356. To Humphry Davy Address: Mr Davy | Pneumatic | Institution | Hot Wells | BristolSingle Sheet MS. Royal.Institution. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 336. Postmark: 13 October 1800. Stamped: Keswick. Thursday Night -- Oct. 9. 1800 My dear Davy I was right glad, glad with a Stagger of the Heart, to see your writing again -- /Many a moment have I had all my France-& England-Curiosity suspended & lost, looking in the advertisement front-columns of the Morning Post Gazetteer on Mr Davy's Galvanic Habitudes of Charcoal -- Upon my soul, I believe there is not a Letter in those words, round which a world of imagery does not circumvolve -- your room, the Garden, the cold bath, the Moonlight Rocks, Barrister Moore & simple-looking Frere / 1 and dreams of wonderful Things attached to your name -- and Skiddaw, & Glaramára, and Eagle Crag, and you, and Wordsworth, & me on the top of them! -- I pray you, do write to me immediately, & tell me what you mean by the possibility of your assuming a new occupation / have you been successful to the extent of your expectations in your late chemical Inquiries? -- In your Poem 2 'impressive' is used for impressible or passive, is it not? -- If so, it is not English -- life-diffusive likewise is not English -- / The last Stanza introduces confusion into my mind, and despondency -- & has besides been so often said by the Materialists &c, that it is not worth repeating --. If the Poem had ended more originally, in short, but for the last Stanza, I will venture to affirm that there were never so many lines which so uninterruptedly combined natural & beautiful words with strict philosophic Truths, i.e. scientifically philosophic. -- Of the 2, 8, 4, 5, 6th, & 7th Stanzas I am doubtful which is the most beautiful. -Do not imagine, that I cling to a fond love of future identity -- but the thought, which you have expressed in the last Stanza, might be more grandly, & therefore more consolingly, exemplified -- I had forgot to say -- that 'sameness & identity' are words too etymologically the same to be placed so close to each other. -- ____________________ 1 Probably John Hookham Frere ( 1769-1846), diplomatist and translator, afterwards one of Coleridge's intimate friends. 2 This poem was entitled, Written after Recovery from a Dangerous Illness. For the text see John Davy, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Humphry Davy, 2 vols., 1836, i. 890. ' Coleridge's critical remarks apply to it as it was first written; the words objected to are not to be found in it in its corrected printed state.' John Davy, Fragmentary Remains of Sir Humphry Davy, 1858, p. 81 n. -630- As to myself, I am doing little worthy the relation -- I write for Stuart in the Morning Post -- & I am compelled by the God Pecunia, which was one name of the supreme Jupiter, to give a Volume of Letters from Germany / which will be a decent Loungebook -- & not an atom more. -- The Christabel was running up to 1800 lines 1 -- and was so much admired by Wordsworth, that he thought it indelicate to print two Volumes with his name in which so much of another man's was included -- & which was of more consequence -- the poem was in direct opposition to the very purpose for which the Lyrical Ballads were published -- viz -- an experiment to see how far those passions, which alone give any value to extraordinary Incidents, were capable of interesting, in & for themselves, in the incidents of common Life. 2 -- We mean to publish the Christabel therefore with a long Blank Verse Poem of Wordsworth's entitled the Pedlar -- I assure you, I think very ____________________ 1 A puzzling statement. Christabel, including the conclusion to Part II, has 677 lines. Chambers's suggestion is as good as any: 'conceivably part remained only in Coleridge head'. Life, 186. 2 2 On 4 Oct. Coleridge came to Grasmere, and the Wordsworths were' exceedingly delighted with the second part of Christabel'. The next day ' Coleridge read a 2nd time Christabel; we had increasing pleasure'. But on 6 Oct. Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal remarks laconically, 'Determined not to print Christabel with the. L.B.'. ( Journals, i. 64.) Coleridge accepted this decision with apparent equanimity, but subsequent letters show that the exclusion of Christabel increased in him a sense of his shortcomings as a poet. (See Letters 369, 371, and 390.) In 1818 he spoke of the Wordsworths' 'cold praise and effective discouragement of every attempt of mine to roll onward in a distinct current of my own -- who admitted that the Ancient Mariner [and] the Christabel . . . were not without merit, but were abundantly anxious to acquit their judgements of any blindness to the very numerous defects'. (MS. New York Public Lib.) The determination to abandon Christabel involved Wordsworth in some difficulty. The first sheet of the Preface, which has a Bristol postmark of 80 September, contained the following comment: 'For the sake of variety and from a consciousness of my own weakness I have again requested the assistance of a Friend who contributed largely to the first volume, and who has now furnished me with the long and beautiful [long and beautiful struck out in MS.] Poem of Christabel, without which I should not yet have ventured to present a second volume to the public.' When Wordsworth decided on 6 Oct. to exclude Christabel, however, the Preface and all the copy, except that of Coleridge's poem, were in the printers' hands, and he was now faced with the necessity of adding more poems. Accordingly, he wrote a letter, postmarked 10 Oct., ordering the printers to cancel the sheets of Christabel already printed, and altering the passage from the Preface cited above to read: 'It is proper to inform the Reader that the Poems entitled The Ancient Mariner, The Foster-mother's Tale, The Nightingale, The Dungeon, and Love are written by a friend, who has also furnished me with a few of those Poems in the second volume, which are classed under the title of Poems on the Naming of Places.' Early Letters, 255-6. Finally, when Coleridge did not compose any such poems (see Letter 359), Wordsworth again amended the passage in the Preface to the form in which it appeared in the 1800 edition. -631- differently of CHRISTABEL. -- I would rather have written Ruth, and Nature's Lady 1 than a million such poems / but why do I calumniate my own spirit by saying, I would rather ----- God knows -- it is as delightful to me that they are written -- I know, that at present (& I hope, that it will be so,) my mind has disciplined itself into a willing exertion of it's powers, without any reference to their comparative value. -- I cannot speak favorably of W's health -but indeed he has not done common justice to Dr Beddoes's kind Prescription. I saw his countenance darken, and all his Hopes vanish, when he saw the Prescriptions -- his scepticism concerning medicines -- nay, it is not enough scepticism! -- Yet now that Peas & Beans are over, I have hopes that he will in good earnest make a fair & full Trial. I rejoice with sincere joy at Beddoes's recovery. ----- Wordsworth is fearful, you have been much teized by the Printers on his account -- but you can sympathize with him --. The works which I gird myself up to attack as soon as moneyconcerns will permit me, are the Life of Lessing -- & the Essay on Poetry. The latter is still more at my heart than the former -- it's Title would be an Essay on the Elements of Poetry / it would in reality be a disguised System of Morals & Politics --. When you write (& do write soon) tell me how I can get your Essay on the nitrous oxyd -- if you desired Johnson to have one sent to Lackington's to be placed in Mr Crosthwaite's Monthly parcel for Keswick, I should receive it. Are your Galvanic discoveries important? What do they lead to? -- All this is ultra-crepidation / but would to Heaven, I had as much knowlege as I have sympathy -- ! ----- My Wife & Children are well -- the Baby was dying some week ago -- so the good People would have it baptized -- his name is Derwent Coleridge -- so called from the River: for fronting our House the Greta runs into the Derwent -- / had it been a Girl, the name should have been Greta -----. By the bye, Greta, or rather Grieta, is exactly the Cocytus of the Greeks -- the word litterally rendered in modern English is "The loud Lamenter" -- to Griet in the Cumbrian Dialect signifying to roar aloud for grief or pain --: and it does roar with a vengeance! -- By way of an oddity I fill up the blank space with the following Skeltoniad 2 (to be read in the Recitative Lilt) The Devil believes, that the Lord will come Stealing a March without beat of Drum ____________________ 1 Presumably Three years she grew in sun and shower. 2 Poems, i. 358. See also headnote to Letter 355. -632- About the same Hour, that he came last, On an old Christmas Day in a snowy Blast. Till he bids the Trump sound, nor Body nor Soul stirs, For the Dead Men's Heads have slipp'd under their Bolsters. Ho! Ho! Brother Bard! -- In our Church Yard Both Beds and Bolsters are soft and green; Save one alone, and that's of Stone And under it lies a Counsellor Keen. 'Twould be a square Tomb if it were not too long, And 'tis rail'd round with Irons tall, spear like, and strong. From Aberdeen hither this Fellow did skip 1 With a waxy Face and a blabber Lip, And a black Tooth in front to shew in part 2 What was the Colour of his whole Heart! This Counsellor sweet! This Scotchman compleat! Apollyon scotch him for a Snake -- I trust, he lies in his Grave awake! * On the 6th of January When all is white, both high & low, As a Cheshire Yeoman's Dairy, Brother Bard, ho! ho! -- believe it or no, On that tall Tomb to you I'll shew After Sun sèt and before Cock Cròw Two round Spaces clear of snow. I swear by our Knight and his Forefathers' Souls, Both in Shape and in size they are just like the Holes In the House of Privity Of that ancient Family. On these round spaces clear of snow There have sate in the night for an hour or so (He kicking his Heels, she cursing her Corns All to the tune of the Wind in their Horns) The Dev'l and his Grannam With a snow-drift to fan 'em, Expecting and hoping the Trumpet to blow! For they are cock-sure of the Fellow below! I will say nothing about Spring -- a thirsty man tries to think ____________________ * (a humane Wish) inserted by S. T. C. in the margin. 1 This and the six lines following were not printed in the Morning Post. 2 'Mackintosh had had one of his front teeth broken and the stump was black.' Note by Daniel Stuart, Gentleman's Magazine, May 1838. -633- of any thing, but the Stream when he knows it to be 10 miles off! -- God bless you & Your most affectionate S. T. Coleridge P.S. -- Love to Tobin -- tell him to set off -----