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struseness of the thoughts, for they generally explained, or appeared to explain, themselves; but pre-eminently on account of the seeming remoteness of his associations, and the exceeding subtlety of his transitional links. Upon this point it is very happily, though, according to my observation, too generally, remarked, by one whose powers and opportunities of judging were so eminent that the obliquity of his testimony in other respects is the more unpardonable:–“Coleridge, to many people—and often I have heard the complaint—seemed to wander; and he seemed then to wander the most, when, in fact, his resistance to the wandering instinct was greatest,-viz., when the compass and huge circuit by which his illustrations moved, travelled farthest into remote regions, before they began to revolve. Long before this coming round commenced, most people had lost him, and naturally enough supposed that he had lost himself. They continued to admire the separate beauty of the thoughts, but did not see their relations to the dominant theme. * * * * However, I can assert, upon my long and intimate knowledge of Coleridge's mind, that logic the most severe was as inalienable from his modes of thinking, as grammar from his language.” True: his mind was a logic-vice; let him fasten it on the tiniest flourish of an error, he never slacked his hold till he had crushed body and tail to dust. He was always ratiocinating in his own mind, and therefore sometimes seemed incoherent to the partial observer. It happened to him as to Pindar, who in modern days has been called a rambling rhapsodist, because the connexions of his parts, though never arbitrary, are so fine that the vulgar reader sees them not at all. But they are there nevertheless, and may all be so distinctly shown, that no one can doubt their existence; and a little study will also prove that the points of contact are those which the true genius of lyric verse naturally evolved, and that the entire Pindaric ode, instead of being the loose and lawless outburst which so many have fancied, is, without any exception, the most artificial and highly wrought composition which Time has spared * Tait's Mag., Sept., 1834, p. 514.
to us from the wreck of the Greek Muse. So I can well remember occasions, in which, after listening to Mr. Coleridge for several delightful hours, I have gone away with divers splendid masses of reasoning in my head, the separate beauty and coherency of which I deeply felt, but how they had produced, or how they bore upon, each other, I could not then perceive. In such cases I have mused sometimes even for days afterward upon the words, till at length, spontaneously as it seemed, “the fire would kindle,” and the association, which had escaped my utmost efforts of comprehension before, flash itself all at once upon my mind with the clearness of moonday light. It may well be imagined that a style of conversation so continuous and diffused as that which I have just attempted to describe, presented remarkable difficulties to a mere reporter by memory. It is easy to preserve the pithy remark, the brilliant retort, or the pointed anecdote; these stick of themselves, and their retention requires no effort of mind. But where the salient angles are comparatively few, and the object of attention is a longdrawn subtle discoursing, you can never recollect, except by yourself thinking the argument over again. In so doing, the order and the characteristic expressions will for the most part spontaneously arise ; and it is scarcely credible with what degree of accuracy language may thus be preserved, where practice has given some dexterity, and long familiarity with the speaker has enabled or almost forced you to catch the outlines of his manner. Yet with all this, so peculiar were the flow and breadth of Mr. Coleridge's conversation, that I am very sensible how much those who can best judge will have to complain of my representation of it. The following specimens will, I fear, seem too fragmentary, and therefore deficient in one of the most distinguishing properties of that which they are designed to represent; and this is true. Yet the reader will in most instances have little difficulty in understanding the course which the conversation took, although my recollections of it are thrown into separate paragraphs for the sake of superior precision. As I never attempted to give dialogue—indeed, there was seldom much dialogue to give—the great point with me was to condense what I could remember on each particular topic into intelligible wholes, with as little injury to the living manner and diction as was possible. With this explanation, I must leave it to those who still have the tones of “that old man eloquent” ringing in their ears, to say how far I have succeeded in this delicate enterprise of stamping his winged words with perpetuity.
In reviewing the contents of the following pages, I can clearly see that I have admitted some passages which will be pronounced illiberal by those who, in the present day, emphatically call themselves liberal—the liberal. I allude of course to Mr. Coleridge's remarks on the Reform Bill and the Malthusian economists. The omission of such passages would probably have rendered this publication more generally agreeable, and my disposition does not lead me to give gratuitous offence to any one. But the opinions of Mr. Coleridge on these subjects, however imperfectly expressed by me, were deliberately entertained by him; and to have omitted, in so miscellaneous a collection as this, what he was well known to have said, would have argued in me a disapprobation or a fear, which I disclaim. A few words, however, may be pertinently employed here in explaining the true bearing of Coleridge's mind on the politics of our modern days. He was neither a Whig nor a Tory, as those designations are usually understood; well enough knowing, that, for the most part, half-truths only are involved in the Parliamentary tenets of one party or the other. In the common struggles of a session, therefore, he took little interest; and as to mere personal sympathies, the friend of Frere and of Poole, the respected guest of Canning and of Lord Lansdowne, could have nothing to choose. But he threw the weight of his opinion—and it was considerable—into the Tory or Conservative scale, for these two reasons:—First, generally, because he had a deep conviction that the cause of freedom and of truth is now seriously menaced by a democratical spirit, growing more and more rabid
every day, and giving no doubtful promise of the tyranny to come ; and secondly, in particular, because the national Church was to him the ark of the covenant of his beloved country, and he saw the Whigs about to coalesce with those whose avowed principles lead them to lay the hand of spoliation upon it. Add to these two grounds, some relics of the indignation which the efforts of the Whigs to thwart the generous exertions of England in the great Spanish war had formerly roused within him; and all the constituents of any active feeling in Mr. Coleridge's mind upon matters of state are, I believe, fairly laid before the reader. The Reform question in itself gave him little concern, except as he foresaw the present attack on the Church to be the immediate consequence of the passing of the Bill; “for let the form of the House of Commons,” said he, “be what it may, it will be, for better or for worse, pretty much what the country at large is ; but once invade that truly national and essentially popular institution, the Church, and divert its funds to the relief or aid of individual charity or public taxation—how specious soever that pretext may be—and you will never thereafter recover the lost means of perpetual cultivation. Give back to the Church what the nation originally consecrated to its use, and it ought then to be charged with the education of the people; but half of the original revenue has been already taken by force from her, or lost to her through desuetude, legal decision, or public opinion; and are those whose very houses and parks are part and parcel of what the nation designed for the general purposes of the clergy, to be heard, when they argue for making the Church support, out of her diminished revenues, institutions, the intended means for maintaining which they themselves hold under the sanction of legal robbery 1” Upon this subject Mr. Coleridge did indeed feel very warmly, and was accustomed to express himself accordingly. It weighed upon his mind night and day; and he spoke upon it with an emotion which I never saw him betray upon any topic of common politics, however decided his opinion might be. In this, therefore, he was felia opportunitate mortis;
non enim widit—; and the just and honest of all parties will heartily admit over his grave, that as his principles and opinions were untainted by any sordid interest, so he maintained them in the purest spirit of a reflective patriotism, without spleen, or bitterness, or breach of social union.*
* These volumes have had the rather singular fortune of being made the subject of three several reviews before publication. One of them requires notice.
The only materials for the Westminster Reviewer were the extracts in the Quarterly; and his single object being to abuse and degrade, he takes no notice of any even of these, except those which happen to be at variance with his principles in politics or political economy. To have reflected on the memory of Coleridge for not having been either a Benthamite or a Malthusian economist, might perhaps have been just and proper, and the censure certainly would have been borne by his friends in patience. The Westminster Review has, of course, just as good a right to find fault with those who differ from it in opinion as any other Review. But neither the Westminster nor any Review has a right to say that which is untrue, more especially when the misrepresentation is employed for the express purpose of injury and detraction. Among a great deal of coarse language unbecoming the character of the Review or its editor, there is the following passage:— “The trampling on the labouring classes is the religion that is at the bottom of his heart, for the simple reason that he (Coleridge) is himself supported out of that last resource of the enemies of the people, the Pension List.” And Mr. Coleridge is afterward called a “Tory pensioner,” “a puffed up partisan,” &c.
Now the only pension, from any public source or character whatever, received by Mr. Coleridge throughout his whole life, was the following:—
In 1821 or 1822, George the Fourth founded the Royal Society of Literature, which was incorporated by charter in 1825. The King gave a thousand guineas a year out of his own private pocket to be distributed among ten literary men, to be called Royal Associates, and to be selected at the discretion of the Council. It is true that this was done under a Tory Government; but I believe the Government had no more to do with it than the Westminster Review. It was the mere act of George the Fourth's own princely temper. The gentlemen chosen to receive this bounty were the following:—
Samuel Taylor Coleridge;