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“TO H. C.
" SIX YEARS OLD.
“O THOU! whose fancies from afar are brought;
HARTLEY COLERIDGE, to whom these exquisite and all but prophetic lines were addressed, the eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was born at Clevedon,* a small village near Bristol, of which
* Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge, vol. i., pp. 190, 193. (Pickering, 1847.)
city his mother was a native, on the 19th of September, 1796. The circumstances under which this took place belong to the life of his father, to which this memorial may be considered as an appendix and contribution. For the same reason no account need here be given of his family connexions.
He was an eight months' child, and was born during the absence of his father, who has recorded his feelings both when he heard of his birth, and when he first saw him, in two sonnets,* interesting in themselves, and as the first expression of an affection, which never ceased to regard its object as in some sort an infant still. This affection was returned in kind. To the latest hour of his life, Hartley, in the presence of his father's memory, which was seldom long absent from him, felt as a child, even when reviewing the writings or opinions of his departed sire with the boldest independence of thought.
The singularity of appearance, by which he was distinguished through life, and which, together with the shortness of his stature, (possibly attributable in some measure to his premature birth,) had a marked influence upon his character, was apparent from the first,t though he grew up to be a pretty and engaging child. His father in the
* Poet. Works, vol. i., pp. 251, 252. + See Coleridge's “ Biographia Literaria,” vol. ii., p. 374.
exquisite poem, entitled “Frost at Midnight, addresses him as his “babe so beautiful.” The lines must be familiar to all the readers of Coleridge's poetry, but they may perhaps be read here with a new interest.
“Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whether these lines be taken as expressing a purpose or a hope, the prediction which they contain was fulfilled in a manner and to an extent which could not at the time have been anticipated.
* Poet. Works, vol. i., p. 216.
In a similar strain his father addresses him in the poem entitled “The Nightingale.' *
“ That strain again?
The “ lakes and sandy shores and mountain crags,” among which Hartley Coleridge's childhood was actually passed, are not visited by the feathered songster of the night and of the woods. But the hope and purpose expressed in the above lines were fully realised in their general meaning. It is more remarkable that Hartley's childhood proved to be in the highest degree susceptible of such influences.
* Poet. Works, vol. i., p. 212.
By nature not less than by circumstances he was indeed the poet-child of a poet-father.
His name, however,--Hartley,-bore evidence to his father's early fondness for a study, which was destined to supersede within a few years what, perhaps, most persons may consider the more genial pursuits of poetry. It was given him in honour of the metaphysician, David Hartley; and had he been baptised in his infancy, he would have borne both names.* His baptism did not, in fact, take place till within the period of his distinct remembrance.
A picture of his infancy has already been pre
* In a letter to Mrs. Poole, dated Nov. 1, 1796, his father thus refers to his monthling :—“David Hartley Coleridge is stout, healthy, and handsome. He is the very miniature of me.”
Again, in a most interesting letter, written after a visit to my father in August 1797, the writer (Mr. Richard Reynell) thus brings us back to the time and place, and persons:—"Coleridge has a fine little boy about nine or ten months old, whom he has named David Hartley—for Hartley and Bishop Berkley are his idols—and he thinks them two of the greatest men that ever lived. This child is a noble healthy-looking fellow, has strong eye-brows, and beautiful eyes. It is a treat, a luxury, to see Coleridge hanging over his infant and talking to it, and fancying what he will be in future days.” The remainder of the letter, which refers to Mr. Wordsworth as well as to my father, and gives a most lively account of both, will appear elsewhere. It has recently been communicated to me by the kindness of Dr. Wreford, of Bristol, the nephew of the writer.