« AnteriorContinuar »
lampoon undertook to review it in the Edinburgh Review; and under the single condition, that he should have written what he himself really thought, and have criticized the work as he would have done had its author been indifferent to him, I should have chosen that man myself, both from the vigor and the originality of his mind, and from his particular acuteness in speculative reasoning, before all others. I remembered Catullus's lines,
Desine de quoquam quicquam bene velle mereri,
Ut mihi, quem nemo gravius nec acerbius urget,
Quam modo qui me unum atque unicum amicum habuit.
and unrelenting than the lampooner of the Essays: to the latter,
Less than arch-angel ruined and the excess
-the former keeps his glory well muffled up in clouds of affected contempt and genuine political hatred: yet it beams through a little in spite of nim, and such abuse is more complimentary than many a panegyric. The review of Christabel (two sentences relating to the supposed authorship of which are removed from the text) shows its political animus at the end. After declaring that the poem exhibits "not a ray of genius," that no other productions of the Lake school, except the White Doe and some of the laureate odes, is so devoid of any gleam of feeling or of fancy," the writer indignantly exclaims, "Must we then be doomed to hear such a mixture of raving and driv'ling, extolled as the work of a' wild and original genius,' simply because Mr. C. has now and then written fine verses, and a brother poet chooses, in his milder mood, to laud him from courtesy or from interest? And are such panegyrics to be echoed by the mean tools of a political faction, because they relate to one whose daily prose is understood to be dedicated to the support of all that courtiers think should be supported!" Who the partisans were that exerted themselves to cram my Father's nonsense and bad poetry “down the throats of all the loyal and well affected," it would be hard to discover,
And much like Samson's riddle, in one day
Or seven, though one should musing sit.
Many a fierce article may be taken for an ordinary wild ass of criticism, till it lifts up the beak and claws of the political satirist, and thus shows itself to be a sort of hippogriff. S. C.]
But I can truly say, that the grief with which I read this rhapsody of predetermined insult, had the rhapsodist himself for its whole and sole object."
"Mr. Coleridge's Description of a Green Field."
[With these words the Edinburgh Reviewer announces and holds up to ridicule the following passage from the notes to the Lay Sermon. After the quotation he concludes with, "This will do. It is well observed by Hobbes, that it is by words only that a man becometh excellently wise or excellently foolish '"
"I have at this moment before me, in the flowery meadow, on which my eye is now reposing, one of its most soothing chapters, in which there is no lamenting word, no one character of guilt or anguish. For never can I look and meditate on the vegetable creation without a feeling similar to that with which we gaze at a beautiful infant that has fed itself asleep at its mother's bosom, and smiles in its strange dream of obscure yet happy sensations. The same tender and genial pleasure takes possession of me, and this pleasure is checked and drawn inward by the like aching melancholy, by the same whispered remonstrance, and made restless by a similar impulse of aspiration. It seems as if the soul said to herself: From this state hast thou fallen! Such shouldst thou still become, thy self all permeable to a holier power! thy self at once hidden and glorified by its own transparency, as the accidental and dividuous in this quiet and harmonious object is subjected to the life and light of nature; to that life and light of nature, I say, which shines in every plant and flower, even as the trans mitted power, love, and wisdom of God over all fills, and shines through, nature! But what the plant is by an act not its own and unconsciouslythat must thou make thyself to become-must by prayer and by a watchful and unresisting spirit, join at least with the preventive and assisting grace to make thyself, in that light of conscience which inflameth not, and with that knowledge which puffeth not up!" Pp. 267-8., ed. 1839.
I cannot help thinking how Mr. Hazlitt (if Mr. C. was right in ascribing the review of the Lay Sermon in the Edinburgh Review to his pen) must have smiled to himself, as he thus concluded his article, at the anticipated gullibility of his readers, who, if the Northern Oracle had cried out in derision at the Cupid of Praxiteles, would straightway have begun to throw stones at the statue. For he in his heart admired, as he has eloquently described, the poetic fervor of my Father's mind, so characteristically displayed in this excerpt, which seems to me as emblematic of the soft, rich, radiant imagination of its author as the red-hot cones of the city of Dis are emblematic of the fiery genius of Dante. And in him only the will was wanting to appreciate the sense of the passage; for surely t conveys sound sense, as true poetry ever does, and teaches the highest doctrine of the spirit in language not unworthy of such a theme. True enough is it that by words a man becometh excellently wise or excellently
I refer to this review at present, in consequence of information having been given me, that the innuendo of my "potential infidelity," grounded on one passage of my first Lay Sermon, has been received and propagated with a degree of credence, of which I can safely acquit the originator of the calumny. I give the sentences, as they stand in the sermon, premising only that I was speaking exclusively of miracles worked for the outward senses of men. "It was only to overthrow the usurpation exercised in and through the senses, that the senses were miraculously appealed to. REASON AND RELIGION ARE THEIR OWN EVIDENCE. The natural sun is in this respect a symbol of the spiritual. Ere he is fully arisen, and while his glories are still under veil, he calls up the breeze to chase away the usurping vapors of the night-season, and thus converts the air itself into the minister of its own purification: not surely in proof or elucidation of the light from heaven, but to prevent its interception."
"Wherever, therefore, similar circumstances co-exist with the same moral causes, the principles revealed, and the examples recorded, in the inspired writings, render miracles superfluous: and if we neglect to apply truths in expectation of wonders, or under pretext of the cessation of the latter, we tempt God, and merit the same reply which our Lord gave to the Pharisees on a like occasion.10
In the sermon and the notes both the historical truth and the necessity of the miracles are strongly and frequently asserted. "The testimony of books of history (that is, relatively to the signs and wonders with which Christ came) is one of the strong and stately pillars of the church; but it is not the foundation !'' Instead, therefore, of defending myself, which I could easily effect by a series of passages, expressing the same opinion, from
foolish; and perhaps there is no one thing in which the power of folly in words is more thoroughly manifested, than in that sort of designing shailowness and clever crafty superficiality, assumed for the sake of sneering depreciation, and even of insidious defamation, of which this review of the Lay Sermon is a notable specimen.
10 [First Lay Sermon, pp. 210-11. [Note N. to First L. S., p. 258.
the Fathers and the most eminent Protestant Divines, from the Reformation to the Revolution, I shall merely state what my belief is concerning the true evidences of Christianity. 1. Its consistency with right reason, I consider as the outer court of the temple-the common area within which it stands. 2. The miracles, with and through which the Religion was first revealed and attested, I regard as the steps of the vestibule, and the portal of the temple. 3. The sense, the inward feeling, in the soul of each believer of its exceeding desireableness-the experience, that he needs something, joined with the strong foretokening, that the redemption and the graces propounded to us in Christ are what he needs-this I hold to be the true foundation of the spiritual Edifice. With the strong à priori probability that flows in from 1 and 3 on the correspondent historical evidence of 2, no man can refuse or neglect to make the experiment without guilt. But, 4, it is the experience derived from a practical conformity to the conditions of the Gospel-it is the opening eye; the dawning light; the terrors and the promises of spiritual growth; the blessedness of loving God as God, the nascent sense of sin hated as sin, and of the incapability of attaining to either without Christ; it is the sorrow that still rises up from beneath and the consolation that meets it from above; the bosom treacheries of the principal in the warfare and the exceeding faithfulness and long suffering of the uninterested ally ;-in a word it is the actual trial of the faith in Christ, with its accompaniments and results, that must form the arched roof, and the faith itself is the completing key-stone. In order to an efficient belief in Christianity, a man must have been a Christian, and this is the seeming argumentum in circulo, incident to all spiritual Truths, to every subject not presentable under the forms of Time and Space, as long as we attempt to master by the reflex acts of the Understanding, what we can only know by the act of becoming. Do the will of my Father, and ye shall know whether I am of God.12 These four evidences I believe to have been and still to be, for the world, for the whole church, all necessary, all equally necessary but at present, and for the majority of Christians born in
12 [John vii., 17. S. C.]
Christian countries, I believe the third and the fourth evidences to be the most operative, not as superseding but as involving a glad undoubting faith in the two former. Credidi, ideoque intel lexi, appears to me the dictate equally of Philosophy and Religion, even as I believe Redemption to be the antecedent of Sanctification, and not its consequent. All spiritual predicates may be construed indifferently as modes of action or as states of Being. Thus Holiness and Blessedness are the same idea, now seen in relation to act and now to existence. The ready belief which has been yielded to the slander of my "potential infidelity," I attribute in part to the openness with which I have avowed my doubts, whether the heavy interdict, under which the name of Benedict Spinoza lies, is merited on the whole or to the whole extent. Be this as it may, I wish, however, that I could find in the books of philosophy, theoretical or moral, which are alone recommended to the present students of theology in our established schools, a few passages as thoroughly Pauline, as completely accordant with the doctrines of the Established Church, as the following sentences in the concluding page of Spinoza's Ethics. Deinde quo mens hoc amore divino, seu beatitudine magis gaudet, eo plus intelligit, hoc est, eo majorem in affectus habet potentiam, et eo minus ab affectibus, qui mali sunt, patitur; atque adeo ex eo, quod mens hoc amore divino, seu beatitudine gaudet, potestatem habet libidines coërcendi ; et quia humana potentia ad coërcendos affectus in solo intellectu consistit ; ergo nemo beatitudine gaudet, quia affectus coërcuit, sed contra potestas libidines coërcendi ex ipsa beatitudine oritur.13
With regard to the Unitarians, it has been shamelessly asserted, that I have denied them to be Christians. God forbid! For how should I know, what the piety of the heart may be, or what quantum of error in the understanding may consist with a saving faith in the intentions and actual dispositions of the whole moral being in any one individual? Never will God reject a soul that sincerely loves him, be his speculative opinions what they may; and whether in any given instance certain opinions, be they un belief, or misbelief, are compatible with a sincere love of God, God can only know. But this I have said, and shall continue to 13 [Ethices, Pars V. De Libertate humana. S. C.]