225. To William Wordsworth Address: W. Wordsworth Esq. | Allfoxden | Stowey, near | Bridgewater | Somerset. Single MS. Bristol Central Lib. Pub. Letters, i. 234. Stamped: Shrewsbury. Tuesday Morning. Jan. [23,] 1798 My dear Wordsworth You know, of course, that I have accepted the magnificent liberality of Josiah & Thomas Wedgewood. I accepted it on the presumption that I had talents, honesty, & propensities to perseverant effort. If I have hoped wisely concerning myself, I have acted justly. 1 But dismissing severer thoughts, believe me, my dear fellow! that of the pleasant ideas, which accompanied this unexpected event, it was not the least pleasant nor did it pass thro' my mind the last in the procession, that I should at least be able to ____________________ 1 Wordsworth's comment on Coleridge's good fortune is somewhat unenthusiastic: 'No doubt you have heard of the munificence of the Wedgwoods towards Coleridge. I hope the fruit will be good as the seed is noble.' Early Letters, 188. -377- trace the spring & early summer of Alfoxden with you; & that wherever your after residence may be, it is probable that you will be within the reach of my Tether, lengthened as it now is. -- The country round Shrewsbury is rather tame -- My imagination has cloathed it with all it's summer attributes; but I still can see in it no possibility beyond that of Beauty. -- The Society here were sufficiently eager to have me, as their Minister, and, I think, would have behaved kindly & respectfully -- but I perceive clearly, that without great courage & perseverance in the use of the monosyllable, Nol I should have been plunged in a very Maelstrom of visiting-whirled round, and round, and round, never changing yet always moving. -- Visiting with all it's pomps & vanities is the mania of the place; & many of the congregation are both rich & expensive. -- I met a young man, a Cambridge undergraduatetalking of plays &c, he told that an acquaintance of his was printing a translation of one of Kotzebu's Tragedies, entitled, Beniowski 1 -- The name startled me, and upon examination I found that the story of my 'Siberian Exiles' has been already dramatized. -- If Kotzebu has exhibited no greater genius in it than in his Negro slaves, I shall consider this as an unlucky circumstance -- but the young man speaks enthusiastically of it's merits. I have just read the Castle Spectre 2 -- & shall bring it home with me. -- I will begin with it's defects, in order that my 'But' may have a charitable transition. -- 1. Language -- 2. Character. 8. Passion. 4. Sentiment. 5. Conduct -- 1. Of styles some are pleasing, durably and on reflection -- some only in transition -- and some are not pleasing at all -- And to this latter class belongs the Castle Spectre. There are no felicities in the humourous passages; and in the serious ones it is Schiller Lewis-ized -- i.e. a flat, flabby, unimaginative Bombast oddly sprinkled with colloquialisms. 2. -- No character at all. The author in a postscript lays claim to novelty in one of his charactersthat of Hassan. -- Now Hassan is a negro, who had a warm & benevolent heart; but having been kidnapped from his country & barbarously used by the Christians, becomes a Misanthrope. -This is'all!! -- 3. Passio -- horror I agonizing pangs of Conscience! Dreams full of hell, serpents, & skeletons! starts & attempted murders &c &c &c; but, positively, not one line that marks even a superficial knowlege of human feelings, could I discover. 4. Sentiments are moral & humourous. There is a book called the Frisky ____________________ 1 Count Benyowsky; or the Conspiracy of Kamtschatka. A Tragi-comedy. Translated from the German by W. Render, 1798. 2 M. G. Lewis Castle Spectre was produced at Drury Lane in 1797. Coleridge's copy of the play, according to E. H. Coleridge, is dated 20 Jan. 1798. Cf. Letters, i. 236 n. -378- Songster, at the end of which are two chapters -- the first containing Frisky Toasts & Sentiments -- the second, Moral Toasts: -and from these chapters I suspect, that Mr Lewis has stolen all his sentimentality, moral & humourous. A very fat Friar, renowned for Gluttony & Lubricity, furnishes abundance of jokes (all of them abdominal vel si quid infra) Jokes that would have stunk, had they been fresh; and alas! they have the very saeva mephitis of antiquity on them. -- BUT -- 5 -- the Conduct of the Piece is, I think, good -- except that the first act is wholly taken up with explanation & narration. -- This Play proves how accurately you conjectured concerning theatric merit. The merit of the Castle Spectre consists wholly in it's situations. These are all bor Rowed, and all absolutely pantomimical; but they are admirably managed for stage effect. There is not much bustle; but situations for ever. The whole plot, machinery, & incident are bor Rowed -- the play is a mere patchwork of plagiarisms -- but they are very well worked up, & for stage effect make an excellent whole. -- There is a pretty little Ballad-song introduced -- and Lewis, I think, has great & peculiar excellence in these compositions. The simplicity & naturalness is his own, & not imitated; for it is made to subsist in congruity with a language perfectly modern -- the language of his own times, in the same way that the language of the writer of 'Sir Cauline' 1 was the language of his times. This, I think, a rare merit: at least, I find, I cannot attain this innocent nakedness, except by assumption -- I resemble the Dutchess of Kingston, who masqueraded in the character of 'Eve before the Fall' in flesh-coloured Silk. -- This play struck me with utter hopelessness -- it would be [easy] to produce these situations, but not in a play so for[cibly] as to admit the permanent & closest beauties of style, passion & character. To admit pantomimic tricks the plot itself must be pantomimic -Harlequin cannot be had unaccompanied by the Fool. -- I hope to be with you by the middle of next week -- I must stay over next Sunday, as Mr Row is obliged to go to Bristol to seek a House. He & his Family are honest, sensible, pleasant people. My kind Love to Dorothy -- & believe me -- with affectionate esteem Your's sincerely S. T. Coleri[dge] ____________________ 1 It was from 'Sir Cauline' that S. T. C. borrowed not only the archaic words found in 'The Ancient Mariner' but also the name 'Christabel', which name, however, occurs only in the stanzas interpolated by Percy, (See Reliques.) MS. note by J. D. Campbell. -379-