238. To George Coleridge Address: Revd G. Coleridge | Ottery St Mary | Devon MS. Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 239. Stamped: Bridgewater. [Circa 10 March 1798] 1 My dear Brother An illness, which confined me to my bed, prevented me from returning an immediate answer to your kind & interesting Letter. My indisposition originated in the stump of a tooth over which some matter had formed: this affected my eye, my eye my stomach, my stomach my head; and the consequence was a general fever -and the sum of pain was considerably increased by the vain attempts of our Surgeon to extract the offending stump. Laudanum gave me repose, not sleep: but YOU, I believe, know how divine that respose is -- what a spot of inchantment, a green spot of fountains, & flowers & trees, in the very heart of a waste of Sands! 2 -- God be praised, the matter has been absorbed; and I am now ____________________ 1 This letter clearly follows Letter 235 (7 Mar.), since Coleridge is now recovering from his illness, and closely parallels Letter 240, in which the same recovery is mentioned. It seems to precede Letter 240, since there Mrs. Coleridge's confinement is spoken of as 'within a month', while here as 'within 5 or 6 weeks. It was probably written during the Alfoxden visit of 9-18 Mar., as was Letter 240. See Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, ed. by E. de Selincourt, 2 vols., 1952, i. 11, 14. It is worth noting that Berkeley Coleridge was not born until 14 May. 2 Cf. Kubla Khan. -394- recovering a pace, and enjoy that newness of sensation from the fields, the air, & the Sun, which makes convalescence almost repay one for disease. -- I collect from your letter, that our opinions and feelings on political subjects are more nearly alike, than you imagine them to be. Equally with you (& perhaps with a deeper conviction, for my belief is founded on actual experience) equally with you I deprecate the moral & intellectual habits of those men both in England & France, who have modestly assumed to themselves the exclusive title of Philosophers & Friends of Freedom. I think them at least as distant from greatness as from goodness. If I know my own opinions, they are utterly untainted with French Metaphysics, French Politics, French Ethics, & French Theology. -- As to THE RULERS of France, I see in their views, speeches, & actions nothing that distinguishes them to their advantage from other animals of the same species. History has taught me, that RULERS are much the same in all ages & under all forms of government: they are as bad as they dare to be. The Vanity of Ruin & the curse of Blindness have clung to them, like an hereditary Leprosy. Of the French Revolution I can give my thoughts the most adequately in the words of Scripture -- 'A great & strong wind rent the mountains & brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a Fire -- & the Lord was not in the fire:' and now (believing that no calamities are permitted but as the means of Good) I wrap my face in my mantle & wait with a subdued & patient thought, expecting to hear 'the still small Voice,' 1 which is of God. -- In America (I have received my information from unquestionable authority) the morals & domestic habits of the people are daily deteriorating: & one good consequence which I expect from revolutions, is that Individuals will see the necessity of individual effort; that they will act as kind neighbours & good Christians, rather than as citizens & electors; and so by degrees will purge off that error, which to me appears as wild & more pernicious than the πασΞπνσον and panacaea of the old Alchemists -- the error of attributing to Governments a talismanic influence over our virtues & our happiness -- as if Governments were not rather effects than causes. It is true, that all effects react & become causes -- & so it must be in some degree with governments -- but there are other agents which act more powerfully because by a nigher & more continuous agency, and it remains true that Governments are more the effect than the cause of that which we are. -- Do not therefore, my Brother! consider me as an enemy to Governments & Rulers: or as one who say[s] that they ____________________ 1 Kings xix. 11-13. -395- are evil. I do not say so -- in my opinion it were a species of blasphemy. Shall a nation of Drunkards presume to babble against sickness & the head-ach? -- I regard Governments as I regard the abscesses produced by certain fevers -- they are necessary consequences of the disease, & by their pain they increase the disease; but yet they are in the wisdom & goodness of Nature; & not only are they physically necessary as effects, but also as causes they are morally necessary in order to prevent the utter dissolution of the patient. But what should we think of the man who expected an absolute cure from an ulcer that only prevented his dying? -- Of GUILT I say nothing; but I believe most stedfastly in original Sin; that from our mothers' wombs our understandings are darkened; and even where our understandings are in the Light, that our organization is depraved, & our volitions imperfect; and we sometimes see the good without wishing to attain it, and oftener wish it without the energy that wills & performs -- And for this inherent depravity, I believe, that the Spirit of the Gospel is the sole cure -- but permit me to add, that I look for the spirit of the Gospel 'neither in the mountain, nor at Jerusalem.' --. You think, my Brother! that there can be but two parties at present, for the Government & against the Government. -- It may be so -- I am of no party. It is true, I think the present ministry weak & perhaps unprincipled men; but I could not with a safe conscience vote for their removal; for I could point out no substitutes. I think very seldom on the subject; but as far as I have thought, I am inclined to consider the Aristocrats as the more respectable of our three factions, because they are more decorous. The Opposition & the Democrats are not only vicious -- they wear the filthy garments of vice. He that takes Deep in his soft credulity the stamp Design'd by loud Declaimers on the part Of Liberty, themselves the slaves of Lust, Incurs derision for his easy faith And lack of Knowlege -- & with cause enough. For when was public Virtue to be found Where private was not? Can he love the whole Who loves no part? He be a nation's friend Who is, in truth, the friend of no man there? Can he be strenuous in his country's cause Who slights the charities, for whose dear sake That country, if at all, must be belov'd? Cowper. 1 -- ____________________ 1 The Task, v. 496-508. -396- I am prepared to suffer without discontent the consequences of my follies & mistakes --: and unable to conceive how that which I am, of Good could have been without that which I have been of Evil, it is withheld from me to regret any thing: I therefore consent to be deemed a Democrat & a Seditionist. A man's character follows him long after he has ceased to deserve it -- but I have snapped my squeaking baby-trumpet of Sedition & the fragments lie scattered in the lumber-room of Penitence. I wish to be a good man & a Christian -- but I am no Whig, no Reformist, no Republican -- and because of the multitude of these fiery & undisciplined spirits that lie in wait against the public Quiet under these titles, because of them I chiefly accuse the present ministers -- to whose folly I attribute, in great measure, their increased & increasing numbers. -- You think differently: and if I were called on by you to prove my assertions, altho' I imagine I could make them appear plausible, yet I should feel the insufficiency of my data. The Ministers may have had in their possession facts which may alter the whole state of the argument, and make my syllogisms fall as flat as a baby's card-house -- And feeling this, my Brother! I have for some time past withdrawn myself almost totally from the consideration of immediate causes, which are infinitely complex & uncertain, to muse on fundamental & general causes -- the 'causae causarum.' -- I devote myself to such works as encroach not on the antisocial passions -- in poetry, to elevate the imagination & set the affections in right tune by the beauty of the inanimate impregnated, as with a living soul, by the presence of Life -- in prose, to the seeking with patience & a slow, very slow mind 'Quid sumus, et quidnam victuri gignimur['] -- What our faculties are & what they are capable of becoming. -- I love fields & woods & mounta[ins] with almost a visionary fondness -- and because I have found benevolence & quietness growing within me as that fondness [has] increased, therefore I should wish to be the means of implanting it in others -- & to destroy the bad passions not by combating them, but by keeping them in inaction. Not useless do I deem These shadowy Sympathies with things that hold An inarticulate Language: for the Man Once taught to love such objects, as excite No morbid passions, no disquietude, No vengeance & no hatred, needs must feel The Joy of that pure principle of Love So deeply, that, unsatisfied with aught Less pure & exquisite, he cannot clause But seek for objects of a kindred Love -397- In fellow-natures, & a kindred Joy. Accordingly, he by degrees perceives His feelings of aversion softened down, A holy tenderness pervade his frame! His sanity of reason not impair'd, Say rather that his thoughts now flowing clear From a clear fountain flowing, he looks round -- He seeks for Good & finds the Good he seeks. Wordsworth. 1 -- I have layed down for myself two maxims -- and what is more I am in the habit of regulating myself by them -- With regard to others, I never controvert opinions except after some intimacy & when alone with the person, and at the happy time when we both seem awake to our own fallibility -- and then I rather state my reasons than argue against his. -- In general conversation & general company I endeavor to find out the opinions common to us -- or at least the subjects on which differefice of opinion creates no uneasiness -such as novels, poetry, natural scenery, local anecdotes & (in a serious mood and with serious men) the general evidences of our Religion. -- With regard to myself, it is my habit, on whatever subject I think, to endeavour to discover all the good that has resulted from it, that does result, or that can result -- to this I bind down my mind and after long meditation in this tract, slowly & gradually make up my opinions on the quantity & the nature of the Evil. -- I consider this as a most important rule for the regulation of the intellect & the affections -- as the only means of preventing the passions from turning the Reason into an hired Advocate. -- I thank you for your kindness -- & purpose in a short time to walk down to you 2 -- but my Wife must forego the thought, as she is within 5 or 6 weeks of lying-in. -- She & my child (whose name is David Hartley) are remarkably well. -- You will give my duty to my Mother -- & my love to my Brothers, to Mrs J. & G. Coleridge --. Excuse my desultory style & illegible scrawl: for I have written you a long letter, you see -- & am, in truth, too weary to write a fair copy, or re-arrange my ideas -- and I am anxious that you should know me as I am -God bless you | & your affectionate Brother S. T. Coleridge ____________________ 1 These lines originally formed part of the conclusion to The Ruined Cottage. See Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, ed. by E. de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire , 5 vols., 1940-9, v. 400-1. 2 Coleridge paid a brief visit to Ottery St. Mary in April, and by the 18th had returned to Stowey. See Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, i. 15, and G. M. Harper , William Wordsworth, 2 vols., 1923, i. 342. -398-