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tendency (not then by any means habitual, but it is to be feared already sufficiently indicated) to the intemperate use of wine, which constituted at this time his only real delinquency, and which led, in its results, to all the errors and shortcomings of his after life.
All men who are cut off in any respect, or from any cause, from the ordinary pursuits and sympathies of their fellows, are apt to be thrown back unduly on themselves; the effect being either to sour the feelings, and give to the mind a misanthropic direction, or, in more amiable natures, to foster vanity and an excessive love of praise. Of this latter fault my brother was early conscious. The following memorandum is in the hand-writing of his boyhood :
“It has been among my day-dreams for some time past to write a history of my own life and feelings, beginning from my earliest remembrance, and continuing it at intervals so as to form a sort of review of my own character. This scheme will probably never, except partially, be put in execution. Besides that the effect of such employment would be to nourish a self-love already too strong, and the worst of selflove, a respect for the faults of self; to confine myself to truth would be too much to expect of myself. Many other reasons,” &c.
But this vanity, while it led him to what he calls “a girlish love of display," was but the efflorescence of a deeper feeling. What lay at
the root was an intense craving for sympathy, rendered anxious by a melancholy temperament, and exaggerated sense of his own peculiarities. This melancholy—of which, moody depression and extravagant hilarity, a humorous sadness and a humorous mirth, are but (as S. T. Coleridge would have said) opposite poles—was displayed before any outward event had occurred to excite, and to deepen it, --sometimes, as we have seen, in obscure forebodings of evil to come,-more commonly in a fitful, whimsical, affectionate drollery, such was the form which it took in his loving nature,—which continued through life, and by which perhaps he will be most frequently remembered by his friends. But it is with the gloomy phase of this “humour' that I have now to speak. Among his puerilia I find the following lines, which may be taken as the expression of something more than a wilful fancy :
SOMETHING has my heart to say,
Still. pulls me back.
Too well I know.
This temperament, with its strange alternations (of which old Burton, bringing the omne scibile to bear upon the subject, and melancholising the whole, has left so characteristic a picture, and be it remembered, it was a sad reality to him) constitutes “ the humorist” in the true sense of the term, and produces, as an indispensable condition and co-efficient, all genuine humour, grave or gay, mirthful or pathetic. It is very marked in Shakspeare, in Swift, in Sterne, and in Cowper. It is traceable in Shenstone, in Johnson, in Southey, and still more in Charles Lamb. It is this which alone gives truth or meaning to the famous line,
“Great wit to madness sure is near allied.”
In Hartley Coleridge it cannot, perhaps, be said to have overstepped the confines of sanity (indeed, between the extremes there lay an interspace of healthy cheerfulness and buoyant vigour), and yet, under all the circumstances, it may well account for, and palliate, if not wholly excuse, much of what followed—the sorrow and the regret of his after life.
But I must be more particular. This vanity, whether love of display, or craving for sympathy, took, in my brother, a specific direction. To stand well in the opinion of the other sex, was with him more than the ordinary ambition of youth; it allied itself to all the yearnings of a nature tender and affectionate in the extreme, but singularly impatient of control. Whatever put on the guise of authority -of stern authority—irritated and repelled him: hence he sought in woman, what he afterwards found in children, an object which he could love without restraint. Once or twice, perhaps oftener, this feeling centered on a particular object-at Oxford, and afterwards — " brief periods of dear delusion,” which quickly vanished, for I believe he never made his wishes known; but, for the most part, it remained homeless and unclaimed, “ going to and fro,” or brooding in the air without a resting-place. This passion long rankled within him, supplying food to his peculiar melancholy,
after the hopes which it engendered were well nigh extinct. Many of his poems, some of them of extreme beauty, give expression to these feelings.
It was in this temper of mind that he went to the University. By his peculiar appearance and manners, he conceived himself precluded from winning the grace which he coveted.
Shy and sensitive, and oppressed, as I have said, by a morbid and self-insulating consciousness of his own singularity, (which, however, could he have thought so, need have caused him no such un
* See, for instance, the sonnet, Vol. I.,
“What is young Passion but a gusty breeze?” and in particular the song, p. 43:-
“ The earliest wish I ever knew
Was woman's kind regard to win;
Ere such a wish could be a sin.
“And still it lasts; the yearning ache
No cure has found, no comfort known :
She could not love me for her own.”
As he said long afterwards : “ The hope, which with varying names still had one object, hath evanesced, perhaps, for ever, and I am content it should be so, for now I can love without hope, almost without wish. Yet no—I do wish, -I wish to be beloved, as I am sure I am not now. I wish that some one should love me, not for my own sake, but for her own : that she should wish for my love, rejoice in it, take a pride in it. But that must not be.”