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the master of the village inn, who had been ordered to entertain the Government Gentleman in his best manner, but above all to be silent concerning such a person being in his house. At length, he received Sir Dogberry's commands to accompany his guest at the final interview; and after the absolving suffrage of the gentleman honored with the confidence of Ministers answered, as follows, to the following queries ? D. Well, landlord! and what do you know of the person in question ? 'L. I see him often pass by with maister landlord (i.e. the owner of the house) and sometimes with the new-comers at Holford ; but I
; never said a word to him or he to me. D. But do you not know, that he has distributed papers and hand-bills of a seditious nature among the common people! honor! I never heard of such a thing. D. Have you not seen this Mr. Coleridge, or heard of, his haranguing and talking to knots and clusters of the inhabitants ?-What are you grinning at, Sir! L. Beg your honor's pardon ! but I was only thinking, how they'd have stared at him. If what I have heard be true, your honor! they would not have understood a word, he said. When our vicar was here, Dr. L. the master of the great school and canon of Windsor, there was a great dinner party at maister
's; and one of the farmers,
L. No, your
that was there, told us that he and the Doctor talked real Hebrew Greek at each other for an hour together after dinner. D. Answer the question, Sir! Does he ever harangue the people? L. I hope, your honor an't angry with
I can say no more than I know. I never saw him talking with any one, but my landlord, and our curate, and the strange gentle
D. Has he not been seen wandering on the hills towards the Channel, and along the shore, with books and papers in his hand, taking charts and maps of the country? L. Why, as to that, your honor! I own, I have heard ; I am sure, I would not wish to say ill of any body; but it is certain, that I have heard-D. Speak out man ! don't be afraid, you are doing your duty to your King and Government. What have you heard? L. Why, folks do say, your honor ! as how that he is a Poet, and that he is going to put Quantock and all about here in print; and as they be so much together, I suppose that the strange gentleman has some consarn in the business. So ended this formidable inquisition, the latter part of which alone requires explanation, and at the same time entitles the anecdote to a place in my literary life.
I had considered it as a defect in the admirable poem of the Task, that the subject, which gives the title to the work, was not, and indeed could not be, carried on
beyond the three or four first pages, and that throughout the poem the connections are frequently awkward, and the transitions abrupt and arbitrary. I sought for a subject, that should give equal room and freedom' for description, incident, and impassioned reflections on men, nature, and society, yet supply in itself a natural connection to the parts, and unity to the whole. Such a subject I conceived myself to have found in a stream, traced from its source in the hills among the yellow-red moss and conical glass-shaped tufts of Bent, to the first break or fall, where its drops became audible, and it begins to form a channel ; thence. to the peat and turf barn, itself built of the same dark squares as it sheltered; to the sheepfold ; to the first cultivated plot of ground ; to the lonely cottage and its bleak garden won from the heath; to the hamlet, the villages, the market-town, the manufactories, and the seaport. My walks therefore were almost daily on the top of Quantock, and among its sloping coombs. With my pencil and memorandum book in my hand, I was making studies, as the artists call them, and often moulding my thoughts into verse, with the objects and imagery immediately before my senses. Many circumstances, evil and good, intervened to prevent the completion of the poem, which was to have been entitled “ The BROOK.” Had I finished
the work, it was my purpose in the heat of the moment to have dedicated it to our then committee of public safety as containing the charts and maps, with which I was to have supplied the French Government in aid of their plans of invasion. And these too for a tract of coast that from Clevedon to Minehead scarcely permits the approach of a fishing boat!
All my experience from my first entrance into life to the present hour is in favor of the warning maxim, that the man, who opposes
in toto the political or religious zealots of his age, is safer from their obloquy than he who differs from them in one or two points or perhaps only in degree. By that transfer of the feelings of private life into the discussion of public questions, which is the queen bee in the hive of party fanaticism, the partizan has more sympathy with an intemperate Opposite than with a moderate Friend. We now enjoy an intermission, and long may it continue! In addition to far higher and more important mérits, our present bible societies and other numerous associations for national or charitable objects, may serve perhaps to carry off the superfluous activity and fervor of stirring minds in innocent hyperboles and the bustle of management. But the poison-tree is not dead, though the sap may for a season have subsided to its roots. At least let us not be lulled into such a notion of
our entire security, as not to keep watch and ward, even on our best feelings. I have seen gross intolerance shewn in support of toleration ; sectarian antipathy most obtrusively displayed in the promotion of an undistinguishing comprehension of sects ; and acts of cruelty (I had almost said) of treachery, committed in furtherance of an object vitally important to the cause of humanity; and all this by men too of naturally kind dispositions and exemplary conduct.
The magic rod of fanaticism is preserved in the very adyta of human nature; and needs only the re-exciting warmth of a master hand to bud forth afresh and produce the old fruits. The horror of the peasant's war in Germany, and the direful effects of the Anabaptist's tenets (which differed only from those of jacobinism by the substitution of theological for philosophical jargon) struck all Europe for a time with affright. Yet little more than a century was sufficient to obliterate all effective memory of these events. The same principles with similar though less dreadful consequences were again at work from the imprisonment of the first Charles to the restoration of his son. The fanatic maxim of extirpating fanaticism by persecution produced a civil war. The war ended in the victory of the insurgents; but the temper survived, and Milton had abundant grounds