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The following year, A.D. 1807, was the annus mirabilis of my brother's childhood, of which he ever retained the liveliest and the fondest recollections. In the spring of the year he was taken by his father to Coleorton,* in Leicestershire, the
* In a note to an old number of the “European Magazine," I find the following reference to this period of his life :
"1807. Oh, public affairs ! I was then at Coleorton, in my zealous novitiate in politics. What an antigallican was I ! I read every scrap about the battle of Eylau, and was enraged, if a doubt of the Russian victory was hinted.”
It may be interesting to compare with the feelings of the child the reflections of the man, some forty years afterwards in his solitary chamber :
“How little this vile, faint, or rather false-hearted scribbler foresaw how irrecoverably the French skill, discipline, and numbers were destined to be destroyed by the Barbarians of Russia, aided, no doubt, by their barbarous climate, and yet more by that barbarism which set their own houses on fire rather than they should afford a shelter to the enemy. Still the rakomávtels of 1807 were right for the time. The hour was not yet come: the iniquity of France was not full, or rather it had not reached the level of Austrian, Prussian, and Russian iniquity. Napoleon had not then done anything to compete in wickedness with the partition of Poland. Besides, a curse hung upon the subsidising system of Pitt. Are we yet cured of putting our trust in princes ? It will be seen should another continental war arise.
“In the blank period which succeeded the degradation of Russia in 1807, every straw was caught at. The King of Sweden and Miranda were two names of praise; and he would have been branded as an Infidel in human virtue, who had said that the chivalrous descendant of Gustavus was a madman, without personal courage, and the Creole adventurer no better than a buccaneer, nay, not near so good.
seat of Sir George Beaumont, the friend of genius and the patron of art, for whom his portrait (the same which has been engraved for the present work) was painted by Mr. (afterwards Sir David) Wilkie; Mr. Wordsworth, the great poet, recently numbered with the illustrious dead, being also of the party. Though he speaks of himself as "a very childish child," his age being ten years, he had already learnt to mark with interest the course of public events, and to engage in the discussions to which they led. With Mr. Wordsworth and his family he proceeded to London, where he spent the summer months under the hospitable roof of Mr. Basil Montagu, to whom and to Mrs. Montagu* a debt of gratitude is due on his account, Yet his warmest and hopefullest admirers would have started to hear that, ere twenty years were past, old Spain would not possess a foot of South America, and that, long ere that time, Buonaparte and his threatened invasion would be as historical as the Invincible Armada. There was, indeed, a blind faith and noble confidence in the better minds that France would be chastised and Europe delivered at length, but no one foresaw, no one counselled the means. There was not a ray of real light till Wellington began his career.”
* In a letter from this lady, dated April 4th, 1849, I find the following reference to a still earlier period of my brother's life :
“He was a most extraordinary child, exhibiting at six years old the most surprising talent for invention.
At eight years of age he had found a spot upon the globe which he peopled with an imaginary nation, gave them a name, a language, laws, and a senate; where he framed long speeches,
for much kindness shown to him in after-years and under altered circumstances. These long-tried friends have lived to hear of his death, when he had become white-headed, and in semblance, if not in years, an old man. They will read this narrative with a mournful interest.
Here he was introduced to the London theatres,*
which he translated, as he said, for my benefit, and for the benefit of my neighbours, who climbed the garden-wall to listen to this surprising child, whom they supposed to be reciting pieces from memory. About this time he wrote a tragedy; and being at a loss in winding up the catastrophe, applied to his father, who excited his indignation by treating the matter too lightly, when he said 'he should inform the public that the only bad lines in the tragedy were written by Mr. Coleridge, Senior !' He called this nation the ' Ejusrii;' and one day, when walking very pensively, I asked him what ailed him. He said, 'My people are too fond of war, and I have just made an eloquent speech in the Senate, which has not made any impression on them, and to war they will go.”
The truth is, he believed to all intents and purposes in the creations of his own mind: but to this subject I shall have occasion to recur presently.
* In a marginal note to the “ London Magazine,” No. 22, I find the following reminiscence :—“The Town and Country' was my first play in London, 1807, then in the course of a successful run at Covent Garden ; Kemble as Reuben Glenroy. I have little recollection of it, only the peculiarity of Kemble's enunciation and his fine statue-face took up their abode with me; and I was wonderfully pleased with a moon which S. H. compared to a copper warming-pan. Though I could make little either of its plot, its pathos, or its wit, and thought it neither so good nor so well acted as plays I had seen at Keswick, the splendid house, the tiered boxes, the
to the Tower, which he visited in company with Mr. (afterwards Sir Walter) Scott, and other London sights.* Here also he was made acquainted with the wonders of chemistry, under the auspices of Mr. (afterwards Sir Humphrey) Davy. All this made an indelible impression upon his mind, the effect being immediately apparent in the complexion of those extraordinary day-dreams in which he passed his visionary boyhood, and to which he was wont to transfer whatever struck his fancy or stimulated his intellect in actual life. Nothing remained for him upon the earth to which it belonged. The scenery at his feet he beheld mirrored in a floating cloud, when it became for him more
almost stupendous galleries, and the novelty of sliding scenes, (which were not, however, so perfectly illusive as I expected London scenes to be,) kept me as happy as wonder could make me, not a little vexed at the angry disgust expressed by the adults of my party. "Mother Goose' succeeded, with Grimaldi in all his glory, and became my thought by day, my dream by night. I set my little wits to contrive a pantomime, if possible still more marvellous, and really thought to perform it in a theatre of our own construction on the mould-heap, with the assistance of automaton actors. Happy days of Thorpaugh Street !”
Ou another occasion he saw the “Wood Demon," his account of which, as seen through the long vista of from thirty-five to forty years, though somewhat long, I have thought sufficiently curious to print in the Appendix to this memoir. In the same paper he alludes to his visit to the Tower of London.
* See Appendix, No. II.
real and important than the matter-of-fact world in which he had to live.
The autumn of the year he spent at Bristol with his maternal grandmother, where he joined his mother, his little sister, and myself. It is now that my own recollections of my brother begin to be distinct and continuous. From this time for the next eight years—how large a portion of those first twenty years which have been truly said to constitute a full half of the longest life !—I was his constant companion, at home and at school, at work and at play, if he could ever have been said to play,—by day and by night: we read together, walked together, slept together. Thus I became the depository of all his thoughts and feelings, and in particular of that strange dreamlife which, as above mentioned, he led in the cloudland of his fancy. It will not be thought strange if I linger over this period, the most remarkable, and, as it proved, by far the happiest of his mortal existence; nor, considering the object of this narrative, do I think an apology necessary for the following details.
At a very early period of his childhood, of which he had himself a distinct though visionary remembrance, he imagined himself to foresee a time when, in a field that lay close to the house in which he lived, a small cataract would burst forth, to which he gave the name of Jug-force. The banks of the