Biographia Epistolaris, Volume 1.
Coleridge, ed. Turnbull

Part 5 out of 6

Wordsworth, and me, on the top of them! I pray you do write to me
immediately, and tell me what you mean by the possibility of your
assuming a new occupation; [1] have you been successful to the extent of
your expectations in your late chemical inquiries?

In your poem,[2] "impressive" is used for "impressible" or passive, is
it not? If so, it is not English; life "diffusive" likewise is not
English. The last stanza introduces "confusion" into my mind, and
despondency--and has besides been so often said by the materialists,
etc., that it is not worth repeating. If the poem had ended more
originally, in short, but for the last stanza, I will venture to affirm
that there were never so many lines which so uninterruptedly combined
natural and beautiful words with strict philosophic truths, "i.e.",
scientifically philosophic. Of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth,
and seventh stanzas, I am doubtful which is the most beautiful. Do not
imagine that I cling to a fond love of future identity, but the thought
which you have expressed in the last stanzas might be more grandly, and
therefore more consolingly exemplified. I had forgot to say that
sameness and identity are words too etymologically the same to be placed
so close to each other.

As to myself, I am doing little worthy the relation. I write for Stuart
in the "Morning Post", and I am compelled by the god Pecunia, which was
one name of the supreme Jupiter, to give a volume of letters from
Germany, which will be a decent "lounge" book, and not an atom more. The
"Christabel" was running up to 1,300 lines, and was so much admired by
Wordsworth, that he thought it indelicate to print two volumes with his
name, in which so much of another man's was included; and which was of
more consequence, the poem was in direct opposition to the very purpose
for which the lyrical ballads were published, viz., an experiment to see
how far those passions which alone give any value to extraordinary
incidents were capable of interesting in and for themselves in the
incidents of common life. We mean to publish the "Christabel",
therefore, with a long blank-verse poem of Wordsworth's, entitled "The
Pedlar".[3] I assure you I think very differently of "Christabel". I
would rather have written "Ruth", and "Nature's Lady",[4] than a million
such poems. But why do I calumniate my own spirit by saying I would
rather? God knows it is as delightful to me that they "are" written. I
"know" that at present, and I "hope" that it "will" be so; my mind has
"disciplined" itself into a willing exertion of its powers, without any
reference to their comparative value.

I cannot speak favourably of W.'s health, but indeed he has not done
common justice to Dr. Beddoes's kind prescriptions. I saw his
countenance darken, and all his hopes vanish, when he saw the
"prescriptions"--his "scepticism" concerning medicines! nay, it is not
enough "scepticism"! Yet, now that peas and beans are over, I have hopes
that he will in good earnest make a fair and full trial. I rejoice with
sincere joy at Beddoes's recovery.

Wordsworth is fearful you have been much teazed by the printers on his
account, but you can sympathise with him. The works which I gird myself
up to attack as soon as money concerns will permit me, are the "Life of
Lessing", and the "Essay on Poetry". The latter is still more at my
heart than the former: its title would be an essay on the elements of
poetry--it would in reality be a "disguised" system of morals and

When you write, and do write soon, tell me how I can get your essay on
the nitrous oxide. If you desired Johnson to have one sent to
Lackington's, to be placed in Mr. Crosthwaite's monthly parcel for
Keswick, I should receive it. Are your galvanic discoveries important?
What do they lead to? All this is "ultra crepidation", but would to
heaven I had as much knowledge as I have sympathy! My wife and children
are well; the baby was dying some weeks ago, so the good people would
have it baptized; his name is Derwent Coleridge, so called from the
river, for fronting our house the Greta runs into the Derwent. Had it
been a girl, the name should have been Greta. By the by, Greta, or
rather Grieta, is exactly the Cocytus of the Greeks; the word, literally
rendered in modern English, is, "The loud Lamenter;" to griet, in the
Cambrian dialect, signifying to roar aloud for grief or pain, and it
does "roar" with a vengeance!

I will say nothing about Spring--a thirsty man tries to think of
anything but the stream when he knows it to be ten miles off!

God bless you! Your most affectionate


Another letter to Godwin at this time indicates that Coleridge was still
expecting to be able to finish "Christabel", which as a completed poem,
Coleridge, as we have already seen, calculated would run up to 1,300

[Footnote 1: No doubt the leaving of the Pneumatic for the Royal

[Footnote 2: That entitled, "Written after Recovery from a Dangerous
Illness." It is to be found in the "Memoirs of his Life", vol. i, p.
390. Coleridge's critical remarks apply to it as it was first written;
the words objected to are not to be found in it in its corrected printed

[Footnote 1: A name changed to "The Excursion".]

[Footnote 2: "Three years she grew in sun and shower."]

[Footnote 5: Letter CXI is our 96.]


Monday, Oct. 13, 1800.

Dear Godwin,

I have been myself too frequently a grievous delinquent in the article
of letter-writing to feel any inclination to reproach my friends when,
peradventure, they have been long silent. But, this out of the question,
I did not expect a speedier answer; for I had anticipated the
circumstances which you assign as the causes of your delay.

An attempt to finish a poem of mine for insertion in the second volume
of the "Lyrical Ballads", has thrown me so fearfully back in my bread
and beef occupations, that I shall scarcely be able to justify myself in
putting you to the expense of the few lines which I may be able to
scrawl in the present paper--but some parts in your letter interested me
deeply, and I wished to tell you so. First, then, you know Kemble, and I
do not. But my conjectural judgments concerning his character lead me to
persuade an absolute passive obedience to his opinion, and this, too,
because I would leave to every man his own trade. "Your" trade has been,
in the present instance, "first" to furnish a wise pleasure to your
fellow-beings in general, and, "secondly", to give Mr. Kemble and his
associates the power of delighting that part of your fellow-beings
assembled in a theatre. As to what relates to the first point, I should
be sorry indeed if greater men than Mr. Kemble could induce you to alter
a "but" to a "yet" contrary to your own convictions. Above all things,
an author ought to be sincere to the public; and, when William Godwin
stands in the title-page, it implies that W. G. approves that which
follows. Besides, the mind and finer feelings are blunted by such
obsequiousness. But in the theatre it is Godwin and Co. "ex professo". I
should regard it in almost the same light as if I had written a song for
Haydn to compose and Mara to sing; I know, indeed, what is poetry, but I
do not know so well as he and she what will suit his notes or her voice.
That actors and managers are often wrong is true, but still their trade
is "their" trade, and the presumption is in favour of their being right.
For the press, I should wish you to be solicitously nice; because you
are to exhibit before a larger and more respectable multitude than a
theatre presents to you, and in a new part, that of a poet employing his
philosophical knowledge practically. If it be possible, come, therefore,
and let us discuss every page and every line.

Now for something which, I would fain believe, is still more important,
namely, the propriety of your future philosophical speculations. Your
second objection, derived from the present "ebb" of opinion, will be
best answered by the fact that Mackintosh and his followers have the
"flow". This is greatly in your favour, for mankind are at present gross
reasoners. They reason in a perpetual antithesis; Mackintosh is an
oracle, and Godwin therefore a fool. Now it is morally impossible that
Mackintosh and the sophists of his school can retain this opinion. You
may well exclaim with Job, "O that my adversary would write a book!"
When he publishes, it will be all over with him, and then the minds of
men will incline strongly to those who would point out in intellectual
perceptions a source of moral progressiveness. Every man in his heart is
in favour of your general principles. A party of dough-baked democrats
of fortune were weary of being dissevered from their fellow rich men.
They want to say something in defence of turning round. Mackintosh puts
that something into their mouths, and for awhile they will admire and
be-praise him. In a little while these men will have fallen back into
the ranks from which they had stepped out, and life is too melancholy a
thing for men in general for the doctrine of unprogressiveness to remain
popular. Men cannot long retain their faith in the Heaven "above" the
blue sky, but a Heaven they will have, and he who reasons best on the
side of the universal wish will be the most popular philosopher. As to
your first objection, that you are a logician, let me say that your
habits are analytic, but that you have not read enough of travels,
voyages, and biography--especially men's lives of themselves--and you
have too soon submitted your notions to other men's censures in
conversation. A man should nurse his opinions in privacy and
self-fondness for a long time, and seek for sympathy and love, not for
detection or censure. Dismiss, my dear fellow, your theory of Collision
of Ideas, and take up that of Mutual Propulsion. I wish to write more,
and state to you a lucrative job, which would, I think, be eminently
serviceable to your own mind, and which you would have every opportunity
of doing here. I now express a serious wish that you would come and look
out for a house. Did Stuart remit you L10. on my account?


I would gladly write any verses, but to a prologue or epilogue I am
absolutely incompetent.

Coleridge was a tremendous walker and hill climber. The following letter
narrates a curious adventure in a storm among the mountains.


October 18, 1800.

My dear Davy,

Our mountains northward end in the mountain Carrock--one huge, steep,
enormous bulk of stones, desolately variegated with the heath plant; at
its foot runs the river Calder, and a narrow vale between it and the
mountain Bowscale, so narrow, that in its greatest width it is not more
than a furlong. But that narrow vale is "so" green, "so" beautiful,
there are moods in which a man might weep to look at it, On this
mountain Carrock, at the summit of which are the remains of a vast Druid
circle of stones, I was wandering, when a thick cloud came on, and
wrapped me in such darkness, that I could not see ten yards before me,
and with the cloud a storm of wind and hail, the like of which I had
never before seen and felt. At the very summit is a cone of stones,
built by the shepherds, and called the Carrock Man. Such cones are on
the tops of almost all our mountains, and they are all called "men". At
the bottom of the Carrock Man I seated myself for shelter, but the wind
became so fearful and tyrannous, that I was apprehensive some of the
stones might topple down upon me, so I groped my way farther down and
came to three rocks, placed on this wise 1/3\2*** each one supported by
the other like a child's house of cards, and in the hollow and screen
which they made, I sate for a long while sheltered, as if I had been in
my own study in which I am now writing: there I sate with a total
feeling worshipping the power and "eternal link" of energy. The darkness
vanished as by enchantment; far off, far, far off to the south, the
mountains of Glaramara and Great Gable and their family appeared
distinct, in deepest, sablest "blue". I rose, and behind me was a
rainbow bright as the brightest. I descended by the side of a torrent,
and passed, or rather crawled (for I was forced to descend on all
fours), by many a naked waterfall, till fatigued and hungry (and with a
finger almost broken, and which remains swelled to the size of two
fingers), I reached the narrow vale, and the single house nestled in ash
and sycamores. I entered to claim the universal hospitality of this
country; but instead of the life and comfort usual in these lonely
houses, I saw dirt, and every appearance of misery--a pale woman sitting
by a peat fire. I asked her for bread and milk, and she sent a small
child to fetch it, but did not rise herself. I ate very heartily of the
black, sour bread, and drank a bowl of milk, and asked her to permit me
to pay her. "Nay," says she, "we are not so scant as that--you are right
welcome; but do you know any help for the rheumatics, for I have been so
long ailing that I am almost fain to die?" So I advised her to eat a
great deal of mustard, having seen in an advertisement something about
essence of mustard curing the most obstinate cases of rheumatism. But do
write me, and tell me some cure for the rheumatism; it is in her
shoulders, and the small of her back chiefly. I wish much to go off with
some bottles of stuff to the poor creature. I should walk the ten miles
as ten yards. With love and honour,

My dear Davy, yours,


[Footnote 1: Letter CXII is our 98.]

The next letter relates how Coleridge wrote the Second Part of
"Christabel", which had been composed before 4th October (Dorothy
Wordsworth's "Journals", i, 51).


Keswick, Nov. 1, 1800.

My dear Sir,

I would fain believe that the experiment which your brother has made in
the West Indies is not wholly a discouraging one. If a warm climate did
nothing but only prevented him from getting worse, it surely evidenced
some power; and perhaps a climate equally favourable in a country of
more various interest, Italy, or the South of France, may tempt your
brother to make a longer trial. If (disciplining myself into silent
cheerfulness) I could be of any comfort to him by being his companion
and attendant, for two or three months, on the supposition that he
should wish to travel, and was at a loss for a companion more fit, I
would go with him with a willing affection. You will easily see, my dear
friend, that I say this only to increase the range of your brother's
choice--for even in choosing there is some pleasure.

There happen frequently little odd coincidences in time, that recall
momentary faith in the notion of sympathies acting in absence. I heard
of your brother's return, for the first time, on Monday last, the day on
which your letter is dated, from Stoddart. Had it rained on my naked
skin I could not have felt more strangely. The 300 or 400 miles that are
between us seemed converted into a moral distance; and I knew that the
whole of this silence I was myself accountable for; for I ended my last
letter by promising to follow it with a second and longer one, before
you could answer the first. But immediately on my arrival in this
country I undertook to finish a poem which I had begun, entitled
"Christabel", for a second volume of the "Lyrical Ballads". I tried to
perform my promise, but the deep unutterable disgust which I had
suffered in the translation of the accursed "Wallenstein", seemed to
have stricken me with barrenness; for I tried and tried, and nothing
would come of it. I desisted with a deeper dejection than I am willing
to remember. The wind from the Skiddaw and Borrowdale was often as loud
as wind need be, and many a walk in the clouds in the mountains did I
take; but all would not do, till one day I dined out at the house of a
neighbouring clergyman, and some how or other drank so much wine, that I
found some effort and dexterity requisite to balance myself on the
hither edge of sobriety. The next day my verse-making faculties returned
to me, and I proceeded successfully, till my poem grew so long, and in
Wordsworth's opinion so impressive, that he rejected it from his volume,
as disproportionate both in size and merit, and as discordant in its
character. In the mean time I had gotten myself entangled in the old
sorites of the old sophist,--procrastination. I had suffered my
necessary businesses to accumulate so terribly, that I neglected to
write to any one, till the pain I suffered from not writing made me
waste as many hours in dreaming about it as would have sufficed for the
letter writing of half a life. But there is something beside time
requisite for the writing of a letter--at least with me. My situation
here is indeed a delightful situation; but I feel what I have lost--feel
it deeply--it recurs more often and more painfully than I had
anticipated, indeed so much so, that I scarcely ever feel myself
impelled, that is to say, pleasurably impelled to write to Poole. I used
to feel myself more at home in his great windy parlour than in my own
cottage. We were well suited to each other--my animal spirits corrected
his inclination to melancholy; and there was something both in his
understanding and in his affections, so healthy and manly, that my mind
freshened in his company, and my ideas and habits of thinking acquired
day after day more of substance and reality. Indeed, indeed, my dear,
sir, with tears in my eyes, and with all my heart and soul, I wish it
were as easy for us all to meet as it was when you lived at Upcott. Yet
when I revise the step I have taken, I know not how I could have acted
otherwise than I did act. Everything I promised myself in this country
has answered far beyond my expectation. The room in which I write
commands six distinct landscapes--the two lakes, the vale, the river and
mountains, and mists, and clouds and sunshine, make endless
combinations, as if heaven and earth were for ever talking to each
other. Often when in a deep study, I have walked to the window and
remained there looking without seeing; all at once the lake of Keswick
and the fantastic mountains of Borrowdale, at the head of it, have
entered into my mind, with a suddenness as if I had been snatched out of
Cheapside and placed for the first time, in the spot where I stood--and
that is a delightful feeling--these fits and trances of novelty received
from a long known object. The river Greta flows behind our house,
roaring like an untamed son of the hills, then winds round and glides
away in the front, so that we live in a peninsula. But besides this
etherial eye-feeding we have very substantial conveniences. We are close
to the town, where we have respectable and neighbourly acquaintance, and
a most sensible and truly excellent medical man. Our garden is part of a
large nursery garden, which is the same to us and as private as if the
whole had been our own, and thus too we have delightful walks without
passing our garden gates. My landlord who lives in the sister house, for
the two houses are built so as to look like one great one, is a modest
and kind man, of a singular character. By the severest economy he raised
himself from a carrier into the possession of a comfortable
independence. He was always very fond of reading, and has collected
nearly 500 volumes, of our most esteemed modern writers, such as Gibbon,
Hume, Johnson, etc. etc. His habits of economy and simplicity, remain
with him, and yet so very disinterested a man I scarcely ever knew.
Lately, when I wished to settle with him about the rent of our house, he
appeared much affected, told me that my living near him, and the having
so much of Hartley's company were great comforts to him and his
housekeeper, that he had no children to provide for, and did not mean to
marry; and in short, that he did not want any rent at all from me. This
of course I laughed him out of; but he absolutely refused to receive any
rent for the first half-year, under the pretext that the house was not
completely furnished. Hartley quite lives at the house, and it is as you
may suppose, no small joy to my wife to have a good affectionate
motherly woman divided from her only by a wall. Eighteen miles from our
house lives Sir Guilfred Lawson, who has a princely library, chiefly of
natural history--a kind and generous, but weak and ostentatious sort of
man, who has been abundantly civil to me. Among other raree shows, he
keeps a wild beast or two, with some eagles, etc. The master of the
beasts at the Exeter 'Change, sent him down a large bear,--with it a
long letter of directions, concerning the food, etc. of the animal, and
many solicitations respecting other agreeable quadrupeds which he was
desirous to send to the baronet, at a moderate price, and concluding in
this manner: "and remain your honour's most devoted humble servant, J.P.
Permit me, sir Guilfred, to send you a buffalo and a rhinoceros." As
neat a postscript as I ever heard--the tradesmanlike coolness with which
these pretty little animals occurred to him just at the finishing of his
letter! You will in three weeks see the letters on the 'Rise and
Condition of the German Boors'. I found it convenient to make up a
volume out of my journey, etc. in North Germany--and the letters (your
name of course erased) are in the printer's hands. I was so weary of
transcribing and composing, that when I found those more carefully
written than the rest, I even sent them off as they were.

* * * * *

My littlest one is a very stout boy indeed. He is christened by the name
of "Derwent,"--a sort of sneaking affection you see for the poetical and
novellish, which I disguised to myself under the show, that my brothers
had so many children Johns, Jameses, Georges, etc. etc., that a handsome
Christian-like name was not to be had except by encroaching on the names
of my little nephews. If you are at Gunville at Christmas, I hold out
hopes to myself that I shall be able to pass a week with you there. I
mentioned to you at Upcott a kind of comedy that I had committed to
writing in part. This is in the wind.

Wordsworth's second vol. of the 'Lyrical Ballads' will, I hope, and
almost believe, afford you as unmingled pleasure as is in the nature of
a collection of very various poems to afford to one individual mind.
Sheridan has sent to him too--requests him to write a tragedy for Drury
Lane. But W. will not be diverted by anything from the prosecution of
his great work.

Southey's 'Thalaba', in twelve books, is going to the press.

Remember me with great affection to your brother, and present my kindest
respects to Mrs. Wedgwood. Your late governess wanted one thing, which
where there is health is I think indispensable in the moral character of
a young person--a light and cheerful heart. She interested me a good
deal. She appears to me to have been injured by going out of the common
way without any of that imagination, which if it be a Jack o' Lanthorn
to lead us out of our way, is however, at the same time a torch to light
us whither we are going. A whole essay might be written on the danger of
thinking without images. God bless you, my dear sir, and him who is with
grateful and affectionate esteem,

Yours ever,


Josiah Wedgwood.

Coleridge was still in money difficulties, and the following letter is
chiefly about his indebtedness to the Wedgwoods.


November 12, 1800.

My dear sir,

I received your kind letter, with the L20. My eyes are in such a state
of inflammation that I might as well write blindfold, they are so
blood-red. I have had leeches twice, and have now a blister behind my
right ear. How I caught the cold, in the first instance, I can scarcely
guess; but I improved it to its present glorious state, by taking long
walks all the mornings, spite of the wind, and writing late at night,
while my eyes were weak.

I have made some rather curious observations on the rising up of spectra
in the eye, in its inflamed state, and their influence on ideas, etc.,
but I cannot see to make myself intelligible to you. Present my kindest
remembrance to Mrs. W. and your brother. Pray did you ever pay any
particular attention to the first time of your little ones smiling and
laughing? Both I and Mrs. C. have carefully watched our little one, and
noticed down all the circumstances, under which he smiled, and under
which he laughed, for the first six times, nor have we remitted our
attention; but I have not been able to derive the least confirmation of
Hartley's or Darwin's Theory. You say most truly, my dear sir, that a
pursuit is necessary. Pursuit, for even praiseworthy employment, merely
for good, or general good, is not sufficient for happiness, nor fit for

I have not at present made out how I stand in pecuniary ways, but I
believe that I have anticipated on the next year to the amount of Thirty
or Forty pounds, probably more. God bless you, my dear sir, and your

Affectionate friend,


Josiah Wedgwood, Esq.

The publication of the "Wallenstein" had brought on Coleridge the odium
of being an advocate of the German Theatre, at this time identified with
the melo-dramatic sentimentalism of Kotzbue and his school. English
opinion did not then discriminate between a Schiller and a Kotzebue. The
following curious disclaimer appeared in the "Monthly Review" on 18th
November 1800.


Greta Hall, Keswick,

Nov. 18, 1800.

In the review of my translation of Schiller's "Wallenstein" ("Rev". for
October), I am numbered among the partisans of the German theatre. As I
am confident there is no passage in my preface or notes from which such
an opinion can be legitimately formed, and as the truth would not have
been exceeded if the direct contrary had been affirmed, I claim it of
your justice that in your Answers to Correspondents you would remove
this misrepresentation. The mere circumstance of translating a
manuscript play is not even evidence that I admired that one play, much
less that I am a general admirer of the plays in that language.

I remain, etc.,


During the latter half of 1800 Dorothy Wordsworth's "Journal" contains
many entries showing that Coleridge and the Wordsworths were in frequent
communication with each other. Coleridge thought nothing of traversing
the dozen miles between Keswick and Dove Cottage by the highway, or over
the hill passes. Wordsworth and Dorothy, too, went often to Keswick, and
occasionally stayed with the Coleridges ("Grasmere Journals", i, 43-60).

Amid these literary and poetic meetings between the poets and their
families, other correspondents were not forgotten by Coleridge. The
following two letters to Davy indicate that the poets were taking some
interest in science.


Greta Hall, Tuesday night, December 2, 1800.

My dear Davy,

By an accident I did not receive your letter till this evening. I would
that you had added to the account of your indisposition the probable
causes of it. It has left me anxious whether or no you have not exposed
yourself to unwholesome influences in your chemical pursuits. There are
"few" beings both of hope and performance, but few who combine the "are"
and the "will be." For God's sake, therefore, my dear fellow, do not rip
open the bird that lays the golden eggs. I have not received your book.
I read yesterday a sort of medical review about it. I suppose Longman
will send it to me when he sends down the "Lyrical Ballads" to
Wordsworth. I am solicitous to read the latter part. Did there appear to
you any remote analogy between the case I translated from the German
Magazine and the effects produced by your gas? Did Carlisle[1] ever
communicate to you, or has he in any way published his facts concerning
"pain", which he mentioned when we were with him? It is a subject which
"exceedingly interests" me. I want to read something by somebody
expressly on "pain", if only to give an "arrangement" to my own
thoughts, though if it were well treated, I have little doubt it would
revolutionize them. For the last month I have been trembling on through
sands and swamps of evil and bodily grievance. My eyes have been
inflamed to a degree that rendered reading and writing scarcely
possible; and strange as it seems, the act of metre composition, as I
lay in bed, perceptibly affected them, and my voluntary ideas were every
minute passing, more or less transformed into vivid spectra. I had
leeches repeatedly applied to my temples, and a blister behind my
ear--and my eyes are now my own, but in the place where the blister was,
six small but excruciating boils have appeared, and harass me almost
beyond endurance. In the meantime my darling Hartley has been taken with
a stomach illness, which has ended in the yellow jaundice; and this
greatly alarms me. So much for the doleful! Amid all these changes, and
humiliations, and fears, the sense of the Eternal abides in me, and
preserves unsubdued my cheerful faith, that all I endure is full of

At times, indeed, I would fain be somewhat of a more tangible utility
than I am; but so I suppose it is with all of us--one while cheerful,
stirring, feeling in resistance nothing but a joy and a stimulus;
another while drowsy, self-distrusting, prone to rest, loathing our own
self-promises, withering our own hopes--our hopes, the vitality and
cohesion of our being!

I purpose to have 'Christabel' published by itself--this I publish
with confidence--but my travels in Germany come from me now with mortal
pangs. Nothing but the most pressing necessity could have induced
me--and even now I hesitate and tremble. Be so good as to have all that
is printed of 'Christabel' sent to me per post.

Wordsworth has nearly finished the concluding poem. It is of a mild,
unimposing character, but full of beauties to those short-necked men who
have their hearts sufficiently near their heads--the relative distance
of which (according to citizen Tourder, the French translator of
Spallanzani) determines the sagacity or stupidity of all bipeds and

There is a deep blue cloud over the heavens; the lake, and the vale, and
the mountains, are all in darkness; only the 'summits' of all the
mountains in long ridges, covered with snow, are bright to a dazzling
excess. A glorious scene! Hartley was in my arms the other evening,
looking at the sky; he saw the moon glide into a large cloud. Shortly
after, at another part of the cloud, several stars sailed in. Says he,
"Pretty creatures! they are going in to see after their mother moon."

Remember me kindly to King. Write as often as you can; but above all
things, my loved and honoured dear fellow, do not give up the idea of
letting me and Skiddaw see you.

God love you!


Tobin writes me that Thompson [2] has made some lucrative discovery. Do
you know aught about it? Have you seen T. Wedgwood since his return? [3]

[Footnote 1: Afterwards Sir Antony, a distinguished surgeon.]

[Footnote 2: The late Mr. James Thompson, of Clitheroe.]

[Footnote 3: Letter CXIII is our 102; CXIV follows 102]


February 3, 1801.

My dear Davy--

I can scarcely reconcile it to my conscience to make you pay postage for
another letter. O, what a fine unveiling of modern politics it would be
if there were published a minute detail of all the sums received by
Government from the Post establishment, and of all the outlets in which
the sums so received flowed out again; and, on the other hand, all the
domestic affections that had been stifled, all the intellectual progress
that would have been, but is not, on account of the heavy tax, etc.,
etc. The letters of a nation ought to be paid for as an article of
national expense. Well! but I did not take up this paper to flourish
away in splenetic politics. A gentleman resident here, his name Calvert,
an idle, good-hearted, and ingenious man, has a great desire to commence
fellow-student with me and Wordsworth in chemistry. He is an intimate
friend of Wordsworth's, and he has proposed to W. to take a house which
he (Calvert) has nearly built, called Windy Brow, in a delicious
situation, scarce half a mile from Greta Hall, the residence of S. T.
Coleridge, Esq., and so for him (Calvert) to live with them, 'i.e.',
Wordsworth and his sister. In this case he means to build a little
laboratory, etc. Wordsworth has not quite decided, but is strongly
inclined to adopt the scheme, because he and his sister have before
lived with Calvert on the same footing, and are much attached to him:
because my health is so precarious and so much injured by wet, and his
health, too, is like little potatoes, no great things, and therefore
Grasmere ("thirteen" miles from Keswick) is too great a distance for us
to enjoy each other's society, without inconvenience, as much as it
would be profitable for us both: and likewise because he feels it more
necessary for him to have some intellectual pursuit less closely
connected with deep passion than poetry, and is of course desirous, too,
not to be so wholly ignorant of knowledge so exceedingly important.
However, whether Wordsworth come or no, Calvert and I have determined to
begin and go on. Calvert is a man of sense and some originality, and is
besides what is well called a handy man. He is a good practical
mechanic, etc., and is desirous to lay out any sum of money that is
necessary. You know how long, how ardently I have wished to initiate
myself in Chemical science, both for its own sake, and in no small
degree likewise, my beloved friend, that I may be able to sympathize
with all that you do and think. Sympathize blindly with it all I do even
"now", God knows! from the very middle of my heart's heart, but I would
fain sympathize with you in the light of knowledge. This opportunity is
exceedingly precious to me, as on my own account I could not afford the
least additional expense, having been already, by long and successive
illnesses, thrown behindhand, so much, that for the next four or five
months, I fear, let me work as hard as I can, I shall not be able to do
what my heart within me "burns" to do, that is, to "concenter" my free
mind to the affinities of the feelings with words and ideas under the
title of "Concerning Poetry, and the nature of the Pleasures derived
from it". I have faith that I do understand the subject, and I am sure
that if I write what I ought to do on it, the work would supersede all
the books of metaphysics, and all the books of morals too. To whom shall
a young man utter "his pride", if not to a young man whom he loves?

I beg you, therefore, my dear Davy, to write to me a long letter when
you are at leisure, informing me:--Firstly, What books it will be well
for me and Calvert to purchase. Secondly, Directions for a convenient
little laboratory. Thirdly, To what amount apparatus would run in
expense, and whether or no you would be so good as to superintend its
making at Bristol. Fourthly, Give me your advice how to "begin". And,
fifthly, and lastly, and mostly, do send a "drop" of hope to my parched
tongue, that you will, if you can, come and visit me in the spring.
Indeed, indeed, you ought to see this country, this beautiful country,
and then the joy you would send into me!

The shape of this paper will convince you with what eagerness I began
this letter; I really did not see that it was not a sheet.

I have been 'thinking' vigorously during my illness, so that I cannot
say that my long, long wakeful nights have been all lost to me. The
subject of my meditations has been the relations of thoughts to
things--in the language of Hume, of ideas to impressions. I may be truly
described in the words of Descartes: I have been "res cogitans, id est,
dubitans, affirmans, negans, pauca intelligens, multa ignorans, volens,
nolens, imaginans etiam, et sentiens." I please myself with believing
that you will receive no small pleasure from the result of these
broodings, although I expect in you (in some points) a determined
opponent, but I say of my mind in this respect: "Manet imperterritus
ille hostem magnanimum opperiens, et mole sua stat." Every poor fellow
has his proud hour sometimes, and this I suppose is mine.

I am better in every respect than I was, but am still 'very feeble'. The
weather has been woefully against me for the last fortnight, having
rained here almost incessantly. I take quantities of bark, but the
effect is (to express myself with the dignity of science) "x" = 0000000,
and I shall not gather strength, or that little suffusion of bloom which
belongs to my healthy state, till I can walk out.

God bless you, my dear Davy! and

Your ever affectionate friend,


P.S.--An electrical machine, and a number of little nicknacks connected
with it, Mr. Calvert has.--"Write".[1]

[Footnote l: Letter CXV is our 103.]

Josiah Wade, the early Bristol friend of Coleridge, who probably was one
of the three friends who assisted him with funds to start 'The
Watchman', was now intending to travel in Germany. He applied to
Coleridge for advice regarding the mode of travelling, and Coleridge
tendered his counsel in the following characteristic epistle.


March 6, 1801.

My very dear friend,

I have even now received your letter. My habits of thinking and feeling,
have not hitherto inclined me to personify commerce in any such shape,
so as to tempt me to turn pagan, and offer vows to the goddess of our
isle. But when I read that sentence in your letter, "The time will come
I trust, when I shall be able to pitch my tent in your neighbourhood," I
was most potently commanded [1] to a breach of the second
commandment, and on my knees, to entreat the said goddess to touch your
bank notes and guineas with her magical multiplying wand. I could offer
such a prayer for you, with a better conscience than for most men,
because I know that you have never lost that healthy common sense, which
regards money only as the means of independence, and that you would
sooner than most men cry out, enough! enough! To see one's children
secured against want, is doubtless a delightful thing; but to wish to
see them begin the world as rich men, is unwise to ourselves, for it
permits no close of our labours, and is pernicious to them; for it
leaves no motive to their exertions, none of those sympathies with the
industrious and the poor, which form at once the true relish and proper
antidote of wealth.

* * * Is not March rather a perilous month for the voyage from
Yarmouth to Hamburg? Danger there is very little, in the packets, but I
know what inconvenience rough weather brings with it; not from my own
feelings, for I am never sea-sick, but always in exceeding high spirits
on board ship, but from what I see in others. But you are an old sailor.
At Hamburg I have not a shadow of acquaintance. My letters of
introduction produced for me, with one exception, viz., Klopstock, the
brother of the poet, no real service, but merely distant and
ostentatious civility. And Klopstock will by this time have forgotten my
name, which indeed he never properly knew, for I could speak only
English and Latin, and he only French and German. At Ratzeburg, 35
English miles N.E. from Hamburg, on the road to Lubec, I resided four
months; and I should hope, was not unbeloved by more than one family,
but this is out of your route. At Gottingen I stayed near five months,
but here I knew only students, who will have left the place by this
time, and the high learned professors, only one of whom could speak
English; and they are so wholly engaged in their academical occupations,
that they would be of no service to you. Other acquaintance in Germany I
have none, and connexion I never had any. For though I was much
entreated by some of the Literati to correspond with them, yet my
natural laziness, with the little value I attach to literary men, as
literary men, and with my aversion from those letters which are to be
made up of studied sense, and unfelt compliments, combined to prevent me
from availing myself of the offer. Herein, and in similar instances,
with English authors of repute, I have ill consulted the growth of my
reputation and fame. But I have cheerful and confident hopes of myself.
If I can hereafter do good to my fellow-creatures as a poet, and as a
metaphysician, they will know it; and any other fame than this, I
consider as a serious evil, that would only take me from out the number
and sympathy of ordinary men, to make a coxcomb of me.

As to the inns or hotels at Hamburg, I should recommend you to some
German inn. Wordsworth and I were at the "Der Wilde Man," and dirty as
it was, I could not find any inn in Germany very much cleaner, except at
Lubec. But if you go to an English inn, for heaven's sake, avoid the
"Shakspeare," at Altona, and the "King of England," at Hamburg. They are
houses of plunder rather than entertainment. "The Duke of York" hotel,
kept by Seaman, has a better reputation, and thither I would advise you
to repair; and I advise you to pay your bill every morning at breakfast
time: it is the only way to escape imposition. What the Hamburg
merchants may be I know not, but the tradesmen are knaves. Scoundrels,
with yellow-white phizzes, that bring disgrace on the complexion of a
bad tallow candle. Now as to carriage, I know scarcely what to advise;
only make up your mind to the very worst vehicles, with the very worst
horses, drawn by the very worst postillions, over the very worst roads,
and halting two hours at each time they change horses, at the very worst
inns; and you have a fair, unexaggerated picture of travelling in North
Germany. The cheapest way is the best; go by the common post wagons, or
stage coaches. What are called extraordinaries, or post-chaises, are
little wicker carts, uncovered, with moveable benches or forms in them,
execrable in every respect. And if you buy a vehicle at Hamburg, you can
get none decent under thirty or forty guineas, and very probably it will
break to pieces on the infernal roads. The canal boats are delightful,
but the porters everywhere in the United Provinces, are an impudent,
abominable, and dishonest race. You must carry as little luggage as you
well can with you, in the canal boats, and when you land, get
recommended to an inn beforehand, and bargain with the porters first of
all, and never lose sight of them, or you may never see your portmanteau
or baggage again.

My Sarah desires her love to you and yours. God bless your dear little
ones! Make haste and get rich, dear friend! and bring up the little
creatures to be playfellows and school-fellows with my little ones!

Again and again, sea serve you, wind speed you, all things turn out good
to you! God bless you,


John Stoddart, a friend of Coleridge, visited him while at Keswick in
the month of October, 1800, and saw the Wordsworths at Grasmere (Dorothy
Wordsworth's 'Journal', i, 55)--It was then that Stoddart obtained a
copy of 'Christabel', and read it shortly afterwards [3] to Sir Walter
Scott, then busy with his 'Border Minstrelsy'. The beauty of
'Christabel' touched Sir Walter's romantic imagination, and echoes of
the poem are discernible in the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel' and the
'Bridal of Tryermain'.

But Coleridge, in spite of many attempts, could not complete the piece,
and had to give up the endeavour. In a letter to Godwin of 25th March
1801, Coleridge thus laments what was practically the end of his career
as a poet:

[Footnote 1: "Tempted," E.R., ii, 18.]

[Footnote 2: Letters CXVI-CXVII follow 104.]

[Footnote 3: In 1802.]


Wednesday, March 25, 1801.

Dear Godwin,

I fear your tragedy [1] will find me in a very unfit state of mind to
sit in judgment on it. I have been during the last three months
undergoing a process of intellectual exsiccation. During my long illness
I had compelled into hours of delight many a sleepless painful hour of
darkness by chasing down metaphysical game, and since then I have
continued the hunt, till I found myself, unaware, at the root of pure
mathematics, and up that tall smooth tree, whose few poor branches are
all at the very summit, am I climbing by pure adhesive strength of arms
and thighs, still slipping down, still renewing my ascent. You would not
know me! All sounds of similitude keep at such a distance from each
other in my mind, that I have forgotten how to make a rhyme. I look at
the mountains (that visible God Almighty that looks in at all my
windows)--I look at the mountains only for the curves of their outlines;
the stars, as I behold them, form themselves into triangles; and my
hands are scarred with scratches from a cat, whose back I was rubbing in
the dark in order to see whether the sparks from it were refrangible by
a prism. The Poet is dead in me; my imagination (or rather the Somewhat
that had been imaginative) lies like a cold snuff on the circular rim of
a brass candlestick, without even a stink of tallow to remind you that
it was once clothed and mitred with flame. That is past by. I was once a
volume of gold leaf, rising and riding on every breath of Fancy, but I
have beaten myself back into weight and density, and now I sink in
quicksilver and remain squat and square on the earth amid the hurricane
that makes oaks and straws join in one dance, fifty yards high in the

However I will do what I can. Taste and feeling have I none, but what I
have, give I unto thee. But I repeat that I am unfit to decide on any
but works of severe logic.

I write now to beg that, if you have not sent your tragedy, you may
remember to send 'Antonio' with it, which I have not yet seen, and
likewise my Campbell's 'Pleasures of Hope', which Wordsworth wishes to

Have you seen the second volume of the 'Lyrical Ballads', and the
preface prefixed to the first? I should judge of a man's heart and
intellect precisely according to the degree and intensity of the
admiration with which he read these poems. Perhaps, instead of heart I
should have said Taste; but, when I think of 'The Brothers', of 'Ruth',
and of 'Michael', I recur to the expression and am enforced to say
heart. If I die, and the booksellers will give you anything for ray
life, be sure to say, "Wordsworth descended on him like the [Greek:
Gnothi seauton] from heaven; by showing to him what true poetry was, he
made him know that he himself was no Poet."

In your next letter you will, perhaps, give me some hints respecting
your prose plans.

God bless you, and


Greta Hall, Keswick.

P.S.--What is a fair price--what might an author of reputation fairly
ask from a bookseller, for one edition, of a thousand copies, of a
five-shilling book?

[I congratulate you on the settlement of Davy in London. I hope that his
enchanting manners will not draw too many idlers about him, to harass
and vex his mornings.]

[Footnote: 1 This tragedy was entitled Abbas.]



I will write for "The Permanent", or not at all." (Letter to Sir G.
Beaumont, "Coleorton Memorials", ii, 162.) "Woe is me! that at 46 I am
under the necessity of appearing as a lecturer, and obliged to regard
every hour given to "The Permanent", whether as poet or philosopher, an
hour stolen from others as well as from my own maintenance." (Letter to
Mudford, Brandl's "Life of Coleridge", p. 359.)

* * * * *

The conventional view of Coleridge that opium killed the poet in him
does not commend itself to the scientific consciousness. Opium has the
tendency to stimulate rather than to deaden the poetic imagination, as
the history of De Quincey can testify; and one of Coleridge's most
imaginative pieces, "Kubla Khan", is said to have been occasioned by an
overdose of the drug.

The poet in Coleridge was extinguished by a very different thing than
opium. Coleridge's poetic faculty was suspended by the loss of hope and
also by the growth of his intellect, by the development of his reasoning
and philosophic powers, and by the multiplication of the interests which
appealed to him, and the many problems which presented themselves for
his solution. He was, constitutionally, the most comprehensive mind of a
new age, and just because he was its greatest thinker he was perplexed
and attracted by the majority of the problems which arose around him,
and which he himself helped to raise. Poetry, the poetry of the Romantic
Movement, in which he far excelled all his contemporaries, was no longer
capable of grappling with the philosophic, theological, political and
social questions now on the horizon or which Coleridge felt would soon,
by the development of international affinities, be on the horizon of the
English mind. Hence Coleridge's thirst for the new lore of the German
philosophy, which seemed to him to supply a want in the Intellectualism
of his native country.

In spite of this, Coleridge knew that in being deserted by the poetic
spirit, he was leaving a high artistic realm for one of lesser glory;
and hence his letter to Godwin of 25th March 1801, and, later on, his
dirge over himself in "Dejection".

Coleridge, in choosing to follow Wordsworth to the Lake District in
preference to remaining at Nether Stowey with Poole, had experienced
some contrition, for Poole, after all, was a more profound appreciator
of his many-sidedness and the Cervantean vein of his character than
Wordsworth, who appreciated Coleridge only from that side of him which
resembled himself.

Tom Poole regretted, like others, that Coleridge had no permanent
calling, or could not fix upon an undertaking worthy of his powers.
Poole looked upon Coleridge's devotion to journalism while he was
engaged upon the "Morning Post" as a "turning aside of his powers from
higher ends" ("T. Poole and his Friends", ii, 2), and wished him to give
himself up to something more "permanently" useful to society ("T. Poole
and his Friends", ii, 3). The correspondence of Coleridge and Poole from
1800 onwards, often turns upon the subject ("T. Poole and his Friends",
ii, 66, 68, 122, 177, 187, 205, 226, 247); and Coleridge admitted a
"distracting manifoldness" in his objects and attainments ("T. Poole and
his Friends", ii, 122). "You," said Coleridge, "are nobly employed--most
worthy of you. "You" are made to endear yourself to mankind as an
immediate benefactor: I must throw my bread on the waters" ("T. Poole
and his Friends", ii, 122).

While engaged in these argumentations with his best friend, Coleridge
was striving to think out in his deep philosophic and musing mind many
problems of the time; and there arose in his imagination the Idea of the
Permanent. He was henceforth no longer the Poet of Romanticism, whose
significance he had exhausted, but the philosopher of the Permanent,
which presented itself as a splendid possibility in all departments of
human knowledge and activity. In his prose works and letters we find a
continual reference to what Coleridge now calls "The Permanent"--the
permanent principles of Morals, Philosophy, and Religion, and of the
permanent principles of criticism as applied to Poetry and the Fine
Arts. Everything is now adjusted by Coleridge to this idea. Art, morals,
religion, and politics are tried by its standard, to find if they are
founded in the permanent principles of human nature.

It is in the light of this Idea, the ideal of Coleridge's later life,
that we must judge Coleridge and weigh him. To continue to see in opium
the sole or even the principal cause of his failure, is to misjudge him
altogether. To compare him with others of different powers who
accomplished more in one direction in the matter of literary output,
with Sir Walter Scott or Byron, for instance, is misleading. It is the
man of profound genius, who in his own time, is feeling on all sides
into the Future, who is least likely to give forth "finished
productions," as they are called, in which the subjects of which they
treat are often exhausted, and please the ear of the Present. Coleridge
is such a man of genius; nearly all his works are fragmentary,
unfinished, suggestive rather than "complete," just because they verge
upon that Transcendentalism which he was the first to make audible to
English ears in his day. Ill health, and opium in conjunction with ill
health, contributed no doubt to enfeeble his utterance; but to assert
that opium was the cause or the main cause of Coleridge's inability to
do what he wanted himself to do, or what his friends and contemporaries
expected him to do, is a gross perversion of the facts of the case.
Coleridge's inability arose from his multiplicity of motive, his
visionary faculty of seeing in the light of a new principle a host of
problems rise up on all sides, all claiming recognition and solution.
"That is the disease of my mind--it is comprehensive in its conceptions,
and wastes itself in the contemplations of the many things which it
might do." (Letter to Poole, 4th January 1799, "Letters", p. 270). A
greater than Coleridge had felt this tendency before him, and created
as its embodiment "Hamlet"; and Coleridge has been called the Hamlet of



On 13th April 1801 Coleridge wrote to Southey the
following letter, and Southey replied in cordial terms,
from which it will be gathered a reconciliation had been
made since the Lloyd and Lamb quarrel. [1]

[Footnote 1: See "Letters", vol. i, 304.]


Greta Hall, Keswick; April 13. 1801.

My dear Southey,

I received your kind letter on the evening before last, and I trust that
this will arrive at Bristol just in time to rejoice with them that
rejoice. Alas! you will have found the dear old place sadly "minus"ed by
the removal of Davy. It is one of the evils of long silence, that when
one recommences the correspondence, one has so much to say that one can
say nothing. I have enough, with what I have seen, and with what I have
done, and with what I have suffered, and with what I have heard,
exclusive of all that I hope and all that I intend--I have enough to
pass away a great deal of time with, were you on a desert isle, and I
your "Friday". But at present I purpose to speak only of myself
relatively to Keswick and to you.

Our house stands on a low hill, the whole front of which is one field
and an enormous garden, nine-tenths of which is a nursery garden. Behind
the house is an orchard, and a small wood on a steep slope, at the foot
of which flows the river Greta, which winds round and catches the
evening lights in the front of the house. In front we have a giant's
camp--an encamped army of tent-like mountains, which by an inverted arch
gives a view of another vale. On our right the lovely vale and the
wedge-shaped lake of Bassenthwaite; and on our left Derwentwater and
Lodore full in view, and the fantastic mountains of Borrodale. Behind us
the massy Skiddaw, smooth, green, high, with two chasms and a tentlike
ridge in the larger. A fairer scene you have not seen in all your
wanderings. Without going from our own grounds we have all that can
please a human being. As to books, my landlord, who dwells next door,[1]
has a very respectable library, which he has put with mine; histories,
encyclopaedias, and all the modern gentry. But then I can have, when I
choose, free access to the princely library of Sir Guilfred Lawson,
which contains the noblest collection of travels and natural history of,
perhaps, any private library in England; besides this, there is the
Cathedral library of Carlisle, from whence I can have any books sent to
me that I wish; in short, I may truly say that I command all the
libraries in the county. ...

Our neighbour is a truly good and affectionate man, a father to my
children, and a friend to me. He was offered fifty guineas for the house
in which we are to live, but he preferred me for a tenant at
twenty-five; and yet the whole of his income does not exceed, I believe,
L200 a year. A more truly disinterested man I never met with; severely
frugal, yet almost carelessly generous; and yet he got all his money as
a common carrier[2], by hard labour, and by pennies. He is one instance
among many in this country of the salutary effect of the love of
knowledge--he was from a boy a lover of learning. The house is full
twice as large as we want; it hath more rooms in it than Allfoxden; you
might have a bed-room, parlour, study, etc., etc., and there would
always be rooms to spare for your or my visitors. In short, for
situation and convenience,--and when I mention the name of Wordsworth,
for society of men of intellect,--I know no place in which you and Edith
would find yourselves so well suited.

S. T. C.

[Footnote 1: Greta Hall was at this time divided into two houses, which
were afterwards thrown together.]

[Footnote 2: This person, whose name was Jackson, was the "master" in
Wordsworth's poem of 'The Waggoner', the circumstances of which are
accurately correct.]

The remainder of this letter, as well as another of later date, was
filled with a most gloomy account of his own health, to which Southey
refers in the commencement of his reply.


Bristol, July 11, 1801.

Yesterday I arrived, and found your letters; they did depress me, but I
have since reasoned or dreamt myself into more cheerful anticipations. I
have persuaded myself that your complaint is gouty; that good living is
necessary, and a good climate. I also move to the south; at least so it
appears: and if my present prospects ripen, we may yet live under one
roof. ...

You may have seen a translation of "Persius", by Drummond, an M.P. This
man is going ambassador, first to Palermo and then to Constantinople: if
a married man can go as his secretary, it is probable that I shall
accompany him. I daily expect to know. It is a scheme of Wynn's to
settle me in the south, and I am returned to look about me. My salary
will be small--a very trifle; but after a few years I look on to
something better, and have fixed my mind on a consulship. Now, if we go,
you must join us as soon as we are housed, and it will be marvellous if
we regret England. I shall have so little to do, that my time may be
considered as wholly my own: our joint amusements will easily supply us
with all expenses. So no more of the Azores; for we will see the Great
Turk, and visit Greece, and walk up the Pyramids, and ride camels in
Arabia. I have dreamt of nothing else these five weeks. As yet every
thing is so uncertain, for I have received no letter since we landed,
that nothing can be said of our intermediate movements. If we are not
embarked too soon, we will set off as early as possible for Cumberland,
unless you should think, as we do, that Mahomet had better come to the
mountain; that change of all externals may benefit you; and that bad as
Bristol weather is, it is yet infinitely preferable to northern cold and
damp. Meet we must, and will.

You know your old Poems are a third time in the press; why not set forth
a second volume? * * * Your "Christabel", your "Three Graces",[1] which
I remember as the very consummation of poetry. I must spur you to
something, to the assertion of your supremacy; if you have not enough to
muster, I will aid you in any way--manufacture skeletons that you may
clothe with flesh, blood, and beauty; write my best, or what shall be
bad enough to be popular;--we will even make plays "a-la-mode"
Robespierre. * * * Drop all task-work, it is ever unprofitable; the same
time, and one twentieth part of the labour, would produce treble
emolument. For "Thalaba" I received L115; it was just twelve months'
"intermitting" work, and the after-editions are my own. ...

I feel here as a stranger; somewhat of Leonard's feeling. God bless
Wordsworth for that poem![2] What tie have I to England? My London
friends? There, indeed, I have friends. But if you and yours were with
me, eating dates in a garden at Constantinople, you might assert that we
were in the best of all possible places; and I should answer, Amen: and
if our wives rebelled, we would send for the chief of the black eunuchs,
and sell them to the Seraglio. Then should Moses [3] learn Arabic, and we
would know whether there was anything in the language or not. We would
drink Cyprus wine and Mocha coffee, and smoke more tranquilly than ever
we did in the Ship in Small Street.

Time and absence make strange work with our affections; but mine are
ever returning to rest upon you. I have other and dear friends, but none
with whom the whole of my being is intimate--with whom every thought and
feeling can amalgamate. Oh! I have yet such dreams! Is it quite clear
that you and I were not meant for some better star, and dropped, by
mistake, into this world of pounds, shillings, and pence? ...

God bless you!


[Footnote 1: "The Three Graves".]

[Footnote 2: "The Brothers" is the title of this poem.]

[Footnote 3: Hartley Coleridge.]


July 25.

In about ten days we shall be ready to set forward for Keswick; where,
if it were not for the rains, and the fogs, and the frosts, I should,
probably, be content to winter; but the climate deters me. It is
uncertain when I may be sent abroad, or where, except that the south of
Europe is my choice. The appointment hardly doubtful, and the probable
destination Palermo or Naples. We will talk of the future, and dream of
it, on the lake side. * * * I may calculate upon the next six months at
my own disposal; so we will climb Skiddaw this year, and scale Etna the
next; and Sicilian air will keep us alive till Davy has found out the
immortalising elixir, or till we are very well satisfied to do without
it, and be immortalised after the manner of our fathers. My pocket-book
contains more plans than will ever be filled up; but whatever becomes of
those plans, this, at least, is feasible. * * * Poor H----, he has
literally killed himself by the law: which, I believe, kills more than
any disease that takes its place in the bills of mortality. Blackstone
is a needful book, and my Coke is a borrowed one; but I have one law
book whereof to make an auto-da-fe; and burnt he shall be: but whether
to perform that ceremony, with fitting libations, at home, or fling him
down the crater of Etna directly to the Devil, is worth considering at

I must work at Keswick; the more willingly, because with the hope,
hereafter, the necessity will cease. My Portuguese materials must lie
dead, and this embarrasses me. It is impossible to publish any thing
about that country now, because I must one day return there,--to their
libraries and archives; otherwise I have excellent stuff for a little
volume; and could soon set forth a first vol. of my History, either
civil or literary. In these labours I have incurred a heavy and serious
expense. I shall write to Hamilton, and review again, if he chooses to
employ me. * * * It was Cottle who told me that your Poems were
reprint"ing" in a "third" edition: this cannot allude to the "Lyrical
Ballads", because of the number and the participle present. * * * I am
bitterly angry to see one new poem [1] smuggled into the world in the
"Lyrical Ballads", where the 750 purchasers of the first can never get
at it. At Falmouth I bought Thomas Dermody's "Poems", for old
acquaintance sake; alas! the boy wrote better than the man! * * * Pye's
"Alfred" (to distinguish him from Alfred the pious [2]) I have not yet
inspected; nor the wilful murder of Bonaparte, by Anna Matilda; nor the
high treason committed by Sir James Bland Burgess, Baronet, against our
lion-hearted Richard. Davy is fallen stark mad with a play, called the
"Conspiracy of Gowrie", which is by Rough; an imitation of "Gebir", with
some poetry; but miserably and hopelessly deficient in all else: every
character reasoning, and metaphorising, and metaphysicking the reader
most nauseously. By the by, there is a great analogy between hock,
laver, pork pie, and the "Lyrical Ballads",--all have a "flavour", not
beloved by those who require a taste, and utterly unpleasant to
dram-drinkers, whose diseased palates can only feel pepper and brandy. I
know not whether Wordsworth will forgive the stimulant tale of
"Thalaba",--'tis a turtle soup, highly seasoned, but with a flavour of
its own predominant. His are sparagrass (it ought to be spelt so) and
artichokes, good with plain butter, and wholesome.

I look on "Madoc" with hopeful displeasure; probably it must be
corrected, and published now; this coming into the world at seven months
is a bad way; with a Doctor Slop of a printer's devil standing ready for
the forced birth, and frightening one into an abortion. * * * Is there
an emigrant at Keswick, who may make me talk and write French? And I
must sit at my almost forgotten Italian, and read German with you; and
we must read Tasso together.

God bless you!


R. S.

[Footnote 1: Coleridge's poem of "Love".]

[Footnote 2: This alludes to Mr. Cottle's "Alfred".]

The next two letters to Davy indicate that Coleridge's health was now of
the worst, and that he was thinking seriously of emigrating for some


Monday, May 4, 1801.

My dear Davy,

I heard from Tobin the day before yesterday--nay, it was Friday. From
him I learn that you are giving lectures on galvanism. Would to God I
were one of your auditors! My motive muscles tingled and contracted at
the news, as if you had bared them, and were 'zincifying' their
life-mocking fibres.

When you have leisure and impulse--perfect leisure and a complete
impulse--write to me, but only then. For though there does not exist a
man on earth who yields me greater pleasure by writing to me, yet I have
neither pain nor disquietude from your silence. I have a deep faith in
the guardianship of Nature over you--of the Great Being whom you are
manifesting. Heaven bless you, my dear Davy!

I have been rendered uneasy by an account of the Lisbon packet's
non-arrival, lest Southey should have been on board it. Have you heard
from him lately?

It would seem affectation to write to you and say nothing of my health;
but in truth I am weary of giving useless pain. Yesterday I should have
been incapable of writing you this scrawl, and to-morrow I may be as
bad. "'Sinking, sinking, sinking!' I feel that I am 'sinking'." My
medical attendant says that it is irregular gout, with nephritic
symptoms. 'Gout', in a young man of twenty-nine!! Swollen knees, and
knotty fingers, a loathing stomach, and a dizzy head. Trust me, friend,
I am at times an object of moral disgust to my own mind! But that this
long illness has impoverished me, I should immediately go to St.
Miguels, one of the Azores--the baths and the delicious climate might
restore me--and if it were possible, I would afterwards send over for my
wife and children, and settle there for a few years; it is exceedingly
cheap. On this supposition Wordsworth and his sister have with generous
friendship offered to settle there with me--and happily our dear Southey
would come too. But of this I pray you, my dear fellow, do not say a
syllable to any human being, for the scheme, from the present state of
my circumstances, is rather the thing of a "wish" than of a "hope".

If you write to me, pray in a couple of sentences tell me whether
Herschell's thermometric "spectrum" (in the "Philos. Trans.") will lead
to any revolution in the chemical philosophy. As far as "words" go, I
have become a formidable chemist--having got by heart a prodigious
quantity of terms, etc., to which I attach "some" ideas, very scanty in
number, I assure you, and right meagre in their individual persons. That
which must discourage me in it is, that I find all "power" of vital
attributes to depend on modes of "arrangement", and that chemistry
throws not even a distant rushlight glimmer upon this subject. The
"reasoning", likewise, is always unsatisfactory to me. I am perpetually
saying, probably there are many agents hitherto undiscovered. This
cannot be reasoning: we must have a deep conviction that all the "terms"
have been exhausted. This is saying no more than that (with Dr.
Beddoes's leave) chemistry can never possess the same kind of certainty
with the mathematics--in truth, it is saying nothing. I grow, however,
exceedingly interested in the subject.

God love you, my dear friend! From Tobin's account, I fear that I must
give up a very sweet vision--that of seeing you this summer. The summer
after, my ghost perhaps may be a gas.

Yours affectionately,


[Footnote 1: Letter CXVIII follows No. 107.]


Greta Hall, Keswick, May 20, 1801.

My dear Davy,

Though we of the north must forego you, yet I shall rejoice when I
receive a letter from you from Cornwall. I must believe that you have
made some important discoveries in galvanism, and connected the facts
with other more interesting ones, or I should be puzzled to conceive how
that subject could furnish matter for more than one lecture. If I
recollect aright, you have identified it with electricity, and that
indeed is a wide field. I shall dismiss my 'British Critic' and take in
'Nicholson's Journal', and then I shall know something about you. I am
sometimes apprehensive that my passion for science is scarcely true and
genuine--it is but 'Davyism'! that is, I fear that I am more delighted
at 'your' having discovered facts than at the facts having been

My health is better. I am indeed eager to believe that I am really
beginning to recover, though I have had so many short recoveries
followed by severe relapses, that I am at times almost afraid to hope.
But cheerful thoughts come with genial sensations; and hope is itself no
mean medicine.

I am anxious respecting Robert Southey. Why is he not in England?
Remember me kindly to Tobin. As soon as I have anything to communicate I
will write to him. But, alas! sickness turns large districts of time
into dreary uniformity of sandy desolation. Alas, for Egypt--and Menou!
However, I trust the 'English' will keep it, if they take it, and
something will be gained to the cause of human nature.

Heaven bless you!


The next letter to Godwin renews his complaints about health.


Greta Hall, Keswick.

Dear Godwin,

I have had, during the last three weeks, such numerous interruptions of
my "uninterrupted rural retirement," such a succession of visitors, both
indigenous and exotic, that verily I wanted both the time and composure
necessary to answer your letter of the first of June--at present I am
writing to you from my bed. For, in consequence of a very sudden change
in the weather from intense heat to a raw and scathing chillness, my
bodily health has suffered a relapse as severe as it was unexpected....

I have not yet received either "Antonio", or your pamphlet, in answer to
Dr. Parr and the Scotch gentleman [1] (who is to be professor of morals
to the young nabobs at Calcutta, with an establishment of L3,000 a
year!). Stuart was so kind as to send me Fenwick's review of it in a
paper called the "Albion", and Mr. Longman has informed me that, by your
orders, the pamphlet itself has been left for me at his house. The
extracts which I saw pleased me much, with the exception of the
introduction, which is incorrectly and clumsily worded. But, indeed, I
have often observed that, whatever you write, the first page is always
the worst in the book. I wish that instead of six days you had employed
six months, and instead of a half-crown pamphlet, had given us a good
half-guinea octavo. But you may yet do this. It strikes me, that both in
this work, and in the second edition of the "Political Justice", your
retractations have been more injudicious than the assertions or dogmas
retracted. But this is no fit subject for a mere letter. If I had time,
which I have not, I would write two or three sheets for your sole
inspection, entitled "History of the Errors and Blunders of the Literary
Life of William Godwin". To the world it would appear a paradox to say
that you are at all too persuadable, but you yourself know it to be the

I shall send back your manuscript on Friday, with my criticisms. You say
in your last, "How I wish you were here!" When I see how little I have
written of what I could have talked, I feel with you that a letter is
but "a mockery" to a full and ardent mind. In truth I feel this so
forcibly that, if I could be certain that I should remain in this
country, I should press you to come down, and finish the whole in my
house. But, if I can by any means raise the moneys, I shall go in the
first vessel that leaves Liverpool for the Azores (St. Michael's, to
wit), and these sail at the end of July. Unless I can escape one English
winter and spring I have not any rational prospect of recovery. You
"cannot help regarding uninterrupted rural retirement as a principal
cause" of my ill health. My ill health commenced at Liverpool, in the
shape of blood-shot eyes and swollen eyelids, while I was in the daily
habit of visiting the Liverpool literati--these, on my settling at
Keswick, were followed by large boils in my neck and shoulders; these,
by a violent rheumatic fever; this, by a distressing and tedious
hydrocele; and, since then, by irregular gout, which promises at this
moment to ripen into a legitimate fit. What uninterrupted rural
retirement can have had to do in the production of these outward and
visible evils, I cannot guess; what share it has had in consoling me
under them, I know with a tranquil mind and feel with a grateful heart.
O that you had now before your eyes the delicious picture of lake, and
river, and bridge, and cottage, and spacious field with its pathway, and
woody hill with its spring verdure, and mountain with the snow yet
lingering in fantastic patches upon it, even the same which I had from
my sick bed, even without raising my head from the pillow! O God! all
but dear and lovely things seemed to be known to my imagination only as
words; even the forms which struck terror into me in my fever-dreams
were still forms of beauty. Before my last seizure I bent down to pick
something from the ground, and when I raised my head, I said to Miss
Wordsworth, "I am sure, Rotha, that I am going to be ill;" for as I bent
my head there came a distinct, vivid spectrum upon my eyes; it was one
little picture--a rock, with birches and ferns on it, a cottage backed
by it, and a small stream. Were I a painter I would give an outward
existence to this, but it will always live in my memory.

By-the-bye, our rural retirement has been honoured by the company of Mr.
Sharp, and the poet Rogers; the latter, though not a man of very
vigorous intellect, won a good deal both on myself and Wordsworth, for
what he said evidently came from his own feelings, and was the result of
his own observation.

My love to your dear little one. I begin to feel my knee preparing to
make ready for the reception of the Lady Arthritis. God bless you and


Tuesday Evening, June 23, 1801. [2]

[Footnote 1: Mackintosh]

[Footnote 2: Letters CXIX-CXXII follow No. 109.]

Coleridge, for want of funds, was unable for the present to carry out
his project of going abroad, and the next letter to Davy tells us that
he had resolved to go to London instead, and write for the daily papers


Greta Hall, Keswick, Cumberland, October 31, 1801.

My dear Davy,

I do not know by what fatality it has happened, but so it is; that I
have thought more often of you, and I may say, "yearned" after your
society more for the last three months than I ever before did, and yet I
have not written to you. But you know that I honour you, and that I love
whom I honour. Love and esteem with me have no dividual being; and
wherever this is not the case, I suspect there must be some lurking
moral superstition which nature gets the better of; and that the real
meaning of the phrase "I love him though I cannot esteem him," is--I
esteem him, but not according to my system of esteem. But you, my dear
fellow, 'all' men love and esteem--which is the only suspicious part of
your character--at least according to the 5th chapter of St.
Matthew.--God bless you.

And now for the business of this letter. 'If I can', I leave this place
so as to be in London on Wednesday, the 11th of next month; in London I
shall stay a fortnight; but as I am in feeble health, and have a perfect
'phobia' of inns and coffee-houses, I should rejoice if you or Southey
should be able to offer me a bed-room for the fortnight aforesaid. From
London I move southward. Now for the italicized words 'if I can'. The
cryptical and implicit import of which is--I have a damned thorn in my
leg, which the surgeon has not been yet able to extract--and but that I
have metaphysicized most successfully on 'Pain', in consequence of the
accident, by the Great Scatterer of Thoughts, I should have been half
mad. But as it is I have borne it 'like a woman', which, I believe, to
be two or three degrees at least beyond a 'stoic'. A suppuration is
going on, and I endure in hope.

I have redirected some of Southey's letters to you, taking it for
granted that you will see him immediately on his arrival in town; he
left us yesterday afternoon. Let me hear from you, if it be only to say
what I know already, that you will be glad to see me. O, dear friend,
thou one of the two human beings of whom I dare hope with a hope, that
elevates my own heart. O bless you!


[Footnote 1: Letters CXXIII-CXXXI follow No. 110.]

Sir Humphry Davy's description of Coleridge at this date is well known,
and we must quote it; "Coleridge has left London for Keswick. During his
stay in town I saw him seldomer than usual; when I did see him, it was
generally in the midst of large companies, where he is the image of
power and activity. His eloquence is unimpaired: perhaps it is softer
and stronger. His will is less than ever commensurate with his ability.
Brilliant images of greatness float upon his mind, like images of the
morning clouds on the waters. Their forms are changed by the motions of
the waves, they are agitated by every breeze, and modified by every
sunbeam. He talked in the course of an hour of beginning three works; he
recited the poem of 'Christabel' unfinished, and as I had before heard
it. What talent does he not waste in forming visions, sublime, but
unconnected with the real world! I have looked to his efforts, as to the
efforts of a creating being; but as yet he has not laid the foundation
for the new world of intellectual forms" ('Fragmentary Remains', p. 74).

Southey had now returned from Portugal, and was also in London
('Southey's Letters', i, 183). It was not till September, 1803, that
Southey came to Keswick ('Southey's Letters', i, 229-31). During the
interval Coleridge had written various things for the 'Morning Post',
the most outstanding contributions being the two powerful letters to Fox
of 4th and 9th November 1802, written on the occasion of that statesman
going to Paris and paying court to Napoleon. The next eight letters to
Thomas Wedgwood give the best impression of Coleridge between October
1802 and February 1803.

Letter 111 To Thomas Wedgwood

Keswick, Oct. 20, 1802.

My dear sir,

This is my birthday, my thirtieth. It will not appear wonderful to you,
when I tell you, that before the arrival of your letter, I had been
thinking with a great weight of different feelings, concerning you, and
your dear brother, for I have good reason to believe, that I should not
now have been alive, if in addition to other miseries, I had had
immediate poverty pressing upon me. I will never again remain silent so
long. It has not been altogether indolence, or my habit of
procrastination which have [1] kept me from writing, but an eager
wish,--I may truly say, a thirst of spirit, to have something honourable
to tell you of myself.

At present I must be content to tell you something cheerful. My health
is very much better. I am stronger in every respect, and am not injured
by study, or the act of sitting at my writing desk; but my eyes suffer
if at any time I have been intemperate in the use of candle-light. This
account supposes another, namely, that my mind is calm, and more at
ease. My dear sir, when I was last with you at Stowey, my heart was
often full, and I could scarcely keep from communicating to you the tale
of my distresses, but could I add to your depression, when you were low?
or how interrupt, or cast a shade on your good spirits, that were so
rare, and so precious to you? ...

I found no comfort but in the driest speculations;--in the 'Ode to
Dejection', which you were pleased with. These lines, in the original,
followed the line "My shaping spirit of imagination,"--

For not to think of what I needs must feel,
But to be still and patient, all I can,
And haply by abstruse research to steal
From my own nature all the natural man;
This was my sole resource, my only plan
And that which suits a part infests the whole,
And now is almost grown the temper [2] of my soul.

I give you these lines for the spirit, and not for the poetry. ...

But better days are arrived, and are still to come, I have had
Visitations of Hope--that I may yet be something of which those who love
me may be proud.

I cannot write that without recalling dear Poole. I have heard twice,
and written twice, and I fear by a strange fatality, one of the letters
will have missed him. Leslie [3] was here some time ago. I was very much
pleased with him. And now I will tell you what I am doing. I dedicate
three days in the week to the 'Morning Post', and shall hereafter write,
for the far greater part, such things as will be of as permanent
interest as any thing I can hope to write; and you will shortly see a
little essay of mine, justifying the writing in a newspaper.

My comparison of the French with the Roman Empire was very favourably
received. The poetry which I have sent is merely the emptying out of my
desk. The epigrams are wretched indeed, but they answered Stuart's
purpose, better than better things. I ought not to have given any
signature to them whatsoever. I never dreamt of acknowledging either
them, or the 'Ode to the Rain'. As to feeble expressions, and unpolished
lines--there is the rub! Indeed, my dear sir, I do value your opinion
very highly. I think your judgment on the sentiment, the imagery, the
flow of a poem, decisive; at least, if it differed from my own, and if
after frequent consideration mine remained different, it would leave me
at least perplexed. For you are a perfect electrometer in these
things--but in point of poetic diction, I am not so well satisfied that
you do not require a certain aloofness from the language of real life,
which I think deadly to poetry.

Very soon however I shall present you from the press with my opinions
full on the subject of style, both in prose and verse; and I am
confident of one thing, that I shall convince you that I have thought
much and patiently on the subject, and that I understand the whole
strength of my antagonist's cause. For I am now busy on the subject, and
shall in a very few weeks go to press with a volume on the prose
writings of Hall, Milton, and Taylor; and shall immediately follow it up
with an essay on the writings of Dr. Johnson and Gibbon, and in these
two volumes I flatter myself I shall present a fair history of English
Prose. If my life and health remain, and I do but write half as much,
and as regularly as I have done during the last six weeks, this will be
finished by January next; and I shall then put together my
memorandum-book on the subject of Poetry. In both I have endeavoured
sedulously to state the facts and the differences clearly and
accurately; and my reasons for the preference of one style to another
are secondary to this.

Of this be assured, that I will never give any thing to the world in
'propria persona' in my own name which I have not tormented with the
file. I sometimes suspect that my foul copy would often appear to
general readers more polished than my fair copy. Many of the feeble and
colloquial expressions have been industriously substituted for others
which struck me as artificial, and not standing the test; as being
neither the language of passion, nor distinct conceptions. Dear sir,
indulge me with looking still further on in my literary life.

I have, since my twentieth year, meditated an heroic poem on the 'Siege
of Jerusalem', by Titus. This is the pride and the stronghold of my
hope, but I never think of it except in my best moods. The work to which
I dedicate the ensuing years of my life, is one which highly pleased
Leslie, in prospective, and my paper will not let me prattle to you
about it. I have written what you more wished me to write, all about

Our climate (in the north) is inclement, and our houses not as compact
as they might be, but it is a stirring climate, and the worse the
weather, the more unceasingly entertaining are my study windows, and the
month that is to come is the glory of the year with us. A very warm
bed-room I can promise you, and one at the same time which commands the
finest lake and mountain view. If Leslie could not go abroad with you,
and I could in any way mould my manners and habits to suit you, I should
of all things like to be your companion. Good nature, an affectionate
disposition, and so thorough a sympathy with the nature of your
complaint, that I should feel no pain, not the most momentary, at being
told by you what your feelings require at the time in which they
required it; this I should bring with me. But I need not say that you
may say to me,--"You don't suit me," without inflicting the least
mortification. Of course this letter is for your brother, as for you;
but I shall write to him soon. God bless you,


Thomas Wedgwood, Esq.

[Footnote 1: 'Sic.']

[Footnote 2: Cottle prints "temple," an error.]

[Footnote 3: The eminent Edinburg Professor. For three years the private
tutor of Mr. T. Wedgwood (Cottle). [For further information regarding
John, aftwards Sir John, Leslie (1766-1832) see 'Tom Wedgwood' by


Keswick, November 3, 1802.

Dear Wedgwood,

It is now two hours since I received your letter; and after the
necessary consultation, Mrs. Coleridge herself is fully of opinion that
to lose time is merely to lose spirits. Accordingly I have resolved not
to look the children in the face, (the parting from whom is the
downright bitter in the thing) but to go to London by to-morrow's mail.
Of course I shall be in London, God permitting, on Saturday morning. I
shall rest that day, and the next, and proceed to Bristol by the Monday
night's mail. At Bristol I will go to "Cote-House"[1] At all events,
barring serious illness, serious fractures, and the et cetera of serious
unforeseens, I shall be at Bristol, Tuesday noon, November 9.

You are aware that my whole knowledge of French does not extend beyond
the power of limping slowly, not without a dictionary crutch, through an
easy French book: and that as to pronunciation, all my organs of speech,
from the bottom of the Larynx to the edge of my lips, are utterly and
naturally anti-Gallican. If only I shall have been any comfort, any
alleviation to you I shall feel myself at ease--and whether you go
abroad or no, while I remain with you, it will greatly contribute to my
comfort, if I know you will have no hesitation, nor pain, in telling me
what you wish me to do, or not to do.

I regard it among the blessings of my life, that I have never lived
among men whom I regarded as my artificial superiors: that all the
respect I have at any time paid, has been wholly to supposed goodness,
or talent. The consequence has been that I have no alarms of pride; no
"cheval de frise" of independence. I have always lived among equals. It
never occurs to me, even for a moment, that I am otherwise. If I have
quarrelled with men, it has been as brothers or as school-fellows
quarrel. How little any man can give me, or take from me, save in
matters of kindness and esteem, is not so much a thought or conviction
with me, or even a distinct feeling, as it is my very nature. Much as I
dislike all formal declarations of this kind, I have deemed it well to
say this. I have as strong feelings of gratitude as any man. Shame upon
me if in the sickness and the sorrow which I have had, and which have
been kept unaggravated and supportable by your kindness, and your
brother's (Mr. Josiah Wedgwood) shame upon me if I did not feel a
kindness, not unmixed with reverence towards you both. But yet I never
should have had my present impulses to be with you, and this confidence,
that I may become an occasional comfort to you, if, independently of all
gratitude, I did not thoroughly esteem you; and if I did not appear to
myself to understand the nature of your sufferings; and within the last
year, in some slight degree to have felt myself, something of the same.

Forgive me, my dear sir, if I have said too much. It is better to write
it than to say it, and I am anxious in the event of our travelling
together that you should yourself be at ease with me, even as you would
with a younger brother, to whom, from his childhood you had been in the
habit of saying, "Do this Col." or "don't do that." All good be with


Thomas Wedgwood, Esq.[2]

[Footnote: 1 Westbury, near Bristol, the then residence of Mr. John

[Footnote 2: Letters CXXXII-CXXXIV follow 112.]


Keswick, January 9, 1803.

My dear Wedgwood,

I send you two letters, one from your dear sister, the second from
Sharp, by which you will see at what short notice I must be off, if I go
to the "Canaries", If your last plan continue in full force, I have not
even the phantom of a wish thitherward struggling, but if aught have
happened to you, in the things without, or in the world within, to
induce you to change the place, or the plan, relatively to me, I think I
could raise the money. But I would a thousand-fold rather go with you
whithersoever you go. I shall be anxious to hear how you have gone on
since I left you. You should decide in favour of a better climate
somewhere or other. The best scheme I can think of, is to go to some
part of Italy or Sicily, which we both liked. I would look out for two
houses. Wordsworth and his family would take the one, and I the other,
and then you might have a home either with me, or if you thought of Mr.
and Mrs. Luff, under this modification, one of your own; and in either
case you would have neighbours, and so return to England when the home
sickness pressed heavy upon you, and back to Italy when it was abated,
and the climate of England began to poison your comforts. So you would
have abroad in a genial climate, certain comforts of society among
simple and enlightened men and women; and I should be an alleviation of
the pang which you will necessarily feel, as often as you quit your own

I know no better plan: for travelling in search of objects is at best a
dreary business, and whatever excitement it might have had, you must
have exhausted it. God bless you, my dear friend. I write with dim eyes,
for indeed, indeed, my heart is very full of affectionate sorrowful
thoughts toward you.

I write with difficulty, with all the fingers but one of my right hand
very much swollen. Before I was half up the "Kirkstone" mountain, the
storm had wetted me through and through, and before I reached the top it
was so wild and outrageous, that it would have been unmanly to have
suffered the poor woman (guide) to continue pushing on, up against such
a torrent of wind and rain: so I dismounted and sent her home with the
storm in her back. I am no novice in mountain mischiefs, but such a
storm as this was, I never witnessed, combining the intensity of the
cold, with the violence of the wind and rain. The rain drops were pelted
or slung against my face by the gusts, just like splinters of flint, and
I felt as if every drop cut my flesh. My hands were all shrivelled up
like a washer-woman's, and so benumbed that I was obliged to carry my
stick under my arm. O, it was a wild business! Such hurry skurry of
clouds, such volleys of sound! In spite of the wet and the cold, I
should have had some pleasure in it, but for two vexations; first, an
almost intolerable pain came into my right eye, a smarting and burning
pain; and secondly, in consequence of riding with such cold water under
my seat, extremely uneasy and burthensome feelings attacked my groin, so
that, what with the pain from the one, and the alarm from the other, I
had "no enjoyment at all"!

Just at the brow of the hill I met a man dismounted, who could not sit
on horse-back. He seemed quite scared by the uproar, and said to me,
with much feeling, "O sir, it is a perilous buffeting, but it is worse
for you than for me, for I have it at my back." However I got safely
over, and immediately all was calm and breathless, as if it was some
mighty fountain put on the summit of Kirkstone, that shot forth its
volcano of air, and precipitated huge streams of invisible lava down the
road to Patterdale.

I went on to Grasmere. [1] I was not at all unwell, when I arrived
there, though wet of course to the skin. My right eye had nothing the
matter with it, either to the sight of others, or to my own feelings,
but I had a bad night, with distressful dreams, chiefly about my eye;
and waking often in the dark I thought it was the effect of mere
recollection, but it appeared in the morning that my right eye was
blood-shot, and the lid swollen. That morning however I walked home, and
before I reached Keswick, my eye was quite well, but "I felt unwell all
over". Yesterday I continued unusually unwell all over me till eight
o'clock in the evening. I took no "laudanum or opium", but at eight
o'clock, unable to bear the stomach uneasiness and achings of my limbs,
I took two large tea-spoons full of Ether in a wine glass of camphorated
gum-water, and a third teaspoon full at ten o'clock, and I received
complete relief; my body calmed; my sleep placid; but when I awoke in
the morning, my right hand, with three of the fingers, was swollen and
inflamed. The swelling in the hand is gone down, and of two of the
fingers somewhat abated, but the middle finger is still twice its
natural size, so that I write with difficulty. This has been a very
rough attack, but though I am much weakened by it, and look sickly and
haggard, yet I am not out of heart. Such a 'bout'; such a "periless
buffetting," was enough to have hurt the health of a strong man. Few
constitutions can bear to be long wet through in intense cold. I fear it
will tire you to death to read this prolix scrawled story.

Affectionately dear Friend, Yours ever,


[Footnote 1: The then residence of Mr. Wordsworth. [Cottle.]]

[Footnote 2: Letter CXXXV is our No. 110.]


Friday night, Jan. 14, 1803

Dear Friend,

I was glad at heart to receive your letter, and still more gladdened by
the reading of it. The exceeding kindness which it breathed was
literally medicinal to me, and I firmly believe, cured me of a nervous
rheumatic affection, the acid and the oil, very completely at
Patterdale; but by the time it came to Keswick, the oil was all atop.

You ask me, "Why, in the name of goodness, I did not return when I saw
the state of the weather?" The true reason is simple, though it may be
somewhat strange. The thought never once entered my head. The cause of
this I suppose to be, that (I do not remember it at least) I never once
in my whole life turned back in fear of the weather. Prudence is a
plant, of which I no doubt possess some valuable specimens, but they are
always in my hothouse, never out of the glasses, and least of all things
would endure the climate of the mountains. In simple earnestness, I
never find myself alone, within the embracement of rocks and hills, a
traveller up an alpine road, but my spirit careers, drives, and eddies,
like a leaf in autumn; a wild activity of thoughts, imaginations,
feelings, and impulses of motion rises up from within me; a sort of
bottom wind, that blows to no point of the compass, comes from I know
not whence, but agitates the whole of me; my whole being is filled with
waves that roll and stumble, one this way, and one that way, like things
that have no common master. I think that my soul must have pre-existed
in the body of a chamois chaser. The simple image of the old object has
been obliterated, but the feelings, and impulsive habits, and incipient
actions, are in me, and the old scenery awakens them.

The further I ascend from animated nature, from men, and cattle, and the
common birds of the woods and fields, the greater becomes in me the
intensity of the feeling of life. Life seems to me then an universal
spirit, that neither has, nor can have an opposite. "God is everywhere,"
I have exclaimed, and works everywhere, and where is there room for
death? In these moments it has been my creed, that death exists only
because ideas exist; that life is limitless sensation; that death is a
child of the organic senses, chiefly of the sight; that feelings die by
flowing into the mould of the intellect becoming ideas, and that ideas
passing forth into action, reinstate themselves again in the world of
life. And I do believe that truth lies in these loose generalizations. I
do not think it possible that any bodily pains could eat out the love of
joy, that is so substantially part of me, towards hills, and rocks, and
steep waters; and I have had some trial.

On Monday night I had an attack in my stomach and right side, which in
pain, and the length of its continuance appeared to me by far the
severest I ever had. About one o'clock the pain passed out of my
stomach, like lightning from a cloud, into the extremities of my right
foot. My toe swelled and throbbed, and I was in a state of delicious
ease, which the pain in my toe did not seem at all to interfere with. On
Tuesday I was uncommonly well all the morning, and ate an excellent
dinner; but playing too long and too rompingly with Hartley and Derwent,
I was very unwell that evening. On Wednesday I was well, and after
dinner wrapped myself up warm, and walked with Sarah Hutchinson, to
Lodore. I never beheld anything more impressive than the wild outline of
the black masses of mountain over Lodore, and so on to the gorge of
Borrowdale. Even through the bare twigs of a grove of birch trees,
through which the road passes; and on emerging from the grove a red
planet, so very red that I never saw a star so red, being clear and
bright at the same time. It seemed to have sky behind it. It started, as
it were from the heavens, like an eye-ball of fire. I wished aloud at
that moment that you had been with me.

The walk appears to have done me good, but I had a wretched night;
shocking pains in my head, occiput, and teeth, and found in the morning
that I had two blood-shot eyes. But almost immediately after the receipt
and perusal of your letter the pains left me, and I am bettered to this
hour; and am now indeed as well as usual saving that my left eye is very
much blood-shot. It is a sort of duty with me, to be particular
respecting facts that relate to my health. I have retained a good sound
appetite through the whole of it, without any craving after exhilarants
or narcotics, and I have got well as in a moment. Rapid recovery is
constitutional with me; but the former circumstances, I can with
certainty refer to the system of diet, abstinence from vegetables, wine,
spirits, and beer, which I have adopted by your advice.

I have no dread or anxiety respecting any fatigue which either of us is
likely to undergo, even in continental travelling. Many a healthy man
would have been laid up with such a bout of thorough wet, and intense
cold at the same time, as I had at Kirkstone. Would to God that also for
your sake I were a stronger man, but I have strong wishes to be with
you. I love your society, and receiving much comfort from you, and
believing likewise that I receive much improvement, I find a delight
very great, my dear friend! indeed it is, when I have reason to imagine
that I am in return an alleviation to your destinies, and a comfort to
you. I have no fears and am ready to leave home at a two days' warning.
For myself I should say two hours, but bustle and hurry might disorder
Mrs. Coleridge. She and the three children are quite well.[1]

I grieve that there is a lowering in politics. The 'Moniteur' contains
almost daily some bitter abuse of our minister and parliament, and in
London there is great anxiety and omening. I have dreaded war from the
time that the disastrous fortunes of the expedition to Saint Domingo,
under Le Clerc, was known in France. Write me one or two lines, as few
as you like.

I remain, my dear Wedgwood, with most affectionate esteem, and grateful

Your sincere friend,


Thomas Wedgwood, Esq.

[Footnote 1: Sara had been born 23rd December 1802.]


Nether Stowey, Feb. 10, 1803.

Dear Wedgwood,

Last night Poole and I fully expected a few lines from you. When the
newspaper came in, without your letter, we felt as if a dull neighbour
had been ushered in after a knock at the door which had made us rise up
and start forward to welcome some long absent friend. Indeed in Poole's
case, this simile is less over-swollen than in mine, for in contempt of
my convictions and assurance to the contrary, Poole, passing off the
Brummagem coin of his wishes for sterling reasons, had persuaded himself
fully that he should see you in 'propria persona'. The truth is, we had
no right to expect a letter from you, and I should have attributed your
not writing to your having nothing to write, to your bodily dislike of
writing, or, though with reluctance, to low spirits, but that I have
been haunted with the fear that your sister is worse, and that you are
at Cote-House, in the mournful office of comforter to your brother. God
keep us from idle dreams. Life has enough of real pains.

I wrote to Captain Wordsworth to get me some Bang. The captain in an
affectionate letter answers me: "The Bang if possible shall be sent. If
any country ship arrives I shall certainly get it. We have not got
anything of the kind in our China ships." If you would rather wait till
it can be brought by Captain Wordsworth himself from China, give me a
line that I may write and tell him. We shall hope for a letter from you
to-night. I need not say, dear Wedgwood, how anxious I am to hear the
particulars of your health and spirits.

Poole's account of his conversations, etc., in France, are very
interesting and instructive. If your inclination lead you hither you
would be very comfortable here. But I am ready at an hour's warning;
ready in heart and mind, as well as in body and moveables.

I am, dear Wedgwood, most truly yours,


Thomas Wedgwood, Esq.


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