Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/315

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Coleridge
Coleridge
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on his own Times, p. xci). In the ' Biographia Literaria' he speaks of the 'rapid and unusual increase' of the circulation of the paper, and intimates that he wasted the 'prime and manhood of his intellect' upon these labours. In the 'Table Talk' he is reported as saying that he raised the sale of the ' Morning Post ' to seven thousand copies. We need not doubt Coleridge's sincerity, but cannot accept the accuracy of his impressions. Stuart states that Coleridge was, as might be expected, a most irregular contributor, who was paralysed by compulsion ; that his contributions were almost confined to a few months in the beginning of 1800, and a few articles in 1802 ; and that the paper reached its highest circulation of 4,500 in 1803, in the August of which year he parted with the property. The two poems and the article on Pitt were clearly very successful, and some of the other articles show (as Mr. Traill, a most competent judge, points out) remarkable aptitude for j ournalism. But Coleridge's attempt to contribute regularly lasted only for the six or seven months from Christmas 1799 ; the circulation of the paper increased before and after that period, and the few contributions afterwards sent by Coleridge were of no importance. A man living at Keswick could not be an effective London journalist. There can be no doubt that Coleridge's estimate of the value of his writings was, though sincere, one of his customary illusions ; and there must have been some misconception as to Stuart's offer of a share in the paper (compare Stuart's statement in the Gent. Mag. with the feeble reply of Sara Coleridge in Essays on his own Times, xc-xciii, and Biog. Lit. ii. 391-403).

Coleridge removed with his family to Greta Hall, Keswick, in July 1800. He shared the house (or two houses under one roof), which was not quite completed, with his landlord, Mr. Jackson. Southey occupied the other part from 1803, and after Jackson's death in 1809 the whole (see Memoirs of Sara Coleridge, p. 12, and letter to Purkis in Braitdl, p. 285, for a description). At Keswick, Coleridge wrote the second part of ' Christabel ' in 1800. Here, too, on 4 April 1802, was written the 'Ode to Dejection,' almost his last poem of importance, expressing the deepest regret for the decay of his imaginative powers, and saying that he can only distract himself by abstruse metaphysical research. The poetic impulse, already flagging, almost expired with this period.

His health, injured by his follies and bad food at school, had never been strong. Complaints of depression, due partly to his precarious prospects, but also to ill-health, are found even in his Stowey letters (Cottle, Reminiscences, 102, 164) ; they become increasingly frequent, and at Keswick are continuous. Rheumatism and neuralgic pains in the head tormented him. He had resort to a disastrous means of cure. On 5 Nov. 1796 he tells Poole that he has relieved his sufferings by laudanum (Biog. Lit. 1847, ii. 379). On 17 Dec. following he told Thelwall that a painful nervous affection had made 'the frequent use of laudanum absolutely necessary.' 'Kubla Khan' was written in 1797 under the influence of an ' anodyne.' In January 1800 he incidentally mentions the ' pleasureable sensations of a dose of opium ' (Cottle, p. 430). The habit, according to his own statements, became fixed about 1803. In 1826 he attributes this to his relief from a violent attack of rheumatism by the ' Kendal black drop ' (apparently at Keswick), and he speaks of some stanzas written twenty-three years before (i.e. in 1803), ' soon after my eyes had been opened to the true nature of the habit ' (Gillman, p. 246, &c.) He constantly expressed the bitterest compunction for his enslavement. In 1808 he says that he has reduced his dose to one-sixth, but that a total abandonment would cost his life (Estlin Letters, p. 103; and see Cottle, Reminiscences, pp. 367, 380, 430). He solemnly protested that the habit was due to the dread of physical agony, not to ' any craving after pleasurable sensations.' ' My sole sensuality was not to be in pain ' (note of 23 Dec. 1804 in Gillman, p. 246). The cruel levity with which De Quincey asserts the contrary (Works, ii. 94, xi. 109) can only be attributed to his annoyance at passages published by Gillman (pp. 248, 250). Coleridge there charges De Quincey with seducing others into opium-eating, and prays for him with unction. De Quincey was naturally stung by this ; but it is impossible to disregard Coleridge's passionate and obviously sincere statement of facts only knowable by himself, or to doubt that the chain was forged under severe suffering (see Allsop, i. 76). He gradually became so habituated to the drug that in 1814 he had long been in the habit of taking two quarts of laudanum a week, and had once taken a quart in twenty-four hours (Cottle, Early Recollections, ii. 169). He had recourse to the usual devices of such persons for evading the vigilance of his friends. His statements about himself became utterly untrustworthy. The effect upon his intellectual activity must be a matter of speculation. De Quincey holds that it 'killed him as a poet,' but stimulated him as a philosopher (xi. 106-7), though it doubtless weakened whatever powers of systematic application he possessed. From the first Cole-