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period, and even of some writers who merit a less dishonouring name, that Coleridge was guilty in respect to the wife of his host. The charge was shameful, and worse than false. Though Coleridge lived more than twenty years apart from his wife, the breath of scandal did not touch him otherwise than in this regard. Men like Stuart who had no desire to extol Coleridge's virtues, and other witnesses quite as hostile, to whom a moral dereliction could hardly be a mortal offence, were loud in praise of the purity of his walk in life. Coleridge was naturally a man of bounding animal spirits, but, as we see in the records of Dr. Carlyon, his companion during the German tour, his animal spirits were those of a healthy boy. Even those suspicions of excess at the time of enlistment which his family entertained and some hostile critics have perpetuated, are seen to be groundless. If Coleridge was at any period guilty of offence against the moral law it must have been in those early days when, as he says, he knew “just so much of folly" as "made maturer years more wise.” In later years his walk became, more than ever, that of a man who had never so much as a temptation to such offence. It is a curious fact, which any careful reader of his letters may verify, that when he became a slave to opium, his spiritual consciousness became more active, and his watchfulness of the encroachments of the baser impulses of his nature more keen. If his excesses in this regard were what Southey described them, guilty animal indulgences, it is a strange problem in psychology why the whole spiritual nature of the man should undergo a manifest exaltation. Every one who was brought into contact with Coleridge in the
darkest days of his subjection to opium, observed this extraordinary moral transfiguration. Cottle noticed it; Wordsworth described it in words that few of us who love Coleridge can read without tears; even Stuart in his dunderheaded way remarked that from 1808 to 1814 he never once heard Coleridge use a sentence that would have dishonoured “a clergyman." Southey did not observe this curious change, but that was because he saw next to nothing of Coleridge after January, 1804, except during a few months of 1806 and of 1810.
HE story of this broken life is all but told. Dis
appointed in his hopes as an author, depressed by his debts for board and lodgings, harassed by anxieties about his son who was now at Oxford, conscious that the allowance made to his wife—the moiety of the Wedgewood pension-was barely sufficient for her needs, Coleridge's health and spirits flagged. Towards December, 1817, Wordsworth wrote to John Payne Collier to solicit his interest in a new course of lectures projected by Coleridge. “He is now far from well in body or spirits,” Wordsworth writes, “the former is suffering from various causes, and the latter from depression.” Charles Lamb warmly seconded Wordsworth's efforts on Coleridge's behalf.
“ He is in bad health,” wrote Lamb, “and worse mind, and unless something is done to lighten his heart, he will soon be reduced to extremities; and even these,” the inveterate punster added, "are not in
* His first son was sent up to the University in 1815, and at this, the darkest period of Coleridge's slavery to opium, Southey generously got together a subscription to defray the necessary expenses. When it became necessary to make provision for the residence of the younger son at Cambridge, Coleridge found himself equal to a father's du in that regard.
the best condition." The result of the efforts put forth, partly by Collier, but mainly by Coleridge, was that a course of fourteen lectures was delivered in Fleur de Luce Court, Fetter Lane, in 1818, beginning the 27th of January and ending in March. Shakespeare was the subject of three of these lectures, and the remaining lectures of the course were devoted to a wide range
of literature. Coleridge was not in his best condition, but the lectures were by much the most successful he ever delivered, both as to the number of his auditors and the extent of his earnings. He appears to have kept his engagements at this period as faithfully as in 1806, and in 1811-12.
It seems probable that his earnings from these lectures of 1818 were about one hundred and fifty pounds. Such a sum would have been of material service at this juncture but for an untoward circumstance already alluded to in general terms. This was the failure of his publishers early in 1819. The disaster was of vital consequence to Coleridge. It is difficult to realize what the precise relations may have been in which Coleridge stood to his publishers. The firm in question had published everything put forth by Coleridge later than “Christabel” in 1816, and that was published by Murray. Thus they held the "Biographia Literaria," "Sibylline Leaves," “Zapolya," and a remodelled edition of The Friend. If they bargained for the copyright, or, as seems probable, for the half-copyright, it is clear that they had not paid the price; if they were responsible to the author for royalties, it is no less clear that an important sum was still due from them. The puzzling fact is the sequel.
In order to recover possession of his works Coleridge paid into the bankrupt estate the whole sum of his earnings from the lectures delivered in Fleur de Luce Court, and in addition to this payment he became chargeable with a debt of something like fifty pounds. Coleridge's letters on this subject are inconclusive; only the recovery of original documents would make the circumstances clear. What is abundantly evident is that, after the rapid exaltation of his hopes, which came of the undoubted success of a strong effort, Coleridge was as suddenly cast back into pecuniary difficulties and the depression of soul that accompanied them. It was as though the Nemesis of disaster dogged his steps. Again and again he protested in his letters that whatever the measure of his responsibility for talents wasted, he had never been free from anxiety for his material welfare. He said no more than any impartial view of his life will prove to be true. In the darkest hour of his subjection to opium, in the lowest depths of what his friends knew by the name of indulgence, he worked as few men can work even under conditions the most favourable to their temperaments. The silly cuckoo-cry that Coleridge abandoned himself to idle dreams, and took single pounds in charity when he might have earned hundreds by vigorous effort, has come to us in part from the lips of a man who was so far from labouring under the long odds of physical health and monetary failure by which Coleridge's life was constantly hampered, that he could not do his daily work if a cock crew in the street, or if a dog barked in the next garden.
What little remains to be told of Coleridge's life is as