Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

By E. K. Chambers | Go to book overview

VIII
DISASTER July 1800-April 1802

IT must have become apparent during the course of this chronicle that Coleridge's failure to make good was primarily due to a fundamental instability of character. He ad dreamed of the permanent, but had lived wholly in the present, talking brilliantly and incessantly, and snatching at every will-o'-the-wisp interest which a vivid imagination suggested to him. He could not integrate his life, and when troubles, for which he was not wholly responsible, came upon him, he had no reserve of endurance to make head against them. His gift of introspection sometimes grave him a whisper of this. 'Sloth-jaundic'd all', he had once said of himself, and had bewailed his 'chance-started friendships'. It was not exactly sloth.1 His mind was always actively at work upon something, only it was generally the wrong thing. And 'chance-started friendships' were to serve him well throughout life. So Coleridge drifted to disaster.

There was happiness in the early months at Keswick. The spell of 'the glory of the place' was strong upon him.

I question if there be a room in England which commands a view of mountains, and lakes, and woods vales superior to that in which I am now sitting.

Cloud-effects and moon-effects fill his letters, with invitations to his friends, Poole, Godwin, Purkis, Wrangham, as well as Davy, to come and see. Jackson, his landlord and Wordsworth's 'Waggoner', who lived next door, was an admirable man, with a good library of his own.2 He delighted, too, in his boy Hartley, 'a spirit dancing on an aspen leaf' and 'the darling of the sun and of the breeze'.3 A second son born on 14 September was called Derwent from

____________________
1
P.W.77, 174; cf pp. 16, 33.
2
C.110, 111; G.73-5, 78, 80; T.106; Litchfield, 102.
3
G.73, 74, 76, 78; Prideaux, 3.

-133-

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