Imágenes de páginas


which produced a bitter correspond- certain relief in stimulating his powerence between him and Coleridge. We ful imagination, and that some trace of could fancy that this incident is re- what was futile and trivial may be flected not only in the lives to which found in an immortal work of art. we have taken exception, but in the Perhaps it was not only faults for whole poem

in which they occur. which he directly accountable Coleridge had opened his home to a which came between him and his stranger as had Christabel, he had friends. The most painful quarrel in allowed the halo of his genius to en- which he ever engaged seems to have circle second-rate productions, and thus been exacerbated by the failure of overirrevocably proclaimed his friendship tures from him, which were felt as for one from whom he came to with- tainted with sentimentality, such at draw it; he had experienced the ma- least, in our view, is the letter on the Jign influence of the object of his death of the little Thomas Wordsworth, hospitable beneficence, and had found to which it appears that the bereaved it chill a far dearer affection. All this father failed to respond with any seems to us repeated in the poem with warmth. Wordsworth never ceased to just that unlikeness with which imagi- love and to excuse him ; but we should nation reproduces the outline of expe- imagine that this particular tendency rience. Perhaps we may give Lloyd was more distasteful to him than to too much importance in associating most people. A certain haze rests on him with an immortal poem, but we their estrangement. The poem which should give him much 1 if we attended is supposed to refer to it — “ The Conto contemporary mention instead of his plaint” – if the theory be correct, is own works ; and the suggestions which made intentionally misleading. Again, å genius adopts and transmutes are we venture to give the well-known generally shadowy. If an incident or lines that the reader may judge :a character reappears in labelled por

There is a change — and I am poor ; traiture the art will generally be found

Your love hath been, nor long ago, second-rate, as was indeed the case

A fountain at my fond heart's door, with this very friendship. A literal

Whose only business was to flow; transcript of Coleridge's experience in And flow it did, not taking heed, the ranks, when poverty had led him to Of its own bounty or my need. cnlist in a cavalry regiment, is to be

What happy moments did I count ! found in a novel by Lloyd which owes

Blessed was I then all bliss above, any reader of our day to this portrait

Now, for that consecrated fount of his illustrious friend. There must

Of murmuring, sparkling, living love have been strong affection between What have I ? Shall I dare to tell ? them at first, there was kindly feeling A comfortless and hidden well. at last, and the poet may have hoped

A well of love - it may be deep, that his unhappy home would have been

I trust it is – and never dry. less desolate after the inclusion of an

What matters ? if the waters sleep inmate with common tastes and aspira

In silence and obscurity. tions. When to the disappointments Such change and at the very door of these hopes was added the discovery Of my fond heart hath made me poor. of a power in the alienated friend to alienate others, we can well conceive The name of Coleridge must occur to that Coleridge's sore heart found a every reader who peruses these lines

and remembers that they were written 1 Lamb said of him, for instance:

by Wordsworth ; it is indeed impos* I'll think less meanly of myself

That Lloyd will sometimes think on me." sible to fix upon another in WordsAnd Coleridge, long after their quarrel, affixed worth's happy life associated with the some of his marginalia to verses which the reader chill and disappointment they convey, of our day peruses with effort, but to which the faint peneilling now supplying its main interest but it is not difficult to imagine that ascribes “ much merit."

any one should suffer from estrange

[ocr errors]

ment of which the world kuows noth- | remedy and the poison grow side by ing, and the sentiment of the verses side. An appreciation of his work as a seems to us very unlike that with which thinker is not included in the present Wordsworth must have remembered endeavor, even to the same degree that his quarrel with Coleridge. However, it has undertaken such an appreciait is about as probable that an address tion of his work as a poet, but any iu verse to an alienated friend should attempt to illustrate his work from be somewhat misleading as to the ac- his life must needs echo the protest tual facts, as that it should commemo. of his teaching against some part of rate a disappointed affection inspired his example. by one whom nobody kuows and felt For his prose, not less than his verse by one whom everybody knows, for - though no doubt less impressively neither contingency is improbable. We because it is so much less impressive – may at any rate take it for granted that receives light from and flashes it back when Wordsworth wrote some lines in upon his biography. It is so little fathat touching effusion, he could not but miliar to the readers of our day that remember the brother bard who had many would be surprised at discoverbeen once his daily companion, though ing that in bulk it largely exceeds his mountains intervened.

verse. It is difficult to read, for two What had caused their quarrel was reasons.

No other English prose, some expression which he could not surely, contains

many valuable altogether repudiate, however much he thoughts presented in so unfortunate a deplored its exaggerated repetition to form. We have constantly to attend

. the effect that he (Wordsworth) had no to some one else's opinion before we hope for Coleridge. It is worth recall- learn his own; and to disentangle ing that expression of despondency his view of the perennial from somefrom Coleridge's poetic brother, to thing temporary. And, moreover, it enhance the lesson of encouragement breathes that atmosphere of the obsotaught by his life. He became the lete so peculiarly blunting to attention. teacher and guide he was felt by our We have heard it said by a man of scifathers, after one who knew him bestence that nothing was more unreadaand loved him best had confessed to ble to his frateruity than the scientific feeling no hope for him. We cannot writings which lay just beyond the cite another fact from the biography of limits of the special study of each. It great men equally pregnant with ex- is on the same principle, we suppose, hortation to hopeful thoughts on the that the thought that lies just beyond destinies of all. The years he spent on our own scope of reminiscence – using Highgate Hill, in the home of the phy- the word in a broad sense, and taking sician who rescued him from his slavery in more than the memory of a generato opium, and set him free to live, tion - is less interesting than what is succeeded to a neglect of duty that no either older or newer. The works of circumstance can do more than palliate. a thinker, in their relation to public There is no need to dwell upon this appreciation, go through three stages. interval, for its general character is At first, whatever is new in them known to all who know anything about strikes the public ear, and receives an Coleridge. But neither should it be eager welcome. After a time there is forgotten, or judged leniently. When a reaction. All that startled an elder genius abjures the responsibilities of generation stirs a certain impatience in manhood it becomes a criminal, not those on whom that teaching has been only towards those whose claims are impressed as a kind of orthodoxy ; they obviously and unquestionably neglected, are apt to turn away with the feeling but to that wider circle for whom its " we know all that well enough,” ever influence slackens the bonds of duty if they do not go on to the further deand prepares apologies for wrong-doing. cision “and we see the mistakes in it." Happily, in the case of Coleridge the The final stage, when what is uew or


old has lost other than a historic sig- | ality, and to drink in his thougbts benificance, and men ask only what is fore their own echoes had made them true, comes much more tardily, and seem commonplace. has not yet arrived in the case of Cole- We have large material, in the meridge.

moirs of his contemporaries, for an With a warning sense of the mis- appreciation of that fascination which leadingness of all labels attached to a has been hardly paralleled since Socthinker, we would venture to describe rates drank his cup of hemlock; and it him as the father of the Broad Church. does but bear out the comparison that His death almost coincided with the the chorus of his admirers is interstart of the High Church movement. rupted by the laughter of an AristophCarlyle seems to take him as the anes. It is the last, we fear, which prophet of that movement, and there is comes most distinctly to the ear of our a loose sense in which all who recog- generation. Almost all attempts to nize a common foe may be grouped follow some record of the spoken words together ; but it seems to us that his which have most stirred the hearts of power lay exactly in his divergence their hearers are like listening to those from the High Church party. He words through a closed door — we follooked beyond the rising wave of pub-low the main purport of the discourse, lic thought ; he saw clearly, not only we catch a sentence here and there, what men were beginning to see dimly, but just when our attention is most but what they were not for some time roused the words become indistinct, to see at all. It is the very fact of his and the sequence is broken. Yet if, in having seen clearly truths of special the wordless records of memory, the interest to a day that is but just past reader find nothing that renders easy of which makes him in this point of view belief a spell which no intellectual encomparatively uninteresting to ours. deavor can reproduce, he has lacked If he had stood a very little ahead of much of what is most precious in life. his own, the stage of reaction would by How many a conversation, conveying this time have been almost past. As it nothing to one who hears it at secondis, we stand in its full shadow. Forty hand, recurs to the hearer's recollecyears ago, that school of liberal theol. tion with a vividness which brings back ogy which accepts both the tradition of the modulations of tone to the ear, the antiquity and also the alliance of mod- furniture of the room or the details of ern speculation, had the effervescence the landscape to the eye, and in which resulting from any combination of pre- the words are lost only because they so viously hostile elements of thought. tooded the soul with large ideas or inTo-day it has the flatness which must distinct emotions that the mere vehicle needs succeed to such effervescence. was submerged. The thoughts have Whatever is true in it is as true now as passed into our memory like music or it was then. But whatever was new fragrance, and the endeavor to restore in it then has now that association of them to language is like that of the triteness which clings even to impor- fisherman in the Arabian tale to reimlant truth if it has been emphasized prison the genius in the vessel from for more than a generation. At no which he had escaped and soared to stage of thought, it will be found, is the clouds. Such memories are a clue truth so difficult to appreciate. Cole- to what is deepest in the meaning of ridge supplies the animating principle human intercourse, although the ento what we may call the new orthodoxy deavor to transfer them to another of our time, and orthodoxy is always mind is vain. uninspiring. We shall understand him, It is a striking and significant fact in this point of view, best through the that we may quote two accounts of interesi he awakened in those who Coleridge's conversation, each from a stood near enough to him to catch mau of genius, and written from persome waft from his magnetic person-Isonal experience, which flatly contradict each other. The conversation of duced by the lapse of time in the Coleridge

relative vitality of satire and eulogy. was (says Wordsworth, Knight's “Life," i.

To a contemporary ear the former is 129] like a majestic river, the sound or generally more interesting. After a sight of whose course you caught at inter- certain date it is the satire which falls vals, which was sometimes concealed by flat and the reverence which is felt to forests, sometimes lost in sand, then came be full of life. To our mind the chapflashing out broad and distinct, and even ter in which the young disciple endeavwhen it took a turn which your eye could ors to retain the echoes of teaching not follow, yet you always felt and knew which seemed to him precious is more that there was a connection in its parts, interesting than that in which his briland that it was the same river.

liant biographer seems to prick the Carlyle, without apparently being bladder of that enthusiasm. We gain aware that he is contradicting Words- more even from a meagre and unfruitworth, says that it was

ful inventory which gives the heads talk not flowing anywhither like a river, devotion, than from the laugh which

of a discourse awakening enthusiastic but spreading everywhither in inextricable currents and regurgitations like a lake or substitutes the impression of a tedious sea, terribly deficient in definite goal or preacher and a besotted audience. No aim, nay, often in logical intelligibility ; doubt there is such a thing as enthuwhat you were to believe or do, on any siasm given to an unworthy object. earthly or heavenly thing, obstinately re- But it is not nearly so common as ridifusing to appear from it. So that, most cule directed against an object more times, you felt logically lost, swamped near worthy of enthusiasm than of ridicule. to drowning in this tide of ingenious voca

The eulogy of Wordsworth, the satire bles, spreading out boundless as if to sub- of Carlyle, the attempted record of merge the world.

John Sterling, bear witness to the imThe caricature from which this is an pression left on all hearers by that extract, and by which, probably, Cole- inspired utterance which in the third ridge is best known to the readers of and fourth decades of our century was our day, will amuse all readers, and a maguet to the many pilgrims to Dr. perhaps most instruct those who turn Gilman's house on Highgate Hill. For to it for instruction rather as to the a tribute to the same influence in which artist than the subject of the sketch. all strictly personal influence is filtered “ The account Carlyle has given of away, the reader should turn to the Coleridge's conversation would do very article written by John Mill fifty-four well for his own," was the comment years ago for the Westminster Review, made on it when his “Life of Ster- wbich holds in some respects an excepling" first appeared by one whom Car- tional position in the world of critilyle loved well. Perhaps the remark cism. We at least cannot recall another explains the want of sympathy in the account given by one great man of andelineation which called it forth. It is other (unless Carlyle's essay on Vola brilliant picture of whatever was taire be worthy of the description) feeble or odd in Coleridge's premature where principles which the writer spent old age, and it has touches here and his life in opposing are the object of there full of illuminating characteriza- candid and sympathetic appreciation, tion ; but it misleads more than it en- and a character weak where his own lightens the student of a pregnant was strong is touched on with reverthinker and eloquent teacher. We may ence and modesty. This rare harmony turn to a portrait, as much more sym- of sympathy and antagonism is a tribute pathetic, as the painting is feebler, both to the critic and to the thinker from the hand of Sterling himself, pre- criticised, but in our opinion mainly served in that first biography of him to the latter. The critic, indeed, must which provoked Carlyle's. It is in- have brought to his task a rare capacity structive to note the inversion pro-' for intellectual justice ; but when we

[ocr errors]

remember some aspects of his later of letters, it becomes to one who discareer we shall be inclined to doubt covers that there is within a man some whether the philosophical Radical could faculty which takes hold of that which have judged the philosophic Conserva- is, a matter of life and death. His distive so truly unless he had found in him tinction between the will and all that something that lay at the root of his sequence of cause and effect which we own creed as well as of that which was gather up under the name of Nature, is the object of his antagonism. The at once the core of his philosophy and influence which supplied their link was the clue to bis inmost history. He deeper than a divergence going down must have pondered over it more earto the very roots of all that language nestly than almost any other man that can undertake adequately to represent ever lived, for it is hardly possible to to the wind, and must when rightly conceive of one in whom the faculty of received supply a link to all human will was subject to so strange a pathought and aspiration.

ralysis. We read his biography with a The poetry of Coleridge owes its sense of bewilderment at the discovery peculiar beauty to the fact of its em- that duties clearly discerned by one bodying, in a deeper sense than we keenly alive to the meaning of duty could use the words of almost any should be as absolutely neglected as by other poet, the revelation of a char- a man without heart and conscience. acter. His philosophy owes to the Probably our bewilderment does not same cause all that we can recognize equal his own. He was driven to ask as its perennial truth. One much in- more earnestly, we should think, than debted to him - Frederick Maurice any of his generation, the questions says of him that he was a penitent as which centre in the very idea of human well as a philosopher. The words, choice. What happens when a man though we should express their mean- does wrong? What happens when he ing rather differently, give the clue to turns from darkness to light? Somewhat is most valuable in his thought. thing of which the world of nature Whatever he has to say to the seeker presents no type or likeness ; which is after truth depends on its relation to original in a sense in which there is that experience of struggle with evil nothing original in the whole world of which teaches the meaning of reality physical being. Something which — it as in this world nothing else does. In is but the same statement in other his youth he had given himself to the words — must to the understanding be study of German philosophy unknown forever invisible, which the reason at that time to English students, and at alone can discern. This we conceive all times inaccessible to any but stu- was the truth which Coleridge learnt dents ; in his age he discovered that through bitter experience. He had felt the highest triumph of philosophy is to the bondage of nature, the absolute bring its illuminating influence lo be- character of that law of necessity to liefs that lie hid in the heart of the which a man may surrender himself if ignorant and the poor. His aim was to he live under the sequence of the transform the dogmas that most men physical. He also came to realize the had learnt to the truths that all might deliverance which proceeds from that believe. He that distinctions which is above and beyond Nature, which seem idle pedantry from with- to learn that things which eye hath not out, from within are recognized as seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it directions corresponding to the deepest entered into the heart of man to conneeds of the human soul. This we ceive, are in the teaching of life remay say of the distinction between the vealed by God. And what he thus understanding and the reason, recur- learnt, though taught in a faltering rent throughout all his prose writings ; voice and with the mingled hurry and erroneous for the man of science of diffuseness with which we always fulfil our day, meaningless for the mere man the morning's task in the late after


« AnteriorContinuar »