The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1838
by James Gillman
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'... But some to higher hopes Were destined; some within a finer mould Were wrought, and temper'd with a purer flame: To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds The world's harmonious volume, there to read The transcript of himself ....'








The more frequently we read and contemplate the lives of those eminent men so beautifully traced by the amiable Izaak Walton, the more we are impressed with the sweetness and simplicity of the work. Walton was a man of genius—of simple calling and more simple habits, though best known perhaps by his book on Angling; yet in the scarcely less attractive pages of his biographies, like the flowing of the gentle stream on which he sometimes cast his line, to practise "the all of treachery he ever learnt," he leads the delighted reader imperceptibly on, charmed with the natural beauty of his sentiments, and the unaffected ease and simplicity of his style.

In his preface to the Sermons of (that pious poet and divine,) Dr. Donne, so much may be found applicable to the great and good man whose life the author is now writing, that he hopes to be pardoned for quoting from one so much more able to delineate rare virtues and high endowments: "And if he shall now be demanded, as once Pompey's poor bondman was, who art thou that alone hast the honour to bury the body of Pompey the great?" so who is he who would thus erect a funeral pile to the memory of the honoured dead? ...

With the writer of this work, during the latter twenty years of his life, Coleridge had been domesticated; and his intimate knowledge of that illustrious character induces him to hope that his present undertaking, "however imperfectly it may set forth the memory he fain would honour," will yet not be considered presumptuous; inasmuch as he has had an opportunity of bringing together facts and anecdotes, with various memoranda never before published, some of which will be found to have much of deep interest, of piety and of loveliness.

At the same time he has also been desirous of interweaving such information as he has been enabled to collect from the early friends of Coleridge, as well as from those of his after-life. Thus, he trusts, he has had the means of giving, with truth and correctness, a faithful portraiture of one whom he so dearly loved, so highly prized. Still he feels that from various causes, he has laboured under many and great difficulties.

First, he never contemplated writing this Memoir, nor would he have made the attempt, had it not been urged on him as a duty by friends, whom Coleridge himself most respected and honoured; they, "not doubting that his intimate knowledge of the author, and dear love to his memory, might make his diligence useful."

Secondly, the duties of a laborious profession, rendered still more arduous by indifferent health—added to many sorrows, and leisure (if such it might be called,) which permitted only occasional attention to the subject—and was liable to frequent interruptions; will, he flatters himself, give him a claim to the candour and kindness of his readers. And if Coleridge's "glorious spirit, now in heaven, could look down upon him, he would not disdain this well meant sacrifice to his memory—for whilst his conversation made him, and many others happy below, his humility and gentleness were also pre-eminent;—and divines have said, those virtues that were but sparks upon earth, become great and glorious flames in heaven."




SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, the subject of this memoir, was born at Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, the 21st October, 1772. His father, the Rev. John Coleridge, was vicar of Ottery, and head master of Henry VIII Free Grammar School, usually termed the King's School; a man of great learning, and one of the persons who assisted Dr. Kennicott in his Hebrew Bible. Before his appointment to the school at Ottery he had been head master of the school at South Molton. Some dissertations on the 17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges, [1] and a Latin grammar for the use of the school at Ottery were published by him. He was an exceedingly studious man, pious, of primitive manners, and of the most simple habits: passing events were little heeded by him, and therefore he was usually characterized as the "absent man".

Many traditional stories concerning his father had been in circulation for years before Coleridge came to Highgate. These were related with mirth in the neighbourhood of Ottery, and varied according to the humour of the narrator.

To beguile the winter's hour, which, however, was never dull in his society, he would recall to memory the past anecdotes of his father, and repeat them till the tears ran down his face, from the fond recollection of his beloved parent. The relation of the story usually terminated with an affectionate sigh, and the observation, "Yes, my friend, he was indeed an Israelite without guile, and might be compared to Parson Adams." The same appellation which Coleridge applied to his father will also, with equal justice, be descriptive of himself. In many respects he "differed in kind" from his brothers and the rest of his family, but his resemblance to his father was so strong, that I shall continue this part of the memoir with a sketch of the parent stock from which he sprung.

The Rev. John Coleridge had been twice married; his second wife, Anne Bowdon, by whom he had a large family, was the mother of my friend, and seems to have been peculiarly fitted for the wife of a clergyman who had a large family and limited means. Her husband, not possessing that knowledge usually termed worldly wisdom, she appeared to supply the place of the friend, which such a man required in his wife. He was better fitted for the apostolic age, so primitive was he in his manners and uneducated in the fashions and changing customs surrounding him: his companions were chiefly his books, and the few scholars he had to educate. To all around him he was extremely kind and amiable, and greatly beloved by the flock over whom he presided as pastor. For each individual, whatever his rank, he had a kindly word of greeting, and in sickness or distress he was an attentive friend. His richer and more educated neighbours visited him, and shared the general pleasure and amusement excited by his simple and peculiarly absent manners.

It is said of him, that on one occasion, having to breakfast with his bishop, he went, as was the practice of that day, into a barber's shop to have his head shaved, wigs being then in common use. Just as the operation was completed, the clock struck nine, the hour at which the bishop punctually breakfasted. Roused, as from a reverie, he instantly left the barber's shop, and in his haste forgetting his wig, appeared at the breakfast table, where the bishop and his party had assembled. The bishop, well acquainted with his absent manners, courteously and playfully requested him to walk into an adjoining room, and give his opinion of a mirror which had arrived from London a few days previously, and which disclosed to his astonished guest the consequences of his haste and forgetfulness.

On another occasion he dined with the bishop, who had great pleasure and delight in his society, when the following ludicrous scene took place. The bishop had a maiden daughter, past the meridian of life, who was always glad to see and converse with the "dear good old man" (his usual appellation), and who was also kind enough to remind him of his little 'Forgets' in society, and rouse him from his absent moods. It not being the fashion in his day for gentlemen to wear braces, his small-clothes, receding from his waistcoat, left a space in his black dress, through which often appeared a portion of his linen. On these occasions, the good lady would draw his attention to this appearance, by saying in an under tone, "A little to this side, Mr. Coleridge," or to that, as the adjustment might require. This hint was as instantly attended to as his embarrassed manner, produced by a sense of the kindness, would permit. On the day above alluded to, his kind friend sat next to him, dressed, as was then the fashion, in a smart party-going muslin apron. Whilst in earnest conversation with his opposite neighbour, on the side next the lady appeared the folds of his shirt, through the hiatus before described, so conspicuously as instantly to attract her notice. The hint was immediately given: "Mr. Coleridge, a little on the side next me;"—and was as instantly acknowledged by the usual reply, "Thank you, ma'am, thank you," and the hand set to work to replace the shirt; but unfortunately, in his nervous eagerness, he seized on the lady's apron, and appropriated the greater part of it. The appeal of "Dear Mr. Coleridge, do stop!" only increased his embarrassment, and also his exertions to dispose, as he thought, of his shirt; till the lady, to put a stop to the titter of the visitors, and relieve her own confusion, untied the strings, and thus disengaging herself, left the room, and her friend in possession of her apron. [2]

Mrs. Coleridge, the mother of my friend, and of whom I have already spoken, had naturally a strong mind. She was an uneducated woman, industriously attentive to her household duties, and devoted to the care of her husband and family. Possessing none, even of the most common female accomplishments of her day, she had neither love nor sympathy for the display of them in others. She disliked, as she would say, "your harpsichord ladies," and strongly tried to impress on her sons their little value, in their choice of wives. As a clergyman's wife her conduct was exemplary; the father of my friend had a fortune in such a woman, and she found in him, with all his peculiarities, a kind, sweet tempered, engaging husband. She was, I should add, a very good woman, though like Martha, over careful in many things, very ambitious for the advancement of her sons in life, but wanting perhaps that flow of heart which her husband possessed so largely. But "imperfection cleaves to mortality." Such, as given in this brief sketch, were the parents of the subject of this memoir. [3]

I have heard Coleridge relate the following anecdote of his father. The old gentleman had to take a short journey on some professional business, which would detain him from home for three or four days: his good wife, in her care and watchfulness, had packed a few things in a small trunk, and gave them in charge to her husband, with strong injunctions that he was to put on a clean shirt every day. On his return home, his wife went to search for his linen, when, to her dismay, it was not in the trunk. A closer search, however, discovered that the vicar had strictly obeyed her injunctions, and had put on daily a clean shirt, but had forgotten to remove the one underneath. This might have been the pleasantest and most portable mode of carrying half a dozen shirts in winter, but not so in the dog-days.

As a preacher, he was peculiar: it is said, that the poor idolized, and looked upon him with great reverence; and when death removed this distinguished and eminent scholar from among them, his successor had little chance of pleasing to the same extent. In their great admiration of him, they would often say, "How fine he was in his discourse, for he gave us the very words the spirit spoke in," viz. the Hebrew, with which he frequently indulged them in his sermons, and which seems greatly to have attracted the notice of the agricultural population, who flocked from the neighbourhood, to the town in which he resided. Excited and stimulated by curiosity, this class of persons might attend the church, and in listening for the Hebrew they would perhaps be more attentive, and carry away some useful portions of the English from this amiable and accomplished pastor.

As a schoolmaster his singularities were of the same character, manifesting the same simplicity and honesty of purpose. I have before stated that he wrote a Latin Grammar for the use of his school, and instead of the word ablative, in general use, he compounded three or four Latin words [4] as explanatory of this case. Whether the mothers were startled at the repetition of these words, and thought of the hardships their sons would have to endure in the acquirement of this grammar, I can only conjecture; but it seems he thought it his duty to explain to the ladies, in justice to their feelings, his learned reasons for the alteration he had made in the name of this case.

I had often pressed him to write some account of his early life, and of the various circumstances connected with it. But the aversion he had to read or write any thing about himself was so great, that I never succeeded, except in obtaining a few notes, rather than a detailed account. There would be little either useful or interesting in any account of Coleridge's life, which a stranger to him could give; therefore, from the best authorities with which I am acquainted, and from an intimacy of nearly twenty years, is this memoir of my late lamented friend compiled. He commences one of the notes above alluded to, with his early childhood.

"I was," says he, "the last child, the youngest child of ten by the same mother, that is to say, John, William (who died in infancy), James, William, Edward, George, Luke, Ann, Francis, and myself, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, beneficially abridged Esteese [Greek: estaesae], i.e. S. T. C., and the thirteenth, taking in three sisters by my dear father's first wife,—Mary, afterwards Mrs. Bradley,—Sarah, who married a seaman and is lately dead, and Elizabeth, afterwards Mrs. Phillips—who alone was bred up with us after my birth, and whom alone of the three I was wont to think of as a sister, though not exactly, yet I did not know why, the same sort of sister, as my sister Nancy.

Being the youngest child, I possibly inherited the weakly state of health of my father, who died at the age of 62, before I had reached my seventh year; and from certain jealousies of old Molly, my brother Frank's dotingly fond nurse, (and if ever child by beauty and loveliness deserved to be doted on, my brother Francis was that child,) and by the infusions of her jealousy into my brother's mind, I was in earliest childhood huffed away from the enjoyments of muscular activity from play, to take refuge at my mother's side, on my little stool, to read my little book, and to listen to the talk of my elders. I was driven from life in motion, to life in thought and sensation. I never played except by myself, and then only acting over what I had been reading or fancying, or half one, half the other, with a stick cutting down weeds and nettles, as one of the seven champions of Christendom. [5] Alas! I had all the simplicity, all the docility of the little child, but none of the child's habits. I never thought as a child, never had the language of a child. I forget whether it was in my fifth or sixth year, but I believe the latter, in consequence of some quarrel between me and my brother, in the first week in October, I ran away from fear of being whipped, and passed the whole night, a night of rain and storm, on the bleak side of a hill on the Otter, and was there found at daybreak, without the power of using my limbs, about six yards from the naked bank of the river."

"In my seventh year, about the same time, if not the very same time, i.e. Oct. 4th, my most dear, most revered father, died suddenly. O that I might so pass away, if like him I were an Israelite without guile. The image of my father, my revered, kind, learned, simple-hearted father is a religion to me!"

Judge Buller who had been educated by his father, had always promised to adopt the son, at least to educate him, foreseeing that Samuel, the youngest, was likely to be left an orphan early in life. Soon after the death of the Rev. John Coleridge, the Judge obtained from John Way, Esq., one of the governors of Christ's Hospital, a presentation to that school, and young Coleridge was sent by the Judge and placed there on the 18th July, 1782. "O! what a change!" [6] he goes on in the note above quoted.

"Depressed, moping, friendless, poor orphan, half starved; (at that time the portion of food to the Bluecoats was cruelly insufficient for those who had no friends to supply them)."

In the late Mr. Charles Lamb's "Works" published in 1818, there is an account of the school, entitled "Recollections of Christ's Hospital." In 1823 there is a second essay on the same subject by Lamb, under the assumed title of "Elia,"—Elia supposed to be intimate with Lamb and Coleridge. This second account, entitled "Christ's Hospital five-and-thirty years ago," gave umbrage to some of the "Blues," as they termed themselves, as differing so much from the first in full praise of this valuable foundation, and particularly as a school from which he had benefited so much. In the preface to the second series, Elia says,

"What he (Elia) tells of himself is often true only (historically) of another; when under the first person he shadows forth the forlorn state of a country boy placed at a London school far from his friends and connexions,"

which is in direct opposition to Lamb's own early history. The second account, under the personification of Elia, is drawn from the painful recollections and sufferings of Coleridge while at school, which I have often heard him relate.

Lamb told Coleridge one day that the friendless school boy in his "Elia," (soon after its publication) was intended for him, and taken from his description of the Blue-coat school. After Coleridge's death, Lamb related the same circumstance to me, that he had drawn the account from Coleridge's feelings, sufferings, &c., Lamb having himself been an indulged boy and peculiarly favoured through the instrumentality of a friend:

"I remember," says Elia, "Lamb at school, and can well recollect that he had some peculiar advantages, which I and others of his schoolfellows had not. His friends lived in town and were at hand, and he had the privilege of going to see them almost as often as he wished, through some invidious distinction which was denied to us. The present treasurer of the Inner Temple can explain how it happened. He had his tea and hot rolls in the morning, while we were battening upon our quarter of penny loaf—our 'crug' moistened with attenuated small beer in wooden piggins, smacking of the pitched leathern jack it was poured from. On Monday's milk porritch, blue and tasteless, and the pease-soup of Saturday, coarse and choking, were enriched for him with a slice of 'extraordinary bread and butter,' from the hot-loaf of the Temple. The Wednesday's mess of millet, somewhat less repugnant—(we had three banyan to four meat-days in the week)—was endeared to his palate with a lump of double-refined, and a smack of ginger, (to make it go down the more glibly) or the fragrant cinnamon. In lieu of our 'half-pickled' Sundays, or 'quite fresh' boiled beef on Thursdays, (strong as caro equina), with detestable marigolds floating in the pail to poison the broth—our scanty mutton crags on Fridays—and rather more savoury, but grudging, portions of the same flesh, rotten-roasted or rare, on the Tuesdays (the only dish which excited our appetites, and disappointed our stomachs, in almost equal proportion) he had his hot plate of roast veal, or the more tempting griskin (exotics unknown to our palates), cooked in the paternal kitchen.

"I (Coleridge) was a poor friendless boy, my parents, and those who should have cared for me, were far away. Those few acquaintances of their's, which they could reckon upon being kind to me in the great city, after a little forced notice, which they had the grace to take of me on my first arrival in town, soon grew tired of my holiday visits. They seemed to them to recur too often, though I thought them few enough; one after another, they all failed me, and I felt myself alone among six hundred playmates—O the cruelty of separating a poor lad from his early homestead! The yearnings which I used to have towards it in those unfledged years! How in my dreams would my native town come back (far in the west) with its churches and trees and faces! To this late hour of my life, and even to the end of it did Coleridge trace impressions left by the painful recollection of these friendless holidays. The long warm days of summer never return but they bring with them a gloom from the haunting memory of those 'whole day's leave', when by some strange arrangement, we were turned out for the live-long day, upon our own hands whether we had friends to go to or none. I remember those bathing excursions to the New River, which Lamb recalls with such relish, better, I think, than he can—for he was a home-seeking lad, and did not care for such water-parties. How we would sally forth into the fields; and strip under the first warmth of the sun; and wanton like young dace in the streams; getting appetites for the noon; which those of us that were penny less (our scanty morning crust long since exhausted) had not the means of allaying—while the cattle, and the birds, and the fishes were at feed about us, and we had nothing to satisfy our cravings; the very beauty of the day, and the exercise of the pastime, and the sense of liberty setting a keener edge upon them! How faint and languid, finally, we would return toward nightfall to our desired morsel, half-rejoicing, half-reluctant, that the hours of uneasy liberty had expired.

"It was worse in the days of winter, to go prowling about the streets objectless; shivering at cold windows of print-shops, to extract a little amusement; or haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a little novelty, to pay a fifty times repeated visit (where our individual faces would be as well known to the warden as those of his own charges) to the lions in the Tower, to whose levee, by courtesy immemorial, we had a prescriptive right of admission."

In short, nearly the whole of this essay of Elia's is a transcript of Coleridge's account of the school. 'Never was a friend or schoolfellow more fondly attached to another than Lamb to Coleridge. The latter from his own account, as well as from Lamb and others who knew him when at school, must have been a delicate and suffering boy. His principal ailments he owed much to the state of his stomach, which was at that time so delicate, that when compelled to go to a large closet (shoe-bin, its school name,) containing shoes, to pick out a pair easy to his feet, which were always tender, and he required shoes so large that he could walk in them, rather than with them, and the smell, from the number in this place, used to make him so sick, that I have often seen him shudder, even in late life, when he gave an account of it. In this note, continuing an account of himself at school, he says,

"From eight to fourteen I was a playless day-dreamer, a 'helluo librorum', my appetite for which was indulged by a singular incident: a stranger, who was struck by my conversation, made me free of a circulating library in King Street, Cheapside."

The incident, indeed, was singular: going down the Strand, in one of his day-dreams, fancying himself swimming across the Hellespont, thrusting his hands before him as in the act of swimming, his hand came in contact with a gentleman's pocket; the gentleman seized his hand, turning round and looking at him with some anger, "What! so young, and so wicked?" at the same time accused him of an attempt to pick his pocket; the frightened boy sobbed out his denial of the intention, and explained to him how he thought himself Leander, swimming across the Hellespont. The gentleman was so struck and delighted with the novelty of the thing, and with the simplicity and intelligence of the boy, that he subscribed, as before stated, to the library, in consequence of which Coleridge was further enabled to indulge his love of reading.

In his bathing excursions he had greatly injured his health, and reduced his strength; in one of these bathing exploits he swam across the New River in his clothes, and dried them in the fields on his back: from these excursions commenced those bodily sufferings which embittered the rest of his life, and rendered it truly one of sickness and suffering. When a boy he had a remarkably delicate, white skin, which was once the cause of great punishment to him.

His dame had undertaken to cure him of the itch, with which the boys of his ward had suffered much; but Coleridge was doomed to suffer more than his comrades, from the use of sulphur ointment, through the great sagacity of his dame, who with her extraordinary eyes, aided by the power of glasses, could see the malady in the skin deep and out of common vision; and consequently, as often as she employed this miraculous sight, she found or thought she found fresh reasons for continuing the friction, to the prolonged suffering and mortification of her patient. This occurred when he was about eight years of age, and gave rise to his first attempt at making a verse, as follows:

"O Lord, have mercy on me! For I am very sad! For why, good Lord? I've got the itch, And eke I've got the 'tad',"

the school name for ringworm. He was to be found during play-hours often with the knees of his breeches unbuttoned, and his shoes down at the heel, [7] walking to and fro, or sitting on a step, or in a corner, deeply engaged in some book. This had attracted the notice of Middleton, at that time a deputy grecian, and going up to him one day, asked what he was reading; the answer was "Virgil." "Are you then," said M. "studying your lesson?" "No," said C., "I am reading it for pleasure;" for he had not yet arrived at Virgil in his class studies. This struck Middleton as something so peculiar, that he mentioned it to the head master, as Coleridge was then in the grammar school (which is the lower part of the classical school), and doing the work of the lower boys. The Rev. James Bowyer, who was at that time head master, a quick discerning man, but hasty and severe, sent for the master of the grammar school, and inquired about Coleridge; from him he learnt that he was a dull and inapt scholar, and that he could not be made to repeat a single rule of syntax, although he would give a rule in his own way.

This brought Coleridge before Bowyer, and to this circumstance may be attributed the notice which he afterwards took of him: the school and his scholars were every thing to him, and Coleridge's neglect and carelessness never went unpunished. I have often heard him say, he was so ordinary a looking boy, with his black head, that Bowyer generally gave him at the end of a flogging an extra cut; "for," said he, "you are such an ugly fellow!"

When, by the odd accident before mentioned, he was made a subscriber to the library in King Street,

"I read," says he, "'through' the catalogue, folios and all, whether I understood them, or did not understand them, running all risks in skulking out to get the two volumes which I was entitled to have daily. Conceive what I must have been at fourteen; I was in a continual low fever. My whole being was, with eyes closed to every object of present sense, to crumple myself up in a sunny corner, and read, read, read; fancy myself on Robinson Crusoe's island, finding a mountain of plumb-cake, and eating a room for myself, and then eating it into the shapes of tables and chairs—hunger and fancy!"

In his lad-hood he says,

"My talents and superiority made me for ever at the head in my routine of study, though utterly without the desire to be so; without a spark of ambition; and, as to emulation, it had no meaning for me; but the difference between me and my form-fellows, in our lessons and exercises, bore no proportion to the measureless difference between me and them in the wide, wild, wilderness of useless, unarranged book-knowledge and book-thoughts. Thank Heaven! it was not the age nor the fashion of getting up prodigies; but at twelve or fourteen I should have made as pretty a juvenile prodigy as was ever emasculated and ruined by fond and idle wonderment. Thank Heaven! I was flogged instead of flattered. However, as I climbed up the school, my lot was somewhat alleviated."

When Coleridge arrived at the age of fifteen, he was, from the little comfort he experienced, very desirous of quitting the school, and, as he truly said, he had not a spark of ambition. Near the school there resided a worthy, and, in their rank of life, a respectable middle-aged couple. The husband kept a little shop, and was a shoemaker, with whom Coleridge had become intimate. The wife, also, had been kind and attentive to him, and this was sufficient to captivate his affectionate nature, which had existed from earliest childhood, and strongly endeared him to all around him. Coleridge became exceedingly desirous of being apprenticed to this man, to learn the art of shoemaking; and in due time, when some of the boys were old enough to leave the school, and be put to trade, Coleridge, being of the number, tutored his friend Crispin how to apply to the head master, and not to heed his anger should he become irate. Accordingly, Crispin applied at the hour proposed to see Bowyer; who, having heard the proposal to take Coleridge as an apprentice, and Coleridge's answer and assent to become a shoemaker, broke forth with his favourite adjuration, "'Ods my life, man, what d'ye mean?" At the sound of his angry voice, Crispin stood motionless, till the angry pedagogue becoming infuriate, pushed the intruder out of the room with such force, that Crispin might have sustained an action at law against him for an assault. Thus, to Coleridge's mortification and regret, as he afterwards in joke would say,

"I lost the opportunity of supplying safeguards to the understandings of those, who perhaps will never thank me for what I am aiming to do in exercising their reason.

"Against my will," says he, "I was chosen by my master as one of those destined for the university; and about this time my brother Luke, or 'the Doctor,' so called from his infancy, because being the seventh son, he had, from his infancy, been dedicated to the medical profession, came to town to walk the London Hospital, under the care of Sir William Blizard. Mr. Saumarez, brother of the Admiral Lord Saumarez, was his intimate friend. Every Saturday I could make or obtain leave, to the London Hospital trudged I. O the bliss if I was permitted to hold the plasters, or to attend the dressings. Thirty years afterwards, Mr. Saumarez retained the liveliest recollections of the extraordinary, enthusiastic blue-coat boy, and was exceedingly affected in identifying me with that boy. I became wild to be apprenticed to a surgeon. English, Latin, yea, Greek books of medicine read I incessantly. Blanchard's Latin Medical Dictionary I had nearly by heart. Briefly, it was a wild dream, which gradually blending with, gradually gave way to a rage for metaphysics, occasioned by the essays on Liberty and Necessity in Cato's Letters, and more by theology. After I had read Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, I sported infidel! but my infidel vanity never touched my heart:"

nor ever with his lips did he for a few months only support the new light given him by Voltaire.

"With my heart," says he, "I never did abandon the name of Christ."

This reached Bowyer's ears, and he sent for him: not to reason with him, as teachers and parents do too often, and by this means as often increase the vanity of these tyro-would-be-philosophers; but he took the surest mode, if not of curing, at least of checking the disease. His argument was short and forcible.

"So, sirrah, you are an infidel, are you? then I'll flog your infidelity out of you;"

and gave him the severest flogging he had ever received at his hands. This, as I have often heard Coleridge say, was the only just flogging he had ever given him: certainly, from all I ever heard of him, Bowyer was strictly a flogging master. Trollope, in his History of Christ's Hospital, page 137, says of him,

"His discipline was exact in the extreme, and tinctured, perhaps, with more than due severity." [8]

Coleridge, in his 'Biographia Literaria', after paying a just compliment to Bowyer as a teacher, says,

"The reader will, I trust, excuse this tribute of recollection to a man, whose severities, even now, not seldom furnish the dreams by which the blind fancy would fain interpret to the mind the painful sensation of distempered sleep, but neither lessen nor diminish the deep sense of my moral and intellectual obligations."

He had his passionate days, which the boys described as the days he wore his Passy wig (passy abbreviated from passionate). "Sirrah! I'll flog you," were words so familiar to him, that on one occasion, some female relation or friend of one of the boys entered his room, when a class stood before him and inquired for Master—; master was no school title with Bowyer. The errand of this lady being to ask a short leave of absence for some boy, on the sudden appearance in town of his country cousin, still lingering at the door, after having been abruptly told to go, Bowyer suddenly exclaimed, "Bring that woman here, and I'll flog her!"

Coleridge's themes in his fifteenth year, [9] in verse as well as prose, marked him as a boy of great talent, but of talent only according to his own definition of it (vide "Friend," vol. iii. edit. 1818). His verse was good, his prose powerful, and language correct, and beyond his years in depth of thought, but as yet he had not manifested, according to the same test, anything of genius. I met among some of his notes, written at the age of fifty-one, the following critique on one of his schoolboy themes:

"This theme was written at the age of fifteen: it does not contain a line that any schoolboy might not have written, and like most school-poetry, there is a putting of thoughts into verse. Yet such verses as a striving of mind and struggles after the intense and vivid, are a fair promise of better things."

The same observation might be made in the intense application of his intellectual powers in search of truth, at the time he called himself an infidel; in this struggle of mind was the "fair promise of better things." It was the preparation necessary for such a mind; the breaking up and tilling of the soil for the successful germination of the seeds of truth.

The sleeping powers of thought were roused and excited into action.

Perhaps this may be considered, as entering too early into the history of his mind in boyhood: to this I reply, that the entire man so to speak, is to be seen even in the cradle of the child. [10]

The serious may be startled at the thought of a young man passing through such an ordeal; but with him it was the exercise of his strength, in order that he might "fight the good fight," and conquer for that truth which is permanent, and is the light and the life of every one who comes into the world, and who is in earnest search of it.

In his sixteenth year he composed the allegory of "Real and Imaginary Time," first published in the Sibylline Leaves, having been accidentally omitted in the Juvenile Poems,—

"On the wide level of a mountain's head, (I knew not where, but 'twas some fairy place) Their pinions, ostrich-like, for sails outspread, Two lovely children run an endless race, A sister and a brother! That far outstripped the other; Yet ever runs she with reverted face, And looks and listens for the boy behind; For he, alas! is blind! O'er rough and smooth with even step he passed, And knows not whether he be first or last." [11]

in which may be traced the first dawnings of his genius. He pictures to himself a boy returning to school after the holidays; in his day-dreams making plans for the future, and anticipating the pleasure he is to enjoy on his return home; his vivid thoughts, and sanguine expectations "far outstripping" the reality of time as marked by the watch or almanack. Real time is personified as a blind boy steadily pursuing his path; whilst imaginary time is represented as a fleeting girl, looking back and listening for her brother whom she has outrun. Perhaps to Mr. Bowyer's excellent method of instruction may be attributed this early developement of his genius. Coleridge remarks of him,

"He was an admirable educer, no less than educator of intellect; he taught me to leave out as many epithets as would make eight syllable lines, and then ask if the exercise would not be greatly improved."

Although in this year he began to indulge in metaphysical speculations, he was wedded to verse, and many of his early poems were planned; some of which he finished, and they were published in the "Juvenile Poems," on his entry into life; but as many more were scattered among his friends, who had greatly increased in number. About this time he became acquainted with a widow lady,

"whose son," says he, "I, as upper boy, had protected, and who therefore looked up to me, and taught me what it was to have a mother. I loved her as such. She had three daughters, and of course I fell in love with the eldest. From this time to my nineteenth year, when I quitted school for Jesus, Cambridge, was the era of poetry and love."

It has been observed, that about this sixteenth year, he first developed genius, and that during this early period of his life, his mind was incessantly toiling in the pursuit of knowledge. His love of reading seemed to have increased in proportion to his acquirements, which were equally great: his representing himself as an infidel was better perhaps understood by his master, who believed it to be only puerile vanity; and therefore Coleridge considered the flogging he received on this occasion, a just and appropriate punishment; and it was so, for as a boy he had not thought deep enough on an equally important point, viz., what is Fidelity, and how easily, he particularly might mistake the genuineness of sincere 'fidelity' for mere outward forms, and the simple observance of customs. Perhaps I might have been disposed to pass over this era with a slighter notice, which he in his simplicity of character thought it right to record. He was always honest in every thing concerning himself, and never spared self-accusation, often, when not understood, to his own injury. He never from his boyhood to his latest life, received kindness without grateful feelings, and, when he believed it coupled with love, without the deepest sense of its value; and if the person possessed sensibility and taste, he repaid it tenfold. This was the experience of nearly twenty years intimate knowledge of his character.

His description of his first love was that of a young poet, recording the first era of the passion, the fleeting dream of his youth—but not that love which he afterwards records in the Genevieve when he says,

"All thoughts, all passions, all delights, Whatever stirs this mortal frame, All are but ministers of love, And feed his sacred flame."

First love, so seldom the mature love of future days, is a flower of premature growth and developement, on which fancy exercises itself in castle-building, and is in unison with that age when youth flings his limbs about in the air, as an exercise to rid himself of the superfluous volition, the accumulation of which gives him a sensation of uneasiness; and these simple and unreserved accounts of Coleridge's infidelity, and also of his first love-fit, should be put down merely as mental exercises. The lines above quoted, belong, I have said, to the maturer mind; they are thoughts which, unlike the sportive dace on the surface of some calm lake, may rather be compared to the inhabitants of the deep waters beneath.

"How often will the loving heart and imaginative spirit of a young man mistake the projected creature of his own moral yearning, seen in the reflecting surface of the first not repulsive or vulgar female who treats him affectionately, for the realization of his idea. Reversing the order of the Genesis, he believes the female the original, and the outward reality and impressment of the self-constructed 'image', of the ideal! He most sincerely supposes himself in love—even in cases where the mistake might have been suspected by one curious fact—that his strongest emotions on love, were when absent from the imagined object. But the time comes, or may come, when the same feeling exists equally in presence and absence, in health and in sickness; when he verily 'is' in love. And now he 'knows' himself to be so, by the 'so' being—he can even prove it to his own mind by his certainty, his 'intuition' of the essential difference, as actually as it is uncommunicable, between it and its previous subjective counterfeits, and anticipations. Even so it is with friends.—O it is melancholy to think how the very forms and geniality of my affections, my belief of obligation, consequent gratitude and anxious sense of duty were wasted on the shadows of friendship. With few exceptions, I can almost say, that till I came to H——, I never 'found' what FRIENDS were—and doubtless, in more than one instance, I sacrificed substances who loved me, for semblances who were well pleased that I should love 'them', but who never loved nor inwardly respected ought but themselves. The distinction between 'the' friends and 'the' love is, that the latter we discover by itself to 'be', alone itself—for it is in its nature unique and exclusive. (See Improvvisatore in the 'Amulet' of 1826 or 7).

"But of the former we discover the genuineness by comparison and experience—the reason is obvious—in the instances in which the person imagined himself to 'be in love' with another (I use this phrase 'be in love with' for the want of any other; for, in fact, from the absence in our language of any appropriate exponent of the thing meant), it is a delusion in toto. But, in the other instance, the one half (i.e. the person's own feelings and sense of duty with acts accordant) remains the same (ex. gr. S.T.C. could not feel more deeply, nor from abatement of nervous life by age and sickness so 'ardently') he could not feel, think, and act with a 'more' entire devotion, to I.G. or to H.G. than he did to W.W. and to R.S., yet the latter were and remain most honourable to his judgment. Their characters, as moral and intellectual beings, give a dignity to his devotion; and the imperishable consciousness of his devout and almost enthusiastic attachment to them, still sanctifies their names, and makes the men holy and revered to him." [12]

Had Coleridge in early or even in later life paid an insincere, because undeserved, deference to outward show, and to the surface opinions counterfeiting depth, so attractive to the superficial observer—added to which, had he possessed a portion of that self-regarding policy which frequently aids success—he might have been idolized where he was neglected, and rewarded, if I might so profane this word, with high worldly honours in other quarters. But it was otherwise; and could a crown of gold have been offered him for the crown of glory of which he was in earnest search, he would have refused the exchange. The difference between time and eternity had already taken root, and he felt the mighty import of these words too strongly to have lost sight of their practical use; all that his health and powers would allow him to acquire he did acquire, and freely gave all he had for the benefit of others.

He says, "From the exuberance of my animal spirits, when I had burst forth from my misery and moping and the indiscretions resulting from those spirits—ex. gr. swimming over the New River in my clothes, and remaining in them;—full half the time from seventeen to eighteen was passed in the sick-ward of Christ's Hospital, afflicted with jaundice and rheumatic fever." From these indiscretions and their consequences may be dated all his bodily sufferings in future life: in short, rheumatism sadly afflicting him, while the remedies only slightly alleviated his sufferings, without hope of a permanent cure; though confined to his bed, his mind, ever active, still allowed him time to continue the exercise of his intellectual powers, and afforded him leisure for contemplation. Medical men are too often called upon to witness the effects of acute rheumatism in the young subject: in some, the attack is on the heart, and its consequences are immediate; in others, it leaves behind bodily sufferings, which may indeed be palliated, but terminate only in a lingering dissolution.

I have often heard Coleridge express regret that he had not cultivated mathematics, which he believed would have been of important use in life, particularly had he arrived so far as to have mastered the higher calculus; but he was, by an oversight of the mathematical master, stopped on the threshold. When he was commencing Euclid, among some of its first axioms came this:—"A line is length without breadth." "How can that be?" said the scholar, (Coleridge); "A line must have some breadth, be it ever so thin." This roused the master's indignation at the impertinence of the scholar, which was instantly answered by a box on the ear, and the words, hastily uttered, "Go along, you silly fellow;" and here ended his first tuition, or lecture. His second efforts afterwards were not more successful; so that he was destined to remain ignorant of these exercises of the logic of the understanding.[A] Indeed his logical powers were so stupendous, from boyhood, as never to require such drilling. Bowyer, his classical master, was too skilful in the management of youth, and too much interested in the success of his scholars to overlook what was best fitted for them. He exercised their logical powers in acquiring and comparing the different classics. On him, as a teacher, Coleridge loved to dwell; and, with his grateful feelings, ever ready to acknowledge the sense of his obligations to him, particularly those relating to his mental improvement, he has, in his Biog. Lit. vol. i. p. 7, expressed himself in these words:

"He early moulded my taste to the preference of Demosthenes to Cicero, of Homer and Theocritus to Virgil, and again of Virgil to Ovid. He habituated me to compare Lucretius, (in such extracts as I then read,) Terence, and, above all, the chaster poems of Catullus, not only with the Roman poets of the, so called, silver and brazen ages; but with even those of the Augustan aera: and, on grounds of plain sense and universal logic, to see and assert the superiority of the former in the truth and nativeness, both of their thoughts and diction. At the same time that we were studying the Greek tragic poets, he made us read Shakespeare and Milton as lessons; and they were lessons too, which required most time and trouble to 'bring up' so as to escape his censure. I learnt from him that Poetry, even that of the loftiest, and, seemingly wildest odes, had a logic of its own, as severe as that of science; and more difficult, because more subtle, more complex, and dependent on more, and more fugitive causes."

In early life he was remarkably joyous; nature had blessed him with a buoyancy of spirits, and even when suffering, he deceived the partial observer. He delighted many of the strangers he met in his saunterings through the cloisters, arrested and riveted the attention of the passer by, whom, like his "Ancient Mariner," he held by a spell. His schoolfellow, Lamb, has mentioned him, when under the influence of this power, as the delight of his auditors. In the Elia, he says,

"Come back into memory like as thou wert in the dayspring of thy fancies, with hope, like a fiery column before thee, the dark pillar not yet turned ... How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand still, entranced with admiration, (while he weighed the disproportion between the 'speech' and the 'garb' of the mirandula,) to hear thee unfold, in deep and sweet intonations, the mysteries of Iamblichus [14] or Plotinus, (for even in those years thou waxedst not pale at such philosophic draughts); or reciting Homer in his Greek, or Pindar, while the walls of the old Grey-Friars re-echoed to the accents."

Middleton was not prepared to sympathise in these flights, considering them subversive of the dignity of a Grecian. [15] Middleton was then on the threshold of the College, and lads in this situation seemed called upon, to preserve with dignity their honours, and with more outward forms than suited their age. This at the time rendered them stiff and unfamiliar, so much so, that within the walls, and in the neighbourhood, it was mistaken for pride, and the words "Proud as a Grecian," were proverbial. These boys had the dignity of their rising prospects therefore to support—they were the aristocracy of the school. This was a task ill suited to Coleridge; and his flights of fancy, as Lamb termed them, would only produce a shrug of Middleton's shoulders, and a dread at the prospect of the falling dignity of the school. Middleton's Poem, in Mr. Trollope's [16] History of Christ's Hospital, and its companion that of Coleridge, characterize the two youths, and plainly point out that the selection of these poems was influenced more by a merit belonging purely to talent than from any display of genius in either. The verses of Middleton are more indicative of strength than of power; they are the verses of a well-tutored youth, of commanding talents. Those of Coleridge show more of fancy, but do not exhibit the power he possessed at that age, which will be seen by comparing this poem with many written by him at an earlier period, and now published among his "Juvenile Poems." Middleton being older than Coleridge was elected first, viz. 26th September, 1788, to Pembroke College, Cambridge. Coleridge left Christ's Hospital for Jesus' College, Cambridge, 7th September, 1790, [17] taking leave of his school-fellows in the following sonnet:—

Farewell, parental scenes! a sad farewell! To you my grateful heart still fondly clings, Tho' fluttering round on Fancy's burnish'd wings, Her tales of future joy Hope loves to tell. Adieu, adieu! ye much loved cloisters pale! Ah! would those happy days return again, When 'neath your arches, free from every stain, I heard of guilt, and wonder'd at the tale! Dear haunts! where oft my simple lays I sang, Listening meanwhile the echoings of my feet, Lingering I quit you, with as great a pang, As when ere while, my weeping childhood, torn By early sorrow from my native seat, Mingled its tears with hers—my widow'd parent lorn.

'Poetical Works', vol. i. p. 31.

[Footnote 1: Bishop Berkeley, in his work ("Siris") commences with a dissertation on Tar Water, and ends with the Trinity. The Rev. John Coleridge commences his work, entitled "A miscellaneous Dissertation arising from the 17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges," with a well written preface on the Bible, and ends with an advertisement of his school, and his method of teaching Latin.]

[Footnote 2: In 1809, the above whimsical stories were related to me by a gentleman, born in the town of Ottery, and by marriage closely related to the Rev. John Coleridge. While Coleridge resided at Highgate, he also repeated the stories which had grown up with him from boyhood as here related, himself believing them true; but a near relation has lately assured the writer, that some of these stories are told of another most respectable clergyman, residing at that time in the neighbourhood, and 'he' believes that they properly belong to him. It is commonly remarked that very studious men, either from inattention, or from ignorance of the conventional forms of society, are regardless of what passes before them. Paying, perhaps, too much attention to their inward feelings or thoughts, seemingly day-dreaming—and this may frequently give rise to the stories to be found in many towns besides Ottery. Still, however, thoughtful and contemplative persons are often the quickest observers of the weaknesses of human nature, and yet as they usually make the greatest allowances for every infirmity, they are often impartial judges, and judicious counsellors. The Rev. John Coleridge, though sometimes an absent man, was a most valuable pastor, and on all fitting occasions a good man of business, having conducted several difficult matters of controversy for his parish with great satisfaction to the parties.]

[Footnote 3: Such at least were the recollections of this extraordinary boy of seven years of age.]

[Footnote 4: Quale—quare—quidditive.]

[Footnote 5: He had, before he was six years old, read three times through the Arabian Nights, or rather one of the volumes.—See "'The Friend'," vol. i. p. 252, ed. 1818.]

[Footnote 6: I insert a similar observation on his feelings when he first left home. "When I was first plucked up and transplanted from my birth place and family, at the death of my dear father, whose revered image has ever survived in my mind, to make me know what the emotions and affections of a son are, and how ill a father's place is likely to be supplied by any other relation. Providence (it has often occurred to me) gave the first intimation, that it was my lot, and that it was best for me, to make or find my way of life a detached individual, a Terrae Filius, who was to ask love or service of no one on any more specific relation than that of being a man, and as such to take my chance for the free charities of humanity."]

[Footnote 7: Whatever might have been his habits in boyhood, in manhood he was 'scrupulously' clean in his person, and especially took great care of his hands by frequent ablutions. In his dress also he was as cleanly as the liberal use of snuff would permit, though the clothes-brush was often in requisition to remove the wasted snuff. "Snuff," he would facetiously say, "was the final cause of the nose, though troublesome and expensive in its use."]

[Footnote 8: "Jemmy Bowyer," as he was familiarly called by Coleridge and Lamb, might not inaptly be termed the "plagosus orbilius" of Christ's Hospital.]

[Footnote 9: In his biographical sketch of his literary life, he informs us that he had translated the eight Hymns of Synesius from the Greek, into English Anacreontica, before his fifteenth year.]

[Footnote 10:

... the childhood shews the man, As morning shews the day ...

'Paradise Regained', book iv. v. 220.]

[Footnote 11: Aldine Edition, Vol. i. p. 6.—Pickering, London, 1834.]

[Footnote 12: Extract of a note written Dec. 1829.]

[Footnote 13:

"'Thought' and 'attention' very different things.—I never expected the German (viz. selbst-muehige Erzeugung dessen, wovon meine Rede war) from the readers of the 'Friend'.—I did expect the latter, and was disappointed."

"This is a most important distinction, and in the new light afforded by it to my mind, I see more plainly why mathematics cannot be a substitute for Logic, much less for Metaphysics—i.e. transcendental Logic, and why therefore Cambridge has produced so few men of genius and original power since the time of Newton.—Not only it does 'not' call forth the balancing and discriminating powers ('that' I saw long ago), but it requires only 'attention', not 'thought' or self-production.

"In a long-brief Dream-life of regretted regrets, I still find a noticeable space marked out by the Regret of having neglected the Mathematical Sciences. No 'week', few 'days' pass unhaunted by a fresh conviction of the truth involved in the Platonic Superstition over the Portal of Philosophy,

[Greek: Maedeis ageometraetos eisito].

But surely Philosophy hath scarcely sustained more detriment by its alienation from mathematics."

MS. Note.]

[Footnote 14:

"In my friendless wanderings on our leave-days, i.e. the Christ Hospital phrase, not for holidays altogether, but for those on which the boys are permitted to go beyond the precincts of the school (for I was an orphan, and had scarce any connexions in London), highly was I delighted, if any passenger, especially if he drest in black, would enter into conversation with me; for soon I found the means of directing it to my favourite subjects—

Of Providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate, Fix'd fate, free will, fore-knowledge absolute, And found no end, in wandering mazes lost."]

[Footnote 15: The upper boys of the school selected for the University are so termed, though wearing the same coloured dress, but made of more costly materials.]

[Footnote 16: In a note on the History, p. 192, Mr. Trollope makes the following observation:

"From this book" (a book in which the boys were allowed to copy their verses when considered good) "the verses referred to in the text were inscribed."

They will be found in the Literary Remains, vol. i, p.33. Trollope says,

"These verses are copied not as one of the best, but of the earliest productions of the writer."]

[Footnote 17: Entered at Jesus' College, Feb. 5th, 1791, at the age of 19.—College Books.]



At Cambridge, whither his reputation had travelled before him, high hopes and fair promises of success were entertained by his young friends and relations. He was considered by the "Blues," as they are familiarly termed, one from whom they were to derive great immediate honour, which for a short period, however, was deferred. Individual genius has a cycle of its own, and moves only in that path, or by the powers influencing it. Genius has been properly defined 'prospective', talent on the contrary 'retrospective': genius is creative, and lives much in the future, and in its passage or progress may make use of the labours of talent.

"I have been in the habit," says Coleridge, "of considering the qualities of intellect, the comparative eminence in which characterizes individuals and even countries, under four kinds,—genius, talent, sense, and cleverness. The first I use in the sense of most general acceptance, as the faculty which adds to the existing stock of power and knowledge by new views, new combinations, by discoveries not accidental, but anticipated, or resulting from anticipation."

'Friend', vol. iii. p. 85, edit. 1818. [1]

Coleridge left school with great anticipation of success from all who knew him, for his character for scholarship, and extraordinary accounts of his genius had preceded him. He carried with him too the same childlike simplicity which he had from a boy, and which he retained even to his latest hours. His first step was to involve himself in much misery, and which followed him in after life, as the sequel will evidence. On his arrival at College he was accosted by a polite upholsterer, requesting to be permitted to furnish his rooms. The next question was, "How would you like to have them furnished?" The answer was prompt and innocent enough, "Just as you please, Sir!"—thinking the individual employed by the College. The rooms were therefore furnished according to the taste of the artizan, and the bill presented to the astonished Coleridge. Debt was to him at all times a thing he most dreaded, and he never had the courage to face it. I once, and once only, witnessed a painful scene of this kind, which occurred from mistaking a letter on ordinary business for an application for money. [2] Thirty years afterwards, I heard that these College debts were about one hundred pounds! Under one hundred pounds I believe to have been the amount of his sinnings; but report exceeded this to something which might have taxed his character beyond imprudence, or mere want of thought. Had he, in addition to his father's simplicity, possessed the worldly circumspection of his mother, he might have avoided these and many other vexations; but he went to the University wholly unprepared for a College life, having hitherto chiefly existed in his own 'inward' being, and in his poetical imagination, on which he had fed.

But to proceed. Coleridge's own account is, that while Middleton, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, remained at Pembroke, he "worked with him and was industrious, read hard, and obtained the prize for the Greek Ode," [3] &c. It has been stated, that he was locked up in his room to write this Ode; but this is not the fact. Many stories were afloat, and many exaggerations were circulated and believed, of his great want of attention to College discipline, and of perseverance in his studies, and every failure, or apparent failure, was attributed to these causes. Often has he repeated the following story of Middleton, and perhaps this story gave birth to the report.

They had agreed to read together in the evening, and were not to hold any conversation. Coleridge went to Pembroke and found Middleton intent on his book, having on a long pair of boots reaching to the knees, and beside him, on a chair, next to the one he was sitting on, a pistol. Coleridge had scarcely sat down before he was startled by the report of the pistol. "Did you see that?" said Middleton. "See what?" said Coleridge. "That rat I just sent into its hole again—did you feel the shot? It was to defend my legs," continued Middleton, "I put on these boots. I am fighting with these rats for my books, which, without some prevention, I shall have devoured."

There is an anecdote related of Coleridge while at College, and which I have heard him frequently repeat, when called upon to vouch for its truth. His fellow students had amused themselves, when he was in attendance at Lecture, by stealing a portion of the tail of his gown, and which they had repeated so frequently, as to shorten it to the length of a spencer. Crossing the quadrangle one day with these remains at his back, and his appearance not being in collegiate trim, the Master of Jesus' College, who was ever kind to him, and overlooked all little inattentions to appearances, accosted him smartly on this occasion—"Mr. Coleridge! Mr. Coleridge! when will you get rid of that shameful gown?" Coleridge, turning his head, and casting his eyes over his shoulders, as if observing its length, or rather want of length, replied in as courteous a manner as words of such a character would permit, "Why, Sir, I think I've got rid of the greatest part of it already!"

Such were Coleridge's peculiarities, which were sometimes construed into irregularities; but through his whole life, attracting notice by his splendid genius, he fell too often under the observation of men who busied themselves in magnifying small things, and minifying large ones. About this period, that Volcano, in which all the worst passions of men were collected, and which had been for some time emitting its black smoke, at length exploded and rent society asunder. The shock was felt throughout Europe; each party was over-excited, and their minds enthralled by a new slavery—the one shouting out the blessings of liberty and equality—the other execrating them, and prophesying the consequences that were to follow:—

"There's no philosopher but sees That rage and fear are one disease; Tho' that may burn, and this may freeze, They're both alike tho ague."

'Mad Ox'.

Combustibles composed of such ardent and evil spirits soon blaze out; yet the evil does not stop when the blaze has ceased; it leaves an excitement which is constantly disclosing itself in a restless morbid vanity, a craving for distinction, and a love of applause, in its way as dangerous as the thirst of gain, and the worship of the mammon of unrighteousness.

Alas! the circulation of such anecdotes as have been here related of Coleridge when at College, and his inattention to some of the minor forms of discipline, were sufficient for illnatured persons to transform into serious offences, particularly when coupled with the disappointed hopes of zealous friends. At this period, in which all men who were not senseless, or so indifferent as nearly to be senseless, particularly the young men of our Universities, all embraced a party, and arranged themselves under their different banners. When I now look around me, and see men who have risen to the highest offices of the different professions, in the church, the law, or in physic, formerly only known by the name of Citizen John, &c. &c., now my Lord so and so, or your Grace the——, it seems like a dream, or at least a world of fleeting shadows. Sir James Mackintosh, in a letter to Mr. Sharp, states what he conceived to be the errors of both parties, so far as they arose from errors of judgment:

"The opposition mistook the moral character of the revolution; the ministers mistook its force: and both parties, from pique, resentment, pride, habit, and obstinacy, persisted in acting on these mistakes after they were disabused by experience. Mr. Burke alone avoided both these fatal mistakes. He saw both the malignity and the strength of the revolution. But where there was wisdom to discover the truth, there was not power, and perhaps there was not practical skill, to make that wisdom available for the salvation of Europe.—'Diis aliter visum!' My fortune has been in some respects very singular. I have lately read the lives and private correspondence of some of the most memorable men in different countries of Europe, who are lately dead. [4] Klopstock, Kant, Lavater, Alfieri, they were all filled with joy and hope by the French revolution—they clung to it for a longer or a shorter time—they were compelled to relinquish their illusions. The disappointment of all was bitter, but it showed itself in various modes, according to the variety of their characters. The series of passions growing out of that disappointment, was the not very remote cause of the death of Lavater. In the midst of society, Alfieri buried himself in misanthropic solitude; and the shock, which awakened him from the dreams of enthusiasm, darkened and shortened his days. In the mean time the multitude, comprehending not only those who have neither ardour of sensibility, nor compass of understanding to give weight to their suffrage, but those also whom accident had not brought into close and perpetual contact with the events, were insensibly detached from the revolution; and, before they were well aware that they had quitted their old 'position', they found themselves at the antipodes."

The excitement which this state of things produced might have been highly advantageous to some, and even quickened their intellectual powers, particularly those destined either for the bar or the senate, but certainly not those intended for the church.

The revolution [5] and its consequences engrossed the thoughts of all men too much for the calmer pursuits of life; and the minds of the young especially were so absorbed by passing temporal events, as to leave but little time for the contemplation of the deeper and more serious affairs of futurity. However, Coleridge appears in his political opinions to have leaned too much to the side of democracy; but this was so prevalent and so much a fashion, particularly in those filled with enthusiasm, that it seemed a natural consequence in any young man possessing even ordinary intellect. Middleton, his friend, passed on without attaching himself to either party. His manners (as I have before noticed) were austere and sedate. He steadily persevered, without deviation, in his studies, though chance did not always favour him, nor crown him with the success he merited. He was a good and amiable man, and an affectionate friend; but early want of success in his academical exertions rendering him melancholy, this by sympathy was soon imparted to his friend. After Middleton's departure, the keen desire which Coleridge previously felt for the possession of honours abated, and he became indifferent to them—he might at this time have been idle, but never vicious. The men who often appear to be the gayest and lightest of heart, are too frequently melancholic; and it is a well-known fact, that the best comic actors are the greatest sufferers from this malady, as if it seemed an essential qualification for that department of histrionic excellence, in which the greatest animal spirits are personated and successfully imitated. Coleridge, at this period, delighted in boyish tricks, which others were to execute. I remember a fellow-collegiate recalling to his memory an exploit of which he was the planner, and a late Lord Chancellor the executor. It was this: a train of gunpowder was to be laid on two of the neatly shaven lawns of St. John's and Trinity Colleges, in such a manner, that, when set on fire, the singed grass would exhibit the ominous words, Liberty and Equality, which, with able ladlike dexterity, was duly performed.

The writer of the College Reminiscences in the Gentleman's Magazine, December, 1834, a first-form boy with Coleridge at Christ's Hospital, was well acquainted with his habits, and speaks of his having gained the gold medal in his freshman's year for the Greek Ode, but does not notice his having been locked up in his room for that purpose.

"In his second year he stood for the Craven scholarship—a university scholarship, for which under-graduates of any standing are entitled to become candidates. This was in the winter of 1792. Out of sixteen or eighteen competitors, a selection of four were to contend for the prize, and these four were Dr. Butler, late head-master of Shrewsbury, Dr. Keate, the late head-master of Eton, [6] Dr. Bethell, the present Bishop of Bangor, and Coleridge. Dr. Butler was the successful candidate."

Coleridge always spoke of this decision as having been in every way just, and due to Butler's merit as a clever and industrious scholar.

"But pause a moment," says this writer, "in Coleridge's History, and think of him at this period! Butler! Keate Bethell! and Coleridge! How different the career of each in future life! O Coleridge, through what strange paths did the meteor of genius lead thee! Pause a moment, ye distinguished men! and deem it not the least bright spot in your happier career, that you and Coleridge were once rivals, and for a moment running abreast in the pursuit of honour. I believe that his disappointment at this crisis damped his ardour. Unfortunately, at that period, there was no classical tripos; so that, if a person did not obtain the classical medal, he was thrown back among the totally undistinguished; and it was not allowable to become a candidate for the classical medal, unless you had taken a respectable degree in mathematics. Coleridge had not the least taste for these, and here his case was hopeless; so that he despaired of a Fellowship, and gave up what in his heart he coveted—college honours and a college life. He had seen Middleton (late Bishop of Calcutta) quit Pembroke under similar circumstances. Not quite similar, because Middleton had studied mathematics so as to take a respectable degree, and to enable him to try for the medal; but he failed, and therefore all hopes failed of a Fellowship—most fortunately, as it proved in after-life, for Middleton, though he mourned at the time most deeply, and exclaimed—'I am Middleton, which is another name for misfortune!'

'There is a Providence which shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.'

That which Middleton deemed a misfortune drew him from the cobwebs of a college library to the active energies of a useful and honoured life."

If, as Shakespeare observes, "there be a providence which shapes our ends," such words as "fortunate" or "unfortunate," in their customary use, will be found, on closer attention, and deeper thought, worthless and full of error. We have each our part allotted to us in the great drama of life.

But to return to Coleridge.

"When he quitted college, which he did before he had taken a degree, in a moment of mad-cap caprice, and in an inauspicious hour!

'When,' as Coleridge says, 'I left the friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever-honoured Jesus' College, Cambridge.'

Short, but deep and heartfelt reminiscence! In a Literary Life of himself, this short memorial is all that Coleridge gives of his happy days at college. Say not that he did not obtain, and did not wish to obtain, classical honours! He did obtain them, and was eagerly ambitious of them; [7] but he did not bend to that discipline which was to qualify him for the whole course. He was very studious, but his reading was desultory and capricious. He took little exercise merely for the sake of exercise; but he was ready at any time to unbend his mind in conversation; and, for the sake of this, his room (the ground-floor room on the right hand of the staircase facing the great gate,) was a constant rendezvous of conversation-loving friends; I will not call them loungers, for they did not call to kill time, but to enjoy it. What evenings have I spent in those rooms! What little suppers, or 'sizings', as they were called, have I enjoyed; when AEschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons, &c. to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon, a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before us. Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim."

Then came another disturbing cause, which altered the course of his path in life, and this was Frend's trial. [8]

"During it," to resume the quotation, "pamphlets swarmed from the press. Coleridge had read them all; and in the evening, with our negus, we had them 'viva voce' gloriously."

Coleridge has recorded that he was a Socinian till twenty-five. Be not startled, courteous reader! nor ye who knew him only in his later life, if the impetuous zeal and ardour of his mind in early youth led him somewhat wide of those fixed principles which he adopted in riper years.

To quote his own words, written soon after he left college, and addressed to the late Rev. George Coleridge,

"If aught of error or intemperate truth Should meet thine ear, think thou that riper age Will calm it down, and let thy love forgive it!"

There is one incident very characteristic of him, which took place during this trial. The trial was observed by Coleridge, to be going against Frend, when some observation or speech was made in his favour; a dying hope thrown out as it appeared to Coleridge who, in the midst of the Senate, whilst sitting on one of the benches, extended his hands and clapped them. The Proctor in a loud voice demanded who had committed this indecorum. Silence ensued. The Proctor in an elevated tone, said to a young man sitting near Coleridge, "'Twas you, sir!" The reply was as prompt as the accusation; for, immediately holding out the stump of his right arm, it appeared that he had lost his hand,—"I would, sir," said he, "that I had the power."—That no innocent person should incur blame, Coleridge went directly afterwards to the Proctor, who told him that he saw him clap his hands, but fixed on this person who he knew had not the power. "You have had," said he, "a narrow escape."

The opinions of youth are often treated too seriously. The matter of most importance to ascertain when they need correction, is, whether in these opinions they are 'sincere'; at all events, the outbursts of youth are not to be visited as veteran decisions; and when they differ from 'received' opinions, the advice offered should be tempered with kindliness of feeling and sympathy even with their failings. Unfortunately for Coleridge, however, he was to be exempted from those allowances made for others, and was most painfully neglected by those who ought to have sympathized with, and supported him; he was left "to chase chance-started friendships."

Coleridge possessed a mind remarkably sensitive, so much so, as at times to divest him of that mental courage so necessary in a world full of vicissitude and painful trial; and this deficiency, though of short duration, was occasionally observed in early life. At the departure of Middleton, [9] to whom he had always looked up, whose success he had considered morally certain, and whose unexpected failure was therefore the more painful to his feelings, he became desponding, and, in addition, vexed and fretted by the college debts, he was overtaken by that inward grief, the product of fear, which he, in after life, so painfully described in his Ode to Dejection:—

"A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief, In word, or sigh, or tear."

Such "viper thoughts" did at this time coil around his mind, and were for him "Reality's dark Dream." In this state of mind he suddenly left Cambridge for London, and strolled about the streets till night came on, and then rested himself on the steps of a house in Chancery Lane, in a reverie of tumultuous feelings, speculating on the future. In this situation, overwhelmed with his own painful thoughts, and in misery himself, he had now to contend with the misery of others—for he was accosted by various kinds of beggars importuning him for money, and forcing on him their real or pretended sorrows. To these applicants he emptied his pockets of his remaining cash. Walking along Chancery Lane in the morning, he noticed a bill posted on the wall, "Wanted a few smart lads for the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons;"—he paused a moment, and said to himself,

"Well, I have had all my life a violent antipathy to soldiers and horses, the sooner I can cure myself of these absurd prejudices the better, and I will enlist in this regiment."

Forthwith he went as directed to the place of enlistment. On his arrival, he was accosted by an old sergeant, with a remarkably benevolent countenance, to whom he stated his wish. The old man looking at him attentively, asked him if he had been in bed? On being answered in the negative, he desired him to take his, made him breakfast, and bade him rest himself awhile, which he did. This feeling sergeant finding him refreshed in his body, but still suffering apparently from melancholy, in kind words begged him to be of good cheer, and consider well the step he was about to take; gave him half a guinea, which he was to repay at his convenience, with a desire at the same time that he would go to the play, and shake off his melancholy, and not return to him. The first part of the advice Coleridge attended to, but returned after the play to the quarters he had left. At the sight of him, this kind-hearted man burst into tears—"Then it must be so," said he. This sudden and unexpected sympathy from an entire stranger deeply affected Coleridge, and nearly shook his resolution; still considering the die was cast, and that he could not in honour even to the sergeant, without implicating him, retreat, he preserved his secret, and after a short chat, they retired to rest.

In the morning, the sergeant, not unmindful of his duty to his sovereign, mustered his recruits, and Coleridge, with his new comrades, was marched to Reading. On his arrival at the quarters of the regiment, the general of the district inspected the recruits, and looking hard at Coleridge with a military air, enquired, "What's your name, sir?" "Comberbach," (the name he had assumed.) "What do you come here for, sir?" as if doubting whether he had any business there. "Sir," said Coleridge, "for what most other persons come, to be made a soldier." "Do you think," said the general, "you can run a Frenchman through the body?" "I do not know," replied Coleridge, "as I never tried, but I'll let a Frenchman run me through the body before I'll run away." "That will do," said the general; and Coleridge was turned into the ranks.

The same amiable and benevolent conduct which was so interwoven in his nature, soon made him friends, and his new comrades vied with each other in their endeavours to be useful to him; and being, as before described, rather helpless, he required the assistance of his fellow-soldiers. They cleaned his horse, attended particularly to its heels, and to the accoutrements. At this time he frequently complained of a pain at the pit of his stomach, accompanied with sickness, which totally prevented his stooping, and in consequence he could never arrive at the power of bending his body to rub the heels of his horse, which alone was sufficient to make him dependent on his comrades; but it should be observed that he on his part was ever willing to assist them by being their amanuensis when one was required, and wrote all their letters to their sweethearts and wives. [10]

It appears that he never advanced beyond the awkward squad, and that the drill-sergeant had little hope of his progress from the necessary warnings he gave to the rest of the troop, even to this same squad to which he belonged; and, though his awkward manoeuvres were well understood, the sergeant would vociferously exclaim, "Take care of that Comberbach, [11] take care of him, for he will ride over you," and other such complimentary warnings. From the notice that one of his officers took of him, he excited, for a short time, the jealousy of some of his companions. When in the street, he walked behind this officer as an orderly, but when out of town they walked abreast, and his comrades not understanding how a soldier in the awkward squad merited this distinction, thought it a neglect of themselves, which, for the time, produced some additional discomfort to Coleridge.

I believe this officer to have been Capt. Ogle, [12] who I think visited him in after life at Highgate. It seems that his attention had been drawn to Coleridge in consequence of discovering the following sentence in the stables, written in pencil, "Eheu! quam infortunii miserrimum est fuisse felicem!" but his more immediate discovery arose from a young man who had left Cambridge for the army, and in his road through Reading to join his regiment, met Coleridge in the street in his Dragoon's dress, who was about to pass him, but, said he,

"No, Coleridge, this will not do, we have been seeking you these six months; I must and will converse with you, and have no hesitation in declaring that I shall immediately inform your friends that I have found you."

This led to Coleridge's return to Cambridge. The same story is also related and made the ground work of some scene in a novel, without the names, by his early friend, Charles Lloyd—he who was included by Canning in the Anti-jacobin with Coleridge, Mr. Southey, and Lamb. He returned to Cambridge, but did not long remain there; and quitted it without taking a degree.

It has been observed, that men of genius move in orbits of their own; and seem deprived of that free will which permits the mere man of talent steadily to pursue the beaten path. Coleridge had very early pictured to himself many of the advantages of mechanical employment, its immunities and exemptions from the sufferings consequent on the laborious exercise of 'thought'; but yet he never shrank from the task apparently allotted to him; he was made to soar and not to creep; even as a young man, his acquirements were far beyond the age in which he lived. With his amiable qualities, and early love of domestic life, he would have been well content to tread an humbler path, but it was otherwise ordained!

However excellent for the many, the system adopted by our universities was ill suited for a mind like Coleridge's, and there were some who felt that a College routine was not the kind of education which would best evolve, cultivate, and bring into training powers so 'unique'. It has been repeated, 'ad nauseam', that great minds will not descend to the industrious accumulation of those acquirements best suited to fit them for independence. To say that Coleridge would not 'condescend' would be a calumny,—nay, when his health permitted, he would drudge and work more laboriously at some of the mechanical parts of literature, than any man I ever knew. To speak detractingly of great and good men is frequently the result of malice combined with egotism. Though it would be injustice not to admit that he has had warm admirers and deeply affectionate friends, it is much to be regretted that there have been persons who have strangely maligned Coleridge, and who have attributed to him vices of which he was innocent. Had these vices existed, they would not have found any unfair extenuation in this memoir, nor would they have been passed over without notice. In answer to calumnies at that time in circulation, (and with sorrow and just indignation it is added that these reports originated with some who called themselves his friends; but, alas! most false and hypocritical!) the following minute from his notes is quoted:

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