Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

By E. K. Chambers | Go to book overview

IV
BREAD AND CHEESE

May 1796-March 1797

ON 12 May 1796, the very day, as it happened, on which the last number of the Watchman appeared, Coleridge received a notification from Poole that a group of friends and admirers of his poetry would contribute annually, for a period of seven years, five guineas apiece to a sum of £35 or £40 for his benefit. John Cruikshank, Lord Egmont's agent at Stowey, would act as treasurer. Later Estlin seems to have replaced him. Coleridge replied in a letter full of gratitude. He was undetermined. He was not ashamed to receive, but hoped to rely on his own exertions. He would come over to Stowey, however, if Poole would send a horse 'of tolerable meekness' to meet the Bristol caravan at Bridgwater. He arrived on 15 May, waived, no doubt, all scruples about accepting the bounty, and returned to Bristol on 29 May, meditating by the way on the filth of the river Parret at Bridgwater in comparison with the 'dear gutter of Stowey'.1 Poole's letter arrived at a happy moment, for the failure of the Watchman had wrecked Coleridge's finances. The facts are not quite clear, since in after years his own recollection and Cottle's differed. But on 6 May he had calculated that after paying for the printing and for paper to supplement the initial supply given him by Cottle, he should be £5 to the bad. In the Biographia Literaria, however, he says that when the time came for settlement with the booksellers, who had been his distributing agents, he could not get a shilling from Parsons, and very little from elsewhere, and should have been jailed by his printer for £80 or £90, had not a dear friend, by no means affluent, paid the sum. Cottle claims to have financed the supply of paper for the Watchman, and not to have been fully repaid. Prob

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1
C.56, 58; G.34; P. i. 142; Harvard MS. 19478·5 F.

-56-

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