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spent much time in poetry which to us to-day seems uninspired, as the Ecclesiastical Sonnets of 1821 and 1822, and a translation of a part of the Æneid in 1829 and 1830.
Recognition and honor came in his latter years. Between 1830 and 1840 the circle of his readers broadened and the general appreciation of his merit grew. A notable manifestation of this was the honorary degree of D.C.L. conferred on him by the University of Oxford in 1839, on which occasion Keble, the professor of poetry in the institution, introduced him as “one who had shed a celestial light upon the affections, the occupations, and the piety of the poor,” and the applause was greater than had ever been given before except upon the visits of the Duke of Wellington. In 1842 he was given an annuity of three hundred pounds from the Civil List for distinguished literary merit, Sir Robert Peel stating “The acceptance by you of this mark of favour from the Crown, considering the grounds on which it is proposed, will impose no restraint upon your perfect independence, and involves no obligation of a personal nature.” In March, 1843, after the death of Southey, he was offered the Poet Laureateship and, after some hesitation, accepted. · His work, however, was done. After the death of his daughter, Dora, in 1847, he wrote nothing. His last days were calm and peaceful. A slight cold, caught on one of his walks, brought on pleurisy, from which he died at noon April 23, 1850. According to his wish, he was buried in Grasmere churchyard.
Wordsworth was ever confident, even in the days succeeding Jeffrey's famous “This will never do" criticism, that his work would ultimately win recognition. Henry Crabb Robinson notes a visit from the poet in 1812: “He spoke of his own poems with the just feeling of confidence which a sense of his own excellence gives him.... He is persuaded that if men are to become better and wiser, the poems will sooner or later make their way.”
And the poems have made their way, fulfilling a prophecy of Southey in 1804 that Wordsworth “will rank among the very first poets." Wordsworth's fellow poet and devoted admirer, Coleridge, has so fully analyzed the characteristics of Wordsworth's work that an independent attempt is superfluous. I, therefore, quote from the Biographia Literaria passages summarizing the excellences of this poetry:
“First, an austere purity of language both grammatically and logically; in short a perfect appropriateness of the words to the meaning. ...
“The second characteristic excellence of Mr. Wordsworth's work is: a correspondent weight and sanity of the Thoughts and Sentiments, — won, not from books; but — from the poet's own meditative observation. They are fresh and have the dew upon them. His muse, at least when in her strength of wing, and when she hovers aloft in her proper element, —
Makes audible a linked lay of truth,
Not learnt, but native, her own natural notes! “Even throughout his smaller poems there is scarcely one, which is not rendered valuable by some just and original reflection. ...
“Third (and wherein he soars far above Daniel) the sinewy strength and originality of single lines and paragraphs: the frequent curiosa felicitas of his diction, of which I need not here give specimens, having anticipated them in a preceding page. This beauty, and as eminently characteristic of Wordsworth's poetry, his rudest assailants have felt themselves compelled to acknowledge and admire.
“Fourth; the perfect truth of nature in his images and descriptions as taken immediately from nature, and proving a long and genial intimacy with the very spirit which gives the physiognomic expression to all the works of nature. Like a green field reflected in a calm and perfectly transparent lake, the image is distinguished from the reality only by its greater softness and lustre. Like the moisture of the polish on a pebble, genius neither distorts nor false-colours its objects; but on the contrary brings out many a vein and many a tint, which escape the eye of common observation, thus raising to the rank of gems what had been often kicked away by the hurrying foot of the traveller on the dusty high road of custom....
“Fifth; a meditative pathos, a union of deep and subtle thought with sensibility; a sympathy with man as man; the sympathy indeed of a contemplator, rather than a fellow-sufferer or comate (spectator, haud particeps), but of a contemplator, from whose view no difference of rank conceals the sameness of the nature; no injuries of wind or weather, or toil, or even of ignorance, wholly disguise the human face divine. The superscription and the image of the Creator still remain legible to him under the dark lines, with which guilt or calamity had cancelled or crossbarred it. Here the Man and the Poet lose and find themselves in each other, the one as glorified, the latter as substantiated. In this mild and philosophic pathos, Wordsworth appears to me without a compeer. Such as he is : so he writes. ....
"Last, and preëminently, I challenge for this poet the gift of Imagination in the highest and strictest sense of the word. In the play of fancy, Wordsworth, to my feelings, is not always graceful, and sometimes recondite. The likeness is occasionally too strange, or demands too peculiar a point of view, or is such as appears the creature of predetermined research, rather than spontaneous presentation. Indeed his fancy seldom displays itself, as mere and unmodified fancy. But in imaginative power, he stands nearest of all modern writers to Shakespeare and Milton; and yet in a kind perfectly unborrowed and his own. To employ his own words, which are at once an instance and an illustration, he does indeed to all thoughts and to all objects —
"add the gleam, The light that never was, on sea or land, The consecration, and the Poet's dream."
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was born at Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, October 21, 1772, the youngest of the thirteen children of the Reverend John Coleridge. His father, the vicar of the little parish, was a kindly but somewhat eccentric genius, steeped in Hebrew which he commended to his little flock as “the immediate language of the Holy Ghost," and, learned in the classics. His mother Anne Bowdon (John Coleridge's second wife), was a practical and industrious but uneducated woman, who seems to have had less influence than mothers usually exercise over their children. “Possessing none even of the most common accomplishments of her day,” Mr. Gillman writes from information derived from Coleridge himself, “she had neither love nor sympathy for the display of them in others.”
Coleridge was a precocious child: “At a very premature age,” he says, “even before my fifteenth year, I had bewildered myself in metaphysics and theological controversy. Nothing else pleased me.” In his tenth year he was entered for school at Christ's Hospital. There he came under Dr. Bowyer's especial observation because he was known to have read Virgil for amusement, and was encouraged in his studies. He testifies to the master's genius and influence as follows: “At school (Christ's Hospital] I enjoyed the inestimable advantage of a very sensible, though at the same time, a very severe master, the Reverend James Bowyer. He early moulded my taste to the preference of Demosthenes to Cicero, of Homer and Theocritus to Virgil, and again of Virgil to Ovid He habituated me to compare Lucretius (in such extracts as I then read), Terence, and above all the chaster poems of Catullus, not only with the Roman poets of the, so-called, silver and brazen ages; but with even those of the Augustan æra: and on grounds of plain sense and universal logic to see and assert the superiority of the former in the truth and nativeness both of their thoughts and diction. At the same time that we were studying the Greek tragic poets, he made us read Shakespeare and Milton as lessons: and they were the lessons too, which required most time and trouble to bring up, so as to escape his censure. I learned from him, that poetry, even that of the loftiest and, seemingly, that of the wildest odes, had a logic of its own, as severe as that of science; and more difficult, because more subtle, more complex, and dependent on more, and more fugitive causes. In the truly great poets, he would say, there is a reason assignable, not only for every word, but for the position of every word; and I well remember that; availing himself of the synonyms to the Homer of Didymus, he made us attempt to show, with regard to each, why it would not have answered the same purpose; and wherein consisted the peculiar fitness of the word in the original text."
At the age of nineteen he entered Jesus College, Cambridge. Of his college career we know little. From the accounts of one of his schoolfellows we learn that his room was the “ rendezvous of conversation-loving friends,” and that his interest in current politics was active. One incident reveals the impulsive peculiarity of the boy. Depressed by some untoward event, he suddenly left Cambridge, went to London, and enlisted in the Fifteenth Light Dragoons under the alias of Silas Tomkyn Comberbache (S. T. C.). He was relieved from his predicament after a few months, was discharged, and returned to college. Coleridge never took his college degree. He conceived a tremendous enthusiasm for a Pantisocracy, an ideal democracy on the banks of the Susquehanna, in which coöperative commonwealth he and Southey and Lovell were to be the leading spirits. To complete arrangements for this he left college in 1794.
October 4, 1795, Coleridge, still committed to the idea of a Pantisocracy and apparently inspired by the thought that a wife would be a valuable aid in such an ideal commonwealth, was married to Sarah (or Sara) Fricker, a sister-in-law to Southey. Although in later years Coleridge, looking back through years of bitter sorrows, spoke of this marriage as having been in a manner forced upon him, there is plenty of evidence to prove a true and sincere affection between the two in the first years of their married life. He was probably plunged into the love passion at the moment as he was plunged successively into the Fifteenth Light Dragoons and the impracticable scheme of a Pantisocracy.
In April, 1797, appeared a thin volume containing fifty poems, Poems on various subjects, by S. T. Coleridge, late of Jesus College, Cambridge. These were poems that had been written at various times since 1789 and were now collected and published by his friend, Amos Cottle. These poems did not attract much attention, nor did they deserve attention: in a later edition Coleridge himself criticized them as being “charged with a profusion of double epithets and a general turgidness.”
More important works were to come, however, and soon. Coleridge first met Wordsworth in the summer of 1795 and two years later (1797) he went to visit the poet at his cottage in Racedown. Then began that intimate poetic companionship that resulted in the Lyrical Ballads a year later, and gave the inspiration for the too short-lived flower of Coleridge's genius. Coleridge had discerned in Wordsworth's earliest published work signs of unusual power and was eager to be with him.
Wordsworth after Coleridge's visit moved from his Racedown cottage to Alfoxden in order to allow more intimate companionship. For a year the two were constantly together, thinking and talking of nothing but poetry: "... our conversation,” writes Coleridge in his Biographica Literaria, “turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of the imagination. ... The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; ... In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads, in which it was agreed that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith.” From the inspiration of such companionship and “conversation" as this sprang The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which actually appeared in the Lyrical Ballads volume), and Christahel, as well as the Ode to France, Fears in Solitude, Frost at Midnight, Love, and the fragment, Kubla Khan. And when, shortly after, the imponderable thread of sympathetic companionship was severed, the poetic inspiration lapsed, and only the second part of Christabel (1800) and the sad stanzas To Dejection (1802) remain to show what might have been.
His stay at Stowey where he was so near Wordsworth was interrupted in January of 1798 by a call from Shrewsbury for him to undertake there the duties of the Unitarian minister. For å month he did this, but his friends the Wedgwoods (sons of the famous potter), shocked at the idea of his giving up his poetry, offered him an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds on condition that he would devote himself entirely to poetry and philosophy. This offer he accepted; he returned to Stowey in February, and was with Wordsworth until they all together went to Germany at the end of the year.
In Germany, the Wordsworths lived at Goslar, but Coleridge, after five months of hard study at Ratzeburg, went on to Göttingen, again to study. He returned to England in the late summer of 1799. In his absence from Wordsworth, however, the spell that had inspired him was broken, never again in its full potency to be renewed. He was with Wordsworth again, — in September of 1799 he was exploring with Wordsworth the Lake country, — but the renewed association did not re-create the spell. He wrote more poetry, it is true, but none that approached The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the first part of Christabel. He translated Wallenstein, he contributed occasionally verses to the Morning Post, as Fire, Famine, and Slaughter, and The Devil's Thoughts, but his work as a poet was done. · We have to record now the sad, sad story of Coleridge's degeneration. In 1800 he left London and moved to Keswick in the Lake region. At some period within the next few years, just when it is impossible to say, he became addicted to the use of opium. He places the time for us himself as nearly as it can be placed: “I wrote a few stanzas three and twenty years ago, soon after my eyes had been opened to the nature of the habit into which I had been ignorantly deluded by the seeming magic effects of opium, in the sudden removal of a supposed rheumatic affection, attended with the swellings in my knees and palpitation of the heart and pains all over me, by which I had been bedridden for nearly six months ... in one of these (medical] reviews I met a case which I fancied very like my own in which a cure had been effected by the Kendal Black Drop. In an evil hour I procured it: it worked miracles — the swellings disappeared, the pains vanished. I was all alive, and all around me being as ignorant as myself, nothing could exceed my triumph. ... Alas! it is with a bitter smile, a laugh of gall and bitterness, that I recall this period of unsuspecting delusion, and how I first became aware of the maelstrom, the fatal whirlpool to which I was drawing, just when the current was beyond my strength to stem."
The results of the habit were inevitable: he became unsteady of purpose, shiftless, restless, unhappy, and ill; he alienated his wife, and lost his sense of responsibility for his family, so that the burden of their support was shifted to the patient and industrious Southey; he sank for weeks and months at a time out of sight of his friends; he became a mental and physical wreck. Cottle, who ran across him in 1814, writes in his Recollections: “In 1814 S. T. C. had been long, very long, in the habit of taking from two quarts of laudanum a week to a pint a day, and on one occasion he had been known to take in the twenty-four hours a whole quart of laudanum."
In 1816 Coleridge at last mustered up moral strength enough to put himself into the charge of a physician, a Dr. Adams. Through the physician's influence, he was installed in the family and care of Mr. Gillman, of Highgate. On the 15th of April he went to the Gillman house, and there he lived, watched and tenderly cared for by Mr. Gillman, for sixteen years. He gradually resumed in part his literary activity, not in verse, however, but in prose. The verse that he published in these years had been written during the golden time of his acquaintance with Wordsworth and before his taking of opium. His prose works appeared from time to time — Lay Sermons, Sybilline Leares, Biographia Literaria, The Aids to Reflection, Church and State. More important was the influence of his personality and conversation during this period. The house in Highgate was frequented by the most notable of the younger men of the period and Coleridge became a kind of high priest of literary criticism. In a way his position corresponded to that of Dr. Johnson. H. N.Coleridge, his nephew, collected some specimens of his Table Talk remarkable for breadth of sympathy and knowledge of literature. After his death four volumes of Literary Remains were published. By his prose works Coleridge has become noted as the supreme critic of poetry in our English history. ,,Toward the end of his life most of his energies were devoted to metaphysics and theology. Those questions in which his sole interest lay while he was a boy became of equal interest to him as he drew near his grave. His physical powers failed fast from 1831 on, but his mind seemed strong. On July 11, 1834, he wrote: “I am dying, but without expectation of a speedy release. Is it not strange that, very recently, by-gone images and scenes of early life have stolen into my mind like breezes blown from the spice-islands of Youth and Hope — those twin realities of the phantom world!” Two weeks later, July 25, 1834, he died, and was buried in the churchyard near the house of Mr. Gillman where he had so long lived.
WALTER SCOTT, the ninth of the twelve children of Walter Scott, was born in Edinburgh August 15, 1771. His father was an attorney, a strictly honest and honorable man, very methodical and industrious, albeit somewhat formal and over-conventional. His mother, the daughter of Dr. John Rutherford, a professor of medicine in the University of Edinburgh, was a welleducated and tender-hearted woman, with a mind stored with memories of the past. Both father and mother were descended from prominent Scotch Border families, and Walter Scott throughout his whole life cherished fondly his love for the border chieftains and "lairds” of the bygone age, ever acknowledging and revering the living Duke of Buccleuch as the head of his own clan.
As a child Scott was not physically strong. When he was but a year and a half old he suffered from a fever that partly paralyzed his right leg and left him with a marked lameness through life. As a result of this weakness his education, although not neglected, was irregular. He never received the classical training that was considered essential at that time, but was left to indulge his own fancy in reading, in that way to excite his active imagination with the history and romance of the old Scottish clans and the border life. As the years passed, the health inherited from generations of border ancestors seems to have overcome his early weakness. He went regularly to school and later studied law in the courses at the University of Edinburgh. He was a natural leader in the frolics of his fellows, thus early winning friends by his engaging personality.
His father expected him to follow the law profession, and so at the age of sixteen took him into his office as an apprentice. He studied law hard for a number of years, striving, however, for one of the many lucrative appointments rather than for marked success at the bar. In 1799 he was appointed Sheriff-Deputy of Selkirkshire with a salary of three hundred pounds, and in 1806 he gained the reversion of the office of Clerk of Session, enjoying the emoluments of that office after 1812. His income from the two offices was, after 1812, sixteen hundred pounds a year.
During all of this period, however, he had combined with his study of the law a huge amount of study and research in literature, and especially in old Scottish legend and history. He learned the French and Italian languages that he might read the old romances and poetry of those tongues in the original; he collected Scottish Border ballads and enlisted all of his many friends in the search; he dug among the musty records in the libraries and acquired a rare skill in deciphering old manuscripts; he planned the publication of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, which appeared in two volumes in 1802; and all the time he was casting about in his mind for a subject for a great original work.
The suggestion that gave him his subject for his first great poem came from the Countess of Dalkeith, wife of the heir-apparent to the dukedom of Buccleuch. She asked Scott to write a ballad about the legend of the hobgoblin Gilpin Horner. In the poet's vivid imagination, the story grew until he had a framework for a picture of Border life and customs such as he had long wished to paint. Hence issued The Lay of the Last Minstrel, published in 1805. Its simplicity and interest of theme, ease and energy of style gained for it a favorable hearing from the critics and a wide popularity
During this year of 1805 Scott became a silent partner in the printing firm of James Ballan