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so many pleasant remembrances, from early life,) I wish to speak with the utmost respect; but the truth Mr. B. himself will be glad to learn.
Mr, Coleridge's acquaintance, personally, with Mr. B. was, I believe, exceedingly limited. It should be known, that Mr. C. had written a Sonnet on Mr. Bowles, and also one on Mr. Sheridan. Having learnt that Mr. B. was acquainted with Mr. S. he sent the two Sonnets to Mr. Bowles, (as I understood) with a request that he would give the other to Mr. Sheridan. Mr. B. did give the Sonnet to Mr. S. who expressed satisfaction at it, and recommended Mr. Coleridge to write a Tragedy, or some dramatic piece, which, if approved, he would bring out at Drury Lane. Mr. B. communicated this message from Sheridan to Mr. Coleridge, and this was the origin of Mr. C.'s Tragedy of “ Osorio,” afterward denominated “Remorse.” Mr. C. to this time, had not seen Mr. B. (Vol. 1. p. 232.)
Mr. Coleridge wrote to me from Stowey, (Vol. 1. p. 234) naming that he was going to spend a few days with Mr. Bowles, and to read him his Tragedy, which Mr. B. after it was quite finished and corrected, was to transmit to Mr. Sheridan. Knowing that Mr. Coleridge generally concealed
the fact of his enlistment, from all but his most intimate friends, and to those only of his own age, I entertain the firm conviction, that Mr. C. never spoke one word to Mr. Bowles on this subject, which persuasion I shall relinquish only, when a contrary assertion is advanced by Mr. B. (which has not yet taken place.) It is most unlikely that Mr. C. during a first, and short visit, should unreservedly expatiate on a fact, that could not favourably impress any stranger, and particularly a clergyman. In the latter years of his life, he, very naturally, never, in the most distant way, referred to the subject.
Mr. Bowles is correct in stating, that Mr. Coleridge enlisted in the regiment of the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons, but it is at utter variance with all that Mr. C. stated to his intimate friends, that Mr. Nathaniel Ogle, should have been the only individual concerned in the liberation of Mr. C. Two other officers, at least, were principal agents in this affair ; besides which, all the incidents, relating to Mr. C. during his connexion with the regiment, are passed over in silence, except the one of Captain Ogle, having seen some latin under Cumberbatch's saddle. This may, and must have been one of the incidents connected with Mr. C. because Captain O. affirms it, but it must be deemed only one of many.
Mr. Bowles also states one circumstance relating to what he calls, “ The most correct, sublime, chaste, and beautiful of Mr. Coleridge's poems ; the Religious Musings ;” namely, that, “it was written, non inter sylvas academi, but in the tap-room at Reading.” This information could not have been received from Mr. C. but perhaps was derived from the imperfect recollection, or apprehension, of Captain O. ; but whoever the informant may have been, the assertion, has not the merit of being founded on a shadow of accuracy. The poem of the “Religious Musings,” was not written in the tap-room at Reading,” nor any where, till long after Mr. C. had for ever quitted that sacred bower, and even the University itself. It was written partly at Stowey ; partly on Redcliff Hill, and partly in my parlour, where both Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Southey, occasionally wrote their verses.
But to settle this part more absolutely. On beholding so unexpected an assertion, I referred to the original MS. in which, at the commencement, Mr. C. thus writes. - Religious Musings, a desultory poem, written on Christmas eve, in the year of our Lord, 1794.” This also is the title prefixed to his printed “ Poems.” Had there been an error in the date, as Mr. C. corrected the press, it undoubtedly would have been noticed by him. As a correlative argument, it might be named, that Mr. C. in his ever readiness to gratify me, by the recital of his various poems, never spoke of, nor repeated to me, one line of the “Religious Musings,” till 1806, a subject which he well knew would interest me so much, and which, from its extent, would not have been likely to be forgotten by him. This is presumptive evidence, but the more conclusive is, that I perfectly remember the time when the poem was written, at least, as to the far larger part. Every new forty or fifty lines that he produced fresh from his opulent mint, he read to me with peculiar zest, when in Bristol ; and he will be found often to have referred to this poem in his letters. He also sometimes condescended to ask my observations. A part of the poem was even written after all before in the volume was printed; the press being suspended till he had progressively completed it. Mr. C. was in the habit of bringing me a dozen or twenty lines at a time, for the printer, which precious strips are still retained, and were bound
up by me with MSS. of his Lectures and Poems. (I have even six commencements of one part of the poem, with successive alterations, before he was finally satisfied.) The discrepancy between the facts here stated, and the date “1794,” can only be reconciled by the supposition that a fragment, that is, the former part of the poem was written at Christmas 1794, as, upon examining the MS. of this poem, I find that the beginning is written on different paper from the rest, both as to size and colour. All this evidence, it is presumed, will satisfy every reasonable mind, that the information is quite erroneous, which states, that the “ Religious Musings,” 6 was written in the tap-room, at Reading,” and, consequently, that “ Wilkie’s” fine pencil must be transferred to some more veritable subject.
I shall now proceed with the narrative of Mr. Coleridge's military life, chiefly collected from Mr. C.'s own mouth, but not inconsiderably, from the information of other of his more intimate friends; particularly R. Lovell ; although I must apprise the reader that after a lapse of forty years, I cannot pledge myself for every individual word : a severity of construction which neither my memoranda, nor memory, would authorize.