishop of Canterbury but, subsequently, he received an invitation for the same day, from the Duchess of Kent, to dine at Kensington Palace; and as invitations from Royalty supersede all others, he sent an apology to the Archbishop, and dined with more Lords and Ladies than he could remember. At the conclusion of the repast, before the Ladies retired, she who was destined to receive homage, on proper occasions, had learnt to pay respect, for the young Princess (our present gracious Queen Victoria) came up to him, and curtseying, very prettily said, 'Mr. Southey, I thank you for the pleasure I have received in reading your Life of Lord Nelson.'
I must mention one other trait in Southey, which did him peculiar honour, I allude to the readiness with which he alluded to any little acts of kindness which he might have received from any of his friends, in past years. To the discredit of human nature, there is in general a laborious endeavour to bury all such remembrances in the waters of Lethe: Southey's mind was formed on a different model.
The tear which dims my eye, attests the affection which I still bear to poor dear Southey. Few knew him better than myself, or more highly estimated the fine qualities of his head and heart; and still fewer can be oppressed with deeper commiseration for his present forlorn and hopeless condition.... My dear sir,
Most truly yours,
Rev. John Foster."
I have now to present the Reader with a series of letters from Mr. Coleridge to the late Josiah and Thomas Wedgewood, Esqrs.; obligingly communicated to me by Francis Wedgewood, Esq., of Etruria, son of Mr. Josiah Wedgewood.
"May 21st, 1799. Gottingen.
My dear sir,
I have lying by my side six huge letters, with your name on each of them, and all, excepting one, have been written for these three months. About this time Mr. Hamilton, by whom I send this and the little parcel for my wife, was, as it were, setting off for England; and I seized the opportunity of sending them by him, as without any mock-modesty I really thought that the expense of the postage to me and to you would be more than their worth. Day after day, and week after week, was Hamilton going, and still delayed. And now that it is absolutely settled that he goes to-morrow, it is likewise absolutely settled that I shall go this day three weeks, and I have therefore sent only this and the picture by him, but the letters I will now take myself, for I should not like them to be lost, as they comprize the only subject on which I have had an opportunity of making myself thoroughly informed, and if I carry them myself, I can carry them without danger of their being seized at Yarmouth, as all my letters were, yours to —— excepted, which were, luckily, not sealed. Before I left England, I had read the book of which you speak. I must confess that it appeared to me exceedingly illogical. Godwin's and Condorcet's extravagancies were not worth confuting; and yet I thought that the Essay on 'Population' had not confuted them. Professor Wallace, Derham, and a number of German statistic, and physico-theological writers had taken the same ground, namely, that population increases in a geometrical, but the accessional nutriment only in arithmetical ratio—and that vice and misery, the natural consequences of this order of things, were intended by providence as the counterpoise. I have here no means of procuring so obscure a book, as Rudgard's; but to the best of my recollection, at the time that the Fifth Monarchy enthusiasts created so great a sensation in England, under the Protectorate, and the beginning of Charles the Second's reign, Rudgard, or Rutgard (I am not positive even of the name) wrote an Essay to the same purpose, in which he asserted, that if war, pestilence, vice, and poverty, were wholly removed, the world could not exist two hundred years, &c. Seiffmilts, in his great work concerning the divine order and regularity in the destiny of the human race, has a chapter entitled a confutation of this idea; I read it with great eagerness, and found therein that this idea militated against the glory and goodness of God, and must therefore be false,—but further confutation found I none!—This book of Seiffmilts has a prodigious character throughout Germany; and never methinks did a work less deserve it. It is in three huge octavos, and wholly on the general laws that regulate the population of the human species—but is throughout most unphilosophical, and the tables, which he has collected with great industry, prove nothing. My objections to the Essay on Population you will find in my sixth letter at large—but do not, my dear sir, suppose that because unconvinced by this essay, I am therefore convinced of the contrary. No, God knows, I am sufficiently sceptical, and in truth more than sceptical, concerning the possibility of universal plenty and wisdom; but my doubts rest on other grounds. I had some conversation with you before I left England, on this subject; and from that time I had purposed to myself to examine as thoroughly as it was possible for me, the important question. Is the march of the human race progressive, or in cycles? But more of this when we meet.