« PreviousContinue »
and inspirations, Pegasus, Parnassus, and Hippocrene, were all an abomination to him. In fancy I can almost hear him now, exclaiming “ Harp? Harp? Lyre? Pen and ink, boy, you mean! Muse, boy, Muse ? Your nurse's daughter, you mean! Pierian spring ? Oh aye! the cloister-pump, I suppose !" Nay certain introductions, similes, and examples, were placed by name on a list of interdiction. Among the similes, there was, I remember, that of the manchineel fruit, as suiting equally well with too many subjects; in which, however, it yielded the palm • at once to the example of Alexander and Clytus, which was equally good and apt, whatever might be the theme. Was it ambition ? Alexander and Clytus !-Flattery? Alexander and Clytus -Anger-drunkenness—pride—friendship-ingratitude -late repentance ?" Still, still Alexander and Clytus ! At length, the praises of agriculture having been exemplified in the sagacious observation that, had Alexander been holding the plough, he would not have run his friend Clytus through with a spear, this tried and serviceable old friend was banished by public edict in sæcula sæculorum. I have sometimes venturea to think, that a list of this kind, or an index expurgatorius]of certain well known and ever returning phrases, both introductory and transitional, including a large assortment of modest egoisms, and flattering illeisms, and the like, might be hung up in our Law-courts, and both Houses of Parliament, with great advan. tage to the public, as an important saving of national time, an incaleulable relief to his Majesty's ministers, but above all, as insuring the thanks of country attornies, and their clients, who have private bills to carry through the House.
Be this as it may, there was one custom of our master's, which I cannot pass over in silence, because I think it imitable and worthy of imitation. He would often permit our exercises, under
9 [*: This lecture he enriched with many valuable quotations from the ancients, particularly from Seneca; who hath, indeed, so well handled this passion, that none but a very angry man can read him without great pleasure and profit. The Doctor concluded his harangue with the famous story of Alexander and Clytus; but, as I find that entered in my Common. place, under title Drunkenness, I shall not insert it here.” The History of a Foundling, by Henry Fielding, book vi., chap. ix. Ed.]
some pretext of want of time, to accumulate, till each lad had four or five to be looked over. Then placing the whole number abreast on his desk, he would ask the writer, why this or that sentence might not have found as appropriate a place under this or that other thesis: and if no satisfying answer could be returned, and two faults of the same kind were found in one exer cise, the irrevocable verdict followed, the exercise was torn up and another on the same subject to be produced, in addition to the tasks of the day. The reader will, I trust, excuse this tri. bute of recollection to a man, whose severities, even now, not seldom furnish the dreams, by which the blind fancy would fain interpret to the mind the painful sensations of distempered sleep; but neither lessen nor dim the deep sense of my moral and in. tellectual obligations. He sent us to the University excellent] Latin and Greek scholars, and tolerable Hebraists. Yet our classical knowledge was the least of the good gifts, which we derived from his zealous and conscientious tutorage. He is now gone to his final reward, full of years, and full of honors, even of those honors, which were dearest, to his heart, as gratefully bestowed by that school, and still binding him to the interests of that school, in which he had been himself educated, and to which during his whole life he was a dedicated thing.
From causes, which this is not the place to investigate, no? models of past times, however perfect, can have the same vivid effect on the youthful mind, as the productions of contemporary genius. The discipline my mind had undergone, “ Ne falleretur? rotundo sono et versuum cursu, cincinnis, et floribus; sed ut in. spiceret quidnam subesset, quæ sedes, quod firmamentum, quis fundus verbis; an figuræ essent mera ornatura et orationis fucus; vel sanguinis e materiæ ipsius corde effluentis rubor quidam nativus et incalescentia genuina ;'°—removed all obstacles to the appreciation of excellence in style without diminishing my delight. That I was thus prepared for the perusal of Mr. Bowles's son. nets and earlier poems, at once increased their influence, and my
13 [I presume this Latin to be Mr. Coleridge's own—not being able to find the passage in any other author, and believing that incalescentia is a good word not countenanced by any classic writer of Rome EN )
r enthusiasm. The great works of past ages seem to a young man
things of another race, in respect of which his faculties must remain passive and submiss, even as to the stars and mountains. But the writings of a contemporary, perhaps not many years older than himself, surrounded by the same circumstances, and disciplined by the same manners, possess a reality for him, and inLspire an actual friendship as of a man for a man. His very ad. miration is the wind which fans and feeds his hope. The poems themselves assume the properties of flesh and blood. To recite, to extol, to contend for them is but the payment of a debt due to one who exists to receive it.
There are indeed modes of teaching which have produced, and are producing, youths of a very different stamp; modes of teach. ing, in comparison with which we have been called on to despise our great public schools, and universities,
in whose halls are hung
modes, by which children are to be metamorphosed into prodigies. And prodigies with a vengeance have I known thus produced prodigies of self-conceit, shallowness, arrogance, and infidelity! Instead of storing the memory, during the period when the memory is the predominant faculty, with facts for the after exercise of the judgment; and instead of awakening by the noblest models the fond and unmixed love and admiration, which is the natural and graceful temper of early youth; these nurslings of improved pedagogy are taught to dispute and decide; to suspect all but their own and their lecturer's wisdom; and to hold nothing sacred from their contempt, but their own contemptible arrogance -boy-graduates in all the technicals, and in all the dirty pasLsions and impudence of anonymous criticism. To such dispositions alone can the admonition of Pliny be requisite, “Neque enim debet operibus ejus obesse, quod vivit. An si inter eos, quos nunquam vidimus, floruisset, non solum libros ejus, verum etiam imagines conquireremus, ejusdem nunc honor præsentis, et gratia quasi satietate languescet ? At hoc pravum, malignumque est,
t non admirari hominem admiratione dignissimum, quia videre, complecti, nec laudare tantum, verum etiam amare contingit."19
I had just entered on my seventeenth year, when the sonnets of Mr. Bowles, twenty in number, and just then published in a quarto pamphlet,' were first made known and presented to me, by a schoolfellow who had quitted us for the University, and who, during the whole time that he was in our first form (or in our school language a Grecian), had been my patron and protector. I refer to Dr. Middleton, the truly learned, and every way ex. cellent Bishop of Calcutta :
qui laudibus amplis
It was a double pleasure to me, and still remains a tender recollection, that I should have received from friend so revered the first knowledge of a poet, by whose works, year after year, I was so enthusiastically delighted and inspired. My earliest acquaintances will not have forgotten the undisciplined eagerness 1
។ and impetuous zeal, with which I laborted to make proselytes, not only of my companions, but of all with whom I conversed, o. whatever rank, and in whatever place. As my school finances did not permit me to purchase copies, I made, within less than a year and a half, more than forty transcriptions, as the best presents I could offer to those, who had in any way won my regard. And with almost equal delight did I receive the three or four fol. lowing publications of the same author.
Though I have seen and known enough of mankind to be well 1 aware, that I shall perhaps stand alone in my creed, and that it
12 (Epist. I., p. 16. Ed.]
13 [The volume here mentioned appears to have been the second edition of Mr. Bowles's Sonnets, published in 1789, and containing twenty-one in number. The first edition with fourteen sonnets only had been published half a year previously. Ed.)
14 [Petrarc Epist. I., 1. Barbato Subnonensi. Bishop Middleton left Christ's Hospital on the 26th of September, 1788, on having been elected to Pembroke College, Cambridge. Ed
will be well, if I subject myself to no worse charge than that of singularity ; I am not, therefore, deterred from avowing, that I regard, and ever have regarded the obligations of intellect among the most sacred of the claims of gratitude. A valuable thought, or a particular train of thoughts, gives me additional pleasure, when I can safely refer and attribute it to the conversation or correspondence of another. My obligations to Mr. Bowles were indeed important, and for radical good. At a very premature age, even before my fifteenth year,
I had bewildered myself in metaphysics, and in theological controversy. Nothing else
16 pleased me. History, and particular facts, lost all interest in my mind. Poetry—(though for a school-boy of that age, I was above par in English versification, and had already produced two or three compositions which, I may venture to say, without reference
id to my age, were somewhat above mediocrity,18 and which had gained me more credit than the sound, good sense of my old master was at all pleased with)-poetry itself, yea, novels and romances, became insipid to me. : In my friendless wanderings on our leave-days" (for I was an orphan, and had scarcely any connexions in London), highly was I delighted, if any passenger especially if he were dressed in black, would enter into conversation with me. For I soon found the means of directing it to my favorite subjects
15 (“Come back into memory,” says Lamb, “like as thou wast in the day-spring 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 cloister stand still, intranced with admiration (while he weighed the disproportion between the speech and the garb of the young Mirandula), to hear thee unfold, in thy deep and sweet intonations, the mysteries of Lamblichus, or Plotinus (for even in those years thou waxed not pale at such philosophic draughts), or reciting Homer in his Greek, or Pindar,—while the walls of the old Grey Friars re-echoed to the accents of the inspired charity. boy." Prose Works, II., p. 46. Ed.]
16 [See ainongst his Juvenile Poems the lines entitled, Time Real and Imaginary (Poet. Works, I.), which is the first decided indication of his poetic and metaphysical genius together, and was written in his sixteenth year. Ed]
17 The Christ's Hospital phrase, not for holidays altogether, but for those on which the boys are permitted to go beyond the precincts of the school.