459. To William Sotheby Address: W. Sotheby Esq. | Lodge | Loughton | Essex Single Sheet MS. Colonel H. G. Sotheby, Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 401. Postmark: 13 September 1802. Stamped: Keswick. Friday, Sept. 10, 1802. Greta Hall, Keswick My dear Sir The Books have not yet arrived, and I am wholly unable to account for the Delay. I suspect, that the cause of it may be Mr Faulder's mistake in sending them by the Carlisle Waggon -- they should have been sent by the Kendal & Whitehaven Waggon. A person is going to Carlisle on Monday from this place -- & will make diligent enquiry -- & if he succeed, still I cannot have them in less than a week -- as they must return to Penrith, & there wait for the next Tuesday's Carrier. I ought perhaps to be ashamed of my weakness / but I must confess, I have been downright vexed by the Biisiness -- every Cart, every return-Chaise from Penrith, has renewed my Hopes, till I begin to play tricks with my own Impatience -- & say -- Well -- I take it for granted, that I sha' n't get [them] for these 7 days, &c &c -- with other of those Half-lies, that Fear begets upon Hope. -- You have imposed a pleasing task on ____________________ 1 G. J. Planck, Geschichte der Entstehung der Veränderungen und der Bildung unsers protestantischen Lehrbegriffs vom Anfang der Reformation bis zu der Einführung der Concordienformel, 6 vols., 1791-1800. -862- me in requesting the minutiae of my opinions concerning your Orestes -- whatever these opinions may be, the disclosure of them will be a sort of map of my mind, as a Poet & Reasoner -- & my curiosity is strongly excited. I feel you a man of Genius in the choice of the subject. It is my Faith, that the 'Genus irritabile' is a phrase applicable only to bad poets 1 -- Men of great Genius have indeed, as an essential of their composition, great sensibility, but they have likewise great confidence in their own powers -- and Fear must always precede anger, in the human mind. I can with truth say, that from those, I love, mere general praise of any thing, I have written, is as far from giving me pleasure, as mere general censure -- in any thing, I mean, to which I have devoted much time or effort. 'Be minute, & assign your Reasons often, & your first impressions always -- & then blame or praise -- I care not which -- I shall be gratified' -- These are my sentiments, & I assuredly believe, that they are the sentiments of all, who have indeed felt a true Call to the Ministry of Song. Of course, I too 'will act on the golden rule of doing to others, what I wish others to do unto me.' -- But while I think of it, let me say that I should be much concerned, if you applied this to the First Navigator -- It would absolutely mortify me, if you did more than look over it -- & when a correction suggested itself to you, take your pen, & make it -- & then let the copy go to Tomkyns -- What they have been, I shall know when I see the Thing in Print -- for it must please the present times, if it please any -- and you have been far more in the fashionable World, than I, & must needs have a finer & surer Tact of that which will offend or disgust in the higher circles of Life. ---- Yet it is not what I should have advised Tomkyns to do -- & that is one reason why I can not & will not except more than a brace of copies, from him. I do not like to be associated in a man's mind with his Losses -- if he have the Translation gratis, he must take it on his own judgment -- but when a man pays for a thing, & he loses by it, the Idea will creep in, spite of himself, that the Failure was, in part, owing to the badness of the Translation. While I was translating the Wallenstein, I told Longman, it would never answer -- when I had finished it, I wrote to him / & foretold that it would be waste paper on his Shelves, & the dullness charitably layed upon my Shoulders. It happened, as I said -- Longman lost 250£ by the work / 50£ of which had been payed to me -- poor pay, Heaven knows! for a thick Octavo volume of blank Verse -& yet I am sure, that Longman never thinks of me but Wallenstein & the Ghosts of his departed Guineas dance an ugly Waltz round my Idea. -- This would not disturb me a tittle, if I thought well of ____________________ 1 Cf. Biographia Literaria, ch. ii. -863- the work myself -- I should feel a confidence, that it would win it's way at last / but this is not the case with Gesner's Der erste Schiffer. -- It may as well lie here, till Tomkins wants it -- let him only give me a week's notice, and I will transmit it to you with a large margin. -- Bowles's Stanzas on Navigation are among the best in that second Volume / but the whole volume is woefully inferior to it's Predecessor. There reigns thro' all the blank verse poems such a perpetual trick of moralizing every thing -- which is very well, occasionally -- but never to see or describe any interesting appearance in nature, without connecting it by dim analogies with the moral world, proves faintness of Impression. Nature has her proper interest; & he will know what it is, who believes & feels, that every Thing has a Life of it's own, & that we are all one Life. A Poet's Heart & Intellect should be combined, intimately combined & unified, with the great appearances in Nature -- & not merely held in solution & loose mixture with them, in the shape of formal Similies. I do not mean to exclude these formal Similies -- there are moods of mind, in which they are natural -- pleasing moods of mind, & such as a Poet will often have, & sometimes express; but they are not his highest, & most appropriate moods, They are 'Sermoni propiora' which I once translated -- ' Properer for a Sermon.' The truth is -- Bowles has indeed the sensibility of a poet; but he has not the Passion of a great Poet. His latter Writings all want native Passion -- Milton here & there supplies him with an appearance of it -- but he has no native Passion, because he is not a Thinker& has probably weakened his Intellect by the haunting Fear of becoming extravagant / Young somewhere in one of his prose works remarks that there is as profound a Logic in the most daring & dithyrambic parts of Pindar, as in the 'Opyavov of Aristotle -- the remark is a valuable one / Poetic Feelings, like the flexuous Boughs Of mighty Oaks, yield homage to the Gale, Toss in the strong winds, drive before the Gust, 1 Themselves one giddy storm of fluttering Leaves; Yet all the while, self-limited, remain Equally near the fix'd and parent Trunk Of Truth & Nature, in the howling Blasts 2 As in the Calm that stills the Aspen Grove. 3 -- That this is deep in our Nature, I felt when I was on Sea' fell --. I involuntarily poured forth a Hymn in the manner of the Psalms, ____________________ 1 Blast [Cancelled word in line above.] 2 Storin [Cancelled word in line above.] 3 Lines 34 -- 41 of To Matilda Betham from a Stranger, Poems, i. 374. -864- tho' afterwards I thought the Ideas &c disproportionate to our humble mountains 1 -- & accidentally lighting on a short Note in some swiss Poems, concerning the Vale of Chamouny, & it's Mountain, I transferred myself thither, in the Spirit, & adapted my former feelings to these grander external objects. You will soon see it in the Morning Post -- & I should be glad to know whether & how far it pleased you. -- It has struck [me] with great force lately, that the Psalms afford a most compleat answer to those, who state the Jehovah of the Jews, as a personal & national God -& the Jews, as differing from the Greeks, only in calling the minor Gods, Cherubim & Seraphim -- & confining the word God to their Jupiter. It must occur to every Reader that the Greeks in their religious poems address always the Numina Loci, the Genii, the Dryads, the Naiads, &c &c -- All natural Objects were dead -- mere hollow Statues -- but there was a Godkin or Goddessling included in each -- In the Hebrew Poetry you find nothing of this poor Stuff -- as poor in genuine Imagination, as it is mean in Intellect -- / At best, it is but Fancy, or the aggregating Faculty of the mind -- not ____________________ 1 The remainder of this sentence is omitted in Letters, i. 405. Mr. A. P. Rossiter, whose two letters to The Times Literary Supplement of 28 Sept. and 26 Oct. 1951 examine the sources of Chamouny, has kindly supplied the following note: 'Presumably these lines were cut out by E. H. C. as a result of De Quincey exposure of the "unacknowledged obligation" to "Frederica Brun, a female poet of Germany" ( Tait's Magazine, 1834), and the subsequent charges of "plagiarism". S. T. C. never admitted using the poem (given in Poems, ii. 1181), and I believed that his detailed use of her notes was unknown before 1951 and my two letters in T.L.S. (Letter 456.) Since then M. Adrien Bonjour has sent me his Lausanne dissertation of 1942, which anticipated some of my points on these notes, without tracing S. T. C.'s sources beyond Frau Brun. I believe that these include echoes from Stolberg's poem an a cataract ( Poems, ii. 1126, and i. 808), possibly others from Brun's alpine verses, and that both form and substance are strongly influenced by Bowles Coombe Ellen -- a rhapsodic blank verse nature-poem, in which (lines 16 f.) will be found the point d'appui of the inconsequent disquisition in this letter on the Greeks, Numina Loci, etc. S. T. C. leaves this poem unmentioned, in a way most suspiciously like his silence on the Brun poem. The inference is, that the involuntary hymn story was an estecian myth, an imposition on the guileless Sotheby. Letter 450 records what he did do on Scafell, and is well backed by a scribbled page near the end of Notebook 2 (p. 32), where he has jotted down the mountain-panorama; and neither gives any more hint of a poem than will be found in the letter to Sotheby of August 26th (Letter 457) -- written three weeks after his ascent. This silence, with the pregnant imaginative image from Buttermere Halse Fall (Letter 456), suggests that the Chamouny verses were not written till after Aug. 26th at earliest; and that S. T. C. was well aware of his "obligations" both to the somewhat un-fairy godmother Friederike and to that insidious Godfather, Bowles: from whose verses his apposite comments appositely rebound on his own Hymn (as it was to be entitled after the original publication in the Morning Post, September 11th 1802).' -865- Imagination, or the modifying, and co-adunating Faculty. 1 This the Hebrew Poets appear to me to have possessed beyond all others& next to them the English. In the Hebrew Poets each Thing has a Life of it's own, & yet they are all one Life. In God they move & live, & have their Being -- not had, as the cold System of Newtonian Theology represents / but have. Great pleasure indeed, my dear Sir! did I receive from the latter part of your Letter. If there be any two subjects which have in the very depth of my Nature interested me, it has been the Hebrew & Christian Theology, & the Theology of Plato. Last winter I read the Parmenides & the Timaeus with great care -- and O! that you were here, even in this howling Rain-Storm that dashes itself against my windows, on the other side of my blazing Fire, in that great Arm Chair there -- I guess, we should encroach on the morning before we parted. How little the Commentators of Milton have availed themselves of the writings of Plato / Milton's Darling! But alas! commentators only hunt out verbal Parallelisms -- numen abest. I was much impressed with this in all the many Notes on that beautiful Passage in Comus from l. 629 to 641 2 -- all the puzzle is to find out what Plant Haemony is -- which they discover to be the English Spleenwort -& decked out, as a mere play & licence of poetic Fancy, with all the strange properties suited to the purpose of the Drama -- They thought little of Milton's platonizing Spirit -- who wrote nothing without an interior meaning. 'Where more is meant, than meets the ear' is true of himself beyond all writers. He was so great a Man, that he seems to have considered Fiction as profane, unless where it is consecrated by being emblematic of some Truth / What an unthinking & ignorant man we must have supposed Milton to be, if without any hidden meaning, he had described [it] as growing in such abundance that the dull Swain treads on it daily -- & yet as never flowering -- Such blunders Milton, of all others, was least likely to commit -- Do look at the passage -- apply it as an Allegory ____________________ 1 Cf. also Letter 535. 2 Amongst the rest a small unsightly root, But of divine effect, he cull'd me out; The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it, But in another country, as he said, Bore a bright golden flow'r, but not in this soil: Unknown, and like esteem'd, and the dull swain Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon: And yet more medlcinal is it than that moly That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave; He call'd it haemony, and gave it me, And bad me keep it as of sovereign use 'Gainst all inchantments, mildew, blast, or damp, Or ghastly furies' apparition. -866- of Christianity, or to speak more precisely of the Redemption by the Cross -- every syllable is full of Light! -- [']a small unsightly Root['] -- to the Greeks Folly, to the Jews a stumbling Block -[']The leaf was darkish & had prickles on it['] -- If in this Life only we have hope, we are of all men the most miserable / & (a] score of other Texts -- [']But in another country, as he said, Bore a bright golden Flower -- the exceeding weight of Glory prepared for us hereafter / -- [']but [not] in this soil, unknown, & like esteem'd & the dull Swain treads on it daily with his clouted shoon[] / The Promises of Redemption offered daily & hourly & to all, but accepted scarcely by any -- [']He called it Haemony['] -- Now what is Haemony? Aι+U0301μα-οι+U0301νοs -- Blood-wine. -- And he took the wine & blessed it, & said -- This is my Blood -- / the great Symbol of the Death on the Cross. -- There is a general Ridicule cast on all allegorizers of Poets -- read Milton's prose works, & observe whether he was one of those who joined in this Ridicule. -- There is a very curious Passage in Josephus -- De Bello Jud. L. 7. cap. 25 (al. vi. §§ 8) which is, in it's literal meaning, more wild, & fantastically absurd than the passage in Milton -- so much so that Lardner quotes it in exultation, & asks triumphantly -- Can any man who reads it think it any disparagement to the Christian Religion, that it was not embraced 'by a man who could believe such stuff as this? -- God forbid! that it should affect Christianity, that it is not believed by the learned of this world.' -- But the passage in Josephus I have no doubt, [is] wholly allegorical. -- "Eσ+̂τησ+̂ε signifies -He hath stood 1 -- which in these times of apostacy from the principles of Freedom, or of Religion in this country, & from both by the same persons in France, is no unmeaning Signature, if subscribed with humility, & in the remembrance of, Let him that stands take heed lest he fall --. However, it is in truth no more than S. T. C. written in Greek. Es tee see -- Pocklington will not sell his House -- but he is ill -- & perhaps, it may be to be sold -- but it is sunless all winter. God bless you, & [your's,] & S. T. Coleridge Mrs Coleridge joins me in most respectful remembrances to Mrs & Miss Sotheby. -- ____________________ 1 "EEσ+̂τησ+̂ε signifies 'He hath placed' not 'He hath stood. The word should .have been "εσ+̂τηκε, but then the play on Coleridge's initials would have been lost. Elsewhere he called it 'Punic Greek'. Subsequently Coleridge wrote in a copy of his Conciones ad Populum: 'Qualis ab initio, εσ+̂τησ+̂ε EΣTHΣE = S.T.C. July, 1820.' The echo from Ars Poetica, 127 ('Qualis ab incepto processerit, et sibi constet'), suggests that he found in Horace's 'sibi constet' a confirmation of his forced interpretation. Cf. C. C. Seronsy, "Marginalia by Coleridge in Three Copies of His Published Works", Studies in Philology, July 1954, p. 471, and Poem, i. 453. -867-