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Specimens of the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge   By: (1772-1834)

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First Page:

[The Greek transliterations throughout this file are either missing or very suspect.]

[Illustration: F. Finden sculp. London, John Murray, Albernarle St. 1837 ]

[autographed: Dear Sir, Your obliged servant. S. T. Coleridge]




It is nearly fifteen years since I was, for the first time, enabled to become a frequent and attentive visitor in Mr. Coleridge's domestic society. His exhibition of intellectual power in living discourse struck me at once as unique and transcendant; and upon my return home, on the very first evening which I spent with him after my boyhood, I committed to writing, as well as I could, the principal topics of his conversation in his own words. I had no settled design at that time of continuing the work, but simply made the note in something like a spirit of vexation that such a strain of music as I had just heard, should not last forever. What I did once, I was easily induced by the same feeling to do again; and when, after many years of affectionate communion between us, the painful existence of my revered relative on earth was at length finished in peace, my occasional notes of what he had said in my presence had grown to a mass, of which this volume contains only such parts as seem fit for present publication. I know, better than any one can tell me, how inadequately these specimens represent the peculiar splendour and individuality of Mr. Coleridge's conversation. How should it be otherwise? Who could always follow to the turning point his long arrow flights of thought? Who could fix those ejaculations of light, those tones of a prophet, which at times have made me bend before him as before an inspired man? Such acts of spirit as these were too subtle to be fettered down on paper; they live if they can live any where in the memories alone of those who witnessed them. Yet I would fain hope that these pages will prove that all is not lost; that something of the wisdom, the learning, and the eloquence of a great man's social converse has been snatched from forgetfulness, and endowed with a permanent shape for general use. And although, in the judgment of many persons, I may incur a serious responsibility by this publication; I am, upon the whole, willing to abide the result, in confidence that the fame of the loved and lamented speaker will lose nothing hereby, and that the cause of Truth and of Goodness will be every way a gainer. This sprig, though slight and immature, may yet become its place, in the Poet's wreath of honour, among flowers of graver hue.

If the favour shown to several modern instances of works nominally of the same description as the present were alone to be considered, it might seem that the old maxim, that nothing ought to be said of the dead but what is good, is in a fair way of being dilated into an understanding that every thing is good that has been said by the dead. The following pages do not, I trust, stand in need of so much indulgence. Their contents may not, in every particular passage, be of great intrinsic importance; but they can hardly be without some, and, I hope, a worthy, interest, as coming from the lips of one at least of the most extraordinary men of the age; whilst to the best of my knowledge and intention, no living person's name is introduced, whether for praise or for blame, except on literary or political grounds of common notoriety. Upon the justice of the remarks here published, it would be out of place in me to say any thing; and a commentary of that kind is the less needed, as, in almost every instance, the principles upon which the speaker founded his observations are expressly stated, and may be satisfactorily examined by themselves. But, for the purpose of general elucidation, it seemed not improper to add a few notes, and to make some quotations from Mr... Continue reading book >>

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