« VorigeDoorgaan »
fully, till my poem grew so long, and in Wordsworth's opinion so impressive, that he rejected it from his volume as disproportionate both in size and merit, and as discordant in character.'
I am entirely at a loss to understand the twice repeated statement in these letters that Christabel grew to 1300 or 1400 lines, for the printed Christabel, even including the Conclusion to Part II.,' makes only 677 lines, or about half the alleged quantity, and no unprinted portion has so far been found among Coleridge's papers.
We next hear of Christabel in a letter of
January 1801 to Poole. It is to be published by itself' as soon as some taskwork (undescribed) is off his hands. Next, in a letter to Poole of March 16. It is to be got ready for the press, and 'published immediately' with two essays annexed 'On the Preternatural' and 'On Metre.' Next, in a letter from Wordsworth to Poole (April 9): Christabel is to be printed at the Bulmerian Press, with vignettes, etc. etc. I long to have the book in my hands, it will be such a beauty!' (Knight's Life of Wordsworth, i. 216).
But nothing came of it all. The will or the power to complete Christabel failed, and the MS. fragment was left to flutter about the literary circles,' fascinating all ears by its melody. Scott heard it recited by John Stoddart in 1801, and the music in his heart he bore,' reproducing it as best he could in The Lay of the Last Minstrel of 1805 (Lockhart's Memoirs, 1837, ii. 23; and Scott's Preface to 1830 ed. of the Lay). Next, Byron meeting Coleridge at Rogers's in 1811 heard Christabel, and a few years afterwards gained Moore's hearty contempt by executing a variation on the air, in an abandoned opening of The Siege of Corinth (Life, 1866, p. 290). But Byron did something much better, for in 1815 he recommended Murray to publish the fragment. Such a recommendation was equivalent to a command, and when Coleridge arrived on his long visit to the Gillmans on the 15th April 1816, he carried in his hand the proof-sheets of Christabel.
Its reception-especially by the Edinburgh Review, which declared it to be
utterly destitute of value, exhibiting from beginning to end not one ray of geniusdisappointed Coleridge and some of his friends. Justly or unjustly, Coleridge believed the reviewer to be Hazlitt-an accusation too grave to be lightly accepted. His own views will be found in the last chapter of the Biog. Lit. It is reported that Lamb says Christabel ought never to have been published; that no one understood it, and [that?] Kubla Khan
is nonsense' (Fanny Godwin to Mary Shelley, July 20, 1816-Dowden's Life of Shelley, ii. 41); but as regards Christabel there is no confirmation of this in any published letter of Lamb's. He feared the effect of type on Kubla Khan (see 'Note 111' on that poem), and he may have thought the same of Christabel' unfinished. His own admiration of the fragment was unbounded. After it had been published, Frere strenuously advised' Coleridge to finish Christabel (unprinted letter of S. T. C. to Poole, July 22, 1817), and for years the poet was haunted by the sense of his duty to complete what he had so gloriously begun. But still the resolution or the inspiration failed. He was accustomed to plead the latter privation. It was probably about 1820 that he said to Allsop (i. 94): 'If I should finish Christabel I shall certainly extend it and give it new characters and a greater number of incidents. This the "reading public require, and this is the reason that Sir W. Scott's poems tho' so loosely written are pleasing, and interest us by their picturesqueness. If a genial recurrence of the ray divine should occur for a few weeks, I shall certainly attempt it. I had the whole of the two cantos in my mind before I began it; certainly the first canto is more perfect, has more of the true wild weird spirit than the last. I laughed heartily at the continuation in Blackwood [June 1819], which I have been told is by Maginn: it is in appearance and appearance only, a good imitation. I do not doubt but it gave more pleasure and to a greater number, than a continuation by myself in the spirit of the two first cantos.' In a letter of Allsop [i. 156] of January 1821, Coleridge says much the same : 'Of my Poetic works, I would fain finish Christabel.'
Gillman (Life of Coleridge, p. 283) says that Coleridge explained the story of Christabel to his friends'; and that the story is partly founded on the notion that the virtuous of the world save the wicked.' Further, that certain incidents illustrate something which is the main object of the tale.' One suspects, and hopes, this was mere quizzing on the part of Coleridge, indulged in to relieve the pressure of prosaic curiosity, but as there is no other completing scheme extant it may be worth while to preserve the following from Gillman's Life (pp. 301-303), which is no doubt faithfully reported :
The following relation was to have occupied a third and fourth canto, and to have closed the tale. Over the mountains, the Bard, as directed by Sir Leoline, hastes with his disciple; but in consequence of one of those inundations supposed to be common to this country, the spot only where the castle once stood is discovered
-the edifice itself being washed away. He determines to return. Geraldine being acquainted with all that is passing, like the weird sisters in Macbeth, vanishes. Reappearing, however, she awaits the return of the Bard, exciting in the meantime, by her wily arts, all the anger she could rouse in the Baron's breast, as well as that jeal ousy of which he is described to have been susceptible. The old Bard and the youth at length arrive, and therefore she can no longer personate the character of Geraldine, the daughter of Lord Roland de Vaux, but changes her appearance to that of the accepted though absent lover of Christabel. Now ensues a courtship most distressing to Christabel, who feels, she knows not why, great disgust for her once favoured knight. This coldness is very painful to the Baron, who has no more conception than herself of the supernatural transformation. She at last yields to her father's entreaties, and consents to approach the altar with this hated suitor. The real lover returning, enters at this moment, and produces the ring which she had once given him in sign of her betrothment. Thus defeated, the supernatural being Geraldine disappears. As predicted, the castle bell tolls, the mother's voice is heard, and to the exceeding great joy of the parties, the rightful marriage takes place, after which
follows a reconciliation and explanation between the father and daughter.'
When Coleridge's nephew, the late Mr. Justice Coleridge, visited Wordsworth in 1836, the latter communicated some reminiscences respecting Christabel :
'He said he had no idea how "Christabelle was to have been finished, and he did not think my uncle had ever conceived, in his own mind, any definite plan for it; that the poem had been composed while they were in habits of daily intercourse, and almost in his presence, and when there was the most unreserved intercourse between them as to all their literary projects and productions, and he had never heard from him any plan for finishing it. Not that he doubted my uncle's sincerity in his subsequent assertions to the contrary; because, he said, schemes of this sort passed rapidly and vividly through his mind, and so impressed him, that he often fancied he had arranged things, which really, and upon trial, proved to be mere embryos. I omitted to ask him, what seems obvious enough now, whether in conversing about it, he had never asked my uncle how it would end. The answer would have settled the question.'-Wordsworth's Prose Works, iii. 427.
The baffled poet's final utterance seems to be the following, as reported in Table Talk for July 6, 1833':
'I could write as good verses now as ever I did, if I were perfectly free from vexations, and were in the ad libitum hearing of fine music, which has a sensible effect in harmonising my thoughts, and in animating and, as it were, lubricating my inventive faculty. The reason of my not finishing Christabel is not that I don't know how to do it-for I have, as I always had, the whole plan entire from beginning to end in my mind; but I fear I could not carry on with equal success the execution of the idea, an extremely subtle and difficult one. * Besides, after this continuation of Faust, which they tell me is very poor, who can have courage to attempt a reversal of the judgment of all criticism against continuations? Let us except Don Quixote, however, although the second part of that transcendant work is not exactly uno flatu with the original conception.'
The thing attempted in Christabel is
the most difficult of execution in the whole field of romance-witchery by daylightand the success is complete.'-Quarterly Review, No. CIII. p. 29. [Note of Ed. of T. T.]
Some of the following textual notes are from three MS. copies-one given by Coleridge to Miss Stoddart (afterwards the wife of Hazlitt); another lent by Coleridge to J. Payne Collier; and a third given by Coleridge to Mrs. Wordsworth's sister, Miss Sarah Hutchinson. My knowledge of the first two comes from the Preface to J. P. Collier's Seven Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, by the late S. T. Coleridge, 1856. For the readings from the third I am indebted to the kindness of the poet's grand-daughter, Miss Edith Coleridge. In the references below, these three MSS. are indicated as MS. I.,' 'MS. II.,' and 'MS. III.' respectively. The two references to Dorothy Wordsworth's Alfoxden Journals (printed in Prof. Knight's Life of Wordsworth) were given by Prof. Dowden in the Fortnightly Review, Sept. 1889, Art. 'Coleridge as a Poet.'
11. 16-20. Cf. D. Wordsworth's Alfoxden
Journal, Jan. 31, 1798, Knight's Life of W. W. i. 134: 'Set forward to Stowey at half-past five. When we left home the moon immensely large, the sky scattered over with clouds. These soon closed in, contracting the dimensions of the moon without concealing her.'
The breezes they were still also.
MS. I., MS. III. and in 1816. The breezes they were whispering low.' MS. II. The sighs she heaved were soft and low.' 1828 and after. 11. 49-52. Cf. the following entry from D. W. Journals (Life, i. 141): March, 7, 1798. William and I drank tea at Coleridge's. A cloudy sky. Observed nothing particularly interesting. the distant prospect obscured. One only leaf upon the top of a tree-the sole remaining leaf-danced round and round like a rag blown by the wind.'
11. 58-65. The passage in 1816 ran thus:
'There she sees a damsel bright
It was the same in MS. I. and MS. III.; the last line had 'tumbled' for 'disordered,' but S. T. C. told J. P. C. this was a mistranscription for 'tangled '—a mistake not likely to happen twice.
1. 81. Five ruffians, etc., MS. I. and MS. III.
The version of Christabel recited to Scott by Stoddart (v. supra) was doubtless MS. I. Scott prefixed the following lines as Motto to chap. xi. of The Black Dwarf (1818):
'Three ruffians seized me yestermorn, Alas! a maiden most forlorn : They choked my cries with wicked might, And bound me on a palfrey white: As sure as Heaven shall pity me, I cannot tell what men they be. 'Christabelle.'
'Her smiling stars the lady blest;
11. 166-168. In 1816, and in MS. III. :
Sweet Christabel her feet she bares, And they are creeping up the stairs.' The beautiful line
'And jealous of the listening air'
was added in 1828.
In 1816 the text was as
11. 190-193. here; but in MS. I.:
'O weary lady, Geraldine,
I pray you, drink this spicy wine.
and in MS. III. :
'O weary lady, Geraldine,
I pray you, drink this spicy wine;
In MS. II. the text was as here, except that the unfortunate change ('cordial' for 'spicy') had not been made.
ll. 219, 220. In MS. I. and MS. III.one hardly likes to record it
The lady wiped her moist cold brow,
11. 248-262. In 1816:
The cincture from beneath her breast:
'She took two paces, and a stride,
And lay down by the maiden's side.
Of this passage Mr. Payne Collier gives no readings from either of his MSS.: but in MS. III. 11. 248-251 follow the text of 1828-29; then comes :
[and so on, as in 1828-29, to-] And did'st bring her home with thee with Love and with Charity
To shield her and shelter her from the damp air.'
In the review of Christabel in the Examiner for June 2, 1816, it is stated that in a MS. copy which the reviewer had seen, in place of the published line
'A sight to dream of, not to tell!' is this
'Hideous, deformed, and pale of hue.' And the reviewer adds, that the line is the keystone, and that is why Coleridge left it out. The sneer is so like many other sneers in Hazlitt's criticism of Coleridge, that I am disposed to attribute the review to him, though it is not mentioned in the list of his writings prefixed to the Memoirs by his grandson.
11. 317, 318. Cf. The Nightingale, p. 133, l. 101-103.
Part II. In some notes of conversations with Coleridge in May 1821, Allsop (1836, i. 195; 1864, p. 104) gives this, following on a long quotation from Crashaw's Hymn to St. Theresa, which Coleridge has described as the poet's finest lines:
'These verses were ever present to my mind whilst writing the second part of Christabel; if, indeed, by some subtle process of the mind they did not suggest the first thought of the whole poem.' The quotation begins with :
'Since 'tis not to be had at home,
No home for her, confesses she, But where she may a Martyr be'; and ends with:
'Farewel House, and Farewel HomeShe's for the Moors and Martyrdome.' 11. 408-425. These lines, perhaps because they bring us out of the surrounding fairyland, are the most famous in Christabel; even the Edinburgh reviewer could see they were fine: We defy any man to point out a passage of poetical merit in any of the three pieces which it [the Christabel pamphlet of 1816] contains except, perhaps, the following lines in p. 32 [11. 408-413], and even these are not very brilliant; nor is the leading thought original.'
There had been alienation between Coleridge and Thomas Poole in connection with The Friend, and no communication after 1810, until in January 1813 Poole sent his congratulations on the success of Remorse. Coleridge replied: 'Dear Poole, Love so deep and so domesticated with the whole being as mine was to you, can never cease to be. To quote the best and sweetest lines I ever wrote-and he quotes the whole passage, then unpublished, with but two or three unimportant variations from the text of 1828-29. Two worth noting occur in the closing lines :
'But neither frost nor heat, nor thunder, Can wholly do away, I ween, The marks of that which once hath been.' Charles Lloyd published some affectionate verses about Coleridge and Lamb in his Desultory Thoughts on London (1820). Lamb wrote to Coleridge, June 20, 1820, (Ainger's Letters, ii. 32): 'I admire some of Lloyd's lines on you, and I admire your postponing reading them. He is a sad tattler; but this is under the rose. Twenty years ago he estranged one friend from me quite. He almost alienated you also from me, or me from you, I don't know which. But that breach is closed. The "dreary sea is filled up. suspect he saps Manning's faith in me. Still I like his writing verses about you.' See Note 113,' p. 600.
My friend Dr. Garnett informs me that in Uber Hein. Heine, by Schmidt (Weissenfels, Berlin, 1857), which has some inedited verses by H. H., there
appears a translation by him of the greater part of this passage.
1. 453. In MS. I. and MS. III. this line read :
The vision foul of fear and pain.'
1. 463. In MS. I. this line read :---
The pang the sight was past away'; and in MS. III. :
The pang, the sight had pass'd away.' In 1816 the line was as in 1828-29.
1. 582. When The Lay of the Last Minstrel appeared, Southey wrote to Wynn, March 5, 1805 (Life and Corr. ii. 316): 'The beginning of the story is too like Coleridge's Christobell, which he [Scott] had seen; the very line "Jesu Maria, shield her well!" is caught from it.
I do not think [he copied anything] designedly, but the echo was in his ear, not for emulation, but propter amorem. This only refers to the beginning.'
The Conclusion to Part II. This does not occur in any one of the three MSS. I have numbered I.' 'II.' and 'III.,' and I know of the existence of no other. I think it highly improbable that the lines were composed for Christabel. They were sent to Southey in a letter of May 6, 1801, and were therefore probably written about that time.
117. France: an Ode, p. 124.
First printed in the Morning Post, April 16, 1798, under the title of The Recantation: an Ode, and with the following editorial introduction now reprinted for the first time :
The following excellent Ode will be in unison with the feelings of every friend to Liberty and foe to Oppression; of all who, admiring the French Revolution, detest and deplore the conduct of France towards Switzerland. It is very satisfactory to find so zealous and steady an Advocate for Freedom as Mr. COLERIDGE concur with us in condemning the conduct of France towards the Swiss Cantons. Indeed his concurrence is not singular; we know of no Friend to Liberty who is not of his opinion. What we most admire is