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Homer to me. Frank had a violent love of beating me; but whenever that was superseded by any humor or circumstances, he was always very fond of me, and used to regard me with a strange mixture of admiration and contempt. Strange it was not, for he hated books, and loved climbing, fighting, playing, and robbing orchards, to distraction.
My Mother relates a story of me, which I repeat here, because it must be reckoned as my first piece of wit. During my fever, I asked why Lady Northcote, our neighbor, did not come and see me. My Mother said she was afraid of catching the fever. I was piqued, and answered, 'Ah! Mamma! the four Angels round my bed a'n't afraid of catching it!' I suppose you know the old prayer :—
'Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
This prayer I said nightly, and most firmly believed the truth of it. Fre quently have I (half-awake and half-asleep; my body diseased, and fe vered by my imagination) seen armies of ugly things bursting in upor me, and these four Angels keeping them off.
In my next I shall carry on my life to my Father's death.
"God bless you, my dear Poole,
"And your affectionate,
"S. T. COLERIDGE."
In a note written in after life Mr. Coleridge speaks of this period of his life in the following terms:
"Being the youngest child, I possibly inherited the weakly state of health of my Father, who died, at the age of sixty-two, before I had reached my ninth year; and from certain jealousies of old Molly, my brother Frank's dotingly fond nurse-and if ever child by beauty and loveliness deserved to be doted on, my brother Francis was that child— and by the infusion of her jealousies into my brother's mind, I was in earliest childhood huffed away from the enjoyments of muscular activity in play, to take refuge at my Mother's side on my little stool, to read my little book, and to listen to the talk of my elders. I was driven from life in motion to life in thought and sensation. I never played except by myself, and then only acted over what I had been reading or fancying, or half one, half the other, with a stick cutting down weeds and nettles, as one of the Seven Champions of Christendom.' Alas! I had all the simplicity, all the docility of the little child, but none of the child's habits. I never thought as a child, never had the language of a child.'
"FROM October, 1779, to 1781. I had asked my Mother one evening to cut my cheese entire, so that I might toast it. This was no easy matter, it being a crumbly cheese. My Mother however did it. I went into the garden for something or other, and in the meantime my brother Frank minced my cheese, to disappoint the favorite.' I returned, saw the exploit, and in an agony of passion flew at Frank. He pretended to have been seriously hurt by my blow, flung himself on the ground, and there lay with outstretched limbs. I hung over him mourning and in a great fright; he leaped up, and with a horse-laugh gave me a severe blow in the face. I seized a knife, and was running at him, when my mother came in and took me by the arm. I expected a flogging, and, struggling from her, I ran away to a little hill or slope, at the bottom of which the Otter flows, about a mile from Ottery. There I stayed, my rage died away, but my obstinacy vanquished my fears, and taking out a shilling book, which had at the end morning and evening prayers, I very devoutly repeated them-thinking at the same time with a gloomy inward satisfaction-how miserable my Mother must be! I distinctly remember my feelings, when I saw a Mr. Vaughan pass over the bridge at about a furlong's distance, and how I watched the calves in the fields beyond the river. It grew dark, and I fell asleep. It was towards the end of October, and it proved a stormy night. I felt the cold in my sleep, and dreamed that I was pulling the blanket over me, and actually pulled over me a dry thorn-bush which lay on the ground near me. In my sleep I had rolled from the top of the hill till within three yards of the river, which flowed by the unfenced edge of the bottom. I awoke several times, and finding myself wet, and cold, and-stiff, closed my eyes again that I might forget it.
"In the meantime my Mother waited about half an hour, expecting my return when the sulks had evaporated. I not returning, she sent into the churchyard, and round the town. Not found! Several men and all the boys were sent out to ramble about and seek me. In vain! My Mother was almost distracted; and at ten o'clock at night I was cried by the crier in Ottery, and in two villages near it, with a reward offered for me. No one went to bed; indeed I believe half the town were up all the night. To return to myself. About five in the morning, or a little after, I was broad awake, and attempted to get up and walk; but I could not move. I saw the shepherds and workmen at a distance, and cried, but so faintly, that it was impossible to hear me thirty yards off.
And there I might have lain and died;—for I was now almost given over the ponds and even the river, near which I was lying, having been dragged. But providentially Sir Stafford Northcote, who had been out all night, resolved to make one other trial, and came so near that he heard me crying. He carried me in his arms for nearly a quarter of a mile, when we met my father and Sir Stafford Northcote's servants. I remember, and never shall forget, my Father's face as he looked upon me while I lay in the servant's arms-so calm, and the tears stealing down his face; for I was the child of his old age. My Mother, as you may suppose, was outrageous with joy. Meantime in rushed a young lady, crying out I hope you'll whip him, Mrs. Coleridge.' This woman still lives at Ottery; and neither philosophy nor religion has been able to conquer the antipathy which I feel towards her, whenever I see her. I was put to bed, and recovered in a day or so. But I was certainly injured; for I was weakly and subject to ague for many years after.
"My Father-who had so little parental ambition in him, that, but for my Mother's pride and spirit, he would certainly have brought up his other sons to trades-had nevertheless resolved that I should be a parson. I read every book that came in my way without distinction: and my Father was fond me, and used to take me on his knee, and hold tong conversations with me. I remember, when eight years old, walking with him one winter evening from a farmer's house, a mile from Ottery; and he then told me the names of the stars, and how Jupiter was a thousand times larger than our world, and that the other twinkling stars were suns that had worlds rolling round them; and when I came home, he showed me how they rolled round. I heard him with a profound delight and admiration, but without the least mixture of wonder or incredulity. For from my early reading of fairy tales and about genii, and the like, my mind had been habituated to the Vast; and I never regarded my senses in any way as the criteria of my belief. I regulated all my creeds by my conceptions, not by my sight, even at that age. Ought children to be permitted to read romances and stories of giants, magicians, and genii? I know all that has been said against it; but I have formed my faith in the affirmative. I know no other way of giving the mind a love of the Great and the Whole. Those who have been led to the same truths step by step, through the constant testimony of their senses, seem to me to want a sense which I possess. They contemplate nothing but parts, and all parts are necessarily little, and the uni erse to them is but a mass of little things. It is true, the mind may become credulous and prone to superstition by the former method; but are not the experimentalists credulous even to madness in believing any absurdity, rather than believe the grandest truths, if they have not the testimony of their owr
senses in their favor? I have known some who have been rationally educated, as it is styled. They were marked by a microscopic acuteness; but when they looked at great things, all became a blank, and they saw nothing, and denied that anything could be seen, and uniformly put the negative of a power for the possession of a power, and called the want of imagination judgment, and the never being moved to rapture philosophy.
"Towards the latter end of September, 1781, my Father went to Plymouth with my brother Francis, who was to go out as midshipman under Admiral Graves, who was a friend of my Father's. He settled Frank as he wished, and returned on the 4th of October, 1781. He arrived at Exeter about six o'clock, and was pressed to take a bed there by the friendly family of the Harts; but he refused; and to avoid their entreaties he told them that he had never been superstitious, but that the night before he had had a dream, which had made a deep impression on . him. He dreamed that Death had appeared to him, as he is commonly painted, and had touched him with his dart. Well, he returned home; and all his family, I excepted, were up. He told my Mother his dream; but he was in high health and good spirits; and there was a bowl of punch made, and my Father gave a long and particular account of his travel, and that he had placed Frank under a religious Captain, and so forth. At length he went to bed, very well and in high spirits. A short time after he had lain down, he complained of a pain in his bowels, to which he was subject, from wind. My Mother got him some peppermint water, which he took, and after a pause, he said, 'I am much better now, my dear!'—and lay down again. In a minute my Mother heard a noise in his throat, and spoke to him, but he did not answer; and she spoke repeatedly in vain. Her shriek awaked me, and I said—' Papa is dead!' I did not know my Father's return; but I knew that he was expected. How I came to think of his death, I cannot tell; but so it Dead he was. Some said it was gout in the heart;-probably it was a fit of apoplexy. He was an Israelite without guile, simple, generous, and, taking some Scripture texts in their literal sense, he was conscientiously indifferent to the good and the evil of this world. God love you and
"S. T. COLERIDGE."
O! that 1
He was buried at Ottery on the 10th of October, 1781. might so pass away," said Coleridge, thirty years afterwards, " if, like him, I were an Israelite without guile! The image of my Father, my revered, kind, learned, simple-hearted Father is a religion to me."
At his Father's death Coleridge was nearly nine years old. He con
tinued with his Mother at Ottery till the spring of 1782, when he was sent to London to wait the appointed time for admission into Christ's Hospital, to which a presentation had been procured from Mr. John Way through the influence of his father's old pupil Sir Francis Buller. Ten weeks he lived in London with an Uncle, and was entered in the books on the 8th of July, 1782.
To Mr. Poole.
"FROM October, 1781, to October, 1782. After the death of my Father, we, of course, changed houses, and I remained with my Mother till the spring of 1782, and was a day scholar to Parson Warren, my Father's successor. He was not very deep, I believe; and I used to delight my poor Mother by relating little instances of his deficiency in grammar knowledge-every detraction from his merits seeming an oblation to the memory of my Father, especially as Warren did certainly pulpitize much better. Somewhere I think about April, 1782, Judge Buller, who had been educated by my Father, sent for me, having procured a Christ's Hospital presentation. I accordingly went to London, and was received and entertained by my Mother's brother, Mr. Bowdon. He was generous as the air, and a man of very considerable talents, but he was fond, as others have been, of his bottle. He received me with great affection, and I stayed ten weeks at his house, during which I went occasionally to Judge Buller's. My Uncle was very proud of me, and used to carry me from coffee-house to coffee-house, and tavern to tavern, where I drank and talked, and disputed, as if I had been a man. Nothing was more common than for a large party to exclaim in my hearing, that I was a prodigy, and so forth; so that while I remained at my Uncle's, I was most completely spoilt and pampered, both mind and body.
"At length the time came, and I donned the blue coat and yellow stockings, and was sent down to Hertford, a town twenty miles from London, where there are about three hundred of the younger Blue-coat boys. At Hertford I was very happy on the whole, for I had plenty to eat and drink, and we had pudding and vegetables almost every day. I remained there six weeks, and then was drafted up to the great school in London, where I arrived in September, 1782, and was placed in the second ward, then called Jefferies' Ward, and in the Under Grammar School. There are twelve wards, or dormitories, of unequal sizes, besides the sick ward, in the great school; and they contained altogether seven hundred boys, of whom I think nearly one-third were the sons of