Letters of Hartley Coleridge

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

have been married long ago, if they had not been within the forbidden degrees of affinity. I am not sure whether it is Sunday or Monday. So good night--a very good night to you all.

'Good go with you, and only night remain.'


LETTER 31
To MRS. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.

[ 1829.]

My dear Mother

You probably remember asking a few mornings ago, 'What I had to prey upon my mind?' and at the same time severely reprobating the wild and disponding talk I often indulged in. My answer, that I was not born to be happy, seem'd not to satisfy you, and my asserting that happiness was not the certain concomitant of virtue, appear'd to you little less than wicked. Now, disputes arise much more frequently from misunderstanding, than real difference: in the hurry of argument words are seldom selected with accuracy, and what is delivered as a fix'd opinion, is often little more than the imperfect expression of a feeling. So in the present instance, we dispute about happiness, and yet we are not settled about the meaning of the term. Permit me, therefore, to explain what I mean by saying, I cannot be happy; and at the same time to investigate, as far as I can, the primary and secondary causes of my present perturbed state of mind.

In the first place then, I by no means assert that I am incapable of enjoyment. On the other hand, I believe that I take pleasure in whatever pleases any body. I can take interest in any thing, however abstruse, however trifling or even common place it may be, that I see interests others. The world is not to me a barren wilderness; but it is a garden, thick planted indeed, but planted with forbidden fruit, and guarded by dragons. Were I a disembodied spirit, a thing to which no being was compared, without superior or inferior, and possess'd of powers unlimited, for good or ill, I doubt not that I should be active, benevolent, and happy. But all that is human is bounded; our life is all a fruitless effort to break the chain which only death can dissolve. The wider my sympathies extend, the more I feel my helplessness; the greater my faculties of enjoyment, the more conscious I become of the state of circumscription in which I exist, and it

-102-

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