Part 2 out of 9
Southey, to see these excellent ladies; and in the year 1814, I conducted
Mr. Coleridge to Barley Wood, and had the pleasure of introducing him to
Hannah More and her sisters. For two hours after our arrival, Mr. C.
displayed a good deal of his brilliant conversation, when he was listened
to with surprise and delight by the whole circle; but at this time,
unluckily, Lady--was announced, when Mrs. Hannah, from politeness,
devoted herself to her titled visitant, while the little folks retired to
a snug window with one or two of the Misses More, and there had their own
Hannah More's eminently useful life manifested itself in nothing more
than the effort she made to instruct the ignorant through the medium of
moral and religious _tracts_, and by the establishment of schools. These
were made blessings on a wide scale, whilst their good effects are
continued to this time, and are likely to be perpetuated.
It is here proper to mention that after superintending these various
schools, either personally or by proxy, for more than a quarter of a
century, and after the decease of her four benevolent and excellent
sisters, Hannah More found it necessary to leave Barley Wood, and to
remove to Clifton. Here her expenses were reduced one half, and her
comforts greatly increased. The house she occupied, No. 4, Windsor
Terrace, Clifton, was even more pleasant than the one she had left, and
the prospects from it much more enlivening. I remember to have called on
her with the late Robert Hall, when she discovered a cheerfulness which
showed that Barley Wood was no longer regretted. She brought us to the
windows of her spacious drawing room, and there, in the expanse beneath,
invited us to behold the new docks, and the merchants' numerous ships,
while the hill of Dundry appeared (at the distance of four miles) far
loftier than her own Mendip, and equally verdant. From the window of her
back room also, directly under her eye, a far more exquisite prospect
presented itself than any Barley Wood could boast; Leigh Woods, St.
Vincent's Rocks, Clifton Down, and, to crown the whole, the winding Avon,
with the continually shifting commerce of Bristol; and we left her with
the impression that the change in her abode was a great accession to her
In a letter to Mr. Wilberforce, Hannah More thus rather pleasantly
"4, Windsor Terrace, Oct. 29, 1828.
My Very Dear Friend,
... I am diminishing my worldly cares. I have sold Barley Wood. I have
exchanged the eight "pampered minions," for four sober servants. As I
have sold my carriage and horses, I want no coachman: as I have no
garden, I want no gardener. I have greatly lessened my house expenses,
which enables me to maintain my schools, and enlarge my charities. My
schools alone, with clothing, rents, &c., cost me L150 a year."
Mrs. H. More was sometimes liberally assisted in the support of these
schools (as I learned from Miss Martha More,) by three philanthropic
individuals, the late Mr. Henry Thornton, the late Mr. Wilberforce, and
the late Sir W. W. Pepys, Bart.
Mrs. H. More, in a letter to Sir W. W. Pepys, acknowledging the receipt
of one hundred pounds, says, "My most affectionate respects to Lady
Pepys. The young race, of course, have all forgotten me; but I have not
forgotten the energy with which your eldest son, at seven years old, ran
into the drawing room, and said to me, "After all, Ferdinand would never
have sent Columbus to find out America if it had not been for Isabella:
it was entirely her doing." How gratifying it would have been to H. More,
had she lived two or three years longer, to have found in the round of
human things, that this energetic boy of seven years, had become (1837)
the Lord High Chancellor of England! and now again in 1846.
All the paintings, drawings, and prints which covered the walls of the
parlour, on Hannah More's quitting Barley Wood, she gave to her friend,
Sir T. D. Ackland, Bart, with the exception of the portrait, by Palmer,
of John Henderson, which she kindly presented to myself.
* * * * *
As I purposed, in projecting the present work, to allow myself a certain
latitude in commenting on persons of talent connected recently with
Bristol, and with whom Mr. C. and Mr. S. were acquainted, and especially
when those persons are dead, I shall here in addition briefly refer to
the late Robert Hall.
Mr. Hall is universally admitted to have possessed a mind of the first
order. He united qualities, rarely combined, each of which would have
constituted greatness; being a writer of pre-eminent excellence, and a
sacred orator that exceeded all competition.
Posterity will judge of Robert Hall's capacity by his writings alone, but
all who knew him as a preacher, unhesitatingly admit that in his pulpit
exercises (when the absorption of his mind in his subject rendered him
but half sensible to the agony of internal maladies which scarcely knew
cessation, and which would have prostrated a spirit less firm) that in
these exercises, the superiority of his intellect became more undeniably
manifest than even in his deliberate compositions. Here some might
approach, who could not surpass; but, as a preacher, he stood, collected,
in solitary grandeur.
Let the reader who was never privileged to see or hear this extraordinary
man, present to his imagination a dignified figure that secured the
deference which was never exacted; a capacious forehead; an eye, in the
absence of excitement, dark, yet placid, but when warmed with argument,
flashing almost coruscations of light, as the harmonious accompaniments
of his powerful language.
But the pulpit presented a wider field for the display of this
constitutional ardour. Here, the eye, that always awed, progressively
advanced in expression; till warmed with his immortal subject it kindled
into absolute radiance, that with its piercing beams penetrated the very
heart, and so absorbed the spirit that the preacher himself was forgotten
in the magnificent and almost overpowering array of impassioned thoughts
and images. With this exterior, let the reader associate a voice, though
not strong, eminently flexible and harmonious; a mind that felt, and
therefore never erred in its emphasis; alternately touching the chord of
pathos, or advancing with equal ease into the region of argument or
passion; and then let him remember that every sentiment he uttered was
clothed in expressions as mellifluous as perhaps ever fell from the
tongue of man.
Few would dispute the testimony of Dugald Stewart on subjects of
composition; and still fewer would question his authority in ascribing,
as he does, to Robert Hall, the excellencies of Addison, Johnson, and
Burke, without their defects: and to the works of Mr. H. reference will
hereafter doubtless be made, as exhibiting some of the finest specimens
that can be adduced, of the harmony, the elegance, the energy, and
compass of the English tongue.
After noticing the excellencies of Mr. Hall as a Christian advocate, it
appears almost bordering on the anti-climax, to name, that a great
accession to this his distinction as a writer arose from his exquisite
taste in composition, sedulously cultivated through life; and which (as
the reward of so chastened a judgment, attained with such labour) at
length superseded toil in the arrangement of his words,'since every
thought, as it arose in his mind, when expression was given to it,
appeared spontaneously, clothed in the most appropriate language.
Often has Mr. H. expatiated to me on the subject of style, so as to
manifest the depth and acuteness of his criticisms; as well as to leave a
firm conviction that the superiority he had acquired arose from no lax
endeavour and happy casualty, but from severe and permanent effort,
founded on the best models; at least, in that period of his life when the
structure of his mind was formed, or forming. He said that _Cicero_ had
been his chief model.
This habit of minute and general analysis, combined as it was with his
fine luminous intellect, enabled him with almost intuitive discernment,
to perceive promptly whatever was valuable or defective in the
productions of others; and this faculty being conjoined with solid
learning, extensive reading, a retentive memory, a vast |tore of
diversified knowledge, together with a creative fancy and a logical mind,
gave him at all times, an unobtrusive reliance on himself; with an
inexhaustible mental treasury that qualified him alike to shine in the
friendly circle, or to charm, and astonish, and edify, in the crowded
That the same individual should so far excel both as a preacher and a
writer, and at the same time be equally distinguished for his brilliant
conversational talent, is scarcely conceivable, and would be too much
reputation for any man, unless tempered, as it was in Mr. Hall, by no
ordinary measure of Christian humility, and a preference ever expressed,
for the moral over the intellectual character.
It is not meant to imply that Mr. Hall was perfect, (a condition reserved
for another state) but he made gigantic strides towards that point, at
which all should aim. That such rare talents should have been devoted,
through a long and consistent life, to the cause of his Redeemer, must
excite thankfulness in the breast of every Christian, and at the same
time deepen the hue with which he contemplates some others, whose talents
and influences, were, and are, all banefully exercised, from what might
appear a design to corrupt man, and madly to oppose and defy the Supreme
Some of Mr. Hall's later admirers may resist the idea that there ever was
a period when his ministerial exercises were more eloquent than at the
last; but without hesitation, I adopt a different opinion. The estimate
formed of him in this place is chiefly founded on the earlier part of
life, when, without any opposing influences, a more unbridled range was
given to his imagination; when there was an energy in his manner, and a
felicity and copiousness in his language, which vibrated on the very
verge of human capability.
It is incredible to suppose that intense and almost unceasing pain,
should not partially have unnerved his mind; that he should not have
directed a more undiverted concentration of thought, and revelled with
more freedom and luxuriance of expression, before, rather than during the
ravages of that insidious and fatal disease, under which he laboured for
so many years, and which never allowed him, except when in the pulpit, to
deviate from a recumbent posture. However combated by mental firmness,
such perpetual suffering must have tended in some degree to repress the
vehemence of his intellectual fire; and the astonishment prevails, that
he possessed fortitude enough to contend so long with antagonists so
potent. Except for the power of religion, and the sustaining influence of
faith, nothing could have restrained him from falling back on despondency
or despair. Yet even to his final sermon, he maintained his preeminence;
and in no one discourse of his last years, did he decline into
mediocrity, or fail to remind the elder part of his audience of a period
when his eloquence was almost superhuman.
After allowing, that many humble but sincere preachers of the gospel of
Christ may be as accepted of God, and be made as useful to their
fellow-men as the most prodigally endowed, yet the possession of great
and well-directed talents must not be underrated. Different soils require
different culture, and that which is inoperative on one man may be
beneficial to another, and it is hardly possible for any one to form a
due estimate of the elevation of which pulpit oratory is susceptible who
never heard Robert Hall. This character of his preaching refers more
particularly to the period when his talents were in their most vigorous
exercise; a little before the time when he published his celebrated
sermon on "Infidelity."
This sermon I was so happy as to hear delivered, and have no hesitation
in expressing an opinion that the oral was not only very different from
the printed discourse, but greatly its superior. In the one case he
expressed the sentiments of a mind fully charged with matter the most
invigorating, and solemnly important; but, discarding notes, (which he
once told me always "hampered him") it was not in his power to display
the same language, or to record the same evanescent trains of thought; so
that in preparing a sermon for the press, no other than a general
resemblance could be preserved. In trusting alone to his recollection,
when the stimulus was withdrawn of a crowded and most attentive auditory,
the ardent feeling; the thought that "burned," was liable, in some
measure, to become deteriorated by the substitution of cool philosophical
arrangement and accuracy for the spontaneous effusions of his overflowing
heart; so that what was gained by one course was more than lost by the
During Mr. Hall's last visit to Bristol, (prior to his final settlement
there) I conducted him to view the beautiful scenery in the
neighbourhood, and no one could be more alive to the picturesque than Mr.
H. On former occasions, when beholding the expanse of water before him,
he has said, with a pensive ejaculation, "We have no water in
Cambridgeshire;" and subsequently, in noticing the spreading foliage of
Lord de Clifford's park, he has observed with the same mournful accent;
"Ah, sir, we have no such trees as these in Leicestershire." And when at
this time he arrived at a point which presented the grandest assemblage
of beauty, he paused in silence to gaze on the rocks of St. Vincent, and
the Avon, and the dense woods, and the distant Severn, and the dim blue
mountains of Wales, when with that devotional spirit which accorded with
the general current of his feelings, in an ecstacy he exclaimed; "Oh, if
these outskirts of the Almighty's dominion can, with one glance, so
oppress the heart with gladness, what will be the disclosures of
eternity, when the full revelation shall be made of the things not seen,
and the river of the city of God!"
But "Recollections" of Mr. Hall are not intended, although it may be
named, he stated, in one of these rides, that he had arisen from his bed
two or three times in the course of the night, when projecting his
"Sermon on the Death of the Princess Charlotte" to record thoughts, or to
write down passages that he feared might otherwise escape his memory.
This, at least, showed the intensity of the interest he felt, though a
superabundance of the choicest matter was ever at his command; and if one
idea happened accidentally to be lost, one that was better immediately
supplied its place.
Perhaps this notice may be deemed, by some, too extended, if not
misplaced; but if the present occasion of referring to Mr. Hall, had been
neglected, no other might have occurred. The man whose name is recorded
on high stands in no need of human praise; yet survivors have a debt to
pay, and whilst I disclaim every undue bias on my mind in estimating the
character of one who so ennobled human nature, none can feel surprise
that I should take a favorable retrospect of Mr. H. after an intercourse
and friendship of more than forty years. Inadequate as is the present
offering, some satisfaction is felt at the opportunity presented of
bestowing this small tribute to the memory of one whom I ever venerated,
and, in so doing, of adding another attestation to the merits of so good
and great a man.
* * * * *
The reader after this long digression, will have his attention directed
once more, to Mr. Coleridge, who was left at Clevedon in the possession
of domestic comfort, and with the hope, if not the prospect, of
uninterrupted happiness. It could hardly be supposed, that in the element
of so much excitement, the spirit of inspiration should remain
slumbering. On my next seeing Mr. C. he read me, with more than his
accustomed enthusiasm, those tenderly affectionate lines to his "Sara,"
"My pensive Sara, thy soft cheek reclined." &c,
Mr. Coleridge now began to console himself with the suspicion, not only
that felicity might be found on this side the Atlantic, but that Clevedon
concentrated the sum of all that Earth had to bestow. He was now even
satisfied that the Susquehannah itself retired into shade before the
superior attractions of his own native Severn. He had, in good truth,
discovered the grand secret; the abode of happiness, after which all are
so sedulously inquiring; and this accompanied with the cheering
assurance, that, by a merely pleasurable intellectual exertion, he would
be able to provide for his moderate expenses, and experience the
tranquillizing joys of seclusion, while the whole country and Europe were
convulsed with war and changes.
Alas, repose was not made for man, nor man for repose! Mr. Coleridge at
this time little thought of the joys and sorrows, the vicissitudes of
life, and revolutions of feeling, with which he was ordained ere long to
contend! Inconveniences connected with his residence at Clevedon, not at
first taken into the calculation, now gradually unfolded themselves. The
place was too far from Bristol. It was difficult of access to friends;
and the neighbours were a little too tattling and inquisitive. And then
again, Mr. Coleridge could not well dispense with his literary
associates, and particularly with his access to that fine institution,
the Bristol City Library; and, in addition, as he was necessitated to
submit to frugal restraints, a walk to Bristol was rather a serious
undertaking; and a return the same day hardly to be accomplished, in the
failure of which, his "Sara," was lonely and uneasy; so that his friends
urged him to return once more to the place he had left; which he did,
forsaking, with reluctance, his rose-bound cottage, and taking up his
abode on Redcliff-hill. There was now some prospect that the printer's
types would be again set in motion, although it was quite proper that
they should remain in abeyance while so many grand events were
transpiring in the region of the domestic hearth. This was late in the
After Mr. Coleridge had been some little time settled in Bristol, he
experienced another removal. To exchange the country, and all the
beauties of nature, for pent-up rooms on Redcliff-hill, demanded from a
poet, sacrifices for which a few advantages would but ill compensate. In
this uneasy state of mind, Mr. C. received an invitation from his friend,
Mr. T. Poole, of Stowey, Somersetshire, to come and visit him in that
retired town, and to which place Mr. and Mrs. Coleridge repaired.
The volume of poems, that, in the presence of so many more important
affairs, had retired into shade, was now about to reappear, as will be
found by the following letter.
My dear Cottle,
I feel it much, and very uncomfortable, that, loving you as a brother,
and feeling pleasure in pouring out my heart to you, I should so seldom
be able to write a letter to you, unconnected with business, and
uncontaminated with excuses and apologies. I give every moment I can
spare from my garden and the Reviews (i. e.) from my potatoes and meat to
the poem, (Religious Musings) but I go on slowly, for I torture the poem
and myself with corrections; and what I write in an hour, I sometimes
take two or three days in correcting. You may depend on it, the poem and
prefaces will take up exactly the number of pages I mentioned, and I am
extremely anxious to have the work as perfect as possible, and which I
cannot do, if it be finished immediately. The "Religious Musings" I have
altered monstrously, since I read them to you and received your
criticisms. I shall send them to you in my next. The Sonnets I will send
you with the Musings. God love you!
From your affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
Mr. Coleridge at this time meditated the printing of two volumes of his
poems. He thus expresses his intention.
"I mean to have none but large poems in the second volume; none under
three hundred lines; therefore I have crowded all my little pieces into
He speaks in the same letter, of two poems which I never saw. Perhaps
they were composed in his own mind, but never recorded on paper; a
practice which Mr. C. sometimes adopted. He thus writes. "The 'Nativity'
is not quite three hundred lines. It has cost me much labour in
polishing; more than any poem I ever wrote, and I believe deserves it
more. The epistle to Tom. Poole, which will come with the 'Nativity,' is
I think one of my most pleasing compositions."
In a letter of Mr. C. dated from Stowey, Mr. Coleridge also says, "I have
written a Ballad of three hundred lines, and also a plan of general
study." It appeared right to make these statements, and it is hoped the
productions named may still be in existence.
Mr. Coleridge now finding it difficult to superintend the press at so
great a distance as Stowey, and that it interfered also with his other
literary engagements, he resolved once more to remove to Bristol, the
residence of so many friends; and to that city he repaired, the beginning
of 1796. A conviction now also rested on his mind, as there was the
prospect of an increase in his family, that he must bestir himself, and
effectually call his resolutions into exercise. Soon after he was fairly
settled, he sent me the following letter.
"My dear Cottle,
I have this night and to-morrow for you, being alone, and my spirits
calm. I shall consult my poetic honour, and of course your interest, more
by staying at home, than by drinking tea with you. I should be happy to
see my poems out even by next week, and I shall continue in stirrups,
that is, shall not dismount my Pegasus, till Monday morning, at which
time you will have to thank God for having done with
Your affectionate friend always, but author evanescent.
S. T. C."
Except for the serious effect, unintentionally produced, a rather
ludicrous circumstance some time after this occurred, that is, after Mr.
C. had "mounted his Pegasus" for the last time, and, permitted, so long
ago, "the lock and key to be turned upon him."
The promised notes, preface, and some of the text, not having been
furnished, I had determined to make no further application, but to allow
Mr. C. to consult his own inclination and convenience. Having a friend
who wanted an introduction to Mr. Coleridge, I invited him to dinner, and
sent Mr. C. a note, to name the time, and to solicit his company. The
bearer of the note was simply requested to give it to Mr. C. and not
finding him at home, inconsiderately brought it back. Mr. Coleridge
returning home soon after, and learning that I had sent a letter, which
was taken back, in the supposition that it could relate but to _one
subject_, addressed to me the following astounding letter.
"Redcliff-hill, Feb. 22, 1796.
My dear Sir,
It is my duty and business to thank God for all his dispensations, and to
believe them the best possible; but, indeed, I think I should have been
more thankful, if he had made me a journeyman shoemaker, instead of an
author by trade. I have left my friends: I have left plenty; I have left
that ease which would have secured a literary immortality, and have
enabled me to give the public, works conceived in moments of inspiration,
and polished with leisurely solicitude, and alas! for what have I left
them? for--who deserted me in the hour of distress, and for a scheme of
virtue impracticable and romantic! So I am forced to write for bread!
write the flights of poetic enthusiasm, when every minute I am hearing a
groan from my wife. Groans, and complaints, and sickness! The present
hour I am in a quick-set hedge of embarrassment, and whichever way I
turn, a thorn runs into me! The future is cloud, and thick darkness!
Poverty, perhaps, and the thin faces of them that want bread, looking up
to me! Nor is this all. My happiest moments for composition are broken in
upon by the reflection that I must make haste. I am too late! I am
already months behind! I have received my pay beforehand! Oh, wayward and
desultory spirit of genius! Ill canst thou brook a taskmaster! The
tenderest touch from the hand of obligation, wounds thee like a scourge
I have been composing in the fields this morning, and came home to write
down the first rude sheet of my preface, when I heard that your man had
brought a note from you. I have not seen it, but I guess its contents. I
am writing as fast as I can. Depend on it you shall not be out of pocket
for me! I feel what I owe you, and independently of this, I love you as a
friend; indeed, so much, that I regret, seriously regret, that you have
been my copyholder.
If I have written petulantly, forgive me. God knows I am sore all over.
God bless you, and believe me that, setting gratitude aside, I love and
esteem you, and have your interest at heart full as much as my own.
S. T. Coleridge."
At the receipt of this painful letter, which made me smile and sigh at
the same moment, my first care was to send the young and desponding Bard
some of the precious metal, to cheer his drooping spirits; to inform him
of his mistake; and to renew my invitation; which was accepted, and at
this interview he was as cheerful as ever. He saw no difference in my
countenance, and I perceived none in his. The "thick cloud" and the
"thorn" had completely passed away, whilst his brilliant conversation
charmed and edified the friend for whose sake he had been invited.
At length, Mr. Coleridge's volume of poems was completed. On the blank
leaf of one of the copies, he asked for a pen, and wrote the following:
On the blank leaf of my poems, I can most appropriately write my
acknowledgments to you, for your too disinterested conduct in the
purchase of them. Indeed, if ever they should acquire a name and
character, it might be truly said, the world owed them to you. Had it not
been for you, none perhaps of them would have been published, and some
Your, obliged and affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge.
Bristol, April 15, 1796."
The particulars respecting the publication of Mr. Coleridge's volume of
Poems have been continued unbroken, to the exclusion of some antecedent
circumstances, which will now be noticed.
If it were my object to give a fictitious, and not a real character; to
remove, scrupulously, all protuberances that interfered with the polish,
I might withhold the following letter, which merely shows the solicitude
with which Mr. C. at this time, regarded small profits. His purse, soon
after his return to Bristol, being rather low, with the demands on it
increasing, he devised an ingenious, and very innocent plan for
replenishing it, in a small way, as will thus appear.
"My ever dear Cottle,
Since I last conversed with you on the subject, I have been thinking over
again the plan I suggested to you, concerning the application of Count
Rumford's plan to the city of Bristol. I have arranged in my mind the
manner, and matter of the Pamphlet, which would be three sheets, and
might be priced at one shilling.
Addressed to the Inhabitants of Bristol,
on a subject of importance,
(unconnected with Politics.)
BY S. T. C.'
Now I have by me the history of Birmingham, and the history of
Manchester. By observing the names, revenues, and expenditures of their
different charities, I could easily alter the calculations of the
"Bristol Address," and, at a trifling expense, and a few variations, the
same work might be sent to Manchester and Birmingham. "Considerations
addressed to the inhabitants of Birmingham." &c. I could so order it,
that by writing to a particular friend, at both places, the pamphlet
should be thought to have been written _at_ each place, as it certainly
would be _for_ each place. I think therefore 750 might be printed in all.
Now will you undertake this? either to print it and divide the profits,
or (which indeed I should prefer) would you give me three guineas, for
the copy-right? I would give you the first sheet on Thursday, the second
on the Monday following, the third on the Thursday following. To each
pamphlet I would annex the alterations to be made, when the press was
stopped at 250.
God love you!
S. T. C."
Mr. Coleridge used occasionally to regret, with even pungency of feeling,
that he had no relation in the world, to whom, in a time of extremity, he
could apply "for a little assistance." He appeared like a being dropped
from the clouds, without tie or connection on earth; and during the years
in which I knew him, he never once visited any one of his relations, nor
exchanged a letter with them. It used to fill myself and others with
concern and astonishment, that such a man should, apparently, be
abandoned. On some occasions I urged him to break through all
impediments, and go and visit his friends at Ottery; this his high spirit
could not brook. I then pressed him to dedicate his Poems to one of his
relatives, his brother George, of whom he occasionally spoke with
peculiar kindness. He was silent; but some time after, he said in a
letter, "You, I am sure will be glad to learn, that I shall follow your
In the poem which thus arose, what can be more touching than these lines
in his dedication to his brother? (Second edition.)
"To me the Eternal Wisdom hath dispensed
A different fortune, and more different mind--
Me from the spot where first I sprang to light
Too soon transplanted, ere my soul had fixed
Its first domestic loves; and hence through life
Chasing chance--started friendships. A brief while,
Some have preserved me from life's pelting ills."
In certain features of their character, there was a strong resemblance
between Chatterton and S. T. Coleridge, with a reverse in some points,
for Chatterton was loved and cherished by his family, but neglected by
the world. In the agony of mind which Mr. C. sometimes manifested on this
subject, I have wished to forget those four tender lines in his Monody on
"Poor Chatterton! farewell! Of darkest hues,
This chaplet cast I on thy unshaped tomb:
But dare no longer on the sad theme muse,
Lest kindred woes persuade a kindred doom!"
Mr. C. would not have felt so much, if his own natural and unshaken
affections had been less ardent.
Before I enter on an important incident in Mr. Coleridge's Bristol life,
I must previously observe, that his mind was in a singular degree
distinguished for the habit of projecting. New projects and plans, at
this time, followed each other in rapid succession, and while the
vividness of the impression lasted, the very completion could scarcely
have afforded more satisfaction than the vague design. To project, with
him, was commonly sufficient. The execution, of so much consequence in
the estimation of others, with him was a secondary point. I remember him
once to have read to me, from his pocket book; a list of eighteen
different works which he had resolved to write, and several of them in
quarto, not one of which he ever effected. At the top of the list
appeared the word "Pantisocracy! 4to." Each of these works, he could have
talked, (for he often poured forth as much as half an 8vo. volume in a
single evening, and that in language sufficiently pure and connected to
admit of publication) but talking merely benefits the few, to the
exclusion of the many. The work that apparently advanced the nearest to
completion, was "Translations of the modern Latin Poets;" two vols. 8vo.
This work, which no man could better have accomplished than himself, he
so far proceeded in, as to allow of the Proposals being issued. It was to
be published by subscription, and he brought with him from Cambridge a
very respectable list of university subscribers. His excuses for not
showing any part of the work, justified the suspicion that he had not
advanced in it further than these said "Proposals."
Another prominent feature in Mr. Coleridge's mind, was procrastination.
It is not to be supposed that he ever made a promise or entered on an
engagement without intending to fulfil it, but none who knew him could
deny that he wanted much of that steady, persevering determination which
is the precursor of success, and the parent of all great actions. His
strongest intentions were feebly supported after the first paroxysms of
resolve, so that any judicious friend would strenuously have dissuaded
him from an undertaking that involved a race with time. Mr. Coleridge,
however, differently regarded his mental constitution, and projected at
this time a periodical miscellany, called "The Watchman."
When the thought of this magazine first suggested itself to his mind, he
convened his chief friends one evening at the Rummer Tavern, to determine
on the size, price, and time of publishing, with all other preliminaries,
essential to the launching this first-rate vessel on the mighty deep.
Having heard of the circumstance the next day, I rather wondered at not
having also been requested to attend, and while ruminating on the
subject, I received from Mr. C. the following communication.
"My dear friend,
I am fearful that you felt hurt at my not mentioning to you the proposed
'Watchman,' and from my not requesting you to attend the meeting. My dear
friend, my reasons were these. All who met were expected to become
subscribers to a fund; I knew there would be enough without you, and I
knew, and felt, how much money had been drawn from you lately.
God Almighty love you!
S. T. C."
In a few days the following prospectus of the new work was circulated far
"To supply at once the places of a Review, Newspaper, and Annual
On Tuesday, the 1st of March, 1796, will be published, No. 1, price
fourpence, of a Miscellany, to be continued every eighth day, under
the name of
BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE,
This Miscellany will be comprised in two sheets, or thirty-two pages,
closely printed in 8vo. the type, long primer.
1st. A History of the Domestic and Foreign Policy of the preceding
2nd. The Speeches in both Houses of Parliament, and during the
recess. Select Parliamentary Speeches, from the commencement of the
reign of Charles the First, to the present Aera, with Notes,
Historical and Biographical.
3rd. Original Essays and Poetry.
4th. Review of interesting and important Publications.
FIRST. There being no Advertisements, a greater quantity of Original
matter will be given, and the Speeches in Parliament will be less
SECOND. From its form, it may be bound up at the end of the year, and
become an Annual Register.
THIRD. This last circumstance may induce men of letters to prefer
this miscellany to more perishable publications as the vehicle of
FOURTH. Whenever the Ministerial and Opposition Prints differ in
their accounts of occurrences, &c. such difference will always be
Of all men, Mr. Coleridge was the least qualified to display periodical
industry. Many of his cooler friends entertained from the beginning no
sanguine expectations of success, but now that the experiment was fairly
to be tried, they united with him in making every exertion to secure it.
As a magazine it was worth nothing without purchasers. Bristol was the
strong-hold, where about two hundred and fifty subscribers were obtained
by myself, and one hundred and twenty by Mr. Reed. These were
insufficient. What was to be done? A bold measure was determined upon.
Mr. Coleridge, conceiving that his means of subsistence depended upon the
success of this undertaking, armed himself with unwonted resolution, and
expressed his determination to travel over half England and take the
posse comitatus by storm.
In conformity with such resolution, he obtained letters of introduction
to influential men in the respective towns he meant to visit, and, like a
shrewd calculator, determined to add the parson's avocation to that of
the political pamphleteer. The beginning of Jan. 1796, Mr. Coleridge,
laden with recommendatory epistles, and rich in hope, set out on his
eventful journey, and visited in succession, Worcester, Birmingham,
Nottingham, Lichfield, Derby, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, &c. and
as a crowning achievement, at the last, paid his respects to the great
metropolis; in all which places, by bills, prospectuses, advertisements,
and other expedients, the reading public were duly apprised of the "NEW
REVIEW, NEWSPAPER, and ANNUAL REGISTER," about to be published.
The good people, in all the towns through which Mr. Coleridge passed,
were electrified by his extraordinary eloquence. At this time, and during
the whole of his residence in Bristol, there was, in the strict sense,
little of the true, interchangeable conversation in Mr. C. On almost
every subject on which he essayed to speak, he made an impassioned
harangue of a quarter, or half an hour; so that inveterate talkers, while
Mr. Coleridge was on the wing, generally suspended their own flight, and
felt it almost a profanation to interrupt so impressive and mellifluous a
speaker. This singular, if not happy peculiarity, occasioned even Madame
de Stael to remark of Mr. C. that "He was rich in a Monologue, but poor
in a Dialogue."
From the brilliant volubility before noticed, admiration and astonishment
followed Mr. C. like a shadow, through the whole course of his
peregrinations. This new "Review, Newspaper, and Annual Register," was
largely patronized; for who would not give fourpence every eighth day, to
be furnished, by so competent a man as Mr. Coleridge, with this
quintessence, this concentration of all that was valuable, in Politics,
Criticism, and Literature; enriched in addition, with Poetry of the first
waters, luminous Essays, and other effusions of men of letters? So choice
a morceau was the very thing that every body wanted; and, in the course
of his journey, subscriptions poured in to the extent of one thousand;
and Mr. C. on his return, after what might be called a triumph,
discovered the elasticity of his spirit; smiling at past depressions, and
now, on solid ground, anticipating ease, wealth, and fame.
The first of March arrived. The "Watchman" was published. Although
deprived of the pleasure of contributing to Mr. Coleridge's fund, I
determined to assist him in other ways, and that far more effectually. On
the publication of the first Number, besides my trouble in sending round
to so many subscribers,--with all the intense earnestness attending the
transaction of the most weighty concerns, it occupied Mr. Coleridge and
myself four full hours to arrange, reckon, (each pile being counted by
Mr. C. after myself, to be quite satisfied that there was no extra 3-1/2
d. one slipped in unawares,) pack up, and write invoices and letters for
the London and country customers, all expressed thus, in the true
Bristol, March 1st, 1796.
Mr. Pritchard, (Derby)
Dr. to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
To 73 No. 1 of the Watchman ... 3-1/2 d. ... L1 1 3-1/2
This routine was repeated with every fresh number. My part was zealously
and cheerfully discharged, with the encouraging hope that it would
essentially serve my anxious and valued friend. But all would not do!
A feeling of disappointment prevailed early and pretty generally, amongst
the subscribers. The Prospectus promised too much. In the Review
department, no one article appeared embodying any high order of talent.
The Newspaper section pleased no one, from the confined limits to which
the editor was restricted, independently of which, nearly all the
subscribers had seen the Debates in their length, through other mediums;
and yet this profitless part of the work gave most trouble to the
compiler. Its dulness, I know, fretted Mr. Coleridge exceedingly.
The theory of publishing was delightful; but the exemplification--the
practice, proved, alas! teasing, if not tormenting. One pitiful
subscriber of fourpence, every eighth day, thought his boys did not
improve much under it. Another expected more from his "Annual Register!"
Another wanted more Reviews! Another, more Politics! and those a little
sharper. As the work proceeded, joys decreased, and perplexities
multiplied! added to which, subscribers rapidly fell off, debts were
accumulated and unpaid, till, at the Tenth Number, the Watchman at the
helm cried "Breakers" and the vessel stranded!--It being formally
announced, that "The work did not pay its expenses!"
The "Address to the readers of the Watchman," in the last page, was the
"This is the last Number of the Watchman.--Henceforward I shall cease
to cry the state of the Political atmosphere. While I express my
gratitude to those friends who exerted themselves so liberally in the
establishment of this Miscellany, I may reasonably be expected to
assign some reason for relinquishing it thus abruptly. The reason is
short and satisfactory.--The work does not pay its expences. Part of
my subscribers have relinquished it, because it did not contain
sufficient original composition; and a still larger number, because
it contained too much. Those who took it in as a mere journal of
weekly events, must have been unacquainted with 'FLOWER'S CAMBRIDGE
INTELLIGENCER;' a Newspaper, the style and composition of which would
claim distinguished praise, even among the productions of literary
leisure; while it breathes everywhere the severest morality; fighting
fearlessly the good fight against tyranny, yet never unfaithful to
that religion, whose service is perfect freedom. Those, on the other
hand, who expected from it much and varied original composition, have
naturally relinquished it in favour of the 'NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE;' a
work which has almost monopolized the talent of the country, and with
which I should have continued a course of literary rivalship, with as
much success as might be expected to attend a young recruit, who
should oppose himself to a phalanx of disciplined warriors. Long may
it continue to deserve the support of the patriot and the
philanthropist; and while it teaches its readers NATIONAL LIBERTY,
prepare them for the enjoyment of it; strengthening the intellect by
SCIENCE, and softening our affections by the GRACES! To return to
myself. I have endeavoured to do well: and it must be attributed to
defect of ability, not of inclination or effort, if the words of the
Prophet be altogether applicable to me.
"O, Watchman! thou hast watched in vain."
Many readers will feel a concern in the arrangements and perplexities of
Mr. Coleridge at the time of publishing his "Watchman;" for he had a more
vital interest involved in the success of that work than he had,
individually, in the rise and fall of empires. When he returned from his
northern journey laden with subscribers, and with hope ripened into
confidence, all that had yet been done was the mere scaffolding; the
building was now to be erected. Soon after this time I received from Mr.
Coleridge the following letter.
My ever dear Cottle,
I will wait on you this evening at 9 o'clock, till which hour I am on
"Watch." Your Wednesday's invitation I of course accept, but I am rather
sorry that you should add this expense to former liberalities.
Two editions of my Poems would barely repay you. Is it not possible to
get twenty-five, or thirty of the Poems ready by to-morrow, as Parsons,
of Paternoster Row, has written to me pressingly about them. 'People are
perpetually asking after them.' All admire the Poetry in the 'Watchman;'
he says, I can send them with one hundred "of the First Number," which he
has written for. I think if you were to send half a dozen 'Joans of Arc,'
[4to. L1. 1. 0] on sale or return, it would not be amiss. To all the
places in the North, we will send my 'Poems,' my 'Conciones,' and the
'Joans of Arc,' together, per waggon. You shall pay the carriage for the
London and the Birmingham parcels; I for the Sheffield, Derby,
Nottingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.
With regard to the Poems I mean to give away, I wish to make it a common
interest; that is, I will give away a sheet full of Sonnets. One to Mrs.
Barbauld; one to Wakefield; one to Dr. Beddoes: one to Wrangham, (a
College acquaintance of mine, an admirer of me, and a pitier of my
principles!) one to George Augustus Pollen, Esq. one to C. Lamb; one to
Wordsworth; one to my brother G. and one to Dr. Parr. These Sonnets I
mean to write on the blank leaf, respectively, of each copy.
Concerning the paper for the 'Watchman,' I was vexed to hear your
proposal of trusting it to Biggs, who, if he undertook it at all, would
have a profit, which heaven knows, I cannot afford. My plan was, either
that you should write to your paper-maker, saying that you had
recommended him to me, and ordering for me twenty or forty reams, at a
half year's credit; or else, in your own name; in which case I would
transfer to you, Reed's weekly account, amounting to 120 3-1/2 d's,
(or 35 shillings) and the Birmingham monthly account, amounting to L14. a
God bless you,
and S. T. Coleridge."
This letter requires a few explanations. In recommending that Biggs, the
printer, should choose the paper, it was not designed for him to provide
it, which, had he been so requested, he would not have done, but merely
to select one, out of different samples to be submitted to him, as that
which he, as a printer, thought the best. This was explained to Mr. C. It
will be perceived, that Mr. Coleridge's two proposals were virtually one:
as, if I ordered the paper for myself or for another, the responsibility
would rest with me. The plain fact is, I purchased the whole of the paper
for the "Watchman," allowing Mr. C. to have it at prime cost, and
receiving small sums from him occasionally, in liquidation. I became
responsible, also, to Mr. B. for printing the work, by which means I
reduced the price per sheet, as a bookseller, (1000) from fifty shillings
to thirty five shillings. Mr. C. paid me for the paper in fractions, as
he found it convenient, but from the falling off of his own receipts, I
never received the whole. It was a losing concern altogether, and I was
willing to bear, uncomplaining, my proportion of the loss. There is some
difference between this statement, and that of Mr. Coleridge in his
"Biographia Literaria." A defect of memory must have existed, arising
out of the lapse of twenty two years; but my notices, made at that time,
did not admit of mistake.
My loss was also augmented from another cause. Mr. C. states in the above
work, that his London publisher never paid him "one farthing," but "set
him at defiance." I also was more than his equal companion in this
misfortune. The thirty copies of Mr. C.'s poems, and the six "Joans of
Arc" (referred to in the preceding letter) found a ready sale, by this
said "indefatigable London publisher," and large and fresh orders were
received, so that Mr. Coleridge and myself participated in two very
opposite feelings, the one of exultation that our publications had found
_so good a sale_; and the other of _depression_, that the time of
_payment_ never arrived!
All the copies also, of Mr. C.'s Poems, and the "Joan's of Arc," which
were sent to the North, so far as I am concerned, shared the same fate. I
do not know that they were ever paid for. If they were, in combination
with other things, it was my wish that the entanglement should never be
unravelled, for who could take from Mr. C. any portion of his slender
The most amusing appendage to this unfortunate "Miscellany," will now be
presented to the reader, in the seven following letters of Mr. Coleridge,
addressed to his friend Mr. Josiah Wade, and written in the progress of
his journey to collect subscribers for the "Watchman."
"Worcester, Jan. 1796.
My dear Wade,
We were five in number, and twenty-five, in quantity. The moment I
entered the coach, I stumbled on a huge projection, which might be called
a belly, with the same propriety that you might name Mount Atlas a
mole-hill. Heavens! that a man should be unconscionable enough to enter a
stage coach, who would want elbow room if he were walking on Salisbury
This said citizen was a most violent aristocrat, but a pleasant humourous
fellow in other respects, and remarkably well-informed in agricultural
science; so that the time passed pleasantly enough. We arrived at
Worcester at half-past two: I of course dined at the inn, where I met Mr.
Stevens. After dinner I christianized myself; that is, washed and
changed, and marched in finery and cleanliness to High-Street. With
regard to business, there is no chance of doing any thing at Worcester.
The aristocrats are so numerous, and the influence of the clergy so
extensive, that Mr. Barr thinks no bookseller will venture to publish the
P.S. I hope and trust that the young citizeness is well, and also Mrs.
Wade. Give my love to the latter, and a kiss for me to little Miss
S. T. Coleridge."
"Birmingham, Jan. 1796.
My dear friend,
... My exertions have been incessant, for in whatever company I go, I am
obliged to be the figurante of the circle. Yesterday I preached twice,
and, indeed, performed the whole service, morning and afternoon. There
were about fourteen hundred persons present, and my sermons (great part
extempore) were _preciously peppered with Politics_. I have here, at
least, double the number of subscribers, I had expected...."
"Nottingham, Jan. 7, 1796.
My dear friend,
You will perceive by this letter I have changed my route. From
Birmingham, on Friday last, (four o'clock in the morning) I proceeded to
Derby, stayed there till Monday morning, and am now at Nottingham. From
Nottingham I go to Sheffield; from Sheffield to Manchester; from
Manchester to Liverpool? from Liverpool to London, from London to
Bristol. Ah, what a weary way! My poor crazy ark has been tossed to and
fro on an ocean of business, and I long for the Mount Ararat on which it
is to rest. At Birmingham I was extremely unwell; a violent cold in my
head and limbs confined me for two days. Business succeeded very well;
about a hundred subscribers, I think.
At Derby, also, I succeeded tolerably well. Mr. Strutt, the successor of
Sir Richard Arkwright, tells me, I may count on forty or fifty in Derby.
Derby is full of curiosities; the cotton and silk mills; Wright, the
painter, and Dr. Darwin, the every thing but Christian! Dr. Darwin
possesses, perhaps, a greater range of knowledge than any other man in
Europe, and is the most inventive of philosophical men. He thinks in a
new train on all subjects but religion. He bantered me on the subject of
religion. I heard all his arguments, and told him, it was infinitely
consoling to me--to find that the arguments of so great a man, adduced
against the existence of a God and the evidences of revealed religion,
were such as had startled me at fifteen, but had become the objects of my
smile at twenty. Not one new objection; not even an ingenious one! He
boasted 'that he had never read one book in favour of such stuff! but
that he had read all the works of infidels.'
What would you think, Mr. Wade, of a man, who having abused and ridiculed
you, should openly declare, that he had heard all that your enemies had
to say against you, but had scorned to inquire the truth from any one of
your friends? Would you think him an honest man? I am sure you would not.
Yet such are all the infidels whom I have known. They talk of a subject,
yet are proud to confess themselves profoundly ignorant of it. Dr. Darwin
would have been ashamed to reject 'Hutton's Theory of the Earth,' without
having minutely examined it: yet what is it to us, how the earth was
made, a thing impossible to be known. This system the Dr. did not reject
without having severely studied it; but all at once he makes up his mind
on such important subjects, as, whether we be the outcasts of a blind
idiot, called Nature, or, the children of an All-wise and Infinitely Good
God! Whether we spend a few miserable years on this earth, and then sink
into a clod of the valley; or, endure the anxieties of mortal life, only
to fit us for the enjoyment of immortal happiness. These subjects are
unworthy a philosopher's investigation! He deems that there is a certain
self-evidence in Infidelity, and becomes an Atheist by intuition! Well
did St. Paul say, 'Ye have an evil heart of unbelief.'
... What lovely children Mr. Barr, of Worcester has! After church, in the
evening, they sat round and sung hymns, so sweetly that they overpowered
me. It was with great difficulty that I abstained from weeping aloud! and
the infant, in Mrs. B.'s. arms, leant forward, and stretched his little
arms, and stared, and smiled! It seemed a picture of heaven, where the
different orders of the blessed, join different voices in one melodious
hallelulia! and the babe like a young spirit just that moment arrived in
heaven, startled at the seraphic songs, and seized at once with wonder
From your affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
"Sheffield, Jan. 1796.
My very dear friend,
I arrived at this place, late last night, by the mail from Nottingham,
where I have been treated with kindness and friendship, of which I can
give you but a faint idea. I preached a charity sermon there last sunday;
I preached in colored clothes. With regard to the gown at Birmingham (of
which you inquire) I suffered myself to be over-persuaded:--first of all,
my sermon being of so political a tendency, had I worn my blue coat, it
would have impugned Edwards. They would have said, he had stuck a
political lecturer in his pulpit. Secondly,--the society is of all sorts.
Unitarians, Arians, Trinitarians, &c.! and I must have shocked a
multitude of prejudices. And thirdly,--there is a difference between an
Inn, and a place of residence. In the first, your example, is of little
consequence; in a single instance only, it ceases to operate as example;
and my refusal would have been imputed to affectation, or an
unaccommodating spirit. Assuredly I would not do it in a place where I
intended to preach often. And even in the vestry at Birmingham, when they
at last persuaded me, I told them, I was acting against my better
knowledge, and should possibly feel uneasy after. So these accounts of
the matter you must consider as reasons and palliations, concluding, 'I
plead guilty my Lord!' Indeed I want firmness. I perceive I do. I have
that within me which makes it difficult to say, No! (repeatedly) to a
number of persons who seem uneasy and anxious....
My kind remembrances to Mrs. Wade. God bless her, and you, and (like a
bad shilling slipped in between two guineas.)
Your faithful and affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
Mr. Coleridge, in the course of his extensive journey, having had to act
the tradesman on rather an extended scale; conferring and settling with
all the booksellers in the respective towns, as to the means of
conveyance, allowance, remittances, &c. he thus wrote in a dejected mood,
to his friend Mr. Wade,--an unpropitious state of mind for a new
enterprise, and very different from those sanguine hopes which he had
expressed on other occasions.
"My dear friend,
... I succeeded very well here at Litchfield. Belcher, bookseller,
Birmingham; Sutton, Nottingham; Pritchard, Derby; and Thomson,
Manchester, are the publishers. In every number of the 'Watchman,' there
be printed these words, 'Published in Bristol, by the Author, S. T.
Coleridge, and sold, &c. &c.'
I verily believe no poor fellow's idea-pot ever bubbled up so vehemently
with fears, doubts and difficulties, as mine does at present. Heaven
grant it may not boil over, and put out the fire! I am almost heartless!
My past life seems to me like a dream, a feverish dream! all one gloomy
huddle of strange actions, and dim-discovered motives! Friendships lost
by indolence, and happiness murdered by mismanaged sensibility! The
present hour I seem in a quickset hedge of embarrassments! For shame! I
ought not to mistrust God! but indeed, to hope is far more difficult than
to fear. Bulls have horns, Lions have talons.
The Fox, and Statesman subtle wiles ensure,
The Cit, and Polecat stink and are secure:
Toads with their venom, Doctors with their drug,
The Priest, and Hedgehog, in their robes are snug!
Oh, Nature! cruel step-mother, and hard,
To thy poor, naked, fenceless child the Bard!
No Horns but those by luckless Hymen worn,
And those, (alas! alas!) not Plenty's Horn!
With naked feelings, and with aching pride,
He bears th' unbroken blast on every side!
Vampire booksellers drain him to the heart,
And Scorpion critics cureless venom dart!
S. T. C."
"Manchester, Jan. 7, 1796.
My dear friend,
I arrived at Manchester, last night, from Sheffield, to which place I
shall only send about thirty numbers. I might have succeeded there, at
least, equally well with the former towns, but I should injure the sale
of the 'Iris.' the editor of which Paper (a very amiable and ingenious
young man, of the name of 'James Montgomery') is now in prison, for a
libel on a bloody-minded magistrate there. Of course, I declined publicly
advertising or disposing of the 'Watchman' in that town.
This morning I called on Mr. ---- with H's letter. Mr. ---- received me
as a rider, and treated me with insolence that was really amusing from
its novelty. 'Overstocked with these Articles.' 'People always setting up
some new thing or other.' 'I read the Star and another paper; what can I
want with this paper, which is nothing more.' 'Well, well, I'll consider
of it.' To these entertaining bon mots, I returned the following
repartee,--'Good morning, sir.' ...
God bless you, S. T. C."
"Mosely, near Birmingham, 1796.
My very dear Wade,
Will it be any excuse to you for my silence, to say that I have written
to no one else, and that these are the very first lines I have written?
I stayed a day or two at Derby, and then went on in Mrs. ---- carriage to
see the beauties of Matlock. Here I stayed from Tuesday to Saturday,
which time was completely filled up with seeing the country, eating,
concerts, &c. I was the first fiddle, not in the concerts, but everywhere
else, and the company would not spare me twenty minutes together. Sunday
I dedicated to the drawing up my sketch of education, which I meant to
publish, to try to get a school.
Monday I accompanied Mrs. E. to Oakover, with Miss W.--, to the thrice
lovely valley of Ham; a vale hung by beautiful woods all round, except
just at its entrance, where, as you stand at the other end of the valley,
you see a bare, bleak mountain, standing as it were to guard the
entrance. It is without exception, the most beautiful place I ever
visited, and from thence we proceeded to Dove-Dale, without question
tremendously sublime. Here we dined in a cavern, by the side of a divine
little spring. We returned to Derby, quite exhausted with the rapid
succession of delightful emotions.
I was to have left Derby on Wednesday; but on the Wednesday, Dr.
Crompton, who had been at Liverpool, came home. He called on me, and made
the following offer. That if I would take a house in Derby, and open a
day-school, confining my number to twelve, he would send his three
children. That, till I had completed my number, he would allow me one
hundred a year; and and when I had completed it, twenty guineas a year
for each son. He thinks there is no doubt but that I might have more than
twelve in a very short time, if I liked it. If so, twelve times twenty
guineas is two hundred and forty guineas per annum; and my mornings and
evenings would be my own: the children coming to me from nine to twelve,
and from two to five: the two last hours employed with the writing and
drawing masters, in my presence: so that only four hours would be
thoroughly occupied by them. The plan to commence in November. I agreed
with the Doctor, he telling me, that if, in the mean time, anything more
advantageous offered itself, I was to consider myself perfectly at
liberty to accept it. On Thursday I left Derby for Burton. Prom Burton I
took chaise, slept at Litchfield, and in the morning arrived at my worthy
friend's, Mr. Thomas Hawkes, at Mosely, three miles from Birmingham, in
whose shrubbery I am now writing. I shall stay at Birmingham a week
I have seen a letter from Mr. William Roscoe, (Author of the life of
Lorenzo the magnificent; a work in two quarto volumes, of which the whole
first edition sold in a month) it was addressed to Mr. Edwards, the
minister here, and entirely related to me. Of me, and my composition, he
writes in terms of high admiration, and concludes by desiring Mr. Edwards
to let him know my situation and prospects, and saying, if I would come
and settle at Liverpool, he thought a comfortable situation might be
procured for me. This day Edwards will write to him.
God love you, and your grateful and affectionate friend, S. T. Coleridge.
N. B. I preached yesterday."
Mr. Coleridge, in the preceding letters, states his having preached
occasionally. There must have been a first sermon. It so happened that I
heard Mr. C. preach his first and also his second sermon, with some
account of which I shall now furnish the reader; and that without
concealment or embellishment. But it will be necessary, as an
illustration of the whole, to convey some previous information, which, as
it regards most men, would be too unimportant to relate.
When Mr. Coleridge first came to Bristol, he had evidently adopted, at
least to some considerable extent, the sentiments of Socinus. By persons
of that persuasion, therefore, he was hailed as a powerful accession to
their cause. From Mr. C.'s voluble utterance, it was even believed that
he might become a valuable Unitarian minister, (of which class of
divines, a great scarcity then existed, with a still more gloomy
anticipation, from most of the young academicians at their chief academy
having recently turned infidels.) But though this presumption in Mr.
Coleridge's favour was confidently entertained, no certainty could exist
without a trial, and how was this difficulty to be overcome? The
Unitarians in Bristol might have wished to see Mr. C. in their pulpit,
expounding and enforcing their faith; but, as they said, "the thing, in
Bristol, was altogether impracticable," from the conspicuous stand which
he had taken in free politics, through the medium of his numerous
It was then recollected by some of his anxious and importunate friends,
that Bath was near, and that a good judge of requisite qualifications was
to be found therein in the person of the Rev. David Jardine, with whom
some of Mr. C.'s friends were on terms of intimacy; so that it was
determined that Mr. Coleridge, as the commencement of his brilliant
career, should be respectfully requested to preach his inaugural
discourse in the Unitarian chapel at Bath.
The invitation having been given and accepted, I felt some curiosity to
witness the firmness with which he would face a large and enlightened
audience, and, in the intellectual sense, grace his canonical robes. No
conveyance having been provided, and wishing the young ecclesiastic to
proceed to the place of his exhibition with some decent respectability, I
agreed with a common friend, the late Mr. Charles Danvers, to take Mr. C.
over to Bath in a chaise.
The morning of the important day unfolded, and in due time we arrived at
the place of our destination. When on the way to the chapel, a man
stopped Charles Danvers, and asked him if he could tell where the Rev.
Mr. Coleridge preached. "Follow the crowd," said Danvers, and walked on.
Mr. C. wore his blue coat and white waistcoat; but what was Mr. Jardine's
surprise, when he found that his young probationer peremptorily refused
to wear the hide-all sable gown! Expostulation was unavailing, and the
minister ascended to the pulpit in his coloured clothes!
Considering that it had been announced on the preceding Sunday, that "the
Rev. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Cambridge University" would preach
there on this day, we naturally calculated on an overflowing audience,
but it proved to be the most meagre congregation I had ever seen. The
reader will but imperfectly appreciate Mr. C.'s discourse, without the
previous information that this year (1796) was a year of great scarcity,
and consequent privation, amongst the poor; on which subject the sermon
was designed impressively to bear. And now the long-expected service
The prayer, without being intended, was formal, unimpressive, and
undevotional; the singing was languid; but we expected that the sermon
would arouse the inattentive, and invigorate the dull. The moment for
announcing the text arrived. Our curiosity was excited. With little less
than famine in the land, our hearts were appalled at hearing the words,
"When they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their
king, and their God, and look upward." (Isaiah viii. 21.) Mr.
Winterbotham, a little before, had been thrown into prison for the
freedom of his political remarks in a sermon at Plymouth, and we were
half fearful whether in his impetuous current of feeling, some stray
expressions might not subject our friend to a like visitation. Our fears
were groundless. Strange as it may appear in Mr. Coleridge's vigorous
mind, the whole discourse consisted of little more than a Lecture on the
Corn Laws! which some time before he had delivered in Bristol, at the
Returning from our edifying discourse to a tavern dinner, we were
privileged with more luminous remarks on this inexhaustible subject: but
something better (or worse, as the reader's taste may be) is still in
reserve. After dinner, Mr. Coleridge remarked that he should have no
objection to preach another sermon that afternoon. In the hope that
something redeeming might still appear, and the best be retained for the
last, we encouraged his proposal, when he rang the bell, and on the
waiter appearing, he was sent, with Mr. Coleridge's compliments, to the
Rev. Mr. Jardine, to say "If agreeable, Mr. C. would give his
congregation another sermon, this afternoon, on the Hair Powder Tax!"
On the departure of the waiter, I was fully assured that Mr. Jardine
would smile, and send a civil excuse, satisfied that he had had quite
enough of political economy, with blue coat and white waistcoat, in the
morning; but to my great surprise, the waiter returned with Mr. Jardine's
compliments, saying, "he should be happy to hear Mr. Coleridge!"
Now all was hurry lest the concourse should be kept waiting. What
surprise will the reader feel, on understanding that, independently of
ourselves and Mr. Jardine, there were but seventeen persons present,
including men, women, and children! We had, as we expected, a
recapitulation of the old lecture, with the exception of its humorous
appendages, in reprobation of the Hair Powder Tax; and the twice-told
tale, even to the ear of friendship, in truth sounded rather dull!
Two or three times Mr. C. looked significantly toward our seat, when
fearful of being thrown off my guard into a smile, I held down my head,
from which position I was aroused, when the sermon was about half over,
by some gentleman throwing back the door of his pew, and walking out of
the chapel. In a few minutes after, a second individual did the same; and
soon after a third door flew open, and the listener escaped! At this
moment affairs looked so very ominous, that we were almost afraid Mr.
Jardine himself would fly, and that none but ourselves would fairly sit
it out. A little before, I had been in company with the late Robert Hall,
and S. T. Coleridge, when the collision of equal minds elicited light and
heat; both of them ranking in the first class of conversationalists, but
great indeed was the contrast between them in the pulpit. The parlour was
the element for Mr. Coleridge, and the politician's lecture, rather than
the minister's harangue. We all returned to Bristol with the feeling of
disappointment;--Mr. C. from the little personal attention paid to him by
Mr. Jardine; and we, from a dissatisfying sense of a Sunday desecrated.
Although no doubt can be entertained of Mr. Coleridge having, in the
journey before noticed, surpassed his first essay, yet, with every
reasonable allowance, the conviction was so strong on my mind that Mr. C.
had mistaken his talent, that my regard for him was too genuine to
entertain the wish of ever again seeing him in a pulpit.
It is unknown when the following letter was received, (although quite
certain that it was not the evening in which Mr. Coleridge wrote his "Ode
to the Departing Year,") and it is printed in this place at something of
My dear Cottle,
I have been forced to disappoint not only you, but Dr. Beddoes, on an
affair of some importance. Last night I was induced by strong and joint
solicitation, to go to a card-club, to which Mr. Morgan belongs, and,
after the playing was over, to sup, and spend the remainder of the night:
having made a previous compact, that I should not drink; however just on
the verge of twelve, I was desired to drink only one wine glass of punch,
in honour of the departing year; and, after twelve, one other in honour
of the new year. Though the glasses were very small, yet such was the
effect produced during my sleep, that I awoke unwell, and in about twenty
minutes after had a relapse of my bilious complaint. I am just now
recovered, and with care, I doubt not, shall be as well as ever
to-morrow. If I do not see you then, it will be from some relapse, which
I have no reason, thank heaven, to anticipate.
S. T. Coleridge."
In consequence of Mr. Coleridge's journey to the north, to collect
subscribers for the "Watchman," an incident occurred, which produced a
considerable effect on his after life. During Mr. C.'s visit to
Birmingham, an accident had introduced him to the eldest son of Mr.
Lloyd, the eminent banker of that town. Mr. Lloyd had intended his son
Charles to unite with him in the bank, but the monotonous business of the
establishment, ill accorded with the young man's taste, which had taken a
decidedly literary turn. If the object of Charles Lloyd had been to
accumulate wealth, his disposition might have been gratified to the
utmost, but the tedious and unintellectual occupation of adjusting
pounds, shillings, and pence, suited, he thought, those alone who had
never, eagle-like, gazed at the sun, or bathed their temples in the dews
of Parnassus. The feelings of this young man were ardent; his reading and
information extensive; and his genius, though of a peculiar cast,
considerable. His mind appeared, however, subject to something of that
morbid sensibility which distinguished Cowper. The admiration excited in
Mr. L. by Mr. Coleridge's pre-eminent talents, induced him to relinquish
his connexion with the bank; and he had now arrived in Bristol to seek
Mr. C. out, and to improve his acquaintance with him.
To enjoy the enviable privilege of Mr. Coleridge's conversation, Mr.
Lloyd proposed even to domesticate with him; and made him such a
pecuniary offer, that Mr. C. immediately acceded to the proposal; and to
effect this, as an essential preliminary, removed from Redcliff-hill, to
a house on Kingsdown.
In this his new abode, Mr. Coleridge appeared settled and comfortable.
Friends were kind and numerous. Books, of all kinds, were at his command.
Of the literary society now found in Bristol, he expressed himself in
terms of warm approval, and thought, in this feature, that it was
surpassed by no city in the kingdom. His son Hartley, also, was now born;
and no small accession to his comfort arose from his young and
intelligent domestic associate, Charles Lloyd. This looked something like
permanence; but the promise was fallacious, for Mr. Coleridge now
experienced another removal.
His friend, Mr. Thomas Poole, of Nether Stowey, near Bridgwater, was
desirous of obtaining Mr. C. again, as a permanent neighbour, and
recommended him to take a small house at Stowey, then to be let, at seven
pounds a year, which he thought would well suit him. Mr. Poole's personal
worth; his friendly and social manners; his information, and taste for
literature; all this, combined with the prospect of a diminished expense
in his establishment, unitedly, formed such powerful inducements, that
Mr. C. at once decided, and the more so, as Mr. Lloyd had consented to
accompany him. To this place, consequently, the whole party repaired.
On Mr. Coleridge reaching his new abode, I was gratified by receiving
from him the following letter.
My dear Cottle,
We arrived safe. Our house is set to rights. We are all--wife, bratling,
and self, remarkably well. Mrs. Coleridge likes Stowey, and loves Thomas
Poole and his mother, who love her. A communication has been made from
our orchard into T. Poole's garden, and from thence to Cruikshank's, a
friend of mine, and a young married man, whose wife is very amiable, and
she and Sara are already on the most cordial terms; from all this you
will conclude we are happy. By-the-bye, what a delightful poem, is
Southey's 'Musings on a Landscape of Gaspar Poussin.' I love it almost
better than his 'Hymn to the Penates.' In his volume of poems. The
'The Six Sonnets on the Slave Trade.--The Ode to the Genius of
Africa.--To my own Miniature Picture.--The Eight
Inscriptions.--Elinor, Botany-bay Eclogue.--Frederick, ditto.--The
Ten Sonnets, (pp. 107-116.) On the death of an Old Spaniel.--The
Soldier's Wife, Dactylics.--The Widow, Sapphics.--The Chapel
Bell.--The Race of Banco. Rudiger.'
All these Poems are worthy the Author of 'Joan of Arc.' And
'The Musings on a Landscape,' &c. and
'The Hymn to the Penates,'
deserve to have been published after 'Joan of Arc,' as proofs of
God bless you,
S. T. C."
The account of Mr. Coleridge's residence at Stowey, lies in the
department of another; although he occasionally visited Bristol, with
Mrs. C., as engagements or inclination prompted; some notice of which
visits will here be taken.
Mr. Charles Lloyd was subject to fits, to one of which the second
following letter refers. In the above letter Mr. C. pronounces himself
happy, but as no condition, in this changeable world, is either perfect
happiness or misery, so the succeeding letter presents Mr. C.
over-powered, almost, with a feeling of despondency! The calculation of
the course which genius, combined with eccentricity, would be likely to
pursue, must be attended with uncertainty, but the probability is, that
had Mr. C's mind been easy at this time, surrounded by domestic quiet and
comparative seclusion, he might have been equal to any intellectual
achievement; but soon after he settled at Stowey, he was reduced to the
most prostrate state of depression, arising purely from the darkness of
his pecuniary horizon. Happily for the reader, a brief mental respite
succeeded, in which, if trouble existed, the letter which expressed that
trouble, soon exhibits him (half forgetful) expatiating in those
comprehensive surveys of possible excellence which formed the habit of
My dearest Cottle,
I love and respect you as a brother, and my memory deceives me woefully,
if I have not evidenced, by the animated tone of my conversation when we
have been tete a tete, how much your conversation interested me. But when
last in Bristol, the day I meant to devote to you, was such a day of
sadness, I could do nothing. On the Saturday, the Sunday, and ten days
after my arrival at Stowey, I felt a depression too dreadful to be
So much I felt my genial spirits droop,
My hopes all flat; Nature within me seemed
In all her functions, weary of herself,
Wordsworth's conversation aroused me somewhat, but even now I am not
the man I have been, and I think I never shall. A sort of calm
hopelessness diffuses itself over my heart. Indeed every mode of life
which has promised me bread and cheese, has been, one after another, torn
away from me, but God remains. I have no immediate pecuniary distress,
having received ten pounds from Lloyd. I employ myself now on a book of
morals in answer to Godwin, and on my tragedy.
* * * * *
There are some poets who write too much at their ease, from the facility
with which they please themselves. They do not often enough
'Feel their burdened breast
Heaving beneath incumbent Deity.'
So that to posterity their wreaths will look unseemly. Here, perhaps, an
everlasting Amaranth, and, close by its side, some weed of an hour, sere,
yellow, and shapeless. Their very beauties will lose half their effect,
from the bad company they keep. They rely too much on story and event, to
the neglect of those lofty imaginings that are peculiar to, and definite
of the Poet.
The story of Milton might be told in two pages. It is this which
distinguishes an epic poem from a romance in metre. Observe the march of
Milton; his severe application; his laborious polish; his deep
metaphysical researches; his prayer to God before he began his great
work; all that could lift and swell his intellect, became his daily food.
I should not think of devoting less than twenty years to an epic poem.
Ten years to collect materials and warm my mind with universal science. I
would be a tolerable Mathematician. I would thoroughly understand
Mechanics; Hydrostatics; Optics, and Astronomy; Botany; Metallurgy;
Fossilism; Chemistry; Geology; Anatomy; Medicine; then the mind of man;
then the minds of men, in all Travels, Voyages, and Histories. So I would
spend ten years; the next five in the composition of the poem, and the
five last in the correction of it. So would I write, haply not unhearing
of that divine and nightly-whispering voice, which speaks to mighty
minds, of predestinated garlands, starry and unwithering.
God love you.
S. T. Coleridge.
P. S. David Hartley is well and grows. Sara is well, and desires a
sister's love to you."
In the spirit of impartiality, it now devolves on me to state a temporary
misunderstanding between even the two Pantisocratans; Mr. Coleridge and
Mr. Southey! The affair occurred in the autumn of 1795, but it could not
be noticed at that time, without interrupting the narrative.
It is difficult to assign any other reason for the wild scheme of
Pantisocracy, than the inexperience of youth, acting on sanguine
imaginations. At its first announcement, every reflecting mind saw that
the plan, in its nature, and in the agents who were to carry it into
effect, was liable to insurmountable objections; but the individuals with
whom the design originated, were young, ardent, and enthusiastic, and at
that time entertained views of society erroneous in themselves, and which
experience alone could correct. The fullest conviction was entertained by
their friends, that as reason established itself in their minds, the
delusion would vanish; and they themselves soon smile at extravagances
which none but their own ingenious order of minds could have devised; but
when the dissension occurred, before noticed, at Chepstow, Mr. Southey
must have had conviction flashed on his mind, that the habits of himself
and his friend were so essentially opposed, as to render harmony and
Mr. Southey now informed Mr. Coleridge, that circumstances, and his own
views had so altered, as to render it necessary for him candidly to state
that he must abandon Pantisocracy, and the whole scheme of colonizing in
America; and that he should accept an invitation from his uncle, to
accompany him through Spain to Lisbon. The reader has had cause to
believe that Mr. C. himself had relinquished this wild plan, but it was
by implication, rather than by direct avowal. Perhaps, in the frustration
of so many of his present designs, a latent thought might linger in his
mind, that America, after all, was to be the fostering asylum, where,
alone, unmingled felicity was to be found. The belief is hardly
admissible, and yet the admission, extravagant as it is, derives some
support from the unexpected effect produced on him by the disclosure of
On this announcement, or soon after, a tumult of fearful intensity arose
in Mr. Coleridge's mind, which filled the whole circle of their friends
with grief and dismay. This unexpected effect, perhaps, may be ascribed
to the consciousness now first seriously awakened, of the erroneous
principles on which all his calculations had been founded. He perceived
at length, (it may be) that he had been pursuing a phantom; and the
conviction must have been associated with self-upbraidings. It is
commonly found, that the man who is dissatisfied with himself, is seldom
satisfied long with those around him; and these compound and accumulated
feelings must necessarily be directed against some object. At this
brain-crazing moment, the safety-valve of feeling was Mr. Southey.
Being familiar with the whole affair, I completely justified Mr. S. as
having acted with the strictest honour and propriety, and in such a way
as any wise man, under such circumstances, would have acted. The great
surprise with their friends was, that the crisis should not have occurred
earlier, as a result certain to take place, and delayed alone by the
vivid succession of objects that gave, it must be said, a temporary
suspension to the full exercise of their understandings. Justice to Mr.
S. requires it to be stated, that he acted purely on the defensive;
adopting no epithets, and repelling offensive accusations and
expressions, with sober argument and remonstrance alone. I spoke to each
in succession, and laboured to procure a reconciliation; but oil and
water would sooner have united than the accuser and the accused.
This difference occurred only two or three days before Mr. S. set off on
his Spanish and Portuguese expedition. During his absence, the fire lay
smouldering, and on his return to England, in May, 1796, the
conflagration was renewed. Charges of "desertion," flew thick around; of
"dishonourable retraction, in a compact the most binding"--I again spoke
to Mr. Coleridge, and endeavoured to soften his asperity. I also wrote to
Mr. Southey, and expressed a hope, that if he found it impossible at the
present moment to return to cordiality, he would at least consent when he
met Mr. Coleridge, to restrain the indignant look, which was painfully
manifest on both countenances.
The most pleasant part of the narrative will now be unfolded. Mr.
Coleridge and Mr. Southey met at the house of a relation when, without
explanation, the relentings of nature threw them silently into each
other's arms! I knew nothing of this happy reconciliation, the first
intimation of which was their calling on me, arm in arm, after having
taken a pleasant walk together into the country. Each seemed to relish
the surprise and the delight which it was impossible for me to conceal;
and I had reason afterwards to think, that this sprightly scene was a
preconcerted arrangement to heighten the stage-effect. I shall now
withdraw the reader's attention from Mr. Southey, and proceed with the
narrative of Mr. Coleridge.
When Mr. Southey departed for the continent, Mr. Coleridge repaired to
his own calm retreat at Stowey, from which place he sent me the following
I write under great agony of mind, Charles Lloyd being very ill. He has
been seized with his fits three times in the space of seven days: and
just as I was in bed last night, I was called up again; and from twelve
o'clock at night, to five this morning, he remained in one continued
state of agonized delirium. What with bodily toil, exerted in repressing
his frantic struggles, and what with the feelings of agony for his
sufferings, you may suppose that I have forced myself from bed, with
aching temples, and a feeble frame....
We offer petitions, not as supposing we influence the Immutable; but
because to petition the Supreme Being, is the way most suited to our
nature, to stir up the benevolent affections in our hearts. Christ
positively commands it, and in St. Paul you will find unnumbered
instances of prayer for individual blessings; for kings, rulers, &c. &c.
We indeed should all join to our petitions: 'But thy will be done,
Omniscient, All-loving Immortal God!'
Believe me to have towards you, the inward and spiritual gratitude and
affection, though I am not always an adept in the outward and visible
God bless you,
S. T. C."
A letter written by Mr. Coleridge to Miss Cruikshanks, living near Stowey
during Mr. C.'s residence at that place, exhibits the law of association
in a new light; and shows the facility with which ingenious men can
furnish excuses, at all times, for doing that which they desire.
I wandered on so thought-bewildered, that it is no wonder I became
way-bewildered; however, seeing a road-post, in two places, with the
name, 'Stowey;' one by some water and a stone-bridge, and another on a
tree, at the top of the ascent, I concluded I was only gone a new way,
when coming to a place where four roads met, I turned to my left, merely
because I saw some houses, and found myself at Plansfield. Accordingly, I
turned upward, and as I knew I must pay a farewell visit to Ashhalt, I
dined with the B--s', and arrived at Stowey, just before dark.
I did not lose my way then, though I confess that Mr. B. and myself,
disobedient to the voice of the ladies, had contrived to finish two
bottles of Port between us, to which I added two glasses of mead. All
this was in consequence of conversing about John Cruikshanks' coming
down. Now John Cruikshanks' idea being regularly associated in Mr. B.'s
mind, with a second bottle, and S. T. C. being associated with John
Cruikshanks, the second bottle became associated with the idea, and
afterwards with the body of S. T. C. by necessity of metaphysical law, as
you may see in the annexed figure, or diagram.
Second Bottle. B
[Image of bottle.]
J. C./__________\ S. T. C.]
God bless you,
S. T. C."
Miss Cruikshanks has favored me with a letter of Mr. Coleridge to
herself, explanatory of his political principles, when he had receded in
a good measure from the sentiments pervading his "Conciones ad Populum."
This letter was written at a later period, but is made to follow the
preceding, to preserve a continuity of subject.
Miss C. it appears, had lent the first edition of Mr. Coleridge's poems
to Lady Elizabeth Perceval, in some parts of which volume the
sentiments of an earlier day were rather too prominently displayed. To
counteract the effect such parts were calculated to produce, Mr.
Coleridge wrote the following letter, in the hope that by being shown to
her ladyship, it might efface from her mind any unfavorable impression
she might have received. In this letter he also rather tenderly refers to
his American scheme.
(No date, supposed to be 1803.)
"My dear Miss Cruikshanks,
With the kindest intentions, I fear you have done me some little
disservice, in borowing the first edition of my poems from Miss B--. I
never held any principles indeed, of which, considering my age, I have
reason to be ashamed. The whole of my public life may be comprised in
eight or nine months of my 22nd year; and the whole of my political sins
during that time, consisted in forming a plan of taking a large farm in
common, in America, with other young men of my age. A wild notion indeed,
but very harmless.
As to my principles, they were, at all times, decidedly anti-jacobin and
anti-revolutionary, and my American scheme is a proof of this. Indeed at
that time, I seriously held the doctrine of passive obedience, though a
violent enemy of the first war. Afterwards, and for the last ten years of
my life, I have been fighting incessantly in the good cause, against
French ambition, and Trench principles; and I had Mr. Addington's
suffrage, as to the good produced by my Essays, written in the Morning
Post, in the interval of the peace of Amiens, and the second war,
together with my two letters to Mr. Fox.
Of my former errors, I should be no more ashamed, than of my change of
body, natural to increase of age; but in that first edition, there was
inserted (without my consent!) a Sonnet to Lord Stanhope, in direct
contradiction, equally, to my _then_, as to my present principles. A
Sonnet written by me in ridicule and mockery of the bloated style of
French Jacobinical declamation, and inserted by Biggs, (the fool of a
printer,) in order forsooth, that he might send the book, and a letter to
Earl Stanhope; who, to prove that he was not mad in all things, treated
both book and letter with silent contempt. I have therefore sent Mr.
Poole's second edition, and if it be in your power, I could wish you to
read the 'dedication to my brother,' at the beginning, to Lady E.
Perceval, to obtain whose esteem, so far at least as not to be confounded
with the herd of vulgar mob flatterers, I am not ashamed to confess
I would I could be with you, and your visitors. Penelope, you know, is
very high in my esteem. With true warmth of heart, she joins more
strength of understanding; and, to steady principle, more variety of
accomplishments, than it has often been my lot to meet with among the
fairer sex. When I praise one woman to another I always mean a compliment
to both. My tenderest regards to your dear mother, whom I really long to
spend a few hours with, and believe me with sincere good wishes, Yours,
S. T. Coleridge."
Fragment of a Theological letter of Mr. Coleridge, date unknown.
... The declaration that the Deity is "the sole Operant" (Religious
Musings) is indeed far too bold: may easily be misconstrued into
Spinosism; and, therefore, though it is susceptible of a pious and
justifiable interpretation, I should by no means now use such a phrase. I
was very young when I wrote that poem, and my religious feelings were
more settled than my theological notions.
As to eternal punishments, I can only say, that there are many passages
in Scripture, and these not metaphorical, which declare that all flesh
shall be finally saved; that the word _aionios_ is indeed used sometimes
when eternity must be meant, but so is the word 'Ancient of Days,' yet it
would be strange reasoning to affirm, that therefore, the word ancient
must always mean eternal. The literal meaning of '_aionios_' is, 'through
ages;' that is indefinite; beyond the power of imagination to bound. But
as to the effects of such a doctrine, I say, First,--that it would be
more pious to assert nothing concerning it, one way or the other.
Ezra says well, 'My Son, meditate on the rewards of the righteous, and
examine not over-curiously into the fate of the wicked. (This apocryphal
Ezra is supposed to have been written by some Christian in the first age
of Christianity.) Second,--that however the doctrine is now broached, and
publicly preached by a large and increasing sect, it is no longer
possible to conceal it from such persons as would be likely to read and
understand the 'Religious Musings.' Third.--That if the offers of eternal
blessedness; if the love of God; if gratitude; if the fear of punishment,
unknown indeed as to its kind and duration, but declared to be
unimaginably great; if the possibility, nay, the probability, that this
punishment may be followed by annihilation, not final happiness, cannot
divert men from wickedness to virtue; I fear there will be no charm in
the word Eternal.
Fourth, that it is a certain fact, that scarcely any believe eternal
punishment practically with relation to themselves. They all hope in
God's mercy, till they make it a presumptuous watch-word for religious
indifference. And this, because there is no medium in their faith,
between blessedness and misery,--infinite in degree and duration; which
latter they do not practically, and with their whole hearts, believe. It
is opposite to their clearest views of the divine attributes; for God
cannot be vindictive, neither therefore can his punishments be founded on
a vindictive principle. They must be, either for amendment, or warning
for others; but eternal punishment precludes the idea of amendment, and
its infliction, after the day of judgment, when all not so punished shall
be divinely secured from the possibility of falling, renders the notion
of warning to others inapplicable.
The Catholics are far more afraid of, and incomparably more influenced in
their conduct by, the doctrine of purgatory, than Protestants by that of
hell! That the Catholics practise more superstitions than morals, is the
effect of other doctrines. Supererogation; invocation of saints; power of
relics, &c. &c. and not of Purgatory, which can only act as a general
motive, to what must depend on other causes.
Fifth, and lastly.--It is a perilous state in which a christian stands,
if he has gotten no further, than to avoid evil from the fear of hell!
This is no part of the Christian religion, but a preparatory awakening of
the soul: a means of dispersing those gross films which render the eye of
the spirit incapable of any religion, much less of such a faith as that
of the love of Christ.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but perfect love
shutteth out fear. It is sufficient for the utmost fervour of gratitude
that we are saved from punishments, too great to be conceived; but our
salvation is surely not complete, till by the illumination from above, we
are made to know 'the exceeding sinfulness of sin,' and that horribleness
in its nature, which, while it involves all these frightful consequences,
is yet, of itself more affrightful to a regenerated soul than those
consequences. To him who but for a moment felt the influence of God's
presence, the thought of eternal exclusion from the sense of that
presence, would be the worst hell his imagination could conceive.
N.B. I admit of no right, no claim of a creature on its Creator. I speak
only of hopes and of faith deduced from inevitable reason, the gift of
the Creator; from his acknowledged attributes. Above all, immortality is
a free gift, which we neither do, nor can deserve....
S. T. C."
To descend now to humbler things.
There are persons who will be interested in learning how the bard and his
bookseller managed their great pecuniary affairs. A second edition of Mr.
Coleridge's poems being demanded, I was under no obligation, the
copy-right being mine, in publishing a second edition, to make Mr.
Coleridge any payment, alterations or additions being optional with him:
but in his circumstances, and to show that my desire was to consider Mr.
C. even more than myself, I promised him, on the sale of the second
edition of 500, twenty guineas. The following was his reply: (not viewing
the subject quite in the right light; but this was of little
"Stowey, Oct. 18th, 1796.
My dear Cottle,
I have no mercenary feelings, I verily believe; but I hate bartering at
any time, and with any person; with you it is absolutely intolerable. I
clearly perceive that by giving me twenty guineas, on the sale of the
second edition, you will get little or nothing by the additional poems,
unless they should be sufficiently popular to reach a third edition,
which soars above our wildest expectations. The only advantage you can
derive therefore from the purchase of them on such terms, is, simply,
that my poetry is more likely to sell when the whole may be had in one
volume, price 5s., than when it is scattered in two volumes; the one 4s.,
the other possibly 3s. In short, you will get nothing directly, but only
indirectly, from the probable circumstance, that these additional poems
added to the former, will give a more rapid sale to the second edition
than could otherwise be expected, and cause it possibly to be reviewed at
large. Add to this, that by omitting every thing political, I widen the
sphere of my readers. So much for you. Now for myself. You must see,
Cottle, that whatever money I should receive from you, would result from
the circumstances that would give me the same, or more--if I published
them on my own account. I mean the sale of the poems. I can therefore
have no motive to make such conditions with you, except the wish to omit
poems unworthy of me, and the circumstance that our separate properties
would aid each other by the union; and whatever advantage this might be
to me, it would, of course, be equally so to you. The only difference
between my publishing the poems on my own account, and yielding them up
to you; the only difference I say, independent of the above stated
differences, is, that, in one case, I retain the property for ever, in
the other case, I lose it after two editions.
However, I am not solicitous to have any thing omitted, except the sonnet
to Lord Stanhope and the ludicrous poem; I should like to publish the
best pieces together, and those of secondary splendour, at the end of the
volume, and think this is the best quietus of the whole affair.
S. T. Coleridge."
In consequence of a note received from Mr. Coleridge, I called at the
Bristol Library, where I found Mr. George Catcott, the Sub-Librarian,
much excited. "See," said he, immediately I entered the room, "here is a
letter I have just received from Mr. Coleridge. Pray look at it." I read
it. "Do you mean to give the letter to me, with its ponderous contents?"
I said. "O yes, take it," he replied. This gift enables me to lay the
letter in question before the reader. Mr. George Catcott though of
singular manners, was a person of worth. He was the patron of Chatterton,
and chiefly through his efforts, the Poems of "Rowley" were preserved.
"Stowey, May, 1797.
My dear Cottle,
I have sent a curious letter to George Catcott. He has altogether made me
pay five shillings! for postage, by his letters sent all the way to
Stowey, requiring me to return books to the Bristol Library....
I beg your acceptance of all the enclosed letters. You must not think
lightly of the present, as they cost me, who am a very poor man, five
With respect to the 'Bruck. Hist. Crit,' although by accident they were
registered on the 23d of March, yet they were not removed from the
Library for a fortnight after; and when I received your first letter, I
had had the books just three weeks. Our learned and ingenious Committee
may read through two quartos, that is, one thousand and four hundred
pages of close printed Latin and Greek, in three weeks, for aught I know
to the contrary. I pretend to no such intenseness of application, or
rapidity of genius.
I must beg you to inform me, by Mr. Cottle, what length of time is
allowed by the rules and customs of our institution for each book.
Whether their contents, as well as their size, are consulted, in
apportioning the time; or whether, customarily, any time at all is
apportioned, except when the Committee, in individual cases, choose to
deem it proper. I subscribe to your library, Mr. Catcott, not to read
novels, or books of quick reading and easy digestion, but to get books
which I cannot get elsewhere,--books of massy knowledge; and as I have
few books of my own, I read with a common-place book, so that if I be not
allowed a longer period of time for the perusal of such books, I must
contrive to get rid of my subscription, which would be a thing perfectly
useless, except so far as it gives me an opportunity of reading your
little expensive notes and letters.
Yours in Christian fellowship,
S. T. Coleridge."
Mr. C. was now preparing for a second edition of his Poems, and had sent
the order in which they were to be printed, with the following letter,
accompanying two new Poems.
"Stowey, Friday Morning.
My dear Cottle.
... If you do not like the following verses, or if you do not think them
worthy of an edition in which I profess to give nothing but my choicest
fish, picked, gutted, and cleaned, please to get some one to write them
out and send them, with my compliments, to the editor of the New Monthly
Magazine. But if you think of them as I do (most probably from parental
dotage for my last born) let them immediately follow 'The Kiss.'
God love you,
S. T. C."
TO AN UNFORTUNATE YOUNG WOMAN.
WHOM I HAD KNOWN IN THE DAYS OF HER INNOCENCE.
Maiden! that with sullen brow,
Sitt'st behind those virgins gay;
Like a scorched, and mildew'd bough,
Leafless mid the blooms of May.
Inly gnawing, thy distresses
Mock those starts of wanton glee;
And thy inmost soul confesses
Chaste Affection's majesty.
Loathing thy polluted lot,
Hie thee, Maiden! hie thee hence!
Seek thy weeping mother's cot,
With a wiser innocence!
Mute the Lavrac and forlorn
While she moults those firstling plumes
That had skimm'd the tender corn,
Or the bean-field's od'rous blooms;
Soon with renovating wing,
Shall she dare a loftier flight,
Upwards to the day-star sing,
And embathe in heavenly light.
ALLEGORICAL LINES ON THE SAME SUBJECT.
Myrtle Leaf, that, ill besped,
Pinest in the gladsome ray,
Soiled beneath the common tread,
Far from thy protecting spray;
When the scythes-man o'er his sheaf,
Caroll'd in the yellow vale,
Sad, I saw thee, heedless leaf,
Love the dalliance of the gale.
Lightly didst thou, poor fond thing!
Heave and flutter to his sighs
While the flatterer on his wing,
Woo'd, and whisper'd thee to rise.
Gaily from thy mother stalk
Wert thou danced and wafted high;
Soon on this unsheltered walk,
Hung to fade, and rot, and die!
The two poems as printed in Mr. Coleridge's edition of 1835, here follow,
which by being compared with the same poems, in their preceding original
form, will exhibit a study, particularly to the Poet.
ON AN UNFORTUNATE WOMAN AT THE THEATRE.
_With Mr. Coleridge's last corrections_.
Maiden, that with sullen brow
Sitt'st behind those virgins gay,
Like a scorched and mildew'd bough,
Leafless mid the blooms of May.
Him who lured thee and forsook,
Oft I watch'd with angry gaze,
Fearful saw his pleading look,
Anxious heard his fervid phrase.
Soft the glances of the youth,
Soft his speech, and soft his sigh;
But no sound like simple truth,
But no true love in his eye.
Loathing thy polluted lot,
Hie thee, maiden, hie thee hence!