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Title: English Men of Letters: Coleridge
Author: Traill, H. D. (Henry Duff)
Language: English
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ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS

COLERIDGE

BY

H. D. TRAILL



PREFATORY NOTE.


In a tolerably well-known passage in one of his essays De Quincey
enumerates the multiform attainments and powers of Coleridge, and the
corresponding varieties of demand made by them on any one who should
aspire to become this many-sided man's biographer. The description is
slightly touched with the humorous hyperbole characteristic of its
author; but it is in substance just, and I cannot but wish that it were
possible, within the limits of a preface, to set out the whole of it in
excuse for the many inevitable shortcomings of this volume. Having thus
made an "exhibit" of it, there would only remain to add that the
difficulties with which De Quincey confronts an intending biographer of
Coleridge must necessarily be multiplied many-fold by the conditions
under which this work is here attempted. No complete biography of
Coleridge, at least on any important scale of dimensions, is in
existence; no critical appreciation of his work _as a whole_, and as
correlated with the circumstances and affected by the changes of his
life, has, so far as I am aware, been attempted. To perform either of
these two tasks adequately, or even with any approach to adequacy, a
writer should at least have the elbow-room of a portly volume. To
attempt the two together, therefore, and to attempt them within the
limits prescribed to the manuals of this series, is an enterprise which
I think should claim, from all at least who are not offended by its
audacity, an almost unbounded indulgence.

The supply of material for a _Life_ of Coleridge is fairly plentiful,
though it is not very easily come by. For the most part it needs to be
hunted up or fished up--those accustomed to the work will appreciate
the difference between the two processes--from a considerable variety
of contemporary documents. Completed biography of the poet-philosopher
there is none, as has been said, in existence; and the one volume of
the unfinished _Life_ left us by Mr. Gillman--a name never to be
mentioned with disrespect, however difficult it may sometimes be to
avoid doing so, by any one who honours the name and genius of
Coleridge--covers, and that in but a loose and rambling fashion, no
more than a few years. Mr. Cottle's _Recollections of Southey,
Wordsworth, and Coleridge_ contains some valuable information on
certain points of importance, as also does the _Letters, Conversations,
etc., of S. T. C._ by Mr. Allsop. Miss Meteyard's _Group of Eminent
Englishmen_ throws much light on the relations between Coleridge and
his early patrons the Wedgwoods. Everything, whether critical or
biographical, that De Quincey wrote on Coleridgian matters requires,
with whatever discount, to be carefully studied. _The Life of
Wordsworth,_ by the Bishop of St. Andrews; _The Correspondence of
Southey;_ the Rev. Derwent Coleridge's brief account of his father's
life and writings; and the prefatory memoir prefixed to the 1880
edition of Coleridge's _Poetical and Dramatic Works_, have all had to
be consulted. But, after all, there remain several tantalising gaps in
Coleridge's life which refuse to be bridged over; and one cannot but
think that there must be enough unpublished matter in the possession of
his relatives and the representatives of his friends and correspondents
to enable some at least, though doubtless not all, of these missing
links to be supplied. Perhaps upon a fitting occasion and for an
adequate purpose these materials would be forthcoming.



CONTENTS.



_POETICAL PERIOD._

CHAPTER I.
[1772-1794.]
Birth, parentage, and early years--Christ's Hospital--Jesus College,
Cambridge.

CHAPTER II.
[1794-1797.]
The Bristol Lectures--Marriage--Life at Clevedon--The
_Watchman_--Retirement to Stowey--Introduction to Wordsworth.

CHAPTER III.
[1797-1799.]
Coleridge and Wordsworth--Publication of the _Lyrical Ballads_--The
_Ancient Mariner_--The first part of _Christabel_--Decline of
Coleridge's poetic impulse--Final review of his poetry.


_CRITICAL PERIOD._

CHAPTER IV.
[1799-1800.]
Visit to Germany--Life at Gottingen--Return--Explores the Lake
country--London--The _Morning Post_--Coleridge as a
journalist--Retirement to Keswick.

CHAPTER V.
[1800-1804.]
Life at Keswick--Second part of _Christabel_--Failing health--Resort
to opium--The _Ode to Dejection_--Increasing restlessness--Visit to
Malta.

CHAPTER VI.
[1806-1809.]
Stay at Malta--Its injurious effects--Return to England--Meeting with
De Quincey--Residence in London--First series of lectures.

CHAPTER VII.
[1809-1810.]
Return to the Lakes--From Keswick to Grasmere--With Wordsworth at
Allan Bank--The _Friend_--Quits the Lake country for ever.

CHAPTER VIII.
[1810-1816.]
London again--Second recourse to journalism--The _Courier_ articles--The
Shakespeare lectures--Production of _Remorse_--At Bristol again as
lecturer--Residence at Calne--Increasing ill health and
embarrassments--Retirement to Mr. Gillman's.


_METAPHYSICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERIOD._

CHAPTER IX.
[1816-1818.]
Life at Highgate--Renewed activity--Publications and republications--The
_Biographia Literaria_--The lectures of 1818--Coleridge as a Shakespearian
critic.

CHAPTER X.
[1818-1834.]
Closing years--Temporary renewal of money troubles--The _Aids to
Refection_--Growing weakness-Visit to Germany with the Wordsworths--Last
illness and death.

CHAPTER XI.
Coleridge's metaphysics and theology--_The Spiritual Philosophy_ of
Mr. Green.

CHAPTER XII.
Coleridge's position in his later years--His discourse--His influence
on contemporary thought--Final review of his intellectual work.

INDEX.



COLERIDGE.



CHAPTER I.

Birth, parentage, and early years--Christ's Hospital--Jesus College,
Cambridge.

[1772-1794.]


On the 21st of October 1772 there was added to that roll of famous
Englishmen of whom Devonshire boasts the parentage a new and not its
least illustrious name. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was the son of the Rev.
John Coleridge, vicar of Ottery St. Mary in that county, and head
master of Henry VIII.'s Free Grammar School in the same town. He was
the youngest child of a large family. To the vicar, who had been twice
married, his first wife had borne three children, and his second ten.
Of these latter, however, one son died in infancy; four others,
together with the only daughter of the family, passed away before
Samuel had attained his majority; and thus only three of his brothers,
James, Edward, and George Coleridge, outlived the eighteenth century.
The first of these three survivors became the father of Henry Nelson
Coleridge--who married his cousin Sara, the poet's accomplished
daughter, and edited his uncle's posthumous works--and of the late Mr.
Justice Coleridge, himself the father of the present Lord Chief-Justice
of England. Edward, the second of the three, went, like his eldest
brother William, to Pembroke College, Oxford, and like him took orders;
and George, also educated at the same college and for the same
profession, succeeded eventually to his father's benefice and school.
The vicar himself appears from all accounts to have been a man of more
mark than most rural incumbents, and probably than a good many
schoolmasters of his day. He was a Hebrew scholar of some eminence, and
the compiler of a Latin grammar, in which, among other innovations
designed to simplify the study of the language for "boys just
initiated," he proposed to substitute for the name of "ablative" that
of "quale-quare-quidditive case." The mixture of amiable simplicity and
not unamiable pedantry to which this stroke of nomenclature testifies
was further illustrated in his practice of diversifying his sermons to
his village flock with Hebrew quotations, which he always commended to
their attention as "the immediate language of the Holy Ghost"--a
practice which exposed his successor, himself a learned man, to the
complaint of his rustic parishioners, that for all his erudition no
"immediate language of the Holy Ghost" was ever to be heard from _him_.
On the whole the Rev. John Coleridge appears to have been a gentle and
kindly eccentric, whose combination of qualities may have well entitled
him to be compared, as his famous son was wont in after-life to compare
him, to Parson Adams.

Of the poet's mother we know little; but it is to be gathered from such
information as has come to us through Mr. Gillman from Coleridge
himself that, though reputed to have been a "woman of strong mind," she
exercised less influence on the formation of her son's mind and
character than has frequently been the case with the not remarkable
mothers of remarkable men. "She was," says Mr. Gillman, "an uneducated
woman, industriously attentive to her household duties, and devoted to
the care of her husband and family. Possessing none even of the most
common accomplishments of her day, she had neither love nor sympathy
for the display of them in others. She disliked, as she would say, your
'harpsichord ladies,' and strongly tried to impress upon her sons their
little value" (that is, of the accomplishments) "in their choice of
wives." And the final judgment upon her is that she was "a very good
woman, though, like Martha, over careful in many things; very ambitious
for the advancement of her sons in life, but wanting, perhaps, that
flow of heart which her husband possessed so largely." Of Coleridge's
boyhood and school-days we are fortunate in being able to construct an
unusually clear and complete idea. Both from his own autobiographic
notes, from the traditionary testimony of his family, and from the no
less valuable evidence of his most distinguished schoolfellow, we know
that his youthful character and habits assign him very conspicuously to
that perhaps somewhat small class of eminent men whose boyhood has
given distinct indications of great things to come. Coleridge is as
pronounced a specimen of this class as Scott is of its opposite. Scott
has shown the world how commonplace a boyhood may precede a maturity of
extraordinary powers. In Coleridge's case a boy of truly extraordinary
qualities was father to one of the most remarkable of men. As the
youngest of ten children (or of thirteen, reckoning the vicar's family
of three by his first wife), Coleridge attributes the early bent of his
disposition to causes the potency of which one may be permitted to
think that he has somewhat exaggerated. It is not quite easy to believe
that it was only through "certain jealousies of old Molly," his brother
Frank's "dotingly fond nurse," and the infusions of these jealousies
into his brother's mind, that he was drawn "from life in motion to life
in thought and sensation." The physical impulses of boyhood, where they
exist in vigour, are not so easily discouraged, and it is probable that
they were naturally weaker and the meditative tendency stronger than
Coleridge in after-life imagined. But to continue: "I never played," he
proceeds, "except by myself, and then only acting over what I had been
reading or fancying, or half one, half the other" (a practice common
enough, it may be remarked, among boys of by no means morbidly
imaginative habit), "cutting down weeds and nettles with a stick, as
one of the seven champions of Christendom. Alas! I had all the
simplicity, all the docility of the little child, but none of the
child's habits. I never thought as a child--never had the language of a
child." So it fared with him during the period of his home instruction,
the first eight years of his life; and his father having, as scholar
and schoolmaster, no doubt noted the strange precocity of his youngest
son, appears to have devoted especial attention to his training. "In my
ninth year," he continues, "my most dear, most revered father died
suddenly. O that I might so pass away, if, like him, I were an
Israelite without guile. The image of my father, my revered, kind,
learned, simple-hearted father, is a religion to me."

Before he had attained his tenth year a presentation to Christ's
Hospital was obtained for him by that eminent judge Mr. Justice Buller,
a former pupil of his father's; and he was entered at the school on the
18th July 1782. His early bent towards poetry, though it displayed
itself in youthful verse of unusual merit, is a less uncommon and
arresting characteristic than his precocious speculative activity. Many
a raw boy "lisps in numbers, for the numbers come;" but few discourse
Alexandrian metaphysics at the same age, for the very good reason that
the metaphysics as a rule do not "come." And even among those youth
whom curiosity, or more often vanity, induces to dabble in such
studies, one would find few indeed over whom they have cast such an
irresistible spell as to estrange them for a while from poetry
altogether. That this was the experience of Coleridge we have his own
words to show. His son and biographer, the Rev. Derwent Coleridge, has
a little antedated the poet's stages of development in stating that
when his father was sent to Christ's Hospital in his eleventh year he
was "already a poet, and yet more characteristically a metaphysician."
A poet, yes, and a precocious scholar perhaps to boot, but a
metaphysician, no; for the "delightful sketch of him by his friend and
schoolfellow Charles Lamb" was pretty evidently taken not at "this
period" of his life but some years later. Coleridge's own account of
the matter in the _Biographia Literaria_ is clear. [1] "At a very
premature age, even before my fifteenth year," he says, "I had
bewildered myself in metaphysics and in theological controversy.
Nothing else pleased me. History and particular facts lost all interest
in my mind. Poetry (though for a schoolboy of that age I was above par
in English versification, and had already produced two or three
compositions which I may venture to say were somewhat above mediocrity,
and which had gained me more credit than the sound good sense of my old
master was at all pleased with),--poetry itself, yea, novels and
romance, became insipid to me." He goes on to describe how highly
delighted he was if, during his friendless wanderings on leave-days,
"any passenger, especially if he were dressed in black," would enter
with him into a conversation, which he soon found the means of
directing to his favourite subject of "providence, foreknowledge, will,
and fate; fixed fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute." Undoubtedly it
is to this period that one should refer Lamb's well-known description
of "Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Logician, Metaphysician, Bard."

"How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand still,
entranced with admiration (while he weighed the disproportion between
the speech and the garb of the young Mirandula), to hear thee unfold in
thy deep and sweet intonations the mysteries of Iamblichus or Plotinus
(for even in those years thou waxedst not pale at such philosophic
draughts), or reciting Homer in the Greek, or Pindar, while the walls
of the old Grey Friars re-echoed with the accents of the _inspired
charity-boy_."

It is interesting to note such a point as that of the "deep and sweet
intonations" of the youthful voice--its most notable and impressive
characteristic in after-life. Another schoolfellow describes the young
philosopher as "tall and striking in person, with long black hair," and
as commanding "much deference" among his schoolfellows. Such was
Coleridge between his fifteenth and seventeenth year, and such
continued to be the state of his mind and the direction of his studies
until he was won back again from what he calls "a preposterous pursuit,
injurious to his natural powers and to the progress of his education,"
by--it is difficult, even after the most painstaking study of its
explanations, to record the phenomenon without astonishment--a perusal
of the sonnets of William Lisle Bowles. Deferring, however, for the
present any research into the occult operation of this converting
agency, it will be enough to note Coleridge's own assurance of its
perfect efficacy. He was completely cured for the time of his
metaphysical malady, and "well were it for me perhaps," he exclaims,
"had I never relapsed into the same mental disease; if I had continued
to pluck the flowers and reap the harvest from the cultivated surface
instead of delving in the unwholesome quicksilver mines of metaphysic
depths." And he goes on to add, in a passage full of the peculiar
melancholy beauty of his prose, and full too of instruction for the
biographer, "But if, in after-time, I have sought a refuge from bodily
pain and mismanaged sensibility in abstruse researches, which exercised
the strength and subtlety of the understanding without awakening the
feelings of the heart, there was a long and blessed interval, during
which my natural faculties were allowed to expand and my original
tendencies to develop themselves--my fancy, and the love of nature, and
the sense of beauty in forms and sounds." This "long and blessed
interval" endured, as we shall see, for some eleven or twelve years.

His own account of his seduction from the paths of poetry by the wiles
of philosophy is that physiology acted as the go-between. His brother
Luke had come up to London to walk the hospitals, and young Samuel's
insatiable intellectual curiosity immediately inspired him with a
desire to share his brother's pursuit. "Every Saturday I could make or
obtain leave, to the London Hospital trudged I. O! the bliss if I was
permitted to hold the plaisters or attend the dressings.... I became
wild to be apprenticed to a surgeon; English, Latin, yea, Greek books
of medicine read I incessantly. Blanchard's _Latin Medical Dictionary_
I had nearly by heart. Briefly, it was a wild dream, which, gradually
blending with, gradually gave way to, a rage for metaphysics occasioned
by the essays on Liberty and Necessity in Cato's _Letters_, and more by
theology." [2] At the appointed hour, however, Bowles the emancipator
came, as has been said, to his relief, and having opportunely fallen in
love with the eldest daughter of a widow lady of whose son he had been
the patron and protector at school, we may easily imagine that his
liberation from the spell of metaphysics was complete. "From this
time," he says, "to my nineteenth year, when I quitted school for
Jesus, Cambridge, was the era of poetry and love."

Of Coleridge's university days we know less; but the account of his
schoolfellow, Charles Le Grice, accords, so far as it goes, with what
would have been anticipated from the poet's school life. Although "very
studious," and not unambitious of academical honours--within a few
months of his entering at Jesus he won the Browne Gold Medal for a
Greek Ode on the Slave Trade [3]--his reading, his friend admits, was
"desultory and capricious. He took little exercise merely for the sake
of exercise, but he was ready at any time to unbend his mind in
conversation, and for the sake of this his room was a constant
rendezvous of conversation-loving friends. I will not call them
loungers, for they did not call to kill time but to enjoy it." From the
same record we gather that Coleridge's interest in current politics was
already keen, and that he was an eager reader, not only of Burke's
famous contributions thereto, but even a devourer of all the pamphlets
which swarmed during that agitated period from the press. The desultory
student, however, did not altogether intermit his academical studies.
In 1793 he competed for another Greek verse prize, this time
unsuccessfully. He afterwards described his ode _On Astronomy_ as "the
finest Greek poem I ever wrote;" [4] but, whatever may have been its
merits from the point of view of scholarship, the English translation
of it, made eight years after by Southey (in which form alone it now
exists), seems hardly to establish its title to the peculiar merit
claimed by its author for his earlier effort. The long vacation of this
year, spent by him in Devonshire, is also interesting as having given
birth to one of the most characteristic of the _Juvenile Poems,_ the
_Songs of the Pixies_, and the closing months of 1793 were marked by
the most singular episode in the poet's earlier career.

It is now perhaps impossible to ascertain whether the cause of this
strange adventure of Coleridge's was, "chagrin at his disappointment in
a love affair" or "a fit of dejection and despondency caused by some
debts not amounting to a hundred pounds;" but, actuated by some impulse
or other of restless disquietude, Coleridge suddenly quitted Cambridge
and came up, very slenderly provided with money, to London, where,
after a few days' sojourn, he was compelled by pressure of actual need
to enlist, under the name of Silas Titus Comberback (S. T. C.), [5] as
a private in the 15th Light Dragoons. It may seem strange to say so,
but it strikes one as quite conceivable that the world might have been
a gainer if fate had kept Coleridge a little longer in the ranks than
the four months of his actual service. As it was, however, his military
experiences, unlike those of Gibbon, were of no subsequent advantage to
him. He was, as he tells us, an execrable rider, a negligent groom of
his horse, and, generally, a slack and slovenly trooper; but before
drill and discipline had had time to make a smart soldier of him, he
chanced to attract the attention of his captain by having written a
Latin quotation on the white wall of the stables at Reading. This
officer, who it seems was either able to translate the ejaculation,
"Eheu! quam infortunii miserrimum est fuisse felicem," [7] or, at any
rate, to recognise the language it was written in, interested himself
forthwith on behalf of his scholarly recruit. [6] Coleridge's discharge
was obtained at Hounslow on April 10, 1794, and he returned to
Cambridge.

The year was destined to be eventful for him in more ways than one. In
June he went to Oxford to pay a visit to an old schoolfellow, where an
accidental introduction to Robert Southey, then an undergraduate of
Balliol, laid the foundation of a friendship destined largely to
influence their future lives. In the course of the following August he
came to Bristol, where he was met by Southey, and by him introduced to
Robert Lovell, through whom and Southey he made the acquaintance of two
persons of considerable, if not exactly equal, importance to any young
author--his first publisher and his future wife. Robert Lovell already
knew Mr. Joseph Cottle, brother of Amos Cottle (Byron's "O! Amos
Cottle! Phoebus! what a name"), and himself a poet of some pretensions;
and he had married Mary Fricker, one of whose sisters, Edith, was
already engaged to Southey; while another, Sara, was afterwards to
become Mrs. Coleridge.

As the marriage turned out on the whole an unhappy one, the present may
be a convenient moment for considering how far its future character was
determined by previously existing and unalterable conditions, and how
far it may be regarded as the result of subsequent events. De Quincey,
whose acute and in many respects most valuable monograph on the poet
touches its point of least trustworthiness in matters of this kind,
declares roundly, and on the alleged authority of Coleridge himself,
that the very primary and essential prerequisite of happiness was
wanting to the union. Coleridge, he says, assured him 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, he adds, "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." One need not, I
think, feel much hesitation in preferring this "neutral spectator's"
statement to that of the discontented husband, made several years after
the mutual estrangement of the couple, and with no great propriety
perhaps, to a new acquaintance. There is abundant evidence in his own
poems alone that at the time of, and for at least two or three years
subsequently to, his marriage Coleridge's feeling towards his wife was
one of profound and indeed of ardent attachment. It is of course quite
possible that the passion of so variable, impulsive, and irresolute a
temperament as his may have had its hot and cold fits, and that during
one of the latter phases Southey may have imagined that his friend
needed some such remonstrance as that referred to. But this is not
nearly enough to support the assertion that Coleridge's marriage was
"in a manner forced upon his sense of honour," and was not his own
deliberate act. It was as deliberate as any of his other acts during
the years 1794 and 1795,--that is to say, it was as wholly inspired by
the enthusiasm of the moment, and as utterly ungoverned by anything in
the nature of calculation on the possibilities of the future. He fell
in love with Sara Fricker as he fell in love with the French Revolution
and with the scheme of "Pantisocracy," and it is indeed extremely
probable that the emotions of the lover and the socialist may have
subtly acted and reacted upon each other. The Pantisocratic scheme was
essentially based at its outset upon a union of kindred souls, for it
was clearly necessary of course that each male member of the little
community to be founded on the banks of the Susquehanna should take
with him a wife. Southey and Lovell had theirs in the persons of two
sisters; they were his friends and fellow-workers in the scheme; and
they had a sympathetic sister-in-law disengaged. Fate therefore seemed
to designate her for Coleridge and with the personal attraction which
she no doubt exerted over him there may well have mingled a dash of
that mysterious passion for symmetry which prompts a man to "complete
the set." After all, too, it must be remembered that, though Mrs.
Coleridge did not permanently retain her hold upon her husband's
affections, she got considerably the better of those who shared them
with her. Coleridge found out the objections to Pantisocracy in a very
short space of time, and a decided coolness had sprung up between him
and Madame la Revolution before another two years had passed.

The whole history indeed of this latter _liaison_ is most remarkable,
and no one, it seems to me, can hope to form an adequate conception of
Coleridge's essential instability of character without bestowing
somewhat closer attention upon this passage in his intellectual
development than it usually receives. It is not uncommon to see the
cases of Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge lumped together
indiscriminately, as interequivalent illustrations of the way in which
the young and generous minds of that era were first fascinated and then
repelled by the French Revolution. As a matter of fact, however, the
last of the three cases differed in certain very important respects
from the two former. Coleridge not only took the "frenzy-fever" in a
more violent form than either Wordsworth or Southey, and uttered wilder
things in his delirium than they, but the paroxysm was much shorter,
the _immediate_ reaction more violent in its effects and brought about
by slighter causes in his case than in theirs. This will appear more
clearly when we come to contrast the poems of 1794 and 1795 with those
of 1797. For the present it must suffice to say that while the history
of Coleridge's relations to the French Revolution is intellectually
more interesting than that of Wordsworth's and Southey's, it plainly
indicates, even in that early period of the three lives, a mind far
more at the mercy of essentially transitory sentiment than belonged to
either of the others, and far less disposed than theirs to review the
aspirations of the moment by the steady light of the practical judgment.

This, however, is anticipating matters. We are still in the summer of
1794, and we left Coleridge at Bristol with Southey, Lovell, and the
Miss Frickers. To this year belongs that remarkable experiment in
playwriting at high pressure, _The Fall of Robespierre_. It originated,
we learn from Southey, in "a sportive conversation at poor Lovell's,"
when each of the three friends agreed to produce one act of a tragedy,
on the subject indicated in the above title, by the following evening.
Coleridge was to write the first, Southey the second, and Lovell the
third. Southey and Lovell appeared the next day with their acts
complete, Coleridge, characteristically, with only a part of his.
Lovell's, however, was found not to be in keeping with the other two,
so Southey supplied the third as well as the second, by which time
Coleridge had completed the first. The tragedy was afterwards published
entire, and is usually included in complete editions of Coleridge's
poetical works. It is an extremely immature production, abounding in
such coquettings (if nothing more serious) with bathos as

                                      "Now,
  Aloof thou standest from the tottering pillar,
  And like a frighted child behind its mother,
  Hidest thy pale face in the skirts of Mercy."

and

  "Liberty, condensed awhile, is bursting
  To scatter the arch-chemist in the explosion."

Coleridge also contributed to Southey's _Joan of Arc_ certain lines of
which, many years afterwards, he wrote in this humorously exaggerated
but by no means wholly unjust tone of censure:--"I was really
astonished (1) at the schoolboy, wretched, allegoric machinery; (2) at
the transmogrification of the fanatic Virago into a modern novel-pawing
proselyte of the Age of Reason--a Tom Paine in petticoats; (3) at the
utter want of all rhythm in the verse, the monotony and dead plumb-down
of the pauses, and at the absence of all bone, muscle, and sinew in the
single lines."

In September Coleridge returned to Cambridge, to keep what turned out
to be his last term at Jesus. We may fairly suppose that he had already
made up his mind to bid adieu to the Alma Mater whose bosom he was
about to quit for that of a more venerable and, as he then believed, a
gentler mother on the banks of the Susquehanna; but it is not
impossible that in any case his departure might have been expedited by
the remonstrances of college authority. Dr. Pearce, Master of Jesus,
and afterwards Dean of Ely, did all he could, records a friend of a
somewhat later date, "to keep him within bounds; but his repeated
efforts to reclaim him were to no purpose, and upon one occasion, after
a long discussion on the visionary and ruinous tendency of his later
schemes, Coleridge cut short the argument by bluntly assuring him, his
friend and master, that he mistook the matter altogether. He was
neither Jacobin, [8] he said, nor Democrat, but a Pantisocrat." And,
leaving the good doctor to digest this new and strange epithet,
Coleridge bade farewell to his college and his university, and went
forth into that world with which he was to wage so painful and variable
a struggle.


FOOTNOTES

1. He tells us in the _Biographia Literaria_ that he had translated the
eight hymns of Synesius from the Greek into English anacreontics
"before his fifteenth year." It is reasonable to suppose, therefore,
that he had more scholarship in 1782 than most boys of ten years.

2. Footnote: Gillman, pp. 22, 23.

3. Of this Coleridge afterwards remarked with justice that its "ideas
were better than the language or metre in which they were conveyed."
Porson, with little magnanimity, as De Quincey complains, was severe
upon its Greek, but its main conception--an appeal to Death to come, a
welcome deliverer to the slaves, and to bear them to shores where "they
may tell their beloved ones what horrors they, being men, had endured
from men"--is moving and effective. De Quincey, however, was
undoubtedly right in his opinion that Coleridge's Greek scholarship was
not of the exact order. No exact scholar could, for instance, have died
in the faith (as Coleridge did) that εστησε (S. T. C.) means "he
stood," and not "he placed."

4. Adding "that which gained the prize was contemptible"--an expression
of opinion hardly in accordance with Le Grice's statement
("Recollections" in _Gentleman's Magazine_ for 1836) that "no one was
more convinced of the propriety of the decision than Coleridge
himself." Mr. Le Grice, however, bears valuable testimony to
Coleridge's disappointment, though I think he exaggerates its influence
in determining his career.

5. It is characteristic of the punctilious inaccuracy of Mr. Cottle
(_Recollections_, ii. 54) that he should insist that the assumed name
was "Cumberbatch, not Comberback," though Coleridge has himself fixed
the real name by the jest, "My habits were so little equestrian, that
my horse, I doubt not, was of that opinion." This circumstance, though
trifling, does not predispose us to accept unquestioningly Mr. Cottle's
highly particularised account of Coleridge's experience with his
regiment.

6. Miss Mitford, in her _Recollections of a Literary Life_,
interestingly records the active share taken by her father in procuring
the learned trooper's discharge.

7. "In omni adversitate fortunæ, infelicissimum genus est infortunii
fuisse felicem."--_Boethius_.

8. Carrlyon's _Early Years and late Reflections_, vol. i. p. 27.



CHAPTER II.

The Bristol Lectures--Marriage--Life at Clevedon--The
_Watchman_--Retirement to Stowey--Introduction to Wordsworth.

[1794-1797.]


The reflections of the worthy Master of Jesus upon the strange reply of
the wayward young undergraduate would have been involved in even
greater perplexity if he could have looked forward a few months into
the future. For after a winter spent in London, and enlivened by those
_noctes conoque Deûm_ at the "Cat and Salutation," which Lamb has so
charmingly recorded, Coleridge returned with Southey to Bristol at the
beginning of 1795, and there proceeded to deliver a series of lectures
which, whatever their other merits, would certainly not have assisted
Dr. Pearce to grasp the distinction between a Pantisocrat and a
Jacobin. As a scholar and a man of literary taste he might possibly
have admired the rhetorical force of the following outburst, but,
considering that the "HE" here gibbeted in capitals was no less a
personage than the "heaven-born minister" himself, a plain man might
well have wondered what additional force the vocabulary of Jacobinism
could have infused into the language of Pantisocracy. After summing up
the crimes of the Reign of Terror the lecturer asks: "Who, my brethren,
was the cause of this guilt if not HE who supplied the occasion and the
motive? Heaven hath bestowed on _that man_ a portion of its ubiquity,
and given him an actual presence in the sacraments of hell, wherever
administered, in all the bread of bitterness, in all the cups of
blood." And in general, indeed, the _Conciones ad Populum_, as
Coleridge named these lectures on their subsequent publication, were
rather calculated to bewilder any of the youthful lecturer's
well-wishers who might be anxious for some means of discriminating his
attitude from that of the Hardys, the Horne Tookes, and the Thelwalls
of the day. A little warmth of language might no doubt be allowed to a
young friend of liberty in discussing legislation which, in the
retrospect, has staggered even so staunch a Tory as Sir Archibald
Alison; but Coleridge's denunciation of the Pitt and Grenville Acts, in
the lecture entitled _The Plot Discovered_, is occasionally startling,
even for that day of fierce passions, in the fierceness of its
language. It is interesting, however, to note the ever-active play of
thought and reasoning amid the very storm and stress of political
passion. Coleridge is never for long together a mere declaimer on
popular rights and ministerial tyranny, and even this indignant address
contains a passage of extremely just and thoughtful analysis of the
constituent elements of despotism. Throughout the spring and summer of
1795 Coleridge continued his lectures at Bristol, his head still
simmering--though less violently, it may be suspected, every
month--with Pantisocracy, and certainly with all his kindred political
and religious enthusiasms unabated.

A study of these crude but vigorous addresses reveals to us, as does
the earlier of the early poems, a mind struggling with its half-formed
and ever-changing conceptions of the world, and, as is usual at such
peculiar phases of an intellectual development, affirming its temporary
beliefs with a fervour and vehemence directly proportioned to the
recency of their birth. Commenting on the _Conciones ad Populum_ many
years afterwards, and invoking them as witnesses to his political
consistency as an author, Coleridge remarked that with the exception of
"two or three pages involving the doctrine of philosophical necessity
and Unitarianism," he saw little or nothing in these outbursts of his
youthful zeal to retract, and, with the exception of "some
flame-coloured epithets" applied to persons, as to Mr. Pitt and others,
"or rather to personifications"--for such, he says, they really were to
him--as little to regret.

We now, however, arrive at an event, important in the life of every
man, and which influenced that of Coleridge to an extent not the less
certainly extraordinary because difficult, if not impossible, to define
with exactitude. On the 4th of October 1795 Coleridge was married at
St. Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol, to Sarah (or as he preferred to
spell it Sara) Fricker, and withdrew for a time from the eager
intellectual life of a political lecturer to the contemplative quiet
appropriate to the honeymoon of a poet, spent in a sequestered cottage
amid beautiful scenery, and within sound of the sea. No wonder that
among such surroundings, and with such belongings, the honeymoon should
have extended from one month to three, and indeed that Coleridge should
have waited till his youthful yearnings for a life of action, and
perhaps (though that would have lent itself less gracefully to his poem
of farewell to his Clevedon cottage) his increasing sense of the
necessity of supplementing the ambrosia of love with the bread and
cheese of mortals, compelled him to re-enter the world. No wonder he
should have delayed to do so, for it is as easy to perceive in his
poems that these were days of unclouded happiness as it is melancholy
to reflect by how few others like them his life was destined to be
brightened. The _Æolian Harp_ has no more than the moderate merits,
with its full share of the characteristic faults, of his earlier
productions; but one cannot help "reading into it" the poet's
after-life of disappointment and disillusion--estrangement from the
"beloved woman" in whose affection he was then reposing; decay and
disappearance of those "flitting phantasies" with which he was then so
joyously trifling, and the bitterly ironical scholia which fate was
preparing for such lines as

  "And tranquil muse upon tranquillity."

One cannot in fact refrain from mentally comparing the _'olian Harp_ of
1795 with the _Dejection_ of 1803, and no one who has thoroughly felt
the spirit of both poems can make that comparison without emotion. The
former piece is not, as has been said, in a literary sense remarkable.
With the exception of the one point of metrical style, to be touched on
presently, it has almost no note of poetic distinction save such as
belongs of right to any simple record of a mood which itself forms the
highest poetry of the average man's life; and one well knows whence
came the criticism of that MS. note inscribed by S. T. C. in a copy of
the second edition of his early poems, "This I think the most perfect
poem I ever wrote. Bad may be the best perhaps." One feels that the
annotator might just as well have written, "How perfect was the
happiness which this poem recalls!" for this is really all that
Coleridge's eulogium, with its touching bias from the hand of memory,
amounts to.

It has become time, however, to speak more generally of Coleridge's
early poems. The peaceful winter months of 1795-96 were in all
likelihood spent in arranging and revising the products of those poetic
impulses which had more or less actively stirred within him from his
seventeenth year upwards; and in April 1797 there appeared at Bristol a
volume of some fifty pieces entitled _Poems on Various Subjects, by S.
T. Coleridge, late of Jesus College Cambridge_. It was published by his
friend Cottle, who, in a mixture of the generous with the speculative
instinct, had given him thirty guineas for the copyright. Its contents
are of a miscellaneous kind, consisting partly of rhymed irregular
odes, partly of a collection of _Sonnets on Eminent Characters_, and
partly (and principally) of a blank verse poem of several hundred
lines, then, and indeed for years afterwards, regarded by many of the
poet's admirers as his masterpiece--the _Religious Musings_. [1]

To the second edition of these poems, which was published in the
following year, Coleridge, at all times a candid critic (to the limited
extent to which it is possible even for the finest judges to be so) of
his own works, prefixed a preface, wherein he remarks that his poems
have been "rightly charged with a profusion of double epithets and a
general turgidness," and adds that he has "pruned the double epithets
with no sparing hand," and used his best efforts to tame the swell and
glitter both of thought and diction. "The latter fault, however, had,"
he continues, "so insinuated itself into my _Religious Musings_ with
such intricacy of union that sometimes I have omitted to disentangle
the weed from fear of snapping the flower." This is plain-spoken
criticism, but I do not think that any reader who is competent to
pronounce judgment on the point will be inclined to deprecate its
severity. Nay, in order to get done with fault-finding as soon as
possible, it must perhaps be added that the admitted turgidness of the
poems is often something more than a mere defect of style, and that the
verse is turgid because the feeling which it expresses is exaggerated.
The "youthful bard unknown to fame" who, in the _Songs of the Pixies_,
is made to "heave the gentle misery of a sigh," is only doing a natural
thing described in ludicrously and unnaturally stilted terms; but the
young admirer of the _Robbers_, who informs Schiller that if he were to
meet him in the evening wandering in his loftier mood "beneath some
vast old tempest-swinging wood," he would "gaze upon him awhile in mute
awe" and then "weep aloud in a wild ecstasy," endangers the reader's
gravity not so much by extravagance of diction as by over-effusiveness
of sentiment. The former of these two offences differs from the latter
by the difference between "fustian" and "gush." And there is, in fact,
more frequent exception to be taken to the character of the thought in
these poems than to that of the style. The remarkable gift of
eloquence, which seems to have belonged to Coleridge from boyhood,
tended naturally to aggravate that very common fault of young poets
whose faculty of expression has outstripped the growth of their
intellectual and emotional experiences--the fault of wordiness. Page
after page of the poems of 1796 is filled with what one cannot, on the
most favourable terms, rank higher than rhetorical commonplace; stanza
after stanza falls pleasantly upon the ear without suggesting any image
sufficiently striking to arrest the eye of the imagination, or
awakening any thought sufficiently novel to lay hold upon the mind. The
_Æolian Harp_ has been already referred to as a pleasing poem, and
reading it, as we must, in constant recollection of the circumstances
in which it was written, it unquestionably is so. But in none of the
descriptions either of external objects or of internal feeling which
are to be found in this and its companion piece, the _Reflections on
having left a Place of Retirement_, is there anything which can fairly
be said to elevate them above the level of graceful verse. It is only
in the region of the fantastic and supernatural that Coleridge's
imagination, as he was destined to show by a far more splendid example
two years afterwards, seems to acquire true poetic distinction. It is
in the _Songs of the Pixies_ that the young man "heaves the gentle
misery of a sigh," and the sympathetic interest of the reader of today
is chilled by the too frequent intrusion of certain abstract ladies,
each preceded by her capital letter and attended by her
"adjective-in-waiting;" but, after all deductions for the
conventionalisms of "white-robed Purity," "meek-eyed Pity," "graceful
Ease," etc., one cannot but feel that the _Songs of the Pixies_ was the
offspring not of a mere abundant and picturesque vocabulary but of a
true poetic fancy. It is worth far more as an earnest of future
achievement than the very unequal _Monody on the Death of Chatterton_
(for which indeed we ought to make special allowance, as having been
commenced in the author's eighteenth year), and certainly than anything
which could be quoted from the _Effusions_, as Coleridge, unwilling to
challenge comparison with the divine Bowles, had chosen to describe his
sonnets. It must be honestly said indeed that these are, a very few
excepted, among the least satisfactory productions of any period of his
poetic career. The Coleridgian sonnet is not only imperfect in form and
in marked contrast in the frequent bathos of its close to the steady
swell and climax of Wordsworth, but, in by far the majority of
instances in this volume, it is wanting in internal weight. The "single
pebble" of thought which a sonnet should enclose is not only not neatly
wrapped up in its envelope of words, but it is very often not heavy
enough to carry itself and its covering to the mark. When it is so, its
weight, as in the sonnet to Pitt, is too frequently only another word
for an ephemeral violence of political feeling which, whether displayed
on one side or the other, cannot be expected to reproduce its effect in
the minds of comparatively passionless posterity. Extravagances, too,
abound, as when in _Kosciusko_ Freedom is made to look as if, in a fit
of "wilfulness and sick despair," she had drained a mystic urn
containing all the tears that had ever found "fit channel on a
Patriot's furrowed cheek." The main difficulty of the metre, too--that
of avoiding forced rhymes--is rarely surmounted. Even in the three fine
lines in the _Burke_---

  "Thee stormy Pity and the cherished lure
  Of Pomp and proud precipitance of soul,
  Wildered with meteor fires"--

we cannot help feeling that "lure" is extremely harsh, while the
weakness of the two concluding lines of the sonnet supplies a typical
example of the disappointment which these "effusions" so often prepare
for their readers.

Enough, however, has been said of the faults of these early poems; it
remains to consider their merits, foremost among which, as might be
expected, is the wealth and splendour of their diction in these
passages, in which such display is all that is needed for the literary
ends of the moment. Over all that wide region of literature, in which
force and fervour of utterance, depth and sincerity of feeling avail,
without the nameless magic of poetry in the higher sense of the word,
to achieve the objects of the writer and to satisfy the mind of the
reader, Coleridge ranges with a free and sure footstep. It is no
disparagement to his _Religious Musings_ to say that it is to this
class of literature that it belongs. Having said this, however, it must
be added that poetry of the second order has seldom risen to higher
heights of power. The faults already admitted disfigure it here and
there. We have "moon blasted Madness when he yells at midnight;" we
read of "eye-starting wretches and rapture-trembling seraphim," and the
really striking image of Ruin, the "old hag, unconquerable, huge,
Creation's eyeless drudge," is marred by making her "nurse" an
"impatient earthquake." But there is that in Coleridge's aspirations
and apostrophes to the Deity which impresses one even more profoundly
than the mere magnificence, remarkable as it is, of their rhetorical
clothing. They are touched with so penetrating a sincerity; they are so
obviously the outpourings of an awe-struck heart. Indeed, there is
nothing more remarkable at this stage of Coleridge's poetic development
than the instant elevation which his verse assumes whenever he passes
to Divine things. At once it seems to take on a Miltonic majesty of
diction and a Miltonic stateliness of rhythm. The tender but low-lying
domestic sentiment of the _Æolian Harp_ is in a moment informed by it
with the dignity which marks that poem's close. Apart too from its
literary merits, the biographical interest of _Religious Musings_ is
very considerable. "Written," as its title declares, but in reality, as
its length would suggest and as Mr. Cottle in fact tells us, only
_completed_, "on the Christmas eve of 1794," it gives expression to the
tumultuous emotions by which Coleridge's mind was agitated at this its
period of highest political excitement. His revolutionary enthusiasm
was now at its hottest, his belief in the infant French Republic at its
fullest, his wrath against the "coalesced kings" at its fiercest, his
contempt for their religious pretence at its bitterest. "Thee to
defend," he cries,

  "Thee to defend, dear Saviour of mankind!
  Thee, Lamb of God! Thee, blameless Prince of Peace!
  From all sides rush the thirsty brood of war--
  Austria, and that foul Woman of the North,
  The lustful murderess of her wedded lord,
  And he, connatural mind! whom (in their songs,
  So bards of elder time had haply feigned)
  Some Fury fondled in her hate to man,
  Bidding her serpent hair in tortuous fold
  Lick his young face, and at his mouth imbreathe
  Horrible sympathy!"

This is vigorous poetic invective; and the effect of such outbursts is
heightened by the rapid subsidence of the passion that inspires them
and the quick advent of a calmer mood. We have hardly turned the page
ere denunciations of Catherine and Frederick William give place to
prayerful invocations of the Supreme Being, which are in their turn the
prelude of a long and beautiful contemplative passage: "In the prim'val
age, a dateless while," etc., on the pastoral origin of human society.
It is as though some sweet and solemn strain of organ music had
succeeded to the blast of war-bugles and the roll of drums. In the _Ode
to the Departing Year_, written in the last days of 1796, with its
"prophecy of curses though I pray fervently for blessings" upon the
poet's native country, the mood is more uniform in its gloom; and it
lacks something, therefore, of those peculiar qualities which make the
_Religious Musings_ one perhaps of the most pleasing of all Coleridge's
earlier productions. But it shares with the poems shortly to be noticed
what may be called the autobiographic charm. The fresh natural emotion
of a young and brilliant mind is eternally interesting, and Coleridge's
youthful Muse, with a frankness of self-disclosure which is not the
less winning because at times it provokes a smile, confides to us even
the history of her most temporary moods. It is, for instance, at once
amusing and captivating to read in the latest edition of the poems, as
a footnote to the lines--

  "Not yet enslaved, not wholly vile,
  O Albion! O my mother isle!"

the words--

  "O doomed to fall, enslaved and vile--1796."

Yes; in 1796 and till the end of 1797 the poet's native country _was_
in his opinion all these dreadful things, but, directly the mood
changes, the verse alters, and to the advantage, one cannot but think,
of the beautiful and often-quoted close of the passage--

"And Ocean mid his uproar wild
   Speaks safety to his island child.
    Hence for many a fearless age
    Has social Quiet loved thy shore,
   Nor ever proud invader's rage,
   Or sacked thy towers or stained thy fields with gore."

And whether we view him in his earlier or his later mood there is a
certain strange dignity of utterance, a singular confidence in his own
poetic mission, which forbids us to smile at this prophet of
four-and-twenty who could thus conclude his menacing vaticinations:--

  "Away, my soul, away!
   I, unpartaking of the evil thing,
    With daily prayer and daily toil
    Soliciting for food my scanty soil,
   Have wailed my country with a loud lament.
   Now I recentre my immortal mind
    In the deep Sabbath of meek self-content,
   Cleansed from the vaporous passions which bedim
   God's image, sister of the Seraphim."

If ever the consciousness of great powers and the assurance of a great
future inspired a youth with perfect and on the whole well-warranted
fearlessness of ridicule it has surely done so here.

Poetry alone, however, formed no sufficient outlet for Coleridge's
still fresh political enthusiasm--an enthusiasm which now became too
importunate to let him rest in his quiet Clevedon cottage. Was it
right, he cries in his lines of leave-taking to his home, that he
should dream away the entrusted hours "while his unnumbered brethren
toiled and bled"? The propaganda of Liberty was to be pushed forward;
the principles of Unitarianism, to which Coleridge had become a convert
at Cambridge, were to be preached. Is it too prosaic to add that what
poor Henri Murger calls the "chasse aux piecè de cent sous" was in all
probability demanding peremptorily to be resumed?

Anyhow it so fell out that in the spring of the year 1796 Coleridge
took his first singular plunge into the unquiet waters of journalism,
instigated thereto by "sundry philanthropists and anti-polemists,"
whose names he does not record, but among whom we may conjecturally
place Mr. Thomas Poole of Stowey, with whom he had formed what was
destined to be one of the longest and closest friendships of his life.
Which of the two parties--the advisers or the advised--was responsible
for the general plan of this periodical and for the arrangements for
its publication is unknown; but one of these last-mentioned details is
enough to indicate that there could have been no "business head" among
them. Considering that the motto of the _Watchman_ declared the object
of its issue to be that "all might know the truth, and that the truth
might make them free," it is to be presumed that the promoters of the
scheme were not unwilling to secure as many subscribers as possible for
their sheet of "thirty-two pages, large octavo, closely printed, price
only fourpence." In order, however, to exempt it from the stamp-tax,
and with the much less practical object of making it "contribute as
little as possible to the supposed guilt of a war against freedom," it
was to be published on every eighth day, so that the week-day of its
appearance would of course vary with each successive week--an
arrangement as ingeniously calculated to irritate and alienate its
public as any perhaps that the wit of man could have devised. So,
however, it was to be, and accordingly with "a naming prospectus,
'Knowledge is Power,' to cry the state of the political atmosphere,"
Coleridge set off on a tour to the north, from Bristol to Sheffield,
for the purpose of procuring customers, preaching Unitarian sermons by
the way in most of the great towns, "as an hireless volunteer in a blue
coat and white waistcoat that not a rag of the woman of Babylon might
be seen on me." How he sped upon his mission is related by him with
infinite humour in the _Biographia Literaria_. He opened the campaign
at Birmingham upon a Calvinist tallow-chandler, who, after listening to
half an hour's harangue, extending from "the captivity of the nations"
to "the near approach of the millennium," and winding up with a
quotation describing the latter "glorious state" out of the _Religious
Musings_, inquired what might be the cost of the new publication.
Deeply sensible of "the anti-climax, the abysmal bathos" of the answer,
Coleridge replied, "Only fourpence, each number to be published every
eighth day," upon which the tallow-chandler observed doubtfully that
that came to "a deal of money at the end of the year." What determined
him, however, to withhold his patronage was not the price of the
article but its quantity, and not the deficiency of that quantity but
its excess. Thirty-two pages, he pointed out, was more than he ever
read all the year round, and though "as great a one as any man in
Brummagem for liberty and truth, and them sort of things, he begged to
be excused." Had it been possible to arrange for supplying him with
sixteen pages of the paper for twopence, a bargain might no doubt have
been struck; but he evidently had a business-like repugnance to
anything in the nature of "over-trading." Equally unsuccessful was a
second application made at Manchester to a "stately and opulent
wholesale dealer in cottons," who thrust the prospectus into his pocket
and turned his back upon the projector, muttering that he was "overrun
with these articles." This, however, was Coleridge's last attempt at
canvassing. His friends at Birmingham persuaded him to leave that work
to others, their advice being no doubt prompted, in part at least, by
the ludicrous experience of his qualifications as a canvasser which the
following incident furnished them. The same tradesman who had
introduced him to the patriotic tallow-chandler entertained him at
dinner, and, after the meal, invited his guest to smoke a pipe with him
and "two or three other _illuminati_ of the same rank." The invitation
was at first declined on the plea of an engagement to spend the evening
with a minister and his friends, and also because, writes Coleridge, "I
had never smoked except once or twice in my lifetime, and then it was
herb-tobacco mixed with Oronooko." His host, however, assured him that
the tobacco was equally mild, and "seeing, too, that it was of a yellow
colour," he took half a pipe of it, "filling the lower half of the
bowl," for some unexplained reason, "with salt." He was soon, however,
compelled to resign it "in consequence of a giddiness and distressful
feeling" in his eyes, which, as he had drunk but a single glass of ale,
he knew must have been the effect of the tobacco. Deeming himself
recovered after a short interval, he sallied forth to fulfil the
evening's engagement; but the symptoms returned with the walk and the
fresh air, and he had scarcely entered the minister's drawing-room and
opened a packet of letters awaiting him there than he "sank back on the
sofa in a sort of swoon rather than sleep." Fortunately he had had time
to inform his new host of the confused state of his feelings and of its
occasion; for "here and thus I lay," he continues, "my face like a wall
that is whitewashing, deathly pale, and with the cold drops of
perspiration running down it from my forehead; while one after another
there dropped in the different gentlemen who had been invited to meet
and spend the evening with me, to the number of from fifteen to twenty.
As the poison of tobacco acts but for a short time, I at length awoke
from insensibility and looked round on the party, my eyes dazzled by
the candles, which had been lighted in the interim. By way of relieving
my embarrassment one of the gentlemen began the conversation with:
'Have you seen a paper to-day, Mr. Coleridge?' 'Sir,' I replied,
rubbing my eyes, 'I am far from convinced that a Christian is permitted
to read either newspapers or any other works of merely political and
temporary interest.'" The incongruity of this remark, with the purpose
for which the speaker was known to have visited Birmingham, and to
assist him in which the company had assembled, produced, as was
natural, "an involuntary and general burst of laughter," and the party
spent, we are told, a most delightful evening. Both then and
afterwards, however, they all joined in dissuading the young projector
from proceeding with his scheme, assuring him "in the most friendly and
yet most flattering expressions" that the employment was neither fit
for him nor he for the employment. They insisted that at any rate "he
should make no more applications in person, but carry on the canvass by
proxy," a stipulation which we may well believe to have been prompted
as much by policy as by good nature. The same hospitable reception, the
same dissuasion, and, that failing, the same kind exertions on his
behalf, he met with at Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, and every other
place he visited; and the result of his tour was that he returned with
nearly a thousand names on the subscription list of the _Watchman_,
together with "something more than a half conviction that prudence
dictated the abandonment of the scheme." Nothing but this, however, was
needed to induce him to persevere with it. To know that a given course
of conduct was the dictate of prudence was a sort of presumptive proof
to him at this period of life that the contrary was the dictate of
duty. In due time, or rather out of due time,--for the publication of
the first number was delayed beyond the day announced for it,--the
_Watchman_ appeared. Its career was brief--briefer, indeed, than it
need have been. A naturally short life was suicidally shortened. In the
second number, records Coleridge, with delightful _naïveté_, "an
essay against fast-days, with a most censurable application of a text
from Isaiah [2] for its motto, lost me near five hundred subscribers at
one blow." In the two following numbers he made enemies of all his
Jacobin and democratic patrons by playing Balaam to the legislation of
the Government, and pronouncing something almost like a blessing on the
"gagging bills"--measures he declared which, "whatever the motive of
their introduction, would produce an effect to be desired by all true
friends of freedom, as far as they should contribute to deter men from
openly declaiming on subjects the principles of which they had never
bottomed, and from pleading to the poor and ignorant instead of
pleading for them." At the same time the editor of the _Watchman_
avowed his conviction that national education and a concurring spread
of the Gospel were the indispensable conditions of any true political
amelioration. We can hardly wonder on the whole that by the time the
seventh number was published its predecessors were being "exposed in
sundry old iron shops at a penny a piece."

And yet, like everything which came from Coleridge's hand, this
immature and unpractical production has an interest of its own. Amid
the curious mixture of actuality and abstract disquisition of which
each number of the _Watchman_ is made up, we are arrested again and
again by some striking metaphor or some weighty sentence which tells us
that the writer is no mere wordy wielder of a facile pen. The paper on
the slave trade in the seventh number is a vigorous and, in places, a
heart-stirring appeal to the humane emotions. There are passages in it
which foreshadow Coleridge's more mature literary manner--the manner of
the great pulpit orators of the seventeenth century--in a very
interesting way. [3] But what was the use of No. IV containing an
effective article like this when No. III. had opened with an
"Historical Sketch of the Manners and Religion of the Ancient Germans,
introductory to a sketch of the Manners, Religion, and Politics of
present Germany"? This to a public who wanted to read about Napoleon
and Mr. Pitt! No. III. in all probability "choked off" a good
proportion of the commonplace readers who might have been well content
to have put up with the humanitarian rhetoric of No. IV., if only for
its connection with so unquestionable an actuality as West Indian
sugar. It was, anyhow, owing to successive alienations of this kind
that on 13th May 1796 the editor of the _Watchman_ was compelled to bid
farewell to his few remaining readers in the tenth number of his
periodical, for the "short and satisfactory" reason that "the work does
not pay its expenses." "Part of my readers," continues Coleridge,
"relinquished it because it did not contain sufficient original
composition, and a still larger part because it contained too much;"
and he then proceeds with that half-humorous simplicity of his to
explain what excellent reasons there were why the first of these
classes should transfer their patronage to Flower's _Cambridge
Intelligencer_, and the second theirs to the _New Monthly Magazine_.

It is not, however, for the biographer or the world to regret the short
career of the _Watchman_, since its decease left Coleridge's mind in
undivided allegiance to the poetic impulse at what was destined to be
the period of its greatest power. In the meantime one result of the
episode had been to make a not unimportant addition to his friendships.
Mention has already been made of his somewhat earlier acquaintance with
Mr. Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey, a man of high intelligence and mark
in his time; and it was in the course of his northern peregrinations in
search of subscribers that he met with Charles Lloyd. This young man,
the son of an eminent Birmingham banker, was so struck with Coleridge's
genius and eloquence as to conceive an "ardent desire to domesticate
himself permanently with a man whose conversation was to him as a
revelation from heaven;" and shortly after the decease of the
_Watchman_ he obtained his parents' consent to the arrangement.

Early, therefore, in the year 1797 Coleridge, accompanied by Charles
Lloyd, removed to Nether Stowey in Somersetshire, where he occupied a
cottage placed at his disposal by Mr. Poole. His first employment in
his new abode appears to have been the preparation of the second
edition of his poems. In the new issue nineteen pieces of the former
publication were discarded and twelve new ones added, the most
important of which was the _Ode to the Departing Year_, which had first
appeared in the _Cambridge Intelligencer_, and had been immediately
afterwards republished in a separate form as a thin quarto pamphlet,
together with some lines of no special merit "addressed to a young man
of fortune" (probably Charles Lloyd), "who abandoned himself to an
indolent and causeless melancholy." To the new edition were added the
preface already quoted from, and a prose introduction to the sonnets.
The volume also contained some poems by Charles Lloyd and an enlarged
collection of sonnets and other pieces by Charles Lamb, the latter of
whom about the time of its publication paid his first visit to the
friend with whom, ever since leaving Christ's Hospital, he had kept up
a constant and, to the student of literature, a most interesting
correspondence. [4] In June 1797 Charles and Mary Lamb arrived at the
Stowey cottage to find their host disabled by an accident which
prevented him from walking during their whole stay. It was during their
absence on a walking expedition that he composed the pleasing lines--

  "The lime-tree bower my prison,"

in which he thrice applies to his friend that epithet which gave such
humorous annoyance to the "gentle-hearted Charles." [5]

But a greater than Lamb, if one may so speak without offence to the
votaries of that rare humorist and exquisite critic, had already made
his appearance on the scene. Some time before this visit of Lamb's to
Stowey Coleridge had made the acquaintance of the remarkable man who
was destined to influence his literary career in many ways importantly,
and in one way decisively. It was in the month of June 1797, and at the
village of Racedown in Dorsetshire, that he first met William
Wordsworth.


FOOTNOTES

1. The volume contained also three sonnets by Charles Lamb, one of
which was destined to have a somewhat curious history.

2. "Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp."--Is. xvi. 11.

3. Take for instance this sentence: "Our own sorrows, like the Princes
of Hell in Milton's Pandemonium, sit enthroned 'bulky and vast;' while
the miseries of our fellow-creatures dwindle into pigmy forms, and are
crowded in an innumerable multitude into some dark corner of the
heart." Both in character of imagery and in form of structure we have
here the germ of such passages as this which one might confidently defy
the most accomplished literary "taster" to distinguish from Jeremy
Taylor: "Or like two rapid streams that at their first meeting within
narrow and rocky banks mutually strive to repel each other, and
intermix reluctantly and in tumult, but soon finding a wider channel
and more yielding shores, blend and dilate and flow on in one current
and with one voice."--_Biog. Lit._ p. 155.

4. Perhaps a "correspondence" of which only one side exists may be
hardly thought to deserve that name. Lamb's letters to Coleridge are
full of valuable criticism on their respective poetical efforts.
Unfortunately in, it is somewhat strangely said, "a fit of dejection"
he destroyed all Coleridge's letters to him.

5. Lamb's Correspondence with Coleridge, Letter XXXVII.



CHAPTER III.

Coleridge and Wordsworth--Publication of the _Lyrical Ballads_--The
_Ancient Mariner_--The first part of _Christabel_--Decline of
Coleridge's poetic impulse--Final review of his poetry.

[1797-1799.]


The years 1797 and 1798 are generally and justly regarded as the
blossoming-time of Coleridge's poetic genius. It would be scarcely an
exaggeration to say that they were even more than this, and that within
the brief period covered by them is included not only the development
of the poet's powers to their full maturity but the untimely beginnings
of their decline. For to pass from the poems written by Coleridge
within these two years to those of later origin is like passing from
among the green wealth of summer foliage into the well-nigh naked woods
of later autumn. During 1797 and 1798 the _Ancient Mariner_, the first
part of _Christabel_, the fine ode to France, the _Fears in Solitude_,
the beautiful lines entitled _Frost at Midnight_, the _Nightingale_,
the _Circassian Love-Chant_, the piece known as _Love_ from the poem of
the _Dark Ladie_, and that strange fragment _Kubla Khan_, were all of
them written and nearly all of them published; while between the last
composed of these and that swan-song of his dying Muse, the
_Dejection_, of 1802, there is but one piece to be added to the list of
his greater works. This therefore, the second part of _Christabel_
(1800), may almost be described by the picturesque image in the first
part of the same poem as

  "The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
   Hanging so light and hanging so high,
   On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky."

The first to fail him of his sources of inspiration was his
revolutionary enthusiasm; and the ode to France--the _Recantation_, as
it was styled on its first appearance in the _Morning Post_--is the
record of a reaction which, as has been said, was as much speedier in
Coleridge's case than in that of the other ardent young minds which had
come under the spell of the Revolution as his enthusiasm had been more
passionate than theirs. In the winter of 1797-98 the Directory had
plunged France into an unnatural conflict with her sister Republic of
Switzerland, and Coleridge, who could pardon and had pardoned her
fierce animosity against a country which he considered not so much his
own as Pitt's, was unable to forgive her this. In the _Recantation_ he
casts her off for ever; he perceives at last that true liberty is not
to be obtained through political, but only through spiritual
emancipation; that--

  "The sensual and the dark rebel in vain,
   Slaves by their own compulsion! In mad game
   They burst their manacles, and wear the name
   Of Freedom graven on a heavier chain";

and arrives in a noble peroration at the somewhat unsatisfactory
conclusion, that the spirit of liberty, "the guide of homeless winds
and playmate of the waves," is to be found only among the elements, and
not in the institutions of man. And in the same quaintly ingenuous
spirit which half touches and half amuses us in his earlier poems he
lets us perceive a few weeks later, in his _Fears in Solitude_, that
sympathy with a foreign nation threatened by the invader may gradually
develop into an almost filial regard for one's own similarly situated
land. He has been deemed, he says, an enemy of his country.

  "But, O dear Britain! O my mother Isle,"

once, it may be remembered, "doomed to fall enslaved and vile," but
now--

  "Needs must them prove a name most dear and holy,
   To me a son, a brother, and a friend,
   A husband and a father! who revere
   All bonds of natural love, and find them all
   Within the limits of thy rocky shores."

After all, it has occurred to him, England is not only the England of
Pitt and Grenville, and in that capacity the fitting prey of the
insulted French Republic: she is also the England of Sara Coleridge,
and little Hartley, and of Mr. Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey. And so,
to be sure, she was in 1796 when her downfall was predicted, and in the
spirit rather of the Old Testament than of the New. But there is
something very engaging in the candour with which the young poet
hastens to apprise us of this his first awakening to the fact.

_France_ may be regarded as the last ode, and _Fears in Solitude_ as
the last blank-verse poem of any importance, that owe their origin to
Coleridge's early political sentiments. Henceforth, and for the too
brief period of his poetic activity, he was to derive his inspiration
from other sources. The most fruitful and important of these was
unquestionably his intercourse with Wordsworth, from whom, although
there was doubtless a reciprocation of influence between them, his much
more receptive nature took a far deeper impression than it made. [1] At
the time of their meeting he had already for some three years been
acquainted with Wordsworth's works as a poet, and it speaks highly for
his discrimination that he was able to discern the great powers of his
future friend, even in work so immature in many respects as the
_Descriptive Sketches_. It was during the last year of his residence at
Cambridge that he first met with these poems, of which he says in the
_Biographia Literaria_ that "seldom, if ever, was the emergence of an
original poetic genius above the literary horizon more evidently
announced;" and the effect produced by this volume was steadily
enhanced by further acquaintance both with the poet and his works.
Nothing, indeed, is so honourably noticeable and even touching in
Coleridge's relation to his friend as the tone of reverence with which,
even in the days of his highest self-confidence and even almost haughty
belief in the greatness of his own poetic mission, he was accustomed to
speak of Wordsworth. A witness, to be more fully cited hereafter, and
whose testimony is especially valuable as that of one who was by no
means blind to Coleridge's early foible of self-complacency, has
testified to this unbounded admiration of his brother-poet. "When,"
records this gentleman, "we have sometimes spoken complimentarily to
Coleridge of himself he has said that he was nothing in comparison with
Wordsworth." And two years before this, at a time when they had not yet
tested each other's power in literary collaboration, he had written to
Cottle to inform him of his introduction to the author of "near twelve
hundred lines of blank verse, superior, I dare aver, to anything in our
language which in any way resembles it," and had declared with evident
sincerity that he felt "a little man" by Wordsworth's side.

His own impression upon his new friend was more distinctively personal
in its origin. It was by Coleridge's total individuality, by the sum of
his vast and varied intellectual powers, rather than by the specific
poetic element contained in them, that Wordsworth, like the rest of the
world indeed, was in the main attracted; but it is clear enough that
this attraction was from the first most powerful. On that point we have
not only the weighty testimony of Dorothy Wordsworth, as conveyed in
her often-quoted description [2] of her brother's new acquaintance, but
the still more conclusive evidence of her brother's own acts. He gave
the best possible proof of the fascination which had been exercised
over him by quitting Racedown with his sister for Alfoxden near Nether
Stowey within a few weeks of his first introduction to Coleridge, a
change of abode for which, as Miss Wordsworth has expressly recorded,
"our principal inducement was Coleridge's society."

By a curious coincidence the two poets were at this time simultaneously
sickening for what may perhaps be appropriately called the "poetic
measles." They were each engaged in the composition of a five-act
tragedy, and read scenes to each other, and to each other's admiration,
from their respective dramas. Neither play was fortunate in its
immediate destiny. Wordsworth's tragedy, the _Borderers_, was greatly
commended by London critics and decisively rejected by the management
of Covent Garden. As for Coleridge, the negligent Sheridan did not even
condescend to acknowledge the receipt of his manuscript; his play was
passed from hand to hand among the Drury Lane Committee; but not till
many years afterwards did _Osorio_ find its way under another name to
the footlights.

For the next twelvemonth the intercourse between the two poets was
close and constant, and most fruitful in results of high moment to
English literature. It was in their daily rambles among the Quantock
Hills that they excogitated that twofold theory of the essence and
functions of poetry which was to receive such notable illustration in
their joint volume of verse, the _Lyrical Ballads_; it was during a
walk over the Quantock Hills that by far the most famous poem of that
series, the _Ancient Mariner_, was conceived and in part composed. The
publication of the _Lyrical Ballads_ in the spring of the year 1798
was, indeed, an event of double significance for English poetry. It
marked an epoch in the creative life of Coleridge, and a no less
important one in the critical life of Wordsworth. In the _Biographia
Literaria_ the origination of the plan of the work is thus described:--

"During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours our
conversation turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry,
the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful
adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest
of novelty by the modifying colours of the imagination. The sudden
charm which accidents of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset
diffused over a known and familiar landscape appeared to represent the
practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The
thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a
series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one the
incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and
the interest aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the
affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally
accompany such situations, supposing them real.... For the second
class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life; the characters
and incidents were to be such as will be found in every village and its
vicinity where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after
them, or to notice them when they present themselves. In this idea
originated the plan of the _Lyrical Ballads_, in which it was agreed
that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters
supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our
inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to
procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of
disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith. Mr.
Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself, as his
object, to give the charm of novelty to things of everyday, and to
excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural by awakening the mind's
attention from the lethargy of custom and directing it to the
loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible
treasure, but for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and
selfish solicitude, we have eyes which see not, ears that hear not, and
hearts which neither feel nor understand."

We may measure the extent to which the poetic teaching and practice of
Wordsworth have influenced subsequent taste and criticism by noting how
completely the latter of these two functions of poetry has overshadowed
the former. To lend the charm of imagination to the real will appear to
many people to be not one function of poetry merely but its very
essence. To them it is poetry, and the only thing worthy of the name;
while the correlative function of lending the force of reality to the
imaginary will appear at best but a superior kind of metrical
romancing, or clever telling of fairy tales. Nor of course can there,
from the point of view of the highest conception of the poet's office,
be any comparison between the two. In so far as we regard poetry as
contributing not merely to the pleasure of the mind but to its health
and strength--in so far as we regard it in its capacity not only to
delight but to sustain, console, and tranquillise the human
spirit--there is, of course, as much difference between the idealistic
and the realistic forms of poetry as there is between a narcotic potion
and a healing drug. The one, at best, can only enable a man to forget
his burdens; the other fortifies him to endure them. It is perhaps no
more than was naturally to be expected of our brooding and melancholy
age, that poetry (when it is not a mere voluptuous record of the
subjective impressions of sense) should have become almost limited in
its very meaning to the exposition of the imaginative or spiritual
aspect of the world of realities; but so it is now, and so in
Coleridge's time it clearly was _not_. Coleridge, in the passage above
quoted, shows no signs of regarding one of the two functions which he
attributes to poetry as any more accidental or occasional than the
other; and the fact that the realistic portion of the _Lyrical Ballads_
so far exceeded in amount its supernatural element, he attributes not
to any inherent supremacy in the claims of the former to attention but
simply to the greater industry which Wordsworth had displayed in his
special department of the volume. For his own part, he says, "I wrote
the _Ancient Mariner_, and was preparing, among other poems, the _Dark
Ladie_ and the _Christabel_, in which I should have more nearly
realised my ideal than I had done in my first attempt. But Mr.
Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more successful, and the
number of the poems so much greater, that my compositions, instead of
forming a balance, appeared rather an interpolation of heterogeneous
matter." There was certainly a considerable disparity between the
amount of their respective contributions to the volume, which, in fact,
contained nineteen pieces by Wordsworth and only four by Coleridge.
Practically, indeed, we may reduce this four to one; for, of the three
others, the two scenes from _Osorio_ are without special distinction,
and the _Nightingale_, though a graceful poem, and containing an
admirably-studied description of the bird's note, is too slight and
short to claim any importance in the series. But the one long poem
which Coleridge contributed to the collection is alone sufficient to
associate it for ever with his name. _Unum sed leonem._ To any one who
should have taunted him with the comparative infertility of his Muse he
might well have returned the haughty answer of the lioness in the
fable, when he could point in justification of it to the _Rime of the
Ancient Marinere_.

There is, I may assume, no need at the present day to discuss the true
place in English literature of this unique product of the human
imagination. One is bound, however, to attempt to correlate and adjust
it to the rest of the poet's work, and this, it must be admitted, is a
most difficult piece of business. Never was there a poem so irritating
to a critic of the "pigeon-holing" variety. It simply defies him; and
yet the instinct which he obeys is so excusable, because in fact so
universal, that one feels guilty of something like disloyalty to the
very principles of order in smiling at his disappointment. Complete and
symmetrical classification is so fascinating an amusement; it would
simplify so many subjects of study, if men and things would only
consent to rank themselves under different categories, and remain
there; it would, in particular, be so inexpressibly convenient to be
able to lay your hand upon your poet whenever you wanted him by merely
turning to a shelf labelled "Realistic" or "Imaginative" (nay, perhaps,
to the still greater saving of labour--Objective or Subjective), that
we cannot be surprised at the strength of the aforesaid instinct in
many a critical mind. Nor should it be hard to realise its revolt
against those single exceptions which bring its generalisations to
nought. When the pigeon-hole will admit every "document" but one, the
case is hard indeed; and it is not too much to say that the _Ancient
Mariner_ is the one document which the pigeon-hole in this instance
declines to admit. If Coleridge had only refrained from writing this
remarkable poem, or if, having done so, he had written more poems like
it, the critic might have ticketed him with a quiet mind, and gone on
his way complacent. As it is, however, the poet has contrived in virtue
of this performance not only to defeat classification but to defy it.
For the weird ballad abounds in those very qualities in which
Coleridge's poetry with all its merits is most conspicuously deficient,
while on the other hand it is wholly free from the faults with which he
is most frequently and justly chargeable. One would not have said in
the first place that the author of _Religious Musings_, still less of
the _Monody on the Death of Chatterton_, was by any means the man to
have compassed triumphantly at the very first attempt the terseness,
vigour, and _naïveté_ of the true ballad-manner. To attain this,
Coleridge, the student of his early verse must feel, would have rather
more to retrench and much more to restrain than might be the case with
many other youthful poets. The exuberance of immaturity, the want of
measure, the "not knowing where to stop," are certainly even more
conspicuous in the poems of 1796 than they are in most productions of
the same stage of poetic development; and these qualities, it is
needless to say, require very stern chastening from him who would
succeed in the style which Coleridge attempted for the first time in
the _Ancient Mariner_.

The circumstances of this immortal ballad's birth have been related
with such fulness of detail by Wordsworth, and Coleridge's own
references to them are so completely reconcilable with that account,
that it must have required all De Quincey's consummate ingenuity as a
mischief-maker to detect any discrepancy between the two.

In the autumn of 1797, records Wordsworth in the MS. notes which he
left behind him, "Mr. Coleridge, my sister, and myself started from
Alfoxden pretty late in the afternoon with a view to visit Linton and
the Valley of Stones near to it; and as our united funds were very
small, we agreed to defray the expense of the tour by writing a poem to
be sent to the _New Monthly Magazine_. Accordingly we set off, and
proceeded along the Quantock Hills towards Watchet; and in the course
of this walk was planned the poem of the _Ancient Mariner_, founded on
a dream, as Mr. Coleridge said, of his friend Mr. Cruikshank. Much the
greatest part of the story was Mr. Coleridge's invention, but certain
parts I suggested; for example, some crime was to be committed which
should bring upon the Old Navigator, as Coleridge afterwards delighted
to call him, the spectral persecution, as a consequence of that crime
and his own wanderings. I had been reading in Shelvocke's _Voyages_, a
day or two before, that while doubling Cape Horn they frequently saw
albatrosses in that latitude, the largest sort of sea-fowl, some
extending their wings twelve or thirteen feet. 'Suppose,' said I, 'you
represent him as having killed one of these birds on entering the South
Sea, and that the tutelary spirits of these regions take upon them to
avenge the crime.' The incident was thought fit for the purpose, and
adopted accordingly. I also suggested the navigation of the ship by the
dead men, but do not recollect that I had anything more to do with the
scheme of the poem. The gloss with which it was subsequently
accompanied was not thought of by either of us at the time, at least
not a hint of it was given to me, and I have no doubt it was a
gratuitous afterthought. We began the composition together on that to
me memorable evening. I furnished two or three lines at the beginning
of the poem, in particular--

  "'And listened like a three years' child:
    The Mariner had his will.'

"These trifling contributions, all but one, which Mr. C. has with
unnecessary scrupulosity recorded,[3] slipped out of his mind, as they
well might. As we endeavoured to proceed conjointly (I speak of the
same evening) our respective manners proved so widely different that it
would have been quite presumptuous in me to do anything but separate
from an undertaking upon which I could only have been a clog.... The
_Ancient Mariner_ grew and grew till it became too important for our
first object, which was limited to our expectation of five pounds; and
we began to think of a volume which was to consist, as Mr. Coleridge
has told the world, of poems chiefly on supernatural subjects." Except
that the volume ultimately determined on was to consist only "partly"
and not "chiefly" of poems on supernatural subjects (in the result, as
has been seen, it consisted "chiefly" of poems upon natural subjects),
there is nothing in this account which cannot be easily reconciled with
the probable facts upon which De Quincey bases his hinted charge
against Coleridge in his _Lake Poets_. It was not Coleridge who had
been reading Shelvocke's _Voyages_, but Wordsworth, and it is quite
conceivable, therefore, that the source from which his friend had
derived the idea of the killing of the albatross may (if indeed he was
informed of it at the time) have escaped his memory twelve years
afterwards, when the conversation with De Quincey took place. Hence, in
"disowning his obligations to Shelvocke," he may not by any means have
intended to suggest that the albatross incident was his own thought.
Moreover, De Quincey himself supplies another explanation of the
matter, which we know, from the above-quoted notes of Wordsworth's, to
be founded upon fact. "It is possible," he adds, "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." Nothing, in fact, would be more
natural than that Coleridge, whose idea of the haunted seafarer was
primarily suggested by his friend's dream, and had no doubt been
greatly elaborated in his own imagination before being communicated to
Wordsworth at all, should have been unable, after a considerable lapse
of time, to distinguish between incidents of his own imagining and
those suggested to him by others. And, in any case, the "unnecessary
scrupulosity," rightly attributed to him by Wordsworth with respect to
this very poem, is quite incompatible with any intentional denial of
obligations.

Such, then, was the singular and even prosaic origin of the _Ancient
Mariner_--a poem written to defray the expenses of a tour; surely the
most sublime of "pot-boilers" to be found in all literature. It is
difficult, from amid the astonishing combination of the elements of
power, to select that which is the most admirable; but, considering
both the character of the story and of its particular vehicle, perhaps
the greatest achievement of the poem is the simple realistic force of
its narrative. To achieve this was of course Coleridge's main object:
he had undertaken to "transfer from our inward nature a human interest
and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of
imaginations that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which
constitutes poetic faith." But it is easier to undertake this than to
perform it, and much easier to perform it in prose than in verse--with
the assistance of the everyday and the commonplace than without it.
Balzac's _Peau de Chagrin_ is no doubt a great feat of the
realistic-supernatural; but no one can help feeling how much the author
is aided by his "broker's clerk" style of description, and by the
familiar Parisian scenes among which he makes his hero move. It is
easier to compass verisimilitude in the Palais-Royal than on the South
Pacific, to say nothing of the thousand assisting touches, out of place
in rhyme and metre, which can be thrown into a prose narrative. The
_Ancient Mariner_, however, in spite of all these drawbacks, is as real
to the reader as is the hero of the _Peau de Chagrin_; we are as
convinced of the curse upon one of the doomed wretches as upon the
other; and the strange phantasmagoric haze which is thrown around the
ship and the lonely voyager leaves their outlines as clear as if we saw
them through the sunshine of the streets of Paris. Coleridge triumphs
over his difficulties by sheer vividness of imagery and terse vigour of
descriptive phrase--two qualities for which his previous poems did not
prove him to possess by any means so complete a mastery. For among all
the beauties of his earlier landscapes we can hardly reckon that of
intense and convincing truth. He seems seldom before to have written,
as Wordsworth nearly always seems to write, "with his eye on the
object;" and certainly he never before displayed any remarkable power
of completing his word-picture with a few touches. In the _Ancient
Mariner_ his eye seems never to wander from his object, and again and
again the scene starts out upon the canvas in two or three strokes of
the brush. The skeleton ship, with the dicing demons on its deck; the
setting sun peering "through its ribs, as if through a dungeon-grate;"
the water-snakes under the moonbeams, with the "elfish light" falling
off them "in hoary flakes" when they reared; the dead crew, who work
the ship and "raise their limbs like lifeless tools"--everything seems
to have been actually _seen_, and we believe it all as the story of a
truthful eye-witness. The details of the voyage, too, are all
chronicled with such order and regularity, there is such a diary-like
air about the whole thing, that we accept it almost as if it were a
series of extracts from the ship's "log." Then again the execution--a
great thing to be said of so long a poem--is marvellously equal
throughout; the story never drags or flags for a moment, its felicities
of diction are perpetual, and it is scarcely marred by a single weak
line. What could have been better said of the instantaneous descent of
the tropical night than

  "The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out:
   At one stride comes the dark;"

what more weirdly imagined of the "cracks and growls" of the rending
iceberg than that they sounded "like noises in a swound"? And how
beautifully steals in the passage that follows upon the cessation of
the spirit's song--

  "It ceased; yet still the sails made on
   A pleasant noise till noon,
   A noise like to a hidden brook
   In the leafy month of June,
   That to the sleeping woods all night
   Singeth a quiet tune."

Then, as the ballad draws to its close, after the ship has drifted over
the harbour-bar--

  "And I with sobs did pray--
   O let me be awake, my God;
   Or let me sleep alway,"

with what consummate art are we left to imagine the physical traces
which the mariner's long agony had left behind it by a method far more
terrible than any direct description--the effect, namely, which the
sight of him produces upon others--

  "I moved my lips--the Pilot shrieked
   And fell down in a fit;
   The holy Hermit raised his eyes,
   And prayed where he did sit.

  "I took the oars: the Pilot's boy,
   _Who now doth crazy go_,
   Laughed loud and long, and all the while
   His eyes went to and fro.
   'Ha! ha!' quoth he, 'full plain I see,
   The Devil knows how to row.'"

Perfect consistency of plan, in short, and complete equality of
execution, brevity, self-restraint, and an unerring sense of artistic
propriety--these are the chief notes of the _Ancient Mariner_, as they
are _not_, in my humble judgment, the chief notes of any poem of
Coleridge's before or since. And hence it is that this masterpiece of
ballad minstrelsy is, as has been said, so confounding to the
"pigeon-holing" mind.

The next most famous poem of this or indeed of any period of
Coleridge's life is the fragment of _Christabel_, which, however, in
spite of the poet's own opinion on that point, it is difficult to
regard as "a more effective realisation" of the "natural-supernatural"
idea. Beautiful as it is, it possesses none of that human interest with
which, according to this idea, the narrator of the poetic story must
undertake to invest it. Nor can the unfinished condition in which it
was left be fairly held to account for this, for the characters
themselves--the lady Christabel, the witch Geraldine, and even the
baron Sir Leoline himself--are somewhat shadowy creations, with too
little hold upon life and reality, and too much resemblance to the
flitting figures of a dream. Powerful in their way as are the lines
descriptive of the spell thrown over Christabel by her uncanny
guest--lines at the recitation of which Shelley is said to have
fainted--we cannot say that they strike a reader with such a sense of
horror as should be excited by the contemplation of a real
flesh-and-blood maiden subdued by "the shrunken serpent eyes" of a
sorceress, and constrained "passively to imitate" their "look of dull
and treacherous hate." Judging it, however, by any other standard than
that of the poet's own erecting, one must certainly admit the claim of
_Christabel_ to rank very high as a work of pure creative art. It is so
thoroughly suffused and permeated with the glow of mystical romance,
the whole atmosphere of the poem is so exquisitely appropriate to the
subject, and so marvellously preserved throughout, that our lack of
belief in the reality of the scenes presented to us detracts but little
from the pleasure afforded by the artistic excellence of its
presentment. It abounds, too, in isolated pictures of surpassing
vividness and grace--word-pictures which live in the "memory of the
eye" with all the wholeness and tenacity of an actual painting.
Geraldine appearing to Christabel beneath the oak, and the two women
stepping lightly across the hall "that echoes still, pass as lightly as
you will," are pictures of this kind; and nowhere out of Keats's _Eve
of St. Agnes_ is there any "interior" to match that of Christabel's
chamber, done as it is in little more than half a dozen lines. These
beauties, it is true, are fragmentary, like the poem itself, but there
is no reason to believe that the poem itself would have gained anything
in its entirety--that is to say, as a poetic narrative--by completion.
Its main idea--that the purity of a pure maiden is a charm more
powerful for the protection of those dear to her than the spells of the
evil one for their destruction--had been already sufficiently
indicated, and the mode in which Coleridge, it seems, intended to have
worked would hardly have added anything to its effect. [4] And although
he clung till very late in life to the belief that he _could_ have
finished it in after days with no change of poetic manner--"If easy in
my mind," he says in a letter to be quoted hereafter, "I have no doubt
either of the reawakening power or of the kindling inclination"--there
are few students of his later poems who will share his confidence.
Charles Lamb strongly recommended him to leave it unfinished, and
Hartley Coleridge, in every respect as competent a judge on that point
as could well be found, always declared his conviction that his father
could not, at least _qualis ab incepto_, have finished the poem.

The much-admired little piece first published in the _Lyrical Ballads_
under the title of _Love_, and probably best known by its (original)
first and most pregnant stanza, [5] possesses a twofold interest for
the student of Coleridge's life and works, as illustrating at once one
of the most marked characteristics of his peculiar temperament, and one
of the most distinctive features of his poetic manner. The lines are
remarkable for a certain strange fascination of melody--a quality for
which Coleridge, who was not unreasonably proud of his musical gift, is
said to have especially prized them; and they are noteworthy also as
perhaps the fullest expression of the almost womanly softness of
Coleridge's nature. To describe their tone as effeminate would be
unfair and untrue, for effeminacy in the work of a male hand would
necessarily imply something of falsity of sentiment, and from this they
are entirely free. But it must certainly be admitted that for a man's
description of his wooing the warmth of feeling which pervades them is
as nearly sexless in character as it is possible to conceive; and,
beautiful as the verses are, one cannot but feel that they only escape
the "namby-pamby" by the breadth of a hair.

As to the wild dream-poem _Kubla Khan_, it is hardly more than a
psychological curiosity, and only that perhaps in respect of the
completeness of its metrical form. For amid its picturesque but vague
imagery there is nothing which might not have presented itself, and the
like of which has not perhaps actually presented itself, to many a
half-awakened brain of far lower imaginative energy during its hours of
full daylight consciousness than that of Coleridge. Nor possibly is it
quite an unknown experience to many of us to have even a fully-written
record, so to speak, of such impressions imprinted instantaneously on
the mind, the conscious composition of whole pages of narrative,
descriptive, or cogitative matter being compressed as it were into a
moment of time. Unfortunately, however, the impression made upon the
ordinary brain is effaced as instantaneously as it is produced; the
abnormal exaltation of the creative and apprehensive power is quite
momentary, being probably indeed confined to the single moment between
sleep and waking; and the mental tablet which a second before was
covered so thickly with the transcripts of ideas and images, all far
more vivid, or imagined to be so, than those of waking life, and all
apprehended with a miraculous simultaneity by the mind, is converted
into a _tabula rasa_ in the twinkling of a half-opened eye. The wonder
in Coleridge's case was that his brain retained the word-impressions
sufficiently long to enable him to commit them, to the extent at least
of some fifty odd lines, to paper, and that, according to his own
belief, this is but a mere fraction of what but for an unlucky
interruption in the work of transcribing he would have been able to
preserve. His own account of this curious incident is as follows:--

"In the summer of 1797 the author, then in ill health, had retired to a
lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of
Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an
anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep
in his chair at the moment that he was reading, the following sentence,
or words of the same substance, in Purchas's _Pilgrimage_:--'Here the
Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden
thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were enclosed by a
wall.' The Author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep,
at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most
vivid confidence that he could not have composed less than from two to
three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which
all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production
of the corresponding expressions, without any sensation or
consciousness of effect. On awaking he appeared to himself to have a
distinct recollection of the whole, and, taking his pen, ink, and
paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here
preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person
on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his
return to his room found, to his no small surprise and mortification,
that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the
general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or
ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the
images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast,
but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter."

This poem, though written in 1797, remained, like _Christabel_, in MS.
till 1816. These were then published in a thin quarto volume, together
with another piece called the _Pains of Sleep_, a composition of many
years' later date than the other two, and of which there will be
occasion to say a word or two hereafter.

At no time, however, not even in this the high-tide of its activity,
was the purely poetic impulse dominant for long together in Coleridge's
mind. He was born with the instincts of the orator, and still more with
those of the teacher, and I doubt whether he ever really regarded
himself as fulfilling the true mission of his life except at those
moments when he was seeking by spoken word to exercise direct influence
over his fellow-men. At the same time, however, such was the
restlessness of his intellect, and such his instability of purpose,
that he could no more remain constant to what he deemed his true
vocation than he could to any other. This was now to be signally
illustrated. Soon after the _Ancient Mariner_ was written, and some
time before the volume which was to contain it appeared, Coleridge
quitted Stowey for Shrewsbury to undertake the duties of a Unitarian
preacher in that town. This was in the month of January 1798, [6] and
it seems pretty certain, though exact dates are not to be ascertained,
that he was back again at Stowey early in the month of February. In the
pages of the _Liberal_ (1822) William Hazlitt has given a most graphic
and picturesque description of Coleridge's appearance and performance
in his Shrewsbury pulpit; and, judging from this, one can well believe,
what indeed was to have been antecedently expected, that had he chosen
to remain faithful to his new employment he might have rivalled the
reputation of the greatest preacher of the time. But his friends the
Wedgwoods, the two sons of the great potter, whose acquaintance he had
made a few years earlier, were apparently much dismayed at the prospect
of his deserting the library for the chapel, and they offered him an
annuity of £150 a year on condition of his retiring from the ministry
and devoting himself entirely to the study of poetry and philosophy.
Coleridge was staying at the house of Hazlitt's father when the letter
containing this liberal offer reached him, "and he seemed," says the
younger Hazlitt, "to make up his mind to close with the proposal in the
act of tying on one of his shoes." Another inducement to so speedy an
acceptance of it is no doubt to be found in the fact of its presenting
to Coleridge an opportunity for the fulfilment of a cherished
desire--that, namely, of "completing his education," as he regarded it,
by studying the German language, and acquiring an acquaintance with the
theology and philosophy of Germany in that country itself. This
prospect he was enabled, through the generosity of the Wedgwoods, to
put into execution towards the end of 1798. But before passing on from
this culminating and, to all intents and purposes, this closing year of
Coleridge's career as a poet it will be proper to attempt something
like a final review of his poetic work. Admirable as much of that work
is, and unique in quality as it is throughout, I must confess that it
leaves on my own mind a stronger impression of the unequal and
imperfect than does that of any poet at all approaching Coleridge in
imaginative vigour and intellectual grasp. It is not a mere inequality
and imperfection of style like that which so seriously detracts from
the pleasure of reading Byron. Nor is it that the thought is often
_impar sibi_--that, like Wordsworth's, it is too apt to descend from
the mountain-tops of poetry to the flats of commonplace, if not into
the bogs of bathos. In both these respects Coleridge may and does
occasionally offend, but his workmanship is, on the whole, as much more
artistic than Byron's as the material of his poetry is of more
uniformly equal value than Wordsworth's. Yet, with almost the sole
exception of the _Ancient Mariner_, his work is in a certain sense more
disappointing than that of either. In spite of his theory as to the
twofold function of poetry we must finally judge that of Coleridge, as
of any other poet, by its relation to the actual. Ancient Mariners and
Christabels--the people, the scenery, and the incidents of an imaginary
world--may be handled by poetry once and again to the wonder and
delight of man; but feats of this kind cannot--or cannot in the Western
world, at any rate--be repeated indefinitely, and the ultimate test of
poetry, at least for the modern European reader, is its treatment of
actualities--its relations to the world of human action, passion,
sensation, thought. And when we try Coleridge's poetry in any one of
these four regions of life, we seem forced to admit that, despite all
its power and beauty, it at no moment succeeds in convincing us, as at
their best moments Wordsworth's and even Byron's continually does, that
the poet has found his true poetic vocation--that he is interpreting
that aspect of life which he can interpret better than he can any
other, and which no other poet, save the one who has vanquished all
poets in their own special fields of achievement, can interpret as well
as he. In no poem of actuality does Coleridge so victoriously show
himself to be the right man at the right work as does Wordsworth in
certain moods of seership and Byron in certain moments of passion. Of
them at such moods and moments we feel assured that they have
discovered where their real strength lies, and have put it forth to the
utmost. But we never feel satisfied that Coleridge has discovered where
_his_ real strength lies, and he strikes us as feeling no more
certainty on the point himself. Strong as is his pinion, his flight
seems to resemble rather that of the eaglet than of the full-grown
eagle even to the last. He continues "mewing his mighty youth" a little
too long. There is a tentativeness of manner which seems to come from a
conscious aptitude for many poetic styles and an incapacity to
determine which should be definitively adopted and cultivated to
perfection. Hence one too often returns from any prolonged ramble
through Coleridge's poetry with an unsatisfied feeling which does not
trouble us on our return from the best literary country of Byron or
Wordsworth. Byron has taken us by rough roads, and Wordsworth led us
through some desperately flat and dreary lowlands to his favourite
"bits;" but we feel that we have seen mountain and valley, wood and
river, glen and waterfall at their best. But Coleridge's poetry leaves
too much of the feeling of a walk through a fine country on a misty
day. We may have had many a peep of beautiful scenery and occasional
glimpses of the sublime; but the medium of vision has been of variable
quality, and somehow we come home with an uneasy suspicion that we have
not seen as much as we might. It is obvious, however, even upon a
cursory consideration of the matter, that this disappointing element in
Coleridge's poetry is a necessary result of the circumstances of its
production; for the period of his productive activity (at least after
attaining manhood) was too short to enable a mind with so many
intellectual distractions to ascertain its true poetic bent, and to
concentrate its energies thereupon. If he seems always to be feeling
his way towards the work which he could do best, it is for the very
good reason that this is what, from 1796 to 1800, he was continually
doing as a matter of fact. The various styles which he attempted--and
for a season, in each case, with such brilliant results--are forms of
poetic expression corresponding, on the face of them, to poetic
impulses of an essentially fleeting nature. The political or
politico-religious odes were the offspring of youthful democratic
enthusiasm; the supernatural poems, so to call them for want of a
better name, had their origin in an almost equally youthful and more
than equally transitory passion for the wild and wondrous. Political
disillusion is fatal to the one impulse, and mere advance in years
extinguishes the other. Visions of Ancient Mariners and Christabels do
not revisit the mature man, and the Toryism of middle life will hardly
inspire odes to anything.

With the extinction of these two forms of creative impulse Coleridge's
poetic activity, from causes to be considered hereafter, came almost
entirely to an end, and into what later forms it might subsequently
have developed remains therefore a matter more or less of conjecture.
Yet I think there is almost a sufficiency of _à priori_ evidence as to
what that form would have been. Had the poet in him survived until
years had "brought the philosophic mind," he would doubtless have done
for the human spirit, in its purely isolated self-communings, what
Wordsworth did for it in its communion with external nature. All that
the poetry of Wordsworth is for the mind which loves to hold converse
with the world of things; this, and more perhaps than this--if more be
possible--would the poetry of Coleridge have been for the mind which
abides by preference in the world of self-originating emotion and
introspective thought. Wordsworth's primary function is to interpret
nature to man: the interpretation of man to himself is with him a
secondary process only-the response, in almost every instance, to
impressions from without. This poet can nobly brace the human heart to
fortitude; but he must first have seen the leech-gatherer on the lonely
moor. The "presence and the spirit interfused" throughout creation is
revealed to us in moving and majestic words; yet the poet requires to
have felt it "in the light of setting suns and the round ocean and the
living air" before he feels it "in the mind of man." But what
Wordsworth grants only to the reader who wanders with him in
imagination by lake and mountain, the Muse of Coleridge, had she lived,
would have bestowed upon the man who has entered into his inner chamber
and shut to the door. This, it seems to me, is the work for which
genius, temperament, and intellectual habit would alike have fitted
him. For while his feeling for internal nature was undoubtedly less
profound, less mystically penetrating than Wordsworth's, his
sensibilities in general were incomparably quicker and more subtle than
those of the friend in whom he so generously recognised a master; and
the reach of his sympathies extends to forms of human emotion, to
subjects of human interest which lay altogether outside the somewhat
narrow range of Wordsworth's.

And, with so magnificent a furniture of those mental and moral
qualities which should belong to "a singer of man to men," it must not
be forgotten that his technical equipment for the work was of the most
splendidly effective kind. If a critic like Mr. Swinburne seems to
speak in exaggerated praise of Coleridge's lyrics, we can well
understand their enchantment for a master of music like himself.
Probably it was the same feeling which made Shelley describe _France_
as "the finest ode in the English language." With all, in fact, who
hold--as it is surely plausible to hold--that the first duty of a
singer is to sing, the poetry of Coleridge will always be more likely
to be classed above than below its merits, great as they are. For, if
we except some occasional lapses in his sonnets--a metrical form in
which, at his best, he is quite "out of the running" with
Wordsworth--his melody never fails him. He is a singer always, as
Wordsworth is not always, and Byron almost never. The _'olian Harp_ to
which he so loved to listen does not more surely respond in music to
the breeze of heaven than does Coleridge's poetic utterance to the wind
of his inspiration. Of the dreamy fascination which Love exercises over
a listening ear I have already spoken; and there is hardly less charm
in the measure and assonances of the _Circassian Love Chant.
Christabel_ again, considered solely from the metrical point of view,
is a veritable _tour de force_--the very model of a metre for romantic
legend: as which, indeed, it was imitated with sufficient grace and
spirit, but seldom with anything approaching to Coleridge's melody, by
Sir Walter Scott.

Endowed therefore with so glorious a gift of song, and only not fully
master of his poetic means because of the very versatility of his
artistic power and the very variety and catholicity of his youthful
sympathies, it is unhappily but too certain that the world has lost
much by that perversity of conspiring accidents which so untimely
silenced Coleridge's muse. And the loss is the more trying to posterity
because he seems, to a not, I think, too curiously considering
criticism, to have once actually struck that very chord which would
have sounded the most movingly beneath his touch,--and to have struck
it at the very moment when the failing hand was about to quit the keys
for ever.

  "Ostendunt terris hunc tantum fata neque ultra
   Esse sinunt."

I cannot regard it as merely fantastic to believe that the _Dejection_,
that dirge of infinite pathos over the grave of creative imagination,
might, but for the fatal decree which had by that time gone forth
against Coleridge's health and happiness, have been but the cradle-cry
of a new-born poetic power, in which imagination, not annihilated but
transmigrant, would have splendidly proved its vitality through other
forms of song.


FOOTNOTES

1. Perhaps the deepest impress of the Wordsworthian influence is to be
found in the little poem _Frost at Midnight_, with its affecting
apostrophe to the sleeping infant at his side--infant destined to
develop as wayward a genius and to lead as restless and irresolute a
life as his father. Its closing lines--

  "Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee
   Whether the summer clothe the general earth
   With greenness...
   ... whether the eave-drops fall,
   Heard only in the trances of the blast,
   Or if the secret ministry of frost
   Shall hang them up in silent icicles
   Quietly shining to the quiet moon"--

might have flowed straight from the pen of Wordsworth himself.

2. "You had a great loss in not seeing Coleridge. He is a wonderful
man. His conversation teems with soul, mind, and spirit. Then he is so
benevolent, so good tempered and cheerful, and, like William, interests
himself so much about every little trifle. At first I thought him very
plain, that is, for about three minutes; he is pale, thin, has a wide
mouth, thick lips, and not very good teeth, longish loose-growing
half-curling rough black hair. But if you hear him speak for five
minutes you think no more of them. His eye is large and full, and not
very dark but gray, such an eye as would receive from a heavy soul the
dullest expression; but it speaks every emotion of his animated mind:
it has more of the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling than I ever
witnessed. He has fine dark eyebrows and an overhanging forehead."

3. The lines--

  "And it is long, and lank, and brown,
   As is the ribbed sea-sand."

4. Mr. Gillman (in his _Life_, p. 301) gives the following somewhat
bald outline of what were to form the two concluding cantos, no doubt
on the authority of Coleridge himself. The second canto ends, it may be
remembered, with the despatch of Bracy the bard to the castle of Sir
Roland:--"Over the mountains the Bard, as directed by Sir Leoline,
hastes with his disciple; but, in consequence of one of those
inundations supposed to be common to the country, the spot only where
the castle once stood is discovered, the edifice itself being washed
away. He determines to return. Geraldine, being acquainted with all
that is passing, like the weird sisters in _Macbeth_, vanishes.
Reappearing, however, she awaits the return of the Bard, exciting in
the meantime by her wily arts all the anger she could rouse in the
Baron's breast, as well as that jealousy of which he is described to
have been susceptible. The old bard and the youth at length arrive, and
therefore she can no longer personate the character of Geraldine, the
daughter of Lord Roland de Vaux, but changes her appearance to that of
the accepted though absent lover of Christabel. Next ensues a courtship
most distressing to Christabel, who feels--she knows not why--great
disgust for her once favoured knight. This coldness is very painful to
the Baron, who has no more conception than herself of the supernatural
transformation. She at last yields to her father's entreaties, and
consents to approach the altar with the hated suitor. The real lover
returning, enters at this moment, and produces the ring which she had
once given him in sign of her betrothment. Thus defeated, the
supernatural being Geraldine disappears. As predicted, the castle-bell
tolls, the mother's voice is heard, and, to the exceeding great joy of
the parties, the rightful marriage takes place, after which follows a
reconciliation and explanation between father and daughter." 5.

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

6. It may be suggested that this sudden resolution was forced upon
Coleridge by the _res angusta domi_. But I do not think that was the
case. In the winter of 1797 he had obtained an introduction to and
entered into a literary engagement with Mr. Stuart of the _Morning
Post_, and could thus have met, as in fact he afterwards did meet, the
necessities of the hour.



CHAPTER IV.

Visit to Germany--Life at Göttingen,--Return--Explores the Lake
Country--London--The _Morning Post_--Coleridge as a
journalist--Retirement to Keswick.

[1799-1800.]


The departure of the two poets for the Continent was delayed only till
they had seen their joint volume through the press. The _Lyrical
Ballads_ appeared in the autumn of 1798, and on 16th September of that
year Coleridge left Yarmouth for Hamburg with Wordsworth and his
sister. [1] The purpose of his two companions' tour is not known to
have been other than the pleasure, or mixed pleasure and instruction,
usually derivable from foreign travel; that of Coleridge was strictly,
even sternly, educational. Immediately on his arrival in Germany he
parted from the Wordsworths, who went on to Gozlar, [2] and took up his
abode at the house of the pastor at Ratzeburg, with whom he spent five
months in assiduous study of the language. In January he removed to
Göttingen. Of his life here during the next few months we possess an
interesting record in the _Early Years and Late Reflections_ of Dr.
Carrlyon, a book published many years after the events which it
relates, but which is quite obviously a true reflection of impressions
yet fresh in the mind of its writer when its materials were first
collected. Its principal value, in fact, is that it gives us Coleridge
from the standpoint of the average young educated Englishman of the
day, sufficiently intelligent, indeed, to be sensible of his
fellow-student's transcendent abilities, but as little awed by them out
of youth's healthy irreverence of criticism as the ordinary English
undergraduate ever has been by the intellectual supremacy of any
"greatest man of his day" who might chance to have been his
contemporary at Oxford or Cambridge. In Dr. Carrlyon's reminiscences
and in the quoted letters of a certain young Parry, another of the
English student colony at Göttingen, we get a piquant picture of the
poet-philosopher of seven-and-twenty, with his yet buoyant belief in
his future, his still unquenched interest in the world of things, and
his never-to-be-quenched interest in the world of thought, his even
then inexhaustible flow of disquisition, his generous admiration for
the gifts of others, and his _naïve_ complacency--including, it would
seem, a touch of the vanity of personal appearance--in his own. "He
frequently," writes Dr. Carrlyon, "recited his own poetry, and not
unfrequently led us further into the labyrinth of his metaphysical
elucidations, either of particular passages or of the original
conception of any of his productions, than we were able to follow him.
At the conclusion, for instance, of the first stanza of _Christabel_,
he would perhaps comment at full length upon such a line as
'Tu--whit!--Tu--whoo!' that we might not fall into the mistake of
supposing originality to be its sole merit." The example is not very
happily chosen, for Coleridge could hardly have claimed "originality"
for an onomatopoeia which occurs in one of Shakspeare's best known
lyrics; but it serves well enough to illustrate the fact that he "very
seldom went right to the end of any piece of poetry; to pause and
analyse was his delight." His disappointment with regard to his tragedy
of _Osorio_ was, we also learn, still fresh. He seldom, we are told,
"recited any of the beautiful passages with which it abounds without a
visible interruption of the perfect composure of his mind." He
mentioned with great emotion Sheridan's inexcusable treatment of him
with respect to it. At the same time, adds his friend, "he is a severe
critic of his own productions, and declares" (this no doubt with
reference to his then, and indeed his constant estimate of _Christabel_
as his masterpiece) "that his best poems have perhaps not appeared in
print."

Young Parry's account of his fellow-student is also fresh and pleasing.
"It is very delightful," he tells a correspondent, "to hear him
sometimes discourse on religious topics for an hour together. His
fervour is particularly agreeable when compared with the chilling
speculations of German philosophers," whom Coleridge, he adds,
"successively forced to abandon all their strongholds." He is "much
liked, notwithstanding many peculiarities. He is very liberal towards
all doctrines and opinions, and cannot be put out of temper. These
circumstances give him the advantage of his opponents, who are always
bigoted and often irascible. Coleridge is an enthusiast on many
subjects, and must therefore appear to many to possess faults, and no
doubt he has faults, but he has a good heart and a large mass of
information with," as his fellow-student condescendingly admits,
"superior talents. The great fault which his friends may lament is the
variety of subjects which he adopts, and the abstruse nature of his
ordinary speculations, _extra homines podtas_. They can easily,"
concludes the writer, rising here to the full stateliness of youth's
epistolary style, "they can easily excuse his devoted attachment to his
country, and his reasoning as to the means of producing the greatest
human happiness, but they do not universally approve the mysticism of
his metaphysics and the remoteness of his topics from human
comprehension."

In the month of May 1799 Coleridge set out with a party of his
fellow-students on a walking tour through the Harz Mountains, an
excursion productive of much oral philosophising on his part, and of
the composition of the _Lines on ascending the Brocken_, not one of the
happiest efforts of his muse. As to the philosophising, "he never,"
says one of his companions on this trip, "appeared to tire of mental
exercise; talk seemed to him a perennial pastime, and his endeavours to
inform and amuse us ended only with the cravings of hunger or the
fatigue of a long march, from which neither his conversational powers
nor his stoicism could protect himself or us." It speaks highly for the
matter of Coleridge's allocutions that such incessant outpourings
during a mountaineering tramp appear to have left no lasting impression
of boredom behind them. The holiday seems to have been thoroughly
enjoyed by the whole party, and Coleridge, at any rate, had certainly
earned it. For once, and it is almost to be feared for the last time in
his life, he had resisted his besetting tendency to dispersiveness, and
constrained his intelligence to apply itself to one thing at a time. He
had come to Germany to acquire the language, and to learn what of
German theology and metaphysics he might find worth the study, and his
five months' steady pursuit of the former object had been followed by
another four months of resolute prosecution of the latter. He attended
the lectures of Professor Blumenbach, and obtained through a
fellow-student notes from those of Eichhorn. He suffered no
interruption in his studies, unless we are to except a short visit from
Wordsworth and his sister, who had spent most of their stay abroad in
residence at Gozlar; and he appears, in short, to have made in every
way the best use of his time. On 24th June 1799 he gave his
leave-taking supper at Göttingen, replying to the toast of his health
in fluent German but with an execrable accent; and the next day
presumably he started on his homeward journey.

His movements for the next few months are incorrectly stated in most of
the brief memoirs prefixed to the various editions of the poet's works,
--their writers having, it is to be imagined, accepted without
examination a misplaced date of Mr. Gillman's. It is not the fact that
Coleridge "returned to England after an absence of fourteen months, and
arrived in London the 27th of November." His absence could not have
lasted longer than a year, for we know from the evidence of Miss
Wordsworth's diary that he was exploring the Lake country (very likely
for the first time) in company with her brother and herself in the
month of September 1799. The probability is that he arrived in England
early in July, and immediately thereupon did the most natural and
proper thing to be done under the circumstances--namely, returned to
his wife and children at Nether Stowey, and remained there for the next
two months, after which he set off with the Wordsworths, then still at
Alfoxden, to visit the district to which the latter had either already
resolved upon, or were then contemplating, the transfer of their abode.
The 27th of November is no doubt the correct date of his arrival in
London, though not "from abroad." And his first six weeks in the
metropolis were spent in a very characteristic fashion--in the
preparation, namely, of a work which he pronounced with perfect
accuracy to be destined to fall dead from the press. He shut himself up
in a lodging in Buckingham Street, Strand, and by the end of the
above-mentioned period he had completed his admirable translation of
_Wallenstein_, in itself a perfect, and indeed his most perfect
dramatic poem. The manuscript of this English version of Schiller's
drama was purchased by Messrs. Longman under the condition that the
translation and the original should appear at the same time. Very few
copies were sold, and the publishers, indifferent to Coleridge's advice
to retain the unsold copies until the book should become fashionable,
disposed of them as waste paper. Sixteen years afterwards, on the
publication of _Christabel_, they were eagerly sought for, and the few
remaining copies doubled their price. It was while engaged upon this
work that he formed that connection with political jouralism which
lasted, though with intermissions, throughout most of the remainder of
his life. His early poetical pieces had, as we have seen, made their
first appearance in the _Morning Post_, but hitherto that newspaper had
received no prose contribution from his pen. His engagement with its
proprietor, Mr. Daniel Stuart, to whom he had been introduced during a
visit to London in 1797, was to contribute an occasional copy of verses
for a stipulated annual sum; and some dozen or so of his poems (notably
among them the ode to _France_ and the two strange pieces _Fire Famine
and Slaughter_ and _The Devil's Thoughts_) had entered the world in
this way during the years 1798 and 1799.

Misled by the error above corrected, the writers of some of the brief
memoirs of Coleridge's life represent him as having sent verse
contributions to the _Morning Post_ from Germany in 1799; but as the
earliest of these only appeared in August of that year there is no
reason to suppose that any of them were written before his return to
England. The longest of the serious pieces is the well-known _Ode to
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire_, which cannot be regarded as one of
the happiest of Coleridge's productions. Its motive is certainly a
little slight, and its sentiment more than a little overstrained. The
noble enthusiasm of the noble lady who, "though nursed in pomp and
pleasure," could yet condescend to "hail the platform wild where once
the Austrian fell beneath the shaft of Tell," hardly strikes a reader
of the present day as remarkable enough to be worth "gushing" over; and
when the poet goes on to suggest as the explanation of Georgiana's
having "learned that heroic measure" that the Whig great lady had
suckled her own children, we certainly seem to have taken the fatal
step beyond the sublime! It is to be presumed that Tory great ladies
invariably employed the services of a wet-nurse, and hence failed to
win the same tribute from the angel of the earth, who, usually, while
he guides

 "His chariot-planet round the goal of day,
  All trembling gazes on the eye of God,"

but who on this occasion "a moment turned his awful face away" to gaze
approvingly on the high-born mother who had so conscientiously
performed her maternal duties.

Very different is the tone of this poem from that of the two best known
of Coleridge's lighter contributions to the _Morning Post_. The most
successful of these, however, from the journalistic point of view, is
in a literary sense the less remarkable. One is indeed a little
astonished to find that a public, accustomed to such admirable
political satire as the _Anti-Jacobin_, should have been so much taken
as it seems to have been by the rough versification and somewhat clumsy
sarcasm of the _Devil's Thoughts_. The poem created something like a
_furore_, and sold a large reissue of the number of the _Morning Post_
in which it appeared. Nevertheless it is from the metrical point of
view doggerel, as indeed the author admits, three of its most
smoothly-flowing stanzas being from the hand of Southey, while there is
nothing in its boisterous political drollery to put its composition
beyond the reach of any man of strong partisan feelings and a turn for
street-humour. _Fire Famine and Slaughter_, on the other hand, is
literary in every sense of the word, requiring indeed, and very
urgently, to insist on its character as literature, in order to justify
itself against the charge of inhuman malignity. Despite the fact that
"letters four do form his name," it is of course an idealised
statesman, and not the real flesh and blood Mr. Pitt, whom the sister
furies, Fire, Famine, and Slaughter, extol as their patron in these
terrible lines. The poem must be treated as what lawyers call an "A. B.
case." Coleridge must be supposed to be lashing certain alphabetical
symbols arranged in a certain order. This idealising process is
perfectly easy and familiar to everybody with the literary sense. The
deduction for "poetic license" is just as readily, though it does not,
of course, require to be as frequently, made with respect to the
hyperbole of denunciation as with respect to that of praise. Nor need
we doubt that this deduction had in fact been made by all intelligent
readers long before that agitating dinner at Mr. Sotheby's, which
Coleridge describes with such anxious gravity in his apologetic preface
to the republication of the lines. On the whole one may pretty safely
accept De Quincey's view of the true character of this incident as
related by him in his own inimitable fashion, namely, that it was in
the nature of an elaborate hoax, played off at the poet's expense. [3]
The malice of the piece is, as De Quincey puts it, quite obviously a
"malice of the understanding and fancy," and not of the heart. There is
significance in the mere fact that the poem was deliberately published
by Coleridge two years after its composition, when the vehemence of his
political animosities had much abated. Written in 1796, it did not
appear in the _Morning Post_ till January 1798.

He was now, however, about to draw closer his connection with the
newspaper press. Soon after his return from Germany he was solicited to
"undertake the literary and political department in the _Morning
Post_," and acceded to the proposal "on condition that the paper should
thenceforward be conducted on certain fixed and announced principles,
and that he should be neither obliged nor requested to deviate from
them in favour of any party or any event." Accordingly, from December
1799 until about midsummer of 1800, Coleridge became a regular
contributor of political articles to this journal, sometimes to the
number of two or three in one week. At the end of the period of six
months he quitted London, and his contributions became necessarily less
frequent, but they were continued (though with two apparent breaks of
many months in duration) [4] until the close of the year 1802. It would
seem, however, that nothing but Coleridge's own disinclination
prevented this connection from taking a form in which it would have
profoundly modified his whole future career. In a letter to Mr. Poole,
dated March 1800, he informs his friend that if he "had the least love
of money" he could "make sure of £2000 a year, for that Stuart had
offered him half shares in his two papers, the _Morning Post_ and the
_Courier_, if he would devote himself to them in conjunction with their
proprietor. But I told him," he continues, "that I would not give up
the country and the lazy reading of old folios for two thousand times
two thousand pounds,--in short, that beyond £350 a year I considered
money as a real evil." Startlingly liberal as this offer will appear to
the journalist, it seems really to have been made. For, writing long
afterwards to Mr. Nelson Coleridge, Mr. Stuart says: "Could Coleridge
and I place ourselves thirty years back, and he be so far a man of
business as to write three or four hours a day, there is nothing I
would not pay for his assistance. I would take him into partnership,
and I would enable him to make a large fortune." Nor is there any
reason to think that the bargain would have been a bad one for the
proprietor from the strictly commercial point of view. Coleridge in
later years may no doubt have overrated the effect of his own
contributions on the circulation of the _Morning Post_, but it must
have been beyond question considerable, and would in all likelihood
have become far greater if he could have been induced to devote himself
more closely to the work of journalism. For the fact is--and it is a
fact for which the current conception of Coleridge's intellectual
character does not altogether prepare one--that he was a workman of the
very first order of excellence in this curious craft. The faculties
which go to the attainment of such excellence are not perhaps among the
highest distinctions of the human mind, but, such as they are, they are
specific and well marked; they are by no means the necessary
accompaniments even of the most conspicuous literary power, and they
are likely rather to suffer than to profit by association with great
subtlety of intellect or wide philosophic grasp. It is not to the
advantage of the journalist, as such, that he should see too many
things at a time, or too far into any one thing, and even the gifts of
an active imagination and an abundant vocabulary are each of them
likely to prove a snare. To be wholly successful, the journalist--at
least the English journalist--must not be too eloquent, or too witty,
or too humorous, or too ingenious, or too profound. Yet the English
reader likes, or thinks he likes, eloquence; he has a keen sense of
humour, and a fair appreciation of wit; and he would be much hurt if he
were told that ingenuity and profundity were in themselves distasteful
to him. How, then, to give him enough of these qualities to please and
not enough to offend him--as much eloquence as will stir his emotions,
but not enough to arouse his distrust; as much wit as will carry home
the argument, but not enough to make him doubt its sincerity; as much
humour as will escape the charge of levity, as much ingenuity as can be
displayed without incurring suspicion, and as much profundity as may
impress without bewildering? This is a problem which is fortunately
simplified for most journalists by the fact of their possessing these
qualities in no more than, if in so much as, the minimum required. But
Coleridge, it must be remembered, possessed most of them in
embarrassing superfluity. Not all of them indeed, for, though he could
be witty and at times humorous, his temptations to excess in these
respects were doubtless not considerable. But as for his eloquence, he
was from his youth upwards _Isoo torrentior_, his dialectical ingenuity
was unequalled, and in disquisition of the speculative order no man was
so apt as he to penetrate more deeply into his subject than most of his
readers would care to follow him. _À priori_, therefore, one would
have expected that Coleridge's instincts would have led him to
rhetorise too much in his diction, to refine too much in his arguments,
and to philosophise too much in his reflections, to have hit the
popular taste as a journalist, and that at the age of eight-and-twenty
he would have been unable to subject these tendencies either to the
artistic repression of the maturer writer or to the tactical restraints
of the trained advocate. This eminently natural assumption, however, is
entirely rebutted by the facts. Nothing is more remarkable in
Coleridge's contributions to the _Morning Post_ than their thoroughly
workmanlike character from the journalistic point of view, their
avoidance of "viewiness," their strict adherence to the one or two
simple points which he is endeavouring at any particular juncture in
politics to enforce upon his readers, and the steadiness with which he
keeps his own and his readers' attention fixed on the special political
necessities of the hour. His articles, in short, belong to that
valuable class to which, while it gives pleasure to the cultivated
reader, the most commonplace and Philistine man of business cannot
refuse the to him supreme praise of being eminently "practical." They
hit the nail on the head in nearly every case, and they take the
plainest and most direct route to their point, dealing in rhetoric and
metaphor only so far as the strictly "business" ends of the argument
appear to require. Nothing, for instance, could have been better done,
better reasoned and written, more skilfully adapted throughout to the
English taste, than Coleridge's criticism (3lst Dec. 1799) on the new
constitution established by Bonaparte and Sieyes on the foundation of
the Consulate, with its eighty senators, the "creatures of a renegade
priest, himself the creature of a foreign mercenary, its hundred
tribunes who are to talk and do nothing, and its three hundred
legislators whom the constitution orders to be silent." What a
ludicrous Purgatory, adds he, "for three hundred Frenchmen!" Very
vigorous, moreover, is he on the ministerial rejection of the French
proposals of peace in 1800, arguing against the continuance of the war
on the very sound anti-Jacobin ground that if it were unsuccessful it
would inflame French ambition anew, and, if successful, repeat the
experience of the results of rendering France desperate, and simply
reanimate Jacobinism.

Effective enough too, for the controversial needs of the moment, was
the argument that if France were known, as Ministers pretended, to be
insincere in soliciting peace, "Ministers would certainly treat with
her, since they would again secure the support of the British people in
the war, and expose the ambition of the enemy;" and that, therefore,
the probability was that the British Government knew France to be
sincere, and shrank from negotiation lest it should expose their own
desire to prosecute the war. [5] Most happy, again, is his criticism of
Lord Grenville's note, with its references to the unprovoked aggression
of France (in the matter of the opening of the Scheldt, etc.) as the
sole cause and origin of the war. "If this were indeed true, in what
ignorance must not Mr. Pitt and Mr. Windham have kept the poor Duke of
Portland, who declared in the House of Lords that the cause of the war
was the maintenance of the Christian religion?"

To add literary excellence of the higher order to the peculiar
qualities which give force to the newspaper article is for a
journalist, of course, a "counsel of perfection;" but it remains to be
remarked that Coleridge did make this addition in a most conspicuous
manner. Mrs. H. N. Coleridge's three volumes of her father's _Essays on
his own Times_ deserve to live as literature apart altogether from
their merits as journalism. Indeed among the articles in the _Morning
Post_ between 1799 and 1802 may be found some of the finest specimens
of Coleridge's maturer prose style. The character of Pitt, which
appeared on 19th March 1800, is as remarkable for its literary merits
as it is for the almost humorous political perversity which would not
allow the Minister any single merit except that which he owed to the
sedulous rhetorical training received by him from his father, viz. "a
premature and unnatural dexterity in the combination of words." [6] The
letters to Fox, again, though a little artificialised perhaps by
reminiscences of Junius, are full of weight and dignity. But by far the
most piquant illustration of Coleridge's peculiar power is to be found
in the comparison between his own version of Pitt's speech of 17th
February 1800, on the continuance of the war, with the report of it
which appeared in the _Times_ of that date. With the exception of a few
unwarranted elaborations of the arguments here and there, the two
speeches are in substance identical; but the effect of the contrast
between the minister's cold state-paper periods and the life and glow
of the poet-journalist's style is almost comic. Mr. Gillman records
that Canning, calling on business at the editor's, inquired, as others
had done, who was the reporter of the speech for the _Morning Post_,
and, on being told, remarked drily that the report "did more credit to
his head than to his memory."

On the whole one can well understand Mr. Stuart's anxiety to secure
Coleridge's permanent collaboration with him in the business of
journalism; and it would be possible to maintain, with less of paradox
than may at first sight appear, that it would have been better not only
for Coleridge himself but for the world at large if the editor's
efforts had been successful. It would indeed have been bowing the neck
to the yoke; but there are some natures upon which constraint of that
sort exercises not a depressing but a steadying influence. What, after
all, would the loss in hours devoted to a comparatively inferior class
of literary labour have amounted to when compared with the gain in
much-needed habits of method and regularity, and--more valuable than
all to an intellect like Coleridge's,--in the constant reminder that
human life is finite and the materials of human speculation infinite,
and that even a world-embracing mind must apportion its labour to its
day? There is, however, the great question of health to be
considered--_the_ question, as every one knows, of Coleridge's whole
career and life. If health was destined to give way, in any event--if
its collapse, in fact, was simply the cause of all the lamentable
external results which followed it, while itself due only to
predetermined internal conditions over which the sufferer had no
control--then to be sure _cadit qu'stio_. At London or at the Lakes,
among newspaper files or old folios, Coleridge's life would in that
case have run the same sad course; and his rejection of Mr. Stuart's
offer becomes a matter of no particular interest to disappointed
posterity. But be that as it may, the "old folios" won the day. In the
summer of 1800 Coleridge quitted London, and having wound up his
affairs at his then place of residence, removed with his wife and
children to a new and beautiful home in that English Lake country with
which his name was destined, like those of Southey and Wordsworth, to
be enduringly associated.


FOOTNOTES

1. De Quincey's error, in supposing that Coleridge's visit to Germany
to "complete his education" was made at an earlier date than this
journey with the Wordsworths, is a somewhat singular mistake for one so
well acquainted with the facts of Coleridge's life. Had we not his own
statement that this of 1798 was the first occasion of his quitting his
native country, it so happens that we can account in England for nearly
every month of his time from his leaving Cambridge until this date.


2. It has only within a comparatively recent period been ascertained
that the visit of the Wordsworths to Germany was itself another result
of Thomas Wedgwood's generous appreciation of literary merit. It
appears, on the incontrovertible testimony of the Wedgwoods' accounts
with their agents at Hamburg, that the expenses of all three travellers
were defrayed by their friend at home. The credits opened for them
amounted, during the course of their stay abroad, to some £260.--Miss
Meteyard's _A Group of Englishmen_, p. 99.

3. After quoting the two concluding lines of the poem, "Fire's" rebuke
of her inconstant sisters, in the words

   "I alone am faithful, I
   Cling to him everlastingly,"

De Quincey proceeds: "The sentiment is diabolical; and the question
argued at the London dinner-table (Mr. Sotheby's) was 'Could the writer
have been other than a devil?'... Several of the great guns among the
literary body were present--in particular Sir Walter Scott, and he, we
believe, with his usual good nature, took the apologetic side of the
dispute; in fact, he was in the secret. Nobody else, barring the
author, knew at first whose good name was at stake. The scene must have
been high. The company kicked about the poor diabolic writer's head as
though it had been a tennis-ball. Coleridge, the yet unknown criminal,
absolutely perspired and fumed in pleading for the defendant; the
company demurred; the orator grew urgent; wits began to smoke the case
as an active verb, the advocate to smoke as a neuter verb; the 'fun
grew fast and furious,' until at length the delinquent arose, burning
tears in his eyes, and confessed to an audience now bursting with
stifled laughter (but whom he supposed to be bursting with fiery
indignation), 'Lo, I am he that wrote it.'"

4. _Sic_ in _Essays on his own Times_ by S. T. C., the collection of
her father's articles made by Mrs. Nelson (Sara) Coleridge; but without
attributing strange error to Coleridge's own estimate (in the
_Biographia Literaria_) of the amount of his journalistic work, it is
impossible to believe that this collection, forming as it does but two
small volumes, and a portion of a third, is anything like complete.

5. Alas, that the facts should be so merciless to the most excellent
arguments! Coleridge could not foresee that Napoleon would, years
afterwards, admit in his own Memoirs the insincerity of his overtures.
"I had need of war; a treaty of peace...would have withered every
imagination." And when Mr. Pitt's answer arrived, "it filled me with a
secret satisfaction."

6. The following passage, too, is curious as showing how polemics, like
history, repeat themselves. "As his reasonings were, so is his
eloquence. One character pervades his whole being. Words on words,
finely arranged, and so dexterously consequent that the whole bears the
semblance of argument and still keeps awake a sense of surprise; but,
when all is done, nothing rememberable has been said; no one
philosophical remark, no one image, not even a pointed aphorism. Not a
sentence of Mr. Pitt's has ever been quoted, or formed the favourite
phrase of the day--a thing unexampled in any man of equal reputation."
With the alteration of one word--the proper name--this passage might
have been taken straight from some political diatribe of to-day.



CHAPTER V.

Life at Keswick--Second part of _Christabel_--Failing health--Resort to
opium--The _Ode to Dejection_--Increasing restlessness--Visit to Malta.

[1800-1804.]


We are now approaching the turning-point, moral and physical, of
Coleridge's career. The next few years determined not only his destiny
as a writer but his life as a man. Between his arrival at Keswick in
the summer of 1800 and his departure for Malta in the spring of 1804
that fatal change of constitution, temperament, and habits which
governed the whole of his subsequent history had fully established
itself. Between these two dates he was transformed from the Coleridge
of whom his young fellow-students in Germany have left us so pleasing a
picture into the Coleridge whom distressed kinsmen, alienated friends,
and a disappointed public were to have before them for the remainder of
his days. Here, then, at Keswick, and in these first two or three years
of the century--here or nowhere is the key to the melancholy mystery to
be found.

It is probable that only those who have gone with some minuteness into
the facts of this singular life are aware how great was the change
effected during this very short period of time. When Coleridge left
London for the Lake country he had not completed his
eight-and-twentieth year. Before he was thirty he wrote that _Ode to
Dejection_ in which his spiritual and moral losses are so pathetically
bewailed. His health and spirits, his will and habits, may not have
taken any unalterable bent for the worse until 1804, the year of his
departure for Malta--the date which I have thought it safest to assign
as the definitive close of the earlier and happier period of his life;
but undoubtedly the change had fully manifested itself more than two
years before. And a very great and painful one it assuredly was. We
know from the recorded evidence of Dr. Carrlyon and others that
Coleridge was full of hope and gaiety, full of confidence in himself
and of interest in life during his few months' residence in Germany.
The _annus mirabilis_ of his poetic life was but two years behind him,
and his achievements of 1797-98 seemed to him but a mere earnest of
what he was destined to accomplish. His powers of mental concentration
were undiminished, as his student days at Göttingen sufficiently
proved; his conjugal and family affections, as Dr. Carrlyon notes for
us, were still unimpaired; his own verse gives signs of a home-sickness
and a yearning for his own fireside which were in melancholy contrast
with the restlessness of his later years. Nay, even after his return to
England, and during the six months of his regular work on the _Morning
Post_, the vigour of his political articles entirely negatives the idea
that any relaxation of intellectual energy had as yet set in. Yet
within six months of his leaving London for Keswick there begins a
progressive decline in Coleridge's literary activity in every form. The
second part of _Christabel_, beautiful but inferior to the first, was
composed in the autumn of 1800, and for the next two years, so far as
the higher forms of literature are concerned, "the rest is silence."
The author of the prefatory memoir in the edition of Coleridge's
_Poetical and Dramatic Works_ (1880), enumerates some half-dozen slight
pieces contributed to the _Morning Post_ in 1801, but declares that
Coleridge's poetical contributions to this paper during 1802 were "very
rich and varied, and included the magnificent ode entitled
_Dejection_." Only the latter clause of this statement is entitled, I
think, to command our assent. Varied though the list may be, it is
hardly to be described as "rich." It covers only about seven weeks in
the autumn of 1802, and, with the exception of the _Lovers' Resolution_
and the "magnificent ode" referred to, the pieces are of the shortest
and slightest kind. Nor is it accurate to say that the "political
articles of the same period were also numerous and important." On the
contrary, it would appear from an examination of Mrs. H. N. Coleridge's
collection that her father's contributions to the _Post_ between his
departure from London and the autumn of 1802 were few and intermittent,
and in August 1803 the proprietorship of that journal passed out of Mr.
Stuart's hands. It is, in short, I think, impossible to doubt that very
shortly after his migration to the Lake country he practically ceased
not only to write poetry but to produce any mentionable quantity of
_complete_ work in the prose form. His mind, no doubt, was incessantly
active throughout the whole of the deplorable period upon which we are
now entering; but it seems pretty certain that its activity was not
poetic nor even critical, but purely philosophical, and that the
products of that activity went exclusively to _marginalia_ and the
pages of note-books.

Yet unfortunately we have almost no evidence, personal or other, from
which we can with any certainty construct the psychological--if one
should not rather say the physiological, or better still, perhaps, the
pathological--history of this cardinal epoch in Coleridge's life. Miss
Wordsworth's diary is nearly silent about him for the next few years;
he was living indeed some dozen miles from her brother at Grasmere, and
they could not therefore have been in daily intercourse. Southey did
not come to the Lakes till 1803, and the records of his correspondence
only begin therefore from that date. Mr. Cottle's _Reminiscences_ are
here a blank; Charles Lamb's correspondence yields little; and though
De Quincey has plenty to say about this period in his characteristic
fashion, it must have been based upon pure gossip, as he cites no
authorities, and did not himself make Coleridge's acquaintance till six
years afterwards. This, however, is at least certain, that his gloomy
accounts of his own health begin from a period at which his
satisfaction with his new abode was still as fresh as ever. The house
which he had taken, now historic as the residence of two famous
Englishmen, enjoyed a truly beautiful situation and the command of a
most noble view. It stood in the vale of Derwentwater, on the bank of
the river Greta, and about a mile from the lake. When Coleridge first
entered it, it was uncompleted, and an arrangement was made by which,
after completion, it was to be divided between the tenant and the
landlord, a Mr. Jackson. As it turned out, however, the then completed
portion was shared by them in common, the other portion, and eventually
the whole, being afterwards occupied by Southey. In April 1801, some
eight or nine months after his taking possession of Greta Hall,
Coleridge thus describes it to its future occupant:--

"Our house stands on a low hill, the whole front of which is one field
and an enormous garden, nine-tenths of which is a nursery garden.
Behind the house is an orchard and a small wood on a steep slope, at
the foot of which is the river Greta, which winds round and catches the
evening's light in the front of the house. In front we have a giant
camp--an encamped army of tent-like mountains which, by an inverted
arch, gives a view of another vale. On our right the lovely vale and
the wedge-shaped lake of Bassenthwaite; and on our left Derwentwater
and Lodore full in view, and the fantastic mountains of Borrowdale.
Behind is the massy Skiddaw, smooth, green, high, with two chasms and a
tent-like ridge in the larger. A fairer scene you have not seen in all
your wanderings."

There is here no note of discontent with the writer's surroundings; and
yet, adds Mr. Cuthbert Southey in his _Life and Correspondence_ of his
father, the remainder of this letter was filled by Coleridge with "a
most gloomy account of his health." Southey writes him in reply that he
is convinced that his friend's "complaint is gouty, that good living is
necessary and a good climate." In July of the same year he received a
visit from Southey at Greta Hall, and one from Charles and Mary Lamb in
the following summer, and it is probable that during such intervals of
pleasurable excitement his health and spirits might temporarily rally.
But henceforward and until his departure for Malta we gather nothing
from any source as to Coleridge's _normal_ condition of body and mind
which is not unfavourable, and it is quite certain that he had long
before 1804 enslaved himself to that fatal drug which was to remain his
tyrant for the rest of his days.

When, then, and how did this slavery begin? What was the precise date
of Coleridge's first experiences of opium, and what the original cause
of his taking it? Within what time did its use become habitual? To what
extent was the decline of his health the effect of the evil habit, and
to what, if any, extent its cause? And how far, if at all, can the
deterioration of his character and powers be attributed to a decay of
physical constitution, brought about by influences beyond the
sufferer's own control?

Could every one of these questions be completely answered, we should be
in a position to solve the very obscure and painful problem before us;
but though some of them can be answered with more or less approach to
completeness, there is only one of them which can be finally disposed
of. It is certain, and it is no doubt matter for melancholy
satisfaction to have ascertained it, that Coleridge first had recourse
to opium as an anodyne. It was Nature's revolt from pain, and not her
appetite for pleasure, which drove him to the drug; and though De
Quincey, with his almost comical malice, remarks that, though Coleridge
began in the desire to obtain relief "there is no proof that he did not
end in voluptuousness," there is on the other hand no proof whatever
that he did so end--_until the habit was formed_. It is quite
consistent with probability, and only accords with Coleridge's own
express affirmations, to believe that it was the medicinal efficacy of
opium, and this quality of it alone, which induced him to resort to it
again and again until his senses contracted that well-known and
insatiable craving for the peculiar excitement, "voluptuous" only to
the initiated, which opium-intoxication creates. But let Coleridge
speak on this point for himself. Writing in April 1826 he says:--

"I wrote a few stanzas three-and-twenty years ago, soon after my eyes
had been opened to the true nature of the habit into which I had been
ignorantly deluded by the seeming magic effects of opium, in the sudden
removal of a supposed rheumatic affection, attended with swellings in
my knees and palpitation of the heart and pains all over me, by which I
had been bed-ridden for nearly six months. Unhappily among my
neighbours' and landlord's books were a large number of medical reviews
and magazines. I had always a fondness (a common case, but most
mischievous turn with reading men who are at all dyspeptic) for
dabbling in medical writings; and in one of these reviews I met a case
which I fancied very like my own, in which a cure had been effected by
the Kendal Black Drop. In an evil hour I procured it: it worked
miracles--the swellings disappeared, the pains vanished. I was all
alive, and all around me being as ignorant as myself, nothing could
exceed my triumph. I talked of nothing else, prescribed the
newly-discovered panacea for all complaints, and carried a little about
with me not to lose any opportunity of administering 'instant relief
and speedy cure' to all complainers, stranger or friend, gentle or
simple. Alas! it is with a bitter smile, a laugh of gall and
bitterness, that I recall this period of unsuspecting delusion, and how
I first became aware of the Maelstrom, the fatal whirlpool to which I
was drawing, just when the current was beyond my strength to stem. The
state of my mind is truly portrayed in the following effusion, for God
knows! that from that time I was the victim of pain and terror, nor had
I at any time taken the flattering poison as a stimulus or for any
craving after pleasurable sensation."

The "effusion" in question has parted company with the autobiographical
note, and the author of the prefatory memoir above quoted conjectures
it to have been a little poem entitled the _Visionary Hope_; but I am
myself of opinion, after a careful study of both pieces, that it is
more probably the _Pains of Sleep_, which moreover is known to have
been written in 1803. But whichever it be, its date is fixed in that
year by the statement in the autobiographical note of 1826 that the
stanzas referred to in it were written "twenty-three years ago." Thus,
then, we have the two facts established, that the opium-taking habit
had its origin in a bodily ailment, and that at some time in 1803 that
habit had become confirmed. The disastrous experiment in amateur
therapeutics, which was the means of implanting it, could not have
taken place, according to the autobiographical note, until at least six
months after Coleridge's arrival at Keswick, and perhaps not for some
months later yet. At any rate, it seems tolerably certain that it was
not till the spring of 1801, when the climate of the Lake country first
began to tell unfavourably on his health, that the "Kendal Black Drop"
was taken. Possibly it may have been about the time (April 1801) when
he wrote the letter to Southey which has been quoted above, and which,
it will be remembered, contained "so gloomy an account of his health."
How painfully ailing he was at this time we know from a variety of
sources, from some of which we also gather that he must have been a
sufferer in more or less serious forms from his boyhood upwards. Mr.
Gillman, for instance, who speaks on this point with the twofold
authority of confidant and medical expert, records a statement of
Coleridge's to the effect that, as a result of such schoolboy
imprudences as "swimming over the New River in my clothes and remaining
in them, full half the time from seventeen to eighteen was passed by me
in the sick ward of Christ's Hospital, afflicted with jaundice and
rheumatic fever." From these indiscretions and their consequences "may
be dated," Mr. Gillman thinks, "all his bodily sufferings in future
life." That he was a martyr to periodical attacks of rheumatism for
some years before his migration to Keswick is a conclusion resting upon
something more than conjecture. The _Ode to the Departing Year_ (1796)
was written, as he has himself told us, under a severe attack of
rheumatism in the head. In 1797 he describes himself in ill health, and
as forced to retire on that account to the "lonely farmhouse between
Porlock and London on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire,"
where _Kubla Khan_ was written. [1]

Thus much is, moreover, certain, that whatever were Coleridge's health
and habits during the first two years of his residence at Keswick, his
career as a poet--that is to say, as a poet of the first order--was
closed some months before that period had expired. The ode entitled
_Dejection_, to which reference has so often been made, was written on
the 4th of April 1802, and the evidential importance which attaches, in
connection with the point under inquiry, to this singularly pathetic
utterance has been almost universally recognised. Coleridge has himself
cited its most significant passage in the _Biographia Literaria_ as
supplying the best description of his mental state at the time when it
was written. De Quincey quotes it with appropriate comments in his
_Coleridge and Opium-Eating_. Its testimony is reverently invoked by
the poet's son in the introductory essay prefixed by him to his edition
of his father's works. The earlier stanzas are, however, so necessary
to the comprehension of Coleridge's mood at this time that a somewhat
long extract must be made. In the opening stanza he expresses a longing
that the storm which certain atmospheric signs of a delusively calm
evening appear to promise might break forth, so that

  "Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed,
   And sent my soul abroad,
  Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give,
  Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live."

And thus, with ever-deepening sadness, the poem proceeds:

  "A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
   A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
   Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
    In word, or sigh, or tear--
  O Lady! in this wan and heartless mood,
  To other thoughts by yonder throstle woo'd,
   All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
  Have I been gazing on the western sky,
   And its peculiar tint of yellow green:
  And still I gaze--and with how blank an eye!
  And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,
  That give away their motion to the stars;
  Those stars, that glide behind them or between,
  Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen:
   Yon crescent Moon as fixed as if it grew
   In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue;
   I see them all so excellently fair,
   I see, not feel how beautiful they are!

    "My genial spirits fail,
    And what can these avail
   To lift the smothering weight from off my breast?
    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.

   "O Lady! we receive but what we give,
   And in our life alone does nature live:
   Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud!
    And would we aught behold, of higher worth,
   Than that inanimate cold world allowed
   To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd,
    Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth,
   A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud
    Enveloping the earth--
   And from the soul itself must there be sent
    A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,
   Of all sweet sounds the life and element!

   "O pure of heart! thou need'st not ask of me
   What this strong music in the soul may be!
   What, and wherein it doth exist,
   This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist,
   This beautiful and beauty-making power.
    Joy, virtuous Lady! Joy that ne'er was given,
   Save to the pure, and in their purest hour,
   Life, and Life's effluence, cloud at once and shower,
   Joy, Lady! is the spirit and the power,
   Which, wedding Nature to us, gives in dower
    A new Earth and new Heaven,
   Undreamt of by the sensual and the proud--
   Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud--
    We in ourselves rejoice!
  And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,
   All melodies the echoes of that voice,
  All colours a suffusion from that light."

And then follows the much quoted, profoundly touching, deeply
significant stanza to which we have referred:--

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

Sadder lines than these were never perhaps written by any poet in
description of his own feelings. And what gives them their peculiar
sadness--as also, of course, their special biographical value--is that
they are not, like Shelley's similarly entitled stanzas, the mere
expression of a passing mood. They are the record of a life change, a
veritable threnody over a spiritual death. For there can be no
doubt--his whole subsequent history goes to show it--that Coleridge's
"shaping spirit of Imagination" was in fact dead when these lines were
written. To a man of stronger moral fibre a renascence of the poetical
instinct in other forms might, as I have suggested above, been
possible; but the poet of _Christabel_ and the _Ancient Mariner_ was
dead. The metaphysician had taken his place, and was striving, in
abstruse research, to live in forgetfulness of the loss. Little more,
that is to say, than a twelvemonth after the composition of the second
part of _Christabel_ the impulse which gave birth to it had passed away
for ever. Opium-taking had doubtless begun by this time--may
conceivably indeed have begun nearly a year before--and the mere _mood_
of the poem, the temporary phase of feeling which directed his mind
inwards into deeper reflections on its permanent state, is no doubt
strongly suggestive, in its excessive depression, of the terrible
reaction which is known to follow upon opium-excitement. But, I
confess, it seems to me improbable that even the habitual use of the
stimulant for so comparatively short a time as twelve months could have
produced so profound a change in Coleridge's intellectual nature. I
cannot but think that De Quincey overstates the case in declaring that
"opium killed Coleridge as a poet," though it may well be that, after
the collapse of health, which appears to me to have been the real
_causa causans_ in the matter, had killed the poet as we know him,
opium prevented his resurrection in another and it may be but little
inferior form. On the whole, in fact, the most probable account of this
all-important era in Coleridge's life appears to me to be this: that in
the course of 1801, as he was approaching his thirtieth year, a
distinct change for the worse--precipitated possibly, as Mr. Gillman
thinks, by the climate of his new place of abode--took place in his
constitution; that his rheumatic habit of body, and the dyspeptic
trouble by which it was accompanied became confirmed; and that the
severe attacks of the acute form of the malady which he underwent
produced such a permanent lowering of his vitality and animal spirits
as, _first_, to extinguish the creative impulse, and _then_ to drive
him to the physical anodyne of opium and to the mental stimulant of
metaphysics.

From the summer of 1801, at any rate, his _malaise_, both of mind and
body, appears to have grown apace. Repeated letters from Southey allow
us to see how deeply concerned he was at this time about his friend's
condition. Plans of foreign travel are discussed between them, and
Southey endeavours in vain to spur his suffering and depressed
correspondent to "the assertion of his supremacy" in some new literary
work. But, with the exception of his occasional contributions to the
press, whatever he committed to paper during these years exists only,
if at all, in a fragmentary form. And his restlessness, continually on
the increase, appears by the end of 1802 to have become ungovernable.
In November of that year he eagerly accepted an offer from Thomas
Wedgwood to become his companion on a tour, and he spent this and the
greater part of the following month in South Wales with some temporary
advantage, it would seem, to his health and spirits. "Coleridge,"
writes Mr. Wedgwood to a friend, "is all kindness to me, and in
prodigious favour here. He is quite easy, cheerful, and takes great
pains to make himself pleasant. He is willing, indeed desirous, to
accompany me to any part of the globe." "Coll and I," he writes on
another occasion, the abbreviation of name having been suggested to him
by Coleridge himself, "harmonise amazingly," and adds that his
companion "takes long rambles, and writes a great deal." But the fact
that such changes of air and scene produced no permanent effect upon
the invalid after his return to his own home appears to show that now,
at any rate, his fatal habit had obtained a firm hold upon him. And his
"writing a great deal resulted" only in the filling of many note-books,
and perhaps the sketching out of many of those vast schemes of literary
labour of which he was destined to leave so remarkable a collection at
his death. One such we find him forwarding to Southey in the August of
1803--the plan of a Bibliotheca Britannica, or "History of British
Literature, bibliographical, biographical, and critical," in eight
volumes. The first volume was to contain a "complete history of all
Welsh, Saxon, and Erse books that are not translations, but the native
growth of Britain;" to accomplish which, writes Coleridge, "I will with
great pleasure join you in learning Welsh and Erse." The second volume
was to contain the history of English poetry and poets, including "all
prose truly poetical." The third volume "English prose, considered as
to style, as to eloquence, as to general impressiveness; a history of
styles and manners, their causes, their birthplace and parentage, their
analysis." The fourth volume would take up "the history of metaphysics,
theology, medicine, alchemy; common, canon, and Roman law from Alfred
to Henry VII." The fifth would "carry on metaphysics and ethics to the
present day in the first half, and comprise in the second half the
theology of all the reformers." In the sixth and seventh volumes were
to be included "all the articles you (Southey) can get on all the
separate arts and sciences that have been treated of in books since the
Reformation; and by this time," concludes the enthusiastic projector,
"the book, if it answered at all, would have gained so high a
reputation that you need not fear having whom you liked to write the
different articles--medicine, surgery, chemistry, etc.; navigation,
travellers' voyages, etc., etc." There is certainly a melancholy humour
in the formulation of so portentous a scheme by a man who was at this
moment wandering aimlessly among the lakes and mountains, unable to
settle down to any definite piece of literary work, or even to throw
off a fatal habit, which could not fail, if persevered in, to destroy
all power of steady application in the future. That neither the comic
nor the pathetic element in the situation was lost upon Southey is
evident from his half-sad, half-satirical, wholly winning reply. "Your
plan," he writes, "is too good, too gigantic, quite beyond my powers.
If you had my tolerable state of health and that love of steady and
productive employment which is now grown into a necessary habit with
me, if you were to execute and would execute it, it would be beyond all
doubt the most valuable work of any age or any country; but I cannot
fill up such an outline. No man can better feel where he fails than I
do, and to rely upon you for whole quartos! Dear Coleridge, the smile
that comes with that thought is a very melancholy one; and if Edith saw
me now she would think my eyes were weak again, when in truth the
humour that covers them springs from another cause." A few weeks after
this interchange of correspondence Coleridge was once again to prove
how far he was from possessing Southey's "tolerable state of health."
Throughout the whole of this year he had been more restless than ever.
In January 1803 we find him staying with Southey at Bristol, "suffering
terribly from the climate, and talking of going abroad." A week later
he is at Stowey, planning schemes, not destined to be realised, of
foreign travel with Wedgwood. Returning again to Keswick, he started,
after a few months' quiescence, on 15th August, in company with
Wordsworth and his sister, for a tour in Scotland, but after a
fortnight he found himself too ill to proceed. The autumn rains set in,
and "poor Coleridge," writes Miss Wordsworth, "being very unwell,
determined to send his clothes to Edinburgh, and make the best of his
way thither, being afraid to face much wet weather in an open
carriage." It is possible, however, that his return to Keswick may have
been hastened by the circumstance that Southey, who had paid a brief
visit to the Lake country two years before, was expected in a few days
at the house which was destined to be his abode for the longest portion
of his life. He arrived at Greta Hall on 7th September 1803, and from
time to time during the next six months his correspondence gives us
occasional glimpses of Coleridge's melancholy state. At the end of
December, his health growing steadily worse, he conceived the project
of a voyage to Madeira, and quitted Keswick with the intention, after
paying a short visit to the Wordsworths, of betaking himself to London
to make preparations. His stay at Grasmere, however, was longer than he
had counted on. "He was detained for a month by a severe attack of
illness, induced, if his description is to be relied on, by the use of
narcotics. [2] Unsuspicious of the cause, Mrs. and Miss Wordsworth
nursed him with the tenderest affection, while the poet himself,
usually a parsimonious man, forced upon him, to use Coleridge's own
words, a hundred pounds in the event of his going to Madeira, and his
friend Stuart offered to befriend him." From Grasmere he went to
Liverpool, where he spent a pleasant week with his old Unitarian
friend, Dr. Crompton, and arrived in London at the close of 1803. Here,
however, his plans were changed. Malta was substituted for Madeira, in
response to an invitation from his friend Mr., afterwards Sir John,
Stoddart, then resident as judge in the Mediterranean island. By 12th
March, as we gather from the Southey correspondence, the change of
arrangements had been made. Two days afterwards he receives a letter of
valediction from his "old friend and brother" at Greta Hall, and on 2d
April 1804, he sailed from England in the _Speedwell_, dropping anchor
sixteen days later in Valetta harbour.


FOOTNOTES

1. Were it not for Coleridge's express statement that he first took
opium at Keswick, one would be inclined to attribute the gorgeous but
formless imagery of that poem to the effects of the stimulant. It is
certainly very like a metrical version of one of the pleasant variety
of opium-dreams described in De Quincey's poetic prose.

2. See Miss Meteyard (_A Group of Englishmen_, p. 223). Her evidence,
however, on any point otherwise doubtful in Coleridge's history should
be received with caution, as her estimate of the poet certainly errs
somewhat on the side of excessive harshness.



CHAPTER VI

Stay at Malta--Its injurious effects--Return to England--Meeting with
De Quincey--Residence in London--First series of lectures.

[1806-1809.]


Never was human being destined so sadly and signally to illustrate the
_coelum non animum_ aphorism as the unhappy passenger on the
_Speedwell_. Southey shall describe his condition when he left England;
and his own pathetic lines to William Wordsworth will picture him to us
on his return. "You are in great measure right about Coleridge," writes
the former to his friend Rickman, "he is worse in body than you seem to
believe; but the main cause lies in his own management of himself, or
rather want of management. His mind is in a perpetual St. Vitus's
dance--eternal activity without action. At times he feels mortified
that he should have done so little, but this feeling never produces any
exertion. 'I will begin to-morrow,' he says, and thus he has been all
his lifelong letting to-day slip. He has had no heavy calamities in
life, and so contrives to be miserable about trifles. Poor fellow,
there is no one thing which gives me so much pain as the witnessing
such a waste of unequalled powers." Then, after recalling the case of a
highly promising schoolfellow, who had made shipwreck of his life, and
whom "a few individuals only remember with a sort of horror and
affection, which just serves to make them melancholy whenever they
think of him or mention his name," he adds: "This will not be the case
with Coleridge; the _disjecta membra_ will be found if he does not die
early: but having so much to do, so many errors to weed out of the
world which he is capable of eradicating, if he does die without doing
his work, it would half break my heart, for no human being has had more
talents allotted." Such being his closest friend's account of him, and
knowing, as we now do (what Southey perhaps had no suspicion of at the
time), the chief if not the sole or original cause of his morally
nerveless condition, it is impossible not to feel that he did the worst
possible thing for himself in taking this journey to Malta. In quitting
England he cut himself off from those last possibilities of
self-conquest which the society and counsels of his friends might
otherwise have afforded him, and the consequences were, it is to be
feared, disastrous. After De Quincey's incredibly cool assertion that
it was "notorious that Coleridge began the use of opium, not as a
relief from any bodily pain or nervous irritations, since his
constitution was strong and excellent(!), but as a source of luxurious
sensations," we must receive anything which he has to say on this
particular point with the utmost caution; but there is only too much
plausibility in his statement that, Coleridge being necessarily thrown,
while at Malta, "a good deal upon his own resources in the narrow
society of a garrison, he there confirmed and cherished ... his habit
of taking opium in large quantities." Contrary to his expectations,
moreover, the Maltese climate failed to benefit him. At first, indeed,
he did experience some feeling of relief, but afterwards, according to
Mr. Gillman, he spoke of his rheumatic limbs as "lifeless tools," and
of the "violent pains in his bowels, which neither opium, ether, nor
peppermint combined could relieve."

Occupation, however, was not wanting to him, if occupation could have
availed in the then advanced stage of his case. He early made the
acquaintance of the governor of the island, Sir Alexander Ball, who,
having just lost his secretary by death, requested Coleridge to
undertake that official's duties until his successor should be
appointed. By this arrangement the governor and the public service in
all likelihood profited more than the provisional secretary; for
Coleridge's literary abilities proved very serviceable in the
department of diplomatic correspondence. The dignities of the office,
Mr. Gillman tells us, no doubt on Coleridge's own authority, "he never
attempted to support; he was greatly annoyed at what he thought its
unnecessary parade, and he petitioned Sir Alexander Ball to be relieved
from it." The purely mechanical duties of the post, too, appear to have
troubled him. He complains, in one of the journals which he kept during
this period, of having been "for months past incessantly employed in
official tasks, subscribing, examining, administering oaths, auditing,
etc." On the whole it would seem that the burden of his secretarial
employment, though doubtless it would have been found light enough by
any one accustomed to public business, was rather a weariness to the
flesh than a distraction to the mind; while in the meantime a new
symptom of disorder--a difficulty of breathing, to which he was always
afterwards subject--began to manifest itself in his case. Probably he
was glad enough--relieved, in more than one sense of the word--when, in
the autumn of 1805, the new secretary arrived at Malta to take his
place.

On 27th September Coleridge quitted the island on his homeward journey
_vié_ Italy, stopping for a short time at Syracuse on his way. At
Naples, which he reached on the 15th of December, he made a longer
stay, and in Rome his sojourn lasted some months. Unfortunately, for a
reason which will presently appear, there remains no written record of
his impressions of the Eternal City; and though Mr. Gillman assures us
that the gap is "partly filled by his own verbal account, repeated at
various times to the writer of this memoir," the public of to-day is
only indebted to "the writer of this memoir" for the not very startling
information that Coleridge, "while in Rome, was actively employed in
visiting the great works of art, statues, pictures, buildings, palaces,
etc. etc., observations on which he minuted down for publication." It
is somewhat more interesting to learn that he made the acquaintance of
many literary and artistic notabilities at that time congregated there,
including Tieck, the German poet and novelist, and the American painter
Alston, to whose skill we owe what is reputed to be the best of his
many not easily reconcilable portraits. The loss of his Roman memoranda
was indirectly brought about by a singular incident, his account of
which has met with some undeserved ridicule at the hands of Tory
criticism. When about to quit Rome for England _vié_ Switzerland and
Germany he took the precaution of inquiring of Baron von Humboldt,
brother of the traveller, and then Prussian Minister at the Court of
Rome, whether the proposed route was safe, and was by him informed that
he would do well to keep out of the reach of Bonaparte, who was
meditating the seizure of his person. According to Coleridge, indeed,
an order for his arrest had actually been transmitted to Rome, and he
was only saved from its execution by the connivance of the "good old
Pope," Pius VII., who sent him a passport and counselled his immediate
flight. Hastening to Leghorn, he discovered an American vessel ready to
sail for England, on board of which he embarked. On the voyage she was
chased by a French vessel, which so alarmed the captain that he
compelled Coleridge to throw his papers, including these precious MSS.,
overboard. The wrath of the First Consul against him was supposed to
have been excited by his contributions to the _Morning Post_, an
hypothesis which De Quincey reasonably finds by no means so ridiculous
as it appeared to a certain writer in _Blackwood_, who treated it as
the "very consummation of moonstruck vanity," and compared it to "John
Dennis's frenzy in retreating from the sea-coast under the belief that
Louis XIV. had commissioned commissaries to land on the English shore
and make a dash at his person." It must be remembered, however, that
Mr. Fox, to whose statement on such a point Napoleon would be likely to
attach especial weight, had declared in the House of Commons that the
rupture of the Peace of Amiens had been brought about by certain essays
in the _Morning Post_, and there is certainly no reason to believe that
a tyrant whose animosity against literary or quasi-literary assailants
ranged from Madame de Staël down to the bookseller Palm would have
regarded a man of Coleridge's reputation in letters as beneath the
stoop of his vengeance.

After an absence of two years and a half Coleridge arrived in England
in August 1806. That his then condition of mind and body was a
profoundly miserable one, and that he himself was acutely conscious of
it, will be seen later on in certain extracts from his correspondence;
but his own _Lines to William Wordsworth_--lines "composed on the night
after his recitation of a poem on the growth of an individual
mind"--contain an even more tragic expression of his state. It was
Wordsworth's pensive retrospect of their earlier years together which
awoke the bitterest pangs of self-reproach in his soul, and wrung from
it the cry which follows:--

  "Ah! as I listened with a heart forlorn
   The pulses of my being beat anew:
   And even as life returns upon the drowned,
   Life's joy rekindling roused a throng of pains--
   Keen pangs of Love, awakening as a babe
   Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart;
   And fears self-willed, that shunned the eye of hope;
   And hope that scarce would know itself from fear;
   Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
   And genius given, and knowledge won in vain;
   And all which I had culled in wood-walks wild,
   And all which patient toil had reared, and all,
   Commune with thee had opened out--but flowers
   Strewn on my corse, and borne upon my bier,
   In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!"

A dismal and despairing strain indeed, but the situation unhappily was
not less desperate. We are, in fact, entering upon that period of
Coleridge's life--a period, roughly speaking, of about ten years--which
no admirer of his genius, no lover of English letters, no one, it might
even be said, who wishes to think well of human nature, can ever
contemplate without pain. His history from the day of his landing in
England in August 1806 till the day when he entered Mr. Gillman's house
in 1816 is one long and miserable story of self-indulgence and
self-reproach, of lost opportunities, of neglected duties, of
unfinished undertakings. His movements and his occupation for the first
year after his return are not now traceable with exactitude, but his
time was apparently spent partly in London and partly at Grasmere and
Keswick. When in London, Mr. Stuart, who had now become proprietor of
the _Courier_, allowed him to occupy rooms at the office of that
newspaper to save him expense; and Coleridge, though his regular
connection with the _Courier_ did not begin till some years afterwards,
may possibly have repaid the accommodation by occasional contributions
or by assistance to its editor in some other form. It seems certain, at
any rate, that if he was earning no income in this way he was earning
none at all. His friend and patron, Mr. Thomas Wedgwood, had died while
he was in Malta; but the full pension of £150 per annum bestowed upon
him by the two brothers jointly continued to be paid to him by Josiah,
the senior. Coleridge, however, had landed in England in ignorance of
his patron's death. He had wholly neglected to keep up any
correspondence with the Wedgwoods during his stay in Malta, and though
"dreadfully affected" by it, as Mr. Poole records, he seems to have
allowed nearly a year to elapse before communicating with the surviving
brother. The letter which he then wrote deserves quotation, not only as
testimony to his physical and pecuniary condition on his arrival in
England, but as affording a distressing picture of the morbid state of
his emotions and the enfeebled condition of his will. "As to the
reasons for my silence, they are," he incoherently begins, "impossible,
and the numbers of the _causes_ of it, with the almost weekly
expectation for the last eight months of receiving my books,
manuscripts, etc. from Malta, has been itself a cause of increasing the
procrastination which constant ill health, despondency, domestic
distractions, and embarrassment from accidents, equally unconnected
with my will or conduct" [every cause mentioned, it will be seen, but
the true one], "had already seated deep in my very muscles, as it were.
I do not mean to accuse myself of idleness--I have enough of
self-crimination without adding imaginary articles--but in all things
that affect my moral feelings I have sunk under such a strange
cowardice of pain that I have not unfrequently kept letters from
persons dear to me for weeks together unopened. After a most miserable
passage from Leghorn of fifty-five days, during which my life was twice
given over, I found myself again in my native country, ill, penniless,
and worse than homeless. I had been near a month in the country before
I ventured or could summon courage enough to ask a question concerning
you and yours, and yet God Almighty knows that every hour the thought
had been gnawing at my heart. I then for the first time heard of that
event which sounded like my own knell, without its natural hope or
sense of rest. Such shall I be (is the thought that haunts me), but O!
not such; O! with what a different retrospect! But I owe it to justice
to say, Such good I truly can do myself, etc., etc." The rest of this
painfully inarticulate letter is filled with further complaints of ill
health, with further protestations of irresponsibility for the neglect
of duties, and with promises, never to be fulfilled, of composing or
assisting others to compose a memoir of Thomas Wedgwood, who, in
addition to his general repute as a man of culture, had made a special
mark by his speculations in psychology.

The singular expression, "worse than homeless," and the reference to
domestic distractions, appear to indicate that some estrangement had
already set in between Coleridge and his wife. De Quincey's testimony
to its existence at the time (a month or so later) when he made
Coleridge's acquaintance may, subject to the usual deductions, be
accepted as trustworthy; and, of course, for aught we know, it may then
have been already of some years' standing. That the provocation to it
on the husband's part may be so far antedated is at least a reasonable
conjecture. There may be nothing--in all likelihood there is
nothing--worth attention in De Quincey's gossip about the young lady,
"intellectually very much superior to Mrs. Coleridge, who became a
neighbour and daily companion of Coleridge's walks" at Keswick. But if
there be no foundation for his remarks on "the mischiefs of a situation
which exposed Mrs. Coleridge to an invidious comparison with a more
intellectual person," there is undoubtedly plenty of point in the
immediately following observation that "it was most unfortunate for
Coleridge himself to be continually compared with one so ideally
correct and regular in his habits as Mr. Southey." The passion of
female jealousy assuredly did not need to be called into play to
account for the alienation of Mrs. Coleridge from her husband. Mrs.
Carlyle has left on record her pathetic lament over the fate of a woman
who marries a man of genius; but a man of genius of the coldly selfish
and exacting type of the Chelsea philosopher would probably be a less
severe burden to a woman of housewifely instincts than the weak,
unmethodical, irresolute, shiftless being that Coleridge had by this
time become. After the arrival of the Southeys, Mrs. Coleridge would
indeed have been more than human if she had not looked with an envious
eye upon the contrast between her sister Edith's lot and her own. For
this would give her the added pang of perceiving that she was specially
unlucky in the matter, and that men of genius could ("if they chose,"
as she would probably, though not perhaps quite justly have put it)
make very good husbands indeed. If one poet could finish his poems, and
pay his tradesmen's bills, and work steadily for the publishers in his
own house without the necessity of periodical flittings to various
parts of the United Kingdom or the Continent, why, so could another.
With such reflections as these Mrs. Coleridge's mind was no doubt sadly
busy during the early years of her residence at the Lakes, and, since
their causes did not diminish but rather increased in intensity as time
went on, the estrangement between them--or rather, to do Coleridge
justice, her estrangement from her husband--had, by 1806, no doubt
become complete. The fatal habit which even up to this time seems to
have been unknown to most of his friends could hardly have been a
secret to his wife, and his four or five years of slavery to it may
well have worn out her patience.

This single cause indeed, namely, Coleridge's addiction to opium, is
quite sufficient, through the humiliations, discomfort, and privations,
pecuniary and otherwise, for which the vice was no doubt mediately or
immediately responsible, to account for the unhappy issue of a union
which undoubtedly was one of love to begin with, and which seems to
have retained that character for at least six years of its course. We
have noted the language of warm affection in which the "beloved Sara"
is spoken of in the early poems, and up to the time of Coleridge's stay
in Germany his feelings towards his wife remained evidently unchanged.
To his children, of whom three out of the four born to him had
survived, he was deeply attached; and the remarkable promise displayed
by the eldest son, Hartley, and his youngest child and only daughter,
Sara, made them objects of no less interest to his intellect than to
his heart. "Hartley," he writes to Mr. Poole in 1803, "is a strange,
strange boy, exquisitely wild, an utter visionary; like the moon among
thin clouds, he moves in a circle of light of his own making. He alone
is a light of his own." And of his daughter in the same poetic strain:
"My meek little Sara is a remarkably interesting baby, with the finest
possible skin, and large blue eyes, and she smiles as if she were
basking in a sunshine as mild as moonlight of her own quiet happiness."
Derwent, a less remarkable but no less attractive child than his
brother and sister (whom he was destined long to survive), held an
equal place in his father's affections. Yet all these interwoven
influences--a deep love of his children and a sincere attachment to his
wife, of whom, indeed, he never ceased to speak with respect and
regard--were as powerless as in so many thousands of other cases they
have been, to brace an enfeebled will to the task of self-reform. In
1807 "respect and regard" had manifestly taken the place of any warmer
feeling in his mind. Later on in the letter above quoted he says, "In
less than a week I go down to Ottery, with my children and their
mother, from a sense of duty" (_i.e._ to his brother, the Rev. George
Coleridge, who had succeeded his father as head master of the Ottery
St. Mary Grammar School) "as far as it affects myself, and from a
promise made to Mrs. Coleridge, as far as it affects her, and indeed of
a debt of respect to her for her many praiseworthy qualities." When
husbands and wives take to liquidating debts of this kind, and in this
spirit, it is pretty conclusive evidence that all other accounts
between them are closed.

The letter from which these extracts have been taken was written from
Aisholt near Bridgewater, where Coleridge was then staying, with his
wife and children, as the guest of a Mr. Price; and his friend Poole's
description to Josiah Wedgwood of his state at that time is significant
as showing that some at least of his intimate acquaintances had no
suspicion of the real cause of his bodily and mental disorders. "I
admire him," Poole writes, "and pity him more than ever. His
information is much extended, the _great_ qualities of his mind
heightened and better disciplined, but alas! his health is much weaker,
and his great failing, procrastination, or the incapability of acting
agreeably to his wish and will, much increased."

Whether the promised visit to Ottery St. Mary was ever paid there is no
record to show, but at the end of July 1807 we again hear of the
Coleridges at the house of a Mr. Chubb, a descendant of the Deist, at
Bridgewater; and here it was that De Quincey, after having endeavoured
in vain to run the poet to earth at Stowey, where he had been staying
with Mr. Poole, and whence he had gone to pay a short visit to Lord
Egmont, succeeded in obtaining an introduction to him. The
characteristic passage in which the younger man describes their first
meeting is too long for quotation, and it is to be hoped too well known
to need it: his vivid and acute criticism of Coleridge's conversation
may be more appropriately cited hereafter. His evidence as to the
conjugal relations of Coleridge and his wife has been already
discussed; and the last remaining point of interest about this
memorable introduction is the testimony which it incidentally affords
to De Quincey's genuine and generous instinct of hero-worship, and to
the depth of Coleridge's pecuniary embarrassments. The loan of £300,
which the poet's enthusiastic admirer insisted on Cottle's conveying to
him as from an unknown "young man of fortune who admired his talents,"
should cover a multitude of De Quincey's subsequent sins. It was indeed
only upon Cottle's urgent representation that he had consented to
reduce the sum from £500 to £300. Nor does there seem any doubt of
his having honestly attempted to conceal his own identity with the
nameless benefactor, though, according to his own later account, he
failed. [1]

This occurred in November 1807, and in the previous month De Quincey
had been able to render Coleridge a minor service, while at the same
moment gratifying a long cherished wish of his own. Mrs. Coleridge was
about to return with her children to Keswick, but her husband, not yet
master of this £300 windfall, and undoubtedly at his wits' end for
money, was arranging for a course of lectures to be delivered at the
Royal Institution early in the ensuing year, and could not accompany
them. De Quincey offered accordingly to be their escort, and duly
conducted them to Wordsworth's house, thus making the acquaintance of
the second of his two great poetical idols within a few months of
paying his first homage to the other. In February 1808 Coleridge again
took up his abode in London at his old free quarters in the _Courier_
office, and began the delivery of a promised series of sixteen lectures
on Poetry and the Fine Arts. "I wish you could see him," again writes
Poole to Wedgwood, "you would pity and admire. He is much improved, but
has still less voluntary power than ever. Yet he is so committed that I
think he must deliver these lectures." Considering that the authorities
of the Royal Institution had agreed to pay him one hundred guineas for
delivering the lectures, he undoubtedly was more or less "committed;"
and his voluntary power, however small, might be safely supposed to be
equal to the task of fulfilling a contract. But to get the lecturer
into the lecture-room does not amount to much more than bringing the
horse to the water. You can no more make the one drink than you can
prevent the other from sending his audience away thirsty. Coleridge's
lectures on Poetry and the Fine Arts were confused, ill arranged, and
generally disappointing to the last degree. Sometimes it was not even
possible to bring the horse to the water. Charles Lamb writes to
Manning on the 20th of February 1808 (early days indeed) that Coleridge
had only delivered two lectures, and that though "two more were
intended, he did not come." De Quincey writes of "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."
Naturally there came a time when the "women of distinction" began to
tire of this treatment. "The 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 what De Quincey has to say
of the lectures themselves when they did by chance get delivered is no
less melancholy. "The lecturer's appearance," he says, "was generally
that of a man struggling with pain and over-mastering 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 the lecture, he often seemed to labour under an almost
paralytic inability to raise the upper jaw from the lower" [_i.e._ I
suppose to move the lower jaw]. "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 on his extempore ability to carry him through.
Now, had he been in spirits, or had he gathered animation and kindled
by his own emotion, 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 reascent was possible,
or else this reaction 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 these 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. Generally speaking, the selections were as injudicious and as
inappropriate as they were ill delivered, for among 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
cadence of the human voice to sentiments the most trivial; [2] 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 pearls once
scattered on 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."

Severe as is this censure of the lectures, there is unhappily no good
ground for disputing its substantial justice. And the inferences which
it suggests are only too painfully plain. One can well understand
Coleridge's being an ineffective lecturer, and no failure in this
respect, however conspicuous, would necessarily force us to the
hypothesis of physical disability. But a Coleridge who could no more
compose a lecture than he could deliver one-a Coleridge who could
neither write nor extemporise anything specially remarkable on a
subject so congenial to him as that of English poetry--must assuredly
have spent most of his time, whether in the lecture-room or out of it,
in a state of incapacity for sustained intellectual effort. De
Quincey's humorous account of the lecturer's shiftless untidy life at
the Courier office, and even the Rabelaisian quip which Charles Lamb
throws at it in the above-quoted letter to Manning, are sufficient
indications of his state at this time. "Oh, Charles," he writes to
Lamb, early in February, just before the course of lectures was to
begin, "I am very, very ill. _Vixi._" The sad truth is that, as seems
to have been always the case with him when living alone, he was during
these months of his residence in London more constantly and hopelessly
under the dominion of opium than ever.


FOOTNOTES

1. "In a letter written by him (Coleridge) 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." Perhaps, however,
no very great indiscretion on Mr. Cottle's part was needed to enable
Coleridge to trace the loan to so ardent a young admirer and disciple.

2. The justice of this criticism will be acknowledged by those many
persons whom Mr. Bright's great elocutionary skill has occasionally
deluded into imagining that the very commonplace verse which the famous
orator has been often known to quote with admiration is poetry of a
high order.



CHAPTER VII.

Return to the Lakes--From Keswick to Grasmere--With Wordsworth at Allan
Bank--The _Friend_--Quits the Lake country for ever.

[1809-1810.]


From the close of this series of lectures in the month of May 1808
until the end of the year it is impossible to trace Coleridge's
movements or even to determine the nature of his occupation with any
approach to exactitude. The probability is, however, that he remained
in London at his lodgings in the _Courier_ office, and that he
supported himself by rendering assistance in various ways to Mr. Daniel
Stuart. We know nothing of him, however, with certainty until we find
him once more at the Lakes in the early part of the year 1809, but not
in his own home. Wordsworth had removed from his former abode at
Grasmere to Allan Bank, a larger house some three-quarters of a mile
distant, and there Coleridge took up his residence, more, it would
seem, as a permanent inmate of his friend's house than as a guest. The
specific cause of this migration from Greta Hall to Allan Bank does not
appear, but all the accessible evidence, contemporary and subsequent,
seems to point to the probability that it was the result of a definite
break-up of Coleridge's own home. He continued, at any rate, to reside
in Wordsworth's house during the whole seven months of his editorship
of the _Friend_, a new venture in periodical literature which he
undertook at this period; and we shall see that upon its failure he did
not resume his residence at Greta Hall, but quitted the Lake country at
once and for ever.

We need not take too literally Coleridge's declaration in the
_Biographia Literaria_ that one "main object of his in starting the
_Friend_ was to establish the philosophical distinction between the
Reason and the Understanding." Had this been so, or at least had the
periodical been actually conducted in conformity with any such purpose,
even the chagrined projector himself could scarcely have had the face
to complain, as Coleridge did very bitterly, of the reception accorded
to it by the public. The most unpractical of thinkers can hardly have
imagined that the "general reader" would "take in" a weekly
metaphysical journal published at a town in Cumberland. The _Friend_
was not quite so essentially hopeless an enterprise as that would have
been; but the accidents of mismanagement and imprudence soon made it,
for all practical purposes, sufficiently desperate. Even the forlorn
_Watchman_, which had been set on foot when Coleridge had fourteen
years' less experience of the world, was hardly more certainly
foredoomed. The first care of the founder of the _Friend_ was to
select, as the place of publication, a town exactly twenty-eight miles
from his own abode--a distance virtually trebled, as De Quincey
observes, "by the interposition of Kirkstone, a mountain only to be
scaled by a carriage ascent of three miles, and so steep in parts that
without four horses no solitary traveller can persuade the neighbouring
innkeepers to convey him." Here, however, at Penrith, "by way of
purchasing intolerable difficulties at the highest price," Coleridge
was advised and actually persuaded to set up a printer, to buy and lay
in a stock of paper, types, etc., instead of resorting to some printer
already established at a nearer place--as, for instance, Kendal, which
was ten miles nearer, and connected with Coleridge's then place of
residence by a daily post, whereas at Penrith there was no post at all.
Having thus studiously and severely handicapped himself, the projector
of the new periodical set to work, upon the strength of what seems to
have been in great measure a fancy list of subscribers, to print and,
so far as his extraordinary arrangements permitted, to circulate his
journal. With _naïve_ sententiousness he warns the readers of the
_Biographia Literaria_ against trusting, in their own case, to such a
guarantee as he supposed himself to possess. "You cannot," he observes,
"be certain that the names on a subscription list have been put down by
sufficient authority; or, should that be ascertained, it still remains
to be known whether they were not extorted by some over-zealous
friend's importunity; whether the subscriber had not yielded his name
merely from want of courage to say no! and with the intention of
dropping the work as soon as possible." Thus out of a hundred patrons
who had been obtained for the _Friend_ by an energetic canvasser,
"ninety threw up the publication before the fourth number without any
notice, though it was well known to them that in consequence of the
distance and the slowness and irregularity of the conveyance" [it is
amusing to observe the way in which Coleridge notes these drawbacks of
his own creation as though they were "the act of God"] "I was compelled
to lay in a stock of stamped paper for at least eight weeks beforehand,
each sheet of which stood me in fivepence previous to its arrival at my
printer's; though the subscription money was not to be received till
the twenty-first week after the commencement of the work; and, lastly,
though it was in nine cases out of ten impracticable for me to receive
the money for two or three numbers without paying an equal sum for the
postage."

Enough appears in this undesignedly droll account of the venture to
show pretty clearly that, even had the _Friend_ obtained a reasonable
measure of popularity at starting, the flagrant defects in the methods
of distributing and financing it must have insured its early decease.
But, as a matter of fact, it had no chance of popularity from the
outset. Its first number appeared on 1st August 1809, and Coleridge,
writing to Southey on 20th October of the same year, speaks of his
"original apprehension" that the plan and execution of the _Friend_ is
so utterly unsuitable to the public taste as to preclude all rational
hopes of its success. "Much," he continues, "might have been done to
have made the former numbers less so, by the interposition of others
written more expressly for general interest;" and he promises to do his
best in future to "interpose tales and whole numbers of amusement,
which will make the periods lighter and shorter." Meanwhile he begs
Southey to write a letter to the _Friend_ in a lively style, rallying
its editor on "his Quixotism in expecting that the public will ever
pretend to understand his lucubrations or feel any interest in subjects
of such sad and unkempt antiquity." Southey, ever good-natured,
complied, even amid the unceasing press of his work, with the request;
and to the letter of lightly-touched satire which he contributed to the
journal he added a few private lines of friendly counsel, strongly
urging Coleridge to give two or three amusing numbers, and he would
hear of admiration on every side. "Insert too," he suggested, "a few
more poems--any that you have, except _Christabel_, for that is of too
much value. And write _now_ that character of Bonaparte, announced in
former times for 'to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow.'" It was too
late, however, for good advice to be of any avail: the _Friend_ was
past praying for. It lingered on till its twenty-eighth number, and
expired, unlike the Watchman, without any farewell to its friends, in
the third week of March 1810.

The republication of this periodical, or rather selections from it,
which appeared in 1818, is hardly perhaps described with justice in De
Quincey's words as "altogether and absolutely a new work." A reader
can, at any rate, form a pretty fair estimate from it of the style and
probable public attractions of the original issue; and a perusal of it,
considered in its character as a bid for the patronage of the general
reader, is certainly calculated to excite an astonishment too deep for
words. We have, of course, to bear in mind that the standard of the
readable in our grandfathers' days was a more liberal and tolerant one
than it is in our own. In those days of leisurely communications and
slowly moving events there was relatively at least a far larger public
for a weekly issue of moral and philosophical essays, under the name of
a periodical, than it would be found easy to secure at present, when
even a monthly discourse upon things in general requires Mr. Euskin's
brilliancy of eloquence, vivacity of humour, and perpetual charm of
unexpectedness to carry it off. Still the _Spectator_ continued to be
read in Coleridge's day, and people therefore must have had before them
a perpetual example of what it was possible to do in the way of
combining entertainment with instruction. How, then, it could have
entered into the mind of the most sanguine projector to suppose that
the _longueurs_ and the difficulty of the _Friend_ would be patiently
borne with for the sake of the solid nutriment which it contained it is
quite impossible to understand. Even supposing that a weekly, whose
avowed object was "to aid in the formation of fixed principles in
politics, morals, and religion," could possibly be floated, even "with
literary amusements interspersed," it is evident that very much would
depend upon the character of these "amusements" themselves. In the
republication of 1817 they appear under the heading of
"landing-places." One of them consists of a parallel between Voltaire
and Erasmus, and between Rousseau and Luther, founded, of course, on
the respective attitudes of the two pairs of personages to the
Revolution and the Reformation. Another at the end of the series
consists of a criticism of, and panegyric on, Sir Alexander Ball, the
governor of Malta. Such are the landing-places. But how should any
reader, wearied with "for ever climbing up the climbing wave" of
Coleridge's eloquence, have found rest or refreshment on one of these
uncomfortable little sandbanks? It was true that the original issue of
the _Friend_ contained poetical contributions which do not appear in
the republication; but poetry in itself, or, at any rate, good poetry,
is not a relief to the overstrained faculties, and, even if it were,
the relief would have been provided at too infrequent intervals to
affect the general result. The fact is, however, that Coleridge's own
theory of his duty as a public instructor was in itself fatal to any
hope of his venture proving a commercial success. Even when entreated
by Southey to lighten the character of the periodical, he accompanies
his admission of the worldly wisdom of the advice with something like a
protest against such a departure from the severity of his original
plan. His object, as he puts it with much cogency from his own
unpractical point of view--his object being to teach men how to think
on politics, religion, and morals, and thinking being a very arduous
and distasteful business to the mass of mankind, it followed that the
essays of the _Friend_ (and particularly the earlier essays, in which
the reader required to be "grounded" in his subject) could hardly be
agreeable reading. With perfect frankness indeed does he admit in his
prospectus that he must "submit to be thought dull by those who seek
amusement only." He hoped, however, as he says in one of his earlier
essays, to become livelier as he went on. "The proper merit of a
foundation is its massiveness and solidity. The conveniences and
ornaments, the gilding and stucco-work, the sunshine and sunny
prospects, will come with the superstructure." But the building, alas!
was never destined to be completed, and the architect had his own
misgivings about the attractions even of the completed edifice. "I dare
not flatter myself that any endeavours of mine, compatible with the
duty I owe to the truth and the hope of permanent utility, will render
the _Friend_ agreeable to the majority of what is called the reading
public. I never expected it. How indeed could I when, etc." Yet, in
spite of these professions, it is clear from the prospectus that
Coleridge believed in the possibility of obtaining a public for the
_Friend_. He says that "a motive for honourable ambition was supplied
by the fact that every periodical paper of the kind now attempted,
which had been conducted with zeal and ability, was not only well
received at the time, but has become popular;" and he seems to regard
it as a comparatively unimportant circumstance that the _Friend_ would
be distinguished from "its celebrated predecessors, the _Spectator_ and
the like," by the "greater length of the separate essays, by their
closer connection with each other, and by the predominance of one
object, and the common bearing of all to one end." It was, of course,
exactly this _plus_ of prolixity and _minus_ of variety which lowered
the sum of the _Friend's_ attractions so far below that of the
_Spectator_ as to deprive the success of Addison of all its value as a
precedent.

Nor is it easy to agree with the editor of the reprint of 1837 that the
work, "with all its imperfections, is perhaps the most vigorous" of its
author's compositions. That there are passages in it which impress us
by their force of expression, as well as by subtlety or beauty of
thought, must of course be admitted. It was impossible to a man of
Coleridge's literary power that it should be otherwise. But "vigorous"
is certainly not the adjective which seems to me to suggest itself to
an impartial critic of these too copious disquisitions. Making every
allowance for their necessary elasticity of scope as being designed to
"prepare and discipline the student's moral and intellectual being, not
to propound dogmas and theories for his adoption," it must, I think, be
allowed that they are wanting in that continuity of movement and
co-ordination of parts which, as it seems to me, enters into any
intelligible definition of "vigour," as attributed to a work of moral
and political exposition considered as a whole. The writer's
discursiveness is too often and too vexatiously felt by the reader to
permit of the survival of any sense of theorematic unity in his mind;
he soon gives up all attempts at periodical measurement of his own and
his author's progress towards the prescribed goal of their journey; and
he resigns himself in this, as in so many other of Coleridge's prose
works, to a study of isolated and detached passages. So treated,
however, one may freely admit that the _Friend_ is fully worthy of the
admiration with which Mr. H. N. Coleridge regarded it. If not the most
vigorous, it is beyond all comparison the most characteristic of all
his uncle's performances in this field of his multiform activity. In no
way could the peculiar pregnancy of Coleridge's thoughts, the more than
scholastic subtlety of his dialectic, and the passionate fervour of his
spirituality be more impressively exhibited than by a well-made
selection of _loci_ from the pages of the _Friend_.



CHAPTER VIII.

London again--Second recourse to journalism--The _Courier_
articles--The Shakespeare lectures--Production of _Remorse_--At Bristol
again as lecturer--Residence at Calne--Increasing ill health and
embarrassment--Retirement to Mr. Gillman's.

[1810-1816.]


The life led by Coleridge during the six years next ensuing is
difficult to trace, even in the barest outline; to give a detailed and
circumstantial account of it from any ordinarily accessible source of
information is impossible. Nor is it, I imagine, very probable that
even the most exhaustive search among whatever imprinted records may
exist in the possession of his friends would at all completely supply
the present lack of biographical material. For not only had it become
Coleridge's habit to disappear from the sight of his kinsmen and
acquaintances for long periods together; he had fallen almost wholly
silent also. They not only ceased to see him, but they ceased to hear
of him. Letters addressed to him, even on subjects of the greatest
importance, would remain for months unnoticed, and in many instances
would receive no answer at all. His correspondence during the next
half-dozen years must have been of the scantiest amount and the most
intermittent character, and a biographer could hope, therefore, for but
little aid in bridging over the large gaps in his knowledge of this
period, even if every extant letter written by Coleridge during its
continuance were to be given to the world.

Such light, too, as is retrospectively thrown upon it by Coleridge's
correspondence of a later date is of the most fitful
description,--scarcely more than serves, in fact, for the rendering of
darkness visible. Even the sudden and final departure from the Lakes it
leaves involved in as much obscurity as ever. Writing to Mr. Thomas
Allsop [1] from Ramsgate twelve years afterwards (8th October 1822) he
says that he "counts four grasping and griping sorrows in his past
life." The first of these "was when" [no date given] "the vision of a
happy home sank for ever, and it became impossible for me longer even
to hope for domestic happiness under the name of husband." That is
plain enough on the whole, though it still leaves us in some
uncertainty as to whether the "sinking of the vision" was as gradual as
the estrangement between husband and wife, or whether he refers to some
violent rupture of relations with Mrs. Coleridge, possibly
precipitating his departure from the Lakes. If soothe second "griping
and grasping sorrow" followed very quickly on the first, for he says
that it overtook him "on the night of his arrival from Grasmere with
Mr. and Mrs. Montagu;" while in the same breath and paragraph, and as
though undoubtedly referring to the same thing, he speaks of the
"destruction of a friendship of fifteen years when, just at the moment
of Tenner and Curtis's (the publishers) bankruptcy" (by which Coleridge
was a heavy loser, but which did not occur till seven years
afterwards), somebody indicated by seven asterisks and possessing an
income of £1200 a-year, was "totally transformed into baseness." There
is certainly not much light here, any more than in the equally
enigmatical description of the third sorrow as being "in some sort
included in the second," so that "what the former was to friendship the
latter was to a still more inward bond." The truth is, that all
Coleridge's references to himself in his later years are shrouded in a
double obscurity. One veil is thrown over them by his deliberate
preference for abstract and mystical forms of expression, and another
perhaps by that kind of shameful secretiveness which grows upon all men
who become the slaves of concealed indulgences, and which often
displays itself on occasions when it has no real object to gain of any
kind whatever.

Thus much only we know, that on reaching London in the summer of 1810
Coleridge became the guest of the Montagus, and that, after some
months' residence with them, he left as the immediate result of some
difference with his host which was never afterwards composed. Whether
it arose from the somewhat trivial cause to which De Quincey has,
admittedly upon the evidence of "the learned in literary scandal,"
referred it, it is now impossible to say. But at some time or other,
towards the close probably of 1810, or in the early months of 1811,
Coleridge quitted Mr. Montagu's house for that of Mr. John Morgan, a
companion of his early Bristol days, and a common friend of his and
Southey's; and here, at No. 7 Portland Place, Hammersmith, he was
residing when, for the second time, he resolved to present himself to
the London public in the capacity of lecturer. His services were on
this occasion engaged by the London Philosophical Society, at Crane
Court, Fleet Street, and their prospectus announced that on Monday,
18th November, Mr. Coleridge would commence "a course of lectures on
Shakspeare and Milton, in illustration of the principles of poetry and
their application, on grounds of criticism, to the most popular works
of later English poets, those of the living included. After an
introductory lecture on false criticism (especially in poetry) and on
its causes, two-thirds of the remaining course," continues the
prospectus, "will be assigned, 1st, to a philosophical analysis and
explanation of all the principal characters of our great dramatists, as
Othello, Falstaff, Richard the Third, Lago, Hamlet, etc., and to a
critical comparison of Shakspeare in respect of diction, imagery,
management of the passions, judgment in the construction of his
dramas--in short, of all that belongs to him as a poet, and as a
dramatic poet, with his contemporaries or immediate successors, Jonson,
Beaumont and Fletcher, Ford, Massinger, and in the endeavour to
determine which of Shakespeare's merits and defects are common to him,
with other writers of the same age, and what remain peculiar to his
genius."

A couple of months before the commencement of this course, viz. in
September 1811, Coleridge seems to have entered into a definite
journalistic engagement with his old editor, Mr. Daniel Stuart, then
the proprietor of the _Courier_. It was not, however, his first
connection with that journal. He had already published at least one
piece of verse in its columns, and two years before, while the _Friend_
was still in existence, he had contributed to it a series of letters on
the struggle of the Spaniards against their French invaders. In these,
as though to show that under the ashes of his old democratic enthusiasm
still lived its wonted fires, and that the inspiration of a popular
cause was only needed to reanimate them, we find, with less of the
youthful lightness of touch and agility of movement, a very near
approach to the vigour of his early journalistic days. Whatever may be
thought of the historic value of the parallel which he institutes
between the struggle of the Low Countries against their tyrant, and
that of the Peninsula against its usurping conqueror, it is worked out
with remarkable ingenuity of completeness. Whole pages of the letters
are radiant with that steady flame of hatred which, ever since the hour
of his disillusionment, had glowed in his breast at the name and
thought of Bonaparte; and whenever he speaks of the Spaniards, of
Spanish patriotism, of the Spanish Cortes, we see that the names of
"the people," of "freedom," of "popular assembly," have some of their
old magic for him still. The following passage is almost pathetic in
its reminder of the days of 1792, before that modern Leonidas, the
young French Republic, had degenerated into the Xerxes of the Empire.

"The power which raised up, established, and enriched the Dutch
republic,--the same mighty power is no less at work in the present
struggle of the Spanish nation, a power which mocks the calculations of
ordinary statecraft too subtle to be weighed against it, and mere
outward brute force too different from it to admit of comparison. A
power as mighty in the rational creation as the element of electricity
in the material world; and, like that element, infinite in its
affinities, infinite in its mode of action, combining the most
discordant natures, fixing the most volatile, and arming the sluggish
vapour of the marsh with arrows of fire; working alike in silence and
in tempest, in growth and in destruction; now contracted to an
individual soul, and now, as in a moment, dilating itself over a whole
nation! Am I asked what this mighty power may be, and wherein it
exists? If we are worthy of the fame which we possess as the countrymen
of Hampden, Russell, and Algernon Sidney, we shall find the answer in
our own hearts. It is the power of the insulted free-will, steadied by
the approving conscience and struggling against brute force and
iniquitous compulsion for the common rights of human nature, brought
home to our inmost souls by being, at the same time, the rights of our
betrayed, insulted, and bleeding country."

And as this passage recalls the most striking characteristics of his
earlier style, so may its conclusion serve as a fair specimen of the
calmer eloquence of his later manner:--

"It is a painful truth, sir, that these men who appeal most to facts,
and pretend to take them for their exclusive guide, are the very
persons who most disregard the light of experience when it refers them
to the mightiness of their own inner nature, in opposition to those
forces which they can see with their eyes, and reduce to figures upon a
slate. And yet, sir, what is history for the greater and more useful
part but a voice from the sepulchres of our forefathers, assuring us,
from their united experience, that our spirits are as much stronger
than our bodies as they are nobler and more permanent? The historic
muse appears in her loftiest character as the nurse of Hope. It is her
appropriate praise that her records enable the magnanimous to silence
the selfish and cowardly by appealing to actual events for the
information of these truths which they themselves first learned from
the surer oracle of their own reason."

But this reanimation of energy was but a transient phenomenoa It did
not survive the first freshness of its exciting cause. The Spanish
insurrection grew into the Peninsular war, and though the glorious
series of Wellington's victories might well, one would think, have
sustained the rhetorical temperature at its proper pitch, it failed to
do so. Or was it, as the facts appear now and then to suggest, that
Coleridge at Grasmere or Keswick-Coleridge in the inspiring (and
restraining) companionship of close friends and literary compeers--was
an altogether different man from Coleridge in London, alone with his
thoughts and his opium? The question cannot be answered with
confidence, and the fine quality of the lectures on Shakespeare is
sufficient to show that, for some time, at any rate, after his final
migration to London, his critical faculty retained its full vigour. But
it is beyond dispute that his regular contributions to the _Courier_ in
1811-12 are not only vastly inferior to his articles of a dozen years
before in the _Morning Post_ but fall sensibly short of the level of
the letters of 1809, from which extract has just been made. Their tone
is spiritless, and they even lack distinction of style. Their very
subjects, and the mode of treating them, appear to show a change in
Coleridge's attitude towards public affairs if not in the very
conditions of his journalistic employment. They have much more of the
character of newspaper hack-work than his earlier contributions. He
seems to have been, in many instances, set to write a mere report, and
often a rather dry and mechanical report of this or the other
Peninsular victory. He seldom or never discusses the political
situation, as his wont had been, _au large_; and in place of broad
statesmanlike reflection on the scenes and actors in the great
world-drama then in progress, we meet with too much of that sort of
criticism on the consistency and capacity of "our contemporary, the
_Morning Chronicle_," which had less attraction, it may be suspected,
even for the public of its own day than for the journalistic
profession, while for posterity, of course, it possesses no interest at
all. The series of contributions extends from September of 1811 until
April of the following year, and appears to have nearly come to a
premature and abrupt close in the intermediate July, when an article
written by Coleridge in strong opposition to the proposed reinstatement
of the Duke of York in the command-in-chief was, by ministerial
influence, suppressed before publication. This made Coleridge, as his
daughter informs us on the authority of Mr. Crabb Kobinson, "very
uncomfortable," and he was desirous of being engaged on another paper.
He wished to be connected with the _Times_, and "I spoke," says Mr.
Eobinson, "with Walter on the subject, but the negotiation failed."

With the conclusion of the lectures on Shakespeare, and the loss of the
stimulus, slight as it then was to him, of regular duties and recurring
engagements, Coleridge seems to have relapsed once more into thoroughly
desultory habits of work. The series of aphorisms and reflections which
he contributed in 1812 to Southey's _Omniana_, witty, suggestive,
profound as many of them are, must not of course be referred to the
years in which they were given to the world. They belong unquestionably
to the order of _marginalia_, the scattered notes of which De Quincey
speaks with not extravagant admiration, and which, under the busy
pencil of a commentator always indefatigable in the _strenua inertia_
of reading, had no doubt accumulated in considerable quantities over a
long course of years.

The disposal, however, of this species of literary material could
scarcely have been a source of much profit to him, and Coleridge's
difficulties of living must by this time have been growing acute. His
pension from the Wedgwoods had been assigned, his surviving son has
stated, to the use of his family, and even this had been in the
previous year reduced by half. "In Coleridge's neglect," observes Miss
Meteyard, "of his duties to his wife, his children, and his friends,
must be sought the motives which led Mr. Wedgwood in 1811 to withdraw
his share of the annuity. An excellent, even over-anxious father, he
was likely to be shocked at a neglect which imposed on the generosity
of Southey, himself heavily burdened, those duties which every man of
feeling and honour proudly and even jealously guards as his own.... The
pension of £150 per annum had been originally granted with the view to
secure Coleridge independence and leisure while he effected some few of
his manifold projects of literary work. But ten years had passed, and
these projects were still _in nubibus_--even the life of Leasing, even
the briefer memoir of Thomas Wedgwood; and gifts so well intentioned,
had as it were, ministered to evil rather than to good." We can hardly
wonder at the step, however we may regret it; and if one of the reasons
adduced in defence of it savours somewhat of the fallacy known as _...
non causƒ, pro causƒ_, we may perhaps attribute that rather to the
maladroitness of Miss Meteyard's advocacy than to the weakness of Mr.
Wedgwood's logic. The fact, however, that this "excellent, even
over-anxious father" was shocked at a neglect which imposed a burden on
the generosity of Southey, is hardly a just ground for cutting off one
of the supplies by which that burden was partially relieved. As to the
assignment of the pension to the family, it is impossible to question
what has been positively affirmed by an actual member of that family,
the Rev. Derwent Coleridge himself; though, when he adds that not only
was the school education of both the sons provided from this source,
but that through his (Coleridge's) influence they were both sent to
college, his statement is at variance, as will be presently seen, with
an authority equal to his own.

In 1812, at any rate, we may well believe that Coleridge's necessities
had become pressing, and the timely service then rendered to him by
Lord Byron may have been suggested almost as much by a knowledge of his
needs as by admiration for the dramatic merits of his long-since
rejected tragedy. _Osorio's_ time had at any rate come. The would-be
fratricide changed his name to Ordonio, and ceased to stand sponsor to
the play, which was rechristened _Remorse_, and accepted at last, upon
Byron's recommendation, by the committee of Drury Lane Theatre, the
playhouse at whose doors it had knocked vainly fifteen years before it
was performed there for the first time on the 23d of January 1813. The
prologue and epilogue, without which in those times no gentleman's
drama was accounted complete, was written, the former by Charles Lamb,
the latter by the author himself. It obtained a brilliant success on
its first representation, and was honoured with what was in those days
regarded as the very respectable run of twenty nights.

The success, however, which came so opportunely for his material
necessities was too late to produce any good effect upon Coleridge's
mental state. But a month after the production of his tragedy we find
him writing in the most dismal strain of hypochondria to Thomas Poole.
The only pleasurable sensation which the success of _Remorse_ had given
him was, he declares, the receipt of his friend's "heart-engendered
lines" of congratulation. "No grocer's apprentice, after his first
month's permitted riot, was ever sicker of figs and raisins than I of
hearing about the _Remorse_. The endless rat-a-tat-tat at our
black-and-blue bruised doors, and my three master-fiends, proof-sheets,
letters, and--worse than these--invitations to large dinners, which I
cannot refuse without offence and imputation of pride, etc., oppress me
so much that my spirits quite sink under it. I have never seen the play
since the first night. It has been a good thing for the theatre. They
will get eight or ten thousand pounds by it, and I shall get more than
by all my literary labours put together--nay, thrice as much." So
large a sum of money as this must have amounted to should surely have
lasted him for years; but the particular species of intemperance to
which he was now hopelessly enslaved is probably the most costly of all
forms of such indulgence, and it seems pretty evident that the proceeds
of his theatrical _coup_ were consumed in little more than a year.

Early in 1814, at any rate, Coleridge once more returned to his old
occupation of lecturer, and this time not in London, but in the scene
of his first appearance in that capacity. The lectures which he
proposed to deliver at Bristol were, in fact, a repetition of the
course of 1811-12; but the ways of the lecturer, to judge from an
amusing story recorded by Cottle, more nearly resembled his proceedings
in 1808. A "brother of Mr. George Cumberland," who happened to be his
fellow-traveller to Bristol on this occasion, relates that before the
coach started Coleridge's attention was attracted by a little Jew boy
selling pencils, with whom he entered into conversation, and with whose
superior qualities he was so impressed as to declare that "if he had
not an important engagement at Bristol he would stay behind to provide
some better condition for the lad." The coach having started, "the
gentleman" (for his name was unknown to the narrator of the incident)
"talked incessantly and in a most entertaining way for thirty miles out
of London, and, afterwards, with little intermission till they reached
Marlborough," when he discovered that a lady in the coach with him was
a particular friend of his; and on arriving at Bath he quitted the
coach declaring that he was determined not to leave her till he had
seen her safe to her brother's door in North Wales. This was the day
fixed for the delivery of Coleridge's first lecture. Two or three days
afterwards, having completed his _détour_ by North Wales, he arrived
at Bristol: another day was fixed for the commencement of the course,
and Coleridge then presented himself an hour after the audience had
taken their seats. The "important engagement" might be broken, it
seems, for a mere whim, though not for a charitable impulse--a
distinction testifying to a mixture of insincerity and unpunctuality
not pleasant to note as an evidence of the then state of Coleridge's
emotions and will.

Thus inauspiciously commenced, there was no reason why the Bristol
lectures of 1814 should be more successful than the London Institution
lectures of 1808; nor were they, it appears, in fact. They are said to
have been "sparsely attended,"--no doubt owing to the natural
unwillingness of people to pay for an hour's contemplation of an empty
platform; and their pecuniary returns in consequence were probably
insignificant. Coleridge remained in Bristol till the month of August,
when he returned to London.

The painful task of tracing his downward course is now almost
completed. In the middle of this year he touched the lowest point of
his descent. Cottle, who had a good deal of intercourse with him by
speech and letter in 1814, and who had not seen him since 1807, was
shocked by his extreme prostration, and then for the first time
ascertained the cause. "In 1814," he says in his _Recollections_, "S.
T. C. had been long, very long, in the habit of taking from two quarts
of laudanum a week to a pint a day, and on one occasion he had been
known to take in the twenty-four hours a whole quart of laudanum. The
serious expenditure of money resulting from this habit was the least
evil, though very great, and must have absorbed all the produce of his
writings and lectures and the liberalities of his friends." Cottle
addressed to him a letter of not very delicate remonstrance on the
subject, to which Coleridge replied in his wontedly humble strain.

There is a certain Pharisaism about the Bristol poet-publisher which
renders it necessary to exercise some little caution in the acceptance
of his account of Coleridge's condition; but the facts, from whatever
source one seeks them, appear to acquit him of any exaggeration in his
summing up of the melancholy matter. "A general impression," he says,
"prevailed on the minds of Coleridge's friends that it was a desperate
case, that paralysed all their efforts; that to assist Coleridge with
money which, under favourable circumstances would have been most
promptly advanced, would now only enlarge his capacity to obtain the
opium which was consuming him. We merely knew that Coleridge had
retired with his friend, Mr. John Morgan, to a small house at Calne in
Wiltshire."

It must have been at Calne, then, that Coleridge composed the series of
"Letters to Mr. Justice Fletcher concerning his charge to the Grand
Jury of the county of Wexford, at the summer Assizes in 1814," which
appeared at intervals in the _Courier_ between 20th September and 10th
December of this year. Their subject, a somewhat injudiciously animated
address to the aforesaid Grand Jury on the subject of the relations
between Catholicism and Protestantism in Ireland, was well calculated
to stimulate the literary activity of a man who always took something
of the keen interest of the modern Radical in the eternal Irish
question; and the letters are not wanting either in argumentative force
or in grave impressiveness of style. But their lack of spring and
energy as compared with Coleridge's earlier work in journalism is
painfully visible throughout.

Calne, it is to be supposed, was still Coleridge's place of abode when
Southey (17th October) wrote Cottle that letter which appears in his
_Correspondence_, and which illustrates with such sad completeness the
contrast between the careers of the two generous, romantic, brilliant
youths who had wooed their wives together--and between the fates, one
must add, of the two sisters who had listened to their wooing--eighteen
years before: a letter as honourable to the writer as it is the reverse
to its subject. "Can you," asks Southey, "tell me anything of
Coleridge? A few lines of introduction for a son of Mr. ---- of St.
James's, in your city, are all that we have received from him since I
saw him last September twelvemonth (1813) in town. The children being
thus left entirely to chance, I have applied to his brothers at Ottey
(Ottery?) concerning them, and am in hopes through their means and the
assistance of other friends of sending Hartley to college. Lady
Beaumont has promised £30 a year for the purpose, and Poole £10. I
wrote to Coleridge three or four months ago, telling him that unless he
took some steps in providing for this object I must make the
application, and required his answer within a given term of three
weeks. He received the letter, and in his note by Mr. ---- promised to
answer it, but he has never taken any further notice of it. I have
acted with the advice of Wordsworth. The brothers, as I expected,
promise their concurrence, and I daily expect a letter stating to what
extent they will contribute." With this letter before him an impartial
biographer can hardly be expected to adopt the theory which has
commended itself to the filial piety of the Rev. Derwent
Coleridge--namely, that it was through the father's "influence" that
the sons were sent to college. On a plain matter of fact such as this,
one may be permitted, without indelicacy, to uphold the conclusions
compelled by the evidence. Such expressions of opinion, on the other
hand, as that Coleridge's "separation from his family, brought about
and continued through the force of circumstances over which he had far
less control than has been commonly supposed, was in fact nothing else
but an ever-prolonged absence;" and that "from first to last he took an
affectionate, it may be said a passionate, interest in the welfare of
his children"--such expressions of mere opinion as these it may be
proper enough to pass by in respectful silence.

The following year brought with it no improvement in the embarrassed
circumstances, no reform of the disordered life. Still domiciled with
Mr. Morgan at Calne, the self-made sufferer writes to Cottle: "You will
wish to know something of myself. In health I am not worse than when at
Bristol I was best; yet fluctuating, yet unhappy, in circumstances poor
indeed! I have collected my scattered and my manuscript poems
sufficient to make one volume. Enough I have to make another. But, till
the latter is finished, I cannot, without great loss of character,
publish the former, on account of the arrangement, besides the
necessity of correction. For instance, I earnestly wish to begin the
volumes with what has never been seen by any, however few, such as a
series of odes on the different sentences of the Lord's Prayer, and,
more than all this, to finish my greater work on 'Christianity
considered as philosophy, and as the only philosophy.'" Then follows a
request for a loan of forty pounds on the security of the MSS., an
advance which Cottle declined to make, though he sent Coleridge "some
smaller temporary relief." The letter concludes with a reference to a
project for taking a house and receiving pupils to hoard and instruct,
which Cottle appeared to consider the crowning "degradation and
ignominy of all."

A few days later we find Lord Byron again coming to Coleridge's
assistance with a loan of a hundred pounds and words of counsel and
encouragement. Why should not the author of Remorse repeat his success
I "In Kean," writes Byron, "there is an actor worthy of expressing the
thoughts of the character which you have every power of embodying, and
I cannot but regret that the part of Ordonio was disposed of before his
appearance at Drury Lane. We have had nothing to be mentioned in the
same breath with Remorse for very many years, and I should think that
the reception of that play was sufficient to encourage the highest
hopes of author and audience." The advice was followed, and the drama
of Zapolya was the result. It is a work of even less dramatic strength
than its predecessor, and could scarcely, one thinks, have been as
successful with an audience. It was not, however, destined to see the
footlights. Before it had passed the tribunal of the Drury Lane
Committee it had lost the benefit of Byron's patronage through the
poet's departure from England, and the play was rejected by Mr. Douglas
Kinnaird, the then reader for the theatre, who assigned, according to
Mr. Gillman, "some ludicrous objections to the metaphysics." Before
leaving England, however, Byron rendered a last, and, as the result
proved, a not unimportant service to his brother-poet. He introduced
him to Mr. Murray, who, in the following year, undertook the
publication of _Christabel_--the most successful, in the sense of the
most popular, of all its author's productions in verse.

With the coming of spring in the following year that dreary story of
slow self-destruction, into which the narrative of Coleridge's life
from the age of thirty to that of forty-five resolves itself, was
brought to a close. Coleridge had at last perceived that his only hope
of redemption lay in a voluntary submission of his enfeebled will to
the control of others, and he had apparently just enough strength of
volition to form and execute the necessary resolve. He appears, in the
first instance, to have consulted a physician of the name of Adams,
who, on the 9th of April 1816, put himself in communication with Mr.
Gillman of Highgate. "A very learned, but in one respect an unfortunate
gentleman, has," he wrote, "applied to me on a singular occasion. He
has for several years been in the habit of taking large quantities of
opium. For some time past he has been in vain endeavouring to break
himself of it. It is apprehended his friends are not firm enough, from
a dread lest he should suffer by suddenly leaving it off, though he is
conscious of the contrary, and has proposed to me to submit himself to
any regimen, however severe. With this view he wishes to fix himself in
the house of some medical gentleman who will have the courage to refuse
him any laudanum, and under whose assistance, should he be the worse
for it, he may be relieved." Would such a proposal, inquires the
writer, be absolutely inconsistent with Mr. Gillman's family
arrangements? He would not, he adds, have proposed it "but on account
of the great importance of the character as a literary man. His
communicative temper will make his society very interesting as well as
useful." Mr. Gillman's acquaintance with Dr. Adams was but slight, and
he had had no previous intention of receiving an inmate into his house.
But the case very naturally interested him; he sought an interview with
Dr. Adams, and it was agreed that the latter should drive Coleridge to
Highgate the following evening. At the appointed hour, however,
Coleridge presented himself alone, and, after spending the evening at
Mr. Gillman's, left him, as even in his then condition he left most
people who met him for the first time, completely captivated by the
amiability of his manners and the charm of his conversation. The next
day Mr. Gillman received from him a letter, finally settling the
arrangement to place himself under the doctor's care, and concluding
with the following pathetic passage:

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

This letter was written on a Saturday, and on the following Monday
Coleridge presented himself at Mr. Gillman's, bringing in his hand the
proof--sheets of _Christabel_, now printed for the first time. He had
looked, as the letter just quoted shows, with a "soothing confidence"
to leaving his retreat at some future period in a restored condition of
moral and bodily health; and as regards the restoration, his confidence
was in a great measure justified. But the friendly doors which opened
to receive him on this 15th of April 1816, were destined to close only
upon his departing bier. Under the watchful and almost reverential care
of this well-chosen guardian, sixteen years of comparatively quiet and
well-ordered life, of moderate but effective literary activity, and of
gradual though never complete emancipation from his fatal habit, were
reserved to him. He had still, as we shall see, to undergo certain
recurrences of restlessness and renewals of pecuniary difficulty; his
shattered health was but imperfectly and temporarily repaired; his
"shaping spirit of imagination" could not and did not return; his
transcendental broodings became more and more the "habit of his soul."
But henceforth he recovers for us a certain measure of his long-lost
dignity, and a figure which should always have been "meet for the
reverence of the hearth" in the great household of English literature,
but which had far too long and too deeply sunk below it, becomes once
more a worthy and even a venerable presence. At evening-time it was
light.


FOOTNOTES

1. Coleridge made the acquaintance of this gentleman, who became his
enthusiastic disciple, in 1818. His chief interest for us is the fact
that for the next seven years he was Coleridge's correspondent.
Personally, he was a man of little judgment or critical discrimination,
and his sense of the ridiculous may be measured by the following
passage. Speaking of the sweetness of Charles Lamb's smile, he says
that "there is still one man living, a stockbroker, who has that
smile," and adds: "To those who wish to see the only thing left on
earth, _if it is still left_, of Lamb, his best and most beautiful
remain--his smile, I will indicate its possessor, Mr. ---- of
Throgmorton Street." How the original "possessor" of this apparently
assignable security would have longed to "feel Mr. Allsop's head"!



CHAPTER IX

Life at Highgate-Renewed activity-Publications and re-publications--The
_Biographia Literaria_--The lectures of 1818-Coleridge as a
Shakespearian critic.

[1816-1818.]


The results of the step which Coleridge had just taken became speedily
visible in more ways than one, and the public were among the first to
derive benefit from it. For not only was he stimulated to greater
activity of production, but his now more methodical way of life gave
him time and inclination for that work of arrangement and preparation
for the press which, distasteful to most writers, was no doubt
especially irksome to him, and thus insured the publication of many
pieces which otherwise might never have seen the light. The appearance
of _Christabel_ was, as we have said, received with signal marks of
popular favour, three editions being called for and exhausted in the
same year. In 1816 there appeared also The Statesman's Manual; or the
Bible the best guide to Political Skill and Foresight: a Lay Sermon
addressed to the higher classes of Society, with an Appendix containing
Comments and Essays connected with the Study of the Inspired Writings;
in 1817, another _Lay Sermon addressed to the higher and middle classes
on the existing distresses and discontents;_ and in the same year
followed the most important publication of this period, the _Biographia
Literaria_.

In 1817, too, it was that Coleridge at last made his long-meditated
collection and classification of his already published poems, and that
for the first time something approaching to a complete edition of the
poet's works was given to the world. The _Sibylline Leaves_, as this
reissue was called, had been intended to be preceded by another volume
of verse, and "accordingly on the printer's signatures of every sheet
we find Vol. II, appearing." Too characteristically, however, the
scheme was abandoned, and Volume II. emerged from the press without any
Volume I. to accompany it. The drama of _Zapolya_ followed in the same
year, and proved more successful with the public than with the critic
of Drury Lane. The "general reader" assigned no "ludicrous objections
to its metaphysics;" on the contrary, he took them on trust, as his
generous manner is, and _Zapolya_, published thus as a Christmas tale,
became so immediately popular that two thousand copies were sold in six
weeks. In the year 1818 followed the three-volume selection of essays
from the _Friend_, a reissue to which reference has already been made.
With the exception of _Christabel_, however, all the publications of
these three years unfortunately proceeded from the house of Gale and
Fenner, a firm which shortly afterwards became bankrupt; and Coleridge
thus lost all or nearly all of the profits of their sale.

The most important of the new works of this period was, as has been
said, the _Biographia Literaria_, or, to give it its other title,
_Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life and Opinions_. Its interest,
however, is wholly critical and illustrative; as a narrative it would
be found extremely disappointing and probably irritating by the average
reader. With the exception of one or two incidental disclosures, but
little biographical information is to be derived from it which is not
equally accessible from sources independent of the author; and the
almost complete want of sequence and arrangement renders it a very
inconvenient work of reference even for these few biographical details.
Its main value is to be found in the contents of seven chapters, from
the fourteenth to the twentieth; but it is not going too far to say
that, in respect of these, it is literally priceless. No such analysis
of the principles of poetry--no such exact discrimination of what was
sound in the modern "return-to-nature" movement from what was
false--has ever been accomplished by any other critic, or with such
admirable completeness by this consummate critic at any other time.
Undoubtedly it is not of the light order of reading; none, or very
little, of Coleridge's prose is. The whole of chapter xv., for
instance, in which the specific elements of "poetic power" are
"distinguished from general talent determined to poetic composition by
accidental motives," requires a close and sustained effort of the
attention, but those who bestow it will find it amply re-paid. I know
of no dissertation conceived and carried out in terms of the abstract
which in the result so triumphantly justifies itself upon application
to concrete cases, As regards the question of poetic expression, and
the laws by which its true form is determined, Coleridge's analysis is,
it seems to me, final. I cannot, at least, after the most careful
reflection upon it, conceive it as being other than the absolutely last
word on the subject. Reasoning and illustration are alike so convincing
that the reader, like the contentious student who listened unwillingly
to his professor's demonstration of the first proposition of Euclid, is
compelled to confess that "he has nothing to reply." To the judicious
admirer of Wordsworth, to every one who, while recognising Wordsworth's
inestimable services to English literature as the leader of the
naturalist reaction in poetry, has yet been vaguely conscious of the
defect in his poetic theory, and very keenly conscious of the vices of
his poetic practice,--to all such persons it must be a profound relief
and satisfaction to be guided as unerringly as Coleridge guides them to
the "parting of the ways" of truth and falsity in Wordsworth's
doctrines, and to be enabled to perceive that nothing which has
offended him in that poet's thought and diction has any real connection
with whatever in the poet's principles has commanded his assent. There
is no one who has ever felt uneasy under the blasphemies of the enemy
but must entertain deep gratitude for so complete a discharge as
Coleridge has procured him from the task of defending such lines as

  "And I have travelled far as Hull to see
  What clothes he might have left or other property."

Defend them indeed the ordinary reader probably would not, preferring
even the abandonment of his theory to a task so humiliating. But the
theory has so much of truth and value in it that the critic who has
redeemed it from the discredit of Wordsworth's misapplications of it is
entitled to the thanks of every friend of simplicity, who is at the
same time an enemy of bathos. There is no longer any reason to treat
the deadly commonplaces, amid which we toil through so many pages of
the _Excursion_, as having any true theoretic affinity with its but too
occasional majestic interludes. The smooth square-cut blocks of prose
which insult the natural beauty of poetic rock and boulder even in such
a scene of naked moorland grandeur as that of _Resolution and
Independence_ are seen and shown to be the mere intruders which we have
all felt them to be. To the Wordsworthian, anxious for a full
justification of the faith that is in him, the whole body of
Coleridge's criticism on his friend's poetry in the _Biographia
Literaria_ may be confidently recommended. The refutation of what is
untenable in Wordsworth's theory, the censure pronounced upon certain
characteristics of his practice, are made all the more impressive by
the tone of cordial admiration which distinguishes every personal
reference to the poet himself, and by the unfailing discrimination with
which the critic singles out the peculiar beauties of his poetry. No
finer selection of finely characteristic Wordsworthian passages could
perhaps have been made than those which Coleridge has quoted in
illustration of his criticisms in the eighteenth and two following
chapters of the _Biographia Literaria_. For the rest, however, unless
indeed one excepts the four chapters on the Hartleian system and its
relation to the German school of philosophy, the book is rather one to
be dipped into for the peculiar pleasure which an hour in Coleridge's
company must always give to any active intelligence, than to be
systematically studied with a view to perfecting one's conception of
Coleridge's philosophical and critical genius considered in its
totality.

As to the two lay sermons, the less ambitious of them is decidedly the
more successful. The advice to "the higher and middle classes" on the
existing distresses and discontents contains at least an ingredient of
the practical; its distinctively religious appeals are varied by sound
political and economical arguments; and the enumeration and exposure of
the various artifices by which most orators are accustomed to delude
their hearers is as masterly as only Coleridge could have made it. Who
but he, for instance, could have thrown a piece of subtle observation
into a form in which reason and fancy unite so happily to impress it on
the mind as in the following passage: "The mere appeal to the auditors,
whether the arguments are not such that none but an idiot or an
hireling could resist, is an effective substitute for any argument at
all. For mobs have no memories. They are in nearly the same state as
that of an individual when he makes what is termed a bull. _The
passions, like a fused metal, fill up the wide interstices of thought
and supply the defective links; and thus incompatible assertions are
harmonised by the sensation, without the sense of connection_." The
other lay sermon, however, the _Statesman's Manual_, is less
appropriately conceived. Its originating proposition, that the Bible is
"the best guide to political skill and foresight," is undoubtedly open
to dispute, but might nevertheless be capable of plausible defence upon
_à priori_ grounds. Coleridge, however, is not content with this
method of procedure; as, indeed, with so avowedly practical an object
in view he scarcely could be, for a "manual" is essentially a work
intended for the constant consultation of the artificer in the actual
performance of his work, and ought at least to contain illustrations of
the application of its general principles to particular cases. It is in
undertaking to supply these that the essential mysticism of Coleridge's
counsels comes to light. For instance: "I am deceived if you will not
be compelled to admit that the prophet Isaiah revealed the true
philosophy of the French Revolution more than two thousand years before
it became a sad irrevocable truth of history. 'And thou saidst, I shall
be a lady for ever, so that thou didst not lay these things to thy
heart neither didst remember the latter end of it.... Therefore shall
evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth, etc.'"
And to this ast-quoted sentence Coleridge actually appends the
following note: "The reader will scarcely fail to find in this verse a
remembrancer of the sudden setting in of the frost before the usual
time (in a country, too, where the commencement of its two seasons is
in general scarcely less regular than that of the wet and dry seasons
between the tropics) which caused, and the desolation which
accompanied, the flight from Moscow." One can make no other comment
upon this than that if it really
 be wisdom which statesmen would do well to lay to heart, the late Dr.
Cumming must have been the most profound instructor in statesmanship
that the world has ever seen. A prime minister of real life, however,
could scarcely be seriously recommended to shape his policy upon a due
consideration of the possible allegoric meaning of a passage in Isaiah,
to say nothing of the obvious objection that this kind of appeal to
_Sortes Biblicæ_ is dangerously liable to be turned against those who
recommend it. On the whole, one must say of this lay sermon that it
justifies the apprehension expressed by the author in its concluding
pages. It does rather "resemble the overflow of an earnest mind than an
orderly and premeditated," in the sense, at any rate, of a
well-considered "composition."

In the month of January 1818 Coleridge once more commenced the delivery
of a course of lectures in London. The scope of this series-fourteen in
number was, as will be seen from the subjoined syllabus, an immensely
comprehensive one. The subject of the first was "the manners, morals,
literature, philosophy, religion, and state of society in general in
European Christendom, from the eighth to the fifteenth century;" and of
the second "the tales and metrical romances common for the most part to
England, Germany, and the north of France; and English songs and
ballads continued to the reign of Charles I." In the third the lecturer
proposed to deal with the poetry of Chaucer and Spenser, of Petrarch,
and of Ariosto, Pulci, and Boiardo. The fourth, fifth, and sixth were
to be devoted to the dramatic works of Shakespeare, and to comprise the
substance of Coleridge's former courses on the same subject, "enlarged
and varied by subsequent study and reflection." In the seventh he was
to treat of the other principal dramatists of the Elizabethan period,
Ben Jonson, Massinger, and Beaumont and Fletcher; in the eighth of the
life and all the works of Cervantes; in the ninth of Rabelais, Swift,
and Sterne, with a dissertation "on the nature and constituents of
genuine humour, and on the distinctions of humorous from the witty, the
fanciful, the droll, the odd, etc." Donne, Dante, and Milton formed the
subject of the tenth; the _Arabian Nights Entertainment_, and the
_romantic_ use of the supernatural in poetry, that of the eleventh. The
twelfth was to be on "tales of witches and apparitions, etc.," as
distinguished from magic and magicians of Asiatic origin; and the
thirteenth,--"on colour, sound, and form in nature, as connected with
Poesy--the word 'Poesy' being used as the generic or class term
including poetry, music, painting, statuary, and ideal architecture as
its species, the reciprocal relations of poetry and philosophy to each
other, and of both to religion and the moral sense.'" In the fourteenth
and final lecture Coleridge proposed to discuss "the corruptions of the
English language since the reign of Queen Anne, in our style of writing
prose," and to formulate "a few easy rules for the attainment of a
manly, unaffected, and pure language in our genuine mother tongue,
whether for the purposes of writing, oratory, or conversation."

These lectures, says Mr. Gillman, were from Coleridge's own account
more profitable than any he had before given, though delivered in an
unfavourable situation; a lecture-room in Flower de Luce Court, which,
however, being near the Temple, secured to him the benefit--if benefit
it were--of a considerable number of law students among his auditors.
It was the first time that his devoted guardian had ever heard him in
public, and he reports the significant fact that though Coleridge
lectured from notes, which he had carefully made, "it was obvious that
his audience were more delighted when, putting his notes aside, he
spoke extempore...." He was brilliant, fluent, and rapid; his words
seemed to flow as from a person repeating with grace and energy some
delightful poem. If he sometimes paused, it was not for the want of
words, but that he was seeking their most appropriate or most logical
arrangement.

An incident related with extreme, though in a great measure
unconscious, drollery by Mr. Gillman in connection with a lecture
delivered at this period is to my mind of more assistance than many of
the accounts of his "lay sermons" in private circles, in enabling us to
comprehend one element of Coleridge's marvellous powers of discourse.
Early one morning at Mr. Gillman's he received two letters-one to
inform him that he was expected that same evening to deliver a lecture,
at the rooms of the London Philosophical Society, to an audience of
some four or five hundred persons; the other containing a list of the
previous lecturers and the lectures delivered by them during the course
of the season. At seven o'clock in the evening Coleridge and Mr.
Gillman went up to town to make some inquiries respecting this
unexpected application; but, on arriving at the house of the gentleman
who had written the letter, they were informed that he was not at home,
but would return at eight o'clock--the hour fixed for the commencement
of the lecture. They then proceeded to the Society's rooms, where in
due time the audience assembled; and the committee having at last
entered and taken their places on the seats reserved for them, "Mr.
President arose from the centre of the group, and, putting on a
'president's hat,' which so disfigured him that we could scarcely
refrain from laughter, addressed the company in these words: This
evening Mr. Coleridge will deliver a lecture on 'the Growth of the
Individual Mind.'" Coleridge at first "seemed startled," as well he
might, and turning round to Mr. Gillman whispered: "A pretty stiff
subject they have chosen for me." However, he instantly mounted his
standing-place and began without hesitation, previously requesting his
friend to observe the effect of his lecture on the audience. It was
agreed that, should he appear to fail, Gillman was to "clasp his ancle;
but that he was to continue for an hour if the countenances of his
auditors indicated satisfaction." Coleridge then began his address in
these words: "The lecture I am about to give this evening is purely
extempore. Should you find a nominative case looking out for a verb, or
a fatherless verb for a nominative case, you must excuse it. It is
purely extempore, though I have read and thought much on the subject."
At this the company smiled, which seemed to inspire the lecturer with
confidence. He plunged at once into his lecture--and most brilliant,
eloquent, and logically consecutive it was. The time moved on so
swiftly that Mr. Gillman found, on looking at his watch, that an hour
and a half had passed away, and, therefore, he continues "waiting only
a desirable moment--to use his own playful words--I prepared myself to
punctuate his oration. As previously agreed, I pressed his ancle, and
thus gave him the hint he had requested; when, bowing graciously, and
with a benevolent and smiling countenance, he presently descended. The
lecture was quite new to me, and I believe quite new to himself so far
as the arrangement of his words was concerned. The floating thoughts
were beautifully arranged, and delivered on the spur of the moment.
What accident gave rise to the singular request, that he should deliver
this lecture impromptu, I never learnt; nor did it signify, as it
afforded a happy opportunity to many of witnessing in part the extent
of his reading and the extraordinary strength of his powers."

It is tantalising to think that no record of this remarkable
performance remains; but, indeed, the same may to some extent be said,
and in various degrees, of nearly all the lectures which Coleridge ever
delivered. With the exception of seven out of the fifteen of 1811,
which were published in 1856 by Mr. Payne Collier from shorthand notes
taken at the time, Coleridge's lectures scarcely exist for us otherwise
than in the form of rough preparatory notes. A few longer pieces, such
as the admirable observations in the second volume of the _Literary
Remains_, on poetry, on the Greek drama, and on the progress of the
dramatic art in England, are, with the exception above noticed, almost
the only general disquisitions on these subjects which appear to have
reached us in a complete state. Of the remaining contents of the
volume, including the detailed criticisms now textual, now analytic--of
the various plays of Shakespeare, a considerable portion is frankly
fragmentary, pretending, indeed, to no other character than that of
mere marginalia. This, however, does not destroy--I had almost said it
does not even impair--their value. It does but render them all the more
typical productions of a writer, whose greatest services to mankind in
almost every department of human thought and knowledge with which he
concerned himself were much the most often performed in the least
methodical way. In reading through these incomparable notes on
Shakespeare we soon cease to lament, or even to remember, their
unconnected form and often somewhat desultory appearance; if, indeed,
we do not see reason to congratulate ourselves that the annotator,
unfettered by the restraints which the composition of a systematic
treatise would have imposed upon him, is free to range with us at will
over many a flower-strewn field, for which otherwise he could not
perhaps have afforded to quit the main road of his subject. And this
liberty is the more welcome, because Coleridge, _primus inter pares_ as
a critic of any order of literature, is in the domain of Shakespearian
commentary absolute king. The principles of analysis which he was
charged with having borrowed without acknowledgment from Schlegel, with
whose Shakespearian theories he was at the time entirely unacquainted,
were in fact of his own excogitation. He owed nothing in this matter to
any individual German, nor had he anything in common with German
Shakespearianism except its profoundly philosophising spirit, which,
moreover, was in his case directed and restrained by other qualities,
too often wanting in critics of that industrious race; for he possessed
a sense of the ridiculous, a feeling for the poetic, a tact, a taste,
and a judgment, which would have saved many a worthy but heavy-handed
Teutonic professor, who should have been lucky enough to own these
gifts, from exposing himself and his science to the satire of the
light-minded. Very rarely, indeed, do we find Coleridge indulging _plus
'quo_ his passion for psychological analysis. Deeply as his criticism
penetrates, it is yet loyally recognitive of the opacity of milestones.
Far as he sees into his subject, we never find him fancying that he
sees beyond the point at which the faculty of human vision is
exhausted. His conception of the more complex of Shakespeare's
personages, his theory of their characters, his reading of their
motives, is often subtle, but always sane; his interpretation of the
master's own dealings with them, and of the language which he puts into
their mouths, is often highly imaginative, but it is rarely fanciful.
Take, as an illustration of the first-mentioned merit, the following
acute but eminently sensible estimate of the character of Polonius:--


"He is the personified memory of wisdom no longer actually possessed.
This admirable character is always misrepresented on the stage.
Shakspeare never intended to exhibit him as a buffoon; for although it
was natural for Hamlet--a young man of fire and genius, detesting
formality and disliking Polonius on political grounds, as imagining
that he had assisted his uncle in his usurpation--should express
himself satirically, yet this must not be taken exactly as the poet's
conception of him. In Polonius a certain induration of character had
arisen from long habits of business; but take his advice to Laertes,
and Ophelia's reverence for his memory, and we shall see that he was
meant to be represented as a statesman somewhat past his faculties--his
recollections of life all full of wisdom, and showing a knowledge of
human nature, while what immediately takes place before him and escapes
from him is indicative of weakness."

Or this comment on the somewhat faint individualisation of the figure
of Lear:

"In Lear old age is itself a character-natural imperfections being
increased by life-long habits of receiving a prompt obedience. Any
addition of individualisation would have been unnecessary and painful;
for the relation of others to him, of wondrous fidelity and of
frightful ingratitude, alone sufficiently distinguish him. Thus Lear
becomes the open and ample playroom of nature's passions."

Or lastly, in illustration of my second point, let us take this note on
the remark of the knight that "since my young lady's going into France
the fool hath much pined away ":--

"The fool is no comic buffoon--to make the groundlings laugh--no forced
condescension of Shakspeare's genius to the taste of his audience.
Accordingly the poet prepares us for the introduction, which he never
does with any of his common clowns and fools, by bringing him into
living connection with the pathos of the play. He is as wonderful a
creation as Caliban,--his wild babblings and inspired idiocy articulate
and gauge the horrors of the scene."

The subject is a tempting one to linger over, did not imperative
Exigencies of space compel me to pass on from it. There is much--very
much--more critical matter in the Literary Remains of which it is hard
to forbear quotation; and I may mention in particular the profoundly
suggestive remarks on the nature of the humorous, with their
accompanying analysis of the genius and artistic method of Sterne. But
it is, as has been said, in Shakespearian criticism that Coleridge's
unique mastery of all the tools of the critic is most conspicuous, and
it is in the brilliant, if unmethodised, pages which I have been
discussing that we may most readily find consolation for the too early
silencing of his muse. For these consummate criticisms are essentially
and above all the criticisms of a poet They are such as could not have
been achieved by any man not originally endowed with that divine gift
which was fated in this instance to expend itself within so few years.
Nothing, indeed, could more strikingly illustrate the commanding
advantage possessed by a poet interpreting a poet than is to be found
in Coleridge's occasional sarcastic comments on the _banalit‚s_ of
our national poet's most prosaic commentator, Warburton--the
"thought-swarming, but idealess Warburton," as he once felicitously
styles him. The one man seems to read his author's text under the
clear, diffused, unwavering radiance emitted from his own poetic
imagination; while the criticism of the other resembles a perpetual
scratching of damp matches, which ash a momentary light into one corner
of the dark assage, and then go out.



CHAPTER X

Closing years--Temporary renewal of money troubles--The Aids to
Reflection--Growing weakness-Visit to Germany with the
Wordsworths--Last illness and death.

[1818-1834.]


For the years which now remained to Coleridge, some sixteen in number,
dating from his last appearance as a public lecturer, his life would
seem to have been attended with something, at least, of that sort of
happiness which is enjoyed by the nation of uneventful annals. There is
little to be told of him in the way of literary performance; little
record remains, unfortunately, of the discursively didactic talk in
which, during these years, his intellectual activity found its busiest
exercise; of incident in the ordinary sense of the word there is almost
none. An account of these closing days of his life must resolve itself
almost wholly into a "history of opinion,"--an attempt to reanimate for
ourselves that life of perpetual meditation which Coleridge lived, and
to trace, so far as the scanty evidence of his utterances enables us to
do so, the general tenor of his daily thoughts. From one point of view,
of course, this task would be extremely difficult, if not impossible;
from another comparatively easy. It is easy, that is to say, to
investigate Coleridge's speculations, so far as their subject is
concerned, whatever difficulties their obscurity and subtlety may
present to the inquirer; for, as a matter of fact, their subject is
remarkably uniform. Attempts to divide the literary life of a writer
into eras are more often arbitrary and fanciful than not; but the
peculiar circumstances of Coleridge's career did in fact effect the
division for themselves. His life until the age of twenty-six may
fairly be described as in its "poetic period." It was during these
years, and indeed during the last two or three of them, that he
produced all the poetry by which he will be remembered, while he
produced little else of mark or memorability. The twenty years which
follow from 1798 to 1818 may with equal accuracy be styled the
"critical period." It was during these years that he did his best work
as a journalist, and all his work as a public lecturer on aesthetics.
It was during them that he said his say, and even his final say, so far
as any public modes of expression were concerned, on politics and on
art. From 1818 to his death his life was devoted entirely to
metaphysics and theology, and with such close and constant reference to
the latter subject, to which indeed his metaphysics had throughout his
life been ancillary, that it deserves to give the name of the
"theological period" to these closing years.

Their lack of incident, however, is not entirely as favourable a
circumstance as that uneventfulness of national annals to which I have
compared it; for, though "no news may be good news" in the case of a
nation's history, it is by no means as certainly so in the case of a
man's biography, and, least of all, when the subject is a man whose
inward life of thought and feeling so completely overshadowed his
outward life of action throughout his whole career. There is indeed
evidence, slight in amount, but conclusive in character-plain and
painful evidence enough to show that at least the first four or five
years of the period we have mentioned were not altogether years of
resignation and calm; that they were embittered by recurring agonies of
self-reproach, by

  "Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
  And genius given, and knowledge won in vain;"

and by the desolating thought that all which had been "culled in
wood-walks wild," and "all which patient toil had reared," were to be

                         --"but flowers
  Strewn on the corse, and borne upon the bier,
  In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!"

Here and there in the correspondence with Thomas Allsop we obtain a
glimpse into that vast half-darkened arena in which this captive spirit
self-condemned to the lions was struggling its last. To one strange and
hitherto unexplained letter I have already referred. It was written
from Ramsgate in the autumn of 1822, evidently under circumstances of
deep depression. But there is a letter nearly two years earlier in date
addressed to the same correspondent which contains by far the fullest
account of Coleridge's then condition of mind, the state of his
literary engagements and his literary projects, his completed and
uncompleted work. As usual with him it is stress of money matters that
prompts him to write, and he prefaces his request for assistance with
the following portentous catalogue of realised or contemplated schemes.
"Contemplated," indeed, is too modest a word, according to his own
account, to be applied to any one item in the formidable list. Of all
of them, he has, he tells Allsop, "already the written materials and
contents, requiring only to be put together from the loose papers and
commonplace in memorandum books, and needing no other change, whether
of omission, addition, or correction, than the mere act of arranging,
and the opportunity of seeing the whole collectively, bring with them
of course." Heads I. and II. of the list comprise those criticisms on
Shakespeare and the other principal Elizabethan dramatists; on Dante,
Spenser, Milton, Cervantes, Calderon; on Chaucer, Ariosto, Donne,
Rabelais, etc., which formed the staple of the course of lectures
delivered in 1818, and which were published after his death in the
first two of the four volumes of _Literary Remains_ brought out under
the editorship of Mr. H. N. Coleridge. Reserving No. III. for a moment
we find No. IV. to consist of "Letters on the Old and New Testament,
and on the Doctrines and Principles held in common by the Fathers and
Founders of the Reformation, addressed to a Candidate for Holy Orders,
including advice on the plan and subjects of preaching proper to a
minister of the Established Church." The letters never apparently saw
the light of publicity, at any rate, in the epistolary form, either
during the author's lifetime or after his death; and with regard to II.
and III., which did obtain posthumous publication, the following
caution should be borne in mind by the reader. "To the completion,"
says Coleridge, "of these four works I have literally nothing more to
do than to transcribe; but, as I before hinted, from so many scraps and
Sibylline leaves, including margins of blank pages that unfortunately I
must be my own scribe, and, not done by myself, they will be all but
lost." As matters turned out he was not his own scribe, and the
difficulty which Mr. Nelson Coleridge experienced in piecing together
the fragmentary materials at his disposal is feelingly described by him
in his preface to the first edition. He added that the contents of
these volumes were drawn from a portion only of the MSS. entrusted to
him, and that the remainder of the collection, which, under favourable
circumstances, he hoped might hereafter see the light, "was at least of
equal value" with what he was then presenting to the reader. This hope
was never realised; and it must be remembered, therefore, that the
published record of Coleridge's achievements as a critic is, as has
already been pointed out, extremely imperfect. [1] That it is not even
more disappointingly so than it is, may well entitle his nephew and
editor to the gratitude of posterity; but where much has been done,
there yet remains much to do ere Coleridge's consummate analyses of
poetic and dramatic works can be presented to the reader in other than
their present shape of a series of detached brilliancies. The pearls
are there, but the string is wanting. Whether it will be ever supplied,
or whether it is possible now to supply it, one cannot say.

The third of Coleridge's virtually completed works there is much virtue
in a "virtually"-was a "History of Philosophy considered as a Tendency
of the Human Mind to exhibit the Powers of the Human Reason, to
discover by its own strength the Origin and Laws of Man and the World,
from Pythagoras to Locke and Condillac." This production, however,
considerable as it is, was probably merely ancillary to what he calls
"My GREAT WORK, to the preparation of which more than twenty years of
my life have been devoted, and on which my hopes of extensive and
permanent utility, of fame in the noblest sense of the word, mainly
rest." To this work he goes on to say:

"All my other writings, unless I except my Poems (and these I can
exclude in part only), are introductory and preparative, while its
result, if the premises be as I with the most tranquil assurance am
convinced they are-incontrovertible, the deductions legitimate, and the
conclusions commensurate, and only commensurate with both [must be], to
effect a revolution in all that has been called Philosophy and
Metaphysics in England and France since the era of commencing
predominance of the mechanical system at the Restoration of our Second
Charles, and with [in] the present fashionable views not only of
religion, morals, and politics, but even of the modern physics and
physiology."

This, it must be allowed, is a sufficiently "large order," being
Apparently indeed nothing less than an undertaking to demolish the
system of Locke and his successors, and to erect German
Transcendentalism on the ruins. With anything less than this, however
with any less noble object or less faith in their
attainments--Coleridge could not, he declares, have stood acquitted of
folly and abuse of time, talent, and learning, on a labour of
three--fourths of his intellectual life. Somewhat more than a volume of
this _magnum opus_ had been dictated by him to his "friend and
enlightened pupil, Mr. Green, so as to exist fit for the press;" and
more than as much again had been done, but he had been compelled to
break off the weekly meetings with his pupil from the necessity of
writing on subjects of the passing day. Then comes a reference, the
last we meet with, to the real "great work," as the unphilosophic world
has always considered and will always consider it. On this subject he
says:

"Of my poetic works I would fain finish the _Christabel_, Alas! for the
proud time when I planned, when I had present to my mind the materials
as well as the scheme of the Hymns entitled Spirit, Sun, Earth, Air,
Water, Fire, and Man; and the Epic Poem on what appears to me the only
fit subject remaining for an Epic Poem--Jerusalem besieged and
destroyed by Titus."

And then there follows this most pathetic passage, necessary, in spite
of its length, to be transcribed entire, both on account of the value
of its biographic details--its information on the subject of the
useless worldly affairs, etc.--and because of the singularly
penetrating light which it throws upon the mental and moral nature of
the man:--

"I have only by fits and starts ever prayed--I have not prevailed upon
myself to pray to God in sincerity and entireness for the fortitude
that might enable me to resign myself to the abandonment of all my
life's best hopes, to say boldly to myself, 'Gifted with powers
confessedly above mediocrity, aided by an education of which no less
from almost unexampled hardships and sufferings than from manifold and
peculiar advantages I have never yet found a parallel, I have devoted
myself to a life of unintermitted reading, thinking, meditating, and
observing, I have not only sacrificed all worldly prospects of wealth
and advancement, but have in my inmost soul stood aloof from temporary
reputation. In consequence of these toils and this self-dedication I
possess a calm and clear consciousness that in many and most important
departments of truth and beauty I have outstrode my contemporaries,
those at least of highest name, that the number of my. printed works
bear witness that I have not been idle, and the seldom acknowledged but
strictly _proveable_ effects of my labours appropriated to the welfare
of my age in the _Morning Post_ before the peace of Amiens, in the
_Courier_ afterwards, and in the serious and various subjects of my
lectures... (add to which the unlimited freedom of my communications to
colloquial life) may surely be allowed as evidence that I have not been
useless to my generation. But, from circumstances, the main portion of
my harvest is still on the ground, ripe indeed and only waiting, a few
for the sickle, but a large part only for the _sheaving_ and carting
and housing-but from all this I must turn away and let them rot as they
lie, and be as though they never had been; for I must go and gather
black berries and earth-nuts, or pick mushrooms and gild oak-apples for
the palate and fancies of chance customers. I must abrogate the name of
philosopher and poet, and scribble as fast as I can and with as little
thought as I can for _Blackwood's Magazine_, or as I have been employed
for the last days in writing MS. sermons for lazy clergymen who
stipulate that the composition must be more than respectable.'... This"
[_i.e._ to say this to myself] "I have not yet had courage to do. My
soul sickens and my heart sinks, and thus oscillating between both"
[forms of activity--the production of permanent and of ephemeral work]
"I do neither--neither as it ought to be done to any profitable end."

And his proposal for extricating himself from this distressing position
is that "those who think respectfully and hope highly of my power and
attainments should guarantee me a yearly sum for three or four years,
adequate to my actual support, with such comforts and decencies of
appearance as my health and habit have made necessaries, so that my
mind may be unanxious as far as the present time is concerned." Thus
provided for he would undertake to devote two-thirds of his time to
some one work of those above mentioned that is to say, of the first
four--and confine it exclusively to it till finished, while the
remaining third of his time he would go on maturing and completing his
"great work," and "(for, if but easy in my mind, I have no doubt either
of the reawakening power or of the kindling inclination) my
_Christabel_ and what else the happier hour may inspire." Mr. Green, he
goes on to say, had promised to contribute £30 to £40 yearly, another
pupil, "the son of one of my dearest old friends, £50," and £10 or
£20 could, he thought, be relied on from another. The whole amount of
the required annuity would be about £200, to be repaid of course
should disposal or sale of his works produce, or as far as they should
produce, the means. But "am I entitled," he asks uneasily, "have I a
_right_ to do this I Can I do it without moral degradation? And lastly,
can it be done without loss of character in the eyes of my
acquaintances and of my friends' acquaintances?"

I cannot take upon myself to answer these painful questions. The reply
to be given to them must depend upon the judgment which each individual
student of this remarkable but unhappy career may pass upon it as a
whole; and, while it would be too much to expect that that judgment
should be entirely favourable, one may at least believe that a fair
allowance for those inveterate weaknesses of physical constitution
which so largely aggravated, if they did not wholly generate, the fatal
infirmities of Coleridge's moral nature, must materially mitigate the
harshness of its terms.

The story of Coleridge's closing years is soon told. It is mainly a
record of days spent in meditation and discourse, in which character it
will be treated of more fully in a subsequent chapter. His literary
productions during the last fourteen years of his life were few in
number, and but one of them of any great importance. In 1821 he had
offered himself as an occasional contributor to _Blackwood's Magazine_,
but a series of papers promised by him to that periodical were
uncompleted, and his only two contributions (in October 1821 and
January 1822) are of no particular note. In May 1825 he read a paper on
the _Prometheus_ of 'schylus before the Royal Society of Literature;
but "the series of disquisitions respecting the Egyptian in connection
with the sacerdotal theology and in contrast with the mysteries of
ancient Greece," to which this essay had been announced as preparatory,
never made their appearance. In the same year, however, he published
one of the best known of his prose works, his _Aids to Reflection_.

Of the success of this latest of Coleridge's more important
contributions to literature there can be no doubt. New editions of it
seem to have been demanded at regular intervals for some twenty years
after its first production, and it appears to have had during the same
period a relatively equal reissue in the United States. The Rev. Dr.
James Marsh, an American divine of some ability and reputation,
composed a preliminary essay (now prefixed to the fifth English
edition), in which he elaborately set forth the peculiar merits of the
work, and undertook to initiate the reader in the fittest and most
profitable method of making use of it. In these remarks the reverend
essayist insists more strongly on the spiritually edifying quality of
the _Aids_ than on their literary merits, and, for my own part, I must
certainly consider him right in doing so. As a religious manual it is
easy to understand how this volume of Coleridge's should have obtained
many and earnest readers. What religious manual, which shows traces of
spiritual insight, or even merely of pious yearnings after higher and
holier than earthly things, has ever failed to win such readers among
the weary and heavy-laden of the world? And that Coleridge, a writer of
the most penetrating glance into divine mysteries, and writing always
from a soul all tremulous, as it were, with religious sensibility,
should have obtained such readers in abundance is not surprising. But
to a critic and literary biographer I cannot think that his success in
this respect has much to say. For my own part, at any rate, I find
considerable difficulty in tracing it to any distinctively literary
origin. There seems to me to be less charm of thought, less beauty of
style, less even of Coleridge's seldom-failing force of effective
statement, in the _Aids to Reflection_ than in almost any of his
writings. Even the volume of some dozen short chapters on the
Constitution of the Church and State, published in 1830, as an "aid
towards a right judgment in the late Catholic Kelief Bill," appears to
me to yield a more characteristic flavour of the author's style, and to
exhibit far more of his distinction of literary workmanship than the
earlier and more celebrated work.

Among the acquaintances made by Coleridge after his retirement to Mr.
Gillman's was one destined to be of some importance to the history of
his philosophical work. It was that of a gentleman whose name has
already been mentioned in this chapter, Mr. Joseph Henry Green,
afterwards a distinguished surgeon and Fellow of the Royal Society, who
in his early years had developed a strong taste for metaphysical
speculation, going even so far as to devote one of his hard-earned
periods of professional holiday to a visit to Germany for the sake of
studying philosophy in that home of abstract thought. To him Coleridge
was introduced by his old Roman acquaintance, Ludwig Tieck, on one of
the latter's visits to England, and he became, as the extract above
quoted from Coleridge's correspondence shows, his enthusiastic disciple
and indefatigable fellow-worker. In the pursuit of their common studies
and in those weekly reunions of admiring friends which Coleridge, while
his health permitted it, was in the habit of holding, we may believe
that a considerable portion of these closing years of his life was
passed under happier conditions than he had been long accustomed to. It
is pleasant to read of him among his birds and flowers, and surrounded
by the ever-watchful tendance of the affectionate Gillmans, tranquil in
mind at any rate, if not at ease from his bodily ailments, and
enjoying, as far as enjoyment was possible to him, the peaceful close
of a stormy and unsettled day. For the years 1825-30, moreover, his
pecuniary circumstances were improved to the extent of £105 per annum,
obtained for him at the instance of the Royal Society of Literature,
and held by him till the death of George IV.

Two incidents of his later years are, however, worthy of more special
mention--a tour up the Rhine, which he took in 1828, in company with
Wordsworth and his daughter; and, some years earlier, a meeting with
John Keats. "A loose, slack, not well dressed youth," it is recorded in
the _Table Talk,_ published after his death by his nephew, "met Mr.
----" (it was Mr. Green, of whom more hereafter) "and myself in a lane
near Highgate. Green knew him and spoke. It was Keats. He was
introduced to me, and stayed a minute or so. After he had left us a
little way, he came back and said, 'Let me carry away the memory,
Coleridge, of having pressed your hand.' 'There is death in that hand,'
I said to Green when Keats was gone; yet this was, I believe, before
the consumption showed itself distinctly."

His own health, however, had been steadily declining in these latter
years, and the German tour with the Wordsworths must, I should imagine,
have been the last expedition involving any considerable exercise of
the physical powers which he was able to take. Within a year or so
afterwards his condition seems to have grown sensibly worse. In
November 1831 he writes that for eighteen months past his life had been
"one chain of severe sicknesses, brief and imperfect convalescences,
and capricious relapses." Henceforth he was almost entirely confined to
the sick-room. His faculties, however, still remained clear and
unclouded. The entries in the _Table Talk_ do not materially dimmish in
frequency. Their tone of colloquy undergoes no perceptible variation;
they continue to be as stimulating and delightful reading as ever. Not
till 11th July 1834 do we find any change; but here at last we meet the
shadow, deemed longer than it was in reality, of the approaching end.
"I am dying," said Coleridge, "but without expectation of a speedy
release. Is it not strange that, very recently, bygone images and
scenes of early life have stolen into my mind like breezes blown from
the spice-islands of Youth and Hope--those twin realities of the
phantom world! I do not add Love, for what is Love but Youth and Hope
embracing, and, so seen, as _one_.... Hooker wished to live to finish
his _Ecclesiastical Polity_--so I own I wish life and strength had been
spared to me to complete my _Philosophy._ For, as God hears me, the
originating, continuing, and sustaining wish and design in my heart
were to exalt the glory of His name; and, which is the same thing in
other words, to promote the improvement of mankind. But _visum aliter
Deo,_ and His will be done."

The end was nearer than he thought. It was on the 11th of July, as has
been said, that he uttered these last words of gentle and pious
resignation. On that day fortnight he died. Midway, however, in this
intervening period, he knew that the "speedy release" which he had not
ventured to expect was close at hand. The death, when it came, was in
some sort emblematic of the life. Sufferings severe and constant, till
within thirty-six hours of the end: at the last peace. On the 25th of
July 1834 this sorely-tried, long-labouring, fate-marred and
self-marred life passed tranquilly away. The pitiful words of Kent over
his dead master rise irrepressibly to the lips--

            "O let him pass: he hates him
   Who would upon the rack of this tough world
   Stretch him out longer."

There might have been something to be said, though not by Kent, of the
weaknesses of Lear himself; but at such a moment compassion both for
the king and for the poet may well impose silence upon censure.


FOOTNOTES

1. How imperfect, a comparison between estimated and actual bulk will
show. No. I. was, according to Coleridge's reckoning, to form three
volumes of 500 pages each. In the Literary Remains it fills less than
half of four volumes of little more than 400 pages each.



CHAPTER XI

Coleridge's metaphysics and theology--The _Spiritual Philosophy_ of Mr.
Green.


In spite of all the struggles, the resolutions, and the entreaties
which displayed themselves so distressingly in the letter to Mr.
Allsop, quoted in the last chapter, it is doubtful whether Coleridge's
"great work" made much additional progress during the last dozen years
of his life. The weekly meeting with Mr. Green seems, according to the
latter's biographer, to have been resumed. Mr. Simon tells us that he
continued year after year to sit at the feet of his Gamaliel, getting
more and more insight into his opinions, until, in 1834, two events
occurred which determined the remaining course of Mr. Green's life. One
of these events, it is needless to say, was Coleridge's death; the
other was the death of his disciple's father, with the result of
leaving Mr. Green possessed of such ample means as to render him
independent of his profession. The language of Coleridge's will,
together, no doubt, with verbal communications which had passed,
imposed on Mr. Green what he accepted as an obligation to devote so far
as necessary the whole remaining strength and earnestness of his life
to the one task of systematising, developing, and establishing the
doctrines of the Coleridgian philosophy. Accordingly, in 1836, two
years after his master's death, he retired from medical practice, and
thenceforward, until his own death nearly thirty years afterwards, he
applied himself unceasingly to what was in a twofold sense a labour of
love.

We are not, it seems from his biographer's account, to suppose that Mr.
Green's task was in any material degree lightened for him by his
previous collaboration with Coleridge. The latter had, as we have seen,
declared in his letter to Allsop that "more than a volume" of the great
work had been dictated by him to Mr. Green, so as to exist in a
condition fit for the press: but this, according to Mr. Simon, was not
the case; and the probability is therefore that "more than a volume"
meant written material equal in amount to more than a volume--of
course, an entirely different thing. Mr. Simon, at any rate, assures us
that no available written material existed for setting comprehensively
before the public, in Coleridge's own language, and in an argued form,
the philosophical system with which he wished his name to be
identified. Instead of it there were fragments--for the most part
mutually inadaptable fragments, and beginnings, and studies of special
subjects, and numberless notes on the margins and fly-leaves of books.

With this equipment, such as it was, Mr. Green set to work to methodise
the Coleridgian doctrines, and to construct from them nothing less than
such a system of philosophy as should "virtually include the law and
explanation of all being, conscious and unconscious, and of all
correlativity and duty, and be applicable directly or by deduction to
whatsoever the human mind can contemplate--sensuous or
supersensuous--of experience, purpose, or imagination." Born under
post-diluvian conditions, Mr. Green was of course unable to accomplish
his self-proposed enterprise, but he must be allowed to have attacked
his task with remarkable energy. "Theology, ethics, politics and
political history, ethnology, language, aesthetics, psychology,
physics, and the allied sciences, biology, logic, mathematics,
pathology, all these subjects," declares his biographer, "were
thoughtfully studied by him, in at least their basial principles and
metaphysics, and most were elaborately written of, as though for the
divisions of some vast cyclop'dic work." At an early period of his
labours he thought it convenient to increase his knowledge of Greek; he
began to study Hebrew when more than sixty years old, and still later
in life he took up Sanscrit. It was not until he was approaching his
seventieth year and found his health beginning to fail him that Mr.
Green seems to have felt that his design, in its more ambitious scope,
must be abandoned, and that, in the impossibility of applying the
Coleridgian system of philosophy to all human knowledge, it was his
imperative duty under his literary trust to work out that particular
application of it which its author had most at heart. Already, in an
unpublished work which he had made it the first care of his trusteeship
to compose, he had, though but roughly and imperfectly, as he
considered, exhibited the relation of his master's doctrines to
revealed religion, and it had now become time to supersede this
unpublished compendium, the _Religio Laici_, as he had styled it, by a
fuller elaboration of the great Coleridgian position, that
"Christianity, rightly understood, is identical with the highest
philosophy, and that, apart from all question of historical evidence,
the essential doctrines of Christianity are necessary and eternal
truths of reason--truths which man, by the vouchsafed light of Nature
and without aid from documents or tradition, may always and anywhere
discover for himself." To this work accordingly Mr. Green devoted the
few remaining years of his life, and, dying in 1863 at the age of
seventy-two, left behind him in MS. the work entitled _Spiritual
Philosophy: founded on the teaching of the late Samuel Taylor
Coleridge,_ which was published two years later, together with the
memoir of the author, from which I have quoted, by Mr. John Simon. It
consists of two volumes, the first of which is devoted to the
exposition of the general principles of Coleridge's philosophy, while
the second is entirely theological, and aims at indicating on
principles for which the first volume has contended, the essential
doctrines of Christianity.

The earlier chapters of this volume Mr. Green devotes to an exposition
(if indeed the word can be applied to what is really a catalogue of the
results of a transcendental intuition) of the essential difference
between the reason and the understanding--a distinction which Coleridge
has himself elsewhere described as preeminently the _gradus ad
philosophiam,_ and might well have called its _pons asinorum._ In the
second part of his first volume Mr. Green applies himself to the
establishment of a position which, fundamental as it must be accounted
in all philosophical speculations of this school, is absolutely vital
to the theology which Coleridge sought to erect upon a metaphysical
basis. This position is that the human will is to be regarded as the
one ultimate fact of self-consciousness. So long as man confines
himself to the contemplation of his percipient and reflective self
alone--so long as he attends only to those modes of consciousness which
are produced in him by the impressions of the senses and the operations
of thought, he can never hope to escape from the famous _reductio ad
inscibile_ of Hume. He can never affirm anything more than the
existence of those modes of consciousness, or assert, at least as a
direct deliverance of intuition, that his conscious self _is_ anything
apart from the perceptions and concepts to which he is attending. But
when he turns from his perceiving and thinking to his willing self he
becomes for the first time aware of something deeper than the mere
objective presentations of consciousness; he obtains a direct intuition
of an originant, causative, and independent self-existence. He will
have attained in short to the knowledge of a noumenon, and of the only
knowable noumenon. The barrier, elsewhere insuperable between the
subject and object, is broken down; that which _knows_ becomes
identified with that which _is;_ and in the consciousness of will the
consciousness also of a self, as something independent of and superior
to its own modifications, is not so much affirmed as acquired. The
essence, in short, of the Coleridgian ontology consists in the
alteration of a single though a very important word in the well-known
Cartesian formula. _Cogito ergo sum_ had been shown by Hume to involve
an illicit process of reasoning. Descartes, according to the Scottish
sceptic, had no right to have said more than _Cogito ergo cogitationes
sunt._ But substitute willing for thinking, convert the formula into
_Volo ergo sum_, and it becomes irrefragable.

So far as I can perceive, it would have been sufficient for Mr. Green's
subsequent argument to have thus established the position of the will
as the ultimate fact of consciousness, but he goes on to assert that he
has thus secured the immovable ground of a philosophy of Realism. For
since man, "in affirming his Personality by the verb substantive I am,
asserts, nay, acquires, the knowledge of his own Substance as a
Spiritual being, and thereby knows what substance truly and properly
is--so he contemplates the outward, persons or things, as subjects
partaking of reality by virtue of the same substance of which he is
conscious in his own person." So far, however, from this being a
philosophy of Realism, it is in effect, if not indeed in actual terms,
a philosophy of Idealism. I, at least, am unable to see how any
Idealist, from Berkeley downwards, could ask for a better definition of
his theory of the external world than that it "partakes of reality by
virtue of the same substance of which he is conscious in his own
person."

But it is, of course, with the second volume of Mr. Green's work that
one is chiefly concerned. Had Coleridge been a mere Transcendentalist
for Transcendentalism's sake, had there been no connection between his
philosophy of Being and his religious creed, it might be a question
whether even the highly condensed and necessarily imperfect sketch
which has here been given of it would not have been superfluous and out
of place. But Coleridge was a Theosophist first, and a philosopher
afterwards; it was mainly as an organon of religion that he valued his
philosophy, and it was to the development and perfection of it, _as
such organon,_ that he may be said to have devoted, so far as it could
be redeemed from its enthralment to lower necessities, the whole of the
latter half of his career. No account of his life, therefore, could be
complete without at least some brief glance at the details of this
notable attempt to lead the world to true religion by the road of the
Transcendental philosophy. It is difficult, of course, for those who
have been trained in a wholly differet school of thought to do justice
to processes of reasoning carried on, as they cannot but hold, in terms
of the inconceivable; it is still more difficult to be sure that you
have done justice to it after all has been said; and I think that no
candid student of the Coleridgian philosophico-theology (not being a
professed disciple of it, and therefore bound, at any rate, to feign
familiarity with incomprehensibilities) will deny that he is often
compelled, to formulate its positions and recite its processes in
somewhat of the same modest and confiding spirit as animates those
youthful geometricians who leacn their Euclid by heart. With this
proviso I will, as briefly as may be, trace the course of the dialectic
by which Mr. Green seeks to make the Coleridgian metaphysics
demonstrative of the truth of Christianity.

Having shown that the Will is the true and the only tenable base of
Philosophic Realism, the writer next proceeds to explain the growth of
the Soul, from its rudimental strivings in its fallen condition to the
development of its spiritual capabilities and to trace its ascent to
the conception of the Idea of God. The argument--if we may apply so
definite a name to a process which is continually forced to appeal to
something that may perhaps be higher, but is certainly _other_ than the
ratiocinative faculty--is founded partly on moral and partly on
intellectual considerations. By an analysis of the moral phenomena
associated with the action of the human will, and, in particular, of
the conflict which arises between "the tendency of all Will to make
itself absolute," and the consciousness that, under the conditions of
man's fallen state, nothing but misery could result both to the
individual and the race from the fulfilment of this tendency,--Mr.
Green shows how the Soul, or the Reason, or the Speculative Intellect
(for he seems to use all three expressions indiscriminately) is morally
prepared for the reception of the truth which his Understanding alone
could never have compassed,--the Idea of God. This is in effect neither
more nor less than a restatement of that time-honoured argument for the
existence of some Being of perfect holiness which has always weighed so
much with men of high spirituality as to blind them to the fact of its
actually enhancing the intellectual difficulties of the situation. Man
possesses a Will which longs to fulfil itself; but it is coupled with a
nature which constantly impels him to those gratifications of will
which tend not to self-preservation and progress, but to their
contraries. Surely, then, on the strength of the mere law of life,
which prevails everywhere, here must be some higher archetypal Will, to
which human wills, or rather certain selected examples of them, may
more and more conform themselves, and in which the union of unlimited
efficiency in operation with unqualified purity of aim has been once
for all effected. Or to put it yet another way: The life of the
virtuous man is a life auxiliary to the preservation and progress of
the race; but his will is under restraint. The will of the vicious man
energises freely enough, but his life is hostile to the preservation
and progress of the race. Now the natural and essential _nisus_ of all
Will is towards absolute freedom. But nothing in life has a natural and
essential _nisus_ towards that which tends to its deterioration and
extinction. Therefore, there must be some ultimate means of reconciling
absolute freedom of the Will with perfectly salutary conditions of its
exercise. And since Mr. Green, like his master and all other
Platonists, is incapable of stopping here, and contenting himself with
assuming the existence of a "stream of tendency" which will gradually
bring the human will into the required conditions, he here makes the
inevitable Platonic jump, and proceeds to conclude that there must be a
self-existent ideal Will in which absolute freedom and power concur
with perfect purity and holiness.

So much for the moral part of Mr. Green's proof, which so far fails, it
will be observed, to carry us much beyond the Pantheistic position. It
has, that is to say, to be proved that the "power not ourselves," which
has been called Will, originates in some source to which we should be
rationally justified in giving the name of "God;" and, singular as such
a thing may seem, it is impossible at any rate for the logic of the
understanding to regard Mr. Green's argument on this point as otherwise
than hopelessly circular. The half-dozen pages or so which he devotes
to the refutation of the Pantheistic view reduce themselves to the
following simple _petitio principii:_ the power is first assumed to be
a Will; it is next affirmed with perfect truth that the very notion of
Will would escape us except under the condition of Personality; and
from this the existence of a personal God as the source of the power in
question deduced. And the same vice underlies the further argument by
which Mr. Green meets the familiar objection to the personality of the
Absolute as involving contradictory conceptions. An infinite Person, he
argues, is no contradiction in terms, unless "finition or limitation"
be regarded as identical with "negation" (which, when applied to a
hypothetical Infinite, one would surely think it is); and an Absolute
Will is not the less absolute from being self-determined _ab intra._
For how, he asks, can any Will which is causative of reality be
conceived as a Will except by conceiving it as _se finiens,_
predetermining itself to the specific processes required by the act of
causation? How, indeed? But the answer of a Pantheist would of course
be that the very impossibility of conceiving of Will except as _se
finiens_ is his very ground for rejecting the notion of a volitional
(in the sense of a personal) origin of the cosmos.

However, it is beyond my purposes to enter into any detailed criticism
of Mr. Green's position, more especially as I have not yet reached the
central and capital point of his spiritual philosophy--the construction
of the Christian theology on the basis of the Coleridgian metaphysics.
Having deduced the Idea of God from man's consciousness of an
individual Will perpetually affirming itself, Mr. Green proceeds to
evolve the Idea of the Trinity, by (as he considers it) an equally
necessary process from two of the invariable accompaniments of the
above-mentioned introspective act. "For as in our consciousness," he
truly says, "we are under the necessity of distinguishing the relation
of 'myself,' now as the _subject_ thinking and now as the _object_
contemplated in the manifold of thought, so we might express the
relations in the Divine instance as _Deus Subjectivus_ and _Deus
Objectimis,_--that is, the Absolute Subjectivity or Supreme Will,
uttering itself as and contemplating itself in the Absolute Objectivity
or plenitude of Being eternally and causatively realised in his
Personality." Whence it follows (so runs or seems to run the argument)
that the Idea of God the Father as necessarily involves the Idea of God
the Son as the "I" who, as the thinking subject, contemplate myself,
implies the contemplated "Me" as the object thought of. Again, the man
who reflects on the fact of his consciousness, "which discloses to him
the unavoidable opposition of subject and object in the self of which
he is conscious, cannot fail to see that the conscious mind requires
not only the distinction in order to the act of reflection in itself,
but the continual sense of the relative nature of the distinction and
of the essential oneness of the mind itself." Whence it follows (so
runs or seems to run the argument) that the Idea of the first two
Persons of the Trinity as necessarily involves the Idea of the Third
Person, as the contemplation of the "Me" by the "I" implies the
perpetual consciousness that the contemplator and the contemplated--the
"I" and the "Me"--are one. In this manner is the Idea of the Trinity
shown to be involved in the Idea of God, and to arise out of it by an
implication as necessary as that which connects together the three
phases of consciousness attendant upon every self-contemplative act of
the individual mind. [1]

It may readily be imagined that after the Speculative Reason has been
made to perform such feats as these the remainder of the work proposed
to it could present no serious difficulty. And in the half-dozen
chapters which follow it is made to evolve in succession the doctrine
of the Incarnation, the Advent, and the Atonement of Christ, and to
explain the mysteries of the fall of man and of original sin.
Considered in the aspect in which Coleridge himself would have
preferred to regard his pupil's work, namely as a systematic attempt to
lead the minds of men to Christianity by an intellectual route, no more
hopeless enterprise perhaps could have been conceived than that
embodied in these volumes. It is like offering a traveller a guide-book
written in hieroglyphics. Upon the most liberal computation it is
probable that not one-fourth part of educated mankind are capable of so
much as comprehending the philosophic doctrine upon which Coleridge
seeks to base Christianity, and it is doubtful whether any but a still
smaller fraction of these would admit that the foundation was capable
of supporting the superstructure. That the writings of the pupil, like
the teachings of the master whom he interprets, may serve the cause of
religion in another than an intellectual way is possible enough. Not a
few of the functions assigned to the Speculative Reason will strike
many of us as moral and spiritual rather than intellectual in their
character, and the appeal to them is in fact an appeal to man to
chasten the lower passions of his nature, and to discipline his unruly
will. Exhortations of that kind are religious all the world of
philosophy over, and will succeed in proportion to the moral fervour
and oratorical power which distinguish them. But if the benefits of
Coleridge's theological teachings are to be reduced to this, it would
of course have been much better to have dissociated them altogether
from the exceedingly abstruse metaphysic to which they have been wedded.


FOOTNOTES

1. Were it not hazardous to treat processes of the Speculative Reason
as we deal with the vulgar dialectic of the Understanding, one would be
disposed to reply that if the above argument proves the existence of
three persons in the Godhead, it must equally prove the existence of
three persons in every man who reflects upon his conscious self. That
the Divine Mind, when engaged in the act of self-contemplation, must be
conceived under three relations is doubtless as true as that the human
mind, when so engaged, must be so conceived; but that these three
relations are so many objective realities is what Mr. Green asserts
indeed a few pages farther on, but what he nowhere attempts to prove.



CHAPTER XII.

Coleridge's position in his later years--His discourse--His influence
on contemporary thought--Final review of his intellectual work.


The critic who would endeavour to appreciate the position which
Coleridge fills in the history of literature and thought for the first
half of the nineteenth century must, if he possesses ordinary candour
and courage, begin, I think, with a confession. He must confess an
inability to comprehend the precise manner in which that position was
attained, and the precise grounds on which it was recognised. For vast
as were Coleridge's powers of thought and expression, and splendid, if
incomplete, as is the record which they have left behind them in his
works, they were never directed to purposes of instruction or
persuasion in anything like that systematic and concentrated manner
which is necessary to him who would found a school. Coleridge's
writings on philosophical and theological subjects were essentially
discursive, fragmentary, incomplete. Even when he professes an
intention of exhausting his subject and affects a logical arrangement,
it is not long before he forgets the design and departs from the order.
His disquisitions are in no sense connected treatises on the subjects
to which they relate. Brilliant _apercus,_ gnomic sayings, flights of
fervid eloquence, infinitely suggestive reflections--of these there is
enough and to spare; but these, though an ample equipment for the
critic, are not sufficient for the constructive philosopher. Nothing,
it must be frankly said, in Coleridge's philosophical and theological
writings--nothing, that is to say, which appeals in them to the mere
intelligence--suffices to explain, at least to the appreciation of
posterity, the fact that he was surrounded during these closing years
of his life by an eager crowd of real or supposed disciples, including
two, at any rate, of the most remarkable personalities of the time. And
if nothing in Coleridge's writings serves to account for it, so neither
does anything traceable or tangible in the mere matter of his
conversations. This last point, however, is one which must be for the
present reserved. I wish for the moment to confine myself to the fact
of Coleridge's position during his later life at Highgate. To this we
have, as we all know, an extremely eminent witness, and one from whose
evidence most people, one may suppose, are by this time able to make
their own deductions in all matters relating to the persons with whom
he was brought into contact. Carlyle on Charles Lamb, few as the sour
sentences are, must always warn us to be careful how we follow Carlyle
"on" anybody whomsoever. But there is no evidence of any ill feeling on
Carlyle's part towards Coleridge--nothing but a humorous,
kindly-contemptuous compassion for his weaknesses and eccentricities;
and the famous description in the _Life of Sterling_ may be taken
therefore as a fairly accurate account of the man and the circumstances
to which it refers:--

"Coleridge sat on the brow of Highgate Hill in those years, looking
down on London and its smoke tumult like a sage escaped from the
inanity of life's battle, attracting towards him the thoughts of
innumerable brave souls still engaged there. His express contributions
to poetry, philosophy, or any specific province of human literature or
enlightenment had been small and sadly intermittent; but he had,
especially among young inquiring men, a higher than literary, a kind of
prophetic or magician character. He was thought to hold--he alone in
England--the key of German and other Transcendentalisms; knew the
sublime secret of believing by the 'reason' what the 'understanding'
had been obliged to fling out as incredible; and could still, after
Hume and Voltaire had done their best and worst with him, profess
himself an orthodox Christian, and say and print to the Church of
England, with its singular old rubrics and surplices at Allhallowtide,
_Esto perpetua._ A sublime man; who alone in those dark days had saved
his crown of spiritual manhood, escaping from the black materialisms
and revolutionary deluges with 'God, Freedom, Immortality,' still his;
a king of men. The practical intellects of the world did not much heed
him, or carelessly reckoned him a metaphysical dreamer; but to the
rising spirits of the young generation he had this dusky sublime
character, and sat there as a kind of Magus, girt in mystery and
enigma; his Dodona oak-grove (Mr. Gillman's house at Highgate)
whispering strange things, uncertain whether oracles or jargon."

The above quotation would suffice for my immediate purpose, but it is
impossible to deny oneself or one's readers the pleasure of a refreshed
recollection of the noble landscape-scene and the masterly portrait
that follow:

"The Gillmans did not encourage much company or excitation of any sort
round their sage; nevertheless, access to him, if a youth did
reverently wish it, was not difficult. He would stroll about the
pleasant garden with you, sit in the pleasant rooms of the
place--perhaps take you to his own peculiar room, high up, with a
rearward view, which was the chief view of all. A really charming
outlook in fine weather. Close at hand wide sweeps of flowing leafy
gardens, their few houses mostly hidden, the very chimney-pots veiled
under blossoming umbrage, flowed gloriously down hill; gloriously
issuing in wide-tufted undulating plain country, rich in all charms of
field and town. Waving blooming country of the brightest green, dotted
all over with handsome villas, handsome groves crossed by roads and
human traffic, here inaudible, or heard only as a musical hum; and
behind all swam, under olive-tinted haze, the illimitable limitary
ocean of London, with its domes and steeples definite in the sun, big
Paul's and the many memories attached to it hanging high over all.
Nowhere of its kind could you see a grander prospect on a bright summer
day, with the set of the air going southward--southward, and so
draping with the city smoke not _you_ but the city."

Then comes the invariable final touch, the one dash of black--or green,
shall we call it--without which the master left no picture that had a
human figure in the foreground:--

"Here for hours would Coleridge talk concerning all conceivable or
inconceivable things; and liked nothing better than to have an
intelligent, or, failing that, even a silent and patient human
listener. He distinguished himself to all that ever heard him as at
least the most surprising talker extant in this world,--and to some
small minority, by no means to all, as the most excellent."

Then follows the well-known, wonderfully vivid, cynically pathetic,
sketch of the man:--

"The good man--he was now getting old, towards sixty perhaps, and gave
you the idea of a life that had been full of sufferings; a life
heavy-laden, half-vanquished, still swimming painfully in seas of
manifold physical and other bewilderment. Brow and head were round and
of massive weight, but the face was flabby and irresolute. The deep
eyes, of a light hazel, were as full of sorrow as of inspiration;
confused pain looked mildly from them, as in a kind of mild
astonishment. The whole figure and air, good and amiable otherwise,
might be called flabby and irresolute; expressive of weakness under
possibility of strength. He hung loosely on his limbs, with knees bent,
and stooping attitude; in walking he rather shuffled than decisively
stept; and a lady once remarked he never could fix which side of the
gardenwalk would suit him best, but continually shifted, corkscrew
fashion, and kept trying both; a heavy-laden, high-aspiring, and surely
much-suffering man. His voice, naturally soft and good, had contracted
itself into a plaintive snuffle and singsong; he spoke as if
preaching--you could have said preaching earnestly and almost
hopelessly the weightiest things. I still recollect his 'object' and
'subject,' terms of continual recurrence in the Kantean province; and
how he sang and snuffled them into 'om-m-ject' and 'sum-m-mject,' with
a kind of solemn shake or quaver as he rolled along. [1] No talk in his
century or in any other could be more surprising."

Such, as he appeared to this half-contemptuous, half-compassionate, but
ever acute observer, was Coleridge at this the zenith of his influence
over the nascent thought of his day. Such to Carlyle seemed the
_manner_ of the deliverance of the oracles; in his view of their
matter, as we all know from an equally well-remembered passage, his
tolerance disappears, and his account here, with all its racy humour,
is almost wholly impatient. Talk, "suffering no interruption, however
reverent," "hastily putting aside all foreign additions, annotation, or
most ingenuous desires for elucidation, as well-meant superfluities
which would never do;" talk "not flowing anywhither, like a river, but
spreading everywhither in inextricable currents and regurgitations like
a lake or sea;" a "confused unintelligible flood of utterance,
threatening to submerge all known landmarks of thought and drown the
world with you"--this, it must be admitted, is not an easily
recognisable description of the Word of Life. Nor, certainly, does
Carlyle's own personal experience of its preaching and effects--he
having heard the preacher talk "with eager musical energy two stricken
hours, his face radiant and moist, and communicate no meaning
whatsoever to any individual of his hearers,"--certain of whom, the
narrator for one, "still kept eagerly listening in hope, while the most
had long before given up and formed (if the room was large enough)
humming groups of their own." "He began anywhere," continues this
irresistibly comic sketch; "you put some question to him, made some
suggestive observation; instead of answering this, or decidedly setting
out towards an answer of it, he would accumulate formidable apparatus,
logical swim-bladders, transcendental life-preservers, and other
precautionary and vehiculatory gear for setting out; perhaps did at
last get under way--but was swiftly solicited, turned aside by the
flame of some radiant new game on this hand or on that into new
courses, and ever into new; and before long into all the universe,
where it was uncertain what game you would catch, or whether any." He
had, indeed, according to the dissatisfied listener, "not the least
talent for explaining this or anything to them; and you swam and
fluttered on the mistiest, wide, unintelligible deluge of things for
most part in a rather profitless uncomfortable manner." And the few
vivid phrases of eulogy which follow seem only to deepen by contrast
the prevailing hue of the picture. The "glorious islets" which were
sometimes seen to "rise out of the haze," the "balmy sunny islets of
the blest and the intelligible, at whose emergence the secondary
humming group would all cease humming and hang breathless upon the
eloquent words, till once your islet got wrapped in the mist again, and
they would recommence humming"--these, it seems to be suggested, but
rarely revealed themselves; but "eloquent, artistically expressive
words you always had; piercing radiances of a most subtle insight came
at intervals; tones of noble pious sympathy recognisable as pious
though strangely coloured, were never wanting long; but, in general,
you could not call this aimless cloud-capt, cloud-bound, lawlessly
meandering discourse, by the name of excellent talk, but only of
surprising.... The moaning sing-song of that theosophico-metaphysical
monotony left in you at last a very dreary feeling."

It is tolerably clear, I think, that some considerable discount must be
allowed upon the sum of disparagement in this famous criticism. We have
learnt, indeed, to be more on the look-out for the disturbing
influences of temperament in the judgments of this atrabilious observer
than was the case when the _Life of Sterling_ was written, and it is
difficult to doubt that the unfavourable strokes in the above-quoted
description have been unduly multiplied and deepened, partly in the
mere waywardness of a sarcastic humour, and partly perhaps from a less
excusable cause. It is always dangerous to accept one remarkable
talker's view of the characteristics of another; and if this is true of
men who merely compete with each other in the ordinary give-and-take of
the dinner-table epigrammatist and _raconteur,_ the caution is doubly
necessary in the case of two rival prophets--two competing oracles.
There are those among us who hold that the conversation of the Chelsea
sage, in his later years, resembled his own description of the Highgate
philosopher's, in this, at any rate, that it was mightily intolerant of
interruption; and one is apt to suspect that at no time of his life did
Carlyle "understand duologue" much better than Coleridge. It is
probable enough, therefore, that the young lay-preacher did not quite
relish being silenced by the elder, and that his account of the sermons
was coloured by the recollection that his own remained undelivered.
There is an abundance of evidence that the "glorious islets" emerged
far more often from the transcendental haze than Carlyle would have us
suppose. Hazlitt, a bitter assailant of Coleridge's, and whose caustic
remark that "his talk was excellent if you let him start from no
premisses and come to no conclusion" is cited with approval by Carlyle,
has elsewhere spoken of Coleridge as the only person from whom he ever
learned anything, has said of him that though he talked on for ever you
wished him to talk on for ever, that "his thoughts did not seem to come
with labour and effort, but as if borne on the gusts of genius, and as
if the wings of his imagination lifted him from his feet." And besides
this testimony to the eloquence which Carlyle only but inadequately
recognises, one should set for what it is worth De Quincey's evidence
to that consequence of thought which Carlyle denies altogether. To De
Quincey the complaint that Coleridge wandered in his talk appeared
unjust. According to him the great discourser only "seemed to wander,"
and he seemed 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." De
Quincey however, declares positively in the faith of his "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."

Nor should we omit the testimony of another, a more partial, perhaps,
but even better informed judge. The _Table Talk_, edited by Mr. Nelson
Coleridge, shows how pregnant, how pithy, how full of subtle
observation, and often also of playful humour, could be the talk of the
great discourser in its lighter and more colloquial forms. The book
indeed is, to the thinking of one, at any rate, of its frequent
readers, among the most delightful in the world. But thus speaks its
editor of his uncle's conversation in his more serious moods:--

"To pass an entire day with Coleridge was a marvellous change indeed
[from the talk of daily life]. It was a Sabbath past expression, deep
and tranquil and serene. You came to a man who had travelled in many
countries and in critical times; who had seen and felt the world in
most of its ranks and in many of its vicissitudes and weaknesses; one
to whom all literature and art were absolutely subject; and to whom,
with a reasonable allowance as to technical details, all science was,
in a most extraordinary degree, familiar. Throughout a long-drawn
summer's day would this man talk to you in low, equable, but clear and
musical tones concerning things Iranian and divine; marshalling all
history, harmonising all experiment, probing the depths of your
consciousness, and revealing visions of glory and terror to the
imagination; but pouring withal such floods of light upon the mind that
you might for a season, like Paul, become blind in the very act of
conversion. And this he would do without so much as one allusion to
himself, without a word of reflection upon others, save when any given
art fell naturally in the way of his discourse; without one anecdote
that was not proof and illustration of a previous position;
--gratifying no passion, indulging no caprice, but, with a calm mastery
over your soul, leading you onward and onward for ever through a
thousand windings, yet with no pause, to some magnificent point in
which, as in a focus, all the parti-coloured rays of his discourse
should converge in light. In all these he was, in truth, your teacher
and guide; but in a little while you might forget that he was other
than a fellow-student and the companion of your way--so playful was his
manner, so simple his language, so affectionate the glance of his eye!"

Impressive, however, as these displays may have been, it is impossible
to suppose that their direct didactic value as discourses was at all
considerable. Such as it was, moreover, it was confined in all
probability to an extremely select circle of followers. A few mystics
of the type of Maurice, a few eager seekers after truth like Sterling,
may have gathered, or fancied they gathered, distinct dogmatic
instruction from the Highgate oracles; and no doubt, to the extent of
his influence over the former of these disciples, we may justly credit
Coleridge's discourses with having exercised a real if only a
transitory directive effect upon nineteenth-century thought. But the
terms in which his influence is sometimes spoken of appear, as far as
one can judge of the matter at this distance of time, to be greatly
exaggerated. To speak of it in the same way as we are--or
were--accustomed to speak of the influence of Carlyle, is to subject it
to an altogether inappropriate comparison. It is not merely that
Coleridge founded no recognisable school, for neither did Carlyle. It
is that the former can show absolutely nothing at all resembling that
sort of power which enabled the latter to lay hold upon all the
youthful minds of his time--minds of the most disparate orders and
associated with the utmost diversities of temperament, and detain them
in a captivity which, brief as it may have been in some cases, has in
no case failed to leave its marks behind it. Over a few spirits already
prepared to receive them Coleridge's teachings no doubt exerted power,
but he led no soul captive against its will. There are few middle-aged
men of active intelligence at the present day who can avoid a
confession of having "taken" Carlylism in their youth; but no mental
constitutions not predisposed to it could ever have caught Coleridgism
at all. There is indeed no moral theory of life, there are no maxims of
conduct, such as youth above all things craves for, in Coleridge's
teaching. Apart from the intrinsic difficulties of the task to which he
invites his disciples, it labours under a primary and essential
disadvantage of postponing moral to intellectual liberation. Contrive
somehow or other to attain to just ideas as to the capacities and
limitations of the human consciousness, considered especially in
relation to its two important and eternally distinct functions, the
Reason and the Understanding: and peace of mind shall in due time be
added unto you. That is in effect Coleridge's answer to the inquirer
who consults him; and if the distinction between the Reason and the
Understanding were as obvious as it is obscure to the average
unmetaphysical mind, and of a value as assured for the purpose to which
Coleridge applies it as it is uncertain, the answer would nevertheless
send many a would-be disciple sorrowful away. His natural impulse is to
urge the oracle to tell him whether there be not some one moral
attitude which he can wisely and worthily adopt towards the universe,
whatever theory he may form of his mental relations to it, or without
forming any such theory at all. And it was because Carlyle supplied, or
was believed to supply an answer, such as it was, to this universal
question, that his train of followers, voluntary and involuntary,
permanent and temporary, has been so large.

It appears to me, therefore, on as careful an examination of the point
as the data admit of, that Coleridge's position in these latter days of
his life has been somewhat mythically exalted by the generation which
succeeded him. There are, I think, distinct traces of a Coleridgian
legend which has only slowly died out. The actual truth I believe to be
that Coleridge's position from 1818 or 1820 till his death, though one
of the greatest eminence, was in no sense one of the highest, or even
of any considerable influence. Fame and honour, in the fullest measure,
were no doubt his: in that matter, indeed, he was only receiving
payment of long-delayed arrears. The poetic school with which he was,
though not with entire accuracy, associated had outlived its period of
contempt and obloquy. In spite of the two quarterlies, the Tory review
hostile, its Whig rival coldly silent, the public had recognised the
high imaginative merit of _Christabel;_ and who knows but that if the
first edition of the _Lyrical Ballads_ had appeared at this date
instead of twenty years before, it would have obtained a certain number
of readers even among landsmen? [2] But over and above the published
works of the poet there were those extraordinary personal
characteristics to which the fame of his works of course attracted a
far larger share than formerly of popular attention. A remarkable man
has more attractive power over the mass of mankind than the most
remarkable of books, and it was because the report of Coleridge among
those who knew him was more stimulating to public curiosity than even
the greatest of his poems, that his celebrity in these latter years
attained such proportions. Wordsworth said that though "he had seen
many men do wonderful things, Coleridge was the only wonderful man he
had ever met," and it was not the doer of wonderful things but the
wonderful man that English society in those days went out for to see.
Seeing would have been enough, but for a certain number there was
hearing too, with the report of it for all; and it is not surprising
that fame of the marvellous discourser should, in mere virtue of his
extraordinary power of improvised speech, his limitless and untiring
mastery of articulate words, have risen to a height to which writers
whose only voice is in their pens can never hope to attain.

A reputation of that kind, however, must necessarily perish with its
possessor; and Coleridge's posthumous renown has grown, his place in
English literature has become more assured, if it has not been even
fixed higher, since his death than during his lifetime. This is, in
part no doubt, one among the consequences of those very defects of
character which so unfortunately limited his actual achievements. He
has been credited by faith, as it were, with those famous "unwritten
books" of which he assured Charles Lamb that the titles alone would
fill a volume, and such "popular reputation," in the strict sense of
the word, as he has left behind him, is measured rather by what he was
thought capable of doing than by what he did. By serious students,
however, the real worth of Coleridge will be differently estimated. For
them his peculiar value to English literature is not only undiminished
by the incompleteness of his work; it has been, in a certain sense,
enhanced thereby. Or, perhaps, it would be more strictly accurate to
say that the value could not have existed without the incompleteness. A
Coleridge with the faculty of concentration, and the habit of method
superadded--a Coleridge capable of becoming possessed by any one form
of intellectual energy to the exclusion of all others--might, indeed,
have left behind him a more enduring reputation as a philosopher, and
possibly (although this, for reasons already stated, is, in my own
opinion, extremely doubtful) bequeathed to his countrymen more poetry
destined to live; but, unquestionably, he would never have been able to
render that precise service to modern thought and literature which, in
fact, they owe to him. To have exercised his vivifying and fertilising
influence over the minds of others his intellect was bound to be of the
dispersive order; it was essential that he should "take all knowledge
to be his province," and that that eager, subtle, and penetrative mind
should range as freely as it did over subject after subject of human
interest;--illuminating each of them in turn with those rays of true
critical insight which, amid many bewildering cross-lights and some few
downright _ignes fatui,_ flash forth upon us from all Coleridge's work.

Of the personal weaknesses which prevented the just development of the
powers, enough, perhaps, has been incidentally said in the course of
this volume. But, in summing up his history, I shall not, I trust, be
thought to judge the man too harshly in saying that, though the natural
disadvantages of wretched health, almost from boyhood upward, must, in
common fairness, be admitted in partial excuse for his failure, they do
not excuse it altogether. It is difficult not to feel that Coleridge's
character, apart altogether from defects of physical constitution, was
wanting in manliness of fibre. His willingness to accept assistance at
the hands of others is too manifestly displayed even at the earlier and
more robust period of his life. It would be a mistake, of course, in
dealing with a literary man of Coleridge's era, to apply the same
standards as obtain in our own days. Wordsworth, as we have seen, made
no scruple to accept the benevolences of the Wedgwoods. Southey, the
type of independence and self-help, was, for some years, in receipt of
a pension from a private source. But Coleridge, as Miss Meteyard's
disclosures have shown, was at all times far more willing to depend
upon others, and was far less scrupulous about soliciting their bounty,
than was either of his two friends. Had he shared more of the spirit
which made Johnson refuse to owe to the benevolence of others what
Providence had enabled him to do for himself, it might have been
better, no doubt, for the world and for the work which he did therein.

But when we consider what that work was, how varied and how wonderful,
it seems idle--nay, it seems ungrateful and ungracious--to speculate
too curiously on what further or other benefits this great intellect
might have conferred upon mankind, had its possessor been endowed with
those qualities of resolution and independence which he lacked. That
Coleridge so often only _shows_ the way, and so seldom guides our steps
along it to the end, is no just ground of complaint. It would be as
unreasonable to complain of a beacon-light that it is not a steam-tug,
and forget in the incompleteness of its separate services the glory of
their number. It is a more reasonable objection that the light itself
is too often liable to obscuration,--that it stands erected upon a rock
too often enshrouded by the mists of its encircling sea. But even this
objection should not too greatly weigh with us. It would be wiser and
better for us to dwell rather upon its splendour and helpfulness in the
hours of its efficacy, to think how vast is then the expanse of waters
which it illuminates, and its radiance how steady and serene.


FOOTNOTES

1. No one who recollects the equally singular manner in which another
most distinguished metaphysician--the late Dean Hansel--was wont to
quaver forth his admirably turned and often highly eloquent phrases of
philosophical exposition, can fail to be reminded of him by the above
description. No two temperaments or histories however could be more
dissimilar. The two philosophers resembled each other in nothing save
the "om-mject" and "sum-mject" of their studies.

2. The Longmans told Coleridge that the greater part of the first
edition of the Lyrical Ballads had been sold to seafaring men, who,
having heard of the _Ancient Mariner_, took the volume for a naval
song-book.



INDEX


Adams, Dr.,

_Aeolian Harp,_
  circumstances under which it was written,
  Coleridge's opinion of,

_Aids to Reflection,_ its popularity,
   its value as a spiritual manual,
   its inferiority from a literary point of view,

Allan Bank,

Allsop, Mr. Thomas,

_Ancient Mariner,_
   how and when first conceived,
   its uniqueness,
   Wordsworth's account of its origin
    and of his suggestions,
   a sublime "pot-boiler,"
   realistic force of its narrative,
   its vividness of imagery,
   its wonderful word-pictures,
   its evenness of execution,
   examples of its consummate art,
   its chief characteristics,

Anecdotes,

Ball, Sir Alexander,

Beaumont, Lady,

Berkeley,

_Biographia Literaria,_
  its interest, critical and illustrative,
  its main value,
  its analysis of the principles of poetry,
  its examination of Wordsworth's theory,
  its contents,

_Blackwood's Magazine,_
  Coleridge's contributions to,

Bonaparte,

_Borderers_ (Wordsworth's),

Bowles, William Lisle,

Burke,
  sonnet to,

Byron,

Calne, Coleridge at,

_Cambridge Intelligencer _(Flower's),

Carlyle, description of Coleridge by,

Carrlyon, Dr.,
  reminiscences of Coleridge in Germany by,

_Christabel,_
  Coleridge's opinion of,
  its unfinished condition,
  the lines on the "spell,"
  its high place as a work of creative art,
  its fragmentary beauties,
  the description of Christabel's chamber,
  its main idea,
  outline of the unfinished parts,
  Lamb and Hartley Coleridge on,
  its perfection from the metrical point of view,
  publication of the second part,
  its popularity,
  Coleridge's great desire to complete it,

_Circassian Love Chant_,
  its charm of melody,

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor.
  His biographers,
  birth and family history,
  his boyhood and school days,
  early childhood,
  death of his father,
  goes to Christ's Hospital,
  goes to Jesus College, Cambridge,
  wins the Browne Gold Medal,
  leaves Cambridge suddenly and enlists in the army,
  his discharge,
  returns to Cambridge,
  his meeting with Southey and Sara Fricker (his future wife),
  writes the _Fall of Robespierre_ with Southey,
  leaves Cambridge,
  delivers the Bristol lectures,
  marries Sara Fricker at Bristol,
  writes the _Aeolian Harp_,
  plunges into politics and journalism,
  projects the _Watchman_ and goes on a canvassing tour,
  preaches Unitarian sermons by the way,
  brings out the _Watchman_,
  retires to a cottage in Somersetshire with Charles Lloyd,
  his meeting with Wordsworth,
  cooling of his revolutionary enthusiasm,
  his intercourse with Wordsworth,
  writes _Osorio_,
  his rambles with Wordsworth among the Quantock Hills,
  projects the _Lyrical Ballads_,
  writes the _Ancient Mariner_,
  _Christabel_,
  _Love_,
  _Kubla Khan_,
  undertakes the duties of a Unitarian preacher at Shrewsbury,
  accepts an annuity from the two Wedgwoods,
  goes to Germany with the Wordsworths,
  returns to England after a year's absence,
  translates Schiller's _Wallenstein_,
  devotes himself again to journalism,
  goes to the Lake country,
  takes opium as an anodyne,
  writes the _Ode to Dejection_,
  goes on a tour with Thomas Wedgwood,
  visits the Wordsworths at Grasmere,
  his illness there,
  goes to Malta,
  ill effects of his stay there,
  becomes Secretary to the Governor of the island,
  goes to Italy,
  returns to England after two and a half years' absence,
  his wretched condition of mind and body,
  estrangement from his wife,
  domestic unhappiness,
  meeting with De Quincey,
  pecuniary embarrassments,
  his lectures at the Royal Institution,
  lives with Wordsworth at Allan Bank,
  founds and edits the _Friend_,
  delivers lectures on Shakespeare,
  returns to journalism,
  his necessities,
  loses his annuity,
  neglect of his family,
  successful production of his play _Remorse_,
  lectures again at Bristol,
  retires to Calne with Mr. Morgan,
  more financial troubles,
  lives with Dr. Gillman at Highgate,
  undergoes medical treatment for the opium habit,
  returning health and vigour,
  renewed literary activity,
  writes the _Biographia Literaria_,
  lectures again in London,
  more money troubles,
  publishes _Aids to Reflection_,
  accompanies Wordsworth on a tour up the Rhine,
  his declining years,
  contemplation of his approaching end,
  his death,

Poet and Thinker.
  His early bent towards poetry and metaphysics,
  his prose style,
  his early poems, their merits and defects,
  his sonnets,
  Coleridge at his best,
  untimely decline of his poetic impulse,
  Wordsworth's great influence on him,
  Coleridge's mastery of the true ballad manner,
  estimate of his poetic work,
  comparison with Byron and Wordsworth,
  his wonderful power of melody,
  his great projects,
  his critical powers,
  his criticism of Shakespeare,
  his philosophy,
  his contemplated "Great Work,"
  his materials for various poems,
  his metaphysics and theology,
  his discourses,
  exaggerated notions of his position and influence,
  his "unwritten books,"

  Precocious boyhood,
  descriptions of him at various times,
  his voice,
  his conduct as a husband,
  religious nature,
  revolutionary enthusiasm,
  consciousness of his great powers,
  generous admiration for the gifts of others,
  his womanly softness,
  his pride in his personal appearance,
  his contempt for money,
  his ill-health,
  his opium-eating,
  his restlessness,
  best portrait of him,
  his unbusinesslike nature,
  sorrows of his life,
  his laudanum excesses,
  his talk,
  his weaknesses,

Coleridge, Mrs.,

Coleridge, Rev. Derwent,

Coleridge, Rev. George,

Coleridge, Hartley,

Coleridge, Rev. John,

Coleridge, Luke,

Coleridge, Nelson,

Coleridge, Sarah,

_Coleridge and Opium Eating_ (De Quincey's),

_Condones ad Populum _(Bristol Lectures),
  their warmth of language,
  evidence of deep thought and reasoning in,
  their crudeness,

Consulate, Coleridge on the French,

Cottle, Joseph,

_Courier, The,_

_Dark Ladie,_

_Dejection, Ode to,_
  Coleridge's swan song,
  its promise,
  Coleridge's spiritual and moral losses bewailed in,
  stanzas from,
  biographical value of,

De Quincey,

Descartes,

_Descriptive Sketches _(Wordsworth's),

_Devil's Thoughts,_

_Early Years and Late Reflections_ (Dr. Carrlyon's),

_Effusions,_

Erasmus,

_Essays on his own Times,_

_Eve of St Agnes_ (Keats's),

_Excursion_ (Wordsworth's),

_Fall of Robespierre_,

_Fears in Solitude_,

_Fire, Famine and Slaughter_,

Fox, Letters to,

France, Coleridge on,
  ode to,

Fricker, Edith,
  Mary,
  Sara,

_Friend, The_,
  Coleridge's object in starting it,
  its short-lived career,
  causes of its failure,
  compared with the _Spectator_,

_Frost at Midnight_ (lines),

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire,
  Ode to,

Germany, Coleridge and Wordsworth in,

Gibbon,

Gillman, Mr.,

Green, Mr. J. H.,

Grenville, Lord,

Greta Hall, description of,

_Group of Englishmen_ (Miss Meteyard's),

Harz Mountains, Coleridge's tour through the,

Hazlitt,

Hume,

_Joan of Arc_ (Southey's), Coleridge's contribution to,

Johnson, Samuel,

_Juvenile Poems_,

Kean,

Keats, Coleridge's meeting with and description of,

Keswick,

_Kosciusko_ (Sonnet),

_Kubla Khan_, 39; a wild dream-poem,
  its curious origin,
  when written,

_Lake Poets_ (De Quincey's),

Lamb, Charles,

Lamb, Mary,

_Lay Sermons_,

"Lear,": Coleridge on,

Lectures, Coleridge's,
  at Bristol,
  at the Royal Institution,
  on Shakespeare and Milton,
  at Flower de Luce Court,
  extempore lecture,

Le Grice, Charles,

_Liberal, The_,

_Lines on ascending the Bracken_,

_Lines to William Wordsworth_,

_Literary Remains_,

Lloyd, Charles,

Locke,

_Love_,
  fascination of melody in,

Lovell, Robert,

_Lover's Resolution_,

Luther,

_Lyrical Ballads_,
  origin of,
  Coleridge's contributions to,
  appearance of,
  anecdote concerning,

Malta, Coleridge's stay at,

Maurice,

Metaphysics and theology; Coleridge's,

Meteyard, Miss,

Milton, lectures on Shakespeare and,

_Monody on the Death of Chatterton_,

Montagu, Mr. and Mrs.,

Morgan, Mr. John,

_Morning Post, The_, Coleridge's connection with,

Nether Stowey, Coleridge at,

_New Monthly Magazine_,

_Nightingale_,

_Omniana_ (Southey's), Coleridge's contribution to,

Opium,
  Coleridge's resort to,
  origin of the habit,
  De Quincey on,


_Pains of Sleep_,

"Pantisocraey,"

Parry, Coleridge's fellow-student in Germany,

_Peau de Chagrin_ (Balzac's),

Philosophy, Coleridge's,
  (see _Spiritual Philosophy_)

_Pilgrimage_ (Purchas's),

Pitt,
  sonnet to,

Pius VII., Pope,

_Poems on Various Subjects_,

_Poetical and Dramatic Works_,

Poetry and the Fine Arts, Coleridge's lectures on,

"Polonius," Coleridge's estimate of the character of,

Poole, Mr. Thomas,

_Prometheus_, Coleridge's paper on,

Quantock Hills, Coleridge and Wordsworth among the,

_Recantation_,

_Recollections_ (Cottle's),

_Recollections of a Literary Life_ (Miss Mitford's)

_Reflections on having left a Place of Retirement_,

_Religious Musings_,

_Remorse_,

Revolution, the French,

_Robbers_,

Rome, Coleridge in,

Rousseau,

Royal Institution, Coleridge's lectures at the,

Schiller,

Schlegel,

Scott, Sir Walter,

_Sermons, Lay_,

Shakespeare,
  lectures on,
  criticisms on,

Shakespearianism, German,

Shelley,

Sheridan,

Shrewsbury, Coleridge's preaching in,

_Sibylline Leaves_,

Slave Trade, Coleridge's Greek Ode on the,

_Songs of the Pixies_,

_Sonnets on Eminent Characters_,

Sotheby, Mr.,

Southey,

Southey, Cuthbert,

Southey, Edith,

_Spectator_,

_Spiritual Philosophy_ (Green's),
  an exposition of Coleridge's Philosophy,
  Coleridge's great fundamental principle,
  the reason and the understanding,
  will, not thought, the ultimate fact of self-consciousness,
  a philosophy of Realism,
  philosophy valued by Coleridge mainly as an organon of religion,
  growth of the soul,
  the idea of God,
  idea of the Trinity,
  "a guidebook written in hieroglyphics,"

_Statesman's Manual_,

_Sterling, Life of_ (Carlyle's),

Sterne,

Stuart, Mr. Daniel,

Swinburne's praise of Coleridge's lyrics,

_Table Talk_,

Theology and metaphysics, Coleridge's system of,

Unitarian, Coleridge as a,

_Visionary Hope_,

Voltaire,

_Voyages_ (Shelvocke's),

_Wallenstein_, Coleridge's translation of,

Warburton,

_Watchman_,

Wedgwood, Josiah,

Wedgwood, Thomas,

Wordsworth,

Wordsworth, Dorothy,

_Year, Ode to the Departing_,

_Zapolya_,


THE END.





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