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The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge by James Gillman

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During this calm and rest, and while the political fever was subsiding,
Coleridge retired, as he informs us, "to a cottage in Somersetshire, at
the foot of Quantock," to devote himself to poetry, and to the study of
ethics and psychology, to direct his thoughts and studies to the
foundations of religion and morals.

"During my residence here," he says, "I found myself all afloat;
doubts rushed in; broke upon me 'from the fountains of the great
deep',' and ''fell from the windows of Heaven'.' The fontal truths of
natural religion and the books of Revelation alike contributed to the
flood; and it was long ere my ark touched on an Ararat, and rested.
The idea (viz. the law evolved in the mind) of the Supreme Being
appeared to me to be as necessarily implied in all particular modes of
being, as the idea, of infinite space in all the geometrical figures
by which space is limited." He goes on to state at this period, about
the latter end of the year 1796, "For a very long time I could not
reconcile personality with infinity; and my head was with Spinosa,
though my whole heart remained with Paul and John. Yet there had
dawned upon me, even before I had met with the Critique of Pure
Reason, a certain guiding light. If 'the mere intellect' could make no
certain discovery of a holy and intelligent first cause, it might yet
supply a demonstration that no legitimate argument could be drawn from
the mere intellect 'against' its truth. 'And what is this' more than
St. Paul's assertion, that by wisdom (more properly translated by the
powers of reasoning) no man ever arrived at the knowledge of God? Man
asks what is wisdom? and whence comes it? In Job, chap. 28th, it is
stated, 'But to man he said, the fear of the Lord is wisdom for THEE!
And to avoid evil, that is 'thy' understanding.'"

Such were his philosophical opinions before his final conversion to the
whole truth in Christ. He was contending for principles, and diligently
in search of truth for its own sake;--the one thing only permanent, and
which carries with it its "own exceeding great reward." Such was the
state of his religious feelings and political opinions before his visit
to Germany.

There is a general observation or experience he has recorded, not only
so applicable to him at that time, but equally to each stage of his
career in life, as not to be lost sight of by his friends and admirers,
when assailed, as he was, by opposing party-spirits, which, like
opposite currents, were contending for the mastery.

To avoid one party lest he should run on Scylla, he excited and provoked
the jealousy and neglect of the other, who might have wrecked him on
Charybdis. These were well-known dangers; but, as all navigable seas
have their shoals often invisible; in order to avoid the effects of
these jealousies, he selected from each party, men of experience to give
him the soundings, and thus prevent him from wrecking his barque on
rocks and quicksands; for, without such information, there could be
little chance of escape.

In so doing, be lost his popularity with the many, though these were
evils he might perhaps have conquered (but still speaking figuratively);
his crew (his great inward aid) had differed too seriously among
themselves, and were under the influence of conflicting feelings.

His whole mind was bent on the search after those truths that alone can
determine fixed principles, and which not long after became to him an
unerring guide. They were for him what the needle is to the mariner.

The observation alluded to is as follows:

"All my experience, from my first entrance into life to the present
hour, is in favour of the warning maxim, that the man who opposes in
toto 'the political or religious zealots of his age, is safer from
their obloquy than he who differs from them but in one or two points
only' IN DEGREE."

This is a truth too important to pass lightly over, as in this consisted
much of that feeling which prevented his being popular, (for unless an
individual goes the whole length of the party who may choose to adopt
him, he is discarded, and it is well for him if he is not persecuted and
held up to public ridicule). [17]

Zealots are usually superficial, but in herds they are found to support
each other, and by their numbers assume an imposing air.--One weak man
cannot stand, but three may.--By this mode of congregating, they are
more easily managed by their leaders, whose impulses they obey, and to
whom they become willing slaves. Men who sacrifice the many to the few,
have been held out by almost every writer, where moral and political
subjects have been introduced, as warnings to those liable to fall into
their snares, but which have seemingly been put forth to little purpose.
The necessity, therefore, for a continuation of instruction on such
important moral truths, is still required; for, in the contending
currents, so much mischief is often produced, that to divert these
conflicting opinions, and to try to bring them into unity, Coleridge
thought it a duty to employ his strength of intellect; he hoped to
preserve a principle which he deemed so useful to mankind.

The foot of Quantock was to Coleridge a memorable spot; here his studies
were serious and deep; protected by one of the kindest of friends, and
stimulated by the society also of a brother poet, whose lays seemed to
have inspired his song, and also to have chimed in with it; for although
it has been shewn that his poetic genius first dawned in his 16th year,
yet after he left College, and during his residence at this place, [18]
it seemed suddenly to have arrived at poetic manhood, and to have
reached this developement as early as his 25th year. In his more serious
studies he had greatly advanced, and had already planned and stored up
much for his future life. It will often be repeated, but not too often
for a society so full of sciolists and disbelievers,--men who are so
self-satisfied as not to require teaching,--that Coleridge never was an
idle man; and that, if nothing else remained, the progress he made in
intellectual acquirements during his residence at Stowey and his short
stay in Germany, might be instanced. Before he quitted this country to
embark in fresh studies we have his own statement:

"I became convinced, that religion, as both the corner-stone and the
key-stone of morality, must have a 'moral' origin; so far, at least,
that the evidence of its doctrines could not, like the truths of
abstract science, be 'wholly' independent of the will.

It was therefore to be expected, that its 'fundamental' truth would be
such as MIGHT be denied, though only by the fool, and even by the fool
from madness of 'heart' alone!

The question then concerning our faith in the existence of a God, not
only as the ground of the universe by his essence, but by his wisdom
and holy will as its maker and judge, appeared to stand thus: the
sciential reason, the objects of wit are purely theoretical, remains
neutral, as long as its name and semblance are not usurped by the
opponents of the doctrine; but it 'then' becomes an effective ally by
exposing the false show of demonstration, or by evincing the equal
demonstrability of the contrary from premises equally logical. The
'understanding', meantime suggests, the analogy of 'experience'
facilitates, the belief. Nature excites and recalls it, as by a
perpetual revelation. Our feelings almost necessitate it; and the law
of conscience peremptorily commands it. The arguments that all apply
to, are in its favor; and there is nothing against it, but its own

It could not be intellectually more evident without becoming morally
less effective; without counteracting its own end by sacrificing the
'life' of faith to the cold mechanism of a worthless, because
compulsory assent. The belief of a God and a future state (if a
passive acquiescence may be flattered with the name of 'belief') does
not, indeed, always beget a good heart; but a good heart so naturally
begets the belief, that the very few exceptions must be regarded as
strange anomalies from strange and unfortunate circumstances.

From these premises I proceeded to draw the following
conclusions,--first, that having once fully admitted the existence of
an infinite yet self-conscious Creator, we are not allowed to ground
the irrationality of any other article of faith on arguments which
would equally prove 'that' to be irrational, which we had allowed to
be 'real'. Secondly, that whatever is deducible from the admission of
a 'self-comprehending' and 'creative' spirit, may be legitimately used
in proof of the 'possibility' of any further mystery concerning the
Divine Nature.

"Possibilitatem mysteriorum (Trinitatis, &c.) contra insultus
infidelium et hereticorum a contradictionibus vindico; haud quidem
veritatem, quae revelatione sola stabiliri possit;" says Leibnitz, in a
letter to his duke. He then adds the following just and important
remark. "In vain will tradition or texts of Scripture be adduced in
support of a doctrine, 'donec clava impossibilitatis et
contradictionis e manibus horum Herculum extorta fuerit.' For the
heretic will still reply, that texts, the literal sense of which is
not so much above as directly against all reason, must be understood
figuratively, as Herod is a Fox, &c.

These principles," says he, "I held philosophically, while in respect
of revealed religion, I remained a zealous Unitarian. I considered the
idea of a Trinity a fair scholastic inference from the being of God,
as a creative intelligence; and that it was therefore entitled to the
rank of an esoteric doctrine of natural religion: but seeing in the
same no practical or moral bearing, I confined it to the schools of
philosophy. The admission of the Logos, as hypostasized (i.e. neither
a mere attribute nor a personification), in no respect removed my
doubts concerning the incarnation and the redemption by the cross;
which I could neither reconcile in 'reason' with the impassiveness of
the Divine Being, nor in my moral feelings with the sacred distinction
between things and persons, the vicarious payment of a debt and the
vicarious expiation of guilt.

A more thorough revolution in my philosophic principles, and a deeper
insight into my own heart were yet wanting. Nevertheless, I cannot
doubt, that the difference of my metaphysical notions from those of
Unitarians in general 'contributed' to my final re-conversion to the
'whole truth' in 'Christ;' even as according to his own confession the
books of certain Platonic philosophers (Libri quorundam Platonicorum)
commenced the rescue of St. Augustine's faith from the same error,
aggravated by the far darker accompaniment of the Manichean heresy."

Perhaps it is right also to state, that no small share of his final
reconversion was attributable to that zeal and powerful genius, and to
his great desire that others should become sharers in his own
acquirements, which he was so desirous to communicate. During his
residence at the foot of Quantock, his thoughts and studies were not
only directed to an enquiry into the great truths of religion, but,
while he stayed at Stowey, he was in the habit of preaching often at the
Unitarian Chapel at Taunton, and was greatly respected by all the better
and educated classes in the neighbourhood.

He spoke of Stowey with warmth and affection to the latest hours of his
life. Here, as before mentioned, dwelt his friend Mr. Thomas Poole--the
friend (justly so termed) to whom he alludes in his beautiful dedicatory
poem to his brother the Rev. George Coleridge, and in which, when
referring to himself, he says,

"To me the Eternal Wisdom hath dispensed
A different fortune and more different mind--
Me from the spot where first I sprang to light
Too soon transplanted, ere my soul had fix'd
Its first domestic loves; and hence through life
Chasing chance-started friendships. A brief while
Some have preserved me from life's pelting ills;
But, like a tree with leaves of feeble stem,
If the clouds lasted, and a sudden breeze
Ruffled the boughs, they on my head at once
Dropp'd the collected shower; and some most false,
False and fair foliaged as the Manchineel,
Have tempted me to slumber in their shade
E'en mid the storm; then breathing subtlest damps,
Mix'd their own venom with the rain from Heaven,
That I woke poison'd! But, all praise to Him
Who gives us all things, more have yielded me
_Permanent shelter_; and beside one friend, [19]
Beneath the impervious covert of one oak,
I've raised a lowly shed, and know the names
Of husband and of father; not unhearing
Of that divine and nightly-whispering voice,
Which from my _childhood to maturer years_
Spake to me of predestinated wreaths,
Bright with no fading colours!"

These beautiful and affecting lines to his brother are dated May 26th,
1797, Nether Stowey, Somerset. In his will, dated Highgate, July 2nd,
1830, he again refers to this friend, and directs his executor to
present a plain gold mourning ring to Thomas Poole, Esq., of Nether

"The Dedicatory Poem to my 'Juvenile Poems,' and my 'Fears in
Solitude,'[20] render it unnecessary to say more than what I then, in
my early manhood, thought and felt, I now, a gray-headed man, still
think and feel."

In this volume, dedicated to his brother, are to be found several poems
in early youth and upwards, none of later date than 1796.

The "Ode," he says, "on the Departing Year, was written on the 24th,
25th, and 26th of December, 1796, and published separately on the last
day of that year. 'The Religious Musings' were written as early as
Christmas 1794."

He then was about to enter his 23rd year. The preface to this volume is
a key to his opinions and feelings at that time, and which the foregoing
part of this memoir is also intended to illustrate.

"Compositions resembling those of the present volume are not
unfrequently condemned for their querulous egotism. But egotism is to
be condemned only when it offends against time and place, as in a
history or epic poem. To censure it in a monody or sonnet is almost as
absurd as to dislike a circle for being round. Why then write sonnets
or monodies? Because they give me pleasure when, perhaps, nothing else
could. After the more violent emotions of sorrow, the mind demands
amusement, and can find it in employment alone; but full of its late
sufferings, it can endure no employment not in some measure connected
with them. Forcibly to turn away our attention to general subjects is
a painful and most often an unavailing effort.

'But O! how grateful to a wounded heart
The tale of misery to impart
From others' eyes bid artless sorrows flow,
And raise esteem upon the base of woe.'


The communicativeness of our nature leads us to describe our own
sorrows; in the endeavour to describe them, intellectual activity is
exerted; and from intellectual activity there results a pleasure,
which is gradually associated, and mingles as a corrective, with the
painful subject of the description. 'True,' (it may be answered) 'but
how are the PUBLIC interested in your sorrows or your description'?'
We are for ever attributing personal unities to imaginary
aggregates.--What is the PUBLIC, but a term for a number of scattered
individuals? Of whom as many will be interested in these sorrows, as
have experienced the same or similar.

'Holy be the lay
Which mourning soothes the mourner on his way.'

If I could judge of others by myself, I should not hesitate to affirm,
that the most interesting passages in our most interesting poems are
those in which the author developes his own feelings. The sweet voice
of Cona [21] never sounds so sweetly, as when it speaks of itself; and
I should almost suspect that man of an unkindly heart, who could read
the opening of the third book of 'Paradise Lost' without peculiar
emotion. By a law of nature, he, who labours under a strong feeling,
is impelled to seek for sympathy; but a poet's feelings are all
strong.--Quicquid amat valde amat.--Akenside therefore speaks with
philosophical accuracy when he classes love and poetry as producing
the same effects:

'Love and the wish of poets when their tongue
Would teach to others' bosoms, what so charms
Their own.'

'Pleasures of Imagination'.

There is one species of egotism which is truly disgusting; not that
which leads to communicate our feelings to others, but that which
would reduce the feelings of others; to an identity with our own.

The atheist who exclaims 'pshaw,' when he glances his eye on the
praises of Deity, is an egotist; an old man, when he speaks
contemptuously of love verses is an egotist; and the sleek favourites
of fortune are egotists when they condemn all 'melancholy
discontented' verses. Surely it would be candid not merely to ask
whether the poem pleases ourselves, but to consider whether or no
there may not be others, to whom it is well calculated to give an
innocent pleasure.

I shall only add, that each of my readers will, I hope, remember, that
these poems on various subjects, which, he reads at one time and under
the influence of one set of feelings, were written at different times
and prompted by very different feelings; and, therefore, that, the
supposed inferiority of one poem to another may sometimes be owing to
the temper of mind in which he happens to peruse it."

In the second edition (the second edition was published in conjunction
with his friends Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb) is added the following:

"My poems have been rightly charged with a profusion of
double-epithets, and a general turgidness. I have pruned the
double-epithets with no sparing hand; and used my best efforts to tame
the swell and glitter both of thought and diction. This latter fault,
however, had insinuated itself into my Religious Musings with such
intricacy of union, that sometimes I have omitted to disentangle the
weed from the fear of snapping the flower. A third and heavier
accusation has been brought against me, that of obscurity; but not, I
think, with equal justice. An author is obscure, when his conceptions
are dim and imperfect, and his language incorrect, or inappropriate,
or involved. A poem that abounds in allusions, like the 'Bard' of
Gray, or one that impersonates high and abstract truths, like
Collins's 'Ode on the Poetical Character,' claims not to be popular,
but should be acquitted of obscurity. The deficiency is in the reader;
but this is a charge which every poet, whose imagination is warm and
rapid, must expect from his 'contemporaries'. Milton did not escape
it; and it was adduced with virulence against Gray and Collins. We now
hear no more of it, not that their poems are better understood at
present, than they were at their first publication; but their fame is
established; and a critic would accuse him self of frigidity or,
inattention, who should profess not to understand them: but a living
writer is yet sub judice; and if we cannot follow his conceptions or
enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride to consider
him as lost beneath, than as soaring above, us. If any man expect from
my poems the same easiness of style which he admires in a
drinking-song for him, I have not written. Intelligibilia, non
intellectum adfero.

I expect neither profit nor general fame by my writings; and I
consider myself as having been amply repaid without either. Poetry has
been to me its own 'exceeding great reward;' it has soothed my
afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has
endeared solitude; and it has given me the habit of wishing to
discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds

We seem now to have arrived at that period of Coleridge's life which a
profound student of his poetry, and himself a pleasing and elegant poet,
has considered the period of the "Annus Mirabilis." "The Manhood," he
observes, "of Coleridge's true poetical life was in the year 1797." This
is perfectly true, and at that period he was only twenty-five, as before
stated. He was, as is proved in his earlier poems, highly susceptible
and sensitive, requiring kindness and sympathy, and the support of
something like intellectual friendship. He tells us that he chose his
residence at Stowey, on account of his friend Mr. Poole, who assisted
and enabled him to brave the storm of "Life's pelting ills." Near him,
at Allfoxden, resided Mr. Wordsworth, with whom, he says,

"Shortly after my settlement there, I became acquainted, and whose
society I found an invaluable blessing, and to whom I looked up with
equal reverence as a poet, a philosopher, or a man. His conversation
extended to almost all subjects except physics and politics; with the
latter he never troubled himself."

Although Coleridge lived a most retired life, it was not enough to
exempt him from the watchfulness of the spies of government whose
employment required some apparent activity before they could receive the
reward they expected. Nor did he escape the suspicion of being a
dangerous person to the government; which arose partly from his
connexion with Wordsworth, and from the great seclusion of his life.
Coleridge was ever with book, paper, and pencil in hand, making, in the
language of, artists, "Sketches and studies from nature." This
suspicion, accompanied with the usual quantity of obloquy, was not
merely attached to Coleridge, but extended to his friend, "whose perfect
innocence was even adduced as a suspicion of his guilt," by one of these
sapients, who observed that

"as to Coleridge, there is not much harm in him; for he is a
whirl-brain, that talks whatever comes uppermost; but that Wordsworth!
he is a dark traitor. You never hear _him_ say a syllable on the

During this time the brother poets must have been composing or arranging
the Lyrical Ballads, which were published the following year, i.e. 1798.
Coleridge also in 1797 wrote the "Remorse," or rather the play he first
called Osorio, the name of the principal character in it, but finding
afterwards that there was a respectable family of that name residing in
London, it was changed for the title of the Remorse, and the principal
character, Osorio, to Ordonio. This play was sent to Sheridan.

The following remarks were given in Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria,"
which wholly clears him from the suspicion of being concerned in making
maps of a coast, where a smuggler could not land, and they shew what
really was his employment; and how poets may be mistaken at all times
for other than what they wish to be considered:

"During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our
conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of
poetry,--the power of exciting the sympathy of a reader by a faithful
adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest
of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm
which accidents of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset diffused
over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the
practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The
thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a
series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one the
incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and
the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the
affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally
accompany such situations, supposing them real; and real in 'this'
sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of
delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency.
For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life:
the characters and incidents were to be such as will be found in every
village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling mind
to seek after them, or to notice them when they present themselves.

In this idea originated the plan of the 'Lyrical Ballads,' in which it
was agreed that my endeavours should be directed to persons and
characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer
from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth
sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing
suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith.
Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself, as his
object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to
excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the
mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the
loveliness and the wonders of the world before us,--an inexhaustible
treasure; but for which, in consequence of the feeling of familiarity
and selfish solicitude, we have eyes yet see not, ears that hear not,
and hearts that neither feel nor understand.

With this view I wrote the 'Ancient Mariner,' and was preparing,
among other poems, the 'Dark Ladie' and the 'Christabel,' in which I
should have more nearly realized my ideal than I had done in my first
attempt: but Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more
successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my
compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an
interpolation of heterogeneous matter.

Mr. Wordsworth added two or three poems written in his own character,
in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction, which is
characteristic of his genius. In this form the 'Lyrical Ballads' were
published, and were presented by him as an 'experiment', whether
subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ornaments and
extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might not be so managed,
in the language of ordinary life, as to produce the pleasurable
interest which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart.

To the second edition he added a preface of considerable length, in
which, notwithstanding some passages of apparently a contrary import,
he was understood to contend for the extension of the style to poetry
of all kinds, and to reject as vicious and indefensible all phrases
and forms of style that were not included in what he (unfortunately, I
think, adopting an equivocal expression) called the language of 'real'
life. From this preface, prefixed to poems in which it was impossible
to deny the presence of original genius, however mistaken its
direction might be deemed, arose the whole long-continued controversy.
For, from the conjunction of perceived power with supposed heresy, I
explain the inveteracy, and in some instances, I grieve to say, the
acrimonious passions, with which the controversy has been conducted by
the assailants." (Vol. ii. p. 1.)

There are few incidents in the life of the literary man to make any
narrations of sufficient importance or sufficiently amusing for the
readers, and the readers only of works of amusement. The biography of
such men is supposed to contain the faithful history and growth of their
minds, and the circumstances under which it is developed, and to this it
must be confined.

What has been done by Coleridge himself, and where he has been his own
biographer, will be carefully noticed and given here, when it falls in
with the intention and purposes of this work; for this reason the
Biographia Literaria has been so frequently quoted. Coleridge had passed
nearly half his life in a retirement almost amounting to solitude, and
this he preferred. First, he was anxious for leisure to pursue those
studies which wholly engrossed his mind; and secondly, his health
permitted him but little change, except when exercise was required; and
during the latter part of his life he became nearly crippled by the
rheumatism. His character will form a part in the Philosophical History
of the Human Mind, which will be placed in the space left for it by his
amiable and most faithful friend and disciple, whose talents, whose
heart and acquirements makes him most fit to describe them, and whose
time was for so many years devoted to this great man. But, to continue
in the order of time, in June, 1797, he was visited by his friend
Charles Lamb and his sister.

On the morning after their arrival, Coleridge met with an accident which
disabled him from walking during the whole of their stay. One evening,
when they had left him for a few hours, he composed the poem, "This
Lime-tree Bower my Prison," in which he refers to his old friend, while
watching him in fancy with his sister, winding and ascending the hills
at a short distance, himself detained as if a prisoner:

"Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
And hunger'd after nature, many a year;
In the great city pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil, and pain,
And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
Spirits perceive his presence."

During his residence here, Mr. William Hazlitt became acquainted with
him, which is thus vividly recorded in the 'Liberal':

"My father was a dissenting minister at Wem, in Shropshire; and in the
year 1798, Mr. Coleridge came to Shrewsbury, to succeed Mr. Rowe in
the spiritual charge of a Unitarian congregation there. He did not
come till late on the Saturday afternoon before he was to preach, and
Mr. Rowe, who himself went down to the coach in a state of anxiety and
expectation, to look for the arrival of his successor, could find no
one at all answering the description, but a round-faced man, in a
short black coat (like a shooting jacket), which hardly seemed to have
been made for him, but who appeared to be talking at a great rate to
his fellow-passengers. Mr. Rowe had scarcely returned to give an
account of his disappointment, when the round-faced man in black
entered, and dissipated all doubts on the subject, by beginning to
talk. He did not cease while he stayed, nor has he since that I know
of. [22]

He held the good town of Shrewsbury in delightful suspense for three
weeks that he remained there, 'fluttering the proud Salopians like an
eagle in a dove-cot;' and the Welsh mountains, that skirt the horizon
with their tempestuous confusion, agree to have heard no such mystic
sounds since the days of

'High-born Hoel's harp or soft Llewellyn's lyre!'

My father lived ten miles from Shrewsbury, and was in the habit of
exchanging visits with Mr. Rowe, and Mr. Jenkins of Whitchurch (nine
miles further on), according to the custom of dissenting ministers in
each other's neighbourhood. A line of communication is thus
established, by which the flame of civil and religious liberty is kept
alive, and nourishes its mouldering fire unquenchable, like the fires
in the Agamemnon of AEschylus, placed at different stations, that
waited for ten long years to announce, with their blazing pyramids,
the destruction of Troy.

Coleridge had agreed to come once to see my father, according to the
courtesy of the country, as Mr. Rowe's probable successor; but in the
meantime I had gone to hear him preach the Sunday after his arrival. A
poet and a philosopher getting up into a Unitarian pulpit to preach
the gospel was a romance in these degenerate days,--which was not to
be resisted.

It was in January, 1798, that I rose one morning before daylight, to
walk ten miles in the mud, to hear this celebrated person preach.
Never, the longest day I have to live, shall I have such another walk
as this cold, raw, comfortless one, in the winter of the year 1798.
'Il y a des impressions que ni le tems, ni les circonstances peuvent
effacer. Dusse-je vivre des siecles entiers, le doux tems de ma
jeunesse ne peut renaitre pour moi, ni s'effacer jamais dans ma
memoire.' When I got there, the organ was playing the 100th psalm;
and, when it was done, Mr. Coleridge rose and gave out his text,--'He
departed again into a mountain 'himself alone'.' As he gave out this
text, his voice 'rose like a stream of rich distilled perfumes;' and
when he came to the two last words, which he pronounced loud, deep,
and distinct, it seemed to me, who was then young, as if the sounds
had echoed from the bottom of the human heart, and as if that prayer
might have floated in solemn silence through the universe. The idea of
St. John came into my mind, 'of one crying in the wilderness, who had
his loins girt about, and whose food was locusts and wild honey.' The
preacher then launched into his subject, like an eagle dallying with
the wind. The sermon was upon peace and war--upon church and
state--not their alliance, but their separation--on the spirit of the
world, and the spirit of Christianity, not as the same, but as opposed
to one another. He talked of those who had 'inscribed the cross of
Christ on banners dripping with human gore.' He made a poetical and
pastoral excursion,--and to show the fatal effects of war, drew a
striking contrast between the simple shepherd-boy, driving his team
afield, or sitting under the hawthorn, piping to his flock, as though
he should never be old,' and the same poor country lad, crimped,
kidnapped, brought into town, made drunk at an alehouse, turned into a
wretched drummer-boy, with his hair sticking on end with powder and
pomatum, a long cue at his back, and tricked out in the finery of the
profession of blood:

'Such were the notes our once loved poet sung;'

and, for myself, I could not have been more delighted if I had heard
the music of the spheres. Poetry and Philosophy had met together.
Truth and Genius had embraced under the eye and with the sanction of
Religion. This was even beyond my hopes. I returned home well
satisfied. The sun that was still labouring pale and wan through the
sky, obscured by thick mists, seemed an emblem of the 'good
cause'; and the cold dank drops of dew, that hung half melted on
the beard of the thistle, had something genial and refreshing in


"On the Tuesday following, the half-inspired speaker came. I was
called down into the room where he was, and went half-hoping,
half-afraid. He received me very graciously, and I listened for a long
time without uttering a word, and did not suffer in his opinion by my
silence. 'For those two hours (he was afterwards pleased to say) he
was conversing with W. H.'s forehead.' His appearance was different
from what I had anticipated from seeing him before. At a distance, and
in the dim light of the chapel, there was to me a strange wildness in
his aspect, a dusky obscurity, and I thought him pitted with the
small-pox. His complexion was at that time clear, and even bright,

'As are the children of yon azure sheen.'

His forehead was broad and high, as if built of ivory, with large
projecting eyebrows, and his eyes rolling beneath them like a sea with
darkened lustre.

'A certain tender bloom his face o'erspread;'

a purple tinge, as we see it in the pale, thoughtful complexions of
the Spanish portrait painters, Murillo and Velasquez. His mouth was
rather open, his chin good-humoured and round, and his nose small.

Coleridge in his person was rather above the common size, inclining to
the corpulent. His hair (now, alas! grey, and during the latter years
of his life perfectly white) was then black, and glossy as the raven's
wing, and fell in smooth masses over his forehead. This long liberal
hair is peculiar to enthusiasts." [23]

(The Liberal, vol. ii. pp. 23-27.)

He used, in his hours of relaxation, to relate the state of his
feelings, and his adventures during the short time he was a preacher.
His congregations were large, and if he had the power of attracting one
man of such talents from a distance, it may well be understood how the
many near the chapel flocked to listen to him; in short, if one is to
give credence to current report, he emptied churches and chapels to hear
him. If he had needed any stimulus, this would have been sufficient, but
such a mind so intensely occupied in the search after truth needed no
external excitement.

He has often said, that one of the effects of preaching was, that it
compelled him to examine the Scriptures with greater care and industry.

These additional exertions and studies assisted mainly to his final
conversion to the whole truth; for it was still evident that his mind
was perplexed, and that his philosophical opinions would soon yield to
the revealed truth of Scripture.

He has already pointed out what he felt on this important question, how
much he differed from the generally received opinions of the Unitarians,
confessing that he needed a thorough revolution in his philosophical
doctrines, and that an insight into his own heart was wanting.

"While my mind was thus perplexed, by a gracious providence," says he,
"for which I can never be sufficiently grateful, the generous and
munificent patronage of Mr. Josiah and Mr. Thomas Wedgewood enabled me
to finish my education in Germany. Instead of troubling others with my
own crude notions, and juvenile compositions, I was thenceforward
better employed in attempting to store my own head with the wisdom of
others. I made the best use of my time and means; and there is
therefore no period of my life on which I can look back with such
unmingled satisfaction."

He quitted Clevedon and his cottage in the following farewell lines:--

"Ah! quiet dell! dear cot, and mount sublime!
I was constrain'd to quit you. Was it right,
While my unnumber'd brethren toil'd and bled,
That I should dream away the entrusted hours
On rose-leaf beds, pampering the coward heart
With feelings all too delicate for use?
Sweet is the tear that from some Howard's eye
Drops on the cheeks of one he lifts from earth:
And he that works me good with unmoved face,
Does it but half: he chills me while he aids,--
My benefactor, not my brother man!
Yet even this, this cold beneficence
Praise, praise it, O my Soul! oft as thou scann'st
The Sluggard Pity's vision-weaving tribe!
Who sigh for wretchedness, yet shun the wretched,
Nursing in some delicious solitude
Their slothful loves and dainty sympathies!
I therefore go, and join head, heart, and hand,
Active and firm, to fight the bloodless fight
Of Science, freedom, and the truth in Christ.
Yet oft when after honourable toil
Rests the tired mind, and waking loves to dream,
My spirit shall revisit thee, dear cot!
Thy jasmin and thy window-peeping rose,
And myrtles fearless of the mild sea-air.
And I shall sigh fond wishes--sweet abode!
Ah! had none greater! And that all had such!
It might be so, but, oh! it is not yet.
Speed it, O Father! Let thy Kingdom come."

He drew his own character when he described that of Satyrane, the
idolocast or breaker of idols, the name he went by among his friends and

"From his earliest youth," says he, "Satyrane had derived his highest
pleasures from the admiration of moral grandeur and intellectual
energy; and during the whole of his life he had a greater and more
heartfelt delight in the superiority of other men to himself than men
in general derive from their belief of their own. His readiness to
imagine a superiority where it did not exist, was for many years his
predominant foible; his pain from the perception of inferiority in
others whom he had heard spoken of with any respect, was unfeigned and
involuntary, and perplexed him as a something which he did not
comprehend. In the child-like simplicity of his nature he talked to
all men as if they were his equals in knowledge and talents, and many
whimsical anecdotes could be related connected with this habit; he was
constantly scattering good seed on unreceiving soils. When he was at
length compelled to see and acknowledge the true state of the morals
and intellect of his contemporaries, his disappointment was severe,
and his mind, always thoughtful, became pensive and sad:--_for to love
and sympathize with mankind was a necessity of his nature_."

He sought refuge from his own sensitive nature in abstruse meditations,
and delighted most in those subjects requiring the full exercise of his
intellectual powers, which never seemed fatigued--and in his early life
never did sun shine on a more joyous being!

"There was a time when, though my path was rough,
This joy within me dallied with distress,
And all misfortunes were but as the stuff
Whence fancy made me dreams of happiness:
For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,
And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seem'd mine.
But now afflictions bow me down to earth
Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth,
But oh! each visitation
Suspends what nature gave me at my birth,
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:
Till that which suits a part infects the whole,
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul." [24]

It was indeed an inauspicious hour "when he changed his abode from the
happy groves of Jesus' College to Bristol." But it was so ordained! He
sought literature as a trade,--and became an author:

"whatever," he would say, "I write, that alone which contains the
truth _will live, for truth only is permanent_. The rest will
deservedly perish."

He wrote to supply the fountain which was to feed the fertilizing
rills,--to develope the truth was that at which he aimed, and in which
he hoped to find his reward.

On the 16th of September, 1798, he sailed from Great Yarmouth to
Hamburg, in company with Mr. Wordsworth and his sister in his way to
Germany, and now for the first time beheld "his native land" retiring
from him.

In a series of letters, published first in the "Friend," afterwards in
his "Biographia Literaria," is to be found a description of his passage
to Germany, and short tour through that country. His fellow passengers
as described by him were a motley group, suffering from the usual
effects of a rolling sea. One of them, who had caught the customary
antidote to sympathy for suffering, to witness which is usually painful,
began his mirth by not inaptly observing,

"That Momus might have discovered an easier way to see a man's inside
than by placing a window in his breast. He needed only to have taken a
salt-water trip in a pacquet-boat."

Coleridge thinks that a

"pacquet is far superior to a stage-coach, as a means of making men
open out to each other. In the latter the uniformity of posture
disposes to dozing, and the definiteness of the period at which the
company will separate, makes each individual think of those 'to' whom
he is going, rather than of those 'with' whom he is going. But at sea
more curiosity is excited, if only on this account, that the pleasant
or unpleasant qualities of your companions are of greater importance
to you, from the uncertainty how long you may be obliged to house with

On board was a party of Danes, who, from his appearance in a suit of
black, insisted he was a "Docteur Teology." To relieve himself of any
further questioning on this head, he bowed assent "rather than be

"Certes," he says, "We were not of the Stoic school; for we drank, and
talked, and sung altogether; and then we rose and danced on the deck a
set of dances, which, in _one_ sense of the word at least, were very
intelligibly and appropriately entitled reels. The passengers who lay
in the cabin below in all the agonies of sea-sickness, must have found
our bacchanalian merriment

a tune
Harsh and of dissonant mood for their complaint.

I thought so at the time; and how closely the greater number of our
virtues are connected with the fear of death, and how little sympathy
we bestow on pain, when there is no danger."

The Dane soon convinced him of the justice of an old remark, that many a
faithful portrait in our novels and farces, has been rashly censured for
an outrageous caricature, or perhaps nonentity.

"I had retired to my station in the boat when he came and seated
himself by my side, and appeared not a little tipsy. He commenced the
conversation in the most magnific style, and a sort of pioneering to
his own vanity, he flattered me with _such_ grossness! The parasites
of the old comedy were modest in comparison."

After a ludicrous conversation which took place, he passes on to the
description of another passenger, an Englishman, who spoke German
fluently and interpreted many of the jokes of a Prussian who formed one
of the party.

"The Prussian was a travelling merchant, turned of threescore, a hale,
tall, strong man, and full of stories, gesticulations, and buffoonery,
with the soul as well as the look of a mountebank, who, while he is
making you laugh, picks your pocket. Amid all his droll looks and
droll gestures, there remained one look untouched by laughter; and
that one look was the true face, the others were but its mask. The
Hanoverian (another of the party) was a pale, bloated, young man,
whose father had made a large fortune in London as an army contractor.
He seemed to emulate the manners of young Englishmen of fortune. He
was a good-natured fellow, not without information or literature, but
a most egregious coxcomb. He had been in the habit of attending the
House of Commons; and had once spoken, as he informed me, with great
applause in a debating society. For this he appeared to have qualified
himself with laudable industry; for he was perfect in Walker's
Pronouncing Dictionary, and with an accent that forcibly reminded me
of the Scotchman in Roderick Random, who professed to teach the
English pronunciation; he was constantly _deferring_ to my superior
judgment, whether or no I had pronounced this or that word with
propriety or 'the true delicacy.' When he spoke, though it were only
half a dozen sentences, he always rose; for which I could detect no
other motive, than his partiality to that elegant phrase, so liberally
introduced in the orations of our British legislators, 'While I am on
my legs.'"

Coleridge continues his description of the party, and relates a quarrel
that ensued between a little German tailor and his wife, by which he was
the gainer of a bed, it being too cold to continue much longer on deck:

"In the evening the sea rolling higher, the Dane became worse, and in
consequence increased his remedy, viz. brandy, sugar, and nutmeg, in
proportion to the room left in his stomach. The conversation or
oration 'rather than dialogue, became extravagant beyond all that I
ever heard.' After giving an account of his fortune acquired in the
island of Santa Cruz, 'he expatiated on the style in which he intended
to live in Denmark, and the great undertakings he proposed to himself
to commence, till the brandy aiding his vanity, and his vanity and
garrulity aiding the brandy, he talked like a madman.

After this drunken apostrophe he changed the conversation, and
commenced an harangue on religion, (mistaking Coleridge for "un
Philosophe" in the continental sense of the word) he talked of the
Deity in a declamatory style very much resembling the devotional rants
of that rude blunderer Mr. Thomas Paine, in his 'Age of Reason'. I
dare aver, that few men have less reason to charge themselves with
indulging in persiflage than myself; I should hate it, if it were only
that it is a Frenchman's vice, and feel a pride in avoiding it,
because our own language is too honest to have a word to express it

At four o'clock I observed a wild duck swimming on the waves, a single
solitary wild duck. It is not easy to conceive, how interesting a
thing it looked in that round objectless desert of waters."

The cry of 'land' was heard soon afterwards, and in a short time they
dropped anchor at Cuxhaven, and proceeded from thence in a boat to
Hamburg. After this he travelled on to [25] Ratzeburg, and then took up
his residence with a pastor for the purpose of acquiring the German
language, but with what success will be presently shown. He soon after
proceeded through Hanover to Goettingen.--Here he informs us he regularly

"attended lectures in the morning in physiology, in the evening an
natural history under BLUMENBACH, a name as dear to every Englishman
who has studied at the university, as it is venerable to men of
science throughout Europe! Eichorn's Lectures on the New Testament
were repeated to me from notes by a student from Ratzeburg, a young
man of sound learning and indefatigable industry, who is now I believe
a professor of the oriental languages at Heidelberg."

Few persons visit Gottingen without ascending the Brocken.

At the close of one of their academic studies, equivalent to, what in
this country is called a term, it was agreed that the following party
should visit the Hartz Mountains, &c. Namely, Coleridge, the two Parrys
of Bath, Charles and Edward, sons of the celebrated physician of that
name, the son also of Professor Blumenbach, Dr. Carlyon, Mr. Chester,
and Mr. Greenough. Coleridge and the party made the ascent of the
Brocken, on the Hanoverian side of this mountain. During the toil of the
ascent, Coleridge amused his companions with recapitulating some
trifling verses, which he was wont to do some twenty years afterwards to
amuse children of five and six years old, as Miss Mary Rowe, Tity Mouse
Brim, Dr. Daniel Dove, of Doncaster, and his Horse Nobbs. It should,
however, be observed, that these Dr. Carlyon seemed to think worth
notice, while the Christabel and Ancient Mariner were probably but
little to his taste. His dress, a short jacket of coarse material,
though convenient, was not quite classical in a party of philosophical
erratics in quest of novelty. This tale of Dr. Daniel Dove, of
Doncaster, has given a frame and pegs, on which some literary man has
founded a story, and on which he has hung the contents of his scrap
book. The invention is not Coleridge's; and the writer believes the
story itself to be traditional. The following account of his ascent up
the Brocken was written by himself, soon after his return from Germany:


"Through roads no way rememberable, we came to Gieloldshausen, over a
bridge, on which was a mitred statue with a great crucifix in its
arms. The village, long and ugly; but the church, like most Catholic
churches, interesting; and this being Whitsun Eve, all were crowding
to it, with their mass-books and rosaries, the little babies commonly
with coral crosses hanging on the breast. Here we took a guide, left
the village, ascended a hill, and now the woods rose up before us in a
verdure which surprised us like a sorcery. The spring had burst forth
with the suddenness of a Russian summer. As we left Goettingen there
were buds, and here and there a tree half green; but here were woods
in full foliage, distinguished from summer only by the exquisite
freshness of their tender green. We entered the wood through a
beautiful mossy path; the moon above us blending with the evening
light, and every now and then a nightingale would invite the others to
sing, and some or other commonly answered, and said, as we suppose,
'It is yet somewhat too early!' for the song was not continued. We
came to a square piece of greenery, completely walled on all four
sides by the beeches; again entered the wood, and having travelled
about a mile, emerged from it into a grand plain--mountains in the
distance, but ever by our road the skirts of the green woods. A very
rapid river ran by our side; and now the nightingales were all
singing, and the tender verdure grew paler in the moonlight, only the
smooth parts of the river were still deeply purpled with the
reflections from the fiery light in the west. So surrounded and so
impressed, we arrived at Prele, a dear little cluster of houses in the
middle of a semicircle of woody hills; the area of the semicircle
scarcely broader than the breadth of the village.


"We afterwards ascended another hill, from the top of which a large
plain opened before us with villages. A little village, Neuhoff, lay
at the foot of it: we reached it, and then turned up through a valley
on the left hand. The hills on both sides the valley were prettily
wooded, and a rapid lively river ran through it.

So we went for about two miles, and almost at the end of the valley,
or rather of its first turning, we found the village of Lauterberg.
Just at the entrance of the village, two streams come out from two
deep and woody coombs, close by each other, meet, and run into a third
deep woody coomb opposite; before you a wild hill, which seems the end
and barrier of the valley; on the right hand, low hills, now green
with corn, and now wooded; and on the left a most majestic hill
indeed--the effect of whose simple outline painting could not give,
and how poor a thing are words! We pass through this neat little
town--the majestic hill on the left hand soaring over the houses, and
at every interspace you see the whole of it--its beeches, its firs,
its rocks, its scattered cottages, and the one neat little pastor's
house at the foot, embosomed in fruit-trees all in blossom, the noisy
coomb-brook dashing close by it. We leave the valley, or rather, the
first turning on the left, following a stream; and so the vale winds
on, the river still at the foot of the woody hills, with every now and
then other smaller valleys on right and left crossing our vale, and
ever before you the woody hills running like groves one into another.
We turned and turned, and entering the fourth curve of the vale, we
found all at once that we had been ascending. The verdure vanished!
All the beech trees were leafless, and so were the silver birches,
whose boughs always, winter and summer, hang so elegantly. But low
down in the valley, and in little companies on each bank of the river,
a multitude of green conical fir trees, with herds of cattle wandering
about, almost every one with a cylindrical bell around its neck, of no
inconsiderable size, and as they moved--scattered over the narrow
vale, and up among the trees on the hill--the noise was like that of a
great city in the stillness of a sabbath morning, when the bells all
at once are ringing for church. The whole was a melancholy and
romantic scene, that was quite new to me. Again we turned, passed
three smelting houses, which we visited;--a scene of terrible beauty
is a furnace of boiling metal, darting, every moment blue, green, and
scarlet lightning, like serpents' tongues!--and now we ascended a
steep hill, on the top of which was St. Andrias Berg, a town built
wholly of wood.

"We descended again, to ascend far higher; and now we came to a most
beautiful road, which winded on the breast of the hill, from whence we
looked down into a deep valley, or huge basin, full of pines and firs;
the opposite hills full of pines and firs; and the hill above us, on
whose breast we were winding, likewise full of pines and firs. The
valley, or basin, on our right hand, into which we looked down, is
called the Wald Rauschenbach, that is, the Valley of the Roaring
Brook; and roar it did, indeed, most solemnly! The road on which we
walked was weedy with infant fir-trees, an inch or two high; and now,
on our left hand, came before us a most tremendous precipice of yellow
and black rock, called the Rehberg, that is, the Mountain of the Roe.
Now again is nothing but firs and pines, above, below, around us! How
awful is the deep unison of their undividable murmur; what a one thing
it is--it is a sound that impresses the dim notion of the Omnipresent!
In various parts of the deep vale below us, we beheld little dancing
waterfalls gleaming through the branches, and now, on our left hand,
from the very summit of the hill above us, a powerful stream flung
itself down, leaping and foaming, and now concealed, and now not
concealed, and now half concealed by the fir-trees, till, towards the
road, it became a visible sheet of water, within whose immediate
neighbourhood no pine could have permanent abiding place. The snow lay
every where on the sides of the roads, and glimmered in company with
the waterfall foam, snow patches and waterbreaks glimmering through
the branches in the hill above, the deep basin below, and the hill

Over the high opposite hills, so dark in their pine forests, a far
higher round barren stony mountain looked in upon the prospect from a
distant country. Through this scenery we passed on, till our road was
crossed by a second waterfall; or rather, aggregation of little
dancing waterfalls, one by the side of the other for a considerable
breadth, and all came at once out of the dark wood above, and rolled
over the mossy rock fragments, little firs, growing in islets,
scattered among them. The same scenery continued till we came to the
Oder Seich, a lake, half made by man, and half by nature. It is two
miles in length, and but a few hundred yards in breadth, and winds
between banks, or rather through walls, of pine trees. It has the
appearance of a most calm and majestic river. It crosses the road,
goes into a wood, and there at once plunges itself down into a most
magnificent cascade, and runs into the vale, to which it gives the
name of the 'Vale of the Roaring Brook.' We descended into the vale,
and stood at the bottom of the cascade, and climbed up again by its
side. The rocks over which it plunged were unusually wild in their
shape, giving fantastic resemblances of men and animals, and the
fir-boughs by the side were kept almost in a swing, which unruly
motion contrasted well with the stern quietness of the huge forest-sea
every where else.


"In nature all things are individual, but a word is but an arbitrary
character for a whole class of things; so that the same description
may in almost all cases be applied to twenty different appearances;
and in addition to the difficulty of the thing itself, I neither am,
nor ever was, a good hand at description. I see what I write, but,
alas! I cannot write what I see. From the Oder Seich we entered a
second wood; and now the snow met us in large masses, and we walked
for two miles knee-deep in it, with an inexpressible fatigue, till we
came to the mount called Little Brocken; here even the firs deserted
us, or only now and then a patch of them, wind shorn, no higher than
one's knee, matted and cowering to the ground, like our thorn bushes
on the highest sea-hills. The soil was plashy and boggy; we descended
and came to the foot of the Great Brocken without a river--the highest
mountain in all the north of Germany, and the seat of innumerable
superstitions. On the first of May all the witches dance here at
midnight; and those who go may see their own ghosts walking up and
down, with a little billet on the back, giving the names of those who
had wished them there; for 'I wish you on the top of the Brocken,' is
a common curse throughout the whole empire. Well, we ascended--the
soil boggy--and at last reached the height, which is 573 toises above
the level of the sea. We visited the Blocksberg, a sort of
bowling-green, inclosed by huge stones, something like those at
Stonehenge, and this is the witches' ball-room; thence proceeded to
the house on the hill, where we dined; and now we descended. In the
evening about seven we arrived at Elbingerode. At the inn they brought
us an album, or stamm-buch, requesting that we would write our names,
and something or other as a remembrance that we had been there. I
wrote the following lines, which contain a true account of my journey
from the Brocken to Elbingerode.

I stood on Brocken's sovran height, and saw
Woods crowding upon woods, hills over hills;
A surging scene, and only limited
By the blue distance. Wearily my way
Downward I dragged, through fir groves evermore,
Where bright green moss moved in sepulchral forms,
Speckled with sunshine; and, but seldom heard,
The sweet bird's song become a hollow sound;
And the gale murmuring indivisibly,
Reserved its solemn murmur, more distinct
From many a note of many a waterbreak,
And the brook's chatter; on whose islet stones
The dingy kidling, with its tinkling bell,
Leapt frolicksome, or old romantic goat
Sat, his white beard slow waving. I moved on
With low and languid thought, for I had found
That grandest scenes have but imperfect charms
Where the eye vainly wanders, nor beholds
One spot with which the heart associates
Holy remembrances of child or friend,
Or gentle maid, our first and early love,
Or father, or the venerable name
Of our adored country. O thou Queen,
Thou delegated Deity of Earth,
O 'dear, dear' England! how my longing eyes
Turned westward, shaping in the steady clouds
Thy sands and high white cliffs! Sweet native isle,
This heart was proud, yea, mine eyes swam with tears
To think of thee; and all the goodly view
From sovran Brocken, woods and woody hills
Floated away, like a departing dream,
Feeble and dim. Stranger, these impulses
Blame thou not lightly; nor will I profane,
With hasty judgment or injurious doubt,
That man's sublimer spirit, who can feel
That God is every where, the God who framed
Mankind to be one mighty brotherhood,
Himself our Father, and the world our home.

We left Elbingerode, May 14th, and travelled for half a mile through a
wild country, of bleak stony hills by our side, with several caverns,
or rather mouths of caverns, visible in their breasts; and now we came
to Rubilland,--Oh, it was a lovely scene! Our road was at the foot of
low hills, and here were a few neat cottages; behind us were high
hills, with a few scattered firs, and flocks of goats visible on the
topmost crags. On our right hand a fine shallow river about thirty
yards broad, and beyond the river a crescent hill clothed with firs,
that rise one above another, like spectators in an amphitheatre. We
advanced a little farther,--the crags behind us ceased to be visible,
and now the whole was one and complete. All that could be seen was the
cottages at the foot of the low green hill, (cottages embosomed in
fruit trees in blossom,) the stream, and the little crescent of firs.
I lingered here, and unwillingly lost sight of it for a little while.
The firs were so beautiful, and the masses of rocks, walls, and
obelisks started up among them in the very places where, if they had
not been, a painter with a poet's feeling would have imagined them.
Crossed the river (its name Bodi), entered the sweet wood, and came to
the mouth of the cavern, with the man who shews it. It was a huge
place, eight hundred feet in length, and more in depth, of many
different apartments; and the only thing that distinguished it from
other caverns was, that the guide, who was really a character, had the
talent of finding out and seeing uncommon likenesses in the different
forms of the stalactite. Here was a nun;--this was Solomon's
temple;--that was a Roman Catholic Chapel;--here was a lion's claw,
nothing but flesh and blood wanting to make it completely a claw! This
was an organ, and had all the notes of an organ, &c. &c. &c.; but,
alas! with all possible straining of my eyes, ears, and imagination, I
could see nothing but common stalactite, and heard nothing but the
dull ding of common cavern stones. One thing was really striking;--a
huge cone of stalactite hung from the roof of the largest apartment,
and, on being struck, gave perfectly the sound of a death-bell. I was
behind, and heard it repeatedly at some distance, and the effect was
very much in the fairy kind,--gnomes, and things unseen, that toll
mock death-bells for mock funerals. After this, a little clear well
and a black stream pleased me the most; and multiplied by fifty, and
coloured ad libitum, might be well enough to read of in a novel or
poem. We returned, and now before the inn, on the green plat around
the Maypole, the villagers were celebrating Whit-Tuesday. This Maypole
is hung as usual with garlands on the top, and, in these garlands,
spoons, and other little valuables, are placed. The high smooth round
pole is then well greased; and now he who can climb up to the top may
have what he can get,--a very laughable scene as you may suppose, of
awkwardness and agility, and failures on the very brink of success.
Now began a dance. The women danced very well, and, in general, I have
observed throughout Germany that the women in the lower ranks
degenerate far less from the ideal of a woman, than the men from that
of man. The dances were reels and waltzes; but chiefly the latter.
This dance is, in the higher circles, sufficiently voluptuous; but
here the emotions of it were far more faithful interpreters of the
passion, which, doubtless, the dance was intended to shadow; yet, ever
after the giddy round and round is over, they walked to music, the
woman laying her arm, with confident affection, on the man's
shoulders, or around his neck. The first couple at the waltzing was a
very fine tall girl, of two or three and twenty, in the full bloom and
growth of limb and feature, and a fellow with huge whiskers, a long
tail, and woollen night-cap; he was a soldier, and from the more than
usual glances of the girl, I presumed was her lover. He was, beyond
compare, the gallant and the dancer of the party. Next came two boors:
one of whom, in the whole contour of his face and person, and, above
all, in the laughably would-be frolicksome kick out of his heel,
irresistibly reminded me of Shakespeare's Slender, and the other of
his Dogberry. Oh! two such faces, and two such postures! O that I were
an Hogarth! What an enviable gift it is to have a genius in painting!
Their partners were pretty lasses, not so tall as the former, and
danced uncommonly light and airy. The fourth couple was a sweet girl
of about seventeen, delicately slender, and very prettily dressed,
with a full-blown rose in the white ribbon that went round her head,
and confined her reddish-brown hair; and her partner waltzed with a
pipe in his mouth, smoking all the while; and during the whole of this
voluptuous dance, his countenance was a fair personification of true
German phlegm. After these, but, I suppose, not actually belonging to
the party, a little ragged girl and ragged boy, with his stockings
about his heels, waltzed and danced;--waltzing and dancing in the rear
most entertainingly. But what most pleased me, was a little girl of
about three or four years old, certainly not more than four, who had
been put to watch a little babe, of not more than a year old (for one
of our party had asked), and who was just beginning to run away, the
girl teaching him to walk, and who was so animated by the music, that
she began to waltz with him, and the two babes whirled round and
round, hugging and kissing each other, as if the music had made them
mad. There were two fiddles and a bass viol. The fiddlers,--above all,
the bass violer,--most Hogarthian phizzes! God love them! I felt far
more affection for them than towards any other set of human beings I
have met with since I have been in Germany, I suppose because they
looked so happy!"

Coleridge and his companions in their tour passed through a district
belonging to the elector of Metz, and he often repeated the following
story, which one of the party has since related in print; that, going
through this district, chiefly inhabited by boors, who were Romanists,
of the lowest form of this persuasion of Christians, the party fatigued
and much exhausted, with the exception of Blumenbach, arrived somewhat
late, though being a summer evening, it was still light, at a Hessian
village, where they had hoped, as in England, to find quarters for the
night. Most of the inhabitants had retired to rest, a few only loitering
about, perhaps surprized at the sight of strangers. They shewed no
inclination to be courteous, but rather eyed them with suspicion and
curiosity. The party, notwithstanding this, entered the village
ale-house, still open, asked for refreshments and a night's lodging, but
no one noticed them. Though hungry, they could not procure any thing for
supper, not even a cup of coffee, nor could they find beds; after some
time, however, they asked for a few bundles of straw, which would
probably have been granted, had not Coleridge, out of patience at seeing
his friends' forlorn situation, imprudently asked one of them, if there
lived any Christians in Hesse Cassel? At this speech, which was soon
echoed by those within the house to the bystanders without, the boors
became instantly so infuriated, that rushing in, the travellers were
immediately driven out, and were glad to save themselves from the
lighted fire-wood on the hearth, which was hurled at them. On this they
went to seek a spot to bivouac for the night. Coleridge lay under the
shelter of a furze-bush, annoyed by the thorns, which, if they did not
disturb his rest, must have rendered it comfortless. Youth and fatigue,
inducing sleep, soon rose above these difficulties. In the ascent of the
Brocken, they despaired of seeing the famous spectre, in search of which
they toiled, it being visible only when the sun is a few degrees above
the horizon. Haue says, he ascended thirty times without seeing it, till
at length he was enabled to witness the effect of this optical delusion.
For the best account of it, see the Natural Magic of Sir D. Brewster,
[26] who explains the origin of these spectres, and shews how the mind
is deluded among an ignorant and easily deceived people, and thus traces
the birth of various ghost stories in the neighbourhood, extending as
far in Europe, as such stories find credence.

"In the course of my repeated tours through the Hartz," Mr. Jordan
says, "I ascended the Brocken twelve different times, but I had the
good fortune only twice (both times about Whitsuntide), to see that
atmospheric phenomenon called the Spectre of the Brocken, which
appears to me worthy of particular attention, as it must, no doubt, be
observed on other high mountains, which have a situation favourable
for producing it. The first time I was deceived by this extraordinary
phenomenon, I had clambered up to the summit of the Brocken, very
early in the morning, in order to wait there for the inexpressibly
beautiful view of the sun rising in the east. The heavens were already
streaked with red: the sun was just appearing above the horizon in
full majesty, and the most perfect serenity prevailed throughout the
surrounding country. When the other Hartz mountains in the south-west,
towards the Worm mountains, lying under the Brocken, began to be
covered by thick clouds; ascending at this moment the granite rocks
called the Teufelskauzel, there appeared before me, though at a great
distance towards the Worm mountains, the gigantic figure of a man, as
if standing on a large pedestal. But scarcely had I discovered it when
it began to disappear; the clouds sank down speedily and expanded, and
I saw the phenomenon no more. The second time, however, I saw the
spectre somewhat more distinctly, a little below the summit of the
Brocken, and near the Heinrichs-hoehe, as I was looking at the sun
rising about four o'clock in the morning. The weather was rather
tempestuous, the sky towards the level country was pretty clear, but
the Harz mountains had attracted several thick clouds which had been
hovering around them, and which, beginning to settle on the Brocken,
confined the prospect. In these clouds, soon after the rising of the
sun, I saw my own shadow of a monstrous size, move itself for a couple
of seconds exactly as I moved, but I was soon involved in clouds, and
the phenomenon disappeared."

It is impossible to see this phenomenon, except when the sun is at such
an altitude as to throw his rays upon the body in a horizontal
direction; for, if he is higher, the shadow is thrown rather under the
body than before it. After visiting the Hartz, Coleridge returned to
Goettingen, and in his note-book in a leave-taking memorial as well as
autograph, the following lines were written by Blumenbach, the son:--

"Wenn Sie, bester Freund, auch in Jhrer Heimath die
Natur bewundern werden, wie wir beide es auf dem Harze
gethan haben, so erinnern Sie sich des Harzes, und ich darf
dann hoffen, das Sie auch mich nicht vergessen werden.

"Leben Sie wohl, und reisen gluecklich,



If you perchance, my dearest friend, should still continue
to admire the works of nature at your home, as we have done
together on the Hartz; recall to your recollection the Hartz,
and then I dare hope that you will also think of me.

Farewell, may you have a prosperous voyage.

(Signed) yours, BLUMENBACH.

Coleridge returned to England after an absence of fourteen mouths, and
arrived in London the 27th November, 1799.

He went to Germany but little versed in the language, and adopted the
following plan of acquiring it, which he recommends to others

"To those," says he, "who design to acquire the language of a country
in the country itself, it may be useful, if I mention the incalculable
advantages which I derived from learning all the words that could
possibly be so learnt, with the objects before me, and without the
intermediation of the English terms. It was a regular part of my
morning studies for the first six weeks of my residence at Ratzeburg,
to accompany the good and kind old pastor, with whom I lived, from the
cellar to the roof, through gardens, farm-yards, &c., and to call
every the minutest thing by its German name. Advertisements, farces,
jest-books, and conversation of children while I was at play with
them, contributed their share to a more homelike acquaintance with the
language, than I could have procured from books of polite literature
alone, or even from polite society."

In support of this plan, he makes a quotation from the massive folios of
Luther--a passage as he calls it of "_hearty_ sound sense," and gives
the simple, sinewy, idiomatic words of the "original," with a
translation of his own:

"For one must not ask the letters in the Latin tongue, how one ought
to speak German; but one must ask the mother in the house, the
children in the lanes and alleys, the common man in the market,
concerning this; yea, and look at the _moves_ of their mouths while
they are talking, and thereafter interpret. They understand then, and
mark that one talks German with them."

Whether he owed his successful acquirement of the language to these
plans adopted by him, or whether to his extraordinary powers of mind, it
must be left to others to judge. To form any thing like an accurate
opinion, it may be necessary to re-state, that during this fourteen
months' residence, he acquired such a knowledge of the German, as
enabled him to make that extraordinary translation of the Wallenstein,
(which will be presently noticed), reading at the same time several
German authors, and storing up for himself the means of becoming
familiar with others, on subjects in which the English language was
deficient. In addition to what in this short period he effected, I may
say that some part of this time was employed in receiving many lessons
from professor Tychsen, in the Gothic of Ulphilas, which, says he,

"sufficed to make me acquainted with its grammar, and the radical
words of most frequent occurrence; and with the occasional assistance
of the same philosophical linguist, I read through Ottfried's Metrical
Paraphrase of the Gospel, and the most important remains of the

Coleridge's Biographia contains the history and developement of his mind
till 1816, when it was published; he called it his Literary Life, but of
necessity it is intermixed with his biography, as he must have found it
impossible to separate them. He had even half promised himself to write
his own biography, but the want of success in his literary labours, and
the state of his health, caused him to think seriously that his life was
diminishing too fast, to permit him to finish those great works, of
which he had long planned the execution. The conception of these works
was on such a scale, that even his giant intellect, with his great and
continuous powers of application, could not have executed them. But to
continue.--On his return to London, his first literary occupation was
the translation of the Wallenstein, which he effected in six weeks, in a
lodging in Buckingham-street, in the Strand; it was printed and
published in 1800.

The MS. was purchased by Longman's house under the condition that the
English Version and Schiller's Play in German were to be published at
the same time. The play, as is well known to all German readers, is in
three parts; the first part, the Camp, being considered by Coleridge as
not sufficiently interesting to the British public to translate, it was
not attempted; the second part, the Piccolomini, was translated with the
occasional addition of some lines, in order to make out the thought when
it appeared to require it, particularly in the Horological scene of the
Watch Tower. In the last part the Death of Wallenstein is equally free,
but the liberties taken with this play are those of omission.

German was not at that time cultivated in England, and the few plays
which were translated, were but bad specimens of German Literature. The
Wallenstein is an historical play, without any of those violent tragic
events which the public expect to find in German plays, and this was one
cause perhaps of disappointment.--It is a play of high thoughts--
ennobling sentiments, and for the reflecting individual with good
feelings, one of those plays, by which, even without reference to the
story, the head and the heart are both benefited. There is no violent
excitement produced, and in quiet thought one can dwell on it with
pleasure. Coleridge truly prophesied its fate, for when translating it,
he said it would fall dead from the press, and indeed but few of the
copies were sold;--his advice to the publishers, whom he had forewarned
of this failure, was to reserve the unsold copies, and wait till it
might become fashionable. They however parted with it as waste paper,
though sixteen years afterwards it was eagerly sought for, and the few
remaining copies doubled their price; but now that the German language
has become more general, and the merit of this translation been
appreciated, it has been reprinted with success.

Since the visit of these remarkable men to Germany, the taste for German
literature has each year slowly increased, so as to make it almost
appear that they have given the direction to this taste, which in
England has caused a free inquiry into the writings of German authors,
particularly of their poets and philosophers for the one class; and also
into the interesting tales and stories to be found for the many who
require such amusement.

The edition of Wallenstein, 1800, contains the following preface, which
was afterwards abridged, but is here given as it was originally written;
the first criticism on it was wholly made out of this preface, and these
lines were quoted by the reviewer, in condemnation of the play and the
translation, though it is well known that the critic was ignorant of
German. The date of the MS. by Schiller is September 30th, 1799, the
English is 1800. Coleridge indeed calls it a translation, but had it
been verbatim, it would have required much longer time; take it however
as we will, it displays wonderful powers; and as he noticed in a letter
to a friend, it was executed in the prime of his life and vigour of his
mind. Of the metre of this drama he spoke slightingly, and said
according to his taste,

"it dragged, like a fly through a glue-pot. It was my intention," he
writes, "to have prefixed a life of Wallenstein to this translation;
but I found that it must either have occupied a space wholly
disproportionate to the nature of the publication, or have been merely
a meagre catalogue of events narrated, not more fully than they
already are in the play itself. The recent translation, likewise, of
Schiller's History of the Thirty Years' War, diminished the motives
thereto. In the translation, I have endeavoured to render my author
literally, wherever I was not prevented by absolute differences of
idiom; but I am conscious, that in two or three short passages, I have
been guilty of dilating the original; and, from anxiety to give the
full meaning, have weakened the force. In the metre I have availed
myself of no other liberties, than those which Schiller had permitted
to himself, except the occasional breaking up of the line, by the
substitution of a trochee for an iambus; of which liberty, so frequent
in our tragedies, I find no instance in these dramas.

The two Dramas, Piccolomini, or the first part of Wallenstein, and
Wallenstein, are introduced in the original manuscript by a prelude in
one act, entitled Wallenstein's camp. This is written in rhyme, and in
nine syllable verse, in the same lilting metre (if that expression may
be permitted) with the second eclogue of Spencer's Shepherd's
Calendar. This prelude possesses a sort of broad humour, and is not
deficient in character, but to have translated it into prose, or into
any other metre than that of the original, would have given a false
idea, both of its style and purport; to have translated it into the
same metre, would have been incompatible with a faithful adherence to
the sense of the German, from the comparative poverty of our language
in rhymes; and it would have been unadvisable, from the incongruity of
those lax verses with the present state of the English public.
Schiller's intention seems to have been merely to have prepared his
reader for the tragedies, by a lively picture of the laxity of
discipline, and the mutinous disposition of Wallenstein's soldiery. It
is not necessary as a preliminary explanation. For these reasons it
has been thought expedient not to translate it.

The admirers of Schiller, who have abstracted their idea of that
author from the Robbers, and the Cabal and Love plays, in which the
main interest is produced by the excitement of curiosity, and in which
the curiosity is excited by terrible and extraordinary incident, will
not have perused, without some portion of disappointment, the dramas
which it has been my employment to translate. They should, however,
reflect, that these are historical dramas, taken from a popular German
history; that we must therefore judge of them in some measure with the
feelings of Germans, or by analogy with the interest excited in us by
similar dramas in our own language. Few, I trust, would be rash or
ignorant enough, to compare Schiller with Shakspeare, yet, merely as
illustration, I would say, that we should proceed to the perusal of
Wallenstein, not from Lear or Othello, but from Richard the Second, or
the three parts of Henry the Sixth. We scarcely expect rapidity in an
historical drama; and many prolix speeches are pardoned from
characters, whose names and actions have formed the most amusing tales
of our early life. On the other hand, there exist in these plays more
individual beauties, more passages the excellence of which will bear
reflection than in the former productions of Schiller.

The description of the Astrological Tower, and the reflections of the
young lover, which follow it, form in the original a fine poem, and my
translation must have been wretched indeed, if it can have wholly
overclouded the beauties of the scene in the first act of the first
play, between Questenberg, Max. and Octavio Piccolomini.

If we except the scene of the setting sun in the Robbers, I know of no
part in Schiller's plays, which equals the whole of the first scene of
the fifth act of the concluding play. It would be unbecoming in me to
be more diffuse on this subject. A translator stands connected with
the original author by a certain law of subordination, which makes it
more decorous to point out excellencies than defects; indeed, he is
not likely to be a fair judge of either. The pleasure or disgust from
his own labour, will mingle with the feelings that arise from an after
view of the original poem; and in the first perusal of a work in any
foreign language, which we understand, we are apt to attribute to it
more excellence than it really possesses, from our own pleasurable
sense of difficulty overcome without effort. Translation of poetry
into poetry is difficult, because the translator must give a
brilliancy to his language without that warmth of original conception,
from which such brilliancy would follow of its own accord. But the
translator of a living author is encumbered with additional
inconveniences. If he render his original faithfully, as to the
'sense' of each passage, he must necessarily destroy a considerable
portion of the 'spirit'; if he endeavour to give a work executed
according to laws of 'compensation', he subjects himself to
imputations of vanity, or misrepresentation. I thought it my duty to
remain by the sense of my original, with as few exceptions as the
nature of the language rendered possible."

About this time, or soon after his return from Germany, the proprietor
of the Morning Post, who was also the editor, engaged Coleridge to
undertake the literary department. In this he promised to assist,
provided the paper was conducted on fixed and announced principles, and
that he should neither be requested nor obliged to deviate from them in
favour of any party or any event. In consequence, that journal became,
and for many years continued, 'anti-ministerial, yet with a very
qualified approbation of the opposition, and with far greater
earnestness and zeal, both anti-jacobin and anti-gallican. As
contributors to this paper, the editor had the assistance of Mr.
Wordsworth, Mr. Southey, and Mr. Lamb. Mr. Southey, from his extreme
activity and industry, with powers best suited for such employment, with
a rapidity and punctuality which made him invaluable to the proprietor,
was the largest contributor. The others not possessing the same
qualifications, although extremely powerful in their way, were not of
the same value to the proprietor.

To Coleridge, he continued liberal and kind, and Coleridge appreciated
his talents; often has he been heard to say, if Mr. Stuart "knew as much
of man as he does of men, he would be one of the first characters in
Europe." The world, and even that part of it, who either receive
pleasure, or are benefited by the labours of literary men, often seem to
forget how many there are who being compelled to work during the week
for the provision of the week, are (if not possessed of much bodily
strength) unfit to continue further mental exertions; nor can they find
the leisure and repose necessary to produce any work of importance,
though such efforts must always be found so much more congenial to the
feelings of a man of genius. Whatever his enemies or his more envious
friends may choose to have put forth, it was to him a most painful
thought, particularly as he had made literature his profession, to have
lived in vain. This feeling sometimes haunted him, and when the feelings
are gloomily disposed, they often become in their turn depressing
causes, which frequently ended in a deep and painful sigh, and a renewal
of his laborious and inspiring thoughts as an antidote. The severest of
his critics have not pretended to have found in his compositions
triviality, or traces of a mind that shrank from the toil of thinking.

A respectable portion of literary talent will secure the success of a
newspaper, provided that it impartially adheres "to a code of
intelligible principles previously announced, and faithfully referred to
in support of every judgment on men and events." Such were the opinions
and feelings by which the contributors to this paper, as well as the
proprietor was influenced during this period; and to these causes, as
well as from the talents of the editor and of the writers, it mainly
owed its success. Papers so conducted do not require the aid of party,
nor of ministerial patronage. Yet a determination to make money by
flattering the envy and cupidity, and the vindictive restlessness of
unthinking men, seems frequently to have succeeded, not confining itself
to the daily press, but diffusing itself into periodicals of a different

"I do derive," says Coleridge, "a gratification from the knowledge,
that my essays have contributed to introduce the practice of placing
the questions and events of the day in a moral point of view. In
Burke's writings, indeed, the germs of all political truths may be
found. But I dare assume to myself the merit of having first
explicitly defined and analysed the nature of Jacobinism; and in
distinguishing the Jacobin from the Republican, the Democrat, and the
mere Demagogue," ('vide Friend'.)

Whilst Coleridge retained the opinions of the Unitarians, or rather
preached among them, they hailed him as the rising star of their
society, but when he seceded from them on his change of opinions, many
of them bruited his name in execration. Not so was it with Mr. Estlin
and other amiable and intelligent men, they understood him, and felt he
had acted on the full conviction of his mind, and that he was acting
conscientiously when he declined the opportunity of possessing a fixed
income, of which he stood so much in need. Those who knew him, knew how
much he suffered, and how painful it was for him to have differed with
such a friend as Mr. Estlin, one to whom he had been indebted for many
kind offices: But Coleridge was too sincere a man to dissemble.--There
were however others, who, from motives and feelings not honourable to
them, dissemblers even in Unitarianism, who sought every opportunity of
defaming him, and attempted to strip him of his virtues, and of his
genius, by calumny and detraction. In this, however, they were foiled.
On the other hand, the party more inclined to favour fanaticism, were so
indiscreet in their praise as to become in their turn equally injurious
to his character, and verified the old adage, that indiscreet friends
are too often the worst of enemies; for this party considered his
conversion as nothing less than a special miracle. It was impossible for
a mind so philosophical and so constituted, to remain long in the
trammels of a philosophy like Hartley's, or to continue to adhere to
such a substitute for Christianity as Unitarianism; like the
incarcerated chicken, he would on increase of growth and power, liberate
himself from his imprisonment and breathe unencumbered the vital air,
the pabulum of animal life, which by parallel reasoning, Coleridge was
aiming at in a spiritual life. From such a substitute for Christianity,
that imitation so unvitalizing in its effects, the studiously
industrious and sincere man will recoil; but the vain and superficial
man will find much in it for the display of his egotism, and superficial
knowledge. Often did he remark when conversing on these subjects, there
was a time, when

"I disbelieved down to Unitarianism, it would have been _more honest_
to have gone farther, to have denied the existence of a GOD! but that
my heart would not allow me to do."

But to this subject we shall have occasion to return. The mind which
grows with its culture, seeks deeper research, and so was it with his.
Certainly, one of the effects of his visits to Germany, was to root up
whatever remained of the Mechanical Philosophy of Hartley, after whom he
had named his eldest son, and to open to his mind in philosophy new and
higher views, and in religion more established views. But change with
the many, though the result of conviction and the growth of truth, is
still a change; and with the unthinking, it deteriorates from the
character of a man, rather than as it should do elevate him,

... unless _above_ himself he can
Erect himself, how mean a thing is man!


In the years 1783, 1784, and 1786, Bishop Horsley wrote some of the
tracts in controversy with Priestley, upon the historical question of
the belief of the first ages in OUR LORD'S Divinity, which are collected
in one volume, with large additional notes, dated 1789.

In a memorandum 'book', made by Coleridge, it appears that he never saw
nor read this volume, till some time in 1805; therefore his views were
not altered by the bishop's reasoning, but had undergone a great change

Horsley's writings carry with them a conviction of their truth. His
clear though concentrated style rivets the attention, and forcibly
impresses the mind, with his depth of learning, and at the same time
inspires the feeling of its practical utility. He was an opponent most
aptly suited to Priestley. The times however greatly favoured the
latter; the discoveries of Lavoisier, led the way to the study of
chemistry, which became fashionable and generally cultivated, and with
its brilliancy dazzled the multitude. Priestley displayed considerable
expertness and fitness for the practical application of the discoveries
of others; and he added also to the new mass of facts, which were daily
presenting themselves, and thus science became enriched, enriching at
the same time the pockets of the manufacturers, exciting national
industry, and adding considerably to the national property. Priestley's
researches and discoveries gave an irresistible weight to his name, and
had an undue influence, as we shall presently see, in the arguments or
opinions he advanced. This, Horsley foresaw, and felt, and therefore
built his arguments on the permanent, in order to subdue the creatures
founded on the impermanent and other worthless idols of the mind's

How the world were delighted and wonder-struck by the supposed
discovery, that it was the province of vegetable life to supply the
vital air, which animal life destroyed! Priestley was hailed as the
wonder of his age, and for a while its oracle. He was however no
ordinary being, and even his enemies admitted him to be a kind and moral
man. His intellectual powers will speak for themselves. We have now had
sufficient experience to see how shifting all kind of theory must be
when left to the will and ingenuity of man only--and how unsafe a guide
in questions of importance as the one now referred to. Horsley saw the
weak points of Priestley's argument, and was not to be dazzled and put
aside by Priestley's philosophical display. Horsley fearlessly entered
into this controversy, like a man who felt his own strength, and
particularly the strength of his cause; though he needed not the courage
of a Luther, he was apparently a man who possessed it, if called on. He
used the best means to silence his adversary [27], with the Bible before
him as his shield, (but at the same time his support as well as
defence,) from behind which he assailed his opponent with his Biblical
learning so powerfully, that his first attack made Priestley feel the
strength of his adversary. In vaunting language, Priestley made the best
defence which he thought he could, but not the most prudent, by
promising to answer his opponent so efficiently, as to make him a
convert to his doctrines. But in this vaunting prediction, that he would
not only answer his opponent satisfactorily, to all who were interested
in the controversy, but convert him to his opinions, it need not be
added he failed, so completely, and at the same time displayed such a
"ridiculous vanity," as to deprive him of that influence which he had so
overrated in himself. Horsley's letters seem particularly to have
attracted Coleridge's attention, and to have caused him to make one of
his concise, pithy and powerful notes as a comment on this letter of
Horsley's, entitled, "The Unitarian Doctrine not well calculated for the
conversion of Jews, Mahometans, or Infidels, of any description." [28]

The following is Coleridge's Comment on the Letter, to which allusion
has been made, and from the date seems to have been written during his
residence at Malta:

"February 12, 1805.--Thinking during my perusal of Horsley's letters
in reply to Dr. Priestley's objections to the Trinity on the part of
Jews, Mahometans, and Infidels, it burst upon me at once as an awful
truth, what seven or eight years ago I thought of proving with a
'hollow faith', and for an 'ambiguous purpose', [29] my mind then
wavering in its necessary passage from Unitarianism (which, as I have
often said, is the religion of a man, whose reason would make him an
atheist, but whose heart and common sense will not permit him to be
so) through Spinosism into Plato and St. John. No Christ, no God! This
I now feel with all its needful evidence of the understanding: would
to God my spirit were made conform thereto--that no Trinity, no God!
That Unitarianism in all its forms is idolatry, and that the remark of
Horsley is most accurate; that Dr. Priestley's mode of converting the
Jews and Turks is, in the great essential of religious faith, to give
the name of Christianity to their present idolatry--truly the trick of
Mahomet, who, finding that the mountain would not come to him, went to
the mountain. O! that this conviction may work upon me and in me, and
that my mind may be made up as to the character of Jesus, and of
historical Christianity, as clearly as it is of the logos, and
intellectual or spiritual Christianity--that I may be made to know
either their especial and peculiar union, or their absolute disunion
in any peculiar sense. [30]

With regard to the Unitarians, it has been shamelessly asserted, that
I have denied them to be Christians. God forbid! For how should I know
what the piety of the heart may be, or what quantum of error in the
understanding may consist, with a saving faith in the intentions and
actual dispositions of the whole moral being, in any one individual?
Never will God reject a soul that sincerely loves him, be his
speculative opinions what they may: and whether in any given instance
certain opinions, be they unbelief, or misbelief, are compatible with
a sincere love of God, God only can know. But this I have said, and
shall continue to say, that if the doctrines, the sum of which I
'believe' to constitute the truth in Christ, 'be' Christianity, then
Unitarianism' is not, and vice versa: and that in speaking
theologically and 'impersonally', i.e. of Psilanthropism and
Theanthropism, as schemes of belief--and without reference to
individuals who profess either the one or the other--it will be absurd
to use a different language, as long as it is the dictate of common
sense, that two opposites cannot properly be called by the same name.

I should feel no offence if a Unitarian applied the same to me, any
more than if he were to say, that 2 and 2 being 4, 4 and 4 must be 8."

Biog. Lit. vol. ii. p. 307.

[Footnote 1: In his 'Literary Life,' Mr. Coleridge has made the
following observation regarding talent and genius:

"For the conceptions of the mind may be so vivid and adequate, as to
preclude that impulse to the realising of them, which is strongest and
most restless in those who possess more than mere 'talent' (or the
faculty of appropriating and applying the knowledge of others,) yet
still want something of the creative and self-sufficing power of
absolute 'Genius'. For this reason, therefore, they are men of
'commanding' genius. While the former rest content between thought and
reality, as it were in an intermundium of which their own living
spirit supplies the 'substance', and their imagination the
ever-varying 'form'; the latter must impress their preconceptions on
the world without, in order to present them back to their own view
with the satisfying degree of clearness, distinctness, and

Vol. i. p. 31.]

[Footnote 2: In consequence of various reports traducing Coleridge's
good name, I have thought it an act of justice due to his character, to
notice several mistatements here and elsewhere, which I should otherwise
have gladly passed over.]

[Footnote 3: Coleridge was always most ready to pass a censure on what
appeared to him a defect in his own composition, of which the
following is a proof:--In his introductory remarks to this Greek
Ode, printed in the Sibylline Leaves, he observes:

"The Slaves in the West Indies consider Death as a passport to their
native country. This sentiment is expressed in the introduction to the
'Greek Ode on the Slave Trade,' of which the Ideas are better than the
language in which they are conveyed."

Certainly this is taking no merit to himself, although the Ode obtained
the Prize.]

[Footnote 4:

"At the beginning of the French Revolution, Klopstock wrote odes of
congratulation. He received some honorary presents from the French
Republic (a golden crown, I believe), and, like our Priestley, was
invited to a seat in the legislature, which he declined: but, when
French liberty metamorphosed herself into a fury, he sent back these
presents with a palinodia, declaring his abhorrence of their
proceedings; and since then be has been more perhaps than enough an
Anti-Gallican. I mean, that in his just contempt and detestation of
the crimes and follies of the revolutionists, he suffers himself to
forget that the revolution itself is a process of the Divine
Providence; and that as the folly of men is the wisdom of God, so are
their iniquities instruments of his goodness."

'Biographia Literaria,' vol. ii. p. 243.]

[Footnote 5: Coleridge in the 'Friend,' says:

"My feelings, however, and imagination did not remain unkindled in
this general conflagration (the French Revolution); and I confess I
should be more inclined to be ashamed than proud of myself if they
had. I was a sharer in the general vortex, though my little world
described the path of its revolution in an orbit of its own. What I
dared not expect from constitutions of government and whole nations, I
hoped from Religion."]

[Footnote 6: This is a mistake. The candidate was Mr. Bethell, one of
the members for Yorkshire, and not the Bishop of Bangor, as is commonly
supposed. Bishop Bethel himself, not long ago, told me this.]

[Footnote 7: The writer of the article above quoted followed Coleridge
in the school, and was elected to Trinity College a year after. As I
have before observed, he seems to have been well acquainted with his
habits; yet, with regard to his feelings on certain points, as his
ambition and desire for a college life, I think he must have
misunderstood him. Ambition never formed any part of Coleridge's
character. Honours, titles, and distinctions had no meaning for him. His
affections, so strong and deep, were likely to be his only stimulants in
the pursuit of them.]

[Footnote 8: Frend's trial took place at Cambridge, in the
Vice-Chancellor's Court, in the year 1793, for sedition and defamation
of the Church of England, in giving utterance to and printing certain
opinions, founded on Unitarian Doctrines, adverse to the established
Church.--'Vide' State Trials. Sentence of banishment was pronounced
against him: which sentence was confirmed by the Court of Delegates, to
which Mr. Frend had appealed from the Vice-Chancellor's Court. He then
appealed from the decision of the Court of Delegates, protested against
the proceedings, and moved this cause to the Court of King's Bench. This
Court, after an examination of the case, decided, that the proceedings
at Cambridge having been strictly formal, they had no power to
interfere, and therefore the sentence against Frend remained in full
force. Being a Fellow of Jesus' College at the time that Coleridge was a
student, he excited the sympathies of the young and ardent of that day.]

[Footnote 9: The repetition of Middleton's name, so frequently occurring
may appear to a stranger unnecessary; but Middleton, loving Coleridge so
much, and being his senior in years, as well as in studies, was to him,
while at school and at college, what the Polar Star is to the mariner on
a wide sea without compass,--his guide, and his influential friend and

[Footnote 10: There is another incident which I shall here relate that
raised him in the esteem of his comrades. One of them was seized with
confluent small-pox, and his life was considered in great danger. The
fear of the spread of this had produced such alarm in his quarters, that
the sufferer was nearly deserted. Here Coleridge's reading served him;
and, having a small quantity of medical knowledge in addition to a large
share of kindness, he volunteered his services, and nursed the sick man
night and day for six weeks. His patient recovered, to the joy of
Coleridge and of his comrades. The man was taken ill during a march, and
in consequence of the fears of the persons of the place, he and
Coleridge (who had volunteered to remain with him) were put into an
out-building, and no communication held with them--Coleridge remaining
the whole time in the same room with the man (who, during part of his
illness, was violently delirious) nursing and reading to him, &c.]

[Footnote 11: In a published letter to a friend is the following

"I sometimes compare my own life with that of Steele (yet oh! how
unlike), led to this from having myself also for a brief time 'borne
arms', and written 'private' after my name, or rather another name;
for being at a loss when suddenly asked my name, I answered
'Comberbach', and verily my habits were so little equestrian, that my
horse, I doubt not, was of that opinion."]

[Footnote 12: Capt. Nathaniel Ogle sold out of the 15th Dragoons, Nov.
19th, 1794.

Comberbacke enlisted at Reading, Dec. 3rd, 1793, commanded at this time
by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Churchill, who was a Major in the regiment
at the time Comberbacke was discharged at Hounslow, on the 10th of
April, 1794, according to the War-Office books.]

[Footnote 13: Probably the week in which he enlisted.]

[Footnote 14: A gentleman much interested in these lectures, who was
also present, has given the following version of the story, and it is so
well done, that I am desirous of inserting it:--

"In all Mr. Coleridge's lectures he was a steady opposer of Mr. Pitt
and the then existing war; and also an enthusiastic admirer of Fox,
Sheridan, Grey, &c. &c., but his opposition to the reigning politics
discovered little asperity; it chiefly appeared by wit and sarcasm,
and commonly ended in that which was the speaker's chief object, a
laugh. Few attended Mr. C.'s lectures but those whose political views
were similar to his own; but on one occasion, some gentlemen of the
opposite party came into the lecture-room, and at one sentiment they
heard, testified their disapprobation by the only easy and safe way in
their power; namely, by a hiss. The auditors were startled at so
unusual a sound, not knowing to what it might conduct; but their noble
leader soon quieted their fears, by instantly remarking, with great
coolness, 'I am not at all surprised, when the red hot prejudices of
aristocrats are suddenly plunged into the cool waters of reason, that
they should go off with a hiss!' The words were electric. The
assailants felt, as well as testified their confusion, and the whole
company confirmed it by immense applause! There was no more hissing."]

[Footnote 15: This note was written at Highgate, in a copy of the
'Conciones ad Populum'.]

[Footnote 16:

"With the exception of one extraordinary man, I have never known an
individual, least of all an individual of genius, healthy or happy
without a profession, i.e., some 'regular' employment, which does not
depend on the will of the moment, and which can be carried on so far
'mechanically', that an average quantum only of health, spirits, and
intellectual exertion are requisite to its faithful discharge. Three
hours of leisure, unannoyed by any alien anxiety, and looked forward
to with delight as a change and recreation, will suffice to realize in
literature a larger product of what is truly genial, than weeks of
compulsion. Money, and immediate reputation form only an arbitrary and
accidental end of literary labour. The 'hope' of increasing them by
any given exertion will often prove a stimulant to industry; but the
'necessity' of acquiring them will, in all works of genius, convert
the stimulant into a 'narcotic'. Motives by excess reverse their very
nature, and instead of exciting, stun and stupify the mind; for it is
one contra-distinction of genius from talent, that its predominant end
is always comprised in the means; and this is one of the many points,
which establish an analogy between genius and virtue. Now, though
talents may exist without genius, yet, as genius cannot exist,
certainly not manifest itself, without talents, I would advise every
scholar, who feels the genial power working within him, so far to make
a division between the two, as that he should devote his 'talents' to
the acquirement of competence in some known trade or profession, and
his genius to objects of his tranquil and unbiassed choice; while the
consciousness of being actuated in both alike by the sincere desire to
perform his duty, will alike ennoble both. 'My dear young friend,' (I
would say), suppose yourself established in any honourable
occupation. From the manufactory or counting-house, from the
law-court, or from having visited your last patient, you return at

'Dear tranquil time, when the sweet sense of home
Is sweetest...'

to your family, prepared for its social enjoyments, with the very
countenances of your wife and children brightened, and their voice of
welcome made doubly welcome by the knowledge that, as far as 'they'
are concerned, you have satisfied the demands of the day, by the
labour of the day. Then, when you retire into your study, in the books
on your shelves, you revisit so many venerable friends with whom you
can converse. Your own spirit scarcely less free from personal
anxieties than the great minds, that in those books are still living
for you! Even your writing-desk, with its blank paper and all its
other implements, will appear as a chain of flowers, capable of
linking your feelings, as well as thoughts to events, and characters,
past or to come: not a chain of iron which binds you down to think of
the future and the remote, by recalling the claims and feelings of the
peremptory present: but why should I say retire? The habits of active
life and daily intercourse with the stir of the world, will tend to
give you such self command, that the presence of your family will be
no interruption. Nay, the social silence, or undisturbing voices of a
wife or sister will be like a restorative atmosphere, or soft music
which moulds a dream without becoming its object. If facts are
required to prove the possibility of combining weighty performances in
literature with full and independent employment, the works of Cicero
and Xenophon among the ancients; of Sir Thomas Moore, Bacon, Baxter,
or, to refer at once to later and contemporary instances, Darwin and
Roscoe, are at once decisive of the question."

'Biog. Lit.']

[Footnote 17: Tale and novel writing of second-rate order, somewhat
spiced and stimulating, are sure to succeed, and carry 'of course'
popularity with their success, by advertising the writer. Of this there
is an instance in Coleridge's own works. The "Zapoyla," entitled a
"Christmas Tale," (and which he never sat down to write, but dictated it
while walking up and down the room,) became so immediately popular that
2000 copies were sold in six weeks, while it required two years for the
sale of 1000 copies of the "Aids to Reflection," which cost him much
labour, and was the fruit of many years' reflection.]

[Footnote 18: i.e. Nether Stowey, at the foot of the Quantock Hills.]

[Footnote 19: Thomas Poole, Esq.]

[Footnote 20: The following lines are here referred to

"And now, beloved Stowey! I behold
Thy Church-tower, and, methinks, the four huge elms

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