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(Coleridge's Biographia Literaria ; De Quincey's Lake Poets ; Haz. litt, First Acquaintance with Poets ; Cottle, Reminiscences of Coleridge and Southey ; Traill, Coleridge (E.M.L.); Caine, Coleridge (G.W.8.); Brandl, Coleridge and the English Romantic Movement. Essays of Pater, Sarrazin, Shairp, Swinburne, etc. The best editions are Macmillan's, 1880, four vols., and J. Dykes Campbell's, one vol.)
The Romantic Movement, which has given us all the great literature of this century, has two names that definitely mark the beginning of its glory, Wordsworth and Coleridge. Others prepared the way; others revealed more or less tentatively some of the characteristics of the Movement; traces of it may be found as early as Gray, who died in 1771, and whose Journal in the Lakes displays a spirit kindred to that of the poet of Grasmere ; traces of it may be found in Burns, in whom tender feeling and passion join with appreciation of the beauty possible in the meanest flower and the humblest life. Cowper, too, felt the thrill of communion with Nature, and had a heart that went out to all weak and helpless creatures. Gray, Burns, and Cowper, then, all felt the impulse of a new life; but this new life was manifested clearly and unmistakably first in two names, Coleridge and Wordsworth.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, S.T.C., as he was fond of calling himself, was born on the 21st of October, 1772, youngest son of a kindly pedantic man, priest and pedagogue in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, on whom the scriptural blessing of many children had already been bestowed. The future poet and metaphysician was remarkable even in boyhood. His life had no childhood, and none of the sports of children. The spirit of the boy was withdrawn into reading or meditation, driven from life in motion to life in thought and sensation,' as he himself says. He began writing poetry before he was ten years old. When the death of his father broke his home ties, the boy passed to Christ's Hospital (School), London, to be clad in blue coat and yellow stockings, and turred loose among some hundreds of boys dressed in similar coats and stockings, underfed, overflogged. Coleridge made his mark as a scholar, and yet, tradition says, had many an extra lash from the headmaster because he was so ugly.' The discipline was severe and the life unsympathetic, to an extent that the boy was once tempted to escape and learn shoemaking from a friendly cobbler. Yet the school could not restrain the spirit
On the leaden roof
See trees, and meadows, and thy native stream. Here are six lines written before Coleridge was fifteen years old, the last one especially noteworthy as showing how early the gift of imaginative expression had come to him.
O fair is love's first hope to gentle mind !
In 1788 he wrote Time, Real and imaginary, which we quote elsewhere, which exhibits the abstract and philosophic turn that even at this early period his mind had taken.' Lamb, who entered the school in 1782, records the general admiration of his fellows for a boy who was 'logician, metaphysician, bard':-"How have I seen," says the genial Elia, “the casual passer through the cloister stand still, entranced with admiration (while he weighed the disproportion between the speech and garb of the young Mirandula), to hear thee unfold in thy deep and sweet intonations the mysteries of Iamblicus or Plotinus (for even in those years thou waxedst not pale at such philosophic drafts), or reciting Homer in the Greek, or Pindar, while the walls of old Grey Friars re-echoed with the accents of the inspired charity-boy."
The last years of his schooldays are marked by various passions, — for Voltaire, for medicine (his brother was a student in London Hospital), for Miss Evans, a neighbouring dressmaker, and for the poetry of William Lisle Bowles. This last exercised a permanent influence, confirming his poetic taste in the principles of the new literary movement. It is interesting to know that Wordsworth likewise, as early as 1783, read Bowles' sonnets, and that Southey took him for a model.
In February, 1791, Coleridge entered Cambridge, just as Wordsworth was leaving. His university life was not a success. He won a medal for a Greek ode, it is true, but what pleased him most was to fill his rooms with students enthusiastic over the great times that were then dawning gloriously upon the world. The liberty of man, the doctrines of Priestly, Frend, Godwin, the new poetry, that general renaissance of the human spirit, when
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was heaven ! These were the topics that then fired young men's minds, and were the themes of the rapt monologue of the undergraduate Coleridge. Suddenly, no one knows why, the enthusiast disappeared. When he was discovered, or when his Latinity betrayed him, he was Silas Titus Comberback, trooper in the awkward squad of Elliott's Light Dragoons.
Returning to Cambridge, Coleridge found a new object for his enthusiasm in Wordsworth's Descriptive Sketches, which had just been published and which he alone was able to appreciate. “Seldom, if ever," he said,
was the emergence of an original poetic genius above the horizon more evidently announced.” Then a vacation ramble gave him the company and friendship of Southey, the most heterodox and republican spirit in Oxford. When Coleridge returned from a trip to Wales, the two friends met at Bristol, and in Bristol their scheme to bring about a regenerate world was debated, planned, and—not carried out. They were to found a society in America on conditions of ideal equality, Pantisocracy. The Miss Frickers were willing to go, and as Lovell had married one, and Southey was about to marry another, Coleridge concluded it was but proper to engage himself to a third. Burnet proposed to a fourth, but she concluded to wait. Wives, however, were easier to procure than money, and they needed £2,000 to realize their ideal. Cottle, the warm-hearted bookseller, offered Coleridge thirty guineas for his poems, and made the same offer to Southey. The Pantisocrats immediately married, and Southey, having a tempting chance to go to Portugal, departed for Lisbon ; Lovell left for a longer journey; while Coleridge, with