ending I have not yet read your former letter, for I have to prepare my lecture. Oh! with how blank a spirit !—S. T. COLERIDGE.'1 Unfortunately Cottle did not comply with Coleridge's request, the wisest that could have been made, under the circumstances. He wrote to Southey, and sent him a copy of his correspondence with Coleridge. Southey was shocked, but not surprised. He knew, as did ‘all with whom Coleridge has lived,' that after every possible allowance is made for 'morbid bodily causes' the habit of opium-eating is for infinitely the greater part' motived by 'inclination and indulgence.' 'The Morgans with great difficulty and perseverance did break him off the habit, at a time when his ordinary consumption of laudanum was from two quarts a week to a pint a day! He suffered dreadfully during the first abstinence, so much so as to say it was better to die than to endure his present sufferings. Mrs. Morgan resolutely replied, it was indeed better that he should die than live on as he had been living. It angered him at the time, but the effort was persevered in.' . . . This too, I ought to say, that all the medical men to whom Coleridge has made his confession have uniformly ascribed the evil, not to bodily ailments, but to indulgence.' Regular work is the one cure, and Southey sees nothing so advisable for Coleridge as a return to that and to Greta Hall, after a refreshing visit to Poole, and a few lectures at Birmingham and Liverpool to put him in funds. 'Coleridge knows in what manner he will be received; by his children with joy; by his wife, not with tears, if she can control them-certainly not with reproaches; by me only with encouragement. He has sources of direct emolument open to him in the Courier and in the Eclectic Review. . . . His great object should be to get out a play and appropriate the whole produce to supporting Hartley at college.' Southey despairs of anything beyond fits of industry-but of this despair, nothing shall be said to Coleridge. From me he shall never hear anything but cheerful encouragement, and the language of hope. In a letter dated a week or two before (April 17) Southey had said much the same, adding that he could obtain employment for Coleridge on the Quarterly. Should Cottle proceed in his intention to raise an annuity, the amount would not suffice to pay for Coleridge's laudanum, and could but induce more strenuous idleness. At all events, says Southey, my name must not be mentioned.* His wife and daughter are living with me, and here he may employ himself without any disquietude about immediate subsistence.' But, says Cottle, Coleridge would take none of Southey's good advice; and he seems to have drifted on at Bristol until the autumn, doing nothing, save pretending to give up opium under the care of Dr. Daniel, supplemented by the absurdly ineffectual surveillance of 'a respectable old decayed tradesman' provided by his host. had his little amusements-writing mottoes for Proclamation Day transparencies painted by Allston 3; sitting to Allston for the almost superhumanly respectablelooking portrait painted for Mr. Josiah Wade 1; correcting (for a fee of ten pounds) and laughing at Cottle's new epic, Messiah'; laughing, too, at several prolix letters addressed to him by Cottle, ascribing all his (Coleridge's) ills, not to opium, but to Satanic possession. These delights were tempered only by the intense boredom

* Rem. p. 378. Cottle has treated this letter more recklessly than almost any other. He prints, for instance,-'My name must not be mentioned. I subscribe enough. Here he may employ himself,' etc. The words italicised (they are italicised also by him) are not in the letter.

1 Compare this, taken from the original document, with Cottle, Rem. p. 371. The 'former

[ocr errors]


[blocks in formation]

produced by the presence of hypochondriacal Mrs. Fermor, Lady Beaumont's sister, who had come to Bristol expressly for the benefit of his society.1

But in spite of the gaiety exhibited in the unprinted letter of which the foregoing is a summary, Coleridge was conscience-stricken and bowed down. It was probably on quitting kind Wade's roof for that of the equally kind Morgan, that he wrote the saddest of all the letters of his which have come down to us,2 one of the saddest, perhaps, which any man ever penned :—

'DEAR SIR, for I am unworthy to call any good man friend--much less you, whose hospitality and love I have abused; accept, however, my intreaties for your forgiveness, and for your prayers. Conceive a poor miserable wretch, who for many years has been attempting to beat off pain, by a constant recurrence to the vice that reproduces it. Conceive a spirit in hell employed in tracing out for others the road to that heaven from which his crimes exclude him. In short, conceive whatever is most wretched, helpless, and hopeless. . . . In the one crime of OPIUM, what crime have I not made myself guilty of!-ingratitude to my Maker! and to my benefactorsinjustice and unnatural cruelty to my poor children !-self-contempt for my repeated promise-breach, nay, too often, actual falsehood! After my death, I earnestly entreat that a full and unqualified narration of my wretchedness and of its guilty cause may be made public, that at least some little good may be effected by the direful example.'

Before the middle of September, Coleridge was able to inform his friends that his Bristol physician being persuaded that nothing remained but to superinduce positive health on a system from which disease and its removable causes had been driven out,' had recommended country air. He has therefore rejoined the Morgans in a cottage at Ashley, half a mile from Box, on the Bath road. His day he represents as being laid out in the most methodical manner-breakfast before nine, work till one, walk and read till three,' etc. etc. His morning hours are devoted to a great work now printing at Bristol at the risk of two friends. The title is "Christianity, the one true Philosophy; or, Five Treatises on the Logos, or Communicative Intelligence, natural, human, and divine," to which is prefixed a prefatory essay on the laws and limits of toleration and liberality, illustrated by fragments of AUTO-biography.' A syllabus, in the author's best style, of the Five Treatises follows, and a statement that the purpose of the whole is a philosophical defence of the Articles of the Church, so far as they respect doctrine, as points of faith,'* to be 'comprised in two portly octavos.' This I believe to be the first mention of the magnum opus. The 'twc portly octavos' eventually shrank into the two slim ones, containing the 'Fragments of AUTO-biography,' eked out by the ever-ready Satyrane's Letters,' which we know as Biographia Literaria. The evenings' (proceeds the admirably methodical Coleridge) 'I have employed in composing a series of Essays on the Principles of General Criticism concerning the Fine Arts, especially those of Statuary and Painting, and of these four in title, but six or more in size, have been published in Felix Farley's Bristol Journal3—a strange place for such a publication, but my motive

*Coleridge's orthodoxy seems now to have been complete. In one of his lectures of April 1814 he said that Milton's Satan was a 'sceptical Socinian.' The phrase offended Dr. Estlin, and probably other of Coleridge's Unitarian friends. See Estlin Letters, pp. 112-117.

1 See a polite statement of Mrs. Fermor's case in a letter to her sister (Mem. of Coleorton, ii.


2 To Wade. 'Bristol, June 24th, 1814 (Cottle's Rem. p. 394).

3 Reprinted in Cottle's Early Recollections (Appendix), 1837; and again in Miscellanies Esthetic and Literary, edited by T. Ashe 1885.

advance of £50 on the MS., but something interfered, and it was not published until the following year, and then by Fenner.

In August,1 Coleridge proposed to Boosey & Co., the booksellers of Broad Street, to begin a kind of periodical to appear monthly or fortnightly. It was to be in the form of a letter to his literary friends in London and elsewhere concerning the real state and value of the German Literature from Gellert and Klopstock to the present year.' He adds that he has been invited by Mr. J. Hookham Frere—a new and important acquaintance, made probably through Mr. Murray-to contribute an article on Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit to the Quarterly, but has great reluctince to write in any review. Before undertaking anything, however, he must take a holiday at the seaside to recover from the effects of overwork and anxieties. Both are described in great detail in a letter to Dr. Brabant written from Muddiford, Christchurch, Hampshire, 21st September 1816.'2 Coleridge had undertaken, at he solicitation of Gale & Fenner, to write a small tract on the present distresses, In the form of a lay sermon,' and it was advertised. He wrote and wrote until the MS. grew into a volume, and then he had to cut it down, and then it was abandoned in an unfinished state.3 This was the overwork. One anxiety was caused by a calumnious report connected (I suspect) with the ruin of the Morgans' fortunes; the other by the illness of Miss Eliza Fricker, his favourite sister-in-law. Absolute seclusion was the only remedy, and he went down to Muddiford, meaning, as soon as he was strong enough and rich enough, to get a horse and travel about on its back.

Muddiford afforded Coleridge the most delightful of solitudes, that à deux, for he found there Scott's friend, William Stewart Rose, living in his queer little retreat called Gundimore.' In the verses named after the cottage, and printed privately at Brighton in 1837, Rose recalled how

On these ribbed sands was Coleridge pleased to pace,
While ebbing seas have hummed a rolling base

To his rapt talk.

To Rose's well-known servant and friend David Hinves (who to some extent was the David Gellatley of Waverley) Coleridge presented a copy of Christabel, ' as a small token of regard,' and promised copies of the rest of his works.4 The inscription is

1 Unprinted letter of 31st August 1816, in the Fonthill Collection. It contains a detailed prospectus of the projected periodical in the usual comprehensive style. Nothing more was heard of it.

2 Westminster Rev. July 1870, p. 17.

3 The Statesman's Manual. Gale & Fenner, 1816, pp. 1-65; an Appendix, i.-xlvii.—generally known as 'the first Lay Sermon.' It was first advertised as 'A Lay Sermon on the Distresses of the Country, addressed to the Middle and Higher Orders,' and in the Examiner (Sep. 8, 1816) Hazlitt wrote a cruel article, pretending to be a review of the pamphlet. He said one could tell what anything by Coleridge would be as well before as after publication. Again, when the pamphlet appeared as The Statesman's Manual; or the Bible the best Guide to

Political Skill and Foresight: A Lay Sermon [etc.], Hazlitt reviewed it scoffingly in the Examiner (Dec. 29, 1816). This he followed up by a letter to the editor (Jan. 12, 1817) contrasting the Lay Sermon with that which he heard Coleridge preach in January 1798. The account of the latter was embodied in the article contributed five years later to The Liberal, 'My First Acquaintance with Poets,' see p. xxxix. supra. Coleridge believed Hazlitt to be the Edinburgh reviewer of both Christabel and The Statesman's Manual (Sep. and Dec. 1816 respectively); but the ascriptions, though probably, are not certainly, correct. The articles were discreditable both to editor and contributor.

4 Journal of Sir W. Scott, 1890, ii. 186. See also Lockhart's Life (1837), ii. 119.

dated 11th November 1816,' and the book was probably a parting gift.



at all events was back at Gillman's before December 5, on which day he wrote, with a copy of the Statesman's Manual, to Dr. Brabant.1 The sea-air had done him good, and he works from nine till four, and from seven till twelve-sometimes till 'the wee short hour,' and expects that next week' will appear the two other Lay Sermons— to the middle and labouring classes.' 'My Biographical Sketches, so long printed' (he adds), will then be published, and I proceed to republish The Friend, but as a complete Rifacimento.' He is very angry with Hazlitt. The man who has so grossly calumniated me in the Examiner and in the Edinburgh Review is a William Hazlitt-one who owes more to me than to his own parents. . . . The only wrong I have done him has been to decline his acquaintance. . . . How I feel, you may see at page xxi. of the appendix to my sermon,' and the reader will find it worth while to read the passage.

Robinson saw Coleridge on December 21, 1816,2 and found him looking ill. Gillman gave a good account of his submission to discipline. He drinks only three glasses of wine daily, no spirits, and no opium beyond what is prescribed. During his stay at Muddiford, Coleridge was carrying on an acrimonious correspondence with his Bristol friends, especially with Gutch, in connection with the printing of the Sibylline Leaves and the Biographia. It resulted in the transference of the printed sheets 3 to Gale & Fenner, on repayment of the cost of the printing and paper. The bulk of the advances made on the security of the MSS. by Coleridge's friends was forgiven him, but so contentious were the negotiations that the transfer was accomplished only in May 1817. By that time Coleridge had quarrelled with his new publishers over entanglements with Gutch, Murray, and Longman which it would serve no good purpose to unravel. The relations between Coleridge on the one hand and Fenner and Curtis on the other fluctuated. From time to time they were strained almost to breaking-point, and when a peace was proclaimed, it was no better than an armed truce. During one of these truces the scheme of the Encyclopædia Metropolitana was drawn out for behoof of Curtis and Fenner. A kind of committee meeting took place on April 7, 1817, and was opened by Coleridge reading his own sketch of the prospectus and plan for this 'History of Human Knowledge'—a supremely congenial task which had been entrusted to him.


Coleridge also undertook to furnish large contributions at fixed dates, and to give 'one entire day in each fortnight' to the general superintendence of the work, in consideration of receiving £500 a year. When, however, he demanded an advance in promissory notes to the amount of £300, on the security of his Biog. Literaria, Sibylline Leaves, and the new edition of The Friend, the arrangements broke down, and Coleridge contributed only the Preliminary Treatise on Method' which formed the General Introduction' to the Encyclopædia, and which has been often reprinted. In the middle of all this imbroglio the second Lay Sermon was published, and later on (about March) the Biographia Literaria. The latter was a miscellany, and as such could never have been completed' in any proper sense of the word. But the second volume had been printed up to p. 128, and it was necessary to provide as much matter as would bring up its bulk to something like that of vol. i., which consisted of 296 pages. This was managed by adding 54 pages to the critique on Wordsworth, and by inserting the three served a similar purpose for The Friend. of Maturin's tragedy of Bertram, and 1 West. Rev. July 1870, p. 21.

Satyrane's Letters,' which already had There being still a vacuum, the critique a rambling but very interesting auto2 Diaries, etc., i. 286. 3 The whole of the S. L., and the B. L. up to vol. ii. p. 128.

biographic and apologetic concluding chapter was put together. The book was savagely reviewed by Hazlitt in the Edinburgh for August 1817, and to the article Jeffrey added a footnote nearly five pages long, signed with his initials, defending himself from certain charges made against Hazlitt and himself. The controversy, as conducted on both sides, is too personal, and too trivial, to be worth reviving. In October, Blackwood's Magazine contained an article on the Biographia and its author. It was quite as savage, but by no means as witty as those which came from Hazlitt's pen, but it stung Coleridge as the others had not, for it renewed the old Anti-Jacobin charge1 of abandoning his wife and children. He consulted Crabb Robinson 2 as to the practicability of bringing an action for libel, but no proceedings were taken. In his letter to Robinson, Coleridge says: 'I can prove by positive evidence, by the written bargains made with my booksellers, etc., that I have refused every offer, however convenient to myself, that did not leave two-thirds of the property sacred to Mrs. Coleridge,3 and that I have given up all I had in the world to her have continued to pay yearly £305 to assure her what, if I live to the year 1820, will be nearly £2000; that beyond my absolute necessities . . . I have held myself accountable to her for every shilling; that Hartley is with me, with all his expenses paid during his vacation; and that I have been for the last six months, and now am, labouring hard to procure the means of having Derwent with me. . . . I work like a slave from morn to night, and receive as the reward less than a mechanic's wages, imposition, and ingratitude.'6

He had also renewed his connection with the Courier-indeed, his industry at this period, though not always applied to the business most urgently required, appears to have been prodigious. In March he supplied the paper with a review of his second Lay Sermon which had been written by a friend'7; in the same month he came to the rescue of Southey with two letters 8 vindicating his old friend from the aspersions cast upon him in consequence of the piratical publication of the MS. of the absurd Wat Tyler, which the future Laureate had written (but not printed) in 1794; and on March 26 he wrote to John' Murray 9: The article in Tuesday's Courier was by me; and two other articles on Apostacy and Renegadism 10 which will appear next week.' These are not included in the Essays on his own Times, and it is not improbable that other contributions have been overlooked, for in a letter to Stuart of this period Coleridge begs that his articles' until Street's return' may be remunerated at the rate of two guineas per column, and proposes a succession of papers for three or four months. I cannot find in Southey's printed letters any expression of gratitude for Coleridge's warm and chivalrous defence of him against the attacks of the enemy on the subject of Wat

1 The charge appeared in a note by the editor of The Beauties of the Anti-Jacobin (London: 1799, p. 306) to The New Morality. It was replied to by Coleridge in The Friend, No. I. (1809), and again in the Biog. Lit. (1817, i. 71), (1847, i. 65). See Athenæum for May 31, 1890; Art. 'Coleridge and "The Anti-Jacobin."

2 The letter is printed only in Brandl's Life of Coleridge (pp. 354-357), but with unaccountable inaccuracy, hardly a line being free from error. 3 I do not understand this.

4 Referring doubtless to the Wedgwood annuity.

5 The exact amount was £27, 5s. 6d. When

Coleridge died in 1834, upwards of £2500 was paid on the policy.

6 Referring to the new edition of The Friend (3 vols. 1818), and to its printer and publisher, Curtis and Fenner.

7 Letters from the Lake Poets, p. 270.

8 Essays on his own Times, pp. 939-950. Two other vindicatory letters were written for, but not printed in, the Westminster Review. They are given in the Essays, pp. 950-962.

9 Memoirs of John Murray, i. 306.

10 See also Letters from the Lake Poets, p. 280.

« VorigeDoorgaan »