402. To William Godwin Address: Mr Godwin | the Polygon | Sommers' Town | LondonSingle Sheet MS. Lord Abinger. Pub. with omis. Macmillan's Magazine, April 1864, p. 528. Postmark: 26 June 1801. Stamped: Keswick. Grieta Hall, Keswick Tuesday Evening, June 28, 1801 Dear Godwin I have had, during the last three weeks, such numerous interruptions of my 'uninterrupted rural Retirement', such a succession of Visitors both indigenous & exotic, that verily I wanted both the time & the composure necessary to answer your Letter of the first of June. At present, I am writing to you from my bed. For in consequence of a very sudden change in the weather from intense Heat to a raw and scathing chillness my bodily Health has suffered a Relapse as severe as it was unexpected; but I find however, that I have gathered much strength in this last Interval. The Disease assumes an air of far greater Decision than it ever before manifested; and about 5 o/clock this morning I had a fair & full Paroxysm of the Gout in my left Knee & Foot, which, after a sojourn of some ____________________ 1 Coleridge refers to Nicholson Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts, 1797-1815, to which Davy contributed a number of articles. 2 Jacques F. de Menou ( 1750-1810), the French general defeated at Alexandria, 21 Mar. 1801. -735- Hours, has left me in better spirits than it found me, tho' my knee remains swoln & exquisitely sore, and I am instructed too to expect a second Fit in the course of the Night. But I can bear even violent Pain with the meek patience of a Woman, if only it be unmingled with confusion in the Head, or sensations of Disgust in the stomach, for these, alas! insult and threaten the steadiness of our moral Being. I have not yet received either Antonio or your Pamphlet in answer to Dr Parr & the Scotch Gentleman 1 (who is to be Professor of Morals to the young Nabobs at Calcutta with an Establishment of 3000£ a year!!) -- Stuart was so kind as to send me Fenwick's Review of it in a paper called the Albion; & Mr Longman has informed me that by your orders the Pamphlet itself has been left for me at his House. The extracts, which I saw, pleased me much, with the exception of the introduction which is incorrectly & clumsily worded. But indeed I have before observed that whatever you write, the first Page is always the worst in the Book. -- I wish, that instead of six days you had employed six months, and instead of a half a crown Pamphlet had given us a good half a guinea Octavo. But you may yet do this. -- It strikes me that both in this work & in your second Edition of the Political Justice 2 your Retractations have been more injudicious than the assertions or dogmas retracted. But this is no fit subject for a mere Letter. If I had time, which I have not, I would write two or three sheets for your sole Inspection, entitled, History of the Errors & Blunders of the literary Life of William Godwin. To the World it would appear a Paradox to say, that you are all too persuadible a man; but you yourself know it to be the truth. -- I shall send back your manuscript on Friday, with my criticisms. You say, in your last, 'How I wish you were here!' -- When I see how little I have written of what I could have talked, I feel with you that a Letter is but 'a mockery' to a full & ardent mind. In truth I feel this so forcibly, that if I could be certain that I should remain in this country, I should press you to come down, & finish the whole in my House; but if I can by any means raise the moneys, I shall go in the first Vessels that leave Liverpool for the Azores, (St Michael's to wit) & these sail at the latter end of July. -- Unless I can escape one English Winter & Spring, I have not any rational prospect of Recovery. You 'cannot help regarding uninterrupted ____________________ 1 Cf. Godwin Thoughts occasioned by . . . Dr. Parr's Spital Sermon, . . . being a Reply to the Attacks of Dr. Parr, Mr. Mackintosh, the Author of an Essay on Population, and Others, 1801. A copy of this work with Coleridge's annotations is in the British Museum. 2 The second edition of Political Justice was published in 1796. -736- rural retirement as a principal cause' of my ill-health. My ill-health commenced at Liverpool in the shape of blood-shot eyes & swoln Eyelids while I was in the daily habit of visiting the Liverpool Literati -- these on my settling at Keswick were followed by large Boils in my neck & shoulders -- these by a violent Rheumatic Fever -- this by a distressing & tedious Hydrocele -- & since then by irregular Gout, which promises at this moment to ripen into a legitimate Fit. What uninterrupted rural retirement can have had to do in the production of these outward & visible evils, I cannot guess! What share it has had in consoling me under them I know with a tranquil mind, & feel with a grateful Heart. O that you had now before your eyes the delicious picture of Lake, & River, & Bridge, & Cottage, & spacious Field with it's pathway, & woody Hill with it's spring verdure, & mountain with the snow yet lingering in fantastic patches upon it -- this, even the same which I had from my sick bed, even without raising my head from the Pillow! -O God! all but dear & lovely Things seemed to be known to my Imagination only as Words -- even the Forms which struck terror into me in my fever-dreams were still forms of Beauty -- Before my last seizure I bent down to pick something from the Ground, & when I raised my head, I said to Miss Wordsworth -- I am sure, Rotha! that I am going to be ill: for as I bent my head, there came a distinct & vivid spectrum upon my Eyes -- it was one little picture -- a Rock with Birches & Ferns on it, a Cottage backed by it, & a small stream. -- Were I a Painter I would give an outward existence to this -- but I think it will always live in my memory. ----- Bye the bye our rural Retirement has been honored by the company of Mr Sharp, and the poet Rogers -- the latter, tho' not a man of very vigorous intellect, won a good deal both on myself & Wordsworth -for what he said evidently came from his own feelings, & was the result of his own observation. I doubt not that they both return to London with far other opinion respecting Wordsworth, than the Scotch Gentleman 1 has been solicitous to impress his Listeners with. But that Gemman's Lectures & Conversations are but the Steam of an Excrement, & truly animalcular must those Souls be, to whom this can form a cloud that hides from them the face of Sun or Star. He is a thing that must make itself known to all noses, sooner or later; but some men's olfactories are quicker than others' -- / You for instance smelt at him & found him out -- I & Wordsworthwinded him at a distance. -- It gave me pain that you should so misunderstand a sentence in my former Letter respecting the Lyrical Ballads. 2 It was a mere Tirade, almost as compleatly so, as your apotheosis of ____________________ 1 James Mackintosh. 2 See Letter 890. -737- me in your last Letter, &, as I supposed, it was sufficiently explained to be a Tirade by the spirit of the whole Epistle which I wrote while struggling with the most disquieting & depressing sensations, & which was indeed no more than the awkward Curvette of a heavy-loaded Beast of Burthen grown restive under his Load. The passage, which you quote, would have been grossly improper, addressed to a junior -- addressed to you seriously it would have deserved no milder name than Coxcombry or Insolence. Yet seriously I should have small fellow-feeling with a man who could read 'the Brothers' & 'Michael' with indifference, or (as some have done) with merriment -- & I must add too (in proof of a favorite opinion of my own, viz. that where the Temper permits a sneer, the Understanding most frequently makes a blunder) that there are few better reasons than the accidental circumstance of private Friend[ship] why, as a touchstone by which to come at a decision in my own mind concerning a Man's Taste & Judgment, the works of a contemporary writer hitherto without fame or rank ought 'to take the lead of Milton, Shakespear, & Burke.' I have myself met with persons who professed themselves idolatrous admirers of Milton, & yet declared it to be their opinion that Dr Darwin was as great a poet. Thousands believe that they have always admired Milton -- who have never asked themselves, for what they admired him, or whether in naked matter of Fact they ever did admire him. -- Likewise, dear Godwin! highly as I respect the powers of Edmund Burke, I feel a sort of confidence that I could reason any candid man into a conviction that he had acted lightly & without due awe when he placed Burke's name by the side of Milton's & Shakespear's. My love to your dear little ones. Mrs Coleridge is well -- & Hartley & Derwent. The latter is as fair & fat a creature, as ever had his naked Body circumnavigated by an old Nurse's kisses. -- I feel my knee beginning to make ready for the reception of the Lady Arthritis. -- God bless you and S. T. Coleridge