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at Racedown in Dorsetshire, where we must now leave them to enjoy their life of love and loyalty.
Coleridge was born in the south country of Devonshire; but owing to the death of his father he was sent to Christ's Hospital, London, at the age of nine. As a boy, Coleridge was exceedingly precocious; he took no pleasure in boyish sports, but was an incessant reader of books of the imagination, and an eager listener to fairy stories. What a contrast to the boy Wordsworth, as he roamed the fields, rowed upon the lake, or harried the ravens' nests, in that fair seed-time of his soul ! At Christ's Hospital the life of Coleridge was by no means monotonous. With his study of the classics, and his love adventures; his reading of the Neo-Platonists, and his floggings by Bowyer, this prodigy attracted his fellows, and won the admiration of Lamb and Middleton. Alluding to the marvellous power which Coleridge exercised at that early age, Lamb, a quarter of a century later, writes: "Come back into memory, like as thou wert in the dayspring of thy fancies, with hope like a fiery column before thee — the dark pillar not yet turned Samuel Taylor Coleridge — Logician, Metaphysician, Bard! How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand still, entranced with admiration, to hear thee in thy deep and sweet intonations recite Homer in his Greek, or Pindar, while the walls of the old Grey Friars re-echoed to the accents of the inspired Charity boy!" Yet the heart of Coleridge was never weaned from his first love the country. In speaking of this long exile he says:
"I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
1 Christ's Hospital Five and Twenty Years Ago.
Wordsworth, in the Prelude, alludes to this homesickness of Coleridge:
"Of rivers, fields,
And groves I speak to thee, my Friend! to thee
Of that wide edifice, thy school and home,
See trees, and meadows, and thy native stream,
The event which, strange to say, had the greatest influence upon Coleridge at this time, was the chance reading of Bowles's Sonnets; these had been sent to him by his friend Middleton, who had entered Cambridge a year before. In this slight volume of twenty sonnets, he met "nature, unsophisticated by classic tradition," and was captivated by their freshness, originality, and simplicity. He copied them again and again in order that his friends might enjoy them with him. In writing of these to one of his friends he says, "They have done my heart more good than all the other books I ever read excepting the Bible." It is difficult for us in these days to conceive of a time when such influences could be produced by a little quarto. But Coleridge was not the only one over whom it cast its spell, for Wordsworth, as Mr. Campbell tells us, was not long after captivated by it. He first met the volume as he was starting for a walk, and kept his brother waiting on Westminster Bridge until he read the twenty sonnets. We may call these incidents
1 Book VI., 264-273.
2 J. Dykes Campbell, Coleridge, p. 18.
and their results chance if we please, but it were better to say with Spenser
Professor Drummond says we must judge the beginning of evolution by the results, not the results by the beginning; and is not the same method to be used in studying the lives of great poets?
Coleridge went to Cambridge two years after Wordsworth had taken his degree. As was to be expected, he entered more completely into the life of a scholar than did Wordsworth; he captured at least one prize, and was entered as competitor in several other contests. One of the important events in his university career was his meeting Wordsworth's Descriptive Sketches, and the consequent revelation of his instinctive critical faculty when he immediately asserted that they heralded the advent of a new star in the literary firmament; the other was his visit to Oxford and the meeting with Southey, when the Pantisocracy was hatched. On leaving Cambridge he settled at Bristol together with Southey, and planned Pantisocracy, and marriage; the former failed, the latter succeeded, and trouble began. The circle was now enlarged by the friendship of Lovell, Cottle, and Thomas Poole. The first edition of poems was published, and the Watchman was planned. He now moved into the little cottage, at Nether Stowey, the grounds of which joined those of Poole. This cottage is marked by a tablet on which is inscribed, "Here Samuel Taylor Coleridge made his home · 1797-1800."
The Wordsworths had been living at Racedown, about thirty miles away, now for two years, and happy years they were, full
of radiant enjoyment. They were separated from the world, but they had communion with each other and with nature. "With this, in their innocent frugality and courage, they faced the world like a new pair of babes in the wood." Coleridge, on hearing that the author of Descriptive Sketches was so near, took an early opportunity of visiting him. Dorothy tells us “the first thing that was read on that occasion was 'The Ruined Cottage' with which Coleridge was so much delighted; and after tea he repeated to us two acts and a half of his tragedy 'Osorio.' The next morning William read his tragedy 'The Borderers.'"
That this was a clear case of love at first the letters written to their friends at this time. "You had a great loss in not seeing Coleridge. derful man. His conversation teems with soul, mind, and spirit. He has more of the poet's eye in fine frenzy rolling ' than I ever witnessed. He has fine dark eyebrows and an overhanging forehead." Coleridge in his account of this visit says, "I speak with heartfelt sincerity, and, I think, unblinded judgment, when I tell you that I feel myself a little man by his side." 2 When the Wordsworths returned this visit and went to Nether Stowey, Coleridge gives this beautiful picture of Dorothy : "W. and his exquisite sister are with me. She is a woman indeed! in mind and heart; for her person is such that if you expected to see a pretty woman, you would think her rather ordinary; if you expected to see an ordinary woman, you would think her pretty! but her manners are simple, ardent, impressive. In every motion her most innocent soul outbeams so brightly, that who saw would say
sight is shown by Dorothy writes: He is a won
1 Memoirs of Wordsworth, VI., 99.
'Guilt was a thing impossible to her.'
Her information various. Her eye watchful in minutest obser-
The poets rambled over the Quantock Hills and held high
This was the annus mirabilis in the poetic career of Cole-
1 Cottle, Reminiscences, p. 144.