Letters of Hartley Coleridge

By Grace Griggs Evelyn; Earl Griggs Leslie et al. | Go to book overview

PREFACE

SAVE for a few letters included in two or three biographies and obscure sources, the correspondence of Hartley Coleridge has never been published. Ernest Hartley Coleridge, whose editions of his grandfather's works and of Byron's poems give him an important place as a scholar, seems to have planned an edition of his uncle Hartley's correspondence; and although many of the original letters were transcribed and annotated, unfortunately his work never reached completion. The last few years have been characterized by a marked revival of interest in the elder Coleridge; and these letters of his son, it is hoped, will be welcome for their intrinsic value no less than for the light they throw on the whole Coleridge-Wordsworth circle.

Letter-writing to Hartley Coleridge was a means of disburdening himself, and he seems to have written to his family much as he wrote in his diary. Both Hartley and his father understood themselves with remarkable lucidity, and both men were wont to analyse themselves. In Hartley's analyses of himself there are the same self-condemnations, the same sense of retribution, and the same promises of amendment, as one finds in the letters of his father. Coleridge's self-portraiture is more penetrating, but Hartley's more pleasant, because there is always a vein of good humour and more acceptance of the dispensations of Providence. Coleridge was well equipped to meet the world; society had place for him, as it were. Hartley, on the other hand, was a misfit, a dreamer set in a world of reality. Conventions were utterly abhorrent to him. In reading Hartley Coleridge's letters, therefore, one must expect the quaint, the bizarre, and the strange. The personality is delightful, as it emerges from this chronicle of comedy and tragedy which gradually dethroned Hartley from a position of honour and security to one of wandering and dependence.

Hartley Coleridge possessed a keen wit and a brilliant intellect. He was widely read in English and Classical literature, and his critical remarks as revealed in his letters are always acute. When, after Coleridge's death, De Quincey and Ferrier published statements accusing Coleridge of

-vii-

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