Letters of Hartley Coleridge

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

charged with marrying a linnet without one gold feather in her wing. My best love to Mr. and Mrs. Gillman--from whom I expect just castigation--but let the righteous reprove me, and smite me friendly.

Your affectionate son
H.C.

After leaving Oxford, Hartley settled with the Montagus in London, and under their parental solicitude seems to have recovered himself. Cut off from a leisurely life at Oxford, and having since boyhood thought of authorship as a profession, he set about writing both prose and poetry. His most ambitious work was a poem called Prometheus; although it was never completed, and was published after Hartley's death by Derwent, the subject caught Hartley's fancy for several years and he makes frequent references to his efforts. Prometheus, however, was not Hartley's sole interest. To the London Magazine he contributed a series of essays ( 'Parties in Poetry', 'Mythology', 'Black Cats', 'On Brevity', and 'Melancholy'), but his literary compositions were the result of spasmodic attempts rather than of any continuous application. These efforts, moreover, were not enough to pay his expenses, and he was dependent on his father and others for his support.

While on the whole Hartley was happy in London, he often fell into moods of despondency and self-condemnation. He could not, he wrote to his father, obliterate the past; and a sense of shame, combined with an unwillingness to face the reproaches of his friends, sometimes led him to run away from his hosts, the Montagus, and to conceal himself for several weeks at a time in a public house or with indulgent friends. Derwent speaks of an ever-growing habit of procrastination; indeed, from this time onward, Hartley shows a volitional paralysis, an inability to hold himself to any task, or to resist the temptation of alcohol.

Derwent Coleridge, to whom Hartley addressed most of the letters written in London, had been entered in May I820 at St. John's College, Cambridge. Derwent, too, seems not to have been wholly satisfied with his environment at college; but he was less erratic than his brother and managed not to offend the college authorities.


LETTER 18
TO DERWENT COLERIDGE, St. John's Coll., Cambridge.

Highgate, February 19, 1821.

My dear Snifterbreeches--

Truce awhile to the Muses--It behoves me to tie up Pegasus, and turn humble pedestrian along the dusty and

-56-

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