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CHARACTER OF CURRAN.
guest involves no such consequences, and so circumstanced, you are immediately admitted on the footing of an inmate. I am now better acquainted with Grattan and Curran, the Fox and Sheridan of Ireland, after having been four weeks in their company, than I can pretend ever to have been with their counterparts on my native soil.
“Curran I admire extremely. There is scarcely the man on earth with whom I ever felt myself so entirely at my ease, or so little driven back, from time to time, to consider of my own miserable individual. He is perpetually a staff and a cordial, without ever affecting to be either. The being never lived who was more perfectly free from every species of concealment. With great genius, at least a rich and inexhaustible imagination, he never makes me stand in awe of him, and bow as to my acknowledged superior, a thing by-the-by which, de temps à d'autre, you compel me to do. He amuses me always, astonishes me often, yet naturally and irresistibly inspires me with confidence. I am apt, particularly when away from home, to feel forlorn and dispirited. The two last days I spent from him, and though they were employed most enviably in tête à tête with Grattan, I began to feel dejected and home-sick. But Curran has joined me to-day, and poured into my bosom a full portion of his irresistible kindness and gaiety.
“You will acknowledge these are extraordinary traits. Yet Curran is far from a faultless and perfect character. Immersed for many years in a perpetual whirl of business, he has no profoundness or philosophy. He has a great share of the Irish characterdashing, étourdi, coarse, vulgar, impatient, fierce, kittenish. He has no characteristic delicacy, no intuitive and instant commerce with the sublime features of nature. Ardent in a memorable degree, and a patriot from the most generous impulse, he has none of that political chemistry which Burke so admirably describes (I forget his words), that resolves and combines, and embraces distant nations and future ages. He is inconsistent in the most whimsical degree. I remember, in an amicable debate with Sheridan, in which Sheridan far outwent him in refinement, penetration, and taste, he three times surrendered his arms, acknowledged his error, yea, even began to declaim (for declamation is too frequently his mania) on the contrary side: and as often, after a short interval, resumed his weapons, and renewed the combat. Now and then, in the career of declamation, he becomes tautological and ineffective, and I ask myself: Is this the prophet that he went forth to see! But presently after he stumbles upon a rich vein of imagination, and recognises my willing suffrage. He has the reputation of insincerity, for which he is indebted, not to his heart, but to the mistaken, cherished calculations of his practical pruclence. He maintains in argument that you ought never to inform a man, directly or indirectly, of the high esteem in which you hold him. Yet, in his actual intercourse, he is apt to mix the information too copiously and too often. But perhaps his greatest fault is, that though endowed with an energy the most ardent, and an imagination the most varied and picturesque, there is nothing to which he is more prone, or to which his inclination more willingly leads him, than to play the buffoon,”
S. T. Coleridge to William Godwin.
Monday, [Sep. 11, 1800.) “ DEAR GODWIN,—There are vessels every week from Dublin to Workington, which place is 16 miles from my house, through a divine country, but these are idle regrets. I know not the nature of your present pursuits, whether or no they are such as to require the vicinity of large and curious libraries. If you were engaged in any work of imagination or reasoning, not biographical, not historical, I should repeat and urge my invitation, after my wife's confinement. Our house is situated on a rising ground, not two furlongs from Keswick, about as much from the Lake Derwentwater, and about two miles from the Lake Bassenthwaite—both lakes and mountains we command. The river Greta runs behind our house, and before it too, and Skiddaw is behind us--not half a mile distant, indeed just distant enough to enable us to view it as a whole. The garden, orchards, fields, and immediate country all delightful, I have, or have the use of, no inconsiderable collection of books. In my library you will find all the Poets and
COLERIDGE AT KESWICK.
Philosophers, and many of the best old writers. Below, in our parlour, belonging to our landlord, but in my possession, are almost all the usual trash of Johnsons, Gibbons, Robertsons, &c., with the Encyclopedia Britannica, &c. Sir Wilfred Lawson's magnificent library is some 8 or 9 miles distant, and he is liberal in the highest degree in the management of it. And now for your letter. I swell out my chest and place my hand on my heart, and swear aloud to all that you have written, or shall write, against lawyers, and the practice of the law. When you next write so eloquently and so well against it, or against anything, be so good as to leave a larger space for your wafer; as by neglect of this, a part of your last was obliterated. The character of Curran, which you have sketched most ably, is a frequent one in its moral essentials, though, of course among the most rare, if we take it with all its intellectual accompaniments. Whatever I have read of Curran's, has impressed me with a deep conviction of his genius. Are not the Irish in general a more eloquent race than we? Of North Wales my recollections are faint, and as to Wicklow I only know from the newspapers that it is a mountainous country. As far as my memory will permit me to decide on the grander parts of Caernarvonshire, I may say that the single objects are superior to any which I have seen elsewhere, but there is a deficiency in combination. I know of no mountain in the North equal to Snowdon, but then we have an encampment of huge mountains, in no harmony perhaps to the eye of a mere painter, but always interesting, various, and, as it were, nutritive. Height is assuredly an advantage, as it connects the earth with the sky, by the clouds that are ever skimming the summits, or climbing up, or creeping down the sides, or rising from the chasm, like smoke from a cauldron, or veiling or bridging the higher parts or lower parts of the waterfalls. That you were less impressed by N. Wales I can easily believe; it is possible that the scenes of Wicklow may be superior, but it is certain that you were in a finer irritability of spirit to enjoy them. The first pause and silence after a return from a very interesting visit is somewhat connected with languor in all of us. Besides, as you have observed, mountains, and mountainous scenery, taken collectively and cursorily, must depend for their charms on their novelty. They put on their immortal interest then first, when we have resided among them, and learned to understand their language, their written characters, and intelligible sounds, and all their eloquence, so various, so unwearied. Then you will hear no 'twice-told tale. I question if there be a room in England which commands a view of mountains, and lakes, and woods, and vales, superior to that in which I am now sitting. I say this, because it is destined for your study, if you come. You are kind enough to say that
you feel yourself more natural and unreserved with me than with others. I suppose that this in great measure arises from my own ebullient unreservedness. Something, too, I will hope may be attributed to the circumstance that
affections are interested deeply in my opinions. But here, too, you will meet with Wordsworth, the latch of whose shoe I am unworthy to unloose,' and five miles from Wordsworth, Charles Lloyd has taken a house. Wordsworth is publishing a second volume of the * Lyrical Ballads,' which title is to be dropped, and his 'Poems substituted. Have you seen Sheridan since your return? How is it with your tragedy? Were you in town when Miss Bayley's tragedy was represented? How was it that it proved so uninteresting? Was the fault in the theatre, the audience, or the play? It must have excited a deeper feeling in you than that of mere curiosity, for doubtless the tragedy has great merit. I know not indeed how far Kemble might have watered and thinned its consistence; I speak of the printed play. Have you read the “Wallenstein ?' Prolix and crowded and dragging as it is, it is yet quite a model for its judicious management of the sequence of the scenes, and such it is held in German theatres. Our English acting plays are many of them wofully deficient in this part of the dramatic trade and mystery.
Hartley is well, and all life and action.—Yours, with unfeigned esteem,
S. T. COLERIDGE. “ Kisses for Mary and Fanny. God love them! I wish you would come and look out for a house for yourself here. You
know, "I wish' is privileged to have something silly to follow it.”
The Same to the Same.
' Monday, Sep. 22, 1800. “ DEAR GODWIN,-I received your letter, and with it the enclosed note, which shall be punctually re-delivered to you on the Ist October
“ Your tragedy to be exhibited at Christmas! I have indeed merely read your letter, so it is not strange that my heart still continues beating out of time. Indeed, indeed, Godwin, such a stream of hope and fear rushed in on me, when I read the sentence, as you would not permit yourself to feel. If there be anything yet undreamed of in our philosophy; if it be, or if it be possible, that thought can impel thought out of the visual limit of a man's own skull and heart; if the clusters of ideas, which constitute our identity, do ever connect and unite with a greater whole; if feelings could ever propagate themselves without the servile ministrations of undulating air or reflected light-I seem to feel within myself a strength and a power of desire that might dart a modifying, commanding impulse on a whole theatre. What does all this mean? Alas! that sober sense should know no other to construe all this, except by the tame phrase, I wish you success.
[In a previous letter not here given he had begged Godwin to stand godfather to his child. The compliment was of course declined.]
“Your feelings respecting Baptism are, I suppose, much like mine! . At times I dwell on Man with such reverence, resolve all his follies and superstitions into such grand primary laws of intellect, and in such wise so contemplate them as ever-varying incarnations of the Eternal Life—that the Llama's dung-pellet, or the cow-tail which the dying Brahmin clutches convulsively, become sanctified and sublime by the feelings which cluster round them. In that mood I exclaim, my boys shall be christened! But then another fit of moody philosophy attacks me. I look at my dotedon Hartley-he moves, he lives, he finds impulses from within