208. To Thomas Poole Address: Mr Thomas Poole MS. Victoria University Lib. Pub. Letters, i. 10. This is the third of the autobiographical letters. October 9th, 1797 My dearest Poole From March to October -- a long silence! but [as] it is possible, that I may have been preparing materials for future letters, the time cannot be considered as altogether subtracted from you. From October 1775 to October 1778. These three years I continued at the reading-school -- because I ____________________ incapable of reading it -- He & his Sister very much press'd me to stay over to morrow as the Wedgwoods are coming to spend two days with them -This, as you may suppose was no great inducement, but as Wordsworth has promis'd to read me his tragedy, not having any important reason to alledge, for not accepting his invitation I intend staying till Monday -- Coleridge is unwell with a sore throat -Still I have not heard from Birmingham! -My love to Edith -- God bless you! C. Lloyd Jr. Since Tom and John Wedgwood arrived at Alfoxden on 15 or 16 Sept., Lloyd's letter and therefore Coleridge's must have been written on Friday, 15 Sept. 1797. See R. B. Litchfield, Tom Wedgwood, 1903, p. 51. Consider also an unpublished letter from Tom Wedgwood to Poole, dated from Alfoxden, 18 Sept. 1797: 'It gave us real concern to miss seceing you last night.' Southey was at Bath on 16 Sept. See E. K. Chambers, A Sheaf of Studies, 1942, p. 63. 4 Coleridge refers to Southey English Eclogue, Hannah, written at Burton and published in 1799. Southey made some of the suggested alterations. -346- was too little to be trusted among my Father's School-boys --. After breakfast I had a halfpenny given me, with which I bought three cakes at the Baker's close by the school of my old mistress -& these were my dinner on every day except Saturday & Sunday -- when I used to dine at home, and wallowed in a beef & pudding dinner. -- I am remarkably fond of Beans & Bacon -- and this fondness I attribute to my father's having given me a penny for having eat a large quantity of beans, one Saturday -- for the other boys did not like them, and as it was an economic food, my father thought, that my attachment & penchant for it ought to be encouraged. ---- My Father was very fond of me, and I was my mother's darling -- in consequence, I was very miserable. For Molly, who had nursed my Brother Francis, and was immoderately fond of him, hated me because my mother took more notice of me than of Frank -- and Frank hated me, because my mother gave me now & then a bit of cake, when he had none -- quite forgetting that for one bit of cake which I had & he had not, he had twenty sops in the pan & pieces of bread & butter with sugar on them from Molly, from whom I received only thumps & ill names. -- So I became fretful, & timorous, & a tell-tale -- & the School-boys drove me from play, & were always tormenting me -- & hence I took no pleasure in boyish sports -- but read incessantly. My Father's Sister kept an every-thing Shop at Crediton -- and there I read thro' all the giltcover little books that could be had at that time, & likewise all the uncovered tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant-killer, &c & &c &c &c -- / -- and I used to lie by the wall, and mope -- and my spirits used to come upon me suddenly, & in a flood -- & then I was accustomed to run up and down the church-yard, and act over all I had been reading on the docks, the nettles, and the rank-grass. -- At six years old I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, & Philip Quarle [Quarll] -- and then I found the Arabian Nights' entertainments -- one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was mending stockings) that I was haunted by spectres, whenever I was in the dark -- and I distinctly remember the anxious & fearful eagerness, with which I used to watch the window, in which the books lay -& whenever the Sun lay upon them, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, & bask, & read --. My Father found out the effect, which these books had produced -- and burnt them. -- So I became a dreamer -- and acquired an indisposition to all bodily activity -- and I was fretful, and inordinately passionate, and as I could not play at any thing, and was slothful, I was despised & hated by the boys; and because I could read & spell, & had, I may truly say, a memory -347- & understanding forced into almost an unnatural ripeness, I was flattered & wondered at by all the old women -- & so I became very vain, and despised most of the boys, that were at all near my own age -- and before I was eight years old, I was a character -- sensibility, imagination, vanity, sloth, & feelings of deep & bitter contempt for almost all who traversed the orbit of my understanding, were even then prominent & manifest. From October 1778 to 1779. -- That which I began to be from 8 to 6, I continued from 6 to 9. -- In this year I was admitted into the grammer school, and soon outstripped all of my age. -- I had a dangerous putrid fever this year -- My Brother George lay ill of the same fever in the next room. ---- My poor Brother Francis, I remember, stole up in spite of orders to the contrary, & sate by my bedside, & read Pope's Homer to me -- Frank had a violent love of beating me -- but whenever that was superseded by any humour or circumstance, he was always very fond of me -- & used to regard me with a strange mixture of admiration & contempt -- strange it was not --: for he hated books, and loved climbing, fighting, playing, & robbing orchards, to distraction. -- My mother relates a story of me, which I repeat here -- because it must be regarded as my first piece of wit. -- During my fever I asked why Lady Northcote (our neighbour) did not come & see me. -- My mother said, She was afraid of catching the fever -- I was piqued & answered -- Ah -- Mamma! the four Angels round my bed an't afraid of catching it. -- I suppose, you know the old prayer -- Matthew! Mark! Luke! & John! God bless the bed which I lie on. Four Angels round me spread, Two at my foot & two at my bed [head] -- This prayer I said nightly -- & most firmly believed the truth of it. -- Frequently have I, half-awake & half-asleep, my body diseased & fevered by my imagination, seen armies of ugly Things bursting in upon me, & these four angels keeping them off. -- In my next I shall carry on my life to my Father's Death. -- God bless you, my dear Poole! | & your affectionate S. T. Coleridge.