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Merrill's English Terts
THIS series of books will include in complete editions those masterpieces of English Literature that are best adapted for the use of schools and colleges. The editors of the several volumes will be chosen for their special qualifications in connection with the texts to be issued under their individual supervision, but familiarity with the practical needs of the classroom, no less than sound scholarship, will characterize the editing of every book in the series.
In connection with each text, a critical and historical introduction, including a sketch of the life of the author and his relation to the thought of his time, critical opinions of the work in question chosen from the great body of English criticism, and, where possible, a portrait of the author, will be given. Ample explanatory notes of such passages in the text as call for special attention will be supplied, but irrelevant annotation and explanations of the obvious will be rigidly excluded.
CHARLES E. MERRILL CO.
AT Ottery St. Mary, in beautiful Devonshire, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born, October 21, 1772. The father, vicar of the parish and head master of the Free Grammar School, was an amiable eccentric, with some scholarly knowledge and much innocent pedantry; "a perfect Parson Adams," the poet says, "in learning, good-heartedness, absentness of mind, and excessive ignorance of the world." The mother was a good practical housewife, with a fine scorn for "your harpsichord ladies," and a strong ambition to have her sons become gentlemen. All told, there were thirteen children in the family, of whom the poet was the youngest. At three years of age he attended a dame's school and at six he entered his father's school, where he
'soon outstripped" all of his age.
As a lad, Coleridge was precocious and strange, showing early symptoms of the illustrious infirmities of later years. He cared little for the ordinary sports of boys, and naturally was tormented by them into isolation. Reading and dreaming were his chief occupations and joys. "At six years of age," he says, "I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarll; and then I found the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, one tale of which made so deep an impression on me that I was haunted by specters whenever I was in the dark. My father found out the effect which these books had produced, and burned them. So I became a dreamer, and acquired an indisposition to all bodily activity. and before I was eight years old I was a character."
In the boy's ninth year, the father died, and the next year the
little dreamer was sent to the famous charity school, Christ's Hospital, in London, which became his home for nine years. In Frost at Midnight, he says:
"I was reared
In the great
pent 'mid cloisters dim,
Among the seven hundred “blue-coat " boys the youthful exile found a sympathetic companion in Charles Lamb, who became his life-long friend. The imagination loves to picture these two frail boys, marked for immortal fame, wandering about the streets of London, as we to-day see the boys of Christ's, in that antique garba long, blue coat, reaching nearly to the heels and buttoned straight to the neck in front, with yellow stockings, low shoes, a white stock, and bare head. Christ's was a school of stern experiences in those days, hard fare, hard lessons, and hard floggings being the law of the boys' daily life. But the headmaster, the Rev. James Boyer, in spite of his Rhadamanthine methods, instructed the boys thoroughly well in Latin and Greek, and in the elements of manliness. "Thank Heaven," says Coleridge, "I was flogged instead of being flattered."
No severity of discipline could keep the visionary boy out of that world of romance and ideality which he had early created for himself. Once he was rushing along the street swinging his arms as if swimming, and, happening to hit a stranger's pocket with his hand, he was seized as a thief. Upon explaining that he thought himself Leander swimming the Hellespont, the man gave him a subscription to a circulating library. This providential supply of reading he rapidly devoured, ""running all risks in skulking out to get the two volumes which I was entitled to have daily." His vagaries were not always so happy in their final issue. At one time, thinking himself an infidel, to escape being a minister he planned to run away and become apprenticed to a shoemaker; but master Boyer intervened with his characteristic application of common sense. "So, sirrah, you