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REMINISCENCES OF SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE AND ROBERT SOUTHEY
by JOSEPH COTTLE
* * * * *
It is with a solemnized feeling that I enter on these Reminiscences.
Except one, I have survived all the associates of my earlier days. The
young, with a long life in perspective, (if any life can be called long,
in so brief an existence) are unable to realize the impressions of a man,
nearer eighty than seventy, when the shadows of evening are gathering
around, and, in a retrospective glance, the whole field of past vision
appears, in all its complexities, like the indistinct tumults of a dream.
The acute reasoner--the fiery politician--the eager polemic--the emulous
aspirant after fame; and many such have I known, where are they? and how
mournful, if any one of them should be found, at last, to have directed
his solicitudes, alone, to material objects;--should have neglected to
cultivate his own little plot of earth, more valuable than mines! and
have sown no seeds for eternity. It is not a light motive which could
have prompted me, when this world of "Eye and Ear" is fast receding,
while grander scenes are opening, and so near! to call up almost
long-forgotten associations, and to dwell on the stirring, by-gone
occurrences that tend, in some measure, to interfere with that calm which
is most desirable, and best accords with the feelings of one who holds
life by such slender ties. Yet through the goodness of the Almighty,
being at the present moment exempt from many of the common infirmities of
age, I am willing, as a last act, to make some sacrifice to obtain the
good which I hope this recurrence to the past is calculated to produce.
With respect to Mr. Coleridge, it would be easy and pleasant to sail with
the stream; to admire his eloquence; to extol his genius; and to forget
his failings; but where is the utility, arising out of this homage paid
to naked talent? If the attention of posterity rested here, where were
the lessons of wisdom to be learnt from his example? His path through the
world was marked by strong outlines, and instruction is to be derived
from every feature of his mind, and every portion of his eventful and
chequered life. In all the aspects of his character, he was probably the
most singular man that has appeared in this country during the preceding
century, and the leading incidents of whose life ought to stand fairly on
record. The facts which I have stated are undeniable, the most important
being substantiated by his own letters; but higher objects were intended
by this narrative than merely to elucidate a character, (however
remarkable), in all its vicissitudes and eccentricities. Rising above
idle curiosity, or the desire of furnishing aliment for the
sentimental;--excitement the object, and the moral tendency disregarded,
these pages take a wider range, and are designed for the good of many,
where if there be much to pain the reader, he should moderate his
regrets, by looking through the intermediate to the end.
There is scarcely an individual, whose life, if justly delineated, would
not present much whence others might derive instruction. If this be
applicable to the multitude, how much more essentially true is it, in
reference to the ethereal spirits, endowed by the Supreme with a lavish
portion of intellectual strength, as well as with proportionate
capacities for doing good? How serious therefore is the obligation to
fidelity, when the portraiture of a man is to be presented, like Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, in whom such diversified and contrary qualities
alternately predominated! Yet all the advantages to be derived from him,
and similar instructors of mankind, must result from a faithful
exhibition of the broad features of their earthly conduct and character,
so that they might stand out as landmarks, and pharos-towers, to guide,
or warn, or encourage, all succeeding voyagers on the Ocean of Life.
In preparing the following work, I should gladly have withheld that one
letter of Mr. Coleridge to Mr. Wade, had not the obligation to make it
public been imperative. But concealment would have been injustice to the
living, and treachery to the dead. This letter is the solemnizing voice
of conscience. Can any reflecting mind, deliberately desire the
suppression of this document, in which Mr. Coleridge, for the good of
others, generously forgets its bearing on himself, and makes a full and
voluntary confession of the sins he had committed against "himself, his
friends, his children, and his God?" In the agony of remorse, at the
retrospection, he thus required that this his confession should hereafter
be given to the public. "AFTER MY DEATH, I EARNESTLY ENTREAT, THAT A FULL
AND UNQUALIFIED NARRATIVE OF MY WRETCHEDNESS, AND ITS GUILTY CAUSE, MAY
BE MADE PUBLIC, THAT AT LEAST SOME LITTLE GOOD MAY BE EFFECTED BY THE
DIREFUL EXAMPLE." This is the most redeeming letter Samuel Taylor
Coleridge ever penned. A callous heart could not have written it. A
Christian, awaking from his temporary lethargy, might. While it
powerfully propitiates the reader, it almost converts condemnation into
No considerate friend, it might be thought, would have desired the
suppression of this letter, but rather its most extended circulation; and
that, among other cogent reasons, from the immense moral lesson, enforced
by it, in perpetuity, on all consumers of opium; in which they will
behold, as well as in some of the other letters, the "tremendous
consequences," (to use Mr. Coleridge's own expressions) of such
practices, exemplified in his own person; and to which terrible effects,
he himself so often, and so impressively refers. It was doubtless a deep
conviction of the beneficial tendencies involved in the publication, that
prompted Mr. C. to direct publicity to be given to this remarkable
letter, after his decease.
The incidents connected with the lives of Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey,
are so intimately blended, from relationship, association, and kindred
pursuits, that the biography of one, to a considerable extent, involves
that of the other. The following narrative, however, professes to be
annals of, rather than a circumstantial account of these two remarkable
Some persons may be predisposed to misconstrue the motive for giving
publicity to the following letter, but others, it is hoped, will admit
that the sole object has been, not to draw the reader's attention to the
writer, but to confer _credit on Southey_. Many are the individuals who
would have assisted, to a greater extent than myself, two young men of
decided genius, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey, who
required, at the commencement of their literary career, encouragement,
and a little assistance. Few however, would have exhibited the
magnanimity which Southey displayed, in seasons of improved
circumstances, by referring to slender acts of kindness, long past, and
scarcely remembered but by himself. Few are the men, who, after having
surmounted their difficulties by honourable exertion, would have referred
to past seasons of perplexity, and have desired--that occurrences "might
be seen hereafter," which little minds would sedulously have concealed,
as discredit, rather than as conferring conspicuous honour.
Ten years after the incidents had occurred to which the following letter
refers, in writing to Mr. Southey, among other subjects, I casually
expressed a regret, that when I quitted the business of a bookseller, I
had not returned him the copy-rights of his "Joan of Arc;" of his two
volumes of Poems; and of his letters from Spain and Portugal. The
following was his reply.
"Wednesday evening, Greta Hall, April 28, 1808.
My dear Cottle,
... What you say of my copy-rights affects me very much. Dear Cottle,
set your heart at rest on that subject. It ought to be at rest. They
were yours; fairly bought, and fairly sold. You bought them on the
chance of their success, what no London bookseller would have done;
and had they not been bought, they could not have been published at
all. Nay, if you had not published 'Joan of Arc,' the poem never
would have existed, nor should I, in all probability, ever have
obtained that reputation which is the capital on which I subsist, nor
that power which enables me to support it.
But this is not all. Do you suppose, Cottle, that I have forgotten
those true and most essential acts of friendship which you showed me
when I stood most in need of them? Your house was my house when I had
no other. The very money with which I bought my wedding ring, and
paid my marriage fees, was supplied by you. It was with your sisters
that I left my Edith, during my six months' absence; and for the six
months after my return, it was from you that I received, week by
week, the little on which we lived, till I was enabled to live by
other means. It is not the settling of our cash account that can
cancel obligations like these. You are in the habit of preserving
your letters, and if you were not, _I would entreat you to preserve
this, that it might be seen hereafter_. Sure I am, that there never
was a more generous, nor a kinder heart than yours, and you will
believe me when I add, that there does not live that man upon earth,
whom I remember with more gratitude, and more affection. My heart
throbs, and my eyes burn with these recollections. Good night my dear
old friend and benefactor.
Gratitude is a plant indigenous to Heaven. Specimens are rarely found on
Earth. This is one.
Mr. Southey, on previous occasions had advised me to write my
"Recollections of Persons and Things," and it having been understood that
I was about to prepare a memoir of Mr. Coleridge, (1836) Mr. S. renewed
his solicitation, as will appear by the following extracts.
"Keswick, April 14, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
There is I hope, time enough for you to make a very interesting book
of your own 'Recollections,' a book which will be of no little value
to the history of our native city, and the literature of our times.
Your prose has a natural ease which no study could acquire. I am very
confident you could make as delightful a book on this subject as
Isaac Walton has in his way. If you are drawing up your
'Recollections of Coleridge,' you are most welcome to insert anything
of mine which you may think proper. To be employed in such a work,
with the principles and frame of mind wherewith you would engage in
it, is to be instructing and admonishing your fellow-creatures; it is
employing your talents, and keeping up that habitual preparation for
the enduring inheritance in which the greater part of your life has
been spent. Men like us, who write in sincerity, and with the desire
of teaching others so to think, and to feel, as may be best for
themselves and the community, are labouring as much in their vocation
as if they were composing sermons, or delivering them from the
God bless you, my dear old friend. Always yours most affectionately,
On another occasion Mr. S. thus wrote.
"My dear Cottle,
I both wish and advise you to draw up your '_Reminiscences_', I
advise you for your own sake, as a valuable memorial, and wish it for
my own, that that part of my life might be faithfully reported by the
person who knows it best...." "You have enough to tell which is
harmless, as well as interesting, and not harmless only, but
instructive, and that ought to be told, _and which only you can
It may be proper to notice that the title here adopted, of
"REMINISCENCES" is to be understood as a general, rather than as a
strictly applicable phrase, since the present miscellaneous work is
founded on letters, and various memoranda, that for the most part, have
lain in a dormant state for many years, and which were preserved as
mementos of past scenes, personally interesting, but without, in the
first instance, the least reference to ultimate publication.
I cannot withhold a final remark, with which my own mind is greatly
affected; from revolving on a most unexpected, as it is a singular
fact,--that these brief memorials of Mr. Coleridge, and Mr. Southey,
should be written by the _same individual_ who, more than _half a
century_ before, contributed his humble efforts to assist, and encourage
them, in their first entrance on a literary life. The whole of the events
thus recorded, appear through the dim vista of memory, already with the
scenes before the flood! while all the busy, the aspiring, and the
intellectual spirits here noticed, and once so well known, have been
hurried off our mortal stage!--Robert Lovell!--George Burnet!--Charles
Lloyd!--George Catcott!--Dr. Beddoes!--Charles Danvers!--Amos
Cottle!--William Gilbert!--John Morgan!--Ann Yearsley!--Sir H.
Davy!--Hannah More!--Robert Hall!--Samuel Taylor Coleridge!--Charles
Lamb!--Thomas Poole!--Josiah Wade!--Robert Southey!--and John
Foster!--confirming, with fresh emphasis,
"What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!"
Bristol, April 20, 1847.
* * * * *
Pantisocracy and Robert Lovell
Mr. Southey and Mr. Burnet arrive in Bristol
Mr. Coleridge arrives in Bristol
Fears for the Pantisocritans dissipated
A London bookseller offers Mr. Coleridge six guineas for the
copyright of his Poems
Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey each sells his 1st volume of Poems, for
Mr. Southey sells his Joan of Arc for fifty guineas
Mr. Coleridge begins his lectures in Bristol
Specimen of Mr. C.'s lecture
Liberty's letter to Famine
Mr. C.'s political lectures, &c.
Death of Robert Lovell
Mr. Southey's course of historical lectures
Mr. Coleridge disappoints his audience
Excursion to Tintern Abbey
Dissension between Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey
Incidents connected with Mr. Coleridge's volume of Poems
Mr. Coleridge married to Miss Sarah Fricker
Household articles required
Notices of Wm. Gilbert, Ann Yearsley, H. More, and Robert Hall
Mr. Coleridge removes, first to Bristol and then to Stowey
--- --------- again to Bristol
--- --------- woeful letter
Mr. Coleridge's Poems now published
--- --------- projects his "Watchman"
--- --------- seven letters, while on his journey to collect
subscribers to the "Watchman"
--- --------- inaugural sermon at Bath
Mr. Lloyd domesticates with Mr. Coleridge
Mr. Coleridge's melancholy letter
Mr. Coleridge's views of Epic Poetry
Quarrel between Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey. Reconciled
Mr. Coleridge's letter to Miss Cruikshanks
--- -------- diagram of the second bottle
--- -------- Theological letter
Mr. Coleridge prepares for a second edition of his Poems
Mr. Coleridge's letter to George Catcott
--- -------- on hexameters, &c.
--- -------- Foster-mother's tale (extract)
--- -------- ludicrous interview with a country woman
--- -------- Poem relating to Burns
--- -------- character of Mr. Wordsworth
Herbert Croft and Chatterton (Note)
Coleridge's character of Thelwall
Letters from Charles Lamb
Mr. Coleridge's lines to Joseph Cottle
Sara's lines to the same
Three Sonnets, by Nehemiah Higginbotham
Coleridge, Lloyd, and Lamb, quarrel
Lamb's sarcastic Theses to Mr. Coleridge
Coleridge goes to Shrewsbury on probation
Mr. Coleridge receives an annuity of L150 from the Messrs. Thomas and
Letters from Mr. Wordsworth,--Lyrical Ballads
Mr. Wordsworth caballed against
Disasters attending a dinner with Mr. Wordsworth
Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Wordsworth depart for Germany
Mr. Coleridge's character of Mr. Southey
Mr. Southey marries Miss Edith Fricker
Three letters of Mr. Southey, from Falmouth and Portugal
Sundry letters from Mr. Southey to Joseph Cottle
George Dyer, and a ludicrous incident
Mr. Southey's rhyming letter from Lisbon
Mr. Churchey, and incidents concerning him
Mr. Southey in danger from an enraged author
Mr. Southey and Wat Tyler
Mr. Foster explains how Wat Tyler came to be published
J. Morgan's ruined circumstances. Mr. S.'s proposal for a
List of Mr. Southey's contributions to the Quarterly
Discovery of first edition of Pilgrim's Progress
Mr. Coleridge's letter on travelling in Germany
Slow sale at first of Mr. Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads
Mr. Humphrey Davy arrives in Bristol
Dr. Beddoe and the Pneumatic Institution
Mr. Davy's dangerous experiments with the gases
Mr. Coleridge's and Mr. Davy's anecdotes
Mr. Coleridge relates his military adventures
Mr. Coleridge's Epigrams from the German
Character of Coleridge, by Professor Wilson, Mr. Sergeant Talfourd,
Dr. Dibdin, Mr. Justice Coleridge, Rev. Archdeacon Hare, Quarterly
Review, Rev. C. V. Le Grice
Mr. Coleridge's letter to Mr. Cottle on his return from Malta, 1807
Rev. J. Foster's letter concerning Coleridge
Mr. Coleridge's singular escape from Italy
--- ----------- letter on the Trinity
--- ----------- views of Unitarianism
--- ----------- character of Sir H. Davy
Sir H. Davy's rebuke of an Infidel
Mr. Coleridge's character of Holcroft, the Atheist
Rev. J. Foster's letter respecting his Essay on Doddridge
Mr. Coleridge's letter to Mr. G. Fricker
Mr. De Quincey presents Mr. Coleridge with L300
Mr. Coleridge's letter on Narrative Poems
Reasons why Mr. Coleridge's opium habits should not be concealed
Mr. Coleridge ill in Bath
Mr. Coleridge engages to Lecture in Bristol, 1814. Disappoints his
Audience, by an excursion into North Wales
Mr. Coleridge's lines for a transparency at the capture of Buonaparte
Mr. Coleridge's approval of Infant Schools
Mr. Cottle's letter of remonstrance respecting opium
Mr. Coleridge's distressing letters in reply
Mr. Coleridge wishes to be placed in an Asylum
Mr. Southey's letters respecting Mr. Coleridge
Mr. Coleridge's contrivance to cheat the doctor
Mr. Coleridge leaves Bristol for Calne
Letters of Mr. Southey respecting Mr. Coleridge
Letter of Mr. Coleridge from Calne
Mr. Coleridge's letter, requiring the truth to be told of his opium
habits, after his death
Mr. Coleridge's letter to his god-son, Kinnaird
Letters from Mr. Southey concerning Mr. Allsop, and the scheme of
Pantisocracy, and Mr. Coleridge
Letters from Mr. Southey concerning "Early Recollections"
Letter from Mr. Southey: his Western journey
Letter from Mr. Southey. Melancholy foreboding
Mr. Southey's mental malady
Letter from Mr. Foster, relating to Mr. Southey
Mr. Cottle's letter to Mr. Foster, respecting Mr. Southey
Sixteen letters from Mr. Coleridge to Thomas and Josiah Wedgewood,
List of works promised by Mr. Coleridge, but not written
Mr. Coleridge sound in health, in 1800
--- --------- his health undermined by opium soon after
Dr. Carlyon, relating to Mr. Coleridge (Note)
Extracts from Mr. Poole's letters, respecting Mr. Coleridge
Dr. Adam's letter to Mr. Gillman, respecting Mr. Coleridge
Mr. Coleridge domesticates with Mr. Gillman
Letter of Mr. Foster, respecting Mr. Coleridge
Prayer of Mr. Coleridge, 1831
Mr. Coleridge's Epitaph on himself
Mr. Coleridge's monument
Character of John Henderson
Controversy of Rowley and Chatterton
The Weary Pilgrim, a Poem
* * * * *
* * * * *
Ten years ago I published "Recollections of S. T. Coleridge." This work I
have revised, and embodied in the present "Reminiscences of S. T.
Coleridge, and Robert Southey." My views and motives have been explained
in the Introduction.
If some Readers should consider that there are occasional documents
introduced into the following work, too unimportant and derogatory to
legitimate biography, I would observe, that it was designed that nothing
should be admitted which was not characteristic of the individual; and
that which illustrates _character_ in a man of genius, cannot well be
esteemed trifling and deserving of rejection.--In preparing those
Reminiscences, some effort has been required. I have endeavoured to
forget the intervening space of forty or fifty years, and, as far as it
was practicable, to enter on the scenes and circumstances described with
all the feelings coincident with that distant period. My primary design
has been to elucidate the incidents referring to the early lives of the
late Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey: yet I purposed, in addition, to
introduce brief notices of some other remarkable characters, known in
Bristol at this time.
To account for my introduction to all the persons subsequently noticed,
it is necessary to apprise the Reader that I was a bookseller in Bristol
from the year 1791 to 1798; from the age of 21 to 28: and having imbibed
from my tutor and friend, the late John Henderson, (one of the most
extraordinary of men) some little taste for literature, I found myself,
during that period, generally surrounded by men of cultivated minds.
With these preliminary remarks I shall commence the narrative.
At the close of the year 1794, a clever young man, of the Society of
Friends, of the name of Robert Lovell, who had married a Miss Fricker,
informed me that a few friends of his from Oxford and Cambridge, with
himself, were about to sail to America, and, on the banks of the
Susquehannah, to form a Social Colony, in which there was to be a
community of property, and where all that was selfish was to be
proscribed. None, he said, were to be admitted into their number, but
tried and incorruptible characters; and he felt quite assured that he and
his friends would be able to realize a state of society free from the
evils and turmoils that then agitated the world, and to present an
example of the eminence to which men might arrive under the unrestrained
influence of sound principles. He now paid me the compliment of saying
that he would be happy to include _me_ in this select assemblage who,
under a state which he called PANTISOCRACY, were, he hoped, to regenerate
the whole complexion of society; and that, not by establishing formal
laws, but by excluding all the little deteriorating passions; injustice,
"wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking," and thereby setting an
example of "Human Perfectibility."
Young as I was, I suspected there was an old and intractable leaven in
human nature that would effectually frustrate these airy schemes of
happiness, which had been projected in every age, and always with the
same result. At first the disclosure so confounded my understanding, that
I almost fancied myself transported to some new state of things, while
images of patriarchal and pristine felicity stood thick around, decked in
the rain-bow's colours. A moment's reflection, however, dissolved the
unsubstantial vision, when I asked him a few plain questions.
"How do you go?" said I. My young and ardent friend instantly replied,
"We freight a ship, carrying out with us ploughs, and other implements of
husbandry." The thought occurred to me, that it might be more economical
to purchase such articles in America; but not too much to discourage the
enthusiastic aspirant after happiness, I forebore all reference to the
accumulation of difficulties to be surmounted, and merely inquired who
were to compose his company? He said that only four had as yet absolutely
engaged in the enterprise; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Cambridge; (in
whom I understood the plan to have originated;) Robert Southey and George
Burnet, from Oxford, and himself. "Well," I replied, "when do you set
sail?" He answered, "Very shortly. I soon expect my friends from the
Universities, when all the preliminaries will be adjusted, and we shall
joyfully cross the blue waves of the Atlantic." "But," said I "to freight
a ship, and sail out in the high style of gentlemen agriculturists, will
require funds. How do you manage this?" "We all contribute what we can,"
said he, "and I shall introduce all my dear friends to you, immediately
on their arrival in Bristol."
Robert Lovell (though inexperienced, and constitutionally sanguine) was a
good specimen of the open frankness which characterizes the well-informed
members of the Society of Friends; and he excited in me an additional
interest, from a warmth of feeling, and an extent of reading, above even
the ordinary standard of the estimable class to which he belonged. He now
read me some of the MS. poems of his two unknown friends, which at once
established their genius in my estimation.
My leisure having been devoted for many years to reading and composition,
and having a small volume of Poems at that time in the press, I
anticipated great pleasure from an introduction to two poets, who
superadded to talents of a high order, all the advantages arising from
learning, and a consequent familiarity with the best models of antiquity.
Independently of which, they excited an interest, and awakened a peculiar
solicitude, from their being about so soon to leave their father land,
and to depart permanently for a foreign shore.
* * * * *
* * * * *
One morning shortly after, Robert Lovell called on me, and introduced
Robert Southey. Never will the impression be effaced, produced on me by
this young man. Tall, dignified, possessing great suavity of manners; an
eye piercing, with a countenance full of genius, kindliness, and
intelligence, I gave him at once the right hand of fellowship, and to the
moment of his decease, that cordiality was never withdrawn. I had read so
much of poetry, and sympathized so much with poets in all their
eccentricities and vicissitudes, that, to see before me the realization
of a character, which in the abstract most absorbed my regards, gave me a
degree of satisfaction which it would be difficult to express.
I must now make a brief reference to George Burnet, who, in this epidemic
delusion, had given his sanction to, and embarked all his prospects in
life on this Pantisocratical scheme. He was a young man, about the age of
twenty; the son of a respectable Somersetshire farmer, who had bestowed
on him his portion, by giving him an University education as an
introduction to the Church, into which he would probably have entered but
for this his transatlantic pursuit of happiness. His talents were not
conspicuous, but his manners were unpresuming, and honesty was depicted
on his countenance. He possessed also that habitual good temper, and
those accommodating manners, which would prove a desirable accession in
any society; and it soon appeared, without indicating any disrespect,
that his was a subordinate part to act in the new drama, and not the less
valuable for its wanting splendour.
After some considerable delay, it was at length announced, that on the
coming morning Samuel Taylor Coleridge would arrive in Bristol, as the
nearest and most convenient port; and where he was to reside but a short
time before the favouring gales were to waft him and his friends across
the Atlantic. Robert Lovell at length introduced Mr. C. I instantly
descried his intellectual character; exhibiting as he did, an eye, a
brow, and a forehead, indicative of commanding genius. Interviews
succeeded, and these increased the impression of respect. Each of my new
friends read me his productions. Each accepted my invitations, and gave
me those repeated proofs of good opinion, ripening fast into esteem, that
I could not be insensible to the kindness of their manners, which, it may
truly be affirmed, infused into my heart a brotherly feeling, that more
than identified their interests with my own.
I introduced them to several intelligent friends, and their own merits
soon augmented the number, so that their acquaintance became
progressively extended, and their society coveted. Bristol was now found
a very pleasant residence; and though the ship was not engaged, nor the
least preparation made for so long a voyage, still the delights and
wide-spreading advantages of Pantisocracy formed one of their everlasting
themes of conversation; and, considering the barrenness of the subject,
it was in no common degree amusing, to hear these young enthusiasts repel
every objection to the practicability of their scheme, and magnify the
condition to which it was to introduce them; where thorns and briars
were, no doubt, to be expelled, and their couch to be strewed with down
It will excite merely an innocent smile in the reader at the extravagance
of a youthful and ardent mind, when he learns that Robert Lovell stated
with great seriousness, that, after the minutest calculation and inquiry
among practical men, the demand on their labour would not exceed two
hours a day; that is, for the production of absolute necessaries. The
leisure still remaining, might be devoted, in convenient fractions, to
the extension of their domain, by prostrating the sturdy trees of the
forest, where "lop and top," without cost, would supply their cheerful
winter fire; and the trunks, when cut into planks, without any other
expense than their own pleasant labour, would form the sties for their
pigs, and the linnies for their cattle, and the barns for their produce;
reserving their choicest timbers for their own comfortable log-dwellings.
But after every claim that might be made on their manual labour had been
discharged, a large portion of time, would still remain for their own
individual pursuits, so that they might read, converse, and even write
Cowper, in an unpublished letter now before me, says, "I know well that
publication is necessary to give an edge to the poetic turn, and that
what we produce in the closet, is never a vigorous birth, if we intend
that it should die there. For my own part I could no more amuse myself
with writing verse, if I did not print it when written, than with the
study of tactics, for which I can never have any real occasion." But our
young and ardent friends seemed to entertain a strong impression that the
mere pleasure of writing, that is, like virtue, writing for its own sake,
was all the mental and rational gratification wise men could desire.
Views and times alter, and these richly-endowed young men, in after life,
were prompt, and amongst the first to confess the fallacious schemes of
their youth; but at this time the pleasurable alone occupied their field
of vision, and confidence never stood more unencumbered with doubt.
If any difficulties were now started, and many such there were, a
profusion of words demonstrated the reasonableness of the whole design;
impressing all who heard, with the conviction that the citadel was too
strong for assault. The Mercury at these times was generally Mr.
Coleridge, who, as has been stated, ingeniously parried every adverse
argument, and after silencing his hardy disputants, announced to them
that he was about to write and publish a quarto volume in defence of
Pantisocracy, in which a variety of arguments would be advanced in
defence of his system, too subtle and recondite to comport with
conversation. It would then, he said, become manifest that he was not a
projector raw from his cloister, but a cool calculating reasoner, whose
efforts and example would secure to him and his friends the permanent
gratitude of mankind.
From the sentiments thus entertained, I shall represent Mr. Coleridge, in
the section of his days which devolves on me to exhibit, just as he was,
and that with a firm belief that by so doing, without injuring his
legitimate reputation, I shall confer an essential benefit on those to
come, who will behold in Mr. C. much to admire and imitate; and certainly
some things to regret. For it should be remembered, Mr. Coleridge, from
universal admission, possessed some of the highest mental endowments, and
many pertaining to the heart; but if a man's life be valuable, not for
the incense it consumes, but for the instruction it affords, to state
even defects, (in one like Mr. C. who can so well afford deduction
without serious loss) becomes in his biographer, not optional, but a
It is proper additionally to remark, that some apology or propitiation
may be necessary toward those who regard every approximation to poverty,
not as a misfortune, but a crime. Pecuniary difficulties, especially such
as occur in early life, and not ascribable to bad conduct, reflect no
discredit on men of genius. Many of them, subsequently, surmounted their
first embarrassments by meritorious exertion; and some of our first men
(like travellers, after having successfully passed through regions of
privation and peril) delight even to recall their former discouragements,
and, without the shame that luxuriates alone in little minds,
undisguisedly to tell of seasons, indelible in their memories, when, in
the prostration of hope, the wide world appeared one desolate waste! but
they ultimately found, that these seasons of darkness, (however
tenaciously retained by memory) in better times often administer a new
and refreshing zest to present enjoyment. Despair, therefore ill becomes
one who has follies to bewail, and a God to trust in. Johnson and
Goldsmith, with numerous others, at some seasons were plunged deep in the
waters of adversity, but halcyon days awaited them: and even those sons
of merit and misfortune whose pecuniary troubles were more permanent, in
the dimness of retrospection, only stand out invested in softer hues.
Cervantes is not the less read, because the acclamations of praise were
heard by him in his abode of penury. Butler, Otway, Collins, Chatterton,
and Burns, and men like them, instead of suffering in public estimation
from the difficulties they encountered, absolutely challenge in every
generous mind an excess of interest from the very circumstances that
darkened the complexion of their earthly prospects.
In corroboration of this remark, in our own day, the son of Crabbe, who
must have cherished the deepest solicitude for his father's reputation,
has laid bare to general inspection his parent's early perplexities, by
which impartial disclosures we behold the individual in his deepest
depressions; worth enriched by trial, and greatness, by a refining
process, struggling successfully with adversity. Does the example of such
a man nobly bearing up against the pressures that surrounded him inflict
obduracy on our hearts? On the contrary, while we feelingly sympathize
with the poet, and deplore the tardy hand of deliverance, we pause only
to transfer a reflex portion of praise to him whose magnanimous conduct
has furnished so ample a scope for the tenderest emotions of our nature.
This reflection will induce me not to withhold from false delicacy,
occurrences, the disclosure of which none but the inconsiderate will
condemn; and by which all the features of Mr. Coleridge's character will
be exhibited to the inspection of the inquisitive and philosophical mind.
I proceed, therefore, to state that the solicitude I felt lest these
young and ardent geniuses should in a disastrous hour, and in their
mistaken apprehensions, commit themselves in this their desperate
undertaking, was happily dissipated by Mr. Coleridge applying for the
loan of a little cash,--to pay the voyager's freight? or passage?
No,--LODGINGS. They all lodged, at this time, at No. 48, College-Street.
Never did I lend money with such unmingled pleasure, for now I ceased to
be haunted day and night with the spectre of the ship! the ship! which
was to effect such incalculable mischief! The form of the request was the
My dear Sir,
Can you conveniently lend me five pounds, as we want a little more than
four pounds to make up our lodging bill, which is indeed much higher than
we expected; seven weeks, and Burnet's lodging for twelve weeks,
amounting to eleven pounds.
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Till this time, not knowing what the resources of my young friends were,
I could not wholly divest myself of fear; but now an effectual barrier
manifestly interposed to save them from destruction. And though their
romantic plan might linger in their minds, it was impossible not to be
assured that their strong good sense would eventually dissipate their
Finding now that there was a deficiency in that material, deemed of the
first consequence in all civilized states, and remembering Burgh's
feeling lamentation over the improvidence, or rather the indifference
with which many men of genius regard the low thoughts that are merely of
a pecuniary nature, I began to revolve on the means by which the two
poets might advantageously apply their talents.
Soon after, finding Mr. Coleridge in rather a desponding mood, I urged
him to keep up his spirits, and recommended him to publish a volume of
his poems. "Oh," he replied, "that is a useless expedient." He continued:
"I offered a volume of my poems to different booksellers in London, who
would not even look at them! The reply being, 'Sir, the article will not
do.' At length, one, more accommodating than the rest, condescended to
receive my MS. poems, and, after a deliberate inspection, offered me for
the copy-right, six guineas, which sum, poor as I was, I refused to
accept." "Well," said I, "to encourage you, I will give you twenty
guineas." It was very pleasant to observe the joy that instantly diffused
itself over his countenance. "Nay," I continued, "others publish for
themselves, I will chiefly remember you. Instead of giving you twenty
guineas, I will extend it to thirty, and without waiting for the
completion of the work, to make you easy you may have the money as your
occasions require." The silence and the grasped hand, showed that at that
moment one person was happy.
Every incident connected with the lives of literary men, especially at
the commencement of their career, always excites interest. I have been,
therefore, the more particular in detailing this circumstance, (except
for its connexion, of no consequence) and proceed further to state, that
now, meeting Mr. Southey, I said to him, "I have engaged to give Mr.
Coleridge thirty guineas for a volume of his poems; you have poems equal
to a volume, and if you approve of it, I will give you the same." He
cordially thanked me, and instantly acceded to my proposal.
I then said to him, "you have read me several books of your 'Joan of Arc'
which Poem I perceive has great merit. If it meet with your concurrence,
I will give you fifty guineas for this work, and publish it in quarto,
when I will give you, in addition, fifty copies to dispose of amongst
your friends." Without a moment's hesitation, to this proposal also he
I could say much of Mr. Southey at this time; of his constitutional
cheerfulness; of the polish of his manners; of his dignified, and at the
same time, of his unassuming deportment; as well as of the general
respect which his talents, conduct, and conversation excited. But
before reference be made to more serious publications, some notice will
be taken of other objects of pursuit.
Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey, now determined by their best efforts, in
other ways than those detailed, to raise money for their projected
expedition. They resolved therefore, to give the citizens of Bristol
individual lectures, or series of lectures, on different subjects. Mr.
Coleridge chose Political and Moral subjects; Mr. Southey chose
History. On examining my old papers, I find most of the notices or
prospectuses relating to these subjects.
Mr. Coleridge's first two lectures were delivered in the Corn Market in
Mr. Coleridge's next two lectures were delivered the latter end of
February, 1795, and afterwards were thrown into a small pamphlet, printed
under the title of _"Conciones ad Populum_, or Addresses to the people."
After this he consolidated two other of his lectures, and published them
under the title of "The Plot Discovered." Two detached lectures were
given at the Corn Market, and one at a room in Castle Green. All these
lectures were anti-Pitt-ite.
The next lecture given by Mr. Coleridge was in reprobation of the Slave
Trade. The following was the prospectus:--
"To-morrow evening, June 16th, 1795, S. T. Coleridge, of Jesus
College, Cambridge, will deliver, (by particular desire) a lecture on
the Slave Trade, and the duties that result from its continuance.
To begin at eight o'clock in the evening, at the Assembly Coffee
House, on the Quay. Admission, One shilling."
His next lecture was (it is believed) on the Hair Powder Tax, in which
his audience were kept in good feeling, by the happy union of wit,
humour, and argument. Mr. C.'s lectures were numerously attended, and
It may amuse and gratify the reader, to receive a specimen of a
lecture, descriptive of Mr. C.'s composition and reasoning, delivered
at this time, and by which it will appear that his politics were not of
that inflammable description which would set a world in flames.
"... But of the propriety and utility of holding up the distant mark
of attainable perfection, we shall enter more fully toward the close
of this address. We turn with pleasure to the contemplation of that
small but glorious band, whom we may truly distinguish by the name of
thinking and disinterested patriots. These are the men who have
encouraged the sympathetic passions till they have become
irresistible habits, and made their duty a necessary part of their
self-interest, by the long-continued cultivation of that moral taste,
which derives our most exquisite pleasures from the contemplation of
Accustomed to regard all the affairs of man as a process, they never
hurry, and they never pause. Theirs is not the twilight of political
knowledge, which gives us just light enough to place one foot before
the other: as they advance, the scene still opens upon them, and they
press right onward, with a vast and varied landscape of existence
around them. Calmness and energy mark all their actions. Benevolence
is the silken thread that runs through the pearl-chain of all their
virtues. The unhappy children of vice and folly, whose tempers are
adverse to their own happiness, as well as to the happiness of
others, will at times awaken a natural pang, but he looks forward
with gladdened heart to that glorious period when justice shall have
established the universal fraternity of love. These soul-ennobling
views bestow the virtues which they anticipate. He whose mind is
habitually impressed with them, soars above the present state of
humanity, and may be justly said to dwell in the presence of the Most
High. Regarding every event, as he that ordains it, evil vanishes
from before him, and he views the eternal form of universal beauty."
At one of his lectures, Mr. Coleridge amused his audience by reciting the
following letter from Liberty to his dear friend Famine; the effect of
which was greatly heightened by Mr. C.'s arch manner of recitation. It
should be understood that there was at this time a great scarcity in the
You will doubtless be surprised at receiving a petitionary letter
from a perfect stranger, but, _Fas est vel ab hoste_. All whom I once
supposed my unalterable friends, I have found unable, or unwilling to
assist me. I first applied to GRATITUDE, entreating her to whisper
into the ear of Majesty, that it was I who had placed his forefathers
on the throne of Great Britain. She told me that she had frequently
made the attempt, but had as frequently been baffled by FLATTERY:
and, that I might not doubt the truth of her apology, she led me (as
the Spirit did the prophet Ezekiel) "to the door of the COURT, and I
went in and saw--and behold! every form of creeping things." I was
however somewhat consoled, when I heard that RELIGION was high in
favour there, and possessed great influence. I myself had been her
faithful servant, and always found her my best protectress: her
service being indeed perfect freedom. Accordingly, in full confidence
of success, I entered her mansion, but, alas! instead of my kind
mistress, horror-struck, I beheld a painted, patched-up old ----. She
was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and
precious stones and pearls, and on her forehead was written
"MYSTERY." I shrieked, for I knew her to be the dry-nurse of that
detested Imp, DESPOTISM.
I next addressed myself to PRUDENCE, and earnestly besought her to
plead my cause to the Ministers; to urge the distresses of the lower
orders, and my fears lest, so distressed, they should forget their
obedience. For the prophet Isaiah had informed me "that it shall come
to pass, that when the people shall be hungry, they shall fret
themselves and curse the King." The grave matron heard me, and,
shaking her head, learnedly replied, "_Quos Deus vult perdere
dementat._" Again I besought her to speak to the rich men of the
nation, concerning Ministers, of whom it might soon become illegal
even to complain--of long and ruinous wars, and whether _they_ must
not bear the damage. All this quoth PRUDENCE, I have repeatedly
urged, but a sly imposter named EXPEDIENCE has usurped my name, and
struck such a panick of property, as hath steeled the hearts of the
wealthy, and palsied their intellects. Lastly I applied to
CONSCIENCE. She informed me that she was indeed a perfect
ventriloquist, and could throw her voice into any place she liked,
but that she was seldom attended to unless when she spoke out of the
Thus baffled and friendless, I was about to depart, and stood a
fearful lingerer on the isle which I had so dearly loved--when
tidings were brought me of your approach. I found myself impelled by
a power superior to me to build my last hopes on you. Liberty, the
MOTHER of PLENTY, calls Famine to her aid. O FAMINE, most eloquent
Goddess! plead thou my cause. I in the mean time, will pray fervently
that heaven may unstop the ears of her Vicegerent, so that they may
listen to your _first_ pleadings, while yet your voice is faint and
distant, and your counsels peaceable.
"I remain your distressed suppliant,
The following is the prospectus of Mr. Coleridge's series of Political
S. T. Coleridge proposes to give, in Six Lectures, a comparative view
of the English Rebellion under Charles the First, and the French
The subjects of the proposed Lectures are,
FIRST. The distinguishing marks of the French and English character,
with their probable causes. The national circumstances precursive
to--1st, the English Rebellion.--2nd, the French Revolution.
SECOND. The Liberty of the Press. Literature; its Revolutionary
powers. Comparison of the English, with the French Political Writers,
at the time of the several Revolutions. Milton. Sydney.
Harrington.--Brissot. Sieyes. Mirabeau. Thomas Paine.
THIRD. The Fanaticism of the first English and French Revolutionists.
English Sectaries. French Parties. Feuillans. Girondists. Faction of
Hebert. Jacobins. Moderants. Royalists.
FOURTH. 1st, Characters of Charles the First, and Louis the
Sixteenth. 2nd, of Louis the Fourteenth and the present Empress of
Russia. 3rd, Life and Character of Essex and Fayette.
FIFTH. Oliver Cromwell, and Robespierre.--Cardinal Mazarine, and
William Pitt.--Dundas, and Barrere.
SIXTH. On Revolution in general. Its moral causes, and probable
effects on the Revolutionary People, and surrounding nations.
It is intended that the Lectures should be given once a week; on
Tuesday Evenings, at eight o'clock, at the Assembly Coffee House, on
the Quay. The First Lecture, on Tuesday, June 23d, 1795. As the
author wishes to ensure an audience adequate to the expenses of the
room, he has prepared subscription tickets for the whole course,
price Six Shillings, which may be had at the Lecture Room, or of Mr.
Cottle, or Mr. Reed, Booksellers.
Mr. Coleridge's Theological lectures succeeded, of which the following is
Six Lectures will be given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, on Revealed
Religion, its Corruptions, and its Political Views.
These Lectures are intended for two classes of men, Christians and
Infidels; to the former, that they be able to give a reason for the
hope that is in them; to the latter, that they may not determine
against Christianity, from arguments applicable to its corruptions
The subjects of the FIRST LECTURE, are--The Origin of Evil. The
Necessity of Revelation deduced from the Nature of man. An
Examination and Defence of the Mosaic Dispensation.
SECOND.--The Sects of Philosophy, and the Popular Superstitions of
the Gentile World, from the earliest times to the Birth of Christ.
THIRD.--Concerning the Time of the Appearance of Christ. The Internal
Evidences of Christianity. The External Evidences of Christianity.
FOURTH.--The External Evidences of Christianity continued. Answers to
Popular and Philosophical objections.
FIFTH.--The Corruptions of Christianity, in Doctrines. Political
SIXTH.--The grand Political Views of Christianity--far beyond other
Religions, and even Sects of Philosophy. The Friend of Civil Freedom.
The probable state of Society and Governments, if all men were
Tickets to be had of Mr. Cottle, Bookseller.
Sometimes a single Lecture was given. The following is an Advertisement
of one of them.
To-morrow Evening, Tuesday, June 16th, 1795, S. T. Coleridge will
deliver (by particular desire) a Lecture on the Slave Trade, and the
duties that result from its continuance.
To begin at 8 o'clock, at the Assembly Coffee House, on the Quay.
Admittance, One Shilling.
It may be proper to state that all three of my young friends, in that day
of excitement, felt a detestation of the French war then raging, and a
hearty sympathy with the efforts made in France to obtain political
ameliorations. Almost every young and unprejudiced mind participated in
this feeling; and Muir, and Palmer, and Margarot, were regarded as
martyrs in the holy cause of freedom. The successive enormities, however,
perpetrated in France and Switzerland by the French, tended to moderate
their enthusiastic politics, and progressively to produce that effect on
them which extended also to so many of the soberest friends of rational
freedom. Mr. Coleridge's zeal on these questions was by far the most
conspicuous, as will appear by some of his Sonnets, and particularly by
his Poem of "Fire, Famine, and Slaughter;" though written some
considerable time after. When he read this Poem to me, it was with so
much jocularity as to convince me that, without bitterness, it was
designed as a mere joke.
In conformity with my determination to state occurrences, plainly, as
they arose, I must here mention that strange as it may appear in
Pantisocritans, I observed at this time a marked coolness between Mr.
Coleridge and Robert Lovell, so inauspicious in those about to establish
a "Fraternal Colony;" and, in the result, to renovate the whole face of
society! They met without speaking, and consequently appeared as
strangers. I asked Mr. C. what it meant. He replied, "Lovell, who at
first, did all in his power to promote my connexion with Miss Fricker,
now opposes our union." He continued, "I said to him, 'Lovell! you are a
villain!'" "Oh," I replied, "you are quite mistaken. Lovell is an honest
fellow, and is proud in the hope of having you for a brother-in-law. Rely
on it he only wishes you from prudential motives to delay your union." In
a few days I had the happiness of seeing them as sociable as ever.
This is the last time poor Robert Lovell's name will be mentioned in this
work, as living. He went to Salisbury, caught a fever, and, in eagerness
to reach his family, travelled when he ought to have lain by; reached his
home, and died! We attended his funeral, and dropt a tear over his grave!
Mr. Coleridge, though at this time embracing every topic of conversation,
testified a partiality for a few, which might be called stock subjects.
Without noticing his favorite Pantisocracy, (which was an everlasting
theme of the laudatory) he generally contrived, either by direct
amalgamation or digression, to notice in the warmest encomiastic
language, Bishop Berkeley, David Hartley, or Mr. Bowles; whose sonnets he
delighted in reciting. He once told me, that he believed, by his constant
recommendation, he had sold a whole edition of some works; particularly
amongst the fresh-men of Cambridge, to whom, whenever he found access, he
urged the purchase of three works, indispensable to all who wished to
excel in sound reasoning, or a correct taste;--Simpson's Euclid; Hartley
on Man; and Bowles's Poems.
In process of time, however, when reflection had rendered his mind more
mature, he appeared to renounce the fanciful and brain-bewildering system
of Berkeley; whilst he sparingly extolled Hartley; and was almost silent
respecting Mr. Bowles. I noticed a marked change in his commendation of
Mr. B. from the time he paid that man of genius a visit. Whether their
canons of criticisms were different, or that the personal enthusiasm was
not mutual; or whether there was a diversity in political views; whatever
the cause was, an altered feeling toward that gentleman was manifested
after his visit, not so much expressed by words, as by his subdued tone
The reflux of the tide had not yet commenced, and Pantisocracy was still
Mr. Coleridge's favourite theme of discourse, and the banks of the
Susquehannah the only refuge for permanent repose. It will excite great
surprise in the reader to understand that Mr. C.'s cooler friends could
not ascertain that he had received any specific information respecting
this notable river. "It was a grand river;" but there were many other
grand and noble rivers in America; (the Land of Rivers!) and the
preference given to the Susquehannah, seemed almost to arise solely from
its imposing name, which, if not classical, was at least poetical; and it
probably by mere accident became the centre of all his pleasurable
associations. Had this same river been called the Miramichi or the
Irrawaddy, it would have been despoiled of half its charms, and have sunk
down into a vulgar stream, the atmosphere of which might have suited well
enough Russian boors, but which would have been pestiferous to men of
The strong hold which the Susquehannah had taken on Mr. Coleridge's
imagination may be estimated by the following lines, in his Monody on
"O, Chatterton! that thou wert yet alive;
Sure thou would'st spread the canvass to the gale,
And love with us the tinkling team to drive
O'er peaceful freedom's UNDIVIDED dale;
And we at sober eve would round thee throng,
Hanging enraptured on thy stately song!
And greet with smiles the young-eyed POSEY
All deftly masked, as hoar ANTIQUITY.
Alas, vain phantasies! the fleeting brood
Of woe self-solaced in her dreamy mood!
Yet I will love to follow the sweet dream,
Where Susquehannah pours his untamed stream,
And on some hill, whose forest-frowning side
Waves o'er the murmurs of his calmer tide;
And I will build a cenotaph to thee,
Sweet harper of time-shrouded minstrelsy!
And there soothed sadly by the dirgeful wind,
Muse on the sore ills I had left behind."
In another poem which appeared only in the first edition, a reference is
again made to the American "undivided dell," as follows:
TO W. J. H.
While playing on his flute.
Hush! ye clamorous cares! be mute.
Again, dear Harmonist! again,
Through the hollow of thy flute,
Breathe that passion-warbled strain:
Till memory each form shall bring
The loveliest of her shadowy throng;
And hope that soars on sky-lark whig,
Carol wild her gladdest song!
O skill'd with magic spell to roll
The thrilling tones, that concentrate the soul!
Breathe through thy flute those tender notes again,
While near thee sits the chaste-eyed maiden mild;
And bid her raise the poet's kindred strain
In soft empassioned voice, correctly wild.
"In freedom's UNDIVIDED DELL
Where toil and health, with mellowed love shall dwell,
Far from folly, far from men,
In the rude romantic glen,
Up the cliff, and through the glade,
Wand'ring with the dear-loved maid,
I shall listen to the lay,
And ponder on thee far away."
Mr. Coleridge had written a note to his Monody on Chatterton, in which he
caustically referred to Dean Milles. On this note being shown to me, I
remarked that Captain Blake, whom he occasionally met, was the son-in-law
of Dean Milles. "What," said Mr. Coleridge, "the man with the great
sword?" "The same," I answered. "Then," said Mr. C. with an assumed
gravity, "I will suppress this note to Chatterton; the fellow might have
my head off before I am aware!" To be sure there was something rather
formidable in his huge dragoon's sword, constantly rattling by his side!
This Captain Blake was a member of the Bristol Corporation, and a
pleasant man, but his sword, worn by a short man, appeared
prodigious!--Mr. C. said, "The sight of it was enough to set half a dozen
poets scampering up Parnassus, as though hunted by a wild mastodon."
In examining my old papers I found this identical note in Mr. Coleridge's
hand writing, and which is here given to the reader; suggesting that this
note, like the Sonnet to Lord Stanhope, was written in that portion of
C.'s life, when it must be confessed, he really was hot with the French
Revolution. Thus he begins:
By far the best poem on the subject of Chatterton, is, "Neglected
Genius, or Tributary Stanzas to the memory of the unfortunate
Chatterton." Written by Rushton, a blind sailor.
Walpole writes thus. "All the House of Forgery are relations,
although it be but just to Chatterton's memory to say, that his
poverty never made him claim kindred with the more enriching
branches; yet he who could so ingeniously counterfeit styles, and the
writer believes, hands, might easily have been led to the more facile
imitation of Prose Promissory Notes!" O, ye who honor the name of
man, rejoice that this Walpole is called a Lord! Milles, too, the
editor of Rowley's Poem's, a priest; who (though only a Dean, in
dulness and malignity was most episcopally eminent) foully
calumniated him.--An Owl mangling a poor dead nightingale! Most
"To him alone in this benighted age
Was that diviner inspiration given
Which glows in Milton's, and in Shakspeare's page,
The pomp and prodigality of heaven!"
Mr. Southey's course of Historical Lectures, comprised the following
subjects, as expressed in his prospectus.
Robert Southey, of Baliol College, Oxford, proposes to read a course
of Historical Lectures in the following order.
1st. Introductory: on the origin and Progress of Society.
2nd. Legislation of Solon and Lycurgus.
3rd. State of Greece, from the Persian War to the Dissolution
of the Achaian League.
4th. Rise, Progress, and Decline of the Roman Empire.
5th. Progress of Christianity.
6th. Manners and Irruptions of the Northern Nations.
Growth of the European States. Feudal System.
7th. State of the Eastern Empire, to the Capture of
Constantinople by the Turks; including the Rise and
Progress of the Mahommedan Religion, and the Crusades.
8th. History of Europe, to the Abdication of the Empire
by Charles the Fifth.
9th. History of Europe, to the Establishment of the Independence
10th. State of Europe, and more particularly of England,
from the Accession of Charles the First, to the Revolution,
11th. Progress of the Northern States. History of Europe
to the American War.
12th. The American War.
Tickets for the whole course, 10s. 6d. to be had of Mr. Cottle,
These Lectures of Mr. Southey were numerously attended, and their
composition was greatly admired; exhibiting as they did a succinct view
of the various subjects commented upon, so as to chain the hearers'
attention. They at the same time evinced great self-possession in the
lecturer; a peculiar grace in the delivery; with reasoning so judicious
and acute, as to excite astonishment in the auditory that so young a man
should concentrate so rich a fund of valuable matter in lectures,
comparatively so brief, and which clearly authorized the anticipation of
his future eminence. From this statement it will justly be inferred, that
no public lecturer could have received stronger proofs of approbation
than Mr. S. from a polite and discriminating audience.
Mr. Coleridge had solicited permission of Mr. Southey, to deliver his
fourth lecture, "On the Rise, Progress, and Decline of the Roman Empire,"
as a subject to which he had devoted much attention. The request was
immediately granted, and at the end of the third lecture it was formally
announced to the audience, that the next lecture would be delivered by
Mr. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, of Jesus College, Cambridge.
At the usual hour the room was thronged. The moment of commencement
arrived. No lecturer appeared! Patience was preserved for a quarter,
extending to half an hour!--but still no lecturer! At length it was
communicated to the impatient assemblage, that a circumstance,
exceedingly to be regretted! would prevent Mr. Coleridge from giving his
lecture that evening, as intended. Some few present learned the truth,
but the major part of the company retired not very well pleased, and
under the impression that Mr. C. had either broken his leg, or that some
severe family affliction had occurred. Mr. C's rather habitual absence of
mind, with the little importance he generally attached to engagements,
renders it likely that at this very time he might have been found at No.
48, College-Street; composedly smoking his pipe, and lost in profound
musings on his divine Susquehannah!
Incidents of the most trifling nature must sometimes be narrated; when
they form connecting links with events of more consequence.
Wishing to gratify my two young friends and their ladies elect with a
pleasant excursion, I invited them to accompany me in a visit to the Wye,
including Piercefield and Tintern Abbey; objects new to us all. It so
happened the day we were to set off was that immediately following the
woeful disappointment! but here all was punctuality. It was calculated
that the proposed objects might be accomplished in two days, so as not to
interfere with the Friday evening's lecture, which Mr. Southey had now
wisely determined to deliver himself.
The morning was fine. The party of five all met in high spirits,
anticipating unmingled delight in surveying objects and scenery, scarcely
to be surpassed in the three kingdoms. We proceeded to the Old Passage;
crossed the Severn, and arrived at the Beaufort Arms, Chepstow, time
enough to partake of a good dinner, which one of the company noticed
Homer himself had pronounced to be no bad thing: a sentiment in which we
all concurred, admiring his profound knowledge of human nature! But prior
to our repast, we visited the fine old Castle, so intimately connected
with by-gone days; and as soon as possible we purposed to set off toward
the Abbey, distant about six or seven miles; taking Piercefield in our
Proceeding on my principle of impartial narration, I must here state,
that, after dinner, an unpleasant altercation occurred between--no other
than the two Pantisocritans! When feelings are accumulated in the heart,
the tongue will give them utterance. Mr. Southey, whose regular habits
scarcely rendered it a virtue in him, never to fail in an engagement,
expressed to Mr. Coleridge his deep feelings of regret, that _his_
audience should have been disappointed on the preceding evening;
reminding him that unless he had determined punctually to fulfil his
voluntary engagement he ought not to have entered upon it. Mr. C. thought
the delay of the lecture of little or no consequence. This excited a
remonstrance, which produced a reply. At first I interfered with a few
conciliatory words, which were unavailing; and these two friends, about
to exhibit to the world a glorious example of the effects of concord and
sound principles, with an exemption from all the selfish and unsocial
passions, fell, alas! into the common lot of humanity, and in so doing
must have demonstrated, even to themselves, the rope of sand to which
they had confided their destinies!
In unspeakable concern and surprise I retired to a distant part of the
room, and heard with dismay the contention continued, if not extending;
for now the two young ladies entered into the dispute, (on adverse sides,
as might be supposed) each confirming or repelling the arguments of the
belligerents. A little cessation in the storm afforded me the opportunity
of stepping forward and remarking that, however much the disappointment
was to be regretted, it was an evil not likely again to occur, (Mr. S.
shook his head) and that the wisest way, was to forget the past and to
remember only the pleasant objects before us. In this opinion the ladies
concurred, when placing a hand of one of the dissentients in that of the
other, the hearty salutation went round, and with our accustomed spirits,
we prepared once more for Piercefield and the Abbey.
Being an indifferent walker (from a former dislocation of my ancle,
arising out of a gig accident) I had engaged a horse, while the four
pedestrians set forward, two on each side of my Rosinante. After quitting
the extensive walks of Piercefield, we proceeded toward that part of the
road, where we were to turn off to the right, leading down to Tintern
Abbey. We had been delayed so long at Chepstow, and afterward, by various
enchanting scenes, particularly that from the Wind-cliff, that we were
almost benighted, before we were aware. We recalled all our minute
directions. Every object corresponded. A doubt expressed, at a most
unlucky moment, whether we were to turn to the right, or to the left,
threw ice into some hearts; but at length we all concurred, that it was
to the right, and that this must be the road.
These complicated deliberations, allowed the night rapidly to advance,
but the grand preliminaries being settled, we approached the "road" and
strove to penetrate with our keenest vision into its dark recesses. A
road! this it could not be. It was a gross misnomer! It appeared to our
excited imaginations, a lane, in the tenth scale of consanguinity to a
road; a mere chasm between lofty trees, where the young moon strove in
vain to dart a ray! To go or not to go, that was the question! A new
consultation was determined upon, what proceeding should be adopted in so
painful a dilemma. At length, with an accession of courage springing up
as true courage always does in the moment of extremity, we resolutely
determined to brave all dangers and boldly to enter on the road, lane, or
what it was, where perchance, Cadwallader, or Taliesen, might have
On immerging into the wood, for such it was, extending the whole downward
way to Tintern, we all suddenly found ourselves deprived of sight;
obscurity aggravated almost into pitchy darkness! We could see nothing
distinctly whilst we floundered over stones, embedded as they appeared in
their everlasting sockets, from the days of Noah. The gurgling of the
unseen stream, down in the adjacent gully, (which we perchance might soon
be found, reluctantly to visit!) never sounded so discordant before.
Having some respect for my limbs (with no bone-setter near) I dismounted,
resolving to lead my steed who trembled as though conscious of the
perilous expedition on which he had entered. Mr. Coleridge who had been
more accustomed to rough riding than myself, upon understanding that I
through cowardice had forsaken the saddle, without speaking a word put
his foot in the stirrup and mounting, determined to brave at all hazards,
the dangers of the campaign.
Our General on his charger floundered on before us over channels that the
storms had made, and the upstarting fragments of rocks that seemed
confederated to present an insurmountable barrier to every rash and
roving wight. We were in a forlorn condition! and never before did we so
feelingly sympathize with the poor babes in the wood; trusting, in the
last extremity, (should it occur) a few kind robins with their sylvan
pall, would honour also our obsequies. This kind of calming ulterior hope
might do very well for poets, but it was not quite so consolatory to the
ladies, who with all their admiration of disinterested pity, wished to
keep off the dear tender-hearted robins a little longer.
These desponding thoughts were of short continuance, for whether the moon
had emerged from clouds, or that our sight had become strengthened by
exercise, we rejoiced now in being able to see a little, although it
might be to reveal only sights of woe. Mr. Southey marched on like a
pillar of strength, with a lady pressing on each arm, while the relator
lagged in the rear, without even a pilgrim's staff to sustain his
tottering steps. Our condition might have been more forlorn, had not Mr.
Coleridge from before cheered on his associates in misfortune; and
intrepidity produces intrepidity.
The deepest sorrow often admits of some alleviation, and at present our
source of beguilement was to invent some appropriate name, in designation
of this most[*] horrible channel of communication between man and man.
Various acrimonious epithets were propounded, but they all wanted an
adequate measure of causticity; when Mr. Southey censuring in us our want
of charity, and the rash spirit that loaded with abuse objects which
if beheld in noon-day might be allied even to the picturesque,
proposed that our path-way, whatever it was, should simply be
[* Transcriber's note: Corrected from original 'mot'.]
We should have smiled assent, but we had just arrived at a spot that
overshadowed every countenance with ten-fold seriousness! This was no
moment for gratuitous triflings. We had arrived at a spot, where there
was just light enough to descry three roads, in this bosom of the wood,
diverging off in different directions! two of them must be collaterals;
and to fix on the one which was honest, where all had equal claims to bad
pre-eminence, exceeded our divining power. Each awhile ruminated in
silence; reflecting that we were far from the habitations of man, with
darkness only not intense around us! We now shouted aloud, in the faint
hope that some solitary woodman might hear, and come to our relief. The
shrill voices of the ladies, in the stillness of night, formed the
essence of harmony. All was silence! No murmur! No response! The three
lanes lay before us. If we pursued one, it might by the next morning,
conduct us safe back to Chepstow; and if we confided in the other, it
might lead us in due time, half-way toward Ragland Castle! What was to be
done? One in the company now remarked, "Of what service is it to boast a
pioneer, if we do not avail ourselves of his services?" Mr. Coleridge
received the hint, and set off up one of the lanes at his swiftest speed,
namely, a cautious creep; whilst we four stood musing on the wide extent
of human vicissitudes! A few hours before, surrounded by a plethora of
enjoyments, and now desponding and starving in the depth of what appeared
an interminable forest. To augment our trouble, fresh anxieties arose!
From Mr. Coleridge's long absence, we now almost feared whether hard
necessity might not force us to go in search of our way-bewildered or
To our great joy, we now faintly heard, in the stillness of night, the
horse's hoofs sliding over the loose stones! The sound drew nearer. Mr.
Coleridge approached and pensively said, that could not be the way, for
it led to an old quarry which the quick sight of his steed discovered
just in time to save both their necks! Mr. C. was next ordered instantly
to explore one of the other two ominous lanes; when like a
well-disciplined orderly man, he set off gallantly on his new commission.
After waiting a time, which in our state of suspense might almost be
called a period, he leisurely returned, significantly saying, that
neither man nor beast could pass that way! rubbing his thorn-smitten
cheek. Now came the use of the syllogism, in its simplest form. "If the
right road must be A, B, or C, and A and B were wrong, then C must be
right." Under this conviction, we marched boldly on, without further
solicitude or exploration,' and at length joyfully reached--Tintern
On arriving at this celebrated place, to which so many travellers resort,
(thanks now to his Grace of Beaufort for a better road than ours) the
first inquiry that hunger taught us to make of a countryman, was for the
hotel. "Hotel! Hotel! Sir? Oh, the sign of the Tobacco Pipe! There it is
over the way." Rusticity and comfort often go together. We entered the
inn, homely as it was, quite certain that any transition must be
paradisaical, compared with our late hopeless condition.
After supper, I proposed to avail ourselves of the darkness, and to
inspect the Abbey by torch-light. This being acceded to, we all set off
to view the beautiful but mouldering edifice, where, by an artificial
light, the ruins might present a new aspect, and, in dim grandeur, assist
the labouring imagination. At the instant the huge doors unfolded, the
horned moon appeared between the opening clouds, and shining through the
grand window in the distance. It was a delectable moment; not a little
augmented by the unexpected green sward that covered the whole of the
floor, and the long-forgotten tombs beneath; whilst the gigantic ivies,
in their rivalry, almost concealed the projecting and dark turrets and
eminences, reflecting back the lustre of the torch below. In this season,
which ought to have been consecrated to reflection and silence, the daws,
nestling in their abodes of desolation, aroused from their repose by the
unusual glare, sailed over our heads in sable multitudes that added depth
to the darkness of the sky, while, in their hoarsest maledictions, they
seemed to warn off the intruders on "their ancient solitary reign."
On returning late to the Inn, I informed my companions, that there was at
no great distance a large iron foundry, never seen to perfection but at
night, and proposed our visiting it. Mr. Coleridge felt downright horror
at the thought of being again moved; considering that he had had quite
enough exercise for one day, and infinitely preferring the fire of his
host to the forge of the Cyclops. The ladies also rather shrunk from
encountering a second night expedition; but Mr. Southey cordially
approved the suggestion, and we ushered forth, in the dreariness of
midnight, to behold this real spectacle of sublimity! Our ardour indeed,
was a little cooled when, by the glimmering of the stars, we perceived a
dark expanse stretched by our path,--an ugly mill-pond, by the side of
which we groped, preserving, as well as we could, a respectful distance,
and entering into a mutual compact that if (after all) one should fall
in, the other should do all that in him lay to pull him out.
But I leave further extraneous impositions on the reader's
attention,--the Wye, and other etceteras, briefly to remark, that we
safely returned the next day, after an excursion where the reality
exceeded the promise: and it may be added, quite in time to enable Mr.
Southey to prepare for, and deliver his Lecture, "on the Rise, Fall, and
Decline of the Roman Empire." Mr. Coleridge was not present.
The publication of Mr. C.'s volume of Poems having been attended with
some rather peculiar circumstances, to detail them a little may amuse the
reader. On my expressing to him a wish to begin the printing as early as
he found it convenient, he sent me the following note.
"My dear friend,
The printer may depend on copy on Monday morning, and if he can work a
sheet a day, he shall have it.
S. T. C."
A day or two after, and before the receipt of the copy, I received from
Mr. C. the following cheerful note.
By the thick smoke that precedes the volcanic eruptions of Etna,
Vesuvius, and Hecla, I feel an impulse to fumigate, at [now] 25,
College-Street, one pair of stairs room; yea, with our Oronoko, and if
thou wilt send me by the bearer, four pipes, I will write a panegyrical
epic poem upon thee, with as many books as there are letters in thy name.
Moreover, if thou wilt send me "the copy book" I hereby bind myself, by
to-morrow morning, to write out enough copy for a sheet and a half.
God bless you!
July 31st, 1795.
S. T. C."
This promising commencement was soon interrupted by successive and
long-continued delays. The permission I had given to anticipate payment
was remembered and complied with, before the work went to the press.
These delays I little heeded, but they were not quite so acceptable to
the printer, who grievously complained that his types, and his leads, and
his forms, were locked up, week after week, to his great detriment.
Being importuned by the printer, I stated these circumstances to Mr.
Coleridge in a note, expressed in what I thought the mildest possible
way, but which excited, it appeared, uncomfortable feelings in his mind,
never in the least noticed to or by myself, but evidenced to my surprise,
by the following passage in a note to Mr. Wade.
"My very dear Friend,
... Mr. Cottle has ever conducted himself towards me with unbounded
kindness, and one unkind act, no, nor twenty, can obliterate the grateful
remembrance of it. By indolence, and frequent breach of promise, I had
deserved a severe reproof from him, although my present brain-crazing
circumstances, rendered this an improper time for it....
S. T. C."
I continued to see Mr. Coleridge every day, and occasionally said to him,
smiling, "Well, how much copy;" "None, to day," was the general reply,
"but to-morrow you shall have some." To-morrow produced, if any, perhaps
a dozen lines; and, in a favourable state of mind, so much, it might be,
as half a dozen pages: and here I think I can correctly state, that Mr.
C. had repeated to me at different times nearly all the poems contained
in his volume, except the "Religious Musings," which I understood to be
wholly a new poem. It may amuse the reader to receive one or two more of
Mr. C.'s little apologies.
"My dear Friend,
The Printer may depend on copy by to-morrow.
S. T. C."
"My dear Cottle,
The Religious Musings are finished, and you shall have them on Thursday.
S. T. C."
Sometimes sickness interfered.
A devil, a very devil, has got possession of my left temple, eye, cheek,
jaw, throat, and shoulder. I cannot see you this evening. I write in
Your affectionate Friend and Brother,
S. T. C."
Sometimes his other engagements were of a pressing nature.
Shall I trouble you (I being over the mouth and nose, in doing something
of importance, at Lovell's) to send your servant into the market, and buy
a pound of bacon, and two quarts of broad beans; and when he carries it
down to College St. to desire the maid to dress it for dinner, and tell
her I shall be home by three o'clock. Will you come and drink tea with
me, and I will endeavour to get the etc. ready for you.
S. T. C."
Whatever disappointments arose, plausible reasons were always assigned
for them, but when ingenuity was fairly taxed with excuses, worn out, Mr.
C. would candidly admit, that he had very little "finger industry," but
then, he said, his mind was always on "full stretch."--The Herculean
labour now appeared drawing to a close; as will be clear from the
"My dear, very dear Cottle,
I will be with you at half past six; if you will give me a dish of tea,
between that time and eleven o'clock at night, I will write out the whole
of the notes, and the preface, as I give you leave to turn the lock and
key upon me.
I am engaged to dine with Michael Castle, but I will not be one minute
past my time. If I am, I permit you to send a note to Michael Castle,
requesting him to send me home to fulfil engagements, like an honest man.
S. T. C."
Well knowing that it was Mr. Coleridge's intention to do all that was
right, but aware at the same time that, however prompt he might be in
resolving, he had to contend, in the fulfilment, with great
constitutional indecision, I had long resolved to leave the completion of
his work wholly to himself, and not to urge him to a speed which would
render that a toil, which was designed to be a pleasure.
But we must instantly leave, alike excuses, and printer, and copy, to
notice a subject of infinitely more importance!
It was now understood that Mr. Coleridge was about to be married. Aware
of his narrow circumstances, and not doubting the anxieties he must
necessarily feel, in the prospect of his altered condition, and to render
his mind as easy in pecuniary affairs, as the extreme case would admit; I
thought it would afford a small relief to tell him that I would give him
one guinea and a-half, (after his volume was completed,) for every
hundred lines he might present to me, whether rhyme or blank verse. This
offer appeared of more consequence in the estimation of Mr. C., than it
did in his who made it; for when a common friend familiarly asked him
"how he was to keep the pot boiling, when married?" he very promptly
answered, that Mr. Cottle had made him such an offer, that he felt no
solicitude on that subject.
Mr. Coleridge, in prospect of his marriage, had taken a cottage at
Clevedon, a village, happily on the banks not of the Susquehannah, but
the Severn. He was married to Miss Sarah Fricker, October the 4th, 1795,
and immediately after set off for his country abode.
The following is a copy of the certificate:--
"ST. MARY REDCLIFFE CHURCH, BRISTOL.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to Sarah Fricker, Oct. 4th, 1795.
Benj. Spry, Vicar.
Witnesses,--Martha Fricker, Josiah Wade."
It happened in this case, as it often does where a duty devolves equally
on two; both neglect it. The cottage at Clevedon, it appeared, had walls,
and doors, and windows; but only such furniture as became a philosopher
who was too well disciplined to covet inordinately, non-essentials.
Beside which there might have been more of system in this deliberate
renunciation of luxury. For would it have been consistent in those who
anticipated a speedy location on the marge of one of the great American
rivers, to intrench themselves in comforts that must so soon be exchanged
for little more than primeval supplies and the rugged privations of the
desert? (For even at this time Mr. C. still fondly dwelt on the joys of
Two days after his marriage, I received a letter from Mr. Coleridge
(which now lies before me) requesting the kindness of me to send him
down, with all dispatch, the following little articles.
"A riddle slice; a candle box; two ventilators; two glasses for the
wash-hand stand; one tin dust pan; one small tin tea kettle; one pair
of candlesticks; one carpet brush; one flower dredge; three tin
extinguishers; two mats; a pair of slippers; a cheese toaster; two
large tin spoons; a bible; a keg of porter; coffee; raisins;
currants; catsup; nutmegs; allspice; cinnamon; rice; ginger; and
With the aid of the grocer, and the shoemaker, and the brewer, and the
tinman, and the glassman, and the brazier, &c., I immediately sent him
all that he had required, and more; and the next day rode down to pay my
respects to the new-married couple; being greeted, not with the common,
and therefore vulgar, materials of cake and wine, but with that which
moved the spirit, hearty gratulations!
I was rejoiced to find that the cottage possessed every thing that heart
could desire. The situation also was peculiarly eligible. It was in the
western extremity, not in the centre of the village. It had the benefit
of being but one story high, and as the rent was only five pounds per
ann., and no taxes, Mr. Coleridge had the satisfaction of knowing, that
by fairly "mounting his Pegasus," he could write as many verses in a week
as would pay his rent for a year. There was also a small garden, with
several pretty flowers; and the "tallest rose tree," was not failed to be
pointed out, which "peeped at the chamber window," (and which has been
honoured with some beautiful lines). I observed, however, that the
parlour, from my perverted taste, looked rather awkward in being only
whitewashed, and the same effected in rather the "olden time;" to remedy
which fanciful inconvenience, on my return to Bristol, I sent an
upholsterer down to this retired and happy abode with a few pieces of
sprightly paper, to tarnish the half immaculate sitting-room walls.
Mr. Coleridge being now comfortably settled at Clevedon, I shall there
for the present leave him to write verses on his beloved Sarah, while in
the mean time, I introduce the reader to an ingenious young barrister
whom I had known some years previously under the following peculiar
William Gilbert, author of the "Hurricane," was the son of the eminent
philanthropist, Nathaniel Gilbert, of Antigua, who is usually noticed as
"The excellent Gilbert who first set an example to the planters, of
giving religious instruction to the slaves." In the year 1787, a want of
self-control having become painfully evident, he was placed by his
friends in the Asylum of Mr. Richard Henderson at Hanham, near Bristol,
when I first knew him. He occasionally accompanied John Henderson into
Bristol, on one of which occasions he introduced him to my brother and
myself, as the "Young Counsellor!" I spent an afternoon with them, not
readily to be forgotten. Many and great talkers have I known, but William
Gilbert, at this time, exceeded them all. His brain seemed to be in a
state of boiling effervescence, and his tongue, with inconceivable
rapidity, passed from subject to subject, but with an incoherence that
was to me, at least, marvellous. For two hours he poured forth a verbal
torrent, which was only suspended by sheer physical exhaustion.
John Henderson must have perceived a thousand fallacies in his
impassioned harangue; but he allowed them all to pass uncommented upon,
for he knew there was no fighting with a vapour. He continued in the
Asylum about a year, when his mind being partially restored, his friends
removed him, and he wholly absented himself from Bristol, till the year
1796, when he re-appeared in that city.
Being so interesting a character, I felt pleasure in introducing him to
Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey, with whom he readily coalesced, and they,
I believe, truly respected him, soon however perceiving there was
"something unsound in Denmark;" but still there was so much general and
obvious talent about him, and his manners were so conciliating, that they
liked his company, and tolerated some few peculiarities for the sake of
the much that was good. The deference he paid Mr. C. and Mr. S. was some
evidence that reason had partly reassumed her seat in his mind, for when
before them, he withheld many of his most extravagant notions, and
maintained such a comparative restraint on his tongue, as evidently arose
from the respect with which he was impressed.
At one time he very gravely told me, that to his certain knowledge there
was in the centre of Africa, bordering on Abyssinia, a little to the
south-east, an extensive nation of the Gibberti, or Gilberti, and that
one day or other he intended to visit them, and claim kindred.
One morning, information was brought to us that W. Gilbert, at an early
hour, had departed precipitately from Bristol, without speaking to any
one of his friends. We felt great concern at this unexpected movement,
and by comparing recent conversations, we thought it highly probable
that, in obedience to some astrological monition he had determined,
forthwith, to set off on a visit to his relatives in Africa. So convinced
was Mr. Southey that this long-cherished design had influenced poor
Gilbert in his sudden withdrawment, that he wrote to Mr. Roscoe, at
Liverpool, begging him to interfere, to prevent any African captain from
taking such a person as Mr. S. described. Mr. Roscoe appeared to have
taken much trouble; but after a vigilant inquiry, he replied, by saying
that no such person had sailed from, or appeared in Liverpool. So that we
remained in total uncertainty as to what was become of him; many years
afterwards it appeared he had gone to Charleston, United States, where he
Mr. Southey thus refers to W. Gilbert in his "Life of Wesley."
"In the year 1796, Mr. G. published the 'Hurricane, a Theosophical
and Western Eclogue,' and shortly afterwards placarded the walls of
London with the largest bills that had at that time been seen,
announcing 'the Law of Fire.' I knew him well and look back with a
melancholy pleasure to the hours which I have passed in his society,
when his mind was in ruins. His madness was of the most
incomprehensible kind, as may be seen in the notes to his
'Hurricane;' but the Poem possesses passages of exquisite beauty. I
have among my papers some memorials of this interesting man. They who
remember him (as some of my readers will,) will not be displeased at
seeing him thus mentioned, with the respect and regret which are due
to a noble mind."
Mr. Wordsworth, also at the end of his "Excursion," has quoted the
following note to the "Hurricane," with the remark that it "is one of the
finest passages of modern English prose."
"A man is supposed to improve by going out into the world, by
visiting London. Artificial man does, he extends with his sphere;
but, alas! that sphere is microscopic; it is formed of minutiae, and
he surrenders his genuine vision to the artist, in order to embrace
it in his ken. His bodily senses grow acute, even to barren and
inhuman pruriency; while his mental become proportionally obtuse. The
reverse is the man of mind. He who is placed in the sphere of nature
and of God, might be a mock at Tattersall's and Brookes's, and a
sneer at St. James's: he would certainly be swallowed alive by the
first Pizarro that crossed him; but when he walks along the river of
Amazons; when he rests his eye on the unrivalled Andes: when he
measures the long and watered savannah, or contemplates from a sudden
promontory, the distant, vast Pacific, and feels himself in this vast
theatre, and commanding each ready produced fruit of this wilderness,
and each progeny of this stream--his exaltation is not less than
imperial. He is as gentle too as he is great: his emotions of
tenderness keep pace with his elevation of sentiment; for he says,
'These were made by a good Being, who, unsought by me, placed me here
to enjoy them.' He becomes at once a child and a king. His mind is in
himself; from hence he argues and from hence he acts, and he argues
unerringly, and acts magisterially. His mind in himself is also in
his God; and therefore he loves, and therefore he soars.'"
As these pages are designed, by brief incidental notices, to furnish a
view of the Literature of Bristol during a particular portion of time;
and having introduced the name of Ann Yearsley, I here, in reference to
her, subjoin a few additional remarks.
* * * * *
I was well acquainted with Ann Yearsley, and my friendship for Hannah
More did not blind my eyes to the merits of her opponent. Candour exacts
the acknowledgment that the Bristol Milkwoman was a very extraordinary
individual. Her natural abilities were eminent, united with which, she
possessed an unusually sound masculine understanding; and altogether
evinced, even in her countenance, the unequivocal marks of genius. If her
education and early advantages had been favourable, there is no limiting
the distinction to which she might have attained; and the respect she did
acquire, proves what formidable barriers may be surmounted by native
talent when perseveringly exerted, even in the absence of those
preliminary assistances which are often merely the fret-work, the
entablature, of the Corinthian column.
Ann Yearsley's genius was discoverable in her Poems, but perhaps the
extent of her capacity chiefly appeared in her Novel, "The Man in the
Iron Mask;" in itself a bad subject, from the confined limit it gives to
the imagination; but there is a vigour in her style which scarcely
appeared compatible with a wholly uneducated woman. The late Mr. G.
Robinson, the bookseller, told me that he had given Ann Yearsley two
hundred pounds for the above work, and that he would give her one hundred
pounds for every volume she might produce. This sum, with the profits of
her Poems, enabled her to set up a circulating library, at the Hot Wells.
I remember, in the year 1793, an imposition was attempted to be practised
upon her, and she became also involved in temporary pecuniary
difficulties, when by timely interference and a little assistance I had
the happiness of placing her once more in a state of comfort. From a
grateful feeling she afterwards sent me a handsome copy of verses.
It has been too customary to charge her with ingratitude, (at which all
are ready to take fire,) but without sufficient cause, as the slight
services I rendered her were repaid with a superabundant expression of
thankfulness; what then must have been the feelings of her heart toward
Mrs. Hannah More, to whom her obligations were so surpassing?
The merits of the question involved in the dissension between Ann
Yearsley and Mrs. H. More, lay in a small compass, and they deserve to be
faithfully stated; the public are interested in the refutation of charges
of ingratitude, which, if substantiated, would tend to repress assistance
toward the humbler children of genius. The baneful effects arising from a
charge of ingratitude in Ann Yearsley towards her benefactress, might be
the proximate means of dooming to penury and death some unborn
Chatterton, or of eclipsing the sun of a future Burns.
Hannah More discovered that the woman who supplied her family daily with
milk, was a really respectable poetess. She collected her productions,
and published them for her benefit, with a recommendatory address. The
Poems, as they deserved, became popular; doubtless, in a great degree,
through the generous and influential support of Mrs. H. More, and the
profits of the sale amounted to some hundreds of pounds.
The money, thus obtained, the milkwoman wished, to receive herself: for
the promotion of herself in life, and the assistance of her two promising
sons, who inherited much of their mother's talent. Hannah More on the
contrary, in conjunction with Mrs. Montague, thought it most advisable to
place the money in the Funds, in the joint names of herself and Mrs. M.
as trustees for Ann Yearsley, so that she might receive a small permanent
support through life. In this, Hannah More acted with the purest
intention. If any judicious friend had stated to her that Ann Yearsley,
whom she had so greatly served, was a discreet woman and would not be
likely to squander her little all: that she wanted to educate her two
sons, and to open for herself a circulating library, neither of which
objects could be accomplished without trenching on her capital, no doubt
could have been entertained of her instantly acceding to it.
The great error on the part of the milkwoman, was in not prevailing on
some friend thus to interfere, and calmly to state her case; instead of
which, in a disastrous moment, she undertook to plead her own cause; and,
without the slightest intention of giving offence, called on her
patroness. Both parties meant well, but from the constitution of the
human mind, it was hardly possible for one who had greatly obliged
another in a subordinate station to experience the least opposition
without at least an uncomfortable feeling. There must have existed a
predisposition to misconstrue motives, as well as a susceptibility, in
the closest alliance with offence. And now the experiment commenced.
Here was a strong-minded illiterate woman on one side, impressed with a
conviction of the justice of her cause; and further stimulated by a deep
consciousness of the importance of success to herself and family; and on
the other side, a refined mind, delicately alive to the least
approximation to indecorum, and, not unreasonably, requiring deference
and conciliation. Could such incongruous materials coalesce? Ann
Yearsley's suit, no doubt was urged with a zeal approaching to
impetuosity, and not expressed in that measured language which propriety
might have dictated; and any deficiency in which could not fail to offend
her polished and powerful patroness.
Ann Yearsley obtained her object, but she lost her friend. Her name, from
that moment, was branded with ingratitude; and severe indeed was the
penalty entailed on her by this act of indiscretion! Her good name, with
the rapidity of the eagle's pinion, was forfeited! Her talents, in a
large circle at once became questionable, or vanished away. Her assumed
criminality also was magnified into audacity, in daring to question the
honour, or oppose the wishes of two such women as Mrs. H. More, and Mrs.
Montague! and thus, through this disastrous turn of affairs, a dark veil
was suddenly thrown over prospects, so late the most unsullied and
exhilarating; and the favorite of fortune sunk to rise no more!
Gloom and perplexities in quick succession oppressed the Bristol
milkwoman, and her fall became more rapid than her ascent! The eldest of
her sons, William Cromartie Yearsley, who had bidden fair to be the prop
of her age; and whom she had apprenticed to an eminent engraver, with a
premium of one hundred guineas, prematurely died; and his surviving
brother soon followed him to the grave! Ann Yearsley, now a childless and
desolate widow, retired, heart-broken from the world, on the produce of
her library; and died many years after, in a state of almost total
seclusion, at Melksham. An inhabitant of the town lately informed me that
she was never seen, except when she took her solitary walk in the dusk of
the evening! She lies buried in Clifton church-yard.
In this passing notice of the Bristol milkwoman, my design has been to
rescue her name from unmerited obloquy, and not in the remotest degree to
criminate Hannah More, whose views and impressions in this affair may
have been somewhat erroneous, but whose intentions it would be impossible
for one moment to question.
The reader will not be displeased with some further remarks on Mrs.
Hannah More, whose long residence near Bristol identified her so much
with that city.
Mrs. H. More lived with her four sisters, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, and
Martha, after they quitted their school in Park-Street, Bristol, at a
small neat cottage in Somersetshire, called Cowslip Green. The Misses M.
some years afterward built a better house, and called it Barley Wood, on
the side of a hill, about a mile from Wrington. Here they all lived, in
the highest degree respected and beloved: their house the seat of piety,
cheerfulness, literature, and hospitality; and they themselves receiving
the honour of more visits from bishops, nobles, and persons of
distinction, than, perhaps, any private family in the kingdom.
My sisters having been educated by them, and myself having two intimate
friends, who were also the friends of the Misses More; the Rev. James
Newton, and my old tutor, John Henderson, they introduced me to the
family in Park Street, and the acquaintance then commenced was
progressively ripened into respect that continued to the termination of
all their lives. Hannah More gave me unrestricted permission to bring
down to Barley-Wood, any literary or other friend of mine, at any time;
and of which privilege, on various occasions I availed myself.
Many years before, I had taken down, then by express, invitation, Mr.