Letters of Hartley Coleridge

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

When the Poems appeared in 1833, the volume was well received. In it are included many of Hartley's best sonnets and lyrics--in fact had he published nothing beyond this slender volume, his fame might well rest on it alone. The Worthies, too, won almost unlimited praise from the reviewers. The work consists of thirteen biographies, containing studies of Roger Ascham, Richard Bentley, Captain Cook, and others, and although discursive, they form a charming literary product. Walter Bagehot in his essay on Hartley Coleridge, says of the book:

'This Biographia is actually read: a man is glad to take it up, and slow to lay it down; it is a book which is truly valuable, for it is truly pleasing; and which a man who has once had it in his library would miss from his shelves, not in the common way, by a physical vacuum, but by a mental deprivation.'

Unfortunately, Bingley was not a good business man and in 1833 he went into bankruptcy. The Northern Worthies had progressed as far as the thirteenth number, and only one volume of Poems had been issued. "'My brother'", writes Derwent, 'returned to Grasmere, [in the summer of 1833] and, after considerable delay and negotiation, was released from his engagement, through the intervention of an invaluable friend, Mr. James Brancker, to whom my brother had already been indebted for much judicious kindness during his residence at Croft Lodge, near Ambleside, and who continued to the end of his life to regard him with affectionate interest.' Hartley, glad to be free again, returned to Mrs. Fleming's, where he remained until her death in 1837, when he took up his abode with the Richardsons. Save for a brief visit to Sedbergh, Hartley lived in Grasmere the remainder of his life.

It is a curious fact that Hartley Coleridge, whose name is almost synonymous with desultoriness, should have been able, under the right circumstances, to produce such a quantity of literary work in scarcely a year. In a different environment from that of Grasmere, with more opportunity, encouragement, and intellectual stimulation, he might, perhaps, have done full justice to his genius. As it was, the conclusion of the Leeds affair marks the end of what might have been a successful literary career.


LETTER 38
TO HENRY NELSON COLERIDGE, No. 1 New Square, Lincoln's Inn.

April 15, [Postmark 1832.]

Dear Henry

This must needs be a very brief epistle, for I have not a great deal to say, and I have a great deal to do. But in the first place, I did write about the business you mention'd--

-139-

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