« 上一頁繼續 »
fused and inaccurate matter of fact, as such, laid no hold upon his mind; of all he heard and saw, he readily caught and well retained the spirit, but the letter escaped him he seemed incapable of paying the due regard to it. That it is the duty of any man, who has such a peculiarity, to watch over it and endeavor to remedy it, is unquestionable; I would only suggest that this defect, which belonged not to the moral being of Coleridge but to the frame of his intellect, and was in close connection with that which constituted his peculiar intellectual strength, his power of abstracting and referring to universal principles, often rendered him unconscious of incorrectness of statement, of which men in general scarcely could have been unconscious, and that to it, and not to any deeper cause, such neglects and transgressions of established rules as have been alleged against him, ought to be referred.*
* At all times his incorrectness of quotation and of reference and in the relation of particular circumstances was extreme; it seemed as if the door betwixt his memory and imagination was always open, and though the former was a large strong room, its contents were perpetually mingling with those of the adjoining chamber. I am sure that if I had not had the facts of my Father's life at large before me, from his letters and the relations of friends, I should not have believed such confusions as his possible in a man of sound mind. To give two out of numberless instances,-in a manuscript intended to be perused by his friend Mr. Green, he speaks of a composition by Mr. Green himself, as if he, S. T. Coleridge, were the author of it. A man, who thus forgets, will oftener ascribe the thoughts of another, when they have a great cognateness with, and a deep interest for, his own mind, to himself, than such cognate and interesting thoughts to another; but my Father's forgetfulness was not always in the way of appropriation, as this story, written to me by Mrs. Julius Hare, will show. She says, it was “told him (Archdeacon Hare) many years ago by the Rev. Robert Tennant, who was then his Curate, but afterwards went to Florence and died there. He had a great reverence and admiration for Mr. Coleridge, and used occasionally to call upon him. During one of these visits, Mr. C. spoke of a book (Mr. Hare thinks it was on Political Economy), in which there were some valuable remarks bearing upon the subject of their conversation. Mr. Tennant immediately purchased the book on this recommendation, but on reading it was surprised to find no such passages as Mr. C. had referred to. Some time after he saw the same book at the house of a friend, and mentioned the circumstance to him; upon which his friend directed him to the margin of the volume before him, and there he found the very remarks in Mr. C's own writing, which he had writen in as marginalia, and forgotten that they were his own and not the author's. Mr. Hare had always intended asking Mr. T. to give him this story in detail in writing, but unfor
A certain infidelity there was doubtless in the mirror of his mind, so strong was his tendency to overlook the barrier between imagination and actual fact. No man had a keener insight into character than he, or saw moral and mental distinctions more clearly; yet his judgments of particular persons were often rela
tunately delayed it too long till Mr. T.'s very sudden death prevented it altogether; but he can vouch for its general correctness."
My Father trusted to his memory, knowing it to be powerful and not aware that it was inaccurate, in order to save his legs and his eyes. I suspect that he quoted even longish passages in Greek without copying them, by the slight differences that occur. Another phænomenon of his memory was its curious way of interchanging properties; as when he takes from Hobbes and gives to Des Cartes, what is not to be found in the latter and is to be found in the former. (See chapter v.) This he did in the face of Sir James Mackintosh, one of the most clear-headed and accurately learned men of the day, after inciting him to examine his own positions by contradiction; so incautious and dreamy was he. It seems as if he was ever dreaming of blows and caring for them no more than for the blows of a dream. How much strength of memory may co-exist with weakness, the intellect remaining quite sound in the main, may often be observed in old men. Just so many a nervous man can walk twenty miles when he can not walk straight into a room, or lift a cup to his lips without shaking it.
It was from this same mixture of carelessness and confusedness that my Father neglected all his life long to make regular literary acknowledgments. He did it when he happened to think of it, sometimes disproportionately, at other times not, but without the slightest intention, and in some cases without the possibility of even temporary concealment. He published The Fall of Robespierre as An Historic Drama by S. T. Coleridge, without joining Mr. Southey's name with his in the title-page, though my Uncle and all his many friends knew that he wrote the second and third act of it; and in a note to the Conciones he spoke of the first act only as his own. He did not call the Catullian Hendecasyllables a translation, though at any hour I might have seen the original in the copy of Matthisson's poems which he had given me, and in which he had written, after the presentation, “Die Kinderjahre, p. 15–29; der-Schmetterling, p. 50; and the Alpenreise, p. 75, will be especial favorites with you, I dare anticipate. 9th May, 1820, Highgate." His Hendecasyllables contain twelve syllables, and as metre are, to my ear, a great improvement, on Matthisson's eleven-syllable lines. He acted in the same way with regard to two epigrams of Lessing's, one in the Poetic Works, ii. p. 78, called Names, and another on Rufa and her Lapdog, which has been printed somewhere,-(Die Namen and An Die Dorilis. Works of Lessing, vol. i. p. 19 and p. 46.) He had spoken of them as translations to Mr. Cottle. Mr. Green tells me that in the Confessions are a few phrases borrowed from Lessing, which will be pointed out particularly hereafter. My Father once talked of translating all that author's works. An epigram printed in the Remains, Hoarse Mævius is also from the Ger
tively wrong; not that he ascribed to them qualities which they did not possess, or denied them those which they had, but that his feelings and imagination heightened and magnified that side or aspect of a mind, which was most present to him at the time when his estimate was drawn: the good and the beautiful, which
man; he seems to have spoken of it as such to Mr. Cottle. The fourth and sixth stanzas of Separation, VII. p. 198. are adopted from Cotton's Chlorinda. The late Mr. Sidney Walker thought that my Father was indebted to Casimir's xiiith Ode for the general conception of his Lines in answer to a melancholy Letter, one of the Juvenile Poems. The second stanza looks like an expansion of the commencement:
Non si sol semel occidit,
Non rubris iterum surget ab Indiis.
I see no likeness elsewhere, except of subject. Mr. S. W. also pointed out to me an image taken from the opening of Ossian's War of Inisthoma, in Lines on an Autumnal Evening, As when the Savage," &c. (VII. p. 42.) The Rose (VII. 43.) is, I believe from the French.
"And I the while, the sole unbusy thing
Nor honey make, nor build, nor pair, nor sing,”
VII. p. 271.
would probably have been written, even if Herbert had not written, as Mr. Walker reminded me,
All things are busy; only I
Neither bring honey with the bees,
Nor flowers to make that, nor the husbandry
I think it will hardly be supposed that Mr. Coleridge meant to cheat Casimir, Cotton, Lessing and Matthisson of the articles he borrowed from them. The two former he celebrated in his writings, when they were not much in the world's eye: the two latter are popular and well-known authors, whose works are in every hand in Germany, and here in the hands of many. Mr. Dequincey says he relied "too much upon the slight knowledge of German literature in this country;"-a blind remark Who relies for concealment on a screen which he is doing his best to throw down? Had my Father calculated at all he would have done it better; but to calculate was not in his nature. If he ever deceived others it was when he was himself deceived first. Hazlitt said he "always carried in his pocket a list of the Illustrious Obscure." I think he made some writers, who were obscure when he first noticed them, cease to be so; and it will be found, that he did not generally borrow from the little known without declaring his obligations; that most of his adoptions were from writers too illustrious to be wronged by plagiarism. It is true that Maasz, from whom he borrowed some things, never
he beheld at the moment, appeared in his eyes the very type of goodness and beauty: the subjects of it were transfigured before him and shone with unearthly hues and lineaments. Of principles he had the clearest intuition, for that which is without degree is in no danger of being exaggerated; nor was he liable, from his peculiar temperament, to miss poetic truth; because nature, as she lends to imagination all her colors, can never be misrepresented by the fullest expenditure of her own gifts upon herself. And even in his view of the particular and individual,— though, as has been said of him in his literary character, "often like the sun, when looking at the planets, he only beheld his own image in the objects of his gaze, and often, when his eye darted on a cloud, would turn it into a rainbow,"*-yet possibly even here far more of truth revealed itself to his earnest gaze than the world, which ever observes too carelessly and superficially, was aware of. Many of his poems, in which persons are described in ecstatic language, were suggested by individuals, and doubtless did but portray them as they were constantly presented to him by his heart and imagination.
Such a temper is ever liable to be mistaken for one of fickleness, insincerity, and lightness of feeling; and even so has Coleridge at times been represented by persons, who, judging partially and superficially, conceived him to be wanting in depth of heart and substantial kindness, whose depths they had never explored, and with whose temperament and emotions there was no congeniality in their own. But it is not true, as others will eagerly testify, that the affections of Coleridge were slight and evanescent, his intellectual' faculties alone vigorous and steadfast: though it is true that in persons constituted like him, the former will be more dependent on the latter, more readily excited and determined through the powers of thought and imagination than in ordinary cases. His heart was as warm as his intellectual being was lifesome and active,-nay, it was from warmth of heart and keenness of feeling that his imagination derived its glow and vivacity, the condition of the latter, at least, was intimately connected with that of the former. He loved to share all he had with others; and it is the opinion of one who knew
was famous but had he "relied" on the world's ignorance of him he would not have mentioned him as a writer on mental philosophy at all.
*See Guesses at Truth, 2d edit. p. 241.
him well and early, that, had he possessed wealth in his earlier years, he would have given great part of it away. If there are any who conceive that his affections were apt to evaporate in words, I think it right to protest against such a notion of his character. Kind words are not to be contrasted with good deeds, except where they are substituted for them, and those kindly feelings which, in the present instance, so often overflowed in words, were just as ready to shape themselves into deeds, as far as the heart was concerned ;-how far the hand can answer to the heart depends on circumstances with which the last has no concern. Had there been this tenuity and shallowness in his spirit, he could never have made that sort of impression as an author, which many thoughtful persons have received from his works, much less as a man have inspired such deep love and esteem as still waits upon his memory from some who are themselves loved and honored by all that know them well.* That the objects of his affections oftener changed than consisted with, or could have arisen in, a happy even tenor of life, was, in his case, no symptom of that variableness which results from the union of a lively fancy with a shallow heart: if he soon formed attachments, this arose from the quickness of his sympathies, the ease with which he could enter into each man's individual being, loving and admiring whatever it contained of amiable or admirable; from a "constitutional communicativeness and utterancy of heart and soul," which, speedily attracting others to him, rendered them again on this account doubly interesting in his eyes; if he "stood aloof," during portions of his life, from any once dear to him, this was rather occasioned by a morbid intensity and tenacity of feeling than any opposite quality of mind, -the same disposition which led him to heighten the lights of every object, while its bright side was turned toward himself, inclining him to deepen its shadows, when the chances and changes of life presented to him the darker aspect,-the same temper which led him to over-estimate marks of regard, rendering him too keenly sensible of, or quick to imagine, short-comings of love and esteem, his claims to which he not unnaturally reckoned by
* Some persons appear to have confounded the general courtesy and bland overflowing of his manners with the state of his affections, and because the feelings which prompted the former flitted over the surface of his heart, to suppose that the latter were flitting and superficial too.