Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

did not escape

it ;

is in the reader. But this is a charge which every poet, whose imagination is warm and rapid, must expect from his contemporaries. Milton

and it was adduced with virulence against Gray and Collins. We now hear no more of it: not that their poems are better understood at present, than they were at their first publication ; but their fame is established ; and a critic would accuse himself of frigidity or inattention, who should profess not to understand them. But a living writer is yet sub judice ; and if we cannot follow his conceptions or enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride to consider him as lost beneath, than as soaring above us. If any man expect from my poems the same easiness of style which he admires in a drinking-song, for him I have not written. Intelligibilia, non intellectum adfero.

I expect neither profit nor general fame by my writings; and I consider myself as having been amply repaid without either. Poetry has been to me its own exceeding great reward.; it has soothed my afflictions ; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude ; and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the Good and the Beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me.*

S. T. C.

* The above preface was prefixed by the author to the third edition of the Juvenile Poems, in 1803, and transferred by him,

without alteration, to the collected edition of his poetical works in 1828. It is made up from the Prefaces to the first two editions of his Poems, and referred, in the first instance, to the earlier productions of his Muse. In the Preface to the Sibylline Leaves, which he did not reprint, he states that that collection was presented to the reader as perfect as the author's skill and powers could render them;" adding, that "henceforward he must be occupied by studies of a very different kind.” The motto which appears on a subsequent page is taken from the same place and points to a similar conclusion.

D. C.

MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was born on the 21st of October, 1772, at Ottery, St. Mary, Devonshire. He was the youngest of ten children, and, as his father, the vicar of the parish of Ottery, and master of the grammar school, had but a small salary, the means of the family were much straitened. Of his mother but little has been handed down, beside the fact that she made her youngest child her spoiled favorite.

There are some stories respecting the eccentricities of the vicar which are interesting only as one can trace in them the origin of some of the peculiarities of his more distinguished son. Coleridge in a letter to his friend Thomas Poole, says of his father, “ The truth is, my father was not a first-rate genius; he was, however, a first-rate Christian, which is much better. I need not detain you with his character. In learning, goodheartedness, absentness of mind, and excessive ignorance of the world, he was a perfect Parson Adams."

The early years of the future poet were unhappy enough. He described them as follows:

“So I became fretful, timorous, and a tell-tale; and the schoolboys drove me from play and were always tormenting me. And hence I took no pleasure in boyish sports, but read incessantly. I read through all gilt-covered little books that could be had at that time, and likewise all the uncovered tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant Killer, and the like. And I used to lie by the wall and mope; and my spirits used to come upon me suddenly, and in a flood; - and then I was accustomed to run up and down the churchyard, and act over again all I had been reading on the docks, the nettles, and the rank grass. At six years

I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarles [Quarll]; and then I found the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me, (I had read it in the evening while my mother was at her needle,) that I was haunted by spectres, whenever I was in the dark : and I distinctly recollect the anxious and fearful eagerness with which I used to watch the window where the book lay; and when the sun came upon it, I would seize it, carry it by the wall and bask and read. My father found out the effect which these books had produced and burned them.

of age

[ocr errors]

“ So I became a dreamer, and acquired an indisposition to all bodily activity; I was fretful, and inordinately passionate ; and as I could not play at any thing, and was slothful, I was despised and hated by the boys; and because I could read and spell, and had, I may truly say, a memory and understanding forced into almost unnatural ripeness, I was flattered and wondered at by all the old women. And so I became very vain, and despised most of the boys that were at all near my own age, and before I was eight years old I was a character. Sensibility, imagination, vanity, sloth, and feelings of deep and bitter contempt for almost all who traversed the orbit of my understanding, were even then prominent and manifest."

It appears that his father, simple-minded as he was, recognized the peculiar gifts of the child of his

age, “ for,” says Coleridge, “he had resolved that I should be a parson.”

In 1781, before Coleridge was nine years old, his father died. He continued to live with his mother at Ottery till the spring of 1782, when he was sent to London to remain with his uncle

* This passage is taken from one of a series of autobiographical letters addressed by Coleridge to Mr. Poole in the year 1797. The narrative relates only to his early life.

These letters appeared for the first time in a Biographical Supplement to Mrs. H. N. Coleridge's edition of the Biographia Literaria. London, 1847.

« AnteriorContinua »