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Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey   By: (1770-1853)

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[Illustration: Portrait.]




It is with a solemnized feeling that I enter on these Reminiscences. Except one, I have survived all the associates of my earlier days. The young, with a long life in perspective, (if any life can be called long, in so brief an existence) are unable to realize the impressions of a man, nearer eighty than seventy, when the shadows of evening are gathering around, and, in a retrospective glance, the whole field of past vision appears, in all its complexities, like the indistinct tumults of a dream. The acute reasoner the fiery politician the eager polemic the emulous aspirant after fame; and many such have I known, where are they? and how mournful, if any one of them should be found, at last, to have directed his solicitudes, alone, to material objects; should have neglected to cultivate his own little plot of earth, more valuable than mines! and have sown no seeds for eternity. It is not a light motive which could have prompted me, when this world of "Eye and Ear" is fast receding, while grander scenes are opening, and so near! to call up almost long forgotten associations, and to dwell on the stirring, by gone occurrences that tend, in some measure, to interfere with that calm which is most desirable, and best accords with the feelings of one who holds life by such slender ties. Yet through the goodness of the Almighty, being at the present moment exempt from many of the common infirmities of age, I am willing, as a last act, to make some sacrifice to obtain the good which I hope this recurrence to the past is calculated to produce.

With respect to Mr. Coleridge, it would be easy and pleasant to sail with the stream; to admire his eloquence; to extol his genius; and to forget his failings; but where is the utility, arising out of this homage paid to naked talent? If the attention of posterity rested here, where were the lessons of wisdom to be learnt from his example? His path through the world was marked by strong outlines, and instruction is to be derived from every feature of his mind, and every portion of his eventful and chequered life. In all the aspects of his character, he was probably the most singular man that has appeared in this country during the preceding century, and the leading incidents of whose life ought to stand fairly on record. The facts which I have stated are undeniable, the most important being substantiated by his own letters; but higher objects were intended by this narrative than merely to elucidate a character, (however remarkable), in all its vicissitudes and eccentricities. Rising above idle curiosity, or the desire of furnishing aliment for the sentimental; excitement the object, and the moral tendency disregarded, these pages take a wider range, and are designed for the good of many, where if there be much to pain the reader, he should moderate his regrets, by looking through the intermediate to the end.

There is scarcely an individual, whose life, if justly delineated, would not present much whence others might derive instruction. If this be applicable to the multitude, how much more essentially true is it, in reference to the ethereal spirits, endowed by the Supreme with a lavish portion of intellectual strength, as well as with proportionate capacities for doing good? How serious therefore is the obligation to fidelity, when the portraiture of a man is to be presented, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in whom such diversified and contrary qualities alternately predominated! Yet all the advantages to be derived from him, and similar instructors of mankind, must result from a faithful exhibition of the broad features of their earthly conduct and character, so that they might stand out as landmarks, and pharos towers, to guide, or warn, or encourage, all succeeding voyagers on the Ocean of Life... Continue reading book >>

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