The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1838
by James Gillman
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In consequence of the interest Lord Byron took in the success of this tragedy, Coleridge was frequently in his company, and on one occasion, in my presence, his Lordship said, "Coleridge, there is one passage in your poems, I have parodied fifty times, and I hope to live long enough to parody it five hundred." That passage I do not remember; but it may strike some reader.

In a letter of Coleridge's to a friend, written April 10th, 1816, he thus speaks of Byron:

"If you had seen Lord Byron, you could scarcely disbelieve him—so beautiful a countenance I scarcely ever saw—his teeth so many stationary smiles—his eyes the open portals of the sun—things of light, and for light—and his forehead so ample, and yet so flexible, passing from marble smoothness into a hundred wreathes and lines and dimples correspondent to the feelings and sentiments he is uttering."

Coleridge, in the preface to 'The Remorse', states that the

"tragedy was written in the summer and autumn of the year 1797, at Nether Stowey, in the county of Somerset. By whose recommendation, and of the manner in which both the play and the author were treated by the recommender, let me be permitted to relate: that I knew of its having been received only from a third person; that I could procure neither answer nor the manuscript; and that but for an accident, I should have had no copy of the work itself. That such treatment would damp a young man's exertions may be easily conceived: there was no need of after-misrepresentation and calumny, as an additional sedative."

Coleridge contributed many pieces to Southey's 'Omniana', (all marked with an asterisk,) and was engaged in other literary pursuits; he had notwithstanding much bodily suffering. The 'cause' of this was the organic change slowly and gradually taking place in the structure of the heart itself. But it was so masked by other sufferings, though at times creating despondency, and was so generally overpowered by the excitement of animated conversation, as to leave its real cause undiscovered. [29] Notwithstanding this sad state, he rolled forth volumes from a mind ever active—at times intensely so,—still he required the support of those sympathies which "free the hollow heart from paining."

Soon after the performance of 'The Remorse', he retired with his kind friend, Mr. Morgan, to the village of Calne, partly to be near the Rev. W.L. Bowles, whose sonnets so much attracted his attention in early life. While residing here, he opened a communication with Mr. Gutch, a bookseller, at Bristol, and in consequence, he collected the poems published by the title of 'The Sibylline Leaves', and also composed the greater part of the 'Biographia Literaria'. Here he likewise dictated to his friend, Mr. Morgan, the 'Zapolya', which was submitted to Mr. Douglas Kinnaird, who was then the critic for Drury Lane.—Mr. Kinnaird rejected the play, assigning some ludicrous objections to the metaphysics. The subject is alluded to by Coleridge at the end of the Biographia Literaria, and with that allusion I close the present chapter:

O we are querulous creatures! Little less Than all things can suffice to make us happy: And little more than nothing is enough To make us wretched.

[Footnote 1:

Alas! for myself at least I know and feel, that wherever there is a wrong not to be forgiven, there is a grief that admits neither of cure nor comforting.

'Private Record, 1806.']

[Footnote 2: It appears that Mr. Alexander Macauley, the secretary, an honest and amiable man, died suddenly, without "moan or motion," and Coleridge filled his situation till the arrival of a new secretary, appointed and confirmed by the ministers in England.]

[Footnote 3: 1805.

"For months past so incessantly employed in official tasks, subscribing, examining, administering oaths, auditing," &c.]

[Footnote 4: April 22, 1804.

"I was reading when I was taken ill, and felt an oppression of my breathing, and convulsive snatching in my stomach and limbs. Mrs. Ireland noticed this laborious breathing."]

[Footnote 5: I would fain request the reader to peruse the poem, entitled "A Tombless Epitaph," to be found in Coleridge's 'Poetical Works', 1834, page 200.]

[Footnote 6: Coleridge when asked what was the difference between fame and reputation, would familiarly reply, "Fame is the fiat of the good and wise," and then with energy would quote the following beautiful lines from Milton:—

Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil, Nor in the glistering foil Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies: But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes, And perfect witness of all-judging Jove; As he pronounces lastly on each deed, Of so much fame in Heaven expect thy meed.


[Footnote 7: "The following memoranda written in pencil, and apparently as he journeyed along, but now scarcely legible, may perhaps have an interest for some readers:—

"Sunday, December 15th, 1805.

"Naples, view of Vesuvius, the Hail-mist—Torre del Greco—bright amid darkness—the mountains above it flashing here and there from their snows; but Vesuvius, it had not thinned as I have seen at Keswick, but the air so consolidated with the massy cloud curtain, that it appeared like a mountain in basso relievo, in an interminable wall of some pantheon."]

[Footnote 8: The order for Coleridge's arrest had already been sent from Paris, but his escape was so contrived by the good old Pope, as to defeat the intended indulgence of the Tyrant's vindictive appetite, which would have preyed equally on a Duc D'Enghien, and a contributor to a public journal. In consequence of Mr. Fox having asserted in the House of Commons, that the rupture of the Truce of Amiens had its origin in certain essays written in the Morning Post, which were soon known to have been Coleridge's, and that he was at Rome within reach, the ire of Buonaparte was immediately excited.]

[Footnote 9: Though his Note Books are full of memoranda, not an entry or date of his arrival at Rome is to be found. To Rome itself and its magnificence, he would often refer in conversation. Unfortunately there is not a single document to recall the beautiful images he would place before your mind in perspective, when inspired by the remembrance of its wonder-striking and splendid objects. He however preserved some short essays, which he wrote when in Malta, Observations on Sicily, Cairo, &c. &c. political and statistical, which will probably form part of the literary remains in train of publication.

Malta, on a first view of the subject, seemed to present a situation so well fitted for a landing place, that it was intended to have adopted this mode, as in 'The Friend', of dividing the present memoir; but this loss of MS. and the breaches of continuity, render it impracticable.]

[Footnote 10: At this time all his writings were strongly tinctured with Platonism.]

[Footnote 11: Each party claimed him as their own; for party without principles must ever be shifting, and therefore they found his opinions sometimes in accordance with their own, and sometimes at variance. But he was of no party—his views were purely philosophical.]

[Footnote 12: The character of Buonaparte was announced in the same paper.]

[Footnote 13: Those who spoke after Pitt were Wilberforce, Tierney, Sheridan, &c.]

[Footnote 14: This speech of Mr. Pitt's is extracted from the 'Morning Post', February 18th, 1800.]

[Footnote 15: The following exquisite image on Leighton was found in one of Coleridge's note books, and is also inserted in his Literary Remains:

"Next to the inspired Scriptures, yea, and as the vibration of that once struck hour remaining on the air, stands Archbishop Leighton's commentary on the first epistle of Peter."]

[Footnote 16: In his later days, Mr. Coleridge would have renounced the opinions and the incorrect reasoning of this letter].

[Footnote 17: Article ii.

The Son which is the word of the Father, 'begotten' from Everlasting of the Father, &c.

Art. v.

The Holy Ghost 'proceeding' from the Father and the Son, &c.]

[Footnote 18: It was a favourite citation with Mr. Coleridge,

"I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."

Vide St. John, xvii. 2.]

[Footnote 19: At Mr. Poole's house, Mr. De Quincey remained two days. Of his visit he gives a full account; at the same time charging Coleridge with the meanness of plagiarism, but which charges since their publication have been ably refuted in an article in the British Magazine, signed J.C.H. Vide No. 37, page 15.]

[Footnote 20: Vide 'Tait's Magazine', No. 8.]

[Footnote 21: These have not been found.]

[Footnote 22: This little Paper Book has not yet been found.]

[Footnote 23: In the 'Quarterly Review' for July, 1837, will be found an able article on the 'Literary Remains of S.T. Coleridge,' and on "Mr. Cottle's Early Recollections," in which are extracted these very paragraphs from the "Friend," but which had been sent to the press before this number appeared.]

[Footnote 24: This poem is supposed to have been written in 1813, when on a visit to some friends at Bexhill, Sussex.]

[Footnote 25: 'Reminiscences of a Literary Life', Vol. i. p. 253.]

[Footnote 26: If "indisposition were generally preying upon him," as at this time was indeed the fact, could this occasional failure in the delivery of a lecture (though naturally very disappointing to his audience,) be fairly attributed to indolence?]

[Footnote 27: About this time, when party spirit was running high, Coleridge was known to be the author of the following Jeu d'Esprit,

"Dregs half way up and froth half way down, form Whitbread's Entire."]

[Footnote 28: It was Mr. Rae who took it for his benefit, some time after Mr. Coleridge's residence at Highgate.]

[Footnote 29:

"'My heart', or 'some part' about it, seems breaking, as if a weight were suspended from it that stretches it, such is the 'bodily feeling', as far as I can express it by words."

Letter addressed to Mr. Morgan.]



I now approach one of the most eventful epochs in the Life of Coleridge, and, I may well add, of my own.

In the year 1816, the following letter was addressed to me by a physician: [1]

Hatton Garden, 9th April, 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 in vain endeavouring to break himself off it. It is apprehended his friends are not firm enough, from a dread, lest he should suffer by suddenly leaving it off, though he is conscious of the contrary; and has proposed to me to submit himself to any regimen, however severe. With this view, he wishes to fix himself in the house of some medical gentleman, who will have courage to refuse him any laudanum, and under whose assistance, should he be the worse for it, he may be relieved. As he is desirous of retirement, and a garden, I could think of no one so readily as yourself. Be so good as to inform me, whether such a proposal is absolutely inconsistent with your family arrangements. I should not have proposed it, but on account of the great importance of the character, as a literary man. His communicative temper will make his society very interesting, as well as useful. Have the goodness to favour me with an immediate answer; and believe me, dear sir, your faithful humble servant,


I had seen the writer of this letter but twice in my life, and had no intention of receiving an inmate into my house. I however determined on seeing Dr. Adams, for whether the person referred to had taken opium from choice or necessity, to me he was equally an object of commiseration and interest. Dr. Adams informed me that the patient had been warned of the danger of discontinuing opium by several eminent medical men, who, at the same time, represented the frightful consequences that would most probably ensue. I had heard of the failure of Mr. Wilberforce's case, under an eminent physician at Bath, in addition to which, the doctor gave me an account of several others within his own knowledge. After some further conversation it was agreed that Dr. Adams should drive Coleridge to Highgate the following evening. On the following evening came Coleridge 'himself' and alone. An old gentleman, of more than ordinary acquirements, was sitting by the fireside when he entered.—We met, indeed, for the first time, but as friends long since parted, and who had now the happiness to see each other again. Coleridge took his seat—his manner, his appearance, and above all, his conversation were captivating. We listened with delight, and upon the first pause, when courtesy permitted, my visitor withdrew, saying in a low voice, "I see by your manners, an old friend has arrived, and I shall therefore retire." Coleridge proposed to come the following evening, but he 'first' informed me of the painful opinion which he had received concerning his case, especially from one medical man of celebrity. The tale was sad, and the opinion given unprofessional and cruel—sufficient to have deterred most men so afflicted from making the attempt Coleridge was contemplating, and in which his whole soul was so deeply and so earnestly engaged. In the course of our conversation, he repeated some exquisite but desponding lines of his own. It was an evening of painful and pleasurable feeling, which I can never forget. We parted with each other, understanding in a few minutes what perhaps under different circumstances, would have cost many hours to arrange; and I looked with impatience for the morrow, still wondering at the apparent chance that had brought him under my roof. I felt indeed almost spell-bound, without the desire of release. My situation was new, and there was something affecting in the thought, that one of such amiable manners, and at the same time so highly gifted, should seek comfort and medical aid in our quiet home. Deeply interested, I began to reflect seriously on the duties imposed upon me, and with anxiety to expect the approaching day. It brought me the following letter:

42, Norfolk Street, Strand, Saturday Noon.

[April 13, 1816.]


The first half hour I was with you convinced me that I should owe my reception into your family exclusively to motives not less flattering to me than honourable to yourself. I trust we shall ever in matters of intellect be reciprocally serviceable to each other. Men of sense generally come to the same conclusions; but they are likely to contribute to each other's enlargement of view, in proportion to the distance or even opposition of the points from which they set out. Travel and the strange variety of situations and employments on which chance has thrown me, in the course of my life, might have made me a mere man of 'observation', if pain and sorrow and self-miscomplacence had not forced my mind in on itself, and so formed habits of 'meditation'. It is now as much my nature to evolve the fact from the law, as that of a practical man to deduce the law from the fact.

With respect to pecuniary remuneration, allow me to say, I must not at least be suffered to make any addition to your family expences— though I cannot offer any thing that would be in any way adequate to my sense of the service; for that indeed there could not be a compensation, as it must be returned in kind, by esteem and grateful affection.

And now of myself. My ever wakeful reason, and the keenness of my moral feelings, will secure you from all unpleasant circumstances connected with me save only one, viz. the evasion of a specific madness. You will never 'hear' any thing but truth from me:—prior habits render it out of my power to tell an untruth, but unless carefully observed, I dare not promise that I should not, with regard to this detested poison, be capable of acting one. No sixty hours have yet passed without my having taken laudanum, though for the last week comparatively trifling doses. I have full belief that your anxiety need not be extended beyond the first week, and for the first week, I shall not, I must not be permitted to leave your house, unless with you. Delicately or indelicately, this must be done, and both the servants and the assistant must receive absolute commands from you. The stimulus of conversation suspends the terror that haunts my mind; but when I am alone, the horrors I have suffered from laudanum, the degradation, the blighted utility, almost overwhelm me. If (as I feel for the 'first time' a soothing confidence it will prove) I should leave you restored to my moral and bodily health, it is not myself only that will love and honour you; every friend I have, (and thank God! in spite of this wretched vice [2] I have many and warm ones, who were friends of my youth, and have never deserted me,) will thank you with reverence. I have taken no notice of your kind apologies. If I could not be comfortable in your house, and with your family, I should deserve to be miserable. If you could make it convenient, I should wish to be with you by Monday evening, as it would prevent the necessity of taking fresh lodgings in town.

With respectful compliments to Mrs. Gillman and her sister, I remain, dear sir,

Your much obliged,


On the evening appointed, Coleridge came, bringing in his hand the proof sheets of 'Christabel', which was now for the first time printed. The fragment in manuscript was already known to many, for to many had Coleridge read it, who had listened to it with delight—a delight so marked that its success seemed certain. But the approbation of those whom, in the worldly acceptation of the term, we call 'friends', is not always to be relied upon. Among the most plausible connexions, there is often a rivalship, both political and literary, which constrains the sacrifice of sincerity, and substitutes secret for open censure. Of this melancholy fact Coleridge had seen proof. The Fragment had not long been published before he was informed, that an individual had been selected (who was in truth a great admirer of his writings; and whose very life had been saved through the exertions of Coleridge and Mr. Southey,) to "'cut up'" Christabel in the Edinburgh Review. The subject being afterwards mentioned in conversation, the reviewer confessed that he was the writer of the article, but observed, that as he wrote for the Edinburgh Review, he was compelled to write in accordance with the character and tone of that periodical. This confession took place after he had been extolling the Christabel as the finest poem of its kind in the language, and ridiculing the public for their want of taste and discrimination in not admiring it.—Truly has it been said,

"Critics upon all writers there are many, Planters of truth or knowledge scarcely any."

Sir Walter Scott always spoke in high praise of the Christabel, and more than once of his obligations to Coleridge; of this we have proof in his Ivanhoe, in which the lines by Coleridge, entitled "The Knight's Tomb," were quoted by Scott before they were published, from which circumstance, Coleridge was convinced that Sir Walter was the author of the Waverly Novels. The lines were composed as an experiment for a metre, and repeated by him to a mutual friend—this gentleman the following day dined in company with Sir Walter Scott, and spoke of his visit to Highgate, repeating Coleridge's lines to Scott, and observing at the same time, that they might be acceptable to the author of Waverley.


Where is the grave of Sir Arthur O'Kellyn? Where may the grave of that good man be?— By the side of a spring, on the breast of Helvellyn, Under the twigs of a young birch tree! The Oak that in summer was sweet to hear, And rustled its leaves in the fall of the year; And whistled and roar'd in the winter alone, Is gone,—and the birch in its stead is grown.— The Knight's bones are dust, And his good sword rust;— His soul is with the saints, I trust.

'Poetical Works', Vol. ii. p. 64.

The late Mr. Sotheby informed me, that, at his house in a large party, Sir Walter made the following remark:

"I am indebted to Coleridge for the mode of telling a tale by question and answer. This was a new light to me, and I was greatly struck by it."

Yet when Sir Walter said this, he must surely have forgotten many of our ancient and most beautiful ballads, in which the questions are so significant, and are made to develope the progress of the fable more clearly than could be affected by the ordinary course of narration. In fact every lover of our old poetry will recollect a hundred pieces in which the same form of evolution is observed. Thus in 'Johnie of Breadis Lee':

"What news, what news, ye grey-headed carle, What news bring ye to me?"

And in 'Halbert the Grim':

"There is pity in many,— Is there any in him? No! ruth is a strange guest To Halbert the Grim."

Scott particularly admired Coleridge's management of the supernatural. The "flesh and blood reality," given to Geraldine, the life, the power of appearing and disappearing equally by day as by night, constitutes the peculiar merit of the Christabel: and those poets who admire, and have reflected much on the supernatural, have ever considered it one of the greatest efforts of genius. But the effect has ever been degraded by unnatural combinations. Thus on the stage, where such creations are the most frequent, it has been the custom for stage-managers to choose 'male' actors for the female parts. In 'Macbeth', men are called on to stir the caldron and other witcheries requiring muscular power. Again, when Macbeth listens to those extraordinary beings, who, with muttering spells, with charms, foreknowledge and incantations imperfectly announced to him his fate; he, with an air of command, says, "Speak!" &c. They shew their power, and give their best answer by disappearing. The manner of representing this is unnatural, as exhibited by our managers. Coleridge observed, that it would be better to withdraw the light from the stage, than to exhibit these miserable attempts at vanishing, [3] though could the thought have been well executed, he considered it a master-stroke of Shakspeare's. Yet it should be noticed, that Coleridge's opinion was, that some of the plays of our "myriad-minded" bard ought never to be acted, but looked on as poems to be read, and contemplated; and so fully was he impressed with this feeling, that in his gayer moments he would often say, "There should be an Act of Parliament to prohibit their representation." [4] Here 'he' excelled: he has no incongruities, no gross illusions. In the management of the supernatural, the only successful poets among our own countrymen have been Shakspeare and Coleridge. Scott has treated it well in the Bride of Lammermoor, and in one or two other works.

Of the Christabel, as now published, Coleridge says, "The first part was composed in 1797." This was the Annus Mirabilis of this great man; in it he was in his best and strongest health. He returned from Germany in 1799, and in the year following wrote the 'second' part, in the preface to which he observes, "Till very lately my poetic powers have been in a state of suspended animation." The subject indeed remained present to his mind, though from bad health and other causes, it was left as a mere fragment of his poetic power. When in health he sometimes said, "This poem comes upon me with all the loveliness of a vision;" and he declared, that though contrary to the advice of his friends, he should finish it: At other times when his bodily powers failed him, he would then say, "I am reserved for other works than making verse."

In the preface to the Christabel, he makes the following observation:

"It is probable," he says, "that if the poem had been finished at either of the former periods, 'i.e'. 1797 and 1800, or if even the first and second part of this fragment had been published in the year 1800, the impression of its originality would have been much greater than I dare at present expect. But for this, I have only my own indolence to blame. The dates are mentioned for the exclusive purpose of precluding charges of plagiarism or servile imitation from myself. For there is among us a set of critics who seem to hold, that every possible thought and image is traditional; who have no notion that there are such things as fountains in the world, small as well as great; and who would therefore charitably derive every rill, they behold flowing, from a perforation made in some other man's tank. I am confident, however, that as far as the present poem is concerned, the celebrated poets whose writings I might be suspected of having imitated, either in particular passages, or in the tone and the spirit of the whole, would be among the first to vindicate me from the charge, and who, on any striking coincidence, would permit me to address them in this dogged version of two monkish Latin hexameters:

'Tis mine and it is likewise your's, But an if this will not do; Let it be mine, good friend! for I Am the poorer of the two."

I have only to add, that the metre of the Christabel is not, properly speaking, irregular, though it may seem so from its being founded on a new principle; namely, that of counting in each line the accents, not the syllables. Though the latter may vary from seven to twelve, yet in each line the accents will be found to be only four. Nevertheless, this occasional variation in the number of syllables is not introduced wantonly, or for the mere ends of convenience, but in correspondence with some transition in the nature of the imagery or passion."

In conversation many of his brother poets would, like the reviewer, echo his praises, while in secret, they were trying to deprive him of his fair fame.

It has been said, that "Coleridge never explained the story of Christabel." To his friends he did explain it; and in the Biographia Literaria, he has given an account of its origin. [5]

The story of the Christabel is partly founded on the notion, that the virtuous of this world save the wicked. The pious and good Christabel suffers and prays for

"The weal of her lover that is far away,"

exposed to various temptations in a foreign land; and she thus defeats the power of evil represented in the person of Geraldine. This is one main object of the tale.

At the opening of the poem all nature is laid under a spell:

'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock, And the owls have awak'ned the crowing cock; Tu-whit!—Tu-whoo! And hark, again! The crowing cock, How drowsily it crew—

Sir Leoline, the Baron rich, Hath a toothless mastiff-bitch, From her kennel beneath the rock Maketh answer to the clock, Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour; Ever and aye, by shine and shower, Sixteen short howls, not over loud; Some say, she sees my lady's shroud.

Is the night chilly and dark? The night is chilly, but not dark. The thin gray cloud is spread on high, It covers but not hides the sky. The moon is behind, and at the full; And yet she looks both small and dull. The night is chill, the cloud is gray: 'Tis a month before the month of May, And the Spring comes slowly up this way.

The spell is laid by an evil being, not of this world, with whom Christabel, the heroine, is about to become connected; and who in the darkness of the forest is meditating the wreck of all her hopes

The lovely lady, Christabel, Whom her father loves so well, What makes her in the wood so late, A furlong from the castle gate? She had dreams all yesternight Of her own betrothed knight; And she in the midnight wood will pray For the weal of her lover that's far away.

She stole along, she nothing spoke, The sighs she heaved were soft and low, And naught was green upon the oak, But moss and rarest misletoe: She kneels beneath the huge oak tree, And in silence prayeth she.

There are persons who have considered the description of Christabel in the act of praying, so far from the baron's castle, too great a poetical license. He was fully aware that all baronial castles had their chapels and oratories attached to them,—and that in these lawless times, for such were the middle ages, the young lady who ventured unattended beyond the precincts of the castle, would have endangered her reputation. But to such an imaginative mind, it would have been scarcely possible to pass by the interesting image of Christabel, presenting itself before him, praying by moonlight at the old oak tree. But to proceed:

The lady sprang up suddenly, The lovely lady Christabel! It moaned as near, as near can be, But what it is, she cannot tell.— On the other side it seems to be, Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak tree. The night is chill; the forest bare; Is it the wind that moaneth bleak? There is not wind enough in the air To move away the ringlet curl From the lovely lady's cheek— There is not wind enough to twirl The one red leaf, the last of its clan, That dances as often as dance it can, Hanging so light, and hanging so high, On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky. Hush, beating heart of Christabel! Jesu, Maria, shield her well! She folded her arms beneath her cloak, And stole to the other side of the oak. What sees she there? There she sees a damsel bright, Drest in a silken robe of white, That shadowy in the moonlight shone: The neck that made that white robe wan, Her stately neck and arms were bare; Her blue-veined feet unsandal'd were. And wildly glittered here and there The gems entangled in her hair. I guess, 'twas frightful there to see A lady so richly clad as she— Beautiful exceedingly!

This description is exquisite. Now for the mystic demon's tale of art:

Mary mother, save me now! (Said Christabel,) And who art thou? The lady strange made answer meet, And her voice was faint and sweet:— Have pity on my sore distress, I scarce can speak for weariness: Stretch forth thy hand, and have no fear! Said Christabel, How camest thou here? And the lady, whose voice was faint and sweet, Did thus pursue her answer meet:—

My sire is of a noble line, And my name is Geraldine: Five warriors seized me yestermorn, Me, even me, a maid forlorn: They chok'd my cries with force and fright, And tied me on a palfrey white. The palfrey was as fleet as wind, And they rode furiously behind. They spurred amain, their steeds were white: And once we crossed the shade of night. As sure as Heaven shall rescue me, I have no thought what men they be; Nor do I know how long it is (For I have lain entranced I wis) Since one, the tallest of the five, Took me from the palfrey's back, A weary woman, scarce alive. Some muttered words his comrades spoke He placed me underneath this oak, He swore they would return with haste; Whither they went I cannot tell— I thought I heard, some minutes past, Sounds as of a castle bell. Stretch forth thy hand (thus ended she) And help a wretched maid to flee.

Then Christabel stretched forth her hand And comforted fair Geraldine: O well, bright dame! may you command The service of Sir Leoline; And gladly our stout chivalry Will he send forth and friends withal, To guide and guard you safe and free Home to your noble father's hall. She rose: and forth with steps they passed That strove to be, and were not, fast. Her gracious stars the lady blest And thus spake on sweet Christabel: All our household are at rest, The hall as silent as the cell; Sir Leoline is weak in health, And may not well awakened be, But we will move as if in stealth, And I beseech your courtesy, This night, to share your couch with me.

They crossed the moat, and Christabel Took the key that fitted well; A little door she opened straight, All in the middle of the gate; The gate that was ironed within and without, Where an army in battle array had marched out. The lady sank, belike through pain, And Christabel with might and main Lifted her up, a weary weight, Over the threshold of the gate: Then the lady rose again, And moved, as she were not in pain.

So free from danger, free from fear, They crossed the court: right glad they were.

Following the popular superstition that dogs are supposed to see ghosts, and therefore see the supernatural, the mastiff yells, when Geraldine appears:

Outside her kennell, the mastiff old Lay fast asleep, in moonshine cold. The mastiff old did not awake, Yet she an angry moan did make! And what can ail the mastiff bitch? Never till now she uttered yell, Beneath the eye of Christabel.

Geraldine had already worked upon the kindness of Christabel, so that she had lifted her over the threshold of the gate, which Geraldine's fallen power had prevented her passing of herself, the place being holy and under the influence of the Virgin.

"Praise we the Virgin all divine, Who hath rescued thee from thy distress, Alas! Alas! said Geraldine, I cannot speak for weariness. They pass the hall that echoes still, Pass as lightly as you will! The brands were flat, the brands were dying, Amid their own white ashes lying; But when the lady passed there came A tongue of light, a fit of flame; And Christabel saw the lady's eye, And nothing else saw she thereby Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall, Which hung in a murky old nitch in the wall. O! softly tread, said Christabel, My father seldom sleepeth well."

Geraldine, who affects to be weary, arrives at the chamber of Christabel—this room is beautifully ornamented,

"Carved with figures strange and sweet, All made out of the carver's brain, For a lady's chamber meet The lamp with twofold silver chain Is fasten'd to an angel's feet."

Such is the mysterious movement of this supernatural lady, that all this is visible, and when she passed the dying brands, there came a fit of flame, and Christabel saw the lady's eye.

The silver lamp burns dead and dim; But Christabel the lamp will trim. She trimm'd the lamp and made it bright, And left it swinging to and fro, While Geraldine, in wretched plight, Sank down upon the floor below. O weary lady Geraldine, I pray you drink this cordial wine, It is a wine of virtuous powers; My mother made it of wild flowers. And will your mother pity me, Who am a maiden most forlorn? Christabel answer'd—Woe is me! She died the hour that I was born, I have heard the grey-hair'd friar tell, How on her death-bed she did say, That she should hear the castle bell Strike twelve upon my wedding-day. O mother dear! that thou wert here! I would, said Geraldine, she were!

The poet now introduces the real object of the supernatural transformation: the spirit of evil struggles with the deceased and sainted mother of Christabel for the possession of the lady. To render the scene more impressive, the mother instantly appears, though she is invisible to her daughter. Geraldine exclaims in a commanding voice

"Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine! I have power to bid thee flee?" Alas! what ails poor Geraldine? Why stares she with unsettled eye Can she the bodiless dead espy? And why with hollow voice cries she, "Off, woman, off! this hour is mine— Though thou her guardian spirit be, "Off, woman, off! 'tis given to me."

Here, Geraldine seems to be struggling with the spirit of Christabel's mother, over which for a time she obtains the mastery.

Then Christabel knelt by the lady's side, And rais'd to heaven her eyes so blue— Alas! said she, this ghastly ride— Dear lady! it hath wilder'd you! The lady wiped her moist cold brow, And faintly said, "'Tis over now!"

Again the wild-flower wine she drank, Her fair large eyes 'gan glitter bright, And from the floor whereon she sank, The lofty lady stood upright She was most beautiful to see, Like a lady of a far countree.

And thus the lofty lady spake— All they who live in the upper sky, Do love you, holy Christabel! And you love them, and for their sake And for the good which me befell, Even I in my degree will try, Fair maiden to requite you well. But now unrobe yourself: for I Must pray, ere yet in bed I lie.

Quoth Christabel, so let it be! And as the lady bade, did she. Her gentle limbs did she undress, And lay down in her loveliness.

But all this had given rise to so many different thoughts and feelings, that she could not compose herself for sleep, so she sits up in her bed to look at Geraldine who drew in her breath aloud, and unbound her cincture. Her silken robe and inner vest then drop to her feet, and she discovers her hideous form:

A sight to dream of, not to tell! O shield her, shield sweet Christabel! Yet Geraldine nor speaks—nor stirs; Ah! what a stricken look was hers!

She then lies down by the side of Christabel, and takes her to her arms, saying in a low voice these words:

In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell, Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel! Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow, This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow; But vainly thou warrest, For this is alone in Thy power to declare, That in the dim forest Thou heardst a low moaning, And found'st a bright lady, surpassingly fair And didst bring her home with thee in love and in charity, To shield her and shelter her from the damp air.

The conclusion to part the first is a beautiful and well drawn picture, slightly recapitulating some of the circumstances of the opening of the poem.


It was a lovely sight to see, The lady Christabel, when she Was praying at the old oak tree. Amid the jagged shadows Of mossy leafless boughs, Kneeling in the moonlight, To make her gentle vows; Her slender palms together prest, Heaving sometimes on her breast; Her face resigned to bliss or bale— Her face, oh call it fair, not pale, And both blue eyes more bright than clear, Each about to have a tear.

With open eyes (ah woe is me!) Asleep and dreaming fearfully, Fearfully dreaming, yet I wis, Dreaming that alone which is— O sorrow and shame! Can this be she, The lady who knelt at the old oak tree? And lo! the worker of these harms, That holds the maiden in her arms, Seems to slumber still and mild As a mother with her child.

A star hath set, a star hath risen, O Geraldine! since arms of thine Have been the lovely lady's prison. O Geraldine! one hour was thine— Thou'st had thy will! By tairn and rill, The night-birds all that hour were still.

At the ceasing of the spell, the joyousness of the birds is described, and also the awakening of Christabel as from a trance.—During this rest (her mother) the guardian angel is supposed to have been watching over her. But these passages could not escape coarse minded critics, who put a construction on them which never entered the mind of the author of Christabel, whose poems are marked by delicacy.

The effects of the apparition of her mother, supposed to be seen by Christabel in a vision, are thus described:

What if her guardian spirit 'twere, What if she knew her mother near? But this she knows, in joys and woes, That saints will aid if men will call: For the blue sky bends over all!

Here terminates the first canto.

The passage from this sleep and the reappearance by day-light of Geraldine, has always been considered a master-piece.

The second part begins with a moral reflection, and introduces Sir Leoline, the father of Christabel, with the following observation, on his rising in the morning:

Each matin bell, the Baron saith! Knells us back to a world of death. These words Sir Leoline first said When he rose and found his lady dead. These words Sir Leoline will say Many a morn to his dying day.

After a popular custom of the country, the old bard Bracy is introduced. Geraldine rises, puts on her silken vestments—tricks her hair, and not doubting her spell, she awakens Christabel,

"Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel? I trust that you have rested well." And Christabel awoke and spied The same who lay down by her side— O rather say, the same whom she Rais'd up beneath the old oak tree! Nay fairer yet, and yet more fair! For she belike hath drunken deep Of all the blessedness of sleep! And while she spake, her looks, her air Such gentle thankfulness declare; That (so it seem'd) her girded vests Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts. "Sure I have sinn'd!" said Christabel, "Now heaven be prais'd if all be well!" And in low faultering tones, yet sweet, Did she the lofty lady greet; With such perplexity of mind As dreams too lively leave behind.

Christabel then leaves her couch, and having offered up her prayers, she leads fair Geraldine to meet the Baron.—They enter his presence room, when her father rises, and while pressing his daughter to his breast, he espies the lady Geraldine, to whom he gives such welcome as

"Might beseem so bright a dame!"

But when the Baron hears her tale, and her father's name, the poet enquires feelingly:

Why wax'd Sir Leoline so pale, Murmuring o'er the name again, Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine?

Alas! they had been friends in youth; But whispering tongues can poison truth; And constancy lives in realms above; And life is thorny; and youth is vain; And to be wroth with one we love, Doth work like madness in the brain. And thus it chanc'd, as I divine, With Roland and Sir Leoline. Each spake words of high disdain And insult to his heart's best brother: They parted—never to meet again! But never either found another To free the hollow heart from paining— They stood aloof, the scars remaining, Like cliffs which had been rent asunder; A dreary sea now flows between;— But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder, Shall wholly do away, I ween, The marks of that which once hath been.

Sir Leoline gazed for a moment on the face of Geraldine, and the youthful Lord of Tryermaine again came back upon his heart. He is then described as forgetting his age, and his noble heart swells with indignation.

He then affectionately takes Geraldine in his arms, who meets the embrace:

"Prolonging it with joyous look, Which when she viewed, a vision fell Upon the soul of Christabel, The vision of fear, the touch and pain! She shrunk and shudder'd and saw again (Ah woe is me! Was it for thee, Thou gentle maid! such sights to see?)

Geraldine then appears to her in her real character, ('half' human only,) the sight of which alarms Christabel. The Baron mistakes for jealousy this alarm in his daughter, which was induced by fear of Geraldine, and had been the sole cause of her unconsciously imitating the "hissing sound:"

Whereat the Knight turn'd wildly round, And nothing saw, but his own sweet maid With eyes uprais'd, as one that pray'd.

This touch, this sight passed away, and left in its stead the vision of her guardian angel (her mother) which had comforted her after rest, and having sought consolation in prayer, her countenance resumes its natural serenity and sweetness. The Baron surprised at these sudden transitions, exclaims,

"What ails then my beloved child?"

Christabel makes answer:

"All will yet be well!" I ween, she had no power to tell Aught else: so mighty was the spell.

Yet the Baron seemed so captivated by Geraldine, as to "deem her a thing divine." She pretended much sorrow, and feared she might have offended Christabel, praying with humility to be sent home immediately.

"Nay! Nay—by my soul!" said Leoline. "Ho!—Bracy, the bard, the charge be thine! Go thou with music sweet and loud And take two steeds with trappings proud; And take the youth whom thou lov'st best To bear thy harp and learn thy song, And clothe you both in solemn vest And over the mountains haste along.

He is desired to continue his way to the castle of Tryermaine. Bracy is thus made to act in a double capacity, as bard and herald: in the first, he is to announce to Lord Roland the safety of his daughter in Langdale Hall; in the second as herald to the Baron, he is to convey an apology according to the custom of that day,

"He bids thee come without delay, With all thy numerous array; And take thy lovely daughter home, And he will meet thee on the way, With all his numerous array; White with their panting palfrey's foam, And by mine honour! I will say, That I repent me of the day; When I spake words of fierce disdain, To Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine!— For since that evil hour hath flown, Many a summer's sun hath shone; Yet ne'er found I a friend again Like Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine." The lady fell, and clasped his knees, Her face upraised, her eyes o'erflowing, And Bracy replied, with faltering voice, His gracious hail on all bestowing:— Thy words, thou sire of Christabel, Are sweeter than my harp can tell. Yet might I gain a boon of thee, This day my journey should not be, So strange a dream hath come to me: That I had vow'd with music loud To clear yon wood from thing unblest, Warn'd by a vision in my rest!

The dream is then related by Bracy; it is an outline of the past, and a prophecy of the future.—The Baron listens with a smile, turns round, and looks at Geraldine,

"His eyes made up of wonder and love; And said in courtly accents fine, Sweet maid, Lord Roland's beauteous dove, With arms more strong than harp or song, Thy sire and I will crush the snake!" He kissed her forehead as he spake, And Geraldine in maiden wise, Casting down her large bright eyes; With blushing cheek and courtesy fine, She turn'd her from Sir Leoline; Softly gathering up her train, That o'er her right arm fell again; And folded her arms across her chest, And couch'd her head upon her breast. And look'd askance at Christabel— Jesu, Maria, shield her well!

Then takes place that extraordinary change which, being read in a party at Lord Byron's, is said to have caused Shelley to faint:

A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy, And the lady's eyes, they shrunk in her head, Each shrunk up to a serpent's eye, And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread At Christabel she looked askance!— One moment,—and the sight was fled! But Christabel in dizzy trance, Stumbling on the unsteady ground— Shudder'd aloud, with a hissing sound; And Geraldine again turn'd round, And like a thing, that sought relief, Full of wonder and full of grief; She roll'd her large bright eyes divine, Wildly on Sir Leoline.

The maid, alas! her thoughts are gone, She nothing sees—no sight but one!

The look, those shrunken serpent eyes, had made such a deep impression on Christabel,

That all her features were resign'd To the sole image in her mind: And passively did imitate That look of dull and treacherous hate. And thus she stood in dizzy trance, Still picturing that look askance.

But when the trance was o'er, the maid Paus'd awhile and inly pray'd, "By my mother's soul do I entreat That thou this woman send away!" She said, and more she could not say, For what she knew she could not tell O'er master'd by the mighty spell.

The poet now describes the Baron as suffering under the confused emotions of love for Christabel, and anger at her apparent jealousy, and the insult offered to the daughter of his friend, which so wrought upon him that,

He roll'd his eye with stern regard Upon the gentle minstrel bard, And said in tones abrupt, austere— "Why, Bracy? dost thou loiter here? "I bade thee hence!" The bard obey'd, And turning from his own sweet maid, The aged knight, Sir Leoline Led forth the lady Geraldine!

Here ends the second canto.

In the conclusion to the second canto, he speaks of a child and its father's fondness, so often expressed by "you little rogue," " you little rascal," with an endearing kiss, says:

A little child, a limber elf, Singing, dancing to itself; A fairy thing with red round cheeks, That always finds and never seeks; Makes such a vision to the sight, As fills a father's eyes with light; And pleasures flow in so thick and fast Upon his heart, that he at last Must needs express his love's excess, With words of unmeant bitterness.

The following relation was to have occupied a third and fourth canto, and to have closed the tale.

Over the mountains, the Bard, as directed by Sir Leoline, "hastes" with his disciple; but in consequence of one of those inundations supposed to be common to this country, the spot only where the castle once stood is discovered,—the edifice itself being washed away. He determines to return. Geraldine being acquainted with all that is passing, like the Weird Sisters in Macbeth, vanishes. Re-appearing, however, she waits the return of the Bard, exciting in the mean time, by her wily arts, all the anger she could rouse in the Baron's breast, as well as that jealousy of which he is described to have been susceptible. The old Bard and the youth at length arrive, and therefore she can no longer personate the character of Geraldine, the daughter of Lord Roland de Vaux, but changes her appearance to that of the accepted though absent lover of Christabel. Next ensues a courtship most distressing to Christabel, who feels—she knows not why—great disgust for her once favoured knight. This coldness is very painful to the Baron, who has no more conception than herself of the supernatural transformation. She at last yields to her father's entreaties, and consents to approach the altar with this hated suitor. The real lover returning, enters at this moment, and produces the ring which she had once given him in sign of her betrothment. Thus defeated, the supernatural being Geraldine disappears. As predicted, the castle bell tolls, the mother's voice is heard, and to the exceeding great joy of the parties, the rightful marriage takes place, after which follows a reconciliation and explanation between the father and daughter.

Lamb, who visited us soon after Coleridge's death, and not long before his own, talking of the Christabel, observed, "I was very angry with Coleridge, when I first heard that he had written a second canto, and that he intended to finish it; but when I read the beautiful apostrophe to the two friends, it calmed me." He was one of those who strongly recommended Coleridge to leave as a fragment what he had so beautifully begun. With the first edition of the Christabel was given Kubla Khan, the dream within a dream, written in harmonious and fluent rhythm. 'The Pains of Sleep' was also added. This is a poem communicating a portion of his personal sufferings. [6] All these were published in 1816.

In the introduction to 'The Lay of the last Minstrel', 1830, Sir Walter says,

"Were I ever to take the unbecoming freedom of censuring a man of Mr. Coleridge's extraordinary talents, it would be on account of the caprice and indolence with which he has thrown from him, as in mere wantonness, those unfinished scraps of poetry, which, like the Tasso of antiquity, defied the skill of his poetical brethren to complete them. The charming fragments which the author abandons to their fate, are surely too valuable to be treated like the proofs of careless engravers, the sweepings of whose studies often make the fortune of some pains-taking collector. And in a note to the Abbot, alluding to Coleridge's beautiful and tantalizing fragment of Christabel, he adds, Has not our own imaginative poet cause to fear that future ages will desire to summon him from his place of rest, as Milton longed

'To call up him who left half told The story of Cambuscam bold.'"

Since writing the preceding pages, I have met with a critique on the Christabel, written immediately after it was published, from which I select a few passages, in the hope that they may further interest the admirers of this poem:

'The publication of Christabel cannot be an indifferent circumstance to any true lover of poetry—it is a singular monument of genius, and we doubt whether the fragmental beauty that it now possesses can be advantageously exchanged for the wholeness of a finished narrative. In its present form it lays irresistible hold of the imagination. It interests even by what it leaves untold.—The story is like a dream of lovely forms, mixed with strange and indescribable terrors. The scene, the personages, are those of old romantic superstition; but we feel intimate with them, as if they were of our own day, and of our own neighbourhood. It is impossible not to suppose that we have known "sweet Christabel," from the time when she was "a fairy thing, with red round cheeks," till she had grown up, through all the engaging prettinesses of childhood, and the increasing charms of youth, to be the pure and dignified creature, which we find her at the opening of the poem. The scene is laid at midnight, in the yet leafless wood, a furlong from the castle-gate of the rich Baron Sir Leoline, whose daughter, "the lovely Lady Christabel," has come, in consequence of a vow, to pray at the old oak tree, "for the weal of her lover that's far away." In the midst of her orisons she is suddenly alarmed by a moaning near her, which turns out to be the complaint of the Lady Geraldine, who relates, that she had been carried off by warriors, and brought to this wild wood, where they had left her with intent quickly to return. This story of Geraldine's easily obtains credence from the unsuspecting Christabel, who conducts her secretly to a chamber in the castle. There the mild and beautiful Geraldine seems transformed in language and appearance to a sorceress, contending with the spirit of Christabel's deceased mother for the mastery over her daughter; but Christabel's lips are sealed by a spell. What she knows she cannot utter; and scarcely can she herself believe that she knows it.

On the return of morning, Geraldine, in all her pristine beauty, accompanies the innocent but perplexed Christabel to the presence of the Baron, who is delighted when he learns that she is the daughter of his once loved friend, Sir Roland de Vaux, of Tryermaine.—We shall not pursue the distress of Christabel, the mysterious warnings of Bracy the Bard, the assumed sorrow of Geraldine, or the indignation of Sir Leoline, at his daughter's seemingly causeless jealousy—what we have principally to remark with respect to the tale is, that, wild and romantic and visionary as it is, it has a truth of its own, which seizes on and masters the imagination from the beginning to the end. The poet unveils with exquisite skill the finer ties of imagination and feeling by which they are linked to the human heart.

The elements of our sensibility, to all that concerns fair Christabel, are of the purest texture; they are not formally announced in a set description, but they accompany and mark her every movement throughout the piece—Incessu patuit Dea.—She is the support of her noble father's declining age—sanctified by the blessing of her departed mother—the beloved of a valorous and absent knight—the delight and admiration of an inspired bard—she is a being made up of tenderness, affection, sweetness, piety! There is a fine discrimination in the descriptions of Christabel and Geraldine, between the lovely and the merely beautiful. There is a moral sensitiveness about Christabel, which none but a true poet could seize. It would be difficult to find a more delicate touch of this kind in any writer, than her anxious exclamation when, in passing the hall with Geraldine, a gleam bursts from the dying embers.

Next in point of merit to the power which Mr. Coleridge has displayed, in interesting us by the moral beauty of his heroine, comes the skill with which he has wrought the feelings and fictions of superstition into shape. The witchlike Geraldine lying down by the side of Christabel, and uttering the spell over her, makes the reader thrill with indefinable horror.

We find another striking excellence of this poem, and which powerfully affects every reader, by placing, as it were before his eyes, a distinct picture of the events narrated, with all their appendages of sight and sound—the dim forest—the massive castle-gate—the angry moan of the sleeping mastiff—the sudden flash of the dying embers—the echoing hall—the carved chamber, with its curious lamp—in short, all that enriches and adorns this tale, with a luxuriance of imagination seldom equalled.' [7]

Whilst in the full enjoyment of his creative powers, Coleridge wrote in a letter to a friend the following critique on "the Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni," which is supposed to have been composed about the time of the Christabel, though not published till 1816, in the Sibylline Leaves. It will serve to shew how freely he assented to the opinions of his friends, and with what candour he criticised his own poems, recording his opinions whether of censure or of praise:—

"In a copy of verses, entitled 'a Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni,' I describe myself under the influence of strong devotional feelings, gazing on the mountain, till as if it had been a shape emanating from and sensibly representing her own essence, my soul had become diffused through the mighty vision and there,

'As in her natural form, swell'd vast to Heaven.'

Mr. Wordsworth, I remember, censured the passage as strained and unnatural, and condemned the hymn in toto, (which, nevertheless, I ventured to publish in my 'Sibylline Leaves,') as a specimen of the mock sublime. It may be so for others, but it is impossible that I should myself find it unnatural, being conscious that it was the image and utterance of thoughts and emotions in which there was no mockery. Yet, on the other hand, I could readily believe that the mood and habit of mind out of which the hymn rose, that differs from Milton's and Thomson's and from the psalms, the source of all three, in the author's addressing himself to 'individual' objects actually present to his senses, while his great predecessors apostrophize 'classes' of things presented by the memory, and generalized by the understanding; —I can readily believe, I say, that in this there may be too much of what our learned 'med'ciners' call the 'idiosyncratic' for true poetry.—For, from my very childhood, I have been accustomed to 'abstract', and as it were, unrealize whatever of more than common interest my eyes dwelt on, and then by a sort of transfusion and transmission of my consciousness to identify myself with the object; and I have often thought within the last five or six years, that if ever I should feel once again the genial warmth and stir of the poetic impulse, and refer to my own experiences, I should venture on a yet stranger and wilder allegory than of yore—that I would allegorize myself as a rock, with its summit just raised above the surface of some bay or strait in the Arctic Sea, 'while yet the stern and solitary night brooked no alternate sway'—all around me fixed and firm, methought, as my own substance, and near me lofty masses, that might have seemed to 'hold the moon and stars in fee,' and often in such wild play with meteoric lights, or with the quiet shine from above, which they made rebound in sparkles, or dispand in off-shoot, and splinters, and iridiscent needle shafts of keenest glitter, that it was a pride and a place of healing to lie, as in an apostle's shadow, within the eclipse and deep substance-seeming gloom of 'these dread ambassadors from earth to heaven, great hierarchs!' And though obscured, yet to think myself obscured by consubstantial forms, based in the same foundation as my own. I grieved not to serve them—yea, lovingly and with gladsomeness I abased myself in their presence: for they are my brothers, I said, and the mastery is theirs by right of older birth, and by right of the mightier strivings of the hidden fire that uplifted them above me."

This poem has excited much discussion, and many individuals have expressed different opinions as to its origin. Some assert that it is borrowed from our own great poets; whilst German readers say, that it is little more than a free translation from a poem of Frederica Brun. That it is founded on Frederica Brun's poem cannot be doubted; but those who compare the two poems must at once feel, that to call Coleridge's a translation, containing as it does new thoughts, exciting different feelings, and being in fact a new birth, a glorification of the original, would be a misuse of words. I insert the following note of Coleridge's, which appears applicable to the subject:

"In looking at objects of nature, while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim-glimmering through the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were 'asking', a symbolical language for something within me that already and for ever exists, than observing any thing new. Even when that latter is the case, yet still I have always an obscure feeling, as if that new phoenomenon were the dim awaking of a forgotten or hidden truth of my inner nature.—It is still interesting as a word, a symbol! It is the [Greek: logos], the Creator! and the Evolver! What is the right, the virtuous feeling and consequent action, when a man having long meditated and perceived a certain truth finds another, a foreign writer, who has handled the same with an approximation to the truth, as he had previously conceived it? Joy! Let truth make her voice audible! While I was preparing the pen to write this remark I lost the train of thought which had led me to it. I meant to have asked something else, now forgotten for the above answers itself—it needed no new answer, I trust, in my heart."

'15th April, 1805'.

Coleridge, who was an honest man, was equally honest in literature; and had he thought himself indebted to any other author, he would have acknowledged the same.

Born a poet, and a philosopher, by reflection, the mysterious depths of nature and the enquiry into these depths were among his chief delights. And from boyhood he had felt that it was the business of this life, to prepare for that which is to come. His schoolfellow, Lamb, also observed, that from his youth upward, "he hungered for eternity," sincerely and fervently praying to be so enlightened as to attain it.

Though usually described "as doing nothing,"—"an idler," "a dreamer," and by many such epithets—he sent forth works which, though they had cost him years of thought, never brought him any suitable return. In a note written in 1825, speaking of himself, he says,

"A man of letters, friendless, because of no faction: repeatedly, and in strong language inculpated of hiding his light under a bushel, yet destined to see publication after publication abused by the Edinburgh Review, as the representative of one party, and not even noticed by the Quarterly Review, as the representative of the other—and to receive as the meed of his labours for the cause of freedom against despotism and jacobinism, of the church against infidelity and schism; and of principle against fashion and sciolism, slander, loss, and embarrassment."

If, however, we were to collect the epithets applied to Milton in his time, they would now appear incredible;—so when the misconceptions arising from slander shall have ceased, the name of Coleridge will be enrolled among those of our most illustrious men. The poet has said of Gay, "in wit, a 'man'; simplicity, a 'child'."

But such was the extent and grasp of Coleridge's intellectual powers, that of him it may be said, "In wit, a giant; in simplicity, a very child." Though conscious of his own powers, with other men, he walked most humbly, and whatever their station or acquirements, he would talk to them as equals. He seemed but slightly connected with the things of the world, for which, save the love of those dear to him, he cared but little, living in this affection for his friends, and always feeling and acting in the spirit of that humility he has so beautifully described. "That humility which is the mother of charity," and which was in-woven in his being, revealing itself in all his intercourse throughout the day—for he looked on man as God's creature. All that he thought and taught was put forth in the same spirit and with the strongest sense of duty, so that they might learn of him with pleasure. Whatever be considered the faulty part of his own character, he freely acknowledged to others, with an admonition to avoid the like. His sensitive nature induced a too great proneness to a self-accusing spirit; yet in this was there no affected humility, though it might unfortunately dispose some to think evil of him where little or none existed, or form an excuse to others for their neglect of him. With respect to other men, however, all his feelings and judgments ever gave proof of the very reverse. The natural piety of his mind, led him most frequently to dwell on the thought of time and eternity, and was the cause of his discussions 'ending' generally with theology.

During the first week of his residence at Highgate, he conversed frequently on the Trinity and on Unitarianism, and in one of these conversations, his eye being attracted by a large cowry, very handsomely spotted:

"Observe," said he, "this shell, and the beauty of its exterior here pourtrayed. Reverse it and place it to your ear, you will find it empty, and a hollow murmuring sound issuing from the cavity in which the animal once resided. This shell, with all its beautiful spots, was secreted by the creature when living within it, but being plucked out, nothing remains save the hollow sound for the ear. Such is Unitarianism; it owes any beauty it may have left to the Christianity from which it separated itself. The teachers of Unitarianism have severed from 'their' Christianity its 'Life', [8] by removing the doctrine of St. John; and thus mutilated, 'they' call the residue the religion of Christ, implying the whole of the system, but omitting in their teaching the doctrine of redemption."

This illustration reminds me of what took place between two men well known in the literary world, who were at a dinner party together, both dissenters,—one a Unitarian. In the evening, tea was brought on a large silver waiter. They were popular writers of the day. One of them observing the salver facetiously cried out, "See how we authors swim." "Read the inscription on it," said the kindhearted Unitarian: his friend did so, and seeing that it had been presented in token of satisfaction for his friend's labours in the "Improved Version of the New Testament," emphatically exclaimed, "Take it away! I am a Unitarian, because I am a Trinitarian; you have hitherto at least adopted a misnomer." Twenty-five years since the Unitarians were of two creeds; one class materialists, the other immaterialists, but both agreeing that Christ was only an inspired 'man'. If I am rightly informed, they are not more orthodox at the present day.

When Coleridge was among the Unitarians, his deeper course of reasoning had not yet commenced. During his school education he became a Socinian; the personality of the Trinity had staggered him, and he in consequence preached for a short time at different Unitarian meetings; but in the course of examination, he found that the doctrines he had to deliver were mere moral truths, while he was "craving for a 'faith'," his heart being with Paul and John, though his head was with Spinoza. In after life, speaking of his conversion to Christianity, he often repeated—He did not believe in the Trinity, because to him at that time, the belief seemed contradictory to reason and scripture. "What care I," said he, "for Rabbi Paul, or Rabbi John, if they be opposed to moral sense." This was going a step beyond the Socinians, but this step was the means of his being reclaimed from error, for having by his course of reasoning gradually diminished "even this faith," that which remained with him was so small, that it altogether sank into unbelief; and he then felt compelled to retrace his steps from the point whence he had started. Led by further enquiries after truth, deeper meditation revealed to him the true value of the scriptures; and at the same time his philosophic views enlarging, he found that the doctrine of the Trinity was not contrary to reason—to reason in its highest sense; and he then discovered how far he had misbelieved, or had been, as he stated, puffed up by Socinian views. On quitting Shrewsbury and returning to Bristol, he seceded from the Unitarians, and observed, that if they had attempted to play the same tricks with a neighbour's will, which they had done with the New Testament, they would deserve to be put in the pillory. He continued attached to the writings of St. John and St. Paul, for thirty-four years of his life, [9] and having grown in strength with increase of years, he died in the faith of these apostles. And yet but lately did it appear in print, that "he was ever shifting his opinions."

When at Cambridge, his acquaintance with Mr. Frend led him to study the philosophy of Hartley, and he became one of his disciples. Perhaps the love of Coleridge for his college, "the ever honoured Jesus," might have had some share in the cause of his early predilection in favour of Hartley. He too was the son of a clergyman, was admitted to Jesus at the age of fifteen, and became a fellow in 1705. According to the account given of him by his biographer, Coleridge in several respects seems to have resembled him. All his early studies were intended to fit him for the church, but scruples arose in his mind, because he could not conscientiously subscribe to the thirty-nine articles: he therefore gave up all thoughts of the clerical profession, and entered the medical, for which, as Coleridge himself states, he also had had the most ardent desire. Hartley, when he had taken his degree, practised physic; and his knowledge, his general acquirements, his sensibility, and his benevolence, made him an ornament to the profession. In this profession too, Coleridge, had circumstances allowed him to enter it, must have been pre-eminent. Hartley, like Coleridge, was formed for sympathy and all the charities of life—his countenance was benign—his manners were gentle—and his eloquence pathetic and commanding. He first practised at Newark, and afterwards removed to Bury St. Edmonds, where he ended his career, dying in 1757, at the age of fifty-two. He was much afflicted with stone, and was in part the means of procuring from the government five thousand pounds for Mrs. Stevens, as a reward for the secret of preparing the solvent, sold and advertised in her name. In 1740, he published the work on which his fame rests, under the title of 'Observations on Man, his frame, his duty, and his expectations.' In it he expounded his doctrine of vibrations, and attempted by reasoning to explain the origin and propagation of sensation, built on gratuitous assumption of certain vibrations of the brain and nerves, coupled by association. Coleridge on his visit to Germany, soon made himself master of this subject. In his Biographia Literaria, he devotes a chapter to the examination of the work, and having seen the hollowness of the argument, abandoned it. While in Germany, Coleridge also studied Des Cartes, and saw the source of Locke's Theory, from which he entirely differed. He next turned his attention to Spinoza, but with a mind so logically formed, and so energetic in the search after truth, it was impossible for him to dwell long on a philosophy thus constructed—and Coleridge was still left to yearn for a resting place on which to base his faith. After he had successively studied in the schools of Locke, Berkeley, Leibnitz, and Hartley, and could find in one of them an abiding place for his reason;

"I began," says he, "to ask myself, Is a system of philosophy, as differing from mere history and classification, possible? If possible, what are its necessary conditions? I was for a while disposed to answer the first question in the negative, and to admit that the sole practicable employment for the human mind was to observe, to recollect, and to classify. Christianity however is not a theory, or a speculation, but a life—not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." [10]

Spinoza being one of the writers which Coleridge, in his passage from Socinianism to Christianity, had studied, the reader will probably be interested with the following note, written by himself on the subject:

"Paradoxical, as it assuredly is, I am convinced that Spinoza's innocence and virtue, guarded and matured into invincible habit of being, by a life of constant meditation and of intellectual pursuit, were the conditions or temptations, 'sine quibus non' of his forming and maintaining a system subversive of all virtue. He saw so clearly the 'folly' and 'absurdity' of wickedness, and felt so weakly and languidly the passions tempting to it, that he concluded, that nothing was wanting to a course of well-doing, but clear conceptions and the 'fortitudo intellectualis'; while his very modesty, a prominent feature in his character, rendered him, as it did Hartley, less averse to the system of necessity. Add to these causes his profound admiration of pure mathematics, and the vast progress made in it so unspeakably beneficial to mankind, their bodies as well as souls, and souls as well as bodies; the reflection that the essence of mathematical science consists in discovering the absolute properties of forms and proportions, and how pernicious a bewilderment was produced in this 'sublime' science by the wild attempt of the Platonists, especially the later (though Plato himself is far from blameless in this respect,) to explain the 'final' cause of mathematical 'figures' and of numbers, so as to subordinate them to a principle of origination out of themselves; and the further comparison of the progress of this SCIENCE, ('pura Mathesis') which excludes all consideration of final cause, with the unequal and equivocal progress of those branches of literature which rest on, or refer to final causes; and that the uncertainty and mixture with error, appeared in proportion to such reference—and if I mistake not, we shall have the most important parts of the history of Spinoza's mind. It is a duty which we owe to truth, to distinguish Spinoza from the Voltaires, Humes, and the whole nest of 'popular' infidels, to make manifest how precious a thing is the sincere thirst of truth for the sake of truth undebased by vanity, appetite, and the ambition of forming a sect of 'arguescents' and trumpeters—and that it is capable, to a wonderful degree, of rendering innoxious the poisonous pangs of the worst errors—nay, heaven educing good out of the very evil—the important advantages that have been derived from such men. Wise and good men would never have seen the true basis and bulwark of the right cause, if they had not been made to know and understand the whole weight and possible force of the wrong cause; nor would have even purified their own system from these admissions, on which the whole of Spinozism is built, and which admissions were common to all parties, and therefore fairly belonging to Spinoza.—Now I affirm that none but an eminently pure and benevolent mind could have constructed and perfected such a system as that of the ethics of Spinoza. Bad hearted men always 'hate' the religion and morality which they attack—but hatred dims and 'inturbidates' the logical faculties. There is likewise a sort of lurking terror in such a heart, which renders it far too painful to keep a steady gaze on the being of God and the existence of immortality—they dare only attack it as Tartars, a hot valiant inroad, and then they scour off again. Equally painful is self-examination, for if the wretch be 'callous', the 'facts' of psychology will not present themselves—if not, who could go on year after year in a perpetual process of deliberate self-torture and shame. The very torment of the process would furnish facts subversive of the system, for which the process was instituted. The mind would at length be unable to disguise from itself the unequivocal 'fact' of its own shame and remorse, and this once felt and distinctly acknowledged, Spinozism is blown up as by a mine."

Coleridge had a great abhorrence of vice, and Spinoza having, in his writings, strongly marked its debasing effects, he was from sympathy on these points led to study his philosophy: but when on further research, he discovered that his ethics led to Pantheism and ended in the denial of the Deity—he abandoned these views, and gave up the study of Spinoza. Perhaps the contemplation of such writers led him to compose the following lines:

But some there are who deem themselves most free, When they within this gross and visible sphere Chain down the winged thought, scoffing ascent, Proud in their meanness: and themselves they cheat With noisy emptiness of learned phrase, Their subtle fluids, impacts, essences, Self-working tools, uncaused effects, and all Those blind Omniscients, those Almighty slaves, Untenanting creation of its GOD.

SIBYLLINE LEAVES—('Destiny of Nations'.)

The errors of this writer, however, as before observed, produced this great advantage; he recommenced his studies with greater care and increased ardour, and in the Gospel of St. John, discovered the truth—the truth, as Wordsworth powerfully sings,

"That flashed upon that inward eye, Which is the bliss of solitude."

Having now discovered in the Scriptures this truth, to him at that time new and important, he pursued his philosophical researches—continually finding what he sought for in the one, borne out and elucidated by the other.

After he had corrected the proof sheets of the 'Christabel', the 'Sibylline Leaves', and the 'Biographia Literaria'; they were brought to London, and published by Rest Fenner, Paternoster Row. [11]

One of those periodical distresses, which usually visit this country about once in nine years, took place about this time, 1816,—and he was in consequence requested by his publisher to write on the subject. He therefore composed two Lay Sermons, addressed to the higher and to the middle classes of society, and had the intention of addressing a third to the lower classes. The first sermon he named "the Statesman's Manual, or the Bible the best guide to political skill and foresight." The pamphlet was as might have been expected, "cut up." He was an unpopular writer on an unpopular subject. Time was, when reviews directed the taste of the reading public, now, on the contrary, they judge it expedient to follow it.

But it may be well to place before the reader the expression of Coleridge's own feelings, written after these several attacks, it may also serve to show the persecution to which he was liable:

"I published a work a large portion of which was professedly metaphysical. (First Lay Sermon.) [12]

A delay," said he, "occurred between its first annunciation and its appearance; and it was reviewed by anticipation with a malignity, so avowedly and so exclusively personal, as is, I believe, unprecedented even in the present contempt of all common humanity that disgraces and endangers the liberty of the press. 'After' its appearance the author of this lampoon was chosen to review it in the Edinburgh Review: and under the single condition, that he should have written what he himself really thought, and have criticised the work as he would have done had its author been indifferent to him, I should have chosen that man myself, both from the vigour and the originality of his mind, and from his particular acuteness in speculative reasoning, before all others. But I can truly say, that the grief with which I read this rhapsody of predetermined insult, had the rhapsodist himself for its whole and sole object: and that the indignant contempt which it excited in me was as exclusively confined to his employer and suborner. I refer to this Review at present, in consequence of information having been given me, that the innuendo of my 'potential infidelity,' grounded on one passage of my first Lay Sermon, has been received and propagated with a degree of credence, of which I can safely acquit the originator of the calumny. I give the sentences as they stand in the Sermon, premising only that I was speaking exclusively of miracles worked for the outward senses of men. It was only to overthrow the usurpation exercised in and through the senses, that the senses were miraculously appealed to. REASON AND RELIGION ARE THEIR OWN EVIDENCE. The natural sun is in this respect a symbol of the spiritual: Ere he is fully arisen, and while his glories are still under veil, he calls up the breeze to chase away the usurping vapours of the night season, and thus converts the air itself into the minister of its own purification: not surely in proof or elucidation of the light from heaven, but to prevent its interception. Wherever, therefore, similar circumstances coexist with the same moral causes, the principles revealed, and the examples recorded, in the inspired writings, render miracles superfluous: and if we neglect to apply truths in the expectation of wonders, or under pretext of the cessation of the latter, we tempt God and merit the same reply which our Lord gave to the Pharisees on a like occasion.'

In the sermon and the notes both the historical truth and the necessity of the miracles are strongly and frequently asserted. 'The testimony of books of history (namely, relatively to the signs and wonders with which Christ came,) is one of the strong and stately 'pillars' of the church; but it is not the 'foundation'.' Instead, therefore, of defending myself, which I could easily effect by a series of passages, expressing the same opinion, from the fathers and the most eminent protestant divines, from the Reformation to the Revolution, I shall merely state what my belief is, concerning the true evidences of Christianity.

1st. Its consistency with right reason, I consider as the outer court of the temple, the common area within which it stands.

2ndly. The miracles, with and through which the religion was first revealed and attested, I regard as the steps, the vestibule, the portal of the temple.

3rdly. The sense, the inward feeling, in the soul of each believer, of its exceeding 'desirableness'—the experience, that he 'needs' something, joined with the strong foretokening, that the redemption and the graces propounded to us in Christ are 'what' he needs—this I hold to be the true foundation of the spiritual edifice.

With the strong 'a priori' probability that flows in from 1 and 3, on the correspondent historical evidence of 2, no man can refuse or neglect to make the experiment without guilt. But,

4thly, it is the experience derived from a practical conformity to the conditions of the gospel—it is the opening eye; the dawning light; the terrors and the promises of spiritual growth; the blessedness of loving God as God, the nascent sense of sin hated as sin, and of the incapability of attaining to either without Christ; it is the sorrow that still rises up from beneath, and the consolation that meets it from above; the bosom treacheries of the principal in the warfare, and the exceeding faithfulness and long-suffering of the uninterested ally;—in a word, it is the actual trial of the faith in Christ, with its accompaniments and results, that must form the arched roof, and the faith itself is the completing keystone. In order to an efficient belief in Christianity, a man must have been a Christian, and this is the seeming argumentum in circulo, incident to all spiritual truths, to every subject not presentable under the forms of time and space, as long as we attempt to master by the reflex acts of the understanding, what we can only 'know' by the act of 'becoming'. 'Do the will of my Father, and ye shall know whether I am of God.'

These four evidences I believe to have been, and still to be, for the world, for the whole church, all necessary, all equally necessary; but that at present, and for the majority of Christians born in Christian countries, I believe the third and the fourth evidences to be the most operative, not as superseding, but as involving a glad undoubting faith in the two former. Credidi, ideoque intellexi, appears to me the dictate equally of philosophy and religion, even as I believe redemption to be the antecedent of sanctification, and not its consequent. All spiritual predicates may be construed indifferently as modes of action, or as states of being. Thus holiness and blessedness are the same idea, now seen in relation to act, and now to existence."

Biog. Liter. Vol. ii. p. 303.

His next publication was the 'Zapolya', which had a rapid sale, and he then began a second edition of the 'Friend'—if, indeed, as he observes,

"a work, the greatest part of which is new in substance, and the whole in form and arrangement, can be described as an edition of the former."

At the end of the autumn of 1817, Coleridge issued the following prospectus, and hoped by delivering the proposed lectures to increase his utility; they required efforts indeed which he considered it a duty to make, notwithstanding his great bodily infirmities, and the heartfelt sorrow by which he had, from early life, been more or less oppressed:—

"There are few families, at present, in the higher and middle classes of English society, in which literary topics and the productions of the Fine Arts, in some one or other of their various forms, do not occasionally take their turn in contributing to the entertainment of the social board, and the amusement of the circle at the fire-side. The acquisitions and attainments of the intellect ought, indeed, to hold a very inferior rank in our estimation, opposed to moral worth, or even to professional and specific skill, prudence, and industry. But why should they be opposed, when they may be made subservient merely by being subordinated? It can rarely happen that a man of social disposition; altogether a stranger to subjects of taste (almost the only ones on which persons of both sexes can converse with a common interest), should pass through the world without at times feeling dissatisfied with himself. The best proof of this is to be found in the marked anxiety which men, who have succeeded in life without the aid of these accomplishments, shew in securing them to their children. A young man of ingenuous mind will not wilfully deprive himself of any species of respect. He will wish to feel himself on a level with the average of the society in which he lives, though he may be ambitious of 'distinguishing' himself only in his own immediate pursuit or occupation.

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