« PreviousContinue »
this place our interest in it arises from the allusions it
contains to his beloved companion. He refers to the sweet sensations which, in hours of weariness in towns and cities, he has owed to the beauteous forms of Nature to which his mind has turned. He calls to memory the time when he had, indeed, loved Nature more passionately, and compares it with his present more mature and thoughtful affection, concluding with a fervid address to her who was by his side, and whose presence imparted an added charm—that of double vision—to every object and feeling; a sense of blessing shared —
“For thou art with me here upon the banks
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Although Coleridge was at this time married, his wife does not seem to have entered very warmly into his pursuits—not, indeed, with the same interest that Miss Wordsworth did. It cannot be out of place, since it is a matter of almost common knowledge, to remark that we have in Coleridge one more instance of the many men of genius who have not been very suitably mated. Mrs. Coleridge did not feel the sympathy in her husband's aims to enable her to take pleasure in their intellectual conversations or perpetual rambles. In both of these Miss Wordsworth delighted. De Quincey, in his uncontrollable propensity to chatter, has taken occasion from this fact to suggest that Mrs. Coleridge resented the familiar friendship of the poetic trio. Although not mentioning Miss Wordsworth by name, he refers to a young lady who became a neighbour and a daily companion of Coleridge's walks, and who was “intellectually much superior to Mrs. Coleridge” in a
way that shows that none other than Miss Wordsworth .
could be alluded to. He adds: “Mrs. Coleridge, not having the same relish for long walks or rural scenery, and their residence being at this time in a very sequestered village, was condemned to a daily renewal of this trial. Accidents of another kind embittered it still further. Often it would happen that the walking party returned drenched with rain; in which case the young lady, with a laughing gaiety, and evidently unconscious of any liberty that she was taking, or any wound that she was inflicting, would run up to Mrs. Coleridge's wardrobe, array herself, without leave asked, in Mrs. Coleridge's dresses, and make herself merry with her own unceremoniousness and Mrs. Coleridge's gravity. In all this she took no liberty that she would not most readily have granted in return ; she confided too unthinkingly in what she regarded as the natural privileges of friendship, and as little thought that she had been receiving or exacting a favour, as, under an exchange of their
relative positions, she would have claimed to confer one.” Although De Quincey states that the feelings of Mrs. Coleridge were moderated by the consideration of the kind-heartedness of the young lady, that she was always attended by her brother, and that mere intellectual sympathies in reference to literature and natural scenery associated them, it is to be regretted that the
perfectly innocent friendship should have been the cause
of this small gossip, a thing in which De Quincey rather delighted, and which sometimes mars the pleasurableness of his otherwise felicitous recollections. He was not at this time acquainted either with Coleridge or the Wordsworths, and the information could only have been derived from them during subsequent years of confidential friendship, and not intended for repetition. However it may have appeared to her then, Mrs. Coleridge had in the future much cause to be thankful for the disinterested friendship of Miss Wordsworth. How conducive to the best interests of her brother at this time was the companionship of Miss Wordsworth, and how complete was his restoration to a healthy and
. vigorous life after the political distractions of his Con
tinental experience, we gather from an allusion in the Biographia Literaria of Coleridge. Referring to his life at Nether Stowey, he says: “I was so fortunate as to acquire, shortly after my settlement there, an invaluable blessing in the society of one to whom I could
look up with equal reverence, whether I regarded him
as a poet, a philosopher, or a man. His conversation extended to almost all subjects, except physics and politics; with the latter he never troubled himself."
The residence of Miss Wordsworth and her poet brother at Alfoxden, was terminated by circumstances which serve to illustrate at once something of the political attitude of the times, and also of the mental condition of their rustic neighbours in Somersetshire. Coleridge tells an amusing story how he and Words. worth were followed and watched in their rambles by a person who was suspected to be a spy on their proceedings employed by the Government of the day. Whether this be well founded or not, the mere fact of two men living in their midst, without any apparent object, appears to have rather discomposed their neighbours. Why should they be continually spending their time in taking long and apparently purposeless rambles, engaged in earnest conversation? It was inconceivable that any one should walk a few miles in the light of . the moon merely to look at the sea!. They must be engaged in smuggling, or have other nefarious designs. In connection with this subject, there is one good story told. Some country gentlemen of the neighbourhood happened to be in the company of a party who were discussing the question whether Wordsworth and Coleridge might be traitors, and in correspondence with the French Administration, when one of them answered: “Oh as to that Coleridge, he is a rattlebrain that will say more in a week than he will stand to in a twelvemonth. But Wordsworth, he is the traitor. Why, bless you ! he is so close that you'll never hear him open his lips on the subject from year's end to year's end.” The public belief in the absurd theory of Wordsworth's traitorous designs was, however, sufficient to induce the