The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1838
by James Gillman
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"My academic adventures and indiscretions must have seemed unpardonable sins," that is, as they were related by the tale-bearers and gossips of the day. "I mention these," adds he, "because the only immoralities that can without the grossest slander be laid to my charge, were all comprised within the space of the last two years of my College life. As I went to Cambridge innocent, so I dare affirm, from the first week of my acquaintance with Robert Southey to this hour, Southey himself cannot stand more clear of all intention at violations of the moral law: but, in fact, even during my career at Jesus, the heaviest of my offences consisted in the folly of assuming the show of vices, from which I was all but free, and which in the comparatively few exceptions left loathing and self-disgust on my mind. Were I, indeed, to fix on that week of my existence, in which my moral being would have presented to a pitying guardian angel the most interesting spectacle, it would be that very week [13] in London, in which I was believed by my family to have abandoned myself to debauchery of all kinds, and 'thus' to have involved myself in disreputable pecuniary embarrassments. God knows, so intense was my mental anguish, that during the whole time I was physically incapable even of a 'desire'. My whole body seemed stunned and insensate, from excess of inward suffering—my debts were the 'cause', not the effect; but that I know there can be no substitute for a father, I should say,—surely, surely, the innocence of my whole 'pre' and 'post' academic life, my early distinction, and even the fact, that my Cambridge extravagations did not lose me, nor cool for me, the esteem and regard of a single fellow collegiate, might have obtained an amnesty from worse transgressions."

Coleridge, who had desponded at the fate of Middleton, after the unsuccessful attempts he made to obtain a fellowship, lost all hope of procuring an income from the college, and as, through the instrumentality of Frend, with whom an intimacy had now taken place, he had been converted to what in these days is called Unitarianism, he was too conscientious to take orders and enter the Established Church. These circumstances opened to him new views, and effected a complete change in his course of life, and thus his former objects and plans were set aside. The friendship between Coleridge and Southey having greatly increased, and still continuing to increase, and Coleridge being easily led by the affection of those he loved, for which he had a constant yearning, determined to follow literature in future life as a profession, that appearing to him the only source of obtaining an honourable livelihood.

Here there was no "mad caprice," but he calmly decided to leave Cambridge and join Southey in his plans for the future, and commence the profession on which they had mutually agreed. He went to Oxford to visit Mr. Southey, and thence to Wales, and thence to Bristol (Mr. Southey's native place), at which city they conjointly commenced their career in authorship, and for the first few months shared the same room.

The times were still tumultuous; for although the great hurricane of the revolution ceased abroad, yet, like mighty waters that had been once agitated by a storm, tranquillity was not restored, nor was there any prospect of an immediate calm. The 'Habeas Corpus' act was at this time suspended, and the minister of that day, Mr. Pitt, had struck the panic of property among the wealthy and affluent. During the time of danger, when surrounded by government emissaries, these youthful poets gave lectures on politics, and that with impunity, to crowded audiences. Coleridge met with one interruption only, and that from a hired partizan who had assayed a disturbance at one of these lectures, in order to implicate him and his party, and by this means to effect, if possible, their incarceration. The gentleman who mentioned this in the presence of Coleridge (when with me at Highgate) said—He (Coleridge) had commenced his lecture when this intended disturber of the peace was heard uttering noisy words at the foot of the stairs, where the fee of admission into the room was to be paid. The receiver of the money on the alert ascended the stairs and informed Coleridge of the man's insolence and his determination not to pay for his admission. In the midst of the lecture Coleridge stopped, and said loud enough to be heard by the individual, that before the intruder "kicked up a dust, he would surely down with the dust," and desired the man to admit him. The individual had not long been in the room before he began hissing, this was succeeded by loud claps from Coleridge's party, which continued for a few minutes, but at last they grew so warm that they began to vociferate, "Turn him out!"—"Turn him out!"—"Put him out of the window!" Fearing the consequences of this increasing clamour, the lecturer was compelled to request silence, and addressed them as follows: "Gentlemen, ours is the cause of liberty! that gentleman has as much right to hiss as you to clap, and you to clap as he to hiss; but what is to be expected, gentlemen, when the cool waters of reason come in contact with red hot aristocracy but a hiss?" When the loud laugh ended, silence ensued, and the rebuke was treasured and related. [14]

The terms aristocrat, democrat, and jacobin, were the fashionable opprobrious epithets of the day; and well do I remember, the man who had earned by his politics the prefix of jacobin to his name, was completely shunned in society, whatever might be his moral character: but, as might be expected, this was merely ephemeral, when parties ran high, and were guided and governed more by impulses and passion than by principle.

"Truth I pursued, as Fancy sketch'd the way, And wiser men than I went worse astray."

Men of the greatest sense and judgment possessing good hearts are, on the review of the past, more disposed to think 'well' of the young men of that day, who, from not exercising their reason, were carried into the vortex of the revolution. Much has been written on the proposed scheme of settling in the wilds of America;—the spot chosen was Susquehannah,—this spot Coleridge has often said was selected, on account of the name being pretty and metrical, indeed he could never forbear a smile when relating the story. This day-dream, as he termed it, (for such it really was) the detail of which as related by him always gave it rather a sportive than a serious character, was a subject on which it is doubtful whether he or Mr. Southey were really in earnest at the time it was planned. The dream was, as is stated in the "Friend," that the little society to be formed was, in its second generation, to have combined the innocence of the patriarchal age with the knowledge and general refinements of European culture, and "I dreamt," says he, "that in the sober evening of my life I should behold colonies of independence in the undivided dale of industry." Strange fancies! 'and as vain as strange'! This scheme, sportive, however, as it might be, had its admirers; and there are persons now to be found, who are desirous of realizing these visions, the past-time in thought and fancy of these young poets—then about 23 years of age. During this dream, and about this time, Southey and Coleridge married two sisters of the name of Fricker, and a third sister was married to an Utopian poet as he has been called, of the name of Lovel, whose poems were published with Mr. Southey's. They were, however, too wise to leave Bristol for America, for the purpose of establishing a genuine system of property—a Pantisocracy, which was to be their form of government—and under which they were to realize all their new dreams of happiness. Marriage, at all events, seems to have sobered them down, and the vision vanished.

Chimerical as it appeared, the purveyors of amusement for the reading public were thus furnished with occupation, and some small pecuniary gain, while it exercised the wit of certain anti-Jacobin writers of the day, and raised them into notice. Canning had the faculty of satire to an extraordinary degree, and also that common sense tact, which made his services at times so very useful to his country; his powers seemed in their full meridian of splendour when an argument or new doctrine permitted him rapidly to run down into its consequence, and then brilliantly and wittily to skew its defects. In this he eminently excelled. The beauties of the anti-Jacobin are replete with his satire. He never attempted a display of depth, but his dry sarcasm left a sting which those he intended to wound carried off 'in pain and mortfication'. This scheme of Pantisocracy excited a smile among the kind-hearted and thinking part of mankind; but, among the vain and restless ignorant would-be-political economists, it met with more attention; and they, with their microscopic eyes, fancied they beheld in it what was not quite so visible to the common observer. Though the plan was soon abandoned, it was thought sufficient for the subject of a lecture, and afforded some mirth when the minds of the parties concerned in it arrived at manhood. Coleridge saw, soon after it was broached, that no scheme of colonizing that was not based on religion could be permanent.—Left to the disturbing forces of the human passions to which it would be exposed, it would soon perish; for all government to be permanent should be influenced by reason, and guided by religion.

In the year 1795 Coleridge, residing then at Clevedon, a short distance from Bristol, published his first prose work, with some additions by Mr. Southey, the "Conciones ad Populum." In a short preface he observes,

"The two following addresses were delivered in the month of February, 1795, and were followed by six others in defence of natural and revealed religion. 'There is a time to keep silence,' saith King Solomon;—but when I proceeded to the first verse of the fourth chapter of the Ecclesiastes, 'and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power,' I concluded this was not the 'time to keep silence;' for truth should be spoken at all times, but more especially at those times when to speak truth is dangerous."

In these addresses he showed that the example of France was a warning to Great Britain; but, because he did not hold opinions equally violent with the Jacobin party of that day, he was put down as an anti-Jacobin; for, he says, "the annals of the French revolution have been recorded in letters of blood, that the knowledge of the few cannot counteract the ignorance of the many; that the light of philosophy, when it is confined to a small minority, points out its possessors as the victims, rather than the illuminators of the multitude. The patriots of France either hastened into the dangerous and gigantic error of making certain evils the means of contingent good, or were sacrificed by the mob, with whose prejudices and ferocity their unbending virtue forbade them to assimilate. Like Samson, the people were strong, like Samson, they were also blind:" and he admonishes them at the end of the third lecture to do all things in the spirit of love.

"It is worthy of remark," says he, in a MS. note, "that we may possess a thing in such fulness as to prevent its possession from being an object of distinct consciousness. Only as it lessens or dims, we reflect on it, and learn to value it. This is one main cause why young men of high and ardent minds find nothing repulsive in the doctrines of necessity, which, in after years, they (as I have) recoil from. Thus, too, the faces of friends dearly beloved become distinct in memory or dream only after long absence." Of the work itself he says, "Except the two or three pages involving the doctrine of philosophical necessity and Unitarianism, I see little or nothing in these 'outbursts' of my 'youthful' zeal to 'retract', and with the exception of some flame-coloured epithets applied to persons, as to Mr. Pitt and others, or rather to personifications (for such they really were to 'me') as little to regret. Qualis ab initio [Greek: estaesae] S.T.C. [15] When a rifacimento of the 'Friend' took place, [1818] at vol. ii. p. 240, he states his reasons for reprinting the lecture referred to, one of the series delivered at Bristol in the year 1794-95, because, says he, "This very lecture, vide p. 10, has been referred to in an infamous libel in proof of the author's Jacobinism."

When the mind of Coleridge was more matured he did not omit this truth, which has never been refuted, that the aristocratic system "had its golden side, for the noblest minds; but I

"should," continues he, "act the part of a coward if I disguised my conviction that the errors of the aristocratic party were as gross, and far less excusable than those of the Jacobin. Instead of contenting themselves with opposing the real blessing of English law to the 'splendid promises of untried theory', too large a part of those who called themselves 'anti-Jacobins', did all in their power to suspend those blessings; and they furnished 'new arguments to the advocates of innovation', when they should have been answering 'the old ones!'"

But, whatever were his opinions, they were founded on 'principle', and with the exception of the two above alluded to, he ought never to be accused of changing. Some years since, the late Charles Matthews, the comedian, (or rather, as Coleridge used to observe, "the comic poet acting his own poems,") showed me an autograph letter from Mr. Wordsworth to Matthews' brother, (who was at that time educating for the bar) and with whom he corresponded. In this letter he made the following observation, "To-morrow I am going to Bristol to see those two extraordinary young men, Southey and Coleridge," Mr. Wordsworth then residing at Allfoxden. They soon afterwards formed an intimacy, which continued (though not without some little interruption) during his life, as his "Biographia Literaria" and his will attest.

Mr. Coleridge's next work was the "Watchman" in numbers—a miscellany to be published every eighth day. The first number appeared on the 5th of February, 1796. This work was a report of the state of the political atmosphere, to be interspersed with sketches of character and verse. It reached the 10th number, and was then dropped; the editor taking leave of his readers in the following address:

"This is the last number of the Watchman. Henceforward I shall cease to cry the state of the political atmosphere. While I express my gratitude to those friends who exerted themselves so liberally in the establishment of this miscellany, I may reasonably be expected to assign some reason for relinquishing it thus abruptly. The reason is short and satisfactory. The work does not pay its expences. Part of my subscribers have relinquished it because it did not contain sufficient original composition, and a still larger because it contained too much. I have endeavoured to do well; and it must be attributed to defect of ability, not of inclination or effort, if the words of the prophet be altogether applicable to me, 'O watchman! thou hast watched in vain!'"

Mr. Coleridge has given us in the "Biographia Literaria" a very lively account of his opinions, adventures, and state of feeling during this canvass in quest of subscribers.

"Towards the close of the first year, that inauspicious hour," (it was, indeed, and for several reasons an "inauspicious hour" for him,) "when I left the friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever-honoured Jesus' College, Cambridge, to set on foot a periodical, entitled the 'Watchman,' that (according to the motto of the work) 'all might know the truth, and that truth might make us free!'

"With a flaming prospectus 'Knowledge is power,' &c. and to cry the state of the political atmosphere and so forth, I set off on a tour to the north, from Bristol to Sheffield, for the purpose of procuring customers, preaching by the way in most great towns, as a hireless volunteer, in a blue coat and white waistcoat, that not a rag of the woman of Babylon might be seen on me; for I was at that time, though a Trinitarian (i.e. ad normam Platonis) in philosophy, yet a zealous Unitarian in religion; more accurately, I was a psilanthropist, one of those who believe our Lord to have been the real son of Joseph, and who lay the main stress on the resurrection rather than on the crucifixion. Oh! never can I remember those days with either shame or regret, for I was most sincere! most disinterested! My opinions were, indeed, in many and most important points erroneous, but my heart was single! Wealth, rank, life itself then seemed cheap to me, compared with the interests of (what I believe to be) the truth and the will of my Maker. I cannot even accuse myself of having been actuated by vanity; for, in the expansion of my enthusiasm, I did not think of myself at all.

My campaign commenced at Birmingham, and my first attack was on a rigid Calvinist, a tallow-chandler by trade. He was a tall dingy man, in whom length was so predominant over breadth, that he might almost have been borrowed for a foundry poker. O that face! a face, [Greek: kat' emphasin!] I have it before me at this moment. The lank, black twine-like hair, pingui-nitescent, cut in a straight line, along the black stubble of his thin gunpowder eyebrows, that looked like a scorched aftermath from a last week's shaving. His coat collar behind in perfect unison, both of colour and lustre, with the coarse, yet glib cordage that I suppose he called his hair, and which with a 'bend' inward at the nape of the neck, (the only approach to flexure in his whole figure) slunk in behind his waistcoat; while the countenance lank, dark, very 'hard', and with strong perpendicular furrows, gave me a dim notion of some one looking at me through a 'used' gridiron, all soot, grease, and iron! A person to whom one of my letters of recommendation had been addressed, was my introducer.

It was a 'new event' in my life, my first 'stroke' in the new business I had undertaken of an author; yes, and of an author on his own account. I would address," says Coleridge, "an affectionate exhortation to the youthful literati on my own experience. It will be but short; for the beginning, middle, and end converge to one charge. NEVER PURSUE LITERATURE AS A TRADE. [16] My companion," says he, "after some imperfect sentences, and a multitude of hums and hahs, abandoned the cause to his client; and I commenced an harangue of half an hour to Phileleutheros, the tallow-chandler, varying my notes through the whole gamut of eloquence, from the ratiocinative to the declamatory, and, in the latter, from the pathetic to the indignant. My taper man of lights listened with perseverant and praiseworthy patience, though (as I was afterwards told, in complaining of certain gales that were not altogether ambrosial,) it was a melting day with him. And what, sir! (he said, after a short pause,) might the cost be? only FOURPENCE, (O! how I felt the anti-climax, the abysmal bathos of that FOURPENCE!) 'only fourpence, sir, each number, to be published on every eighth day'. That comes to a deal of money at the end of a year; and how much did you say there was to be for the money? Thirty-two pages, sir! large octavo, closely printed. Thirty and two pages? Bless me, why except what I does in a family way on the sabbath, that's more than I ever reads, sir! all the year round. I am as great a one as any man in Brummagem, sir! for liberty and truth, and all them sort of things, but as to this, (no offence, I hope, sir!) I must beg to be excused. So ended my first canvass."

Much the same indifference was shewn him at Manchester, &c., but he adds:—"From this rememberable tour, I returned nearly a thousand names on the subscription list of the 'Watchman;' yet more than half convinced that prudence dictated the abandonment of the scheme; but for this very reason I persevered in it; for I was at that period of my life so completely hagridden by the fear of being influenced by selfish motives, that to know a mode of conduct to be the dictate of 'prudence', was a sort of presumptive proof to my feelings, that the contrary was the dictate of 'duty'. Accordingly, I commenced the work, which was announced in London by long bills in letters larger than had ever been seen before, and which (I have been informed, for I did not see them myself) eclipsed the glories even of the lottery puffs; but, alas! the publication of the very first number was delayed beyond the day announced for its appearance. In the second number, an essay against fast days, with a most censurable application of a text from Isaiah, for its motto, lost me near five hundred of my subscribers at one blow.

In the two following numbers, I made enemies of all my Jacobin and democratic patrons; for, disgusted by their infidelity and their adoption of French morals, and French philosophy, and, perhaps, thinking that charity ought to begin nearest home, instead of abusing the government and the aristocrats chiefly or entirely, as had been expected of me, I levelled my attacks at ''modern patriotism',' and even ventured to declare my belief, that whatever the motives of ministers might have been for the sedition (or as it was then the fashion to call them) the gagging bills, yet the bills themselves would produce an effect to be desired by all the true friends of freedom, as far they should contribute to deter men from openly declaiming on subjects, the 'principles of which they had never bottomed', and from 'pleading 'to' the 'poor and ignorant', instead of pleading for them.'

At the same time I avowed my conviction, that national education, and a concurring spread of the gospel were the indispensable condition of any true political amelioration. Thus, by the time the seventh number was published, I had the mortification (but why should I say this, when, in truth, I cared too little for any thing that concerned my worldly interests, to be at all mortified about it?) of seeing the preceding numbers exposed in sundry old iron shops for a penny a piece. At the ninth number I dropped the work." He never recovered the money of his London publisher, and but little from his subscribers, and as he goes on to say:—"Must have been thrown into jail by my printer, for a sum between eighty and ninety pounds, if the money had not been paid for me by a man, by no means affluent, a dear friend who attached himself to me from my first arrival at Bristol, who continued my friend with a fidelity unconquered by time, or even by my own apparent neglect; a friend from whom I never received an advice that was not gentle and affectionate." (p. 177.)

Coleridge's reputation from boyhood quietly increased, not through the favor, but the censure of reviewers. It was this which, contrary to their wishes, diffused his name as poet and philosopher. So long as there are readers to be gratified by calumny, there will always be found writers eager to furnish a supply; and he had other enemies, unacquainted with the critical profession, yet morbidly vain, and because disappointed in their literary hopes, no less malignant.

Alas! how painful it is to witness at times the operation of some of the human passions.—Should envy take the lead, her twin sisters, hatred and malice, follow as auxiliaries in her train,—and, in the struggles for ascendancy and extension of her power, she subverts those principles which might impede her path, and then speedily effects the destruction of all the kindly feelings most honourable to man.

Coleridge was conscientiously an opponent of the first revolutionary war, because he abhorred the principles; and it was part of his political creed, that whoever ceased

"to act as an 'individual' by making himself a member of any society not sanctioned by his government, forfeited the rights of a citizen."

He was at that time "a vehement anti-ministerialist," but, after the invasion of Switzerland, a more vehement anti-Gallican, and still more intensely an anti-Jacobin:

"I retired," said he, "to a cottage at Stowey, and provided for my scanty maintenance by writing verses for a London Morning Paper. I saw plainly, that literature was not a profession by which I could expect to live; for 'I could not disguise from myself', that whatever my talents might or might not be in other respects, yet they were not of that 'sort' that 'could enable me to become a popular writer'; and that whatever my opinions might be in themselves, they were almost equi-distant from all the three opposite parties, the Pittites, the Foxites, and the democrats. Of the unsaleable nature of my writings I had an amusing memento one morning from our servant girl. For happening to rise at an earlier hour than usual, I observed her putting an extravagant quantity of paper into the grate in order to light the fire, and mildly checked her for her wastefulness; La, Sir! (replied poor Nanny) why, it is only WATCHMEN."

There was at last a pause, as each party seemed worn out; for, "the hand of Providence had disciplined 'all' Europe into sobriety, as men tame wild elephants by alternate blows and caresses: now, that Englishmen of all classes are restored to their old English notions and feelings, it will with difficulty be credited, how great an influence was at that time possessed and exerted by the spirit of secret defamation (the too constant attendant on party zeal!) during the restless interim, from 1793 to the commencement of the Addington administration, or the year before the truce of Amiens."

In short, the exhaustion which had followed the great stimulus, disposed individuals to reconciliation. Both parties found themselves in the wrong, the one had mistaken the moral character of the revolution, and the other had miscalculated its physical resources. The experiment was made at the price of great, we may say, of almost humiliating sacrifices; and wise men foresaw that it would fail, at least, in its direct and ostensible object. Yet it was purchased cheaply, and realized an object of equal value, and, if possible, of more vital importance; for it brought about a national unanimity, unexampled in our history since the reign of Elizabeth; and Providence, never failing to do his part when men have done theirs, soon provided a common focus in the cause of Spain, which made us all once more Englishmen, by gratifying and correcting the predilections of each party. The sincere reverers of the throne felt the cause of loyalty ennobled by its alliance with that of freedom while the 'honest' zealots of the people could not but admit that freedom itself assumed a more winning form, humanized by loyalty, and 'consecrated' by 'religious principle'.

During this calm and rest, and while the political fever was subsiding, Coleridge retired, as he informs us, "to a cottage in Somersetshire, at the foot of Quantock," to devote himself to poetry, and to the study of ethics and psychology, to direct his thoughts and studies to the foundations of religion and morals.

"During my residence here," he says, "I found myself all afloat; doubts rushed in; broke upon me 'from the fountains of the great deep',' and ''fell from the windows of Heaven'.' The fontal truths of natural religion and the books of Revelation alike contributed to the flood; and it was long ere my ark touched on an Ararat, and rested. The idea (viz. the law evolved in the mind) of the Supreme Being appeared to me to be as necessarily implied in all particular modes of being, as the idea, of infinite space in all the geometrical figures by which space is limited." He goes on to state at this period, about the latter end of the year 1796, "For a very long time I could not reconcile personality with infinity; and my head was with Spinosa, though my whole heart remained with Paul and John. Yet there had dawned upon me, even before I had met with the Critique of Pure Reason, a certain guiding light. If 'the mere intellect' could make no certain discovery of a holy and intelligent first cause, it might yet supply a demonstration that no legitimate argument could be drawn from the mere intellect 'against' its truth. 'And what is this' more than St. Paul's assertion, that by wisdom (more properly translated by the powers of reasoning) no man ever arrived at the knowledge of God? Man asks what is wisdom? and whence comes it? In Job, chap. 28th, it is stated, 'But to man he said, the fear of the Lord is wisdom for THEE! And to avoid evil, that is 'thy' understanding.'"

Such were his philosophical opinions before his final conversion to the whole truth in Christ. He was contending for principles, and diligently in search of truth for its own sake;—the one thing only permanent, and which carries with it its "own exceeding great reward." Such was the state of his religious feelings and political opinions before his visit to Germany.

There is a general observation or experience he has recorded, not only so applicable to him at that time, but equally to each stage of his career in life, as not to be lost sight of by his friends and admirers, when assailed, as he was, by opposing party-spirits, which, like opposite currents, were contending for the mastery.

To avoid one party lest he should run on Scylla, he excited and provoked the jealousy and neglect of the other, who might have wrecked him on Charybdis. These were well-known dangers; but, as all navigable seas have their shoals often invisible; in order to avoid the effects of these jealousies, he selected from each party, men of experience to give him the soundings, and thus prevent him from wrecking his barque on rocks and quicksands; for, without such information, there could be little chance of escape.

In so doing, be lost his popularity with the many, though these were evils he might perhaps have conquered (but still speaking figuratively); his crew (his great inward aid) had differed too seriously among themselves, and were under the influence of conflicting feelings.

His whole mind was bent on the search after those truths that alone can determine fixed principles, and which not long after became to him an unerring guide. They were for him what the needle is to the mariner.

The observation alluded to is as follows:

"All my experience, from my first entrance into life to the present hour, is in favour of the warning maxim, that the man who opposes in toto 'the political or religious zealots of his age, is safer from their obloquy than he who differs from them but in one or two points only' IN DEGREE."

This is a truth too important to pass lightly over, as in this consisted much of that feeling which prevented his being popular, (for unless an individual goes the whole length of the party who may choose to adopt him, he is discarded, and it is well for him if he is not persecuted and held up to public ridicule). [17]

Zealots are usually superficial, but in herds they are found to support each other, and by their numbers assume an imposing air.—One weak man cannot stand, but three may.—By this mode of congregating, they are more easily managed by their leaders, whose impulses they obey, and to whom they become willing slaves. Men who sacrifice the many to the few, have been held out by almost every writer, where moral and political subjects have been introduced, as warnings to those liable to fall into their snares, but which have seemingly been put forth to little purpose. The necessity, therefore, for a continuation of instruction on such important moral truths, is still required; for, in the contending currents, so much mischief is often produced, that to divert these conflicting opinions, and to try to bring them into unity, Coleridge thought it a duty to employ his strength of intellect; he hoped to preserve a principle which he deemed so useful to mankind.

The foot of Quantock was to Coleridge a memorable spot; here his studies were serious and deep; protected by one of the kindest of friends, and stimulated by the society also of a brother poet, whose lays seemed to have inspired his song, and also to have chimed in with it; for although it has been shewn that his poetic genius first dawned in his 16th year, yet after he left College, and during his residence at this place, [18] it seemed suddenly to have arrived at poetic manhood, and to have reached this developement as early as his 25th year. In his more serious studies he had greatly advanced, and had already planned and stored up much for his future life. It will often be repeated, but not too often for a society so full of sciolists and disbelievers,—men who are so self-satisfied as not to require teaching,—that Coleridge never was an idle man; and that, if nothing else remained, the progress he made in intellectual acquirements during his residence at Stowey and his short stay in Germany, might be instanced. Before he quitted this country to embark in fresh studies we have his own statement:

"I became convinced, that religion, as both the corner-stone and the key-stone of morality, must have a 'moral' origin; so far, at least, that the evidence of its doctrines could not, like the truths of abstract science, be 'wholly' independent of the will.

It was therefore to be expected, that its 'fundamental' truth would be such as MIGHT be denied, though only by the fool, and even by the fool from madness of 'heart' alone!

The question then concerning our faith in the existence of a God, not only as the ground of the universe by his essence, but by his wisdom and holy will as its maker and judge, appeared to stand thus: the sciential reason, the objects of wit are purely theoretical, remains neutral, as long as its name and semblance are not usurped by the opponents of the doctrine; but it 'then' becomes an effective ally by exposing the false show of demonstration, or by evincing the equal demonstrability of the contrary from premises equally logical. The 'understanding', meantime suggests, the analogy of 'experience' facilitates, the belief. Nature excites and recalls it, as by a perpetual revelation. Our feelings almost necessitate it; and the law of conscience peremptorily commands it. The arguments that all apply to, are in its favor; and there is nothing against it, but its own sublimity.

It could not be intellectually more evident without becoming morally less effective; without counteracting its own end by sacrificing the 'life' of faith to the cold mechanism of a worthless, because compulsory assent. The belief of a God and a future state (if a passive acquiescence may be flattered with the name of 'belief') does not, indeed, always beget a good heart; but a good heart so naturally begets the belief, that the very few exceptions must be regarded as strange anomalies from strange and unfortunate circumstances.

From these premises I proceeded to draw the following conclusions,—first, that having once fully admitted the existence of an infinite yet self-conscious Creator, we are not allowed to ground the irrationality of any other article of faith on arguments which would equally prove 'that' to be irrational, which we had allowed to be 'real'. Secondly, that whatever is deducible from the admission of a 'self-comprehending' and 'creative' spirit, may be legitimately used in proof of the 'possibility' of any further mystery concerning the Divine Nature.

"Possibilitatem mysteriorum (Trinitatis, &c.) contra insultus infidelium et hereticorum a contradictionibus vindico; haud quidem veritatem, quae revelatione sola stabiliri possit;" says Leibnitz, in a letter to his duke. He then adds the following just and important remark. "In vain will tradition or texts of Scripture be adduced in support of a doctrine, 'donec clava impossibilitatis et contradictionis e manibus horum Herculum extorta fuerit.' For the heretic will still reply, that texts, the literal sense of which is not so much above as directly against all reason, must be understood figuratively, as Herod is a Fox, &c.

These principles," says he, "I held philosophically, while in respect of revealed religion, I remained a zealous Unitarian. I considered the idea of a Trinity a fair scholastic inference from the being of God, as a creative intelligence; and that it was therefore entitled to the rank of an esoteric doctrine of natural religion: but seeing in the same no practical or moral bearing, I confined it to the schools of philosophy. The admission of the Logos, as hypostasized (i.e. neither a mere attribute nor a personification), in no respect removed my doubts concerning the incarnation and the redemption by the cross; which I could neither reconcile in 'reason' with the impassiveness of the Divine Being, nor in my moral feelings with the sacred distinction between things and persons, the vicarious payment of a debt and the vicarious expiation of guilt.

A more thorough revolution in my philosophic principles, and a deeper insight into my own heart were yet wanting. Nevertheless, I cannot doubt, that the difference of my metaphysical notions from those of Unitarians in general 'contributed' to my final re-conversion to the 'whole truth' in 'Christ;' even as according to his own confession the books of certain Platonic philosophers (Libri quorundam Platonicorum) commenced the rescue of St. Augustine's faith from the same error, aggravated by the far darker accompaniment of the Manichean heresy."

Perhaps it is right also to state, that no small share of his final reconversion was attributable to that zeal and powerful genius, and to his great desire that others should become sharers in his own acquirements, which he was so desirous to communicate. During his residence at the foot of Quantock, his thoughts and studies were not only directed to an enquiry into the great truths of religion, but, while he stayed at Stowey, he was in the habit of preaching often at the Unitarian Chapel at Taunton, and was greatly respected by all the better and educated classes in the neighbourhood.

He spoke of Stowey with warmth and affection to the latest hours of his life. Here, as before mentioned, dwelt his friend Mr. Thomas Poole—the friend (justly so termed) to whom he alludes in his beautiful dedicatory poem to his brother the Rev. George Coleridge, and in which, when referring to himself, he says,

"To me the Eternal Wisdom hath dispensed A different fortune and more different mind— Me from the spot where first I sprang to light Too soon transplanted, ere my soul had fix'd Its first domestic loves; and hence through life Chasing chance-started friendships. A brief while Some have preserved me from life's pelting ills; But, like a tree with leaves of feeble stem, If the clouds lasted, and a sudden breeze Ruffled the boughs, they on my head at once Dropp'd the collected shower; and some most false, False and fair foliaged as the Manchineel, Have tempted me to slumber in their shade E'en mid the storm; then breathing subtlest damps, Mix'd their own venom with the rain from Heaven, That I woke poison'd! But, all praise to Him Who gives us all things, more have yielded me Permanent shelter; and beside one friend, [19] Beneath the impervious covert of one oak, I've raised a lowly shed, and know the names Of husband and of father; not unhearing Of that divine and nightly-whispering voice, Which from my childhood to maturer years Spake to me of predestinated wreaths, Bright with no fading colours!"

These beautiful and affecting lines to his brother are dated May 26th, 1797, Nether Stowey, Somerset. In his will, dated Highgate, July 2nd, 1830, he again refers to this friend, and directs his executor to present a plain gold mourning ring to Thomas Poole, Esq., of Nether Stowey.

"The Dedicatory Poem to my 'Juvenile Poems,' and my 'Fears in Solitude,'[20] render it unnecessary to say more than what I then, in my early manhood, thought and felt, I now, a gray-headed man, still think and feel."

In this volume, dedicated to his brother, are to be found several poems in early youth and upwards, none of later date than 1796.

The "Ode," he says, "on the Departing Year, was written on the 24th, 25th, and 26th of December, 1796, and published separately on the last day of that year. 'The Religious Musings' were written as early as Christmas 1794."

He then was about to enter his 23rd year. The preface to this volume is a key to his opinions and feelings at that time, and which the foregoing part of this memoir is also intended to illustrate.

"Compositions resembling those of the present volume are not unfrequently condemned for their querulous egotism. But egotism is to be condemned only when it offends against time and place, as in a history or epic poem. To censure it in a monody or sonnet is almost as absurd as to dislike a circle for being round. Why then write sonnets or monodies? Because they give me pleasure when, perhaps, nothing else could. After the more violent emotions of sorrow, the mind demands amusement, and can find it in employment alone; but full of its late sufferings, it can endure no employment not in some measure connected with them. Forcibly to turn away our attention to general subjects is a painful and most often an unavailing effort.

'But O! how grateful to a wounded heart The tale of misery to impart From others' eyes bid artless sorrows flow, And raise esteem upon the base of woe.'


The communicativeness of our nature leads us to describe our own sorrows; in the endeavour to describe them, intellectual activity is exerted; and from intellectual activity there results a pleasure, which is gradually associated, and mingles as a corrective, with the painful subject of the description. 'True,' (it may be answered) 'but how are the PUBLIC interested in your sorrows or your description'?' We are for ever attributing personal unities to imaginary aggregates.—What is the PUBLIC, but a term for a number of scattered individuals? Of whom as many will be interested in these sorrows, as have experienced the same or similar.

'Holy be the lay Which mourning soothes the mourner on his way.'

If I could judge of others by myself, I should not hesitate to affirm, that the most interesting passages in our most interesting poems are those in which the author developes his own feelings. The sweet voice of Cona [21] never sounds so sweetly, as when it speaks of itself; and I should almost suspect that man of an unkindly heart, who could read the opening of the third book of 'Paradise Lost' without peculiar emotion. By a law of nature, he, who labours under a strong feeling, is impelled to seek for sympathy; but a poet's feelings are all strong.—Quicquid amat valde amat.—Akenside therefore speaks with philosophical accuracy when he classes love and poetry as producing the same effects:

'Love and the wish of poets when their tongue Would teach to others' bosoms, what so charms Their own.'

'Pleasures of Imagination'.

There is one species of egotism which is truly disgusting; not that which leads to communicate our feelings to others, but that which would reduce the feelings of others; to an identity with our own.

The atheist who exclaims 'pshaw,' when he glances his eye on the praises of Deity, is an egotist; an old man, when he speaks contemptuously of love verses is an egotist; and the sleek favourites of fortune are egotists when they condemn all 'melancholy discontented' verses. Surely it would be candid not merely to ask whether the poem pleases ourselves, but to consider whether or no there may not be others, to whom it is well calculated to give an innocent pleasure.

I shall only add, that each of my readers will, I hope, remember, that these poems on various subjects, which, he reads at one time and under the influence of one set of feelings, were written at different times and prompted by very different feelings; and, therefore, that, the supposed inferiority of one poem to another may sometimes be owing to the temper of mind in which he happens to peruse it."

In the second edition (the second edition was published in conjunction with his friends Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb) is added the following:

"My poems have been rightly charged with a profusion of double-epithets, and a general turgidness. I have pruned the double-epithets with no sparing hand; and used my best efforts to tame the swell and glitter both of thought and diction. This latter fault, however, had insinuated itself into my Religious Musings with such intricacy of union, that sometimes I have omitted to disentangle the weed from the fear of snapping the flower. A third and heavier accusation has been brought against me, that of obscurity; but not, I think, with equal justice. An author is obscure, when his conceptions are dim and imperfect, and his language incorrect, or inappropriate, or involved. A poem that abounds in allusions, like the 'Bard' of Gray, or one that impersonates high and abstract truths, like Collins's 'Ode on the Poetical Character,' claims not to be popular, but should be acquitted of obscurity. The deficiency is in the reader; but this is a charge which every poet, whose imagination is warm and rapid, must expect from his 'contemporaries'. Milton did not escape it; and it was adduced with virulence against Gray and Collins. We now hear no more of it, not that their poems are better understood at present, than they were at their first publication; but their fame is established; and a critic would accuse him self of frigidity or, inattention, who should profess not to understand them: but a living writer is yet sub judice; and if we cannot follow his conceptions or enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride to consider him as lost beneath, than as soaring above, us. If any man expect from my poems the same easiness of style which he admires in a drinking-song for him, I have not written. Intelligibilia, non intellectum adfero.

I expect neither profit nor general fame by my writings; and I consider myself as having been amply repaid without either. Poetry has been to me its own 'exceeding great reward;' it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude; and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me."

We seem now to have arrived at that period of Coleridge's life which a profound student of his poetry, and himself a pleasing and elegant poet, has considered the period of the "Annus Mirabilis." "The Manhood," he observes, "of Coleridge's true poetical life was in the year 1797." This is perfectly true, and at that period he was only twenty-five, as before stated. He was, as is proved in his earlier poems, highly susceptible and sensitive, requiring kindness and sympathy, and the support of something like intellectual friendship. He tells us that he chose his residence at Stowey, on account of his friend Mr. Poole, who assisted and enabled him to brave the storm of "Life's pelting ills." Near him, at Allfoxden, resided Mr. Wordsworth, with whom, he says,

"Shortly after my settlement there, I became acquainted, and whose society I found an invaluable blessing, and to whom I looked up with equal reverence as a poet, a philosopher, or a man. His conversation extended to almost all subjects except physics and politics; with the latter he never troubled himself."

Although Coleridge lived a most retired life, it was not enough to exempt him from the watchfulness of the spies of government whose employment required some apparent activity before they could receive the reward they expected. Nor did he escape the suspicion of being a dangerous person to the government; which arose partly from his connexion with Wordsworth, and from the great seclusion of his life. Coleridge was ever with book, paper, and pencil in hand, making, in the language of, artists, "Sketches and studies from nature." This suspicion, accompanied with the usual quantity of obloquy, was not merely attached to Coleridge, but extended to his friend, "whose perfect innocence was even adduced as a suspicion of his guilt," by one of these sapients, who observed that

"as to Coleridge, there is not much harm in him; for he is a whirl-brain, that talks whatever comes uppermost; but that Wordsworth! he is a dark traitor. You never hear him say a syllable on the subject."

During this time the brother poets must have been composing or arranging the Lyrical Ballads, which were published the following year, i.e. 1798. Coleridge also in 1797 wrote the "Remorse," or rather the play he first called Osorio, the name of the principal character in it, but finding afterwards that there was a respectable family of that name residing in London, it was changed for the title of the Remorse, and the principal character, Osorio, to Ordonio. This play was sent to Sheridan.

The following remarks were given in Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria," which wholly clears him from the suspicion of being concerned in making maps of a coast, where a smuggler could not land, and they shew what really was his employment; and how poets may be mistaken at all times for other than what they wish to be considered:

"During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry,—the power of exciting the sympathy of a reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm which accidents of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real; and real in 'this' sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency. For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life: the characters and incidents were to be such as will be found in every village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after them, or to notice them when they present themselves.

In this idea originated the plan of the 'Lyrical Ballads,' in which it was agreed that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself, as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us,—an inexhaustible treasure; but for which, in consequence of the feeling of familiarity and selfish solicitude, we have eyes yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand.

With this view I wrote the 'Ancient Mariner,' and was preparing, among other poems, the 'Dark Ladie' and the 'Christabel,' in which I should have more nearly realized my ideal than I had done in my first attempt: but Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an interpolation of heterogeneous matter.

Mr. Wordsworth added two or three poems written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction, which is characteristic of his genius. In this form the 'Lyrical Ballads' were published, and were presented by him as an 'experiment', whether subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ornaments and extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might not be so managed, in the language of ordinary life, as to produce the pleasurable interest which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart.

To the second edition he added a preface of considerable length, in which, notwithstanding some passages of apparently a contrary import, he was understood to contend for the extension of the style to poetry of all kinds, and to reject as vicious and indefensible all phrases and forms of style that were not included in what he (unfortunately, I think, adopting an equivocal expression) called the language of 'real' life. From this preface, prefixed to poems in which it was impossible to deny the presence of original genius, however mistaken its direction might be deemed, arose the whole long-continued controversy. For, from the conjunction of perceived power with supposed heresy, I explain the inveteracy, and in some instances, I grieve to say, the acrimonious passions, with which the controversy has been conducted by the assailants." (Vol. ii. p. 1.)

There are few incidents in the life of the literary man to make any narrations of sufficient importance or sufficiently amusing for the readers, and the readers only of works of amusement. The biography of such men is supposed to contain the faithful history and growth of their minds, and the circumstances under which it is developed, and to this it must be confined.

What has been done by Coleridge himself, and where he has been his own biographer, will be carefully noticed and given here, when it falls in with the intention and purposes of this work; for this reason the Biographia Literaria has been so frequently quoted. Coleridge had passed nearly half his life in a retirement almost amounting to solitude, and this he preferred. First, he was anxious for leisure to pursue those studies which wholly engrossed his mind; and secondly, his health permitted him but little change, except when exercise was required; and during the latter part of his life he became nearly crippled by the rheumatism. His character will form a part in the Philosophical History of the Human Mind, which will be placed in the space left for it by his amiable and most faithful friend and disciple, whose talents, whose heart and acquirements makes him most fit to describe them, and whose time was for so many years devoted to this great man. But, to continue in the order of time, in June, 1797, he was visited by his friend Charles Lamb and his sister.

On the morning after their arrival, Coleridge met with an accident which disabled him from walking during the whole of their stay. One evening, when they had left him for a few hours, he composed the poem, "This Lime-tree Bower my Prison," in which he refers to his old friend, while watching him in fancy with his sister, winding and ascending the hills at a short distance, himself detained as if a prisoner:

"Yes! they wander on In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad, My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined And hunger'd after nature, many a year; In the great city pent, winning thy way With sad yet patient soul, through evil, and pain, And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink Behind the western ridge, thou glorious sun! Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb, Ye purple heath flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds! Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves! And kindle, thou blue ocean! So my friend Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood, Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem Less gross than bodily; and of such hues As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes Spirits perceive his presence."

During his residence here, Mr. William Hazlitt became acquainted with him, which is thus vividly recorded in the 'Liberal':

"My father was a dissenting minister at Wem, in Shropshire; and in the year 1798, Mr. Coleridge came to Shrewsbury, to succeed Mr. Rowe in the spiritual charge of a Unitarian congregation there. He did not come till late on the Saturday afternoon before he was to preach, and Mr. Rowe, who himself went down to the coach in a state of anxiety and expectation, to look for the arrival of his successor, could find no one at all answering the description, but a round-faced man, in a short black coat (like a shooting jacket), which hardly seemed to have been made for him, but who appeared to be talking at a great rate to his fellow-passengers. Mr. Rowe had scarcely returned to give an account of his disappointment, when the round-faced man in black entered, and dissipated all doubts on the subject, by beginning to talk. He did not cease while he stayed, nor has he since that I know of. [22]

He held the good town of Shrewsbury in delightful suspense for three weeks that he remained there, 'fluttering the proud Salopians like an eagle in a dove-cot;' and the Welsh mountains, that skirt the horizon with their tempestuous confusion, agree to have heard no such mystic sounds since the days of

'High-born Hoel's harp or soft Llewellyn's lyre!'

My father lived ten miles from Shrewsbury, and was in the habit of exchanging visits with Mr. Rowe, and Mr. Jenkins of Whitchurch (nine miles further on), according to the custom of dissenting ministers in each other's neighbourhood. A line of communication is thus established, by which the flame of civil and religious liberty is kept alive, and nourishes its mouldering fire unquenchable, like the fires in the Agamemnon of AEschylus, placed at different stations, that waited for ten long years to announce, with their blazing pyramids, the destruction of Troy.

Coleridge had agreed to come once to see my father, according to the courtesy of the country, as Mr. Rowe's probable successor; but in the meantime I had gone to hear him preach the Sunday after his arrival. A poet and a philosopher getting up into a Unitarian pulpit to preach the gospel was a romance in these degenerate days,—which was not to be resisted.

It was in January, 1798, that I rose one morning before daylight, to walk ten miles in the mud, to hear this celebrated person preach. Never, the longest day I have to live, shall I have such another walk as this cold, raw, comfortless one, in the winter of the year 1798. 'Il y a des impressions que ni le tems, ni les circonstances peuvent effacer. Dusse-je vivre des siecles entiers, le doux tems de ma jeunesse ne peut renaitre pour moi, ni s'effacer jamais dans ma memoire.' When I got there, the organ was playing the 100th psalm; and, when it was done, Mr. Coleridge rose and gave out his text,—'He departed again into a mountain 'himself alone'.' As he gave out this text, his voice 'rose like a stream of rich distilled perfumes;' and when he came to the two last words, which he pronounced loud, deep, and distinct, it seemed to me, who was then young, as if the sounds had echoed from the bottom of the human heart, and as if that prayer might have floated in solemn silence through the universe. The idea of St. John came into my mind, 'of one crying in the wilderness, who had his loins girt about, and whose food was locusts and wild honey.' The preacher then launched into his subject, like an eagle dallying with the wind. The sermon was upon peace and war—upon church and state—not their alliance, but their separation—on the spirit of the world, and the spirit of Christianity, not as the same, but as opposed to one another. He talked of those who had 'inscribed the cross of Christ on banners dripping with human gore.' He made a poetical and pastoral excursion,—and to show the fatal effects of war, drew a striking contrast between the simple shepherd-boy, driving his team afield, or sitting under the hawthorn, piping to his flock, as though he should never be old,' and the same poor country lad, crimped, kidnapped, brought into town, made drunk at an alehouse, turned into a wretched drummer-boy, with his hair sticking on end with powder and pomatum, a long cue at his back, and tricked out in the finery of the profession of blood:

'Such were the notes our once loved poet sung;'

and, for myself, I could not have been more delighted if I had heard the music of the spheres. Poetry and Philosophy had met together. Truth and Genius had embraced under the eye and with the sanction of Religion. This was even beyond my hopes. I returned home well satisfied. The sun that was still labouring pale and wan through the sky, obscured by thick mists, seemed an emblem of the 'good cause'; and the cold dank drops of dew, that hung half melted on the beard of the thistle, had something genial and refreshing in them—


"On the Tuesday following, the half-inspired speaker came. I was called down into the room where he was, and went half-hoping, half-afraid. He received me very graciously, and I listened for a long time without uttering a word, and did not suffer in his opinion by my silence. 'For those two hours (he was afterwards pleased to say) he was conversing with W. H.'s forehead.' His appearance was different from what I had anticipated from seeing him before. At a distance, and in the dim light of the chapel, there was to me a strange wildness in his aspect, a dusky obscurity, and I thought him pitted with the small-pox. His complexion was at that time clear, and even bright,

'As are the children of yon azure sheen.'

His forehead was broad and high, as if built of ivory, with large projecting eyebrows, and his eyes rolling beneath them like a sea with darkened lustre.

'A certain tender bloom his face o'erspread;'

a purple tinge, as we see it in the pale, thoughtful complexions of the Spanish portrait painters, Murillo and Velasquez. His mouth was rather open, his chin good-humoured and round, and his nose small.

Coleridge in his person was rather above the common size, inclining to the corpulent. His hair (now, alas! grey, and during the latter years of his life perfectly white) was then black, and glossy as the raven's wing, and fell in smooth masses over his forehead. This long liberal hair is peculiar to enthusiasts." [23]

(The Liberal, vol. ii. pp. 23-27.)

He used, in his hours of relaxation, to relate the state of his feelings, and his adventures during the short time he was a preacher. His congregations were large, and if he had the power of attracting one man of such talents from a distance, it may well be understood how the many near the chapel flocked to listen to him; in short, if one is to give credence to current report, he emptied churches and chapels to hear him. If he had needed any stimulus, this would have been sufficient, but such a mind so intensely occupied in the search after truth needed no external excitement.

He has often said, that one of the effects of preaching was, that it compelled him to examine the Scriptures with greater care and industry.

These additional exertions and studies assisted mainly to his final conversion to the whole truth; for it was still evident that his mind was perplexed, and that his philosophical opinions would soon yield to the revealed truth of Scripture.

He has already pointed out what he felt on this important question, how much he differed from the generally received opinions of the Unitarians, confessing that he needed a thorough revolution in his philosophical doctrines, and that an insight into his own heart was wanting.

"While my mind was thus perplexed, by a gracious providence," says he, "for which I can never be sufficiently grateful, the generous and munificent patronage of Mr. Josiah and Mr. Thomas Wedgewood enabled me to finish my education in Germany. Instead of troubling others with my own crude notions, and juvenile compositions, I was thenceforward better employed in attempting to store my own head with the wisdom of others. I made the best use of my time and means; and there is therefore no period of my life on which I can look back with such unmingled satisfaction."

He quitted Clevedon and his cottage in the following farewell lines:—

"Ah! quiet dell! dear cot, and mount sublime! I was constrain'd to quit you. Was it right, While my unnumber'd brethren toil'd and bled, That I should dream away the entrusted hours On rose-leaf beds, pampering the coward heart With feelings all too delicate for use? Sweet is the tear that from some Howard's eye Drops on the cheeks of one he lifts from earth: And he that works me good with unmoved face, Does it but half: he chills me while he aids,— My benefactor, not my brother man! Yet even this, this cold beneficence Praise, praise it, O my Soul! oft as thou scann'st The Sluggard Pity's vision-weaving tribe! Who sigh for wretchedness, yet shun the wretched, Nursing in some delicious solitude Their slothful loves and dainty sympathies! I therefore go, and join head, heart, and hand, Active and firm, to fight the bloodless fight Of Science, freedom, and the truth in Christ. Yet oft when after honourable toil Rests the tired mind, and waking loves to dream, My spirit shall revisit thee, dear cot! Thy jasmin and thy window-peeping rose, And myrtles fearless of the mild sea-air. And I shall sigh fond wishes—sweet abode! Ah! had none greater! And that all had such! It might be so, but, oh! it is not yet. Speed it, O Father! Let thy Kingdom come."

He drew his own character when he described that of Satyrane, the idolocast or breaker of idols, the name he went by among his friends and familiars.

"From his earliest youth," says he, "Satyrane had derived his highest pleasures from the admiration of moral grandeur and intellectual energy; and during the whole of his life he had a greater and more heartfelt delight in the superiority of other men to himself than men in general derive from their belief of their own. His readiness to imagine a superiority where it did not exist, was for many years his predominant foible; his pain from the perception of inferiority in others whom he had heard spoken of with any respect, was unfeigned and involuntary, and perplexed him as a something which he did not comprehend. In the child-like simplicity of his nature he talked to all men as if they were his equals in knowledge and talents, and many whimsical anecdotes could be related connected with this habit; he was constantly scattering good seed on unreceiving soils. When he was at length compelled to see and acknowledge the true state of the morals and intellect of his contemporaries, his disappointment was severe, and his mind, always thoughtful, became pensive and sad:—for to love and sympathize with mankind was a necessity of his nature."

He sought refuge from his own sensitive nature in abstruse meditations, and delighted most in those subjects requiring the full exercise of his intellectual powers, which never seemed fatigued—and in his early life never did sun shine on a more joyous being!

"There was a time when, though my path was rough, This joy within me dallied with distress, And all misfortunes were but as the stuff Whence fancy made me dreams of happiness: For hope grew round me, like the twining vine, And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seem'd mine. But now afflictions bow me down to earth Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth, But oh! each visitation Suspends what nature gave me at my birth, My shaping spirit of imagination. For not to think of what I needs must feel, But to be still and patient, all I can; And haply by abstruse research to steal From my own nature all the natural man— This was my sole resource, my only plan: Till that which suits a part infects the whole, And now is almost grown the habit of my soul." [24]

It was indeed an inauspicious hour "when he changed his abode from the happy groves of Jesus' College to Bristol." But it was so ordained! He sought literature as a trade,—and became an author:

"whatever," he would say, "I write, that alone which contains the truth will live, for truth only is permanent. The rest will deservedly perish."

He wrote to supply the fountain which was to feed the fertilizing rills,—to develope the truth was that at which he aimed, and in which he hoped to find his reward.

On the 16th of September, 1798, he sailed from Great Yarmouth to Hamburg, in company with Mr. Wordsworth and his sister in his way to Germany, and now for the first time beheld "his native land" retiring from him.

In a series of letters, published first in the "Friend," afterwards in his "Biographia Literaria," is to be found a description of his passage to Germany, and short tour through that country. His fellow passengers as described by him were a motley group, suffering from the usual effects of a rolling sea. One of them, who had caught the customary antidote to sympathy for suffering, to witness which is usually painful, began his mirth by not inaptly observing,

"That Momus might have discovered an easier way to see a man's inside than by placing a window in his breast. He needed only to have taken a salt-water trip in a pacquet-boat."

Coleridge thinks that a

"pacquet is far superior to a stage-coach, as a means of making men open out to each other. In the latter the uniformity of posture disposes to dozing, and the definiteness of the period at which the company will separate, makes each individual think of those 'to' whom he is going, rather than of those 'with' whom he is going. But at sea more curiosity is excited, if only on this account, that the pleasant or unpleasant qualities of your companions are of greater importance to you, from the uncertainty how long you may be obliged to house with them."

On board was a party of Danes, who, from his appearance in a suit of black, insisted he was a "Docteur Teology." To relieve himself of any further questioning on this head, he bowed assent "rather than be nothing."

"Certes," he says, "We were not of the Stoic school; for we drank, and talked, and sung altogether; and then we rose and danced on the deck a set of dances, which, in one sense of the word at least, were very intelligibly and appropriately entitled reels. The passengers who lay in the cabin below in all the agonies of sea-sickness, must have found our bacchanalian merriment

a tune Harsh and of dissonant mood for their complaint.

I thought so at the time; and how closely the greater number of our virtues are connected with the fear of death, and how little sympathy we bestow on pain, when there is no danger."

The Dane soon convinced him of the justice of an old remark, that many a faithful portrait in our novels and farces, has been rashly censured for an outrageous caricature, or perhaps nonentity.

"I had retired to my station in the boat when he came and seated himself by my side, and appeared not a little tipsy. He commenced the conversation in the most magnific style, and a sort of pioneering to his own vanity, he flattered me with such grossness! The parasites of the old comedy were modest in comparison."

After a ludicrous conversation which took place, he passes on to the description of another passenger, an Englishman, who spoke German fluently and interpreted many of the jokes of a Prussian who formed one of the party.

"The Prussian was a travelling merchant, turned of threescore, a hale, tall, strong man, and full of stories, gesticulations, and buffoonery, with the soul as well as the look of a mountebank, who, while he is making you laugh, picks your pocket. Amid all his droll looks and droll gestures, there remained one look untouched by laughter; and that one look was the true face, the others were but its mask. The Hanoverian (another of the party) was a pale, bloated, young man, whose father had made a large fortune in London as an army contractor. He seemed to emulate the manners of young Englishmen of fortune. He was a good-natured fellow, not without information or literature, but a most egregious coxcomb. He had been in the habit of attending the House of Commons; and had once spoken, as he informed me, with great applause in a debating society. For this he appeared to have qualified himself with laudable industry; for he was perfect in Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary, and with an accent that forcibly reminded me of the Scotchman in Roderick Random, who professed to teach the English pronunciation; he was constantly deferring to my superior judgment, whether or no I had pronounced this or that word with propriety or 'the true delicacy.' When he spoke, though it were only half a dozen sentences, he always rose; for which I could detect no other motive, than his partiality to that elegant phrase, so liberally introduced in the orations of our British legislators, 'While I am on my legs.'"

Coleridge continues his description of the party, and relates a quarrel that ensued between a little German tailor and his wife, by which he was the gainer of a bed, it being too cold to continue much longer on deck:

"In the evening the sea rolling higher, the Dane became worse, and in consequence increased his remedy, viz. brandy, sugar, and nutmeg, in proportion to the room left in his stomach. The conversation or oration 'rather than dialogue, became extravagant beyond all that I ever heard.' After giving an account of his fortune acquired in the island of Santa Cruz, 'he expatiated on the style in which he intended to live in Denmark, and the great undertakings he proposed to himself to commence, till the brandy aiding his vanity, and his vanity and garrulity aiding the brandy, he talked like a madman.

After this drunken apostrophe he changed the conversation, and commenced an harangue on religion, (mistaking Coleridge for "un Philosophe" in the continental sense of the word) he talked of the Deity in a declamatory style very much resembling the devotional rants of that rude blunderer Mr. Thomas Paine, in his 'Age of Reason'. I dare aver, that few men have less reason to charge themselves with indulging in persiflage than myself; I should hate it, if it were only that it is a Frenchman's vice, and feel a pride in avoiding it, because our own language is too honest to have a word to express it by.

At four o'clock I observed a wild duck swimming on the waves, a single solitary wild duck. It is not easy to conceive, how interesting a thing it looked in that round objectless desert of waters."

The cry of 'land' was heard soon afterwards, and in a short time they dropped anchor at Cuxhaven, and proceeded from thence in a boat to Hamburg. After this he travelled on to [25] Ratzeburg, and then took up his residence with a pastor for the purpose of acquiring the German language, but with what success will be presently shown. He soon after proceeded through Hanover to Goettingen.—Here he informs us he regularly

"attended lectures in the morning in physiology, in the evening an natural history under BLUMENBACH, a name as dear to every Englishman who has studied at the university, as it is venerable to men of science throughout Europe! Eichorn's Lectures on the New Testament were repeated to me from notes by a student from Ratzeburg, a young man of sound learning and indefatigable industry, who is now I believe a professor of the oriental languages at Heidelberg."

Few persons visit Gottingen without ascending the Brocken.

At the close of one of their academic studies, equivalent to, what in this country is called a term, it was agreed that the following party should visit the Hartz Mountains, &c. Namely, Coleridge, the two Parrys of Bath, Charles and Edward, sons of the celebrated physician of that name, the son also of Professor Blumenbach, Dr. Carlyon, Mr. Chester, and Mr. Greenough. Coleridge and the party made the ascent of the Brocken, on the Hanoverian side of this mountain. During the toil of the ascent, Coleridge amused his companions with recapitulating some trifling verses, which he was wont to do some twenty years afterwards to amuse children of five and six years old, as Miss Mary Rowe, Tity Mouse Brim, Dr. Daniel Dove, of Doncaster, and his Horse Nobbs. It should, however, be observed, that these Dr. Carlyon seemed to think worth notice, while the Christabel and Ancient Mariner were probably but little to his taste. His dress, a short jacket of coarse material, though convenient, was not quite classical in a party of philosophical erratics in quest of novelty. This tale of Dr. Daniel Dove, of Doncaster, has given a frame and pegs, on which some literary man has founded a story, and on which he has hung the contents of his scrap book. The invention is not Coleridge's; and the writer believes the story itself to be traditional. The following account of his ascent up the Brocken was written by himself, soon after his return from Germany:


"Through roads no way rememberable, we came to Gieloldshausen, over a bridge, on which was a mitred statue with a great crucifix in its arms. The village, long and ugly; but the church, like most Catholic churches, interesting; and this being Whitsun Eve, all were crowding to it, with their mass-books and rosaries, the little babies commonly with coral crosses hanging on the breast. Here we took a guide, left the village, ascended a hill, and now the woods rose up before us in a verdure which surprised us like a sorcery. The spring had burst forth with the suddenness of a Russian summer. As we left Goettingen there were buds, and here and there a tree half green; but here were woods in full foliage, distinguished from summer only by the exquisite freshness of their tender green. We entered the wood through a beautiful mossy path; the moon above us blending with the evening light, and every now and then a nightingale would invite the others to sing, and some or other commonly answered, and said, as we suppose, 'It is yet somewhat too early!' for the song was not continued. We came to a square piece of greenery, completely walled on all four sides by the beeches; again entered the wood, and having travelled about a mile, emerged from it into a grand plain—mountains in the distance, but ever by our road the skirts of the green woods. A very rapid river ran by our side; and now the nightingales were all singing, and the tender verdure grew paler in the moonlight, only the smooth parts of the river were still deeply purpled with the reflections from the fiery light in the west. So surrounded and so impressed, we arrived at Prele, a dear little cluster of houses in the middle of a semicircle of woody hills; the area of the semicircle scarcely broader than the breadth of the village.


"We afterwards ascended another hill, from the top of which a large plain opened before us with villages. A little village, Neuhoff, lay at the foot of it: we reached it, and then turned up through a valley on the left hand. The hills on both sides the valley were prettily wooded, and a rapid lively river ran through it.

So we went for about two miles, and almost at the end of the valley, or rather of its first turning, we found the village of Lauterberg. Just at the entrance of the village, two streams come out from two deep and woody coombs, close by each other, meet, and run into a third deep woody coomb opposite; before you a wild hill, which seems the end and barrier of the valley; on the right hand, low hills, now green with corn, and now wooded; and on the left a most majestic hill indeed—the effect of whose simple outline painting could not give, and how poor a thing are words! We pass through this neat little town—the majestic hill on the left hand soaring over the houses, and at every interspace you see the whole of it—its beeches, its firs, its rocks, its scattered cottages, and the one neat little pastor's house at the foot, embosomed in fruit-trees all in blossom, the noisy coomb-brook dashing close by it. We leave the valley, or rather, the first turning on the left, following a stream; and so the vale winds on, the river still at the foot of the woody hills, with every now and then other smaller valleys on right and left crossing our vale, and ever before you the woody hills running like groves one into another. We turned and turned, and entering the fourth curve of the vale, we found all at once that we had been ascending. The verdure vanished! All the beech trees were leafless, and so were the silver birches, whose boughs always, winter and summer, hang so elegantly. But low down in the valley, and in little companies on each bank of the river, a multitude of green conical fir trees, with herds of cattle wandering about, almost every one with a cylindrical bell around its neck, of no inconsiderable size, and as they moved—scattered over the narrow vale, and up among the trees on the hill—the noise was like that of a great city in the stillness of a sabbath morning, when the bells all at once are ringing for church. The whole was a melancholy and romantic scene, that was quite new to me. Again we turned, passed three smelting houses, which we visited;—a scene of terrible beauty is a furnace of boiling metal, darting, every moment blue, green, and scarlet lightning, like serpents' tongues!—and now we ascended a steep hill, on the top of which was St. Andrias Berg, a town built wholly of wood.

"We descended again, to ascend far higher; and now we came to a most beautiful road, which winded on the breast of the hill, from whence we looked down into a deep valley, or huge basin, full of pines and firs; the opposite hills full of pines and firs; and the hill above us, on whose breast we were winding, likewise full of pines and firs. The valley, or basin, on our right hand, into which we looked down, is called the Wald Rauschenbach, that is, the Valley of the Roaring Brook; and roar it did, indeed, most solemnly! The road on which we walked was weedy with infant fir-trees, an inch or two high; and now, on our left hand, came before us a most tremendous precipice of yellow and black rock, called the Rehberg, that is, the Mountain of the Roe. Now again is nothing but firs and pines, above, below, around us! How awful is the deep unison of their undividable murmur; what a one thing it is—it is a sound that impresses the dim notion of the Omnipresent! In various parts of the deep vale below us, we beheld little dancing waterfalls gleaming through the branches, and now, on our left hand, from the very summit of the hill above us, a powerful stream flung itself down, leaping and foaming, and now concealed, and now not concealed, and now half concealed by the fir-trees, till, towards the road, it became a visible sheet of water, within whose immediate neighbourhood no pine could have permanent abiding place. The snow lay every where on the sides of the roads, and glimmered in company with the waterfall foam, snow patches and waterbreaks glimmering through the branches in the hill above, the deep basin below, and the hill opposite.

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