243. To Charles Lamb Transcript Dorothy Wordsworth, in Lord Latymer's possession. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 249. The transcript contains four slight additions in Coleridge's handwriting. Because there had been so much misunderstanding through Lloyd's tattling and Southey's animosity, Coleridge took the precaution of preserving a copy of his letter. [Early May 1798] 1 Dear Lamb Lloyd has informed me through Miss Wordsworth 2 that you ____________________ 1 This letter belongs to early May 1798, since Coleridge refers to Edmund Oliver, published in April, and since Wordsworth, in a letter dated 9 May, tells Cottle he has received ' Charles Lloyd's works', but has not read the novel, though Dorothy has done so ( Later Years, iii. 1839-40). A letter from Lloyd to Southey, misdated 4 Apr. 1797, the year certainly being 1798 and the month and day possibly being in error as well, may refer to this letter of Coleridge's: ' Coleridge has written a very odd letter to Lamb. I don't know what may be his sentiments with regard to our conduct, but I can perceive that he is bent on dissociating himself from us -- particularly Lamb I think he has used unkindly' ( Lamb Letters, i. 104 n.). 2 Reverting to the events of this spring in a notebook entry dated 8 Nov. 1810, Coleridge showed how Lloyd's gossip had involved Dorothy Wordsworth: -403- intend no longer to correspond with me. This has given me little pain; not that I do not love and esteem you, but on the contrary because I am confident that your intentions are pure. You are performing what you deem a duty, & humanly speaking have that merit which can be derived from the performance of a painful duty. -- Painful, for you could not without some struggles abandon me in behalf of a man who wholly ignorant of all but your name became attached to you in consequence of my attachment, caught his from my enthusiasm, & learnt to love you at my fire-side, when often while I have been sitting & talking of your sorrows & affections [afflictions], I have stopped my conversations & lifted up wet eyes & prayed for you. No! I am confident, that although you do not think as a wise man, you feel as a good man. From you I have received little pain, because for you I suffer little alarm -- I cannot say this for your friend -- it appears to me evident that his feelings are vitiated, & that his ideas are in their combinations, merely the creatures of those feelings. I have received letters from him & the best & kindest wish which as a christian I can offer in return is that he may feel remorse. Some brief resentments rose in my mind, but they did not remain there; for I began to think almost immediately; & my resentments vanished. There has resulted only a sort of fantastic scepticism concerning my own consciousness of my own rectitude. As dreams have impressed on him the sense of reality, my sense of reality may be but a dream. From his letters it is plain, that he has mistaken the heat & bustle & swell of self-justification for the approbation of his conscience. I am certain that this is not the case with me, but the human heart is so wily & so inventive, that possibly it may be cheating me, who am an older warrior, with some newer stratagem. -- When I wrote to you that my sonnet to simplicity was not composed with reference to Southey you answered me (I believe these were the words) 'It was a lie too gross for the grossest ignorance to believe,' & I was not angry with you, because the assertion, which the grossest Ignorance would believe a lie the Omniscient knew to be truth -- This however makes me cautious not too hastily to affirm the falsehood of an assertion of Lloyd's, that in Edmund Oliver's love-fit, debaucheries, leaving college & going into the army he had no sort of allusion to, or recollection of, my love-fit, debaucheries, leaving college, & going into the army ____________________ '[ Lloyd] even wrote a letter to D. W., in which he not only called me a villain, but appealed to a conversation which passed between him & her, as the grounds of it -- and as proving that this was her opinion no less than his -- She brought over the letter to me from Alfoxden with tears -- I laughed at it --' Chambers, A Sheaf of Studies, 68. -404- & that he never thought of my person in the description of Edmund Oliver's person in the first letter of the second volume. 1 This cannot appear stranger to me than my assertion did to you; & therefore I will suspend my absolute faith -- I write to you not that I wish to hear from you, but that I wish you to write to Lloyd & press upon him the propriety, nay, the necessity of his giving me a meeting either tête à tête or in the presence of all whose esteem I value. 2 This I owe to my own character -- I owe it to him if by any means he may even yet be extricated. He assigned as reasons for his rupture, my vices, and he is either right or wrong; if right it is fit that others should know it & follow his example -- if wrong he has acted very wrong. At present, I may expect every thing from his heated mind, rather than continence of language; & his assertions will be the more readily believed on account of his former enthusiastic attachment, though with wise men this would cast a hue of suspicion over the whole affair, but the number of wise men in the kingdom would not puzzle a savage's arithmetic -- you may tell them in every count on your fingers. I have been unfortunate in my connections. Both you & Lloyd became acquainted with me at a season when your minds were far from being in a composed or natural state & you clothed my image with a suit of notions & feelings which could belong to nothing human. You are restored to comparative saneness, & are merely wondering what is become of the Coleridge with whom you were so passionately in love. Charles Lloyd's mind has only changed its disease, & he is now arraying his ci-devant angel in a flaming Sanbenito -- the whole ground of the garment a dark brimstone & plenty of little Devils flourished out in black. O me! Lamb, 'even in laughter the heart is sad' -- My kindness, my affectionateness he deems wheedling, but if after reading all my letters to yourself & to him you can suppose him wise in his treatment & correct in his accusations of me, you think worse of human nature than poor human nature, bad as it is, deserves to be thought of. God bless you & S. T. Coleridge 3 ____________________ 1 Edmund Oliver, published by Cottle and dedicated to Lamb, deeply lacerated Coleridge's feelings. Unlike Dorothy -- 'She thinks it contains a great deal, a very great deal of excellent matter but bears the marks of a too hasty composition', Wordsworth reported to Cottle -- Coleridge saw through its thin disguise. He recognized, apparently for the first time, the extent of the animosity against himself and the part Southey must have played in the genesis of Edmund Oliver. See especially Letter 248, in which Coleridge says that Lloyd's 'infirmities have been made the instruments of another man's darker passions'. 2 No such meeting took place, though Wordsworth soon tried 'to bring back poor Lloyd' to Stowey. (See Letter 248.) 3 No answer to this letter has been preserved, but it shows that there was -405- To Lloyd, of course, must go much of the blame for Coleridge's quarrel with Lamb. Lloyd was an inveterate and often malicious talebearer, and he carried gossip first to Southey, then to Lamb, and finally to Cottle and Dorothy Wordsworth. His conduct, Coleridge later wrote in his notebook, 'was not that of a fiend, only because it was that of a madman' (Chambers, A Sheaf of Studies, 68). And Lamb, too, was later to blame Lloyd in a letter to Coleridge: 'He is a sad Tattler; . . . he almost alienated you . . . from me, or me from you, I don't know which' ( Lamb Letters. ii. 267-8).