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the garden of Eden, but no well of life is recorded in sacred history. But
Milton says of the archangel (as De Quincey quotes): "He from the well of
life three drops instilled." A rather small dose to see visions upon; I
believe the ordinary dose for an adult is from fifteen to twenty drops.
However, a well of life would hardly be the designation for a well of
laudanum. Milton undoubtedly derived his idea of a well of life from the
tree of life spoken of in holy writ, whose fruit had the power of
conferring immortality. "And the Lord God said, behold, the man is become
as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand,
and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore
the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground
from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the
east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned
every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Gen. iii. 22-24. Milton
is indebted to this hint, and his own imagination, for his well of life,
and the powers he ascribes to its waters; and De Quincey is indebted to
his imagination solely for his idea that it was laudanum which
constituted the potent waters of this imaginary well. The whole thing is
simply ridiculous. Still, it has an object, which object is, taken in
connection with what remains of his essay on Coleridge and opium eating,
to give some excuse, or palliation, as he puts it, for writing his (De
Quincey's) opium confessions. We give his own words: "It is in the faculty
of mental vision, it is in the increased powers of dealing with the
shadowy and the dark, that the characteristic virtue of opium lies. Now,
in the original higher sensibility is found some palliation for the
practice of opium eating; in the greater temptation is a greater excuse.
And in this faculty of self-revelation is found some palliation for
_reporting_ the case to the world, which both Coleridge and his biographer
have overlooked."

The idea that laudanum was known and used in Paradise, on the authority of
the Paradise Lost of Milton, is as bad as the foolish opinions of some
over-wise persons that Shakespeare's Hamlet was really insane.


De Quincey, in his essay on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, while treating of the
subject of Plagiarism, several minor charges of which he had just been
firing off in his blind endeavor to do Coleridge good by destroying his
good name forever, admits that said minor charges amount to nothing as
plagiarism; but says, that "now we come to a case of real and palpable
plagiarism." The case arises in the "Biographia Literaria." De Quincey
says, regarding a certain essay on the esse and the cogitare, that
Coleridge had borrowed it from beginning to end from Shelling. But that
before doing so, being aware of the coincidence, he remarks that he would
willingly give credit to so great a man when the truth would allow him to
do so, but that in this instance he had thought out the whole matter
himself, before reading the works of the German philosopher. Now the truth
is, Coleridge said nothing of the kind. He first warned his readers that
an identity of thought or expression, would not always be evidence that
the ideas were borrowed from Shelling, or that the conceptions were
originally learned from him. They (Coleridge and Shelling) had taken about
the same course in their philosophical studies, etc.

He says: "God forbid that I should be suspected of a wish to enter into a
rivalry with Shelling for honors so unequivocally his right, not only as a
great and original genius, but as the founder of the philosophy of nature,
and the most successful improver of the dynamic system," etc. He then
says: "For readers in general, let whatever coincides with or resembles
the doctrines of my German predecessor, though contemporary, be wholly
attributed to him, provided that the absence of direct references to his
works, which I could not always make with truth, as designating thoughts
or citations actually derived from him, and which, with this general
acknowledgment, I trust would be unnecessary, be not charged on me as
intentional plagiarism or ungenerous concealment." This is what he did
say, and a sufficient acknowledgment for anything borrowed from Shelling.
He then says that he had been able to procure but two of Shelling's books,
in addition to a small pamphlet against Fichte. The above is from the
prefatory remarks to which De Quincey alludes, but his memory must have
been gone on a "wool-gathering" at the time.

Instead of gaining, Coleridge is the loser by adopting the _language_ of
Shelling in his treatise on the transcendental philosophy in the
"Biographia Literaria."

Having made over to Shelling everything that resembled or coincided with
the doctrines of the latter, he lost much of the most important labors of
his life.

He had studied metaphysics and philosophy for years, and not having
"shrank from the toil of thinking," he must have evolved much original
matter; being a man, as De Quincey says, of "most original genius."
Shelling no doubt had gotten ahead of him in publication, but Coleridge
had nevertheless undoubtedly thought out the transcendental system before
meeting with the works of Shelling. He says himself emphatically, that
"all the fundamental ideas were born and matured in my own mind before I
ever saw a page of the German philosopher." However, Coleridge says of the
whole system of philosophy - the Dynamic System, as I understand the
matter - "that it is his conviction that it is no other than the system of
Pythagoras and Plato revived and purified from impure mixtures."

[The quotations in the above note are from memory, and though not given as
exact, they carry the idea intended.]


As to De Quincey's style, I think it may be summarized about thus:

Fine writing. Afflicted with ridiculous hyperbole. Too discursive. In his
narrative pieces he is too rambling and digressive. I have read but one
article of those classed under the title of Literary Reminiscences,
namely, the one on Coleridge; it does well enough, but I have read other
narrative pieces having the faults mentioned. But then his writings are
nearly all of a narrative nature. However, the faults above named are not
special to his narrative pieces only - they are general defects in his
style. In his shorter pieces, such as his article on Wordsworth's poetry,
on Shelley, and on Hazlitt, and likely some others of the same series
which I have not yet read, he is interesting and sufficiently to the
point. But in his essay on the works of Walter Savage Landor, is he not a
little too inflated, and does he not run his ironical style into the
ground? His "Confessions" I have come to regard more as a literary
performance than for any benefit to mankind on the subject of opium there
is in them, and as a literary performance the work was undoubtedly
intended. There is more uniformity of style in it than in any of his other
works of that length that I have read. He is more equable, though smooth
and fluent. Still there is a break or two of humor in it that may sound
harsh, though not the horrible, grisly, blood-curdling humor that he has
in some of his pieces in the shape of irony. He oversteps the modesty of
nature in his use of the satirical, I think. He seems hard and cruel
sometimes, especially in "Coleridge and Opium Eating," when speaking of
Coleridge enticing Gillman into the habit of eating opium, and other
places in the same paper. In many instances I think he loses his dignity
altogether and becomes very coarse; that is, slangy and common. He ever
seems to think that to be smart, to be a success, to be formidable, is to
be humorous. He has many brilliant flashes of intellectual humor, but it
is all from the brain, and lacks the true ring that comes from the
healthy overflowing of nature. He has cold, steel-like wit, that comes
from the head.

My recollection of his "Antigone of Sophocles," is as of a man jumping
upon horseback and riding the animal to death, unless the journey's end be
reached previously. There is no resting-place - on the reader goes after
the idea till the end, and it is a long and barren road to travel. He (De
Quincey) seems nervous - highly so; too much so to allow his reader peace
and ease in reading this paper and others, and parts of other long ones, I
judge. I fear the reader would fain cry out, "What, in the name of Judas
Iscariot, is the man after, and when is he going to catch up to it? I am
out of breath." This "Greek Tragedy" paper, as it is called elsewhere,[6]
seemed lean and very wordy to me. Still, with all his faults, De Quincey
was a brilliant writer, and _generally_ on the right side of
questions - humane, and upholding the down-trodden whenever opportunity


De Quincey, in his article entitled "Samuel Taylor Coleridge," descants as
follows: "Coleridge's essay in particular is prefaced by a few words, in
which, aware of his coincidence with Shelling, he declares his willingness
to acknowledge himself indebted to so great a man, in any case where the
truth would allow him to do so; but, in this particular case, insisting on
the impossibility that he could have borrowed arguments which he had
first seen some years after he had thought out the whole hypothesis _pro
pria marte_. After this, what was my astonishment, to find that the entire
essay, from the first word to the last, is a _verbatim_ translation from
Shelling, with no attempt in a single instance to appropriate the paper,
by developing the arguments, or by diversifying the illustrations. Some
other obligations to Shelling, of a slighter kind, I have met with in the
'Biographia Literaria:' but this was a barefaced plagiarism, which could
in prudence have been risked only by relying too much upon the slight
knowledge of German literature in this country, and especially of that
section of the German literature." De Quincey goes on to say, in the way
of extenuation of his charge of plagiarism against Coleridge, that
Coleridge did not do this from poverty of intellect. "Not at all." He
denies that flat. "There lay the wonder," he says. "He spun daily and at
all hours," proceeds De Quincey, "for mere amusement of his own
activities, and from the loom of his own magical brain, theories more
gorgeous by far, and supported by a pomp and luxury of images such as
Shelling - no, nor any German that ever breathed, not John Paul - could have
emulated in his dreams." There you go again De Quincey - the demon of
hyperbole again driving you to extremes; forever denouncing beyond reason
or praising beyond desert. No one else ever claimed so much for Coleridge.
De Quincey says Shelling was "worthy in some respects to be Coleridge's
assessor." He accounts for Coleridge's borrowing on the principle of
kleptomania.... "In fact reproduced in a new form, applying itself to
intellectual wealth, that maniacal propensity which is sometimes well
known to attack enormous proprietors and _millionnaires_ for acts of
petty larceny." And cites a case of a Duke having a mania for silver
spoons. This is "all bosh," and the wrong theory of Coleridge's borrowing
from Shelling; and as to his loans from any one else, they were as few as
those of any writer. The true theory is, that he was after truth, and had
thought out as well as Shelling the doctrines promulgated by the latter.
He could claim as much originality as Shelling in a system, "introduced by
Bruno," and advocated by Kant, and of which he (Shelling) was only "the
most successful improver."

And also, that "he" (Coleridge) "regarded truth as a divine ventriloquist,
he cared not from whose mouth the sounds were supposed to proceed if only
the words were audible and intelligible." He borrowed the _language_ of
Shelling, but that is all. But De Quincey, after all his flourish of
trumpets and initiatory war-whoop, volunteers to say that "Coleridge, he
most heartily believes, to have been as entirely original in all his
capital pretensions, as any one man that ever has existed as - Archimedes,
in ancient days, or as Shakespeare, in modern."

In estimating the value of Coleridge's "robberies," their usefulness to
himself, etc., De Quincey draws a parallel between them and the contents
of a child's pocket.

He says: "Did he" (the reader) "ever amuse himself by searching the pocket
of a child - three years old, suppose - when buried in slumber, after a long
summer's day of out-a-doors intense activity? I have done this; and, for
the amusement of the child's mother, have analyzed the contents and drawn
up a formal register of the whole. Philosophy is puzzled, conjecture and
hypothesis are confounded, in the attempt to explain the law of selection
which _can_ have presided in the child's labors: stones, remarkable only
for weight, old rusty hinges, nails, crooked skewers stolen when the cook
had turned her back, rags, broken glass, tea-cups having the bottom
knocked out, and loads of similar jewels, were the prevailing articles in
this _proces verbal_. Yet, doubtless, much labor had been incurred, some
sense of danger, perhaps, had been faced, and the anxieties of a conscious
robber endured, in order to amass this splendid treasure. Such, in value,
were the robberies of Coleridge; such their usefulness to himself or
anybody else; and such the circumstances of uneasiness under which he had
committed them. I return to my narrative." "So much for Buckingham." Pity
he wandered from his "narrative" at all. But he also says, and previous to
the foregoing extract, in giving his reason for noticing the subject at
all: "Dismissing, however, this subject, which I have at all noticed only
that I might anticipate and (in old English) that I might _prevent_ the
uncandid interpreter of its meaning."... Then it is that he goes on to
state that he believes him to have been as original in his capital
pretensions as any man that ever lived, as before noticed. Being such a
small matter, it is "really too bad" that he should thus waste his labor
of love. Had he read Coleridge more faithfully, he would have found that
he had made over to Shelling everything which the reader might think
resembled the doctrines of the latter. And this was, perhaps, the best,
and about the only thing he could have done, for undoubtedly the ideas of
the two men were so similar, having taken the same course in their
philosophical studies, that it must have been perplexing, and may have
been impossible, for Coleridge to tell "which was whose."

Coleridge claimed, indeed, that all the main and fundamental ideas were
born and matured in his own mind before he ever saw a page of the German
philosopher. If Coleridge was capable of spinning from "the loom of his
own magical brain theories more gorgeous by far," and "such as Shelling
nor any German that ever breathed could have emulated in his dreams," it
is probable that he was able to think out this bit of philosophy for
himself, especially also as we have his word for it besides (which I am
rejoiced to say still passes current with some men), and it is most
probable that he simply adopted the language of Shelling for convenience.
He disputed no claim of Shelling's, and although he had thought out the
system with Shelling, what he _claimed_ can be seen in the following:
"With the exception of one or two fundamental ideas, which cannot be
withheld from Fichte, to Shelling we owe the completion, and the most
important victories of this revolution in philosophy. To me it will be
happiness and honor enough should I succeed in rendering the system itself
intelligible to my countrymen," etc. Although he thought it out, he denies
not that Shelling thought it out; he says in effect that Shelling, by
publication, has accomplished the object sought by him (Coleridge), and
all the honor and credit he will now claim will be in rendering the
_system_ intelligible to his countrymen. Although Coleridge had thought
out this philosophy, now, however, it is total loss to him in the minds of
those who know not what was the truthfulness and dignity of his nature, as
they will attribute to Shelling (and give Coleridge no credit whatever,
though he may have devoted years to their development) any ideas that are
expressed in the language of the German. However, after subtracting all
that is expressed in the language of Shelling, he has enough left to
embalm his name for ages to come; and that of a kind so unique,
characteristic, and eminently original, as to afford no scope for
friendship and admiration so incomprehensible as that of De Quincey, or
the open attacks of the most malignant of enemies.

This article of De Quincey's was not approved by Coleridge's friends and
relations; on the contrary, it roused their indignation and incurred their
just resentment. "Defective sensibility" is something De Quincey is
forever referring to, often to "depraved sensibility." What madman would
not have known he was injuring his friend by hauling into notice and
retailing such stuff as this? Aggravating and augmenting it by his terse
and vigorous mode of expression! The following passage from De Quincey, is
enough to have brought upon himself perpetual infamy as the most
traitorous of friends, and sufficient to have caused the outraged feelings
of Coleridge's friends, expressed in indignation, to have persecuted him
to the grave; yet it is expressed in such language as exhibits an utter
unconsciousness of the injury done, of the poison administered. In fact,
the assumed attitude of the writer is that of a panegyrist, while his
_real_ attitude would be more truthfully compared to that of a venomous
reptile, which charms its prey with beautiful visions only that its final
attack may be more fatal - it is the song of the siren alluring to deadly

"Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabbed." "Listen to this: "... I
will assert finally, that having read for thirty years in the same track
as Coleridge - that track in which few in any age will ever follow us,
such as German metaphysicians, Latin school men, thaumaturgic Platonists,
religious mystics, - and having thus discovered a large variety of trivial
thefts, I do nevertheless most heartily believe him to have been as
entirely original in all his capital pretensions as Archimedes in ancient
days, or as Shakespeare in modern." Did any one ever before hear such an
insane compound of contradictions? "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of
sound and fury, signifying nothing." 'Tis "the juice of the cursed
hebenon," set forth in a glass of highly colored wine.

"No man can ever be a great enemy but under the garb of a friend. If you
are a cuckold, it is your friend that makes you so, for your enemy is not
admitted to your house; if you are cheated in your fortune, 'tis your
friend that does it, for your enemy is not made your trustee; if your
honor or good name is injured, 'tis your friend that does it still, for
your enemy is not believed against you." - _Wycherly._

That De Quincey did this maliciously, I do not pretend to state; what I
know of its animus I gather from the paper itself. But I can truly say, in
the language of Julius Hare, "God save all honest men from such foremost
admirers." Whether he wanted to injure Coleridge or not, the result is the
same - he _did_ injure him. I am inclined to believe, however, that De
Quincey's article was well intended by him, but from defective sensibility
his judgment was corrupted; he thought the honey he would infuse into the
gall would annihilate its bitterness and leave the decoction sweet. He was
mistaken. After proving Coleridge to be guilty of robbery, he could not
convince the ordinary mind that he was an honest man. After having
declared him to be guilty of a "large variety of trivial thefts" in
literature, he could not induce people generally to believe him to have
been "entirely original." On De Quincey's hypothesis, Coleridge was a
thief and an honest man, a plagiarist and entirely original, at one and
the same instant. This, ordinary readers would naturally have some
difficulty in swallowing. But De Quincey might have spared himself this
undertaking, and himself and Coleridge its injurious results (as it proved
to be a two-edged sword and cut both ways), by making his early reading in
the "Biographia Literaria" a trifle more extensive. There he would have
seen that the "real and palpable case of plagiarism" was fully met and
anticipated - averted, confounded, and explained; having noticed this, he
might have thought these "trivial thefts" unworthy of mention. However, as
the result stands to-day, Coleridge is a classic, and those who have any
interest whatever in his compositions, being persons generally of some
literary acquirements and judgment, are capable of judging of the
originality and genuineness of his works, as he himself pertinently
remarks, "by better evidence than mere reference to dates."

I subjoin a copy of the prefatory remarks to which De Quincey refers, in
stating that Coleridge, "aware of his coincidence with Shelling, declares
his willingness to acknowledge himself indebted to so great a man in any
case where the truth would allow him to do so," etc. The reader will
perceive that there is no such language in them; but he will see in them a
complete refutation of the charge of plagiarism from Shelling, and an
honorable acknowledgment of his indebtedness to that author.

"In Shelling's 'Natur-Philosophie and System des transcendentalen
Idealismus,' I first found a genial coincidence with much that I had
toiled out for myself, and a powerful assistance in what I had yet to do.
I have introduced this statement as appropriate to the narrative nature of
this sketch, yet rather in reference to the work which I have announced in
a preceding page than to my present subject. It would be a mere act of
justice to myself, were I to warn my future readers that an identity of
thought, or even similarity of phrase, will not be at all times a certain
proof that the passage has been borrowed from Shelling, or that the
conceptions were originally learned from him. In this instance, as in the
dramatic lectures of Schlegel, to which I have before alluded, from the
same motive of self-defence against the charge of plagiarism, many of the
most striking resemblances, indeed all the main and fundamental ideas,
were born and matured in my own mind before I had ever seen a single page
of the German philosopher; and I might indeed affirm, with truth, before
the more important works of Shelling had been written, or at least made
public. Nor is this coincidence at all to be wondered at. We had studied
in the same school, been disciplined by the same preparatory philosophy,
namely, the writings of Kant. We had both equal obligations to the polar
logic and dynamic philosophy of Giordana Bruno; and Shelling has lately,
and as of recent acquisition, avowed the same affectionate reverence for
the labors of Behmen and other mystics, which I had formed at a much
earlier period. The coincidence of Shelling's system with certain general
ideas of Behmen, he declares to have been mere coincidence, while my
obligations have been more direct. He needs to give Behmen only feelings
of sympathy, while I owe him a debt of gratitude. God forbid that I should
be suspected of a wish to enter into a rivalry with Shelling for the
honors so unequivocally his right, not only as a great and original
genius, but as the founder of the philosophy of nature, and the most
successful improver of the dynamic system, which, begun by Bruno, was
re-introduced (in a more philosophical form, and freed from all its
impurities and visionary accompaniments) by Kant; in whom it was the
native and necessary growth of his own system.... With the exception of
one or two fundamental ideas which cannot be withheld from Fichte, to
Shelling we owe the completion and most important victories of this
revolution in philosophy. To me it will be happiness and honor enough
should I succeed in rendering the system itself intelligible to my
countrymen, and in the application of it to the most awful of subjects for
the most important of purposes.

"Whether a work is the offspring of a man's own spirit, and the product of
original thinking, will be discovered by those who are its sole legitimate
judges, by better evidence than the mere reference to dates. For readers
in general, let whatever in this or any future work of mine that resembles

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