« PreviousContinue »
COLERIDGE, SHELLEY, AND KEATS;
COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME.
CRISSY & MARKLEY, No. 4, MINOR STREET.
In adding to our edition of Coleridge's Poems, his Prose works, we have thought proper to confine the collection to his acknowledged works, as they were published with his own final revision. The "Table Talk," "Letters, Conversations, and Recollections," and the "Literary Remains," published since his decease, afford the most remarkable specimens of what is technically called "book-making," which have appeared in modern times. The most cursory examination of them must satisfy any candid person that they form no exception to the general rule which excludes such compilations from a permanent place in any collection of a great author's works. They are made up chiefly of recollected conversations, imperfect notes of lectures, and notes written on the margins of the books in his library. Not a single complete treatise-not even a finished essay, can be found in the volumes. The reader will therefore not be surprised at their having been wholly excluded from this collection. The same principle has caused the exclusion of several pamphlets relating to local and temporary politics.
Printed by T. K & P. G. Collins.
Memoir of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
No writer of the age was more the theme of panegyric by his friends, and of censure by his enemies, than Coleridge. It has been the custom of the former to injure him by extravagant praise, and of the latter to pour upon his head much unmerited abuse. Coleridge has left so much undone which his talents and genius would have enabled him to effect, and has done on the whole so little, that he has given his foes apparent foundation for some of their vituperation. His natural character, how. ever, was indolent; he was far more ambitious of excelling in conversation, and of pouring out his wild philosophical theories of discoursing
Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute—
disciplinarian after the inane practice of English grammar-school modes, but was fond of encouraging genius, even in the lads he flagellated most unmercifully. He taught with assiduity, and directed the taste of youth to the beauties of the better classical authors, and to comparisons of one with another. "He habituated me," says Cole ridge, "to compare Lucretius, Terence, and above all the chaste poems of Catullus, not only with the Roman poets of the so called silver and brazen ages, but with even those of the Augustan era; 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 Shakthe mysteries of Kant, and the dreams of meta-speare and Milton as lessons; and they were the physical vanity, than "in building the lofty lessons too which required most time and trouble rhyme." His poeins, however, which have been to bring up, so as to escape his censure. I learned recently collected, form several volumes;-and the from him that poetry, even that of the loftiest, and beauty of some of his pieces so amply redeems seemingly that of the wildest odes, had a logic of the extravagance of others, that there can be but its own, as severe as that of science, and more one regret respecting him, namely, that he should difficult; because more subtle and complex, and have preferred the shortlived perishing applause dependent on more and more fugitive causes. In bestowed upon his conversation, to the lasting our English compositions (at least for the last renown attending successful poetical efforts. Not three years of our school education) he showed no but that Coleridge may lay claim to the praise due mercy to phrase, image, or metaphor, unsupported to a successful worship of the muses; for as long by a sound sense, or where the same sense might as the English language endures, his "Genevieve" have been conveyed with equal force and dignity and "Ancient Mariner" will be read: but he has in plainer words. Lute, harp, and lyre, muse, been content to do far less than his abilities clearly muses, and inspirations-Pegasus, Parnassus and demonstrate him able to effect. Hippocrene, were all an abomination to him. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born at Ottery fancy, I can almost hear him now exclaiming— Saint Mary, a town of Devonshire, in 1773. His 'Harp! harp! lyre! pen and ink, boy, you mean! father, the Rev. John Coleridge, was vicar there, muse, boy, muse! your nurse's daughter, you having been previously a schoolmaster at South mean! Pierian spring! O ay! the cloister pump, Molton. He is said to have been a person of con- I suppose."" In his "Literary Life," Coleridge siderable learning, and to have published several has gone into the conduct of his master at great essays in fugitive publications. He assisted Dr. length; and, compared to the majority of peda Kennicot in collating his manuscripts for a gogues who ruled in grammar-schools at that time, Hebrew bible, and, among other things, wrote he seems to have been a singular and most honora dissertation on the " Λογος.” He was also able exception among them. He sent his pupils to the author of an excellent Latin grammar. He the university excellent Greek and Latin scholars, died in 1782, at the age of sixty-two, much with some knowledge of Hebrew, and a considerregretted, leaving a considerable family, of able insight into the construction and beauties of which nearly all the members are since de- their vernacular language and its most distinguished writers-a rare addition to their classical Coleridge was educated at Christ's Hospital-acquirements in such foundations. school, London. The smallness of his father's It was owing to a present made to Coleridge of living and large family rendered the strictest Bowles' sonnets by a school-fellow (the late Dr economy necessary. At this excellent seminary Middleton) while a boy of 17, that he was drawn he was soon discovered to be a boy of talent, ec- away from theological controversy and wild metacentric but acute. According to his own state-physics to the charms of poetry. He transcribed ment, the master, the Rev. J. Bowyer, was a severe these sonnets no less than forty times in eighteen
months, in order to make presents of them to his composition is, that they began it at 7 o'clock one friends; and about the same period he wrote his evening, finished it the next day by 12 o'clock Ode to Chatterton. 66 Nothing else," he says, noon, and the day after, it was printed and pub. pleased me; history and particular facts lost all lished. The language is vigorous, and the speeches interest in my mind." Poetry had become in- are well put together and correctly versified.sipid; all his ideas were directed to his favorite Coleridge also, in the winter of that year, delivered theological subjects and mysticisms, until Bowles' a course of lectures on the French revolution, a sonnets, and an acquaintance with a very agreeable family, recalled him to more pleasant paths, combined with perhaps far more of rational pursuits. of enthusiasm in the cause of freedom, and occu On leaving the University, Coleridge was fu. When eighteen years of age, Coleridge removed pied with the idea of the regeneration of mankind to Jesus College, Cambridge. It does not appear He found ardent coadjutors in the same enthusi that he obtained or even struggled for academic astic undertaking in Robert Lovell and Rober honors. From excess of animal spirits, he was Southey, the present courtly laureate. This youth rather a noisy youth, whose general conduct was ful triumvirate proposed schemes for regenerating better than that of many of his fellow-collegians, the world, even before their educations were comand as good as most: his follies were more remark-pleted; and dreamed of happy lives in aboriginal able only as being those of a more remarkable forests, republics on the Mississippi, and a newlypersonage; and if he could be accused of a vice, it dreamed philanthropy. In order to carry their must be sought for in the little attention he was ideas into effect they began operations at Bristol. inclined to pay to the dictates of sobriety. It is and were received with considerable applause by known that he assisted a friend in composing an several inhabitants of that commercial city, which, essay on English poetry while at that University; however remarkable for traffic, has been frequently that he was not unmindful of the muses himself styled the Bootia of the west of England. Here, while there; and that he regretted the loss of the in 1795, Coleridge published two pamphlets, one leisure and quiet he had found within its precincts. called "Consciones ad Populum, or addresses to In the month of November, 1793, while laboring the people ;" the other, "A protest against certain under a paroxysm of despair, brought on by the bills (then pending) for suppressing seditious combined effects of pecuniary difficulties and love meetings."
of a young lady, sister of a school-fellow, he set The charm of the political regeneration of na off for London with a party of collegians, and tions, though thus warped for a moment, was not passed a short time there in joyous conviviality. broken. Coleridge, Lovell and Southey, finding On his return to Cambridge, he remained but a the old world would not be reformed after their few days, and then abandoned it for ever. He mode, determined to try and found a new one, ir again directed his steps towards the metropolis, which all was to be liberty and happiness. The and there, after indulging somewhat freely in the deep woods of America were to be the site of this pleasures of the bottle, and wandering about the new golden region. There all the evils of Euvarious streets and squares in a state of mind ropean society were to be remedied, property was nearly approaching to frenzy, he finished by enlist- to be in common, and every man a legislator. The ing in the 15th dragoons, under the name of Clum- name of "Pantisocracy" was bestowed upon the berbacht. Here he continued some time, the favored scheme, while yet it existed only in imagiwonder of his comrades, and a subject of mystery nation. Unborn ages of human happiness presentand curiosity to his officers. While engaged in ed themselves before the triad of philosophical watching a sick comrade, which he did night and founders of Utopian empires, while they were day, he is said to have got involved in a dispute dreaming of human perfectibility:-a harmless with the regimental surgeon; but the disciple of dream at least, and an aspiration after better things Esculapius had no chance with the follower of than life's realities, which is the best that can be the muses; he was astounded and put to flight by said for it. In the midst of these plans of vast the profound erudition and astonishing eloquence import, the three philosophers fell in love with of his antagonist. His friends at length found three sisters of Bristol, named Fricker (one of him out, and procured his discharge.
In 1794, Coleridge published a small volume of Bristol theatre, another a mantua-maker, and the them, afterwards Mrs. Lovell, an actress of the poems, which were much praised by the critics of third kept a day-school), and all their visions of the time, though it appears they abounded in ob- immortal freedom faded into thin air. They mar curities and epithets too common with young ried, and occupied themselves with the increase writers. He also published, in the same year, of the corrupt race of the old world, instead of while residing at Bristol, "The Fall of Robes- peopling the new. Thus, unhappily for America pierre, an Historic Drama," which displayed con- and mankind, failed the scheme of the Pantisoc: siderable talent. It was written in conjunction racy, on which at one time so much of human with Southey; and what is remarkable in this happiness and political regeneration was by its