315. To William Taylor Pub. Memoir of William Taylor of Norwich, by J. W. Robberds, 2 vols., 1843, i. 318. London, January 25th, 1800 My dear Sir, I thank you for your kind attention to my letter. That 'extract of a letter from Norwich' was given in to the Morning Post by Sheridan himself, who knew the whole account to be a tissue of ____________________ 1 Cf. Morning Post, 22 Jan 1800. -564- atrocious falsehoods. Jacobinism evinces a gross and unthinking spirit; but the Jacobins as men are heroes in virtue, compared with Mr. Fox and his party. I know enough of them to know, that more profligate and unprincipled men never disgraced an honest cause. Robert Southey was mistaken -- it was merely an account in a letter from Göttingen of a ridiculous statue. I will transcribe the passage. 'A statue has lately been put up in Ulric's garden in honour of Bürger the poet. It represents the Genius of Germany weeping over an urn. The Genius, instead of being eight faces high, is only five; nor is there anything superhuman about it, except perhaps its position, in which it is impossible for man, woman or child to stand. But notwithstanding all this, you must own, there is something very sylvanly romantic in seeing the monument of a great poet put up in the garden of an alehouse.' If I were in time to get a frank, here I should conclude; but I cannot endure to make you pay postage for half a sheet of almost vacant paper. I will transcribe therefore a passage or two from some letters which passed between me and Wordsworth in Germany (I should say from Wordsworth, for I have no copies of my own) respecting the merits of Bürger. 'We have read "Leonora" and a few little things of Bürger; but upon the whole we were disappointed, particularly in "Leonora," which we thought in several passages inferior to the English translation. "Wie donnerten die Brücken", -- how inferior to "The bridges thunder as they pass, But earthly sound was none, &c., &c."' I admitted in my reply, that there are more passages of poetry in your translation, but affirmed that it wanted the rapidity and oneness of the original; and that in the beauty quoted the idea was so striking, that it made me pause, stand still and look, when I ought to have been driving on with the horse. Your choice of metre I thought unfortunate, and that you had lost the spirit of quotation from the Psalm-book, which gives such dramatic spirit and feeling to the dialogue between the mother and daughter, &c., &c. Answer. -- 'As to Bürger, I am yet far from that admiration of him which he has excited in you; but I am by nature slow to admire; and I am not yet sufficiently master of the language to understand him perfectly. In one point I entirely coincide with you, in your feeling concerning his versification. In "Lenore" the concluding double rhymes of the stanza have both a delicious and pathetic effect -- "Ach! aber für Lenoren War Gruss und Kuss verloren." -565- I accede too to your opinion that Bürger is always the poet; he is never the mobbist, one of those dim drivellers with which our island has teemed for so many years. Bürger is one of those authors whose book I like to have in my hand, but when I have laid the book down I do not think about him. I remember a hurry of pleasure, but I have few distinct forms that people my mind, nor any recollection of delicate or minute feelings which he has either communicated to me, or taught me to recognise. I do not perceive the presence of character in his personages. I see everywhere the character of Bürger himself; and even this, I agree with you, is no mean merit. But yet I wish him sometimes at least to make me forget himself in his creations. It seems to me, that in poems descriptive of human nature, however short they may be, character is absolutely necessary, &c.: incidents are among the lowest allurements of poetry. Take from Bürger's poems the incidents, which are seldom or ever of his own invention, and still much will remain; there will remain a manner of relating which is almost always spirited and lively, and stamped and peculiarized with genius. Still I do not find those higher beauties which can entitle him to the name of a great poet. I have read "Susan's Dream", and I agree with you that it is the most perfect and Shaksperian of his poems, &c., &c. Bürger is the poet of the animal spirits. I love his "Tra ra la" dearly; but less of the horn and more of the lute -- and far, far more of the pencil.' So much of my dear friend Wordsworth. Our controversy was continued, not that I thought Bürger a great poet, but that he really possessed some of the excellences which W. denied to him; and at last we ended in metaphysical disquisitions on the nature of character, &c., &c. My dear Sir, I feel a kind of conviction that one time or other we shall meet. Should choice or chance lead you to London, I have house-room for you, and, as far as loving some who dearly love you may entitle me to say so, heart-room too. I meet here a number of people who say, unconscious that they are lying, that they know you -- for a regiment of whom neither you nor I care twopence. Yours with unfeigned esteem, S. T. Coleridge. -566-