The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry

By Herbert Read | Go to book overview

ESSAY I
Coleridge as Critic

In concentrating on Coleridge's critical philosophy, which is my present intention, I am requiring from the reader a certain act of renunciation. There is no figure, in the whole history of English literature, who is so intrinsically fascinating, and a very pleasant hour might be spent recalling Coleridge's personality in all its suggestiveness, its infinite variety and, to use his own word, its multeity. There is an entry in the recently published Notebooks of Henry James which well expresses this fatal attractiveness. That connoisseur in character, in dramatic situations, in psychological subtleties, had been reading the then recently published biography of Coleridge written by Dykes Campbell, and he says that he 'was infinitely struck with the suggestiveness of S.T.C.'s figure--wonderful, admirable figure--for pictorial treatment. What a subject some particular cluster of its relations would make for a little story, a small vivid picture. There was a point, as I read, at which I seemed to see a little story--to have a quick glimpse of the possible drama. Would not such a drama necessarily be the question of the acceptance by someone--someone with something important at stake-- of the general responsibility of rising to the height of accepting him for what he is, recognizing his rare, anomalous, magnificent, interesting, curious, tremendously suggestive character, vices and all, with all its imperfections on its head, and not being guilty of the pedantry, the stupidity, the want of imagination, of fighting him, deploring him in the details--fall

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