274. To Thomas Poole Address: Mr T. Poole | Nether Stowey | Somersetshire | England Pay'd to Cuxhaven MS. British Museum. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 282. Postmark: Foreign Office, 3 May 1799. April 6th, 1799 My dearest Poole Your two letters, dated, Jan. 24th and March 15th, followed close on each other. I was still enjoying 'the livelier impulse and the dance of thought' 1 which the first had given me, when I received the second. -- At the time, in which I read Sara's lively account of the miseries which herself and the infant had undergone, all was over & well -- there was nothing to think of -- only a mass of Pain was brought suddenly and closely within the sphere of my perception, and I was made to suffer it over again. For this bodily frame is an imitative Thing, and touched by the imagination gives the hour that is past, as faithfully as a repeating watch. -- But Death the death of an Infant -- of one's own Infant! 2 -- I read your letter in calmness, and walked out into the open fields, oppressed, not by my feelings, but by the riddles, which the Thought so easily proposes, and solves -- never! A Parent -- in the strict and exclusive sense a Parent -- ! to me it is a fable wholly without meaning except in the moral which it suggests -- a fable, of which the Moral is God. Be it so -- my dear dear Friend! O let it be so! La nature (says Pascal) 'La Nature confond les Pyrrhoniens, et la raison confond les Dogmatistes. Nous avons une impuissance à, prouver, ____________________ 1 Fears in Solitude, line 220. 2 Berkeley Coleridge died of consumption on 10 Feb. 1799. Poole at first thought it desirable to spare Coleridge's feelings by concealing the news; but later he thought better of his decision, perhaps fearing that Coleridge would hear of the baby's death from other sources, and on 15 Mar. wrote a tender letter containing the ill tidings. -478- invincible à, tout le Dogmatisme: nous avons une idée de la vérité, invincible à tout le Pyrrhonisme.' I find it wise and human to believe, even on slight evidence, opinions, the contrary of which cannot be proved, & which promote our happiness without hampering our Intellect. -- My Baby has not lived in vain -- this life has been to him what it is to all of us, education & developement! Fling yourself forward into your immortality only a few thousand years, & how small will not the difference between one year old & sixty years appear! -- Consciousness --! it is no otherwise necessary to our conceptions of future Continuance than as connecting the present link of our Being with the one immediately preceding it; & that degree of Consciousness, that small portion of memory, it would not only be arrogant, but in the highest degree absurd, to deny even to a much younger Infant. -- 'Tis a strange assertion, that the Essence of Identity lies in recollective Consciousness -- 'twere scarcely less ridiculous to affirm, that the 8 miles from Stowey to Bridgewater consist in the 8 mile stones. Death in a doting old age falls upon my feelings ever as a more hopeless Phaenomenon than Death in Infancy / ; but nothing is hopeless. -- What if the vital force which I sent from my arm into the stone, as I flung it in the air & skimm'd it upon the water -- what if even that did not perish! -- It was life --! it was a particle of Being --! it was Power! -- & how could it perish --? Life, Power, Being! -- organization may & probably is, their effect; their cause it cannot be! -- I have indulged very curious fancies concerning that force, that swarm of motive Powers which I sent out of my body into that Stone; & which, one by one, left the untractable or already possessed Mass, and ---- but the German Ocean lies between us. -- It is all too far to send you such fancies as these! ---- 'Grief' indeed, Doth love to dally with fantastic thoughts, And smiling, like a sickly Moralist, Finds some resemblance to her own Concerns In the Straws of Chance, & Things Inanimate! 1 But I cannot truly say that I grieve -- I am perplexed -- I am sad -and a little thing, a very trifle would make me weep; but for the death of the Baby I have not wept! -- Oh! this strange, strange, strange Scene-shifter, Death! that giddies one with insecurity, & so unsubstantiates the living Things that one has grasped and handled! --/ Some months ago Wordsworth transmitted to me a most sublime Epitaph / whether it had any reality, I cannot say. -- Most probably, in some gloomier moment he had fancied the moment in which his Sister might die. ____________________ 1 Osorio, v. i. 11-14. -479- Epitaph 1 A Slumber did my spirit seal, I had no human fears: She seem'd a Thing, that could not feel The touch of earthly years. No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees, Mov'd round in Earth's diurnal course With rocks, & stones, and trees! April 8th, 1799. I feel disappointed beyond doubt at the circumstance of which you have half informed me, deeply disappointed; but still we can hope. If you live at Stowey, & my moral & intellectual Being grows & purifies, as I would fain believe, that it will -- there will be always a motive, a strong one to their coming. 2 In your next letter, I pray you, be more minute. -- As to your servants & the people of Stowey in general -- Poole, my Beloved! you have been often unwisely fretful with me when I have pressed upon you their depravity. -- Without religious joys, and religious terrors nothing can be expected from the inferior Classes in society -- whether or no any class is strong enough to stand firm without them, is to me doubtful. -- There are favoured Individuals, but not Classes. Pray, where is Cruikshanks? & how go his affairs? -- and what good Luck has Sam. Chester had? -- / -- In this hurly burly of unlucky Things, I cannot describe to you how pure & deep Joy I have experienced from thinking of your clear Mother! -- O may God Almighty give her after all her agonies now at last a long, rich, yellow Sunset, in this, her evening of Life! -- So good, and so virtuous, and with such an untameable Sensibility to enjoy the blessings of the Almighty -surely God in heaven never made a Being more capable of enjoying with a deeper Thankfulness of Earth Life & it's Relations! -- With regard to myself I am very busy, very busy indeed! -- I attend several Professors, & am getting many kinds of knowlege; but I stick to my Lessing -- The Subject more & more interests me, & I doubt not in the least, that I shall wholly clear my expences by the end of October. -- I am sorry to tell you, that I find that work as hard as I may I cannot collect all the vast quantity of Materials which I must collect, in less than six weeks -- if I would do myself ____________________ 1 Poet. Works, ii. 216. 2 Poole had informed Coleridge of an unrealized plan of the Wedgwoods to buy an estate near Stowey. See Letter 283. -480- justice; & perhaps, it may be 8 weeks. -- / The materials which I have & shall have would of themselves make a quarto volume; but I must not work quite so hard as I have done / it so totally dries up all my colour. -- With regard to the house at Stowey, I must not disguise from you that to live in Stowey, & in that house which you mention, is to me an exceedingly unpleasant Thought. Rather than go any where else assuredly I would do it -- & be glad / but the thought is unpleasant to me. -- I do not like to live in a Town -- still less in Stowey where excepting yourself & Mother there is no human being attached to us & few who do not dislike us. -- Besides, it [is] a sad Tyranny that all who live in towns are subject to -- that of inoculating all at once &c &c. And then the impossibility of keeping one's children free from vice & profaneness -- & &c. -- If I do not send off this letter now, I must wait another week -What must I do? -- How you will look, when you see the blank Page! -- My next shall make up for it -- Heaven bless you & S. T. Coleridge