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cumstances which set aside ordinary rules. It is the motive which governs the act.
And as regards men of letters, although it be true that imaginative compositions of the highest scope possess a permanent and universal interest quite independent of personal associations, yet there is a wide department of literature of which this cannot be affirmed. Many works, both of fancy and reflection, and those of no ordinary merit, partake of an occasional character, and cannot be fully understood or appreciated without some acquaintance with the life and circumstances of the author. The writings of Dryden, Swift, and Pope are of this class. And there are others, again, the charm of which is mainly heightened, if it be not altogether produced, by the acquaintance which we form with the writer himself—with the peculiarity of his mind and character. We read the essays of Montaigne and Charles Lamb, not so much for the
ke of the thoughts or opinions themselves, as of the coloured medium through which they pass.
In all these cases the life of the author is a commentary upon his works.
Who is not pleased to be made acquainted with the author of the Deserted Village, and of the Vicar of Wakefield ? Who does not love the man for the sake of the writings, and the writings better for the sake
the man ?
The life of Savage is a sad tale, but who would wish it untold? What a lesson does it teach! Here the history of the author has preserved the memory of his writings, and given them the greater part of their value. The same is perhaps true of Chatterton; and though this cannot be said of Burns, yet in neither case can we separate the Poet from the Man.
“We think of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride ;
Following his plough along the mountain side ;”
and we ask ourselves how it could be said, with so much confirmation from fact, that
“Poets in their youth begin in gladness, But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.”
Triste augurium! These lines were early applied to himself, with sad presage, by the subject of the following memoir. Whether it be well to retrace the course of his life, as it flowed from open sunshine “under the shade of melancholy boughs," must be left for others to decide. The motives which have determined his brother, after much hesitation, to take upon himself this responsibility, will have been partly gathered from the preceding observations. If the writings of Hartley Coleridge,
whether in verse or prose, were not believed to possess some independent value, they would not have been reproduced, at least by the present editor : still less would his posthumous remains have been added to the collection, with a record of his life and fortunes. But all who knew my brother with any degree of intimacy, are agreed that his written productions fall far, very far short of what he might, under happier circumstances, have achieved, whether as a poet and critic, or as an historian and political writer, or again as a scholar and divine. All are agreed that he was in himself in a high degree remarkable and interesting; not solely or so much on the score of his mental endowments, and of the rare conversational faculty by which he made them known and felt, as of the peculiarity of his character,—the strange idiosyncrasy of his moral and intellectual nature. It was impossible to give publicity to his writings, except in the most sparing extracts, without letting much of this appear. They present an image of the man, but broken and imperfect as a reflection upon troubled water. It seemed desirable to complete the picture. They point to “a foregone conclusion.” It seemed better that this should be stated faithfully and distinctly, than that it should be supplied by vague conjecture and uncertain report. If this design should not altogether fail in the
execution, it is believed that the interest which attaches to the name of Hartley Coleridge, among those who knew him as a man, will be felt by some of those who only know him as a writer.
His name, indeed, must ever be associated with that of his father, a portion of whose genius he certainly possessed, and appears to have inherited. A resemblance in kind is discernible, more especially if the comparison be made with the earlier productions of the elder Coleridge, though this is not so striking as the contrast exhibited on the whole. A wit and a humourist, a keen observer, and a deep but not a sustained or comprehensive thinker ; intensely subjective, or at least introspective, yet not disposed to dwell in pure abstractions ; seeing the universal in the individual, yet resting in the individual rather than the universal ; acute and sagacious, often under the disguise of paradox ; playful and tender, with a predominance of the fancy over the imagination, yet capable of the deepest pathos; clear, rapid, and brilliant, the qualities of his mind may almost be regarded as supplemental to those by which his father's later and more elaborate productions are distinguished. Yet this unlikeness may perhaps be imputed rather to difference of cultivation, than to original diversity.*
* Both father and son were in the habit of writing freely in the margins of books, as if disputing with the author; and
At any rate we have here an instance where the poetic faculty, contrary to what has been laid down as a rule, seems to have been transmitted by natural descent; and it may not be wholly unimportant to learn in what relation a son, so gifted, stood to such a father.
If, however, I shall be judged to have decided wrongly, if so extended a record be considered disproportionate to its subject,-one, who occupied when alive so small a portion of the public eye, and who did, it may be said, so little on which to found a posthumous reputation,* let it be considered as addressed to those among his contemporaries, neither few nor undistinguished, among whom he excited a personal interest, to the friends by whom he was loved, and the acquaintances by whom he was admired.
here, where each appears in undress, the original similarity of their minds is observable, yet with a marked difference: the former is exploratory and shifting, the latter conclusive and self-consistent. From the one we obtain a profound intuition, from the latter a summary of observation. The father sometimes mistakes ;—he is incorrect in particulars ; if the son err, it is in principle ; he is one-sided or sophistical. Both write with precision, even to the placing of a comma : but the style of one is close and pregnant, of the other easy and sparkling.
* The published collection of his works may perhaps have lessened the force of this objection. Nov. 1851.