Open main menu

Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/278

This page needs to be proofread.




error in treating the authorship of the article on the ' Biographia ' as an open question. But this I did not do. I merely quoted Mr. Ire- land's view as an extreme instance of opinion, without in any way adopting it myself, or even suggesting that there were grounds for it. Next, I stated that "Mr. Dykes Camp- bell is not certain on the point." MR. HUT- CHINSON assumes that the " point " to which I referred was the authorship of the 'Bio- graphia ' article, but I really had in view the Juestion as a whole. If a mistake has arisen, must apologize for my want of precision. The main point at issue was the authorship of the article on ' Christabel,' and cm this Mr. Dykes Campbell did not commit himself to a positive opinion. This is admitted by MR. HUTCHINSON, and in addition to the two quotations which I gave, I may add a third, which will be found on p. 222 of Mr. Camp- bell's 'Samuel Taylor Coleridge.' Speaking of the reception of ' Christabel' by the critics, Mr. Campbell says : "The Edinburgh Review, by the hand of Hazlitt (as Coleridge asserted), made bitter fun of it through nine pages." It will be observed that Mr. Campbell care- fully guards himself against any betrayal of his own opinions in the matter.

MR. HUTCHINSON "omits my speculations as to the effect upon Coleridge's temper of the struggle against the opium habit." But these so-termed "speculations" have an im- portant bearing on the case. Coleridge is the foremost witness for the prosecution, and the state of his mind cannot be left out of account. There can be no doubt that for the first two years of his residence with the Gill mans he was suffering from advanced neurasthenia. So long afterwards as 10 De- cember, 1817, Lamb, who, notwithstanding his estrangement, never lost a kindly feeling for his ancient friend, wrote to John Payne Collier :

" I know how zealously you feel for our friend S. T. Coleridge ; and I know that you and your family attended his lectures four or five years ago. He is in bad health, and worse mind : and unless something is done to lighten his mind he will soon be reduced to his extremities ; and even these are not in the best condition. 1 am sure that you will do for him what you can ; but at present he seems m a mood to do for himself."

A man in this frame of mind is not likely to take a rational view of any criticism directed against himself.

I must now express my regret that I de- pended on Mr. Birrell's note regarding the first publication in the Examiner of. the paper which was subsequently published as ' My First Acquaintance with Poets.' I had not a hie of the Examiner at hand, and I also

depended to a great extent on Mr. Dykes Campbell's statement (' Samuel Taylor Cole- ridge,' p. 81, note) that ' My First Acquaint- ance ' was an " expansion " of the Examiner article. I infer, of course, from MR. HUT- CHINSON'S observations on the subject, that no part of the description quoted by Mr. Birrell appeared in the Examiner. Other- wise, I see no reason for modifying the opinions I expressed in my former article.

We now come to MR. HUTCHINSON'S grounds, based on internal evidence, for his belief in Hazlitt's authorship of the article on ' Christa- bel.' "Internal evidence," of course, is a tricksy sprite. Coleridge, whose acumen as a critic MR. HUTCHINSON will not dispute, conjectured, on internal evidence, that the 'Odes and Addresses to Great People,' by Hood and Keynolds, were written by Charles Lamb. Lamb had not had " a broken finger in them."

MR. HUTCHINSON'S first reason, however, can hardly be said to be grounded on internal evidence. It is merely an external surmise :

"The writer, whoever he was, knew that Cole- ridge was living under medical supervision. Now Coleridge's residence with Dr. Gillman began on 15 April, 1816, and the article cannot have been written later than July or August following. What other contributor to the Edinburgh but Hazlitt was likely to possess this recent and intimate knowledge of the poet's situation ? "

To this I would reply that Coleridge's residence with Gillman, if a secret at all, was a very open one. Before he had been at Highgate a month, Coleridge wrote to his friend Daniel Stuart, editor of the Morning Post (13 May, 1816) :

" Mr. and Mrs. Gillman will be most happy to see you to share in a family dinner and spend the evening with us, and if you will come early I can show you some most delicious walks." ' Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge,' 1895, ii. 665.

Charles Robert Leslie, afterwards a Royal Academician, in a letter dated 3 June, 1816, describes his reception at Highgate in the following words :

" Mr. Coleridge is at present here ; he has just published his poem of ' Christabel.' He lives at Highgate (about three miles from us) in a most delightful family. He requested me to sketch his face, which I did, out there, and by that means became acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Gillman, who are a sort of people that you become intimate with at once. They have invited me in the most friendly manner to visit them at all times and to spend weeks with them." Leslie's ' Autobiographical Recollections,' edited by Tom Taylor, 1860, ii. 50.

It may be supposed that things which were known to the editor of an influential London paper, and to an artist rising into fashion, would not be secrets to the literary world in