Part 7 out of 9
Bristol, and soon after Lovell had introduced me to you. Coleridge did
not come back again to Bristol till January 1795, nor would he I believe
_have come back at all_, if I had not gone to London to look for him, for
having got there from Cambridge at the beginning of winter, there he
remained without writing either to Miss Fricker or myself.
At last I wrote to Favell (a Christ's Hospital boy, whose name I knew as
one of his friends, and whom he had set down as one of our companions) to
inquire concerning him, and learnt in reply, that S. T. Coleridge was at
'The Cat and Salutation,' in Newgate Street.  Thither I wrote. He
answered my letter, and said, that _on such a day_ he should set off for
Bath by the _waggon_. Lovell and I walked from Bath to meet him. Near
Marlborough we met with the appointed waggon; but _no S. T. Coleridge was
therein!_ A little while afterward, I went to London, and not finding him
at 'The Cat and Salutation,' called at Christ's Hospital, and was
conducted by Favell to 'The Angel Inn, Butcher Hall street,' whither
Coleridge had shifted his quarters. I brought him then to Bath, and in a
few days to Bristol.
In the intermediate time between his leaving Bristol, and returning to
it, the difficulties of getting to America became more and more apparent.
Wynne wrote to press upon me the expedience of trying our scheme of
Pantisocracy in Wales, knowing how impracticable it would be _any where_;
knowing also, that there was no hope of convincing me of its
impracticability, _at that time_. In our former plan we were all agreed,
and expected that what the earth failed to produce for us, the pen would
supply. Such were our views in January 1795; when S. T. Coleridge gave
his first and second lectures in the Corn Market, and his third in a
vacant house in Castle Green. These were followed by my lectures, and you
know the course of our lives till the October following, when we parted.
By that time I had seen that _no dependence_ could be placed on
Coleridge. No difference took place between us when I communicated to him
my intention of going with my uncle to Lisbon, nor even a remonstrance on
his part; nor had I the slightest suspicion that he intended to quarrel
with me, till ----'s insolence made it apparent; and I then learnt from
Mrs. Morgan (poor John Morgan's mother) in what manner he was speaking of
me. This was in October. From that time to my departure for Lisbon you
know my history. Lovell did not die till six months afterward. The
'Watchman' was not projected till I was on my way to Lisbon.
Poor Burnet's history would require a letter of itself. He became
deranged on one point, which was that of _hatred to me_, whom he accused
of having jealously endeavoured to suppress his talents! This lasted
about six months, in the year 1802, and it returned again in the last
year of his life. The scheme of Pantisocracy proved his ruin; but he was
twice placed in situations where he was well provided for. I had the
greatest regard for him, and would have done, and indeed, as far as was
in my power, did my utmost to serve him God bless you, my dear old
Yours most affectionately,
"Keswick, 14 April, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
If you are drawing up your 'Recollections of Coleridge,' for separate
publication, you are most welcome to insert anything of mine which you
might think proper; but it is my wish that nothing of mine may go into
the hands of any person concerned in bringing forward Coleridge's MSS.
I know that Coleridge at different times of his life never let pass an
opportunity of speaking ill of me. Both Wordsworth and myself have often
lamented the exposure of duplicity which must result from the publication
of his letters, and by what he has delivered by word of mouth to the
worshippers by whom he was always surrounded. To Wordsworth and to me, it
matters little. Coleridge received from us such substantial services as
few men have received from those whose friendship they had forfeited.
This indeed was not the case with Wordsworth, as it was with me, for he
knew not in what manner Coleridge had latterly spoken of him. But I
continued all possible offices of kindness to his children, long after I
regarded his own conduct with that _utter disapprobation_ which alone it
can call forth from all who had any sense of duty and moral obligation.
Poole from whom I had a letter by the same post with yours, thinks,
from what you have said concerning Coleridge's habit of taking opium,
that it would operate less to deter others from the practice, than it
would lead them to flatter themselves in indulging in it, by the example
of so great a man. That there is some probability in this I happen to
know from the effect of Mr. De Quincey's book; one who had never taken a
drop of opium before, but took so large a dose, for the sake of
experiencing the sensations which had been described, that a very little
addition to the dose might have proved fatal. There, however, the
mischief ended, for he never repeated the experiment. But I apprehend if
you send what you have written, about Coleridge and opium, it will not be
made use of, and that Coleridge's biographer will seek to find excuses
for his abuse of that drug. Indeed in Mr. Alsop's book, it is affirmed
that the state of his heart, and other appearances in his chest, showed
the habit to have been brought on by the pressure of disease in those
parts:--the more likely inference is, that the excess brought on the
I am much pleased with your "_Predictions_." Those who will not be
convinced by such scriptural proofs, if they pretend to admit any
authority in the Scriptures, would not, though one rose from the dead.
God bless you, my dear old friend. Whenever I can take a journey, I will,
if you are living, come to Bedminster. There is no other place in the
world which I remember with such feelings as that village.
Believe me always yours most affectionately,
In answer to an invitation, Mr. Southey thus replied.
"Keswick, August 16, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
... Be assured, whenever it may seem fitting for me to take so long a
journey, I shall come to you with as cordial a feeling of unchanged and
unabated friendship as that with which you I know will receive me. It is
very much my wish to do so, to show Cuthbert my son (who will accompany
me) the scenes of my boyhood and youth, and the few friends who are left
to me in the West of England. There is an urgent reason why I should go
to London before the last volume of Cowper is brought forth, if domestic
circumstances can be so arranged as to admit of this, and I would fain
hope it may be; I shall then certainly proceed to the West.
Longman has determined to print my poetical works in ten monthly parts,
and I have to prepare accordingly for the press. No one will take more
interest than yourself in this arrangement. I have much to correct, much
to alter, and not a little to add: among other things, a general preface,
tracing the circumstances which contributed to determine my course as a
I can say nothing which would give you pleasure to hear on a subject
which concerns me so nearly. We have continued variations of better and
worse, with no tendency to amendment; and according to all human
foresight, no hope of recovery. We entertain no guests, and admit no
company whom it is possible to exclude. God bless you, my dear old
friend, and believe me always
Yours most affectionately,
I now refer to an occurrence that gave me some uneasiness. It appears,
from the following letter that the family of Mr. Coleridge felt uneasy at
learning that I intended to disclose to the public, the full extent of
Mr. C.'s subjection to opium.
"September 30, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
... Coleridge's relations are uneasy at what they hear of your intention
to publish an account of him. Yesterday I learnt personally, from an
influential member of the family, what their objections particularly
were. He specified as points on which they were uncomfortable,
Coleridge's own letter, or letters, respecting _opium_, and the
circumstances of a gift of three hundred pounds from Mr. De Quincey.
The truth is, that Coleridge's relations are placed in a most
uncomfortable position. They cannot say that any one of themselves will
bring out a full and authentic account of C. because they know how much
there is, which all who have any regard for Coleridge's memory, would
wish to be buried with him. But we will talk over the subject when we
meet. Meantime I have assured ---- that your feelings toward Coleridge
are, what they have ever been, friendly in the highest degree.
How like a dream does the past appear! through the last years of my life
more than any other part. All hope of recovery, or even of amendment, is
over! In all reason I am convinced of this; and yet at times when Edith
speaks and looks like herself, I am almost ready to look for what, if it
occurred, would be a miracle. _It is quite necessary that I should be
weaned from this constant object of solicitude_; so far at least as to
refresh myself, and recruit for another period of confinement. Like all
other duties, it brings with it its reward: and when I consider with how
many mercies this affliction has been tempered, I have cause indeed to be
thankful. Believe me always, my dear Cottle,
Yours most affectionately,
A few days after I received the following letter from Mr. Southey:--
"Keswick, Oct. 10, 1836.
My dear Cottle,
I have long foreseen that poor S. T. Coleridge would leave a large
inheritance of uneasiness to his surviving friends, and those who were
the most nearly connected with him.
The _Head of the Family_ being in these parts, I have heard more
concerning the affair of _your Memoir_, as it respects the feelings of
that family than I should otherwise. He is a thoroughly good man; mild,
unassuming, amiable, and judicious beyond most men. This matter interests
him greatly, on account of his brother having married Mr. S. T.
Coleridge's daughter. Indeed it is in consequence of a letter from the
---- that I am now writing. He cared nothing when a gross and wanton
insult was offered to him in that ... book, but on this occasion he is
A few omissions (one letter in particular, respecting the habit of taking
opium,) would spare them great pain, and leave your book little the
poorer, rich as your materials are. Wilfully I am sure you never gave
pain to any human being, nor any living creature.... You are not like a
witness who is required to tell all which he knows. In those cases the
moral law requires us to tell nothing but the truth, but does not demand
the whole truth, unless the suppression of any part of it should be
tantamount to falsehood.
Of this indeed you are fully aware. You have enough to tell that is
harmless as well as interesting, and not only harmless, but valuable and
instructive, and that _ought_ to be told, and which _no one but yourself
can tell_. Strike out only.... I will read over the Memoir when we meet.
You have abundance of materials; and many things may come to mind which
may supply the place of what should be withdrawn. _You will understand my
motive in pressing this upon you._ God bless you, my dear old friend.
Your's most affectionately,
As I determined to publish nothing relating to Mr. Coleridge, without Mr.
Southey's sanction, my first impression, on the receipt of this letter,
was, wholly to _withdraw the work_;--but as I expected soon to see Mr.
S., I resolved to suspend my determination till he had an opportunity of
inspecting the MS. once more, when his specific objections might be
Two or three weeks after receiving the former letter, Mr. S. addressed to
me the following hasty line:--
"Friday, Nov. 1, 1836, Pipe Hayes.
My dear Cottle,
Here we are, six miles from Birmingham. Our places are taken for Thursday
morning, in the coach which starts from the Hen and Chickens, Birmingham.
To what Inn it comes in Bristol, I forgot to ask. So, if on our arrival,
we do not find your vehicle, we shall pack ourselves, and our luggage, in
a hackney-coach, without delay, and drive to Carlton Villa. So on
Thursday evening I hope to see you.
God bless you, my dear old friend,
P.S. "I saw Wordsworth on my way, and mentioned your wish about engraving
his portrait. He referred it entirely to my opinion of its
On his arrival, Mr. Southey deliberately re-read the whole of my MS., and
objected alone to a few trifles, which were expunged. He read the series
of _opium letters_ with a mind evidently affected, but no part did he
interdict. He now arrived at, and read the solemn _Testamentary
Letter_,(p. 394 [Letter dating "Bristol, June 26th, 1814. Transcriber.]).
I said to him, "Southey shall I, or shall I not, omit this letter." He
paused for a few moments, and then distinctly said. "You must print it.
It is your authority for what you have done." He then continued, "You
must print it also, for the sake of faithful biography, and for the
beneficial effect this, and the other opium letters must inevitably
produce." This unqualified approval determined me to publish the whole of
the opium letters.
I here give the next letter I received from Mr. Southey, when he had
returned home, after his long excursion to Bristol, and the West of
England, by which it will be perceived that no after inclination existed
in Mr. S.'s mind to alter the opinion he had given.
"Keswick, May 9, 1837.
My dear Cottle,
It is scarcely possible that a day should pass, in which some
circumstance, some object, or train of recollection, does not bring you
to my mind. You may suppose then how much I thought of you during the
employment I recently got through of correcting "_Joan of Arc_" for the
Our journey, after we left your comfortable house, was as prosperous as
it could be at that time of the year. We have reason, indeed, to be
thankful, that travelling so many hundred miles, in all sorts of ways,
and over all kinds of roads, we met with no mischief of any kind; nor any
difficulties greater than what served for matter of amusement. During the
great hurricane, we were at Dawlish, in a house on the beach, from which
we saw the full effect of its force on the sea.
The great snow-storm caught us at Tavistock, and rendered it impossible
for us to make our intended excursion on Dartmoor. Cuthbert and I parted
company at my friend, Miss Caroline Bowles's, near Lymington, he going to
his brother-in-law, (at Terring, where he is preparing for the
University,) I, the next day, to London. I joined him again at Terring,
three weeks afterward; and, after a week, made the best of my way home.
The objects of my journey were fully accomplished. Cuthbert has seen most
of the spots which I desired to show him, and has been introduced to the
few old friends whom I have left in the West of England. I had much
pleasure, but not unmingled with pain, in visiting many places which
brought back vividly the remembrance of former days; but to Cuthbert, all
was pure pleasure.
God bless you, my dear old friend,
In a previous letter Mr. Southey had said in a contemplative mood,
"... Little progress is made in my 'Life of George Fox' but considerable
preparation. This, and some sketches of Monastic history, will probably
complete the ecclesiastical portion of my labours. Alas! I have
undertaken more than there is any reasonable likelihood of completing. My
head will soon be white, and I feel a disposition to take more thought
for the morrow than I was wont to do; not as if distrusting providence,
which has hitherto supported me, _but my own powers of exertion!_"
I pass over the intervening period between this, and my old friend's
mental affliction, as more properly belonging to Mr. Southey's regular
biographer, but this much I may observe.
Having heard, with the deepest concern, that Mr. Southey's mind was
affected, I addressed a kind letter to him, to inquire after his health,
and requested only one line from him, to relieve my anxiety, if only the
signing of his name. I received a letter in reply, from his kindest
friend, of which the following is an extract.
"... With deep and affectionate interest he read and re-read your letter,
and many times in the course of the evening he received it I observed
tears in his eyes. 'I will write to Cottle,' he has often repeated since,
but alas! the purpose remains unfulfilled, and from me, dear sir, you
must receive the explanation of his silence...."
On communicating this melancholy intelligence to my old and valued
friend, Mr. Foster, he thus replied.
"My dear sir,
I am obliged for your kind note, and the letter, which I here return. I
can well believe that you must feel it a mournful communication. A friend
in early life: a friend ever since; a man highly, and in considerable
part, meritoriously conspicuous in the literature of the age; and now at
length prostrated, and on the borders of the grave; for there can be no
doubt the bodily catastrophe will soon follow the mental one. It is a
most wonderful career that he has run in literary achievement, and it is
striking to see such a man disabled at last, even to write a letter to an
old friend! It is interesting to myself, as it must be to every one
accustomed to contemplate the labours and productions of mind, to see
such a spirit finally resigning its favourite occupations, and retiring
from its fame!..."
Mr. Foster, referring to the death of his friends, thus afterwards wrote.
"Stapleton, June 22, 1842.
My dear sir,
... How our old circle is narrowing around us. Going back just three
years and a-half, I was recounting yesterday eleven persons departed
within that space of time; three-fourths of those who had formed, till
then, the list of my old friends and acquaintance, leaving just a few,
how few, of those who are my coevals, or approaching to that standard.
You are within one, and he at a great distance, whom I may never see
again, the oldest in both senses, of the almost solitary remainder. Our
day is not far off. Oh, may we be prepared to welcome its arrival...."
The following is an extract from another letter of Mr. Foster's
containing the same train of thought.
"My dear sir,
... My thoughts are often pensively turning on the enumeration of those I
may call my coevals; and many of them of long acquaintance who have been
called away within these few years. An old, and much valued friend at
Worcester, Mr. Stokes, from whose funeral I returned little more than in
time to attend that of our estimable friend, your brother-in-law, Mr.
Hare; since then, your excellent sister Mary. Mr. Coles, of Bourton,
known and esteemed almost forty years. Mr. Addington. Lately in Scotland,
the worthy Mr. Dove; and now last of all, so unexpectedly, Mr. Roberts. I
dined with him at Mr. Wade's, perhaps not more than ten days before his
With friendly regards, I remain, my dear sir,
Most truly yours,
A letter of mine to Mr. Foster, referring chiefly to Mr. Southey, may not
inappropriately be here introduced.
"July 6, 1842.
To the Rev. John Foster,
My dear Sir,--I sympathize with you on the comparatively recent loss of
so large a proportion of your early friends and acquaintance. I can, to a
great extent, participate in similar feelings. Yourself and Mr.
Wordsworth are the only two survivors, of all with whom in early life I
joined in familiar intercourse, for poor dear Southey since I last wrote
to you concerning him, is worse than dead. Mr. W., who dined with me last
summer, told me that he does not now know his own children. He said, he
had a short time previously called upon him, and he fancied that a slight
glimpse of remembrance crossed his mind, when, in a moment, he silently
passed to his library, and taking down a book, (from mechanical habit)
turned over the pages, without reading, or the power of reading. Pardon
prolixity, where the heart is so full. Surely the world does not present
a more melancholy, or a more humiliating sight, than the prostration of
so noble a mind as that of my old and highly-prized friend, Robert
Southey. When I first knew him, he had all that Westminster and Oxford
could give him. He was, as the Mores said, to whom I had introduced him,
'brimfull of literature:' decisive and enthusiastic in all his
sentiments, and impetuous in all his feelings, whether of approval or
dislike. I never knew one more uncompromising in what he believed either
to be right, or wrong; thereby marking the integrity of his mind, which
ever shrunk from the most distant approximation to duplicity or meanness.
This disposition manifested itself almost in infancy, for his mother, an
acute and very worthy woman, told me, in the year 1798, that whenever any
mischief or accident occurred amongst the children, which some might wish
to conceal, she always applied to Robert, who never hesitated, or
deviated from the truth, though he himself might have been implicated.
And in after life, whatever sentiments he avowed, none who knew the
confirmed fidelity of his mind, could possibly doubt that they were the
genuine dictates of his heart.
There was in Southey, alas! his sun is set!--I must, write in the third
person!--one other quality which commands admiration; an habitual
delicacy in his conversation, evidencing that cheerfulness and wit might
exist without ribaldry, grossness, or profanation. He neither violated
decorum himself, nor tolerated it in others. I have been present when a
trespasser of the looser class, has received, a rebuke, I might say a
castigation, well deserved, and not readily forgotten. His abhorrence
also of injustice, or unworthy conduct, in its diversified shapes, had
all the decision of a Roman censor; while this apparent austerity was
associated, when in the society he liked, with so bland and playful a
spirit, that it abolished all constraint, and rendered him one of the
most agreeable, as well as the most intelligent of companions.
It must occasionally have been exemplified in your experience, that some
writers who have acquired a transient popularity, perchance, more from
adventitious causes, than sterling merit, appear at once to occupy an
increased space, and fancy that he who fills his own field of vision,
occupies the same space in the view of others. This disposition will
almost invariably be found in those who most readily depreciate those
whom they cannot excel; as if every concession to the merits of another
subtracted from their own claims. Southey was eminently exempt from this
little feeling. He heartily encouraged genius, wherever it was
discoverable; whether, 'with all appliances,' the jewel shone forth from
academic bowers, or whether the gem was incrusted with extraneous matter,
and required the toil of polishing; indifferent to him, it met with the
encouraging smile, and the fostering care.
It may be truly said, Mr. Southey exacted nothing, and consequently his
excellencies were the more readily allowed; and this merit was the
greater, since, as Mr. Coleridge remarked, "he had written on so many
subjects, and so well on all." Although his company was sought by men of
the first rank and talent, from whom he always received that
acknowledgment, if not deference, which is due to great attainments and
indisputable genius, yet such honours excited no plebeian pride. It
produced none of that morbid inflation, which, wherever found,
instinctively excites a repulsive feeling. It was this unassuming air,
this suavity of deportment, which so attached Southey to his friends, and
gave such permanence to their regard.
It seems almost invidious to single out one distinguishing quality in his
mind, when so many deserve notice, but I have often been struck with the
quickness of his perception; the promptitude with which he discovered
whatever was good or bad in composition, either in prose or verse. When
reading the production of another, the tones of his voice became a
_merit-thermometer_, a sort of _Aeolian-harp-test_; in the flat parts his
voice was unimpassioned, but if the gust of genius swept over the wires,
his tones rose in intensity, till his own energy of feeling and
expression kindled in others a sympathetic impulse, which the dull were
forced to feel, whilst his animated recitations threw fresh meaning into
the minds of the more discerning.
What an emblem of human instability! The idea of Robert Southey's altered
state can hardly force itself on my imagination. The image of one lately
in full vigour, who appeared, but as yesterday, all thought and
animation, whose mind exhibited a sort of rocky firmness, and seemed made
almost for perpetuity; I say it is hard to conceive of faculties so
strong and richly matured, reduced now even to imbecility! The image of
death I could withstand, for it is the lot of mortals, but the spectacle
of such a mind associated with living extinction, appears incongruous,
and to exceed the power of possible combination. Those who witnessed the
progressive advances of this mournful condition were prepared for the
event by successive changes, but with my anterior impressions, if in his
present state I were to be abruptly presented to Robert Southey, and met
the vacant and cold glance of indifference, the concussion to my feelings
would so overwhelm, that--merciful indeed would be the power which
shielded me from a like calamity.
Southey spent a week with me, four or five years ago, when he manifested
the same kind and cordial behaviour, which he had uniformly displayed for
nearly half a century, and which had never during that long period been
interrupted for a moment. Nor was steadfastness in friendship one of his
least excellencies. From the kindliness of his spirit, he excited an
affectionate esteem in his friends, which they well knew no
capriciousness on his part would interrupt: to which, it might be added,
his mind was well balanced, presenting no unfavourable eccentricities,
and but few demands for the exercise of charity. Justly also, may it be
affirmed, that he was distinguished for the exemplary discharge of all
the social and relative virtues; disinterestedly generous, and
scrupulously conscientious, presenting in his general deportment,
courteousness without servility, and dignity without pride. There was in
him so much kindliness and sincerity, so much of upright purpose, and
generous feeling, that the belief is forced on the mind, that, through
the whole range of biographical annals, few men, endowed with the higher
order of intellect, have possessed more qualities commanding esteem than
Robert Southey; who so happily blended the great with the amiable, or
whose memory will become more permanently fragrant to the lovers of
genius, or the friends of virtue. Nor would Southey receive a fair
measure of justice by any display of personal worth, without noticing the
application of his talents. His multifarious writings, whilst they embody
such varied excellence, display wherever the exhibition was demanded, or
admissible, a moral grandeur, and reverence of religion, which indirectly
reflects on some, less prodigally endowed, who do, and have, corrupted by
their prose, or disseminated their pollutions through the sacred, but
desecrated medium of song.
It was always a luxury with Southey to talk of old times, places, and
persons; and Bristol, with its vicinities, he thought the most beautiful
city he had ever seen. When a boy he was almost a resident among St.
Vincent's rocks, and Leigh Woods. The view, from the Coronation Road, of
the Hotwells, with Clifton, and its triple crescents, he thought
surpassed any view of the kind in Europe. He loved also to extol his own
mountain scenery, and, at his last visit, upbraided me for not paying him
a visit at Greta Hall, where, he said, he would have shown me the glories
of the district, and also have given me a sail on the lake, in his own
boat, 'The Royal Noah.' After dwelling on his entrancing water-scenes,
and misty eminences, he wanted much, he said to show me his library,
which at that time consisted of fourteen thousand volumes, which he had
been accumulating all his life, from the rare catalogues of all nations:
but still, he remarked, he had a list of five hundred other volumes to
obtain, and after possessing these, he said, he should be satisfied.
Alas! he little knew, how soon the whole would appear to him--less than
the herbage of the desert!
At this time, Mr. S. mentioned a trifling occurrence, arising out of what
happened to be the nature of our conversation, although it is hardly
worth naming to you, who so lightly esteem human honours. He said, some
years before, when he chanced to be in London, he accepted an invitation
to dine with the Archbishop of Canterbury but, subsequently, he received
an invitation for the same day, from the Duchess of Kent, to dine at
Kensington Palace; and as invitations from Royalty supersede all others,
he sent an apology to the Archbishop, and dined with more Lords and
Ladies than he could remember. At the conclusion of the repast, before
the Ladies retired, _she_ who was destined to receive _homage_, on proper
occasions, had learnt to pay _respect_, for the young Princess (our
present gracious Queen Victoria) came up to him, and curtseying, very
prettily said, 'Mr. Southey, I thank you for the pleasure I have received
in reading your Life of Lord Nelson.'
I must mention one other trait in Southey, which did him peculiar honour,
I allude to the readiness with which he alluded to any little acts of
kindness which he might have received from any of his friends, in past
years. To the discredit of human nature, there is in general a laborious
endeavour to bury all such remembrances in the waters of Lethe: Southey's
mind was formed on a different model.
The tear which dims my eye, attests the affection which I still bear to
poor dear Southey. Few knew him better than myself, or more highly
estimated the fine qualities of his head and heart; and still fewer can
be oppressed with deeper commiseration for his present forlorn and
hopeless condition.... My dear sir,
Most truly yours,
Rev. John Foster."
I have now to present the Reader with a series of letters from Mr.
Coleridge to the late Josiah and Thomas Wedgewood, Esqrs.; obligingly
communicated to me by Francis Wedgewood, Esq., of Etruria, son of Mr.
"May 21st, 1799. Gottingen.
My dear sir,
I have lying by my side six huge letters, with your name on each of them,
and all, excepting one, have been written for these three months. About
this time Mr. Hamilton, by whom I send this and the little parcel for my
wife, was, as it were, setting off for England; and I seized the
opportunity of sending them by him, as without any mock-modesty I really
thought that the expense of the postage to me and to you would be more
than their worth. Day after day, and week after week, was Hamilton going,
and still delayed. And now that it is absolutely settled that he goes
to-morrow, it is likewise absolutely settled that I shall go this day
three weeks, and I have therefore sent only this and the picture by him,
but the letters I will now take myself, for I should not like them to be
lost, as they comprize the only subject on which I have had an
opportunity of making myself thoroughly informed, and if I carry them
myself, I can carry them without danger of their being seized at
Yarmouth, as all my letters were, yours to ---- excepted, which were,
luckily, not sealed. Before I left England, I had read the book of which
you speak. I must confess that it appeared to me exceedingly illogical.
Godwin's and Condorcet's extravagancies were not worth confuting; and yet
I thought that the Essay on 'Population' had not confuted them. Professor
Wallace, Derham, and a number of German statistic, and
physico-theological writers had taken the same ground, namely, that
population increases in a geometrical, but the accessional nutriment only
in arithmetical ratio--and that vice and misery, the natural consequences
of this order of things, were intended by providence as the counterpoise.
I have here no means of procuring so obscure a book, as Rudgard's; but to
the best of my recollection, at the time that the Fifth Monarchy
enthusiasts created so great a sensation in England, under the
Protectorate, and the beginning of Charles the Second's reign, Rudgard,
or Rutgard (I am not positive even of the name) wrote an Essay to the
same purpose, in which he asserted, that if war, pestilence, vice, and
poverty, were wholly removed, the world could not exist two hundred
years, &c. Seiffmilts, in his great work concerning the divine order and
regularity in the destiny of the human race, has a chapter entitled a
confutation of this idea; I read it with great eagerness, and found
therein that this idea militated against the glory and goodness of God,
and must therefore be false,--but further confutation found I none!--This
book of Seiffmilts has a prodigious character throughout Germany; and
never methinks did a work less deserve it. It is in three huge octavos,
and wholly on the general laws that regulate the population of the human
species--but is throughout most unphilosophical, and the tables, which he
has collected with great industry, prove nothing. My objections to the
Essay on Population you will find in my sixth letter at large--but do
not, my dear sir, suppose that because unconvinced by this essay, I am
therefore convinced of the contrary. No, God knows, I am sufficiently
sceptical, and in truth more than sceptical, concerning the possibility
of universal plenty and wisdom; but my doubts rest on other grounds. I
had some conversation with you before I left England, on this subject;
and from that time I had purposed to myself to examine as thoroughly as
it was possible for me, the important question. Is the march of the human
race progressive, or in cycles? But more of this when we meet.
What have I done in Germany? I have learned the language, both high and
low German, I can read both, and speak the former so fluently, that it
must be a fortune for a German to be in my company, that is, I have words
enough and phrases enough, and I arrange them tolerably; but my
pronunciation is hideous. 2ndly, I can read the oldest German, the
Frankish, and the Swabian. 3rdly, I have attended the lectures on
Physiology, Anatomy, and Natural History, with regularity, and have
endeavoured to understand these subjects. 4thly, I have read and made
collections for a history of the. 'Belles Lettres,' in Germany, before
the time of Lessing: and 5thly, very large collections for a 'Life of
Lessing;' to which I was led by the miserably bad and unsatisfactory
biographies that have been hitherto given, and by my personal
acquaintance with two of Lessing's friends. Soon after I came into
Germany, I made up my mind fully not to publish anything concerning my
travels, as people call them; yet I soon perceived that with all possible
economy, my expenses would be greater than I could justify, unless I did
something that would to a moral certainty repay them. I chose the 'Life
of Lessing' for the reasons above assigned, and because it would give me
an opportunity of conveying under a better name than my own ever will be,
opinions which I deem of the highest importance. Accordingly, my main
business at Gottingen, has been to read all the numerous controversies in
which Lessing was engaged, and the works of all those German poets before
the time of Lessing, which I could not afford to buy. For these last four
months, with the exception of last week, in which I visited the Hartz, I
have worked harder than I trust in God Almighty, I shall ever have
occasion to work again: this endless transcription is such a
body-and-soul-wearying purgatory. I shall have bought thirty pounds'
worth of books, chiefly metaphysics, and with a view to the one work, to
which I hope to dedicate in silence, the prime of my life; but I believe
and indeed doubt not, that before Christmas I shall have repaid myself.
I never, to the best of my recollection, felt the fear of death but once;
that was yesterday when I delivered the picture to Hamilton. I felt, and
shivered as I felt it, that I should not like to die by land or water
before I see my wife and the little one; that I hope yet remains to me.
But it was an idle sort of feeling, and I should not like to have it
again. Poole half mentioned, in a hasty way, a circumstance that
depressed my spirits for many days:--that you and Thomas were on the
point of settling near Stowey, but had abandoned it. "God Almighty! what
a dream of happiness it held out to me!" writes Poole. I felt
disappointment without having had hope.
In about a month I hope to see you. Till then may heaven bless and
preserve us! Believe me, my dear sir, with every feeling of love, esteem,
Your affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"21, Buckingham Street, Strand, January, 1800.
My dear sir,
I am sitting by a fire in a rug great coat. Your room is doubtless to a
greater degree air tight than mine, or your notions of Tartarus would
veer round to the Greenlander's creed. It is most barbarously cold, and
you, I fear, can shield yourself from it, only by perpetual imprisonment.
If any place in the southern climates were in a state of real quiet, and
likely to continue so, should you feel no inclination to migrate? Poor
Southey, from over great industry, as I suspect, the industry too of
solitary composition, has reduced himself to a terrible state of
weakness, and is determined to leave this country as soon as he has
finished the poem on which he is now employed. 'Tis a melancholy thing
that so young a man, and one whose life has ever been so simple and
O, for a peace, and the south of France! I could almost wish for a
Bourbon king, if it were only that Sieyes and Buonaparte might finish
their career in the old orthodox way of hanging. Thank God, _I have my
health perfectly_, and I am working hard; yet the present state of human
affairs presses on me for days together, so as to deprive me of all my
cheerfulness. It is probable that a man's private and personal connexions
and interests ought to be uppermost in his daily and hourly thoughts, and
that the dedication of much hope and fear to subjects which are perhaps
disproportionate to our faculties and powers, is a disease. But I have
had this disease so long, and my early education was so undomestic, that
I know not how to get rid of it; or even to wish to get rid of it. Life
were so flat a thing without enthusiasm, that if for a moment it leaves
me, I have a sort of stomach sensation attached to all my thoughts, _like
those which succeed to the pleasurable operations of a dose of opium._
Now I make up my mind to a sort of heroism in believing the
progressiveness of all nature, during the present melancholy state of
humanity, and on this subject _I am now writing_; and no work on which I
ever employed myself makes me so happy while I am writing.
I shall remain in London till April. The expenses of my last year made it
necessary for me to exert my industry, and many other good ends are
answered at the same time. Where I next settle I shall, continue, and
that must be in a state of retirement and rustication. It is therefore
good for me to have a run of society, and that, various, and consisting
of marked characters. Likewise, by being obliged to write without much
elaboration, I shall greatly improve myself in naturalness and facility
of style, and the particular subjects on which I write for money are
nearly connected with my future schemes. My mornings I give to
compilations which I am sure cannot be wholly useless, and for which, by
the beginning of April I shall have earned nearly L150. My evenings to
the _Theatres_, as I am to conduct a sort of Dramaterye or series of
Essays on the Drama, both its general principles, and likewise in
reference to the present state of the English Theatres. This I shall
publish in the 'Morning Post.' My attendance on the theatres costs me
nothing, and Stuart, the Editor, covers my expenses in London. Two
mornings, and one whole day, I dedicate to these Essays on the possible
progressiveness of man, and on the principles of population. In April I
retire to my greater works,--'The Life of Lessing.' My German chests are
arrived, but I have them not yet, but expect them from Stowey daily; when
they come I shall send a letter.
I have seen a good deal of Godwin, who has just published a Novel. I like
him for thinking so well of Davy. He talks of him every where as the most
extraordinary of human beings he had ever met with. I cannot say that,
for I know _one_ whom I feel to be the superior, but I never met with so
extraordinary a _young man_. I have likewise dined with Horne Tooke. He
is a clear-headed old man, as every man must needs be who attends to the
real import of words, but there is a sort of charlatanry in his manner
that did not please me. He makes such a mystery out of plain and palpable
things, and never tells you any thing without first exciting, and
detaining your curiosity. But it were a bad heart that could not pardon
worse faults than these in the author of 'The Diversions of Purley.'
Believe me, my dear sir, with much affection
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"21, Buckingham Street, Feb. 1800.
My dear sir,
Your brother's health [Mr. Thomas Wedgewood] outweighs all other
considerations. Beyond a doubt he has made himself acquainted with the
degree of heat which he is to experience there [the West Indies]. The
only objections that I see are so obvious, that it is idle in me to
mention them: the total want of men with whose pursuits your brother can
have a fellow feeling: the length and difficulty of the return, in case
of a disappointment; and the necessity of sea-voyages to almost every
change of scenery. I will not think of the yellow fever; that I hope is
quite out of all probability. Believe me, my dear friend, I have some
difficulty in suppressing all that is within me of affection and grief.
God knows my heart, wherever your brother is, I shall follow him in
spirit; follow him with my thoughts and most affectionate wishes.
I read your letter, and did as you desired me. ---- is very cool to me.
Whether I have still any of the leaven of the _Citizen_, and visionary
about me--too much for his present zeal, or whether he is incapable of
attending.... As to his views, he is now gone to Cambridge to canvass for
a Fellowship in Trinity Hall. Mackintosh has kindly written to Dr.
Lawrence, who is very intimate with the Master, and he has other
interest. He is also trying hard, and in expectation of a
Commissionership of Bankruptcy, and means to pursue the law with all
ardour and steadiness. As to the state of his mind, it is that which it
was and will be. God love him! He has a most incurable forehead. ----
called on him and looking on his table, saw by accident a letter directed
to himself. Said he, 'Why ---- what letter is this for me? and from
----,' 'Yes I have had it some time.' 'Why did you not give it me?' 'Oh,
it wants some explanation first. You must not read it now, for I can't
give you the explanation now.' And ----, who you know is a right
easy-natured man, has not been able to get his own letter from him to
this hour! Of his success at Cambridge, Caldwell, is doubtful, or more
So much of ----. All that I know, and all I suspect that is to be known.
A kind, gentlemanly, affectionate hearted man, possessed of an absolute
talent for industry. Would to God, he had never heard of Philosophy!
I have been three times to the House of Commons; each time earlier than
the former; and each time hideously crowded. The two first days the
debate was put off. Yesterday I went at a quarter before eight, and
remained till three this morning, and then sat writing and correcting
other men's writing till eight--a good twenty four hours of unpleasant
activity! I have not felt myself sleepy yet. Pitt and Fox completely
answered my pre-formed ideas of them. The elegance and high finish of
Pitt's periods, even in the most sudden replies, is _curious_, but that
is all. He argues but so so, and does not reason at all. Nothing is
rememberable of what he says. Fox possesses all the full and overflowing
eloquence of a man of clear head, clear heart, and impetuous feelings. He
is to my mind a great orator; all the rest that spoke were mere
creatures. I could make a better speech myself than any that I heard,
except Pitt and Fox. I reported that part of Pitt's which I have enclosed
in brackets, not that I report ex-officio, but my curiosity having led me
there, I did Stuart a service by taking a few notes.
I work from morning to night, but in a few weeks I shall have completed
my purpose, and then adieu to London for ever. We newspaper scribes are
true galley-slaves. When the high winds of events blow loud and frequent
then the sails are hoisted, or the ship drives on of itself. When all is
calm and sunshine then to our oars. Yet it is not unflattering to a man's
vanity to reflect that what he writes at twelve at night, will before
twelve hours are over, have perhaps, five or six thousand readers! To
trace a happy phrase, good image, or new argument, running through the
town and sliding into all the papers. Few wine merchants can boast of
creating more sensation. Then to hear a favorite and often-urged
argument, repeated almost in your own particular phrases, in the House of
Commons; and, quietly in the silent self-complacence of your own heart,
chuckle over the plagiarism, as if you were monopolist of all good
reasons. But seriously, considering that I have newspapered it merely as
means of subsistence, while I was doing other things, I have been very
lucky. 'The New Constitution'; 'The Proposal for Peace'; 'The Irish
Union'; &c. &c.; they are important in themselves, and excellent vehicles
for general truths. I am not ashamed of what I have written.
I desired Poole to send you all the papers antecedent to your own; I
think you will like the different analyses of the French constitution. I
have attended Mackintosh's lectures regularly; he was so kind as to send
me a ticket, and I have not failed to profit by it.
I remain, with grateful and most affectionate esteem,
Your faithful friend
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"July 24, 1800.
My dear sir,
I find your letter on my arrival at Grasmere, namely, dated on the 29th
of June, since which time to the present, with the exception of the last
few days, I have been more unwell than I have ever been since I left
school. For many days I was forced to keep my bed, and when released from
that incarceration, I suffered most grievously from a brace of swollen
eyelids, and a head into which, on the least agitation, the blood was
felt as rushing in and flowing back again, like the raking of the tide on
a coast of loose stones. However, thank God, I am now coming about again.
That Tom receives such pleasure from natural scenery strikes me as it
does you. The total incapability which I have found in myself to
associate any but the most languid feelings, with the God-like objects
which have surrounded me, and the nauseous efforts to impress my
admiration into the service of nature, has given me a sympathy with his
former state of health, which I never before could have had. I wish, from
the bottom of my soul, that he may be enjoying similar pleasures with
those which I am now enjoying with all that newness of sensation; that
voluptuous correspondence of the blood and flesh about me with breeze and
sun-heat, which makes convalescence more than repay one for disease.
I parted from Poole with pain and dejection, for him, and for myself in
him. I should have given Stowey a decided preference for a residence. It
was likewise so conveniently situated, that I was in the way of almost
all whom I love and esteem. But there was no suitable house, and no
prospect of a suitable house.
... These things would have weighed as nothing, could I have remained at
Stowey, but now they come upon me to diminish my regret. Add to this,
Poole's determination to spend a year or two on the continent, in case of
a peace and his mother's death. God in heaven bless her! I am sure she
will not live long. This is the first day of my arrival at Keswick. My
house is roomy, situated on an eminence, a furlong from the town; before
it an enormous garden, more than two-thirds of which is rented is a
garden for sale articles; but the walks are ours. Completely behind the
house are shrubberies, and a declivity planted with flourishing trees of
ten or fifteen years' growth, at the bottom of which is a most delightful
shaded walk, by the river Greta, a quarter of a mile in length. The room
in which I sit commands from one window the Bassenthwaite lake, woods,
and mountains. From the opposite, the Derwentwater and fantastic
mountains of Borrowdale. Straight before is a wilderness of mountains,
catching and streaming lights and shadows at all times. Behind the house,
and entering into all our views, is Skiddaw.
My acquaintances here are pleasant, and at some distance is Sir Guilfred
Lawson's seat, with a very large and expensive library, to which I have
every reason to hope that I shall have free access. But when I have been
settled here a few days longer, I will write you a minute account of my
situation. Wordsworth lives twelve miles distant. In about a year's time
he will probably settle at Keswick likewise. It is no small advantage
here, that for two-thirds of the year we are in complete retirement. The
other third is alive and swarms with tourists of all shapes, and sizes,
and characters. It is the very place I would recommend to a novelist or
farce writer. Besides, at that time of the year there is always hope that
a friend may be among the number and miscellaneous crowd, whom this place
attracts. So much for Keswick.
Have you seen my translation of Wallenstein. It is a dull heavy play, but
I entertain hopes that you will think the language for the greater part,
natural, and good common sense English; to which excellence, if I can lay
fair claim in any work of poetry or prose, I shall be a very singular
writer, at least. I am now working at my 'Introduction of the Life of
Lessing,' which I trust will be in the press before Christmas, that is,
the 'Introduction,' which will be published first. God bless you,
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"Keswick, Nov. 1, 1800.
My dear Sir,
I would fain believe that the experiment which your brother has made in
the West Indies is not wholly a discouraging one. If a warm climate did
nothing but only prevented him from getting worse, it surely evidenced
some power; and perhaps a climate equally favorable in a country of more
various interest, Italy, or the South of France, may tempt your brother
to make a longer trial. If (disciplining myself into silent cheerfulness)
I could be of any comfort to him by being his companion and attendant,
for two or three months, on the supposition that he should wish to
travel, and was at a loss for a companion more fit, I would go with him
with a willing affection. You will easily see, my dear friend, that I say
this only to increase the range of your brother's choice--for even in
choosing there is some pleasure.
There happen frequently little odd coincidences in time, that recall
momentary faith in the notion of sympathies acting in absence. I heard of
your brother's return, for the first time, on Monday last, the day on
which your letter is dated, from Stoddart. Had it rained on my naked skin
I could not have felt more strangely. The 300 or 400 miles that are
between us seemed converted into a moral distance; and I knew that the
whole of this silence I was myself accountable for; for I ended my last
letter by promising to follow it with a second and longer one, before you
could answer the first. But immediately on my arrival in this country I
undertook to finish a poem which I had begun, entitled 'Christabel,' for
a second volume of the 'Lyrical Ballads.' I tried to perform my promise,
but the deep unutterable disgust which I had suffered in the translation
of the accursed Wallenstein, seemed to have stricken me with barrenness;
for I tried and tried, and nothing would come of it. I desisted with a
deeper dejection than I am willing to remember. The wind from the Skiddaw
and Borrowdale was often as loud as wind need be, and many a walk in the
clouds in the mountains did I take; but all would not do, till one day I
dined out at the house of a neighbouring clergyman, and some how or other
drank so much wine, that I found some effort and dexterity requisite to
balance myself on the hither edge of sobriety. The next day my
verse-making faculties returned to me, and I proceeded successfully, till
my poem grew so long, and in Wordsworth's opinion so impressive, that he
rejected it from his volume, as disproportionate both in size and merit,
and as discordant in its character. In the mean time I had gotten myself
entangled in the old sorites of the old sophist,--procrastination. I had
suffered my necessary businesses to accumulate so terribly, that I
neglected to write to any one, till the pain I suffered from not writing
made me waste as many hours in dreaming about it as would have sufficed
for the letter writing of half a life. But there is something beside time
requisite for the writing of a letter--at least with me. My situation
here is indeed a delightful situation; but I feel what I have lost--feel
it deeply--it recurs more often and more painfully than I had
anticipated, indeed so much so, that I scarcely ever feel myself
impelled, that is to say, pleasurably impelled to write to Poole. I used
to feel myself more at home in his great windy parlour than in my own
cottage. We were well suited to each other--my animal spirits corrected
his inclination to melancholy; and there was something both in his
understanding and in his affections, so healthy and manly, that my mind
freshened in his company, and my ideas and habits of thinking acquired
day after day more of substance and reality. Indeed, indeed, my dear sir,
with tears in my eyes, and with all my heart and soul, I wish it were as
easy for us all to meet as it was when you lived at Upcott. Yet when I
revise the step I have taken, I know not how I could have acted otherwise
than I did act. Everything I promised myself in this country has answered
far beyond my expectation. The room in which I write commands six
distinct landscapes--the two lakes, the vale, the river and mountains,
and mists, and clouds and sunshine, make endless combinations, as if
heaven and earth were for ever talking to each other. Often when in a
deep study, I have walked to the window and remained there looking
without seeing; all at once the lake of Keswick and the fantastic
mountains of Borrowdale, at the head of it, have entered into my mind,
with a suddenness as if I had been snatched out of Cheapside and placed
for the first time, in the spot where I stood--and that is a delightful
feeling--these fits and trances of novelty received from a long known
object. The river Greta flows behind our house, roaring like an untamed
son of the hills, then winds round and glides away in the front, so that
we live in a peninsula. But besides this etherial eye-feeding we have
very substantial conveniences. We are close to the town, where we have
respectable and neighbourly acquaintance, and a most sensible and truly
excellent medical man. Our garden is part of a large nursery garden,
which is the same to us and as private as if the whole had been our own,
and thus too we have delightful walks without passing our garden gates.
My landlord who lives in the sister house, for the two houses are built
so as to look like one great one, is a modest and kind man, of a singular
character. By the severest economy he raised himself from a carrier into
the possession of a comfortable independence. He was always very fond of
reading, and has collected nearly 500 volumes, of our most esteemed
modern writers, such as Gibbon, Hume, Johnson, &c. &c. His habits of
economy and simplicity, remain with him, and yet so very disinterested a
man I scarcely ever knew. Lately, when I wished to settle with him about
the rent of our house, he appeared much affected, told me that my living
near him, and the having so much of Hartley's company were great comforts
to him and his housekeeper, that he had no children to provide for, and
did not mean to marry; and in short, that he did not want any rent at all
from me. This of course I laughed him out of; but he absolutely refused
to receive any rent for the first half-year, under the pretext that the
house was not completely furnished. Hartley quite lives at the house, and
it is as you may suppose, no small joy to my wife to have a good
affectionate motherly woman divided from her only by a wall. Eighteen
miles from our house lives Sir Guilfred Lawson, who has a princely
library, chiefly of natural history--a kind and generous, but weak and
ostentatious sort of man, who has been abundantly civil to me. Among
other raree shows, he keeps a wild beast or two, with some eagles, &c.
The master of the beasts at the Exeter 'Change, sent him down a large
bear,--with it a long letter of directions, concerning the food &c. of
the animal, and many solicitations respecting the agreeable quadrupeds
which he was desirous to send to the baronet, at a moderate price, and
concluding in this manner: 'and remain your honour's most devoted humble
servant, J. P. Permit me, sir Guilfred, to send you a buffalo and a
rhinoceros.' As neat a postscript as I ever heard--the tradesmanlike
coolness with which these pretty little animals occurred to him just at
the finishing of his letter! You will in three weeks see the letters on
the 'Rise and Condition of the German Boors.' I found it convenient to
make up a volume out of my journey, &c. in North Germany--and the letters
(your name of course erased) are in the printer's hands. I was so weary
of transcribing and composing, that when I found those more carefully
written than the rest, I even sent them off as they were....
My littlest one is a very stout boy indeed. He is christened by the name
of 'Derwent,'--a sort of sneaking affection you see for the poetical and
novelist, which I disguised to myself under the show, that my brothers
had so many children Johns, Jameses, Georges, &c. &c., that a handsome
christian-like name was not to be had except by encroaching on the names
of my little nephews. If you are at Gunville at Christmas, I hold out
hopes to myself that I shall be able to pass a week with you there. I
mentioned to you at Upcott a kind of comedy that I had committed to
writing in part. This is in the wind.
Wordsworth's second vol. of the 'Lyrical Ballads' will I hope, and almost
believe, afford you as unmingled pleasure as is in the nature of a
collection of very various poems to afford to one individual mind.
Sheridan has sent to him too--requests him to write a tragedy for Drury
Lane. But W. will not be diverted by any thing from the prosecution of
his great work.
Southey's 'Thalaba,' in twelve books, is going to the press.
Remember me with great affection to your brother, and present my kindest
respects to Mrs. Wedgwood. Your late governess wanted one thing, which
where there is health is I think indispensable in the moral character of
a young person--a light and cheerful heart. She interested me a good
deal. She appears to me to have been injured by going out of the common
way without any of that imagination, which if it be a Jack o' Lanthern to
lead us that out way, is however, at the same time a torch to light us
whither we are going. A whole essay might be written on the danger of
thinking without images. God bless you, my dear sir, and him who is with
grateful and affectionate esteem,
S. T. Coleridge.
"Keswick, Oct. 20, 1802.
My dear sir,
This is my birthday, my thirtieth. It will not appear wonderful to you,
when I tell you, that before the arrival of your letter, I had been
thinking with a great weight of different feelings, concerning you, and
your dear brother, for I have good reason to believe, that I should not
now have been alive, if in addition to other miseries, I had had
immediate poverty pressing upon me. I will never again remain silent so
long. It has not been altogether indolence, or my habit of
procrastination which have kept me from writing, but an eager wish,--I
may truly say, a thirst of spirit, to have something honourable to tell
you of myself.
At present I must be content to tell you something cheerful. My health is
very much better. I am stronger in every respect, and am not injured by
study, or the act of sitting at my writing desk; but my eyes suffer if at
any time I have been intemperate in the use of candle light. This account
supposes another, namely, that my mind is calm, and more at ease. My dear
sir, when I was last with you at Stowey, my heart was often full, and I
could scarcely keep from communicating to you the tale of my distresses,
but could I add to your depression, when you were low? or how interrupt,
or cast a shade on your good spirits, that were so rare, and so precious
* * * * *
I found no comfort but in the direct speculations;--in the 'Ode to
Dejection,' which you were pleased with. These lines, in the original,
followed the line 'My shaping spirit of imagination,'--
'For not to think of what I needs must feel,
But to be still and patient, all I can,
And haply by abstruse research to steal
From my own nature all the natural man;
This was my sole resource, my only plan
And that which suits a part infests the whole,
And now is almost grown the temple of my soul.'
I give you these lines for the spirit, and not for the poetry.
* * * * *
But better days are arrived, and are still to come, I have had
visitations of--that I may yet be something of which those who love me
may be proud.
I cannot write that without recalling dear Poole. I have heard twice, and
written twice, and I fear by a strange fatality, one of the letters will
have missed him. Leslie was here some time ago. I was very much
pleased with him. And now I will tell you what I am doing. I dedicate
three days in the week to the 'Morning Post,' and shall hereafter write,
for the far greater part, such things as will be of a permanent interest
as any thing I can hope to write; and you will shortly see a little essay
of mine, justifying the writing in a newspaper.
My comparison of the French with the Roman Empire was very favourably
received. The poetry which I have sent is merely the emptying out of my
desk. The epigrams are wretched indeed, but they answered Stewart's
purpose, better than better things. I ought not to have given any
signature to them whatsoever. I never dreamt of acknowledging, either
them, or the Ode to the 'Rain.' As to feeble expressions, and unpolished
lines--there is the rub! Indeed, my dear sir, I do value your opinion
very highly. I think your judgment in the sentiment, the imagery, the
flow of a poem, decisive; at least, if it differed from my own, and if
after frequent consideration mine remained different, it would leave me
at least perplexed. For you are a perfect electrometer in these
things--but in point of poetic diction, I am not so well satisfied that
you do not require a certain aloofness from the language of real life,
which I think deadly to poetry.
Very soon however I shall present you from the press with my opinions
full on the subject of style, both in prose and verse; and I am confident
of one thing, that I shall convince you that I have thought much and
patiently on the subject, and that I understand the whole strength of my
antagonist's cause. For I am now busy on the subject, and shall in a very
few weeks go to press with a volume on the prose writings of Hall,
Milton, and Taylor; and shall immediately follow it up with an essay on
the writings of Dr. Johnson and Gibbon, and in these two volumes I
flatter myself I shall present a fair history of English Prose. If my
life and health remain, and I do but write half as much, and as regularly
as I have done during the last six weeks, this will be finished by
January next; and I shall then put together my memorandum-book on the
subject of Poetry. In both I have endeavoured sedulously to state the
facts and the differences clearly and accurately; and my reasons for the
preference of one style to another are secondary to this.
Of this be assured, that I will never give any thing to the world in
_propriae personae_ in my own name which I have not tormented with the
file. I sometimes suspect that my foul copy would often appear to general
readers more polished than my fair copy. Many of the feeble and
colloquial expressions have been industriously substituted for others
which struck me as artificial, and not standing the test; as being
neither the language of passion, nor distinct conceptions. Dear sir,
indulge me with looking still further on in my literary life.
1 have, since my twentieth year, meditated an heroic poem on the 'Siege
of Jerusalem,' by Titus. This is the pride and the stronghold of my hope,
but I never think of it except in my best moods. The work to which I
dedicate the ensuing years of my life, is one which highly pleased
Leslie, in prospective, and my paper will not let me prattle to you about
it. I have written what you more wished me to write, all about myself.
Our climate (in the north) is inclement, and our houses not as compact as
they might be, but it is a stirring climate, and the worse the weather,
the more unceasingly entertaining are my study windows, and the month
that is to come is the glory of the year with us. A very warm bedroom I
can promise you, and one at the same time which commands the finest lake
and mountain view. If Leslie could not go abroad with you, and I could in
any way mould my manners and habits to suit you, I should of all things
like to be your companion. Good nature, an affectionate disposition, and
so thorough a sympathy with the nature of your complaint, that I should
feel no pain, not the most momentary, at being told by you what your
feelings require at the time in which they required it; this I should
bring with me. But I need not say that you may say to me,--'You don't
suit me,' without inflicting the least mortification. Of course this
letter is for your brother, as for you; but I shall write to him soon.
God bless you,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"Keswick, November 3, 1802.
It is now two hours since I received your letter; and after the necessary
consultation, Mrs. Coleridge herself is fully of opinion that to lose
time is merely to lose spirits. Accordingly I have resolved not to look
the children in the face, (the parting from whom is the downright bitter
in the thing) but to go to London by to-morrow's mail. Of course I shall
be in London, God permitting, on Saturday morning. I shall rest that day,
and the next, and proceed to Bristol by the Monday night's mail. At
Bristol I will go to _Cote-House_. At all events, barring serious
illness, serious fractures, and the et cetera of serious unforeseens, I
shall be at Bristol, Tuesday noon, November 9.
You are aware that my whole knowledge of French does not extend beyond
the power of limping slowly, not without a dictionary crutch, or an easy
French book: and that as to pronunciation, all my organs of speech, from
the bottom of the Larynx to the edge of my lips, are utterly and
naturally anti-Gallican. If only I shall have been any comfort, any
alleviation to you I shall feel myself at ease--and whether you go abroad
or no, while I remain with you, it will greatly contribute to my comfort,
if I know you will have no hesitation, nor pain, in telling me what you
wish me to do, or not to do.
I regard it among the blessings of my life, that I have, never lived
among men whom I regarded as my artificial superiors: that all the
respect I have at any time paid, has been wholly to supposed goodness, or
talent. The consequence has been that I have no alarms of pride; no
_cheval de frise_ of independence. I have always lived among equals. It
never occurs to me, even for a moment, that I am otherwise. If I have
quarrelled with men, it has been as brothers, or as school-fellows
quarrel. How little any man can give me, or take from me, save in matters
of kindness and esteem, is not so much a thought or conviction with me,
or even a distinct feeling, as it is my very nature. Much as I dislike
all formal declarations of this kind, I have deemed it well to say this.
I have as strong feelings of gratitude as any man. Shame upon me if in
the sickness and the sorrow which I have had, and which have been kept
unaggravated and supportable by your kindness, and your brother's (Mr.
Josiah Wedgewood) shame upon me if I did not feel a kindness, not unmixed
with reverence towards you both. But yet I never should have had my
present impulses to be with you, and this confidence, that I may become
an occasional comfort to you, if, independently of all gratitude, I did
not thoroughly esteem you; and if I did not appear to myself to
understand the nature of your sufferings; and within the last year, in
some slight degree to have felt myself, something of the same.
Forgive me, my dear sir, if I have said too much. It is better to write
it than to say it, and I am anxious in the event of our travelling
together that you should yourself be at ease with me, even as you would
with a younger brother, to whom, from his childhood you had been in the
habit of saying, 'Do this Col.' or 'don't do that.'
All good be with you,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood. Esq."
"Keswick, January 9, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
I send you two letters, one from your dear sister, the second from Sharp,
by which you will see at what short notice I must be off, if I go to the
_Canaries_. If your last plan continue in full force, I have not even the
phantom of a wish thitherward struggling, but if aught have happened to
you, in the things without, or in the world within, to induce you to
change the place, or the plan, relatively to me, I think I could raise
the money. But I would a thousand-fold rather go with you whithersoever
you go. I shall be anxious to hear how you have gone on since I left you.
You should decide in favour of a better climate somewhere or other. The
best scheme I can think of, is to go to some part of Italy or Sicily,
which we both liked. I would look out for two houses. Wordsworth and his
family would take the one, and I the other, and then you might have a
home either with me, or if you thought of Mr. and Mrs. Luff, under this
modification, one of your own; and in either case you would have
neighbours, and so return to England when the home sickness pressed heavy
upon you, and back to Italy when it was abated, and the climate of
England began to poison your comforts. So you would have abroad in a
genial climate, certain comforts of society among simple and enlightened
men and women; and I should be an alleviation of the pang which you will
necessarily feel, as often as you quit your own family.
I know no better plan: for travelling in search of objects is at best a
dreary business, and whatever excitement it might have had, you must have
exhausted it. God bless you, my dear friend. I write with dim eyes, for
indeed, indeed, my heart is very full of affectionate sorrowful thoughts
I write with difficulty, with all the fingers but one of my right hand
very much swollen. Before I was half up the _Kirkstone_ mountain, the
storm had wetted me through and through, and before I reached the top it
was so wild and outrageous, that it would have been unmanly to have
suffered the poor woman (guide) to continue pushing on, up against such a
torrent of wind and rain: so I dismounted and sent her home with the
storm in her back. I am no novice in mountain mischiefs, but such a storm
as this was, I never witnessed, combining the intensity of the cold, with
the violence of the wind and rain. The rain drops were pelted or slung
against my face by the gusts, just like splinters of flint, and I felt as
if every drop cut my flesh. My hands were all shrivelled up like a
washerwoman's, and so benumbed that I was obliged to carry my stick under
my arm. O, it was a wild business! Such hurry skurry of clouds, such
volleys of sound! In spite of the wet and the cold, I should have had
some pleasure in it, but for two vexations; first, an almost intolerable
pain came into my right eye, a smarting and burning pain; and secondly,
in consequence of riding with such cold water under my seat, extremely
uneasy and burthensome feelings attacked my groin, so that, what with the
pain from the one, and the alarm from the other, I had _no enjoyment at
Just at the brow of the hill I met a man dismounted, who could not sit on
horse-back. He seemed quite scared by the uproar, and said to me, with
much feeling, 'O sir, it is a perilous buffeting, but it is worse for you
than for me, for I have it at my back.' However I got safely over, and
immediately all was calm and breathless, as if it was some mighty
fountain put on the summit of Kirkstone, that shot forth its volcano of
air, and precipitated huge streams of invisible lava down the road to
I went on to Grasmere. I was not at all unwell, when I arrived
there, though wet of course to the skin. My right eye had nothing the
matter with it, either to the sight of others, or to my own feelings, but
I had a bad night, with distressful dreams, chiefly about my eye; and
waking often in the dark I thought it was the effect of mere
recollection, but it appeared in the morning that my right eye was
blood-shot, and the lid swollen. That morning however I walked home, and
before I reached Keswick, my eye was quite well, but _I felt unwell all
over_. Yesterday I continued unusually unwell all over me till eight
o'clock in the evening. I took no _laudanum or opium_, but at eight
o'clock, unable to bear the stomach uneasiness, and achings of my limbs,
I took two large tea-spoons full of Ether in a wine-glass of camphorated
gum-water, and a third tea-spoon full at ten o'clock, and I received
complete relief; my body calmed; my sleep placid; but when I awoke in the
morning, my right hand, with three of the fingers was swollen and
inflamed. The swelling in the hand is gone down, and of two of the
fingers somewhat abated, but the middle finger is still twice its natural
size, so that I write with difficulty. This has been a very rough attack,
but though I am much weakened by it, and look sickly and haggard, yet I
am not out of heart. Such a _bout_; such a 'periless buffetting' was
enough to have hurt the health of a strong man. Few constitutions can
bear to be long wet through in intense cold I fear it will tire you to
death to read this prolix scrawled story.
Affectionately dear friend, Yours ever,
S. T. Coleridge."
My dear sir,
I received your kind letter, with the L20. My eyes are in such a state of
inflammation that I might as well write blindfold, they are so blood-red.
I have had leeches twice, and have now a blister behind my right ear. How
I caught the cold, in the first instance, I can scarcely guess; but I
improved it to its present glorious state, by taking long walks all the
mornings, spite of the wind, and writing late at night, while my eyes
I have made some rather curious observations on the rising up of spectra
in the eye, in its inflamed state, and their influence on ideas, &c., but
I cannot see to make myself intelligible to you. Present my kindest
remembrance to Mrs. W. and your brother. Pray did you ever pay any
particular attention to the first time of your little ones smiling and
laughing? Both I and Mrs. C. have carefully watched our little one, and
noticed down all the circumstances, under which he smiled, and under
which he laughed, for the first six times, nor have we remitted our
attention; but I have not been able to derive the least confirmation of
Hartley's or Darwin's Theory. You say most truly, my dear sir, that a
pursuit is necessary. Pursuit, for even praiseworthy employment, merely
for good, or general good, is not sufficient for happiness, nor fit for
I have not at present made out how I stand in pecuniary ways, but I
believe that I have anticipated on the next year to the amount of Thirty
or Forty pounds, probably more. God bless you, my dear sir, and your
S. T. Coleridge.
Josiah Wedgewood, Esq."
"Friday night, Jan. 14, 1803.
I was glad at heart to receive your letter, and still more gladdened by
the reading of it. The exceeding kindness which it breathed was literally
medicinal to me, and I firmly believe, cured me of a nervous rheumatic
affection, the acid and the oil, very completely at Patterdale; but by
the time it came to Keswick, the oil was all atop.
You ask me, 'Why, in the name of goodness, I did not return when I saw
the state of the weather?' The true reason is simple, though it may be
somewhat strange. The thought never once entered my head. The cause of
this I suppose to be, that (I do not remember it at least) I never once
in my whole life turned back in fear of the weather. Prudence is a plant,
of which I no doubt, possess some valuable specimens, but they are always
in my hothouse, never out of the glasses, and least of all things would
endure the climate of the mountains. In simple earnestness, I never find
myself alone, within the embracement of rocks and hills, a traveller up
an alpine road, but my spirit careers, drives, and eddies, like a leaf in
autumn; a wild activity of thoughts, imaginations, feelings, and impulses
of motion rises up from within me; a sort of bottom wind, that blows to
no point of the compass, comes from I know not whence, but agitates the
whole of me; my whole being is filled with waves that roll and stumble,
one this way, and one that way, like things that have no common master. I
think that my soul must have pre-existed in the body of a chamois chaser.
The simple image of the old object has been obliterated, but the
feelings, and impulsive habits, and incipient actions, are in me, and the
old scenery awakens them.
The further I ascend from animated nature, from men, and cattle, and the
common birds of the woods and fields, the greater becomes in me the
intensity of the feeling of life. Life seems to me then an universal
spirit, that neither has, nor can have an opposite. 'God is everywhere' I
have exclaimed, and works everywhere, and where is there room for death?
In these moments it has been my creed, that death exists only because
ideas exist; that life is limitless sensation; that death is a child of
the organic senses, chiefly of the sight; that feelings die by flowing
into the mould of the intellect becoming ideas, and that ideas passing
forth into action, reinstate themselves again in the world of life. And I
do believe that truth lies in these loose generalizations. I do not think
it possible that any bodily pains could eat out the love of joy, that is
so substantially part of me, towards hills, and rocks, and steep waters;
and I have had some trial.
On Monday night I had an attack in my stomach and right side, which in
pain, and the length of its continuance, appeared to me by far the
severest I ever had. About one o'clock the pain passed out of my stomach,
like lightning from a cloud, into the extremities of my right foot. My
toe swelled and throbbed, and I was in a state of delicious ease, which
the pain in my toe did not seem at all to interfere with. On Tuesday I
was uncommonly well all the morning, and ate an excellent dinner; but
playing too long and, too rompingly with Hartley and Derwent, I was very
unwell that evening. On Wednesday I was well, and after dinner wrapped
myself up warm, and walked with Sarah Hutchinson, to Lodore. I never
beheld anything more impressive than the wild outline of the black masses
of mountain over Lodore, and so on to the gorge of Borrowdale. Even
through the bare twigs of a grove of birch trees, through which the road
passes; and on emerging from the grove a red planet, so very red that I
never saw a star so red, being clear and bright at the same time. It
seemed to have sky behind it. It started, as it were from the heavens,
like an eye-ball of fire. I wished aloud at that moment that you had been
The walk appears to have done me good, but I had a wretched night;
shocking pains in my head, occiput, and teeth, and found in the morning
that I had two blood-shot eyes. But almost immediately after the receipt
and perusal of your letter the pains left me, and I am bettered to this
hour; and am now indeed as well as usual saving that my left eye is very
much blood-shot. It is a sort of duty with me, to be particular
respecting parts that relate to my health. I have retained a good sound
appetite through the whole of it, without any craving after exhilarants
or narcotics, and I have got well as in a moment. Rapid recovery is
constitutional with me; but the former circumstances, I can with
certainty refer to the system of diet, abstinence from vegetables, wine,
spirits, and beer, which I have adopted by your advice.
I have no dread or anxiety respecting any fatigue which either of us is
likely to undergo, even in continental travelling. Many a healthy man
would have been laid up with such a bout of thorough wet, and intense
cold at the same time, as I had at Kirkstone. Would to God that also for
your sake I were a stronger man, but I have strong wishes to be with you.
I love your society, and receiving much comfort from you, and believing
likewise that I receive much improvement, I find a delight very great, my
dear friend! indeed it is, when I have reason to imagine that I am in
return an alleviation to your destinies, and a comfort to you. I have no
fears and am ready to leave home at a two days' warning. For myself I
should say two hours, but bustle and hurry might disorder Mrs. Coleridge.
She and the three children are quite well.
I grieve that there is a lowering in politics. The 'Moniteur' contains
almost daily some bitter abuse of our minister and parliament, and in
London there is great anxiety and omening. I have dreaded war from the
time that the disastrous fortunes of the expedition to Saint Domingo,
under Le Clerc, was known in France. Write me one or two lines, as few as
I remain, my dear Wedgewood, with most affectionate esteem, and grateful
Your sincere friend,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"Nether Stowey, Feb. 10, 1803.
Last night Poole and I fully expected a few lines from you. When the
newspaper came in, without your letter, we felt as if a dull neighbour
had been ushered in after a knock at the door which had made us rise up
and start forward to welcome some long absent friend. Indeed in Poole's
case, this simile is less over-swollen than in mine, for in contempt of
my convictions and assurance to the contrary, Poole, passing off the
Brummagem coin of his wishes for sterling reasons, had persuaded himself
fully that he should see you in _propria persona._ The truth is, we had
no right to expect a letter from you, and I should have attributed your
not writing to your having nothing to write, to your bodily dislike of
writing, or, though with reluctance, to low spirits, but that I have been
haunted with the fear that your sister is worse, and that you are at
Cote-House, in the mournful office of comforter to your brother. God keep
us from idle dreams. Life has enough of real pains.
I wrote to Captain Wordsworth to get me some Bang. The captain in an
affectionate letter answers me: 'The Bang if possible shall be sent. If
any country ship arrives I shall certainly get it. We have not got
anything of the kind in our China ships.' If you would rather wait till
it can be brought by Captain Wordsworth himself from China, give me a
line that I may write and tell him. We shall hope for a letter from you
to-night. I need not say, dear Wedgewood, how anxious I am to hear the
particulars of your health and spirits.
Poole's account of his conversations, &c., in Prance, are very
interesting and instructive. If your inclination lead you hither you
would be very comfortable here. But I am ready at an hour's warning;
ready in heart and mind, as well as in body and moveables.
I am, dear Wedgewood, most truly yours,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"Stowey, Feb. 10, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
With regard to myself and my accompanying you, let me say thus much. My
health is not worse than it was in the North; indeed it is much better. I
have no fears. But if you fear that, my health being what you know it to
be, the inconveniences of my being with you will be greater than the
advantages; (I feel no reluctance in telling you so) it is so entirely an
affair of spirits and feeling that the conclusion must be made by you,
not in your reason, but purely in your spirit and feeling. Sorry indeed
should I be to know that you had gone abroad with one, to whom you were
comparatively indifferent. Sorry if there should be no one with you, who
could with fellow-feeling and general like-mindedness, yield you sympathy
in your sunshiny moments. Dear Wedgewood, my heart swells within me as it
were. I have no other wish to accompany you than what arises immediately
from my personal attachment, and a deep sense in my own heart, that let
us be as dejected as we will, a week together cannot pass in which a mind
like yours would not feel the want of affection, or be wholly torpid to
its pleasurable influences. I cannot bear to think of your going abroad
with a mere travelling companion; with one at all influenced by salary,
or personal conveniences. You will not suspect me of flattering you, but
indeed dear Wedgewood, you are too good and too valuable a man to deserve
to receive attendance from a hireling, even for a month together, in your
If I do not go with you, I shall stay in England only such time as may be
necessary for me to raise the travelling money, and go immediately to the
south of France. I shall probably cross the Pyrennees to Bilboa, see the
country of Biscay, and cross the north of Spain to Perpignan, and so on
to the north of Italy, and pass my next winter at Nice. I have every
reason to believe that I can live, even as a traveller, as cheap as I can
in England. God bless you. I will repeat no professions, even in the
superscription of a letter. You know me, and that it is my serious,
simple wish, that in everything respecting me, you would think altogether
of yourself, and nothing of me, and be assured that no resolve of yours,
however suddenly adopted, or however nakedly communicated, will give me
any pain, any at least arising from my own bearings. Yours ever,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq.
P. S. Perhaps Leslie will go with you."
"Poole's, Feb. 17, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
I do not know that I have anything to say that justifies me in troubling
you with the postage and perusal of this scrawl. I received a short and
kind letter from Josiah last night. He is named the sheriff. Poole, who
has received a very kind invitation from your brother John, in a letter
of last Monday, and which was repeated in last night's letter, goes with
me, I hope in the full persuasion that you will be there (at Cote-House)
before he be under the necessity of returning home. Poole is a very, very
good man, I like even his incorrigibility in little faults and
deficiencies. It looks like a wise determination of nature to let well
Are you not laying out a scheme which will throw your travelling in
Italy, into an unpleasant and unwholesome part of the year? From all I
can gather, you ought to leave this country at the first of April at the
latest. But no doubt you know these things better than I. If I do not go
with you, it is very probable we shall meet somewhere or other. At all
events you will know where I am, and I can come to you if you wish it.
And if I go with you, there will be this advantage, that you may drop me
where you like, if you should meet any Frenchman, Italian, or Swiss, whom
you liked, and who would be pleasant and profitable to you. But this we
can discuss at Gunville.
As to ----, I never doubted that he means to fulfil his engagements with
you, but he is one of those weak moralled men, with whom the meaning to
do a thing means nothing. He promises with ninety parts out of a hundred
of his whole heart, but there is always a stock of cold at the core that
transubstantiates the whole resolve into a lie.
I remain in comfortable health,--warm rooms, an old friend, and
tranquillity, are specifics for my complaints. With all my ups and downs
I have a deal of joyous feeling, and I would with gladness give a good
part of it to you, my dear friend. God grant that spring may come to you
with healing on her wings.
God bless you, my dear Wedgewood. I remain with most affectionate esteem,
and regular attachment, and good wishes. Yours ever,
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq.
P. S. If Southey should send a couple of bottles, one of the red
sulphate, and one of the compound acids for me, will you be so good as to
bring them with you?"
"Stowey, Feb. 17, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
Last night I received a four ounce parcel letter, by the post, which
Poole and I concluded was the mistake or carelessness of the servant, who
had put the letter into the post office, instead of the coach office. I
should have been indignant, if dear Poole had not set me laughing. On
opening it, it contained my letter from Gunville, and a small parcel of
'Bang,' from Purkis. I will transcribe the parts of his letter which
relate to it.
'Brentford, Feb. 7, 1803.
My dear Coleridge,
I thank you for your letter, and am happy to be the means of obliging
you. Immediately on the receipt of yours, I wrote to Sir Joseph Banks,
who I verily believe is one of the most excellent and useful men of this
country, requesting a small quantity of Bang, and saying it was for the
use of Mr. T. Wedgewood. I yesterday received the parcel which I now
send, accompanied with a very kind letter, and as part of it will be
interesting to you and your friend, I will transcribe it. 'The Bang you
ask for is the powder of the leaves of a kind of hemp that grows in the
hot climates. It is prepared, and I believe used, in all parts of the
east, from Morocco to China. In Europe it is found to act very
differently on different constitutions. Some it elevates in the extreme;
others it renders torpid, and scarcely observant of any evil that may
befall them. In Barbary it is always taken, if it can be procured, by
criminals condemned to suffer amputation, and it is said, to enable those
miserables to bear the rough operations of an unfeeling executioner, more
than we Europeans can the keen knife of our most skilful chirurgeons.
This it may be necessary to have said to my friend Mr. T. Wedgewood, whom
I respect much, as his virtues deserve, and I know them well. I send a
small quantity only as I possess but little. If however, it is found to
agree, I will instantly forward the whole of my stock, and write without
delay to Barbary, from whence it came, for more.
Sir Joseph adds, in a postscript: 'It seems almost beyond a doubt, that
the Nepenthe was a preparation of the Bang, known to the Ancients'
* * * * *
Now I had better take the small parcel with me to Gunville; if I send it
by the post, besides the heavy expense, I cannot rely on the Stowey
carriers, who are a brace of as careless and dishonest rogues as ever had
claims on that article of the hemp and timber trade, called the gallows.
Indeed I verily believe that if all Stowey, Ward excepted, does not go to
hell, it will be by the supererogation of Poole's sense of
We will have a fair trial of Bang. Do bring down some of the Hyoscyamine
pills, and I will give a fair trial of Opium, Henbane, and Nepenthe.
By-the-by I always considered Homer's account of the Nepenthe as a
God bless you, my dear friend, and
S. T. Coleridge."
"Keswick, September 16, 1803.
My dear Wedgewood,
I reached home on yesterday noon. William Hazlitt, is a thinking,
observant, original man; of great power as a painter of
character-portraits, and far more in the manner of the old painters than
any living artist, but the objects must be before him. He has no
imaginative memory; so much for his intellectuals. His manners are to
ninety nine in one hundred singularly repulsive; brow-hanging;
shoe-contemplating--strange. Sharp seemed to like him, but Sharp saw him
only for half an hour, and that walking. He is, I verily believe,
kindly-natured: is very fond of, attentive to, and patient with children,
but he is jealous, gloomy, and of an irritable pride. With all this there
is much good in him. He is disinterested; an enthusiastic lover of the
great men who have been before us. He says things that are his own, in a
way of his own: and though from habitual shyness, and the outside of bear
skin, at least of misanthropy, he is strangely confused and dark in his
conversation, and delivers himself of almost all his conceptions with a
_Forceps_, yet he _says_ more than any man I ever knew (you yourself only
excepted) of that which is his own, in a way of his own: and often times
when he has wearied his mind, and the juice is come out, and spread over
his spirits, he will gallop for half an hour together, with real
eloquence. He sends well-feathered thoughts straight forward to the mark
with a twang of the bow-string. If you could recommend him as a portrait
painter, I should be glad. To be your companion, he is, in my opinion
utterly unfit. His own health is fitful.
I have written as I ought to do: to you most freely. You know me, both
head and heart, and I will make what deductions your reasons may dictate
to me. I can think of no other person [for your travelling
companion]--what wonder? For the last years, I have been shy of all new
'To live beloved is all I need,
And when I love, I love indeed.'
I never had any ambition, and now, I trust I have almost as little
For five months past my mind has been strangely shut up. I have taken the
paper with the intention to write to you many times, but it has been one
blank feeling;--one blank idealess feeling. I had nothing to say;--could
say nothing. How dearly I love you, my very dreams make known to me. I
will not trouble you with the gloomy tale of my health. When I am awake,
by patience, employment, effort of mind, and walking, I can keep the
Fiend at arm's length, but the night is my Hell!--sleep my tormenting
Angel. Three nights out of four, I fall asleep, struggling to lie awake,
and my frequent night-screams have almost made me a nuisance in my own
house. Dreams with me are no shadows, but the very calamities of my
In the hope of drawing the gout, if gout it should be, into my feet, I
walked previously to my getting into the coach at Perth, 263 miles, in
eight days, with no unpleasant fatigue; and if I could do you any service
by coming to town, and there were no coaches, I would undertake to be
with you, on foot in seven days. I must have strength somewhere. My head
is equally strong: my limbs too are strong: but acid or not acid, gout or
not gout, something there is in my stomach....
To diversify this dusky letter, I will write an _Epitaph_, which I
composed in my sleep for myself while dreaming that I was dying. To the
best of my recollection I have not altered a word.
'Here sleeps at length poor Col. and without screaming
Who died, as he had always lived, a dreaming:
Shot dead, while sleeping, by the gout within,
Alone, and all unknown, at E'nbro' in an Inn.'
It was Tuesday night last, at the 'Black Bull,' Edinburgh. Yours, dear
Wedgewood, gratefully, and
S. T. Coleridge.
Thomas Wedgewood, Esq."
"16, Abingdon Street, Westminster, Jan. 1804.
My dear friend,
Some divines hold, that with God to think, and to create, are one and the
same act. If to think, and even to compose had been the same as to write
with me, I should have written as much too much as I have written too
little. The whole truth of the matter is, that I have been very, very
ill. Your letter remained four days unread, I was so ill. What effect it
had upon me I cannot express by words. It lay under my pillow day after
day. I should have written forty times, but as it often and often happens
with me, my heart was too full, and I had so much to say that I said
nothing. I never received a delight that lasted longer upon me--'Brooded
on my mind and made it pregnant,' than (from) the six last sentences of
your last letter,--which I cannot apologize for not having answered, for
I should be casting calumnies against myself; for the last six or seven
weeks, I have both thought and felt more concerning you, and relating to
you, than of all other men put together.
Somehow or other, whatever plan I determined to adopt, my fancy,
good-natured pander of our wishes, always linked you on to it; or I made
it your plan, and linked myself on. I left my home, December 20, 1803,
intending to stay a day and a half at Grasmere, and then to walk to
Kendal, whither I had sent all my clothes and viatica; from thence to go
to London, and to see whether or no I could arrange my pecuniary matters,
so as leaving Mrs. Coleridge all that was necessary to her comforts, to
go myself to Madeira, having a persuasion, strong as the life within me,
that one winter spent in a really warm, genial climate, would completely
restore me. Wordsworth had, as I may truly say, forced on me a hundred
pounds, in the event of my going to Madeira; and Stewart had kindly
offered to befriend me. During the days and affrightful nights of my
disease, when my limbs were swollen, and my stomach refused to retain the
food--taken in in sorrow, then I looked with pleasure on the scheme: but
as soon as dry frosty weather came, or the rains and damps passed off,
and I was filled with elastic health, from crown to sole, then the
thought of the weight of pecuniary obligation from so many people
reconciled me; but I have broken off my story.
I stayed at Grasmere (Mr. Wordsworth's) a month; three fourths of the
time bed-ridden;--and deeply do I feel the enthusiastic kindness of
Wordsworth's wife and sister, who sat up by me, one or the other, in
order to awaken me at the first symptoms of distressful feeling; and even
when they went to rest, continued often and often to weep and watch for
me even in their dreams. I left them January the 14th, and have spent a
very pleasant week at Dr. Crompton's, at Liverpool, and arrived in
London, at Poole's lodgings, last night at eight o'clock.
Though my right hand is so much swollen that I can scarcely keep my pen
steady between my thumb and finger, yet my stomach is easy, and my
breathing comfortable, and I am eager to hope all good things of my
health. That gained, I have a cheering, and I trust prideless confidence
that I shall make an active, and perseverant use of the faculties and
requirements that have been entrusted to my keeping, and a fair trial of
their height, depth, and width. Indeed I look back on the last four
months with honest pride, seeing how much I have done, with what steady
attachment of mind to the same subject, and under what vexations and
sorrows, from without, and amid what incessant sufferings. So much of
myself. When I know more, I will tell you more.
I find you are still at Cote-house. Poole tells me you talk of Jamaica as
a summer excursion. If it were not for the voyage, I would that you would
go to Madeira, for from the hour I get on board the vessel, to the time
that I once more feel England beneath my feet, I am as certain as past
and present experience can make me, that I shall be in health, in high
health; and then I am sure, not only that I should be a comfort to you,
but that I should be so without diminution of my activity, or
professional usefulness. Briefly, dear Wedgewood! I truly and at heart
love you, and of course it must add to my deeper and moral happiness to
be with you, if I can be either assistance or alleviation. If I find
myself so well that I defer my Madeira plan, I shall then go forthwith to
Devonshire to see my aged mother, once more before she dies, and stay two
or three months with my brothers. But, wherever I am, I never suffer
a day, (except when I am travelling) to pass without doing something.
Poole made me promise that I would leave one side for him. God bless him!
He looks so worshipful in his office, among his clerks, that it would
give you a few minutes' good spirits to look in upon him. Pray you as
soon as you can command your pen, give me half a score lines, and now
that I am _loose,_ say whether or no I can be any good to you.
S. T. Coleridge."
"16, Abingdon Street, Westminster, Jan. 28, 1804.
My dear friend,
It is idle for me to say to you, that my heart and very soul ache with
the dull pain of one struck down and stunned. I write to you, for my
letter cannot give you unmixed pain, and I would fain say a few words to
dissuade you. What good can possibly come of your plan? Will not the very
chairs and furniture of your room be shortly more, far more intolerable
to you than new and changing objects! more insufferable reflectors of
pain and weariness of spirit? Oh, most certainly they will! You must
hope, my dearest Wedgewood; you must act as if you hoped. Despair itself
has but that advice to give you. Have you ever thought of trying large
doses of opium, a hot climate, keeping your body open by grapes, and the
fruits of the climate?
Is it possible that by drinking freely, you might at last produce the
gout, and that a violent pain and inflammation in the extremities might
produce new trains of motion and feeling in your stomach, and the organs
connected with the stomach, known and unknown? Worse than what you have
decreed for yourself cannot well happen. Say but a word and I will come
to you, will be with you, will go with you to Malta, to Madeira, to
Jamaica, or (if the climate, of which, and its strange effects, I have
heard wonders, true or not) to Egypt.
At all events, and at the worst even, if you do attempt to realize the
scheme of going to and remaining at Gunville, for God's sake, my dear
dear friend, do keep up a correspondence with one or more; or if it were
possible for you, with several. I know by a little what your sufferings
are, and that to shut the eyes, and stop up the ears, is to give one's
self up to storm and darkness, and the lurid forms and horrors of a
dream. I scarce know why it is; a feeling I have, and which I can hardly
understand. I could not endure to live if I had not a firm faith that
the life within you will pass forth out of the furnace, for that
you have borne what you have borne, and so acted beneath such
pressure--constitutes you an awful moral being. I am not ashamed to pray
aloud for you.
Your most affectionate friend,
S. T. Coleridge."
My dear friend,
Though fearful of breaking in upon you after what you have written to me,
I could not have left England without having written both to you and your
brother, at the very moment I received a note from Sharp, informing me
that I must instantly secure a place in the Portsmouth mail for Tuesday,
and if I could not, that I must do so in the light coach for Tuesday's
I am agitated by many things, and only write now because you desired an
answer by return of post. I have been dangerously ill, but the illness is
going about, and not connected with my immediate ill health, however it
may be with my general constitution. It was the cholera-morbus. But for a
series of the merest accidents I should have been seized in the streets,
in a bitter east wind, with cold rain; at all events have walked through
it struggling. It was Sunday-night.
I have suffered it at Tobin's; Tobin sleeping out at Woolwich. No fire,
no wine or spirits, or medicine of any kind, and no person being within a
call, but luckily, perhaps the occasion would better suit the word
providentially, Tuffin, calling, took me home with him.... I tremble at
every loud sound I myself utter. But this is rather a history of the past
than of the present. I have only enough for memento, and already on
Wednesday I consider myself in clear sunshine, without the shadow of the
wings of the destroying angel.
What else relates to myself, I will write on Monday. Would to heaven you
were going with me to Malta, if it were but for the voyage! With all
other things I could make the passage with an unwavering mind. But
without cheerings of hope, let me mention one thing; Lord Cadogan was
brought to absolute despair, and hatred of life, by a stomach complaint,
being now an old man. The symptoms, as stated to me, were strikingly like
yours, excepting the nervous difference of the two characters; the
flittering fever, &c. He was advised to reduce lean beef to a pure jelly,
by Papin's digester, with as little water as could secure it from
burning, and of this to take half a wine glass 10 or 14 times a day. This
and nothing else. He did so. Sir George Beaumont saw, within a few weeks
a letter from himself to Lord St. Asaph, in which he relates the
circumstance of his perseverance in it, and rapid amelioration, and final
recovery. 'I am now,' he says, 'in real good health; as good, and in as
cheerful spirits as I ever was when a young man.'
May God bless you, even here,
S. T. Coleridge."
Mr. Coleridge, in the preceding letters, refers to the different states
of his health. In the letter dated January, 1800, he observed, "I have my
health perfectly;" and in the same letter he clearly indicates that he
was no stranger to opium, by remarking, "I have a stomach sensation
attached to all my thoughts, like those which succeed to the pleasurable
operations of a dose of opium." I can testify, that during the four or
five years in which Mr. C. resided in or near Bristol, no young man could
enjoy more robust health. Dr. Carlyon also, verbally stated that Mr.
C; both at Cambridge, and at Gottingen, "possessed sound health." From
these premises the conclusion is fair, that Mr. Coleridge's unhappy use
of narcotics, which commenced thus early, was the true cause of all his
maladies, his languor, his acute and chronic pains, his indigestion, his
swellings, the disturbances of his general corporeal system, his
sleepless nights, and his terrific dreams!
* * * * *
Extracts, concerning Mr. Coleridge, from letters of the late Thomas
Poole, Esq., to the late Thomas Wedgewood, Esq.
"Stowey, Nov. 14, 1801.
... I expect Coleridge here in a week or ten days. He has promised to