Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

By E. K. Chambers | Go to book overview

XV
FAIR HAVEN March 1816--December 1823

ADAMS came to the conclusion that Coleridge's case was not hopeless, but that it was essential that he should place himself for a time under strict medical supervision. Some such measure Coleridge had himself contemplated two ears before. He wanted retirement and a garden, and Adams recommended him to James Gillman, then in practice at Moreton House on Highgate Hill. Coleridge called upon Gillman, who immediately fell under the fascination of his conversation, and it was arranged that he should come into residence on the following day. Naturally he did not come until two days later, and in the meantime wrote an elaborate letter, impressing upon Gillman that, although he could not offer any adequate remuneration, he must at least not be suffered to make any addition to his host's family expenses. And he must be treated as one suffering from a specific madness.

You will never hear anything but truth from me:--prior habits render it out of my power to tell an untruth, but unless carefully observed, I dare not promise that I should not, with regard to this detested poison, be capable of acting one. No sixty hours have yet past without my having taken laudanum, though for the last week comparatively trifling doses. I have full belief that your anxiety need not be extended beyond the first week, and for the first week I shall not, I must not be permitted to leave your house, unless with you. Delicately or indelicately, this must be done, and both the servants and the assistant must receive absolute commands from you.

On 15 April 1816 Coleridge came, bearing in his hand the proof-sheets of Christabel. He looked to a stay, at first of a month, and later of three months, but by the end of the third month he had begun to hope that it would continue indefinitely. And in fact it continued to the end of his life.

-275-

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