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1800 he wrote the second part of “Christabel.” There is little or no attempt at what is called local colour in this poem, but some Lake-country-place names are introduced.
“Christabel” was never finished. In later years Coleridge was wont to say that if a genial recurrence of the ray divine should occur for a few weeks he would attempt the completion of the poem. "If I should finish "Christabel," he said on one occasion, “I shall certainly extend it and give new characters, and a greater number.
I had the whole of the two cantos in my mind before I began it; certainly the first canto is more perfect, has more of the true wild weird spirit than the last.” Wordsworth had no idea how the poem was to finish, and did not think that the author had ever conceived a definite plan. Coleridge's first biographer, however, supplies from the poet's conversation a sketch of the proposed conclusion. The incidents are few as far as the poem goes. Christabel is surprised in a wood by a supernatural being, who personates the daughter, Geraldine, of an estranged friend of her father, Sir Leoline. This being tells Sir Leoline a tale of outrage and abandonment, and he determines to restore her to his old friend her father. He is about to despatch his Bard Bracy with good tidings and a message of reconciliation to Lord Roland de Vaux, when his own daughter, Christabel, betrays a strange and inexplicable repugnance to the being known as Geraldine, and prays that she may be sent away. With this posture of affairs the fragment ends. “The following relation was,” says Mr. Gillman, “to have occupied a third and fourth canto, and to have
closed the tale. Over the mountains, the Bard, as directed by Sir Leoline, hastes with his disciple; but in consequence of one of those inundations supposed to be common to this country, the spot only where the castle once stood is discovered—the edifice itself being washed away. He determines to return. Geraldine being acquainted with all that is passing, like the weird sisters in Macbeth, vanishes. Re-appearing, however, she awaits the return of the Bard, exciting in the meantime, by her wily arts, all the anger she could rouse in the Baron's breast, as well as that jealousy of which he is described to have been susceptible. The old Bard and the youth at length arrive, and therefore she can no longer personate the character of Geraldine, the daughter of Lord Roland de Vaux, but changes her appearance to that of the accepted though absent lover of Christabel. Now ensues a courtship most distressing to Christabel, who feels, she knows not why, great disgust for her once favoured knight. This coldness is very painful to the Baron, who has no more conception than herself of the supernatural transformation. She at last yields to her father's entreaties, and consents to approach the altar with this hated suitor. The real lover returning, enters at this moment, and produces the ring which she had once given him in sign of her betrothment. Thus defeated, the supernatural being, Geraldine, disappears. As predicted, the castle bell tolls, the mother's voice is heard, and to the exceeding great joy of the parties, the rightful marriage takes place, after which follows a reconciliation and explanation between the father and daughter.”
Grasmere is twelve miles from Keswick, and though
the highroad is now good, the journey must have been toilsome at the beginning of the century. No doubt the customary path was the pack-horse road inside Golden Howe, and along the western bank of Thirlmere, to Wythburn, and across the Dunmail Raise. Hence with Coleridge at Greta Hall, and Wordsworth at Town End, Grasmere, it is not likely that the poets met very frequently. With fair health, and sufficient work and adequate remuneration, Coleridge appears to have passed two years at Keswick with content. “I am at present in better health than I have been," he writes, "though by no means strong and well—and at home all is Peace and Love." It would not appear that he concerned himself with the dales-people about him. The strength and ruggedness of these northern folk made no impression upon his work. He on his part made no impression upon them. Not a story of Coleridge the elder seems to survive among the many traditions that gather about Greta Hall. But Coleridge learned the legends of Cumberland, and used some of them with great effect. The only instance of his interest in local affairs is that of his exertions in the case of Hatfield, the forger, who betrayed the well-known “Beauty of Buttermere.” Coleridge helped to expose the scoundrel.
He continued to write for The Morning Post, and at the same time wrote some poetry. He kept up a correspondence with Lamb. That old friend was rising above his early sorrow, and treading down at the same time some of his early weaknesses. “My sentiment is long since vanished. I hope my virtues have done sucking," he writes. But the one was not well banished, the
“I want your
other so well weaned, as to prevent an occasional outburst of agony at a return of the old pain. “I almost wish Mary were dead,” he writes, when the sense is keenest of the awful tragedy that makes him a marked man. But in writing to Coleridge he was generally in a sportive vein. “What do you think of smoking?” he says. sober, average, noon opinion on it. . . . Morning is a girl, and can't smoke-she's no evidence one way or the other; and Night is so evidently bought over that he can't be a very upright judge. May be the truth is, that one pipe is wholesome; two toothsome; three pipes noisome; four pipes fulsome; five pipes quarrelsome, and that's the sum on't. . . . Bless you, old sophist, who next to human nature taught me all the corruption I was capable of knowing, . . . when shall we two smoke again ?" Can it be that much of this, and such as this, was but the motley in which his great sorrow was pleased to masquerade? Lamb and his sister visited Coleridge at Greta Hall in the summer of 1802. "Coleridge had got a blazing fire in his study," writes Lamb in August, "which is a large, antique, ill-shaped room with an oldfashioned organ never played upon, big enough for a church, shelves of scattered folios, an Eolian harp, and an old sofa, half bed.” The Lambs seem to have enjoyed themselves greatly. The old schoolfellows added to their other accomplishments that of inimitable punsters. Lamb's puns got some additional effect from the impediment in his speech; Coleridge's were more humorous than witty. For three weeks these old cronies of the “Salutation and Cat” punned and smoked. Lamb had grown pot-valiant in the art of smoking since
they smoked herbs mildly mixed with oronokoo in the smoky tavern in Newgate Street, and Coleridge had gone through the memorable ordeal at Birmingham, and the smoky process of learning German in Germany. Lamb and his sister went home early in September. “Mary is a good deal fatigued,” Lamb writes, “and finds the difference in going to a place, and coming from it. I feel that I shall remember your mountains to the last day I live. They haunt me perpetually. I am like a man who has been falling in love unknown to himself, which he finds out when he leaves the lady."
Coleridge's health and spirits seem to have been moderately good during these early years at Keswick. There is a story which shows both his readiness in repartee and his high animal spirits about this period. He was staying a few days with two friends at a farmhouse, when it was agreed to go to a horse race in the neighbourhood. The farmer provided horses for the party-good ones for the poet's two friends, and for Coleridge, whose shortcomings as a horseman were known, a small, bony, angular, slow, spiritless creature in a dirty bridle and with rusty stirrups. The three mounted and set off. Coleridge was soon left far behind. He was dressed that day in a black coat with black breeches, black silk stockings, and shoes. In this suit of woe he and his cuddy nicknamed a horse went jogging along until they were met by a long-nosed gentleman in a sporting costume. The sportsman's nose quivered, and he stopped. “Pray, sir," he said, with a mighty knowing twinkle, "did you meet a tailor along the road ?” “A tailor?” “Yes, a tailor; do you see, sir, he rode just such a horse as you ride, and for all the