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Lee, who was unfortunately absent during my visit. I am not much addicted to lion-hunting, but it was a real loss not to see the authoress of " Kruitzner," one of the very few original stories which our predecessors have not stolen from us.
The most interesting resident of the neighborhood I did however see. My kind friend, the Sketcher, drove me, by invitation, to drink tea at Firfield, a house used during the war as a French prison, and then inhabited by Mr. Cottle and his sister.
Mr. Cottle had been during seven years a bookseller at Bristol, and had during that time had the singular fortune, let me add the liberality and good taste, to publish the first works of Southey, of Coleridge, and of Wordsworth. Himself the author of many works of excellent feeling and tendency, and of one (" The Recollections of Coleridge") of the very highest merit, I found him as I had expected, a mild and venerable man, distinguished for courtesy and intelligence. He received us in a room stored with books and piled with portfolios, into each of which he had most carefully inserted the letters of such correspondents as few persons could boast. Letters of Sir Humphrey Davy, of Robert Hall, of John Foster, of Hannah More, of Charles Lloyd, of Charles Lamb, of Mr. Landor, of Coleridge, of Southey, of Wordsworth, and of a certain John Henderson, who might, Mr. Cottle said, have excelled them all, but who died at nine-and-twenty, and left nothing behind him except an immense reputation for gen eral power, and especially for the power of conversation. "He evaporated in talk." His father had been a neighboring schoolmaster, and had retained his gifted son as his assistant, until driven by general remonstrance into sending him to Oxford When he arrived there, the astonishment that such a scholar should come to be taught seems to have been universal. Ho stayed on, however, and in the course of a few years died. I remember to have heard the same account of him from my good old friend, Dr. Valpy, whom he occasionally visited at Reading, and who spoke of him as a very disturbing visitor to a man of regular habits. He would sit smoking and talking till three or four o'clock in the morning, neither of them remembering the hour, John Henderson carrying the good doctor away by the flow of his eloquence. It may be doubted whether, if he had lived, he would have left any thing behind him except a great recollection
Besides these portfolios (many of them very bulky, and some from men whose names have probably escaped me), the walls were hung with portraits of these illustrious friends, some engravings, some drawings, some oil-paintings, and many of them repeated two or three times, at different ages. Mr. Cottle was engaged in transcribing Southey's letters, for a life even then projected, and since executed by his son. He said, that of his various epistolary collections he thought Southey's the most amusing, preferring them even to those he had received from Charles Lamb. Very few of these letters are inserted in Mr. Cuthbert Southey's work (doubtless he was embarrassed by his over-riches); but I can not help thinking that a selection of familiar epistles from all the portfolios would be a very welcome gift to the literary world. People can hardly know too much of these great poets, and of such prose writers as Charles Lamb, John Foster, and Robert Hall.
Both Coleridge and Southey were married at Bristol; Coleridge certainly, and Southey I think, at the beautiful church of St. Mary R dcliffe. Upon my mentioning this to the parish clerk, very learned upon the subject of Chatterton, he was surprised into confessing his ignorance of the fact, and got as near as a parish clerk ever does to an admission that he had never heard the first of those illustrious names. So strange a thing is local reputation.
Plenty of people, however, were eager to shew me the localities rendered famous by Southey, and I looked with delight on his father's house, his early home. How great and how good a man he was! how fine a specimen of the generosity of labor! Giving so largely, so liberally, so unostentatiously, not from the superfluities of an abundant fortune, but from the hard-won earnings of his indefatigable toil! Some people complain of his change of politics; and I, for my own particular part, wish very heartily that he had been content with a very moderate modification of opinion. But does not the violent republicanism of youth often end in the violent toryism of age? Does not the pendulum, very forcibly set in motion, swing as far one way as it has swung the other? Does not the sun rise in the east and set in the west?
As to his poetry, I suspect people of liking it better than they say. He was not Milton or Shakspeare, to be sure; but are we to read nobody but Shakspeare or Milton? I will venture to add the "Lines on a Holly-tree:"
0 reader! hast thou ever stood to see
Its glossy leaves
Below, a circling fence, its leaves are seen
Wrinkled and keen;
Can reach to wound;
1 love to view these things with anxious eyes And moralize:And in this wisdom of the holly-tree
Can emblems see
Thus though abroad perchance I might appear
Harsh and austere,
Reserved and rude,
And should my youth, as youth is apt I know,
Some harshness show,
Would wear away,
And as, when all the summer trees are seen
So bright and green;
Less bright than they,
So serious should my youth appear among
The thoughtless throng,
More grave than they,
But he has not done himself justice in this comparison. Never was a man more beloved by all who approached him. Even his peculiarities, if he had any, were genial and pleasant. One anecdote I happen to know personally. He was invited to a large evening party, at Tavistock House, the residence of Mr. Perry, proprietor of the " Morning Chronicle," a delightful person, where men of all parties met, forgetting their political differences in social pleasure. The guest was so punctual, that only two young inmates were in the room to receive him.
"What are we to have to-night?" inquired he of Miss Lunan, Mr. Perry's niece, and Professor Porson's stepdaughter.
"Music, I suppose," was the reply; "at least I know that Catalani is coming!"
"Ah!" rejoined the poet, "then I shall come another time. You will not miss me. Make my excuses!" and off he ran, laughing at his own dislike to opera singers and bravura songs.
Every body has heard the often told story of Coleridge's enlisting in a cavalry regiment under a feigned name, and being detected as a Cambridge scholar in consequence of his writing some Greek lines, or rather, I believe, some Greek words, over the bed of a sick comrade, whom, not knowing how else to dispose of him, he had been appointed to nurse. It has not been stated that the arrangement for his discharge took place at my father's house at Reading. Such, however, was the case. The story was this. Dr. Ogle, Dean of Winchester, was related to the Mitfords, as relationships go in Northumberland, and having been an intimate friend of my maternal grandfather, had no small share in bringing about the marriage between his young cousin and the orphan heiress. He continued to take an affectionate interest in the couple he had brought together, and the 15th Light Dragoons, in which his eldest son had a troop, being quartered in Reading, he came to spend some days at their house. Of course Captain Ogle, between whom and my father the closest friendship subsisted, was invited to meet the Dean, and in the course of the dinner told the story of the learned recruit. It was the beginning of the great war with France; men were procured with difficulty, and if one of the servants waiting at table had not been induced to enlist in his place, there might have been some hesitation in procuring a discharge. Mr. Coleridge never forgot my father's zeal in the cause, for kind and clever as he was, Captain Ogle was so indolent a man, that without a flapper, the matter might have slept in his hands till the Greek kalends. Such was Mr. Coleridge's kind recognition of my father's exertions, that he had the infinite goodness and condescension to look over the proof-sheets of two girlish efforts, "Christina" and "Blanch," and to encourage the young writer by gentle strictures and stimulating praise. Ah! I wish she had better deserved this honoring notice!I add one of his sublimest poems.
HYMN BEFORE SUNRISE IN THE VALE OF CHAMOUN ,
Hast thou a charm to stay the Morning Star In his steep course t So long he seems to pause On thy bald awful head, 0 sovran Blanc!The Arve and Arveiron at thy base Rave ceaselessly; but thou, most awful form!Risest from forth thy silent sea of pines How silently! Around thee and above Deep is the air and dark, substantial, black, An ebon mass: methinks thou piercest it As with a wedge! But when I look again It is thine own calm home, thy crystal shrine, Thy habitation from eternity!
0 dread and silent Mount! I gazed upon thee
Didst vanish from my thought: entranced in prayer
1 worshiped the Invisible alone.
Yet like some sweet beguiling melody,
So sweet we know not we are listening to it,
Thou the meanwhile wast blending with my thought,
Yea with my life, and life's most secret joy;
Till the dilating soul, enwrapped, transfused,
Into the mighty vision passing—there
As in her natural form swelled vast to Heaven!
Awake, my soul! not only passive praise
Thou first and chief, sole sovran of the vale!