522. To Sir George and Lady Beaumont Address: Single Sheet | Sir George Beaumont, Bart | Dunmow | Essex [Readdressed in another hand] Coleorton | hall | Ashby De la Zouch | Lastershire MS. Pierpont Morgan Lib. Pub. with omis. Memorials of Coleorton, i. 12. Postmark: 4 October 1803. Grieta Hall, Keswick. Oct. 1. 1803. -- 11 o/clock My dear & honored Friends I received your kind Letter this afternoon; and yet have but this moment read it -- I have been fighting up against so severe a tooth ____________________ 1 Poems, i. 386. -998- & face ache / Every morning, since my last, I have risen calculating on the pleasure -- & indeed & indeed it is a very great one -- of writing a long Letter to you; but what with the Disease & what with the medicine, I have been unable to do any thing but read in silence, or listen to my friend's recitations. Mr Edmondson has no doubt, that I have Gout; but Very serious doubts whether my worst sufferings do not originate in an affection of the mesenteric Glands. However, I shall give a fair Trial to this new Gout medicine; 1 tho' it is a very rough Handler of my inner man, dies me thro' & thro' -- makes a stir & push & bustle in my Legs & Feet, so that I nightly expect a full fit; but hitherto it has gone off in a profuse perspiration. These Lines I have written with the new medicine -- a good Ink for an Author, if it stands -- (at least, according to a Printer's patter) his pages would continue to be thoroughly medicinal! -- I have thought of writing an Ode on Punning, of which the first words were to be, SPELLING . . . state. O dear Sir George! you bid me 'above all things abstain from reading by night.' Believe me, nine times out of ten I have transgressed in this way, only from the dread of falling asleep; & I contracted the Habit from awaking in terrors about an hour after I had fallen asleep, & from the being literally afraid to trust myself again out of the leading-strings of my Will & Reason. So I have lit my Candle, stirred up my fire, & studied till day light. I fear, I fear, that a hot climate is my only medicine; & it seems better to die than to live out of England. I have been extremely affected by the death of young Emmett 2 -- just 24! -- at that age, dear Sir George! I was retiring from Politics, disgusted beyond measure by the manners & morals of the Democrats, & fully awake to the inconsistency of my practice with my speculative Principles. My speculative Principles were wild as Dreams -- they were 'Dreams linked to purposes of Reason'; but they were perfectly harmless -a compound of Philosophy & Christianity. They were Christian, for they demanded the direct reformation & voluntary act of each Individual prior to any change in his outward circumstances, & my whole Plan of Revolution was confined to an experiment with a dozen families in the wilds of America: they were philosophical, because I contemplated a possible consequent amelioration of the Human Race in it's present state & in this world; yet christian still, because I regarded this earthly amelioration as important chiefly for it's effects on the future State of the Race of man so ____________________ 1 The remainder of this paragraph, which Coleridge wrote with his gout medicine instead of ink, has faded and is all but illegible. 2 Robert Emmet ( 1778-1803), the Irish patriot, was executed on 20 Sept. 1803 for leading an uprising in which Lord Kilwarden was murdered. -999- ameliorated. Dear good Mrs Carter thought wisely and accurately as well as charitably. For what is the nature & the beauty of Youth? Is it not this -- to know what is right in the abstract, by a living feeling, by an intuition of the uncorrupted Heart? To body forth this abstract right in beautiful Forms? And lastly to project this phantom-world into the world of Reality, like a catoptrical mirror? Say rather, to make ideas & realities stand side by side, the one as vivid as the other, even as I have often seen in a natural well of translucent water the reflections of the lank weeds, that hung down from it's sides, standing upright, and like Substances, among the substantial water-plants, that were growing on the bottom. -And thus far all was well -- the mists of the Dawn of Reason coloured by the rich clouds, that precede the rising Sun. But my relations, & the Churchmen & 'Aristocrats,' to use the phrase of the Day -- these too conceited my phantoms to be substances / only what I beheld as Angels they saw as Devils, & tho' they never ceased to talk of my Youth as a proof of the falsehood of my opinions they never introduced it as an extenuation of the error. My opinions were the Drivel of a Babe, but the Guilt attached to them, this was the Grey Hair & rigid Muscle of inveterate Depravity. To such Bigotry what was an enthusiastic young man likely to oppose? They abhorred my person, I abhorred their actions: they set up the long howl of Hydrophoby at my principles, & I repayed their Hatred & Terror by the bitterness of Contempt. Who then remained to listen to me? to be kind to me? to be my friends -- to look at me with kindness, to shake my hand with kindness, to open the door, & spread the hospitable board, & to let me feel that I was a man well-loved -- me, who from my childhood have had no avarice, no ambition -- whose very vanity in my vainest moments was 9/10ths of it the desire, & delight, & necessity of loving & of being beloved? -- These offices of Love the Democrats only performed to me; my own family, bigots from Ignorance, remained wilfully ignorant from Bigotry. What wonder then, if in the heat of grateful affection & the unguarded Desire of sympathizing with these who so kindly sympathized with me, I too often deviated from my own Principles? And tho' I detested Revolutions in my calmer moments, as attempts, that were necessarily baffled & made blood-horrible by the very causes, which could alone justify Revolutions (I mean, the ignorance, superstition, profligacy, & vindictive passions, which are the natural effects of Despotism & false Religion) -- and tho' even to extravagance I always supported the Doctrine of absolute unequivocal non-resistance -- yet with an ebullient Fancy, a flowing Utterance, a light & dancing Heart, & a disposition to catch fire by the very rapidity of my -1000- own motion, & to speak vehemently from mere verbal associations, choosing sentences & sentiments for the very reason, that would have made me recoil with a dying away of the Heart & an unutterable Horror from the actions expressed in such sentences & sentiments-namely, because they were wild, & original, & vehement & fantastic! -- I aided the Jacobins, by witty sarcasms & subtle reasonings & declamations full of genuine feeling against all Rulers & against all established Forms! -- Speaking in public at Bristol I adverted to a public Supper which had been given by Lord ----I forget his name, in honor of a victory gained by the Austrians, & after a turbid Stream of wild Eloquence I said -- 'This is a true Lord's Supper in the communion of Darkness! This is a Eucharist of Hell! A sacrament of Misery! -- Over each morsel & each Drop of which the Spirit of some murdered Innocent cries aloud to God, This is my Body! & this is my Blood! --' -- These words form alas I a faithful specimen of too many of my Declamations at that Time / fortunately for me, the Government, I suppose, knew that both Southey & I were utterly unconnected with any party or club or society -- (& this praise I must take to myself, that I disclaimed all these Societies, these Imperia in Imperio, these Ascarides in the Bowels of the State, subsisting on the weakness & diseasedness, & having for their final Object the Death of that State, whose Life had been their Birth & growth, & continued to be their sole nourishment --. All such Societies, under whatever name, I abhorred as wicked Conspiracies -- and to this principle I adhered immoveably, simply because it was a principle, & this at a time when the Danger attached to the opposite mode of conduct would have been the most seducing Temptation to it -- at a time when in rejecting these secret associations, often as I was urged to become a member now of this & now of that, I felt just as a religious young officer may be supposed to feel, who full of courage dares refuse a challenge -- & considered as a Coward by those around him often shuts his eyes, & anticipates the moment when he might leap on the wall & stand in the Breach, the first & the only one. --) This insulation of myself & Southey, I suppose, the Ministers knew / knew that we were Boys: or rather, perhaps, Southey was at Lisbon, & I at Stowey, sick of Politics, & sick of Democrats & Democracy, before the Ministers had ever heard of us: for our career of Sedition, our obedience to Sympathy & pride of Talent in opposition to our own -- certainly, to my own -- uniform principles, lasted but 10 months. Yet if in that time I had been imprisoned, as in the rigor of the Law, I doubt not, I might have been 50 times -- for the very clank of the Chains, that were to be put about my Limbs, would not at that time have deterred me from a strong -1001- Phrase or striking Metaphor, altho' I had had no other inducement to the use of the same except the wantonness of luxuriant Imagination, & my aversion to abstain from any thing simply because it was dangerous -- yet if in that time I had been imprisoned, my health & constitution were such as that it would have been almost as certain Death to me, as the Executioner has been to poor young Emmett. Like him, I was very young, very enthusiastic, distinguished by Talents & acquirements & a sort of turbid Eloquence; like him, I was a zealous Partisan of Christianity, a Despiser & Abhorrer of French Philosophy & French Morals; like him, I would have given my body to be burnt inch by inch, rather than that a French Army should have insulted my native Shores / & alas! alas! like him, I was unconsciously yet actively aiding & abetting the Plans, that I abhorred, & the men, who were more, far more unlike me, in every respect, in education, habits, principles & feelings, than the most anathematized Aristocrat among my opponents. Alas I alas I unlike me, he did not awake! the country, in which he lived, furnished far more plausible arguments for his active Zeal than England could do; the vices of the party, with whom he acted, were so palpably the effect of darkest Ignorance & foulest oppression, that they could not disgust him / the worse the vices, & the more he abhorred them, the more he loved the men themselves, abstracting the men from their vices, the vices from the men, & transferring them, with tenfold Guilt, to the state of Society & to the Orange Faction holding together that State of Society, which he believed to be the cause of these Vices! Ah woe is me! & in this mood the poor young Enthusiast sent forth that unjustifiable Proclamation, one sentence of which clearly permitted unlimited assassination -- the only sentence, beyond all doubt, which Emmett would gladly have blotted out with his Heart's Blood, & of which at the time he wrote it he could not have seen the Import -- & the only sentence, which was fully realized in action --! This moment it was a few unweighed words of an empassioned Visionary, in the next moment it became the foul Murder of Lord Kilwarden! -- O my heart give praise, give praise! -- not that I was preserved from Bonds, or Ignominy or Death! But that I was preserved from Crimes that it is almost impossible not to call Guilt! -- And poor young Emmet[t!] O if our Ministers had saved him, had taken his Oath & word of honor, to have remained in America or some of our Colonies for the next 10 years of his Life, we might have had in him a sublimely great man, we assuredly sh[ould] have had in him a good man, & heart & soul an Englishman! -- Think of Lord Mansfield! 1 -- About the Age of poor Emmett he drank the Pre- ____________________ 1 William Murray ( 1705-93), later Earl of Mansfield, was accused of 'toast- -1002- tender's Health on his Knees, & was obnoxious to all the pains & penalties of high Treason. And where lies the Difference between the two? Murray's Plot had for it's object a foul Slave[ry] under the name of Loyalty; Emmett's as foul a Slavery under the nam[e of] Liberty & Independence. -- But whatever the Ministers. may have done, Heaven h[as] dealt kindly with the young man. He has died, firm, & in the height & heat of his Spirit, beholding in his Partizans only the wickedly oppressed, in his enemies the wicked oppressors. -- O if his mad mad Enterprize had succeeded /! -- Thou most mistaken & bewildered young Man, if other Punishment than the Death thou hast suffered, be needful for thy deadly Error, what better Punishment, what fitter Purgatory can be imagined, than a Vision presented to thee & conceived as real, a Vision of all the Massacres, the furious Passions, the Blasphemies, Sensualities, Superstitions, the bloody Persecutions, and mutual Cannibalism of Atheist & Papist, that would have rushed in, like a Torrent of Sulphur & burning Chaos, at the Breach which thou thyself hadst made -- till thou, yea, even thou thyself hadst called out in agony to the merciless Gaul, & invoked an army of Slavefiends to crush the more enormous evil of a mob of Fiends in Anarchy. -- My honored Friends! as I live, I scarcely know what I have been writing; but the very circumstance of writing to you, added to the recollection of the unwise & unchristian feelings, with which at poor Emmett's Age I contemplated all persons of your rank in Society, & that recollection confronted with my present Feelings towards you -- it has agitated me, dear Friends I and I have written, my Heart at a full Gallop adown Hill. -- And now, good night -- I will finish this Letter tomorrow morning. The moon is in the very height & 'keystone' of the Sky, & all the mountains thro' the whole vale are, in consequence, things of the Earth: a few Hours ago when the Moon was rising from behind Latterig, & when the clouds on Causa & Grisedale Pikes, opposite my study window, caught it's Light; then all the mountains belonged to the Sky. -No one who has not suffered what I suffer in my sleep can conceive the depth & fervor, with which I wish that you may be asleep, dreamless or with such Dreams as leave no other trace behind them but the dim recollection that you had been dreaming! -- Sunday Morning -- I o clock. Sunday Noon. -- I was much affected by the beautiful passage, which Lady Beaumont was so good as to extract from her Sister's Letter. I would, that she & you two, were all here, even now, & looking out from my Study window. Great indeed is the charm, ____________________ ing the Pretender in old days at the house of a Jacobite mercer in Ludgate', but in 1752-3 his denial was accepted by the Cabinet. -1003- which yearning memory gives to the Forms of Things; yet the Present would plead it's cause most eloquently from Skiddaw & Swinside, rich with all the hues of decaying Fern, the colour of the unripe Lime, of the ripe Lemon, of the bright orange, even to the depth of dried orange Peel / & when the whole shall have become of this last colour, then [the] decaying Birches will have put on the very same lovely Lemon-colour, which the Ferns have in their middle Stage of Decay. How kind Nature is to us -- ! where Decay is pernicious, she renders it offensive, as in all animal substances / but where it is innocuous, she makes it rival the Spring-tide Growth in Beauty. I use the word 'Nature' partly to avoid the too frequent use of a more awful name, & partly to indulge the sense of the motherliness of general Providence -- when the Heart is not strong enough to lift itself up to a distinct contemplation of the Father of all things. -- It gives me sincere pleasure, that my Ode has pleased you -sometime or other I hope to finish it. I have sent Lady Beaumont the poems entitled Chamouny, the Inscription for the Fountain, 1 & Tranquillity. -- Of the poems on your Sketches, dear Sir George! I hope thus much / that they will give evidence that the Drawings acted upon my mind as Nature does, in it's after workings -- they have mingled with my Thoughts, & furnished Forms to my Feelings. -- Southey seems very happy, at present. His eyes plague him; but he is a hard Task-master to them. He is the most industrious man, I know or have ever known. His present occupations are, the re-composition of his Madoc, an epic Poem / & his great History of Portugal -- of which he has written considerably more than a Quarto Volume. ----- We have not heard of or from Hazlitt. He is at Manchester, we suppose: & has both Portraits with him. 2 -- The children are all well / & Derwent is a cube of Fat. Little Sara must be on the brink of Teething -- she is 9 months old, & has no signs of a Tooth / the next 2 months will probably be a hard Time for her. -- The pain & dangerous Diseases incident to Teething I have ever regarded as the most anomalous of the Dispensations of Nature, & their final cause the most obscure. -- Bless me, what a Letter! ----- I am almost ashamed to send it -- unless I might dare to say with St Augustine, Ep. 72. A tedious Length! sed non ____________________ 1 Actually Coleridge had sent Extempore instead. 2 Hazlitt returned to Keswick in October. Notebook entries show that he was there by 24 Oct. and that Coleridge again sat for his portrait on 27 Oct. (Information kindly supplied from Coleridge's notebook by Miss Kathleen Coburn.) Apparently Hazlitt had returned to put some finishing touches on Coleridge's portrait. See P. P. Howe, The Life of William Hazlitt, 1947, p. 71. -1004- apud te, cui nulla est pagina gratior quam quae me loquaciorem. apportat tibi. -- I remain, my honored Friends, with grateful & affectionate Esteem your's ever & truly, S. T. Coleridge. P.S. How does your Health bear up under the bustle of military Preparation? Are you much engaged in it? --