Narrative And Miscellaneous Papers, Vol. II.
Thomas De Quincey

Part 2 out of 4

therefore, the original or mother-voice. But about the time of
Pericles, that is, exactly one hundred years before the time of
Alexander the Great, the light of prophecy was quenched in Malachi or
Haggai; and the oracular jewels in the breast-plate became
simultaneously dim. Henceforwards the mother-voice was heard no longer:
but to this succeeded an imperfect or daughter-voice, (_Bathcol_,)
which lay in the first words happening to arrest the attention at a
moment of perplexity. An illustration, which has been often quoted from
the Talmud, is to the following effect:--Rabbi Tochanan, and Rabbi
Simeon Ben Lachish, were anxious about a friend, Rabbi Samuel, six
hundred miles distant on the Euphrates. Whilst talking earnestly
together on this subject in Palestine, they passed a school; they
paused to listen: it was a child reading the first book of Samuel; and
the words which they caught were these--_And Samuel died_. These
words they received as a _Bath-col_: and the next horseman from
the Euphrates brought word accordingly that Rabbi Samuel had been
gathered to his fathers at some station on the Euphrates.

Here is the very same case, the same _Bath-col_ substantially,
which we have cited from Orton's _Life of Doddridge_. And Du Cange
himself notices, in his Glossary, the relation which this bore to the
Pagan _Sortes_. 'It was,' says he, 'a fantastical way of divination,
invented by the Jews, not unlike the _Sortes Virgilianæ_ of the
heathens. For, as with them the first words they happened to dip into
in the works of that poet were a kind of oracle whereby they predicted
future events,--so, with the Jews, when they appealed to _Bath-col_,
the first words they heard from any one's mouth were looked upon as a
voice from Heaven directing them in the matter they inquired about.'

If the reader imagines that this ancient form of the practical
miraculous is at all gone out of use, even the example of Dr. Doddridge
may satisfy him to the contrary. Such an example was sure to authorize
a large imitation. But, even apart from that, the superstition is
common. The records of conversion amongst felons and other ignorant
persons might be cited by hundreds upon hundreds to prove that no
practice is more common than that of trying the spiritual fate, and
abiding by the import of any passage in the Scriptures which may first
present itself to the eye. Cowper, the poet, has recorded a case of
this sort in his own experience. It is one to which all the unhappy are
prone. But a mode of questioning the oracles of darkness, far more
childish, and, under some shape or other, equally common amongst those
who are prompted by mere vacancy of mind, without that determination to
sacred fountains which is impressed by misery, may be found in the
following extravagant silliness of Rousseau, which we give in his own
words--a case for which he admits that he himself would have _shut
up_ any other man (meaning in a lunatic hospital) whom he had seen
practising the same absurdities:--

'Au milieu de mes études et d'une vie innocente autant qu'on la puisse
mener, et malgré tout ce qu'on m'avoit pu dire, la peur de l'Enfer
m'agitoit encore. Souvent je me demandois--En quel état suis-je? Si je
mourrois à l'instant même, _serois-je damné_? Selon mes Jansénistes,
[he had been reading the books of the Port Royal,] la chose est
indubitable: mais, selon ma conscience, il me paroissoit que
non. Toujours craintif et flottant dans cette cruelle incertitude,
j'avois recours (pour en sortir) aux expédients les plus risibles, et
pour lesquels je ferois volontiers enfermer un homme si je lui en
voyois faire autant. ... Un jour, rêvant à ce triste sujet, je
m'exerçois machinalement à lancer les pierres contre les troncs des
arbres; et cela avec mon addresse ordinaire, c'est-à-dire sans presque
jamais en toucher aucun. Tout au milieu de ce bel exercise, je m'avisai
de faire une espèce de pronostic pour calmer mon inquiétude. Je me dis
--je m'en vais jeter cette pierre contre l'arbre qui est vis-à-vis de
moi: si je le touche, signe de salut: si je le manque, signe de
damnation. Tout en disant ainsi, je jette ma pierre d'une main
tremblante, et avec un horrible battement de coeur, mais si
heureusement qu'elle va frapper au beau-milieu de l'arbre: ce qui
véritablement n'étoit pas difficile: car j'avois eu soin de le choisir
fort gros et fort près. _Depuis lors je n'ai plus doubté de mon
salut._ Je ne sais, en me rappelant ce trait, si je dois rire ou
gémir sur moimême.'--_Les Confessions, Partie I. Livre VI._

Now, really, if Rousseau thought fit to try such tremendous appeals by
taking 'a shy' at any random object, he should have governed his
sortilegy (for such it may be called) with something more like equity.
Fair play is a jewel: and in such a case, a man is supposed to play
against an adverse party hid in darkness. To shy at a cow within six
feet distance gives no chance at all to his dark antagonist. A pigeon
rising from a trap at a suitable distance might be thought a
_sincere_ staking of the interest at issue: but, as to the massy
stem of a tree 'fort gros et fort près'--the sarcasm of a Roman emperor
applies, that to miss under such conditions implied an original genius
for stupidity, and to hit was no trial of the case. After all, the
sentimentalist had youth to plead in apology for this extravagance. He
was hypochondriacal; he was in solitude; and he was possessed by gloomy
imaginations from the works of a society in the highest public credit.
But most readers will be aware of similar appeals to the mysteries of
Providence, made in public by illustrious sectarians, speaking from the
solemn station of a pulpit. We forbear to quote cases of this nature,
though really existing in print, because we feel that the blasphemy of
such anecdotes is more revolting and more painful to pious minds than
the absurdity is amusing. Meantime it must not be forgotten, that the
principle concerned, though it may happen to disgust men when
associated with ludicrous circumstances, is, after all, the very same
which has latently governed very many modes of ordeal, or judicial
inquiry; and which has been adopted, blindly, as a moral rule, or
canon, equally by the blindest of the Pagans, the most fanatical of the
Jews, and the most enlightened of the Christians. It proceeds upon the
assumption that man by his actions puts a question to Heaven; and that
Heaven answers by the event. Lucan, in a well known passage, takes it
for granted that the cause of Cæsar had the approbation of the gods.
And why? Simply from the event. It was notoriously the triumphant
cause. It was victorious, (_victrix_ causa Deis placuit; sed
_victa_ Catoni.) It was the '_victrix_ causa;' and, _as_ such,
simply because it was 'victrix,' it had a right in his eyes to
postulate the divine favor as mere matter of necessary interference:
whilst, on the other hand, the _victa causa_, though it seemed to
Lucan sanctioned by human virtue in the person of Cato, stood
unappealably condemned. This mode of reasoning may strike the reader as
merely Pagan. Not at all. In England, at the close of the Parliamentary
war, it was generally argued--that Providence had decided the question
against the Royalists by the mere fact of the issue. Milton himself,
with all his high-toned morality, uses this argument as irrefragable:
which is odd, were it only on this account--that the issue ought
necessarily to have been held for a time as merely hypothetic, and
liable to be set aside by possible counter-issues through one
generation at the least. But the capital argument against such doctrine
is to be found in the New Testament. Strange that Milton should
overlook, and strange that moralists in general have overlooked, the
sudden arrest given to this dangerous but most prevalent mode of
reasoning by the Founder of our faith. He first, he last, taught to his
astonished disciples the new truth--at that time the astounding truth--
that no relation exists between the immediate practical events of
things on the one side, and divine sentences on the other. There was no
presumption, he teaches them, against a man's favor with God, or that
of his parents, because he happened to be afflicted to extremity with
bodily disease. There was no shadow of an argument for believing a
party of men criminal objects of heavenly wrath because upon them, by
fatal preference, a tower had fallen, and because _their_ bodies
were exclusively mangled. How little can it be said that Christianity
has yet developed the fulness of its power, when kings and senates so
recently acted under a total oblivion of this great though novel
Christian doctrine, and would do so still, were it not that religious
arguments have been banished by the progress of manners from the field
of political discussion.

But, quitting this province of the ominous, where it is made the object
of a direct personal inquest, whether by private or by national trials,
or the sortilegy of events, let us throw our eyes over the broader
field of omens, as they offer themselves spontaneously to those who do
not seek, or would even willingly evade them. There are few of these,
perhaps none, which are not universal in their authority, though every
land in turn fancies them (like its proverbs) of local prescription and
origin. The death-watch extends from England to Cashmere, and across
India diagonally to the remotest nook of Bengal, over a three thousand
miles' distance from the entrance of the Indian Punjaub. A hare
crossing a man's path on starting in the morning, has been held in all
countries alike to prognosticate evil in the course of that day. Thus,
in the _Confessions of a Thug_, (which is partially built on a
real judicial document, and everywhere conforms to the usages of
Hindostan,) the hero of the horrid narrative [Footnote: '_The hero of
the horrid narrative_.'--Horrid it certainly is; and one incident in
every case gives a demoniacal air of coolness to the hellish
atrocities, viz the regular forwarding of the _bheels_, or grave-
diggers. But else the tale tends too much to monotony; and for a reason
which ought to have checked the author in carrying on the work to three
volumes, namely, that although there is much dramatic variety in the
circumstances of the several cases, there is none in the catastrophes.
The brave man and the coward, the erect spirit fighting to the last,
and the poor creature that despairs from the first,--all are confounded
in one undistinguishing end by sudden strangulation. This was the
original defect of the plan. The sudden surprise, and the scientific
noosing as with a Chilian _lasso_, constituted in fact a main
feature of Thuggee. But still, the gradual theatrical arrangement of
each Thug severally by the side of a victim, must often have roused
violent suspicion, and that in time to intercept the suddenness of the
murder. Now, for the sake of the dramatic effect, this interception
ought more often to have been introduced, else the murders are but so
many blind surprises as if in sleep.] charges some disaster of his own
upon having neglected such an omen of the morning. The same belief
operated in Pagan Italy. The same omen announced to Lord Lindsay's Arab
attendants in the desert the approach of some disaster, which partially
happened in the morning. And a Highlander of the 42d Regiment, in his
printed memoirs, notices the same harbinger of evil as having crossed
his own path on a day of personal disaster in Spain.

Birds are even more familiarly associated with such ominous warnings.
This chapter in the great volume of superstition was indeed cultivated
with unusual solicitude amongst the Pagans--_ornithomancy_ grew
into an elaborate science. But if every rule and distinction upon the
number and the position of birds, whether to the right or the left, had
been collected from our own village matrons amongst ourselves, it would
appear that no more of this Pagan science had gone to wreck than must
naturally follow the difference between a believing and a disbelieving
government. Magpies are still of awful authority in village life,
according to their number, &c.; for a striking illustration of which we
may refer the reader to Sir Walter Scott's _Demonology_, reported
not at second-hand, but from Sir Walter's personal communication with
some seafaring fellow-traveller in a stage-coach.

Among the ancient stories of the same class is one which we shall
repeat--having reference to that Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the
Great, before whom St. Paul made his famous apology at Cæsarea. This
Agrippa, overwhelmed by debts, had fled from Palestine to Rome in the
latter years of Tiberius. His mother's interest with the widow of
Germanicus procured him a special recommendation to her son Caligula.
Viewing this child and heir of the popular Germanicus as the rising
sun, Agrippa had been too free in his language. True, the uncle of
Germanicus was the reigning prince; but he was old, and breaking up.
True, the son of Germanicus was not yet on the throne; but he soon
would be; and Agrippa was rash enough to call the Emperor a
_superannuated old fellow_, and even to wish for his death.
Sejanus was now dead and gone; but there was no want of spies: and a
certain Macro reported his words to Tiberius. Agrippa was in
consequence arrested; the Emperor himself condescending to point out
the noble Jew to the officer on duty. The case was a gloomy one, if
Tiberius should happen to survive much longer: and the story of the
omen proceeds thus:--'Now Agrippa stood in his bonds before the
Imperial palace, and in his affliction leaned against a certain tree,
upon the boughs of which it happened that a bird had alighted which the
Romans call _bubo_, or the owl. All this was steadfastly observed
by a German prisoner, who asked a soldier what might be the name and
offence of that man habited in purple. Being told that the man's name
was Agrippa, and that he was a Jew of high rank, who had given a
personal offence to the Emperor, the German asked permission to go near
and address him; which being granted, he spoke thus:--"This disaster, I
doubt not, young man, is trying to your heart; and perhaps you will not
believe me when I announce to you beforehand the providential
deliverance which is impending. However, this much I will say--and for
my sincerity let me appeal to my native gods, as well as to the gods of
this Rome, who have brought us both into trouble--that no selfish
objects prompt me to this revelation--for a revelation it is--and to
the following effect:--It is fated that you shall not long remain in
chains. Your deliverance will be speedy; you shall be raised to the
very highest rank and power; you shall be the object of as much envy as
now you are of pity; you shall retain your prosperity till death; and
you shall transmit that prosperity to your children. But"--and there
the German paused. Agrippa was agitated; the bystanders were attentive;
and after a time, the German, pointing solemnly to the bird, proceeded
thus:--"But this remember heedfully--that, when next you see the bird
which now perches above your head, you will have only five days longer
to live! This event will be surely accomplished by that same mysterious
god who has thought fit to send the bird as a warning sign; and you,
when you come to your glory, do not forget me that foreshadowed it in
your humiliation."' The story adds, that Agrippa affected to laugh when
the German concluded; after which it goes on to say, that in a few
weeks, being delivered by the death of Tiberius; being released from
prison by the very prince on whose account he had incurred the risk;
being raised to a tetrarchy, and afterwards to the kingdom of all
Judea; coming into all the prosperity which had been promised to him by
the German; and not losing any part of his interest at Rome through the
assassination of his patron Caligula--he began to look back
respectfully to the words of the German, and forwards with anxiety to
the second coming of the bird. Seven years of sunshine had now slipped
away as silently as a dream. A great festival, shows and vows, was on
the point of being celebrated in honor of Claudius Cæsar, at Strato's
Tower, otherwise called Cæsarea, the Roman metropolis of Palestine.
Duty and policy alike required that the king of the land should go down
and unite in this mode of religious homage to the emperor. He did so;
and on the second morning of the festival, by way of doing more
conspicuous honor to the great solemnity, he assumed a very sumptuous
attire of silver armor, burnished so highly as to throw back a dazzling
glare from the sun's morning beams upon the upturned eyes of the vast
multitude around him. Immediately from the sycophantish part of the
crowd, of whom a vast majority were Pagans, ascended a cry of
glorification as to some manifestation of Deity. Agrippa, gratified by
this success of his new apparel, and by this flattery, not unusual in
the case of kings, had not the firmness (though a Jew, and conscious of
the wickedness, greater in himself than in the heathen crowd,) to
reject the blasphemous homage. Voices of adoration continued to ascend;
when suddenly, looking upward to the vast awnings prepared for
screening the audience from the noonday heats, the king perceived the
same ominous bird which he had seen at Rome in the day of his
affliction, seated quietly, and looking down upon himself. In that same
moment an icy pang shot through his intestines. He was removed into the
palace; and at the end of five days, completely worn out by pain,
Agrippa expired in the 54th year of his age, and the seventh of his
sovereign power.

Whether the bird, here described as an owl, was really such, may be
doubted, considering the narrow nomenclature of the Romans for all
zoological purposes, and the total indifference of the Roman mind to
all distinctions in natural history which are not upon the very largest
scale. We should much suspect that the bird was a magpie. Meantime,
speaking of ornithoscopy in relation to Jews, we remember another story
in that subdivision of the subject which it may be worth while
repeating; not merely on its own account, as wearing a fine oriental
air, but also for the correction which it suggests to a very common

In some period of Syrian warfare, a large military detachment was
entering at some point of Syria from the desert of the Euphrates. At
the head of the whole array rode two men of some distinction: one was
an augur of high reputation, the other was a Jew called Mosollam, a man
of admirable beauty, a matchless horseman, an unerring archer, and
accomplished in all martial arts. As they were now first coming within
enclosed grounds, after a long march in the wilderness, the augur was
most anxious to inaugurate the expedition by some considerable omen.
Watching anxiously, therefore, he soon saw a bird of splendid plumage
perching on a low wall. 'Halt!' he said to the advanced guard: and all
drew up in a line. At that moment of silence and expectation, Mosollam,
slightly turning himself in his saddle, drew his bow-string to his ear;
his Jewish hatred of Pagan auguries burned within him; his inevitable
shaft went right to its mark, and the beautiful bird fell dead. The
augur turned round in fury. But the Jew laughed at him. 'This bird, you
say, should have furnished us with omens of our future fortunes. But
had he known anything of his own, he would never have perched where he
did, or have come within the range of Mosollam's archery. How should
that bird know our destiny, who did not know that it was his own to be
shot by Mosollam the Jew?'

Now, this is a most common but a most erroneous way of arguing. In a
case of this kind, the bird was not supposed to have any conscious
acquaintance with futurity, either for his own benefit or that of
others. But even where such a consciousness may be supposed, as in the
case of oneiromancy, or prophecy by means of dreams, it must be
supposed limited, and the more limited in a personal sense as they are
illimitable in a sublime one. Who imagines that, because a Daniel or
Ezekiel foresaw the grand revolutions of the earth, therefore they must
or could have foreseen the little details of their own ordinary life?
And even descending from that perfect inspiration to the more doubtful
power of augury amongst the Pagans, (concerning which the most eminent
of theologians have held very opposite theories,) one thing is certain,
that, so long as we entertain such pretensions, or discuss them at all,
we must take them with the principle of those who professed such arts,
not with principles of our own arbitrary invention.

One example will make this clear:--There are in England [Footnote:
'_There are in England_'--Especially in Somersetshire, and for
twenty miles round Wrington, the birthplace of Locke. Nobody sinks for
wells without their advice. We ourselves knew an amiable and
accomplished Scottish family, who, at an estate called Belmadrothie, in
memory of a similar property in Ross shire, built a house in
Somersetshire, and resolved to find water without help from the jowser.
But after sinking to a greater depth than ever had been known before,
and spending nearly £200, they were finally obliged to consult the
jowser, who found water at once.] a class of men who practise the Pagan
rhabdomancy in a limited sense. They carry a rod or rhabdos
(_rhabdos_) of willow: this they hold horizontally; and by the
bending of the rod towards the ground they discover the favorable
places for sinking wells; a matter of considerable importance in a
province so ill-watered as the northern district of Somersetshire, &c.
These people are locally called _jowsers_; and it is probable,
that from the suspicion with which their art has been usually regarded
amongst people of education, as a mere legerdemain trick of
Dousterswivel's, is derived the slang word to _chouse_ for _swindle_.
Meantime, the experimental evidences of a real practical skill in these
men, and the enlarged compass of speculation in these days, have led
many enlightened people to a Stoic _epochey_, or suspension of
judgment, on the reality of this somewhat mysterious art. Now, in the
East, there are men who make the same pretensions in a more showy
branch of the art. It is not water, but treasures which they profess to
find by some hidden kind of rhabdomancy. The very existence of
treasures with us is reasonably considered a thing of improbable
occurrence. But in the unsettled East, and with the low valuation of
human life wherever Mahometanism prevails, insecurity and other causes
must have caused millions of such deposits in every century to have
perished as to any knowledge of survivors. The sword has been moving
backwards and forwards, for instance, like a weaver's shuttle, since
the time of Mahmoud the Ghaznevide, [Footnote: Mahmood of Ghizni,
which, under the European name of Ghaznee, was so recently taken in one
hour by our Indian army under Lord Keane Mahmood was the first
Mahometan invader of Hindostan.] in Anno Domini 1000, in the vast
regions between the Tigris, the Oxus, and the Indus. Regularly as it
approached, gold and jewels must have sunk by whole harvests into the
ground. A certain per centage has been doubtless recovered: a larger
per centage has disappeared for ever. Hence naturally the jealousy of
barbarous Orientals that we Europeans, in groping amongst pyramids,
sphynxes, and tombs, are looking for buried treasures. The wretches are
not so wide astray in what they believe as in what they disbelieve. The
treasures do really exist which they fancy; but then also the other
treasures in the glorious antiquities have that existence for our sense
of beauty which to their brutality is inconceivable. In these
circumstances, why should it surprise us that men will pursue the
science of discovery as a regular trade? Many discoveries of treasure
are doubtless made continually, which, for obvious reasons, are
communicated to nobody. Some proportion there must be between the
sowing of such grain as diamonds or emeralds, and the subsequent
reaping, whether by accident or by art. For, with regard to the last,
it is no more impossible, _prima fronte_, that a substance may exist
having an occult sympathy with subterraneous water or subterraneous
gold, than that the magnet should have a sympathy (as yet occult) with
the northern pole of our planet.

The first flash of careless thought applied to such a case will
suggest, that men holding powers of this nature need not offer their
services for hire to others. And this, in fact, is the objection
universally urged by us Europeans as decisive against their
pretensions. Their knavery, it is fancied, stands self-recorded; since,
assuredly, they would not be willing to divide their subterranean
treasures, if they knew of any. But the men are not in such self-
contradiction as may seem. Lady Hester Stanhope, from the better
knowledge she had acquired of Oriental opinions, set Dr. Madden right
on this point. The Oriental belief is that a fatality attends the
appropriator of a treasure in any case where he happens also to be the
discoverer. Such a person, it is held, will die soon, and suddenly--so
that he is compelled to seek his remuneration from the wages or fees of
his employers, not from the treasure itself.

Many more secret laws are held sacred amongst the professors of that
art than that which was explained by Lady Hester Stanhope. These we
shall not enter upon at present: but generally we may remark, that the
same practices of subterranean deposits, during our troubled periods in
Europe, led to the same superstitions. And it may be added, that the
same error has arisen in both cases as to some of these superstitions.
How often must it have struck people of liberal feelings, as a
scandalous proof of the preposterous value set upon riches by poor men,
that ghosts should popularly be supposed to rise and wander for the
sake of revealing the situations of buried treasures. For ourselves, we
have been accustomed to view this popular belief in the light of an
argument for pity rather than for contempt towards poor men, as
indicating the extreme pressure of that necessity which could so have
demoralized their natural sense of truth. But certainly, in whatever
feelings originating, such popular superstitions as to motives of
ghostly missions did seem to argue a deplorable misconception of the
relation subsisting between the spiritual world and the perishable
treasures of this perishable world. Yet, when we look into the Eastern
explanations of this case, we find that it is meant to express, not any
overvaluation of riches, but the direct contrary passion. A human
spirit is punished--such is the notion--punished in the spiritual world
for excessive attachment to gold, by degradation to the office of its
guardian; and from this office the tortured spirit can release itself
only by revealing the treasure and transferring the custody. It is a
penal martyrdom, not an elective passion for gold, which is thus
exemplified in the wanderings of a treasure-ghost.

But, in a field where of necessity we are so much limited, we willingly
pass from the consideration of these treasure or _khasne_ phantoms
(which alone sufficiently ensure a swarm of ghostly terrors for all
Oriental ruins of cities,) to the same marvellous apparitions, as they
haunt other solitudes even more awful than those of ruined cities. In
this world there are two mighty forms of perfect solitude--the ocean
and the desert: the wilderness of the barren sands, and the wilderness
of the barren waters. Both are the parents of inevitable superstitions
--of terrors, solemn, ineradicable, eternal. Sailors and the children
of the desert are alike overrun with spiritual hauntings, from
accidents of peril essentially connected with those modes of life, and
from the eternal spectacle of the infinite. Voices seem to blend with
the raving of the sea, which will for ever impress the feeling of
beings more than human: and every chamber of the great wilderness
which, with little interruption, stretches from the Euphrates to the
western shores of Africa, has its own peculiar terrors both as to
sights and sounds. In the wilderness of Zin, between Palestine and the
Red Sea, a section of the desert well known in these days to our own
countrymen, bells are heard daily pealing for matins, or for vespers,
from some phantom convent that no search of Christian or of Bedouin
Arab has ever been able to discover. These bells have sounded since the
Crusades. Other sounds, trumpets, the _Alala_ of armies, &c., are
heard in other regions of the Desert. Forms, also, are seen of more
people than have any right to be walking in human paths: sometimes
forms of avowed terror; sometimes, which is a case of far more danger,
appearances that mimic the shapes of men, and even of friends or
comrades. This is a case much dwelt on by the old travellers, and which
throws a gloom over the spirits of all Bedouins, and of every cafila or
caravan. We all know what a sensation of loneliness or 'eeriness' (to
use an expressive term of the ballad poetry) arises to any small party
assembling in a single room of a vast desolate mansion: how the timid
among them fancy continually that they hear some remote door opening,
or trace the sound of suppressed footsteps from some distant staircase.
Such is the feeling in the desert, even in the midst of the caravan.
The mighty solitude is seen: the dread silence is anticipated which
will succeed to this brief transit of men, camels, and horses. Awe
prevails even in the midst of society: but, if the traveller should
loiter behind from fatigue, or be so imprudent as to ramble aside--
should he from any cause once lose sight of his party, it is held that
his chance is small of recovering their traces. And why? Not chiefly
from the want of footmarks where the wind effaces all impressions in
half an hour, or of eyemarks where all is one blank ocean of sand, but
much more from the sounds or the visual appearances which are supposed
to beset and to seduce all insulated wanderers.

Everybody knows the superstitions of the ancients about the
_Nympholeptoi_, or those who had seen Pan. But far more awful and
gloomy are the existing superstitions, throughout Asia and Africa, as
to the perils of those who are phantom-haunted in the wilderness. The
old Venetian traveller Marco Polo states them well: he speaks, indeed,
of the Eastern or Tartar deserts; the steppes which stretch from
European Russia to the footsteps of the Chinese throne; but exactly the
same creed prevails amongst the Arabs, from Bagdad to Suez and Cairo--
from Rosetta to Tunis--Tunis to Timbuctoo or Mequinez. 'If, during the
daytime,' says he, 'any person should remain behind until the caravan
is no longer in sight, he hears himself unexpectedly called to by name,
and in a voice with which he is familiar. Not doubting that the voice
proceeds from some of his comrades, the unhappy man is beguiled from
the right direction; and soon finding himself utterly confounded as to
the path, he roams about in distraction until he perishes miserably.
If, on the other hand, this perilous separation of himself from the
caravan should happen at night, he is sure to hear the uproar of a
great cavalcade a mile or two to the right or left of the true track.
He is thus seduced on one side: and at break of day finds himself far
removed from man. Nay, even at noon-day, it is well known that grave
and respectable men to all appearance will come up to a particular
traveller, will bear the look of a friend, and will gradually lure him
by earnest conversation to a distance from the caravan; after which the
sounds of men and camels will be heard continually at all points but
the true one; whilst an insensible turning by the tenth of an inch at
each separate step from the true direction will very soon suffice to
set the traveller's face to the opposite point of the compass from that
which his safety requires, and which his fancy represents to him as his
real direction. Marvellous, indeed, and almost passing belief, are the
stories reported of these desert phantoms, which are said at times to
fill the air with choral music from all kinds of instruments, from
drums, and the clash of arms: so that oftentimes a whole caravan are
obliged to close up their open ranks, and to proceed in a compact line
of march.'

Lord Lindsay, in his very interesting travels in Egypt, Edom, &c.,
agrees with Warton in supposing (and probably enough) that from this
account of the desert traditions in Marco Polo was derived Milton's
fine passage in Comus:--

'Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And aery tongues that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.'

But the most remarkable of these desert superstitions, as suggested by
the mention of Lord Lindsay, is one which that young nobleman, in some
place which we cannot immediately find, has noticed, but which he only
was destined by a severe personal loss immediately to illustrate. Lord
L. quotes from Vincent le Blanc an anecdote of a man in his own
caravan, the companion of an Arab merchant, who disappeared in a
mysterious manner. Four Moors, with a retaining fee of 100 ducats, were
sent in quest of him, but came back _re infecta_. 'And 'tis
uncertain,' adds Le Blanc, 'whether he was swallowed up in the sands,
or met his death by any other misfortune; as it often happens, by the
relation of a merchant then in our company, who told us, that two years
before, traversing the same journey, a comrade of his, going a little
aside from the company, saw three men who called him by his name; and
one of them, to his thinking, favored very much his companion; and, as
he was about to follow them, his real companion calling him to come
back to his company, he found himself deceived by the others, and thus
was saved. And all travellers in these parts hold, that in the deserts
are many such phantasms seen, that strive to seduce the traveller.'
Thus far it is the traveller's own fault, warned as he is continually
by the extreme anxiety of the Arab leaders or guides, with respect to
all who stray to any distance, if he is duped or enticed by these
pseudo-men: though, in the case of Lapland dogs, who ought to have a
surer instinct of detection for counterfeits, we know from Sir Capel de
Broke and others, that they are continually wiled away by the wolves
who roam about the nightly encampments of travellers. But there is a
secondary disaster, according to the Arab superstition, awaiting those
whose eyes are once opened to the discernment of these phantoms. To see
them, or to hear them, even where the traveller is careful to refuse
their lures, entails the certainty of death in no long time. This is
another form of that universal faith which made it impossible for any
man to survive a bodily commerce, by whatever sense, with a spiritual
being. We find it in the Old Testament, where the expression, 'I have
seen God and shall die,' means simply a supernatural being; since no
Hebrew believed it possible for a nature purely human to sustain for a
moment the sight of the Infinite Being. We find the same faith amongst
ourselves, in case of _doppelgänger_ becoming apparent to the
sight of those whom they counterfeit; and in many other varieties. We
modern Europeans, of course, laugh at these superstitions; though, as
La Place remarks, (_Essai sur les Probabilités_,) any case,
however apparently incredible, if it is a recurrent case, is as much
entitled to a fair valuation as if it had been more probable
beforehand.[Footnote: _'Is as much entitled to a fair valuation,
under the lans of induction, as if it had been more probable
beforehand'_--One of the cases which La Place notices as entitled to
a grave consideration, but which would most assuredly be treated as a
trivial phenomenon, unworthy of attention, by commonplace spectators,
is--when a run of success, with no apparent cause, takes place on heads
or tails, (_pile ou croix_) Most people dismiss such a case as
pure accident. But La Place insists on its being duly valued as a fact,
however unaccountable as an effect. So again, if in a large majority of
experiences like those of Lord Lindsay's party in the desert, death
should follow, such a phenomenon is as well entitled to its separate
valuation as any other.] This being premised, we who connect
superstition with the personal result, are more impressed by the
disaster which happened to Lord Lindsay, than his lordship, who either
failed to notice the _nexus_ between the events, or possibly
declined to put the case too forward in his reader's eye, from the
solemnity of the circumstances, and the private interest to himself and
his own family, of the subsequent event. The case was this:--Mr.
William Wardlaw Ramsay, the companion (and we believe relative) of Lord
Lindsay, a man whose honorable character, and whose intellectual
accomplishments speak for themselves, in the posthumus memorabilia of
his travels published by Lord L., had seen an array of objects in the
desert, which facts immediately succeeding demonstrated to have been a
mere ocular _lusus_, or (according to Arab notions) phantoms.
During the absence from home of an Arab sheikh, who had been hired as
conductor of Lord Lindsay's party, a hostile tribe (bearing the name of
Tellaheens) had assaulted and pillaged his tents. Report of this had
reached the English travelling party; it was known that the Tellaheens
were still in motion, and a hostile rencounter was looked for for some
days. At length, in crossing the well known valley of the _Wady
Araba_, that most ancient channel of communication between the Red
Sea and Judea, &c., Mr. Ramsay saw, to his own entire conviction, a
party of horse moving amongst some sand-hills. Afterwards it became
certain, from accurate information, that this must have been a
delusion. It was established, that no horseman _could_ have been
in that neighborhood at that time. Lord Lindsay records the case as an
illustration of 'that spiritualized tone the imagination naturally
assumes, in scenes presenting so little sympathy with the ordinary
feelings of humanity;' and he reports the case in these pointed terms:
--'Mr. Ramsay, a man of remarkably strong sight, and by no means
disposed to superstitious credulity, distinctly saw a party of horse
moving among the sand-hills; and I do not believe he was ever able to
divest himself of that impression.' No--and, according to Arab
interpretation, very naturally so; for, according to their faith, he
really _had_ seen the horsemen; phantom horseman certainly, but
still objects of sight. The sequel remains to be told--by the Arabian
hypothesis, Mr. Ramsay had but a short time to live--he was under a
secret summons to the next world. And accordingly, in a few weeks after
this, whilst Lord Lindsay had gone to visit Palmyra, Mr. Ramsay died at

This was a case exactly corresponding to the Pagan _nympholepsis_
--he had seen the beings whom it is not lawful to see and live. Another
case of Eastern superstition, not less determined, and not less
remarkably fulfilled, occurred some years before to Dr. Madden, who
travelled pretty much in the same route as Lord Lindsay. The doctor, as
a phrenologist, had been struck with the very singular conformation of
a skull which he saw amongst many others on an altar in some Syrian
convent. He offered a considerable sum in gold for it; but it was by
repute the skull of a saint; and the monk with whom Dr. M. attempted to
negotiate, not only refused his offers, but protested that even for the
doctor's sake, apart from the interests of the convent, he could not
venture on such a transfer: for that, by the tradition attached to it,
the skull would endanger any vessel carrying it from the Syrian shore:
the vessel might escape; but it would never succeed in reaching any but
a Syrian harbor. After this, for the credit of our country, which
stands so high in the East, and should be so punctiliously tended by
all Englishmen, we are sorry to record that Dr. Madden (though
otherwise a man of scrupulous honor) yielded to the temptation of
substituting for the saint's skull another less remarkable from his own
collection. With this saintly relic he embarked on board a Grecian
ship; was alternately pursued and met by storms the most violent;
larboard and starboard, on every quarter, he was buffeted; the wind
blew from every point of the compass; the doctor honestly confesses
that he often wished this baleful skull back in safety on the quiet
altar from which he took it; and finally, after many days of anxiety,
he was too happy in finding himself again restored to some oriental
port, from which he secretly vowed never again to sail with a saint's
skull, or with any skull, however remarkable phrenologically, not
purchased in an open market.

Thus we have pursued, through many of its most memorable sections, the
spirit of the miraculous as it moulded and gathered itself in the
superstitions of Paganism; and we have shown that, in the modern
superstitions of Christianity, or of Mahometanism, (often enough
borrowed from Christian sources,) there is a pretty regular
correspondence. Speaking with a reference to the strictly popular
belief, it cannot be pretended for a moment, that miraculous agencies
are slumbering in modern ages. For one superstition of that nature
which the Pagans had, we can produce twenty. And if, from the collation
of numbers, we should pass to that of quality, it is a matter of
notoriety, that from the very philosophy of Paganism, and its slight
root in the terrors or profounder mysteries of spiritual nature, no
comparison could be sustained for a moment between the true religion
and any mode whatever of the false. Ghosts we have purposely omitted,
because that idea is so peculiarly Christian [Footnote: '_Because
that idea is so peculiarly Christian_'--One reason, additional to
the main one, why the idea of a ghost could not be conceived or
reproduced by Paganism, lies in the fourfold resolution of the human
nature at death, viz.--1. _corpus_; 2. _manes_; 3. _spiritus_;
4. _anima_. No reversionary consciousness, no restitution of the total
nature, sentient and active, was thus possible. Pliny has a story which
looks like a ghost story; but it is all moonshine--a mere
_simulacrum_.] as to reject all counterparts or affinities from other
modes of the supernatural. The Christian ghost is too awful a presence,
and with too large a substratum of the real, the impassioned, the
human, for our present purposes. We deal chiefly with the wilder and
more ærial forms of superstition; not so far off from fleshly nature as
the purely allegoric--not so near as the penal, the purgatorial, the
penitential. In this middle class, 'Gabriel's hounds'--the 'phantom
ship'--the gloomy legends of the charcoal burners in the German
forests--and the local or epichorial superstitions from every district
of Europe, come forward by thousands, attesting the high activity of
the miraculous and the hyperphysical instincts, even in this
generation, wheresoever the voice of the people makes itself heard.

But in Pagan times, it will be objected, the popular superstitions
blended themselves with the highest political functions, gave a
sanction to national counsels, and oftentimes gave their starting point
to the very primary movements of the state. Prophecies, omens,
miracles, all worked concurrently with senates or princes. Whereas in
our days, says Charles Lamb, the witch who takes her pleasure with the
moon, and summons Beelzebub to her sabbaths, nevertheless trembles
before the beadle, and hides herself from the overseer. Now, as to the
witch, even the horrid Canidia of Horace, or the more dreadful Erichtho
of Lucan, seems hardly to have been much respected in any era. But for
the other modes of the supernatural, they have entered into more
frequent combinations with state functions and state movements in our
modern ages than in the classical age of Paganism. Look at prophecies,
for example: the Romans had a few obscure oracles afloat, and they had
the Sibylline books under the state seal. These books, in fact, had
been kept so long, that, like port wine superannuated, they had lost
their flavor and body. [Footnote: '_Like port wine superannuated, the
Sibylline books had lost their flavor and their body_.'--There is an
allegoric description in verse, by Mr. Rogers, of an ice-house, in
which winter is described as a captive, &c., which is memorable on this
account, that a brother poet, on reading the passage, mistook it, (from
not understanding the allegorical expressions,) either sincerely or
maliciously, for a description of the house-dog. Now, this little
anecdote seems to embody the poor Sibyl's history,--from a stern icy
sovereign, with a petrific mace, she lapsed into an old toothless
mastiff. She continued to snore in her ancient kennel for above a
thousand years. The last person who attempted to stir her up with a
long pole, and to extract from her paralytic dreaming some growls or
snarls against Christianity, was Aurelian, in a moment of public panic.
But the thing was past all tampering. The poor creature could neither
be kicked nor coaxed into vitality.] On the other hand, look at France.
Henry the historian, speaking of the fifteenth century, describes it as
a national infirmity of the English to be prophecy-ridden. Perhaps
there never was any foundation for this as an exclusive remark; but
assuredly not in the next century. There had been with us British, from
the twelfth century, Thomas of Ercildoune in the north, and many
monkish local prophets for every part of the island; but latterly
England had no terrific prophet, unless, indeed Nixon of the Vale Royal
in Cheshire, who uttered his dark oracles sometimes with a merely
Cestrian, sometimes with a national reference. Whereas in France,
throughout the sixteenth century, every principal event was foretold
successively, with an accuracy that still shocks and confounds us.
Francis the First, who opens the century, (and by many is held to open
the book of _modern history_, as distinguished from the middle or
_feudal_ history,) had the battle of Pavia foreshown to him, not
by name, but in its results--by his own Spanish captivity--by the
exchange for his own children upon a frontier river of Spain--finally,
by his own disgraceful death, through an infamous disease conveyed to
him under a deadly circuit of revenge. This king's son, Henry the
Second, read some years _before_ the event a description of that
tournament, on the marriage of the Scottish Queen with his eldest son,
Francis II., which proved fatal to himself, through the awkwardness of
the Compte de Montgomery and his own obstinacy. After this, and we
believe a little after the brief reign of Francis II., arose
Nostradamus, the great prophet of the age. All the children of Henry
II. and of Catharine de Medici, one after the other, died in
circumstances of suffering and horror, and Nostradamus pursued the
whole with ominous allusions. Charles IX., though the authorizer of the
Bartholomew massacre, was the least guilty of his party, and the only
one who manifested a dreadful remorse. Henry III., the last of the
brothers, died, as the reader will remember, by assassination. And all
these tragic successions of events are still to be read more or less
dimly prefigured in verses of which we will not here discuss the dates.
Suffice it, that many authentic historians attest the good faith of the
prophets; and finally, with respect to the first of the Bourbon
dynasty, Henry IV., who succeeded upon the assassination of his
brother-in-law, we have the peremptory assurance of Sully and other
Protestants, countersigned by writers both historical and
controversial, that not only was he prepared, by many warnings, for his
own tragical death--not only was the day, the hour prefixed--not only
was an almanac sent to him, in which the bloody summer's day of 1610
was pointed out to his attention in bloody colors; but the mere record
of the king's last afternoon shows beyond a doubt the extent and the
punctual limitation of his anxieties. In fact, it is to this attitude
of listening expectation in the king, and breathless waiting for the
blow, that Schiller alludes in that fine speech of Wallenstein to his
sister, where he notices the funeral knells that sounded continually in
Henry's ears, and, above all, his prophetic instinct, that caught the
sound from a far distance of his murderer's motions, and could
distinguish, amidst all the tumult of a mighty capital, those stealthy

----'Which even then were seeking him
Throughout the streets of Paris.'

We profess not to admire Henry the Fourth of France, whose secret
character we shall, on some other occasion, attempt to expose. But his
resignation to the appointments of Heaven, in dismissing his guards, as
feeling that against a danger so domestic and so mysterious, all
fleshly arms were vain, has always struck us as the most like
magnanimity of anything in his very theatrical life.

Passing to our own country, and to the times immediately in succession,
we fall upon some striking prophecies, not verbal but symbolic, if we
turn from the broad highway of public histories, to the by-paths of
private memories. Either Clarendon it is, in his Life (not his public
history), or else Laud, who mentions an anecdote connected with the
coronation of Charles I., (the son-in-law of the murdered Bourbon,)
which threw a gloom upon the spirits of the royal friends, already
saddened by the dreadful pestilence which inaugurated the reign of this
ill-fated prince, levying a tribute of one life in sixteen from the
population of the English metropolis. At the coronation of Charles, it
was discovered that all London would not furnish the quantity of purple
velvet required for the royal robes and the furniture of the throne.
What was to be done? Decorum required that the furniture should be all
_en suite_. Nearer than Genoa no considerable addition could be
expected. That would impose a delay of 150 days. Upon mature
consideration, and chiefly of the many private interests that would
suffer amongst the multitudes whom such a solemnity had called up from
the country, it was resolved to robe the King in _white_ velvet.
But this, as it afterwards occurred, was the color in which victims
were arrayed. And thus, it was alleged, did the King's council
establish an augury of evil. Three other ill omens, of some celebrity,
occurred to Charles I., viz., on occasion of creating his son Charles a
knight of the Bath, at Oxford some years after; and at the bar of that
tribunal which sat in judgment upon him.

The reign of his second son, James II., the next reign that could be
considered an unfortunate reign, was inaugurated by the same evil
omens. The day selected for the coronation (in 1685) was a day
memorable for England--it was St. George's day, the 23d of April, and
entitled, even on a separate account, to be held a sacred day as the
birthday of Shakspeare in 1564, and his deathday in 1616. The King
saved a sum of sixty thousand pounds by cutting off the ordinary
cavalcade from the Tower of London to Westminster. Even this was
imprudent. It is well known that, amongst the lowest class of the
English, there is an obstinate prejudice (though unsanctioned by law)
with respect to the obligation imposed by the ceremony of coronation.
So long as this ceremony is delayed, or mutilated, they fancy that
their obedience is a matter of mere prudence, liable to be enforced by
arms, but not consecrated either by law or by religion. The change made
by James was, therefore, highly imprudent; shorn of its antique
traditionary usages, the yoke of conscience was lightened at a moment
when it required a double ratification. Neither was it called for on
motives of economy, for James was unusually rich. This voluntary
arrangement was, therefore, a bad beginning; but the accidental omens
were worse. They are thus reported by Blennerhassett, (History of
England to the end of George I., Vol. iv., p. 1760, printed at
Newcastle-upon-Tyne: 1751.) 'The crown being too little for the King's
head, was often in a tottering condition, and like to fall off.' Even
this was observed attentively by spectators of the most opposite
feelings. But there was another simultaneous omen, which affected the
Protestant enthusiasts, and the superstitious, whether Catholic or
Protestant, still more alarmingly. 'The same day the king's arms,
pompously painted in the great altar window of a London church,
suddenly fell down without apparent cause, and broke to pieces, whilst
the rest of the window remained standing. Blennerhassett mutters the
dark terrors which possessed himself and others.' 'These,' says he,
'were reckoned ill omens to the king.'

In France, as the dreadful criminality of the French sovereigns through
the 17th century began to tell powerfully, and reproduce itself in the
miseries and tumults of the French populace through the 18th century,
it is interesting to note the omens which unfolded themselves at
intervals. A volume might be written upon them. The French Bourbons
renewed the picture of that fatal house which in Thebes offered to the
Grecian observers the spectacle of dire auguries, emerging from
darkness through three generations, _à plusieurs reprises_.
Everybody knows the fatal pollution of the marriage pomps on the
reception of Marie Antoinette in Paris; the numbers who perished are
still spoken of obscurely as to the amount, and with shuddering awe for
the unparalleled horrors standing in the background of the fatal reign

'That hush'd in grim repose, await their evening prey.'

But in the life of Goethe is mentioned a still more portentous (though
more shadowy) omen in the pictorial decorations of the arras which
adorned the pavilion on the French frontier; the first objects which
met the Austrian Archduchess on being hailed as Dauphiness, was a
succession of the most tragic groups from the most awful section of the
Grecian theatre. The next alliance of the same kind between the same
great empires, in the persons of Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie
Louisa, was overshadowed by the same unhappy omens, and, as we all
remember, with the same unhappy results, within a brief period of five

Or, if we should resort to the fixed and monumental rather than to
these auguries of great nations--such, for instance, as were embodied
in those _Palladia_, or protesting talismans, which capital
cities, whether Pagan or Christian, glorified through a period of
twenty-five hundred years, we shall find a long succession of these
enchanted pledges, from the earliest precedent of Troy (whose palladium
was undoubtedly a talisman) down to that equally memorable, and bearing
the same name, at Western Rome. We may pass, by a vast transition of
two and a half millennia, to that great talisman of Constantinople, the
triple serpent, (having perhaps an original reference to the Mosaic
serpent of the wilderness, which healed the infected by the simple act
of looking upon it, as the symbol of the Redeemer, held aloft upon the
Cross for the deliverance from moral contagion.) This great consecrated
talisman, venerated equally by Christian, by Pagan, and by Mahometan,
was struck on the head by Mahomet the Second, on that same day, May
29th of 1453, in which he mastered by storm this glorious city, the
bulwark of eastern Christendom, and the immediate rival of his own
European throne at Adrianople. But mark the superfetation of omens--
omen supervening upon omen, augury engrafted upon augury. The hour was
a sad one for Christianity; just 720 years before the western horn of
Islam had been rebutted in France by the Germans, chiefly under Charles
Martel. But now it seemed as though another horn, even more vigorous,
was preparing to assault Christendom and its hopes from the eastern
quarter. At this epoch, in the very hour of triumph, when the last of
the Cæsars had glorified his station, and sealed his testimony by
martyrdom, the fanatical Sultan, riding to his stirrups in blood, and
wielding that iron mace which had been his sole weapon, as well as
cognizance, through the battle, advanced to the column, round which the
triple serpent roared spirally upwards. He smote the brazen talisman;
he shattered one head; he left it mutilated as the record of his great
revolution; but crush it, destroy it, he did not--as a symbol
prefiguring the fortunes of Mahometanism, his people noticed, that in
the critical hour of fate, which stamped the Sultan's acts with
efficacy through ages, he had been prompted by his secret genius only
to 'scotch the snake,' not to crush it. Afterwards the fatal hour was
gone by; and this imperfect augury has since concurred traditionally
with the Mahometan prophecies about the Adrianople gate of
Constantinople, to depress the ultimate hopes of Islam in the midst of
all its insolence. The very haughtiest of the Mussulmans believe that
the gate is already in existence, through which the red Giaours (the
_Russi_) shall pass to the conquest of Stamboul; and that
everywhere, in Europe at least, the hat of Frangistan is destined to
surmount the turban--the crescent must go down before the cross.


What is the deadest of things earthly? It is, says the world, ever
forward and rash--'a door-nail!' But the world is wrong. There is a
thing deader than a door-nail, viz., Gillman's Coleridge, Vol. I. Dead,
more dead, most dead, is Gillman's Coleridge, Vol. I.; and this upon
more arguments than one. The book has clearly not completed its
elementary act of respiration; the _systole_ of Vol. I. is
absolutely useless and lost without the _diastole_ of that Vol.
II., which is never to exist. That is one argument, and perhaps this
second argument is stronger. Gillman's Coleridge, Vol. I., deals
rashly, unjustly, and almost maliciously, with some of our own
particular friends; and yet, until late in this summer, _Anno
Domini_ 1844, we--that is, neither ourselves nor our friends--ever
heard of its existence. Now a sloth, even without the benefit of Mr.
Waterton's evidence to his character, will travel faster than that. But
malice, which travels fastest of all things, must be dead and cold at
starting, when it can thus have lingered in the rear for six years; and
therefore, though the world was so far right, that people _do_
say, 'Dead as a door-nail,' yet, henceforward, the weakest of these
people will see the propriety of saying--'Dead as Gillman's Coleridge.'

The reader of experience, on sliding over the surface of this opening
paragraph, begins to think there's mischief singing in the upper air.
'No, reader, not at all. We never were cooler in our days. And this we
protest, that, were it not for the excellence of the subject,
_Coleridge and Opium-Eating_, Mr. Gillman would have been dismissed
by us unnoticed. Indeed, we not only forgive Mr. Gillman, but we
have a kindness for him; and on this account, that he was good, he
was generous, he was most forbearing, through twenty years, to poor
Coleridge, when thrown upon his hospitality. An excellent thing
_that_, Mr. Gillman, till, noticing the theme suggested by this
unhappy Vol. I., we are forced at times to notice its author, Nor is
this to be regretted. We remember a line of Horace never yet properly
translated, viz:--

'Nec scutica dignum horribili sectere flagello.'

The true translation of which, as we assure the unlearned reader, is--
'Nor must you pursue with the horrid knout of Christopher that man who
merits only a switching.' Very true. We protest against all attempts to
invoke the exterminating knout; for _that_ sends a man to the
hospital for two months; but you see that the same judicious poet, who
dissuades an appeal to the knout, indirectly recommends the switch,
which, indeed, is rather pleasant than otherwise, amiably playful in
some of its little caprices, and in its worst, suggesting only a
pennyworth of diachylon.

We begin by professing, with hearty sincerity, our fervent admiration
of the extraordinary man who furnishes the theme for Mr. Gillman's
_coup-d'essai_ in biography. He was, in a literary sense, our
brother--for he also was amongst the contributors to _Blackwood_--
and will, we presume, take his station in that Blackwood gallery of
portraits, which, in a century hence, will possess more interest for
intellectual Europe than any merely martial series of portraits, or any
gallery of statesmen assembled in congress, except as regards one or
two leaders; for defunct major-generals, and secondary diplomatists,
when their date is past, awake no more emotion than last year's
advertisements, or obsolete directories; whereas those who, in a stormy
age, have swept the harps of passion, of genial wit, or of the
wrestling and gladiatorial reason, become more interesting to men when
they can no longer be seen as bodily agents, than even in the middle
chorus of that intellectual music over which, living, they presided.

Of this great camp Coleridge was a leader, and fought amongst the
_primipili_; yet, comparatively, he is still unknown. Heavy,
indeed, are the arrears still due to philosophic curiosity on the real
merits, and on the separate merits, of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Coleridge as a poet--Coleridge as a philosopher! How extensive are
those questions, if those were all! and upon neither question have we
yet any investigation--such as, by compass of views, by research, or
even by earnestness of sympathy with the subject, can, or ought to
satisfy, a philosophic demand. Blind is that man who can persuade
himself that the interest in Coleridge, taken as a total object, is
becoming an obsolete interest. We are of opinion that even Milton, now
viewed from a distance of two centuries, is still inadequately judged
or appreciated in his character of poet, of patriot and partisan, or,
finally, in his character of accomplished scholar. But, if so, how much
less can it be pretended that satisfaction has been rendered to the
claims of Coleridge? for, upon Milton, libraries have been written.
There has been time for the malice of men, for the jealousy of men, for
the enthusiasm, the scepticism, the adoring admiration of men, to
expand themselves! There has been room for a Bentley, for an Addison,
for a Johnson, for a wicked Lauder, for an avenging Douglas, for an
idolizing Chateaubriand; and yet, after all, little enough has been
done towards any comprehensive estimate of the mighty being concerned.
Piles of materials have been gathered to the ground; but, for the
monument which should have risen from these materials, neither the
first stone has been laid, nor has a qualified architect yet presented
his credentials. On the other hand, upon Coleridge little,
comparatively, has yet been written, whilst the separate characters on
which the judgment is awaited, are more by one than those which Milton
sustained. Coleridge, also, is a poet; Coleridge, also, was mixed up
with the fervent politics of his age--an age how memorably reflecting
the revolutionary agitations of Milton's age. Coleridge, also, was an
extensive and brilliant scholar. Whatever might be the separate
proportions of the two men in each particular department of the three
here noticed, think as the reader will upon that point, sure we are
that either subject is ample enough to make a strain upon the amplest
faculties. How alarming, therefore, for any _honest_ critic, who
should undertake this later subject of Coleridge, to recollect that,
after pursuing him through a zodiac of splendors corresponding to those
of Milton in kind, however different in degree--after weighing him as a
poet, as a philosophic politician, as a scholar, he will have to wheel
after him into another orbit, into the unfathomable _nimbus_ of
transcendental metaphysics. Weigh him the critic must in the golden
balance of philosophy the most abstruse--a balance which even itself
requires weighing previously, or he will have done nothing that can be
received for an estimate of the composite Coleridge. This astonishing
man, be it again remembered, besides being an exquisite poet, a
profound political speculator, a philosophic student of literature
through all its chambers and recesses, was also a circumnavigator on
the most pathless waters of scholasticism and metaphysics. He had
sounded, without guiding charts, the secret deeps of Proclus and
Plotinus; he had laid down buoys on the twilight, or moonlight, ocean
of Jacob Boehmen; [Footnote: 'JACOB BOEHMEN.' We ourselves had the
honor of presenting to Mr. Coleridge, Law's English version of Jacob--a
set of huge quartos. Some months afterwards we saw this work lying
open, and one volume at least overflowing, in parts, with the
commentaries and the _corollaries_ of Coleridge. Whither has this
work, and so many others swathed about with Coleridge's MS. notes,
vanished from the world?] he had cruised over the broad Atlantic of
Kant and Schelling, of Fichte and Oken. Where is the man who shall be
equal to these things? We at least make no such adventurous effort; or,
if ever we should presume to do so, not at present. Here we design only
to make a coasting voyage of survey round the headlands and most
conspicuous seamarks of our subject, as they are brought forward by Mr.
Gillman, or collaterally suggested by our own reflections; and
especially we wish to say a word or two on Coleridge as an opium-eater.

Naturally the first point to which we direct our attention, is the
history and personal relations of Coleridge. Living with Mr. Gillman
for nineteen years as a domesticated friend, Coleridge ought to have
been known intimately. And it is reasonable to expect, from so much
intercourse, some additions to our slender knowledge of Coleridge's
adventures, (if we may use so coarse a word,) and of the secret springs
at work in those early struggles of Coleridge at Cambridge, London,
Bristol, which have been rudely told to the world, and repeatedly told,
as showy romances, but never rationally explained.

The anecdotes, however, which Mr. Gillman has added to the personal
history of Coleridge, are as little advantageous to the effect of his
own book as they are to the interest of the memorable character which
he seeks to illustrate. Always they are told without grace, and
generally are suspicious in their details. Mr. Gillman we believe to be
too upright a man for countenancing any untruth. He has been deceived.
For example, will any man believe this? A certain 'excellent
equestrian' falling in with Coleridge on horseback, thus accosted him--
'Pray, Sir, did you meet a tailor along the road?' '_A tailor_!'
answered Coleridge; '_I did meet a person answering such a description,
who told me he had dropped his goose; that if I rode a little further
I should find it; and I guess he must have meant you._' In Joe Miller
this story would read, perhaps, sufferably. Joe has a privilege; and
we do not look too narrowly into the mouth of a Joe-Millerism. But
Mr. Gillman, writing the life of a philosopher, and no jest-book, is
under a different law of decorum. That retort, however, which silences
the jester, it may seem, must be a good one. And we are desired to
believe that, in this case, the baffled assailant rode off in a spirit
of benign candor, saying aloud to himself, like the excellent
philosopher that he evidently was, 'Caught a Tartar!'

But another story of a sporting baronet, who was besides a Member of
Parliament, is much worse, and altogether degrading to Coleridge. This
gentleman, by way of showing off before a party of ladies, is
represented as insulting Coleridge by putting questions to him on the
qualities of his horse, so as to draw the animal's miserable defects
into public notice, and then closing his display by demanding what he
would take for the horse 'including the rider.' The supposed reply of
Coleridge might seem good to those who understand nothing of true
dignity; for, as an _impromptu_, it was smart and even caustic.
The baronet, it seems, was reputed to have been bought by the minister;
and the reader will at once divine that the retort took advantage of
that current belief, so as to throw back the sarcasm, by proclaiming
that neither horse nor rider had a price placarded in the market at
which any man could become their purchaser. But this was not the temper
in which Coleridge either did reply, or could have replied. Coleridge
showed, in the _spirit_ of his manner, a profound sensibility to
the nature of a gentleman; and he felt too justly what it became a
self-respecting person to say, ever to have aped the sort of flashy
fencing which might seem fine to a theatrical blood.

Another story is self-refuted: 'A hired partisan' had come to one of
Coleridge's political lectures with the express purpose of bringing the
lecturer into trouble; and most preposterously he laid himself open to
his own snare by refusing to pay for admission. Spies must be poor
artists who proceed thus. Upon which Coleridge remarked--'That, before
the gentleman kicked up a dust, surely he would down with the dust.' So
far the story will not do. But what follows is possible enough. The
_same_ 'hired' gentleman, by way of giving unity to the tale, is
described as having hissed. Upon this a cry arose of 'Turn him out!'
But Coleridge interfered to protect him; he insisted on the man's right
to hiss if he thought fit; it was legal to hiss; it was natural to
hiss; 'for what is to be expected, gentlemen, when the cool waters of
reason come in contact with red-hot aristocracy, but a hiss?' _Euge!_

Amongst all the anecdotes, however of this splendid man, often trivial,
often incoherent, often unauthenticated, there is one which strikes us
as both true and interesting; and we are grateful to Mr. Gillman for
preserving it. We find it introduced, and partially authenticated, by
the following sentence from Coleridge himself:--'From eight to fourteen
I was a playless day-dreamer, a _helluo librorum_; my appetite for
which was indulged by a singular incident. A stranger, who was struck
by my conversation, made me free of a circulating library in King's
Street, Cheapside.' The more circumstantial explanation of Mr. Gillman
is this: `The incident indeed was singular. Going down the Strand, in
one of his day-dreams, fancying himself swimming across the Hellespont,
thrusting his hands before him as in the act of swimming, his hand came
in contact with a gentleman's pocket. The gentleman seized his hand,
turning round, and looking at him with some anger--"What! so young, and
yet so wicked?" at the same time accused him of an attempt to pick his
pocket. The frightened boy sobbed out his denial of the intention, and
explained to him how he thought himself Leander swimming across the
Hellespont. The gentleman was so struck and delighted with the novelty
of the thing, and with the simplicity and intelligence of the boy, that
he subscribed, as before stated, to the library; in consequence of
which Coleridge was further enabled to indulge his love of reading.'

We fear that this slovenly narrative is the very perfection of bad
story-telling. But the story itself is striking, and, by the very
oddness of the incidents, not likely to have been invented. The effect,
from the position of the two parties--on the one side, a simple child
from Devonshire, dreaming in the Strand that he was swimming over from
Sestos to Abydos, and, on the other, the experienced man, dreaming only
of this world, its knaves and its thieves, but still kind and generous
--is beautiful and picturesque. _Oh! si sic omnia!_

But the most interesting to us of the _personalities_ connected
with Coleridge are his feuds and his personal dislikes.
Incomprehensible to us is the war of extermination which Coleridge made
upon the political economists. Did Sir James Steuart, in speaking of
vine-dressers, (not _as_ vine-dressers, but generally as
cultivators,) tell his readers, that, if such a man simply replaced his
own consumption, having no surplus whatever or increment for the public
capital, he could not be considered a useful citizen? Not the beast in
the Revelation is held up by Coleridge as more hateful to the spirit of
truth than the Jacobite baronet. And yet we know of an author--viz.,
one S. T. Coleridge--who repeated that same doctrine without finding
any evil in it. Look at the first part of the _Wallenstein_, where
Count Isolani having said, 'Pooh! we are _all_ his subjects,'
_i. e._, soldiers, (though unproductive laborers,) not less than
productive peasants, the emperor's envoy replies--'Yet with a
difference, general;' and the difference implies Sir James's scale, his
vine-dresser being the equatorial case between the two extremes of the
envoy. Malthus again, in his population-book, contends for a mathematic
difference between animal and vegetable life, in respect to the law of
increase, as though the first increased by geometrical ratios, the last
by arithmetical! No proposition more worthy of laughter; since both,
when permitted to expand, increase by geometrical ratios, and the
latter by much higher ratios. Whereas, Malthus persuaded himself of his
crotchet simply by refusing the requisite condition in the vegetable
case, and granting it in the other. If you take a few grains of wheat,
and are required to plant all successive generations of their produce
in the same flower-pot for ever, of course you neutralize its expansion
by your own act of arbitrary limitation. [Footnote: Malthus would have
rejoined by saying--that the flowerpot limitation was the actual
limitation of nature in our present circumstances. In America it is
otherwise, he would say, but England is the very flowerpot you suppose;
she is a flowerpot which cannot be multiplied, and cannot even be
enlarged. Very well, so be it (which we say in order to waive
irrelevant disputes). But then the true inference will be--not that
vegetable increase proceeds under a different law from that which
governs animal increase, but that, through an accident of position, the
experiment cannot be tried in England. Surely the levers of Archimedes,
with submission to Sir Edward B. Lytton, were not the less levers
because he wanted the _locum standi_. It is proper, by the way,
that we should inform the reader of this generation where to look for
Coleridge's skirmishings with Malthus. They are to be found chiefly in
the late Mr. William Hazlitt's work on that subject: a work which
Coleridge so far claimed as to assert that it had been substantially
made up from his own conversation.] But so you would do, if you tried
the case of _animal_ increase by still exterminating all but one
replacing couple of parents. This is not to try, but merely a pretence
of trying, one order of powers against another. That was folly. But
Coleridge combated this idea in a manner so obscure, that nobody
understood it. And leaving these speculative conundrums, in coming to
the great practical interests afloat in the Poor Laws, Coleridge did so
little real work, that he left, as a _res integra_, to Dr. Alison,
the capital argument that legal and _adequate_ provision for the
poor, whether impotent poor or poor accidentally out of work, does not
extend pauperism--no, but is the one great resource for putting it
down. Dr. Alison's overwhelming and _experimental_ manifestations
of that truth have prostrated Malthus and his generation for ever. This
comes of not attending to the Latin maxim--'_Hoc_ age'--mind the
object before you. Dr. Alison, a wise man, '_hoc_ egit:' Coleridge
'_aliud_ egit.' And we see the result. In a case which suited him,
by interesting his peculiar feeling, Coleridge could command

'Attention full ten times as much as there needs.'

But search documents, value evidence, or thresh out bushels of
statistical tables, Coleridge could not, any more than he could ride
with Elliot's dragoons.

Another instance of Coleridge's inaptitude for such studies as
political economy is found in his fancy, by no means 'rich and rare,'
but meagre and trite, that taxes can never injure public prosperity by
mere excess of quantity; if they injure, we are to conclude that it
must be by their quality and mode of operation, or by their false
appropriation, (as, for instance, if they are sent out of the country
and spent abroad.) Because, says Coleridge, if the taxes are exhaled
from the country as vapors, back they come in drenching showers. Twenty
pounds ascend in a Scotch mist to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from
Leeds; but does it evaporate? Not at all: By return of post down comes
an order for twenty pounds' worth of Leeds cloth, on account of
Government, seeing that the poor men of the ----th regiment want new
gaiters. True; but of this return twenty pounds, not more than four
will be profit, _i.e._, surplus accruing to the public capital;
whereas, of the original twenty pounds, every shilling was surplus. The
same unsound fancy has been many times brought forward; often in
England, often in France. But it is curious, that its first appearance
upon any stage was precisely two centuries ago, when as yet political
economy slept with the pre-Adamites, viz., in the Long Parliament. In a
quarto volume of the debates during 1644-45, printed as an independent
work, will be found the same identical doctrine, supported very
sonorously by the same little love of an illustration from the see-saw
of mist and rain.

Political economy was not Coleridge's forte. In politics he was
happier. In mere personal politics, he (like every man when reviewed
from a station distant by forty years) will often appear to have erred;
nay, he will be detected and nailed in error. But this is the necessity
of us all. Keen are the refutations of time. And absolute results to
posterity are the fatal touchstone of opinions in the past. It is
undeniable, besides, that Coleridge had strong personal antipathies,
for instance, to Messrs. Pitt and Dundas. Yet _why_, we never
could understand. We once heard him tell a story upon Windermere, to
the late Mr. Curwen, then M. P. for Workington, which was meant,
apparently, to account for this feeling. The story amounted to this;
that, when a freshman at Cambridge, Mr. Pitt had wantonly amused
himself at a dinner party in Trinity, in smashing with filberts
(discharged in showers like grape-shot) a most costly dessert set of
cut glass, from which Samuel Taylor Coleridge argued a principle of
destructiveness in his _cerebellum_. Now, if this dessert set
belonged to some poor suffering Trinitarian, and not to himself, we are
of opinion that he was faulty, and ought, upon his own great subsequent
maxim, to have been coerced into 'indemnity for the past, and security
for the future.' But, besides that this glassy _mythus_ belongs to
an æra fifteen years earlier than Coleridge's so as to justify a shadow
of scepticism, we really cannot find, in such an _escapade_ under
the boiling blood of youth, any sufficient justification of that
withering malignity towards the name of Pitt, which runs through
Coleridge's famous _Fire, Famine, and Slaughter_. As this little
viperous _jeu-d'esprit_ (published anonymously) subsequently
became the subject of a celebrated after-dinner discussion in London,
at which Coleridge (_comme de raison_) was the chief speaker, the
reader of this generation may wish to know the question at issue; and
in order to judge of _that_, he must know the outline of this
devil's squib. The writer brings upon the scene three pleasant young
ladies, viz., Miss Fire, Miss Famine, and Miss Slaughter. 'What are you
up to? What's the row?'--we may suppose to be the introductory question
of the poet. And the answer of the ladies makes us aware that they are
fresh from larking in Ireland, and in France. A glorious spree they
had; lots of fun; and laughter _a discretion_. At all times
_gratus puellæ risus ab angulo_; so that we listen to their little
gossip with interest. They had been setting men, it seems, by the ears;
and the drollest little atrocities they do certainly report. Not but we
have seen better in the Nenagh paper, so far as Ireland is concerned.
But the pet little joke was in La Vendee. Miss Famine, who is the girl
for our money, raises the question--whether any of them can tell the
name of the leader and prompter to these high jinks of hell--if so, let
her whisper it.

'Whisper it, sister, so and so,
In a dark hint--distinct and low.'

Upon which the playful Miss Slaughter replies:--

'Letters _four_ do form his name.
* * * * *
He came by stealth and unlock'd my den;
And I have drunk the blood since then
Of thrice three hundred thousand men.'

Good: but the sting of the hornet lies in the conclusion. If this
quadriliteral man had done so much for _them_, (though really, we
think, 6s. 8d. might have settled his claim,) what, says Fire, setting
her arms a-kimbo, would they do for _him_? Slaughter replies,
rather crustily, that, as far as a good kicking would go--or (says
Famine) a little matter of tearing to pieces by the mob--they would be
glad to take tickets at his benefit. 'How, you bitches!' says Fire, 'is
that all?

'I alone am faithful; I
_Cling to him everlastingly_.'

The sentiment is diabolical. And the question argued at the London
dinner-table was--Could the writer have been other than a devil? The
dinner was at the late excellent Mr. Sotheby's, known advantageously in
those days as the translator of Wieland's _Oberon_. Several of the
great guns amongst the literary body were present; in particular, Sir
Walter Scott; and he, we believe, with his usual good-nature, took the
apologetic side of the dispute. In fact, he was in the secret. Nobody
else, barring the author, knew at first whose good name was at stake.
The scene must have been high. The company kicked about the poor
diabolic writer's head as if it had been a tennis-ball. Coleridge, the
yet unknown criminal, absolutely perspired and fumed in pleading for
the defendant; the company demurred; the orator grew urgent; wits began
to _smoke_ the case, as active verbs; the advocate to _smoke_, as a
neuter verb; the 'fun grew fast and furious;' until at length
_delinquent arose_, burning tears in his eyes, and confessed to an
audience, (now bursting with stifled laughter, but whom he supposed to
be bursting with fiery indignation,) 'Lo! I am he that wrote it.'

For our own parts, we side with Coleridge. Malice is not always of the
heart. There is a malice of the understanding and the fancy. Neither do
we think the worse of a man for having invented the most horrible and
old-woman-troubling curse that demons ever listened to. We are too apt
to swear horribly ourselves; and often have we frightened the cat, to
say nothing of the kettle, by our shocking [far too shocking!] oaths.

There were other celebrated men whom Coleridge detested, or seemed to
detest--Paley, Sir Sidney Smith, Lord Hutchinson, (the last Lord
Donoughmore,) and Cuvier. To Paley it might seem as if his antipathy
had been purely philosophic; but we believe that partly it was
personal; and it tallies with this belief, that, in his earliest
political tracts, Coleridge charged the archdeacon repeatedly with his
own joke, as if it had been a serious saying, viz.--'That he could not
afford to keep a conscience;' such luxuries, like a carriage, for
instance, being obviously beyond the finances of poor men.

With respect to the philosophic question between the parties, as to the
grounds of moral election, we hope it is no treason to suggest that
both were perhaps in error. Against Paley, it occurs at once that he
himself would not have made consequences the _practical_ test in
valuing the morality of an act, since these can very seldom be traced
at all up to the final stages, and in the earliest stages are
exceedingly different under different circumstances; so that the same
act, tried by its consequences, would bear a fluctuating appreciation.
This could not have been Paley's _revised_ meaning. Consequently,
had he been pressed by opposition, it would have come out, that by
_test_ he meant only _speculative_ test: a very harmless doctrine
certainly, but useless and impertinent to any purpose of his system.
The reader may catch our meaning in the following illustration.
It is a matter of general belief, that happiness, upon the whole,
follows in a higher degree from constant integrity, than from the
closest attention to self-interest. Now happiness is one of those
consequences which Paley meant by final or remotest. But we could never
use this idea as an exponent of integrity, or interchangeable
criterion, because happiness cannot be ascertained or appreciated
except upon long tracts of time, whereas the particular act of
integrity depends continually upon the election of the moment. No man,
therefore, could venture to lay down as a rule, Do what makes you
happy; use this as your test of actions, satisfied that in that case
always you will do the thing which is right. For he cannot discern
independently what _will_ make him happy; and he must decide on
the spot. The use of the _nexus_ between morality and happiness
must therefore be inverted; it is not practical or prospective, but
simply retrospective; and in that form it says no more than the good
old rules hallowed in every cottage. But this furnishes no practical
guide for moral election which a man had not, before he ever thought of
this _nexus_. In the sense in which it is true, we need not go to
the professor's chair for this maxim; in the sense in which it would
serve Paley, it is absolutely false.

On the other hand, as against Coleridge, it is certain that many acts
could be mentioned which are judged to be good or bad only because
their consequences are known to be so, whilst the great catholic acts
of life are entirely (and, if we may so phrase it, haughtily)
independent of consequences. For instance, fidelity to a trust is a law
of immutable morality subject to no casuistry whatever. You have been
left executor to a friend--you are to pay over his last legacy to X,
though a dissolute scoundrel; and you are to give no shilling of it to
the poor brother of X, though a good man, and a wise man, struggling
with adversity. You are absolutely excluded from all contemplation of
results. It was your deceased friend's right to make the will; it is
yours simply to see it executed. Now, in opposition to this primary
class of actions stands another, such as the habit of intoxication,
which are known to be wrong only by observing the consequences. If
drunkenness did not terminate, after some years, in producing bodily
weakness, irritability in the temper, and so forth, it would _not_
be a vicious act. And accordingly, if a transcendent motive should
arise in favor of drunkenness, as that it would enable you to face a
degree of cold, or contagion, else menacing to life, a duty would
arise, _pro hac vice_, of getting drunk. We had an amiable friend
who suffered under the infirmity of cowardice; an awful coward he was
when sober; but, when very drunk, he had courage enough for the Seven
Champions of Christendom, Therefore, in an emergency, where he knew
himself suddenly loaded with the responsibility of defending a family,
we approved highly of his getting drunk. But to violate a trust could
never become right under any change of circumstances. Coleridge,
however, altogether overlooked this distinction: which, on the other
hand, stirring in Paley's mind, but never brought out to distinct
consciousness, nor ever investigated, nor limited, has undermined his
system. Perhaps it is not very important how a man _theorizes_
upon morality; happily for us all, God has left no man in such
questions practically to the guidance of his understanding; but still,
considering that academic bodies _are_ partly instituted for the
support of speculative truth as well as truth practical, we must think
it a blot upon the splendor of Oxford and Cambridge that both of them,
in a Christian land, make Paley the foundation of their ethics; the
alternative being Aristotle. And, in our mind, though far inferior as a
moralist to the Stoics, Aristotle is often less of a pagan than Paley.

Coleridge's dislike to Sir Sidney Smith and the Egyptian Lord
Hutchinson fell under the category of Martial's case.

'Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare,
Hoc solum novi--non amo te, Sabidi.'

Against Lord Hutchinson, we never heard him plead anything of moment,
except that he was finically Frenchified in his diction; of which he
gave this instance--that having occasion to notice a brick wall, (which
was literally _that_, not more and not less,) when reconnoitring
the French defences, he called it a _revêtement_. And we ourselves
remember his using the French word _gloriole_ rather ostentatiously;
that is, when no particular emphasis attached to the case. But every
man has his foibles; and few, perhaps, are less conspicuously annoying
than this of Lord Hutchinson's. Sir Sidney's crimes were less
distinctly revealed to our mind. As to Cuvier, Coleridge's hatred of
_him_ was more to our taste; for (though quite unreasonable, we fear)
it took the shape of patriotism. He insisted on it, that our British
John Hunter was the genuine article, and that Cuvier was a humbug. Now,
speaking privately to the public, we cannot go quite so far as _that_.
But, when publicly we address that most respectable character, _en
grand costume_, we always mean to back Coleridge. For we are a horrible
John Bull ourselves. As Joseph Hume observes, it makes no difference to
us--right or wrong, black or white--when our countrymen are concerned.
And John Hunter, notwithstanding he had a bee in his bonnet, [Footnote:
_Vide_, in particular, for the most exquisite specimen of pigheadedness
that the world can furnish, his perverse evidence on the once famous
case at the Warwick assizes, of Captain Donelan for poisoning his
brother-in-law, Sir Theodosius Boughton.] was really a great man;
though it will not follow that Cuvier must, therefore, have been a
little one. We do not pretend to be acquainted with the tenth part of
Cuvier's performances; but we suspect that Coleridge's range in that
respect was not much greater than our own.

Other cases of monomaniac antipathy we might revive from our
recollections of Coleridge, had we a sufficient motive. But in
compensation, and by way of redressing the balance, he had many strange
likings--equally monomaniac--and, unaccountably, he chose to exhibit
his whimsical partialities by dressing up, as it were, in his own
clothes, such a set of scarecrows as eye has not beheld. Heavens! what
an ark of unclean beasts would have been Coleridge's private
_menagerie_ of departed philosophers, could they all have been
trotted out in succession! But did the reader feel them to be the awful
bores which, in fact, they were? No; because Coleridge had blown upon
these withered anatomies, through the blowpipe of his own creative
genius, a stream of gas that swelled the tissue of their antediluvian
wrinkles, forced color upon their cheeks, and splendor upon their
sodden eyes. Such a process of ventriloquism never _has_ existed.
He spoke by their organs. They were the tubes; and he forced through
their wooden machinery his own Beethoven harmonies.

First came Dr. Andrew Bell. We knew him. Was he dull? Is a wooden spoon
dull? Fishy were his eyes; torpedinous was his manner; and his main
idea, out of two which he really had, related to the moon--from which
you infer, perhaps, that he was lunatic. By no means. It was no craze,
under the influence of the moon, which possessed him; it was an idea of
mere hostility to the moon. The Madras people, like many others, had an
idea that she influenced the weather. Subsequently the Herschels,
senior and junior, systematized this idea; and then the wrath of
Andrew, previously in a crescent state, actually dilated to a
plenilunar orb. The Westmoreland people (for at the lakes it was we
knew him) expounded his condition to us by saying that he was
'maffled;' which word means 'perplexed in the extreme.' His wrath did
not pass into lunacy; it produced simple distraction; an uneasy
fumbling with the idea; like that of an old superannuated dog who longs
to worry, but cannot for want of teeth. In this condition you will
judge that he was rather tedious. And in this condition Coleridge took
him up. Andrew's other idea, because he _had_ two, related to
education. Perhaps six-sevenths of that also came from Madras. No
matter, Coleridge took _that_ up; Southey also; but Southey with
his usual temperate fervor. Coleridge, on the other hand, found
celestial marvels both in the scheme and in the man. Then commenced the
apotheosis of Andrew Bell: and because it happened that his opponent,
Lancaster, between ourselves, really _had_ stolen his ideas from
Bell, what between the sad wickedness of Lancaster and the celestial
transfiguration of Bell, gradually Coleridge heated himself to such an
extent, that people, when referring to that subject, asked each other,
'Have you heard Coleridge lecture on _Bel and the Dragon_?'

The next man glorified by Coleridge was John Woolman, the Quaker. Him,
though we once possessed his works, it cannot be truly affirmed that we
ever read. Try to read John, we often did; but read John we did not.
This, however, you say, might be our fault, and not John's. Very
likely. And we have a notion that now, with our wiser thoughts, we
_should_ read John, if he were here on this table. It is certain
that he was a good man, and one of the earliest in America, if not in
Christendom, who lifted up his hand to protest against the slave-trade.
But still, we suspect, that had John been all that Coleridge
represented, he would not have repelled us from reading his travels in
the fearful way that he did. But, again, we beg pardon, and entreat the
earth of Virginia to lie light upon the remains of John Woolman; for he
was an Israelite, indeed, in whom there was no guile.

The third person raised to divine honors by Coleridge was Bowyer, the
master of Christ's Hospital, London--a man whose name rises into the
nostrils of all who knew him with the gracious odor of a tallow-
chandler's melting-house upon melting day, and whose memory is embalmed
in the hearty detestation of all his pupils. Coleridge describes this
man as a profound critic. Our idea of him is different. We are of
opinion that Bowyer was the greatest villain of the eighteenth century.
We may be wrong; but we cannot be _far_ wrong. Talk of knouting
indeed! which we did at the beginning of this paper in the mere
playfulness of our hearts--and which the great master of the knout,
Christopher, who visited men's trespasses like the Eumenides, never
resorted to but in love for some great idea which had been outraged;
why, this man knouted his way through life, from bloody youth up to
truculent old age. Grim idol! whose altars reeked with children's
blood, and whose dreadful eyes never smiled except as the stern goddess
of the Thugs smiles, when the sound of human lamentations inhabits her
ears. So much had the monster fed upon this great idea of 'flogging,'
and transmuted it into the very nutriment of his heart, that he seems
to have conceived the gigantic project of flogging all mankind; nay
worse, for Mr. Gillman, on Coleridge's authority, tells us (p. 24) the
following anecdote:--'"_Sirrah, I'll flog you_," were words so
familiar to him, that on one occasion some _female_ friend of one
of the boys,' (who had come on an errand of intercession,) 'still
lingering at the door, after having been abruptly told to go, Bowyer
exclaimed--"Bring that woman here, and I'll flog her."'

To this horrid incarnation of whips and scourges, Coleridge, in his
_Biographia Literaria_, ascribes ideas upon criticism and taste,
which every man will recognise as the intense peculiarities of
Coleridge. Could these notions really have belonged to Bowyer, then how
do we know but he wrote _The Ancient Mariner_? Yet, on consideration,
no. For even Coleridge admitted that, spite of his fine theorizing upon
composition, Mr. Bowyer did not prosper in the practice. Of which he
gave us this illustration; and as it is supposed to be the only
specimen of the Bowyeriana which now survives in this sublunary world,
we are glad to extend its glory. It is the most curious example extant
of the melodious in sound:--

''Twas thou that smooth'd'st the rough-rugg'd bed of pain.'

'Smooth'd'st!' Would the teeth of a crocodile not splinter under that
word? It seems to us as if Mr. Bowyer's verses ought to be boiled
before they can be read. And when he says, 'Twas thou, what is the
wretch talking to? Can he be apostrophizing the knout? We very much
fear it. If so, then, you see (reader!) that, even when incapacitated
by illness from operating, he still adores the image of his holy
scourge, and invokes it as alone able to smooth 'his rough-rugg'd bed.'
Oh, thou infernal Bowyer! upon whom even Trollope (_History of
Christ's Hospital_) charges 'a discipline _tinctured_ with more
than due severity;'--can there be any partners found for thee in a
quadrille, except Draco, the bloody lawgiver, Bishop Bonner, and Mrs.

The next pet was Sir Alexander Ball. Concerning Bowyer, Coleridge did
not talk much, but chiefly wrote; concerning Bell, he did not write
much, but chiefly talked. Concerning Ball, however, he both wrote and
talked. It was in vain to muse upon any plan for having Ball
blackballed, or for rebelling against Bell. Think of a man, who had
fallen into one pit called Bell; secondly, falling into another pit
called Ball. This was too much. We were obliged to quote poetry against

'Letters four do form his name;
He came by stealth and unlock'd my den;
And the nightmare I have felt since then
Of thrice three hundred thousand men.'

Not that we insinuate any disrespect to Sir Alexander Ball. He was
about the foremost, we believe, in all good qualities, amongst Nelson's
admirable captains at the Nile. He commanded a seventy-four most
effectually in that battle; he governed Malta as well as Sancho
governed Barataria; and he was a true practical philosopher--as,
indeed, was Sancho. But still, by all that we could ever learn, Sir
Alexander had no taste for the abstract upon any subject; and would
have read, as mere delirious wanderings, those philosophic opinions
which Coleridge fastened like wings upon his respectable, but
astounded, shoulders.

We really beg pardon for having laughed a little at these crazes of
Coleridge. But laugh we did, of mere necessity, in those days, at Bell
and Ball, whenever we did not groan. And, as the same precise
alternative offered itself now, viz., that, in recalling the case, we
must reverberate either the groaning or the laughter, we presumed the
reader would vote for the last. Coleridge, we are well convinced, owed
all these wandering and exaggerated estimates of men--these diseased
impulses, that, like the _mirage_, showed lakes and fountains
where in reality there were only arid deserts, to the derangements
worked by opium. But now, for the sake of change, let us pass to
another topic. Suppose we say a word or two on Coleridge's
accomplishments as a scholar. We are not going to enter on so large a
field as that of his scholarship in connection with his philosophic
labors, scholarship in the result; not this, but scholarship in the
means and machinery, range of _verbal_ scholarship, is what we
propose for a moment's review.

For instance, what sort of a German scholar was Coleridge? We dare say
that, because in his version of the _Wallenstein_ there are some
inaccuracies, those who may have noticed them will hold him cheap in
this particular pretension. But, to a certain degree, they will be
wrong. Coleridge was not _very_ accurate in anything but in the
use of logic. All his philological attainments were imperfect. He did
not talk German; or so obscurely--and, if he attempted to speak fast,
so erroneously--that in his second sentence, when conversing with a
German lady of rank, he contrived to assure her that in his humble
opinion she was a ----. Hard it is to fill up the hiatus decorously;
but, in fact, the word very coarsely expressed that she was no better
than she should be. Which reminds us of a parallel misadventure to a
German, whose colloquial English had been equally neglected. Having
obtained an interview with an English lady, he opened his business
(whatever it might be) thus--'High-born madam, since your husband have
kicked de bucket'----'Sir!' interrupted the lady, astonished and
displeased. 'Oh, pardon!--nine, ten thousand pardon! Now, I make new
beginning--quite oder beginning. Madam, since your husband have cut his
stick'----It may be supposed that this did not mend matters; and,
reading that in the lady's countenance, the German drew out an octavo
dictionary, and said, perspiring with shame at having a second time
missed fire,--'Madam, since your husband have gone to kingdom come'----
This he said beseechingly; but the lady was past propitiation by this
time, and rapidly moved towards the door. Things had now reached a
crisis; and, if something were not done quickly, the game was up. Now,
therefore, taking a last hurried look at his dictionary, the German
flew after the lady, crying out in a voice of despair--'Madam, since
your husband, your most respected husband, have hopped de twig'----This
was his sheet-anchor; and, as this also _came home_, of course the
poor man was totally wrecked. It turned out that the dictionary he had
used (Arnold's, we think,)--a work of a hundred years back, and, from
mere ignorance, giving slang translations from Tom Brown, L'Estrange,
and other jocular writers--had put down the verb _sterben (to
die)_ with the following worshipful series of equivalents--1. To
kick the bucket; 2. To cut one's stick; 3. To go to kingdom come; 4. To
hop the twig.

But, though Coleridge did not pretend to any fluent command of
conversational German, he read it with great ease. His knowledge of
German literature was, indeed, too much limited by his rare
opportunities for commanding anything like a well-mounted library. And
particularly it surprised us that Coleridge knew little or nothing of
John Paul (Richter). But his acquaintance with the German philosophic
masters was extensive. And his valuation of many individual German
words or phrases was delicate and sometimes profound.

As a Grecian, Coleridge must be estimated with a reference to the state
and standard of Greek literature at that time and in this country.
Porson had not yet raised our ideal. The earliest laurels of Coleridge
were gathered, however, in that field. Yet no man will, at this day,
pretend that the Greek of his prize ode is sufferable. Neither did
Coleridge ever become an accurate Grecian in later times, when better
models of scholarship, and better aids to scholarship, had begun to
multiply. But still we must assert this point of superiority for
Coleridge, that, whilst he never was what may be called a well-mounted
scholar in any department of verbal scholarship, he yet displayed
sometimes a brilliancy of conjectural sagacity, and a felicity of
philosophic investigation, even in this path, such as better scholars
do not often attain, and of a kind which cannot be learned from books.
But, as respects his accuracy, again we must recall to the reader the
state of Greek literature in England during Coleridge's youth; and, in
all equity, as a means of placing Coleridge in the balances,
specifically we must recall the state of Greek metrical composition at
that period.

To measure the condition of Greek literature even in Cambridge, about
the initial period of Coleridge, we need only look back to the several
translations of Gray's _Elegy_ by three (if not four) of the
reverend gentlemen at that time attached to Eton College. Mathias, no
very great scholar himself in this particular field, made himself
merry, in his _Pursuits of Literature_, with these Eton translations.
In that he was right. But he was _not_ right in praising a contemporary
translation by Cook, who (we believe) was the immediate predecessor of
Porson in the Greek chair. As a specimen of this translation,
[Footnote: It was printed at the end of Aristotle's _Poetics_, which
Dr. Cook edited.] we cite one stanza; and we cannot be supposed to
select unfairly, because it is the stanza which Mathias praises in
extravagant terms. "Here," says he, "Gray, Cook, and Nature, do seem to
contend for the mastery." The English quatrain must be familiar to
every body:--

"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave."

And the following, we believe, though quoting from a thirty-three
years' recollection of it, is the exact Greek version of Cook:--

'A charis eugenon, charis a basilaeidos achas
Lora tuchaes chryseaes, Aphroditaes kala ta dora,
Paith ama tauta tethiake, kai eiden morsimon amar
Proon kle olole, kai ocheto xunon es Adaen.'

Now really these verses, by force of a little mosaic tesselation from
genuine Greek sources, pass fluently over the tongue; but can they be
considered other than a _cento_? Swarms of English schoolboys, at
this day, would not feel very proud to adopt them. In fact, we remember
(at a period say twelve years later than this) some iambic verses,
which were really composed by a boy, viz., a son of Dr. Prettyman,
(afterwards Tomline,) Bishop of Winchester, and, in earlier times,
private tutor to Mr. Pitt; they were published by Middleton, first
Bishop of Calcutta, in the preface to his work on the Greek article;
and for racy idiomatic Greek, self-originated, and not a mere mocking-
bird's iteration of alien notes, are so much superior to all the
attempts of these sexagenarian doctors, as distinctly to mark the
growth of a new era and a new generation in this difficult
accomplishment, within the first decennium of this century. It is
singular that only one blemish is suggested by any of the contemporary
critics in Dr. Cook's verses, viz., in the word _xunon_, for which
this critic proposes to substitute _ooinon_, to prevent, as he
observes, the last syllable of _ocheto_ from being lengthened by
the _x_. Such considerations as these are necessary to the
_trutinæ castigatio_, before we can value Coleridge's place on the
scale of his own day; which day, _quoad hoc_, be it remembered,
was 1790.

As to French, Coleridge read it with too little freedom to find
pleasure in French literature. Accordingly, we never recollect his
referring for any purpose, either of argument or illustration, to a
French classic. Latin, from his regular scholastic training, naturally
he read with a scholar's fluency; and indeed, he read constantly in
authors, such as Petrarch, Erasmus, Calvin, &c., whom he could not then
have found in translations. But Coleridge had not cultivated an
acquaintance with the delicacies of classic Latinity. And it is
remarkable that Wordsworth, educated most negligently at Hawkshead
school, subsequently by reading the lyric poetry of Horace, simply for
his own delight as a student of composition, made himself a master of
Latinity in its most difficult form; whilst Coleridge, trained
regularly in a great Southern school, never carried his Latin to any
classical polish.

There is another accomplishment of Coleridge's, less broadly open to
the judgment of this generation, and not at all of the next--viz., his
splendid art of conversation, on which it will be interesting to say a
word. Ten years ago, when the music of this rare performance had not
yet ceased to vibrate in men's ears, what a sensation was gathering
amongst the educated classes on this particular subject! What a tumult
of anxiety prevailed to 'hear Mr. Coleridge'--or even to talk with a
man who _had_ heard him! Had he lived till this day, not Paganini
would have been so much sought after. That sensation is now decaying;
because a new generation has emerged during the ten years since his
death. But many still remain whose sympathy (whether of curiosity in
those who did _not_ know him, or of admiration in those who
_did_) still reflects as in a mirror the great stir upon this
subject which then was moving in the world. To these, if they should
inquire for the great distinguishing principle of Coleridge's
conversation, we might say that it was the power of vast combination
'in linked sweetness long drawn out.' He gathered into focal
concentration the largest body of objects, _apparently_ disconnected,
that any man ever yet, by any magic, could assemble, or, _having_
assembled, could manage. His great fault was, that, by not opening
sufficient spaces for reply or suggestion, or collateral notice, he not
only narrowed his own field, but he grievously injured the final
impression. For when men's minds are purely passive, when they are not
allowed to re-act, then it is that they collapse most, and that their
sense of what is said must ever be feeblest. Doubtless there must have
been great conversational masters elsewhere, and at many periods; but
in this lay Coleridge's characteristic advantage, that he was a great
natural power, and also a great artist. He was a power in the art, and
he carried a new art into the power.

But now, finally--having left ourselves little room for more--one or
two words on Coleridge as an opium-eater.

We have not often read a sentence falling from a wise man with
astonishment so profound, as that particular one in a letter of
Coleridge's to Mr. Gillman, which speaks of the effort to wean one's-
self from opium as a trivial task. There are, we believe, several such
passages. But we refer to that one in particular which assumes that a
single 'week' will suffice for the whole process of so mighty a
revolution. Is indeed leviathan _so_ tamed? In that case the
quarantine of the opium-eater might be finished within Coleridge's
time, and with Coleridge's romantic ease. But mark the contradictions
of this extraordinary man. Not long ago we were domesticated with a
venerable rustic, strong-headed, but incurably obstinate in his
prejudices, who treated the whole body of medical men as ignorant
pretenders, knowing absolutely nothing of the system which they
professed to superintend. This, you will remark, is no very singular
case. No; nor, as we believe, is the antagonist case of ascribing to
such men magical powers. Nor, what is worse still, the co-existence of
both cases in the same mind, as in fact happened here. For this same
obstinate friend of ours, who treated all medical pretensions as the
mere jest of the universe, every 'third day was exacting from his own
medical attendants some exquisite _tour-de-force_, as that they
should know or should do something, which, if they _had_ known or
done, all men would have suspected them reasonably of magic. He rated
the whole medical body as infants; and yet what he exacted from them
every third day as a matter of course, virtually presumed them to be
the only giants within the whole range of science. Parallel and equal
is the contradiction of Coleridge. He speaks of opium excess, his own
excess, we mean--the excess of twenty-five years--as a thing to be laid
aside easily and for ever within seven days; and yet, on the other
hand, he describes it pathetically, sometimes with a frantic pathos, as
the scourge, the curse, the one almighty blight which had desolated his

This shocking contradiction we need not press. All readers will see
_that_. But some will ask--Was Mr. Coleridge right in either view?
Being so atrociously wrong in the first notion, (viz., that the opium
of twenty-five years was a thing easily to be forsworn,) where a child
could know that he was wrong, was he even altogether right, secondly,
in believing that his own life, root and branch, had been withered by
opium? For it will not follow, because, with a relation to happiness
and tranquillity, a man may have found opium his curse, that therefore,
as a creature of energies and great purposes, he must have been the
wreck which he seems to suppose. Opium gives and takes away. It defeats
the _steady_ habit of exertion, but it creates spasms of irregular
exertion; it ruins the natural power of life, but it develops
preternatural paroxysms of intermitting power. Let us ask of any man
who holds that not Coleridge himself but the world, as interested in
Coleridge's usefulness, has suffered by his addiction to opium; whether
he is aware of the way in which opium affected Coleridge; and secondly,
whether he is aware of the actual contributions to literature--how
large they were--which Coleridge made _in spite_ of opium. All who
were intimate with Coleridge must remember the fits of genial animation
which were created continually in his manner and in his buoyancy of
thought by a recent or by an _extra_ dose of the omnipotent drug.
A lady, who knew nothing experimentally of opium, once told us, that
she 'could tell when Mr. Coleridge had taken too much opium by his
shining countenance.' She was right; we know that mark of opium
excesses well, and the cause of it; or at least we believe the cause to
lie in the quickening of the insensible perspiration which accumulates
and glistens on the face. Be that as it may, a criterion it was that
could not deceive us as to the condition of Coleridge. And uniformly in
that condition he made his most effective intellectual displays. It is
true that he might not be happy under this fiery animation, and we
fully believe that he was not. Nobody is happy under laudanum except
for a very short term of years. But in what way did that operate upon
his exertions as a writer? We are of opinion that it killed Coleridge
as a poet. 'The harp of Quantock' was silenced for ever by the torment
of opium. But proportionably it roused and stung by misery his
metaphysical instincts into more spasmodic life. Poetry can flourish
only in the atmosphere of happiness. But subtle and perplexed
investigations of difficult problems are amongst the commonest
resources for beguiling the sense of misery. And for this we have the
direct authority of Coleridge himself speculating on his own case. In
the beautiful though unequal ode entitled _Dejection_, stanza six,
occurs the following passage:

'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;
Till that, which suits a part, infects the whole,
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.'

Considering the exquisite quality of some poems which Coleridge has
composed, nobody can grieve (or _has_ grieved) more than ourselves, at
seeing so beautiful a fountain choked up with weeds. But had Coleridge
been a happier man, it is our fixed belief that we should have had far
less of his philosophy, and perhaps, but not certainly, might have had
more of his general literature. In the estimate of the public,
doubtless, _that_ will seem a bad exchange. Every man to his taste.
Meantime, what we wish to show is, that the loss was not absolute, but
merely relative.

It is urged, however, that, even on his philosophic speculations, opium
operated unfavorably in one respect, by often causing him to leave them
unfinished. This is true. Whenever Coleridge (being highly charged, or
saturated, with opium) had written with distempered vigor upon any
question, there occurred soon after a recoil of intense disgust, not
from his own paper only, but even from the subject. All opium-eaters
are tainted with the infirmity of leaving works unfinished, and
suffering reactions of disgust. But Coleridge taxed himself with that
infirmity in verse before he could at all have commenced opium-eating.
Besides, it is too much assumed by Coleridge and by his biographer,
that to leave off opium was of course to regain juvenile health. But
all opium-eaters make the mistake of supposing every pain or irritation
which they suffer to be the product of opium. Whereas a wise man will
say, suppose you _do_ leave off opium, that will not deliver you
from the load of years (say sixty-three) which you carry on your back.
Charles Lamb, another man of true genius, and another head belonging to
the Blackwood Gallery, made that mistake in his _Confessions of a
Drunkard_. 'I looked back,' says he, 'to the time when always, on
waking in the morning, I had a song rising to my lips.' At present, it
seems, being a drunkard, he has no such song. Ay, dear Lamb, but note
this, that the drunkard was fifty-six years old, the songster was
twenty-three. Take twenty-three from fifty-six, and we have some reason
to believe that thirty-three will remain; which period of thirty-three
years is a pretty good reason for not singing in the morning, even if
brandy has been out of the question.

It is singular, as respects Coleridge, that Mr. Gillman never says one
word upon the event of the great Highgate experiment for leaving off
laudanum, though Coleridge came to Mr. Gillman's for no other purpose;
and in a week, this vast creation of new earth, sea, and all that in
them is, was to have been accomplished. We _rayther_ think, as
Bayley junior observes, that the explosion must have hung fire. But
_that_ is a trifle. We have another pleasing hypothesis on the
subject. Mr. Wordsworth, in his exquisite lines written on a fly-leaf
of his own _Castle of Indolence_, having described Coleridge as 'a
noticeable man with large grey eyes,' goes on to say, 'He' (viz.,
Coleridge) 'did that other man entice' to view his imagery. Now we are
sadly afraid that 'the noticeable man with large grey eyes' did entice
'that other man,' viz., Gillman, to commence opium-eating. This is
droll; and it makes us laugh horribly. Gillman should have reformed
_him_; and lo! _he_ corrupts Gillman. S. T. Coleridge visited
Highgate by way of being converted from the heresy of opium; and the
issue is--that, in two months' time, various grave men, amongst whom
our friend Gillman marches first in great pomp, are found to have faces
shining and glorious as that of AEsculapius; a fact of which we have
already explained the secret meaning. And scandal says (but then what
will not scandal say?) that a hogshead of opium goes up daily through
Highgate tunnel. Surely one corroboration of our hypothesis may be
found in the fact, that Vol. I. of Gillman's Coleridge is for ever to
stand unpropped by Vol. II. For we have already observed, that opium-
eaters, though good fellows upon the whole, never finish anything.

What then? A man has a right never to finish anything. Certainly he
has; and by Magna Charta. But he has no right, by Magna Charta or by
Parva Charta, to slander decent men, like ourselves and our friend the
author of the _Opium Confessions_. Here it is that our complaint
arises against Mr. Gillman. If he has taken to opium-eating, can we
help _that_? If _his_ face shines, must our faces be blackened? He has
very improperly published some intemperate passages from Coleridge's
letters, which ought to have been considered confidential, unless
Coleridge had left them for publication, charging upon the author of
the _Opium Confessions_ a reckless disregard of the temptations which,
in that work, he was scattering abroad amongst men. Now this author is
connected with ourselves, and we cannot neglect his defence, unless in
the case that he undertakes it himself.

We complain, also, that Coleridge raises (and is backed by Mr. Gillman
in raising) a distinction perfectly perplexing to us, between himself
and the author of the _Opium Confessions_ upon the question--Why
they severally began the practice of opium-eating? In himself, it
seems, this motive was to relieve pain, whereas the Confessor was
surreptitiously seeking for pleasure. Ay, indeed--where did he learn
_that_? We have no copy of the _Confessions_ here, so we cannot quote
chapter and verse; but we distinctly remember, that toothache is
recorded in that book as the particular occasion which first introduced
the author to the knowledge of opium. Whether afterwards, having been
thus initiated by the demon of pain, the opium confessor did not apply
powers thus discovered to purposes of mere pleasure, is a question for
himself; and the same question applies with the same cogency to
Coleridge. Coleridge began in rheumatic pains. What then? This is no
proof that he did not end in voluptuousness. For our parts, we are slow
to believe that ever any man did, or could, learn the somewhat awful
truth, that in a certain ruby-colored elixir, there lurked a divine
power to chase away the genius of ennui, without subsequently abusing
this power. To taste but once from the tree of knowledge, is fatal to
the subsequent power of abstinence. True it is, that generations have
used laudanum as an anodyne, (for instance, hospital patients,) who
have not afterwards courted its powers as a voluptuous stimulant; but
that, be sure, has arisen from no abstinence in _them_. There are, in
fact, two classes of temperaments as to this terrific drug--those which
are, and those which are not, preconformed to its power; those which
genially expand to its temptations, and those which frostily exclude
them. Not in the energies of the will, but in the qualities of the
nervous organization, lies the dread arbitration of--Fall or stand:
doomed thou art to yield; or, strengthened constitutionally, to resist.
Most of those who have but a low sense of the spells lying couchant in
opium, have practically none at all. For the initial fascination is for
_them_ effectually defeated by the sickness which nature has associated
with the first stages of opium-eating. But to that other class, whose
nervous sensibilities vibrate to their profoundest depths under the
first touch of the angelic poison, even as a lover's ear thrills on
hearing unexpectedly the voice of her whom he loves, opium is the
Amreeta cup of beatitude. You know the _Paradise Lost_? and you
remember, from the eleventh book, in its earlier part, that laudanum
already existed in Eden--nay, that it was used medicinally by an
archangel; for, after Michael had 'purged with euphrasy and rue' the
eyes of Adam, lest he should be unequal to the mere _sight_ of the
great visions about to unfold their draperies before him, next he
fortifies his fleshly spirits against the _affliction_ of these
visions, of which visions the first was death. And how?

'He from the well of life three drops instill'd.'

What was their operation?

'So deep the power of these ingredients pierced,
_Even to the inmost seat of mental sight_,
That Adam, now enforced to close his eyes,
Sank down, and all his spirits became entranced.
But him the gentle angel by the hand
Soon raised'----

The second of these lines it is which betrays the presence of laudanum.
It is in the faculty of mental vision, it is in the increased power of
dealing with the shadowy and the dark, that the characteristic virtue
of opium lies. Now, in the original higher sensibility is found some
palliation for the _practice_ of opium-eating; in the greater
temptation is a greater excuse. And in this faculty of self-revelation
is found some palliation for _reporting_ the case to the world,
which both Coleridge and his biographer have overlooked.


The most remarkable instance of a combined movement in society, which
history, perhaps, will be summoned to notice, is that which, in our own
days, has applied itself to the abatement of intemperance. Naturally,
or by any _direct_ process, the machinery set in motion would seem
irrelevant to the object: if one hundred men unite to elevate the
standard of temperance, they can do this with effect only by
improvements in their own separate cases: each individual, for such an
effort of self-conquest, can draw upon no resources but his own. One
member in a combination of one hundred, when running a race, can hope
for no cooperation from his ninety-nine associates. And yet, by a
secondary action, such combinations are found eminently successful.
Having obtained from every confederate a pledge, in some shape or
other, that he will give them his support, thenceforwards they bring
the passions of shame and self-esteem to bear upon each member's
personal perseverance. Not only they keep alive and continually refresh
in his thoughts the general purpose, which else might fade; but they
also point the action of public contempt and of self-contempt at any
defaulter much more potently, and with more acknowledged right to do
so, when they use this influence under a license, volunteered, and
signed, and sealed, by the man's own hand. They first conciliate his
countenance through his intellectual perceptions of what is right; and
next they sustain it through his conscience, (the strongest of his
internal forces,) and even through the weakest of his human
sensibilities. That revolution, therefore, which no combination of men
can further by abating the original impulse of temptations, they often
accomplish happily by maturing the secondary energies of resistance.

Already in their earliest stage, these temperance movements had
obtained, both at home and abroad, a _national_ range of grandeur.
More than ten years ago, when M. de Tocqueville was resident in the
United States, the principal American society counted two hundred and
seventy thousand members: and in one single state (Pennsylvania) the
annual diminution in the use of spirits had very soon reached half a
million of gallons. Now a machinery must be so far good which
accomplishes its end: the means are meritorious for so much as they
effect. Even to strengthen a feeble resolution by the aid of other
infirmities, such as shame or the very servility and cowardice of


Back to Full Books