Infomotions, Inc.English Men of Letters: Coleridge / Traill, H. D. (Henry Duff), 1842-1900

Author: Traill, H. D. (Henry Duff), 1842-1900
Title: English Men of Letters: Coleridge
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): coleridge; wordsworth; biographia literaria
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Title: English Men of Letters: Coleridge

Author: H. D. Traill

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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.



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

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

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.


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

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

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

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

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.


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

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

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

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




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


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

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

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

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


  "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.


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

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.


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


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

  "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

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


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.


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.


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

  "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;

  "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

  "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

"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.


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."

  "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.


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


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

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.


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.


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


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

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

"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.


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.


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


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 Cole-
ridge 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

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

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

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.

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.


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.


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


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

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_.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

"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.


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"!


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


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

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

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

"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


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


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

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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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

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

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

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.


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


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,


Ball, Sir Alexander,

Beaumont, Lady,


_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,


_Borderers_ (Wordsworth's),

Bowles, William Lisle,

  sonnet to,


Calne, Coleridge at,

_Cambridge Intelligencer _(Flower's),

Carlyle, description of Coleridge by,

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

  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_,
  _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,


_Descriptive Sketches _(Wordsworth's),

_Devil's Thoughts,_

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



_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,

_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,


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,



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

Johnson, Samuel,

_Juvenile Poems_,


Keats, Coleridge's meeting with and description of,


_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,


  fascination of melody in,

Lovell, Robert,

_Lover's Resolution_,


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

Malta, Coleridge's stay at,


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_,


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

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

_Pains of Sleep_,


Parry, Coleridge's fellow-student in Germany,

_Peau de Chagrin_ (Balzac's),

Philosophy, Coleridge's,
  (see _Spiritual Philosophy_)

_Pilgrimage_ (Purchas's),

  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,


_Recollections_ (Cottle's),

_Recollections of a Literary Life_ (Miss Mitford's)

_Reflections on having left a Place of Retirement_,

_Religious Musings_,


Revolution, the French,


Rome, Coleridge in,


Royal Institution, Coleridge's lectures at the,



Scott, Sir Walter,

_Sermons, Lay_,

  lectures on,
  criticisms on,

Shakespearianism, German,



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, Cuthbert,

Southey, Edith,


_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),


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_,


_Voyages_ (Shelvocke's),

_Wallenstein_, Coleridge's translation of,



Wedgwood, Josiah,

Wedgwood, Thomas,


Wordsworth, Dorothy,

_Year, Ode to the Departing_,



End of Project Gutenberg's English Men of Letters: Coleridge, by H. D. Traill


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