479. To Mary Robinson Address: Miss Robinson| Englefield Cottage | Windsor | London MS. Dove Cottage. Pub. E.L.G. i. 232. Greta Hall, Keswick. Dec. 27. 1802 My dear Miss Robinson I was in Wales when your Letter arrived; and am even now returned to my Home. The cause of the Delay in answering your Letter will be my apology. -- If I were writing to a mere Stranger, or to one with whose name I had connected nothing serious or interesting, it would be sufficient for me to say (& I could say it with strict Truth) that I have almost wholly weaned myself from the habit of making Verses, and for the last three years uninterruptedly devoted myself to studies only not quite incompatible with poetic composition. Poetic composition has become laborious & painful to me. -- The Gentlemen, with whose names you would wish to associate mine, are of such widely diffused literary celebrity, that no one will accuse me of mock humility, or an affectation of ____________________ 1 A copy of Johannes Scotus Erigena De Divisione Naturae, 1681, with marginal notes by Coleridge is in the British Museum. Coleridge was reading the volume in 1808. See Letters 504 and 506. -903- modesty, when I say (confining my meaning exclusively to literary celebrity) that my name would place their's in company below their rank. But I, you know, am not a man of the World: and there are other qualities which I value infinitely higher than Talents or the fame arising from them -- among other things the use, to which those Talents have been applied. -- Much solitude, & absence from cities & from the manners of cities, naturally make a man somewhat serious -- & in this mood I cannot help writing to you. Your dear Mother is more present to my eyes, than the paper on which I am writing-which indeed swims before my sight -- for I can not think of your Mother without Tears. Let not what I say offend you -- I conjure you, in the name of your dear Mother! let it not do so. Others flattered her -- I admired her indeed, as deeply as others -- but I likewise esteemed her much, and yearned from my inmost soul to esteem her altogether. Flowers, they say, smell sweetest at eve; it was my Hope, my heart-felt wish, my Prayer, my Faith, that the latter age of your Mother would be illustrious & redemptory -- that to the Genius & generous Virtues of her youth she would add Judgement, & Thought -- whatever was correct & dignified as a Poetess, & all that was matronly as Woman. Such, you best know, were her own aspirations -- One of her poems written in sickness breathes them so well & so affectingly, that I never read it without a strange mixture of anguish & consolation. -- In this Feeling I cultivated your Mother's acquaintance, thrice happy if I could have soothed her sorrows, or if the feeble Lamp of my Friendship could have yielded her one ray of Hope & Guidance. Your Mother had indeed a good, a very good, heart -- and in my eyes, & in my belief, was in her latter life a blameless Woman. -- Her memoirs I have not seen -- I understood that an excessively silly copy of Verses, which I had absolutely forgotten the very writing of, disgraced me & the volumes 1 -- this publication of a private Letter (an act so wholly unjustifiable, & in it's nature subversive of all social confidence) I attributed altogether to the Man, at whose Shop the Volumes were published --. I was sorry, no doubt, that so very silly a Poem had been published -- for your mother's sake still more than for my own-yet I was not displeased to see my Name joined to your Mother's-I have said every where & aloud, that I thought highly both of her Talents & of her Heart, & that I hoped still more highly of both. I was not grieved at an occasion, which compelled me often to ____________________ 1 Coleridge poem, A Stranger Minstrel, was published in Mrs. Robinson posthumous Memoirs, 4 vols., 1801, iv. 141. The work also contained poetical contributions by Peter Pindar and others. Miss Robinson included Coleridge The Mad Monk in her Wild Wreath, 1804. -904- stand forth, as her Defender, Apologist, & Encomiast. But, my dear Miss Robinson! (I pray you, do not be wounded -- rather consider what I am about to say as a pledge of my esteem, & confidence in your honor & prudence, a confidence beyond the dictates of worldly caution) -- but I have a wife, I have sons, I have an infant Daughter -- what excuse could I offer to my own conscience if by suffering my name to be connected with those of Mr Lewis, or Mr Moore, I was the occasion of their reading the Monk, or the wanton poems of Thomas Little Esqre? Should I not be an infamous Pander to the Devil in the seduction of my own offspring? -- My head turns giddy, my heart sickens, at the very thought of seeing such books in the hands of a child of mine. I neither have or profess an excess of religious Faith or Feeling -- I write altogether from the common feelings of common Honesty. The mischief of these misery-making Writings laughs at all calculation. On my own account therefore I must in the most emphatical manner decline all such connection. But I cannot stop here --! Indeed, indeed, I write with Tears on my cheek. What, dear Miss Robinson! ought you to feel for yourself -- & for the memory of a MOTHER -- of all names the most awful, the most venerable, next to that of God! On your conduct, on your prudence, much of her reputation, much of her justification will ultimately depend. Often & proudly have I spoken of you, as being in your manners, feelings, & conduct a proof of the inherent purity of your Mother's mind -- Such, I am sure, you will always remain --. But is it not an oversight -- a precipitancy -- is it not to á¹—evive all which Calumny & the low Pride of Women (who have no other chastity than that of their mere animal frames) love to babble of your dear Mother, when you connect her posthumous writings with the poems of men, whose names are highly offensive to all good men & women for their licentious exercise of their Talents? It is usual in certain countries to plant the Night violet on Graves -- because it sends forth it's odours most powerfully during the Darkness, & absence of the Sun. O dear Miss Robinson! exert your own Talents -- do you plant the night violets of your own Genius & Goodness on the Grave of your dear Parent -- not Hensbane, not Hemlock! Do not mistake me! I do not suspect, that the Poems, you mean to publish, have themselves aught in the least degree morally objectionable --; but the names are those of men, who have sold provocatives to vulgar Debauchees, & vicious School boys ---- in no otlier Light can many of their writings be regarded by a Husband & a Father. -As to Peter Pindar --!-- By all the Love & Honor, I bear to your dear Parent's memory, by the anguish & the indignation at my inmost heart, I swear to you that my flesh creeps at his name!! -- -905- You have forgotten, dear Miss Robinson! -- yes, you had altogether forgotten, that in a published Poem he called an infamous & mercenary Strumpet ' the Mrs Robinson of Greece' --. Will you permit the world to say -- her own Daughter does not resent it -her own Daughter connects the fame of her Mother with that of the man, who thus assassinated her reputation? -- No! No! -- I am sure, you had forgotten it --. I feel that I should insult you if I supposed the possibility of this Letter's being read by any but yourself. It has long been my intention to write a poem of some length expressly in honor of your mother, which I meant to have addressed to you -- having previously requested your permission. I mention this merely to prove to you, how much I am interested in, how gladly I should assent to, any plan that I could think truly honorable to your Mother or yourself. I remain most sincerely your Friend & Well wisher, S. T. Coleridge