Изображения страниц














[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


- As you

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was born on the 21st of October, 1772, at Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire. He was the youngest of thirteen children-ten being by a second wife-of the Rev. John Coleridge, a learned and simpleminded man, who was Head Master of Henry VIII.'s Free Grammar School at Ottery, and vicar of the parish. The Rev. John Coleridge died when his youngest son was barely seven years old. In his tenth year, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was sent to Christ's Hospital, on the presentation of Judge Buller, an old pupil of his father's. He was a Bluecoat Boy for almost nine years, and had, during part of the time, Charles Lamb for schoolfellow and friend. At school he read Virgil for pleasure, wrote and bought poems, acquired an admiration for William Lisle Bowles, which influenced his own earlier verse, and was stirred to enthusiasm by the Fall of the Bastile. In February, 1791, he went to Cambriège, and was entered at Jesus College.

Physically indolent, and with a poet's mind most rarely gifted, young Coleridge, in a time astir with wild ideals was foremost idealist among the young. In his rooms of an evening, says a comrade, Æschylus and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons and the like, to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before us. Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim." But Coleridge slipped during his first year at Cambridge into a hundred pounds of debt. May I have the honour of furnishing your rooms, Mr. Coleridge,” asked an upholsterer when he first came. He replied dreamily, “Oh, yes.” And how would you wish them furnished ?”. please.' But woe is to the man who shall say “ As you please ” to an upholsterer. Through no active extravagance, but simple indolence, Coleridge ran into debt in his first session at Cambridge, and he went home in vacation with a burden on his mind. He could not cast the burden on his widowed mother, troubled with the care of many children. If he had done so, she was a clear-headed woman, though no scholar, who would have borne her trouble and advised him well. He went back to Cambridge, and resolved that as he was in debt, and as his changes of opinion on matters of theology, mis-called religious opinions, cut him off from hope of a Fellowship at Col. lege, or right of entering the Church, and as Mary Evans had rejected him, Samuel Taylor Coleridge had better cease to be. He therefore left the University, ceased to be known as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but remaining S. T. C., enlisted in the 15th Light Dragoons as Silus Titus Comberbatch.

After some months he was discovered and returned to Cambridge, but he left the University in 1795, without a degree. The world as it is was a bad dream to him. He went, therefore, to Oxford, to see a young man known among his fellowstudents there as Citizen Southey, who might help him to get practical views of the world as it ought to be.

Robert Southey and other young friends of his at Oxford were as practical as Coleridge could desire. They would break with the old civilization, cross the Atlantic, and establish an All-equal-government, a Pantisocracy, on the banks of the Susquehanna. Wives would be necessary to the founders of a nation. Southey knew of three Miss Frickers in Bristol, his native townand had his own mind set upon one of them. They were daughters of a tinman. One kept a small school, one was a milliner, and one was an actress

[ocr errors]

at the Bristol Theatre. They all had practical views, and they really proved to be good women. Bristol now became interesting as the port of embarcation, and as the home of the future possible mothers of a Pantisocratic nation, in which there was to be no wrath, clamour and evil speaking, but human virtue was to take the place of formal laws.

Robert Lovell, Robert Southey, S. T. Coleridge, and George Burnett, were the four young men who would go out first, with ploughs and other implements of husbandry. Lovell, a young member of the Society of riends, first married Miss Fricker; Southey afterwards married Edith Fricker; and Coleridge married Sarah Fricker; but, for want of passage money, they did not succeed in getting to the Susquehanna, where they argued, according to the minutest calculation of practical men, the demand on their labour for absolute neces. saries would not exceed two hours a day.

While waiting at Bristol for that metaphorical ship to come home, which would enable their ship to go out, these young men lodged together at 28, College Street. They had found a friend in Joseph Colile, a young bookseller, who wrote verse himself, and if less gifted than they were with genius, was to be valued for his gifts of cash. Joseph Cottle encouraged Coleridge by offering to pay him thirty guineas for a volume of his poems. Joseph Cottle made also the like offer to Southey, with an undertaking to give fifty guineas for his “Joan of Arc.” Coleridge and Southey delivered lectures also at Bristol as a way of raising money for the voyage to the Susquehanna. "Robert Southey, of Balliol College, Oxford,” lectured on History. "S. T. Coleridge, of Jesus College, Cambridge,” lectured on the Slave Trade, on “the English Rebellion under Charles I., and the French Revolution," and

on Revealed Religion, its Corruption, and its Political Views.”

On the 4th of October, 1795, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, aged 23, was married at St. Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol, to Sarah Fricker. He still hoped to spend his life by the Susquehanna, where there should be no landmarks of individual possessions, but as he then wrote, –

In freedom's undivided dell,
Where toil and health with mellowed love shall dwell,
Far from folly, far from men,
In the rude romartic glen,
Up the cliff and through the glade,

Wandering with the dear loved maid. For the present he took a cottage rented at five pounds a year, with no taxes, in Clevedon, by the Bristol Channel. The whitewash of its sittingroom walls had long ceased to be white, but Joseph Cottle covered them with what he considered “sprightly paper.” The furnishing was not elaborate. Two days after his narriage Coleridge wrote from Clevedon to his friend Cottle at Bristol to send him down “a riddle slice, a candle box, two ventilators, two glasses for the wash-hand stand, one tin dust-pan, one small tin tea-kettle, one pair of candlesticks, one carpet brush, one four dredge, three tin extinguishers, two mats, a pair of slippers, a cheese toaster, two large tin spoons, a Bible, a keg of porter, coffee, raisins, currants, ketchup, nutmegs, allspice, cinnamon, rice, ginger and mace.” Frequent necessity of walking from Clevedon to Bristol and back caused Coleridge to return to Bristol. He then lived for a time with his wife in rooms on Redcliff Hill, whence they were invited to visit Mr. Thomas Poole at Nether Stowey, in Somersetshire. In April, 1796, the volume of poems, for which Coleridge had long since drawn his thirty pounds, was published by Joseph Cottle at


Bristol. On the first of the preceding March, Coleridge had produced the first number of a miscellany called The Watchman, which was to appear every eighth day, at the price of four-pence, and contain—“1. A History of the Domestic and Foreign Policy of the Preceding Days. 2. The Speeches in both Houses of Parliament and during the Recess. Select Parliamentary Speeches, from the Commencement of the reign of Charles the First to the present Era, with Notes Historical and Biographical. 3. Original Essays and Poetry. 4. Review of Interesting and Important Publications.” But in the tenth and last number it was announced that the work did not pay its expenses. Young Coleridge also preached occasionally in Unitarian pulpits ; in after years he opposed Unitarian doctrine ; and before the end of the year 1796 he had been induced by Mr. Thomas Poole to settle near him in a cottage at Nether Stowey, rented at seven pounds a year. “Mrs. Coleridge,” he wrote, when just settled there, “likes Stowey, and loves Thomas Poole and his mother, who love her. A communication has been made from our orchard into T. Poole's garden, and from thence to Cruikshank's, a friend of mine, and a young married man, whose wife is very amiable, and she and Sara are already on the most cordial terms.

At Nether Stowey, Coleridge heard that William Wordsworth, whose "Descriptive Sketches " he had read in 1793, was living with his sister Dorothy at Racedown, wholly bent on pursuit of his calling as poet. Coleridge paid Wordsworth a visit, and established a friendship that brought Wordsworth and his sister to live at Alsoxden, not far from Stowey. To Coleridge the new friend was “the giant Wordsworth—God love him! He is one whom I love and honour as far beyond myself, as both morally and intellectually he is above me. Of Dorothy he said, “She is a woman indeed ! in mind, I mean, and heart; for her person is such, that if you expected to see a pretty woman you would think her rather ordinary ; if you expected to see an ordinary woman, you would think her pretty. But her manners are simple, ardent, impressive.” The genius of Coleridge, shining always through his talk, made as strong an impression on the Wordsworths. Together by the Bristol Channel in the year 1797, each brought out from the other's mind its finest tones, and in 1798 they planned the book for which Coleridge wrote “the Ancient Mariner" and began “Christabel.” Wordsworth himself thus tells its story:

“In the spring of the year 1793, Coleridge, my sister, and myself, started from Alfoxden pretty late in the afternoon, with a view to visit Linton and the Valley of Stones near to it; and as our united funds were very small, we agreed to defray the expense of the tour by writing a poem, to be sent to the New Monthly Magazine set up by Philips, the bookseller, and edited by Dr. Aikin. Accordingly we set off, and proceeded along the Quantock Hills, towards Watchet; and in the course of this walk was planned the poem of • The Ancient Mariner,' founded on a dream, as Mr. Coleridge said, of his friend Mr. Cruikshank. Much the greater part of the story was Mr. Coleridge's invention ; but certain parts I myself suggested : for example, some crime was to be committed which should bring upon the old Navigator, as Coleridge afterwards delighted to call him, the spectral persecution, as a consequence of that crime; and his own wanderings. I had been reading in Shelvock's Voyages, a day or two before, that while doubling Cape Horn, they frequently saw albatrosses in that latitude, the largest sort of sea-fowl, some extending their wings twelve or fifteen feet. Suppose,' said I, you represent him as having killed one of these birds on entering the South Sea, and that the tutelary spirits of these regions take upon them to avenge this

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »