"A mount, not wearisome and bare and steep."
In the "forthcoming edition" the poet improved a little the barely tolerated line, making it read,—
"As neighb'ring fountains image, each the whole,"
but did not take Lamb's hint to omit the five which closed the poem. Lamb, however, got his way—perhaps took it—when the verses were reprinted in 1803, in the volume he saw through the press for Coleridge.
"Neither shall you omit the 2 following poems. 'The hour when we shall meet again' is [only?] a fine fancy, 'tis true, but fancy catering in the service of the feeling—fetching from her stores most splendid banquets to satisfy her. Do not, do not, omit it."
So wrote Lamb of these somewhat slender verses, but his friend had composed them "during illness and in absence," and Lamb in his own heart-sickness and loneliness detected the reality which underlay the conventionality of expression. The critic slept, and even when he was awake again in 1803 was fain to let the lines be reprinted with only the concession of their worst couplet:—
"While finely-flushing float her kisses meek, Like melted rubies, o'er my pallid cheek."
The second of the "2 following poems" was Coleridge's "Sonnet to the River Otter." The version then before him "excludes," complains Lamb, "those equally beautiful lines which deserve not to be lost, 'as the tir'd savage,' &c., and I prefer the copy in your Watchman. I plead for its preference." This pleading ... was not responded to in the way Lamb wanted, but in the appendix to the 1797 volume Coleridge printed the whole of the poem on an "Autumnal Evening," to which the "tir'd savage" properly belonged....
"Lloyd's, Southey's, Dermody's Sonnets." Lamb here refers to the third portion of the poetical present—the twenty-eight sonnets to be bound up with those of Bowles. Thomas Dermody (1775-1802) was an Irish poet of squalidly dissolute life. A collection of his verses appeared in 1792.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Dec. 10th, 1796.
I had put my letter into the post rather hastily, not expecting to have to acknowledge another from you so soon. This morning's present has made me alive again: my last night's epistle was childishly querulous; but you have put a little life into me, and I will thank you for your remembrance of me, while my sense of it is yet warm; for if I linger a day or two I may use the same phrase of acknowledgment, or similar; but the feeling that dictates it now will be gone. I shall send you a caput mortuum, not a cor vivens. Thy Watchman's, thy bellman's, verses, I do retort upon thee, thou libellous varlet,—why, you cried the hours yourself, and who made you so proud? But I submit, to show my humility, most implicitly to your dogmas. I reject entirely the copy of verses you reject. With regard to my leaving off versifying, you have said so many pretty things, so many fine compliments, ingeniously decked out in the garb of sincerity, and undoubtedly springing from a present feeling somewhat like sincerity, that you might melt the most un-muse-ical soul,—did you not (now for a Rowland compliment for your profusion of Olivers)—did you not in your very epistle, by the many pretty fancies and profusion of heart displayed in it, dissuade and discourage me from attempting anything after you. At present I have not leisure to make verses, nor anything approaching to a fondness for the exercise. In the ignorant present time, who can answer for the future man? "At lovers' perjuries Jove laughs"—and poets have sometimes a disingenuous way of forswearing their occupation. This though is not my case. The tender cast of soul, sombred with melancholy and subsiding recollections, is favourable to the Sonnet or the Elegy; but from
"The sainted growing woof, The teasing troubles keep aloof."
The music of poesy may charm for a while the importunate teasing cares of life; but the teased and troubled man is not in a disposition to make that music.
You sent me some very sweet lines relative to Burns, but it was at a time when, in my highly agitated and perhaps distorted state of mind, I thought it a duty to read 'em hastily and burn 'em. I burned all my own verses, all my book of extracts from Beaumont and Fletcher and a thousand sources: I burned a little journal of my foolish passion which I had a long time kept—
"Noting ere they past away The little lines of yesterday."
I almost burned all your letters,—I did as bad, I lent 'em to a friend to keep out of my brother's sight, should he come and make inquisition into our papers, for, much as he dwelt upon your conversation while you were among us, and delighted to be with you, it has been his fashion ever since to depreciate and cry you down,—you were the cause of my madness—you and your damned foolish sensibility and melancholy—and he lamented with a true brotherly feeling that we ever met, even as the sober citizen, when his son went astray upon the mountains of Parnassus, is said to have "cursed wit and Poetry and Pope." I quote wrong, but no matter. These letters I lent to a friend to be out of the way for a season; but I have claimed them in vain, and shall not cease to regret their loss. Your packets, posterior to the date of my misfortunes, commencing with that valuable consolatory epistle, are every day accumulating—they are sacred things with me.
Publish your Burns when and how you like, it will be new to me,—my memory of it is very confused, and tainted with unpleasant associations. Burns was the god of my idolatry, as Bowles of yours. I am jealous of your fraternising with Bowles, when I think you relish him more than Burns or my old favourite, Cowper. But you conciliate matters when you talk of the "divine chit-chat" of the latter: by the expression I see you thoroughly relish him. I love Mrs. Coleridge for her excuses an hundredfold more dearly than if she heaped "line upon line," out-Hannah-ing Hannah More, and had rather hear you sing "Did a very little baby" by your family fire-side, than listen to you when you were repeating one of Bowles's sweetest sonnets in your sweet manner, while we two were indulging sympathy, a solitary luxury, by the fireside at the Salutation. Yet have I no higher ideas of heaven. Your company was one "cordial in this melancholy vale"—the remembrance of it is a blessing partly, and partly a curse.
When I can abstract myself from things present, I can enjoy it with a freshness of relish; but it more constantly operates to an unfavourable comparison with the uninteresting; converse I always and only can partake in. Not a soul loves Bowles here; scarce one has heard of Burns; few but laugh at me for reading my Testament—they talk a language I understand not: I conceal sentiments that would be a puzzle to them. I can only converse with you by letter and with the dead in their books. My sister, indeed, is all I can wish in a companion; but our spirits are alike poorly, our reading and knowledge from the self-same sources, our communication with the scenes of the world alike narrow: never having kept separate company, or any "company" "together"—never having read separate books, and few books together—what knowledge have we to convey to each other? In our little range of duties and connexions, how few sentiments can take place, without friends, with few books, with a taste for religion rather than a strong religious habit! We need some support, some leading-strings to cheer and direct us. You talk very wisely, and be not sparing of your advice. Continue to remember us, and to show us you do remember us: we will take as lively an interest in what concerns you and yours. All I can add to your happiness, will be sympathy. You can add to mine more; you can teach me wisdom. I am indeed an unreasonable correspondent; but I was unwilling to let my last night's letter go off without this qualifier: you will perceive by this my mind is easier, and you will rejoice. I do not expect or wish you to write, till you are moved; and of course shall not, till you announce to me that event, think of writing myself. Love to Mrs. Coleridge and David Hartley, and my kind remembrance to Lloyd, if he is with you.
I will get "Nature and Art,"—have not seen it yet—nor any of Jeremy Taylor's works.
[The reference to the bellman's verses (the bellman, or watchman, used to leave verses at the houses on his beat at Easter as a reminder of his deserts) is not quite clear. Lamb evidently had submitted for the new volume some lines which Coleridge would not pass—possibly the poem in Letter No. 16.
Coleridge some time before had sent to Lamb the very sweet lines relative to Burns, under the title, "To a Friend who had Declared His Intention of Writing no more Poetry."
"Did a very little baby." In the Appendix to Vol. I. of the 1847 edition of the Biog. Lit., Sara Coleridge writes, concerning children and domestic evenings, "'Did a very little babby make a very great noise?' is the first line of a nursery song, in which Mr. Coleridge recorded some of his experience on this recondite subject." The song has disappeared.
Nature and Art was Mrs. Inchbald's story, published in 1796. Lamb later became an enthusiast for Jeremy Taylor.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Dated outside: Jan. 2, 1797.]
Your success in the higher species of the Ode is such, as bespeaks you born for atchievements of loftier enterprize than to linger in the lowly train of songsters and sonneteurs. Sincerely I think your Ode one of the finest I have read. The opening is in the spirit of the sublimest allegory. The idea of the "skirts of the departing year, seen far onwards, waving on the wind" is one of those noble Hints at which the Reader's imagination is apt to kindle into grand conceptions. Do the words "impetuous" and "solemnize" harmonize well in the same line? Think and judge. In the 2d strophe, there seems to be too much play of fancy to be consistent with that continued elevation we are taught to expect from the strain of the foregoing. The parenthized line (by the way I abominate parentheses in this kind of poetry) at the beginning of 7th page, and indeed all that gradual description of the throes and pangs of nature in childbirth, I do not much like, and those 4 first lines,—I mean "tomb gloom anguish and languish"—rise not above mediocrity. In the Epode, your mighty genius comes again: "I marked ambition" &c. Thro' the whole Epod indeed you carry along our souls in a full spring tide of feeling and imaginat'n. Here is the "Storm of Music," as Cowper expresses it. Would it not be more abrupt "Why does the northern Conqueress stay" or "where does the northern Conqueress stay"?—this change of measure, rather than the feebler "Ah! whither", "Foul her life and dark her tomb, mighty army of the dead, dance like deathflies" &c.: here is genius, here is poetry, rapid, irresistible. The concluding line, is it not a personif: without use? "Nec deus intersit"—except indeed for rhyme sake. Would the laws of Strophe and antistrophe, which, if they are as unchangeable, I suppose are about as wise, [as] the Mede and Persian laws, admit of expunging that line altogether, and changing the preceding one to "and he, poor madman, deemd it quenchd in endless night?"—fond madman or proud madman if you will, but poor is more contemptuous. If I offer alterations of my own to your poetry, and admit not yours in mine, it is upon the principle of a present to a rich man being graciously accepted, and the same present to a poor man being considered as in insult. To return—The Antistrophe that follows is not inferior in grandeur or original: but is I think not faultless—e: g: How is Memory alone, when all the etherial multitude are there? Reflect. Again "storiedst thy sad hours" is harsh, I need not tell you, but you have gained your point in expressing much meaning in few words: "Purple locks and snow white glories" "mild Arcadians ever blooming" "seas of milk and ships of amber" these are things the Muse talks about when, to borrow H. Walpole's witty phrase, she is not finely-phrenzied, only a little light-headed, that's all. "Purple locks." They may manage things differently in fairy land, but your "golden tresses" are more to my fancy. The spirit of the Earth is a most happy conceit, and the last line is one of the luckiest I ever heard—"and stood up beautiful before the cloudy seat." I cannot enough admire it. 'Tis somehow picturesque in the very sound. The 2d Antistrophe (what is the meaning of these things?) is fine and faultless (or to vary the alliteration and not diminish the affectation) beautiful and blameless. I only except to the last line as meaningless after the preceding, and useless entirely—besides, why disjoin "nature and the world" here, when you had confounded both in their pregnancy: "the common earth and nature," recollect, a little before—And there is a dismal superfluity in the unmeaning vocable "unhurld"—the worse, as it is so evidently a rhyme-fetch.—"Death like he dozes" is a prosaic conceit—indeed all the Epode as far as "brother's corse" I most heartily commend to annihilation. The enthusiast of the lyre should not be so feebly, so tediously, delineative of his own feelings; 'tis not the way to become "Master of our affections." The address to Albion is very agreeable, and concludes even beautifully: "speaks safety to his island child"—"Sworded"—epithet I would change for "cruel."
The immediately succeeding lines are prosaic: "mad avarice" is an unhappy combination; and "the coward distance yet with kindling pride" is not only reprehensible for the antithetical turn, but as it is a quotation: "safe distance" and "coward distance" you have more than once had recourse to before—And the Lyric Muse, in her enthusiasm, should talk the language of her country, something removed from common use, something "recent," unborrowed. The dreams of destruction "soothing her fierce solitude," are vastly grand and terrific: still you weaken the effect by that superfluous and easily-conceived parenthesis that finishes the page. The foregoing image, few minds could have conceived, few tongues could have so cloath'd; "muttring destempered triumph" &c. is vastly fine. I hate imperfect beginnings and endings. Now your concluding stanza is worthy of so fine an ode. The beginning was awakening and striking; the ending is soothing and solemn—Are you serious when you ask whether you shall admit this ode? it would be strange infatuation to leave out your Chatterton; mere insanity to reject this. Unless you are fearful that the splendid thing may be a means of "eclipsing many a softer satellite" that twinkles thro' the volume. Neither omit the annex'd little poem. For my part, detesting alliterations, I should make the 1st line "Away, with this fantastic pride of woe." Well may you relish Bowles's allegory. I need only tell you, I have read, and will only add, that I dislike ambition's name gilded on his helmet-cap, and that I think, among the more striking personages you notice, you omitted the most striking, Remorse! "He saw the trees—the sun—then hied him to his cave again"!!! The 2d stanza of mania is superfl: the 1st was never exceeded. The 2d is too methodic: for her. With all its load of beauties, I am more affected with the 6 first stanzas of the Elegiac poem written during sickness. Tell me your feelings. If the fraternal sentiment conveyed in the following lines will atone for the total want of anything like merit or genius in it, I desire you will print it next after my other sonnet to my sister.
Friend of my earliest years, & childish days, My joys, my sorrows, thou with me hast shared Companion dear; & we alike have fared Poor pilgrims we, thro' life's unequal ways It were unwisely done, should we refuse To cheer our path, as featly as we may, Our lonely path to cheer, as travellers use With merry song, quaint tale, or roundelay. And we will sometimes talk past troubles o'er, Of mercies shewn, & all our sickness heal'd, And in his judgments God remembring love; And we will learn to praise God evermore For those "Glad tidings of great joy" reveal'd By that sooth messenger, sent from above.
If you think the epithet "sooth" quaint, substitute "blest messenger." I hope you are printing my sonnets, as I directed you—particularly the 2d. "Methinks" &c. with my last added 6 lines at ye end: and all of 'em as I last made 'em.
This has been a sad long letter of business, with no room in it for what honest Bunyan terms heart-work. I have just room left to congratulate you on your removal to Stowey; to wish success to all your projects; to "bid fair peace" be to that house; to send my love and best wishes, breathed warmly, after your dear Sara, and her little David Hartley. If Lloyd be with you, bid him write to me: I feel to whom I am obliged primarily for two very friendly letters I have received already from him. A dainty sweet book that "Art and Nature" is. I am at present re-re-reading Priestley's examinat of the Scotch Drs: how the Rogue strings 'em up! three together! You have no doubt read that clear, strong, humorous, most entertaining piece of reasoning. If not, procure it, and be exquisitely amused. I wish I could get more of Priestley's works. Can you recommend me to any more books, easy of access, such as circulating shops afford? God bless you and yours.
Poor Mary is very unwell with a sore throat and a slight species of scarlet fever. God bless her too.
Monday Morning, at Office.
[Coleridge had just published in quarto his Ode on the Departing Year. In order that Lamb's letter may be intelligible it is necessary, I think, to give the text of this edition in full. It will be found in the Appendix to this volume. Lamb returns to his criticism in the next letter.
The "annexed little poem" was that "Addressed to a Young Man of Fortune," which began, and still begins, "Hence that fantastic wantonness of woe."
Bowies' allegory was the poem, "Hope, An Allegorical Sketch," recently published.
The poem was not included in the 1797 volume, but was printed in the Monthly Magazine, October, 1797. Coleridge had moved to his cottage at Nether Stowey on the last day of 1796.
Priestley's book would be An Examination of Dr. Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, Dr. Beattie's Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, and Dr. Oswald's Appeal to Common Sense in Behalf of Religion, 1774.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. Jan. 10, 1797.]
I am completely reconciled to that second strophe, and wa[i]ve all objection. In spite of the Grecian Lyrists, I persist on [in] thinking your brief personification of Madness useless; reverence forbids me to say, impertinent. Golden locks and snow white glories are as incongruous as your former, and if the great Italian painters, of whom my friend knows about as much as the man in the moon, if these great gentlemen be on your side, I see no harm in retaining the purple—the glories that I have observed to encircle the heads of saints and madonnas in those old paintings have been mostly of a dirty drab-color'd yellow—a dull gambogium. Keep your old line: it will excite a confused kind of pleasurable idea in the reader's mind, not clear enough to be called a conception, nor just enough, I think, to reduce to painting. It is a rich line, you say, and riches hide a many faults. I maintain, that in the 2d antist: you do disjoin Nature and the world, and contrary to your conduct in the 2d strophe. "Nature joins her groans"—joins with whom, a God's name, but the world or earth in line preceding? But this is being over curious, I acknowledge. Nor did I call the last line useless, I only objected to "unhurld." I cannot be made to like the former part of that 2d Epode; I cannot be made to feel it, as I do the parallel places in Isaiah, Jeremy and Daniel. Whether it is that in the present case the rhyme impairs the efficacy; or that the circumstances are feigned, and we are conscious of a made up lye in the case, and the narrative is too long winded to preserve the semblance of truth; or that lines 8. 9. 10. 14 in partic: 17 and 18 are mean and unenthusiastic; or that lines 5 to 8 in their change of rhyme shew like art—I don't know, but it strikes me as something meant to affect, and failing in its purpose. Remember my waywardness of feeling is single, and singly stands opposed to all your friends, and what is one among many! This I know, that your quotations from the prophets have never escaped me, and never fail'd to affect me strongly. I hate that simile. I am glad you have amended that parenthesis in the account of Destruction. I like it well now. Only utter [? omit] that history of child-bearing, and all will do well. Let the obnoxious Epode remain, to terrify such of your friends as are willing to be terrified. I think I would omit the Notes, not as not good per se, but as uncongenial with the dignity of the Ode. I need not repeat my wishes to have my little sonnets printed verbatim my last way. In particular, I fear lest you should prefer printing my first sonnet, as you have done more than once, "did the wand of Merlin wave"? It looks so like Mr. Merlin, the ingenious successor of the immortal Merlin, now living in good health and spirits, and nourishing in magical reputation in Oxford Street; and on my life, one half who read it would understand it so. Do put 'em forth finally as I have, in various letters, settled it; for first a man's self is to be pleased, and then his friends,—and, of course the greater number of his friends, if they differ inter se. Thus taste may safely be put to the vote. I do long to see our names together—not for vanity's sake, and naughty pride of heart altogether, for not a living soul, I know or am intimate with, will scarce read the book—so I shall gain nothing quoad famam,—and yet there is a little vanity mixes in it, I cannot help denying. I am aware of the unpoetical cast of the 6 last lines of my last sonnet, and think myself unwarranted in smuggling so tame a thing into the book; only the sentiments of those 6 lines are thoroughly congenial to me in my state of mind, and I wish to accumulate perpetuating tokens of my affection to poor Mary; that it has no originality in its cast, nor anything in the feelings, but what is common and natural to thousands, nor aught properly called poetry, I see; still it will tend to keep present to my mind a view of things which I ought to indulge. These 6 lines, too, have not, to a reader, a connectedness with the foregoing. Omit it, if you like.—What a treasure it is to my poor indolent and unemployed mind, thus to lay hold on a subject to talk about, tho' 'tis but a sonnet and that of the lowest order. How mournfully inactive I am!—'Tis night: good-night.
My sister, I thank God, is nigh recovered. She was seriously ill. Do, in your next letter, and that right soon, give me some satisfaction respecting your present situation at Stowey. Is it a farm you have got? and what does your worship know about farming? Coleridge, I want you to write an Epic poem. Nothing short of it can satisfy the vast capacity of true poetic genius. Having one great End to direct all your poetical faculties to, and on which to lay out your hopes, your ambition, will shew you to what you are equal. By the sacred energies of Milton, by the dainty sweet and soothing phantasies of honeytongued Spenser, I adjure you to attempt the Epic. Or do something more ample than writing an occasional brief ode or sonnet; something "to make yourself for ever known,—to make the age to come your own". But I prate; doubtless you meditate something. When you are exalted among the Lords of Epic fame, I shall recall with pleasure, and exultingly, the days of your humility, when you disdained not to put forth in the same volume with mine, your religious musings, and that other poem from the Joan of Arc, those promising first fruits of high renown to come. You have learning, you have fancy, you have enthusiasm—you have strength and amplitude of wing enow for flights like those I recommend. In the vast and unexplored regions of fairyland, there is ground enough unfound and uncultivated; search there, and realize your favourite Susquehanah scheme. In all our comparisons of taste, I do not know whether I have ever heard your opinion of a poet, very dear to me, the now out of fashion Cowley—favor me with your judgment of him, and tell me if his prose essays, in particular, as well as no inconsiderable part of his verse, be not delicious. I prefer the graceful rambling of his essays, even to the courtly elegance and ease of Addison—abstracting from this the latter's exquisite humour. Why is not your poem on Burns in the Monthly Magazine? I was much disappointed. I have a pleasurable but confused remembrance of it.
When the little volume is printed, send me 3 or 4, at all events not more than 6 copies, and tell me if I put you to any additional expence, by printing with you. I have no thought of the kind, and in that case, must reimburse you. My epistle is a model of unconnectedness, but I have no partic: subject to write on, and must proportion my scribble in some degree to the increase of postage. It is not quite fair, considering how burdensome your correspondence from different quarters must be, to add to it with so little shew of reason. I will make an end for this evening. Sunday Even:—Farewell.
Priestly, whom I sin in almost adoring, speaks of "such a choice of company, as tends to keep up that right bent, and firmness of mind, which a necessary intercourse with the world would otherwise warp and relax. Such fellowship is the true balsam of life, its cement is infinitely more durable than that of the friendships of the world, and it looks for its proper fruit, and complete gratification, to the life beyond the Grave." Is there a possible chance for such an one as me to realize in this world, such friendships? Where am I to look for 'em? What testimonials shall I bring of my being worthy of such friendship? Alas! the great and good go together in separate Herds, and leave such as me to lag far far behind in all intellectual, and far more grievous to say, in all moral, accomplishments. Coleridge, I have not one truly elevated character among my acquaintance: not one Christian: not one but undervalues Christianity. Singly what am I to do? Wesley (have you read his life? was he not an elevated character?) Wesley has said, "Religion is not a solitary thing." Alas! it necessarily is so with me, or next to solitary. 'Tis true, you write to me. But correspondence by letter, and personal intimacy, are very widely different. Do, do write to me, and do some good to my mind, already how much "warped and relaxed" by the world!—'Tis the conclusion of another evening. Good night. God have us all in his keeping. If you are sufficiently at leisure, oblige me with an account of your plan of life at Stowey—your literary occupations and prospects—in short make me acquainted with every circumstance, which, as relating to you, can be interesting to me. Are you yet a Berkleyan? Make me one. I rejoice in being, speculatively, a necessarian. Would to God, I were habitually a practical one. Confirm me in the faith of that great and glorious doctrine, and keep me steady in the contemplation of it. You sometime since exprest an intention you had of finishing some extensive work on the Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion. Have you let that intention go? Or are you doing any thing towards it? Make to yourself other ten talents. My letter is full of nothingness. I talk of nothing. But I must talk. I love to write to you. I take a pride in it. It makes me think less meanly of myself. It makes me think myself not totally disconnected from the better part of Mankind. I know, I am too dissatisfied with the beings around me,—but I cannot help occasionally exclaiming "Woe is me, that I am constrained to dwell with Meshech, and to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar"—I know I am no ways better in practice than my neighbours—but I have a taste for religion, an occasional earnest aspiration after perfection, which they have not. I gain nothing by being with such as myself—we encourage one another in mediocrity—I am always longing to be with men more excellent than myself. All this must sound odd to you; but these are my predominant feelings, when I sit down to write to you, and I should put force upon my mind, were I to reject them. Yet I rejoyce, and feel my privilege with gratitude, when I have been reading some wise book, such as I have just been reading—Priestley on Philosophical necessity—in the thought that I enjoy a kind of communion, a kind of friendship even, with the great and good. Books are to me instead of friends. I wish they did not resemble the latter in their scarceness.—And how does little David Hartley? "Ecquid in antiquam virtutem?"—does his mighty name work wonders yet upon his little frame, and opening mind? I did not distinctly understand you,—you don't mean to make an actual ploughman of him? Mrs. C—— is no doubt well,—give my kindest respects to her. Is Lloyd with you yet?—are you intimate with Southey? What poems is he about to publish—he hath a most prolific brain, and is indeed a most sweet poet. But how can you answer all the various mass of interrogation I have put to you in the course of this sheet. Write back just what you like, only write something, however brief. I have now nigh finished my page, and got to the end of another evening (Monday evening)—and my eyes are heavy and sleepy, and my brain unsuggestive. I have just heart enough awake to say Good night once more, and God love you my dear friend, God love us all. Mary bears an affectionate remembrance of you.
[The criticisms contained in the first paragraph bear upon Coleridge's "Ode on the Departing Year," which had already appeared twice, in the Cambridge Intelligencer and in a quarto issued by Cottle, and was now being revised for the second edition of the Poems.
The personification of Madness was contained in the line, afterwards omitted:—
For still does Madness roam on Guilt's black dizzy height.
Lamb's objection to this line, considering his home circumstances at the time, was very natural. In Antistrophe I. Coleridge originally said of the ethereal multitude in Heaven—
Whose purple Locks with snow-white Glories shone.
In the 1797 Poems the line ran—
Whose wreathed Locks with snow-white Glories shone;
and in the final version—
Whose locks with wreaths, whose wreaths with glories shone.
Coleridge must have supported his case, in the letter which Lamb is answering, by a reference to the Italian painters.
Coleridge in the 1797 edition of his Poems made no alteration to meet Lamb's strictures. The simile that Lamb hated is, I imagine, that of the soldier on the war field. "The history of child-bearing" referred to is the passage at the end of Strophe II. To the quarto Coleridge had appended various notes. In 1797 he had only three, and added an argument.
The reference to Merlin will be explained by a glance at the parallel sonnets above. Merlin was entirely Coleridge's idea. A conjuror of that name was just then among London's attractions.
The "last sonnet," which was not the last in the 1797 volume, but the 6th, was that beginning "If from my lips" (see first letter).
In connection with Lamb's question on the Stowey husbandry, the following quotation from a letter from Coleridge to the Rev. J. P. Estlin, belonging to this period, is interesting;—
Our house is better than we expected—there is a comfortable bedroom and sitting-room for C. Lloyd, and another for us, a room for Nanny, a kitchen, and out-house. Before our door a clear brook runs of very soft water; and in the back yard is a nice well of fine spring water. We have a very pretty garden, and large enough to find us vegetables and employment, and I am already an expert gardener, and both my hands can exhibit a callum as testimonials of their industry. We have likewise a sweet orchard.
Writing a little before this to Charles Lloyd, senior, Coleridge had said: "My days I shall devote to the acquirement of practical husbandry and horticulture."
The poem on Burns was that "To a Friend [Lamb] who had Declared His Intention of Writing no more Poetry." It was printed first in a Bristol paper and then in the Annual Anthology, 1800.
Priestley's remark is in the Dedication to John Lee, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, of "A Free Discussion of the Doctrines of Materialism and Philosophical Necessity in a Correspondence between Dr. Price and Dr. Priestley," etc., included in Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit, Vol. III., 1778. The discussion arose from the publication by Priestley of The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity Illustrated, which itself is an appendage to Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit.
Three lives at least of John Wesley were published in the two years following his death in 1791. Coleridge later studied Wesley closely, for he added valuable notes to Southey's life (see the 1846 edition).
"A Berkleyan," i.e., a follower of Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753), who in his New Theory of Vision and later works maintained that "what we call matter has no actual existence, and that the impressions which we believe ourselves to receive from it are not, in fact, derived from anything external to ourselves, but are produced within us by a certain disposition of the mind, the immediate operation of God" (Benham's Dictionary of Religion).
Coleridge when sending Southey one version of his poem to Charles Lamb, entitled "This Lime-tree Bower my Prison" (to which we shall come later), in July, 1797, appended to the following passage the note, "You remember I am a Berkleian":—
Struck with joy's deepest calm, and gazing round On the wide view, may gaze till all doth seem Less gross than bodily; a living thing That acts upon the mind, and with such hues As clothe the Almighty Spirit, when He makes Spirits perceive His presence!
"A Necessarian." We should now say a fatalist.
Coleridge's work on the "Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion," which has before been mentioned, was, if ever begun, never completed.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Dated at end: January 18, 1797.]
Dear Col,—You have learnd by this time, with surprise, no doubt, that Lloyd is with me in town. The emotions I felt on his coming so unlooked for are not ill expressed in what follows, & what, if you do not object to them as too personal, & to the world obscure, or otherwise wanting in worth, I should wish to make a part of our little volume.
I shall be sorry if that vol comes out, as it necessarily must do, unless you print those very schoolboyish verses I sent you on not getting leave to come down to Bristol last Summer. I say I shall be sorry that I have addrest you in nothing which can appear in our joint volume.
So frequently, so habitually as you dwell on my thoughts, 'tis some wonder those thoughts came never yet in Contact with a poetical mood—But you dwell in my heart of hearts, and I love you in all the naked honesty of prose. God bless you, and all your little domestic circle—my tenderest remembrances to your Beloved Sara, & a smile and a kiss from me to your dear dear little David Hartley—The verses I refer to above, slightly amended, I have sent (forgetting to ask your leave, tho' indeed I gave them only your initials) to the Month: Mag: where they may possibly appear next month, and where I hope to recognise your Poem on Burns.
TO CHARLES LLOYD, AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
Alone, obscure, without a friend, A cheerless, solitary thing, Why seeks my Lloyd the stranger out? What offring can the stranger bring
Of social scenes, home-bred delights, That him in aught compensate may For Stowey's pleasant winter nights, For loves & friendships far away?
In brief oblivion to forego Friends, such as thine, so justly dear, And be awhile with me content To stay, a kindly loiterer, here—
For this a gleam of random joy, Hath flush'd my unaccustom'd cheek, And, with an o'er-charg'd bursting heart, I feel the thanks, I cannot speak.
O! sweet are all the Muses' lays, And sweet the charm of matin bird— 'Twas long, since these estranged ears The sweeter voice of friend had heard.
The voice hath spoke: the pleasant sounds In memory's ear, in after time Shall live, to sometimes rouse a tear, And sometimes prompt an honest rhyme.
For when the transient charm is fled, And when the little week is o'er, To cheerless, friendless solitude When I return, as heretofore—
Long, long, within my aching heart, The grateful sense shall cherishd be; I'll think less meanly of myself, That Lloyd will sometimes think on me.
O Col: would to God you were in London with us, or we two at Stowey with you all. Lloyd takes up his abode at the Bull & Mouth Inn,—the Cat & Salutation would have had a charm more forcible for me. O noctes caenaeque Deum! Anglice—Welch rabbits, punch, & poesy.
Should you be induced to publish those very schoolboyish verses, print 'em as they will occur, if at all, in the Month: Mag: yet I should feel ashamed that to you I wrote nothing better. But they are too personal, & almost trifling and obscure withal. Some lines of mine to Cowper were in last Month: Mag: they have not body of thought enough to plead for the retaining of 'em.
My sister's kind love to you all.
[The verses to Lloyd were included in Coleridge's 1797 volume; but the verses concerning the frustrated Bristol holiday were omitted. Concerning this visit to London Charles Lloyd wrote to his brother Robert: "I left Charles Lamb very warmly interested in his favour, and have kept up a regular correspondence with him ever since; he is a most interesting young man." Only two letters from Lamb to Charles Lloyd have survived.
"We two"—Lamb and Lloyd. Not Lamb and his sister.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Begun Sunday, February 5, 1797. Dated on address by mistake: January 5, 1797.]
Sunday Morning.—You cannot surely mean to degrade the Joan of Arc into a pot girl. You are not going, I hope, to annex to that most splendid ornament of Southey's poem all this cock and a bull story of Joan the publican's daughter of Neufchatel, with the lamentable episode of a waggoner, his wife, and six children; the texture will be most lamentably disproportionate. The first forty or fifty lines of these addenda are, no doubt, in their way, admirable, too; but many would prefer the Joan of Southey.
"On mightiest deeds to brood Of shadowy vastness, such as made my heart Throb fast. Anon I paused, and in a state Of half expectance listen'd to the wind;" "They wonder'd at me, who had known me once A chearful careless damsel;" "The eye, That of the circling throng and of the visible world Unseeing, saw the shapes of holy phantasy;" I see nothing in your description of the Maid equal to these. There is a fine originality certainly in those lines—"For she had lived in this bad world as in a place of tombs, And touch'd not the pollutions of the Dead"—but your "fierce vivacity" is a faint copy of the "fierce & terrible benevolence" of Southey. Added to this, that it will look like rivalship in you, & extort a comparison with S,—I think to your disadvantage. And the lines, consider'd in themselves as an addition to what you had before written (strains of a far higher mood), are but such as Madame Fancy loves in some of her more familiar moods, at such times as she has met Noll Goldsmith, & walk'd and talk'd with him, calling him old acquaintance. Southey certainly has no pretensions to vie with you in the sublime of poetry; but he tells a plain tale better than you. I will enumerate some woeful blemishes, some of 'em sad deviations from that simplicity which was your aim. "Hail'd who might be near" (the canvas-coverture moving, by the by, is laughable); "a woman & six children" (by the way,—why not nine children, it would have been just half as pathetic again): "statues of sleep they seem'd." "Frost-mangled wretch:" "green putridity:" "hail'd him immortal" (rather ludicrous again): "voiced a sad and simple tale" (abominable!): "unprovender'd:" "such his tale:" "Ah! suffering to the height of what was suffer'd" (a most insufferable line): "amazements of affright:" "the hot sore brain attributes its own hues of ghastliness and torture" (what shocking confusion of ideas!). In these delineations of common & natural feelings, in the familiar walks of poetry, you seem to resemble Montauban dancing with Roubigne's tenants, "much of his native loftiness remained in the execution." I was reading your Religious Musings the other day, & sincerely I think it the noblest poem in the language, next after the Paradise lost; & even that was not made the vehicle of such grand truths. "There is one mind," &c., down to "Almighty's Throne," are without a rival in the whole compass of my poetical reading. "Stands in the sun, & with no partial gaze Views all creation"—I wish I could have written those lines. I rejoyce that I am able to relish them. The loftier walks of Pindus are your proper region. There you have no compeer in modern times. Leave the lowlands, unenvied, in possession of such men as Cowper & Southey. Thus am I pouring balsam into the wounds I may have been inflicting on my poor friend's vanity. In your notice of Southey's new volume you omit to mention the most pleasing of all, the Miniature "There were Who form'd high hopes and flattering ones of thee, Young Robert. Spirit of Spenser!—was the wanderer wrong?" Fairfax I have been in quest of a long time. Johnson in his life of Waller gives a most delicious specimen of him, & adds, in the true manner of that delicate critic, as well as amiable man, "it may be presumed that this old version will not be much read after the elegant translation of my friend, Mr. Hoole." I endeavour'd—I wish'd to gain some idea of Tasso from this Mr. Hoole, the great boast and ornament of the India House, but soon desisted. I found him more vapid than smallest small beer sun-vinegared. Your dream, down to that exquisite line—"I can't tell half his adventures," is a most happy resemblance of Chaucer. The remainder is so so. The best line, I think, is, "He belong'd, I believe, to the witch Melancholy." By the way, when will our volume come out? Don't delay it till you have written a new Joan of Arc. Send what letters you please by me, & in any way you choose, single or double. The India Co. is better adapted to answer the cost than the generality of my friend's correspondents,—such poor & honest dogs as John Thelwall, particularly. I cannot say I know Colson, at least intimately. I once supped with him & Allen. I think his manners very pleasing. I will not tell you what I think of Lloyd, for he may by chance come to see this letter, and that thought puts a restraint on me. I cannot think what subject would suit your epic genius; some philosophical subject, I conjecture, in which shall be blended the Sublime of Poetry & of Science. Your proposed Hymns will be a fit preparatory study wherewith "to discipline your young noviciate soul." I grow dull; I'll go walk myself out of my dulness.
Sunday Night.—You & Sara are very good to think so kindly & so favourably of poor Mary. I would to God all did so too. But I very much fear she must not think of coming home in my father's lifetime. It is very hard upon her. But our circumstances are peculiar, & we must submit to them. God be praised she is so well as she is. She bears her situation as one who has no right to complain. My poor old aunt, whom you have seen, the kindest, goodest creature to me when I was at school; who used to toddle there to bring me fag, when I, school-boy like, only despised her for it, & used to be ashamed to see her come & sit herself down on the old coal hole steps as you went into the old grammar school, & opend her apron & bring out her bason, with some nice thing she had caused to be saved for me—the good old creature is now lying on her death bed. I cannot bear to think on her deplorable state. To the shock she received on that our evil day, from which she never completely recovered, I impute her illness. She says, poor thing, she is glad she is come home to die with me. I was always her favourite: "No after friendship e'er can raise The endearments of our early days, Nor e'er the heart such fondness prove, As when it first began to love." Lloyd has kindly left me for a keep-sake, John Woolman. You have read it, he says, & like it. Will you excuse one short extract? I think it could not have escaped you:—"Small treasure to a resigned mind is sufficient. How happy is it to be content with a little, to live in humility, & feel that in us which breathes out this language—Abba! Father!"—I am almost ashamed to patch up a letter in this miscellaneous sort; but I please myself in the thought, that anything from me will be acceptable to you. I am rather impatient, childishly so, to see our names affixed to the same common volume. Send me two, when it does come out; 2 will be enough—or indeed 1—but 2 better. I have a dim recollection that, when in town, you were talking of the Origin of Evil as a most prolific subject for a long poem. Why not adopt it, Coleridge? there would be room for imagination. Or the description (from a Vision or Dream, suppose) of an Utopia in one of the planets (the Moon, for instance). Or a Five Days' Dream, which shall illustrate, in sensible imagery, Hartley's 5 motives to conduct:—sensation (1), imagination (2), ambition (3), sympathy (4), Theopathy (5). 1st banquets, music, etc., effeminacy,—and their insufficiency. 2d "beds of hyacinth & roses, where young Adonis oft reposes;" "fortunate Isles;" "The pagan Elysium," etc., etc.; poetical pictures; antiquity as pleasing to the fancy;—their emptiness, madness, etc. 3d warriors, poets; some famous, yet more forgotten, their fame or oblivion now alike indifferent, pride, vanity, etc. 4th all manner of pitiable stories, in Spenser-like verse—love—friendship, relationship, &c. 5th Hermits—Christ and his apostles—martyrs—heaven—&c., etc. An imagination like yours, from these scanty hints, may expand into a thousand great Ideas—if indeed you at all comprehend my scheme, which I scarce do myself.
Monday Morn.—"A London letter. 9-1/2." Look you, master poet, I have remorse as well as another man, & my bowels can sound upon occasion. But I must put you to this charge, for I cannot keep back my protest, however ineffectual, against the annexing your latter lines to those former—this putting of new wine into old bottles. This my duty done, I will cease from writing till you invent some more reasonable mode of conveyance. Well may the "ragged followers of the nine" set up for flocci-nauci-what-do-you-call-'em-ists! And I do not wonder that in their splendid visions of Utopias in America they protest against the admission of those yellow-complexioned, copper-color'd, white-liver'd Gentlemen, who never proved themselves their friends. Don't you think your verses on a Young Ass too trivial a companion for the Religious Musings? "Scoundrel monarch," alter that; and the Man of Ross is scarce admissible as it now stands curtailed of its fairer half: reclaim its property from the Chatterton, which it does but encumber, & it will be a rich little poem. I hope you expunge great part of the old notes in the new edition. That, in particular, most barefaced unfounded impudent assertion, that Mr. Rogers is indebted for his story to Loch Lomond, a poem by Bruce! I have read the latter. I scarce think you have. Scarce anything is common to them both. The poor author of the Pleasures of Memory was sorely hurt, Dyer says, by the accusation of unoriginality. He never saw the Poem. I long to read your Poem on Burns; I retain so indistinct a memory of it. In what shape and how does it come into public? As you leave off writing poetry till you finish your Hymns, I suppose you print now all you have got by you. You have scarce enough unprinted to make a 2d volume with Lloyd. Tell me all about it. What is become of Cowper? Lloyd told me of some verses on his mother. If you have them by you, pray send 'em me. I do so love him! Never mind their merit. May be I may like 'em—as your taste and mine do not always exactly indentify. Yours,
[Coleridge intended to print in his new edition the lines that he had contributed to Southey's Joan of Arc, 1796, with certain additions, under the title "The Progress of Liberty; or, The Visions of the Maid of Orleans." Writing to Cottle Coleridge had said: "I much wish to send My Visions of the Maid of Arc and my corrections to Wordsworth ... and to Lamb, whose taste and judgment I see reason to think more correct and philosophical than my own, which yet I place pretty high." Lamb's criticisms are contained in this letter. Coleridge abandoned his idea of including the poem in the 1797 edition, and the lines were not separately published until 1817, in Sibylline Leaves, under the title "The Destiny of Nations."
"Montauban ... Roubigne." An illustration from Henry Mackenzie's novel Julia de Roubigne, 1777, from which Lamb took hints, a little later, for the structure of part of his story Rosamund Gray.
This is the passage in "Religious Musings" that Lamb particularly praises:—
There is one Mind, one omnipresent Mind, Omnific. His most holy name is Love. Truth of subliming import! with the which Who feeds and saturates his constant soul, He from his small particular orbit flies With blest outstarting! From himself he flies, Stands in the sun, and with no partial gaze Views all creation; and he loves it all, And blesses it, and calls it very good! This is indeed to dwell with the Most High! Cherubs and rapture-trembling Seraphim Can press no nearer to the Almighty's throne.
Southey's new volume, which Coleridge had noticed, was his Poems, second edition, Vol. I., 1797. The poem in question was "On My Own Miniature Picture taken at Two Years of Age."
Edward Fairfax's "Tasso" (Godfrey of Bulloigne, or the Recoverie of Jerusalem) was published in 1600. John Hoole, a later translator, became principal auditor at the India House, and resigned in 1786. He died in 1803.
Coleridge's dream was the poem called "The Raven."
Citizen John Thelwall (1764-1834), to whom many of Coleridge's early letters are written, was a Jacobin enthusiast who had gone to the Tower with Thomas Hardy and Home Tooke in 1794, but was acquitted at his trial. At this time he was writing and lecturing on political subjects. When, in 1818, Thelwall acquired The Champion Lamb wrote squibs for it against the Regent and others.
Colson was perhaps Thomas Coulson, a friend of Sir Humphry Davy and the father of Walter Coulson (born? 1794) who was called "The Walking Encyclopaedia," and was afterwards a friend of Hazlitt.
"To discipline your young noviciate soul." A line from "Religious Musings," 1796:—
I discipline my young noviciate thought.
"My poor old aunt." Lamb's lines on his Aunt Hetty repeat some of this praise; as also does the Elia essay on "Christ's Hospital."
John Woolman (1720-1772), an American Quaker. His Works comprise A Journal of the Life, Gospel, Labours, and Christian Experiences of that Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ, John Woolman, and His Last Epistle and other Writings. Lamb often praised the book.
"A London letter, 9-1/2." A word on the postal system of those days may not be out of place. The cost of the letter when a frank had not been procured was borne by the recipient. The rate varied with the distance. The charge from London to Bridgewater in 1797 was sevenpence. Later it was raised to ninepence and tenpence. No regular post was set up between Bridgewater and Nether Stowey until 1808, when the cost of the carriage of a letter for the intervening nine miles was twopence.
"Flocci." See note on page II.
"The Young Ass," early versions, ended thus:—
Soothe to rest The tumult of some Scoundrel Monarch's breast.
Coleridge changed the last line to—
The aching of pale Fashion's vacant breast.
Coleridge had asserted, in a 1796 note, that Rogers had taken the story of Florio in the Pleasures of Memory from Michael Bruce's Loch Leven (not Loch Lomond). In the 1797 edition another note made apology for the mistake.
Cowper's "Lines on the Receipt of my Mother's Picture out of Norfolk" had been written in the spring of 1790. It is interesting to find Lamb reading them just now, for his own Blank Verse poems, shortly to be written, have much in common with Cowper's verses, not only in manner but in matter.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Feb. 13th, 1797.
Your poem is altogether admirable—parts of it are even exquisite—in particular your personal account of the Maid far surpasses any thing of the sort in Southey. I perceived all its excellences, on a first reading, as readily as now you have been removing a supposed film from my eyes. I was only struck with [a] certain faulty disproportion in the matter and the style, which I still think I perceive, between these lines and the former ones. I had an end in view; I wished to make you reject the poem, only as being discordant with the other; and, in subservience to that end, it was politically done in me to over-pass, and make no mention of merit which, could you think me capable of overlooking, might reasonably damn for ever in your judgment all pretensions in me to be critical. There, I will be judged by Lloyd, whether I have not made a very handsome recantation. I was in the case of a man whose friend has asked him his opinion of a certain young lady; the deluded wight gives judgment against her in toto—don't like her face, her walk, her manners—finds fault with her eyebrows—can see no wit in her. His friend looks blank; he begins to smell a rat; wind veers about; he acknowledges her good sense, her judgment in dress, a certain simplicity of manners and honesty of heart, something too in her manners which gains upon you after a short acquaintance,—and then her accurate pronunciation of the French language and a pretty uncultivated taste in drawing. The reconciled gentleman smiles applause, squeezes him by the hand, and hopes he will do him the honour of taking a bit of dinner with Mrs.—and him—a plain family dinner—some day next week. "For, I suppose, you never heard we were married! I'm glad to see you like my wife, however; you'll come and see her, ha?" Now am I too proud to retract entirely. Yet I do perceive I am in some sort straitened; you are manifestly wedded to this poem, and what fancy has joined let no man separate. I turn me to the Joan of Arc, second book.
The solemn openings of it are with sounds which, Lloyd would say, "are silence to the mind." The deep preluding strains are fitted to initiate the mind, with a pleasing awe, into the sublimest mysteries of theory concerning man's nature and his noblest destination—the philosophy of a first cause—of subordinate agents in creation superior to man—the subserviency of Pagan worship and Pagan faith to the introduction of a purer and more perfect religion, which you so elegantly describe as winning with gradual steps her difficult way northward from Bethabra. After all this cometh Joan, a publican's daughter, sitting on an ale-house bench, and marking the swingings of the signboard, finding a poor man, his wife and six children, starved to death with cold, and thence roused into a state of mind proper to receive visions emblematical of equality; which what the devil Joan had to do with, I don't know, or indeed with the French and American revolutions; though that needs no pardon, it is executed so nobly. After all, if you perceive no disproportion, all argument is vain: I do not so much object to parts. Again, when you talk of building your fame on these lines in preference to the "Religious Musings," I cannot help conceiving of you and of the author of that as two different persons, and I think you a very vain man.
I have been re-reading your letter. Much of it I could dispute; but with the latter part of it, in which you compare the two Joans with respect to their predispositions for fanaticism, I toto corde coincide; only I think that Southey's strength rather lies in the description of the emotions of the Maid under the weight of inspiration,—these (I see no mighty difference between her describing them or you describing them), these if you only equal, the previous admirers of his poem, as is natural, will prefer his; if you surpass, prejudice will scarcely allow it, and I scarce think you will surpass, though your specimen at the conclusion (I am in earnest) I think very nigh equals them. And in an account of a fanatic or of a prophet the description of her emotions is expected to be most highly finished. By the way, I spoke far too disparagingly of your lines, and, I am ashamed to say, purposely. I should like you to specify or particularise; the story of the "Tottering Eld," of "his eventful years all come and gone," is too general; why not make him a soldier, or some character, however, in which he has been witness to frequency of "cruel wrong and strange distress!" I think I should. When I laughed at the "miserable man crawling from beneath the coverture," I wonder I [? you] did not perceive it was a laugh of horror—such as I have laughed at Dante's picture of the famished Ugolino. Without falsehood, I perceive an hundred beauties in your narrative. Yet I wonder you do not perceive something out-of-the way, something unsimple and artificial, in the expression, "voiced a sad tale." I hate made-dishes at the muses' banquet. I believe I was wrong in most of my other objections. But surely "hailed him immortal," adds nothing to the terror of the man's death, which it was your business to heighten, not diminish by a phrase which takes away all terror from it. I like that line, "They closed their eyes in sleep, nor knew 'twas death." Indeed, there is scarce a line I do not like. "Turbid ecstacy," is surely not so good as what you had written, "troublous." Turbid rather suits the muddy kind of inspiration which London porter confers. The versification is, throughout, to my ears unexceptionable, with no disparagement to the measure of the "Religious Musings," which is exactly fitted to the thoughts.
You were building your house on a rock, when you rested your fame on that poem. I can scarce bring myself to believe, that I am admitted to a familiar correspondence, and all the licence of friendship, with a man who writes blank verse like Milton. Now, this is delicate flattery, indirect flattery. Go on with your "Maid of Orleans," and be content to be second to yourself. I shall become a convert to it, when 'tis finished.
This afternoon I attend the funeral of my poor old aunt, who died on Thursday. I own I am thankful that the good creature has ended all her days of suffering and infirmity. She was to me the "cherisher of infancy," and one must fall on these occasions into reflections which it would be commonplace to enumerate, concerning death, "of chance and change, and fate in human life." Good God, who could have foreseen all this but four months back! I had reckoned, in particular, on my aunt's living many years; she was a very hearty old woman. But she was a mere skeleton before she died, looked more like a corpse that had lain weeks in the grave, than one fresh dead. "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun; but let a man live many days and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many." Coleridge, why are we to live on after all the strength and beauty of existence are gone, when all the life of life is fled, as poor Burns expresses it? Tell Lloyd I have had thoughts of turning Quaker, and have been reading, or am rather just beginning to read, a most capital book, good thoughts in good language, William Penn's "No Cross, no Crown;" I like it immensely. Unluckily I went to one of his meetings, tell him, in St. John Street, yesterday, and saw a man under all the agitations and workings of a fanatic, who believed himself under the influence of some "inevitable presence." This cured me of Quakerism; I love it in the books of Penn and Woolman, but I detest the vanity of a man thinking he speaks by the Spirit, when what he says an ordinary man might say without all that quaking and trembling. In the midst of his inspiration—and the effects of it were most noisy—was handed into the midst of the meeting a most terrible blackguard Wapping sailor; the poor man, I believe, had rather have been in the hottest part of an engagement, for the congregation of broad-brims, together with the ravings of the prophet, were too much for his gravity, though I saw even he had delicacy enough not to laugh out. And the inspired gentleman, though his manner was so supernatural, yet neither talked nor professed to talk anything more than good sober sense, common morality, with now and then a declaration of not speaking from himself. Among other things, looking back to his childhood and early youth, he told the meeting what a graceless young dog he had been, that in his youth he had a good share of wit: reader, if thou hadst seen the gentleman, thou wouldst have sworn that it must indeed have been many years ago, for his rueful physiognomy would have scared away the playful goddess from the meeting, where he presided, for ever. A wit! a wit! what could he mean? Lloyd, it minded me of Falkland in the "Rivals," "Am I full of wit and humour? No, indeed you are not. Am I the life and soul of every company I come into? No, it cannot be said you are." That hard-faced gentleman, a wit! Why, Nature wrote on his fanatic forehead fifty years ago, "Wit never comes, that comes to all." I should be as scandalised at a bon mot issuing from his oracle-looking mouth, as to see Cato go down a country-dance. God love you all. You are very good to submit to be pleased with reading my nothings. 'Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense re-spected.—Yours ever,
[Lamb's Aunt Hetty, Sarah Lamb, was buried at St. James's, Clerkenwell, on February 13, 1797.
"As poor Burns expresses it." In the "Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn," the Stanza:—
In weary being now I pine, For a' the life of life is dead, And hope has left my aged ken, On forward wing for ever fled.
"Turning Quaker." Lamb refers to the Peel meeting-house in John Street, Clerkenwell. Lamb afterwards used the story of the wit in the Ella essay "A Quaker's Meeting." In his invocation to the reader he here foreshadows his Elian manner.
"Falkland" is in Sheridan's comedy "The Rivals" (see Act II., Scene i).]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
April 7th, 1797.
Your last letter was dated the 10th February; in it you promised to write again the next day. At least, I did not expect so long, so unfriend-like, a silence. There was a time, Col., when a remissness of this sort in a dear friend would have lain very heavy on my mind, but latterly I have been too familiar with neglect to feel much from the semblance of it. Yet, to suspect one's self overlooked and in the way to oblivion, is a feeling rather humbling; perhaps, as tending to self-mortification, not unfavourable to the spiritual state. Still, as you meant to confer no benefit on the soul of your friend, you do not stand quite clear from the imputation of unkindliness (a word by which I mean the diminutive of unkindness). Lloyd tells me he has been very ill, and was on the point of leaving you. I addressed a letter to him at Birmingham: perhaps he got it not, and is still with you, I hope his ill-health has not prevented his attending to a request I made in it, that he would write again very soon to let me know how he was. I hope to God poor Lloyd is not very bad, or in a very bad way. Pray satisfy me about these things. And then David Hartley was unwell; and how is the small philosopher, the minute philosopher? and David's mother? Coleridge, I am not trifling, nor are these matter-of-fact [?course] questions only. You are all very dear and precious to me; do what you will, Col., you may hurt me and vex me by your silence, but you cannot estrange my heart from you all. I cannot scatter friendship[s] like chuck-farthings, nor let them drop from mine hand like hour-glass sand. I have two or three people in the world to whom I am more than indifferent, and I can't afford to whistle them off to the winds. By the way, Lloyd may have told you about my sister. I told him. If not, I have taken her out of her confinement, and taken a room for her at Hackney, and spend my Sundays, holidays, etc., with her. She boards herself. In one little half year's illness, and in such an illness of such a nature and of such consequences! to get her out into the world again, with a prospect of her never being so ill again—this is to be ranked not among the common blessings of Providence. May that merciful God make tender my heart, and make me as thankful, as in my distress I was earnest, in my prayers. Congratulate me on an ever-present and never-alienable friend like her. And do, do insert, if you have not lost, my dedication. It will have lost half its value by coming so late. If you really are going on with that volume, I shall be enabled in a day or two to send you a short poem to insert. Now, do answer this. Friendship, and acts of friendship, should be reciprocal, and free as the air; a friend should never be reduced to beg an alms of his fellow. Yet I will beg an alms; I entreat you to write, and tell me all about poor Lloyd, and all of you. God love and preserve you all.
[Lloyd's domestication with Coleridge had been intermittent. It began in September, 1796; in November Lloyd was very ill; in December Coleridge told Mr. Lloyd that he would retain his son no longer as pupil but merely as a lodger and friend; at Christmas Charles Lloyd was at Birmingham; in January he was in London; in March he was ill again and his experiment with Coleridge ended.
"The minute philosopher." A joking reference to Bishop Berkeley's Alciphron; or, The Minute Philosopher.
For the dedication to which Lamb refers see above.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
April 15th, 1797.
A VISION OF REPENTANCE
I saw a famous fountain in my dream, Where shady pathways to a valley led; A weeping willow lay upon that stream, And all around the fountain brink were spread Wide branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad, Forming a doubtful twilight desolate and sad.
The place was such, that whoso enter'd in Disrobed was of every earthly thought, And straight became as one that knew not sin, Or to the world's first innocence was brought; Enseem'd it now, he stood on holy ground, In sweet and tender melancholy wrapt around.
A most strange calm stole o'er my soothed sprite; Long time I stood, and longer had I staid, When lo! I saw, saw by the sweet moonlight, Which came in silence o'er that silent shade, Where near the fountain SOMETHING like DESPAIR Made of that weeping willow garlands for her hair.
And eke with painful fingers she inwove Many an uncouth stem of savage thorn— "The willow garland, that was for her Love, And these her bleeding temples would adorn." With sighs her heart nigh burst—salt tears fast fell, As mournfully she bended o'er that sacred well.
To whom when I addrest myself to speak, She lifted up her eyes, and nothing said; The delicate red came mantling o'er her cheek, And gathering up her loose attire, she fled To the dark covert of that woody shade And in her goings seem'd a timid gentle maid.
Revolving in my mind what this should mean, And why that lovely Lady plained so; Perplex'd in thought at that mysterious scene, And doubting if 'twere best to stay or go, I cast mine eyes in wistful gaze around, When from the shades came slow a small and plaintive sound
"Psyche am I, who love to dwell In these brown shades, this woody dell, Where never busy mortal came, Till now, to pry upon my shame.
"At thy feet what thou dost see The Waters of Repentance be, Which, night and day, I must augment With tears, like a true penitent, If haply so my day of grace Be not yet past; and this lone place, O'er-shadowy, dark, excludeth hence All thoughts but grief and penitence."
"Why dost thou weep, thou gentle maid! And wherefore in this barren shade Thy hidden thoughts with sorrow feed? Can thing so fair repentance need?"
"Oh! I have done a deed of shame, And tainted is my virgin fame, And stain'd the beauteous maiden white In which my bridal robes were dight."
"And who the promis'd spouse declare, And what those bridal garments were?"
"Severe and saintly righteousness Compos'd the clear white bridal dress; Jesus, the son of Heaven's high King Bought with his blood the marriage ring.
"A wretched sinful creature, I Deem'd lightly of that sacred tye, Gave to a treacherous WORLD my heart, And play'd the foolish wanton's part.
"Soon to these murky shades I came To hide from the Sun's light my shame— And still I haunt this woody dell, And bathe me in that healing well, Whose waters clear have influence From sin's foul stains the soul to cleanse; And night and day I them augment With tears, like a true Penitent, Until, due expiation made, And fit atonement fully paid, The Lord and Bridegroom me present Where in sweet strains of high consent, God's throne before, the Seraphim Shall chaunt the extatic marriage hymn."
"Now Christ restore thee soon"—I said, And thenceforth all my dream was fled.
The above you will please to print immediately before the blank verse fragments. Tell me if you like it. I fear the latter half is unequal to the former, in parts of which I think you will discover a delicacy of pencilling not quite un-Spenser-like. The latter half aims at the measure, but has failed to attain the poetry, of Milton in his "Comus" and Fletcher in that exquisite thing ycleped the "Faithful Shepherdess," where they both use eight-syllable lines. But this latter half was finished in great haste, and as a task, not from that impulse which affects the name of inspiration.
By the way, I have lit upon Fairfax's "Godfrey of Bullen" for half-a-crown. Rejoice with me.
Poor dear Lloyd! I had a letter from him yesterday; his state of mind is truly alarming. He has, by his own confession, kept a letter of mine unopened three weeks, afraid, he says, to open it, lest I should speak upbraidingly to him; and yet this very letter of mine was in answer to one, wherein he informed me that an alarming illness had alone prevented him from writing. You will pray with me, I know, for his recovery; for surely, Coleridge, an exquisiteness of feeling like this must border on derangement. But I love him more and more, and will not give up the hope of his speedy recovery, as he tells me he is under Dr. Darwin's regimen.
God bless us all, and shield us from insanity, which is "the sorest malady of all."
My kind love to your wife and child.
Pray write, now.
[I have placed the poem at the head from the text of Coleridge's Poems, 1797; but the version of the letter very likely differed (see next letter for at least one alteration).
Fairfax's Godfrey of Bullen was his translation of Tasso, which is mentioned above.
Lloyd, who was undergoing one of those attacks of acute melancholia to which he was subject all his life, had been sent to Lichfield where Erasmus Darwin had established a sanatorium.
"The sorest malady of all." From Lamb's lines to Cowper.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
[Tuesday,] June 13th, 1797.
I stared with wild wonderment to see thy well-known hand again. It revived many a pleasing recollection of an epistolary intercourse, of late strangely suspended, once the pride of my life. Before I even opened thy letter, I figured to myself a sort of complacency which my little hoard at home would feel at receiving the new-comer into the little drawer where I keep my treasures of this kind. You have done well in writing to me. The little room (was it not a little one?) at the Salutation was already in the way of becoming a fading idea! it had begun to be classed in my memory with those "wanderings with a fair hair'd maid," in the recollection of which I feel I have no property. You press me, very kindly do you press me, to come to Stowey; obstacles, strong as death, prevent me at present; maybe I shall be able to come before the year is out; believe me, I will come as soon as I can, but I dread naming a probable time. It depends on fifty things, besides the expense, which is not nothing. Lloyd wants me to come and see him; but, besides that you have a prior claim on me, I should not feel myself so much at home with him, till he gets a house of his own. As to Richardson, caprice may grant what caprice only refused, and it is no more hardship, rightly considered, to be dependent on him for pleasure, than to lie at the mercy of the rain and sunshine for the enjoyment of a holiday: in either case we are not to look for a suspension of the laws of nature. "Grill will be Grill." Vide Spenser.
I could not but smile at the compromise you make with me for printing Lloyd's poems first; but there is [are] in nature, I fear, too many tendencies to envy and jealousy not to justify you in your apology. Yet, if any one is welcome to pre-eminence from me, it is Lloyd, for he would be the last to desire it. So pray, let his name uniformly precede mine, for it would be treating me like a child to suppose it could give me pain. Yet, alas! I am not insusceptible of the bad passions. Thank God, I have the ingenuousness to be ashamed of them. I am dearly fond of Charles Lloyd; he is all goodness, and I have too much of the world in my composition to feel myself thoroughly deserving of his friendship.
Lloyd tells me that Sheridan put you upon writing your tragedy. I hope you are only Coleridgeizing when you talk of finishing it in a few days. Shakspeare was a more modest man; but you best know your own power.
Of my last poem you speak slightingly; surely the longer stanzas were pretty tolerable; at least there was one good line in it,
"Thick-shaded trees, with dark green leaf rich clad."
To adopt your own expression, I call this a "rich" line, a fine full line. And some others I thought even beautiful. Believe me, my little gentleman will feel some repugnance at riding behind in the basket; though, I confess, in pretty good company. Your picture of idiocy, with the sugar-loaf head, is exquisite; but are you not too severe upon our more favoured brethren in fatuity? Lloyd tells me how ill your wife and child have been. I rejoice that they are better. My kindest remembrances and those of my sister. I send you a trifling letter; but you have only to think that I have been skimming the superficies of my mind, and found it only froth. Now, do write again; you cannot believe how I long and love always to hear about you. Yours, most affectionately,
["Little drawer where I keep ..." Lamb soon lost the habit of keeping any letters, except Manning's.
"Wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid." Lamb's own line. See sonnet quoted above.
Lamb's visit to Stowey was made in July, as we shall see.
"Grill will be Grill." See the Faerie Queene, Book II., Canto 12, Stanzas 86 and 87. "Let Gryll be Gryll" is the right text.
Lloyd had joined the poetical partnership, and his poems were to precede Lamb's in the 1797 volume. "Lloyd's connections," Coleridge had written to Cottle, "will take off a great many [copies], more than a hundred."
Coleridge's tragedy was "Osorio," of which we hear first in March, 1797, when Coleridge tells Cottle that Sheridan has asked him to write a play for Drury Lane. It was finished in October, and rejected. In 1813, much altered, it was performed under its new title, "Remorse," and published in book form. Lamb wrote the Prologue.
The "last poem" of which Lamb speaks was "The Vision of Repentance." The good line was altered to—
"Wide branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad,"
when the poem appeared in the Appendix ("the basket," as Lamb calls it) of the 1797 volume.
"Your picture of idiocy." Compare S. T. Coleridge to Thomas Poole, dated "Greta Hall, Oct. 5, 1801" (Thomas Poole and His Friends): "We passed a poor ideot boy, who exactly answered my description; he
"'Stood in the sun, rocking his sugar-loaf head, And staring at a bough from morn to sunset, See-sawed his voice in inarticulate noises.'"
See this passage, much altered, in "Remorse," II., I, 186-191. The lines do not occur in "Osorio," yet they, or something like them, must have been copied out by Coleridge for Lamb in June, 1797.]
(Possibly only a fragment)
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Saturday,] June 24th, 1797.
Did you seize the grand opportunity of seeing Kosciusko while he was at Bristol? I never saw a hero; I wonder how they look. I have been reading a most curious romance-like work, called the "Life of John Buncle, Esq." 'Tis very interesting, and an extraordinary compound of all manner of subjects, from the depth of the ludicrous to the heights of sublime religious truth. There is much abstruse science in it above my cut and an infinite fund of pleasantry. John Buncle is a famous fine man, formed in nature's most eccentric hour. I am ashamed of what I write. But I have no topic to talk of. I see nobody, and sit, and read or walk, alone, and hear nothing. I am quite lost to conversation from disuse; and out of the sphere of my little family, who, I am thankful, are dearer and dearer to me every day, I see no face that brightens up at my approach. My friends are at a distance; worldly hopes are at a low ebb with me, and unworldly thoughts are not yet familiarised to me, though I occasionally indulge in them. Still I feel a calm not unlike content. I fear it is sometimes more akin to physical stupidity than to a heaven-flowing serenity and peace. What right have I to obtrude all this upon you? what is such a letter to you? and if I come to Stowey, what conversation can I furnish to compensate my friend for those stores of knowledge and of fancy, those delightful treasures of wisdom, which I know he will open to me? But it is better to give than to receive; and I was a very patient hearer and docile scholar in our winter evening meetings at Mr. May's; was I not, Col.? What I have owed to thee, my heart can ne'er forget.
God love you and yours. C. L.
[Thaddeus Kosciusko (1746-1817), the Polish patriot, to whom Coleridge had a sonnet in his Poems, 1796, visited England and America after being liberated from prison on the accession of Paul I., and settled in France in 1798.
The Life of John Buncle, Esq., a book which Lamb (and also Hazlitt) frequently praised, is a curious digressive novel, part religious, part roystering, and wholly eccentric and individual, by Thomas Amory, published, Vol. I., in 1756, and Vol. II., in 1766.
"Mr. May's." See note to the first letter.]
(Possibly only a fragment)
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[No date. ? June 29, 1797.]
I discern a possibility of my paying you a visit next week. May I, can I, shall I, come so soon? Have you room for me, leisure for me, and are you all pretty well? Tell me all this honestly—immediately. And by what day—coach could I come soonest and nearest to Stowey? A few months hence may suit you better; certainly me as well. If so, say so. I long, I yearn, with all the longings of a child do I desire to see you, to come among you—to see the young philosopher, to thank Sara for her last year's invitation in person—to read your tragedy—to read over together our little book—to breathe fresh air—to revive in me vivid images of "Salutation scenery." There is a sort of sacrilege in my letting such ideas slip out of my mind and memory. Still that knave Richardson remaineth—a thorn in the side of Hope, when she would lean towards Stowey. Here I will leave off, for I dislike to fill up this paper, which involves a question so connected with my heart and soul, with meaner matter or subjects to me less interesting. I can talk, as I can think, nothing else.
["Our little book." Coleridge's Poems, second edition.
"Salutation scenery." See note to the first letter.
"Richardson." See note on page 34.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[No date. Probably July 19 or 26, 1797.]
I am scarcely yet so reconciled to the loss of you, or so subsided into my wonted uniformity of feeling, as to sit calmly down to think of you and write to you. But I reason myself into the belief that those few and pleasant holidays shall not have been spent in vain. I feel improvement in the recollection of many a casual conversation. The names of Tom Poole, of Wordsworth and his good sister, with thine and Sara's, are become "familiar in my mouth as household words." You would make me very happy, if you think W. has no objection, by transcribing for me that inscription of his. I have some scattered sentences ever floating on my memory, teasing me that I cannot remember more of it. You may believe I will make no improper use of it. Believe me I can think now of many subjects on which I had planned gaining information from you; but I forgot my "treasure's worth" while I possessed it. Your leg is now become to me a matter of much more importance—and many a little thing, which when I was present with you seemed scarce to indent my notice, now presses painfully on my remembrance. Is the Patriot come yet? Are Wordsworth and his sister gone yet? I was looking out for John Thelwall all the way from Bridgewater, and had I met him, I think it would have moved almost me to tears. You will oblige me too by sending me my great-coat, which I left behind in the oblivious state the mind is thrown into at parting—is it not ridiculous that I sometimes envy that great-coat lingering so cunningly behind?—at present I have none—so send it me by a Stowey waggon, if there be such a thing, directing for C. L., No. 45, Chapel-Street, Pentonville, near London. But above all, that Inscription!—it will recall to me the tones of all your voices—and with them many a remembered kindness to one who could and can repay you all only by the silence of a grateful heart. I could not talk much, while I was with you, but my silence was not sullenness, nor I hope from any bad motive; but, in truth, disuse has made me awkward at it. I know I behaved myself, particularly at Tom Poole's, and at Cruikshank's, most like a sulky child; but company and converse are strange to me. It was kind in you all to endure me as you did.
Are you and your dear Sara—to me also very dear, because very kind—agreed yet about the management of little Hartley? and how go on the little rogue's teeth? I will see White to-morrow, and he shall send you information on that matter; but as perhaps I can do it as well after talking with him, I will keep this letter open.
My love and thanks to you and all of you.
[Lamb spent a week at Nether Stowey in July, 1797. Coleridge tells Southey of this visit in a letter written in that month: "Charles Lamb has been with me for a week. He left me Friday morning. The second day after Wordsworth [who had just left Racedown, near Crewkerne, for Alfoxden, near Stowey] came to me, dear Sara accidentally emptied a skillet of boiling milk on my foot, which confined me during the whole time of C. Lamb's stay and still prevents me from all walks longer than a furlong." This is the cause of Lamb's allusion to Coleridge's leg, and it also produced Coleridge's poem beginning "This lime-tree bower my prison," addressed to Lamb, which opens as follows, the friends in the fourth line being Lamb, Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth. (Wordsworth was then twenty-seven. The Lyrical Ballads were to be written in the next few months.)
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain, Lam'd by the scathe of fire, lonely and faint, This lime-tree bower my prison! They, meantime My Friends, whom I may never meet again, On springy heath, along the hill-top edge Wander delighted, and look down, perchance, On that same rifted Dell, where many an ash Twists its wild limbs beside the ferny rock Whose plumy ferns forever nod and drip, Spray'd by the waterfall. But chiefly thou My gentle-hearted Charles! thou who had pin'd And hunger'd after Nature many a year, In the great City pent, winning thy way With sad yet bowed soul, through evil and pain And strange calamity!
Tom Poole was Thomas Poole (1765-1837), a wealthy tanner, and Coleridge's friend, correspondent and patron, who lived at Stowey.
The Patriot and John Thelwall were one. See note on page 93.
"That inscription," The "Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew Tree," written in 1795. Lamb refers to it again in 1815.
The address at Pentonville is the first indication given by Lamb that he has left Little Queen Street. We last saw him there for certain in Letter 17 on December 9. The removal had been made probably at the end of 1796.
John Cruikshank, a neighbour of Coleridge, had married a Miss Bude on the same day that Coleridge married Sara Flicker.
Of the business connected with White we know nothing.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. August 24, 1797.]
Poor Charles Lloyd came to me about a fortnight ago. He took the opportunity of Mr. Hawkes coming to London, and I think at his request, to come with him. It seemed to me, and he acknowledged it, that he had come to gain a little time and a little peace, before he made up his mind. He was a good deal perplexed what to do—wishing earnestly that he had never entered into engagements which he felt himself unable to fulfill, but which on Sophia's account he could not bring himself to relinquish. I could give him little advice or comfort, and feeling my own inability painfully, eagerly snatched at a proposal he made me to go to Southey's with him for a day or two. He then meant to return with me, who could stay only one night. While there, he at one time thought of going to consult you, but changed his intention and stayed behind with Southey, and wrote an explicit letter to Sophia. I came away on the Tuesday, and on the Saturday following, last Saturday, receiv'd a letter dated Bath, in which he said he was on his way to Birmingham,—that Southey was accompanying him,—and that he went for the purpose of persuading Sophia to a Scotch marriage—I greatly feared, that she would never consent to this, from what Lloyd had told me of her character. But waited most anxiously the result. Since then I have not had one letter. For God's sake, if you get any intelligence of or from Chas Lloyd, communicate it, for I am much alarmed.
I wrote to Burnett what I write now to you,—was it from him you heard, or elsewhere?—
He said if he had come to you, he could never have brought himself to leave you. In all his distress he was sweetly and exemplarily calm and master of himself,—and seemed perfectly free from his disorder.—
How do you all at?
[This letter is unimportant, except in showing Lamb's power of sharing his friends' troubles. Charles Lloyd was not married to Sophia Pemberton, of Birmingham, until 1799; nothing rash being done, as Lamb seems to think possible. The reference to Southey, who was at this time living at Burton, in Hampshire, throws some light on De Quincey's statement, in his "Autobiography," that owing to the objection of Miss Pemberton's parents to the match, Lloyd secured the assistance of Southey to carry the lady off.
Burnett was George Burnett (1776?-1811), one of Coleridge's fellow Pantisocratists, whom we shall meet later.
The "he" of the second postscript is not Burnett, but Lloyd.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE [About September 20, 1797.]
WRITTEN A TWELVEMONTH AFTER THE EVENTS
[Friday next, Coleridge, is the day on which my mother died.]
Alas! how am I changed! where be the tears, The sobs and forced suspensions of the breath, And all the dull desertions of the heart With which I hung o'er my dear mother's corse? Where be the blest subsidings of the storm Within; the sweet resignedness of hope Drawn heavenward, and strength of filial love, In which I bow'd me to my Father's will? My God and my Redeemer, keep not thou My heart in brute and sensual thanklessness Seal'd up, oblivious ever of that dear grace, And health restor'd to my long-loved friend.
Long loved, and worthy known! Thou didst not keep Her soul in death. O keep not now, my Lord, Thy servants in far worse—in spiritual death And darkness—blacker than those feared shadows O' the valley all must tread. Lend us thy balms, Thou dear Physician of the sin-sick soul, And heal our cleansed bosoms of the wounds With which the world hath pierc'd us thro' and thro'! Give us new flesh, new birth; Elect of heaven May we become, in thine election sure Contain'd, and to one purpose steadfast drawn— Our souls' salvation.
Thou and I, dear friend, With filial recognition sweet, shall know One day the face of our dear mother in heaven, And her remember'd looks of love shall greet With answering looks of love, her placid smiles Meet with a smile as placid, and her hand With drops of fondness wet, nor fear repulse.
Be witness for me, Lord, I do not ask Those days of vanity to return again, (Nor fitting me to ask, nor thee to give), Vain loves, and "wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid;" (Child of the dust as I am), who so long My foolish heart steep'd in idolatry, And creature-loves. Forgive it, O my Maker! If in a mood of grief, I sin almost In sometimes brooding on the days long past, (And from the grave of time wishing them back), Days of a mother's fondness to her child— Her little one! Oh, where be now those sports And infant play-games? Where the joyous troops Of children, and the haunts I did so love? 0 my companions! O ye loved names Of friend, or playmate dear, gone are ye now. Gone divers ways; to honour and credit some: And some, I fear, to ignominy and shame! I only am left, with unavailing grief One parent dead to mourn, and see one live Of all life's joys bereft, and desolate: Am left, with a few friends, and one above The rest, found faithful in a length of years, Contented as I may, to bear me on, T' the not unpeaceful evening of a day Made black by morning storms.
The following I wrote when I had returned from C. Lloyd, leaving him behind at Burton with Southey. To understand some of it, you must remember that at that time he was very much perplexed in mind.
A stranger and alone, I past those scenes We past so late together; and my heart Felt something like desertion, as I look'd Around me, and the pleasant voice of friend Was absent, and the cordial look was there No more, to smile on me. I thought on Lloyd— All he had been to me! And now I go Again to mingle with a world impure; With men who make a mock of holy things, Mistaken, and of man's best hope think scorn. The world does much to warp the heart of man; And I may sometimes join its idiot laugh: Of this I now complain not. Deal with me, Omniscient Father, as Thou judgest best, And in Thy season soften thou my heart. I pray not for myself: I pray for him Whose soul is sore perplexed. Shine thou on him, Father of Lights! and in the difficult paths Make plain his way before him: his own thoughts May he not think—his own ends not pursue— So shall he best perform Thy will on earth. Greatest and Best, Thy will be ever ours!
The former of these poems I wrote with unusual celerity t'other morning at office. I expect you to like it better than anything of mine; Lloyd does, and I do myself.
You use Lloyd very ill, never writing to him. I tell you again that his is not a mind with which you should play tricks. He deserves more tenderness from you.
For myself, I must spoil a little passage of Beaumont and Fletcher to adapt it to my feelings:—
"I am prouder That I was once your friend, tho' now forgot, Than to have had another true to me."
If you don't write to me now, as I told Lloyd, I shall get angry, and call you hard names—Manchineel and I don't know what else. I wish you would send me my great-coat. The snow and the rain season is at hand, and I have but a wretched old coat, once my father's, to keep 'em off, and that is transitory.
"When time drives flocks from field to fold, When ways grow foul and blood gets cold,"
I shall remember where I left my coat. Meet emblem wilt thou be, old Winter, of a friend's neglect—cold, cold, cold! Remembrance where remembrance is due.
[The two poems included in this letter were printed in Blank Verse, a volume which Lamb and Lloyd issued in 1798.
Coleridge had written to Lloyd, we know, as late as July, because he sent him a version of the poem "This Lime-tree Bower, my Prison;" but a coolness that was to ripen into positive hostility had already begun. Of this we shall see more later.
The passage from Beaumont and Fletcher is in "The Maid's Tragedy" (Act II., Scene I), where Aspatia says to Amintor:—
Thus I wind myself Into this willow garland, and am prouder That I was once your love (though now refus'd) Than to have had another true to me.
The scene is in Lamb's Dramatic Specimens.
The reference to Manchineel is explained by a passage in Coleridge's dedication of his 1797 volume, then just published, to his brother, the Rev. George Coleridge, where, speaking of the friends he had known, he says:—