What have I done in Germany? I have learned the language, both high and low German, I can read both, and speak the former so fluently, that it must be a fortune for a German to be in my company, that is, I have words enough and phrases enough, and I arrange them tolerably; but my pronunciation is hideous. 2ndly, I can read the oldest German, the Frankish, and the Swabian. 3rdly, I have attended the lectures on Physiology, Anatomy, and Natural History, with regularity, and have endeavoured to understand these subjects. 4thly, I have read and made collections for a history of the. 'Belles Lettres,' in Germany, before the time of Lessing: and 5thly, very large collections for a 'Life of Lessing;' to which I was led by the miserably bad and unsatisfactory biographies that have been hitherto given, and by my personal acquaintance with two of Lessing's friends. Soon after I came into Germany, I made up my mind fully not to publish anything concerning my travels, as people call them; yet I soon perceived that with all possible economy, my expenses would be greater than I could justify, unless I did something that would to a moral certainty repay them. I chose the 'Life of Lessing' for the reasons above assigned, and because it would give me an opportunity of conveying under a better name than my own ever will be, opinions which I deem of the highest importance. Accordingly, my main business at Gottingen, has been to read all the numerous controversies in which Lessing was engaged, and the works of all those German poets before the time of Lessing, which I could not afford to buy. For these last four months, with the exception of last week, in which I visited the Hartz, I have worked harder than I trust in God Almighty, I shall ever have occasion to work again: this endless transcription is such a body-and-soul-wearying purgatory. I shall have bought thirty pounds' worth of books, chiefly metaphysics, and with a view to the one work, to which I hope to dedicate in silence, the prime of my life; but I believe and indeed doubt not, that before Christmas I shall have repaid myself.
I never, to the best of my recollection, felt the fear of death but once; that was yesterday when I delivered the picture to Hamilton. I felt, and shivered as I felt it, that I should not like to die by land or water before I see my wife and the little one; that I hope yet remains to me. But it was an idle sort of feeling, and I should not like to have it again. Poole half mentioned, in a hasty way, a circumstance that depressed my spirits for many days:—that you and Thomas were on the point of settling near Stowey, but had abandoned it. "God Almighty! what a dream of happiness it held out to me!" writes Poole. I felt disappointment without having had hope.
In about a month I hope to see you. Till then may heaven bless and preserve us! Believe me, my dear sir, with every feeling of love, esteem, and gratitude,
Your affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"21, Buckingham Street, Strand, January, 1800.
My dear sir,
I am sitting by a fire in a rug great coat. Your room is doubtless to a greater degree air tight than mine, or your notions of Tartarus would veer round to the Greenlander's creed. It is most barbarously cold, and you, I fear, can shield yourself from it, only by perpetual imprisonment. If any place in the southern climates were in a state of real quiet, and likely to continue so, should you feel no inclination to migrate? Poor Southey, from over great industry, as I suspect, the industry too of solitary composition, has reduced himself to a terrible state of weakness, and is determined to leave this country as soon as he has finished the poem on which he is now employed. 'Tis a melancholy thing that so young a man, and one whose life has ever been so simple and self-denying....
O, for a peace, and the south of France! I could almost wish for a Bourbon king, if it were only that Sieyes and Buonaparte might finish their career in the old orthodox way of hanging. Thank God, I have my health perfectly, and I am working hard; yet the present state of human affairs presses on me for days together, so as to deprive me of all my cheerfulness. It is probable that a man's private and personal connexions and interests ought to be uppermost in his daily and hourly thoughts, and that the dedication of much hope and fear to subjects which are perhaps disproportionate to our faculties and powers, is a disease. But I have had this disease so long, and my early education was so undomestic, that I know not how to get rid of it; or even to wish to get rid of it. Life were so flat a thing without enthusiasm, that if for a moment it leaves me, I have a sort of stomach sensation attached to all my thoughts, like those which succeed to the pleasurable operations of a dose of opium.
Now I make up my mind to a sort of heroism in believing the progressiveness of all nature, during the present melancholy state of humanity, and on this subject I am now writing; and no work on which I ever employed myself makes me so happy while I am writing.
I shall remain in London till April. The expenses of my last year made it necessary for me to exert my industry, and many other good ends are answered at the same time. Where I next settle I shall, continue, and that must be in a state of retirement and rustication. It is therefore good for me to have a run of society, and that, various, and consisting of marked characters. Likewise, by being obliged to write without much elaboration, I shall greatly improve myself in naturalness and facility of style, and the particular subjects on which I write for money are nearly connected with my future schemes. My mornings I give to compilations which I am sure cannot be wholly useless, and for which, by the beginning of April I shall have earned nearly L150. My evenings to the Theatres, as I am to conduct a sort of Dramaterye or series of Essays on the Drama, both its general principles, and likewise in reference to the present state of the English Theatres. This I shall publish in the 'Morning Post.' My attendance on the theatres costs me nothing, and Stuart, the Editor, covers my expenses in London. Two mornings, and one whole day, I dedicate to these Essays on the possible progressiveness of man, and on the principles of population. In April I retire to my greater works,—'The Life of Lessing.' My German chests are arrived, but I have them not yet, but expect them from Stowey daily; when they come I shall send a letter.
I have seen a good deal of Godwin, who has just published a Novel. I like him for thinking so well of Davy. He talks of him every where as the most extraordinary of human beings he had ever met with. I cannot say that, for I know one whom I feel to be the superior, but I never met with so extraordinary a young man. I have likewise dined with Horne Tooke. He is a clear-headed old man, as every man must needs be who attends to the real import of words, but there is a sort of charlatanry in his manner that did not please me. He makes such a mystery out of plain and palpable things, and never tells you any thing without first exciting, and detaining your curiosity. But it were a bad heart that could not pardon worse faults than these in the author of 'The Diversions of Purley.'
Believe me, my dear sir, with much affection
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"21, Buckingham Street, Feb. 1800.
My dear sir,
Your brother's health [Mr. Thomas Wedgewood] outweighs all other considerations. Beyond a doubt he has made himself acquainted with the degree of heat which he is to experience there [the West Indies]. The only objections that I see are so obvious, that it is idle in me to mention them: the total want of men with whose pursuits your brother can have a fellow feeling: the length and difficulty of the return, in case of a disappointment; and the necessity of sea-voyages to almost every change of scenery. I will not think of the yellow fever; that I hope is quite out of all probability. Believe me, my dear friend, I have some difficulty in suppressing all that is within me of affection and grief. God knows my heart, wherever your brother is, I shall follow him in spirit; follow him with my thoughts and most affectionate wishes.
I read your letter, and did as you desired me. —— is very cool to me. Whether I have still any of the leaven of the Citizen, and visionary about me—too much for his present zeal, or whether he is incapable of attending.... As to his views, he is now gone to Cambridge to canvass for a Fellowship in Trinity Hall. Mackintosh has kindly written to Dr. Lawrence, who is very intimate with the Master, and he has other interest. He is also trying hard, and in expectation of a Commissionership of Bankruptcy, and means to pursue the law with all ardour and steadiness. As to the state of his mind, it is that which it was and will be. God love him! He has a most incurable forehead. —— called on him and looking on his table, saw by accident a letter directed to himself. Said he, 'Why —— what letter is this for me? and from ——,' 'Yes I have had it some time.' 'Why did you not give it me?' 'Oh, it wants some explanation first. You must not read it now, for I can't give you the explanation now.' And ——, who you know is a right easy-natured man, has not been able to get his own letter from him to this hour! Of his success at Cambridge, Caldwell, is doubtful, or more than doubtful....
So much of ——. All that I know, and all I suspect that is to be known. A kind, gentlemanly, affectionate hearted man, possessed of an absolute talent for industry. Would to God, he had never heard of Philosophy!
I have been three times to the House of Commons; each time earlier than the former; and each time hideously crowded. The two first days the debate was put off. Yesterday I went at a quarter before eight, and remained till three this morning, and then sat writing and correcting other men's writing till eight—a good twenty four hours of unpleasant activity! I have not felt myself sleepy yet. Pitt and Fox completely answered my pre-formed ideas of them. The elegance and high finish of Pitt's periods, even in the most sudden replies, is curious, but that is all. He argues but so so, and does not reason at all. Nothing is rememberable of what he says. Fox possesses all the full and overflowing eloquence of a man of clear head, clear heart, and impetuous feelings. He is to my mind a great orator; all the rest that spoke were mere creatures. I could make a better speech myself than any that I heard, except Pitt and Fox. I reported that part of Pitt's which I have enclosed in brackets, not that I report ex-officio, but my curiosity having led me there, I did Stuart a service by taking a few notes.
I work from morning to night, but in a few weeks I shall have completed my purpose, and then adieu to London for ever. We newspaper scribes are true galley-slaves. When the high winds of events blow loud and frequent then the sails are hoisted, or the ship drives on of itself. When all is calm and sunshine then to our oars. Yet it is not unflattering to a man's vanity to reflect that what he writes at twelve at night, will before twelve hours are over, have perhaps, five or six thousand readers! To trace a happy phrase, good image, or new argument, running through the town and sliding into all the papers. Few wine merchants can boast of creating more sensation. Then to hear a favorite and often-urged argument, repeated almost in your own particular phrases, in the House of Commons; and, quietly in the silent self-complacence of your own heart, chuckle over the plagiarism, as if you were monopolist of all good reasons. But seriously, considering that I have newspapered it merely as means of subsistence, while I was doing other things, I have been very lucky. 'The New Constitution'; 'The Proposal for Peace'; 'The Irish Union'; &c. &c.; they are important in themselves, and excellent vehicles for general truths. I am not ashamed of what I have written.
I desired Poole to send you all the papers antecedent to your own; I think you will like the different analyses of the French constitution. I have attended Mackintosh's lectures regularly; he was so kind as to send me a ticket, and I have not failed to profit by it.
I remain, with grateful and most affectionate esteem,
Your faithful friend
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"July 24, 1800.
My dear sir,
I find your letter on my arrival at Grasmere, namely, dated on the 29th of June, since which time to the present, with the exception of the last few days, I have been more unwell than I have ever been since I left school. For many days I was forced to keep my bed, and when released from that incarceration, I suffered most grievously from a brace of swollen eyelids, and a head into which, on the least agitation, the blood was felt as rushing in and flowing back again, like the raking of the tide on a coast of loose stones. However, thank God, I am now coming about again.
That Tom receives such pleasure from natural scenery strikes me as it does you. The total incapability which I have found in myself to associate any but the most languid feelings, with the God-like objects which have surrounded me, and the nauseous efforts to impress my admiration into the service of nature, has given me a sympathy with his former state of health, which I never before could have had. I wish, from the bottom of my soul, that he may be enjoying similar pleasures with those which I am now enjoying with all that newness of sensation; that voluptuous correspondence of the blood and flesh about me with breeze and sun-heat, which makes convalescence more than repay one for disease.
I parted from Poole with pain and dejection, for him, and for myself in him. I should have given Stowey a decided preference for a residence. It was likewise so conveniently situated, that I was in the way of almost all whom I love and esteem. But there was no suitable house, and no prospect of a suitable house.
... These things would have weighed as nothing, could I have remained at Stowey, but now they come upon me to diminish my regret. Add to this, Poole's determination to spend a year or two on the continent, in case of a peace and his mother's death. God in heaven bless her! I am sure she will not live long. This is the first day of my arrival at Keswick. My house is roomy, situated on an eminence, a furlong from the town; before it an enormous garden, more than two-thirds of which is rented is a garden for sale articles; but the walks are ours. Completely behind the house are shrubberies, and a declivity planted with flourishing trees of ten or fifteen years' growth, at the bottom of which is a most delightful shaded walk, by the river Greta, a quarter of a mile in length. The room in which I sit commands from one window the Bassenthwaite lake, woods, and mountains. From the opposite, the Derwentwater and fantastic mountains of Borrowdale. Straight before is a wilderness of mountains, catching and streaming lights and shadows at all times. Behind the house, and entering into all our views, is Skiddaw.
My acquaintances here are pleasant, and at some distance is Sir Guilfred Lawson's seat, with a very large and expensive library, to which I have every reason to hope that I shall have free access. But when I have been settled here a few days longer, I will write you a minute account of my situation. Wordsworth lives twelve miles distant. In about a year's time he will probably settle at Keswick likewise. It is no small advantage here, that for two-thirds of the year we are in complete retirement. The other third is alive and swarms with tourists of all shapes, and sizes, and characters. It is the very place I would recommend to a novelist or farce writer. Besides, at that time of the year there is always hope that a friend may be among the number and miscellaneous crowd, whom this place attracts. So much for Keswick.
Have you seen my translation of Wallenstein. It is a dull heavy play, but I entertain hopes that you will think the language for the greater part, natural, and good common sense English; to which excellence, if I can lay fair claim in any work of poetry or prose, I shall be a very singular writer, at least. I am now working at my 'Introduction of the Life of Lessing,' which I trust will be in the press before Christmas, that is, the 'Introduction,' which will be published first. God bless you,
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"Keswick, Nov. 1, 1800.
My dear Sir,
I would fain believe that the experiment which your brother has made in the West Indies is not wholly a discouraging one. If a warm climate did nothing but only prevented him from getting worse, it surely evidenced some power; and perhaps a climate equally favorable in a country of more various interest, Italy, or the South of France, may tempt your brother to make a longer trial. If (disciplining myself into silent cheerfulness) I could be of any comfort to him by being his companion and attendant, for two or three months, on the supposition that he should wish to travel, and was at a loss for a companion more fit, I would go with him with a willing affection. You will easily see, my dear friend, that I say this only to increase the range of your brother's choice—for even in choosing there is some pleasure.
There happen frequently little odd coincidences in time, that recall momentary faith in the notion of sympathies acting in absence. I heard of your brother's return, for the first time, on Monday last, the day on which your letter is dated, from Stoddart. Had it rained on my naked skin I could not have felt more strangely. The 300 or 400 miles that are between us seemed converted into a moral distance; and I knew that the whole of this silence I was myself accountable for; for I ended my last letter by promising to follow it with a second and longer one, before you could answer the first. But immediately on my arrival in this country I undertook to finish a poem which I had begun, entitled 'Christabel,' for a second volume of the 'Lyrical Ballads.' I tried to perform my promise, but the deep unutterable disgust which I had suffered in the translation of the accursed Wallenstein, seemed to have stricken me with barrenness; for I tried and tried, and nothing would come of it. I desisted with a deeper dejection than I am willing to remember. The wind from the Skiddaw and Borrowdale was often as loud as wind need be, and many a walk in the clouds in the mountains did I take; but all would not do, till one day I dined out at the house of a neighbouring clergyman, and some how or other drank so much wine, that I found some effort and dexterity requisite to balance myself on the hither edge of sobriety. The next day my verse-making faculties returned to me, and I proceeded successfully, till my poem grew so long, and in Wordsworth's opinion so impressive, that he rejected it from his volume, as disproportionate both in size and merit, and as discordant in its character. In the mean time I had gotten myself entangled in the old sorites of the old sophist,—procrastination. I had suffered my necessary businesses to accumulate so terribly, that I neglected to write to any one, till the pain I suffered from not writing made me waste as many hours in dreaming about it as would have sufficed for the letter writing of half a life. But there is something beside time requisite for the writing of a letter—at least with me. My situation here is indeed a delightful situation; but I feel what I have lost—feel it deeply—it recurs more often and more painfully than I had anticipated, indeed so much so, that I scarcely ever feel myself impelled, that is to say, pleasurably impelled to write to Poole. I used to feel myself more at home in his great windy parlour than in my own cottage. We were well suited to each other—my animal spirits corrected his inclination to melancholy; and there was something both in his understanding and in his affections, so healthy and manly, that my mind freshened in his company, and my ideas and habits of thinking acquired day after day more of substance and reality. Indeed, indeed, my dear sir, with tears in my eyes, and with all my heart and soul, I wish it were as easy for us all to meet as it was when you lived at Upcott. Yet when I revise the step I have taken, I know not how I could have acted otherwise than I did act. Everything I promised myself in this country has answered far beyond my expectation. The room in which I write commands six distinct landscapes—the two lakes, the vale, the river and mountains, and mists, and clouds and sunshine, make endless combinations, as if heaven and earth were for ever talking to each other. Often when in a deep study, I have walked to the window and remained there looking without seeing; all at once the lake of Keswick and the fantastic mountains of Borrowdale, at the head of it, have entered into my mind, with a suddenness as if I had been snatched out of Cheapside and placed for the first time, in the spot where I stood—and that is a delightful feeling—these fits and trances of novelty received from a long known object. The river Greta flows behind our house, roaring like an untamed son of the hills, then winds round and glides away in the front, so that we live in a peninsula. But besides this etherial eye-feeding we have very substantial conveniences. We are close to the town, where we have respectable and neighbourly acquaintance, and a most sensible and truly excellent medical man. Our garden is part of a large nursery garden, which is the same to us and as private as if the whole had been our own, and thus too we have delightful walks without passing our garden gates. My landlord who lives in the sister house, for the two houses are built so as to look like one great one, is a modest and kind man, of a singular character. By the severest economy he raised himself from a carrier into the possession of a comfortable independence. He was always very fond of reading, and has collected nearly 500 volumes, of our most esteemed modern writers, such as Gibbon, Hume, Johnson, &c. &c. His habits of economy and simplicity, remain with him, and yet so very disinterested a man I scarcely ever knew. Lately, when I wished to settle with him about the rent of our house, he appeared much affected, told me that my living near him, and the having so much of Hartley's company were great comforts to him and his housekeeper, that he had no children to provide for, and did not mean to marry; and in short, that he did not want any rent at all from me. This of course I laughed him out of; but he absolutely refused to receive any rent for the first half-year, under the pretext that the house was not completely furnished. Hartley quite lives at the house, and it is as you may suppose, no small joy to my wife to have a good affectionate motherly woman divided from her only by a wall. Eighteen miles from our house lives Sir Guilfred Lawson, who has a princely library, chiefly of natural history—a kind and generous, but weak and ostentatious sort of man, who has been abundantly civil to me. Among other raree shows, he keeps a wild beast or two, with some eagles, &c. The master of the beasts at the Exeter 'Change, sent him down a large bear,—with it a long letter of directions, concerning the food &c. of the animal, and many solicitations respecting the agreeable quadrupeds which he was desirous to send to the baronet, at a moderate price, and concluding in this manner: 'and remain your honour's most devoted humble servant, J. P. Permit me, sir Guilfred, to send you a buffalo and a rhinoceros.' As neat a postscript as I ever heard—the tradesmanlike coolness with which these pretty little animals occurred to him just at the finishing of his letter! You will in three weeks see the letters on the 'Rise and Condition of the German Boors.' I found it convenient to make up a volume out of my journey, &c. in North Germany—and the letters (your name of course erased) are in the printer's hands. I was so weary of transcribing and composing, that when I found those more carefully written than the rest, I even sent them off as they were....
My littlest one is a very stout boy indeed. He is christened by the name of 'Derwent,'—a sort of sneaking affection you see for the poetical and novelist, which I disguised to myself under the show, that my brothers had so many children Johns, Jameses, Georges, &c. &c., that a handsome christian-like name was not to be had except by encroaching on the names of my little nephews. If you are at Gunville at Christmas, I hold out hopes to myself that I shall be able to pass a week with you there. I mentioned to you at Upcott a kind of comedy that I had committed to writing in part. This is in the wind.
Wordsworth's second vol. of the 'Lyrical Ballads' will I hope, and almost believe, afford you as unmingled pleasure as is in the nature of a collection of very various poems to afford to one individual mind. Sheridan has sent to him too—requests him to write a tragedy for Drury Lane. But W. will not be diverted by any thing from the prosecution of his great work.
Southey's 'Thalaba,' in twelve books, is going to the press.
Remember me with great affection to your brother, and present my kindest respects to Mrs. Wedgwood. Your late governess wanted one thing, which where there is health is I think indispensable in the moral character of a young person—a light and cheerful heart. She interested me a good deal. She appears to me to have been injured by going out of the common way without any of that imagination, which if it be a Jack o' Lanthern to lead us that out way, is however, at the same time a torch to light us whither we are going. A whole essay might be written on the danger of thinking without images. God bless you, my dear sir, and him who is with grateful and affectionate esteem,
S. T. Coleridge.
"Keswick, Oct. 20, 1802.
My dear sir,
This is my birthday, my thirtieth. It will not appear wonderful to you, when I tell you, that before the arrival of your letter, I had been thinking with a great weight of different feelings, concerning you, and your dear brother, for I have good reason to believe, that I should not now have been alive, if in addition to other miseries, I had had immediate poverty pressing upon me. I will never again remain silent so long. It has not been altogether indolence, or my habit of procrastination which have kept me from writing, but an eager wish,—I may truly say, a thirst of spirit, to have something honourable to tell you of myself.
At present I must be content to tell you something cheerful. My health is very much better. I am stronger in every respect, and am not injured by study, or the act of sitting at my writing desk; but my eyes suffer if at any time I have been intemperate in the use of candle light. This account supposes another, namely, that my mind is calm, and more at ease. My dear sir, when I was last with you at Stowey, my heart was often full, and I could scarcely keep from communicating to you the tale of my distresses, but could I add to your depression, when you were low? or how interrupt, or cast a shade on your good spirits, that were so rare, and so precious to you?
* * * * *
I found no comfort but in the direct speculations;—in the 'Ode to Dejection,' which you were pleased with. These lines, in the original, followed the line 'My shaping spirit of imagination,'—
'For not to think of what I needs must feel, But to be still and patient, all I can, And haply by abstruse research to steal From my own nature all the natural man; This was my sole resource, my only plan And that which suits a part infests the whole, And now is almost grown the temple of my soul.'
I give you these lines for the spirit, and not for the poetry.
* * * * *
But better days are arrived, and are still to come, I have had visitations of—that I may yet be something of which those who love me may be proud.
I cannot write that without recalling dear Poole. I have heard twice, and written twice, and I fear by a strange fatality, one of the letters will have missed him. Leslie was here some time ago. I was very much pleased with him. And now I will tell you what I am doing. I dedicate three days in the week to the 'Morning Post,' and shall hereafter write, for the far greater part, such things as will be of a permanent interest as any thing I can hope to write; and you will shortly see a little essay of mine, justifying the writing in a newspaper.
My comparison of the French with the Roman Empire was very favourably received. The poetry which I have sent is merely the emptying out of my desk. The epigrams are wretched indeed, but they answered Stewart's purpose, better than better things. I ought not to have given any signature to them whatsoever. I never dreamt of acknowledging, either them, or the Ode to the 'Rain.' As to feeble expressions, and unpolished lines—there is the rub! Indeed, my dear sir, I do value your opinion very highly. I think your judgment in the sentiment, the imagery, the flow of a poem, decisive; at least, if it differed from my own, and if after frequent consideration mine remained different, it would leave me at least perplexed. For you are a perfect electrometer in these things—but in point of poetic diction, I am not so well satisfied that you do not require a certain aloofness from the language of real life, which I think deadly to poetry.
Very soon however I shall present you from the press with my opinions full on the subject of style, both in prose and verse; and I am confident of one thing, that I shall convince you that I have thought much and patiently on the subject, and that I understand the whole strength of my antagonist's cause. For I am now busy on the subject, and shall in a very few weeks go to press with a volume on the prose writings of Hall, Milton, and Taylor; and shall immediately follow it up with an essay on the writings of Dr. Johnson and Gibbon, and in these two volumes I flatter myself I shall present a fair history of English Prose. If my life and health remain, and I do but write half as much, and as regularly as I have done during the last six weeks, this will be finished by January next; and I shall then put together my memorandum-book on the subject of Poetry. In both I have endeavoured sedulously to state the facts and the differences clearly and accurately; and my reasons for the preference of one style to another are secondary to this.
Of this be assured, that I will never give any thing to the world in propriae personae in my own name which I have not tormented with the file. I sometimes suspect that my foul copy would often appear to general readers more polished than my fair copy. Many of the feeble and colloquial expressions have been industriously substituted for others which struck me as artificial, and not standing the test; as being neither the language of passion, nor distinct conceptions. Dear sir, indulge me with looking still further on in my literary life.
1 have, since my twentieth year, meditated an heroic poem on the 'Siege of Jerusalem,' by Titus. This is the pride and the stronghold of my hope, but I never think of it except in my best moods. The work to which I dedicate the ensuing years of my life, is one which highly pleased Leslie, in prospective, and my paper will not let me prattle to you about it. I have written what you more wished me to write, all about myself.
Our climate (in the north) is inclement, and our houses not as compact as they might be, but it is a stirring climate, and the worse the weather, the more unceasingly entertaining are my study windows, and the month that is to come is the glory of the year with us. A very warm bedroom I can promise you, and one at the same time which commands the finest lake and mountain view. If Leslie could not go abroad with you, and I could in any way mould my manners and habits to suit you, I should of all things like to be your companion. Good nature, an affectionate disposition, and so thorough a sympathy with the nature of your complaint, that I should feel no pain, not the most momentary, at being told by you what your feelings require at the time in which they required it; this I should bring with me. But I need not say that you may say to me,—'You don't suit me,' without inflicting the least mortification. Of course this letter is for your brother, as for you; but I shall write to him soon. God bless you,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"Keswick, November 3, 1802.
It is now two hours since I received your letter; and after the necessary consultation, Mrs. Coleridge herself is fully of opinion that to lose time is merely to lose spirits. Accordingly I have resolved not to look the children in the face, (the parting from whom is the downright bitter in the thing) but to go to London by to-morrow's mail. Of course I shall be in London, God permitting, on Saturday morning. I shall rest that day, and the next, and proceed to Bristol by the Monday night's mail. At Bristol I will go to Cote-House. At all events, barring serious illness, serious fractures, and the et cetera of serious unforeseens, I shall be at Bristol, Tuesday noon, November 9.
You are aware that my whole knowledge of French does not extend beyond the power of limping slowly, not without a dictionary crutch, or an easy French book: and that as to pronunciation, all my organs of speech, from the bottom of the Larynx to the edge of my lips, are utterly and naturally anti-Gallican. If only I shall have been any comfort, any alleviation to you I shall feel myself at ease—and whether you go abroad or no, while I remain with you, it will greatly contribute to my comfort, if I know you will have no hesitation, nor pain, in telling me what you wish me to do, or not to do.
I regard it among the blessings of my life, that I have, never lived among men whom I regarded as my artificial superiors: that all the respect I have at any time paid, has been wholly to supposed goodness, or talent. The consequence has been that I have no alarms of pride; no cheval de frise of independence. I have always lived among equals. It never occurs to me, even for a moment, that I am otherwise. If I have quarrelled with men, it has been as brothers, or as school-fellows quarrel. How little any man can give me, or take from me, save in matters of kindness and esteem, is not so much a thought or conviction with me, or even a distinct feeling, as it is my very nature. Much as I dislike all formal declarations of this kind, I have deemed it well to say this. I have as strong feelings of gratitude as any man. Shame upon me if in the sickness and the sorrow which I have had, and which have been kept unaggravated and supportable by your kindness, and your brother's (Mr. Josiah Wedgewood) shame upon me if I did not feel a kindness, not unmixed with reverence towards you both. But yet I never should have had my present impulses to be with you, and this confidence, that I may become an occasional comfort to you, if, independently of all gratitude, I did not thoroughly esteem you; and if I did not appear to myself to understand the nature of your sufferings; and within the last year, in some slight degree to have felt myself, something of the same.
Forgive me, my dear sir, if I have said too much. It is better to write it than to say it, and I am anxious in the event of our travelling together that you should yourself be at ease with me, even as you would with a younger brother, to whom, from his childhood you had been in the habit of saying, 'Do this Col.' or 'don't do that.'
All good be with you,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood. Esq."
"Keswick, January 9, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
I send you two letters, one from your dear sister, the second from Sharp, by which you will see at what short notice I must be off, if I go to the Canaries. If your last plan continue in full force, I have not even the phantom of a wish thitherward struggling, but if aught have happened to you, in the things without, or in the world within, to induce you to change the place, or the plan, relatively to me, I think I could raise the money. But I would a thousand-fold rather go with you whithersoever you go. I shall be anxious to hear how you have gone on since I left you. You should decide in favour of a better climate somewhere or other. The best scheme I can think of, is to go to some part of Italy or Sicily, which we both liked. I would look out for two houses. Wordsworth and his family would take the one, and I the other, and then you might have a home either with me, or if you thought of Mr. and Mrs. Luff, under this modification, one of your own; and in either case you would have neighbours, and so return to England when the home sickness pressed heavy upon you, and back to Italy when it was abated, and the climate of England began to poison your comforts. So you would have abroad in a genial climate, certain comforts of society among simple and enlightened men and women; and I should be an alleviation of the pang which you will necessarily feel, as often as you quit your own family.
I know no better plan: for travelling in search of objects is at best a dreary business, and whatever excitement it might have had, you must have exhausted it. God bless you, my dear friend. I write with dim eyes, for indeed, indeed, my heart is very full of affectionate sorrowful thoughts toward you.
I write with difficulty, with all the fingers but one of my right hand very much swollen. Before I was half up the Kirkstone mountain, the storm had wetted me through and through, and before I reached the top it was so wild and outrageous, that it would have been unmanly to have suffered the poor woman (guide) to continue pushing on, up against such a torrent of wind and rain: so I dismounted and sent her home with the storm in her back. I am no novice in mountain mischiefs, but such a storm as this was, I never witnessed, combining the intensity of the cold, with the violence of the wind and rain. The rain drops were pelted or slung against my face by the gusts, just like splinters of flint, and I felt as if every drop cut my flesh. My hands were all shrivelled up like a washerwoman's, and so benumbed that I was obliged to carry my stick under my arm. O, it was a wild business! Such hurry skurry of clouds, such volleys of sound! In spite of the wet and the cold, I should have had some pleasure in it, but for two vexations; first, an almost intolerable pain came into my right eye, a smarting and burning pain; and secondly, in consequence of riding with such cold water under my seat, extremely uneasy and burthensome feelings attacked my groin, so that, what with the pain from the one, and the alarm from the other, I had no enjoyment at all!
Just at the brow of the hill I met a man dismounted, who could not sit on horse-back. He seemed quite scared by the uproar, and said to me, with much feeling, 'O sir, it is a perilous buffeting, but it is worse for you than for me, for I have it at my back.' However I got safely over, and immediately all was calm and breathless, as if it was some mighty fountain put on the summit of Kirkstone, that shot forth its volcano of air, and precipitated huge streams of invisible lava down the road to Patterdale.
I went on to Grasmere. I was not at all unwell, when I arrived there, though wet of course to the skin. My right eye had nothing the matter with it, either to the sight of others, or to my own feelings, but I had a bad night, with distressful dreams, chiefly about my eye; and waking often in the dark I thought it was the effect of mere recollection, but it appeared in the morning that my right eye was blood-shot, and the lid swollen. That morning however I walked home, and before I reached Keswick, my eye was quite well, but I felt unwell all over. Yesterday I continued unusually unwell all over me till eight o'clock in the evening. I took no laudanum or opium, but at eight o'clock, unable to bear the stomach uneasiness, and achings of my limbs, I took two large tea-spoons full of Ether in a wine-glass of camphorated gum-water, and a third tea-spoon full at ten o'clock, and I received complete relief; my body calmed; my sleep placid; but when I awoke in the morning, my right hand, with three of the fingers was swollen and inflamed. The swelling in the hand is gone down, and of two of the fingers somewhat abated, but the middle finger is still twice its natural size, so that I write with difficulty. This has been a very rough attack, but though I am much weakened by it, and look sickly and haggard, yet I am not out of heart. Such a bout; such a 'periless buffetting' was enough to have hurt the health of a strong man. Few constitutions can bear to be long wet through in intense cold I fear it will tire you to death to read this prolix scrawled story.
Affectionately dear friend, Yours ever,
S. T. Coleridge."
My dear sir,
I received your kind letter, with the L20. My eyes are in such a state of inflammation that I might as well write blindfold, they are so blood-red. I have had leeches twice, and have now a blister behind my right ear. How I caught the cold, in the first instance, I can scarcely guess; but I improved it to its present glorious state, by taking long walks all the mornings, spite of the wind, and writing late at night, while my eyes were weak.
I have made some rather curious observations on the rising up of spectra in the eye, in its inflamed state, and their influence on ideas, &c., but I cannot see to make myself intelligible to you. Present my kindest remembrance to Mrs. W. and your brother. Pray did you ever pay any particular attention to the first time of your little ones smiling and laughing? Both I and Mrs. C. have carefully watched our little one, and noticed down all the circumstances, under which he smiled, and under which he laughed, for the first six times, nor have we remitted our attention; but I have not been able to derive the least confirmation of Hartley's or Darwin's Theory. You say most truly, my dear sir, that a pursuit is necessary. Pursuit, for even praiseworthy employment, merely for good, or general good, is not sufficient for happiness, nor fit for man.
I have not at present made out how I stand in pecuniary ways, but I believe that I have anticipated on the next year to the amount of Thirty or Forty pounds, probably more. God bless you, my dear sir, and your sincerely
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"Friday night, Jan. 14, 1803.
I was glad at heart to receive your letter, and still more gladdened by the reading of it. The exceeding kindness which it breathed was literally medicinal to me, and I firmly believe, cured me of a nervous rheumatic affection, the acid and the oil, very completely at Patterdale; but by the time it came to Keswick, the oil was all atop.
You ask me, 'Why, in the name of goodness, I did not return when I saw the state of the weather?' The true reason is simple, though it may be somewhat strange. The thought never once entered my head. The cause of this I suppose to be, that (I do not remember it at least) I never once in my whole life turned back in fear of the weather. Prudence is a plant, of which I no doubt, possess some valuable specimens, but they are always in my hothouse, never out of the glasses, and least of all things would endure the climate of the mountains. In simple earnestness, I never find myself alone, within the embracement of rocks and hills, a traveller up an alpine road, but my spirit careers, drives, and eddies, like a leaf in autumn; a wild activity of thoughts, imaginations, feelings, and impulses of motion rises up from within me; a sort of bottom wind, that blows to no point of the compass, comes from I know not whence, but agitates the whole of me; my whole being is filled with waves that roll and stumble, one this way, and one that way, like things that have no common master. I think that my soul must have pre-existed in the body of a chamois chaser. The simple image of the old object has been obliterated, but the feelings, and impulsive habits, and incipient actions, are in me, and the old scenery awakens them.
The further I ascend from animated nature, from men, and cattle, and the common birds of the woods and fields, the greater becomes in me the intensity of the feeling of life. Life seems to me then an universal spirit, that neither has, nor can have an opposite. 'God is everywhere' I have exclaimed, and works everywhere, and where is there room for death? In these moments it has been my creed, that death exists only because ideas exist; that life is limitless sensation; that death is a child of the organic senses, chiefly of the sight; that feelings die by flowing into the mould of the intellect becoming ideas, and that ideas passing forth into action, reinstate themselves again in the world of life. And I do believe that truth lies in these loose generalizations. I do not think it possible that any bodily pains could eat out the love of joy, that is so substantially part of me, towards hills, and rocks, and steep waters; and I have had some trial.
On Monday night I had an attack in my stomach and right side, which in pain, and the length of its continuance, appeared to me by far the severest I ever had. About one o'clock the pain passed out of my stomach, like lightning from a cloud, into the extremities of my right foot. My toe swelled and throbbed, and I was in a state of delicious ease, which the pain in my toe did not seem at all to interfere with. On Tuesday I was uncommonly well all the morning, and ate an excellent dinner; but playing too long and, too rompingly with Hartley and Derwent, I was very unwell that evening. On Wednesday I was well, and after dinner wrapped myself up warm, and walked with Sarah Hutchinson, to Lodore. I never beheld anything more impressive than the wild outline of the black masses of mountain over Lodore, and so on to the gorge of Borrowdale. Even through the bare twigs of a grove of birch trees, through which the road passes; and on emerging from the grove a red planet, so very red that I never saw a star so red, being clear and bright at the same time. It seemed to have sky behind it. It started, as it were from the heavens, like an eye-ball of fire. I wished aloud at that moment that you had been with me.
The walk appears to have done me good, but I had a wretched night; shocking pains in my head, occiput, and teeth, and found in the morning that I had two blood-shot eyes. But almost immediately after the receipt and perusal of your letter the pains left me, and I am bettered to this hour; and am now indeed as well as usual saving that my left eye is very much blood-shot. It is a sort of duty with me, to be particular respecting parts that relate to my health. I have retained a good sound appetite through the whole of it, without any craving after exhilarants or narcotics, and I have got well as in a moment. Rapid recovery is constitutional with me; but the former circumstances, I can with certainty refer to the system of diet, abstinence from vegetables, wine, spirits, and beer, which I have adopted by your advice.
I have no dread or anxiety respecting any fatigue which either of us is likely to undergo, even in continental travelling. Many a healthy man would have been laid up with such a bout of thorough wet, and intense cold at the same time, as I had at Kirkstone. Would to God that also for your sake I were a stronger man, but I have strong wishes to be with you. I love your society, and receiving much comfort from you, and believing likewise that I receive much improvement, I find a delight very great, my dear friend! indeed it is, when I have reason to imagine that I am in return an alleviation to your destinies, and a comfort to you. I have no fears and am ready to leave home at a two days' warning. For myself I should say two hours, but bustle and hurry might disorder Mrs. Coleridge. She and the three children are quite well.
I grieve that there is a lowering in politics. The 'Moniteur' contains almost daily some bitter abuse of our minister and parliament, and in London there is great anxiety and omening. I have dreaded war from the time that the disastrous fortunes of the expedition to Saint Domingo, under Le Clerc, was known in France. Write me one or two lines, as few as you like.
I remain, my dear Wedgewood, with most affectionate esteem, and grateful attachment,
Your sincere friend,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"Nether Stowey, Feb. 10, 1803.
Last night Poole and I fully expected a few lines from you. When the newspaper came in, without your letter, we felt as if a dull neighbour had been ushered in after a knock at the door which had made us rise up and start forward to welcome some long absent friend. Indeed in Poole's case, this simile is less over-swollen than in mine, for in contempt of my convictions and assurance to the contrary, Poole, passing off the Brummagem coin of his wishes for sterling reasons, had persuaded himself fully that he should see you in propria persona. The truth is, we had no right to expect a letter from you, and I should have attributed your not writing to your having nothing to write, to your bodily dislike of writing, or, though with reluctance, to low spirits, but that I have been haunted with the fear that your sister is worse, and that you are at Cote-House, in the mournful office of comforter to your brother. God keep us from idle dreams. Life has enough of real pains.
I wrote to Captain Wordsworth to get me some Bang. The captain in an affectionate letter answers me: 'The Bang if possible shall be sent. If any country ship arrives I shall certainly get it. We have not got anything of the kind in our China ships.' If you would rather wait till it can be brought by Captain Wordsworth himself from China, give me a line that I may write and tell him. We shall hope for a letter from you to-night. I need not say, dear Wedgewood, how anxious I am to hear the particulars of your health and spirits.
Poole's account of his conversations, &c., in Prance, are very interesting and instructive. If your inclination lead you hither you would be very comfortable here. But I am ready at an hour's warning; ready in heart and mind, as well as in body and moveables.
I am, dear Wedgewood, most truly yours,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"Stowey, Feb. 10, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
With regard to myself and my accompanying you, let me say thus much. My health is not worse than it was in the North; indeed it is much better. I have no fears. But if you fear that, my health being what you know it to be, the inconveniences of my being with you will be greater than the advantages; (I feel no reluctance in telling you so) it is so entirely an affair of spirits and feeling that the conclusion must be made by you, not in your reason, but purely in your spirit and feeling. Sorry indeed should I be to know that you had gone abroad with one, to whom you were comparatively indifferent. Sorry if there should be no one with you, who could with fellow-feeling and general like-mindedness, yield you sympathy in your sunshiny moments. Dear Wedgewood, my heart swells within me as it were. I have no other wish to accompany you than what arises immediately from my personal attachment, and a deep sense in my own heart, that let us be as dejected as we will, a week together cannot pass in which a mind like yours would not feel the want of affection, or be wholly torpid to its pleasurable influences. I cannot bear to think of your going abroad with a mere travelling companion; with one at all influenced by salary, or personal conveniences. You will not suspect me of flattering you, but indeed dear Wedgewood, you are too good and too valuable a man to deserve to receive attendance from a hireling, even for a month together, in your present state.
If I do not go with you, I shall stay in England only such time as may be necessary for me to raise the travelling money, and go immediately to the south of France. I shall probably cross the Pyrennees to Bilboa, see the country of Biscay, and cross the north of Spain to Perpignan, and so on to the north of Italy, and pass my next winter at Nice. I have every reason to believe that I can live, even as a traveller, as cheap as I can in England. God bless you. I will repeat no professions, even in the superscription of a letter. You know me, and that it is my serious, simple wish, that in everything respecting me, you would think altogether of yourself, and nothing of me, and be assured that no resolve of yours, however suddenly adopted, or however nakedly communicated, will give me any pain, any at least arising from my own bearings. Yours ever,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq.
P. S. Perhaps Leslie will go with you."
"Poole's, Feb. 17, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
I do not know that I have anything to say that justifies me in troubling you with the postage and perusal of this scrawl. I received a short and kind letter from Josiah last night. He is named the sheriff. Poole, who has received a very kind invitation from your brother John, in a letter of last Monday, and which was repeated in last night's letter, goes with me, I hope in the full persuasion that you will be there (at Cote-House) before he be under the necessity of returning home. Poole is a very, very good man, I like even his incorrigibility in little faults and deficiencies. It looks like a wise determination of nature to let well alone.
Are you not laying out a scheme which will throw your travelling in Italy, into an unpleasant and unwholesome part of the year? From all I can gather, you ought to leave this country at the first of April at the latest. But no doubt you know these things better than I. If I do not go with you, it is very probable we shall meet somewhere or other. At all events you will know where I am, and I can come to you if you wish it. And if I go with you, there will be this advantage, that you may drop me where you like, if you should meet any Frenchman, Italian, or Swiss, whom you liked, and who would be pleasant and profitable to you. But this we can discuss at Gunville.
As to ——, I never doubted that he means to fulfil his engagements with you, but he is one of those weak moralled men, with whom the meaning to do a thing means nothing. He promises with ninety parts out of a hundred of his whole heart, but there is always a stock of cold at the core that transubstantiates the whole resolve into a lie.
I remain in comfortable health,—warm rooms, an old friend, and tranquillity, are specifics for my complaints. With all my ups and downs I have a deal of joyous feeling, and I would with gladness give a good part of it to you, my dear friend. God grant that spring may come to you with healing on her wings.
God bless you, my dear Wedgewood. I remain with most affectionate esteem, and regular attachment, and good wishes. Yours ever,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq.
P. S. If Southey should send a couple of bottles, one of the red sulphate, and one of the compound acids for me, will you be so good as to bring them with you?"
"Stowey, Feb. 17, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
Last night I received a four ounce parcel letter, by the post, which Poole and I concluded was the mistake or carelessness of the servant, who had put the letter into the post office, instead of the coach office. I should have been indignant, if dear Poole had not set me laughing. On opening it, it contained my letter from Gunville, and a small parcel of 'Bang,' from Purkis. I will transcribe the parts of his letter which relate to it.
'Brentford, Feb. 7, 1803.
My dear Coleridge,
I thank you for your letter, and am happy to be the means of obliging you. Immediately on the receipt of yours, I wrote to Sir Joseph Banks, who I verily believe is one of the most excellent and useful men of this country, requesting a small quantity of Bang, and saying it was for the use of Mr. T. Wedgewood. I yesterday received the parcel which I now send, accompanied with a very kind letter, and as part of it will be interesting to you and your friend, I will transcribe it. 'The Bang you ask for is the powder of the leaves of a kind of hemp that grows in the hot climates. It is prepared, and I believe used, in all parts of the east, from Morocco to China. In Europe it is found to act very differently on different constitutions. Some it elevates in the extreme; others it renders torpid, and scarcely observant of any evil that may befall them. In Barbary it is always taken, if it can be procured, by criminals condemned to suffer amputation, and it is said, to enable those miserables to bear the rough operations of an unfeeling executioner, more than we Europeans can the keen knife of our most skilful chirurgeons. This it may be necessary to have said to my friend Mr. T. Wedgewood, whom I respect much, as his virtues deserve, and I know them well. I send a small quantity only as I possess but little. If however, it is found to agree, I will instantly forward the whole of my stock, and write without delay to Barbary, from whence it came, for more.
Sir Joseph adds, in a postscript: 'It seems almost beyond a doubt, that the Nepenthe was a preparation of the Bang, known to the Ancients'
* * * * *
Now I had better take the small parcel with me to Gunville; if I send it by the post, besides the heavy expense, I cannot rely on the Stowey carriers, who are a brace of as careless and dishonest rogues as ever had claims on that article of the hemp and timber trade, called the gallows. Indeed I verily believe that if all Stowey, Ward excepted, does not go to hell, it will be by the supererogation of Poole's sense of honesty.—Charitable!
We will have a fair trial of Bang. Do bring down some of the Hyoscyamine pills, and I will give a fair trial of Opium, Henbane, and Nepenthe. By-the-by I always considered Homer's account of the Nepenthe as a Banging lie.
God bless you, my dear friend, and
S. T. Coleridge."
"Keswick, September 16, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
I reached home on yesterday noon. William Hazlitt, is a thinking, observant, original man; of great power as a painter of character-portraits, and far more in the manner of the old painters than any living artist, but the objects must be before him. He has no imaginative memory; so much for his intellectuals. His manners are to ninety nine in one hundred singularly repulsive; brow-hanging; shoe-contemplating—strange. Sharp seemed to like him, but Sharp saw him only for half an hour, and that walking. He is, I verily believe, kindly-natured: is very fond of, attentive to, and patient with children, but he is jealous, gloomy, and of an irritable pride. With all this there is much good in him. He is disinterested; an enthusiastic lover of the great men who have been before us. He says things that are his own, in a way of his own: and though from habitual shyness, and the outside of bear skin, at least of misanthropy, he is strangely confused and dark in his conversation, and delivers himself of almost all his conceptions with a Forceps, yet he says more than any man I ever knew (you yourself only excepted) of that which is his own, in a way of his own: and often times when he has wearied his mind, and the juice is come out, and spread over his spirits, he will gallop for half an hour together, with real eloquence. He sends well-feathered thoughts straight forward to the mark with a twang of the bow-string. If you could recommend him as a portrait painter, I should be glad. To be your companion, he is, in my opinion utterly unfit. His own health is fitful.
I have written as I ought to do: to you most freely. You know me, both head and heart, and I will make what deductions your reasons may dictate to me. I can think of no other person [for your travelling companion]—what wonder? For the last years, I have been shy of all new acquaintance.
'To live beloved is all I need, And when I love, I love indeed.'
I never had any ambition, and now, I trust I have almost as little vanity.
For five months past my mind has been strangely shut up. I have taken the paper with the intention to write to you many times, but it has been one blank feeling;—one blank idealess feeling. I had nothing to say;—could say nothing. How dearly I love you, my very dreams make known to me. I will not trouble you with the gloomy tale of my health. When I am awake, by patience, employment, effort of mind, and walking, I can keep the Fiend at arm's length, but the night is my Hell!—sleep my tormenting Angel. Three nights out of four, I fall asleep, struggling to lie awake, and my frequent night-screams have almost made me a nuisance in my own house. Dreams with me are no shadows, but the very calamities of my life....
In the hope of drawing the gout, if gout it should be, into my feet, I walked previously to my getting into the coach at Perth, 263 miles, in eight days, with no unpleasant fatigue; and if I could do you any service by coming to town, and there were no coaches, I would undertake to be with you, on foot in seven days. I must have strength somewhere. My head is equally strong: my limbs too are strong: but acid or not acid, gout or not gout, something there is in my stomach....
To diversify this dusky letter, I will write an Epitaph, which I composed in my sleep for myself while dreaming that I was dying. To the best of my recollection I have not altered a word.
'Here sleeps at length poor Col. and without screaming Who died, as he had always lived, a dreaming: Shot dead, while sleeping, by the gout within, Alone, and all unknown, at E'nbro' in an Inn.'
It was Tuesday night last, at the 'Black Bull,' Edinburgh. Yours, dear Wedgewood, gratefully, and
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"16, Abingdon Street, Westminster, Jan. 1804.
My dear friend,
Some divines hold, that with God to think, and to create, are one and the same act. If to think, and even to compose had been the same as to write with me, I should have written as much too much as I have written too little. The whole truth of the matter is, that I have been very, very ill. Your letter remained four days unread, I was so ill. What effect it had upon me I cannot express by words. It lay under my pillow day after day. I should have written forty times, but as it often and often happens with me, my heart was too full, and I had so much to say that I said nothing. I never received a delight that lasted longer upon me—'Brooded on my mind and made it pregnant,' than (from) the six last sentences of your last letter,—which I cannot apologize for not having answered, for I should be casting calumnies against myself; for the last six or seven weeks, I have both thought and felt more concerning you, and relating to you, than of all other men put together.
Somehow or other, whatever plan I determined to adopt, my fancy, good-natured pander of our wishes, always linked you on to it; or I made it your plan, and linked myself on. I left my home, December 20, 1803, intending to stay a day and a half at Grasmere, and then to walk to Kendal, whither I had sent all my clothes and viatica; from thence to go to London, and to see whether or no I could arrange my pecuniary matters, so as leaving Mrs. Coleridge all that was necessary to her comforts, to go myself to Madeira, having a persuasion, strong as the life within me, that one winter spent in a really warm, genial climate, would completely restore me. Wordsworth had, as I may truly say, forced on me a hundred pounds, in the event of my going to Madeira; and Stewart had kindly offered to befriend me. During the days and affrightful nights of my disease, when my limbs were swollen, and my stomach refused to retain the food—taken in in sorrow, then I looked with pleasure on the scheme: but as soon as dry frosty weather came, or the rains and damps passed off, and I was filled with elastic health, from crown to sole, then the thought of the weight of pecuniary obligation from so many people reconciled me; but I have broken off my story.
I stayed at Grasmere (Mr. Wordsworth's) a month; three fourths of the time bed-ridden;—and deeply do I feel the enthusiastic kindness of Wordsworth's wife and sister, who sat up by me, one or the other, in order to awaken me at the first symptoms of distressful feeling; and even when they went to rest, continued often and often to weep and watch for me even in their dreams. I left them January the 14th, and have spent a very pleasant week at Dr. Crompton's, at Liverpool, and arrived in London, at Poole's lodgings, last night at eight o'clock.
Though my right hand is so much swollen that I can scarcely keep my pen steady between my thumb and finger, yet my stomach is easy, and my breathing comfortable, and I am eager to hope all good things of my health. That gained, I have a cheering, and I trust prideless confidence that I shall make an active, and perseverant use of the faculties and requirements that have been entrusted to my keeping, and a fair trial of their height, depth, and width. Indeed I look back on the last four months with honest pride, seeing how much I have done, with what steady attachment of mind to the same subject, and under what vexations and sorrows, from without, and amid what incessant sufferings. So much of myself. When I know more, I will tell you more.
I find you are still at Cote-house. Poole tells me you talk of Jamaica as a summer excursion. If it were not for the voyage, I would that you would go to Madeira, for from the hour I get on board the vessel, to the time that I once more feel England beneath my feet, I am as certain as past and present experience can make me, that I shall be in health, in high health; and then I am sure, not only that I should be a comfort to you, but that I should be so without diminution of my activity, or professional usefulness. Briefly, dear Wedgewood! I truly and at heart love you, and of course it must add to my deeper and moral happiness to be with you, if I can be either assistance or alleviation. If I find myself so well that I defer my Madeira plan, I shall then go forthwith to Devonshire to see my aged mother, once more before she dies, and stay two or three months with my brothers. But, wherever I am, I never suffer a day, (except when I am travelling) to pass without doing something.
Poole made me promise that I would leave one side for him. God bless him! He looks so worshipful in his office, among his clerks, that it would give you a few minutes' good spirits to look in upon him. Pray you as soon as you can command your pen, give me half a score lines, and now that I am loose, say whether or no I can be any good to you.
S. T. Coleridge."
"16, Abingdon Street, Westminster, Jan. 28, 1804.
My dear friend,
It is idle for me to say to you, that my heart and very soul ache with the dull pain of one struck down and stunned. I write to you, for my letter cannot give you unmixed pain, and I would fain say a few words to dissuade you. What good can possibly come of your plan? Will not the very chairs and furniture of your room be shortly more, far more intolerable to you than new and changing objects! more insufferable reflectors of pain and weariness of spirit? Oh, most certainly they will! You must hope, my dearest Wedgewood; you must act as if you hoped. Despair itself has but that advice to give you. Have you ever thought of trying large doses of opium, a hot climate, keeping your body open by grapes, and the fruits of the climate?
Is it possible that by drinking freely, you might at last produce the gout, and that a violent pain and inflammation in the extremities might produce new trains of motion and feeling in your stomach, and the organs connected with the stomach, known and unknown? Worse than what you have decreed for yourself cannot well happen. Say but a word and I will come to you, will be with you, will go with you to Malta, to Madeira, to Jamaica, or (if the climate, of which, and its strange effects, I have heard wonders, true or not) to Egypt.
At all events, and at the worst even, if you do attempt to realize the scheme of going to and remaining at Gunville, for God's sake, my dear dear friend, do keep up a correspondence with one or more; or if it were possible for you, with several. I know by a little what your sufferings are, and that to shut the eyes, and stop up the ears, is to give one's self up to storm and darkness, and the lurid forms and horrors of a dream. I scarce know why it is; a feeling I have, and which I can hardly understand. I could not endure to live if I had not a firm faith that the life within you will pass forth out of the furnace, for that you have borne what you have borne, and so acted beneath such pressure—constitutes you an awful moral being. I am not ashamed to pray aloud for you.
Your most affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
My dear friend,
Though fearful of breaking in upon you after what you have written to me, I could not have left England without having written both to you and your brother, at the very moment I received a note from Sharp, informing me that I must instantly secure a place in the Portsmouth mail for Tuesday, and if I could not, that I must do so in the light coach for Tuesday's early coach.
I am agitated by many things, and only write now because you desired an answer by return of post. I have been dangerously ill, but the illness is going about, and not connected with my immediate ill health, however it may be with my general constitution. It was the cholera-morbus. But for a series of the merest accidents I should have been seized in the streets, in a bitter east wind, with cold rain; at all events have walked through it struggling. It was Sunday-night.
I have suffered it at Tobin's; Tobin sleeping out at Woolwich. No fire, no wine or spirits, or medicine of any kind, and no person being within a call, but luckily, perhaps the occasion would better suit the word providentially, Tuffin, calling, took me home with him.... I tremble at every loud sound I myself utter. But this is rather a history of the past than of the present. I have only enough for memento, and already on Wednesday I consider myself in clear sunshine, without the shadow of the wings of the destroying angel.
What else relates to myself, I will write on Monday. Would to heaven you were going with me to Malta, if it were but for the voyage! With all other things I could make the passage with an unwavering mind. But without cheerings of hope, let me mention one thing; Lord Cadogan was brought to absolute despair, and hatred of life, by a stomach complaint, being now an old man. The symptoms, as stated to me, were strikingly like yours, excepting the nervous difference of the two characters; the flittering fever, &c. He was advised to reduce lean beef to a pure jelly, by Papin's digester, with as little water as could secure it from burning, and of this to take half a wine glass 10 or 14 times a day. This and nothing else. He did so. Sir George Beaumont saw, within a few weeks a letter from himself to Lord St. Asaph, in which he relates the circumstance of his perseverance in it, and rapid amelioration, and final recovery. 'I am now,' he says, 'in real good health; as good, and in as cheerful spirits as I ever was when a young man.'
May God bless you, even here,
S. T. Coleridge."
Mr. Coleridge, in the preceding letters, refers to the different states of his health. In the letter dated January, 1800, he observed, "I have my health perfectly;" and in the same letter he clearly indicates that he was no stranger to opium, by remarking, "I have a stomach sensation attached to all my thoughts, like those which succeed to the pleasurable operations of a dose of opium." I can testify, that during the four or five years in which Mr. C. resided in or near Bristol, no young man could enjoy more robust health. Dr. Carlyon also, verbally stated that Mr. C; both at Cambridge, and at Gottingen, "possessed sound health." From these premises the conclusion is fair, that Mr. Coleridge's unhappy use of narcotics, which commenced thus early, was the true cause of all his maladies, his languor, his acute and chronic pains, his indigestion, his swellings, the disturbances of his general corporeal system, his sleepless nights, and his terrific dreams!
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Extracts, concerning Mr. Coleridge, from letters of the late Thomas Poole, Esq., to the late Thomas Wedgewood, Esq.
"Stowey, Nov. 14, 1801.
... I expect Coleridge here in a week or ten days. He has promised to spend two or three months with me. I trust this air will re-establish his health, and that I shall restore him to his family and his friends a perfect man."
"Stowey, Nov. 24, 1801.
I now expect daily to see Coleridge. He is detained I fear, by a thorn, which he unfortunately took in his heel a day or two before he wrote to me his last letter. He comes alone. As soon as he is here he shall write to you."
"Stowey, Nov. 27, 1799.
... Coleridge went hence to Bristol as you know, to collect material for his 'School-book.' (Qy.) There he received a letter concerning Wordsworth's health, which he said agitated him deeply. He set off immediately for Yorkshire. He has since been to the lakes. I suppose we shall soon see him.
"Stowey, March 15, 1804.
... Coleridge is still here with Tobin. He has taken his passage for Malta and paid half the money, so I conclude his going is fixed. They are waiting for convoy—the 'Lapwing' frigate.
"16, Abingdon Street, April 3, 1804.
My dear Sir,
... Poor Col. left London, as I suppose you know, and is now at Portsmouth, waiting for convoy. He was in a miserable state of health when he left town. Heaven grant that this expedition may establish him, body and mind. Northcote has been painting his picture for Sir George Beaumont. I am told it is a great likeness. Davy is gone to Hungerford for the holiday's fishing....
T. Wedgewood, Esq."
Mr. Coleridge remarks, in his letter to Mr. T. Wedgewood, dated "16, Abingdon Street, London:" "Poole looks so worshipful in his office among his clerks, that it would give you a few minutes' good spirits to look in upon him." The following letter will explain this allusion.
"Stowey, Sept. 14, 1803.
My dear Sir,
... I thank you heartily for your kindness, and I will tell you all about my going to London. I became acquainted with Rickman, whom you saw, when you set off from Cote-house with Coleridge and myself, to London, to hear Davy's lectures at the Royal Institution. It was last January twelvemonths. I liked Rickman, and if I may judge from his conduct since, he liked me. I saw him frequently when I was in London in May and June last. We often talked about the poor laws, the sin of their first principle, their restraints, their contradictions, their abuses, their encouragement to idleness, their immense burdens to those who pay, and their degradation to those who receive. On this subject also some letters have passed between us.
I have long imagined that the principles of benefit societies may be extended and modified, so as to remedy the greater part of those evils, and I have long had a plan in my mind which attempted something of this sort, and which as soon as I had leisure I meant to detail in writing, and perhaps to publish. I mentioned this to Coleridge when he was last with me. He mentioned it to Rickman, who wrote to me on the subject.
Soon after this Sir George Eose introduced a bill into parliament for obtaining information from the overseers of every parish, concerning the poor, benefit societies, &c. He applied to Rickman to assist him in framing the bill; and finally requested him to get some one to make an abstract, to present to parliament, of the returns made by the overseers. This office Rickman has desired me to undertake. He states to me a variety of inducements; such as my being in London, getting much information on a subject which interests me; and in short, I have agreed to undertake it. Rickman says it will take me three months. I am to have eight clerks under me, or more if I can employ them. He says there will be twenty thousand returns. He proposes that my expenses should be paid with a douceur of three or otherwise four hundred pounds. I stipulated for the former, but told him the douceur would be the pleasure, I trusted, of being useful to the poor....
This was a rare instance of noble disinterestedness, especially in respect of government transactions.
"London, 16, Abingdon Street, May 24, 1804.
I saw a letter this morning from Coleridge. It was written to Lamb, from Gibraltar. He says his health and spirits are much improved, yet still he feels alarming symptoms about him. He made the passage from England in eleven days. If the wind permitted, they were to sail in two days for Malta. He says he is determined to observe a strict regimen, as to eating and drinking. He has drunk lately only lemonade, with a very small quantity of bottled porter. He anticipates better health than he has enjoyed for many years.
I heard by accident that Giddy was at Davy's. I have not seen Davy for some time.
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If the public "bide their time," there is one memorial, resembling the following, which will infallibly, if not soon, be attached to the busiest and the most celebrated name.
"On Sept. 8, 1837, died at Nether Stowey, Somersetshire, Thomas Poole, Esq. He was one of the magistrates for that county, the duties of which station he discharged through a long course of years with distinguished reputation. In early life the deceased was intimately associated with Coleridge, Lamb, Sir H. Davy, Wordsworth, Southey, and other men of literary endowments, who occasionally made long sojournments at his hospitable residence, and in whose erudite and philosophical pursuits he felt a kindred delight. His usefulness and benevolence have been long recognized, and his loss will be deplored."—Exeter Paper.
It appears that in the spring of 1816, Mr. Coleridge left Mr. Morgan's house at Calne, and, in a desolate state of mind, repaired to London; when the belief remaining strong on his mind, that his opium habits would never be effectually subdued till he had subjected himself to medical restraint, he called on Dr. Adams, an eminent physician, and disclosed to him the whole of his painful circumstances, stating what he conceived to be his only remedy. The doctor being a humane man, sympathized with his patient, and knowing a medical gentleman who resided three or four miles from town, who would be likely to undertake the charge, he addressed the following letter to Mr. Gillman.
"Hatton Garden, April 9, 1816.
A very learned, but in one respect an unfortunate gentleman, has applied to me on a singular occasion. He has for several years been in the habit of taking large quantities of opium. For some time past he has been endeavouring to break himself of it. It is apprehended his friends are not firm enough, from a dread, lest he should suffer by suddenly leaving it off, though he is conscious of the contrary; and has proposed to me to submit himself to any regimen, however severe. With this view he wishes to fix himself in the house of some medical gentleman, who will have courage to refuse him any laudanum, and under whose assistance, should he be the worse for it, he may be relieved. As he is desirous of retirement, and a garden, I could think of no one so readily as yourself. Be so good as to inform me whether such a proposal is inconsistent with your family arrangements. I should not have proposed it, but on account of the great importance of the character, as a literary man. His communicative temper will make his society very interesting, as well as useful. Have the goodness to favor me with an immediate answer, and believe me, dear sir,
Your faithful humble servant,
The next day Mr. Coleridge called on Mr. Gillman, who was so much pleased with his visitor, that it was agreed he should come to Highgate the following day. A few hours before his arrival, he sent Mr. G. a long letter; the part relating to pecuniary affairs was the following: "With respect to pecuniary remuneration, allow me to say, I must not at least be suffered to make any addition to your family expenses, though I cannot offer anything that would be in any way adequate to my sense of the service; for that indeed there could not be a compensation, as it must be returned in kind by esteem and grateful affection."
This return of esteem and grateful affection for his lodging and board, was generously understood and acceded to, by Mr. Gillman, which, to a medical man in large practice, was a small consideration. Mr. G.'s admiration of Mr. Coleridge's talents soon became so enthusiastic, equally creditable to both parties, that he provided Mr. Coleridge with a comfortable home for nineteen years, even unto his death.
My original intention was, to prepare a memoir as a contribution to Mr. Gillman's "Life of Mr. Coleridge." On my sending the MS. to Mr. Southey, he observed, in his reply, "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 excuse for the abuse of that drug."
I afterwards sent the MS. to my friend Mr. Foster, who had ever taken a deep interest in all that concerns Mr. Coleridge. On returning it he thus wrote.
"Stapleton, Dec. 19, 1835.
My dear sir,
I have read through your MS. volume, very much to the cost of my eyes, but it was impossible to help going on, and I am exceedingly obliged to you for favouring me with it;—the more so as there is no prospect of seeing any large proportion of it in print. It is I think about as melancholy an exhibition as I ever contemplated. Why was such a sad phenomenon to come in sight on earth? Was it to abase the pride of human intellect and genius?
You have done excellently well to collect into a permanent substance what must else have gone into oblivion, for no one else could have exhibited even a shadow of it. But now, my dear sir, I hope you are prepared with the philosophy, or by whatever name I should designate the fortitude,—that can patiently bear the frustration of the main immediate purpose of your long and earnest labour.—For you may lay your account that the compiler of the proposed life of Coleridge will admit but a very minor part of what you have thus furnished at his request:—that especially he will not admit what you feel to be the most important, as an emphatic moral lesson, and what it has cost you the most painful resolution to set faithfully forth.
No, my dear sir, the operator of the work will not, will not, will not, let the illustrious philosopher, genius, and poet, so appear. He will get over that stage with a few general expressions, and a few indistinctly presented facts. And then as to the dreadful tragical parts, he will promptly decide that it would be utter profanation to expose them to view in any such unveiled prominence as you have exhibited in your narrative. And then the solemn warning and example will be nearly kept out of sight. Quite naturally that this would be the course adopted, unless the compiler were, like yourself, intent, as his first and highest obligation, on doing faithful homage to truth, virtue, and religion. How I despise biography, as the business is commonly managed. I cannot believe that Coleridge's dreadful letters of confession will be admitted in their own unmodified form; though they ought to be. Most truly yours,
These combined intimations led me to stipulate that, whatever else was omitted, the opium letters should be printed verbatim. But this being promptly refused, I determined to throw my materials into a separate work.