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COLERIDGE, SHELLEY, AND KEATS;
COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME.
PHILADELPH) A :
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. (3)
jūemoir of Şamuel Capior Coltringe.
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, however, was indolent; he was far more ambitious of excelling in conversation, and of pouring out his wild philosophical theories — of discoursing about
Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute—
the mysteries of Kant, and the dreams of metaphysical vanity, than “in building the lofty rhyme.” His poems, however, which have been recently collected, form several volumes;–and the beauty of some of his pieces so amply redeems the extravagance of others, that there can be but one regret respecting him, namely, that he shotsld have preferred the shortlived perishing applause bestowed upon his conversation, to the lasting renown attending successful poetical efforts. Not but that Coleridge may lay claim to the praise due to a successful worship of the muses; for as long as the English language endures, his “Genevieve” and “Ancient Mariner” will be read: but he has been content to do far less than his abilities clearly demonstrate him able to effect. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born at Ottery Saint Mary, a town of Devonshire, in 1773. His father, the Rev. John Coleridge, was vicar there, having been previously a schoolmaster at South Molton. He is said to have been a...person of considerable learning, and to have published several essays in fugitive publications. He assisted Dr. Kennicot in collating his manuscripts for a Hebrew bible, and, among other things, wrote a dissertation on the “Aoyos.” He was also the author of an excellent Latin grammar. He died in 1782, at the age of sixty-two, much regretted, leaving a considerable family, of which nearly all the members are since deceased. Coleridge was educated at Qhrist's Hospital. school, London. The smallness of his father's living and large family rendered the strictest economy necessary. At this excellent seminary he was soon discovered to be a boy of talent, ectentric but acute. According to his own statement, the master, the Rev. J. Bowyer, was a severe
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 Shakspeare and Milton as lessons; and they were the lessons too which required most time and trouble to bring up, so as to escape his censure. I learned from him that poetry, even that of the loftiest, and seemingly that of the wildest odes, had a logic of its own, as severe as that of science, and more difficult; because more subtle and complex, and dependent on more and more fugitive causes. In our English compositions (at least for the last three years of our school education) he showed no mercy to phrase, image, or metaphor, unsupported by a sound sense, or where the same sense might have been conveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer words. Lute, harp, and lyre, muse, muses, and inspirations—Pegasus, Parnassus and Hippocrene, were all an abomination to him. In fancy, I can almost hear him now exclaiming— “Harp! harp! lyre pen and ink, boy, you mean: muse, boy, muse! your nurse's daughter, you mean: Pierian spring ! O ay! the cloister pump, I suppose.” In his “Literary Life,” Coleridge has gone into the conduct of his master at great length; and, compared to the majority of peda gogues who ruled in grammar-schools at that time, he seems to have been a singular and most honorable exception among them. He sent his pupils to the university excellent Greek and Latin scholars, with some knowledge of Hebrew, and a considerable insight into the construction and beauties of their vernacular language and its most distinguished writers—a rare addition to their classical acquirements in such foundations. It was owing to a present made to Coleridge of Bowles' sonnets by a school-fellow (the late Dr Middleton) while a boy of 17, that he was drawn away from theological controversy and wild metaphysics to the charms of poetry. He transcribed these sonnets no less than forty times in eighteen months, in order to make presents of them to his friends; and about the same period he wrote his Ode to Chatterton. “Nothing else," he says, “pleased me; history and particular facts lost all interest in my mind.” Poetry had become insipid; all his ideas were directed to his favorite theological subjects and mysticisms, until Bowles' sonnets, and an acquaintance with a very agreeable family, recalled him to more pleasant paths, combined with perhaps far more of rational pursuits. When eighteen years of age, Coleridge removed to Jesus College, Cambridge. It does not appear that he obtained or even struggled for academic honors. From excess of animal spirits, he was rather a noisy youth, whose general conduct was better than that of many of his fellow-collegians, and as good as most: his follies were more remarkable only as being those of a more remarkable personage; and if he could be accused of a vice, it must be sought for in the little attention he was inclined to pay to the dictates of sobriety. It is known that he assisted a friend in composing an essay on English poetry while at that University; that he was not unmindful of the muses himself while there; and that he regretted the loss of the leisure and quiet he had found within its precincts. In the month of November, 1793, while laboring under a paroxysm of despair, brought on by the combined effects of pecuniary difficulties and love of a young lady, sister of a school-fellow, he set off for London with a party of collegians, and passed a short time there in joyous conviviality. On his return to Cambridge, he remained but a few days, and then abandoned it for ever. He again directed his steps towards the metropolis, and there, after indulging somewhat freely in the pleasures of the bottle, and wandering about the various streets and squares in a state of mind nearly approaching to frenzy, he finished by enlisting in the 15th dragoons, under the name of Clumberbacht. Here he continued some time, the wonder of his comrades, and a subject of mystery and curiosity to his officers. While engaged in watching a sick comrade, which he did night and day, he is said to have got involved in a dispute with the regimental surgeon; but the disciple of Esculapius had no chance with the follower of the muses; he was astounded and put to flight by the profound erudition and astonishing cloquence of his antagonist. His friends at length found him out, and procured his discharge. In 1794, Coleridge published a small volume of poems, which were much praised by the critics of the time, though it appears they abounded in obcurities and epithets too common with young writers. He also published, in the same year, while residing at Bristol, “The Fall of Robespierre, an Historic Drama,” which displayed considerable talent. It was written in conjunction with Southey ; and what is remarkable in this
composition is, that they began it at 7 o'clock one evening, finished it the next day by 12 o'clock noon, and the day after, it was printed and published. The language is vigorous, and the speechcs are well put together and correctly versified.— Coleridge also, in the winter of that year, delivered a course of lectures on the French revolution, at Bristol. On leaving the University, Coleridge was fu. of enthusiasm in the cause of freedom, and occur pied with the idea of the regeneration of mankind He found ardent coadjutors in the same enthusi astic undertaking in Robert Lovell and Robes Southey, the present courtly laureate. This youth ful triumvirate proposed schemes for regenerating the world, even before their educations were completed; and dreamed of happy lives in aboriginal forests, republics on the Mississippi, and a newlydreamed philanthropy. In order to carry their ideas into effect they began operations at Bristol. and were received with considerable applause by several inhabitants of that commercial city, which, however remarkable for traffic, has been frequently styled the Boeotia of the west of England. Here, in 1795, Coleridge published two pamphlets, one called “Consciones ad Populum, or addresses to the people;” the other, “A protest against certain bills (then pending) for suppressing seditious etings." The charm of the political regeneration of na tions, though thus warped for a moment, was not broken. Coleridge, Lovell and Southey, finding the old world would not be reformed after their mode, determined to try and found a new one, ir which all was to be liberty and happiness. The deep woods of America were to be the site of this new golden region. There all the evils of European society were to be remedied, property was to be in common, and every man a legislator. The name of “Pantisocracy” was bestowed upon the favored scheme, while yet it existed only in imagination. Unborn ages of human happiness presented themselves before the triad of philosophical founders of Utopian empires, while they were dreaming of human perfectibility:-a harmless dream at least, and an aspiration after better things than life's realities, which is the best that can be said for it. In the midst of these plans of vast import, the three philosophers fell in love with three sisters of Bristol, named Fricker (one of them, afterwards Mrs. Lovell, an actress of the Bristol theatre, another a mantua-maker, and the third kept a day-school), and all their visions of immortal freedom faded into thin air. They mar ried, and occupied themselves with the increase of the corrupt" race of the old world, instead of peopling the new. Thus, unhappily for America and mankind, failed the scheme of the Pantisocracy, on which at one time so much of human happiness and political regeneration was by its