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Wednesday morning, Jan. 28th, 1818. DEAR SIR, Your friendly letter was first delivered to me at the lecture-room door on yesterday evening, ten minutes before the lecture, and my spirits were so sadly depressed by the circumstance of my hoarseness, that I was literally incapable of reading it. I now express my acknowledgments, and with them the regret that I had not received the letter in time to have availed myself of it.
When I was young I used to laugh at flattery, as, on account of its absurdity, I now abhor it, from my repeated observations of its mischievous effects. Among these, not the least is, that it renders honourable natures more slow and reluctant in expressing their real feelings in praise of the deserving, than, for the interests of truth and virtue, might be desired. For the weakness of our moral and intellectual being, of which the comparatively strongest are often the most, and the most painfully, conscious, needs the confirmation derived from the coincidence and sympathy of the friend, as much as the voice of honour within us de ounces the pretences of the flatterer. Be assured, then, that I write as I think, when I tell you that, from the style and thoughts of your letter, I should have drawn a very
different conclusion from that which you appear to have done, concerning both your talents and the cultivation which they have received. Both the matter and manner are manly, simple, and correct.
Had I the time in my own power, compatibly with the performance of duties of immediate urgency, I would endeavour to give you, by letter, the most satisfactory answers to your questions that my reflections and the experience of my own fortunes could supply. But, at all events, I will not omit to avail myself of your judicious suggestion in my last lecture, in which it will form a consistent part of the subject and purpose of the discourse. Meantime, believe me, with great respect,
Your obliged fellow-student
S. T. COLERIDGE.
The suggestion here alluded to was, if I remember rightly, as to the best mode of re-exciting that interest in and for mental cultivation and refinement, which, from lapse of time, had in most men actively employed, become dormant. This was fully treated in the last lecture.
Sept. 20th, 1818. DEAR SIR, Those who have hitherto chosen to take notice of me, as known to them only by my public character, have for the greater part taken out, not, indeed, a poetical, but a critical, license to make game of me, instead of sending game to me.
Thank Heaven! I am in this respect more tough than tender. But, to be serious, I heartily thank you for your polite remembrance; and, though my feeble health and valetudinarian stomach force me to attach no little value to the
present itself, I feel still more obliged by the kindness that prompted it.
I trust that you will not come within the purlieus of Highgate without giving me the opportunity of assuring you personally that I am, with sincere respect,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
Dec. 2d, 1818. MY DEAR SIR, I cannot express how kind I felt
letter. Would to Heaven I had had many with feelings like yours, “accustomed to express themselves warmly and (as far as the word is applicable to you, even) enthusiastically.” But, alas! during the prime manhood of my intellect I had nothing but cold water thrown on my efforts. I speak not now of my systematic and most unprovoked maligners. On them I have retorted only by pity and by prayer. These may have, and doubtless have, joined with the frivolity of “the reading public" in checking and almost in preventing the sale of my works; and so far have done injury to my purse. Me they have not injured. But I have loved with enthusiastic self-oblivion those who have been so well pleased that I should, year after year, flow with a hundred nameless rills into their main stream, that they could find nothing but cold praise and effective discouragement of every attempt of mine to roll onward in a distinct current of my own; who admitted that the Ancient Mariner, the Christabel, the Remorse, and some pages of the Friend, were not without merit, but were abundantly anxious to acquit their judgments of any blindness to the very numerous defects. Y they knew that to praise, as mere praise, I was characteristically, almost constitutionally, indifferent. In sympathy alone I found at once nourishment and stimulus; and for sympathy alone did my heart crave. They knew, too, how long and faithfully I had acted on the maxim, never to admit the faults of a work of genius to those who denied or were incapable of feeling and understanding the beauties ; not from wilful partiality, but as well knowing that in saying truth I should, to such critics, convey falsehood. If, in one instance in my literary life, I have appeared to deviate from this rule, first, it was not till the fame of the writer (which I had been for fourteen years successively toiling like a second Ali to build up) had been established; and, secondly and chiefly, with the purpose, and, I may safely add, with the effect, of rescuing the necessary task from malignant defamers, and in order to set forth the excellences, and the trifling proportion which the defects bore to the excellences. But this, my dear sir, is a mistake to which affectionate natures are too liable, though I do not remember to have ever seen it noticed,—the mistaking those who are desirous and well pleased to be loved by you, for those who love you. Add, as a more general cause, the fact that I neither am nor ever have been of any party. What wonder, then, if I am left to decide which has been my worse enemy, the broad, predetermined abuse of the Edinburgh Review, &c., or the cold and brief compliments, with the warm regrets, of the Quarterly? After all, however, I have now but one sorrow relative to the ill success of my literary toils (and toils they have been, though not undelightful toils), and this arises wholly from the almost insurmountable difficulties which the anxieties of to-day oppose to my completion of the great work, the form and materials of which it has been the employment of the best and most genial hours of the last twenty years to mature and collect.
If I could but have a tolerably numerous audience to my first, or first and second Lectures on the HISTORY of PHILOSOPHY, I should entertain a strong hope of success, because I know that these lectures will be found by far the most interesting and entertaining of any that I have yet delivered, independent of the more permanent interests of rememberable instruction. Few and unimportant would the errors of men be, if they did but know, first, what they themselves meant ; and, secondly, what the words mean by which they attempt to convey their meaning; and I can conceive no subject so well fitted to exemplify the mode and the importance of these two points as the History of Philosophy, treated as in the scheme of these lectures. Trusting that I shall shortly have the pleasure of seeing you here,
I remain, my dear sir,
S. T. COLERIDGE.
This letter, as well as some more specific allusions and charges in after letters, I have thought it a sacred duty to publish; no admiration or reverence for the Great Living being for a moment to be placed against the higher duty to the greater, or, perhaps, I should say, the more greatly various, Dead. The conclusion to which I have come, from an intimate and thorough knowledge of the circumstances, is, that, judged by all received rules, my much-loved friend had not generous usage. Far from me, however, be it to attribute blame; I am rather inclined to ascribe this seeming want of generous feeling, of sympathy, to an incompatibility of adaptation. How expressive is this passage :-" In sympathy alone I found at once nourishment and stimulus; and for sympathy alone did my heart crave," coupled as it is in my knowledge with the mention of his labour for fourteen years to build up the fame of his friend ; and how affecting the allusion to the mistake of having supposed “those to love him who were well pleased to be loved by him."