Biographia Epistolaris, Volume 1.
Coleridge, ed. Turnbull
Part 1 out of 6
Jonathan Ingram, Clytie Siddall
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's
comprising 33 letters
the Biographical Supplement of
Coleridge's BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA
with additional letters etc., edited by
"On the whole this was surely the mightiest genius since Milton. In
poetry there is not his like, when he rose to his full power; he was
a philosopher, the immensity of whose mind cannot be gauged by
anything he has left behind; a critic, the subtlest and most
profound of his time. Yet these vast and varied powers flowed away
in the shifting sands of talk; and what remains is but what the few
land-locked pools are to the receding ocean which has left them
casually behind without sensible diminution of its
Academy, 3d October, 1903.
The work known as the Biographical Supplement of the Biographia
Literaria of S. T. Coleridge, and published with the latter in 1847, was
begun by Henry Nelson Coleridge, and finished after his death by his
widow, Sara Coleridge. The first part, concluding with a letter dated
5th November 1796, is the more valuable portion of the Biographical
Supplement. What follows, written by Sara Coleridge, is more
controversial than biographical and does not continue, like the first
part, to make Coleridge tell his own life by inserting letters in the
narrative. Of 33 letters quoted in the whole work, 30 are contained in
the section written by Henry Nelson Coleridge. Of these 11 were drawn
from Cottle's Early Recollections, seven being letters to Josiah Wade,
four to Joseph Cottle, and the remainder are sixteen letters to Poole,
one to Benjamin Flower, one to Charles E Heath, and one to Henry Martin.
From this I think it is evident that Henry Nelson Coleridge intended
what was published as a Supplement to the Biographia Literaria to be a
Life of Coleridge, either supplementary to the Biographia Literaria or
as an independent narrative, in which most of the letters published by
Cottle in 1837 and unpublished letters to Poole and other correspondents
were to form the chief material. Sara Coleridge, in finishing the
fragment, did not attempt to carry out the original intention of her
husband. A few letters in Cottle were perhaps not acceptable to her
taste, and in rejecting them she perhaps resolved to reject all
remaining letters in Cottle. She thus finished the fragmentary Life of
Coleridge left by her husband in her own way.
But Henry Nelson Coleridge had begun to build on another plan. His
intention was simply to string all Coleridge's letters available on a
slim biographical thread and thus produce a work in which the poet would
have been made to tell his own life. His beginning with the five
Biographical Letters to Thomas Poole is a proof of this. He took these
as his starting point; and, as far as he went, his "Life of Coleridge"
thus constructed is the most reliable of all the early biographies of
This edition of the Biographical Supplement is meant to carry out as far
as possible the original project of its author. The whole of his
narrative has been retained, and also what Sara Coleridge added to his
writing; and all the non-copyright letters of Coleridge available from
other sources have been inserted into the narrative, and additional
biographical matter, explanatory of the letters, has been given.  By
this retention of authentic sources I have produced as faithful a
picture of the Poet-Philosopher Coleridge as can be got anywhere, for
Coleridge always paints his own character in his letters. Those desirous
of a fuller picture may peruse, along with this work, the letters
published in the Collection of 1895, the place of which in the narrative
is indicated in footnotes.
[Footnote: What has been added is enclosed in square brackets.]
The letters are drawn from the following sources:
"Biographical Supplement", 1847 ............................................ 33
Cottle's "Reminiscences", 1847 ............................................. 78
The original "Friend", 1809 ................................................. 5
"The Watchman", 1796 ........................................................ 1
Gillman's "Life of Coleridge", 1838 ......................................... 7
Allsop's "Letters, Conversations, etc., of S. T. C"., 1836 (1864) .......... 45
"Essays on his Own Times", 1850 ............................................. 1
"Life and Correspondence of R. Southey", 1850 ............................... 7
Editorials of Poems, etc .................................................... 8
"Literary Remains of S. T. C., 1836, etc" ................................... 3
"Blackwood's Magazine", October, 1821 ....................................... 1
"Fragmentary Remains of Humphry Davy", 1858 ................................ 15
"Macmillan's Magazine", 1864 (Letters to W. Godwin) ......................... 9
Southey's "Life of Andrew Bell", 3 vols., 1844 .............................. 2
"Charles Lamb and the Lloyds", by E. V. Lucas ............................... 3
"Anima Poetae", by E. H. Coleridge, 1895 .................................... 1
The letters of Coleridge have slowly come to light. Coleridge was always
fond of letter-writing, and at several periods of his career he was more
active in letter-writing than at others. He commenced the publication of
his letters himself. The epistolary form was as dear to him in prose as
the ballad or odic form in verse. From his earliest publications we can
see he loved to launch a poem with "A letter to the Editor," or to the
recipient, as preface. The "Mathematical Problem", one of his juvenile
facetiae in rhyme, was thus heralded with a letter addressed to his
brother George explaining the import of the doggerel. His first printed
poem, "To Fortune" (Dykes Campbell's Edition of the "Poems", p. 27), was
also prefaced by a short letter to the editor of the "Morning
Chronicle". Among Coleridge's letters are several of this sort, and each
affords a glimpse into his character. Those with the "Raven" and
"Talleyrand to Lord Grenville" are characteristic specimens of his
drollery and irony.
Coleridge's greatest triumphs in letter-writing were gained in the field
of politics. His two letters to Fox, his letters on the Spaniards, and
those to Judge Fletcher, are his highest specimens of epistolary
eloquence, and constitute him the rival of Rousseau as an advocate of
some great truth in a letter addressed to a public personage. In
clearness of thought and virile precision of language they surpass the
most of anything that Coleridge has written. They never wander from the
point at issue; the evolution of their ideas is perfect, their idiom the
purest mother-English written since the refined vocabulary of Hooker,
Jeremy Taylor, and Harrington was coined.
Besides the political letters, Coleridge published during his lifetime
four important letters of great length written during his sojourn in
Germany. Three of these appeared in the "Friend" of 1809, and indeed
were the finest part of that periodical; and one was first made public
in the "Amulet" of 1829. Six letters published in "Blackwood's Magazine"
of 1820-21, and a few others of less importance, brought up the number
of letters published by Coleridge to 46. The following is a list of them:
7th Nov. 1793, "To Fortune," Ed. "Morning Chronicle" ................ 1
22nd Sept. 1794, Dedication to "Robespierre," to H. Martin ........... 1
1st April 1796, Letter to "Caius Gracchus," "The Watchman" ........... 1
26th Dec. 1796, Dedication to the "Ode to the Departing Year,"
to T. Poole ........... 1
1798, Ed. "Monthly Magazine, re Monody on Chatterton"................. 1
1799, Ed. "Morning Post," with the "Raven" ........................... 1
21 Dec. 1799, Ed. "Morning Post," with "Love" ........................ 1
10th Jan. 1800, Ed. "Morning Post, Talleyrand to Lord Grenville" ..... 1
18th Nov. 1800, "Monthly Review," on "Wallenstein" ................... 1
1834, To George Coleridge, with "Mathematical Problem" ............... 1
Political Letters to the "Morning Post" and "Courier" ................ 21
1809, Letters of Satyrane, etc., in the "Friend" ..................... 8
1820-21, Letters to "Blackwood's Magazine" ........................... 6
1829, "The Amulet," "Over the Brocken" .............................. 1
The "Literary Remains," published in 1836, added ..................... 4
Allsop, in his "Letters, Conversations, etc.", gave to the world ..... 46
Cottle followed in 1837, with his "Early Recollections", in which .... 84
letters or fragments of letters made their appearance
Gillman in 1838 published 11 letters or fragments, 4 of which had
already appeared in the works of Allsop and Cottle and in the
"Friend", leaving a contribution of ................................. 7
The "Gentleman's Magazine" followed in 1838
with letters to Daniel Stuart ........................................17
Cottle, in 1847, re-cast his "Early Recollections", and called his
work "Reminiscences of Coleridge and Southey", and added the
splendid Wedgwood series of 19 letters, and a few others of less
importance, in all ...................................................25
The "Biographical Supplement" to the 1847 edition of the "Biographia
Literaria" contained 33 letters, 11 of which were from Cottle;
leaving a contribution of ............................................22
In 1850, Coleridge's "Essays on his Own Times", consisting of his
magazine and newspaper articles, contained in the Preface (p. 91),
a fragment of a letter to Poole .......................................1
published up to 1850 by Coleridge himself and his three early
biographers; and these continued to be quoted and alluded to by writers
on Coleridge until 1895, when Mr. E. H. Coleridge gave to the world a
collection of 260 letters.
Meantime, numerous biographies, memoirs, and magazines continued to
throw in a contribution now and then. The following, as far as I have
been able to ascertain, is the number of letters or fragments of letters
contributed by the various works enumerated:
1836-8, Lockhart's "Life of Sir Walter Scott" 1
1841, "Life of Charles Mathews" 1
" "The Mirror", Letter to George Dyer 1
1844, Southey's "Life of Dr. Andrew Bell" 5
1847, "Memoir of Carey" (Translator of Dante) 1
1848, "Memoir of William Collins, R.A." 1
1849, "Life and Correspondence of R. Southey" 7
1851, "Memoirs of W. Wordsworth" 8
1858, "Fragmentary Remains of Sir H. Davy" 15
1860, "Autobiography of C. R. Leslie" 1
1864, "Macmillan's Magazine" (Letters to Win. Godwin) 9
1869, "H. Crabb Robinson's Diary" 5
1870, "Westminster Review" (Letters to Dr. Brabant) 11
1871, Meteyard's "Group of Englishmen" 2
1873, Sara Coleridge's "Memoirs" 1
1874, "Lippincott's Magazine" 10
1876, "Life of William Godwin", by C. Regan Paul (16,
less 7 of those which appeared in "Macmillan's
Magazine", 1864) 9
1878, "Fraser's Magazine" (letters to Matilda Betham) 5
1880, Macmillan's Edition of "Coleridge's Poems" 1
1882, "Journals of Caroline Fox" 1
1884, "Life of Alaric Watts" 5
1886, Brandl's "Life of Coleridge" 10
1887, "Memorials of Coleorton" 20
1888, "Thomas Poole and his Friends" (Mrs. Sandford) 75
1889, Professor Knight's "Life of Wordsworth" 12
1889, "Rogers and his Contemporaries" 1
1890, "Memoir of John Murray" 4
1891, "De Quincey Memorials" 4
1893, "Life of Washington Allston" (Flagg) 4
" "Friends' Quarterly Magazine" 1
" "Illustrated London News" 19
1893, J. Dykes Campbell's Edition of "Coleridge's Poems" 8
1894, " " " Life of Coleridge" (fragments) 36
1894, "The Athenaeum" (3 letters to Wrangham) 3
1895, "Letters" of S. T. Coleridge (edited by E. H.
" "Anima Poetae" (E. H. C.), Letter to J. Tobin. 1
" "The Gillmans of Highgate" (A. W. Gillman) 3
" "Athenaeum" of 18 May, 1895 1
1897, "William Blackwood and his Sons", by Mrs. Oliphant 6
1898, "Charles Lamb and the Lloyds" (E. V. Lucas) 3
1899, "J. H. Frere and his Friends" 7
1903, "Tom Wedgwood", by R. B. Litchfield 1
1907, "Christabel", edited by E. H. Coleridge 1
1910, "The Bookman", May 1
Besides these there are privately printed letters and letters not yet
published to be taken account of. The chief collection of these is
"Letters from the Lake Poets" (edited by E. H. Coleridge), containing 87
letters to Daniel Stuart, some of which are republished in the
"Letters", 1895. The remainder of letters not published, from the
information given by Mr. E. H. Coleridge in his Preface, I make out to
be about 300.
Nor does this exhaust the list of letters written by Coleridge. In
Ainger's Collection of the Letters of Charles Lamb are 62 letters by
Lamb to Coleridge, most of which are in answer to letters received. We
may therefore estimate the letters of Coleridge to Lamb at not less than
62. In Dorothy Wordsworth's "Grasmere Journal" there are no less than 32
letters to the Wordsworths mentioned as having been received during
the period 1800-1803, not represented among the letters in Professor
Knight's "Life of Wordsworth". The total number of letters known to have
been written by Coleridge is therefore between 1,100 and 1,200. Other
correspondents of Coleridge not appearing among the recipients of
letters in publications are probably as follows:
V. Le Grice.
Sam. Le Grice.
T. F. Middleton.
Ch. Lloyd, Jr.
Mrs. Clarkson (except one small fragment in "Diary of H. C. Robinson").
The letters to Lamb and Miss Wordsworth do not now exist.]
The letters of Coleridge, taken as a whole, are one of the most
important contributions to English Letter-writing. They are gradually
coming to light, and with every letter or group of letters put forth,
the character and intellectual development of Coleridge is becoming
clearer. His poems and prose works, great as these are, are not
comprehensible without a study of his letters, which join together the
"insulated fragments" of that grand scheme of truth which he called his
"System" ("Table Talk", 12th Sept. 1831, and 26th June 1834).
Coleridge, in his letters, has written his own life, for his life, after
all, was a life of thought, and his finest thoughts and his most
ambitious aspirations are given expression to in his letters to his
numerous friends; and the true biography of Coleridge is that in which
his letters are made the main source of the narrative. A Biographia
Epistolaris is what we want of such a man.
Coleridge's letters are often bizarre in construction and quite
regardless of the conventions of style, and abound in the most curious
freaks of emphasis and imagery. They resemble the letters of Cowper in
that they were not written for publication; and, like Cowper's, they
have a character of their own. But they far surpass the epistles of the
poet of Olney in spiritual vision and intellectuality. The eighteenth
century, from Pope and Swift down to Cowper, is extremely
letter-writing. Bolingbroke, Lord Chesterfield, Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu, Gray, Mason, Johnson, Beattie, Burns, and Gibbon, among
literary personages, have contributed to the great Epistolick Art, as
Dr. Johnson called it; and this list does not include the letters of the
politicians, Horace Walpole, Junius, and others. The eighteenth century,
in fact, was a letter-writing age; and while the bulk of the poetry of
its 300 poets, with the exception of a few masterpieces of monumental
quality, has gradually gone out of fashion, its letters have risen into
greater repute. Even among the poets whose verse is still read there is
a hesitation in public opinion as to whether the verses or letters are
superior. There are readers not a few who would not scruple to place
Cowper's letters above his poems, who believe that Gray's letters are
much more akin to the modern spirit than the "Elegy" and the "Ode
to Eton College", and who think that Swift's fly-leaves to his
friends will outlive the fame of "Gulliver" and the "Tale of a
Coleridge, who stands between the eighteenth and the nineteenth
centuries, was, like the poets of the former age, a multiform
letter-writer. He was often seized with letter-writing when unable to
write poetry or execute those unpublished masterpieces in the
composition of some of which he was engaged.
Coleridge's letters are of the utmost importance as a part of the
literature of the opening of the nineteenth century. It is in the
letters that we see better than elsewhere the germs of the speculations
which afterwards came to fruition between 1817 and 1850, when the
poetical and critical principles of the Lake School gradually took the
place of the Classicism of the eighteenth century, and the theology of
Broad Churchism began to displace the old theology, and the school of
Paley in Evidences and Locke in Philosophy gave way before the inroad of
As the record of the phases of an intellectual development the letters
of Coleridge stand very high; and, indeed, I do not know anything equal
to them except it be the "Journal of Amiel".
The resemblance between Coleridge and Amiel is very striking. Both
valetudinarians and barely understood by the friends with whom they came
into contact, they took refuge in the inner shrine of introspection, and
clothed the most abstruse ideas in the most beautiful forms of language
and imagery that is only not poetry because it is not verse. While one
wrote the story of his own intellectual development in secret and
retained the record of it hidden from all eyes, the other scattered his
to the winds in the shape of letters, which thus, widely distributed,
kept his secret until they were gathered together by later hands. The
letters of Coleridge as a collection is one of the most engaging
psychological studies of the history of an individual mind.
The text of the letters in the present volume is reproduced from the
original sources, the "Biographical Supplement", Cottle, Gillman,
Allsop, and the "Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey". Fuller
texts of some of the letters will be found in "Letters of S. T. C." of
1895, Litchfield's "Tom Wedgwood", and other recent publications. One of
the objects of the present work is to preserve the text of the letters
as presented in these authentic sources of the life of Coleridge.
Letters Nos. 44, 45, and 46, from "Charles Lamb and the Lloyds", by Mr.
E. V. Lucas (Smith, Elder and Co.); No. 130 from "Anima Poetae" (W.
Heinemann), are printed here by arrangement with the poet's grandson,
Ernest Hartley Coleridge, Esq., to whom my sincere thanks are also due
for his kindness in reading the proofs. Mr. Coleridge, of course, is not
responsible for any of the opinions expressed in this work; but he has
taken great pains in putting me right regarding certain views of others
who had written on Coleridge, and also on some of the mistakes made by
Henry Nelson Coleridge and Sara Coleridge, who had insufficient data on
the matters on which they wrote, and definite information on which,
indeed, could not be ascertainable in 1847. Coming from Mr.
Coleridge--the chief living authority on the life, letters, and
published and unpublished writings of S. T. Coleridge--the corrections
in the footnotes and elsewhere may be taken as authoritative; and I have
to acknowledge my indebtedness to him accordingly,
31st January, 1911.
WORKS RELATING TO COLERIDGE
"Early Years and Late Reflections". By Clement Carlyon, M.D. 4 vols.
"Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge". With a
Preface by the Editor. Moxon, 1836. 2 vols. Second Edition. By Thomas
Allsop. 1858. Third Edition, 1864.
"Early Recollections, chiefly relating to the late S. T. Coleridge
during his long residence in Bristol". By Joseph Cottle. 2 vols. 1837.
"The Letters of Charles Lamb with a Sketch of his Life". By Sir Thomas
Noon Talfourd, 1837; and "Final Memorials", 1848.
"Reminiscences of S. T. Coleridge and Robert Southey". By Joseph Cottle.
1847. 1 vol.
"Biographia Literaria, or Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life and
Opinions". By S. T. Coleridge. Second Edition, prepared for publication
in part by the late H. N. Coleridge: completed and published by his
widow. 2 vols. 1847.
"The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey". 6 vols. 1849-1850.
"Essays on his own Times". By Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Edited by his
daughter. London: William Pickering. 3 vols. 1850.
"Memoirs of William Wordsworth". By Christopher Wordsworth, D.D. 2 vols.
"The Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge". New York: Harper and
Brothers. 7 vols. 1853.
"Oxford and Cambridge Essays". Professor Hort on Coleridge. 1856.
"Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey". 4 vols. 1856.
"Fragmentary Remains, literary and scientific, of Sir Humphry Davy,
Bart." Edited by his brother, John Davy, M.D. 1858.
"Dissertations and Discussions". John Stuart Mill. 4 vols. 1859-1875.
"Autobiographical Recollections by the late Charles Robert Leslie, R.A."
Edited by Tom Taylor. 2 vols. 1860.
"Beaten Paths". By T. Colley Grattan 2 vols. 1862.
"Studies in Poetry and Philosophy". By J. C. Shairp. 1868.
"Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson".
Selected and Edited by Thomas Sadler, Ph.D. 3 vols. 1869.
"A Group of Englishmen (1795-1815) being records of the younger
Wedgwoods and their Friends". By Eliza Meteyard, 1 vol. 1871.
"Memoir and Letters of Sara Coleridge", 1 vol. 1873.
"Life of William Godwin". By C. Kegan Paul. 2 vols. 1876.
"Journals and Letters of Caroline Fox". 2 vols. 1884.
"Life and Works of William Wordsworth". By William Knight, LL.D. 11
"Prose Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge". Bohn Library. 6 vols. (various
"Memorials of Coleorton". Edited by William Knight, University of St.
Andrews. 2 vols. 1887.
"The Letters of Charles Lamb". Edited by Alfred Ainger. 2 vols. 1888.
"Thomas Poole and his Friends". By Mrs. Henry Sandford. 2 vols. 1888.
"Appreciations". By Walter Pater. 1889.
"De Quincey Memorials". Edited by Alexander H. Japp, LL.D., F.R.S.E. 2
"Posthumous Works of De Quincey". Edited by Alexander H. Japp, LL.D.,
F.R.S.E. Vol. II. 1893.
"The Life of Washington Allston". By Jared B. Flagg. 1893.
"The Works of Thomas De Quincey". Edited by Professor Masson. Vols.
"Illustrated London News", 1893. Letters of S. T. C. edited by E. H.
"Anima Poetae: From the unpublished note-books of Samuel Taylor
Coleridge". Edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge. 1895.
"The Gillmans of Highgate". By Alexander W. Gillman. 1895.
"Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge". Edited by Ernest Hartley
Coleridge. 2 vols. 1895. (Referred to in present volume as "Letters".}
"The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth". Edited by William Knight. 2 vols.
"The Early Life of William Wordsworth", 1770-1798, "A Study of the
Prelude". By Emile Legouis; translated by J. W. Matthews. 1897.
"Charles Lamb and the Lloyds". Edited by E. V. Lucas. 1898.
"Bibliography of S. T. Coleridge". R. Heine Shepherd and Colonel
"The German Influence on Coleridge". By John Louis Haney. 1902.
"A Bibliography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge". By John Louis Haney. 1903.
"Tom Wedgwood, the First Photographer". By R. B. Litchfield. 1903.
"Christabel, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; illustrated by a Facsimile of
the Manuscript and by Textual and other notes". By Ernest Hartley
Coleridge, Hon. F.R.S.L. Published under the direction of the Royal
Society of Literature: London, Henry Frowde. 1907. (The Facsimile is
that of the MS. presented by Coleridge to Sarah Hutchinson.)
BIOGRAPHIES OF COLERIDGE
John Thomas Cox. Memoir prefixed to Edition of the Poems of S. T.
Life of Coleridge prefixed to Edition of the Poems by Milner and
Sowerby. (No date.)
James Gillman. "Life of S. T. Coleridge". Vol. I. 1838.
Biographical Supplement to the Second Edition of the "Biographia
Literaria". By Henry Nelson Coleridge and Sara Coleridge. 1847.
F. Freiligrath. Memoir to the "Tauchnitz Edition" of the Poems of S. T.
E. H. Norton. Poetical and Dramatic Works, with Life of the Author. 3
vols. Boston, 1864.
Derwent Coleridge, Introductory Essay to Poems of S. T. C. Moxon and
W. M. Rossetti. Critical Memoir to the Edition of Poems of S. T. C. in
Moxon's "Popular Poets." 1872.
William Bell Scott. Introduction to Edition of the Poems in "Routledge's
Memoir prefixed to the Edition of the Poems of S. T. C. in "Lansdown"
Poets. F. Warne and Co. 1878.
R. Herne Shepherd. Life of S. T. C. prefixed to Macmillan's Edition of
the Poems of S. T. C. 4 vols. 1877-1880.
Memoir prefixed to the "Landscape Edition" of the Poems of S. T.
Coleridge. Edinburgh, 1881.
"Life of S. T. Coleridge". By H. Traill, "English Men of Letters
Thomas Ashe. "Life of S. T. Coleridge" prefixed to the "Aldine Edition"
of the Poems of S. T. C. 2 vols. 1885.
Professor Alois Brandl, Prague. "Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the English
Romantic School". English Edition by Lady Eastlake. 1887.
"The Life of S. T. Coleridge". By Hall Caine. "Great Writers Series."
Introductory Memoir by J. Dykes Campbell, prefixed to "Poetical Works of
S. T. C." Macmillan. 1893.
"Samuel Taylor Coleridge". A narrative of the events of his Life. By
James Dykes Campbell. 1894.
"Coleridge". Bell's "Miniature Series of Great Writers." By Richard
"La Vie d'un Poete--Coleridge". Par Joseph Aynard. Paris, 1907.
INTRODUCTIONS TO SELECTIONS OF THE POEMS OF S. T. C., 1869-1908
Algernon C. Swinburne. "Christabel and the Lyrical and Imaginative Poems
of S. T. Coleridge" (Sampson Low, and Co.). 1869.
Joseph Skipsey. Prefatory Notice to the "Canterbury Edition" of
Coleridge's Poems (Walter Scott).
Stopford A. Brooke. Introduction to the Golden Book of Coleridge (Dent
Andrew Lang. Introduction to Poems of S. T. C. (Longmans).
Richard Garnett. "The Poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge". The "Muses"
Library (Lawrence and Bullen, now Routledge). 1888.
"Coleridge's Select Poems". Edited by Andrew J. George, M. A. (Heath,
"Poems". Edited by E. H. Coleridge (Heinemann).
"Poems". Edited by Alice Meynell. "Red Letter Library" (Blackie).
"Poems of S. T. C." Edited by Professor Knight (Newnes).
"Poems of Coleridge", selected and arranged. Edited by Arthur Symons
(Methuen and Co.).
"The Poems of Coleridge". Illustrated by Gerald Metcalfe. With an
Introduction by E. Hartley Coleridge (John Lane). 1907.
"The Poems of S. T. Coleridge". "The World's Classics" (Frowde). Edited
by T. Quiller-Couch. 1908.
"Poems of Coleridge". "The Golden Poets." With an Introduction by
Professor Edward Dowden, LL.D. (Caxton Publishing Company).
1865. Article in the "North British Review" for December of this year.
1903. "From Ottery to Highgate, the story of the childhood and later
years of Samuel Taylor Coleridge". By Wilfred Brown (Coleberd and Co.,
Ltd., Ottery St. Mary).
CHAPTER I. EARLY YEARS I, 3
Letter 1. To Thomas Poole. -- Feby. 1797 5
2. " -- Mch. 1797 7
3. " 9 Oct. 1797 11
4. " 16 Oct. 1797 15
5. " 19 Feby. 1798 19
CHAPTER II. CAMBRIDGE AND PANTISOCRACY 29
Letter 6. To George Coleridge. 31 Mch. 1791 29
7. Robert Southey. 6 July, 1794 34
8. Henry Martin. 22 July, 1794 35
9. Southey. 6 Sept. 1794 42
10. " 18 Sept. 1794 43
11. Charles Heath. -- -- 1794 44
12. Henry Martin. 22 Sept. 1794 46
13. Southey. -- Dec. 1794 47
CHAPTER III. "THE WATCHMAN" 50
Letter 14. To Thomas Poole. 7 Oct. 1795 50
15. Joseph Cottle. -- Dec. 1795 52
16. " 1 Jany. 1796 52
17. Josiah Wade. -- Jany. 1796 55
18. " -- -- 1796 55
19. " -- -- 1796 56
20. " -- -- 1796 58
21. " 7 Jany. 1796 59
22. " -- Jany. 1796 60
23. Cottle. -- Feby. 1796 62
24. " -- -- 1796 62
25. " 22 Feby. 1796 63
26. Poole. 30 Mch. 1796 65
27. Benjamin Flower. 1 April, 1796
28. Caius Gracchus. 1 April, 1796
29. Poole. 11 April, 1796
30. Cottle. 15 April, 1796
31. " -- April, 1796
32. " -- April, 1796
33. Poole. 6 May, 1796
34. " 12 May, 1796
35. " 29 May, 1796
36. " 4 July, 1796
37. " -- Aug. 1796
38. Wade. -- Sept. 1796
39. Poole. 24 Sept. 1796
40. Charles Lamb. 29 Sept. 1796
41. Cottle. 18 Oct. 1796
42. Poole. 1 Nov. 1796
43. " 5 Nov. 1796
44. Charles Lloyd, Senr. 15 Oct. 1796
45. " 14 Nov. 1796
46. " 4 Dec. 1796
47. Poole. 26 Dec. 1796
CHAPTER IV. CONTEMPORARY PORTRAITS OF COLERIDGE
CHAPTER V. STOWEY
Letter 48. To Cottle. Jany. 1797
49. " 3 Jany. 1797
50. " 10 Jany. 1797
51. " Jany. 1797
52. " Jany. --
53. " Jany. --
54. " Feby. or Mch. 1797
55. " May, 1797
56. " -- --
57. " -- --
58. Wade. -- --
59. Cottle. -- --
60. " -- June, 1797
61. " 8 June, 1797
62. " 29 -- --
63. " 3-17 July, 1797
64. Wade. 17-20 July, 1797
Letter 65. To Cottle. --Sept. 1797
66. " 3 Sept. 1797
67. " 10-15 Sept. 1797
68. " 28 Nov. 1797
69. " 2 Dec. 1797
70. " --Jany. 1798
71. Wedgwood. --Jany. 1798
72. Cottle. 24 Jany. 1798
73. the Editor, "Monthly Mag." --Jany. 1798
CHAPTER VI. THE LYRICAL BALLADS AND GERMANY
Letter 74. To Cottle. 18 Feb. 1798
75. the Editor, "Morning Post." 10 Mch. 1798
76. Cottle. 8 Mch. 1798
77. Wade. 21 Mch. 1798
78. Cottle. Mch. or Apl. 1798
79. " 14 April, 1798
80. " --April, 1798
81. " --May, 1798
82. Mrs. Coleridge. 14 Jany. 1799
83. " 23 April, 1799
CHAPTER VII. THE RELIGION OF THE PINEWOODS
Letter 84. To Mrs. Coleridge. 17 May, 1799
CHAPTER VIII. RETURN TO ENGLAND, "WALLENSTEIN", AND
THE "MORNING POST"
Letter 85. To Josiah Wedgwood. 21 May, 1799
86. "the Editor, Morning Post." 21 Dec. 1799
87. " 10 Jany. 1800
88. Thomas Wedgwood. --Jany. 1800
89. Josiah Wedgwood. --Feby. 1800
90. Thomas Poole. --Mch. 1800
CHAPTER IX KESWICK
Letter 91. To William Godwin. 21 May, 1800
92. Humphry Davy. --June, 1800
93. Josiah Wedgwood. 24 July, 1800
94. Davy. 25 July, 1800
95. Godwin. 22 Sept. 1800
96. Davy. 9 Oct. 1800
97. Godwin. 13 Oct. 1800
98. Davy. 18 Oct. 1800
99. Josiah Wedgwood. 1 Nov. 1800
100. " 12 Nov. 1800
101. the Editor, "Monthly Review."18 Nov. 1800
102. Davy. 2 Dec. 1800
103. " 3 Feby. 1801
104. Wade. 6 March, 1801
105. Godwin. 25 March, 1801
PART II.--THE PERMANENT
CHAPTER X. ILL HEALTH; SOUTHEY COMES TO KESWICK
Letter 106. To Southey. 13 April, 1801
107. Davy. 4 May, 1801
108. " 20 May, 1801
109. Godwin. 23 June, 1801
110. Davy. 31 Oct. 1801
111. Thos. Wedgwood. 20 Oct. 1802
112. " 3 Nov. 1802
113. " 9 Jany. l803
114. " 14 Jany. 1803
115. " 10 Feby. 1803
116. " 10 Feby. 1803
117. " 17 Feby. 1803
118. " 17 Feby. 1803
119. Godwin. 4 June, 1803
120. " 10 July, 1803
121. Southey. -- July, 1803
122. Thos. Wedgwood. 16 Sept. 1803
123. Miss Cruikshank. -- -- 1803
124. Thos. Wedgwood. -- Jany. 1804
125. " 28 Jany. 1804
126. Davy. 6 Mch. 1804
127. Sarah Hutchinson. 10 March, 1804
128. Wedgwood. 24 March, 1804
129. Davy. 25 March, 1804
[1772 to 1791]
While here, thou fed'st upon etherial beams,
As if thou had'st not a terrestrial birth;--
Beyond material objects was thy sight;
In the clouds woven was thy lucid robe!
"Ah! who can tell how little for this sphere
That frame was fitted of empyreal fire!" 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the youngest child of the Reverend John
Coleridge, Chaplain-Priest and Vicar of the parish of Ottery St. Mary,
in the county of Devon, and Master of the Free Grammar, or King's
School, as it is called, founded by Henry VIII in that town. His
mother's maiden name was Ann Bowdon. He was born at Ottery on the 21st
of October 1772, "about eleven o'clock in the forenoon," as his father,
the Vicar, has, with rather unusual particularity, entered it in the
John Coleridge, who was born in 1719, and finished his education at
Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, was a country clergyman and
schoolmaster of no ordinary kind. He was a good Greek and Latin scholar,
a profound Hebraist, and, according to the measure of his day, an
accomplished mathematician. He was on terms of literary friendship with
Samuel Badcock, and, by his knowledge of Hebrew, rendered material
assistance to Dr. Kennicott, in his well known critical works. Some
curious papers on theological and antiquarian subjects appear with his
signature in the early numbers of "The Gentleman's Magazine", between
the years 1745 and 1780; almost all of which have been inserted in the
interesting volumes of Selections made several years ago from that work.
In 1768 he published miscellaneous Dissertations arising from the 17th
and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges; in which a very learned and
ingenious attempt is made to relieve the character of Micah from the
charge of idolatry ordinarily brought against it; and in 1772 appeared a
"Critical Latin Grammar", which his son called "his best work," and
which is not wholly unknown even now to the inquisitive by the proposed
substitution of the terms "prior, possessive, attributive, posterior,
interjective, and quale-quare-quidditive," for the vulgar names of the
cases. This little Grammar, however, deserves a philologer's perusal,
and is indeed in many respects a very valuable work in its kind. He also
published a Latin Exercise book, and a Sermon. His school was
celebrated, and most of the country gentlemen of that generation,
belonging to the south and east parts of Devon, had been his pupils.
Judge Buller was one. The amiable character and personal eccentricities
of this excellent man are not yet forgotten amongst some of the elders
of the parish and neighbourhood, and the latter, as is usual in such
cases, have been greatly exaggerated. He died suddenly in the month of
October 1781, after riding to Ottery from Plymouth, to which latter
place he had gone for the purpose of embarking his son Francis, as a
midshipman, for India. Many years afterwards, in 1797, S. T. Coleridge
commenced a series of Letters to his friend Thomas Poole, of Nether
Stowey, in the county of Somerset, in which he proposed to give an
account of his life up to that time. Five only were written, and
unfortunately they stop short of his residence at Cambridge. This series
will properly find a place here.
[Footnote 1: From a Sonnet To Coleridge by Sir Egerton Brydges--written
16th Feb. 1837. S. C.]
[Footnote 2: He was matriculated at Sidney a sizar on the 18th of March
1748, but does not appear to have taken any degree at the University. S.
LETTER 1. TO MR. POOLE
My Dear Poole,
I could inform the dullest author how he might write an interesting
book. Let him relate the events of his own life with honesty, not
disguising the feelings that accompanied them. I never yet read even a
Methodist's "Experience" in the Gospel Magazine without receiving
instruction and amusement; and I should almost despair of that man who
could peruse the Life of John Woolman without an amelioration of heart.
As to my Life, it has all the charms of variety,--high life and low
life, vices and virtues, great folly and some wisdom. However, what I am
depends on what I have been; and you, my best friend, have a right to
the narration. To me the task will be a useful one. It will renew and
deepen my reflections on the past; and it will perhaps make you behold
with no unforgiving or impatient eye those weaknesses and defects in my
character, which so many untoward circumstances have concurred in
My family on my Mother's side can be traced up, I know not how far. The
Bowdons inherited a good farm and house thereon in the Exmoor country,
in the reign of Elizabeth, as I have been told; and to my knowledge they
have inherited nothing better since that time. My Grandfather was in the
reign of George I a considerable woollen trader in Southmolton; so that
I suppose, when the time comes, I shall be allowed to pass as a
"Sans-culotte" without much opposition. My Father received a better
education than the rest of his family in consequence of his own
exertions, not of his superiour advantages. When he was not quite
sixteen years of age, my grandfather, by a series of misfortunes, was
reduced to great distress. My Father received the half of his last crown
and his blessing, and walked off to seek his fortune. After he had
proceeded a few miles, he sate him down on the side of the road, so
overwhelmed with painful thoughts that he wept audibly. A gentleman
passed by who knew him, and, inquiring into his sorrow, took him home
and gave him the means of maintaining himself by placing him in a
school. At this time he commenced being a severe and ardent student. He
married his first wife, by whom he had three daughters, all now alive.
While his first wife lived, having scraped up money enough, he at the
age of twenty walked to Cambridge, entered himself at Sidney College,
distinguished himself in Hebrew and Mathematics, and might have had a
fellowship if he had not been married. He returned and settled as a
schoolmaster in Southmolton where his wife died. In 1760 he was
appointed Chaplain-Priest and Master of the School at Ottery St. Mary,
and removed to that place; and in August, 1760, Mr. Buller, the father
of the present Judge, procured for him the living from Lord Chancellor
Bathurst. By my Mother, his second wife, he had ten children, of whom I
am the youngest, born October 20th, 1772.
These facts I received from my Mother; but I am utterly unable to fill
them up by any further particulars of times, or places, or names. Here I
shall conclude my first Letter, because I cannot pledge myself for the
accuracy of the accounts, and I will not therefore mingle it with that
for the truth of which, in the minutest parts, I shall hold myself
responsible. You must regard this Letter as a first chapter devoted to
dim traditions of times too remote to be pierced by the eye of
Yours affectionately, S. T. COLERIDGE.
Feb. 1797. Monday.
[Footnote 1: A mistake, should be October 21st.]
LETTER 2. To MR. POOLE
My Dear Poole,
My Father (Vicar of, and Schoolmaster at, Ottery St. Mary, Devon) was a
good mathematician, and well versed in the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew
languages. He published, or rather attempted to publish, several
works;--1st, Miscellaneous Dissertations arising from the 17th and 18th
chapters of the Book of Judges; 2d, "Sententiae Excerptcae" for the use
of his own School; and 3d, his best work, a Critical Latin Grammar, in
the Preface to which he proposes a bold innovation in the names of the
cases. My Father's new nomenclature was not likely to become popular,
although it must be allowed to be both sonorous and expressive. "Exempli
gratia", he calls the ablative case "the quare-quale-quidditive case!"
He made the world his confidant with respect to his learning and
ingenuity, and the world seems to have kept the secret very faithfully.
His various works, uncut, unthumbed, were preserved free from all
pollution in the family archives, where they may still be for anything
that I know. This piece of good luck promises to be hereditary; for all
"my" compositions have the same amiable home-staying propensity. The
truth is, my Father was not a first-rate genius; he was, however, a
first-rate Christian, which is much better. I need not detain you with
his character. In learning, goodheartedness, absentness of mind, and
excessive ignorance of the world, he was a perfect Parson Adams.
My Mother was an admirable economist, and managed exclusively. My
eldest brother's name was John. He was a Captain in the East India
Company's service; a successful officer and a brave one, as I have
heard. He died in India in 1786. My second brother William went to
Pembroke College, Oxford. He died a clergyman in 1780, just on the eve
of his intended marriage. My brother James has been in the army since
the age of fifteen, and has married a woman of fortune, one of the old
Duke family of Otterton in Devon. Edward, the wit of the family, went
to Pembroke College, and is now a clergyman. George also went to
Pembroke. He is in orders likewise, and now has the same School, a very
flourishing one, which my Father had. He is a man of reflective mind
and elegant talent. He possesses learning in a greater degree than any
of the family, excepting myself. His manners are grave, and hued over
with a tender sadness. In his moral character he approaches every way
nearer to perfection than any man I ever yet knew. He is worth us all.
Luke Herman was a surgeon, a severe student, and a good man. He died in
1790, leaving one child, a lovely boy still alive.  My only sister,
Ann, died at twenty-one, a little after my brother Luke:--
Rest, gentle Shade! and wait thy Maker's will; Then rise unchang'd, and
be an angel still!
Francis Syndercombe went out to India as a midshipman under Admiral
Graves. He accidentally met his brother John on board ship abroad, who
took him ashore, and procured him a commission in the Company's army. He
died in 1792, aged twenty-one, a Lieutenant, in consequence of a fever
brought on by excessive fatigue at and after the siege of Seringapatam,
and the storming of a hill fort, during all which his conduct had been
so gallant that his Commanding Officer particularly noticed him, and
presented him with a gold watch, which my Mother now has. All my
brothers are remarkably handsome; but they were as inferiour to Francis
as I am to them. He went by the name of "the handsome Coleridge." The
tenth and last child was Samuel Taylor, the subject and author of these
From October 1772 to October 1773. Baptized Samuel Taylor, my
Godfather's name being Samuel Taylor, Esquire. I had another called
Evans, and two Godmothers, both named Munday.
From October 1773 to October 1774. In this year I was carelessly left by
my nurse, ran to the fire, and pulled out a live coal, and burned myself
dreadfully. While my hand was being drest by Mr. Young, I spoke for the
first time, (so my Mother informs me) and said, "nasty Dr. Young!" The
snatching at fire, and the circumstance of my first words expressing
hatred to professional men--are they at all ominous? This year I went to
school. My Schoolmistress, the very image of Shenstone's, was named Old
Dame Key. She was nearly related to Sir Joshua Reynolds.
From October 1774 to 1775. I was inoculated; which I mention, because I
distinctly remember it, and that my eyes were bound; at which I
manifested so much obstinate indignation, that at last they removed the
bandage, and unaffrighted I looked at the lancet, and suffered the
scratch. At the close of this year I could read a chapter in the Bible.
Here I shall end, because the remaining years of my life all assisted to
form my particular mind;--the first three years had nothing in them that
seems to relate to it.
God bless you and your sincere S. T. COLERIDGE.
Sunday, March, 1797.
[Footnote 1: William Hart Coleridge, Bishop of Barbadoes and the Leeward
(He was appointed to that See in 1824, retired from it in 1842; and
afterwards accepted the Wardenship of St. Augustine's College,
Canterbury. S. C.) [He died in 1849.] ]
A letter from Francis S. Coleridge to his sister has been preserved in
the family, in which a particular account is given of the chance
meeting of the two brothers in India, mentioned shortly in the
preceding Letter. There is something so touching and romantic in the
incident that the Reader will, it is hoped, pardon the insertion of the
original narrative here.
You are very right, I have neglected my absent friends, but do not
think I have forgot them, and indeed it would be ungrateful in me if I
did not write to them.
You may be sure, Nancy, I thank Providence for bringing about that
meeting, which has been the cause of all my good fortune and happiness,
which I now in fulness enjoy. It was an affectionate meeting, and I
will inform you of the particulars. There was in our ship one Captain
Mordaunt, who had been in India before, when we came to Bombay. Finding
a number of his friends there he went often ashore. The day before the
Fleet sailed he desired one Captain Welsh to go aboard with him, who
was an intimate friend of your brother's. "I will," said Welsh, "and
will write a note to Coleridge to go with us." Upon this Captain
Mordaunt, recollecting me, said there was a young midshipman, a
favourite of Captain Hicks, of that name on board. Upon that they
agreed to inform my brother of it, which they did soon after, and all
three came on board. I was then in the lower deck, and, though you
won't believe it, I was sitting upon a gun and thinking of my brother,
that is, whether I should ever see or hear anything of him; when seeing
a Lieutenant, who had been sent to inform me of my brother's being on
board, I got up off the gun: but instead of telling me about my
brother, he told me that Captain Hicks was very angry with me and
wanted to see me. Captain Hicks had always been a Father to me, and
loved me as if I had been his own child. I therefore went up shaking
like an aspen leaf to the Lieutenant's apartments, when a Gentleman
took hold of my hand. I did not mind him at first, but looked round for
the Captain; but the Gentleman still holding my hand, I looked, and
what was my surprise, when I saw him too full to speak and his eyes
full of tears. Whether crying is catching I know not, but I began a
crying too, though I did not know the reason, till he caught me in his
arms, and told me he was my brother, and then I found I was paying
nature her tribute, for I believe I never cried so much in my life.
There is a saying in Robinson Crusoe, I remember very well,
viz.--sudden joy like grief confounds at first. We directly went ashore
having got my discharge, and having took a most affectionate leave of
Captain Hicks, I left the ship for good and all.
My situation in the army is that I am one of the oldest Ensigns, and
before you get this must in all probability be a Lieutenant. How many
changes there have been in my life, and what lucky ones they have been,
and how young I am still! I must be seven years older before I can
properly style myself a man, and what a number of officers do I command,
who are old enough to be my Father already!
LETTER 3. To MR. POOLE
October 9th, 1797.
My Dearest Poole,
From March to October--a long silence! But it is possible that I may
have been preparing materials for future Letters, and the time cannot be
considered as altogether subtracted from you.
From October 1775 to October 1778. These three years I continued at the
Reading School, because I was too little to be trusted among my Father's
schoolboys. After break-fast I had a halfpenny given me, with which I
bought three cakes at the baker's shop close by the school of my old
mistress; and these were my dinner every day except Saturday and Sunday,
when I used to dine at home, and wallowed in a beef and pudding dinner.
I am remarkably fond of beans and bacon: and this fondness I attribute
to my Father's giving me a penny for having eaten a large quantity of
beans on Saturday. For the other boys did not like them, and, as it was
an economic food, my Father thought my attachment to it ought to be
encouraged. He was very fond of me, and I was my Mother's darling: in
consequence whereof I was very miserable. For Molly, who had nursed my
brother Francis, and was immoderately fond of him, hated me because my
Mother took more notice of me than of Frank; and Frank hated me because
my Mother gave me now and then a bit of cake when he had none,--quite
forgetting that for one bit of cake which I had and he had not, he had
twenty sops in the pan, and pieces of bread and butter with sugar on
them from Molly, from whom I received only thumps and ill names.
So I became fretful, and timorous, and a tell-tale; and the schoolboys
drove me from play, and were always tormenting me. And hence I took no
pleasure in boyish sports, but read incessantly. I read through all
gilt-cover little books that could be had at that time, and likewise all
the uncovered tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant Killer, and the
like. And I used to lie by the wall, and mope; and my spirits used to
come upon me suddenly, and in a flood;--and then I was accustomed to run
up and down the churchyard, and act over again all I had been reading on
the docks, the nettles, and the rank grass. At six years of age I
remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarles;
and then I found the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, one tale of which,
(the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin,) made so
deep an impression on me, (I had read it in the evening while my mother
was at her needle,) that I was haunted by spectres, whenever I was in
the dark: and I distinctly recollect the anxious and fearful eagerness,
with which I used to watch the window where the book lay, and when the
sun came upon it, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask, and
read. My father found out the effect which these books had produced, and
So I became a dreamer, and acquired an indisposition to all bodily
activity; and I was fretful, and inordinately passionate; and as I could
not play at anything, and was slothful, I was despised and hated by the
boys: and because I could read and spell, and had, I may truly say, a
memory and understanding forced into almost unnatural ripeness, I was
flattered and wondered at by all the old women. And so I became very
vain, and despised most of the boys that were at all near my own age,
and before I was eight years old I was a "character". Sensibility,
imagination, vanity, sloth, and feelings of deep and bitter contempt for
almost all who traversed the orbit of my understanding, were even then
prominent and manifest.
From October 1778 to 1779. That which I began to be from three to six, I
continued to be from six to nine. In this year I was admitted into the
Grammar School, and soon outstripped all of my age. I had a dangerous
putrid fever this year. My brother George lay ill of the same fever in
the next room. My poor brother, Francis, I remember, stole up in spite
of orders to the contrary, and sat by my bedside, and read Pope's Homer
to me. Frank had a violent love of beating me; but whenever that was
superseded by any humour or circumstances, he was always very fond of
me, and used to regard me with a strange mixture of admiration and
contempt. Strange it was not, for he hated books, and loved climbing,
fighting, playing, and robbing orchards, to distraction. My Mother
relates a story of me, which I repeat here, because it must be reckoned
as my first piece of wit.--During my fever, I asked why Lady Northcote,
our neighbour, did not come and see me. My Mother said she was afraid of
catching the fever. I was piqued, and answered, "Ah! Mamma! the four
Angels round my bed a'n't afraid of catching it!" I suppose you know the
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on!--
Four good Angels round me spread,
Two at my feet and two at my head.
This "prayer" I said nightly, and most firmly believed the truth of it.
Frequently have I, (half-awake and half-asleep; my body diseased, and
fevered by my imagination,)--seen armies of ugly things bursting in upon
me, and these four Angels keeping them off.
In my next I shall carry on my life to my Father's death.
God bless you, my dear Poole,
And your affectionate, S.T. COLERIDGE.
In a note written in after life Mr. Coleridge speaks of this period of
his life in the following terms:
"Being the youngest child, I possibly inherited the weakly state of
health of my Father, who died, at the age of sixty-two, before I had
reached my ninth year; and from certain jealousies of old Molly, my
brother Frank's dotingly fond nurse--and if ever child by beauty and
loveliness deserved to be doted on, my brother Francis was that
child--and by the infusion of her jealousies into my brother's mind, I
was in earliest childhood huffed away from the enjoyments of muscular
activity in play, to take refuge at my Mother's side on my little stool,
to read my little book, and to listen to the talk of my elders. I was
driven from life in motion to life in thought and sensation. I never
played except by myself, and then only acted over what I had been
reading or fancying, or half one, half the other, with a stick cutting
down weeds and nettles, as one of the "Seven Champions of Christendom."
Alas! I had all the simplicity, all the docility of the little child,
but none of the child's habits. I never thought as a child, never had
the language of a child." 
[Footnote 1: Gillman's "Life of Coleridge", p. 10.]
LETTER 4. TO MR. POOLE
From October 1779 to 1781. I had asked my Mother one evening to cut my
cheese entire, so that I might toast it. This was no easy matter, it
being a "crumbly" cheese. My Mother however did it. I went into the
garden for something or other, and in the mean time my brother Frank
minced my cheese, to "disappoint the favourite." I returned, saw the
exploit, and in an agony of passion flew at Frank. He pretended to have
been seriously hurt by my blow, flung himself on the ground, and there
lay with outstretched limbs. I hung over him mourning and in a great
fright; he leaped up, and with a horse-laugh gave me a severe blow in
the face. I seized a knife, and was running at him, when my Mother came
in and took me by the arm. I expected a flogging, and, struggling from
her, I ran away to a little hill or slope, at the bottom of which the
Otter flows, about a mile from Ottery. There I staid; my rage died away,
but my obstinacy vanquished my fears, and taking out a shilling book,
which had at the end morning and evening prayers, I very devoutly
repeated them--thinking at the same time with a gloomy inward
satisfaction--how miserable my Mother must be! I distinctly remember my
feelings, when I saw a Mr. Vaughan pass over the bridge at about a
furlong's distance, and how I watched the calves in the fields beyond
the river. It grew dark, and I fell asleep. It was towards the end of
October, and it proved a stormy night. I felt the cold in my sleep, and
dreamed that I was pulling the blanket over me, and actually pulled over
me a dry thorn-bush which lay on the ground near me. In my sleep I had
rolled from the top of the hill till within three yards of the river,
which flowed by the unfenced edge of the bottom. I awoke several times,
and finding myself wet, and cold, and stiff, closed my eyes again that I
might forget it.
In the meantime my Mother waited about half an hour, expecting my return
when the "sulks" had evaporated. I not returning, she sent into the
churchyard, and round the town. Not found! Several men and all the boys
were sent out to ramble about and seek me. In vain! My Mother was almost
distracted; and at ten o'clock at night I was 'cried' by the crier
in Ottery, and in two villages near it, with a reward offered for me. No
one went to bed;--indeed I believe half the town were up all the night.
To return to myself. About five in the morning, or a little after, I was
broad awake, and attempted to get up, and walk; but I could not move. I
saw the shepherds and workmen at a distance, and cried, but so faintly,
that it was impossible to hear me thirty yards off. And there I might
have lain and died;--for I was now almost given over, the ponds and even
the river, near which I was lying, having been dragged. But
providentially Sir Stafford Northcote, who had been out all night,
resolved to make one other trial, and came so near that he heard me
crying. He carried me in his arms for nearly a quarter of a mile, when
we met my father and Sir Stafford Northcote's servants. I remember, and
never shall forget, my Father's face as he looked upon me while I lay in
the servant's arms--so calm, and the tears stealing down his face; for I
was the child of his old age. My Mother, as you, may suppose, was
outrageous with joy. Meantime in rushed a young lady, crying out--"I
hope you'll whip him, Mrs. Coleridge." This woman still lives at Ottery;
and neither philosophy nor religion has been able to conquer the
antipathy which I feel towards her, whenever I see her. I was put to
bed, and recovered in a day or so. But I was certainly injured; for I
was weakly and subject to ague for many years after.
My Father--who had so little parental ambition in him, that, but for my
Mother's pride and spirit, he would certainly have brought up his other
sons to trades--had nevertheless resolved that I should be a parson. I
read every book that came in my way without distinction; and my Father
was fond of me, and used to take me on his knee, and hold long
conversations with me. I remember, when eight years old, walking with
him one winter evening from a farmer's house, a mile from Ottery; and he
then told me the names of the stars, and how Jupiter was a thousand
times larger than our world, and that the other twinkling stars were
suns that had worlds rolling round them; and when I came home, he showed
me how they rolled round. I heard him with a profound delight and
admiration, but without the least mixture of wonder or incredulity. For
from my early reading of fairy tales and about genii, and the like, my
mind had been habituated "to the Vast"; and I never regarded "my senses"
in any way as the "criteria" of my belief. I regulated all my creeds by
my conceptions, not by my sight, even at that age. Ought children to be
permitted to read romances, and stories of giants, magicians, and genii?
I know all that has been said against it; but I have formed my faith in
the affirmative. I know no other way of giving the mind a love of the
Great and the Whole. Those who have been led to the same truths step by
step, through the constant testimony of their senses, seem to me to want
a sense which I possess. They contemplate nothing but parts, and all
parts are necessarily little, and the universe to them is but a mass of
little things. It is true, the mind may become credulous and prone to
superstition by the former method;--but are not the experimentalists
credulous even to madness in believing any absurdity, rather than
believe the grandest truths, if they have not the testimony of their own
senses in their favour? I have known some who have been rationally
educated, as it is styled. They were marked by a microscopic acuteness;
but when they looked at great things, all became a blank, and they saw
nothing, and denied that anything could be seen, and uniformly put the
negative of a power for the possession of a power, and called the want
of imagination, judgment, and the never being moved to rapture,
Towards the latter end of September 1781, my Father went to Plymouth
with my brother Francis, who was to go out as midshipman under Admiral
Graves, who was a friend of my Father's. He settled Frank as he wished,
and returned on the 4th of October, 1781. He arrived at Exeter about six
o'clock, and was pressed to take a bed there by the friendly family of
the Harts; but he refused; and to avoid their entreaties he told them
that he had never been superstitious, but that the night before he had
had a dream, which had made a deep impression on him. He dreamed that
Death had appeared to him, as he is commonly painted, and had touched
him with his dart. Well, he returned home; and all his family, I
excepted, were up. He told my Mother his dream; but he was in high
health and good spirits; and there was a bowl of punch made, and my
Father gave a long and particular account of his travel, and that he had
placed Frank under a religious Captain, and so forth. At length he went
to bed, very well and in high spirits. A short time after he had lain
down, he complained of a pain in his bowels, to which he was subject,
from wind. My Mother got him some peppermint water, which he took, and
after a pause, he said, "I am much better now, my dear!"--and lay down
again. In a minute my Mother heard a noise in his throat, and spoke to
him, but he did not answer; and she spoke repeatedly in vain. Her shriek
awaked me, and I said--"Papa is dead!" I did not know my Father's
return; but I knew that he was expected. How I came to think of his
death, I cannot tell; but so it was. Dead he was. Some said it was gout
in the heart;--probably it was a fit of apoplexy. He was an Israelite
without guile, simple, generous, and, taking some Scripture texts in
their literal sense, he was conscientiously indifferent to the good and
the evil of this world. God love you and
He was buried at Ottery on the 10th of October 1781. "O! that I might so
pass away," said Coleridge, thirty years afterwards, "if, like him, I
were an Israelite without guile! The image of my Father, very reverend,
kind, learned, simple-hearted Father is a religion to me."
At his Father's death Coleridge was nearly nine years old. He continued
with his Mother at Ottery till the spring of 1782, when he was sent to
London to wait the appointed time for admission into Christ's Hospital,
to which a presentation had been procured from Mr. John Way through the
influence of his father's old pupil Sir Francis Buller. Ten weeks he
lived in London with an Uncle, and was entered in the books on the 8th
of July 1782.
LETTER 5. TO MR. POOLE
From October 1781 to October 1782. After the death of my Father, we, of
course, changed houses, and I remained with my Mother till the spring of
1782, and was a day scholar to Parson Warren, my Father's successor. He
was not very deep, I believe; and I used to delight my poor Mother by
relating little instances of his deficiency in grammar knowledge--every
detraction from his merits seeming an oblation to the memory of my
Father, especially as Warren did certainly "pulpitize" much better.
Somewhere I think about April 1782, Judge Buller, who had been educated
by my Father, sent for me, having procured a Christ's Hospital
presentation. I accordingly went to London, and was received and
entertained by my Mother's brother, Mr. Bowdon. He was generous as the
air, and a man of very considerable talents, but he was fond, as others
have been, of his bottle. He received me with great affection, and I
staid ten weeks at his house, during which I went occasionally to Judge
Buller's. My Uncle was very proud of me, and used to carry me from
coffee-house to coffee-house, and tavern to tavern, where I drank, and
talked, and disputed as if I had been a man. Nothing was more common
than for a large party to exclaim in my hearing, that I was a prodigy,
and so forth; so that while I remained at my Uncle's, I was most
completely spoilt and pampered, both mind and body.
At length the time came, and I donned the blue coat and yellow
stockings, and was sent down to Hertford, a town twenty miles from
London, where there are about three hundred of the younger Blue-coat
boys. At Hertford I was very happy on the whole, for I had plenty to eat
and drink, and we had pudding and vegetables almost every day. I
remained there six weeks, and then was drafted up to the great school in
London, where I arrived in September, 1782, and was placed in the second
ward, then called Jefferies' Ward, and in the Under Grammar School.
There are twelve wards, or dormitories, of unequal sizes, beside the
sick ward, in the great school; and they contained altogether seven
hundred boys, of whom I think nearly one-third were the sons of
clergymen. There are five schools,--mathematical, grammar, drawing,
reading, and writing--all very large buildings. When a boy is admitted,
if he reads very badly, he is either sent to Hertford, or to the reading
school. Boys are admissible from seven to twelve years of age. If he
learns to read tolerably well before nine, he is drafted into the Lower
Grammar School, if not, into the Writing School, as having given proof
of unfitness for classical studies. If, before he is eleven, he climbs
up to the first form of the Lower Grammar School, he is drafted into the
Head Grammar School. If not, at eleven years of age, he is sent into the
Writing School, where he continues till fourteen or fifteen, and is then
either apprenticed or articled as a clerk, or whatever else his turn of
mind or of fortune shall have provided for him. Two or three times a
year the Mathematical Master beats up for recruits for the King's boys,
as they are called; and all who like the navy are drafted into the
Mathematical and Drawing Schools, where they continue till sixteen or
seventeen years of age, and go out as midshipmen, and schoolmasters in
the Navy. The boys who are drafted into the Head Grammar School, remain
there till thirteen; and then, if not chosen for the University, go into
the Writing School.
Each dormitory has a nurse or matron, and there is a head matron to
superintend all these nurses. The boys were, when I was admitted, under
excessive subordination to each other according to rank in school; and
every ward was governed by four Monitors,--appointed by the Steward, who
was the supreme governor out of school--our temporal lord,--and by four
Markers, who wore silver medals, and were appointed by the Head Grammar
Master, who was our supreme spiritual lord. The same boys were commonly
both Monitors and Markers. We read in classes on Sundays to our Markers,
and were catechised by them, and under their sole authority during
prayers, etc. All other authority was in the Monitors; but, as I said,
the same boys were ordinarily both the one and the other. Our diet was
very scanty. Every morning a bit of dry bread and some bad small beer.
Every evening a larger piece of bread, and cheese or butter, whichever
we liked. For dinner,--on Sunday, boiled beef and broth; Monday, bread
and butter, and milk and water; Tuesday, roast mutton; Wednesday, bread
and butter, and rice milk; Thursday, boiled beef and broth; Friday,
boiled mutton and broth; Saturday, bread and butter, and pease-porridge.
Our food was portioned; and, excepting on Wednesdays, I never had a
belly full. Our appetites were damped, never satisfied; and we had no
[Footnote 1: The above five letters are I-V of Mr. E. H. Coleridge's
"Letters of S. T. C". Letter VI is dated 1785; Letter VII of "Letters"
is dated "before 1790."]
S. T. COLERIDGE.
"O! what a change!" he writes in another note; "depressed, moping,
friendless, poor orphan, half starved; at that time the portion of food
to the Blue-coats was cruelly insufficient for those who had no friends
to supply them." And he afterwards says:--"When I was first plucked up
and transplanted from my birth-place and family, at the death of my dear
Father, whose revered image has ever survived in my mind to make me know
what the emotions and affections of a son are, and how ill a father's
place is likely to be supplied by any other relation, Providence, (it
has often occurred to me,) gave me the first intimation that it was my
lot, and that it was best for me, to make or find my way of life a
detached individual, a "terrae filius", who was to ask love or service
of no one on any more specific relation than that of being a man, and as
such to take my chance for the free charities of humanity."
Coleridge continued eight years at Christ's Hospital. It was a very
curious and important part of his life, giving him Bowyer for his
teacher, and Lamb for his friend. 
[Footnote 1: A few particulars of this "most remarkable and amiable
man," the well-known author of "Essays of Elia, Rosamund Gray, Poems",
and other works, will interest most readers of the "Biographia".
He was born on the 18th of February, 1775, in the Inner Temple; died
27th December, 1834, about five months after his friend Coleridge, who
continued in habits of intimacy with him from their first acquaintance
till his death in July of the same year. In "one of the most exquisite
of all the Essays of Elia," "The Old Benchers of the Middle Temple"
("Works", vol. ii, p. 188), Lamb has given the characters of his father,
and of his father's master, Samuel Salt. The few touches descriptive of
this gentleman's "unrelenting bachelorhood"--which appears in the sequel
to have been a persistent mourner-hood--and the forty years' hopeless
passion of mild Susan P.--which very permanence redeems and almost
dignifies, is in the author's sweetest vein of mingled humour and
pathos, wherein the latter, as the stronger ingredient, predominates.
Mr. Lamb never married, for, as is recorded in the Memoir, "on the death
of his parents, he felt himself called upon by duty to repay to his
sister [a] the solicitude with which she had watched over his infancy. To
her, from the age of twenty-one he devoted his existence, seeking
thenceforth no connection which could interfere with her supremacy in
his affections, or impair his ability to sustain and to comfort her."
[[Sub-footnote a: "A word Timidly uttered, for she "lives", the meek,
The self-restraining, the ever kind."
From Mr. Wordsworth's memorial poem to her brother. P. W. V. P. 333.]]
Mr. Coleridge speaks of Miss Lamb, to whom he continued greatly
attached, in these verses, addressed to her brother:
"Cheerily, dear Charles!
Thou thy best friend shall cherish many a year;
Such warm presages feel I of high hope!
For not uninterested the dear maid
I've viewed--her soul affectionate yet wise,
Her polished wit as mild as lambent glories
That play around a sainted infant's head."
(See the single volume of Coleridge's Poems, p. 28.)
Mr. Lamb has himself described his dear and only sister, whose proper
name is Mary Anne, under the title of "Cousin Bridget," in the Essay
called "Mackery End", a continuation of that entitled "My Relations", in
which he has drawn the portrait of his elder brother. "Bridget Elia," so
he commences the former, "has been my housekeeper for many a long year.
I have obligations to Bridget, extending beyond the period of memory. We
house together, old bachelor and maid, in a sort of double singleness;
with such tolerable comfort upon the whole, that I, for one, find in
myself no sort of disposition to go out upon the mountains, with the
rash king's offspring, to bewail my celibacy."--("Works", vol. ii, p.
171.) He describes her intellectual tastes in this essay, but does not
refer to her literary abilities. She wrote "Mrs. Leicester's School",
which Mr. C. used warmly to praise for delicacy of taste and tenderness
Miss Lamb still survives, in the words of Mr. Talfourd, "to mourn the
severance of a life-long association, as free from every alloy of
selfishness, as remarkable for moral beauty, as this world ever
witnessed in brother and sister. "I have felt desirous to place in
relief, as far as might be, such an interesting union--to show how blest
a fraternal marriage may be, and what sufficient helpmates a brother and
sister have been to each other. Marriages of this kind would perhaps be
more frequent but for the want of some pledge or solid warranty of
continuance equivalent to that which rivets wedlock between husband and
wife. Without the vow and the bond, formal or virtual, no society, from
the least to the greatest, will hold together. Many persons are so
constituted that they cannot feel rest or satisfaction of spirit without
a single supreme object of tender affection, in whose heart they are
conscious of holding a like supremacy,--who has common hopes, loves, and
interests with themselves. Without this the breezes do not refresh nor
the sunbeams gladden them. A "share" in ever so many kind hearts does
not suffice to their happiness; they must have the whole of one, as no
one else has any part of it, whatever love of another kind that heart
may still reserve for others. There is no reason why a brother and
sister might not be to each other this second-self--this dearer
half--though such an attachment is beyond mere fraternal love, and must
have something in it "of choice and election," superadded to the natural
tie: but it is seldom found to exist, because the durable cement is
wanting--the sense of security and permanence, without which the body of
affection cannot be consolidated, nor the heart commit itself to its
whole capacity of emotion. I believe that many a brother and sister
spend their days in uncongenial wedlock, or in a restless faintly
expectant-singlehood, who might form a "comfortable couple" could they
but make up their minds early to take each other for better for worse.
Two other poems of Mr. C. besides the one in which his sister is
mentioned, are addressed to Mr. Lamb--"This Lime-tree-bower my Prison",
and the lines "To a Friend, who had declared his intention of writing no
more Poetry".--("Poetical Works", i, p. 201 and p. 205.) In a letter to
the author ("Ainger", i, p. 121), Lamb inveighs against the soft epithet
applied to him in the first of these. He hoped his ""virtues" had done
"sucking""--and declared such praise fit only to be a "cordial to some
"Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My "gentle-hearted" Charles! for thou hast pined
And hungered after nature, many a year,
In the great city pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul through evil and pain
And strange calamity."
In the next poem he is called "wild-eyed boy." The two epithets,
"wild-eyed" and "gentle-hearted," will recall Charles Lamb to the minds
of all who knew him personally. Mr. Talfourd seems to think that the
special delight in the country, ascribed to him by my father, was a
distinction scarcely merited. I rather imagine that his indifference to
it was a sort of "mock apparel" in which it was his humour at times to
invest himself. I have been told that, when visiting the Lakes, he took
as much delight in the natural beauties of the region as might be
expected from a man of his taste and sensibility. [b]
"Thou wert a scorner of the field, my Friend,
But more in show than truth."
From Mr. W.'s poem "To a good man of most dear memory", quoted in p.
Mr. Coleridge's expression, recorded in the "Table Talk", that he
"looked on the degraded men and things around him like moonshine on a
dunghill, that shines and takes no pollution," partly alludes to that
tolerance of moral evil, both in men and books, which was so much
remarked in Charles Lamb, and was, in so good a man, really remarkable.
His toleration of it in books is conspicuous in the view he takes of the
writings of Congreve and Wycherley, in his essay on the artificial
comedy of the last century ("Works", vol. ii, p. 322), and in many of
his other literary criticisms. His toleration of it in men--at least his
faculty of merging some kinds and degrees of it in concomitant good, or
even beholding certain errors rather as objects of interest, or of a
meditative pity and tenderness, than of pure aversion and condemnation,
Mr. Talfourd has feelingly described in his "Memoir" (vol. ii, p.
326-9), "Not only to opposite opinions," he says, "and devious habits of
thought was Lamb indulgent; he discovered the soul of goodness in things
evil so vividly, that the surrounding evil disappeared from his mental
vision." This characteristic of his mind is not to be identified with
the idolizing propensity common to many ardent and imaginative spirits.
He "not only loved his friends in spite of their errors," as Mr.
Talfourd observes, "but loved them, "errors and all";" which implies
that he was not unconscious of their existence. He saw the failings as
plainly as any one else, nay, fixed his gentle but discerning eye upon
them; whereas the idolizers behold certain objects in a bedarkening
blaze of light, or rather of light-confounding brightness, the
multiplied and heightened reflection of whatever is best in them, to the
obscurity or transmutation of all their defects. Whence it necessarily
follows that the world presents itself to their eyes divided, like a
chess-board, into black and white compartments--a moral and intellectual
chequer-work; not that they love to make darkness, but that they
luxuriate too eagerly in light: and their "over-muchness" toward some
men involves an over-littleness towards others, whom they involuntarily
contrast, in all their poor and peccant reality, with gorgeous
idealisms. The larger half of mankind is exiled for them into a
hemisphere of shadow, as dim, cold, and negative as the unlit portion of
the crescent moon. Lamb's general tendency, though he too could warmly
admire, was in a different direction; he was ever introducing streaks
and gleams of light into darkness, rather than drowning certain objects
in floods of it; and this, I think, proceeded in him from indulgence
toward human nature rather than from indifference to evil. To his friend
the disposition to exalt and glorify co-existed, in a very remarkable
manner, with a power of severe analysis of character and poignant
exhibition of it,--a power which few possess without exercising it some
time or other to their own sorrow and injury. The consequence to Mr.
Coleridge was that he sometimes seemed untrue to himself, when he had
but brought forward, one after another, perfectly real and sincere moods
of his mind.
In his fine poem commemorating the deaths of several poets, Mr.
Wordsworth thus joins my father's name with that of his almost life-long
"Nor has the rolling year twice measured,
From sign to sign, its steadfast course,
Since every mortal power of Coleridge
Was frozen at its marvellous source;
The rapt One of the godlike forehead,
The heaven-eyed creature sleeps in earth;
And Lamb, the frolic and the gentle,
Has vanished from his lonely hearth."
S. C. Footnote 1 ends: main text resumes:]
Numerous retrospective notices by himself and others exist of this
period; but none of his really boyish letters have been preserved. The
exquisite Essay intitled, "Christ's Hospital five and thirty years
ago", by Lamb, is principally founded on that delightful writer's
recollections of the boy Coleridge, and that boy's own subsequent
descriptions of his school days. Coleridge is Lamb's "poor friendless
boy."--"My parents and those who should care for me, were far away.
Those few acquaintances of theirs, which they could reckon upon being
kind to me in the great city, after a little forced notice, which they
had the grace to take of me on my first arrival in town, soon grew tired
of my holiday visits. They seemed to them to recur too often, though I
thought them few enough; and, one after another, they all failed me, and
I felt myself alone among six hundred playmates. O the cruelty of
separating a poor lad from his early homestead! The yearnings which I
used to have toward it in those unfledged years! How, in my dreams would
my native town, far in the west, come back with its church, its trees,
and faces! How I would wake weeping, and in the anguish of my heart
exclaim upon sweet "Calne in Wiltshire!""
Yet it must not be supposed that Coleridge was an unhappy boy. He was
naturally of a joyous temperament, and in one amusement, swimming, he
excelled and took singular delight. Indeed he believed, and probably
with truth, that his health was seriously injured by his excess in
bathing, coupled with such tricks as swimming across the New River in
his clothes, and drying them on his back, and the like. But reading was
a perpetual feast to him. "From eight to fourteen," he writes, "I was a
playless day-dreamer, a "helluo librorum", my appetite for which was
indulged by a singular incident: a stranger, who was struck by my
conversation, made me free of a circulating library in King Street,
Cheapside."--"Here," he proceeds, "I read through the catalogue, folios
and all, whether I understood them, or did not understand them, running
all risks in skulking out to get the two volumes which I was entitled to
have daily. Conceive what I must have been at fourteen; I was in a
continual low fever. My whole being was, with eyes closed to every
object of present sense, to crumple myself up in a sunny comer, and
read, read, read,--fancy myself on Robinson Crusoe's island, finding a
mountain of plum-cake, and eating a room for myself, and then eating it
into the shapes of tables and chairs--hunger and fancy!"--"My talents
and superiority," he continues, "made me for ever at the head in my
routine of study, though utterly without the desire to be so; without a
spark of ambition; and as to emulation, it had no meaning for me; but
the difference between me and my form-fellows, in our lessons and
exercises, bore no proportion to the measureless difference between me
and them in the wide, wild, wilderness of useless, unarranged book
knowledge and book thoughts. Thank Heaven! it was not the age for
getting up prodigies; but at twelve or fourteen I should have made as
pretty a juvenile prodigy as was ever emasculated and ruined by fond and
idle wonderment. Thank Heaven! I was flogged instead of being flattered.
However, as I climbed up the school, my lot was somewhat alleviated."
CAMBRIDGE AND PANTISOCRACY
(1791 to 1795)
Come back into memory, like as thou wert in the day-spring of thy
fancies, with Hope like a fiery column before thee--the dark pillar
not yet turned--Samuel Taylor Coleridge--Logician, Metaphysician,
S. T. Coleridge entered at Jesus College, Cambridge, the 5th of
February, 1791. [He did not go into residence till October 1791.]
The poems he wrote about this time and during his first vacation at
College are rather conventional, and give few indications of his future
deft handling of verse. His "Mathematical Problem" sent to his brother
George, is a piece of droll nonsense, but the letter accompanying it is
much better than the verse. It reads as follows:
LETTER 6. TO GEORGE COLERIDGE, WITH A POEM ENTITLED "A MATHEMATICAL
I have often been surprised that Mathematics, the quintessence of Truth,
should have found admirers so few and so languid. Frequent consideration
and minute scrutiny have at length unravelled the cause; viz. that
though Reason is feasted, Imagination is starved; whilst Reason is
luxuriating in its proper Paradise, Imagination is wearily travelling on
a dreary desert. To assist Reason by the stimulus of Imagination is the
design of the following production. In the execution of it much may be
objectionable. The verse (particularly in the introduction of the ode)
may be accused of unwarrantable liberties, but they are liberties
equally homogeneal with the exactness of Mathematical disquisition, and
the boldness of Pindaric daring. I have three strong champions to defend
me against the attacks of Criticism: the Novelty, the Difficulty, and
the Utility of the work. I may justly plume myself that I first have
drawn the nymph Mathesis from the visionary caves of abstracted idea,
and caused her to unite with Harmony. The first-born of this Union I now
present to you; with interested motives indeed--as I expect to receive
in return the more valuable offspring of your Muse.
Thine ever S. T. C.
Christ's Hospital, March 31, 1791. 
[Footnote 1: Letters VIII-XXXI follow No. 6 of our collection.]
The piece of doggerel, to which this epistle is a preface, will be found
in vol. ii, p. 386, of the Aldine Edition of Coleridge's Poems.
Coleridge's brother George also wrote verses, and "Mathematical Problem"
is just one of the cantrips in verse that passed between the brothers.]
He gained Sir William Browne's gold medal for the Greek Ode in the
summer of that year. It was on the Slave Trade. The poetic force and
originality of this Ode were, as he said himself, much beyond the
language in which they were conveyed. In the winter of 1792-3 he stood
for the University (Craven) Scholarship with Dr. Keate, the late
head-master of Eton, Mr. Bethell (of Yorkshire) and Bishop Butler, who
was the successful candidate. In 1793 he wrote without success for the
Greek Ode on Astronomy, the prize for which was gained by Dr. Keate. The
original is not known to exist, but the reader may see what is probably
a very free version of it by Mr. Southey in his Minor Poems. ("Poetical
Works", vol. ii, p. 170.) "Coleridge"--says a schoolfellow  of his
who followed him to Cambridge in 1792, "was very studious, but his
reading was desultory and capricious. He took little exercise merely for
the sake of exercise: but he was ready at any time to unbend his mind in
conversation; and, for the sake of this, his room, (the ground-floor
room on the right hand of the staircase facing the great gate,) was a
constant rendezvous of conversation-loving friends. I will not call them
loungers, for they did not call to kill time, but to enjoy it. What
evenings have I spent in those rooms! What little suppers, or "sizings",
as they were called, have I enjoyed; when Aeschylus, and Plato, and
Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons and the like, to
discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon a pamphlet issued from
the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before
us;--Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would
repeat whole pages "verbatim"."--"College Reminiscences, Gentleman's
Mag"., Dec. 1834.
[Footnote 1: C. V. Le Grice.]
In May and June, 1793, Frend's trial took place in the Vice-
Chancellor's Court, and in the Court of Delegates, at Cambridge. Frend
was a Fellow of Jesus, and a slight acquaintance had existed between
him and Coleridge, who however soon became his partizan. Mr. C. used
to relate a remarkable incident, which is thus preserved by Mr.
Gillman:--"The trial was observed by Coleridge to be going against
Frend, when some observation or speech was made in his favour;--a
dying hope thrown out, as it appeared, to Coleridge, who in the midst
of the Senate House, whilst sitting on one of the benches, extended
his hands and clapped them. The Proctor in a loud voice demanded who
had committed this indecorum. Silence ensued. The Proctor, in an
elevated tone, said to a young man sitting near Coleridge, "Twas you,
Sir!' The reply was as prompt as the accusation; for, immediately
holding out the stump of his right arm, it appeared that he had lost
his hand;--'I would, Sir,' said he, 'that I had the power!' That no
innocent person should incur blame, Coleridge went directly afterwards
to the Proctor, who told him that he saw him clap his hands, but fixed
on this person, who he knew had not the power. 'You have had,' said
he, 'a narrow escape.'"--"Life of S. T. C"., i, p. 55.
Coleridge passed the summer of 1793 at Ottery, and whilst there wrote
his "Songs of the Pixies" ("Poetical Works", i, p. 13), and some other
little pieces. He returned to Cambridge in October, but, in the
following month, in a moment of despondency and vexation of spirit,
occasioned principally by some debts not amounting to L100 he suddenly
left his college and went to London. In a few days he was reduced to
want, and observing a recruiting advertisement he resolved to get bread
and overcome a prejudice at the same time by becoming a soldier. He
accordingly applied to the sergeant, and after some delay was marched
down to Reading, where he regularly enlisted as a private in the 15th
Light Dragoons on the 3d of December, 1793. He kept his initials under
the names of Silas Tomkyn Comberbacke. "I sometimes," he writes in a
letter, "compare my own life with that of Steele, (yet O! how
unlike!)--led to this from having myself also for a brief time borne
arms, and written 'private' after my name, or rather another name; for,
being at a loss when suddenly asked my name, I answered "Cumberback",
and verily my habits were so little equestrian, that my horse, I doubt
not, was of that opinion." Coleridge continued four months a light
dragoon, during which time he saw and suffered much. He rode his horse
ill, and groomed him worse; but he made amends by nursing the sick, and
writing letters for the sound. His education was detected by one of his
officers, Captain Nathaniel Ogle, who observed the words,--"Eheu! quam
infortunii miserrimum est fuisse felicem!"--freshly written in pencil on
the stable-wall or door, and ascertained that Comberbacke was the
writer. But the termination of his military career was brought about by
a chance recognition in the street: his family was apprized of his
situation, and after some difficulty he was duly discharged on the both
of April, 1794, at Hounslow.
Coleridge now returned to Cambridge, and remained there till the
commencement of the summer vacation. But the adventures of the preceding
six months had broken the continuity of his academic life, and given
birth to new views of future exertion. His acquaintance with Frend had
materially contributed to his adoption of the system called
Unitarianism, which he now openly professed, and this alone made it
imperative on his conscience to decline availing himself of any
advantages dependent on his entering into holy orders, or subscribing
the Articles of the English Church. He lived, nevertheless, to see and
renounce his error, and to leave on record his deep and solemn faith in
the catholic doctrine of Trinal Unity, and the Redemption of man through
the sacrifice of Christ, both God and Man. Indeed his Unitarianism, such
as it was, was not of the ordinary quality. "I can truly say"--were
Coleridge's words in after life--"that I never falsified the Scripture.
I always told the Unitarians that their interpretations of the Scripture
were intolerable upon any principles of sound criticism; and that if
they were to offer to construe the will of a neighbour as they did that
of their Maker, they would be scouted out of society. I said then
plainly and openly that it was clear enough that John and Paul were not
Unitarians. But at that time I had a strong sense of the repugnancy of
the doctrine of vicarious atonement to the moral being, and I thought
nothing could counterbalance that. 'What care I,' I said, 'for the
Platonisms of John, or the Rabbinisms of Paul?--My conscience revolts!'
That was the ground of my Unitarianism."--"Table Talk", Bohn Library
edition, p. 290.
At the commencement of the Long Vacation, in June, 1794, Coleridge went
to Oxford on a visit to an old school-fellow, intending probably to
proceed afterwards to his mother at Ottery. But an accidental
introduction to Robert Southey, then an under-graduate at Balliol
College, first delayed, and ultimately prevented, the completion of this
design, and became, in its consequences, the hinge on which a large part
of Coleridge's after life was destined to turn.
The first letter to Southey was written from Gloucester on 6th July
1794, and it shows the degree of intimacy on which the two
undergraduates stood at this time. They had met only about a month
before, for Southey writes on 12th June to his friend Grosvenor Bedford:
"Allen is with us daily and his friend from Cambridge, Coleridge, whose
poems you will oblige me by subscribing to, either at Hookam's or
Edward's. He is of most uncommon merit, of the strongest genius, the
clearest judgment, the best heart. My friend he already is, and must
hereafter be yours," ("Life and Correspondence of Southey", i, 210). The
poems mentioned were a projected volume of "Imitations from Modern Latin
Poets", of which an ode after Casimir is the only relic. Coleridge's
first letter to Southey reads as follows:
LETTER 7. TO SOUTHEY
6 July 1794.
You are averse to gratitudinarian flourishes, else would I talk about
hospitality, attention, &c. &c.; however, as I must not thank you, I
will thank my stars. Verily, Southey, I like not Oxford, nor the
inhabitants of it. I would say thou art a nightingale among owls; but
thou art so songless and heavy towards night that I will rather liken
thee to the matin lark, thy "nest" is in a blighted cornfield, where the
sleepy poppy nods its red-cowled head, and the weak-eyed mole plies his
dark work; but thy soaring is even unto heaven. Or let me add (for my
appetite for similes is truly canine at this moment), that as the
Italian nobles their new-fashioned doors, so thou dost make the
adamantine gate of Democracy turn on its golden hinges to most sweet
[Footnote 1: Letter XXXII gives the full text of No. 7. Letter XXXIII is dated
15 July, 1794.]
For the next fifteen months Coleridge and Southey were close companions,
Coleridge being the elder by two years.
Upon the present occasion, however, he left Oxford with an acquaintance,
Mr. Hucks, for a pedestrian tour in Wales.  Two other friends,
Brookes and Berdmore, joined them in the course of their ramble; and at
Caernarvon Mr. Coleridge wrote the following letter to Mr. Martin, of
[Footnote 2: It is to this tour that he refers in the "Table Talk", p.
88.--"I took the thought of "grinning for joy" in that poem ("The
Ancient Mariner") from my companion (Berdmore's) remark to me, when we
had climbed to the top of Penmaenmaur, and were nearly dead with thirst.
We could not speak from the constriction, till we found a little puddle
under a stone. He said to me,--'You grinned like an idiot.' He had done
LETTER 8. To HENRY MARTIN 
July 22d, 1794.
From Oxford to Gloucester,+ to Ross,+ to Hereford, to Leominster, to
Bishop's Castle,+ to Montgomery, to Welshpool, Llanvelling,+ Llangunnog,
Bala,+ Druid House,+ Llangollin, Wrexham,++ Ruthin, Denbigh,+ St. Asaph,
Holywell,+ Rudland, Abergeley,+ Aberconway,+ Abber,+ over a ferry to
Beaumaris+ (Anglesea), Amlock,+ Copper Mines, Gwindu, Moeldon, over a
ferry to Caernarvon, have I journeyed, now philosophizing with Hucks, 1
now melancholizing by myself, or else indulging those daydreams of
fancy, that make realities more gloomy. To whatever place I have affixed
the mark +, there we slept. The first part of our tour was intensely
hot--the roads, white and dazzling, seemed to undulate with heat--and
the country, bare and unhedged, presenting nothing but stone fences,
dreary to the eye and scorching to the touch. At Ross we took up our
quarters at the King's Arms, once the house of Mr. Kyrle, the celebrated
Man of Ross. I gave the window-shutter a few verses, Which I shall add
to the end of the letter. The walk from Llangunnog to Bala over the
mountains was most wild and romantic; there are immense and rugged
clefts in the mountains, which in winter must form cataracts most
tremendous; now there is just enough sun-glittering water dashed down
over them to soothe, not disturb the ear. I climbed up a precipice on
which was a large thorn-tree, and slept by the side of one of them near
At Bala I was apprehensive that I had caught the itch from a Welsh
democrat, who was charmed with my sentiments; he bruised my hand with a
grasp of ardour, and I trembled lest some discontented citizens of the
"animalcular" republic might have emigrated. Shortly after, in came a
clergyman well dressed, and with him four other gentlemen. I was asked
for a public character; I gave Dr. Priestley. The clergyman whispered
his neighbour, who it seems is the apothecary of the
parish--"Republicans!" Accordingly when the doctor, as they call
apothecaries, was to have given a name, "I gives a sentiment, gemmen!
may all republicans be "gull"oteened!" Up starts the democrat; "May all
fools be gulloteened, and then you will be the first!" Fool, rogue,
traitor, liar, &c. flew in each other's faces in hailstorms of
vociferation. This is nothing in Wales--they make if necessary
vent-holes for the sulphureous fumes of their temper! I endeavoured to
calm the tempest by observing that however different our political
opinions might be, the appearance of a clergyman assured me that we were
all Christians, though I found it rather difficult to reconcile the last
sentiment with the spirit of Christianity! "Pho!" quoth the clergyman;
"Christianity! Why we a'nt at "church" now, are we? The gentleman's
sentiment was a very good one, because it shows him to be sincere in his
Back to Full Books