Specimens of the Table Talk of S.T.Coleridge
by Coleridge
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[The Greek transliterations throughout this file are either missing or very suspect.]

[autographed: Dear Sir, Your obliged servant. S. T. Coleridge]




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It is nearly fifteen years since I was, for the first time, enabled to become a frequent and attentive visitor in Mr. Coleridge's domestic society. His exhibition of intellectual power in living discourse struck me at once as unique and transcendant; and upon my return home, on the very first evening which I spent with him after my boyhood, I committed to writing, as well as I could, the principal topics of his conversation in his own words. I had no settled design at that time of continuing the work, but simply made the note in something like a spirit of vexation that such a strain of music as I had just heard, should not last forever. What I did once, I was easily induced by the same feeling to do again; and when, after many years of affectionate communion between us, the painful existence of my revered relative on earth was at length finished in peace, my occasional notes of what he had said in my presence had grown to a mass, of which this volume contains only such parts as seem fit for present publication. I know, better than any one can tell me, how inadequately these specimens represent the peculiar splendour and individuality of Mr. Coleridge's conversation. How should it be otherwise? Who could always follow to the turning-point his long arrow-flights of thought? Who could fix those ejaculations of light, those tones of a prophet, which at times have made me bend before him as before an inspired man? Such acts of spirit as these were too subtle to be fettered down on paper; they live—if they can live any where—in the memories alone of those who witnessed them. Yet I would fain hope that these pages will prove that all is not lost;—that something of the wisdom, the learning, and the eloquence of a great man's social converse has been snatched from forgetfulness, and endowed with a permanent shape for general use. And although, in the judgment of many persons, I may incur a serious responsibility by this publication; I am, upon the whole, willing to abide the result, in confidence that the fame of the loved and lamented speaker will lose nothing hereby, and that the cause of Truth and of Goodness will be every way a gainer. This sprig, though slight and immature, may yet become its place, in the Poet's wreath of honour, among flowers of graver hue.

If the favour shown to several modern instances of works nominally of the same description as the present were alone to be considered, it might seem that the old maxim, that nothing ought to be said of the dead but what is good, is in a fair way of being dilated into an understanding that every thing is good that has been said by the dead. The following pages do not, I trust, stand in need of so much indulgence. Their contents may not, in every particular passage, be of great intrinsic importance; but they can hardly be without some, and, I hope, a worthy, interest, as coming from the lips of one at least of the most extraordinary men of the age; whilst to the best of my knowledge and intention, no living person's name is introduced, whether for praise or for blame, except on literary or political grounds of common notoriety. Upon the justice of the remarks here published, it would be out of place in me to say any thing; and a commentary of that kind is the less needed, as, in almost every instance, the principles upon which the speaker founded his observations are expressly stated, and may be satisfactorily examined by themselves. But, for the purpose of general elucidation, it seemed not improper to add a few notes, and to make some quotations from Mr. Coleridge's own works; and in doing so, I was in addition actuated by an earnest wish to call the attention of reflecting minds in general to the views of political, moral, and religious philosophy contained in those works, which, through an extensive, but now decreasing, prejudice, have hitherto been deprived of that acceptance with the public which their great preponderating merits deserve, and will, as I believe, finally obtain. And I can truly say, that if, in the course of the perusal of this little work, any one of its readers shall gain a clearer insight into the deep and pregnant principles, in the light of which Mr. Coleridge was accustomed to regard God and the World,—I shall look upon the publication as fortunate, and consider myself abundantly rewarded for whatever trouble it has cost me.

A cursory inspection will show that this volume lays no claim to be ranked with those of Boswell in point of dramatic interest. Coleridge differed not more from Johnson in every characteristic of intellect, than in the habits and circumstances of his life, during the greatest part of the time in which I was intimately conversant with him. He was naturally very fond of society, and continued to be so to the last; but the almost unceasing ill health with which he was afflicted, after fifty, confined him for many months in every year to his own room, and, most commonly, to his bed. He was then rarely seen except by single visiters; and few of them would feel any disposition upon such occasions to interrupt him, whatever might have been the length or mood of his discourse. And indeed, although I have been present in mixed company, where Mr. Coleridge has been questioned and opposed, and the scene has been amusing for the moment—I own that it was always much more delightful to me to let the river wander at its own sweet will, unruffled by aught but a certain breeze of emotion which the stream itself produced. If the course it took was not the shortest, it was generally the most beautiful; and what you saw by the way was as worthy of note as the ultimate object to which you were journeying. It is possible, indeed, that Coleridge did not, in fact, possess the precise gladiatorial power of Johnson; yet he understood a sword-play of his own; and I have, upon several occasions, seen him exhibit brilliant proofs of its effectiveness upon disputants of considerable pretensions in their particular lines. But he had a genuine dislike of the practice in himself or others, and no slight provocation could move him to any such exertion. He was, indeed, to my observation, more distinguished from other great men of letters by his moral thirst after the Truth—the ideal truth—in his own mind, than by his merely intellectual qualifications. To leave the everyday circle of society, in which the literary and scientific rarely— the rest never—break through the spell of personality;—where Anecdote reigns everlastingly paramount and exclusive, and the mildest attempt to generalize the Babel of facts, and to control temporary and individual phenomena by the application of eternal and overruling principles, is unintelligible to many, and disagreeable to more;—to leave this species of converse—if converse it deserves to be called—and pass an entire day with Coleridge, was a marvellous change indeed. It was a Sabbath past expression deep, and tranquil, and serene. You came to a man who had travelled in many countries and in critical times; who had seen and felt the world in most of its ranks and in many of its vicissitudes and weaknesses; one to whom all literature and genial art were absolutely subject, and to whom, with a reasonable allowance as to technical details, all science was in a most extraordinary degree familiar. Throughout a long-drawn summer's day would this man talk to you in low, equable, but clear and musical, tones, concerning things human and divine; marshalling all history, harmonizing all experiment, probing the depths of your consciousness, and revealing visions of glory and of terror to the imagination; but pouring withal such floods of light upon the mind, that you might, for a season, like Paul, become blind in the very act of conversion. And this he would do, without so much as one allusion to himself, without a word of reflection on others, save when any given act fell naturally in the way of his discourse,—without one anecdote that was not proof and illustration of a previous position;—gratifying no passion, indulging no caprice, but, with a calm mastery over your soul, leading you onward and onward for ever through a thousand windings, yet with no pause, to some magnificent point in which, as in a focus, all the party-coloured rays of his discourse should converge in light. In all this he was, in truth, your teacher and guide; but in a little while you might forget that he was other than a fellow student and the companion of your way,—so playful was his manner, so simple his language, so affectionate the glance of his pleasant eye!

There were, indeed, some whom Coleridge tired, and some whom he sent asleep. It would occasionally so happen, when the abstruser mood was strong upon him, and the visiter was narrow and ungenial. I have seen him at times when you could not incarnate him,—when he shook aside your petty questions or doubts, and burst with some impatience through the obstacles of common conversation. Then, escaped from the flesh, he would soar upwards into an atmosphere almost too rare to breathe, but which seemed proper to him, and there he would float at ease. Like enough, what Coleridge then said, his subtlest listener would not understand as a man understands a newspaper; but upon such a listener there would steal an influence, and an impression, and a sympathy; there would be a gradual attempering of his body and spirit, till his total being vibrated with one pulse alone, and thought became merged in contemplation;—

And so, his senses gradually wrapt In a half sleep, he'd dream of better worlds, And dreaming hear thee still, O singing lark, That sangest like an angel in the clouds!

But it would be a great mistake to suppose that the general character of Mr. Coleridge's conversation was abstruse or rhapsodical. The contents of the following pages may, I think, be taken as pretty strong presumptive evidence that his ordinary manner was plain and direct enough; and even when, as sometimes happened, he seemed to ramble from the road, and to lose himself in a wilderness of digressions, the truth was, that at that very time he was working out his fore-known conclusion through an almost miraculous logic, the difficulty of which consisted precisely in the very fact of its minuteness and universality. He took so large a scope, that, if he was interrupted before he got to the end, he appeared to have been talking without an object; although, perhaps, a few steps more would have brought you to a point, a retrospect from which would show you the pertinence of all he had been saying. I have heard persons complain that they could get no answer to a question from Coleridge. The truth is, he answered, or meant to answer, so fully that the querist should have no second question to ask. In nine cases out of ten he saw the question was short or misdirected; and knew that a mere yes or no answer could not embrace the truth—that is, the whole truth—and might, very probably, by implication, convey error. Hence that exhaustive, cyclical mode of discoursing in which he frequently indulged; unfit, indeed, for a dinner- table, and too long-breathed for the patience of a chance visiter,—but which, to those who knew for what they came, was the object of their profoundest admiration, as it was the source of their most valuable instruction. Mr. Coleridge's affectionate disciples learned their lessons of philosophy and criticism from his own mouth. He was to them as an old master of the Academy or Lyceum. The more time he took, the better pleased were such visiters; for they came expressly to listen, and had ample proof how truly he had declared, that whatever difficulties he might feel, with pen in hand, in the expression of his meaning, he never found the smallest hitch or impediment in the utterance of his most subtle reasonings by word of mouth. How many a time and oft have I felt his abtrusest thoughts steal rhythmically on my soul, when chanted forth by him! Nay, how often have I fancied I heard rise up in answer to his gentle touch, an interpreting music of my own, as from the passive strings of some wind-smitten lyre!

Mr. Coleridge's conversation at all times required attention, because what he said was so individual and unexpected. But when he was dealing deeply with a question, the demand upon the intellect of the hearer was very great; not so much for any hardness of language, for his diction was always simple and easy; nor for the abstruseness of the thoughts, for they generally explained, or appeared to explain, themselves; but preeminently on account of the seeming remoteness of his associations, and the exceeding subtlety of his transitional links. Upon this point it is very happily, though, according to my observation, too generally, remarked, by one whose powers and opportunities of judging were so eminent that the obliquity of his testimony in other respects is the more unpardonable;—"Coleridge, to many people—and often I have heard the complaint—seemed to wander; and he seemed then to wander the most, when, in fact, his resistance to the wandering instinct was greatest,—viz. when the compass and huge circuit, by which his illustrations moved, travelled farthest into remote regions, before they began to revolve. Long before this coming round commenced, most people had lost him, and naturally enough supposed that he had lost himself. They continued to admire the separate beauty of the thoughts, but did not see their relations to the dominant theme. * * * * However, I can assert, upon my long and intimate knowledge of Coleridge's mind, that logic the most severe was as inalienable from his modes of thinking, as grammar from his language." [Footnote: Tait's Mag. Sept. 1834, p. 514.] True: his mind was a logic-vice; let him fasten it on the tiniest flourish of an error, he never slacked his hold, till he had crushed body and tail to dust. He was always ratiocinating in his own mind, and therefore sometimes seemed incoherent to the partial observer. It happened to him as to Pindar, who in modern days has been called a rambling rhapsodist, because the connections of his parts, though never arbitrary, are so fine that the vulgar reader sees them not at all. But they are there nevertheless, and may all be so distinctly shown, that no one can doubt their existence; and a little study will also prove that the points of contact are those which the true genius of lyric verse naturally evolved, and that the entire Pindaric ode, instead of being the loose and lawless out-burst which so many have fancied, is, without any exception, the most artificial and highly wrought composition which Time has spared to us from the wreck of the Greek Muse. So I can well remember occasions, in which, after listening to Mr. Coleridge for several delightful hours, I have gone away with divers splendid masses of reasoning in my head, the separate beauty and coherency of which I deeply felt, but how they had produced, or how they bore upon, each other, I could not then perceive. In such cases I have mused sometimes even for days afterwards upon the words, till at length, spontaneously as it seemed, "the fire would kindle," and the association, which had escaped my utmost efforts of comprehension before, flash itself all at once upon my mind with the clearness of noon-day light.

It may well be imagined that a style of conversation so continuous and diffused as that which I have just attempted to describe, presented remarkable difficulties to a mere reporter by memory. It is easy to preserve the pithy remark, the brilliant retort, or the pointed anecdote; these stick of themselves, and their retention requires no effort of mind. But where the salient angles are comparatively few, and the object of attention is a long-drawn subtle discoursing, you can never recollect, except by yourself thinking the argument over again. In so doing, the order and the characteristic expressions will for the most part spontaneously arise; and it is scarcely credible with what degree of accuracy language may thus be preserved, where practice has given some dexterity, and long familiarity with the speaker has enabled, or almost forced, you to catch the outlines of his manner. Yet with all this, so peculiar were the flow and breadth of Mr. Coleridge's conversation, that I am very sensible how much those who can best judge will have to complain of my representation of it. The following specimens will, I fear, seem too fragmentary, and therefore deficient in one of the most distinguishing properties of that which they are designed to represent; and this is true. Yet the reader will in most instances have little difficulty in understanding the course which the conversation took, although my recollections of it are thrown into separate paragraphs for the sake of superior precision. As I never attempted to give dialogue—indeed, there was seldom much dialogue to give —the great point with me was to condense what I could remember on each particular topic into intelligible wholes with as little injury to the living manner and diction as was possible. With this explanation, I must leave it to those who still have the tones of "that old man eloquent" ringing in their ears, to say how far I have succeeded in this delicate enterprise of stamping his winged words with perpetuity.

In reviewing the contents of the following pages, I can clearly see that I have admitted some passages which will be pronounced illiberal by those who, in the present day, emphatically call themselves liberal—the liberal. I allude of course to Mr. Coleridge's remarks on the Reform Bill and the Malthusian economists. The omission of such passages would probably have rendered this publication more generally agreeable, and my disposition does not lead me to give gratuitous offence to any one. But the opinions of Mr. Coleridge on these subjects, however imperfectly expressed by me, were deliberately entertained by him; and to have omitted, in so miscellaneous a collection as this, what he was well known to have said, would have argued in me a disapprobation or a fear, which I disclaim. A few words, however, may be pertinently employed here in explaining the true bearing of Coleridge's mind on the politics of our modern days. He was neither a Whig nor a Tory, as those designations are usually understood; well enough knowing that, for the most part, half-truths only are involved in the Parliamentary tenets of one party or the other. In the common struggles of a session, therefore, he took little interest; and as to mere personal sympathies, the friend of Frere and of Poole, the respected guest of Canning and of Lord Lansdowne, could have nothing to choose. But he threw the weight of his opinion—and it was considerable—into the Tory or Conservative scale, for these two reasons:—First, generally, because he had a deep conviction that the cause of freedom and of truth is now seriously menaced by a democratical spirit, growing more and more rabid every day, and giving no doubtful promise of the tyranny to come; and secondly, in particular, because the national Church was to him the ark of the covenant of his beloved country, and he saw the Whigs about to coalesce with those whose avowed principles lead them to lay the hand of spoliation upon it. Add to these two grounds, some relics of the indignation which the efforts of the Whigs to thwart the generous exertions of England in the great Spanish war had formerly roused within him; and all the constituents of any active feeling in Mr. Coleridge's mind upon matters of state are, I believe, fairly laid before the reader. The Reform question in itself gave him little concern, except as he foresaw the present attack on the Church to be the immediate consequence of the passing of the Bill; "for let the form of the House of Commons," said he, "be what it may, it will be, for better or for worse, pretty much what the country at large is; but once invade that truly national and essentially popular institution, the Church, and divert its funds to the relief or aid of individual charity or public taxation—how specious soever that pretext may be—and you will never thereafter recover the lost means of perpetual cultivation. Give back to the Church what the nation originally consecrated to its use, and it ought then to be charged with the education of the people; but half of the original revenue has been already taken by force from her, or lost to her through desuetude, legal decision, or public opinion; and are those whose very houses and parks are part and parcel of what the nation designed for the general purposes of the Clergy, to be heard, when they argue for making the Church support, out of her diminished revenues, institutions, the intended means for maintaining which they themselves hold under the sanction of legal robbery?" Upon this subject Mr. Coleridge did indeed feel very warmly, and was accustomed to express himself accordingly. It weighed upon his mind night and day, and he spoke upon it with an emotion, which I never saw him betray upon any topic of common politics, however decided his opinion might be. In this, therefore, he was felix opportunitate mortis; non enim vidit——; and the just and honest of all parties will heartily admit over his grave, that as his principles and opinions were untainted by any sordid interest, so he maintained them in the purest spirit of a reflective patriotism, without spleen, or bitterness, or breach of social union.

It would require a rare pen to do justice to the constitution of Coleridge's mind. It was too deep, subtle, and peculiar, to be fathomed by a morning visiter. Few persons knew much of it in any thing below the surface; scarcely three or four ever got to understand it in all its marvellous completeness. Mere personal familiarity with this extraordinary man did not put you in possession of him; his pursuits and aspirations, though in their mighty range presenting points of contact and sympathy for all, transcended in their ultimate reach the extremest limits of most men's imaginations. For the last thirty years of his life, at least, Coleridge was really and truly a philosopher of the antique cast. He had his esoteric views; and all his prose works from the "Friend" to the "Church and State" were little more than feelers, pioneers, disciplinants for the last and complete exposition of them. Of the art of making hooks he knew little, and cared less; but had he been as much an adept in it as a modern novelist, he never could have succeeded in rendering popular or even tolerable, at first, his attempt to push Locke and Paley from their common throne in England. A little more working in the trenches might have brought him closer to the walls with less personal damage; but it is better for Christian philosophy as it is, though the assailant was sacrificed in the bold and artless attack. Mr. Coleridge's prose works had so very limited a sale, that although published in a technical sense, they could scarcely be said to have ever become publici juris. He did not think them such himself, with the exception, perhaps, of the "Aids to Reflection," and generally made a particular remark if he met any person who professed or showed that he had read the "Friend" or any of his other books. And I have no doubt that had he lived to complete his great work on "Philosophy reconciled with Christian Religion," he would without scruple have used in that work any part or parts of his preliminary treatises, as their intrinsic fitness required. Hence in every one of his prose writings there are repetitions, either literal or substantial, of passages to be found in some others of those writings; and there are several particular positions and reasonings, which he considered of vital importance, reiterated in the "Friend," the "Literary Life," the "Lay Sermons," the "Aids to Reflection," and the "Church and State." He was always deepening and widening the foundation, and cared not how often he used the same stone. In thinking passionately of the principle, he forgot the authorship—and sowed beside many waters, if peradventure some chance seedling might take root and bear fruit to the glory of God and the spiritualization of Man.

His mere reading was immense, and the quality and direction of much of it well considered, almost unique in this age of the world. He had gone through most of the Fathers, and, I believe, all the Schoolmen of any eminence; whilst his familiarity with all the more common departments of literature in every language is notorious. The early age at which some of these acquisitions were made, and his ardent self-abandonment in the strange pursuit, might, according to a common notion, have seemed adverse to increase and maturity of power in after life: yet it was not so; he lost, indeed, for ever the chance of being a popular writer; but Lamb's inspired charity-boy of twelve years of age continued to his dying day, when sixty-two, the eloquent centre of all companies, and the standard of intellectual greatness to hundreds of affectionate disciples far and near. Had Coleridge been master of his genius, and not, alas! mastered by it;— had he less romantically fought a single-handed fight against the whole prejudices of his age, nor so mercilessly racked his fine powers on the problem of a universal Christian philosophy,—he might have easily won all that a reading public can give to a favourite, and have left a name—not greater nor more enduring indeed—but—better known, and more prized, than now it is, amongst the wise, the gentle, and the good, throughout all ranks of society. Nevertheless, desultory as his labours, fragmentary as his productions at present may seem to the cursory observer—my undoubting belief is, that in the end it will be found that Coleridge did, in his vocation, the day's work of a giant. He has been melted into the very heart of the rising literatures of England and America; and the principles he has taught are the master-light of the moral and intellectual being of men, who, if they shall fail to save, will assuredly illustrate and condemn, the age in which they live. As it is, they 'bide their time.

Coleridge himself—blessings on his gentle memory!—Coleridge was a frail mortal. He had indeed his peculiar weaknesses as well as his unique powers; sensibilities that an averted look would rack, a heart which would have beaten calmly in the tremblings of an earthquake. He shrank from mere uneasiness like a child, and bore the preparatory agonies of his death- attack like a martyr. Sinned against a thousand times more than sinning, he himself suffered an almost life-long punishment for his errors, whilst the world at large has the unwithering fruits of his labours, his genius, and his sacrifice. Necesse est tanquam immaturam mortem ejus defleam; si tamen fas est aut flere, aut omnino mortem vocare, qua tanti viri mortalitas magis finita quam vita est. Vivit enim, vivetque semper, atque etiam latius in memoria hominum et sermone versabitur, postquam ab oculis recessit.

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the youngest child of the Reverend John Coleridge, Vicar of the Parish of Ottery St. Mary, in the county of Devon, and master of Henry the Eighth's Free Grammar School in that town. His mother's maiden name was Ann Bowdon. He was born at Ottery on the 21st of October, 1772, "about eleven o'clock in the forenoon," as his father the vicar has, with rather a curious particularity, entered it in the register.

He died on the 25th of July, 1834, in Mr. Gillman's house, in the Grove, Highgate, and is buried in the old church-yard, by the road side.

[Greek: ——]

H. N. C.


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Character of Othello Schiller's Robbers Shakspeare Scotch Novels Lord Byron John Kemble Mathews Parliamentary Privilege Permanency and Progression of Nations Kant's Races of Mankind Materialism Ghosts Character of the Age for Logic Plato and Xenophon Greek Drama Kotzebue Burke St. John's Gospel Christianity Epistle to the Hebrews The Logos Reason and Understanding Kean Sir James Mackintosh Sir H. Davy Robert Smith Canning National Debt Poor Laws Conduct of the Whigs Reform of the House of Commons Church of Rome Zendavesta Pantheism and Idolatry Difference between Stories of Dreams and Ghosts Phantom Portrait Witch of Endor Socinianism Plato and Xenophon Religions of the Greeks Egyptian Antiquities Milton Virgil Granville Penn and the Deluge Rainbow English and Greek Dancing Greek Acoustics Lord Byron's Versification and Don Juan Parental Control in Marriage Marriage of Cousins Differences of Character Blumenbach and Kant's Races Iapetic and Semitic Hebrew Solomon Jewish History Spinozistic and Hebrew Schemes Roman Catholics Energy of Man and other Animals Shakspeare in minimis Paul Sarpi Bartram's Travels The Understanding Parts of Speech Grammar Magnetism Electricity Galvanism Spenser Character of Othello Hamlet Polonius Principles and Maxims Love Measure for Measure Ben Jonson Beaumont and Fletcher Version of the Bible Craniology Spurzheim Bull and Waterland The Trinity Scale of Animal Being Popedom Scanderbeg Thomas a Becket Pure Ages of Greek, Italian, and English Luther Baxter Algernon Sidney's Style Ariosto and Tasso Prose and Poetry The Fathers Rhenferd Jacob Behmen Non-perception of Colours Restoration Reformation William III. Berkeley Spinosa Genius Envy Love Jeremy Taylor Hooker Ideas Knowledge Painting Prophecies of the Old Testament Messiah Jews The Trinity Conversion of the Jews Jews in Poland Mosaic Miracles Pantheism Poetic Promise Nominalists and Realists British Schoolmen Spinosa Fall of Man Madness Brown and Darwin Nitrous Oxide Plants Insects Men Dog Ant and Bee Black, Colonel Holland and the Dutch Religion Gentilizes Women and Men Biblical Commentators Walkerite Creed Horne Tooke Diversions of Purley Gender of the Sun in German Horne Tooke Jacobins Persian and Arabic Poetry Milesian Tales Sir T. Monro Sir S. Raffles Canning Shakspeare Milton Homer Reason and Understanding Words and Names of Things The Trinity Irving Abraham Isaac Jacob Origin of Acts Love Lord Eldon's Doctrine as to Grammar Schools Democracy The Eucharist St. John, xix. 11. Divinity of Christ Genuineness of Books of Moses Mosaic Prophecies Talent and Genius Motives and Impulses Constitutional and functional Life Hysteria Hydro-carbonic Gas Bitters and Tonics Specific Medicines Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians Oaths Flogging Eloquence of Abuse The Americans Book of Job Translation of the Psalms Ancient Mariner Undine Martin Pilgrim's Progress Prayer Church-singing Hooker Dreams Jeremy Taylor English Reformation Catholicity Gnosis Tertullian St. John Principles of a Review Party Spirit Southey's Life of Bunyan Laud Puritans and Cavaliers Presbyterians, Independents, and Bishops Study of the Bible Rabelais Swift Bentley Burnet Giotto Painting Seneca Plato Aristotle Duke of Wellington Monied Interest Canning Bourrienne Jews The Papacy and the Reformation Leo X. Thelwall Swift Stella Iniquitous Legislation Spurzheim and Craniology French Revolution, 1830 Captain B. Hall and the Americans English Reformation Democracy Idea of a State Church Government French Gendarmerie Philosophy of young Men at the present Day Thucydides and Tacitus Poetry Modern Metre Logic Varro Socrates Greek Philosophy Plotinus Tertullian Scotch and English Lakes Love and Friendship opposed Marriage Characterlessness of Women Mental Anarchy Ear and Taste for Music different English Liturgy Belgian Revolution Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Bacon The Reformation House of Commons Government Earl Grey Government Popular Representation Napier Buonaparte Southey Patronage of the Fine Arts Old Women Pictures Chillingworth Superstition of Maltese, Sicilians, and Italians Asgill The French The Good and the True Romish Religion England and Holland Iron Galvanism Heat National Colonial Character, and Naval Discipline England Holland and Belgium Greatest Happiness Principle Hobbism The Two Modes of Political Action Truths and Maxims Drayton and Daniel Mr. Coleridge's System of Philosophy Keenness and Subtlety Duties and Needs of an Advocate Abolition of the French Hereditary Peerage Conduct of Ministers on the Reform Bill Religion Union with Ireland Irish Church A State Persons and Things History Beauty Genius Church State Dissenters Gracefulness of Children Dogs Ideal Tory and Whig The Church Ministers and the Reform Bill Disfranchisement Genius feminine Pirates Astrology Alchemy Reform Bill Crisis John, Chap. III. Ver. 4. Dictation and Inspiration Gnosis New Testament Canon Unitarianism—Moral Philosophy Moral Law of Polarity Epidemic Disease Quarantine Harmony Intellectual Revolutions Modern Style Genius of the Spanish and Italians Vico Spinosa Colours Destruction of Jerusalem Epic Poem Vox Populi Vox Dei Black Asgill and Defoe Horne Tooke Fox and Pitt Horner Adiaphori Citizens and Christians Professor Park English Constitution Democracy Milton and Sidney De Vi Minimorum Hahnemann Luther Sympathy of old Greek and Latin with English Roman Mind War Charm for Cramp Greek Dual, neuter pleural *sic*, and verb singular Theta Talented Homer Valcknaer Principles and Facts Schmidt Puritans and Jacobins Wordsworth French Revolution Infant Schools Mr. Coleridge's Philosophy Sublimity Solomon Madness C. Lamb Faith and Belief Dobrizhoffer Scotch and English Criterion of Genius Dryden and Pope Milton's disregard of Painting Baptismal Service Jews' Division of the Scripture Sanskrit Hesiod Virgil Genius Metaphysical Don Quixote Steinmetz Keats Christ's Hospital Bowyer St. Paul's Melita English and German Best State of Society Great Minds Androgynous Philosopher's Ordinary Language Juries Barristers' and Physicians' Fees Quacks Caesarean Operation Inherited Disease Mason's Poetry Northern and Southern States of the American Union All and the Whole Ninth Article Sin and Sins Old Divines Preaching extempore Church of England Union with Ireland Faust Michael Scott, Goethe, Schiller, and Wordsworth Beaumont and Fletcher Ben Jonson Massinger House of Commons appointing the officers of the Army and Navy Penal Code in Ireland Churchmen Coronation Oaths Divinity Professions and Trades Modern Political Economy National Debt Property Tax Duty of Landholders Massinger Shakspeare Hieronimo Love's Labour Lost Gifford's Massinger Shakspeare The Old Dramatists Statesmen Burke Prospect of Monarchy or Democracy The Reformed House of Commons United States of America Captain B. Hall Northern and Southern States Democracy with Slavery Quakers Land and Money Methods of Investigation Church of Rome Celibacy of the Clergy Roman Conquest of Italy Wedded Love in Shakspeare and his Contemporary Dramatists Tennyson's Poems Rabelais and Luther Wit and Madness Colonization Machinery Capital Roman Conquest Constantine Papacy and the Schoolmen Civil War of the Seventeenth Century Hampden's Speech Reformed House of Commons Food Medicine Poison Obstruction Wilson Shakspeare's Sonnets Wickliffe Love Luther Reverence for Ideal Truths Johnson the Whig Asgill James I. Sir P. Sidney Things are finding their Level German Goethe God's Providence Man's Freedom Dom Miguel and Dom Pedro Working to better one's condition Negro Emancipation Fox and Pitt Revolution Virtue and Liberty Epistle to the Romans Erasmus Luther Negro Emancipation Hackett's Life of Archbishop Williams Charles I. Manners under Edward III. Richard II. and Henry VIII. Hypothesis Suffiction Theory Lyell's Geology Gothic Architecture Gerard's Douw's "Schoolmaster" and Titian's "Venus" Sir J. Scarlett Mandeville's Fable of the Bees Bestial Theory Character of Bertram Beaumont and Fletcher's Dramas Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides Milton Style Cavalier Slang Junius Prose and Verse Imitation and Copy Dr. Johnson Boswell Burke Newton Milton Painting Music Poetry Public Schools Scott and Coleridge Nervous Weakness Hooker and Bull Faith Quakers Philanthropists Jews Sallust Thucydides Herodotus Gibbon Key to the Decline of the Roman Empire Dr. Johnson's Political Pamphlets Taxation Direct Representation Universal Suffrage Right of Women to vote Horne Tooke Etymology of the final Ive "The Lord" in the English Version of the Psalms, etc. Scotch Kirk and Irving Milton's Egotism Claudian Sterne Humour and Genius Great Poets good Men Diction of the Old and New Testament Version Hebrew Vowels and Consonants Greek Accent and Quantity Consolation in Distress Mock Evangelicals Autumn Day Rosetti on Dante Laughter: Farce and Tragedy Baron Von Humboldt Modern Diplomatists Man cannot be stationary Fatalism and Providence Characteristic Temperament of Nations Greek Particles Latin Compounds Propertius Tibullus Lucan Statius Valerius Flaccus Claudian Persius Prudentius Hermesianax Destruction of Jerusalem Epic Poem German and English Paradise Lost Modern Travels The Trinity Incarnation Redemption Education Elegy Lavacrum Pallados Greek and Latin Pentameter Milton's Latin Poems Poetical Filter Gray and Cotton Homeric Heroes in Shakspeare Dryden Dr. Johnson Scott's Novels Scope of Christianity Times of Charles I. Messenger of the Covenant Prophecy Logic of Ideas and of Syllogisms W. S. Lander's Poetry Beauty Chronological Arrangement of Works Toleration Norwegians Articles of Faith Modern Quakerism Devotional Spirit Sectarianism Origen Some Men like Musical Glasses Sublime and Nonsense Atheist Proof of Existence of God Kant's attempt Plurality of Worlds A Reasoner Shakspeare's Intellectual Action Crabbe and Southey Peter Simple and Tom Cringle's Log Chaucer Shakspeare Ben Jonson Beaumont and Fletcher Daniel Massinger Lord Byron and H. Walpole's "Mysterious Mother" Lewis's Jamaica Journal Sicily Malta Sir Alexander Ball Cambridge Petition to admit Dissenters Corn Laws Christian Sabbath High Prizes and Revenues of the Church Sir Charles Wetherell's Speech National Church Dissenters Papacy Universities Schiller's Versification German Blank Verse Roman Catholic Emancipation Duke of Wellington Coronation Oath Corn Laws Modern Political Economy Socinianism Unitarianism Fancy and Imagination Mr. Coleridge's System Biographia Literaria Dissenters Lord Brooke Barrow and Dryden Peter Wilkins and Stothard Fielding and Richardson Bishop Sandford Roman Catholic Religion Euthanasia Recollections, by Mr. Justice Coleridge Address to a God-child


December 29, 1822


Othello must not be conceived as a negro, but a high and chivalrous Moorish chief. Shakspeare learned the sprit of the character from the Spanish poetry, which was prevalent in England in his time.[1]

Jelousy does not strike me as the point in his passion; I take it to be rather an agony that the creature, whom he had believed angelic, with whom he had garnered up his heart, and whom he could not help still loving, should be proved impure and worthless. It was the struggle not to love her. It was a moral indignation and regret that virture should so fall:—"But yet the pity of it, Iago!—O Iago! the pity of it, Iago!" In addition to this, his hourour was concerned: Iago would not have succeeded but by hinting that this honour was compromised. There is no ferocity in Othello; his mind is majestic and composed. He deliberately determines to die; and speaks his last speech with a view of showing his attachment to the Venetian state, though it had superseded him.

[Footnote 1: Caballaeros Granadinos, Aunque Moros, hijos d'algo—ED.]

* * * * *

Schiller has the material Sublime; to produce an effect he sets you a whole town on fire, and throws infants with their mothers into the flames, or locks up a father in an old tower.[1] But Shakspeare drops a handkerchief, and the same or greater effects follow.

[Footnote 1: This expression—"material sublime"—like a hundred others which have slipped into general use, came originally from Mr. Coleridege, and was by him, in the first instatnce, applied to Schiller's Robbers— See Act iv, sc. 5.—ED.]

Lear is the most tremendous effort of Shakspeare as a poet; Hamlet as a philosopher or meditater; and Othello is the union of the two. There is something gigantic and unformed in the former two; but in the latter, every thing assumes its due place and proportion, and the whole mature powers of his mind are displayed in admirable equilibrium.

I think Old Mortality and Guy Mannering the best of the Scotch novels.

It seems, to my ear, that there is a sad want of harmony in Lord Byron's verses. Is it not unnatural to be always connecting very great intellectual power with utter depravity? Does such a combination often really exist in rerum naturae?

I always had a great liking—I may say, a sort of nondescript reverence— for John Kemble. What a quaint creature he was! I remember a party, in which he was discoursing in his measured manner after dinner, when the servant announced his carriage. He nodded, and went on. The announcement took place twice afterwards; Kemble each time nodding his head a little more impatiently, but still going on. At last, and for the fourth time, the servant entered, and said,—"Mrs. Kemble says, sir, she has the rheumatise, and cannot stay." "Addism!" dropped John, in a parenthesis, and proceeded quietly in his harangue.

* * * * *

Kemble would correct any body, at any time, and in any place. Dear Charles Mathews—a true genius in his line, in my judgment—told me he was once performing privately before the King. The King was much pleased with the imitation of Kemble, and said,—"I liked Kemble very much. He was one of my earliest friends. I remember once he was talking, and found himself out of snuff. I offered him my box. He declined taking any—'he, a poor actor, could not put his fingers into a royal box.' I said, 'Take some, pray; you will obleege me.' Upon which Kemble replied,—'It would become your royal mouth better to say, oblige me;' and took a pinch."

* * * * *

It is not easy to put me out of countenance, or interrupt the feeling of the time by mere external noise or circumstance; yet once I was thoroughly done up, as you would say. I was reciting, at a particular house, the "Remorse;" and was in the midst of Alhadra's description of the death of her husband, [1] when a scrubby boy, with a shining face set in dirt, burst open the door and cried out,—"Please, ma'am, master says, Will you ha'; or will you not ha', the pin-round?"

[Footnote 1:

"ALHADRA. This night your chieftain arm'd himself, And hurried from me. But I follow'd him At distance, till I saw him enter there!

NAOMI. The cavern?

ALHADRA. Yes, the mouth of yonder cavern. After a while I saw the son of Valdez Rush by with flaring torch: he likewise enter'd. There was another and a longer pause; And once, methought, I heard the clash of swords! And soon the son of Valdez re-appear'd: He flung his torch towards the moon in sport, And seem'd as he were mirthful! I stood listening, Impatient for the footsteps of my husband.

NAOMI. Thou calledst him?

ALHADRA. I crept into the cavern— 'Twas dark and very silent. What saidst thou? No! No! I did not dare call Isidore, Lest I should hear no answer! A brief while, Belike, I lost all thought and memory Of that for which I came! After that pause, O Heaven! I heard a groan, and follow'd it; And yet another groan, which guided me Into a strange recess—and there was light, A hideous light! his torch lay on the ground; Its flame burnt dimly o'er a chasm's brink: I spake; and whilst I spake, a feeble groan Came from that chasm! it was his last—his death-groan!

NAOMI. Comfort her, Allah!

ALHADRA. I stood in unimaginable trance And agony that cannot be remember'd, Listening with horrid hope to hear a groan! But I had heard his last;—my husband's death-groan!

NAOMI. Haste! let us onward!

ALHADRA. I look'd far down the pit— My sight was bounded by a jutting fragment; And it was stain'd with blood. Then first I shriek'd; My eyeballs burnt, my brain grew hot as fire, And all the hanging drops of the wet roof Turn'd into blood—I saw them turn to blood! And I was leaping wildly down the chasm, When on the further brink I saw his sword, And it said, Vengeance!—Curses on my tongue! The moon hath moved in heaven, and I am here, And he hath not had vengeance!—Isidore! Spirit of Isidore, thy murderer lives! Away, away!"—Act iv. sc. 3.]

January 1. 1823.


Privilege is a substitution for Law, where, from the nature of the circumstances, a law cannot act without clashing with greater and more general principles. The House of Commons must, of course, have the power of taking cognizance of offences against its own rights. Sir Francis Burdett might have been properly sent to the Tower for the speech he made in the House [1]; but when afterwards he published it in Cobbett, and they took cognizance of it as a breach of privilege, they violated the plain distinction between privilege and law.

As a speech in the House, the House could alone animadvert upon it, consistently with the effective preservation of its most necessary prerogative of freedom of debate; but when that speech became a book, then the law was to look to it; and there being a law of libel, commensurate with every possible object of attack in the state, privilege, which acts, or ought to act, only as a substitute for other laws, could have nothing to do with it. I have heard that one distinguished individual said,—"That he, for one, would not shrink from affirming, that if the House of Commons chose to burn one of their own members in Palace Yard, it had an inherent power and right by the constitution to do so." This was said, if at all, by a moderate-minded man; and may show to what atrocious tyranny some persons may advance in theory, under shadow of this word privilege.

[Footnote 1: March 12. 1810. Sir Francis Burdett made a motion in the House of Commons for the discharge of Mr. Gale Jones, who had been committed to Newgate by a resolution of the House on the 21st of February preceding. Sir Francis afterwards published, in Cobbett's Political Register, of the 24th of the same month of March, a "Letter to his Constituents, denying the power of the House of Commons to imprison the people of England," and he accompanied the letter with an argument in support of his position. On the 27th of March a complaint of breach of privilege, founded on this publication, was made in the House by Mr. (now Sir Thomas) Lethbridge, and after several long debates, a motion that Sir Francis Burdett should be committed to the Tower was made on the 5th of April, 1810, by Sir Robert Salisbury, and carried by a majority of 38.—ED.]

* * * * *

There are two principles in every European and Christian state: Permanency and Progression.[1]

In the civil wars of the seventeenth century in England, which are as new and fresh now as they were a hundred and sixty years ago, and will be so for ever to us, these two principles came to a struggle. It was natural that the great and the good of the nation should he found in the ranks of either side. In the Mohammedan states, there is no principle of permanence; and, therefore, they sink directly. They existed, and could only exist, in their efforts at progression; when they ceased to conquer, they fell in pieces. Turkey would long since have fallen, had it not been supported by the rival and conflicting interests of Christian Europe. The Turks have no church; religion and state are one; hence there is no counterpoise, no mutual support. This is the very essence of their Unitarianism. They have no past; they are not an historical people; they exist only in the present. China is an instance of a permanency without progression. The Persians are a superior race: they have a history and a literature; they were always considered by the Greeks as quite distinct from the other barbarians. The Afghans are a remarkable people. They have a sort of republic. Europeans and Orientalists may be well represented by two figures standing back to back: the latter looking to the east, that is, backwards; the former looking westward, or forwards.

[Footnote 1: See this position stated and illustrated in detail in Mr. Coleridge's work, "On the Constitution of the Church and State, according to the Idea of each," p. 21. 2d edit. 1830. Well acquainted as I am with the fact f the comparatively small acceptation which Mr. Coleridge's prose works have ever found in the literary world, and with the reasons, and, what is more, with the causes, of it, I still wonder that this particular treatise has not been more noticed: first, because it is a little book; secondly, because it is, or at least nineteen-twentieths of it are, written in a popular style; and thirdly, because it is the only work, that I know or have ever heard mentioned, that even attempts a solution of the difficulty in which an ingenious enemy of the church of England may easily involve most of its modern defenders in Parliament, or through the press, upon their own principles and admissions. Mr. Coleridge himself prized this little work highly, although he admitted its incompleteness as a composition:—"But I don't care a rush about it," he said to me, "as an author. The saving distinctions are plainly stated in it, and I am sure nothing is wanted to make them tell, but that some kind friend should steal them from their obscure hiding-place, and just tumble them down before the public as his own."—ED.]

* * * * *

Kant assigns three great races of mankind. If two individuals of distinct races cross, a third, or tertium aliquid, is invariably produced, different from either, as a white and a negro produce a mulatto. But when different varieties of the same race cross, the offspring is according to what we call chance; it is now like one, now like the other parent. Note this, when you see the children of any couple of distinct European complexions,—as English and Spanish, German and Italian, Russian and Portuguese, and so on.

January 3. 1823.


Either we have an immortal soul, or we have not. If we have not, we are beasts; the first and wisest of beasts, it may be; but still true beasts. [1] We shall only differ in degree, and not in kind; just as the elephant differs from the slug. But by the concession of all the materialists of all the schools, or almost all, we are not of the same kind as beasts—and this also we say from our own consciousness. Therefore, methinks, it must be the possession of a soul within us that makes the difference.

[Footnote 1: "Try to conceive a man without the ideas of God, eternity, freedom, will, absolute truth; of the good, the true, the beautiful, the infinite. An animal endowed with a memory of appearances and facts might remain. But the man will have vanished, and you have instead a creature more subtle than any beast of the field, but likewise cursed above every beast of the field; upon the belly must it go, and dust must it eat all the days of its life."—Church and State, p. 54. n.]

* * * * *

Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice, and you will be convinced at once. After the narrative of the creation of the earth and brute animals, Moses seems to pause, and says:—"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." And in the next chapter, he repeats the narrative:—"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;" and then he adds these words,—"and man became a living soul." Materialism will never explain those last words.

* * * * *

Define a vulgar ghost with reference to all that is called ghost-like. It is visibility without tangibility; which is also the definition of a shadow. Therefore, a vulgar ghost and a shadow would be the same; because two different things cannot properly have the same definition. A visible substance without susceptibility of impact, I maintain to be an absurdity.

Unless there be an external substance, the bodily eye cannot see it; therefore, in all such cases, that which is supposed to be seen is, in fact, not seen, but is an image of the brain. External objects naturally produce sensation; but here, in truth, sensation produces, as it were, the external object. In certain states of the nerves, however, I do believe that the eye, although not consciously so directed, may, by a slight convulsion, see a portion of the body, as if opposite to it. The part actually seen will by common association seem the whole; and the whole body will then constitute an external object, which explains many stories of persons seeing themselves lying dead. Bishop Berkeley once experienced this. He had the presence of mind to ring the bell, and feel his pulse; keeping his eye still fixed on his own figure right opposite to him. He was in a high fever, and the brain image died away as the door opened. I observed something very like it once at Grasmere; and was so conscious of the cause, that I told a person what I was experiencing, whilst the image still remained.

Of course, if the vulgar ghost be really a shadow, there must be some substance of which it is the shadow. These visible and intangible shadows, without substances to cause them, are absurd.

January 4. 1828.


This is not a logical age. A friend lately gave me some political pamphlets of the times of Charles I. and the Cromwellate. In them the premisses are frequently wrong, but the deductions are almost always legitimate; whereas, in the writings of the present day, the premisses are commonly sound, but the conclusions false. I think a great deal of commendation is due to the University of Oxford for preserving the study of logic in the schools. It is a great mistake to suppose geometry any substitute for it.

* * * * *

Negatively, there may be more of the philosophy of Socrates in the Memorabilia of Xenophon than in Plato: that is, there is less of what does not belong to Socrates; but the general spirit of, and impression left by, Plato, are more Socratic.[1]

[Footnote 1: See p. 26. Mr. Coleridge meant in both these passages, that Xenophon had preserved the most of the man Socrates; that he was the best Boswell; and that Socrates, as a persona dialogi, was little more than a poetical phantom in Plato's hands. On the other hand, he says that Plato is more Socratic, that is, more of a philosopher in the Socratic mode of reasoning (Cicero calls the Platonic writings generally, Socratici libri); and Mr. C. also says, that in the metaphysical disquisitions Plato is Pythagorean, meaning, that he worked on the supposed ideal or transcendental principles of the extraordinary founder of the Italian school.]

* * * * *

In AEschylus religion appears terrible, malignant, and persecuting: Sophocles is the mildest of the three tragedians, but the persecuting aspect is still maintained: Euripides is like a modern Frenchman, never so happy as when giving a slap at the gods altogether.

* * * * *

Kotzebue represents the petty kings of the islands in the Pacific Ocean exactly as so many Homeric chiefs. Riches command universal influence, and all the kings are supposed to be descended from the gods.

* * * * *

I confess I doubt the Homeric genuineness of [Greek: dakruoen gelaschsa]. [1] It sounds to me much more like a prettiness of Bion or Moschus.

[Footnote 1: [Greek: hos eipon, alochoio thilaes en chersin ethaeke paid eon hae d ara min chaeodei dexato cholpo, dachruoen gelasasa.]—Illiad. Z. vi. 482]

* * * * *

The very greatest writers write best when calm, and exerting themselves upon subjects unconnected with party. Burke rarely shows all his powers, unless where he is in a passion. The French Revolution was alone a subject fit for him. We are not yet aware of all the consequences of that event. We are too near it.

* * * * *

Goldsmith did every thing happily.

* * * * *

You abuse snuff! Perhaps it is the final cause of the human nose.

* * * * *

A rogue is a roundabout fool; a fool in circumbendibus.

* * * * *

Omne ignotum pro magnifico. A dunghill at a distance sometimes smells like musk, and a dead dog like elder-flowers.

* * * * *

Plagiarists are always suspicious of being stolen from,—as pickpockets are observed commonly to walk with their hands in their breeches' pockets.

January 6. 1823.


St. John had a twofold object in his Gospel and his Epistles,—to prove the divinity, and also the actual human nature and bodily suffering, of Jesus Christ,—that he was God and Man. The notion that the effusion of blood and water from the Saviour's side was intended to prove the real death of the sufferer originated, I believe, with some modern Germans, and seems to me ridiculous: there is, indeed, a very small quantity of water occasionally in the praecordia: but in the pleura, where wounds are not generally mortal, there is a great deal. St. John did not mean, I apprehend, to insinuate that the spear-thrust made the death, merely as such, certain or evident, but that the effusion showed the human nature. "I saw it," he would say, "with my own eyes. It was real blood, composed of lymph and crassamentum, and not a mere celestial ichor, as the Phantasmists allege."

* * * * *

I think the verse of the three witnesses (1 John, v. 7.) spurious, not only because the balance of external authority is against it, as Porson seems to have shown; but also, because, in my way of looking at it, it spoils the reasoning.

* * * * *

St. John's logic is Oriental, and consists chiefly in position and parallel; whilst St. Paul displays all the intricacies of the Greek system.

* * * * *

Whatever may be thought of the genuineness or authority of any part of the book of Daniel, it makes no difference in my belief in Christianity; for Christianity is within a man, even as he is a being gifted with reason; it is associated with your mother's chair, and with the first-remembered tones of her blessed voice.

* * * * *

I do not believe St. Paul to be the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Luther's conjecture is very probable, that it was by Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew. The plan is too studiously regular for St. Paul. It was evidently written during the yet existing glories of the Temple. For three hundred years the church did not affix St. Paul's name to it; but its apostolical or catholic character, independently of its genuineness as to St. Paul, was never much doubted.

* * * * *

The first three Gospels show the history, that is, the fulfilment of the prophecies in the facts. St. John declares explicitly the doctrine, oracularly, and without comment, because, being pure reason, it can only be proved by itself. For Christianity proves itself, as the sun is seen by its own light. Its evidence is involved in its existence. St. Paul writes more particularly for the dialectic understanding; and proves those doctrines, which were capable of such proof, by common logic.

* * * * *

St. John used the term [Greek: ho Logos] technically. Philo-Judaeus had so used it several years before the probable date of the composition of this Gospel; and it was commonly understood amongst the Jewish Rabbis at that time, and afterwards, of the manifested God.

* * * * *

Our translators, unfortunately, as I think, render the clause [Greek: pros ton Theos] "with God;" that would be right, if the Greek were [Greek: syn to Theo].[1]

By the preposition [Greek: pros] in this place, is meant the utmost possible proximity, without confusion; likeness, without sameness. The Jewish Church understood the Messiah to be a divine person. Philo expressly cautions against any one's supposing the Logos to be a mere personification, or symbol. He says, the Logos is a substantial, self- existent Being. The Gnostics, as they were afterwards called, were a kind of Arians; and thought the Logos was an after-birth. They placed [Greek: Abyssos] and [Greek: Sigae] (the Abyss and Silence) before him. Therefore it was that St. John said, with emphasis, [Greek: en archae aen ho Logos]— "In the beginning was the Word." He was begotten in the first simultaneous burst of Godhead, if such an expression may be pardoned, in speaking of eternal existence.

[Footnote 1: John, ch. i. v. 1, 2.]

* * * * *

The Understanding suggests the materials of reasoning: the Reason decides upon them. The first can only say,—This is, or ought to be so. The last says,—It must be so.[1]

[Footnote 1: I have preserved this, and several other equivalent remarks, out of a dutiful wish to popularize, by all the honest means in my power, this fundamental distinction; a thorough mastery of which Mr. Coleridge considered necessary to any sound system of psychology; and in the denial or neglect of which, he delighted to point out the source of most of the vulgar errors in philosophy and religion. The distinction itself is implied throughout almost all Mr. C.'s works, whether in verse or prose; but it may be found minutely argued in the "Aids to Reflection," p. 206, &c. 2d edit. 1831.—ED.]

April 27. 1823.


Kean is original; but he copies from himself. His rapid descents from the hyper-tragic to the infra-colloquial, though sometimes productive of great effect, are often unreasonable. To see him act, is like reading Shakspeare by flashes of lightning. I do not think him thorough-bred gentleman enough to play Othello.

* * * * *

Sir James Mackintosh is the king of the men of talent. He is a most elegant converger. How well I remember his giving breakfast to me and Sir Humphry Davy, at that time an unknown young man, and our having a very spirited talk about Locke and Newton, and so forth! When Davy was gone, Mackintosh said to me, "That's a very extraordinary young man; but he is gone wrong on some points." But Davy was, at that time at least, a man of genius; and I doubt if Mackintosh ever heartily appreciated an eminently original man. He is uncommonly powerful in his own line; but it is not the line of a first- rate man. After all his fluency and brilliant erudition, you can rarely carry off any thing worth preserving. You might not improperly write on his forehead, "Warehouse to let!" He always dealt too much in generalities for a lawyer. He is deficient in power in applying his principles to the points in debate. I remember Robert Smith had much more logical ability; but Smith aimed at conquest by any gladiatorial shift; whereas Mackintosh was uniformly candid in argument. I am speaking now from old recollections.

* * * * *

Canning is very irritable, surprisingly so for a wit who is always giving such hard knocks. He should have put on an ass's skin before he went into parliament. Lord Liverpool is the single stay of this ministry; but he is not a man of a directing mind. He cannot ride on the whirlwind. He serves as the isthmus to connect one half of the cabinet with the other. He always gives you the common sense of the matter, and in that it is that his strength in debate lies.

* * * * *

The national debt has, in fact, made more men rich than have a right to be so, or, rather, any ultimate power, in case of a struggle, of actualizing their riches. It is, in effect, like an ordinary, where three hundred tickets have been distributed, but where there is, in truth, room only for one hundred. So long as you can amuse the company with any thing else, or make them come in successively, all is well, and the whole three hundred fancy themselves sure of a dinner; but if any suspicion of a hoax should arise, and they were all to rush into the room at once, there would be two hundred without a potato for their money; and the table would be occupied by the landholders, who live on the spot.

* * * * *

Poor-laws are the inevitable accompaniments of an extensive commerce and a manufacturing system. In Scotland, they did without them, till Glasgow and Paisley became great manufacturing places, and then people said, "We must subscribe for the poor, or else we shall have poor-laws." That is to say, they enacted for themselves a poor-law in order to avoid having a poor-law enacted for them. It is absurd to talk of Queen Elizabeth's act as creating the poor-laws of this country. The poor-rates are the consideration paid by, or on behalf of, capitalists for having labour at demand. It is the price, and nothing else. The hardship consists in the agricultural interest having to pay an undue proportion of the rates; for although, perhaps, in the end, the land becomes more valuable, yet, at the first, the landowners have to bear all the brunt. I think there ought to be a fixed revolving period for the equalization of rates.

April 28. 1823.


The conduct of the Whigs is extravagantly inconsistent. It originated in the fatal error which Fox committed, in persisting, after the first three years of the French Revolution, when every shadow of freedom in France had vanished, in eulogizing the men and measures of that shallow-hearted people. So he went on gradually, further and further departing from all the principles of English policy and wisdom, till at length he became the panegyrist, through thick and thin, of a military frenzy, under the influence of which the very name of liberty was detested. And thus it was that, in course of time, Fox's party became the absolute abettors of the Buonapartean invasion of Spain, and did all in their power to thwart the generous efforts of this country to resist it. Now, when the invasion is by a Bourbon, and the cause of the Spanish nation neither united nor, indeed, sound in many respects, the Whigs would precipitate this country into a crusade to fight up the cause of a faction.

I have the honour of being slightly known to my lord Darnley. In 1808-9, I met him accidentally, when, after a few words of salutation, he said to me, "Are you mad, Mr. Coleridge?"—"Not that I know, my lord," I replied; "what have I done which argues any derangement of mind?"—"Why, I mean," said he, "those letters of yours in the Courier, 'On the Hopes and Fears of a People invaded by foreign Armies.' The Spaniards are absolutely conquered; it is absurd to talk of their chance of resisting."—"Very well, my lord," I said, "we shall see. But will your lordship permit me, in the course of a year or two, to retort your question upon you, if I should have grounds for so doing?"—"Certainly!" said he; "that is fair!" Two years afterwards, when affairs were altered in Spain, I met Lord Darnley again, and, after some conversation, ventured to say to him, "Does your lordship recollect giving me leave to retort a certain question upon you about the Spaniards? Who is mad now?"—"Very true, very true, Mr. Coleridge," cried he: "you are right. It is very extraordinary. It was a very happy and hold guess." Upon which I remarked, "I think 'guess' is hardly a fair term. For, has any thing happened that has happened, from any other causes, or under any other conditions, than such as I laid down Beforehand?" Lord Darnley, who was always very courteous to me, took this with a pleasant nod of his head.

* * * * *

Many votes are given for reform in the House of Commons, which are not honest. Whilst it is well known that the measure will not he carried in parliament, it is as well to purchase some popularity by voting for it. When Hunt and his associates, before the Six Acts, created a panic, the ministers lay on their oars for three or four months, until the general cry, even from the opposition, was, "Why don't the ministers come forward with some protective measure?" The present Ministry exists on the weakness and desperate character of the Opposition. The sober part of the nation are afraid of the latter getting into power, lest they should redeem some of their pledges.

* * * * *

April 29. 1823.


The present adherents of the church of Rome are not, in my judgment, Catholics. We are the Catholics. We can prove that we hold the doctrines of the primitive church for the first three hundred years. The council of Trent made the Papists what they are. [1] A foreign Romish bishop has declared, that the Protestants of his acquaintance were more like what he conceived the enlightened Catholics to have been before the council of Trent, than the best of the latter in his days. Perhaps you will say, this bishop was not a good Catholic.[2] I cannot answer for that. The course of Christianity and the Christian church may not unaptly be likened to a mighty river, which filled a wide channel, and bore along with its waters mud, and gravel, and weeds, till it met a great rock in the middle of its stream. By some means or other, the water flows purely, and separated from the filth, in a deeper and narrower course on one side of the rock, and the refuse of the dirt and troubled water goes off on the other in a broader current, and then cries out, "We are the river!"

[Footnote 1: See Aids to Reflection, p. 180. note.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Coleridge named him, but the name was strange to me, and I have been unable to recover it—ED.] * * * * *

A person said to me lately, "But you will, for civility's sake, call them Catholics, will you not?" I answered, that I would not; for I would not tell a lie upon any, much less upon so solemn an occasion. "The adherents of the church of Rome, I repeat, are not Catholic Christians. If they are, then it follows that we Protestants are heretics and schismatics, as, indeed, the Papists very logically, from their own premisses, call us. And 'Roman Catholics' makes no difference. Catholicism is not capable of degrees or local apportionments. There can be but one body of Catholics, ex vi termini. To talk strictly of Irish or Scotch Roman Catholics is a mere absurdity."

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It is common to hear it said, that, if the legal disabilities are removed, the Romish church will lose ground in this country. I think the reverse: the Romish religion is, or, in certain hands, is capable of being made, so flattering to the passions and self-delusion of men, that it is impossible to say how far it would spread, amongst the higher orders of society especially, if the secular disadvantages now attending its profession were removed.[1]

[Footnote 1: Here, at least, the prophecy has been fulfilled. The wisdom of our ancestors, in the reign of King William III., would have been jealous of the daily increase in the numbers of the Romish church in England, of which every attentive observer must be aware. See Sancti Dominici Pallium, in vol. ii. p. 80. of Mr. Coleridge's Poems.-Ed.]

April 30. 1823.


The Zendavesta must, I think, have been copied in parts from the writings of Moses. In the description of the creation, the first chapter of Genesis is taken almost literally, except that the sun is created before the light, and then the herbs and the plants after the sun; which are precisely the two points they did not understand, and therefore altered as errors.[1]

There are only two acts of creation, properly so called, in the Mosaic account,—the material universe and man. The intermediate acts seem more as the results of secondary causes, or, at any rate, of a modification of prepared materials.

[Footnote 1: The Zend, or Zendavesta, is the sacred book ascribed to Zoroaster, or Zerdusht, the founder or reformer of the Magian religion. The modern edition or paraphrase of this work, called the Sadda, written in the Persian of the day, was, I believe, composed about three hundred years ago —Ed.]

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Pantheism and idolatry naturally end in each other; for all extremes meet. The Judaic religion is the exact medium, the true compromise.

May 1. 1823.


There is a great difference in the credibility to be attached to stories of dreams and stories of ghosts. Dreams have nothing in them which are absurd and nonsensical; and, though most of the coincidences may be readily explained by the diseased system of the dreamer, and the great and surprising power of association, yet it is impossible to say whether an inner sense does not really exist in the mind, seldom developed, indeed, but which may have a power of presentiment. [1]

All the external senses have their correspondents in the mind; the eye can see an object before it is distinctly apprehended;—why may there not be a corresponding power in the soul? The power of prophecy might have been merely a spiritual excitation of this dormant faculty. Hence you will observe that the Hebrew seers sometimes seem to have required music, as in the instance of Elisha before Jehoram:—"But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him." [2] Every thing in nature has a tendency to move in cycles; and it would be a miracle if, out of such myriads of cycles moving concurrently, some coincidences did not take place. No doubt, many such take place in the daytime; but then our senses drive out the remembrance of them, and render the impression hardly felt; but when we sleep, the mind acts without interruption. Terror and the heated imagination will, even in the daytime, create all sorts of features, shapes, and colours out of a simple object possessing none of them in reality.

But ghost stories are absurd. Whenever a real ghost appears,—by which I mean some man or woman dressed up to frighten another,—if the supernatural character of the apparition has been for a moment believed, the effects on the spectator have always been most terrible,—convulsion, idiocy, madness, or even death on the spot. Consider the awful descriptions in the Old Testament of the effects of a spiritual presence on the prophets and seers of the Hebrews; the terror, the exceeding great dread, the utter loss of all animal power. But in our common ghost stories, you always find that the seer, after a most appalling apparition, as you are to believe, is quite well the next day. Perhaps, he may have a headach; but that is the outside of the effect produced. Alston, a man of genius, and the best painter yet produced by America, when he was in England told me an anecdote which confirms what I have been saying. It was, I think, in the university of Cambridge, near Boston, that a certain youth took it into his wise head to endeavour to convert a Tom-Painish companion of his by appearing as a ghost before him. He accordingly dressed himself up in the usual way, having previously extracted the ball from the pistol which always lay near the head of his friend's bed. Upon first awaking, and seeing the apparition, the youth who was to be frightened, A., very coolly looked his companion the ghost in the face, and said, "I know you. This is a good joke; but you see I am not frightened. Now you may vanish!" The ghost stood still. "Come," said A., "that is enough. I shall get angry. Away!" Still the ghost moved not. "By ——," ejaculated A., "if you do not in three minutes go away, I'll shoot you." He waited the time, deliberately levelled the pistol, fired, and, with a scream at the immobility of the figure, became convulsed, and afterwards died. The very instant he believed it to be a ghost, his human nature fell before it.

[Footnote 1: See this point suggested and reasoned with extraordinary subtlety in the third essay (marked C), in the Appendix to the Statesman's Manual, Or first Lay Sermon, p. 19, &c. One beautiful paragraph I will venture to quote:— "Not only may we expect that men of strong religious feelings, but little religious knowledge, will occasionally be tempted to regard such occurrences as supernatural visitations; but it ought not to surprise us if such dreams should sometimes be confirmed by the event, as though they had actually possessed a character of divination. For who shall decide how far a perfect reminiscence of past experiences (of many, perhaps, that had escaped our reflex consciousness at the time)—who shall determine to what extent this reproductive imagination, unsophisticated by the will, and undistracted by intrusions from the senses, may or may not be concentred and sublimed into foresight and presentiment? There would be nothing herein either to foster superstition on the one hand, or to justify contemptuous disbelief on the other. Incredulity is but Credulity seen from behind, bowing and nodding assent to the Habitual and the Fashionable"-ED.]

[Footnote 2: 2 Kings, iii. 15., and see 1 Sam. x. 5.—ED.]

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[What follows in the text within commas was written about this time, and communicated to me by Mr. Justice Coleridge.—ED.]

"Last Thursday my uncle, S. T. C., dined with us, and several men came to meet him. I have heard him more brilliant, but he was very fine, and delighted every one very much. It is impossible to carry off, or commit to paper, his long trains of argument; indeed, it is not always possible to understand them, he lays the foundation so deep, and views every question in so original a manner. Nothing can be finer than the principles which he lays down in morals and religion. His deep study of Scripture is very astonishing; the rest of the party were but as children in his hands, not merely in general views of theology, but in nice verbal criticism. He thinks it clear that St. Paul did not write the Epistle to the Hebrews, but that it must have been the work of some Alexandrian Greek, and he thinks Apollos. It seemed to him a desirable thing for Christianity that it should have been written by some other person than St. Paul; because, its inspiration being unquestioned, it added another independent teacher and expounder of the faith.

"We fell upon ghosts, and he exposed many of the stories physically and metaphysically. He seemed to think it impossible that you should really see with the bodily eye what was impalpable, unless it were a shadow; and if what you fancied you saw with the bodily eye was in fact only an impression on the imagination, then you were seeing something out of your senses, and your testimony was full of uncertainty. He observed how uniformly, in all the best-attested stories of spectres, the appearance might be accounted for from the disturbed state of the mind or body of the seer, as in the instances of Dion and Brutus. Upon some one's saying that he wished to believe these stories true, thinking that they constituted a useful subsidiary testimony of another state of existence, Mr. C. differed, and said, he thought it a dangerous testimony, and one not wanted: it was Saul, with the Scriptures and the Prophet before him, calling upon the witch of Endor to certify him of the truth! He explained very ingeniously, yet very naturally, what has often startled people in ghost stories—such as Lord Lyttelton's—namely, that when a real person has appeared, habited like the phantom, the ghost-seer has immediately seen two, the real man and the phantom. He said that such must be the case. The man under the morbid delusion sees with the eye of the imagination, and sees with the bodily eye too; if no one were really present, he would see the spectre with one, and the bed-curtains with the other. When, therefore, a real person comes, he sees the real man as he would have seen any one else in the same place, and he sees the spectre not a whit the less: being perceptible by different powers of vision, so to say, the appearances do not interfere with each other.

"He told us the following story of the Phantom Portrait [1]:—

"A stranger came recommended to a merchant's house at Lubeck. He was hospitably received; but, the house being full, he was lodged at night in an apartment handsomely furnished, but not often used. There was nothing that struck him particularly in the room when left alone, till he happened to cast his eyes on a picture, which immediately arrested his attention. It was a single head; but there was something so uncommon, so frightful and unearthly, in its expression, though by no means ugly, that he found himself irresistibly attracted to look at it. In fact, he could not tear himself from the fascination of this portrait, till his imagination was filled by it, and his rest broken. He retired to bed, dreamed, and awoke from time to time with the head glaring on him. In the morning, his host saw by his looks that he had slept ill, and inquired the cause, which was told. The master of the house was much vexed, and said that the picture ought to have been removed, that it was an oversight, and that it always was removed when the chamber was used. The picture, he said, was, indeed, terrible to every one; but it was so fine, and had come into the family in so curious a way, that he could not make up his mind to part with it, or to destroy it. The story of it was this:—'My father,' said he, 'was at Hamburgh on business, and, whilst dining at a coffee-house, he observed a young man of a remarkable appearance enter, seat himself alone in a corner, and commence a solitary meal. His countenance bespoke the extreme of mental distress, and every now and then he turned his head quickly round, as if he heard something, then shudder, grow pale, and go on with his meal after an effort as before. My father saw this same man at the same place for two or three successive days; and at length became so much interested about him, that he spoke to him. The address was not repulsed, and the stranger seemed to find some comfort in the tone of sympathy and kindness which my father used. He was an Italian, well informed, poor but not destitute, and living economically upon the profits of his art as a painter. Their intimacy increased; and at length the Italian, seeing my father's involuntary emotion at his convulsive turnings and shuddering, which continued as formerly, interrupting their conversation from time to time, told him his story. He was a native of Rome, and had lived in some familiarity with, and been much patronized by, a young nobleman; but upon some slight occasion they had fallen out, and his patron, besides using many reproachful expressions, had struck him. The painter brooded over the disgrace of the blow. He could not challenge the nobleman, on account of his rank; he therefore watched for an opportunity, and assassinated him. Of course he fled from his country, and finally had reached Hamburgh. He had not, however, passed many weeks from the night of the murder, before, one day, in the crowded street, he heard his name called by a voice familiar to him: he turned short round, and saw the face of his victim looking at him with a fixed eye. From that moment he had no peace: at all hours, in all places, and amidst all companies, however engaged he might be, he heard the voice, and could never help looking round; and, whenever he so looked round, he always encountered the same face staring close upon him. At last, in a mood of desperation, he had fixed himself face to face, and eye to eye, and deliberately drawn the phantom visage as it glared upon him; and this was the picture so drawn. The Italian said he had struggled long, but life was a burden which he could now no longer bear; and he was resolved, when he had made money enough to return to Rome, to surrender himself to justice, and expiate his crime on the scaffold. He gave the finished picture to my father, in return for the kindness which he had shown to him.'"

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