Part 6 out of 9
and formed between them a permanent wall of separation.
Mr. Coleridge was lecturing in Bristol, surrounded by a numerous
audience, when, in referring to the "Paradise Regained," he said that
Milton had clearly represented Satan, as a "sceptical Socinian." This was
regarded as a direct and undisguised declaration of war. It so happened
that indisposition prevented me from attending that lecture, but I
received from Mr. C. directly after, a letter, in which he thus writes:
"... Mr. ---- I find is raising the city against me, as far as he and his
friends can, for having stated a mere matter of fact; viz. that Milton
had represented Satan as a sceptical Socinian; which is the case; and I
could not have explained the excellence of the sublimest single passage
in all his writings, had I not previously informed the audience, that
Milton had represented Satan, as knowing the Prophetic and Messianic
character of Christ, but was sceptical as to any higher claims. And what
other definition could Mr. ---- himself give of a sceptical Socinian?
(with this difference indeed, that Satan's faith somewhat exceeded that
of Socinians.) Now that Satan has done so, will you consult 'Paradise
Regained,' Book IV. from line 196, and the same Book, from line 500."
It is of consequence that Mr. Coleridge's _later_ sentiments on the
subject of Socinianism should be given; but as I had no opportunity of
ascertaining what those sentiments were, it was satisfactory to learn
from the testimony of Mr. C.'s "Table Talk," that his last and
maturest opinions were, to the fullest, confirmatory of those expressed
by him in these pages.
The following letter was written by Mr. Coleridge, to Mr. George Fricker,
his brother-in-law; it is believed in 1807. Mr. F. died 1828; pious and
My dear young friend,
I am sorry that you should have felt any delicacy in disclosing to me
your religious feelings, as rendering it inconsistent with your
tranquillity of mind to spend the Sunday evening with me. Though I do not
find in that book, which we both equally revere, any command, either
express, or which I can infer, which leads me to attach any criminality
to cheerful and innocent social intercourse on the Lord's day; though I
do not find that it was in the least degree forbidden to the Jews on
their Sabbath; and though I have been taught by Luther, and the great
founders of the Church of England, that the Sabbath was a part of the
ceremonial and transitory parts of the law given by heaven to Moses; and
that our Sunday is binding on our consciences, chiefly from its manifest
and most awful usefulness, and indeed moral necessity; yet I highly
commend your firmness in what you think right, and assure you solemnly,
that I esteem you greatly for it. I would much rather that you should
have too much, than an atom too little. I am far from surprised that,
having seen what you have seen, and suffered what you have suffered, you
should have opened your soul to a sense of our fallen nature; and the
incapability of man to heal himself. My opinions may not be in all points
the same as yours; but I have experienced a similar alteration. I was for
many years a Socinian; and at times almost a Naturalist, but sorrow, and
ill health, and disappointment in the only deep wish I had ever
cherished, forced me to look into myself; I read the New Testament again,
and I became fully convinced, that Socinianism was not only not the
doctrine of the New Testament, but that it scarcely deserved the name of
a religion in any sense. An extract from a letter which I wrote a few
months ago to a sceptical friend, who had been a Socinian, and of course
rested all the evidences of christianity on miracles, to the exclusion of
grace and inward faith, will perhaps, surprise you, as showing you how
much nearer our opinions are than what you must have supposed. 'I fear
that the mode of defending christianity, adopted by Grotius first; and
latterly, among many others, by Dr. Paley, has increased the number of
infidels;--never could it have been so great, if thinking men had been
habitually led to look into their own souls, instead of always looking
out, both of themselves, and of their nature. If to curb attack, such as
yours on miracles, it had been answered:--"Well, brother! but granting
these miracles to have been in part the growth of delusion at the time,
and of exaggeration afterward, yet still all the doctrines will remain
untouched by this circumstance, and binding on thee. Still mast thou
repent and be regenerated, and be crucified to the flesh; and this not by
thy own mere power; but by a mysterious action of the moral Governor on
thee; of the Ordo-ordinians, the Logos, or Word. Still will the eternal
filiation, or Sonship of the Word from the Father; still will the Trinity
of the Deity, the redemption, and the thereto necessary assumption of
humanity by the Word, 'who is with God, and is God,' remain truths: and
still will the vital head-and-heart FAITH in these truths, be the living
and only fountain of all true virtue. Believe all these, and with the
grace of the spirit consult your own heart, in quietness and humility,
they will furnish you with proofs, that surpass all understanding,
because they are felt and known; believe all these I say, so as that thy
faith shall be not merely real in the acquiescence of the intellect; but
actual, in the thereto assimilated affections; then shalt thou KNOW from
God, whether or not Christ be of God. But take notice, I only say, the
miracles are extra essential; I by no means deny their importance, much
less hold them useless, or superfluous. Even as Christ did, so would I
teach; that is, build the miracle on the faith, not the faith on the
May heaven bless you, my dear George, and
Your affectionate friend,
S. T. C."
In the intervening time, between the receipt of Mr. C.'s last letter, and
his calling on me, I received a note from a lady, an old friend, begging
permission to introduce to me, a clever young man of her acquaintance,
whom she even so honoured as to call "A little John Henderson;"
concerning whom, this young man wished to make inquiries. An invitation
immediately followed, and the lady introduced to me, young Mr. De
Quincey. Several interviews followed, each exhibiting his talents in a
more favourable view, till I was satisfied he would either shine in
literature, or, with steady perseverance, acquire eminence in either of
He made many inquiries respecting John Henderson, of whose learning, and
surprising attainments, he had heard much. After conversing long on this
subject, Mr. De Q. asked me if I knew any thing of Mr. Coleridge's
pecuniary affairs. I replied, "I am afraid he is a legitimate son of
genius." He asked if I thought he would accept a hundred or two pounds. I
answered, I could not tell, but that I expected shortly to see him, when,
if he seriously desired to learn, I would ascertain what the state of his
finances was, and let him know. This he said, was his particular wish.
When Mr. Coleridge called on me, and the extended conversation had
occurred, before stated, I asked him concerning his circumstances. He
confessed that he had some present difficulties, which oppressed his
mind. He said that all the money he had received from his office in
Malta, as secretary to Sir Alexander Ball, had been expended in Italy,
and on his way home. I then told him, that a young man of fortune, who
admired his talents, had inquired of me, if I thought he would accept the
present of a hundred or two pounds, "and I now ask you," said I, "that
question, that I may return an answer." Mr. Coleridge rose from his seat.
He appeared much oppressed, and agitated, and, after a short silence, he
turned to me, and said. "Cottle I will write to you. We will change the
subject." The next day I received from Mr. C. the following letter.
"My dear Cottle,
Independent of letter-writing, and a dinner engagement with C. Danvers, I
was the whole of yesterday till evening, in a most wretched restlessness
of body and limbs, having imprudently discontinued some medicines, which
are now my anchor of hope. This morning I dedicate to certain distant
calls on Dr. Beddoes and Colston, at Clifton, not so much for the calls
themselves, as for the necessity of taking brisk exercise.
But no unforeseen accident intervening, I shall spend the evening with
you from seven o'clock.
I will now express my sentiments on the important subject communicated to
you. I need not say it has been the cause of serious meditation.
Undoubtedly, calamities have so thickened on me for the last two years,
that the pecuniary pressures of the moment, are the only serious
obstacles at present to my completion of those works, which, if
completed, would make me easy. Besides these, I have reason for belief
that a Tragedy of mine will be brought on the stage this season, the
result of which is of course only one of the possibilities of life, on
which I am not fool enough to calculate.
Finally therefore, if you know that any unknown benefactor is in such
circumstances, that, in doing what he offers to do, he transgresses no
duty of morals, or of moral prudence, and does not do that from feeling,
which after reflection might perhaps discountenance, I shall gratefully
accept it, as an unconditional loan, which I trust I shall be able to
restore at the close of two years. This however, I shall be able to know
at the expiration of one year, and shall then beg to know the name of my
benefactor, which I should then only feel delight in knowing, when I
could present to him some substantial proof, that I have employed the
tranquillity of mind, which his kindness has enabled me to enjoy, in
sincere desires to benefit my fellow men. May God bless you.
S. T. C."
Soon after the receipt of this letter, (on my invitation) Mr. De Quincey
called on me. I said, I understood from Mr. Coleridge himself, that he
laboured under embarrassments. "Then" said he, "I will give him five
hundred pounds." "Are you serious?" I said. He replied, "I am." I then
inquired, "Are you of age?" He said "I am." I then asked, "Can you afford
it?" He answered, "I can," and continued, "I shall not feel it." I
paused. "Well" I said, "I can know nothing of your circumstances but from
your own statement, and not doubting its accuracy, I am willing to become
an agent, in any way you prescribe." Mr. De Quincey then said, "I
authorise you, to ask Mr. Coleridge, if he will accept from a gentleman,
who admires his genius, the sum of five hundred pounds, but remember, he
continued, I absolutely prohibit you from naming to him, the source
whence it was derived." I remarked; "To the latter part of your
injunction, if you require it, I will accede, but although I am deeply
interested in Mr. Coleridge's welfare, yet a spirit of equity compels me
to recommend you, in the first instance, to present Mr. C. with a smaller
sum, and which, if you see it right, you can at any time, augment." Mr.
De Quincey then replied, "Three hundred pounds, I _will_ give him, and
you will oblige me by making this offer of mine to Mr. Coleridge." I
replied, "I will." I then gave him Mr. Coleridge's letter, requesting him
to put it in his pocket, and read it at his leisure. Soon after, I
received the following communication from Mr. De Quincey.
"My dear Sir,
I will write for the three hundred pounds to-morrow. I am not able to say
anything farther at present, but will endeavour to call on you in a day
or two. I am very sincerely, and with many thanks for your trouble in
Thomas De Quincey."
In a day or two, Mr. De Quincey enclosed me the three hundred pounds,
when I received from Mr. Coleridge, the following receipt, which I still
"November 12, 1807. Received from Mr. Joseph Cottle, the sum of three
hundred pounds, presented to me, through him, by an unknown friend.
S. T. Coleridge."
I have been thus particular in detailing the whole of this affair, so
honourable to Mr. De Quincey; and, as I was the communicating agent, I
thought it right, on this occasion, to give publicity to the transaction,
on the principle of doing justice to all. Notwithstanding the
prohibition, some indirect notices from myself, could have left no doubt
with Mr. C. of the source of this handsome gift.
It is singular, that a little before this time, (1807) Mr. Coleridge had
written to his friend Mr. Wade a melancholy letter, detailing his
embarrassed circumstances; so that Mr. De Quincey's L300 must have been
received at an acceptable time!
* * * * *
No date determines when the following letter was written: supposed, 1807.
"My dear Cottle,
... The common end of all narrative, nay, of all poems is, to convert a
series into a whole, to make those events, which, in real or imagined
history, move on in a straight line, assume to our understandings a
circular motion--the snake with its tail in its mouth. Hence, indeed, the
almost flattering and yet appropriate term, Poesy, i. e.
Poieses--_making_. Doubtless, to His eye, which alone comprehends all
past and all future, in one eternal, what to our short sight appears
straight, is but a part of the great cycle, just as the calm sea to us
appears level, though it be indeed only a part of the globe. Now what the
globe is in geography, miniaturing in order to manifest the truth, such
is a poem to that image of God, which we were created into, and which
still seeking that unity, or revelation of the one, in and by the many,
which reminds it, that though in order to be an individual being, it must
go farther from God; yet as the receding from him, is to proceed toward
nothingness and privation, it must still at every step turn back toward
him, in order to be at all. A straight line continually retracted, forms
of necessity a circular orbit. Now God's will and word CANNOT be
frustrated. His fiat was, with ineffable awfulness, applied to man, when
all things, and all living things, and man himself, (as a mere animal)
included, were called forth by the Universal, 'Let there be,' and then
the breath of the Eternal superadded, to make an immortal
spirit--immortality being, as the author of the 'Wisdom of Soloman'
profoundly expresses it, 'the only possible reflex, or image of
eternity.' The immortal finite is the contracted shadow of the eternal
Infinite. Therefore nothingness, or death, to which we move, as we recede
from God and from the Word, cannot be nothing; but that tremendous medium
between nothing and true being, which Scripture and inmost reason present
as most, most horrible!
S. T. C."
The following letter to Mr. Wade has no date.
"Tuesday night, i. e. Wednesday morning.
My best and dearest friend,
I have barely time to scribble a few lines, so as not to miss the post,
for here as every where, there are charitable people, who, taking for
granted that you have no business of your own, would save from the pain
of vacancy, by employing you in theirs.
As to the letter you propose to write to a man who is unworthy even of a
rebuke from you, I might most unfeignedly object to some parts of it,
from a pang of conscience forbidding me to allow, even from a dear
friend, words of admiration, which are inapplicable in exact proportion
to the power given to me of having deserved them, if I had done my duty.
It is not of comparative utility I speak: for as to what has been
actually done, and in relation to useful effects produced, whether on the
minds of individuals, or of the public, I dare boldly stand forward, and
(let every man have his own, and that be counted mine which, but for, and
through me, would not have existed) will challenge the proudest of my
literary contemporaries to compare proofs with me, of usefulness in the
excitement of reflection, and the diffusion of original or forgotten,
yet necessary and important truths and knowledge; and this is not the
less true, because I have suffered others to reap all the advantages.
But, O dear friend, this consciousness, raised by insult of enemies, and
alienated friends, stands me in little stead to my own soul, in how
little then, before the all-righteous Judge! who, requiring back the
talents he had entrusted, will, if the mercies of Christ do not
intervene, not demand of me what I have done, but why I did not do more;
why, with powers above so many, I had sunk in many things below most! But
this is too painful, and in remorse we often waste the energy which
should be better employed in reformation--that essential part, and only
possible proof, of sincere repentance....
May God bless you, and your affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
Toward the end of 1807, Mr. Coleridge left Bristol, and I saw nothing
more of him for another seven years, that is, till 1814. All the leading
features in Mr. Coleridge's life, during these two septennial periods,
will no doubt, be detailed by others. My undertaking recommences in 1814.
Some preliminary remarks must precede the narrative, which has now
arrived at an important part.
Neither to clothe the subject of biography with undeserved applause, nor
unmerited censure, but to present an exact portraiture, is the object
which ought scrupulously to be aimed at by every impartial writer. Is it
expedient; is it lawful; to give publicity to Mr. Coleridge's practice of
inordinately taking opium? which, to a certain extent, at one part of his
life, inflicted on a heart naturally cheerful, the stings of conscience,
and sometimes almost the horrors of despair? Is it right, in reference to
one who has passed his ordeal, to exhibit sound principles, habitually
warring with inveterate and injurious habits; producing for many years,
an accumulation of bodily suffering, that wasted the frame; poisoned the
sources of enjoyment; entailed, in the long retinue of ills, dependence
and poverty, and with all these, associated that which was far less
bearable, an intolerable mental load, that scarcely knew cessation?
In the year 1814, all this, I am afflicted to say, applied to Mr.
Coleridge. The question to be determined is, whether it be best or not,
to obey the first impulse of benevolence, and to throw a mantle over
these dark and appalling occurrences, and, since the sufferer has left
this stage of existence, to mourn in secret, and consign to oblivion the
aberrations of a frail mortal? This was my first design, but other
thoughts arose. If the individual were alone concerned, the question
would be decided; but it might almost be said, that the world is
interested in the disclosures connected with this part of Mr. Coleridge's
life. His example forms one of the most impressive memorials the pen ever
recorded; so that thousands hereafter, may derive instruction from
viewing in Mr. C. much to approve, and in other features of his
character, much also to regret and deplore. Once Mr. Coleridge expressed
to me, with indescribable emotion, the joy he should feel, if he could
collect around him all who were "beginning to tamper with the lulling,
but fatal draught;" so that he might proclaim as with a trumpet, "the
worse than death that opium entailed." I must add, if he could now speak
from his grave, retaining his earthly, benevolent solicitude for the good
of others, with an emphasis that penetrated the heart, he would doubtless
utter, "Let my example be a warning!"
This being my settled conviction, it becomes in me a duty, with all
practicable mildness, to give publicity to the following facts; in which
censure will often be suspended by compassion, and every feeling be
absorbed in that of pity; in which, if the veil be removed, it will only
be, to present a clear and practical exemplification of the consequences
that progressively follow indulgences in, what Mr. Coleridge latterly
denominated, "the accursed drug!"
To soften the repugnance which might, pardonably, arise in the minds of
some of Mr. G.'s friends, it is asked, whether it be not enough to move a
breast of adamant, to behold a man of Mr. Coleridge's genius, spell-bound
by his narcotic draughts? deploring, as he has done, in his letters to
myself, the destructive consequences of opium; writhing under its
effects,--so injurious to mind, body, and estate; submitting to the
depths of humiliation and poverty, and all this for a season at least,
accompanied with no effectual effort to burst his fetters, and assume the
station in society which became his talents; but on the contrary,
submitting patiently to dependence, and grovelling where he ought to
Another powerful reason, which should reconcile the friends of Mr.
Coleridge to this detail of his destructive habits, arises from the
recollection that the pain given to their minds, is present and
temporary. They should wisely consider that, though they regret, their
regrets, like themselves, as time rolls on, are passing away! but the
example,--this clear, full, incontestable example, _remains!_ And who can
estimate the beneficial consequences of this undisguised statement to
numerous succeeding individuals? It is consolatory to believe, that had I
written nothing else, this humble but unflinching narrative would be an
evidence that I had not lived in vain.
When it is considered also, how many men of high mental endowments, have
shrouded their lustre, by a passion for this stimulus, and thereby,
prematurely, become fallen spirits: would it not be a criminal concession
to unauthorized feelings, to allow so impressive an exhibition of this
subtle species of intemperance to escape from public notice; and, that no
discredit might attach to the memory of the individual we love, to
conceal an example, fraught with so much instruction, brought out into
full display? In the exhibition here made, the inexperienced, in future,
may learn a memorable lesson, and be taught to shrink from opium, as they
would from a scorpion; which, before it destroys, invariably expels peace
from the mind, and excites the worst species of conflict, that of setting
a man at war with himself.
The most expressive and pungent of all Mr. Coleridge's self-upbraidings,
is that, in which he thrills the inmost heart, by saying, with a
sepulchral solemnity, "I have learned what a sin is against an infinite,
imperishable being, such as is the soul of man!" And yet, is this, and
such as this, to be devoted to forgetfulness, and all be sacrificed, lest
some friend, disdaining utility, should prefer flattery to truth? A
concession to such advice would be treachery and pusillanimity combined,
at which none would so exult as the spirits of darkness.
If some of the preceding language should be deemed too strong, by those
who take but a contracted view of the subject, and who would wish to
screen the dead, rather than to improve the living, let them judge what
their impressions would be, in receiving, like myself, at this time, the
communications from Mr. C. which will subsequently appear, and then
dispassionately ask themselves, whether such impressive lessons of
instruction ought to be doomed to oblivion.
* * * * *
The following letter to Mr. Wade, has no date, but the post-mark
determines it to have been Dec. 8, 1813.
"... Since my arrival at the Greyhound, Bath, I have been confined to my
bed-room, almost to my bed. Pray for my recovery, and request Mr.
Roberts's prayers, for my infirm, wicked heart; that Christ may
mediate to the Father, to lead me to Christ, and give me a _living_
instead of a _reasoning_ faith! and for my health, so far only as it may
be the condition of my improvement, and final redemption.
My dear affectionate friend, I am your obliged, and grateful, and
S. T. Coleridge."
I now proceed further to notice Mr. Coleridge's reappearance in Bristol.
Mr. C. had written from London in the year 1814, to a friend in Bristol,
to announce that he was coming down to give a course of Lectures on
Shakspeare, such as he had delivered at the Royal Institution, London,
and expressing a hope that his friends would obtain for him as many
subscribers as they could. Great efforts were made to obtain these
subscribers, and the lectures were accordingly advertised, to commence at
the time appointed by the lecturer, and the place specified with the day
and hour; of the whole of which arrangement Mr. C. had received due
notice, and expressed his approval.
On the morning on which the lectures were to begin, a brother of Mr.
George Cumberland, (a gentleman well known in the literary world,
residing in Bristol,) arrived in this city from London, on a visit to his
brother, and casually said to him, "I came as far as Bath with one of the
most amusing men I ever met with. At the White Horse, Piccadilly, he
entered the coach, when a jew boy came up with pencils to sell. This
amusing gentleman asked the boy a few questions, when his answers being
what he thought unusually acute, the gentleman said, 'that boy is not
where he ought to be. He has talent, and if I had not an important
engagement at Bristol to-morrow, I would not mind the loss of my fare,
but would stay a day or two in London to provide some better condition
for him.' He then called the waiter; wrote to a gentleman in the
neighbourhood, with a pencil, urging him to patronize the bearer; gave
the boy five shillings, and sent him, with the waiter, according to the
address of the note."
This same gentleman, he said, talked incessantly for thirty miles out of
London, in the most entertaining way, and afterwards, with little
intermission, till they arrived about Marlborough, when he discovered
that the lady who was in the coach with them, was the sister of a
particular friend of his. "On our arrival at Bath," said the brother,
"this entertaining gentleman observed to me, 'I must here quit you, as I
am determined not to leave this lady, who is going into North Wales, till
I have seen her safe at her brother's door;' so here the amusing
gentleman left us."
"Why" said Mr. Cumberland, "I should not be surprised if that were
Coleridge, and yet that cannot be, for he has an appointment this day in
Bristol." "That is the very name," said his brother. Mr. G. C. remarked,
"This Mr. Coleridge is coming to Bristol, to give us a course of lectures
on Shakspeare, and this evening he has appointed for his first lecture,
at the Great Boom, White Lion." "Whatever the engagement may be," replied
the brother, "rely upon it you will have no lecture this evening. Mr. C.
at the present moment is posting hard towards North Wales!" The great
business now was for those who had interested themselves in the sale of
tickets for the course, to hasten round to the purchasers, to announce
that Mr. C. would be prevented from giving the lectures till further
In two or three days, Mr. Coleridge presented himself in Bristol, after a
right true journey into North Wales; and then, another day was appointed
to begin the course. The day arrived. His friends met in the afternoon,
full of anxiety, lest a second disappointment should take place. Not one
of them had seen Mr. C. in the course of that day, and they could not
tell where he had dined. They then set off, to find out this intricate
point, and having discovered him, after some difficulty, hurried him from
the bottle, and the argument, to fulfil his less important, or at least,
his less pleasing engagement.
He arrived at the lecture-room, just one hour after all the company had
impatiently awaited him. Apologizing for an unavoidable interruption! Mr.
C. commenced his lecture on Hamlet. The intention is not entertained of
pursuing this subject, except to remark, that no other important delay
arose, and that the lectures gave great satisfaction. I forbear to make
further remarks, because these lectures will form part of the London
After this course had been terminated, and one or more friends had given
him five pounds for his ticket, so rich a mine was not to be abandoned.
Another printed proposal was sent round for a course of six lectures,
which was well attended. After this, a proposal came for four lectures,
which were but indifferently attended. Not discouraged, Mr. C. now issued
proposals on a new subject, which he hoped would attract the many; but
alas, although the subject of the lectures was on no less a theme than
that of Homer, only a few of his old staunch friends attended; the public
were wearied out, and the plan of lecturing now ceased, for these latter
lectures scarcely paid the expenses.
I should here mention, that Mr. Coleridge's lectures bore but a small
resemblance to the polished compositions of Sir James Mackintosh. They
were all of a conversational character, and were little other than the
earnest harangues, with which on all possible occasions, he indulged his
friends, so that there was little of the toil of preparation with him,
and if the demand had been equal to the supply, he might have lectured
continuously. But if there was little of formal and finished composition
in Mr. C.'s lectures, there were always racy and felicitous passages,
indicating deep thought, and indicative of the man of genius; so that if
polish was not always attained, as one mark of excellence, the attention
of his hearers never flagged, and his large dark eyes, and his
countenance, in an excited state, glowing with intellect, predisposed his
audience in his favor.
It may here be mentioned, that in the year 1814, when Buonaparte was
captured and sent to Elba, the public, expression of joy burst forth in a
general illumination; when Mr. Josiah Wade, wishing to display a large
transparency, applied to his friend Mr. Coleridge, then residing with
him, for a subject, as a guide to his ingenious painter, of which the
following is a copy, from Mr. C.'s original.
The four lines were chosen, of which the two last have something of a
"On the right side of the transparency, a rock with the word Elba on
it: chained to this by one leg, put a vulture with the head of
Napoleon Buonaparte; then a female genius, representing BRITANNIA, in
a bending posture, with one hand holding out one wing of the vulture,
and with the other clipping it with a large pair of shears; on the
one half of which appears either the word 'WELLINGTON,' or the word
'ARMY,' and on the other, either 'NELSON,' or else 'NAVY;' I should
prefer WELLINGTON and NELSON, but that I fear Wellington may be a
word of too many letters. Behind Britannia, and occupying the right
side of the transparency, a slender gilded column, with 'TRADE' on
its base, and the cap of liberty on its top; and on one side, leaning
against it, a trident laurelled, and on the other a laurelled sword.
At the top of the transparency, and quite central, a dove, with an
olive branch, may be hovering over the bending figure of Britannia.
N. B.--The trident to be placed with the points upwards, the sword
with its hilt upwards.
We've conquer'd us a PEACE, like lads true metall'd:
And bankrupt NAP.'S accompts seem all now settled.
We've fought for peace, and conquer'd it at last,
The rav'ning vulture's leg seems fetter'd fast!
Britons, rejoice! and yet be wary too;
The chain may break, the clipt wing sprout anew."
Returning now to the lectures. During their delivery it was remarked by
many of Mr. C.'s friends, with great pain, that there was something
unusual and strange in his look and deportment. The true cause was known
to few, and least of all to myself. At one of the lectures, meeting Mr.
Coleridge at the inn door, he said, grasping my hand with great
solemnity, "Cottle, this day week I shall not be alive!" I was alarmed,
and speaking to another friend, he replied, "Do not be afraid. It is only
one of Mr. C.'s odd fancies." After another of the lectures, he called me
on one side, and said, "My dear friend, a dirty fellow has threatened to
arrest me for ten pounds." Shocked at the idea, I said, "Coleridge, you
shall not go to gaol while I can help it," and immediately gave him the
The following two letters were sent me, I believe, at or about this time.
They have no date.
"My dear Cottle,
An erysipelatous complaint, of all alarming nature, has rendered me
barely able to attend and go through with my lectures, the receipts of
which, have almost paid the expenses of the room, advertisements, &c.
Whether this be to my discredit, or that of the good citizens of Bristol,
it is not for me to judge. I have been persuaded to make another trial,
by advertising three lectures, on the rise, and progress, and conclusion
of the French Revolution, with a critique on the proposed constitution,
but unless fifty names are procured, not a lecture give I.
Even so the two far, far more important lectures, for which I have long
been preparing myself, and have given more thought to, than to any other
subject, viz.: those on female education, from infancy to womanhood
practically systematized, I shall be (God permitting) ready to give the
latter end of the week after next, but upon condition that I am assured
of sixty names. Why as these are lectures that I must write down, I could
sell them as a _recipe_ for twice the sum at least.
If I can walk out, I will be with you on Sunday. Has Mr. Wade called on
you? Mr. Le Breton, a near neighbour of your's, in Portland Square,
would, if you sent a note to him, converse with you on any subject
relative to my interest, with congenial sympathy; but indeed I think your
idea one of those Chimeras, which kindness begets upon an unacquaintance
'Harry! thy wish was father to that thought.'
God bless you,
S. T. C."
"My dear Cottle,
I have been engaged three days past, to dine with the sheriff, at
Merchant's Hall to-morrow. As they will not wield knife and fork till
near six, I cannot of course attend the meeting, [for the establishment
of an Infant School] but should it be put off, and you will give me a
little longer notice, I will do my best to make my humble talents
serviceable in their proportion to a cause in which I take no common
interest, which has always my best wishes, and not seldom my prayers. God
bless you, and your affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge.
P. S. To you who know I prefer a roast potatoe and salt to the most
splendid public dinner, the very sight of which always offends my infant
appetite, I need not say that I am actuated solely by my pre-engagement,
and by the impropriety of disappointing the friend whom I am to
accompany, and to whom probably I owe the unexpected compliment of the
I have read two-thirds of Dr. Pole's pamphlet on Infant Schools, with
great interest. Thoughts on thoughts, feelings on feelings, crowded upon
my mind and heart during the perusal, and which I would fain, God
willing, give vent to! I truly honor and love the orthodox dissenters,
and appreciate with heart-esteem their works of love. I have read, with
much pleasure, the second preface to the second edition of your 'Alfred.'
It is well written."
Mr. Coleridge's health appeared, at this time, increasingly precarious;
one complaint rapidly succeeding another; as will appear by the three
My dear Cottle,
On my return home yesterday, I continued unwell, so as to be obliged to
lie down for the greater part of the evening, and my indisposition
keeping me awake during the whole night, I found it necessary to take
some magnesia and calomel, and I am at present very sick. I have little
chance of being able to stir out this morning, but if I am better I will
see you in the evening. God bless you,
Mr. Wade's, Queen Square.
S. T. Coleridge."
Written on a card.
My dear Cottle,
The first time I have been out of the house, save once at meeting; and
the very first call I have made. I will be with you to-morrow by noon, if
I have no relapse. This is the third morning, that, thank heaven, I have
been free from vomiting...."
Mr. Coleridge having designed to attend Broadmead meeting, I sent him a
note to inquire if he would allow me to call and take him up; he sent me
the following reply.
My dear Cottle,
It was near ten before the maid got up, or waked a soul in the house. We
are all in a hurry, for we had all meant to go to Broadmead. As to
dining, I have not five minutes to spare to the family below, at meals.
Do not call, for, if possible, I shall meet you at the Meeting.
S. T. Coleridge.
Mr. Wade's, Queen Square."
I must now enter on a subject of profound interest. I had often spoken to
Hannah More of S. T. Coleridge, and proceeded with him, one morning to
Barley Wood, her residence, eleven miles from Bristol. The interview was
mutually agreeable, nor was there any lack of conversation; but I was
struck with something singular in Mr. Coleridge's eye. I expressed to a
friend, the next day, my concern at having beheld him, during his visit
to Hannah More, so extremely paralytic, his hands shaking to an alarming
degree, so that he could not take a glass of wine without spilling it,
though one hand supported the other! "That," said he, "arises from the
immoderate quantity of OPIUM he takes."
It is remarkable, that this was the first time the melancholy fact of Mr.
Coleridge's excessive indulgence in opium had come to my knowledge. It
astonished and afflicted me. Now the cause of his ailments became
manifest. On this subject, Mr. C. may have been communicative to others,
but to me he was silent. I now saw it was mistaken kindness to give him
money, as I had learned that he indulged in his potions according to the
extent of his means, so that to be temperate, it was expedient that he
should be poor.
I ruminated long upon this subject, with indescribable sorrow; and having
ascertained from others, not only the existence of the evil, but its
extent, so as to render doubt impossible, such was the impression of duty
on my mind, I determined, however hazardous, to write to Mr. Coleridge,
and that faithfully, otherwise, I considered myself not a friend, but an
enemy. At the end of his course, therefore, I addressed to him the
following letter, under the full impression that it was a case of "life
and death," and that if some strong effort were not made to arouse him
from his insensibility, speedy destruction must inevitably follow..
Nothing but so extreme a case, could have prompted, or could justify,
such a letter as the following.
"Bristol, April 25, 1814.
I am conscious of being influenced by the purest motives in addressing to
you the following letter. Permit me to remind you that I am the oldest
friend you have in Bristol, that I was such when my friendship was of
more consequence to you than it is at present, and that at that time, you
were neither insensible of my kindnesses, nor backward to acknowledge
them. I bring these things to your remembrance, to impress on your mind,
that it is still a _friend_ who is writing to you; one who ever has been
such, and who is now going to give you the most decisive evidence of his
When I think of Coleridge, I wish to recall the image, of him, such as he
appeared in past years; now, how has the baneful use of opium thrown a
dark cloud over you and your prospects. I would not say anything
needlessly harsh or unkind, but I must be _faithful_. It is the
irresistible voice of conscience. Others may still flatter you, and hang
upon your words, but I have another, though a less gracious duty to
perform. I see a brother sinning a sin unto death, and shall I not warn
him? I see him perhaps on the borders of eternity, in effect, despising
his Maker's law, and yet indifferent to his perilous state!
In recalling what the expectations concerning you once were, and the
excellency with which, seven years ago, you wrote and spoke on religious
truth, my heart bleeds to see how you are now fallen; and thus to notice,
how many exhilarating hopes are almost blasted by your present habits.
This is said, not to wound, but to arouse you to reflection.
I know full well the evidences of the pernicious drug! You cannot be
unconscious of the effects, though you may wish to forget the cause. All
around you behold the wild eye! the sallow countenance! the tottering
step! the trembling hand! the disordered frame! and yet will you not be
awakened to a sense of your danger, and I must add, your guilt? Is it a
small thing, that one of the finest of human understandings should be
lost! That your talents should be buried! That most of the influences to
be derived from your present example, should be in direct opposition to
right and virtue! It is true you still talk of religion, and profess the
warmest admiration of the church and her doctrines, in which it would not
be lawful to doubt your sincerity; but can you be unaware, that by your
unguarded and inconsistent conduct, you are furnishing arguments to the
infidel; giving occasion for the enemy to blaspheme; and (amongst those
who imperfectly know you) throwing suspicion over your religious
profession! Is not the great test in some measure against you, 'By their
fruits ye shall know them?' Are there never any calm moments, when you
impartially judge of your own actions by their consequences?
Not to reflect on you; not to give you a moment's _needless_ pain, but,
in the spirit of friendship, suffer me to bring to your recollection,
some of the sad effects of your undeniable intemperance.
I know you have a correct love of honest independence, without which,
there can be no true nobility of mind; and yet for opium, you will sell
this treasure, and expose yourself to the liability of arrest, by some
'dirty fellow,' to whom you choose to be indebted for 'ten pounds!' You
had, and still have, an acute sense of moral right and wrong, but is not
the feeling sometimes overpowered by self-indulgence? Permit me to remind
you, that you are not more suffering in your mind than you are in your
body, while you are squandering largely your money in the purchase of
opium, which, in the strictest equity, should receive _a different
I will not again refer to the mournful effects produced on your own
health from this indulgence in opium, by which you have undermined your
strong constitution; but I must notice the injurious consequences which
this passion for the narcotic drug has on your literary efforts. What you
have already done, excellent as it is, is considered by your friends and
the world, as the bloom, the mere promise of the harvest. Will you suffer
the fatal draught, which is ever accompanied by sloth, to rob you of your
fame, and, what to you is a higher motive, of your power of doing good;
of giving fragrance to your memory, amongst the worthies of future years,
when you are numbered with the dead?
[And now I would wish in the most delicate manner, to remind you of the
injurious effects which these habits of yours produce on your family.
From the estimation in which, you are held by the public, I am clear in
stating, that a small daily exertion on your part, would be sufficient to
obtain for you and them, honour, happiness, and independence. You are
still comparatively, a young man, and in such a cause, labour is sweet.
Can you withhold so small a sacrifice? Let me sincerely advise you to
return home, and live in the circle once more, of your wife and family.
There may have been faults on one, possibly on both sides; but calumny
itself has never charged criminality. Let all be forgotten, a small
effort for the Christian. If I can become a mediator, command me. If you
could be prevailed on to adopt this plan, I will gladly defray your
expenses to Keswick, and I am sure, with better habits, you would be
hailed by your family, I was almost going to say, as an angel from
heaven. It will also look better in the eyes of the world, who are always
prompt with their own constructions, and these constructions are rarely
the most charitable. It would also powerfully promote your own peace of
There is this additional view, which ought to influence you, as it would
every generous mind. Your wife and children are domesticated with
Southey. He has a family of his own, which by his literary labour, he
supports, to his great honour; and to the extra provision required of him
on your account, he cheerfully submits; still, will you not divide with
him the honour? You have not extinguished in your heart the Father's
feelings. Your daughter is a sweet girl. Your two boys are promising; and
Hartley, concerning whom you once so affectionately wrote, is eminently
clever. These want only a father's assistance to give them credit and
honourable stations in life. Will you withhold so equitable and small a
boon. Your eldest son will soon be qualified for the university, where
your name would inevitably secure him patronage, but without your aid,
how is he to arrive there; and afterward, how is he to be supported?
Revolve on these things, I entreat you, calmly, on your pillow.]
And now let me conjure you, alike by the voice of friendship, and the
duty you owe yourself and family: above all, by the reverence you feel
for the cause of Christianity; by the fear of God, and the awfulness of
eternity, to renounce from this moment opium and spirits, as your bane!
Frustrate not the great end of your existence. Exert the ample abilities
which God has given you, as a faithful steward; so will you secure your
rightful pre-eminence amongst the sons of genius; recover your
cheerfulness; your health; I trust it is not too late! become reconciled
to yourself; and through the merits of that Saviour, in whom you profess
to trust, obtain, at last, the approbation of your Maker! My dear
Coleridge, be wise before it be too late! I do hope to see you a
renovated man! and that you will still burst your inglorious fetters, and
justify the best hopes of your friends.
Excuse the freedom with which I write. If at the first moment it should
offend, on reflection, you will approve at least of the motive, and,
perhaps, in a better state of mind, thank and bless me. If all the good
which I have prayed for, should not be effected by this letter, I have at
least discharged an imperious sense of duty. I wish my manner were less
exceptionable, as I do that the advice through the blessing of the
Almighty, might prove effectual. The tear which bedims my eye, is an
evidence of the sincerity with which I subscribe myself
Your affectionate friend,
The following is Mr. Coleridge's reply.
"April 26th, 1814.
You have poured oil in the raw and festering wound of an old friend's
conscience, Cottle! but it is _oil of vitriol!_ I but barely glanced at
the middle of the first page of your letter, and have seen no more of
it--not from resentment, God forbid! but from the state of my bodily and
mental sufferings, that scarcely permitted human fortitude to let in a
new visitor of affliction.
The object of my present reply, is, to state the case just as it
is--first, that for ten years the anguish of my spirit has been
indescribable, the sense of my danger staring, but the consciousness of
my GUILT worse--far worse than all! I have prayed, with drops of agony on
my brow; trembling, not only before the justice of my Maker, but even
before the mercy of my Redeemer. 'I gave thee so many talents, what hast
thou done with them?' Secondly overwhelmed as I am with a sense of my
direful infirmity, I have never attempted to disguise or conceal the
cause. On the contrary, not only to friends, have I stated the whole case
with tears, and the very bitterness of shame; but in two instances, I
have warned young men, mere acquaintances, who had spoken of having taken
laudanum, of the direful consequences, by an awful exposition of its
tremendous effects on myself.
Thirdly, though before God I cannot lift up my eyelids, and only do not
despair of his mercy, because to despair would be adding crime to crime,
yet to my fellow-men, I may say, that I was seduced into the ACCURSED
habit ignorantly. I had been almost bed-ridden for many months, with
swellings in my knees. In a medical Journal, I unhappily met with an
account of a cure performed in a similar case, or what appeared to me so,
by rubbing in of Laudanum, at the same time taking a given dose
internally. It acted like a charm, like a miracle! I recovered the use of
my limbs, of my appetite, of my spirits, and this continued for near a
fortnight. At length the unusual stimulus subsided, the complaint
returned,--the supposed remedy was recurred to--but I cannot go through
the dreary history.
Suffice it to say, that effects were produced which acted on me by terror
and cowardice, of pain and sudden death, not (so help me God!) by any
temptation of pleasure, or expectation, or desire of exciting pleasurable
sensations. On the very contrary, Mrs. Morgan and her sister will bear
witness so far, as to say, that the longer I abstained, the higher my
spirits were, the keener my enjoyments--till the moment, the direful
moment arrived, when my pulse began to fluctuate, my heart to palpitate,
and such falling abroad, as it were, of my whole frame, such intolerable
restlessness, and incipient bewilderment, that in the last of my several
attempts to abandon the dire poison, I exclaimed in agony, which I now
repeat in seriousness and solemnity, 'I am too poor to hazard this.' Had
I but a few hundred pounds, but L200,--half to send to Mrs. Coleridge,
and half to place myself in a private mad house, where I could procure
nothing but what a physician thought proper, and where a medical
attendant could be constantly with me for two or three months, (in less
than that time, life or death would be determined) then there might be
hope. Now there is none!! O God! how willingly would I place myself under
Dr. Fox, in his establishment; for my case is a species of madness, only
that it is a derangement, an utter impotence of the volition, and not of
the intellectual faculties. You bid me rouse myself: go bid a man
paralytic in both arms, to rub them briskly together, and that will cure
him. 'Alas!' he would reply, 'that I cannot move my arms, is my complaint
and my misery.' May God bless you, and
Your affectionate, but most afflicted,
S. T. Coleridge."
On receiving this full and mournful disclosure, I felt the deepest
compassion for Mr. C.'s state, and sent him the following letter.
(Necessary to be given, to understand Mr. Coleridge's reply.)
I am afflicted to perceive that Satan is so busy with you, but God is
greater than Satan. Did you ever hear of Jesus Christ? That he came into
the world to save sinners? He does not demand, as a condition, any merit
of your own, he only says, 'Come and be healed!' Leave your idle
speculations: forget your vain philosophy. Come as you are. Come and be
healed. He only requires you to be sensible of your need of him, to give
him your heart, to abandon with penitence, every evil practice, and he
has promised that whosoever thus comes, he will in no wise cast out. To
such as you Christ ought to be precious, for you see the hopelessness of
every other refuge. He will add strength to your own ineffectual efforts.
For your encouragement, I express the conviction, that such exercises as
yours, are a conflict that must ultimately prove successful. You do not
cloak your sins. You confess and deplore them. I believe that you will
still be as 'a brand plucked from the burning,' and that you (with all
your wanderings) will be restored, and raised up, as a chosen instrument,
to spread a Saviour's name. Many a 'chief of sinners,' has been brought,
since the days of 'Saul of Tarsus,' to sit as a little child, at the
Redeemer's feet. To this state you, I am assured, will come. Pray! Pray
earnestly, and you will be heard by your Father, which is in Heaven. I
could say many things of duty and virtue, but I wish to direct your views
at once to Christ, in whom is the alone balm for afflicted souls.
May God ever bless you,
P. S. If my former letter appeared unkind, pardon me! It was not
intended. Shall I breathe in your ear?--I know one, who is a stranger to
these throes and conflicts, and who finds 'Wisdom's ways to be ways of
pleasantness, and her paths, paths of peace."
To this letter I received the following reply.
"O dear friend! I have too much to be forgiven, to feel any difficulty in
forgiving the cruellest enemy that ever trampled on me: and you I have
only to _thank!_ You have no conception of the dreadful hell of my mind,
and conscience, and body. You bid me pray. O, I do pray inwardly to be
able to pray; but indeed to pray, to pray with a faith to which a
blessing is promised, this is the reward of faith, this is the gift of
God to the elect. Oh! if to feel how infinitely worthless I am, how poor
a wretch, with just free-will enough to be deserving of wrath, and of my
own contempt, and of none to merit a moment's peace, can make a part of a
Christian's creed; so far I am a Christian.
April 26, 1814."
S. T. C.
At this time Mr. Coleridge was indeed in a pitiable condition. His
passion for opium had so completely subdued his _will_, that he seemed
carried away, without resistance, by an overwhelming flood. The
impression was fixed on his mind, that he should inevitably die, unless
he were placed under _constraint_, and that constraint he thought could
be alone effected in an _asylum!_ Dr. Fox, who presided over an
establishment of this description in the neighbourhood of Bristol,
appeared to Mr. C. the individual, to whose subjection he would most like
to submit. This idea still impressing his imagination, he addressed to me
the following letter.
I have resolved to place myself in any situation, in which I can remain
for a month or two, as a child, wholly in the power of others. But, alas!
I have no money! Will you invite Mr. Hood, a most dear and affectionate
friend to worthless me; and Mr. Le Breton, my old school-fellow, and,
likewise, a most affectionate friend: and Mr. Wade, who will return in a
few days: desire them to call on you, any evening after seven o'clock,
that they can make convenient, and consult with them whether any thing of
this kind can be done. Do you know Dr. Fox?
S. T. C.
I have to prepare my lecture. Oh! with how blank a spirit!"
I _did_ know the late Dr. Fox, who was an opulent and liberal-minded man;
and if I had applied to him, or any friend had so done, I cannot doubt
but that he would instantly have received Mr. Coleridge gratuitously; but
nothing could have induced me to make the application, but that extreme
case, which did not then appear fully to exist. My sympathy for Mr. C. at
this time, was so excited, that I should have withheld no effort, within
my power, to reclaim, or to cheer him; but this recurrence to an asylum,
I strenuously opposed.
Mr. Coleridge knew Dr. Fox himself, eighteen years before, and to the
honour of Dr. E. I think it right to name, that, to my knowledge, in the
year 1796, Dr. Fox, in admiration of Mr. C.'s talents, presented him with
It must here be, noticed, that, fearing I might have exceeded the point
of discretion, in my letter to Mr. C. and becoming alarmed, lest I had
raised a spirit that I could not lay, as well as to avoid an unnecessary
weight of responsibility, I thought it best to consult Mr. Southey, and
ask him, in these harassing circumstances, what I was to do; especially
as he knew more of Mr. C.'s latter habits than myself, and had proved his
friendship by evidences the most substantial.
The years 1814 and 1815, were the darkest periods in Mr. Coleridge's
life. However painful the detail, it is presumed that the reader would
desire a knowledge of the undisguised truth. This cannot be obtained
without introducing the following letters of Mr. Southey, received from
him, after having sent him copies of the letters which passed between Mr.
Coleridge and myself.
"Keswick, April, 1814.
My dear Cottle,
You may imagine with what feelings I have read your correspondence with
Coleridge. Shocking as his letters are, perhaps the most mournful thing
they discover is, that while acknowledging the guilt of the habit, he
imputes it still to morbid bodily causes, whereas after every possible
allowance is made for these, every person who has witnessed his habits,
knows that for the greater, infinitely the greater part, inclination and
indulgence are its motives.
It seems dreadful to say this, with his expressions before me, but it is
so, and I know it to be so, from my own observation, and that of all with
whom he has lived. The Morgans, with great difficulty and perseverance,
_did_ break him of the habit, at a time when his ordinary consumption of
laudanum was, from _two quarts a week_, to _a pint a day!_ He suffered
dreadfully during the first abstinence, so much so, as to say it was
better for him to die than to endure his present feelings. Mrs. Morgan
resolutely replied, it was indeed better that he should die, than that he
should continue to live as he had been living. It angered him at the
time, but the effort was persevered in.
To what then was the relapse owing? I believe to this cause--that no use
was made of renewed health and spirits; that time passed on in idleness,
till the lapse of time brought with it a sense of neglected duties, and
then relief was again sought for _a self-accusing mind_;--in bodily
feelings, which when the stimulus ceased to act, added only to the load
of self-accusation. This Cottle, is an insanity which none but the soul's
physician can cure. Unquestionably, restraint would do as much for him as
it did when the Morgans tried it, but I do not see the slightest reason
for believing it would be more permanent. This too I ought to say, that
all the medical men to whom Coleridge has made his confession, have
uniformly ascribed the evil, not to bodily disease, but indulgence. The
restraint which alone could effectually cure, is that which no person can
impose upon him. Could he be compelled to a certain quantity of labour
every day, _for his family_, the pleasure of having done it would make
his heart glad, and the sane mind would make the body whole.
I see nothing so advisable for him, as that he should come here to Greta
Hall. My advice is, that he should visit T. Poole for two or three weeks,
to freshen himself and recover spirits, which new scenes never fail to
give him. When there, he may consult his friends at Birmingham and
Liverpool, on the fitness of lecturing at those two places, at each of
which he has friends, and would, I should think beyond all doubt be
successful. He must be very unfortunate if he did not raise from fifty to
one hundred pounds at the two places. But whether he can do this or not,
here it is that he ought to be. He knows in what manner he would be
received;--by his children with joy; by his wife, not with tears, if she
can control them--certainly not with reproaches;--by myself only with
He has sources of direct emolument open to him in the '_Courier_,' and in
the '_Eclectic Review_.'--These for his immediate wants, and for
everything else, his pen is more rapid than mine, and would be paid as
well. If you agree with me, you had better write to Poole, that he may
press him to make a visit, which I know he has promised. His great object
should be, to get out a play, and appropriate the whole produce to the
support of his son Hartley, at College. Three months' pleasurable
exertion would effect this. Of some such fit of industry I by no means
despair; of any thing more than fits, I am afraid I do. But this of
course I shall never say to him. From me he shall never hear ought but
cheerful encouragement, and the language of hope.
You ask me if you did wrong in writing to him. A man with your feelings
and principles never does wrong. There are parts which would have been
expunged had I been at your elbow, but in all, and in every part it is
I hope your next will tell me that he is going to T. Poole's--I have
communicated none of your letters to Mrs. Coleridge, who you know resides
with us. Her spirits and health are beginning to sink under it. God bless
After anxious consideration, I thought the only effectual way of
benefitting Mr. Coleridge, would be, to renew the object of an annuity,
by raising for him, amongst his friends, one hundred, or, if possible,
one hundred and fifty pounds a year; purposing through a committee of
three, to pay for his comfortable board, and all necessaries, but not of
giving him the disposition of any part, till it was hoped, the correction
of his bad habits, and the establishment of his better principles, might
qualify him for receiving it for his own distribution. It was difficult
to believe that his subjection to opium could much longer resist the
stings of his own conscience, and the solicitations of his friends, as
well as the pecuniary destitution to which his _opium habits_ had reduced
him. The proposed object was named to Mr. C. who reluctantly gave his
I now drew up a letter, intending to send a copy to all Mr. Coleridge's
old and steady friends, (several of whom approved of the design) but
before any commencement was made, I transmitted a copy of my proposed
letter to Mr. Southey, to obtain his sanction. The following is his
"April 17, 1814.
I have seldom in the course of my life felt it so difficult to answer a
letter, as on the present occasion. There is however no alternative. I
must sincerely express what I think, and be thankful that I am writing to
one who knows me thoroughly.
Of sorrow and humiliation I will say nothing. Let me come at once to the
point. On what grounds can such a subscription as you propose raising for
Coleridge be solicited? The annuity to which your intended letter refers,
(L150) _was_ given him by the Wedgewoods. Thomas, by his will, settled
his portion on Coleridge, for his life. Josiah withdrew his about three
years ago. The half still remaining amounts, when the Income Tax is
deducted, to L67 10s. That sum Mrs. C. receives at present, and it is all
which she receives for supporting herself, her daughter, and the two boys
at school:--the boys' expenses amounting to the whole. No part of
Coleridge's embarrassment arises from his wife and children,--except that
he has insured his life for a thousand pounds, and pays the annual
premium. He never writes to them, and never opens a letter from them!
In truth, Cottle, his embarrassments, and his miseries, of body and mind,
all arise from one accursed cause--excess in _opium_, of which he
habitually takes more than was ever known to be taken by any person
before him. The Morgans, with great effort, succeeded in making him leave
it off for a time, and he recovered in consequence _health_ and
_spirits_. He has now taken to it again. Of this indeed I was too sure
before I heard from you--that his looks bore testimony to it. Perhaps you
are not aware of the costliness of this drug. In the quantity which C.
takes, it would consume _more_ than the whole which you propose to raise.
A frightful consumption of _spirits_ is added. In this way bodily
ailments are produced; and the wonder is that he is still alive.
There are but two grounds on which a subscription of this nature can
proceed: either when the, object is disabled from exerting himself; or
when his exertions are unproductive. Coleridge is in neither of these
predicaments. Proposals after proposals have been made to him by the
booksellers, and he repeatedly closed with them. He is at this moment as
capable of exertion as I am, and would be paid as well for whatever he
might be pleased to do. There are two Reviews,--the 'Quarterly,' and the
'Eclectic,' in both of which he might have employment at ten guineas a
sheet. As to the former I could obtain it for him; in the latter, they
are urgently desirous of his assistance. _He promises, and does nothing._
I need not pursue this subject. What more can I say? He may have new
friends who would subscribe to this plan, but they cannot be many; but
among all those who know him, his habits are known also.
Do you as you think best. My own opinion is, that Coleridge ought to come
here, and employ himself, collecting money by the way by lecturing at
Birmingham and Liverpool. Should you proceed in your intention, my name
must not be mentioned. _I subscribe enough._ Here he may employ himself
without any disquietude about immediate subsistence. Nothing is wanting
to make him easy in circumstances, and happy in himself, but to leave off
opium, and to direct a certain portion of his time to the discharge of
_his duties_. Four hours a day would suffice. Believe me, my dear Cottle,
Your old friend,
The succeeding post brought me the following letter.
"Keswick, April 18, 1814.
My dear Cottle,
I ought to have slept upon your letter before I answered it. In thinking
over the subject (for you may be assured it was not in my power to get
rid of the thought) the exceeding probability occurred to me....
When you talked, in the proposed letter you sent me, of Coleridge
producing valuable works if his mind were relieved by the certainty of a
present income, you suffered your feelings to overpower your memory.
Coleridge _had_ that income for many years. It was given him expressly
that he might have leisure for literary productions; and to hold out the
expectation that he would perform the same conditions, if a like contract
were renewed, is what experience will not warrant.
You will probably write to Poole on this subject. In that case, state to
him distinctly what my opinion is: that Coleridge should return home to
Keswick, raising a supply for his present exigencies, by lecturing at
Birmingham, and Liverpool, and then, if there be a necessity, as I fear
there _will be_ (arising solely and wholly from his own most culpable
habits of sloth and self-indulgence) of calling on his friends to do that
which _he can_ and _ought to do_,--for _that_ time the humiliating
solicitation should be reserved....
God bless you,
No advantage would arise from recording dialogues with Mr. Coleridge, it
is sufficient to state that Mr. C.'s repugnance to visit Greta Hall, and
to apply his talents in the way suggested by Mr. Southey, was invincible;
neither would he visit T. Poole, nor lecture at Birmingham nor Liverpool.
Just at this time I was afflicted with the bursting of a blood vessel,
occasioned, probably, by present agitations of mind, which reduced me to
the point of death; when the intercourse of friends, and even speaking,
were wholly prohibited.
During my illness, Mr. Coleridge sent my sister the following letter; and
the succeeding one to myself.
"13th May, 1814.
I am uneasy to know how my friend, J. Cottle, goes on. The walk I took
last Monday to enquire, in person, proved too much for my strength, and
shortly after my return, I was in such a swooning way, that I was
directed to go to bed, and orders were given that no one should interrupt
me. Indeed I cannot be sufficiently grateful for the skill with which
_the surgeon treats me._ But it must be a slow, and occasionally, an
interrupted progress, after a sad retrogress of nearly twelve years. To
God all things are possible. I intreat your prayers, your brother has a
share in mine.
What an astonishing privilege, that a sinner should be permitted to cry,
'Our Father!' Oh, still more stupendous mercy, that this poor ungrateful
sinner should be exhorted, invited, nay, commanded, to pray--to pray
importunately. That which great men most detest, namely, importunacy; to
_this_ the GIVER and the FORGIVER ENCOURAGES _his_ sick petitioners!
I will not trouble you except for one verbal answer to this note. How is
With affectionate respects to yourself and your sister,
S. T. Coleridge.
To Miss Cottle, Brunswick Square."
"Friday, 27th May, 1814.
My dear Cottle,
Gladness be with you, for your convalescence, and equally so, at the hope
which has sustained and tranquillized you through your imminent peril.
Far otherwise is, and hath been, my state; yet I too am grateful; yet I
cannot rejoice. I feel, with an intensity, unfathomable by words, my
utter nothingness, impotence, and worthlessness, in and for myself. I
have learned what a sin is, against an infinite imperishable being, such
as is the soul of man.
I have had more than a glimpse of what is meant by death and outer
darkness, and the worm that dieth not--and that all the _hell_ of the
reprobate, is no more inconsistent with the love of God, than the
blindness of one who has occasioned loathsome and guilty diseases to eat
out his eyes, is inconsistent with the light of the sun. But the
consolations, at least, the sensible sweetness of hope, I do not possess.
On the contrary, the temptation which I have constantly to fight up
against, is a fear, that if _annihilation_ and the _possibility_ of
_heaven_, were offered to my choice, I should choose the former.
This is, perhaps, in part, a constitutional idiosyncracy, for when a mere
boy, I wrote these lines:
Oh, what a wonder seems the fear of death,
Seeing how gladly we all sink to sleep;
Babes, children, youths and men,
Night following night, for three-score years and ten.
And in my early manhood, in lines descriptive of a gloomy solitude, I
disguised my own sensations in the following words:
Here wisdom might abide, and here remorse!
Here too, the woe-worn man, who weak in soul,
And of this busy human heart aweary,
Worships the spirit of _unconscious life_,
In tree, or wild-flower. Gentle lunatic!
If so he might not wholly cease to BE,
He would far rather not be that he is;
But would be something that he knows not of,
In woods, or waters, or among the rocks.'
My main comfort, therefore, consists in what the divines call the faith
of adherence, and no spiritual effort appears to benefit me so much as
the one earnest, importunate, and often, for hours, momently repeated
prayer: 'I believe, Lord help my unbelief! Give me faith, but as a
mustard seed, and I shall remove this mountain! Faith, faith, faith! I
believe, O give me faith! O, for my Redeemer's sake, give me faith in my
In all this I justify God, for I was accustomed to oppose the preaching
of the terrors of the gospel, and to represent it as debasing virtue, by
the admixture of slaving selfishness.
I now see that what is spiritual, can only be spiritually apprehended.
Comprehended it cannot.
Mr. Eden gave you a too flattering account of me. It is true, I am
restored, as much beyond my expectations almost, as my deserts; but I am
exceedingly weak. I need for myself, solace and refocillation of animal
spirits, instead of being in a condition of offering it to others. Yet,
as soon as I may see you, I will call on you.
S. T. Coleridge.
P. S. It is no small gratification to me, that I have seen and conversed
with Mrs. Hannah More. She is, indisputably, the first literary female I
ever met with. In part, no doubt, because she is a Christian. Make my
best respects when you write."
The serious expenditure of money, resulting from Mr. C.'s consumption of
opium, was the least evil, though very great, and which must have
absorbed all the produce of Mr. C.'s lectures, and all the liberalities
of his friends. It is painful to record such circumstances as the
following, but the picture would be incomplete without it.
Mr. Coleridge, in a late letter, with something it is feared, if not of
duplicity, of self-deception, extols the skill of his surgeon, in having
gradually lessened his consumption of laudanum, it was understood, to
twenty drops a day. With this diminution, the habit was considered as
subdued, and at which result, no one appeared to rejoice more than Mr.
Coleridge himself. The reader will be surprised to learn, that,
notwithstanding this flattering exterior, Mr. C. while apparently
submitting to the directions of his medical adviser, was secretly
indulging in his usual overwhelming quantities of opium! Heedless of his
health, and every honourable consideration, he contrived to obtain
surreptitiously, the fatal drug, and, thus to baffle the hopes of his
Mr. Coleridge had resided, at this time, for several months, with his
kind friend, Mr. Josiah Wade, of Bristol, who, in his solicitude for his
benefit, had procured for him, so long as it was deemed necessary, the
professional assistance, stated above. The surgeon on taking leave, after
the cure had been _effected_, well knowing the expedients to which opium
patients would often recur, to obtain their proscribed draughts; at
least, till the habit of temperance was fully established, cautioned Mr.
W. to prevent Mr. Coleridge, by all possible means, from obtaining that
by stealth, from which he was openly debarred. It reflects great credit
on Mr. Wade's humanity, that to prevent all access to opium, and thus, if
possible, to rescue his friend from destruction, he engaged a respectable
old decayed tradesman, constantly to attend Mr. C. and, to make that
which was sure, doubly certain, placed him even in his bed-room; and this
man always accompanied him whenever he went out. To such surveillance Mr.
Coleridge cheerfully acceded, in order to show the promptitude with which
he seconded the efforts of his friends. It has been stated that every
precaution was unavailing. By some unknown means and dexterous
contrivances, Mr. C. afterward confessed that he still obtained his usual
As an example, amongst others of a similar nature, one ingenious
expedient, to which he resorted, to cheat the doctor, he thus disclosed
to Mr. Wade, from whom I received it. He said, in passing along the quay,
where the ships were moored, he noticed, by a side glance, a druggist's
shop, probably an old resort, and standing near the door, he looked
toward the ships, and pointing to one at some distance, he said to his
attendant, "I think that's an American." "Oh, no, that I am sure it is
not," said the man. "I think it is," replied Mr. C. "I wish you would
step over and ask, and bring me the particulars." The man accordingly
went; when as soon as his back was turned, Mr. C. stepped into the shop,
had his portly bottle filled with laudanum, which he always carried in
his pocket, and then expeditiously placed himself in the spot where he
was left. The man now returned with the particulars, beginning, "I told
you, sir, it was not an American, but I have learned all about her." "As
I am mistaken, never mind the rest," said Mr. C. and walked on.
Every bad course of conduct (happily for the good of social order) leads
to perplexing, and generally, to disastrous results. The reader will soon
have a practical illustration, that Mr. Coleridge was not exempt from the
A common impression prevailed on the minds of his friends, that it was a
desperate case, that paralyzed all their efforts: that to assist Mr. C.
with money, which, under favourable circumstances, would have been most
promptly advanced, would now only enlarge his capacity to obtain the
opium which was consuming him. We at length learnt that Mr. Coleridge was
gone to reside with his friend Mr. John Morgan, in a small house, at
Calne, in Wiltshire. So gloomy were our apprehensions, that even the
death of Mr. C. was mournfully expected at no distant period! for his
actions at this time, were, we feared, all indirectly of a suicidal
In a letter from Mr. Southey, dated Oct. 27, 1814, he thus writes:--
"My dear Cottle,
It is not long since I heard of you from Mr. De Quincey: but I wish you
would sometimes let me hear from you. There was a time when scarcely a
day passed without my seeing you, and in all that time, I do not remember
that there was a passing cloud of coolness between us. The feeling I am
sure continues: do not then let us be so entirely separated by distance,
which in cases of correspondence may almost be considered as a mere
Can you tell me anything of Coleridge? We know that he is with the
Morgans at Calne. What is to become of him? He may find men who will give
him board and lodging for the sake of his conversation, but who will pay
his other expenses? He leaves his family to chance, and charity. With
good feelings, good principles, as far as the understanding is concerned,
and an intellect as clear, and as powerful, as was ever vouchsafed to
man, he is the slave of degrading sensuality, and sacrifices everything
to it. The case is equally deplorable and monstrous....
Believe me, my dear Cottle,
Ever your affectionate old friend,
Of Mr. Coleridge, I now heard nothing, but, in common with all his
friends, felt deep solicitude concerning his future course; when, in
March, 1815, I received from him the following letter:--
"Calne, March 7, 1815.
Dear Cottle, You will wish to know something of myself. In health, I am
not worse than when at Bristol I was best; yet fluctuating, yet unhappy!
in circumstances 'poor indeed!' I have collected my scattered, and my
manuscript poems, sufficient to make one volume. Enough I have to make
another. But till the latter is finished, I cannot without great loss of
character, publish the former on account of the arrangement, besides the
necessity of correction. For instance, I earnestly wish to begin the
volumes, with what has never been seen by any, however few, such as a
series of Odes on the different sentences of the Lord's Prayer, and more
than all this, to finish my greater work on 'Christianity, considered as
Philosophy, and as the only Philosophy.' All the materials I have in no
small part, reduced to form, and written, but, oh me! what can I do, when
I am so poor, that in having to turn off every week, from these to some
mean subject for the newspapers, I distress myself, and at last neglect
the greater, wholly to do little of the less. If it were in your power to
receive my manuscripts, (for instance what I have ready for the press of
my poems) and by setting me forward with _thirty_ or _forty_ pounds,
taking care that what I send, and would make over to you, would more than
secure you from loss, I am sure you would do it. And I would die (after
my recent experience of the cruel and insolent spirit of calumny,) rather
than subject myself, as a slave, to a club of subscribers to my poverty.
If I were to say I am easy in my conscience, I should add to its pains by
a lie; but this I can truly say, that my embarrassments have not been
occasioned by the bad parts, or selfish indulgences of my nature. I am at
present five and twenty pounds in arrear, my expenses being at L2 10s.
per week. You will say I ought to live for less, and doubtless I might,
if I were to alienate myself from all social affections, and from all
conversation with persons of the same education. Those who severely blame
me, never ask, whether at any time in my life, I had for myself and my
family's wants, L50 beforehand.
Heaven knows of the L300 received, through you, what went to myself.
No! bowed down under manifold infirmities, I yet dare to appeal to God
for the truth of what I say; I have remained poor by always having been
poor, and incapable of pursuing any one great work, for want of a
S. T. Coleridge."
This was precisely the termination I was prepared to expect. I had never
before, through my whole life refused Mr. C. an application for money;
yet I now hesitated: assured that the sum required, was not meant for the
discharge of board, (for which he paid nothing) but for the purchase of
opium, the expense of which, for years, had amounted nearly to the two
pounds ten shillings per week. Under this conviction, and after a painful
conflict, I sent Mr. C. on the next day, a friendly letter, declining his
request in the kindest manner I could, but enclosing a five pound note.
It happened that my letter to Mr. Coleridge passed on the road, another
letter from him to myself, far more harrowing than the first. This was
the _last_ letter ever received from Mr. C.
The following is Mr. Coleridge's second letter.
"Calne, Wiltshire, March 10, 1815.
My dear Cottle,
I have been waiting with the greatest uneasiness for a letter from you.
My distresses are impatient rather than myself: inasmuch as for the last
five weeks, I know myself to be a burden on those to whom I am under
great obligations: who would gladly do all for me; _but who have done all
they can!_ Incapable of any exertion in this state of mind, I have now
written to Mr. Hood, and have at length bowed my heart down, to beg that
four or five of those, who I had reason to believe, were interested in my
welfare, would raise the sum I mentioned, between them, should you not
find it convenient to do it. Manuscript poems, equal to one volume of 230
to 300 pages, being sent to them immediately. If not, I must instantly
dispose of all my poems, fragments and all, for whatever I can get from
the first rapacious bookseller, that will give anything--and then try to
get my livelihood where I am, by receiving, or waiting on day-pupils,
children, or adults, but even this I am unable to wait for without some
assistance: for I cannot but with consummate baseness, throw the expenses
of my lodging and boarding for the last five or six weeks on those, who
must injure and embarrass themselves in order to pay them. The 'Friend'
has been long out of print, and its re-publication has been called for by
Indeed from the manner in which it was first circulated, it is little
less than a new work. To make it a complete and circular work, it needs
but about eight or ten papers. This I could, and would make over to you
at once in full copy-right, and finish it outright, with no other delay
than that of finishing a short and temperate Treatise on the Corn Laws,
and their national and moral effects; which had I even twenty pounds only
to procure myself a week's ease of mind, I could have printed before the
bill had passed the Lords. At all events let me hear by return of post. I
am confident that whether you take the property of my Poems, or of my
Prose Essays, in pledge, you cannot eventually lose the money.
As soon as I can, I shall leave Calne for Bristol, and if I can procure
any day pupils, shall immediately take cheap lodgings near you. My plan
is to have twenty pupils, ten youths or adults, and ten boys. To give the
latter three hours daily, from eleven o'clock to two, with exception of
the usual school vacations, in the Elements of English, Greek, and Latin,
presenting them exercises for their employment during the rest of the
day, and two hours every evening to the adults (that is from sixteen and
older) on a systematic plan of general knowledge; and I should hope that
L15 a year, would not be too much to ask from each, which excluding
Sundays and two vacations, would be little more than a shilling a day, or
six shillings a week, for forty-two weeks.
To this I am certain I could attend with strictest regularity, or indeed
to any thing mechanical.
But composition is no voluntary business. The very necessity of doing it
robs me of the power of doing it. Had I been possessed of a tolerable
competency, I should have been a voluminous writer. But I cannot, as is
feigned of the Nightingale, sing with my breast against a thorn. God
S. T. Coleridge."
The receipt of this letter filled me with the most poignant grief; much
for the difficulties to which Mr. C. was reduced, but still more for the
cause. In one letter, indignantly spurning the contributions of his "club
of subscribers to his poverty;" and in his next, (three days afterwards)
earnestly soliciting this assistance! The victorious bearer away of
University prizes, now bent down to the humiliating desire of keeping a
day school, for a morsel of bread! The man, whose genius has scarcely
been surpassed, proposing to "attend" scholars, "children or adults," and
to bolster up his head, at night, in "cheap lodgings!" Oppressed with
debt, contracted by expending that money on opium, which should have been
paid to his impoverished friend; and this, at a moment, when, for the
preceding dozen years, if he had called his mighty intellect into
exercise, the "world" would have been "all before him, where to choose
his place of rest." But at this time he preferred, to all things else,
the Circean chalice!
These remarks have reluctantly been forced from me; and never would they
have passed the sanctuary of my own breast, but to call on every consumer
of the narcotic poison, who fancies, perchance, that in the taking of
opium there is pleasure only and no pain, to behold in this memorable
example, the inevitable consequences, which follow that "accursed
practice!" Property consumed! health destroyed! independence bartered;
respectability undermined; family concord subverted! that peace
sacrificed, which forms so primary an ingredient in man's cup of
happiness!--a deadly war with conscience! and the very mind of the
unhappy votary, (whilst the ethereal spirit of natural affection
_generally escapes!_ despoiled of its best energies).
I venture the more readily on these reflections, from the hope of
impressing some young delinquents, who are beginning to sip the "deadly
poison;" little aware that no habit is so progressive, and that he who
begins with the little, will rapidly pass on to the much! I am also
additionally urged to these mournful disclosures, from their forming one
portion only, of Mr. Coleridge's life. It has been my unenviable lot, to
exhibit my friend in his lowest points of depression; conflicting with
unhallowed practices, and, as the certain consequence, with an accusing
Most rejoiced should I have been, had my opportunities and acquaintance
with Mr. Coleridge continued, to have traced the gradual development into
action, of those better principles which were inherent in his mind. This
privilege is reserved for a more favoured biographer; and it now remains
only for me, in a closing remark, to state, that, had I been satisfied
that the money Mr. C. required, would have been expended in lawful
purposes, I would have supplied him, (without being an affluent man) to
the utmost of his requirements, and not by dividing the honour with
others, or receiving his writings in pledge! But, knowing that whatever
monies he received would, assuredly, be expended in opium, COMPASSION
STAYED MY HAND.
In my reply to his second letter, by "return of post," I enclosed Mr. C.
another five pounds: urged him in a kind letter, to come immediately to
Bristol, where myself and others, would do all that could be done, to
advise and assist him. I told him at the same time, that, when I declined
the business of a bookseller, I for ever quitted publishing, so that I
could not receive his MSS. valuable as they doubtless were; but I
reminded him, that as his merits were _now_ appreciated by the public,
the London booksellers would readily enter into a treaty, and remunerate
him liberally. Mr. Coleridge returned no answer to my letter; came not to
Bristol, but went in the next spring to London, as I learned indirectly:
and I now await a narrative of the latter periods of Mr. C.'s life, and
particularly the perusal of his "posthumous works," with a solicitude
surpassed by none.
I mentioned before that from my intimate knowledge of Mr. Coleridge's
sentiments and character, no doubt could be entertained by me, of its
being Mr. C.'s earnest wish, in order to exhibit to his successors the
pernicious consequences of opium, that, when called from this world, the
fullest publicity should be given to its disastrous effects on himself.
But whatever confidence existed in my own mind, it might be, I well knew,
no easy task, to inspire, with the same assurance, some of his surviving
friends; so that I have been compelled to argue the point, and to show,
to those who shrunk from such disclosures, that Mr. Coleridge's example
was intimately combined with general utility, and that none ought to
regret a faithful narration of, (unquestionably) _the great bane of his
life_, since it presented a conspicuous example, which might arrest the
attention, and operate as a warning to many others.
From a conviction of the tender ground on which I stood, and entertaining
a latent suspicion that some, whom I could wish to have pleased, would
still censure, as unjustifiable exposure, what with me was the result of
conscience; I repeat, with all these searching apprehensions, the reader
will judge what my complicated feelings must have been, of joy and
sorrow; a momentary satisfaction, succeeded by the deepest pungency of
affliction, when, (after all the preceding was written) Mr. Josiah Wade,
presented to me the following mournful and touching letter, addressed to
him by Mr. Coleridge, in the year 1814, which, whilst it relieved my mind
from so onerous a burden, fully corroborated all that I had presumed, and
all that I had affirmed. Mr. W. handed this letter to me, that it might
be made public, in conformity with his departed friend's injunction.
"Bristol, June 26th, 1814.
For I am unworthy to call any good man friend--much less you, whose
hospitality and love I have abused; accept, however, my intreaties for
your forgiveness, and for your prayers.
Conceive a poor miserable wretch, who for many years has been attempting
to beat off pain, by a constant recurrence to the vice that reproduces
it. Conceive a spirit in bell, employed in tracing out for others the
road to that heaven, from which his crimes exclude him! In short,
conceive whatever is most wretched, helpless, and hopeless, and you will
form as tolerable a notion of my state, as it is possible for a good man
I used to think the text in St. James that 'he who offended in one point,
offends in all,' very harsh: but I now feel the awful, the tremendous
truth of it. In the one crime of OPIUM, what crime have I not made myself
guilty of!--Ingratitude to my Maker! and to my benefactors--injustice!
_and unnatural cruelty to my poor children!_--self-contempt for my
repeated promise--breach, nay, too often, actual falsehood!
After my death, I earnestly entreat, that a full and unqualified
narration of my wretchedness, and of its guilty cause, may be made
public, that at least, some little good may be effected by the direful
May God Almighty bless you, and have mercy on your still affectionate,
and in his heart, grateful--
S. T. Coleridge."
This is indeed a redeeming letter. We here behold Mr. Coleridge in the
lowest state of human depression, but his condition is not hopeless. It
is not the insensibility of final impenitence; it is not the slumber of
the grave. A gleam of sunshine bursts through the almost impenetrable
gloom; and the virtue of that prayer "May God Almighty have mercy!" in a
penitent heart, like his, combined as we know it was, with the
recognition of Him, who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," authorizes
the belief, that a spirit thus exercised, had joys in reserve, and was to
become the recipient of the best influences that can illumine regenerate
No individual ever effected great good in the moral world, who had not
been subjected to a long preliminary discipline; and he who knows what is
in man; who often educes good from evil, can best apportion the exact
kind and degree, indispensable to each separate heart. Mr. Coleridge,
after this time, lived twenty years. A merciful providence, though with
many mementos of decay, preserved his body, and in all its vigor
sustained his mind. Power was given him, it is presumed, and fervently
hoped, to subdue his former pernicious practices. The season of solemn
reflection it is hoped arrived, that his ten talents were no longer
partially buried, but that the lengthened space extended to him, was
consecrated by deep reflection, and consequent qualification, to
elucidate and establish the everlasting principles of Christian truth.
Under such advantages, we are authorized in forming the highest
expectations from his Great Posthumous Work. Nothing which I have
narrated of Mr. Coleridge, will in the least subtract from the merit, or
the impression of that production, effected in his mature manhood, when
his renovated faculties sent forth new corruscations, and concentrated
the results of all his profound meditations. The very process to which he
had been exposed, so unpropitious as it appeared, may have been the most
favourable for giving consistency to his intellectual researches. He may
have thought in channels the more refined, varied, and luminous, from the
ample experience he had acquired, that the only real evil in this world,
was the frown of the Almighty, and His favor the only real good; so that
the grand work, about to appear, may add strength to the strong, and give
endurance to the finished pediment of his usefulness and his fame.
But although all these cheering anticipations should be fully realized,
regrets will still exist. It will ever be deplored, that Mr. Coleridge's
system of Christian Ethics, had not yet been deliberately recorded by
himself. This feeling, however natural, is still considerably moderated,
by reflecting on the ample competence of the individual on whom the
distinction of preparing this system has devolved; a security that it
will be both well and faithfully executed, and which, in the same
proportion that it reflects credit on the editor, will embalm with
additional honours, the memory of SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE; a genius, who
in the opulence of his imagination, and his rich and inexhaustible
capabilities, as a poet, a logician, and a metaphysician, has not perhaps
been surpassed since the days of Milton.
The following letter of Mr. Coleridge, was written a short time before
his death, to a young friend. This deliberate exposition of his faith,
and at such a season, cancels every random word or sentence, Mr. C. may
ever have expressed or written, of an opposing tendency. In thoughtless
moments Mr. C. may sometimes have expressed himself unguardedly,
attended, on reflection, no doubt with self-accusation, but here in the
full prospect of dissolution, he pours forth the genuine and ulterior
feelings of his soul.
"To Adam Steinmetz Kinnaird,
My dear godchild,--I offer up the same fervent prayer for you now, as I
did kneeling before the altar, when you were baptized into Christ, and
solemnly received as a living member of his spiritual body, the church.
Years must, pass before you will be able to read with an understanding
heart what I now write. But I trust that the all-gracious God, the Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, who, by his
only-begotten Son, (all mercies in one sovereign mercy!) has redeemed you
from evil ground, and willed you to be born out of darkness, but into
light; out of death, but into life; out of sin, but into righteousness;
even into 'the Lord our righteousness;' I trust that he will graciously
hear the prayers of your dear parents, and be with you as the spirit of
health and growth, in body and in mind. My dear godchild, you received
from Christ's minister, at the baptismal font, as your Christian name,
the name of a most dear friend of your father's, and who was to me even
as a son, the late Adam Steinmetz, whose fervent aspirations, and
paramount aim, even from early youth, was to be a Christian in thought,
word, and deed; in will, mind, and affections. I too, your godfather,
have known what the enjoyment and advantages of this life are, and what
the more refined pleasures which learning and intellectual power can
give; I now, on the eve of my departure, declare to you, and earnestly
pray that you may hereafter live and act on the conviction, that health
is a great blessing; competence, obtained by honourable industry, a great
blessing; and a great blessing it is, to have kind, faithful, and loving
friends and relatives; but that the greatest of all blessings, as it is
the most ennobling of all privileges, is to be indeed a Christian. But I
have been likewise, through a large portion of my later life, a sufferer,
sorely affected with bodily pains, languor, and manifold infirmities, and
for the last three or four years have, with few and brief intervals, been
confined to a sick room, and at this moment, in great weakness and
heaviness, write from a sick bed, hopeless of recovery, yet without
prospect of a speedy removal. And I thus, on the brink of the grave,
solemnly bear witness to you, that the Almighty Redeemer, most gracious
in his promises to them that truly seek him, is faithful to perform what
he has promised; and has reserved, under all pains and infirmities, the
peace that passeth all understanding, with the supporting assurance of a
reconciled God, who will not withdraw his spirit from me in the conflict,
and in his own time will deliver me from the evil one. O my dear
godchild! eminently blessed are they who begin _early_ to seek, fear, and
love, their God, trusting wholly in the righteousness and mediation of
their Lord, Redeemer, Saviour, and everlasting High Priest, Jesus Christ.
Oh, preserve this as a legacy and bequest from your unseen godfather and
S. T. Coleridge.
July 13th, 1834, Grove, Highgate."
Is the writer of this epistle the man, who twenty years before, even
coveted annihilation! Is this the man, who so long preferred, to all
things else, the "Circean chalice!" Is this he, who at one time, learned
to his unutterable dismay, what a sin was, "against an imperishable
being, such as is the soul of man." Is this he, whose will was once
extinguished by an unhallowed passion, and he himself borne along toward
perdition by a flood of intemperance! Is this the man who resisted the
light, till darkness entered his mind, and with it a "glimpse of outer
darkness!" Is this he, who feared that his own inveterate and aggravated
crimes would exclude him, from that heaven, the road to which he was
tracing out for others! Is this he, that through successive years,
contended with the severest mental and bodily afflictions; who knew the
cause, but rejected the remedy?--who, in 1807, declared himself "rolling
rudderless," "the wreck of what he once was," "with an unceasing
overwhelming sensation of wretchedness?" and in 1814, who still
pronounced himself the endurer of all that was "wretched, helpless, and
hopeless?" Samuel Taylor Coleridge is the man on whom all these charges
and fearful anticipations once rested: but he it is fervently hoped, was
changed; that he was renovated; that, when refuge failed, an unseen power
subdued the rebellious, and softened the hard; and that he approached the
verge of life in the serenity of faith and hope.
Before the effect of this letter, the eccentricities of S. T.
Coleridge--his indiscretions, his frailties, vanish away. There is in it
a mellowed character, accordant with a proximity to the eternal state,
when alone the objects of time assume their true dimensions; when, earth
receding; eternity opening; the spirit, called to launch its untried bark
on the dark and stormy waters that separate both worlds, descries _light_
afar, and leans, as its only solace, on the hope of the christian.
Checkered indeed was the life of this great but imperfect man. His dawn
was not without promise. Hopes and blessings attended him in his course,
but mists obscured his noon, and tempests long followed him; yet he set,
it is hoped, serene and in splendor, looking on, through faith in his
Redeemer, to that cloudless morning, where his sun shall no more go down.
* * * * *
The attention of the reader will now be directed to letters of Mr.
Southey, briefly relating to Mr. Coleridge, and to circumstances
connected with the publication of the "Early Recollections of S. T.
Coleridge," 1837;--with a reference to the distressing malady with which
Mrs. Southey was afflicted.
"Keswick, Feb. 26, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
... I never go out but for regular exercise. Constant occupation; a daily
walk whatever the weather may be; constitutional buoyancy of spirits; the
comfort I have in my daughters and son; the satisfaction of knowing that
nothing is neglected for my dear Edith, which can be done by human care
and dutiful attention; above all, a constant trust in God's mercy, and
the certainty that whatever he appoints for us is best; these are my
supports, and I have as much cause to be thankful for present
consolation, as for past happiness.
... If this domestic affliction had not fallen upon us, it was my
intention to have seen you in October 1834, and have brought my son
Cuthbert with me; and if it please God that I should ever be able to
leave home for a distant journey, this I still hope to do, and if you are
not then in a better place than Bedminster, I am selfish enough to wish
you may stay there till we meet; and indeed for the sake of others, that
it may be to the utmost limits which may be assigned us. I would give a
great deal to pass a week with you in this world. When I called on your
brother Robert, in London, four years ago, he did not recollect me, and
yet I was the least changed of the two.
I should very much like to show you the correspondence which once passed
between Shelley and myself. Perhaps you are not acquainted with half of
his execrable history. I know the whole, and as he gave me a fit
opportunity, I read him such a lecture upon it as he deserved.
God bless you, my dear old friend,
I shall now refer to some incidental subjects relating to Mr. Southey,
which could not be well introduced in an earlier stage.
In drawing up my "Early Recollections of S. T. Coleridge," so many
references had been made to Mr. Southey, that, notwithstanding his
general permission, I deemed it proper to transmit him the MS., with a
request that he would, without hesitation, draw his pen across any
portions to which he either objected, or thought it might be better to
omit. A further benefit also was anticipated by such inspection, as any
error which might inadvertently have crept in, as to facts and dates,
would infallibly be detected by Mr. Southey's more retentive memory. Mr.
S. thus replied:
"Keswick, March 6, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
You will see that I have drawn my pen across several passages in your MS.
of "Early Recollections." The easiest way of showing you those small
inaccuracies, will be by giving you a slight summary of the facts, most
of them antecedent to my introduction to you.
Since your manuscript has arrived, I have received from London, two
volumes of 'Letters and Conversations of S. T. Coleridge,' published
anonymously by one of his later friends, Mr. Alsop, by name, a person of
whom I never heard before. Mr. Moxon, the publisher, writes to me thus
concerning it: 'In many respects I regret that I undertook the
publication of the work, for though at my earnest solicitation, many
objectionable passages respecting both yourself and Mr. Wordsworth were
left out, yet much I fear still remains that ought not to have been
published; and yet if I had refused the work, it would most likely have
been published by some other bookseller, with more in it to offend than
there is at present.'
Now there is nothing in this work relating to myself of the slightest
consequence, but the worst enemy of S. T. C. could not have done so much
injury to his character as this injudicious friend has done; who, be it
observed, was also a friend of Cobbet's. He calls on Mr. Green, his
presumed editor, not to conceal Coleridge's real opinions from the
public, and certainly represents those opinions as being upon most, if
not all subjects, as lax as his own. Coleridge's nephews,--the Bishop and
Judge--are wantonly insulted by this person, and contemptuous speeches of
his are reported concerning dead and living individuals, for whom he
professed friendship, and from whom he had received substantial proofs of
kindness. Heaven preserve me from such a friend as Mr. Alsop! But I never
could have admitted such a person to my friendship, nor, if I had, would
he have any such traits of character to record....
Now then to your narrative, or rather to mine; referring to incidents
which took place before Coleridge's and my own acquaintance with
yourself; by which you will perceive on what small points you were
misinformed, and in what your memory has deceived you.
In the summer of 1794, S. T. Coleridge and Hucks came to Oxford, on their
way into Wales on a pedestrian tour. Allen introduced them to me, and the
scheme of _Pantisocracy_ was introduced _by them_; talked of, by no means
determined on. It was subsequently talked into shape by Burnet and
myself, at the commencement of the long vacation. We separated from
Coleridge and Hucks: they making for Gloucester; Burnet and I proceeding
on foot to Bath.
After some weeks, Coleridge returning from his tour, came to Bristol on
his way, and stopped there. (I being there.) Then it was that we resolved
on going to America, and S. T. C., and I walked into Somersetshire to see
Burnet, and on that journey it was that we first saw Poole. Coleridge
made his engagement with Miss Fricker, on our return from this journey,
at my mother's house in Bath;--not a little to my astonishment, for he
had talked of being deeply in love with a certain _Mary Evans_. I had
been previously engaged to her sister, my poor Edith!--_whom it would
make your heart ache to see at this time!_
We remained at Bristol till the close of the vacation; several weeks.
During that time we again talked of America. The funds were to be what
each could raise. Coleridge, by his _projected work_, 'Specimens of
Modern Latin Poems,' for which he had printed proposals, and obtained a
respectable list of Cambridge subscribers, before I knew him: I by 'Joan
of Arc,' and what else I might publish. I had no rich relations, except
one, my uncle, John Southey, of Taunton, who took no notice of his
brother's family; nor any other expectation. He hoped to find companions
Coleridge returned to Cambridge, and then published 'The Fall of
Robespierre;' while Lovell (who had married one of the Miss Frickers) and
I, published a thin volume of poems at Bath. My first transaction with
you was for 'Joan of Arc,' and this was before Coleridge's arrival at