Imágenes de páginas

that he should ever have penned such pieces or suffered them to get abroad, I do not blame him for including them in his works when it was plain that they could not be suppressed. The wine was coarse and burning, but it was the same, however bad a sample, as that which glows in Kubla Khan and The Ancient Mariner, and no production, marked with a peculiar genius, if short and rememberable, will perish, though of small merit, especially when other more considerable fruits of that genius are before the world. It will ever be a grief to those interested in my Father's name that, when a young man, he wrote a lampoon, in sport, upon a good and gifted contemporary ; but I scarce know what he could do more, after shooting off an arrow, which others would preserve on account of its curious make or some fantastic plumage with which its shaft was adorned, than try to blunt its point, and beg that it might be considered only as a plaything.

The Apologetic Preface has been much misrepresented : it has been represented as a defence and a sophistical one; if it were intended as a defence or vindication it would be sophistical indeed; but it is no such thing : it is an apology in the modern sense of the term; that is an excuse. “ It was not my intention, I said, to justify the publication, whatever its author's feelings might have been at the time of composing it. That they are caleulated to call forth so severe a reprobation from a good man, is not the worst feature of such poems. Their moral deformity is aggravated in proportion to the pleasure which they are capable

and sunshine : but these were not present always, and I trust they will henceforth be infrequent.

Non semper imbres dulce-poeticos
Manant in agros ; nec mare lucidum

Vexant inæquales procellæ

Usque ; nec ætheriis in oris,
Esteese Parens, stat glacies iners
Menses per omnes ; aut Aquilonibus

Myrteta Colerigi laborant
Vitibus et viduantur ulmi.

The twining vines are popularity and usefulness : the elms literary pro. ductions of slow growth and stately character.

of affording to vindictive, turbulent, and unprincipled readers."" Notwithstanding this declaration, an admirer of Mr. Pitt has affirmed that “the Apology is throughout defensive.” As this charge is made in the shape of mere assertion “ to refute it with not” will perhaps be sufficient. This and other assertions of the Pittite may be met with the counter-assertion, that the Preface contains neither “ metaphysical jargon," " unphilosophical senti- . mentality,” nor “wire-drawn argumentation,” but expresses in clear language, and illustrates, I think, with some eloquence, the simple but not uninteresting psychological fact, that the wilder and more extravagant a satire appears, the more it contains of devious irrelevant fancy, and the less of individual application, or any attempt to give an air of reality and truth of fact to the representation, the less harm it does and the less of deliberate malice it shows. Such attacks may indeed be insults, but they are very seldom injuries, except so far as the one is the other. Had no one said worse of Mr. Coleridge himself than that the Old One was sure of him at last, he would never have complained so bitterly as he sometimes did of the mischiefs of the tongue. When Mr. Hatelight and Mr. Enmity employ a skilful artist to paint their enemy's portrait, he does not take a plain likeness of Satan and put the enemy's name under it; he takes the enemy's face as a foundation, and superinduces that of Satan upon it; there are perhaps few strongly marked minds that may not, with pains and skill, be made to assume somewhat of

Satanic aspect. 11 Poet. Works, vol. i., p. 275. The next sentence shows impliedly that palliation is the writer's aim. See also p. 280.

12 Mere outward marks for the identifying of the object, as “ letters four do form his name,” are distinct from individualizing features of mind.

The admirer of Mr. Pitt, who is so dissatisfied with the Apologetic Preface, is highly displeased because Mr. Coleridge did not express the deepest contrition for his censures of that minister, without sufficiently considering, that, as Mr. Coleridge's opinion of the Pitt policy continued pretty much the same throughout his life, he could not repent of it to please Mr. Pitt's devotees; and that he expressed quite as much regret for, and disapproval of, his “fame-colored ” language on the subject as may suffice to satisfv any but partisans and bigots, whom he never considered it his duty to conciliate. Let them pour out their streams of “trash," " nonsense,' “jargon,” “muddy metaphysics" over his pages; of the abundance of the head the mouth speaketh when it speaks at this rate.

On these points I think indeed that my Father, upon the whole, was more sinned against than sinning ; but I should be far from attempting to vindicate all the condemnatory parts even of his serious writings. Since he was laid in the grave there have been vehement renewals of former attacks upon him ; but if I had not been called upon to republish his Literary Life personalities of this sort would not have engaged my thoughts for more than a passing moment. He is at rest ; no longer to be disquieted by injustice or capable of being harmed by it; “the storms, reproaches and vilifyings" of this angry world come not nigh his dwelling. But some willingly hear his voice, as it yet speaks in his written remains, and will read with pleasure the fol. lowing extract from the Aids to Reflection, " on thė keen and poisoned shafts of the tongue,” which I give in conclusion, as appli. cable to the subject that has been discussed, but without intend. ing any particular application whatever.

“ The slanders, perchance, may not be altogether forged or untrue; they may be the implements, not the inventions, of malice. But they do not on this account escape the guilt of detraction. Rather it is characteristic of the evil spirit in question, to work by the advantage of real faults; but these stretched anc aggravated to the utmost. It is not expressible how deep a wound a tongue sharpened to the work will give, with no noise and a very little word. This is the true white gunpowder, which the dreaming projectors of silent mischiefs and insensible poisons sought for in the laboratories of art and nature, in a world of good; but which was to be found in its most destructive form, in the World of Evil, the Tongue.'18

[ocr errors]

I have heard it said that the lives and characters of men ought never to be handled by near relations and friends, whose pride and partial affection are sure to corrupt their testimony. This is like saying that animal food should never come to table be. Irrse it is liable, in warm weather, to become tainted; reports of friends and relations are the flesh diet of the Biographical Muse, whereby she is kept in health and strength ; without them her form would become attenuated, and her complexion sallow and

13 Edit. 5, vol. i.

Contemporary biography can only proceed either from friends, from enemies, or from indifferent persons; the last claşs may be the most unbiassed in their testimony, but, for the most part, they have little testimony to give; they know nothing and care nothing about him whose life is to be recorded, till the task of writing it falls into their hands. It should be remembered, too, that a man's enemies—and it is wonderful how many enemies men of mark are sure to acquire-among the vulgar. minded, who hate genius, for its own sake, while they envy its outward rewards—among the high-minded and strong-headed, who are in violent antagonism to an individual genius, through the bent of their own),—that these will give their testimony against him gratuitously, and that unconcerned persons will adopt it for mere amusement's sake, will carelessly repeat the severest judgments, insensible as the "two-handed engine" itself, that cares not whether it descends upon a reprobate or a royal martyr. The testimony of friends is needed, if only to balance that of adversaries; and, indeed, what better grounds for judging of a man's character, upon the whole, can the world have, than the impression it has made on those who have come the nearest to him, and known him the longest and the best ? I, for my part, have not striven to conceal any of my natural partialities, or to separate my love of my Father from my moral and intellectual sympathy with his mode of thought. I have endeavored to give the genuine impressions of my mind respecting him, believing that, if reporters will but be honest, and study to say that, and that alone, which they really think and feel, the color, which their opinions and feelings may cast upon the subject they have to treat of, will not finally obscure the truth. Of this I am sure, that no one ever studied my Father's writings earnestly, and so as to imbibe the author's spirit, who did not learn to care still more for Truth than for him, whatever interest in him such a study may have inspired.

These few lines are an attempt to bring out a sentiment, which my Father once expressed to me on the common saying that “ Love is blind."

Passion is blind, not Love: her wond'rous might
Informs with three-fold pow'r man's inward sight
To her deep glance the soul at large display'd
Shows all its mingled mass of light and shade :-
Men call her blind when she but turns her head,
Nor scans the fault for which her tears are shed.
Can dull Indifference or Hate's troubled gaze
See through the secret heart's mysterious maze ? -
Can Scorn and Envy pierce that "dread abode,”
Where true faults rest beneath the eye of God?
Not their's, ʼmid inward darkness, to discern
The spiritual splendors how they shine and burn.
All bright endowments of a noble mind
They, who with joy behold thein, soonest find;
And better none its stains of frailty know
Than they who fain would see it white as snow.


“principles in no danger of being exaggerated." Introd., p. 31. Principles cannot go too far, because they have the boundless realm of spirit to move in : inanifestations,--thoughts, words, deeds (for thoughts are manifestations to the mind of the subject), -are in that other kingdom of Space and Time, which is essentially limited ; and hence they may exceed in degree, even if they correspond to what is right. We cannot really possess any virtue in excess. Rashness, for example, is not exaggerated courage ; it is courage unattended by good sense, consequently wrong in the mode, and possibly extreme in the measure, of its manifestations; and the same may be said of every vice which appears to be the wrong side of a virtue; it is a vice, not from intensity of degree, but from the want of true discernment and just feeling, quoad hoc, in the subject. For surely the prodigal giver is not more liberal than the generous man; neither are the rash more courageous than the truly brave. To be rash is to be fool-hardy; to be prodigal is to be a spendthrift. The truth is, that the maller of every virtue and vice is simply indifferent; it is the form alone that constitutes it good or evil. The mere natural disposition, which may be called the base of a virtue or a vice, is neutral ; it becomes good by the direction which it receives from the Practical Reason; or evil from the obliquity which it is sure to assume in the silence of the Divine Light. Compare with our 9th and 13th Articles.

« AnteriorContinuar »