« ForrigeFortsæt »
the two may be fairly conjoined. At the outset of her preface Miss Coleridge says:
The interest which such works are intended to excite is in the main biographical, and their object is not merely to perceive and bring to light a number of writings of intrinsic merit and beauty, but still more, perhaps, to present to the reader a record, however imperfect, of the personal characteristics, both moral and intellectual, of the writer.'
Thus challenged to the inquiry why we should wish to know what Sara Coleridge, as an individual, thought and felt during her passage over this world's stage, we must begin by bringing to our readers' minds the salient points of interest connected with her. To those who had the privilege of her personal acquaintance it hardly needs to say that her intellectual accomplishments were considerable, her conversation fascinating, her charm of feature and expression very distinguished. Again, the public knew her as the authoress of a Fairy Romance, and of one or two philosophical and literary commentaries. But by these alone she would hardly have lived beyond her day. Her title to remembrance is of a cumulative sort. Her
parentage threw a halo of interest over her which enhanced all her other claims to notice. She was the daughter—the only daughter, the beautiful daughter, the gifted daughter, of a great poet and thinker. A poet's daughter. It is rather curious to note, when we look into the matter, how nearly confined to our present century is the record of poets who have had daughters, so to speak-daughters in any degree connected by sentiment or heritage with their fathers' fame. Glance at the olden time. Of Susannah Shakspeare, married to Dr. Hall, a physician, fancy may indeed please itself with tracing an alluring portrait, based on those suggestive lines of her epitaph preserved by the antiquary Dugdale :
Witty above her sex, but that's not all,
Wholly of him, with whom she's now in bliss.' Milton had daughters, but the records concerning them are of sinister import; that they rebelled against the task of reading to him in learned languages with which they were unacquainted, and were by him dismissed from his house, to learn embroidery in gold and silver, as better suited to their capacities. Addison had a daughter by his countess-wife: a halfwitted old lady, as she lived to be-Miss Charlotte Addison to the last-of whom local tradition has preserved some faint remembrance in her Warwickshire homes. Undoubtedly, the proportion of bachelor poets in our Golden Book of Literature has been very large-Pope, Thomson, Gray, Cowper, Goldsmith, occur
to the mind at once. The number might be doubled speedily. But in the literary associations of our present century, it so happens, the poet's daughter forms a somewhat conspicuous object. Is this only because bards have been more often “family men' than of yore; or because domestic tendernesses, as matter of poetic inspiration-apart from the passion of the love which no time or culture has ignored--are rather an outgrowth of modern sentiment; or because female accomplishment and attraction have really altered the standing-point of women in every-day life—we stay not to inquire, but so it is. Byron and Coleridge were men of wayward genius. Their homes were not enlivened by the fairies of fireside love. But Byron poetised of his
“Ada, sole daughter of my house and heart,' and that “ Ada' was a woman of superior attainment; chiefly, however, in the department of mathematical science, in which her mother was a proficient. Of Coleridge's . Sara' these pages will show the intellectual fibre. Assuredly, had she been one of Milton's daughters, the Greek authors he desired to have syllabled to him in his blindness would have found a zealous admirer and not unskilled interpreter, in the bigh-wrought maiden of Keswick. Little chance would embroidery have found with her, in competition with a strophe of Pindar or a dialogue of Plato. Scott's Sophia, 'the min“strel's darling child, * is well remembered for her social attractions, her Scottish ballad strains, her intelligence, her bright
Of Wordsworth's Dora, the sweet wife of Edward Quillinan, and of Southey's Edith, married to John Warter, the knowledge of contemporaries is more limited, more private; but both of these, in association with Sara Coleridge, were deemed by Wordsworth fit subjects for his ode, The Triad:
Come like the Graces, hand in hand,
Are sisters in the bond of love.' Before we close the list, we must advert to one more daughter of the poet-sire-Adelaide Proctor; who--if inheritance it was-tinherited from her father, Barry Cornwall,' more of the real æstrus of poetry than fell to the share of any other we have named. She united to these gifts a rare originality and simplicity of character; in the struggle of life her powers of
* See Dean Milman's verses on Mrs. Lockhart's funeral.
action were untried, and she passed away as one of those who only light upon earth in their passage to another
sphere. Sara, the youngest child of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and of his wife Sarah, the daughter of Mr. Fricker of Bristol, was born at Greta Hall, near Keswick, December 22, 1802. My
meek little Sara,' her father wrote of her in the following year, 'is a remarkably interesting baby, with the finest possi
ble skin, and large blue eyes; and she smiles as if she were basking in a sunshine, as mild as moonlight, of her own quiet • happiness.
Coleridge's bodily sufferings at this time induced him to go to Malta, from whence he returned in 1806, when he desired his wife and children to meet him at Bristol. Sara speaks of her remembrances concerning her sojourn at Bristol, at Nether Stowey, the seat of Coleridge's friend, Mr. Poole, and elsewhere, as partial and indistinct glimpses of memory, islanded
amid the sea of non-remembrance. Soon afterwards, the mother and children returned to Keswick, and were domesticated with Southey. The father lived for a time at Allan Bank, Grasmere, with the Wordsworths. Sara remembered a month which she spent with him there, at his request, when she was in her sixth year, and we quote some of her reminiscences. In his morbid mood Coleridge seems to have had little tenderness at this time for the child he had neglected, but a vehement desire to make himself the first object with her:
* I think my dear father was anxious that I should learn to love him and the Wordsworths and their children, and not cling so exclusively to my mother and all around me at home. He was therefore much annoyed when, on my mother's coming to Allan Bank, I flew to her, and wished not to be separated from her any more. I remember his showing displeasure to me, and accusing me of want of affection. I could not understand why. The young Wordsworths came in and caressed him. I sat benumbed; for truly nothing does so freeze affection as the breath of jealousy. The sense that you have done very wrong, or at least given great offence, you know not how or why -that you are dunned for some payment of love or feeling which you know not how to produce or to demonstrate on a sudden-chills the heart, and fills it with perplexity and bitterness. My father reproached me, and contrasted my coldness with the childish caresses of the little Wordsworths.
Readers of Coleridge's minor works of mingled prose and poetry will remember the remarkable piece entitled · New 'Thoughts on old Subjects,' in which first the perfection of conjugal love is described in language of singular force and eloquence ; then, its disenchantment. Surely,' says one of
and nay ;
the interlocutors in the dialogue, he who has described it so
well, must have possessed it?' .If, replies the Friend," he * were worthy to have possessed it, and not found it, how bitter the disappointment!'
'Yes, yes! that boon, life's richest treat,
The fancy made him glad !
Unnourished, wane :
"A peevish nood, a tedious time, I trow,' he adds in a subsequent stanza. And so, the affection and ingenuousness of the 'Asra’of his earlier love-poems having ceased to charm, and the opium-fiend laying more and more hold on him, the fastidious bard loosed himself from his domestic moorings, and became a desultory dweller here and there, till in 1816 he placed himself for friendship and restraint under the roof of Mr. Gillman at Highgate.
Sara and her mother continued to reside under the roof of Southey, whose generous paternal care of the young girl was rewarded by strong affection on her part, and a remembrance of his virtues which never faded. In speaking of the influence which the society of the Lake poets exerted over her mind, her daughter says:
'I am but repeating her own remarks when I say that in matters of the intellect and imagination she owed most to Mr. Wordsworth. In his noble poetry she took an ever-increasing delight, and his impressive discourse, often listened to on summer rambles over the mountains, or in the winter parlours of Greta Hall and Rydal Mount, served to guide her taste and cultivate her understanding. But in matters of the heart and conscience, for right views of duty, and practical lessons of industry, truthfulness, and benevolence, she was "more and more im
"portantly indebted to the daily life and example of her admirable “ uncle, Southey," whom she long afterwards emphatically declared to have been, “ upon the whole, the best man she had ever known."
Under Southey's supervision, with the stores of his ample library at command, Sara Coleridge indulged her strong natural taste for literary acquisition. Before she was five-and-twenty,' says her daughter, she had made herself acquainted with the • leading Greek and Latin classics, and was well skilled in • French, Italian, German, and Spanish. When she was twenty years old she translated from the Latin Martin Dobrizhoffer's · Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of • Paraguay,' a work in three octavo volumes, which was commonly ascribed to Southey, under whose auspices it was published; and of which Samuel Taylor Coleridge said : “My dear
daughter's translation of this book is in my judgment unsur“passed for pure mother-English, by any thing I have read for
a long time. How she Dobrizhoffered it all out,' said Charles Lamb, after alluding to the 'unobtrusive quiet soul
who digged her noiseless way so perseveringly through that ' rugged Paraguay mine'-puzzles my slender latinity to con'jecture.
It was to this period of her life that the first reminiscences of Sir Henry Taylor—the author of Van Artevelde '—refer. We give in extenso the letter with which he has enriched Miss Coleridge's Biographical Introduction :
'I first saw your mother when, in 1823, I paid my first visit to Mr. Southey at Greta Hall, where she and her mother were staying. I suppose she was then about twenty years of age. I saw but little of her, for I think she was occupied in translating some mediæval book from the Latin, and she was seen only at nieals, or for a very short time in the evening; and, as she was almost invariably silent, I saw nothing and knew nothing of her mind, till I renewed my acquaintance with her many years after. But I have always been glad that I did see her in her girlhood, because I then saw her beauty untouched by time, and it was a beauty which could not but remain in one's memory for life, and which is now distinctly before me as I write. The features were perfectly shaped, and almost minutely delicate, and the complexion delicate also, but not wanting in colour, and the general effect was that of gentleness, indeed I may say of composure, even to stillness. Her eyes were large, and they had the sort of serene lustre which I remember in her father's. After her inarriage, I think I did not see her till the days of her widowhood, in young middle life, when she was living in Chester Place, Regent's Park. Her beauty, though not lost, was impaired; and with the same stillness and absolute simplicity which belonged to her nature, there was some sadness, which I had not seen before in the expression of her face, and some shyness of manner. I think I was myself shy, and this perhaps made her so;
VOL. CXXXIX. NO. CCLXXXIII.