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Here I shall conclude my first Letter, because I cannot pledge myself for the accuracy of the accounts, and I will not therefore mingle it with that for the truth of which, in the minutest parts, I shall hold myself responsible. You must regard this Letter as a first chapter devoted to dim traditions of times too remote to be pierced by the eye of investigation.
“ Yours affectionately,
“ S. T. COLERIDGE. “Feb., 1797, Monday."
To Mr. Poole. “ MY DEAR POOLE,
“My Father (Vicar of, and Schoolmaster at, Ottery St. Mary, Devon) was a good mathematician, and well versed in the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew languages. He published, or rather attempted to publish, several works :- 1st, Miscellaneous Dissertations arising from the 17th and 18th chapters of the Book of Judges ; 2d, Sententia Excerpta for the use of his own school ; and 3d, his best work, a Critical Latin Grammar, in the Preface to which he proposes a bold innovation in the names of the cases. My Father's new nomenclature was not likely to become popular, although it must be allowed to be both sonorous and expressive. Exempli gratia, he calls the ablative case the quale-qua re-quidditive case !" He made the world his confidant with respect to his learning and ingenuity, and the world seems to have kept the secret very faithfully. His various works, uncut, unthumbed, were preserved free from all pollution in the family archives, where they may still be for anything that I know. This piece of good luck promises to be hereditary; for all my compositions have the same amiable homestaying propensity. The truth is, my Father was not a first-rate genius; he was, however, a first-rate Christian, which is much better. I need not detain you with his character. In learning, good-heartedness, absentness of mind, and excessive ignorance of the world, he was a perfect Parson Adams.
My Mother was an admirable economist, and managed exclusively My eldest brother's name was John. He was a Captain in the East India Company's service; a successful officer and a brave one, as I have heard. He died in India in 1786. My second brother, William, went to l'embroke College, Oxford. He died a clergyman in 1780, just on the eve of his intended marriage. My brother James has been in the army since the age of fifteen, and has married a woman of fortune, one of the old Duke family of Otterton in Devon. Edward, the wit of the family
went to Pembroke College, and is now a clergyman. George also went to Pembroke. He is in orders likewise, and now has the same school, a very flourishing one, which my Father had. He is a man of reflective mind and elegant talent. He possesses learning in a greater degree than any of the family, excepting myself. His manners are grave, and hued over with a tender sadness. In his moral character he approaches every way nearer to perfection than any man I ever yet knew. He is worth us all. Luke Herman was a surgeon, a severe student, and a good man. He died in 1790, leaving one child, a lovely boy still alive.' My only sister, Ann, died at twenty-one, a little after my brother Luke :
Rest, gentle Shade! and wait thy Maker's will;
Then rise unchang’d, and be an angel still ! Francis Syndercombe went out to India as a midshipman under Admiral Graves. He accidentally met his brother John on board ship abroad, who took him ashore, and procured him a commission in the Company's army. He died in 1792, aged twenty-one, a Lieutenant, in consequence of a fever brought on by excessive fatigue at and after the siege of Seringapatam, and the storming of a hill fort, during all which his con duct had been so gallant that his commanding officer particularly noticed him, and presented him with a gold watch, which my
Mother now has. All my brothers are remarkably handsome: but they were as inferior to Francis as I am to them. He went by the name of “the handsome Coleridge.” The tenth and last child was Samuel Taylor, the subject and author of these Epistles.
“ From October, 1772, to October, 1773. Baptized Samuel Taylor, my Godfather's name being Samuel Taylor, Esquire. I had another called Evans, and two Godmothers, both named Munday.
“ From October, 1773, to October, 1774. In this year I was carelessly “left by my nurse, ran to the fire, and pulled out a live coal, and burned myself dreadfully. While my hand was being drest by Mr. Young, I spoke for the first time (so my Mother informs me), and said, “nasty Doctor Young !” This snatching at fire, and the circumstance of my first words expressing hatred to professional men—are they at all ominous ? This year I went to school. My Schoolmistress, the very image of Shenstone's, was named Old Dame Key. She was nearly related to Sir Joshua Reynolds.
1 William Hart Coleridge, the present Bishop of Barbadoes and the Lee. ward Islands.
[He was appointed to that See in 1824, retired from it in 1842; has lately accepted the Wardenship of St Augustine's College, Canterbury S. C.)
“ From October, 1774, to 1775. I was inoculated; which I mention, because I distinctly remember it, and that my eyes were bound; at which I manifested so much obstinate indignation, that at last they removed the bandage, and unaffrighted I looked at the lancet, and suffered the scratch. At the close of this year I could read a chapter in the Bible.
“ Here I shall end, because the remaining years of my life all assisted to form my particular mind; the first three years had nothing in them that seems to relate to it.
“God bless you and your sincere
“ S. T. COLERIDGE. "Sunday, March, 1797."
A letter from Francis S. Coleridge to his sister has been preserved in the family, in which a particular account is given of the chance meeting of the two brothers in India, mentioned shortly in the preceding Letter. There is something so touching and romantic in the incident that the Reader will, it is hoped, pardon the insertion of the original narrative here.
“ DEAR NANCY,
“ You are very right, I have neglected my absent friends, but do not think 1 have forgot them, and indeed it would be ungrateful in me if I did not write to them.
“ You may be sure, Nancy, I thank Providence for bringing about that meeting, which has been the cause of all my good fortune and happiness, which I now in fulness enjoy. It was an affectionate meeting, and I will inform you of the particulars. There was in our ship one Captain Mordaunt, who had been in India before, when we came to Bombay. Finding a number of his friends there he went often ashore. The day before the Fleet sailed he desired one Captain Welsh to go aboard with him, who was an intimate friend of your brother's. “ I will,” said Welsh, “and will write a note to Coleridge to go with us.” Upon this Captain Mordaunt, recollecting me, said there was a young midshipman, a favorite of Captain Hicks, of that name on board. Upon that they agreed to inform my brother of it, which they did soon after, and all three came on board. I was then in the lower deck, and, though you won't believe it, I was sitting upon a gun and thinking of my brother, that is, whether I should ever see or hear anything of him; when seeing a Lieutenant, who had been sent to inform me of my brother's being on board, I got up off the gun: but instead of telling me about my brother, he told me that Captain Hicks was very angry with me and wanted to see me. Captain Hicks had always been a father to
me, and loved me as if I had been his own child. I therefore went up shaking like an aspen leaf to the Lieutenant's apartments, when a gen. tleman took hold of my hand. I did not mind him at first, but looked round for the Captain; but the gentleman still holding my hand, 1 Jooked, and what was my surprise, when I saw him too full to speak and his eyes full of tears. Whether crying is catching I know not, but I began a crying too, though I did not know the reason, till he caught me in his arms, and told me he was my brother, and then I found I was paying nature her tribute, for I b-lieve I never cried so much in my life. There is a saying in Robinson Crusoe, I remember very well, viz. sudden joy like grief confounds at first. We directly went ashore, having got my discharge, and having took a most affectionate leave of Captain Hicks, I left the ship for good and all.
“ My situation in the army is that I am one of the oldest Ensigns, and before you get this must in all probability be a Lieutenant. How many changes there have been in my life, and what lucky ones they have been, and how young I am still! I must be seven years older before I can properly style myself a man, and what a number of officers do I command, who are old enough to be my Father already!” * * *
To Mr. Poole.
October 9th, 1797. “ MY DEAREST POOLE,
“ From March to October—a long silence! But it is possible that I may have been preparing materials for future Letters, and the time cannot be considered as altogether subtracted from you.
“ From October, 1775, to October, 1778. These three years I continued at the Reading School, because I was too little to be trusted among my Father's schoolboys. After breakfast I had a halfpenny given me, with which I bought three cakes at the baker's shop close by the school of my old mistress; and these were my dinner every day except Saturday and Sunday, when I used to dine at home, and wallowed in a beef and pudding dinner. I am remarkably fond of beans and bacon : and this fondness I attribute to my Father's giving me a penny for having eaten a large quantity of beans on Saturday. For the other boys did not like them, and, as it was an economic food, my Father thought my at. tachment to it ought to be encouraged. He was very fond of me, and I was my Mother's darling : in consequence whereof I was
very misera. ole. For Molly, who had nursed my brother Francis, and was immode
rately fond of him, hated me because my Mother took more notice of me than of Frank; and Frank hated me because my Mother gave me now and then a bit of cake when he had none,-quite forgetting that for one bit of cake which I had and he had not, he had twenty sops in the pan, and pieces of bread and butter with sugar on them from Molly, from whom I received only thumps and ill names.
“ So I became fretful, and timorous, and a tell-tale; and the schoolboys drove me from play, and were always tormenting me. And hence I took no pleasure in boyish sports, but read incessantly. I read through all gilt-cover little books that could be had at that time, and likewise all the uncovered tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant Killer, and the like. And I used to lie by the wall, and mope ; and my spirits used to come upon me suddenly, and in a flood ;—and then I was accustomed to ran up and down the churchyard, and act over again all I had been reading on the docks, the nettles, and the rank grass. At six years of age I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarles ; and then I found the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was at her needle) that I was haunted by spectres, whenever I was in the dark : and I distinctly recollect the anxious and fearful eagerness, with which I used to watch the window where the book lay, and when the sun came upon it, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask, and read. My father found out the effect which these books had produced, and burned them.
“So I became a dreamer, and acquired an indisposition to all bodily activity; and I was fretful, and inordinately passionate ; and as I could not play at anything, and was slothful, I was despised and hated by the boys : and because I could read and spell, and had, I may truly say, a memory and understanding forced into almost unnatural ripeness, I was flattered and wondered at by all the old women. And so I became very vain, and despised most of the boys that were at all near my own age, and before I was eight years old I was a character. Sensibility, imagination, vanity, sloth, and feelings of deep and bitter contempt for almost all who traversed the orbit of my understanding, were even then prominent and manifest.
“ From October, 1778, to 1779. That which I began to be from three to six, I continued to be from six to nine. In this year I was admitted into the Grammar School, and soon outstripped all of my age. I had a dangerous putrid fever this year. My brother George lay ill of the same fever in the next rom. My poor brother, Francis, I remember, stole up in spite of orderplan the contrary, and sat by my bedside, and read Pope's