Biographia Epistolaris, Volume 1. by Coleridge

Jonathan Ingram, Clytie Siddall and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s BIBLIOGRAPHIA EPISTOLARIS comprising 33 letters and being the Biographical Supplement of Coleridge’s BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA with additional letters etc., edited by A. TURNBULL Vol. 1. “On the whole this was surely the mightiest genius since Milton. In poetry there is not his like,
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Jonathan Ingram, Clytie Siddall
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s


comprising 33 letters

and being

the Biographical Supplement of

with additional letters etc., edited by


Vol. 1.

“On the whole this was surely the mightiest genius since Milton. In poetry there is not his like, when he rose to his full power; he was a philosopher, the immensity of whose mind cannot be gauged by anything he has left behind; a critic, the subtlest and most profound of his time. Yet these vast and varied powers flowed away in the shifting sands of talk; and what remains is but what the few land-locked pools are to the receding ocean which has left them casually behind without sensible diminution of its waters.”

Academy, 3d October, 1903.


The work known as the Biographical Supplement of the Biographia Literaria of S. T. Coleridge, and published with the latter in 1847, was begun by Henry Nelson Coleridge, and finished after his death by his widow, Sara Coleridge. The first part, concluding with a letter dated 5th November 1796, is the more valuable portion of the Biographical Supplement. What follows, written by Sara Coleridge, is more controversial than biographical and does not continue, like the first part, to make Coleridge tell his own life by inserting letters in the narrative. Of 33 letters quoted in the whole work, 30 are contained in the section written by Henry Nelson Coleridge. Of these 11 were drawn from Cottle’s Early Recollections, seven being letters to Josiah Wade, four to Joseph Cottle, and the remainder are sixteen letters to Poole, one to Benjamin Flower, one to Charles E Heath, and one to Henry Martin.

From this I think it is evident that Henry Nelson Coleridge intended what was published as a Supplement to the Biographia Literaria to be a Life of Coleridge, either supplementary to the Biographia Literaria or as an independent narrative, in which most of the letters published by Cottle in 1837 and unpublished letters to Poole and other correspondents were to form the chief material. Sara Coleridge, in finishing the fragment, did not attempt to carry out the original intention of her husband. A few letters in Cottle were perhaps not acceptable to her taste, and in rejecting them she perhaps resolved to reject all remaining letters in Cottle. She thus finished the fragmentary Life of Coleridge left by her husband in her own way.

But Henry Nelson Coleridge had begun to build on another plan. His intention was simply to string all Coleridge’s letters available on a slim biographical thread and thus produce a work in which the poet would have been made to tell his own life. His beginning with the five Biographical Letters to Thomas Poole is a proof of this. He took these as his starting point; and, as far as he went, his “Life of Coleridge” thus constructed is the most reliable of all the early biographies of Coleridge.

This edition of the Biographical Supplement is meant to carry out as far as possible the original project of its author. The whole of his narrative has been retained, and also what Sara Coleridge added to his writing; and all the non-copyright letters of Coleridge available from other sources have been inserted into the narrative, and additional biographical matter, explanatory of the letters, has been given. [1] By this retention of authentic sources I have produced as faithful a picture of the Poet-Philosopher Coleridge as can be got anywhere, for Coleridge always paints his own character in his letters. Those desirous of a fuller picture may peruse, along with this work, the letters published in the Collection of 1895, the place of which in the narrative is indicated in footnotes.

[Footnote: What has been added is enclosed in square brackets.]

The letters are drawn from the following sources:

“Biographical Supplement”, 1847 …………………………………….. 33 Cottle’s “Reminiscences”, 1847 ……………………………………… 78 The original “Friend”, 1809 …………………………………………. 5 “The Watchman”, 1796 ……………………………………………….. 1 Gillman’s “Life of Coleridge”, 1838 ………………………………….. 7 Allsop’s “Letters, Conversations, etc., of S. T. C”., 1836 (1864) ………. 45 “Essays on his Own Times”, 1850 ……………………………………… 1 “Life and Correspondence of R. Southey”, 1850 …………………………. 7 Editorials of Poems, etc ……………………………………………. 8 “Literary Remains of S. T. C., 1836, etc” …………………………….. 3 “Blackwood’s Magazine”, October, 1821 ………………………………… 1 “Fragmentary Remains of Humphry Davy”, 1858 ………………………….. 15 “Macmillan’s Magazine”, 1864 (Letters to W. Godwin) ……………………. 9 Southey’s “Life of Andrew Bell”, 3 vols., 1844 ………………………… 2 “Charles Lamb and the Lloyds”, by E. V. Lucas …………………………. 3 “Anima Poetae”, by E. H. Coleridge, 1895 ……………………………… 1

The letters of Coleridge have slowly come to light. Coleridge was always fond of letter-writing, and at several periods of his career he was more active in letter-writing than at others. He commenced the publication of his letters himself. The epistolary form was as dear to him in prose as the ballad or odic form in verse. From his earliest publications we can see he loved to launch a poem with “A letter to the Editor,” or to the recipient, as preface. The “Mathematical Problem”, one of his juvenile facetiae in rhyme, was thus heralded with a letter addressed to his brother George explaining the import of the doggerel. His first printed poem, “To Fortune” (Dykes Campbell’s Edition of the “Poems”, p. 27), was also prefaced by a short letter to the editor of the “Morning Chronicle”. Among Coleridge’s letters are several of this sort, and each affords a glimpse into his character. Those with the “Raven” and “Talleyrand to Lord Grenville” are characteristic specimens of his drollery and irony.

Coleridge’s greatest triumphs in letter-writing were gained in the field of politics. His two letters to Fox, his letters on the Spaniards, and those to Judge Fletcher, are his highest specimens of epistolary eloquence, and constitute him the rival of Rousseau as an advocate of some great truth in a letter addressed to a public personage. In clearness of thought and virile precision of language they surpass the most of anything that Coleridge has written. They never wander from the point at issue; the evolution of their ideas is perfect, their idiom the purest mother-English written since the refined vocabulary of Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and Harrington was coined.

Besides the political letters, Coleridge published during his lifetime four important letters of great length written during his sojourn in Germany. Three of these appeared in the “Friend” of 1809, and indeed were the finest part of that periodical; and one was first made public in the “Amulet” of 1829. Six letters published in “Blackwood’s Magazine” of 1820-21, and a few others of less importance, brought up the number of letters published by Coleridge to 46. The following is a list of them:

7th Nov. 1793, “To Fortune,” Ed. “Morning Chronicle” ……………. 1 22nd Sept. 1794, Dedication to “Robespierre,” to H. Martin ……….. 1 1st April 1796, Letter to “Caius Gracchus,” “The Watchman” ……….. 1 26th Dec. 1796, Dedication to the “Ode to the Departing Year,” to T. Poole ……….. 1 1798, Ed. “Monthly Magazine, re Monody on Chatterton”…………….. 1 1799, Ed. “Morning Post,” with the “Raven” ……………………… 1 21 Dec. 1799, Ed. “Morning Post,” with “Love” …………………… 1 10th Jan. 1800, Ed. “Morning Post, Talleyrand to Lord Grenville” ….. 1 18th Nov. 1800, “Monthly Review,” on “Wallenstein” ………………. 1 1834, To George Coleridge, with “Mathematical Problem” …………… 1 Political Letters to the “Morning Post” and “Courier” ……………. 21 1809, Letters of Satyrane, etc., in the “Friend” ………………… 8 1820-21, Letters to “Blackwood’s Magazine” ……………………… 6 1829, “The Amulet,” “Over the Brocken” ………………………… 1 —

The “Literary Remains,” published in 1836, added ………………… 4

Allsop, in his “Letters, Conversations, etc.”, gave to the world ….. 46

Cottle followed in 1837, with his “Early Recollections”, in which …. 84 letters or fragments of letters made their appearance

Gillman in 1838 published 11 letters or fragments, 4 of which had already appeared in the works of Allsop and Cottle and in the “Friend”, leaving a contribution of …………………………… 7

The “Gentleman’s Magazine” followed in 1838 with letters to Daniel Stuart ………………………………….17

Cottle, in 1847, re-cast his “Early Recollections”, and called his work “Reminiscences of Coleridge and Southey”, and added the splendid Wedgwood series of 19 letters, and a few others of less importance, in all ……………………………………………25

The “Biographical Supplement” to the 1847 edition of the “Biographia Literaria” contained 33 letters, 11 of which were from Cottle; leaving a contribution of ……………………………………..22

In 1850, Coleridge’s “Essays on his Own Times”, consisting of his magazine and newspaper articles, contained in the Preface (p. 91), a fragment of a letter to Poole …………………………………1

Making ……………………………………………………..252

published up to 1850 by Coleridge himself and his three early biographers; and these continued to be quoted and alluded to by writers on Coleridge until 1895, when Mr. E. H. Coleridge gave to the world a collection of 260 letters.

Meantime, numerous biographies, memoirs, and magazines continued to throw in a contribution now and then. The following, as far as I have been able to ascertain, is the number of letters or fragments of letters contributed by the various works enumerated:

1836-8, Lockhart’s “Life of Sir Walter Scott” 1 1841, “Life of Charles Mathews” 1 ” “The Mirror”, Letter to George Dyer 1 1844, Southey’s “Life of Dr. Andrew Bell” 5 1847, “Memoir of Carey” (Translator of Dante) 1 1848, “Memoir of William Collins, R.A.” 1 1849, “Life and Correspondence of R. Southey” 7 1851, “Memoirs of W. Wordsworth” 8 1858, “Fragmentary Remains of Sir H. Davy” 15 1860, “Autobiography of C. R. Leslie” 1 1864, “Macmillan’s Magazine” (Letters to Win. Godwin) 9 1869, “H. Crabb Robinson’s Diary” 5 1870, “Westminster Review” (Letters to Dr. Brabant) 11 1871, Meteyard’s “Group of Englishmen” 2 1873, Sara Coleridge’s “Memoirs” 1 1874, “Lippincott’s Magazine” 10 1876, “Life of William Godwin”, by C. Regan Paul (16, less 7 of those which appeared in “Macmillan’s Magazine”, 1864) 9 1878, “Fraser’s Magazine” (letters to Matilda Betham) 5 1880, Macmillan’s Edition of “Coleridge’s Poems” 1 1882, “Journals of Caroline Fox” 1 1884, “Life of Alaric Watts” 5 1886, Brandl’s “Life of Coleridge” 10 1887, “Memorials of Coleorton” 20 1888, “Thomas Poole and his Friends” (Mrs. Sandford) 75 1889, Professor Knight’s “Life of Wordsworth” 12 1889, “Rogers and his Contemporaries” 1 1890, “Memoir of John Murray” 4 1891, “De Quincey Memorials” 4 1893, “Life of Washington Allston” (Flagg) 4 ” “Friends’ Quarterly Magazine” 1 ” “Illustrated London News” 19 1893, J. Dykes Campbell’s Edition of “Coleridge’s Poems” 8 1894, ” ” ” Life of Coleridge” (fragments) 36 1894, “The Athenaeum” (3 letters to Wrangham) 3 1895, “Letters” of S. T. Coleridge (edited by E. H. Coleridge) 174
” “Anima Poetae” (E. H. C.), Letter to J. Tobin. 1 ” “The Gillmans of Highgate” (A. W. Gillman) 3 ” “Athenaeum” of 18 May, 1895 1 1897, “William Blackwood and his Sons”, by Mrs. Oliphant 6 1898, “Charles Lamb and the Lloyds” (E. V. Lucas) 3 1899, “J. H. Frere and his Friends” 7 1903, “Tom Wedgwood”, by R. B. Litchfield 1 1907, “Christabel”, edited by E. H. Coleridge 1 1910, “The Bookman”, May 1

Total 747

Besides these there are privately printed letters and letters not yet published to be taken account of. The chief collection of these is “Letters from the Lake Poets” (edited by E. H. Coleridge), containing 87 letters to Daniel Stuart, some of which are republished in the “Letters”, 1895. The remainder of letters not published, from the information given by Mr. E. H. Coleridge in his Preface, I make out to be about 300.

Nor does this exhaust the list of letters written by Coleridge. In Ainger’s Collection of the Letters of Charles Lamb are 62 letters by Lamb to Coleridge, most of which are in answer to letters received. We may therefore estimate the letters of Coleridge to Lamb at not less than 62. In Dorothy Wordsworth’s “Grasmere Journal” there are no less than 32 letters to the Wordsworths[1] mentioned as having been received during the period 1800-1803, not represented among the letters in Professor Knight’s “Life of Wordsworth”. The total number of letters known to have been written by Coleridge is therefore between 1,100 and 1,200. Other correspondents of Coleridge not appearing among the recipients of letters in publications are probably as follows:

V. Le Grice.

Sam. Le Grice.

T. F. Middleton.

Robert Allen.

Robert Lovell.

Ch. Lloyd, Jr.

John Cruickshank.

Dr. Beddoes.

Edmund Irving.

Mr. Clarkson.

Mrs. Clarkson (except one small fragment in “Diary of H. C. Robinson”).

[Footnote 1:
The letters to Lamb and Miss Wordsworth do not now exist.]

The letters of Coleridge, taken as a whole, are one of the most important contributions to English Letter-writing. They are gradually coming to light, and with every letter or group of letters put forth, the character and intellectual development of Coleridge is becoming clearer. His poems and prose works, great as these are, are not comprehensible without a study of his letters, which join together the “insulated fragments” of that grand scheme of truth which he called his “System” (“Table Talk”, 12th Sept. 1831, and 26th June 1834). Coleridge, in his letters, has written his own life, for his life, after all, was a life of thought, and his finest thoughts and his most ambitious aspirations are given expression to in his letters to his numerous friends; and the true biography of Coleridge is that in which his letters are made the main source of the narrative. A Biographia Epistolaris is what we want of such a man.

Coleridge’s letters are often bizarre in construction and quite regardless of the conventions of style, and abound in the most curious freaks of emphasis and imagery. They resemble the letters of Cowper in that they were not written for publication; and, like Cowper’s, they have a character of their own. But they far surpass the epistles of the poet of Olney in spiritual vision and intellectuality. The eighteenth century, from Pope and Swift down to Cowper, is extremely rich in
letter-writing. Bolingbroke, Lord Chesterfield, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Gray, Mason, Johnson, Beattie, Burns, and Gibbon, among literary personages, have contributed to the great Epistolick Art, as Dr. Johnson called it; and this list does not include the letters of the politicians, Horace Walpole, Junius, and others. The eighteenth century, in fact, was a letter-writing age; and while the bulk of the poetry of its 300 poets, with the exception of a few masterpieces of monumental quality, has gradually gone out of fashion, its letters have risen into greater repute. Even among the poets whose verse is still read there is a hesitation in public opinion as to whether the verses or letters are superior. There are readers not a few who would not scruple to place Cowper’s letters above his poems, who believe that Gray’s letters are much more akin to the modern spirit than the “Elegy” and the “Ode to Eton College”, and who think that Swift’s fly-leaves to his friends will outlive the fame of “Gulliver” and the “Tale of a Tub”.

Coleridge, who stands between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, was, like the poets of the former age, a multiform letter-writer. He was often seized with letter-writing when unable to write poetry or execute those unpublished masterpieces in the composition of some of which he was engaged.

Coleridge’s letters are of the utmost importance as a part of the literature of the opening of the nineteenth century. It is in the letters that we see better than elsewhere the germs of the speculations which afterwards came to fruition between 1817 and 1850, when the poetical and critical principles of the Lake School gradually took the place of the Classicism of the eighteenth century, and the theology of Broad Churchism began to displace the old theology, and the school of Paley in Evidences and Locke in Philosophy gave way before the inroad of Transcendentalism.

As the record of the phases of an intellectual development the letters of Coleridge stand very high; and, indeed, I do not know anything equal to them except it be the “Journal of Amiel”.

The resemblance between Coleridge and Amiel is very striking. Both valetudinarians and barely understood by the friends with whom they came into contact, they took refuge in the inner shrine of introspection, and clothed the most abstruse ideas in the most beautiful forms of language and imagery that is only not poetry because it is not verse. While one wrote the story of his own intellectual development in secret and retained the record of it hidden from all eyes, the other scattered his to the winds in the shape of letters, which thus, widely distributed, kept his secret until they were gathered together by later hands. The letters of Coleridge as a collection is one of the most engaging psychological studies of the history of an individual mind.

The text of the letters in the present volume is reproduced from the original sources, the “Biographical Supplement”, Cottle, Gillman, Allsop, and the “Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey”. Fuller texts of some of the letters will be found in “Letters of S. T. C.” of 1895, Litchfield’s “Tom Wedgwood”, and other recent publications. One of the objects of the present work is to preserve the text of the letters as presented in these authentic sources of the life of Coleridge.

Letters Nos. 44, 45, and 46, from “Charles Lamb and the Lloyds”, by Mr. E. V. Lucas (Smith, Elder and Co.); No. 130 from “Anima Poetae” (W. Heinemann), are printed here by arrangement with the poet’s grandson, Ernest Hartley Coleridge, Esq., to whom my sincere thanks are also due for his kindness in reading the proofs. Mr. Coleridge, of course, is not responsible for any of the opinions expressed in this work; but he has taken great pains in putting me right regarding certain views of others who had written on Coleridge, and also on some of the mistakes made by Henry Nelson Coleridge and Sara Coleridge, who had insufficient data on the matters on which they wrote, and definite information on which, indeed, could not be ascertainable in 1847. Coming from Mr. Coleridge–the chief living authority on the life, letters, and published and unpublished writings of S. T. Coleridge–the corrections in the footnotes and elsewhere may be taken as authoritative; and I have to acknowledge my indebtedness to him accordingly,



31st January, 1911.


“Early Years and Late Reflections”. By Clement Carlyon, M.D. 4 vols. 1836-1858.

“Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge”. With a Preface by the Editor. Moxon, 1836. 2 vols. Second Edition. By Thomas Allsop. 1858. Third Edition, 1864.

“Early Recollections, chiefly relating to the late S. T. Coleridge during his long residence in Bristol”. By Joseph Cottle. 2 vols. 1837.

“The Letters of Charles Lamb with a Sketch of his Life”. By Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd, 1837; and “Final Memorials”, 1848.

“Reminiscences of S. T. Coleridge and Robert Southey”. By Joseph Cottle. 1847. 1 vol.

“Biographia Literaria, or Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life and Opinions”. By S. T. Coleridge. Second Edition, prepared for publication in part by the late H. N. Coleridge: completed and published by his widow. 2 vols. 1847.

“The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey”. 6 vols. 1849-1850.

“Essays on his own Times”. By Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Edited by his daughter. London: William Pickering. 3 vols. 1850.

“Memoirs of William Wordsworth”. By Christopher Wordsworth, D.D. 2 vols. 1851.

“The Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. New York: Harper and Brothers. 7 vols. 1853.

“Oxford and Cambridge Essays”. Professor Hort on Coleridge. 1856.

“Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey”. 4 vols. 1856.

“Fragmentary Remains, literary and scientific, of Sir Humphry Davy, Bart.” Edited by his brother, John Davy, M.D. 1858.

“Dissertations and Discussions”. John Stuart Mill. 4 vols. 1859-1875.

“Autobiographical Recollections by the late Charles Robert Leslie, R.A.” Edited by Tom Taylor. 2 vols. 1860.

“Beaten Paths”. By T. Colley Grattan 2 vols. 1862.

“Studies in Poetry and Philosophy”. By J. C. Shairp. 1868.

“Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson”. Selected and Edited by Thomas Sadler, Ph.D. 3 vols. 1869.

“A Group of Englishmen (1795-1815) being records of the younger Wedgwoods and their Friends”. By Eliza Meteyard, 1 vol. 1871.

“Memoir and Letters of Sara Coleridge”, 1 vol. 1873.

“Life of William Godwin”. By C. Kegan Paul. 2 vols. 1876.

“Journals and Letters of Caroline Fox”. 2 vols. 1884.

“Life and Works of William Wordsworth”. By William Knight, LL.D. 11 vols. 1882-1889.

“Prose Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. Bohn Library. 6 vols. (various dates).

“Memorials of Coleorton”. Edited by William Knight, University of St. Andrews. 2 vols. 1887.

“The Letters of Charles Lamb”. Edited by Alfred Ainger. 2 vols. 1888.

“Thomas Poole and his Friends”. By Mrs. Henry Sandford. 2 vols. 1888.

“Appreciations”. By Walter Pater. 1889.

“De Quincey Memorials”. Edited by Alexander H. Japp, LL.D., F.R.S.E. 2 vols. 1891.

“Posthumous Works of De Quincey”. Edited by Alexander H. Japp, LL.D., F.R.S.E. Vol. II. 1893.

“The Life of Washington Allston”. By Jared B. Flagg. 1893.

“The Works of Thomas De Quincey”. Edited by Professor Masson. Vols. I-III. 1896.

“Illustrated London News”, 1893. Letters of S. T. C. edited by E. H. Coleridge.

“Anima Poetae: From the unpublished note-books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. Edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge. 1895.

“The Gillmans of Highgate”. By Alexander W. Gillman. 1895.

“Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. Edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge. 2 vols. 1895. (Referred to in present volume as “Letters”.}

“The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth”. Edited by William Knight. 2 vols. 1897.

“The Early Life of William Wordsworth”, 1770-1798, “A Study of the Prelude”. By Emile Legouis; translated by J. W. Matthews. 1897.

“Charles Lamb and the Lloyds”. Edited by E. V. Lucas. 1898.

“Bibliography of S. T. Coleridge”. R. Heine Shepherd and Colonel Prideaux. 1900.

“The German Influence on Coleridge”. By John Louis Haney. 1902.

“A Bibliography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. By John Louis Haney. 1903.

“Tom Wedgwood, the First Photographer”. By R. B. Litchfield. 1903.

“Christabel, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; illustrated by a Facsimile of the Manuscript and by Textual and other notes”. By Ernest Hartley Coleridge, Hon. F.R.S.L. Published under the direction of the Royal Society of Literature: London, Henry Frowde. 1907. (The Facsimile is that of the MS. presented by Coleridge to Sarah Hutchinson.)


John Thomas Cox. Memoir prefixed to Edition of the Poems of S. T. Coleridge. 1836.

Life of Coleridge prefixed to Edition of the Poems by Milner and Sowerby. (No date.)

James Gillman. “Life of S. T. Coleridge”. Vol. I. 1838.

Biographical Supplement to the Second Edition of the “Biographia Literaria”. By Henry Nelson Coleridge and Sara Coleridge. 1847.

F. Freiligrath. Memoir to the “Tauchnitz Edition” of the Poems of S. T. Coleridge. 1860.

E. H. Norton. Poetical and Dramatic Works, with Life of the Author. 3 vols. Boston, 1864.

Derwent Coleridge, Introductory Essay to Poems of S. T. C. Moxon and Sons. 1870.

W. M. Rossetti. Critical Memoir to the Edition of Poems of S. T. C. in Moxon’s “Popular Poets.” 1872.

William Bell Scott. Introduction to Edition of the Poems in “Routledge’s Poets.”

Memoir prefixed to the Edition of the Poems of S. T. C. in “Lansdown” Poets. F. Warne and Co. 1878.

R. Herne Shepherd. Life of S. T. C. prefixed to Macmillan’s Edition of the Poems of S. T. C. 4 vols. 1877-1880.

Memoir prefixed to the “Landscape Edition” of the Poems of S. T. Coleridge. Edinburgh, 1881.

“Life of S. T. Coleridge”. By H. Traill, “English Men of Letters Series.” 1884.

Thomas Ashe. “Life of S. T. Coleridge” prefixed to the “Aldine Edition” of the Poems of S. T. C. 2 vols. 1885.

Professor Alois Brandl, Prague. “Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the English Romantic School”. English Edition by Lady Eastlake. 1887.

“The Life of S. T. Coleridge”. By Hall Caine. “Great Writers Series.” 1887.

Introductory Memoir by J. Dykes Campbell, prefixed to “Poetical Works of S. T. C.” Macmillan. 1893.

“Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. A narrative of the events of his Life. By James Dykes Campbell. 1894.

“Coleridge”. Bell’s “Miniature Series of Great Writers.” By Richard Garnett. 1904.

“La Vie d’un Poete–Coleridge”. Par Joseph Aynard. Paris, 1907.


Algernon C. Swinburne. “Christabel and the Lyrical and Imaginative Poems of S. T. Coleridge” (Sampson Low, and Co.). 1869.

Joseph Skipsey. Prefatory Notice to the “Canterbury Edition” of Coleridge’s Poems (Walter Scott).

Stopford A. Brooke. Introduction to the Golden Book of Coleridge (Dent and Co.).

Andrew Lang. Introduction to Poems of S. T. C. (Longmans).

Richard Garnett. “The Poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. The “Muses” Library (Lawrence and Bullen, now Routledge). 1888.

“Coleridge’s Select Poems”. Edited by Andrew J. George, M. A. (Heath, publisher.)

“Poems”. Edited by E. H. Coleridge (Heinemann).

“Poems”. Edited by Alice Meynell. “Red Letter Library” (Blackie).

“Poems of S. T. C.” Edited by Professor Knight (Newnes).

“Poems of Coleridge”, selected and arranged. Edited by Arthur Symons (Methuen and Co.).

“The Poems of Coleridge”. Illustrated by Gerald Metcalfe. With an Introduction by E. Hartley Coleridge (John Lane). 1907.

“The Poems of S. T. Coleridge”. “The World’s Classics” (Frowde). Edited by T. Quiller-Couch. 1908.

“Poems of Coleridge”. “The Golden Poets.” With an Introduction by Professor Edward Dowden, LL.D. (Caxton Publishing Company).


1865. Article in the “North British Review” for December of this year.

1903. “From Ottery to Highgate, the story of the childhood and later years of Samuel Taylor Coleridge”. By Wilfred Brown (Coleberd and Co., Ltd., Ottery St. Mary).



CHAPTER I. EARLY YEARS I, 3 Letter 1. To Thomas Poole. — Feby. 1797 5 2. ” — Mch. 1797 7
3. ” 9 Oct. 1797 11 4. ” 16 Oct. 1797 15
5. ” 19 Feby. 1798 19

CHAPTER II. CAMBRIDGE AND PANTISOCRACY 29 Letter 6. To George Coleridge. 31 Mch. 1791 29 7. Robert Southey. 6 July, 1794 34 8. Henry Martin. 22 July, 1794 35 9. Southey. 6 Sept. 1794 42 10. ” 18 Sept. 1794 43 11. Charles Heath. — — 1794 44 12. Henry Martin. 22 Sept. 1794 46 13. Southey. — Dec. 1794 47

CHAPTER III. “THE WATCHMAN” 50 Letter 14. To Thomas Poole. 7 Oct. 1795 50 15. Joseph Cottle. — Dec. 1795 52 16. ” 1 Jany. 1796 52 17. Josiah Wade. — Jany. 1796 55 18. ” — — 1796 55
19. ” — — 1796 56 20. ” — — 1796 58
21. ” 7 Jany. 1796 59 22. ” — Jany. 1796 60 23. Cottle. — Feby. 1796 62 24. ” — — 1796 62
25. ” 22 Feby. 1796 63 26. Poole. 30 Mch. 1796 65 27. Benjamin Flower. 1 April, 1796 28. Caius Gracchus. 1 April, 1796 29. Poole. 11 April, 1796 30. Cottle. 15 April, 1796 31. ” — April, 1796
32. ” — April, 1796 33. Poole. 6 May, 1796
34. ” 12 May, 1796 35. ” 29 May, 1796
36. ” 4 July, 1796 37. ” — Aug. 1796
38. Wade. — Sept. 1796 39. Poole. 24 Sept. 1796 40. Charles Lamb. 29 Sept. 1796 41. Cottle. 18 Oct. 1796 42. Poole. 1 Nov. 1796
43. ” 5 Nov. 1796 44. Charles Lloyd, Senr. 15 Oct. 1796 45. ” 14 Nov. 1796
46. ” 4 Dec. 1796 47. Poole. 26 Dec. 1796


Letter 48. To Cottle. Jany. 1797 49. ” 3 Jany. 1797
50. ” 10 Jany. 1797 51. ” Jany. 1797
52. ” Jany. —
53. ” Jany. —
54. ” Feby. or Mch. 1797 55. ” May, 1797
56. ” — —
57. ” — —
58. Wade. — — 59. Cottle. — —
60. ” — June, 1797 61. ” 8 June, 1797
62. ” 29 — — 63. ” 3-17 July, 1797
64. Wade. 17-20 July, 1797 Letter 65. To Cottle. –Sept. 1797 66. ” 3 Sept. 1797
67. ” 10-15 Sept. 1797 68. ” 28 Nov. 1797
69. ” 2 Dec. 1797
70. ” –Jany. 1798
71. Wedgwood. –Jany. 1798 72. Cottle. 24 Jany. 1798
73. the Editor, “Monthly Mag.” –Jany. 1798


Letter 74. To Cottle. 18 Feb. 1798 75. the Editor, “Morning Post.” 10 Mch. 1798 76. Cottle. 8 Mch. 1798
77. Wade. 21 Mch. 1798 78. Cottle. Mch. or Apl. 1798 79. ” 14 April, 1798
80. ” –April, 1798
81. ” –May, 1798
82. Mrs. Coleridge. 14 Jany. 1799 83. ” 23 April, 1799


Letter 84. To Mrs. Coleridge. 17 May, 1799


Letter 85. To Josiah Wedgwood. 21 May, 1799 86. “the Editor, Morning Post.” 21 Dec. 1799 87. ” 10 Jany. 1800
88. Thomas Wedgwood. –Jany. 1800 89. Josiah Wedgwood. –Feby. 1800 90. Thomas Poole. –Mch. 1800


Letter 91. To William Godwin. 21 May, 1800 92. Humphry Davy. –June, 1800 93. Josiah Wedgwood. 24 July, 1800 94. Davy. 25 July, 1800
95. Godwin. 22 Sept. 1800 96. Davy. 9 Oct. 1800
97. Godwin. 13 Oct. 1800 98. Davy. 18 Oct. 1800
99. Josiah Wedgwood. 1 Nov. 1800 100. ” 12 Nov. 1800
101. the Editor, “Monthly Review.”18 Nov. 1800 102. Davy. 2 Dec. 1800
103. ” 3 Feby. 1801
104. Wade. 6 March, 1801 105. Godwin. 25 March, 1801



Letter 106. To Southey. 13 April, 1801 107. Davy. 4 May, 1801
108. ” 20 May, 1801
109. Godwin. 23 June, 1801 110. Davy. 31 Oct. 1801
111. Thos. Wedgwood. 20 Oct. 1802 112. ” 3 Nov. 1802
113. ” 9 Jany. l803
114. ” 14 Jany. 1803 115. ” 10 Feby. 1803
116. ” 10 Feby. 1803 117. ” 17 Feby. 1803
118. ” 17 Feby. 1803 119. Godwin. 4 June, 1803
120. ” 10 July, 1803 121. Southey. — July, 1803 122. Thos. Wedgwood. 16 Sept. 1803 123. Miss Cruikshank. — — 1803 124. Thos. Wedgwood. — Jany. 1804 125. ” 28 Jany. 1804
126. Davy. 6 Mch. 1804 127. Sarah Hutchinson. 10 March, 1804 128. Wedgwood. 24 March, 1804
129. Davy. 25 March, 1804





[1772 to 1791]

While here, thou fed’st upon etherial beams, As if thou had’st not a terrestrial birth;– Beyond material objects was thy sight;
In the clouds woven was thy lucid robe! “Ah! who can tell how little for this sphere That frame was fitted of empyreal fire!” [1]

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the youngest child of the Reverend John Coleridge, Chaplain-Priest and Vicar of the parish of Ottery St. Mary, in the county of Devon, and Master of the Free Grammar, or King’s School, as it is called, founded by Henry VIII in that town. His mother’s maiden name was Ann Bowdon. He was born at Ottery on the 21st of October 1772, “about eleven o’clock in the forenoon,” as his father, the Vicar, has, with rather unusual particularity, entered it in the register.

John Coleridge, who was born in 1719, and finished his education at Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge,[2] was a country clergyman and schoolmaster of no ordinary kind. He was a good Greek and Latin scholar, a profound Hebraist, and, according to the measure of his day, an accomplished mathematician. He was on terms of literary friendship with Samuel Badcock, and, by his knowledge of Hebrew, rendered material assistance to Dr. Kennicott, in his well known critical works. Some curious papers on theological and antiquarian subjects appear with his signature in the early numbers of “The Gentleman’s Magazine”, between the years 1745 and 1780; almost all of which have been inserted in the interesting volumes of Selections made several years ago from that work. In 1768 he published miscellaneous Dissertations arising from the 17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges; in which a very learned and ingenious attempt is made to relieve the character of Micah from the charge of idolatry ordinarily brought against it; and in 1772 appeared a “Critical Latin Grammar”, which his son called “his best work,” and which is not wholly unknown even now to the inquisitive by the proposed substitution of the terms “prior, possessive, attributive, posterior, interjective, and quale-quare-quidditive,” for the vulgar names of the cases. This little Grammar, however, deserves a philologer’s perusal, and is indeed in many respects a very valuable work in its kind. He also published a Latin Exercise book, and a Sermon. His school was celebrated, and most of the country gentlemen of that generation, belonging to the south and east parts of Devon, had been his pupils. Judge Buller was one. The amiable character and personal eccentricities of this excellent man are not yet forgotten amongst some of the elders of the parish and neighbourhood, and the latter, as is usual in such cases, have been greatly exaggerated. He died suddenly in the month of October 1781, after riding to Ottery from Plymouth, to which latter place he had gone for the purpose of embarking his son Francis, as a midshipman, for India. Many years afterwards, in 1797, S. T. Coleridge commenced a series of Letters to his friend Thomas Poole, of Nether Stowey, in the county of Somerset, in which he proposed to give an account of his life up to that time. Five only were written, and unfortunately they stop short of his residence at Cambridge. This series will properly find a place here.

[Footnote 1: From a Sonnet To Coleridge by Sir Egerton Brydges–written 16th Feb. 1837. S. C.]

[Footnote 2: He was matriculated at Sidney a sizar on the 18th of March 1748, but does not appear to have taken any degree at the University. S. C.]


My Dear Poole,

I could inform the dullest author how he might write an interesting book. Let him relate the events of his own life with honesty, not disguising the feelings that accompanied them. I never yet read even a Methodist’s “Experience” in the Gospel Magazine without receiving instruction and amusement; and I should almost despair of that man who could peruse the Life of John Woolman without an amelioration of heart. As to my Life, it has all the charms of variety,–high life and low life, vices and virtues, great folly and some wisdom. However, what I am depends on what I have been; and you, my best friend, have a right to the narration. To me the task will be a useful one. It will renew and deepen my reflections on the past; and it will perhaps make you behold with no unforgiving or impatient eye those weaknesses and defects in my character, which so many untoward circumstances have concurred in planting there.

My family on my Mother’s side can be traced up, I know not how far. The Bowdons inherited a good farm and house thereon in the Exmoor country, in the reign of Elizabeth, as I have been told; and to my knowledge they have inherited nothing better since that time. My Grandfather was in the reign of George I a considerable woollen trader in Southmolton; so that I suppose, when the time comes, I shall be allowed to pass as a “Sans-culotte” without much opposition. My Father received a better education than the rest of his family in consequence of his own exertions, not of his superiour advantages. When he was not quite sixteen years of age, my grandfather, by a series of misfortunes, was reduced to great distress. My Father received the half of his last crown and his blessing, and walked off to seek his fortune. After he had proceeded a few miles, he sate him down on the side of the road, so overwhelmed with painful thoughts that he wept audibly. A gentleman passed by who knew him, and, inquiring into his sorrow, took him home and gave him the means of maintaining himself by placing him in a school. At this time he commenced being a severe and ardent student. He married his first wife, by whom he had three daughters, all now alive. While his first wife lived, having scraped up money enough, he at the age of twenty walked to Cambridge, entered himself at Sidney College, distinguished himself in Hebrew and Mathematics, and might have had a fellowship if he had not been married. He returned and settled as a schoolmaster in Southmolton where his wife died. In 1760 he was appointed Chaplain-Priest and Master of the School at Ottery St. Mary, and removed to that place; and in August, 1760, Mr. Buller, the father of the present Judge, procured for him the living from Lord Chancellor Bathurst. By my Mother, his second wife, he had ten children, of whom I am the youngest, born October 20th,[1] 1772.

These facts I received from my Mother; but I am utterly unable to fill them up by any further particulars of times, or places, or names. Here I shall conclude my first Letter, because I cannot pledge myself for the accuracy of the accounts, and I will not therefore mingle it with that for the truth of which, in the minutest parts, I shall hold myself responsible. You must regard this Letter as a first chapter devoted to dim traditions of times too remote to be pierced by the eye of investigation.

Yours affectionately, S. T. COLERIDGE.

Feb. 1797. Monday.

[Footnote 1: A mistake, should be October 21st.]


My Dear Poole,

My Father (Vicar of, and Schoolmaster at, Ottery St. Mary, Devon) was a good mathematician, and well versed in the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew languages. He published, or rather attempted to publish, several works;–1st, Miscellaneous Dissertations arising from the 17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges; 2d, “Sententiae Excerptcae” for the use of his own School; and 3d, his best work, a Critical Latin Grammar, in the Preface to which he proposes a bold innovation in the names of the cases. My Father’s new nomenclature was not likely to become popular, although it must be allowed to be both sonorous and expressive. “Exempli gratia”, he calls the ablative case “the quare-quale-quidditive case!” He made the world his confidant with respect to his learning and ingenuity, and the world seems to have kept the secret very faithfully. His various works, uncut, unthumbed, were preserved free from all pollution in the family archives, where they may still be for anything that I know. This piece of good luck promises to be hereditary; for all “my” compositions have the same amiable home-staying propensity. The truth is, my Father was not a first-rate genius; he was, however, a first-rate Christian, which is much better. I need not detain you with his character. In learning, goodheartedness, absentness of mind, and excessive ignorance of the world, he was a perfect Parson Adams.

My Mother was an admirable economist, and managed exclusively. My eldest brother’s name was John. He was a Captain in the East India Company’s service; a successful officer and a brave one, as I have heard. He died in India in 1786. My second brother William went to Pembroke College, Oxford. He died a clergyman in 1780, just on the eve of his intended marriage. My brother James has been in the army since the age of fifteen, and has married a woman of fortune, one of the old Duke family of Otterton in Devon. Edward, the wit of the family, went to Pembroke College, and is now a clergyman. George also went to Pembroke. He is in orders likewise, and now has the same School, a very flourishing one, which my Father had. He is a man of reflective mind and elegant talent. He possesses learning in a greater degree than any of the family, excepting myself. His manners are grave, and hued over with a tender sadness. In his moral character he approaches every way nearer to perfection than any man I ever yet knew. He is worth us all. Luke Herman was a surgeon, a severe student, and a good man. He died in 1790, leaving one child, a lovely boy still alive. [1] My only sister, Ann, died at twenty-one, a little after my brother Luke:–

Rest, gentle Shade! and wait thy Maker’s will; Then rise unchang’d, and be an angel still!

Francis Syndercombe went out to India as a midshipman under Admiral Graves. He accidentally met his brother John on board ship abroad, who took him ashore, and procured him a commission in the Company’s army. He died in 1792, aged twenty-one, a Lieutenant, in consequence of a fever brought on by excessive fatigue at and after the siege of Seringapatam, and the storming of a hill fort, during all which his conduct had been so gallant that his Commanding Officer particularly noticed him, and presented him with a gold watch, which my Mother now has. All my brothers are remarkably handsome; but they were as inferiour to Francis as I am to them. He went by the name of “the handsome Coleridge.” The tenth and last child was Samuel Taylor, the subject and author of these Epistles.

From October 1772 to October 1773. Baptized Samuel Taylor, my Godfather’s name being Samuel Taylor, Esquire. I had another called Evans, and two Godmothers, both named Munday.

From October 1773 to October 1774. In this year I was carelessly left by my nurse, ran to the fire, and pulled out a live coal, and burned myself dreadfully. While my hand was being drest by Mr. Young, I spoke for the first time, (so my Mother informs me) and said, “nasty Dr. Young!” The snatching at fire, and the circumstance of my first words expressing hatred to professional men–are they at all ominous? This year I went to school. My Schoolmistress, the very image of Shenstone’s, was named Old Dame Key. She was nearly related to Sir Joshua Reynolds.

From October 1774 to 1775. I was inoculated; which I mention, because I distinctly remember it, and that my eyes were bound; at which I manifested so much obstinate indignation, that at last they removed the bandage, and unaffrighted I looked at the lancet, and suffered the scratch. At the close of this year I could read a chapter in the Bible.

Here I shall end, because the remaining years of my life all assisted to form my particular mind;–the first three years had nothing in them that seems to relate to it.

God bless you and your sincere S. T. COLERIDGE.

Sunday, March, 1797.

[Footnote 1: William Hart Coleridge, Bishop of Barbadoes and the Leeward Islands.

(He was appointed to that See in 1824, retired from it in 1842; and afterwards accepted the Wardenship of St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury. S. C.) [He died in 1849.] ]

A letter from Francis S. Coleridge to his sister has been preserved in the family, in which a particular account is given of the chance meeting of the two brothers in India, mentioned shortly in the preceding Letter. There is something so touching and romantic in the incident that the Reader will, it is hoped, pardon the insertion of the original narrative here.

Dear Nancy,

You are very right, I have neglected my absent friends, but do not think I have forgot them, and indeed it would be ungrateful in me if I did not write to them.

You may be sure, Nancy, I thank Providence for bringing about that meeting, which has been the cause of all my good fortune and happiness, which I now in fulness enjoy. It was an affectionate meeting, and I will inform you of the particulars. There was in our ship one Captain Mordaunt, who had been in India before, when we came to Bombay. Finding a number of his friends there he went often ashore. The day before the Fleet sailed he desired one Captain Welsh to go aboard with him, who was an intimate friend of your brother’s. “I will,” said Welsh, “and will write a note to Coleridge to go with us.” Upon this Captain Mordaunt, recollecting me, said there was a young midshipman, a favourite of Captain Hicks, of that name on board. Upon that they agreed to inform my brother of it, which they did soon after, and all three came on board. I was then in the lower deck, and, though you won’t believe it, I was sitting upon a gun and thinking of my brother, that is, whether I should ever see or hear anything of him; when seeing a Lieutenant, who had been sent to inform me of my brother’s being on board, I got up off the gun: but instead of telling me about my brother, he told me that Captain Hicks was very angry with me and wanted to see me. Captain Hicks had always been a Father to me, and loved me as if I had been his own child. I therefore went up shaking like an aspen leaf to the Lieutenant’s apartments, when a Gentleman took hold of my hand. I did not mind him at first, but looked round for the Captain; but the Gentleman still holding my hand, I looked, and what was my surprise, when I saw him too full to speak and his eyes full of tears. Whether crying is catching I know not, but I began a crying too, though I did not know the reason, till he caught me in his arms, and told me he was my brother, and then I found I was paying nature her tribute, for I believe I never cried so much in my life. There is a saying in Robinson Crusoe, I remember very well, viz.–sudden joy like grief confounds at first. We directly went ashore having got my discharge, and having took a most affectionate leave of Captain Hicks, I left the ship for good and all.

My situation in the army is that I am one of the oldest Ensigns, and before you get this must in all probability be a Lieutenant. How many changes there have been in my life, and what lucky ones they have been, and how young I am still! I must be seven years older before I can properly style myself a man, and what a number of officers do I command, who are old enough to be my Father already!


October 9th, 1797.

My Dearest Poole,

From March to October–a long silence! But it is possible that I may have been preparing materials for future Letters, and the time cannot be considered as altogether subtracted from you.

From October 1775 to October 1778. These three years I continued at the Reading School, because I was too little to be trusted among my Father’s schoolboys. After break-fast I had a halfpenny given me, with which I bought three cakes at the baker’s shop close by the school of my old mistress; and these were my dinner every day except Saturday and Sunday, when I used to dine at home, and wallowed in a beef and pudding dinner. I am remarkably fond of beans and bacon: and this fondness I attribute to my Father’s giving me a penny for having eaten a large quantity of beans on Saturday. For the other boys did not like them, and, as it was an economic food, my Father thought my attachment to it ought to be encouraged. He was very fond of me, and I was my Mother’s darling: in consequence whereof I was very miserable. For Molly, who had nursed my brother Francis, and was immoderately fond of him, hated me because my Mother took more notice of me than of Frank; and Frank hated me because my Mother gave me now and then a bit of cake when he had none,–quite forgetting that for one bit of cake which I had and he had not, he had twenty sops in the pan, and pieces of bread and butter with sugar on them from Molly, from whom I received only thumps and ill names.

So I became fretful, and timorous, and a tell-tale; and the schoolboys drove me from play, and were always tormenting me. And hence I took no pleasure in boyish sports, but read incessantly. I read through all gilt-cover little books that could be had at that time, and likewise all the uncovered tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant Killer, and the like. And I used to lie by the wall, and mope; and my spirits used to come upon me suddenly, and in a flood;–and then I was accustomed to run up and down the churchyard, and act over again all I had been reading on the docks, the nettles, and the rank grass. At six years of age I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarles; and then I found the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, one tale of which, (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin,) made so deep an impression on me, (I had read it in the evening while my mother was at her needle,) that I was haunted by spectres, whenever I was in the dark: and I distinctly recollect the anxious and fearful eagerness, with which I used to watch the window where the book lay, and when the sun came upon it, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask, and read. My father found out the effect which these books had produced, and burned them.

So I became a dreamer, and acquired an indisposition to all bodily activity; and I was fretful, and inordinately passionate; and as I could not play at anything, and was slothful, I was despised and hated by the boys: and because I could read and spell, and had, I may truly say, a memory and understanding forced into almost unnatural ripeness, I was flattered and wondered at by all the old women. And so I became very vain, and despised most of the boys that were at all near my own age, and before I was eight years old I was a “character”. Sensibility, imagination, vanity, sloth, and feelings of deep and bitter contempt for almost all who traversed the orbit of my understanding, were even then prominent and manifest.

From October 1778 to 1779. That which I began to be from three to six, I continued to be from six to nine. In this year I was admitted into the Grammar School, and soon outstripped all of my age. I had a dangerous putrid fever this year. My brother George lay ill of the same fever in the next room. My poor brother, Francis, I remember, stole up in spite of orders to the contrary, and sat by my bedside, and read Pope’s Homer to me. Frank had a violent love of beating me; but whenever that was superseded by any humour or circumstances, he was always very fond of me, and used to regard me with a strange mixture of admiration and contempt. Strange it was not, for he hated books, and loved climbing, fighting, playing, and robbing orchards, to distraction. My Mother relates a story of me, which I repeat here, because it must be reckoned as my first piece of wit.–During my fever, I asked why Lady Northcote, our neighbour, did not come and see me. My Mother said she was afraid of catching the fever. I was piqued, and answered, “Ah! Mamma! the four Angels round my bed a’n’t afraid of catching it!” I suppose you know the old prayer:–

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on!– Four good Angels round me spread,
Two at my feet and two at my head.

This “prayer” I said nightly, and most firmly believed the truth of it. Frequently have I, (half-awake and half-asleep; my body diseased, and fevered by my imagination,)–seen armies of ugly things bursting in upon me, and these four Angels keeping them off.

In my next I shall carry on my life to my Father’s death.

God bless you, my dear Poole,

And your affectionate, S.T. COLERIDGE.

In a note written in after life Mr. Coleridge speaks of this period of his life in the following terms:

“Being the youngest child, I possibly inherited the weakly state of health of my Father, who died, at the age of sixty-two, before I had reached my ninth year; and from certain jealousies of old Molly, my brother Frank’s dotingly fond nurse–and if ever child by beauty and loveliness deserved to be doted on, my brother Francis was that child–and by the infusion of her jealousies into my brother’s mind, I was in earliest childhood huffed away from the enjoyments of muscular activity in play, to take refuge at my Mother’s side on my little stool, to read my little book, and to listen to the talk of my elders. I was driven from life in motion to life in thought and sensation. I never played except by myself, and then only acted over what I had been reading or fancying, or half one, half the other, with a stick cutting down weeds and nettles, as one of the “Seven Champions of Christendom.” Alas! I had all the simplicity, all the docility of the little child, but none of the child’s habits. I never thought as a child, never had the language of a child.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Gillman’s “Life of Coleridge”, p. 10.]


Dear Poole,

From October 1779 to 1781. I had asked my Mother one evening to cut my cheese entire, so that I might toast it. This was no easy matter, it being a “crumbly” cheese. My Mother however did it. I went into the garden for something or other, and in the mean time my brother Frank minced my cheese, to “disappoint the favourite.” I returned, saw the exploit, and in an agony of passion flew at Frank. He pretended to have been seriously hurt by my blow, flung himself on the ground, and there lay with outstretched limbs. I hung over him mourning and in a great fright; he leaped up, and with a horse-laugh gave me a severe blow in the face. I seized a knife, and was running at him, when my Mother came in and took me by the arm. I expected a flogging, and, struggling from her, I ran away to a little hill or slope, at the bottom of which the Otter flows, about a mile from Ottery. There I staid; my rage died away, but my obstinacy vanquished my fears, and taking out a shilling book, which had at the end morning and evening prayers, I very devoutly repeated them–thinking at the same time with a gloomy inward satisfaction–how miserable my Mother must be! I distinctly remember my feelings, when I saw a Mr. Vaughan pass over the bridge at about a furlong’s distance, and how I watched the calves in the fields beyond the river. It grew dark, and I fell asleep. It was towards the end of October, and it proved a stormy night. I felt the cold in my sleep, and dreamed that I was pulling the blanket over me, and actually pulled over me a dry thorn-bush which lay on the ground near me. In my sleep I had rolled from the top of the hill till within three yards of the river, which flowed by the unfenced edge of the bottom. I awoke several times, and finding myself wet, and cold, and stiff, closed my eyes again that I might forget it.

In the meantime my Mother waited about half an hour, expecting my return when the “sulks” had evaporated. I not returning, she sent into the churchyard, and round the town. Not found! Several men and all the boys were sent out to ramble about and seek me. In vain! My Mother was almost distracted; and at ten o’clock at night I was ‘cried’ by the crier in Ottery, and in two villages near it, with a reward offered for me. No one went to bed;–indeed I believe half the town were up all the night. To return to myself. About five in the morning, or a little after, I was broad awake, and attempted to get up, and walk; but I could not move. I saw the shepherds and workmen at a distance, and cried, but so faintly, that it was impossible to hear me thirty yards off. And there I might have lain and died;–for I was now almost given over, the ponds and even the river, near which I was lying, having been dragged. But providentially Sir Stafford Northcote, who had been out all night, resolved to make one other trial, and came so near that he heard me crying. He carried me in his arms for nearly a quarter of a mile, when we met my father and Sir Stafford Northcote’s servants. I remember, and never shall forget, my Father’s face as he looked upon me while I lay in the servant’s arms–so calm, and the tears stealing down his face; for I was the child of his old age. My Mother, as you, may suppose, was outrageous with joy. Meantime in rushed a young lady, crying out–“I hope you’ll whip him, Mrs. Coleridge.” This woman still lives at Ottery; and neither philosophy nor religion has been able to conquer the antipathy which I feel towards her, whenever I see her. I was put to bed, and recovered in a day or so. But I was certainly injured; for I was weakly and subject to ague for many years after.

My Father–who had so little parental ambition in him, that, but for my Mother’s pride and spirit, he would certainly have brought up his other sons to trades–had nevertheless resolved that I should be a parson. I read every book that came in my way without distinction; and my Father was fond of me, and used to take me on his knee, and hold long conversations with me. I remember, when eight years old, walking with him one winter evening from a farmer’s house, a mile from Ottery; and he then told me the names of the stars, and how Jupiter was a thousand times larger than our world, and that the other twinkling stars were suns that had worlds rolling round them; and when I came home, he showed me how they rolled round. I heard him with a profound delight and admiration, but without the least mixture of wonder or incredulity. For from my early reading of fairy tales and about genii, and the like, my mind had been habituated “to the Vast”; and I never regarded “my senses” in any way as the “criteria” of my belief. I regulated all my creeds by my conceptions, not by my sight, even at that age. Ought children to be permitted to read romances, and stories of giants, magicians, and genii? I know all that has been said against it; but I have formed my faith in the affirmative. I know no other way of giving the mind a love of the Great and the Whole. Those who have been led to the same truths step by step, through the constant testimony of their senses, seem to me to want a sense which I possess. They contemplate nothing but parts, and all parts are necessarily little, and the universe to them is but a mass of little things. It is true, the mind may become credulous and prone to superstition by the former method;–but are not the experimentalists credulous even to madness in believing any absurdity, rather than believe the grandest truths, if they have not the testimony of their own senses in their favour? I have known some who have been rationally educated, as it is styled. They were marked by a microscopic acuteness; but when they looked at great things, all became a blank, and they saw nothing, and denied that anything could be seen, and uniformly put the negative of a power for the possession of a power, and called the want of imagination, judgment, and the never being moved to rapture, philosophy.

Towards the latter end of September 1781, my Father went to Plymouth with my brother Francis, who was to go out as midshipman under Admiral Graves, who was a friend of my Father’s. He settled Frank as he wished, and returned on the 4th of October, 1781. He arrived at Exeter about six o’clock, and was pressed to take a bed there by the friendly family of the Harts; but he refused; and to avoid their entreaties he told them that he had never been superstitious, but that the night before he had had a dream, which had made a deep impression on him. He dreamed that Death had appeared to him, as he is commonly painted, and had touched him with his dart. Well, he returned home; and all his family, I excepted, were up. He told my Mother his dream; but he was in high health and good spirits; and there was a bowl of punch made, and my Father gave a long and particular account of his travel, and that he had placed Frank under a religious Captain, and so forth. At length he went to bed, very well and in high spirits. A short time after he had lain down, he complained of a pain in his bowels, to which he was subject, from wind. My Mother got him some peppermint water, which he took, and after a pause, he said, “I am much better now, my dear!”–and lay down again. In a minute my Mother heard a noise in his throat, and spoke to him, but he did not answer; and she spoke repeatedly in vain. Her shriek awaked me, and I said–“Papa is dead!” I did not know my Father’s return; but I knew that he was expected. How I came to think of his death, I cannot tell; but so it was. Dead he was. Some said it was gout in the heart;–probably it was a fit of apoplexy. He was an Israelite without guile, simple, generous, and, taking some Scripture texts in their literal sense, he was conscientiously indifferent to the good and the evil of this world. God love you and


He was buried at Ottery on the 10th of October 1781. “O! that I might so pass away,” said Coleridge, thirty years afterwards, “if, like him, I were an Israelite without guile! The image of my Father, very reverend, kind, learned, simple-hearted Father is a religion to me.”

At his Father’s death Coleridge was nearly nine years old. He continued with his Mother at Ottery till the spring of 1782, when he was sent to London to wait the appointed time for admission into Christ’s Hospital, to which a presentation had been procured from Mr. John Way through the influence of his father’s old pupil Sir Francis Buller. Ten weeks he lived in London with an Uncle, and was entered in the books on the 8th of July 1782.


From October 1781 to October 1782. After the death of my Father, we, of course, changed houses, and I remained with my Mother till the spring of 1782, and was a day scholar to Parson Warren, my Father’s successor. He was not very deep, I believe; and I used to delight my poor Mother by relating little instances of his deficiency in grammar knowledge–every detraction from his merits seeming an oblation to the memory of my Father, especially as Warren did certainly “pulpitize” much better. Somewhere I think about April 1782, Judge Buller, who had been educated by my Father, sent for me, having procured a Christ’s Hospital presentation. I accordingly went to London, and was received and entertained by my Mother’s brother, Mr. Bowdon. He was generous as the air, and a man of very considerable talents, but he was fond, as others have been, of his bottle. He received me with great affection, and I staid ten weeks at his house, during which I went occasionally to Judge Buller’s. My Uncle was very proud of me, and used to carry me from coffee-house to coffee-house, and tavern to tavern, where I drank, and talked, and disputed as if I had been a man. Nothing was more common than for a large party to exclaim in my hearing, that I was a prodigy, and so forth; so that while I remained at my Uncle’s, I was most completely spoilt and pampered, both mind and body.

At length the time came, and I donned the blue coat and yellow stockings, and was sent down to Hertford, a town twenty miles from London, where there are about three hundred of the younger Blue-coat boys. At Hertford I was very happy on the whole, for I had plenty to eat and drink, and we had pudding and vegetables almost every day. I remained there six weeks, and then was drafted up to the great school in London, where I arrived in September, 1782, and was placed in the second ward, then called Jefferies’ Ward, and in the Under Grammar School. There are twelve wards, or dormitories, of unequal sizes, beside the sick ward, in the great school; and they contained altogether seven hundred boys, of whom I think nearly one-third were the sons of clergymen. There are five schools,–mathematical, grammar, drawing, reading, and writing–all very large buildings. When a boy is admitted, if he reads very badly, he is either sent to Hertford, or to the reading school. Boys are admissible from seven to twelve years of age. If he learns to read tolerably well before nine, he is drafted into the Lower Grammar School, if not, into the Writing School, as having given proof of unfitness for classical studies. If, before he is eleven, he climbs up to the first form of the Lower Grammar School, he is drafted into the Head Grammar School. If not, at eleven years of age, he is sent into the Writing School, where he continues till fourteen or fifteen, and is then either apprenticed or articled as a clerk, or whatever else his turn of mind or of fortune shall have provided for him. Two or three times a year the Mathematical Master beats up for recruits for the King’s boys, as they are called; and all who like the navy are drafted into the Mathematical and Drawing Schools, where they continue till sixteen or seventeen years of age, and go out as midshipmen, and schoolmasters in the Navy. The boys who are drafted into the Head Grammar School, remain there till thirteen; and then, if not chosen for the University, go into the Writing School.

Each dormitory has a nurse or matron, and there is a head matron to superintend all these nurses. The boys were, when I was admitted, under excessive subordination to each other according to rank in school; and every ward was governed by four Monitors,–appointed by the Steward, who was the supreme governor out of school–our temporal lord,–and by four Markers, who wore silver medals, and were appointed by the Head Grammar Master, who was our supreme spiritual lord. The same boys were commonly both Monitors and Markers. We read in classes on Sundays to our Markers, and were catechised by them, and under their sole authority during prayers, etc. All other authority was in the Monitors; but, as I said, the same boys were ordinarily both the one and the other. Our diet was very scanty. Every morning a bit of dry bread and some bad small beer. Every evening a larger piece of bread, and cheese or butter, whichever we liked. For dinner,–on Sunday, boiled beef and broth; Monday, bread and butter, and milk and water; Tuesday, roast mutton; Wednesday, bread and butter, and rice milk; Thursday, boiled beef and broth; Friday, boiled mutton and broth; Saturday, bread and butter, and pease-porridge. Our food was portioned; and, excepting on Wednesdays, I never had a belly full. Our appetites were damped, never satisfied; and we had no vegetables. [1]

[Footnote 1: The above five letters are I-V of Mr. E. H. Coleridge’s “Letters of S. T. C”. Letter VI is dated 1785; Letter VII of “Letters” is dated “before 1790.”]


“O! what a change!” he writes in another note; “depressed, moping, friendless, poor orphan, half starved; at that time the portion of food to the Blue-coats was cruelly insufficient for those who had no friends to supply them.” And he afterwards says:–“When I was first plucked up and transplanted from my birth-place and family, at the death of my dear Father, whose revered image has ever survived in my mind to make me know what the emotions and affections of a son are, and how ill a father’s place is likely to be supplied by any other relation, Providence, (it has often occurred to me,) gave me the first intimation that it was my lot, and that it was best for me, to make or find my way of life a detached individual, a “terrae filius”, who was to ask love or service of no one on any more specific relation than that of being a man, and as such to take my chance for the free charities of humanity.”

Coleridge continued eight years at Christ’s Hospital. It was a very curious and important part of his life, giving him Bowyer for his teacher, and Lamb for his friend. [1]

[Footnote 1: A few particulars of this “most remarkable and amiable man,” the well-known author of “Essays of Elia, Rosamund Gray, Poems”, and other works, will interest most readers of the “Biographia”.

He was born on the 18th of February, 1775, in the Inner Temple; died 27th December, 1834, about five months after his friend Coleridge, who continued in habits of intimacy with him from their first acquaintance till his death in July of the same year. In “one of the most exquisite of all the Essays of Elia,” “The Old Benchers of the Middle Temple” (“Works”, vol. ii, p. 188), Lamb has given the characters of his father, and of his father’s master, Samuel Salt. The few touches descriptive of this gentleman’s “unrelenting bachelorhood”–which appears in the sequel to have been a persistent mourner-hood–and the forty years’ hopeless passion of mild Susan P.–which very permanence redeems and almost dignifies, is in the author’s sweetest vein of mingled humour and pathos, wherein the latter, as the stronger ingredient, predominates.

Mr. Lamb never married, for, as is recorded in the Memoir, “on the death of his parents, he felt himself called upon by duty to repay to his sister [a] the solicitude with which she had watched over his infancy. To her, from the age of twenty-one he devoted his existence, seeking thenceforth no connection which could interfere with her supremacy in his affections, or impair his ability to sustain and to comfort her.”

[[Sub-footnote a: “A word Timidly uttered, for she “lives”, the meek, The self-restraining, the ever kind.”

From Mr. Wordsworth’s memorial poem to her brother. P. W. V. P. 333.]]

Mr. Coleridge speaks of Miss Lamb, to whom he continued greatly attached, in these verses, addressed to her brother:

“Cheerily, dear Charles!
Thou thy best friend shall cherish many a year; Such warm presages feel I of high hope! For not uninterested the dear maid
I’ve viewed–her soul affectionate yet wise, Her polished wit as mild as lambent glories That play around a sainted infant’s head.”

(See the single volume of Coleridge’s Poems, p. 28.)

Mr. Lamb has himself described his dear and only sister, whose proper name is Mary Anne, under the title of “Cousin Bridget,” in the Essay called “Mackery End”, a continuation of that entitled “My Relations”, in which he has drawn the portrait of his elder brother. “Bridget Elia,” so he commences the former, “has been my housekeeper for many a long year. I have obligations to Bridget, extending beyond the period of memory. We house together, old bachelor and maid, in a sort of double singleness; with such tolerable comfort upon the whole, that I, for one, find in myself no sort of disposition to go out upon the mountains, with the rash king’s offspring, to bewail my celibacy.”–(“Works”, vol. ii, p. 171.) He describes her intellectual tastes in this essay, but does not refer to her literary abilities. She wrote “Mrs. Leicester’s School”, which Mr. C. used warmly to praise for delicacy of taste and tenderness of feeling.

Miss Lamb still survives, in the words of Mr. Talfourd, “to mourn the severance of a life-long association, as free from every alloy of selfishness, as remarkable for moral beauty, as this world ever witnessed in brother and sister. “I have felt desirous to place in relief, as far as might be, such an interesting union–to show how blest a fraternal marriage may be, and what sufficient helpmates a brother and sister have been to each other. Marriages of this kind would perhaps be more frequent but for the want of some pledge or solid warranty of continuance equivalent to that which rivets wedlock between husband and wife. Without the vow and the bond, formal or virtual, no society, from the least to the greatest, will hold together. Many persons are so constituted that they cannot feel rest or satisfaction of spirit without a single supreme object of tender affection, in whose heart they are conscious of holding a like supremacy,–who has common hopes, loves, and interests with themselves. Without this the breezes do not refresh nor the sunbeams gladden them. A “share” in ever so many kind hearts does not suffice to their happiness; they must have the whole of one, as no one else has any part of it, whatever love of another kind that heart may still reserve for others. There is no reason why a brother and sister might not be to each other this second-self–this dearer half–though such an attachment is beyond mere fraternal love, and must have something in it “of choice and election,” superadded to the natural tie: but it is seldom found to exist, because the durable cement is wanting–the sense of security and permanence, without which the body of affection cannot be consolidated, nor the heart commit itself to its whole capacity of emotion. I believe that many a brother and sister spend their days in uncongenial wedlock, or in a restless faintly expectant-singlehood, who might form a “comfortable couple” could they but make up their minds early to take each other for better for worse.

Two other poems of Mr. C. besides the one in which his sister is mentioned, are addressed to Mr. Lamb–“This Lime-tree-bower my Prison”, and the lines “To a Friend, who had declared his intention of writing no more Poetry”.–(“Poetical Works”, i, p. 201 and p. 205.) In a letter to the author (“Ainger”, i, p. 121), Lamb inveighs against the soft epithet applied to him in the first of these. He hoped his “”virtues” had done “sucking””–and declared such praise fit only to be a “cordial to some greensick sonnetteer.”

“Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad, My “gentle-hearted” Charles! for thou hast pined And hungered 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.”

In the next poem he is called “wild-eyed boy.” The two epithets, “wild-eyed” and “gentle-hearted,” will recall Charles Lamb to the minds of all who knew him personally. Mr. Talfourd seems to think that the special delight in the country, ascribed to him by my father, was a distinction scarcely merited. I rather imagine that his indifference to it was a sort of “mock apparel” in which it was his humour at times to invest himself. I have been told that, when visiting the Lakes, he took as much delight in the natural beauties of the region as might be expected from a man of his taste and sensibility. [b]

[[Sub-footnote b:

“Thou wert a scorner of the field, my Friend, But more in show than truth.”

From Mr. W.’s poem “To a good man of most dear memory”, quoted in p. 323.]]

Mr. Coleridge’s expression, recorded in the “Table Talk”, that he “looked on the degraded men and things around him like moonshine on a dunghill, that shines and takes no pollution,” partly alludes to that tolerance of moral evil, both in men and books, which was so much remarked in Charles Lamb, and was, in so good a man, really remarkable. His toleration of it in books is conspicuous in the view he takes of the writings of Congreve and Wycherley, in his essay on the artificial comedy of the last century (“Works”, vol. ii, p. 322), and in many of his other literary criticisms. His toleration of it in men–at least his faculty of merging some kinds and degrees of it in concomitant good, or even beholding certain errors rather as objects of interest, or of a meditative pity and tenderness, than of pure aversion and condemnation, Mr. Talfourd has feelingly described in his “Memoir” (vol. ii, p. 326-9), “Not only to opposite opinions,” he says, “and devious habits of thought was Lamb indulgent; he discovered the soul of goodness in things evil so vividly, that the surrounding evil disappeared from his mental vision.” This characteristic of his mind is not to be identified with the idolizing propensity common to many ardent and imaginative spirits. He “not only loved his friends in spite of their errors,” as Mr. Talfourd observes, “but loved them, “errors and all”;” which implies that he was not unconscious of their existence. He saw the failings as plainly as any one else, nay, fixed his gentle but discerning eye upon them; whereas the idolizers behold certain objects in a bedarkening blaze of light, or rather of light-confounding brightness, the multiplied and heightened reflection of whatever is best in them, to the obscurity or transmutation of all their defects. Whence it necessarily follows that the world presents itself to their eyes divided, like a chess-board, into black and white compartments–a moral and intellectual chequer-work; not that they love to make darkness, but that they luxuriate too eagerly in light: and their “over-muchness” toward some men involves an over-littleness towards others, whom they involuntarily contrast, in all their poor and peccant reality, with gorgeous idealisms. The larger half of mankind is exiled for them into a hemisphere of shadow, as dim, cold, and negative as the unlit portion of the crescent moon. Lamb’s general tendency, though he too could warmly admire, was in a different direction; he was ever introducing streaks and gleams of light into darkness, rather than drowning certain objects in floods of it; and this, I think, proceeded in him from indulgence toward human nature rather than from indifference to evil. To his friend the disposition to exalt and glorify co-existed, in a very remarkable manner, with a power of severe analysis of character and poignant exhibition of it,–a power which few possess without exercising it some time or other to their own sorrow and injury. The consequence to Mr. Coleridge was that he sometimes seemed untrue to himself, when he had but brought forward, one after another, perfectly real and sincere moods of his mind.

In his fine poem commemorating the deaths of several poets, Mr. Wordsworth thus joins my father’s name with that of his almost life-long friend:

“Nor has the rolling year twice measured, From sign to sign, its steadfast course, Since every mortal power of Coleridge
Was frozen at its marvellous source; The rapt One of the godlike forehead,
The heaven-eyed creature sleeps in earth; And Lamb, the frolic and the gentle,
Has vanished from his lonely hearth.”

S. C. Footnote 1 ends: main text resumes:]

Numerous retrospective notices by himself and others exist of this period; but none of his really boyish letters have been preserved. The exquisite Essay intitled, “Christ’s Hospital five and thirty years ago”, by Lamb, is principally founded on that delightful writer’s recollections of the boy Coleridge, and that boy’s own subsequent descriptions of his school days. Coleridge is Lamb’s “poor friendless boy.”–“My parents and those who should care for me, were far away. Those few acquaintances of theirs, which they could reckon upon being kind to me in the great city, after a little forced notice, which they had the grace to take of me on my first arrival in town, soon grew tired of my holiday visits. They seemed to them to recur too often, though I thought them few enough; and, one after another, they all failed me, and I felt myself alone among six hundred playmates. O the cruelty of separating a poor lad from his early homestead! The yearnings which I used to have toward it in those unfledged years! How, in my dreams would my native town, far in the west, come back with its church, its trees, and faces! How I would wake weeping, and in the anguish of my heart exclaim upon sweet “Calne in Wiltshire!””

Yet it must not be supposed that Coleridge was an unhappy boy. He was naturally of a joyous temperament, and in one amusement, swimming, he excelled and took singular delight. Indeed he believed, and probably with truth, that his health was seriously injured by his excess in bathing, coupled with such tricks as swimming across the New River in his clothes, and drying them on his back, and the like. But reading was a perpetual feast to him. “From eight to fourteen,” he writes, “I was a playless day-dreamer, a “helluo librorum”, my appetite for which was indulged by a singular incident: a stranger, who was struck by my conversation, made me free of a circulating library in King Street, Cheapside.”–“Here,” he proceeds, “I read through the catalogue, folios and all, whether I understood them, or did not understand them, running all risks in skulking out to get the two volumes which I was entitled to have daily. Conceive what I must have been at fourteen; I was in a continual low fever. My whole being was, with eyes closed to every object of present sense, to crumple myself up in a sunny comer, and read, read, read,–fancy myself on Robinson Crusoe’s island, finding a mountain of plum-cake, and eating a room for myself, and then eating it into the shapes of tables and chairs–hunger and fancy!”–“My talents and superiority,” he continues, “made me for ever at the head in my routine of study, though utterly without the desire to be so; without a spark of ambition; and as to emulation, it had no meaning for me; but the difference between me and my form-fellows, in our lessons and exercises, bore no proportion to the measureless difference between me and them in the wide, wild, wilderness of useless, unarranged book knowledge and book thoughts. Thank Heaven! it was not the age for getting up prodigies; but at twelve or fourteen I should have made as pretty a juvenile prodigy as was ever emasculated and ruined by fond and idle wonderment. Thank Heaven! I was flogged instead of being flattered. However, as I climbed up the school, my lot was somewhat alleviated.”



(1791 to 1795)

Come back into memory, like as thou wert in the day-spring of thy fancies, with Hope like a fiery column before thee–the dark pillar not yet turned–Samuel Taylor Coleridge–Logician, Metaphysician, Bard!–

S. T. Coleridge entered at Jesus College, Cambridge, the 5th of February, 1791. [He did not go into residence till October 1791.]

The poems he wrote about this time and during his first vacation at College are rather conventional, and give few indications of his future deft handling of verse. His “Mathematical Problem” sent to his brother George, is a piece of droll nonsense, but the letter accompanying it is much better than the verse. It reads as follows:


Dear Brother,

I have often been surprised that Mathematics, the quintessence of Truth, should have found admirers so few and so languid. Frequent consideration and minute scrutiny have at length unravelled the cause; viz. that though Reason is feasted, Imagination is starved; whilst Reason is luxuriating in its proper Paradise, Imagination is wearily travelling on a dreary desert. To assist Reason by the stimulus of Imagination is the design of the following production. In the execution of it much may be objectionable. The verse (particularly in the introduction of the ode) may be accused of unwarrantable liberties, but they are liberties equally homogeneal with the exactness of Mathematical disquisition, and the boldness of Pindaric daring. I have three strong champions to defend me against the attacks of Criticism: the Novelty, the Difficulty, and the Utility of the work. I may justly plume myself that I first have drawn the nymph Mathesis from the visionary caves of abstracted idea, and caused her to unite with Harmony. The first-born of this Union I now present to you; with interested motives indeed–as I expect to receive in return the more valuable offspring of your Muse.

Thine ever S. T. C.

Christ’s Hospital, March 31, 1791. [1]

[Footnote 1: Letters VIII-XXXI follow No. 6 of our collection.]

The piece of doggerel, to which this epistle is a preface, will be found in vol. ii, p. 386, of the Aldine Edition of Coleridge’s Poems.

Coleridge’s brother George also wrote verses, and “Mathematical Problem” is just one of the cantrips in verse that passed between the brothers.]

He gained Sir William Browne’s gold medal for the Greek Ode in the summer of that year. It was on the Slave Trade. The poetic force and originality of this Ode were, as he said himself, much beyond the language in which they were conveyed. In the winter of 1792-3 he stood for the University (Craven) Scholarship with Dr. Keate, the late head-master of Eton, Mr. Bethell (of Yorkshire) and Bishop Butler, who was the successful candidate. In 1793 he wrote without success for the Greek Ode on Astronomy, the prize for which was gained by Dr. Keate. The original is not known to exist, but the reader may see what is probably a very free version of it by Mr. Southey in his Minor Poems. (“Poetical Works”, vol. ii, p. 170.) “Coleridge”–says a schoolfellow [1] of his who followed him to Cambridge in 1792, “was very studious, but his reading was desultory and capricious. He took little exercise merely for the sake of exercise: but he was ready at any time to unbend his mind in conversation; and, for the sake of this, his room, (the ground-floor room on the right hand of the staircase facing the great gate,) was a constant rendezvous of conversation-loving friends. I will not call them loungers, for they did not call to kill time, but to enjoy it. What evenings have I spent in those rooms! What little suppers, or “sizings”, as they were called, have I enjoyed; when Aeschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons and the like, to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before us;–Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would repeat whole pages “verbatim”.”–“College Reminiscences, Gentleman’s Mag”., Dec. 1834.

[Footnote 1: C. V. Le Grice.]

In May and June, 1793, Frend’s trial took place in the Vice- Chancellor’s Court, and in the Court of Delegates, at Cambridge. Frend was a Fellow of Jesus, and a slight acquaintance had existed between him and Coleridge, who however soon became his partizan. Mr. C. used to relate a remarkable incident, which is thus preserved by Mr. Gillman:–“The trial was observed by Coleridge to be going against Frend, when some observation or speech was made in his favour;–a dying hope thrown out, as it appeared, to Coleridge, who in the midst of the Senate House, whilst sitting on one of the benches, extended his hands and clapped them. The Proctor in a loud voice demanded who had committed this indecorum. Silence ensued. The Proctor, in an elevated tone, said to a young man sitting near Coleridge, “Twas you, Sir!’ The reply was as prompt as the accusation; for, immediately holding out the stump of his right arm, it appeared that he had lost his hand;–‘I would, Sir,’ said he, ‘that I had the power!’ That no innocent person should incur blame, Coleridge went directly afterwards to the Proctor, who told him that he saw him clap his hands, but fixed on this person, who he knew had not the power. ‘You have had,’ said he, ‘a narrow escape.'”–“Life of S. T. C”., i, p. 55.

Coleridge passed the summer of 1793 at Ottery, and whilst there wrote his “Songs of the Pixies” (“Poetical Works”, i, p. 13), and some other little pieces. He returned to Cambridge in October, but, in the following month, in a moment of despondency and vexation of spirit, occasioned principally by some debts not amounting to L100 he suddenly left his college and went to London. In a few days he was reduced to want, and observing a recruiting advertisement he resolved to get bread and overcome a prejudice at the same time by becoming a soldier. He accordingly applied to the sergeant, and after some delay was marched down to Reading, where he regularly enlisted as a private in the 15th Light Dragoons on the 3d of December, 1793. He kept his initials under the names of Silas Tomkyn Comberbacke. “I sometimes,” he writes in a letter, “compare my own life with that of Steele, (yet O! 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 “Cumberback”, and verily my habits were so little equestrian, that my horse, I doubt not, was of that opinion.” Coleridge continued four months a light dragoon, during which time he saw and suffered much. He rode his horse ill, and groomed him worse; but he made amends by nursing the sick, and writing letters for the sound. His education was detected by one of his officers, Captain Nathaniel Ogle, who observed the words,–“Eheu! quam infortunii miserrimum est fuisse felicem!”–freshly written in pencil on the stable-wall or door, and ascertained that Comberbacke was the writer. But the termination of his military career was brought about by a chance recognition in the street: his family was apprized of his situation, and after some difficulty he was duly discharged on the both of April, 1794, at Hounslow.

Coleridge now returned to Cambridge, and remained there till the commencement of the summer vacation. But the adventures of the preceding six months had broken the continuity of his academic life, and given birth to new views of future exertion. His acquaintance with Frend had materially contributed to his adoption of the system called Unitarianism, which he now openly professed, and this alone made it imperative on his conscience to decline availing himself of any advantages dependent on his entering into holy orders, or subscribing the Articles of the English Church. He lived, nevertheless, to see and renounce his error, and to leave on record his deep and solemn faith in the catholic doctrine of Trinal Unity, and the Redemption of man through the sacrifice of Christ, both God and Man. Indeed his Unitarianism, such as it was, was not of the ordinary quality. “I can truly say”–were Coleridge’s words in after life–“that I never falsified the Scripture. I always told the Unitarians that their interpretations of the Scripture were intolerable upon any principles of sound criticism; and that if they were to offer to construe the will of a neighbour as they did that of their Maker, they would be scouted out of society. I said then plainly and openly that it was clear enough that John and Paul were not Unitarians. But at that time I had a strong sense of the repugnancy of the doctrine of vicarious atonement to the moral being, and I thought nothing could counterbalance that. ‘What care I,’ I said, ‘for the Platonisms of John, or the Rabbinisms of Paul?–My conscience revolts!’ That was the ground of my Unitarianism.”–“Table Talk”, Bohn Library edition, p. 290.

At the commencement of the Long Vacation, in June, 1794, Coleridge went to Oxford on a visit to an old school-fellow, intending probably to proceed afterwards to his mother at Ottery. But an accidental introduction to Robert Southey, then an under-graduate at Balliol College, first delayed, and ultimately prevented, the completion of this design, and became, in its consequences, the hinge on which a large part of Coleridge’s after life was destined to turn.

The first letter to Southey was written from Gloucester on 6th July 1794, and it shows the degree of intimacy on which the two undergraduates stood at this time. They had met only about a month before, for Southey writes on 12th June to his friend Grosvenor Bedford: “Allen is with us daily and his friend from Cambridge, Coleridge, whose poems you will oblige me by subscribing to, either at Hookam’s or Edward’s. He is of most uncommon merit, of the strongest genius, the clearest judgment, the best heart. My friend he already is, and must hereafter be yours,” (“Life and Correspondence of Southey”, i, 210). The poems mentioned were a projected volume of “Imitations from Modern Latin Poets”, of which an ode after Casimir is the only relic. Coleridge’s first letter to Southey reads as follows:


6 July 1794.

You are averse to gratitudinarian flourishes, else would I talk about hospitality, attention, &c. &c.; however, as I must not thank you, I will thank my stars. Verily, Southey, I like not Oxford, nor the inhabitants of it. I would say thou art a nightingale among owls; but thou art so songless and heavy towards night that I will rather liken thee to the matin lark, thy “nest” is in a blighted cornfield, where the sleepy poppy nods its red-cowled head, and the weak-eyed mole plies his dark work; but thy soaring is even unto heaven. Or let me add (for my appetite for similes is truly canine at this moment), that as the Italian nobles their new-fashioned doors, so thou dost make the adamantine gate of Democracy turn on its golden hinges to most sweet music. [1]

[Footnote 1: Letter XXXII gives the full text of No. 7. Letter XXXIII is dated 15 July, 1794.]

For the next fifteen months Coleridge and Southey were close companions, Coleridge being the elder by two years.

Upon the present occasion, however, he left Oxford with an acquaintance, Mr. Hucks, for a pedestrian tour in Wales. [2] Two other friends, Brookes and Berdmore, joined them in the course of their ramble; and at Caernarvon Mr. Coleridge wrote the following letter to Mr. Martin, of Jesus College.

[Footnote 2: It is to this tour that he refers in the “Table Talk”, p. 88.–“I took the thought of “grinning for joy” in that poem (“The Ancient Mariner”) from my companion (Berdmore’s) remark to me, when we had climbed to the top of Penmaenmaur, and were nearly dead with thirst. We could not speak from the constriction, till we found a little puddle under a stone. He said to me,–‘You grinned like an idiot.’ He had done the same.”]


July 22d, 1794.

Dear Martin,

From Oxford to Gloucester,+ to Ross,+ to Hereford, to Leominster, to Bishop’s Castle,+ to Montgomery, to Welshpool, Llanvelling,+ Llangunnog, Bala,+ Druid House,+ Llangollin, Wrexham,++ Ruthin, Denbigh,+ St. Asaph, Holywell,+ Rudland, Abergeley,+ Aberconway,+ Abber,+ over a ferry to Beaumaris+ (Anglesea), Amlock,+ Copper Mines, Gwindu, Moeldon, over a ferry to Caernarvon, have I journeyed, now philosophizing with Hucks, 1 now melancholizing by myself, or else indulging those daydreams of fancy, that make realities more gloomy. To whatever place I have affixed the mark +, there we slept. The first part of our tour was intensely hot–the roads, white and dazzling, seemed to undulate with heat–and the country, bare and unhedged, presenting nothing but stone fences, dreary to the eye and scorching to the touch. At Ross we took up our quarters at the King’s Arms, once the house of Mr. Kyrle, the celebrated Man of Ross. I gave the window-shutter a few verses, Which I shall add to the end of the letter. The walk from Llangunnog to Bala over the mountains was most wild and romantic; there are immense and rugged clefts in the mountains, which in winter must form cataracts most tremendous; now there is just enough sun-glittering water dashed down over them to soothe, not disturb the ear. I climbed up a precipice on which was a large thorn-tree, and slept by the side of one of them near two hours.

At Bala I was apprehensive that I had caught the itch from a Welsh democrat, who was charmed with my sentiments; he bruised my hand with a grasp of ardour, and I trembled lest some discontented citizens of the “animalcular” republic might have emigrated. Shortly after, in came a clergyman well dressed, and with him four other gentlemen. I was asked for a public character; I gave Dr. Priestley. The clergyman whispered his neighbour, who it seems is the apothecary of the parish–“Republicans!” Accordingly when the doctor, as they call apothecaries, was to have given a name, “I gives a sentiment, gemmen! may all republicans be “gull”oteened!” Up starts the democrat; “May all fools be gulloteened, and then you will be the first!” Fool, rogue, traitor, liar, &c. flew in each other’s faces in hailstorms of vociferation. This is nothing in Wales–they make if necessary vent-holes for the sulphureous fumes of their temper! I endeavoured to calm the tempest by observing that however different our political opinions might be, the appearance of a clergyman assured me that we were all Christians, though I found it rather difficult to reconcile the last sentiment with the spirit of Christianity! “Pho!” quoth the clergyman; “Christianity! Why we a’nt at “church” now, are we? The gentleman’s sentiment was a very good one, because it shows him to be sincere in his