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Title: The Collected Writing of Thomas De Quincey, Vol. II
Author: De Quincey, Thomas, 1785-1859
Language: English
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   VOL. II





   VOL. II


[Illustration: Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
From a picture by Peter Vandyke in the National Portrait Gallery]


  EDITOR'S PREFACE                                           1


     I. OXFORD                                               9



            LITERARY COTERIE                               113

    II. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE                            138


          ROBERT SOUTHEY                                   303

           COLERIDGE                                       335

    VI. THE SARACEN'S HEAD                                 348

           THE LAKES                                       360


           THE SYMPSONS, AND THE K---- FAMILY              403

            OF LITTLE KATE WORDSWORTH                      432

           HANNAH MORE                                     446


The matter of this volume breaks itself into two main divisions, as


Although De Quincey's Autobiography, so far as it was revised by
himself in 1853 for the Edinburgh Collective Edition of his writings,
stopped at 1803, when he went to Oxford, he left a continuation of that
Autobiography, accessible to those that might be curious about it, in
two old papers of his in _Tait's Edinburgh Magazine_. One of these,
bearing the continued general title "Sketches of Life and Manners from
the Autobiography of an English Opium-Eater," but with the sub-title
"Oxford," had appeared, in three successive parts, in the numbers of
the magazine for February, June, and August 1835; the other, forming
but a single article, had appeared in the number for June 1836, with
the simple title, "Autobiography of an English Opium-Eater continued,"
but without any sub-title, or any indication of its nature except what
might be conveyed by the head-lines,--"The German Language," "The
German Philosophic Literature," and "The Philosophy of Kant,"--at the
tops of the right-hand pages. As the two papers together carry on the
Autobiography from 1803 to 1808, they are reproduced in this volume
from the columns of the magazine as two chapters of De Quincey's
Autobiography additional to the Revised Autobiography contained in
the preceding volume. The first, and much the larger, is sufficiently
described by the title "Oxford," used as a sub-title for it in _Tait's
Magazine_. It is a careful and very readable account of the system
of Oxford life and education during the five years of De Quincey's
connexion with the University, with glimpses of himself, though not
so numerous or continuous as might be wished, as he moved obscurely
through the academic medium. The other chapter will take most readers
aback. Beginning in a popular vein, and even humorously, it turns
itself, through two-thirds of its extent, into a dissertation on Kant's
philosophy which is one of the toughest things that De Quincey ever
wrote. It is probably on this account that the American Collective
Edition of De Quincey, while gladly reprinting his Oxford paper, omits
this one altogether. That, however, is scarcely allowable. Nor is
it allowable to yield to the natural temptation which would suggest
the omission of the paper in the place where De Quincey put it, and
the reservation of it for some other place in the collection of his
writings where it might be in the company of other demons as abstruse
as itself. It belongs vitally to the autobiographic series, and to
that part of the autobiographic series which deals with De Quincey's
Oxford life from 1803 to 1808. It is as if De Quincey had said to his
readers--as, in fact, he does virtually say in the paper--"It was
during those five years that I betook myself to German studies, and
especially to studies in German Philosophy; they had an immense effect
upon me at the time, and a permanent influence afterwards; and, if
you would understand my subsequent life and mind, you must, at the
risk of a headache yourselves, listen at this point to a description
of the exact nature and symptoms of the headache they caused _me_." To
indicate as precisely as possible this autobiographic purport of the
paper, I have ventured, in the absence of any title to it by De Quincey
himself, to entitle it "German Studies and Kant in particular." It will
be of much interest to some readers; and others can skip it if they


Concurrently with the series of the expressly autobiographic papers
in _Tait's Magazine_, there had appeared in the same magazine another
series of papers by De Quincey, also autobiographic in a general sense,
but in a more indirect fashion.

Having known a number of remarkable persons in the course of his life,
some of them of great literary celebrity, it had occurred to him that a
series of sketches of these, from his own recollections and impressions
of them, partly in their relations to himself, but not exclusively
so, would be welcome, and might at all events be made instructively
De Quincey-like. He had begun with Coleridge, and had contributed
four papers of Reminiscences of Coleridge to the numbers of _Tait's
Magazine_ for September, October, and November 1834, and January 1835.
These, though necessarily autobiographic to a pretty large extent,
had been interjected into the series of his expressly autobiographic
articles in the magazine. Then, that expressly autobiographic series
having been finished in 1836 in the above-mentioned papers on his
Oxford life and his first German studies, he had ranged back, in an
article in the magazine for February 1837, for a recollection of
certain literary notabilities of Manchester and Liverpool whom he had
known or seen in his schoolboy days. After that, zig-zagging in his
memory for suitable additions, he had brought in,--sometimes under
cover of the standing general magazine title of "Sketches of Life
and Manners from the Autobiography of an English Opium-Eater," but
sometimes under independent titles,--accounts of other acquaintances of
his, either famous to all the world already, or about whom the world
might be inquisitive. Of these our concern in the present volume, for
chronological reasons, is with Wordsworth and his fellow-celebrities
of the Lake district, whether those that were resident there when De
Quincey first visited it in Coleridge's company in 1807, or those that
were resident there from 1809 onwards, when De Quincey had become a
Lakist too, and was domiciled permanently, as it seemed, close to
Wordsworth at Grasmere. To Wordsworth himself,--always De Quincey's
man of men, or at least poet of poets, of his generation,--there were
devoted three articles in _Tait's Magazine_ for January, February, and
April 1839, entitled "Lake Reminiscences: No. I. William Wordsworth,
No. II. William Wordsworth, No. III. William Wordsworth." These were
followed in July of the same year by a No. IV, entitled "William
Wordsworth and Robert Southey," and in August by a No. V, in which
Coleridge came back for some notice, and which was therefore entitled
"Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge." For the minor celebrities of
the Lakes, after these three _dii majorum gentium_, and for sketches
of Lake scenery and society generally, there was a relapse into the
older magazine title "Sketches of Life and Manners" etc.; and the seven
additional articles required for these straggled through the numbers of
_Tait's Magazine_ from September 1839 to August 1840.

Save that one of the articles so inventoried goes back beyond the Lake
period of De Quincey's life altogether, and that the main set of the
Coleridge articles treats Coleridge generally and apart from his Lakist
connexion, one might designate them collectively by that title of LAKE
REMINISCENCES which De Quincey did use for some of them. As it is,
however, the title LITERARY AND LAKE REMINISCENCES seems, on the whole,
the fittest.

One question remains. Whence are we to take the text of these LITERARY
AND LAKE REMINISCENCES left by De Quincey? For the largest number of
the included articles there is no option. They were not reprinted by
De Quincey in the Collective Edition of 1853-60, though he must have
contemplated reprinting them some time; and the text of them must
therefore be taken from the pages of _Tait's Magazine_, in which
they originally appeared. But for a portion of the Reminiscences, and
a very important portion, there is an option. De Quincey did reprint
in his Collective Edition the whole of his special set of Coleridge
Recollections, with the exception of the last article of the four,
throwing all the reprinted articles into one block, after somewhat
careful revision; and he reprinted also in the same way the whole set
of the special articles on Wordsworth, without any omission. These
main Coleridge and Wordsworth papers are therefore reproduced in our
present volume from De Quincey's own revised text of them,--with the
restoration, however, in the case of the Coleridge chapter, of that
fourth of the magazine articles on Coleridge which De Quincey omitted.
The omission was unnecessary; and, as the American Collective Edition
contains the omitted article, the present edition is entitled to the
same benefit. What, however, about the two minor papers of the Lake
Reminiscences which appeared as Nos. IV and V in _Tait's Magazine_
for July and August 1839, under the titles of "William Wordsworth
and Robert Southey," and "Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge,"
respectively? These also De Quincey reprinted in his Collective
Edition, after a fashion; but it was after a fashion which greatly
impaired their interest. He threw them, or rather parts of them, into
one, under the single title "Robert Southey," omitting a great deal of
what was liveliest and best in the original articles. This may have
been caused merely by his hurry at the time, in consequence of the
pressure of the printers for copy in any form; but possibly it had
another cause. De Quincey's Reminiscences of Coleridge, Wordsworth, and
Southey, on their first appearance in _Tait's Magazine_ between 1834
and 1840, had provoked a good deal of resentment among those concerned.
Coleridge was then dead; but Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth were
still living; as was also Southey. Little wonder that the surviving
relatives of Coleridge felt aggrieved by the extreme frankness of some
of De Quincey's personal recollections of the dead sage, or that the
Wordsworth and Southey families were annoyed and offended on similar
grounds. Wordsworth, with his massive serenity, seems, indeed, to have
tossed the matter aside easily enough; but not so Southey. Carlyle
tells us that, when he first met Southey in London, Southey was full
of the subject of De Quincey's delinquencies in publishing so many
anecdotes of a confidential kind respecting Wordsworth, Coleridge,
and himself, and spoke on the subject in terms which Carlyle, who had
read the articles, thought needlessly angry and vehement. Something
of all this may have been in De Quincey's mind when, in reproducing
his Lake Reminiscences in 1853 for his Collective Edition, he came
to the two _Tait_ articles in which Southey had principally figured.
Hence, perhaps, though Southey had died in 1843, De Quincey's large
excisions from those articles, and his consolidation of them into one
paper, pleasant enough in the main, but comparatively insipid. It was
an editorial mistake on De Quincey's part, and must not bind us now.
The articles in their original livelier and more extensive magazine
form being irrevocable at any rate, and forming part and parcel of the
American Collective Edition, we have acted accordingly. We revert in
the present edition to the text of _Tait's Magazine_ for the particular
articles in question, and print them as they stood there, with their
separate titles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Respecting the present volume as a whole, it will now be understood
that, while a portion of its contents consists of matter derived from
De Quincey's revised edition of 1853-60, considerably the larger
proportion consists of recovered magazine articles that have been
practically inaccessible hitherto to British readers. So composed, the
volume is certainly one of the richest specimens that could be offered
of De Quincey's general characteristics. There are ups and downs in it,
portions inferior to others in literary merit, and occasional lapses
into what may seem spiteful or in bad taste. All in all, however, it
illustrates most variously and most amusingly the shrewdness of De
Quincey's observations of men and things, the range and readiness
of his erudition, the subtlety and originality of his speculative
intellect, his faculty of poetic imagination, his power of mournful
pathos on the one hand and the most whimsical humour on the other, and
the marvellous versatility and flexibility of his style.
     D. M.


  FROM 1803 TO 1808




   [1] From _Tait's Magazine_ for February 1835.--M.

It was in winter, and in the wintry weather of the year 1803, that I
first entered Oxford with a view to its vast means of education, or
rather with a view to its vast advantages for study. A ludicrous story
is told of a young candidate for clerical orders--that, being asked by
the bishop's chaplain if he had ever "been to Oxford," as a colloquial
expression for having had an academic education, he replied, "No:
but he had twice been to Abingdon": Abingdon being only seven miles
distant. In the same sense I might say that once before I had been
at Oxford: but _that_ was as a transient visitor with Lord W----,[2]
when we were both children. Now, on the contrary, I approached these
venerable towers in the character of a student, and with the purpose
of a long connexion; personally interested in the constitution of the
University, and obscurely anticipating that in this city, or at least
during the period of my nominal attachment to this academic body, the
remoter parts of my future life would unfold before me. All hearts were
at this time occupied with the public interests of the country. The
"sorrow of the time" was ripening to a second harvest. Napoleon had
commenced his Vandal, or rather Hunnish war with Britain, in the spring
of this year, about eight months before; and profound public interest
it was, into which the very coldest hearts entered, that a little
divided with me the else monopolizing awe attached to the solemn act of
launching myself upon the world. That expression may seem too strong
as applied to one who had already been for many months a houseless
wanderer in Wales, and a solitary roamer in the streets of London.
But in those situations, it must be remembered, I was an unknown,
unacknowledged vagrant; and without money I could hardly run much risk,
except of breaking my neck. The perils, the pains, the pleasures, or
the obligations, of the world, scarcely exist in a proper sense for him
who has no funds. Perfect weakness is often secure: it is by imperfect
power, turned against its master, that men are snared and decoyed. Here
in Oxford I should be called upon to commence a sort of establishment
upon the splendid English scale; here I should share in many duties
and responsibilities, and should become henceforth an object of notice
to a large society. Now first becoming separately and individually
answerable for my conduct, and no longer absorbed into the general unit
of a family, I felt myself, for the first time, burthened with the
anxieties of a man, and a member of the world.

   [2] _I.e._ Lord Westport. Sec vol. i. pp. 161-2 _et seq._--M.

Oxford, ancient Mother! hoary with ancestral honours, time-honoured,
and, haply, it may be, time-shattered power--I owe thee nothing! Of thy
vast riches I took not a shilling, though living amongst multitudes who
owed to thee their daily bread. Not the less I owe thee justice; for
that is a universal debt. And at this moment, when I see thee called
to thy audit by unjust and malicious accusers--men with the hearts of
inquisitors and the purposes of robbers--I feel towards thee something
of filial reverence and duty. However, I mean not to speak as an
advocate, but as a conscientious witness in the simplicity of truth;
feeling neither hope nor fear of a personal nature, without fee, and
without favour.

I have been assured from many quarters that the great body of the
public are quite in the dark about the whole manner of living in
our English Universities; and that a considerable portion of that
public, misled by the totally different constitution of Universities
in Scotland, Ireland, and generally on the Continent, as well as by
the different arrangements of collegiate life in those institutions,
are in a state worse than ignorant (that is, more unfavourable to
the truth)--starting, in fact, from prejudices, and absolute errors
of fact, which operate most uncharitably upon their construction
of those insulated statements, which are continually put forward
by designing men. Hence, I can well believe that it will be an
acceptable service, at this particular moment [1835], when the very
constitution of the two English Universities is under the unfriendly
revision of Parliament, when some roving commission may be annually
looked for, under a contingency which I will not utter in words (for
I reverence the doctrine of _[Greek: euphêmismos]_), far worse than
Cromwellian, that is, merely personal, and to winnow the existing
corporation from disaffection to the state--a Henry the Eighth
commission of sequestration, and levelled at the very integrity of
the institution--under such prospects, I can well believe that a true
account of Oxford _as it is_ (which will be valid also for Cambridge)
must be welcome both to friend and foe. And instead of giving this
account didactically, or according to a logical classification of the
various items in the survey, I will give it historically, or according
to the order in which the most important facts of the case opened
themselves before myself, under the accidents of my own personal
inquiry. No situation could be better adapted than my own for eliciting
information; for, whereas most young men come to the University under
circumstances of absolute determination as to the choice of their
particular college, and have, therefore, no cause for search or
inquiry, I, on the contrary, came thither in solitary self-dependence,
and in the loosest state of indetermination.

Every single point of my future position and connection, to what
college I would attach myself, and in which of the two orders open
to my admission I would enrol myself, was left absolutely to my own
election. My coming at all, in this year, arose out of an accident of
conversation. In the latter half of 1803, I was living with my mother
at the Priory of St. J----, a beautiful place which she had in part
planned, and built, but chiefly repaired out of a very ancient Gothic
monastery; when my uncle, a military man, on a visit to England, after
twenty-five years' absence in India, suddenly remarked, that in my case
he should feel it shameful to be "tied to my mother's apron-string,"
for was I not eighteen years old? I answered that certainly I was: but
what could I do? My guardians had the power to control my expenditure
until I should be twenty-one; and they, it was certain, would never
aid my purpose of going to Oxford, having quarrelled with me on
that very point. My uncle, a man of restless activity, spoke to my
mother immediately, I presume, for within one hour I was summoned to
her presence. Among other questions, she put this to me, which is
importantly connected with my future experience at Oxford, and my
coming account of it:--"Your guardians," she prefaced, "still continue
to me your school allowance of £100. To this, for the present, when
your sisters cost me such heavy deductions from my own income, I
cannot undertake to make any addition--that is, you are not to count
upon any. But, of course, you will be free to spend your entire Oxford
vacations, and as much time besides as the rules of your college will
dispense with your attendance, at my house, wherever that may be. On
this understanding, are you willing to undertake an Oxford life, upon
so small an allowance as £100 per annum?" My answer was by a cheerful
and prompt assent. For I felt satisfied, and said as much to my mother,
that, although this might sound, and might really prove, on a common
system of expenditure, ludicrously below the demands of the place,
yet in Oxford, no less than in other cities, it must be possible for
a young man of firm mind to live on a hundred pounds annually, if he
pleased to do so, and to live respectably. I guessed even then how the
matter stood; and so in my own experience I found it. If a young man
were known to be of trivial pursuits, with slight habits of study, and
"strong book-mindedness," naturally enough his college peers who should
happen to be idlers would question his right to court solitude. They
would demand a sight of his warrant of exemption from ordinary usages;
and, finding none, they would see a plain argument of his poverty.
And, doubtless, when this happens to be the sole characteristic point
about a man, and is balanced by no form of personal respectability, it
does so far lead to contempt as to make a man's situation mortifying
and painful; but not more so, I affirm, in Oxford than anywhere else.
Mere defect of power, _as_ such, and where circumstances force it into
violent relief, cannot well be other than a degrading feature in any
man's position. Now, in other cities, the man of £100 a-year never can
be forced into such an invidious insulation--he finds many to keep
him in countenance; but in Oxford he is a sort of monster--he stands
alone in the only class with which he can be compared. So that the
pressure upon Oxford predispositions to contempt is far stronger than
elsewhere; and, consequently, there would be more allowance due, if the
actual contempt were also stronger--which I deny. But, no doubt, in
every climate, and under all meridians, it must be humiliating to be
distinguished by pure defect. Now and for ever, to be weak is in some
sense to be miserable; and simple poverty, without other qualification
or adjunct, is merely defect of power. But, on the other hand, in
Oxford, at least, as much as in any other place I ever knew, talents
and severe habits of study are their own justification. And upon the
strongest possible warrant, viz., my own experience in a college then
recently emerging from habits of riotous dissipation, I can affirm that
a man who pleads known habits of study as his reason for secluding
himself, and for declining the ordinary amusements and wine parties,
will meet with neither molestation nor contempt.[3]

   [3] This paragraph is omitted in the American reprint of the
   _Tait_ paper, probably because it repeats information given
   already. See the chapter entitled "The Priory, Chester," in Vol.
   I, and especially the concluding pages of that chapter. As,
   however, the paragraph contains some new particulars, and explains
   what follows, I have retained it, the rather because it ought to
   be the rule not to tamper with De Quincey's text on any such

For my part, though neither giving nor accepting invitations for
the first two years of my residence, never but once had I reason to
complain of a sneer, or indeed any allusion whatever to habits which
might be understood to express poverty. Perhaps even then I had no
reason to complain, for my own conduct in that instance was unwise; and
the allusion, though a personality, and so far ill-bred, might be meant
in real kindness. The case was this: I neglected my dress in one point
habitually; that is, I wore clothes until they were threadbare--partly
in the belief that my gown would conceal their main defects, but much
more from carelessness and indisposition to spend upon a tailor what
I had destined for a bookseller. At length, an official person, of
some weight in the college, sent me a message on the subject through
a friend. It was couched in these terms: That, let a man possess what
talents or accomplishments he might, it was not possible for him to
maintain his proper station in the public respect, amongst so many
servants and people servile to external impressions, without some
regard to the elegance of his dress. A reproof so courteously prefaced
I could not take offence at; and at that time I resolved to spend some
cost upon decorating my person. But always it happened that some book,
or set of books,--that passion being absolutely endless, and inexorable
as the grave,--stepped between me and my intentions; until one day,
upon arranging my toilet hastily before dinner, I suddenly made the
discovery that I had no waistcoat (or _vest_, as it is now called,
through conceit or provincialism) which was not torn or otherwise
dilapidated; whereupon, buttoning up my coat to the throat, and drawing
my gown as close about me as possible, I went into the public "hall"
(so is called in Oxford the public eating-room) with no misgiving.
However, I was detected; for a grave man, with a superlatively grave
countenance, who happened on that day to sit next me, but whom I did
not personally know, addressing his friend sitting opposite, begged to
know if he had seen the last Gazette, because he understood that it
contained an Order in Council laying an interdict upon the future use
of waistcoats. His friend replied, with the same perfect gravity, that
it was a great satisfaction to his mind that his Majesty's Government
should have issued so sensible an order; which he trusted would be
soon followed up by an interdict on breeches, they being still more
disagreeable to pay for. This said, without the movement on either side
of a single muscle, the two gentlemen passed to other subjects; and
I inferred, upon the whole, that, having detected my manoeuvre, they
wished to put me on my guard in the only way open to them. At any rate,
this was the sole personality, or equivocal allusion of any sort,
which ever met my ear during the years that I asserted my right to be
as poor as chose. And, certainly, my censors were right, whatever were
the temper in which they spoke, kind or unkind; for a little extra
care in the use of clothes will always, under almost any extremity of
poverty, pay for so much extra cost as is essential to neatness and
decorum, if not even to elegance. They were right, and I was wrong, in
a point which cannot be neglected with impunity.

But, to enter upon my own history, and my sketch of Oxford life.--Late
on a winter's night, in the latter half of December, 1803, when a
snow-storm, and a heavy one, was already gathering in the air, a lazy
Birmingham coach, moving at four and a half miles an hour, brought me
through the long northern suburb of Oxford, to a shabby coach-inn,
situated in the Corn Market. Business was out of the question at that
hour. But the next day I assembled all the acquaintances I had in
the University, or had to my own knowledge; and to them, in council
assembled, propounded my first question: What college would they,
in their superior state of information, recommend to my choice?
This question leads to the first great characteristic of Oxford, as
distinguished from most other Universities. Before me at this moment
lie several newspapers, reporting, at length, the installation in
office (as Chancellor) of the Duke of Wellington. The original Oxford
report, having occasion to mention the particular college from which
the official procession moved, had said, no doubt, that the gates
of University, the halls of University, &c., were at such a point
of time thrown open. But most of the provincial editors, not at all
comprehending that the reference was to an individual college, known by
the name of University College, one of twenty-five such establishments
in Oxford, had regularly corrected it into "gates of _the_ University,"
&c. Here is the first misconception of all strangers. And this feature
of Oxford it is which has drawn such exclamations of astonishment from
foreigners. Lipsius, for example, protested with fervour, on first
seeing this vast establishment of Oxford, that one college of this
University was greater in its power and splendour, that it glorified
and illustrated the honours of literature more conspicuously by the
pomps with which it invested the ministers and machinery of education,
than any entire University of the Continent.

What is a University almost everywhere else? It announces little more,
as respects the academic buildings, than that here is to be found the
place of rendezvous--the exchange, as it were, or, under a different
figure, the _palæstra_ of the various parties connected with the
prosecution of liberal studies. This is their "House of Call," their
general place of muster and parade. Here it is that the professors
and the students converge, with the certainty of meeting each other.
Here, in short, are the lecture-rooms in all the faculties. Well: thus
far we see an arrangement of convenience--that is, of convenience for
one of the parties, namely, the professors. To them it spares the
disagreeable circumstances connected with a private reception of their
students at their own rooms. But to the students it is a pure matter
of indifference. In all this there is certainly no service done to the
cause of good learning which merits a state sanction, or the aid of
national funds. Next, however, comes an academic library, sometimes a
good one; and here commences a real use in giving a national station
to such institutions, because their durable and monumental existence,
liable to no flux or decay from individual caprice, or accidents of
life, and their authentic station, as expressions of the national
grandeur, point them out to the bequests of patriotic citizens. They
fall also under the benefit of another principle--the conservative
feeling of amateurship. Several great collections have been bequeathed
to the British Museum, for instance--not chiefly _as_ a national
institution, and under feelings of nationality, but because, being
such, it was also permanent; and thus the painful labours of collecting
were guaranteed from perishing. Independently of all this, I, for
my part, willingly behold the surplus of national funds dedicated
to the consecration, as it were, of learning, by raising temples to
its honour, even where they answer no purpose of direct use. Next
after the service of religion, I would have the service of learning
externally embellished, recommended to the affections of men, and
hallowed by the votive sculptures, as I may say, of that affection,
gathering in amount from age to age. _Magnificabo apostolatum meum_
is a language almost as becoming to the missionaries and ministers of
knowledge, as to the ambassadors of religion. It is fit that by pompous
architectural monuments a voice may for ever be sounding audibly in
human ears of homage to these powers, and that even alien feelings may
be compelled into secret submission to their influence. Therefore,
amongst the number of those who value such things upon the scale of
direct proximate utility rank not me: that _arithmetica officina_ is
in my ears abominable. But still I affirm that, in our analysis of an
ordinary university, or "college," as it is provincially called, we
have not yet arrived at any element of service rendered to knowledge or
education, large enough to call for very extensive national aid. Honour
has thus far been rendered to the good cause by a public attestation,
and that is well: but no direct promotion has been given to that cause,
no impulse communicated to its progress, such that it can be held out
as a result commensurate to the name and pretensions of a University.
As yet there is nothing accomplished which is beyond the strength of
any little commercial town. And, as to the library in particular,
besides that in all essential departments it might be bought, to order,
by one day's common subscription of Liverpool or Glasgow merchants,
students very rarely indeed have admission to its free use.

What other functions remain to a University? For those which I have
mentioned of furnishing a point of rendezvous to the great body of
professors and students, and a point of concentration to the different
establishments of implements and machinery for elaborate researches
(as, for instance, of books and MSS., in the first place; secondly, of
maps, charts, and globes; and, thirdly, perhaps of the costly apparatus
required for such studies as sideral astronomy, galvanic chemistry
or physiology, &c.); all these are uses which cannot be regarded in
a higher light than as conveniences merely incidental and collateral
to the main views of the founders. There are, then, two much loftier
and more commanding ends met by the idea and constitution of such
institutions, and which first rise to a rank of dignity sufficient to
occupy the views of a legislator, or to warrant a national interest.
These ends are involved: 1st, in the practice of conferring _degrees_,
that is, formal attestations and guarantees of competence to give
advice, instruction, or aid, in the three great branches of liberal
knowledge applicable to human life; 2d, in that appropriation of fixed
funds to fixed professorships, by means of which the uninterrupted
succession of public and authorised teachers is sustained in all the
higher branches of knowledge, from generation to generation, and from
century to century. By the latter result it is secured that the great
well-heads of liberal knowledge and of severe science shall never
grow dry. By the former it is secured that this unfailing fountain
shall be continually applied to the production and to the _tasting_ of
fresh labours in endless succession for the public service, and thus,
in effect, that the great national fountain shall not be a stagnant
reservoir, but, by an endless _derivation_ (to speak in a Roman
metaphor), applied to a system of national irrigation. These are the
two great functions and qualifications of a collegiate incorporation:
one providing to each separate generation its own separate rights of
heirship to all the knowledge accumulated by its predecessors, and
converting a mere casual life-annuity into an estate of inheritance--a
mere fleeting [Greek: agônisma] into a [Greek: ktêma es aei]; the other
securing for this eternal dowry as wide a distribution as possible: the
one function regarding the dimension of _length_ in the endless series
of ages through which it propagates its gifts; the other regarding
the dimension of _breadth_ in the large application throughout any
one generation of these gifts to the public service. Here are grand
functions, high purposes; but neither one nor the other demands any
edifices of stone and marble; neither one nor the other presupposes any
edifice at all built with human hands. A collegiate incorporation, the
church militant of knowledge, in its everlasting struggle with darkness
and error, is, in this respect, like the Church of Christ--that is, it
is always and essentially invisible to the fleshly eye. The pillars
of this church are human champions; its weapons are great truths so
shaped as to meet the shifting forms of error; its armouries are
piled and marshalled in human memories; its cohesion lies in human
zeal, in discipline, in childlike docility; and all its triumphs,
its pomps, and glories, must for ever depend upon talent, upon the
energies of the will, and upon the harmonious co-operation of its
several divisions. Thus far, I say, there is no call made out for _any_
intervention of the architect.

Let me apply all this to Oxford. Among the four functions commonly
recognised by the founders of Universities are--1st, to find a set of
halls or places of meeting; 2d, to find the implements and accessaries
of study; 3d, to secure the succession of teachers and learners; 4th,
to secure the profitable application of their attainments to the
public service. Of these four, the two highest need no buildings; and
the other two, which are mere collateral functions of convenience,
need only a small one. Wherefore, then, and to what end, are the
vast systems of building, the palaces and towers of Oxford? These
are either altogether superfluous, mere badges of ostentation and
luxurious wealth, or they point to some fifth function not so much
as contemplated by other Universities, and, at present, absolutely
and chimerically beyond their means of attainment. Formerly we used
to hear attacks upon the Oxford discipline as fitted to the true
_intellectual_ purposes of a modern education. Those attacks, weak
and most uninstructed in facts, false as to all that they challenged,
and puerile as to what implicitly they propounded for homage, are
silent. But, of late, the battery has been pointed against the Oxford
discipline in its _moral_ aspects, as fitted for the government and
restraint of young men, or even as at all contemplating any such
control. The Beverleys would have us suppose, not only that the great
body of the students are a licentious crew, acknowledging no discipline
or restraints, but that the grave elders of the University, and those
who wield the nominal authority of the place, passively resign the
very shows of power, and connive at general excesses, even when they
do not absolutely authorize them in their personal examples. Now, when
such representations are made, to what standard of a just discipline
is it that these writers would be understood as appealing? Is it to
some ideal, or to some existing and known reality? Would they have
England suppose that they are here comparing the actual Oxford with
some possible hypothetic or imaginable Oxford,--with some ideal case,
that is to say, about which great discussions would arise as to its
feasibility,--or that they are comparing it with some known standard
of discipline actually realized and sustained for generations, in
Leipsic, suppose, or Edinburgh, or Leyden, or Salamanca? This is the
question of questions, to which we may demand an answer; and, according
to that answer, observe the dilemma into which these furciferous
knaves must drop. If they are comparing Oxford simply with some ideal
and better Oxford, in some ideal and better world, in that case all
they have said--waiving its falsehoods of fact--is no more than a
flourish of rhetoric, and the whole discussion may be referred to
the shadowy combats of scholastic declamation-mongers--those mock
gladiators, and _umbratiles doctores_. But if, on the other hand, they
pretend to take their station upon the known basis of some existing
institution,--if they will pretend that, in this impeachment of
Oxford, they are proceeding upon a silent comparison with Edinburgh,
Glasgow, Jena, Leipsic, Padua, &c.,--then are they self-exposed, as
men not only without truth, but without shame. For now comes in, as
a sudden revelation, and as a sort of _deus ex machina_, for the
vindication of the truth, the simple answer to that question proposed
above, Wherefore, and to what end, are the vast edifices of Oxford? A
University, as Universities are in general, needs not, I have shown, to
be a visible body--a building raised with hands. Wherefore, then, is
the _visible_ Oxford? To what _fifth_ end, refining upon the ordinary
ends of such institutions, is the far-stretching system of Oxford
_hospitia_, or monastic hotels, directed by their founders, or applied
by their present possessors? Hearken, reader, to the answer:--

These vast piles are applied to an end absolutely indispensable to any
even tolerable system of discipline, and yet absolutely unattainable
upon any commensurate scale in any other University of Europe. They are
applied to the personal settlement and domestication of the students
within the gates and walls of that college to whose discipline they are
amenable. Everywhere else the young men live _where_ they please and
_as_ they please; necessarily distributed amongst the towns-people;
in any case, therefore, liable to no control or supervision whatever;
and, in those cases where the University forms but a small part of
a vast capital city, as it does in Paris, Edinburgh, Madrid, Vienna,
Berlin, and Petersburg, liable to every mode of positive temptation
and distraction which besiege human life in high-viced and luxurious
communities. Here, therefore, it is a mockery to talk of discipline;
of a nonentity there can be no qualities; and we need not ask for the
description of the discipline in situations where discipline there can
be none. One slight anomaly I have heard of as varying _pro tanto_
the uniform features of this picture. In Glasgow I have heard of an
arrangement by which young academicians are placed in the family of a
professor. Here, as members of a private household, and that household
under the presiding eye of a conscientious, paternal, and judicious
scholar, doubtless they would enjoy as absolute a shelter from peril
and worldly contagion as parents could wish; but not _more_ absolute,
I affirm, than belongs, unavoidably, to the monastic seclusion of an
Oxford college--the gates of which open to no egress after nine o'clock
at night, nor after eleven to any ingress which is not regularly
reported to a proper officer of the establishment. The two forms of
restraint are, as respects the effectual amount of control, equal; and
were they equally diffused, Glasgow and Oxford would, in this point,
stand upon the same level of discipline. But it happens that the
Glasgow case was a personal accident; personal, both as regarded him
who volunteered the exercise of this control, and those who volunteered
to appropriate its benefits; whereas the Oxford case belongs to the
very system, is coextensive with the body of undergraduates, and,
from the very arrangement of Oxford life, is liable to no decay or

Here, then, the reader apprehends the first great characteristic
distinction of Oxford--that distinction which extorted the rapturous
admiration of Lipsius as an exponent of enormous wealth, but which I
now mention as applying, with ruinous effect, to the late calumnies
upon Oxford, as an inseparable exponent of her meritorious discipline.
She, most truly and severely an "Alma Mater," gathers all the juvenile
part of her flock within her own fold, and beneath her own vigilant
supervision. In Cambridge there is, so far, a laxer administration of
this rule, that, when any college overflows undergraduates are allowed
to lodge at large in the town. But in Oxford this increase of peril and
discretionary power is thrown by preference upon the senior graduates,
who are seldom below the age of twenty-two or twenty-three; and the
college accommodations are reserved, in almost their whole extent, for
the most youthful part of the society. This extent is prodigious. Even
in my time, upwards of two thousand persons were lodged within the
colleges; none having fewer than two rooms, very many having three, and
men of rank, or luxurious habits, having often large suites of rooms.
But that was a time of war, which Oxford experience has shown to have
operated most disproportionably as a drain upon the numbers disposable
for liberal studies; and the total capacity of the University was far
from being exhausted. There are now, I believe, between five and six
thousand names upon the Oxford books; and more than four thousand,
I understand, of constant residents. So that Oxford is well able to
lodge, and on a very sumptuous scale, a small army of men; which
expression of her great splendour I now mention (as I repeat) purely
as applying to the question of her machinery for enforcing discipline.
This part of her machinery, it will be seen, is unique, and absolutely
peculiar to herself. Other Universities, boasting no such enormous
wealth, cannot be expected to act upon her system of seclusion.
Certainly, I make it no reproach to other Universities, that, not
possessing the means of sequestering their young men from worldly
communion, they must abide by the evils of a laxer discipline. It is
their misfortune, and not their criminal neglect, which consents to
so dismal a relaxation of academic habits. But let them not urge this
misfortune in excuse at one time, and at another virtually disavow it.
Never let _them_ take up a stone to throw at Oxford, upon this element
of a wise education; since in them, through that original vice in their
constitution, the defect of all means for secluding and insulating
their society, discipline is abolished by anticipation--being, in fact,
an impossible thing; for the walls of the college are subservient to no
purpose of life, but only to a purpose of convenience; they converge
the students for the hour or two of what is called lecture; which over,
each undergraduate again becomes _sui juris_, is again absorbed into
the crowds of the world, resorts to whatsoever haunts he chooses, and
finally closes his day at ---- if, in any sense, at home--at a home
which is not merely removed from the supervision and control, but
altogether from the bare knowledge, of his academic superiors. How
far this discipline is well administered in other points at Oxford,
will appear from the rest of my account. But, thus far, at least, it
must be conceded, that Oxford, by and through this one unexampled
distinction--her vast disposable fund of accommodations for junior
members within her own private cloisters--possesses an advantage which
she could not forfeit, if she would, towards an effectual knowledge
of each man's daily habits, and a control over him which is all but

This knowledge and this control is much assisted and concentrated by
the division of the University into separate colleges. Here comes
another feature of the Oxford system. Elsewhere the University is a
single college; and this college is the University. But in Oxford the
University expresses, as it were, the army, and the colleges express
the several brigades, or regiments.

To resume, therefore, my own thread of personal narration. On the
next morning after my arrival in Oxford, I assembled a small council
of friends to assist me in determining at which of the various
separate societies I should enter, and whether as a "commoner," or
as a "gentleman commoner." Under the first question was couched the
following latitude of choice: I give the names of the colleges, and
the numerical account of their numbers, as it stood in January 1832;
for this will express, as well as the list of that day (which I do not
accurately know), the _proportions_ of importance amongst them.

     1. University College      207
     2. Balliol        "        257
     3. Merton         "        124
     4. Exeter         "        299
     5. Oriel          "        293
     6. Queen's        "        351
     7. New            "        157
     8. Lincoln        "        141
     9. All Souls'     "         98
    10. Magdalene      "        165
    11. Brasenose      "        418
    12. Corpus Christi "        127
    13. Christ Church  "        949
    14. Trinity        "        259
    15. St. John's     "        218
    16. Jesus          "        167
    17. Wadham         "        217
    18. Pembroke       "        189
    19. Worcester      "        231

Then, besides these colleges, five _Halls_, as they are technically
called (the term _Hall_ implying chiefly that they are societies not
endowed, or not endowed with fellowships as the colleges are), namely:

    1. St. Mary Hall           83
    2. Magdalen   "           178
    3. New Inn    "            10
    4. St. Alban  "            41
    5. St. Edmund "            96

Such being the names, and general proportions on the scale of local
importance, attached to the different communities, next comes the very
natural question, What are the chief determining motives for guiding
the selection amongst them? These I shall state. First of all, a man
not otherwise interested in the several advantages of the colleges
has, however, in all probability, some choice between a small society
and a large one; and thus far a mere ocular inspection of the list
will serve to fix his preference. For my part, supposing other things
equal, I greatly preferred the most populous college, as being that
in which any single member, who might have reasons for standing aloof
from the general habits of expense, of intervisiting, &c., would have
the best chance of escaping a jealous notice. However, amongst those
"other things" which I presumed equal, one held a high place in my
estimation, which a little inquiry showed to be very far from equal.
All the colleges have chapels, but all have not organs; nor, amongst
those which have, is the same large use made of the organ. Some
preserve the full cathedral service; others do not. Christ Church,
meantime, fulfilled _all_ conditions: for the chapel here happens
to be the cathedral of the diocese; the service, therefore, is full
and ceremonial; the college, also, is far the most splendid, both in
numbers, rank, wealth, and influence. Hither I resolved to go; and
immediately I prepared to call on the head.

The "head," as he is called generically, of an Oxford college (his
_specific_ appellation varies almost with every college--principal,
provost, master, rector, warden, etc.), is a greater man than the
uninitiated suppose. His situation is generally felt as conferring a
degree of rank not much less than episcopal; and, in fact, the head
of Brasenose at that time, who happened to be the Bishop of Bangor,
was not held to rank much above his brothers in office. Such being the
rank of heads generally, _à fortiori_, that of Christ Church was to be
had in reverence; and this I knew. He is always, _ex officio_, dean
of the diocese; and, in his quality of college head, he only, of all
deans that ever were heard of, is uniformly considered a greater man
than his own diocesan. But it happened that the present dean had even
higher titles to consideration. Dr. Cyril Jackson had been tutor to the
Prince of Wales (George IV); he had repeatedly refused a bishopric;
and _that_, perhaps, is entitled to place a man one degree above him
who has accepted one. He was also supposed to have made a bishop, and
afterwards, at least, it is certain that he made his own brother a
bishop. All things weighed, Dr. Cyril Jackson seemed so very great a
personage that I now felt the value of my long intercourse with great
dons in giving me confidence to face a lion of this magnitude.

Those who know Oxford are aware of the peculiar feelings which have
gathered about the name and pretensions of Christ Church; feelings of
superiority and leadership in the members of that college, and often
enough of defiance and jealousy on the part of other colleges. Hence
it happens that you rarely find yourself in a shop, or other place
of public resort, with a Christ-Church man, but he takes occasion,
if young and frivolous, to talk loudly of the Dean, as an indirect
expression of his own connection with this splendid college; the title
of _Dean_ being exclusively attached to the headship of Christ Church.
The Dean, as maybe supposed, partakes in this superior dignity of his
"House"; he is officially brought into connection with all orders
of the British aristocracy--often with royal personages; and with
the younger branches of the aristocracy his office places him in a
relation of authority and guardianship--exercised, however, through
inferior ministry, and seldom by direct personal interference. The
reader must understand that, with rare exceptions, all the princes
and nobles of Great Britain who choose to benefit by an academic
education resort either to Christ Church College in Oxford, or to
Trinity College in Cambridge: these are the alternatives. Naturally
enough, my young friends were somewhat startled at my determination to
call upon so great a man; a letter, they fancied, would be a better
mode of application. I, however, who did not adopt the doctrine that
no man is a hero to his valet, was of opinion that very few men indeed
are heroes to themselves. The cloud of external pomp, which invests
them to the eyes of the _attoniti_, cannot exist to their own; they do
not, like Kehama entering the eight gates of Padalon at once, meet and
contemplate their own grandeurs; but, more or less, are conscious of
acting a part. I did not, therefore, feel the tremor which was expected
of a novice, on being ushered into so solemn a presence.


   [4] From _Tait's Magazine_ for June 1835.

The Dean was sitting in a spacious library or study, elegantly,
if not luxuriously, furnished. Footmen, stationed as repeaters,
as if at some fashionable rout, gave a momentary importance to my
unimportant self, by the thundering tone of their annunciations. All
the machinery of aristocratic life seemed indeed to intrench this
great Don's approaches; and I was really surprised that so very great
a man should condescend to rise on my entrance. But I soon found that,
if the Dean's station and relation to the higher orders had made
him lofty, those same relations had given a peculiar suavity to his
manners. Here, indeed, as on other occasions, I noticed the essential
misconception, as to the demeanour of men of rank, which prevails
amongst those who have no personal access to their presence. In the
fabulous pictures of novels (such novels as once abounded), and in
newspaper reports of conversations, real or pretended, between the King
and inferior persons, we often find the writer expressing _his_ sense
of aristocratic assumption, by making the King address people without
their titles. The Duke of Wellington, for instance, or Lord Liverpool,
figures usually, in such scenes, as "Wellington," or "Arthur," and as
"Liverpool." Now, as to the private talk of George IV in such cases, I
do not pretend to depose; but, speaking generally, I may say that the
practice of the highest classes takes the very opposite course. Nowhere
is a man so sure of his titles or official distinctions as amongst
_them_; for it is upon giving to every man the very extreme punctilio
of his known or supposed claims that they rely for the due observance
of their own. Neglecting no form of courtesy suited to the case, they
seek, in this way, to remind men unceasingly of what they expect; and
the result is what I represent--that people in the highest stations,
and such as bring them continually into contact with inferiors, are,
of all people, the least addicted to insolence or defect of courtesy.
Uniform suavity of manner is indeed rarely found _except_ in men of
high rank. Doubtless this may arise upon a motive of self-interest,
jealous of giving the least opening or invitation to the retorts of
ill-temper or low breeding. But, whatever be its origin, such I believe
to be the fact. In a very long conversation of a general nature upon
the course of my studies, and the present direction of my reading,
Dr. Cyril Jackson treated me just as he would have done his equal in
station and in age. Coming, at length, to the particular purpose of my
visit at this time to himself, he assumed a little more of his official
stateliness. He condescended to say that it would have given him
pleasure to reckon me amongst his flock; "But, sir," he said, in a tone
of some sharpness, "your guardians have acted improperly. It was their
duty to have given me at least one year's notice of their intention to
place you at Christ Church. At present I have not a dog-kennel in my
college untenanted." Upon this, I observed that nothing remained for me
to do but to apologize for having occupied so much of his time; that,
for myself, I now first heard of this preliminary application; and
that, as to my guardians, I was bound to acquit them of all oversight
in this instance, they being no parties to my present scheme. The
Dean expressed his astonishment at this statement. I, on my part,
was just then making my parting bows, and had reached the door, when
a gesture of the Dean's, courteously waving me back to the sofa I had
quitted, invited me to resume my explanations; and I had a conviction
at the moment that the interview would have terminated in the Dean's
suspending his standing rule in my favour. But, just at that moment,
the thundering heralds of the Dean's hall announced some man of high
rank: the sovereign of Christ Church seemed distressed for a moment;
but then, recollecting himself, bowed in a way to indicate that I was
dismissed. And thus it happened that I did not become a member of
Christ Church.[5]

   [5] Among the students in Christ Church at this time was Charles
   Kirkpatrick Sharpe, afterwards so well known as a fellow-resident
   with De Quincey in Edinburgh. He was De Quincey's senior by four
   years, and had entered Christ Church in 1798. Among his
   acquaintances and fellow-students were Lord Gower, afterwards Duke
   of Sutherland, Lord Newtown, Elijah Impey (son of the famous
   Indian judge of that name), and others of high name and rank. In
   the _Memoirs and Correspondence of Kirkpatrick Sharpe_ (published
   1888) there are descriptions of the society of the college, with
   sketches of Dean Cyril Jackson, &c., from Sharpe's cynical

A few days passed in thoughtless indecision. At the end of that time,
a trivial difficulty arose to settle my determination. I had brought
about fifty guineas to Oxford; but the expenses of an Oxford inn, with
almost daily entertainments to young friends, had made such inroads
upon this sum, that, after allowing for the contingencies incident to
a college initiation, enough would not remain to meet the usual demand
for what is called "caution money." This is a small sum, properly
enough demanded of every student, when matriculated, as a pledge for
meeting any loss from unsettled arrears, such as his sudden death or
his unannounced departure might else continually be inflicting upon
his college. By releasing the college, therefore, from all necessity
for degrading vigilance or persecution, this demand does, in effect,
operate beneficially to the feelings of all parties. In most colleges
it amounts to twenty-five pounds: in one only it was considerably less.
And this trifling consideration it was, concurring with a reputation
_at that time_ for relaxed discipline, which finally determined me
in preferring W---- College[6] to all others. This college had the
capital disadvantage, in my eyes, that its chapel possessed no organ,
and no musical service. But any other choice would have driven me to
an instant call for more money--a measure which, as too flagrantly
in contradiction to the whole terms on which I had volunteered to
undertake an Oxford life, I could not find nerves to face.

   [6] It was Worcester College; and we shall use the full name,
   instead of the blank W., in the sequel.--M.

At Worcester College, therefore, I entered: and here arises the proper
occasion for stating the true costs of an Oxford education. First
comes the question of _lodging_. This item varies, as may be supposed;
but my own case will place on record the two extremes of cost in one
particular college, nowadays differing, I believe, from the general
standard. The first rooms assigned me, being small and ill-lighted,
as part of an old Gothic building, were charged at four guineas a
year. These I soon exchanged for others a little better, and for them
I paid six guineas. Finally, by privilege of seniority, I obtained a
handsome set of well-proportioned rooms, in a modern section of the
college, charged at ten guineas a year. This set was composed of three
rooms; namely, an airy bed-room, a study, and a spacious room for
receiving visitors. This range of accommodation is pretty general in
Oxford, and, upon the whole, may be taken perhaps as representing the
average amount of luxury in this respect, and at the average amount
of cost. The furniture and the fittings up of these rooms cost me
about twenty-five guineas; for the Oxford rule is, that if you take
the rooms (which is at your own option), in that case, you _third_ the
furniture and the embellishments--that is, you succeed to the total
cost diminished by one third. You pay, therefore, two guineas out of
each three to your _immediate_ predecessor. But, as he also may have
succeeded to the furniture upon the same terms, whenever there happens
to have been a rapid succession of occupants, the original cost to
a remote predecessor is sometimes brought down, by this process of
diminution, to a mere fraction of the true value; and yet no individual
occupant can complain of any heavy loss. Whilst upon this subject, I
may observe that, in the seventeenth century, in Milton's time, for
example (about 1624), and for more than sixty years after that era, the
practice of _chumship_ prevailed: every set of chambers was possessed
by two co-occupants; they had generally the same bed-room, and a common
study; and they were called _chums_. This practice, once all but
universal, is now entirely extinct; and the extinction serves to mark
the advance of the country, not so much in luxury as in refinement.

The next item which I shall notice is that which in college bills is
expressed by the word _Tutorage_. This is the same in all colleges,
I believe: viz., ten guineas per annum. And this head suggests an
explanation which is most important to the reputation of Oxford, and
fitted to clear up a very extensive delusion. Some years ago, a most
elaborate statement was circulated of the number and costly endowment
of the Oxford Professorships. Some thirty or more there were, it
was alleged, and five or six only which were not held as absolute
sinecures. Now, this is a charge which I am not here meaning to
discuss. Whether defensible or not, I do not now inquire. It is the
practical interpretation and construction of this charge which I here
wish to rectify. In most Universities, except those of England, the
Professors are the body on whom devolves the whole duty and burthen of
teaching; they compose the sole fountains of instruction; and if these
fountains fail, the fair inference is, that the one great purpose of
the institution is defeated. But this inference, valid for all other
places, is not so for Oxford and Cambridge. And here, again, the
difference arises out of the peculiar distribution of these bodies
into separate and independent colleges. Each college takes upon itself
the regular instruction of its separate inmates--of these and of no
others; and for this office it appoints, after careful selection,
trial, and probation, the best qualified amongst those of its senior
members who choose to undertake a trust of such heavy responsibility.
These officers are called Tutors; and they are connected by duties
and by accountability, not with the University at all, but with their
own private colleges. The Professors, on the other hand, are _public_
functionaries, not connected (as respects the exercise of their
duties) with any college whatsoever--not even with their own--but
altogether and exclusively with the whole University. Besides the
public tutors appointed in each college, on the scale of one to each
dozen or score of students, there are also tutors strictly private,
who attend any students in search of special and extraordinary aid,
on terms settled privately by themselves. Of these persons, or their
existence, the college takes no cognisance; but between the two classes
of tutors, the most studious young men--those who would be most likely
to avail themselves of the lectures read by the professors--have their
whole time pretty severely occupied: and the inference from all this
is, not only that the course of Oxford education would suffer little if
no Professors at all existed, but also that, if the existing Professors
were _ex abundanti_ to volunteer the most exemplary spirit of exertion,
however much this spectacle of conscientious dealing might edify the
University, it would contribute but little to the promotion of academic
purposes. The establishment of Professors is, in fact, a thing of
ornament and pomp. Elsewhere, they are the working servants; but, in
Oxford, the ministers corresponding to them bear another name,--they
are called _Tutors_. These are the working agents in the Oxford system;
and the Professors, with salaries in many cases merely nominal,
are persons sequestered, and properly sequestered, to the solitary
cultivation and advancement of knowledge which a different order of men
is appointed to communicate.

Here let us pause for one moment, to notice another peculiarity in
the Oxford system, upon the tendency of which I shall confidently
make my appeal to the good sense of all unprejudiced readers. I have
said that the _Tutors_ of Oxford correspond to the _Professors_ of
other Universities. But this correspondence, which is absolute and
unquestionable as regards the point then at issue,--viz., where we
are to look for that limb of the establishment on which rests the
main teaching agency,--is liable to considerable qualification,
when we examine the mode of their teaching. In both cases, this is
conveyed by what is termed "lecturing";--but what is the meaning
of a lecture in Oxford and elsewhere? Elsewhere, it means a solemn
dissertation, read, or sometimes histrionically declaimed, by the
Professor. In Oxford, it means an exercise performed orally by the
students, occasionally assisted by the tutor, and subject, in its
whole course, to his corrections, and what may be called his scholia,
or collateral suggestions and improvements. Now, differ as men may as
to other features of the Oxford, compared with the hostile system,
here I conceive that there is no room for doubt or demur. An Oxford
lecture imposes a real _bona fide_ task upon the student; it will not
suffer him to fall asleep, either literally or in the energies of his
understanding; it is a real drill, under the excitement, perhaps, of
personal competition, and under the review of a superior scholar. But,
in Germany, under the declamations of the Professor, the young men are
often literally sleeping; nor is it easy to see how the attention can
be kept from wandering, on this plan, which subjects the auditor to
no risk of sudden question or personal appeal. As to the prizes given
for essays, etc., by the Professors, these have the effect of drawing
forth latent talent, but they can yield no criterion of the attention
paid to the Professor; not to say that the competition for these prizes
is a matter of choice. Sometimes it is true that examinations take
place; but the Oxford lecture is a daily examination; and, waiving
_that_, what chance is there (I would ask) for searching examinations,
for examinations conducted with the requisite _auctoritas_ (or weight
of influence derived from personal qualities), if--which may Heaven
prevent!--the German tenure of Professorships were substituted for
our British one: that is, if for independent and liberal teachers
were substituted poor mercenary haberdashers of knowledge--cap in
hand to opulent students--servile to their caprices--and, at one
blow, degrading the science they profess, the teacher, and the pupil?
Yet I hear that such advice was given to a Royal Commission, sent to
investigate one or more of the Scottish Universities. In the German
Universities, every Professor holds his situation, not on his good
behaviour, but on the capricious pleasure of the young men who resort
to his market. He opens a shop, in fact: others, without limit,
generally men of no credit or known respectability, are allowed to
open rival shops; and the result is, sometimes, that the whole kennel
of scoundrel Professors ruin one another; each standing with his
mouth open, to leap at any bone thrown amongst them from the table of
the "Burschen"; all hating, fighting, calumniating each other, until
the land is sick of its base knowledge-mongers, and would vomit the
loathsome crew, were any natural channel open to their instincts of
abhorrence. The most important of the Scottish Professorships--those
which are fundamentally morticed to the moral institutions of the
land--are upon the footing of Oxford tutorships, as regards emoluments;
that is, they are not suffered to keep up a precarious mendicant
existence, upon the alms of the students, or upon their fickle
admirations. It is made imperative upon a candidate for admission into
the ministry of the Scottish Kirk, that he shall show a certificate of
attendance through a given number of seasons at given lectures.

The next item in the quarterly (or, technically, the _term_) bills of
Oxford is for servants. This, in my college, and, I believe, in all
others, amounted, nominally, to two guineas a year. That sum, however,
was paid to a principal servant, whom, perhaps, you seldom or never
saw; the actual attendance upon yourself being performed by one of
his deputies; and to this deputy--who is, in effect, a _factotum_,
combining in his single person all the functions of chamber-maid,
valet, waiter at meals, and porter or errand-boy--by the custom of the
place and your own sense of propriety, you cannot but give something
or other in the shape of perquisites. I was told, on entering, that
half a guinea a quarter was the customary allowance,--the same sum, in
fact, as was levied by the college for his principal; but I gave mine a
guinea a quarter, thinking that little enough for the many services he
performed; and others, who were richer than myself, I dare say, often
gave much more. Yet, sometimes, it struck me, from the gratitude which
his looks testified, on my punctual payment of this guinea,--for it
was the only bill with regard to which I troubled myself to practise
any severe punctuality,--that perhaps some thoughtless young man
might give him less, or might even forget to give anything; and, at
all events, I have reason to believe that half that sum would have
contented him. These minutiæ I record purposely; my immediate object
being to give a rigorous statement of the real expenses incident to
an English university education, partly as a guide to the calculations
of parents, and partly as an answer to the somewhat libellous
exaggerations which are current on this subject, in times like these,
when even the truth itself, and received in a spirit of candour the
most indulgent, may be all too little to defend these venerable seats
of learning from the ruin which seems brooding over them. Yet, no!
Abominable is the language of despair even in a desperate situation.
And, therefore, Oxford, ancient mother! and thou, Cambridge, twin-light
of England! be vigilant and erect, for the enemy stands at all your
gates! Two centuries almost have passed since the boar was within
your vineyards, laying waste and desolating your heritage. Yet that
storm was not final, nor that eclipse total. May this also prove but
a trial and a shadow of affliction! which affliction, may it prove to
you, mighty incorporations, what, sometimes, it is to us, poor, frail
_homunculi_--a process of purification, a solemn and oracular warning!
And, when that cloud is overpast, then, rise, ancient powers, wiser and
better--ready, like the [Greek: lampadêphoroi] of old, to enter upon
a second _stadium_, and to transmit the sacred torch through a second
period of twice[7] five hundred years. So prays a loyal _alumnus_,
whose presumption, if any be, in taking upon himself a monitory tone,
is privileged by zeal and filial anxiety.

   [7] Oxford may confessedly claim a duration of that extent; and
   the pretensions of Cambridge, in that respect, if less aspiring,
   are, however, as I believe, less accurately determined.

To return, however, into the track from which I have digressed. The
reader will understand that any student is at liberty to have private
servants of his own, as many and of what denomination he pleases.
This point, as many others of a merely personal bearing, when they
happen to stand in no relation to public discipline, neither the
University nor the particular college of the student feels summoned
or even authorized to deal with. Neither, in fact, does any other
University in Europe; and why, then, notice the case? Simply thus: if
the Oxford discipline, in this particular chapter, has nothing special
or peculiar about it, yet the case to which it applies _has_, and
is almost exclusively found in our Universities. On the Continent
it happens most rarely that a student has any funds disposable for
luxuries so eminently such as grooms or footmen; but at Oxford and
Cambridge the case occurs often enough to attract notice from the
least vigilant eye. And thus we find set down to the credit account of
other Universities the non-existence of luxury in this or other modes,
whilst, meantime, it is well known to the fair inquirer that each or
all are indulgences not at all or so much as in idea proscribed by
the sumptuary edicts of those Universities, but, simply, by the lower
scale of their general revenues. And this lower scale, it will be
said--how do you account for that? I answer, not so much by the general
inferiority of Continental Europe to Great Britain in _diffusive_
wealth (though that argument goes for something, it being notorious
that, whilst immoderate wealth, concentrated in a small number of
hands, exists in various continental states upon a larger scale than
with us, moderately large estates, on the other hand, are, with them,
as one to two hundred, or even two hundred and fifty, in comparison
with ours), but chiefly upon this fact, which is too much overlooked,
that the foreign Universities are not peopled from the wealthiest
classes, which are the classes either already noble, or wishing to
become such. And why is that? Purely from the vicious constitution of
society on the Continent, where all the fountains of honour lie in
the military profession or in the diplomatic. We English, haters and
revilers of ourselves beyond all precedent, disparagers of our own
eminent advantages beyond all sufferance of honour or good sense, and
daily playing into the hands of foreign enemies, who hate us out of
mere envy or shame, have amongst us some hundreds of writers who will
die or suffer martyrdom upon this proposition--that aristocracy, and
the spirit and prejudices of aristocracy, are more operative (more
effectually and more extensively operative) amongst ourselves than in
any other known society of men. Now, I, who believe all errors to arise
in some narrow, partial, or angular view of truth, am seldom disposed
to meet any sincere affirmation by a blank, unmodified denial. Knowing,
therefore, that some acute observers do really believe this doctrine as
to the aristocratic forces, and the way in which they mould English
society, I cannot but suppose that some symptoms do really exist of
such a phenomenon; and the only remark I shall here make on the case
is this, that, very often, where any force or influence reposes upon
deep realities, and upon undisturbed foundations, _there_ will be the
least heard of loquacious and noisy expressions of its power; which
expressions arise most, not where the current is most violent, but
where (being possibly the weakest) it is most fretted with resistance.

In England, the very reason why the aristocratic feeling makes
itself so sensibly felt and so distinctly an object of notice to the
censorious observer is, because it maintains a troubled existence
amongst counter and adverse influences, so many and so potent. This
might be illustrated abundantly. But, as respects the particular
question before me, it will be sufficient to say this: With us the
profession and exercise of knowledge, as a means of livelihood, is
honourable; on the Continent it is not so. The knowledge, for instance,
which is embodied in the three learned professions, does, with us, lead
to distinction and civil importance; no man can pretend to deny this;
nor, by consequence, that the Professors personally take rank with the
highest order of gentlemen. Are they not, I demand, everywhere with us
on the same footing, in point of rank and consideration, as those who
bear the king's commission in the army and navy? Can this be affirmed
of the Continent, either generally, or, indeed, partially? I say,
_no_. Let us take Germany as an illustration. Many towns (for anything
I know, all) present us with a regular bisection of the resident
_notables_, or wealthier class, into two distinct (often hostile)
coteries: one being composed of those who are "_noble_"; the other,
of families equally well educated and accomplished, but _not_, in the
continental sense, "noble." The meaning and value of the word is so
entirely misapprehended by the best English writers,--being, in fact,
derived from our own way of applying it,--that it becomes important to
ascertain its true value. A "nobility" which is numerous enough to fill
a separate ball-room in every sixth-rate town, it needs no argument to
show, cannot be a nobility in any English sense. In fact, an _edelmann_
or nobleman, in the German sense, is strictly what we mean by a _born
gentleman_; with this one only difference, that, whereas, with us, the
rank which denominates a man such passes off by shades so insensible,
and almost infinite, into the ranks below, that it becomes impossible
to assign it any strict demarkation or lines of separation, on the
contrary, the Continental noble points to certain fixed barriers, in
the shape of privileges, which divide him, _per saltum_, from those who
are below his own order. But, were it not for this one legal benefit
of accurate circumscription and slight favour, the Continental noble,
whether Baron of Germany, Count of France, or Prince of Sicily and
of Russia, is simply on a level with the common landed _esquire_ of
Britain, and _not_ on a level in very numerous cases. Such being the
case, how paramount must be the spirit of aristocracy in Continental
society! Our _haute noblesse_--our genuine nobility, who are such
in the general feeling of their compatriots--will do _that_ which
the phantom of nobility of the Continent will not: the spurious
nobles of Germany will not mix, on equal terms, with their untitled
fellow-citizens living in the same city and in the same style as
themselves; they will not meet them in the same ball or concert-room.
Our great territorial nobility, though sometimes forming exclusive
circles (but not, however, upon any principle of high birth), do
so daily. They mix as equal partakers in the same amusements of
races, balls, musical assemblies, with the baronets (or _élite_ of
the gentry); with the landed esquires (or middle gentry); with the
superior order of tradesmen (who, in Germany, are absolute ciphers, for
political weight, or social consideration, but, with us, constitute
the lower and broader stratum of the _nobilitas_,[8] or gentry). The
obscure baronage of Germany, it is undeniable, insist upon having
"an atmosphere of their own"; whilst the Howards, the Stanleys, the
Talbots, of England, the Hamiltons, the Douglases, the Gordons, of
Scotland, are content to acknowledge a sympathy with the liberal part
of their untitled countrymen, in that point which most searchingly
tries the principle of aristocratic pride, viz., in their pleasures.
To have the same pursuits of business with another may be a result of
accident or position; to have the same pleasures, being a matter of
choice, argues a community of nature in the _moral_ sensibilities, in
that part of our constitution which differences one man from another in
the capacities of greatness and elevation.

   [8] It may be necessary to inform some readers that the word
   _noble_, by which so large a system of imposition and fraud, as to
   the composition of foreign society, has long been practised upon
   the credulity of the British, corresponds to our word
   _gentlemanly_ (or, rather, to the vulgar word _genteel_, if that
   word were ever used legally, or _extra gradum_), not merely upon
   the argument of its _virtual_ and operative value in the general
   estimate of men (that is, upon the argument that a count, baron,
   &c., does not, _qua_ such, command any deeper feeling of respect
   or homage than a British  esquire), but also upon the fact, that,
   originally, in all English registers, as, for instance, in the
   Oxford matriculation registers, all the upper gentry (knights,
   esquires, &c.) are technically designated by the word
   _nobiles_.--_See Chamberlayne, &c._

As with their amusements, so with their graver employments; the same
mutual repulsion continues to divide the two orders through life.
The nobles either live in gloomy seclusion upon their private funds,
wherever the privilege of primogeniture has enabled them to do so;
or, having no funds at all (the case of ninety-nine in one hundred),
they go into the army; that profession, the profession of arms, being
regarded as the only one compatible with an _edelmann's_ pretensions.
Such was once the feeling in England; such is still the feeling on the
Continent. It is a prejudice naturally clinging to a semi-barbarous
(because growing out of a barbarous) state, and, in its degree,
clinging to every stage of imperfect civilization; and, were there no
other argument, this would be a sufficient one, that England, under
free institutions, has outrun the Continent, in real civilization, by a
century; a fact which is concealed by the forms of luxurious refinement
in a few exclusive classes, too often usurping the name and honours of
radical civilization.

From the super-appreciation of the military profession arises a
corresponding contempt of all other professions whatsoever _paid by
fellow-citizens_, and not by the King or the State. The clerical
profession is in the most abject degradation throughout Southern
Germany; and the reason why this forces itself less imperiously upon
the public notice is, that, in rural situations, from the absence of a
resident gentry (speaking generally), the pastor is brought into rare
collision with those who style themselves _noble_; whilst, in towns,
the clergy find people enough to countenance those who, being in the
same circumstances as to comfort and liberal education, are also
under the same ban of rejection from the "nobility," or born gentry.
The legal profession is equally degraded; even a barrister or advocate
holds a place in the public esteem little differing from that of an
Old Bailey attorney of the worst class. And this result is the less
liable to modification from personal qualities, inasmuch as there is no
great theatre (as with us) for individual display. Forensic eloquence
is unknown in Germany, as it is too generally on the Continent, from
the defect of all popular or open judicatures. A similar defect of
deliberative assemblies--such, at least, as represent any popular
influences and debate with open doors--intercepts the very possibility
of senatorial eloquence.[9] That of the pulpit only remains. But even
of this--whether it be from want of the excitement and contagious
emulation from the other fields of oratory, or from the peculiar genius
of Lutheranism--no models have yet arisen that could, for one moment,
sustain a comparison with those of England or France. The highest names
in this department would not, to a foreign ear, carry with them any
of that significance or promise which surrounds the names of Jeremy
Taylor or Barrow, Bossuet or Bourdaloue, to those even who have no
personal acquaintance with their works. This absence of all fields for
gathering public distinctions co-operates, in a very powerful way,
with the contempt of the born gentry, to degrade these professions;
and this double agency is, a third time, reinforced by those political
arrangements which deny every form of state honour or conspicuous
promotion to the very highest description of excellence, whether of
the bar, the pulpit, or the civic council. Not "the fluent Murray,"
or the accomplished Erskine, from the English bar--not Pericles or
Demosthenes, from the fierce democracies of Greece--not Paul preaching
at Athens--could snatch a wreath from public homage, nor a distinction
from the state, nor found an influence, nor leave behind them an
operative model, in Germany, as now constituted. Other walks of
emolument are still more despised. Alfieri, a Continental "noble," that
is, a born gentleman, speaks of bankers as we in England should of a
Jewish usurer, or tricking money-changer. The liberal trades, such as
those which minister to literature or the fine arts, which, with us,
confer the station of gentleman upon those who exercise them, are, in
the estimate of a Continental "noble," fitted to assign a certain rank
or place in the train and equipage of a gentleman, but not to entitle
their most eminent professors to sit down, except by sufferance, in
his presence. And, upon this point, let not the reader derive his
notions from the German books: the vast majority of German authors are
not "noble"; and, of those who are, nine tenths are liberal in this
respect, and speak the language of liberality, not by sympathy with
their own order, or as representing _their_ feelings, but in virtue of
democratic or revolutionary politics.

   [9] The subject is amusingly illustrated by an anecdote of Goethe,
   recorded by himself in his autobiography. Some physiognomist, or
   phrenologist, had found out, in Goethe's structure of head, the
   sure promise of a great orator. "Strange infatuation of nature!"
   observes Goethe, on this assurance, "to endow me so richly and
   liberally for that particular destination which only the
   institutions of my country render impossible. Music for the deaf!
   Eloquence without an audience!"

Such as the rank is, and the public estimation of the leading
professions, such is the natural condition of the Universities which
rear them. The "nobles" going generally into the army, or leading lives
of indolence, the majority by far of those who resort to Universities
do so as a means of future livelihood. Few seek an academic life in
Germany who have either money to throw away on superfluities and
external show, or who have such a rank to support as might stimulate
their pride to expenses beyond their means. Parsimony is, therefore, in
these places, the governing law; and pleasure, not less fervently wooed
than at Oxford or at Cambridge, putting off her robes of elegance and
ceremony, descends to grossness, and not seldom to abject brutality.

The sum of my argument is--that, because, in comparison of the army, no
other civil profession is, in itself, held of sufficient dignity, and
not less, perhaps, because, under governments essentially unpopular,
none of these professions has been so dignified artificially by the
state, or so attached to any ulterior promotion, either through the
state or in the state, as to meet the demands of aristocratic pride,
none of them is cultivated as a means of distinction, but originally
as a means of livelihood; that the Universities, as the nurseries of
these unhonoured professions, share naturally in _their_ degradation,
and that, from this double depreciation of the place and its final
objects, few or none resort thither who can be supposed to bring
any extra funds for supporting a system of luxury; that the general
temperance, or sobriety of demeanour, is far enough, however, from
keeping pace with the absence of costly show; and that, for this
absence even, we are to thank their poverty rather than their will.
It is to the great honour, in my opinion, of our own country, that
those often resort to her fountains who have no motive but that of
disinterested reverence for knowledge; seeking, as all men perceive,
neither emolument directly from University funds, nor knowledge as the
means of emolument. Doubtless, it is neither dishonourable, nor, on
a large scale, possible to be otherwise, that students should pursue
their academic career chiefly as ministerial to their capital object of
a future livelihood. But still I contend that it is for the interest
of science and good letters that a considerable body of volunteers
should gather about their banners without pay or hopes of preferment.
This takes place on a larger scale at Oxford and Cambridge than
elsewhere; and it is but a trivial concession in return, on the part
of the University, that she should allow, even if she had the right
to withhold, the privilege of living within her walls as they would
have lived at their fathers' seats; with one only reserve, applied to
all modes of expense that are, in themselves, immoral excesses, or
occasions of scandal, or of a nature to interfere too much with the
natural hours of study, or specially fitted to tempt others of narrower
means to ruinous emulation.

Upon these principles, as it seems to me, the discipline of the
University is founded. The keeping of hunters, for example, is
unstatutable. Yet, on the other hand, it is felt to be inevitable that
young men of high spirit, familiar with this amusement, will find
means to pursue it in defiance of all the powers, however exerted,
that can properly be lodged in the hands of academic officers. The
range of the proctor's jurisdiction is limited by positive law; and
what should hinder a young man, bent upon his pleasure, from fixing
the station of his hunter a few miles out of Oxford, and riding to
cover on a hack, unamenable to any censure? For, surely, in this age,
no man could propose so absurd a thing as a general interdiction of
riding. How, in fact, does the University proceed? She discountenances
the practice; and, if forced upon her notice, she visits it with
censure, and that sort of punishment which lies within her means. But
she takes no pains to search out a trespass, which, by the mere act
of seeking to evade public display in the streets of the University,
already tends to limit itself; and which, besides, from its costliness,
can never become a prominent nuisance. This I mention as illustrating
the spirit of her legislation; and, even in this case, the reader
must carry along with him the peculiar distinction which I have
pressed with regard to English Universities, in the existence of a
large volunteer order of students seeking only the liberalization,
and not the profits, of academic life. In arguing upon their case,
it is not the fair logic to say, These pursuits taint the decorum of
the studious character; it is not fair to calculate how much is lost
to the man of letters by such addiction to fox-hunting, but, on the
contrary, what is gained to the fox-hunter, who would, at any rate, be
such, by so considerable a homage paid to letters, and so inevitable
a commerce with men of learning. Anything whatsoever attained in this
direction is probably so much more than would have been attained under
a system of less toleration. _Lucro ponamus_, we say, of the very least
success in such a case. But, in speaking of toleration as applied to
acts or habits positively against the statutes, I limit my meaning
to those which, in their own nature, are morally indifferent, and
are discountenanced simply as indirectly injurious, or as peculiarly
open to excess. Because, on graver offences (as gambling, &c.), the
malicious impeachers of Oxford must well have known that no toleration
whatsoever is practised or thought of. Once brought under the eye of
the University in a clear case and on clear evidence, it would be
punished in the most exemplary way open to a limited authority; by
_rustication_, at least--that is, banishment for a certain number
of terms, and consequent loss of these terms--supposing the utmost
palliation of circumstances; and, in an aggravated case, or on a second
offence, most certainly by final expulsion. But it is no part of duty
to serve the cause even of good morals by impure means; and it is as
difficult beforehand to prevent the existence of vicious practices so
long as men have, and ought to have, the means of seclusion liable to
no violation, as it is afterwards difficult, without breach of honour,
to obtain proof of their existence. Gambling has been known to exist
in some dissenting institutions; and, in my opinion, with no blame to
the presiding authorities. As to Oxford in particular, no such habit
was generally prevalent in my time; it is not an English vice; nor did
I ever hear of any great losses sustained in this way. But, were it
otherwise, I must hold, that, considering the numbers, rank, and great
opulence, of the students, such a habit would impeach the spirit and
temper of the age rather than the vigilance or magisterial fidelity
of the Oxford authorities. They are limited, like other magistrates,
by honour and circumstances, in a thousand ways; and if a knot of
students will choose to meet for purposes of gaming, they must always
have it in their power to baffle every honourable or becoming attempt
at detecting them. But upon this subject I shall make two statements,
which may have some effect in moderating the uncharitable judgments
upon Oxford discipline. The first respects the age of those who are
the objects of this discipline; on which point a very grave error
prevails. In the last Parliament, not once, but many times over, Lord
Brougham and others assumed that the students of Oxford were chiefly
_boys_; and this, not idly or casually, but pointedly, and with a
view to an ulterior argument; for instance, by way of proving how
little they were entitled to judge of those thirty-nine articles to
which their assent was demanded. Now, this argued a very extraordinary
ignorance; and the origin of the error showed the levity in which their
legislation was conducted. These noble lords had drawn their ideas of
a University exclusively from Glasgow. Here, it is well known, and I
mention it neither for praise nor blame, that students are in the habit
of coming at the early age of fourteen. These may allowably be styled
_boys_. But, with regard to Oxford, eighteen is about the _earliest_
age at which young men begin their residence: twenty and upwards is,
therefore, the age of the majority; that is, twenty is the _minimum_
of age for the vast majority, as there must always be more men of
three years' standing than of two or of one. Apply this fact to the
question of discipline: young men beyond twenty, generally,--that
is to say, of the age which qualifies men for seats in the national
council,--can hardly, with decency, either be called or treated as
boys; and many things become impossible as applied to _them_, which
might be of easy imposition upon an assemblage _really_ childish. In
mere justice, therefore, when speculating upon this whole subject of
Oxford discipline, the reader must carry along with him, at every
step, the recollection of that signal difference as to age which I
have now stated between Oxonians and those students whom the hostile
party contemplate in their arguments.[10] Meantime, to show that,
even under every obstacle presented by this difference of age, the
Oxford authorities do, nevertheless, administer their discipline with
fidelity, with intrepidity, and with indifference as respects the high
and the low, I shall select from a crowd of similar recollections two
anecdotes, which are but trifles in themselves, and yet are not such to
him who recognizes them as expressions of a uniform system of dealing.

   [10] Whilst I am writing, a debate of the present Parliament,
   reported on Saturday, March 7, 1835, presents us with a
   determinate repetition of the error which I have been exposing;
   and, again, as in the last Parliament, this error is not _inert_,
   but is used for a hostile (apparently a malicious) purpose; nay,
   which is remarkable, it is the _sole_ basis upon which the
   following argument reposes. Lord Radnor again assumes that the
   students of Oxford are "boys"; he is again supported in this
   misrepresentation by Lord Brougham; and again the
   misrepresentation is applied to a purpose of assault upon the
   English Universities, but especially upon Oxford. And the nature
   of the assault does not allow any latitude in construing the word
   _boys_, nor any room for evasion as respects the total charge,
   except what goes the length of a total retraction. The charge is,
   that, in a requisition made at the very threshold of academic
   life, upon the understanding and the honour of the students, the
   University burdens their consciences to an extent which, in after
   life, when reflection has enlightened them to the meaning of their
   engagements, proves either a snare to those who trifle with their
   engagements, or an insupportable burden to those who do not. For
   the inculpation of the party imposing such oaths, it is essential
   that the party taking them should be in a childish condition of
   the moral sense, and the sense of responsibility; whereas, amongst
   the Oxonian _under_-graduates, I will venture to say that the
   number is larger of those who rise above than of those who fall
   below twenty; and, as to sixteen (assumed as the representative
   age by Lord Radnor), in my time, I heard of only one student,
   amongst, perhaps, sixteen hundred, who was so young. I grieve to
   see that the learned prelate who replied to the assailants was so
   much taken by surprise; the defence might have been made
   triumphant. With regard to oaths incompatible with the spirit of
   modern manners, and yet formally unrepealed--_that_ is a case of
   neglect and indolent oversight. But the _gravamen_ of that
   reproach does not press exclusively upon Oxford; all the ancient
   institutions of Europe are tainted in the same way, more
   especially the monastic orders of the Romish church.

A great Whig Lord (Earl C----) happened (it may be ten years ago) to
present himself one day at Trinity (the leading college of Cambridge),
for the purpose of introducing Lord F----ch, his son, as a future
member of that splendid society. Possibly it mortified his aristocratic
feelings to hear the head of the college, even whilst welcoming the
young nobleman in courteous terms, yet suggesting, with some solemnity,
that, before taking any final resolution in the matter, his lordship
would do well to consider whether he were fully prepared to submit
himself to college discipline; for that, otherwise, it became his
own duty frankly to declare that the college would not look upon his
accession to their society as any advantage. This language arose out
of some recent experience of refractory and turbulent conduct upon
the part of various young men of rank; but it is very possible that
the noble Earl, in his surprise at a salutation so uncourtly, might
regard it, in a Tory mouth, as having some lurking reference to his
own Whig politics. If so, he must have been still more surprised to
hear of another case, which would meet him before he left Cambridge,
and which involved some frank dealing as well as frank speaking, when
a privilege of exception might have been presumed, if Tory politics,
or services the most memorable, could ever create such a privilege.
The Duke of W---- had two sons at Oxford. The affair is now long past;
and it cannot injure either of them to say, that one of the brothers
trespassed against the college discipline, in some way which compelled
(or was thought to compel) the presiding authorities into a solemn
notice of his conduct. Expulsion appeared to be the appropriate penalty
of his offences: but, at this point, a just hesitation arose. Not in
any servile spirit, but under a proper feeling of consideration for
so eminent a public benefactor as this young nobleman's father. The
rulers paused--and at length signified to him that he was at liberty
to withdraw himself privately from the college, but also, and at the
same time, from the University. He did so, and his brother, conceiving
him to have been harshly treated, withdrew also; and both transferred
themselves to Cambridge. That could not be prevented: but there they
were received with marked reserve. One was _not_ received, I believe,
in a technical sense; and the other was received conditionally; and
such restrictions were imposed upon his future conduct as served most
amply, and in a case of great notoriety, to vindicate the claims of
discipline, and, in an extreme case, a case so eminently an extreme one
that none like it is ever likely to recur, to proclaim the footing upon
which the very highest rank is received at the English Universities.
Is that footing peculiar _to them_? I willingly believe that it is
not; and, with respect to Edinburgh and Glasgow, I am persuaded that
their weight of dignity is quite sufficient, and would be exerted to
secure the same subordination from men of rank, if circumstances should
ever bring as large a number of that class within their gates, and if
their discipline were equally applicable to the habits of students not
domiciled within their walls. But, as to the smaller institutions for
education within the pale of dissent, I feel warranted in asserting,
from the spirit of the anecdotes which have reached me, that they have
not the _auctoritas_ requisite for adequately maintaining their dignity.

So much for the aristocracy of our English Universities: their glory
is, and the happiest application of their vast influence, that they
have the power to be republican, as respects their internal condition.
Literature, by substituting a different standard of rank, tends to
republican equality; and, as one instance of this, properly belonging
to the chapter of _servants_, which originally led to this discussion,
it ought to be known that the class of "servitors," once a large
body in Oxford, have gradually become practically extinct under the
growing liberality of the age. They carried in their academic dress a
mark of their inferiority; they waited at dinner on those of higher
rank, and performed other menial services, humiliating to themselves,
and latterly felt as no less humiliating to the general name and
interests of learning. The better taste, or rather the relaxing
pressure of aristocratic prejudice, arising from the vast diffusion
of trade and the higher branches of mechanic art, have gradually
caused these functions of the order (even where the law would not
permit the extinction of the order) to become obsolete. In my time,
I was acquainted with two servitors: but one of them was rapidly
pushed forward into a higher station; and the other complained of no
degradation, beyond the grievous one of exposing himself to the notice
of young women in the streets with an untasselled cap; but this he
contrived to evade, by generally going abroad without his academic
dress. The _servitors_ of Oxford are the _sizars_ of Cambridge; and I
believe the same changes[11] have taken place in both.

   [11] These changes have been accomplished, according to my
   imperfect knowledge of the case, in two ways: first, by dispensing
   with the services whenever that could be done; and, secondly, by a
   wise discontinuance of the order itself in those colleges which
   were left to their own choice in this matter.

One only account with the college remains to be noticed; but this is
the main one. It is expressed in the bills by the word _battels_,
derived from the old monkish word _patella_ (or batella), a plate;
and it comprehends whatsoever is furnished for dinner and for supper,
including malt liquor, but not wine, as well as the materials for
breakfast, or for any casual refreshment to country visitors, excepting
only groceries. These, together with coals and faggots, candles,
wine, fruit, and other more trifling _extras_, which are matters of
personal choice, form so many private accounts against your name, and
are usually furnished by tradesmen living near to the college, and
sending their servants daily to receive orders. Supper, as a meal
not universally taken, in many colleges is served privately in the
student's own room; though some colleges still retain the ancient
custom of a public supper. But dinner is, in all colleges, a public
meal, taken in the refectory or "hall" of the society; which, with the
chapel and library, compose the essential public _suite_ belonging to
every college alike. No absence is allowed, except to the sick, or to
those who have formally applied for permission to give a dinner-party.
A fine is imposed on all other cases of absence. Wine is not generally
allowed in the public hall, except to the "high table," that is,
the table at which the fellows and some other privileged persons are
entitled to dine. The head of the college rarely dines in public.
The other tables, and, after dinner, the high table, usually adjourn
to their wine, either upon invitations to private parties, or to
what are called the "common rooms" of the several orders--graduates
and undergraduates, &c. The dinners are always plain, and without
pretensions--those, I mean, in the public hall; indeed, nothing _can_
be plainer in most colleges--a simple choice between two or three sorts
of animal food, and the common vegetables. No fish, even as a regular
part of the fare; no soups, no game; nor, except on some very rare
festivity, did I ever see a variation from this plain fare at Oxford.
This, indeed, is proved sufficiently by the average amount of the
_battels_. Many men "battel" at the rate of a guinea a week: I did so
for years: that is, at the rate of three shillings a day for everything
connected with meals, excepting only tea, sugar, milk, and wine. It is
true that wealthier men, more expensive men, and more careless men,
often "battelled" much higher; but, if they persisted in this excess,
they incurred censures, more and more urgent, from the head of the

Now, let us sum up; promising that the extreme duration of residence
in any college at Oxford amounts to something under thirty weeks. It
is possible to keep "short terms," as the phrase is, by a residence of
thirteen weeks, or ninety-one days; but, as this abridged residence is
not allowed, except in here and there a college, I shall assume--as
something beyond the strict _maximum_ of residence--thirty weeks as my
basis. The account will then stand thus:

   1. Rooms                                                £10 10  0
   2. Tutorage                                              10 10  0
   3. Servants (subject to the explanations made above),
      say                                                    5  5  0
   4. Battels (allowing one shilling a day beyond what
      I and others spent in much dearer times; that
      is, allowing twenty-eight shillings weekly), for
      thirty weeks                                          40  4  0
                                                           £66  9  0

This will be a liberal calculation for the college bill. What remains?
1. Candles, which the reader will best calculate upon the standard
of his own general usage in this particular. 2. Coals, which are
remarkably dear at Oxford--dearer, perhaps, than anywhere else in
the island; say, three times as dear as at Edinburgh. 3. Groceries.
4. Wine. 5. Washing. This last article was, in my time, regulated by
the college, as there were certain privileged washerwomen, between
whom and the students it was but fair that some proper authority
should interfere to prevent extortion, in return for the monopoly
granted. Six guineas was the regulated sum; but this paid for
everything,--table-linen, &c., as well as for wearing apparel; and
it was understood to cover the whole twenty-eight or thirty weeks.
However, it was open to every man to make his own arrangements,
by insisting on a separate charge for each separate article. All
other expenses of a merely personal nature, such as postage, public
amusements, books, clothes, &c., as they have no special connection
with Oxford, but would, probably, be balanced by corresponding, if
not the very same, expenses in any other place or situation, I do not
calculate. What I have specified are the expenses which would accrue
to a student in consequence of leaving his father's house. The rest
would, in these days, be the same, perhaps, everywhere. How much, then,
shall we assume as the total charge on account of Oxford? Candles,
considering the quantity of long days amongst the thirty weeks, may
be had for one shilling and sixpence a week; for few students--unless
they have lived in India, after which a physical change occurs in the
sensibility of the nostrils--are finical enough to burn wax-lights.
This will amount to two pounds five shillings. Coals, say sixpence a
day; for three-pence a day will amply feed one grate in Edinburgh; and
there are many weeks in the thirty which will demand no fire at all.
Groceries and wine, which are all that remain, I cannot calculate. But
suppose we allow for the first a shilling a day, which will be exactly
ten guineas for thirty weeks; and for the second, nothing at all. Then
the extras, in addition to the college bills, will stand thus:

   Washing for thirty weeks, at the privileged rate  £6  6  0
   Candles                                            2  5  0
   Fire                                               5  5  0
   Groceries                                         10 10  0
                                                    £24  6  0

The college bills, therefore, will be £66: 9s.; the extras, not
furnished by the college, will be about £24: 6s.,--making a total
amount of £90: 15s. And for this sum, annually, a man may defray
_every_ expense incident to an Oxford life, through a period of weeks
(viz., thirty) something more than he will be permitted to reside. It
is true, that, for the _first_ year, there will be, in addition to
this, his outfit: and for _every_ year there will be his journeys.
There will also be twenty-two weeks uncovered by this estimate; but for
these it is not my business to provide, who deal only with Oxford.

That this estimate is true, I know too feelingly. Would that it were
_not_! would that it were false! Were it so, I might the better justify
to myself that commerce with fraudulent Jews which led me so early
to commence the dilapidation of my small fortune. It _is_ true; and
true for a period (1804-8) far dearer than this. And to any man who
questions its accuracy I address this particular request--that he will
lay his hand upon the special item which he disputes. I anticipate that
he will answer thus: "I dispute none: it is not by positive things
that your estimate errs, but by negations. It is the absence of all
allowance for indispensable items that vitiates the calculation." Very
well: but to this, as to other things, we may apply the words of Dr.
Johnson--"Sir, the reason I drink no wine, is because I can practise
abstinence, but not temperance." Yes: in all things, abstinence is
easier than temperance; for a little enjoyment has invariably the
effect of awaking the sense of enjoyment, irritating it, and setting
it on edge. I, therefore, recollecting my own case, have allowed for
_no_ wine-parties. Let our friend, the abstraction we are speaking
of, give breakfast-parties, if he chooses to give any; and certainly
to give none at all, unless he were dedicated to study, would seem
very churlish. Nobody can be less a friend than myself to monkish and
ascetic seclusion, unless it were for twenty-three hours out of the

But, however this be settled, let no mistake be made; nor let that be
charged against the system which is due to the habits of individuals.
Early in the last century, Dr. Newton, the head of a college in Oxford,
wrote a large book against the Oxford system, as ruinously expensive.
But then, as now, the real expense was due to no cause over which the
colleges could exercise any effectual control. It is due exclusively to
the habits of social intercourse amongst the young men; from which _he_
may abstain who chooses. But, for any academic authorities to interfere
by sumptuary laws with the private expenditure of grown men, many of
them, in a legal sense, _of age_, and all near it, must appear romantic
and extravagant, for this (or, indeed, any) stage of society. A tutor
being required, about 1810, to fix the amount of allowance for a young
man of small fortune, nearly related to myself, pronounced three
hundred and twenty pounds little enough. He had this allowance, and was
ruined in consequence of the credit which it procured for him, and the
society it connected him with. The majority have two hundred pounds a
year: but my estimate stands good, for all that.

Having stated, generally, the expenses of the Oxford system, I am
bound, in candour, to mention one variety in the mode of carrying
this system into effect, open to every man's adoption, which confers
certain privileges, but, at the same time (by what exact mode, I know
not), considerably increases the cost, and in that degree disturbs
my calculation. The great body of undergraduates, or students, are
divided into two classes--_Commoners_, and _Gentlemen Commoners_.
Perhaps nineteen out of twenty belong to the former class; and it is
for that class, as having been my own, that I have made my estimate.
The other class of _Gentlemen Commoners_ (who, at Cambridge, bear
the name of _Fellow Commoners_) wear a peculiar dress, and have some
privileges which naturally imply some corresponding increase of cost;
but why this increase should go to the extent of doubling the total
expense, as it is generally thought to do, or how it _can_ go to
that extent, I am unable to explain. The differences which attach
to the rank of "Gentlemen Commoners" are these: At his entrance he
pays double "caution money"; that is, whilst Commoners in general
pay about twenty-five guineas, he pays fifty; but this can occur
only once; and, besides, in strict point of right, this sum is only
a deposit, and is liable to be withdrawn on leaving the University,
though it is commonly enough finally presented to the college in the
shape of plate. The next difference is, that, by comparison with the
Commoner, he wears a much more costly dress. The Commoner's gown is
made of what is called _prince's stuff_, and, together with the cap,
costs about five guineas. But the Gentleman Commoner has two gowns--an
undress for the morning, and a full dress-gown for the evening; both
are made of silk, and the latter is very elaborately ornamented. The
cap also is more costly, being covered with velvet instead of cloth.
At Cambridge, again, the tassel is made of gold fringe or bullion,
which, in Oxford, is peculiar to the caps of noblemen; and there
are many other varieties in that University, where the dress for
"pensioners" (that is, the Oxford "Commoners") is specially varied in
almost every college; the object being, perhaps, to give a ready means
to the academic officers for ascertaining, at a glance, not merely the
general fact that such or such a delinquent is a gownsman (which is all
that can be ascertained at Oxford), but also the particular college
to which he belongs. Allowance being made for these two items of
"dress" and "caution-money," both of which apply only to the original
outfit, I know of no others in which the expenditure of a Gentleman
Commoner ought to exceed, or could with propriety exceed, that of a
Commoner. He has, indeed, a privilege as regards the choice of rooms;
he chooses first, and probably chooses those rooms which, being best,
are dearest; that is, they are on a level with the best; but usually
there are many sets almost equally good; and of these the majority
will be occupied by Commoners. So far, there is little opening for
a difference. More often, again, it will happen that a man of this
aristocratic class keeps a private servant; yet this happens also to
Commoners, and is, besides, no properly college expense. Tutorage is
charged double to a Gentleman Commoner--namely, twenty guineas a year:
this is done upon a fiction (as it sometimes turns out) of separate
attention, or aid given in a private way to his scholastic pursuits.
Finally, there arises naturally another and peculiar source of expense
to the "Gentleman Commoner," from a fact implied in his Cambridge
designation of "_Fellow_ Commoner," _commensalis_--viz., that he
associates at meals with the "fellows" and other authorities of the
college. Yet this again expresses rather the particular shape which
his expenditure assumes than any absolute increase in its amount. He
subscribes to a regular mess, and pays, therefore, whether present or
not; but so, in a partial sense, does the Commoner, by his forfeits
for "absent commons." He subscribes also to a regular fund for wine;
and, therefore, he does not enjoy that immunity from wine-drinking
which is open to the Commoner. Yet, again, as the Commoner does but
rarely avail himself of this immunity, as he drinks no less wine than
the Gentleman Commoner, and, generally speaking, wine not worse in
quality, it is difficult to see any ground for a regular assumption
of higher expenditure in the one class than the other. However, the
universal impression favours that assumption. All people believe that
the rank of Gentleman Commoner imposes an expensive burden, though
few people ever ask why. As a matter of fact, I believe it to be true
that Gentlemen Commoners spend more by a third, or a half, than any
equal number of Commoners, taken without selection. And the reason is
obvious: those who become Gentlemen Commoners are usually determined
to that course by the accident of having very large funds; they are
eldest sons, or only sons, or men already in possession of estates, or
else (which is as common a case as all the rest put together) they are
the heirs of newly-acquired wealth--sons of the _nouveaux riches_--a
class which often requires a generation or two to rub off the insolence
of a too conscious superiority. I have called them an "aristocratic"
class; but, in strictness, they are not such; they form a privileged
class, indeed, but their privileges are few and trifling, not to add
that these very privileges are connected with one or two burdens, more
than outweighing them in the estimate of many; and, upon the whole, the
chief distinction they enjoy is that of advertising themselves to the
public as men of great wealth, or great expectations, and, therefore,
as subjects peculiarly adapted to fraudulent attempts. Accordingly, it
is not found that the sons of the nobility are much inclined to enter
this order: these, if they happen to be the eldest sons of earls,
or of any peers above the rank of viscount, so as to enjoy a title
themselves by the courtesy of England, have special privileges in both
Universities as to length of residence, degrees, &c.; and their rank
is ascertained by a special dress. These privileges it is not usual to
forgo; though sometimes that happens, as, in my time, in the instance
of Lord George Grenville (now Lord Nugent); he neither entered at the
aristocratic college (Christ Church), nor wore the dress of a nobleman.
Generally, however, an elder son appears in his true character of
nobleman; but the younger sons rarely enter the class of Gentlemen
Commoners. They enter either as "Commoners," or under some of those
various designations ("_scholars_," "_demies_," "_students_," "_junior
fellows_") which imply that they stand upon the foundation of the
college to which they belong, and are aspirants for academic emoluments.

Upon the whole, I am disposed to regard this order of Gentlemen
Commoners as a standing temptation held out by authority to expensive
habits, and a very unbecoming proclamation of honour paid to the
aristocracy of wealth. And I know that many thoughtful men regard
it in the same light with myself, and regret deeply that any such
distribution of ranks should be authorized, as a stain upon the
simplicity and general manliness of the English academic laws. It is
an open profession of homage and indulgence to wealth, _as_ wealth--to
wealth disconnected from everything that might ally it to the ancestral
honours and heraldries of the land. It is also an invitation, or rather
a challenge, to profuse expenditure. Regularly, and by law, a Gentleman
Commoner is liable to little heavier burdens than a Commoner; but, to
meet the expectations of those around him, and to act up to the part
he has assumed, he must spend more, and he must be more careless in
controlling his expenditure, than a moderate and prudent Commoner. In
every light, therefore, I condemn the institution, and give it up to
the censures of the judicious. So much in candour I concede. But, to
show equal candour on the other side, it must be remembered that this
institution descends to us from ancient times, when wealth was not so
often divided from territorial or civic honours, conferring a real


   [12] From _Tait's Magazine_ for August 1835

There was one reason why I sought solitude at that early age, and
sought it in a morbid excess, which must naturally have conferred
upon my character some degree of that interest which belongs to all
extremes. My eye had been couched into a secondary power of vision,
by misery, by solitude, by sympathy with life in all its modes, by
experience too early won, and by the sense of danger critically
escaped. Suppose the case of a man suspended by some colossal arm over
an unfathomed abyss,--suspended, but finally and slowly withdrawn,--it
is probable that he would not smile for years. That was my case: for
I have not mentioned in the "Opium Confessions" a thousandth part of
the sufferings I underwent in London and in Wales; partly because
the misery was too monotonous, and, in that respect, unfitted for
description; but still more because there is a mysterious sensibility
connected with real suffering, which recoils from circumstantial
rehearsal or delineation, as from violation offered to something
sacred, and which is, or should be, dedicated to privacy. Grief does
not parade its pangs, nor the anguish of despairing hunger willingly
count again its groans or its humiliations. Hence it was that Ledyard,
the traveller, speaking of his Russian experiences, used to say that
some of his miseries were such that he never _would_ reveal them.
Besides all which, I really was not at liberty to speak, without many
reserves, on this chapter of my life, at a period (1821) not twenty
years removed from the actual occurrences, unless I desired to court
the risk of crossing at every step the existing law of libel, so full
of snares and man-traps, to the careless equally with the conscientious
writer. This is a consideration which some of my critics have lost
sight of in a degree which surprises me. One, for example, puts it to
his readers whether any house such as I describe as the abode of my
money-lending friend could exist "_in_ Oxford-street"; and, at the
same time, he states, as circumstances drawn from my description, but,
in fact, pure coinages of his own, certain romantic impossibilities,
which, doubtless, could as little attach to a house in Oxford-street
as they could to a house in any other quarter of London. Meantime, I
had sufficiently indicated that, whatsoever street _was_ concerned in
that affair, Oxford-street was _not_: and it is remarkable enough, as
illustrating this amiable reviewer's veracity, that no one street in
London was absolutely excluded _but_ one, and that one, Oxford-street.
For I happened to mention that, on such a day (my birth-day), I had
turned aside _from_ Oxford-street to look at the house in question. I
will now add that this house was in Greek-street: so much it may be
safe to say. But every candid reader will see that both prudential
restraints, and also disinterested regard to the feelings of possibly
amiable descendants from a vicious man, would operate with any
thoughtful writer, in such a case, to impose reserve upon his pen.
Had my guardians, had my money-lending friend of Jewry, and others
concerned in my memoirs, been so many shadows, bodiless abstractions,
and without earthly connections, I might readily have given my own
names to my own creations, and have treated them as unceremoniously as
I pleased. Not so under the real circumstances of the case. My chief
guardian, for instance, though obstinate to a degree which risked the
happiness and the life of his ward, was an upright man otherwise; and
his children are entitled to value his memory. Again, my Greek-street
[Greek: trapezitês], the "_foenerator Alpheus_," who delighted to
reap where he had not sown, and too often (I fear) allowed himself in
practices which not impossibly have long since been found to qualify
him for distant climates and "Botanic" regions,--even he, though I
might truly describe him as a mere highwayman whenever he happened
to be aware that I had received a friendly loan, yet, like other
highwaymen of repute, and "gentle thieves," was not inexorable to the
petitions of his victim: he would sometimes toss back what was required
for some instant necessity of the road; and at _his_ breakfast-table
it was, after all, as elsewhere recorded, that I contrived to support
life; barely, indeed, and most slenderly, but still with the final
result of escaping absolute starvation. With that recollection before
me, I could not allow myself to probe his frailties too severely,
had it even been certainly safe to do so. But enough; the reader
will understand that a year spent either in the valleys of Wales,
or upon the streets of London, by a wanderer too often houseless
in both situations, might naturally have peopled the mind of one
constitutionally disposed to solemn contemplations with memorials of
human sorrow and strife too profound to pass away for years.

Thus, then, it was. Past experience of a very peculiar kind, the
agitations of many lives crowded into the compass of a year or two, in
combination with a peculiar structure of mind, offered one explanation
of the very remarkable and unsocial habits which I adopted at college;
but there was another not less powerful, and not less unusual. In
stating this, I shall seem, to some persons, covertly designing an
affront to Oxford. But that is far from my intention. It is noways
peculiar to Oxford, but will, doubtless, be found in every University
throughout the world, that the younger part of the members--the
undergraduates, I mean, generally, whose chief business must have
lain amongst the great writers of Greece and Rome--cannot have found
leisure to cultivate extensively their own domestic literature.
Not so much that time will have been wanting; but that the whole
energy of the mind, and the main course of the subsidiary studies
and researches, will naturally have been directed to those difficult
languages amongst which lie their daily tasks. I make it no subject
of complaint or scorn, therefore, but simply state it as a fact, that
few or none of the Oxford undergraduates, with whom parity of standing
threw me into collision at my first outset, knew anything at all of
English Literature. The _Spectator_ seemed to me the only English
book of a classical rank which they had read; and even this less for
its inimitable delicacy, humour, and refined pleasantry in dealing
with manners and characters, than for its insipid and meagre essays,
ethical or critical. This was no fault of theirs: they had been sent
to the book chiefly as a subject for Latin translations, or of other
exercises; and, in such a view, the vague generalities of superficial
morality were more useful and more manageable than sketches of manner
or character, steeped in national peculiarities. To translate the
terms of Whig politics into classical Latin would be as difficult as
it might be for a Whig himself to give a consistent account of those
politics from the year 1688. Natural, however, and excusable, as this
ignorance might be, to myself it was intolerable and incomprehensible.
Already, at fifteen, I had made myself familiar with the great English
poets. About sixteen, or not long after, my interest in the story
of Chatterton had carried me over the whole ground of the Rowley
controversy; and that controversy, by a necessary consequence, had so
familiarised me with the "Black Letter" that I had begun to find an
unaffected pleasure in the ancient English metrical romances; and in
Chaucer, though acquainted as yet only with part of his works, I had
perceived and had felt profoundly those divine qualities which, even
at this day, are so languidly acknowledged by his unjust countrymen.
With this knowledge, and this enthusiastic knowledge of the elder
poets--of those most remote from easy access--I could not well be a
stranger in other walks of our literature, more on a level with the
general taste, and nearer to modern diction, and, therefore, more
extensively multiplied by the press. Yet, after all--as one proof how
much more commanding is that part of a literature which speaks to the
elementary affections of men than that which is founded on the mutable
aspects of manners--it is a fact that, even in our elaborate system
of society, where an undue value is unavoidably given to the whole
science of social intercourse, and a continual irritation applied to
the sensibilities which point in that direction, still, under all these
advantages, Pope himself is less read, less quoted, less thought of,
than the elder and graver section of our literature. It is a great
calamity for an author such as Pope, that, generally speaking, it
requires so much experience of life to enjoy his peculiar felicities
as must argue an age likely to have impaired the general capacity for
enjoyment. For my part, I had myself a very slender acquaintance with
this chapter of our literature; and what little I had was generally,
at that period of my life, as with most men it continues to be to
the end of life, a reflex knowledge, acquired through those pleasant
miscellanies, half gossip, half criticism--such as Warton's _Essay on
Pope_, Boswell's _Johnson_, Mathias's _Pursuits of Literature_, and
many scores besides of the same indeterminate class: a class, however,
which do a real service to literature, by diffusing an indirect
knowledge of fine writers in their most effective passages, where
else, in a direct shape, it would often never extend.

In some parts, then, having even a profound knowledge of our
literature, in all parts having some, I felt it to be impossible that I
should familiarly associate with those who had none at all; not so much
as a mere historical knowledge of the literature in its capital names
and their chronological succession. Do I mention this in disparagement
of Oxford? By no means. Among the undergraduates of higher standing,
and occasionally, perhaps, of my own, I have since learned that many
might have been found eminently accomplished in this particular. But
seniors do not seek after juniors; they must be sought; and, with my
previous bias to solitude, a bias equally composed of impulses and
motives, I had no disposition to take trouble in seeking any man for
any purpose.

But, on this subject, a fact still remains to be told, of which I
am justly proud; and it will serve, beyond anything else that I can
say, to measure the degree of my intellectual development. On coming
to Oxford, I had taken up one position in advance of my age by full
thirty years: that appreciation of Wordsworth, which it has taken full
thirty years to establish amongst the public, I had already made, and
had made operative to my own intellectual culture, in the same year
when I clandestinely quitted school. Already, in 1802, I had addressed
a letter of fervent admiration to Mr. Wordsworth. I did not send it
until the spring of 1803; and, from misdirection, it did not come into
his hands for some months. But I had an answer from Mr. Wordsworth
before I was eighteen; and that my letter was thought to express the
homage of an enlightened admirer may be inferred from the fact that his
answer was long and full. On this anecdote I do not mean to dwell; but
I cannot allow the reader to overlook the circumstances of the case.
At this day [1835] it is true, no journal can be taken up which does
not habitually speak of Mr. Wordsworth as of _a_ great, if not _the_
great, poet of the age. Mr. Bulwer, living in the intensest pressure of
the world, and though recoiling continually from the judgments of the
world, yet never in any violent degree ascribes to Mr. Wordsworth (in
his _England and the English_, p. 308) "an influence of a more noble
and purely intellectual character than _any_ writer of our age or
nation has exercised." Such is the opinion held of this great poet in
1835; but what were those of 1805-15,--nay, of 1825? For twenty years
after the date of that letter to Mr. Wordsworth above referred to,
language was exhausted, ingenuity was put on the rack, in the search
after images and expressions vile enough, insolent enough, to convey
the unutterable contempt avowed for all that he had written by the
fashionable critics. One critic--who still, I believe, edits a rather
popular journal, and who belongs to that class, feeble, fluttering,
ingenious, who make it their highest ambition not to lead, but, with
a slave's adulation, to obey and to follow all the caprices of the
public mind--described Mr. Wordsworth as resembling, in the quality
of his mind, an old nurse babbling in her paralytic dotage to sucking
babies. If this insult was peculiarly felt by Mr. Wordsworth, it was on
a consideration of the unusual imbecility of him who offered it, and
not because in itself it was baser or more insolent than the language
held by the majority of journalists who then echoed the public voice.
_Blackwood's Magazine_ (1817) first accustomed the public ear to the
language of admiration coupled with the name of Wordsworth. This began
with Professor Wilson; and well I remember--nay, the proofs are still
easy to hunt up--that, for eight or ten years, this singularity of
opinion, having no countenance from other journals, was treated as a
whim, a paradox, a bold extravagance, of the _Blackwood_ critics. Mr.
Wordsworth's neighbours in Westmoreland, who had (generally speaking) a
profound contempt for him, used to rebut the testimony of _Blackwood_
by one constant reply--"Ay, _Blackwood_ praises Wordsworth, but who
else praises him?" In short, up to 1820, the name of Wordsworth was
trampled under foot; from 1820 to 1830, it was militant; from 1830 to
1835, it has been triumphant. In 1803, when I entered at Oxford, that
name was absolutely unknown; and the finger of scorn, pointed at it in
1802 by the first or second number of the _Edinburgh Review_, failed to
reach its mark from absolute defect of knowledge in the public mind.
Some fifty besides myself knew who was meant by "that poet who had
cautioned his friend against growing double," etc.; to all others it
was a profound secret.

These things must be known and understood properly to value the
prophetic eye and the intrepidity of two persons, like Professor Wilson
and myself, who, in 1802-3, attached themselves to a banner not yet
raised and planted; who outran, in fact, their contemporaries by one
entire generation, and did _that_ about 1802 which the rest of the
world are doing in chorus about 1832.

Professor Wilson's period at Oxford exactly coincided with my own; yet,
in that large world, we never met. I know, therefore, but little of his
policy in regard to such opinions or feelings as tended to dissociate
him from the mass of his coëvals. This only I know, that he lived as
it were in public, and must, therefore, I presume, have practised a
studied reserve as to his deepest admirations; and, perhaps, at that
day (1803-8) the occasions would be rare in which much dissimulation
would be needed. Until Lord Byron had begun to pilfer from Wordsworth
and to abuse him, allusions to Wordsworth were not frequent in
conversations; and it was chiefly on occasions of some question
arising about poetry in general, or about the poets of the day, that
it became difficult to dissemble. For my part, hating the necessity
for dissimulation as much as the dissimulation itself, I drew from
this peculiarity also of my own mind a fresh reinforcement of my other
motives for sequestering myself; and, for the first two years of my
residence in Oxford, I compute that I did not utter one hundred words.

I remember distinctly the first (which happened also to be the last)
conversation that I ever held with my tutor. It consisted of three
sentences, two of which fell to his share, one to mine. On a fine
morning, he met me in the Quadrangle, and, having then no guess of the
nature of my pretensions, he determined (I suppose) to probe them.
Accordingly, he asked me, "What I had been lately reading?" Now, the
fact was that I, at that time immersed in metaphysics, had really been
reading and studying very closely the _Parmenides_, of which obscure
work some Oxford man, early in the last century, published a separate
edition. Yet, so profound was the benignity of my nature that, in
those days, I could not bear to witness, far less to cause, the least
pain or mortification to any human being. I recoiled, indeed, from
the society of most men, but not with any feelings of dislike. On the
contrary, in order that I _might_ like all men, I wished to associate
with none. Now, then, to have mentioned the _Parmenides_ to one who,
fifty thousand to one, was a perfect stranger to its whole drift and
purpose, looked too _méchant_, too like a trick of malice, in an age
when such reading was so very unusual. I felt that it would be taken
for an express stratagem for stopping my tutor's mouth. All this
passing rapidly through my mind, I replied, without hesitation, that I
had been reading Paley. My tutor's rejoinder I have never forgotten:
"Ah! an excellent author; excellent for his matter; only you must be
on your guard as to his style; he is very vicious _there_." Such was
the colloquy; we bowed, parted, and never more (I apprehend) exchanged
one word. Now, trivial and trite as this comment on Paley may appear
to the reader, it struck me forcibly that more falsehood, or more
absolute falsehood, or more direct inversion of the truth, could
not, by any artifice or ingenuity, have been crowded into one short
sentence. Paley, as a philosopher, is a jest, the disgrace of the age;
and, as regards the two Universities, and the enormous responsibility
they undertake for the books which they sanction by their official
examinations for degrees, the name of Paley is their great opprobrium.
But, on the other hand, for style, Paley is a master. Homely, racy,
vernacular English, the rustic vigour of a style which intentionally
forgoes the graces of polish on the one hand, and of scholastic
precision on the other--that quality of merit has never been attained
in a degree so eminent. This first interchange of thought upon a
topic of literature did not tend to slacken my previous disposition
to retreat into solitude; a solitude, however, which at no time was
tainted with either the moroseness or the pride of a cynic.

Neither must the reader suppose that, even in that day, I belonged
to the party who disparage the classical writers, or the classical
training of the great English schools. The Greek drama I loved and
revered. But, to deal frankly, because it is a subject which I shall
hereafter bring before the public, I made great distinctions. I was
not that indiscriminate admirer of Greek and Roman literature which
those too generally are who admire it at all. This protesting spirit
against a false and blind idolatry was with me, at that time, a matter
of enthusiasm--almost of bigotry. I was a bigot against bigots. Let
us take the Greek oratory, for example:--What section of the Greek
literature is more fanatically exalted, and studiously in depreciation
of our own? Let us judge of the sincerity at the base of these hollow
affectations, by the downright facts and the producible records.
To admire, in any sense which can give weight and value to your
admiration, pre-supposes, I presume, some acquaintance with its object.
As the earliest title to an opinion, one way or other, of the Greek
eloquence, we ought to have studied some of its most distinguished
artists; or, say _one_, at least; and this one, we may be sure, will
be, as it ought to be, Demosthenes. Now, it is a fact, that all the
copies of Demosthenes sold within the last hundred years would not
meet the demand of one considerable town, were that orator a subject
of study amongst even classical scholars. I doubt whether, at this
day, there exist twenty men in Europe who can be said to have even
once read Demosthenes; and, therefore, it was that, when Mr. Mitford,
in his "History of Greece," took a new view of this orator's political
administration--a view which lowered his character for integrity--he
found an unresisting acceder to his doctrines in a public having no
previous opinion upon the subject, and, therefore, open to any casual
impression of malice or rash judgment. Had there been any acquaintance
with the large remains which we still possess of this famous orator,
no such wrong could have been done. I, from my childhood, had been a
reader, nay, a student, of Demosthenes; and simply for this reason,
that, having meditated profoundly on the true laws and philosophy
of diction, and of what is vaguely denominated style, and finding
nothing of any value in modern writers upon this subject, and not much
as regards the grounds and ultimate principles even in the ancient
rhetoricians, I have been reduced to collect my opinions from the great
artists and practitioners, rather than from the theorists; and, among
those artists, in the most plastic of languages, I hold Demosthenes to
have been the greatest.

The Greek is, beyond comparison, the most plastic of languages. It
was a material which bent to the purposes of him who used it beyond
the material of other languages; it was an instrument for a larger
compass of modulations; and it happens that the peculiar theme of
an orator imposes the very largest which is consistent with a prose
diction. One step further in passion, and the orator would become a
poet. An orator can exhaust the capacities of a language--an historian,
never. Moreover, the age of Demosthenes was, in my judgment, the age
of highest development for arts dependent upon social refinement.
That generation had fixed and ascertained the use of words; whereas
the previous generation of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, &c., was a
transitional period: the language was still moving, and tending to
a meridian not yet attained; and the public eye had been directed
consciously upon language, as in and for itself an organ of
intellectual delight, for too short a time to have mastered the whole
art of managing its resources. All these were reasons for studying
Demosthenes, as the one great model and standard of Attic prose; and
studied him I _had_, more than any other prose writer whatever. _Pari
passu_, I had become sensible that others had _not_ studied him. One
monotonous song of applause I found raised on every side; something
about being "like a torrent, that carries everything before it." This
original image is all we get in the shape of criticism, and never any
attempt even at illustrating what is greatest in him, or characterising
what is most peculiar. The same persons who discovered that Lord
Brougham was the modern Bacon have also complimented him with the title
of the English Demosthenes. Upon this hint, Lord Brougham, in his
address to the Glasgow students, has deluged the great Athenian with
wordy admiration. There is an obvious prudence in lodging your praise
upon an object from which you count upon a rebound to yourself. But
here, as everywhere else, you look in vain for any marks or indications
of a personal and _direct_ acquaintance with the original orations.
The praise is built rather upon the popular idea of Demosthenes than
upon the real Demosthenes. And not only so, but even upon style itself,
and upon the art of composition _in abstracto_, Lord Brougham does not
seem to have formed any clear conceptions,--principles he has none.
Now, it is useless to judge of an artist until you have some principles
on the art. The two capital secrets in the art of prose composition
are these: 1st, The philosophy of transition and connection, or the
art by which one step in an evolution of thought is made to arise
out of another: all fluent and effective composition depends on the
_connections_;--2dly, The way in which sentences are made to modify
each other; for the most powerful effects in written eloquence arise
out of this reverberation, as it were, from each other in a rapid
succession of sentences; and, because some limitation is necessary
to the length and complexity of sentences, in order to make this
interdependency felt: hence it is that the Germans have no eloquence.
The construction of German prose tends to such immoderate length of
sentences that no effect of intermodification can ever be apparent.
Each sentence, stuffed with innumerable clauses of restriction, and
other parenthetical circumstances, becomes a separate section--an
independent whole. But, without insisting on Lord Brougham's
oversights, or errors of defect, I will digress a moment to one
positive caution of his, which will measure the value of his philosophy
on this subject. He lays it down for a rule of indefinite application
that the Saxon part of our English idiom is to be favoured at the
expense of that part which has so happily coalesced with the language
from the Latin or Greek. This fancy, often patronized by other writers,
and even acted upon, resembles that restraint which some metrical
writers have imposed upon themselves--of writing a long copy of verses
from which some particular letter, or from each line of which some
different letter, should be carefully excluded. What followed? Was the
reader sensible, in the practical effect upon his ear, of any beauty
attained? By no means; all the difference, sensibly perceived, lay in
the occasional constraints and affectations to which the writer had
been driven by his self-imposed necessities. The same chimera exists
in Germany; and so much further is it carried that one great puritan
in this heresy (Wolf) has published a vast dictionary, the rival of
Adelung's, for the purpose of expelling every word of foreign origin
and composition out of the language, by assigning some equivalent term
spun out from pure native Teutonic materials. _Bayonet_, for example,
is patriotically rejected, because a word may be readily compounded
tantamount to _musket-dirk_; and this sort of composition thrives
showily in the German, as a language running into composition with
a fusibility only surpassed by the Greek. But what good purpose is
attained by such caprices? In three sentences the sum of the philosophy
may be stated. It has been computed (see _Duclos_) that the Italian
opera has not above six hundred words in its whole vocabulary: so
narrow is the range of its emotions, and so little are these emotions
disposed to expand themselves into any variety of thinking. The same
remark applies to that class of simple, household, homely passion,
which belongs to the early ballad poetry. Their passion is of a quality
more venerable, it is true, and deeper than that of the opera, because
more permanent and coextensive with human life; but it is not much
wider in its sphere, nor more apt to coalesce with contemplative or
philosophic thinking. Pass from these narrow fields of the intellect,
where the relations of the objects are so few and simple, and the
whole prospect so bounded, to the immeasurable and sea-like arena
upon which Shakspeare careers--co-infinite with life itself--yes, and
with something more than life. Here is the other pole, the opposite
extreme. And what is the choice of diction? What is the _lexis_? Is
it Saxon exclusively, or is it Saxon by preference? So far from that,
the Latinity is intense--not, indeed, in his construction, but in his
choice of words; and so continually are these Latin words used with a
critical respect to their earliest (and, where _that_ happens to have
existed, to their unfigurative) meaning, that, upon this one argument I
would rely for upsetting the else impregnable thesis of Dr. Farmer as
to Shakspeare's learning. Nay, I will affirm that, out of this regard
to the Latin acceptation of Latin words, may be absolutely explained
the Shakspearian meaning of certain words which has hitherto baffled
all his critics. For instance, the word _modern_, of which Dr. Johnson
professes himself unable to explain the _rationale_ or principle
regulating its Shakspearian use, though he felt its value, it is to
be deduced thus: First of all, change the pronunciation a little, by
substituting for the short o, as we pronounce it in _modern_, the long
_o_, as heard in _modish_, and you will then, perhaps, perceive the
process of analogy by which it passed into the Shakspearian use. The
_matter_ or substance of a thing is, usually, so much more important
than its fashion or _manner_, that we have hence adopted, as one way
for expressing what is important as opposed to what is trivial, the
word _material_. Now, by parity of reason, we are entitled to invert
this order, and to express what is unimportant by some word indicating
the mere fashion or external manner of an object as opposed to its
substance. This is effected by the word _modal_ or _m[=o]dern_, as
the adjective from _modus_, a fashion or manner; and in that sense
Shakspeare employs the word. Thus, Cleopatra, undervaluing to Cæsar's
agent the bijouterie which she has kept back from inventory, and which
her treacherous steward had betrayed, describes them as mere trifles--

     "Such gifts as we greet modern friends withal";

where all commentators have _felt_ that modern must from the position
mean slight and inconsiderable, though perplexed to say how it came
by such a meaning. A _modern_ friend is, in the Shakspearian sense,
with relation to a real and serviceable friend, that which the fashion
of a thing is by comparison with its substance. But a still better
illustration may be taken from a common line, quoted every day, and
ludicrously misinterpreted. In the famous picture of life--"All the
world's a stage"--the justice of the peace is described as

     "Full of wise saws and modern instances";

which (_horrendum dictu!_) has been explained, and, I verily believe,
is generally understood to mean, _full of wise sayings and modern
illustrations_. The true meaning is--full of proverbial maxims of
conduct and of trivial arguments; that is, of petty distinctions, or
verbal disputes, such as never touch the point at issue. The word
_modern_ I have already deduced; the word _instances_ is equally Latin,
and equally used by Shakspeare in its Latin sense. It is originally
the word _instantia_, which, by the monkish and scholastic writers,
is uniformly used in the sense of an argument, and originally of an
argument urged in objection to some previous argument.[13]

   [13] I cannot for a moment believe that the original and most
   eloquent critic in _Blackwood_ is himself the dupe of an argument
   which he has alleged against this passage, under too open a hatred
   of Shakspeare, as though it involved a contradiction to common
   sense, by representing _all_ human beings of such an age as
   school-boys, all of such another age as soldiers, of such another
   as magistrates, &c. Evidently the logic of the famous passage is
   this,--that, whereas every age has its peculiar and appropriate
   temper, that profession or employment is selected for the
   exemplification which seems best fitted, in each case, to embody
   the characteristic or predominating quality. Thus, because
   impetuosity, self-esteem, and animal or irreflective courage, are
   qualities most intense in youth, next it is considered in what
   profession those qualities find their most unlimited range; and,
   because that is obviously the military profession, therefore it is
   that the soldier is selected as the representative of young men.
   For the same reason, as best embodying the peculiar temper of
   garrulous old age, the magistrate comes forward as supporting the
   part of that age. Not that old men are not also soldiers; but that
   the military profession, so far from strengthening, moderates and
   tempers the characteristic temper of old age.

I affirm, therefore, that Lord Brougham's counsel to the Glasgow
students is not only bad counsel,--and bad counsel for the result, as
well as for the grounds, which are either capricious or nugatory,--but
also that, in the exact proportion in which the range of thought
expands, it is an impossible counsel, an impracticable counsel--a
counsel having for its purpose to embarrass and lay the mind in
fetters, where even its utmost freedom and its largest resources will
be found all too little for the growing necessities of the intellect.
"Long-tailed words in _osity_ and _ation_!" What does _that_ describe?
Exactly the Latin part of our language. Now, those very terminations
speak for themselves:--All high abstractions end in _ation_; that
is, they are Latin; and, just in proportion as the abstracting power
extends and widens, do the circles of thought widen, and the horizon or
boundary (contradicting its own Grecian name) melts into the infinite.
On this account it was that Coleridge (_Biographia Literaria_) remarks
on Wordsworth's philosophical poetry, that, in proportion as it goes
into the profound of passion and of thought, do the words increase
which are vulgarly called "_dictionary_ words." Now, these words,
these "dictionary" words, what are they? Simply words of Latin or
Greek origin: no other words, no Saxon words, are ever called by
illiterate persons dictionary words. And these dictionary words are
indispensable to a writer, not only in the proportion by which he
transcends other writers as to extent and as to subtlety of thinking,
but also as to elevation and sublimity. Milton was not an extensive
or discursive thinker, as Shakspeare was; for the motions of his mind
were slow, solemn, sequacious, like those of the planets; not agile
and assimilative; not attracting all things within its own sphere; not
multiform: repulsion was the law of his intellect--he moved in solitary
grandeur. Yet, merely from this quality of grandeur, unapproachable
grandeur, his intellect demanded a larger infusion of Latinity into his
diction. For the same reason (and without such aids he would have had
no proper element in which to move his wings) he enriched his diction
with Hellenisms and with Hebraisms[14]; but never, as could be easy to
show, without a full justification in the result. Two things may be
asserted of all his exotic idioms--1st, That they express what could
not have been expressed by any native idiom; 2d, That they harmonize
with the English language, and give a colouring of the antique, but not
any sense of strangeness, to the diction. Thus, in the double negative,
"Nor did they not perceive," &c., which is classed as a Hebraism--if
any man fancy that it expresses no more than the simple affirmative,
he shows that he does not understand its force; and, at the same time,
it is a form of thought so natural and universal that I have heard
English people, under corresponding circumstances, spontaneously
fall into it. In short, whether a man differ from others by greater
profundity or by greater sublimity, and whether he write as a poet
or as a philosopher, in any case, he feels, in due proportion to the
necessities of his intellect, an increasing dependence upon the Latin
section of the English language; and the true reason why Lord Brougham
failed to perceive this, or found the Saxon equal to his wants, is one
which I shall not scruple to assign, inasmuch as it does not reflect
personally on Lord Brougham, or, at least, on him exclusively, but
on the whole body to which he belongs. That thing which he and they
call by the pompous name of statesmanship, but which is, in fact,
_statescraft_--the art of political intrigue--deals (like the opera)
with ideas so few in number, and so little adapted to associate
themselves with other ideas, that, possibly, in the one case equally
as in the other, six hundred words are sufficient to meet all their

   [14] The diction of Milton is a case absolutely unique in
   literature: of many writers it has been said, but of him only
   with truth, that he created a peculiar language. The value must be
   tried by the result, not by inferences from _a priori_ principles;
   such inferences might lead us to anticipate an unfortunate result;
   whereas, in fact, the diction of Milton is such that no other
   could have supported his majestic style of thinking. The final
   result is a _transcendent_ answer to all adverse criticism; but
   still it is to be lamented that no man properly qualified has
   undertaken the examination of the Miltonic diction as a separate
   problem. Listen to a popular author of this day (Mr. Bulwer). He,
   speaking on this subject, asserts (_England and the English_, p.
   329) that "_there is scarcely an English idiom which Milton has
   not violated, or a foreign one which he has not borrowed_." Now,
   in answer to this extravagant assertion, I will venture to say
   that the two following are the sole cases of questionable idiom
   throughout Milton:--1st, "Yet virgin of Proserpina from Jove";
   and, in this case, the same thing might be urged in apology which
   Aristotle urges in another argument, namely, that [Greek: anônumon
   to pathos], the case is unprovided with _any_ suitable expression.
   How would it be possible to convey in good English the
   circumstances here indicated: viz. that Ceres was yet in those
   days of maiden innocence, when she had borne no daughter to Jove?
   2d, I will cite a case which, so far as I remember, has been
   noticed by no commentator; and, probably, because they have failed
   to understand it. The case occurs in the "Paradise Regained"; but
   where I do not at this moment remember. "Will they _transact_ with
   God?" [The only case of the use of the word _transact_ by Milton
   registered in the Verbal Indexes is in _Par. Lost_, vi. 286, where
   Satan says, "Easier to transact with me."--M.] This is the
   passage; and a most flagrant instance it offers of pure Latinism.
   _Transigere_, in the language of the civil law, means to make a
   compromise; and the word _transact_ is here used in that sense--a
   sense utterly unknown to the English language. This is the worst
   case in Milton; and I do not know that it has been ever noticed.
   Yet even here it may be doubted whether Milton is not defensible;
   asking if they proposed to terminate their difference with God
   after the fashion in use amongst courts of law, he points properly
   enough to these worldly settlements by the technical term which
   designated them. Thus might a divine say: Will he arrest the
   judgments of God by a _demurrer_? Thus, again, Hamlet
   apostrophises the lawyer's skull by the technical terms used in
   actions for assault, &c. Besides, what proper term is there in
   English for expressing a compromise? Edmund Burke, and other much
   older authors, express the idea by the word _temperament_; but
   that word, though a good one, was at one time considered an exotic
   term--equally a Gallicism and a Latinism.

I have used my privilege of discursiveness to step aside from
Demosthenes to another subject, no otherwise connected with the
Attic orator than, first, by the common reference of both subjects
to rhetoric; but, secondly, by the accident of having been jointly
discussed by Lord Brougham in a paper which (though now forgotten)
obtained, at the moment, most undue celebrity. For it is one of the
infirmities of the public mind with us, that whatever is said or done
by a public man,--any opinion given by a member of Parliament, however
much out of his own proper jurisdiction and range of inquiry,--commands
an attention not conceded even to those who speak under the known
privilege of professional knowledge. Thus, Cowper was not discovered
to be a poet worthy of any general notice until Charles Fox, a most
slender critic, had vouchsafed to quote a few lines, and that not so
much with a view to the poetry as to its party application. But now,
returning to Demosthenes, I affirm that his case is the case of nearly
all the classical writers,--at least, of all the prose writers. It is,
I admit, an extreme one; that is, it is the general case in a more
intense degree. Raised almost to divine honours, never mentioned but
with affected rapture, the classics of Greece and Rome are seldom read,
most of them never; are they, indeed, the closet companions of any man?
Surely it is time that these follies were at an end; that our practice
were made to square a little better with our professions, and that our
pleasures were sincerely drawn from those sources in which we pretend
that they lie.

The Greek language, mastered in any eminent degree, is the very rarest
of all accomplishments, and precisely because it is unspeakably the
most difficult. Let not the reader dupe himself by popular cant. To
be an accomplished Grecian demands a very peculiar quality of talent;
and it is almost inevitable that one who is such should be vain of a
distinction which represents so much labour and difficulty overcome.
For myself, having, as a school-boy, attained to a very unusual mastery
over this language, and (though as yet little familiar with the
elaborate science of Greek metre) moving through all the obstacles and
resistances of a Greek book with the same celerity and ease as through
those of the French and Latin, I had, in vanquishing the difficulties
of the language, lost the main stimulus to its cultivation. Still, I
read Greek daily; but any slight vanity which I might connect with a
power so rarely attained, and which, under ordinary circumstances, so
readily transmutes itself into a disproportionate admiration of the
author, in me was absolutely swallowed up in the tremendous hold taken
of my entire sensibilities at this time by our own literature. With
what fury would I often exclaim: He who loveth not his brother whom he
hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen? You, Mr. A, L,
M, O, you who care not for Milton, and value not the dark sublimities
which rest ultimately (as we all feel) upon dread realities, how
can you seriously thrill in sympathy with the spurious and fanciful
sublimities of the classical poetry--with the nod of the Olympian
Jove, or the seven-league strides of Neptune? Flying Childers had the
most prodigious stride of any horse on record; and at Newmarket that
is justly held to be a great merit; but it is hardly a qualification
for a Pantheon. The parting of Hector and Andromache--that is tender,
doubtless; but how many passages of far deeper, far diviner tenderness,
are to be found in Chaucer! Yet in these cases we give our antagonist
the benefit of an appeal to what is really best and most effective in
the ancient literature. For, if we should go to Pindar, and some other
great names, what a revelation of hypocrisy as respects the _fade_
enthusiasts for the Greek poetry!

Still, in the Greek tragedy, however otherwise embittered against
ancient literature by the dismal affectations current in the scenical
poetry, at least I felt the presence of a great and original power.
It might be a power inferior, upon the whole, to that which presides
in the English tragedy; I believed that it was; but it was equal and
appealed equally to real and deep sensibilities in our nature. Yet,
also, I felt that the two powers at work in the two forms of the
drama were essentially different; and, without having read a line of
German at that time, or knowing of any such controversy, I began to
meditate on the elementary grounds of difference between the Pagan
and the Christian forms of poetry. The dispute has since been carried
on extensively in France, not less than in Germany, as between the
_classical_ and the _romantic_. But I will venture to assert that not
one step in advance has been made, up to this day. The shape into which
I threw the question it may be well to state; because I am persuaded
that out of that one idea, properly pursued, might be evolved the whole
separate characteristics of the Christian and the Antique. Why is it,
I asked, that the Christian idea of _sin_ is an idea utterly unknown
to the Pagan mind? The Greeks and Romans had a clear conception of a
moral ideal, as we have; but this they estimated by a reference to the
will; and they called it virtue, and the antithesis they called vice.
The _lacheté_ or relaxed energy of the will, by which it yielded to
the seductions of sensual pleasure, that was vice; and the braced-up
tone by which it resisted these seductions was virtue. But the idea
of holiness, and the antithetic idea of sin, as a violation of this
awful and unimaginable sanctity, was so utterly undeveloped in the
Pagan mind, that no word exists in classical Greek or classical Latin
which approaches either pole of this synthesis; neither the idea of
_holiness_, nor of its correlate, _sin_, could be so expressed in Latin
as at once to satisfy Cicero and a scientific Christian. Again (but
this was some years after), I found Schiller and Goethe applauding
the better taste of the ancients, in symbolizing the idea of death by
a beautiful youth, with a torch inverted, &c., as compared with the
Christian types of a skeleton and hourglasses, &c. And much surprised
I was to hear Mr. Coleridge approving of this German sentiment. Yet,
here again, I felt, the peculiar genius of Christianity was covertly
at work moving upon a different road, and under opposite ideas, to a
just result, in which the harsh and austere expression yet pointed to
a dark reality, whilst the beautiful Greek adumbration was, in fact,
a veil and a disguise. The corruptions and the other "dishonours" of
the grave, and whatsoever composes the sting of death in the Christian
view, is traced up to sin as its ultimate cause. Hence, besides the
expression of Christian humility, in thus nakedly exhibiting the wrecks
and ruins made by sin, there is also a latent profession indicated
of Christian hope. For the Christian contemplates steadfastly, though
with trembling awe, the lowest point of his descent; since, for him,
that point, the last of his fall, is also the first of his re-ascent,
and serves, besides, as an exponent of its infinity; the infinite
depth becoming, in the rebound, a measure of the infinite re-ascent.
Whereas, on the contrary, with the gloomy uncertainties of a Pagan
on the question of his final restoration, and also (which must not
be overlooked) with his utter perplexity as to the nature of his
restoration, if any were by accident in reserve, whether in a condition
tending downwards or upwards, it was the natural resource to consult
the general feeling of anxiety and distrust, by throwing a thick
curtain and a veil of beauty over the whole too painful subject. To
place the horrors in high relief could here have answered no purpose
but that of wanton cruelty; whereas, with the Christian hopes, the
very saddest memorials of the havocks made by death are antagonist
prefigurations of great victories in the rear.

These speculations, at that time, I pursued earnestly; and I then
believed myself, as I yet do, to have ascertained the two great and
opposite laws under which the Grecian and the English tragedy has each
separately developed itself. Whether wrong or right in that belief,
sure I am that those in Germany who have treated the case of Classical
and Romantic are not entitled to credit for any discovery at all. The
Schlegels, who were the hollowest of men, the windiest and wordiest (at
least, Frederick was so), pointed to the distinction; barely indicated
it; and that was already some service done, because a presumption
arose that the antique and the modern literatures, having clearly some
essential differences, might, perhaps, rest on foundations originally
distinct, and obey different laws. And hence it occurred that many
disputes, as about the unities, &c., might originate in a confusion
of these laws. This checks the presumption of the shallow criticism,
and points to deeper investigations. Beyond this, neither the German
nor the French disputers on the subject have talked to any profitable

I have mentioned Paley as accidentally connected with my _début_ in
literary conversation; and I have taken occasion to say how much I
admired his style and its unstudied graces, how profoundly I despised
his philosophy. I shall here say a word or two more on that subject. As
respects his style, though secretly despising the opinion avowed by my
tutor (which was, however, a natural opinion for a stiff lover of the
artificial and the pompous), I would just as unwillingly be supposed
to adopt the extravagant opinions, in the other extreme, of Dr. Parr
and Mr. Coleridge. These two gentlemen, who privately hated Paley,
and, perhaps, traduced him, have hung like bees over one particular
paragraph in his Evidences, as though it were a flower transplanted
from Hymettus. Dr. Parr pronounced it the finest sentence in the
English language. It is a period (that is, a cluster of sentences)
moderately well, but not _too_ well, constructed, as the German
nurses are accustomed to say. Its felicity depends on a trick easily
imitated--on a balance happily placed (namely, "_in which the wisest
of mankind would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts and rest to
their inquiries_)." As a _bravura_, or _tour de force_, in the dazzling
fence of rhetoric, it is surpassed by many hundreds of passages which
might be produced from rhetoricians; or, to confine myself to Paley's
contemporaries, it is very far surpassed by a particular passage in
Burke's letter upon the Duke of Bedford's base attack upon him in
the House of Lords; which passage I shall elsewhere produce, because
I happen to know, on the authority of Burke's executors, that Burke
himself considered it the finest period which he had ever written.
At present, I will only make one remark, viz. that it is always
injudicious, in the highest degree, to cite for admiration that which
is not a _representative_ specimen of the author's manner. In reading
Lucian, I once stumbled on a passage of German pathos, and of German
effect. Would it have been wise, or would it have been intellectually
just, to quote this as the text of an eulogium on Lucian? What
false criticism it would have suggested to every reader! what false
anticipations! To quote a formal and periodic pile of sentences was to
give the feeling that Paley was what the regular rhetorical artists
designate as a periodic writer, when, in fact, no one conceivable
character of style more pointedly contradicted the true description of
his merits.

But, leaving the style of Paley, I must confess that I agree with Mr.
Bulwer (_England and the English_) in thinking it shocking and almost
damnatory to an English University, the great well-heads of creeds,
moral and evangelical, that authors such in respect of doctrine as
Paley and Locke should hold that high and influential station as
teachers, or rather oracles of truth, which has been conceded to them.
As to Locke, I, when a boy, had made a discovery of one blunder full
of laughter and of fun, which, had it been published and explained
in Locke's lifetime, would have tainted his whole philosophy with
suspicion. It relates to the Aristotelian doctrine of syllogism,
which Locke undertook to ridicule. Now, a flaw, a hideous flaw, in
the _soi-disant_ detecter of flaws, a ridicule in the exposer of the
ridiculous--_that_ is fatal; and I am surprised that Lee, who wrote a
folio against Locke in his lifetime, and other examiners, should have
failed in detecting this. I shall expose it elsewhere; and, perhaps,
one or two other exposures of the same kind will give an impetus to
the descent of this falling philosophy. With respect to Paley, and
the naked _prudentialism_ of his system, it is true that in a longish
note Paley disclaims that consequence. But to this we may reply, with
Cicero, _Non quæro quid neget Epicurus, sed quid congruenter neget_.
Meantime, waiving all this as too notorious, and too frequently
denounced, I wish to recur to this trite subject, by way of stating
an objection made to the Paleyan morality in my seventeenth year, and
which I have never since seen reason to withdraw. It is this:--I affirm
that the whole work, from first to last, proceeds upon that sort of
error which the logicians call _ignoratio elenchi_, that is, ignorance
of the very question concerned--of the point at issue. For, mark, in
the very vestibule of ethics, two questions arise--two different and
disconnected questions, A and B; and Paley has answered the wrong one.
Thinking that he was answering A, and meaning to answer A, he has,
in fact, answered B. One question arises thus: Justice is a virtue;
temperance is a virtue; and so forth. Now, what is the common principle
which ranks these several species under the same genus? What, in the
language of logicians, is the common differential principle which
determines these various aspects of moral obligation to a common
genus? Another question, and a more interesting question to men in
general, is this,--What is the motive to virtue? By what impulse, law,
or motive, am I impelled to be virtuous rather than vicious? Whence
is the motive derived which should impel me to one line of conduct in
preference to the other? This, which is a practical question, and,
therefore, more interesting than the other, which is a pure question
of speculation, was that which Paley believed himself to be answering.
And his answer was,--that utility, a perception of the resulting
benefit, was the true determining motive. Meantime, it was objected
that often the most obvious results from a virtuous action were far
otherwise than beneficial. Upon which, Paley, in the long note referred
to above, distinguished thus: that, whereas actions have many results,
some proximate, some remote, just as a stone thrown into the water
produces many concentric circles, be it known that he, Dr. Paley, in
what he says of utility, contemplates only the final result, the very
outermost circle; inasmuch as he acknowledges a possibility that the
first, second, third, including the penultimate circle, may all happen
to clash with utility; but then, says he, the outermost circle of all
will never fail to coincide with the absolute maximum of utility.
Hence, in the first place, it appears that you cannot apply this test
of utility in a practical sense; you cannot say, This is useful,
_ergo_, it is virtuous; but, in the inverse order, you must say, This
is virtuous, _ergo_, it is useful. You do not rely on its usefulness
to satisfy yourself of its being virtuous; but, on the contrary, you
rely on its virtuousness, previously ascertained, in order to satisfy
yourself of its usefulness. And thus the whole practical value of this
test disappears, though in that view it was first introduced; and a
vicious circle arises in the argument; as you must have ascertained
the virtuousness of an act, in order to apply the test of its being
virtuous. But, _secondly_, it now comes out that Paley was answering a
very different question from that which he supposed himself answering.
Not any practical question as to the motive or impelling force in
being virtuous, rather than vicious,--that is, to the _sanctions_
of virtue,--but a purely speculative question, as to the essence of
virtue, or the common _vinculum_ amongst the several modes or species
of virtue (justice, temperance, &c.)--this was the real question
which he was answering. I have often remarked that the largest and
most subtle source of error in philosophic speculations has been the
confounding of the two great principles so much insisted on by the
Leibnitzians, viz., the _ratio cognoscendi_ and the _ratio essendi_.
Paley believed himself to be assigning--it was his full purpose to
assign--the _ratio cognoscendi_; but, instead of that, unconsciously
and surreptitiously, he has actually assigned the _ratio essendi_, and,
after all, a false and imaginary _ratio essendi_.


As De Quincey's long and interesting Chapter on Oxford from 1803 to
1808 leaves the incidents of his own passage through the University
rather hazy, the following condensation of particulars on the subject
may not be unwelcome. They are partly from one of his own conversations
in 1821 with Richard Woodhouse (the notes of which conversations are
appended to Mr. Garnett's edition in 1885 of the _Confessions of
an English Opium-Eater_), partly from an article in the _Quarterly
Review_ for July 1861 containing information supplied by Dr. Cotton of
Worcester College, and partly from information collected by Mr. Page
for his _Life of De Quincey_:--Admitted into Worcester College on the
17th of December 1803, he did for the first two years of his residence
lead, as he tells us, a very solitary life, withdrawing himself from
wine-parties, and frequenting chiefly the society of a German named
Schwartzburg. Even then, however, he had the reputation with some in
the college of being, though of shy and quaint ways, a man of uncommon
genius and erudition; and, latterly, as this reputation spread in the
college, and some inevitable appearances of his in college declamations
and the like confirmed it, he became the object of more general
attention, and was urged to go up for honours in taking his degree. He
did attend the first examination for B.A. honours at Michaelmas in the
year 1808, with the result that Dr. Goodenough of Christ Church, who
was one of the examiners, is said to have told one of the Worcester
College dons, "You have sent us to-day the cleverest man I ever met
with; if his _vivâ voce_ examination to-morrow correspond with what he
has done in writing, he will carry everything before him." De Quincey's
own account to Mr. Woodhouse was that the examination was an oral one
and in Latin; which agrees more with the possibility of such a report
from Dr. Goodenough on the same day. De Quincey further adds that this
examination was on a Saturday, and that the remaining examination,
which was to follow on Monday, was to be in Greek. He had been looking
forward to this examination with much interest, his Greek readings
having been of wide range and in many directions out of the ordinary
academic track; and his interest had been increased by the regulation
that the answers to the questions were to be wholly or largely in the
Greek tongue itself. The fact that this rule had been altered at the
last moment had, however, disgusted him; and this, together with "his
contempt for his examiners" and the thought that the examination would
be of a kind that would leave his real resources untested, had such
an effect upon him that, "when the time came, he was _non inventus_."
Mr. Woodhouse's report from himself is that "on the Sunday morning
he left Oxford"; the Worcester College tradition, which is equally
precise as to the main fact that he "packed up his things and walked
away from Oxford," makes the flight occur in the night following the
first examination. Whatever other causes there may have been for the
break-down, the opium-eating habit must have been chiefly responsible.
That habit had been formed by De Quincey in 1804 in one of those
visits of his to London which, with visits to other places, are to be
understood as having varied the monotony of his Oxford residence. The
habit had grown upon him in his solitude in his college rooms; and part
of the college tradition respecting his break-down is that, having
taken a large dose of the drug to stimulate him sufficiently for the
first day's examination, he was wrecked by the reaction. He took no
University degree; and, though his name remained on the college books
to as late as 15th December 1810, his real connexion with Oxford ceased
in 1808.--D. M.



   [15] From _Tait's Magazine_ for June 1836. See _ante_, Preface,
   pp. 1, 2.--M.

Using a New Testament, of which (in the narrative parts at least)
any one word being given will suggest most of what is immediately
consecutive, you evade the most irksome of the penalties annexed to the
first breaking ground in a new language: you evade the necessity of
hunting up and down a dictionary. Your own memory, and the inevitable
suggestions of the context, furnish a dictionary _pro hac vice_. And
afterwards, upon advancing to other books, where you are obliged to
forgo such aids, and to swim without corks, you find yourself already
in possession of the particles for expressing addition, succession,
exception, inference--in short, of all the forms by which transition
or connexion is effected (_if_, _but_, _and_, _therefore_, _however_,
_notwithstanding_), together with all those adverbs for modifying
or restraining the extent of a subject or a predicate, which in all
languages alike compose the essential frame-work or _extra-linear_
machinery of human thought. The filling-up--the _matter_ (in a
scholastic sense)--may differ infinitely; but the _form_, the
periphery, the determining moulds into which this matter is fused--all
this is the same for ever: and so wonderfully limited in its extent is
this frame-work, so narrow and rapidly revolving is the clock-work of
connexions among human thoughts, that a dozen pages of almost any book
suffice to exhaust all the [Greek: epea pteroenta][16] which express
them. To have mastered these [Greek: epea pteroenta] is in effect to
have mastered seven-tenths, at the least, of any language; and the
benefit of using a New Testament, or the familiar parts of an Old
Testament, in this preliminary drill, is, that your own memory is thus
made to operate as a perpetual dictionary or nomenclator. I have heard
Mr. Southey say that, by carrying in his pocket a Dutch, Swedish, or
other Testament, on occasion of a long journey performed in "_muggy_"
weather, and in the inside of some venerable "old heavy"--such as used
to bestow their tediousness upon our respectable fathers some thirty
or forty years ago--he had more than once turned to so valuable an
account the doziness or the dulness of his fellow-travellers, that,
whereas he had "booked" himself at the coach-office utterly [Greek:
analphabêtos], unacquainted with the first rudiments of the given
language, he had made his parting bows to his coach brethren (secretly
returning thanks to them for their stupidity) in a condition for
grappling with any common book in that dialect. One of the polyglot Old
or New Testaments published by Bagster would be a perfect Encyclopædia,
or _Panorganon_, for such a scheme of coach discipline, upon dull roads
and in dull company. As respects the German language in particular, I
shall give one caution from my own experience to the self-instructor:
it is a caution which applies to the German language exclusively, or
to that more than to any other, because the embarrassment which it
is meant to meet grows out of a defect of taste characteristic of
the German mind. It is this: elsewhere, you would naturally, as a
beginner, resort to _prose_ authors, since the license and audacity of
poetic thinking, and the large freedom of a poetic treatment, cannot
fail to superadd difficulties of individual creation to the general
difficulties of a strange dialect. But this rule, good for every
other case, is _not_ good for the literature of Germany. Difficulties
there certainly are, and perhaps in more than the usual proportion,
from the German peculiarities of poetic treatment; but even these are
overbalanced in the result by the single advantage of being limited
in the extent by the metre, or (as it may happen) by the particular
stanza. To German poetry there is a known, fixed, calculable limit.
Infinity, absolute infinity, is impracticable in any German metre. Not
so with German prose. Style, in any sense, is an inconceivable idea
to a German intellect. Take the word in the limited sense of what the
Greeks called [Greek: Synthesis onomatôn]--_i.e._, the construction
of sentences--I affirm that a German (unless it were here and there a
Lessing) cannot admit such an idea. Books there are in German, and,
in other respects, very good books too, which consist of one or two
enormous sentences. A German sentence describes an arch between the
rising and the setting sun. Take Kant for illustration: he has actually
been complimented by the cloud-spinner, Frederick Schlegel, who is now
in Hades, as a most original artist in the matter of style. "Original"
Heaven knows he was! His idea of a sentence was as follows:--We have
all seen, or read of, an old family coach, and the process of packing
it for a journey to London some seventy or eighty years ago. Night and
day, for a week at least, sate the housekeeper, the lady's maid, the
butler, the gentleman's gentlemen, &c., packing the huge ark in all
its recesses, its "imperials," its "wells," its "Salisbury boots,"
its "sword-cases," its front pockets, side pockets, rear pockets, its
"hammer-cloth cellars" (which a lady explains to me as a corruption
from _hamper-cloth_, as originally a cloth for hiding a hamper, stored
with _viaticum_), until all the uses and needs of man, and of human
life, savage or civilized, were met with separate provision by the
infinite chaos. Pretty nearly upon the model of such an old family
coach packing did Kant institute and pursue the packing and stuffing of
one of his regular sentences. Everything that could ever be needed in
the way of explanation, illustration, restraint, inference, by-clause,
or indirect comment, was to be crammed, according to this German
philosopher's taste, into the front pockets, side pockets, or rear
pockets, of the one original sentence. Hence it is that a sentence will
last in reading whilst a man

     "Might reap an acre of his neighbour's corn."

Nor is this any peculiarity of Kant's. It is common to the whole family
of prose-writers of Germany, unless when they happen to have studied
French models, who cultivate the opposite extreme. As a caution,
therefore, practically applied to this particular anomaly in German
prose-writing, I advise all beginners to choose between two classes
of composition--ballad poetry, or comedy--as their earliest school
of exercise: ballad poetry, because the form of the stanza (usually
a quatrain) prescribes a very narrow range to the sentences; comedy,
because the form of dialogue, and the imitation of daily life in its
ordinary tone of conversation, and the spirit of comedy, naturally
suggesting a brisk interchange of speech, all tend to short sentences.
These rules I soon drew from my own experience and observation. And
the one sole purpose towards which I either sought or wished for aid
respected the pronunciation; not so much for attaining a just one
(which I was satisfied could not be realized out of Germany, or, at
least, out of a daily intercourse with Germans) as for preventing
the formation, unawares, of a radically false one. The guttural and
palatine sounds of the _ch_, and some other German peculiarities,
cannot be acquired without constant practice. But the false Westphalian
or Jewish pronunciation of the vowels, diphthongs, &c., may easily
be forestalled, though the true delicacy of Meissen should happen to
be missed. Thus much guidance I purchased, with a very few guineas,
from my young Dresden tutor, who was most anxious for permission to
extend his assistance; but this I would not hear of: and, in the spirit
of fierce (perhaps foolish) independence, which governed most of my
actions at that time of life, I did all the rest for myself.

     "It was a banner broad unfurl'd,
     The picture of that western world."

These, or words like these, in which Wordsworth conveys the sudden
apocalypse, as by an apparition, to an ardent and sympathising
spirit, of the stupendous world of America, rising, at once, like an
exhalation, with all its shadowy forests, its endless savannas, and
its pomp of solitary waters--well and truly might I have applied to my
first launching upon that vast billowy ocean of the German literature.
As a past literature, as a literature of inheritance and tradition, the
German was nothing. Ancestral titles it had none; or none comparable to
those of England, Spain, or even Italy; and there, also, it resembled
America, as contrasted with the ancient world of Asia, Europe, and
North Africa.[17] But, if its inheritance were nothing, its prospects,
and the scale of its present development, were in the amplest style of
American grandeur. _Ten thousand_ new books, we are assured by Menzel,
an author of high reputation--a _literal myriad_--is considerably below
the number annually poured from all quarters of Germany into the vast
reservoir of Leipsic: spawn infinite, no doubt, of crazy dotage, of
dreaming imbecility, of wickedness, of frenzy, through every phasis of
Babylonian confusion; yet, also, teeming and heaving with life and the
instincts of truth--of truth hunting and chasing in the broad daylight,
or of truth groping in the chambers of darkness; sometimes seen as it
displays its cornucopia of tropical fruitage; sometimes heard dimly,
and in promise, working its way through diamond mines. Not the tropics,
not the ocean, not life itself, is such a type of variety, of infinite
forms, or of creative power, as the German literature in its recent
motions (say for the last twenty years), gathering, like the Danube, a
fresh volume of power at every stage of its advance. A banner it was,
indeed, to me of miraculous promise, and suddenly unfurled. It seemed,
in those days, an El Dorado as true and undeceiving as it was evidently
inexhaustible. And the central object in this interminable wilderness
of what then seemed imperishable bloom and verdure--the very tree of
knowledge in the midst of this Eden--was the new or transcendental
philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

   [16] 2 [Greek: Epea pteroenta] literally _winged words_. To
   explain the use and origin of this phrase to non-classical
   readers, it must be understood that, originally, it was used by
   Homer to express the few, rapid, and significant words which
   conveyed some hasty order, counsel, or notice, suited to any
   sudden occasion or emergency: _e.g._ "To him flying from the field
   the hero addressed these winged words--'Stop, coward, or I will
   transfix thee with my spear.'" But by Horne Tooke the phrase was
   adopted on the title-page of his _Diversions of Purley_, as a
   pleasant symbolic expression for all the non-significant
   particles, the _articuli_ or joints of language, which in his
   well-known theory are resolved into abbreviations or compendious
   forms (and therefore rapid, flying, _winged_ forms), substituted
   for significant forms of greater length. Thus, _if_ is a
   non-significant particle, but it is an abbreviated form of an
   imperative in the second person--substituted for gif, or give, or
   grant the case--put the case that. All other particles are shewn
   by Horne Tooke to be equally short-hand (or _winged_)

   [17] It has been rather too much forgotten that Africa, from the
   northern margin of Bilidulgerid and the Great Desert,
   southwards--everywhere, in short, beyond Egypt, Cyrene, and the
   modern Barbary States--belongs, as much as America, to the New
   World, the world unknown to the ancients.

I have described the gorgeousness of my expectations in those early
days of my prelusive acquaintance with German literature. I have a
little lingered in painting that glad aurora of my first pilgrimage to
the fountains of the Rhine and of the Danube, in order adequately to
shadow out the gloom and blight which soon afterwards settled upon the
hopes of that golden dawn. In Kant, I had been taught to believe, were
the keys of a new and a creative philosophy. Either "_ejus ductu_," or
"_ejus auspiciis_"--that is, either directly under his guidance, or
indirectly under any influence remotely derived from his principles--I
looked confidingly to see the great vistas and avenues of truth laid
open to the philosophic inquirer. Alas! all was a dream. Six weeks'
study was sufficient to close my hopes in that quarter for ever. The
philosophy of Kant--so famous, so commanding in Germany from about
the period of the French Revolution--already, in 1805, I had found to
be a philosophy of destruction, and scarcely in any one chapter so
much as _tending_ to a philosophy of reconstruction. It destroys by
wholesale, and it substitutes nothing. Perhaps, in the whole history of
man, it is an unexampled case that such a scheme of speculation--which
offers nothing seducing to human aspirations, nothing splendid to the
human imagination, nothing even positive and affirmative to the human
understanding--should have been able to found an interest so broad and
deep among thirty-five millions of cultivated men. The English reader
who supposes this interest to have been confined to academic bowers,
or the halls of philosophic societies, is most inadequately alive to
the case. Sects, heresies, schisms, by hundreds, have arisen out of
this philosophy; many thousands of books have been written by way of
teaching it, discussing it, extending it, opposing it. And yet it is a
fact that all its doctrines are negative--teaching, in no case, what
we _are_, but simply what we are _not_, to believe--and that all its
truths are barren. Such being its unpopular character, I cannot but
imagine that the German people have received it with so much ardour
from profound incomprehension of its meaning, and utter blindness to
its drift: a solution which may seem extravagant, but is not so; for,
even amongst those who have expressly commented on this philosophy,
not one of the many hundreds whom I have myself read but has retracted
from every attempt to explain its dark places. In these dark places
lies, indeed, the secret of its attraction. Were light poured into
them, it would be seen that they are _culs-de-sac_, passages that
lead to nothing; but, so long as they continue dark, it is not known
whither they lead, how far, in what direction, and whether, in fact,
they may not issue into paths connected directly with the positive
and the infinite. Were it known that upon every path a barrier faces
you insurmountable to human steps--like the barriers which fence in
the Abyssinian valley of Rasselas--the popularity of this philosophy
would expire at once; for no popular interest can long be sustained
by speculations which, in every aspect, are known to be essentially
negative and essentially finite. Man's nature has something of infinity
within itself, which requires a corresponding infinity in its objects.
We are told, indeed, by Mr. Bulwer, that the Kantian system has ceased
to be of any authority in Germany--that it is defunct, in fact--and
that we have first begun to import it into England after its root
had withered, or begun to wither, in its native soil. But Mr. Bulwer
is mistaken. The philosophy has never withered in Germany. It cannot
even be said that its fortunes have retrograded: they have oscillated:
accidents of taste and ability in particular professors, or caprices of
fashion, have given a momentary fluctuation to this or that new form
of Kantianism--an ascendency, for a period, to various, and, in some
respects, conflicting modifications of the transcendental system; but
all alike have derived their power mediately from Kant. No weapons,
even if employed as hostile weapons, are now forged in any armoury but
that of Kant; and, to repeat a Roman figure which I used above, all
the modern polemic tactics of what is called metaphysics are trained
and made to move either _ejus ductu_ or _ejus auspiciis_. Not one of
the new systems affects to call back the Leibnitzian philosophy, the
Cartesian, or any other of earlier or later date, as adequate to the
purposes of the intellect in this day, or as capable of yielding
even a sufficient terminology. Let this last fact decide the question
of Kant's vitality. _Qui bene distinguit bene docet._ This is an old
adage. Now, he who imposes new names upon all the acts, the functions,
and the objects of the philosophic understanding must be presumed
to have distinguished most sharply, and to have ascertained with
most precision, their general relations--_so long as his terminology
continues to be adopted_. This test, applied to Kant, will show that
his spirit yet survives in Germany. Frederick Schlegel, it is true,
twenty years ago, in his lectures upon Literature, assures us that
even the disciples of the great philosopher have agreed to abandon his
philosophic nomenclature. But the German philosophic literature, since
that date, tells another tale. Mr. Bulwer is, therefore, wrong; and,
without going to Germany, looking only to France, he will see cause to
revise his sentence. Cousin--the philosophic Cousin, the only great
name in philosophy for modern France--familiar as he is with North
Germany, can hardly be presumed unacquainted with a fact so striking,
if it _were_ a fact, as the extinction of a system once so triumphantly
supreme as that of Kant; and yet Mr. Bulwer, admiring Cousin as he
does, cannot but have noticed his efforts to naturalize Kant in France.
Meantime, if it were even true that transcendentalism had lost its
hold of the public mind in Germany, _prima facie_, this would prove
little more than the fickleness of that public which must have been
wrong in one of the two cases--either when adopting the system, or when
rejecting it. Whatever there may be of truth and value in the system
will remain unimpeached by such caprices, whether of an individual or
of a great nation; and England would still be in the right to import
the philosophy, however late in the day, if it were true even (which I
doubt greatly) that she _is_ importing it.

Both truth and value there certainly _is_ in one part of the Kantian
philosophy; and that part is its foundation. I had intended, at this
point, to introduce an outline of the transcendental philosophy--not,
perhaps, as entering by logical claim of right into any biographical
sketch, but as a very allowable digression in the record of that man's
life to whom, in the way of hope and of profound disappointment,
it had been so memorable an object. For two or three years before I
mastered the language of Kant,[18] it had been a pole-star to my hopes,
and _in hypothesi_, agreeably to the uncertain plans of uncertain
knowledge, the luminous guide to my future life--as a life dedicated
and set apart to philosophy. Such it was some years _before_ I knew
it: for at least ten long years _after_ I came into a condition of
valuing its true pretensions and measuring its capacities, this same
philosophy shed the gloom of something like misanthropy upon my views
and estimates of human nature; for man was an abject animal if the
limitations which Kant assigned to the motions of his speculative
reason were as absolute and hopeless as, under _his_ scheme of the
understanding and _his_ genesis of its powers, too evidently they were.
I belonged to a reptile race, if the wings by which we had sometimes
_seemed_ to mount, and the buoyancy which had _seemed_ to support our
flight, were indeed the fantastic delusions which he represented them.
Such, and so deep and so abiding in its influence upon my life, having
been the influence of this German philosophy, according to all logic of
proportions, in selecting the objects of my notice, I might be excused
for setting before the reader, in its full array, the analysis of its
capital sections. However, in any memorial of a life which professes to
keep in view (though but as a secondary purpose) any regard to popular
taste, the logic of proportions must bend, after all, to the law of
the occasion--to the proprieties of time and place. For the present,
therefore, I shall restrict myself to the few sentences in which it
may be proper to gratify the curiosity of _some_ readers, the two or
three in a hundred, as to the peculiar distinctions of this philosophy.
Even to these two or three out of each hundred I shall not venture
to ascribe a larger curiosity than with respect to the most general
"whereabouts" of its position--from what point it starts, whence and
from what aspect it surveys the ground, and by what links from this
starting point it contrives to connect itself with the main objects of
philosophic inquiry.

   [18] I might have mastered the philosophy of Kant without waiting
   for the German language, in which all his capital works are
   written; for there is a Latin version of the whole by Born, and a
   most admirable digest of the cardinal work (admirable for its
   fidelity and the skill by which that fidelity is attained) in the
   same language by Rhiseldek, a Danish professor. But this fact,
   such was the slight knowledge of all things connected with Kant in
   England, I did not learn for some years.

Immanuel Kant was originally a dogmatist in the school of Leibnitz
and Wolf; that is, according to his trisection of all philosophy
into dogmatic, sceptical, and critical, he was, upon all questions
disposed to a strong _affirmative_ creed, without courting any
particular examination into the grounds of this creed, or into its
assailable points. From this slumber, as it is called by himself, he
was suddenly aroused by the Humian doctrine of cause and effect. This
celebrated essay on the nature of necessary connexion--so thoroughly
misapprehended at the date of its first publication to the world by
its _soi-disant_ opponents, Oswald, Beattie, &c., and so imperfectly
comprehended since then by various _soi-disant_ defenders--became in
effect the "occasional cause" (in the phrase of the logicians) of the
entire subsequent philosophic scheme of Kant; every section of which
arose upon the accidental opening made to analogical trains of thought
by this memorable effort of scepticism applied by Hume to one capital
phenomenon among the necessities of the human understanding. What is
the nature of Hume's scepticism as applied to this phenomenon? What is
the main thesis of his celebrated Essay on Cause and Effect? For few,
indeed, are they who really know anything about it. If a man really
understands it, a very few words will avail to explain the _nodus_.
Let us try. It is a necessity of the _human_ understanding (very
probably not a necessity of a higher order of intelligences) to connect
its experiences by means of the idea of _cause_ and its correlate,
_effect_: and, when Beattie, Oswald, Reid, &c., were exhausting
themselves in proofs of the indispensableness of this idea, they were
fighting with shadows; for no man had ever questioned the practical
necessity for such an idea to the coherency of human thinking. Not the
practical necessity, but the internal consistency of this notion, and
the original right to such a notion, was the point of inquisition. For,
attend, courteous reader, and three separate propositions will set
before your eyes the difficulty. _First Prop._, which, for the sake of
greater precision, permit me to throw into Latin:--_Non datur aliquid_
[A] _quo posito ponitur aliud_ [B] _a priori_; that is, in other words,
You cannot lay your hands upon that one object or phenomenon [A] in the
whole circle of natural existences, which, being assumed, will entitle
you to assume _a priori_, any other object whatsoever [B] as succeeding
it. You could not, I say, of any object or phenomenon whatever, assume
this succession _a priori_--that is, _previously to experience_.
_Second Prop._ But, if the succession of B to A be made known to you,
not _a priori_ (by the involution of B in the idea of A), but by
experience, then you cannot ascribe _necessity_ to the succession:
the connection between them is not necessary but contingent. For the
very widest experience--an experience which should stretch over all
ages, from the beginning to the end of time--can never establish a
_nexus_ having the least approximation to necessity; no more than a
rope of sand could gain the cohesion of adamant by repeating its links
through a billion of successions. _Prop. Third._ Hence (_i.e._ from
the two preceding propositions), it appears that no instance or case
of _nexus_ that ever can have been offered to the notice of any human
understanding has in it, or by possibility could have had, anything
of necessity. Had the _nexus_ been necessary, you would have seen
it beforehand; whereas, by Prop. 1, _Non datur aliquid, quo posito
ponitur aliud a priori_. This being so, now comes the startling fact,
that the notion of a _cause_ includes the notion of necessity. For,
if A (the cause) be connected with B (the effect) only in a casual
or accidental way, you do not feel warranted in calling it a cause.
If heat, applied to ice (A) were sometimes followed by a tendency to
liquefaction (B) and sometimes not, you would not consider A connected
with B as a cause, but only as some variable accompaniment of the true
and unknown cause, which might allowably be present or be absent.
This, then, is the startling and mysterious phenomenon of the human
understanding--that, in a certain notion, which is indispensable to the
coherency of our whole experience, indispensable to the establishing
any _nexus_ between the different parts and successions of our whole
train of notions, we include an accessary notion of necessity, which
yet has no justification or warrant, no assignable derivation from
any known or possible case of human experience. We have one idea at
least--viz. the idea of causation--which transcends our possible
experience by one important element, the element of _necessity_, that
never can have been derived from the only source of ideas recognised
by the philosophy of this day. A Lockian never can find his way out of
this dilemma. The experience (whether it be the experience of sensation
or the experience of reflection) which he adopts for his master-key
never will unlock this case; for the sum total of human experience,
collected from all ages, can avail only to tell us what _is_, but never
what _must be_. The idea of necessity is absolutely transcendent to
experience, _per se_, and must be derived from some other source. From
what source? Could Hume tell us? No: he, who had started the game so
acutely (for, with every allowance for the detection made in Thomas
Aquinas of the original suggestion, as recorded in the _Biographia
Literaria_ of Coleridge, we must still allow great merit of a secondary
kind to Hume for his modern revival and restatement of the doctrine),
this same acute philosopher broke down confessedly in his attempt to
hunt the game down. His solution is worthless.

Kant, however, having caught the original scent from Hume, was
more fortunate. He saw, at a glance, that here was a test applied
to the Lockian philosophy, which showed, at the very least,
its _insufficiency_. If it were good even for so much as it
explained--which Burke is disposed to receive as a sufficient warrant
for the favourable reception of a new hypothesis--at any rate, it now
appeared that there was something which it could _not_ explain. But,
next, Kant took a large step in advance _proprio marte_. Reflecting
upon the one idea adduced by Hume as transcending the ordinary source
of ideas, he began to ask himself whether it were likely that this idea
should stand alone? Were there not other ideas in the same predicament;
other ideas including the same element of necessity, and, therefore,
equally disowning the parentage assigned by Locke? Upon investigation,
he found that there were: he found that there were eleven others in
exactly the same circumstances. The entire twelve he denominated
categories; and the mode by which he ascertained their number--that
there were so many and no more--is of itself so remarkable as to
merit notice in the most superficial sketch. But, in fact, this one
explanation will put the reader in possession of Kant's system, so
far as he could understand it without an express and toilsome study.
With this explanation, therefore, of the famous categories, I shall
close my slight sketch of the system. Has the reader ever considered
the meaning of the term _Category_--a term so ancient and so venerable
from its connexion with the most domineering philosophy that has yet
appeared amongst men? The doctrine of the Categories (or, in its
Roman appellation, of the _Predicaments_) is one of the few wrecks
from the Peripatetic philosophy which still survives as a doctrine
taught by public authority in the most ancient academic institutions
of Europe.[19] It continues to form a section in the code of public
instruction; and perhaps under favour of a pure accident. For, though,
strictly speaking, a _metaphysical_ speculation, it has always been
prefixed as a sort of preface to the Organon (or _logical_ treatises)
of Aristotle, and has thus accidentally shared in the immortality
conceded to that most perfect of human works. Far enough were the
Categories from meriting such distinction. Kant was well aware of this:
he was aware that the Aristotelian Categories were a useless piece
of scholastic lumber: unsound in their first conception; and, though
illustrated through long centuries by the schoolmen, and by still
earlier Grecian philosophers, never in any one known instance turned
to a profitable account. Why, then, being aware that even in idea they
were false, besides being practically unsuitable, did Kant adopt or
borrow a name laden with this superfetation of reproach--all that is
false in theory superadded to all that is useless in practice? He did
so for a remarkable reason: he felt, according to his own explanation,
that Aristotle had been _groping_ (the German word expressive of his
blind procedure is _herumtappen_)--groping in the dark, but under a
semi-conscious instinct of truth. Here is a most remarkable case or
situation of the human intellect, happening alike to individuals
and to entire generations--in the situation of yearning or craving,
as it were, for a great idea as yet unknown, but dimly and uneasily

   [19] De Quincey was so fastidious in the matter of grammatical
   correctness that he would have been shocked to find that he had
   let this sentence go forth in print.--M.

Sometimes the very brink, as it may be called, of such an idea is
approached; sometimes it is even imperfectly discovered; but with marks
in the very midst of its imperfections which serve as indications to a
person coming better armed for ascertaining the sub-conscious thought
which had governed their tentative motions. As it stands in Aristotle's
scheme, the idea of a category is a mere lifeless abstraction.
Rising through a succession of species to genera, and from these to
still higher genera, you arrive finally at a highest genus--a naked
abstraction, beyond which no farther regress is possible. This highest
genus, this _genus generalissimum_, is, in peripatetic language, a
category; and no purpose or use has ever been assigned to any one of
these categories, of which ten were enumerated at first, beyond that
of classification--_i.e._ a purpose of mere convenience. Even for as
trivial a purpose as this, it gave room for suspecting a failure,
when it was afterwards found that the original ten categories did
not exhaust the possibilities of the case; that other supplementary
categories (_post-proedicamenta_) became necessary. And, perhaps,
"more last words" might even yet be added, supplementary supplements,
and so forth, by a hair-splitting intellect. Failures as gross as
these, revisals still open to revision, and amendments calling for
amendments, were at once a broad confession that here there was no
falling in with any great law of nature. The paths of nature may
sometimes be arrived at in a tentative way; but they are broad and
determinate; and, when found, vindicate themselves. Still, in all this
erroneous subtilisation, and these abortive efforts, Kant perceived a
grasping at some real idea--fugitive indeed and coy, which had for the
present absolutely escaped; but he caught glimpses of it continually
in the rear; he felt its necessity to any account of the human
understanding that could be satisfactory to one who had meditated on
Locke's theory as probed and searched by Leibnitz. And in this uneasy
state--half sceptical, half creative, rejecting and substituting,
pulling down and building up--what was, in sum and finally, the course
which he took for bringing his trials and essays to a crisis? He
states this himself, somewhere in the Introduction to his _Critik der
reinen Vernunft_; and the passage is a memorable one. Fifteen years
at the least have passed since I read it; and, therefore, I cannot
pretend to produce the words; but the substance I shall give; and I
appeal to the candour of all his readers whether they have been able
to apprehend his meaning. I certainly did not for years. But, now
that I do, the passage places his procedure in a most striking and
edifying light. Astronomers, says Kant, had gone on for ages, assuming
that the earth was the central body of our system; and insuperable
were the difficulties which attended that assumption. At length, it
occurred to try what would result from inverting the assumption. Let
the earth, instead of offering a fixed centre for the revolving motions
of other heavenly bodies, be supposed itself to revolve about some
one of these, as the sun. That supposition was tried, and gradually
all the phenomena which, before, had been incoherent, anomalous,
or contradictory, began to express themselves as parts of a most
harmonious system. "Something," he goes on to say, "analogous to this
I have practised with regard to the subject of my inquiry--the human
understanding. All others had sought their central principle of the
intellectual phenomena out of the understanding, in something external
to the mind. I first turned my inquiries upon the mind itself. I first
applied my examination to the very analysis of the understanding." In
words not precisely these, but pretty nearly equivalent to them, does
Kant state, by contradistinction, the value and the nature of his own
procedure. He first, according to his own representation, thought of
applying his investigation to the mind itself. Here was a passage which
for years (I may say) continued to stagger and confound me. What! he,
Kant, in the latter end of the 18th century, about the year 1787--he
the first who had investigated the mind! This was not arrogance so
much as it was insanity. Had he said--I, first, upon just principles,
or with a fortunate result, investigated the human understanding, he
would have said no more than every fresh theorist is bound to suppose,
as his preliminary apology for claiming the attention of a busy world.
Indeed, if a writer, on any part of knowledge, does _not_ hold himself
superior to all his predecessors, we are entitled to say--Then, why do
you presume to trouble us? It may _look_ like modesty, but _is_, in
effect, downright effrontery, for you to think yourself no better than
other critics; you were at liberty to think so whilst no claimant of
public notice--as being so, it is most arrogant in you to be modest.
This would be the criticism applied justly to a man who, in Kant's
situation, as the author of a new system, should use a language of
unseasonable modesty or deprecation. To have spoken boldly of himself
was a duty; we could not tolerate his doing otherwise. But to speak of
himself in the exclusive terms I have described does certainly seem,
and for years did seem to myself, little short of insanity. Of this I
am sure,--that no student of Kant, having the passage before him, can
have known heretofore what consistent, what rational interpretation
to give it; and, in candour, he ought to own himself my debtor for
the light he will now receive. Yet, so easy is it to imagine, after a
meaning is once pointed out, and the station given from which it shows
itself _as_ the meaning--so easy, under these circumstances, is it
to imagine that one has, or that one could have, found it for one's
self--that I have little expectation of reaping much gratitude for
my explanation. I say this, not as of much importance one way or the
other in a single case of the kind, but because a general consideration
of this nature has sometimes operated to make me more indifferent or
careless as to the publication of commentaries on difficult systems
when I had found myself able to throw much light on the difficulties.
The very success with which I should have accomplished the task--the
perfect removal of the obstacles in the student's path--were the very
grounds of my assurance that the service would be little valued. For
I have found what it was occasionally, in conversation, to be too
luminous--to have explained, for instance, too clearly a dark place
in Ricardo. In such a case, I have known a man of the very greatest
powers mistake the intellectual effort he had put forth to apprehend my
elucidation, and to meet it half way, for his own unassisted conquest
over the difficulties; and, within an hour or two after, I have had,
perhaps, to stand, as an attack upon myself, arguments entirely and
recently furnished by myself. No case is more possible: even to
apprehend complex explanation, a man cannot be passive; he must exert
considerable energy of mind; and, in the fresh consciousness of this
energy, it is the most natural mistake in the world for him to feel
the argument which he has by considerable effort appropriated to be an
argument which he has originated. Kant is the most unhappy champion of
his own doctrines, the most infelicitous expounder of his own meaning,
that has ever existed. Neither has any other commentator succeeded in
throwing a moonlight radiance upon his philosophy. Yet certain I am
that, were I, or any man, to disperse all his darkness, exactly in
that proportion in which we did so--exactly in the proportion in which
we smoothed all hindrances--exactly in that proportion would it cease
to be known or felt that there had ever been any hindrances to be
smoothed. This, however, is digression, to which I have been tempted
by the interesting nature of the grievance. In a jesting way, this
grievance is obliquely noticed in the celebrated couplet--

     "Had you seen but these roads before they were made,
     You'd lift up your hands and bless Marshal Wade."

The pleasant bull here committed conceals a most melancholy truth,
and one of large extent. Innumerable are the services to truth, to
justice, or society, which never _can_ be adequately valued by those
who reap their benefits, simply because the transition from the early
and bad state to the final or improved state cannot be retraced or kept
alive before the eyes. The record perishes. The last point gained is
seen; but the starting point, the point _from_ which it was gained,
is forgotten. And the traveller never _can_ know the true amount of
his obligations to Marshal Wade, because, though seeing the roads
which the Marshal has created, he can only guess at those which he
superseded. Now, returning to this impenetrable passage of Kant, I will
briefly inform the reader that he may read it into sense by connecting
it with a part of Kant's system from which it is in his own delivery
entirely dislocated. Going forwards some thirty or forty pages, he
will find Kant's development of his own categories. And, by placing
in juxtaposition with that development this blind sentence, he will
find a reciprocal light arising. All philosophers, worthy of that
name, have found it necessary to allow of some great cardinal ideas
that transcended all the Lockian origination--ideas that were larger
in their compass than any possible notices of sense or any reflex
notices of the understanding; and those who have denied such ideas
will be found invariably to have supported their denial by a _vitium
subreptionis_, and to have deduced their pretended genealogies of
such ideas by means of a _petitio principii_--silently and stealthily
putting _into_ some step of their _leger-de-main_ process everything
that they would pretend to have extracted _from_ it. But, previously
to Kant, it is certain that all philosophers had left the origin of
these higher or transcendent ideas unexplained. Whence came they? In
the systems to which Locke replies they had been called _innate_ or
_connate._ These were the Cartesian systems. Cudworth, again, who
maintained certain "_immutable ideas_" of morality, had said nothing
about their origin; and Plato had supposed them to be reminiscences
from some higher mode of existence. Kant first attempted to assign them
an origin within the mind itself, though not in any Lockian fashion of
reflection upon sensible impressions. And this is doubtless what he
means by saying that he first had investigated the mind--that is, he
first for such a purpose.

Where, then, is it, in what act or function of the mind, that Kant
finds the matrix of these transcendent ideas? Simply in the logical
forms of the understanding. Every power exerts its agency under some
_laws_--that is, in the language of Kant, by certain _forms_. We
leap by certain laws--viz., of equilibrium, of muscular motion, of
gravitation. We dance by certain laws. So also we reason by certain
laws. These laws, or _formal_ principles, under a particular condition,
become the categories.

Here, then, is a short derivation, in a very few words, of those
ideas transcending sense which all philosophy, the earliest, has been
unable to dispense with, and yet none could account for. Thus, for
example, every act of reasoning must, in the first place, express
itself in distinct propositions; that is, in such as contain a subject
(or that concerning which you affirm or deny something), a predicate
(that which you affirm or deny), and a copula, which connects them.
These propositions must have what is technically called, in logic, a
certain _quantity_, or compass (viz., must be universal, particular,
or singular); and again they must have what is called _quality_ (that
is, must be affirmative, or negative, or infinite): and thus arises a
ground for certain corresponding ideas, which are Kant's categories of
quantity and quality.

But, to take an illustration more appropriately from the very idea
which first aroused Kant to the sense of a vast hiatus in the received
philosophies--the idea of _cause_, which had been thrown as an apple
of discord amongst the schools by Hume. How did Kant deduce this?
Simply thus: it is a doctrine of universal logic that there are three
varieties of syllogism--viz., 1st, Categoric, or directly declarative
[_A is B_]; 2d, Hypothetic, or conditionally declarative [_If C is D,
then A is B_]; 3d, Disjunctive, or declarative by means of a choice
which exhausts the possible cases [_A is either B, or C, or D; but not
C or D, ergo B_]. Now, the idea of _causation,_ or, in Kant's language,
the category of Cause and Effect, is deduced immediately, and most
naturally, as the reader will acknowledge on examination, from the 2d
or hypothetic form of syllogism, when the relation of dependency is
the same as in the idea of causation, and the _necessary_ connexion a
direct type of that which takes place between a cause and its effect.

Thus, then, without going one step further, the reader will find
grounds enough for reflection, and for reverence towards Kant,
in these two great results: 1st, That an order of ideas has been
established which all deep philosophy has demanded, even when it
could not make good its claim. This postulate is fulfilled. 2dly, The
postulate is fulfilled without mysticism or Platonic reveries. Ideas,
however indispensable to human needs, and even to the connexion of
our thoughts, which came to us from nobody knew whence must for ever
have been suspicious; and, as in the memorable instance cited from
Hume, must have been liable for ever to a question of validity. But,
deduced as they now are from a matrix within our own minds, they cannot
reasonably fear any assaults of scepticism.

Here I shall stop. A reader new to these inquiries may think all this
a trifle. But he who reflects a little will see that, even thus far,
and going no step beyond this point, the Kantian doctrine of the
Categories answers a standing question hanging aloft as a challenge
to human philosophy, fills up a _lacuna_ pointed out from the era of
Plato. It solves a problem which has startled and perplexed every age:
viz. this--that man is in possession, nay, in the hourly exercise, of
ideas larger than he can show any title to. And, in another way, the
reader may measure the extent of this doctrine, by reflecting that,
even so far as now stated, it is precisely coextensive with the famous
scheme of Locke. For what is the capital thesis of that scheme? Simply
this--that all necessity for supposing immediate impressions made
upon our understandings by God, or other supernatural, or antenatal,
or connatal, agencies, is idle and romantic; for that, upon examining
the furniture of our minds, nothing will be found there which cannot
adequately be explained out of our daily experience; and, until we find
something that cannot be solved by this explanation, it is childish
to go in quest of higher causes. Thus says Locke: and his whole work,
upon its first plan, is no more than a continual pleading of this
single thesis, pursuing it through all the plausible objections.
Being, therefore, as large in its extent as Locke, the reader must
not complain of the transcendental scheme as too narrow, even in that
limited section of it here brought under his notice.

For the purpose of repelling it, he must do one of two things: either
he must shew that these categories or transcendent notions are not
susceptible of the derivation and genesis here assigned to them--that
is, from the forms of the _logos_ or formal understanding; or, if
content to abide by that derivation, he must allege that there are
other categories besides those enumerated, and unprovided with any
similar parentage.

Thus much in reply to him who complains of the doctrine here stated
as, 1st, Too narrow, or, 2d, As insufficiently established. But, 3d,
in reply to him who wishes to see it further pursued or applied, I say
that the possible applications are perhaps infinite. With respect to
those made by Kant himself, they are chiefly contained in his main and
elementary work, the _Critik der reinen Vernunft_; and they are of a
nature to make any man melancholy. Indeed, let a man consider merely
this one notion of _causation_; let him reflect on its origin; let him
remember that, agreeably to this origin, it follows that we have no
right to view anything _in rerum naturâ_ as objectively, or in itself,
a cause; that, when, upon the fullest philosophic proof, we call A
the cause of B, we do in fact only subsume A under the notion of a
cause--we invest it with that function under that relation; that the
whole proceeding is merely with respect to a _human_ understanding, and
by way of indispensable _nexus_ to the several parts of our experience;
finally, that there is the greatest reason to doubt whether the idea
of _causation_ is at all applicable to any other world than this, or
any other than a human experience. Let a man meditate but a little on
this or other aspects of this transcendental philosophy, and he will
find the steadfast earth itself rocking as it were beneath his feet;
a world about him which is in some sense a world of deception; and a
world before him which seems to promise a world of confusion, or "_a
world not realised_." All this he might deduce for himself without
further aid from Kant. However, the particular purposes to which Kant
applies his philosophy, from the difficulties which beset them, are
unfitted for anything below a regular treatise. Suffice it to say here,
that, difficult as these speculations are from one or two embarrassing
doctrines on the Transcendental Consciousness, and depressing as they
are from their general tendency, they are yet painfully irritating to
the curiosity, and especially so from a sort of _experimentum crucis_
which they yield in the progress of their development on behalf of the
entire doctrine of Kant--a test which, up to this hour, has offered
defiance to any hostile hand. The test or defiance which I speak
of takes the shape of certain _antinomies_ (so they are termed),
severe adamantine arguments, affirmative and negative, on two or
three celebrated problems, with no appeal to any possible decision,
but one which involves the Kantian doctrines. A _quæstio vexata_ is
proposed--for instance, the _infinite divisibility of matter_; each
side of this question, _thesis_ and _antithesis_, is argued; the logic
is irresistible, the links are perfect, and for each side alternately
there is a verdict, thus terminating in the most triumphant _reductio
ad absurdum_,--viz. that A, at one and the same time and in the same
sense, is and is not B,--from which no escape is available but through
a Kantian solution. On any other philosophy, it is demonstrated that
this opprobrium of the human understanding, this scandal of logic,
cannot be removed. This celebrated chapter of _antinomies_ has been of
great service to the mere polemics of the transcendental philosophy:
it is a glove or gage of defiance, constantly lying on the ground,
challenging the rights of victory and supremacy so long as it is _not_
taken up by any antagonist, and bringing matters to a short decision
when it _is._

One section, and that the introductory section, of the transcendental
philosophy, I have purposely omitted, though in strictness not to be
insulated or dislocated from the faithful exposition even of that which
I have given. It is the doctrine of Space and Time. These profound
themes, so confounding to the human understanding, are treated by
Kant under two aspects--_1st_, as Anschauungen, or _Intuitions_--(so
the German word is usually translated for want of a better); _2dly_,
as forms, _a priori_, of all our other intuitions. Often have I
laughed internally at the characteristic exposure of Kant's style of
thinking--that he, a man of so much worldly sagacity, could think of
offering, and of the German scholastic habits, that any modern nation
could think of accepting such cabalistic phrases, such a true and very
"_Ignotium per Ignotius_," in part payment of an explanatory account
of Time and Space. Kant repeats these words--as a charm before which
all darkness flies; and he supposes continually the case of a man
denying his explanations or demanding proofs of them, never once the
sole imaginable case--viz., of all men demanding an explanation of
these explanations. Deny them! Combat them! How should a man deny, why
should he combat, what might, for anything to the contrary appearing,
contain a promissory note at two months after date for 100 guineas? No;
it will cost a little preliminary work before _such_ explanations will
much avail any scheme of philosophy, either for the _pro_ or the _con_.
And yet I do myself really profess to understand the dark words; and
a great service it would be to sound philosophy amongst us, if this
one word _anschauung_ were adequately unfolded and naturalized (as
naturalized it might be) in the English philosophic dictionary, by some
full Grecian equivalent. Strange that no man acquainted with German
philosophy should yet have been struck by the fact--or, being struck,
should not have felt it important to call public attention to the
fact,--of our inevitable feebleness in a branch of study for which as
yet we want the indispensable words. Our feebleness is at once argued
by this want, and partly caused. Meantime, as respects the Kantian way
of viewing space, by much the most important innovation which it makes
upon the old doctrines is--that it considers space as a _subjective_
not an _objective_ aliquid; that is, as having its whole available
foundation lying ultimately in ourselves, not in any external or alien
tenure. This one distinction, as applied to space, for ever secures
(what nothing else _can_ secure or explain) the cogency of geometrical
evidence. Whatever is true for any determinations of a space originally
included in ourselves, must be true for such determinations for ever,
since they cannot become objects of consciousness to us but in and
by that very mode of conceiving space, that very form of schematism
which originally presented us with these determinations of space, or
any whatever. In the uniformity of our own space-conceiving faculty we
have a pledge of the absolute and _necessary_ uniformity (or internal
agreement among themselves) of all future or possible determinations of
space; because they could no otherwise become to us conceivable forms
of space than by adapting themselves to the known conditions of our
conceiving faculty. Here we have the _necessity_ which is indispensable
to all geometrical demonstration: it is a necessity founded in our
human organ, which cannot admit or conceive a space, unless as
preconforming to these original forms or schematisms. Whereas, on
the contrary, if space were something _objective_, and consequently,
being a separate existence, independent of a human organ, then it is
altogether impossible to find any intelligible source of _obligation_
or cogency in the evidence--such as is indispensable to the very nature
of geometrical demonstration. Thus we will suppose that a regular
demonstration has gradually, from step to step downwards, through a
series of propositions--No. 8 resting upon 7, that upon 5, 5 upon 3--at
length reduced you to the elementary axiom that Two straight lines
cannot enclose a space. Now, if space be _subjective_ originally--that
is to say, founded (as respects us and our geometry) in ourselves--then
it is impossible that two such lines can enclose a space, because
the possibility of anything whatever relating to the determinations
of space is exactly co-extensive with (and exactly expressed by) our
power to conceive it. Being thus able to affirm its impossibility
universally, we can build a demonstration upon it. But, on the other
hypothesis, of space being _objective_, it is impossible to guess
whence we are to draw our proof of the alleged inaptitude in two
straight lines for enclosing a space. The most we could say is, that
hitherto no instance has been found of an enclosed space circumscribed
by two straight lines. It would not do to allege our human inability
to conceive, or in imagination to draw, such a circumscription. For,
besides that such a mode of argument is exactly the one supposed to
have been rejected, it is liable to this unanswerable objection, so
long as space is assumed to have an _objective_ existence, viz. that
the human inability to conceive such a possibility only argues (what
in fact is often found in other cases) that the _objective_ existence
of space--_i.e._ the existence of space in itself, and in its absolute
nature--is far larger than its subjective existence--_i.e._ than
its mode of existing _quoad_ some particular subject. A being more
limited than man might be so framed as to be unable to conceive curve
lines; but this subjective inaptitude for those determinations of
space would not affect the objective reality of curves, or even their
subjective reality for a higher intelligence. Thus, on the hypothesis
of an objective existence for space, we should be thrown upon an ocean
of possibilities, without a test for saying what was--what was not
possible. But, on the other hypothesis, having always in the last
resort what is _subjectively_ possible or impossible (_i.e._ what is
conceivable or not by us, what can or cannot be drawn or circumscribed
by a human imagination), we have the means of demonstration in our
power, by having the ultimate appeals in our power to a known uniform
test--viz. a known human faculty.

This is no trifling matter, and therefore no trifling advantage on the
side of Kant and his philosophy, to all who are acquainted with the
disagreeable controversies of late years among French geometricians of
the first rank, and sometimes among British ones, on the question of
mathematical evidence. Legendre and Professor Leslie took part in one
such a dispute; and the temper in which it was managed was worthy of
admiration, as contrasted with the angry controversies of elder days,
if, indeed, it did not err in an opposite spirit, by too elaborate and
too calculating a tone of reciprocal flattery. But, think as we may
of the discussion in this respect, most assuredly it was painful to
witness so infirm a philosophy applied to an interest so mighty. The
whole aerial superstructure--the heaven-aspiring pyramid of geometrical
synthesis--all tottered under the palsying logic of evidence, to which
these celebrated mathematicians appealed. And wherefore?--From the want
of any philosophic account of space, to which they might have made
a common appeal, and which might have so far discharged its debt to
truth as at least to reconcile its theory with the great outstanding
phenomena in the most absolute of sciences. Geometry is the _science_
of space: therefore, in any _philosophy_ of space, geometry is entitled
to be peculiarly considered, and used as a court of appeal. Geometry
has these two further claims to distinction--that, 1st, It is the most
perfect of the sciences, so far as it has gone; and, 2dly, That it
has gone the farthest. A philosophy of space which does not consider
and does not reconcile to its own doctrines the facts of geometry,
which, in the two points of beauty and of vast extent, is more like
a work of nature than of man, is, _prima facie_, of no value. A
philosophy of space _might_ be false which should harmonize with the
facts of geometry--it _must_ be false if it contradict them. Of Kant's
philosophy it is a capital praise that its very opening section--that
section which treats the question of space--not only quadrates with
the facts of geometry, but also, by the _subjective_ character which
it attributes to space, is the very first philosophic scheme which
explains and accounts for the cogency of geometrical evidence.

These are the two primary merits of the transcendental theory--_1st_,
Its harmony with mathematics, and the fact of having first, by its
doctrine of space, applied philosophy to the nature of geometrical
evidence; _2dly_, That it has filled up, by means of its doctrine
of categories, the great _hiatus_ in all schemes of the human
understanding from Plato downwards. All the rest, with a reserve
as to the part which concerns the _practical_ reason (or will), is
of more questionable value, and leads to manifold disputes. But I
contend that, had transcendentalism done no other service than that
of laying a foundation, sought but not found for ages, to the human
understanding--namely, by showing an intelligible genesis to certain
large and indispensable ideas--it would have claimed the gratitude
of all profound inquirers. To a reader still disposed to undervalue
Kant's service in this respect, I put one parting question--Wherefore
he values Locke? What has _he_ done, even if value is allowed in full
to his pretensions? Has the reader asked himself _that_? He gave a
_negative_ solution at the most. He told his reader that certain
disputed ideas were _not_ deduced thus and thus. Kant, on the other
hand, has given him at the least a _positive_ solution. He teaches him,
in the profoundest revelation, by a discovery in the most absolute
sense on record, and the most entirely a single act--without parts, or
contributions, or stages, or preparations from other quarters--that
these long disputed ideas could not be derived from the experience
assigned by Locke, inasmuch as they are themselves _previous conditions
under which any experience at all is possible_: he teaches him that
these ideas are not mystically originated, but are, in fact, but
another phasis of the functions or forms of his own understanding; and,
finally, he gives consistency, validity, and a charter of authority,
to certain modes of _nexus_ without which the sum total of human
experience would be a rope of sand.

In terminating this slight account of the Kantian philosophy, I may
mention that, in or about the year 1818-19, Lord Grenville, when
visiting the lakes of England, observed to Professor Wilson that, after
five years' study of this philosophy, he had not gathered from it one
clear idea. Wilberforce, about the same time, made the same confession
to another friend of my own.

It is not usual for men to meet with their capital disappointments
in early life, at least not in youth. For, as to disappointments in
love, which are doubtless the most bitter and incapable of comfort,
though otherwise likely to arise in youth, they are in this way made
impossible at a very early age, that no man can be in love to the
whole extent of his capacity until he is in full possession of all
his faculties, and with the sense of dignified maturity. A perfect
love, such as is necessary to the anguish of a perfect disappointment,
presumes also for its object not a mere girl, but woman, mature
both in person and character, and womanly dignity. This sort of
disappointment, in a degree which could carry its impression through
life, I cannot therefore suppose occurring earlier than at twenty-five
or twenty-seven. My disappointment--the profound shock with which I
was repelled from German philosophy, and which thenceforwards tinged
with cynical disgust towards man in certain aspects a temper which
originally I will presume to consider the most benign that can ever
have been created--occurred when I was yet in my twentieth year. In a
poem under the title of _Saul_, written many years ago by Mr. Sotheby,
and perhaps now forgotten, having never been popular, there occurs a
passage of some pathos, in which Saul is described as keeping amongst
the splendid equipments of a royal wardrobe that particular pastoral
habit which he had worn in his days of earliest manhood, whilst yet
humble and undistinguished by honour, but also yet innocent and
happy. There, also, with the same care, he preserved his shepherd's
crook, which, in hands of youthful vigour, had been connected with
remembrances of heroic prowess. These memorials, in after times of
trouble or perplexity, when the burthen of royalty, its cares, or its
feverish temptations, pointed his thoughts backwards, for a moment's
relief, to scenes of pastoral gaiety and peace, the heart-wearied
prince would sometimes draw from their repository, and in solitude
would apostrophise them separately, or commune with the bitter-sweet
remembrances which they recalled. In something of the same spirit--but
with a hatred to the German philosopher such as men are represented as
feeling towards the gloomy enchanter, Zamiel or whomsoever, by whose
hateful seductions they have been placed within a circle of malign
influences--did I at times revert to Kant: though for me his power had
been of the very opposite kind; not an enchanter's, but the power of
a disenchanter--and a disenchanter the most profound. As often as I
looked into his works, I exclaimed in my heart, with the widowed queen
of Carthage, using her words in an altered application--

     "Quæsivit lucem--_ingemuitque repertâ_."

Had the transcendental philosophy corresponded to my expectations,
and had it left important openings for further pursuit, my purpose
then was to have retired, after a few years spent in Oxford, to the
woods of Lower Canada. I had even marked out the situation for a
cottage and a considerable library, about seventeen miles from Quebec.
I planned nothing so ambitious as a scheme of _Pantisocracy_. My
object was simply profound solitude, such as cannot now be had in any
part of Great Britain--with two accessary advantages, also peculiar
to countries situated in the circumstances and under the climate
of Canada: viz. the exalting presence in an under-consciousness of
forests endless and silent, the everlasting sense of living amongst
forms so ennobling and impressive, together with the pleasure attached
to natural agencies, such as frost, more powerfully manifested than
in English latitudes, and for a much longer period. I hope there is
nothing fanciful in all this. It is certain that in England, and in
all moderate climates, we are too slightly reminded of nature or the
forces of nature. Great heats, or great colds (and in Canada there are
both), or great hurricanes, as in the West Indian latitudes, recall us
continually to the sense of a powerful presence, investing our paths on
every side; whereas in England it is possible to forget that we live
amongst greater agencies than those of men and human institutions. Man,
in fact, "too much man," as Timon complained most reasonably in Athens,
was then, and is now, our greatest grievance in England. Man is a weed
everywhere too rank. A strange place must that be with us from which
the sight of a hundred men is not before us, or the sound of a thousand
about us.

Nevertheless, being in this hotbed of man inevitably for some years, no
sooner had I dismissed my German philosophy than I relaxed a little
that spirit of German abstraction which it had prompted; and, though
never mixing freely with society, I began to look a little abroad. It
may interest the reader, more than anything else which I can record of
this period, to recall what I saw within the ten first years of the
century that was at all noticeable or worthy of remembrance amongst the
literati, the philosophers, or the poets of the time. For, though I am
now in my academic period from 1804 to 1808, my knowledge of literary
men--or men distinguished in some way or other, either by their
opinions, their accomplishments, or their position and the accidents
of their lives--began from the first year of the century, or, more
accurately, from the year 1800; which, with some difficulty and demurs,
and with some arguments from the Laureate Pye, the world was at length
persuaded to consider the last year of the eighteenth century.[20]

   [20] Those who look back to the newspapers of 1799 and 1800 will
   see that considerable discussion went on at that time upon the
   question whether the year 1800 was entitled to open the 19th
   century or to close the 18th. Mr. Laureate Pye wrote a poem with a
   long and argumentative preface on the point.

   [21] From _Tait's Magazine_ for February 1837, where the title was
   "A Literary Novitiate."--M.




It was in the year 1801, whilst yet at school, that I made my first
literary acquaintance. This was with a gentleman now dead, and little,
at any time, known in the literary world; indeed, not at all; for his
authorship was confined to a department of religious literature as
obscure and as narrow in its influence as any that can be named--viz.

Already, on the bare mention of that word, a presumption arises
against any man, that, writing much (or writing at all) for a body of
doctrines so apparently crazy as those of Mr. Swedenborg, a man must
have bid adieu to all good sense and manliness of mind. Indeed, this
is so much of a settled case, that even to have written _against_ Mr.
Swedenborg would be generally viewed as a suspicious act, requiring
explanation, and not very easily admitting of it. _Mr._ Swedenborg I
call him, because I understand that his title to call himself "Baron"
is imaginary; or rather he never _did_ call himself by any title
of honour--that mistake having originated amongst his followers in
this country, who have chosen to designate him as the "Honourable"
and as the "Baron" Swedenborg, by way of translating, to the ear of
England, some one or other of those irrepresentable distinctions,
_Legations-Rath_, _Hofrath_, _&c._, which are tossed about with so
much profusion in the courts of continental Europe, on both sides the
Baltic. For myself, I cannot think myself qualified to speak of any
man's writings without a regular examination of some one or two among
those which his admirers regard as his best performances. Yet, as any
happened to fall in my way, I have looked into them; and the impression
left upon my mind was certainly not favourable to their author. They
laboured, to my feeling, with two opposite qualities of annoyance, but
which I believe not uncommonly found united in lunatics--excessive
dulness or matter-of-factness in the execution, with excessive
extravagance in the conceptions. The result, at least, was most
unhappy: for, of all writers, Swedenborg is the only one I ever heard
of who has contrived to strip even the shadowy world beyond the grave
of all its mystery and all its awe. From the very heaven of heavens,
he has rent away the veil; no need for seraphs to "tremble while they
gaze"; for the familiarity with which all objects are invested makes it
impossible that even poor mortals should find any reason to tremble.
Until I saw this book, I had not conceived it possible to carry an
atmosphere so earthy, and steaming with the vapours of earth, into
regions which, by early connexion in our infant thoughts with the
sanctities of death, have a hold upon the reverential affections such
as they rarely lose. In this view, I should conceive that Swedenborg,
if it were at all possible for him to become a popular author, would,
at the same time, become immensely mischievous. He would dereligionize
men beyond all other authors whatsoever.

Little could this character of Swedenborg's writings--this, indeed,
least of all--have been suspected from the temper, mind, or manners
of my new friend. He was the most spiritual-looking, the most saintly
in outward aspect, of all human beings whom I have known throughout
life. He was rather tall, pale, and thin; the most unfleshly, the most
of a sublimated spirit dwelling already more than half in some purer
world, that a poet could have imagined. He was already aged when I
first knew him, a clergyman of the Church of England; which may seem
strange in connexion with his Swedenborgianism; but he was, however,
so. He was rector of a large parish in a large town, the more active
duties of which parish were discharged by his curate; but much of
the duties within the church were still discharged by himself, and
with such exemplary zeal that his parishioners, afterwards celebrating
the fiftieth anniversary, or _golden_ jubilee of his appointment to
the living (the twenty-fifth anniversary is called in German the
silver--the fiftieth, the golden jubilee), went farther than is
usual in giving a public expression and a permanent shape to their
sentiments of love and veneration. I am surprised, on reflection,
that this venerable clergyman should have been unvexed by Episcopal
censures. He might, and I dare say would, keep back the grosser parts
of Swedenborg's views from a public display; but, in one point, it
would not be easy for a man so conscientious to make a compromise
between his ecclesiastical duty and his private belief; for I have
since found, though I did not then know it, that Swedenborg held a very
peculiar creed on the article of atonement. From the slight pamphlet
which let me into this secret I could not accurately collect the exact
distinctions of his creed; but it was very different from that of the
English Church.

However, my friend continued unvexed for a good deal more than fifty
years, enjoying that peace, external as well as internal, which,
by so eminent a title, belonged to a spirit so evangelically meek
and dovelike. I mention him chiefly for the sake of describing his
interesting house and household, so different from all which belong
to this troubled age, and his impressive style of living. The house
seemed almost monastic; and yet it stood in the centre of one of the
largest, busiest, noisiest towns in England; and the whole household
seemed to have stepped out of their places in some Vandyke, or even
some Titian, picture, from a forgotten century and another climate. On
knocking at the door, which of itself seemed an outrage to the spirit
of quietness which brooded over the place, you were received by an
ancient manservant in the sober livery which belonged traditionally
to Mr. ----'s[22] family; for he was of a gentleman's descent, and
had had the most finished education of a gentleman. This venerable old
butler put me in mind always, by his noiseless steps, of the Castle
of Indolence, where the porter or usher walked about in shoes that
were shod with felt, lest any rude echoes might be roused. An ancient
housekeeper was equally venerable, equally gentle in her deportment,
quiet in her movements, and inaudible in her tread. One or other of
these upper domestics,--for the others rarely crossed my path,--ushered
me always into some room expressing by its furniture, its pictures,
and its coloured windows, the solemn tranquillity which, for half a
century, had reigned in that mansion. Among the pictures were more
than one of St. John, the beloved apostle, by Italian masters. Neither
the features nor the expression were very wide of Mr. Clowes's own
countenance; and, had it been possible to forget the gross character
of Swedenborg's reveries, or to substitute for these fleshly dreams
the awful visions of the Apocalypse, one might have imagined easily
that the pure, saintly, and childlike evangelist had been once again
recalled to this earth, and that this most quiet of mansions was
some cell in the island of Patmos. Whence came the stained glass of
the windows I know not, and whether it were stained or painted. The
revolutions of that art are known from Horace Walpole's account; and,
nine years after this period, I found that, in Birmingham, where the
art of staining glass was chiefly practised, no trifling sum was
charged even for a vulgar lacing of no great breadth round a few
drawing-room windows, which one of my friends thought fit to introduce
as an embellishment. These windows, however, of my clerical friend were
really "_storied_ windows," having Scriptural histories represented
upon them. A crowning ornament to the library or principal room was a
sweet-toned organ, ancient, and elaborately carved in its wood-work, at
which my venerable friend readily sate down, and performed the music
of anthems as often as I asked him, sometimes accompanying it with
his voice, which was tremulous from old age, but neither originally
unmusical, nor (as might be perceived) untrained.

   [22] As De Quincey has divulged the name of this clergyman in his
   Autobiography (see vol. i. pp. 136-138), there is no need for
   concealing it here. He was the Rev. John Clowes, Rector of St.
   John's Church, Manchester, and we shall substitute the full name
   for the blank in the sequel.--M.

Often, from the storms and uproars of this world, I have looked back
upon this most quiet and, I believe, most innocent abode (had I said
saintly I should hardly have erred), conneacting it in thought with
_Little Gidding_, the famous mansion (in Huntingdonshire, I believe)
of the Farrers, an interesting family in the reigns of James I.
and Charles I. Of the Farrers there is a long and circumstantial
biographical account, and of the conventual discipline maintained at
Little Gidding. For many years it was the rule at Gidding--and it was
the wish of the Farrers to have transmitted that practice through
succeeding centuries--that a musical or cathedral service should be
going on at every hour of night and day in the chapel of the mansion.
Let the traveller, at what hour he would, morning or evening, summer
or winter, and in what generation or century soever, happen to
knock at the gate of Little Gidding, it was the purpose of Nicholas
Farrer--a sublime purpose--that always he should hear the blare of
the organ, sending upwards its surging volumes of melody, God's
worship for ever proceeding, anthems of praise for ever ascending,
and _jubilates_ echoing without end or known beginning. One stream
of music, in fact, never intermitting, one vestal fire of devotional
praise and thanksgiving, was to connect the beginnings with the ends
of generations, and to link one century into another. Allowing for
the sterner asceticism of N. Farrer--partly arising out of the times,
partly out of personal character, and partly, perhaps, out of his
travels in Spain--my aged friend's arrangement of the day, and the
training of his household, might seem to have been modelled on the
plans of Mr. Farrer; whom, however, he might never have heard of.
There was also, in each house, the same union of religion with some
cultivation of the ornamental arts, or some expression of respect
for them. In each case, a monastic severity, that might, under other
circumstances, have terminated in the gloom of a La Trappe, had been
softened by English sociality, and by the habits of a gentleman's
education, into a devotional pomp, reconcilable with Protestant views.
When, however, remembering this last fact in Mr. Clowes's case (the
fact I mean of his liberal education), I have endeavoured to explain
the possibility of one so much adorned by all the accomplishments
of a high-bred gentleman, and one so truly pious, falling into the
grossness, almost the sensuality, which appears to besiege the visions
of Swedenborg, I fancy that the whole may be explained out of the same
cause which occasionally may be descried, through a distance of two
complete centuries, as weighing heavily upon the Farrers--viz. the dire
monotony of daily life, when visited by no irritations either of hope
or fear--no hopes from ambition, no fears from poverty.

Nearly (if not quite) sixty years did my venerable friend inhabit
that same parsonage house, without any incident more personally
interesting to himself than a cold or a sore throat. And I suppose
that he resorted to Swedenborg--reluctantly, perhaps, at the first--as
to a book of fairy tales connected with his professional studies. And
one thing I am bound to add in candour, which may have had its weight
with him, that more than once, on casually turning over a volume of
Swedenborg, I have certainly found most curious and felicitous passages
of comment--passages which extracted a brilliant meaning from numbers,
circumstances, or trivial accidents, apparently without significance
or object, and gave to things, without a place or a habitation in the
critic's regard, a value as hieroglyphics or cryptical ciphers, which
struck me as elaborately ingenious. This acknowledgment I make not so
much in praise of Swedenborg, whom I must still continue to think a
madman, as in excuse for Mr. Clowes. It may easily be supposed that a
person of Mr. Clowes's consideration and authority was not regarded
with indifference by the general body of the Swedenborgians. At his
motion it was, I believe, that a society was formed for procuring and
encouraging a translation into English of Swedenborg's entire works,
most of which are written in Latin. Several of these translations are
understood to have been executed personally by Mr. Clowes; and in
this obscure way, for anything I know, he may have been an extensive
author. But it shows the upright character of the man that never, in
one instance, did he seek to bias my opinions in this direction. Upon
every other subject, he trusted me confidentially--and, notwithstanding
my boyish years (15-16), as his equal. His regard for me, when thrown
by accident in his way, had arisen upon his notice of my fervent
simplicity, and my unusual thoughtfulness. Upon these merits, I had
gained the honourable distinction of a general invitation to his
house, without exception as to days and hours, when few others could
boast of any admission at all. The common ground on which we met was
literature--more especially the Greek and Roman literature; and much
he exerted himself, in a spirit of the purest courtesy, to meet my
animation upon these themes. But the interest on his part was too
evidently a secondary interest in _me_, for whom he talked, and not in
the subject: he spoke much from memory, as it were of things that he
had once felt, and little from immediate sympathy with the author; and
his animation was artificial, though his courtesy, which prompted the
effort, was the truest and most unaffected possible.

The connexion between us must have been interesting to an observer;
for, though I cannot say with Wordsworth, of old Daniel and his
grandson, that there were "ninety good years of fair and foul weather"
between us, there were, however, sixty, I imagine, at the least;
whilst as a bond of connexion there was nothing at all that I know
of beyond a common tendency to reverie, which is a bad link for a
_social_ connexion. The little ardour, meantime, with which he had,
for many years, participated in the interests of this world, or all
that it inherits, was now rapidly departing. Daily and consciously he
was loosening all ties which bound him to earlier recollections; and,
in particular, I remember--because the instance was connected with my
last farewell visit, as it proved--that for some time he was engaged
daily in renouncing with solemnity (though often enough in cheerful
words) book after book of classical literature in which he had once
taken particular delight. Several of these, after taking his final
glance at a few passages to which a pencil reference in the margin
pointed his eye, he delivered to me as memorials in time to come of
himself. The last of the books given to me under these circumstances
was a Greek "Odyssey," in Clarke's edition. "This," said he, "is nearly
the sole book remaining to me of my classical library--which, for some
years, I have been dispersing amongst my friends. Homer I retained to
the last, and the 'Odyssey,' by preference to the 'Iliad,' both in
compliance with my own taste, and because this very copy was my chosen
companion for evening amusement during my freshman's term at Trinity
College, Cambridge--whither I went early in the spring of 1743. Your
own favourite Grecian is Euripides; but still you must value--we must
all value--Homer. I, even as old as I am, could still read him with
delight; and, as long as any merely human composition ought to occupy
my time, I should have made an exception in behalf of this solitary
author. But I am a soldier of Christ; the enemy, the last enemy, cannot
be far off; _sarcinas colligere_ is, at my age, the watchword for every
faithful sentinel, hourly to keep watch and ward, to wait and to be
vigilant. This very day I have taken my farewell glance at Homer, for
I must no more be found seeking my pleasure amongst the works of man;
and, that I may not be tempted to break my resolution, I make over this
my last book to you."

Words to this effect, uttered with his usual solemnity, accompanied his
gift; and, at the same time, he added, without any separate comment,
a little pocket Virgil--the one edited by Alexander Cunningham, the
bitter antagonist of Bentley--with a few annotations placed at the end.
The act was in itself a solemn one; something like taking the veil for
a nun--a final abjuration of the world's giddy agitations. And yet to
him--already and for so long a time linked so feebly to anything that
could be called the world, and living in a seclusion so profound--it
was but as if an anchorite should retire from his outer to his inner
cell. Me, however, it impressed powerfully in after years; because
this act of self-dedication to the next world, and of parting from
the intellectual luxuries of this, was also, in fact, though neither
of us at the time knew it to be such, the scene of his final parting
with myself. Immediately after his solemn speech, on presenting me
with the "Odyssey," he sat down to the organ, sang a hymn or two, then
chanted part of the liturgy, and, finally, at my request, performed the
anthem so well known in the English Church service--the collect for the
seventh Sunday after Trinity--(_Lord of all power and might, &c._) It
was summer--about half after nine in the evening; the light of day was
still lingering, and just strong enough to illuminate the Crucifixion,
the Stoning of the Protomartyr, and other grand emblazonries of the
Christian faith, which adorned the rich windows of his library. Knowing
the early hours of his household, I now received his usual fervent
adieus--which, without the words, had the sound and effect of a
benediction--felt the warm pressure of his hand, saw dimly the outline
of his venerable figure, more dimly his saintly countenance, and
quitted that gracious presence, which, in this world, I was destined
no more to revisit. The night was one in the first half of July 1802;
in the second half of which, or very early in August, I quitted school
clandestinely, and consequently the neighbourhood of Mr. Clowes. Some
years after, I saw his death announced in all the public journals,
as having occurred at Leamington Spa, then in the springtime of its
medicinal reputation. Farewell, early friend! holiest of men whom it
has been my lot to meet! Yes, I repeat, thirty-five years are past
since then, and I have yet seen few men approaching to this venerable
clergyman in paternal benignity--none certainly in child-like purity,
apostolic holiness, or in perfect alienation of heart from the spirit
of this fleshly world.

I have delineated the habits and character of Mr. Clowes at some
length, chiefly because a connexion is rare and interesting between
parties so widely asunder in point of age--one a schoolboy, and the
other almost an octogenarian, to quote a stanza from one of the most
spiritual sketches of Wordsworth--

     "We talked with open heart and tongue,
       Affectionate and free--
     A pair of friends, though I was young,
       And Matthew seventy-three."

I have stated a second reason for this record, in the fact that Mr.
Clowes was the first of my friends who had any connexion with the
press. At one time I have reason to believe that this connexion was
pretty extensive, though not publicly avowed, and so far from being
lucrative that at first I believe it to have been expensive to him,
and whatever profits might afterwards arise were applied, as much
of his regular income, to the benefit of others.[23] Here, again,
it seems surprising that a spirit so beneficent and, in the amplest
sense, charitable, could coalesce in any views with Swedenborg, who,
in some senses, was not charitable. Swedenborg had been scandalized
by a notion which, it seems, he found prevalent amongst the poor
of the Continent--viz., that, if riches were a drag and a negative
force on the road to religious perfection, poverty must be positive
title _per se_ to the favour of Heaven. Grievously offended with this
error, he came almost to hate poverty as a presumptive indication of
this offensive heresy; scarcely would he allow it an indirect value,
as removing in many cases the occasions or incitements of evil. No:
being in itself neutral and indifferent, he argued that it had become
erroneously a ground of presumptuous hope; whilst the rich man, aware
of his danger, was, in some degree, armed against it by fear and
humility. And, in this course of arguing and of corresponding feeling,
Mr. Swedenborg had come to hate the very name of a poor candidate for
Heaven, as bitterly as a sharking attorney hates the applications of a
pauper client. Yet so entirely is it true that "to the pure, all things
are pure," and that perfect charity "thinketh no ill," but is gifted
with a power to transmute all things into its own resemblance--so
entirely is all this true, that this most spiritual, and, as it were,
disembodied of men, could find delight in the dreams of the very
"fleshliest incubus" that has intruded amongst heavenly objects;
and, secondly, this benignest of men found his own pure feelings not
outraged by one who threw a withering scowl over the far larger half of
his fellow-creatures.

   [23] In a recent [1889] catalogue of a Manchester book-sale I find
   this entry:--"Clowes (John, of Manchester, the Church of England
   Swedenborgian). Sermons, Translations, etc., with a Life of him by
   Theo. Crompton, principally published in Manchester from 1799 to
   1850. 17 vols."--M.

       *       *       *       *       *

Concurrently with this acquaintance, so impressive and so elevating
to me, from the unusual sanctity of Mr. Clowes's character, I formed
another with a well-known coterie, more avowedly, and in a more
general sense, literary, resident at Liverpool or its neighbourhood.
In my sixteenth year [1801] I had accompanied my mother and family
on a summer's excursion to Everton, a well-known village upon the
heights immediately above Liverpool; though by this time I believe
it has thrown out so many fibres of connexion as to have become a
mere quarter or suburban "process" (to speak by anatomical phrase)
of the great town below it. In those days, however, distant by one
third of a century from ours, Everton was still a distinct village
(for a mile of ascent is worth three of level ground in the way of
effectual separation); it was delightfully refreshed by marine breezes,
though raised above the sea so far that its thunders could be heard
only under favourable circumstances. There we had a cottage for some
months; and the nearest of our neighbours happened to be that Mr.
Clarke, the banker, to whom acknowledgments are made in the _Lorenzo
the Magnificent_, for aid in procuring MSS. and information from Italy.
This gentleman called on my mother, merely in the general view of
offering neighbourly attentions to a family of strangers. I, as the
eldest of my brothers, and already with strong literary propensities,
had received a general invitation to his house. Thither I went, indeed,
early and late; and there I met Mr. Roscoe, Dr. Currie (who had just at
that time published his Life and Edition of Burns), and Mr. Shepherd of
Gatacre, the author of some works on Italian literature (particularly
a Life of _Poggio Bracciolini_), and, since then, well known to all
England by his Reform politics.

There were other members of this society--some, like myself, visitors
merely to that neighbourhood; but those I have mentioned were the
chief. Here I had an early opportunity of observing the natural
character and tendencies of merely literary society--by which society
I mean all such as, having no strong distinctions in power of thinking
or in native force of character, are yet raised into circles of
pretension and mark by the fact of having written a book, or of
holding a notorious connexion with some department or other of the
periodical press. No society is so vapid and uninteresting in its
natural quality, none so cheerless and petrific in its influence upon
others. Ordinary people, in such company, are in general repressed from
uttering with cordiality the natural expression of their own minds or
temperaments, under a vague feeling of some peculiar homage due, or
at least customarily paid, to those lions: such people are no longer
at their ease, or masters of their own natural motions in their own
natural freedom; whilst indemnification of any sort is least of all to
be looked for from the literary dons who have diffused this unpleasant
atmosphere of constraint. They disable others, and yet do nothing
themselves to fill up the void they have created. One and all--unless
by accident people of unusual originality, power, and also nerve, so
as to be able without trepidation to face the expectations of men--the
literary class labour under two opposite disqualifications for a good
tone of conversation. From causes visibly explained, they are either
spoiled by the vices of reserve, and of over-consciousness directed
upon themselves--this is one extreme; or, where manliness of mind has
prevented this, beyond others of equal or inferior natural power, they
are apt to be desperately commonplace. The first defect is an accident
arising out of the rarity of literary pretensions, and would rapidly
subside as the proportion became larger of practising literati to the
mass of educated people. But the other is an adjunct scarcely separable
from the ordinary prosecution of a literary career, and growing in fact
out of literature _per se_, as literature is generally understood.
That same day, says Homer, which makes a man a slave robs him of
half his value. That same hour which first awakens a child to the
consciousness of being observed, and to the sense of admiration, strips
it of its freedom and unpremeditated graces of motion. Awkwardness at
the least--and too probably, as a consequence of _that_, affectation
and conceit--follow hard upon the consciousness of special notice or
admiration. The very attempt to disguise embarrassment too often issues
in a secondary and more marked embarrassment.

Another mode of reserve arises with some literary men, who believe
themselves to be in possession of novel ideas. Cordiality of
communication, or ardour of dispute, might betray them into a
revelation of those golden thoughts, sometimes into a necessity of
revealing them, since, without such aid, it might be impossible
to maintain theirs in the discussion. On this principle it was--a
principle of deliberate unsocial reserve--that Adam Smith is said to
have governed his conversation; he professed to put a bridle on his
words, lest by accident a pearl should drop out of his lips amongst the
vigilant bystanders. And in no case would he have allowed himself to
be engaged in a disputation, because both the passions of dispute and
the necessities of dispute are alike apt to throw men off their guard.
A most unamiable reason it certainly is, which places a man in one
constant attitude of self-protection against petty larceny. And yet,
humiliating as that may be to human nature, the furtive propensities
or instincts of petty larceny are diffused most extensively through
all ranks--directed, too, upon a sort of property far more tangible
and more ignoble, as respects the possible motives of the purloiner,
than any property in subjects purely intellectual. Rather more than ten
years ago, a literary man of the name of Alton published, some little
time before his own death, a very searching essay upon this chapter
of human integrity--arraying a large list of common cases (cases of
hats, gloves, umbrellas, books, newspapers, &c.) where the claim
of ownership, left to itself and unsupported by accidents of shame
and exposure, appeared to be weak indeed amongst classes of society
prescriptively "respectable." And yet, for a double reason, literary
larceny is even more to be feared; both because it is countenanced by
a less ignoble quality of temptation, and because it is far more easy
of achievement--so easy, indeed, that it may be practised without any
clear accompanying consciousness.

I have myself witnessed or been a party to a case of the following
kind:--A new truth--suppose for example, a new doctrine or a new
theory--was communicated to a very able man in the course of
conversation, not _didactically_, or directly _as_ a new truth,
but _polemically_,--communicated as an argument in the current of
a dispute. What followed? Necessarily it followed that a very able
man would not be purely _passive_ in receiving this new truth; that
he would _co-operate_ with the communicator in many ways--as by
raising objections, by half dissipating his own objections, and in a
variety of other co-agencies. In such cases, a very clever man does
in effect half-generate the new idea for himself, but then he does
this entirely under your leading; you stand ready at each point of
possible deviation, to warn him away from the wrong turn--from the turn
which leads nowhither or the turn which leads astray. Yet the final
result has been that the _catechumen_, under the full consciousness
of _self_-exertion, has so far confounded his just and true belief of
having contributed to the evolution of the doctrine, _quoad_ his own
apprehension of it, with the far different case of having evolved the
truth itself into light, as to go off with the firm impression that the
doctrine had been a product of his own.[24] There is therefore ground
enough for the jealousy of Adam Smith, since a robbery may be committed
unconsciously; though, by the way, it is not a peril peculiarly
applicable to himself, who has not so much succeeded in discovering new
truths as in establishing a logical connexion amongst old ones.

   [24] For a similar passage, see _ante_, pp. 96, 97.--M.

On the other hand, it is not by reserve, whether of affectation or of
Smithian jealousy, that the majority of literary people offend--at
least not by the latter; for, so far from having much novelty to
protect against pirates, the most general effect of literary pursuits
is to tame down all points of originality to one standard of insipid
monotony. I shall not go into the reasons for this. I make my appeal
to the matter of fact. Try a Parisian populace, very many of whom are
highly cultivated by reading, against a body of illiterate rustics. Mr.
Scott of Aberdeen,[25] in his "Second Tour to Paris" (1815), tells us
that, on looking over the shoulder of poor stall women selling trifles
in the street, he usually found them reading Voltaire, Rousseau,
or even (as I think he adds) Montesquieu; but, notwithstanding the
polish which such reading both presumes as a previous condition and
produces as a natural effect, yet no people could be more lifeless in
their minds, or more barren of observing faculties, than they; and
so he describes them. Words! words! nothing but words! On the other
hand, listen to the conversation of a few scandalous village dames
collected at a tea-table. Vulgar as the spirit may be which possesses
them, and not seldom malicious, still how full of animation and of
keen perception it will generally be found, and of a learned spirit
of connoisseurship in human character, by comparison with the _fade_
generalities and barren recollections of mere literati!

   [25] He was first editor of the _London Magazine_, and was killed
   in an unfortunate duel in February 1821.--M.

All this was partially illustrated in the circle to which I was now
presented. Mr. Clarke was not an author, and he was by much the most
interesting person of the whole. He had travelled, and, particularly,
he had travelled in Italy--then an aristocratic distinction; had a
small, but interesting, picture gallery; and, at this time, amused
himself by studying Greek, for which purpose he and myself met at
sunrise every morning through the summer, and read Æschylus together.
These meetings, at which we sometimes had the company of any stranger
who might happen to be an amateur in Greek, were pleasant enough to
my schoolboy vanity--placing me in the position of teacher and guide
to men old enough to be my grandfathers. But the dinner parties, at
which the literati sometimes assembled in force, were far from being
equally amusing. Mr. Roscoe[26] was simple and manly in his demeanour;
but there was the feebleness of a mere _belle-lettrist_, a mere man of
_virtù_, in the style of his sentiments on most subjects. Yet he was
a politician, and took an ardent interest in politics, and wrote upon
politics--all which are facts usually presuming some vigour of mind.
And he wrote, moreover, on the popular side, and with a boldness which,
in that day, when such politics were absolutely disreputable, seemed
undeniably to argue great moral courage. But these were accidents
arising out of his connexion with the Whig party, or (to speak more
accurately) with the _Opposition_ party in Parliament; by whom he was
greatly caressed. Mr. Fox, the Duchess of Devonshire, Mr. Sheridan,
and all the _powers_ on that side of the question, showed him the
most marked attention in a great variety of forms; and this it was,
not any native propensity for such speculations, which drove him into
pamphleteering upon political questions. Mr. Fox (himself the very
feeblest of party writers) was probably sincere in his admiration of
Mr. Roscoe's pamphlets; and did seriously think him, as I know that he
described him in private letters, an antagonist well matched against
Burke; and _that_ he afterwards became in form. The rest of the world
wondered at his presumption, or at his gross miscalculation of his
own peculiar powers. An eminent person, in after years (about 1815),
speaking to me of Mr. Roscoe's political writings, especially those
which had connected his name with Burke, declared that he always felt
of him in that relation not so much as of a feeble man, but absolutely
as of a _Sporus_ (that was his very expression), or a man emasculated.
Right or wrong in his views, he showed the most painful defect of good
sense and prudence in confronting his own understanding, so plain and
homely, with the Machiavelian Briareus of a hundred arms--the Titan
whom he found in Burke; all the advantages of a living antagonist over
a dead one could not compensate odds so fearful in original power.

   [26] William Roscoe (1753-1831), author of _Life of Lorenzo de'
   Medici_, _Life and Pontificate of Leo X_, and other works, was a
   native of Liverpool, and spent the main part of his life as a
   banker in that town.--M.

It was a striking illustration of the impotence of mere literature
against natural power and mother wit that the only man who was
considered indispensable in these parties, for giving life and impulse
to their vivacity, was a tailor; and not, I was often assured, a
person deriving a designation from the craft of those whose labours
he supported as a capitalist, but one who drew his own honest daily
bread from his own honest needle, except when he laid it aside for the
benefit of drooping literati, who needed to be watered with his wit.
Wit, perhaps, in a proper sense, he had not--it was rather drollery,
and sometimes even buffoonery.

These, in the lamentable absence of the tailor, could be furnished of
an inferior quality by Mr. Shepherd,[27] who (as may be imagined from
this fact) had but little dignity in private life. I know not how far
he might alter in these respects; but certainly, at the time (1801-2),
he was decidedly, or could be, a buffoon, and seemed even ambitious
of the title, by courting notice for his grotesque manner and coarse
stories, more than was altogether compatible with the pretensions
of a scholar and a clergyman. I must have leave to think that such
a man could not have emerged from any great University, or from any
but a sectarian training. Indeed, about Poggio himself there were
circumstances which would have indisposed any regular clergyman of
the Church of England, or of the Scottish Kirk, to usher him into the
literature of his country. With what coarseness and low buffoonery
have I heard this Mr. Shepherd in those days run down the bishops then
upon the bench, but especially those of any public pretensions or
reputation, as Horsley and Porteus, and, in connexion with them, the
pious Mrs. Hannah More! Her he could not endure.

   [27] The Rev. William Shepherd, author of a _Life of Poggio
   Bracciolini_ (Liverpool, 1802) and _Paris in 1802 and 1814_
   (London, 1814), and joint author of a work in two volumes called
   _Systematic Education, or Elementary Instruction in the various
   Departments of Literature and Science_ (London, 1815).--M.

Of this gentleman, having said something disparaging, I am bound to go
on and add, that I believe him to have been at least a truly upright
man--talking often wildly, but incapable of doing a conscious wrong to
any man, be his party what it might; and, in the midst of fun or even
buffoonery, a real, and, upon occasion, a stern patriot, Mr. Canning
and others he opposed to the teeth upon the Liverpool hustings, and
would take no bribe, as others did, from literary feelings of sympathy,
or (which is so hard for an amiable mind to resist) from personal
applications of courtesy and respect. Amusing it is to look back upon
any political work of Mr. Shepherd's, as upon his "Tour to France,"
published in 1815, and to know that the pale pink of his Radicalism was
then accounted deep, deep scarlet.

Nothing can better serve to expound the general force of intellect
amongst the Liverpool coterie than the quality of their poetry, and the
general standard which they set up in poetry. Not that even in their
errors, as regarded poetry, they were of a magnitude to establish any
standard or authority in their own persons. Imitable or seducing there
could be nothing in persons who wrote verses occasionally, and as a
[Greek: parergon] or by-labour, and were themselves the most timid of
imitators. But to me, who, in that year, 1801, already knew of a grand
renovation of poetic power--of a new birth in poetry, interesting
not so much to England as to the human mind--it was secretly amusing
to contrast the little artificial usages of their petty traditional
knack with the natural forms of a divine art--the difference being
pretty much as between an American lake, Ontario, or Superior, and
a carp pond or a tench preserve. Mr. Roscoe had just about this
time published a translation from the _Balia_ of Luigi Tansillo--a
series of dullish lines, with the moral purpose of persuading young
women to suckle their own children. The brilliant young Duchess of
Devonshire, some half century ago, had, for a frolic--a great lady's
caprice--set a precedent in this way; against which, however, in that
rank, medical men know that there is a good deal to be said; and in
ranks more extensive than those of the Duchess it must be something of
an Irish bull to suppose any _general_ neglect of this duty, since,
upon so large a scale, whence could come the vicarious nurses? There
is, therefore, no great sense in the fundamental idea of the poem,
because the abuse denounced cannot be large enough; but the prefatory
sonnet, addressed to the translator's wife, as one at whose maternal
breast "six sons successive" had hung in infancy--this is about the
one sole bold, natural thought, or natural expression of feeling, to
which Mr. Roscoe had committed himself in verse. Everywhere else,
the most timid and blind servility to the narrowest of conventional
usages, conventional ways of viewing things, conventional forms of
expression, marks the style. For example, Italy is always _Italia_,
Scotland _Scotia_, France _Gallia_; so inveterately had the mind, in
this school of feeling, been trained, alike in the highest things and
in the lowest, to a horror of throwing itself boldly upon the great
_realities_ of life: even names must be fictions for _their_ taste. Yet
what comparison between "_France_, an Ode," and "_Gallia_, an Ode"?

Dr. Currie was so much occupied with his professional duties that of
him I saw but little. His edition of Burns was just then published (I
think in that very month), and in everybody's hands. At that time,
he was considered not unjust to the memory of the man, and (however
constitutionally phlegmatic, or with little enthusiasm, at least in
external show) not much below the mark in his appreciation of the

   [28] Dr. James Currie, born 1756, a native of Dumfriesshire,
   settled in Liverpool, in medical practice, in 1781. His edition of
   Burns, with memoir and criticism, published in 1800, was for the
   benefit of the widow and children of the poet, and realised £1400.
   Currie died in 1805.--M.

So stood matters some twelve or fourteen years; after which period a
"craze" arose on the subject of Burns, which allowed no voice to be
heard but that of zealotry and violent partisanship. The first impulse
to this arose out of an oblique collision between Lord Jeffrey and
Mr. Wordsworth; the former having written a disparaging critique
upon Burns's pretensions--a little, perhaps, too much coloured by
the fastidiousness of long practice in the world, but, in the main,
speaking some plain truths on the quality of Burns's understanding, as
expressed in his epistolary compositions. Upon which, in his celebrated
letter to Mr. James Gray, the friend of Burns, himself a poet, and then
a master in the High School of Edinburgh, Mr. Wordsworth commented
with severity, proportioned rather to his personal resentments towards
Lord Jeffrey than to the quantity of wrong inflicted upon Burns.
Mr. Wordsworth's letter, in so far as it was a record of embittered
feeling, might have perished; but, as it happened to embody some
profound criticisms, applied to the art of biography, and especially
to the delicate task of following a man of original genius through his
personal infirmities or his constitutional aberrations--this fact,
and its relation to Burns and the author's name, have all combined to
embalm it.[29] Its momentary effect, in conjunction with Lord Jeffrey's
article, was to revive the interest (which for some time had languished
under the oppression of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron) in all that
related to Burns. Fresh Lives appeared in a continued succession,
until, upon the death of Lord Byron in 1824, Mr. Allan Cunningham, who
had personally known Burns, so far as a boy _could_ know a mature man,
gave a new impulse to the interest, by an impressive paper in which
he contrasted the circumstances of Burns's death with those of Lord
Byron's, and also the two funerals--both of which, one altogether,
and the other in part, Mr. Cunningham had personally witnessed. A
man of genius, like Mr. Cunningham, throws a new quality of interest
upon all which he touches; and, having since brought fresh research
and the illustrative power of the arts to bear upon the subject, and
all this having gone on concurrently with the great modern revolution
in literature--that is, the great extension of a _popular_ interest,
through the astonishing reductions of price--the result is, that Burns
has, at length, become a national, and, therefore, in a certain sense,
a privileged subject; which, in a perfect sense, he was _not_, until
the controversial management of his reputation had irritated the public
attention. Dr. Currie did not address the same alert condition of the
public feeling, nor, by many hundred degrees, so _diffused_ a condition
of any feeling which might imperfectly exist, as a man must consciously
address in these days, whether as the biographer or the critic of
Burns. The lower-toned enthusiasm of the public was not of a quality to
irritate any little enthusiasm which the worthy Doctor might have felt.
The public of that day felt with regard to Burns exactly as with regard
to Bloomfield--not that the quality of his poems was then the staple of
the interest, but the extraordinary fact that a ploughman or a lady's
shoemaker should have written any poems at all. The sole difference in
the two cases, as regarded by the public of that day, was that Burns's
case was terminated by a premature, and, for the public, a very sudden
death: this gave a personal interest to his case which was wanting in
the other; and a direct result of this was that his executors were able
to lay before the world a series of his letters recording his opinions
upon a considerable variety of authors, and his feelings under many
ordinary occasions of life.

   [29] Wordsworth's publication was in 1816, under the title _A
   Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns, occasioned by an intended
   Republication of the Account of the Life of Burns by Dr. Currie_.
   _By William Wordsworth._--M.

Dr. Currie, therefore, if phlegmatic, as he certainly was, must be
looked upon as upon a level with the public of his own day--a public
how different, different by how many centuries, from the world of
this present 1837! One thing I remember which powerfully illustrates
the difference. Burns, as we all know, with his peculiarly wild
and almost ferocious spirit of independence, came a generation too
soon. In this day, he would have been forced to do that, clamorously
called upon to do that, and would have found his pecuniary interest
in doing that, which in his own generation merely to attempt doing
loaded him with the reproach of Jacobinism. It must be remembered that
the society of Liverpool wits on whom my retrospect is now glancing
were all Whigs--all, indeed, fraternizers with French Republicanism.
Yet so it was that--not once, not twice, but daily almost, in the
numerous conversations naturally elicited by this Liverpool monument
to Burns's memory--I heard every one, clerk or layman, heartily
agreeing to tax Burns with ingratitude and with pride falsely directed,
because he sate uneasily or restively under the bridle-hand of his
noble self-called "_patrons_." Aristocracy, then, the essential
spirit of aristocracy--this I found was not less erect and clamorous
amongst partisan democrats--democrats who were such merely in a party
sense of supporting his Majesty's Opposition against his Majesty's
Servants--than it was or could be among the most bigoted of the
professed feudal aristocrats. For my part, at this moment, when all
the world was reading Currie's monument to the memory of Burns and the
support of his family, I felt and avowed my feeling most loudly--that
Burns was wronged, was deeply, memorably wronged. A £10 bank note,
by way of subscription for a few copies of an early edition of his
poems--this is the outside that I could ever see proof given of Burns
having received anything in the way of _patronage_; and doubtless
this would have been gladly returned, but from the dire necessity of

Lord Glencairn is the "patron" for whom Burns appears to have felt the
most sincere respect. Yet even he--did he give him more than a seat at
his dinner table? Lord Buchan again, whose liberalities are by this
time pretty well appreciated in Scotland, exhorts Burns, in a tone
of one preaching upon a primary duty of life, to exemplary gratitude
towards a person who had given him absolutely nothing at all. The man
has not yet lived to whose happiness it was more essential that he
should live unencumbered by the sense of obligation; and, on the other
hand, the man has not lived upon whose independence as professing
benefactors so many people practised, or who found so many others ready
to ratify and give value to their pretences.[30] Him, whom beyond most
men nature had created with the necessity of conscious independence,
all men besieged with the assurance that he was, must be, ought to
be dependent; nay, that it was his primary duty to be grateful for
his dependence. I have not looked into any edition of Burns, except
once for a quotation, since this year 1801--when I read the whole of
Currie's edition, and had opportunities of meeting the editor--and once
subsequently, upon occasion of a fifth or supplementary volume being
published. I know not, therefore, how this matter has been managed
by succeeding editors, such as Allan Cunningham, far more capable of
understanding Burns's situation, from the previous struggles of their
own honourable lives, and Burns's feelings, from something of congenial

   [30] Jacobinism--although the seminal principle of all political
   evil in all ages alike of advanced civilization--is natural to the
   heart of man, and, in a qualified sense, may be meritorious. A
   good man, a high-minded man, in certain circumstances, _must_ be a
   Jacobin in a certain sense. The aspect under which Burns's
   Jacobinism appears is striking: there is a thought which an
   observing reader will find often recurring, which expresses its
   peculiar bitterness. It is this: the necessity which in old
   countries exists for the labourer humbly to beg _permission_ that
   he may labour. To eat in the sweat of a man's brow--that is bad;
   and that is a curse, and pronounced such by God. But, when _that_
   is all, the labourer is by comparison happy. The second curse
   makes _that_ a jest: he must sue, he must sneak, he must fawn like
   an Oriental slave, in order to win his fellow-man, in Burns's
   indignant words, "to give him _leave_ to toil." That was the
   scorpion thought that was for ever shooting its sting into Burns's
   meditations, whether forward-looking or backward-looking; and,
   that considered, there arises a world of allowance for that vulgar
   bluster of independence which Lord Jeffrey, with so much apparent
   reason charges upon his prose writings.

I, in this year, 1801, when in the company of Dr. Currie, did not
forget, and, with some pride I say that I stood alone in remembering,
the very remarkable position of Burns: not merely that, with his
genius, and with the intellectual pretensions generally of his family,
he should have been called to a life of early labour, and of labour
unhappily not prosperous, but also that he, by accident about the
proudest of human spirits, should have been by accident summoned,
beyond all others, to eternal recognitions of some mysterious gratitude
which he owed to some mysterious patrons little and great, whilst yet,
of all men, perhaps, he reaped the least obvious or known benefit from
any patronage that has ever been put on record. Most men, if they reap
little from patronage, are liberated from the claims of patronage,
or, if they are summoned to a galling dependency, have at least the
fruits of their dependency. But it was this man's unhappy fate--with an
early and previous irritability on this very point--to find himself
saddled, by his literary correspondents, with all that was odious in
dependency, whilst he had every hardship to face that is most painful
in unbefriended poverty.

On this view of the case, I talked, then, being a schoolboy, with and
against the first editor of Burns:--I did not, and I do not, profess
to admire the letters (that is, the prose), all or any, of Burns. I
felt that they were liable to the charges of Lord Jeffrey, and to
others beside; that they do not even express the natural vigour of
Burns's mind, but are at once vulgar, tawdry, coarse, and commonplace;
neither was I a person to affect any profound sympathy with the general
character and temperament of Burns, which has often been described
as "of the earth, earthy"--unspiritual--animal--beyond those of most
men equally intellectual. But still I comprehended his situation; I
had for ever ringing in my ears, during that summer of 1801, those
groans which ascended to heaven from his over-burthened heart--those
harrowing words, "_To give him leave to toil_," which record almost a
reproach to the ordinances of God--and I felt that upon him, amongst
all the children of labour, the primal curse had fallen heaviest and
sunk deepest. Feelings such as these I had the courage to express: a
personal compliment, or so, I might now and then hear; but all were
against me on the _matter_. Dr. Currie said--"Poor Burns! such notions
had been his ruin"; Mr. Shepherd continued to draw from the subject
some scoff or growl at Mr. Pitt and the Excise; the laughing tailor
told us a good story of some proud beggar; Mr. Clarke proposed that I
should write a Greek inscription for a cenotaph which he was to erect
in his garden to the memory of Burns;--and so passed away the solitary
protestation on behalf of Burns's jacobinism, together with the wine
and the roses, and the sea-breezes of that same Everton, in that same
summer of 1801. Mr. Roscoe is dead, and has found time since then to
be half forgotten; Dr. Currie, the physician, has been found "unable
to heal himself"; Mr. Shepherd of Gatacre is a name and a shadow; Mr.
Clarke is a shadow without a name; the tailor, who set the table in a
roar, is dust and ashes; and three men at the most remain of all who
in those convivial meetings held it right to look down upon Burns as
upon one whose spirit was rebellious overmuch against the institutions
of man, and jacobinical in a sense which "men of property" and master
manufacturers will never brook, albeit democrats by profession.[31]

   [31] De Quincey's strictures in this paper of 1837 on the
   Liverpool literary coterie of 1801 gave great offence in that
   town. The Liverpool papers attacked him for it; and Dr. Shepherd
   of Gatacre, apparently then the sole survivor of the coterie,
   addressed a letter of remonstrance to the editor of _Tait's
   Magazine_. It appeared in the number of the magazine for May 1837,
   with some editorial comments. "The question of which I have to
   treat," wrote Dr. Shepherd, "is a question of accuracy of
   recollection; and I am constrained to remark that, as, from the
   appellation by which, with an extraordinary kind of taste, Mr. De
   Quincey chooses to designate himself in his literary character, he
   seems to have been at one period of his life the slave of a
   deleterious drug, which shakes the nerves, and, inflaming the
   brain, impairs the memory, whilst _I_ have avoided that poison
   even in its medical application, therefore _my_ recollection is
   more likely to be correct that his." The letter proceeds to
   vindicate Dr. Currie, Mr. Roscoe, and the writer himself, from the
   charge of defective appreciation of the manly demeanour of Burns
   in his relations with the Scottish aristocracy and lairds; after
   which come some words of special self-defence of the writer in the
   matters of his political consistency and his jests at Hannah More.
   The letter altogether is destitute of effective point; and the
   editor of _Tait_ was quite justified in standing by De Quincey.
   This is done in every particular of the offending paper, with this
   included sting: "It may tempt a smile from the few who are likely
   to trouble themselves about this foolish affair to find that,
   though solemnly assuming the office of advocate-general for the
   other members of the extinct coterie, Dr. Shepherd, as well as the
   newspaper writers, has entirely overlooked the vivacious tailor
   celebrated by Mr. De Quincey, of whom we think none of his
   literary friends have the least reason to be ashamed."----The main
   matter of interest now in this little controversy of 1837 respects
   De Quincey's own estimate of Burns. Although he had taken up the
   cudgels for Burns in that particular in which he thought Dr.
   Currie and the rest of the Liverpool coterie of 1801, professed
   democrats though they were, had done Burns injustice,--viz. his
   spirit of manly independence and superiority to considerations of
   mere worldly rank,--it remains true that De Quincey's own estimate
   of Burns all in all fell woefully beneath the proper mark. There
   are evidences of this in the present paper, and there are other
   evidences at different points of De Quincey's life. Wordsworth in
   this respect differed immensely from his friend De Quincey, and
   might have taught him better. In that letter of Wordsworth's which
   is referred to by De Quincey (_ante_, p. 131) precisely because it
   had deprecated the republication in 1816 of Dr. Currie's _Life of
   Burns_ in 1800, how enthusiastic was the feeling for Burns and his
   memory compared with anything that De Quincey seems ever to have
   permitted himself! And, as long before as 1803, had not
   Wordsworth, in his lines _At the Grave of Burns_, given expression
   to the same feeling in more personal shape? Who can forget that
   deathless stanza in which, remembering that Burns had died so
   recently, and that, though they had never met, they had been near
   neighbours by their places of habitation, the new poet of England
   had confessed his own indebtedness to the example of the Scottish
   ploughman bard?--

     "I mourned with thousands, but as one
     More deeply grieved; for He was gone
     Whose light I hailed, when first it shone
             And showed my youth
     How verse may build a princely throne
             On humble truth."

   In connexion with the fact of De Quincey's defective appreciation of
   Burns even so late as 1837, it is additionally significant that, though
   he refers in the present paper, with modified approbation, to Jeffrey's
   somewhat captious article on Burns in the _Edinburgh Review_ for
   January 1809, he does not mention the compensation which had appeared,
   with Jeffrey's own editorial sanction, in the shape of Carlyle's essay
   on Burns in the same _Review_ for December 1828.--M.



   [32] This chapter is composed of four articles contributed to
   _Tait's Magazine_ under the title of "Samuel Taylor Coleridge: By
   the English Opium-Eater." They appeared, respectively, in the
   numbers of the Magazine for September, October, and November 1834,
   and January 1835. Three of these articles were revised by De
   Quincey, and thrown into one paper for Vol. II of the Collective
   Edition of his writings, published in 1854. The fourth article was
   not included in that paper; but it is added to the reprint of the
   paper in the American Collective Edition of De Quincey, and is
   necessary to complete his sketch of Coleridge. It is therefore
   reproduced here. The reader will understand, accordingly, that as
   far as to p. 208 we follow De Quincey's revised text of three of
   his Coleridge articles; after which we have to print the fourth
   article as it originally stood in _Tait_.--M.

It was, I think, in the month of August, but certainly in the summer
season, and certainly in the year 1807, that I first saw this
illustrious man. My knowledge of him as a man of most original genius
began about the year 1799. A little before that time Wordsworth had
published the first edition (in a single volume) of the "Lyrical
Ballads,"[33] and into this had been introduced Mr. Coleridge's poem
of the "Ancient Mariner," as the contribution of an anonymous friend.
It would be directing the reader's attention too much to myself if
I were to linger upon this, the greatest event in the unfolding of
my own mind. Let me say, in one word, that, at a period when neither
the one nor the other writer was valued by the public--both having
a long warfare to accomplish of contumely and ridicule before they
could rise into their present estimation--I found in these poems
"the ray of a new morning," and an absolute revelation of untrodden
worlds teeming with power and beauty as yet unsuspected amongst men. I
may here mention that, precisely at the same time, Professor Wilson,
entirely unconnected with myself, and not even known to me until ten
years later, received the same startling and profound impressions
from the same volume.[34] With feelings of reverential interest,
so early and so deep, pointing towards two contemporaries, it may
be supposed that I inquired eagerly after their names. But these
inquiries were self-baffled; the same deep feelings which prompted
my curiosity causing me to recoil from all casual opportunities of
pushing the inquiry, as too generally lying amongst those who gave
no sign of participating in my feelings; and, extravagant as this
may seem, I revolted with as much hatred from coupling my question
with any occasion of insult to the persons whom it respected, as a
primitive Christian from throwing frankincense upon the altars of
Cæsar, or a lover from giving up the name of his beloved to the coarse
license of a Bacchanalian party. It is laughable to record for how
long a period my curiosity in this particular was thus self-defeated.
Two years passed before I ascertained the two names. Mr. Wordsworth
published _his_ in the second and enlarged edition of the poems[35];
and for Mr. Coleridge's I was "indebted" to a private source; but I
discharged that debt ill, for I quarrelled with my informant for what
I considered his profane way of dealing with a subject so hallowed in
my own thoughts. After this I searched, east and west, north and south,
for all known works or fragments of the same authors. I had read,
therefore, as respects Mr. Coleridge, the Allegory which he contributed
to Mr. Southey's "Joan of Arc."[36] I had read his fine Ode entitled
"France,"[37] his Ode to the Duchess of Devonshire, and various
other contributions, more or less interesting, to the two volumes
of the "Anthology" published at Bristol, about 1799-1800, by Mr.
Southey[38]; and, finally, I had, of course, read the small volume of
poems published under his own name. These, however, as a juvenile and
immature collection, made expressly with a view to pecuniary profit,
and therefore courting expansion at any cost of critical discretion,
had in general greatly disappointed me.[39]

   [33] Published in 1798.--M.

   [34] See _ante_, p. 61.--M.

   [35] Published in 1800.--M.

   [36] The first edition of Southey's epic was published in 1796,
   the second in 1798, both at Bristol.--M.

   [37] Published, with other political pieces, in 1798, after having
   appeared in the _Morning Post_ newspaper.--M.

   [38] _English Anthology_ for 1799-1800, in 2 vols., published at
   Bristol, and edited by Southey.--M.

   [39] The first edition, entitled _Poems on Various Subjects, by S.
   T. Coleridge, late of Jesus College, Cambridge_, was published at
   Bristol in 1796; the second at London in 1797; the third at London
   in 1803.--M.

Meantime, it had crowned the interest which to me invested his name,
that about the year 1804 or 1805 I had been informed by a gentleman
from the English Lakes, who knew him as a neighbour, that he had for
some time applied his whole mind to metaphysics and psychology--which
happened to be my own absorbing pursuit. From 1803 to 1808, I was a
student at Oxford; and, on the first occasion when I could conveniently
have sought for a personal knowledge of one whom I contemplated with so
much admiration, I was met by a painful assurance that he had quitted
England, and was then residing at Malta, in the quality of secretary to
the Governor. I began to inquire about the best route to Malta; but,
as any route at that time promised an inside place in a French prison,
I reconciled myself to waiting; and at last, happening to visit the
Bristol Hotwells in the summer of 1807, I had the pleasure to hear
that Coleridge was not only once more upon English ground, but within
forty and odd miles of my own station. In that same hour I bent my
way to the south; and, before evening, reaching a ferry on the river
Bridgewater, at a village called, I think, Stogursey (_i.e._, Stoke de
Courcy, by way of distinction from some other Stoke), I crossed it, and
a few miles farther attained my object--viz., the little town of Nether
Stowey, amongst the Quantock Hills. Here I had been assured that I
should find Mr. Coleridge, at the house of his old friend Mr. Poole. On
presenting myself, however, to that gentleman, I found that Coleridge
was absent at Lord Egmont's, an elder brother (by the father's side)
of Mr. Perceval, the Prime Minister, assassinated five years later;
and, as it was doubtful whether he might not then be on the wing to
another friend's in the town of Bridgewater, I consented willingly,
until his motions should be ascertained, to stay a day or two with
this Mr. Poole--a man on his own account well deserving a separate
notice; for, as Coleridge afterwards remarked to me, he was almost
an ideal model for a useful member of Parliament.[40] I found him a
stout, plain-looking farmer, leading a bachelor life, in a rustic,
old-fashioned house; the house, however, upon further acquaintance,
proving to be amply furnished with modern luxuries, and especially with
a good library, superbly mounted in all departments bearing at all
upon political philosophy; and the farmer turning out a polished and
liberal Englishman, who had travelled extensively, and had so entirely
dedicated himself to the service of his humble fellow-countrymen--the
hewers of wood and drawers of water in this southern part of
Somersetshire--that for many miles round he was the general arbiter of
their disputes, the guide and counsellor of their difficulties; besides
being appointed executor and guardian to his children by every third
man who died in or about the town of Nether Stowey.

   [40] For a full account of this interesting Mr. Poole see _Thomas
   Poole and his Friends_, by Mrs. Henry Sandford, 2 vols., 1888. He
   was born 1765, and died 1837.--M.

The first morning of my visit, Mr. Poole was so kind as to propose,
knowing my admiration of Wordsworth, that we should ride over to
Alfoxton[41]--a place of singular interest to myself, as having been
occupied in his unmarried days by that poet, during the minority of Mr.
St. Aubyn, its present youthful proprietor. At this delightful spot,
the ancient residence of an ancient English family, and surrounded by
those ferny Quantock Hills which are so beautifully glanced at in the
poem of "Ruth," Wordsworth, accompanied by his sister, had passed a
good deal of the interval between leaving the University (Cambridge)
and the period of his final settlement amongst his native lakes of
Westmoreland: some allowance, however, must be made--but how much I do
not accurately know--for a long residence in France, for a short one
in North Germany, for an intermitting one in London, and for a regular
domestication with his sister at Race Down in Dorsetshire.

   [41] More properly spelt _Alfoxden_.--M.

Returning late from this interesting survey, we found ourselves
without company at dinner; and, being thus seated _tête-à-tête_,
Mr. Poole propounded the following question to me, which I mention
because it furnished me with the first hint of a singular infirmity
besetting Coleridge's mind:--"Pray, my young friend, did you ever
form any opinion, or, rather, did it ever happen to you to meet
with any rational opinion or conjecture of others, upon that most
revolting dogma of Pythagoras about beans? You know what I mean: that
monstrous doctrine in which he asserts that a man might as well, for
the wickedness of the thing, eat his own grandmother as meddle with

   [42] In the abrupt phrasing of Mr. Poole's question De Quincey
   must surely have recollected the similar question put by the clown
   in _Twelfth Night_ to the supposed madman Malvolio to test his
   sanity--"_Clown_. What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning
   wild fowl?"--M.

"Yes," I replied; "the line is, I believe, in the Golden Verses. I
remember it well."

P.--"True: now, our dear excellent friend Coleridge, than whom God
never made a creature more divinely endowed, yet, strange it is to
say, sometimes steals from other people, just as you or I might do; I
beg your pardon--just as a poor creature like myself might do, that
sometimes have not wherewithal to make a figure from my own exchequer:
and the other day, at a dinner party, this question arising about
Pythagoras and his beans, Coleridge gave us an interpretation which,
from his manner, I suspect to have been not original. Think, therefore,
if you have anywhere read a plausible solution."

"I have: and it was a German author. This German, understand, is a poor
stick of a man, not to be named on the same day with Coleridge: so
that, if Coleridge should appear to have robbed him, be assured that he
has done the scamp too much honour."

P.--"Well: what says the German?"

"Why, you know the use made in Greece of beans in voting and balloting?
Well: the German says that Pythagoras speaks symbolically; meaning that
electioneering, or, more generally, all interference with political
intrigues, is fatal to a philosopher's pursuits and their appropriate
serenity. Therefore, says he, follower of mine, abstain from public
affairs as you would from parricide."

P.--"Well, then, Coleridge _has_ done the scamp too much honour: for,
by Jove, that is the very explanation he gave us!"

Here was a trait of Coleridge's mind, to be first made known to me by
his best friend, and first published to the world by me, the foremost
of his admirers! But both of us had sufficient reasons:--Mr. Poole knew
that, stumbled on by accident, such a discovery would be likely to
impress upon a man as yet unacquainted with Coleridge a most injurious
jealousy with regard to all he might write: whereas, frankly avowed
by one who knew him best, the fact was disarmed of its sting; since
it thus became evident that, where the case had been best known and
most investigated, it had not operated to his serious disadvantage. On
the same argument,--to forestall, that is to say, other discoverers,
who would make a more unfriendly use of the discovery,--and also as
matters of literary curiosity, I shall here point out a few others of
Coleridge's unacknowledged obligations, noticed by myself in a very
wide course of reading.[43]

   [43] With respect to all these cases of apparent plagiarism, see
   an explanatory Note at the end of this chapter.

1. The Hymn to Chamouni is an expansion of a short poem in stanzas,
upon the same subject, by Frederica Brun, a female poet of Germany,
previously known to the world under her maiden name of Münter. The
mere framework of the poem is exactly the same--an appeal to the most
impressive features of the regal mountain (Mont Blanc), adjuring them
to proclaim their author: the torrent, for instance, is required to say
by whom it had been arrested in its headlong raving, and stiffened, as
by the petrific touch of Death, into everlasting pillars of ice; and
the answer to these impassioned apostrophes is made by the same choral
burst of rapture. In mere logic, therefore, and even as to the choice
of circumstances, Coleridge's poem is a translation. On the other hand,
by a judicious amplification of some topics, and by its far deeper tone
of lyrical enthusiasm, the dry bones of the German outline have been
awakened by Coleridge into the fulness of life. It is not, therefore, a
paraphrase, but a re-cast of the original. And how was this calculated,
if frankly avowed, to do Coleridge any injury with the judicious?

2. A more singular case of Coleridge's infirmity is this:--In a very
noble passage of "France," a fine expression or two occur from "Samson
Agonistes." Now, to take a phrase or an inspiriting line from the great
fathers of poetry, even though no marks of quotation should be added,
carries with it no charge of plagiarism. Milton is justly presumed to
be as familiar to the ear as nature to the eye; and to steal from him
as impossible as to appropriate, or sequester to a private use, some
"bright particular star." And there is a good reason for rejecting the
typographical marks of quotation: they break the continuity of the
passion, by reminding the reader of a printed book; on which account
Milton himself (to give an instance) has not marked the sublime words,
"tormented all the air" as borrowed; nor has Wordsworth, in applying to
an unprincipled woman of commanding beauty the memorable expression "a
weed of glorious feature," thought it necessary to acknowledge it as
originally belonging to Spenser. Some dozens of similar cases might be
adduced from Milton. But Coleridge, when saying of republican France

               "_Insupportably advancing_,
     Her arm made mockery of the warrior's tramp,"

not satisfied with omitting the marks of acknowledgment, thought fit
positively to deny that he was indebted to Milton. Yet who could
forget that semi-chorus in the "Samson" where the "bold Ascalonite" is
described as having "fled from his lion ramp"? Or who, that was not
in this point liable to some hallucination of judgment, would have
ventured on a public challenge (for virtually it was that) to produce
from the "Samson" words so impossible to be overlooked as those of
"insupportably advancing the foot"? The result was that one of the
critical journals placed the two passages in juxtaposition and left the
reader to his own conclusions with regard to the poet's veracity. But,
in this instance, it was common sense rather than veracity which the
facts impeach.

3. In the year 1810 I happened to be amusing myself by reading, in
their chronological order, the great classical circumnavigations of
the earth; and, coming to Shelvocke, I met with a passage to this
effect:--That Hatley, his second captain (_i.e._ lieutenant), being a
melancholy man, was possessed by a fancy that some long season of foul
weather, in the solitary sea which they were then traversing, was due
to an albatross which had steadily pursued the ship; upon which he shot
the bird, but without mending their condition. There at once I saw
the germ of the "Ancient Mariner"; and I put a question to Coleridge
accordingly. Could it have been imagined that he would see cause
utterly to disown so slight an obligation to Shelvocke? Wordsworth, a
man of stern veracity, on hearing of this, professed his inability to
understand Coleridge's meaning; the fact being notorious, as he told
me, that Coleridge had derived from the very passage I had cited the
original hint for the action of the poem; though it is very possible,
from something which Coleridge said on another occasion, that, before
meeting a fable in which to embody his ideas, he had meditated a poem
on delirium, confounding its own dream-scenery with external things,
and connected with the imagery of high latitudes.

4. All these cases amount to nothing at all as cases of plagiarism,
and for this reason expose the more conspicuously that obliquity of
feeling which could seek to decline the very slight acknowledgments
required. But now I come to a case of real and palpable plagiarism;
yet that, too, of a nature to be quite unaccountable in a man of
Coleridge's attainments. It is not very likely that this particular
case will soon be detected; but others will. Yet who knows? Eight
hundred or a thousand years hence, some reviewer may arise who having
read the "Biographia Literaria" of Coleridge, will afterwards read the
"Philosophical----"[44] of Schelling, the great Bavarian professor--a
man in some respects worthy to be Coleridge's assessor; and he will
then make a singular discovery. In the "Biographia Literaria" occurs
a dissertation upon the reciprocal relations of the _Esse_ and the
_Cogitare_,--that is, of the _objective_ and the _subjective_: and an
attempt is made, by inverting the postulates from which the argument
starts, to show how each might arise as a product, by an intelligible
genesis, from the other. It is a subject which, since the time of
Fichte, has much occupied the German metaphysicians; and many thousands
of essays have been written on it, or indirectly so, of which many
hundreds have been read by many tens of persons. Coleridge's essay,
in particular, is prefaced by a few words in which, aware of his
coincidence with Schelling, he declares his willingness to acknowledge
himself indebted to so great a man in any case where the truth would
allow him to do so; but, in this particular case, insisting on the
impossibility that he could have borrowed arguments which he had
first seen some years after he had thought out the whole hypothesis
_proprio marte_. After this, what was my astonishment to find that
the entire essay, from the first word to the last, is a _verbatim_
translation from Schelling, with no attempt in a single instance to
appropriate the paper by developing the arguments or by diversifying
the illustrations? Some other obligations to Schelling, of a slighter
kind, I have met with in the "Biographia Literaria"; but this was a
barefaced plagiarism, which could in prudence have been risked only
by relying too much upon the slight knowledge of German literature in
this country, and especially of that section of the German literature.
Had, then, Coleridge any need to borrow from Schelling? Did he borrow
_in forma pauperis_? Not at all: there lay the wonder. He spun daily,
and at all hours, for mere amusement of his own activities, and from
the loom of his own magical brain, theories more gorgeous by far, and
supported by a pomp and luxury of images such as neither Schelling--no,
nor any German that ever breathed, not John Paul--could have emulated
in his dreams. With the riches of El Dorado lying about him, he would
condescend to filch a handful of gold from any man whose purse he
fancied, and in fact reproduced in a new form, applying itself to
intellectual wealth, that maniacal propensity which is sometimes well
known to attack enormous proprietors and millionaires for acts of petty
larceny. The last Duke of Anc---- could not abstain from exercising his
furtive mania upon articles so humble as silver spoons; and it was the
nightly care of a pious daughter, watching over the aberrations of her
father, to have his pockets searched by a confidential valet, and the
claimants of the purloined articles traced out.

   [44] I forget the exact title, not having seen the book since
   1823, and then only for one day; but I believe it was Schelling's
   "Kleine Philosophische Werke."

Many cases have crossed me in life of people, otherwise not wanting in
principle, who had habits, or at least hankerings, of the same kind.
And the phrenologists, I believe, are well acquainted with the case,
its signs, its progress, and its history. Dismissing, however, this
subject, which I have at all noticed only that I might anticipate,
and (in old English) that I might _prevent_, the uncandid interpreter
of its meaning, I will assert finally that, after having read for
thirty years in the same track as Coleridge--that track in which few
of any age will ever follow us, such as German metaphysicians, Latin
schoolmen, thaumaturgic Platonists, religious Mystics--and having thus
discovered a large variety of trivial thefts, I do, nevertheless,
most heartily believe him to have been as entirely original in all
his capital pretensions as any one man that ever has existed; as
Archimedes in ancient days, or as Shakspere in modern. Did the reader
ever see Milton's account of the rubbish contained in the Greek and
Latin Fathers?[45] Or did he ever read a statement of the monstrous
chaos with which an African Obeah man stuffs his enchanted scarecrows?
Or, take a more common illustration, did he ever amuse himself by
searching the pockets of a child--three years old, suppose--when
buried in slumber after a long summer's day of out-o'-doors intense
activity? I have done this; and, for the amusement of the child's
mother, have analyzed the contents, and drawn up a formal register
of the whole. Philosophy is puzzled, conjecture and hypothesis are
confounded, in the attempt to explain the law of selection which _can_
have presided in the child's labours; stones remarkable only for
weight, old rusty hinges, nails, crooked skewers stolen when the cook
had turned her back, rags, broken glass, tea-cups having the bottom
knocked out, and loads of similar jewels, were the prevailing articles
in this _procès-verbal_. Yet, doubtless, much labour had been incurred,
some sense of danger perhaps had been faced, and the anxieties of a
conscious robber endured, in order to amass this splendid treasure.
Such in value were the robberies of Coleridge; such their usefulness to
himself or anybody else; and such the circumstances of uneasiness under
which he had committed them. I return to my narrative.

   [45] "Whatever Time, or the heedless hand of blind Chance, hath
   drawn  down from of old to this present in her huge drag-net,
   whether fish, or seaweed, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen,
   these are the Fathers." Milton's Tract _Of Prelatical Episcopacy_,
   published in 1641.--M.

Two or three days had slipped away in waiting for Coleridge's
re-appearance at Nether Stowey, when suddenly Lord Egmont called
upon Mr. Poole, with a present for Coleridge: it was a canister of
peculiarly fine snuff, which Coleridge now took profusely. Lord
Egmont, on this occasion, spoke of Coleridge in the terms of excessive
admiration, and urged Mr. Poole to put him upon undertaking some great
monumental work, that might furnish a sufficient arena for the display
of his various and rare accomplishments; for his multiform erudition
on the one hand, for his splendid power of theorizing and combining
large and remote notices of facts on the other. And he suggested,
judiciously enough, as one theme which offered a field at once large
enough and indefinite enough to suit a mind that could not show its
full compass of power unless upon very plastic materials--a History
of Christianity, in its progress and in its chief divarications into
Church and Sect, with a continual reference to the relations subsisting
between Christianity and the current philosophy; their occasional
connexions or approaches, and their constant mutual repulsions. "But,
at any rate, let him do something," said Lord Egmont; "for at present
he talks very much like an angel, and does nothing at all." Lord Egmont
I understood from everybody to be a truly good and benevolent man; and
on this occasion he spoke with an earnestness which agreed with my
previous impression. Coleridge, he said, was now in the prime of his
powers--uniting something of youthful vigour with sufficient experience
of life; having the benefit, beside, of vast meditation, and of reading
unusually discursive. No man had ever been better qualified to revive
the heroic period of literature in England, and to give a character of
weight to the philosophic erudition of the country upon the Continent.
"And what a pity," he added, "if this man were, after all, to vanish
like an apparition, and you, I, and a few others, who have witnessed
his grand _bravuras_ of display, were to have the usual fortune of
ghost-seers, in meeting no credit for any statements that we might
vouch on his behalf!"

On this occasion we learned, for the first time, that Lord Egmont's
carriage had, some days before, conveyed Coleridge to Bridgewater, with
a purpose of staying one single day at that place, and then returning
to Mr. Poole's. From the sort of laugh with which Lord Egmont taxed
his own simplicity, in having confided at all in the stability of any
Coleridgian plan, I now gathered that procrastination in excess was,
or had become, a marking feature in Coleridge's daily life. Nobody who
knew him ever thought of depending on any appointment he might make:
spite of his uniformly honourable intentions, nobody attached any
weight to his assurances _in re futura_: those who asked him to dinner
or any other party, as a matter of course, sent a carriage for him, and
went personally or by proxy to fetch him; and, as to letters, unless
the address were in some female hand that commanded his affectionate
esteem, he tossed them all into one general _dead-letter bureau_, and
rarely, I believe, opened them at all.[46] Bourrienne mentions a mode
of abridging the trouble attached to a very extensive correspondence,
by which infinite labour was saved to himself, and to Napoleon, when
First Consul. Nine out of ten letters, supposing them letters of
business with official applications of a special kind, he contends,
answer themselves: in other words, time alone must soon produce events
which virtually contain the answer. On this principle the letters were
opened periodically, after intervals, suppose, of six weeks; and, at
the end of that time, it was found that not many remained to require
any further more particular answer. Coleridge's plan, however, was
shorter: he opened none, I understood, and answered none. At least
such was his habit at that time. But, on that same day, all this,
which I heard now for the first time, and with much concern, was fully
explained; for already he was under the full dominion of opium, as he
himself revealed to me, and with a deep expression of horror at the
hideous bondage, in a private walk of some length which I took with him
about sunset.

   [46] This might pass as a description of De Quincey himself in his
   later years, if not all through his life.--M.

Lord Egmont's information, and the knowledge now gained of Coleridge's
habits, making it very uncertain when I might see him in my present
hospitable quarters, I immediately took my leave of Mr. Poole, and went
over to Bridgewater. I had received directions for finding out the
house where Coleridge was visiting; and, in riding down a main street
of Bridgewater, I noticed a gateway corresponding to the description
given me. Under this was standing, and gazing about him, a man whom I
will describe. In height he might seem to be about five feet eight (he
was, in reality, about an inch and a-half taller, but his figure was
of an order which drowns the height); his person was broad and full,
and tended even to corpulence; his complexion was fair, though not
what painters technically style fair, because it was associated with
black hair; his eyes were large, and soft in their expression; and it
was from the peculiar appearance of haze or dreaminess which mixed
with their light that I recognised my object. This was Coleridge.[47]
I examined him steadfastly for a minute or more; and it struck me
that he saw neither myself nor any other object in the street. He was
in a deep reverie; for I had dismounted, made two or three trifling
arrangements at an inn-door, and advanced close to him, before he had
apparently become conscious of my presence. The sound of my voice,
announcing my own name, first awoke him; he started, and for a moment
seemed at a loss to understand my purpose or his own situation; for he
repeated rapidly a number of words which had no relation to either of
us. There was no _mauvaise honte_ in his manner, but simple perplexity,
and an apparent difficulty in recovering his position amongst daylight
realities. This little scene over, he received me with a kindness of
manner so marked that it might be called gracious. The hospitable
family with whom he was domesticated were distinguished for their
amiable manners and enlightened understandings: they were descendants
from Chubb, the philosophic writer, and bore the same name. For
Coleridge they all testified deep affection and esteem--sentiments
in which the whole town of Bridgewater seemed to share; for in the
evening, when the heat of the day had declined, I walked out with him;
and rarely, perhaps never, have I seen a person so much interrupted
in one hour's space as Coleridge, on this occasion, by the courteous
attentions of young and old.

   [47] At the date of this first meeting of De Quincey with
   Coleridge, De Quincey was twenty-two years of age and Coleridge
   nearly thirty-seven.--M.

All the people of station and weight in the place, and apparently all
the ladies, were abroad to enjoy the lovely summer evening; and not a
party passed without some mark of smiling recognition, and the majority
stopping to make personal inquiries about his health, and to express
their anxiety that he should make a lengthened stay amongst them.
Certain I am, from the lively esteem expressed towards Coleridge at
this time by the people of Bridgewater, that a very large subscription
might, in that town, have been raised to support him amongst them, in
the character of a lecturer, or philosophical professor. Especially I
remarked that the young men of the place manifested the most liberal
interest in all that concerned him; and I can add my attestation
to that of Mr. Coleridge himself, when describing an evening spent
amongst the enlightened tradesmen of Birmingham, that nowhere is
more unaffected good sense exhibited, and particularly nowhere more
elasticity and _freshness_ of mind, than in the conversation of
the reading men in manufacturing towns. In Kendal, especially, in
Bridgewater, and in Manchester, I have witnessed more interesting
conversations, as much information, and more natural eloquence in
conveying it, than usually in literary cities, or in places professedly
learned. One reason for this is that in trading towns the time is more
happily distributed; the day given to business and active duties--the
evening to relaxation; on which account, books, conversation, and
literary leisure are more cordially enjoyed: the same satiation never
can take place which too frequently deadens the genial enjoyment of
those who have a surfeit of books and a monotony of leisure. Another
reason is that more simplicity of manner may be expected, and more
natural picturesqueness of conversation, more open expression of
character, in places where people have no previous name to support. Men
in trading towns are not afraid to open their lips for fear they should
disappoint your expectations, nor do they strain for showy sentiments
that they may meet them. But, elsewhere, many are the men who stand
in awe of their own reputation: not a word which is unstudied, not
a movement in the spirit of natural freedom, dare they give way to,
because it might happen that on review something would be seen to
retract or to qualify--something not properly planed and chiselled to
build into the general architecture of an artificial reputation. But to

Coleridge led me to a drawing-room, rang the bell for refreshments,
and omitted no point of a courteous reception. He told me that there
would be a very large dinner party on that day, which, perhaps, might
be disagreeable to a perfect stranger; but, if not, he could assure
me of a most hospitable welcome from the family. I was too anxious to
see him under all aspects to think of declining this invitation. That
point being settled, Coleridge, like some great river, the Orellana,
or the St. Lawrence, that, having been checked and fretted by rocks
or thwarting islands, suddenly recovers its volume of waters and its
mighty music, swept at once, as if returning to his natural business,
into a continuous strain of eloquent dissertation, certainly the most
novel, the most finely illustrated, and traversing the most spacious
fields of thought by transitions the most just and logical, that it
was possible to conceive. What I mean by saying that his transitions
were "just" is by way of contradistinction to that mode of conversation
which courts variety through links of _verbal_ connexions. Coleridge,
to many people, and often I have heard the complaint, seemed to wander;
and he seemed then to wander the most when, in fact, his resistance to
the wandering instinct was greatest--viz., when the compass and huge
circuit by which his illustrations moved travelled farthest into remote
regions before they began to revolve. Long before this coming round
commenced most people had lost him, and naturally enough supposed that
he had lost himself. They continued to admire the separate beauty of
the thoughts, but did not see their relations to the dominant theme.
Had the conversation been thrown upon paper, it might have been easy
to trace the continuity of the links; just as in Bishop Berkeley's
"Siris,"[48] from a pedestal so low and abject, so culinary, as Tar
Water, the method of preparing it, and its medicinal effects, the
dissertation ascends, like Jacob's ladder, by just gradations, into the
Heaven of Heavens and the thrones of the Trinity. But Heaven is there
connected with earth by the Homeric chain of gold; and, being subject
to steady examination, it is easy to trace the links; whereas, in
conversation, the loss of a single word may cause the whole cohesion to
disappear from view. However, I can assert, upon my long and intimate
knowledge of Coleridge's mind, that logic the most severe was as
inalienable from his modes of thinking as grammar from his language.

   [48] _Seiris_ ought to have been the title--_i.e._ [Greek:
   Seiris], a chain. From this defect in the orthography, I did not
   in my boyish days perceive, nor could obtain any light upon, its

On the present occasion, the original theme, started by myself, was
Hartley and the Hartleian theory. I had carried as a little present to
Coleridge a scarce Latin pamphlet, "De Ideis," written by Hartley about
1746,--that is, about three years earlier than the publication of his
great work. He had also preluded to this great work in a little English
medical tract upon Joanna Stephens's medicine for the stone; for indeed
Hartley was the person upon whose evidence the House of Commons had
mainly relied in giving to that same Joanna a reward of £5000 for her
idle medicines--an application of public money not without its use, in
so far as it engaged men by selfish motives to cultivate the public
service, and to attempt public problems of very difficult solution; but
else, in that particular instance, perfectly idle, as the groans of
three generations since Joanna's era have too feelingly established. It
is known to most literary people that Coleridge was, in early life, so
passionate an admirer of the Hartleian philosophy that "Hartley" was
the sole baptismal name which he gave to his eldest child; and in an
early poem, entitled "Religious Musings," he has characterized Hartley

                             "Him of mortal kind
     Wisest, him first who mark'd the ideal tribes
     Up the fine fibres through the sentient brain
     Pass in fine surges."

But at present (August 1807) all this was a forgotten thing. Coleridge
was so profoundly ashamed of the shallow Unitarianism of Hartley, and
so disgusted to think that he could at any time have countenanced that
creed, that he would scarcely allow to Hartley the reverence which is
undoubtedly his due; for I must contend that, waiving all question of
the extent to which Hartley would have pushed it (as though the law of
association accounted not only for our complex pleasures and pains, but
also might be made to explain the act of ratiocination),--waiving also
the physical substratum of nervous vibrations and miniature vibrations
to which he has chosen to marry his theory of association;--all this
apart, I must contend that the "Essay on Man, his Frame, his Duty,
and his Expectations" stands forward as a specimen almost unique
of elaborate theorizing, and a monument of absolute beauty in the
impression left of its architectural grace. In this respect it has, to
my mind, the spotless beauty and the ideal proportions of some Grecian
statue. However, I confess that, being myself, from my earliest years,
a reverential believer in the doctrine of the Trinity, simply because I
never attempted to bring all things within the mechanic understanding,
and because, like Sir Thomas, Browne, my mind almost demanded mysteries
in so mysterious a system of relations as those which connect us with
another world, and also because the farther my understanding opened the
more I perceived of dim analogies to strengthen my creed, and because
nature herself, mere physical nature, has mysteries no less profound;
for these, and for many other "_becauses_," I could not reconcile with
my general reverence for Mr. Coleridge the fact, so often reported to
me, that he was a Unitarian. But, said some Bristol people to me, not
only is he a Unitarian--he is also a Socinian. In that case, I replied,
I cannot hold him a Christian. I am a liberal man, and have no bigotry
or hostile feelings towards a Socinian; but I can never think that man
a Christian who has blotted out of his scheme the very powers by which
only the great offices and functions of Christianity can be sustained;
neither can I think that any man, though he make himself a marvellously
clever disputant, ever could tower upwards into a very great
philosopher unless he should begin or should end with Christianity.
Kant is a dubious exception. Not that I mean to question his august
pretensions, so far as they went, and in his proper line. Within his
own circle none durst tread but he. But that circle was limited. He
was called by one who weighed him well, the _alles-zermalmender_, the
world-shattering Kant. He could destroy--his intellect was essentially
destructive. He was the Gog and he was the Magog of Hunnish desolation
to the existing schemes of Philosophy. He probed them; he showed the
vanity of vanities which besieged their foundations--the rottenness
below, the hollowness above. But he had no instincts of creation or
restoration within his Apollyon mind; for he had no love, no faith, no
self-distrust, no humility, no childlike docility; all which qualities
belonged essentially to Coleridge's mind, and waited only for manhood
and for sorrow to bring them forward.

Who can read without indignation of Kant that, at his own table, in
social sincerity and confidential talk, let him say what he would
in his books, he exulted in the prospect of absolute and ultimate
annihilation; that he planted his glory in the grave, and was
ambitious of rotting for ever? The King of Prussia, though a personal
friend of Kant's, found himself obliged to level his state thunders
at some of his doctrines, and terrified him in his advance; else I
am persuaded that Kant would have formally delivered Atheism from
the professor's chair, and would have enthroned the horrid Ghoulish
creed (which privately he professed) in the University of Königsberg.
It required the artillery of a great king to make him pause: his
menacing or warning letter to Kant is extant. The general notion
is, that the royal logic applied so austerely to the public conduct
of Kant in his professor's chair was of that kind which rests its
strength "upon thirty legions." My own belief is that the king had
private information of Kant's ultimate tendencies as revealed in his
table-talk. The fact is that, as the stomach has been known, by means
of its own potent acid secretion, to attack not only whatsoever alien
body is introduced within it, but also (as John Hunter first showed)
sometimes to attack itself and its own organic structure, so, and with
the same preternatural extension of instinct, did Kant carry forward
his destroying functions, until he turned them upon his own hopes and
the pledges of his own superiority to the dog, the ape, the worm. But
"_exoriare aliquis_"--and some philosopher, I am persuaded, _will_
arise; and "one sling of some victorious arm" ("Paradise Lost," B. x.)
will yet destroy the destroyer, in so far as he has applied himself
to the destruction of Christian hope. For my faith is that, though a
great man may, by a rare possibility, be an infidel, an intellect of
the highest order must build upon Christianity. A very clever architect
may choose to show his power by building with insufficient materials;
but the supreme architect must require the very best, because the
perfection of the forms cannot be shown but in the perfection of the

On these accounts I took the liberty of doubting, as often as I heard
the reports I have mentioned of Coleridge; and I now found that he
disowned most solemnly (and I may say penitentially) whatever had been
true in these reports. Coleridge told me that it had cost him a painful
effort, but not a moment's hesitation, to abjure his Unitarianism, from
the circumstance that he had amongst the Unitarians many friends, to
some of whom he was greatly indebted for great kindness. In particular,
he mentioned Mr. Estlin of Bristol, a distinguished Dissenting
clergyman, as one whom it grieved him to grieve. But he would not
dissemble his altered views. I will add, at the risk of appearing to
dwell too long on religious topics, that, on this my first introduction
to Coleridge, he reverted with strong compunction to a sentiment which
he had expressed in earlier days upon prayer. In one of his youthful
poems, speaking of God, he had said--

     "Of whose omniscient and all-spreading love
     Aught to implore were impotence of mind."

This sentiment he now so utterly condemned that, on the contrary, he
told me, as his own peculiar opinion, that the act of praying was the
very highest energy of which the human heart was capable; praying, that
is, with the total concentration of the faculties; and the great mass
of worldly men, and of learned men, he pronounced absolutely incapable
of prayer.

For about three hours he had continued to talk, and in the course
of this performance he had delivered many most striking aphorisms,
embalming more weight of truth, and separately more deserving to be
themselves embalmed, than would easily be found in a month's course
of select reading. In the midst of our conversation, if that can be
called conversation which I so seldom sought to interrupt, and which
did not often leave openings for contribution, the door opened,
and a lady entered. She was in person full and rather below the
common height; whilst her face showed to my eye some prettiness of
rather a commonplace order. Coleridge paused upon her entrance; his
features, however, announced no particular complacency, and did not
relax into a smile. In a frigid tone he said, whilst turning to me,
"Mrs. Coleridge"; in some slight way he then presented me to her: I
bowed; and the lady almost immediately retired. From this short but
ungenial scene, I gathered, what I afterward learned redundantly, that
Coleridge's marriage had not been a very happy one. But let not the
reader misunderstand me. Never was there a baser insinuation, viler in
the motive, or more ignoble in the manner, than that passage in some
lampoon of Lord Byron's, where, by way of vengeance on Mr. Southey (who
was the sole delinquent), he described both him and Coleridge as having
married "two milliners from Bath." Everybody knows what is _meant_
to be conveyed in that expression, though it would be hard, indeed,
if, even at Bath, there should be any class under such a fatal curse,
condemned so irretrievably, and so hopelessly prejudged, that ignominy
must, at any rate, attach, in virtue of a mere name or designation, to
the mode by which they gained their daily bread, or possibly supported
the declining years of a parent. However, in this case, the whole
sting of the libel was a pure falsehood of Lord Byron's. Bath was
not the native city, nor at any time the residence, of the ladies in
question, but Bristol. As to the other word, "_milliners_," that is
not worth inquiring about. Whether they, or any one of their family,
ever _did_ exercise this profession, I do not know; they were, at all
events, too young, when removed by marriage from Bristol, to have
been much tainted by the worldly feelings which may beset such a mode
of life. But, what is more to the purpose, I heard, at this time,
in Bristol, from Mr. Cottle, the author, a man of high principle,
as also from his accomplished sisters,--from the ladies, again, who
had succeeded Mrs. Hannah More in her school, and who enjoyed her
entire confidence,--that the whole family of four or five sisters had
maintained an irreproachable character, though naturally exposed, by
their personal attractions, to some peril, and to the malevolence of
envy. This declaration, which I could strengthen by other testimony
equally disinterested, if it were at all necessary, I owe to truth; and
I must also add, upon a knowledge more personal, that Mrs. Coleridge
was, in all circumstances of her married life, a virtuous wife and a
conscientious mother; and, as a mother, she showed at times a most
meritorious energy. In particular, I remember that, wishing her
daughter to acquire the Italian language, and having in her retirement
at Keswick no means of obtaining a master, she set to work resolutely,
under Mr. Southey's guidance, to learn the language herself, at a time
of life when such attainments are not made with ease or pleasure. She
became mistress of the language in a very respectable extent, and then
communicated her new accomplishment to her most interesting daughter.

I go on, therefore, to say, that Coleridge afterwards made me, as
doubtless some others, a confidant in this particular. What he had
to complain of was simply incompatibility of temper and disposition.
Wanting all cordial admiration, or indeed comprehension, of her
husband's intellectual powers, Mrs. Coleridge wanted the original basis
for affectionate patience and candour. Hearing from everybody that
Coleridge was a man of most extraordinary endowments, and attaching
little weight, perhaps, to the distinction between popular talents
and such as by their very nature are doomed to a slower progress in
the public esteem, she naturally looked to see, at least, an ordinary
measure of worldly consequence attend upon their exercise. Now, had
Coleridge been as persevering and punctual as the great mass of
professional men, and had he given no reason to throw the _onus_ of
the different result upon his own different habits, in that case this
result might, possibly and eventually, have been set down to the
peculiar constitution of his powers, and their essential mal-adaptation
to the English market. But, this trial having never fairly been made,
it was natural to impute his non-success exclusively to his own
irregular application, and to his carelessness in forming judicious
connexions. In circumstances such as these, however, no matter how
caused or how palliated, was laid a sure ground of discontent and
fretfulness in any woman's mind, not unusually indulgent or unusually
magnanimous. Coleridge, besides, assured me that his marriage was not
his own deliberate act, but was in a manner forced upon his sense of
honour by the scrupulous Southey, who insisted that he had gone too
far in his attentions to Miss Fricker for any honourable retreat. On
the other hand, a neutral spectator of the parties protested to me,
that, if ever in his life he had seen a man under deep fascination, and
what he would have called desperately in love, Coleridge, in relation
to Miss F., was that man. Be that as it might, circumstances occurred
soon after the marriage which placed all the parties in a trying
situation for their candour and good temper. I had a full outline of
the situation from two of those who were chiefly interested, and a
partial one from a third: nor can it be denied that all the parties
offended in point of prudence. A young lady became a neighbour, and
a daily companion of Coleridge's walks, whom I will not describe
more particularly than by saying that intellectually she was very
much superior to Mrs. Coleridge. That superiority alone, when made
conspicuous by its effects in winning Coleridge's regard and society,
could not but be deeply mortifying to a young wife. However, it was
moderated to her feelings by two considerations:--1. That the young
lady was much too kind-hearted to have designed any annoyance in this
triumph, or to express any exultation; 2. That no shadow of suspicion
settled upon the moral conduct or motives of either party: the young
lady was always attended by her brother; she had no personal charms;
and it was manifest that mere intellectual sympathies, in reference
to literature and natural scenery, had associated them in their daily

Still, it is a bitter trial to a young married woman to sustain any
sort of competition with a female of her own age for any part of her
husband's regard, or any share of his company. Mrs. Coleridge, not
having the same relish for long walks or rural scenery, and their
residence being, at this time, in a very sequestered village, was
condemned to a daily renewal of this trial.[49] Accidents of another
kind embittered it still further: often it would happen that the
walking party returned drenched with rain; in which case, the young
lady, with a laughing gaiety, and evidently unconscious of any liberty
that she was taking, or any wound that she was inflicting, would run
up to Mrs. Coleridge's wardrobe, array herself, without leave asked,
in Mrs. Coleridge's dresses, and make herself merry with her own
unceremoniousness and Mrs. Coleridge's gravity. In all this, she took
no liberty that she would not most readily have granted in return;
she confided too unthinkingly in what she regarded as the natural
privileges of friendship; and as little thought that she had been
receiving or exacting a favour, as, under an exchange of their relative
positions, she would have claimed to confer one. But Mrs. Coleridge
viewed her freedoms with a far different eye: she felt herself no
longer the entire mistress of her own house; she held a divided
empire; and it barbed the arrow to her womanly feelings that Coleridge
treated any sallies of resentment which might sometimes escape her as
narrow-mindedness; whilst, on the other hand, her own female servant,
and others in the same rank of life, began to drop expressions which
alternately implied pity for her as an injured woman, or contempt for
her as a very tame one.

   [49] Another sentence of faulty grammar: a rare thing with De

The reader will easily apprehend the situation, and the unfortunate
results which it boded to the harmony of a young married couple,
without further illustration. Whether Coleridge would not, under
any circumstances, have become indifferent to a wife not eminently
capable of enlightened sympathy with his own ruling pursuits, I do not
undertake to pronounce. My own impression is, that neither Coleridge
nor Lord Byron could have failed, eventually, to quarrel with _any_
wife, though a Pandora sent down from heaven to bless him. But,
doubtless, this consummation must have been hastened by a situation
which exposed Mrs. Coleridge to an invidious comparison with a more
intellectual person; as, on the other hand, it was most unfortunate
for Coleridge himself to be continually compared with one so ideally
correct and regular in his habits as Mr. Southey. Thus was their
domestic peace prematurely soured: embarrassments of a pecuniary nature
would be likely to demand continual sacrifices; no depth of affection
existing, these would create disgust or dissension; and at length
each would believe that their union had originated in circumstances
overruling their own deliberate choice.

The gloom, however, and the weight of dejection which sat upon
Coleridge's countenance and deportment at this time could not be
accounted for by a disappointment (if such it were) to which time
must, long ago, have reconciled him. Mrs. Coleridge, if not turning
to him the more amiable aspects of her character, was at any rate a
respectable partner. And the season of youth was now passed. They had
been married about ten years; had had four children, of whom three
survived; and the interests of a father were now replacing those of a
husband. Yet never had I beheld so profound an expression of cheerless
despondency. And the restless activity of Coleridge's mind, in chasing
abstract truths, and burying himself in the dark places of human
speculation, seemed to me, in a great measure, an attempt to escape
out of his own personal wretchedness. I was right. In this instance,
at least, I had hit the mark; and Coleridge bore witness himself at an
after period to the truth of my divination by some impressive verses.
At dinner, when a very numerous party had assembled, he knew that he
was expected to talk, and exerted himself to meet the expectation. But
he was evidently struggling with gloomy thoughts that prompted him to
silence, and perhaps to solitude: he talked with effort, and passively
resigned himself to the repeated misrepresentations of several amongst
his hearers. The subject chiefly discussed was Arthur Young, not for
his Rural Economy, but for his Politics.[50] It must be to this period
of Coleridge's life that Wordsworth refers in those exquisite "Lines
written in my pocket copy of the 'Castle of Indolence.'" The passage
which I mean comes after a description of Coleridge's countenance, and
begins in some such terms as these:--

     "A piteous sight it was to see this man,
     When he came back to us, a wither'd flow'r," &c.

Withered he was, indeed, and to all appearance blighted. At night he
entered into a spontaneous explanation of this unhappy overclouding
of his life, on occasion of my saying accidentally that a toothache
had obliged me to take a few drops of laudanum. At what time or on
what motive he had commenced the use of opium, he did not say; but the
peculiar emphasis of horror with which he warned me against forming a
habit of the same kind impressed upon my mind a feeling that he never
hoped to liberate himself from the bondage. My belief is that he never
_did_. About ten o'clock at night I took leave of him; and, feeling
that I could not easily go to sleep after the excitement of the day,
and fresh from the sad spectacle of powers so majestic already besieged
by decay, I determined to return to Bristol through the coolness of
the night. The roads, though, in fact, a section of the great highway
between seaports so turbulent as Bristol and Plymouth, were as quiet
as garden-walks. Once only I passed through the expiring fires of a
village fair or wake: that interruption excepted, through the whole
stretch of forty miles from Bridgewater to the Hot-wells, I saw no
living creature but a surly dog, who followed me for a mile along a
park-wall, and a man, who was moving about in the half-way town of
Cross. The turnpike-gates were all opened by a mechanical contrivance
from a bedroom window; I seemed to myself in solitary possession of the
whole sleeping country. The summer night was divinely calm; no sound,
except once or twice the cry of a child as I was passing the windows of
cottages, ever broke upon the utter silence; and all things conspired
to throw back my thoughts upon that extraordinary man whom I had just

   [50] Arthur Young's numerous works, published between 1768 and
   1812, are mainly on agricultural subjects, in the form of tours
   and statistics, but include political doctrines and theories.--M.

The fine saying of Addison is familiar to most readers--that Babylon
in ruins is not so affecting a spectacle, or so solemn, as a human
mind overthrown by lunacy. How much more awful, then, when a mind
so regal as that of Coleridge is overthrown, or threatened with
overthrow, not by a visitation of Providence, but by the treachery of
its own will, and by the conspiracy, as it were, of himself against
himself! Was it possible that this ruin had been caused or hurried
forward by the dismal degradations of pecuniary difficulties? That
was worth inquiring. I will here mention briefly that I _did_ inquire
two days after; and, in consequence of what I heard, I contrived that
a particular service should be rendered to Mr. Coleridge, a week
after, through the hands of Mr. Cottle of Bristol, which might have
the effect of liberating his mind from anxiety for a year or two, and
thus rendering his great powers disposable to their natural uses. That
service was accepted by Coleridge.[51] To save him any feelings of
distress, all names were concealed; but, in a letter written by him
about fifteen years after that time, I found that he had become aware
of all the circumstances, perhaps through some indiscretion of Mr.
Cottle's. A more important question I never ascertained, viz. whether
this service had the effect of seriously lightening his mind. For some
succeeding years, he did certainly appear to me released from that load
of despondency which oppressed him on my first introduction. Grave,
indeed, he continued to be, and at times absorbed in gloom; nor did I
ever see him in a state of perfectly natural cheerfulness. But, as he
strove in vain, for many years, to wean himself from his captivity to
opium, a healthy state of spirits could not be much expected. Perhaps,
indeed, where the liver and other organs had, for so large a period
in life, been subject to a continual morbid stimulation, it might be
impossible for the system ever to recover a natural action. Torpor,
I suppose, must result from continued artificial excitement; and,
perhaps, upon a scale of corresponding duration. Life, in such a case,
may not offer a field of sufficient extent for unthreading the fatal
links that have been wound about the machinery of health, and have
crippled its natural play.

   [51] The service consisted in a gift by De Quincey of £300
   conveyed to Coleridge through the Bristol bookseller Cottle.
   Coleridge's receipt to Cottle for the money is dated 12th November
   1807. Coleridge knew nothing more at the time than that the gift
   came from "a young man of fortune who admired his talents." De
   Quincey, who had but recently attained his majority, had then
   plenty of money. He wanted, indeed, to make the gift £500; but
   Cottle insisted on reducing the sum.--M.

Meantime--to resume the thread of my wandering narrative--on this
serene summer night of 1807, as I moved slowly along, with my eyes
continually settling upon the northern constellations, which, like
all the fixed stars, by their immeasurable and almost spiritual
remoteness from human affairs, naturally throw the thoughts upon the
perishableness of our earthly troubles, in contrast with their own
utter peace and solemnity--I reverted, at intervals, to all I had ever
heard of Coleridge, and strove to weave it into some continuous sketch
of his life. I hardly remember how much I then knew; I know but little
now: that little I will here jot down upon paper.

       *       *       *       *       *

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the son of a learned clergyman--the vicar
of Ottery St. Mary, in the southern quarter of Devonshire.[52] It is
painful to mention that he was almost an object of persecution to his
mother; why, I could never learn. His father was described to me, by
Coleridge himself, as a sort of Parson Adams, being distinguished
by his erudition, his inexperience of the world, and his guileless
simplicity. I once purchased in London, and, I suppose, still possess,
two elementary books on the Latin language by this reverend gentleman;
one of them, as I found, making somewhat higher pretensions than a
common school grammar.[53] In particular, an attempt is made to
reform the theory of the cases; and it gives a pleasant specimen of
the rustic scholar's _naïveté_, that he seriously proposes to banish
such vexatious terms as the _accusative_; and, by way of simplifying
the matter to tender minds, that we should call it, in all time to
come, the "_quale-quare-quidditive_" case, upon what incomprehensible
principle I never could fathom. He used regularly to delight his
village flock, on Sundays, with Hebrew quotations in his sermons, which
he always introduced as the "immediate language of the Holy Ghost."
This proved unfortunate to his successor: he also was a learned man,
and his parishioners admitted it, but generally with a sigh for past
times, and a sorrowful complaint that he was still far below Parson
Coleridge--for that _he_ never gave them any "immediate language
of the Holy Ghost." I presume that, like the reverend gentleman so
pleasantly sketched in "St. Ronan's Well," Mr. Coleridge, who resembled
that person in his oriental learning, in his absence of mind, and in
his simplicity, must also have resembled him in shortsightedness,
of which his son used to relate this ludicrous instance. Dining in
a large party, one day, the modest divine was suddenly shocked by
perceiving some part, as he conceived, of his own snowy shirt emerging
from a part of his habiliments, which we will suppose to have been
his waistcoat. It was _not_ that; but for decorum we will so call
it. The stray portion of his own supposed tunic was admonished of
its errors by a forcible thrust back into its proper home; but still
another _limbus_ persisted to emerge, or seemed to persist, and still
another, until the learned gentleman absolutely perspired with the
labour of re-establishing order. And, after all, he saw with anguish
that some arrears of the snowy indecorum still remained to reduce
into obedience. To this remnant of rebellion he was proceeding to
apply himself--strangely confounded, however, at the obstinacy of the
insurrection--when, the mistress of the house rising to lead away the
ladies from the table, and all parties naturally rising with her, it
became suddenly apparent to every eye that the worthy Orientalist had
been most laboriously stowing away into the capacious receptacles of
his own habiliments--under the delusion that it was his own shirt--the
snowy folds of a lady's gown, belonging to his next neighbour; and so
voluminously that a very small portion of it, indeed, remained for the
lady's own use; the natural consequence of which was, of course, that
the lady appeared inextricably yoked to the learned theologian, and
could not in any way effect her release, until after certain operations
upon the vicar's dress, and a continued refunding and rolling out of
snowy mazes upon snowy mazes, in quantities which at length proved too
much for the gravity of the company. Inextinguishable laughter arose
from all parties, except the erring and unhappy doctor, who, in dire
perplexity, continued still refunding with all his might--perspiring
and refunding--until he had paid up the last arrears of his long debt,
and thus put an end to a case of distress more memorable to himself and
his parishioners than any "_quale-quare-quidditive_" case that probably
had ever perplexed his learning.

   [52] Coleridge was born there 21st October 1772, the youngest of a
   family of nine brothers and four sisters, three of the sisters by
   a previous marriage of his father.--M.

   [53] _A Critical Latin Grammar_, published for the author in 1772,
   and _Sententiæ Excerptæ, explaining the Rules of Grammar_, printed
   for the author in 1777. He also published a political sermon.
   Besides being vicar of Ottery St. Mary, he was master of the
   grammar school there.--M.

In his childish days, and when he had become an orphan, Coleridge was
removed to the heart of London, and placed on the great foundation
of Christ's Hospital.[54] He there found himself associated, as a
school-fellow, with several boys destined to distinction in after
life; particularly the brilliant Leigh Hunt, and more closely with one
who, if not endowed with powers equally large and comprehensive as his
own, had, however, genius not less original or exquisite--viz. the
inimitable Charles Lamb. But, in learning, Coleridge outstripped all
competitors, and rose to be the captain of the school. It is, indeed,
a memorable fact to be recorded of a boy, that, before completing his
fifteenth year, he had translated the Greek Hymns of Synesius into
English Anacreontic verse. This was not a school task, but a labour of
love and choice. Before leaving school, Coleridge had an opportunity
of reading the sonnets of Bowles, which so powerfully impressed his
poetic sensibility that he made forty transcripts of them with his own
pen, by way of presents to youthful friends. From Christ's Hospital,
by the privilege of his station at school, he was transferred to Jesus
College, Cambridge.[55] It was here, no doubt, that his acquaintance
began with the philosophic system of Hartley, for that eminent person
had been a Jesus man. Frend also, the mathematician, of heretical
memory (he was judicially tried, and expelled from his fellowship, on
some issue connected with the doctrine of the Trinity), belonged to
that college, and was probably contemporary with Coleridge.[56] What
accident, or imprudence, carried him away from Cambridge before he had
completed the usual period of study, I never heard. He had certainly
won some distinction as a scholar, having obtained the prize for a
Greek ode in Sapphic metre, of which the sentiments (as he observes
himself) were better than the Greek. Porson was accustomed, meanly
enough, to ridicule the Greek _lexis_ of this ode; which was to break
a fly upon the wheel. The ode was clever enough for a boy; but to such
skill in Greek as could have enabled him to compose with critical
accuracy Coleridge never made pretensions.

   [54] This was in July 1782.--M.

   [55] In February 1791.--M.

   [56] The Rev. William Frend (1757-1831), a very eminent scholar,
   had been ejected from his tutorship in Jesus College in 1788,
   because of his Unitarian opinions and general liberalism, but was
   still about the University in Coleridge's time, battling stoutly
   with the authorities.

The incidents of Coleridge's life about this period, and some account
of a heavy disappointment in love, which probably it was that
carried him away from Cambridge, are to be found embodied (with what
modifications I know not) in the novel of "Edmund Oliver," written by
Charles Lloyd. It is well known that, in a frenzy of unhappy feeling
at the rejection he met with from the lady of his choice, Coleridge
enlisted as a private into a dragoon regiment.[57] He fell off his
horse on several occasions, but perhaps not more than raw recruits are
apt to do when first put under the riding-master. But Coleridge was
naturally ill framed for a good horseman.

   [57] He enlisted in the 15th Light Dragoons, 3d December 1793,
   under the name of Silas Titus Comberback. So says a very minute
   memoir of him prefixed to Messrs. Macmillan's edition of his
   Poetical and Dramatic Works in four volumes, 1880.--M.

He is also represented in "Edmund Oliver" as having found peculiar
difficulty or annoyance in grooming his horse. But the most romantic
incident in that scene of his life was in the circumstances of his
discharge. It is said (but I vouch for no part of the story) that
Coleridge, as a private, mounted guard at the door of a room in
which his officers were giving a ball. Two of them had a dispute upon
some Greek word or passage when close to Coleridge's station. He
interposed his authentic decision of the case. The officers stared as
though one of their own horses had sung "Rule Britannia"; questioned
him; heard his story; pitied his misfortune; and finally subscribed
to purchase his discharge. So the story has been told; and also
otherwise.[58] Not very long after this, Coleridge became acquainted
with the two celebrated Wedgwoods of Etruria, both of whom, admiring
his fine powers, subscribed to send him into North Germany, where,
at the University of Göttingen, he completed his education according
to his own scheme. The most celebrated professor whose lectures he
attended was the far-famed Blumenbach, of whom he continued to speak
through life with almost filial reverence. Returning to England, he
attended Mr. Thomas Wedgwood, as a friend, throughout the afflicting
and anomalous illness which brought him to the grave. It was supposed
by medical men that the cause of Mr. Wedgwood's continued misery was a
stricture of the colon. The external symptoms were torpor and morbid
irritability, together with everlasting restlessness. By way of some
relief to this latter symptom, Mr. Wedgwood purchased a travelling
carriage, and wandered up and down England, taking Coleridge as
his companion. And, as a desperate attempt to rouse and irritate
the decaying sensibility of his system, I have been assured, by a
surviving friend, that Mr. Wedgwood at one time opened a butcher's
shop, conceiving that the affronts and disputes to which such a
situation would expose him might act beneficially upon his increasing
torpor. This strange expedient[59] served only to express the anguish
which had now mastered his nature; it was soon abandoned; and this
accomplished but miserable man at length sank under his sufferings.
What made the case more memorable was the combination of worldly
prosperity which forced into strong relief and fiery contrast this
curse written in the flesh. He was rich, he was young, he was popular,
distinguished for his scientific attainments, publicly honoured for
patriotic services, and had before him, when he first fell ill, every
prospect of a career even nationally splendid.

   [58] Somewhat otherwise in the memoir mentioned in last note,
   where the date of his discharge is given as 10th April 1794, and
   the place as Hounslow. He returned to Cambridge for a few months,
   and then, after shifting about a little, settled in Bristol with
   Southey, where he married, 4th October 1795, Sara Fricker, the
   sister of Southey's wife. De Quincey seems to misdate his first
   visit to Germany.--M.

   [59] Which, however, his brother denied as a pure fable. On
   reading this account, he wrote to me, and in very courteous terms
   assured me that I had been misinformed. I now retain the story
   simply as a version, partially erroneous, no doubt, of perhaps
   some true anecdote that may have escaped the surviving Mr.
   Wedgwood's knowledge; my reason for thinking thus being that the
   same anecdote essentially but varied in the circumstances, has
   reached me at different periods from parties having no connexion

By the death of Mr. Wedgwood, Coleridge succeeded to a regular annuity
of £75, which that gentleman had bequeathed to him. The other Mr.
Wedgwood granted him an equal allowance. Now came his marriage, his
connexion with politics and political journals, his residence in
various parts of Somersetshire, and his consequent introduction to
Mr. Wordsworth. In his politics, Mr. Coleridge was most sincere and
most enthusiastic. No man hailed with profounder sympathy the French
Revolution; and, though he saw cause to withdraw his regard from
many of the democratic zealots in this country, and even from the
revolutionary interest as it was subsequently conducted, he continued
to worship the original revolutionary cause in a pure Miltonic spirit;
and he continued also to abominate the policy of Mr. Pitt in a degree
which I myself find it difficult to understand. The very spirited
little poem of "Fire, Famine, and Slaughter," who are supposed to meet
in conference, to describe their horrid triumphs, and then to ask in
a whisper _who_ it was that unchained them,--to which each in turn

     "Letters four do form his name!"--

expresses his horror of Mr. Pitt personally in a most extravagant
shape, but merely for the purpose of poetic effect; for he had no real
unkindness in his heart towards any human being; and I have often heard
him disclaim the hatred which is here expressed for Mr. Pitt, as he
did also very elaborately and earnestly in print. Somewhere about this
time, Coleridge attempted, under Sheridan's countenance, to bring a
tragedy upon the stage of Drury Lane; but his prospect of success, as I
once heard or read, was suddenly marred by Mr. Sheridan's inability to
sacrifice what he thought a good jest. One scene presented a cave with
streams of water weeping down the sides; and the first words were, in a
sort of mimicry of the sound, "Drip, drip, drip!" Upon which Sheridan
repeated aloud to the assembled green-room, expressly convoked for the
purpose of hearing the play read, "Drip, drip, drip!--why, God bless
me, there's nothing here but _dripping_!" and so arose a chorus of
laughter amongst the actors fatal for the moment to the probationary

About the latter end of the century, Coleridge visited North Germany
again, in company with Mr. and Miss Wordsworth.[60] Their tour was
chiefly confined to the Hartz Forest and its neighbourhood. But the
incident most worthy of remembrance in their excursion was a visit
made to Klopstock; either at Hamburgh, or, perhaps, at the Danish
town of Altona, on the same river Elbe; for Klopstock was a pensioner
of the Danish king. An anonymous writer, who attacked Coleridge
most truculently in an early number of "Blackwood," and with an
_acharnement_ that must astonish the neutral reader, has made the
mistake of supposing Coleridge to have been the chief speaker, who
did not speak at all. The case was this: Klopstock could not speak
English, though everybody remembers the pretty broken English[61]
of his second wife. Neither Coleridge nor Wordsworth, on the other
hand, was able to _speak_ German with any fluency. French, therefore,
was the only medium of free communication; that being pretty equally
familiar to Wordsworth and to Klopstock. But Coleridge found so much
difficulty even in _reading_ French that, wherever (as in the case of
Leibnitz's "Theodicée") there was a choice between an original written
in French and a translation, though it might be a very faulty one,
in German, he always preferred the latter. Hence it happened that
Wordsworth, on behalf of the English party, was the sole supporter of
the dialogue. The anonymous critic says another thing, which certainly
has an air of truth--viz. that Klopstock plays a very secondary _rôle_
in the interview (or words to that effect). But how was this to be
avoided in reporting the case, supposing the fact to have been such?
Now, the plain truth is that Wordsworth, upon his own ground, was
an incomparable talker; whereas "Klubstick" (as Coleridge used to
call him) was always a feeble and slovenly one, because a loose and
incoherent thinker. Besides, he was now old and decaying. Nor at any
time, nor in any accomplishment, could Klopstock have shone, unless in
the respectable art of skating. _There_ he had a real advantage. The
author of "The Messiah," I have authority for saying, skated with the
ease and grace of a regular artist; whereas the poet of the "Excursion"
sprawled upon the ice like a cow dancing a cotillon. Wordsworth did the
very opposite of that with which he was taxed; for, happening to look
down at Klopstock's swollen legs, and recollecting his age, he felt
touched by a sort of filial pity for his helplessness. And he came to
the conclusion that it would not seem becoming in a young and as yet
obscure author to report too consciously the real superiority which he
found it easy to maintain in such a colloquy.

   [60] He was absent on this tour in Germany from September 1798 to
   November 1799.--M.

   [61] Published in Richardson's Correspondence.

But neither had Klopstock the pretensions as a poet which the
Blackwood writer seems to take for granted. Germany, the truth is,
wanted a great epic poet. Not having produced one in that early and
plastic stage of her literary soil when such a growth is natural and
spontaneous, the next thing was to bespeak a substitute. The force
of Coleridge's well-known repartee, when, in reply to a foreigner
asserting for Klopstock the rank of German Milton, he said, "True,
sir; a very _German_ Milton," cannot be fully appreciated but by one
who is familiar with the German poetry, and the small proportion in
which it is a natural, racy, and domestic growth. It has been often
noticed as the misfortune of the Roman literature that it grew up too
much under the oppression of Grecian models, and of Grecian models
depraved by Alexandrian art--a fact, so far as it _was_ a fact, which
tended to cripple the _genial_ and characteristic spirit of the
national mind. But this evil, after all, did not take effect except
in a partial sense. Rome had cast much of her literature in her own
moulds before these exotic models had begun to domineer. In fact, the
reproach is in a very narrow sense true. Not so with Germany. Her
literature, since its revival in the last century (and the revival upon
the impulse of what cattle!--Bodmer on the one hand, and Gottsched,
the never-enough-to-be-despised Gottsched, on the other!) has hardly
moved a step in the freedom of natural grace. England for nineteen, and
France for the twentieth, of all her capital works, has given the too
servile law: and, with regard to Klopstock, if ever there was a good
exemplification of the spurious and the counterfeit in literature, seek
it in "The Messiah." He is verily and indeed the _Birmingham_ Milton.
This Klopstockian dialogue, by the way, was first printed (hardly
_published_) in the original, or Lake edition of "The Friend." In the
recast of that work it was omitted; nor has it been printed anywhere
else that I am aware of.

About the close of the first revolutionary war it must have been, or
in the brief interval of peace, that Coleridge resorted to the English
Lakes as a place of residence.[62] Wordsworth had a natural connexion
with that region, by birth, breeding, and family alliances. Wordsworth
must have attracted Coleridge to the Lakes; and Coleridge, through his
affinity to Southey, eventually attracted _him_. Southey, as is known
to all who take an interest in the Lake colony, married a sister of
Mrs. Coleridge's; and, as a singular eccentricity in the circumstances
of that marriage, I may mention that, on his wedding-day, and from
the very portico of the church, Southey left his bride to embark for
Lisbon. His uncle, Dr. Herbert, was chaplain to the English factory in
that city; and it was to benefit by the facilities in that way opened
to him for seeing Portugal that Southey now went abroad. He extended
his tour to Spain; and the result of his notices was communicated to
the world in a volume of travels. By such accidents of personal or
family connexion as I have mentioned was the Lake colony gathered;
and the critics of the day, unaware of the real facts, supposed them
to have assembled under common views in literature--particularly with
regard to the true functions of poetry, and the true theory of poetic
diction. Under this original blunder, laughable it is to mention
that they went on to _find_ in their writings all the agreements and
common characteristics which their blunder had presumed; and they
incorporated the whole community under the name of the _Lake School_.
Yet Wordsworth and Southey never had one principle in common; their
hostility was even flagrant. Indeed, Southey troubled himself little
about abstract principles in anything; and, so far from agreeing with
Wordsworth to the extent of setting up a separate school in poetry, he
told me himself (August 1812) that he highly disapproved both of Mr.
Wordsworth's theories and of his practice. It is very true that one man
may sympathize with another, or even follow his leading, unconscious
that he does so; or he may go so far as, in the very act of virtual
imitation, to deem himself in opposition; but this sort of blind
agreement could hardly be supposed of two men so discerning and so
self-examining as Wordsworth and Southey. And, in fact, a philosophic
investigation of the difficult questions connected with this whole
slang about schools, Lake schools, &c., would show that Southey has
not, nor ever had, any _peculiarities_ in common with Wordsworth,
beyond that of exchanging the old prescriptive diction of poetry,
introduced between the periods of Milton and Cowper, for the simpler
and profounder forms of daily life in some instances, and of the
Bible in others. The bold and uniform practice of Wordsworth was here
adopted, on perfectly independent views, by Southey. In this respect,
however, Cowper had already begun the reform; and his influence,
concurring with the now larger influence of Wordsworth, has operated so
extensively as to make their own original differences at this day less

   [62] It was in 1800 that Coleridge removed from London to Keswick,
   Wordsworth being then at Grasmere.--M.

By the way, the word _colony_ reminds me that I have omitted to mention
in its proper place some scheme for migrating to America which had
been entertained by Coleridge and Southey about the year 1794-95,
under the learned name of _Pantisocracy_. So far as I ever heard, it
differed little, except in its Grecian name, from any other scheme for
mitigating the privations of a wilderness by settling in a cluster of
families, bound together by congenial tastes and uniform principles,
rather than in self-depending, insulated households. Steadily pursued,
it might, after all, have been a fortunate plan for Coleridge.
"Soliciting my food from daily toil," a line in which Coleridge alludes
to the scheme, implies a condition of life that would have upheld
Coleridge's health and happiness somewhat better than the habits of
luxurious city life as now constituted in Europe. But, returning[63]
to the Lakes, and to the Lake colony of poets: So little were Southey
and Wordsworth connected by any personal intercourse in those days,
and so little disposed to be connected, that, whilst the latter had
a cottage in Grasmere, Southey pitched his tent at Greta Hall, on a
little eminence rising immediately from the river Greta and the town
of Keswick. Grasmere is in Westmoreland; Keswick in Cumberland; and
they are thirteen good miles apart. Coleridge and his family were
domiciliated in Greta Hall; sharing that house, a tolerably large one,
on some principle of amicable division, with Mr. Southey. But Coleridge
personally was more often to be found at Grasmere--which presented the
threefold attractions of loveliness so complete as to eclipse even the
scenery of Derwentwater; a pastoral state of society, free from the
deformities of a little town like Keswick; and, finally, for Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, the society of Wordsworth. Not before 1815 or 1816
could it be said that Southey and Wordsworth were even upon friendly
terms; so entirely is it untrue that they combined to frame a school of
poetry. Up to that time, they viewed each other with mutual respect,
but also with mutual dislike; almost, I might say, with mutual disgust.
Wordsworth disliked in Southey the want of depth, or the apparent want,
as regards the power of philosophic abstraction. Southey disliked in
Wordsworth the air of dogmatism, and the unaffable haughtiness of his
manner. Other more trivial reasons combined with these.

   [63] This peculiar usage of an unrelated participle is pretty
   frequent with De Quincey, and is perhaps the only recurring
   peculiarity of his grammar to which a purist would object.--M.

At this time, when Coleridge first settled at the Lakes, or not long
after, a romantic and somewhat tragical affair drew the eyes of all
England, and, for many years, continued to draw the steps of tourists,
to one of the most secluded Cumberland valleys, so little visited
previously that it might be described almost as an undiscovered
chamber of that romantic district. Coleridge was brought into a closer
connexion with this affair than merely by the general relation of
neighbourhood; for an article of his in a morning paper, I believe,
unintentionally furnished the original clue for unmasking the base
impostor who figured as the central actor in this tale. The tale was
at that time dramatized, and scenically represented by some of the
minor theatres in London, as noticed by Wordsworth in the "Prelude."
But other generations have arisen since that time, who must naturally
be unacquainted with the circumstances; and on their account I will
here recall them:--One day in the Lake season there drove up to the
Royal Oak, the principal inn at Keswick, a handsome and well-appointed
travelling carriage, containing one gentleman of somewhat dashing
exterior. The stranger was a picturesque-hunter, but not of that order
who fly round the ordinary tour with the velocity of lovers posting to
Gretna, or of criminals running from the police; his purpose was to
domiciliate himself in this beautiful scenery, and to see it at his
leisure. From Keswick, as his head-quarters, he made excursions in
every direction amongst the neighbouring valleys; meeting generally a
good deal of respect and attention, partly on account of his handsome
equipage, and still more from his visiting cards, which designated him
as "The Hon. Augustus Hope." Under this name, he gave himself out for
a brother of Lord Hopetoun's. Some persons had discernment enough to
doubt of this; for the man's breeding and deportment, though showy,
had an under-tone of vulgarity about it; and Coleridge assured me that
he was grossly ungrammatical in his ordinary conversation. However,
one fact, soon dispersed by the people of a little rustic post-office,
laid asleep all demurs; he not only received letters addressed to
him under this assumed name--_that_ might be through collusion with
accomplices--but he himself continually _franked_ letters by that name.
Now, this being a capital offence, being not only a forgery, but (as
a forgery on the Post-Office) sure to be prosecuted, nobody presumed
to question his pretensions any longer; and, henceforward, he went to
all places with the consideration attached to an earl's brother. All
doors flew open at his approach; boats, boatmen, nets, and the most
unlimited sporting privileges, were placed at the disposal of the
"Honourable" gentleman: and the hospitality of the district was put on
its mettle, in offering a suitable reception to the patrician Scotsman.
It could be no blame to a shepherd girl, bred in the sternest solitude
which England has to show, that she should fall into a snare which many
of her betters had not escaped. Nine miles from Keswick, by the nearest
bridle-road through Newlands, but fourteen or fifteen by any route
which the honourable gentleman's travelling-carriage could traverse,
lies the Lake of Buttermere. Its margin, which is overhung by some of
the loftiest and steepest of the Cumbrian mountains, exhibits on either
side few traces of human neighbourhood; the level area, where the
hills recede enough to allow of any, is of a wild pastoral character,
or almost savage; the waters of the lake are deep and sullen; and the
barrier mountains, by excluding the sun for much of his daily course,
strengthen the gloomy impressions. At the foot of this lake (that is,
at the end where its waters issue) lie a few unornamented fields,
through which rolls a little brook-like river, connecting it with the
larger lake of Crummock; and at the edge of this miniature domain,
upon the roadside, stands a cluster of cottages, so small and few that
in the richer tracts of England they would scarcely be complimented
with the name of hamlet. One of these, and I believe the principal,
belonged to an independent proprietor, called, in the local dialect,
a "_Statesman_"[64]; and more, perhaps, for the sake of attracting a
little society than with much view to pecuniary profit at that era,
this cottage offered the accommodations of an inn to the traveller
and his horse. Rare, however, must have been the mounted traveller in
those days, unless visiting Buttermere for itself, and as a _terminus
ad quem_; since the road led to no further habitations of man, with
the exception of some four or five pastoral cabins, equally humble, in

   [64] _i.e._--A 'Statesman elliptically for an Estatesman,--a
   native dalesman possessing and personally cultivating a
   patrimonial landed estate.

Hither, however, in an evil hour for the peace of this little
brotherhood of shepherds, came the cruel spoiler from Keswick. His
errand was, to witness or to share in the char-fishing; for in
Derwentwater (the Lake of Keswick) no char is found, which breeds only
in the deep waters, such as Windermere, Crummock, Buttermere, and
Coniston--never in the shallow ones. But, whatever had been his first
object, _that_ was speedily forgotten in one more deeply interesting.
The daughter of the house, a fine young woman of eighteen, acted as
waiter.[65] In a situation so solitary, the stranger had unlimited
facilities for enjoying her company, and recommending himself to her
favour. Doubts about his pretensions never arose in so simple a place
as this; they were overruled before they could well have arisen by the
opinion now general in Keswick, that he really was what he pretended to
be: and thus, with little demur, except in the shape of a few natural
words of parting anger from a defeated or rejected rustic admirer, the
young woman gave her hand in marriage to the showy and unprincipled
stranger. I know not whether the marriage was, or could have been,
celebrated in the little mountain chapel of Buttermere. If it were,
I persuade myself that the most hardened villain must have felt a
momentary pang on violating the altar of such a chapel; so touchingly
does it express, by its miniature dimensions, the almost helpless
humility of that little pastoral community to whose spiritual wants
it has from generation to generation administered. It is not only
the very smallest chapel by many degrees in all England, but is so
mere a toy in outward appearance that, were it not for its antiquity,
its wild mountain exposure, and its consecrated connexion with the
final hopes and fears of the adjacent pastoral hamlet--but for these
considerations, the first movement of a stranger's feelings would be
towards loud laughter; for the little chapel looks not so much a mimic
chapel in a drop-scene from the Opera House as a miniature copy from
such a scene; and evidently could not receive within its walls more
than half a dozen of households. From this sanctuary it was--from
beneath the maternal shadow, if not from the very altar,[66] of this
lonely chapel--that the heartless villain carried off the flower of
the mountains. Between this place and Keswick they continued to move
backwards and forwards, until at length, with the startling of a
thunder-clap to the affrighted mountaineers, the bubble burst: officers
of justice appeared: the stranger was easily intercepted from flight,
and, upon a capital charge, was borne away to Carlisle. At the ensuing
assizes he was tried for forgery on the prosecution of the Post-Office,
found guilty, left for execution, and executed accordingly.[67] On
the day of his condemnation, Wordsworth and Coleridge passed through
Carlisle, and endeavoured to obtain an interview with him. Wordsworth
succeeded; but, for some unknown reason, the prisoner steadily refused
to see Coleridge; a caprice which could not be penetrated. It is true
that he had, during his whole residence at Keswick, avoided Coleridge
with a solicitude which had revived the original suspicions against him
in some quarters, after they had generally gone to sleep. But for this
his motive had then been sufficient: he was of a Devonshire family,
and naturally feared the eye, or the inquisitive examination of one
who bore a name immemorially associated with the southern part of that

   [65] "_Waiter_":--Since this was first written, social changes in
   London, by introducing females very extensively into the office
   (once monopolized by men) of attending the visitors at the tables
   of eating-houses have introduced a corresponding new word--viz.,
   _waitress_; which word, twenty-five years back, would have been
   simply ludicrous; but now is become as indispensable to precision
   of language as the words traitress, heiress, inheritrix, &c.

   [66] My doubt is founded upon the varying tenure of these secluded
   chapels as to privileges of marrying or burying. The mere name of
   chapel, though, of course, in regular connexion with some mother
   church, does not of itself imply whether it has or has not the
   power to solemnize a marriage.

   [67] At Carlisle, 3d September 1803. His marriage with Mary
   Robinson, the Beauty of Buttermere, had been on 3d October 1802,
   when he was forty-three years of age. Originally he had been a
   commercial traveller; and his early marriage with an illegitimate
   daughter of a younger son of an English nobleman seems to have had
   much to do with his subsequent career. Deserting this wife and her
   children in 1782, he had lived a life of swindling ever since, had
   married a second wife and deserted her, and was wooing a young
   Irish lady at the very time when the Buttermere girl became his
   victim. "His manners were extremely polished and insinuating, and
   he was possessed of qualities which might have rendered him an
   ornament of society," is the pleasant character I find of him in
   one _Newgate Calendar_ compendium.--M.

Coleridge, however, had been transplanted so immaturely from his
native region that few people in England knew less of its family
connexions. That, perhaps, was unknown to this malefactor; but, at
any rate, he knew that all motive was now at an end for disguise of
any sort; so that his reserve, in this particular, had now become
unintelligible. However, if not him, Coleridge saw and examined his
very interesting papers. These were chiefly letters from women whom he
had injured, pretty much in the same way, and by the same impostures,
as he had so recently practised in Cumberland; and, as Coleridge
assured me, were in part the most agonizing appeals that he had ever
read to human justice and pity. The man's real name was, I think,
Hatfield. And amongst the papers were two separate correspondences, of
some length, with two young women, apparently of superior condition
in life (one the daughter of an English clergyman), whom this villain
had deluded by marriage, and, after some cohabitation, abandoned,--one
of them with a family of young children. Great was the emotion of
Coleridge when he recurred to his remembrance of these letters, and
bitter, almost vindictive, was the indignation with which he spoke
of Hatfield. One set of letters appeared to have been written under
too certain a knowledge of _his_ villany to whom they were addressed;
though still relying on some possible remains of humanity, or perhaps
(the poor writer might think) on some lingering preference for herself.
The other set was even more distressing; they were written under the
first conflicts of suspicions, alternately repelling with warmth the
gloomy doubts which were fast arising, and then yielding to their
afflicting evidence; raving in one page under the misery of alarm, in
another courting the delusions of hope, and luring back the perfidious
deserter,--here resigning herself to despair, and there again labouring
to show that all might yet be well. Coleridge said often, in looking
back upon that frightful exposure of human guilt and misery, that the
man who, when pursued by these heart-rending apostrophes, and with
this litany of anguish sounding in his ears, from despairing women
and from famishing children, could yet find it possible to enjoy the
calm pleasures of a Lake tourist, and deliberately to hunt for the
picturesque, must have been a fiend of that order which fortunately
does not often emerge amongst men. It is painful to remember that,
in those days, amongst the multitudes who ended their career in the
same ignominious way, and the majority for offences connected with
the forgery of bank notes, there must have been a considerable number
who perished from the very opposite cause--viz., because they felt,
too passionately and profoundly for prudence, the claims of those who
looked up to them for support. One common scaffold confounds the most
flinty hearts and the tenderest. However, in this instance, it was
in some measure the heartless part of Hatfield's conduct which drew
upon him his ruin: for the Cumberland jury honestly declared their
unwillingness to hang him for having forged a frank; and both they,
and those who refused to aid his escape when first apprehended, were
reconciled to this harshness entirely by what they heard of his conduct
to their injured young fellow-countrywoman.

She, meantime, under the name of _The Beauty of Buttermere_, became
an object of interest to all England; melodramas were produced in the
London suburban[68] theatres upon her story; and, for many a year
afterwards, shoals of tourists crowded to the secluded lake, and the
little homely cabaret, which had been the scene of her brief romance;
It was fortunate for a person in her distressing situation that
her home was not in a town: the few and simple neighbours, who had
witnessed her imaginary elevation, having little knowledge of worldly
feelings, never for an instant connected with her disappointment any
sense of the ludicrous, or spoke of it as a calamity to which her
vanity might have co-operated. They treated it as unmixed injury,
reflecting shame upon nobody but the wicked perpetrator. Hence, without
much trial to her womanly sensibilities, she found herself able to
resume her situation in the little inn; and this she continued to hold
for many years. In that place, and that capacity, I saw her repeatedly,
and shall here say a word upon her personal appearance, because the
Lake poets all admired her greatly. Her figure was, in my eyes, good;
but I doubt whether most of my readers would have thought it such. She
was none of your evanescent, wasp-waisted beauties; on the contrary,
she was rather large every way; tallish, and proportionably broad. Her
face was fair, and her features feminine; and, unquestionably, she
was what all the world would have agreed to call "good-looking." But,
except in her arms, which had something of a statuesque beauty, and
in her carriage, which expressed a womanly grace, together with some
degree of dignity and self-possession, I confess that I looked in vain
for any _positive_ qualities of any sort or degree. _Beautiful_, in
any emphatic sense, she was not. Everything about her face and bust
was negative; simply without offence. Even this, however, was more
than could be said at all times; for the expression of her countenance
_could_ be disagreeable. This arose out of her situation; connected
as it was with defective sensibility and a misdirected pride. Nothing
operates so differently upon different minds and different styles of
beauty as the inquisitive gaze of strangers, whether in the spirit of
respectful admiration or of insolence. Some I have seen upon whose
angelic beauty this sort of confusion settled advantageously, and like
a softening veil; others, in whom it meets with proud resentment, are
sometimes disfigured by it. In Mary of Buttermere it roused mere anger
and disdain; which, meeting with the sense of her humble and dependent
situation, gave birth to a most unhappy aspect of countenance. Men who
had no touch of a gentleman's nature in their composition sometimes
insulted her by looks and by words, supposing that they purchased
the right to do this by an extra half-crown; and she too readily
attributed the same spirit of impertinent curiosity to every man whose
eyes happened to settle steadily upon her face. Yet, once at least,
I must have seen her under the most favourable circumstances: for,
on my first visit to Buttermere, I had the pleasure of Mr. Southey's
company, who was incapable of wounding anybody's feelings, and to Mary,
in particular, was well known by kind attentions, and I believe by
some services. Then, at least, I saw her to advantage, and perhaps,
for a figure of her build, at the best age; for it was about nine or
ten years after her misfortune, when she might be twenty-seven or
twenty-eight years old. We were alone, a solitary pair of tourists:
nothing arose to confuse or distress her. She waited upon us at dinner,
and talked to us freely. "This is a respectable young woman," I said
to myself; but nothing of that enthusiasm could I feel which beauty,
such as I _have_ beheld at the Lakes, would have been apt to raise
under a similar misfortune. One lady, not very scrupulous in her
embellishments of facts, used to tell an anecdote of her which I hope
was exaggerated. Some friend of hers (as she affirmed), in company with
a large party, visited Buttermere within one day after that upon which
Hatfield suffered; and she protested that Mary threw upon the table,
with an emphatic gesture, the Carlisle paper containing an elaborate
account of his execution.

   [68] In connexion with this mention of "suburban" and minor
   theatres, it is but fair to cite a passage expressly relating to
   Mary of Buttermere from the Seventh Book (entitled "Residence in
   London") of Wordsworth's "Prelude":--

     "Here, too, were _forms and pressures of the time_,
     Rough, bold, as Grecian comedy display'd
     When Art was young; dramas of living men,
     And recent things yet warm with life; a sea-fight,
     Shipwreck, or some domestic incident
     Divulged by Truth, and magnified by Fame;
     Such as the daring brotherhood of late
     Set forth, too serious theme for that light place--
     I mean, O distant friend! a story drawn
     From our own ground--the Maid of Buttermere,
     And how, unfaithful to a virtuous wife,
     Deserted and deceived, the spoiler came
     And wooed the artless daughter of the hills,
     And wedded her, in cruel mockery
     Of love and marriage bonds. These words to thee
     Must needs bring back the moment when we first,
     Ere the broad world rang with the maiden's name,
     Beheld her serving at the cottage inn,
     Both stricken, as she enter'd or withdrew,
     With admiration of her modest mien
     And carriage, mark'd by unexampled grace.
     We since that time not unfamiliarly
     Have seen her--her discretion have observed,
     Her just opinions, delicate reserve,
     Her patience and humility of mind,
     Unspoiled by commendation and the excess
     Of public notice--an offensive light
     To a meek spirit suffering inwardly."

   The "distant friend" here apostrophized is Coleridge, then at Malta.
   But it is fair to record this memorial of the fair mountaineer--going
   perhaps as much beyond the public estimate of her pretensions as my own
   was below it. It should be added that William Wordsworth and Samuel
   Taylor Coleridge (to whom the writer appeals as in general sympathy
   with himself) had seen Mary more frequently, and had conversed with her
   much more freely, than myself.

It is an instance of Coleridge's carelessness that he, who had as
little of fixed ill-nature in his temper as any person whom I have ever
known, managed, in reporting this story at the time of its occurrence,
to get himself hooked into a personal quarrel, which hung over his
head unsettled for nine or ten years. A Liverpool merchant, who was
then meditating a house in the Vale of Grasmere, and perhaps might
have incurred Coleridge's anger by thus disturbing, with inappropriate
intrusions, this loveliest of all English landscapes, had connected
himself a good deal with Hatfield during his Keswick masquerade; and
was said even to have carried his regard to that villain so far as
to have christened one of his own children by the names of "Augustus
Hope." With these and other circumstances, expressing the extent of
the infatuation amongst the swindler's dupes, Coleridge made the
public merry. Naturally, the Liverpool merchant was not amongst those
who admired the facetiousness of Coleridge on this occasion, but
swore vengeance whenever they should meet. They never _did_ meet,
until ten years had gone by; and then, oddly enough, it was in the
Liverpool man's own house--in that very nuisance of a house which had,
I suppose, first armed Coleridge's wrath against him. This house, by
time and accident, in no very wonderful way, had passed into the hands
of Wordsworth as tenant. Coleridge, as was still less wonderful, had
become the visitor of Wordsworth on returning from Malta; and the
Liverpool merchant, as was also natural, either seeking his rent, or on
the general errand of a friendly visit, calling upon Wordsworth, met
Coleridge in the hall. Now came the hour for settling old accounts. I
was present, and can report the case. Both looked grave, and coloured
a little. But ten years work wonders: an armistice of that duration
heals many a wound; and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, requesting his enemy's
company in the garden, entered upon a long metaphysical dissertation,
bordering upon what you might call _philosophical rigmarole_, and
rather puzzling to answer. It seemed to be an expansion, by Thomas
Aquinas, of that parody upon a well-known passage in Shenstone, where
the writer says--

     "He kick'd me down-stairs with such a sweet grace
     That I thought he was handing me up."

And, in the upshot, this conclusion _eventuated_ (to speak
Yankeeishly), that purely on principles of good neighbourhood and
universal philanthropy could Coleridge have meditated or executed the
insult offered in the "Morning Post." The Liverpool merchant rubbed his
forehead, and seemed a little perplexed; but he was a most good-natured
man; and he was eminently a gentleman. At length, considering, perhaps,
how very like Duns Scotus, or Albertus Magnus, Coleridge had shown
himself in this luminous explanation, he might begin to reflect that,
had any one of those distinguished men offered a similar affront, it
would have been impossible to resent it; for who could think of kicking
the "Doctor Seraphicus," or would it tell to any man's advantage
in history that he had caned Thomas Aquinas? On these principles,
therefore, without saying one word, Liverpoliensis held out his hand,
and a lasting reconciliation followed.

Not very long, I believe, after this affair of Hatfield, Coleridge went
to Malta.[69] His inducement to such a step must have been merely a
desire to see the most interesting regions of the Mediterranean under
the shelter and advantageous introduction of an official station.
It was, however, an unfortunate chapter of his life: for, being
necessarily thrown a good deal upon his own resources in the narrow
society of a garrison, he there confirmed and cherished, if he did not
there form, his habit of taking opium in large quantities. I am the
last person in the world to press conclusions harshly or uncandidly
against Coleridge; but I believe it to be notorious that he first began
the use of opium, not as a relief from any bodily pains or nervous
irritations (since his constitution was strong and excellent), but as
a source of luxurious sensations. It is a great misfortune, at least it
is a great peril, to have tasted the enchanted cup of youthful rapture
incident to the poetic temperament. That fountain of high-wrought
sensibility once unlocked experimentally, it is rare to see a
submission afterwards to the insipidities of daily life. Coleridge, to
speak in the words of Cervantes, wanted better bread than was made of
wheat; and, when youthful blood no longer sustained the riot of his
animal spirits, he endeavoured to excite them by artificial stimulants.

   [69] In April 1804.--M.

At Malta he became acquainted with Commodore Decatur and other
Americans of distinction; and this brought him afterwards into
connexion with Allston, the American artist. Of Sir Alexander Ball,
one of Lord Nelson's captains in the battle of the Nile, and Governor
of Malta, he spoke and wrote uniformly in a lavish style of panegyric,
for which plainer men found it difficult to see the slightest ground.
It was, indeed, Coleridge's infirmity to project his own mind, and his
own very peculiar ideas, nay, even his own expressions and illustrative
metaphors, upon other men, and to contemplate these reflex images
from himself as so many characters having an absolute ground in some
separate object. "Ball and Bell"--"Bell and Ball,"[70] were two of
these pet subjects; he had a "craze" about each of them; and to each
he ascribed thoughts and words to which, had they been put upon the
rack, they never would have confessed.

   [70] "_Ball and Bell_"--"_Bell and Ball_":--viz. Sir Alexander
   Ball, Governor of Malta, and Dr. Andrew Bell, the importer into
   England from Madras of that machinery for facilitating popular
   education which was afterwards fraudulently appropriated by Joseph
   Lancaster. The Bishop of Durham (Shute Barrington) gave to Dr.
   Bell, in reward of his Madras services, the princely Mastership of
   Sherborne Hospital. The doctor saved in this post £125,000, and
   with this money founded Trinity College, Glenalmond, in
   Perthshire. Most men have their enemies and calumniators: Dr. Bell
   had _his_, who happened rather indecorously to be his wife--from
   whom he was legally separated, or (as in Scotch law it is called)
   _divorced_; not, of course, divorced _à vinculo matrimonii_ (which
   only amounts to a divorce in the English sense--such a divorce as
   enables the parties to contract another marriage), but simply
   divorced _à mensâ et thoro_. This legal separation, however, did
   not prevent the lady from persecuting the unhappy doctor with
   everlasting letters, indorsed outside with records of her enmity
   and spite. Sometimes she addressed her epistles thus:--"To that
   supreme of rogues, who looks the hang-dog that he is, Doctor (such
   a doctor!) Andrew Bell." Or again:--"To the ape of apes, and the
   knave of knaves, who is recorded to have once paid a debt--but a
   small one, you may be sure, it was that he selected for this
   wonderful experiment--in fact, it was 4-1/2d. Had it been on the
   other side of 6d., he must have died before he could have achieved
   so dreadful a sacrifice." Many others, most ingeniously varied in
   the style of abuse, I have heard rehearsed by Coleridge, Southey,
   Lloyd, &c.; and one, in particular, addressed to the doctor, when
   spending a summer at the cottage of Robert Newton, an old soldier,
   in Grasmere, presented on the back two separate adjurations: one
   specially addressed to Robert himself, pathetically urging him to
   look sharply after the rent of his lodgings; and the other more
   generally addressed to the unfortunate person, as yet undisclosed
   to the British public (and in this case turning out to be myself)
   who might be incautious enough to pay the postage at Ambleside.
   "Don't grant him an hour's credit," she urged upon the person
   unknown, "if I had any regard to my family." "_Cash down!_" she
   wrote twice over. Why the doctor submitted to these annoyances,
   nobody knew. Some said it was mere indolence; but others held it
   to be a cunning compromise with her inexorable malice. The letters
   were certainly open to the "public" eye; but meantime the "public"
   was a very narrow one; the clerks in the post-office had little
   time for digesting such amenities of conjugal affection; and the
   chance bearer of the letters to the doctor would naturally solve
   the mystery by supposing an _extra_ portion of madness in the
   writer, rather than an _extra_ portion of knavery in the reverend

From Malta, on his return homewards,[71] he went to Rome and Naples.
One of the cardinals, he tells us, warned him, by the Pope's wish,
of some plot, set on foot by Bonaparte, for seizing him as an
anti-Gallican writer. This statement was ridiculed by the anonymous
assailant in "Blackwood" as the very consummation of moonstruck
vanity; and it is there compared to John Dennis's frenzy in retreating
from the sea-coast, under the belief that Louis XIV had commissioned
emissaries to land on the English shore and make a dash at his person.
But, after all, the thing is not so entirely improbable. For it is
certain that some orator of the Opposition (Charles Fox, as Coleridge
asserts) had pointed out all the principal writers in the "Morning
Post" to Napoleon's vengeance, by describing the war as a war "of that
journal's creation."[72] And, as to the insinuation that Napoleon was
above throwing his regards upon a simple writer of political essays,
_that_ is not only abundantly confuted by many scores of established
cases, but also is specially put down by a case circumstantially
recorded in the Second Tour to Paris by the celebrated John Scott of
Aberdeen.[73] It there appears that, on no other ground whatever than
that of his connexion with the London newspaper press, some friend of
Mr. Scott's had been courted most assiduously by Napoleon during the
_Hundred Days_. Assuredly Coleridge deserved, beyond all other men
that ever were connected with the daily press, to be regarded with
distinction. Worlds of fine thinking lie buried in that vast abyss,
never to be disentombed or restored to human admiration. Like the sea,
it has swallowed treasures without end, that no diving-bell will bring
up again. But nowhere, throughout its shoreless magazines of wealth,
does there lie such a bed of pearls confounded with the rubbish and
"purgamenta" of ages, as in the political papers of Coleridge. No more
_appreciable_ monument could be raised to the memory of Coleridge than
a republication of his essays in the "Morning Post," and afterwards
in the "Courier." And here, by the way, it may be mentioned that
the sagacity of Coleridge, as applied to the signs of the times, is
illustrated by this fact, that distinctly and solemnly he foretold the
restoration of the Bourbons, at a period when most people viewed such
an event as the most romantic of visions, and not less chimerical than
that "march upon Paris" of Lord Hawkesbury's which for so many years
supplied a theme of laughter to the Whigs.

   [71] He left Malta 27th September 1805.--M.

   [72] Coleridge had long been a contributor to the _Morning

   [73] _Paris Revisited in 1815 by way of Brussels_ is the title of
   this publication in 1816 of the Aberdonian John Scott. He had
   previously published _A Visit to Paris in 1814_. He wrote other
   things, and was editor of the _London Magazine_ from January 1820
   till his death, February 1821, the result of a duel.--M.

Why Coleridge left Malta, is as difficult to explain upon any
principles of ordinary business, as why he had ever gone thither. The
post of secretary, if it imposed any official attendance of a regular
kind, or any official correspondence, must have been but poorly filled
by _him_; and Sir Alexander Ball, if I have collected his character
justly, was not likely to accept the gorgeous philosophy of Coleridge
as an indemnification for irregular performance of his public duties.
Perhaps, therefore, though on the best terms of mutual regard, mutually
they might be pleased to part. Part they did, at any rate, and poor
Coleridge was sea-sick the whole of his homeward (as he had been
through the whole of his outward) voyage.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not long after this event that my own introduction to Coleridge
occurred. At that time some negotiation was pending between him and the
Royal Institution, which ended in their engaging him to deliver a course
of lectures on Poetry and the Fine Arts during the ensuing winter.
For this series (twelve or sixteen, I think) he received a sum of one
hundred guineas. And, considering the slightness of the pains which
he bestowed upon them, he was well remunerated. I fear that they did
not increase his reputation; for never did any man treat his audience
with less respect, or his task with less careful attention. I was in
London for part of the time, and can report the circumstances, having
made a point of attending duly at the appointed hours. Coleridge was
at that time living uncomfortably enough at the "Courier" office, in
the Strand.[74] In such a situation, annoyed by the sound of feet
passing his chamber-door continually to the printing-rooms of this
great establishment, and with no gentle ministrations of female hands
to sustain his cheerfulness, naturally enough his spirits flagged; and
he took more than ordinary doses of opium. I called upon him daily, and
pitied his forlorn condition. There was no bell in the room; which for
many months answered the double purpose of bedroom and sitting-room.
Consequently, I often saw him, picturesquely enveloped in nightcaps,
surmounted by handkerchiefs indorsed upon handkerchiefs, shouting from
the attics of the "Courier" office, down three or four flights of
stairs, to a certain "Mrs. Brainbridge," his sole attendant, whose
dwelling was in the subterranean regions of the house. There did I
often see the philosopher, with the most lugubrious of faces, invoking
with all his might this uncouth name of "Brainbridge," each syllable
of which he intonated with long-drawn emphasis, in order to overpower
the hostile hubbub coming downwards from the creaking press, and the
roar from the Strand, which entered at all the front windows. "Mistress
Brainbridge! I say, Mistress Brainbridge!" was the perpetual cry,
until I expected to hear the Strand, and distant Fleet Street, take
up the echo of "Brainbridge!" Thus unhappily situated, he sank more
than ever under the dominion of opium; so that, at two o'clock, when
he should have been in attendance at the Royal Institution, he was too
often unable to rise from bed. Then came dismissals of audience after
audience, with pleas of illness; and on many of his lecture days I have
seen all Albemarle Street closed by a "lock" of carriages, filled with
women of distinction, until the servants of the Institution or their
own footmen advanced to the carriage-doors with the intelligence that
Mr. Coleridge had been suddenly taken ill. This plea, which at first
had been received with expressions of concern, repeated too often,
began to rouse disgust. Many in anger, and some in real uncertainty
whether it would not be trouble thrown away, ceased to attend. And we
that were more constant too often found reason to be disappointed with
the quality of his lecture. His appearance was generally that of a
person struggling with pain and overmastering illness. His lips were
baked with feverish heat, and often black in colour; and, in spite
of the water which he continued drinking through the whole course
of his lecture, he often seemed to labour under an almost paralytic
inability to raise the upper jaw from the lower. In such a state, it
is clear that nothing could save the lecture itself from reflecting
his own feebleness and exhaustion, except the advantage of having
been precomposed in some happier mood. But that never happened: most
unfortunately he relied upon his extempore ability to carry him
through. Now, had he been in spirits, or had he gathered animation,
and kindled by his own motion, no written lecture could have been
more effectual than one of his unpremeditated colloquial harangues.
But either he was depressed originally below the point from which
any re-ascent was possible, or else this re-action was intercepted by
continual disgust from looking back upon his own ill-success; for,
assuredly, he never once recovered that free and eloquent movement
of thought which he could command at any time in a private company.
The passages he read, moreover, in illustrating his doctrines, were
generally unhappily chosen, because chosen at haphazard, from the
difficulty of finding at a moment's summons those passages which his
purpose required. Nor do I remember any that produced much effect,
except two or three, which I myself put ready marked into his hands,
among the Metrical Romances edited by Ritson.

   [74] The very accurate memoir prefixed to Messrs. Macmillan's
   four-volume edition of Coleridge's Poetical Works states that
   Stuart, who had been proprietor of the _Morning Post_, and had
   become proprietor of the _Courier_, gave Coleridge apartments in
   the _Courier_ office to save expense in his contributorship to
   that newspaper.--M.

Generally speaking, the selections were as injudicious and as
inappropriate as they were ill delivered; for, amongst Coleridge's
accomplishments, good reading was not one; he had neither voice
(so, at least, _I_ thought) nor management of voice. This defect is
unfortunate in a public lecturer; for it is inconceivable how much
weight and effectual pathos can be communicated by sonorous depth and
melodious cadences of the human voice to sentiments the most trivial;
nor, on the other hand, how the grandest are emasculated by a style of
reading which fails in distributing the lights and shadows of a musical
intonation. However, this defect chiefly concerned the immediate
impression; the most afflicting to a friend of Coleridge's was the
entire absence of his own peculiar and majestic intellect; no heart,
no soul, was in anything he said; no strength of feeling in recalling
universal truths; no power of originality or compass of moral relations
in his novelties: all was a poor faint reflection from jewels once
scattered in the highway by himself in the prodigality of his early
opulence--a mendicant dependence on the alms dropped from his own
overflowing treasury of happier times.

The next opportunity I had of seeing Coleridge was at the Lakes, in
the winter of 1809, and up to the autumn of the following year. During
this period it was that he carried on the original publication of "The
Friend"[75]; and for much the greater part of the time I saw him
daily. He lived as a visitor in the house occupied by Mr. Wordsworth.
This house (Allan Bank by name) was in Grasmere; and in another part
of the same vale, at a distance of barely one mile, I myself had a
cottage, and a considerable library. Many of my books being German,
Coleridge borrowed them in great numbers. Having a general license
from me to use them as he would, he was in the habit of accumulating
them so largely at Allan Bank (the name of Mr. Wordsworth's house)
that sometimes as many as five hundred were absent at once: which
I mention in order to notice a practice of Coleridge's, indicating
his very scrupulous honour in what regarded the rights of ownership.
Literary people are not always so strict in respecting property of this
description; and I know more than one celebrated man who professes
as a maxim that he holds it no duty of honour to restore a borrowed
book; not to speak of many less celebrated persons, who, without
openly professing such a principle, do however, in fact, exhibit a lax
morality in such cases. The more honourable it was to poor Coleridge,
who had means so trifling of buying books for himself, that, to prevent
my flocks from mixing and being confounded with the flocks already
folded at Allan Bank (his own and Wordsworth's), or rather that they
_might_ mix without danger, he duly inscribed my name in the blank
leaves of every volume; a fact which became rather painfully made known
to me; for, as he had chosen to dub me _Esquire_, many years after
this it cost myself and a female friend some weeks of labour to hunt
out these multitudinous memorials and to erase this heraldic addition;
which else had the appearance to a stranger of having been conferred by

   [75] The first number of this celebrated but unfortunate
   periodical, "printed on stamped paper by a printer of the name of
   Brown at Penrith," was issued, the already cited memoir of
   Coleridge informs us, on Thursday, 1st June 1809, and the last on
   15th March 1810.--M.

"The Friend," in its original publication, was, as a pecuniary
speculation, the least judicious, both for its objects and its means,
I have ever known. It was printed at Penrith, a town in Cumberland, on
the outer verge of the Lake district, and precisely twenty-eight miles
removed from Coleridge's abode. This distance, enough of itself, in
all conscience, was at least trebled in effect by the interposition
of Kirkstone, a mountain which is scaled by a carriage ascent of
three miles long, and so steep in parts that, without four horses,
no solitary traveller can persuade the neighbouring innkeepers to
carry him. Another road, by way of Keswick, is subject to its own
separate difficulties. And thus, in any practical sense, for ease, for
certainty, and for despatch, Liverpool, ninety-five miles distant,
was virtually nearer. Dublin even, or Cork, was more eligible. Yet,
in this town, so situated as I have stated, by way of purchasing
such intolerable difficulties at the highest price, Coleridge was
advised, and actually persuaded, to set up a printer, to buy, to lay
in a stock of paper, types, &c., instead of resorting to some printer
already established in Kendal, a large and opulent town not more than
eighteen miles distant, and connected by a daily post, whereas between
himself and Penrith there was no post at all. Building his mechanical
arrangements upon this utter "upside-down" inversion of all common
sense, it is not surprising (as "madness ruled the hour") that in all
other circumstances of plan or execution the work moved by principles
of downright crazy disregard to all that a judicious counsel would
have suggested. The subjects were chosen obstinately in defiance of
the popular taste; they were treated in a style studiously disfigured
by German modes of thinking, and by a German terminology; no attempt
was made to win or conciliate public taste; and the plans adopted for
obtaining payment were of a nature to insure a speedy bankruptcy to
the concern. Coleridge had a list--nobody could ever say upon whose
authority gathered together--of subscribers. He tells us himself that
many of these renounced the work from an early period; and some (as
Lord Corke) rebuked him for his presumption in sending it unordered,
but (as Coleridge asserts) neither returned the copies nor remitted
the price. And even those who were conscientious enough to do this
could not remit four or five shillings for as many numbers without
putting Coleridge to an expense of treble postage at the least. This
he complains of bitterly in his "Biographia Literaria," forgetting
evidently that the evil was due exclusively to his own defective
arrangements. People necessarily sent their subscriptions through
such channels as were open to them, or such as were pointed out by
Coleridge himself. It is also utterly unworthy of Coleridge to have
taxed, as he does, many of his subscribers (or really, for anything
that appears, the whole body) with neglecting to pay at all. Probably
not one neglected. And some ladies, to my knowledge, scrupulously
anxious about transmitting their subscriptions, paid three times over.
Managed as the reader will collect from these indications, the work
was going down-hill from the first. It never gained any accessions of
new subscribers; from what source, then, was the continual dropping
off of names to be supplied? The printer became a bankrupt: Coleridge
was as much in arrear with his articles as with his lectures at the
Royal Institution. _That_ he was from the very first; but now he
was disgusted and desponding; and with No. 28 or 29 the work came
to a final stop. Some years after, it was re-cast and re-published.
But, in fact, this re-cast was altogether and absolutely a new work.
The sole contributors to the original work had been, first of all,
Wordsworth who gave a very valuable paper on the principles concerned
in the composition of Epitaphs; and, secondly, Professor Wilson, who,
in conjunction with Mr. (now Dr.) Blair, an early friend,[76] then
visiting Mr. W. on Windermere, wrote the letter signed "Mathetes," the
reply to which came from Wordsworth.

   [76] Alexander Blair, LL.D., Professor of English Literature in
   University College, London, from 1830 to 1836.--M.

At the Lakes, and summoned abroad by scenery so exquisite--living, too,
in the bosom of a family endeared to him by long friendship and by
sympathy the closest with all his propensities and tastes--Coleridge
(it may be thought) could not sequester himself so profoundly as at
the "Courier" Office within his own shell, or shut himself out so
completely from that large dominion of eye and ear amongst the hills,
the fields, and the woods, which once he had exercised so delightfully
to himself, and with a participation so immortal, through his exquisite
poems, to all generations. He was not now reduce to depend upon "Mrs.
Brainbridge"----(Mistress Brain--Brain--Brainbridge, I say----Oh
heavens! _is_ there, can there, was there, _will_ there ever at any
future period be, an undeniable use in saying and in pressing upon the
attention of the Strand and Fleet Street at their earliest convenience
the painful subject of Mistress Brain--Brain--Brainbridge, I say----
Do you hear, Mrs. Brain--Brain--Brainbridge----? Brain or Bain, it
matters little--Bran or Brain, it's all one, I conceive):--here, on
the contrary, he looked out from his study windows upon the sublime
hills of _Seat Sandal_ and _Arthur's Chair_, and upon pastoral cottages
at their feet; and all around him he heard hourly the murmurings of
happy life, the sound of female voices, and the innocent laughter of
children. But apparently he was not happy; opium, was it, or what was
it, that poisoned all natural pleasure at its sources? He burrowed
continually deeper into scholastic subtleties and metaphysical
abstractions; and, like that class described by Seneca in the luxurious
Rome of _his_ days, he lived chiefly by candlelight. At two or four
o'clock in the afternoon he would make his first appearance. Through
the silence of the night, when all other lights had disappeared in the
quiet cottages of Grasmere, _his_ lamp might be seen invariably by the
belated traveller, as he descended the long steep from Dunmailraise;
and at seven or eight o'clock in the morning, when man was going forth
to his labour, this insulated son of reverie was retiring to bed.

Society he did not much court, because much was not to be had; but
he did not shrink from any which wore the promise of novelty. At
that time the leading person about the Lakes, as regarded rank and
station, amongst those who had any connexion with literature, was
Dr. Watson, the well-known Bishop of Llandaff.[77] This dignitary I
knew myself as much as I wished to know him; he _was_ interesting;
yet also _not_ interesting; and I will speak of him circumstantially.
Those who have read his Autobiography, or are otherwise acquainted
with the outline of his career, will be aware that he was the son of
a Westmoreland schoolmaster. Going to Cambridge, with no great store
of classical knowledge, but with the more common accomplishment of
Westmoreland men, and one better suited to Cambridge, viz. a sufficient
basis of mathematics, and a robust though commonplace intellect for
improving his knowledge according to any direction which accident
should prescribe--he obtained the Professorship of Chemistry without
one iota of chemical knowledge up to the hour when he gained it; and
then, setting eagerly to work, that he might not disgrace the choice
which had thus distinguished him, long before the time arrived for
commencing his prelections he had made himself capable of writing
those beautiful essays on that science which, after a revolution and a
counter-revolution so great as succeeding times have witnessed, still
remain a cardinal book of introductory discipline to such studies:
an opinion deliberately expressed to myself by the late Sir Humphry
Davy, and in answer to an earnest question which I took the liberty
of proposing to him on that point. Sir Humphry said that he could
scarcely imagine a time, or a condition of the science, in which the
Bishop's "Essays" would be superannuated.[78] With this experimental
proof that a Chemical Chair might be won and honoured without previous
knowledge even of the chemical alphabet, he resolved to play the same
feat with the Royal Chair of Divinity; one far more important for
local honour and for wealth. Here, again, he succeeded; and this time
he extended his experiment; for, whereas both Chairs had been won
without _previous_ knowledge, he resolved that in this case it should
be maintained without _after_ knowledge. He applied himself simply to
the improvement of its income, which he raised from £300 to at least
£1000 per annum. All this he had accomplished before reaching the age
of thirty-five.

   [77] Bishop Richard Watson (1737-1816) is perhaps best remembered
   now for his _Apology for the Bible_; of which George III said,
   when he heard of it, "What, what! Apology for the Bible! Didn't
   know that it needed an apology." There were, however, two
   _Apologies_, published together in 1806,--one for Christianity
   against Gibbon, the other for the Bible against Thomas Paine.--M.

   [78] _Chemical Essays_, in 5 vols., published 1781-7.--M.

Riches are with us the parent of riches; and success, in the hands of
an active man, is the pledge of further success. On the basis of this
Cambridge preferment Dr. Watson built upwards, until he had raised
himself, in one way or other, to a seat in the House of Lords, and to a
commensurate income. For the latter half of his life, he--originally a
village schoolmaster's son--was able to associate with the _magnates_
of the land upon equal terms. And that fact, of itself, without another
word, implies, in this country, a degree of rank and fortune which one
would think a sufficient reward even for merit as unquestionable as
was that of Dr. Watson, considering that in _quality_ it was merit of
so vulgar a class. Yet he was always a discontented man, a railer at
the government and the age which could permit merit such as his to pine
away ingloriously in one of the humblest amongst the bishoprics, with
no other addition to its emoluments than the richest professorship in
Europe, and such other accidents in life as gave him in all, perhaps,
not above five thousand per annum! Poor man!--only five thousand per
annum! What a trial to a man's patience!--and how much he stood in need
of philosophy, or even of religion, to face so dismal a condition!

This bishop was himself, in a secondary way, no uninteresting study.
What I mean is, that, though originally the furthest removed from
an interesting person, being a man remarkable indeed for robust
faculties, but otherwise commonplace in his character, worldly-minded,
and coarse, even to obtuseness, in his sensibilities, he yet became
interesting from the strength of _degree_ with which these otherwise
repulsive characteristics were manifested. He was one of that numerous
order in whom even the love of knowledge is subordinate to schemes
of advancement; and to whom even his own success, and his own honour
consequent upon that success, had no higher value than according to
their use as instruments for winning further promotion. Hence it
was that, when by such aids he had mounted to a certain eminence,
beyond which he saw little promise of further ascent through any
assistance of _theirs_--since at this stage it was clear that party
connexion in politics must become his main reliance--he ceased to
regard his favourite sciences with interest. The very organs of his
early advancement were regarded with no gratitude or tenderness, when
it became clear that they could yield no more. Even chemistry was
now neglected. This, above all, was perplexing to one who did not
understand his character. For hither one would have supposed he might
have retreated from his political disappointments, and have found a
perpetual consolation in honours which no intrigues could defeat,
and in the esteem, so pure and untainted, which still attended the
honourable exertions of his youth. But he had not feeling enough for
that view; he looked at the matter in a very different light. Other
generations had come since then, and "other palms were won." To keep
pace with the advancing science, and to maintain his station amongst
his youthful competitors, would demand a youthful vigour and motives
such as theirs. But, as to himself, chemistry had given all it _could_
give. Having first raised himself to distinction by that, he had since
married into an ancient family--one of the leaders amongst the landed
aristocracy of his own county: he had thus entitled himself to call
the head of that family--a territorial potentate with ten thousand per
annum--by the contemptuous sobriquet of "Dull Daniel"; he looked down
upon numbers whom, twenty years before, he scarcely durst have looked
up to, except perhaps as a cat is privileged to look at a king; he had
obtained a bishopric. Chemistry had done all this for him; and had,
besides, co-operating with luck, put him in the way of reaping a large
estate from the gratitude and early death of his pupil, Mr. Luther. All
this chemistry had effected. Could chemistry do anything more? Clearly
not. It was a burnt-out volcano. And here it was that, having lost his
motives for cultivating it farther, he regarded the present improvers
of the science, not with the feelings natural to a disinterested
lover of such studies on their own account, but with jealousy, as men
who had eclipsed or had bedimmed his own once brilliant reputation.
Two revolutions had occurred since his own "palmy days"; Sir Humphry
Davy, he said, might be right; and all might be gold that glistened;
but, for his part, he was too old to learn new theories--he must be
content to hobble to his grave with such old-fashioned creeds as had
answered in his time, when, for aught he could see, men prospered as
much as in this newfangled world. Such was the tone of his ordinary
talk; and, in one sense--as regards personal claims, I mean--it was
illiberal enough; for the leaders of modern chemistry never overlooked
_his_ claims. Professor Thomson of Glasgow always spoke of his "Essays"
as of a book which hardly any revolution could antiquate; and Sir
Humphry Davy, in reply to a question which I put to him upon that
point in 1813, declared that he knew of no book better qualified as
one of introductory discipline to the youthful experimenter, or as an
apprenticeship to the taste in elegant selection of topics.

Yet, querulous and discontented as the bishop was, when he adverted
either to chemistry or to his own position in life, the reader must not
imagine to himself the ordinary "complement" and appurtenances of that
character--such as moroseness, illiberality, or stinted hospitalities.
On the contrary, his lordship was a joyous, jovial, and cordial host.
He was pleasant, and even kind, in his manners; most hospitable in his
reception of strangers, no matter of what party; and I must say that
he was as little overbearing in argument, and as little stood upon his
privilege in his character of a church dignitary, as any "big wig" I
have happened to know. He was somewhat pompous, undoubtedly; but that,
in an old academic hero, was rather agreeable, and had a characteristic
effect. He listened patiently to all your objections; and, though
steeped to the lips in prejudice, he was really candid. I mean to say
that, although, generally speaking, the unconscious pre-occupation of
his understanding shut up all avenues to new convictions, he yet did
his best to open his mind to any views that might be presented at the
moment. And, with regard to his querulous egotism, though it may appear
laughable enough to all who contrast his real pretensions with their
public appreciation as expressed in his acquired opulence and rank,
and who contrast, also, _his_ case with that of other men in his own
profession--with that of Paley, for example--yet it cannot be denied
that fortune had crossed his path, latterly, with foul winds, no less
strikingly than his early life had been seconded by her favouring
gales. In particular, Lord Holland[79] mentioned to a friend of my
own the following anecdote:--"What you say of the bishop may be very
true" (they were riding past his grounds at the time, which had turned
the conversation upon his character and public claims): "but to _us_"
(Lord Holland meant to the Whig party) "he was truly honourable and
faithful; insomuch that my uncle" (meaning, of course, Charles Fox)
"had agreed with Lord Grenville to make him Archbishop of York, _sede
vacante_;--all was settled; and, had we staid in power a little
longer, he would, beyond a doubt, have had that dignity."

   [79] It was _Lady_ Holland. I know not how I came to make such a
   mistake. And the friend was Wordsworth.

Now, if the reader happens to recollect how soon the death of
Dr. Markham followed the sudden dissolution of that short-lived
administration in 1807, he will see how narrowly Dr. Watson missed
this elevation; and one must allow for a little occasional spleen
under such circumstances. How grand a thing, how princely, to be an
English archbishop! Yet, what an archbishop! He talked openly, at his
own table, as a Socinian; ridiculed the miracles of the New Testament,
which he professed to explain as so many chemical tricks, or cases
of legerdemain; and certainly had as little of devotional feeling as
any man that ever lived. It is, by comparison, a matter of little
consequence that, so slightly regarding the Church of which he called
himself a member in her spiritual interest, he should, in her temporal
interests, have been ready to lay her open to any assaults from almost
any quarter. He could naturally have little reverence for the rights
of the shepherds, having so very little for the pastoral office
itself, or for the manifold duties it imposes. All his public, all his
professional duties, he systematically neglected. He was a lord in
Parliament, and for many a year he never attended in his place: he was
a bishop, and he scarcely knew any part of his diocese by sight, living
three hundred miles away from it: he was a professor of divinity,
holding the richest professorship in Europe--the weightiest, for its
functions, in England--drawing, by his own admission, one thousand
per annum from its endowments (deducting some stipend to his _locum
tenens_ at Cambridge), and for thirty years he never read a lecture, or
performed a public exercise. Spheres how vast of usefulness to a man
as able as himself!--subjects of what bitter anguish on his deathbed
to one who had been tenderly conscientious! In his political purism,
and the unconscious partisanship of his constitutional scruples, he
was a true Whig, and thoroughly diverting. That Lord Lonsdale or that
the Duke of Northumberland should interfere with elections, this he
thought scandalous and awful; but that a lord of the house of Cavendish
or Howard, a Duke of Devonshire or Norfolk, or an Earl of Carlisle,
should traffic in boroughs, or exert the most despotic influence as
landlords, _mutato nomine_, he viewed as the mere natural right of
property; and so far was he from loving the pure-hearted and unfactious
champions of liberty, that, in one of his printed works, he dared
to tax Milton with having knowingly, wilfully, deliberately told a

   [80] This supposed falsehood respected the sect called Brownists,
   and occurs in the "Defensio pro Pop. Anglicano." The whole charge
   is a blunder, and rests upon the bishop's own imperfect Latinity.

Could Coleridge--was it possible that he could reverence a man
like this? Ordinary men might, because they were told that he had
defended Christianity against the vile blasphemers and impotent
theomachists of the day. But Coleridge had too pure an ideal of a
Christian philosopher, derived from the age of the English Titans
in theology, to share in that estimate. It is singular enough, and
interesting to a man who has ever heard Coleridge talk, but especially
to one who has _assisted_ (to speak in French phrase) at a talking
party between Coleridge and the Bishop, to look back upon an article
in the "Quarterly Review," where, in connexion with the Bishop's
Autobiography, some sneers are dropped with regard to the intellectual
character of the neighbourhood in which he had settled. I have been
told, on pretty good authority, that this article was written by the
late Dr. Whittaker of Craven, the topographical antiquarian; a pretty
sort of person, doubtless, to assume such a tone, in speaking of a
neighbourhood so dazzling in its intellectual pretensions as that
region at that time. Listen, reader, and judge!

The Bishop had fixed his abode on the banks of Windermere. In a small,
but by the necessity of its situation a beautiful park, he had himself
raised a plain, but handsome and substantial mansion; Calgarth, or
Calgarth Park, was its name. Now, at Keswick (I am looking back to the
sneer of the "Quarterly Review") lived Southey; twenty miles distant,
it is true, but still, for a bishop with a bishop's equipage, not
beyond a morning's drive. At Grasmere, about eight miles from Calgarth,
were to be found Wordsworth and Coleridge. At Brathay, about four
miles from Calgarth, lived Charles Lloyd; and he, far as he might be
below the others I have mentioned, could not in candour be considered
a common man. Common! he was a man never to be forgotten! He was
somewhat too _Rousseauish_; but he had, in conversation, the most
extraordinary powers for analysis of a certain kind, applied to the
philosophy of manners, and the most delicate _nuances_ of social life;
and his translation of "Alfieri," together with his own poems, shows
him to have been an accomplished scholar. Then, not much above a mile
from Calgarth, at his beautiful creation of Elleray, lived Professor
Wilson; of whom I need not speak. He, in fact, and Mr. Lloyd were on
the most intimate terms with the Bishop's family. The meanest of these
persons was able to have "taken the conceit" out of Dr. Whittaker and
all his tribe. But even in the town of Kendal, about nine miles from
Calgarth, there were many men of information, at least as extensive as
Dr. Watson's, and amply qualified to have met him upon equal terms in
conversation. Mathematics, it is well known, are extensively cultivated
in the north of England. Sedburgh, for many years, was a sort of
nursery or rural chapel-of-ease to Cambridge. Dawson of Sedburgh was
a luminary better known than ever Dr. Watson was, by mathematicians
both foreign and domestic. Gough, the blind mathematician and botanist
of Kendal, is known to this day; but many others in that town had
accomplishments equal to his; and, indeed, so widely has mathematical
knowledge extended itself throughout Northern England that, even
amongst the poor Lancashire weavers, mechanic labourers for their daily
bread, the cultivation of pure geometry, in the most refined shape, has
long prevailed; of which some accounts have been recently published.
Local pique, therefore, must have been at the bottom of Dr. Whittaker's
sneer. At all events, it was ludicrously contrasted with the true state
of the case, as brought out by the meeting between Coleridge and the

Coleridge was armed, at all points, with the scholastic erudition which
bore upon all questions that could arise in polemic divinity. The
philosophy of ancient Greece, through all its schools, the philosophy
of the schoolmen technically so called, Church history, &c., Coleridge
had within his call. Having been personally acquainted, or connected
as a pupil, with Eichhorn and Michaelis, he knew the whole cycle of
schisms and audacious speculations through which Biblical criticism
or Christian philosophy has revolved in Modern Germany. All this
was ground upon which the Bishop of Llandaff trod with the infirm
footing of a child. He listened to what Coleridge reported with the
same sort of pleasurable surprise, alternating with starts of doubt
or incredulity, as would naturally attend a detailed report from
Laputa--which aërial region of speculation does but too often recur to
a sober-minded person in reading of the endless freaks in philosophy
of Modern Germany, where the sceptre of Mutability, that potentate
celebrated by Spenser, gathers more trophies in a year than elsewhere
in a century; "the anarchy of dreams" presides in her philosophy; and
the restless elements of opinion, throughout every region of debate,
mould themselves eternally, like the billowy sands of the desert
as beheld by Bruce, into towering columns, soar upwards to a giddy
altitude, then stalk about for a minute, all aglow with fiery colour,
and finally unmould and "dislimn," with a collapse as sudden as the
motions of that eddying breeze under which their vapoury architecture
had arisen. Hartley and Locke, both of whom the bishop made into
idols, were discussed; especially the former, against whom Coleridge
alleged some of those arguments which he has used in his "Biographia
Literaria." The bishop made but a feeble defence; and upon some points
none at all. He seemed, I remember, much struck with one remark of
Coleridge's, to this effect:--"That, whereas Hartley fancied that
our very reasoning was an aggregation, collected together under the
law of association, on the contrary, we reason by counteracting that
law: just," said he, "as, in leaping, the law of gravitation concurs
to that act in its latter part; but no leap could take place were it
not by a counteraction of the law." One remark of the bishop's let me
into the secret of his very limited reading. Coleridge had used the
word "apperception," apparently without intention; for, on hearing
some objection to the word, as being "surely not a word that Addison
would have used," he substituted _transcendental consciousness_. Some
months afterwards, going with Charles Lloyd to call at Calgarth, during
the time when "The Friend" was appearing, the bishop again noticed
this obnoxious word, and in the very same terms:--"Now, this word
_apperception_, which Mr. Coleridge uses in the last number of 'The
Friend,' surely, surely it would not have been approved by Addison; no,
Mr. Lloyd, nor by Swift; nor even, I think, by Arbuthnot." Somebody
suggested that the word was a new word of German mintage, and most
probably due to Kant--of whom the bishop seemed never to have heard.
Meantime the fact was, and to me an amusing one, that the word had been
commonly used by Leibnitz, a _classical_ author on such subjects, 120
years before.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the autumn of 1810, Coleridge left the Lakes; and, so far as I
am aware, for ever. I once, indeed, heard a rumour of his having
passed through with some party of tourists--some reason struck me
at the time for believing it untrue--but, at all events, he never
returned to them as a resident. What might be his reason for this
eternal self-banishment from scenes which he so well understood in all
their shifting forms of beauty, I can only guess. Perhaps it was the
very opposite reason to that which is most obvious: not, possibly,
because he had become indifferent to their attractions, but because
his undecaying sensibility to their commanding power had become
associated with too afflicting remembrances, and flashes of personal
recollections, suddenly restored and illuminated--recollections which

               "Sometimes leap
     From hiding-places ten years deep,"

and bring into collision the present with some long-forgotten past, in
a form too trying and too painful for endurance. I have a brilliant
Scotch friend, who cannot walk on the seashore--within sight of its
[Greek: anêrithmon gelasma], the multitudinous laughter of its waves,
or within hearing of its resounding uproar, because they bring up, by
links of old association, too insupportably to his mind the agitations
of his glittering, but too fervid youth. There is a feeling--morbid,
it may be, but for which no anodyne is found in all the schools
from Plato to Kant--to which the human mind is liable at times: it
is best described in a little piece by Henry More, the "Platonist."
He there represents himself as a martyr to his own too passionate
sense of beauty, and his consequent too pathetic sense of its decay.
Everywhere--above, below, around him, in the earth, in the clouds,
in the fields, and in their "garniture of flowers"--he beholds a
beauty carried to excess; and this beauty becomes a source of endless
affliction to him, because everywhere he sees it liable to the touch
of decay and mortal change. During one paroxysm of this sad passion,
an angel appears to comfort him; and, by the sudden revelation of her
immortal beauty, does, in fact, suspend his grief. But it is only a
suspension; for the sudden recollection that her privileged condition,
and her exemption from the general fate of beauty, is only by way of
exception to a universal rule, restores his grief: "And thou thyself,"
he says to the angel--

     "And thou thyself, that com'st to comfort me,
     Wouldst strong occasion of deep sorrow bring,
     If thou wert subject to mortality!"

Every man who has ever dwelt with passionate love upon the fair face
of some female companion through life must have had the same feeling,
and must often, in the exquisite language of Shakspere's sonnets, have
commanded and adjured all-conquering Time, there, at least, and upon
that one tablet of his adoration,

     "To write no wrinkle with his antique hand."

Vain prayer! Empty adjuration! Profitless rebellion against the laws
which season all things for the inexorable grave! Yet not the less
we rebel again and again; and, though wisdom counsels resignation,
yet our human passions, still cleaving to their object, force us
into endless rebellion. Feelings the same in kind as these attach
themselves to our mental power, and our vital energies. Phantoms of
lost power, sudden intuitions, and shadowy restorations of forgotten
feelings, sometimes dim and perplexing, sometimes by bright but furtive
glimpses, sometimes by a full and steady revelation, overcharged with
light--throw us back in a moment upon scenes and remembrances that we
have left full thirty years behind us. In solitude, and chiefly in the
solitudes of nature, and, above all, amongst the great and _enduring_
features of nature, such as mountains, and quiet dells, and the lawny
recesses of forests, and the silent shores of lakes, features with
which (as being themselves less liable to change) our feelings have a
more abiding association--under these circumstances it is that such
evanescent hauntings of our past and forgotten selves are most apt to
startle and to waylay us. These are _positive_ torments from which
the agitated mind shrinks in fear; but there are others _negative_
in their nature--that is, blank mementoes of powers extinct, and of
faculties burnt out within us. And from both forms of anguish--from
this twofold scourge--poor Coleridge fled, perhaps, in flying from the
beauty of external nature. In alluding to this latter, or negative form
of suffering--that form, I mean, which presents not the too fugitive
glimpses of past power, but its blank annihilation--Coleridge himself
most beautifully insists upon and illustrates the truth that all which
we find in Nature must be created by ourselves; and that alike whether
Nature is so gorgeous in her beauty as to seem apparelled in her
wedding-garment or so powerless and extinct as to seem palled in her
shroud. In either case,

     "O, Lady, we receive but what we give,
     And in _our_ life alone does nature _live_;
     Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud.

             It were a vain endeavour,
             Though I should gaze for ever
     On that green light that lingers in the west:
     I may not hope from _outward_ forms to win
     The passion and the life whose fountains are _within_."

This was one, and the most common, shape of extinguished power from
which Coleridge fled to the great city. But sometimes the same decay
came back upon his heart in the more poignant shape of intimations
and vanishing glimpses, recovered for one moment from the paradise
of youth, and from fields of joy and power, over which, for him, too
certainly, he felt that the cloud of night was settling for ever.
Both modes of the same torment exiled him from nature; and for the
same reasons he fled from poetry and all commerce with his own soul;
burying himself in the profoundest abstractions from life and human

     "For not to think of what I needs must feel,
         But to be still and patient all I can;
     And haply _by abstruse research to steal_,
      _From my own nature, all the natural man_;
         This was my sole resource, my only plan;
     Till _that_, which suits a part, infects the whole,
     And now is almost grown the habit of my soul."

Such were, doubtless, the true and radical causes which, for the final
twenty-four years of Coleridge's life, drew him away from those scenes
of natural beauty in which only, at an earlier stage of life, he found
strength and restoration. These scenes still survived; but their power
was gone, because _that_ had been derived from himself, and his ancient
self had altered. Such were the _causes_; but the immediate _occasion_
of his departure from the Lakes, in the autumn of 1810, was the
favourable opportunity then presented to him of migrating in a pleasant
way. Mr. Basil Montagu, the Chancery barrister, happened at that time
to be returning to London, with Mrs. Montagu, from a visit to the
Lakes, or to Wordsworth.[81] His travelling carriage was roomy enough
to allow of his offering Coleridge a seat in it; and his admiration of
Coleridge was just then fervent enough to prompt a friendly wish for
that sort of close connexion (viz. by domestication as a guest under
Mr. Basil Montagu's roof) which is the most trying to friendship,
and which in this instance led to a perpetual rupture of it. The
domestic habits of eccentric men of genius, much more those of a man so
irreclaimably irregular as Coleridge, can hardly be supposed to promise
very auspiciously for any connexion so close as this. A very extensive
house and household, together with the unlimited licence of action
which belongs to the _ménage_ of some great Dons amongst the nobility,
could alone have made Coleridge an inmate perfectly desirable. Probably
many little jealousies and offences had been mutually suppressed; but
the particular spark which at length fell amongst the combustible
materials already prepared, and thus produced the final explosion,
took the following shape:--Mr. Montagu had published a book against
the use of wine and intoxicating liquors of every sort.[82] Not out
of parsimony or under any suspicion of inhospitality, but in mere
self-consistency and obedience to his own conscientious scruples, Mr.
Montagu would not countenance the use of wine at his own table. So
far all was right. But doubtless, on such a system, under the known
habits of modern life, it should have been made a rule to ask no man
to dinner: for to force men, without warning, to a _single_ (and,
therefore, thoroughly useless) act of painful abstinence, is what
neither I nor any man can have a right to do. In point of sense, it is,
in fact, precisely the freak of Sir Roger de Coverley, who drenches his
friend the "Spectator" with a hideous decoction: not, as his confiding
visitor had supposed, for some certain and immediate benefit to follow,
but simply as having a _tendency_ (if well supported by many years'
continuance of similar drenches) to abate the remote contingency of the
stone. Hear this, ye Gods of the Future! I am required to perform a
most difficult sacrifice; and forty years hence I _may_, by persisting
so long, have some dim chance of reward. One day's abstinence could
do no good on _any_ scheme: and no man was likely to offer himself
for a second. However, such being the law of the castle, and that law
well known to Coleridge, he nevertheless, thought fit to ask to dinner
Colonel (then Captain) Pasley, of the Engineers, well known in those
days for his book on the "Military Policy of England," and since for
his "System of Professional Instruction." Now, where or in what land
abides that

     "Captain, or Colonel, or Knight-in-arms,"

to whom wine in the analysis of dinner is a neutral or indifferent
element? Wine, therefore, as it was not of a nature to be omitted,
Coleridge took care to furnish at his own private cost. And so far,
again, all was right. But why must Coleridge give his dinner to the
captain in Mr. Montagu's house? There lay the affront; and, doubtless,
it was a very inconsiderate action on the part of Coleridge. I report
the case simply as it was then generally borne upon the breath, not of
scandal, but of jest and merriment. The result, however, was no jest;
for bitter words ensued--words that festered in the remembrance; and a
rupture between the parties followed, which no reconciliation has ever

   [81] Basil Montagu (1770-1851) and his wife were celebrities in
   London society for many years. Among his publications, besides
   legal treatises, were an edition of Bacon's Works and a volume of
   selections from the older English Prose-writers.

   [82] _Inquiry into the Effects of Fermented Liquors. By a
   Waterdrinker._ London. 1814.--M.

Meantime, on reviewing this story, as generally adopted by the learned
in literary scandal, one demur rises up. Dr. Parr, a lisping Whig
pedant, without personal dignity or conspicuous power of mind, was
a frequent and privileged inmate at Mr. Montagu's. Him now--this
Parr--there was no conceivable motive for enduring; that point is
satisfactorily settled by the pompous inanities of his works. Yet, on
the other hand, his habits were in their own nature far less endurable
than Samuel Taylor Coleridge's; for the monster smoked;--and how? How
did the "Birmingham Doctor"[83] smoke? Not as you, or I, or other
civilized people smoke, with a gentle cigar--but with the very coarsest
tobacco. And those who know how that abomination lodges and nestles in
the draperies of window-curtains will guess the horror and detestation
in which the old Whig's memory is held by all enlightened women.
Surely, in a house where the Doctor had any toleration at all, Samuel
Taylor Coleridge might have enjoyed an unlimited toleration.[84]

   [83] "_Birmingham Doctor_":--This was a _sobriquet_ imposed on Dr.
   Parr by "The Pursuits of Literature," that most popular of satires
   at the end of the eighteenth and opening of the nineteenth
   centuries. The name had a mixed reference to the Doctor's personal
   connexion with Warwickshire, but chiefly to the Doctor's spurious
   and windy imitation of Dr. Johnson. He was viewed as the
   Birmingham (or mock) Dr. Johnson. Why the word _Birmingham_ has
   come for the last sixty or seventy years to indicate in every
   class of articles the spurious in opposition to the genuine, I
   suppose to have arisen from the Birmingham habit of reproducing
   all sorts of London or Paris trinkets, _bijouterie_, &c., in
   cheaper materials and with inferior workmanship.

   [84] It is at this point that De Quincey's revised reprint in 1854
   of his Recollections of Coleridge stops. What follows is from the
   unrevised sequel in _Tait's Magazine_ for January 1835. See note,
   _ante_, p. 138.--M.

       *       *       *       *       *

From Mr. Montagu's Coleridge passed, by favour of what introduction
I never heard, into a family as amiable in manners and as benign in
disposition as I remember to have ever met with. On this excellent
family I look back with threefold affection, on account of their
goodness to Coleridge, and because they were then unfortunate, and
because their union has long since been dissolved by death. The family
was composed of three members: of Mr. M----, once a lawyer, who had,
however, ceased to practise; of Mrs. M----, his wife, a blooming
young woman, distinguished for her fine person; and a young lady, her
unmarried sister.[85] Here, for some years, I used to visit Coleridge;
and, doubtless, as far as situation merely, and the most delicate
attentions from the most amiable women, _could_ make a man happy, he
must have been so at this time; for both the ladies treated him as
an elder brother, or as a father. At length, however, the cloud of
misfortune, which had long settled upon the prospects of this excellent
family, thickened; and I found, upon one of my visits to London, that
they had given up their house in Berners Street, and had retired to
a cottage in Wiltshire. Coleridge had accompanied them; and there I
visited them myself, and, as it eventually proved, for the last time.
Some time after this, I heard from Coleridge, with the deepest sorrow,
that poor M---- had been thrown into prison, and had sunk under the
pressure of his misfortunes. The gentle ladies of his family had
retired to remote friends; and I saw them no more, though often vainly
making inquiries about them.

   [85] The Mr. M---- of this sentence was Mr. John Morgan. He had
   known Coleridge and Southey in Bristol, and now lived in

Coleridge, during this part of his London life, I saw
constantly--generally once a day, during my own stay in London; and
sometimes we were jointly engaged to dinner parties. In particular, I
remember one party at which we met Lady Hamilton--Lord Nelson's Lady
Hamilton--the beautiful, the accomplished, the enchantress! Coleridge
admired her, as who would not have done, prodigiously; and she, in
her turn, was fascinated with Coleridge. He was unusually effective
in his display; and she, by way of expressing her acknowledgments
appropriately, performed a scene in Lady Macbeth--how splendidly, I
cannot better express than by saying that all of us who then witnessed
her performance were familiar with Mrs. Siddons's matchless execution
of that scene, and yet, with such a model filling our imaginations, we
could not but acknowledge the possibility of another, and a different
perfection, without a trace of imitation, equally original, and
equally astonishing. The word "magnificent" is, in this day, most
lavishly abused: daily I hear or read in the newspapers of magnificent
objects, as though scattered more thickly than blackberries; but for
my part I have seen few objects really deserving that epithet. Lady
Hamilton was one of them. She had Medea's beauty, and Medea's power of
enchantment. But let not the reader too credulously suppose her the
unprincipled woman she has been described. I know of no sound reason
for supposing the connexion between Lord Nelson and her to have been
other than perfectly virtuous. Her public services, I am sure, were
most eminent--for _that_ we have indisputable authority; and equally
sure I am that they were requited with rank ingratitude.

After the household of the poor M----s had been dissolved, I know not
whither Coleridge went immediately: for I did not visit London until
some years had elapsed. In 1823-24 I first understood that he had taken
up his residence as a guest with Mr. Gillman, a surgeon, in Highgate.
He had then probably resided for some time at that gentleman's: there
he continued to reside on the same terms, I believe, of affectionate
friendship with the members of Mr. Gillman's family as had made life
endurable to him in the time of the M----s; and there he died in July
of the present year. If, generally speaking, poor Coleridge had but
a small share of earthly prosperity, in one respect at least he was
eminently favoured by Providence: beyond all men who ever perhaps have
lived, he found means to engage a constant succession of most faithful
friends; and he levied the services of sisters, brothers, daughters,
sons, from the hands of strangers--attracted to him by no possible
impulses but those of reverence for his intellect, and love for his
gracious nature. How, says Wordsworth--

     ----"How can _he_ expect that others should
     Sow for him, reap for _him_, and at his call
     Love him, who for himself will take no thought at all?"

How can he, indeed? It is most unreasonable to do so: yet this
expectation, if Coleridge ought not to have entertained, at all events
he realized. Fast as one friend dropped off, another, and another,
succeeded: perpetual relays were laid along his path in life, of
judicious and zealous supporters, who comforted his days, and smoothed
the pillow for his declining age, even when it was beyond all human
power to take away the thorns which stuffed it.

And what _were_ those thorns?--and whence derived? That is a question
on which I ought to decline speaking, unless I could speak fully. Not,
however, to make any mystery of what requires none, the reader will
understand that _originally_ his sufferings, and the death within
him of all hope--the palsy, as it were, of that which is the life of
life, and the heart within the heart--came from opium. But two things
I must add--one to explain Coleridge's case, and the other to bring
it within the indulgent allowance of equitable judges:--_First_, the
sufferings from morbid derangements, originally produced by opium, had
very possibly lost that simple character, and had themselves re-acted
in producing secondary states of disease and irritation, not any longer
dependent upon the opium, so as to disappear with its disuse: hence,
a more than mortal discouragement to accomplish this disuse, when the
pains of self-sacrifice were balanced by no gleams of restorative
feeling. Yet, _secondly_, Coleridge did make prodigious efforts to
deliver himself from this thraldom; and he went so far at one time in
Bristol, to my knowledge, as to hire a man for the express purpose,
and armed with the power of resolutely interposing between himself and
the door of any druggist's shop. It is true that an authority derived
only from Coleridge's will could not be valid against Coleridge's own
counter-determination: he could resume as easily as he could delegate
the power. But the scheme did not entirely fail; a man shrinks from
exposing to another that infirmity of will which he might else have but
a feeble motive for disguising to himself; and the delegated man, the
external conscience, as it were, of Coleridge, though destined--in the
final resort, if matters came to absolute rupture, and to an obstinate
duel, as it were, between himself and his principal--in that extremity
to give way, yet might have long protracted the struggle before coming
to that sort of _dignus vindice nodus_: and in fact, I know, upon
absolute proof, that, before reaching that crisis, the man showed
fight, and, faithful to his trust, and comprehending the reasons for
it, declared that, if he must yield, he would "know the reason why."

Opium, therefore, subject to the explanation I have made, was certainly
the original source of Coleridge's morbid feelings, of his debility,
and of his remorse. His pecuniary embarrassments pressed as lightly
as could well be expected upon him. I have mentioned the annuity of
£150 made to him by the two Wedgwoods. One half, I believe, could not
be withdrawn, having been left by a regular testamentary bequest. But
the other moiety, coming from the surviving brother, was withdrawn on
the plea of commercial losses, somewhere, I think, about 1815. That
would have been a heavy blow to Coleridge; and assuredly the generosity
is not very conspicuous of having ever suffered an allowance of that
nature to be left to the mercy of accident. Either it ought not to
have been granted in that shape--viz. as an _annual_ allowance, giving
ground for expecting its periodical recurrence--or it ought not to
have been withdrawn. However, this blow was broken to Coleridge by the
bounty of George IV, who placed Coleridge's name in the list of twelve
to whom he granted an annuity of 100 guineas per annum. This he enjoyed
so long as that Prince reigned. But at length came a heavier blow than
that from Mr. Wedgwood: a new King arose, who knew not Joseph. Yet
surely _he_ was not a King who could so easily resolve to turn adrift
twelve men of letters, many of them most accomplished men, for the sake
of appropriating a sum no larger to himself than 1200 guineas--no less
to some of them than the total freight of their earthly hopes?--No
matter: let the deed have been from whose hand it might, it was
done: [Greek: heirgastai], it was perpetrated, as saith the Medea of
Euripides; and it will be mentioned hereafter, "more than either once
or twice." It fell with weight, and with effect upon the latter days
of Coleridge; it took from him as much heart and hope as at his years,
and with his unworldly prospects, remained for man to blight: and, if
it did not utterly crush him, the reason was--because for himself he
had never needed much, and was now continually drawing near to that
haven in which, for himself, he would need nothing; secondly, because
his children were now independent of his aid; and, finally, because in
this land there are men to be found always of minds large enough to
comprehend the claims of genius, and with hearts, by good luck, more
generous, by infinite degrees, than the hearts of Princes.

Coleridge, as I now understand, was somewhere about sixty-two years
of age when he died.[86] This, however, I take upon the report of the
public newspapers; for I do not, of my own knowledge, know anything
accurately upon that point.

   [86] Coleridge died at Highgate, 25th July 1834, in the
   sixty-second year of his age, and the eighteenth of his residence
   with Mr. Gillman.--M.

       *       *       *       *       *

It can hardly be necessary to inform any reader of discernment or
of much practice in composition that the whole of this article
upon Mr. Coleridge, though carried through at intervals, and (as
it has unexpectedly happened) with time sufficient to have made it
a very careful one, has, in fact, been written in a desultory and
unpremeditated style. It was originally undertaken on the sudden
but profound impulse communicated to the writer's feelings by the
unexpected news of this great man's death; partly, therefore, to
relieve, by expressing, his own deep sentiments of reverential
affection to his memory, and partly, in however imperfect a way, to
meet the public feeling of interest or curiosity about a man who had
long taken his place amongst the intellectual _potentates_ of the age.
Both purposes required that it should be written almost _extempore_:
the greater part was really and unaffectedly written in that way,
and under circumstances of such extreme haste as would justify the
writer in pleading the very amplest privilege of licence and indulgent
construction which custom concedes to such cases. Hence it had occurred
to the writer, as a judicious principle, to create a sort of merit out
of his own necessity, and rather to seek after the graces which belong
to the epistolary form, or to other modes of composition professedly
careless, than after those which grow out of preconceived biographies,
which, having originally settled their plan upon a regular foundation,
are able to pursue a course of orderly development, such as _his_
slight sketch had voluntarily renounced from the beginning. That mode
of composition having been once adopted, it seemed proper to sustain
it, even after delays and interruption had allowed time for throwing
the narrative into a more orderly movement, and modulating it, as
it were, into a key of the usual solemnity. The _qualis ab incepto
processerit_--the _ordo_ prescribed by the first bars of the music
predominated over all other considerations, and to such an extent that
he had purposed to leave the article without any regular termination or
summing up--as, on the one hand, scarcely demanded by the character of
a sketch so rapid and indigested, whilst, on the other, he was sensible
that anything of so much pretension as a formal peroration challenged
a sort of consideration to the paper which it was the author's chief
wish to disclaim. That effect, however, is sufficiently parried by the
implied protest now offered; and, on other reasons, it is certainly
desirable that a general glance, however cursory, should be thrown over
the intellectual claims of Mr. Coleridge by one who knew him so well,
and especially in a case where those very claims constitute the entire
and sole justification of the preceding personal memoir. That which
furnishes the whole moving reason for any separate notice at all, and
forms its whole latent interest, ought not, in mere logic, to be left
without some notice itself, though as rapidly executed as the previous
biographical sketch, and, from the necessity of the subject, by many
times over more imperfect.

To this task, therefore, the writer now addresses himself; and by
way of gaining greater freedom of movement and of resuming his
conversational tone, he will here again take the liberty of speaking in
the first person.

If Mr. Coleridge had been merely a scholar--merely a philologist--or
merely a man of science--there would be no reason apparent for
travelling in our survey beyond the field of his intellect, rigorously
and narrowly so called. But, because he was a poet, and because he was
a philosopher in a comprehensive and a most _human_ sense, with whose
functions the moral nature is so largely interwoven, I shall feel
myself entitled to notice the most striking aspects of his _character_
(using that word in its common limited meaning), of his disposition,
and his manners, as so many reflex indications of his intellectual
constitution. But let it be well understood that I design nothing
elaborate, nothing comprehensive or ambitious: my purpose is merely to
supply a few hints and suggestions drawn from a very hasty retrospect,
by way of adding a few traits to any outline which the reader may have
framed to himself, either from some personal knowledge, or from more
full and lively memorials.

One character in which Mr. Coleridge most often came before the public
was that of politician. In this age of fervent partisanship, it will,
therefore, naturally occur as a first question to inquire after his
party and political connexions: was he Whig, Tory, or Radical? Or,
under a new classification, were his propensities Conservative or
Reforming? I answer that, in any exclusive or emphatic sense, he
was none of these; because, as a philosopher, he was, according to
circumstances, and according to the object concerned, all of these by
turns. These are distinctions upon which a cloud of delusion rests.
It would not be difficult to show that in the speculations built upon
the distinction of Whig and Tory, even by as philosophic a politician
as Edmund Burke, there is an oversight of the largest practical
importance. But the general and partisan use of these terms superadds
to this [Greek: prôton pseudos] a second which is much more flagrant.
It is this: the terms Whig or Tory, used by partisans, are taken _extra
gradum_, as expressing the ideal or extreme cases of the several
creeds; whereas, in actual life, few such cases are found realized,
by far the major part of those who answer to either one or the other
denomination making only an approximation (differing by infinite
degrees) to the ideal or abstract type. A third error there is,
relating to the actual extent of the several denominations, even after
every allowance made for the faintest approximations. Listen to a Whig,
or to a Tory, and you will suppose that the great bulk of society range
under his banner: all, at least, who have any property at stake. Listen
to a Radical, and you will suppose that all are marshalled in the same
ranks with himself, unless those who have some private interest in
existing abuses, or have aristocratic privileges to defend. Yet, upon
going extensively into society as it is, you find that a vast majority
of good citizens are of no party whatsoever, own no party designation,
care for no party interest, but carry their good wishes by turns to men
of every party, according to the momentary purpose they are pursuing.
As to Whig and Tory, it is pretty clear that only two classes of men,
both of limited extent, acknowledge these as their distinctions:
first, those who make politics in some measure their profession or
trade--whether by standing forward habitually in public meetings as
leaders or as assistants, or by writing books and pamphlets in the same
cause; secondly, those whose rank, or birth, or position in a city,
or a rural district, almost pledges them to a share in the political
struggles of the day, under the penalty of being held _fainéans_,
truants, or even malignant recusants, if they should decline a warfare
which often, perhaps, they do not love in secret. These classes, which,
after all, are not numerous, and not entirely sincere, compose the
whole extent of professing Whigs and Tories who make any approach to
the standards of their two churches; and, generally speaking, these
persons have succeeded to their politics and their party ties, as they
have to their estates, viz. by inheritance. Not their way of thinking
in politics has dictated their party connexions; but these connexions,
traditionally bequeathed from one generation to another, have dictated
their politics. With respect to the Radical or the Reformer, the case
is otherwise; for it is certain that in this, as in every great and
enlightened nation, enjoying an intense and fervid communication of
thought through the press, there is, and must be, a tendency widely
diffused to the principles of sane reform--an anxiety to probe and
examine all the institutions of the land by the increasing lights
of the age--and a salutary determination that no acknowledged abuse
shall be sheltered by prescription, or privileged by its antiquity. In
saying, therefore, that _his_ principles are spread over the length
and breadth of the land, the Reformer says no more than the truth.
_Whig_ and _Tory_, as usually understood, express only two modes of
aristocratic partisanship: and it is strange, indeed, to find people
deluded by the notion that the reforming principle has any more natural
connexion with the first than the last. _Reformer_, on the other hand,
to a certain extent expresses the political creed and aspect of almost
every enlightened citizen: but, then, how? Not, as the _Radical_ would
insinuate, as pledging a man to a specific set of objects, or to any
visible and apparent party, having known leaders and settled modes of
action. British society, in its large majority, may be fairly described
as _Reformers_, in the sense of being favourably disposed to a general
spirit of ventilation and reform carried through all departments of
public business, political or judicial; but it is so far from being,
therefore, true that men in general are favourably disposed to any
known party, in or out of Parliament, united for certain objects and by
certain leaders, that, on the contrary, this reforming party itself has
no fixed unity, and no generally acknowledged heads. It is divided both
as to persons and as to things: the ends to be pursued create as many
schisms as the course of means proper for the pursuit, and the choice
of agents for conducting the public wishes. In fact, it would be even
more difficult to lay down the ideal standard of a Reformer, or his
abstract creed, than of a Tory: and, supposing this done, it would be
found, in practice, that the imperfect approximations to the pure faith
would differ by even broader shades as regarded the reforming creed
than as regarded that of the rigorous or ultra Tory.

With respect to Mr. Coleridge: he was certainly a friend to all
enlightened reforms; he was a friend, for example, to Reform in
Parliament. Sensible as he was of the prodigious diffusion of knowledge
and good sense amongst the classes immediately below the gentry in
British society, he could not but acknowledge their right to a larger
and a less indirect share of political influence. As to the plan, and
its extent, and its particular provisions,--upon those he hesitated
and wavered; as other friends to the same views have done, and will
continue to do. The only _avowed_ objects of modern Reformers which he
would strenuously have opposed, nay, would have opposed with the zeal
of an ancient martyr, are those which respect the Church of England,
and, therefore, most of those which respect the two Universities of
Oxford and Cambridge. There he would have been found in the first ranks
of the Anti-Reformers. He would also have supported the House of
Peers, as the tried bulwark of our social interests in many a famous
struggle, and sometimes, in the hour of need, the sole barrier against
despotic aggressions on the one hand, and servile submissions on the
other. Moreover, he looked with favour upon many modes of aristocratic
influence as balances to new-made commercial wealth, and to a far
baser tyranny likely to arise from that quarter when unbalanced. But,
allowing for these points of difference, I know of little else stamped
with the general seal of modern reform, and claiming to be a privileged
object for a national effort, which would not have had his countenance.
It is true,--and this I am sensible will be objected,--that his party
connexions were chiefly with the Tories; and it adds a seeming strength
to this objection, that these connexions were not those of accident,
nor those which he inherited, nor those of his youthful choice. They
were sought out by himself, and in his maturer years; or else they were
such as sought _him_ for the sake of his political principles; and
equally, in either case, they argued some affinity in his political
creed. This much cannot be denied. But one consideration will serve
greatly to qualify the inference from these facts. In those years when
Mr. Coleridge became connected with Tories, what was the predominating
and cardinal principle of Toryism, in comparison with which all else
was willingly slighted? Circumstances of position had thrown upon the
Tories the _onus_ of a great national struggle, the greatest which
History anywhere records, and with an enemy the most deadly. The Whigs
were then out of power: they were therefore in opposition; and that
one fact, the simple fact, of holding an anti-ministerial position,
they allowed, by a most fatal blunder, to determine the course of
their foreign politics. Napoleon was to be cherished simply because he
was a thorn in Mr. Pitt's side. So began their foreign policy--and in
that pettiest of personal views. Because they were anti-ministerial,
they allowed themselves passively to become anti-national. To be a
Whig, therefore, in those days, implied little more than a strenuous
opposition to foreign war; to be a Tory pledged a man to little
more than war with Napoleon Bonaparte. And this view of our foreign
relations it was that connected Coleridge with Tories,--a view which
arose upon no motives of selfish interest (as too often has been said
in reproach), but upon the changes wrought in the spirit of the French
Republic, which gradually transmuted its defensive warfare (framed
originally to meet a conspiracy of kings crusading against the new-born
democracy of French institutions, whilst yet in their cradle) into a
warfare of aggression and sanguinary ambition. The military strength
evoked in France by the madness of European kings had taught her the
secret of her own power--a secret too dangerous for a nation of vanity
so infinite, and so feeble in all means of moral self-restraint.
The temptation to foreign conquest was too strong for the national
principles; and, in this way, all that had been grand and pure in the
early pretensions of French Republicanism rapidly melted away before
the common bribes of vulgar ambition. Unoffending states, such as
Switzerland, were the first to be trampled under foot; no voice was
heard any more but the "brazen throat of war"; and, after all that
had been vaunted of a golden age, and a long career opened to the
sceptre of pure political justice, the clouds gathered more gloomily
than ever; and the sword was once more reinstated, as the sole arbiter
of right, with less disguise and less reserve than under the vilest
despotism of kings. The change was in the French Republicans, not in
their foreign admirers; they, in mere consistency, were compelled
into corresponding changes, and into final alienation of sympathy, as
they beheld, one after one, all titles forfeited by which that grand
explosion of pure democracy had originally challenged and sustained
their veneration. The mighty Republic had now begun to revolve through
those fierce transmigrations foreseen by Burke, to every one of which,
by turns, he had denounced an inevitable "purification by fire and
blood": no trace remained of her primitive character: and of that awful
outbreak of popular might which once had made France the land of hope
and promise to the whole human race, and had sounded a knell to every
form of oppression or abuse, no record was to be found, except in the
stupendous power which cemented its martial oligarchy. Of the people,
of the democracy--or that it had ever for an hour been roused from its
slumbers--one sole evidence remained; and that lay in the blank power
of destruction, and its perfect organization, which none but a popular
movement, no power short of that, could have created. The people,
having been unchained, and as if for the single purpose of creating
a vast system of destroying energies, had then immediately recoiled
within their old limits, and themselves become the earliest victim
of their own stratocracy. In this way France had become an object of
jealousy and alarm. It remained to see to what purpose she would apply
her new energies. That was soon settled; her new-born power was wielded
from the first by unprincipled and by ambitious men; and, in 1800,
it fell under the permanent control of an autocrat, whose unity of
purpose, and iron will, left no room for any hope of change.

Under these circumstances, under these prospects, coupled with this
retrospect, what became the duty of all foreign politicians? of
the English above all, as natural leaders in any hopeful scheme of
resistance? The question can scarcely be put with decency. Time and
season, place or considerations of party, all alike vanished before
an elementary duty to the human race, which much transcended any
duty of exclusive patriotism. Plant it, however, on that narrower
basis, and the answer would have been the same for all centuries,
and for every land under a corresponding state of circumstances. Of
Napoleon's real purposes there cannot _now_ be any reasonable doubt.
His confessions--and, in particular, his indirect revelations at St.
Helena--have long since removed all demurs or scruples of scepticism.
For England, therefore, as in relation to a man bent upon her ruin,
all distinctions of party were annihilated--Whig and Tory were merged
and swallowed up in the transcendent duties of patriots, Englishmen,
lovers of liberty. Tories, _as_ Tories, had here no peculiar or
separate duties--none which belonged to their separate creed in
politics. Their duties were paramount; and their partisanship had
here no application--was perfectly indifferent, and spoke neither
this way nor that. In one respect only they had peculiar duties, and
a peculiar responsibility; peculiar, however, not by any difference
of quality, but in its supreme degree; the same duties which belonged
to all, belonged to them by a heavier responsibility. And how, or
why? Not _as_ Tories had they, or could they have, any functions at
all applying to this occasion; it was as being then the ministerial
party, as the party accidentally in power at the particular crisis: in
_that_ character it was that they had any separate or higher degree
of responsibility; otherwise, and as to the _kind_ of their duty
apart from this degree, the Tories stood in the same circumstances
as men of all other parties. To the Tories, however, as accidentally
in possession of the supreme power, and wielding the national forces
at that time, and directing their application--to them it was that
the honour belonged of making a beginning: on them had devolved
the privilege of opening and authorizing the dread crusade. How
and in what spirit they acquitted themselves of that most enviable
task--enviable for its sanctity, fearful for the difficulty of its
adequate fulfilment--how they persevered, and whether, at any crisis,
the direst and most ominous to the righteous cause, they faltered or
gave sign of retreating--History will tell--History has already told.
To the Whigs belonged the duty of seconding their old antagonists:
and no wise man could have doubted that, in a case of transcendent
patriotism, where none of those principles could possibly apply by
which the two parties were divided and distinguished, the Whigs would
be anxious to show that, for the interests of their common country,
they could cheerfully lay aside all those party distinctions, and
forget those feuds which now had no pertinence or meaning. Simply as
Whigs, had they stood in no other relation, they probably would have
done so. Unfortunately, however, for their own good name and popularity
in after times, they were divided from the other party, not merely as
Whigs opposed to Tories, but also upon another and a more mortifying
distinction, which was not, like the first, a mere inert question of
speculation or theory, but involved a vast practical difference of
honours and emoluments:--they were divided, I say, on another and
more vexatious principle, as the _Outs_ opposed to the _Ins_. Simply
as Whigs, they might have coalesced with the Tories _quoad hoc_, and
merely for this one purpose. But, as men _out_ of power, they could
not coalesce with those who were _in_. They constituted "his Majesty's
Opposition"; and, in a fatal hour, they determined that it was fitting
to carry their general scheme of hostility even into this sacred and
privileged ground. That resolution once taken, they found it necessary
to pursue it with zeal. The case itself was too weighty and too
interesting to allow of any moderate tone for the abetters or opposers.
Passion and personal bitterness soon animated the contest: violent
and rash predictions were hazarded--prophecies of utter ruin and of
captivity for our whole army were solemnly delivered: and it soon
became evident, as indeed mere human infirmity made it beforehand but
too probable, that, where so much personal credit was at stake upon the
side of our own national dishonour, the wishes of the prophet had been
pledged to the same result as the credit of his political sagacity.
Many were the melancholy illustrations of the same general case. Men
were seen fighting against the evidences of some great British victory
with all the bitterness and fierce incredulity which usually meet the
first rumours of some private calamity: that was in effect the aspect
in their eyes of each national triumph in its turn. Their position,
connected with the unfortunate election made by the Whig leaders of
their tone, from the very opening of the contest, gave the character of
a calamity for them and for their party to that which to every other
heart in Britain was the noblest of triumphs in the noblest of causes;
and, as a party, the Whigs mourned for years over those events which
quickened the pulses of pleasure and sacred exultation in every other
heart. God forbid that all Whigs should have felt in this unnatural
way! I speak only of the tone set by the Parliamentary leaders. The
few who were in Parliament, and exposed to daily taunts from the just
exultation of their irritated opponents, had their natural feelings
poisoned and envenomed. The many who were out of Parliament, and not
personally interested in this warfare of the Houses, were left open to
natural influences of patriotic pride, and to the contagion of public
sympathy: and these, though Whigs, felt as became them.

These are things too unnatural to be easily believed, or, in a land
where the force of partisanship is less, to be easily understood. Being
true, however, they ought not to be forgotten: and at present it is
almost necessary that they should be stated for the justification of
Coleridge. Too much has been written upon this part of his life, and
too many reproaches thrown out upon his levity or his want of principle
in his supposed sacrifice of his early political connexions, to make
it possible for any reverencer of Coleridge's memory to pass over the
case without a full explanation. That explanation is involved in the
strange and scandalous conduct of the Parliamentary Whigs. Coleridge
passed over to the Tories only in that sense in which all patriots did
so at that time, and in relation to our great _foreign_ interest--viz.
by refusing to accompany the Whigs in their almost perfidious demeanour
towards Napoleon Bonaparte. Anti-_ministerial_ they affect to style
their policy, but in the most eminent sense it was anti-_national_. It
was thus far--viz. exclusively, or almost exclusively, in relation to
our great feud with Napoleon--that Coleridge adhered to the Tories.
But, because this feud was so capital and so earth-shaking a quarrel
that it occupied all hearts and all the councils of Christendom,
suffering no other question almost to live in its neighbourhood, hence
it happened that he who acceded to the Tories in this one chapter
of their policy was regarded as an ally in the most general sense.
Domestic politics were then, in fact, forgotten; no question, in any
proper sense a Tory one, ever arose in that era; or, if it had, the
public attention would not have settled upon it, and it would speedily
have been dismissed.

_Hence_ I deduce as a possibility, and, from my knowledge of Coleridge,
I deduce it as a fact, that his adhesion to the Tories was bounded by
his approbation of their foreign policy; and even of _that_ rarely in
its executive details, rarely even in its military plans (for these he
assailed with more keenness of criticism than to me the case seemed
to justify), but solely in its animating principle, its moving and
sustaining force, viz. the doctrine and entire faith that Napoleon
Bonaparte ought to be resisted, was not a proper object of diplomacy or
negotiation, and could be resisted hopefully and triumphantly. Thus far
he went along with the Tories: in all else he belonged quite as much
to other parties--so far as he belonged to any. And that he did not
follow any bias of private interest in connecting himself with Tories,
or rather in allowing Tories to connect themselves with him, appears
(rather more indeed than it ought to have appeared) on the very surface
of his life. From Tory munificence he drew nothing at all, unless it
should be imputed to his Tory connexions that George IV selected him
for one of his academicians. But this slight mark of royal favour he
owed, I believe, to other considerations; and I have reason to think
that this way of treating political questions, so wide of dogmatism,
and laying open so vast a field to scepticism that might else have
gone unregarded, must have been held as evidence of too latitudinarian
a creed to justify a title to Toryism. And, upon the whole, I am of
opinion that few events of Mr. Coleridge's life were better calculated
to place his disinterested pursuit of truth in a luminous aspect. In
fact, his carelessness of all worldly interests was too notorious to
leave him open to suspicions of that nature: nor was this carelessness
kept within such limits as to be altogether meritorious. There is no
doubt that his indolence concurred, in some degree, to that line of
conduct and to that political reserve which would, at all events, have
been pursued, in a degree beyond what honour the severest, or delicacy
the most nervous, could have enjoined.

It is a singular anecdote, after all, to report of Coleridge, who
incurred the reproach of having _ratted_ solely by his inability to
follow the friends of his early days into what his heart regarded as a
monstrous and signal breach of patriotism, that in any eminent sense he
was _not_ a patriot. His understanding, in this, as in many instances,
was too active, too restless, for any abiding feelings to lay hold of
him, unless when they coincided with some palpable command of nature.
Parental love, for instance, was too holy a thing to be submitted
for an instant to any scrutiny or any jealousy of his hair-splitting
understanding. But it must be something as sacred and as profound as
that which with Coleridge could long support the endless attrition of
his too active intellect. In this instance, he had the same defect,
derived in part from the same cause, as a contemporary, one of the
idols of the day, more celebrated, and more widely celebrated, than
Coleridge, but far his inferior in power and compass of intellect.
I speak of Goethe: he also was defective, and defective under far
stronger provocations and excitement, in patriotic feeling. He cared
little for Weimar, and less for Germany. And he was, thus far, much
below Coleridge--that the passion which he could not feel Coleridge
yet obliged himself practically to obey in all things which concerned
the world, whereas Goethe disowned this passion equally in his acts,
his words, and his writings. Both are now gone--Goethe and Coleridge;
both are honoured by those who knew them, and by multitudes who did
not. But the honours of Coleridge are perennial, and will annually grow
more verdant; whilst from those of Goethe every generation will see
something fall away, until posterity will wonder at the subverted idol,
whose basis, being hollow and unsound, will leave the worship of their
fathers an enigma to their descendants.


I have somewhere seen it remarked with respect to these charges of
plagiarism, that, however incontrovertible, they did not come with any
propriety or grace from myself as the supposed friend of Coleridge,
and as writing my sketch of slight reminiscences on the immediate
suggestion of his death. My answer is this: _I_ certainly was the first
person (first, I believe, by some years) to point out the plagiarisms
of Coleridge, and above all others that circumstantial plagiarism, of
which it is impossible to suppose him unconscious, from Schelling. Many
of his plagiarisms were probably unintentional, and arose from that
confusion between things floating in the memory and things self-derived
which happens at times to most of us that deal much with books on the
one hand, and composition on the other. An author can hardly have
written much and rapidly who does not sometimes detect himself, and
perhaps, therefore, sometimes fail to detect himself, in appropriating
the thoughts, images, or striking expressions of others. It is enough
for his conscientious self-justification, that he is anxiously vigilant
to guard himself from such unacknowledged obligations, and forward to
acknowledge them as soon as ever they are pointed out. But no excess
of candour the most indulgent will allow us to suppose that a most
profound speculation upon the original relations _inter se_ of the
subjective and the objective, literally translated from the German,
and stretching over some pages, could, after any interval of years,
come to be mistaken by the translator for his own. This amounted to
an entire essay. But suppose the compass of the case to lie within
a single word, yet if that word were so remarkable, so provocative
to the curiosity, and promising so much weight of meaning (which
reasonably any great departure from ordinary diction must promise),
as the word _esemplastic_,[87] we should all hold it impossible for
a man to appropriate this word inadvertently. I, therefore, greatly
_understated_ the case against Coleridge, instead of giving to it
an undue emphasis. Secondly, in stating it at all, I did so (as at
the time I explained) in pure kindness. Well I knew that, from the
direction in which English philosophic studies were now travelling,
sooner or later these appropriations of Coleridge must be detected;
and I felt that it would break the force of the discovery, as an
unmitigated sort of police detection, if first of all it had been
announced by one who, in the same breath, was professing an unshaken
faith in Coleridge's philosophic power. It could not be argued that
one of those who most fervently admired Coleridge had professed such
feelings only because he was ignorant of Coleridge's obligations to
others. Here was a man who had actually for himself, unguided and
unwarned, discovered these obligations; and yet, in the very act of
making that discovery, this man clung to his original feelings and
faith. But, thirdly, I must inform the reader that I was not, nor ever
had been, the "friend" of Coleridge in any sense which could have a
right to restrain my frankest opinions upon his merits. I never had
lived in such intercourse with Coleridge as to give me an opportunity
of becoming his friend. To _him_ I owed nothing at all; but to the
public, to the body of his own readers, every writer owes the truth,
and especially on a subject so important as that which was then before

   [87] "_Esemplastic_":--A writer in "Blackwood," who carried a
   wrath into the discussion for which I and others found it hard to
   account, made it a sort of charge against myself, that I had
   overlooked this remarkable case. If I _had_, there would have been
   no particular reason for anger or surprise, seeing that the
   particular German work in which these plagiarisms were traced had
   been lent to me under most rigorous limitations as to the time for
   returning it; the owner of the volume was going out of London, and
   a very few hours (according to my present remembrance only two)
   were all that he could allow me for hunting through the most
   impracticable of metaphysical thickets (what Coleridge elsewhere
   calls "the holy jungle of metaphysics"). Meantime I had _not_
   overlooked the case of _esemplastic_; I had it in my memory, but
   hurry of the press and want of room obliged me to omit a good
   deal. Indeed, if such omissions constituted any reproach, then the
   critic in "Blackwood" was liable to his own censure. For I
   remember to this hour several Latin quotations made by Schelling,
   and repeated by Coleridge as his own, which neither I nor my too
   rigorous reviewer had drawn out for public exposure. As regarded
   myself, it was quite sufficient that I had indicated the grounds,
   and opened the paths, on which the game must be sought; that I
   left the rest of the chase to others, was no subject for blame,
   but part of my purpose; and, under the circumstances, very much a
   matter of necessity.--In taking leave of this affair, I ought to
   point out a ground of complaint against my reviewer under his
   present form of expression, which I am sure could not have been
   designed. It happened that I had forgotten the particular title of
   Schelling's work; naturally enough, in a situation where no
   foreign books could be had, I quoted it under a false one. And
   this inevitable error of mine on a matter so entirely irrelevant
   is so described that the neutral reader might suppose me to have
   committed against Coleridge the crime of Lauder against
   Milton--that is, taxing him with plagiarism by referring, not to
   real works of Schelling, but to pretended works, of which the very
   titles were forgeries of my own. This, I am sure, my unknown
   critic never could have meant. The plagiarisms were really there;
   more and worse in circumstances than any denounced by myself; and,
   of all men, the "Blackwood" critic was the most bound to proclaim
   this; or else what became of his own clamorous outcry? Being,
   therefore, such as I had represented, of what consequence was the
   special title of the German volume to which these plagiarisms were
   referred?--[The reference in this footnote, written by De Quincey
   in 1854, is to an article on "The Plagiarisms of S. T. Coleridge,"
   which had appeared in _Blackwood_ for March 1840, the writer of
   which had animadverted on De Quincey's previous disclosures on the
   subject in his _Tait_ papers of 1834-5.--M.]

With respect to the comparatively trivial case of Pythagoras, an
author of great distinction in literature and in the Anglican Church
has professed himself unable to understand what room there could be
for plagiarism in a case where the solution ascribed to Coleridge
was amongst the commonplaces of ordinary English academic tuition.
Locally this may have been so; but hardly, I conceive, in so large
an extent as to make that solution _publici juris_. Yet, however
this may be, no help is given to Coleridge; since, according to Mr.
Poole's story, whether the interpretation of the riddle were or were
_not_ generally diffused, Coleridge claimed it for his own.--[In Mrs.
Sandford's _Thomas Poole and his Friends_ (1888), vol. ii. pp. 304-6,
there is printed a letter of Mr. Poole's, dated June 1835, doubting the
accuracy of De Quincey's story of their discourse in 1807, respecting
Coleridge's plagiarisms.--M.]

Finally--for distance from the press and other inconveniences of
unusual pressure oblige me to wind up suddenly--the whole spirit of my
record at the time (twenty years ago), and in particular the special
allusion to the last Duke of Ancaster's case, as one which ran parallel
to Coleridge's, involving the same propensity to appropriate what
generally were trifles in the midst of enormous and redundant wealth,
survives as an indication of the _animus_ with which I approached this
subject, starting even from the assumption that I was bound to consider
myself under the restraints of friendship--which, for the second time
let me repeat, I was _not_. In reality, the notes contributed to the
Aldine edition of the "Biographia Literaria," by Coleridge's admirable
daughter, have placed this whole subject in a new light; and, in doing
this, have unavoidably reflected some degree of justification upon
myself. Too much so, I understand to be the feeling in some quarters.
This lamented lady is thought to have shown partialities in her
distributions of praise and blame upon this subject. I will not here
enter into that discussion. But, as respects the justification of her
father, I regard her mode of argument as unassailable. Filial piety the
most tender never was so finely reconciled with candour towards the
fiercest of his antagonists. Wherever the plagiarism was undeniable,
she has allowed it; whilst palliating its faultiness by showing the
circumstances under which it arose. But she has also opened a new view
of other circumstances under which an apparent plagiarism arose that
was not real. I myself, for instance, knew cases where Coleridge gave
to young ladies a copy of verses, headed thus--"Lines on----, from the
German of Hölty." Other young ladies made transcripts of these lines;
and, caring nothing for the German authorship, naturally fathered
them upon Coleridge, the translator. These lines were subsequently
circulated as Coleridge's, and as if on Coleridge's own authority. Thus
arose many cases of apparent plagiarism. And, lastly, as his daughter
most truly reports, if he took--he gave. Continually he fancied other
men's thoughts his own; but such were the confusions of his memory that
continually, and with even greater liberality, he ascribed his own
thoughts to others.



   [88] Composed of articles in _Tait's Magazine_ for January,
   February, and April 1839, as revised and recast by De Quincey,
   published, with some additions, for the second volume of the
   Collective Edinburgh Edition of his writings in 1854.--M.

In 1807 it was, at the beginning of winter, that I first saw William
Wordsworth. I have already mentioned[89] that I had introduced myself
to his notice by letter as early as the spring of 1803. To this hour
it has continued, I believe, a mystery to Wordsworth why it was that
I suffered an interval of four and a half years to slip away before
availing myself of the standing invitation with which I had been
honoured to the poet's house. Very probably he accounted for this
delay by supposing that the new-born liberty of an Oxford life, with
its multiplied enjoyments, acting upon a boy just emancipated from
the restraints of a school, and, in one hour, elevated into what we
Oxonians so proudly and so exclusively denominate "a man,"[90] might
have tempted me into pursuits alien from the pure intellectual passions
which had so powerfully mastered my youthful heart some years before.
Extinguished such a passion could not be; nor could he think so, if
remembering the fervour with which I had expressed it, the sort of
"nympholepsy" which had seized upon me, and which, in some imperfect
way, I had avowed with reference to the very lakes and mountains
amongst which the scenery of this most original poetry had chiefly
grown up and moved. The very names of the ancient hills--Fairfield,
Seat Sandal, Helvellyn, Blencathara, Glaramara; the names of the
sequestered glens--such as Borrowdale, Martindale, Mardale, Wasdale,
and Ennerdale; but, above all, the shy pastoral recesses, not garishly
in the world's eye, like Windermere or Derwentwater, but lurking half
unknown to the traveller of that day--Grasmere, for instance, the
lovely abode of the poet himself, solitary, and yet sowed, as it were,
with a thin diffusion of humble dwellings--here a scattering, and there
a clustering, as in the starry heavens--sufficient to afford, at every
turn and angle, human remembrances and memorials of time-honoured
affections, or of passions (as the "Churchyard amongst the Mountains"
will amply demonstrate) not wanting even in scenic and tragical
interest: these were so many local spells upon me, equally poetic and
elevating with the Miltonic names of Valdarno and Vallombrosa.

   [89] _Ante_, p. 59.--M.

   [90] At the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, where the town
   is viewed as a mere ministerial appendage to the numerous
   colleges--the civic Oxford, for instance, existing for the sake of
   the academic Oxford, and not _vice versâ_--it has naturally
   happened that the students honour with the name of "_a man_" him
   only who wears a cap and gown.

Deep are the voices which seem to call, deep is the lesson which would
be taught, even to the most thoughtless of men,

     "Could field, or grove, or any spot of earth,
     Show to his eye an image of the pangs
     Which it hath witnessed; render back an echo
     Of the sad steps by which it hath been trod."[91]

   [91] See the divine passage (in the Sixth Book of "The Excursion")

     "Ah, what a lesson to a thoughtless man," &c.

Meantime, my delay was due to anything rather than to waning interest.
On the contrary, the real cause of my delay was the too great
profundity, and the increasing profundity, of my interest in this
regeneration of our national poetry, and the increasing awe, in due
proportion to the decaying thoughtlessness of boyhood, which possessed
me for the character of its author. So far from neglecting Wordsworth,
it is a fact that twice I had undertaken a long journey expressly for
the purpose of paying my respects to Wordsworth; twice I came so far
as the little rustic inn (then the sole inn of the neighbourhood) at
Church Coniston; and on neither occasion could I summon confidence
enough to present myself before him. It was not that I had any want
of proper boldness for facing the most numerous company of a mixed or
ordinary character: reserved, indeed, I was, perhaps even shy--from
the character of my mind, so profoundly meditative, and the character
of my life, so profoundly sequestered--but still, from counteracting
causes, I was not deficient in a reasonable self-confidence towards
the world generally. But the very image of Wordsworth, as I prefigured
it to my own planet-struck eye, crushed my faculties as before Elijah
or St. Paul. Twice, as I have said, did I advance as far as the Lake
of Coniston; which is about eight miles from the church of Grasmere,
and once I absolutely went forwards from Coniston to the very gorge
of Hammerscar, from which the whole Vale of Grasmere suddenly breaks
upon the view in a style of almost theatrical surprise, with its lovely
valley stretching before the eye in the distance, the lake lying
immediately below, with its solemn ark-like island of four and a half
acres in size seemingly floating on its surface, and its exquisite
outline on the opposite shore, revealing all its little bays[92] and
wild sylvan margin, feathered to the edge with wild flowers and ferns.
In one quarter, a little wood, stretching for about half a mile towards
the outlet of the lake; more directly in opposition to the spectator, a
few green fields; and beyond them, just two bowshots from the water, a
little white cottage gleaming from the midst of trees, with a vast and
seemingly never-ending series of ascents rising above it to the height
of more than three thousand feet. That little cottage was Wordsworth's
from the time of his marriage, and earlier; in fact, from the beginning
of the century to the year 1808. Afterwards, for many a year, it was
mine. Catching one hasty glimpse of this loveliest of landscapes,
I retreated like a guilty thing, for fear I might be surprised by
Wordsworth, and then returned faintheartedly to Coniston, and so to
Oxford, _re infectâ_.

   [92] All which inimitable graces of nature have, by the hands of
   mechanic art, by solid masonry, by whitewashing, &c., been
   exterminated, as a growth of weeds and nuisances, for thirty
   years.--_August 17, 1853._

This was in 1806. And thus far, from mere excess of nervous distrust
in my own powers for sustaining a conversation with Wordsworth, I
had for nearly five years shrunk from a meeting for which, beyond
all things under heaven, I longed. In early youth I laboured under a
peculiar embarrassment and penury of words, when I sought to convey my
thoughts adequately upon interesting subjects: neither was it words
only that I wanted; but I could not unravel, I could not even make
perfectly conscious to myself, the subsidiary thoughts into which one
leading thought often radiates; or, at least, I could not do this with
anything like the rapidity requisite for conversation. I laboured
like a sibyl instinct with the burden of prophetic woe, as often as
I found myself dealing with any topic in which the understanding
combined with deep feelings to suggest mixed and tangled thoughts:
and thus partly--partly also from my invincible habit of reverie--at
that era of my life, I had a most distinguished talent "_pour le
silence_." Wordsworth, from something of the same causes, suffered
(by his own report to myself) at the same age from pretty much the
same infirmity. And yet, in more advanced years--probably about
twenty-eight or thirty--both of us acquired a remarkable fluency in the
art of unfolding our thoughts colloquially. However, at that period my
deficiencies were what I have described. And, after all, though I had
no absolute cause for anticipating contempt, I was so far right in my
fears, that since that time I have had occasion to perceive a worldly
tone of sentiment in Wordsworth, not less than in Mrs. Hannah More and
other literary people, by which they were led to set a higher value
upon a limited respect from a person high in the world's esteem than
upon the most lavish spirit of devotion from an obscure quarter. Now,
in that point, _my_ feelings are far otherwise.

Meantime, the world went on; events kept moving; and, amongst them,
in the course of 1807, occurred the event of Coleridge's return to
England from his official station in the Governor's family at Malta.
At Bridgewater, as I have already recorded, in the summer of 1807, I
was introduced to him. Several weeks after he came with his family to
the Bristol Hot-Wells, at which, by accident, I was then visiting.
On calling upon him, I found that he had been engaged by the Royal
Institution to lecture at their theatre in Albemarle Street during
the coming winter of 1807-8, and, consequently, was embarrassed about
the mode of conveying his family to Keswick. Upon this, I offered my
services to escort them in a post-chaise. This offer was cheerfully
accepted; and at the latter end of October we set forwards--Mrs.
Coleridge, viz., with her two sons--Hartley, aged nine, Derwent, about
seven--her beautiful little daughter,[93] about five, and, finally,
myself. Going by the direct route through Gloucester, Bridgenorth, &c.,
on the third day we reached Liverpool, where I took up my quarters at
a hotel, whilst Mrs. Coleridge paid a visit of a few days to a very
interesting family, who had become friends of Southey during his visit
to Portugal. These were the Misses Koster, daughters of an English
gold-merchant of celebrity, who had recently quitted Lisbon on the
approach of the French army under Junot. Mr. Koster did me the honour
to call at my quarters, and invite me to his house; an invitation
which I very readily accepted, and had thus an opportunity of becoming
acquainted with a family the most accomplished I had ever known. At
dinner there appeared only the family party--several daughters, and
one son, a fine young man of twenty, but who was _consciously_ dying
of asthma. Mr. Koster, the head of the family, was distinguished for
his good sense and practical information; but, in Liverpool, even more
so by his eccentric and obstinate denial of certain notorious events;
in particular, some two years later, he denied that any such battle as
Talavera had ever been fought, and had a large wager depending upon the
decision. His house was the resort of distinguished foreigners; and, on
the first evening of my dining there, as well as afterwards, I there
met that marvel of women, Madame Catalani. I had heard her repeatedly;
but never before been near enough to see her smile and converse--even
to be honoured with a smile myself. She and Lady Hamilton were the most
effectively brilliant women I ever saw. However, on this occasion, the
Misses Koster outshone even La Catalani; to her they talked in the most
fluent Italian; to some foreign men, in Portuguese; to one in French;
and to most of the party in English; and each, by turns, seemed to be
their native tongue. Nor did they shrink, even in the presence of the
mighty enchantress, from exhibiting their musical skill.

   [93] That most accomplished, and to Coleridge most pious daughter,
   whose recent death afflicted so very many who knew her only by her
   writings. She had married her cousin, Mr. Serjeant Coleridge, and
   in that way retained her illustrious maiden name as a wife. At
   seventeen, when last I saw her, she was the most perfect of all
   pensive, nun-like, intellectual beauties that I have seen in real
   breathing life. The upper parts of her face were verily divine.
   See, for an artist's opinion, the Life of that admirable man
   Collins, by his son.

Leaving Liverpool, after about a week's delay, we pursued our journey
northwards. We had slept on the first day at Lancaster. Consequently,
at the rate of motion which then prevailed throughout England--which,
however, was rarely equalled on that western road, where all things
were in arrear by comparison with the eastern and southern roads of the
kingdom--we found ourselves, about three o'clock in the afternoon, at
Ambleside, fourteen miles to the north-west of Kendal, and thirty-six
from Lancaster. There, for the last time, we stopped to change horses;
and about four o'clock we found ourselves on the summit of the White
Moss, a hill which rises between the second and third milestones on
the stage from Ambleside to Keswick, and which then retarded the
traveller's advance by a full fifteen minutes, but is now evaded by a
lower line of road. In ascending this hill, from weariness of moving
so slowly, I, with the two Coleridges, had alighted; and, as we all
chose to refresh ourselves by running down the hill into Grasmere,
we had left the chaise behind us, and had even lost the sound of the
wheels at times, when all at once we came, at an abrupt turn of the
road, in sight of a white cottage, with two yew-trees breaking the
glare of its white walls. A sudden shock seized me on recognising this
cottage, of which, in the previous year, I had gained a momentary
glimpse from Hammerscar, on the opposite side of the lake. I paused,
and felt my old panic returning upon me; but just then, as if to take
away all doubt upon the subject, I saw Hartley Coleridge, who had
gained upon me considerably, suddenly turn in at a garden gate; this
motion to the right at once confirmed me in my belief that here at
last we had reached our port; that this little cottage was tenanted
by that man whom, of all the men from the beginning of time, I most
fervently desired to see; that in less than a minute I should meet
Wordsworth face to face. Coleridge was of opinion that, if a man were
really and _consciously_ to see an apparition, in such circumstances
death would be the inevitable result; and, if so, the wish which we
hear so commonly expressed for such experience is as thoughtless as
that of Semele in the Grecian Mythology, so natural in a female, that
her lover should visit her _en grand costume_--presumptuous ambition,
that unexpectedly wrought its own ruinous chastisement! Judged by
Coleridge's test, my situation could not have been so terrific as _his_
who anticipates a ghost; for, certainly, I survived this meeting; but
at that instant it seemed pretty much the same to my own feelings.

Never before or since can I reproach myself with having trembled at the
approaching presence of any creature that is born of woman, excepting
only, for once or twice in my life, woman herself. Now, however, I
_did_ tremble; and I forgot, what in no other circumstances I could
have forgotten, to stop for the coming up of the chaise, that I might
be ready to hand Mrs. Coleridge out. Had Charlemagne and all his
peerage been behind me, or Cæsar and his equipage, or Death on his
pale horse, I should have forgotten them at that moment of intense
expectation, and of eyes fascinated to what lay before me, or what
might in a moment appear. Through the little gate I pressed forward;
ten steps beyond it lay the principal door of the house. To this, no
longer clearly conscious of my own feelings, I passed on rapidly; I
heard a step, a voice, and, like a flash of lightning, I saw the figure
emerge of a tallish man, who held out his hand, and saluted me with
most cordial expressions of welcome. The chaise, however, drawing up
to the gate at that moment, he (and there needed no Roman nomenclator
to tell me that this _he_ was Wordsworth) felt himself summoned to
advance and receive Mrs. Coleridge. I, therefore, stunned almost
with the actual accomplishment of a catastrophe so long anticipated
and so long postponed, mechanically went forward into the house. A
little semi-vestibule between two doors prefaced the entrance into
what might be considered the principal room of the cottage. It was
an oblong square, not above eight and a half feet high, sixteen feet
long, and twelve broad; very prettily wainscoted from the floor to the
ceiling with dark polished oak, slightly embellished with carving.
One window there was--a perfect and unpretending cottage window, with
little diamond panes, embowered at almost every season of the year with
roses, and in the summer and autumn with a profusion of jasmine and
other fragrant shrubs. From the exuberant luxuriance of the vegetation
around it, and from the dark hue of the wainscoting, this window,
though tolerably large, did not furnish a very powerful light to one
who entered from the open air. However, I saw sufficiently to be aware
of two ladies just entering the room, through a doorway opening upon a
little staircase, The foremost, a tallish young woman, with the most
winning expression of benignity upon her features, advanced to me,
presenting her hand with so frank an air that all embarrassment must
have fled in a moment before the native goodness of her manner. This
was Mrs. Wordsworth, cousin of the poet, and, for the last five years
or more, his wife.[94] She was now mother of two children, a son and
a daughter; and she furnished a remarkable proof how possible it is
for a woman neither handsome nor even comely according to the rigour
of criticism--nay, generally pronounced very plain--to exercise all
the practical fascination of beauty, through the mere compensatory
charms of sweetness all but angelic, of simplicity the most entire,
womanly self-respect and purity of heart speaking through all her
looks, acts, and movements. _Words_, I was going to have added; but her
words were few. In reality, she talked so little that Mr. Slave-Trade
Clarkson used to allege against her that she could only say "_God bless
you!_" Certainly, her intellect was not of an active order; but, in
a quiescent, reposing, meditative way, she appeared always to have a
genial enjoyment from her own thoughts; and it would have been strange,
indeed, if she, who enjoyed such eminent advantages of training, from
the daily society of her husband and his sister, failed to acquire
some power of judging for herself, and putting forth some functions
of activity. But undoubtedly that was not her element: to feel and
to enjoy in a luxurious repose of mind--there was her _forte_ and
her peculiar privilege; and how much better this was adapted to her
husband's taste, how much more adapted to uphold the comfort of his
daily life, than a blue-stocking loquacity, or even a legitimate talent
for discussion, may be inferred from his verses, beginning--

     "She was a phantom of delight,
     When first she gleam'd upon my sight."

Once for all,[95] these exquisite lines were dedicated to Mrs.
Wordsworth; were understood to describe her--to have been prompted by
the feminine graces of her character; hers they are, and will remain
for ever. To these, therefore, I may refer the reader for an idea of
what was most important in the partner and second self of the poet.
And I will add to this abstract of her _moral_ portrait these few
concluding traits of her appearance in a physical sense. Her figure was
tolerably good. In complexion she was fair, and there was something
peculiarly pleasing even in this accident of the skin, for it was
accompanied by an animated expression of health, a blessing which, in
fact, she possessed uninterruptedly. Her eyes, the reader may already
know, were

     "Like stars of twilight fair;
     Like twilight, too, her dark brown hair;
     But all things else about her drawn
     From May-time and the cheerful dawn."

Yet strange it is to tell that, in these eyes of vesper gentleness,
there was a considerable obliquity of vision; and much beyond
that slight obliquity which is often supposed to be an attractive
foible in the countenance: this _ought_ to have been displeasing or
repulsive; yet, in fact, it was not. Indeed all faults, had they
been ten times more and greater, would have been neutralized by
that supreme expression of her features to the unity of which every
lineament in the fixed parts, and every undulation in the moving parts,
of her countenance, concurred, viz. a sunny benignity--a radiant
graciousness--such as in this world I never saw surpassed.

   [94] Mary Hutchinson, who became Wordsworth's wife in October
   1802, had been known to him since 1777, when she was his
   fellow-pupil in a Dame's school at Penrith.--M.

   [95] _Once for all_, I say--on recollecting that Coleridge's
   verses to _Sara_ were made transferable to any Sara who reigned at
   the time. At least three Saras appropriated them; all three long
   since in the grave.

Immediately behind her moved a lady, shorter, slighter, and perhaps, in
all other respects, as different from her in personal characteristics
as could have been wished for the most effective contrast. "Her
face was of Egyptian brown"; rarely, in a woman of English birth,
had I seen a more determinate gipsy tan. Her eyes were not soft,
as Mrs. Wordsworth's, nor were they fierce or bold; but they were
wild and startling, and hurried in their motion. Her manner was warm
and even ardent; her sensibility seemed constitutionally deep; and
some subtle fire of impassioned intellect apparently burned within
her, which, being alternately pushed forward into a conspicuous
expression by the irrepressible instincts of her temperament, and
then immediately checked, in obedience to the decorum of her sex and
age, and her maidenly condition, gave to her whole demeanour, and to
her conversation, an air of embarrassment, and even of self-conflict,
that was almost distressing to witness. Even her very utterance and
enunciation often suffered, in point of clearness and steadiness, from
the agitation of her excessive organic sensibility. At times, the
self-counteraction and self-baffling of her feelings caused her even
to stammer, and so determinately to stammer that a stranger who should
have seen her and quitted her in that state of feeling would have
certainly set her down for one plagued with that infirmity of speech
as distressingly as Charles Lamb himself. This was Miss Wordsworth,
the only sister of the poet--his "Dorothy"; who naturally owed so
much to the lifelong intercourse with her great brother in his most
solitary and sequestered years; but, on the other hand, to whom he has
acknowledged obligations of the profoundest nature; and, in particular,
this mighty one, through which we also, the admirers and the
worshippers of this great poet, are become equally her debtors--that,
whereas the intellect of Wordsworth was, by its original tendency, too
stern, too austere, too much enamoured of an ascetic harsh sublimity,
she it was--the lady who paced by his side continually through sylvan
and mountain tracks, in Highland glens, and in the dim recesses of
German charcoal-burners--that first _couched_ his eye to the sense of
beauty, humanized him by the gentler charities, and engrafted, with
her delicate female touch, those graces upon the ruder growths of
his nature which have since clothed the forest of his genius with a
foliage corresponding in loveliness and beauty to the strength of its
boughs and the massiness of its trunks. The greatest deductions from
Miss Wordsworth's attractions, and from the exceeding interest which
surrounded her in right of her character, of her history, and of the
relation which she fulfilled towards her brother, were the glancing
quickness of her motions, and other circumstances in her deportment
(such as her stooping attitude when walking), which gave an ungraceful,
and even an unsexual character to her appearance when out-of-doors.
She did not cultivate the graces which preside over the person and its
carriage. But, on the other hand, she was a person of very remarkable
endowments intellectually; and, in addition to the other great services
which she rendered to her brother, this I may mention, as greater than
all the rest, and it was one which equally operated to the benefit of
every casual companion in a walk--viz. the exceeding sympathy, always
ready and always profound, by which she made all that one could tell
her, all that one could describe, all that one could quote from a
foreign author, reverberate, as it were, _à plusieurs reprises_, to
one's own feelings, by the manifest impression it made upon _hers_. The
pulses of light are not more quick or more inevitable in their flow
and undulation, than were the answering and echoing movements of her
sympathizing attention. Her knowledge of literature was irregular, and
thoroughly unsystematic. She was content to be ignorant of many things;
but what she knew and had really mastered lay where it could not be
disturbed--in the temple of her own most fervid heart.

Such were the two ladies who, with himself and two children, and
at that time one servant, composed the poet's household. They were
both, I believe, about twenty-eight years old; and, if the reader
inquires about the single point which I have left untouched in their
portraiture--viz. the style of their manners--I may say that it was, in
_some_ points, naturally of a plain household simplicity, but every way
pleasing, unaffected, and (as respects Mrs. Wordsworth) even dignified.
Few persons had seen so little as this lady of the world. She had seen
nothing of high life, for she had seen little of any. Consequently, she
was unacquainted with the conventional modes of behaviour, prescribed
in particular situations by high breeding. But, as these modes are
little more than the product of dispassionate good sense, applied to
the circumstances of the case, it is surprising how few deficiencies
are perceptible, even to the most vigilant eye--or, at least, essential
deficiencies--in the general demeanour of any unaffected young woman,
acting habitually under a sense of sexual dignity and natural courtesy.
Miss Wordsworth had seen more of life, and even of good company; for
she had lived, when quite a girl, under the protection of Dr. Cookson,
a near relative, canon of Windsor, and a personal favourite of the
Royal Family, especially of George III. Consequently, she ought to
have been the more polished of the two; and yet, from greater natural
aptitudes for refinement of manner in her sister-in-law, and partly,
perhaps, from her more quiet and subdued manner, Mrs. Wordsworth would
have been pronounced very much the more lady-like person.

From the interest which attaches to anybody so nearly connected as
these two ladies with a great poet, I have allowed myself a larger
latitude than else might have been justifiable in describing them. I
now go on with my narrative:--

I was ushered up a little flight of stairs, fourteen in all, to a
little drawing-room, or whatever the reader chooses to call it.
Wordsworth himself has described the fireplace of this room as his

     "Half-kitchen and half-parlour fire."

It was not fully seven feet six inches high, and, in other respects,
pretty nearly of the same dimensions as the rustic hall below. There
was, however, in a small recess, a library of perhaps three hundred
volumes, which seemed to consecrate the room as the poet's study and
composing room; and such occasionally it was. But far oftener he both
studied, as I found, and composed, on the high road. I had not been two
minutes at the fireside, when in came Wordsworth, returning from his
friendly attentions to the travellers below, who, it seemed, had been
over-persuaded by hospitable solicitations to stay for this night in
Grasmere, and to make out the remaining thirteen miles of their road to
Keswick on the following day. Wordsworth entered. And "_what-like_"--to
use a Westmoreland as well as a Scottish expression--"_what-like_"
was Wordsworth? A reviewer in "Tait's Magazine," noticing some recent
collection of literary portraits, gives it as his opinion that Charles
Lamb's head was the finest among them.[96] This remark may have been
justified by the engraved portraits; but, certainly, the critic would
have cancelled it, had he seen the original heads--at least, had he
seen them in youth or in maturity; for Charles Lamb bore age with less
disadvantage to the intellectual expression of his appearance than
Wordsworth, in whom a sanguine complexion had, of late years, usurped
upon the original bronze-tint; and this change of hue, and change in
the quality of skin, had been made fourfold more conspicuous, and more
unfavourable in its general effect, by the harsh contrast of grizzled
hair which had displaced the original brown. No change in personal
appearance ever can have been so unfortunate; for, generally speaking,
whatever other disadvantages old age may bring along with it, one
effect, at least in male subjects, has a compensating tendency--that it
removes any tone of vigour too harsh, and mitigates the expression of
power too unsubdued. But, in Wordsworth, the effect of the change has
been to substitute an air of animal vigour, or, at least, hardiness,
as if derived from constant exposure to the wind and weather, for
the fine sombre complexion which he once wore, resembling that of a
Venetian senator or a Spanish monk.

   [96] Vol. iv. p. 793 (Dec. 1837).--So De Quincey notes; but I may
   add that the paper in _Tait_ referred to was a Review of Books of
   the Season, one of them being "Tilt's Medallion Portraits of
   Modern English Authors, with Illustrative notices by H. F.
   Chorley." The reviewer's words were "The finest head, in every
   way, in the series, is that of Charles Lamb."--M.

Here, however, in describing the personal appearance of Wordsworth,
I go back, of course, to the point of time at which I am speaking.
He was, upon the whole, not a well-made man. His legs were pointedly
condemned by all female connoisseurs in legs; not that they were
bad in any way which _would_ force itself upon your notice--there
was no absolute deformity about them; and undoubtedly they had been
serviceable legs beyond the average standard of human requisition; for
I calculate, upon good data, that with these identical legs Wordsworth
must have traversed a distance of 175,000 to 180,000 English miles--a
mode of exertion which, to him, stood in the stead of alcohol and
all other stimulants whatsoever to the animal spirits; to which,
indeed, he was indebted for a life of unclouded happiness, and we
for much of what is most excellent in his writings. But, useful as
they have proved themselves, the Wordsworthian legs were certainly
not ornamental; and it was really a pity, as I agreed with a lady in
thinking, that he had not another pair for evening dress parties--when
no boots lend their friendly aid to mask our imperfections from the
eyes of female rigorists--those _elegantes formarum spectatrices_. A
sculptor would certainly have disapproved of their contour. But the
worst part of Wordsworth's person was the bust; there was a narrowness
and a droop about the shoulders which became striking, and had an
effect of meanness, when brought into close juxtaposition with a
figure of a more statuesque build. Once on a summer evening, walking
in the Vale of Langdale with Wordsworth, his sister, and Mr. J---, a
native Westmoreland clergyman, I remember that Miss Wordsworth was
positively mortified by the peculiar illustration which settled upon
this defective conformation. Mr. J---, a fine towering figure, six feet
high, massy and columnar in his proportions, happened to be walking, a
little in advance, with Wordsworth; Miss Wordsworth and myself being in
the rear; and from the nature of the conversation which then prevailed
in our front rank, something or other about money, devises, buying and
selling, we of the rear-guard thought it requisite to preserve this
arrangement for a space of three miles or more; during which time, at
intervals, Miss Wordsworth would exclaim, in a tone of vexation, "Is it
possible,--can that be William? How very mean he looks!" And she did
not conceal a mortification that seemed really painful, until I, for my
part, could not forbear laughing outright at the serious interest which
she carried into this trifle. She was, however, right, as regarded
the mere visual judgment. Wordsworth's figure, with all its defects,
was brought into powerful relief by one which had been cast in a more
square and massy mould; and in such a case it impressed a spectator
with a sense of absolute meanness, more especially when viewed from
behind and not counteracted by his countenance; and yet Wordsworth
was of a good height (five feet ten), and not a slender man; on the
contrary, by the side of Southey, his limbs looked thick, almost in a
disproportionate degree. But the total effect of Wordsworth's person
was always worst in a state of motion. Meantime, his face--that was one
which would have made amends for greater defects of figure. Many such,
and finer, I have seen amongst the portraits of Titian, and, in a later
period, amongst those of Vandyke, from the great era of Charles I, as
also from the court of Elizabeth and of Charles II, but none which has
more impressed me in my own time.

Haydon, in his great picture of "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem," has
introduced Wordsworth in the character of a disciple attending his
Divine Master, and Voltaire in the character of a sneering Jewish
elder. This fact is well known; and, as the picture itself is tolerably
well known to the public eye, there are multitudes now living who will
have seen a very impressive likeness of Wordsworth--some consciously,
some not suspecting it. There will, however, always be many who have
_not_ seen any portrait at all of Wordsworth; and therefore I will
describe its general outline and effect. It was a face of the long
order, often falsely classed as oval: but a greater mistake is made by
many people in supposing the long face which prevailed so remarkably in
the Elizabethan and Carolinian periods to have become extinct in our
own. Miss Ferrier, in one of her novels ("Marriage," I think), makes a
Highland girl protest that "no Englishman _with his round face_" shall
ever wean her heart from her own country; but England is not the land
of round faces; and those have observed little, indeed, who think so:
France it is that grows the round face, and in so large a majority of
her provinces that it has become one of the national characteristics.
And the remarkable impression which an Englishman receives from the
eternal recurrence of the orbicular countenance proves of itself,
without any _conscious_ testimony, how the fact stands; in the blind
sense of a monotony, not felt elsewhere, lies involved an argument
that cannot be gainsaid. Besides, even upon an _a priori_ argument,
how is it possible that the long face so prevalent in England, by all
confession, in certain splendid eras of our history, should have had
time, in some five or six generations, to grow extinct? Again, the
character of face varies essentially in different provinces. Wales has
no connexion in this respect with Devonshire, nor Kent with Yorkshire,
nor either with Westmoreland. England, it is true, tends, beyond all
known examples, to a general amalgamation of differences, by means
of its unrivalled freedom of intercourse. Yet, even in England, law
and necessity have opposed as yet such and so many obstacles to the
free diffusion of labour that every generation occupies, by at least
five-sixths of its numbers, the ground of its ancestors.

The movable part of a population is chiefly the higher part; and it
is the lower classes that, in every nation, compose the _fundus_, in
which lies latent the national face, as well as the national character.
Each exists here in racy purity and integrity, not disturbed in the
one by alien intermarriages, nor in the other by novelties of opinion,
or other casual effects, derived from education and reading. Now, look
into this _fundus_, and you will find, in many districts, no such
prevalence of the round orbicular face as some people erroneously
suppose; and in Westmoreland, especially, the ancient long face of
the Elizabethan period, powerfully resembling in all its lineaments
the ancient Roman face, and often (though not so uniformly) the face
of northern Italy in modern times. The face of Sir Walter Scott, as
Irving, the pulpit orator, once remarked to me, was the indigenous
face of the Border: the mouth, which was bad, and the entire lower
part of the face, are seen repeated in thousands of working-men;
or, as Irving chose to illustrate his position, "in thousands of
Border horse-jockeys." In like manner, Wordsworth's face was, if not
absolutely the indigenous face of the Lake district, at any rate a
variety of that face, a modification of that original type. The head
was well filled out; and there, to begin with, was a great advantage
over the head of Charles Lamb, which was absolutely truncated in
the posterior region--sawn off, as it were, by no timid sawyer. The
forehead was not remarkably lofty--and, by the way, some artists, in
their ardour for realizing their phrenological preconceptions, not
suffering nature to surrender quietly and by slow degrees her real
alphabet of signs and hieroglyphic characters, but forcing her language
prematurely into conformity with their own crude speculations, have
given to Sir Walter Scott a pile of forehead which is unpleasing
and cataphysical, in fact, a caricature of anything that is ever
seen in nature, and would (if real) be esteemed a deformity; in one
instance--that which was introduced in some annual or other--the
forehead makes about two-thirds of the entire face. Wordsworth's
forehead is also liable to caricature misrepresentations in these days
of phrenology: but, whatever it may appear to be in any man's fanciful
portrait, the real living forehead, as I have been in the habit of
seeing it for more than five-and-twenty years, is not remarkable
for its height; but it is, perhaps, remarkable for its breadth and
expansive development. Neither are the eyes of Wordsworth "large,"
as is erroneously stated somewhere in "Peter's Letters"[97]; on
the contrary, they are (I think) rather small; but _that_ does not
interfere with their effect, which at times is fine, and suitable to
his intellectual character. At times, I say, for the depth and subtlety
of eyes, even their colouring (as to condensation or dilation), varies
exceedingly with the state of the stomach; and, if young ladies were
aware of the magical transformations which can be wrought in the depth
and sweetness of the eye by a few weeks' walking exercise, I fancy we
should see their habits in this point altered greatly for the better.
I have seen Wordsworth's eyes oftentimes affected powerfully in this
respect; his eyes are not, under any circumstances, bright, lustrous,
or piercing; but, after a long day's toil in walking, I have seen
them assume an appearance the most solemn and spiritual that it is
possible for the human eye to wear. The light which resides in them
is at no time a superficial light; but, under favourable accidents,
it is a light which seems to come from unfathomed depths: in fact, it
is more truly entitled to be held "the light that never was on land
or sea," a light radiating from some far spiritual world, than any
the most idealizing that ever yet a painter's hand created. The nose,
a little arched, is large; which, by the way (according to a natural
phrenology, existing centuries ago amongst some of the lowest amongst
the human species), has always been accounted an unequivocal expression
of animal appetites organically strong. And that expressed the simple
truth: Wordsworth's intellectual passions were fervent and strong: but
they rested upon a basis of preternatural animal sensibility diffused
through _all_ the animal passions (or appetites); and something
of that will be found to hold of all poets who have been great by
original force and power, not (as Virgil) by means of fine management
and exquisite artifice of composition applied to their conceptions.
The mouth, and the whole circumjacencies of the mouth, composed the
strongest feature in Wordsworth's face; there was nothing specially
to be noticed that I know of in the mere outline of the lips; but the
swell and protrusion of the parts above and around the mouth are both
noticeable in themselves, and also because they remind me of a very
interesting fact which I discovered about three years after this my
first visit to Wordsworth.

   [97] Lockhart's famous publication of 1819 under the name of
   _Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk_.--M.

Being a great collector of everything relating to Milton, I had
naturally possessed myself, whilst yet very young, of Richardson the
painter's thick octavo volume of notes on the "Paradise Lost."[98] It
happened, however, that my copy, in consequence of that mania for
portrait collecting which has stripped so many English classics of
their engraved portraits, wanted the portrait of Milton. Subsequently
I ascertained that it ought to have had a very good likeness of the
great poet; and I never rested until I procured a copy of the book
which had not suffered in this respect by the fatal admiration of the
amateur. The particular copy offered to me was one which had been
priced unusually high, on account of the unusually fine specimen which
it contained of the engraved portrait. This, for a particular reason,
I was exceedingly anxious to see; and the reason was--that, according
to an anecdote reported by Richardson himself, this portrait, of all
that were shown to her, was the only one acknowledged by Milton's last
surviving daughter to be a strong likeness of her father. And her
involuntary gestures concurred with her deliberate words:--for, on
seeing all the rest, she was silent and inanimate; but the very instant
she beheld that crayon drawing from which is derived the engraved
head in Richardson's book, she burst out into a rapture of passionate
recognition; exclaiming--"That is my father! that is my dear father!"
Naturally, therefore, after such a testimony, so much stronger than any
other person in the world could offer to the authentic value of this
portrait, I was eager to see it.[99]

   [98] Jonathan Richardson (born about 1665, died 1745) published in
   1734 a volume of Explanatory Notes and Remarks on _Paradise Lost_,
   with a Life of Milton, containing particulars which Richardson had
   collected about Milton personally.--M.

   [99] It was between 1721 and 1725, when Mrs. Deborah Clarke,
   Milton's youngest and only surviving daughter, was living in old
   age and in very humble circumstances in Moorfields, London, that
   the engraver Vertue and others went to see her for the special
   purpose of consulting her about portraits of her father. Some that
   were shown her she rejected at once; but one "crayon drawing"
   moved her in the manner which De Quincey reports. This is the
   portrait which came into Richardson's possession; and after
   Richardson's death in 1745 it was acquired by Jacob Tonson
   tertius, of the Tonson publishing family. There seems to be little
   doubt that it was a drawing of Milton from the life by Faithorne
   about 1670, when Milton's _History of Britain_ appeared with that
   portrait of him by Faithorne which is the only authentic print of
   him in later life, and worth all the other current portraits put
   together. Faithorne seems to have made two drawings, closely
   resembling each other, of Milton,--that (now lost) from which the
   engraving was made for the _History of Britain_, and this other
   "crayon drawing" which Richardson possessed. Richardson's
   reproduction of it in his book is spoilt by a laureate wreath and
   other flummery about the head; and the only genuine copy of it
   known to me is a beautiful one prefixed to Mr. Leigh Sotheby's
   sumptuous volume entitled _Ramblings in Elucidation of the
   Autograph of Milton_, published in 1871. The face there is
   identically the same in essentials as that in the Faithorne
   engraving of 1670, though somewhat less sad in expression; and the
   two drawings must have been by the same hand.--M.

Judge of my astonishment when, in this portrait of Milton, I saw a
likeness nearly perfect of Wordsworth, better by much than any which I
have since seen of those expressly painted for himself. The likeness
is tolerably preserved in that by Carruthers, in which one of the
little Rydal waterfalls, &c., composes a background; yet this is much
inferior, as a mere portrait of Wordsworth, to the Richardson head of
Milton; and this, I believe, is the last which represents Wordsworth
in the vigour of his power. The rest, which I have not seen, may be
better as works of art (for anything I know to the contrary), but they
must labour under the great disadvantage of presenting the features
when "defeatured," in the degree and the way I have described, by
the peculiar ravages of old age, as it affects this family; for it
is noticed of the Wordsworths, by those who are familiar with their
peculiarities, that in their very blood and constitutional differences
lie hidden causes that are able, in some mysterious way,

         "Those shocks of passion to prepare
     That kill the bloom before its time,
     And blanch, without the owner's crime,
         The most resplendent hair."

Some people, it is notorious, live faster by much than others, the
oil is burned out sooner in one constitution than another: and the
cause of this may be various; but in the Wordsworths one part of the
cause is, no doubt, the secret fire of a temperament too fervid; the
self-consuming energies of the brain, that gnaw at the heart and
life-strings for ever. In that account which "The Excursion" presents
to us of an imaginary Scotsman who, to still the tumult of his heart,
when visiting the cataracts of a mountainous region, obliges himself
to study the laws of light and colour as they affect the rainbow of
the stormy waters, vainly attempting to mitigate the fever which
consumed him by entangling his mind in profound speculations; raising
a cross-fire of artillery from the subtilizing intellect, under the
vain conceit that in this way he could silence the mighty battery of
his impassioned heart: there we read a picture of Wordsworth and his
own youth. In Miss Wordsworth every thoughtful observer might read the
same self-consuming style of thought. And the effect upon each was so
powerful for the promotion of a premature old age, and of a premature
expression of old age, that strangers invariably supposed them fifteen
to twenty years older than they were. And I remember Wordsworth once
laughingly reporting to me, on returning from a short journey in 1809,
a little personal anecdote, which sufficiently showed what was the
spontaneous impression upon that subject of casual strangers, whose
feelings were not confused by previous knowledge of the truth. He
was travelling by a stage-coach, and seated outside, amongst a good
half-dozen of fellow-passengers. One of these, an elderly man, who
confessed to having passed the grand climacterical year (9 multiplied
into 7) of 63, though he did not say precisely by how many years, said
to Wordsworth, upon some anticipations which they had been mutually
discussing of changes likely to result from enclosures, &c., then going
on or projecting--"Ay, ay, another dozen of years will show us strange
sights; but you and I can hardly expect to see them."--"How so?" said
Wordsworth. "How so, my friend? How old do you take me to be?"--"Oh, I
beg pardon," said the other; "I meant no offence--but what?" looking
at Wordsworth more attentively--"you'll never see threescore, I'm of
opinion"; meaning to say that Wordsworth _had_ seen it already. And, to
show that he was not singular in so thinking, he appealed to all the
other passengers; and the motion passed (_nem. con._) that Wordsworth
was rather over than under sixty. Upon this he told them the literal
truth--that he had not yet accomplished his thirty-ninth year. "God
bless me!" said the climacterical man; "so then, after all, you'll have
a chance to see your childer get up like, and get settled! Only to
think of that!" And so closed the conversation, leaving to Wordsworth
an undeniable record of his own prematurely expressed old age in this
unaffected astonishment, amongst a whole party of plain men, that he
could really belong to a generation of the forward-looking, who live
by hope; and might reasonably expect to see a child of seven years
old matured into a man. And yet, as Wordsworth lived into his 82d
year,[100] it is plain that the premature expression of decay does not
argue any real decay.

   [100] Into his 81st only.--M.

Returning to the question of portraits, I would observe that this
Richardson engraving of Milton has the advantage of presenting, not
only by far the best likeness of Wordsworth, but of Wordsworth in the
prime of his powers--a point essential in the case of one so liable to
premature decay. It may be supposed that I took an early opportunity
of carrying the book down to Grasmere, and calling for the opinions
of Wordsworth's family upon this most remarkable coincidence. Not one
member of that family but was as much impressed as myself with the
accuracy of the likeness. All the peculiarities even were retained--a
drooping appearance of the eyelids, that remarkable swell which I
have noticed about the mouth, the way in which the hair lay upon the
forehead. In two points only there was a deviation from the rigorous
truth of Wordsworth's features--the face was a little too short and
too broad, and the eyes were too large. There was also a wreath of
laurel about the head, which (as Wordsworth remarked) disturbed the
natural expression of the whole picture[101]; else, and with these few
allowances, he also admitted that the resemblance was, _for that period
of his life_, perfect, or as nearly so as art could accomplish.

   [101] See footnote (99), p. 247.--M.

I have gone into so large and circumstantial a review of my
recollections on this point as would have been trifling and tedious
in excess, had these recollections related to a less important man;
but I have a certain knowledge that the least of them will possess a
lasting and a growing interest in connexion with William Wordsworth.
How peculiar, how different from the interest which we grant to the
ideas of a great philosopher, a great mathematician, or a great
reformer, is that burning interest which settles on the great poets
who have made themselves necessary to the human heart; who have first
brought into consciousness, and have clothed in words, those grand
catholic feelings that belong to the grand catholic situations of life
through all its stages; who have clothed them in such words that human
wit despairs of bettering them! Mighty were the powers, solemn and
serene is the memory, of Archimedes; and Apollonius shines like "the
starry Galileo" in the firmament of human genius; yet how frosty is
the feeling associated with these names by comparison with that which,
upon every sunny lawn, by the side of every ancient forest, even in the
farthest depths of Canada, many a young innocent girl, perhaps at this
very moment--looking now with fear to the dark recesses of the infinite
forest, and now with love to the pages of the infinite poet, until the
fear is absorbed and forgotten in the love--cherishes in her heart for
the name and person of Shakspere!

The English language is travelling fast towards the fulfilment of
its destiny. Through the influence of the dreadful Republic[102]
that within the thirty last years has run through all the stages of
infancy into the first stage of maturity, and through the English
colonies--African, Canadian, Indian, Australian--the English language
(and, therefore, the English literature) is running forward towards its
ultimate mission of eating up, like Aaron's rod, all other languages.
Even the German and the Spanish will inevitably sink before it; perhaps
within 100 or 150 years. In the recesses of California, in the vast
solitudes of Australia, _The Churchyard amongst the Mountains_, from
Wordsworth's "Excursion," and many a scene of his shorter poems, will
be read, even as now Shakspere is read amongst the forests of Canada.
All which relates to the writer of these poems will then bear a value
of the same kind as that which attaches to our personal memorials
(unhappily so slender) of Shakspere.

   [102] Not many months ago, the blind hostility of the Irish
   newspaper editors in America forged a ludicrous estimate of the
   Irish numerical preponderance in the United States, from which it
   was inferred, as at least a possibility, that the Irish Celtic
   language might come to dispute the pre-eminence with the English.
   Others anticipated the same destiny for the German. But, in the
   meantime, the unresting career of the law-courts, of commerce, and
   of the national senate, that cannot suspend themselves for an
   hour, reduce the case to this dilemma: If the Irish and the
   Germans in the United States adapt their general schemes of
   education to the service of their public ambition, they must
   begin by training themselves to the use of the language now
   prevailing on all the available stages of ambition. On the other
   hand, by refusing to do this, they lose in the very outset every
   point of advantage. In other words, adopting the English, they
   renounce the contest--_not_ adopting it, they disqualify
   themselves for the contest.

Let me now attempt to trace, in a brief outline, the chief incidents
in the life of William Wordsworth, which are interesting, not only in
virtue of their illustrious subject, but also as exhibiting a most
remarkable (almost a providential) arrangement of circumstances, all
tending to one result--that of insulating from worldly cares, and
carrying onward from childhood to the grave, in a state of serene
happiness, one who was unfitted for daily toil, and, at all events,
who could not, under such demands upon his time and anxieties, have
prosecuted those genial labours in which all mankind have an interest.

       *       *       *       *       *

William Wordsworth was born[103] at Cockermouth, a small town of
Cumberland, lying about a dozen miles to the north-west of Keswick,
on the high road from that town to Whitehaven. His father was a
solicitor, and acted as an agent for that Lord Lonsdale, the immediate
predecessor of the present,[104] who is not unfrequently described by
those who still remember him, as "the bad Lord Lonsdale." In what was
he bad? Chiefly, I believe, in this--that, being a man of great local
power, founded on his rank, on his official station of Lord-Lieutenant
over two counties, and on a very large estate, he used his power at
times in a most oppressive way. I have heard it said that he was mad;
and, at any rate, he was inordinately capricious--capricious even to
eccentricity. But, perhaps, his madness was nothing more than the
intemperance of a haughty and a headstrong will, encouraged by the
consciousness of power, and tempted to abuses of it by the abject
servility which poverty and dependence presented in one direction,
embittering the contrast of that defiance which inevitably faced him in
another, throughout a land of freedom and amongst spirits as haughty
as his own. He was a true feudal chieftain; and, in the very approaches
to his mansion, in the style of his equipage, or whatever else was
likely to meet the public eye, he delighted to express his disdain of
modern refinements, and the haughty carelessness of his magnificence.
The coach in which he used to visit Penrith, the nearest town to his
principal house of Lowther, was old and neglected; his horses fine, but
untrimmed; and such was the impression diffused about him by his gloomy
temper and his habits of oppression, that the streets were silent as
he traversed them, and an awe sat upon many faces (so, at least, I
have heard a Penrith contemporary of the old despot declare), pretty
much like that which may be supposed to attend the entry into a guilty
town of some royal commission for trying state criminals. In his park
you saw some of the most magnificent timber in the kingdom--trees that
were coeval with the feuds of York and Lancaster, yews that possibly
had furnished bows to Coeur de Lion, and oaks that might have built
a navy. All was savage grandeur about these native forests: their
sweeping lawns and glades had been unapproached, for centuries it might
be, by the hand of art; and amongst them roamed--not the timid fallow
deer--but thundering droves of wild horses.

   [103] 7th April 1770.--M.

   [104] "_The present_":--This was written about 1835, when the
   present Earl of Lonsdale meant the late Earl.

Lord Lonsdale went to London less frequently than else he might have
done, because at home he was allowed to forget that in this world
there was any greater man than himself. Even in London, however, his
haughty injustice found occasions for making itself known. On a court
day (I revive an anecdote once familiarly known), St. James's Street
was lined by cavalry, and the orders were peremptory that no carriages
should be allowed to pass, except those which were carrying parties
to court. Whether it were by accident or by way of wilfully provoking
such a collision, Lord Lonsdale's carriage advanced; and the coachman,
in obedience to orders shouted out from the window, was turning down
the forbidden route, when a trooper rode up to the horses' heads,
and stopped them; the thundering menaces of Lord Lonsdale perplexed
the soldier, who did not know but he might be bringing himself into
a scrape by persisting in his opposition; but the officer on duty,
observing the scene, rode up, and, in a determined tone, enforced the
order, causing two of his men to turn the horses' heads round into
Piccadilly. Lord Lonsdale threw his card to the officer, and a duel
followed; in which, however, the outrageous injustice of his lordship
met with a pointed rebuke; for the first person whom he summoned to
his aid, in the quality of second, though a friend, and, I believe,
a relative of his own, declined to sanction by any interference so
scandalous a quarrel with an officer for simply executing an official
duty. In this dilemma (for probably he was aware that few military men
would fail to take the same disapproving view of the affair) he applied
to the present[105] Earl of Lonsdale, then Sir William Lowther. Either
there must have been some needless discourtesy in the officer's mode
of fulfilling his duty, or else Sir William thought the necessity of
the case, however wantonly provoked, a sufficient justification for
a relative giving his assistance, even under circumstances of such
egregious injustice. At any rate, it is due to Sir William, in mere
candour, to suppose that he did nothing in this instance but what his
conscience approved; seeing that in all others his conduct has been
such as to win him the universal respect of the two counties in which
he is best known. He it was that acted as second; and, by a will which
is said to have been dated the same day, he became eventually possessed
of a large property, which did not necessarily accompany the title.

   [105] Who must now (1854) be classed as the _late_ Earl.

Another anecdote is told of the same Lord Lonsdale which expresses,
in a more eccentric way, and a way that to many people will be
affecting--to some shocking--the moody energy of his passions.
He loved, with passionate fervour, a fine young woman, of humble
parentage, in a Cumberland farmhouse. Her he had persuaded to leave
her father, and put herself under his protection. Whilst yet young and
beautiful, she died: Lord Lonsdale's sorrow was profound; he could not
bear the thought of a final parting from that face which had become so
familiar to his heart: he caused her to be embalmed; a glass was placed
over her features; and at intervals, when his thoughts reverted to her
memory, he found a consolation (or perhaps a luxurious irritation) of
his sorrow in visiting this sad memorial of his former happiness.
This story, which I have often heard repeated by the country-people
of Cumberland, strengthened the general feeling of this eccentric
nobleman's self-willed character, though in this instance complicated
with a trait of character that argued nobler capacities. By what rules
he guided himself in dealing with the various lawyers, agents, or
stewards whom his extensive estates brought into a dependency upon
his justice or his moderation--whether, in fact, he had no rule, but
left all to accident or caprice--I have never learned. Generally, I
have heard it said that in some years of his life he resisted the
payment of all bills indiscriminately which he had any colourable plea
for supposing to contain overcharges; some fared ill, because they
were neighbours, and his lordship could say that "he knew them to be
knaves"; others fared worse, because they were so remote that "how
could his lordship know what they were?" Of this number, and possibly
for this reason left unpaid, was Wordsworth's father. He died whilst
his four sons and one daughter were yet helpless children, leaving
to them respectable fortunes, but which, as yet, were unrealized and
tolerably hypothetic, as they happened to depend upon so shadowy a
basis as the justice of Lord Lonsdale. The executors of the will,
and trustees of the children's interests, in one point acted wisely:
foreseeing the result of a legal contest with so potent a defendant
as this leviathan of two counties, and that, under any nominal award,
the whole estate of the orphans might be swallowed up in the costs
of any suit that should be carried into Chancery, they prudently
withdrew from all active measures of opposition, confiding the event
to Lord Lonsdale's returning sense of justice. Unfortunately for that
nobleman's reputation, and also, as was thought, for the children's
prosperity, before this somewhat rusty quality of justice could have
time to operate, his lordship died.

However, for once the world was wrong in its malicious anticipations:
the successor to Lord Lonsdale's titles and Cumberland estates was
made aware of the entire case, in all its circumstances; and he very
honourably gave directions for full restitution being made. This
was done; and in one respect the result was more fortunate for the
children than if they had been trained from youth to rely upon their
expectations: for, by the time this repayment was made, three out of
the five children were already settled in life, with the very amplest
prospects opening before them--_so_ ample as to make their private
patrimonial fortunes of inconsiderable importance in their eyes; and
very probably the withholding of their inheritance it was, however
unjust, and however little contemplated as an occasion of any such
effect, that urged these three persons to the exertions requisite
for their present success. Two only of the children remained to whom
the restoration of their patrimony was a matter of grave importance;
but it was precisely those two whom no circumstances could have made
independent of their hereditary means by personal exertions--viz.
William Wordsworth, the poet, and Dorothy, the sole daughter of the
house. The three others were:--Richard, the eldest: he had become a
thriving solicitor, at one of the inns of court in London; and, if
he died only moderately rich, and much below the expectations of his
acquaintance, in the final result of his laborious life, it was because
he was moderate in his desires, and, in his later years, reverting
to the pastoral region of his infancy and boyhood, chose rather to
sit down by a hearth of his own amongst the Cumberland mountains, and
wisely to woo the deities of domestic pleasures and health, than to
follow the chase after wealth in the feverish crowds of the capital.
The third son (I believe) was Christopher (Dr. Wordsworth), who, at an
early age, became a man of importance in the English Church, being made
one of the chaplains and librarians of the Archbishop of Canterbury
(Dr. Manners Sutton, father of the late Speaker, Lord Canterbury). He
has since risen to the important and dignified station--once held by
Barrow, and afterwards by Bentley--of Master of Trinity in Cambridge.
Trinity in Oxford is not a first-rate college; but Trinity, Cambridge,
answers in rank and authority to Christ Church in Oxford; and to be the
head of that college is rightly considered a very splendid distinction.

Dr. Wordsworth has distinguished himself as an author by a very useful
republication, entitled, "Ecclesiastical Biography," which he has
enriched with valuable notes. And in his own person, besides other
works more professional, he is the author of one very interesting
work of historical research upon the difficult question of "Who wrote
the 'Eicon Basilike'?" a question still unsettled, but much nearer
to a settlement, in consequence of the strong presumptions which Dr.
Wordsworth has adduced on behalf of the King's claim.[106]

   [106] "_Eicon Basilike_":--By the way, in the lamented Eliot
   Warburton's "Prince Rupert," this book, by a very excusable
   mistake, is always cited as the "Eicon Basili_con_": he was
   thinking of the "Doron Basilicon," written by Charles's father:
   each of the nouns _Eicon_ and _Doron_, having the same terminal
   syllable--_on_--it was most excusable to forget that the first
   belonged to an imparisyllabic declension, so as to be feminine,
   the second not so; which made it neuter. With respect to the great
   standing question as to the authorship of the work, I have myself
   always held that the natural freedom of judgment in this case has
   been intercepted by one strong prepossession (entirely false) from
   the very beginning. The minds of all people have been pre-occupied
   with the notion that Dr. Gauden, the reputed author, obtained his
   bishopric confessedly on the credit of that service. Lord
   Clarendon, it is said, who hated the Doctor, nevertheless gave him
   a bishopric, on the sole ground of his having written the "Eicon."
   The inference therefore is that the Prime Minister, who gave so
   reluctantly, must have given under an irresistible weight of proof
   that the Doctor really had done the work for which so unwillingly
   he paid him. Any shade of doubt, such as could have justified Lord
   Clarendon in suspending this gift, would have been eagerly
   snatched at. Such a shade, therefore, there was not. Meantime the
   whole of this reasoning rests upon a false assumption: Dr. Gauden
   did _not_ owe his bishopric to a belief (true or false) that he
   had written the "Eicon." The bishopric was given on another
   account: consequently it cannot, in any way of using the fact, at
   all affect the presumptions, small or great, which may exist
   separately for or against the Doctor's claim on that head.--[So
   far De Quincey; but let not the reader trust to him too much in
   this matter. The evidence is overwhelming that Clarendon gave
   Gauden his bishopric after the Restoration because he believed
   Gauden to have been the author of the _Eikon Basilike_ and dared
   not face Gauden's threats of revelations on the subject if
   promotion were refused him; and the evidence is conclusive, all
   Dr. Wordsworth's arguments notwithstanding, that Gauden _was_ the
   real author of the book.--M.]

The fourth and youngest son, John, was in the service of the East India
Company, and perished most unhappily, at the very outset of the voyage
which he had meant to be his last, off the coast of Dorsetshire, in the
Company's ship _Abergavenny_. A calumny was current in some quarters,
that Captain Wordsworth was in a state of intoxication at the time
of the calamity. But the printed report of the affair, revised by
survivors, entirely disproves this calumny; which, besides, was in
itself incredible to all who were acquainted with Captain Wordsworth's
most temperate and even philosophic habits of life. So peculiarly,
indeed, was Captain Wordsworth's temperament, and the whole system of
his life, coloured by a grave and meditative turn of thought, that
amongst his brother officers in the Company's service he bore the
surname of "The Philosopher." And William Wordsworth, the poet, not
only always spoke of him with a sort of respect that argued him to have
been no ordinary man, but he has frequently assured me of one fact
which, as implying some want of sincerity in himself, gave me pain
to hear--viz. that in the fine lines entitled "The Happy Warrior,"
reciting the main elements which enter into the composition of a hero,
he had in view chiefly his brother John's character. That was true, I
daresay, but it was inconsistent in some measure with the note attached
to the lines, by which the reader learns that it was out of reverence
for Lord Nelson, as one who transcended the estimate here made, that
the poem had not been openly connected with his name, as the real
suggester of the thoughts. Now, privately, though still professing a
lively admiration for the mighty Admiral, as one of the few men who
carried into his professional labours a real and vivid genius (and thus
far Wordsworth often testified a deep admiration for Lord Nelson), yet,
in reference to these particular lines, he uniformly declared that Lord
Nelson was much below the ideal there contemplated, and that, in fact,
it had been suggested by the recollection of his brother. But, if so,
why should it have been dissembled? And surely, in some of the finest
passages, this cannot be so; for example, when he makes it one trait of
the heaven-born hero that he, if called upon to face some mighty day of

                   "To which Heaven has joined
     Great issues, good or bad, for human kind--
     Is happy as a lover, and attired
     With sudden brightness, like a man inspired"--

then, at least, he must have had Lord Nelson's idea predominating in
his thoughts; for Captain Wordsworth was scarcely tried in such a
situation. There can be no doubt, however, that he merited the praises
of his brother; and it was indeed an idle tale that he should first of
all deviate from this philosophic temperance upon an occasion where
his utmost energies and the fullest self-possession were all likely
to prove little enough. In reality it was the pilot, the incompetent
pilot, who caused the fatal catastrophe;--"O pilot, you have ruined
me!" were amongst the last words that Captain Wordsworth was heard to
utter--pathetic words, and fit for him, "a meek man and a brave," to
use in addressing a last reproach to one who, not through misfortune
or overruling will of Providence, but through miserable conceit and
unprincipled levity, had brought total ruin upon so many gallant
countrymen. Captain Wordsworth might have saved his own life; but the
perfect loyalty of his nature to the claims upon him, that sublime
fidelity to duty which is so often found amongst men of his profession,
kept him to the last upon the wreck; and, after _that_, it is probable
that the almost total wreck of his own fortunes (which, but for this
overthrow, would have amounted to twenty thousand pounds, upon the
successful termination of this one voyage), but still more the total
ruin of the new and splendid Indiaman confided to his care, had so much
dejected his spirits that he was not in a condition for making such
efforts as, under a more hopeful prospect, he might have been able to
make. Six weeks his body lay unrecovered; at the end of that time,
it was found, and carried to the Isle of Wight, and buried in close
neighbourhood to the quiet fields which he had so recently described
in letters to his sister at Grasmere as a Paradise of English peace,
to which his mind would be likely oftentimes to revert amidst the
agitations of the sea.

Such were the modes of life pursued by three of the orphan children:
such the termination of life to the youngest. Meantime, the one
daughter of the house was reared liberally, in the family of a relative
at Windsor; and she might have pursued a quiet and decorous career, of
a character, perhaps, somewhat tame, under the same dignified auspices;
but, at an early age, her good angel threw open to her a vista of
nobler prospects, in the opportunity which then arose, and which she
did not hesitate to seize, of becoming the companion, through a life
of delightful wanderings--of what, to her more elevated friends, seemed
little short of vagrancy--the companion and confidential friend, and,
with a view to the enlargement of her own intellect, the pupil, of a
brother, the most original and most meditative man of his own age.

William had passed his infancy on the very margin of the Lake district,
just six miles, in fact, beyond the rocky screen of Whinlatter, and
within one hour's ride of Bassenthwaite Water. To those who live in the
tame scenery of Cockermouth, the blue mountains in the distance, the
sublime peaks of Borrowdale and of Buttermere, raise aloft a signal,
as it were, of a new country, a country of romance and mystery, to
which the thoughts are habitually turning. Children are fascinated and
haunted with vague temptations, when standing on the frontiers of such
a foreign land; and so was Wordsworth fascinated, so haunted. Fortunate
for Wordsworth that, at an early age, he was transferred to a quiet
nook of this lovely district. At the little town of Hawkshead, seated
on the north-west angle of Esthwaite Water, a grammar-school (which, in
English usage, means a school for classical literature) was founded, in
Queen Elizabeth's reign, by Archbishop Sandys, who belonged to the very
ancient family of that name still seated in the neighbourhood. Hither
were sent all the four brothers; and here it was that Wordsworth passed
his life, from the age of nine until the time arrived for his removal
to college. Taking into consideration the peculiar tastes of the
person, and the peculiar advantages of the place, I conceive that no
pupil of a public school can ever have passed a more luxurious boyhood
than Wordsworth. The school discipline was not by many evidences very
strict; the mode of living out of school very much resembled that of
Eton for Oppidans; less elegant, no doubt, and less costly in its
provisions for accommodation, but not less comfortable, and, in that
part of the arrangements which was chiefly Etonian, even more so; for
in both places the boys, instead of being gathered into one fold, and
at night into one or two huge dormitories, were distributed amongst
motherly old "dames," technically so called at Eton, but not at
Hawkshead. In the latter place, agreeably to the inferior scale of the
whole establishment, the houses were smaller, and more cottage-like,
consequently more like private households: and the old lady of the
_ménage_ was more constantly amongst them, providing, with maternal
tenderness and with a professional pride, for the comfort of her young
flock, and protecting the weak from oppression. The humble cares to
which these poor matrons dedicated themselves may be collected from
several allusions scattered through the poems of Wordsworth; that
entitled "Nutting," for instance, in which his own early Spinosistic
feeling is introduced, of a mysterious presence diffused through the
solitudes of woods, a presence that was disturbed by the intrusion of
careless and noisy outrage, and which is brought into a strong relief
by the previous homely picture of the old housewife equipping her young
charge with beggar's weeds, in order to prepare him for a struggle
with thorns and brambles. Indeed, not only the moderate rank of the
boys, and the peculiar kind of relation assumed by these matrons,
equally suggested this humble class of motherly attentions, but the
whole spirit of the place and neighbourhood was favourable to an old
English homeliness of domestic and personal economy. Hawkshead, most
fortunately for its own manners and the primitive style of its habits
even to this day, stands about six miles out of the fashionable line
for the "Lakers."

Esthwaite, though a lovely scene in its summer garniture of woods,
has no features of permanent grandeur to rely upon. A wet or gloomy
day, even in summer, reduces it to little more than a wildish pond,
surrounded by miniature hills: and the sole circumstances which restore
the sense of a romantic region and an Alpine character are the towering
groups of Langdale and Grasmere fells, which look over the little
pastoral barriers of Esthwaite, from distances of eight, ten, and
fourteen miles. Esthwaite, therefore, being no object for itself, and
the sublime head of Coniston being accessible by a road which evades
Hawkshead, few tourists ever trouble the repose of this little village
town. And in the days of which I am speaking (1778-1787) tourists were
as yet few and infrequent to _any_ parts of the country. Mrs. Radcliffe
had not begun to cultivate the sense of the picturesque in her popular
romances; guide-books, with the sole exception of "Gray's Posthumous
Letters," had not arisen to direct public attention to this domestic
Calabria; roads were rude, and, in many instances, not wide enough to
admit post-chaises; but, above all, the whole system of travelling
accommodations was barbarous and antediluvian for the requisitions of
the pampered south. As yet the land had rest; the annual fever did
not shake the very hills; and (which was the happiest immunity of
the whole) false taste, the pseudo-romantic rage, had not violated
the most awful solitudes amongst the ancient hills by opera-house
decorations. Wordsworth, therefore, enjoyed this labyrinth of valleys
in a perfection that no one can have experienced since the opening
of the present century. The whole was one paradise of virgin beauty;
the rare works of man, all over the land, were hoar with the grey
tints of an antique picturesque; nothing was new, nothing was raw and
uncicatrized. Hawkshead, in particular, though tamely seated in itself
and its immediate purlieus, has a most fortunate and central locality,
as regards the best (at least the most interesting) scenes for a
pedestrian rambler. The gorgeous scenery of Borrowdale, the austere
sublimities of Wastdalehead, of Langdalehead, or Mardale--these are too
oppressive, in their colossal proportions and their utter solitudes,
for encouraging a perfectly human interest. Now, taking Hawkshead
as a centre, with a radius of about eight miles, one might describe
a little circular tract which embosoms a perfect network of little
valleys--separate wards or cells, as it were, of one larger valley,
walled in by the great leading mountains of the region. Grasmere,
Easedale, Great and Little Langdale, Tilberthwaite, Yewdale, Elter
Water, Loughrigg Tarn, Skelwith, and many other little quiet nooks, lie
within a single division of this labyrinthine district. All these are
within one summer afternoon's ramble. And amongst these, for the years
of his boyhood, lay the daily excursions of Wordsworth.

I do not conceive that Wordsworth _could_ have been an amiable boy;
he was austere and unsocial, I have reason to think, in his habits;
not generous; and not self-denying. I am pretty certain that no
consideration would ever have induced Wordsworth to burden himself
with a lady's reticule, parasol, shawl, or anything exacting trouble
and attention. Mighty must be the danger which would induce him to
lead her horse by the bridle. Nor would he, without some demur, stop
to offer her his hand over a stile. Freedom--unlimited, careless,
insolent freedom--unoccupied possession of his own arms--absolute
control over his own legs and motions--these have always been so
essential to his comfort, that, in any case where they were likely to
become questionable, he would have declined to make one of the party.
Meantime, we are not to suppose that Wordsworth the boy expressly
sought for solitary scenes of nature amongst woods and mountains with
a direct conscious anticipation of imaginative pleasure, and loving
them with a pure, disinterested love, on their own separate account.
These are feelings beyond boyish nature, or, at all events, beyond
boyish nature trained amidst the selfishness of social intercourse.
Wordsworth, like his companions, haunted the hills and the vales
for the sake of angling, snaring birds, swimming, and sometimes of
hunting, according to the Westmoreland fashion (or the Irish fashion
in Galway), on foot; for riding to the chase is quite impossible,
from the precipitous nature of the ground. It was in the course of
these pursuits, by an indirect effect growing gradually upon him, that
Wordsworth became a passionate lover of nature, at the time when the
growth of his intellectual faculties made it possible that he should
combine those thoughtful passions with the experience of the eye and
the ear.

One of the most interesting among the winter amusements of the
Hawkshead boys was that of skating on the adjacent lake. Esthwaite
Water is not one of the deep lakes, as its neighbours of Windermere,
Coniston, and Grasmere are; consequently, a very slight duration
of frost is sufficient to freeze it into a bearing strength. In
this respect Wordsworth found the same advantages in his boyhood as
afterwards at the University; for the county of Cambridge is generally
liable to shallow waters; and that University breeds more good skaters
than all the rest of England. About the year 1810, by way of expressing
an interest in "The Friend," which was just at that time appearing in
weekly numbers, Wordsworth allowed Coleridge to print an extract from
the poem on his own life, descriptive of the games celebrated upon
the ice of Esthwaite by all who were able to skate: the mimic chases
of hare and hounds, pursued long after the last orange gleam of light
had died away from the western horizon--oftentimes far into the night;
a circumstance which does not speak much for the discipline of the
schools, or rather, perhaps, _does_ speak much for the advantages of a
situation so pure, and free from the usual perils of a town, as could
allow of a discipline so lax. Wordsworth, in this fine descriptive
passage--which I wish that I had at this moment the means of citing,
in order to amplify my account of his earliest tyrocinium--speaks of
himself as frequently wheeling aside from his joyous companions to
cut across the image of a star; and thus, already in the midst of
sportiveness, and by a movement of sportiveness, half unconsciously to
himself expressing the growing necessity of retirement to his habits
of thought.[107] At another period of the year, when the golden summer
allowed the students a long season of early play before the studies of
the day began, he describes himself as roaming, hand-in-hand, with
one companion, along the banks of Esthwaite Water, chanting, with one
voice, the verses of Goldsmith and of Gray--verses which, at the time
of recording the fact, he had come to look upon as either in parts
false in the principles of their composition, or, at any rate, as far
below the tone of high poetic passion; but which, at that time of life,
when the profounder feelings were as yet only germinating, filled them
with an enthusiasm

     "More bright than madness and the dreams of wine."

Meanwhile, how prospered the classical studies which formed the main
business of Wordsworth at Hawkshead? Not, in all probability, very
well; for, though Wordsworth finally became a very sufficient master
of the Latin language, and read certain favourite authors, especially
Horace, with a critical nicety, and with a feeling for the felicities
of his composition, I have reason to think that little of this skill
had been obtained at Hawkshead. As to Greek, that is a language which
Wordsworth never had energy enough to cultivate with effect.

   [107] The following is the passage to which De Quincey refers, as
   it now stands in Wordsworth's autobiographical poem _The Prelude_;
   which, though begun in 1799 and completed in 1805, was not
   published till 1850:--

                           "All shod with steel,
     We hissed along the polished ice in games
     Confederate, imitative of the chase
     And woodland pleasures,--the resounding horn,
     The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.
     So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
     And not a voice was idle; with the din
     Smitten, the precipices rang aloud;
     The leafless trees and every icy crag
     Tinkled like iron; while far distant hills
     Into the tumult sent an alien sound
     Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars
     Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west
     The orange sky of evening died away.
     Not seldom from the uproar I retired
     Into a silent bay, or sportively
     Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
     To cut across the reflex of a star
     That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed
     Upon the glassy plain."

From Hawkshead, and, I believe, after he had entered his eighteenth
year (a time which is tolerably early on the English plan), probably
at the latter end of the year 1787, Wordsworth entered at St.
John's College, Cambridge. St. John's ranks as the second college
in Cambridge--the second as to numbers, and influence, and general
consideration; in the estimation of the Johnians as the first, or
at least as co-equal in all things with Trinity; from which, at any
rate, the general reader will collect that no such absolute supremacy
is accorded to any society in Cambridge as in Oxford is accorded
necessarily to Christ Church. The advantages of a large college are
considerable, both to the idle man, who wishes to lurk unnoticed in the
crowd, and to the brilliant man, whose vanity could not be gratified
by pre-eminence amongst a few. Wordsworth, though not idle as regarded
his own pursuits, was so as regarded the pursuits of the place. With
respect to them he felt--to use his own words--that his hour was not
come; and that his doom for the present was a happy obscurity, which
left him, unvexed by the torments of competition, to the genial
enjoyment of life in its most genial hours.

It will excite some astonishment when I mention that, on coming to
Cambridge, Wordsworth actually assumed the beau, or, in modern slang,
the "dandy." He dressed in silk stockings, had his hair powdered, and
in all things plumed himself on his gentlemanly habits. To those who
remember the slovenly dress of his middle and philosophic life, this
will furnish matter for a smile.

Stranger still it is to tell that, for the first time in his life,
Wordsworth became inebriated at Cambridge. It is but fair to add that
the first time was also the last time. But perhaps the strangest
part of the story is the occasion of this drunkenness; which was in
celebration of his first visit to the very rooms at Christ College once
occupied by Milton--intoxication by way of homage to the most temperate
of men; and this homage offered by one who has turned out himself to
the full as temperate! Every man, meantime, who is not a churl, must
grant a privilege and charter of large enthusiasm to such an occasion.
And an older man than Wordsworth (at that era not fully nineteen), and
a man even without a poet's blood in his veins, might have leave to
forget his sobriety in such circumstances. Besides which, after all, I
have heard from Wordsworth's own lips that he was not too far gone to
attend chapel decorously during the very acmé of his elevation.[108]

   [108] Wordsworth has told the story himself in his _Prelude_,

     "Among the band of my compeers was one
     Whom chance had stationed in the very room
     Honoured by Milton's name. O temperate Bard!
     Be it confest that, for the first time, seated
     Within thy innocent lodge and oratory,
     One of a festive circle, I poured out
     Libations, to thy memory drank, till pride
     And gratitude grew dizzy in a brain
     Never excited by the fumes of wine
     Before that hour, or since. Then, forth I ran
     From the assembly; through a length of streets
     Ran, ostrich-like, to reach our chapel door
     In not a desperate or opprobrious time,
     Albeit long after the importunate bell
     Had stopped, with wearisome Cassandra voice
     No longer haunting the dark winter night....
     Call back, O Friend! a moment to thy mind
     The place itself and fashion of the rites.
     With careless ostentation shouldering up
     My surplice, through the inferior throng I clove
     Of the plain Burghers, who in audience stood
     On the last skirts of their permitted ground,
     Under the pealing organ."

The rooms which Wordsworth occupied at St. John's were singularly
circumstanced; mementoes of what is highest and what is lowest in
human things solicited the eye and the ear all day long. If the
occupant approached the outdoors prospect, in one direction, there was
visible, through the great windows in the adjacent chapel of Trinity,
the statue of Newton "with his silent face and prism," memorials of
the abstracting intellect, serene and absolute, emancipated from
fleshly bonds. On the other hand, immediately below, stood the college
kitchen; and, in that region, "from noon to dewy eve," resounded
the shrill voice of scolding from the female ministers of the head
cook, never suffering the mind to forget one of the meanest amongst
human necessities. Wordsworth, however, as one who passed much of his
time in social gaiety, was less in the way of this annoyance than a
profounder student would have been. Probably he studied little beyond
French and Italian during his Cambridge life; not, however, at any
time forgetting (as I had so much reason to complain, when speaking
of my Oxonian contemporaries) the literature of his own country. It
is true that he took the regular degree of A.B., and in the regular
course; but this was won in those days by a mere nominal examination,
unless where the mathematical attainments of the student prompted his
ambition to contest the splendid distinction of Senior Wrangler. This,
in common with all other honours of the University, is won in our days
with far severer effort than in that age of relaxed discipline; but
at no period could it have been won, let the malicious say what they
will, without an amount of mathematical skill very much beyond what has
ever been exacted of its _alumni_ by any other European University.
Wordsworth was a profound admirer of the sublimer mathematics; at least
of the higher geometry. The secret of this admiration for geometry
lay in the antagonism between this world of bodiless abstraction and
the world of passion. And here I may mention appropriately, and I hope
without any breach of confidence, that, in a great philosophic poem of
Wordsworth's, which is still in MS., and will remain in MS. until after
his death, there is, at the opening of one of the books, a dream, which
reaches the very _ne plus ultra_ of sublimity, in my opinion, expressly
framed to illustrate the eternity, and the independence of all social
modes or fashions of existence, conceded to these two hemispheres, as
it were, that compose the total world of human power--mathematics on
the one hand, poetry on the other.[109]

   [109] The reference is to the Fifth Book of _The Prelude_.--M.

I scarcely know whether I am entitled to quote--as my memory (though
not refreshed by a sight of the poem for more than twenty years) would
well enable me to do--any long extract; but thus much I may allowably
say, as it cannot in any way affect Mr. Wordsworth's interests, that
the form of the dream is as follows; and, by the way, even this form
is not arbitrary; but, with exquisite skill in the art of composition,
is made to arise out of the situation in which the poet had previously
found himself, and is faintly prefigured in the elements of that
situation. He had been reading "Don Quixote" by the sea-side; and,
oppressed by the heat of the sun, he had fallen asleep, whilst gazing
on the barren sands before him. Even in these circumstances of the
case--as, first, the adventurous and half-lunatic knight riding about
the world, on missions of universal philanthropy, and, secondly, the
barren sands of the sea-shore--one may read the germinal principles of
the dream. He dreams that, walking in some sandy wilderness of Africa,
some endless Zahara, he sees at a distance

     "An Arab of the desert, lance in rest,
     Mounted upon a dromedary."

The Arab rides forward to meet him; and the dreamer perceives, in the
countenance of the rider, the agitation of fear, and that he often
looks behind him in a troubled way, whilst in his hand he holds two
books--one of which is "Euclid's Elements"; the other (which is a
book and yet not a book) seeming, in fact, a shell as well as a
book--seeming neither, and yet both at once. The Arab directs him to
apply the shell to his ear; upon which,

     "In an unknown tongue, which yet I understood,"

the dreamer says that he heard

     "A wild prophetic blast of harmony,
     An ode, as if in passion utter'd, that foretold
     Destruction to the people of this earth
     By deluge near at hand."

The Arab, with grave countenance, assures him that it is even so; that
all was true which had been said; and that he himself was riding upon a
divine mission, having it in charge

                         "To bury those two books;
     The one that held acquaintance with the stars,
     ... undisturb'd by Space or Time;
     The other, that was a god, yea, many gods,
     Had voices more than all the winds, and was
     A joy, a consolation, and a hope!"

That is, in effect, his mission is to secure the two great interests of
poetry and mathematics from sharing in the watery ruin. As he talks,
suddenly the dreamer perceives that the Arab's "countenance grew
more disturbed," and that his eye was often reverted; upon which the
dreaming poet also looks along the desert in the same direction; and in
the far horizon he descries "a glittering light." What is it? he asks
of the Arab rider. "It is," said the Arab, "the waters of the earth,"
that even then were travelling on their awful errand. Upon which, the
poet sees this apostle of the desert riding

         "Hurrying o'er the illimitable waste,
     With the fleet waters of a drowning world
     In chase of him: whereat I [meaning the poet] waked in terror,
     And saw the sea before me, and the book
     In which I had been reading at my side."[110]

   [110] On comparing these quotations with the original passages in
   _The Prelude_, one finds that De Quincey, quoting from memory, is
   not exact to the text in any of them save the last.--M.

The sketch I have here given of this sublime dream sufficiently
attests the interest which Wordsworth took in the mathematic studies
of the place, and the exalted privilege which he ascribed to them of
co-eternity with "the vision and the faculty divine" of the poet--the
destiny common to both, of an endless triumph over the ruins of
nature and of time. Meantime, he himself travelled no farther in
these studies than through the six elementary books usually selected
from the fifteen of Euclid. Whatever might be the interests of his
speculative understanding, whatever his admiration, practically he
devoted himself to the more agitating interests of man, social and
political, just then commencing that vast career of revolution which
has never since been still or stationary; interests which in his mind
alternated, nevertheless, with another and different interest, in
the grander forms of external nature, as found amongst mountains and
forests. In obedience to this latter passion it was--for a passion it
had become--that during one of his long Cambridge vacations, stretching
from June to November, he went over to Switzerland and Savoy, for
a pedestrian excursion amongst the Alps; taking with him for his
travelling companion a certain Mr. J----, of whom (excepting that he
is once apostrophized in a sonnet, written at Calais in the year 1802)
I never happened to hear him speak: whence I presume to infer that Mr.
J---- owed this flattering distinction, not so much to any intellectual
graces of his society, as, perhaps, to his powers of administering
"punishment" (in the language of the "fancy") to restive and mutinous
landlords; for such were abroad in those days,--people who presented
huge reckonings with one hand, and with the other a huge cudgel, by
way of opening the traveller's eyes to the propriety of settling them
without demur, and without discount. I do not positively know this to
have been the case; but I have heard Wordsworth speak of the ruffian
landlords who played upon his youth in the Grisons; and, however well
qualified to fight his own battles, he might find, amongst such savage
mountaineers, two combatants better than one.

Wordsworth's route, on this occasion, lay at first through Austrian
Flanders, then (1788, I think) on the fret for an insurrectionary war
against the capricious innovations of the imperial coxcomb, Joseph
II. He passed through the camps then forming, and thence ascended the
Rhine to Switzerland; crossed the Great St. Bernard, visited the Lake
of Como, and other interesting scenes in the north of Italy, where,
by the way, the tourists were benighted in a forest--having, in some
way or other, been misled by the Italian clocks and their peculiar
fashion of striking round to twenty-four o'clock. On his return,
Wordsworth published a quarto pamphlet of verses, describing, with
very considerable effect and brilliancy, the grand scenery amongst
which he had been moving.[111] This poem, as well as another in the
same quarto form, describing the English lake scenery of Westmoreland
and Cumberland, addressed by way of letter "to a young lady" (viz.,
Miss Wordsworth),[112] are remarkable, in the first place, as the
earliest effort of Wordsworth in verse, at least as his earliest
publication; but, in the second place, and still more so, from their
style of composition. "Pure description," even where it cannot be said,
sneeringly, "to hold the place of sense," is so little attractive as
the direct exclusive object of a poem, and in reality it exacts so
powerful an effort on the part of the reader to realize visually,
or make into an apprehensible unity, the scattered elements and
circumstances of external landscapes painted only by words, that,
inevitably, and reasonably, it can never hope to be a popular form
of composition; else it is highly probable that these "Descriptive
Sketches" of Wordsworth, though afterwards condemned as vicious in
their principles of composition by his own maturer taste, would really
have gained him a high momentary notoriety with the public, had they
been fairly brought under its notice; whilst, on the other hand, his
revolutionary principles of composition, and his purer taste, ended in
obtaining for him nothing but scorn and ruffian insolence.

   [111] _Descriptive Sketches during a Pedestrian Tour on the
   Italian, Swiss, and Savoyard Alps._ London, 1793.--M.

   [112] _An Evening Walk: an Epistle in Verse._ London, 1793.--M.

This seems marvellous; but, in fact, it is not so: it seems, I mean,
_primâ facie_, marvellous that the inferior models should be fitted
to gain a far higher reputation; but the secret lies here--that these
were in a style of composition which, if sometimes false, had been
long reconciled to the public feelings, and which, besides, have a
specific charm for certain minds, even apart from all fashions of the
day; whereas, his later poems had to struggle against sympathies long
trained in an opposite direction, to which the recovery of a healthier
tone (even where nature had made it possible) presupposed a difficult
process of weaning, and an effort of discipline for re-organizing the
whole internal economy of the sensibilities that is both painful and
mortifying: for--and that is worthy of deep attention--the misgivings
of any vicious or unhealthy state, the impulses and suspicious
gleams of the truth struggling with cherished error, the instincts
of light conflicting with darkness--these are the real causes of
that hatred and intolerant scorn which is ever awakened by the first
dawnings of new and important systems of truth. Therefore it is, that
Christianity was so much more hated than any mere variety of error.
Therefore are the first feeble struggles of nature towards a sounder
state of health always harsh and painful; for the false system which
this change for the better disturbs had, at least, this soothing
advantage--that it was self-consistent. Therefore, also, was the
Wordsworthian restoration of elementary power, and of a higher or
transcendent truth of nature (or, as some people vaguely expressed
the case, of _simplicity_), received at first with such malignant
disgust. For there was a galvanic awakening in the shock of power, as
it jarred against the ancient system of prejudices, which inevitably
revealed so much of truth as made the mind jealous; enlightened it
enough to descry its own wanderings, but not enough to recover the
right road. The more energetic, the more spasmodically potent, are
the throes of nature towards her own re-establishment in the cases of
suspended animation--by drowning, strangling, &c.--the more keen is the
anguish of revival. And, universally, a transition state is a state
of suffering and disquiet. Meantime, the early poems of Wordsworth,
that _might_ have suited the public taste so much better than his more
serious efforts, if the fashion of the hour, or the sanction of a
leading review, or the _prestige_ of a name, had happened to bring them
under the public eye, did, in fact, drop unnoticed into the market.
Nowhere have I seen them quoted--no, not even since the author's
victorious establishment in the public admiration. The reason may be,
however, that not many copies were printed at first; no subsequent
edition was ever called for; and yet, from growing interest in the
author, every copy of the small impression had been studiously bought
up. Indeed, I myself went to the publisher's (Johnson's) as early as
1805 or 1806, and bought up all the remaining copies (which were but
six or seven of the Foreign Sketches, and two or three of the English),
as presents, and as _future_ curiosities in literature to literary
friends whose interest in Wordsworth might assure one of a due value
being put upon the poems. Were it not for this extreme scarcity,
I am disposed to think that many lines or passages would long ere
this have been made familiar to the public ear. Some are delicately,
some forcibly picturesque; and the selection of circumstances is
occasionally very original and felicitous. In particular, I remember
this one, which presents an accident in rural life that must by
thousands of repetitions have become intimately known to every dweller
in the country, and yet had never before been consciously taken up for
a poet's use. After having described the domestic cock as "sweetly
ferocious"--a prettiness of phraseology which he borrows from an
Italian author--he notices those competitions or defiances which are
so often carried on interchangeably between barn-door cocks from great

     "Echoed by faintly answering farms remote."

This is the beautiful line in which he has caught and preserved so
ordinary an occurrence--one, in fact, of the commonplaces which lend
animation and a moral interest to rural life.

After his return from this Swiss excursion, Wordsworth took up his
parting residence at Cambridge, and prepared for a final adieu to
academic pursuits and academic society.

It was about this period that the French Revolution broke out; and the
reader who would understand its appalling effects--its convulsing,
revolutionary effects upon Wordsworth's heart and soul--should consult
the history of the Solitary, as given by himself in "The Excursion";
for that picture is undoubtedly a leaf from the personal experience of

     "From that dejection I was roused--but how?"

Mighty was the transformation which it wrought in the whole economy of
his thoughts; miraculous almost was the expansion which it gave to his
human sympathies; chiefly in this it showed its effects--in throwing
the thoughts inwards into grand meditations upon man, his final
destiny, his ultimate capacities of elevation; and, secondly, in giving
to the whole system of the thoughts and feelings a firmer tone, and a
sense of the awful _realities_ which surround the mind; by comparison
with which the previous literary tastes seemed (even where they were
fine and elegant, as in Collins or Gray, unless where they had the
self-sufficing reality of religion, as in Cowper) fanciful and trivial.
In all lands this result was accomplished, and at the same time:
Germany, above all, found her new literature the mere creation and
rebound of this great moral tempest; and, in Germany or England alike,
the poetry was so entirely regenerated, thrown into moulds of thought
and of feeling so new, that the poets everywhere felt themselves to be
putting away childish things, and now first, among those of their own
century, entering upon the dignity and the sincere thinking of mature

Wordsworth, it is well known to all who know anything of his history,
felt himself so fascinated by the gorgeous festival era of the
Revolution--that era when the sleeping snakes which afterwards stung
the national felicity were yet covered with flowers--that he went over
to Paris, and spent about one entire year between that city, Orleans,
and Blois. There, in fact, he continued to reside almost too long. He
had been sufficiently connected with public men to have drawn upon
himself some notice from those who afterwards composed the Committee
of Public Safety. And, as an Englishman, when that partiality began
to droop which at an earlier period had protected the English name,
he became an object of gloomy suspicion with those even who would
have grieved that he should fall a victim to undistinguishing popular
violence. Already _for_ England, and in her behalf, he was thought
to be that spy which (as Coleridge tells us in his "Biographia
Literaria") afterwards he was accounted by Mr. Pitt's emissaries, in
the worst of services _against_ her. I doubt, however (let me say it
without impeachment of Coleridge's veracity--for he was easily duped),
this whole story about Mr. Pitt's Somersetshire spies; and it has often
struck me with astonishment that Coleridge should have suffered his
personal pride to take so false a direction as to court the humble
distinction of having been suspected as a conspirator, in those very
years when poor empty tympanies of men, such as Thelwall, Holcroft,
&c., were actually recognised as enemies of the state, and worthy of
a state surveillance, by ministers so blind and grossly misinformed
as, on this point, were Pitt and Dundas. Had I been Coleridge, instead
of saving Mr. Pitt's reputation with posterity, by ascribing to him a
jealousy which he or his agents had not the discernment to cherish, I
would have boldly planted myself upon the fact, the killing fact, that
he had utterly ignored both myself (Coleridge, to wit) and Wordsworth.
Even with Dogberry, _I_ would have insisted upon that--"Set down, also,
that I am an ass!" Clamorous should have been my exultation in this

   [113] The reader, who may happen not to have seen Coleridge's
   "Biographia Literaria," is informed that Coleridge tells a long
   story about a man who followed and dogged himself and Wordsworth
   in all their rural excursions, under a commission (originally
   emanating from Mr. Pitt) for detecting some overt acts of treason,
   or treasonable correspondence, or, in default of either, some
   words of treasonable conversation. Unfortunately for his own
   interests as an active servant, even in a whole month that spy had
   collected nothing at all as the basis of a report, excepting only
   something which they (Coleridge and Wordsworth, to wit) were
   continually saying to each other, now in blame, now in praise, of
   one _Spy Nosy_; and this, praise and blame alike, the honest spy
   very naturally took to himself, seeing that the world accused him
   of having a _nose_ of unreasonable dimensions, and his own
   conscience accused him of being a spy. "Now," says Coleridge, "the
   very fact was that Wordsworth and I were constantly talking about
   Spinosa." This story makes a very good Joe Miller; but, for other
   purposes, is somewhat damaged. However, there is one excellent
   story in the case. Some country gentleman from the neighbourhood
   of Nether Stowey, upon a party happening to discuss the
   probabilities that Wordsworth and Coleridge might be traitors, and
   in correspondence with the French Directory, answered thus:--"Oh,
   as to that Coleridge, he's a rattlebrain, that will say more in a
   week than he will stand to in a twelvemonth. But
   Wordsworth--that's the traitor: why, bless you, he's so close,
   that you'll never hear him open his lips on the subject from
   year's end to year's end!"

In France, however, Wordsworth had a chance, in good earnest, of
passing for the traitor that, in England, no rational person ever
thought him. He had chosen his friends carelessly; nor could any
man, the most sagacious, have chosen them safely, in a time when the
internal schisms of the very same general party brought with them
worse hostilities and more personal perils than even, upon the broader
divisions of party, could have attended the most _ultra_ professions of
anti-national politics, and when the rapid changes of position shifted
the peril from month to month. One individual is especially recorded
by Wordsworth, in the poem on his own life, as a man of the highest
merit, and personal qualities the most brilliant, who ranked first
upon the list of Wordsworth's friends; and this man was so far a safe
friend, at one moment, as he was a republican general--finally, indeed,
a commander-in-chief. This was Beaupuis; and the description of his
character and position is singularly interesting. There is, in fact, a
special value and a use about the case; it opens one's eyes feelingly
to the fact that, even in this thoughtless people, so full of vanity
and levity, nevertheless, the awful temper of the times, and the dread
burden of human interests with which it was charged, had called to a
consciousness of new duties, had summoned to an audit, as if at some
great final tribunal, even the gay, radiant creatures that, under less
solemn auspices, under the reign of a Francis I. or a Louis XIV, would
have been the merest painted butterflies of the court sunshine. This
Beaupuis was a man of superb person--beautiful in a degree which made
him a painter's model, both as to face and figure; and, accordingly, in
a land where conquests of that nature were so easy, and the subjects of
so trifling an effort, he had been distinguished, to his own as well
as the public eyes, by a rapid succession of _bonnes fortunes_ amongst
women. Such, and so glorified by triumphs the most unquestionable and
flattering, had the earthquake of the Revolution found him. From that
moment he had no leisure, not a thought, to bestow upon his former
selfish and frivolous pursuits. He was hurried, as one inspired by some
high apostolic passion, into the service of the unhappy and desolate
serfs amongst his own countrymen--such as are described, at an earlier
date, by Madame de Sevigné, as the victims of feudal institutions;
and one day, as he was walking with Wordsworth in the neighbourhood
of Orleans, and they had turned into a little quiet lane, leading off
from a heath, suddenly they came upon the following spectacle:--A girl,
seventeen or eighteen years old, hunger-bitten, and wasted to a meagre
shadow, was knitting, in a dejected, drooping way; whilst to her arm
was attached, by a rope, the horse, equally famished, that earned the
miserable support of her family. Beaupuis comprehended the scene in a
moment; and, seizing Wordsworth by the arm, he said,--"Dear English
friend!--brother from a nation of freemen!--_that_ it is which is the
curse of our people, in their widest section; and to cure this it is,
as well as to maintain our work against the kings of the earth, that
blood must be shed and tears must flow for many years to come!" At
that time the Revolution had not fulfilled its tendencies; as yet,
the king was on the throne; the fatal 10th of August 1792 had not
dawned; and thus far there was safety for a subject of kings.[114] The
irresistible stream was hurrying forwards. The king fell; and (to pause
for a moment) how divinely is the fact recorded by Wordsworth, in the
MS. poem on his own life, placing the awful scenes past and passing
in Paris under a pathetic relief from the description of the golden,
autumnal day, sleeping in sunshine--

                                   "When I
     Towards the fierce metropolis bent my steps,
     The homeward road to England. From his throne
     The king had fallen," &c.

What a picture does he give of the fury which there possessed the
public mind; of the frenzy which shone in every eye, and through
every gesture; of the stormy groups assembled at the Palais Royal, or
the Tuileries, with "hissing factionists" for ever in their centre,
"hissing" from the self-baffling of their own madness, and incapable
from wrath of speaking clearly; of fear already creeping over the
manners of multitudes; of stealthy movements through back streets;
plotting and counter-plotting in every family; feuds to extermination,
dividing children of the same house for ever; scenes such as those
of the Chapel Royal (now silenced on that _public_ stage), repeating
themselves daily amongst private friends; and, to show the universality
of this maniacal possession--that it was no narrow storm discharging
its fury by local concentration upon a single city, but that it
overspread the whole realm of France--a picture is given, wearing the
same features, of what passed daily at Orleans, Blois, and other towns.
The citizens are described in the attitudes they assumed at the daily
coming in of the post from Paris; the fierce sympathy is portrayed
with which they echoed back the feelings of their compatriots in the
capital: men of all parties had been there up to this time--aristocrats
as well as democrats; and one, in particular, of the former class is
put forward as a representative of his class. This man, duly as the
hour arrived which brought the Parisian newspapers, read restlessly
of the tumults and insults amongst which the Royal Family now passed
their days; of the decrees by which his own order were threatened or
assailed; of the self-expatriation, now continually swelling in amount,
as a measure of despair on the part of myriads, as well priests as
gentry--all this and worse he read in public; and still, as he read,

                       "His hand
     Haunted his sword, like an uneasy spot
     In his own body."

In short, as there never has been so strong a national convulsion
diffused so widely, with equal truth it may be asserted, that no
describer, so powerful, or idealizing so magnificently what he deals
with, has ever been a real living spectator of parallel scenes. The
French, indeed, it may be said, are far enough from being a people
profound in feeling. True; but, of all people, they most exhibit their
feeling on the surface; are the most _demonstrative_ (to use a modern
term), and most of all (except Italians) mark their feelings by outward
expression of gesticulation: not to insist upon the obvious truth--that
even a people of shallow feeling may be deeply moved by tempests which
uproot the forest of a thousand years' growth; by changes in the very
organization of society, such as throw all things, for a time, into one
vast anarchy; and by murderous passions, alternately the effect and
the cause of that same chaotic anarchy. Now, it was in this autumn of
1792, as I have already said, that Wordsworth parted finally from his
illustrious friend--for, all things considered, he may be justly so
entitled--the gallant Beaupuis. This great season of public trial had
searched men's natures; revealed their real hearts; brought into light
and action qualities oftentimes not suspected by their possessors;
and had thrown men, as in elementary states of society, each upon his
own native resources, unaided by the old conventional forces of rank
and birth. Beaupuis had shone to unusual advantage under this general
trial; he had discovered, even to the philosophic eye of Wordsworth,
a depth of benignity very unusual in a Frenchman; and not of local,
contracted benignity, but of large, illimitable, apostolic devotion to
the service of the poor and the oppressed--a fact the more remarkable
as he had all the pretensions in his own person of high birth and
high rank, and, so far as he had any personal interest embarked in
the struggle, should have allied himself with the aristocracy. But of
selfishness in any shape he had no vestiges; or, if he had, it showed
itself in a slight tinge of vanity; yet, no--it was not vanity, but a
radiant quickness of sympathy with the eye which expressed admiring
love--sole relic of the chivalrous devotion once dedicated to the
service of ladies. Now, again, he put on the garb of chivalry; it
was a chivalry the noblest in the world, which opened his ear to the
Pariah and the oppressed all over his misorganized country. A more
apostolic fervour of holy zealotry in this great cause had not been
seen since the days of Bartholomew las Casas, who showed the same
excess of feeling in another direction. This sublime dedication of his
being to a cause which, in his conception of it, extinguished all petty
considerations for himself, and made him thenceforwards a creature of
the national will--"a son of France," in a more eminent and loftier
sense than according to the heraldry of Europe--had extinguished even
his sensibility to the voice of worldly honour. "Injuries," says

     Made him more gracious."

And so utterly had he submitted his own will or separate interests
to the transcendent voice of his country, which, in the main, he
believed to be now speaking authentically for the first time since the
foundations of Christendom, that, even against the motions of his own
heart, he adopted the hatreds of the young republic, growing cruel in
his purposes towards the ancient oppressor, out of very excess of love
for the oppressed; and, against the voice of his own order, as well as
in stern oblivion of many early friendships, he became the champion
of democracy in the struggle everywhere commencing with prejudice
or feudal privilege. Nay, he went so far upon the line of this new
crusade against the evils of the world that he even accepted, with a
conscientious defiance of his own quiet homage to the erring spirit of
loyalty embarked upon that cause, a commission in the Republican armies
preparing to move against La Vendée; and, finally, in that cause,
as commander-in-chief, he laid down his life. "He perished," says

     "He perished fighting, in supreme command,
     Upon the banks of the unhappy Loire."

Homewards fled all the English from a land which now was fast making
ready the shambles for its noblest citizens. Thither also came
Wordsworth; and there he spent his time for a year and more chiefly
in London, overwhelmed with shame and despondency for the disgrace
and scandal brought upon Liberty by the atrocities committed in that
holy name. Upon this subject he dwells with deep emotion in the poem
on his own life; and he records the awful triumph for retribution
accomplished which possessed him when crossing the sands of the great
Bay of Morecamb from Lancaster to Ulverstone, and hearing from a
horseman who passed him, in reply to the question--_Was there any
news?_--"Yes, that Robespierre had perished." Immediately a passion
seized him, a transport of almost epileptic fervour, prompting him, as
he stood alone upon this perilous[115] waste of sands, to shout aloud
anthems of thanksgiving for this great vindication of eternal justice.
Still, though justice was done upon one great traitor to the cause,
the cause itself was overcast with clouds too heavily to find support
and employment for the hopes of a poet who had believed in a golden
era ready to open upon the prospects of human nature. It gratified and
solaced his heart that the indignation of mankind should have wreaked
itself upon the chief monsters that had outraged their nature and
their hopes; but for the present he found it necessary to comfort his
disappointment by turning away from politics to studies less capable of
deceiving his expectations.

   [114] How little has any adequate power as yet approached this
   great theme! Not the Grecian stage, not "the dark sorrows of the
   line of Thebes," in any of its scenes, unfold such tragical
   grouping of circumstances and situations as may be gathered from
   the memoirs of the time. The galleries and vast staircases of
   Versailles, at early dawn, on some of the greatest days--filled
   with dreadful faces--the figure of the Duke of Orleans obscurely
   detected amongst them--the growing fury--the growing panic--the
   blind tumult--and the dimness of the event,--all make up a scene
   worthy to blend with our images of Babylon or of Nineveh with the
   enemy in all her gates, Memphis or Jerusalem in their agonies.
   But, amongst all the exponents of the growing agitation that
   besieged the public mind, none is so profoundly impressive as the
   scene (every Sunday renewed) at the Chapel Royal. Even in the most
   penitential of the litanies, in the presence when most immediately
   confessed of God himself--when the antiphonies are chanted, one
   party singing, with fury and gnashing of teeth, _Salvum fac
   Regem_, and another, with equal hatred and fervour, answering _Et
   Reginam_ (the poor queen at this time engrossing the popular
   hatred)--the organ roared into thunder--the semi-chorus swelled
   into shouting--the menaces into defiance--again the crashing
   semi-choir sang with shouts their _Salvum fac Regem_--again the
   vengeful antiphony hurled back its _Et Reginam_--and one person,
   an eye-witness of these scenes, which mounted in violence on each
   successive Sunday, declares that oftentimes the semi-choral bodies
   were at the point of fighting with each other in the presence of
   the king.

   [115] That tract of the lake country which stretches southwards
   from Hawkshead and the lakes of Esthwaite, Windermere, and
   Coniston, to the little town of Ulverstone (which may be regarded
   as the metropolis of the little romantic English Calabria called
   Furness), is divided from the main part of Lancashire by the
   estuary of Morecamb. The sea retires with the ebb tide to a vast
   distance, leaving the sands passable through a few hours for
   horses and carriages. But, partly from the daily variation in
   these hours, partly from the intricacy of the pathless track which
   must be pursued, and partly from the galloping pace at which the
   returning tide comes in, many fatal accidents are continually
   occurring--sometimes to the too venturous traveller who has
   slighted the aid of guides--sometimes to the guides themselves,
   when baffled and perplexed by mists. Gray the poet mentions one of
   the latter class as having then recently occurred, under affecting
   circumstances. Local tradition records a long list of such cases.

From this period, therefore--that is, from the year 1794-95--we may
date the commencement of Wordsworth's entire self-dedication to poetry
as the study and main business of his life. Somewhere about this period
also (though, according to my remembrance of what Miss Wordsworth once
told me, I think one year or so later) his sister joined him; and they
began[116] to keep house together: once at Race Down, in Dorsetshire;
once at Clevedon, on the coast of Somersetshire; then amongst the
Quantock Hills, in the same county, or in that neighbourhood;
particularly at Alfoxton, a beautiful country-house, with a grove and
shrubbery attached, belonging to Mr. St. Aubyn, a minor, and let (I
believe) on the terms of keeping the house in repair. Whilst resident
at this last place it was, as I have generally understood, and in
the year 1797 or 1798, that Wordsworth first became acquainted with
Coleridge; though possibly in the year I am wrong; for it occurs to me
that, in a poem of Coleridge's dated in 1796, there is an allusion to a
young writer of the name of Wordsworth as one who had something austere
in his style, but otherwise was more original than any other poet of
the age; and it is probable that this knowledge of the poetry would
be subsequent to a personal knowledge of the author, considering the
little circulation which any poetry of a Wordsworthian stamp would be
likely to attain at that time.[117]

   [116] I do not, on consideration, know when they might begin to
   keep house together: but, by a passage in "The Prelude," they must
   have made a tour together as early as 1787.

   [117] In the Memoir of Coleridge prefaced to Messrs. Macmillan's
   four-volume edition of his poetical works (1880) one reads:--"In
   the summer of 1797 Coleridge and Wordsworth, if they did not
   actually meet for the first time, first became familiarly
   acquainted with each other at Racedown in Dorsetshire. Wordsworth
   was then in his twenty-eighth and Coleridge in his twenty-fifth

It was at Alfoxton that Miss Mary Hutchinson visited her cousins the
Wordsworths, and there, or previously in the north of England, at
Stockton-upon-Tees and Darlington, that the attachment began between
Miss Mary Hutchinson and Wordsworth which terminated in their marriage
about the beginning of the present century. The marriage took place
in the north; somewhere, I believe, in Yorkshire; and, immediately
after the ceremony, Wordsworth brought his bride to Grasmere; in which
most lovely of English valleys he had previously obtained, upon a
lease of seven or eight years, the cottage in which I found him living
at my first visit to him in November 1807. I have heard that there
was a paragraph inserted on this occasion in the "Morning Post" or
"Courier"--and I have an indistinct remembrance of having once seen it
myself--which described this event of the poet's marriage in the most
ludicrous terms of silly pastoral sentimentality; the cottage being
described as "the abode of content and all the virtues," the vale
itself in the same puerile slang, and the whole event in the style of
allegorical trifling about the Muses, &c. The masculine and severe
taste of Wordsworth made him peculiarly open to annoyance from such
absurd trifling; and, unless his sense of the ludicrous overpowered
his graver feelings, he must have been much displeased with the
paragraph. But, after all, I have understood that the whole affair was
an unseasonable jest of Coleridge's or Lamb's.

To us who, in after years, were Wordsworth's friends, or, at least,
intimate acquaintances--viz., to Professor Wilson and myself--the most
interesting circumstance in this marriage, the one which perplexed us
exceedingly, was the very possibility that it should ever have been
brought to bear. For we could not conceive of Wordsworth as submitting
his faculties to the humilities and devotion of courtship. That
self-surrender--that prostration of mind by which a man is too happy
and proud to express the profundity of his service to the woman of his
heart--it seemed a mere impossibility that ever Wordsworth should be
brought to feel for a single instant; and what he did not sincerely
feel, assuredly he was not the person to profess. Wordsworth, I take
it upon myself to say, had not the feelings within him which make this
total devotion to a woman possible. There never lived a woman whom he
would not have lectured and admonished under circumstances that should
have seemed to require it; nor would he have conversed with her in
any mood whatever without wearing an air of mild condescension to her
understanding. To lie at her feet, to make her his idol, to worship her
very caprices, and to adore the most unreasonable of her frowns--these
things were impossible to Wordsworth; and, being so, never could he, in
any emphatic sense, have been a lover.

A lover, I repeat, in any passionate sense of the word, Wordsworth
could not have been. And, moreover, it is remarkable that a woman who
could dispense with that sort of homage in her suitor is not of a
nature to inspire such a passion. That same meekness which reconciles
her to the tone of superiority and freedom in the manner of her suitor,
and which may afterwards in a wife become a sweet domestic grace,
strips her of that too charming irritation, captivating at once and
tormenting, which lurks in feminine pride. If there be an enchantress's
spell yet surviving in this age of ours, it is the haughty grace
of maidenly pride--the womanly sense of dignity, even when most in
excess, and expressed in the language of scorn--which tortures a man
and lacerates his heart, at the same time that it pierces him with

     "Oh, what a world of scorn looks beautiful
     In the contempt and anger of her lip!"

And she who spares a man the agitations of this thraldom robs him no
less of its divinest transports. Wordsworth, however, who never could
have laid aside his own nature sufficiently to have played _his_ part
in such an impassioned courtship, by suiting himself to this high
sexual pride with the humility of a lover, quite as little could have
enjoyed the spectacle of such a pride, or have viewed it in any degree
as an attraction: it would to him have been a pure vexation. Looking
down even upon the lady of his heart, as upon the rest of the world,
from the eminence of his own intellectual superiority--viewing her, in
fact, as a child--he would be much more disposed to regard any airs of
feminine disdain she might assume as the impertinence of girlish levity
than as the caprice of womanly pride; and much I fear that, in any case
of dispute, he would have called even his mistress, "Child! child!" and
perhaps even (but this I do not say with the same certainty) might have
bid her hold her tongue.

If, however, no lover, in a proper sense,--though, from many exquisite
passages, one might conceive that at some time of his life he was, as
especially from the inimitable stanzas beginning--

     "When she I loved was strong and gay,
     And like a rose in June,"

or perhaps (but less powerfully so, because here the passion, though
profound, is less the _peculiar_ passion of love) from the impassioned
lamentation for "the pretty Barbara," beginning--

     "'Tis said that some have died for love:
     And here and there, amidst unhallow'd ground
     In the cold north," &c.,--

yet, if no lover, or (which some of us have sometimes thought) a lover
disappointed at some earlier period, by the death of her he loved, or
by some other fatal event (for he always preserved a mysterious silence
on the subject of that "Lucy," repeatedly alluded to or apostrophized
in his poems); at all events he made what for him turned out a happy
marriage. Few people have lived on such terms of entire harmony and
affection as he lived with the woman of his final choice. Indeed, the
sweetness, almost unexampled, of temper, which shed so sunny a radiance
over Mrs. Wordsworth's manners, sustained by the happy life she led,
the purity of her conscience, and the uniformity of her good health,
made it impossible for anybody to have quarrelled with _her_; and
whatever fits of ill-temper Wordsworth might have--for, with all his
philosophy, he had such fits--met with no fuel to support them, except
in the more irritable temperament of his sister. She was all fire, and
an ardour which, like that of the first Lord Shaftesbury,

     "O'er-informed its tenement of clay";

and, as this ardour looked out in every gleam of her wild eyes (those
"wild eyes" so finely noticed in the "Tintern Abbey"), as it spoke
in every word of her self-baffled utterance, as it gave a trembling
movement to her very person and demeanour--easily enough it might
happen that any apprehension of an unkind word should with her kindle
a dispute. It might have happened; and yet, to the great honour of
both, having such impassioned temperaments, rarely it did happen; and
this was the more remarkable, as I have been assured that both were,
in childhood, irritable or even ill-tempered, and they were constantly
together; for Miss Wordsworth was always ready to walk out--wet or dry,
storm or sunshine, night or day; whilst Mrs. Wordsworth was completely
dedicated to her maternal duties, and rarely left the house, unless
when the weather was tolerable, or, at least, only for short rambles. I
should not have noticed this trait in Wordsworth's occasional manners,
had it been gathered from domestic or confidential opportunities.
But, on the contrary, the first two occasions on which, after months'
domestic intercourse with Wordsworth, I became aware of his possible
ill-humour and peevishness, were so public, that others, and those
strangers, must have been equally made parties to the scene. This scene
occurred in Kendal.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having brought down the history of Wordsworth to the time of his
marriage, I am reminded by that event to mention the singular good
fortune, in all points of worldly prosperity, which has accompanied him
through life. His marriage--the capital event of life--was fortunate,
and inaugurated a long succession of other prosperities. He has himself
described, in his "Leech-Gatherer,"[118] the fears that at one time, or
at least in some occasional moments of his life, haunted him, lest at
some period or other he might be reserved for poverty. "Cold, pain, and
hunger, and all fleshly ills," occurred to his boding apprehension, and
"mighty poets in their misery dead."

   [118] Now entitled _Resolution and Independence_.--M.

     "He thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
       The sleepless soul that perished in its pride;
     Of him who walked in glory and in joy
       Following his plough along the mountain-side."

And, at starting on his career of life, certainly no man had plainer
reasons for anticipating the worst evils that have ever persecuted
poets, excepting only two reasons which might warrant him in hoping
better; and these two were--his great prudence, and the temperance of
his daily life. He could not be betrayed into foolish engagements; he
could not be betrayed into expensive habits. Profusion and extravagance
had no hold over him, by any one passion or taste. He was not luxurious
in anything; was not vain or even careful of external appearances
(not, at least, since he had left Cambridge, and visited a mighty
nation in civil convulsions); was not even in the article of books
expensive. Very few books sufficed him; he was careless habitually of
all the current literature, or indeed of any literature that could not
be considered as enshrining the very ideal, capital, and elementary
grandeur of the human intellect. In this extreme limitation of his
literary sensibilities he was as much assisted by that accident of
his own intellectual condition--viz. extreme, intense, unparalleled
_onesidedness_ (_einseitigkeit_)--as by any peculiar sanity of feeling.
Thousands of books that have given rapturous delight to millions of
ingenuous minds for Wordsworth were absolutely a dead letter--closed
and sealed up from his sensibilities and his powers of appreciation,
not less than colours from a blind man's eye. Even the few books which
his peculiar mind had made indispensable to him were not in such a
sense indispensable as they would have been to a man of more sedentary
habits. He lived in the open air, and the enormity of pleasure which
both he and his sister drew from the common appearances of nature and
their everlasting variety--variety so infinite that, if no one leaf of
a tree or shrub ever exactly resembled another in all its filaments and
their arrangement, still less did any one day ever repeat another in
all its pleasurable elements. This pleasure was to him in the stead of
many libraries:--

     "One impulse, from a vernal wood,
       Could teach him more of Man,
     Of moral evil and of good,
       Than all the sages can."

And he, we may be sure, who could draw,

     "Even from the meanest flower that blows,
     Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears,"--

to whom the mere daisy, the pansy, the primrose, could furnish
pleasures--not the puerile ones which his most puerile and worldly
insulters imagined, but pleasures drawn from depths of reverie and
meditative tenderness far beyond all power of _their_ hearts to
conceive: that man would hardly need any large variety of books. In
fact, there were only two provinces of literature in which Wordsworth
could be looked upon as decently well read--Poetry and Ancient History.
Nor do I believe that he would much have lamented, on his own account,
if all books had perished, excepting the entire body of English Poetry,
and, perhaps, "Plutarch's Lives."[119]

   [119] I do not mean to insinuate that Wordsworth was at all in the
   dark about the inaccuracy and want of authentic weight attaching
   to Plutarch as a historian; but his business with Plutarch was not
   for purposes of research: he was satisfied with his fine moral

With these simple or rather austere tastes, Wordsworth (it might seem)
had little reason to fear poverty, supposing him in possession of any
moderate income; but meantime he had none. About the time when he left
college, I have good grounds for believing that his whole regular
income was precisely = 0. Some fragments must have survived from the
funds devoted to his education; and with these, no doubt, he supported
the expenses of his Continental tours, and his year's residence in
France. But, at length, "cold, pain, and hunger, and all fleshly ills,"
must have stared him in the face pretty earnestly. And hope of longer
evading an unpleasant destiny of daily toil, in some form or other,
there seemed absolutely none. "For," as he himself expostulates with

     "For how can _he_ expect that others should
     Sow for him, build for _him_, and, at his call,
     Love him, who for himself will take no thought at all?"

In this dilemma, he had all but resolved, as Miss Wordsworth once told
me, to take pupils; and perhaps _that_, though odious enough, was the
sole resource he had; for Wordsworth never acquired any popular talent
of writing for the current press; and, at that period of his life, he
was gloomily unfitted for bending to such a yoke. In this crisis of
his fate it was that Wordsworth, for once, and once only, became a
martyr to some nervous affection. _That_ raised pity; but I could not
forbear smiling at the remedy, or palliation, which his few friends
adopted. Every night they played at cards with him, as the best mode
of beguiling his sense of distress, whatever that might be: _cards_,
which, in any part of the thirty-and-one years since I have known
Wordsworth, could have had as little power to interest him, or to
cheat him of sorrow, as marbles or a top. However, so it was; for my
information could not be questioned: it came from Miss Wordsworth.

The crisis, as I have said, had arrived for determining the future
colour of his life. Memorable it is, that exactly in those critical
moments when some decisive step had first become necessary, there
happened the first instance of Wordsworth's good luck; and equally
memorable that, at measured intervals throughout the long sequel of his
life since then, a regular succession of similar but superior windfalls
have fallen in, to sustain his expenditure, in exact concurrence with
the growing claims upon his purse. A more fortunate man, I believe,
does not exist than Wordsworth. The aid which now dropped from heaven,
as it were, to enable him to range at will in paths of his own
choosing, and

                   "Finally array
     His temples with the Muses diadem,"

came in the shape of a bequest from Raisley Calvert, a young man of
good family in Cumberland, who died about this time of pulmonary
consumption. A very remarkable young man he must have been, this
Raisley Calvert, to have discerned, at this early period, that future
superiority in Wordsworth which so few people suspected. He was the
brother of a Cumberland gentleman, whom slightly I know; a generous
man, doubtless; for he made no sort of objections (though legally, I
have heard, he might) to his brother's farewell memorial of regard;
a good man to all his dependants, as I have generally understood, in
the neighbourhood of Windy Brow, his mansion, near Keswick; and, as
Southey always said (who must know better than I could do), a man of
strong natural endowments; else, as his talk was of oxen, I might have
made the mistake of supposing him to be, in heart and soul, what he
was in profession--a mere farming country gentleman, whose ambition
was chiefly directed to the turning up of mighty turnips. The sum
left by Raisley Calvert was £900; and it was laid out in an annuity.
This was the basis of Wordsworth's prosperity in life; and upon this
he has built up, by a series of accessions, in which each step, taken
separately for itself, seems perfectly natural, whilst the total result
has undoubtedly something wonderful about it, the present goodly
edifice of his fortunes. Next in the series came the present Lord
Lonsdale's repayment of his predecessor's debt. Upon that, probably, it
was that Wordsworth felt himself entitled to marry. Then, I believe,
came some fortune with Miss Hutchinson; then--that is, fourthly--some
worthy uncle of the same lady was pleased to betake himself to a better
world, leaving to various nieces, and especially to Mrs. Wordsworth,
something or other--I forget what, but it was expressed by thousands
of pounds. At this moment, Wordsworth's family had begun to increase;
and the worthy old uncle, like everybody else in Wordsworth's case,
finding his property very clearly "wanted," and, as people would tell
him, "bespoke," felt how very indelicate it would look for him to
stay any longer in this world; and so off he moved. But Wordsworth's
family, and the wants of that family, still continued to increase;
and the next person--viz., the fifth--who stood in the way, and must,
therefore, have considered himself rapidly growing into a nuisance,
was the stamp-distributor for the county of Westmoreland. About March
1814, I think it was, that his very comfortable situation was wanted.
Probably it took a month for the news to reach him; because in April,
and not before, feeling that he had received a proper notice to quit,
he, good man (this stamp-distributor), like all the rest, distributed
himself and his office into two different places--the latter falling,
of course, into the hands of Wordsworth.

This office, which it was Wordsworth's pleasure to speak of as
"a little one," yielded, I believe, somewhere about £500 a year.
Gradually, even _that_, with all former sources of income, became
insufficient; which ought not to surprise anybody; for a son at Oxford,
as a gentleman commoner, would spend, at the least, £300 per annum; and
there were other children. Still, it is wrong to say that it _had_
become insufficient; as usual, it had not come to that; but, on the
first symptoms arising that it soon _would_ come to that, somebody, of
course, had notice to consider himself a sort of nuisance-elect;--in
this case, it was the distributor of stamps for the county of
Cumberland. His district was absurdly large; and what so reasonable as
that he should submit to a Polish partition of his profits--no, not
Polish; for, on reflection, such a partition neither was nor could be
attempted with regard to an actual incumbent. But then, since people
had such consideration for him as not to remodel the office so long
as he lived, on the other hand, the least he could do for "people"
in return--so as to show his sense of this consideration--was not
to trespass on so much goodness longer than necessary. Accordingly,
here, as in all cases before, the _Deus ex machinâ_ who invariably
interfered when any _nodus_ arose in Wordsworth's affairs, such as
could be considered _vindice dignus_, caused the distributor to
begone into a region where no stamps are wanted, about the very
month, or so, when an additional £400 per annum became desirable.
This, or perhaps more, was understood to have been added, by the new
arrangement, to the Westmoreland distributorship; the small towns of
Keswick and Cockermouth, together with the important one of Whitehaven,
being severed, under this remodelling, from their old dependency on
Cumberland (to which geographically they belonged), and transferred
to the small territory of rocky Westmoreland, the sum total of whose
inhabitants was at that time not much above 50,000; of which number,
one-third, or nearly so, was collected into the only important town
of Kendal; but, of the other two-thirds, a larger proportion was a
simple agricultural or pastoral population than anywhere else in
England. In Westmoreland, therefore, it may be supposed that the stamp
demand could not have been so great, not perhaps by three-quarters,
as in Cumberland; which, besides having a population at least three
times as large, had more and larger towns. The result of this new
distribution was something that approached to an equalization of the
districts--giving to each, as was said, in round terms, a thousand a

Thus I have traced Wordsworth's ascent through its several steps and
stages, to what, for his moderate desires and habits so philosophic,
may be fairly considered opulence. And it must rejoice every man who
joins in the public homage _now_ rendered to his powers (and what man
is to be found that, more or less, does not?) to hear, with respect
to one so lavishly endowed by nature, that he has not been neglected
by fortune; that he has never had the finer edge of his sensibilities
dulled by the sad anxieties, the degrading fears, the miserable
dependencies of debt; that he has been blessed with competency even
when poorest; has had hope and cheerful prospects in reversion through
every stage of his life; that at all times he has been liberated from
_reasonable_ anxieties about the final interests of his children;
that at all times he has been blessed with leisure, the very amplest
that ever man enjoyed, for intellectual pursuits the most delightful;
yes, that, even as regards those delicate and coy pursuits, he has
possessed, in combination, all the conditions for their most perfect
culture--the leisure, the ease, the solitude, the society, the
domestic peace, the local scenery--Paradise for his eye, in Miltonic
beauty, lying outside his windows, Paradise for his heart, in the
perpetual happiness of his own fireside; and, finally, when increasing
years might be supposed to demand something more of modern luxuries,
and expanding intercourse with society something more of refined
elegancies, that his means, still keeping pace in almost arithmetical
ratio with his wants, had shed the graces of art upon the failing
powers of nature, had stripped infirmity of discomfort, and (so far as
the necessities of things will allow) had placed the final stages of
life, by means of many compensations, by universal praise, by plaudits
reverberated from senates, benedictions wherever his poems have
penetrated, honour, troops of friends--in short, by all that miraculous
prosperity can do to evade the primal decrees of nature, had placed the
final stages upon a level with the first.

But now, reverting to the subject of Wordsworth's prosperity, I
have numbered up six separate stages of good luck--six instances of
pecuniary showers emptying themselves into his very bosom, at the very
moments when they _began_ to be needed, on the first symptoms that
they might be wanted--accesses of fortune stationed upon his road like
repeating frigates, connecting, to all appearance, some preconcerted
line of operations, and, amidst the tumults of chance, wearing as much
the air of purpose and design as if they supported a human plan. I
have come down to the sixth case. Whether there were any seventh, I
do not know: but confident I feel that, had a seventh been required
by circumstances, a seventh would have happened. So true it is that
still, as Wordsworth needed a place or a fortune, the holder of that
place or fortune was immediately served with a summons to surrender it:
so certainly was this impressed upon my belief, as one of the blind
necessities making up the prosperity and fixed destiny of Wordsworth,
that, for myself, had I happened to know of any peculiar adaptation
in an estate or office of mine to an existing need of Wordsworth's,
forthwith, and with the speed of a man running for his life, I would
have laid it down at his feet. "Take it," I should have said; "take it,
or in three weeks I shall be a dead man."

Well, let me pause: I think the reader is likely by this time to have
a slight notion of _my_ notion of Wordsworth's inevitable prosperity,
and the sort of _lien_ that he had upon the incomes of other men who
happened to stand in his way. The same prosperity attended the other
branches of the family, with the single exception of John, the brother
who perished in the _Abergavenny_: and even he was prosperous up to
the moment of his fatal accident. As to Miss Wordsworth, who will, by
some people, be classed amongst the non-prosperous, I rank her amongst
the most fortunate of women; or, at least, if regard be had to that
period of life which is most capable of happiness. Her fortune, after
its repayment by Lord Lonsdale, was, much of it, confided, with a
sisterly affection, to the use of her brother John; and part of it,
I have heard, perished in his ship. How much, I never felt myself
entitled to ask; but certainly a part was on that occasion understood
to have been lost irretrievably. Either it was that only a partial
insurance had been effected; or else the nature of the accident, being
in home waters (off the coast of Dorsetshire), might, by the nature of
the contract, have taken the case out of the benefit of the policy.
This loss, however, had it even been total, for a single sister
amongst a family of flourishing brothers, could not be of any lasting
importance. A much larger number of voices would proclaim her to have
been unfortunate in life because she made no marriage connexion; and
certainly, the insipid as well as unfeeling ridicule which descends so
plentifully upon those women who, perhaps from strength of character,
have refused to make such a connexion where it promised little of
elevated happiness, _does_ make the state of singleness somewhat of a
trial to the patience of many; and to many the vexation of this trial
has proved a snare for beguiling them of their honourable resolutions.
Meantime, as the opportunities are rare in which all the conditions
concur for happy marriage connexions, how important it is that the
dignity of high-minded women should be upheld by society in the
honourable election they make of a self-dependent virgin seclusion,
by preference to a heartless marriage! Such women, as Mrs. Trollope
justly remarks, fill a place in society which in their default would
_not_ be filled, and are available for duties requiring a tenderness
and a punctuality that could not be looked for from women preoccupied
with household or maternal claims. If there were no regular fund (so to
speak) of women free from conjugal and maternal duties, upon what body
could we draw for our "sisters of mercy," &c.? In another point Mrs.
Trollope is probably right: few women live unmarried from necessity.
Miss Wordsworth had several offers; amongst them, to my knowledge, one
from Hazlitt; all of them she rejected decisively. And she did right. A
happier life, by far, was hers in youth, coming as near as difference
of scenery and difference of relations would permit to that which was
promised to Ruth--the Ruth of her brother's creation[120]--by the
youth who came from Georgia's shore; for, though not upon American
savannah, or Canadian lakes,

       "With all their fairy crowds
     Of islands, that together lie
     As quietly as spots of sky
       Amongst the evening clouds,"

yet, amongst the loveliest scenes of sylvan England, and (at intervals)
of sylvan Germany--amongst lakes, too, far better fitted to give the
_sense_ of their own character than the vast inland _seas_ of America,
and amongst mountains more romantic than many of the chief ranges in
that country--her time fleeted away like some golden age, or like the
life of primeval man; and she, like Ruth, was for years allowed

     "To run, though _not_ a bride,
     A sylvan huntress, by the side"

of him to whom she, like Ruth, had dedicated her days, and to whose
children, afterwards, she dedicated a love like that of mothers. Dear
Miss Wordsworth! How noble a creature did she seem when I first knew
her!--and when, on the very first night which I passed in her brother's
company, he read to me, in illustration of something he was saying, a
passage from Fairfax's "Tasso," ending pretty nearly with these words,

     "Amidst the broad fields and the endless wood,
     The lofty lady kept her maidenhood,"

I thought that, possibly, he had his sister in his thoughts. Yet
"lofty" was hardly the right word. Miss Wordsworth was too ardent
and fiery a creature to maintain the reserve essential to dignity;
and dignity was the last thing one thought of in the presence of one
so natural, so fervent in her feelings, and so embarrassed in their
utterance--sometimes, also, in the attempt to check them. It must
not, however, be supposed that there was any silliness or weakness of
enthusiasm about her. She was under the continual restraint of severe
good sense, though liberated from that false shame which, in so many
persons, accompanies all expressions of natural emotion; and she had
too long enjoyed the ennobling conversation of her brother, and his
admirable comments on the poets, which they read in common, to fail
in any essential point of logic or propriety of thought. Accordingly,
her letters, though the most careless and un-elaborate--nay, the
most hurried that can be imagined--are models of good sense and just
feeling. In short, beyond any person I have known in this world, Miss
Wordsworth was the creature of impulse; but, as a woman most thoroughly
virtuous and well-principled, as one who could not fail to be kept
right by her own excellent heart, and as an intellectual creature from
her cradle, with much of her illustrious brother's peculiarity of
mind--finally, as one who had been, in effect, educated and trained
by that very brother--she won the sympathy and the respectful regard
of every man worthy to approach her. Properly, and in a spirit of
prophecy, was she named _Dorothy_; in its Greek meaning,[121] _gift of
God_, well did this name prefigure the relation in which she stood to
Wordsworth, the mission with which she was charged--to wait upon him as
the tenderest and most faithful of domestics; to love him as a sister;
to sympathize with him as a confidante; to counsel him; to cheer him
and sustain him by the natural expression of her feelings--so quick, so
ardent, so unaffected--upon the probable effect of whatever thoughts or
images he might conceive; finally, and above all other ministrations,
to ingraft, by her sexual sense of beauty, upon his masculine austerity
that delicacy and those graces which else (according to the grateful
acknowledgments of his own maturest retrospect) it never could have

     "The blessing of my later years
       with me when I was a boy:
     She gave me hopes, she gave me fears,
     A heart the fountain of sweet tears,
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
       And love, and thought, and joy."

And elsewhere he describes her, in a philosophic poem, still in
MS.,[122] as one who planted flowers and blossoms with her feminine
hand upon what might else have been an arid rock--massy, indeed, and
grand, but repulsive from the severity of its features. I may sum up
in one brief abstract the amount of Miss Wordsworth's character, as
a companion, by saying, that she was the very wildest (in the sense
of the most natural) person I have ever known; and also the truest,
most inevitable, and at the same time the quickest and readiest in her
sympathy with either joy or sorrow, with laughter or with tears, with
the realities of life or the larger realities of the poets!

   [120] "_The Ruth of her brother's creation_":--So I express it;
   because so much in the development of the story and situations
   necessarily belongs to the poet. Else, for the mere outline of the
   story, it was founded upon fact. Wordsworth himself told me, in
   general terms, that the case which suggested the poem was that of
   an American lady, whose husband forsook her at the very place of
   embarkation from England, under circumstances and under
   expectations, upon her part, very much the same as those of Ruth.
   I am afraid, however, that the husband was an attorney; which is
   intolerable; _nisi prius_ cannot be harmonized with the dream-like
   fairyland of Georgia.

   [121] Of course, therefore, it is essentially the same name as
   _Theodora_, the same elements being only differently arranged. Yet
   how opposite is the impression upon the mind! and chiefly, I
   suppose, from the too prominent emblazonment of this name in the
   person of Justinian's scandalous wife; though, for my own part, I
   am far from believing all the infamous stories which we read about

   [122] In the concluding Book of the _Prelude_.--M.

Meantime, amidst all this fascinating furniture of her mind, won from
nature, from solitude, from enlightened companionship, Miss Wordsworth
was as thoroughly deficient (some would say painfully deficient--I say
charmingly deficient) in ordinary female accomplishments as "Cousin
Mary" in dear Miss Mitford's delightful sketch. Of French, she might
have barely enough to read a plain modern page of narrative; Italian,
I question whether any; German, just enough to insult the German
literati, by showing how little she had found them or their writings
necessary to her heart. The "Luise" of Voss, the "Hermann und Dorothea"
of Goethe she had begun to translate, as young ladies do "Télémaque";
but, like them, had chiefly cultivated the first two pages[123]; with
the third she had a slender acquaintance, and with the fourth she
meditated an intimacy at some future day. Music, in her solitary and
out-of-doors life, she could have little reason for cultivating; nor
is it possible that any woman can draw the enormous energy requisite
for this attainment, upon a _modern_ scale of perfection, out of
any other principle than that of vanity (at least of great value for
social applause) or else of deep musical sensibility; neither of which
belonged to Miss Wordsworth's constitution of mind. But, as everybody
agrees in our days to think this accomplishment of no value whatever,
and, in fact, _unproduceable_, unless existing in an exquisite state
of culture, no complaint could be made on that score, nor any surprise
felt. But the case in which the irregularity of Miss Wordsworth's
education _did_ astonish one was in that part which respected her
literary knowledge. In whatever she read, or neglected to read, she had
obeyed the single impulse of her own heart; where that led her, _there_
she followed: where that was mute or indifferent, not a thought had
she to bestow upon a writer's high reputation, or the call for some
acquaintance with his works to meet the demands of society. And thus
the strange anomaly arose, of a woman deeply acquainted with some great
authors, whose works lie pretty much out of the fashionable beat; able,
moreover, in her own person, to produce brilliant effects; able on some
subjects to write delightfully, and with the impress of originality
upon all she uttered; and yet ignorant of great classical works in her
own mother tongue, and careless of literary history in a degree which
at once exiled her from the rank and privileges of _bluestockingism_.

   [123] Viz., "Calypso ne savoit se consoler du départ," &c. For how
   long a period (viz., nearly two centuries) has Calypso been
   inconsolable in the morning studies of young ladies! As Fénélon's
   most dreary romance always opened at one or other of these three
   earliest and dreary pages, naturally to my sympathetic fancy the
   poor unhappy goddess seemed to be eternally aground on this
   Goodwin Sand of inconsolability. It is amongst the standing
   hypocrisies of the world, that most people affect a reverence for
   this book, which nobody reads.

The reader may, perhaps, have objected silently to the illustration
drawn from Miss Mitford, that "Cousin Mary" does not effect her
fascinations out of pure negations. Such negations, from the mere
startling effect of their oddity in this present age, might fall
in with the general current of her attractions; but Cousin Mary's
undoubtedly lay in the _positive_ witcheries of a manner and a
character transcending, by force of irresistible nature (as in a
similar case recorded by Wordsworth in "The Excursion") all the pomp
of nature and art united as seen in ordinary creatures. Now, in
Miss Wordsworth, there were certainly no "Cousin Mary" fascinations
of manner and deportment, that snatch a grace beyond the reach
of art: _there_ she was, indeed, painfully deficient; for hurry
mars and defeats even the most ordinary expression of the feminine
character--viz. its gentleness: abruptness and trepidation leave often
a joint impression of what seems for an instant both rudeness and
ungracefulness: and the least painful impression was that of unsexual
awkwardness. But the point in which Miss Wordsworth made the most ample
amends for all that she wanted of more customary accomplishments, was
this very originality and native freshness of intellect, which settled
with so bewitching an effect upon some of her writings, and upon
many a sudden remark or ejaculation, extorted by something or other
that struck her eye, in the clouds, or in colouring, or in accidents
of light and shade, of form or combination of form. To talk of her
"writings" is too pompous an expression, or at least far beyond any
pretensions that she ever made for herself. Of poetry she has written
little indeed; and that little not, in my opinion, of much merit.
The verses published by her brother, and beginning, "Which way does
the wind come?", meant only as nursery lines, are certainly wild and
pretty; but the other specimen is likely to strike most readers as
feeble and trivial in the sentiment. Meantime, the book which is in
very deed a monument to her power of catching and expressing all the
hidden beauties of natural scenery, with a felicity of diction, a
truth and strength, that far transcend Gilpin, or professional writers
on those subjects, is her record of a _first_ tour in Scotland, made
about the year 1802. This MS. book (unless my recollection of it,
from a period now gone by for thirty years, has deceived me greatly)
is absolutely unique in its class; and, though it never could be very
popular, from the minuteness of its details, intelligible only to the
eye, and the luxuriation of its descriptions, yet I believe no person
has ever been favoured with a sight of it that has not yearned for
its publication. Its own extraordinary merit, apart from the interest
which _now_ invests the name of Wordsworth, could not fail to procure
purchasers for one edition on its first appearance.[124]

   [124] It was published in full in 1874, with the title
   _Recollections of a Tour made in Scotland, A.D. 1803, by Dorothy
   Wordsworth_. _Edited by J. C. Shairp, LL.D._--M.

Coleridge was of the party at first; but afterwards, under some
attack of rheumatism, found or thought it necessary to leave them.
Melancholy it would be at this time, thirty-six years and more from
the era of that tour, to read it under the afflicting remembrances
of all which has been suffered in the interval by two at least out
of the three who composed the travelling party; for I fear that Miss
Wordsworth has suffered not much less than Coleridge, and, in any
general expression of it, from the same cause, viz. an excess of
pleasurable excitement and luxurious sensibility, sustained in youth
by a constitutional glow from animal causes, but drooping as soon as
that was withdrawn. It is painful to point a moral from any story
connected with those whom one loves or has loved; painful to look for
one moment towards any "improvement" of such a case, especially where
there is no reason to tax the parties with any criminal contribution
to their own sufferings, except through that relaxation of the will
and its potential energies through which most of us, at some time or
other--I myself too deeply and sorrowfully--stand accountable to our
own consciences. Not, therefore, with any intention of speaking in a
monitorial or censorial character, do I here notice a defect in Miss
Wordsworth's self-education of something that might have mitigated the
sort of suffering which, more or less, ever since the period of her
too genial, too radiant youth, I suppose her to have struggled with.
I have mentioned the narrow basis on which her literary interests had
been made to rest--the exclusive character of her reading, and the
utter want of pretension, and of all that looks like _bluestockingism_,
in the style of her habitual conversation and mode of dealing with
literature. Now, to me it appears, upon reflection, that it would
have been far better had Miss Wordsworth condescended a little to the
ordinary mode of pursuing literature; better for her own happiness
if she _had_ been a bluestocking; or, at least, if she had been, in
good earnest, a writer for the press, with the pleasant cares and
solicitudes of one who has some little ventures, as it were, on that
vast ocean.

We all know with how womanly and serene a temper literature has
been pursued by Joanna Baillie, by Miss Mitford, and other women
of admirable genius--with how absolutely no sacrifice or loss of
feminine dignity they have cultivated the profession of authorship;
and, if we could hear their report, I have no doubt that the little
cares of correcting proofs, and the forward-looking solicitudes
connected with the mere business arrangements of new publications,
would be numbered amongst the minor pleasures of life; whilst the
more elevated cares connected with the intellectual business of such
projects must inevitably have done much to solace the troubles which,
as human beings, they cannot but have experienced, and even to scatter
flowers upon their path. Mrs. Johnstone of Edinburgh has pursued the
profession of literature--the noblest of professions, and the only
one open to both sexes alike--with even more assiduity, and as a
_daily_ occupation; and, I have every reason to believe, with as much
benefit to her own happiness as to the instruction and amusement of
her readers; for the petty cares of authorship are agreeable, and its
serious cares are ennobling.[125] More especially is such an occupation
useful to a woman without children, and without any _prospective_
resources--resources in objects that involve hopes growing and
unfulfilled. It is too much to expect of any woman (or man either) that
her mind should support itself in a pleasurable activity, under the
drooping energies of life, by resting on the past or on the present;
some interest in reversion, some subject of hope from day to day, must
be called in to reinforce the animal fountains of good spirits. Had
that been opened for Miss Wordsworth, I am satisfied that she would
have passed a more cheerful middle-age, and would not, at any period,
have yielded to that nervous depression (or is it, perhaps, nervous
irritation?) which, I grieve to hear, has clouded her latter days.
Nephews and nieces, whilst young and innocent, are as good almost as
sons and daughters to a fervid and loving heart that has carried them
in her arms from the hour they were born. But, after a nephew has grown
into a huge hulk of a man, six feet high, and as stout as a bullock;
after he has come to have children of his own, lives at a distance,
and finds occasion to talk much of oxen and turnips--no offence to
him!--he ceases to be an object of any very profound sentiment.
There is nothing in such a subject to rouse the flagging pulses of
the heart, and to sustain a fervid spirit, to whom, at the very best,
human life offers little of an adequate or sufficing interest, unless
when idealized by the magic of the mighty poets. Farewell, Miss
Wordsworth! farewell, impassioned Dorothy! I have not seen you for many
a day--shall, too probably, never see you again; but shall attend your
steps with tender interest so long as I hear of you living: so will
Professor Wilson; and, from two hearts at least, that knew and admired
you in your fervid prime, it may sometimes cheer the gloom of your
depression to be assured of never-failing remembrance, full of love and
respectful pity.[126]

   [125] Mrs. Johnstone (1781-1857) was the authoress of several
   novels, a contributor to various periodicals, and editor of
   _Tait's Magazine_ through a portion at least of De Quincey's
   connexion with it.--M.

   [126] In the recast by De Quincey, for the collective edition of
   his writings in 1853, of his _Tait_ articles on Wordsworth in
   1839, there were some omissions of matter that had appeared in the
   magazine. One was this concluding paragraph in the article for
   April 1839:--"I have traced the history of each [_i.e._ of William
   and Dorothy Wordsworth] until the time when I became personally
   acquainted with them; and, henceforwards, anything which it may be
   interesting to know with respect to either will naturally come
   forward, not in a separate narrative, but in connexion with my own
   life; for in the following year I became myself the tenant of that
   pretty cottage in which I found them; and from that time, for many
   years, my life flowed on in daily union with theirs."--M.



   [127] From _Tait's Magazine_ for July 1839. See explanation in
   Editor's Preface to this volume.--M.

That night--the first of my personal intercourse with
Wordsworth--the first in which I saw him face to face--was
(it is little, indeed, to say) memorable: it was marked by a
change even in the physical condition of my nervous system.
Long disappointment--hope for ever baffled (and why should
it be less painful because _self_-baffled?)--vexation and
self-blame, almost self-contempt, at my own want of courage
to face the man whom of all since the Flood I most yearned to
behold:--these feelings had impressed upon my nervous sensibilities
a character of irritation--agitation--restlessness--eternal
self-dissatisfaction--which were gradually gathering into a distinct,
well-defined type, that would, but for youth--almighty youth, and
the spirit of youth--have shaped itself into some nervous complaint,
wearing symptoms _sui generis_ (for most nervous complaints, in minds
that are at all eccentric, will be _sui generis_); and, perhaps,
finally, have been immortalized in some medical journal as the
anomalous malady of an interesting young gentleman, aged twenty-two,
who was supposed to have studied too severely, and to have perplexed
his brain with German metaphysics. To this result things tended;
but, in one hour, all passed away. It was gone, never to return. The
spiritual being whom I had anticipated--for, like Eloisa,

     "My fancy framed him of the angelic kind,
     Some emanation of the all-beauteous mind"--

this ideal creature had at length been seen--seen "in the flesh"--seen
with fleshly eyes; and now, though he did not cease for years to wear
something of the glory and the _aureola_ which, in Popish legends,
invests the head of superhuman beings, yet it was no longer as a being
to be feared: it was as Raphael, the "affable" angel, who conversed on
the terms of man with man, that I now regarded him.

It was four o'clock, perhaps, when we arrived. At that hour in November
the daylight soon declined; and, in an hour and a half, we were all
collected about the tea-table. This, with the Wordsworths, under the
simple rustic system of habits which they cherished then, and for
twenty years after, was the most delightful meal in the day; just as
dinner is in great cities, and for the same reason--because it was
prolonged into a meal of leisure and conversation. And the reason why
any meal favours and encourages conversation is pretty much the same
as that which accounts for the breaking down of so many lawyers, and
generally their ill-success in the House of Commons. In the courts
of law, when a man is haranguing upon general and abstract topics,
if at any moment he feels getting beyond his depth, if he finds his
anchor driving, he can always bring up, and drop his anchor anew upon
the _terra firma_ of his case: the facts of this, as furnished by his
brief, always assure him of a retreat as soon as he finds his more
general thoughts failing him; and the consciousness of this retreat, by
inspiring confidence, makes it much less probable that they _should_
fail. But, in Parliament, where the advantage of a case with given
facts and circumstances, or the details of a statistical report, does
not offer itself once in a dozen times that a member has occasion to
speak--where he has to seek unpremeditated arguments and reasonings of
a general nature, from the impossibility of wholly evading the previous
speeches that may have made an impression upon the House;--this
necessity, at any rate a trying one to most people, is doubly so to
one who has always walked in the leading-strings of a _case_--always
swum with the help of bladders, in the conscious resource of his
_facts_. The reason, therefore, why a lawyer succeeds ill as a senator
is to be found in the sudden removal of an artificial aid. Now, just
such an artificial aid is furnished to timid or to unready men by
a dinner-table, and the miscellaneous attentions, courtesies, or
occupations which it enjoins or permits, as by the fixed memoranda
of a brief. If a man finds the ground slipping from beneath him in a
discussion--if, in a tide of illustration, he suddenly comes to a pause
for want of matter--he can make a graceful close, a self-interruption,
that shall wear the interpretation of forbearance, or even win the
rhetorical credit of an _aposiopesis_ (according to circumstances), by
stopping to perform a duty of the occasion: pressed into a dilemma by
some political partisan, one may evade it by pressing him to take a
little of the dish before one; or, plagued for a reason which is not
forthcoming, one may deprecate this logical rigour by inviting one's
tormentor to wine. In short, what I mean to say is, that a dinner
party, or any meal which is made the meal for intellectual relaxation,
must for ever offer the advantages of a _palæstra_ in which the weapons
are foils and the wounds not mortal: in which, whilst the interest is
that of a real, the danger is that of a sham fight: in which whilst
there is always an opportunity for swimming into deep waters, there is
always a retreat into shallow ones. And it may be laid down as a maxim,
that no nation is civilized to the height of its capacity until it
_has_ one such meal. With our ancestors of sixty years back, this meal
was supper: with the Athenians and Greeks it was dinner[128] (coena
and [Greek: deipnon]), as with ourselves; only that the hour was a
very early one, in consequence, partly, of the early bedtime of these
nations (which again was occasioned by the dearness of candle-light
to the mass of those who had political rights, on whose account the
forensic meetings, the visits of clients to their patrons, &c., opened
the political day by four hours earlier than with us), and partly in
consequence of the uncommercial habits of the ancients--commerce having
at no time created an aristocracy of its own, and, therefore, having at
no time and in no city (no, not Alexandria nor Carthage) dictated the
household and social arrangements, or the distribution of its hours.

   [128] A curious dissertation might be written on this subject.
   Meantime, it is remarkable that almost all modern nations have
   committed the blunder of supposing the Latin word for supper to be
   _coena_, and of dinner _prandium_. Now, the essential definition
   of dinner is, that which is the main meal--(what the French call
   the he great meal). By that or any test (for example, the _time_,
   three P.M.) the Roman coena was dinner. Even Louis XII, whose
   death is partly ascribed to his having altered his dinner hour
   from nine to eleven A.M. in compliment to his young English bride,
   did not _sup_ at three P.M.

I have been led insensibly into this digression. I now resume the
thread of my narrative. That night, after hearing conversation superior
by much, in its tone and subject, to any which I had ever heard
before--one exception only being made in favour of Coleridge, whose
style differed from Wordsworth's in this, that, being far more agile
and more comprehensive, consequently more showy and surprising, it was
less impressive and weighty; for Wordsworth's was slow in its movement,
solemn, majestic. After a luxury so rare as this, I found myself, about
eleven at night, in a pretty bedroom, about fourteen feet by twelve.
Much I feared that this might turn out the best room in the house; and
it illustrates the hospitality of my new friends to mention that it
was. Early in the morning, I was awoke by a little voice, issuing from
a little cottage bed in an opposite corner, soliloquizing in a low
tone. I soon recognized the words--"Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was
crucified, dead, and buried"; and the voice I easily conjectured to be
that of the eldest amongst Wordsworth's children, a son, and at that
time about three years old. He was a remarkably fine boy in strength
and size, promising (which has in fact been realized) a much more
powerful person, physically, than that of his father. Miss Wordsworth
I found making breakfast in the little sitting-room. No urn was there;
no glittering breakfast service; a kettle boiled upon the fire, and
everything was in harmony with these unpretending arrangements. I, the
son of a merchant, and naturally, therefore, in the midst of luxurious
(though not ostentatious) display from my childhood, had never seen so
humble a _ménage_: and, contrasting the dignity of the man with this
honourable poverty, and this courageous avowal of it, his utter absence
of all effort to disguise the simple truth of the case, I felt my
admiration increase to the uttermost by all I saw. This, thought I to
myself, is, indeed, in his own words--

     "Plain living, and high thinking."

This is indeed to reserve the humility and the parsimonies of life
for its bodily enjoyments, and to apply its lavishness and its luxury
to its enjoyments of the intellect. So might Milton have lived; so
Marvell. Throughout the day--which was rainy--the same style of modest
hospitality prevailed. Wordsworth and his sister--myself being of the
party--walked out in spite of the rain, and made the circuit of the two
lakes, Grasmere and its dependency Rydal--a walk of about six miles. On
the third day, Mrs. Coleridge having now pursued her journey northward
to Keswick, and having, at her departure, invited me, in her own name
as well as Southey's, to come and see them, Wordsworth proposed that we
should go thither in company, but not by the direct route--a distance
of only thirteen miles: this we were to take in our road homeward; our
outward-bound journey was to be by way of Ulleswater--a circuit of
forty-three miles.

On the third morning after my arrival in Grasmere, I found the whole
family, except the two children, prepared for the expedition across the
mountains. I had heard of no horses, and took it for granted that we
were to walk; however, at the moment of starting, a cart--the common
farmers' cart of the country--made its appearance; and the driver
was a bonny young woman of the vale. Such a vehicle I had never in
my life seen used for such a purpose; but what was good enough for
the Wordsworths was good enough for me; and, accordingly, we were all
carted along to the little town, or large village, of Ambleside--three
and a half miles distant. Our style of travelling occasioned no
astonishment; on the contrary, we met a smiling salutation wherever
we appeared--Miss Wordsworth being, as I observed, the person most
familiarly known of our party, and the one who took upon herself the
whole expenses of the flying colloquies exchanged with stragglers on
the road. What struck me with most astonishment, however, was the
liberal manner of our fair driver, who made no scruple of taking a
leap, with the reins in her hand, and seating herself dexterously upon
the shafts (or, in Westmoreland phrase, the _trams_) of the cart. From
Ambleside--and without one foot of intervening flat ground--begins
to rise the famous ascent of Kirkstone; after which, for three long
miles, all riding in a cart drawn by one horse becomes impossible. The
ascent is computed at three miles, but is, probably, a little more.
In some parts it is almost frightfully steep; for the road, being
only the original mountain track of shepherds, gradually widened and
improved from age to age (especially since the era of tourists began),
is carried over ground which no engineer, even in alpine countries,
would have viewed as practicable. In ascending, this is felt chiefly
as an obstruction and not as a peril, unless where there is a risk of
the horses backing; but in the reverse order, some of these precipitous
descents are terrific: and yet once, in utter darkness, after midnight,
and the darkness irradiated only by continual streams of lightning,
I was driven down this whole descent, at a full gallop, by a young
woman--the carriage being a light one, the horses frightened, and
the descents, at some critical parts of the road, so literally like
the sides of a house, that it was difficult to keep the fore wheels
from pressing upon the hind legs of the horses. Indeed, this is only
according to the custom of the country, as I have before mentioned.
The innkeeper of Ambleside, or Lowwood, will not mount this formidable
hill without four horses. The leaders you are not required to take
beyond the first three miles; but, of course, they are glad if you will
take them on the whole stage of nine miles, to Patterdale; and, in
that case, there is a real luxury at hand for those who enjoy velocity
of motion. The descent into Patterdale is much above two miles; but
such is the propensity for flying down hills in Westmoreland that I
have found the descent accomplished in about six minutes, which is at
the rate of eighteen miles an hour; the various turnings of the road
making the speed much more sensible to the traveller. The pass, at the
summit of this ascent, is nothing to be compared in sublimity with
the pass under Great Gavil from Wastdalehead; but it is solemn, and
profoundly impressive. At a height so awful as this, it may be easily
supposed that all human dwellings have been long left behind: no sound
of human life, no bells of churches or chapels ever ascend so far.
And, as is noticed in Wordsworth's fine stanzas upon this memorable
pass, the only sound that, even in noonday, disturbs the sleep of the
weary pedestrian, is that of the bee murmuring amongst the mountain
flowers--a sound as ancient

     "As man's imperial front, and woman's roseate bloom."

This way, and (which, to the sentiment of the case, is an important
point) this way of _necessity_ and _inevitably_, passed the Roman
legions; for it is a mathematic impossibility that any other route
could be found for an army nearer to the eastward of this pass than
by way of Kendal and Shap; nearer to the westward, than by way of
Legbesthwaite and St. John's Vale (and so by Threlkeld to Penrith).
Now, these two roads are exactly twenty-five miles apart; and, since
a Roman cohort was stationed at Ambleside (_Amboglane_), it is pretty
evident that this cohort would not correspond with the more northerly
stations by either of these remote routes--having immediately before
it this direct though difficult pass to Kirkstone. On the solitary
area of tableland which you find at the summit--though, Heaven knows,
you might almost cover it with a drawing-room carpet, so suddenly
does the mountain take to its old trick of precipitous descent, on
both sides alike--there are only two objects to remind you of man
and his workmanship. One is a guide-post--always a picturesque and
interesting object, because it expresses a wild country and a labyrinth
of roads, and often made much more interesting (as in this case) by
the lichens which cover it, and which record the generations of men
to whom it has done its office; as also by the crucifix form, which
inevitably recalls, in all mountainous regions, the crosses of Catholic
lands, raised to the memory of wayfaring men who have perished by
the hand of the assassin. The other memorial of man is even more
interesting:--Amongst the fragments of rock which lie in the confusion
of a ruin on each side of the road, one there is which exceeds the
rest in height, and which, in shape, presents a very close resemblance
to a church. This lies to the left of the road as you are going from
Ambleside; and from its name, Churchstone (Kirkstone), is derived
the name of the pass, and from the pass the name of the mountain.
The guide-post--which was really the work of man--tells those going
southwards (for to those who go northwards it is useless, since, in
that direction, there is no choice of roads) that the left hand track
conducts you to Troutbeck, and Bowness, and Kendal, the right hand to
Ambleside, and Hawkshead, and Ulverstone. The church--which is but a
phantom of man's handiwork--might, however, really be mistaken for
such, were it not that the rude and almost inaccessible state of the
adjacent ground proclaims the truth. As to size, _that_ is remarkably
difficult to estimate upon wild heaths or mountain solitudes, where
there are no leadings through gradations of distance, nor any
artificial standards, from which height or breadth can be properly
deduced. This mimic church, however, has a peculiarly fine effect in
this wild situation, which leaves so far below the tumults of this
world: the phantom church, by suggesting the phantom and evanescent
image of a congregation, where never congregation met; of the pealing
organ, where never sound was heard except of wild natural notes, or
else of the wind rushing through these mighty gates of everlasting
rock--in this way, the fanciful image that accompanies the traveller on
his road, for half a mile or more, serves to bring out the antagonist
feeling of intense and awful solitude, which is the natural and
presiding sentiment--the _religio loci_--that broods for ever over the
romantic pass.

Having walked up Kirkstone, we ascended our cart again; then rapidly
descended to Brothers' Water--a lake which lies immediately below;
and, about three miles further, through endless woods and under the
shade of mighty fells, immediate dependencies and processes of the
still more mighty Helvellyn, we approached the vale of Patterdale,
when, by moonlight, we reached the inn. Here we found horses--by whom
furnished I never asked nor heard; perhaps I owe somebody for a horse
to this day. All I remember is--that through those most romantic woods
and rocks of Stybarren--through those silent glens of Glencoin and
Glenridding--through that most romantic of parks then belonging to
the Duke of Norfolk, viz. Gobarrow Park--we saw alternately, for four
miles, the most grotesque and the most awful spectacles--

               "Abbey windows
     And Moorish temples of the Hindoos,"

all fantastic, all as unreal and shadowy as the moonlight which created
them; whilst, at every angle of the road, broad gleams came upwards of
Ulleswater, stretching for nine miles northward, but, fortunately for
its effect, broken into three watery chambers of almost equal length,
and rarely visible at once. At the foot of the lake, in a house called
Ewsmere, we passed the night, having accomplished about twenty-two
miles only in our day's walking and riding.

The next day Wordsworth and I, leaving at Ewsmere the rest of our
party, spent the morning in roaming through the woods of Lowther, and,
towards evening, we dined together at Emont Bridge, one mile short of
Penrith. Afterwards, we walked into Penrith. There Wordsworth left me
in excellent quarters--the house of Captain Wordsworth, from which the
family happened to be absent. Whither he himself adjourned, I know
not, nor on what business; however, it occupied him throughout the
next day; and, therefore, I employed myself in sauntering along the
road, about seventeen miles, to Keswick. There I had been directed to
ask for Greta Hall, which, with some little difficulty, I found; for
it stands out of the town a few hundred yards, upon a little eminence
overhanging the river Greta. It was about seven o'clock when I reached
Southey's door; for I had stopped to dine at a little public house in
Threlkeld, and had walked slowly for the last two hours in the dark.
The arrival of a stranger occasioned a little sensation in the house;
and, by the time the front door could be opened, I saw Mrs. Coleridge,
and a gentleman whom I could not doubt to be Southey, standing, very
hospitably, to greet my entrance. Southey was, in person, somewhat
taller than Wordsworth, being about five feet eleven in height, or a
trifle more, whilst Wordsworth was about five feet ten; and, partly
from having slender limbs, partly from being more symmetrically formed
about the shoulders than Wordsworth, he struck one as a better and
lighter figure, to the effect of which his dress contributed; for he
wore pretty constantly a short jacket and pantaloons, and had much the
air of a Tyrolese mountaineer.

On the next day arrived Wordsworth. I could read at once, in the manner
of the two authors, that they were not on particularly friendly,
or rather, I should say, confidential terms. It seemed to me as if
both had silently said--"We are too much men of sense to quarrel
because we do not happen particularly to like each other's writings:
we are neighbours, or what passes for such in the country. Let us
show each other the courtesies which are becoming to men of letters;
and, for any closer connexion, our distance of thirteen miles may
be always sufficient to keep us from _that_." In after life, it is
true--fifteen years, perhaps, from this time--many circumstances
combined to bring Southey and Wordsworth into more intimate terms
of friendship: agreement in politics, sorrows which had happened to
both alike in their domestic relations, and the sort of tolerance for
different opinions in literature, or, indeed, in anything else, which
advancing years and experience are sure to bring with them. But at
this period, Southey and Wordsworth entertained a mutual esteem, but
did not cordially like each other. Indeed, it would have been odd if
they had. Wordsworth lived in the open air: Southey in his library,
which Coleridge used to call his wife. Southey had particularly
elegant habits (Wordsworth called them finical) in the use of books.
Wordsworth, on the other hand, was so negligent, and so self-indulgent
in the same case, that, as Southey, laughing, expressed it to me some
years afterwards, when I was staying at Greta Hall on a visit--"To
introduce Wordsworth into one's library is like letting a bear into
a tulip garden." What I mean by self-indulgent is this: generally it
happens that new books baffle and mock one's curiosity by their uncut
leaves; and the trial is pretty much the same as when, in some town
where you are utterly unknown, you meet the postman at a distance from
your inn, with some letter for yourself from a dear, dear friend in
foreign regions, without money to pay the postage. How is it with you,
dear reader, in such a case? Are you not tempted (_I am_ grievously) to
snatch the letter from his tantalizing hand, spite of the roar which
you anticipate of "Stop thief!" and make off as fast as you can for
some solitary street in the suburbs, where you may instantly effect an
entrance upon your new estate before the purchase money is paid down?
Such were Wordsworth's feelings in regard to new books; of which the
first exemplification I had was early in my acquaintance with him, and
on occasion of a book which (if any could) justified the too summary
style of his advances in rifling its charms. On a level with the eye,
when sitting at the tea-table in my little cottage at Grasmere, stood
the collective works of Edmund Burke. The book was to me an eye-sore
and an ear-sore for many a year, in consequence of the cacophonous
title lettered by the bookseller upon the back--"Burke's Works." I have
heard it said, by the way, that Donne's intolerable defect of ear grew
out of his own baptismal name, when harnessed to his own surname--_John
Donne_. No man, it was said, who had listened to this hideous jingle
from childish years, could fail to have his genius for discord, and the
abominable in sound, improved to the utmost. Not less dreadful than
_John Donne_ was "Burke's Works"; which, however, on the old principle,
that every day's work is no day's work, continued to annoy me for
twenty-one years. Wordsworth took down the volume; unfortunately it was
uncut; fortunately, and by a special Providence as to him, it seemed,
tea was proceeding at the time. Dry toast required butter; butter
required knives; and knives then lay on the table; but sad it was for
the virgin purity of Mr. Burke's as yet unsunned pages, that every
knife bore upon its blade testimonies of the service it had rendered.
Did _that_ stop Wordsworth? Did that cause him to call for another
knife? Not at all; he

     "Look'd at the knife that caus'd his pain:
     And look'd and sigh'd, and look'd and sigh'd again";

and then, after this momentary tribute to regret, he tore his way into
the heart of the volume with this knife, that left its greasy honours
behind it upon every page: and are they not there to this day? This
personal experience first brought me acquainted with Wordsworth's
habits in that particular especially, with his intense impatience for
one minute's delay which would have brought a remedy; and yet the
reader may believe that it is no affectation in me to say that fifty
such cases could have given me but little pain, when I explain that
whatever could be made good by money, at that time, I did not regard.
Had the book been an old black-letter book, having a value from its
rarity, I should have been disturbed in an indescribable degree; but
simply with reference to the utter impossibility of reproducing that
mode of value. As to the Burke, it was a common book; I had bought the
book, with many others, at the sale of Sir Cecil Wray's library, for
about two-thirds of the selling price: I could easily replace it; and I
mention the case at all, only to illustrate the excess of Wordsworth's
outrages on books, which made him, in Southey's eyes, a mere monster;
for Southey's beautiful library was his estate; and this difference of
habits would alone have sufficed to alienate him from Wordsworth. And
so I argued in other cases of the same nature. Meantime, had Wordsworth
done as Coleridge did, how cheerfully should I have acquiesced in his
destruction (such as it was, in a pecuniary sense) of books, as the
very highest obligation he could confer. Coleridge often spoiled a
book; but, in the course of doing this, he enriched that book with
so many and so valuable notes, tossing about him, with such lavish
profusion, from such a cornucopia of discursive reading, and such a
fusing intellect, commentaries so many-angled and so many-coloured
that I have envied many a man whose luck has placed him in the way of
such injuries; and that man must have been a churl (though, God knows!
too often this churl _has_ existed) who could have found in his heart
to complain. But Wordsworth rarely, indeed, wrote on the margin of
books; and, when he did, nothing could less illustrate his intellectual
superiority. The comments were such as might have been made by anybody.
Once, I remember, before I had ever seen Wordsworth--probably a year
before--I met a person who had once enjoyed the signal honour of
travelling with him to London. It was in a stage-coach. But the person
in question well knew _who_ it was that had been his _compagnon de
voyage_. Immediately he was glorified in my eyes. "And," said I, to
this glorified gentleman (who, _par parenthése_, was also a donkey),
"Now, as you travelled nearly three hundred miles in the company of
Mr. Wordsworth, consequently (for this was in 1805) during two nights
and two days, doubtless you must have heard many profound remarks that
would inevitably fall from his lips." Nay, Coleridge had also been of
the party; and, if Wordsworth _solus_ could have been dull, was it
within human possibilities that these _gemini_ should have been so?
"Was it possible?" I said; and perhaps my donkey, who looked like one
that had been immoderately threatened, at last took courage; his eye
brightened; and he intimated that he _did_ remember something that
Wordsworth had said--an "observe," as the Scotch call it.

"Ay, indeed; and what was it now? What did the great man say?"

"Why, sir, in fact, and to make a long story short, on coming near
to London, we breakfasted at Baldock--you know Baldock? It's in
Hertfordshire. Well, now, sir, would you believe it, though we were
quite in regular time, the breakfast was precisely good for nothing?"

"And Wordsworth?"

"He observed----"

"What did he observe?"

"That the buttered toast looked, for all the world, as if it had been
soaked in hot water."

Ye heavens! "_buttered toast!_" And was it _this_ I waited for? Now,
thought I, had Henry Mackenzie been breakfasting with Wordsworth at
Baldock (and, strange enough! in years to come I _did_ breakfast
with Henry Mackenzie, for the solitary time I ever met him, and at
Wordsworth's house in Rydal), he would have carried off one sole
reminiscence from the meeting--namely, a confirmation of his creed,
that we English are all dedicated, from our very cradle, to the
luxuries of the palate, and peculiarly to this.[129] _Proh pudor!_
Yet, in sad sincerity, Wordsworth's pencil-notices in books were quite
as disappointing. In "Roderick Random," for example, I found a note
upon a certain luscious description, to the effect that "such things
should be left to the imagination of the reader--not expressed." In
another place, that it was "improper"; and, in a third, that "the
principle laid down was doubtful," or, as Sir Roger de Coverley
observes, "that much might be said on both sides." All this, however,
indicates nothing more than that different men require to be roused
by different stimulants. Wordsworth, in his marginal notes, thought
of nothing but delivering himself of a strong feeling, with which
he wished to challenge the reader's sympathy. Coleridge imagined an
audience before him; and, however doubtful that consummation might
seem, I am satisfied that he never wrote a line for which he did
not feel the momentary inspiration of sympathy and applause, under
the confidence, that, sooner or later, all which he had committed
to the chance margins of books would converge and assemble in some
common reservoir of reception. Bread scattered upon the water will
be gathered after many days. This, perhaps, was the consolation that
supported him; and the prospect that, for a time, his Arethusa of
truth would flow underground, did not, perhaps, disturb, but rather
cheered and elevated, the sublime old somnambulist.[130] Meantime,
Wordsworth's habits of using books--which, I am satisfied, would, in
those days, alone have kept him at a distance from most men with fine
libraries--were not vulgar; not the habits of those who turn over the
page by means of a wet finger (though even this abomination I have
seen perpetrated by a Cambridge tutor and fellow of a college; but
then he had been bred up as a ploughman, and the son of a ploughman):
no; but his habits were more properly barbarous and licentious, and in
the spirit of audacity belonging _de jure_ to no man but him who could
plead an income of four or five hundred thousand per annum, and to whom
the Bodleian or the Vatican would be a three years' purchase. Gross,
meantime, was his delusion upon this subject. Himself he regarded as
the golden mean between the too little and the too much of care for
books; and, as it happened that every one of his friends far exceeded
him in this point, curiously felicitous was the explanation which he
gave of this superfluous care, so as to bring it within the natural
operation of some known fact in the man's peculiar situation. Southey
(he was by nature something of an old bachelor) had his house filled
with pretty articles--_bijouterie_, and so forth; and, naturally,
he wished his books to be kept up to the same level--burnished
and bright for show. Sir George Beaumont--this peculiarly elegant
and accomplished man--was an old and most affectionate friend of
Wordsworth's. Sir George Beaumont never had any children; if he had
been so blessed, they, by familiarizing him with the spectacle of
books ill used--stained, torn, mutilated, &c.--would have lowered the
standard of his requisitions. The short solution of the whole case
was--and it illustrated the nature of his education--he had never lived
in a regular family at a time when habits are moulded. From boyhood to
manhood he had been _sui juris_.

   [129] It is not known to the English, but it is a fact which I can
   vouch for, from my six or seven years' residence in Scotland
   [written in 1839], that the Scotch, one and all, believe it to be
   an inalienable characteristic of an Englishman to be fond of good
   eating. What indignation have I, and how many a time, had occasion
   to feel and utter on this subject? But of this at some other time.
   Meantime, the Man of Feeling had this creed in excess; and, in
   some paper (of _The Mirror_ or _The Lounger_), he describes an
   English tourist in Scotland by saying--"I would not wish to be
   thought national; yet, in mere reverence for truth, I am bound to
   say, and to declare to all the world (let who will be offended),
   that the first innkeeper in Scotland under whose roof we met with
   genuine buttered toast was an Englishman."

   [130] Meantime, if it did not disturb _him_, it ought to disturb
   _us_, his immediate successors, who are at once the most likely to
   retrieve these _losses_ by direct efforts, and the least likely to
   benefit by any casual or indirect retrievals, such as will be
   produced by time. Surely a subscription should be set on foot to
   recover all books enriched by his marginal notes. I would
   subscribe; and I know others who would largely.

       *       *       *       *       *

Returning to Southey and Greta Hall, both the house and the master
may deserve a few words more of description. For the master, I have
already sketched his person; and his face I profess myself unable to
describe accurately. His hair was black, and yet his complexion was
fair; his eyes I believe to be hazel and large; but I will not vouch
for that fact: his nose aquiline; and he has a remarkable habit of
looking up into the air, as if looking at abstractions. The expression
of his face was that of a very acute and aspiring man. So far, it was
even noble, as it conveyed a feeling of a serene and gentle pride,
habitually familiar with elevating subjects of contemplation. And yet
it was impossible that this pride could have been offensive to anybody,
chastened as it was by the most unaffected modesty; and this modesty
made evident and prominent by the constant expression of reverence for
the great men of the age (when he happened to esteem them such), and
for all the great patriarchs of our literature. The point in which
Southey's manner failed the most in conciliating regard was in all
which related to the external expressions of friendliness. No man could
be more sincerely hospitable--no man more essentially disposed to give
up even his time (the possession which he most valued) to the service
of his friends. But there was an air of reserve and distance about
him--the reserve of a lofty, self-respecting mind, but, perhaps, a
little too freezing--in his treatment of all persons who were not among
the _corps_ of his ancient fireside friends. Still, even towards the
veriest strangers, it is but justice to notice his extreme courtesy in
sacrificing his literary employments for the day, whatever they might
be, to the duty (for such he made it) of doing the honours of the lake
and the adjacent mountains.

Southey was at that time (1807), and has continued ever since, the most
industrious of all literary men on record. A certain task he prescribed
to himself every morning before breakfast. This could not be a very
long one, for he breakfasted at nine, or soon after, and _never_ rose
before eight, though he went to bed duly at half-past ten; but, as I
have many times heard him say, less than nine hours' sleep he found
insufficient. From breakfast to a latish dinner (about half after five
or six) was his main period of literary toil. After dinner, according
to the accident of having or not having visitors in the house, he sat
over his wine, or he retired to his library again, from which, about
eight, he was summoned to tea. But, generally speaking, he closed his
_literary_ toils at dinner; the whole of the hours after that meal
being dedicated to his correspondence. This, it may be supposed, was
unusually large, to occupy so much of his time, for his letters rarely
extended to any length. At that period, the post, by way of Penrith,
reached Keswick about six or seven in the evening. And so pointedly
regular was Southey in all his habits that, short as the time was,
all letters were answered on the same evening which brought them. At
tea, he read the London papers. It was perfectly astonishing to men of
less methodical habits to find how much he got through of elaborate
business by his unvarying system of arrangement in the distribution
of his time. We often hear it said, in accounts of pattern ladies and
gentlemen (what Coleridge used contemptuously to style _goody_ people),
that they found time for everything; that business never interrupted
pleasure; that labours of love and charity never stood in the way
of courtesy and personal enjoyment. This is easy to say--easy to put
down as one feature of an imaginary portrait: but I must say that in
actual life I have seen few such cases. Southey, however, _did_ find
time for everything. It moved the sneers of some people, that even his
poetry was composed according to a predetermined rule; that so many
lines should be produced, by contract, as it were, before breakfast;
so many at such another definite interval. And I acknowledge that so
far I went along with the sneerers as to marvel exceedingly how that
_could_ be possible. But, if _a priori_ one laughed and expected to
see verses corresponding to this mechanic rule of construction, _a
posteriori_ one was bound to judge of the verses as one found them.
Supposing them good, they were entitled to honour, no matter for the
previous reasons which made it possible that they would _not_ be good.
And generally, however undoubtedly they _ought_ to have been bad, the
world has pronounced them good. In fact, they _are_ good; and the sole
objection to them is, that they are too intensely _objective_--too much
reflect the mind, as spreading itself out upon external things--too
little exhibit the mind as introverting itself upon its own thoughts
and feelings. This, however, is an objection which only seems to limit
the range of the poetry--and all poetry _is_ limited in its range: none
comprehends more than a section of the human power.

Meantime, the prose of Southey was that by which he lived. The
_Quarterly Review_ it was by which, as he expressed it to myself in
1810, he "_made the pot boil_."[131] About the same time, possibly
as early as 1808 (for I think that I remember in that Journal an
account of the Battle of Vimiera), Southey was engaged by an Edinburgh
publisher (Constable, was it not?) to write the entire historical part
of the _Edinburgh Annual Register_, at a salary of £400 per annum.
Afterwards, the publisher, who was intensely national, and, doubtless,
never from the first cordially relished the notion of importing
English aid into a city teeming with briefless barristers and variety
of talent, threw out a hint that perhaps he might reduce the salary
to £300. Just about this time I happened to see Southey, who said
laughingly--"If the man of Edinburgh does this, I shall _strike_ for an
advance of wages." I presume that he _did_ strike, and, like many other
"operatives," without effect. Those who work for lower wages during a
strike are called _snobs_,[132] the men who stand out being _nobs_.
Southey became a resolute nob; but some snob was found in Edinburgh,
some youthful advocate, who accepted £300 per annum, and thenceforward
Southey lost this part of his income. I once possessed the whole work:
and in one part, viz. the _Domestic Chronicle_, I know that it is
executed with a most culpable carelessness--the beginnings of cases
being given without the ends, the ends without the beginnings--a defect
but too common in public journals. The credit of the work, however,
was staked upon its treatment of the current public history of Europe,
and the tone of its politics in times so full of agitation, and
teeming with new births in every year, some fated to prove abortive,
but others bearing golden promises for the human race. Now, whatever
might be the talent with which Southey's successor performed his duty,
there was a loss in one point for which no talent of mere execution
could make amends. The very prejudices of Southey tended to unity of
feeling: they were in harmony with each other, and grew out of a strong
moral feeling, which is the one sole secret for giving interest to an
historical narration, fusing the incoherent details into one body, and
carrying the reader fluently along the else monotonous recurrences and
unmeaning details of military movements.

   [131] In De Quincey's imperfect reproduction of this paper in his
   collective edition, he adds here:--"One single paper, for
   instance--viz. a review of Nelson's life, which subsequently was
   expanded into his very popular little book on that
   subject--brought him the splendid honorarium of £150."--M.

   [132] See the Evidence before the House of Commons' Committee. [De
   Quincey does not give the date, nor the occasion.--M.]

Well or ill directed, a strong moral feeling, and a profound sympathy
with elementary justice, is that which creates a soul under what
else may well be denominated, Miltonically, "the ribs of death." Now
this, and a mind already made up even to obstinacy upon all public
questions, were the peculiar qualifications which Southey brought to
the task--qualifications not to be bought in any market, not to be
compensated by any amount of mere intellectual talent, and almost
impossible as the qualifications of a much younger man.[133]

   [133] See note, _Southey and the Edinburgh Annual Register_,
   appended to this chapter.--M.

As a pecuniary loss, though considerable, Southey was not unable to
support it; for he had a pension from Government before this time, and
under the following circumstances:--Charles Wynne, the brother of Sir
Watkin, the great autocrat of North Wales--that C. W. who is almost
equally well known for his knowledge of Parliamentary usage, which
pointed him out to the notice of the House as an eligible person to
fill the office of Speaker, and for his unfortunately shrill voice,
which chiefly it was that defeated his claim[134]--(in fact, as is
universally known, his brother and he, for different defects of
voice and utterance, are called _Bubble and Squeak_)--this C. W. had
believed himself to have been deeply indebted to Southey's high-toned
moral example, and to his wise counsels, during the time when both
were students at Oxford, for the fortunate direction given to his own
wavering impulses. This sense of obligation he endeavoured to express
by settling a pension upon Southey from his own funds. At length, upon
the death of Mr. Pitt, early in 1806, an opening was made for the Fox
and Grenville parties to come into office. Charles Wynne, as a person
connected by marriage with the house of Grenville, and united with them
in political opinions, shared in the golden shower; he also received a
place; and, upon the strength of his improving prospects, he married:
upon which it occurred to Southey, that it was no longer right to tax
the funds of one who was now called upon to support an establishment
becoming his rank. Under that impression he threw up his pension; and
upon _their_ part, to express their sense of what they considered a
delicate and honourable sacrifice, the Grenvilles placed Southey upon
the national pension list.

   [134] Sir Watkin, the elder brother, had a tongue too large for
   his mouth; Mr. C. Wynne, the younger, had a shrill voice, which at
   times rose into a scream. It became, therefore, a natural and
   current jest, to call the two brothers by the name of a well-known
   dish, viz. _bubble and squeak_.

What might be the exact colour of Southey's political creed in this
year, 1807, it is difficult to say. The great revolution, in his way of
thinking upon such subjects, with which he has been so often upbraided
as something equal in delinquency to a deliberate tergiversation or
moral apostasy, could not have then taken place; and of this I am sure,
from the following little anecdote connected with this visit:--On the
day after my own arrival at Greta Hall, came Wordsworth following
upon my steps from Penrith. We dined and passed that evening with Mr.
Southey. The next morning, after breakfast, previously to leaving
Keswick, we were sitting in Southey's library; and he was discussing
with Wordsworth the aspect of public affairs: for my part, I was far
too diffident to take any part in such a conversation, for I had no
opinions at all upon politics, nor any interest in public affairs,
further than that I had a keen sympathy with the national honour,
gloried in the name of Englishman, and had been bred up in a frenzied
horror of jacobinism. Not having been old enough, at the first outbreak
of the French Revolution, to participate (as else, undoubtedly, I
should have done) in the golden hopes of its early dawn, my first
youthful introduction to foreign politics had been in seasons and
circumstances that taught me to approve of all I heard in abhorrence of
French excesses, and to worship the name of Pitt; otherwise my whole
heart had been so steadily fixed on a different world from the world of
our daily experience, that, for some years, I had never looked into a
newspaper; nor, if I cared something for the movement made by nations
from year to year, did I care one iota for their movement from week
to week. Still, careless as I was on these subjects, it sounded as a
novelty to me, and one which I had not dreamed of as a possibility,
to hear men of education and liberal pursuits--men, besides, whom I
regarded as so elevated in mind, and one of them as a person charmed
and consecrated from error--giving utterance to sentiments which seemed
absolutely disloyal. Yet now did I hear--and I heard with an emotion of
sorrow, but a sorrow that instantly gave way to a conviction that it
was myself who lay under a delusion, and simply because

     ----"from Abelard it came"--

opinions avowed most hostile to the reigning family; not personally
to them, but generally to a monarchical form of government. And that
I could not be mistaken in my impression, that my memory cannot have
played me false, is evident, from one relic of the conversation which
rested upon my ear, and has survived to this day [1839]--thirty and
two years from the time. It had been agreed, that no good was to be
hoped for, as respected England, until the royal family should be
expatriated; and Southey, jestingly considering to what country they
could be exiled, with mutual benefit for that country and themselves,
had supposed the case--that, with a large allowance of money, such as
might stimulate beneficially the industry of a rising colony, they
should be transported to New South Wales; which project, amusing his
fancy, he had, with the readiness and facility that characterizes his
mind, thrown _extempore_ into verse; speaking off, as an improvisatore,
about eight or ten lines, of which the three last I perfectly remember,
and they were these (by the way I should have mentioned that they took
the form of a petition addressed to the King):--

    "Therefore, old George, by George we pray
    Of thee forthwith to extend thy sway
    Over the great Botanic Bay."

The sole doubt I have about the exact words regards the second line,
which might have been (according to a various reading which equally
clings to my ear)--

    "That thou would'st please to extend thy sway."

But about the last I cannot be wrong; for I remember laughing with a
sense of something peculiarly droll in the substitution of the stilted
phrase--"_the great Botanic Bay_," for our ordinary week-day name
_Botany Bay_, so redolent of thieves and pickpockets.

Southey walked with us that morning for about five miles on our road
towards Grasmere, which brought us to the southern side of Shoulthwaite
Moss, and into the sweet solitary little vale of Legbesthwaite. And,
by the way, he took leave of us at the gate of a house, one amongst
the very few (five or six in all) just serving to redeem that valley
from absolute solitude, which some years afterwards became, in a
slight degree, remarkable to me from two little incidents by which
it connected itself with my personal experiences. One was, perhaps,
scarcely worth recording. It was simply this--that Wordsworth and
myself having, through a long day's rambling, alternately walked and
rode with a friend of his who happened to have a travelling carriage
with him, and who was on his way to Keswick, agreed to wait hereabouts
until Wordsworth's friend, in his abundant kindness, should send back
his carriage to take us, on our return to Grasmere, distant about
eight miles. It was a lovely summer evening; but, as it happened that
we ate our breakfast early, and had eaten nothing at all throughout a
long summer's day, we agreed to "sorn" upon the goodman of the house,
whoever he might happen to be, Catholic or Protestant, Jew, Gentile,
or Mahometan, and to take any bone that he would be pleased to toss to
such hungry dogs as ourselves. Accordingly we repaired to his gate;
we knocked, and, forthwith it was opened to us by a man-mountain,
who listened benignantly to our humble request, and ushered us into
a comfortable parlour. All sorts of refreshments he continued to
shower upon us for a space of two hours: it became evident that our
introducer was the master of the house: we adored him in our thoughts
as an earthly providence to hungry wayfarers; and we longed to make his
acquaintance. But, for some inexplicable reason, that must continue
to puzzle all future commentators on Wordsworth and his history, he
never made his appearance. Could it be, we thought, that, without the
formality of a sign, he, in so solitary a region, more than twentyfive
miles distant from Kendal (the only town worthy of the name throughout
the adjacent country), exercised the functions of a landlord, and that
we ought to pay him for his most liberal hospitality? Never was such
a dilemma from the foundation of Legbesthwaite. To err, in either
direction, was damnable: to go off without paying, if he _were_ an
innkeeper, made us swindlers; to offer payment if he were not, and
supposing that he had been inundating us with his hospitable bounties
simply in the character of a natural-born gentleman, made us the most
unfeeling of mercenary ruffians. In the latter case we might expect a
duel; in the former, of course, the treadmill. We were deliberating
on this sad alternative, and I, for my part was voting in favour of
the treadmill, when the sound of wheels was heard, and, in one minute,
the carriage of his friend drew up to the farmer's gate; the crisis
had now arrived, and we perspired considerably; when in came the frank
Cumberland lass who had been our attendant. To her we propounded our
difficulty--and lucky it was we did so, for she assured us that her
master was an awful man, and would have "brained" us both if we had
insulted him with the offer of money. She, however, honoured us by
accepting the price of some female ornament.

I made a memorandum at the time, to ascertain the peculiar taste of
this worthy Cumberland farmer, in order that I might, at some future
opportunity, express my thanks to him for his courtesy; but, alas! for
human resolutions, I have not done so to this moment; and is it likely
that he, perhaps sixty years old at that time (1813), is alive at
present, twenty-five years removed? Well, he _may_ be; though I think
_that_ exceedingly doubtful, considering the next anecdote relating to
the same house:--Two, or, it may be, three years after this time, I
was walking to Keswick, from my own cottage in Grasmere. The distance
was thirteen miles; the time just nine o'clock; the night a cloudy
moonlight, and intensely cold. I took the very greatest delight in
these nocturnal walks through the silent valleys of Cumberland and
Westmoreland; and often at hours far later than the present. What I
liked in this solitary rambling was, to trace the course of the evening
through its household hieroglyphics from the windows which I passed or
saw: to see the blazing fires shining through the windows of houses,
lurking in nooks far apart from neighbours; sometimes, in solitudes
that seemed abandoned to the owl, to catch the sounds of household
mirth; then, some miles further, to perceive the time of going to bed;
then the gradual sinking to silence of the house; then the drowsy
reign of the cricket; at intervals, to hear church-clocks or a little
solitary chapel-bell, under the brows of mighty hills, proclaiming
the hours of the night, and flinging out their sullen knells over
the graves where "the rude forefathers of the hamlet slept"--where
the strength and the loveliness of Elizabeth's time, or Cromwell's,
and through so many fleeting generations that have succeeded, had
long ago sunk to rest. Such was the sort of pleasure which I reaped
in my nightly walks--of which, however, considering the suspicions
of lunacy which it has sometimes awoke, the less I say, perhaps, the
better. Nine o'clock it was--and deadly cold as ever March night was
made by the keenest of black frosts, and by the bitterest of north
winds--when I drew towards the gate of our huge and hospitable friend.
A little garden there was before the house; and in the centre of this
garden was placed an arm-chair, upon which arm-chair was sitting
composedly--but I rubbed my eyes, doubting the very evidence of my own
eyesight--_a_ or _the_ huge man in his shirt-sleeves; yes, positively
not sunning but _mooning_ himself--apricating himself in the occasional
moonbeams; and, as if simple star-gazing from a sedentary station were
not sufficient on such a night, absolutely pursuing his astrological
studies, I repeat, in his shirt-sleeves! Could this be our hospitable
friend, the man-mountain? Secondly, was it any man at all? Might it
not be a scarecrow dressed up to frighten the birds? But from what--to
frighten them from what at that season of the year? Yet, again, it
might be an ancient scarecrow--a superannuated scarecrow, far advanced
in years. But, still, why should a scarecrow, young or old, sit in an
arm-chair? Suppose I were to ask. Yet, where was the use of asking a
scarecrow? And, if not a scarecrow, where was the safety of speaking
too inquisitively, on his own premises, to a man-mountain? The old
dilemma of the duel or the treadmill, if I should intrude upon his
grounds at night, occurred to me; and I watched the anomalous object
in silence for some minutes. At length the monster (for such at any
rate it was, scarecrow or not scarecrow) solemnly raised his hand to
his face, perhaps taking a pinch of snuff, and thereby settled one
question. But that settled only irritated my curiosity the more upon
a second: what hallucination of the brain was it that could induce a
living man to adopt so very absurd a line of conduct? Once I thought of
addressing him thus:--Might I presume so far upon your known courtesy
to wayfaring strangers as to ask--Is it the Devil who prompts you to
sit in your shirt-sleeves, as if meditating a _camisade_, or to woo
_al fresco_ pleasures on such a night as this? But, as Dr. Y., on
complaining that, whenever he looked out of the window, he was sure to
see Mr. X. lounging about the quadrangle, was effectually parried by
Mr. X. retorting that, whenever he lounged in the quadrangle, he was
sure to see the Doctor looking out of the window, so did I anticipate
a puzzling rejoinder from the former, with regard to my own motives
for haunting the roads as a nocturnal tramper, without a rational
object that I could make intelligible. I thought, also, of the fate
which attended the Calendars, and so many other notorious characters
in the "Arabian Nights," for unseasonable questions, or curiosity too
vivacious. And, upon the whole, I judged it advisable to pursue my
journey in silence, considering the time of night, the solitary place,
and the fancy of our enormous friend for "braining" those whom he
regarded as ugly customers. And thus it came about that this one house
has been loaded in my memory with a double mystery, that too probably
never _can_ be explained: and another torment had been prepared for the
curious of future ages.

Of Southey, meantime, I had learned, upon this brief and hurried
visit, so much in confirmation or in extension of my tolerably just
preconceptions with regard to his character and manners, as left me not
a very great deal to add, and nothing at all to alter, through the many
years which followed of occasional intercourse with his family, and
domestic knowledge of his habits. A man of more serene and even temper
could not be imagined; nor more uniformly cheerful in his tone of
spirits; nor more unaffectedly polite and courteous in his demeanour to
strangers; nor more hospitable in his own wrong--I mean by the painful
sacrifices which hospitality entailed upon him of time so exceedingly
precious that, during his winter and spring months of solitude, or
whenever he was left absolute master of its distribution, every half
hour in the day had its peculiar duty. In the still "weightier matters
of the law," in cases that involved appeals to conscience and high
moral principle, I believe Southey to be as exemplary a man as can ever
have lived. Were it to his own instant ruin, I am satisfied that he
would do justice and fulfil his duty under any possible difficulties,
and through the very strongest temptations to do otherwise. For honour
the most delicate, for integrity the firmest, and for generosity within
the limits of prudence, Southey cannot well have a superior; and,
in the lesser moralities--those which govern the daily habits, and
transpire through the manners--he is certainly a better man--that is
(with reference to the minor principle concerned), a more _amiable_
man--than Wordsworth. He is less capable, for instance, of usurping an
undue share of the conversation; he is more uniformly disposed to be
charitable in his transient colloquial judgments upon doubtful actions
of his neighbours; more gentle and winning in his condescensions to
inferior knowledge or powers of mind; more willing to suppose it
possible that he himself may have fallen into an error; more tolerant
of avowed indifference towards his own writings (though, by the way, I
shall have something to offer in justification of Wordsworth, upon this
charge); and, finally, if the reader will pardon a violent instance of
anti-climax, much more ready to volunteer his assistance in carrying a
lady's reticule or parasol.

As a more _amiable_ man (taking that word partly in the French sense,
partly also in the loftier English sense), it might be imagined
that Southey would be a more eligible companion than Wordsworth.
But this is not so; and chiefly for three reasons which more than
counterbalance Southey's greater amiability: _first_, because the
natural reserve of Southey, which I have mentioned before, makes it
peculiarly difficult to place yourself on terms of intimacy with him;
_secondly_, because the range of his conversation is more limited
than that of Wordsworth--dealing less with life and the interests of
life--more exclusively with books; _thirdly_, because the style of his
conversation is less flowing and diffusive--less expansive--more apt to
clothe itself in a keen, sparkling, aphoristic form--consequently much
sooner and more frequently coming to an abrupt close. A sententious,
epigrammatic form of delivering opinions has a certain effect of
_clenching_ a subject, which makes it difficult to pursue it without
a corresponding smartness of expression, and something of the same
antithetic point and equilibration of clauses. Not that the reader
is to suppose in Southey a showy master of rhetoric and colloquial
sword-play, seeking to strike and to dazzle by his brilliant hits or
adroit evasions. The very opposite is the truth. He seeks, indeed, to
be effective, not for the sake of display, but as the readiest means
of retreating from display, and the necessity for display: feeling
that his station in literature and his laurelled honours make him a
mark for the curiosity and interest of the company--that a standing
appeal is constantly turning to him for his opinion--a latent call
always going on for his voice on the question of the moment--he is
anxious to comply with this requisition at as slight a cost as may be
of thought and time. His heart is continually reverting to his wife,
viz. his library; and, that he may waste as little effort as possible
upon his conversational exercises--that the little he wishes to say
may appear pregnant with much meaning--he finds it advantageous, and,
moreover, the style of his mind naturally prompts him, to adopt a
trenchant, pungent, aculeated form of terse, glittering, stenographic
sentences--sayings which have the air of laying down the law without
any _locus penitentiæ_ or privilege of appeal, but are not meant to do
so; in short, aiming at brevity for the company as well as for himself,
by cutting off all opening for discussion and desultory talk through
the sudden winding up that belongs to a sententious aphorism. The
hearer feels that "the record is closed"; and he has a sense of this
result as having been accomplished by something like an oracular laying
down of the law _ex cathedra_: but this is an indirect collateral
impression from Southey's manner, and far from the one he meditates or
wishes. An oracular manner he does certainly affect in certain dilemmas
of a languishing or loitering conversation; not the peremptoriness,
meantime, not the imperiousness of the oracle is what he seeks for, but
its brevity, its dispatch, its conclusiveness.

Finally, as a fourth reason why Southey is less fitted for a genial
companion than Wordsworth, his spirits have been, of late years, in
a lower key than those of the latter. The tone of Southey's animal
spirits was never at any time raised beyond the standard of an ordinary
sympathy; there was in him no tumult, no agitation of passion;
his organic and constitutional sensibilities were healthy, sound,
perhaps strong--but not profound, not excessive. Cheerful he was, and
animated at all times; but he levied no tributes on the spirits or the
feelings beyond what all people could furnish. One reason why his
bodily temperament never, like that of Wordsworth, threw him into a
state of tumultuous excitement which required intense and elaborate
conversation to work off the excessive fervour, was, that, over and
above his far less fervid constitution of mind and body, Southey
rarely took any exercise; he led a life as sedentary, except for the
occasional excursions in summer (extorted from his sense of kindness
and hospitality), as that of a city tailor. And it was surprising to
many people, who did not know by experience the prodigious effect upon
the mere bodily health of regular and congenial mental labour, that
Southey should be able to maintain health so regular, and cheerfulness
so uniformly serene. Cheerful, however, he was, in those early years of
my acquaintance with him; but it was manifest to a thoughtful observer
that his golden equanimity was bound up in a threefold chain,--in a
conscience clear of all offence, in the recurring enjoyments from
his honourable industry, and in the gratification of his parental
affections. If any one cord should give way, there (it seemed) would
be an end to Southey's tranquillity. He had a son at that time,
Herbert[135] Southey, a child in petticoats when I first knew him, very
interesting even then, but annually putting forth fresh blossoms of
unusual promise, that made even indifferent people fear for the safety
of one so finely organized, so delicate in his sensibilities, and so
prematurely accomplished. As to his father, it became evident that
he lived almost in the light of young Herbert's smiles, and that the
very pulses of his heart played in unison to the sound of his son's
laughter. There was in his manner towards this child, and towards this
only, something that marked an excess of delirious doating, perfectly
unlike the ordinary chastened movements of Southey's affections; and
something also which indicated a vague fear about him; a premature
unhappiness, as if already the inaudible tread of calamity could be
perceived, as if already he had lost him; which, for the latter years
of the boy's life, seemed to poison the blessing of his presence.

   [135] Why he was called Herbert, if my young readers inquire, I
   must reply, that I do not precisely know; because I know of
   reasons too many by half why he might have been so called. Derwent
   Coleridge, the second son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and first
   cousin of Herbert Southey, was so called from the Lake of Keswick,
   commonly styled Derwent Water, which gave the title of Earl to the
   noble, and the noble-minded, though erring, family of the
   Radcliffes, who gave up, like heroes and martyrs, their lives and
   the finest estates in England for one who was incapable of
   appreciating the service. One of the islands on this lake is
   dedicated to St. Herbert, and this _might_ have given a name to
   Southey's first-born child. But it is more probable that he
   derived this name from Dr. Herbert, uncle to the laureate.

A stronger evidence I cannot give of Southey's trembling
apprehensiveness about this child than that the only rude thing I ever
knew him to do, the only discourteous thing, was done on his account.
A party of us, chiefly composed of Southey's family and his visitors,
were in a sailboat upon the lake. Herbert was one of this party; and at
that time not above five or six years old. In landing upon one of the
islands, most of the gentlemen were occupied in assisting the ladies
over the thwarts of the boat; and one gentleman, merely a stranger,
observing this, good-naturedly took up Herbert in his arms, and was
stepping with him most carefully from thwart to thwart, when Southey,
in a perfect frenzy of anxiety for his boy, his "moon" as he used to
call him (I suppose from some pun of his own, or some mistake of the
child's upon the equivocal word _sun_), rushed forward, and tore him
out of the arms of the stranger without one word of apology; nor,
in fact, under the engrossing panic of the moment, lest an unsteady
movement along with the rocking and undulating of the boat should throw
his little boy overboard into the somewhat stormy waters of the lake,
did Southey become aware of his own exceedingly discourteous action:
fear for his boy quelled his very power of perception. _That_ the
stranger, on reflection, understood; a race of emotions travelled over
his countenance. I saw the whole, a silent observer from the shore.
First a hasty blush of resentment mingled with astonishment: then a
good-natured smile of indulgence to the _naïveté_ of the paternal
feeling as displaying itself in the act, and the accompanying gestures
of frenzied impatience; finally, a considerate, grave expression of
acquiescence in the whole act; but with a pitying look towards father
and son, as too probably destined under such agony of affection to
trials perhaps insupportable. If I interpreted aright the stranger's
feelings, he did not read their destinies amiss. Herbert became, with
his growing years, a child of more and more hope; but, therefore, the
object of more and more fearful solicitude. He read, and read; and he
became at last

     "A very learned youth"--

to borrow a line from his uncle's beautiful poem on the wild boy who
fell into a heresy whilst living under the patronage of a Spanish
grandee, and finally escaped from a probable martyrdom by sailing up a
great American river, wide as any sea, after which he was never heard
of again. The learned youth of the river Greta had an earlier and
more sorrowful close to his career. Possibly from want of exercise,
combined with inordinate exercise of the cerebral organs, a disease
gradually developed itself in the heart. It was not a mere disorder
in the functions, it was a disease in the structure of the organ, and
admitted of no permanent relief, consequently of no final hope. He
died[136]; and with him died for ever the golden hopes, the radiant
felicity, and the internal serenity, of the unhappy father. It was from
Southey himself, speaking without external signs of agitation, calmly,
dispassionately, almost coldly, but with the coldness of a settled
despondency, that I heard, whilst accompanying him through Grasmere
on his road homewards to Keswick from some visit he had been paying
to Wordsworth at Rydal Mount, his settled feelings and convictions as
connected with that loss. For _him_, in this world, he said, happiness
there could be none; for his tenderest affections, the very deepest by
many degrees which he had ever known, were now buried in the grave with
his youthful and too brilliant Herbert!

   [136] On the 17th of April 1816, aged ten years.--M.


De Quincey's recollection of the _Edinburgh Annual Register_ in
connexion with Southey is altogether erroneous. Though there had been
a project of some periodical of the kind by the Constable publishing
house as early as 1807, the enterprise was not started till 1809,
and then not by Constable at all, but actually in opposition to
Constable by the new Edinburgh publishing house of John Ballantyne,--or
rather, one might say, of Scott and Ballantyne, for Scott (secretly
Ballantyne's partner already for a long while in his printing business)
was Ballantyne's real backer and principal in the whole of this new
concern. In a letter of Scott's to his friend Merritt, of date 14th
January 1809, after announcing the great fact that a _Quarterly Review_
was forthcoming to counteract the _Edinburgh_, he adds:--"Then, sir,
to turn the flank of Messrs. Constable and Co., and to avenge myself
of certain impertinences which, in the vehemence of their Whiggery,
they have dared to indulge in towards me, I have prepared to start
against them at Whitsunday first the celebrated printer Ballantyne,
with a long purse ['the purse was, alas! Scott's own,' Lockhart notes
at this point] and a sound political creed, not to mention an alliance
offensive and defensive with young John Murray of Fleet Street, the
most enlightened and active of the London trade. By this means I hope
to counterbalance the predominating influence of Constable and Co.,
who at present have it in their power and inclination to forward or
suppress any book as they approve or dislike its political tendency.
Lastly, I have caused the said Ballantyne to venture upon an _Edinburgh
Annual Register_, of which I send you a prospectus. I intend to help
him myself as far as time will admit, and hope to procure him many
respectable coadjutors." In another letter, written just a fortnight
previously, Scott had broached the subject of the new _Annual Register_
to his friend Kirkpatrick Sharpe, intimating that, though Ballantyne
would be the managing editor, with himself for the real editor in
the background, all the more important contributions would be from
selected hands, and that, as the historical department was the most
important,--a luminous picture of the current events of the world from
year to year being "a task for a man of genius,"--they proposed to
give their "historian" £300 a year,--"no deaf nuts," adds Scott, in
comment on the sum. A certain eminent person had already been offered
the post, Scott proceeds; but, should "the great man" decline, would
Kirkpatrick Sharpe himself accept it? The "great man" was Southey; he
did accept; and for some years he had the accredited charge of the
historical department of the _Register_. From the first, however, the
venture did not pay; and, the loss upon it having gone on for some
time at the rate of £1000 a year, Scott,--who had been tending to a
reconciliation with Constable on other grounds,--was glad when, in
1813, Constable took a portion of the burden of the concern off his
hands. It is possible that this accession of Constable to a share in
the management, and some consequent retrenchment of expenses, may have
had something to do with Southey's resignation of his connexion with
the _Register_. Not, however, till 1815, if we may trust Lockhart's
dating, did that resignation take place,--for, in Lockhart's narrative
for the following year, 1816, where he notes that Scott had stepped
in for the rescue of the _Register_ by himself undertaking to do its
arrears in the historical department, he gives the reasons thus:--"Mr.
Southey had, for reasons on which I do not enter, discontinued his
services to that work; and it was now doubly necessary, after trying
for one year a less eminent hand, that, if the work were not to be
dropped altogether, some strenuous exertion should be made to sustain
its character."--From all this it will be seen that De Quincey is wrong
in his fancy that the proposal to reduce Southey's salary (from £400 to
£300, he says, but was it not £300 from the first?) was a mere device
for getting rid of him because he was an Englishman, and because a
Scottish "snob" of the Parliament House could be got to do the work
at a cheaper rate; or, at all events, that he is wrong in attributing
the shabbiness to Constable and the Whigs in Edinburgh. Southey's own
fellow-Tory Scott was still supreme in the conduct of the _Register_,
though he might take Constable's advice in all matters of its financial
administration; and, if Constable advised, among other things, a
reduction of Southey's salary in the historical department, that was
but natural in the circumstances, and Scott probably acquiesced.--In
fact, by this time the contributorship to the _Edinburgh Annual
Register_, always a drudgery, must have been of less consequence to
Southey than it had been. In November 1813 he had been appointed to the
office of Poet-Laureate, then vacant by the death of Henry James Pye;
and the salary attached to that sinecure, though small, was something.
On the 13th of that month Scott, who had declined the office for
himself and had strongly recommended Southey, and who was then still
virtually Southey's paymaster for his services in the _Edinburgh Annual
Register_, had written his congratulations to Southey, with his regrets
that the Laureateship was not better worth his while.--D. M.



   [137] From _Tait's Magazine_ for August 1839. See explanation in
   Preface to this volume.--M.

A circumstance which, as much as anything, expounded to every eye the
characteristic distinctions between Wordsworth and Southey, and would
not suffer a stranger to forget it for a moment, was the insignificant
place and consideration allowed to the small book-collection of the
former, contrasted with the splendid library of the latter. The two
or three hundred volumes of Wordsworth occupied a little, homely,
painted book-case, fixed into one of two shallow recesses, formed on
each side of the fireplace by the projection of the chimney in the
little sitting-room up stairs which he had already described as his
half kitchen and half parlour. They were ill bound, or not bound at
all--in boards, sometimes in tatters; many were imperfect as to the
number of volumes, mutilated as to the number of pages; sometimes,
where it seemed worth while, the defects being supplied by manuscript;
sometimes not: in short, everything showed that the books were for use,
and not for show; and their limited amount showed that their possessor
must have independent sources of enjoyment to fill up the major part
of his time. In reality, when the weather was tolerable, I believe
that Wordsworth rarely resorted to his books (unless, perhaps, to some
little pocket edition of a poet which accompanied him in his rambles)
except in the evenings, or after he had tired himself by walking. On
the other hand, Southey's collection occupied a separate room, the
largest, and every way the most agreeable in the house; and this room
was styled, and not ostentatiously (for it really merited that name),
the Library. The house itself, Greta Hall, stood upon a little eminence
(as I have before mentioned), overhanging the river Greta. There was
nothing remarkable in its internal arrangements. In all respects it
was a very plain, unadorned family dwelling: large enough, by a little
contrivance, to accommodate two, or, in some sense, three families,
viz. Mr. Southey and _his_ family, Mr. Coleridge and _his_, together
with Mrs. Lovell, who, when her son was with her, might be said to
compose a third. Mrs. Coleridge, Mrs. Southey, and Mrs. Lovell were
sisters; all having come originally from Bristol; and, as the different
sets of children in this one house had each three several aunts, all
the ladies, by turns, assuming that relation twice over, it was one
of Southey's many amusing jests, to call the hill on which Greta Hall
was placed the _ant-hill_. Mrs. Lovell was the widow of Mr. Robert
Lovell, who had published a volume of poems, in conjunction with
Southey, somewhere about the year 1797, under the signatures of Bion
and Moschus. This lady, having only one son, did not require any large
suite of rooms; and the less so, as her son quitted her at an early
age, to pursue a professional education. The house had, therefore, been
divided (not by absolute partition into two distinct[138] apartments,
but by an amicable distribution of rooms) between the two families of
Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey; Mr. Coleridge had a separate study,
which was distinguished by nothing except by an organ amongst its
furniture, and by a magnificent view from its window (or windows),
if that could be considered a distinction in a situation whose local
necessities presented you with magnificent objects in whatever
direction you might happen to turn your eyes.

   [138] "_Into two distinct apartments_":--The word apartment,
   meaning, in effect, a compartment of a house, already includes, in
   its proper sense, a suite of rooms; and it is a mere vulgar error,
   arising out of the ambitious usage of lodging-house keepers, to
   talk of one family or an establishment occupying apartments in the
   plural. The Queen's apartment at St. James's or at Versailles--not
   the Queen's apartments--is the correct expression.

In the morning, the two families might live apart; but they met
at dinner, and in a common drawing-room; and Southey's library, in
both senses of the word, was placed at the service of all the ladies
alike. However, they did not intrude upon him, except in cases where
they wished for a larger reception room, or a more interesting place
for suggesting the topics of conversation. Interesting this room
was, indeed, and in a degree not often rivalled. The library--the
collection of books, I mean, which formed the most conspicuous part
of its furniture within--was in all senses a good one. The books were
chiefly English, Spanish, and Portuguese; well selected, being the
great cardinal classics of the three literatures; fine copies, and
decorated externally with a reasonable elegance, so as to make them
in harmony with the other embellishments of the room. This effect
was aided by the horizontal arrangement upon brackets of many rare
manuscripts--Spanish or Portuguese. Made thus gay within, this room
stood in little need of attractions from without. Yet, even upon the
gloomiest day of winter, the landscape from the different windows was
too permanently commanding in its grandeur, too essentially independent
of the seasons or the pomp of woods, to fail in fascinating the gaze of
the coldest and dullest of spectators. The lake of Derwent Water in one
direction, with its lovely islands--a lake about ten miles in circuit,
and shaped pretty much like a boy's kite; the lake of Bassinthwaite
in another; the mountains of Newlands, arranging themselves like
pavilions; the gorgeous confusion of Borrowdale just revealing its
sublime chaos through the narrow vista of its gorge: all these objects
lay in different angles to the front; whilst the sullen rear, not
fully visible on this side of the house, was closed for many a league
by the vast and towering masses of Skiddaw and Blencathara--mountains
which are rather to be considered as frontier barriers, and chains of
hilly ground, cutting the county of Cumberland into great chambers and
different climates, than as insulated eminences, so vast is the area
which they occupy; though there _are_ also such separate and insulated
heights, and nearly amongst the highest in the country. Southey's lot
had therefore fallen, locally considered, into a goodly heritage.
This grand panorama of mountain scenery, so varied, so expansive,
and yet having the delightful feeling about it of a deep seclusion
and dell-like sequestration from the world--a feeling which, in the
midst of so expansive an area spread out below his windows, could not
have been sustained by any barriers less elevated than Glaramara,
Skiddaw, or (which could be also descried) "the mighty Helvellyn and
Catchedicam,"--this congregation of hill and lake, so wide, and yet so
prison-like in its separation from all beyond it, lay for ever under
the eyes of Southey. His position locally, and, in some respects,
intellectually, reminded one of Gibbon: but with great advantage in
the comparison to Southey. The little town of Keswick and its adjacent
lake bore something of the same relation to mighty London that Geneva
and its lake may be thought to bear towards brilliant Paris. Southey,
like Gibbon, was a miscellaneous scholar; he, like Gibbon, of vast
historical research; he, like Gibbon, signally industrious, and
patient, and elaborate in collecting the materials for his historical
works. Like Gibbon, he had dedicated a life of competent ease, in a
pecuniary sense, to literature; like Gibbon, he had gathered to the
shores of a beautiful lake, remote from great capitals, a large, or, at
least, sufficient library (in each case, I believe, the library ranged,
as to numerical amount, between seven and ten thousand); and, like
Gibbon, he was the most accomplished _littérateur_ amongst the erudite
scholars of his time, and the most of an erudite scholar amongst the
accomplished _littérateurs_. After all these points of agreement
known, it remains as a pure advantage on the side of Southey--a mere
_lucro ponatur_--that he was a poet; and, by all men's confession, a
respectable poet, brilliant in his descriptive powers, and fascinating
in his narration, however much he might want of

     "The vision and the faculty divine."

It is remarkable amongst the series of parallelisms that have been
or might be pursued between two men, that both had the honour of
retreating from a parliamentary life[139]; Gibbon, after some silent
and inert experience of that warfare; Southey, with a prudent foresight
of the ruin to his health and literary usefulness, won from the
experience of his nearest friends.

   [139] It illustrated the national sense of Southey's comprehensive
   talents, and of his political integrity, that Lord Radnor (the
   same who, under the courtesy title of Lord Folkestone, had
   distinguished himself for very democratic politics in the House of
   Commons, and had even courted the technical designation of
   _radical_) was the man who offered to bring in Southey for a
   borough dependent on _his_ influence. Sir Robert Peel, under the
   same sense of Southey's merits, had offered him a baronetcy. Both
   honours were declined, on the same prudential considerations, and
   with the same perfect disregard of all temptations from personal

       *       *       *       *       *

I took leave of Southey in 1807, at the descent into the vale of
Legbesthwaite, as I have already noticed. One year afterwards, I
became a permanent resident in his neighbourhood; and, although, on
various accounts, my intercourse with him was at no time very strict,
partly from the very uncongenial constitution of my own mind, and the
different direction of my studies, partly from my reluctance to levy
any tax on time so precious and so fully employed, I was yet on such
terms for the next ten or eleven years that I might, in a qualified
sense, call myself his friend.

Yes! there were long years through which Southey might respect me,
I _him_. But the years came--for I have lived too long, reader, in
relation to many things! and the report of me would have been better,
or more uniform at least, had I died some twenty years ago--the years
came in which circumstances made me an Opium Eater; years through
which a shadow as of sad eclipse sate and rested upon my faculties;
years through which I was careless of all but those who lived within
_my_ inner circle, within "my hearts of hearts"; years--ah! heavenly
years!--through which I lived, beloved, _with_ thee, _to_ thee, _for_
thee, _by_ thee! Ah! happy, happy years! in which I was a mere football
of reproach, but in which every wind and sounding hurricane of wrath
or contempt flew by like chasing enemies past some defying gates of
adamant, and left me too blessed in thy smiles--angel of life!--to
heed the curses or the mocking which sometimes I heard raving outside
of our impregnable Eden. What any man said of me in those days, what
he thought, did I ask? did I care? Then it was, or nearly then, that
I ceased to see, ceased to hear of Southey; as much abstracted from
all which concerned the world outside, and from the Southeys, or even
the Coleridges, in its van, as though I had lived with the darlings of
my heart in the centre of Canadian forests, and all men else in the
centre of Hindostan.

       *       *       *       *       *

But, before I part from Greta Hall and its distinguished master, one
word let me say, to protect myself from the imputation of sharing
in some peculiar opinions of Southey, with respect to political
economy, which have been but too familiar to the world, and some
opinions of the world, hardly less familiar, with respect to Southey
himself and his accomplishments. Probably, with respect to the first,
before this paper will be made public, I shall have sufficiently
vindicated my own opinions in these matters by a distinct treatment
of some great questions which lie at the base of all sound political
economy; above all, the radical question of value, upon which no man
has ever seen the full truth except Mr. Ricardo; and, unfortunately,
he had but little of the _polemic_[140] skill which is required to
meet the errors of his opponents. For it is noticeable that the most
conspicuous of those opponents, viz. Mr. Malthus, though too much, I
fear, actuated by a spirit of jealousy, and therefore likely enough
to have scattered sophistry and disingenuous quibbling over the
subject, had no need whatever of any further confusion for darkening
and perplexing his themes than what inevitably belonged to his own
most chaotic understanding. He and Say, the Frenchman, were both
plagued by understandings of the same quality--having a clear vision
in shallow waters, and this misleading them into the belief that they
saw with equal clearness through the remote and the obscure; whereas,
universally, their acuteness is like that of Hobbes--the gift of
shallowness, and the result of _not_ being subtle or profound enough to
apprehend the true _locus_ of the difficulty; and the barriers, which
to them limit the view, and give to it, together with the contraction,
all the distinctness and definite outline of limitation, are, in nine
cases out of ten, the product of their own defective and aberrating
vision, and not real barriers at all.

   [140] "_Polemic_ skill":--The word polemic is falsely interpreted
   by the majority of mere English readers. Having seldom seen it
   used except in a case of theological controversy, they fancy that
   it has some original and etymological appropriation to such a use;
   whereas it expresses, with regard to _all_ subjects, without
   restriction, the functions of the debater as opposed to those of
   the original orator; the functions of him who meets error and
   unravels confusion or misrepresentation, opposed to those of him
   who lays down the abstract truth: truth absolute and without
   relation to the modes of viewing it. As well might the word
   _Radical_ be limited to a political use as _Polemic_ to
   controversial divinity.

Meantime, until I write fully and deliberately upon this subject, I
shall observe, simply, that all "the Lake Poets," as they are called,
were not only in error, but most presumptuously in error, upon these
subjects. They were ignorant of every principle belonging to every
question alike in political economy, and they were obstinately bent
upon learning nothing; they were all alike too proud to acknowledge
that any man knew better than they, unless it were upon some purely
professional subject, or some art remote from all intellectual
bearings, such as conferred no honour in its possession. Wordsworth was
the least tainted with error upon political economy; and that because
he rarely applied his thoughts to any question of that nature, and, in
fact, despised every study of a moral or political aspect, unless it
drew its materials from such revelations of truth as could be won from
the _prima philosophia_ of human nature approached with the poet's eye.
Coleridge was the one whom Nature and his own multifarious studies had
the best qualified for thinking justly on a theme such as this; but he
also was shut out from the possibility of knowledge by presumption, and
the habit of despising all the analytic studies of his own day--a habit
for which he certainly had some warrant in the peculiar feebleness
of all that has offered itself for _philosophy_ in modern England.
In particular, the religious discussions of the age, which touch
inevitably at every point upon the profounder philosophy of man and his
constitution, had laid bare the weakness of his own age to Coleridge's
eye; and, because all was hollow and trivial in this direction, he
chose to think that it was so in every other. And hence he has laid
himself open to the just scoffs of persons far inferior to himself.
In a foot-note in some late number of the _Westminster Review_, it
is most truly asserted (not in these words, but to this effect) that
Coleridge's "Table Talk" exhibits a superannuation of error fit only
for two centuries before. And what gave peculiar point to this display
of ignorance was, that Coleridge did not, like Wordsworth, dismiss
political economy from his notice disdainfully, as a puerile tissue
of truisms, or of falsehoods not less obvious, but actually addressed
himself to the subject; fancied he had made discoveries in the science;
and even promised us a systematic work on its whole compass.

To give a sample of this new and reformed political economy, it cannot
well be necessary to trouble the reader with more than one chimera
culled from those which Mr. Coleridge first brought forward in his
early model of "The Friend." He there propounds, as an original
hypothesis of his own, that taxation never burthens a people, or, as
a mere possibility, _can_ burthen a people simply by its amount. And
why? Surely it draws from the purse of him who pays the quota a sum
which it may be very difficult or even ruinous for him to pay, were it
no more important in a public point of view than as so much deducted
from his own unproductive expenditure, and which may happen to have
even a national importance if it should chance to be deducted from
the funds destined to productive industry. What is Mr. Coleridge's
answer to these little objections? Why, thus: the latter case he
evades entirely, apparently not adverting to it as a case in any
respect distinguished from the other; and this other--how is _that_
answered? Doubtless, says Mr. Coleridge, it may be inconvenient to
John or Samuel that a sum of money, otherwise disposable for their own
separate uses, should be abstracted for the purchase of bayonets, or
grape-shot; but with this the public, the commonwealth, have nothing
to do, any more than with the losses at a gaming-table, where A's loss
is B's gain--the total funds of the nation remaining exactly the same.
It is, in fact, nothing but the accidental distribution of the funds
which is affected--possibly for the worse (no other "worse," however,
is contemplated than shifting it into hands less deserving), but,
also, by possibility, for the better; and the better and the worse
may be well supposed, in the long run, to balance each other. And
that this is Mr. Coleridge's meaning cannot be doubted, upon looking
into his illustrative image in support of it: he says that money
raised by Government in the shape of taxes is like moisture exhaled
from the earth--doubtless, for the moment injurious to the crops, but
reacting abundantly for their final benefit when returning in the
shape of showers. So natural, so obvious, so inevitable, by the way,
is this conceit (or, to speak less harshly, this hypothesis), and so
equally natural, obvious, and inevitable is the illustration from the
abstraction and restoration of moisture, the exhalations and rains
which affect this earth of ours, like the systole and the diastole of
the heart, the flux and reflux of the ocean, that precisely the same
doctrine, and precisely the same exemplification of the doctrine,
is to be found in a Parliamentary speech[141] of some orator in the
famous Long Parliament about the year 1642. And to my mind it was a
bitter humiliation to find, about 150 years afterwards, in a shallow
French work, the famous "_Compte Rendu_" of the French Chancellor of
the Exchequer (Comptroller of the Finances) Neckar--in that work, most
humiliating it was to me, on a certain day, that I found this idle
Coleridgian fantasy, not merely repeated, as it had been by scores--not
merely anticipated by full twenty and two years, so that these French
people had been beforehand with him, and had made Coleridge, to all
appearance, their plagiarist, but also (hear it, ye gods!) answered,
satisfactorily refuted, by this very feeble old sentimentalist, Neckar.
Yes; positively Neckar, the slipshod old system-fancier and political
driveller, had been so much above falling into the shallow snare, that
he had, on sound principles, exposed its specious delusions. Coleridge,
the subtlest of men in his proper walk, had brought forward, as a
novel hypothesis of his own, in 1810, what Neckar, the rickety old
charlatan, had scarcely condescended, in a hurried foot-note, to expose
as a vulgar error and the shallowest of sophisms in 1787-88. There was
another enormous blunder which Coleridge was constantly authorizing,
both in his writings and his conversation. Quoting a passage from Sir
James Stuart, in which he speaks of a vine-dresser as adding nothing to
the public wealth, unless his labour did something more than replace
his own consumption--that is, unless it reproduced it together with a
profit; he asks contemptuously, whether the happiness and moral dignity
that may have been exhibited in the vine-dresser's family are to pass
for nothing? And then he proceeds to abuse the economists, because
they take no account of such important considerations. Doubtless these
are invaluable elements of social grandeur, in a _total_ estimate
of those elements. But what has political economy to do with them,
a science openly professing to insulate, and to treat apart from
all other constituents of national well-being, those which concern
the production and circulation of wealth?[142] So far from gaining
anything by enlarging its field in the way demanded by Coleridge's
critic, political economy would be as idly travelling out of the limits
indicated and held forth in its very name, as if logic were to teach
ethics, or ethics to teach diplomacy. With respect to the Malthusian
doctrine of population, it is difficult to know who was the true
proprietor of the arguments urged against it sometimes by Southey,
sometimes by Coleridge. Those used by Southey are chiefly to be found
up and down the _Quarterly Review_. But a more elaborate attack was
published by Hazlitt; and this must be supposed to speak the peculiar
objections of Coleridge, for he was in the habit of charging Hazlitt
with having pillaged his conversation, and occasionally garbled it
throughout the whole of this book. One single argument there was,
undoubtedly just, and it was one which others stumbled upon no less
than Coleridge, exposing the fallacy of the supposed different laws
of increase for vegetable and animal life. But, though this frail
prop withdrawn took away from Mr. Malthus's theory all its scientific
rigour, the main _practical_ conclusions were still valid as respected
any argument from the Lakers; for the strongest of these arguments that
ever came to my knowledge was a mere appeal--not _ad verecundiam_, in
the ordinary sense of the phrase, but _ad honestatem_, as if it were
shocking to the _honestum_ of Roman ethics (the _honnêteté_ of French
minor ethics) that the check derived from self-restraint should not be
supposed amply competent to redress all the dangers from a redundant
population under any certain knowledge generally diffused that such
dangers existed. But these are topics which it is sufficient in this
place to have noticed _currente calamo_. I was anxious, however, to
protest against the probable imputation that I, because generally so
intense an admirer of these men, adopted their blind and hasty reveries
in political economy.

   [141] Reported at length in a small quarto volume, of the well
   known quarto size so much in use for Tracts, Pamphlets, &c.,
   throughout the life of Milton--1608-74.

   [142] In fact, the exposure is as perfect in the case of an
   individual as in that of a nation, and more easily apprehended.
   Levy from an individual clothier £1000 in taxes, and afterwards
   return to him the whole of this sum in payment for the clothing of
   a regiment. Then, supposing profits to be at the rate of 15 per
   cent, he will have replaced £150 of his previous loss; even his
   gains will simply reinstate him in something that he had lost, and
   the remaining £850 will continue to be a dead loss; since the £850
   restored to him exactly replaces, by the terms of this case, his
   disbursements in wages and materials; if it did more, profits
   would not be at 15 per cent, according to the supposition. But
   Government may spend _more_ than the £1000 with this clothier;
   they may spend £10,000. Doubtless, and in that case, on the same
   supposition as to profits, he will receive £1500 as a nominal
   gain; and £500 will be a real gain, marked with the positive sign
   (+). But such a case would only prove that nine other taxpayers,
   to an equal amount, had been left without any reimbursement at
   all. Strange that so clear a case for an individual should become
   obscure when it regards a nation.

There were (and perhaps more justly I might say there are) two other
notions currently received about Southey, one of which is altogether
erroneous, and the other true only in a limited sense. The first is
the belief that he belonged to what is known as the Lake school in
poetry; with respect to which all that I need say in this place is
involved in his own declaration frankly made to myself in Easedale,
during the summer of 1812: that he considered Wordsworth's theory of
poetic diction, and still more his principles as to the selection of
subjects, and as to what constituted a poetic treatment, as founded on
error. There is certainly some community of phraseology between Southey
and the other Lakers, naturally arising out of their joint reverence
for Scriptural language: this was a field in which they met in common:
else it shows but little discernment and power of valuing the essences
of things, to have classed Southey in the same school with Wordsworth
and Coleridge. The other popular notion about Southey which I conceive
to be expressed with much too little limitation regards his style.
He has been praised, and justly, for his plain, manly, unaffected
English, until the parrot echoers of other men's judgments, who adopt
all they relish with undistinguishing blindness, have begun to hold
him up as a great master of his own language, and a classical model
of fine composition. Now, if the error were only in the degree, it
would not be worth while to notice it; but the truth is, that Southey's
defects in this particular power are as striking as his characteristic
graces. Let a subject arise--and almost in any path there is a ready
possibility that it should--in which a higher tone is required, of
splendid declamation, or of impassionate fervour, and Southey's
style will immediately betray its want of the loftier qualities as
flagrantly as it now asserts its powers in that unpretending form
which is best suited to his level character of writing and his humbler
choice of themes. It is to mistake the character of Southey's mind,
which is elevated but not sustained by the higher modes of enthusiasm,
to think otherwise. Were a magnificent dedication required, moving
with a stately and measured solemnity, and putting forward some
majestic pretensions, arising out of a long and laborious life; were
a pleading required against some capital abuse of the earth--war,
slavery, oppression in its thousand forms; were a _Defensio pro Populo
Anglicano_ required; Southey's is not the mind, and, by a necessary
consequence, Southey's is not the style, for carrying such purposes
into full and memorable effect. His style is _therefore_ good, because
it has been suited to his themes; and those themes have hitherto been
either narrative, which usually imposes a modest diction, and a modest
structure of sentences, or argumentative in that class which is too
overburthened with details, with replies, with interruption, and every
mode of discontinuity, to allow a thought of eloquence, or of the
periodic style which a perfect eloquence instinctively seeks.

       *       *       *       *       *

I here close my separate notice of the Lake Poets--meaning those
three who were originally so denominated--three men upon whom
posterity, in every age, will look back with interest as profound as,
perhaps, belongs to any other names of our era; for it happens, not
unfrequently, that the _personal_ interest in the author is not in the
direct ratio of that which belongs to his works: and the character
of an author better qualified to command a vast popularity for the
creations of his pen is oftentimes more of a universal character,
less peculiar, less fitted to stimulate the curiosity, or to sustain
the sympathy of the intellectual, than the profounder and more
ascetic solemnity of a Wordsworth, or the prodigal and magnificent
eccentricities of a Coleridge. With respect to both of these gifted
men, some interesting notices still remain in arrear; but these will
more properly come forward in their natural places, as they happen to
arise in after years in connexion with my own memoirs.



   [143] From _Tait's Magazine_ for December 1839.--M.

My first visit to the Wordsworths had been made in November, 1807;
but, on that occasion, from the necessity of saving the Michaelmas
Term at Oxford, for which I had barely left myself time, I stayed only
one week. On the last day, I witnessed a scene, the first and the last
of its kind that ever I _did_ witness, almost too trivial to mention,
except for the sake of showing what things occur in the realities of
experience which a novelist could not venture to imagine. Wordsworth
and his sister were under an engagement of some standing to dine on
that day with a literary lady about four miles distant; and, as the
southern mail, which I was to catch at a distance of eighteen miles,
would not pass that point until long after midnight, Miss Wordsworth
proposed that, rather than pass my time at an inn, I should join the
dinner party; a proposal rather more suitable to her own fervent and
hospitable temper than to the habits of our hostess, who must (from
what I came to know of her in after years) have looked upon me as an
intruder. Something _had_ reached Miss Wordsworth of her penurious
_ménage_, but nothing that approached the truth. I was presented to the
lady, whom we found a perfect _bas bleu_ of a very commonplace order,
but having some other accomplishments beyond her slender acquaintance
with literature. Our party consisted of six--our hostess, who might
be about fifty years of age; a pretty timid young woman, who was
there in the character of a humble friend; some stranger or other;
the Wordsworths, and myself. The dinner was the very humblest and
simplest I had ever seen--in that there was nothing to offend--I did
not then know that the lady was very rich--but also it was flagrantly
insufficient in quantity. Dinner, however, proceeded; when, without any
removals, in came a kind of second course, in the shape of a solitary
pheasant. This, in a cold manner, she asked me to try; but we, in our
humility, declined for the present; and also in mere good-nature, not
wishing to expose too palpably the insufficiency of her dinner. May I
die the death of a traitor, if she did not proceed, without further
question to any one of us (and, as to the poor young companion, no
form of even invitation was conceded to her), and, in the eyes of
us all, eat up the whole bird, from alpha to omega. Upon my honour,
I thought to myself, this is a scene I would not have missed. It is
well to know the possibilities of human nature. Could she have a bet
depending on the issue, and would she explain all to us as soon as she
had won her wager? Alas! no explanation ever came, except, indeed, that
afterwards her character, put _en evidence_ upon a score of occasions,
too satisfactorily explained everything. No; it was, as Mr. Coleridge
expresses it, a psychological curiosity--a hollow thing--and only once
matched in all the course of my reading, in or out of romances; but
that once, I grieve to say it, was by a king, and a sort of hero.

The Duchess of Marlborough it is who reports the shocking anecdote
of William III, that actually Princess Anne, his future wife, durst
not take any of the green peas brought to the dinner table, when that
vegetable happened to be as yet scarce and premature. _There_ was a
gentleman! And such a lady had we for our hostess. However, we all
observed a suitable gravity; but afterwards, when we left the house,
the remembrance affected us differently. Miss Wordsworth laughed with
undissembled glee; but Wordsworth thought it too grave a matter for
laughing--he was thoroughly disgusted, and said repeatedly, "A person
cannot be honest, positively not honest, who is capable of such an
act." The lady is dead, and I shall not mention her name: she lived
only to gratify her selfish propensities; and two little anecdotes
may show the outrageous character of her meanness. I was now on the
debtor side of her dinner account, and, therefore, in a future year she
readily accepted an invitation to come and dine with me at my cottage.
But, on a subsequent occasion, when I was to have a few literary people
at dinner, whom I knew that she greatly wished to meet, she positively
replied thus:--"No; I have already come with my young lady to dine
with you; that puts me on the wrong side by one; now, if I were to
come again, as I cannot leave Miss ---- behind, I shall then be on the
wrong side by three; and that is more than I could find opportunities
to repay before I go up to London for the winter." "Very well," I said;
"give me 3s. and _that_ will settle the account." She laughed, but
positively persisted in not coming until after dinner, notwithstanding
she had to drive a distance of ten miles.

The other anecdote is worse. She was exceedingly careful of her health;
and not thinking it healthy to drive about in a close carriage,--which,
besides, could not have suited the narrow mountain tracks, to which
her sketching habits attracted her,--she shut up her town carriage for
the summer, and jobbed some little open car. Being a very large woman,
and, moreover, a masculine woman, with a bronzed complexion, and always
choosing to wear, at night, a turban, round hair that was as black
as that of the "Moors of Malabar," she presented an exact likeness
of a Saracen's Head, as painted over inn-doors; whilst the timid and
delicate young lady by her side looked like "dejected Pity" at the side
of "Revenge" when assuming the war-denouncing trumpet. Some Oxonians
and Cantabs, who, at different times, were in the habit of meeting this
oddly assorted party in all nooks of the country, used to move the
question, whether the poor horse or the young lady had the worst of it?
At length the matter was decided: the horse was fast going off this
sublunary stage; and the Saracen's Head was told as much, and with this
little addition,--that his death was owing _inter alia_ to starvation.
Her answer was remarkable:--"But, my dear madam, that is his master's
fault; I pay so much a-day--he is to keep the horse." That might be,
but still the horse was dying, and dying in the way stated. The
Saracen's Head persisted in using him under those circumstances--such
was her "bond"--and in a short time the horse actually died. Yes, the
horse died--and died of starvation--or at least of an illness caused
originally by starvation: for so said, not merely the whole population
of the little neighbouring town, but also the surgeon. Not long after,
however, the lady, the Saracen's Head, died herself; but I fear _not_
of starvation; for, though something like it did prevail at her table,
she prudently reserved it all for her guests; in fact, I never heard
of such vigilant care, and so much laudable exertion, applied to the
promotion of health: yet all failed, and, in a degree which confounded
people's speculations upon the subject--for she did not live much
beyond sixty; whereas everybody supposed that the management of her
physical system entitled her to outwear a century. Perhaps the prayers
of horses might avail to order it otherwise.

But the singular thing about this lady's mixed and contradictory
character was, that in London and Bath, where her peculiar habits
of life were naturally less accurately known, she maintained the
reputation of one who united the accomplishments of literature and art
with a remarkable depth of sensibility, and a most amiable readiness
to enter into the distresses of her friends by sympathy the most
cordial and consolation the most delicate. More than once I have
seen her name recorded in printed books, and attended with praises
that tended to this effect. I have seen letters also from a lady in
deep affliction which spoke of the Saracen's Head as having paid her
the first visit from which she drew any effectual consolation. Such
are the erroneous impressions conveyed by biographical memoirs; or,
which is a more charitable construction of the case, such are the
inconsistencies of the human heart! And certainly there was one fact,
even in her Westmoreland life, that _did_ lend some countenance to the
southern picture of her amiableness: and this lay in the cheerfulness
with which she gave up her time (_time_, but not much of her redundant
money) to the promotion of the charitable schemes set on foot by the
neighbouring ladies; sometimes for the education of poor children,
sometimes for the visiting of the sick, &c., &c. I have heard several
of those ladies express their gratitude for her exertions, and
declare that she was about their best member. But their horror was
undisguised when the weekly committee came, by rotation, to hold its
sittings at her little villa; for, as the business occupied them
frequently from eleven o'clock in the forenoon to a late dinner hour,
and as many of them had a fifteen or twenty miles' drive, they needed
some refreshments: but these were, of course, a "great idea" at the
Saracen's Head; since, according to the epigram which illustrates the
maxim of Tacitus that _omne ignotum pro magnifico_, and, applying it
to the case of a miser's horse, terminates by saying, "What vast ideas
must he have of oats!"--upon the same principle these poor ladies,
on those fatal committee days, never failed to form most exaggerated
ideas of bread, butter, and wine. And at length some, more intrepid
than the rest, began to carry biscuits in their muffs, and, with the
conscious tremors of school girls (profiting by the absence of the
mistress but momentarily expecting detection), they employed some
casual absence of their unhostly hostess in distributing and eating
their hidden "viaticum." However, it must be acknowledged, that time
and exertion, and the sacrifice of more selfish pleasure during the
penance at the school, were, after all, real indications of kindness
to her fellow-creatures; and, as I wish to part in peace even with
the Saracen's Head, I have reserved this anecdote to the last: for
it is painful to have lived on terms of good nature, and exchanging
civilities, with any human being of whom one can report absolutely _no_
good thing; and I sympathize heartily with that indulgent person of
whom it is somewhere recorded that, upon an occasion when the death of
a man happened to be mentioned who was unanimously pronounced a wretch
without one good quality, "_monstrum nullâ virtute redemptum_," he
ventured, however, at last, in a deprecatory tone to say--"Well, he did
_whistle_ beautifully, at any rate."

Talking of "whistling" reminds me to return from my digression; for on
that night, the 12th of November, 1807, and the last of my visits to
the Wordsworths, I took leave of them in the inn at Ambleside about
ten at night; and the post-chaise in which I crossed the country to
catch the mail was driven by a postilion who whistled so delightfully
that, for the first time in my life, I became aware of the prodigious
powers which are lodged potentially in so despised a function of the
vocal organs. For the whole of the long ascent up Orrest Head, which
obliged him to walk his horses for a full half-mile, he made the woods
of Windermere ring with the canorous sweetness of his half flute,
half clarionet music; but, in fact, the subtle melody of the effect
placed it in power far beyond either flute or clarionet. A year or two
afterwards, I heard a fellow-servant of this same postilion's, a black,
play with equal superiority of effect upon the jew's harp; making that,
which in most hands is a mere monotonous jarring, a dull reverberating
vibration, into a delightful lyre of no inconsiderable compass. We
have since heard of, some of us have heard, the chinchopper. Within
the last hundred years, we have had the Æolian harp (first mentioned
and described in the "Castle of Indolence," which I think was first
published entire about 1738[144]); then the musical glasses; then the
_celestina_, to represent the music of the spheres, introduced by Mr.
Walker, or some other lecturing astronomer; and many another fine
effect obtained from trivial means. But, at this moment, I recollect a
performance perhaps more astonishing than any of them. A Mr. Worgman,
who had very good introductions, and very general ones (for he was
to be met within a few months in every part of the island), used to
accompany himself on the piano, weaving _extempore_ long tissues of
impassioned music, that were called his own, but which, in fact,
were all the better for not being such, or at least for continually
embodying passages from Handel and Pergolesi. To this substratum of
the instrumental music he contrived to adapt some unaccountable and
indescribable choral accompaniment, a pomp of sound, a tempestuous
blare of harmony ascending in clouds not from any one, but apparently
from a band of Mr. Worgman's; for sometimes it was a trumpet, sometimes
a kettle-drum, sometimes a cymbal, sometimes a bassoon, and sometimes
it was all of these at once.

     "And now 'twas like all instruments;
       And now it was a flute;
     And now it was an angel's voice,
       That maketh the heavens be mute."

In this case I presume that ventriloquism must have had something to
do with the effect; but, whatever it were, the power varied greatly
with the state of his spirits, or with some other fluctuating causes in
the animal economy. However, the result of all these experiences is,
that I shall never more be surprised at any musical effects, the very
greatest, drawn from whatever inconsiderable or apparently inadequate
means; not even if the butcher's instrument, the marrow-bones and
cleaver, or any of those culinary instruments so pleasantly treated by
Addison in the "Spectator," such as the kitchen dresser and thumb, the
tongs and shovel, the pepper and salt-box, should be exalted, by some
immortal butcher or inspired scullion, into a sublime harp, dulcimer,
or lute, capable of wooing St. Cecilia to listen, able even

     "To raise a mortal to the skies,
     Or draw an angel down."

That night, as I was passing under the grounds of Elleray, then
belonging to a Westmoreland "statesman," a thought struck me, that I
was now traversing a road with which, as yet, I was scarcely at all
acquainted, but which, in years to come, might perhaps be as familiar
to my eye as the rooms of my own house; and possibly that I might
traverse them in company with faces as yet not even seen by me, but
in those future years dearer than any which I had yet known. In this
prophetic glimpse there was nothing very marvellous; for what could be
more natural than that I should come to reside in the neighbourhood of
the Wordsworths, and that this might lead to my forming connexions in
a country which I should consequently come to know so well? I did not,
however, anticipate so definitely and circumstantially as all this;
but generally I had a dim presentiment that here, on this very road,
I should often pass, and in company that, now not even conjecturally
delineated or drawn out of the utter darkness in which they were as
yet reposing, would hereafter plant memories in my heart, the last
that will fade from it in the hour of death. Here, afterwards, at this
very spot, or a little above it, but on this very estate, which from
local peculiarities of ground, and of sudden angles, was peculiarly
_kenspeck_, _i.e._ easy of recognition,[145] and could have been
challenged and identified at any distance of years; here afterwards
lived Professor Wilson, the only very intimate male friend I have
had; here, too, it was, my M.,[146] that, in long years afterwards,
through many a score of nights--nights often dark as Erebus, and amidst
thunders and lightnings the most sublime--we descended at twelve, one,
and two o'clock at night, speeding from Kendal to our distant home,
twenty miles away. Thou wert at present a child not nine years old, nor
had I seen thy face, nor heard thy name. But within nine years from
that same night thou wert seated by my side;--and, thenceforwards,
through a period of fourteen years, how often did we two descend,
hand locked in hand, and thinking of things to come, at a pace of
hurricane; whilst all the sleeping woods about us re-echoed the uproar
of trampling hoofs and groaning wheels. Duly as we mounted the crest of
Orrest Head, mechanically and of themselves almost, and spontaneously,
without need of voice or spur, according to Westmoreland usage, the
horses flew off into a gallop, like the pace of a swallow.[147] It
was a railroad pace that we ever maintained; objects were descried
far ahead in one moment, and in the next were crowding into the rear.
Three miles and a half did this storm-flight continue, for so long the
descent lasted. Then, for many a mile, over undulating ground, did we
alternately creep and fly, until again a long precipitous movement,
again a storm-gallop, that hardly suffered the feet to touch the
ground, gave warning that we drew near to that beloved cottage; warning
to us--warning to them:--

           "The silence that is here
     Is of the grave, and of austere
     But happy feelings of the dead."

Sometimes the nights were bright with cloudless moonlight, and of
that awful breathless quiet which often broods over vales that are
peculiarly landlocked, and which is, or seems to be, so much more
expressive of a solemn hush and a Sabbath-like rest from the labours of
nature than I remember to have experienced in flat countries:--

     "It is not quiet--is not peace--
     But something deeper far than these."

And on such nights it was no sentimental refinement, but a sincere
and hearty feeling, that, in wheeling past the village churchyard of
Stavely, something like an outrage seemed offered to the sanctity of
its graves by the uproar of our career. Sometimes the nights were of
that pitchy darkness which is more palpable and unfathomable wherever
hills intercept the gleaming of light which otherwise is usually seen
to linger about the horizon in the northern quarter; and then arose in
perfection that striking effect when the glare of lamps searches for
one moment every dark recess of the thickets, forces them into sudden,
almost daylight, revelation, only to leave them within the twinkling of
the eye in darkness more profound; making them, like the snow-flakes
falling upon a cataract, "one moment bright, then gone for ever." But,
dark or moonlight alike, in every instance throughout so long a course
of years, the road was entirely our own for the whole twenty miles.
After nine o'clock not many people are abroad, after ten absolutely
none, upon the roads of Westmoreland; a circumstance which gives a
peculiar solemnity to a traveller's route amongst these quiet valleys
upon a summer evening of latter May, of June, or early July; since, in
a latitude so much higher than that of London, broad daylight prevails
to an hour long after nine. Nowhere is the holiness of vesper hours
more deeply felt.

   [144] The _Castle of Indolence_ was first published in 1748, the
   year of the poet's death. The following is the stanza of the poem
   referred to by De Quincey:--

     "A certain music, never known before,
     Here lull'd the pensive, melancholy mind;
     Full easily obtained. Behoves no more
     But sidelong to the gently-waving wind
     To lay the well-tuned instrument reclined,
     From which, with airy flying fingers light,
     Beyond each mortal touch the most refined;
     The god of winds drew sounds of deep delight;
     Whence, with just cause, the Harp of Æolus it hight."--M.

   [145] The usual Scottish word is _kenspeckle_.--M.

   [146] His future wife, Margaret Simpson.--M.

   [147] It may be supposed, not literally, for the swallow (or at
   least that species called the swift) has been known to fly at the
   rate of 300 miles an hour. Very probably, however, this pace was
   not deduced from an entire hour's performance, but estimated by
   proportion from a flight of one or two minutes. An interesting
   anecdote is told by the gentleman (I believe the Rev. E. Stanley)
   who described in _Blackwood's_ _Magazine_ the opening of the
   earliest English railway, viz. that a bird (snipe was it, or
   field-fare, or plover?) ran, or rather flew, a race with the
   engine for three or four miles, until, finding itself likely to be
   beaten, it then suddenly wheeled away into the moors. And now, in
   1839, from all these flying journeys and their stinging
   remembrances, hardly a wreck survives of what composed their
   living equipage: the men who chiefly drove in those days (for I
   have ascertained it) are gone; the horses are gone; darkness rests
   upon all, except myself. I, woe is me! am the solitary survivor
   from scenes that now seem to me as fugitive as the flying lights
   from our lamps as they shot into the forest recesses. God forbid
   that on such a theme I should seem to affect sentimentalism! It is
   from overmastering recollections that I look back on those distant
   days; and chiefly I have suffered myself to give way before the
   impulse that haunts me of reverting to those bitter, bitter
   thoughts, in order to notice one singular waywardness or caprice
   (as it might seem) incident to the situation, which, I doubt not,
   besieges many more people than myself: it is, that I find a more
   poignant suffering, a pang more searching, in going back, not to
   those enjoyments themselves, and the days when they were within my
   power, but to times anterior, when as yet they did not exist; nay,
   when some who were chiefly concerned in them as parties had not
   even been born. No night, I might almost say, of my whole life,
   remains so profoundly, painfully, and pathetically imprinted on my
   remembrance as this very one, on which I tried prelusively, as it
   were, that same road in solitude, and lulled by the sweet
   carollings of the postilion, which, _after_ an interval of ten
   years, and _through_ a period of more than equal duration, it was
   destined that I should so often traverse in circumstances of
   happiness too radiant, that for me are burned out for ever.
   Coleridge told me of a similar case that had fallen within his
   knowledge, and the impassioned expression which the feelings
   belonging to it drew from a servant woman at Keswick:--She had
   nursed some boy, either of his or of Mr. Southey's; the boy had
   lived apart from the rest of the family, secluded with his nurse
   in her cottage; she was dotingly fond of him; lived, in short,
   _by_ him, as well as for him; and nearly ten years of her life had
   been exalted into one golden dream by his companionship. At length
   came the day which severed the connexion; and she, in the anguish
   of the separation, bewailing her future loneliness, and knowing
   too well that education and the world, if it left him some kind
   remembrances of her, never could restore him to her arms the same
   fond loving boy that felt no shame in surrendering his whole heart
   to caressing and being caressed, did not revert to any day or
   season of her ten years' happiness, but went back to the very day
   of his arrival, a particular Thursday, and to an hour when, as
   yet, she had not seen him, exclaiming--"O that Thursday! O that it
   could come back! that Thursday when the chaise-wheels were ringing
   in the streets of Keswick; when yet I had not seen his bonny face;
   but when _he_ was coming!"

Ay, reader, all this may sound foolishness to you, that perhaps never
had a heartache, or that may have all your blessings to come. But now
let me return to my narrative. After about twelve months' interval, and
therefore again in November, but November of the year 1808, I repeated
my visit to Wordsworth, and upon a longer scale. I found him removed
from his cottage to a house of considerable size, about three-quarters
of a mile distant, called Allan Bank. This house had been very recently
erected, at an expense of about £1500, by a gentleman from Liverpool,
a merchant, and also a lawyer in some department or other. It was
not yet completely finished; and an odd accident was reported to
me as having befallen it in its earliest stage. The walls had been
finished, and this event was to be celebrated at the village inn
with an _ovation_, previously to the _triumph_ that would follow on
the roof-raising. The workmen had all housed themselves at the _Red
Lion_, and were beginning their carouse, when up rode a traveller,
who brought them the unseasonable news, that, whilst riding along the
vale, he had beheld the downfall of the whole building. Out the men
rushed, hoping that this might be a hoax; but too surely they found his
report true, and their own festival premature. A little malice mingled
unavoidably with the laughter of the Dalesmen; for it happened that
the Liverpool gentleman had offered a sort of insult to the native
artists, by bringing down both masons and carpenters from his own
town; an unwise plan, for they were necessarily unacquainted with many
points of local skill; and it was to some ignorance in their mode of
laying the stones that the accident was due. The house had one or two
capital defects--it was cold, damp, and, to all appearance, incurably
smoky. Upon this latter defect, by the way, Wordsworth founded a claim,
not for diminution of rent, but absolutely for entire immunity from
any rent at all. It was truly comical to hear him argue the point
with the Liverpool proprietor, Mr. C. He went on dilating on the
hardship of living in such a house; of the injury, or suffering, at
least, sustained by the eyes; until, at last, he had drawn a picture
of himself as a very ill-used man; and I seriously expected to hear
him sum up by demanding a round sum for damages. Mr. C. was a very
good-natured man, calm, and gentlemanlike in his manners. He had also a
considerable respect for Wordsworth, derived, it may be supposed, not
from his writings, but from the authority (which many more besides him
could not resist) of his conversation. However, he looked grave and
perplexed. Nor do I know how the matter ended; but I mention it as an
illustration of Wordsworth's keen spirit of business. Whilst foolish
people supposed him a mere honeyed sentimentalist, speaking only in
zephyrs and bucolics, he was in fact a somewhat hard pursuer of what he
thought fair advantages.

In the February which followed, I left Allan Bank; but, upon Miss
Wordsworth's happening to volunteer the task of furnishing for my use
the cottage so recently occupied by her brother's family, I took it
upon a seven years' lease. And thus it happened--this I mean was the
mode of it (for, at any rate, I should have settled somewhere in the
country)--that I became a resident in Grasmere.



   [148] From _Tait's Magazine_ for January 1840.--M.

In February, as I have said, of 1809, I quitted Allan Bank; and, from
that time until the depth of summer, Miss Wordsworth was employed in
the task she had volunteered, of renewing and furnishing the little
cottage in which I was to succeed the illustrious tenant who had, in my
mind, hallowed the rooms by a seven years' occupation, during, perhaps,
the happiest period of his life--the early years of his marriage, and
of his first acquaintance with parental affections. Cottage, immortal
in my remembrance! as well it might be; for this cottage I retained
through just seven-and-twenty years: this was the scene of struggle
the most tempestuous and bitter within my own mind: this the scene
of my despondency and unhappiness: this the scene of my happiness--a
happiness which justified the faith of man's _earthly_ lot, as, upon
the whole, a dowry from heaven. It was, in its exterior, not so much
a picturesque cottage--for its outline and proportions, its windows
and its chimneys, were not sufficiently marked and effective for the
picturesque[149]--as it was lovely: one gable end was, indeed, most
gorgeously apparelled in ivy, and so far picturesque; but the principal
side, or what might be called front, as it presented itself to the
road, and was most illuminated by windows, was embossed--nay, it might
be said, smothered--in roses of different species, amongst which the
moss and the damask prevailed. These, together with as much jessamine
and honeysuckle as could find room to flourish, were not only in
themselves a most interesting garniture for a humble cottage wall, but
they also performed the acceptable service of breaking the unpleasant
glare that would else have wounded the eye from the whitewash; a glare
which, having been renewed amongst the general preparations against
my coming to inhabit the house, could not be sufficiently subdued
in tone for the artist's eye until the storm of several winters had
weather-stained and tamed down its brilliancy. The Westmoreland
cottages, as a class, have long been celebrated for their picturesque
forms, and very justly so: in no part of the world are cottages to be
found more strikingly interesting to the eye by their general outlines,
by the sheltered porches of their entrances, by their exquisite
chimneys, by their rustic windows, and by the distribution of the
parts. These parts are on a larger scale, both as to number and size,
than a stranger would expect to find as dependencies and out-houses
attached to dwelling-houses so modest; chiefly from the necessity of
making provision both in fuel for themselves, and in hay, straw, and
brackens for the cattle against the long winter. But, in praising the
Westmoreland dwellings, it must be understood that only those of the
native Dalesmen are contemplated; for, as to those raised by the alien
intruders--"the lakers," or "foreigners" as they are sometimes called
by the old indigenous possessors of the soil--these, being designed
to exhibit "a taste" and an eye for the picturesque, are pretty often
mere models of deformity, as vulgar and as silly as it is well possible
for any object to be in a case where, after all, the workman, and
obedience to custom, and the necessities of the ground, &c., will often
step in to compel the architects into common sense and propriety. The
main defect in Scottish scenery, the eyesore that disfigures so many
charming combinations of landscape, is the offensive style of the rural
architecture; but still, even where it is worst, the _mode_ of its
offence is not by affectation and conceit, and preposterous attempts at
realizing sublime, Gothic, or castellated effects in little gingerbread
ornaments, and "tobacco pipes," and make-believe parapets, and towers
like kitchen or hothouse flues; but in the hard undisguised pursuit of
mere coarse uses and needs of life.

   [149] The idea of the picturesque is one which did not exist at
   all until the post-Christian ages; neither amongst the Grecians
   nor amongst the Romans; and _therefore_, as respects one reason,
   it was, that the art of landscape painting did not exist (except
   in a Chinese infancy, and as a mere trick of inventive ingenuity)
   amongst the finest artists of Greece. What _is_ picturesque, as
   placed in relation to the beautiful and the sublime? It is (to
   define it by the very shortest form of words) the characteristic
   pushed into a sensible excess. The prevailing character of any
   natural object, no matter how little attractive it may be for
   beauty, is always interesting for itself, as the character and
   hieroglyphic symbol of the purposes pursued by Nature in the
   determination of its form, style of motion, texture of
   superficies, relation of parts, &c. Thus, for example, an
   expression of dulness and somnolent torpor does not ally itself
   with grace or elegance; but, in combination with strength and
   other qualities, it may compose a character of serviceable and
   patient endurance, as in the cart-horse, having unity in itself,
   and tending to one class of uses sufficient to mark it out by
   circumscription for a distinct and separate contemplation. Now,
   in combination with certain counteracting circumstances, as with
   the momentary energy of some great effort, much of this peculiar
   character might be lost, or defeated, or dissipated. On that
   account, the skilful observer will seek out circumstances that are
   in harmony with the principal tendencies and assist them; such,
   suppose, as a state of lazy relaxation from labour, and the fall
   of heavy drenching rain causing the head to droop, and the shaggy
   mane, together with the fetlocks, to weep. These, and other
   circumstances of attitude, &c., bring out the character of
   prevailing tendency of the animal in some excess; and, in such a
   case, we call the resulting effect to the eye--picturesque: or in
   fact, _characteresque_. In extending this speculation to objects
   of art and human purposes, there is something more required of
   subtle investigation. Meantime, it is evident that neither the
   sublime nor the beautiful depends upon any _secondary_ interest of
   a purpose or of a character expressing that purpose. They
   (confining the case to visual objects) court the _primary_
   interest involved in that (form, colour, texture, attitude,
   motion) which forces admiration, which fascinates the eye, for
   itself, and without a question of any distinct purpose: and,
   instead of character--that is, discriminating and separating
   expression, tending to the special and the individual--they both
   agree in pursuing the Catholic, the Normal, the Ideal.

Too often, the rustic mansion, that should speak of decent poverty
and seclusion, peaceful and comfortable, wears the most repulsive
air of town confinement and squalid indigence; the house being built
of substantial stone, three storeys high, or even four, the roof of
massy slate; and everything strong which respects the future outlay
of the proprietor--everything frail which respects the comfort of the
inhabitants: windows broken and stuffed up with rags or old hats;
steps and door encrusted with dirt; and the whole tarnished with
smoke. Poverty--how different the face it wears looking with meagre
staring eyes from such a city dwelling as this, and when it peeps
out, with rosy cheeks, from amongst clustering roses and woodbines,
at a little lattice, from a little one-storey cottage! Are, then, the
main characteristics of the Westmoreland dwelling-houses imputable
to superior taste? By no means. Spite of all that I have heard Mr.
Wordsworth and others say in maintaining that opinion, I, for my
part, do and must hold, that the Dalesmen produce none of the happy
effects which frequently arise in their domestic architecture under
any search after beautiful forms, a search which they despise with a
sort of Vandal dignity; no, nor with any sense or consciousness of
their success. How then? Is it accident--mere casual good luck--that
has brought forth, for instance, so many exquisite forms of chimneys?
Not so; but it is this: it is good sense, on the one hand, bending and
conforming to the dictates or even the suggestions of the climate,
and the local circumstances of rocks, water, currents of air, &c.;
and, on the other hand, wealth sufficient to arm the builder with
all suitable means for giving effect to his purpose, and to evade
the necessity of make-shifts. But the radical ground of the interest
attached to Westmoreland cottage architecture lies in its submission
to the determining agencies of the surrounding circumstances; such
of them, I mean, as are permanent, and have been gathered from long
experience. The porch, for instance, which does so much to take away
from a house the character of a rude box, pierced with holes for air,
light, and ingress, has evidently been dictated by the sudden rushes of
wind through the mountain "ghylls," which make some kind of protection
necessary to the ordinary door; and this reason has been strengthened,
in cases of houses near to a road, by the hospitable wish to provide a
sheltered seat for the wayfarer; most of these porches being furnished
with one in each of the two recesses, to the right and to the left.

The long winter, again, as I have already said, and the artificial
prolongation of the winter by the necessity of keeping the sheep
long upon the low grounds, creates a call for large out-houses; and
these, for the sake of warmth, are usually placed at right angles to
the house; which has the effect of making a much larger system of
parts than would else arise. But perhaps the main feature which gives
character to the pile of building, is the roof, and, above all, the
chimneys. It is the remark of an accomplished Edinburgh artist, H.
W. Williams, in the course of his strictures[150] upon the domestic
architecture of the Italians, and especially of the Florentines,
that the character of buildings, in certain circumstances, "depends
wholly or chiefly on the form of the roof and the chimney. This," he
goes on, "is particularly the case in Italy, where more variety and
taste is displayed in the chimneys than in the buildings to which
they belong. These chimneys are as peculiar and characteristic as
palm trees in a tropical climate." Again, in speaking of Calabria
and the Ionian Islands, he says--"We were forcibly struck with the
consequence which the beauty of the chimneys imparted to the character
of the whole building." Now, in Great Britain, he complains, with
reason, of the very opposite result: not the plain building ennobled
by the chimney, but the chimney degrading the noble building, and in
Edinburgh especially, where the homely and inelegant appearance of the
chimneys contrasts most disadvantageously and offensively with the
beauty of the buildings which they surmount. Even here, however, he
makes an exception for some of the _old_ buildings, whose chimneys,
he admits, "are very tastefully decorated, and contribute essentially
to the beauty of the general effect." It is probable, therefore, and
many houses of the Elizabethan era confirm it, that a better taste
prevailed, in this point, amongst our ancestors, both Scottish and
English; that this elder fashion travelled, together with many other
usages, from the richer parts of Scotland to the Borders, and thence
to the vales of Westmoreland; where they have continued to prevail,
from their affectionate adhesion to all patriarchal customs. Some,
undoubtedly, of these Westmoreland forms have been dictated by the
necessities of the weather, and the systematic energies of human
skill, from age to age, applied to the very difficult task of training
smoke into obedience, under the peculiar difficulties presented by the
sites of Westmoreland houses. These are chosen, generally speaking,
with the same good sense and regard to domestic comfort, as the primary
consideration (without, however, disdainfully slighting the sentiment,
whatever it were, of peace, of seclusion, of gaiety, of solemnity, the
special "religio loci"), which seems to have guided the choice of those
who founded religious houses.

   [150] "Travels in Italy, Greece, and the Ionian Islands," vol. i.
   pp. 74, 75.

And here, again, by the way, appears a marked difference between the
Dalesmen and the intrusive gentry--not creditable to the latter. The
native Dalesman, well aware of the fury with which the wind often
gathers and eddies about any eminence, however trifling its elevation,
never thinks of planting his house _there_: whereas the stranger,
singly solicitous about the prospect or the range of lake which his
gilt saloons are to command, chooses his site too often upon points
better fitted for a temple of Eolus than a human dwelling-place; and
he belts his house with balconies and verandas that a mountain gale
often tears away in mockery. The Dalesman, wherever his choice is not
circumscribed, selects a sheltered spot (a _wray_,[151] for instance),
which protects him from the wind altogether, upon one or two quarters,
and on all quarters from its tornado violence: he takes good care, at
the same time, to be within a few feet of a mountain beck: a caution
so little heeded by some of the villa founders that absolutely, in a
country surcharged with water, they have sometimes found themselves
driven, by sheer necessity, to the after-thought of sinking a well. The
very best situation, however, in other respects, may be bad in one,
and sometimes find its very advantages, and the beetling crags which
protect its rear, obstructions the most permanent to the ascent of
smoke; and it is in the contest with these natural baffling repellents
of the smoke, and in the variety of artifices for modifying its
vertical, or for accomplishing its lateral escape, that have arisen
the large and graceful variety of chimney models. My cottage, wanting
this primary feature of elegance in the constituents of Westmoreland
cottage architecture, and wanting also another very interesting feature
of the elder architecture, annually becoming more and more rare,--viz.
the outside gallery (which is sometimes merely of wood, but is much
more striking when provided for in the original construction of the
house, and completely _enfoncé_ in the masonry),--could not rank high
amongst the picturesque houses of the country; those, at least, which
are such by virtue of their architectural form. It was, however,
very irregular in its outline to the rear, by the aid of one little
projecting room, and also of a stable and little barn, in immediate
contact with the dwelling-house. It had, besides, the great advantage
of a varying height: two sides being about fifteen or sixteen feet high
from the exposure of both storeys; whereas the other two, being swathed
about by a little orchard that rose rapidly and unequally towards the
vast mountain range in the rear, exposed only the upper storey; and,
consequently, on those sides the elevation rarely rose beyond seven or
eight feet. All these accidents of irregular form and outline gave to
the house some little pretensions to a picturesque character; whilst
its "separable accidents" (as the logicians say), its bowery roses and
jessamine, clothed it in loveliness--its associations with Wordsworth
crowned it, to my mind, with historical dignity,--and, finally, my own
twenty-seven years' off-and-on connexion with it have, by ties personal
and indestructible, endeared it to my heart so unspeakably beyond all
other houses, that even now I rarely dream through four nights running
that I do not find myself (and others besides) in some one of those
rooms, and, most probably, the last cloudy delirium of approaching
death will re-install me in some chamber of that same humble cottage.
"What a tale," says Foster, the eloquent essayist--"what a tale could
be told by many a room, were the walls endowed with memory and speech!"
or, in the more impassioned expressions of Wordsworth--

     "Ah! what a lesson to a thoughtless man
     -------------- if any gladsome field of earth
     Could render back the sighs to which it hath responded,
     Or echo the sad steps by which it hath been trod!"

And equally affecting it would be, if such a field or such a house
could render up the echoes of joy, of festal music, of jubilant
laughter--the innocent mirth of infants, or the gaiety, not less
innocent, of youthful mothers--equally affecting would be such a
reverberation of forgotten household happiness with the re-echoing
records of sighs and groans. And few indeed are the houses that, within
a period no longer than from the beginning of the century to 1835
(so long was it either mine or Wordsworth's) have crowded such ample
materials for those echoes, whether sorrowful or joyous.

   [151] _Wraie_ is the old Danish or Icelandic word for _angle_.
   Hence the many "wrays" in the Lake district.


My cottage was ready in the summer; but I was playing truant amongst
the valleys of Somersetshire; and, meantime, different families,
throughout the summer, borrowed the cottage of the Wordsworths as my
friends. They consisted chiefly of ladies; and some, by the delicacy
of their attentions to the flowers, &c., gave me reason to consider
their visit during my absence as a real honour; others--such is the
difference of people in this world--left the rudest memorials of
their careless habits impressed upon house, furniture, garden, &c.
In November, at last, I, the long-expected, made my appearance. Some
little sensation did really and naturally attend my coming, for most
of the draperies belonging to beds, curtains, &c., had been sewed by
the young women of that or the adjoining vales. This had caused me
to be talked of. Many had seen me on my visit to the Wordsworths.
Miss Wordsworth had introduced the curious to a knowledge of my age,
name, prospects, and all the rest of what can be interesting to
know. Even the old people of the vale were a little excited by the
accounts (somewhat exaggerated, perhaps) of the never ending books
that continued to arrive in packing-cases for several months in
succession. Nothing in these vales so much fixes the attention and
respect of the people as the reputation of being a "far learn'd" man.
So far, therefore, I had already bespoke the favourable opinion of
the Dalesmen. And a separate kind of interest arose amongst mothers
and daughters, in the knowledge that I should necessarily want
what--in a sense somewhat different from the general one--is called a
"housekeeper"; that is, not an upper servant to superintend others,
but one who could undertake, in her own person, all the duties of the
house. It is not discreditable to these worthy people that several
of the richest and most respectable families were anxious to secure
the place for a daughter. Had I been a dissipated young man, I have
good reason to know that there would have been no canvassing at all
for the situation. But partly my books spoke for the character of my
pursuits with these simple-minded people--partly the introduction of
the Wordsworths guaranteed the safety of such a service. Even then,
had I persisted in my original intention of bringing a man-servant, no
respectable young woman would have accepted the place. As it was, and
it being understood that I had renounced this intention, many, in a
gentle, diffident way, applied for the place, or their parents on their
behalf. And I mention the fact, because it illustrates one feature in
the manners of this primitive and peculiar people, the Dalesmen of
Westmoreland. However wealthy, they do not think it degrading to permit
even the eldest daughter to go out a few years to service. The object
is not to gain a sum of money in wages, but that sort of household
experience which is supposed to be unattainable upon a suitable scale
out of a gentleman's family. So far was this carried, that, amongst
the offers made to myself, was one from a young woman whose family was
amongst the very oldest in the country, and who was at that time under
an engagement of marriage to the very richest young man in the vale.
She and her future husband had a reasonable prospect of possessing
ten thousand pounds in land; and yet neither her own family nor her
husband's objected to her seeking such a place as I could offer. Her
character and manners, I ought to add, were so truly excellent, and
won respect so inevitably from everybody, that nobody could wonder at
the honourable confidence reposed in her by her manly and spirited
young lover. The issue of the matter, as respected my service, was,
why I do not know, that Miss Wordsworth did not accept of her: and she
fulfilled her purpose in another family, a very grave and respectable
one, in Kendal. She stayed about a couple of years, returned, and
married the young man to whom she had engaged herself, and is now the
prosperous mother of a fine handsome family; and she together with her
mother-in-law are the two leading matrons of the vale.

It was on a November night, about ten o'clock, that I first found
myself installed in a house of my own--this cottage, so memorable from
its past tenant to all men, so memorable to myself from all which
has since passed in connexion with it. A writer in _The Quarterly
Review_, in noticing the autobiography of Dr. Watson, the Bishop of
Llandaff, has thought fit to say that the Lakes, of course, afforded
no society capable of appreciating this commonplace, coarse-minded man
of talents. The person who said this I understand to have been Dr.
Whitaker, the respectable antiquary. Now, that the reader may judge of
the propriety with which this was asserted, I shall slightly rehearse
the muster-roll of our Lake society, as it existed at the time when I
seated myself in my Grasmere cottage. I will undertake to say that the
meanest person in the whole scattered community was more extensively
accomplished than the good bishop, was more conscientiously true to
his duties, and had more varied powers of conversation. Wordsworth and
Coleridge, then living at Allan Bank, in Grasmere, I will not notice
in such a question. Southey, living thirteen miles off, at Keswick,
I have already noticed; and he needs no _proneur_. I will begin with

At Clappersgate, a little hamlet of perhaps six houses, on its
north-west angle, and about five miles from my cottage, resided two
Scottish ladies, daughters of Dr. Cullen, the famous physician and
nosologist.[152] They were universally beloved for their truly kind
dispositions and the firm independence of their conduct They had been
reduced from great affluence to a condition of rigorous poverty. Their
father had made what should have been a fortune by his practice.
The good doctor, however, was careless of his money in proportion
to the facility with which he made it. All was put into a box, open
to the whole family. Breach of confidence, in the most thoughtless
use of this money, there could be none; because no restraint in that
point, beyond what honour and good sense imposed, was laid upon any
of the elder children. Under such regulations, it may be imagined
that Dr. Cullen would not accumulate any very large capital; and,
at his death, the family, for the first time, found themselves in
embarrassed circumstances. Of the two daughters who belonged to our
Lake population, one had married a Mr. Millar, son to the celebrated
Professor Millar of Glasgow.[153] This gentleman had died in America;
and Mrs. Millar was now a childless widow. The other still remained
unmarried. Both were equally independent; and independent even with
regard to their nearest relatives; for, even from their brother--who
had risen to rank and affluence as a Scottish judge, under the title
of Lord Cullen[154]--they declined to receive assistance; and except
for some small addition made to their income by a novel called "Home"
(in as many as seven volumes, I really believe) by Miss Cullen,
their expenditure was rigorously shaped to meet that very slender
income which they drew from _their_ shares of the patrimonial wrecks.
More honourable and modest independence, or poverty more gracefully
supported, I have rarely known.

   [152] William Cullen (1712-1790), Professor of the Institutes of
   Medicine and the Practice of Physic in the University of Edinburgh
   from 1766 to 1790.--M.

   [153] John Millar (1735-1801), author of _The Origin Of the
   Distinction of Ranks in Society and Historical View of the English

   [154] Robert Cullen was a Scottish judge, with the courtesy title
   of Lord Cullen, from 1796 to 1810.--M.

Meantime, these ladies, though literary and very agreeable in
conversation, could not be classed with what now began to be known
as the _lake_ community of literati; for they took no interest in
any one of the lake poets; did not affect to take any; and I am sure
they were not aware of so much value in any one thing these poets had
written as could make it worth while even to look into their books;
and accordingly, as well-bred women, they took the same course as was
pursued for several years by Mrs. Hannah More, viz. cautiously to avoid
mentioning their names in my presence. This was natural enough in
women who had probably built their early admiration upon French models
(for Mrs. Millar used to tell me that she regarded the "Mahomet" of
Voltaire as the most perfect of human compositions), and still more so
at a period when almost all the world had surrendered their opinions
and their literary consciences (so to speak) into the keeping of _The
Edinburgh Review_; in whose favour, besides, those ladies had the
pardonable prepossessions of national pride, as a collateral guarantee
of that implicit faith which, in those days, stronger-minded people
than they took a pride in professing. Still, in defiance of prejudices
mustering so strongly to support their blindness, and the still
stronger support which this blindness drew from their total ignorance
of everything either done or attempted by the lake poets, these amiable
women persisted in one uniform tone of courteous forbearance, as often
as any question arose to implicate the names either of Wordsworth or
Coleridge,--any question about them, their books, their families, or
anything that was theirs. They thought it strange, indeed (for so
much I heard by a circuitous course), that promising and intellectual
young men--men educated at great Universities, such as Mr. Wilson of
Elleray, or myself, or a few others who had paid us visits,--should
possess so deep a veneration for these writers; but evidently this was
an infatuation--a craze, originating, perhaps, in personal connexions,
and, as the craze of valued friends, to be treated with tenderness. For
us therefore--for our sakes--they took a religious care to suppress
all allusion to these disreputable names; and it is pretty plain
how sincere their indifference must have been with regard to these
neighbouring authors, from the evidence of one fact, viz. that when, in
1810, Mr. Coleridge began to issue, in weekly numbers, his _Friend_,
which, by the prospectus, held forth a promise of meeting all possible
tastes--literary, philosophic, political--even this comprehensive
field of interest, combined with the adventitious attraction (so very
unusual, and so little to have been looked for in that thinly-peopled
region) of a local origin, from the bosom of those very hills at the
foot of which (though on a different side) they were themselves living,
failed altogether to stimulate their torpid curiosity; so perfect was
their persuasion beforehand that no good thing could by possibility
come out of a community that had fallen under the ban of the Edinburgh

At the same time, it is melancholy to confess that, partly from the
dejection of Coleridge, his constant immersion in opium at that
period, his hatred of the duties he had assumed, or at least of their
too frequent and periodical recurrence, and partly also from the bad
selection of topics for a miscellaneous audience, from the heaviness
and obscurity with which they were treated, and from the total want
of variety, in consequence of defective arrangements on his part
for ensuring the co-operation of his friends, no conceivable act
of authorship that Coleridge _could_ have perpetrated, no possible
overt act of dulness and somnolent darkness that he _could_ have
authorized, was so well fitted to sustain the impression, with
regard to him and his friends, that had pre-occupied these ladies'
minds. _Habes confitentem reum!_ I am sure they would exclaim; not
perhaps confessing to that form of delinquency which they had been
taught to expect--trivial or extravagant sentimentalism, _Germanity_
alternating with tumid inanity; not this, but something quite as
bad or worse, viz. palpable dulness--dulness that could be felt and
handled--rayless obscurity as to the thoughts--and communicated in
language that, according to the Bishop of Llandaff's complaint, was not
always English. For, though the particular words cited for blame were
certainly known to the vocabulary of metaphysics, and had even been
employed by a writer of Queen Anne's reign (Leibnitz), who, if any,
had the gift of translating dark thoughts into plain ones--still it
was intolerable, in point of good sense, that one who had to win his
way into the public ear should begin by bringing before a popular and
miscellaneous audience themes that could require such startling and
revolting words. _The Delphic Oracle_ was the kindest of the nicknames
which the literary taste of Windermere conferred upon the new journal.
This was the laughing suggestion of a clever young lady, a daughter of
the Bishop of Llandaff, who stood in a neutral position with regard to
Coleridge. But others there were amongst his supposed friends who felt
even more keenly than this young lady the shocking want of adaptation
to his audience in the choice of matter, and, even to an audience
better qualified to meet such matter, the want of adaptation in the
mode of publication,--viz. periodically, and by weekly recurrence;
a mode of soliciting the public attention which even authorizes the
expectation of current topics--topics arising each with its own week or
day. One in particular I remember of these disapproving friends: a Mr.
Blair, an accomplished scholar, and a frequent visitor at Elleray,[155]
who started the playful scheme of a satirical rejoinder to Coleridge's
_Friend_, under the name of _The Enemy_, which was to follow always in
the wake of its leader, and to stimulate Coleridge (at the same time
that it amused the public) by attic banter, or by downright opposition
and showing fight in good earnest. It was a plan that might have done
good service to the world, and chiefly through a seasonable irritation
(never so much wanted as then) applied to Coleridge's too lethargic
state: in fact, throughout life, it is most deeply to be regretted
that Coleridge's powers and peculiar learning were never forced out
into a large display by intense and almost persecuting opposition.
However, this scheme, like thousands of other day-dreams and bubbles
that rose upon the breath of morning spirits and buoyant youth, fell
to the ground; and, in the meantime, no enemy to _The Friend_ appeared
that was capable of matching _The Friend_ when left to itself and
its own careless or vagrant guidance. _The Friend_ ploughed heavily
along for nine-and-twenty numbers[156]; and our fair recusants and
non-conformists in all that regarded the lake poetry or authorship,
the two Scottish ladies of Clappersgate, found no reasons for changing
their opinions; but continued, for the rest of my acquaintance with
them, to practise the same courteous and indulgent silence, whenever
the names of Coleridge or Wordsworth happened to be mentioned.

   [155] See _ante_, p. 193, footnote (76).--M.

   [156] See _ante_. p. 190, footnote (75).--M.

In taking leave of these Scottish ladies, it may be interesting to
mention that, previously to their final farewell to our Lake society,
upon taking up their permanent residence in York (which step they
adopted partly, I believe, to enjoy the more diversified society which
that great city yields, and, at any rate, the more _accessible_
society than amongst mountain districts--partly with a view to the
cheapness of that rich district in comparison with our sterile soil,
poor towns, and poor agriculture) somewhere about the May or June of
1810, I think--they were able, by a long preparatory course of economy,
to invite to the English lakes a family of foreigners--what shall I
call them?--a family of Anglo-Gallo-Americans, from the Carolinas. The
invitation had been of old standing, and offered, as an expression
of gratitude, from these ladies, for many hospitalities and friendly
services rendered by the two heads of that family to Mrs. Millar,
in former years, and under circumstances of peculiar trial. Mrs.
Millar had been hastily summoned from Scotland to attend her husband
at Charleston; him, on her arrival, she found dying; and, whilst
overwhelmed by this sudden blow, it may be imagined that the young
widow would find trials enough for her fortitude, without needing any
addition to the load from friendlessness amongst a nation of strangers
and from total solitude. These evils were spared to Mrs. Millar,
through the kind offices and disinterested exertions of an American
gentleman (French by birth, but American by adoption), M. Simond, who
took upon himself the cares of superintending Mr. Millar's funeral
through all its details, and, by this most seasonable service, secured
to the heart-stricken widow that most welcome of privileges in all
situations, the privilege of unmolested privacy; for assuredly the
heaviest aggravation of such bereavements lies in the necessity,--too
often imposed by circumstances upon him or upon her who may happen
to be the sole responsible representative, and, at the same time,
the dearest friend of the deceased,--of superintending the funeral
arrangements. In the very agonies of a new-born grief, whilst the
heart is yet raw and bleeding, the mind not yet able to comprehend its
loss, the very light of day hateful to the eyes, the necessity even at
such a moment arises, and without a day's delay, of facing strangers,
talking with strangers, discussing the most empty details with a view
to the most sordid of considerations--cheapness, convenience, custom,
and local prejudice--and, finally, talking about whom? why, the very
child, husband, wife, who has just been torn away; and this, too,
under a consciousness that the being so hallowed is, as to these
strangers, an object equally indifferent with any one person whatsoever
that died a thousand years ago. Fortunate, indeed, is that person who
has a natural friend, or, in default of such a friend, who finds a
volunteer stepping forward to relieve him from a conflict of feeling
so peculiarly unseasonable. Mrs. Millar never forgot the service which
had been rendered to her; and she was happy when M. Simond, who had
become a wealthy citizen of America, at length held out the prospect of
coming to profit by her hospitable attentions amongst that circle of
friends with whom she and her sister had surrounded themselves in so
interesting a part of England.

M. Simond had been a French emigrant; not, I believe, so far connected
with the privileged orders of his country, or with any political party,
as to be absolutely forced out of France by danger or by panic; but he
had shared in the feelings of those who were. Revolutionary France,
in the anarchy of the transition state, and still heaving to and fro
with the subsiding shocks of the great earthquake, did not suit him:
there was neither the polish which he sought in its manners, nor the
security which he sought in its institutions. England he did not love;
but yet, if not England, some country which had grown up from English
foundations was the country for him; and, as he augured no rest for
France through some generations to come, but an endless succession of
revolution to revolution, anarchy to anarchy, he judged it best that,
having expatriated himself and lost one country, he should solemnly
adopt another. Accordingly he became an American citizen. English he
already spoke with propriety and fluency. And, finally, he cemented
his English connexions by marrying an English lady, the niece of John
Wilkes. "What John Wilkes?" asked a lady, one of a dinner-party at
Calgarth (the house of Dr. Watson, the celebrated Bishop of Llandaff,
upon the banks of Windermere).--"_What_ John Wilkes?" re-echoed the
Bishop, with a vehement intonation of scorn; "_What_ John Wilkes,
indeed! as if there was ever more than one John Wilkes--_fama super
æthera notus_!"--"O, my Lord, I beg your pardon," said an old lady,
nearly connected with the Bishop, "there were two; I knew one of
them: he was a little, ill-looking man, and he kept the Blue Boar
at----."--"At Flamborough Head!" roared the Bishop, with a savage
expression of disgust. The old lady, suspecting that some screw was
loose in the matter, thought it prudent to drop the contest; but she
murmured, _sotto voce_, "No, not at Flamborough Head, but at Market
Drayton." Madame Simond, then, was the niece, not of the ill-looking
host of the Blue Boar, but of _the_ Wilkes so memorably connected with
the _parvanimities_ of the English government at one period; with the
casuistry of our English constitution, by the questions raised in his
person as to the effects of expulsion from the House of Commons, &c.
&c.; and, finally, with the history of English jurisprudence, by his
intrepidity on the matter of general warrants. M. Simond's party, when
at length it arrived, consisted of two persons besides himself, viz.
his wife, the niece of Wilkes, and a young lady of eighteen, standing
in the relation of grand-niece to the same memorable person. This young
lady, highly pleasing in her person, on quitting the lake district,
went northwards with her party, to Edinburgh, and there became
acquainted with Mr. Francis Jeffrey, the present Lord Jeffrey [1840],
who naturally enough fell in love with her, followed her across the
Atlantic, and in Charleston, I believe, received the honour of her hand
in marriage.[157]

   [157] She was Jeffrey's second wife, married to him in 1813.--M.

I, as one of Mrs. Millar's friends, put in my claim to entertain her
American party in my turn. One long summer's day, they all came over
to my cottage in Grasmere; and, as it became my duty to do the honours
of our vale to the strangers, I thought that I could not discharge the
duty in a way more likely to interest them all than by conducting them
through Grasmere into the little inner chamber of Easedale, and there,
within sight of the solitary cottage, Blentarn Ghyll, telling them the
story of the Greens[158]; because, in this way, I had an opportunity,
at the same time, of showing the scenery from some of the best points,
and of opening to them a few glimpses of the character and customs
which distinguish this section of the English yeomanry from others.
The story did certainly interest them all; and thus far I succeeded
in my duties as Cicerone and Amphytrion of the day. But, throughout
the rest of our long morning's ramble, I remember that accident, or,
possibly the politeness of M. Simond, and his French sympathy with a
young man's natural desire to stand well in the eyes of a handsome
young woman, so ordered it that I had constantly the honour of being
Miss Wilkes's immediate companion, as the narrowness of the path pretty
generally threw us into ranks of two and two. Having, therefore,
through so many hours, the opportunity of an exclusive conversation
with this young lady, it would have been my own fault had I failed to
carry off an impression of her great good sense, as well as her amiable
and spirited character. Certainly I did _mon possible_ to entertain
her, both on her own account and as the visitor of my Scottish friends.
But, in the midst of all my efforts, I had the mortification to feel
that I was rowing against the stream; that there was a silent body
of prepossession against the whole camp of the lakers, which nothing
could unsettle. Miss Wilkes naturally looked up, with some feelings of
respect, to M. Simond, who, by his marriage with her aunt, had become
her own guardian and protector. Now, M. Simond, of all the men in the
world, was the last who could have appreciated an English poet. He
had, to begin with, a French inaptitude for apprehending poetry at
all: any poetry, that is, which transcends manners and the interests
of social life. Then, unfortunately, not merely through what he had
not, but equally through what he had, this cleverish Frenchman was, by
whole diameters of the earth, remote from the station at which he could
comprehend Wordsworth. He was a thorough, knowing man of the world,
keen, sharp as a razor, and valuing nothing but the tangible and the
ponderable. He had a smattering of mechanics, of physiology, geology,
mineralogy, and all other _ologies_ whatsoever; he had, besides, at his
fingers' ends, a huge body of statistical facts--how many people did
live, could live, ought to live, in each particular district of each
manufacturing county; how many old women of eighty-three there ought
to be to so many little children of one; how many murders ought to be
committed in a month by each town of five thousand souls; and so on
_ad infinitum_. And to such a thin shred had his old French politeness
been worn down by American attrition, that his thin lips could with
much ado contrive to disguise his contempt for those who failed to
meet him exactly upon his own field, with exactly his own quality of
knowledge. Yet, after all, it was but a little _case_ of knowledge,
that he had packed up neatly for a make-shift; just what corresponds
to the little assortment of razors, tooth-brushes, nail-brushes,
hair-brushes, cork-screw, gimlet, &c. &c., which one carries in one's
trunk, in a red Morocco case, to meet the casualties of a journey. The
more one was indignant at being the object of such a man's contempt,
the more heartily did one disdain his disdain, and recalcitrate his

   [158] The pathetic story told in De Quincey's paper entitled
   _Early Memorials of Grasmere_.--M.

On the single day which Mrs. Millar could spare for Grasmere, I had
taken care to ask Wordsworth amongst those who were to meet the party.
Wordsworth came; but, by instinct, he and Monsieur Simond knew and
recoiled from each other. They met, they saw, they _inter-despised_.
Wordsworth, on his side, seemed so heartily to despise M. Simond
that he did not stir or make an effort to right himself under any
misapprehension of the Frenchman, but coolly acquiesced in any and
every inference which he might be pleased to draw; whilst M. Simond,
double-charged with contempt from _The Edinburgh Review_, and from the
report (I cannot doubt) of his present hostess, manifestly thought
Wordsworth too abject almost for the trouble of too openly disdaining
him. More than one of us could have done justice on this malefactor
by meeting M. Simond on his own ground, and taking the conceit out of
him most thoroughly. I was one of those; for I had the very knowledge,
or some of it, that he most paraded. But one of us was lazy; another
thought it not _tanti_; and I, for my part, in my own house, could not
move upon such a service. And in those days, moreover, when as yet I
loved Wordsworth not less than I venerated him, a success that would
have made him suffer in any man's opinion by comparison with myself
would have been painful to my feelings. Never did party meet more
exquisitely ill-assorted; never did party separate with more exquisite
and cordial disgust in its principal members towards each other. I
mention the case at all, in order to illustrate the abject condition of
worldly opinion in which Wordsworth then lived. Perhaps his ill fame
was just then in its meridian; for M. Simond, soon after, published
his English Tour in two octavo volumes; and, of course, he goes over
his residence at the Lakes; yet it is a strong fact that, according
to my remembrance, he does not vouchsafe to mention such a person as

One anecdote, before parting with these ladies, I will mention, as
received from Miss Cullen on her personal knowledge of the fact. There
are stories current which resemble this, but wanting that immediate
guarantee for their accuracy which, in this case, I at least was
obliged to admit, in the attestation of so perfectly veracious a
reporter as this excellent lady. A female friend of her own, a person
of family and consideration, being on the eve of undertaking a visit
to a remote part of the kingdom, dreamed that, on reaching the end of
her journey, and drawing up to the steps of the door, a footman, with
a very marked and forbidding expression of countenance, his complexion
pale and bloodless, and his manners sullen, presented himself to let
down the steps of her carriage. This same man, at a subsequent point
of her dream, appeared to be stealing up a private staircase, with
some murderous instruments in his hands, towards a bed-room door.
This dream was repeated, I think, twice. Some time after, the lady,
accompanied by a grown-up daughter, accomplished her journey. Great was
the shock which awaited her on reaching her friend's house: a servant
corresponding in all points to the shadowy outline of her dream,
equally bloodless in complexion, and equally gloomy in manner, appeared
at her carriage door. The issue of the story was that upon a particular
night, after a stay of some length, the lady grew unaccountably
nervous; resisted her feelings for some time; but at length, at the
entreaty of her daughter, who slept in the same room, suffered some
communication of the case to be made to a gentleman resident in
the house, who had not yet retired to rest. This gentleman, struck
by the dream, and still more on recalling to mind some suspicious
preparations, as if for a hasty departure, in which he had detected the
servant, waited in concealment until three o'clock in the morning--at
which time, hearing a stealthy step moving up the staircase, he issued
with firearms, and met the man at the lady's door, so equipped as to
leave no doubt of his intentions; which possibly contemplated only
robbing of the lady's jewels, but possibly also murder in a case of
extremity. There are other stories with some of the same circumstances;
and, in particular, I remember one very like it in Dr. Abercrombie's
"Inquiries Concerning the Intellectual Powers" [1830], p. 283. But in
this version of Dr. Abercrombie's (supposing it another version of the
same story) the striking circumstance of anticipating the servant's
features is omitted; and in no version, except this of Miss Cullen's,
have I heard the names mentioned both of the parties to the affair, and
also of the place at which it occurred.



   [159] From _Tait's Magazine_ for March 1840.--M.

Immediately below the little village of Clappersgate, in which the
Scottish ladies resided--Mrs. Millar and Mrs. Cullen--runs the wild
mountain river called the _Brathay_, which, descending from Langdale
Head, and soon after becoming confluent with the Rothay (a brook-like
stream that comes originally from Easedale, and takes its course
through the two lakes of Grasmere and Rydal), finally composes
a considerable body of water, that flows along, deep, calm, and
steady--no longer brawling, bubbling, tumultuous--into the splendid
lake of Windermere, the largest of our English waters, or, if not, at
least the longest, and of the most extensive circuit. Close to this
little river, Brathay, on the farther side as regards Clappersgate
(and what, though actually part and parcel of a district that is
severed by the sea, or by Westmoreland, from Lancashire proper, is
yet, from some old legal usage, denominated the Lancashire side of the
Brathay), stands a modest family mansion, called Low Brathay, by way
of distinction from another and a larger mansion, about a quarter of a
mile beyond it, which, standing upon a little eminence, is called High

In this house of Low Brathay lived, and continued to live, for
many years (in fact, until misery, in its sharpest form, drove him
from his hearth and his household happiness), Charles L---- the
younger[160];--on his own account, and for his personal qualities,
worthy of a separate notice in any biography, howsoever sparing in its
digressions; but, viewed in reference to his fortunes, amongst the most
interesting men I have known. Never do I reflect upon his hard fate,
and the bitter though mysterious persecution of body which pursued
him, dogged him, and thickened as life advanced, but I feel gratitude
to Heaven for my own exemption from suffering in that particular
form; and, in the midst of afflictions, of which two or three have
been most hard to bear,--because not unmingled with pangs of remorse
for the share which I myself may have had in causing them,--still, by
comparison with the lot of Charles Lloyd, I acknowledge my own to have
been happy and serene. Already, on my first hasty visit to Grasmere in
1807, I found Charles Lloyd settled with his family at Brathay, and a
resident there, I believe, of some standing. It was on a wet gloomy
evening; and Miss Wordsworth and I were returning from an excursion to
Esthwaite Water, when, suddenly, in the midst of blinding rain, without
previous notice, she said--Pray, let us call for a few minutes at this
house. A garden gate led us into a little shrubbery, chiefly composed
of lawns, beautifully kept, through which ran a gravel road, just wide
enough to admit a single carriage. A minute or so saw us housed in a
small comfortable drawing-room, but with no signs of living creatures
near it; and, from the accident of double doors, all covered with
baize, being scattered about the house, the whole mansion seemed the
palace of silence, though populous, I understood, with children. In no
long time appeared Mr. Lloyd, soon followed by his youthful wife, both
radiant with kindness; and it may be supposed that we were not suffered
to depart for some hours. I call Mrs. Lloyd youthful; and so I might
call her husband; for both were youthful, considered as the parents of
a numerous family, six or seven children then living--Charles Lloyd
himself not being certainly more than twenty-seven, and his "Sophia"
perhaps not twenty-five.

   [160] The name was Charles Lloyd, and we shall fill up De
   Quincey's blanks in the sequel.--M.

On that short visit I saw enough to interest me in both; and, two
years after, when I became myself a permanent resident in Grasmere,
the connexion between us became close and intimate. My cottage stood
just five miles from Brathay; and there were two mountain roads which
shortened the space between us, though not the time nor the toil.
But, notwithstanding this distance, often and often, upon the darkest
nights, for many years, I used to go over about nine o'clock, or an
hour later, and sit with him till one. Mrs. Lloyd was simply an amiable
young woman, of pleasing person, perfectly well principled, and, as a
wife and mother, not surpassed by anybody I have known in either of
those characters. In figure she somewhat resembled the ever memorable
and most excellent Mrs. Jordan; she was exactly of the middle height
and having that slight degree of _embonpoint_, even in youth, which
never through life diminishes or increases. Her complexion may be
imagined from the circumstance of her hair being tinged with a slight
and not unpleasing shade of red. Finally, in manners she was remarkably
self-possessed, free from all awkward embarrassment, and (to an extent
which some people would wonder at in one who had been brought up, I
believe, wholly in a great commercial town) perfectly lady-like. So
much description is due to one who, though no authoress, and never
making the slightest pretension to talents, was too much connected
subsequently with the lakers to be passed over in a review of their
community. Ah! gentle lady! your head, after struggling through many
a year with strange calamities, has found rest at length; but not in
English ground, or amongst the mountains which you loved: at Versailles
it is, and perhaps within a stone's throw of that Mrs. Jordan whom
in so many things you resembled, and most of all in the misery which
settled upon your latter years. There you lie, and for ever, whose
blooming matronly figure rises up to me at this moment from a depth of
thirty years! and your children scattered into all lands!

But for Charles Lloyd: he, by his literary works, is so far known
to the public, that, on his own account, he merits some separate
notice.[161] His poems do not place him in the class of powerful poets;
they are loosely conceived--faultily even at times--and not finished
in the execution. But they have a real and a mournful merit under
one aspect, which might be so presented to the general reader as to
win a peculiar interest for many of them, and for some a permanent
place in any judicious _thesaurus_--such as we may some day hope to
see drawn off, and carefully filtered, from the enormous mass of
poetry produced since the awakening era of the French Revolution.
This aspect is founded on the relation which they bear to the real
events and the unexaggerated afflictions of his own life. The feelings
which he attempts to express were not assumed for effect, nor drawn
by suggestion from others, and then transplanted into some ideal
experience of his own. They do not belong to the mimetic poetry so
extensively cultivated; but they were true solitary sighs, wrung from
his own meditative heart by excess of suffering, and by the yearning
after old scenes and household faces of an impassioned memory, brooding
over vanished happiness, and cleaving to those early times when life
wore even for _his_ eyes the golden light of Paradise. But he had other
and higher accomplishments of intellect than he showed in his verses,
as I shall presently explain; and of a nature which make it difficult
to bring them adequately within the reader's apprehension.

   [161] _Blank Verse by C. L. and Charles Lamb, 1798. Poetical
   Essays on Pope, and Desultory Thoughts on London, &c., 1821._--M.

Meantime, I will sketch an outline of poor Lloyd's history, so far as
I can pretend to know it. He was the son, and probably his calamitous
life originally dated from his being the son, of Quaker parents. It was
said, indeed, by himself as well as others, that the mysterious malady
which haunted him had been derived from an ancestress in the maternal
line; and this may have been true; and, for all that, it may also be
true that Quaker habits were originally answerable for this legacy of
woe. It is sufficiently well known that, in the training of their young
people, the Society of Friends make it a point of conscience to apply
severe checks to all open manifestations of natural feeling, or of
exuberant spirits. Not the passions--they are beyond their control--but
the expression of those passions by any natural language; this they
lay under the heaviest restraint; and, in many cases, it is possible
that such a system of thwarting nature may do no great mischief; just
as we see the American Indians, in moulding the plastic skulls of
their infants into capricious shapes, do not, after all, much disturb
the ordinary course of nature, nor produce the idiots we might have
expected. But, then, the reason why such tampering may often terminate
in slight results is, because often there is not much to tamper with;
the machinery is so slight, and the total range within which it plays
is perhaps so narrow, that the difference between its normal action and
its widest deviation may, after all, be practically unimportant. For
there are many men and women of whom I have already said, borrowing the
model of the word from Hartley, that they have not so much passions
as _passiuncles_. These, however, are in _one_ extreme; and others
there are and will be, in every class, and under every disadvantage,
who are destined to illustrate the very opposite extreme. Great
passions--passions pointing to the paths of love, of ambition, of
glory, martial or literary--these in men--and in women, again, these,
either in some direct shape, or taking the form of intense sympathy
with the same passions as moving amongst contemporary men--_will_ gleam
out fitfully amongst the placid children of Fox and Penn, not less than
amongst us who profess no war with the nobler impulses of our nature.
And, perhaps, according to the Grecian doctrine of _antiperistasis_,
strong untameable passions are more likely to arise even in consequence
of the counteraction. Deep passions undoubtedly lie in the blood and
constitution of Englishmen; and Quakers,[162] after all, do not, by
being such, cease, therefore, to be Englishmen.

   [162] In using the term _Quakers_, I hoped it would have been
   understood, even without any explanation from myself, that I did
   not mean to use it scornfully or insultingly to that respectable
   body. But it was the great oversight of their founders not to have
   saved them from a nickname by assuming some formal designation
   expressive of some capital characteristic. At present one is in
   this dilemma: either one must use a tedious periphrasis (_e.g._
   _the young women of the Society of Friends_), or the ambiguous one
   of _young female Friends_.
   of _young female Friends_.

It is, I have said, sufficiently well known that the Quakers make it a
point of their moral economy to lay the severest restraints upon all
ebullitions of feeling. Whatever may be the nature of the feeling,
whatever its strength, utter itself by word or by gesture it must not;
smoulder it may, but it must not break into a flame. This is known; but
it is not equally known that this unnatural restraint, falling into
collision with two forces at once, the force of passion and of youth,
not uncommonly records its own injurious tendencies, and publishes the
rebellious movements of nature, by distinct and anomalous diseases.
And further, I have been assured, upon most excellent authority,
that these diseases, strange and elaborate affections of the nervous
system, are found _exclusively_ amongst the young men and women of the
Quaker society; that they are known and understood exclusively amongst
physicians who have practised in great towns having a large Quaker
population, such as Birmingham; that they assume a new type, and a more
inveterate character, in the second or third generation, to whom this
fatal inheritance is often transmitted; and finally, that, if this
class of nervous derangements does not increase so much as to attract
public attention, it is simply because the community itself--the Quaker
body--does not increase, but, on the contrary, is rather on the wane.

From a progenitrix, then, no matter in what generation, C. Lloyd
inherited that awful malady which withered his own happiness, root
and branch, gathering strength from year to year. His father was a
banker, and, I presume, wealthy, from the ample allowance which he
always made to his son Charles. Charles, it is true, had the rights
of primogeniture--which, however, in a commercial family, are not
considerable--but, at the same time, though eldest, he was eldest of
seventeen or eighteen brothers and sisters, and of these I believe
that some round dozen or so were living at the time when I first came
to know him. He had been educated in the bosom of Quaker society; his
own parents, with most of their friends, were Quakers; and, even of
his own generation, all the young women continued Quakers. Naturally,
therefore, as a boy, he also was obliged to conform to the Quaker
ritual. But this ritual presses with great inequality upon the two
sexes; in so far, at least, as regards dress. The distinctions of
dress which announce the female Quaker are all in her favour. In a
nation eminent for personal purity, and where it should seem beforehand
impossible for any woman to create a pre-eminence for herself in that
respect, so it is, however, that the female Quaker, by her dress,
seems even purer than other women, and consecrated to a service of
purity; earthly soil or taint, even the sullying breath of mortality,
seems as if kept aloof from her person--forcibly held in repulsion by
some protecting sanctity. This transcendent purity, and a nun-like
gentleness, self-respect, and sequestration from the world--these are
all that _her_ peculiarity of dress expresses; and surely this "all" is
quite enough to win every man's favourable feelings towards her, and
something even like homage. But, with the male Quaker, how different
is the case! _His_ dress--originally not remarkable by its shape, but
solely by its colour and want of ornament, so peculiar has it become
in a lapse of nearly two centuries--seems expressly devised to point
him out to ridicule. In some towns, it is true, such as Birmingham and
Kendal, the public eye is so familiar with this costume, that in _them_
it excites no feeling whatever more than the professional costume of
butchers, bakers, grooms, &c. But in towns not commercial--towns of
luxury and parade--a Quaker is exposed to most mortifying trials of his
self-esteem. It has happened that I have followed a young man of this
order for a quarter of a mile, in Bath, or in one of the fashionable
streets of London, on a summer evening, when numerous servants were
lounging on the steps of the front door, or at the area gates; and I
have seen him run the gauntlet of grim smiles from the men, and _heard_
him run the gauntlet of that sound--the worst which heaven has in its
artillery of scorn against the peace of poor man--the half-suppressed
titter of the women. Laughing outright is bad, but still _that_ may be
construed into a determinate insult that studiously avows more contempt
than is really felt; but tittering is hell itself; for it seems mere
nature, and absolute truth, that extort this expression of contempt in
spite of every effort to suppress it.

Some such expression it was that drove Charles Lloyd into an early
apostasy from his sect: early it must have been, for he went at the
usual age of eighteen to Cambridge, and there, as a Quaker, he could
not have been received. He, indeed, of all men, was the least fitted
to contend with the world's scorn, for he had no great fortitude of
mind; his vocation was not to martyrdom, and he was cursed with the
most exquisite sensibility. This sensibility, indeed, it was, and not
so properly any determinate passion, which had been the scourge of his
ancestors. There was something that appeared effeminate about it; and
which, accordingly, used to provoke the ridicule of Wordsworth, whose
character, in all its features, wore a masculine and Roman harshness.
But, in fact, when you came to know Charles Lloyd, there was, even
in this slight tinge of effeminacy, something which conciliated your
pity by the feeling that it impressed you with, of being part of his
disease. His sensibility was eminently _Rousseauish_--that is, it was
physico-moral; now pointing to appetites that would have mastered him
had he been less intellectual and governed by a less exalted standard
of moral perceptions; now pointing to fine aerial speculations,
subtle as a gossamer, and apparently calculated to lead him off into
abstractions even too remote from flesh and blood.

During the Cambridge vacation, or, it might be, even before he went
to Cambridge--and my reason for thinking so is because both, I
believe, belonged to the same town, if it could not be said of them
as of Pyramus and Thisbe, that "_contiguas habuere domos_"--he fell
desperately in love with Miss Sophia P----n. Who she was I never
heard--that is, what were her connexions; but I presume that she must
have been of an opulent family, because Mrs. P----n, the mother of
Mrs. Lloyd, occasionally paid a visit to her daughter at the lakes,
and then she brought with her a handsomely-appointed equipage, as to
horses and servants. This I have reason to remember from the fact of
herself and her daughter frequently coming over on summer evenings
to drink tea with me, and the affront (as I then thought it) which
Wordsworth fastened upon me in connexion with one of those visits. One
evening,[163] * * * * * A pang of wrath gathered at my heart. Yet why?
One moment, I felt, indeed, that it was not gentlemanly to interfere
with the privileges of any man standing in the situation which I then
occupied, of host; but still I should not have regarded it, except from
its connexion with a case I recollected in a previous year. One fine
summer day, we were walking together--Wordsworth, myself, and Southey.
Southey had been making earnest inquiries about poor Lloyd, just then
in the crisis of some severe illness, and Wordsworth's answer had been
partly lost to me. I put a question upon it, when, to my surprise (my
wrath internally, but also to my special amusement), he replied that,
in fact, what he had said was a matter of some delicacy, and not quite
proper to be communicated except to _near friends of the family_. This
to me!--O ye gods!--to me, who knew by many a hundred conversations
how disagreeable Wordsworth was both to Charles Lloyd and to his
wife; whilst, on the other hand--not by words only, but by deeds, and
by the most delicate acts of confidential favour--I knew that Mr.
Wilson (Professor Wilson) and myself had been selected as friends in
cases which were not so much as named to Wordsworth. The arrogance of
Wordsworth was well illustrated in this case of the Lloyds.

   [163] This break of asterisks occurs in the original magazine

But to resume Lloyd's history. Being so desperately in love with Miss
P----n, and his parents being rich, why should he not have married
her? _Why_, I know not. But some great obstacles arose; and, I presume,
on the side of Miss P----n's friends; for, actually, it became
necessary to steal her away; and the person in whom Lloyd confided
for this delicate service was no other than Southey. A better choice
he could not have made. Had the lady been Helen of Greece, Southey
would not have had a thought but for the honour and interests of his
confiding friend.

Having thus, by proxy, run away with his young wife, and married her,
Lloyd brought her to Cambridge. It is a novel thing in Cambridge,
though not altogether unprecedented, for a student to live there with
a wife. This novelty Lloyd exhibited to the University for some time;
but then, finding the situation not perfectly agreeable to the delicate
sensibilities of his young wife, Lloyd removed, first, I think, to
Penrith; and, after some changes, he settled down at Brathay, from
which, so long as he stayed on English ground--that is, for about
fifteen or sixteen years--he never moved. When I first crossed his
path at the Lakes, he was in the zenith of the brief happiness that
was granted to him on earth. He stood in the very centre of earthly
pleasures; and, that his advantages may be easily estimated, I will
describe both himself and his situation.

First, then, as to his person: he was tall and somewhat clumsy--not
intellectual so much as benign and conciliatory in his expression
of face. His features were not striking, but they expressed great
goodness of heart; and latterly wore a deprecatory expression that
was peculiarly touching to those who knew its cause. His manners were
free from all modes of vulgarity; and where he acquired his knowledge
I know not (for I never heard him claim any connexion with people of
rank), but a knowledge he certainly had of all the conventional usages
amongst the higher circles, and of those purely arbitrary customs
which mere good sense and native elegance of manner are not, of
themselves, sufficient to teach. Some of these he might have learned
from the family of the Bishop of Llandaff; for with the ladies of that
family he was intimate, especially with the eldest daughter, who was
an accomplished student in that very department of literature which
Lloyd himself most cultivated, viz. all that class of works which
deal in the analysis of human passions, or attempt to exhibit the
development of human character, in relation to sexual attachments,
when placed in trying circumstances. Lloyd corresponded with Miss
Watson in French; the letters, on both sides, being full of spirit and
originality; the subjects generally drawn from Rousseau's "Heloise"
or his "Confessions," from "Corinne," from "Delphine," or some other
work of Madame de Stael. For such disquisitions Lloyd had a real and a
powerful genius. It was really a delightful luxury to hear him giving
free scope to his powers for investigating subtle combinations of
character; for distinguishing all the shades and affinities of some
presiding qualities, disentangling their intricacies, and balancing,
antithetically, one combination of qualities against another. Take, for
instance, any well-known character from the drama, and pique Lloyd's
delicate perception of differences by affecting to think it identical
with some other character of the same class--instantly, in his anxiety
to mark out the features of dissimilitude, he would hurry into an
impromptu analysis of each character separately, with an eloquence,
with a keenness of distinction, and a felicity of phrase, which
were perfectly admirable. This display of familiarity with life and
human nature, in all its masqueradings, was sometimes truly splendid.
But two things were remarkable in these displays. One was, that the
splendour was quite hidden from himself, and unperceived amidst the
effort of mind, and oftentimes severe struggles, in attempting to do
himself justice, both as respected the thoughts and the difficult
task of clothing them in adequate words; he was as free from vanity,
or even from complacency in reviewing what he had effected, as it is
possible for a human creature to be. He thought, indeed, slightly of
his own power; and, which was even a stronger barrier against vanity,
his displays of this kind were always effective in proportion to his
unhappiness; for unhappiness it was, and the restlessness of internal
irritation, that chiefly drove him to exertions of his intellect;
else, and when free from this sort of excitement, he tended to the
quiescent state of a listener; for he thought everybody better than
himself. The other point remarkable in these displays was (and most
unfavourable, of course, it proved to his obtaining the reputation
they merited), that he could succeed in them only before confidential
friends, those on whom he could rely for harbouring no shade of
ridicule towards himself or his theme. Let but one person enter the
room of whose sympathy he did not feel secure, and his powers forsook
him as suddenly as the buoyancy of a bird that has received a mortal
shot in its wing. Accordingly, it is a fact that neither Wordsworth
nor Coleridge ever suspected the amount of power which was latent in
Lloyd; for he firmly believed that both of them despised him. Mrs.
Lloyd thought the same thing. Often and often she has said to me,
smiling in a mournful way--"I know too well that both Wordsworth and
Coleridge entertain a profound contempt for my poor Charles." And,
when I combated this notion, declaring that, although they might (and
probably did) hold very cheap such writers as Rousseau and Madame de
Stael, and, consequently, could not approve of studies directed so
exclusively to their works, or to works of the same class, still that
was not sufficient to warrant them in undervaluing the powers which
Mr. Lloyd applied to such studies. To this, or similar arguments, she
would reply by simply shaking her head, and then sink into silence.

But the time was fast approaching when all pains of this kind, from
supercilious or well-founded disparagement, were to be swallowed up
in more awful considerations and fears. The transition was not a
long one from the state of prosperity in which I found Lloyd about
1807-10 to the utter overthrow of his happiness, and, for his friends,
the overthrow of all hopes on his behalf. In the three years I have
assigned, his situation seemed luxuriously happy, as regarded the
external elements of happiness. He had, without effort of his own, an
income, most punctually remitted from his father, of from £1500 to
£1800 per annum. This income was entirely resigned to the management
of his prudent and excellent wife; and, as his own personal expenses,
separate from those of his family, were absolutely none at all, except
for books, she applied the whole either to the education of her
children, or to the accumulation of all such elegances of life about
their easy unpretending mansion as might soothe her husband's nervous
irritations, or might cheer his drooping spirits with as much variety
of pleasure as a mountainous seclusion allowed. The establishment of
servants was usually limited to six--one only being a man-servant--but
these were well chosen: and one or two were confidential servants,
tried by long experience. Rents are always low in the country for
unfurnished houses; and, even for the country, Low Brathay was a
cheap house; but it contained everything for comfort, nothing at all
for splendour. Consequently, a very large part of their income was
disposable for purposes of hospitality; and, when I first knew them,
Low Brathay was distinguished above every other house at the head of
Windermere, or within ten miles of that neighbourhood, by the judicious
assortment of its dinner parties, and the gaiety of its _soirées
dansantes_. These parties were never crowded; poor Lloyd rarely danced
himself; but it gladdened his benevolent heart to see the young and
blooming floating through the mazes of the dances then fashionable,
whilst he sat by, looking on, at times, with pleasure from his sympathy
with the pleasure of others; at times pursuing some animated discussion
with a literary friend; at times lapsing into profound reverie.
At some of these dances it was that I first saw Wilson of Elleray
(Professor Wilson), in circumstances of animation, and buoyant with
youthful spirits, under the excitement of lights, wine, and, above
all, of female company. He, by the way, was the best male dancer (not
professional) I have ever seen; and this advantage he owed entirely
to the extraordinary strength of his foot in all its parts, to its
peculiarly happy conformation, and to the accuracy of his ear; for, as
to instruction, I have often understood from his family that he never
had any. Here also danced the future wife of Professor Wilson, Miss
Jane P----,[164] at that time the leading belle of the Lake country.
But, perhaps, the most interesting person in those parties, from the
peculiarity of her situation, was Mrs. Lloyd herself, still young,
and, indeed, not apparently exceeding in years most of her unmarried
visitors; still dancing and moving through cotillons, or country
dances, as elegantly and as lightly as the youngest of the company;
still framing her countenance to that expression of cheerfulness which
hospitality required; but stealing for ever troubled glances to the
sofa, or the recess, where her husband had reclined himself, dark
foreboding looks, that saw but too truly the coming darkness which was
soon to swallow up every vestige of this festal pleasure. She looked
upon herself and her children too clearly as a doomed household; and
such, in some sense, they were. And, doubtless, to poor Lloyd himself,
it must a thousandfold have aggravated his sufferings--that he could
trace, with a steady eye, the continual growth of that hideous malady
which was stealing over the else untroubled azure of his life, and with
inaudible foot was hastening onwards for ever to that night in which no
man can work, and in which no man can hope.

   [164] Miss Jane Penny.--M.

It was so painful to Charles Lloyd, naturally, to talk much about
his bodily sufferings, and it would evidently have been so unfeeling
in one who had no medical counsels to offer, if, for the mere
gratification of his curiosity, he had asked for any circumstantial
account of its nature or symptoms, that I am at this moment almost
as much at a loss to understand what was the mode of suffering which
it produced, how it operated, and through what organs, as any of my
readers can be. All that I know is this:--For several years--six or
seven, suppose--the disease expressed itself by intense anguish of
irritation; not an irritation that gnawed at any one local spot, but
diffused itself; sometimes causing a determination of blood to the
head, then shaping itself in a general sense of plethoric congestion
in the blood-vessels, then again remoulding itself into a restlessness
that became insupportable; preying upon the spirits and the fortitude,
and finding no permanent relief or periodic interval of rest, night or
day. Sometimes Lloyd used robust exercise, riding on horseback as fast
as he could urge the horse forward; sometimes, for many weeks together,
he walked for twenty miles, or even more, at a time; sometimes (this
was in the earlier stages of the case) he took large doses of ether;
sometimes he used opium, and, I believe, in very large quantities;
and I understood him to say that, for a time, it subdued the excess
of irritability, and the agonizing accumulation of spasmodic strength
which he felt for ever growing upon him, and, as it were, upon the
very surface of his whole body. But all remedies availed him nothing;
and once he said to me, when we were out upon the hills--"Ay, that
landscape below, with its quiet cottage, looks lovely, I dare say, to
you: as for me, I see it, but I feel it not at all; for, if I begin
to think of the happiness, and its various modes which, no doubt,
belong to the various occupants, according to their ages and hopes,
then I _could_ begin to feel it; but it would be a painful effort
to me; and the worst of all would be when I _had_ felt it; for that
would so sharpen the prospect before me, that just such happiness,
which naturally ought to be mine, is soon on the point of slipping
away from me for ever." Afterwards he told me that his situation
internally was always this: it seemed to him as if on some distant road
he heard a dull trampling sound, and that he knew it, by a misgiving,
to be the sound of some man, or party of men, continually advancing
slowly, continually threatening, or continually accusing him; that all
the various artifices which he practised for cheating himself into
comfort, or beguiling his sad forebodings, were, in fact, but like so
many furious attempts, by drum and trumpets, or even by artillery,
to drown the distant noise of his enemies; that, every now and then,
mere curiosity, or rather breathless anxiety, caused him to hush the
artificial din, and to put himself into the attitude of listening
again; when, again and again, and so he was sure it would still be, he
caught the sullen and accursed sound, trampling and voices of men, or
whatever it were, still steadily advancing, though still perhaps at a
great distance. It was too evident that derangement of the intellect,
in some shape, was coming on; because slight and transient fits of
aberration from his perfect mind had already, at intervals, overtaken
him; flying showers, from the skirts of the clouds, that precede and
announce the main storm. This was the anguish of his situation, that,
for years, he saw before him what was on the road to overwhelm his
faculties and his happiness. Still his fortitude did not wholly forsake
him, and, in fact, proved to be far greater than I or others had given
him credit for possessing. Once only he burst suddenly into tears, on
hearing the innocent voices of his own children laughing, and of one
especially who was a favourite; and he told me that sometimes, when
this little child took his hand and led him passively about the garden,
he had a feeling that prompted him (however weak and foolish it seemed)
to call upon this child for protection; and that it seemed to him as
if he might still escape, could he but surround himself only with
children. No doubt this feeling arose out of his sense that a confusion
was stealing over his thoughts, and that men would soon find this out
to be madness, and would deal with him accordingly; whereas children,
as long as he did them no harm, would see no reason for shutting him up
from his own fireside, and from the human face divine.

It would be too painful to pursue the unhappy case through all its
stages. For a long time, the derangement of poor Lloyd's mind was
but partial and fluctuating; and it was the opinion of Professor
Wilson, from what he had observed, that it was possible to recall
him to himself by firmly opposing his delusions. He certainly, on
his own part, did whatever he could to wean his thoughts from gloomy
contemplation, by pre-occupying them with cheerful studies, and such
as might call out his faculties. He translated the whole of Alfieri's
dramas, and published his translation. He wrote and printed (but did
not publish) a novel in two volumes; my copy of which he soon after
begged back again so beseechingly that I yielded; and so, I believe,
did all his other friends: in which case no copy may now exist. All,
however, availed him not; the crisis so long dreaded arrived. He was
taken away to a lunatic asylum; and, for some long time, he was lost
to me as to the rest of the world. The first memorial I had of him was
a gentleman, with his hair in disorder, rushing into my cottage at
Grasmere, throwing his arms about my neck, and bursting into stormy
weeping--it was poor Lloyd!

Yes, it was indeed poor Lloyd, a fugitive from a madhouse, and throwing
himself for security upon the honour and affection of one whom, with
good reason, he supposed confidentially attached to him. Could there be
a situation so full of interest or perplexity? Should any ill happen
to himself, or to another, through his present enlargement--should he
take any fit of vindictive malice against any person whom he might
view as an accomplice in the plans against his own freedom--and
probably many persons in the neighbourhood, medical and non-medical,
stood liable to such a suspicion--upon me, I felt, as the abettor of
his evasion, would all the blame settle. And unfortunately we had, in
the recent records of this very vale, a most awful lesson, and still
fresh in everybody's remembrance, of the danger connected with this
sort of criminal connivance, or passive participation in the purposes
of maniacal malignity. A man, named Watson, had often and for years
threatened to kill his aged and inoffensive mother. His threats, partly
from their own monstrosity, and from the habit of hearing him for years
repeating them without any serious attempt to give them effect--partly
also from an unwillingness to aggravate the suffering of the poor
lunatic, by translating him out of a mountaineer's liberty into the
gloomy confinement of an hospital--were treated with neglect; and at
length, after years of disregarded menace, and direct forewarning
to the parish authorities, he took an opportunity (which indeed was
rarely wanting to him) of killing the poor gray-headed woman by her own
fireside. This case I had before my mind; and it was the more entitled
to have weight with me when connected with the altered temper of Lloyd,
who now, for the first time in his life, had dropped his gentle and
remarkably quiet demeanour, for a tone, savage and ferocious, towards
more than one individual. This tone, however, lurked under a mask,
and did not come forward, except by fits and starts, for the present.
Indeed his whole manner wore the appearance of studied dissimulation,
from the moment when he perceived that I was not alone. In the interval
of years since I had last seen him (which might have been in 1816) my
own marriage had taken place; accordingly, on turning round and seeing
a young woman seated at the tea-table, where heretofore he had been so
sure of finding me alone, he seemed shocked at the depth of emotion
which he had betrayed before a stranger, and anxious to reinstate
himself in his own self-respect, by assuming a tone of carelessness
and indifference. No person in the world could feel more profoundly on
his account than the young stranger before him, who in fact was not a
stranger to his situation and the excess of his misery. But this he
could not know; and it was not, therefore, until we found ourselves
alone, that he could be prevailed upon to speak of himself, or of the
awful circumstances surrounding him, unless in terms of most unsuitable

One thing I resolved, at any rate, to make the rule of my conduct
towards this unhappy friend, viz. to deal frankly with him, and in no
case to make myself a party to any plot upon his personal freedom.
Retaken I knew he would be, but not through me; even a murderer in such
a case (_i.e._ the case of having thrown himself upon my good faith) I
would not betray. I drew from him an account of the immediate facts in
his late escape, and his own acknowledgment that even now the pursuit
must be close at hand; probably, that his recaptors were within a few
hours' distance of Grasmere; that he would be easily traced. That my
cottage furnished no means of concealment, he knew too well; still in
these respects he was not worse off in Grasmere than elsewhere; and, at
any rate, it might save him from immediate renewal of his agitation,
and might procure for him one night of luxurious rest and relaxation,
by means of conversation with a friend, if he would make up his mind
to stay with us until his pursuers should appear; and them I could
easily contrive to delay, for at least one day and night, by throwing
false information in their way, such as would send them on to Keswick
at least, if not to Whitehaven, through the collusion of the very few
persons who could have seen him enter my door. My plan was simple and
feasible: but, somehow or other, and, I believe, chiefly because he did
not find me alone, nothing I could say had any weight with him; nor
would he be persuaded to stay longer than for a little tea. Staying so
short a time, he found it difficult to account for having ever come.
But it was too evidently useless to argue the point with him; for he
was altered, and had become obstinate and intractable. I prepared,
therefore, to gratify him according to his own plan, by bearing him
company on the road to Ambleside, and (as he said) to Brathay. We set
off on foot: the distance to Ambleside is about three and a half miles;
and one-third of this distance brought us to an open plain on the
margin of Rydalmere, where the road lies entirely open to the water.
This lake is unusually shallow, by comparison with all its neighbours;
but, at the point I speak of, it takes (especially when seen under any
mode of imperfect light) the appearance of being gloomily deep: two
islands of exquisite beauty, but strongly discriminated in character,
and a sort of recess or bay in the opposite shore, across which the
shadows of the hilly margin stretch with great breadth and solemnity
of effect to the very centre of the lake,--together with the very
solitary character of the entire valley, on which (excluding the little
hamlet in its very gorge or entrance) there is not more than one
single house,--combine to make the scene as impressive by night as any
in the Lake country. At this point it was that my poor friend paused
to converse, and, as it seemed, to take his leave, with an air of
peculiar sadness, as if he had foreseen (what in fact proved to be the
truth) that we now saw each other for the final time. The spot seemed
favourable to confidential talk; and here, therefore, he proceeded
to make his heart-rending communication: here he told me rapidly the
tale of his sufferings, and, what oppressed his mind far more than
those at this present moment, of the cruel indignities to which he
had been under the necessity of submitting. In particular, he said,
that a man of great muscular power had instructions to knock him down
whenever he made any allusion to certain speculative subjects which
the presiding authorities of the asylum chose to think connected with
his unhappy disease. Many other brutalities, damnable and dishonouring
to human nature, were practised in this asylum, not always by abuse of
the powers lodged in the servants, but by direct authority from the
governors; and yet it had been selected as the one most favourable to
a liberal treatment of the patients; and, in reality, it continued to
hold a very high reputation.

Great and monstrous are the abuses which have been detected in such
institutions, and exposed by parliamentary interference, as well as by
the energy of individual philanthropists; but it occurs to one most
forcibly, that, after all, the light of this parliamentary torch must
have been but feeble and partial, when it was possible for cases such
as these to escape all general notice, and for the establishment which
fostered them to retain a character as high as any in the land for
enlightened humanity. Perhaps the paramount care in the treatment of
lunatics should be directed towards those appliances, and that mode
of discipline, which is best fitted for restoring the patient finally
to a sane condition; but the _second_ place in the machinery of his
proper management should be reserved for that system of attentions,
medical or non-medical, which has the best chance of making him happy
for the present; and especially because his present happiness must
always be one of the directest avenues to his restoration. In the
present case, could it be imagined that the shame, agitation, and
fury, which convulsed poor Lloyd, as he went over the circumstances
of his degradation, were calculated for any other than the worst
effects upon the state and prospects of his malady? By sustaining the
tumult of his brain, they must, almost of themselves, have precluded
his restoration. At the side of that quiet lake he stood for nearly
an hour repeating his wrongs, his eyes glaring continually, as the
light thrown off from those parts of the lake which reflected bright
tracts of sky amongst the clouds fitfully illuminated them, and again
and again threatening, with gestures the wildest, vengeance the most
savage upon those vile keepers who had so abused any just purposes of
authority. He would talk of little else; apparently he could not. A
hollow effort he would make now and then, when his story had apparently
reached its close, to sustain the topics of ordinary conversation; but
in a minute he had relapsed into the one subject which possessed him.
In vain I pressed him to return with me to Grasmere. He was now, for a
few hours to come, to be befriended by the darkness; and he resolved
to improve the opportunity for some purpose of his own, which, as he
showed no disposition to communicate any part of his future plans, I
did not directly inquire into. In fact, part of his purpose in stopping
where he did had been to let me know that he did not wish for company
any further. We parted; and I saw him no more. He was soon recaptured;
then transferred to some more eligible asylum; then liberated from all
restraint; after which, with his family, he went to France; where again
it became necessary to deprive him of liberty. And, finally, in France
it was that his feverish existence found at length a natural rest and
an everlasting liberty; for there it was, in a _maison de santé_, at
or near Versailles, that he died (and I believe tranquilly), a few
years after he had left England. Death was indeed to him, in the words
of that fine mystic, Blake the artist, a "golden gate"--the gate of
liberation from the captivity of half a life; or, as I once found the
case beautifully expressed in a volume of poems a century old, and
otherwise poor enough, for they offered nothing worth recollecting
beyond this single line, in speaking of the particular morning in which
some young man had died--

     "That morning brought him peace and liberty."

Charles Lloyd never returned to Brathay after he had once been removed
from it; and the removal of his family soon followed. Mrs. Lloyd,
indeed, returned at intervals from France to England, upon business
connected with the interests of her family; and, during one of those
fugitive visits, she came to the Lakes, where she selected Grasmere
for her residence, so that I had opportunities of seeing her every
day, for a space of several weeks. Otherwise, I never again saw any of
the family, except one son, an interesting young man, who sought most
meritoriously, by bursting asunder the heavy yoke of constitutional
inactivity, to extract a balm for his own besetting melancholy from a
constant series of exertions in which he had forced himself to engage
for promoting education or religious knowledge amongst his poorer
neighbours. But often and often, in years after all was gone, I have
passed old Brathay, or have gone over purposely after dark, about the
time when, for many a year, I used to go over to spend the evening;
and, seating myself on a stone, by the side of the mountain river
Brathay, have staid for hours listening to the same sound to which
so often Charles Lloyd and I used to hearken together with profound
emotion and awe--the sound of pealing anthems, as if streaming from
the open portals of some illimitable cathedral; for such a sound does
actually arise, in many states of the weather, from the peculiar action
of the river Brathay upon its rocky bed; and many times I have heard
it, of a quiet night, when no stranger could have been persuaded to
believe it other than the sound of choral chanting--distant, solemn,
saintly. Its meaning and expression were, in those earlier years,
uncertain and general; not more pointed or determined in the direction
which it impressed upon one's feelings than the light of setting suns:
and sweeping, in fact, the whole harp of pensive sensibilities, rather
than striking the chord of any one specific sentiment. But since the
ruin or dispersion of that household, after the smoke had ceased to
ascend from their hearth, or the garden walks to re-echo their voices,
oftentimes, when lying by the river side, I have listened to the same
aerial saintly sound, whilst looking back to that night, long hidden in
the frost of receding years, when Charles and Sophia Lloyd, now lying
in foreign graves, first dawned upon me, coming suddenly out of rain
and darkness; then--young, rich, happy, full of hope, belted with young
children (of whom also most are long dead), and standing apparently
on the verge of a labyrinth of golden hours. Musing on that night in
November, 1807, and then upon the wreck that had been wrought by a
space of fifteen years, I would say to myself sometimes, and seem to
hear it in the songs of this watery cathedral--Put not your trust in
any fabric of happiness that has its root in man or the children of
men. Sometimes even I was tempted to discover in the same music a sound
such as this--Love nothing, love nobody, for thereby comes a killing
curse in the rear. But sometimes also, very early on a summer morning,
when the dawn was barely beginning to break, all things locked in
sleep, and only some uneasy murmur or cock-crow, at a faint distance,
giving a hint of resurrection for earth and her generations, I have
heard in that same chanting of the little mountain river a more solemn
if a less agitated admonition--a requiem over departed happiness, and
a protestation against the thought that so many excellent creatures,
but a little lower than the angels, whom I have seen only to love in
this life--so many of the good, the brave, the beautiful, the wise--can
have appeared for no higher purpose or prospect than simply to point
a moral, to cause a little joy and many tears, a few perishing moons
of happiness and years of vain regret! No! that the destiny of man is
more in correspondence with the grandeur of his endowments, and that
our own mysterious tendencies are written hieroglyphically in the
vicissitudes of day and night, of winter and summer, and throughout the
great alphabet of Nature! But on that theme--beware, reader! Listen to
no _intellectual_ argument. One argument there is, one only there is,
of philosophic value: an argument drawn from the _moral_ nature of man:
an argument of Immanuel Kant's. The rest are dust and ashes.


  K---- FAMILY[165]

   [165] From _Tait's Magazine_ for June 1840.

Passing onwards from Brathay, a ride of about forty minutes carries you
to the summit of a wild heathy tract, along which, even at noonday,
few sounds are heard that indicate the presence of man, except now
and then a woodman's axe in some of the many coppice-woods scattered
about that neighbourhood. In Northern England there are no sheep-bells;
which is an unfortunate defect, as regards the full impression of wild
solitudes, whether amongst undulating heaths or towering rocks: at
any rate, it is so felt by those who, like myself, have been trained
to its soothing effects upon the hills of Somersetshire--the Cheddar,
the Mendip, or the Quantock--or any other of those breezy downs which
once constituted such delightful local distinctions for four or five
counties in that south-west angle of England. At all hours of day
or night, this silvery tinkle was delightful; but, after sunset,
in the solemn hour of gathering twilight, heard (as it always was)
intermittingly, and at great varieties of distance, it formed the most
impressive incident for the ear, and the most in harmony with the other
circumstances of the scenery, that, perhaps, anywhere exists--not
excepting even the natural sounds, the swelling and dying intonations
of insects wheeling in their vesper flights. Silence and desolation are
never felt so profoundly as when they are interrupted by solemn sounds,
recurring by uncertain intervals, and from distant places. But in
these Westmoreland heaths, and uninhabited ranges of hilly ground, too
often nothing is heard except occasionally the wild cry of a bird--the
plover, the snipe, or perhaps the raven's croak. The general impression
is, therefore, cheerless; and the more are you rejoiced when, looking
down from some one of the eminences which you have been gradually
ascending, you descry, at a great depth below,[166] the lovely lake
of Coniston. The head of this lake is the part chiefly interesting,
both from the sublime character of the mountain barriers, and from the
intricacy of the little valleys at their base.

   [166] The approach from Ambleside or Hawkshead, though fine, is
   far less so than from Grasmere, through the vale of Tilberthwaite,
   to which, for a _coup de théâtre_, I recollect nothing equal.
   Taking the left-hand road, so as to make for Monk Coniston, and
   not for Church Coniston, you ascend a pretty steep hill, from
   which, at a certain point of the little gorge or _hawse_ (_i.e._
   _hals_, neck or throat, viz. the dip in any hill through which the
   road is led), the whole lake of six miles in length, and the
   beautiful foregrounds, all rush upon the eye with the effect of a
   pantomimic surprise--not by a graduated revelation, but by an
   instantaneous flash.

On a little verdant knoll, near the north-eastern margin of the lake,
stands a small villa, called Tent Lodge, built by Colonel Smith,
and for many years occupied by his family. That daughter of Colonel
Smith who drew the public attention so powerfully upon herself by
the splendour of her attainments had died some months before I came
into the country.[167] But yet, as I was subsequently acquainted with
her family through the Lloyds (who were within an easy drive of Tent
Lodge), and as, moreover, with regard to Miss Elizabeth Smith herself,
I came to know more than the world knew--drawing my knowledge from many
of her friends, but especially from Mrs. Hannah More, who had been
intimately connected with her: for these reasons, I shall rehearse the
leading points of her story; and the rather because her family, who
were equally interested in that story, long continued to form part of
the Lake society.

   [167] Miss Elizabeth Smith (1776-1806), authoress of a translation
   of a Life of Klopstock from the German, and also of a translation
   of the Book of Job from the Hebrew, and a Hebrew, Arabic, and
   Persic vocabulary, all published after her death. Two volumes of
   her _Fragments in Prose and Verse_ were published at Bath in 1809,
   with a memoir of her by H. M. Bowdler.--M.

On my first becoming acquainted with Miss Smith's pretensions, it is
very true that I regarded them with but little concern; for nothing
ever interests me less than great philological attainments, or at
least that mode of philological learning which consists in mastery
over languages. But one reason for this indifference is, that the
apparent splendour is too often a false one. They who know a vast
number of languages rarely know any one with accuracy; and, the more
they gain in one way, the more they lose in another. With Miss Smith,
however, I gradually came to know that this was not the case; or,
at any rate, but partially the case; for, of some languages which
she possessed, and those the least accessible, it appeared, finally,
that she had even a critical knowledge. It created also a secondary
interest in these difficult accomplishments of hers, to find that
they were so very extensive. Secondly, That they were pretty nearly
all of self-acquisition. Thirdly, That they were borne so meekly, and
with unaffected absence of all ostentation. As to the first point,
it appears (from Mrs. H. Bowdler's Letter to Dr. Mummsen, the friend
of Klopstock)[168] that she made herself mistress of the French, the
Italian, the Spanish, the Latin, the German, the Greek, and the Hebrew
languages. She had no inconsiderable knowledge of the Syriac, the
Arabic, and the Persic. She was a good geometrician and algebraist. She
was a very expert musician. She drew from nature, and had an accurate
knowledge of perspective. Finally, she manifested an early talent for
poetry; but, from pure modesty, destroyed most of what she had written,
as soon as her acquaintance with the Hebrew models had elevated the
standard of true poetry in her mind, so as to disgust her with what she
now viewed as the tameness and inefficiency of her own performances.
As to the second point--that for these attainments she was indebted,
almost exclusively, to her own energy,--this is placed beyond all doubt
by the fact that the only governess she ever had (a young lady not
much beyond her own age) did not herself possess, and therefore could
not have communicated, any knowledge of languages, beyond a little
French and Italian. Finally, as to the modesty with which she wore her
distinctions, _that_ is sufficiently established by every page of
her printed works, and her letters. Greater diffidence, as respected
herself, or less willingness to obtrude her knowledge upon strangers,
or even upon those correspondents who would have wished her to make
a little more display, cannot be imagined. And yet I repeat that her
knowledge was as sound and as profound as it was extensive. For, taking
only one instance of this, her Translation of Job has been pronounced,
by Biblical critics of the first rank, a work of real and intrinsic
value, without any reference to the disadvantages of the translator,
or without needing any allowances whatever. In particular, Dr. Magee,
the celebrated writer on the Atonement, and subsequently a dignitary of
the Irish Church--certainly one of the best qualified judges at that
time--describes it as "conveying more of the character and meaning
of the Hebrew, with fewer departures from the idiom of the English,
than any other translation whatever that we possess." So much for the
scholarship; whilst he rightly notices, in proof of the translator's
taste and discretion, that "from the received version she very seldom
unnecessarily deviates": thus refusing to disturb what was, generally
speaking, so excellent and time-hallowed for any dazzling effects
of novelty; and practising this forbearance as much as possible,
notwithstanding novelty was, after all, the main attraction upon which
the new translation must rest.

   [168] See previous footnote (166), p. 404.--M.

The example of her modesty, however, is not more instructive than that
of her continued struggle with difficulties in pursuing knowledge,
and with misfortunes in supporting a Christian fortitude. I shall
briefly sketch her story:--She was born at Burnhall, in the county of
Durham, at the latter end of the year 1776. Early in 1782, when she
had just entered her sixth year, her parents removed into Suffolk,
in order to be near a blind relation, who looked with anxiety to the
conscientious attentions of Mrs. Smith in superintending his comforts
and interests. This occupation absorbed so much of her time that she
found it necessary to obtain the aid of a stranger in directing the
studies of her daughter. An opportunity just then offered of attaining
this object, concurrently with another not less interesting to herself,
viz. that of offering an asylum to a young lady who had recently been
thrown adrift upon the world by the misfortunes of her parents. They
had very suddenly fallen from a station of distinguished prosperity;
and the young lady herself, then barely sixteen, was treading that
path of severe adversity upon which, by a most singular parallelism
of ill fortune, her young pupil was destined to follow her steps at
exactly the same age. Being so prematurely called to the office of
governess, this young lady was expected rather to act as an elder
companion, and as a lightener of the fatigues attached to their common
studies, than exactly as their directress. And, at all events, from
her, who was the only even nominal governess that Miss Smith ever had,
it is certain that she could have learned little or nothing. This
arrangement subsisted between two and three years, when the death of
their blind kinsman allowed Mr. Smith's family to leave Suffolk, and
resume their old domicile of Burnhall. But from this, by a sudden gleam
of treacherous prosperity, they were summoned, in the following year
(June, 1785) to the splendid inheritance of Piercefield--a show-place
upon the river Wye, and, next after Tintern Abbey and the river itself,
an object of attraction to all who then visited the Wye.

A residence on the Wye, besides its own natural attraction, has this
collateral advantage, that it brings Bath (not to mention Clifton and
the Hot Wells) within a visiting distance for people who happen to
have carriages; and Bath, it is hardly necessary to say, besides its
stationary body of polished and intellectual residents, has also a
floating casual population of eminent or interesting persons, gathered
into this focus from every quarter of the empire. Amongst the literary
connexions which the Piercefield family had formed in Bath was one with
Mrs. Bowdler and her daughter--two ladies not distinguished by any very
powerful talents, but sufficiently tinctured with literature and the
love of literature to be liberal in their opinions. And, fortunately
(as it turned out for Miss Smith), they were eminently religious: but
not in a bigoted way; for they were conciliating and winning in the
outward expression of their religious character; capable of explaining
their own creed with intelligent consistency; and, finally, were the
women to recommend any creed by the sanctity and the benignity of
their own lives. This strong religious bias of the two Bath ladies
operated in Miss Smith's favour by a triple service. First of all, it
was this depth of religious feeling, and, consequently, of interest in
the Scriptures, which had originally moved the elder Mrs. Bowdler to
study the Hebrew and the Greek, as the two languages in which they had
been originally delivered. And this example it was of _female_ triumph
over their difficulties, together with the proof thus given that such
attainments were entirely reconcilable with feminine gentleness,
which first suggested to Miss Smith the project of her philological
studies; and, doubtless, these studies, by the constant and agreeable
occupation which they afforded, overspread the whole field of her life
with pleasurable activity. "From the above-mentioned visit," says her
mother, writing to Dr. Randolph,[169] and referring to the visit which
these Bath ladies had made to Piercefield--"from the above-mentioned
visit I date the turn of study which Elizabeth ever after pursued, and
which I firmly believe the amiable conduct of our guests first led her
to delight in." Secondly, to the religious sympathies which connected
these two ladies with Miss Smith was owing the fervour of that
friendship which afterwards, in their adversity, the Piercefield family
found more strenuously exerted in their behalf by the Bowdlers than
by all the rest of their connexions. And, finally, it was this piety
and religious resignation, with which she had been herself inoculated
by her Bath friends, that, throughout the calamitous era of her life,
enabled Miss Elizabeth Smith to maintain her own cheerfulness unbroken,
and greatly to support the failing fortitude of her mother.

   [169] The Rev. T. Randolph, D.D., editor of Miss Smith's
   Translation of Job, 1810.--M.

This visit of her Bath friends to Piercefield--so memorable an event
for the whole subsequent life of Miss Smith--occurred in the summer of
1789; consequently, when she was just twelve and a half years old. And
the impressions then made upon her childish, but unusually thoughtful,
mind, were kept up by continual communications, personal or written,
through the years immediately succeeding. Just two and a half years
after, in the very month when Miss Smith accomplished her fifteenth
year, upon occasion of going through the rite of Confirmation,
according to the discipline of the English Church, she received a
letter of religious counsel--grave, affectionate, but yet humble--from
the elder Mrs. Bowdler, which might almost have been thought to have
proceeded from a writer who had looked behind the curtain of fate, and
had seen the forge at whose fires the shafts of Heaven were even now
being forged.

Just twelve months from the date of this letter, in the very month when
Miss Elizabeth Smith completed her sixteenth year, the storm descended
upon the house of Piercefield. The whole estate, a splendid one, was
swept away by the failure (as I have heard) of one banking-house; nor
were there recovered, until some years after, any slender fragments of
that estate. Piercefield was, of course, sold; but that was not the
heaviest of her grievances to Miss Smith. She was now far advanced
upon her studious career; for it should be mentioned, as a lesson to
other young ladies of what may be accomplished by unassisted labour,
that, between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one, all her principal
acquisitions were made. No treasure, therefore, could, in her eyes,
be of such priceless value as the Piercefield library; but this also
followed the general wreck: not a volume, not a pamphlet, was reserved;
for the family were proud in their integrity, and would receive no
favours from the creditors. Under this scorching test, applied to the
fidelity of friends, many, whom Mrs. Smith mentions in one of her
letters under the name of "summer friends," fled from them by crowds:
dinners, balls, soirées--credit, influence, support--these things were
no longer to be had from Piercefield. But more annoying even than
the fickle levity of such open deserters, was the timid and doubtful
countenance, as I have heard Mrs. Smith say, which was still offered to
them by some who did not relish, _for their own sakes_, being classed
with those who had paid their homage only to the fine house and fine
equipages of Piercefield. These persons continued, therefore, to send
invitations to the family; but so frigidly that every expression
manifested but too forcibly how disagreeable was the duty with which
they were complying, and how much more they submitted to it for their
own reputation's sake than for any kindness they felt to their old
friends. Mrs. Smith was herself a very haughty woman, and it maddened
her to be the object of condescensions so insolent and so reluctant.

Meantime, her daughter, young as she was, became the moral support of
her whole family, and the fountain from which they all drew consolation
and fortitude. She was confirmed in her religious tendencies by two
circumstances of her recent experience: one was that she, the sole
person of her family who courted religious consolations, was also the
sole person who had been able to maintain cheerfulness and uniform
spirits: the other was that, although it could not be truly said of
_all_ their worldly friends that they had forsaken them, yet of their
religious friends it could be said that not one had done so; and at
last, when for some time they had been so far reduced as not to have a
roof over their heads, by one of these religious friends it was that
they were furnished with every luxury as well as comfort of life,
and in a spirit of such sisterly kindness as made the obligation not
painful to the proudest amongst them.

It was in 1792 that the Piercefield family had been ruined; and in
1794, out of the wrecks which had been gathered together, Mr. Smith
(the father of the family) bought a commission in the army. For some
time the family continued to live in London, Bath, and other parts of
England; but, at length, Mr. Smith's regiment was ordered to the west
of Ireland; and the ladies of his family resolved to accompany him
to head-quarters. In passing through Wales (May, 1796) they paid a
visit to those sentimental anchorites of the last generation whom so
many of us must still remember--Miss Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler
(a sister of Lord Ormond), whose hermitage stood near to Llangollen,
and, therefore, close to the usual Irish route, by way of Holyhead.
On landing in Ireland, they proceeded to a seat of Lord Kingston--a
kind-hearted, hospitable Irishman, who was on the old Piercefield list
of friends, and had never wavered in his attachment. Here they stayed
three weeks. Miss Smith renewed, on this occasion, her friendship
with Lady Isabella King, the daughter of Lord Kingston; and a little
incident connected with this visit gave her an opportunity afterwards
of showing her delicate sense of the sacred character which attaches
to gifts of friendship, and showing it by an ingenious device that
may be worth the notice of other young ladies in the same case. Lady
Isabella had given to Miss Smith a beautiful horse, called Brunette.
In process of time, when they had ceased to be in the neighbourhood of
any regimental stables, it became matter of necessity that Brunette
should be parted with. To have given the animal away, had that been
otherwise possible, might only have been delaying the sale for a short
time. After some demur, therefore, Miss Smith adopted this plan: she
sold Brunette, but applied the whole of the price, 120 guineas, to the
purchase of a splendid harp. The harp was christened Brunette, and was
religiously preserved to the end of her life. Now, Brunette, after all,
must have died in a few years; but, by translating her friend's gift
into another form, she not only connected the image of her distant
friend, and her sense of that friend's kindness, with a pleasure and a
useful purpose of her own, but she conferred on that gift a perpetuity
of existence.

At length came the day when the Smiths were to quit Kingston Lodge for
the quarters of the regiment. And now came the first rude trial of Mrs.
Smith's fortitude, as connected with points of mere decent comfort.
Hitherto, floating amongst the luxurious habitations of opulent
friends, she might have felt many privations as regarded splendour
and direct personal power, but never as regarded the primary elements
of comfort, warmth, cleanliness, convenient arrangements. But on this
journey, which was performed by all the party on horseback, it rained
incessantly. They reached their quarters drenched with wet, weary,
hungry, forlorn. The quartermaster had neglected to give any directions
for their suitable accommodation--no preparations whatever had been
made for receiving them; and, from the luxuries of Lord Kingston's
mansion, which habit had made so familiar to them all, the ladies found
themselves suddenly transferred to a miserable Irish cabin--dirty,
narrow, nearly quite unfurnished, and thoroughly disconsolate. Mrs.
Smith's proud spirit fairly gave way, and she burst out into a fit of
weeping. Upon this, her daughter Elizabeth (and Mrs. Smith herself it
was that told the anecdote, and often she told it, or told others of
the same character, at Lloyd's), in a gentle, soothing tone, began to
suggest the many blessings which lay before them in life, and some even
for this evening.

"Blessings, child!"--her mother impatiently interrupted her. "What
sort of blessings? Irish blessings!--county of Sligo blessings, I
fancy. Or, perhaps, you call this a blessing?" holding up a miserable
fragment of an iron rod, which had been left by way of poker, or rather
as a substitute for the whole assortment of fire-irons. The daughter
laughed; but she changed her wet dress expeditiously, assumed an apron;
and so various were her accomplishments that, in no long time, she
had gathered together a very comfortable dinner for her parents, and,
amongst other things, a currant tart, which she had herself made, in a
tenement absolutely unfurnished of every kitchen utensil.

In the autumn of this year (1796), they returned to England; and, after
various migrations through the next four years, amongst which was
another and longer visit to Ireland in 1800, they took up their abode
in the sequestered vale of Patterdale. Here they had a cottage upon
the banks of Ulleswater; the most gorgeous of the English lakes, from
the rich and ancient woods which possess a great part of its western
side; the sublimest, as respects its mountain accompaniments, except
only, perhaps, Wastdale; and, I believe, the largest; for, though only
nine miles in length, and, therefore, shorter by about two miles than
Windermere, it averages a greater breadth. Here, at this time, was
living Mr. Clarkson--that son of thunder, that Titan, who was in fact
the one great Atlas that bore up the Slave-Trade Abolition cause--now
resting from his mighty labours and nerve-shattering perils. So much
had _his_ nerves been shattered by all that he had gone through in
toil, in suffering, and in anxiety, that, for many years, I have heard
it said, he found himself unable to walk up stairs without tremulous
motions of his limbs. He was, perhaps, too iron a man, too much like
the _Talus_ of Spenser's "Faerie Queene,"[170] to appreciate so gentle
a creature as Miss Elizabeth Smith. A more suitable friend, and one
who thoroughly comprehended her, and expressed his admiration for her
in verse, was Thomas Wilkinson of Yanwath, a Quaker, a man of taste,
and of delicate sensibility. He wrote verses occasionally; and, though
feebly enough as respected poetic power, there were often such delicate
touches of feeling, such gleams of real tenderness, in some redeeming
part of each poem, that even Wordsworth admired and read them aloud
with pleasure. Indeed Wordsworth has addressed to him one copy of
verses, or rather to his spade, which was printed in the collection of
1807, and which Lord Jeffrey, after quoting one line, dismissed as too
dull for repetition.[171]

   [170] The "mighty iron man" of that romance.--M.

   [171] It is entitled "To the Spade of a Friend: composed while we
   were labouring together in his pleasure ground"; and it begins--

     "Spade! with which Wilkinson hath tilled his lands."

   It was written in 1804.--M.

During this residence upon Ulleswater (winter of 1800) it was that
a very remarkable incident befell Miss Smith. I have heard it often
mentioned, and sometimes with a slight variety of circumstances; but I
here repeat it from an account drawn up by Miss Smith herself, who was
most literally exact and faithful to the truth in all reports of her
own personal experience. There is, on the western side of Ulleswater,
a fine cataract (or, in the language of the country, a _force_), known
by the name of Airey Force; and it is of importance enough, especially
in rainy seasons, to attract numerous visitors from among "the Lakers."
Thither, with some purpose of sketching, not the whole scene, but some
picturesque features of it, Miss Smith had gone, quite unaccompanied.
The road to it lies through Gobarrow Park; and it was usual, at that
time, to take a guide from the family of the Duke of Norfolk's keeper,
who lived in Lyulph's Tower--a solitary hunting lodge, built by his
Grace for the purposes of an annual visit which he used to pay to
his estates in that part of England. She, however, thinking herself
sufficiently familiar with the localities, had declined to encumber
her motions with such an attendant; consequently she was alone. For
half an hour or more, she continued to ascend: and, being a good
"cragswoman," from the experience she had won in Wales as well as in
northern England, she had reached an altitude much beyond what would
generally be thought corresponding to the time. The path had vanished
altogether; but she continued to pick out one for herself amongst the
stones, sometimes receding from the _force_, sometimes approaching it,
according to the openings allowed by the scattered masses of rock.
Pressing forward in this hurried way, and never looking back, all at
once she found herself in a little stony chamber, from which there
was no egress possible in advance. She stopped and looked up. There
was a frightful silence in the air. She felt a sudden palpitation
at her heart, and a panic from she knew not what. Turning, however,
hastily, she soon wound herself out of this aerial dungeon; but by
steps so rapid and agitated, that, at length, on looking round, she
found herself standing at the brink of a chasm, frightful to look
down. That way, it was clear enough, all retreat was impossible; but,
on turning round, retreat seemed in every direction alike even more
impossible. Down the chasm, at least, she might have leaped, though
with little or no chance of escaping with life; but on all other
quarters it seemed to her eye that at no price could she effect an
exit, since the rocks stood round her in a semi-circus, all lofty, all
perpendicular, all glazed with trickling water, or smooth as polished
porphyry. Yet how, then, had she reached the point? The same track,
if she could hit that track, would surely secure her escape. Round
and round she walked; gazed with almost despairing eyes; her breath
became thicker and thicker; for path she could not trace by which it
was possible for her to have entered. Finding herself grow more and
more confused, and every instant nearer to sinking into some fainting
fit or convulsion, she resolved to sit down and turn her thoughts
quietly into some less exciting channel. This she did; gradually
recovered some self-possession; and then suddenly a thought rose up to
her, that she was in the hands of God, and that He would not forsake
her. But immediately came a second and reproving thought--that this
confidence in God's protection might have been justified had she been
ascending the rocks upon any mission of duty; but what right could
_she_ have to any providential deliverance, who had been led thither
in a spirit of levity and carelessness? I am here giving _her_ view of
the case; for, as to myself, I fear greatly that, if _her_ steps were
erring ones, it is but seldom indeed that _nous autres_ can pretend
to be treading upon right paths. Once again she rose; and, supporting
herself upon a little sketching-stool that folded up into a stick, she
looked upwards, in the hope that some shepherd might, by chance, be
wandering in those aerial regions; but nothing could she see except
the tall birches growing at the brink of the highest summits, and the
clouds slowly sailing overhead. Suddenly, however, as she swept the
whole circuit of her station with her alarmed eye, she saw clearly,
about two hundred yards beyond her own position, a lady, in a white
muslin morning robe, such as were then universally worn by young ladies
until dinner-time. The lady beckoned with a gesture and in a manner
that, in a moment, gave her confidence to advance--_how_ she could
not guess; but, in some way that baffled all power to retrace it, she
found instantaneously the outlet which previously had escaped her. She
continued to advance towards the lady, whom now, in the same moment,
she found to be standing upon the other side of the _force_, and also
to be her own sister. How or why that young lady, whom she had left at
home earnestly occupied with her own studies, should have followed and
overtaken her filled her with perplexity. But this was no situation for
putting questions; for the guiding sister began to descend, and, by a
few simple gestures, just serving to indicate when Miss Elizabeth was
to approach and when to leave the brink of the torrent, she gradually
led her down to a platform of rock, from which the further descent was
safe and conspicuous. There Miss Smith paused, in order to take breath
from her panic, as well as to exchange greetings and questions with her
sister. But sister there was none. All trace of her had vanished; and,
when, in two hours after, she reached her home, Miss Smith found her
sister in the same situation and employment in which she had left her;
and the whole family assured her that she had never stirred from the

In 1801, I believe it was that the family removed from Patterdale to
Coniston. Certainly they were settled there in the spring of 1802; for,
in the May of that spring, Miss Elizabeth Hamilton--a writer now very
much forgotten, or remembered only by her "Cottagers of Glenburnie,"
but then a person of mark and authority in the literary circles of
Edinburgh[172]--paid a visit to the Lakes, and stayed there for many
months, together with her married sister, Mrs. Blake; and both ladies
cultivated the friendship of the Smiths. Miss Hamilton was captivated
with the family; and, of the sisters in particular, she speaks as of
persons that, "in the days of paganism would have been worshipped as
beings of a superior order, so elegantly graceful do they appear, when,
with easy motion, they guide their light boat over the waves." And of
Miss Elizabeth, separately, she says, on another occasion,--"I never
before saw so much of Miss Smith; and, in the three days she spent
with us, the admiration which I had always felt for her extraordinary
talents, and as extraordinary virtues, was hourly augmented. She is,
indeed, a most charming creature; and, if one could inoculate her with
a little of the Scotch frankness, I think she would be one of the most
perfect of human beings."

   [172] Elizabeth Hamilton (1758-1816), though now remembered
   chiefly by her Scottish story, _The Cottagers of Glenburnie_,
   which appeared in 1808, was the author of many other writings.--M.

About four years had been delightfully passed in Coniston. In the
summer of 1805 Miss Smith laid the foundation of her fatal illness in
the following way, according to her own account of the case to an old
servant, a very short time before she died:--"One very hot evening,
in July, I took a book, and walked about two miles from home, when I
seated myself on a stone beside the lake. Being much engaged by a poem
I was reading, I did not perceive that the sun was gone down, and was
succeeded by a very heavy dew, till, in a moment, I felt struck on
the chest as if with a sharp knife. I returned home, but said nothing
of the pain. The next day being also very hot, and every one busy in
the hay-field, I thought I would take a rake, and work very hard to
produce perspiration, in the hope that it might remove the pain; but
it did not." From that time, a bad cough, with occasional loss of
voice, gave reason to suspect some organic injury of the lungs. Late
in the autumn of this year (1805) Miss Smith accompanied her mother
and her two younger sisters to Bristol, Bath, and other places in the
south, on visits to various friends. Her health went through various
fluctuations until May of the following year, when she was advised to
try Matlock. Here, after spending three weeks, she grew worse; and,
as there was no place which she liked so well as the Lakes, it was
resolved to turn homewards. About the beginning of June, she and her
mother returned alone to Coniston: one of her sisters was now married;
her three brothers were in the army or navy; and her father almost
constantly with his regiment. Through the next two months she faded
quietly away, sitting always in a tent,[173] that had been pitched upon
the lawn, and which remained open continually to receive the fanning
of the intermitting airs upon the lake, as well as to admit the bold
mountain scenery to the north. She lived nearly through the first week
of August, dying on the morning of August 7; and the circumstances of
her last night are thus recorded by her mother:--"At nine she went
to bed. I resolved to quit her no more, and went to prepare for the
night. Turpin [Miss Smith's maid] came to say that Elizabeth entreated
I would not stay in her room. I replied--'On that one subject I am
resolved; no power on earth shall keep me from her; so, go to bed
yourself.' Accordingly, I returned to her room; and, at ten, gave her
the usual dose of laudanum. After a little time, she fell into a doze,
and, I thought, slept till one. She was uneasy and restless, but never
complained; and, on my wiping the cold sweat off her face, and bathing
it with camphorated vinegar, which I did very often in the course of
the night, she thanked me, smiled, and said--'That is the greatest
comfort I have.' She slept again for a short time; and, at half past
four, asked for some chicken broth, which she took perfectly well.
On being told the hour, she said, '_How long this night is!_' She
continued very uneasy; and, in half an hour after, on my inquiring if
I could move the pillow, or do anything to relieve her, she replied,
'There is nothing for it but quiet.' At six, she said, 'I must get up
and have some mint tea.' I then called for Turpin, and felt my angel's
pulse: it was fluttering; and by that I knew I should soon lose her.
She took the tea well. Turpin began to put on her clothes, and was
proceeding to dress her, when she laid her head upon the faithful
creature's shoulder, became convulsed in the face, spoke not, looked
not, and in ten minutes expired."

   [173] And, in allusion to this circumstance, the house afterwards
   raised on a neighbouring spot, at this time suggested by Miss
   Smith, received the name of Tent Lodge.

She was buried in Hawkshead churchyard, where a small tablet of white
marble is raised to her memory, on which there is the scantiest record
that, for a person so eminently accomplished, I have ever met with.
After mentioning her birth and age (twenty-nine), it closes thus:--"She
possessed great talents, exalted virtues, and humble piety." Anything
so unsatisfactory or so commonplace I have rarely known. As much, or
more, is often said of the most insipid people; whereas Miss Smith
was really a most extraordinary person. I have conversed with Mrs.
Hannah More often about her; and I never failed to draw forth some
fresh anecdote illustrating the vast extent of her knowledge, the
simplicity of her character, the gentleness of her manners, and her
unaffected humility. She passed, it is true, almost inaudibly through
life; and the stir which was made after her death soon subsided. But
the reason was that she wrote but little! Had it been possible for the
world to measure her by her powers, rather than her performances, she
would have been placed, perhaps, in the estimate of posterity, at the
head of learned women; whilst her sweet and feminine character would
have rescued her from all shadow and suspicion of that reproach which
too often settles upon the learned character when supported by female

       *       *       *       *       *

The family of Tent Lodge continued to reside at Coniston for many
years; and they were connected with the Lake literary clan chiefly
through the Lloyds and those who visited the Lloyds; for it is another
and striking proof of the slight hold which Wordsworth, &c., had upon
the public esteem in those days, that even Miss Smith, with all her
excessive diffidence in judging of books and authors, never seems,
by any one of her letters, to have felt the least interest about
Wordsworth or Coleridge; nor did Miss Hamilton, with all her _esprit
de corps_ and acquired interest in everything at all bearing upon
literature, ever mention them in those of her letters which belong to
the period of her Lake visit in 1802; nor, for the six or seven months
which she passed in that country, and within a short morning ride of
Grasmere, did she ever think it worth her while to seek an introduction
to any one of the resident authors.

Yet this could not be altogether from ignorance that such people
existed; for Thomas Wilkinson, the intimate and admiring friend of Miss
Smith, was also the friend of Wordsworth; and, for some reason that I
never could fathom, he was a sort of pet with Wordsworth. Professor
Wilson and myself were never honoured with one line, one allusion from
his pen; but many a person of particular feebleness has received that
honour. Amongst these I may rank Thomas Wilkinson. Not that I wish
to speak contemptuously of him; he was a Quaker, of elegant habits,
rustic simplicity, and with tastes, as Wordsworth affirms, "too pure
to be refined."[174] His cottage was seated not far from the great
castle of the Lowthers; and, either from mere whim--as sometimes such
whims do possess great ladies--whims, I mean, for drawing about them
odd-looking, old-world people, as _piquant_ contrasts to the fine
gentlemen of their own society--or because they did really feel a
homely dignity in the plain-speaking "Friend," and liked, for a frolic,
to be _thou'd_ and _thee'd_--on some motive or other, at any rate, they
introduced themselves to Mr. Wilkinson's cottage; and I believe that
the connexion was afterwards improved by the use they found for his
services in forming walks through the woods of Lowther, and leading
them in such a circuit as to take advantage of all the most picturesque
stations. As a poet, I presume that Mr. Wilkinson could hardly have
recommended himself to the notice of ladies who would naturally have
modelled their tastes upon the favourites of the age. A poet, however,
in a gentle, unassuming way, he was; and he, therefore, is to be added
to the _corps litteraire_ of the Lakes, and Yanwath to be put down as
the advanced post of that _corps_ to the north.

   [174] Addressing Wilkinson's spade in the poem mentioned at p. 413
   _ante_, Wordsworth says--

     "Rare master has it been thy lot to know;
     Long hast thou served a man to reason true;
     Whose life combines the best of high and low,
     The labouring many and the resting few."--M.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two families there still remain which I am tempted to gather into my
group of Lake society--notwithstanding it is true that the two most
interesting members of the first had died a little before the period at
which my sketch commences; and the second, though highly intellectual
in the person of that particular member whom I have chiefly to
commemorate, was not, properly speaking, literary, and, moreover,
belongs to a later period of my own Westmoreland experience--being, at
the time of my settlement in Grasmere, a girl at a boarding-school. The
first was the family of the Sympsons, whom Mr. Wordsworth has spoken
of, with deep interest, more than once. The eldest son, a clergyman,
and, like Wordsworth, an _alumnus_ of Hawkshead school, wrote, amongst
other poems, "The Vision of Alfred." Of these poems Wordsworth says
that they "are little known; but they contain passages of splendid
description; and the versification of his '_Vision_' is harmonious
and animated." This is much for Wordsworth to say; and he does him
even the honour of quoting the following illustrative simile from
his description of the sylphs in motion (which sylphs constitute the
machinery of his poem); and, probably, the reader will be of opinion
that this passage justifies the praise of Wordsworth. It is founded, as
he will see, on the splendid scenery of the heavens in Polar latitudes,
as seen by reflection in polished ice at midnight.

     "Less varying hues beneath the Pole adorn
     The streamy glories of the Boreal morn,
     That, waving to and fro, their radiance shed
     On Bothnia's gulf, with glassy ice o'erspread;
     Where the lone native, as he homeward glides
     On polished sandals o'er the imprisoned tides,
     Sees, at a glance, above him and below,
     Two rival heavens with equal splendour glow:
     Stars, moons, and meteors ray oppose to ray;
     And solemn midnight pours the blaze of day."

"He was a man," says Wordsworth, in conclusion, "of ardent feeling; and
his facilities of mind, particularly his memory, were extraordinary."
Brief notices of his life ought to find a place in the history of

But it was the father of this Joseph Sympson who gave its chief
interest to the family. Him Wordsworth has described, at the same time
sketching his history, with a fulness and a circumstantiality beyond
what he has conceded to any other of the real personages in "The
Excursion." "A priest he was by function"; but a priest of that class
which is now annually growing nearer to extinction among us, not being
supported by any sympathies in this age.

                               "His course,
     From his youth up, and high as manhood's noon,
     Had been irregular--I might say wild;
     By books unsteadied, by his pastoral care
     Too little checked. An active, ardent mind;
     A fancy pregnant with resource and scheme
     To cheat the sadness of a rainy day;
     Hands apt for all ingenious arts and games;
     A generous spirit, and a body strong
     To cope with stoutest champions of the bowl;
     Had earned for him sure welcome, and the rights
     Of a priz'd visitant, in the jolly hall
     Of country squire; or at the statelier board
     Of duke or earl, from scenes of courtly pomp
     Withdrawn, to while away the summer hours
     In condescension amongst rural guests.
     With these high comrades he had revelled long,
     By hopes of coming patronage beguiled,
     Till the heart sickened."

Slowly, however, and indignantly his eyes opened fully to the windy
treachery of all the promises held out to him; and, at length, for mere
bread, he accepted, from an "unthought-of patron," a most "secluded
chapelry" in Cumberland. This was "the little, lowly house of prayer"
of Wythburn, elsewhere celebrated by Wordsworth; and, for its own
sake, interesting to all travellers, both for its deep privacy, and
for the excessive humility of its external pretensions, whether as to
size or ornament. Were it not for its twin sister at Buttermere, it
would be the very smallest place of worship in all England; and it
looks even smaller than it is, from its position; for it stands at the
base of the mighty Helvellyn, close to the high-road between Ambleside
and Keswick, and within speaking distance of the upper lake--(for
Wythburn Water, though usually passed by the traveller under the
impression of absolute unity in its waters, owing to the interposition
of a rocky screen, is, in fact, composed of two separate lakes). To
this miniature and most secluded congregation of shepherds did the
once dazzling parson officiate as pastor; and it seems to amplify the
impression already given of his versatility, that he became a diligent
and most fatherly, though not peculiarly devout, teacher and friend.
The temper, however, of the northern Dalesmen, is not constitutionally
turned to religion; consequently that part of his defects did him
no special injury, when compensated (as, in the judgment of these
Dalesmen, it _was_ compensated) by ready and active kindness, charity
the most diffusive, and patriarchal hospitality. The living, as I have
said, was in Wythburn; but there was no parsonage, and no house in
this poor dale which was disposable for that purpose. So Mr. Sympson
crossed the marches of the sister counties, which to him were about
equidistant from his chapel and his house, into Grasmere, on the
Westmoreland side. There he occupied a cottage by the roadside,--a
situation which, doubtless, gratified at once his social and his
hospitable propensities,--and, at length, from age, as well as from
paternal character and station, came to be regarded as the patriarch of
the vale. Before I mention the afflictions which fell upon his latter
end, and by way of picturesque contrast to his closing scene, let me
have permission to cite Wordsworth's sketch (taken from his own boyish
remembrance of the case) describing the first gipsy-like entrance of
the brilliant parson and his household into Grasmere--so equally out of
harmony with the decorums of his sacred character and the splendours of
his past life:--

     "Rough and forbidding were the choicest roads
     By which our northern wilds could then be crossed;
     And into most of these secluded vales
     Was no access for wain, heavy or light.
     So at his dwelling-place the priest arrived
     With store of household goods, in panniers slung
     On sturdy horses graced with jingling bells,
     And on the back of more ignoble beast,
     That, with like burthen of effects most prized
     Or easiest carried, closed the motley train.
     Young was I then, a schoolboy of eight years:
     But still methinks I see them as they passed
     In order, drawing toward their wished-for home.
     Rocked by the motion of a trusty ass
     Two ruddy children hung, a well-poised freight,
     Each in his basket nodding drowsily,
     Their bonnets, I remember, wreathed with flowers,
     Which told it was the pleasant month of June;
     And close behind the comely matron rode,
     A woman of soft speech and gracious smile,
     And with a lady's mien.--From far they came,
     Even from Northumbrian hills: yet theirs had been
     A merry journey, rich in pastime, cheered
     By music, pranks, and laughter-stirring jest;
     And freak put on, and arch word dropped--to swell
     That cloud of fancy and uncouth surmise
     Which gathered round the slowly moving train.
     'Whence do they come? and with what errand charged?
     Belong they to the fortune-telling tribe
     Who pitch their tents under the greenwood tree?
     Or Strollers are they, furnished to enact
     Fair Rosamond and the Children of the Wood?
     When the next village hears the show announced
     By blast of trumpet?' Plenteous was the growth
     Of such conjectures--overheard, or seen
     On many a staring countenance portrayed
     Of boor or burgher, as they marched along.
     And more than once their steadiness of face
     Was put to proof, and exercise supplied
     To their inventive humour, by stern looks,
     And questions in authoritative tone,
     By some staid guardian of the public peace,
     Checking the sober horse on which he rode,
     In his suspicious wisdom; oftener still
     By notice indirect or blunt demand
     From traveller halting in his own despite,
     A simple curiosity to ease:
     Of which adventures, that beguiled and cheered
     Their grave migration, the good pair would tell
     With undiminished glee in hoary age."

Meantime the lady of the house embellished it with feminine skill; and
the homely pastor--for such he had now become--not having any great
weight of spiritual duties, busied himself in rural labours and rural
sports. But was his mind, though bending submissively to his lot,
changed in conformity to his task? No:

                               "For he still
     Retained a flashing eye, a burning palm,
     A stirring foot, a head which beat at nights
     Upon its pillow with a thousand schemes.
     Few likings had he dropped, few pleasures lost;
     Generous and charitable, prompt to serve;
     And still his harsher passions kept their hold--
     Anger and indignation. Still he loved
     The sound of titled names, and talked in glee
     Of long past banquetings with high-born friends:
     Then, from those lulling fits of vain delight
     Uproused by recollected injury, railed
     At their false ways disdainfully,--and oft
     In bitterness, and with a threatening eye
     Of fire, incensed beneath its hoary brow.
     Those transports, with staid looks of pure good-will,
     And with soft smile his consort would reprove.
     She, far behind him in the race of years,
     Yet keeping her first mildness, was advanced
     Far nearer, in the habit of her soul,
     To that still region whither all are bound."

Such was the tenor of their lives; such the separate character of
their manners and dispositions; and, with unusual quietness of course,
both were sailing placidly to their final haven. Death had not visited
their happy mansion through a space of forty years--"sparing both old
and young in that abode." But calms so deep are ominous--immunities
so profound are terrific. Suddenly the signal was given, and all lay

                       "Not twice had fallen
     On those high peaks the first autumnal snow,
     Before the greedy visiting was closed,
     And the long-privileged house left empty; swept
     As by a plague. Yet no rapacious plague
     Had been among them; all was gentle death,
     One after one with intervals of peace."

The aged pastor's wife, his son, one of his daughters, and "a little
smiling grandson," all had gone within a brief series of days. These
composed the entire household in Grasmere (the others having dispersed
or married away); and all were gone but himself, by very many years the
oldest of the whole: he still survived. And the whole valley, nay, all
the valleys round about, speculated with a tender interest upon what
course the desolate old man would take for his support.

     "All gone, all vanished! he, deprived and bare,
     How will he face the remnant of his life?
     What will become of him? we said, and mused
     In sad conjectures.--Shall we meet him now,
     Haunting with rod and line the craggy brooks?
     Or shall we overhear him, as we pass,
     Striving to entertain the lonely hours
     With music? (for he had not ceased to touch
     The harp or viol, which himself had framed
     For their sweet purposes, with perfect skill).
     What titles will he keep? Will he remain
     Musician, gardener, builder, mechanist,
     A planter, and a rearer from the seed?"

Yes; he persevered in all his pursuits; intermitted none of them;
weathered a winter in solitude; once more beheld the glories of a
spring, and the resurrection of the flowers upon the graves of his
beloved; held out even through the depths of summer into the cheerful
season of haymaking (a season much later in Westmoreland than in the
south); took his rank, as heretofore, amongst the haymakers; sat
down at noon for a little rest to his aged limbs, and found even a
deeper rest than he was expecting; for, in a moment of time, without a
warning, without a struggle, and without a groan, he did indeed rest
from his labours for ever. He,

                       "With his cheerful throng
     Of open projects, and his inward hoard
     Of unsunned griefs, too many and too keen,
     Was overcome by unexpected sleep
     In one blest moment. Like a shadow thrown,
     Softly and lightly, from a passing cloud,
     Death fell upon him, while reclined he lay
     For noontide solace on the summer grass--
     The warm lap of his mother earth; and so,
     Their lenient term of separation passed,
     That family,
     By yet a higher privilege, once more
     Were gathered to each other."

Two surviving members of the family, a son and a daughter, I knew
intimately. Both have been long dead; but the children of the
daughter--grandsons, therefore, to the patriarch here recorded--are
living prosperously, and do honour to the interesting family they

The other family were, if less _generally_ interesting by their
characters or accomplishments, much more so by the circumstances
of their position; and that member of the family with whom accident
and neighbourhood had brought me especially connected was, in her
intellectual capacity, probably superior to most of those whom I have
had occasion to record. Had no misfortunes settled upon her life
prematurely, and with the benefit of a little judicious guidance to her
studies, I am of opinion that she would have been a most distinguished
person. Her situation, when I came to know her, was one of touching
interest. I will state the circumstances:--She was the sole and
illegitimate daughter of a country gentleman, and was a favourite with
her father, as she well deserved to be, in a degree so excessive--so
nearly idolatrous--that I never heard illustrations of it mentioned
but that secretly I trembled for the endurance of so perilous a love
under the common accidents of life, and still more under the unusual
difficulties and snares of her peculiar situation. Her father was,
by birth, breeding, and property, a Leicestershire farmer; not,
perhaps, what you would strictly call a gentleman, for he affected no
refinements of manner, but rather courted the exterior of a bluff,
careless yeoman. Still he was of that class whom all people, even
then, on his letters, addressed as _esquire_: he had an ample income,
and was surrounded with all the luxuries of modern life. In early
life--and that was the sole palliation of his guilt--(and yet, again,
in another view, aggravated it)--he had allowed himself to violate his
own conscience in a way which, from the hour of his error, never ceased
to pursue him with remorse, and which was, in fact, its own avenger.
Mr. K---- was a favourite specimen of English yeomanly beauty: a fine
athletic figure; and with features handsome, well moulded, frank and
generous in their expression, and in a striking degree manly. In fact,
he might have sat for Robin Hood. It happened that a young lady of his
own neighbourhood, somewhere near Mount Soril I think, fell desperately
in love with him. Oh! blindness of the human heart! how deeply did
she come to rue the day when she first turned her thoughts to him! At
first, however, her case seemed a hopeless one; for she herself was
remarkably plain, and Mr. K---- was profoundly in love with the very
handsome daughter of a neighbouring farmer. One advantage, however,
there was on the side of this plain girl: she was rich; and part of
her wealth, or of her expectations, lay in landed property that would
effect a very tempting _arrondissement_ of an estate belonging to Mr.
K----. Through what course the affair travelled, I never heard more
particularly than that Mr. K---- was besieged and worried out of his
steady mind by the solicitations of aunts and other relations, who
had all adopted the cause of the heiress. But what finally availed
to extort a reluctant consent from him was the representation made
by the young lady's family, and backed by medical men, that she was
seriously in danger of dying unless Mr. K---- would make her his wife.
He was no coxcomb; but, when he heard all his own female relations
calling him a murderer, and taxing him with having, at times, given
some encouragement to the unhappy lovesick girl, in an evil hour he
agreed to give up his own sweetheart and marry her. He did so. But
no sooner was this fatal step taken than it was repented. His love
returned in bitter excess for the girl whom he had forsaken, and
with frantic remorse. This girl, at length, by the mere force of his
grief, he actually persuaded to live with him as his wife; and when,
in spite of all concealments, the fact began to transpire, and the
angry wife, in order to break off the connexion, obtained his consent
to their quitting Leicestershire altogether and transferring their
whole establishment to the Lakes, Mr. K---- evaded the whole object of
this manoeuvre by secretly contriving to bring her rival also into
Westmoreland. Her, however, he placed in another vale; and, for some
years, it is pretty certain that Mrs. K---- never suspected the fact.
Some said that it was her pride which would not allow her to seem
conscious of so great an affront to herself; others, better skilled in
deciphering the meaning of manners, steadfastly affirmed that she was
in happy ignorance of an arrangement known to all the country beside.

Years passed on; and the situation of the poor wife became more and
more gloomy. During those years, she brought her husband no children;
on the other hand, her hated rival _had_: Mr. K---- saw growing up
about his table two children, a son, and then a daughter, who, in
their childhood, must have been beautiful creatures; for the son, when
I knew him in after life, though bloated and disfigured a good deal
by intemperance, was still a very fine young man; more athletic even
than his father; and presenting his father's handsome English yeoman's
face, exalted by a Roman dignity in some of the features. The daughter
was of the same cast of person; tall, and Roman also in the style of
her face. In fact, the brother and the sister would have offered a
fine impersonation of Coriolanus and Valeria. This Roman bias of the
features a little affected the feminine loveliness of the daughter's
appearance. But still, as the impression was not very decided, she
would have been pronounced anywhere a very captivating young woman.
These were the two crowns of Mr. K----'s felicity, that for seventeen
or eighteen years made the very glory of his life. But Nemesis was on
his steps; and one of these very children she framed the scourge which
made the day of his death a happy deliverance, for which he had long
hungered and thirsted. But I anticipate.

About the time when I came to reside in Grasmere, some little affair of
local business one night drew Wordsworth up to Mr. K----'s house. It
was called, and with great propriety, from the multitude of holly trees
that still survived from ancient days, _The Hollens_; which pretty
local name Mrs. K----, in her general spirit of vulgar sentimentality,
had changed to _Holly Grove_. The place, spite of its slipshod novelish
name, which might have led one to expect a corresponding style of
tinsel finery, and a display of childish purposes, about its furniture
or its arrangements, was really simple and unpretending; whilst its
situation was, in itself, a sufficient ground of interest; for it stood
on a little terrace running like an artificial gallery or corridor
along the final, and all but perpendicular, descent of the mighty
Fairfield.[175] It seemed as if it must require iron bolts to pin
it to the rock which rose so high, and, apparently, so close behind.
Not until you reached the little esplanade upon which the modest
mansion stood, were you aware of a little area interposed between
the rear of the house and the rock, just sufficient for ordinary
domestic offices. The house was otherwise interesting to myself, from
recalling one in which I had passed part of my infancy. As in that, you
entered by a rustic hall, fitted up so as to make a beautiful little
breakfasting-room: the distribution of the passages was pretty nearly
the same; and there were other resemblances.

   [175] "_Mighty Fairfield_":

     "And Mighty Fairfield, with her chime
     Of echoes, still was keeping time."--WORDSWORTH'S "WAGGONER."

   I have retained the English name of Fairfield; but, when I was studying
   Danish, I stumbled upon the true meaning of the name, unlocked by that
   language, and reciprocally (as one amongst other instances which I met
   at the very threshold of my studies) unlocking the fact that Danish
   (or Icelandic rather) is the master-key to the local names and dialect
   of Westmoreland. _Faar_ is a sheep: _fald_ a hill. But are not all the
   hills sheep hills? No; Fairfield only, amongst all its neighbours, has
   large, smooth, pastoral savannas, to which the sheep resort when all
   the rocky or barren neighbours are left desolate.

Mr. K---- received us with civility and hospitality--checked, however,
and embarrassed, by a very evident reserve. The reason of this was,
partly, that he distrusted the feelings towards himself of two
scholars; but more, perhaps, that he had something beyond this general
jealousy for distrusting Wordsworth. He had been a very extensive
planter of larches, which were then recently introduced into the Lake
country, and were, in every direction, displacing the native forest
scenery, and dismally disfiguring this most lovely region; and this
effect was necessarily in its worst excess during the infancy of the
larch plantations; both because they took the formal arrangement of
nursery grounds, until extensive thinnings, as well as storms, had
begun to break this hideous stiffness in the lines and angles, and
also because the larch is a mean tree, both in form and colouring
(having a bright gosling glare in spring, a wet blanket hue in
autumn) as long as it continues a young tree. Not until it has seen
forty or fifty winters does it begin to toss its boughs about with
a wild Alpine grace. Wordsworth, for many years, had systematically
abused the larches and the larch planters; and there went about
the country a pleasant anecdote, in connexion with this well-known
habit of his, which I have often heard repeated by the woodmen--viz.
that, one day, when he believed himself to be quite alone--but was,
in fact, surveyed coolly, during the whole process of his passions,
by a reposing band of labourers in the shade, and at their noontide
meal--Wordsworth, on finding a whole cluster of birch-trees grubbed
up, and preparations making for the installation of larches in their
place, was seen advancing to the spot with gathering wrath in his eyes;
next he was heard pouring out an interrupted litany of comminations and
maledictions; and, finally, as his eye rested upon the four or five
larches which were already beginning to "dress the line" of the new
battalion, he seized his own hat in a transport of fury, and launched
it against the odious intruders. Mr. K---- had, doubtless, heard of
Wordsworth's frankness upon this theme, and knew himself to be, as
respected Grasmere, the sole offender. In another way, also, he had
earned a few random shots from Wordsworth's wrath--viz. as the erector
of a huge unsightly barn, built solely for convenience, and so far
violating all the modesty of rustic proportions that it was really an
eyesore in the valley. These considerations, and others besides, made
him reserved; but he felt the silent appeal to his _lares_ from the
strangers' presence, and was even kind in his courtesies. Suddenly,
Mrs. K---- entered the room: instantly his smile died away: he did not
even mention her name. Wordsworth, however, she knew slightly; and to
me she introduced herself. Mr. K---- seemed almost impatient when I
rose and presented her with my chair. Anything that detained her in the
room for a needless moment seemed to him a nuisance. She, on the other
hand--what was _her_ behaviour? I had been told that she worshipped
the very ground on which he trod; and so, indeed, it appeared. This
adoring love might, under other circumstances, have been beautiful to
contemplate; but here it impressed unmixed disgust. Imagine a woman of
very homely features, and farther disfigured by a scorbutic eruption,
fixing a tender gaze upon a burly man of forty, who showed, by every
word, look, gesture, movement, that he disdained her. In fact, nothing
could be more injudicious than her deportment towards him. Everybody
must feel that a man who hates any person hates that person the more
for troubling him with expressions of love; or, at least, it adds to
hatred the sting of disgust. That was the fixed language of Mr. K----'s
manner, in relation to his wife. He was not a man to be pleased with
foolish fondling endearments from any woman before strangers; but from
her! Faugh! he said internally, at every instant. His very eyes he
averted from her: not once did he look at her, though forced into the
odious necessity of speaking to her several times; and, at length,
when she seemed disposed to construe our presence as a sort of brief
privilege to her own, he adopted that same artifice for ridding himself
of her detested company which has sometimes done seasonable service to
a fine gentleman when called upon by ladies for the explanation of a
Greek word. He hinted to her, pretty broadly, that the subject of our
conversation was not altogether proper for female ears,--very much to
the astonishment of Wordsworth and myself.



   [176] From _Tait's Magazine_ for August 1840.--M.

It was at Mr. Wordsworth's house that I first became acquainted with
Professor (then Mr.) Wilson, of Elleray. I have elsewhere described
the impression which he made upon me at my first acquaintance; and
it is sufficiently known, from other accounts of Mr. Wilson (as, for
example, that written by Mr. Lockhart in "Peter's Letters"), that
he divided his time and the utmost sincerity of his love between
literature and the stormiest pleasures of real life. Cock-fighting,
wrestling, pugilistic contests, boat-racing, horse-racing, all enjoyed
Mr. Wilson's patronage; all were occasionally honoured by his personal
participation. I mention this in no unfriendly spirit toward Professor
Wilson; on the contrary, these propensities grew out of his ardent
temperament and his constitutional endowments--his strength, speed,
and agility: and, being confined to the period of youth--for I am
speaking of a period removed by five-and-twenty years--can do him no
dishonour amongst the candid and the judicious. "_Non lusisse pudet,
sed non incidere ludum._" The truth was that Professor Wilson had in
him, at that period of life, something of the old English chivalric
feeling which our old ballad poetry agrees in ascribing to Robin Hood.
Several men of genius have expressed to me, at different times, the
delight they had in the traditional character of Robin Hood. He has no
resemblance to the old heroes of Continental romance in one important
feature: they are uniformly victorious: and this gives even a tone of
monotony to the Continental poems: for, let them involve their hero in
what dangers they may, the reader still feels them to be as illusory
as those which menace an enchanter--an Astolpho, for instance, who,
by one blast of his horn, can dissipate an army of opponents. But
Robin is frequently beaten: he never declines a challenge; sometimes
he courts one; and occasionally he learns a lesson from some proud
tinker or masterful beggar, the moral of which teaches him that there
are better men in the world than himself. What follows? Is the brave
man angry with his stout-hearted antagonist because he is no less
brave and a little stronger than himself? Not at all; he insists on
making him a present, on giving him a _dejeuner à la fourchette_, and
(in case he is disposed to take service in the forest) finally adopts
him into his band of archers. Much the same spirit governed, in his
earlier years, Professor Wilson. And, though a man of prudence cannot
altogether approve of his throwing himself into the convivial society
of gipsies, tinkers, potters,[177] strolling players, &c., nevertheless
it tells altogether in favour of Professor Wilson's generosity of
mind, that he was ever ready to forgo his advantages of station and
birth, and to throw himself fearlessly upon his own native powers, as
man opposed to man. Even at Oxford he fought an aspiring shoemaker
repeatedly--which is creditable to both sides; for the very _prestige_
of the gown is already overpowering to the artisan from the beginning,
and he is half beaten by terror at his own presumption. Elsewhere he
sought out, or, at least, did not avoid the most dreaded of the local
heroes; and fought his way through his "most verdant years," taking or
giving defiances to the right and the left in perfect carelessness, as
chance or occasion offered. No man could well show more generosity in
these struggles, nor more magnanimity in reporting their issue, which
naturally went many times against him. But Mr. Wilson neither sought to
disguise the issue nor showed himself at all displeased with it: even
brutal ill-usage did not seem to have left any vindictive remembrance
of itself. These features of his character, however, and these
propensities, which naturally belonged merely to the transitional state
from boyhood to manhood, would have drawn little attention on their own
account, had they not been relieved and emphatically contrasted by his
passion for literature, and the fluent command which he soon showed
over a rich and voluptuous poetic diction. In everything Mr. Wilson
showed himself an Athenian. Athenians were all lovers of the cockpit;
and, howsoever shocking to the sensibilities of modern refinement, we
have no doubt that Plato was a frequent better at cock-fights; and
Socrates is known to have bred cocks himself. If he were any Athenian,
however, in particular, it was Alcibiades; for he had his marvellous
versatility; and to the Windermere neighbourhood, in which he had
settled, this versatility came recommended by something of the very
same position in society--the same wealth, the same social temper,
the same jovial hospitality. No person was better fitted to win or to
maintain a high place in social esteem; for he could adapt himself
to all companies; and the wish to conciliate and to win his way by
flattering the self-love of others was so predominant over all personal
self-love and vanity

     "That _he_ did in the general bosom reign
     Of young and old."

Mr. Wilson and most of his family I had already known for six years.
We had projected journeys together through Spain and Greece, all of
which had been nipped in the bud by Napoleon's furious and barbarous
mode of making war. It was no joke, as it had been in past times,
for an Englishman to be found wandering in continental regions;
the pretence that he was, or might be, a spy--a charge so easy to
make, so impossible to throw off--at once sufficed for the hanging
of the unhappy traveller. In one of his Spanish bulletins, Napoleon
even boasted[178] of having hanged sixteen Englishmen, "merchants
or others of that nation," whom he taxed with no suspicion even of
being suspected, beyond the simple fact of being detected in the
act of breathing Spanish air. These atrocities had interrupted our
continental schemes; and we were thus led the more to roam amongst
home scenes. How it happened I know not--for we had wandered together
often in England--but, by some accident, it was not until 1814 that we
visited Edinburgh together. Then it was that I first saw Scotland.

   [177] _Potter_ is the local term in northern England for a hawker
   of earthen ware; many of which class lead a vagrant life, and
   encamp during the summer months like gipsies.

   [178] This brutal boast might, after all, be a falsehood, and,
   with respect to mere numbers, probably was so.

I remember a singular incident which befell us on the road.
Breakfasting together, before starting, at Mr. Wilson's place of
Elleray, we had roamed, through a long and delightful day, by way
of Ulleswater, &c. Reaching Penrith at night, we slept there; and
in the morning, as we were sunning ourselves in the street, we saw,
seated in an arm-chair, and dedicating himself to the self-same task
of _apricating_ his jolly personage, a rosy, jovial, portly man,
having something of the air of a Quaker. Good nature was clearly his
predominating quality; and, as that happened to be our foible also,
we soon fell into talk; and from that into reciprocations of good
will; and from those into a direct proposal, on our new friend's part,
that we should set out upon our travels together. How--whither--to
what end or object--seemed as little to enter into his speculations
as the cost of realizing them. Rare it is, in this business world
of ours, to find any man in so absolute a state of indifference and
neutrality that for him all quarters of the globe, and all points of
the compass, are self-balanced by philosophic equilibrium of choice.
There seemed to us something amusing and yet monstrous in such a
man; and, perhaps, had we been in the same condition of exquisite
indetermination, to this hour we might all have been staying together
at Penrith. We, however, were previously bound to Edinburgh; and, as
soon as this was explained to him, that way he proposed to accompany
us. We took a chaise, therefore, jointly, to Carlisle; and, during
the whole eighteen miles, he astonished us by the wildest and most
frantic displays of erudition, much of it levelled at Sir Isaac Newton.
Much philosophical learning also he exhibited; but the grotesque
accompaniment of the whole was that, after every bravura, he fell back
into his corner in fits of laughter at himself. We began to find out
the unhappy solution of his indifference and purposeless condition;
he was a lunatic; and, afterwards, we had reason to suppose that he
was now a fugitive from his keepers. At Carlisle he became restless
and suspicious; and, finally, upon some real or imaginary business, he
turned aside to Whitehaven. We were not the objects of his jealousy;
for he parted with us reluctantly and anxiously. On our part, we felt
our pleasure overcast by sadness; for we had been much amused by his
conversation, and could not but respect the philological learning
which he had displayed. But one thing was whimsical enough:--Wilson
purposely said some startling things--startling in point of decorum,
or gay pleasantries _contra bonos mores_; at every sally of which he
looked as awfully shocked as though he himself had not been holding
the most licentious talk in another key, licentious as respected all
truth of history or of science. Another illustration, in fact, he
furnished of what I have so often heard Coleridge say--that lunatics,
in general, so far from being the brilliant persons they are thought,
and having a preternatural brightness of fancy, usually are the very
dullest and most uninspired of mortals. The sequel of our poor friend's
history--for the apparent goodness of his nature had interested us
both in his fortunes, and caused us to inquire after him through all
probable channels--was, that he was last seen by a Cambridge man of our
acquaintance, but under circumstances which confirmed our worst fears.
It was in a stage-coach; and, at first, the Cantab suspected nothing
amiss; but, some accident of conversation having started the topic of
La Place's _Mechanique Celeste_, off flew our jolly Penrith friend in
a tirade against Sir Isaac Newton; so that at once we recognised him,
as the Vicar of Wakefield his "cosmogony friend" in prison; but--and
that was melancholy to hear--this tirade was suddenly checked, in
the rudest manner, by a brutal fellow in one corner of the carriage,
who, as it now appeared, was attending him as a regular keeper, and,
according to the custom of such people, always laid an interdict upon
every ebullition of fancy or animated thought. He was a man whose mind
had got some wheel entangled, or some spring overloaded, but else was
a learned and able person; and he was to be silent at the bidding of a
low, brutal fellow, incapable of distinguishing between the gaieties of
fancy and the wandering of the intellect. Sad fate! and sad inversion
of the natural relations between the accomplished scholar and the rude
illiterate boor!

Of Edinburgh I thought to have spoken at length. But I pause, and
retreat from the subject, when I remember that so many of those whom
I loved and honoured at that time--some, too, among the gayest of the
gay--are now lying in their graves. Of Professor Wilson's sisters,
the youngest, at that time a child almost, and standing at the very
vestibule of womanhood, is alone living; she has had a romantic life;
has twice traversed, with no attendance but her servants, the gloomy
regions of the Caucasus, and once with a young child by her side. Her
husband, Mr. M'Neill, is now the English Envoy at the court of Teheran.
On the rest, one of whom I honoured and loved as a sister, the curtain
has fallen; and here, in the present mood of my spirits, I also feel
disposed to drop a curtain over my subsequent memoirs. Farewell,
hallowed recollections!

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus, I have sketched the condition of the Lake District, as to society
of an intellectual order, at the time (viz. the winter of 1808-9)
when I became a personal resident in that district; and, indeed, from
this era, through a period of about twenty years in succession, I
may describe my domicile as being amongst the lakes and mountains of
Westmoreland. It is true, I often made excursions to London, Bath,
and its neighbourhood, or northwards to Edinburgh, and, perhaps, on
an average, passed one-fourth part of each year at a distance from
this district; but here only it was that henceforwards I had a house
and small establishment. The house, for a very long course of years,
was that same cottage in Grasmere, embowered in roses and jessamine,
which I have already described as a spot hallowed to the admirers
of Mr. Wordsworth by his seven years' occupation of its pretty
chambers and its rocky orchard: a little domain, which he has himself
apostrophized as the "lowest stair in that magnificent temple" forming
the north-eastern boundary of Grasmere. The little orchard is rightly
called "the lowest stair"; for within itself all is ascending ground;
hardly enough of flat area on which to pitch a pavilion, and even that
scanty surface an inclined plane; whilst the rest of the valley, into
which you step immediately from the garden gate, is (according to the
characteristic beauty of the northern English valleys, as first noticed
by Mr. Wordsworth himself) "flat as the floor of a temple."

In sketching the state of the literary society gathered or gathering
about the English lakes, at the time of my settling amongst them, I
have of course authorized the reader to suppose that I personally
mixed freely amongst the whole; else I should have had neither the
means for describing that society with truth, nor any motive for
attempting it. Meantime the direct object of my own residence at the
lakes was the society of Mr. Wordsworth. And it will be a natural
inference that, if I mingled on familiar or friendly terms with this
society, _a fortiori_ would Mr. Wordsworth do so, as belonging to
the lake district by birth, and as having been, in some instances, my
own introducer to members of this community. But it was not so; and
never was a grosser blunder committed than by Lord Byron when, in a
letter to Mr. Hogg (from which an extract is given in some volume of
Mr. Lockhart's "Life of Sir Walter Scott"), he speaks of Wordsworth,
Southey, &c., in connexion with Sir Walter, as all alike injured by
mixing only with little adoring coteries, which each severally was
supposed to have gathered about himself as a centre.[179] Now, had this
really been the case, I know not how the objects of such a partial
or exclusive admiration could have been injured by it in any sense
with which the public were concerned. A writer may--and of that there
are many instances--write the worse for meeting nobody of sympathy
with himself; no admiration sufficient to convince him that he has
written powerfully: that misfortune, when it occurs, may injure a
writer, or may cause him to cease cultivating his genius. But no man
was ever injured by the strong reflection of his own power in love and
admiration; not as a writer, I mean: though it is very true, from the
great variety of modes in which praise, or the indirect flattery of
silent homage, acts upon different minds, that some men may be injured
as social companions: vanity, and, still more, egotism--the habit
of making self the central point of reference in every treatment of
every subject--may certainly be cherished by the idolatry of a private
circle, continually ascending; but arrogance and gloomy anti-social
pride are qualities much more likely to be favoured by sympathy
withheld, and the unjust denial of a man's pretensions. This, however,
need not be discussed with any reference to Mr. Wordsworth; for he had
no such admiring circle: no applauding coterie ever gathered about
him.[180] Wordsworth was not a man to be openly flattered; his pride
repelled that kind of homage, or any homage that offered itself with
the air of conferring honour; and repelled it in a tone of loftiness
or arrogance that never failed to kindle the pride of the baffled
flatterer. Nothing in the way of applause could give Wordsworth any
pleasure, unless it were the spontaneous and half-unconscious utterance
of delight in some passage--the implicit applause of love, half
afraid to express itself; or else the deliberate praise of rational
examination, study, and comparison, applied to his writings: these
were the only modes of admiration which could recommend themselves
to Wordsworth. But, had it been otherwise, there was another mistake
in what Lord Byron said:--The neighbouring people, in every degree,
"gentle and simple," literary or half-educated, who had heard of
Wordsworth, agreed in despising him. Never had poet or prophet less
honour in his own country. Of the gentry, very few knew anything about
Wordsworth. Grasmere was a vale little visited at that time, except for
an hour's admiration. The case is now [1840] altered; and partly by a
new road, which, having pierced the valley by a line carried along
the water's edge, at a most preposterous cost, and with a large arrear
of debt for the next generation, saves the labour of surmounting a
laborious hill. The case is now altered no less for the intellect of
the age; and Rydal Mount is now one of the most honoured abodes in
the island. But, at that time, Grasmere did not differ more from the
Grasmere of to-day than Wordsworth from the Wordsworth of 1809-20. I
repeat that he was little known, even as a resident in the country;
and, as a poet, strange it would have been had the little town of
Ambleside undertaken to judge for itself, and against a tribunal which
had for a time subdued the very temper of the age. Lord Byron might
have been sure that nowhere would the contempt for Mr. Wordsworth be
rifer than exactly amongst those who had a local reason for curiosity
about the man, and who, of course, adopting the tone of the presiding
journals, adopted them with a personality of feeling unknown elsewhere.

   [179] Byron's letter was not to Hogg, but to Moore, concerning a
   letter received from Hogg; and the extract from it in _Lockhart_
   to which De Quincey refers was as follows:--"Oh! I have had the
   most amusing letter from Hogg, the Ettrick Minstrel and Shepherd.
   I think very highly of him as a poet; but he and half of those
   Scotch and Lake troubadours are spoilt by living in little circles
   and petty coteries. London and the world is the only place to take
   the conceit out of a man." The letter is dated 3d August 1814.--M.

   [180] Scott, at all events, who had been personally acquainted
   with Wordsworth since 1803,--when Wordsworth and his sister
   Dorothy in the course of their Scottish tour visited Scott and his
   wife at Lasswade,--had always been an admirer of Wordsworth, even
   while dissenting from his poetical views. Scott and his wife had
   paid a return visit to Wordsworth at Grasmere in 1805; and the two
   poets had corresponded occasionally since then,--Scott decidedly
   more deferential to Wordsworth than Wordsworth was to Scott.--M.

Except, therefore, with the Lloyds, or occasionally with Thomas
Wilkinson the Quaker, or very rarely with Southey, Wordsworth had no
intercourse at all beyond the limits of Grasmere: and in that valley I
was myself, for some years, his sole visiting friend; as, on the other
hand, my sole visitors as regarded that vale, were himself and his

Among that family, and standing fourth in the series of his children,
was a little girl, whose life, short as it was, and whose death,
obscure and little heard of as it was amongst all the rest of the
world, connected themselves with the records of my own life by ties of
passion so profound, by a grief so frantic, and so memorable through
the injurious effects which it produced of a physical kind, that,
had I left untouched every other chapter of my own experience, I
should certainly have left behind some memorandum of this, as having
a permanent interest in the psychological history of human nature.
Luckily the facts are not without a parallel, and in well authenticated
medical books; else I should have scrupled (as what man does _not_
scruple who values, above all things, the reputation for veracity?) to
throw the whole stress of credibility on my own unattached narration.
But all experienced physicians know well that cases similar to mine,
though not common, occur at intervals in every large community.

When I first settled in Grasmere, Catherine Wordsworth was in her
infancy, but, even at that age, noticed me more than any other person,
excepting, of course, her mother. She had for an attendant a young
girl, perhaps thirteen years old--Sarah, one of the orphan children
left by the unfortunate couple, George and Sarah Green, whose tragical
end in a snow-storm I have already narrated.[181] This Sarah Green was
as far removed in character as could be imagined from that elder sister
who had won so much admiration in her childish days, by her premature
display of energy and household virtues. She was lazy, luxurious,
and sensual: one, in fact, of those nurses who, in their anxiety to
gossip about young men, leave their infant or youthful charges to
the protection of chance. It was, however, not in her out-of-door
ramblings, but at home, that the accident occurred which determined
the fortunes of little Catherine. Mr. Coleridge was at that time a
visitor to the Wordsworths at Allan Bank, that house in Grasmere to
which Wordsworth had removed upon quitting his cottage. One day about
noon, when, perhaps, he was coming down to breakfast, Mr. Coleridge
passed Sarah Green, playing after her indolent fashion with the child;
and between them lay a number of carrots. He warned the girl that raw
carrots were an indigestible substance for the stomach of an infant.
This warning was neglected: little Catherine ate--it was never known
how many; and, in a short time, was seized with strong convulsions.
I saw her in this state about two P.M. No medical aid was to be had
nearer than Ambleside; about six miles distant. However, all proper
measures were taken; and, by sunset, she had so far recovered as to
be pronounced out of danger. Her left side, however, left arm, and
left leg, from that time forward, were in a disabled state: not what
could be called paralyzed, but suffering a sort of atony or imperfect
distribution of vital power.

   [181] The story will appear in a future volume.--M.

Catherine was not above three years old when she died; so that there
could not have been much room for the expansion of her understanding,
or the unfolding of her real character. But there was room enough in
her short life, and too much, for love the most frantic to settle
upon her. The whole vale of Grasmere is not large enough to allow of
any great distances between house and house; and, as it happened that
little Kate Wordsworth returned my love, she in a manner lived with
me at my solitary cottage; as often as I could entice her from home,
walked with me, slept with me, and was my sole companion. That I was
not singular in ascribing some witchery to the nature and manners of
this innocent child, you may gather from the following most beautiful
lines extracted from a sketch[182] towards her portraiture, drawn by
her father (with whom, however, she was noways a favourite):--

     "And, as a faggot sparkles on the hearth,
     Not less if unattended and alone
     Than when both young and old sit gathered round
     And take delight in its activity;
     Even so this happy creature of herself
     Was all sufficient: solitude to her
     Was blithe society, who filled the air
     With gladness and involuntary songs.
     Light were her sallies as the tripping fawn's,
     Forth-startled from the form where she lay couch'd;
     Unthought of, unexpected, as the stir
     Of the soft breeze ruffling the meadow-flowers,
     Or from before it chasing wantonly
     The many-coloured images impressed
     Upon the bosom of a placid lake."

It was this radiant spirit of joyousness, making solitude for her
blithe society, and filling from morning to night the air "with
gladness and involuntary songs," this it was which so fascinated my
heart that I became blindly, doatingly, in a servile degree, devoted
to this one affection. In the spring of 1812, I went up to London; and,
early in June, by a letter from Miss Wordsworth, her aunt, I learned
the terrific news (for such to me it was) that she had died suddenly.
She had gone to bed in good health about sunset on June 4th; was found
speechless a little before midnight; and died in the early dawn, just
as the first gleams of morning began to appear above Seat Sandel and
Fairfield, the mightiest of the Grasmere barriers, about an hour,
perhaps, before sunrise.

   [182] It is entitled "Characteristics of a Child Three Years Old";
   and is dated at the foot 1811, which must be an oversight, for she
   was not so old until the following year. I may as well add the
   first six lines, though I had a reason for beginning the extract
   where it does, in order to fix the attention upon the special
   circumstance which had so much fascinated myself, of her
   all-sufficiency to herself, and the way in which she "filled the
   air with gladness and involuntary songs." The other lines are

     "Loving she is and tractable, though wild;
     And Innocence hath privilege in her
     To dignify arch looks and laughing eyes;
     And feats of cunning; and the pretty round
     Of trespasses, affected to provoke
     Mock-chastisement and partnership in play."

Never, perhaps, from the foundations of those mighty hills, was there
so fierce a convulsion of grief as mastered my faculties on receiving
that heart-shattering news. Over and above my excess of love for her,
I had always viewed her as an impersonation of the dawn and the spirit
of infancy; and this abstraction seated in her person, together with
the visionary sort of connexion which, even in her parting hours, she
assumed with the summer sun, by timing her immersion into the cloud
of death with the rising and setting of that fountain of life,--these
combined impressions recoiled so violently into a contrast or polar
antithesis to the image of death that each exalted and brightened the
other. I returned hastily to Grasmere; stretched myself every night,
for more than two months running, upon her grave; in fact, often
passed the night upon her grave; not (as may readily be supposed) in
any parade of grief; on the contrary, in that quiet valley of simple
shepherds, I was secure enough from observation until morning light
began to return; but in mere intensity of sick, frantic yearning after
neighbourhood to the darling of my heart. Many readers will have seen
in Sir Walter Scott's "Demonology," and in Dr. Abercrombie's "Inquiries
concerning the Intellectual Powers," some remarkable illustrations of
the creative faculties awakened in the eye or other organs by peculiar
states of passion; and it is worthy of a place amongst cases of that
nature that, in many solitary fields, at a considerable elevation
above the level of the valleys,--fields which, in the local dialect,
are called "intacks,"--my eye was haunted at times, in broad noonday
(oftener, however, in the afternoon), with a facility, but at times
also with a necessity, for weaving, out of a few simple elements, a
perfect picture of little Kate in the attitude and onward motion of
walking. I resorted constantly to these "intacks," as places where I
was little liable to disturbance; and usually I saw her at the opposite
side of the field, which might sometimes be at a distance of a quarter
of a mile, generally not so much. Always almost she carried a basket
on her head; and usually the first hint upon which the figure arose
commenced in wild plants, such as tall ferns, or the purple flowers
of the foxglove; but, whatever might be the colours or the forms,
uniformly the same little full-formed figure arose, uniformly dressed
in the little blue bed-gown and black skirt of Westmoreland, and
uniformly with the air of advancing motion. Through part of June, July,
and part of August, in fact throughout the summer, this frenzy of grief
continued. It was reasonably to be expected that nature would avenge
such senseless self-surrender to passion; for, in fact, so far from
making an effort to resist it, I clung to it as a luxury (which, in
the midst of suffering, it really was in part). All at once, on a day
at the latter end of August, in one instant of time, I was seized with
some nervous sensation that, for a moment, caused sickness. A glass
of brandy removed the sickness; but I felt, to my horror, a sting as
it were, of some stationary torment left behind--a torment absolutely
indescribable, but under which I felt assured that life could not be
borne. It is useless and impossible to describe what followed: with
no apparent illness discoverable to any medical eye--looking, indeed,
better than usual for three months and upwards, I was under the
possession of some internal nervous malady, that made each respiration
which I drew an act of separate anguish. I travelled southwards
immediately to Liverpool, to Birmingham, to Bristol, to Bath, for
medical advice; and finally rested--in a gloomy state of despair,
rather because I saw no use in further change than that I looked for
any change in this place more than others--at Clifton, near Bristol.
Here it was, at length, in the course of November, that, in one hour,
my malady began to leave me: it was not quite so abrupt, however, in
its departure, as in its first development: a peculiar sensation arose
from the knee downwards, about midnight: it went forwards through a
space of about five hours, and then stopped, leaving me perfectly free
from every trace of the awful malady which had possessed me, but so
much debilitated as with difficulty to stand or walk. Going down soon
after this, to Ilfracombe, in Devonshire, where there were hot sea
baths, I found it easy enough to restore my shattered strength. But the
remarkable fact in this catastrophe of my illness is that all grief
for little Kate Wordsworth, nay, all remembrance of her, had, with my
malady, vanished from my mind. The traces of her innocent features
were utterly washed away from my heart: she might have been dead for a
thousand years, so entirely abolished was the last lingering image of
her face or figure. The little memorials of her which her mother had
given to me, as, in particular, a pair of her red morocco shoes, won
not a sigh from me as I looked at them: even her little grassy grave,
white with snow, when I returned to Grasmere in January, 1813, was
looked at almost with indifference; except, indeed, as now become a
memorial to me of that dire internal physical convulsion thence arising
by which I had been shaken and wrenched; and, in short, a case more
entirely realizing the old Pagan superstition of a nympholepsy in the
first place, and, secondly, of a Lethe or river of oblivion, and the
possibility, by one draught from this potent stream, of applying an
everlasting ablution to all the soils and stains of human anguish, I do
not suppose the psychological history of man affords.[183]

   [183] The paper in _Tait's Magazine_ for August 1840 does not end
   here, but includes all the matter of the next short chapter. As
   that matter changes the scene from the Lakes, however, better to
   put it in a chapter by itself.--M.



   [184] From _Tait's Magazine_ for August 1840.--M.

From the Lakes, as I have mentioned before, I went annually
southwards--chiefly to Somersetshire or to London, and more rarely
to Edinburgh. In my Somersetshire visits, I never failed to see Mrs.
Hannah More. My own relative's house, in fact, standing within one
mile of Barley Wood,[185] I seldom suffered a week to pass without
calling to pay my respects. There was a stronger motive to this than
simply what arose from Mrs. H. More's company, or even from that of
her sisters (one or two of whom were more entertaining, because more
filled with animal spirits and less thoughtful, than Mrs. Hannah);
for it rarely happened that one called within the privileged calling
hours,--which, with these rural ladies, ranged between twelve and
four o'clock,--but one met some person interesting by rank, station,
political or literary eminence.

   [185] Hannah More's residence.--M.

Here, accordingly, it was that, during one of my last visits to
Somersetshire, either in 1813 or 1814, I met Mrs. Siddons, whom I had
often seen upon the stage, but never before in private society.[186]
She had come into this part of the country chiefly, I should imagine,
with a view to the medical advice at the Bristol Hot Wells and Clifton;
for it happened that one of her daughters--a fine interesting young
woman--was suffering under pulmonary consumption--that scourge of the
British youth; of which malady, I believe, she ultimately died. From
the Hot Wells, Mrs. Siddons had been persuaded to honour with her
company a certain Dr. Wh----, whose splendid villa of Mendip Lodge
stood about two miles from Barley Wood.

   [186] At the time mentioned Hannah More was verging on her
   seventieth year and Mrs. Siddons on her sixtieth.--M.

This villa, by the way, was a show place, in which a vast deal of money
had been sunk upon two follies equally unproductive of pleasure to the
beholder and of anything approaching a pecuniary compensation to the
owner. The villa, with its embellishments, was supposed to have cost
at least sixty thousand pounds; of which one-half had been absorbed,
partly by a contest with the natural obstacles of the situation, and
partly by the frailest of all ornaments--vast china jars, vases, and
other "knicknackery" baubles, which held their very existence by so
frail a tenure as the carefulness of a housemaid, and which, at all
events, if they should survive the accidents of life, never are known
to reproduce to the possessor one-tenth part of what they have cost.
Out of doors there were terraces of a mile long, one rising above
another, and carried, by mere artifice of mechanic skill, along the
perpendicular face of a lofty rock. Had they, when finished, any
particular beauty? Not at all. Considered as a pleasure ground, they
formed a far less delightful landscape, and a far less alluring haunt
to rambling steps, than most of the uncostly shrubberies which were
seen below, in unpretending situations, and upon the ordinary level
of the vale. What a record of human imbecility! For all his pains
and his expense in forming this costly "folly," his reward was daily
anxiety, and one solitary _bon mot_ which he used to record of some
man who, on being asked by the Rev. Doctor what he thought of his
place, replied that "he thought the Devil had tempted him up to an
exceedingly high place." No part of the grounds, nor the house itself,
was at all the better because originally it had been, beyond measure,
difficult to form it: so difficult that, according to Dr. Johnson's
witty remark on another occasion, there was good reason for wishing
that it had been impossible. The owner, whom I knew, most certainly
never enjoyed a happy day in this costly creation; which, after all,
displayed but little taste, though a gorgeous array of finery. The
show part of the house was itself a monument to the barrenness of
invention in him who planned it; consisting, as it did, of one long
suite of rooms in a straight line, without variety, without obvious
parts, and therefore without symmetry or proportions. This long vista
was so managed that, by means of folding-doors, the whole could be seen
at a glance, whilst its extent was magnified by a vast mirror at the
further end. The Doctor was a querulous old man, enormously tall and
enormously bilious; so that he had a spectral appearance when pacing
through the false gaieties of his glittering villa. He was a man of
letters, and had known Dr. Johnson, whom he admired prodigiously; and
had himself been, in earlier days, the author of a poem now forgotten.
He belonged, at one period, to the coterie of Miss Seward, Dr. Darwin,
Day, Mr. Edgeworth, &c.; consequently he might have been an agreeable
companion, having so much anecdote at his command: but his extreme
biliousness made him irritable in a painful degree and impatient of
contradiction--impatient even of dissent in the most moderate shape.
The latter stage of his life is worth recording, as a melancholy
comment upon the blindness of human foresight, and in some degree also
as a lesson on the disappointments which follow any departure from high
principle, and the deception which seldom fails to lie in ambush for
the deceiver. I had one day taken the liberty to ask him why, and with
what ultimate purpose, he, who did not like trouble and anxiety, had
embarrassed himself with the planning and construction of a villa that
manifestly embittered his days? "That is, my young friend," replied the
doctor, "speaking plainly, you mean to express your wonder that I, so
old a man (for he was then not far from seventy), should spend my time
in creating a show-box. Well now, I will tell you: precisely because
I _am_ old. I am naturally of a gloomy turn; and it has always struck
me that we English, who are constitutionally haunted by melancholy,
are too apt to encourage it by the gloomy air of the mansions we
inhabit. Your fortunate age, my friend, can dispense with such aids:
ours requires continual influxes of pleasure through the senses, in
order to cheat the stealthy advances of old age, and to beguile us
of our sadness. Gaiety, the _riant_ style in everything, that is what
we old men need. And I, who do not love the pains of creating, love
the creation; and, in fact, require it as part of my artillery against
time." Such was the amount of his explanation: and now, in a few words,
for his subsequent history.

Finding himself involved in difficulties by the expenses of this villa,
going on concurrently with a large London establishment, he looked
out for a good marriage (being a widower) as the sole means within
his reach for clearing off his embarrassments without proportionable
curtailment of his expenses. It happened, unhappily for both parties,
that he fell in with a widow lady, who was cruising about the world
with precisely the same views, and in precisely the same difficulties.
Each (or the friends of each) held out a false flag, magnifying
their incomes respectively, and sinking the embarrassments. Mutually
deceived, they married: and one change immediately introduced at the
splendid villa was the occupation of an entire wing by a lunatic
brother of the lady's; the care of whom, with a large allowance, had
been committed to her by the Court of Chancery. This, of itself,
shed a gloom over the place which defeated the primary purpose of
the doctor (as explained by himself) in erecting it. Windows barred,
maniacal howls, gloomy attendants from a lunatic hospital ranging
about: these were sad disturbances to the doctor's rose-leaf system of
life. This, however, if it were a nuisance, brought along with it some
_solatium_, as the lawyers express it, in the shape of the Chancery
allowance. But next came the load of debts for which there was no
_solatium_, and which turned out to be the only sort of possession
with which the lady was well endowed. The disconsolate doctor--an old
man, and a clergyman of the Establishment--could not resort to such
redress as a layman might have adopted: he was obliged to give up all
his establishments; his gay villa was