MR. GILLMAN's LIFE OF COLERIDGE.
THE addiction of COLERIDGE to opium, and its baleful effects upon him, ate known to the leaders oldie Spectator front Mr. COT- TLE'S Early Recollections, if from no other source. After continu- ing opium-eating for some short time beyond the period when that work clom s, COLERIDGE determined if possible to break his chain; and in 1816 took up Isis residence with Mr. Gi LUJAN, a surgeon at Highgate, with the view, apparently, of subjecting himself to medical tteatment, and, if needful, positive coercion—for he writes -as follows when arranging the terms on which he is to be received.
" No sixty hours have yet passed without my having taken laudanum, though for the last week comparatively trifling doses. I have full belief that your anxiety need not be extended beyond the titan week ; and for the first week I shull not, I tnust not be permitted to leave your house, unless with you. Delicately or indelicately, this must be done ; and both the set vents and the assistant must receive absolute commands from you. The stimulus of conversation suspends the terror that haunts my mind ; but when I am alone, the horrors I have suf- fered from laudanum, the degradation, the blighted utility, almost overwhelm me. If (as I feel for the first time a soothing confidence it will prove) I should leave you restored to my moral anti bodily health, it is not myself only that will love and honour : you every friend I have, (and, thank God, in spite of thi wretched vice, I have many and warm ones, who were friends of any youth, and have never deserted me,) will thank you with reverence."
How far this hope was realized, we cannot tell ; for the first volume (the only one yet published) closes shortly after COLE- RIDGE'S removal to Highgate. But the connexion was so far for- tunate, that with a fixed home, it gave CosnainGE the settled habits of one; and with Mr. GILLMAN he lived in regularity and quiet, if not in peace and satisfaction, until his death.
Situated as Mr. Gissm AN was with regard IO COLERIDGE, 110 man enjoyed better opportunities than he did as a biographer for the last twenty sears of Ins hero's life. For his family history, and Isis youthful days, he has—besides some manuscript notes of COLERIDGE, the pith of many remembrances which "the old man eloquent" was wont to pour out, upon his parents. his boy- hood's borne, and his school-days; nor do we immediately re- member a better, though many a longer biographical account of such points, than is contained its the opening pages. The sojourn of COLERIDGE at the University, and his career as a soldier, are brief, yet sutticient to us, who had no knowledge of this epoch ; but his first appearance as an author—his residence at Bristol—his marriage—and his different adventures during the itinerant journies to lecture, to collect subscribers for his Watchman, and to preach as an Unitarian teacher—are all meagre enough. Nor is the sub- sequent life much better from about1798 to 1816; during which pe- riod COLERIDGE made an excursion its Germany ; became, on his return, connected with the Morning Post—"lent to the Morning Post his aristocracy ;" and afterwards visited Italy and Malta ter the recovery of his health ; at the latter place filling pro tempore the office of public secretary, an employment which he was too ill or too idle to be pleased with. Throughout all this long period, not much is told, and what is told is general. This may perhaps arise from want of materials, or want of skill ; but there is an im- pression left upon the mind that something is kept out of sight. Leaving, till we have the whole before us, any attempt at a connected view of the life and character of COLERIDGE, we will confine ourselves to the narrative of his early days previous to the time when Comat takes up the theme. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was born at Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, in 1772; the youngest of ten children. IIis father was the pastor of the parish, and a man of such absence of mind, and primitive simplicity, as to have borne a striking resemblance to FIELDING'S Parson Adams. His mother was a more prudent person—hard-headed and managing. The peculiarities of neither parent seem to have had much direct effect upon the future cha- racter of their son ; unless it were in permitting the boyish mis- chievousness of others, and his own habits, to foster a natural dreaminess of disposition. Even in this early period of life one can see the germs of the future man.
"Being the youngest child, I possibly inherited the weakly state of health of my father, who died at the age of sixty-two, before I had reached my seventh year ; and fiorn eettain jealousies of old Molly, my brother Frank's doatingly fond nurse (and if ever child by beauty and loveliness deserved to be doted on, nay brother Francis was that child), and by the infusions of her jealou-y into my brother's mind, I was in earliest childhood huffed away from the enjoyments of muscular activity from play, to take refuge at my mother's side, on my little stool, to read my little book, and to listen to the talk of my elders. I was driven from life in motion to life in thought and sensation. I never played ex- cept by myself, and then only acting over what I had been reading or fancying, or half oue half the other, with a stick cutting down weeds and nettles, as one of the Seven Champion of Christendom. Alan! I had all the simplicity, all the docility of the little child, but none of the child's habits. I never thought as a child, never had the language of a child. I forget whether it was in my fifth or sixth year, but I believe the latter, in consequence of some quarrel between ma and my brother, in the first week in October, I ran away, from fear of being whipped ; and passed the whole night, a night of rain and storm, on the bleak aide of a hill on the Otter, and was there found, at daybreak, without the power of using my limbs, about six yard. from the naked basket the river." his seventh year he lost his father; and Judge BULLER. vain had been educated by the old gentleman, This mode of life, however, did not continuperovmeirmly tTil_n; charge of SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, and procured him ad. mission to the Blue-coat School. The change does not appear to have been for the better. With his morbid feelings, he wai thrown amongst unsyrnpathizing strangers; wiathinjuredacolistitbu naturally delicate, he was exposed to the hardships of a Public by school, under the management of a severe pedagogue, and wish a scanty allowance of food ; and his health was pastimes and hunger induced by a culpable practice of turning the school loose on certain" whole days," without regard to hoW the boys disposed of their time, or what means they might have of subsistence. His feelings and sufferings at this period of life have been so fully described by his biographer, and by CHARLES LAMB in one of his Essays, which, though written in the first person, is known to have personified COLERIDGE, that we has better let them speak for themselves.
.1, I (Coleridge) was a poor friendlessboy ; my parents, and those who should have cared for roe, were far away. Those few acquaintances of theirs which they could reckon upon being kind to me in the great city, aftee a little forced notice which they had the grace to take of me on my first arrival in tows, soon grew tired of my holyday visits. They seemed to thou to recur mu sites, though I thought them few enough; one after another they all failed me, and I felt myself alone among six hundred playmates-0 the cruelty of separating a poor lad from his early homestead ! The yearnings which I used to have to. wards it in those unfledged years ! How in my dreame would my native to conic hack (far in the West) with its churches anti trees and faces ! "Su this late hour of his life, and even to the end of it, did Coleridge trace imprentota left by the painful recollections of these friendless holydays. The' wenn days of summer never return but they bring with them a gloom from the haunting memory of those whole day's leave, when by some strange arrange- ment we were turned out for the livelong day, upon our own hands, wlatbet we had friends to go to or none. I remember those bathing excursions to the New River, which Lamb recalls with such relish, better. I think, than he cin; for he was a humoseeking lad, and did not care for such water•parties, floe we would sally forth into the fields, and strip under the first warmth of the sun, and wanton like young dace in the streams, getting appetites for the noon ; which those of us that were penniless (our scanty morning cruet long since exhausted) had not the means of allaying, while the cattle, and the birds, and the fishes were at feed about us, and we had nothing to satisfy our crar. ings ; the very beauty of the day, and the exercise of the pastime, and the sense of liberty setting a keener edge upon them. How faint and languid, finally, we would return toward nightfall to our desired morsel, half-rejoicing, halfireluctatn, that the hours of uneasy liberty had expire!. " It was worse in the days of winter, to go prowling about the streets ob. jectless ; shivering at cold windows ofprint.ehops, to extract a little amu4e. ment : or haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a little novelty, to pay a fifty. timesrepeateriViSit (where our individual faces would be as well known to the Warden as those of his own charges) to the lions in the Tower, to whose levee by courtesy immemorial, we had a prescriptive right of admission."—Ennytof Ella.
In his bathing excursions he had greatly injured his health and reduced his strength. In one of these bathing exploits he swam across the New Ricer in his clothes, and dried them in the fields on his back. Froin these excursion, comtnenced those bodily sufferings which embittered the rest of Lis life, sod rendered it truly one of sickness and suffering. When a boy, he had a remark. ably delicate white skin, which was once the cause of great punishment to him. His dame hail undertaken to cure him of the itch, with which the bop of his ward had suffered much ; but Coleridge was doomed to suffer mote the his comrades, from the use of sulphur ointment, through the great sagacity of his dame, who with her extraordinary eyes aided by the power of glasses could see the malady in the skin deep and out of common vision; and cons sequently, as often as she employed this miraculous sight, she found or thought she found fresh reasons for continuing the fiction, to the prolonged suffering and mortification of her patieut. This occurred when he was about tight years of age, and gave rise to his first attempt at making a verse, as follows:
" 0 Lord, have mercy on me I For I ant very sadl
For why, good Lord? I've got the itch.
And eke I've gut the lad," the school name for ringworm.
Such were the results of his Blue-coat School training upon a delicate body. We will next pass to the facts which had a ten- dency to operate upon his intellect and disposition ; though here it is more difficult to appreciate effects. An active, inquisitive, thoughtful mind, like that of COLERIDGE, would always have acquired whatever knowledge was within its grasp ; and it does not appear that lie learned much more at Christ's Hospital than he would have done at any other school were classics were taught. It is harder still to pass a judgment as to the effect upon his habits. One thing is clear, that the severe discipline of the school, enforced by a severe master, did not produce regularity, self-control, or working industry. But it is equally doubtful, whether a training more attentive to his individual peculiarities would have been followed by a different result. This, however, the Blue-coat School did for him—it sent him to the University, and placed independence and learned leisure within his grasp, had he not thrown away his chance or rather his certainty. The incident which was the first cause of this good fortune, is so singular and characteristic in several points, that we will let Mr. GILLMAN tell it.
He was to be found during play-hours often with the knees of his breeches
unbuttoned and his shoes down at the heel, walking to and fro, or sitting on step, or in a corner, deeply engaged in some book. This hail attracted the no. tree of Middleton, at that time a deputy Grecian ; who, going up to him one day, asked what lie was reading ; the answer was " Virgil." " Are yox then," said M., " studyiug your lesson ?'' " No," said C., " I am reading it for pleasure ;" for he bad not yet arrived at Virgil in his class studies. This struck Middleton as something so peculiar, that be mentioned it to the He Master, as Coleridge was then in the Grammar-school
of the classical school), and doing the work of the lower boys. The Reverend James Bowyer, who was at that time Head Master, a quick discerning aims
(which is the lower part but hasty and severe, sent for the Master of the Grammar-school, Jul inquired about Coleridge : from him he learnt that he was • dull and inapt scholar, tad that he could not be made to repeat a aiNgle rule of syntax, although he wag
1..."7""''e ia own way. This brought Coleridge before Bowyer ; and to
ols'eairrcuumstance may be attributed the notice which be afterwards took of bim c- the school and his scholars were every thing to him, and Coleridge's neg. lett artd coccielstiess never went unpuntshed. I have often heard him say, he rdinary a looking boy, with his black head, that Bowyer generally gave WI'"
at the end of a flogging an extra tut ; " for," said he, " you are such an t agly fellow .e Ofthe school business he says himself—" My talents and superiority made me for ever at the bead in my routine of study, though utterly without a spark of ambition ; and as to emulation, it had no meaning for me ; but the difference between rae and my form-fellows, in our lessons and exercises, bore no proportion to the measureless difference between me and them in wide, wild, wilderness of useless, unarranged book knowledge, and book thoughts." The way in which he gained the power of acquiring this book knowledge, is so singular as to go beyond romance. From eight to fourteen I was a playlesa day-dreamer, a helluo librarum ; miy appetite for which was indulged by a singular incident: estranger, who was struck by my conversation, made me free of a coculating library in King Street, Cbeapside." The incident, indeed, was singular : going down the Strand, in one of his day-dreams, fancying himself swimming across the Hel- lespont, thrusting his hands before him as in the act of swimming, hie hand come in contact with a gentleman's pocket ; the gentleman seized his hand, turning round and looking at hint with some anger, "What, so young, and so wicked tthe same time accused him of an attempt to pick his pocket: the frightened boy sobbed out his denial of the intention, and explained to him how
bethought himself Leander swimming across the Hellespont. The gentleman was so struck and delighted with the novelty of the thing, and with the sim- plicity sad intelligence of the boy, that he subscribed, as before stated, to the library ; in consequence of which Coleridge was further enabled to indulge his
Iowa reading. • • "I read,' says lie," through the catalogue, folios and all, whether I tinder- stood them or did not understand them ; running all risks in skulking out to get the two volumes which I was entitled to have daily. Conceive what I must have been at fourteen : I was in a continual low fever. My whole being was, with eyes closed to every object of present sense, to crumple myself up 10 a sunny corner, and read, read, read ; fancy myself on Robinson Crusoe's
&ding a mountain of plum-cake, and eating a room for myself, and then eating it into the shapes of table and chairs—hunger and fancy !"
Notwithstanding BOWYER'S selection of COLERIDGE as one of the scholars to be sent to Cambridge, he himself did as much as he unconsciously could to mar the scheme. The persons who behaved the most kindly to him in London were a poor shoemaker and his wife. The kindly feelings of COLERIDGE were so excited in con- sequence, that he wished to become his apprentice ; but when the pair waited upon BOWYER with the proposition, he burst into such a rage that the shoemaker was fairly frightened front his presence. On a brother's arrival in town to walk the hospitals, nothing would serve COLERIDGE but to become a surgeon; and he de- voured all the medical works within his reach, besides stealing down on holy days to the London Ilo,pital to assist the dressers. Under ninny masters of foundation-schools, a still more serious impediment would have intervened ; for, after reading VOLTAIRE'S " Philosophical Dictionary," SAMUEL TAYLOR, in his own phrase, "sported the infidel ;" which coming to Bows-F.11's ears, he told him he would dog his infidelity out of him,—and immediately and effectively proceeded to suit the action to the word.
In spite of all the obstacles, however, which these peculiarities nised up against him, to Cambridge he went in his nineteetith year, with high expectations formed from his acquirements, his School themes both in verse and prose, and his powers of conti- nuous outpouring, (for conversation it was not,) which distin- guished him even in those early years. But these hopes were dis- appointed. He wanted regular application to specific purposes; he wasted his time in talking, and in any reading but that which the uses of the place required ; and, removed from the despotic discipline of his old master, he indulged in oddities and irregu- larities, which gave rise to reports affecting his character, and caused even his family to consider him given up to debauchery. Once he competed for a scholarship, and failed; the present Bishop BUTLER being his successful opponent. Ile was also dashed at the failure of his friend MIDDLETON, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, in his University career ; and fretted by college debts, which he had foolishly contracted, and which, though nominally small, were large to him, as they were beyond his means. In this state of mind, he eloped from the University ; wandered about the streets of London; and, after giving away all his cash to beggars, inlisted in a regiment of dragoons, despite the senti- ment and generosity of a rare recruiting-sergeant. Hew the regi- ment kept him, we cannot conceive, for he could not guide his horse, and he was deficient in all the points of soldierly discipline : but his friendliness and powers of talk made him a fvourite, till,
at the end of some months, he was discovered, arid sent back to Cambridge.
But he soon after quitted the University, without taking a degree; determined by the example of SountEse, with whom he had made a college friendship, to follow literature as a profession. Leaving Cambridge the pair bent their steps towards Bristol, with the project of Pantisocracy in their beads, and, according to Mr. COTTLE, very little money in their pockets. And to that gentle- Burly Recollections, or to our notice of it, (in No. 462, 6th May 1837,) as must refer the reader who wishes for the particu- lars of COLERIDGE'S first adventures in authorship, and his mar- riage, together with the next steps in the development of his chat aim% This Life of Coleridge is accompanied by a third volume of his Literary Remains. What resemblance the third volume may
but its subjects the two former, we know not, as we have never seen them;
II subjects are all religious, and for the most part consist of
the notes of COLERIDGE upon Scriptural passages or religious
works. As exhibiting his views, they are not without a general interest in a biographical sense, and will doubtless be valuable to the theologian ; but their discussional character neither requires nor well admits of any particular notice in our columns.