« VorigeDoorgaan »
Coleridge ; and do clearly think that had there been no Coleridge, neither had this been—nor had English Puseyism, or some other strange portents been.' Carlyle did not make Sterling's acquaintance until the beginning of 1835. Of Coleridge there was little said . . . though, on occasion, for a year or two to come, he would still assert his transcendent admiration, especially if Maurice were by to help’; and Carlyle draws attention to his friend's novel Arthur Coningsby, at the end of which, he says, there is a proportion of Coleridgean moonshine.'
In the autumn of 1827, Coleridge wrote some kindly verses to the bride of his son Derwent.1 Two years later a similar occasion arose, but if any poetical tribute was paid, it has not come down to us. On September 3, 1829, Sara was married to her cousin Henry Nelson Coleridge, but the ceremony took place at Crosthwaite Church, near Greta Hall, and although the young people settled at Hampstead, the record of Table Talk, suspended on Aug. 30, 1827, was not resumed until April 30, 1830 ;—from that date, however, it continues, almost without break, until the end of Coleridge's life. He seems to have had a long illness in the summer of 1829, for Lamb in answering a letter of that period says : * How you frighted me ! Never write again “ Coleridge is dead” at the end of a line, and tamely come in
a with “to his friends” at the beginning of another. Love is quicker, and fear from love, than the transition ocular from line to line.' 2 On October 26, Lamb writes to Gillman 3 of his grief at learning of Coleridge's 'indifferent health—and he not to know it !'A little school-divinity,' he thinks, “ well applied, may be healing. I send him honest Tom of Aquin . . . rescued t’other day from a stall in Barbican.' In November, Mary Lamb is driven over to Highgate to fetch back 'Him of Aquinum,' and to borrow 'the golden works of the dear fine silly old angel,' Fuller, returned a month later, with a promise to spend the first fine day at the Grove, trusting to the Gate - House for beds. Four or five months later Lamb reports of Coleridge 4 that he has had some severe attack, not paralytic ; but if I had not heard of it,' he adds, I should not have found it out. He looks and especially speaks strong. It was doubtless of this illness that in a letter of July Coleridge writes that it had brought him to the brink of the grave.' The letter was addressed to Poole, and accompanied a presentation copy of the writer's Constitution of Church and State,5 in the course of which is drawn a fascinating picture of his old friend, the presentee. In the preface to this pamphlet, the last of his works printed during his life-time, Coleridge explains at considerable length that, while he is not unfriendly to Catholic Emancipation, he has scruples regarding the means proposed for its attainment. He says the work is transcribed for the greater part from a paper drawn up by him some years ago at the request of J. Hookham Frere,' and which paper, had it been finished before he [Frere) left England, it was his intention to have laid before the late Lord Liverpool.' He begs he may not be suspected of predilection for any particular sect or party; for wherever he looks, in religion or politics, he seems to see a world of power and talent wasted on the support of half-truths.' His convictions on this subject, though revised from year to year, have been steadfast, and the pain of differing from men he has loved and
1 To Mary Pridham, p. 203.
? To Allsop (Lamb's Letters, Ainger's ed. ii. 226).
3 [6. ii. 232.
toward a right judgment on the late Catholic Bill. By S. T. Coleridge, Esq., R.A., R.S.L. London : Hurst, Chance, & Co. 1830, pp. viii.; 227 A 'second edition,' with alterations and additions, soon followed — pp: viii. ; 241.
The account of Poole is at p. 102 of the first, and p. 115 of the second edition.
4 May 10, 1831 (Ainger's ed. ii. 254).
5 On the Constitution of the Church and State, according to the idea of each ; with and
revered, is “aggravated by the reflection that in receding from the Burkes, Cannings, and Lansdownes, he did not move a step nearer to the feelings and opinions of their antagonists. The pamphlet, however, procured for Coleridge the name of Highchurchman and Tory, and, rightly or wrongly, is often credited with giving the first im;xx pulse to the influences which, a few years later, brought about the ‘Oxford Movement.
On June 26, 1830, died George IV., and with him died the pensions of the Royal Associates. Apparently they did not find this out until the following year. In the Englishman's Magazine for June 1831, attention was directed to the fact that
intimation had been given to Mr. Coleridge and his brother Associates that they must expect their allowances “very shortly " to cease '—the allowances having been a personal bounty of the late King. On June 3, 1831, Gillman wrote a letter to the Times, 'in consequence of a paragraph which appeared in the Times of this day.' He states that on the sudden suppression of the honorarium, representations on Coleridge's behalf were made to Lord Brougham, with the result that the Treasury (Lord Grey) offered a private grant of £200, which Coleridge “had felt it his duty most respectfully to decline.' Stuart, however, wrote to King William's son, the Earl of Munster, pointing out the hardship entailed on Coleridge, who is old and infirm, and without other means of subsistence. He begs the Earl to lay the
' matter before his royal father. To this a reply came, excusing the King on account of his very reduced income,' but promising that the matter shall be laid before His Majesty. To these letters, which are printed in Letters from the Lake Poets (pp. 319-322), the following note is appended : “The annuity . . . was not renewed, but a sum of £300 was ultimately handed over to Coleridge by the Treasury. Even apart from this bounty, Coleridge was not a sufferer by the withdrawal of the King's pension, for Frere made it up to him annually.1
The record of Coleridge's life after 1830 is summed up in a sentence written by him within a fortnight of his death : “For the last three or four years I have, with
: I ?! few and brief intervals, been confined to a sick-room.'2 In January 1831, Wordsworth saw his old friend several times and had long conversations with him, being grieved to observe that his constitution seems much broken up.' 'I have heard' (he adds) that he has been worse since I saw him. His mind has lost none of its vigour.'3
In April 1832, Lamb writes to remove some mistaken sick-man’s fancy : Not an unkind thought has passed in my brain concerning you. . . . If I do not hear from you before then, I will set out on Wednesday morning to take you by the hand. I would do it this moment, but an unexpected visit might flurry you.' 'If you ever,' he adds in a F.S., “thought an offence, much more wrote it, against me, it must have been in the times of Noah, and the great waters have swept it away. ... Mary is crying for mere love over your letter.' 4 In the same week Crabb Robinson "saw Coleridge in bed. He looked beautifully -- his eye remarkably brilliant- and he talked as eloquently as ever. His declamation was against the [Reform] Bill,' which, he considered, was being passed merely from fear of resisting popular opinion. In September, Robinson took Landor out to see him. They found him “horribly bent and looking seventy years of age,' and disposed to talk principally of the loss of his pension. Landor spoke in his dashing way, which Coleridge could understand.'.
A few weeks before this he had been able to go over to Hampstead to attend the 1 Sir Walter Scott's Journal, 1890, ii. 449. 4 Enfield, April 14, 1832 (Ainger's ed. ii. 278).
2 Letter to Adam S. Kinnaird, July 13, 1834 (last page of Table Talk).
5 Diaries, etc., ii. 128. 3 Knight's Life, iii. 189.
6 1b. ii. 132.
christening of his grandchild Edith, the daughter of the second Sara. In conveying this news to Poole, the elder Mrs. Coleridge added that her husband talked a great deal of you, as he always does when he speaks of his early days.'1 And it was of those early days that Wordsworth too was thinking when, during this summer, he wrote to Rowan Hamilton? : “He [S. T. C.] and my beloved sister are the two beings to whom my intellect is most indebted, and they are now proceeding as it were pari passu, along the path of sickness—I will not say towards the grave, but I trust towards a blessed immortality.'
Coleridge's health must have improved considerably in the summer of 1833, for in June he visited Cambridge on the occasion of the third meeting of the British Association. . My emotions,' he said, “at revisiting the University were at first overwhelming. I could not speak for an hour ; yet my feelings were, upon the whole, pleasurable, and I have not passed, of late years at least, three days of such great enjoyment and healthful excitement of mind and body. The bed on which I slept -and slept soundly too—was, as near as I can describe it, a couple of sacks full of potatoes tied together. Truly I lay down at night a man, and arose in the morning a bruise.' "The two persons of whom he spoke with the greatest interest were Mr. Faraday and Mr. Thirlwall.'3 Of this visit, Mrs. Clarkson heard through Rydal Mount that Coleridge, though not able to rise till the afternoon, had a crowded levée at his bedside.'4 It was in July of this year that he declared he could write as good verses as ever “if perfectly free from vexations, and in the ad libitum hearing of good music’; and that his reason for not finishing Christabel was not the want of a plan, but the seemingly inevitable failure of continuations, 5
It must have been about this time that Harriet Martineau paid the visit to Coleridge, of which a characteristic account is given in her Autobiography (i. 396-99) : ‘He looked very old with his rounded shoulders, and drooping head, and excessively thin limbs. His eyes were as wonderful as they were ever represented to be—light grey, extremely prominent, and actually glittering. . . . He told me he read my (Political Economy] tales as they came out, and .. avowed that there were some points in which we differed. . . . For instance, said he, “You appear to consider that society is an aggregate of individuals.” I replied, I certainly did, whereupon he went off ... on a long flight ... on a survey of society from his own balloon in his own current ... involuntary speech from involuntary brain action ... [analogous to] the action of Babbage's calculating machine.' What Coleridge thought of modern Political Economy' is stated in very plain language in Table Talk for March 17, 1833, and June 23, 1834.
On Aug. 5, Emerson, then a young man of thirty, on his first pilgrimage to Europe, called on Coleridge. He saw 'a short, thick old man, with bright blue
.. [sic] eyes, and fine clear complexion,' who took snuff freely, which presently soiled his cravat and neat black suit '—the Coleridge whom Maclise drew in that same year for the Fraser Gallery." The visit was a failure, for an unhappy mention of Dr.
1 T. Poole and his Friends, ii. 280. 2 Knight's Life, iii. 213.
3 Table Talk. Note to June 29, 1833. In Conversations at Cambridge (1836) Coleridge's old school-fellow C. V. Le Grice professes to give specimens of his table-talk on one of these June evenings at Thirlwall's rooms in Trinityin which college the old poet seems to have been put up.
4 H. C. R.'s Diaries, etc., ii. 143.
5 See the passage quoted in ‘Note 116,' p. 604.
6 English Traits, chap. i. (Works, 1883, iv. 6-10).
7 Fraser's Mag. viii. 632. Reprinted in A Gallery of Illustrious Literary Characters, ed. by W. Bates, 1873.
Channing caused the champion of orthodoxy to "burst into a declamation on the folly and ignorance of Unitarianism, ---its high unreasonableness '-a declamation which gained fresh impetus from Emerson's interjected avowal that he himself had. been born and bred a Unitarian.' When at the end of an hour the visitor rose to go, Coleridge changed the note from negative to positive, reciting the lately-composed lines on his Baptismal Birthday ;? and when Emerson left, he felt that nothing had been satisfied but his curiosity.
Coleridge had then barely another year to live, and though it was one of everincreasing bodily pain and weakness, all witnesses testify that the spirit remained strong and willing to the very end. In the winter he took leave of himself in the well-known Epitaph, but his eyes were yet to be gladdened by another spring and summer. Within two months of the end, Poole found his old friend with a mind as strong as ever, seemingly impatient to take leave of its encumbrance.' 3 A month later another visitor, unnamed, observed that Coleridge's 'countenance was pervaded by a most remarkable serenity,' which, as the conversation showed, was a true reflection of his mind. In this atmosphere of peace, he assured his visitor, all things were seen by him “reconciled and harmonised.? 4 On July 20th, dangerous symptoms 1835
' appeared, and for several days his sufferings were great, but they abated during the
z final thirty-six hours. On the last evening of all, Coleridge, after recommending his
? faithful nurse to the care of his family, repeated to Mr. Green, who was with his master to the end, 'a certain part of his religious philosophy which he was especially anxious to have accurately recorded. He articulated with the utmost difficulty, but his mind was clear and powerful, and so continued until he fell into a state of coma, which lasted until he ceased to breathe, about six o'clock in the morning [July 25]. A few out of his many deeply attached and revering friends attended his remains to the grave, together with my husband and [his brother] Edward ; and that body, which did him such “grievous wrong,” was laid in its final restingplace in Highgate Churchyard.'5
None of Coleridge's oldest friends stood by the grave. Poole was far in the west, Wordsworth and Southey as far in the north, and Morgan was dead. Lamb was near, but his feelings would not permit him to join the sorrowing company. During the few months of life which remained to him, he never recovered from his sense of loss. 'Coleridge is dead,' was the abiding thought in his mind and on his lips. * His great and dear spirit haunts me, he wrote, five weeks before his death-never saw I his likeness, nor probably the world can see again. ... What was his mansion is consecrated to me a chapel.' When Wordsworth read the news his voice faltered and then broke, but he seems to have said little except of his friend's genius, calling him the most wonderful man that he had ever known.'6 What Southey said has not been recorded. What he wrote 7 is better forgotten. Doubtless he had the rights which his wrongs gave him, but he remembered both at an inappropriate moment. He had been, so to speak, a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow, and it detracts nothing from the credit due to him, that in many ways, even in a pecuniary sense, he had been repaid to an extent larger than is generally sup1 Page 210. See also ‘Note 225,' p. 645.
6 Knight's Life, iii. 235. 2 Page 210. See also ‘Note 227,' p. 645. 3 T. Poole and his Friends, ii. 294.
7 Letter to Mrs. Hughes in Letters, etc., iv. 4 Knight's Life of Wordsworth, iii. 236. 381. See also Thomas Moore's Memoirs (vii.
õ Me. of Sara [Mrs. H. N.] Coleridge, i. 69-73) quoted in Knight's Life of Wordsworth, το9, ΙΙΙ. The funeral took place on August 2.
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 Nem. of S. Coleridge, i. iii. Most of the will (dated Sep. 17, 1829) is given in the Gent. Mlag. 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.-1x.
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.