400. To Thomas Poole Address: Mr T. Poole | N. Stowey | Bridgewater | Somerset Single sheet MS. British Museum A few lines pub. Thomas Poole, ii. 48. Postmark: 20 May 1801. Stamped: Keswick. May 17, 1801. -- Sunday Evening My dear Poole I thank you with a full heart for your last Letter which was as wise as it was kind. -- Ah dear friend I had you seen me a few days before the date of it, you would have needed no other evidence [to] have convinced you, that my gloom & forebodingness respecting pecuniary affairs were the effects, & in no degree the causes, of my personal indisposition. -- I should take shame to myself indeed, if in an hour of health I had suffered 10 minutes unhappiness from the difficulty of living at 1801 a year -- sadly minused as it is, & probably will continue to be, by Income Taxes & the other Gentry of that class. -- No! Poole -- I should be unworthy of your esteem as an ordinary man, & most deserving of your ridicule as a pretended Philosopher, if that gloom & the expressions, that conveyed it to you, had been other than perishing Maggots engendered in the weakly bowels of Disease. My pecuniary Embranglements indeed will cost me some trouble to cut through -- if I regain my health, I shall arm my hands in a stout Pair of Hedger's & Ditcher's Gloves, & fall to with a light heart / if not, God's will be done! -- I must do what I can / tho' it would be unusually painful to me to continue in Debt even to those who love me, desirous as I am that no one should with truth impute my disregard of wealth for myself to want of strict honesty & punctuality in my money-dealings with others. -- I have written you many letters; and yet from all of them you will scarcely have been able to collect a connected story of my Health, & it's Downfalls. -- I will give it now (as briefly as I can) that you may distinctly understand the plans which I shall after mention. -- During the whole Fall of the year to Christmas I had been harrassed with all sorts of crazinesses, blood-shot eyes, swoln Eye lids, rheumatic pains in the back of my head & limbs, clusters of Boils in my neck, &c -- from all which, but especially from a transient Puffiness of one of my hands, I learnt the doleful Tidings that the machine was crazed -- & slight changes of weather affected me, & Wet cloathes, tho' pulled off immediately on my entering the house, never failed to throw me on my back. -- The new year was ushered in with what I believed a Rheumatic Fever / tho' no -730- doubt part of the pains were nephritic. -- This was followed by the Hydrocele & a tedious, tormenting, humiliating Visitant it was. -My general Health, after this was removed, was as you may suppose, but indifferent, sometimes better, sometimes worse, never good -- & during this Interval I applied myself with great intensity of thought & application, far greater indeed than in all my former Life. Notwithstanding the Result, I still praise God that I did so. -- In the course of these studies I tried a multitude of little experiments on my own sensations, & on my senses -- and some of these (too often repeated) I have reason to believe did injury to my nervous system -- / However this be, I relapsed -- and a Devil of a Relapse it has been, to be sure! --. There is no Doubt, that it is irregular Gout combined with frequent nephritic attacks -- I had not strength enough to ripen it into a fair Paroxysm -- it made it's outward shews sometimes in one or other of my fingers, sometimes in one or more of my Toes, sometimes in my right Knee & Ancle; but in general it was in my left Knee and Ancle -- here the Disorder has been evidently attempting to fix itself -- my left knee was most uncouthly swoln & discolored, & gave me night after night pain enough, heaven knows, but yet it never came to a fair Paroxysm. -All this was mere nothing -- but O dear Poole! the attacks on my stomach, & the nephritic pains in my back which almost alternated with the stomach fits -- they were terrible! -- The Disgust, the Loathing, that followed these Fits & no doubt in part too the use of the Brandy & Laudanum 1 which they rendered necessary -- this ____________________ 1 This letter, with its passing reference to laudanum, gives a true account of the beginning of Coleridge's slavery to opium, and confirms his reiterated assertion, made in 1814, 1820, and 1826, that he unwittingly became a drug addict in an effort to alleviate pain. Thus in 1814 he tells Cottle how he was 'seduced into the ACCURSED Habit ignorantly. I had been almost bed-ridden for many months with swellings in my knees -- in a medical Journal I unhappily met with an account of a cure performed in a similar case (or what to me appeared so) by rubbing in of Laudanum, at the same time taking a given dose internally -- It acted like a charm, like a miracle! I recovered the use of my Limbs, of my appetite, of my Spirits -- & this continued for near a fortnight. At length, the unusual stimulus subsided -- the complaint returned -- the supposed remedy was recurred to -- but I can not go thro' the dreary history --' MS. New York Public Lib. ( Early Rec. ii. 157). See T. Allsop, Letters, Conversations and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge, 1864, p. 41, and Gillman, Life, 246-8. See also Letter 516, p. 984 n. Although this letter to Poole does not contain any reference to medical reading, Letter 374 provides evidence of it. Earlier letters show that Coleridge had previously taken opium both for medicinal purposes and to relieve the strain of agitated spirits and that he was well aware of the 'divine repose' it induced (see Letters 10, 108, 150, 151, 209, 238, and 809), but it seems evident that his habitual use of drugs did not begin until his illness of 1800-1. See also E. L. Griggs, "Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Opium", Huntington Lib. Quar., August 1954, pp. 357-78. -731- Disgust, Despondency, & utter Prostration of Strength, & the strange sensibility to every change in the atmosphere even while in my bed -- / enough! -- I pray God with a fervent heart, my beloved & honored Poole I that those words may for ever remain Words to you -- unconstrued by your own experience. -- On Monday, May 4th, I recovered, all at once as it were -- my appetite returned, & my spirits too in some measure -- On the Thursday following I took the opportunity of a return Post Chaise, & went to Grasmere -to do away doleful remembrances -- & I grew better and better, till Tuesday last -- indeed I was so stout that I had resolved on walking back to Keswick the next morning -- but on Tuesday afternoon I took a walk of about six miles, & on my return was seized again with a shivering Fit followed by a feverish & sleepless night, & in the Morning my left Knee was swoln as much as ever. -- I return'd to Keswick in a return post chaise on Friday Evening -my knee is still swoln, & my left [ancle?] in flames of fire, & last night these pretty companions kept me sleepless the whole night -hour after hour, I utter'd and suppress'd full many a groan, The Cur, Arthritis, gnawing my knee-bone -- but my stomach & head & back remain unaffected, & I am resolved to believe that I am really recovering, tho' I have had so many recoveries of two, & three days each, followed by such severe Relapses, that verily I am almost afraid to hope. But chearful Thoughts come with genial sensations; and Hope is itself no mean Medicine. -- My plan is very short -- when the swelling in my knee is gone, I shall take for a few weeks the Rust of Iron in pretty large Doses -- & thro' the whole Summer I will observe every rule of the most scrupulous Prudence & Forecast with religious strictness, using regulated Diet & regulated Exercise -- at the close of the summer if I should be so far re-established, that I no longer feel my health affected by the changes of the Weather, I shall have nothing to do, but to pass the Winter in quiet industry, with unremitted caution as to Wet & cold. -- If the contrary should be the case, I am determined to go to St Miguel's (one of the Azores -- see ' St Miguel' in your Encyc.) -- I can go from Whitehaven, which is but sixteen miles from Keswick, for a mere trifle -- perhaps, for nothing; & I can be lodged & boarded in a convent close by the Bath in the E. of the Island for the whole Winter for ten pound. Even in a pecuniary Light it will be a good plan / for my Letters will bring me at least a hundred Pound. Captn Wordsworth (W's Brother & worthy to be so) passed two months there, & warmly recommends a Wintering there, as almost a certain Cure of my -732- Complaints. -- When I am sick or in pain, I look forward to this scheme with a comforting satisfaction -- but whenever I am quite at ease, I cannot bear even to think of it. -- I had hopes, when I began this Letter, that one Half of it would have sufficed for my story -- & now I am at the end, & have no room to say aught about my disappointment in not seeing you -& now too the Country is in it's very lustre of beauty, & hitherto unpestered by the Tourists. -- But if I can send a letter franked from London to you, by means of a parcel which I shall soon send to Longman, I will write again. -- God in heaven bless you & S. T. Coleridge Love to your dear Mother -- & to Ward -- Mrs C. & the Children quite well -- Derwent is a downright Beauty --. When you see your Sister & Mr K., remember us affectionately to them.