Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/317

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

were also lost. Coleridge reached England in August 1806, ' after a most miserable passage of fifty-five days, in which his life was twice given over,' ill, penniless, and worse than homeless (Meteyard, p. 325). He did not hear till his arrival of the death of his friend Thomas Wedgwood on 10 July 1805 ; Mrs. Coleridge had feared to tell him the news, knowing that he had kept his bed a fortnight after hearing of the death of Captain Wordsworth, the poet's brother. Wedgwood's will continued his share of the annuity to Coleridge. Coleridge was back in August 1806 : he soon after went to Keswick with his boy Hartley, stayed with Wordsworth at Coleorton, and afterwards with Basil Montagu in London. In June 1807 he met his wife and family at Bristol, where Mrs. Fricker was then living, and spent the summer with them in Somersetshire (see Mrs. Coleridge's account in Sara Coleridge's Memoirs, pp. 8, 9). Poole noticed both the increase of procrastinating habits and the wider range of his knowledge. At the end of July he was staying with a Mr. Chubb at Bridgewater. Here he was met for the first time by De Quincey, then a student at Oxford, who made a pilgrimage from Bristol Hot Wells to see the author of the ' Ancient Mariner.' De Quincey describes the respect shown to Coleridge by the people of Bridgewater, and his apparent coolness towards his wife. De Quincey's enthusiasm took the practical shape of an offer of 500l., reduced at Cottle's advice to 300l., which was paid to Coleridge 12 Nov. 1807, as from ' an unknown friend.' De Quincey had met him again at Bristol in the autumn of 1807, and escorted his family to the Lakes (De Quincey, ii. 128), Coleridge having undertaken to lecture at the Royal Institution. Mr. Ashe thinks that he had already lectured there in 1806-7 ; but this appears to be a mistake (see DAVY, Remains, pp. 98-101).

Stuart gave Coleridge a lodging at the ' Courier ' office, the discomfort of which is humorously described by De Quincey. The promised lectures, given at the Royal Institution in the spring of 1808, brought in 100l. (advanced by Stuart), and did little to improve his reputation. De Quincey (ii. 97-100) gives a painful account of the performance. Large and fashionable audiences attended, but were more than once dismissed on pretext of the lecturer's illness. He was languid, he spoke without preparation, recited illustrative passages at random, and read badly. An attendant at a later course says (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 338) that nobody read poetry so ill. Coleridge describes his general mode of preparation (Literary Remains, ii. 1-5) for lectures. He was most successful, he says, and he is confirmed by Gillman's account (pp. 335-6), when he had prepared the matter beforehand but trusted to the moment for the form, and put his notes aside. Gillman (pp. 355-7) gives a curious account of an impromptu and successful lecture delivered at the London Institution on the 'Growth of the Individual Mind,' a subject proposed to him at the instant. The lectures of 1808 were a failure, and Coleridge next tried a repetition of the ' Watchman ' experiment. He settled with Wordsworth at Grasmere, his family being still at Keswick, and began a paper called the 'Friend.' He set up a printer at Penrith, twenty-eight miles distant across mountain-passes, laid in the necessary plant, and proceeded to collect subscribers. The ' Friend ' continued from August 1809 to March 1810. Its slow logical approaches to his metaphysical theory of the distinction between the reason and the understanding wearied subscribers, who were not conciliated by occasional attempts at lighter matter. He had 632 subscribers at starting, but ninety out of a hundred procured by one friend dropped off by the fourth number. Two-thirds of his subscribers had dropped off in January 1810 (to Lady Beaumont, 21 Jan. 1810). Wilson ('Christopher North') contributed an article signed 'Mathetes,' and Wordsworth a reply to it, three essays ' On Epitaphs,' some sonnets, and a fragment of the ' Prelude.' Stuart helped him in this undertaking, as Cottle had done in the 'Watchman,' the only practical result being increase of debt (see Gent. Mag. 1838, i. 580). A letter to Mr. Purkis (Add. MS. 27457, f. 35) shows that he bitterly resented a refusal from one of his brothers to help him in this undertaking. He seems to have been completely estranged from his family by this time.

After his failure Coleridge was for a time at Keswick (Fraser, July 1878). He went to London in 1810 with the Basil Montagus. De Quincey says that he lived with them for a time, till they were separated on account of a silly quarrel variously related (for Coleridge's account of a similar story, probably the origin of this, see Westminster Review for July 1870, p. 11). De Quincey's statement is probably false, but there was a temporary estrangement between Coleridge and Montagu, in which Wordsworth was concerned. Coleridge certainly renewed his friendship with the Montagus (Letters in Addit. MS. 21508). Soon after his arrival he was with John Morgan, an old Bristol friend, at Portland Place, Hammersmith, sometimes in lodgings to consult a doctor (Fraser, as above), and afterwards with Morgan in Berners Street, for three years according to Cottle (Early Re-