464. To Thomas Wedgwood Address: Thomas Wedgewood Esq. | Eastbury | Blandford | Dorset MS. Wedgwood Museum. Pub. E. L. G. i. 214. Postmark: 28 October 1802. Stamped: Keswick. Oct. 20, 1802. Greta Hall, Keswick My dear Sir This is my Birth-day, my thirtieth. It will not appear wonderful to you therefore, when I tell you that before the arrival of your Letter I had been thinking with a great weight of different feelings concerning you & your dear Brother. For I have good reason to believe, that I should not now have been alive, if in addition to other miseries I had had immediate poverty pressing upon me. I will never again remain silent so long. It has not been altogether -874- Indolence or my habits of Procrastination which have kept me from writing, but an eager wish, I may truly say, a Thirst of Spirit to have something honorable to tell you of myself ----- at present, I must be content to tell you something cheerful. My Health is very much better. I am stronger in every respect: & am not injured by study or the act of sitting at my writing Desk. But my eyes suffer, if at any time I have been intemperate in the use of Candlelight. -- This account supposes another, namely, that my mind is calmer & more at ease. -- My dear Sir! when I was last with you at Stowey, my heart was often full, & I could scarcely keep from communicating to you the tale of my domestic distresses. But how could I add to your depression, when you were low? or how interrupt or cast a shade on your good spirits, that were so rare & so precious to you? -- After my return to Keswick I was, if possible, more miserable than before. Scarce a day passed without such a scene of discord between me & Mrs Coleridge, as quite incapacitated me for any worthy exertion of my faculties by degrading me in my own estimation. I found my temper injured, & daily more so; the good & pleasurable Thoughts, which had been the support of my moral character, departed from my solitude -I determined to go abroad -- but alas! the less I loved my wife, the more dear & necessary did my children seem to me. I found no comfort except in the driest speculations -- in the ode to dejection, which you were pleased with, these Lines in the original followed the line -- My shaping Spirit of Imagination. For not to think of what I needs must feel, But to be still and patient, all I can, And haply by abstruse Research to steal From my own Nature all the natural Man -- This was my sole resource, my only plan, And that which suits a part infects the whole And now is almost grown the Temper of my Soul. -- 1 I give you these Lines for the Truth & not for the Poetry --.-However about two months ago after a violent quarrel I was taken suddenly ill with spasms in my stomach -- I expected to die -Mrs C. was, of course, shocked & frightened beyond measure -- & two days after, I being still very weak & pale as death, she threw herself upon me, & made a solemn promise of amendment -- & she ____________________ 1 These lines were not included in the version of Dejection appearing in the Morning Post and were first published in 1817, nor do they follow, as Coleridge says, the line on imagination in the original draft of the poem; instead, they follow a passage referring to his domestic woes and need for sympathy. See Letters 438, 445, and 449. -875- has kept her promise beyond any hope, I could have flattered myself with: and I have reason to believe, that two months of tranquillity, & the sight of my now not colourless & cheerful countenance, have really made her feel as a Wife ought to feel. If any woman wanted an exact & copious Recipe, 'How to make a Husband compleatly miserable', I could furnish her with one -with a Probatum est, tacked to it. -- Ill tempered Speeches sent after me when I went out of the House, ill-tempered Speeches on my return, my friends received with freezing looks, the least opposition or contradiction occasioning screams of passion, & the sentiments, which I held most base, ostentatiously avowed -- all this added to the utter negation of all, which a Husband expects from a Wife -- especially, living in retirement -- & the consciousness, that I was myself growing a worse man / O dear Sir! no one can tell what I have suffered. I can say with strict truth, that the happiest half-hours, I have had, were when all of a sudden, as I have been sitting alone in my Study, I have burst into Tears. ----But better days have arrived, & are still to come. I have had visitations of Hope, that I may yet be something of which those, who love me, may be proud. -- I cannot write that without recalling dear Poole -- I have heard twice -- & written twice -- & I fear, that by a strange fatality one of the Letters will have missed him. Leslie 1 was here sometime ago. I was very much pleased with him. -- And now I will tell you what I am doing. I dedicate three days in the week to the Morning Post / and shall hereafter write for the far greater part such things as will be of as permanent Interest, as any thing I can hope to write-----& you will shortly see a little Essay of mine justifying the writing in a Newspaper. My Comparison of the French with the Roman Empire was very favorably received. 2 -- The Poetry, which I have sent, has been merely the emptying out of my Desk. The Epigrams are wretched indeed; but they answered Stuart's purpose better than better things --/. I ought not to have given any signature to them whatsoever / I never dreamt of acknowleging either them or the Ode to the Rain. As to feeble expressions & unpolished Lines -- there is the Rub! Indeed, my dear Sir! I do value your opinion very highly -- I should think your judgment on the sentiment, the imagery, the flow of a Poem decisive / at least, if it differed from ____________________ 1 Sir John Leslie ( 1766-1832), mathematician and natural philosopher, to whom Tom Wedgwood granted an annuity in 1797. 2 In addition to a number of epigrams and poems which appeared in the Morning Post in September and October, Coleridge published a series of twelve articles between 21 Sept. and 9 Nov. 1802. See Essays on His Own Times, ii. 478-592. -876- my own, & after frequent consideration mine remained different -it would leave me at least perplexed. For you are a perfect electrometer in these things -- / but in point of poetic Diction I am not so well's[atisf]ied that you do not require a certain Aloofness from [the la]nguage of real Life, which I think deadly to Poetry. Very shortly however, I shall present you from the Press with my opinions in full on the subject of Style both in prose & verse -- & I am confident of one thing, that I shall convince you that I have thought much & patiently on the subject, & that I understand the whole strength of my Antagonists' Cause. -- For I am now busy on the subject -- & shall in a very few weeks go to the Press with a Volume on the Prose writings of Hall, Milton, & Taylor -- & shall immediately follow it up with an Essay on the writings of Dr Johnson, & Gibbon --. And in these two Volumes I flatter myself, that I shall present a fair History of English Prose. -- If my life & health remain, & I do but write half as much and as regularly, as I have done during the last six weeks, these will be finished by January next -- & I shall then put together my memorandum Book on the subject of poetry. In both I have sedulously endeavoured to state the Facts, & the Differences, clearly & acutely & my reasons for the Preference of one style to another are secondary to this. -- Of this be assured, that I will never give any thing to the world in propriâ personâ, in my own name, which I have not tormented with the File. I sometimes suspect, that my foul Copy would often appear to general Readers more polished, than my fair Copy -- many of the feeble & colloquial Expressions have been industriously substituted for others, which struck me as artificial, & not standing the test -- as being neither the language of passion nor distinct Conceptions. -- Dear Sir! indulge me with looking still further on to my literary Life. I have since my twentieth year meditated an heroic poem on the Siege of Jerusalem by Titus -this is the Pride, & the Stronghold of my Hope. But I never think of it except in my best moods. -- The work, to which I dedicate the ensuing years of my Life, is one which highly pleased Leslie in prospective / & my paper will not let me prattle to you about it. ----- I have written what you most wished me to write -- all about myself --. -- Our climate is inclement, & our Houses not as compact as they might be / but it is a stirring climate / & the worse the weather, the more unceasingly entertaining are my Study Windows -- & the month, that is to come, is the Glory of the year with us. A very warm Bedroom I can promise you, & one that at the same time commands our finest Lake -- & mountain-view. If Leslie could not go abroad with you, & I could in any way mould my manners & habits to suit you, I should of all things like to be -877- your companion. Good nature, an affectionate Disposition, & so thorough a sympathy with the nature of your complaint that I should feel no pain, not the most momentary, in being told by you what your feelings required, at the time in which they required it -- this I should bring with me. But I need not say, that you may say to me -- 'you don't suit me', without inflicting the least mortification. -- Of course, this Letter is for your Brother, as for you -- but I shall write to him soon. God bless you, & S. T. Coleridge