H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

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a workman of the very first order of excellence in this cu-
rious craft. The faculties which go to the attainment of
such excellence are not perhaps among the highest distinc-
tions of the human mind, but, such as they are, they are
specific and well marked ; they are by no means the nec-
essary accompaniments even of the most conspicuous liter-
ary power, and they are likely rather to suffer than to profit
by association with great subtlety of intellect or wide phil-
osophic grasp. It is not to the advantage of the journal-

78 COLERIDGE. [chap.

ist, as such, that he should see too many things at a time,
or too far into any one thing, and even the gifts of an ac-
tive imagination and an abundant vocabulary are each of
them likely to prove a snare. To be wholly successful,
the journalist — at least the English journalist — must not be
too eloquent, or too Avitty, or too humorous, or too ingen-
ious, or too profound. Yet the English reader likes, or
thinks he likes, eloquence ; he has a keen sense of humour,
and a fair appreciation of wit ; and he would be much hurt
if he were told that ingenuity and profundity were in them-
selves distasteful to him. How, then, to give him enough
of these qu^itiesto please and not enough to offend him —
as much eloquence as will stir his emotions, but not enough
to arouse his distrust; as much wit as will carry home the
argument, but not enough to make him doubt its sincerity;
as much humour as will escape the charge of levity ; as much
ingenuity as can be displayed without incurring suspicion,
and as much profundity as may impress without bewil-
dering? This is a problem which is fortunately simpli-
fied for most journalists by the fact of their possessing
these qualities in no more than, if in so much as, the min-
imum required. But Coleridge, it must be remembered,
possessed most of them in embarrassing superfluity. Not
all of them indeed, for, though he could be witty and at
times humorous, his temptations to excess in these re-
spects were doubtless not considerable. But as for his
eloquence, he was from his youth upwards Isceo torren-
tior, his dialectical ingenuity was unequalled, and in dis-
quisition of the speculative order no man was so apt as
lie to penetrate more deeply into his subject than most of
his readers would care to follow him. A j^riori, there-
fore, one Avould have expected that Coleridge's instincts
would have led liim to rl.etorise too much in his diction,


to refine too mucli in his arguments, and to philosophise
too much in his reflections, to have hit the popular taste
as a journalist, and that at the age of eight -and -twenty
he would have been unable to subject these tendencies
either to the artistic repression of the maturer writer or to
the tactical restraints of the trained advocate. This emi-
nently natural assumption, however, is entirely rebutted by
the facts. Nothing is more remarkable in Coleridge's con-
tributions to the Morning Post than their thoroughly work-
manlike character from the journalistic point of view, their
avoidance of " viewiness," their strict adherence to the one
or two simple points which he is endeavouring at any par-
ticular juncture in politics to enforce upon his readers, and
the steadiness with which he keeps his own and his read-
ers' attention fixed on the special political necessities of
the hour. His articles, in short, belong to that valuable
class to which, while it gives pleasure to the cultivated
reader, the most commonplace and Philistine man of busi-
ness cannot refuse the, to him, supreme praise of being
eminently "practical." They hit the nail on the head in
nearly every case, and they take the plainest and most di-
rect route to their point, dealing in rhetoric and metaphor
only so far as the strictly "business" ends of the argu-
ment appear to require. Nothing, for instance, could have
been better done, better reasoned and written, more skil-
fully adapted throughout to the English taste, than Cole-
ridge's criticism (31st Dec, 1799) on the new constitution
established by Bonaparte and Sieves on the foundation of
the Consulate, with its eighty senators, the "creatures of
a renegade priest, himself the creature of a foreign mer-
cenary, its hundred tribunes who are to talk and do noth-
ing, and its three hundred legislators whom the constitu-
tion orders to be silent." What a ludicrous Purgatory,

80 COLERIDGE. [chap.

adds be, " for three hundred Frenchmen !" Very vigorous,
moreover, is he on the ministerial rejection of the French
proposals of peace in 1800, arguing against the continu-
ance of the war on the very sound anti -Jacobin ground
that if it were unsuccessful it would inflame French ambi-
tion anew, and, if successful, repeat the experience of the
results of rendering France desperate, and simply reani-
mate Jacobinism.

Effective enough too, for the controversial needs of the
moment, was the argument that if France were known, as
Ministers pretended, to be insincere in soliciting peace,
" Ministers would certainly treat with her, since they would
again secure the support of the British people in the war,
and expose the ambition of the enemy ;" and that, there-
fore, the probability was that the British Government knew
France to he sincere, and shrank from negotiation lest it
should expose their own desire to prosecute the war.' Most
happy, again, is his criticism of Lord Grenville's note, with
its references to the unprovoked aggression of France (in
the matter of the opening of the Scheldt, etc.) as the sole
cause and origin of the war. " If this were indeed true,
in what ignorance must not Mr. Pitt and Mr. Windhapa
have kept the poor Duke of Portland, who declared in the
House of Lords that the cause of the war was the main-
tenance of the Christian religion ?"

To add literary excellence of the higher order to the
peculiar qualities which give force to the newspaper arti-

' Alas, that the facts should be so merciless to the most excellent
arguments ! Colerklge could not foresee that Napoleon would, years
afterwards, admit in his own Memoirs the insincerity of his overtures.
"I had need of war; a treaty of peace . . . would have withered ev-
ery imagination." And when Mr. Pitt's answer arrived, "it filled
me with a secret satisfaction."


cle is for a jonrnalist, of course, a " counsel of perfection ;"
but it remains to be remarked that Coleridge did make
this addition in a most conspicuous manner. Mrs. H. N.
Coleridge's three volumes of her father's Essays on his
oivn Times deserve to live as literature apart altogether
from their merits as journalism. Indeed, among the arti-
cles in the Morninff Post between 1799 and 1802 may be
found some of the finest specimens of Coleridge's maturer
prose style. The character of Pitt, which appeared on
19th March, 1800, is as remarkable for its literary merits
as it is for the almost humorous political perversity which
would not allow the Minister any single merit except that
which he owed to the sedulous rhetorical training received
by him from his father, viz.^ " a premature and unnatural
dexterity in the combination of words." ' The letters to
Fox, again, though a little artificialised perhaps by remi-
niscences of Junius, are full of weight and dignity. But
by far the most piquant illustration of Coleridge's peculiar
power is to be found in the comparison between his own
version of Pitt's speech of iVth Februar)^1800, on the
continuance of the war, with the report of it which ap-
peared in the 2'imcs of that date. With the exception of

' The following passage, too, is curious as showing how polemics,
like history, repeat themselves. " As his reasonings were, so is bis
eloquence. One character pervades his whole being. Words on
words, finely arranged, and so dexterously consequent that the whole
bears the semblance of argument and still keeps awake a sense of
surprise ; but, when all is done, nothing rememberable has been said ;
no one philosophical remark, no one image, not even a pointed apho-
rism. Not a sentence of Mr. Pitt's has ever been quoted, or formed
the favourite i)hrase of the day — a thing unexampled in any man of
equal reputation." With the alteration of one word — the proper
name — this passage might have been taken straight from some po-
litical diatribe of to-dav.

82 . COLERIDGE. [chap.

a few unwarranted elaborations of the arguments here and
tliere, the two speeches are in substance identical ; but the
effect of the contrast between the Minister's cold state-
paper periods and the life and glow of the poet-journalist's
style is almost comic. Mr. Gillman records that Canning,
calling on business at the editor's, inquired, as others had
done, who was the reporter of the speech for the Morning
Post, and, on being told, remarked drily that the report
"did more credit to his head than to his memory."

On the whole one can well understand Mr, Stuart's anx-
iety to secure Coleridge's permanent collaboration with
him in the business of journalism ; and it would be possi-
ble to maintain, with less of paradox than may at first sight
appear, that it would have been better not only for Cole-
ridge himself but for the world at large if the editor's ef-
forts had been successful. It would indeed have been bow-
ing the neck to the yoke ; but there are some natures upon
which constraint of that sort exercises not a depressing but
a steadying influence. What, after all, would the loss in
hours devoted to a comparatively inferior class of literary
labour have amounted to when compared with the gain in
much-needed habits of method and regularity, and — more
valuable than all to an intellect like Coleridge's — in the
constant reminder that human life is finite and the mate-
rials of human speculation infinite, and that even a world-
embracing mind must apportion its labour to its day?
There is, however, the great question of health to be con-
sidered — the question, as every one knows, of Coleridge's
whole career and life. If health was destined to give way,
in any event — if its collapse, in fact, was simply the cause
of all the lamentable external results which followed it,
while itself due only to predetermined internal conditions
over which the sufferer had no control — then to be sure


cadit qucestio. At London or at the Lakes, among news-
paper files or old folios, Coleridge's life would in that case
have run the same sad course ; and his rejection of Mr.
Stuart's offer becomes a matter of no particular interest to
disappointed posterity. But be that as it may, the " old
folios" won the day. In the summer of 1800 Coleridge
quitted London, and having wound up his affairs at his
then place of residence, removed with his wife and chil-
dren to a new and beautiful home in that English Lake
country with which his name was destined, like those of
Southey and Wordsworth, to be enduringly associated.




We are now approaching tlie turning-point, moral and
physical, of Coleridge's career. The next few years de-
termined not only his destiny as a writer but his life as
a man. Between his arrival at Keswick in the summer
of 1800 and his departure for Malta in the spring of 1804
that fatal change of constitution, temperament, and habits
which governed the whole of his subsequent history had
fully established itself. Between these two dates he was
transformed from the Coleridge of whom his young fellow-
students in Germany have left us so pleasing a picture into
the Coleridge whom distressed kinsmen, alienated friends,
and a disappointed public were to have before them for
the remainder of his days. Here, then, at Keswick, and
in these first two or three years of the century — here or
nowhere is the key to the melancholy mystery to be found.
It is probable that only those who have gone with some
minuteness into the facts of this singular life are aware
how great was the change effected during this very short
period of time. When Coleridge left London for the Lake
country, he had not completed his eight -and -twentieth


year. Before he was thirty he wrote that Ode to Dejec-
tion in wliich his spiritual and moral losses are so patheti-
cally bewailed. His health and spirits, his will and habits,
may not have taken any unalterable bent for the worse
until 1804, the year of his departure for Malta — the date
which I have thought it safest to assign as the definitive
close of the earlier and happier period of his life ; but
undoubtedly the change had fully manifested itself more
than two years before. And a very great and painful
one it assuredly was. We know from the recorded evi-
dence of Dr. Carrlyon and others that Coleridge was full
of hope and gaiety, full of confidence in himself and of
interest in life during his few months' residence in Ger-
many. The annus mirabilis of his poetic life was but two
years behind him, and his achievements of 1797-98 seemed
to him but a mere earnest of what he was destined to ac-
complish. His powers of mental concentration were un-
diminished, as his student days at Gottingen sufficiently
proved ; his conjugal and family affections, as Dr. Carr-
lyon notes for us, were still unimpaired ; his own verse
gives signs of a home-sickness and a yearning for bis own
fireside which were in melancholy contrast with the rest-
lessness of his later years. Nay, even after his return to
England, and during the six months of his regular work
on the Morning Post, the vigour of his political articles
entirely negatives the idea that any relaxation of intel-
lectual energy had as yet set in. Yet within six months
of his leaving London for Keswick there begins a progres-
sive decline in Coleridge's literary activity in every form.
The second part of Christahel, beautiful but inferior to the
first, was composed in the autumn of 1800, and for the
next two years, so far as the higher forms of literature arc
concerned, " the rest is silence." The author of the prcf-

86 COLERIDGE. [chap.

atory memoir in the edition of Coleridge's Poetical and
Dramatic Works (\SSQ) enumerates some half-dozen slight
pieces contributed to the Morning Post in 1801, but de-
clares that Coleridge's poetical contributions to this paper
during 1802 were "very rich and varied, and included
the magnificent ode entitled Dejection.'''' Only the latter
clause of this statement is entitled, I think, to command
our assent. Varied though the list may be, it is hardly
to be described as " rich." It covers only about seven
weeks in the autumn of 1802, and, with the exception of
the Lovers' Resolution and the " magnificent ode " referred
to, the pieces are of the shortest and slightest kind. Nor
is it accurate to say that the "political articles of the
same period were also numerous and important." On the
contrary, it would appear from an examination of Mrs. H.
N. Coleridge's collection that her father's contributions to
the Post between his departure from London and the au-
tumn of 1802 were few and intermittent, and in August,
1803, the proprietorship of that journal passed out of Mr.
Stuart's hands. It is, in short, I think, impossible to doubt
that very shortly after his migration to the Lake country
he practically ceased not only to write poetry but to pro-
duce any raentionablc quantity of complete work in the
prose form. His mind, no doubt, was incessantly active
throughout the whole of the deplorable period upon which
we are now entering; but it seems pretty certain that its
activity was not poetic nor even critical, but purely philo-
sophical, and that the products of that activity went exclu-
sively to marginalia and the pages of note-books.

Yet unfortunately we have almost no evidence, personal
or other, from Avhich we can with any certainty construct
the psychological — if one should not rather say the physio-
logical, or better still, perhaps, the pathological — history of

v.] GRETA HALL. 87

this cardinal epoch in Coleridge's life. Miss Wordsworth's
diary is nearly silent about him for the next few years ; he
was living indeed some dozen miles from her brother at
Grasmere, and they could not therefore have been in daily
intercourse. Southey did not come to the Lakes till 1803,
and the records of his correspondence only begin there-
fore from that date. Mr. Cottle's Reminiscences are here a
blank ; Charles Lamb's correspondence yields little ; and
though De Quincey has plenty to say about this period in
his characteristic fashion, it must have been based upon
pure gossip, as he cites no authorities, and did not himself
make Coleridge's acquaintance till six years afterwards.
This, however, is at least certain, that his gloomy accounts
of his own health begin from a period at which his satis-
faction with his new abode was still as fresh as ever. The
house which he had taken, now historic as the residence of
two famous Englishmen, enjoyed a truly beautiful situa-
tion and the command of a most noble view. It stood in
the vale of Derwentwater, on the bank of the river Greta,
and about a mile from the lake. When Coleridge first
entered it, it was uncompleted, and an arrangement was
made by which, after completion, it was to be divided be-
tween the tenant and the landlord, a Mr. Jackson. As it
turned out, however, the then completed portion was shared
by them in common, the other portion, and eventually the
whole, being afterwards occupied by Southey.

In April, 1801, some eight or nine months after his tak-
ing possession of Greta Hall, Coleridge thus describes it to
its future occupant :

" Our house stands gu a low hill, the whole front of which is one
field and an enormous garden, nine-tenths of which is a nursery gar-
den. Behind the house is an orchard and a small wood on a steep
slope, at the foot of which is the river Greta, which winds round and
G 5

88 COLERIDGE. [chap.

iatches the evening's light in the front of the house. In front we
have a giant camp — an encamped army of tent-like mountains which,
by au inverted arcli, gives a view of anotlier vale. On our right the
lovely vale and the wedge-shaped lake of Bassenthwaite ; and on our
left Derwentwater and LoJore full in view, and the fantastic moun-
tains of Borrowdale. Beliind is the massy Skiddaw, smooth, green,
high, with two chasms and a tent-like ridge in the larger. A fairer
scene you have not seen in all your wanderings."

There is here no note of discontent with the writer's sur-
roundings ; and yet, adds Mr. Cuthbert Southey in his L'lfe
and Correspondence of his father, the remainder of this let-
ter was filled by Coleridge with " a most gloomy account
of his health." Southey writes him in reply that he is
convinced that his friend's " complaint is gouty, that good
living is necessary, and a good climate," In July of the
same year he received a visit from Southey at Greta Hall,
and one from Charles and Mary Lamb in the following
summer, and it is probable that during such intervals of
pleasurable excitement his health and spirits might tempo-
rarily rally. But henceforward and until his departure for
Malta we gather nothing from any source as to Coleridge's
normal condition of body and mind which is not unfa-
vourable, and it is quite certain that he had long before
1804 enslaved liimself to that fatal drug which was to
remain liis tyrant for the rest of his days.

When, then, and how did this slavery begin? What
was the precise date of Coleridge's first experiences of
opium, and what the original cause of his taking it ? Within
what time did its use become habitual ? To what extent
was the decline of his health the effect of the evil habit,
and to what, if any, extent its cause ? And how far, if at
all, can the deterioration of his character and powers be
attributed to a decay of physical constitution, brought
about by influences beyond the sufferer's own control ?


Could every one of these questions be completely an-
swered, we should be in a position to solve the very obscure
and painful problem before us ; but though some of them
can be answered with more or less approach to complete-
ness, there is only one of them which can be finally disposed
of. It is certain, and it is no doubt matter for melancholy
satisfaction to have ascertained it, that Coleridge first had
recourse to opium as an anodyne. It was Nature's revolt
from pain, and not her appetite for pleasure, which drove
him to the drug; and though De Quincey, with his almost
comical malice, remarks that, though Coleridge began in
the desire to obtain relief, "there is no proof that he did
not end in voluptuousness," there is on the other hand no
proof whatever that he did so end — until the hahit was
formed. It is quite consistent with probability, and only
accords with Coleridge's own express afiirmations, to be-
lieve that it was the medicinal efficacy of opium, and this
quality of it alone, which induced him to resort to it again
and again until his senses contracted that well-known and
insatiable craving for the peculiar excitement, "voluptuous"
only to the initiated, which opium-intoxication creates. But
let Coleridge speak on this point for himself. Writing in
April, 1826, he says:

"I wrote a few stanzas threc-and-twenty years ago, soon after my
eyes had been opened to the true nature of the habit into which I
had been ignorantly deluded by the seeming magic effects of opium,
in the sudden removal of a supposed rheumatic affection, attended
with swellings in my knees and palpitation of the heart and pains all
over me, by which I had been bedridden for nearly six months. Un-
happily among my neighbours' and landlord's books were a large
number of medical reviews and magazines. I had always a fondness
(a common case, but most mischievous turn with reading men who
are at all dyspeptic) for dabbling in medical writings ; and in one ai
these reviews I met a case which I fancied very like my own, in which

90 COLERIDGE. [chap.

a cure had been effected by the Kendal Black Drop. In an evil hour
I procured it : it worked miracles — the swellings disappeared, the
pains vanished. I was all alive, and all around me being as ignorant
as myself, nothing could exceed my triumph. I talked of nothing
else, prescribed the newly-discovered panacea for all complaints, and
carried a little about with me not to lose any opportunity of adminis-
tering 'instant relief and speedy cure' to all complainers, stranger
or friend, gentle or simple. Alas ! it is with a bitter smile, a laugh
of gall and bitterness, that I recall this period of unsuspecting delu-
sion, and how I first became aware of the Maelstrom, the fatal whirl-
pool to which I was drawing, just when the current was beyond my
strength to stem. The state of my mind is truly portrayed in the
following effusion, for God knows that from that time I was the
victim of pain and terror, nor had I at any time taken the flattering
poison as a stimulus or for any craving after pleasurable sensation."

The " effusion " in question has parted company with
the autobiographical note, and the author of the prefatory
memoir above quoted conjectures it to have been a little
j)oem entitled the Visionary Hope j but I ara myself of
opinion, after a careful study of both pieces, that it is more
probably the Pains of Sleep, which moreover is known to
have been written in 1803. But whichever it be, its date
is fixed in that year by the statement in the autobiograph-
ical note of 1826 that the stanzas referred to in it were
written " twenty-three years ago." Thus, then, we have
the two facts established, that the opium-taking habit had
its origin in a bodily ailment, and that at some time in 1803
that habit had become confirmed. The disastrous experi-
ment in amateur therapeutics, which was the means of im-
planting it, could not have taken place, according to the
autobiographical note, until at least six months after Cole-
ridge's arrival at Keswick, and perhaps not for some months
later yet. At any rate, it seems tolerably certain that it
was not till the spring of 1801, when the climate of the


Lake country first began to tell unfavourably on his health,
that the " Kendal Black Drop " was taken. Possibly it may
have been about the time (April, 1801) when he wrote the

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