« AnteriorContinuar »
founders believed to depend. None have revived bach on natural history and physiology, and the the phantasy since; but Coleridge has lived to lectures of Eichhorn on the New Testament; and sober down his early extravagant views of political from professor Tychven he learned the Gothic freedom into something like a disavowal of having grammar. He read the Minnesinger and the held them; but he has never changed into a foe verses of Hans Sachs, the Nuremberg cobbler, but of the generous principles of human freedom, his time was principally devoted to literature and which he ever espoused; while Southey has be- philosophy. At the end of his "Biographia Liter come the enemy of political and religious freedom, aria," Coleridge has published some letters, which the supporter and advocate of arbitrary measures relate to his sojourn in Germany. He sailed, Sepin church and state, and the vituperator of all who tember 16th, 1798, and on the 19th landed at Hamsupport the recorded principles of his early years. burgh. It was on the 20th of the same month About this time, and with the same object, that he says he was introduced to the brother of namely, to spread the principles of true liberty, the great poet Klopstock, to professor Ebeling, Coleridge began a weekly paper called "The and ultimately to the poet himself. He had an Watchman," which only reached its ninth num-impression of awe on his spirits when he set out ber, though the editor set out on his travels to pro- to visit the German Milton, whose humble house cure subscribers among the friends of the doc- stood about a quarter of a mile from the city gate. trines he espoused, and visited Birmingham, He was much disappointed in the countenance of Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, and Sheffield, Klopstock, which was inexpressive, and without for the purpose. The failure of this paper was a peculiarity in any of the features. Klopstock was severe mortification to the projector. No ground lively and courteous; talked of Milton and Glover, was gained on the score of liberty, though about and preferred the verse of the latter to the former, the same time his self-love was flattered by the -a very curious mistake, but natural enough in a success of a volume of poems, which he repub-foreigner. He spoke with indignation of the Engfished, with some communications from his friends lish translations of his Messiah. He said his first ode was fifty years older than his last, and hoped Coleridge would revenge him on Englishmen by translating his Messiah.
Lamb and Lloyd.
Coleridge married Miss Sarah Fricker in the autumn of 1795, and in the following year his eldest son, Hartley, was born. Two more sons, On his return from Germany, Coleridge went to Berkley and Derwent, were the fruits of this union. reside at Keswick, in Cumberland. He had made In 1797, he resided at Nether Stowey, a village a great addition to his stock of knowledge, and he near Bridgewater, in Somersetshire, and wrote seems to have spared no pains to store up what there in the spring, at the desire of Sheridan, a was either useful or speculative. He had become tragedy, which was, in 1813, brought out under master of most of the early German writers, or the title of "Remorse:" the name it originally rather of the state of early German literature. He bore was Osorio. There were some circumstances dived deeply into the mystical stream of Teutonic in this business that led to a suspicion of Sheridan's philosophy. There the predilections of his earlier not having acted with any great regard to truth years no doubt came upon him in aid of his or feeling. During his residence here, Coleridge researches into a labyrinth which no human clue was in the habit of preaching every Sunday at the will ever unravel; or which were one found caUnitarian Chapel in Taunton, and was greatly pable of so doing, would reveal a mighty nothing. respected by the better class of his neighbors. He Long, he says, while meditating in England, had enjoyed the friendship of Wordsworth, who lived his heart been with Paul and John, and his head at Allfoxden, about two miles from Stowey, and with Spinoza. He then became convinced of the was occasionally visited by Charles Lamb, John doctrine of St. Paul, and from an anti trinitarian Thelwall, and other congenial spirits. "The became a believer in the Trinity, and in ChrisBrook," a poem that he planned about this period, tianity as commonly received; or, to use his own I was never completed.
word, found a "re-conversion." Yet, for all his Coleridge had married before he possessed the arguments on the subject, he had better have means of supporting a family, and he depended retained his early creed, and saved the time wasted principally for subsistence, at Stowey, upon his in travelling back to exactly the same point where uterary labors, the remuneration for which could he set out, for he finds that faith necessary at last be but scanty. At length, in 1798, the kind patron- which he had been taught, in his church, was age of the late Thomas Wedgwood, Esq., who necessary at his first outset in life. His arguments, granted him a pension of 100l. a-year, enabled pro and con, not being of use to any of the com him to plan a visit to Germany; to which country munity, and the exclusive property of their owner, he proceeded with Wordsworth, and studied the he had only to look back upon his laborious trifling, language at Ratzeburg, and then went to Gottin- as Grotius did upon his own toils, when death was gen. He there attended the lectures of Blumen- upon him. Metaphysics are most unprofitable
things; as political economists say, their labors deavored to show that his own writings in the are of the most "unproductie class" in the com- Morning Post were greatly influential on the pubmunity of thinkers. lic mind. Coleridge himself confessed that his
man dramatist. This version was made from a copy which the author himself afterwards revised and altered, and the translator subsequently republished his version in a more correct form, with the additional passages and alterations of Schiller. This translation will long remain as the most
of the German dramatists in the British tongue.
The next step of our poet in a life which seems Morning Post essays, though written in defence to have had no settled object, but to have been or furtherance of the measures of the government, steered compassless along, was to undertake the added nothing to his fortune or reputation. How political and literary departments of the Morning should they have been effective, when their writer, Post newspaper, and in the duties of this situation who not long before addressed the people, and he was engaged in the spring of 1802. No man echoed from his compositions the principles of free. was less fitted for a popular writer; and, in com- dom and the rights of the people, now wrote with mon with his early connexions, Coleridge seems scorn of "mob-sycophants," and of the "half-witto have had no fixed political principles that the ted vulgar?" It is a consolation to know that our public could understand, though he perhaps was author himself lamented the waste of his manhood able to reconcile in his own bosom all that others and intellect in this way. What might he not might imagine contradictory, and no doubt he did have given to the world that is enduring and adso conscientiously. His style and manner of mirable, in the room of these misplaced political writing, the learning and depth of his disquisitions lucubrations! Who that has read his better works for ever came into play, and rendered him unin- will not subscribe to this truth? telligible, or, what is equally fatal, unreadable to His translation of Schiller's Wallenstein may be It was singular, too, that he disclosed denominated a free one, and is finely executed in his biography so strongly his unsettled political It is impossible to give in the English language a principles, which showed that he had not studied more effective idea of the work of the great Gerpolitics as he had studied poetry, Kant, and theology The public of each party looks upon a political writer as a sort of champion round whom it rallies, and feels it impossible to follow the changeable leader, or applaud the addresses of him who is inconsistent or wavering in principles: it will not back out any but the firm unflinching effective which has been achieved of the works partisan. In truth, what an ill compliment do men pay to their own judgment, when they run counter to, and shift about from points they have declared in indelible ink are founded on truth and reason irrefutable and eternal! They must either have been superficial smatterers in what they first promulgated, and have appeared prematurely in print, or they must be tinctured with something like the hue of uncrimsoned apostasy. The members of what is called the "Lake School" have been more or less strongly marked with this reprehensible change of political creed, but Coleridge the least of them. In truth he got nothing by any change he ventured upon, and, what is more, he expected nothing; the world is therefore bound to say of him what cannot be said of his friends, if it be true, that it believes most cordially in his sincerity and that his obliquity in politics was caused by his superficial knowledge of them, and nis devotion of his high mental powers to different. questions. Notwithstanding this, those who will not make a candid allowance for him, have expressed wonder how the author of the "Consciones ad Populum," and the "Watchman," the friend of freedom, and one of the founders of the Pantisocracy, could afterwards regard the drivelling and chicanery of the pettifogging minister, Perceval, as glorious in British political history, and he nimself as the "best and wisest" of ministers! Although Coleridge avowed his belief that he was not calculated for a popular writer, he en
The censure which has been cast upon our poet for not writing more which is worthy of his reputation, has been met by his enumeration of what he has done in all ways and times; and, in truth, he wrote a vast deal which passed unnoticed, upon fleeting politics, and in newspaper columns, literary as well as political. To the world these last go for nothing, though the author calculated the thought and labor they cost him at full value. He conceded something, however, to the prevailing idea respecting him, when he said, "On my own account, I may perhaps have had sufficient reason to lament my deficiency in selfcontrol, and the neglect of concentrating my pow. ers to the realization of some permanent work. But to verse, rather than to prose, if to either, belongs the voice of mourning,' for
Keen pangs of love awakening as a babe
S. T. C."
In another part of his works, Coleridge says speaking of what in poetry he had written, “as to myself, I have published so little, anu that little
of so little importance, as to make it almost ludi- It is equally creditable to the taste and judgment crous to mention my name at all." It is evident, of Coleridge, that he was one of the first to point therefore, that a sense of what he might have done out, with temper and sound reasoning, the fallacy for fame, and of the little he had done, was felt of a great portion of Wordsworth's poetic theory by the poet; and yet, the little he did produce has namely, that which relates to low life. Wordsamong it gems of the purest lustre, the brilliancy worth contended that a proper poetic diction is a of which time will not deaden until the universal language taken from the mouths of men in genevoice of nature be heard no longer, and poetry ral, in their natural conversation under the influperish beneath the dull load of life's hackneyed ence of natural feelings. Coleridge wisely asserted, realities. that philosophers are the authors of the best parts The poem of Christabel," Coleridge says, was of language, not clowns; and that Milton's lancomposed in consequence of an agreement with guage is more that of real life than the language Mr. Wordsworth, that they should mutually pro- of a cottager. This subject he has most ably duce specimens of poetry which should contain treated in chapter 17 of his Biographia Literaria. "the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader, Two years after he had abandoned the Morning by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and Post, he set off for Malta, where he most unexthe power of giving the interest of novelty by pectedly arrived on a visit to his friend Dr. Stodart, the modifying colors of imagination. The sudden then king's advocate in that island, and was incharm, which accidents of light and shade, which troduced by him to the Governor, Sir Alexander moon-light or sun-set diffused over a known and Ball, who appointed him his secretary. He refamiliar landscape, appeared to represent the prac-mained in the island fulfilling the duties of his ticability of combining both." Further he ob- situation, for which he seems to have been but serves on this thought, "that a series of poems indifferently qualified, a very short period. One might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the advantage, however, he derived from his official mcidents and agents were to be, in part at least, employ: that of the pension granted by Governsupernatural; and the excellence to be aimed at ment to those who have served in similar situawas to consist in the interesting of the affections tions. On his way home he visited Italy; entered by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would Rome, and examined its host of ancient and modnaturally accompany such situations, supposing ern curiosities, and added fresh matter for thought them real, etc. For the second class, subjects to his rapidly accumulating store of ideas. Of were to be chosen from ordinary life." Thus, it this visit he gives several anecdotes; among them appears, originated the poems of the "Ancient one respecting the horns of Moses on Michael Mariner," and "Christabel," by Coleridge, and the "Lyrical Ballads" of Wordsworth.
Angelo's celebrated statue of that lawgiver, in tended to elucidate the character of Frenchmen Perhaps there is no English writer living who Coleridge was all his life a hater of France and understood better than Coleridge the elements of Frenchmen, arising from his belief in their being poetry, and the way in which they may be best completely destitute of moral or poetical feeling. * combined to produce certain impressions. His A Prussian, who was with him while looking upon definitions of the merits and differences in style the statue, observed that a Frenchman was the only and poetic genius, between the earliest and latest animal, "in the human shape, that by no possiwriters of his country, are superior to those which bility can lift itself up to religion or poetry." A any one else has it in his power to make; for, in foolish and untrue remark on the countrymen of truth, he long and deeply meditated upon them, Fenelon and Pascal, of Massillon and Corneille. and no one can be dissatisfied by the reasons he Just then, however, two French officers of rank gives, and the examples he furnishes, to bear out happened to enter the church, and the Goth from his theories and opinions. These things he did the Elbe remarked that, the first things they would as well or better in conversation than in writing. notice would be the "horns and beard” (upon which His conversational powers were indeed unrivalled, the Prussian and Coleridge had just been rearing and it is to be feared that to excel in these, he theories and quoting history), and that the associ sacrificed what was more durable; and that he ations the Frenchmen would connect with them resigned, for the pleasure of gratifying an attentive" would be those of a he-goat and a cuckold." It listening circle, and pleasing thereby his self-love happened that the Prus-Goth was right: the offi by its applause, much that would have delighted cers did pass some such joke upon the figure. the world. His flow of words, delivery, and va- Hence, by inference, would the poet have his riety of information were so great, and he found readers deduce the character of a people, whose it so captivating to enchain his auditors to the car literature, science, and civilization are perhaps of his triumphant eloquence, that he sacrificed to only not the very first in the world. this gratification what might have sufficed to confer upon him a celebrity a thousand times of every thing French, occurred during the demore to be coveted by a spirit akin to his own. livery of a course of Lectures on Poetry, at the
Another instance of his fixed and absurd dislike
Royal Institution, in the spring of 1808; in one of which he astonished his auditory by thanking his Maker, in the most serious manner, for so ordering events, that he was totally ignorant of a single word of "that frightful jargon, the French language!" And yet, notwithstanding this public avowal of his entire ignorance of the language, Mr. Coleridge is said to have been in the habit, while conversing with his friends, of expressing the utmost contempt for the literature of that country!
In the years 1809-10, Mr. Coleridge issued from Grasmere a weekly essay, stamped to be sent by the general post, called "The Friend." This paper lasted for twenty-seven numbers, and was then abruptly discontinued; but the papers have since been collected and enlarged in three small volumes.
rality and Religion; illustrated by select passages from our older Divines, especially from Arch. bishop Leighton." This is for the most part a compilation of extracts from the works of the Archbishop.
To conclude the catalogue of Mr. Coleridge's works, in 1830 was issued a small volume "On the Constitution of the Church and State, accord. ing to the idea of each, with Aids towards a right Judgment on the late Catholic Bill."
In the year 1828, the whole of his poetical works, including the dramas of Wallenstein (which had been long out of print), Remorse, and Zapolya, were collected in three elegant volumes by Mr. Pickering.
The latter years of Mr. Coleridge's life were made easy by a domestication with his friend Mr. Gillman, the surgeon of Highgate Grove, and for In the year 1812, Mr. Coleridge, being in Lon- some years, the poet deservedly received an andon, edited, and contributed several very interest-nuity from his Majesty of £100 per annum, as ing articles to, Mr. Southey's "Omniana," in two an Academician of the Royal Society of Literasmall volumes. In the year 1816, appeared the ture. But these few most honorable pensions to Biographical Sketches of his Literary Life and worn-out veterans in literature were discontinued Opinions, and his newspaper Poems re-collected by the late ministry. Mr. Coleridge contributed under the title of "Sibylline Leaves." one or two erudite papers to the transactions of this Society. In the summer of 1828, Mr. Coleridge made the tour of Holland, Flanders, and up the Rhine as far as Bergen. For some years before his death, he was afflicted with great bodily pain; and was on one occasion heard to say, that for thirteen months he had from this cause walked up and down his chamber seventeen hours each day. He died on the 25th of July, 1834, having previously written the following epitaph for himself:
About this time he wrote the prospectus of "The Encyclopædia Metropolitana," still in the course of publication, and was intended to be its editor; but this final mistake was early discovered and rectified.
"Stop, Christian passer-by! stop, child of God!
In the year 1816 likewise was published by Mr. Murray, at the recommendation of Lord Byron, who had generously befriended the brother (or rather the father) poet, the wondrous ballad tale of "Christabel." The author tells us in his preface that the first part of it was written in his great poetic year, 1797, at Stowey; the second part, after his return from Germany, in 1800, at Keswick the conclusion yet remains to be written! The poet says, indeed, in this preface, "As in my very first conception of the tale, I had the whole present to my mind, I trust that I shall yet be able to embody in verse the three parts yet to come "We do not pretend to contradict a poet's dreams; but we believe that Mr. Coleridge never communicated to mortal man, woman, or child, how this story of witchcraft was to end. The poem is, perhaps, more interesting as a fragment. For sixteen years we remember it used to be recited and transcribed by admiring disciples, till at length it was printed, and at least half the charm of the poet was broken by the counterspell of that rival magician, Faust. In 1818 was pub-west of England; and the poet's daughter is lished the drama of Zapolya. In 1825, “Aids to Reflection, in the Formation of a Manly Character, on the several grounds of Prudence, Mo
This is perfection-worthy of the author of the best essay on epitaphs in the English language. He was buried in Highgate Church. He has left three children, namely, Hartley, Derwent, and Sara. The first has published a volume of poems, of which it is enough to say that they are worthy of Mr. Wordsworth's verses addressed to him at "six years old." The second son is in holy orders, and is married and settled in the
united to her learned and lively cousin, Mr. Henry Nelson Coleridge, the author of "Six Months in the West Indies." This young lady had the good
and subjected for a few minutes to the ethereal influence of that wonderful man's monologue, and he will begin to believe himself a poet. The bar
fortune to be educated in the noble library on the banks of the Cumberland Greta, where she assisted her accomplished uncle in translating from the old French the history of the Chevalier Bay-ren wilderness may not blossom like the rose; but ard, and from the Latin the account of the Abipones, or Equestrian Indians of South America, by the Jesuit Martin Dobrizhoffer; both of which works were published by Mr. Murray.
"But of his native speech, because well nigh
A garrulous but a lively tale, and fraught
SOUTHEY'S Tale of Paraguay.
The following brief sketches of Coleridge's character are selected from among the numerous notices which appeared in various reviews and periodicals at the time of his decease.
it will seem, or rather feel to do so, under the lustre of an imagination exhaustless as the sun.'
"At the house of the attached friend, under whose roof this illustrious man spent the latter years of his life, it was the custom to have a conversazione every Thursday evening. Here Coleridge was the centre and admiration of the circle that gathered round him. He could not be otherwise than aware of the intellectual homage of which he was the object; yet there he sate, talking and looking all sweet and simple and divine things, the very personification of meekness and humility. Now he spoke of passing occurrences, or of surrounding objects,-the flowers on the table, or the dog on the hearth; and enlarged in most familiar wise on the beauty of the one, the attachment, the almost moral nature of the other, and the wonders that were involved in each. And now, soaring upward with amazing majesty, into "As a great poet, and a still greater philoso- those sublimer regions in which his soul depher, the world has hardly yet done justice to the lighted, and abstracting himself from the things genius of Coleridge. It was in truth of an order of time and sense, the strength of his wing soon not to be appreciated in a brief space. A far carried him out of sight. And here, even in these longer life than that of Coleridge shall not suffice his eagle flights, although the eye in gazing after to bring to maturity the harvest of a renown like him was dazzled and blinded, yet ever and anon his. The ripening of his mind, with all its golden a sunbeam would make its way through the loop. fruitage, is but the seed-time of his glory. The holes of the mind, giving it to discern that beauclose and consummation of his labors (grievous tiful amalgamation of heart and spirit, that could to those that knew him, and even to those that equally raise him above his fellow-men, or bring knew him not,) is the mere commencement of him down again to the softest level of humanity. his eternity of fame. As a poet, Coleridge was It is easy,' says the critic before alluded to,-'it unquestionably great; as a moralist, a theologian, is easy to talk-not very difficult to speechify— and a philosopher, of the very highest class, be hard to speak; but to 'discourse' is a gift rarely was utterly unapproachable. And here, gentle bestowed by Heaven on mortal man. Coleridge reader, let me be plainly understood as speaking not merely of the present, but the past. Nay, more. Seeing that the earth herself is now past her prime, and gives various indications of her beginning to grow grey in years,' it would, perhaps, savour more of probability than presumption, if I were likewise to include the future. It is thus that, looking both to what is, and to what has been, we seem to feel it, like a truth intuitive, that we shall never have another Shakspeare in the drama, nor a second Milton in the regions of sublimer song. As a poet, Coleridge has done enough to show how much more he might and could have done, if he had so thought fit. It was truly said of him, by an excellent critic and accomplished judge, 'Let the dullest clod that ever vegetated, provided only he be alive and hears, be shot up in a room with Coleridge, or in a wood,
has it in perfection. While he is discoursing, the
An elaborate and admirable critique on Coleridge's "Poetical Works," in "The Quarterly Review, No. CIII.," written just before his death, opens as follows: