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INTELLECTUAL PREEMINENCE OF COLERIDGE.
so affectionately wrote, is eminently clever. These want only a father's assistance to give them credit and honourable stations in life. Will you withhold so equitable and small a boon? Your eldest son will soon be qualified for the university, where your name would inevitably secure him patronage, but without your aid how is he to arrive there? And, afterwards, how is he to be supported ? Revolve on these things, I entreat you, calmly on your pillow."
Such is the picture presented of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, looking upon the man from the ordinary social eminence from which we are accustomed to contemplate our fellow-mortals. It is far different when we ourselves look up and behold the gifted spirit placed far above humanity, on “a heavenkissing hill.”
The profoundest thought, the most subtle and extended learning, the most delicate and
discriminating taste, were but secondary characteristics of the great philosopher to whom learning
came in humility, wisdom with the confession of ignorance, to receive the lessons which poured from his soul with an aim, a fulness, a scope, an originality and force that have never been surpassed in modern times, if even they have been equalled in antiquity by the great oracles of the Academy and the Porch. We have read of none simply human whose simple conversation has been so marvellously rich and beautiful as that which is described to us by listeners who have left the sage's footstool to become, as it is said, “fresh and independent sources of moral action in themselves upon the principles of their common master.” It is not our business to account for the phenomena afforded in the character of Coleridge.
Intellectually a giant, and morally a dwarf, the chief personage of Mr. Cottle's book affords ample room for hypothesis and psychological investigation. Let them be pursued. It is sufficient for benevolence to know, that before his final departure from the earth Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrestled successfully with a vice that at one period of his life threatened to master and destroy him, and that, beginning the world as a Socinian, he quitted it a humble and devoted Christian believer.
We have left ourselves but little space to speak of one who, inferior to Coleridge in genius, immeasurably excelled him in all that goes to constitute the perfect social being. Robert Southey is distinguished as the most eminent littérateur of his country. His writings are as varied as his acquirements; both are of the highest order. He knew more
many things than any of his contemporaries, and few have written so much and so well with so little reason for regret and self-reproach. He gave a dignity to periodical literature, which under his hand established “a local habitation and a name” that cannot but prove highly serviceable in the present hour, when readers are accustomed to take their intellectual food in the smallest quantities, and so many purveyors are abroad to administer unwholesome portions. The beauty of Southey's prose style is admitted by those who deny him high rank as a poet; but even as a poet Southey has committed to posterity productions high above mediocrity. The purpose of his writings, whether in verse or prose, is always the highest and the noblest. His productions are as pure as his conversation was manly and his life virtuous. He
COTTLE'S REVERENCE OF SOUTHEY.
regarded religion with the reverence of a child, and excluded from the pages which he circulated for the delight and edification of his fellows all that was unworthy the man, responsible to his God and fitted for immortality. In the midst of a puerile, fantastic, and meaningless literature, such as that to which many of our popular writers have doomed us, we miss the masculine and invigorating pen of Robert Southey.
We owe it to Mr. Cottle to state that throughout his volume not one syllable of violated confidence appears with reference to Southey, when such violation is calculated to do harm to the memory of his departed friend. From the time that he first shook hands with the Pantisocritan in Bristol, to the mournful hour when Southey gazed upon his oldest and dearest friends without the power of recognising them, the friendship of the biographer and the author suffered no flaw. The flow of their intercourse was equable, and as fresh in the sunset as in the dawn.
Southey," says Cottle, writing to John Foster in 1842, “ spent a week with me four or five years ago, when he manifested the same kind and cordial behaviour which he had uniformly displayed for nearly half a century, and which had never during that long period been interrupted for a moment. Nor was steadfastness in friendship one of his least excellencies. From the kindliness of his spirit, he excited an affectionate esteem in his friends, which they well knew no capriciousness on his part would interrupt; to which it might be added, his mind was well balanced, presenting no unfavourable eccentricities, and but few demands for the exercise of
charity. Justly, also, may it be affirmed, that he was distinguished for the exemplary discharge of all the social and relative virtues,—disinterestedly generous, and scrupulously conscientious, presenting in his general deportment courteousness without servility, and dignity without pride. There was in him so much kindliness and sincerity, so much of upright purpose and generous feeling, that the belief is forced on the mind that, through the whole range of biographical annals, few men endowed with the higher order of intellect have possessed more qualities commanding esteem than Robert Southey, who so happily blended the great with the amiable, or whose memory will become more permanently fragrant to the lovers of genius or the friends of virtue.”
Coleridge and Southey are but two of a distinguished multitude. Of many dear to the lovers of English literature and science the pages of Joseph Cottle abound with pleasing anecdote and agreeable reminiscences. We refer our readers to them, and shake the venerable and chatty Joseph warmly by the hand.
November 3, 1847.
THE LIFE OF JOHN KEATS.
THE LIFE OF JOHN KEATS.
It is the old story! We are again summoned to admire where once we despised. The citizens of Bristol erect a monument to the memory of Chatterton, who, to save himself from death through hunger, took poison, and was thrown, pauper-like, into the burying ground of Shoe-lane workhouse, London. Keats, spurned and persecuted in his lifetime, is welcomed to-day, and from his distant grave begins to influence thought in the land of his birth, which he quitted in proud, but intolerable despair. The instances are two out of many. The tale did not begin with “the marvellous boy, the sleepless soul, that perished in his pride;" it has not ended with Adonais, whose soul
Like a star
Our present task is a simple one. We cannot recal genius from the tomb to witness the final triumph of its long suffering, and to console itself for its wrongs in the consciousness of our remorse. We may in the public market-place do justice to the citizen whom we ostracised in ignorance and hooted forth in folly.
John Keats was born under an unlucky star. He was beset with evil influences from the moment that he felt his own great strength. Had he been suffered