Letters of Hartley Coleridge

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

'The truth is,' he records in one of his note-books, 'I was fey. I sang, I danced, I whistled, I leapt, I ran from room to room announcing the great tidings, and tried to persuade even myself that I cared nothing at all for my own case.' 'But,' he adds significantly, 'it would not do. It was bare sands with me the next day. It was not the mere loss of the prize, but the feeling or phantasy of an adverse destiny. I was as one who discovered that his familiar, to whom he has sold himself, is a deceiver. I foresaw that all my aims and hopes would prove frustrative and abortive; and from that time I date my downward declension, my impotence of will, and melancholy recklessness. It was the first time I sought relief from wine, which, as usual in such cases, produced not so much intoxication as downright madness.'

Hartley's examination at the conclusion of his college course was uneven; and his examiners, recognizing both his natural genius and his academic shortcomings, compromised by giving him a second class in literis humanioribus, in the Michaelmas term of 1818.

The following letter is addressed to George Coleridge, who twenty-six years previously had watched over Samuel Taylor Coleridge's own college years with a father's rather than a brother's interest. He was probably the most active of the Ottery Coleridges in assisting Hartley at Oxford.


LETTER 6
To the REV. GEORGE COLERIDGE, Ottery St. Mary, Devon.

Mert. Col. December 6, 1818.

My dear Uncle

You are probably already apprized, through George or Edward, that I have past my examination. With regard to the place I shall occupy on the list, I can give you no additional information, as the class-paper is not yet publish'd; nor indeed, likely to be so for a week to come, but of course you know that my chance of high honours is extremely precarious. I am as sorry for this as the case deserves, and perhaps more so, but if I know myself at all--the loss of distinction is what least afflicts me. The disappointment of my friends to whom I owe an additional obligation besides my natural duty, the uncertainty whether or not I shall fall under their censure, (which I am not, however, conscious of deserving, in any great degree) and the still greater efforts needful to procure myself an independance here or elsewhere, are considerations that would be insupportable, if self-reproach

-18-

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