Biographia Epistolaris, Volume 1.
Coleridge, ed. Turnbull
Part 4 out of 6
He already manifested a tendency to read the most abstruse and
out-of-the-way books. He commissioned Thelwall to purchase for him
Iamblichus, Proclus, Sidonius Apollinaris, Plotinus, Ficino; and he read
Dupuis' huge "Origine de tous les Cultes", a fantastic work tracing the
genesis of all religions to the worship of the stars ("Letters", 181-2).
This love of recondite lore remained with him through life; but it was
his meeting with William and Dorothy Wordsworth that helped most at this
juncture to develop the possibilities within him. Wordsworth was one of
those who are lofty rather than wide, but who, by their self
concentration, act as a healthy corrective to the over-diffusiveness of
the Shakespearian type of mind.)
THE LYRICAL BALLADS; GERMANY
Cottle's acquaintance with Coleridge led to his making friends with
Wordsworth, and in his "Early Recollections" and "Reminiscences", the
Bristol bookseller tells a few amusing tales about the poets. The
following is the best:
"A visit to Mr. Coleridge, at Stowey, in the year 1797, had been the
means of my introduction to Mr. Wordsworth. Soon after our acquaintance
had commenced, Mr. W. happened to be in Bristol, and asked me to spend a
day or two with him at Allfoxden. I consented, and drove him down in a
gig. We called for Mr. Coleridge, Miss Wordsworth, and the servant, at
Stowey, and they walked, while we rode on to Mr. W.'s house at
Allfoxden, distant two or three miles, where we purposed to dine. A
London alderman would smile at our prepation, or bill of fare. It
consisted of philosophers' viands; namely, a bottle of brandy, a noble
loaf, and a stout piece of cheese; and as there were plenty of lettuces
in the garden, with all these comforts we calculated on doing very well.
"Our fond hopes, however, were somewhat damped, by finding, that our
'stout piece of cheese' had vanished! A sturdy "rat" of a beggar, whom
we had relieved on the road, with his olfactories all alive, no doubt,
"smelt" our cheese, and while we were gazing at the magnificent clouds,
contrived to abstract our treasure! Cruel tramp! An ill return for our
pence! We both wished the rind might not choke him! The mournful fact
was ascertained a little before we drove into the courtyard of the
house. Mr. Coleridge bore the loss with great fortitude, observing, that
we should never starve with a loaf of bread and a bottle of brandy. He
now, with the dexterity of an adept, admired by his friends around,
unbuckled the horse, and, putting down the shafts with a jerk, as a
triumphant conclusion of his work, lo! the bottle of brandy that had
been placed most carefully behind us on the seat, from the force of
gravity, suddenly rolled down, and before we could arrest this
spirituous avalanche, pitching right on the stones, was dashed to
pieces. We all beheld the spectacle, silent and petrified! We might have
collected the broken fragments of glass, but the brandy; that was gone!
"One little untoward thing often follows another, and while the rest
stood musing, chained to the place, regaling themselves with the Cognac
effluvium, and all miserably chagrined, I led the horse to the stable,
when a fresh perplexity arose. I removed the harness without difficulty,
but after many strenuous attempts, I could not get off the collar. In
despair, I called for assistance, when aid soon drew near. Mr.
Wordsworth first brought his ingenuity into exercise, but after several
unsuccessful efforts, he relinquished the achievement, as a thing
altogether impracticable. Mr. Coleridge now tried his hand, but showed
no more grooming skill than his predecessors; for after twisting the
poor horse's neck almost to strangulation, and to the great danger of
his eyes, he gave up the useless task, pronouncing that the horse's head
must have grown, (gout or dropsy!) since the collar was put on! 'for,'
he said 'It was a downright impossibility for such a huge Os Frontis to
pass through so narrow a collar!' Just at this instant the servant girl
came near, and understanding the cause of our consternation, 'La,
Master,' said she, 'you do not go about the work in the right way. You
should do like as this,' when turning the collar completely upside down,
she slipped it off in a moment, to our great humiliation and wonderment;
each satisfied, afresh, that there were heights of knowledge in the
world, to which we had not yet attained.
"We were now summoned to dinner, and a dinner it was, such as every
"blind" and starving man in the three kingdoms would have rejoiced to
"behold". At the top of the table stood a superb brown loaf. The centre
dish presented a pile of the true coss lettuces, and at the bottom
appeared an empty plate, where the 'stout piece of cheese' "ought" to
have stood! (cruel mendicant!) and though the brandy was 'clean gone,'
yet its place was well, if not "better" supplied by an abundance of fine
sparkling Castalian champagne! A happy thought at this time started into
one of our minds, that some condiment would render the lettuces a little
more palatable, when an individual in the company, recollected a
question, once propounded by the most patient of men, 'How can that
which is unsavoury be eaten without "salt"?' and asked for a little of
that valuable culinary article. 'Indeed, sir,' Betty replied, 'I quite
forgot to buy salt.' A general laugh followed the announcement, in which
our host heartily joined. This was nothing. We had plenty of other good
things, and while crunching our succulents, and munching our crusts, we
pitied the far worse condition of those, perchance as hungry as
ourselves, who were forced to dine, off aether alone. For our next meal,
the mile-off village furnished all that could be desired, and these
trifling incidents present the sum and the result of half the little
passing disasters of life.
"The "Lyrical Ballads" were published about Midsummer, 1798. In
September of the same year, Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Wordsworth left
England for Germany, and I quitted the business of a bookseller. Had I
not once been such, this book would never have appeared."
The reference in the following letter to a ballad of 340 lines has never
been explained by any biographer of Coleridge. The "Ancient Mariner" in
its first form extended to 658 lines. Some have surmised that the "Three
Graves" is meant; but this poem was 318 lines as published in 1809-1817.
LETTER 74. TO COTTLE
Feb. 18, 1798.
My dear Cottle,
I have finished my Ballad, it is 340 lines; I am going on with my
"Visions": altogether (for I shall print two scenes of my Tragedy, as
fragments) I can add 1500 lines; now what do you advise? Shall I add my
Tragedy, and so make a second volume? or shall I pursue my first
intention of inserting 1500 in the third edition? If you should advise a
second volume, should you wish, "i.e.", find it convenient, to be the
purchaser? I ask this question, because I wish you to know the true
state of my present circumstances. I have received nothing yet from the
Wedgwoods, and my money is utterly expended.
A friend of mine wanted five guineas for a little while, which I
borrowed of Poole, as for myself, I do not like therefore to apply to
him. Mr. Estlin has some little money I believe in his hands, but I
received from him before I went to Shrewsbury, fifteen pounds, and I
believe that this was an anticipation of the five guinea presents, which
my friends would have made in March. But (this affair of the Messrs.
Wedgwoods turning out) the money in Mr. Estlin's hand must go towards
repaying him that sum which he suffered me to anticipate. Meantime I owe
Biggs L5, which is heavy on my thoughts, and Mrs. F. has not been paid
her last quarter which is still heavier. As to myself, I can continue to
go on here, but this L10 I must pay somehow, that is L5 to Biggs, and L5
to Mrs. F....
God bless you,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
P.S. This week I purpose offering myself to the Bridgwater Socinian
congregation, as assistant minister, without any salary, directly, or
indirectly; but of this say not a word to any one, unless you see Mr.
Coleridge sent his poem of the "Raven" to the "Morning Post" at this
time with the following curious letter to the Editor. The poem appeared
in the paper of 10th March.
LETTER 75. TO THE EDITOR OF THE "MORNING POST",
WITH THE "RAVEN", A POEM.
10 March, 1798.
I am not absolutely certain that the following poem was written by
Edmund Spenser, and found by an angler buried in a fishing-box:
Under the foot of Mole, that Mountain hoar,
Mid the green alders, by the Mulla's shore;
but a learned Antiquarian of my acquaintance has given it as his opinion
that it resembles Spenser's minor poems as nearly as "Vortigern" and
"Rowena" the Tragedies of William Shakespeare. This poem must be read in
recitative, in the same manner as the "AEgloga Secunda" of the
"The Latin motto," Cottle says, "prefixed to the second edition of Mr.
C.'s poems, puzzled everybody to know from what author it was derived.
One and another inquired of me, to no purpose, and expressed a wish that
Mr. C. had been clearer in his citation, as 'no one could understand
it.' On my naming this to Mr. Coleridge, he laughed heartily, and said,
"It was all a hoax. Not meeting," said he, "with a suitable motto, I
invented one, and with references purposely obscure, as will be
explained in the next letter."
LETTER 76. TO COTTLE
March 8th, 1798.
My dear Cottle,
I have been confined to my bed for some days, through a fever occasioned
by the stump of a tooth, which baffled chirurgical efforts to eject, and
which, by affecting my eye, affected my stomach, and through that my
whole frame. I am better, but still weak, in consequence of such long
sleeplessness and wearying pains; weak, very weak. I thank you, my dear
friend, for your late kindness, and in a few weeks will either repay you
in money, or by verses, as you like. With regard to Lloyd's verses, it
is curious that I should be applied to, "to be persuaded to resign," and
in hopes that I might "consent to give up" (unknown by whom) a number of
poems which were published at the earnest request of the author, who
assured me, that the circumstance was of "no trivial import to his
Times change and people change; but let us keep our souls in quietness!
I have no objection to any disposal of Lloyd's poems except that of
their being republished with mine. The motto which I had
prefixed--"Duplex, etc." from Groscollias, has placed me in a ridiculous
situation, but it was a foolish and presumptuous start of
affectionateness, and I am not unwilling to incur the punishment due to
my folly. By past experiences we build up our moral being. The Giant
Wordsworth--God love him! When I speak in the terms of admiration due to
his intellect, I fear lest these terms should keep out of sight the
amiableness of his manners. He has written near twelve hundred lines of
a blank verse,  superior, I hesitate not to aver, to anything in our
language which any way resembles it. God bless you,
S. T. COLERIDGE. 
[Footnote 1: "The Ruined Cottage", or "Tale of Margaret", afterwards
incorporated in the "Excursion".]
[Footnote 2: Letter LXXIX is our 76, which see for full text.]
LETTER 77. TO WADE
March 21st, 1798.
My very dear friend,
I have even now returned from a little excursion that I have taken for
the confirmation of my health, which had suffered a rude assault from
the anguish of the stump of a tooth which had baffled the attempts of
our surgeon here, and which confined me to my bed. I suffered much from
the disease, and more from the doctor; rather than again put my mouth
into his hands, I would put my hands into a lion's mouth. I am happy to
hear of, and should be most happy to see, the plumpness and progression
of your dear boy; but--yes, my dear Wade, it must be a but, much as I
hate the word but. Well,--but I cannot attend the chemical lectures. I
have many reasons, but the greatest, or at least the most ostensible
reason, is, that I cannot leave Mrs. C. at that time; our house is an
uncomfortable one; our surgeon may be, for aught I know, a lineal
descendant of Esculapius himself, but if so, in the repeated transfusion
of life from father to son, through so many generations, the wit and
knowledge, being subtle spirits, have evaporated....
Ever your grateful and affectionate friend,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
LETTER 78. TO COTTLE
(Mch. or Apl. 1798.)
My dear Cottle,
I regret that aught should have disturbed our tranquillity; respecting
Lloyd, I am willing to believe myself in part mistaken, and so let all
things be as before. I have no wish respecting these poems, either for
or against re-publication with mine. As to the third edition, if there
be occasion for it immediately, it must be published with some
alterations, but no additions or omissions. The "Pixies", "Chatterton",
and some dozen others, shall be printed at the end of the volume, under
the title of Juvenile Poems, and in this case I will send you the volume
immediately. But if there be no occasion for the volume to go to press
for ten weeks, at the expiration of that time, I would make it a volume
worthy of me, and omit utterly near one-half of the present volume--a
sacrifice to pitch black oblivion.
Whichever be the case, I will repay you the money you have paid for me,
in money, and in a few weeks; or if you should prefer the latter
proposal, "i.e.", the not sending me to the press for ten weeks, I
should insist on considering the additions, however large, as my payment
to you for the omissions, which, indeed, would be but strict justice.
I am requested by Wordsworth, to put to you the following questions.
What could you, conveniently and prudently, and what would you give
for--first, our two Tragedies, with small prefaces, containing an
analysis of our principal characters? Exclusive of the prefaces, the
tragedies are, together, five thousand lines; which, in printing, from
the dialogue form, and directions respecting actors and scenery, are at
least equal to six thousand. To be delivered to you within a week of the
date of your answer to this letter; and the money which you offer, to be
paid to us at the end of four months from the same date; none to be paid
before, all to be paid then.
Second.--Wordsworth's "Salisbury Plain", and "Tale of a Woman"; which
two poems, with a few others which he will add, and the notes, will make
a volume. This to be delivered to you within three weeks of the date of
your answer, and the money to be paid as before, at the end of four
months from the present date.
Do not, my dearest Cottle, harass yourself about the imagined great
merit of the compositions, or be reluctant to offer what you can
prudently offer, from an idea that the poems are worth more. But
calculate what you can do, with reference simply to yourself, and answer
as speedily as you can; and believe me your sincere, grateful, and
affectionate friend and brother,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Cottle offered thirty guineas each to Wordsworth and Coleridge for their
tragedies; but this offer, says Cottle, "after some hesitation was
declined from the hope of introducing one or both on the stage." Cottle
received the following letter soon after:
LETTER 79. TO COTTLE
(14 Apl., 1798.)
My dear Cottle,
I never involved you in bickering, and never suspected you, in any one
action of your life, of practising guile against any human being, except
Your letter supplied only one in a link of circumstances, that informed
me of some things, and perhaps deceived me in others. I shall write
to-day to Lloyd. I do not think I shall come to Bristol for these
lectures of which you speak. I ardently wish for the knowledge, but
Mrs. Coleridge is within a month of her confinement, and I cannot, I
ought not to leave her; especially as her surgeon is not a John Hunter,
nor my house likely to perish from a plethora of comforts. Besides,
there are other things that might disturb that evenness of benevolent
feeling, which I wish to cultivate.
I am much better, and at present at Allfoxden, and my new and tender
health is all over me like a voluptuous feeling. God bless you,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
[Footnote 1: "Chemical Lectures," by Dr. Beddoes, delivered at the Red
The origin of the volume of lyrical ballads is best told in Cottle's own
"Wordsworth," says Cottle, on his introduction by Coleridge at Stowey,
"read me many of his Lyrical Pieces, when I immediately perceived in
them extraordinary merit, and advised him to publish them, expressing a
belief that they would be well received. I further said he should be at
no risk; that I would give him the same sum which I had given to Mr.
Coleridge and to Mr. Southey, and that it would be a gratifying
circumstance to me, to have been the publisher of the first volumes of
three such poets as Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth; such a
distinction might never again occur to a Provincial bookseller.
"To the idea of publishing he expressed a strong objection, and after
several interviews, I left him, with an earnest wish that he would
reconsider his determination.
"Soon after Mr. Wordsworth sent me the following letter.
'Allfoxden, 12th April, 1798.
'My dear Cottle,
'...You will be pleased to hear that I have gone on very rapidly adding
to my stock of poetry. Do come and let me read it to you, under the old
trees in the park. We have a little more than two months to stay in this
place. Within these four days the season has advanced with greater
rapidity than I ever remember, and the country becomes almost every hour
more lovely. God bless you,
'Your affectionate friend,
"A little time after, I received an invitation from Mr. Coleridge to pay
himself and Mr. Wordsworth another visit. At about the same time, I
received the following corroborative invitation from Mr. Wordsworth.
'We look for you with great impatience. We will never forgive you if you
do not come. I say nothing of the "Salisbury Plain" till I see you. I am
determined to finish it, and equally so that you shall publish.
'I have lately been busy about another plan, which I do not wish to
mention till I see you; let this be very, very soon, and stay a week if
possible; as much longer as you can. God bless you, dear Cottle,
'Allfoxden, 9th May, 1798.'
"The following letter also on this subject, was received from Mr.
LETTER 80. TO COTTLE
My dear Cottle,
Neither Wordsworth nor myself could have been otherwise than
uncomfortable, if any but yourself had received from us the first offer
of our Tragedies, and of the volume of Wordsworth's Poems. At the same
time, we did not expect that you could with prudence and propriety,
advance such a sum as we should want at the time we specified. In short,
we both regard the publication of our Tragedies as an evil. It is not
impossible but that in happier times, they may be brought on the stage:
and to throw away this chance for a mere trifle, would be to make the
present moment act fraudulently and usuriously towards the future time.
My Tragedy employed and strained all my thoughts and faculties for six
or seven months; Wordsworth consumed far more time, and far more
thought, and far more genius. We consider the publication of them an
evil on any terms; but our thoughts were bent on a plan for the
accomplishment of which, a certain sum of money was necessary, (the
whole) at that particular time, and in order to this we resolved,
although reluctantly, to part with our Tragedies: that is, if we could
obtain thirty guineas for each, and at less than thirty guineas
Wordsworth will not part with the copyright of his volume of Poems. We
shall offer the Tragedies to no one, for we have determined to procure
the money some other way. If you choose the volume of Poems, at the
price mentioned, to be paid at the time specified, "i.e." thirty
guineas, to be paid sometime in the last fortnight of July, you may have
them; but remember, my dear fellow! I write to you now merely as a
bookseller, and intreat you, in your answer, to consider yourself only;
as to us, although money is necessary to our plan, (that of visiting
Germany) yet the plan is not necessary to our happiness; and if it were,
W. could sell his Poems for that sum to someone else, or we could
procure the money without selling the Poems. So I entreat you, again and
again, in your answer, which must be immediate, consider yourself only.
Wordsworth has been caballed against "so long and so loudly", that he
has found it impossible to prevail on the tenant of the Allfoxden
estate, to let him the house, after their first agreement is expired, so
he must quit it at Midsummer. Whether we shall be able to procure him a
house and furniture near Stowey, we know not, and yet we must: for the
hills, and the woods, and the streams, and the sea, and the shores would
break forth into reproaches against us, if we did not strain every
nerve, to keep their poet among them. Without joking, and in serious
sadness, Poole and I cannot endure to think of losing him.
At all events, come down, Cottle, as soon as you can, but before
Midsummer, and we will procure a horse easy as thy own soul, and we will
go on a roam to Linton and Linmouth, which, if thou comest in May, will
be in all their pride of woods and waterfalls, not to speak of its
august cliffs, and the green ocean, and the vast Valley of Stones, all
which live disdainful of the seasons, or accept new honours only from
the winter's snow. At all events come down, and cease not to believe me
much and affectionately your friend.
S. T. COLERIDGE. 
[Footnote 1: Letters LXXX-LXXXV follow letter 80.]
"In consequence of these conjoint invitations, I spent a week with Mr.
C. and Mr. W. at Allfoxden house, and during this time, (beside the
reading of MS. poems) they took me to Linmouth, and Linton, and the
Valley of Stones....
"At this interview it was determined, that the volume should be
published under the title of "Lyrical Ballads" on the terms stipulated
in a former letter: that this volume should not contain the poem of
"Salisbury Plain", but only an extract from it; that it should not
contain the poem of "Peter Bell", but consist rather of sundry shorter
poems, and, for the most part, of pieces more recently written. I had
recommended two volumes, but one was fixed on, and that to be published
anonymously. It was to be begun immediately, and with the "Ancient
Mariner"; which poem I brought with me to Bristol. A day or two after I
received the following:"
LETTER 81. TO COTTLE
My dear Cottle,
You know what I think of a letter, how impossible it is to argue in it.
You must therefore take simple statements, and in a week or two, I shall
see you, and endeavour to reason with you.
Wordsworth and I have duly weighed your proposal, and this is an answer.
He would not object to the publishing of "Peter Bell" or the "Salisbury
Plain", singly; but to the publishing of his poems in two volumes, he is
decisively repugnant and oppugnant.
He deems that they would want variety, etc., etc. If this apply in his
case, it applies with ten-fold more force to mine. We deem that the
volumes offered to you, are, to a certain degree, one work in kind,
though not in degree, as an ode is one work; and that our different
poems are, as stanzas, good, relatively rather than absolutely: mark
you, I say in kind, though not in degree. As to the Tragedy, when I
consider it in reference to Shakespeare's, and to "one" other Tragedy,
it seems a poor thing, and I care little what becomes of it. When I
consider it in comparison with modern dramatists, it rises: and I think
it too bad to be published, too good to be squandered. I think of
breaking it up; the planks are sound, and I will build a new ship of the
The dedication to the Wedgwoods, which you recommend, would be
indelicate and unmeaning. If, after four or five years, I shall have
finished some work of importance, which could not have been written, but
in an unanxious seclusion, to them I will dedicate it; for the public
will have owed the work to them who gave me the power of that unanxious
As to anonymous publications, depend on it, you are deceived.
Wordsworth's name is nothing to a large number of persons; mine stinks.
The "Essay on Man", the "Botanic Garden", the "Pleasures of Memory", and
many other most popular works, were published anonymously. However, I
waive all reasoning, and simply state it as an unaltered opinion, that
you should proceed as before, with the "Ancient Mariner".
The picture shall be sent. For your love gifts and bookloans accept
our hearty love. The "Joan of Arc" is a divine book; it opens lovelily.
I hope that you will take off some half dozen of our "Poems" on great
paper, even as the "Joan of Arc".
Cottle, my dear Cottle, I meant to have written you an Essay on the
Metaphysics of Typography, but I have not time. Take a few hints,
without the abstruse reasons for them, with which I mean to favour you.
18 lines in a page, the line closely printed, certainly more closely
printed than those of the "Joan"; ("Oh, by all means, closer, "W.
Wordsworth"") equal ink, and large margins; that is beauty; it may even,
under your immediate care, mingle the sublime! And now, my dear Cottle,
may God love you and me, who am, with most unauthorish feelings,
Your true friend,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
P.S.--I walked to Linton the day after you left us, and returned on
Saturday. I walked in one day, and returned in one.
[Footnote 1: A portrait of Mr. Wordsworth, correctly and beautifully
executed, by an artist then at Stowey; now in my possession. [Cottle's
[Footnote 2: "Joan of Arc", 4to first edition, had twenty lines in a
[Footnote 3: Letters LXXXVI-XCII follow 81.]
Coleridge has given his account of the origin of the "Lyrical Ballads"
in the fourteenth chapter of the "Biographia Literaria", and
Wordsworth's account is found in the Fenwick Note to "We are Seven".
An estrangement with Charles Lamb and Charles Lloyd at this time took
place which has been the subject of many surmises as to its origin among
the biographers of Coleridge. The coldness with Lamb passed off by the
beginning of 1800 when Charles wrote to Coleridge in his customary
humorous vein; but Lloyd was not so soon taken back to favour. Southey
joined the cabal against Coleridge and encouraged the estrangement; but
he too was on friendly terms with Coleridge in the autumn of 1799.
On the l4th May Coleridge's second child was born, named Berkeley, after
the idealist philosopher who had now displaced Hartley, who had been in
the ascendant when the first child was born.
With the adoption of Berkeley as his pet philosopher, we can understand
Coleridge's determination to visit Germany. He had heard rumours of the
Kantean Philosophy, and wished to acquire thoroughly a knowledge of the
language of the Germans principally to be able to read Kant in the
original. This project Coleridge speaks of as early as 6th May, 1796
(Letter 33); but it was only now when he enjoyed the support of the
Wedgwoods that he could afford to put it into execution. The volume of
"Lyrical Ballads" was published in the early part of the autumn of 1798;
and along with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Coleridge set sail from
Yarmouth. John Chester, a resident of Stowey, also accompanied them.
Coleridge arrived at Cuxhaven on 19th September, from which place he
wrote Mrs. Coleridge an account of the voyage and his first impressions
of Germany. This account is more fully given in the "Letters of
Satyrane" in the "Biographia Literaria". He took up his quarters at
Ratzeburg, staying with the pastor of that town; while Wordsworth and
his sister went to Goslar. From Ratzeburg Coleridge repaired to
Gsttingen on 12th February, 1799, to attend lectures at the University.
He worked hard while in Goettingen to acquire a knowledge of the
literature of Germany, and made himself proficient in the dialects as
well as of classical German. He met two of the Parrys, brothers of the
Arctic explorer, at Gsttingen; and, later, Clement Carlyon, an
Englishman from Pembroke College, joined the group. Carlyon afterwards
in later life, in his "Early Years and Late Reflections", depicted
Coleridge as the life and soul of the party, incessantly talking,
discussing, and philosophizing, and diving into his pocket German
Dictionary for the right word. Carlyon devotes 270 pages of the first
volume of his book to Coleridge.
Berkeley Coleridge died in February, and the news depressed Coleridge
and threw his studies for some time into disorder; but the Wordsworths
visited him at Gsttingen, and they had some talk about the future place
of their abode in England. The Wordsworths were desirous of staying in
the North of England; but Coleridge at this time had resolved to remain
at Stowey, to be near Poole, in whom he felt his "anchor", as he
expressed it. (J. Dykes-Campbell's "Life", chap, v.)
Coleridge during his stay in Germany wrote a good many letters to his
wife, to Poole, and the Wedgwoods. We can quote only two fragments from
those to his wife, and the long one, "Over the Brocken".
LETTER 82. TO MRS. COLERIDGE
14 Jany., 1799.
The whole Lake of Ratzeburg is one mass of thick transparent ice--a
spotless Mirror of nine miles in extent! The lowness of the Hills, which
rise from the shores of the Lake, preclude the awful sublimity of Alpine
scenery, yet compensate for the want of it by beauties, of which this
very lowness is a necessary condition. Yester-morning I saw the lesser
Lake completely hidden by Mist; but the moment the Sun peeped over the
Hill, the mist broke in the middle, and in a few seconds stood divided,
leaving a broad road all across the Lake; and between these two Walls of
mist the sunlight "burnt" upon the ice, forming a road of golden fire,
intolerably bright! and the mist-walls themselves partook of the blaze
in a multitude of shining colours. This is our second Frost. About a
month ago, before the Thaw came on, there was a storm of wind; during
the whole night, such were the thunders and howlings of the breaking
ice, that they have left a conviction on my mind, that there are Sounds
more sublime than any Sight "can" be, more absolutely suspending the
power of comparison, and more utterly absorbing the mind's
self-consciousness in its total attention to the object working upon it.
Part of the ice which the vehemence of the wind had shattered, was
driven shore-ward and froze anew. On the evening of the next day, at
sun-set, the shattered ice thus frozen, appeared of a deep blue, and in
shape like an agitated sea; beyond this, the water, that ran up between
the great Islands of ice which had preserved their masses entire and
smooth, shone of a yellow green; but all these scattered Ice-islands,
themselves, were of an intensely bright blood colour--they seemed blood
and light in union! On some of the largest of these Islands, the
Fishermen stood pulling out their immense Nets through the holes made in
the ice for this purpose, and the Men, their Net-Poles, and their huge
Nets, were a part of the glory; say rather, it appeared as if the rich
crimson light had shaped itself into these forms, figures, and
attitudes, to make a glorious vision in mockery of earthly things.
The lower Lake is now all alive with Skaters, and with Ladies driven
onward by them in their ice cars. Mercury, surely, was the first maker
of Skates, and the wings at his feet are symbols of the invention. In
skating there are three pleasing circumstances: the infinitely subtle
particles of Ice, which the Skate cuts up, and which creep and run
before the Skate like a low mist, and in sun-rise or sun-set become
coloured; second, the shadow of the Skater in the water seen through the
transparent Ice; and third, the melancholy undulating sound from the
Skate, not without variety; and when very many are skating together, the
sounds and the noises give an impulse to the icy Trees, and the woods
all round the Lake "tinkle"!
[Footnote 1: Letter XCIII repeats 82, XCIV-XCVI follow.]
LETTER 83. TO MRS. COLERIDGE
Ratzeburg, 23 April, 1799.
There is a Christmas custom here which pleased and interested me.--The
Children make little presents to their Parents, and to each other; and
the Parents to the Children. For three or four months before Christmas
the Girls are all busy, and the Boys save up their pocket-money, to make
or purchase these presents. What the Present is to be is cautiously kept
secret, and the Girls have a world of contrivances to conceal it--such
as working when they are out on visits and the others are not with them;
getting up in the morning before day-light, etc. Then on the evening
before Christmas day one of the Parlours is lighted up by the Children,
into which the Parents must not go: a great yew bough is fastened on the
Table at a little distance from the wall, a multitude of little Tapers
are fastened in the bough, but not so as to burn it till they are nearly
burnt out, and coloured paper, etc. hangs and flutters from the
twigs.--Under this Bough the Children lay out in great order the
presents they mean for their Parents, still concealing in their pockets
what they intend for each other. Then the Parents are introduced--and
each presents his little Gift--and then bring out the rest one by one
from their pockets, and present them with kisses and embraces.--Where I
witnessed this scene, there were eight or nine Children, and the eldest
Daughter and the Mother wept aloud for joy and tenderness; and the tears
ran down the face of the Father, and he clasped all his Children so
tight to his breast--it seemed as if he did it to stifle the sob that
was rising within him.--I was very much affected.--The Shadow of the
Bough and its appendages on the wall, and arching over on the Ceiling,
made a pretty Picture--and then the raptures of the "very" little Ones,
when at last the twigs and their needles began to take fire and
"snap"--O it was a delight for them!--On the next day, in the great
Parlour, the Parents lay out on the table the Presents for the Children:
a scene of more sober joy succeeds, as on this day, after an old custom,
the Mother says privately to each of her Daughters, and the Father to
his Sons, that which he has observed most praise-worthy and that which
was most faulty in their conduct.--Formerly, and still in all the
smaller Towns and Villages throughout North Germany, these Presents were
sent by all the Parents to some one Fellow who in high Buskins, a white
Robe, a Mask, and an enormous flax Wig, personates Knecht Rupert, i.e.
the Servant Rupert. On Christmas Night he goes round to every House and
says, that Jesus Christ, his Master, sent him thither--the Parents and
elder Children receive him with great pomp of reverence, while the
little ones are most terribly frightened--He then enquires for the
Children, and according to the character which he hears from the Parent,
he gives them the intended Present, as if they came out of Heaven from
Jesus Christ.--Or, if they should have been bad Children, he gives the
Parents a Rod, and in the name of his Master, recommends them to use it
frequently.--About seven or eight years old the Children are let into
the secret, and it is curious how faithfully they keep it!
["Over the Brocken" must occupy a chapter of itself.]
[Footnote 1: Letter XCVII repeats 83, XCVIII follows.]
THE RELIGION OF THE PINEWOODS
Coleridge called the letters from Germany which he published in "The
Friend" of 1809 the "Letters of Satyrane". He was fond of masquerading
under the name of this allegorical personage of the "Faery Queen"; and
in his "Tombless Epitaph" he described himself as Idolocrastes Satyrane.
Under this disguise he looked upon himself as the spokesman of the Idea
of the Omnipresence of the Deity. In order to appreciate the following
beautiful letter, one of the finest Coleridge ever wrote, the reader
should peruse Coleridge's "Aeolian Harp", "Lines written on leaving a
Place of Retirement", "The Lime-Tree Bower", and Wordsworth's "Tintern
Abbey". Wordsworth's sonnet, "It is a beauteous evening", and
Coleridge's own "Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni", also
belong to the same feeling for the God of Nature, but they were composed
after the letter "Over the Brocken".
Clement Carlyon, who is the chief authority for the life of Coleridge
during his stay at Gsttingen, gives a lively account of the ascent of
the Brocken, which took place on Whit Sunday, 12th May 1799. The party
visited the "magic circle of stones where the fairies assembled," and
halted for the first time at the village of Satzfeld, a romantic
village, "a bright moonlight at night, and the nightingale heard."
Coleridge was in high spirits, and kept talking all the way, discoursing
on his favourite topics. Sublimity was defined as a "suspension of the
powers of comparison"; "no animal but man can be struck with wonder";
Shakespeare owed his success largely to the cheering breath of popular
applause, the enthusiastic gale of admiration. The English Divines were
applauded by Coleridge, Jeremy Taylor prominently; and a play by Hans
Sachs was preferred to a play of Kotzebue; from which he launched into a
discourse on Miracle plays. Coleridge's conversation was peppered with
puns, some of which Carlyon quotes.
Carlyon also notices that their course up the mountain was impeded by
stunted firs; and he describes the dancing party of peasants with whom
Coleridge was so much taken. The party returned to Gottingen on 18th
May. Coleridge had written the day before to his wife.
LETTER 84. TO MRS. COLERIDGE
Clausthal, 17 May 1799.
Through roads no way rememberable, we came to Gieloldshausen, over a
bridge, on which was a mitred statue with a great crucifix in its arms.
The village, long and ugly; but the church, like most Catholic churches,
interesting; and this being Whitsun Eve, all were crowding to it, with
their mass-books and rosaries, the little babies commonly with coral
crosses hanging on the breast. Here we took a guide, left the village,
ascended a hill, and now the woods rose up before us in a verdure which
surprised us like a sorcery. The spring had burst forth with the
suddenness of a Russian summer. As we left Gottingen there were buds,
and here and there a tree half green; but here were woods in full
foliage, distinguished from summer only by the exquisite freshness of
their tender green. We entered the wood through a beautiful mossy path;
the moon above us blending with the evening light, and every now and
then a nightingale would invite the others to sing, and some or other
commonly answered, and said, as we suppose, "It is yet somewhat too
early!" for the song was not continued. We came to a square piece of
greenery, completely walled on all four sides by the beeches; again
entered the wood, and having travelled about a mile, emerged from it
into a grand plain--mountains in the distance, but ever by our road the
skirts of the green woods. A very rapid river ran by our side; and now
the nightingales were all singing, and the tender verdure grew paler in
the moonlight, only the smooth parts of the river were still deeply
purpled with the reflections from the fiery light in the west. So
surrounded and so impressed, we arrived at Prele, a dear little cluster
of houses in the middle of a semicircle of woody hills; the area of the
semicircle scarcely broader than the breadth of the village.
* * * * *
We afterwards ascended another hill, from the top of which a large plain
opened before us with villages. A little village, Neuhoff, lay at the
foot of it: we reached it, and then turned up through a valley on the
left hand. The hills on both sides the valley were prettily wooded, and
a rapid lively river ran through it. So we went for about two miles, and
almost at the end of the valley, or rather of its first turning, we
found the village of Lauterberg. Just at the entrance of the village,
two streams come out from two deep and woody coombs, close by each
other, meet, and run into a third deep woody coomb opposite; before you
a wild hill, which seems the end and barrier of the valley; on the right
hand, low hills, now green with corn, and now wooded; and on the left a
most majestic hill indeed--the effect of whose simple outline painting
could not give, and how poor a thing are words! We pass through this
neat little town--the majestic hill on the left hand soaring over the
houses, and at every interspace you see the whole of it--its beeches,
its firs, its rocks, its scattered cottages, and the one neat little
pastor's house at the foot, embosomed in fruit-trees all in blossom, the
noisy coomb-brook dashing close by it. We leave the valley, or rather,
the first turning on the left, following a stream; and so the vale winds
on, the river still at the foot of the woody hills, with every now and
then other smaller valleys on right and left crossing our vale, and ever
before you the woody hills running like groves one into another. We
turned and turned, and entering the fourth curve of the vale, we found
all at once that we had been ascending. The verdure vanished! All the
beech trees were leafless, and so were the silver birches, whose boughs
always, winter and summer, hang so elegantly. But low down in the
valley, and in little companies on each bank of the river, a multitude
of green conical fir trees, with herds of cattle wandering about, almost
every one with a cylindrical bell around its neck, of no inconsiderable
size, and as they moved--scattered over the narrow vale, and up among
the trees on the hill--the noise was like that of a great city in the
stillness of a sabbath morning, when the bells all at once are ringing
for church. The whole was a melancholy and romantic scene, that was
quite new to me. Again we turned, passed three smelting houses, which we
visited; a scene of terrible beauty is a furnace of boiling metal,
darting, every moment blue, green, and scarlet lightning, like serpents'
tongues!--and now we ascended a steep hill, on the top of which was St.
Andrias Berg, a town built wholly of wood.
We descended again, to ascend far higher; and now we came to a most
beautiful road, which winded on the breast of the hill, from whence we
looked down into a deep valley, or huge basin, full of pines and firs;
the opposite hills full of pines and frs; and the hill above us, on
whose breast we were winding, likewise full of pines and firs. The
valley, or basin, on our right hand, into which we looked down, is
called the Wald Rauschenbach, that is, the Valley of the Roaring Brook;
and roar it did, indeed, most solemnly!
The road on which we walked was weedy with infant fir-trees, an inch or
two high; and now, on our left hand, came before us a most tremendous
precipice of yellow and black rock, called the Rehberg, that is, the
Mountain of the Roe. Now again is nothing but firs and pines above,
below, around us! How awful is the deep unison of their undividable
murmur; what a one thing it is--it is a sound that impresses the dim
notion of the Omnipresent! In various parts of the deep vale below us,
we beheld little dancing waterfalls gleaming through the branches, and
now, on our left hand, from the very summit of the hill above us, a
powerful stream flung itself down, leaping and foaming, and now
concealed, and now not concealed, and now half concealed by the
fir-trees, till, towards the road, it became a visible sheet of water,
within whose immediate neighbourhood no pine could have permanent
abiding place. The snow lay every where on the sides of the roads, and
glimmered in company with the waterfall foam, snow patches and
waterbreaks glimmering through the branches in the hill above, the deep
basin below, and the hill opposite. Over the high opposite hills, so
dark in their pine forests, a far higher round barren stony mountain
looked in upon the prospect from a distant country. Through this scenery
we passed on, till our road was crossed by a second waterfall, or
rather, aggregation of little dancing waterfalls, one by the side of the
other for a considerable breadth, and all came at once out of the dark
wood above, and rolled over the mossy rock fragments, little firs,
growing in islets, scattered among them. The same scenery continued till
we came to the Oder Seich, a lake, half made by man, and half by nature.
It is two miles in length, and but a few hundred yards in breadth, and
winds between banks, or rather through walls, of pine trees. It has the
appearance of a most calm and majestic river. It crosses the road, goes
into a wood, and there at once plunges itself down into a most
magnificent cascade, and runs into the vale, to which it gives the name
of the "Vale of the Roaring Brook." We descended into the vale, and
stood at the bottom of the cascade, and climbed up again by its side.
The rocks over which it plunged were unusually wild in their shape,
giving fantastic resemblances of men and animals, and the fir-boughs by
the side were kept almost in a swing, which unruly motion contrasted
well with the stern quietness of the huge forest-sea every where else.
* * * * *
In nature all things are individual, but a word is but an arbitrary
character for a whole class of things; so that the same description may
in almost all cases be applied to twenty different appearances; and in
addition to the difficulty of the thing itself, I neither am, nor ever
was, a good hand at description. I see what I write, but, alas! I cannot
write what I see. From the Oder Seich we entered a second wood; and now
the snow met us in large masses, and we walked for two miles knee-deep
in it, with an inexpressible fatigue, till we came to the mount called
Little Brocken; here even the firs deserted us, or only now and then a
patch of them, wind-shorn, no higher than one's knee, matted and
cowering to the ground, like our thorn bushes on the highest sea-hills.
The soil was plashy and boggy; we descended and came to the foot of the
Great Brocken without a river--the highest mountain in all the north of
Germany, and the seat of innumerable superstitions. On the first of May
all the witches dance here at midnight; and those who go may see their
own ghosts walking up and down, with a little billet on the back, giving
the names of those who had wished them there; for "I wish you on the top
of the Brocken," is a common curse throughout the whole empire. Well, we
ascended--the soil boggy--and at last reached the height, which is 573
toises  above the level of the sea. We visited the Blocksberg, a sort of
bowling-green, enclosed by huge stones, something like those at
Stonehenge, and this is the witches' ball-room; thence proceeded to the
house on the hill, where we dined; and now we descended. In the evening
about seven we arrived at Elbingerode. At the inn they brought us an
album, or stammbuch, requesting that we would write our names, and
something or other as a remembrance that we had been there. I wrote the
following lines, which contain a true account of my journey from the
Brocken to Elbingerode.
I stood on Brocken's sovran height, and saw
Woods crowding upon woods, hills over hills;
A surging scene, and only limited
By the blue distance. Wearily my way
Downward I dragged, through fir groves evermore
Where bright green moss moved in sepulchral forms,
Speckled with sunshine; and, but seldom heard,
The sweet bird's song become a hollow sound;
And the gale murmuring indivisibly,
Reserved its solemn murmur, more distinct
From many a note of many a waterbreak,
And the brook's chatter; on whose islet stones
The dingy kidling, with its tinkling bell,
Leapt frolicksome, or old romantic goat
Sat, his white beard slow waving. I moved on
With low and languid thought, for I had found
That grandest scenes have but imperfect charms
Where the eye vainly wanders, nor beholds
One spot with which the heart associates
Holy remembrances of child or friend,
Or gentle maid, our first and early love,
Or father, or the venerable name
Of our adored country. O thou Queen,
Thou delegated Deity of Earth,
O "dear, dear" England! how my longing eyes
Turned westward, shaping in the steady clouds
Thy sands and high white cliffs! Sweet native isle,
This heart was proud, yea, mine eyes swam with tears
To think of thee; and all the goodly view
From sovran Brocken, woods and woody hills
Floated away, like a departing dream,
Feeble and dim. Stranger, these impulses
Blame thou not lightly; nor will I profane,
With hasty judgment or injurious doubt,
That man's sublimer spirit, who can feel
That God is every where, the God who framed
Mankind to be one mighty brotherhood,
Himself our Father, and the world our home.
We left Elbingerode, May 14th, and travelled for half a mile through a
wild country, of bleak stony hills by our side, with several caverns, or
rather mouths of caverns, visible in their breasts; and now we came to
Rubilland,--Oh, it was a lovely scene! Our road was at the foot of low
hills, and here were a few neat cottages; behind us were high hills,
with a few scattered firs, and flocks of goats visible on the topmost
crags. On our right hand a fine shallow river about thirty yards broad,
and beyond the river a crescent hill clothed with firs, that rise one
above another, like spectators in an amphitheatre. We advanced a little
farther,--the crags behind us ceased to be visible, and now the whole
was one and complete. All that could be seen was the cottages at the
foot of the low green hill, (cottages embosomed in fruit trees in
blossom,) the stream, and the little crescent of firs. I lingered here,
and unwillingly lost sight of it for a little while. The firs were so
beautiful, and the masses of rocks, walls, and obelisks started up among
them in the very places where, if they had not been, a painter with a
poet's feeling would have imagined them. Crossed the river (its name
Bodi), entered the sweet wood, and came to the mouth of the cavern, with
the man who shews it. It was a huge place, eight hundred feet in length,
and more in depth, of many different apartments; and the only thing that
distinguished it from other caverns was, that the guide, who was really
a character, had the talent of finding out and seeing uncommon
likenesses in the different forms of the stalactite. Here was a
nun;--this was Solomon's temple;--that was a Roman Catholic
Chapel;--here was a lion's claw, nothing but flesh and blood wanting to
make it completely a claw! This was an organ, and had all the notes of
an organ, etc. etc. etc.; but, alas! with all possible straining of my
eyes, ears, and imagination, I could see nothing but common stalactite,
and heard nothing but the dull ding of common cavern stones. One thing
was really striking;--a huge cone of stalactite hung from the roof of
the largest apartment, and, on being struck, gave perfectly the sound of
a death-bell. I was behind, and heard it repeatedly at some distance,
and the effect was very much in the fairy kind,--gnomes, and things
unseen, that toll mock death-bells for mock funerals. After this, a
little clear well and a black stream pleased me the most; and multiplied
by fifty, and coloured ad libitum, might be well enough to read of in a
novel or poem. We returned, and now before the inn, on the green plat
around the Maypole, the villagers were celebrating Whit-Tuesday. This
Maypole is hung as usual with garlands on the top, and, in these
garlands, spoons, and other little valuables, are placed. The high
smooth round pole is then well greased; and now he who can climb up to
the top may have what he can get,--a very laughable scene as you may
suppose, of awkwardness and agility, and failures on the very brink of
success. Now began a dance. The women danced very well, and, in general,
I have observed throughout Germany that the women in the lower ranks
degenerate far less from the ideal of a woman, than the men from that of
man. The dances were reels and waltzes; but chiefly the latter. This
dance is, in the higher circles, sufficiently voluptuous; but here the
emotions of it were far more faithful interpreters of the passion,
which, doubtless, the dance was intended to shadow; yet, ever after the
giddy round and round is over, they walked to music, the woman laying
her arm, with confident affection, on the man's shoulders, or around his
neck. The first couple at the waltzing was a very fine tall girl, of two
or three and twenty, in the full bloom and growth of limb and feature,
and a fellow with huge whiskers, a long tail, and woollen night-cap; he
was a soldier, and from the more than usual glances of the girl, I
presumed was her lover. He was, beyond compare, the gallant and the
dancer of the party. Next came two boors: one of whom, in the whole
contour of his face and person, and, above all, in the laughably
would-be frolicksome kick out of his heel, irresistibly reminded me of
Shakespeare's Slender, and the other of his Dogberry. Oh! two such
faces, and two such postures! O that I were an Hogarth! What an enviable
gift it is to have a genius in painting! Their partners were pretty
lasses, not so tall as the former, and danced uncommonly light and airy.
The fourth couple was a sweet girl of about seventeen, delicately
slender, and very prettily dressed, with a full-blown rose in the white
ribbon that went round her head, and confined her reddish-brown hair;
and her partner waltzed with a pipe in his mouth, smoking all the while;
and during the whole of this voluptuous dance, his countenance was a
fair personification of true German phlegm. After these, but, I suppose,
not actually belonging to the party, a little ragged girl and ragged
boy, with his stockings about his heels, waltzed and danced;--waltzing
and dancing in the rear most entertainingly. But what most pleased me,
was a little girl of about three or four years old, certainly not more
than four, who had been put to watch a little babe, of not more than a
year old (for one of our party had asked), and who was just beginning to
run away, the girl teaching him to walk, and who was so animated by the
music, that she began to waltz with him, and the two babes whirled round
and round, hugging and kissing each other, as if the music had made them
mad. There were two fiddles and a bass viol. The fiddlers,--above all,
the bass violer,--most Hogarthian phizzes! God love them! I felt far
more affection for them than towards any other set of human beings I
have met with since I have been in Germany, I suppose because they
looked so happy!
[Footnote 1: marked with an asterisk in the proofing (not the original
text), but not explained further.]
RETURN TO ENGLAND; "WALLENSTEIN", AND
THE "MORNING POST"
On the 21st May, Coleridge wrote the following letter in which he
informs Josiah Wedgwood what he had done in Germany, and what he
expected to do with the knowledge which he had acquired there.
LETTER 85. TO JOSIAH WEDGWOOD
May 21st, 1799. Gottingen.
My dear sir,
I have lying by my side six huge letters, with your name on each of
them, and all, excepting one, have been written for these three months.
About this time Mr. Hamilton, by whom I send this and the little parcel
for my wife, was, as it were, setting off for England; and I seized the
opportunity of sending them by him, as without any mock-modesty I really
thought that the expense of the postage to me and to you would be more
than their worth. Day after day, and week after week, was Hamilton
going, and still delayed. And now that it is absolutely settled that he
goes to-morrow, it is likewise absolutely settled that I shall go this
day three weeks, and I have therefore sent only this and the picture by
him, but the letters I will now take myself, for I should not like them
to be lost, as they comprise the only subject on which I have had an
opportunity of making myself thoroughly informed, and if I carry them
myself, I can carry them without danger of their being seized at
Yarmouth, as all my letters were, yours to ---- excepted, which were,
luckily, not sealed. Before I left England, I had read the book of which
you speak.  I must confess that it appeared to me exceedingly
illogical. Godwin's and Condorcet's extravagancies were not worth
confuting; and yet I thought that the Essay on "Population" had not
confuted them. Professor Wallace, Derham, and a number of German
statistic and physico-theological writers had taken the same ground,
namely, that population increases in a geometrical, but the accessional
nutriment only in arithmetical ratio--and that vice and misery, the
natural consequences of this order of things, were intended by
providence as the counterpoise. I have here no means of procuring so
obscure a book, as Rudgard's; but to the best of my recollection, at the
time that the Fifth Monarchy enthusiasts created so great a sensation in
England, under the Protectorate, and the beginning of Charles the
Second's reign, Rudgard, or Rutgard (I am not positive even of the name)
wrote an Essay to the same purpose, in which he asserted, that if war,
pestilence, vice, and poverty, were wholly removed, the world could not
exist two hundred years, etc. Seiffmilts,  in his great work
concerning the divine order and regularity in the destiny of the human
race, has a chapter entitled a confutation of this idea; I read it with
great eagerness, and found therein that this idea militated against the
glory and goodness of God, and must therefore be false,--but further
confutation found I none!--This book of Seiffmilts has a prodigious
character throughout Germany; and never methinks did a work less deserve
it. It is in three huge octavos, and wholly on the general laws that
regulate the population of the human species--but is throughout most
unphilosophical, and the tables, which he has collected with great
industry, prove nothing. My objections to the Essay on Population you
will find in my sixth letter at large--but do not, my dear sir, suppose
that because unconvinced by this essay, I am therefore convinced of the
contrary. No, God knows, I am sufficiently sceptical, and in truth more
than sceptical, concerning the possibility of universal plenty and
wisdom; but my doubts rest on other grounds. I had some conversation
with you before I left England, on this subject; and from that time I
had purposed to myself to examine as thoroughly as it was possible for
me, the important question. Is the march of the human race progressive,
or in cycles? But more of this when we meet.
What have I done in Germany? I have learned the language, both high and
low German, I can read both, and speak the former so fluently, that it
must be a fortune for a German to be in my company, that is, I have
words enough and phrases enough, and I arrange them tolerably; but my
pronunciation is hideous. 2ndly, I can read the oldest German, the
Frankish, and the Swabian. 3rdly. I have attended the lectures on
Physiology, Anatomy, and Natural History, with regularity, and have
endeavoured to understand these subjects. 4thly, I have read and made
collections for a history of the "Belles Lettres," in Germany, before
the time of Lessing: and 5thly, very large collections for a "Life of
Lessing"; to which I was led by the miserably bad and unsatisfactory
biographies that have been hitherto given, and by my personal
acquaintance with two of Lessing's friends. Soon after I came into
Germany, I made up my mind fully not to publish anything concerning my
Travels, as people call them; yet I soon perceived that with all
possible economy, my expenses would be greater than I could justify,
unless I did something that would to a moral certainty repay them. I
chose the "Life of Lessing" for the reasons above assigned, and because
it would give me an opportunity of conveying under a better name than my
own ever will be, opinions which I deem of the highest importance.
Accordingly, my main business at Gottingen has been to read all the
numerous controversies in which Lessing was engaged, and the works of
all those German poets before the time of Lessing, which I could not
afford to buy. For these last four months, with the exception of last
week, in which I visited the Hartz, I have worked harder than I trust in
God Almighty I shall ever have occasion to work again: this endless
transcription is such a body-and-soul-wearying purgatory. I shall have
bought thirty pounds' worth of books, chiefly metaphysics, and with a
view to the one work, to which I hope to dedicate in silence, the prime
of my life; but I believe and indeed doubt not, that before Christmas I
shall have repaid myself. 
I never, to the best of my recollection, felt the fear of death but
once; that was yesterday when I delivered the picture to Hamilton. I
felt, and shivered as I felt it, that I should not like to die by land
or water before I see my wife and the little one; that I hope yet
remains to me. But it was an idle sort of feeling, and I should not like
to have it again. Poole half mentioned, in a hasty way, a circumstance
that depressed my spirits for many days:--that you and Thomas were on
the point of settling near Stowey, but had abandoned it. "God Almighty!
what a dream of happiness it held out to me!" writes Poole. I felt
disappointment without having had hope.
In about a month I hope to see you. Till then may heaven bless and
preserve us! Believe me, my dear sir, with every feeling of love,
esteem, and gratitude,
Your affectionate friend,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
(Josiah Wedgwood, Esq.) 
[Footnote l: Malthas on Population, 1798.]
[Footnote 2: Should be Syssmilch.]
[Footnote 3: Cottle here omits a part of this letter about pecuniary
[Footnote 4: Letters XCIX-CIII follow Letter 85.]
It is interesting to compare this letter with that to Poole of 6th May
1796; it will be seen that Coleridge thus carried out his project of
three years before. He had been able to convince the Wedgwoods of the
desirability of introducing a knowledge of the German philosophy into
England to refute the philosophy of Hume and expose the shallowness of
the metaphysics of Locke and the Paley School of Theology. Tom Wedgwood
was himself a philosopher, and saw in Coleridge the champion of a new
basis of faith, and hence the friendship between them, and the support
of the Wedgwoods to Coleridge in carrying out his self-education.
Coleridge returned to England about a month after the Wordsworths, in
July, 1799, and he reached Stowey before the 29th, when he wrote to
Southey, and the two worked in concert for the publication of an annual
started as the 'Annual Anthology', of which two volumes appeared,
one in 1799 and one in 1800, Coleridge contributing some of his poems to
the latter. 'The Devil's Thoughts', a conjoint squib which caused
some sensation was sent to the 'Morning Post' on 6th September.
Coleridge spent a part of the Autumn of 1799 at Ottery St. Mary visiting
his mother and brothers. Coleridge then went to Southey at Exeter, and
they visited the ash dells round about Dartmoor together
('Letters', 305). Coleridge also saw Josiah Wedgwood at his seat of
Upcott on his way home; and on 15th October we find him back at Stowey
('Letters', 307). Still later he went north to see Wordsworth who
was staying at Sockburn on the Tees with the Hutchinsons. Cottle
accompanied them as far as Greta Bridge, where John Wordsworth joined
their company. Coleridge and William and John Wordsworth then went on
tour to the Lake District, visiting Grasmere, when Wordsworth made
arrangements to take a house at Townend (now known as Dove Cottage), and
came back to Sockburn (Knight's 'Life of Wordsworth', chap. xii).
It was at Sockburn that Coleridge first met Sarah Hutchinson; and here
it is conjectured he wrote his beautiful poem 'Love', which
appeared in its first form in the 'Morning Post', on 21st December
1799, prefaced with the following letter.
LETTER 86. TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'MORNING POST' WITH
THE POEM 'LOVE', FIRST PUBLISHED AS 'INTRODUCTION TO
THE TALE OF THE DARK LADIE'.
21 December, 1799.
The following poem is the introduction to a somewhat longer one, for
which I shall solicit insertion on your next open day. The use of the
old ballad word 'Ladie' for Lady, is the only piece of obsoleteness
in it; and as it is professedly a tale of ancient times, I trust that
"the affectionate lovers of venerable antiquity," (as Cambden says) will
grant me their pardon, and perhaps may be induced to admit a force and
propriety in it. A heavier objection may be adduced against the Author,
that in these times of fear and expectation, when novelties
'explode' around us in all directions, he should presume to offer
to the public a silly tale of old-fashioned love; and five years ago, I
own, I should have allowed and felt the force of this objection. But,
alas! explosion has succeeded explosion so rapidly that novelty itself
ceases to appear new; and it is possible that now, even a simple story
wholly unspiced with politics or personality, may find some attention
amid the hubbub of Revolutions, as to those who have remained a long
time by the falls of Niagara, the lowest whispering becomes distinctly
S. T. COLERIDGE.
[Footnote 1: Letter CIV follows 86.]
This was followed on 10th January 1800 by the political verses
'Talleyrand to Lord Grenville', heralded by a letter as good as, if
not better than, the verses.
LETTER 87. TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'MORNING POST'.
WITH 'TALLEYRAND TO LORD GRENVILLE', A METRICAL
10 January, 1800.
An unmetrical letter from Talleyrand to Lord Grenville has already
appeared, and from an authority too high to be questioned: otherwise I
could adduce some arguments for the exclusive authenticity of the
following metrical epistle. The very epithet which the wise ancients
used, "'aurea carmina'" might have been supposed likely to have
determined the choice of the French minister in favour of verse; and the
rather when we recollect that this phrase of "golden verses" is applied
emphatically to the works of that philosopher who imposed 'silence'
on all with whom he had to deal. Besides, is it not somewhat improbable
that Talleyrand should have preferred prose to rhyme, when the latter
alone 'has got the chink'? Is it not likewise curious that in our
official answer no notice whatever is taken of the Chief Consul,
Bonaparte, as if there had been no such person existing; notwithstanding
that his existence is pretty generally admitted, nay that some have been
so rash as to believe that he has created as great a sensation in the
world as Lord Grenville, or even the Duke of Portland? But the Minister
of Foreign Affairs, Talleyrand, 'is' acknowledged, which, in our
opinion, could not have happened had he written only that insignificant
prose letter, which seems to precede Bonaparte's, as in old romances a
dwarf always ran before to proclaim the advent or arrival of knight or
giant. That Talleyrand's character and practices more resemble those of
some 'regular' Governments than Bonaparte's I admit; but this of
itself does not appear a satisfactory explanation. However, let the
letter speak for itself. The second line is supererogative in syllables,
whether from the oscitancy of the transcriber, or from the trepidation
which might have overpowered the modest Frenchman, on finding himself in
the act of writing to so 'great' a man, I shall not dare to
determine. A few notes are added by,
P.S.--As mottoes are now fashionable, especially if taken from out of
the way books, you may prefix, if you please, the following lines from
Saxa, et robora, corneasque fibras
Mollit dulciloquia canorus arte!
Coleridge had arrived in London in the end of November (Dyke-Campbell's
'Life', 105); and Mrs. Coleridge and Hartley were also at 21,
Buckingham Street, Strand, on 9th December ('Letters', 318). He was now
a regular contributor to the 'Morning Post', Stuart, the proprietor
paying all expenses ('Letters', 310), Coleridge, too, had made the
acquaintance of Godwin ('Letters', p. 316), whom he had castigated in
the 'Watchman', and who, he says, "is no great things in intellects;
but in heart and manner he is all the better for having been the
husband of Mary Wollstonecraft" ('Letters', 316). He began a
correspondence with Godwin, and of the eighteen letters by Coleridge to
him we are enabled to give nine. Lamb was the means of drawing
Coleridge and Godwin together, and in Lamb's letters of this period
('Ainger', i, 111, 113, 115), we find glimpses of Coleridge while
engaged on his translation of 'Wallenstein'.
While in London Coleridge did not neglect his friends elsewhere; we
have interesting letters to the Wedgwoods, Poole, and Southey. The next
three letters are from London.
[Footnote 1: For an account of Coleridge as a journalist see Mr. H. D.
Traill's 'Life of Coleridge', p. 79.]
LETTER 88. TO THOMAS WEDGWOOD
21, Buckingham Street, Strand, January, 1800.
My dear sir,
I am sitting by a fire in a rug great coat. Your room is doubtless to a
greater degree air tight than mine, or your notions of Tartarus would
veer round to the Greenlander's creed. It is most barbarously cold, and
you, I fear, can shield yourself from it, only by perpetual
imprisonment. If any place in the southern climates were in a state of
real quiet, and likely to continue so, should you feel no inclination to
migrate? Poor Southey, from over great industry, as I suspect, the
industry too of solitary composition, has reduced himself to a terrible
state of weakness, and is determined to leave this country as soon as he
has finished the poem on which he is now employed. 'Tis a melancholy
thing that so young a man, and one whose life has ever been so simple
and self-denying * * *
O, for a peace, and the south of France! I could almost wish for a
Bourbon king, if it were only that Sieyes and Buonaparte might finish
their career in the old orthodox way of hanging. Thank God, "I have my
health perfectly", and I am working hard; yet the present state of human
affairs presses on me for days together, so as to deprive me of all my
cheerfulness. It is probable that a man's private and personal
connexions and interests ought to be uppermost in his daily and hourly
thoughts, and that the dedication of much hope and fear to subjects
which are perhaps disproportionate to our faculties and powers, is a
disease. But I have had this disease so long, and my early education was
so undomestic, that I know not how to get rid of it; or even to wish to
get rid of it. Life were so flat a thing without enthusiasm, that if for
a moment it leaves me, I have a sort of stomach sensation attached to
all my thoughts, "like those which succeed to the pleasurable operations
of a dose of opium".
Now I make up my mind to a sort of heroism in believing the
progressiveness of all nature, during the present melancholy state of
humanity, and on this subject "I am now writing"; and no work on which I
ever employed myself makes me so happy while I am writing.
I shall remain in London till April. The expenses of my last year made
it necessary for me to exert my industry, and many other good ends are
answered at the same time. Where I next settle I shall continue, and
that must be in a state of retirement and rustication. It is therefore
good for me to have a run of society, and that various and consisting of
marked characters. Likewise, by being obliged to write without much
elaboration, I shall greatly improve myself in naturalness and facility
of style, and the particular subjects on which I write for money are
nearly connected with my future schemes. My mornings I give to
compilations which I am sure cannot be wholly useless, and for which, by
the beginning of April I shall have earned nearly L150. My evenings to
the "Theatres", as I am to conduct a sort of Dramaturgy or series of
Essays on the Drama, both its general principles, and likewise in
reference to the present state of the English Theatres. This I shall
publish in the "Morning Post". My attendance on the theatres costs me
nothing, and Stuart, the Editor, covers my expenses in London. Two
mornings, and one whole day, I dedicate to these Essays on the possible
progressiveness of man, and on the principles of population. In April I
retire to my greater works,--"The Life of Lessing". My German chests are
arrived, but I have them not yet, but expect them from Stowey daily;
when they come I shall send a letter.
I have seen a good deal of Godwin, who has just published a Novel. I
like him for thinking so well of Davy. He talks of him every where as
the most extraordinary of human beings he had ever met with. I cannot
say that, for I know "one" whom I feel to be the superior, but I never
met with so extraordinary a "young man". I have likewise dined with
Horne Tooke. He is a clear-headed old man, as every man must needs be
who attends to the real import of words, but there is a sort of
charlatanry in his manner that did not please me. He makes such a
mystery out of plain and palpable things, and never tells you any thing
without first exciting, and detaining your curiosity. But it were a bad
heart that could not pardon worse faults than these in the author of
"The Diversions of Purley".
Believe me, my dear sir, with much affection
S. T. COLERIDGE. 
Thomas Wedgwood, Esq.
[Footnote 1: Letter CV follows our No. 88.]
LETTER 89. TO JOSIAH WEDGWOOD
21, Buckingham Street, Feb. 1800.
My dear sir,
Your brother's health (Mr. Thomas Wedgwood) outweighs all other
considerations. Beyond a doubt he has made himself acquainted with the
degree of heat which he is to experience there (the West Indies). The
only objections that I see are so obvious, that it is idle in me to
mention them: the total want of men with whose pursuits your brother can
have a fellow feeling: the length and difficulty of the return, in case
of a disappointment; and the necessity of sea-voyages to almost every
change of scenery. I will not think of the yellow fever; that I hope is
quite out of all probability. Believe me, my dear friend, I have some
difficulty in suppressing all that is within me of affection and grief.
God knows my heart, wherever your brother is, I shall follow him in
spirit; follow him with my thoughts and most affectionate wishes.
I read your letter, and did as you desired me. ----  is very cool to
me. Whether I have still any of the leaven of the "Citizen," and
visionary about me--too much for his present zeal, or whether he is
incapable of attending * * * * As to his views, he is now gone to
Cambridge to canvass for a Fellowship in Trinity Hall. Mackintosh has
kindly written to Dr. Lawrence, who is very intimate with the Master,
and he has other interest. He is also trying hard, and in expectation of
a Commissionership of Bankruptcy, and means to pursue the law with all
ardour and steadiness. As to the state of his mind, it is that which it
was and will be. God love him! He has a most incurable forehead. ---- 
called on him and looking on his table, saw by accident a letter
directed to himself.
Said he, "Why ----  what letter is this for me? and from ----." 
"Yes I have had it some time."
"Why did you not give it me?"
"Oh, it wants some explanation first. You must not read it now, for I
can't give you the explanation now."
And ----, who you know is a right easy-natured man, has not been able
to get his own letter from him to this hour! Of his success at
Cambridge, Caldwell, is doubtful, or more than doubtful. * * *
So much of ----. All that I know, and all I suspect that is to be
known. A kind, gentlemanly, affectionate hearted man, possessed of an
absolute talent for industry. Would to God, he had never heard of
I have been three times to the House of Commons; each time earlier than
the former; and each time hideously crowded. The two first days the
debate was put off. Yesterday I went at a quarter before eight, and
remained till three this morning, and then sat writing and correcting
other men's writing till eight--a good twenty four hours of unpleasant
activity! I have not felt myself sleepy yet. Pitt and Fox completely
answered my pre-formed ideas of them. The elegance and high finish of
Pitt's periods, even in the most sudden replies, is "curious," but that
is all. He argues but so so, and does not reason at all. Nothing is
rememberable of what he says. Fox possesses all the full and overflowing
eloquence of a man of clear head, clear heart, and impetuous feelings.
He is to my mind a great orator; all the rest that spoke were mere
creatures. I could make a better speech myself than any that I heard,
except Pitt and Fox. I reported that part of Pitt's which I have
enclosed in brackets, not that I report ex-officio, but my curiosity
having led me there, I did Stuart a service by taking a few notes.
I work from morning to night, but in a few weeks I shall have completed
my purpose, and then adieu to London for ever. We newspaper scribes are
true galley-slaves. When the high winds of events blow loud and frequent
then the sails are hoisted, or the ship drives on of itself. When all is
calm and sunshine then to our oars. Yet it is not unflattering to a
man's vanity to reflect that what he writes at twelve at night, will
before twelve hours are over, have perhaps, five or six thousand
readers! To trace a happy phrase, good image, or new argument, running
through the town and sliding into all the papers. Few wine merchants can
boast of creating more sensation. Then to hear a favourite and
often-urged argument, repeated almost in your own particular phrases, in
the House of Commons; and, quietly in the silent self-complacence of
your own heart, chuckle over the plagiarism, as if you were monopolist
of all good reasons. But seriously, considering that I have newspapered
it merely as means of subsistence, while I was doing other things, I
have been very lucky. "The New Constitution; The Proposal for Peace; The
Irish Union;" etc. etc.; they are important in themselves, and excellent
vehicles for general truths. I am not ashamed of what I have written.
I desired Poole to send you all the papers antecedent to your own; I
think you will like the different analyses of the French constitution. I
have attended Mackintosh's lectures regularly; he was so kind as to send
me a ticket, and I have not failed to profit by it.
I remain, with grateful and most affectionate esteem,
Your faithful friend
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Josiah Wedgwood, Esq.
[Footnote 1: Basil Montagu.]
[Footnote 2: John Pinney.]
[Footnote 3: Montagu.]
[Footnote 4: Wordsworth.]
[Footnote 5: Pinney.]
[Footnote 6: Montagu.]
[Footnote 7: Letters CVI-CIX follow 89.]
LETTER 90. TO POOLE
If I had the least love of money I could make almost sure of L2,000 a
year, for Stuart has offered me half shares in the two papers, the
"Morning Post" and "Courier", if I would devote myself with him to them.
But I told him that I would not give up the country, and the lazy
reading of old folios for two thousand times two thousand pound--in
short that beyond L250 a year I considered money as a real evil.--
I think there are but two good ways of writing--one for immediate and
wide impression, though transitory--the other for permanence. Newspapers
are the first--the best one can do is the second. That middle class of
translating books is neither the one nor the other. When I have settled
myself "clear", I shall write nothing for money but for the newspaper.
You of course will not hint a word of Stuart's offer to me. He has
behaved with abundant honour and generosity.
Coleridge had determined not to live in London; his engagement with
Stuart he regarded as only a temporary shift to clear off some debt
which he had incurred in his visit to Germany. After a short stay with
Lamb ("Ainger", i, 113), and a tour to the North to see Wordsworth (J.
Dykes Campbell's "Life", 113), he returned to Stowey, writing to Godwin
on 21st May.
LETTER 91. TO GODWIN
Wednesday, May 21, 1800.
I received your letter this morning, and had I not, still I am almost
confident that I should have written to you before the end of the week.
Hitherto the translation of the "Wallenstein" has prevented me, not that
it engrossed my time, but that it wasted and depressed my spirits, and
left a sense of wearisomeness and disgust which unfitted me for anything
but sleeping or immediate society. I say this because I ought to have
written to you first; yet, as I am not behind you in affectionate
esteem, so I would not be thought to lag in those outward and visible
signs that both show and verify the inward spiritual grace. Believe me,
you recur to my thoughts frequently, and never without pleasure, never
without my making out of the past a little day-dream for the future. I
left Wordsworth on the 4th of this month; if I cannot procure a suitable
house at Stowey I return to Cumberland and settle at Keswick, in a house
of such prospect that if, according to you and Hume, impressions
constitute our being, I shall have a tendency to become a god, so
sublime and beautiful will be the series of my visual existence. But,
whether I continue here or migrate thither, I shall be in a beautiful
country, and have house-room and heart-room for you, and you must come
and write your next work at my house. My dear Godwin! I remember you
with so much pleasure, and our conversations so distinctly, that, I
doubt not, we have been mutually benefited; but as to your poetic and
physiopathic feelings, I more than suspect that dear little Fanny and
Mary have had more to do in that business than I. Hartley sends his love
to Mary.  "What, and not to Fanny?" "Yes, and to Fanny, but I'll
'have' Mary." He often talks about them.
My poor Lamb, how cruelly afflictions crowd upon him! I am glad that you
think of him as I think: he has an affectionate heart, a mind "sui
generis"; his taste acts so as to appear like the unmechanic simplicity
of an instinct; in brief, he is worth an hundred men of mere talents.
Conversation with the latter tribe is like the use of leaden bells--one
wearies by exercise. Lamb every now and then "irradiates", and the beam,
though single and fine as a hair, yet is rich with colours, and I both
see and feel it. In Bristol I was much with Davy, almost all day. He
always talks of you with great affection, and defends you with a
friendly zeal. If I settle at Keswick he will be with me in the fall of
the year, and so must you: and let me tell you, Godwin, that four such
men as you, I, Davy, and Wordsworth, do not meet together in one house
every day in the year--I mean four men so distinct with so many
sympathies. I received yesterday a letter from Southey. He arrived at
Lisbon after a prosperous voyage, on the last day of April; his letter
to me is dated May-Day. He girds up his loins for a great history of
Portugal, which will be translated into Portuguese in the first year of
the Lusitanian Republic.
Have you seen Mrs. Robinson  lately--how is she? Remember me in the
kindest and most respectful phrases to her. I wish I knew the
particulars of her complaint; for Davy has discovered a perfectly new
acid by which he has restored the use of limbs to persons who had lost
it for many years (one woman nine years), in cases of supposed
rheumatism. At all events, Davy says, it can do no harm in Mrs.
Robinson's case, and, if she will try it, he will make up a little
parcel and write her a letter of instructions, etc. Tell her, and it is
the truth, that Davy is exceedingly delighted with the two poems in the
N.B. Did you get my attempt at a tragedy from Mrs. Robinson?
To Mrs. Smith I am about to write a letter, with a book; be so kind as
to inform me of her direction.
Mrs. Inchbald I do not like at all; every time I recollect her I like
her less. That segment of a look at the corner of her eye--O God in
heaven! it is so cold and cunning. Through worlds of wildernesses I
would run away from that look, that "heart-picking" look! 'Tis
marvellous to me that you can like that woman.
I shall remain here about ten days for certain. If you have leisure and
inclination in that time, write; if not, I will write to you where I am
going, or at all events whither I am gone.
God bless you, and
Your sincerely affectionate
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Mr. T. Poole's,
N[ether] Stowey, Bridgwater.
Sara desires to be remembered kindly to you, and sends a kiss to Fanny,
and "dear meek little Mary."
[Footnote 1: Mrs. Shelley.]
[Footnote 2: The celebrated Perdita. She died in the following
Next month Coleridge wrote to Davy.
LETTER 92. TO HUMPHRY DAVY
Saturday Morning, Mr. T. Poole's, Nether Stowey, Somerset.
My dear Davy,
I received a very kind letter from Godwin, in which he says that he
never thinks of you but with a brother's feeling of love and
expectation. Indeed, I am sure he does not.
I think of translating Blumenbach's Manual of Natural History: it is
very well written, and would, I think, be useful both to students, as an
admirable direction to their studies, and to others it would supply a
general knowledge of the subject. I will state the contents of the book:
1. Of the naturalia in general, and their divisions into three kingdoms.
2. Of organised bodies in general. 3. Of animals in general. 4. Of the
mammalia. 5. Birds. 6. Amphibious. 7. Fishes. 8. Insects. 9. Worms. 10.
Plants. 11. Of minerals in general. 12. Of stones and earthy fossils.
13. Of mineral salts. 14. Combustible minerals. 15. Of metals. 16.
Petrifactions. At the end there is an alphabetical index, so that it is
at once a natural history and a dictionary of natural history. To each
animal, etc., all the European names are given, with of course the
scientific characteristics. I have the last edition, "i.e.", that of
April, 1799. Now, I wish to know from you, whether there is in English
already any work of one volume (this would make 800 pages), that renders
this useless. In short, should I be right in advising Longman to
undertake it? Answer me as soon as you conveniently can. Blumenbach has
been no very great discoverer, though he has done some respectable
things in that way, but he is a man of enormous knowledge, and has an
"arranging" head. Ask Beddoes, if you do not know. When you have
leisure, you would do me a great service, if you would briefly state
your metaphysical system of impressions, ideas, pleasures, and pains,
the laws that govern them, and the reasons which induce you to consider
them as essentially distinct from each other. My motive for this request
is the following:--As soon as I "settle", I shall read Spinoza and
Leibnitz, and I particularly wish to know wherein they agree with, and
wherein differ from you. If you will do this, I promise you to send you
the result, and with it my own creed.
God bless you!
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Blumenbach's book contains references to all the best writers on each
subject. My friend, T. Poole, begs me to ask what, in your opinion, are
the parts or properties in the oak which tan skins? and is cold water a
complete menstruum for these parts or properties? I understand from
Poole that nothing is so little understood as the chemical theory of
tan, though nothing is of more importance in the circle of manufactures;
in other words, does oak bark give out to cold water all those of its
parts which tan?
Coleridge and his family at last settled down at Greta Hall in July,
1800, and he thus writes to Josiah Wedgwood of the event.
LETTER 93. To JOSIAH WEDGWOOD
July 24, 1800.
My dear sir,
I find your letter on my arrival at Grasmere, namely, dated on the 29th
of June, since which time to the present, with the exception of the last
few days, I have been more unwell than I have ever been since I left
school. For many days I was forced to keep my bed, and when released
from that incarceration, I suffered most grievously from a brace of
swollen eyelids, and a head into which, on the least agitation, the
blood was felt as rushing in and flowing back again, like the raking of
the tide on a coast of loose stones. However, thank God, I am now coming
That Tom receives such pleasure from natural scenery strikes me as it
does you. The total incapability which I have found in myself to
associate any but the most languid feelings, with the God-like objects
which have surrounded me, and the nauseous efforts to impress my
admiration into the service of nature, has given me a sympathy with his
former state of health, which I never before could have had. I wish,
from the bottom of my soul, that he may be enjoying similar pleasures
with those which I am now enjoying with all that newness of sensation;
that voluptuous correspondence of the blood and flesh about me with
breeze and sun-heat, which makes convalescence more than repay one for
I parted from Poole with pain and dejection, for him, and for myself in
him. I should have given Stowey a decided preference for a residence. It
was likewise so conveniently situated, that I was in the way of almost
all whom I love and esteem. But there was no suitable house, and no
prospect of a suitable house.
* * * These things would have weighed as nothing, could I have remained
at Stowey, but now they come upon me to diminish my regret. Add to this,
Poole's determination to spend a year or two on the continent, in case
of a peace and his mother's death. God in heaven bless her! I am sure
she will not live long. This is the first day of my arrival at Keswick.
My house is roomy, situated on an eminence, a furlong from the town;
before it an enormous garden, more than two-thirds of which is rented as
a garden for sale articles; but the walks are ours. Completely behind
the house are shrubberies, and a declivity planted with flourishing
trees of ten or fifteen years' growth, at the bottom of which is a most
delightful shaded walk, by the river Greta, a quarter of a mile in
length. The room in which I sit commands from one window the
Bassenthwaite lake, woods, and mountains. From the opposite, the
Derwentwater and fantastic mountains of Borrowdale. Straight before is a
wilderness of mountains, catching and streaming lights and shadows at
all times. Behind the house, and entering into all our views, is
My acquaintances here are pleasant, and at some distance is Sir Guilfred
Lawson's seat, with a very large and expensive library, to which I have
every reason to hope that I shall have free access. But when I have been
settled here a few days longer, I will write you a minute account of my
situation. Wordsworth lives twelve miles distant. In about a year's time
he will probably settle at Keswick likewise. It is no small advantage
here, that for two-thirds of the year we are in complete retirement. The
other third is alive and swarms with tourists of all shapes, and sizes,
and characters. It is the very place I would recommend to a novelist or
farce writer. Besides, at that time of the year there is always hope
that a friend may be among the number and miscellaneous crowd, whom this
place attracts. So much for Keswick.
Have you seen my translation of "Wallenstein". It is a dull heavy play,
but I entertain hopes that you will think the language for the greater
part, natural, and good common sense English; to which excellence, if I
can lay fair claim in any work of poetry or prose, I shall be a very
singular writer, at least. I am now working at my "Introduction of the
Life of Lessing", which I trust will be in the press before Christmas,
that is, the "Introduction", which will be published first. God bless
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Josiah Wedgwood, Esq.
To Davy Coleridge wrote on the succeeding day.
LETTER 94. TO DAVY
Keswick, Friday Evening, July 25, 1800.
My dear Davy
Work hard, and if success do not dance up like the bubbles in the salt
(with the spirit lamp under it), may the Devil and his dam take success!
My dear fellow! from the window before me there is a great "camp" of
mountains. Giants seem to have pitched their tents there. Each mountain
is a giant's tent, and how the light streams from them. Davy! I "ache"
for you to be with us.
W. Wordsworth is such a lazy fellow, that I bemire myself by making
promises for him: the moment I received your letter, I wrote to him. He
will, I hope, write immediately to Biggs and Cottle. At all events,
those poems must not as yet be delivered up to them, because that
beautiful poem, "The Brothers", which I read to you in Paul Street, I
neglected to deliver to you, and that must begin the volume. I trust,
however, that I have invoked the sleeping bard with a spell so potent,
that he will awake and deliver up that sword of Argantyr, which is to
rive the enchanter "Gaudyverse" from his crown to his foot.
What did you think of that case I translated for you from the German?
That I was a well-meaning sutor who had ultra-crepidated with more
zeal than wisdom!! I give myself credit for that word "ultra-
crepidated," it started up in my brain like a creation. I write to
Tobin by this post. Godwin is gone Irelandward, on a visit to Curran,
says the "Morning Post"; to Grattan, writes C. Lamb.
We drank tea the night before I left Grasmere, on the island in that
lovely lake; our kettle swung over the fire, hanging from the branch of
a fir-tree, and I lay and saw the woods, and mountains, and lake all
trembling, and as it were idealized through the suble smoke, which rose
up from the clear, red embers of the fir-apples which we had collected:
afterwards we made a glorious bonfire on the margin, by some elder
bushes, whose twigs heaved and sobbed in the uprushing column of smoke,
and the image of the bonfire, and of us that danced round it, ruddy,
laughing faces in the twilight; the image of this in a lake, smooth as
that sea, to whose waves the Son of God had said, "Peace!" May God, and
all his sons, love you as I do.
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Sara desires her kind remembrances. Hartley is a spirit that dances on
an aspen leaf; the air that yonder sallowfaced and yawning tourist is
breathing, is to my babe a perpetual nitrous oxide. Never was more
joyous creature born. Pain with him is so wholly transubstantiated by
the joys that had rolled on before, and rushed on after, that oftentimes
five minutes after his mother has whipt him, he has gone up and asked
her to whip him again.
[Footnote 1: "Ne sutor ultra crepidam."]
[Footnote 2: Letter CX follows No. 94.]
Coleridge was now as enamoured of the Lake District as he had been of
Stowey. On 22nd September he wrote to Godwin.
LETTER 95. TO GODWIN
Monday, Sept. 22, 1800.
I received your letter, and with it the enclosed note, which shall be
punctually re-delivered to you on the first of October.
Your tragedy  to be exhibited at Christmas! I have, indeed, merely
read through your letter; so it is not strange that my heart continues
beating out of time. Indeed, indeed Godwin, such a stream of hope and
fear rushed in on me, as I read the sentence, as you would not permit
yourself to feel! If there be anything yet undreamt of in our
philosophy; if it be, or if it be possible, that thought can impel
thought out of the usual limit of a man's own skull and heart; if the
cluster of ideas which constitute an identity, do ever connect and unite
into a greater whole; if feelings could ever propagate themselves
without the servile ministrations of undulating air or reflected light;
I seem to feel within myself a strength and a power of desire that might
dart a modifying, commanding impulse on a whole theatre. What does all
this mean? Alas! that sober sense should know no other way to construe
all this, than by the tame phrase, I wish you success! That which Lamb
informed you is founded on truth. Mr. Sheridan sent, through the medium
of Stuart, a request to Wordsworth to present a tragedy to his stage;
and to me a declaration, that the failure of my piece was owing to my
obstinacy in refusing any alteration. I laughed and Wordsworth smiled;
but my tragedy will remain at Keswick, and Wordsworth's is not likely to
emigrate from Grasmere. Wordsworth's drama is, in its present state, not
fit for the stage, and he is not well enough to submit to the drudgery
of making it so. Mine is fit for nothing, except to excite in the minds
of good men the hope "that the young man is likely to do better." In the
first moments I thought of re-writing it, and sent to Lamb for the copy
with this intent. I read an Act, and altered my opinion, and with it my
Your feelings respecting Baptism are, I suppose, much like mine! At
times I dwell on Man with such reverence, resolve all his follies into
such grand primary laws of intellect, and in such wise so contemplate
them as ever-varying incarnations of the Eternal Life--that the Llama's
dung-pellet, or the cow-tail which the dying Brahmin clutches
convulsively, become sanctified and sublime by the feelings which
cluster round them. In that mood I exclaim, my boys shall be christened!
But then another fit of moody philosophy attacks me. I look at my
doted-on Hartley--he moves, he lives, he finds impulses from within and
from without, he is the darling of the sun and of the breeze. Nature
seems to bless him as a thing of her own. He looks at the clouds, the
mountains, the living beings of the earth, and vaults and jubilates!
Solemn looks and solemn words have been hitherto connected in his mind
with great and magnificent objects only: with lightning, with thunder,
with the waterfall blazing in the sunset. Then I say, shall I suffer him
to see grave countenances and hear grave accents, while his face is
sprinkled? Shall I be grave myself, and tell a lie to him? Or shall I
laugh, and teach him to insult the feelings of his fellow men? Besides,
are we not all in this present hour, fainting beneath the duty of Hope?
From such thoughts I stand up, and vow a book of severe analysis, in
which I shall tell "all" I believe to be truth in the nakedest language
in which it can be told.
My wife is now quite comfortable. Surely you might come and spend the
very next four weeks, not without advantage to both of us. The very
glory of the place is coming on; the local genius is just arraying
himself in his higher attributes. But, above all, I press it because my
mind has been busied with speculations that are closely connected with
those pursuits that have hitherto constituted your utility and
importance: and, ardently as I wish you success on the stage, I yet
cannot frame myself to the thought that you should cease to appear as a
bold moral thinker. I wish you to write a book on the power of words,
and the processes by which human feelings form affinities with them--in
short, I wish you to "philosophize" Horne Tooke's system, and to solve
the great questions--whether there be reason to hold that an action
bearing the semblance of predesigning consciousness may yet be simply
organic, and whether a series of such actions are possible--and close on
the heels of this question would follow the old, "Is logic the essence
of thinking?"--in other words, "Is thinking possible without arbitrary
signs? or how far is the word arbitrary a misnomer? are not words, etc.,
parts and germinations of the plant, and what is the law of their
growth?" In something of this order I would endeavour to destroy the old
antithesis of Words and Things, elevating, as it were, Words into
Things, and living things too. All the nonsense of vibrations, etc., you
would, of course, dismiss.
If what I have here written appear nonsense to you, or common sense in a
harlequinade of "outre" expressions, suspend your judgment till we see
S. T. COLERIDGE.
I was in the country when "Wallenstein" was published. Longman sent me
down half-a-dozen--the carriage back the book was not worth.
[Footnote 1: A loan often pounds.]
[Footnote 2: "Antonio."]
Coleridge had asked Godwin to stand godfather to his child, which
compliment Godwin declined. Hence the passage in the above letter on
Davy now occupied a large part of Coleridge's attention. On 9th October
LETTER 96. To DAVY
Thursday night, October 9, 1800.
My dear Davy,
I was right glad, glad with a "stagger" of the heart, to see your
writing again. Many a moment have I had all my France and England
curiosity suspended and lost, looking in the advertisement front column
of the "Morning Post Gazetteer", for "Mr. Davy's Galvanic habitudes of
charcoal. ..." Upon my soul, I believe there is not a letter in those
words round which a world of imagery does not circumvolve; your room,
the garden, the cold bath, the moonlight rocks, Barristed, Moore, and
simple-looking Frere, and dreams of wonderful things attached to your
name--and Skiddaw, and Glaramara, and Eagle Crag, and you, and
Back to Full Books