posed. But surely, just then, a sense of his own inestimable indebtedness to his dead comrade of forty years, for friendship, for inspiration, and for intellectual stimulus, should have been uppermost in his mind.

In his will Coleridge well described the Gillmans as his dear friends, his more than friends, the guardians of his health, happiness, and interests' during the latter sixteen years of his life, and no one who loves Coleridge, and all that he was and is to the world, can but share in his feelings of gratitude. The will, which is full of such acknowledgments, is, in other respects, thus summarised by the poet's daughter :1 'What little he had to bequeath (a policy of assurance worth about £2560) is my mother's for life, of course, and will come to her children equally after her time. Mr. Green has the sole power over my father's literary remains, and the philosophical part he will himself prepare for publication; some theological treatises he has placed in the hands of Mr. Julius Hare of Cambridge and his curate, Mr. J. Sterling (both men of great ability). Henry will arrange literary and critical pieces, notes on the margins of books' (etc.) How worthily Coleridge's nephew fulfilled his duty, so long as fading health permitted, and with what ability and filial piety the task which fell from his hands was taken up and carried on, first by the poet's daughter, and next by her brother Derwent, is well known to a grateful world. The tasks 2 passed on by Green were possible tasks. That which was impossible he chivalrously kept for himself—the completion of the magnum opus.


About a year after Coleridge's death, an accession of fortune enabled Green to renounce the private practice of his profession, and in his country retirement he devoted the remaining twenty-eight years of his life to an attempt to realise his master's dream. It was in vain. There was no magnum opus—the existence of any such work was mere matter of moonshine,' says Green's biographer and editor. 'Coleridge had not left any available written materials. . . except fragments--for the most part, inadaptable fragments— . no system of philosophy, nor even the raw materials of one.' 3 Green probably accomplished more in the setting forth of Coleridge's philosophical views, in his Hunterian Orations of 1840 and 1847, than in the Spiritual Philosophy. But of these high matters I have no right to speak, and even were it otherwise, this would not be the place. Neither have I felt called on to discuss Coleridge's position as a poet. That has been settled, and is unlikely to be disturbed. But I had long felt that two things were awanting-first, a complete collection of his poems printed according to his own latest revised text, and arranged in some settled order; and, second, a fairly complete and accurate narrative of the events of his life. These desiderata I have attempted to supply in this volume, which is the imperfect result of many years' labour of love.

1 Mem. of S. Coleridge, i. iii. Most of the will (dated Sep. 17, 1829) is given in the Gent. Mag. for Dec. 1834. It is printed in full, with the codicil of July 2, 1830, in Coleridge's Poems. London: J. T. Cox, 1836, pp. liii.-lx.

2 What became of the 'theological treatises' --what they were, or whether they ever reached the hands of Hare and Sterling, I know not. One may have been Confessions of an Enquir

ing Spirit, edited by H. N. Coleridge; and another, the Theory of Life-the joint composition of Coleridge and Gillman-published in 1848.

3 Spiritual Philosophy, founded on the teaching of the late S. T. Coleridge, by the late J. H. Green, F.R.S., D.C.L., edited with a Memoir of the Author's Life, by John Simon, F.R.S., 2 vols. 1865, p. xxxviii.


I would fain leave the narrative to work its own impression on the mind of the reader. If its somewhat fuller and more orderly presentment of what I honestly believe to be the truth, be not found to tend, on the whole, to raise Coleridge in the eyes of men, I shall, I confess, feel both surprised and disappointed. It is neither by glossing over his failings, nor by fixing an exclusive eye on them, that a true estimate of any man is to be arrived at. A better way is to collect as many facts as we can, set them in the light of the circumstances in which they were born, sort them fairly into the opposing scales, and weigh them in an atmosphere as free as possible from cant and prejudice. To my own mind it seems that Coleridge's failings are too obvious to require either all the insistence or all the moralising which have been lavished on them; and that his fall is less wonderful than his recovery. His will was congenitally weak, and his habits weakened it still farther; but his conscience, which was never allowed to sleep, tortured him; and, after many days, its workings stimulated the paralysed will, and he was saved.

A brief dawn of unsurpassed promise and achievement; a trouble' as of 'clouds and weeping rain'; then, a long summer evening's work done by the setting sun's pathetic light'—such was Coleridge's day, the after-glow of which is still in the sky. I am sure that the temple, with all the rubble which combined with its marble, must have been a grander whole than any we are able to reconstruct for ourselves from the stones which lie about the field. The living Coleridge was ever his own apology— men and women who neither shared nor ignored his shortcomings, not only loved him, but honoured and followed him. This power of attraction, which might almost be called universal, so diverse were the minds and natures attracted, is itself conclusive proof of very rare qualities. We may read and re-read his life, but we cannot know him as the Lambs, or the Wordsworths, or Poole, or Hookham Frere, or the Gillmans, or Green knew him. Hatred as well as love may be blind, but friendship has eyes, and their testimony may wisely be used in correcting our own impressions.

Coleridge left three children. Hartley, his eldest born, was also a poet and a man of letters. Not a few of his sonnets have taken a place in permanent literature, and as a critic and essayist he is remarkable for lucidity of style, and balance of thought and judgment. He was a gentle, simple, humble-minded man, but his life was marred and broken by intemperance. He lies, in death as in life, close to the heart of Wordsworth, and his name still lingers in affectionate remembrance by those lakes and sandy shores' beside which he was, as his father had prophesied, to wander like a breeze.' The career of Derwent, both as to the conduct of life and its rewards, was in marked contrast to his brother's. His bent was to be a student, but he was forced into action, partly by circumstance, partly by an honourable ambition. During a long and useful life, more than twenty years of which were spent as Principal of St. Mark's College, Chelsea, he did signal service to the cause of national education. He cannot be said to have left his mark on literature, but his chief work, The Scriptural Character of the English Church, won the admiration of F. D. Maurice for its calm scholar-like tone and careful English style.' He was appointed a Prebendary of St. Paul's in 1846, and Rector of Hanwell in 1863. The leisure of his later years was devoted to linguistic and philological studies, in which his attainments were remarkable. At rare intervals, to the inner circle

of his friends, he would talk by the hour, and though in these 'conversational monologues' he resembled rather than approached his father, he delivered himself with a luminous wisdom all his own. He edited the works of his father, his brother, and of his two friends, Winthrop Mackworth Praed and John Moultrie. Of his sister Sara, it has been said that her father looked down into her eyes, and left in them the light of his own.' Her beauty and grace were as remarkable as her talents, her learning, and her accomplishments; but her chief characteristic was 'the radiant spirituality of her intellectual and imaginative being.' This, with other rare qualities of mind and spirit, is indicated in Wordsworth's affectionate appre ciation in The Triad, and conspicuous in her fairy-tale Phantasmion, and in the letters which compose the bulk of her Memoirs.



MAID of my Love, sweet Genevieve!
In Beauty's light you glide along :
Your eye is like the star of eve,
And sweet your voice as seraph's song.
Yet not your heavenly beauty gives
This heart with passion soft to glow :
Within your soul a voice there lives
It bids you hear the tale of woe.
When sinking low the sufferer wan
Beholds no hand outstretcht to save,
Fair, as the bosom of the swan
That rises graceful o'er the wave,
I've seen your breast with pity heave,
And therefore love I you, sweet Gene-
vieve !



[merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Shalt thou be at this hour from danger free?

Perhaps with fearful force some falling Wave

Shall wash thee in the wild tempestuous Sea,

And in some monster's belly fix thy grave;


Or (woful hap!) against some waveworn rock

Which long a Terror to each Bark had stood

1 State, Grandeur. This school exercise written in the 15th year of my age does not contain a line that any clever schoolboy might not have written, and like most school poetry is a Putting of Thought into Verse; for such Verses as strivings of mind and struggles after the Intense and Vivid are a fair Promise of better things.-S. T. C. ætat suæ 51. [1823.]


Shall dash thy mangled limbs with furious shock

Should'st thou escape the fury of that day A fate more cruel still, unhappy, view. And stain its craggy sides with human Opposing winds may stop thy luckless


[blocks in formation]

1 I well remember old Jemmy Bowyer, the 'plagosus Orbilius' of Christ's Hospital, but an admirable educer no less than Educator of the Intellect, bade me leave out as many epithets as would turn the whole into eight-syllable lines, and then ask myself if the exercise would not be greatly improved. How often have I thought of the proposal since then, and how many thousand bloated and puffing lines have I read, that, by this process, would have tripped over the tongue excellently. Likewise, I remember that he told me on the same occasion-' Coleridge! the connections of a Declamation are not the transitions of Poetry-bad, however, as they are they are better than "Apostrophes" and "O thou's," for at the worst they are something like common The others are the grimaces of Lunacy.' --S. T. Coleridge.


[blocks in formation]
« VorigeDoorgaan »