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Of his University career we know little. On entering, he found Middleton at ! Pembroke College, and to this old school patron and protector' he probably owed the stimulus which made him an industrious student for the first year or two. He certainly began well, for in his first year (1792) he gained the Browne Gold Medal for a Sapphic Ode on the Slave Trade; and in the winter of the same year he was selected by Porson as one of a short leet' of four (out of seventeen or eighteen) to, compete for the Craven Scholarship. This was gained by Samuel Butler, afterwards headmaster of Shrewsbury and Bishop of Lichfield; but as Coleridge's failure has been reported to have depressed his spirits and injuriously affected his future, it may be mentioned that this view receives no confirmation from his letter to Mrs. Evans, written immediately after the award.
Unfortunately Middleton took his degree and left Cambridge in 1792,2 and there seems to have been no one to take his place as a steadying influence. In a letter to the Evanses of February 14, 1792, Coleridge speaks of a wine-party he attended, at which three or four freshmen were most deplorably drunk.' On the way home two of them fell into the gutter, and one who was being assisted 'generously stuttered out' a request that his friend might be saved as he (the speaker) 'could swim.' Another, written a year later, describes himself as 'general' of a party of six undergraduates who 'sallied forth to the apothecary's house with the fixed determination to thrash him for having performed so speedy a cure' on Newton, their mathematical tutor, who had been half-drowned in a duck-pond a week before. The same letter announces that he is taking lessons on the violin in self-defence against fiddling and fluting neighbours. It also contains this passage-'Have you read Mr. Fox's letter to the Westminster Electors? It is quite the political Go at Cambridge, and has converted many souls to the Foxite Faith.' Coleridge himself had already been converted to a political faith far in advance of Fox. C. V. le Grice3 describes Coleridge's rooms at this time as crowded by friends who came to hear their host declaim, and repeat whole passages verbatim' from the political pamphlets which then swarmed from the press. The rooms were also a centre for the sympathisers with William Frend, a Fellow of Jesus, who in May 1793 was tried in the ViceChancellor's Court for having too freely expressed liberal views in politics, and Unitarian opinions in religion. Coleridge made himself dangerously conspicuous at the trial. In October of that year Christopher Wordsworth entered at Trinity (of which he was afterwards Master), and speedily became acquainted with Coleridge. In November they joined with some other undergraduates in forming a Literary ‘. Society. On the 5th the two discussed a review in the current Monthly of the poems of Christopher's brother William, when Coleridge spoke of the esteem in which my brother was holden by a Society at Exeter.5 Coleridge talked Greek, Max. Tyrius, he told us, and spouted out of Bowles.' On the 7th he repeated his Lines on an Autumnal Evening (p. 24) and had them criticised. On the 13th the Society met for the first time at Wordsworth's rooms. Time before supper was spent in hearing Coleridge repeat some original poetry (he having neglected to write his essay, which is therefore to be produced next week).'
But there is no record of that essay having ever been read, and it is probable that
1 See 'APPENDIX B,' p. 476, and 'Note 248,' p. 653.
2 Failing to obtain a coveted Fellowship, which was withheld on account of his 'republicanism.'
3 Gentleman's Magazine, Dec. 1834. He had come up, a year after Coleridge, with a C.H.
Exhibition to Trinity.
4 See 'Note 41,' p. 567.
5 See an allusion to such a Society in Biog. Lit. i. 19.
6 As the youthful Samuel Johnson had astonished his friends with Macrobius.
before the Society's next meeting Coleridge had left Cambridge. Of causes of his flight nothing positive is known. Gillman attribu 1 incurred for the furnishing of his college rooms; Coleridge himself to his debts generally, denying passionately that (as had been believed by his family) they had been incurred disreputably; Cottle 3 quotes Coleridge as having told him he ran away in a fit of disgust arising from Mary Evans's rejection of his addresses. It is not improbable that debts and disappointed love combined to drive him out of his course. Debts, however contracted, were evidently weighing on him at the time. The naïf appeal To Fortune1 seems to point to an attempt to retrieve his position by means of a lottery ticket. In one of his accounts of the adventure Coleridge speaks of having spent only a couple of days in London, in another he gives himself a week. The latter is probably the correct version, for he may have come up to await the lottery drawing, and, having drawn a blank, he apparently could not face a return to Cambridge. On the 2nd December 1793 he enlisted under the name of Silas Tomkyn Comberbach, in the 15th, or King's Regiment of Light Dragoons. Two days later he was inspected, attested, and sworn at Reading, the headquarters of the regiment. His Majesty's military needs must have been urgent at this time, for Comberbach was one of the few Englishmen of any degree who could truthfully confess to having had all his life a violent antipathy to soldiers and horses. Of course, the dragoonship was a sorry farce. He could not stick on his horse; he could not even clean it, or the accoutrements. But he could charm his comrades into taking these latter duties off his hands by writing their love-letters, telling them stories, and nursing them when they were sick. In a little more than two months Coleridge, feeling that he had had enough of it, revealed his whereabouts to certain of his old cronies who were still at Christ's, and they in turn confided the intelligence to another-Tuckett, by name-who had gone up to Cambridge. About the same time the dragoon summoned courage to write to his favourite brother George, and, after some confidential correspondence with him, a properly humble and dutiful letter was concocted, and addressed, on February 20, 1794, by Samuel to the head of the family, his brother Captain James Coleridge. His discharge was procured, but not until the 10th of April. The many romantic stories afloat as to the circumstances of Coleridge's release have little, if any, foundation. Miss Mitford's Captain Ogle may have rendered some kindly assistance, but the caged bird himself took the initiative, and the business of uncaging him, no doubt a troublesome one, was carried through by his brothers.
No time was lost by the prodigal son in returning to his Alma Mater-for according to Jesus College Register it was on the 12th April that he was admonished by the Master in the presence of the Fellows. No further notice of the escapade seems to have been taken by the College authorities, nor any report made to those at Christ's Hospital, so that Coleridge got off very cheaply. Before the middle of June, and in company with J. Hucks (who afterwards became a Fellow of Catherine Hall), Coleridge went to Oxford on a visit, which was prolonged to three weeks, to his old schoolfellow Allen, who had gone up two years before to University College with a C.H. Exhibition. One of Allen's friends was Robert Southey of Balliol, who thus wrote to Grosvenor Bedford on June 12th: Allen is with us
1 Life, p. 42.
2 lb. p. 64.
3 Early Recoll. ii. 54; and Rem. p. 279.
4 Page 27; see also 'Note 42,' p. 567. This probably was the poem Stuart tells us Coleridge
sold about this time to the Morning Chronicle for a guinea.
5 Gillman's Life, pp. 57 and 64.
6 See the letter (or part of it), in Brandl's Life of Coleridge, p. 65, where it was first printed.
He is of most unhouse on daily, and his friend from Cambridge, Coleridge, whose poems you win. man-of-allby subscribing to, either at Hookham's or Edwards's. It was then that Pantisocracy ves merit,-of the strongest genius, the clearest judgment, the best heart. My fric never already is, and must hereafter be yours.'1 hatched. Southey gave his account of the matter to Cottle in a letter dated March Then Allen introduced them to me, 5th, 1836 In the summer of 1794 S. T. Coleridge and Hucks came to Oxford It was talked on their way into Wales for a pedestrian tour. and the scheme was talked of, but not by any means determined on. into shape by Burnett and myself, when, upon the commencement of the long vacation, we separated from them, they making for Gloucester, he and I proceeding After some weeks S. T. C., returning from his tour, came to on foot to Bath. Then it was that we resolved upon going to Bristol on his way and slept there. America, and S. T. C. and I walked into Somersetshire to see Burnett, and on that He made his engagement with Miss journey it was that he first saw Poole.* [Sarah] Fricker on our return from this journey at my mother's house in Bath, not a little to my astonishment, because he had talked of being deeply in love I had previously been engaged to my poor Edith with a certain Mary Evans. The funds were to be [Fricker]. . . . He remained at Bristol till the close of the vacation-several weeks. During that time it was that we talked of America. what each could raise-S. T. C. by the Specimens of the Modern Latin Poets,2 for which he had printed proposals, and obtained a respectable list of Cambridge subscribers before I knew him; I, by Joan of Arc, and what else I might publish. I had no . . . other expectation. We hoped to find companions with money.'3
As far as regards himself, individually, Southey's rapid sketch needs little filling in. He omits to record the joint composition of The Fall of Robespierre, the history of which will be found in Note 228,' p. 646; and to describe 'Pantisocracy.' The most complete account of the scheme is to be found in a letter written by Thomas Poole a few weeks after it had been explained to him by Southey and Coleridge Twelve gentlemen of good education and liberal principles are to embark with twelve ladies in April next,' fixing themselves in some delightful part of The labour of each man, for two or three the new back settlements' of America. hours a day, it was imagined, would suffice to support the colony.
The produce was
* See the account of this visit in Thomas
'Each of them was shamefully hot with Democratic rage as regards politics, and both Infidel as to religion.'
About this 1 Life and Corr. of R. S. i. 210. time Coleridge was advertising his projected Imitations from Modern Latin Poets. 'Note 44, p. 568.
2 See Note 44,' p. 568.
3 The letter is printed in Cottle's Reminiscences, pp. 402-407, but very inaccurately. I quote from the original now in the Fonthill collection. Cottle has falsified the second sentence of the above extract, printing it thus: Allen introduced them to me, and the scheme of Pantisocracy was introduced by them; talked of, by no means determined on.' (The italics are Cottle's.) There are many other garblings, but this is the most important.
T. Poole and his Friends, i. 96-99.
before the on property, there was to be a good library, and the ample leisure was causes voted to study, discussion, and to the education of the children on a settled incu. The women were to be employed in taking care of the infant children and gother suitable occupations, not neglecting the cultivation of their minds. Among ther matters not yet determined was whether the marriage contract shall be dissolved, if agreeable to one or both parties.' Every one was 'to enjoy his own religious and political opinions, provided they do not encroach on the rules previously made." They calculate that every gentleman providing £125 will be sufficient to carry the scheme into execution.'
Coleridge's Welsh tour was minutely and not uninterestingly described by his companion Hucks; 2 and Coleridge himself wrote a brief account of a part of it in a letter to a friend at Jesus. The letter contains a remarkable passage regarding Mary Evans. As Coleridge and Hucks were standing at the window of the inn at Wrexham (July 13th or 14th) Mary and one of her sisters passed. Mary," he exclaimed, "quam afflictum et perdite amabam, yea, even to anguish!" They both started, and gave a short cry, almost a shriek. I sickened, and well-nigh fainted, but instantly retired. Had I appeared to recognise her, my fortitude would not have supported me.
'Vivit, sed mihi non vivit-nova forte marita
... God bless her! Her image is in the sanctuary of my bosom, and never can it be torn from thence but with the strings that grapple my heart to life. But love is a local anguish: I am fifty miles distant, and am not half so miserable.'
This relation makes it clear that the even flow of brother-and-sisterly affection between Coleridge and Mary Evans had been disturbed, and imparts some colour to the theory that disappointed love had had more or less to do with the flight from Cambridge eight months before. It explains, though it hardly justifies, the readiness with which Coleridge, to Southey's natural surprise, engaged himself, a few weeks afterwards, to Sarah Fricker. Under this hasty engagement he quitted Bristol for London about the end of August, there endeavoured unsuccessfully to find a publisher for The Fall of Robespierre, and saw much of an old schoolfellow, who recommended the Susquehanna as suitable for the Pantisocrats' purpose—' from its excessive beauty, and its security from hostile Indians and bisons.' 'Literary characters,' he said, 'make money there,' and 'the mosquitoes are not so bad as our gnats.' Writing to Southey from Cambridge, a fortnight later, he declares that he is evolving a scheme of Pantisocracy which shall have the tactitian excellence of the mathematician with the enthusiasm of the poet.' In the largest possible letters
1 A less detailed account was written, August 24, 1794, to C. eath of Monmouth, by Coleridge himself. It was printed in the Monthly Repository for October 1834. The previous number contains two highly interesting letters from Coleridge written to Benj. Flower in 1796.
2 A Pedestrian Tour through North Wales, in a Series of Letters. By J. Hucks, B.A. London printed for J. Debrett, 1795, 12mo,
3 H. Martin, to whom The Fall of Robes pierre was dedicated, and afterwards a clergyman in Dorsetshire. The letter was first printed in the New Monthly Mag. for August 1836; and again in Biog. Lit. 1847, ii. 338, but somewhat inaccurately.
he adds, 'Shad goes with us: he is my Brother!'-Shad' being the man-of-allwork of Southey's rich aunt, who a month later turned Southey out of her house on a wet night on hearing of his projected marriage and of Pantisocracy, vowing never to see his face again. If Coleridge gave any attention to his duties and privileges as an undergraduate at this period, it must have been intermittent. On the 24th October, Pantisocracy overflowed into, if it did not suggest, a serio-comic Monologue to a Young Jackass in Jesus Piece,1 which he afterwards toned down and sent to the Morning Chronicle.2 In November he lost a friend (a son of the Vicar of Ottery), and mourned over him in an elegy. It contains lines bewailing his own condition— lines ever memorable, though rather as a prophecy than as an expression of the passing mood which prompted them. 3
But there was another and a principal cause of distraction and agitation of which nothing has hitherto been known. It is revealed in the two letters to Mary Evans before mentioned. The sight of her in July had stirred his heart; but out of sight was out of mind, and believing there was a vacuum he incontinently filled it— as he thought, honestly enough, no doubt-with love for Sarah Fricker. Again, out of sight was out of mind, and he learned that there had been no vacuum to be filled. On the 21st October the lines, To my own Heart, were wrung from his despair of any fruition of the old love.
This very despair provoked a final attempt to fan an answering spark should such remain; or, in default, to learn beyond all doubt that none survived. This attempt was made by a letter to Mary Evans which, though undated, must have been written some time in December. It opens thus abruptly: Too long has my heart been the torture-house of suspense. After infinite struggles of irresolution, I will at least dare to request of you, Mary! that you will communicate to me whether or no you are engaged to Mr. [sic in orig.] I conjure you not to consider this request as presumptuous indelicacy. Upon mine honour I have made it with no other design or expectation than that of arming my fortitude by total hopelessness. Read this letter with benevolence, and consign it to oblivion. For four years I have endeavoured to smother a very ardent attachment-in what degree I have succeeded, you must know better than I can. . . . At first I voluntarily invited the recollection [of her virtues and graces] into my mind. I made them the perpetual object of my reveries. . . . At length it became a habit. I awoke from the delusion and found that I had unwittingly husbanded a passion which I felt neither the power nor the courage to subdue. . . . I saw that you regarded me merely with the kindness of a sister. What expectations could I form? I formed no expectations. I was ever resolving to subdue the disquieting passion: still some inexplicable suggestion palsied my efforts, and I clung with desperate fondness to this Phantom of Love, its mysterious attractions, and hopeless prospects. faint and rayless hope !5 Yet it soothed my solitude with many a delightful daydream. It was a faint and rayless hope! yet I nursed it in my bosom with an agony of affection, even as a mother her sickly infant. . . . Indulge, Mary! this my first, my last request-and restore me to Reality, however gloomy. Sad and full of heaviness will the intelligence be-my heart will die within me. . . . I will not disturb your peace by even a look of discontent, still less will I offend your ear by
It was a
1. See 'APPENDIX C,' p. 477.
2 Ib. and p. 35.
3 Lines on a Friend who died of a Frenzy Fever, II. 35-46, p. 35. See also 'Note 60, p. 573.
4 On a Discovery made too late, p. 34. See also 'Note 57,' P. 571.
5 Compare On a Discovery made too late,