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the only occasions on which I could offend any member of the republic of letters. With one solitary exception in which my words were first misstated and then wantonly applied to an individual, I could never learn that I had excited the displeasure of any among my literary contemporaries. Having announced my intention to give a course of Lectures on the characteristic merits and defects of English poetry in its different æras; first, from Chaucer to Milton; second, from Dryden inclusively to Thomson; and third, from Cowper to the present day; I changed my plan, and confined my disquisition to the former two periods, that I might furnish no possible pretext for the unthinking to misconstrue, or the malignant to misapply my words, and having stamped their own meaning on them, to pass them as current coin in the marts of garrulity or detraction.

Praises of the unworthy are felt by ardent minds as robberies of the deserving; and it is too true, and too frequent, that Bacon, Harrington, Machiavel, and Spinoza, are not read, because Hume, Condillac, and Voltaire are. But in promiscuous company no prudent man will oppugn the merits of a contemporary in his own supposed department; contenting himself with praising in his turn those whom he deems excellent. If I should ever deem it my duty at all to oppose the pretensions of individuals, I would oppose them in books which could be weighed and answered, in which I could evolve the whole of my reasons and feelings, with their requisite limits and modifications; not in irrecoverable conversation, where however strong the reasons might be, the feelings that prompted them would assuredly be attributed by some one or other to envy and discontent. Besides I well know, and, I trust, have acted on that knowledge, that it must be the ignorant and injudicious who extol the unworthy; and the eulogies of critics without taste or judgment are the natural reward of Pitt in the Morning Post in 1800, and the Series of Letters on the Spanish War in the Courier in 1809. What the Author says as to these exertions constituting his whole publicity, must not be taken too strictly; for besides The Friend, the Remorse, Christabel and his other Poems published before the date of this work, Mr. Coleridge had made his name well known long before by his courses of Lectures at Bristol on the French Revolution, Christianity, Slavery, and other subjects, some of which were printed. -Ed.]

*[This alludes to the Lectures at the London Philosophical Society, which began on the 18th of November, 1811.-Ed.]

authors without feeling or genius. Sint unicuique sua præ


How then, dismissing, as I do, these three causes, am I to account for attacks, the long continuance and inveteracy of which it would require all three to explain? The solution seems to be this :—I was in habits of intimacy with Mr. Wordsworth and Mr. Southey! This, however, transfers rather than removes the difficulty. Be it, that, by an unconscionable extension of the old adage, noscitur a socio, my literary friends are never under the water-fall of criticism, but I must be wet through with the spray; yet how came the torrent to descend upon them?

First, then, with regard to Mr. Southey. I well remember the general reception of his earlier publications; namely, the poems published with Mr. Lovell under the names of Moschus and Bion; the two volumes of poems under his own name, and the Joan of Arc.* The censures of the critics by profession are extant, and may be easily referred to :-careless lines, inequality in the merit of the different poems, and (in the lighter works) a predilection for the strange and whimsical; in short, such faults as might have been anticipated in a young and rapid writer, were indeed sufficiently enforced. Nor was there at that time wanting a party spirit to aggravate the defects of a poet, who, with all the courage of uncorrupted youth, had avowed his zeal for a cause, which he deemed that of liberty, and his abhorrence of oppression by whatever name consecrated. But it was as little objected by others, as dreamed of by the poet himself, that he preferred careless and prosaic lines on rule and of forethought, or indeed that he pretended to any other art or theory of poetic diction, except that which we may all learn from Horace, Quinctilian, the admirable dialogue, De Oratoribus, generally attributed to Tacitus, or Strada's Prolusions; if indeed natural good sense and the early study of the best models in his own language had not infused the same maxims more securely, and, if I may venture the expression, more vitally. All that could have been fairly deduced was, that in his taste and estimation of writers, Mr. Southey agreed far more with Thomas Warton than with

*[The joint volume appeared in 1795. Bion was Southey, Moschus, Lovell. It contained "the Retrospect," in its original form. Joan of Arc appeared in 1796—the "two volumes" in 1797-both published by Mr. Cottle. -Ed.]

Dr. Johnson. Nor do I mean to deny, that at all times Mr. Southey was of the same mind with Sir Philip Sidney* in preferring an excellent ballad in the humblest style of poetry to twenty indifferent poems that strutted in the highest. And by what have his works, published since then, been characterized, each more strikingly than the preceding, but by greater splendor, a deeper pathos, profounder reflections, and a more sustained dignity of language and of metre? Distant may the period be, but whenever the time shall come, when all his works shall be collected by some editor worthy to be his biographer, I trust that an appendix of excerpta of all the passages, in which his writings, name, and character have been attacked, from the pamphlets and periodical works of the last twenty years, may be an accompaniment. Yet that it would prove medicinal in aftertimes I dare not hope; for as long as there are readers to be delighted with calumny, there will be found reviewers to calumniate. And such readers will become in all probability more numerous, in proportion as a still greater diffusion of literature shall produce an increase of sciolists, and sciolism bring with it petulance and presumption. In times of old, books were as religious oracles; as literature advanced, they next became venerable preceptors; they then descended to the rank of instructive friends; and, as their number increased, they sank still lower to that of entertaining companions; and at present they seem degraded into culprits to hold up their hands at the bar of every self-elected, yet not the less peremptory, judge, who chooses to write from humor or interest, from enmity or arrogance, and to abide the decision "of him that reads in malice, or him that reads after dinner."


The same retrograde movement may be traced, in the relation which the authors themselves have assumed towards their readFrom the lofty address of Bacon: "these are the meditations of Francis of Verulam, which that posterity should be possessed of, he deemed their interest :'t or from dedication to


["I never heard the old song of Percie and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet."

Defence of Poesie.


[ Franciscus de Verulamio sic cogitavit; talemque apud se rationem instituit, quam viventibus et posteris notam fieri, ipsorum interesse putavit Nov. Org.-Ed.]

Monarch or Pontiff, in which the honor given was asserted in equipoise to the patronage acknowledged from Pindar's

επ' ἄλλοι

-σι δ' ἄλλοι μεγάλοι: τὸ δ' ἔσχατον κορυ-
-φᾶται βασιλέυσι· Μηκέτι

πάπταινε πόρσιον.

εἴη σέ τε τέτον

ὑψῶ χρόνον πατεῖν, ἐμέ

τε τοσσάδε νικαφόροις

ὁμιλεῖν, πρόφαντον σοφίᾳν καθ' Ἕλ-
-λανας έοντα παντᾶ.


there was a gradual sinking in the etiquette or allowed style of pretension.

Poets and Philosophers, rendered diffident by their very numbers, addressed themselves to "learned readers;" then aimed to conciliate the graces of the "candid reader;" till, the critic still rising as the author sank, the amateurs of literature collectively were erected into a municipality of judges, and addressed as the Town! And now, finally, all men being supposed able to read, and all readers able to judge, the multitudinous Public, shaped into personal unity by the magic of abstraction, sits nominal despot on the throne of criticism. But, alas! as in other despotisms, it but echoes the decisions of its invisible ministers, whose intellectual claims to the guardianship of the Muses seem, for the greater part, analogous to the physical qualifications which adapt their oriental brethren for the superintendence of the Harem. Thus it is said, that St. Nepomuc was installed the guardian of bridges, because he had fallen over one, and sunk out of sight; thus too St. Cecilia is said to have been first propitiated by musicians, because, having failed in her own attempts, she had taken a dislike to the art and all its successful professors. But I shall probably have occasion hereafter to deliver my convictions more at large concerning this state of things, and the influence on taste, genius, and morality.

In the Thalaba, the Madoc, and still more evidently in the unique* Cid, in the Kehama, and, as last, so best, the Roderick;

* I have ventured to call it unique; not only because I know no work of the kind in our language (if we except a few chapters of the old translation of Froissart)-none, which uniting the charms of romance and history, keeps the imagination so constantly on the wing, and yet leaves so much for after

Southey has given abundant proof, se cogitare quam sit magnum dare aliquid in manus hominum: nec persuadere sibi posse, non sæpe tractandum quod placere et semper et omnibus cupiat.* But on the other hand, I conceive, that Mr. Southey was quite unable to comprehend, wherein could consist the crime or mischief of printing half a dozen or more playful poems; or to speak more generally, compositions which would be enjoyed or passed over, according as the taste and humor of the reader might chance to be; provided they contained nothing immoral. In the present age perituræ parcere chartæ is emphatically an unreasonable demand. The merest trifle he ever sent abroad had tenfold better claims to its ink and paper than all the silly criticisms on it, which proved no more than that the critic was not one of those, for whom the trifle was written; and than all the grave exhortations to a greater rever ce for the public-as if the passive page of a book, by having an epigram or doggrel tale impressed on it, instantly assumed at once locomotive power and a sort of ubiquity, so as to flutter and buzz in the ear of the public to the sore annoyance of the said mysterious personage. But what gives an additional and more ludicrous absurdity to these lamentations is the curious fact, that if in a volume of poetry the critic should find poem or passage which he deems more especially worthless, he is sure to select and reprint it in the review; by which, on his own grounds, he wastes as much more paper than the author, as the copies of a fashionable review are more numerous than those of the original book; in some, and those the most prominent instances, as ten thousand to five hundred. I know nothing that surpasses the vileness of deciding on the merits of a poet or painter (not by characteristic defects; for where there is genius, these always point to his characteristic beauties; but)-by accidental failures or faulty passages; except the impudence of defending it, as the proper duty, and most instructive part, of criticism. Omit or pass slightly over the expression, grace, and grouping of Raffael's figures; but ridicule in detail the knittingneedles and broom-twigs, that are to represent trees in his back

reflection; but likewise, and chiefly, because it is a compilation, which, in the various excellencies of translation, selection, and arrangement, required and proves greater genius in the compiler, as living in the present state of society, than in the original composers.

* [Accommodated from Pliny the younger. L. vii. Ep. 17.-Ed.]

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