Part 5 out of 9
him;" handing me the letter. I read it, and replied, "You cannot err in
receiving a young man thus recommended." Two or three weeks after, Dr. B.
introduced me to no other than Mr. afterwards Sir. Humphrey Davy. (Mr.
Giddy little thought that this "young chemist of Penzance," was destined
to precede himself, in occupying the chair of Newton.)
This Pneumatic Institution, for ascertaining how far the different gases,
received into the lungs, were favourable, or not, to certain diseases,
has often been referred to; but its origin, that I am aware of, has never
been stated. It has erroneously been supposed, to have depended for its
establishment and support, exclusively on Dr. Beddoes. But being
acquainted with the circumstances of the case, it is right to mention,
that this Gaseous Institution resulted from the liberality of the late
Mr. Lambton, (father of the late Earl of Durham). When Mr. L. heard from
Dr. Beddoes an opinion expressed, that Medical science might be greatly
assisted by a fair and full examination of the effects of factitious airs
on the human constitution, particularly in reference to consumption; to
obtain this "fair and full examination," Mr. Lambton immediately
presented Dr. B. with the munificent sum of fifteen hundred pounds. One
other individual also, contributed handsomely toward the same
object,--the late Mr. Thomas Wedgewood, who presented Dr. B. with one
thousand pounds, for the furtherance of this design.
It might be here mentioned, that a few months after this, two
intelligent-looking boys were often seen with Dr. B. with whom they were
domesticated. The Dr. was liberally remunerated for superintending their
education, (with suitable masters;) and this he did at the dying request
of their father, who had recently deceased in Italy. Dr. Beddoes took
great pains with these boys, so that when they entered at Eton, they were
found quite equal to other boys of their own age in classical
attainments, and greatly their superiors in general knowledge. The father
was the above Mr. Lambton, and one of the two boys, was the late Earl of
Durham. One of the precepts strongly inculcated on these youths, was,
"Never be idle, boys. Let energy be apparent in all you do. If you play,
play heartily, and at your book, be determined to excel. Languor is the
bane of intellect."
I remember to have seen Mr. Lambton at Dr. B.'s. He had a fine
countenance, but it betrayed the hue of consumption. After having been
for some time under the care of Dr. Beddoes, the Dr. recommended his
patient to try a warmer climate, when Mr. L. departed for Italy. Mr.
Lambton's health still declining, and considering that his only chance
for life depended on the skill of his own experienced physician, he wrote
to Dr. Beddoes, urging him, without delay to set off, I think, for
Naples. This I received from Dr. B. himself, who said, at the same time,
"On Monday morning I shall set off for Italy." But before Monday, the
tidings arrived that Mr. Lambton was dead!
The two young Lambtons had the additional privilege of living under the
same roof with Mr. Davy, and on various occasions through life, the Earl
of Durham and his brother have testified a deep sense of respect and
friendship for the illustrious chemist who so enlivened and edified their
When Dr. Beddoes introduced to me young Mr. Davy, (being under twenty) I
was much struck with the intellectual character of his face. His eye was
piercing, and when not engaged in converse, was remarkably introverted,
amounting to absence, as though his mind had been pursuing some severe
trains of thought, scarcely to be interrupted by external objects; and
from the first interview also, his ingenuousness impressed me as much as
his mental superiority. Mr. D. having no acquaintance in Bristol, I
encouraged and often received his visits, and he conferred an obligation
on me, by often passing his afternoons in my company. During these
agreeable interviews, he occasionally amused me by relating anecdotes of
himself; or detailing his numerous chemical experiments: or otherwise by
repeating his poems, several of which he gave me (still retained); and it
was impossible to doubt, that if he had not shone as a philosopher, he
would have become conspicuous as a poet.
I must now refer again to the Pneumatic Institution, to which the medical
world looked with some anxiety, and which excited much conversation in
the circle where I happened to be placed. Dr. Beddoes early in the year
1798, had given an admirable course of Lectures in Bristol, on the
principles and practice of Chemistry, and which were rendered popular by
a great diversity of experiments; so that, with other branches of the
science, the gases, had become generally familiar. The establishment of
the Pneumatic Institution immediately following, the public mind was
prepared, in some measure, to judge of its results; and a very
considerable increase of confidence was entertained, from the
acknowledged talents of the young superintendant; so that all which could
be accomplished was fully calculated upon. The funds also which supported
the Institution being ample, the apparatus corresponded, and a more
persevering and enthusiastic experimentalist than Mr. Davy, the whole
kingdom could not have produced; an admission which was made by all who
knew him, before the profounder parts of his character had been
developed. No personal danger restrained him from determining facts, as
the data of his reasoning; and if Fluxions, or some other means, had not
conveyed the information, such was his enthusiasm, he would almost have
sprung from the perpendicular brow of St. Vincent to determine his
precise time, in descending from the top to the bottom.
I soon learnt from Mr. D. himself the course of his experiments; many of
which were in the highest degree hazardous, when, with friendly
earnestness, I warned him against his imminent perils. He seemed to act,
as if in case of sacrificing one life, he had two or three others in
reserve on which he could fall back in case of necessity. He occasionally
so excited my fears that I half despaired of seeing him alive the next
morning. He has been known sometimes to breathe a deadly gas, with his
finger on his pulse, to determine how much could be borne, before a
serious declension occurred in the vital action. The great hazards to
which he exposed himself may be estimated by the following slight detail.
Dr. Mitchell, as well as Dr. Priestley, had stated the fatal effects on
animal life, of the gazeous oxide of azote; Mr. Davy, on the contrary,
for reasons which satisfied himself, thought it respirable in its pure
state; at least, that a single inspiration of this gas might neither
destroy, nor materially injure the powers of life. He tried one
inspiration. No particularly injurious effects followed. He now breathed,
out of his _green bag_, three quarts of this nitrous oxide (gazeous oxide
of azote,) when it was attended with a degree of giddiness, great fulness
in the head, and with loss of distinct sensation and voluntary power,
analogous to intoxication. Not being able fully to determine whether the
gas was "stimulant" or "depressing," he now breathed four quarts of it
from his _green bag_, when an irresistible propensity to action followed,
with motions, various and violent. Still, not being satisfied, he
proceeded in his experiments, and at length found that he could breathe
nine quarts for three minutes, and twelve quarts for rather more than
four, but never for five minutes, without the danger of fatal
consequences, as before five minutes had expired, the mouth-piece
generally dropped from his unclosed lips. By breathing from six to seven
quarts only, muscular motions were produced, and he manifested the
pleasure it excited, by stamping, laughing, dancing, shouting, &c.
At another time, having ascertained that his pure nitrous oxide, was
eminently stimulant, he wanted to determine whether the system, in a high
state of stimulation, would then be susceptible of a proportionate
accession of stimulus from his new gas; like that which would be
experienced by the man, who after taking one bottle of wine, drank a
second; and to acquire demonstration on this nice subject, (although he
was a confirmed water-drinker) to form the basis of his experiment, he
drank off with all despatch a whole bottle of wine, the consequence of
which was, that he first reeled, and then fell down insensibly drunk.
After lying in this state for two or three hours, he awoke with a sense
of nausea, head-ache, and the usual effects of intoxication. At the first
return of recollection, however, undaunted by the past, the young
enthusiastic philosopher called out for the _green bag_, when he breathed
twelve quarts of nitrous oxide, for three or four minutes. The
consequence of this was, he became a second time intoxicated, though in a
less degree, when he strode across the room, and by stamping, laughing,
dancing, and vociferation, found that the same effects followed, which
attended his former experiment, without any increase of stimulus from the
All the gases that had hitherto been the subject of investigation, sunk
in importance before this nitrous oxide, which the perseverance of Mr.
Davy had now obtained in its pure state, in any quantity and consequently
divested of that foreign admixture which rendered it usually so
destructive. He had also ascertained the quantity which might safely be
admitted into the lungs. Dr. Beddoes was sanguine as to its medical
qualities, and conceived that, if not a specific, it might prove highly
advantageous in paralysis, and pulmonary affections; and, in conjunction
with these benefits he well knew it would confer importance on his own
Pneumatic Institution. As Dr. B. meditated a publication expressly on
this subject, he was desirous of collecting the testimony of others, for
which purpose, he persuaded several of his friends to breathe this
innocent, but exhilarating nitrous oxide, while they described, and he
recorded their sensations.
Mr. Southey, Mr. Clayfield, Mr. Tobin, and others inhaled the new air.
One, it made dance, another laugh, while a third, in his state of
excitement, being pugnaciously inclined, very uncourteously, struck Mr.
Davy rather violently with his fist. It became now an object with Dr. B.
to witness the effect this potent gas might produce on one of the softer
sex, and he prevailed on a courageous young lady, (Miss ----) to breathe
out of his pretty _green bag_, this delightful nitrous oxide. After a few
inspirations, to the astonishment of every body, the young lady dashed
out of the room and house, when, racing down Hope-square, she leaped over
a great dog in her way, but being hotly pursued by the fleetest of her
friends, the fair fugitive, or rather the temporary maniac, was at length
overtaken and secured, without further damage.
Dr. Beddoes now expressed a wish to record my testimony also, and
presented me his _green bag_; but being satisfied with the effects
produced on others, I begged to decline the honour. The Pneumatic
Institution, at this time, from the laughable and diversified effects
produced by this new gas on different individuals, quite exorcised
philosophical gravity, and converted the laboratory into the region of
hilarity and relaxation. The young lady's feats, in particular, produced
great merriment, and so intimidated the ladies, that not one, after this
time, could be prevailed upon to look at the _green bag_, or hear of
nitrous oxide, without horror!
But more perilous experiments must now be noticed. Mr. Davy having
succeeded so well with the Nitrous Oxide, determined even to hazard a
trial with the deadly Nitrous Gas. For this purpose he placed in a bag,
"one hundred and fourteen cubic inches of nitrous gas," and knowing that
unless he exhausted his lungs of the atmospheric air, its oxygen would
unite with the nitrous gas, and produce in his lungs _aqua-fortis_, he
wisely resolved to expel if possible, the whole of the atmospheric air
from his lungs, by some contrivance of his own. For this purpose, in a
second bag, he placed seven quarts of nitrous oxide, and made from it
three inspirations, and three expirations, and then instantly transferred
his mouth to the nitrous gas bag, and turning the stop-cock, took one
inspiration. This gas, in passing through his mouth and fauces, burnt his
throat, and produced such a spasm in the epiglottis, as to cause him
instantly to desist, when, in breathing the common air, aqua-fortis was
really formed in his mouth, which burnt his tongue, palate, and injured
his teeth. Mr. D. says, "I never design again to repeat so rash an
But though this experiment might not be repeated, there was one other
nearly as dangerous, to which Mr. Davy's love of science prompted him to
resort; not by trying it on another but, generously, on himself.
Mr. Davy wished to determine whether the carburetted hydrogen gas, was so
destructive to animal life as had been represented. In its pure state,
one inspiration of this gas was understood to destroy life, but Mr. D.
mixed three quarts of the gas, with two quarts of the atmospheric air,
and then breathed the whole for nearly a minute. This produced only
slight effects, (nothing to an experimental chemist;) merely "giddiness,
pain in the head, loss of voluntary power," &c.
The spirit of inquiry not being to be repressed by these trifling
inconveniences, Mr. Davy was now emboldened to introduce into his green
bag, four quarts of carburetted hydrogen gas, nearly pure. After
exhausting his lungs in the usual way, he made two inspirations of this
gas. The first inspiration produced numbness and loss of feeling in the
chest. After the second, he lost all power of perceiving external things,
except a terrible oppression on his chest, and he seemed sinking fast to
death! He had just consciousness enough to remove the mouth-piece from
his unclosed lips, when he became wholly insensible. After breathing the
common air for some time, consciousness was restored, and Mr. Davy
faintly uttered, as a consolation to his then attendant, Mr. John Tobin,
"I do not think I shall die."
Such are some of the appalling hazards encountered by M. Davy, in his
intrepid investigation of the gases. These destructive experiments,
during his residence at Bristol, probably, produced those affections of
the chest, to which he was subject through life, and which, beyond all
question, shortened his days. Nothing at this moment so excites my
surprise, as that Mr. D.'s life should have been protracted, with all his
unparalleled indifference concerning it, to the vast age, for him, of
I cannot here withhold an ungracious piece of information. In the
prospect of this establishment, great expectations had been raised, and
the afflicted of all descriptions, were taught to expect a speedy cure;
so that when the doors were opened, no less than seventy or eighty
patients, progressively applied for the gratuitous alleviation of their
maladies. But it is too great a tax on human patience, when cures are
always promised, but never come. No one recovery, in an obstinate case,
had occurred: in consequence of which, many patients became dissatisfied,
and remitted their attendance. Independently of which, an idea had become
prevalent amongst the crowd of afflicted, that they were merely made the
subjects of experiment, which thinned the ranks of the old applicants,
and intimidated new. It might be said, that patients after a certain
period had so ominously declined, that the very fire was likely to become
extinguished for want of fuel. In order that the trials might be
deliberately proceeded in, a fortunate thought occurred to Dr. Beddoes;
namely, not to _bribe_, but to _reward_ all persevering patients; for Mr.
Davy informed me, that, before the Pneumatic Institution was broken up,
they allowed every patient sixpence per diem; so that when all hopes of
cure had subsided, it became a mere pecuniary calculation with the
sufferers, whether, for a parish allowance of three shillings a week,
they should submit or not, to be drenched with these nauseous gases.
This Pneumatic Institution, though long in a declining state, protracted
its existence for more than two years, till the departure from Bristol of
Mr. D., and then by its failure, it established the useful negative fact,
however mortifying, that medical science was not to be improved through
the medium of factitious airs.
I happened to be present when Mr. W. Coates casually named to Mr. Davy,
then just turned of twenty, that his boy the preceding evening, had
accidentally struck one piece of cane against another, in the dark, and
which produced light. It was quite impressive to notice the intense
earnestness with which Mr. D. heard this fact which, by others, might
have been immediately forgotten. Mr. D. on the contrary, without
speaking, appeared lost in meditation. He subsequently commenced his
experiments on these canes, and thus communicated the results to his
friend Mr. Giddy, (now Gilbert).
"My dear friend,
... I have now just room to give you an account of the experiments I have
lately been engaged in.
_First_. One of Mr. Coates's children accidentally discovered that two
bonnet-canes rubbed together produced a faint light. The novelty of this
experiment induced me to examine it, and I found that the canes, on
collision, produced sparks of light, as brilliant as those from flint and
_Secondly_. On examining the epidermis, I found, when it was taken off,
that the canes no longer gave light on collision.
_Thirdly_. The epidermis, subjected to chemical analysis, had all the
properties of silex.
_Fourthly_, The similar appearance of the epidermis of reeds, corn, and
grasses, induced me to suppose that they also contained silex. By burning
them carefully and analyzing their ashes, I found that they contained it
in rather larger proportions than the canes.
_Fifthly_. The corn and grasses contain sufficient potash to form glass
with their flint. A very pretty experiment may be made on these plants
with the blowpipe. If you take a straw of wheat, barley, or hay, and burn
it, beginning at the top, and heating the ashes with a blue flame, you
will obtain a perfect globule of hard glass, fit for microscopic
The circumstance, that all canes, as well as straws and hollow grasses,
have an epidermis of silex, is one of the most singular facts in nature.
Mr. Davy, in another place, has stated the advantages arising to this
class of vegetables, from their stony external concretion: namely, "the
defence it offers from humidity; the shield which it presents to the
assaults of insects; and the strength and stability that it administers
to plants, which, from being hollow, without this support, would be less
perfectly enabled to resist the effect of storms.
Those canes which are not hollow, are long and slender, and from wanting
the power to sustain themselves, come usually in contact with the ground,
when they would speedily decay, from moisture, but from the impenetrable
coat of mail with which nature has furnished them. But questions still
arise for future investigators. How came the matter of flint to invest
those plants which most need it, and not others? Whence does this silex
come? Is it derived from the air, or from water, or from the earth? That
it emanates from the atmosphere is wholly inadmissible. If the silex
proceed from water, where is the proof? and how is the superficial
deposit effected? Also, as silex is not a constituent part of water, if
incorporated at all, it can be held only in solution. By what law is this
solution produced, so that the law of gravity should be suspended? If the
silex be derived from the earth, by what vessels is it conveyed to the
surface of the plants? and, in addition, if earth be its source, how is
it that earth-seeking, and hollow plants, with their epidermis of silex,
should arise in soils that are not silicious? being equally predominant,
whether the soil be calcareous, argillaceous, or loamy. The decomposition
of decayed animal and vegetable substances, doubtless composes the
richegt superficial mould; but this soil, so favorable for vegetation,
gives the reed as much silex, but no more, in proportion to the size of
the stalk, than the same plants growing in mountainous districts, and
primitive soils. It is to be regretted, that the solution of these
questions, with others that might be enumerated, had not occupied the
profoundly investigating spirit of Mr. Davy; but which subjects now offer
an ample scope for other philosophical speculators.
It is a demonstrative confirmation of the accuracy of Mr. Davy's
reasoning, that a few years ago, after the burning of a large mow, in the
neighbourhood of Bristol, a stratum of pure, compact, vitrified silex
appeared at the bottom, forming one continuous sheet, nearly an inch in
thickness. I secured a portion, which, with a steel, produced an
abundance of bright sparks.
Upon Mr. Coleridge's return from the north, to Bristol, where he meant to
make some little stay, I felt peculiar pleasure in introducing him to
young Mr. Davy. The interview was mutually agreeable, and that which does
not often occur, notwithstanding their raised expectations, each,
afterward, in referring to the other, expressed to me the opinion, that
his anticipations had been surpassed. They frequently met each other
under my roof, and their conversations were often brilliant; intermixed,
occasionally, with references to the scenes of their past lives.
Mr. Davy told of a Cornish young man, of philosophical habits, who had
adopted the opinion that a firm mind might endure in silence, any degree
of pain: showing the supremacy of "mind over matter." His theory once met
with an unexpected confutation. He had gone one morning to bathe in
Mount's Bay, and as he bathed, a crab griped his toe, when the young
philosopher roared loud enough to be heard at Penzance.
Mr. Coleridge related the following occurrence, which he received from
his American friend, Mr. Alston, illustrating the effect produced on a
young man, at Cambridge University, near Boston, from a fancied
apparition. "A certain youth," he said, "took it into his head to convert
a Tom-Painish companion of his, by appearing as a ghost before him. He
accordingly dressed himself in the usual way, having previously extracted
the ball from the pistol which always lay near the head of his friend's
bed. Upon first awaking and seeing the apparition, A. the youth who was
to be frightened, suspecting a trick, very coolly looked his companion,
the ghost, in the face, and said, 'I know you. This is a good joke, but
you see I am not frightened. Now you may vanish.' The ghost stood still.
'Come,' said A. 'that is enough. I shall get angry. Away!' Still the
ghost moved not. Exclaimed A. 'If you do not in one minute go away, I
will shoot you.' He waited the time, deliberately levelled his pistol,
fired, and with a scream at the motionless immobility of the figure, was
convinced it was a real ghost--became convulsed, and from the fright,
Mr. Coleridge told also of his reception at an Hessian village, after his
visit to the Hartz mountains, and the Brocken. Their party consisted of
himself, Mr. Carlyon, and the two Mr. Parrys. (sons of Dr. Parry, of
Bath--one of them the Arctic explorer). The four pedestrians entered the
village late of an evening, and repaired to the chief ale-house, wearied
with a hard day's journey, in order to be refreshed and to rest for the
night. The large room contained many of the neighbouring peasants. "What
can we have to eat?" said Mr. Coleridge. "Nothing," was the reply. "Can
we have beds?" "No," answered the master of the house. "Can we have some
straw on which to lie?" "None, none," was the reply. On which Mr.
Coleridge cried out, "Are the Hessians Christians?" To have their
Christianity doubted, was an insufferable insult, and to prove their
religion, one man in a rage, hurled a log of wood at Mr. C., which, if it
had struck him, would have laid him prostrate! But more effectually to
prove that they were Christians, "good and true," the men, in fierce
array, now marched up, and roughly drove the saucy Englanders out of the
house, to get lodgings where they could. From the extreme wrath of the
insulted peasants, the travellers were apprehensive of some worse
assault; and hurrying out of the village, weary, and hunger-smitten,
bivouacked under a tree, determined never again to question a Hessian's
Christianity, even under the gallows.
On one occasion, Mr. Coleridge entered into some of his college scenes,
to one of which I may here refer. He said that, perhaps, it was culpable
in him not to have paid more attention to his dress than he did when at
the University, but the great excluded the little. He said that he was
once walking through a street in Cambridge, leaning on the arms of two
_silk gowns_, when his own habiliments formed rather a ludicrous
contrast. His cap had the merit of having once been new; and some
untoward rents in his gown, which he had a month before intended to get
mended, left a strong tendency, in some of its posterior parts, to trail
along the ground in the form, commonly called "tatters." The three
friends were settling the exact site of Troy, or some other equally
momentous subject, when they were passed by two spruce gownsmen, one of
whom said to the other, which just caught the ear of Mr. C., "That sloven
thinks he can hide his ribbons by the gowns of his companions." Mr. C.
darted an appalling glance at him, and passed on. He now learned the
name, and acquired some particulars respecting the young man who had
offended him, and hastened home to exercise his Juvenallian talent.
The next day he gave his satire to a friend, to show it to the young man,
who became quite alarmed at the mistake he had made, and also at the
ominous words, "He who wrote this can write more." The cauldron might
boil over with fresh "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble." There was no
time to lose. He therefore immediately proceeded to Mr. C.'s chambers;
apologized for his inconsiderate expressions; thought him to have been
some "rough colt," from the country, again begged his pardon, and
received the hand of reconciliation. This young, miscalculating
Cantabrigian, now became one of Mr. C.'s warmest friends, and rose to
The satire was singularly cutting. I can recall but two unconnected
"With eye that looks around with asking gaze,
And tongue that traffics in the trade of praise."
Mr. Coleridge now told us of the most remarkable of his Cambridge
eccentricities, that of his having enlisted as a soldier. He had
previously stated to me many of the following particulars, yet not the
whole; but (having taken a deep interest in this singular adventure,) in
addition to that which I heard from Mr. C., who never told all the
incidents of his military life to any one person, but on the contrary,
detailed some few to one, and some few to another, I made a point of
collecting from different friends, every scattered fact I could obtain,
and shall now throw the whole into one narrative.
But before I proceed, I must take some notice of a statement on this
subject, communicated to the public, by Mr. Bowles, wherein his account
appears to clash with mine. Of this gentleman (with whose name and
writings I have connected so many pleasant remembrances, from early
life,) I wish to speak with the utmost respect; but the truth Mr. B.
himself will be glad to learn.
Mr. Bowles states a circumstance relating to what he calls, "The most
correct, sublime, chaste, and beautiful of Mr. Coleridge's poems; the
'Religious Musings;'" namely, that "it was written, non inter sylvas
academi, but in the tap-room at Reading." This information could not have
been received from Mr. C. but perhaps was derived from the imperfect
recollection of Captain O.; but whoever the informant may have been, the
assertion has not the merit of being founded on a shadow of accuracy. The
poem of the "Religious Musings" was not written "in the tap-room at
Reading," nor till long after Mr. C. had quitted his military life. It
was written partly at Stowey; partly on Redcliff Hill; and partly in my
parlour, where both Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey occasionally wrote
their verses. This will have sufficiently appeared by Mr. C.'s own
letters; to which I could add other decisive evidence, if the subject
were of more consequence.
I now proceed with the narrative of Mr. Coleridge's military adventures,
chiefly collected from himself, but not inconsiderably from the
information of other of his more intimate friends; particularly R.
Lovell; although I must apprise the reader that after a lapse of forty
years, I cannot pledge myself for every individual word: a severity of
construction which neither my memoranda nor memory would authorize. In
order not to interrupt the reader, by stating that this was derived from
one source, and that from another, (at this time hardly to be separated
in my own mind) I shall narrate it as though Mr. Coleridge had related
the whole at once, to Mr. Davy and myself.
* * * * *
Mr. Coleridge now told us of one of his Cambridge eccentricities which
highly amused us. He said that he had paid his addresses to a Mary Evans,
who, rejecting his offer, he took it so much in dudgeon, that he withdrew
from the University to London, when, in a reckless state of mind, he
enlisted in the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons. No objection having been
taken to his height or age, he was asked his name. He had previously
determined to give one that was thoroughly Kamschatkian, but having
noticed that morning over a door in Lincoln's Inn Fields, (or the Temple)
the name of "Cumberbatch," (not Comberback) he thought this word
sufficiently outlandish, and replied "Silas Tomken Cumberbatch," and
such was the entry in the regimental book.
Here, in his new capacity, laborious duties devolved on Mr. C. He
endeavoured to think on Caesar, and Epaminondas, and Leonidas, with other
ancient heroes, and composed himself to his fate; remembering, in every
series, there must be a commencement: but still he found confronting him
no imaginary inconveniences. Perhaps he who had most cause for
dissatisfaction, was the drill sergeant, who thought his professional
character endangered; for after using his utmost efforts to bring his raw
recruit into something like training, he expressed the most serious
fears, from his unconquerable awkwardness, that he never should be able
to make _a soldier of him!_
Mr. C. it seemed, could not even rub down his own horse, which, however,
it should be known, was rather a restive one, who, like Cowper's hare,
"would bite if he could," and in addition, kick not a little. We could
not suppose that these predispositions in the martial steed were at all
aggravated by the unskilful jockeyship to which he was subjected, but the
sensitive quadruped did rebel a little in the stable, and wince a little
in the field! Perhaps the poor animal was something in the state of the
horse that carried Mr. Wordsworth's "Idiot Boy," who, in his sage
contemplations, "wondered"--"What he had got upon his back!" This rubbing
down his horse was a constant source of annoyance to Mr. C., who thought
that the most rational way was,--to let the horse rub himself down,
shaking himself clean, and so to shine in all his native beauty; but on
this subject there were two opinions, and his that was to decide carried
most weight. If it had not been for the foolish and fastidious taste of
the ultra precise sergeant, this whole mass of trouble might be avoided,
but seeing the thing must be done, or punishment! he set about the
herculean task with the firmness of a Wallenstein; but lo! the paroxysm
was brief, in the necessity that called it forth. Mr. C. overcame this
immense difficulty, by bribing a young man of the regiment to perform the
achievement for him; and that on very easy terms; namely, by writing for
him some "Love Stanzas," to send to his sweetheart!
Mr. Coleridge, in the midst of all his deficiencies, it appeared, was
liked by the men, although he was the butt of the whole company; being
esteemed by them as next of kin to a natural, though of a peculiar
kind--a talking natural. This fancy of theirs was stoutly resisted by the
love-sick swain, but the regimental logic prevailed; for, whatever they
could do, with masterly dexterity, he could not do at all, ergo, must he
not be a natural? There was no man in the regiment who met with so many
falls from his horse, as Silas Tomken Cumberbatch! He often calculated
with so little precision his due equilibrium, that, in mounting on one
side, (perhaps the wrong stirrup) the probability was, especially if his
horse moved a little, that he lost his balance, and, if he did not roll
back on this side, came down ponderously on the other! when the laugh
spread amongst the men, "Silas is off again!" Mr. C. had often heard of
campaigns, but he never before had so correct an idea of hard service.
Some mitigation was now in store for Mr. C. arising out of a whimsical
circumstance. He had been placed as a sentinel, at the door of a
ball-room, or some public place of resort, when two of his officers,
passing in, stopped for a moment, near Mr. C., talking about Euripides,
two lines from whom, one of them repeated. At the sound of Greek, the
sentinel instinctively turned his ear, when he said, with all deference,
touching his lofty cap, "I hope your honour will excuse me, but the lines
you have repeated are not quite accurately cited. These are the lines,"
when he gave them in their more correct form. "Besides," said Mr. C.,
"instead of being in Euripides, the lines will be found in the second
antistrophe of the 'Aedipus of Sophocles.'" "Why, man, who are you?" said
the officer, "old Faustus ground young again?" "I am your honour's humble
sentinel," said Mr. C., again touching his cap.
The officers hastened into the room, and inquired of one and another,
about that "odd fish," at the door; when one of the mess, (it is
believed, the surgeon) told them, that he had his eye upon him, but he
would neither tell where he came from, nor anything about his family of
the Cumberbatches; "but," continued he, "instead of his being an 'odd
fish,' I suspect he must be a 'stray bird' from the Oxford or Cambridge
aviary." They learned also, the laughable fact, that he was bruised all
over, by frequent falls from his horse. "Ah," said one of the officers,
"we have had, at different times, two or three of these 'University
birds' in our regiment." This suspicion was confirmed by one of the
officers, Mr. Nathaniel Ogle, who observed that he had noticed a line of
Latin, chalked under one of the men's saddles, and was told, on inquiring
whose saddle it was, that it was "Cumberbatch's."
The officers now kindly took pity on the 'poor scholar' and had Mr. C.
removed to the medical department, where he was appointed assistant in
the regimental hospital. This change was a vast improvement in Mr. C.'s
condition; and happy was the day, also, on which it took place, for the
sake of the sick patients; for Silas Tomken Cumberbatch's amusing
stories, they said, did them more good than all the doctor's physic! Many
ludicrous dialogues sometimes occurred between Mr. C. and his new
disciples; particularly with one who was "the geographer." The following
are some of these dialogues.
If he began talking to one or two of his comrades; for they were all on a
perfect equality, except that those who went through their exercise the
best, stretched their necks a little above the "awkward squad;" in which
ignoble class Mr. C. was placed, as the preeminent member, almost by
acclamation; if he began to speak, notwithstanding, to one or two, others
drew near, increasing momently, till by-and-bye the sick-beds were
deserted, and Mr. C. formed the centre of a large circle.
On one occasion, he told them of the Peloponnesian war, which lasted
twenty-seven years, "There must have been famous promotion there," said
one poor fellow, haggard as a death's head. Another, tottering with
disease, ejaculated, "Can you tell, Silas, how many rose from the ranks?"
He now still more excited their wonderment, by recapitulating the feats
of Archimedes. As the narrative proceeded, one restrained his scepticism,
till he was almost ready to burst, and then vociferated, "Silas, that's a
lie!" "D'ye think so?" said Mr. C. smiling, and went on with his story.
The idea, however, got amongst them, that Silas's fancy was on the
stretch, when Mr. C. finding that this tact would not do, changed his
subject, and told them of a famous general, called Alexander the Great.
As by a magic spell, the flagging attention was revived, and several, at
the same moment, to testify their eagerness, called out, "The general!
The general!" "I'll tell you all about him," said Mr. C. when impatience
marked every countenance. He then told them whose son this Alexander the
Great was; no less than Philip of Macedon. "I never heard of him," said
one. "I think I have," said the "geographer," ashamed of being thought
ignorant, "Silas, was'nt he a Cornish man? I knew one of the Alexanders
Mr. C. now went on describing to them, in glowing colours, the valour,
and the wars, and the conquests of this famous general. "Ah," said one
man, whose open mouth had complimented the speaker, for the preceding
half hour; "Ah," said he, "Silas, this Alexander must have been as great
a man as our Colonel!"
Mr. C. now told them of the "Retreat of the Ten Thousand." "I don't like
to hear of retreat," said one. "Nor I," said a second: "I'm for marching
on." Mr. C. now told of the incessant conflicts of these brave warriors,
and of the virtues of the "square." "They were a parcel of crack men,"
said one. "Yes," said another, "their bayonets fixed, and sleeping on
their arms day and night." "I should like to know," said a fourth, "what
rations were given with all that hard fighting;" on which an Irishman
replied, "to be sure, every time the sun rose, two pounds of good ox
beef, and plenty of whiskey."
At another time he told them of the invasion of Xerxes, and his crossing
the _wide_ Hellespont. "Ah," said a young recruit, a native of an obscure
village in Kent, who had acquired a decent smattering of
geography,--knowing well that the world was round, and that the earth was
divided into land and water, and, furthermore, that there were more
countries on the globe than England, and who now wished to raise his
pretensions a little before his comrades; said this young man of Kent;
"Silas, I know where that 'Helspont' is. I think it must be the mouth of
the Thames, for _'tis_ very wide."
Mr. C. now told them of the herces of Thermopylae, when the geographer
interrupted him, by saying, "Silas, I think I know, too, where that
'Thermopple' is; isn't it somewhere up in the north?" "You are quite
right, Jack," said Mr. C. "it is to the north of the Line." A conscious
elevation marked his countenance, and he rose at once, five degrees in
the estimation of his friends.
In one of these interesting conversaziones, when Mr. C. was sitting at
the foot of a bed, surrounded by his gaping comrades, who were always
solicitous of, and never wearied with, his stories, the door suddenly
burst open, and in came two or three gentlemen, (his friends) looking for
some time, in vain, amid the uniform dresses, for their man. At length,
they pitched on Mr. C. and taking him by the arm, led him, in silence,
out of the room, (a picture indeed, for a Wilkie!) As the supposed
_deserter_ passed the threshold, one of the astonished auditors uttered,
with a sigh, "poor Silas! I wish they may let him off with a cool five
hundred!" Mr. C.'s ransom was soon joyfully adjusted by his friends, and
now the wide world once more lay before him.
A very old friend of Mr. Coleridge has recently furnished me with the two
following anecdotes of Mr. C. which were also new to me.
The inspecting officer of his regiment, on one occasion, was examining
the guns of the men, and coming to one piece which was rusty, he called
out in an authoritative tone, "Whose rusty gun is this?" when Mr.
Coleridge said, "is it _very_ rusty, Sir?" "Yes Cumberbatch, it _is_"
said the officer, sternly. "Then, Sir," replied Mr. C. "it must be mine!"
The oddity of the reply disarmed the officer, and the poor scholar
escaped without punishment.
Mr. Coleridge was a remarkably awkward horseman, so much so, as generally
to attract notice. Some years after this, he was riding along the
turnpike road, in the county of Durham, when a wag, approaching him,
noticed his peculiarity, and (quite mistaking his man) thought the rider
a fine subject for a little sport; when, as he drew near, he thus
accosted Mr. C. "I say, young man, did you meet a _tailor_ on the road?"
"Yes," replied Mr. C. (who was never at a loss for a rejoinder) "I did;
and he told me, if I went a little further I should meet a _goose!_" The
assailant was struck dumb, while the traveller jogged on.
Mr. C. gave me these, his translations from the German.
ON A BAD READER OF HIS OWN VERSES.
Hoarse Maevius reads his hobbling verse
To all, and at all times,
And deems them both divinely smooth,
His voice, as well as rhymes.
But folks say Maevius is no ass!
But Maevius makes it clear,
That he's a monster of an ass,
An ass without an ear.
* * * * *
If the guilt of all lying consists in deceit,
Lie on--'tis your duty, sweet youth!
For believe me, then only we find you a cheat,
When you cunningly tell us the truth.
"As Dick and I at Charing Cross were walking,
Whom should we see on t'other side pass by,
But INFORMATOR with a stranger talking,
So I exclaimed--"O, what a lie!"
Quoth Dick, "What, can you hear him?" Stuff!
I saw him open his mouth--an't that enough?"
* * * * *
ON OBSERVING A LADY LICKING HER LAP-DOG,
Thy Lap-dog Rufa, is a dainty beast;
It don't surprise me in the least,
To see thee lick so dainty clean a beast,
But that so dainty clean a beast licks thee--
Yes--that surprises me.
* * * * *
Jack writes his verses with more speed
Than the printer's boy can set 'em;
Quite as fast as we can read,
But only--not so fast as we forget 'em.
Mr. Coleridge accompanied these epigrams with the translation of one of
LESSING'S pieces, where the felicity of the expression, in its English
form, will excite in most readers a suspicion, that no German original,
could equal the poem in its new dress.
I ask'd my love, one happy day,
What I should call her in my lay!
By what sweet name from Rome or Greece;
Iphigenia, Clelia, Chloris,
Laura, Lesbia, or Doris,
Dorimene, or Lucrece?
Ah! replied my gentle fair,
Beloved! what are names but air!
Take whatever suits the line:
Call me Clelia, call me Chloris,
Laura, Lesbia, or Doris,
Only, only, call me thine.
Mr. C. told me that he intended to translate the whole of Lessing. I
smiled. Mr. C. understood the symbol, and smiled in return.
The above poem is thus printed in the last edition of 1835, by which the
two may be compared, and the reader will perhaps think that the
alterations are not improvements.
I asked my fair one happy day,
What I should call her in my lay?
By what sweet name from Rome or Greece:
Lalage, Nesera, Chloris,
Sappho, Lesbia, or Doris,
Arethusa, or Lucrece.
Ah, replied my gentle fair,
Beloved, what are names but air?
Choose thou whatever suits the line;
Call me Sappho, call me Chloris,
Call me Lalage, or Doris,
Only, only, call me thine.
Some time after this, Mr. Coleridge being in an ill state of health,
recollected that a friend of his, Sir John Stoddart, was the Judge at
Malta, and he determined to repair to that island. Here he was
introduced to Sir Alexander Ball, the Governor, who happened at that time
to be in want of a Secretary, and being greatly pleased with Mr.
Coleridge, he immediately engaged him in that capacity.
* * * * *
I shall here for the present leave the narrative of Mr. C. in other and
better hands, and proceed to remark, that Mr. Davy and Mr. Coleridge
continued their friendly feeling toward each other, through life. Mr.
Davy, in a letter to Mr. Poole, (1804.) thus expresses himself:
"I have received a letter from Coleridge within the last three weeks. He
writes from Malta, in good spirits, and as usual, from the depth of his
being. God bless him! He was intended for a great man. I hope and trust
he will, at some period, appear such."
Mr. Davy, after a continuance in Bristol of more than two years, sent me
the following letter, with a copy of "Burns's Life and Works," by Dr.
I have been for the last six weeks so much hurried by business, and the
prospect of a change of situation, that I have not had time to call on
you. I am now on the point of leaving the Hotwells, and had designed to
see you this morning, but engagements have unluckily prevented me. I am
going to the Royal Institution, where, if you come to London, it will
give me much pleasure to see you.
Will you be pleased to accept the copy of 'Burns's Life and Poems,' sent
with this, and when you are reading with delight the effusions of your
brother bard, occasionally think of one who is, with sincere regard and
affection, your friend,
March 9th, 1801."
In a letter of Sir H. Davy, addressed to his friend Mr. Poole, 1803, he
thus writes of S. T. C.
"Coleridge has left London for Keswick. During his stay in town, I saw
him seldomer than usual; when I did see him, it was generally in the
midst of large companies, where he is the image of power and activity.
His eloquence is unimpaired; perhaps it is softer and stronger. His will
is less than ever commensurate with his ability. Brilliant images of
greatness float upon his mind, like images of the morning clouds on the
waters. Their forms are changed by the motion of the waves, they are
agitated by every breeze, and modified by every sun-beam. He talked in
the course of an hour, of beginning three works; and he recited the poem
of Christabel unfinished, and as I had before heard it. What talent does
he not waste in forming visions, sublime, but unconnected with the real
world! I have looked to his efforts, as to the efforts of a creating
being; but as yet he has not laid the foundation for the new world of
In the following letter received by me from Sir H. Davy, so late as June,
1823, he refers to Mr. Coleridge.
"My dear Sir,
... I have often thought on the subject of the early history of our
planet, and have some peculiar views, but I have some reserve in talking
here about it, as all our knowledge on such matter is little more than
What I stated to the Royal Society, in awarding the medal to Professor
Buckland, has not been correctly given in the Journals. I merely said
that the facts lately brought forward, proved the occurrence of that
great catastrophe which had been recorded in sacred and profane history,
and of which traditions were current, even amongst the most barbarous
nations. I did not say they proved the truth of the Mosaic account of the
deluge, that is to say, of the history of the Ark of Noah, and the
preservation of animal life. This is revelation; and no facts, that I
know of, have been discovered in science that bear upon this question,
and the sacred history of the race of Shem. My idea was to give to Caesar
what belonged to Caesar, &c. &c., and not to blend divine truths with the
fancies of men.
I met Coleridge this morning, looking very well. I had not seen him for
years. He has promised to dine with me on Monday....
Very sincerely yours,
June 11th, 1823."
Sir H. Davy was the chief agent in prevailing on Mr. Coleridge to give a
course of lectures on Shakspeare, at the Royal Institution, which he did,
eighteen in number, in the year 1808. Sir H. D. in writing to Mr. Poole,
this year, thus refers to him.
"Coleridge, after disappointing his audience twice from illness, is
announced to lecture again this week. He has suffered greatly from
excessive sensibility, the disease of genius. His mind is a wilderness,
in which the cedar and the oak, which might aspire to the skies, are
stunted in their growth by underwood, thorns, briars, and parasitical
plants. With the most exalted genius, enlarged views, sensitive heart,
and enlightened mind, he will be the victim of want of order, precision,
and regularity. I cannot think of him without experiencing the mingled
feelings of admiration, regard, and pity."
To this testimony in confirmation of Mr. Coleridge's intellectual
eminence, some high and additional authorities will be added; such as to
entitle him to the name of the Great Conversationalist. Professor Wilson
"If there be any man of great and original genius alive at this
moment, in Europe, it is S. T. Coleridge. Nothing can surpass the
melodious richness of words, which he heaps around his images; images
that are not glaring in themselves, but which are always affecting to
the very verge of tears, because they have all been formed and
nourished in the recesses of one of the most deeply musing spirits,
that ever breathed forth its inspirations, in the majestic language
"Not less marvellously gifted, though in a far different manner, is
Coleridge, who by a strange error has usually been regarded of the
same (lake) school. Instead, like Wordsworth, of seeking the sources
of sublimity and beauty in the simplest elements of humanity, he
ranges through all history and science, investigating all that has
really existed, and all that has had foundation only in the wildest,
and strangest minds, combining, condensing, developing and
multiplying the rich products of his research with marvellous
facility and skill; now pondering fondly over some piece of exquisite
loveliness, brought from an unknown recess, now tracing out the
hidden germ of the eldest, and most barbaric theories, and now
calling fantastic spirits from the vasty deep, where they have slept
since the dawn of reason. The term 'myriad-minded' which he has
happily applied to Shakspeare, is truly descriptive of himself. He is
not one, but legion, 'rich with the spoils of time,' richer in his
own glorious imagination and sportive fantasy. There is nothing more
wonderful than the facile majesty of his images, or rather of his
world of imagery, which, whether in his poetry or his prose, start up
before us, self-raised, and all perfect, like the palace of Aladdin.
He ascends to the sublimest truths by a winding track of sparkling
glory, which can only be described in his own language.
'The spirit's ladder
That from this gross and visible world of dust,
Even to the starry world, with thousand rounds
Builds itself up; on which the unseen powers
Move up and down on heavenly ministries--
The circles in the circles, that approach
The central sun from ever narrowing orbit.'
In various beauty of versification he has never been exceeded.
Shakspeare doubtless in liquid sweetness and exquisite continuity,
and Milton in pure majesty and classic grace--but this, in one
species of verse only; and taking all his trials of various metres,
the swelling harmony of his blank verse, the sweet breathing of his
gentle odes, and the sybil-like flutter, with the murmuring of his
wizard spells, we doubt if even these great masters have so fully
developed the sources of the English tongue. He has yet completed no
adequate memorial of his Genius, yet it is most unjust to say he has
done little or nothing.
To refute this assertion, there are his 'Wallenstein;' his love poems
of intensest beauty; his 'Ancient Mariner,' with his touches of
profoundest tenderness amidst the wildest and most bewildering
terrors; his holy and sweet tale of 'Christabel,' with its
enchantments, and richer humanities; the depths, the sublimities, and
the pensive sweetness of his 'Tragedy;' the heart-dilating sentiments
scattered through his 'Friend;' and the stately imagery which breaks
upon us at every turn of the golden paths of his metaphysical
labyrinth. And if he has a power within him mightier than that which
even these glorious creations indicate, shall he be censured because
he has deviated from the ordinary course of the age in its
development, and instead of committing his imaginative wisdom to the
press, has delivered it from his living lips? He has gone about in
the true spirit of an old Greek bard, with a noble carelessness of
self, giving fit utterance to the divine spirit within, him. Who that
has ever heard can forget him? His mild benignity, the unbounded
variety of his knowledge, the fast succeeding products of his
imagination, the child-like simplicity with which he rises from the
dryest and commonest theme into the wildest magnificence of thought,
pouring on the soul a stream of beauty and wisdom to mellow and
enrich it for ever? The seeds of poetry, the materials for thinking,
which he has thus scattered will not perish. The records of his fame
are not in books only, but on the fleshly tablets of young hearts,
who will not suffer it to die even in the general ear, however base
and unfeeling criticism may deride their gratitude."--_Mr. Sergeant
Dr. Dibdin has given an animated description of Coleridge's lecturing and
conversation, which concurs with the universal opinion.
"I once came from Kensington in a snow-storm to hear Mr. Coleridge
lecture on Shakspeare, I might have sat as wisely, and more
comfortably by my own fire-side--for no Coleridge appeared.----I
shall never forget the effect his conversation made upon me at the
first meeting, at a dinner party. It struck me as something not only
quite out of the ordinary course of things, but an intellectual
exhibition altogether matchless. The viands were unusually costly,
and the banquet was at once rich and varied; but there seemed to be
no dish like Coleridge's conversation to feed upon--and no
information so instructive as his own. The orator rolled himself up
as it were in his chair, and gave the most unrestrained indulgence to
his speech; and how fraught with acuteness and originality was that
speech, and in what copious and eloquent periods did it flow. The
auditors seemed to be wrapt in wonder and delight, as one
conversation, more profound or clothed in more forcible language than
another, fell from his tongue. He spoke nearly for two hours with
unhesitating and uninterrupted fluency. As I returned homewards, to
Kensington, I thought a second Johnson had visited the earth, to make
wise the sons of men; and regretted that I could not exercise the
powers of a second Boswell to record the wisdom and the eloquence
that fell from the orator's lips.
The manner of Coleridge was emphatic rather than dogmatic, and thus
he was generally and satisfactorily listened to. It might be said of
Coleridge, as Cowper has so happily said of Sir Philip Sidney, that
he was 'the warbler of poetic prose.' There was always this
characteristic feature in his multifarious conversation,--it was
always delicate, reverend, and courteous. The chastest ear could
drink in no startling sound; the most serious believer never had his
bosom ruffled by one sceptical or reckless assertion. Coleridge was
eminently simple in his manner. Thinking and speaking were his
delight; and he would sometimes seem, during the more fervid
movements of discourse, to be abstracted from all, and everything
around and about him, and to be basking in the sunny warmth of his
own radiant imagination."--_Dr. Dibdin_.
"Last Thursday, my Uncle, S. T. C. dined with us; and ---- and ----
came to meet him. I have heard him more brilliant, but he was very
fine, and delighted both, ---- and ---- very much. It is impossible
to carry off, or commit to paper, his long trains of argument; indeed
it is not possible to understand them, he lays the foundation so
deep, and views every question in so original a manner. Nothing can
be finer than the principles which he lays down in morals and
religion. His deep study of scripture is very astonishing; ---- and
---- were but as children in his hands, not merely in general views
of theology, but in minute criticism.... Afterwards in the
drawing-room, he sat down by Professor Rigaud, with whom he entered
into a discussion of 'Kant's system of Metaphysics.' The little knots
of the company were speedily silent. Mr. Coleridge's voice grew
louder; and, abstruse as the subject was, yet his language was so
ready, so energetic, and eloquent, and his illustrations so very apt
and apposite, that the ladies even paid him the most solicitous, and
respectful attention.... This is nearly all I recollect of our
meeting with this most interesting, most wonderful man. Some of his
topics and arguments I have enumerated, but the connexion and the
words are lost. And nothing that I can say can give any notion of his
eloquence and manner."--_Mr. Justice Coleridge.--Table Talk_.
"To the honoured memory of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Christian
Philosopher, who through dark and winding paths of speculation was
led to the light, in order that others by his guidance might reach
that light, without passing through the darkness, these sermons on
the work of the spirit are dedicated with deep thankfulness and
reverence by one of the many pupils whom his writings have helped to
discern the sacred concord and unity of human and Divine truth.
"Of recent English writers, the one with whose sanction I have
chiefly desired whenever I could, to strengthen my opinions, is the
great religious philosopher to whom the mind of our generation in
England owes more than to any other man. My gratitude to him I have
endeavoured to express by dedicating the following sermons to his
memory; and the offering is so far at least appropriate, in that the
main work of his life was to spiritualize, not only our philosophy,
but our theology; to raise them both above the empiricism into which
they had long been dwindling, and to set them free from the technical
trammels of logical systems. Whether he is as much studied by the
genial young men of the present day, as he was twenty or thirty years
ago, I have no adequate means of judging: but our theological
literature teems with errors, such as could hardly have been
committed by persons whose minds had been disciplined by his
philosophical method, and had rightly appropriated his principles. So
far too as my observation has extended, the third and fourth volumes
of his 'Remains,' though they were hailed with delight by Arnold on
their first appearance, have not yet produced their proper effect on
the intellect of the age. It may be that the rich store of profound
and beautiful thought contained in them has been weighed down, from
being mixed with a few opinions on points of Biblical criticism,
likely to be very offensive to persons who know nothing about the
history of the Canon. Some of these opinions, to which Coleridge
himself ascribed a good deal of importance, seem to me of little
worth; some to be decidedly erroneous. Philological criticism, indeed
all matters requiring a laborious and accurate investigation of
details were alien from the bent and habits of his mind; and his
exegetical studies, such as they were, took place at a period when he
had little better than the meagre Rationalism of Eichhorn and
Bertholdt to help him. Of the opinions which he imbibed from them,
some abode with him through life. These however, along with
everything else that can justly be objected to in the 'Remains,' do
not form a twentieth part of the whole, and may easily be separated
from the remainder. Nor do they detract in any way from the sterling
sense, the clear and far-sighted discernment, the power of tracing
principles in their remotest operations, and of referring all things
to their first principles, which are manifested in almost every page,
and from which we might learn so much. There may be some indeed, who
fancy that Coleridge's day is gone by, and that we have advanced
beyond him. I have seen him numbered, along with other persons who
would have been no less surprised at their position and company,
among the pioneers who prepared the way for our new theological
school. This fathering of Tractarianism, as it is termed, upon
Coleridge, well deserves to rank beside the folly which would father
Rationalism upon Luther. Coleridge's far-reaching vision did indeed
discern the best part of the speculative truths which our new school
has laid hold on, and exaggerated and perverted. But in Coleridge's
field of view they were comprised along with the complimental truths
which limit them, and in their conjunction and co-ordination with
which alone they retain the beneficent power of truth. He saw what
our modern theologians see, though it was latent from the vulgar eyes
in his days; but he also saw what they do not see, what they have
closed their eyes on; and he saw far beyond them, because he saw
things in their universal principles and laws."--_Rev. Archdeacon
Charles Hare's "Mission of the Comforter."--Preface, pp. 13, 15. Two
These various testimonies to the conversational eminence of Mr.
Coleridge, and from men the best qualified to decide, must satisfy every
mind, that in this one quality he scarcely ever had a superior, or
perhaps an equal. In the 103rd No. of the "Quarterly Review," there is a
description of his conversation, evidently written by one competent to
judge, and who well knew the subject of his praise; but though the
writer's language is highly encomiastic, corresponding with his
eloquence, yet to all who knew Coleridge, it will not be considered as
exceeding the soberest truth. When and where are such descriptions as the
preceding and the following to be found?
"Perhaps our readers may have heard repeated a saying of Mr.
Wordsworth, 'that many men of his age had done wonderful _things_, as
Davy, Scott, Cuvier, &c.; but that Coleridge was the only wonderful
_man_ he ever knew.' Something of course must be allowed in this, as
in all other such cases, for the antithesis; but we believe the fact
really to be, that the greater part of those who have occasionally
visited Mr. Coleridge, have left him with the feeling akin to the
judgment indicated in the above remark. They admire the man more than
his works, or they forget the works in the absorbing impression made
by the living author; and no wonder. Those who remember him in his
more vigorous days, can bear witness to the peculiarity and
transcendant power of his conversational eloquence. It was unlike
anything that could be heard elsewhere; the kind was different, the
degree was different, the manner was different. The boundless range
of scientific knowledge, the brilliancy and exquisite nicety of
illustration, the deep and ready reasoning, the strangeness and
immensity of bookish lore, were not all; the dramatic story, the
joke, the pun, the festivity, must be added; and with these, the
clerical looking dress, the thick waving silver hair, the youthful
coloured cheek, the indefinable mouth and lips, the quick yet steady
and penetrating greenish grey eye, the slow and continuous
enunciation, and the everlasting music of his tones,--all went to
make up the image, and to constitute the living presence of the man.
Even now his conversation is characterized by all the essentials of
its former excellence; there is the same individuality, the same
unexpectedness, the same universal grasp; nothing is too high,
nothing too low for it--it glances from earth to heaven, from heaven
to earth, with a speed and a splendour, an ease and a power, which
almost seemed inspired."
* * * * *
As a conclusion to these honourable testimonies, it may be added, the
wish has often been expressed, that more were known respecting Mr.
Coleridge's school and college life, so briefly detailed in his
"Biographia." There was one friend of whom he often used to talk, and
always with a kind feeling, who sat next to him at Christ Church School,
and who afterwards accompanied him to Cambridge, where their friendship
was renewed, and their intercourse uninterrupted. This gentleman was the
Rev. C. V. Le Grice, the respected and erudite incumbent of a living near
Penzance. Mr. Le G. might contribute largely toward the elucidation of
Mr. Coleridge's school and college life; but as the much has been denied,
we must be thankful for the little. The following are Mr. Le Grice's
brief, but interesting notices of his friend:
In the various and numerous memoirs, which have been published of the
late Mr. Coleridge, I have been surprised at the accuracy in many
respects, and at the same time their omission of a very remarkable,
and a very honourable anecdote in his history. In the memoir of him
in your last number, you do not merely omit, but you give an
erroneous account of this very circumstance, to which I mean to
allude. You assert that he did not obtain, and indeed did riot aim to
obtain, the honours of the University. So far is this from the fact,
that in his Freshman's year he won the gold medal for the Greek Ode;
and in his second year he became a candidate for the Craven
scholarship, a University scholarship, for which undergraduates of
any standing are entitled to become candidates. This was in the
winter of 1792. Out of sixteen or eighteen competitors a selection of
four was made to contend for the prize, and these four were Dr.
Butler, now the Head Master of Shrewsbury; Dr. Keate, the late Head
Master of Eton; Mr. Bethell, the late Member for Yorkshire; and S. T.
Coleridge. Dr. Butler was the successful candidate.
Pause a moment in Coleridge's history, and think of him at this
period! Butler! Keate! Bethell! and Coleridge!! How different the
career of each in future life! O Coleridge; through what strange
paths did the meteor of genius lead thee! Pause a moment, ye
distinguished men! and deem it not the least bright spot in your
happier career, that you and Coleridge were once rivals, and for a
moment running abreast in the pursuit of honour. I believe that his
disappointment at this crisis damped his ardour. Unfortunately, at
that period there was no classical Tripos; so that if a person did
not obtain the classical medal, he was thrown back among the totally
undistinguished; and it was not allowable to become a candidate for
the classical medal, unless you had taken a respectable degree in
mathematics. Coleridge had not the least taste for these, and here
his case was hopeless; so that he despaired of a Fellowship, and gave
up, what in his heart he coveted, college honours, and a college
life. He had seen his schoolfellow and dearest friend, Middleton,
(late Bishop of Calcutta) quit Pembroke under similar circumstances.
Not _quite_ similar, because Middleton studied mathematics so as to
take a respectable degree, and to enable him to try for the medal;
but he failed, and therefore all hopes failed of a Fellowship--most
fortunately, as it proved in after life, for Middleton, though he
mourned at the time most deeply, and exclaimed, 'I am Middleton,
which is another name for Misfortune!'
'There is a Providence which shapes our ends,
Rough hew them how you will.'
That, which Middleton deemed a misfortune, drew him from the cobwebs
of a college library to the active energies of a useful and honoured
life. But to return to Coleridge. When he quitted College, which he
did before he had taken a degree, in a moment of mad caprice--it was
indeed an inauspicious hour! 'In an inauspicious hour I left the
friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever honoured Jesus
College, Cambridge.' Short, but deep and heart-felt reminiscence! In
a literary Life of himself this short memorial is all that Coleridge
gives of his happy days at college. Say not, that he did not obtain,
and did not wish to obtain classical honours! He did obtain them, and
was eagerly ambitious of them; but he did not bend to that discipline
which was to qualify him for the whole course. He was very studious,
but his reading was desultory and capricious. He took little exercise
merely for the sake of exercise; but he was ready at any time to
unbend his mind in conversation, and for the sake of this, his room
(the ground-floor room on the right hand of the staircase facing the
great gate) was a constant rendezvous of conversation loving friends,
I will not call them loungers, for they did not call to kill time,
but to enjoy it. What evenings have I spent in those rooms! What
little suppers, or _sizing_, as they were called, have I enjoyed;
when Aeschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides, were pushed aside, with a
pile of lexicons, &c., to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and
anon, a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of
having the book before us. Coleridge had read it in the morning; and
in the evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim. Freud's trial
was then in progress. Pamphlets swarmed from the press. Coleridge had
read them all; and in the evening, with our negus, we had them _viva
voce_ gloriously. O Coleridge! it was indeed an inauspicious hour,
when you quitted the friendly cloisters of Jesus. The epithet
'friendly' implied what you were thinking of, when you thought of
college. To you, Coleridge, your contemporaries were indeed friendly,
and I believe, that in your literary life you have passed over your
college life so briefly, because you wished to banish from your view
the 'visions of long-departed joys.' To enter into a description of
your college days would have called up too sadly to your memory 'the
hopes which once shone bright,' and would have made your heart sink.
C. V. Le Grice.
P. S.--I was a witness to the breathless delight with which he
hastened to give his friends intelligence of his success. The
following lines, in his "Verses written in Early Youth," are a
memorial of the pleasure, which he felt in the sympathy of one who
was then most dear to him:--
"With faery wand, O bid the maid arise,
Chaste joyance dancing in her bright blue eyes,
As erst, when, from the Muse's calm abode,
I came with learning's meed not unbestowed."
See Poems, Edit. 1805, p. 34.
He wrote, to my certain knowledge, for the prize in the ensuing year;
but it was most deservedly given to Keate's beautiful Ode. The
subject Laus Astronomiae. No one was more convinced of the propriety
of the decision than Coleridge himself. He used to repeat Ramsden's
Greek Ode on Gibraltar, and Smith's Latin one on Mare Liberum, with
incessant rapture. It would have been his glory to have caught their
spirit,--he was absorbed in these things. A Classical Tripos would
have changed Coleridge's destiny."--_Gentleman's Magazine_, Dec.
* * * * *
The reader's attention will now be directed to Mr. Coleridge, after he
left Malta, when he visited Bristol, in the year 1807. I accidentally
learned that Mr. C. had returned to England, not in good health, and that
he was at Mr. Poole's, when I addressed a letter to him, expressing a
hope that his health would soon allow him to pay me a visit, in Bristol.
To this letter he thus replied:
On my return to Bristol, whenever that may be, I will certainly give you
the right hand of old fellowship; but, alas! you will find me the
wretched wreck of what you knew me, rolling, rudderless. My health is
extremely bad. Pain I have enough of, but that is indeed to me, a mere
trifle, but the almost unceasing, overpowering sensations of
wretchedness: achings in my limbs, with an indescribable restlessness,
that makes action to any available purpose, almost impossible: and worst
of all, the sense of blighted utility, regrets, not remorseless. But
enough; yea, more than enough; if these things produce, or deepen the
conviction of the utter powerlessness of ourselves, and that we either
perish, or find aid from something that passes understanding.
S. T. C."
The preceding letter of Mr. Coleridge led me to anticipate a worse state
of health, on his arrival in Bristol, than appearances authorized. I knew
nothing of opium, and was pleased to notice the clearness of his
understanding, as well as much struck with the interesting narratives he
gave of Malta, Italy, and his voyage to England. I knew that Mr. C. was
somewhat in the habit of accommodating his discourse to the sentiments of
the persons with whom he was conversing; but his language was now so
pious and orthodox, that the contrast between his past and present
sentiments was most noticeable. He appeared quite an improved character,
and was about, I thought, to realise the best hopes of his friends. I
found him full of future activity, projecting new works, and particularly
a 'New Review,' of which he himself was to be the Editor! At this time
not one word was said about opium, Colerton, Ottery, or Mrs. Coleridge,
and I thought the prospect never appeared so cheering.
In my state of exultation, I invited Mr. Foster to come to Bristol, from
Frome, to renew his acquaintance with the improved and travelled Mr.
Coleridge. Mr. Tester's reply is here given.
"Frome, June, 1807.
My dear sir,
I am very unfortunate in having made an engagement, two or three weeks
back, to go just at this time on a very particular occasion, to a distant
place in this county, and therefore being deprived of the very high
luxury to which you so kindly invite me. I shall be unavoidably detained,
for a very considerable time, and my imagination will strongly represent
to me the pleasure and advantage of which an inevitable necessity
deprives me. But I will indulge the hope, that I shall sometime be known
to Mr. Coleridge, under more favourable circumstances, in a literary
respect, than I can at present, after a regular application to the
severer order of studies shall in some measure have retrieved the
consequences of a very loose and indolent intellectual discipline, and
shall have lessened a certain feeling of imbecility which always makes me
shrink from attempting to gain the notice of men whose talents I admire.
No man can feel a more animated admiration of Mr. Coleridge than I have
retained ever since the two or three times that I was a little while in
his company; and during his absence in the south and the east, I have
very often thought with delight of the immense acquisitions which he
would at length bring back to enrich the works, which I trust the public
will in due time receive from him, and to which it has an imperious
claim. And still I trust he will feel the solemn duty of making his very
best and continued efforts to mend as well as delight mankind, now that
he has attained the complete mastery and expansion of his admirable
powers. You do not fail, I hope, to urge him to devote himself
strenuously to literary labour. He is able to take a station amongst the
most elevated ranks, either of the philosophers or the poets. Pray tell
me what are his immediate intentions, and whether he has any important
specific undertaking in hand. For the sake of elegant literature, one is
very glad, that he has had the opportunity of visiting those most
interesting scenes and objects which you mention. Will you express to him
in the strongest terms, my respect and my animated wishes for his health,
his happiness, and his utility. You can inform me what is the nature of
that literary project to which you allude. Tell me also, what is the
state and progress of your own literary projects, and, I hope I may say,
labours. I behaved shabbily about some slight remarks which I was to have
ventured on Mr. Southey's 'Madoc,' in the 'Eclectic Review.' On reading
the critiques in the 'Edinburgh Review,' on 'Thalaba' and 'Madoc,' I
found what were substantially my own impressions, so much better
developed than I could have done, that I instantly threw my remarks away.
Let me hear from you when you have half an hour of leisure, and believe
me to be, with every kind remembrance to your most excellent, family, my
Most cordially yours,
To Joseph Cottle."
Some weeks after, Mr. Coleridge called on me; when, in the course of
conversation, he entered into some observations on his own character,
that made him appear unusually amiable. He said that he was naturally
very arrogant; that it was his easily besetting sin; a state of mind
which he ascribed to the severe subjection to which he had been exposed,
till he was fourteen years of age, and from which, his own consciousness
of superiority made him revolt. He then stated that he had renounced all
his Unitarian sentiments; that he considered Unitarianism as a heresy of
the worst description; attempting in vain, to reconcile sin and holiness;
the world and heaven; opposing the whole spirit of the Bible; and
subversive of all that truly constituted christianity. At this interview
he professed his deepest conviction of the truth of Revelation; of the
Fall of Man; of the Divinity of Christ, and redemption alone through his
blood. To hear these sentiments so explicitly avowed, gave me unspeakable
pleasure, and formed a new, and unexpected, and stronger bond of union.
A long and highly interesting theological conversation; followed, in
which Mr. C. proved, that, however weak his body, the intellectual vigour
of his mind was unimpaired. He exhibited, also, more sobriety of manner
than I had before noticed in him, with an improved and impressive
maturity in his reflections, expressed in his happiest language; and
which, could it have been accurately recorded, would have adorned the
most splendid of his pages;--so rare and pre-eminent was the powerful and
spontaneous utterance with which this gifted son of genius was endowed.
Mr. Coleridge, at his next visit, related to me some of his Italian
adventures; one or two of which I here introduce.
After quitting Malta, he had landed in Sicily, and visited Etna; his
ascent up whose side, to the crater, he graphically described, with some
striking features; but as this is a subject proverbially enlarged upon by
all travellers, I waive further notice, and proceed to state, that Mr. C.
after leaving Sicily passed over to the south of Italy, and journeyed on
Shortly after Mr. Coleridge had arrived in this city, he attracted some
notice amongst the literati, as an English "Man of Letters." Cardinal
Fesch, in particular, was civil, and sought his company; but that which
was more remarkable, Jerome Buonaparte was then a resident at Rome, and
Mr. C.'s reputation becoming known to him, he sent for him, and after
showing him his palace, pictures, &c. thus generously addressed him:
"Sir, I have sent for you to give you a little candid advice. I do not
know that you have said, or written anything against my brother Napoleon,
but as an Englishman, the supposition is not unreasonable. If you have,
my advice is, that you leave Italy as soon as you possibly can!"
This hint was gratefully received, and Mr. Coleridge soon after quitted
Rome, in the suite of Cardinal Fesch. From his anxiety to reach England,
he proceeded to Leghorn, where a circumstance occurred which will excite
every reader's sympathy. Mr. Coleridge had journeyed to this port, where
he rather hoped, than expected to find some conveyance, through the
medium of a neutral, that should waft him to the land, "more prised than
ever." The hope proved delusive. The war was now raging between England
and France, and Buonaparte being lord of the ascendant in Italy, Mr.
Coleridge's situation became insecure, and even perilous. To obtain a
passport was impossible; and as Mr. C. had formerly rendered himself
obnoxious to the great Captain by some political papers, he was in daily
and hourly expectation of being incarcerated in an Italian prison, which
would have been the infallible road to death!
In half despair of ever again seeing his family and friends, and under
the constant dread of apprehension by the emissaries of the Tuscan
government, or French spies; he went out one morning to look at some
ruins in the neighbourhood of Leghorn, in a state of despondency, where,
certainty, however terrible, would have been almost preferable to
suspense. While musing on the ravages of time, he turned his eye, and
observed at a little distance, a seafaring looking man, musing in
silence, like himself, on the waste around. Mr. Coleridge advanced
towards him, supposing, or at least deeming it possible, that he also
might be mourning his captivity, and commenced a discourse with him; when
he found that the stranger was an American captain, whose ship was then
in the harbour, and on the point of sailing for England.
This information sent joy into his heart; but he testified no emotion,
determined to obtain the captain's good will, by showing him all the
civilities in his power, as a preliminary to any future service the
captain might be disposed to render him, whether the power were united
with the disposition or not. This showed adroitness, with great knowledge
of human nature; and more winning and captivating manners than those of
Mr. C. when called forth, were never possessed by mortal! In conformity
with this almost forlorn hope, Mr. Coleridge explained to the American
captain the history of the ruin; read to him some of the half defaced
Latin and Italian inscriptions, and concluded with extolling General
Washington, and predicting the stability of the Union. The right keys,
treble and tenor, were touched at the same moment. "Pray young man," said
the captain, "who are you?" Mr. C. replied, "I am a poor unfortunate
Englishman, with a wife and family at home; but I am afraid I shall never
see them more! I have no _passport_, nor means of escape; and, to
increase my sorrow, I am in daily dread of being thrown into jail, when
those I love will not have the last pleasure of _knowing_ that I am
dead!" The captain's heart was touched. He had a wife and family at a
distance. "My young man," said he, "what is your name?" The reply was,
"Samuel Taylor Coleridge." "Poor young man," answered the captain. "You
meet me at this place to-morrow morning, exactly at ten o'clock." So
saying, the captain withdrew, Mr. C. stood musing on the singular
occurrence, in which there was something _inexplicable_. His discernment
of the stranger's character convinced him there existed no _under plot_,
but still there was a wide space between _probability_ and _certainty_.
On a balance of circumstances, he still thought _all fair_, and, at the
appointed hour, repaired to the interior of the ruins.
No captain was there; but in a few minutes he appeared, and, hastening up
to Mr. Coleridge, exclaimed exultingly, "I have got your passport!" "How!
What!" said Mr. C. almost overpowered by his feelings. "Ask me no
questions," replied the captain; "you are my _steward_, and you shall
sail away with me to-morrow morning!" He continued, giving him his
address, "You come to my house to-morrow early, when I will provide you
with a _jacket_ and _trowsers_, and you shall follow me to the ship with
a _basket of vegetables_" In short, thus accoutred, he _did_ follow the
captain to the ship the next morning; and in three hours fairly sailed
out of Leghorn harbour, triumphantly on his course to England!
As soon as the ship had cleared the port, Mr. Coleridge hastened down to
the cabin, and cried, "my dear captain, tell me how you obtained my
passport?" Said the captain, very gravely, "Why, I went to the
authorities, and _swore_ that you were an _American_, and my steward! I
_swore_ also, that I knew your father and mother; that they lived in a
red-brick house, about half a mile out of New York, on the road to
It is gratifying to add, that this benevolent little-scrupulous captain
refused to accept any thing from Mr. C. for his passage to England; and,
behaved in many other respects, with the same uniform kindness. During
the voyage, Mr. Coleridge told me, he was attacked with a dangerous
illness, when he thought he should have _died_, but for the "_good
captain_," who attended him with the solicitude of a father. Mr. C. also
said, had he known what the captain was going to _swear_, whatever the
consequences might have been, he would have prevented him.
The following long letter will be read with interest.
To pursue our last conversation. Christians expect no outward or sensible
miracles from prayer. Its effects, and its fruitions are spiritual, and
accompanied says that _true Divine_, Archbishop Leighton, 'not by reasons
and arguments, but by an inexpressible kind of evidence, which they only
know who have it.'
To this I would add, that even those who, like me I fear, have not
attained it, yet may presume it. First, because reason itself, or rather
mere human nature, in any dispassionate moment, feels the necessity of
religion, but if this be not true there is no religion, no religation, or
binding over again; nothing added to reason, and therefore _Socinianism_,
misnamed _Unitarianism_, is not only not _Christianity_, it is not even
_religion_, it does not _religate_; does not bind anew. The first outward
and sensible result of prayer is, a penitent resolution, joined with a
consciousness of weakness in effecting it, yea even a dread, too well
grounded, lest by breaking and falsifying it, the soul should add guilt
to guilt; by the very means it has taken to escape from guilt; so
pitiable is the state of unregenerate man.
Are you familiar with Leighton's Works? He resigned his archbishoprick,
and retired to voluntary poverty on account of the persecutions of the
Presbyterians, saying, 'I should not dare to introduce christianity
itself with such cruelties, how much less for a surplice, and the name of
a bishop.' If there could be an intermediate space between inspired, and
uninspired writings, that space would be occupied by Leighton. No show of
learning, no appearance, or ostentatious display of eloquence, and yet
both may be shown in him, conspicuously and holily. There is in him
something that must be felt, even as the scriptures must be felt.
You ask me my views of the _Trinity_. I accept the doctrine, not as
deduced from human reason, in its grovelling capacity for comprehending
spiritual things, but as the clear revelation of Scripture. But perhaps
it may be said, the Socinians do not admit this doctrine as being taught
in the bible. I know enough of their shifts and quibbles, with their
dexterity at explaining away all they dislike, and that is not a little,
but though beguiled once by them, I happily for my own peace of mind,
escaped from their sophistries, and now hesitate not to affirm, that
Socinians would lose all character for honesty, if they were to explain
their neighbour's will with the same latitude of interpretation, which
they do the Scriptures.
I have in my head some floating ideas on the _Logos_, which I hope,
hereafter, to mould into a consistent form; but it is a gross perversion
of the truth, in Socinians, to declare that we believe in _three gods_;
and they know it to be false. They might, with equal justice affirm that
we believe in _three suns_. The meanest peasant, who has acquired the
first rudiments of christianity, would shrink back from a thing so
monstrous. Still the Trinity has its difficulties. It would be strange if
otherwise. A _Revelation_ that revealed nothing, not within the grasp of
human reason!--no religation, no binding over again, as before said; but
these difficulties are shadows, contrasted with the substantive and
insurmountable obstacles, with which _they_ contend who admit the _Divine
authority of Scripture_, with the _superlative excellence of Christ_, and
yet undertake to prove that these Scriptures teach, and that Christ
taught his own _pure humanity_.
If Jesus Christ was merely a man, if he was not God as well as man, be it
considered, he could not have been even a _good man_. There is no medium.
The SAVIOUR _in that case_ was absolutely _a deceiver!_ one,
transcendantly _unrighteous!_ in advancing pretensions to miracles, by
the 'Finger of God,' which he never performed; and by asserting claims,
(as a man) in the most aggravated sense, blasphemous. These consequences,
Socinians, to be consistent, must allow, and which impious arrogation of
Divinity in Christ, according to their faith, as well as his false
assumption of a community of 'glory' with the Father, 'before the world
was,' even they will be necessitated completely to admit the exoneration
of the Jews, according to their law, in crucifying one, who 'being a
man,' 'made himself God!' But in the Christian, rather than in the
_Socinian_, or _Pharisaic_ view, all these objections vanish, and harmony
succeeds to inexplicable confusion. If Socinians hesitate in ascribing
_unrighteousness_ to Christ, the inevitable result of their principles,
they tremble, as well they might, at their avowed creed, and virtually
renounce what they profess to uphold.
The Trinity, as Bishop Leighton has well remarked, is 'a doctrine of
faith, not of demonstration,' except in a _moral_ sense. If the New
Testament declare it, not in an insulated passage, but through the whole
breadth of its pages, rendering, with any other admission, the book which
is the christian's anchor-hold of hope, dark and contradictory, then it
is not to be rejected, but on a penalty that reduces to an atom, all the
sufferings this earth can inflict.
Let the grand question be determined.--Is, or is not the bible
_inspired_? No one book has ever been subjected to so rigid an
investigation as the Bible, by minds the most capacious, and in the
result, which has so triumphantly repelled all the assaults of infidels.
In the extensive intercourse which I have had with this class of men, I
have seen their prejudices surpassed only by their ignorance. This I
found particularly the case in Dr. Darwin, (p. 1-85.) the prince of their
fraternity. Without therefore, stopping to contend on what all
dispassionate men must deem undebatable ground, I may assume inspiration
as admitted; and equally so, that it would be an insult to man's
understanding, to suppose any other revelation from God than the
christian scriptures. If these Scriptures, impregnable in their strength,
sustained in their pretensions, by undeniable prophecies and miracles,
and by the experience of the _inner man_, in all ages, as well as by a
concatenation of arguments, all bearing upon one point, and extending
with miraculous consistency, through a series of fifteen hundred years;
if all this combined proof does not establish their validity, nothing can
be proved under the sun; but the world and man must be abandoned, with
all its consequences, to one universal scepticism! Under such sanctions,
therefore, if these scriptures, as a fundamental truth, _do_ inculcate
the doctrine of the _Trinity_; however surpassing human comprehension;
then I say, we are bound to admit it on the strength of _moral
The supreme Governor of the world and the Father of our spirits, has seen
fit to disclose to us much of his will, and the whole of his natural and
moral perfections. In some instances he has given his _word_ only, and
demanded our _faith_; while on other momentous subjects, instead of
bestowing full revelation, like the _Via Lactea_, he has furnished a
glimpse only, through either the medium of inspiration, or by the
exercise of those rational faculties with which he has endowed us. I
consider the Trinity as substantially resting on the first proposition,
yet deriving support from the last.
I recollect when I stood on the summit of Etna, and darted my gaze down
the crater; the immediate vicinity was discernible, till, lower down,
obscurity gradually terminated in total darkness. Such figures exemplify
many truths revealed in the Bible. We pursue them, until, from the
imperfection of our faculties, we are lost in impenetrable night. All
truths, however, that are essential to faith, _honestly_ interpreted; all
that are important to human conduct, under every diversity of
circumstance, are manifest as a blazing star. The promises also of
felicity to the righteous in the future world, though the precise nature
of that felicity may not be defined, are illustrated by every image that
can swell the imagination; while the misery of the _lost_, in its
unutterable intensity, though the language that describes it is all
necessarily figurative, is there exhibited as resulting chiefly, if not
wholly, from the withdrawment of the _light of God's countenance_, and a
banishment from his _presence!_ best comprehended in this world by
reflecting on the desolations, which would instantly follow the loss of
the sun's vivifying and universally diffused _warmth_.
You, or rather _all_, should remember that some truths from their nature,
surpass the scope of man's limited powers, and stand as the criteria of
_faith_, determining by their rejection, or admission, who among the sons
of men can confide in the veracity of heaven. Those more ethereal truths,
of which the Trinity is conspicuously the chief, without being
circumstantially explained, may be faintly illustrated by material
objects. The eye of man cannot discern the satellites of Jupiter, nor
become sensible of the multitudinous stars, whose rays have never reached
our planet, and consequently garnish not the canopy of night; yet are
they the less real, because their existence lies beyond man's unassisted
gaze? The tube of the philosopher, and the _celestial telescope_,--the
unclouded visions of heaven will confirm the one class of truths, and
irradiate the other.
The _Trinity_ is a subject on which analogical reasoning may
advantageously be admitted, as furnishing, at least a glimpse of light,
and with this, for the present, we must be satisfied. Infinite Wisdom
deemed clearer manifestations inexpedient; and is man to dictate to his
Maker? I may further remark, that where we cannot behold a desirable
object distinctly, we must take the best view we can; and I think you,
and every candid enquiring mind, may derive assistance from such
reflections as the following.
Notwithstanding the arguments of Spinosa, and Des Cartes, and other
advocates of the _Material system_, or, in more appropriate language, the
_Atheistical system!_ it is admitted by all men, not prejudiced, not
biased by sceptical prepossessions, that _mind_ is distinct from
_matter_. The mind of man, however, is involved in inscrutable darkness,
(as the profoundest metaphysicians well know) and is to be estimated, if
at all, alone by an inductive process; that is, by its _effects_. Without
entering on the question, whether an extremely circumscribed portion of
the mental process, surpassing instinct, may or may not be extended to
quadrupeds, it is universally acknowledged, that the mind of man alone,
regulates all the actions of his corporeal frame. Mind, therefore, may be
regarded as a distinct genus, in the scale ascending above brutes, and
including the whole of intellectual existences; advancing from _thought_,
that mysterious thing! in its lowest form, through all the gradations of
sentient and rational beings, till it arrives at a Bacon, a Newton; and
then, when unincumbered by matter, extending its illimitable sway through
Seraph and Archangel, till we are lost in the GREAT INFINITE!
Is it not deserving of notice, as an especial subject of meditation, that
our _limbs_, in all they do or can accomplish, implicitly obey the
dictation of the _mind_? that this operating power, whatever its name,
under certain limitations, exercises a sovereign dominion not only over
our limbs, but over our intellectual pursuits? The mind of every man is
evidently the fulcrum, the moving force,--which alike regulates all his
limbs and actions: and in which example, we find a strong illustration of
the subordinate nature of mere _matter_. That alone which gives direction
to the organic parts of our nature, is wholly _mind_; and one mind if
placed over a thousand limbs, could, with undiminished ease, control and
regulate the whole.
This idea is advanced on the supposition that _one mind_ could command an
unlimited direction over any given number of _limbs_, provided they were
all connected by _joint_ and _sinew_. But suppose, through some occult
and inconceivable means, these limbs were dis-associated, as to all
material connexion; suppose, for instance, one mind with unlimited
authority, governed the operations of _two_ separate persons, would not
this substantially, be only _one person_, seeing the directing principle
was one? If the truth here contended for, be admitted, that _two
persons_, governed by _one mind_, is incontestably _one person_; the same
conclusion would be arrived at, and the proposition equally be justified,
which affirmed that, _three_, or otherwise _four_ persons, owning also
necessary and essential subjection to _one mind_, would only be so many
diversities or modifications of that _one mind_, and therefore, the
component parts virtually collapsing into _one whole_, the person would
be _one_. Let any man ask himself, whose understanding can both reason
and become the depository of truth, whether, if _one mind_ thus regulated
with absolute authority, _three_, or otherwise _four_ persons, with all
their congeries of material parts, would not these parts inert in
themselves, when subjected to one predominant mind, be in the most
logical sense, _one person_? Are ligament and exterior combination
indispensable pre-requisites to the sovereign influence of mind over
mind? or mind over matter?
But perhaps it may be said, we have no instance of one mind governing
more than one body. This may be, but the argument remains the same. With
a proud spirit, that forgets its own contracted range of thought, and
circumscribed knowledge, who is to limit the sway of Omnipotence? or
presumptuously to deny the possibility of _that_ Being, who called light
out of darkness, so to exalt the dominion of _one mind_, as to give it
absolute sway over other dependant minds, or (indifferently) over
detached, or combined portions of organized matter? But if this
superinduced quality be conferable on any order of created beings, it is
blasphemy to limit the power of God, and to deny _his_ capacity to
transfuse _his own_ Spirit, when and to whom he will.
This reasoning may now be applied in illustration of the Trinity. We are
too much in the habit of viewing our Saviour Jesus Christ, through the
medium of his body. 'A body was prepared for him,' but this body was mere
matter; as insensible in itself as every human frame when deserted by the
soul. If therefore the Spirit that was in Christ, was the Spirit of the
Father; if no thought, no vibration, no spiritual communication, or
miraculous display, existed in, or proceeded from Christ, not immediately
and consubstantially identified with Jehovah, the Great First cause; if
all these operating principles were thus derived, in consistency alone
with the conjoint divine attributes; if this Spirit of the Father ruled
and reigned in Christ as his own manifestation, then in the strictest
sense, Christ exhibited 'the Godhead bodily,' and was undeniably '_one_
with the Father;' confirmatory of the Saviour's words: 'Of myself, (my
body) I can do nothing, the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the
But though I speak of the body as inert in itself, and necessarily allied
to matter, yet this declaration must not be understood as militating
against the christian doctrine of the _resurrection of the body_. In its
grosser form, the thought is not to be admitted, for 'flesh and blood
cannot inherit the kingdom of God,' but that the body, without losing its
consciousness and individuality, may be subjected by the illimitable
power of omnipotence, to a sublimating process, so as to be rendered
compatible with spiritual association, is not opposed to reason, in its
severe abstract exercises, while in attestation of this _exhilarating
belief_, there are many remote analogies in nature exemplifying the same
truth, while it is in the strictest accordance with that final
dispensation, which must, as christians, regulate all our speculations. I
proceed now to say, that
If the postulate be thus admitted, that one mind influencing two bodies,
would only involve a diversity of operations, but in reality be one in
essence; or otherwise as an hypothetical argument, illustrative of truth,
if one preeminent mind, or spiritual subsistence, unconnected with
matter, possessed an undivided and sovereign dominion over two or more
disembodied minds, so as to become the exclusive source of all their
subtlest volitions and exercises, the _unity_, however complex the modus
of its manifestation, would be fully established; and this principle
extends to Deity itself, and shows the true sense, as I conceive, in
which Christ and the Father are one.
In continuation of this reasoning, if God who is light, the Sun of the
moral world, should in his union of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness,
and from all eternity, have ordained that an emanation from himself,--for
aught we know, an essential emanation, as light is inseparable from the
luminary of day--should not only have existed in his Son, in the fulness
of time to be united to a mortal body, but that a like emanation from
himself, also perhaps essential, should have constituted the Holy Spirit,
who, without losing his ubiquity, was more especially sent to this lower
earth, _by_ the Son, _at_ the impulse of the Father, then in the most
comprehensive sense, God, and his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost,
are ONE. 'Three persons in one God,' and thus form the true Trinity in
To suppose that more than one independent power, or governing mind,
exists in the whole universe, is absolute Polytheism, against which the
denunciations of all the Jewish and Christian canonical books were
directed. And if there be but ONE directing MIND, that mind is God!
operating however, in three persons, according to the direct and uniform
declarations of that inspiration which 'brought life and immortality to
light.' Yet this divine doctrine of the Trinity is to be received, not
because it is or can be clear to finite apprehension, but, in reiteration
of the argument, because the Scriptures, in their unsophisticated
interpretation expressly state it. The Trinity, therefore, from its
important aspects, and biblical prominence, is the grand article of
faith, and the foundation of the whole christian system.
Who can say, as Christ and the Holy Ghost proceeded from, and are still
one with the Father, and as all the disciples of Christ derive their
fulness from him, and, in spirit, are inviolately united to him as a
branch is to the vine, who can say, but that in one view, what was once
mysteriously separated, may as mysteriously, be re-combined, and, without
interfering with the everlasting Trinity, and the individuality of the
spiritual and seraphic orders, the Son at the consummation of all things,
deliver up his mediatorial kingdom to the Father, and God, in some
peculiar and infinitely sublime sense, become all in all! God love you,
S. T. Coleridge."
In a former page, Mr. Coleridge has been represented as entertaining
sentiments in early life, approaching to, though not identified with,
those of Unitarians; on his return to Bristol, in the year 1807, a
complete reverse had taken place in his theological tenets. Reflection
and reading, particularly the bible, had taught him, as he said, the
unstable foundation on which Unitarians grounded their faith; and in
proportion as orthodox sentiments acquired an ascendancy in his mind, a
love of truth compelled him to oppose his former errors, and stimulated
him, by an explicit declaration of his religious views, to counteract
those former impressions, which his cruder opinions had led him once so
strenuously to enforce on all around.
The editor of Mr. Coleridge's "Table Tails," has conferred an important
benefit on the public, by preserving so many of his familiar
conversations, particularly those on the important subject of
Unitarianism. Few men ever poured forth torrents of more
happily-expressed language, the result of more matured reflection, in his
social intercourse, than Mr. Coleridge; and at this time, the
recollection is accompanied with serious regret, that I allowed to pass
unnoticed so many of his splendid colloquies, which, could they be
recalled, would exhibit his talents in a light equally favourable with
his most deliberately-written productions.
I did indeed take notes of one of his conversations, on his departure
from a supper party, and which I shall subjoin, because the confirmed
general views, and individual opinions of so enlarged a mind must command
attention; especially when exercised on subjects intrinsically important.
I however observe, that my sketch of the conversation must be understood
as being exceedingly far from doing _justice_ to the original.
At this time I was invited to meet Mr. Coleridge with a zealous Unitarian
minister. It was natural to conclude, that such uncongenial, and, at the
same time, such inflammable materials would soon ignite. The subject of
Unitarianism having been introduced soon after dinner, the minister
avowed his sentiments, in language that was construed into a challenge,
when Mr. Coleridge advanced at once to the charge, by saying "Sir, you
give up so much, that the little you retain of Christianity is not worth
keeping." We looked in vain for a reply. After a manifest internal
conflict, the Unitarian minister very prudently allowed the gauntlet to
remain undisturbed. Wine he thought more pleasant than controversy.
Shortly after this occurrence, Mr. Coleridge supped with the writer, when
his well known conversational talents were eminently displayed; so that
what Pope affirmed of Bolingbroke, that "his usual conversation, taken
down verbatim, from its coherence and accuracy, would have borne
printing, without correction," was fully, and perhaps, more justly
applicable to Mr. C.
Some of his theological observations are here detailed. He said, he had
recently had a long conversation with an Unitarian minister, who
declared, that, he could discover nothing in the New Testament which in
the _least_ favoured the Divinity of Christ, to which Mr. C. replied that
it appeared to him impossible for any man to read the New Testament, with
the common exercise of an unbiassed understanding, without being
convinced of the Divinity of Christ, from the testimony almost of every
He said it was evident that different persons might look at the same
object with very opposite feelings. For instance, if Sir Isaac Newton
looked at the planet Jupiter, he would view him with his revolving moons,
and would be led to the contemplation of his being inhabited, which
thought would open a boundless field to his imagination: whilst another
person, standing perhaps at the side of the great philosopher, would look
at Jupiter with the same set of feelings that he would at a silver
sixpence. So some persons were wilfully blind, and did not seek for that
change, that preparation of the heart and understanding, which would
enable them to see clearly the gospel truth.
He said that Socinians believed no more than St. Paul did before his
conversion: for the Pharisees believed in a Supreme Being, and a future
state of rewards and punishments. St. Paul thought he ought to do many
things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The saints he shut up
in prison, having received authority from the High Priest, and when they
were put to death, he gave his voice against them. But after his
conversion, writing to the Romans, he says, 'I am not ashamed of the
gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation unto every man
that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Gentiles.'
He then referred to the dreadful state of the literati in London, as it
respects religion, and of their having laughed at him, and believed him
to be in jest, when he professed his belief in the Bible.
Having introduced Mr. Davy to Mr. C. some years before, I inquired for
him with some anxiety, and expressed a hope that he was not tinctured
with the prevailing scepticism since his removal from Bristol to London.
Mr. C. assured me that he was not: that _his_ heart and understanding
were not the _soil_ for _infidelity_. I then remarked, "During your
stay in London, you doubtless saw a great many of what are called 'the
cleverest men,' how do you estimate Davy, in comparison with these?" Mr.
Coleridge's reply was strong, but expressive. "Why, Davy could eat them
all! There is an energy, an elasticity in his mind, which enables him to
seize on, and analyze, all questions, pushing them to their legitimate
consequences. Every subject in Davy's mind has the principle of vitality.
Living thoughts spring up like the turf under his feet." With equal
justice, Mr. Davy entertained the same exalted opinion of Mr. Coleridge.
Mr. C. now changed the subject, and spoke of Holcroft; who he said was a
man of but small powers, with superficial, rather than solid talents, and
possessing principles of the most horrible description; a man who at the
very moment he denied the existence of a Deity, in his heart believed and
trembled. He said that Holcroft, and other Atheists, reasoned with so
much fierceness and vehemence against a God, that it plainly showed they
were inwardly conscious there _was_ a GOD to reason against; for, a
nonentity would never excite passion.
He said that in one of his visits to London, he accidentally met Holcroft
in a public office without knowing his name, when he began, stranger as
he was, the enforcement of some of his diabolical sentiments! which, it
appears, he was in the habit of doing, at all seasons, and in all
companies; by which he often corrupted the principles of those simple
persons who listened to his shallow, and worn-out impieties. Mr. C.
declared himself to have felt indignant at conduct so infamous, and at
once closed with the "prating atheist," when they had a sharp encounter.
Holcroft then abruptly addressed him, "I perceive you have _mind_, and
know what you are talking about. It will be worth while to make a convert
of _you_. I am engaged at present, but if you vrill call on me to-morrow
morning, giving him his card, I will engage, in half an hour, to convince
you there is no God!"
Mr. Coleridge called on him the next morning, when the discussion was
renewed, but none being present except the disputants, no account is
preserved of this important conversation; but Mr. C. affirmed that he
beat all his arguments to atoms; a result that none who knew him could
doubt. He also stated that instead of _his_ being converted to atheism,
the atheist himself, after his manner, was converted; for the same day he
sent Mr. C. a letter, saying his reasoning was so clear and satisfactory,
that he had changed his views and was now "_a theist_." The next sun
probably beheld him an atheist again; but whether he _called_ himself
this or that, his character was the same.
Soon after the foregoing incident, Mr. Coleridge said, he found himself
in a large party, at the house of a man of letters, amongst whom to his
surprise, he saw Mr. and Mrs. Holcroft, when, to incite to a renewal of
their late dispute, and before witnesses, (in the full consciousness of
strength) Mr. C. enforced the propriety of teaching children, as soon as
they could articulate, to lisp the praises of their Maker; "for," said
he, "though they can, form no correct idea of God, yet they entertain a
high opinion of their _father_, and it is an easy introduction to the
truth, to tell them that their Heavenly Father is stronger, and wiser,
and better, than their _earthly_ father."
The whole company looked at Mr. Holcroft, implying that _now_ was the
time for him to meet a competent opponent, and justify sentiments which
he had so often triumphantly advanced. They looked in vain. He
maintained, to their surprise, a total silence, well remembering the
severe castigation he had so recently received. But a very different
effect was produced on Mrs. Holcroft. She indignantly heard, and giving
vent to her passion and her _tears_, said, she was quite surprised at Mr.
Coleridge talking in that way before her, when he knew that both herself
and Mr. Holcroft were atheists!
Mr. C. spoke of the unutterable horror he felt, when Holcroft's son, a
boy eight years of age, came up to him and said, "There is no God!" So
that these wretched parents, alike father and mother, were as earnest in
inculcating atheism on their children, as christian parents are in
inspiring their offspring with respect for religious truth.
Actions are often the best illustration of principles. Mr. Coleridge also
stated the following circumstance, notorious at the time, as an evidence
of the disastrous effects of atheism. Holcroft's tyrannical conduct
toward his children was proverbial. An elder son, with a mind embued with
his father's sentiments, from extreme severity of treatment, had run away
from his paternal roof, and entered on board a ship. Holcroft pursued his
son, and when the fugitive youth saw his father in a boat, rowing toward
the vessel, rather than endure his frown and his chastisement, he seized
a pistol, and blew his brains out!
An easy transition having been made to the Bible, Mr. C. spoke of our
Saviour with an utterance so sublime and reverential, that none could
have heard him without experiencing an accession of love, gratitude, and
adorations to the Great Author of our salvation. He referred to the
Divinity of Christ, as a truth, incontestable to all who admitted the
inspiration, and consequent authority of Scripture. He particularly
alluded to the 6th of John, v. 15. "When Jesus perceived that they would
come and take him by force to make him a king, he departed again into a
mountain '_alone_.'" He said it characterized the low views, and
worldly-mindedness of the Jews, that, after they had seen the miracles of
Jesus Christ, and heard his heavenly doctrine, and had been told that his
kingdom was not of this world, they should think of conferring additional
honour on him, by making him their King! He departed from these little
views and scenes, _by night_, to a neighbouring mountain, and there, in
the spirit of _prescience_, meditated on his approaching crucifixion; on
that attendant guilt, which would bring on the Jews, wrath to the
uttermost, and terminate their impieties, by one million of their race
being swept from the face of the earth.
Mr. C. noticed Doddridge's works with great respect, particularly his
"Rise and Progress of Religion." He thought favourably of Lord
Rochester's conversion as narrated by Burnet; spoke of Jeremy Taylor in
exalted terms, and thought the compass of his mind discovered itself in
none of his works more than in his "Life of Christ," extremely
miscellaneous as it was. He also expressed the strongest commendation of
Archbishop Leighton, whose talents were of the loftiest description, and
which were, at the same time, eminently combined with humility. He
thought Bishop Burnet's high character of Leighton justly deserved, and
that his whole conduct and spirit were more conformed to his Divine
Master, than almost any man on record.
I now proceed to say, it was with extreme reluctance that the Unitarians
in Bristol resigned their champion, especially as other defections had
recently occurred in their community, and that among the more
intellectual portion of their friends. Although the expectation might be
extravagant, they still cherished the hope, however languid, that Mr. C.
after some oscillations, would once more bestow on them his suffrage; but
an occurrence took place, which dissipated the last vestige of this hope,