444. To William Sotheby 1 Address: William Sotheby Esq. | Upper Seymour [St] | London Single Sheet MS. Colonel H. G. Sotheby. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 369. Stamped: Keswick. Tuesday, July 18, 1802. Greta Hall, Keswick My dear Sir I had written you a letter, and was about to have walked to the Post with it, when I received your's from Longnor -- it gave me such lively pleasure, that I threw my Letter into the Fire / for it related chiefly to the Erste Schiffer of Gesner 2 / and I could not endure that my first Letter to you should begin with a subject so little interesting to my Heart or Understanding. -- I trust, that you are before this at the end of your Journey; and that Mrs and Miss Sotheby have so completely recovered themselves, as to have almost forgotten all the fatigue, except such instances of it as it may be pleasant to them to remember. Why need I say, how often I have thought of you since your departure, & with what Hope & pleasurable Emotion? I will acknowlege to you, that your very, very kind Letter was not only a Pleasure to me, but a Relief to my mind / for after I had left you on the Road between Ambleside & Grasmere, I was dejected by the apprehension, that I had been unpardonably loquacious, and had oppressed you, & still more Mrs Sotheby, with my many words so impetuously uttered. But in simple truth you were yourselves in part the innocent causes of it / for the meeting with you; the manner of the meeting; your kind attentions to me; the deep & healthful delight, which every impressive & beautiful object seemed to pour out upon you; kindred opinions, kindred pursuits, kindred feelings, in persons whose Habits & as it were Walk of Life, have been so different from my own --; these, and more than these which I would but cannot say, all flowed in upon me with unusually strong Impulses of Pleasure / and Pleasure, in a body & soul such as I happen to possess, 'intoxicates more than strong Wine.' -- However, I promise to be a much more subdued creature -- when you next meet me / for ____________________ 1 William Sotheby ( 1757-1833), poet, dramatist, and translator, became Coleridge's staunch friend from the time of their meeting in 1802. 2 Coleridge's translation of Salomon Gessner poem, Der erste Schiffer, was to be published with illustrations by the engraver, P. W. Tomkins. Although in subsequent letters Coleridge gives Sotheby the impression that he had completed the work, he wrote to Godwin in 1811 that he had composed only part of it: 'I once translated into blank verse about half of the poem, but gave it up under the influence of a double disgust, moral and poetical.' William Godwin, ii. 223. No trace of Coleridge's translation remains. -808- I had but just recovered from a state of extreme dejection brought on in part by Ill-health, partly by other circumstances / and Solitude and solitary Musings do of themselves impregnate our Thoughts perhaps with more Life & Sensation, than will leave the Balance quite even. -- But you, my dear Sir! looked [at a] Brother Poet with a Brother's Eyes -- O that you were now in my study, & saw what is now before the window, at which I am writing, that rich mulberry-purple which a floating Cloud has thrown on the Lake -- & that quiet Boat making it's way thro' it to the Shore! -- We have had little else but Rain & squally weather since you left us, till within the last three Days -- but showery weather is no evil to us& even that most oppressive of all weathers, hot small Drizzle, exhibits the Mountains the best of any. It produced such new combinations of Ridges in the Lodore & Borrodale Mountains, on Saturday morning, that, I declare, had I been blindfolded & so brought to the Prospect, I should scarcely have known them again. It was a Dream, such as Lovers have -- a wild & transfiguring, yet enchantingly lovely, Dream of an Object lying by the side of the Sleeper. Wordsworth, who has walked thro' Switzerland, declared that he never saw any thing superior -- perhaps nothing equal -- in the Alps. -- The latter part of your Letter made me truly happy. Uriel himself should not be half as welcome / & indeed he, I must admit, was never any great Favorite of mine. I always thought him a Bantling of zoneless Italian Muses which Milton heard cry at the Door of his Imagination, & took in out of charity. -- However, come horsed as you may, carus mihi expectatusque venies. 1 De ceteris rebus, (si 2 quid agendum est, et quicquid2 sit agendum) ut quam rectissime agantur, omni meâ curâ, operâ, diligentiâ, providebo. 3 On my return to Keswick I reperused the erste Schiffer with great attention; & the result was an increasing Disinclination to the business of translating it / tho' my fancy was not a little flattered by the idea of seeing my Rhymes in such a gay Livery -as poor Giordano Bruno says in his strange yet noble Poem De Immenso et Innumerabili Quam ganymedeo Cultu, graphiceque Venustus! Narcissis referam, peramârunt me quoque Nymphae. 4 But the Poem was too silly. The first conception is noble -- so very good, that I am spiteful enough to hope that I shall discover it not ____________________ 1 Ciceronis Epis. ad Fam. XVI. vii. 2 Underlined twice in MS. 3 Ibid. i. ii. 4 'The lines are taken, with some alterations, from a kind of l'envoy or epilogue which Bruno affixed to his long philosophical poem, Jordani Bruni Nolani de Innumerabilibus Immenso et Infigurabili; seu de Universo et Mundis libri octo. Francofurti, 1591, p. 654.' Letters, i. 871 n. -809- to have been original in Gesner -- he has so abominably maltreated it. -- First, the story is very inartificially constructed -- we should have been let into the existence of the Girl & her Mother thro' the young Man, & after his appearance / this however is comparatively a trifle. -- But the machinery is so superlatively contemptible & commonplace -- as if a young man could not dream of a Tale which had deeply impressed him without Cupid, or have a fair wind all the way to an Island within sight of the Shore, he quitted, without Æolus. Æolus himself is a God devoted & dedicated, I should have thought, to the Muse of Travestie / his Speech in Gesner is not defici[ent] in Fancy -- but it is a Girlish Fancy -- & the God of the winds exceedingly disquieted with animal Love / ind[uces?] a very ridiculous Figure in my Imagination. -- Besides, it was ill taste to introduce Cupid and Æolus at a time which we positive[ly] know to have been anterior to the invention & establishment of the Grecian Mythology -- and the speech of Æolus reminds me perpetually of little Engravings from the Cut Stones of the Ancients, Seals, & whatever else they call them. -- Again, the Girl's yearnings & conversations with [her] Mother are something between the Nursery and the Veneris Volgivagae Templa 1 -- et libidinem spirat et subsusurrat, dum innocentiae loquelam, et virgineae cogitationis dulciter offensantis luctamina simulat. -- It is not the Thoughts that a lonely Girl could have; but exactly such as a Boarding School Miss whose Imagination, to say no worse, had been somewhat stirred & heated by the perusal of French or German Pastorals, would suppose her to say. But this is indeed general in the German & French Poets. It is easy to cloathe Imaginary Beings with our own Thoughts & Feelings; but to send ourselves out of ourselves, to think ourselves in to the Thoughts and Feelings of Beings in circumstances wholly & strangely different from our own / hoc labor, hoc opus / and who has atchieved it? Perhaps only Shakespere. Metaphisics is a word, that you, my dear Sir! are no great Friend to / but yet you will agree, that a great Poet must be, implicitè if not explicitè, a profound Metaphysician. He may not have it in logical coherence, in his Brain & Tongue; but he must have it by Tact / for all sounds, & forms of human nature he must have the ear of a wild Arab listening in the silent Desart, the eye of a North American Indian tracing the footsteps of an Enemy upon the Leaves that strew the Forest --; the Touch of a Blind Man feeling the face of a darling Child -- / and do not think me a Bigot, if I say, that I have read no French or German Writer, who appears to me to have had a heart sufficiently pure & simple to be capable of this or any thing like it. / I could say a great deal ____________________ 1 Cf. Lucretius iv. 1071. -810- more in abuse of poor Gesner's Poem; but I have said more than, I fear, will be creditable in your opinion to my good nature. I must tho' tell you the malicious Motto, which I have written on the first page of Klopstock's Messias -- Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine Poeta, Quale Sopor! 1 Only I would have the words, divine Poeta, translated, Versemaking DIVINE. I read a great deal of German; but I do dearly dearly dearly love my own Countrymen of old times, and those of my contemporaries who write in their Spirit. William Wordsworth & his Sister left me Yesterday on their way to Yorkshire / they walked yesterday to the foot of Ulswater, from whence they go to Penrith & take the Coach -- I accompanied them as far as the 7th Mile Stone. Among the last things, which he said to me, was -- 'Do not forget to remember [me] to Mr [So]theby with whatever affectionate terms, so slight an Intercourse may permit -- and how glad we shall all be to see him again.' -- I was much pleased with your description of Wordsworth's character as it appeared to y[ou --] it is in few words, in half a dozen Strokes, like s[ome of] Mortimer's 2 Figures, a fine Portrait -The word 'homoge[neity' gave] me great pleasure, as most accurate & happily expressi[ve. I must] set you right with regard to my perfect coinc[idence with] his poetic Creed. It is most certain, that that P[reface arose from] the heads of our mutual Conversations &c -- & the f[irst pass]ages were indeed partly taken from notes of mine / for it was at first intended, that the Preface should be written by me -- and it is likewise true, that I warmly accord with W. in his abhorrence of these poetic Licences, as they are called, which are indeed mere tricks of Convenience & Laziness. Exemp. Grat. Drayton has these Lines -- Ouse having Ouleney past, as she were waxed mad, From her first stayder. Course immediately doth gad, And in meandred Gyres doth whirl herself about, That, this way, here and there, back, forward, in and out, And like a wanton Girl oft doubling in her Gait In labyrinthine Turns & Twinings Intricate &c &c -- 3 the first poets observing such a stream as this, would say with truth & beauty -- it strays -- & now every stream shall stray wherever it prattles on it's pebbled way -- instead of it's bed or channel / . (I ____________________ 1 Virgil, Ecl. v.45-46. 2 John Hamilton Mortimer ( 1741-1779), historical painter. 3 Michael Drayton, Poly -Olbion, Song 22, lines 17-22. -811- have taken the instance from a Poet, from whom as few Instances of this vile commonplace trashy Style could be taken as from any writer -- from Bowles execrable Translation of that lovely Poem of Dean Ogle, 1 vol. II. p. 27. -- / I am confident, that Bowles good-naturedly translated it in a hurry, merely to give him an excuse for printing the admirable original.) -- In my opinion every phrase, every metaphor, every personification, should have it's justifying cause in some passion either of the Poet's mind, or of the Characters described by the poet -- But metre itself implies a passion, i.e. a state of excitement, both in the Poet's mind, & is expected in that of the Reader -- and tho' I stated this to Wordsworth, & he has in some sort stated it in his preface, yet he has [not] done justice to it, nor has he in my opinion sufficiently answered it. In my opinion, Poetry justifies, as Poetry independent of any other Passion, some new combinations of Language, & commands the omission of many others allowable in other compositions / Now Wordsworth, me saltem judice, has in his system not sufficiently admitted the former, & in his practice has too frequently sinned against the latter. -- Indeed, we have had lately some little controversy on this subject -- & we begin to suspect, that there is, somewhere or other, a radical Difference [in our] opinions 2 -- Dulce est inter amicos rarissimi Dissensione condiri plurimas consensiones, saith St Augustine, who said more good things than any Saint or Sinner, that I ever read in Latin. -- Bless me! what a Letter! ----- And I have yet to make a request to you / I had read your Georgics 3 at a Friend's House in the Neighbourhood -- and on sending for the book I find that it belonged to a Book Club, & has been returned. If you have a copy interleaved, or could procure one for me, and will send it to me per Coach with a copy of your original Poems I will return them to you with many thanks in the Autumn / & will endeavor to improve my own taste by writing in the blank Leaves my feelings both of the Original & your Translation / your poems I want for another purpose -- of which hereafter. -- Mrs Coleridge & my children are well -- she desires to be respectfully remembered to Mrs & Miss Sotheby. Tell Miss Sotheby that I will endeavor to send her soon the completion of the Dark Ladié -- as she was goodnatured [enough] to be pleased with the first part ----- Let me hear Oh thou, that prattling on thy pebbled way Through my paternal vale dost stray. ____________________ 1 Poetical Works of Bowles, ed. by G. Gilfillan, 2 vols., 1855, i. 100. Lines 1 and 2 of Bowles translation read: 2 This is the first evidence of Coleridge's dissatisfaction with Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads. See also Letter 449. 3 Sotheby translation of Virgil Georgics was published in 1800. -812- from you soon, my dear Sir! -- & believe me with heart-felt wishes for you & your's, in every day phrase, but indeed indeed not with every-day Feeling, your's most sincerely, S. T. Coleridge. I long to lead Mrs Sotheby to a Scene that has the grandeur without the Toil or Danger of Scale Force -- it is called the White Water Dash. -----