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46 LIFE OF SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
described as wrath beyond words, though a reasonable, or unreasonable, supply of words appears to have been forthcoming. But Coleridge was himself married by this time, and we may suspect that his anger (if he felt any, which Southey denied) was akin to that of Hamlet when he finds his uncle praying-a colourable cover for a personal exit. Poor Robert Lovell took a fever at Salisbury, and died; and George Burnet, and the intelligent young man from America, dropped as surely out of the history. So did Pantisocrasy go to the wall ; and twenty-six adventurers, who were to have regenerated society, went quietly back to the world.
*OLERIDGE took a cottage at Clevedon, near
Bristol. It was a pretty little place, one storey high, with a rose-tree peeping in at the chamber window. The parlour was whitewashed, but then the rent was only five pounds a year.
A young couple who had made up their minds to a hut in the clearing of a forest, where the bison and the Red Indian were not unknown, could hardly be unhappy in a primitive little cabin on the banks of the Severn. Coleridge was fully content, and took a practical view of his environment. me," he writes to Cottle, "a riddle slice, a candlebox, two glasses for the wash-hand stand, one dustpan, one small tin tea-kettle, one pair of candlesticks, a Bible, a keg of porter," etc., etc. The bookseller sent the poet everything, not forgetting the Bible, in which Coleridge duly entered the date of his marriage, leaving spaces for the entry, in due time, of the births of his children. Mrs. Coleridge was a happy young wife in these early days. Coleridge used to say that, like his mother, she had no meretricious accomplishments. She was “an honest, simple, lively-minded, affectionate woman.” Pretty and agreeable, able to sing a little, and
even to write poetry that was far from contemptible, she was a comfortable and a practical wife for a man of somewhat changeable temper. Coleridge had now drifted into literature as a profession. His two inexorable taskmasters, bread and cheese, made no terms with any less material deities, and even poetry had to make way for a pursuit that should be something more than its “own exceeding great reward." While passing his volume of poems through the press, he was writing for The Morning Chronicle and The Critical Review. His prospects were doubtful, his earnings uncertain, and he had many projects. Not long after settling at Clevedon he was offered a school at Derby. About the same time he had the chance of a Unitarian pulpit at Nottingham. A tutorship at Bristol came his way, and Roscoe invited him to pitch his tent in Liverpool. The editor of The Morning Chronicle offered a sort of joint-editorship, and he was tempted to remove to London. “I am forced to write for my bread !” he says ; “ write the flights of poetic enthusiasm, when every minute I am hearing a groan from my wife! Groans and complaints and sickness! . . . The future is cloud and darkness ! Poverty, perhaps, and the thin faces of them that want bread, looking up at me!” This was written in a passing fit of despondency, but the general sense conveyed of uncertainty and anxiety was sufficiently abiding. Coleridge thought he had solved the problem of livelihood necessity, when one day he conceived the idea of a weekly journal. It was to be a newspaper, review, and annual register combined. The title was to be The Watchman, and the miscellany was to “cry the state of the political
atmosphere.” It was to be published every eighth day. Coleridge first called' a meeting of friends in Bristol, to discuss the project, and then set out on a canvassing tour for subscribers through the Midland and Northern counties, armed with many copies of a flaming prospectus. Surely no such canvasser ever before “ took the road ;” and the story of the canvass is probably the most humorous narrative that ever came from Coleridge's, pen. His campaign began at Birmingham, and his first attack was on a rigid Calvinist, a tallow-chandler by trade. With plentiful lack of worldly wisdom, the young author, trading on his own account, commenced an harangue of half-an-hour, varying his notes through the whole gamut of eloquence, from the ratiocinative to the declamatory. He argued, he promised, he prophesied, and beginning with the captivity of nations, he ended with the near approach of the millennium. The man of tallow listened with noble patience, and then said, after a pause, “And what, sir, might the cost be?” “Only fourpence!” Oh, the bathos of that fourpence! There was another pause, and then the man of lights said, “That comes to a deal of money at the end of the year. How much did you say there would be for the money? Thirty-two pages ? Bless me! Why, except what I does in a family way on the Sabbath, that's more than I ever reads, sir, all the year round. I am as great a one as any man in Brummagen, sir, for liberty and truth, and all them sort of things, but as to this, no offence, I hope, sir, I must beg to be excused.”
So ended Coleridge's first canvass. On the opening night of the tour he was to meet a number of political
friends and discuss the projected miscellany. After dinner, his host importuned him to smoke a pipe. The poet declined, chiefly on the ground that he had never smoked since the nights at the “Salutation," and then it had been herb tobacco, mixed with oronokoo. Assured that the tobacco in this instance was equally mild, and being of a disposition that made it hard to say no, Coleridge took half a pipe; but giddiness ensued, and the pipe was soon abandoned. Then he sallied forth to meet his friends at the house of a Birmingham minister. The walk and the fresh air intensified the unpleasant symptoms of sickness, and he had scarcely entered the minister's drawing-room, when he sank back on the sofa in a swoon. There he lay, with a face like a wall that is whitewashed, deadly pale, and with cold drops of perspiration running down from his forehead, when one by one the gentlemen dropped in who had been invited to meet and spend the evening with him. The effects of the tobacco wore off, and the poet looked round on the party, his bleared eyes blinking in the candle-light. To relieve the embarrassment, one of the patriots said, “Have you seen a paper to-day, Mr. Coleridge?” Coleridge raised himself, and rubbed his eyes. “Sir," he said, in a solemn tone, “I am far from convinced that a Christian is permitted to read either newspapers or any other works of merely political and temporal interest." The ludicrous incongruity of the remark was too much for the risibility of the Birmingham gentlemen, and there was an involuntary burst of laughter, in which, after a moment's reflection, the poet joined.