The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
James Gillman

Part 1 out of 5

Produced by Clytie Siddall, Stan Goodman and Distributed Proofreaders






'... But some to higher hopes
Were destined; some within a finer mould
Were wrought, and temper'd with a purer flame:
To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds
The world's harmonious volume, there to read
The transcript of himself ....'








The more frequently we read and contemplate the lives of those eminent
men so beautifully traced by the amiable Izaak Walton, the more we are
impressed with the sweetness and simplicity of the work. Walton was a
man of genius--of simple calling and more simple habits, though best
known perhaps by his book on Angling; yet in the scarcely less
attractive pages of his biographies, like the flowing of the gentle
stream on which he sometimes cast his line, to practise "the all of
treachery he ever learnt," he leads the delighted reader imperceptibly
on, charmed with the natural beauty of his sentiments, and the
unaffected ease and simplicity of his style.

In his preface to the Sermons of (that pious poet and divine,) Dr.
Donne, so much may be found applicable to the great and good man whose
life the author is now writing, that he hopes to be pardoned for quoting
from one so much more able to delineate rare virtues and high
endowments: "And if he shall now be demanded, as once Pompey's poor
bondman was, who art thou that alone hast the honour to bury the body of
Pompey the great?" so who is he who would thus erect a funeral pile to
the memory of the honoured dead? ...

With the writer of this work, during the latter twenty years of his
life, Coleridge had been domesticated; and his intimate knowledge of
that illustrious character induces him to hope that his present
undertaking, "however imperfectly it may set forth the memory he fain
would honour," will yet not be considered presumptuous; inasmuch as he
has had an opportunity of bringing together facts and anecdotes, with
various memoranda never before published, some of which will be found to
have much of deep interest, of piety and of loveliness.

At the same time he has also been desirous of interweaving such
information as he has been enabled to collect from the early friends of
Coleridge, as well as from those of his after-life. Thus, he trusts, he
has had the means of giving, with truth and correctness, a faithful
portraiture of one whom he so dearly loved, so highly prized. Still he
feels that from various causes, he has laboured under many and great

First, he never contemplated writing this Memoir, nor would he have made
the attempt, had it not been urged on him as a duty by friends, whom
Coleridge himself most respected and honoured; they, "not doubting that
his intimate knowledge of the author, and dear love to his memory, might
make his diligence useful."

Secondly, the duties of a laborious profession, rendered still more
arduous by indifferent health--added to many sorrows, and leisure (if
such it might be called,) which permitted only occasional attention to
the subject--and was liable to frequent interruptions; will, he flatters
himself, give him a claim to the candour and kindness of his readers.
And if Coleridge's "glorious spirit, now in heaven, could look down upon
him, he would not disdain this well meant sacrifice to his memory--for
whilst his conversation made him, and many others happy below, his
humility and gentleness were also pre-eminent;--and divines have said,
those virtues that were but sparks upon earth, become great and glorious
flames in heaven."




SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, the subject of this memoir, was born at Ottery
St. Mary, Devonshire, the 21st October, 1772. His father, the Rev. John
Coleridge, was vicar of Ottery, and head master of Henry VIII Free
Grammar School, usually termed the King's School; a man of great
learning, and one of the persons who assisted Dr. Kennicott in his
Hebrew Bible. Before his appointment to the school at Ottery he had been
head master of the school at South Molton. Some dissertations on the
17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges, [1] and a Latin grammar
for the use of the school at Ottery were published by him. He was an
exceedingly studious man, pious, of primitive manners, and of the most
simple habits: passing events were little heeded by him, and therefore
he was usually characterized as the "absent man".

Many traditional stories concerning his father had been in circulation
for years before Coleridge came to Highgate. These were related with
mirth in the neighbourhood of Ottery, and varied according to the humour
of the narrator.

To beguile the winter's hour, which, however, was never dull in his
society, he would recall to memory the past anecdotes of his father, and
repeat them till the tears ran down his face, from the fond recollection
of his beloved parent. The relation of the story usually terminated with
an affectionate sigh, and the observation, "Yes, my friend, he was
indeed an Israelite without guile, and might be compared to Parson
Adams." The same appellation which Coleridge applied to his father will
also, with equal justice, be descriptive of himself. In many respects he
"differed in kind" from his brothers and the rest of his family, but his
resemblance to his father was so strong, that I shall continue this part
of the memoir with a sketch of the parent stock from which he sprung.

The Rev. John Coleridge had been twice married; his second wife, Anne
Bowdon, by whom he had a large family, was the mother of my friend, and
seems to have been peculiarly fitted for the wife of a clergyman who had
a large family and limited means. Her husband, not possessing that
knowledge usually termed worldly wisdom, she appeared to supply the
place of the friend, which such a man required in his wife. He was
better fitted for the apostolic age, so primitive was he in his manners
and uneducated in the fashions and changing customs surrounding him: his
companions were chiefly his books, and the few scholars he had to
educate. To all around him he was extremely kind and amiable, and
greatly beloved by the flock over whom he presided as pastor. For each
individual, whatever his rank, he had a kindly word of greeting, and in
sickness or distress he was an attentive friend. His richer and more
educated neighbours visited him, and shared the general pleasure and
amusement excited by his simple and peculiarly absent manners.

It is said of him, that on one occasion, having to breakfast with his
bishop, he went, as was the practice of that day, into a barber's shop
to have his head shaved, wigs being then in common use. Just as the
operation was completed, the clock struck nine, the hour at which the
bishop punctually breakfasted. Roused, as from a reverie, he instantly
left the barber's shop, and in his haste forgetting his wig, appeared at
the breakfast table, where the bishop and his party had assembled. The
bishop, well acquainted with his absent manners, courteously and
playfully requested him to walk into an adjoining room, and give his
opinion of a mirror which had arrived from London a few days previously,
and which disclosed to his astonished guest the consequences of his
haste and forgetfulness.

On another occasion he dined with the bishop, who had great pleasure and
delight in his society, when the following ludicrous scene took place.
The bishop had a maiden daughter, past the meridian of life, who was
always glad to see and converse with the "dear good old man" (his usual
appellation), and who was also kind enough to remind him of his little
'Forgets' in society, and rouse him from his absent moods. It not
being the fashion in his day for gentlemen to wear braces, his
small-clothes, receding from his waistcoat, left a space in his black
dress, through which often appeared a portion of his linen. On these
occasions, the good lady would draw his attention to this appearance, by
saying in an under tone, "A little to this side, Mr. Coleridge," or to
that, as the adjustment might require. This hint was as instantly
attended to as his embarrassed manner, produced by a sense of the
kindness, would permit. On the day above alluded to, his kind friend sat
next to him, dressed, as was then the fashion, in a smart party-going
muslin apron. Whilst in earnest conversation with his opposite
neighbour, on the side next the lady appeared the folds of his shirt,
through the hiatus before described, so conspicuously as instantly to
attract her notice. The hint was immediately given: "Mr. Coleridge, a
little on the side next me;"--and was as instantly acknowledged by the
usual reply, "Thank you, ma'am, thank you," and the hand set to work to
replace the shirt; but unfortunately, in his nervous eagerness, he
seized on the lady's apron, and appropriated the greater part of it. The
appeal of "Dear Mr. Coleridge, do stop!" only increased his
embarrassment, and also his exertions to dispose, as he thought, of his
shirt; till the lady, to put a stop to the titter of the visitors, and
relieve her own confusion, untied the strings, and thus disengaging
herself, left the room, and her friend in possession of her apron. [2]

Mrs. Coleridge, the mother of my friend, and of whom I have already
spoken, had naturally a strong mind. She was an uneducated woman,
industriously attentive to her household duties, and devoted to the care
of her husband and family. Possessing none, even of the most common
female accomplishments of her day, she had neither love nor sympathy for
the display of them in others. She disliked, as she would say, "your
harpsichord ladies," and strongly tried to impress on her sons their
little value, in their choice of wives. As a clergyman's wife her
conduct was exemplary; the father of my friend had a fortune in such a
woman, and she found in him, with all his peculiarities, a kind, sweet
tempered, engaging husband. She was, I should add, a very good woman,
though like Martha, over careful in many things, very ambitious for the
advancement of her sons in life, but wanting perhaps that flow of heart
which her husband possessed so largely. But "imperfection cleaves to
mortality." Such, as given in this brief sketch, were the parents of the
subject of this memoir. [3]

I have heard Coleridge relate the following anecdote of his father. The
old gentleman had to take a short journey on some professional business,
which would detain him from home for three or four days: his good wife,
in her care and watchfulness, had packed a few things in a small trunk,
and gave them in charge to her husband, with strong injunctions that he
was to put on a clean shirt every day. On his return home, his wife went
to search for his linen, when, to her dismay, it was not in the trunk. A
closer search, however, discovered that the vicar had strictly obeyed
her injunctions, and had put on daily a clean shirt, but had forgotten
to remove the one underneath. This might have been the pleasantest and
most portable mode of carrying half a dozen shirts in winter, but not so
in the dog-days.

As a preacher, he was peculiar: it is said, that the poor idolized, and
looked upon him with great reverence; and when death removed this
distinguished and eminent scholar from among them, his successor had
little chance of pleasing to the same extent. In their great admiration
of him, they would often say, "How fine he was in his discourse, for he
gave us the very words the spirit spoke in," viz. the Hebrew, with which
he frequently indulged them in his sermons, and which seems greatly to
have attracted the notice of the agricultural population, who flocked
from the neighbourhood, to the town in which he resided. Excited and
stimulated by curiosity, this class of persons might attend the church,
and in listening for the Hebrew they would perhaps be more attentive,
and carry away some useful portions of the English from this amiable and
accomplished pastor.

As a schoolmaster his singularities were of the same character,
manifesting the same simplicity and honesty of purpose. I have before
stated that he wrote a Latin Grammar for the use of his school, and
instead of the word ablative, in general use, he compounded three or
four Latin words [4] as explanatory of this case. Whether the mothers
were startled at the repetition of these words, and thought of the
hardships their sons would have to endure in the acquirement of this
grammar, I can only conjecture; but it seems he thought it his duty to
explain to the ladies, in justice to their feelings, his learned reasons
for the alteration he had made in the name of this case.

I had often pressed him to write some account of his early life, and of
the various circumstances connected with it. But the aversion he had to
read or write any thing about himself was so great, that I never
succeeded, except in obtaining a few notes, rather than a detailed
account. There would be little either useful or interesting in any
account of Coleridge's life, which a stranger to him could give;
therefore, from the best authorities with which I am acquainted, and
from an intimacy of nearly twenty years, is this memoir of my late
lamented friend compiled. He commences one of the notes above alluded
to, with his early childhood.

"I was," says he, "the last child, the youngest child of ten by the
same mother, that is to say, John, William (who died in infancy),
James, William, Edward, George, Luke, Ann, Francis, and myself, Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, beneficially abridged Esteese [Greek: estaesae],
i.e. S. T. C., and the thirteenth, taking in three sisters by my dear
father's first wife,--Mary, afterwards Mrs. Bradley,--Sarah, who
married a seaman and is lately dead, and Elizabeth, afterwards Mrs.
Phillips--who alone was bred up with us after my birth, and whom alone
of the three I was wont to think of as a sister, though not exactly,
yet I did not know why, the same sort of sister, as my sister Nancy.

Being the youngest child, I possibly inherited the weakly state of
health of my father, who died at the age of 62, before I had reached
my seventh year; and from certain jealousies of old Molly, my brother
Frank's dotingly fond nurse, (and if ever child by beauty and
loveliness deserved to be doted on, my brother Francis was that
child,) and by the infusions of her jealousy into my brother's mind, I
was in earliest childhood huffed away from the enjoyments of muscular
activity from play, to take refuge at my mother's side, on my little
stool, to read my little book, and to listen to the talk of my elders.
I was driven from life in motion, to life in thought and sensation. I
never played except by myself, and then only acting over what I had
been reading or fancying, or half one, half the other, with a stick
cutting down weeds and nettles, as one of the seven champions of
Christendom. [5] Alas! I had all the simplicity, all the docility of
the little child, but none of the child's habits. I never thought as a
child, never had the language of a child. I forget whether it was in
my fifth or sixth year, but I believe the latter, in consequence of
some quarrel between me and my brother, in the first week in October,
I ran away from fear of being whipped, and passed the whole night, a
night of rain and storm, on the bleak side of a hill on the Otter, and
was there found at daybreak, without the power of using my limbs,
about six yards from the naked bank of the river."

"In my seventh year, about the same time, if not the very same time,
i.e. Oct. 4th, my most dear, most revered father, died suddenly. O
that I might so pass away, if like him I were an Israelite without
guile. The image of my father, my revered, kind, learned,
simple-hearted father is a religion to me!"

Judge Buller who had been educated by his father, had always promised to
adopt the son, at least to educate him, foreseeing that Samuel, the
youngest, was likely to be left an orphan early in life. Soon after the
death of the Rev. John Coleridge, the Judge obtained from John Way,
Esq., one of the governors of Christ's Hospital, a presentation to that
school, and young Coleridge was sent by the Judge and placed there on
the 18th July, 1782. "O! what a change!" [6] he goes on in the note
above quoted.

"Depressed, moping, friendless, poor orphan, half starved; (at that
time the portion of food to the Bluecoats was cruelly insufficient for
those who had no friends to supply them)."

In the late Mr. Charles Lamb's "Works" published in 1818, there is an
account of the school, entitled "Recollections of Christ's Hospital." In
1823 there is a second essay on the same subject by Lamb, under the
assumed title of "Elia,"--Elia supposed to be intimate with Lamb and
Coleridge. This second account, entitled "Christ's Hospital
five-and-thirty years ago," gave umbrage to some of the "Blues," as they
termed themselves, as differing so much from the first in full praise of
this valuable foundation, and particularly as a school from which he had
benefited so much. In the preface to the second series, Elia says,

"What he (Elia) tells of himself is often true only (historically) of
another; when under the first person he shadows forth the forlorn
state of a country boy placed at a London school far from his friends
and connexions,"

which is in direct opposition to Lamb's own early history. The second
account, under the personification of Elia, is drawn from the painful
recollections and sufferings of Coleridge while at school, which I have
often heard him relate.

Lamb told Coleridge one day that the friendless school boy in his
"Elia," (soon after its publication) was intended for him, and taken
from his description of the Blue-coat school. After Coleridge's death,
Lamb related the same circumstance to me, that he had drawn the account
from Coleridge's feelings, sufferings, &c., Lamb having himself been an
indulged boy and peculiarly favoured through the instrumentality of a

"I remember," says Elia, "Lamb at school, and can well recollect that
he had some peculiar advantages, which I and others of his
schoolfellows had not. His friends lived in town and were at hand, and
he had the privilege of going to see them almost as often as he
wished, through some invidious distinction which was denied to us. The
present treasurer of the Inner Temple can explain how it happened. He
had his tea and hot rolls in the morning, while we were battening upon
our quarter of penny loaf--our 'crug' moistened with attenuated small
beer in wooden piggins, smacking of the pitched leathern jack it was
poured from. On Monday's milk porritch, blue and tasteless, and the
pease-soup of Saturday, coarse and choking, were enriched for him with
a slice of 'extraordinary bread and butter,' from the hot-loaf of the
Temple. The Wednesday's mess of millet, somewhat less repugnant--(we
had three banyan to four meat-days in the week)--was endeared to his
palate with a lump of double-refined, and a smack of ginger, (to make
it go down the more glibly) or the fragrant cinnamon. In lieu of our
'half-pickled' Sundays, or 'quite fresh' boiled beef on Thursdays,
(strong as caro equina), with detestable marigolds floating in the
pail to poison the broth--our scanty mutton crags on Fridays--and
rather more savoury, but grudging, portions of the same flesh,
rotten-roasted or rare, on the Tuesdays (the only dish which excited
our appetites, and disappointed our stomachs, in almost equal
proportion) he had his hot plate of roast veal, or the more tempting
griskin (exotics unknown to our palates), cooked in the paternal

"I (Coleridge) was a poor friendless boy, my parents, and those who
should have cared for me, were far away. Those few acquaintances of
their's, which they could reckon upon being kind to me in the great
city, after a little forced notice, which they had the grace to take
of me on my first arrival in town, soon grew tired of my holiday
visits. They seemed to them to recur too often, though I thought them
few enough; one after another, they all failed me, and I felt myself
alone among six hundred playmates--O the cruelty of separating a poor
lad from his early homestead! The yearnings which I used to have
towards it in those unfledged years! How in my dreams would my native
town come back (far in the west) with its churches and trees and
faces! To this late hour of my life, and even to the end of it did
Coleridge trace impressions left by the painful recollection of these
friendless holidays. The long warm days of summer never return but
they bring with them a gloom from the haunting memory of those 'whole
day's leave', when by some strange arrangement, we were turned out for
the live-long day, upon our own hands whether we had friends to go to
or none. I remember those bathing excursions to the New River, which
Lamb recalls with such relish, better, I think, than he can--for he
was a home-seeking lad, and did not care for such water-parties. How
we would sally forth into the fields; and strip under the first warmth
of the sun; and wanton like young dace in the streams; getting
appetites for the noon; which those of us that were penny less (our
scanty morning crust long since exhausted) had not the means of
allaying--while the cattle, and the birds, and the fishes were at feed
about us, and we had nothing to satisfy our cravings; the very beauty
of the day, and the exercise of the pastime, and the sense of liberty
setting a keener edge upon them! How faint and languid, finally, we
would return toward nightfall to our desired morsel, half-rejoicing,
half-reluctant, that the hours of uneasy liberty had expired.

"It was worse in the days of winter, to go prowling about the streets
objectless; shivering at cold windows of print-shops, to extract a
little amusement; or haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a little
novelty, to pay a fifty times repeated visit (where our individual
faces would be as well known to the warden as those of his own
charges) to the lions in the Tower, to whose levee, by courtesy
immemorial, we had a prescriptive right of admission."

In short, nearly the whole of this essay of Elia's is a transcript of
Coleridge's account of the school. 'Never was a friend or schoolfellow
more fondly attached to another than Lamb to Coleridge. The latter from
his own account, as well as from Lamb and others who knew him when at
school, must have been a delicate and suffering boy. His principal
ailments he owed much to the state of his stomach, which was at that
time so delicate, that when compelled to go to a large closet (shoe-bin,
its school name,) containing shoes, to pick out a pair easy to his feet,
which were always tender, and he required shoes so large that he could
walk in them, rather than with them, and the smell, from the number in
this place, used to make him so sick, that I have often seen him
shudder, even in late life, when he gave an account of it. In this note,
continuing an account of himself at school, he says,

"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 Street, Cheapside."

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 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.

In his bathing excursions he had greatly injured his health, and reduced
his strength; in one of these bathing exploits he swam across the New
River in his clothes, and dried them in the fields on his back: from
these excursions commenced those bodily sufferings which embittered the
rest of his life, and rendered it truly one of sickness and suffering.
When a boy he had a remarkably delicate, white skin, which was once the
cause of great punishment to him.

His dame had undertaken to cure him of the itch, with which the boys of
his ward had suffered much; but Coleridge was doomed to suffer more than
his comrades, from the use of sulphur ointment, through the great
sagacity of his dame, who with her extraordinary eyes, aided by the
power of glasses, could see the malady in the skin deep and out of
common vision; and consequently, as often as she employed this
miraculous sight, she found or thought she found fresh reasons for
continuing the friction, to the prolonged suffering and mortification of
her patient. This occurred when he was about eight years of age, and
gave rise to his first attempt at making a verse, as follows:

"O Lord, have mercy on me!
For I am very sad!
For why, good Lord? I've got the itch,
And eke I've got the 'tad',"

the school name for ringworm. He was to be found during play-hours often
with the knees of his breeches unbuttoned, and his shoes down at the
heel, [7] walking to and fro, or sitting on a step, or in a corner,
deeply engaged in some book. This had attracted the notice of Middleton,
at that time a deputy grecian, and going up to him one day, asked what
he was reading; the answer was "Virgil." "Are you then," said M.
"studying your lesson?" "No," said C., "I am reading it for pleasure;"
for he had not yet arrived at Virgil in his class studies. This struck
Middleton as something so peculiar, that he mentioned it to the head
master, as Coleridge was then in the grammar school (which is the lower
part of the classical school), and doing the work of the lower boys. The
Rev. James Bowyer, who was at that time head master, a quick discerning
man, but hasty and severe, sent for the master of the grammar school,
and inquired about Coleridge; from him he learnt that he was a dull and
inapt scholar, and that he could not be made to repeat a single rule of
syntax, although he would give a rule in his own way.

This brought Coleridge before Bowyer, and to this circumstance may be
attributed the notice which he afterwards took of him: the school and
his scholars were every thing to him, and Coleridge's neglect and
carelessness never went unpunished. I have often heard him say, he was
so ordinary a looking boy, with his black head, that Bowyer generally
gave him at the end of a flogging an extra cut; "for," said he, "you are
such an ugly fellow!"

When, by the odd accident before mentioned, he was made a subscriber to
the library in King Street,

"I read," says he, "'through' the catalogue, folios and all, whether I
understood them, or did not understand them, running all risks in
skulking out to get the two volumes which I was entitled to have
daily. Conceive what I must have been at fourteen; I was in a
continual low fever. My whole being was, with eyes closed to every
object of present sense, to crumple myself up in a sunny corner, and
read, read, read; fancy myself on Robinson Crusoe's island, finding a
mountain of plumb-cake, and eating a room for myself, and then eating
it into the shapes of tables and chairs--hunger and fancy!"

In his lad-hood he says,

"My talents and superiority made me for ever at the head in my routine
of study, though utterly without the desire to be so; without a spark
of ambition; and, as to emulation, it had no meaning for me; but the
difference between me and my form-fellows, in our lessons and
exercises, bore no proportion to the measureless difference between me
and them in the wide, wild, wilderness of useless, unarranged
book-knowledge and book-thoughts. Thank Heaven! it was not the age nor
the fashion of getting up prodigies; but at twelve or fourteen I
should have made as pretty a juvenile prodigy as was ever emasculated
and ruined by fond and idle wonderment. Thank Heaven! I was flogged
instead of flattered. However, as I climbed up the school, my lot was
somewhat alleviated."

When Coleridge arrived at the age of fifteen, he was, from the little
comfort he experienced, very desirous of quitting the school, and, as he
truly said, he had not a spark of ambition. Near the school there
resided a worthy, and, in their rank of life, a respectable middle-aged
couple. The husband kept a little shop, and was a shoemaker, with whom
Coleridge had become intimate. The wife, also, had been kind and
attentive to him, and this was sufficient to captivate his affectionate
nature, which had existed from earliest childhood, and strongly endeared
him to all around him. Coleridge became exceedingly desirous of being
apprenticed to this man, to learn the art of shoemaking; and in due
time, when some of the boys were old enough to leave the school, and be
put to trade, Coleridge, being of the number, tutored his friend Crispin
how to apply to the head master, and not to heed his anger should he
become irate. Accordingly, Crispin applied at the hour proposed to see
Bowyer; who, having heard the proposal to take Coleridge as an
apprentice, and Coleridge's answer and assent to become a shoemaker,
broke forth with his favourite adjuration, "'Ods my life, man, what d'ye
mean?" At the sound of his angry voice, Crispin stood motionless, till
the angry pedagogue becoming infuriate, pushed the intruder out of the
room with such force, that Crispin might have sustained an action at law
against him for an assault. Thus, to Coleridge's mortification and
regret, as he afterwards in joke would say,

"I lost the opportunity of supplying safeguards to the understandings
of those, who perhaps will never thank me for what I am aiming to do
in exercising their reason.

"Against my will," says he, "I was chosen by my master as one of those
destined for the university; and about this time my brother Luke, or
'the Doctor,' so called from his infancy, because being the seventh
son, he had, from his infancy, been dedicated to the medical
profession, came to town to walk the London Hospital, under the care
of Sir William Blizard. Mr. Saumarez, brother of the Admiral Lord
Saumarez, was his intimate friend. Every Saturday I could make or
obtain leave, to the London Hospital trudged I. O the bliss if I was
permitted to hold the plasters, or to attend the dressings. Thirty
years afterwards, Mr. Saumarez retained the liveliest recollections of
the extraordinary, enthusiastic blue-coat boy, and was exceedingly
affected in identifying me with that boy. I became wild to be
apprenticed to a surgeon. English, Latin, yea, Greek books of medicine
read I incessantly. Blanchard's Latin Medical Dictionary I had nearly
by heart. Briefly, it was a wild dream, which gradually blending with,
gradually gave way to a rage for metaphysics, occasioned by the essays
on Liberty and Necessity in Cato's Letters, and more by theology.
After I had read Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, I sported
infidel! but my infidel vanity never touched my heart:"

nor ever with his lips did he for a few months only support the new
light given him by Voltaire.

"With my heart," says he, "I never did abandon the name of Christ."

This reached Bowyer's ears, and he sent for him: not to reason with him,
as teachers and parents do too often, and by this means as often
increase the vanity of these tyro-would-be-philosophers; but he took the
surest mode, if not of curing, at least of checking the disease. His
argument was short and forcible.

"So, sirrah, you are an infidel, are you? then I'll flog your
infidelity out of you;"

and gave him the severest flogging he had ever received at his hands.
This, as I have often heard Coleridge say, was the only just flogging he
had ever given him: certainly, from all I ever heard of him, Bowyer was
strictly a flogging master. Trollope, in his History of Christ's
Hospital, page 137, says of him,

"His discipline was exact in the extreme, and tinctured, perhaps, with
more than due severity." [8]

Coleridge, in his 'Biographia Literaria', after paying a just compliment
to Bowyer as a teacher, says,

"The reader will, I trust, excuse this tribute of recollection to a
man, whose severities, even now, not seldom furnish the dreams by
which the blind fancy would fain interpret to the mind the painful
sensation of distempered sleep, but neither lessen nor diminish the
deep sense of my moral and intellectual obligations."

He had his passionate days, which the boys described as the days he wore
his Passy wig (passy abbreviated from passionate). "Sirrah! I'll flog
you," were words so familiar to him, that on one occasion, some female
relation or friend of one of the boys entered his room, when a class
stood before him and inquired for Master--; master was no school title
with Bowyer. The errand of this lady being to ask a short leave of
absence for some boy, on the sudden appearance in town of his country
cousin, still lingering at the door, after having been abruptly told to
go, Bowyer suddenly exclaimed, "Bring that woman here, and I'll flog

Coleridge's themes in his fifteenth year, [9] in verse as well as prose,
marked him as a boy of great talent, but of talent only according to his
own definition of it (vide "Friend," vol. iii. edit. 1818). His verse
was good, his prose powerful, and language correct, and beyond his years
in depth of thought, but as yet he had not manifested, according to the
same test, anything of genius. I met among some of his notes, written at
the age of fifty-one, the following critique on one of his schoolboy

"This theme was written at the age of fifteen: it does not contain a
line that any schoolboy might not have written, and like most
school-poetry, there is a putting of thoughts into verse. Yet such
verses as a striving of mind and struggles after the intense and
vivid, are a fair promise of better things."

The same observation might be made in the intense application of his
intellectual powers in search of truth, at the time he called himself an
infidel; in this struggle of mind was the "fair promise of better
things." It was the preparation necessary for such a mind; the breaking
up and tilling of the soil for the successful germination of the seeds
of truth.

The sleeping powers of thought were roused and excited into action.

Perhaps this may be considered, as entering too early into the history
of his mind in boyhood: to this I reply, that the entire man so to
speak, is to be seen even in the cradle of the child. [10]

The serious may be startled at the thought of a young man passing
through such an ordeal; but with him it was the exercise of his
strength, in order that he might "fight the good fight," and conquer for
that truth which is permanent, and is the light and the life of every
one who comes into the world, and who is in earnest search of it.

In his sixteenth year he composed the allegory of "Real and Imaginary
Time," first published in the Sibylline Leaves, having been accidentally
omitted in the Juvenile Poems,--

"On the wide level of a mountain's head,
(I knew not where, but 'twas some fairy place)
Their pinions, ostrich-like, for sails outspread,
Two lovely children run an endless race,
A sister and a brother!
That far outstripped the other;
Yet ever runs she with reverted face,
And looks and listens for the boy behind;
For he, alas! is blind!
O'er rough and smooth with even step he passed,
And knows not whether he be first or last." [11]

in which may be traced the first dawnings of his genius. He pictures to
himself a boy returning to school after the holidays; in his day-dreams
making plans for the future, and anticipating the pleasure he is to
enjoy on his return home; his vivid thoughts, and sanguine expectations
"far outstripping" the reality of time as marked by the watch or
almanack. Real time is personified as a blind boy steadily pursuing his
path; whilst imaginary time is represented as a fleeting girl, looking
back and listening for her brother whom she has outrun. Perhaps to Mr.
Bowyer's excellent method of instruction may be attributed this early
developement of his genius. Coleridge remarks of him,

"He was an admirable educer, no less than educator of intellect; he
taught me to leave out as many epithets as would make eight syllable
lines, and then ask if the exercise would not be greatly improved."

Although in this year he began to indulge in metaphysical speculations,
he was wedded to verse, and many of his early poems were planned; some
of which he finished, and they were published in the "Juvenile Poems,"
on his entry into life; but as many more were scattered among his
friends, who had greatly increased in number. About this time he became
acquainted with a widow lady,

"whose son," says he, "I, as upper boy, had protected, and who
therefore looked up to me, and taught me what it was to have a mother.
I loved her as such. She had three daughters, and of course I fell in
love with the eldest. From this time to my nineteenth year, when I
quitted school for Jesus, Cambridge, was the era of poetry and love."

It has been observed, that about this sixteenth year, he first developed
genius, and that during this early period of his life, his mind was
incessantly toiling in the pursuit of knowledge. His love of reading
seemed to have increased in proportion to his acquirements, which were
equally great: his representing himself as an infidel was better perhaps
understood by his master, who believed it to be only puerile vanity; and
therefore Coleridge considered the flogging he received on this
occasion, a just and appropriate punishment; and it was so, for as a boy
he had not thought deep enough on an equally important point, viz., what
is Fidelity, and how easily, he particularly might mistake the
genuineness of sincere 'fidelity' for mere outward forms, and the simple
observance of customs. Perhaps I might have been disposed to pass over
this era with a slighter notice, which he in his simplicity of character
thought it right to record. He was always honest in every thing
concerning himself, and never spared self-accusation, often, when not
understood, to his own injury. He never from his boyhood to his latest
life, received kindness without grateful feelings, and, when he believed
it coupled with love, without the deepest sense of its value; and if the
person possessed sensibility and taste, he repaid it tenfold. This was
the experience of nearly twenty years intimate knowledge of his

His description of his first love was that of a young poet, recording
the first era of the passion, the fleeting dream of his youth--but not
that love which he afterwards records in the Genevieve when he says,

"All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of love,
And feed his sacred flame."

First love, so seldom the mature love of future days, is a flower of
premature growth and developement, on which fancy exercises itself in
castle-building, and is in unison with that age when youth flings his
limbs about in the air, as an exercise to rid himself of the superfluous
volition, the accumulation of which gives him a sensation of uneasiness;
and these simple and unreserved accounts of Coleridge's infidelity, and
also of his first love-fit, should be put down merely as mental
exercises. The lines above quoted, belong, I have said, to the maturer
mind; they are thoughts which, unlike the sportive dace on the surface
of some calm lake, may rather be compared to the inhabitants of the deep
waters beneath.

"How often will the loving heart and imaginative spirit of a young man
mistake the projected creature of his own moral yearning, seen in the
reflecting surface of the first not repulsive or vulgar female who
treats him affectionately, for the realization of his idea. Reversing
the order of the Genesis, he believes the female the original, and the
outward reality and impressment of the self-constructed 'image', of
the ideal! He most sincerely supposes himself in love--even in cases
where the mistake might have been suspected by one curious fact--that
his strongest emotions on love, were when absent from the imagined
object. But the time comes, or may come, when the same feeling exists
equally in presence and absence, in health and in sickness; when he
verily 'is' in love. And now he 'knows' himself to be so, by the 'so'
being--he can even prove it to his own mind by his certainty, his
'intuition' of the essential difference, as actually as it is
uncommunicable, between it and its previous subjective counterfeits,
and anticipations. Even so it is with friends.--O it is melancholy to
think how the very forms and geniality of my affections, my belief of
obligation, consequent gratitude and anxious sense of duty were wasted
on the shadows of friendship. With few exceptions, I can almost say,
that till I came to H----, I never 'found' what FRIENDS were--and
doubtless, in more than one instance, I sacrificed substances who
loved me, for semblances who were well pleased that I should love
'them', but who never loved nor inwardly respected ought but
themselves. The distinction between 'the' friends and 'the' love is,
that the latter we discover by itself to 'be', alone itself--for it is
in its nature unique and exclusive. (See Improvvisatore in the
'Amulet' of 1826 or 7).

"But of the former we discover the genuineness by comparison and
experience--the reason is obvious--in the instances in which the
person imagined himself to 'be in love' with another (I use this
phrase 'be in love with' for the want of any other; for, in fact, from
the absence in our language of any appropriate exponent of the thing
meant), it is a delusion in toto. But, in the other instance, the one
half (i.e. the person's own feelings and sense of duty with acts
accordant) remains the same (ex. gr. S.T.C. could not feel more
deeply, nor from abatement of nervous life by age and sickness so
'ardently') he could not feel, think, and act with a 'more' entire
devotion, to I.G. or to H.G. than he did to W.W. and to R.S., yet the
latter were and remain most honourable to his judgment. Their
characters, as moral and intellectual beings, give a dignity to his
devotion; and the imperishable consciousness of his devout and almost
enthusiastic attachment to them, still sanctifies their names, and
makes the men holy and revered to him." [12]

Had Coleridge in early or even in later life paid an insincere, because
undeserved, deference to outward show, and to the surface opinions
counterfeiting depth, so attractive to the superficial observer--added
to which, had he possessed a portion of that self-regarding policy which
frequently aids success--he might have been idolized where he was
neglected, and rewarded, if I might so profane this word, with high
worldly honours in other quarters. But it was otherwise; and could a
crown of gold have been offered him for the crown of glory of which he
was in earnest search, he would have refused the exchange. The
difference between time and eternity had already taken root, and he felt
the mighty import of these words too strongly to have lost sight of
their practical use; all that his health and powers would allow him to
acquire he did acquire, and freely gave all he had for the benefit of

He says, "From the exuberance of my animal spirits, when I had burst
forth from my misery and moping and the indiscretions resulting from
those spirits--ex. gr. swimming over the New River in my clothes, and
remaining in them;--full half the time from seventeen to eighteen was
passed in the sick-ward of Christ's Hospital, afflicted with jaundice
and rheumatic fever." From these indiscretions and their consequences
may be dated all his bodily sufferings in future life: in short,
rheumatism sadly afflicting him, while the remedies only slightly
alleviated his sufferings, without hope of a permanent cure; though
confined to his bed, his mind, ever active, still allowed him time to
continue the exercise of his intellectual powers, and afforded him
leisure for contemplation. Medical men are too often called upon to
witness the effects of acute rheumatism in the young subject: in some,
the attack is on the heart, and its consequences are immediate; in
others, it leaves behind bodily sufferings, which may indeed be
palliated, but terminate only in a lingering dissolution.

I have often heard Coleridge express regret that he had not cultivated
mathematics, which he believed would have been of important use in life,
particularly had he arrived so far as to have mastered the higher
calculus; but he was, by an oversight of the mathematical master,
stopped on the threshold. When he was commencing Euclid, among some of
its first axioms came this:--"A line is length without breadth." "How
can that be?" said the scholar, (Coleridge); "A line must have some
breadth, be it ever so thin." This roused the master's indignation at
the impertinence of the scholar, which was instantly answered by a box
on the ear, and the words, hastily uttered, "Go along, you silly
fellow;" and here ended his first tuition, or lecture. His second
efforts afterwards were not more successful; so that he was destined to
remain ignorant of these exercises of the logic of the understanding.[A]
Indeed his logical powers were so stupendous, from boyhood, as never to
require such drilling. Bowyer, his classical master, was too skilful in
the management of youth, and too much interested in the success of his
scholars to overlook what was best fitted for them. He exercised their
logical powers in acquiring and comparing the different classics. On
him, as a teacher, Coleridge loved to dwell; and, with his grateful
feelings, ever ready to acknowledge the sense of his obligations to him,
particularly those relating to his mental improvement, he has, in his
Biog. Lit. vol. i. p. 7, expressed himself in these words:

"He early moulded my taste to the preference of Demosthenes to Cicero,
of Homer and Theocritus to Virgil, and again of Virgil to Ovid. He
habituated me to compare Lucretius, (in such extracts as I then read,)
Terence, and, above all, the chaster poems of Catullus, not only with
the Roman poets of the, so called, silver and brazen ages; but with
even those of the Augustan aera: and, on grounds of plain sense and
universal logic, to see and assert the superiority of the former in
the truth and nativeness, both of their thoughts and diction. At the
same time that we were studying the Greek tragic poets, he made us
read Shakespeare and Milton as lessons; and they were lessons too,
which required most time and trouble to 'bring up' so as to escape his
censure. I learnt from him that Poetry, even that of the loftiest,
and, seemingly wildest odes, had a logic of its own, as severe as that
of science; and more difficult, because more subtle, more complex, and
dependent on more, and more fugitive causes."

In early life he was remarkably joyous; nature had blessed him with a
buoyancy of spirits, and even when suffering, he deceived the partial
observer. He delighted many of the strangers he met in his saunterings
through the cloisters, arrested and riveted the attention of the passer
by, whom, like his "Ancient Mariner," he held by a spell. His
schoolfellow, Lamb, has mentioned him, when under the influence of this
power, as the delight of his auditors. In the Elia, he says,

"Come back into memory like as thou wert in the dayspring of thy
fancies, with hope, like a fiery column before thee, the dark pillar
not yet turned ... How have I seen the casual passer through the
cloisters stand still, entranced with admiration, (while he weighed
the disproportion between the 'speech' and the 'garb' of the
mirandula,) to hear thee unfold, in deep and sweet intonations, the
mysteries of Iamblichus [14] or Plotinus, (for even in those years
thou waxedst not pale at such philosophic draughts); or reciting Homer
in his Greek, or Pindar, while the walls of the old Grey-Friars
re-echoed to the accents."

Middleton was not prepared to sympathise in these flights, considering
them subversive of the dignity of a Grecian. [15] Middleton was then on
the threshold of the College, and lads in this situation seemed called
upon, to preserve with dignity their honours, and with more outward
forms than suited their age. This at the time rendered them stiff and
unfamiliar, so much so, that within the walls, and in the neighbourhood,
it was mistaken for pride, and the words "Proud as a Grecian," were
proverbial. These boys had the dignity of their rising prospects
therefore to support--they were the aristocracy of the school. This was
a task ill suited to Coleridge; and his flights of fancy, as Lamb termed
them, would only produce a shrug of Middleton's shoulders, and a dread
at the prospect of the falling dignity of the school. Middleton's Poem,
in Mr. Trollope's [16] History of Christ's Hospital, and its companion
that of Coleridge, characterize the two youths, and plainly point out
that the selection of these poems was influenced more by a merit
belonging purely to talent than from any display of genius in either.
The verses of Middleton are more indicative of strength than of power;
they are the verses of a well-tutored youth, of commanding talents.
Those of Coleridge show more of fancy, but do not exhibit the power he
possessed at that age, which will be seen by comparing this poem with
many written by him at an earlier period, and now published among his
"Juvenile Poems." Middleton being older than Coleridge was elected
first, viz. 26th September, 1788, to Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Coleridge left Christ's Hospital for Jesus' College, Cambridge, 7th
September, 1790, [17] taking leave of his school-fellows in the
following sonnet:--

Farewell, parental scenes! a sad farewell!
To you my grateful heart still fondly clings,
Tho' fluttering round on Fancy's burnish'd wings,
Her tales of future joy Hope loves to tell.
Adieu, adieu! ye much loved cloisters pale!
Ah! would those happy days return again,
When 'neath your arches, free from every stain,
I heard of guilt, and wonder'd at the tale!
Dear haunts! where oft my simple lays I sang,
Listening meanwhile the echoings of my feet,
Lingering I quit you, with as great a pang,
As when ere while, my weeping childhood, torn
By early sorrow from my native seat,
Mingled its tears with hers--my widow'd parent lorn.

'Poetical Works', vol. i. p. 31.

[Footnote 1: Bishop Berkeley, in his work ("Siris") commences with a
dissertation on Tar Water, and ends with the Trinity. The Rev. John
Coleridge commences his work, entitled "A miscellaneous Dissertation
arising from the 17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges," with a
well written preface on the Bible, and ends with an advertisement of his
school, and his method of teaching Latin.]

[Footnote 2: In 1809, the above whimsical stories were related to me by
a gentleman, born in the town of Ottery, and by marriage closely related
to the Rev. John Coleridge. While Coleridge resided at Highgate, he also
repeated the stories which had grown up with him from boyhood as here
related, himself believing them true; but a near relation has lately
assured the writer, that some of these stories are told of another most
respectable clergyman, residing at that time in the neighbourhood, and
'he' believes that they properly belong to him. It is commonly remarked
that very studious men, either from inattention, or from ignorance of
the conventional forms of society, are regardless of what passes before
them. Paying, perhaps, too much attention to their inward feelings or
thoughts, seemingly day-dreaming--and this may frequently give rise to
the stories to be found in many towns besides Ottery. Still, however,
thoughtful and contemplative persons are often the quickest observers of
the weaknesses of human nature, and yet as they usually make the
greatest allowances for every infirmity, they are often impartial
judges, and judicious counsellors. The Rev. John Coleridge, though
sometimes an absent man, was a most valuable pastor, and on all fitting
occasions a good man of business, having conducted several difficult
matters of controversy for his parish with great satisfaction to the

[Footnote 3: Such at least were the recollections of this extraordinary
boy of seven years of age.]

[Footnote 4: Quale--quare--quidditive.]

[Footnote 5: He had, before he was six years old, read three times
through the Arabian Nights, or rather one of the volumes.--See "'The
Friend'," vol. i. p. 252, ed. 1818.]

[Footnote 6: I insert a similar observation on his feelings when he
first left home. "When I was first plucked up and transplanted from my
birth place and family, at the death of my dear father, whose revered
image has ever survived in my mind, to make me know what the emotions
and affections of a son are, and how ill a father's place is likely to
be supplied by any other relation. Providence (it has often occurred to
me) gave the first intimation, that it was my lot, and that it was best
for me, to make or find my way of life a detached individual, a Terrae
Filius, who was to ask love or service of no one on any more specific
relation than that of being a man, and as such to take my chance for the
free charities of humanity."]

[Footnote 7: Whatever might have been his habits in boyhood, in manhood
he was 'scrupulously' clean in his person, and especially took great
care of his hands by frequent ablutions. In his dress also he was as
cleanly as the liberal use of snuff would permit, though the
clothes-brush was often in requisition to remove the wasted snuff.
"Snuff," he would facetiously say, "was the final cause of the nose,
though troublesome and expensive in its use."]

[Footnote 8: "Jemmy Bowyer," as he was familiarly called by Coleridge
and Lamb, might not inaptly be termed the "plagosus orbilius" of
Christ's Hospital.]

[Footnote 9: In his biographical sketch of his literary life, he informs
us that he had translated the eight Hymns of Synesius from the Greek,
into English Anacreontica, before his fifteenth year.]

[Footnote 10:

... the childhood shews the man,
As morning shews the day ...

'Paradise Regained', book iv. v. 220.]

[Footnote 11: Aldine Edition, Vol. i. p. 6.--Pickering, London, 1834.]

[Footnote 12: Extract of a note written Dec. 1829.]

[Footnote 13:

"'Thought' and 'attention' very different things.--I never expected
the German (viz. selbst-muehige Erzeugung dessen, wovon meine Rede war)
from the readers of the 'Friend'.--I did expect the latter, and was

"This is a most important distinction, and in the new light afforded
by it to my mind, I see more plainly why mathematics cannot be a
substitute for Logic, much less for Metaphysics--i.e. transcendental
Logic, and why therefore Cambridge has produced so few men of genius
and original power since the time of Newton.--Not only it does 'not'
call forth the balancing and discriminating powers ('that' I saw long
ago), but it requires only 'attention', not 'thought' or

"In a long-brief Dream-life of regretted regrets, I still find a
noticeable space marked out by the Regret of having neglected the
Mathematical Sciences. No 'week', few 'days' pass unhaunted by a fresh
conviction of the truth involved in the Platonic Superstition over the
Portal of Philosophy,

[Greek: Maedeis age_ometraetos eisit_o].

But surely Philosophy hath scarcely sustained more detriment by its
alienation from mathematics."

MS. Note.]

[Footnote 14:

"In my friendless wanderings on our leave-days, i.e. the Christ
Hospital phrase, not for holidays altogether, but for those on which
the boys are permitted to go beyond the precincts of the school (for I
was an orphan, and had scarce any connexions in London), highly was I
delighted, if any passenger, especially if he drest in black, would
enter into conversation with me; for soon I found the means of
directing it to my favourite subjects--

Of Providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate,
Fix'd fate, free will, fore-knowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost."]

[Footnote 15: The upper boys of the school selected for the University
are so termed, though wearing the same coloured dress, but made of more
costly materials.]

[Footnote 16: In a note on the History, p. 192, Mr. Trollope makes the
following observation:

"From this book" (a book in which the boys were allowed to copy their
verses when considered good) "the verses referred to in the text were

They will be found in the Literary Remains, vol. i, p.33. Trollope

"These verses are copied not as one of the best, but of the earliest
productions of the writer."]

[Footnote 17: Entered at Jesus' College, Feb. 5th, 1791, at the age of
19.--College Books.]



At Cambridge, whither his reputation had travelled before him, high
hopes and fair promises of success were entertained by his young friends
and relations. He was considered by the "Blues," as they are familiarly
termed, one from whom they were to derive great immediate honour, which
for a short period, however, was deferred. Individual genius has a cycle
of its own, and moves only in that path, or by the powers influencing
it. Genius has been properly defined 'prospective', talent on the
contrary 'retrospective': genius is creative, and lives much in the
future, and in its passage or progress may make use of the labours of

"I have been in the habit," says Coleridge, "of considering the
qualities of intellect, the comparative eminence in which
characterizes individuals and even countries, under four
kinds,--genius, talent, sense, and cleverness. The first I use in the
sense of most general acceptance, as the faculty which adds to the
existing stock of power and knowledge by new views, new combinations,
by discoveries not accidental, but anticipated, or resulting from

'Friend', vol. iii. p. 85, edit. 1818. [1]

Coleridge left school with great anticipation of success from all who
knew him, for his character for scholarship, and extraordinary accounts
of his genius had preceded him. He carried with him too the same
childlike simplicity which he had from a boy, and which he retained even
to his latest hours. His first step was to involve himself in much
misery, and which followed him in after life, as the sequel will
evidence. On his arrival at College he was accosted by a polite
upholsterer, requesting to be permitted to furnish his rooms. The next
question was, "How would you like to have them furnished?" The answer
was prompt and innocent enough, "Just as you please, Sir!"--thinking the
individual employed by the College. The rooms were therefore furnished
according to the taste of the artizan, and the bill presented to the
astonished Coleridge. Debt was to him at all times a thing he most
dreaded, and he never had the courage to face it. I once, and once only,
witnessed a painful scene of this kind, which occurred from mistaking a
letter on ordinary business for an application for money. [2] Thirty
years afterwards, I heard that these College debts were about one
hundred pounds! Under one hundred pounds I believe to have been the
amount of his sinnings; but report exceeded this to something which
might have taxed his character beyond imprudence, or mere want of
thought. Had he, in addition to his father's simplicity, possessed the
worldly circumspection of his mother, he might have avoided these and
many other vexations; but he went to the University wholly unprepared
for a College life, having hitherto chiefly existed in his own 'inward'
being, and in his poetical imagination, on which he had fed.

But to proceed. Coleridge's own account is, that while Middleton,
afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, remained at Pembroke, he "worked with him
and was industrious, read hard, and obtained the prize for the Greek
Ode," [3] &c. It has been stated, that he was locked up in his room to
write this Ode; but this is not the fact. Many stories were afloat, and
many exaggerations were circulated and believed, of his great want of
attention to College discipline, and of perseverance in his studies, and
every failure, or apparent failure, was attributed to these causes.
Often has he repeated the following story of Middleton, and perhaps this
story gave birth to the report.

They had agreed to read together in the evening, and were not to hold
any conversation. Coleridge went to Pembroke and found Middleton intent
on his book, having on a long pair of boots reaching to the knees, and
beside him, on a chair, next to the one he was sitting on, a pistol.
Coleridge had scarcely sat down before he was startled by the report of
the pistol. "Did you see that?" said Middleton. "See what?" said
Coleridge. "That rat I just sent into its hole again--did you feel the
shot? It was to defend my legs," continued Middleton, "I put on these
boots. I am fighting with these rats for my books, which, without some
prevention, I shall have devoured."

There is an anecdote related of Coleridge while at College, and which I
have heard him frequently repeat, when called upon to vouch for its
truth. His fellow students had amused themselves, when he was in
attendance at Lecture, by stealing a portion of the tail of his gown,
and which they had repeated so frequently, as to shorten it to the
length of a spencer. Crossing the quadrangle one day with these remains
at his back, and his appearance not being in collegiate trim, the Master
of Jesus' College, who was ever kind to him, and overlooked all little
inattentions to appearances, accosted him smartly on this occasion--"Mr.
Coleridge! Mr. Coleridge! when will you get rid of that shameful gown?"
Coleridge, turning his head, and casting his eyes over his shoulders, as
if observing its length, or rather want of length, replied in as
courteous a manner as words of such a character would permit, "Why, Sir,
I think I've got rid of the greatest part of it already!"

Such were Coleridge's peculiarities, which were sometimes construed into
irregularities; but through his whole life, attracting notice by his
splendid genius, he fell too often under the observation of men who
busied themselves in magnifying small things, and minifying large ones.
About this period, that Volcano, in which all the worst passions of men
were collected, and which had been for some time emitting its black
smoke, at length exploded and rent society asunder. The shock was felt
throughout Europe; each party was over-excited, and their minds
enthralled by a new slavery--the one shouting out the blessings of
liberty and equality--the other execrating them, and prophesying the
consequences that were to follow:--

"There's no philosopher but sees
That rage and fear are one disease;
_Tho' that may burn, and this may freeze_,
They're both alike tho ague."

'Mad Ox'.

Combustibles composed of such ardent and evil spirits soon blaze out;
yet the evil does not stop when the blaze has ceased; it leaves an
excitement which is constantly disclosing itself in a restless morbid
vanity, a craving for distinction, and a love of applause, in its way as
dangerous as the thirst of gain, and the worship of the mammon of

Alas! the circulation of such anecdotes as have been here related of
Coleridge when at College, and his inattention to some of the minor
forms of discipline, were sufficient for illnatured persons to transform
into serious offences, particularly when coupled with the disappointed
hopes of zealous friends. At this period, in which all men who were not
senseless, or so indifferent as nearly to be senseless, particularly the
young men of our Universities, all embraced a party, and arranged
themselves under their different banners. When I now look around me, and
see men who have risen to the highest offices of the different
professions, in the church, the law, or in physic, formerly only known
by the name of Citizen John, &c. &c., _now_ my Lord so and so, or your
Grace the----, it seems like a dream, or at least a world of fleeting
shadows. Sir James Mackintosh, in a letter to Mr. Sharp, states what he
conceived to be the errors of both parties, so far as they arose from
errors of judgment:

"The opposition mistook the moral character of the revolution; the
ministers mistook its force: and both parties, from pique, resentment,
pride, habit, and obstinacy, persisted in acting on these mistakes
after they were disabused by experience. Mr. Burke alone avoided both
these fatal mistakes. He saw both the malignity and the strength of
the revolution. But where there was wisdom to discover the truth,
there was not power, and perhaps there was not practical skill, to
make that wisdom available for the salvation of Europe.--'Diis aliter
visum!' My fortune has been in some respects very singular. I have
lately read the lives and private correspondence of some of the most
memorable men in different countries of Europe, who are lately dead.
[4] Klopstock, Kant, Lavater, Alfieri, they were all filled with joy
and hope by the French revolution--they clung to it for a longer or a
shorter time--they were compelled to relinquish their illusions. The
disappointment of all was bitter, but it showed itself in various
modes, according to the variety of their characters. The series of
passions growing out of that disappointment, was the not very remote
cause of the death of Lavater. In the midst of society, Alfieri buried
himself in misanthropic solitude; and the shock, which awakened him
from the dreams of enthusiasm, darkened and shortened his days. In the
mean time the multitude, comprehending not only those who have neither
ardour of sensibility, nor compass of understanding to give weight to
their suffrage, but those also whom accident had not brought into
close and perpetual contact with the events, were insensibly detached
from the revolution; and, before they were well aware that they had
quitted their old 'position', they found themselves at the antipodes."

The excitement which this state of things produced might have been
highly advantageous to some, and even quickened their intellectual
powers, particularly those destined either for the bar or the senate,
but certainly not those intended for the church.

The revolution [5] and its consequences engrossed the thoughts of all
men too much for the calmer pursuits of life; and the minds of the young
especially were so absorbed by passing temporal events, as to leave but
little time for the contemplation of the deeper and more serious affairs
of futurity. However, Coleridge appears in his political opinions to
have leaned too much to the side of democracy; but this was so prevalent
and so much a fashion, particularly in those filled with enthusiasm,
that it seemed a natural consequence in any young man possessing even
ordinary intellect. Middleton, his friend, passed on without attaching
himself to either party. His manners (as I have before noticed) were
austere and sedate. He steadily persevered, without deviation, in his
studies, though chance did not always favour him, nor crown him with the
success he merited. He was a good and amiable man, and an affectionate
friend; but early want of success in his academical exertions rendering
him melancholy, this by sympathy was soon imparted to his friend. After
Middleton's departure, the keen desire which Coleridge previously felt
for the possession of honours abated, and he became indifferent to
them--he might at this time have been idle, but never vicious. The men
who often appear to be the gayest and lightest of heart, are too
frequently melancholic; and it is a well-known fact, that the best comic
actors are the greatest sufferers from this malady, as if it seemed an
essential qualification for that department of histrionic excellence, in
which the greatest animal spirits are personated and successfully
imitated. Coleridge, at this period, delighted in boyish tricks, which
others were to execute. I remember a fellow-collegiate recalling to his
memory an exploit of which he was the planner, and a late Lord
Chancellor the executor. It was this: a train of gunpowder was to be
laid on two of the neatly shaven lawns of St. John's and Trinity
Colleges, in such a manner, that, when set on fire, the singed grass
would exhibit the ominous words, Liberty and Equality, which, with able
ladlike dexterity, was duly performed.

The writer of the College Reminiscences in the Gentleman's Magazine,
December, 1834, a first-form boy with Coleridge at Christ's Hospital,
was well acquainted with his habits, and speaks of his having gained the
gold medal in his freshman's year for the Greek Ode, but does not notice
his having been locked up in his room for that purpose.

"In his second year he stood for the Craven scholarship--a university
scholarship, for which under-graduates of any standing are entitled to
become candidates. This was in the winter of 1792. Out of sixteen or
eighteen competitors, a selection of four were to contend for the
prize, and these four were Dr. Butler, late head-master of Shrewsbury,
Dr. Keate, the late head-master of Eton, [6] Dr. Bethell, the present
Bishop of Bangor, and Coleridge. Dr. Butler was the successful

Coleridge always spoke of this decision as having been in every way
just, and due to Butler's merit as a clever and industrious scholar.

"But pause a moment," says this writer, "in Coleridge's History, and
think of him at this period! Butler! Keate Bethell! and Coleridge! How
different the career of each in future life! O Coleridge, through what
strange paths did the meteor of genius lead thee! Pause a moment, ye
distinguished men! and deem it not the least bright spot in your
happier career, that you and Coleridge were once rivals, and for a
moment running abreast in the pursuit of honour. I believe that his
disappointment at this crisis damped his ardour. Unfortunately, at
that period, there was no classical tripos; so that, if a person did
not obtain the classical medal, he was thrown back among the totally
undistinguished; and it was not allowable to become a candidate for
the classical medal, unless you had taken a respectable degree in
mathematics. Coleridge had not the least taste for these, and here his
case was hopeless; so that he despaired of a Fellowship, and gave up
what in his heart he coveted--college honours and a college life. He
had seen Middleton (late Bishop of Calcutta) quit Pembroke under
similar circumstances. Not _quite_ similar, because Middleton had
studied mathematics so as to take a respectable degree, and to enable
him to try for the medal; but he failed, and therefore all hopes
failed of a Fellowship--most fortunately, as it proved in after-life,
for Middleton, though he mourned at the time most deeply, and
exclaimed--'I am Middleton, which is another name for misfortune!'

'There is a Providence which shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.'

That which Middleton deemed a misfortune drew him from the cobwebs of
a college library to the active energies of a useful and honoured

If, as Shakespeare observes, "there be a providence which shapes our
ends," such words as "fortunate" or "unfortunate," in their customary
use, will be found, on closer attention, and deeper thought, worthless
and full of error. We have each our part allotted to us in the great
drama of life.

But to return to Coleridge.

"When he quitted college, which he did before he had taken a degree,
in a moment of mad-cap caprice, and in an inauspicious hour!

'When,' as Coleridge says, 'I left the friendly cloisters, and the
happy grove of quiet, ever-honoured Jesus' College, Cambridge.'

Short, but deep and heartfelt reminiscence! In a Literary Life of
himself, this short memorial is all that Coleridge gives of his happy
days at college. Say not that he did not obtain, and did not wish to
obtain, classical honours! He did obtain them, and was eagerly
ambitious of them; [7] but he did not bend to that discipline which
was to qualify him for the whole course. He was very studious, but his
reading was desultory and capricious. He took little exercise merely
for the sake of exercise; but he was ready at any time to unbend his
mind in conversation; and, for the sake of this, his room (the
ground-floor room on the right hand of the staircase facing the great
gate,) was a constant rendezvous of conversation-loving friends; I
will not call them loungers, for they did not call to kill time, but
to enjoy it. What evenings have I spent in those rooms! What little
suppers, or 'sizings', as they were called, have I enjoyed; when
AEschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of
lexicons, &c. to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon, a
pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the
book before us. Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the
evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim."

Then came another disturbing cause, which altered the course of his path
in life, and this was Frend's trial. [8]

"During it," to resume the quotation, "pamphlets swarmed from the
press. Coleridge had read them all; and in the evening, with our
negus, we had them 'viva voce' gloriously."

Coleridge has recorded that he was a Socinian till twenty-five. Be not
startled, courteous reader! nor ye who knew him only in his later life,
if the impetuous zeal and ardour of his mind in early youth led him
somewhat wide of those fixed principles which he adopted in riper years.

To quote his own words, written soon after he left college, and
addressed to the late Rev. George Coleridge,

"If aught of error or intemperate truth
Should meet thine ear, think thou that riper age
Will calm it down, and let thy love forgive it!"

There is one incident very characteristic of him, which took place
during this trial. The trial was observed by Coleridge, to be going
against Frend, when some observation or speech was made in his favour; a
dying hope thrown out as it appeared to Coleridge who, in the midst of
the Senate, whilst sitting on one of the benches, extended his hands and
clapped them. The Proctor in a loud voice demanded who had committed
this indecorum. Silence ensued. The Proctor in an elevated tone, said to
a young man sitting near Coleridge, "'Twas you, sir!" The reply was as
prompt as the accusation; for, immediately holding out the stump of his
right arm, it appeared that he had lost his hand,--"I would, sir," said
he, "that I had the power."--That no innocent person should incur blame,
Coleridge went directly afterwards to the Proctor, who told him that he
saw him clap his hands, but fixed on this person who he knew had not the
power. "You have had," said he, "a narrow escape."

The opinions of youth are often treated too seriously. The matter of
most importance to ascertain when they need correction, is, whether in
these opinions they are 'sincere'; at all events, the outbursts of youth
are not to be visited as veteran decisions; and when they differ from
'received' opinions, the advice offered should be tempered with
kindliness of feeling and sympathy even with their failings.
Unfortunately for Coleridge, however, he was to be exempted from those
allowances made for others, and was most painfully neglected by those
who ought to have sympathized with, and supported him; he was left "to
chase chance-started friendships."

Coleridge possessed a mind remarkably sensitive, so much so, as at times
to divest him of that mental courage so necessary in a world full of
vicissitude and painful trial; and this deficiency, though of short
duration, was occasionally observed in early life. At the departure of
Middleton, [9] to whom he had always looked up, whose success he had
considered morally certain, and whose unexpected failure was therefore
the more painful to his feelings, he became desponding, and, in
addition, vexed and fretted by the college debts, he was overtaken by
that inward grief, the product of fear, which he, in after life, so
painfully described in his Ode to Dejection:--

"A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear."

Such "viper thoughts" did at this time coil around his mind, and were
for him "Reality's dark Dream." In this state of mind he suddenly left
Cambridge for London, and strolled about the streets till night came on,
and then rested himself on the steps of a house in Chancery Lane, in a
reverie of tumultuous feelings, speculating on the future. In this
situation, overwhelmed with his own painful thoughts, and in misery
himself, he had now to contend with the misery of others--for he was
accosted by various kinds of beggars importuning him for money, and
forcing on him their real or pretended sorrows. To these applicants he
emptied his pockets of his remaining cash. Walking along Chancery Lane
in the morning, he noticed a bill posted on the wall, "Wanted a few
smart lads for the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons;"--he paused a moment,
and said to himself,

"Well, I have had all my life a violent antipathy to soldiers and
horses, the sooner I can cure myself of these absurd prejudices the
better, and I will enlist in this regiment."

Forthwith he went as directed to the place of enlistment. On his
arrival, he was accosted by an old sergeant, with a remarkably
benevolent countenance, to whom he stated his wish. The old man looking
at him attentively, asked him if he had been in bed? On being answered
in the negative, he desired him to take his, made him breakfast, and
bade him rest himself awhile, which he did. This feeling sergeant
finding him refreshed in his body, but still suffering apparently from
melancholy, in kind words begged him to be of good cheer, and consider
well the step he was about to take; gave him half a guinea, which he was
to repay at his convenience, with a desire at the same time that he
would go to the play, and shake off his melancholy, and not return to
him. The first part of the advice Coleridge attended to, but returned
after the play to the quarters he had left. At the sight of him, this
kind-hearted man burst into tears--"Then it must be so," said he. This
sudden and unexpected sympathy from an entire stranger deeply affected
Coleridge, and nearly shook his resolution; still considering the die
was cast, and that he could not in honour even to the sergeant, without
implicating him, retreat, he preserved his secret, and after a short
chat, they retired to rest.

In the morning, the sergeant, not unmindful of his duty to his
sovereign, mustered his recruits, and Coleridge, with his new comrades,
was marched to Reading. On his arrival at the quarters of the regiment,
the general of the district inspected the recruits, and looking hard at
Coleridge with a military air, enquired, "What's your name, sir?"
"Comberbach," (the name he had assumed.) "What do you come here for,
sir?" as if doubting whether he had any business there. "Sir," said
Coleridge, "for what most other persons come, to be made a soldier." "Do
you think," said the general, "you can run a Frenchman through the
body?" "I do not know," replied Coleridge, "as I never tried, but I'll
let a Frenchman run me through the body before I'll run away." "That
will do," said the general; and Coleridge was turned into the ranks.

The same amiable and benevolent conduct which was so interwoven in his
nature, soon made him friends, and his new comrades vied with each other
in their endeavours to be useful to him; and being, as before described,
rather helpless, he required the assistance of his fellow-soldiers. They
cleaned his horse, attended particularly to its heels, and to the
accoutrements. At this time he frequently complained of a pain at the
pit of his stomach, accompanied with sickness, which totally prevented
his stooping, and in consequence he could never arrive at the power of
bending his body to rub the heels of his horse, which alone was
sufficient to make him dependent on his comrades; but it should be
observed that he on his part was ever willing to assist them by being
their amanuensis when one was required, and wrote all their letters to
their sweethearts and wives. [10]

It appears that he never advanced beyond the awkward squad, and that the
drill-sergeant had little hope of his progress from the necessary
warnings he gave to the rest of the troop, even to this same squad to
which he belonged; and, though his awkward manoeuvres were well
understood, the sergeant would vociferously exclaim, "Take care of that
Comberbach, [11] take care of him, for he will ride over you," and other
such complimentary warnings. From the notice that one of his officers
took of him, he excited, for a short time, the jealousy of some of his
companions. When in the street, he walked behind this officer as an
orderly, but when out of town they walked abreast, and his comrades not
understanding how a soldier in the awkward squad merited this
distinction, thought it a neglect of themselves, which, for the time,
produced some additional discomfort to Coleridge.

I believe this officer to have been Capt. Ogle, [12] who I think visited
him in after life at Highgate. It seems that his attention had been
drawn to Coleridge in consequence of discovering the following sentence
in the stables, written in pencil, "Eheu! quam infortunii miserrimum est
fuisse felicem!" but his more immediate discovery arose from a young man
who had left Cambridge for the army, and in his road through Reading to
join his regiment, met Coleridge in the street in his Dragoon's dress,
who was about to pass him, but, said he,

"No, Coleridge, this will not do, we have been seeking you these six
months; I must and will converse with you, and have no hesitation in
declaring that I shall immediately inform your friends that I have
found you."

This led to Coleridge's return to Cambridge. The same story is also
related and made the ground work of some scene in a novel, without the
names, by his early friend, Charles Lloyd--he who was included by
Canning in the Anti-jacobin with Coleridge, Mr. Southey, and Lamb. He
returned to Cambridge, but did not long remain there; and quitted it
without taking a degree.

It has been observed, that men of genius move in orbits of their own;
and seem deprived of that free will which permits the mere man of talent
steadily to pursue the beaten path. Coleridge had very early pictured to
himself many of the advantages of mechanical employment, its immunities
and exemptions from the sufferings consequent on the laborious exercise
of 'thought'; but yet he never shrank from the task apparently allotted
to him; he was made to soar and not to creep; even as a young man, his
acquirements were far beyond the age in which he lived. With his amiable
qualities, and early love of domestic life, he would have been well
content to tread an humbler path, but it was otherwise ordained!

However excellent for the many, the system adopted by our universities
was ill suited for a mind like Coleridge's, and there were some who felt
that a College routine was not the kind of education which would best
evolve, cultivate, and bring into training powers so 'unique'. It has
been repeated, 'ad nauseam', that great minds will not descend to the
industrious accumulation of those acquirements best suited to fit them
for independence. To say that Coleridge would not 'condescend' would be
a calumny,--nay, when his health permitted, he would drudge and work
more laboriously at some of the mechanical parts of literature, than any
man I ever knew. To speak detractingly of great and good men is
frequently the result of malice combined with egotism. Though it would
be injustice not to admit that he has had warm admirers and deeply
affectionate friends, it is much to be regretted that there have been
persons who have strangely maligned Coleridge, and who have attributed
to him vices of which he was innocent. Had these vices existed, they
would not have found any unfair extenuation in this memoir, nor would
they have been passed over without notice. In answer to calumnies at
that time in circulation, (and with sorrow and just indignation it is
added that these reports originated with some who called themselves his
friends; but, alas! most false and hypocritical!) the following minute
from his notes is quoted:

"My academic adventures and indiscretions must have seemed
unpardonable sins," that is, as they were related by the tale-bearers
and gossips of the day. "I mention these," adds he, "because the only
immoralities that can without the grossest slander be laid to my
charge, were all comprised within the space of the last two years of
my College life. As I went to Cambridge innocent, so I dare affirm,
from the first week of my acquaintance with Robert Southey to this
hour, Southey himself cannot stand more clear of all intention at
violations of the moral law: but, in fact, even during my career at
Jesus, the heaviest of my offences consisted in the folly of assuming
the show of vices, from which I was all but free, and which in the
comparatively few exceptions left loathing and self-disgust on my
mind. Were I, indeed, to fix on that week of my existence, in which my
moral being would have presented to a pitying guardian angel the most
interesting spectacle, it would be that very week [13] in London, in
which I was believed by my family to have abandoned myself to
debauchery of all kinds, and 'thus' to have involved myself in
disreputable pecuniary embarrassments. God knows, so intense was my
mental anguish, that during the whole time I was physically incapable
even of a 'desire'. My whole body seemed stunned and insensate, from
excess of inward suffering--my debts were the 'cause', not the effect;
but that I know there can be no substitute for a father, I should
say,--surely, surely, the innocence of my whole 'pre' and 'post'
academic life, my early distinction, and even the fact, that my
Cambridge extravagations did not lose me, nor cool for me, the esteem
and regard of a single fellow collegiate, might have obtained an
amnesty from worse transgressions."

Coleridge, who had desponded at the fate of Middleton, after the
unsuccessful attempts he made to obtain a fellowship, lost all hope of
procuring an income from the college, and as, through the
instrumentality of Frend, with whom an intimacy had now taken place, he
had been converted to what in these days is called Unitarianism, he was
too conscientious to take orders and enter the Established Church. These
circumstances opened to him new views, and effected a complete change in
his course of life, and thus his former objects and plans were set
aside. The friendship between Coleridge and Southey having greatly
increased, and still continuing to increase, and Coleridge being easily
led by the affection of those he loved, for which he had a constant
yearning, determined to follow literature in future life as a
profession, that appearing to him the only source of obtaining an
honourable livelihood.

Here there was no "mad caprice," but he calmly decided to leave
Cambridge and join Southey in his plans for the future, and commence the
profession on which they had mutually agreed. He went to Oxford to visit
Mr. Southey, and thence to Wales, and thence to Bristol (Mr. Southey's
native place), at which city they conjointly commenced their career in
authorship, and for the first few months shared the same room.

The times were still tumultuous; for although the great hurricane of the
revolution ceased abroad, yet, like mighty waters that had been once
agitated by a storm, tranquillity was not restored, nor was there any
prospect of an immediate calm. The 'Habeas Corpus' act was at this time
suspended, and the minister of that day, Mr. Pitt, had struck the panic
of property among the wealthy and affluent. During the time of danger,
when surrounded by government emissaries, these youthful poets gave
lectures on politics, and that with impunity, to crowded audiences.
Coleridge met with one interruption only, and that from a hired partizan
who had assayed a disturbance at one of these lectures, in order to
implicate him and his party, and by this means to effect, if possible,
their incarceration. The gentleman who mentioned this in the presence of
Coleridge (when with me at Highgate) said--He (Coleridge) had commenced
his lecture when this intended disturber of the peace was heard uttering
noisy words at the foot of the stairs, where the fee of admission into
the room was to be paid. The receiver of the money on the alert ascended
the stairs and informed Coleridge of the man's insolence and his
determination not to pay for his admission. In the midst of the lecture
Coleridge stopped, and said loud enough to be heard by the individual,
that before the intruder "kicked up a dust, he would surely down with
the dust," and desired the man to admit him. The individual had not long
been in the room before he began hissing, this was succeeded by loud
claps from Coleridge's party, which continued for a few minutes, but at
last they grew so warm that they began to vociferate, "Turn him
out!"--"Turn him out!"--"Put him out of the window!" Fearing the
consequences of this increasing clamour, the lecturer was compelled to
request silence, and addressed them as follows: "Gentlemen, ours is the
cause of liberty! that gentleman has as much right to hiss as you to
clap, and you to clap as he to hiss; but what is to be expected,
gentlemen, when the cool waters of reason come in contact with red hot
aristocracy but a hiss?" When the loud laugh ended, silence ensued, and
the rebuke was treasured and related. [14]

The terms aristocrat, democrat, and jacobin, were the fashionable
opprobrious epithets of the day; and well do I remember, the man who had
earned by his politics the prefix of jacobin to his name, was completely
shunned in society, whatever might be his moral character: but, as might
be expected, this was merely ephemeral, when parties ran high, and were
guided and governed more by impulses and passion than by principle.

"Truth I pursued, as Fancy sketch'd the way,
And wiser men than I went worse astray."

Men of the greatest sense and judgment possessing good hearts are, on
the review of the past, more disposed to think 'well' of the young men
of that day, who, from not exercising their reason, were carried into
the vortex of the revolution. Much has been written on the proposed
scheme of settling in the wilds of America;--the spot chosen was
Susquehannah,--this spot Coleridge has often said was selected, on
account of the name being pretty and metrical, indeed he could never
forbear a smile when relating the story. This day-dream, as he termed
it, (for such it really was) the detail of which as related by him
always gave it rather a sportive than a serious character, was a subject
on which it is doubtful whether he or Mr. Southey were really in earnest
at the time it was planned. The dream was, as is stated in the "Friend,"
that the little society to be formed was, in its second generation, to
have combined the innocence of the patriarchal age with the knowledge
and general refinements of European culture, and "I dreamt," says he,
"that in the sober evening of my life I should behold colonies of
independence in the undivided dale of industry." Strange fancies! 'and
as vain as strange'! This scheme, sportive, however, as it might be, had
its admirers; and there are persons now to be found, who are desirous of
realizing these visions, the past-time in thought and fancy of these
young poets--then about 23 years of age. During this dream, and about
this time, Southey and Coleridge married two sisters of the name of
Fricker, and a third sister was married to an Utopian poet as he has
been called, of the name of Lovel, whose poems were published with Mr.
Southey's. They were, however, too wise to leave Bristol for America,
for the purpose of establishing a genuine system of property--a
Pantisocracy, which was to be their form of government--and under which
they were to realize all their new dreams of happiness. Marriage, at all
events, seems to have sobered them down, and the vision vanished.

Chimerical as it appeared, the purveyors of amusement for the reading
public were thus furnished with occupation, and some small pecuniary
gain, while it exercised the wit of certain anti-Jacobin writers of the
day, and raised them into notice. Canning had the faculty of satire to
an extraordinary degree, and also that common sense tact, which made his
services at times so very useful to his country; his powers seemed in
their full meridian of splendour when an argument or new doctrine
permitted him rapidly to run down into its consequence, and then
brilliantly and wittily to skew its defects. In this he eminently
excelled. The beauties of the anti-Jacobin are replete with his satire.
He never attempted a display of depth, but his dry sarcasm left a sting
which those he intended to wound carried off 'in pain and mortfication'.
This scheme of Pantisocracy excited a smile among the kind-hearted and
thinking part of mankind; but, among the vain and restless ignorant
would-be-political economists, it met with more attention; and they,
with their microscopic eyes, fancied they beheld in it what was not
quite so visible to the common observer. Though the plan was soon
abandoned, it was thought sufficient for the subject of a lecture, and
afforded some mirth when the minds of the parties concerned in it
arrived at manhood. Coleridge saw, soon after it was broached, that no
scheme of colonizing that was not based on religion could be
permanent.--Left to the disturbing forces of the human passions to which
it would be exposed, it would soon perish; for all government to be
permanent should be influenced by reason, and guided by religion.

In the year 1795 Coleridge, residing then at Clevedon, a short distance
from Bristol, published his first prose work, with some additions by Mr.
Southey, the "Conciones ad Populum." In a short preface he observes,

"The two following addresses were delivered in the month of February,
1795, and were followed by six others in defence of natural and
revealed religion. 'There is a time to keep silence,' saith King
Solomon;--but when I proceeded to the first verse of the fourth
chapter of the Ecclesiastes, 'and considered all the oppressions that
are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were
oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their
oppressors there was power,' I concluded this was _not_ the 'time to
keep silence;' for truth should be spoken at all times, but more
especially at those times when to speak truth is dangerous."

In these addresses he showed that the example of France was a warning to
Great Britain; but, because he did not hold opinions equally violent
with the Jacobin party of that day, he was put down as an anti-Jacobin;
for, he says, "the annals of the French revolution have been recorded in
letters of blood, that the knowledge of the few cannot counteract the
ignorance of the many; that the light of philosophy, when it is confined
to a small minority, points out its possessors as the victims, rather
than the illuminators of the multitude. The patriots of France either
hastened into the dangerous and gigantic error of making certain evils
the means of contingent good, or were sacrificed by the mob, with whose
prejudices and ferocity their unbending virtue forbade them to
assimilate. Like Samson, the people were strong, like Samson, they were
also blind:" and he admonishes them at the end of the third lecture to
do all things in the spirit of love.

"It is worthy of remark," says he, in a MS. note, "that we may possess
a thing in such fulness as to prevent its possession from being an
object of distinct consciousness. Only as it lessens or dims, we
reflect on it, and learn to value it. This is one main cause why young
men of high and ardent minds find nothing repulsive in the doctrines
of necessity, which, in after years, they (as I have) recoil from.
Thus, too, the faces of friends dearly beloved become distinct in
memory or dream only after long absence." Of the work itself he says,
"Except the two or three pages involving the doctrine of philosophical
necessity and Unitarianism, I see little or nothing in these
'outbursts' of my 'youthful' zeal to 'retract', and with the exception
of some flame-coloured epithets applied to persons, as to Mr. Pitt and
others, or rather to personifications (for such they really were to
'me') as little to regret. Qualis ab initio [Greek: estaesae] S.T.C.
[15] When a rifacimento of the 'Friend' took place, [1818] at vol. ii.
p. 240, he states his reasons for reprinting the lecture referred to,
one of the series delivered at Bristol in the year 1794-95, because,
says he, "This very lecture, vide p. 10, has been referred to in an
infamous libel in proof of the author's Jacobinism."

When the mind of Coleridge was more matured he did not omit this truth,
which has never been refuted, that the aristocratic system "had its
golden side, for the noblest minds; but I

"should," continues he, "act the part of a coward if I disguised my
conviction that the errors of the aristocratic party were as gross,
and far less excusable than those of the Jacobin. Instead of
contenting themselves with opposing the real blessing of English law
to the 'splendid promises of untried theory', too large a part of
those who called themselves 'anti-Jacobins', did all in their power to
suspend those blessings; and they furnished 'new arguments to the
advocates of innovation', when they should have been answering 'the
old ones!'"

But, whatever were his opinions, they were founded on 'principle', and
with the exception of the two above alluded to, he ought never to be
accused of changing. Some years since, the late Charles Matthews, the
comedian, (or rather, as Coleridge used to observe, "the comic poet
acting his own poems,") showed me an autograph letter from Mr.
Wordsworth to Matthews' brother, (who was at that time educating for the
bar) and with whom he corresponded. In this letter he made the following
observation, "To-morrow I am going to Bristol to see those two
extraordinary young men, Southey and Coleridge," Mr. Wordsworth then
residing at Allfoxden. They soon afterwards formed an intimacy, which
continued (though not without some little interruption) during his life,
as his "Biographia Literaria" and his will attest.

Mr. Coleridge's next work was the "Watchman" in numbers--a miscellany to
be published every eighth day. The first number appeared on the 5th of
February, 1796. This work was a report of the state of the political
atmosphere, to be interspersed with sketches of character and verse. It
reached the 10th number, and was then dropped; the editor taking leave
of his readers in the following address:

"This is the last number of the Watchman. Henceforward I shall cease
to cry the state of the political atmosphere. While I express my
gratitude to those friends who exerted themselves so liberally in the
establishment of this miscellany, I may reasonably be expected to
assign some reason for relinquishing it thus abruptly. The reason is
short and satisfactory. The work does not pay its expences. Part of my
subscribers have relinquished it because it did not contain sufficient
original composition, and a still larger because it contained too
much. I have endeavoured to do well; and it must be attributed to
defect of ability, not of inclination or effort, if the words of the
prophet be altogether applicable to me, 'O watchman! thou hast watched
in vain!'"

Mr. Coleridge has given us in the "Biographia Literaria" a very lively
account of his opinions, adventures, and state of feeling during this
canvass in quest of subscribers.

"Towards the close of the first year, that inauspicious hour," (it was,
indeed, and for several reasons an "inauspicious hour" for him,) "when I
left the friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever-honoured
Jesus' College, Cambridge, to set on foot a periodical, entitled the
'Watchman,' that (according to the motto of the work) 'all might know
the truth, and that truth might make us free!'

"With a flaming prospectus 'Knowledge is power,' &c. and to cry the
state of the political atmosphere and so forth, I set off on a tour to
the north, from Bristol to Sheffield, for the purpose of procuring
customers, preaching by the way in most great towns, as a hireless
volunteer, in a blue coat and white waistcoat, that not a rag of the
woman of Babylon might be seen on me; for I was at that time, though a
Trinitarian (i.e. ad normam Platonis) in philosophy, yet a zealous
Unitarian in religion; more accurately, I was a psilanthropist, one of
those who believe our Lord to have been the real son of Joseph, and
who lay the main stress on the resurrection rather than on the
crucifixion. Oh! never can I remember those days with either shame or
regret, for I was most sincere! most disinterested! My opinions were,
indeed, in many and most important points erroneous, but my heart was
single! Wealth, rank, life itself then seemed cheap to me, compared
with the interests of (what I believe to be) the truth and the will of
my Maker. I cannot even accuse myself of having been actuated by
vanity; for, in the expansion of my enthusiasm, I did not think of
myself at all.

My campaign commenced at Birmingham, and my first attack was on a
rigid Calvinist, a tallow-chandler by trade. He was a tall dingy man,
in whom length was so predominant over breadth, that he might almost
have been borrowed for a foundry poker. O that face! a face, [Greek:
kat' emphasin!] I have it before me at this moment. The lank, black
twine-like hair, pingui-nitescent, cut in a straight line, along the
black stubble of his thin gunpowder eyebrows, that looked like a
scorched aftermath from a last week's shaving. His coat collar behind
in perfect unison, both of colour and lustre, with the coarse, yet
glib cordage that I suppose he called his hair, and which with a
'bend' inward at the nape of the neck, (the only approach to flexure
in his whole figure) slunk in behind his waistcoat; while the
countenance lank, dark, very 'hard', and with strong perpendicular
furrows, gave me a dim notion of some one looking at me through a
'used' gridiron, all soot, grease, and iron! A person to whom one of
my letters of recommendation had been addressed, was my introducer.

It was a 'new event' in my life, my first 'stroke' in the new business
I had undertaken of an author; yes, and of an author on his own
account. I would address," says Coleridge, "an affectionate
exhortation to the youthful literati on my own experience. It will be
but short; for the beginning, middle, and end converge to one charge.
NEVER PURSUE LITERATURE AS A TRADE. [16] My companion," says he,
"after some imperfect sentences, and a multitude of hums and hahs,
abandoned the cause to his client; and I commenced an harangue of half
an hour to Phileleutheros, the tallow-chandler, varying my notes
through the whole gamut of eloquence, from the ratiocinative to the
declamatory, and, in the latter, from the pathetic to the indignant.
My taper man of lights listened with perseverant and praiseworthy
patience, though (as I was afterwards told, in complaining of certain
gales that were not altogether ambrosial,) it was a melting day with
him. And what, sir! (he said, after a short pause,) might the cost be?
only FOURPENCE, (O! how I felt the anti-climax, the abysmal bathos of
that FOURPENCE!) 'only fourpence, sir, each number, to be published on
every eighth day'. That comes to a deal of money at the end of a year;
and how much did you say there was to be for the money? Thirty-two
pages, sir! large octavo, closely printed. Thirty and two pages? Bless
me, why except what I does in a family way on the sabbath, that's more
than I ever reads, sir! all the year round. I am as great a one as any
man in Brummagem, sir! for liberty and truth, and all them sort of
things, but as to this, (no offence, I hope, sir!) I must beg to be
excused. So ended my first canvass."

Much the same indifference was shewn him at Manchester, &c., but he
adds:--"From this rememberable tour, I returned nearly a thousand
names on the subscription list of the 'Watchman;' yet more than half
convinced that prudence dictated the abandonment of the scheme; but
for this very reason I persevered in it; for I was at that period of
my life so completely hagridden by the fear of being influenced by
selfish motives, that to know a mode of conduct to be the dictate of
'prudence', was a sort of presumptive proof to my feelings, that the
contrary was the dictate of 'duty'. Accordingly, I commenced the work,
which was announced in London by long bills in letters larger than had
ever been seen before, and which (I have been informed, for I did not
see them myself) eclipsed the glories even of the lottery puffs; but,
alas! the publication of the very first number was delayed beyond the
day announced for its appearance. In the second number, an essay
against fast days, with a most censurable application of a text from
Isaiah, for its motto, lost me near five hundred of my subscribers at
one blow.

In the two following numbers, I made enemies of all my Jacobin and
democratic patrons; for, disgusted by their infidelity and their
adoption of French morals, and French philosophy, and, perhaps,
thinking that charity ought to begin nearest home, instead of abusing
the government and the aristocrats chiefly or entirely, as had been
expected of me, I levelled my attacks at ''modern patriotism',' and
even ventured to declare my belief, that whatever the motives of
ministers might have been for the sedition (or as it was then the
fashion to call them) the gagging bills, yet the bills themselves
would produce an effect to be desired by all the true friends of
freedom, as far they should contribute to deter men from openly
declaiming on subjects, the 'principles of which they had never
bottomed', and from 'pleading 'to' the 'poor and ignorant', instead of
pleading for them.'

At the same time I avowed my conviction, that national education, and
a concurring spread of the gospel were the indispensable condition of
any true political amelioration. Thus, by the time the seventh number
was published, I had the mortification (but why should I say this,
when, in truth, I cared too little for any thing that concerned my
worldly interests, to be at all mortified about it?) of seeing the
preceding numbers exposed in sundry old iron shops for a penny a
piece. At the ninth number I dropped the work." He never recovered the
money of his London publisher, and but little from his subscribers,
and as he goes on to say:--"Must have been thrown into jail by my
printer, for a sum between eighty and ninety pounds, if the money had
not been paid for me by a man, by no means affluent, a dear friend who
attached himself to me from my first arrival at Bristol, who continued
my friend with a fidelity unconquered by time, or even by my own
apparent neglect; a friend from whom I never received an advice that
was not gentle and affectionate." (p. 177.)

Coleridge's reputation from boyhood quietly increased, not through the
favor, but the censure of reviewers. It was this which, contrary to
their wishes, diffused his name as poet and philosopher. So long as
there are readers to be gratified by calumny, there will always be found
writers eager to furnish a supply; and he had other enemies,
unacquainted with the critical profession, yet morbidly vain, and
because disappointed in their literary hopes, no less malignant.

Alas! how painful it is to witness at times the operation of some of the
human passions.--Should envy take the lead, her twin sisters, hatred and
malice, follow as auxiliaries in her train,--and, in the struggles for
ascendancy and extension of her power, she subverts those principles
which might impede her path, and then speedily effects the destruction
of all the kindly feelings most honourable to man.

Coleridge was conscientiously an opponent of the first revolutionary
war, because he abhorred the principles; and it was part of his
political creed, that whoever ceased

"to act as an 'individual' by making himself a member of any society
not sanctioned by his government, forfeited the rights of a citizen."

He was at that time "a vehement anti-ministerialist," but, after the
invasion of Switzerland, a more vehement anti-Gallican, and still more
intensely an anti-Jacobin:

"I retired," said he, "to a cottage at Stowey, and provided for my
scanty maintenance by writing verses for a London Morning Paper. I saw
plainly, that literature was not a profession by which I could expect
to live; for 'I could not disguise from myself', that whatever my
talents might or might not be in other respects, yet they were not of
that 'sort' that 'could enable me to become a popular writer'; and
that whatever my opinions might be in themselves, they were almost
equi-distant from all the three opposite parties, the Pittites, the
Foxites, and the democrats. Of the unsaleable nature of my writings I
had an amusing memento one morning from our servant girl. For
happening to rise at an earlier hour than usual, I observed her
putting an extravagant quantity of paper into the grate in order to
light the fire, and mildly checked her for her wastefulness; La, Sir!
(replied poor Nanny) why, it is only WATCHMEN."

There was at last a pause, as each party seemed worn out; for, "the
hand of Providence had disciplined 'all' Europe into sobriety, as men
tame wild elephants by alternate blows and caresses: now, that
Englishmen of all classes are restored to their old English notions
and feelings, it will with difficulty be credited, how great an
influence was at that time possessed and exerted by the spirit of
secret defamation (the too constant attendant on party zeal!) during
the restless interim, from 1793 to the commencement of the Addington
administration, or the year before the truce of Amiens."

In short, the exhaustion which had followed the great stimulus, disposed
individuals to reconciliation. Both parties found themselves in the
wrong, the one had mistaken the moral character of the revolution, and
the other had miscalculated its physical resources. The experiment was
made at the price of great, we may say, of almost humiliating
sacrifices; and wise men foresaw that it would fail, at least, in its
direct and ostensible object. Yet it was purchased cheaply, and realized
an object of equal value, and, if possible, of more vital importance;
for it brought about a national unanimity, unexampled in our history
since the reign of Elizabeth; and Providence, never failing to do his
part when men have done theirs, soon provided a common focus in the
cause of Spain, which made us all once more Englishmen, by gratifying
and correcting the predilections of each party. The sincere reverers of
the throne felt the cause of loyalty ennobled by its alliance with that
of freedom while the 'honest' zealots of the people could not but admit
that freedom itself assumed a more winning form, humanized by loyalty,
and 'consecrated' by 'religious principle'.


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